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Implications of offshoring for your brand image

Posted on 27 February 2012 by Philip Brookes

Westpac has gone bananas

Two years ago I posted my first article in this series on offshoring. The ideas behind it had already been percolating for a couple of years, and my thoughts on this controversial topic continue to develop over time. I don’t intend to claim any moral high ground, but it’s my hope that I can contribute to what is a crucial discussion about the complex issues associated with offshoring.

This post was intended to focus on the commercial implications to your brand image if you decide to offshore. However, particularly in recent weeks, it’s become increasingly clear that it’s impossible to discuss the consequences for your brand without also discussing ethics and corporate greed.

ANZ have announced that they’re shedding 1000 staff, Westpac are getting rid of 400, NAB is eliminating 130, Suncorp is slimming their headcount by 150 – in fact, of Australia’s Big 4, the only bank not to implement substantial reductions in Australia staff numbers is the Commonwealth Bank – the bank that I’ve avoided for 20 years! Of course, a number of these jobs are being offshored to India and Philippines, paying Asia-based staff as little as 10% of the rate Australian staff would need to be paid.

Based on my earlier articles, you might expect me to defend this on the principle that offshoring is not inherently unethical and will help to alleviate poverty in developing countries. But you’d be wrong.

As far as I’m concerned, these moves by the ANZ, NAB and Westpac banks particularly are the epitome of stupidity and greed combined in one fell swoop.

Whilst on principle I’m supportive of the right of businesses to offshore, this needs to be considered in the context of their responsibility to their existing workforce. For the mega banks, who are all set to rake in over $6 billion profit in the current financial year, any argument that they “need” to trim down and send a percentage of those jobs offshore is baloney – it’s pure and simple greed. As an employee at risk of losing your job in such an organisation, how appreciated would you feel? Clearly, their staff are considered to be just a disposable commodity.

When a company is competing on a global stage, exporting products and services, and fighting to remain viable or risk everybody losing their jobs, I accept the argument for offshoring. If a company has the foresight to offshore as they grow I don’t believe that there is anything unethical in this. But for a CEO and board members to dismiss 1000 people from their jobs with the stroke of a pen in order to increase their profit margins which are already health, is quite simply immoral and disgusting.

Of course, I’ve hardly mentioned brand image yet. But do I need to? Clearly there are three of the big four who have taken a battering in my eyes (and those of many others) simply by their decision to offshore.

This post was originally going to focus on the perceptions that consumers/customers carry with them after a customer service experience, but quite rightly my opinions on this have developed further since this article was conceptualised and hence the focus of this article is now much broader.

Whilst considering a company’s brand image, it’s also important to consider the alternatives as well.

After hearing that Westpac had made the decision to eliminate 400 staff I started doing my homework. We’ve now signed Aktiv Tactics up with the Commonwealth Bank (who I’m sure are no angels – but there’s a point to be made here: we’ll support the banks that value the hard work and dedication of their employees and don’t make hundreds redundant just to replace them with cheaper offshore alternatives). I’m also in the process of planning to shift the banking of my other company, Techeffectiv, away from Westpac to the Commonwealth Bank.

The experience of selecting Commonwealth was rather illuminating. I started by tweeting them to confirm that they were committed to not sacking local staff and offshoring instead. As per their media statements, I got a confirmation that this was in fact their stance. They then provided me with incredibly courteous and prompt assistance via Twitter followed by a direct phone call. Finally, when I visited our nearest branch to establish our accounts I was astounded to meet the Branch Manager near the front door, who promptly ushered me in with a ‘Customer Service Specialist’ – no delay, no queues, fantastic efficiency, friendly service, knowledgeable staff – and all this with the most profitable of the Big 4 banks, who have achieved their stellar results without sacking Australian staff and offshoring their roles.

The high standards of local service, the Australian support, and the commitment to retaining their staff, have all dramatically enhanced the Commonwealth Bank’s brand in my eyes.


Past blog posts in this series:

Offshoring – the pros and cons from a social and commercial perspective

Off-shoring – ethical and socially responsible

How does offshoring affect your customer service?

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How to avoid a public relations disaster on Twitter

Posted on 30 March 2011 by Philip Brookes

Anybody been following the recent tirade by a Marc Jacobs intern who somehow was given the keys to drive Daddy’s Twitter account? I can’t imagine CEO Robert Duffy would have been too impressed! Any exposure is not necessarily good exposure, and if Marc Jacobs have a “social media policy”, I suspect this fell well outside the policy guidelines.

So how does a company give their team members enough autonomy to interact authentically in the social media realm, yet avoid accidental (or intentional) ‘slips’ which could have a very damaging effect on their brand?

More often than not, the embarrassing mistakes of the likes of @ChryslerAutos and @RedCross are honest mistakes made by users who forget which profile they’re logged in to and they accidentally send a personal message via the corporate identity. Whatever the cause, organisations participating on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on need to take suitable precautions.

One tool which has just been released to assist in this regard is Hootsuite’s Secure Social Profiles. Available exclusively as an element of their Enterprise plan, and building on their existing multi-tiered account provisioning, it allows account owners to designate certain accounts as “secure” and these accounts are then provided additional protection, with prompts to confirm that you really want to submit your tweet.

For any corporation, organisation, or agency involved in social media marketing, a system such as this is a great tool both in terms of productivity and risk management.

Are you already using something similar? Have you had an online PR disaster? I’d love to hear your comments, feedback, and experiences!


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New Foursquare features launched today

Posted on 21 December 2010 by Philip Brookes

I’m quite a fan of Foursquare – it’s a bit of fun, I discover all sorts of new venues, and it provides all sorts of great marketing opportunities. To date, it’s been a pretty simple application which revolves around checking in at a venue, perhaps with a quick Tweet-style comment included, and optionally leaving helpful tips at various locations.

This has worked pretty well, but there have been a few capabilities notably absent which have reached the listening ears of the Foursquare development team and, as of today, are now welcome additions to the service.

  1. Comments – this is a way of leaving a message for a friend. Until the introduction of comments, you had to find one of your alternate communication channels (Facebook, Twitter, email, SMS) to communicate personally witBerry Cheesecakeh your friends. Now you can directly tell them that you’ve got some time on your hands and are nearby, so do they want to catch up for a coffee
  2. Photos – Foursquare’s tips provided great crowd-sourced reviews of establishments, but it was all text. Now, you can also leave a photo of that fantastic Mixed Berry Cheesecake, the funky night spot, or water fun park. Photos can be left with your check-in (in which case they’re only visible to your friends) or with tips or venues (making them publicly visible).

With Facebook Places posing a significant challenge to Foursquare, these new features auger well for Foursquare.

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Facebook Places vs. Foursquare – what’s the difference?

Posted on 01 October 2010 by Philip Brookes

Image representing Foursquare Solutions as dep...

Image via CrunchBase

I’ve been using Foursquare for a few months now, and the more I use it the more it fascinates me – both personally, and as a marketing tool.

So when Facebook launched Places (initially in the US) I was curious (and concerned) about how it would compare with Foursquare. Now that it’s launched in Australia (yesterday) I’ve been able to explore it personally and assess it’s strengths and weaknesses.

Facebook clearly has an advantage when it comes to user numbers and adoption – with 500 million active users, it’s pretty safe to call it ‘ubiquitous’. And that’s the main reason why Facebook is a threat to Foursquare.

It’s also, of course, part of your existing Facebook app on your iPhone – so there’s no extra installation/download required to get up and running.

There’s one other neat thing that Facebook Places does – it allows you to tag which friends are with you when you check in. So even if they’re not using Places, you can let the world know that you’re at a venue together. (And if somebody DOESN’T want to be included in such check-ins, there’s a privacy setting they can set to make sure that other people can’t tag them at Places.)

But in my opinion, those are really the only advantages that Facebook has. In every other regard, Foursquare is a far more powerful location-based social networking site.

Foursquare does the basic check-in like Facebook Places. It doesn’t let you check your friends in, but if they check themselves in it identifies that you’re there together. And then it does a whole range of other great things:

  • Leave tips: if there’s something you found outstanding about your experience at a venue (restaurant, cafe, theatre, gym,…?), you can share a tip with other people who might be considering going there – this builds a wealth of insights to help the user determine where they might like to go, and of course it builds the public visibility of the tipster.
  • Find a venue’s address and locate it on the map: If you’re looking for a particular shop or facility and don’t know quite where to find it, you can type in the name on your phone’s Foursquare app and it will find a list of matches. You then click on the correct entry, and you’ll actually see the address of the venue. By contrast, Facebook Places never mentions the address but just has a pin on the map.
  • Badges & Mayors: Foursquare does a great job of encouraging people to visit a range of different venues, and also to visit favourite venues frequently. You become the ‘Mayor’ of a venue if you’re the most frequent visitor in the last 60 days (only 1 check-in per day is counted!), and badges include “Crunked: That’s 4+ stops in one night for you!”, “Supermayor: A special shoutout for holding down 10+ mayorships at once!”, and many more. Not only does this add to the fun for the user, it’s a marketers dream. Foursquare allow venues to promote special offers that may be redeemable by the ‘mayor’, or if somebody checks in with a ‘newbie’ friend, etc…
  • Update Twitter, Facebook and anything that’ll take a Twitter feed: Foursquare has the ability to update not only your Facebook profile, but also your Twitter feed – and therein lies a significant strength. Twitter in turn can feed into a whole range of other platforms/environments, and therefore allows you to radically extend your reach from a single check-in. For example, you can have your web site (or blog) display a Twitter feed, you can have your Twitter feed displayed on your LinkedIn profile, on your Yahoo! Pulse, and in a whole range of other contexts too. So by checking in on Foursquare you can, at your discretion, share it in a whole range of other web contexts of your choosing.

Foursquare clearly offers a far more advanced location-based social networking site. Facebook Places, by contrast, is simply a check-in service for existing Facebook users.

But despite the differences, the realities of life are that often the ‘best’ solution is run out of town by the ‘best known’ solution – Foursquare is going to face a serious challenge from Facebook now that the average user can share their location with their friends simply through checking in at Facebook Places. I’ll be watching with bated breath to see what Foursquare can do to increase it’s market share and ensure it’s long-term viability.

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Fit n Fast Gyms employs creative social marketing

Posted on 05 August 2010 by Philip Brookes

I like it! Fit n Fast Gyms are a new player serious about making a huge impact in the fitness/gyms marketplace – and I reckon they could have a winning marketing formula.

Using a combination of Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter, they’re spreading the word through the power of personal social networks on what I imagine is a shoestring budget. Arrive at your gym, and Fit n Fast can automatically check you in to Foursquare as you swipe your membership card – which in turn can automatically broadcast the fact you’re at Fit n Fast (along with their logo embedded in the message) to your Twitter and Facebook. That’s brilliant – every time somebody arrives at a Fit n Fast gym, they’re advertising the gym to their entire online social network!

Fit n Fast have also created a Facebook app so that their Fit n Fast Facebook page actually does something useful, unlike many other corporate Facebook pages. You can get some meaningful info, sign up for a ‘Quickie’ (great light-hearted way of turning gym workouts into an exciting proposition!) , find out about the latest competitions (they even have chocolate as prizes! Talk about getting healthy without sacrificing all the little treats in life!), and discover the jobs they’re currently advertising.  Spread that around with a bit of good ‘ol ‘Like’ love, and you’ll set the world on fire!

How many other organisations could benefit from adopting these creative strategies? Foursquare is a great way to spread a brand – it could be used at not-for-profit events, fundraisers, fun runs, professional seminars and workshops, and just about anywhere else people are pre-registered and checking in.

Of course, there’s some privacy considerations to take into account, but these are by no means insurmountable, and I’m sure many participants/clients would be easily persuaded if the networking benefits were highlighted to them – for example, if you’ve just checked in to an event or seminar, the other participants also checking into the same event would be drawn to your attention and easily identified by Foursquare, enabling you to follow up with them more easily afterwards. Challenges exist to help us think creatively!

Much kudos to Sam Mutimer (@sammutimer) from Thinktank Media for her work on this social marketing strategy!

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