Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm outta here

happy long weekend.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

how to keep a customer, how to be an ass

by now most in the marketing world have heard about Spirit Air CEO Ben Baldanza's woopsy reply all e-mail to a customer's complaint. the short of it: first time customers get the hoop and hop by Spirit's customer service line, can't find a working customer service e-mail address, find Ben and some other wigs' e-mail addresses and fire off an e-mail outlining their horrible flight experience.

air travel in the U.S. (or the "U.S. America") is broken. the good experiences float quickly to the top - especially with the help of the Internet. and, luckily for consumers and customer service folks, the bad experiences float with equal fervor. i'll paste the e-mail below, and then hang on for more Woolard commentary to wrap this post, but first here's an example of good airline customer service.

pa Woolard and i are headed to Green Mountain Falls this weekend for some outdoor infusion. as i normally do, i'm flying Southwest Airlines. i absolutely love this airline. i know people have their issues with the "cattle call" seating, and sure, Southwest gets delayed, etc. but overall, we all know SWA gets customer service and has taken advantage of the crap service of its competition and turned the air service model on it's head.

my Rapid Rewards card number wasn't on the reservation for the Colorado trip, and i was getting ready to book my flight to Chicago for the marathon. i thought i was close to getting a free flight, so i called the customer service line to check. sure enough, the addition of the Colorado flight was enough to get me a freebie to Chi-town. the CSR helped me through it and gave me an exact time line for when the freebie would be ready. but that's not even the notable part. she was hilarious (even at 10 p.m.) and even after i gave her the wrong Rapid Rewards number, dropped my credit card into my couch and mixed up the dates for travel. she gave me crap (in a good way), used the pauses not to eat her dinner or surf, but to engage me in what i was doing on each trip, then ask about my marathon training plan. brilliant.

so the point is, especially after you read the below e-mail, customer service comes from the top. SWA has a history of great leadership and that brand personality trickles down. Spirit, however, sounds like the polar opposite.

copy and pasted e-mail thread, via Alex Rudloff. this is quite long, Ben's response is the most important - skim through the rest.

From: Ben Baldanza []
Sent: Monday, August 20, 2007 1:02 PM
To: (removed by alex), Christy; Martin (removed by alex); Tony (removed by alex); John (removed by alex); Pasquale (removed by alex)
Subject: Re: Complaint

Please respond, Pasquale, but we owe him nothing as far as I'm concerned. Let him tell the world how bad we are. He's never flown us before anyway and will be back when we save him a penny.

-----Original Message-----
From: James (removed by alex), Christy <(removed by alex)>
To: Ben Baldanza; Martin (removed by alex); Tony (removed by alex); John (removed by alex)
Sent: Mon Aug 20 12:05:09 2007
Subject: Complaint

As first time Spirit Airline customers, we would like to inform you that we found the entire experience to be completely and utterly dissatisfying. Our biggest complaint stems from the delay of our flight on August 14, scheduled to leave Orlando, Florida at 4:40 pm and land in Atlanta, Georgia at approximately 6:13 pm. As we were waiting to board the 4:40 pm flight, an announcement was made at approximately 4:00 pm that the flight would be delayed and the new estimated departure time was 6:00 pm. The entire time that the flight was delayed, there was never an update made to the flight status board at the gate and whenever customers would inquire about the status of the flight to the gate attendant, they were informed that "as soon as we know something, you will know" in a very rude manner. Finally, the flight arrived at our gate at approximately 6:30 pm, well after the time that we were originally told was the new departure, and our flight left Orlando at approximately 7:15 pm.

When we landed and arrived at the gate to de-board in Atlanta at approximately 8:45 pm, the pilot informed the passengers that we were a few feet away from the gate and had to wait for an Atlanta airport Supervisor come unlock the gate door for us. He made it a point to inform us that this was not Spirit's fault (even though our flight was arriving almost 3 hours late). After waiting in the plane on the ground for another 20 minutes, we were finally able to de-board the plane when the Supervisor arrived.

It is understandable that flights are delayed at times, and for this reason, we booked our trip to Atlanta with ample time to get to the concert that we were supposed to attend on the night of August 14th even if the flight was delayed by up to an hour and a half. However, because the delay by your airline was so long and then there was the additional delay of getting off of the airplane, we missed the entire concert which was the sole reason we booked the trip to Atlanta. We had a hotel room that we booked in advance and stayed at the night of the 14th and there were multiple other expenses involved in this trip that turned out to be a colossal waste of time and money. To top matters off, the next morning, on our return flight with Spirit Airlines, that flight was delayed as well. The flight on August 15th was scheduled to depart Atlanta at 10:00 am and instead didn't leave until 11:00 am.

As I mentioned earlier, this was our first experience using your airline and we couldn't believe the poor customer service and flight delays. On multiple occasions, we observed your employees talking rudely to customers and just in general, exhibiting extremely poor customer service skills. My husband and I have flown other discount air carriers before and have never had the kind of problems we experienced with Spirit. Rest assured, that unless we are reimbursed for the costs of our wasted trip (including the missed concert and hotel expenses) we will be very diligent in spreading the word that Spirit is not an airline that we would ever recommend using. You can also be assured that this was the general sentiment among the passengers on board the flight on August 14th. We talked with numerous people who were missing important meetings, events, etc. and we also overheard several people indicating that that was the first and last time they will ever use Spirit Airlines.

Below we've listed all of our expenses associated with this trip and have attached receipts. Understanding that mechanical problems can unexpectedly cause delays, we still paid for our tickets, essentially entering into a contract, with the expectation that Spirit would get us to Atlanta in a reasonable amount of time. Obviously, your organization did not hold up the end of that contract.

Flight and Taxes: $73.60

Concert Tickets: $204.95

Hotel: $81.29

Airport Parking: $17.00

Now, you must also understand this is not our first choice of contact with your organization. We would have preferred our 2 phone calls to Spirit customer service representatives to resolve the issue. However, as with our experience on the flights, this too was sub par. To further your understanding of our frustration, I have included my notes from each conversation with your customer service staff.

Customer Service Contacts

August 15, 2007 - approximately 10:00 am

I called reservations and spoke with CSR Jamir, but only after a 15 minute and 37 seconds hold. (He told me he did not have an employee ID number and did not divulge his surname.) While Jamir was apologetic he was not empowered to make amends or remedy the situation. Instead, I was directed to write an email to <> and told a response would be given within 24 hours. As we ended the call, I asked him to note the time and my concern and Jamir said he would.

August 16, 2007 2:39 pm

Contacted reservations 800 number again and this time was on hold for 10 minutes. CSR Elisha was polite, but again did not have the authority to make a decision to resolve the issue. Elisha gave me a new number to call for Customer Concerns. (954)447-7965

August 16, 2007 2:53

Upon calling the customer concern number I was placed on hold for 24 minutes. After the 24 minutes, I was greeted by CSR Sandy. (Again she was unable to provide a surname) She was patient at first, listening to my story about the concert, anniversary, etc. She told me she was sorry about the inconvenience and understood the flight was delayed 170 minutes. For our trouble, she would authorize a $100 voucher each for my wife and me. She told me there were guidelines and that I was lucky I got her instead of one of her colleagues because, presumably, they would not have been as empathetic. At this point, I explained to her that I would prefer the compensation in cash and not in an airline voucher, because my expenses were not entirely related to transportation. She then explained the guidelines stated we needed to have been delayed longer in order to receive more compensation.

At this point, the tone of her voice and the overall conversation took a turn for the worse. Understanding she did not have the authority to grant my request, I requested a supervisor. Sandy said there were no supervisors available. I then asked for a name and direct number to leave a voicemail. She then proceeded to tell me all management personnel were on assignment for 8 weeks and would not be available to customers during this time. Now, frustrated, I demanded to be transferred to a supervisors voicemail and informed her they could contact me in 8 weeks if need be. She finally stated she would note the account with regards to the $200 in vouchers and transferred me. As Sandy was ending the call and before she pushed the button to transfer me, I heard her say to a colleague, Im done with this guy. Moments before she made this comment, she boasted that I will be the nicest person you speak with here. How unfortunate for your company if this is an accurate statement.

When she transferred me to the supposed voicemail of supervisor Terry Rusche (out on assignment for 8 weeks), the call was actually directed to extension #8962. This extension as it happens was dead. We resolved to take further written action based on this conversation between myself and CSR Sandy.

We would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter and expect that you will resolve the situation as quickly and fairly as possible.


James and Christine (removed by alex)
(removed by alex)
Orlando, FL (removed by alex)

PS. This is my third attempt to send this email. Apparently, the email address that the first CSR gave me was incorrect. I had to call the customer service phone number AGAIN and have currently been on hold for 120 minutes. Since I'm not doing anything but wasting my time while waiting for someone to answer the phone, I googled your airline to try to find the email address because it is nowhere to be found on your website. Instead of finding the customer service address, I found a very extensive blog concerning the customer service your airline has provided recently. It is apparent that we are not the only people who find the customer service at Spirit to be severely lacking.


well, Ben, James and Christine did just what you asked: they told the world how bad you are. Spirit's (and your) bad name is everywhere. from marketing to technology to travel blogs. mainstream media is picking up your story. and i promise you that even if a customer is about to "save a penny," he or she will think about hearing something about some issue where you were a total ass...and i hope they pass Spirit over in favor for a carrier that understands the necessity of keeping its customers happy.

now watch me get delayed for eight days on the way to colorado...ha.

unrelated: anyone interested in seeing Ben Kweller in Lawrence tonight? i've got to take the Monk dog to his g-parents, but will be in town and could be coerced.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Woolards, meet Dave

to mark my father's b-day, i grabbed some box seats to Dave Matthews Band tomorrow night at Verizon. the whole family's going. should be a woolard-tastic time. DMB has really been the soundtrack of many signposts in my life. though (thankfully) my musical taste has matured far past Dave, i still hold a special place in my heart for the songs that i blasted in my Ford Escort in high school, sang on many a night at my college fraternity and kept me company on car rides and trips near and far. seeing DMB during their summer tours has been a true right of passage to fall in my world for as long as i can remember. i still have concert t-shirts from the 90s.

my mom's never seen them live, and the last time my dad was at Verizon may well have been when he accompanied a group of wild high school kids to see R.E.M. what a guy.

if you're out tomorrow night, shoot me a text or call - or simply look at the box section and keep your eyes peeled for a family of four standing on their seats, singing along.

here's my ultimate, anytime, fast and slow, young and old, Dave mix, to get you pumped:

The Best of What's Around
The Warehouse
Do Damn Lucky
Too Much
Crash Into Me
Let You Down
Lover Lay Down
Where Are You Going
Grace is Gone
Diggin' a Ditch
Back You Up
Grey Street
Two Step
Stay or Leave
If I Had it All
The Stone
Pay For What You Get

have you blown your customers' minds lately?

my writerly side has been reawakened recently with some songwriting that's been coming to life with my good friend and mandolin player moe. for the first time since high school (when i hauled a cadillac-sized amplifier and used electric bass (it was turquoise) to my friend's barn to play covers), i'm actually playing guitar WITH someone. and it feels pretty good.

it's also pretty awesome to say, "I can't do that tonight, I have band practice." even if it consists of moe and i drinking beer and sitting in my office/monk's bedroom playing into my MacBook.

so to back to the point of mind blowing, the other night we were talkin' lyrics and i pulled up the amazing "" as a little inspiration and it reminded me how much i love this project. mainly, i dig the fact that technology and emotion are crossing paths. so often, technology is a cold, factual, tool used to get somewhere, complete something, find and answer or communicate in a very brief way. We Fee Fine highlights raw e-emotion with a tech solution that is as artful as functional. and there's no reason it can't be a model for brand interaction online.

on the same point, the hitotoki project is another site i love to explore. the concept is so simple, yet is based around a feeling all of us have: a split-second emotion/experience that ends up creating a memory that can be delightful and melancholy. the site functions to create a narrative map of tokyo (and now NYC - you can guess which one i care more about). the little vignettes are great reads, and if you're familiar with tokyo, dead-on descriptions of place.

as inspiring as both these sites are to my artistic side, they are equally powerful to consider as i think about client sites and client communication. it's easy to overlook emotion - or simply opt for flash and fact, when many times, consumers are looking for the heart of a brand. they want the interactive story. they want the chance to connect. it's why blogs have taken off. it's why photo sharing is popular. it's why brands' social networking pages on myspace or applications/groups on facebook can garner more loyalty than a flashy microsite.

whether you need to find the last line to the chorus or are proposing a deviation to traditional online executions, finding examples outside of brand name executions can be just the awakening you need.

and if you're playing along, i'm three full working days away from the "Woolard Male Mountainpalooza" in Colorado. tick tock. tick tock. Pa Woolard and i are headed to Green Mountain Falls again for the long weekend of hiking/running/climbing/eating/beering.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New post on the Do Better Blog

too late to re-post here, but it's relevant to us marketers. hit up Interwoven Threads' Do Better Blog for more.


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Monday, August 20, 2007

Bike update: I'm doing this 'cause I love you

i feel kinda sad right now...not going to lie to you. one of those, "i'm missing something" moments (laugh here). i dropped the Western Flyer off at the Trek Store prior to the monday group ride tonight. i'd fiddled with the 3-speed internal hub all weekend, to no avail. got frustrated and thought i should put it in the hands of someone smarter than i. so off to the doc's at the Trek Store, where they greeted me after my ride with good news: there are missing parts. hub's broke-down-yo-gone. they're ordering some new parts to rebuild it, in the meantime, they're adjusting my brakes and replacing all the cables (i put commuter tires on this weekend to replace the larger rubbers that arrived with the bike).

that's good news, yes, but i felt a bit validated when they let me know it was basically impossible to fix that darn thing...made my efforts in vain seem more brave than stupid. i'm always game for that.

great ride tonight - 5 flats along the route though! that's some crazy bad karma. luckily i escaped with only a sound appreciation for carrying the needed tubes/CO2 if an when I flat. as always, tasty homebrew met us at the finish, where i paced around the Madone. it's a great group ride if you're interested in a nice post-weekend recovery. and the folks at the Trek Store are always great to work with and super-helpful.

It's been a while since i've posted here goes:

Greatest.Safari.Ever/Proof Darwin was full of crap

One brilliant PSA (hit "Olay" video)
What i'd get excited about if i had no life.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It looks like a huge...banana....

i just don't know where to start. there's a new installation on Kansas City's Folly Theatre. what i wouldn't give to be a fly on the wall at that work site. i wonder what its casted shadow looks like?

if you thought you couldn't be more impressed with this gigantic, protruding banana sculpture, there's video here. i wonder why installation was delayed, as the video states? anyway, i'm glad they got it up.

the giant banana was erected in a nod to the Folly's former Vaudeville days. or something.

also heard/seen in KC today:

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tour of Trek

one of my favorite bloggers, Guy Kawasaki, penned a nice behind-the-curtain post on one of my favorite brands, Trek.

one of the things that stood out to me is how Trek is working to ensure its own employees are its evangelists...something many brands and companies forget while attempting to convert customers to zealots. from a nice bike garage and locker rooms for commuters to free bike tuneups to gear discounts and points accumulated for commuting each day, it's no wonder the brand is thriving from the inside out.

how is your company making it easy for you to be it's biggest fan?

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Monday, August 13, 2007

my kind of new biz pitch

brilliant. i applaud BooneOakley (and it's freakin' hot website/soundtrack) for its approach and delivery of its pitch to Saucony. i realize the dog and pony that most agencies summon for new biz pitches quickly fades in most cases, but darn it, i'm behind these guys and Saucony should be too. it's a relevant way to prove (seriously, the RAN for this biz) their passion, while implementing the blog to show the agency's ability to tell a story.

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Monday, August 06, 2007

Bike update

worked late tonight, then made some pork chops. yum. after the temperature dropped below 100 (round about 9 p.m.), monk and i hit the garage to work on the western flyer and kill some time before Shinji, my roommate from my japan days, arrives to crash on his way across the country.

monk loves to help...whether he's doing anything other than parking it in the yard or not. i commend him for actually moving a couple times tonight. once when the neighbor kids came over to pet him. the next when my next door neighbor dropped by. i can't blame him though - the heat is horrible.

made some progress getting the three-speed detached from the hub (properly, after some informative reading and a couple near fatal attempts doing it the wrong way). cleaned the chain and rear hub, which was caked in grease and's still not sparkly, but you can see it. worked a bit on the cogs and then cleaned up the rims, tires. the tires look surprisingly good after a scrubbing...the tubes need replacing, but i may be able to eek out some time on the existing tires. it's amazing what soap and water and a little 409 will do...the bike is in great cosmetic shape - dust and sediment are gone, and a new shine is ready to be admired.

and though i tried to pry the chain lock off, it won't budge without the proper criminal arsenal. that's the major problem left at this point. i can't wait to ride it.

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Further devaluation of the PowerBar brand?

a little bit ago i read a post from the Soiled Chamois (heckuva blog, by the way) on PowerGel's availability (on the cheeeeap) in Wal-Mart (i refuse to link). i was in the grocery store yesterday and saw the super-cheap gel packs and almost purchased a few. i didn't. for two reasons: 1) i don't like the product 2) i am a snob when it comes to mass brands, which PowerBar has become.

i don't use PowerGel for biking or running, but it's never proven as useful as the Hammer Gel, Clif Shots or Jelly Belly Sport Beans i normally use. anyway, i wasn't shocked to see that PowerGel was in big-box retailers, though i was slightly saddened for the brand. anytime a brand goes big box, especially Wal-Mart, a level of overall brand devaluation occurs. a second level of devaluation occurs within the minds of certain consumer demos. even if the product hasn't changed (and many times, mass distribution allows the product to be improved), there's a perception attached that it's the quantity upsets the quality.

Target (also carrying PowerGel) is at least a step up from Wally World...although Target's retailing of Eddie Bauer products didn't do as well for that brand as it's carrying of Mossimo, which has darn near revived and sustained the surf-tastic clothing company. it's always a risk for a brand. the PowerBar brand has been mass for quite some time. PowerBar has always been the standby at gas stations (not to say i haven't appreciated grabbing one when i've needed to refuel mid-route). think about the early days of PowerAde vs. Gatorade (which was available darn near everywhere). Now you can get PowerAde in vending machines, fast food joints, etc.

i'm sure PowerBar has a solid business strategy for it's distribution plan. it certainly does fill a certain market space by being available and cheap en masse. but, i would argue that it's losing its credibility among certain niche groups of athletes. product aside (gels are very personal, so i'm not going to get into an argument for or against PowerGel's ability to work - that's not the point of this post), placement defines the product's worth just as much as what the product is made of. i like having to go out of my way to find my Hammer Gel at specialty outdoor or multi-sport shops. on some level, it shows me that there's an exclusivity of which i want to be a part.

i agree with jason that there is merit in the cost (especially if PowerGel is your gel of choice - jackpot for your wallet!). mass placement increases the product volume and lowers the cost, while upping the opportunity to supplement a wider group of consumers' workouts with a nutritional strategy. and yes, i do dig the 4x sodium mixture PowerGel includes, although i prefer to get that sodium from pringles (those things taste so dang good mid-run). athletic supplements and gear are already so freakin' expensive that doing many sports right is a bit out of the realm for many athletes. the cheaper the better in many cases.

so the question is, where's the balance between growth and exclusivity? the answer isn't above, certainly, but i'd love to hear thoughts. at the end of the day, a brand must first know who its customer is and where to engage that customer. one could argue that PowerBar is simply being successful at creating a strategy based on those two insights. time will tell.

what brands have you loved until you found them at the mega mall? tales of brand infidelity? any stories of brand death or survival at the hands of big-box retailers?

on a different note, it's been too long since i've recommended some music: Devendra Banhart. so there you be.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

When can we stop saying "new media?"

today i was in a presentation with a great retail client. bricks and mortar. products for the everyman. family biz. the leader of the company is a dynamic guy, open to most ideas within reason and very willing to try executions that stray from the mainstream. he knows his business and gets the big picture that his business lives within.

about halfway through the presentation we got to talking about blogs (can marketers get through one conversation without saying the "b" word?) and i realized there was no mention, anywhere within the presentation we'd created of anything to do with traditional media. even the direct mail direction was based on online communication. i verbalized this thought and we all got a kick out of it, then kept talking about microsites and word of mouth. and while many clients (and agencies) would burp a bit over such a non-traditional approach, it worked for this situation. traditional media would prove to be less effective than "new media" in this case.

my point is, i think it's time we stop saying "new" in front of words like "communications" and "media" and we champion the fact that the world we live in and the consumers we engage in conversation don't care about the media mix or even what we might call the media mix.

it was a good day for drawing a line between the present and the future, then erasing that line.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The bike fairy cometh

a lot of people e-mailed today and let me know my last post was sad. blue. some of you bike-riding folks chastised me for not sweeping up the cruiser at the swap meet. rebecca (who only posts a comment when I include a picture of Monk) even commented. this e-support was peppered in the middle of a truly bad day. it's been a stressful week and today seemed like a sort of bad-week cherry.

the light at the end of the workday was my bike ride back home from the office. after climbing the Mission Rd hill, I turned into the neighborhood liqour store to pick up some tipple. it's always fun to visit the KCK liqour store in a chamois and jersey. they pretty much count me as already drunk. as i shoved my sixer into my messenger bag, i noticed a bright yellow Western Flyer (Fairway Flyer model) parked outside the second-hand store down the strip mall.

i booked my butt home, grabbed my checkbook and drove back to purchase the bike. talk about a great end to a bad day. and maybe a little visit by the bike fairy? i do think so. this little gem is now sitting in my garage, waiting for me to figure out what's wrong with the front tire tube. the back tire and tube are tight - inflate fine and are holding air. cosmetically, there are just a few blemishes. it's a 3-speed with front and rear brakes. need some new parts, but for 10 buckaroos, it's going to be a breeze to justify spending up. i think the biggest feat will be cutting the bike lock off the frame - anyone have some bolt cutters?

i need to do some more research on the year, etc., but its Western Flyer pedigree makes me pretty excited.

i need to get back to working on work (seriously, how am i expected to do this when the bike is mere feet away?), but wanted to post some pictures. if anyone has any info on this model, much obliged...i'll have to figure out some basic bike repair/restoration steps. but seriously, if i fix the front tire, the little yellow classic is ready to go for a few loops.

thank you, bike fairy, for brightening my day.

back to work....