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The Secret to Building a Healthy Brand
For the rest of the February 2013 issue of CRM magazine please click here
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Many people would agree that leveraging the ideas, talents, and wisdom of crowds is good for business. From a company's perspective, it doesn't have to rely on a single employee or small department to determine all of the obstacles and opportunities that lie ahead. Plus, what better way to keep customers and prospects engaged with your brand and give them what they really want than to periodically ask them?

Doing this enables organizations to cocreate their brand with their customers, which is what organizations should strive for, according to one industry insider in the feature story "The Pros and Cons of Crowdsourcing," by Associate Editor Judith Aquino. "A lot of brands are still under the illusion that they have control over their brands when the truth is…you cocreate your brand with your customers and the sooner you realize that, the stronger your brand will be," the source states.

To get this valuable customer input, more organizations are experimenting with low-cost crowdsourcing tools. There are caveats, though, and some even warn against the practice of crowdsourcing from an open community in certain situations. Read this story to find out what the concerns are and why you might want to consider what one source calls curated crowdsourcing.

This doesn't mean you should completely dismiss the idea of garnering customer knowledge, preferences, and ideas. In fact, the ability to capture customer feedback is making its way into more traditional CRM products. While not as hyped as crowdsourcing tools, case management apps have come a long way to accommodate some of the latest technology developments in social media, gamification, and multichannel environments. What's more, these solutions are becoming more dynamic, enabling customer service representatives to change the conversation on the fly, based on customer responses to scripted questions. This creates a more personalized approach to solving customer problems, based on individual customer needs. For more information on these developments, read our cover story, "Case Management Takes a Dynamic Turn," by News Editor Leonard Klie.

These developments, among others, are raising customer expectations of businesses, making it harder for companies to get away with neglectful and even abusive customer practices, such as those performed by Bally Total Fitness in the 1990s. The health club chain justifiably endured a significant blow to its brand for unscrupulously locking customers into multiyear contracts. (I recall, while in my 20s, narrowly avoiding this trap, despite the high-pressure sales tactics used to try to lure me in.)

Recovering from such a blow is challenging, but not impossible. For its part, Bally has abandoned the multiyear contract in favor of month-to-month memberships, has moved from a sales culture to a service culture, and is even monitoring and responding to social media entries. To learn more about Bally's transformation, read our exclusive interview with Guy Thier, the company's senior vice president and chief information officer, in the Q&A "Bally Pumps Up Its Image," by Associate Editor Kelly Liyakasa.

While time will tell if these efforts will work, Bally recognizes the best way to build a strong brand is to regularly listen and respond to customers.


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