Over the last 12 years, thanks to social media, I have had the privilege to meet a variety of amazing marketing, leadership, social media, and customer experience experts. One of these experts is Kathi Kruse from Southern California. We recently discussed social media, employee engagement, and customer experience marketing, and highlights follow below Kathi’s bio.
Kathi Kruse is an automotive digital retail expert, social media strategist, dealership profitability expert, blogger, author, speaker, and Founder/CEO of Kruse Control Inc. She lives with her cats Jack, Sammy, and Daisy; and is a volunteer board member and marketing/online fundraising chair of Hanaeleh Horse Rescue. Ten percent of Kruse Control profits go to animal welfare.
Connect with Kathi online:
QUESTION: We met via Twitter and Facebook back in 2013 when you provided a brand tip on my blog. You wrote: "It’s never been more important to have a customer-centric culture. Everything you say and do – including how you treat your employees – is being broadcast throughout the web. Make sure your culture is ready for prime time. Being able to tell the story of your business in a meaningful way connects your brand to your prospects and customers. By communicating how you do business, you initiate the customer experience long before they walk on the lot or visit your website." How has that tip evolved nearly a decade later?
KATHI KRUSE: Honestly, I haven't seen much evolve around this subject (at least in auto retail) so my tip remains relevant. The pandemic advanced the car business 10 years in 10 short months, so there's been a lot of upheaval and scrambling. Inventory shortages are causing a lot of disruption, so the daily operations process has had to adjust, which makes it super challenging to forecast and earn a profit. Retailers are doing well if they have cars to sell, but many do not, and they're understandably worried. Once the shortages subside, operations will have to adapt again, along with consumers' new-found freedom of buying more online. But my tip still stands exactly as I said it nearly a decade ago.
QUESTION: In 2015, you contributed to a post on my blog featuring social media tips. You wrote: "Brands must do a better job of generating employee engagement and participation in content marketing. Employees, especially salespeople, are the fountain of quality information that your customers crave. Start with a social media policy, provide training, make content submission easy, establish WIIFM (what’s in it for me), and encourage growth of employees’ personal brands. Employee expertise = quality content!" How has that tip evolved over the years?
KATHI KRUSE: Most of this tip is still solid, too! Employees are integral to a brand. Taking a holistic approach to unite the digital and traditional components of operations often means restructuring long-held beliefs. Outdated behaviors and processes constitute change, and employees play a significant role in any plan toward digital retail transformation. What's changed with my tip is that it's not just content marketing anymore that employees should participate in. Now, it's representing themselves online in a way that aligns with the brand and integrating Social Selling techniques to laser-target their prospecting and establish rapport through existing connections.
TWEET THIS: Employees are integral to a brand. –@KathiKruse #EmployerBranding #BrandExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: What's your favorite social media platform, and why?
KATHI KRUSE: Twitter. It's a great way to meet more people, introduce them to my business content and capitalize on common interests. I'm an equine advocate/Board member at Hanaeleh Horse Rescue, and Twitter allows me to share more information to those that don't know what's happening on our public lands with wild horses and burros.
Instagram is a close second for me, for different reasons. At the end of the day, I can fire up Instagram, navigate to Beth Stern's (Howard's wife) account, and see what kittens she's rescued and adopted out. Also see what Toby Toad's doing. If you're not following him, you're missing out!
Check out Beth Stern at: https://www.instagram.com/bethostern/
TWEET THIS: Twitter is a great way to capitalize on common interests. —@KathiKruse #Twitter #SocialMediaMarketing #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: According to Bill Gates, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Have you ever had an experience that began horribly and ended by your becoming a happy advocate for the brand?
KATHI KRUSE: This is about turning a bad experience into a positive one. I had a problem with one of the sensors on my home security system. I called to get help, and it didn't go well. The person was clearly untrained, which made them unsure of themselves and unable to help me. Since I wasn't able to get my situation handled, I gave up that day after getting very frustrated.
I was seriously contemplating going to a different company, but rather than jump, I waited a few days and called again. This time, I talked with a great gal who walked me through replacing the sensor myself. She also explained that the person who had frustrated me earlier was based in another country and does work very hard. I felt bad for being so frustrated with the company. That rep turned things around for me and saved me from jumping ship to another company.
QUESTION: If you could be the Chief Customer Officer for any brand, which would it be, and why?
KATHI KRUSE: I do love a challenge. I would choose Ariat, a brand of footwear and clothing for equine enthusiasts. As I mentioned earlier, as a volunteer at Hanaeleh, I'm around horses every weekend. Ariat makes the BEST barn boots I've ever used (and I've tried many). I still have the first pair I bought nine years ago! And I've bought at least 8 more pairs since then. These boots have to stand up to dirt, water, hay, mud, and, of course, poop (!), and they are fantastic. Unfortunately, their customer experience isn't up to par with their product. I've witnessed a lack of connection to customers over the years, and I'd love to help them turn the brand into something everyone talks about - even those that don't work with horses all the time.
My thanks to Kathi for sharing her marketing insights and for appearing here on my Blog.
Image Credit: Debbie Laskey.