Author Archives: Evelyn Starr

Eye of the Buyer

Eye of the buyerTwo weeks ago Fidelity took me on a frustrating financial odyssey. 

This summer Fidelity ditched long-time credit card partners American Express and Bank of America to consolidate its service with Elan Financial Services.  Anyone holding a Fidelity credit card received a new Fidelity Visa Signature card from Elan.

I was one of the 550,000+ who received a new card.  It was unclear to me whether I needed to re-designate where I wanted my rewards to go, so I tried to log into the new Fidelity Visa card website.

A security question prompt requested my eldest sibling’s name.  I didn’t recall ever providing that information, but tried putting in my sister’s name.  No go.

I tried her nickname.  Still no go, but this time I got slapped with “limited access” and on-screen requests for my credit card number, zip code and the last four digits of my social security number.

Those data reset my account access level but I still couldn’t get in.  I called Elan’s customer service line.

My account wouldn’t come up for the Elan customer service rep either.  She apologized and advised me to go through my regular Fidelity account.

I logged into my Fidelity account and looked at the menu options. None of them related to their credit card service.  It took me five minutes of clicking around to find the credit card info.

And I have no idea how I got there.

As you can tell, this odyssey ceased to be fun about five paragraphs ago.  Thirty minutes of my life wasted in the process.

Fidelity made the move to offer a more widely accepted card and to woo millennial prospects.  But they forgot to test drive the experience from the buyer’s point of view.

A customer should not have to wade through two websites and endure a fruitless phone call to get a question answered.

My brand image of Fidelity isn’t the Wow-I-get-2%-back-isn’t-this-great-and-the-card-is-so-widely-accepted that they were going for.  Now it’s Fidelity-is-a-pain-in-the-posterior-to-work-with-and-wastes-my-time.

Is that fair you ask?

To me?  Or to them?

Fair doesn’t factor in when customers have a suboptimal experience with your brand, even if it is with one of your brand partners.  It still reflects on your brand.

Worse yet, many customers won’t take the time to complain about it.  They’ll just go somewhere else to buy.

But you don’t have to sit there and lose customers.  Like every risk, this is also an opportunity for your brand to shine.

What you need in this case is some R and R:  Research and Road testing.

Research products with your target audience before you launch them.  Get their input on your ideas before you invest heavily in them – even at the concept stage.  Definitely when you have a prototype for review.

Upfront research will save you money and time by increasing the chances that your products will succeed.  It also decreases the risk of disappointing and losing customers.  In the long run, that is even more valuable.

Once launched your offerings build or detract from your brand image every day.  The way your product performs.  The service customers get when they call.  The ease (or not) of using your website.

Road test your products and customer interfaces periodically.  Search and buy from your website.  Call your customer service line.  Buy from your distributors.  See how your product is displayed.  Make sure your manufacturers are delivering on spec.

Ultimately you want your brand to delight your audience so that they associate it with solving their problems and making them feel good.  Not with wondering where you stashed the website tab they seek or why the second product they purchased was of a lesser quality than the first.

Research and road testing not only helps to keep your brand quality high, it gets you more in touch with and attuned to your target audience.  More able to see your brand in the eye of the buyer.

And that is the winning viewpoint!

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How to Use Surveys Strategically

Survey on a clipboard - how to do surveys strategically and wellOur world has gotten feedback happy.  And it’s annoying.

In a 48-hour period at the beginning of May I received five surveys.

One paper survey via snail mail with 66 questions to rate my son’s pediatrician.  One online survey from a hotel I had stayed at the prior weekend and another from a hotel stay two weeks before.  A third online survey from the conference I had just attended, and a fourth one from OpenTable for the restaurant I had dined in the Friday before. read more

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5 Ways A Good Rivalry Benefits Your Brand

Michael Phelps competing June 28 in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on NBC Sports

Michael Phelps competing June 28 in the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials on NBC Sports

Do you know who Michael Phelps is?

Unless you have been living behind a boulder, you probably do. (I avoid clichés.)  The 31-year-old swimming phenom has 22 Olympic medals, 18 of them gold, and has set numerous world records.

Phelps’ main rival, Ryan Lochte, has 11 Olympic medals.  Without Phelps present Lochte could be considered the best male swimmer of all time.  But he happened to come of age at the same time as Phelps and therefore has an underdog position to him. read more

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How FitBit Stays Fit

array of FitBit productsI have been exercising regularly most of my life.  As a high energy person, I discovered in my teens that expending this energy often helped my sanity.  And that of the people around me.

In high school I took modern dance classes.  In college I took aerobics classes.

When I moved to Boston, I found a gym and cajoled myself to go there a few times a week.  read more

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A College Brand Standout

3 blank college pennants - one navy, one gray, one maroon.

Image Source: Pennantflags.com

On April 20th, as I sat in an auditorium at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I had my marketing heart stolen.

My son AJ and I were in the process of a 1000-mile tour to revisit three colleges to help him choose one.

On that beautiful Wednesday morning, AJ was sitting in on a class while I attended a one-hour parent session conducted by Neil Weissman, Dean of the College. read more

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Should Your Brand Be on Facebook?

Facebook like thumbs up hand and thumbs down handWhen I woke up on April 3, 2009, I did not know that I would be joining Facebook that day.

Around 8pm I had just connected on LinkedIn with friends from my high school years when one of them wrote, “You need to get on Facebook! We have been posting some old group photos that you are in.”

Talk about an incentive to join. read more

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How New Customer Only Deals Burn Your Brand

light bulb burning bright unlike new customer only deals which hurt your brandIn addition to my roles as wife, mother, healer and finder of things in our household, I am also Chief Operations Officer.  Like any good COO, I seek to keep overhead costs down.

So when our electricity bill shot up this winter, I investigated. read more

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Vacation by Chocolate

Evelyn's Original Chocolate Wrapper from Hershey's Chocolate World brand experienceMy husband Dan has a particular knack when planning vacations.  I’m not talking about posh accommodations or exotic destinations or exclusive restaurants.

When he was helping to plan our trip to Paris to celebrate my 40th birthday, he discovered that a major chocolate exhibition was going to be there at the same time.  Besides sampling and purchase opportunities, there were multiple exhibits including a replica of a 17th century dress made of chocolate. read more

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Cases of List-taken Identity

Good list management means seeing the customer's point of view.For the past year I’ve been immersed in my son AJ’s college search.  We’ve visited 11 schools, some of them twice.  It’s been fun and one of the funny outcomes is that I have realized that I would be happy to go to college now. 

I’m not serious of course.  But there are some schools who think otherwise.  Three colleges have begun courting me. read more

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Getting Carded at 50

Over the course of Thanksgiving week I traveled about 600 miles.  From our house in Natick, Massachusetts to my parents’ house in Northern New Jersey, out to a college visit in Pennsylvania and then back to Natick again.

At the end of this odyssey I arrived home to find an unmarked envelope in my mail.  You know, the kind with no sender identified in the return address.

I thought it might be an updated credit card that the issuer did not want to call attention to in the mail.

But no, it was my AARP card. read more

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