Dealing With Client Disputes

In my personal experience, I’ve found that the easiest way to anger anyone is to make assumptions about their intentions, their character, their intelligence or their actions. I was reminded of this when I disputed a small charge on one of our corporate cards this week. I received a blunt e-mail that ending with the following:

“So how does this make us liable to refund your money? We state clearly in
our terms that we do not issue refunds on membership fees after 7 days. However,
you are opening a claim nearly a month later?

I am happy to assist you within reason, but it appears you did
not attempt to understand how the service works in the first place.”
In my mind, I had a good reason for not submitting a claim until 30 days later, namely that we hadn’t received (and thus reviewed) our monthly credit card statement. I also felt that I had attempted to understand how their service works and did not find it suitable for our company. Although this gentleman’s comments weren’t blatantly malicious, they did come across as impetuous. I found myself getting emotionally charged and reading tone into his questions.

Here are five quick tips for making sure you don’t alienate your clients when dealing with a dispute with your business:

  1. Always give your clients the benefit of the doubt. Assume the best intentions. Nine times out of ten, you'll find that their intentions were good. Assuming anything else is a recipe for anger escalation.
  2. Ask clarification questions in a respectful tone. There are two ways to answer a question. You can ask a question looking for an answer or you can ask a rhetorical question, where you phrase it in a way that sounds like you already know the answer. Be careful: Rhetorical questions come across as condescending.
  3. Don’t take it personally. It’s difficult to listen to people complain about your product or service, which you probably have great pride in, without taking it personally. Yet removing yourself emotionally is the only way to ensure you make decisions based on what’s best for the business and not your own personal sense of justice.
  4. Remember that the customer may not always be right, but the customer always wins. It’s not worth winning a battle that ultimately costs you the war. The customer always wins, whether it is by finding an amicable solution or by talking negatively about your business.
  5. Make sure your client feels heard. There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like a business is not listening to you. You can make clients feel this way by making assumptions and filling in the blanks. Resist the temptation. Listen and you may discover that the problem is much different than you originally thought.

Labels: ,

Marketing Insight: Using “Funny” In Your Advertising

There is a reason companies pay the million-dollar-plus premium to reserve ad space during the Super Bowl: Brand recognition. But in a day and age when ad agencies are creating as many creative hits as they are nonsensical misses, the question must be asked: In marketing, when does using “quirky” and “funny” actually make sense?

One of the more challenging issues in blanket marketing is recognizing your audience—or, rather, marketing to all audiences. This is made even more challenging by the simple fact that what’s funny or quirky to a 14-year-old (namely, bathroom humor) is going to be different than what’s funny or quirky to a fiftysomething (aging humor, incontinence, etc).

The solution? Know thy audience. And tread carefully with the funny.

Now, I concede that “funny” is subjective. But that’s the point—your funny, quirky and creative new marketing or advertising campaign will work best if you can do two things: make it intuitive to viewers and get to the punch line quickly. The less your readers have to think or try to make sense of what you’re saying, the better.

In 2006, in an effort to further its foray into resurrecting classic trends, the Gap made what was in my opinion a fatal marketing mistake with a simple and honest pair of pants. Their product, the newest rendition of the “new” black peg-leg flat-front pant, was sure to be a worldwide hit. Classic? Overwhelmingly, yes! I have a pair, my mother has a pair and so does my grandmother. Unfortunately, the Gap ad team also decided to resurrect one of the most sacred icons of fashion, the late, great Audrey Hepburn, and dub her dancing over the also-sacred AC/DC rock ballad “Back in Black.” Even worse? It was all in the form of iPod-wannabe animation, voiced over with lines from Hepburn’s classic, “Funny Face”:

By trying to revive a classic that could, by most individual definitions, transcend generational trends, the Gap ad team managed to (in a failed attempt at quirky) make three fatal marketing mistakes: First, they corrupted a graceful film icon in a classic film (“Funny Girl”); second, they shamed a classic wardrobe staple; and third, they perverted a monster-ballad by rock legend AC/DC. And all in one minute and five seconds.

Now here is a refreshingly good and memorable example of funny, quirky, stick-to-your-ribs marketing and a personal all-time favorite: Tide’s “Tide To Go Stain Remover” Super Bowl commercial.

The Tide marketing team has an edge because of their product: Who doesn’t spill on their clothes? Their product is easily marketed to everyone including busy moms, suited working professionals, yearbook-picture-taking high schoolers and people of all ages who care about their appearance. This ad seals the deal by associating a relatable situation—an uncomfortable job interview—with their product.

Here are three suggestions to market yourself using humor (carefully, now):

1. Be only as funny as you need to be:

Coming up with a game is a great way to get viral with your marketing. A favorite are the monkeys from CareerBuilder. I still send my friends, family and colleagues talking monkey e-cards. Perhaps I’m the only one who thinks they are funny. Why? Because monkeys don’t talk, and when you dub a female British voice over a video of a male monkey chewing gum and wearing a fruit basket on its head and send it to your friend, it’s just plain funny.

2. Don’t take yourself too seriously (but beware the limits)

In the ever-stuffy environments of insurance, banking and office supplies, who can forget the dancing elves from Office Max, or the naked bank executives from Washington Mutual?

3. Funny and quirky are almost always applicable

Particularly when involving something that isn’t traditionally funny. Axe body wash/spray is a great example. Is body odor funny? Only if you’re a 10-year-old boy, and it’s not your own. Otherwise it’s embarrassing. But the commercials are quirky and mostly funny because they make light of the idea that women will flock to men that smell good. Proceed with caution here, as this is a narrow truth.

Labels: , ,

Google Me

Google has become more than the brand name of a search engine. It has made its way into the dictionary, a documentary and even a low-budget hip-hop video. It has come to mean more than the mere act of looking something up on Google--it has come to mean the act of searching for information on a given person, place or thing on the Internet.

Service providers and businesses should take note. It is likely that prospects are searching for you before and/or after meeting you.

Anytime I receive an e-mail or am introduced to a new contact, the first thing I do is type their name into Google. This usually turns up link requests, interviews, content partnerships, etc., most of which are relatively benign. Yet that’s not always true: I’ve found notices from the SEC, information on campaign contributions, provocative personal pages on MySpace and even essays written by an individual when they were in high school.

It has become more important than ever for service providers to be accessible through the Web. It has also become more important to manage one’s identity and perceived identity through the Web.

You will be Googled.

For you’re reading enjoyment, here’s an excerpt from the “About Me” page from the number one result when searching for my name, “Jeremy Ames.” From

Ok, if you have not figured it out, my name is Jeremy Ames. You are visiting my personal web site. Good stuff, right? Just kidding. Some of you may know me as Fizch. That has been my nick name for years and I use it as my gamertag as well as many other forum id's and online identities.

I am from Arlington, TX. I have lived here most of my life. I like it here, and I will probably live here the rest of my life. I have seen other parts of the world, just not as many as I would like. I would still love to visit Europe, Australia, and even South America. It had just better be warm.

I was born and raised a metal head. I grew up listening to Black Sabbath's paranoid. My dad would wake us up on the weekends blaring his old 8-track copy all the time. I have to say obviously I did not mind as it turned me into the metal head that I am today. Thanks dad! I play thrash metal guitar and I have played the guitar for 15+ years. It is a passion that I developed in my teen years and I have always stayed in practice. It was not until recently that I felt comfortable enough with my playing to really pursue a position in a band though. When I learned to play, I was all about playing in a band, but believe me, it sounded like complete crap. I recognize that fact, thus I have held out until my playing ability was up to par with the type of music that I wanted to play.

You’ve been warned. Reserve the URL for your name today.

Sometimes It’s Best To Just Listen

“Women like silent men. They think they’re listening,” quipped French playwright Marcel Achard.

I think women are not alone. As consumers we are rarely listened to by salespeople. Too often we are steamrolled by pitches designed to address all sales objections, not cater to our specific needs. As a result we have a natural aversion to these sales pitches. They seem impersonal and manipulative.

Perhaps that’s why the most successful sales people I know are also the best listeners. They start conversations with questions and tailor their sales pitch to their client’s responses.

It also tends to help them when negotiating on behalf of their clients, as I was reminded by Raisin Bran Crunch’s infamous commercial:

Appearance Matters, But Be Different And Get Noticed

How you dress matters. How those around you dress also matters.

If everyone you work with wears a suit and a tie to the office, a sport jacket with t-shirt could signal you are more laid back, real and entrepreneurial. If everyone you work with wears a sport jacket and t-shirt, a business suit can communicate a higher level of professionalism, dedication and work ethic.

Nothing in this world is interpreted without context. This extends far beyond the clothes we wear. Those daring enough to be unique take a risk in straying from the norm, but also find great opportunity in being different.

Take a look at the websites in your industry. Are they all the same? Do they all offer the same message? If they do, there is an opportunity for you to be different and to single out part of the market that doesn’t want the same approach provided by everyone else. If your competitors are wearing suits, don a sport jacket and t-shirt. If your competitors are wearing sport jackets, don a suit. Look different and communicate differently and you will draw attention. Depending on what you have to say, that attention could be very positive.

Just keep in mind that it is possible to take it too far. As I was reminded by our associate editor, Trista Winnie, “There’s standing out, and there’s standing out like a sore thumb.”


Don't Bombard Your Clients: Lessons From Maternity Shopping

My wife is pregnant and hasn’t been feeling well lately. Attempting to be a supportive husband, I decided I would venture to the maternity clothing shop in our local mall to purchase her a belly band. This is an amazingly complex yet simple contraption that looks like a tube top, designed to allow pregnant women to wear their non-maternity clothes for a longer period of time. I still haven’t figured out the physics behind it, but apparently it works.

I walked into the store, asked the cashier for a belly band and was being rung up within 30 seconds. Then the world slowed down. She wanted to know my address, my e-mail, our due date and my phone number. As an avid hater of spam in my mailbox (both of them), I am not usually a fan of giving out my information. I gave her my information anyway, despite being pushed to the edge of my comfort zone.

“Would you like to receive two free issues of Parenting magazine?”


“Have you thought about starting to save for your child’s education?”


“That’s great, because we offer 529 education savings plans.”

“I’m not interested, thank you.”

At this point my defenses were completely up. This cashier had pushed past the point of comfort on the first sale and asked for too much. She then handed me a piece of paper with the Parenting magazine logo on it.

“You just need to sign this to get your two free issues.”

“Is this one of those free trial subscriptions where I have to cancel it or they will charge me?”

“Yes, but it is really easy to cancel.”

“No thanks, then.”

What this situation reminded me of is how delicate a new relationship with a customer can be. I will likely never go back to that store--at least not without my wife. It wasn’t that they did anything horribly wrong, they just pushed too hard and reminded me that they weren’t there to help me as much as they were there to sell me as much product as possible. Had they taken my contact information, they could have developed a relationship over time via e-mail or snail mail. Maybe I would have taken a look at their savings plans for children or signed up for a trial subscription.

No one likes feeling like a dollar value. Don’t bombard your clients. It puts them on the defensive and destroys your ability to build trust by consistently delivering value that is in their best interest.

Labels: ,

How You Frame Choices Matters

Social scientists Itamar Simonson and Amos Tversky conducted an experiment in a 1992 study based on how we frame choices. They offered their test subjects a choice between $6 or an elegant Cross pen. Only 36 percent of the subjects chose the Cross pen. They then incorporated a third choice, a less attractive pen, and asked test subjects to choose. Only 2 percent chose the inferior pen, but 46 percent chose the Cross pen when presented with all three options.

Studies such as this have been repeated with various other products and tradeoffs. One I found particularly interesting involved microwave ovens. Subjects were given the choice between an Emerson priced at $110 and a Panasonic priced at $180. Both microwaves were on sale at one third of their regular price. Less than half of the subjects--43 percent--chose the Panasonic. Then the researchers gave subjects a third choice, a Panasonic priced at $200 that was only 10 percent off the regular price. Only 13 percent chose the $200 Panasonic, but this time 60 percent chose the $180 Panasonic.

What these studies show is that consumers frame choices differently when presented with different alternatives. Simonson and Tversky proposed that when faced with a choice between x and y options, adding a 3rd option (z) that is inferior to one of the initial options (y) will increase the likelihood that the individual will choose y.

How you frame choices for your clients matters. Are there ways that you incorporate this knowledge to help sell your product or service?



© 2010 NuWire Investor and NuWire, Inc. All Rights Reserved.