Tag Archives: Nancy Stephens

customer.service

Help to ease Holiday Shopping Customer-Service Worries

As we approach holiday shopping time, many of us start thinking about long lines, frayed nerves and dealing with frazzled customer-service representatives. However, some companies are now taking the time to turn customer-service interactions into a strong point of competitive difference that makes consumers want to come back for more, especially when price and other considerations are basically equal.

A new program from the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is designed to help make your service experiences better. It’s also meant to help improve relationships between participating companies and the firms they work with, such as suppliers, distributors and retailers.

“We worked with Honeywell to create a groundbreaking, totally online program aimed at making every single customer-service representative and field service representative completely focused on excellent service,” says Associate Professor Nancy Stephens of the W. P. Carey School of Business, faculty director of the program. “Honeywell Aerospace is the first company to decide to send every one of its customer-oriented representatives – 1,400 people — through the program. They want to make a very visible commitment to customer service, and other companies are looking at the program, too.”

“The partnership that’s come together between the W. P. Carey School’s Center for Services Leadership at ASU and Honeywell has really allowed us to put together a fantastic program that develops the customer-service skills for Honeywell Aerospace employees,” says Adrian Paull, Honeywell vice president for customer and product support.

Honeywell’s first class just graduated from the academy in late October, but the program can be customized by other firms. Some units are already being taken online by employees at other big-name companies.

“All companies have business-to-business relationships they want to nurture,” says W. P. Carey School of Business Dean Robert Mittelstaedt. “This new program creates an opportunity for them to really polish their customer-service skills, not only for the general public, but also for those B2B customers.”

The Center for Services Leadership helps well-known firms respond to the challenges faced as services have become a driving force in economies around the world, with less growth happening in products and manufacturing. The center’s member companies include household names like Boeing, FedEx, Honeywell Aerospace, IBM Global Services, Mayo Clinic, PetSmart, Siemens Industries, Southwest Airlines and State Farm Insurance Company.

“The companies looking at this program understand that it offers expertise from the center, including faculty instructors from the Top 30-ranked W. P. Carey School of Business,” says Professor Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the center. “At the same time, the program is also extremely flexible, since it’s offered online. It allows for standardized training across all of a company’s worldwide locations and the chance for employees anywhere from Dallas to Shanghai to Berlin, to get out of their everyday mindsets and interact with each other and make things better for their customers.”

“Wherever we are in the world, we need to operate within the cultural boundaries of that area and provide customer service that is needed and expected by the people in that area,” says Eileen Barry, a customer support project manager at Honeywell. “The major change that the W. P. Carey School training has provided to me personally and at work each day is to always think of things through the customer’s eyes.”

Some courses in the program include “Listening to the Voice of the Customer,” “Designing Customer-Focused Service Processes,” and “Recovering from Service Failures.” The idea is to make customers happy and to address any customer disappointments with great recovery. Those who complete the program receive a certificate and are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Arizona State University. These units are widely used as a measure of participation in non-credit, professional development courses.

For more information about the Center for Services Leadership or the new program, go to www.wpcarey.asu.edu/csl or call (480) 965-6201.

branding - AZ Business Magazine April 2008

Branding: The Mark Of Excellence

Companies need to build trust to build a successful brand

Great brands are made, not born. Ask any marketing expert and they’ll tell you that it takes a lot of hard work to build the recognition and trust necessary to create an indelible brand for a product or company.

“Really and truly that is what a brand is — trust,” says Nancy Stephens, an associate professor of marketing at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “When I see your brand mark on your service or your product, that tells me, ‘Yes, I know that company, I’ve had great experiences there every time, I know I can trust it. If it’s different, I don’t know if I can trust it, but maybe I can give it a try and I’ll see if I can.’”

The Valley is home to major companies that have dealt with significant branding issues over the last decade. The first, and most high profile, came about as the result of America West Airlines’ merger with US Airways in 2005. Almost overnight, a brand that had been ubiquitous in Arizona disappeared.

“It was a difficult decision to give up the America West name for us, because it was just so well-known and, we’d like to think, well-loved within the Valley and also certain communities like Las Vegas where we have another hub,” says Michelle Mohr, a spokeswoman for US Airways.

Eventually, of course, America West took on the US Airways name because company executives felt it better captured the more national and global direction the airliner was heading toward. Not unexpectedly, the name change created confusion among customers.

“We had logistical issues,” Mohr says. “US Airways had their ticket terminals in Terminal 2 in (Sky Harbor International Airport) and America West had theirs in Terminal 4. For some flights, you had to go to Terminal 2, for some you needed to come to Terminal 4. And then we had two separate ticket counters because there were two separate reservation systems at the airline. That could be rather confusing and frustrating to a customer.”

In the end, Stephens says the test for any company re-branding itself is how customers will react — and how the company will respond.

“(Changing a brand) is not an ideal thing to do and it’s an expensive thing to do because you’re going to have to send a message to a very crowded market that says, ‘We were that, now we’re this,’ ” she says. “I would not hammer with the media money until you have the experience down right, because then you get killed. Because if you say, ‘We’re still the same great company and we really care about you, and it’s going to be efficient and our employees are going to be very nice to you,’ and it’s not that way, then all your media money works against you.”

Another longtime Arizona company that is in the process of re-branding itself is the former Phelps Dodge. Louisiana-based Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold acquired Phelps Dodge in 2006. Despite the radical name change, Stephens says Freeport-McMoRan has different branding challenges than those faced by a retail customer-fueled corporation. Freeport-McMoran is a business-to-business company, but it still has constituents in the form of suppliers, buyers, investors and even the communities in which the old Phelps Dodge made its mark.

Another branding challenge companies’ face is when they take steps to change the look or even the name of a product. Locally, the Shamrock Foods Company decided to change things up in 1994 by creating the Shamrock Farms line of products, revamping its packaging and adding an illustrated “spokescow” named Roxie. It was a daring move for a company that had been around since 1922 in an industry not known for generating much excitement.

“They have taken a really boring, old product and made it pretty exciting with this new packaging,” Stephens says.

Sandy Kelly, director of marketing for Shamrock Farms, admits shaking things up was exactly what the company had in mind.

“It was a real pivotal turning point for the business overall and for the brand,” Kelly says. “We really looked at what was going on and how other consumer packaged goods brands went to market, and what we realized was that the dairy industry has typically been more commodity driven and there isn’t a lot of branding going on nationally. So we wanted to be different.”

Kelly adds that consumer focus groups continue to say they love Roxie, and as a result, the bovine has become the cornerstone of the company’s marketing campaign. In 1998, in an effort to take on soft drinks, Shamrock made some noise again by introducing milk in single-serve bottles instead of the traditional carton. The single-serve bottles are available across the country, including at 21,000 Subway locations. Just recently, Subway launched a milk mustache television ad featuring the company’s spokesman, Jared, holding a single-serve bottle of Shamrock Farms milk.

Also, the company has launched a new line of organic milk and emphasizes that it does not use the synthetic hormone rBST on its dairy cows.

While the company continues to update and add to its brand, it hasn’t lost sight of what makes a brand successful.

“We use the saying: ‘Tradition meets innovation,’” Kelly says. “We have a lot of trust built up with our consumer, but at the same time, we’ve been able to stay relevant with the needs of today, which is a challenge, especially in the dairy category. We’ve been able to have that trust, we’ve been able to build that trust.”

For more information regarding these companies visit:

wpcarey.asu.edu
fcx.com
shamrockfarms.net
usairways.com