Customer Care Article

Pavel Kireyev’s picture

By: Pavel Kireyev

Good salespersonship is a species of street smarts. It’s about quickly sizing up your customers and pitching your wares in terms that reverberate with their unspoken needs and desires. As artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning increasingly intersect with e-commerce, these priceless human skills are finding algorithmic analogues—not just at point of sale, but throughout the customer journey.

The results will be familiar to online shoppers everywhere. Netflix’s and Amazon’s algorithms leverage the data from each customer click to fine-tune their recommendations and drive consumption. The tech behemoths also deploy consumer activity data to sharpen their email and social media marketing. This is likely only the beginning because the technology’s predictive prowess is improving all the time.

Steven Brand’s picture

By: Steven Brand

The food industry is evolving rapidly, with consumers demanding quality, authenticity, and transparency from food manufacturers. And they’re not just demanding it; they’re “voting with their dollars,” supporting companies that align with their personal beliefs. To keep up with consumer demand—and to keep up your bottom line—it’s important to understand their needs and make changes that support them.

In doing so, you can improve your product quality, reduce waste, inspire brand loyalty, compete more effectively, and avert potential media or food-safety disasters. Let’s look at six ways to improve product quality in food manufacturing.

Søren Block Olsen’s picture

By: Søren Block Olsen

Manufacturers face constant challenges of rising expectations as customers and regulators demand better quality and greater traceability throughout the supply chain. Exacerbating matters are unpredictable tariffs, which necessitate faster responses to changing trade barriers and regulatory requirements. These factors must all be accomplished at lower costs while coping with already thin margins.

The solutions to these challenges already exist within current systems. Unlocking the value of data already in systems generates actionable insights from quality control and quality assurance for operations and plant-floor management.

Improving the entire manufacturing process allows manufacturers to optimally monitor costs, remaining within a range of profitability. If data (i.e., business intelligence) show information outside the acceptable range, it can be quickly adjusted.

Barnaby Lewis’s picture

By: Barnaby Lewis

Put in the terms of this article’s title, most of us would run a mile, whatever the proposition. But the popularity of online reviews, and the trust we place in persons unknown when making major decisions about where to stay, what to eat, and how to get the most from a trip, tells a different story.

Online communities have always been a place where people connect with peers: people like us, sharing something in common. Accessible anywhere and generally free to participate, it’s little wonder that news groups, forums, and chat rooms flourished from the beginning of the internet and prepared the ground for the late 2000’s social media explosion.

It’s hard to imagine a world without these connections. They’ve become part of the fabric of our daily lives. They’ve changed not only the way we socialize and define our friends, but also our relationship to information and how we form, and express, our opinions. They’ve also influenced the way we make our vacationing decisions; many of us now move from idea through research to booking entirely on screen.

Knowledge at Wharton’s picture

By: Knowledge at Wharton

A recent family biking vacation in the Dolomites region of Italy had my family and I all swept up in the charms of Northern Italy. Snow-capped peaks near the Austrian border, endless apple orchards, award-winning Chenin Blanc, and quaint Italian villages with healthy doses of affogato (strong espresso coffee meeting with gelato is sheer genius) made the 250 km fly by.

By the time we ended our trip in Riva del Garda, we were mentally separated from the harsh Minnesota winter and ready for the summer. We couldn’t stop talking about the outfitter (Scottsdale, Arizona-based Pure Adventures) that arranged this active vacation. However, when my wife got an email with a $500 referral incentive from them, she was reluctant to exercise it, despite many colleagues expressly asking us about the company that arranged this trip. She did not feel comfortable getting a substantial reward for something her friend or colleague did.

Therein, lies the conundrum of getting referral marketing to work. To be clear, Pure Adventures had the right idea to try to use existing, ostensibly delighted, customers to acquire new customers. The nuance lies in how to activate and even accelerate this process using financial incentives, when at its core, it is primarily an intrinsically motivated action.

David Dubois’s picture

By: David Dubois

Faced with a growing range of tech solutions in marketing, from AI to big data to blockchain, business-to-business (B2B) companies too often choose the status quo. Recent evidence suggests the divide between success and failure is not about how much companies spend, but how well they integrate technological solutions that create value.

In other words, a company’s digital investment does not necessarily translate into marketing return on investment (ROI). For that to happen the firm needs to build a digital marketing organization—data-driven marketing capabilities around the customer. 

A pivotal and enduring dimension of success in B2B markets lies in the relationship a company has with its clients. Thus, identifying the type of relationships that you have or would like to have with your customers is an excellent starting point to select and embed digital technology into your strategy. And this process is increasingly important for B2B companies if they are to maintain growth even as digital disruption accelerates the shift from B2BigB to B2SmallB.  

Alex Bekker’s picture

By: Alex Bekker

Do you know what a retailer and a tightrope walker have in common? They both have to balance. For the tightrope walker, the logic is clear. But what’s the balance that a retailer is looking for?

A typical dilemma of shortages vs. storage costs

Although the dilemma of shortages vs. storage costs is applicable to any product category, it’s much more painful with perishables. If their quantity can’t meet the demand, retailers should be ready to see a frown from an unhappy customer who didn’t find her favorite dairy, fruit, or vegetable on the shelves.

However, staying on the safe side by ordering more perishables is hardly a cost-effective solution. Perishable products require special storage conditions, and their shelf life seldom exceeds a couple of days, which means retailers must address disposal issues. So, it’s easy to understand why retailers, by all means possible, try to find the optimal balance between storing too much and too little.

A way of handling this dilemma with data science

There is a way to handle the storage/shortage dilemma efficiently: It’s via a deep neural network (a DNN), the most advanced data science approach.

Bill Laverty’s picture

By: Bill Laverty

Operations management plays an important role in the manufacturing process, but similar to a stage crew at a theater, operations managers do all their best work behind the scenes. The best operations managers strive to go unnoticed, and why shouldn’t they? A seamless supply-chain process should require little to no attention from customers.

But recent tariffs are jolting operations. NAFTA changes, along with tariffs on Chinese imports, are forcing operations managers to step out on center stage. New tariffs on materials like steel and aluminum as well as electronic components could mean disruption in the supply chain process, and operations managers have to work diligently to mitigate any hiccups that crop up for the company and its customers alike. Certainly costs are going to increase somewhere, so companies have to decide whether they’re going to absorb them or pass them along to their customers, both of which are less than ideal options.

Tara García Mathewson’s picture

By: Tara García Mathewson

Once students learn how to sound out words, reading is easy. They can speak the words they see. But whether they understand them is a different question entirely. Reading comprehension is complicated. Teachers, though, can help students learn concrete skills to become better readers. One way is by teaching them how to think as they read.

Marianne Stewart teaches eighth grade English at Lexington Junior High near Anaheim, California. She recently asked her students to gather in groups to discuss books where characters face difficulties. Students could choose from 11 different books, but in each group one student took on the role of “discussion director,” whose task was to create questions for the group to discuss together. Stewart created prompts to help them come up with questions that require deep reading.

This process of questioning while reading is one of a number of “cognitive strategies” Stewart teaches her students. The strategies focus on what research has shown to be the thought processes of good readers. Others include planning and goal-setting, tapping prior knowledge, making connections, visualizing, and forming interpretations. By mastering these strategies explicitly, students learn that reading is an active process, not one in which they simply sound out words in their heads.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

Parking lot. We use it in the meeting-management world to mean agenda items that are tabled for later discussion. These are generally posted on a sheet of flip-chart paper, taped on the meeting wall, and then placed on the agenda of the next meeting so they are not forgotten as topics for discussion.

I was working with a large B2B company and sat in on its weekly senior leadership staff meeting. The attendees all agreed they needed to spend a considerable amount of time talking about the negative impact of their customers’ experiences of their company. Survey results verbatim and customer complaints repeatedly contained comments on the company’s great products but its lousy customer service. Their customer churn rate was up; customer-contact employees’ morale was low. But this particular meeting was already full of higher priority issues. So, customer experience was put on the parking lot flip chart.

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