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POSTED: Monday, January 26, 2009

NATION

Customer service makes comeback

Customer service is making a comeback as a key marketing and brand-building strategy, says Gal Borenstein, customer service strategist and author of "What Really Counts for CEOs: Connect the Dots Between Marketing & Sales."

That may mean reaching out to customers for feedback through social networking sites, in person or making real-time incident management available for consumers who are savvy and have more resources than ever.

Executives are beginning to monitor chatter about their company online and are even making themselves available for feedback, rather than rely solely on customer service statistics, to earn the loyalty of their clients.

"If you can train everyone in the company, from security guard to receptionist or cashier, to be an ambassador for the brand, it will be the single most cost-competitive and effective way to advertise at a time when marketing budgets are being slashed," he said.

 

Blend in when traveling overseas

If you're traveling overseas, you should avoid dressing like a tourist—and not just because it embarrasses your kids. With kidnappings on the rise, looking like a local could be one of the most important precautions you can take during your vacation.

Greg Bangs, vice president and product manager for kidnap, ransom and extortion at the Chubb Group of Insurance Companies, gives these tips to avoid becoming a victim:

» Don't be flashy: Drive a generic vehicle and avoid wearing fancy clothing or anything that makes it clear you are from outside the country.

» Stay at a local hotel: Kidnappers are more likely to stake out places popular with tourists. Avoid accommodations with women-only areas, Bangs said.

"Female travelers on their own could be viewed as more vulnerable, and kidnappers may be able to bribe room service to give them access to these areas," he said.

» Be wary of gypsy cabs: Have the restaurant or hotel call for a licensed taxi.

Bangs estimates that kidnappings for ransom have jumped to about 8,000 to 10,000 reported cases in the past few years. Robberies have also become more violent.

The top five countries for kidnapping are Mexico, Iraq, Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela, according to Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.