P&G Uses Search to Find the Right Customers
What comes up on a search engine's results page when customers are looking for a generic product like toothpaste, coffee, or dog food? Until recently, not a corresponding Procter & Gamble brand. The company has more than 600 U.S. Web sites devoted to its various products, but they were hard to find, didn't contain the information consumers were looking for, and had no centralized system for designing their content and tracking their effectiveness.
"We started looking at what we were doing with paid search," says Randy Peterson, search marketing innovation manager. "We tried to apply that approach to a tool for organic search."
P&G worked with SEMDirector, a search engine management company, to develop software that would track how successfully the content of its brands' Web pages were driving the right traffic to their sites. Initially, Peterson says, he wanted to improve the search engine rankings so his brands would be included on the first page of results for their chosen keywords, see increased visitors to P&G brand pages via search, and find out what customers were searching for that would be relevant to the pages he manages. Today Peterson and his team examine everything from the keywords on a home page, to what pages outside links point to and how reliable they are, to how the tagging of images and other rich content affects how search engines rank the sites.
The team began testing during the summer of 2006, and in September of that year rolled out the solution to 40 brands. Initially, Peterson says, he needed to sell a lot of internal brand sponsors on the need for and potential of the program. But once they saw exactly what their online presence was lacking, progress was quick.
Today more than 80 brands track search engine relevancy via biweekly audits, which check for structure of pages, content, and link strategy to reliable industry experts; analyze natural search ranks on major search engines; and analyze the traffic on brand sites and where it originates. P&G used the search data to make major changes to the way its brands appear online. Iams pet food, for example, uses different landing pages based on whether consumers search for "dog food" or "cat food."
Customers who before searched for everyday products and only found Wikipedia entries and obscure Web sites can now more easily find information on the items they're looking for at P&G brand sites. Thanks to the added content on many pages, they can also find information unrelated to the product itself, like dog care advice on a pet food brand site.
The goal at the program's onset was to bring six million new visitors to the brand pages within the first year; it achieved 6.1 million. The new visitors equal a 300 percent increase in search traffic to the sites in one year, and according to P&G's internal tracking metrics (the methods for which are not public), search engine optimization quality increased 25 percent in the same time period.
Peterson cautions, however, that although the SEO campaign is working for the 80 brands it's currently deployed for, not every one of the 600 brands under the P&G name will reap the same benefits.
"Some brands put a higher priority on search," he says. "Search is the connector of consumers to a business. If the business isn't present when a consumer uses search to express their intention, we fail." SEO is also part of P&G's larger embracing of social media and online communication.
The company has been a pioneer in social networking and utilizing consumer research in product development. That's an ideal that Peterson says is important for any business today. "Embrace the customer and listen to their needs," he says. "Let them influence product and service design, and put them at the core of every company strategy."
Can Mobile Sell More Subs for Subway Than Jared Can?
If you were hungry and got a text message from a fast food restaurant, would it make you more likely to go there? Judging by the experience of Subway franchises in Buffalo, NY, yes. One hundred Subway locations around Buffalo currently participate in the My Subway Mobile program, sending opt-in customers discount coupons and information about new products.
"We were looking for an alternative product marketing technique," says Michael Lewkowicz, chairman of Buffalo Subway SFAFT, a franchise association. "This is just one more way we can reach customers by offering discounts and promotions."
The franchises currently send 14,000 SMS messages a month to the more than 5,000 customers who enrolled in My Subway Mobile via cell phone, Web site, or in-store tear-away forms. Subway locations typically see a 2 to 4 percent response rate to direct mail discount campaigns, but mobile offers have seen an 8.7 percent redemption rate and less than 0.5 percent of customers have opted out.
"The system is great because the call to action is immediate," Lewkowicz says. "If it's a snowy day and there aren't many customers in the store, we can send an SMS blast and immediately bring some customers in."
To track the program Subway restaurants added a "mobile" button to all points of sale, which also keep track of what offer is currently being accepted. Typically the text message discounts are only valid for 24 to 48 hours to allow franchises flexibility in their promotions. During the past few months many have offered everything from a free drink with the purchase of a sub to a free sample of a new product. As customers redeem specific offers, they're sent more relevant and targeted messages.
After the success of a few test franchises, the program was rolled out to the entire Buffalo market, and now Subway franchises in other cities are considering implementing mobile programs of their own.
French Retailer La Redoute Uses Mobile to Move Merchandise
For more than a century La Redoute has successfully operated a catalog and storefront business, with a more recent addition of a Web presence. In the trendy world of women's clothing, though, the retailer knew it needed to stay hip to compete, and looked to the mobile channel to maintain its image. So the company now offers discounts, product availability, and contests via SMS text messages to a targeted list of opt-in customers through its LR TXT program.
"For me it was never a question of if we'd become involved in mobile marketing," says Victor Essoka, senior vice president and general brand manager of La Redoute USA. "We wanted to find a medium to interact as quickly and frequently as we desired, that would coordinate with the lifestyle of our customers."
La Redoute's target audience, women ages 21 to 45 with an average income of $75,000, is not commonly associated with mobile usage, but Essoka says the program's highest rate of adoption is actually among customers over 30. He says he was surprised by how easy it was to enter the mobile space, the high level of response, and the revenue the company generated even when it was building the customer list.
La Redoute drove interest for the program on its Web site, in email campaigns, and through the catalog, offering new subscribers a 20 percent off coupon. That campaign saw an 11 percent return, and subsequent messages have seen an average redemption rate of 7 percent.
The marketing team worked diligently to create content that would fit into the 160 character capacity, but the high return proved worth the effort, and showed customer engagement. "The biggest clear benefit of a mobile program is that it appeals to a different subset of customers than our other channels," Essoka says. "It also gives our multichannel customers expanded options to interact with us."
Honeywell Ignites Its Customer Experience
Prior to 2005 Honeywell Aerospace was structured in a way that was not particularly customer friendly. The company was organized around three product families containing 11 strategic business enterprises (SBEs), each with its own general manager and leadership team consisting of finance, contracts, human resources, supply chain, sales, and marketing. Each product-specific SBE called on many of the same customers as other SBEs; for example, a major airline could do business with as many as six SBEs.
In 2005 a new executive team determined that long-term success would require a change. The company was reorganized into three customer-based businesses: Air Transport & Regional, Business & General Aviation, and Defense & Space. Now a customer need only work with one unit for all products and services it acquires from Honeywell Aerospace.
The next step was to improve its customer experience. Previously, Honeywell customers found themselves drowning in red tape. "If you're talking to your financial services company and place a demand on your broker, the broker doesn't turn around and say, 'Put that all in writing to me and then we'll take some action,'" says Adrian Paull, vice president, customer and product support. "But in aerospace, that was typical."
So in 2006 the company introduced an organizational transformation initiative, the Customer Experience Program (CEP), created to address such issues as simplifying and enhancing customers' order management experience; delivering heightened customer service via speed, execution, and accountability; and stratifying its customer basereducing costs in the process. To date, related trainingdesigned to raise performance levels, tie accountability to results, and create advancement opportunitieshas been completed by 289 CSRs, 13 coaches, four master coaches, and nine facilitators.
Integrating customer information into its contact center systems helped to streamline operations, as did a consolidation of more than 270 customer care numbers into a single toll-free phone line. Caller ID functionality helps determine not only what company a customer is calling from, but also where he resides in that company's structure. "You can be talking with a head of purchasing, a head of maintenance, or a junior technician, all at the same customer," Paull says.
"Obviously they all will have very different needs and abilities."
As a result, the company's contact centers have reduced inbound call abandonment rates from about 11 percent, or 4,500 lost calls per month, in fourth quarter 2005 to less than 1 percent through the second quarter of 2007.
Similarly, the company is looking to simplify and improve the customer experience on the Web, combining about 70 different Web sites into a single aerospace customer portal with a single sign-on to, in Paull's words, "make it more friendly, intuitive, and responsive." Technical Publications was the first functionality offered online, followed by order status; a company-wide price catalog will be next.
The results have been impressive. The company began tracking customer satisfaction using Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology in its Tech Ops Center in June 2007, with scores increasing 10 percent by August.
Looking ahead, the company plans to implement incentive programs built around NPS on both agent and executive levels. Honeywell also has a two-year road map of portal refinements so it can continue driving simple requests for pricing, availability, status of repairs, and so on to a Web self-service environment, freeing its agents to provide higher value-added service to customers who need it.
"This reorganization has allowed us to delight some of our customers," Paull says. "We will continue with further cultural infusion, driving this message that every employee is personally accountable to help our customers succeed."
Repackaging Customer Service -- Canada Post
Canada Post delivers 40 million messages to 14 million addresses every business day. As a result, the organization had become an inward-looking business focused mostly on operational requirements.
"We had a customer satisfaction program in place, but it was up to the sales and service representatives to make any improvements," says Canada Post's Janet LeBlanc. "The whole organization didn't really focus on enhancing the customer experience, and we felt that needed to be addressed. This was about everyone embracing the changes, not just the sales and service reps."
As a result, Canada Post formed the Customer Value Management division, with LeBlanc as its director. CVM's objectives include working to understand what Canada Post's customers value the most; evaluating its performance relative to the competition; developing a tool to guide business strategies and process redesign efforts; and linking employee incentives and rewards to improvements in the customer experience. CVM aims to help Canada Post redefine its customer experience to fundamentally change what is one of Canada's largest companies.
As part of its transformation, Canada Post introduced individual performance metrics, allowing each employee to see what his impact is on the goals of the organization, and launched a comprehensive communications program to ensure understanding and awareness of the program.
LeBlanc says CVM has been embedded in annual corporate planning from the executive level down to individual scorecards. "The actual change has been phenomenal," she says. "We're now monitoring the end-to-end view of the customer experience."
For direct mail, customer perception of Canada Post's overall quality of products has increased by 6 percent and its overall value of direct mail products is up by 9 percent; annual revenue growth of direct mail products is up by 9 percent. LeBlanc says the company has seen similar improvements in quality and value of service for letters and parcels, and has moved up from third to second (behind FedEx) in loyal customers nationwide.
"We can't compete directly with a premium-priced service like FedEx," she says. "Instead we clarify the excellent value for the quality of services we provide."