Monday, May 30, 2005

Customer Satisfaction - 2

Lately I've been shopping around this idea I have to conduct an industry-wide survey for golf resorts. A lot of people seem interested, virtually everyone agrees it would be beneficial - for golfers who travel as well as for the golf resorts who want them - but so far no sponsors.

Imagine: the equivalent of what JD Power does for autos, airlines and, now, even healthcare (!). Measuring delivery on the service promise, customer satisfaction and intent - man, it's the Mother Lode!

Why am I interested in doing this?
- BURRIS no longer works with a golf resort, and in addition to the fact that I believe we should be, we have quite a bit of knowledge and experience that could be put to good use in leading such a study.
- I am a golf traveler myself (you can tell that on my "other" blog, "Golfography"), and over the years my experience tells me that golf resorts don't pay enough attention to their customers: what they want and what they think.
- I believe such a survey has ongoing value, that ultimately there's a research subscription model here, one where the very same resorts we'll be surveying pay a fee to see the results, verbatims, and comparisons with their competitive set.
- And, finally, perhaps it may lead to what I refer to as "hire the inspector" business. (When the Terminix guy finds evidence of termites, who do you hire to get rid of the little buggers?) The natural question at Wild Dunes or Sea Island after learning that their guests aren't likely to return or recommend the resort to their friends is to drill into the problem areas and develop marketing (and other) solutions.

Let's face it: this is an increasingly transparent consumer society; the web has made it so. Customers can find out the real factory invoice cost for a new car before going to the dealer; we can check special sites such as to see what others have said about a camera or vacation we're considering. And at eBay and Amazon virtually every transaction, every product and every seller is rated by the buyers. Netflix asks me to rate the movies I rent; now they even ask if I want to recommend what I watch to a friend.

So if resorts fear their guests or prospects might react negatively - that is, not come, stay and play - then all I can tell them is that genie's already out of the bottle.

Look! More than 75% of golf travelers take at least one golf trip per year. If they come to your place, you'd better deliver them satisfaction, and if you don't, you'd better know how you you can fix it. Why? Because they won't come back, and they won't recommend you to their friends, family or associates.

This is a small market, these "affluent avids." Just how many there are, we're going to find out. What they think about where they go, where they want to go next - we're going to find that out too.

Monday, May 23, 2005

"Advertising is a stepping stone"

Rob Bodle sent along an excellent article by Stuart Elliot in the New York Times (you can find it here).

I'm telling you: "Advertising" as we know it is dying. That's not to say traditional media advertising doesn't work. It can. But increasingly it's a pointer, a stepping stone to something else (or more): a web site, downloadable messaging, an introduction or invitation to participate, to play, to get involved.

"The World Is Flat"

I'm reading a fascinating book by Thomas L. Friedman, an editorial correspondent for The New York Times.

The World Is Flat does a marvelous job of recounting the political, economic, cultural and technological forces that have equalized the world - first, second and third worlds, all included. Information and bandwidth have set free skills and ambition all over the planet, and this helps explain why India, China, Korea, Romania and other heretofore small players in the world economy are having a big impact today, perhaps especially on the U.S.

Friedman's premise is that such a convergence of factors has created a flattening of opportunity, that the advantages of geography have been minimized. It's a powerful book, one that is basically divided into two sections. The first part recounts what's gotten us to this point. The second is a more sobering look at why this is especially difficult for the U.S. and what will have to change in order for us to remain a leader, a force in the world economy.

According to Friedman, there are four categories of employee in the U.S. who can survive, among them those who can remain flexible, who can adapt their skills and add education to stay one or more steps ahead of being outsourcing or offshoring victims. He tells the story of his friend Bill Greer, formerly an illustrator/artist. "If he was doing an illustration for a newspaper or a magazine, or proposing a new logo for a product, he would actually create a piece of art - sketch it, color it, mount it on an illustration board, cover it with tissue, put it in a package that was opened with two flaps, and have it delivered by messenger or FedEx." Well, we all know what happened to that kind of work: it went the way of the typesetter and the color separator. So Greer had to either adopt new skills (Photoshop or Quark or Illustrator, working on a computer instead of an easel) or develop and market a new competency. Friedman quotes him:

"'It was unconscious,' said Greer. 'I had to look for work that not everyone else could do, and that young artists couldn't do with technology for a fraction of what I was being paid. So I started getting offers where people would say to me, "Can you do this and just give us the big idea?" They would give me a concept, and they would just want sketches, ideas, and not a finished piece of art. I still use the basic skill of drawing, but just to convey an idea - quick sketches, not finished artwork.... It is more like being a consultant rather than a JAFA (Just Another F--king Artist).'"

I've been saying for months: that the execution of marketing communications is being commoditized. "Good enough" is much less expensive, and we have to find a way to offer something more ... and something more valuable.

"Ideas" are what we need to sell.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Healthcare shame

"Given the politics [of healthcare in the U.S.], what's striking is how substantial medical payments have continued to be. Physicians in the United States today remain better compensated than physicians anywhere else in the world. Our earnings are more than seven times those of the average American employee, and that gap has grown over time. (In most industrialized countries, the ratio is under three.) This has allowed American medicine to attract enormous talent to its ranks, and kept doctors willing to work harder than members of almost any other profession. At the same time, the politics of health care has shown little concern for the uninsured. One in seven Americans has no coverage, and one in three younger than sixty-five will lose coverage at some point in the next two years. These are people who aren't poor or old enough to qualify for government programs but whose jobs aren't good enough to provide benefits, either. Our byzantine insurance system leaves gaps at every turn." - From the April 4, 2005, New Yorker, an article whose name and author I don't recall. (I ripped the page out of the magazine in order to remember this paragraph.)

I wish I had written it. And I wish I could do something about it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Big Ideas"

What clients want most from their agencies is "the power of the big idea," said the president of Volvo Cars North America (and quoted in a column in The New York Times). (Click on the title of this post to go to the article.)

Many of the pooh-bahs of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA, or "4A's," as we know it), meeting in Bermuda, of all places, repeated what I've been writing (and we at BURRIS have been talking) about for months. Consumers ignoring advertising messages, full-service agency functions fracturing among specialty resources, the primacy of ideas over developing mere creative - these are the issues the venerable 4A's are discussing among their own, as though they - and not consumers and clients - are really setting the agenda.

I'll tell you this: my thinking on these topics originates from my consumer sensibilities and then ripples out to my life as a professional marketer. Paying scant attention to the consumer - and marketers' neglect of him and her - got out-of-favor brands into the quagmire they're in. And focusing on the consumer is exactly what will get them out. That, and "big ideas."

What's on my mind today? Two big things and how we can put our thinking to work on them:
- Customer service and guest satisfaction, especially in the golf travel business.
- Leveraging loyalty and intent to enhance a brand's relationship with its customers.

I'm happy to be where I am ... instead of in Bermuda this week.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

"Melding strategy and design"

Interesting article in the current Communication Arts, a tony professional magazine for communication professionals, about Stone Yamashita Partners in San Francisco.

(The article, "Designing Change," isn't available online, but you can learn more by going to the magazine's website at, or visit the company's site here.)

"...For firms looking to accelerate out of a slump, reinvent themselves, or simply get ahead of the curve, the ability to meld strategy and design to help revolutionize corporate culture is a set of skills worth acquiring."

I thought I was reading our own - BURRIS's - playbook. What the article's author, Marty Neumeier, calls "new conceptual territory" is a description or promise I wish I had written about us: "The possibility of a new type of business in which design and strategy co-mingle to do what neither can do separately - help CEOs do what Peter Drucker has called Job One, finding the future of the organization."

Customer Satisfaction

Jeff Foster at The Golf Channel says that I'm at my best when identifying problems I can then help solve. I think he's right.

My latest obsession is golf and travel. Although the numbers may be just a tad off, here's the way I frame it up:

There are 6.3 million "avid" golfers in the U.S. (An "avid" is defined as one who plays at least 25 rounds per year.) And there are approximately 1.5 million "affluent avid" golfers (avids with more than $125k in HHI). Affluent avids take three golf trips per year.

So if you're running or marketing a golf destination - especially an upscale property - your primary opportunity is sitting right there in paragraph 3: affluent avid golfers taking golf trips.

Where do they go? Where do they want to go?

They are twice as likely to choose their next destination based on a referral than due to a mailer they receive or an ad they read. They are more likely to go where they go because someone they know tells them they should consider it.

Golf professionals, avid golfers, writers we enjoy and trust - these are the true influencers in golf travel.

So, there are, let's say, 1.5 million candidates for visiting your golf resort. Some have been there before. Will they return? Will they bring a group with them? Will they recommend that their friends visit?

What? You don't know? You don't know if they had a good trip, what they liked, what they didn't like?

That 1.5 million opportunity gets pretty small if you're not delivering customer satisfaction.

And how do you know if you're delivering or not if you're not measuring it?

I am obsessed with developing a customer satisfaction measurement model that can transcend performance from one resort to the other, capture the data, help the resorts compare their deliveries to others in their competitive set, and, most important, with this knowledge improve in key areas so that they can grow and perpetuate a kind of "virtuous circle" of excellence.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

New BURRIS web site

In many of the entries to the Burris Blogspot, I've walked, sometimes crawled through the process of our "evolution" into an idea company. At the same time we have been on a parallel course rebuilding our web site to help us explain it more graphically and in more powerful language.

Our new web site is now up and running at

First, a tip of the hat to Beverly Flichman and Troy Martin, who led the project with their energy and ideas, bringing our thoughts to life in cyberspace. The rest of us contributed - a lot - but my view is these two did most of the heavy lifting. It's safe to say that if you love or hate your visit to, the kudos or blame should start with them.

That said, I am confident that the site demonstrates what we say we do on both sides of our business:

(1) The "Dream It Up" side, our process of inspirating ideation solutions to marketing problems. And
(2) The "Make It Happen" side, our talents, abilities and experience in creating marketing communications that meet the needs of our customers.

BURRIS has been at this for 20 years. This is the best I've felt about what we do and how we do it.

Why don't you sample this iteration of our company? Click on the title and enter the "new" world of BURRIS.