Now With More Groupon! Gets Your Whites Whiter!
Wednesday December 29th 2010, 10:45 am
Filed under: customer service,loyalty marketing,market research,publishing,retail,social media

Is social buying practicing its shark jump already??  Such was my thought (and mild sense of alarm) when I opened this month’s new Harvard Business Review and found a serious-looking article on the phenomenon titled, “Why Employees Can Wreck Promotional Offers.”

The piece is written by an associate professor of marketing at a reasonably prestigious U.S. university, and it profiles his research into the administration of group buying offers from the likes of Groupon, BuyWithMe and LivingSocial

The article first caught my eye because of its anti-worker title, frankly… and then I read it.  The key insight to be gleaned from this academic research is that employees – not just offers – can have a huge impact on the creation of a “positive customer experience.”  Employees’ behavior, the professor says, can even cause the offer to “backfire” if managers fail to prepare employees properly or there is some other reason (e.g. a diner does not tip on a Groupon restaurant offer) that workers may cause a consumer’s initial interaction to be a poor one.

“In fact,” he says, “preparing employees for upcoming promotions and obtaining their buy-in is the most important factor influencing a Groupon promotion’s success”… “or any promotion[‘s], for that matter.”

Are we at the point in the shiny-object lifecycle where critical thinking is to be set aside and any piece of content with the word “Groupon” in it can (a) pass as “research,” and (b) make it into legitimate academic journals?

I hope so.  I say that because if, instead, it’s a revelation in our universities’ classrooms that customer service and positive employee engagement are the keys to marketing success, we’ve got a much bigger problem on our hands.

I suspect it is the former, so this too shall pass.


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