Archive for the ‘Customer service’ Category

Americans expect companies to have a presence in social media: Too bad, Americans

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

I just saw this press release from Cone LLC touting some results of a survey they did about companies and their presence on social media sites. According to the survey:

– 60% of Americans interact with companies on a social media Web site.
– 25% interact more than once per week.
– 56% of American consumers feel a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment.

Confusing statsThese results are actually shocking to me, primarily because I have a hard time believing that 56% of Americans have interacted with a company using social media. I’m not sure how Cone is defining “social media” – perhaps their definition is broader than the one that I would give the term. But I really can’t believe that many companies are up and active and using social media effectively enough to have interacted with their customers using that medium.

I have heard the examples (as you have) about Comcast and Zappos using Twitter. I know that many consumer facing sites are using Facebook and MySpace. But are this many businesses really using social media enough to be communicating with their customers that way?

Apparently I’m not the only one who is perplexed by these figures. This blog post by Steven Hodson at WinExtra says it better than I would, so please link over and read his post if you’re skeptical about the numbers, too.

But taking the study at its word, this is really bad news for businesses that aren’t using social media. Those slackers better catch on immediately. According to the study, 93% of Americans believe that a company should have a presence in social media.

Photo by aeu04117

Keeping up (just good enough) appearances

Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

I work out of my home, so I spend a lot of time noticing its cleanliness. But I don’t have a lot of time to spend cleaning, especially because when I’m at home, I’m usually working. So I have mastered the art of keeping everything just clean enough.

CleaningIf you walked into my home/office, you would think it was clean. In fact, people comment all the time about how clean it appears to be. But they don’t know my secret – that every morning I spend 5 minutes tidying up, making the bed, putting dishes in the dishwasher, throwing random clothes in the hamper. Tossing everything that doesn’t have a home into my closet and shutting the door. They don’t know that I leave dust rags in various rooms throughout the day, and as I’m on conference calls, I dust. Or fold the laundry. They don’t realize that after I wash my face, the washcloth does double-duty – it’s used to wipe down the bathroom sink and fixtures before going in the laundry.

My house isn’t always clean but it’s clean enough.

Of course there are times when my home/office gets a full-on assault with cleaning products, vacuum cleaners and mops. But those days are much rarer, and usually happen right before a party or a family visit.

I think that there is a lesson that can be applied to start-ups.

As a start-up, there are usually very scarce resources available, so it’s difficult to do things perfectly all the time. But at any given moment, a customer might be using your site for the first time. Or a potential investor might be checking out what you’re up to. Most of those people won’t dig too deep. They will just be giving your site a cursory glance, checking it out to see if it might be helpful or not. So although behind the scenes you may know that everything is kind of a mess, it’s important to keep up appearances.

What does this mean, practically? Nothing too difficult. Make sure that your Website has a professional design. Make sure that the words on your site are spelled right (mostly) and that they are grammatically correct (or at least understandable). Make sure all your links work. If something isn’t working, or looks a little shoddy, take it down.

If your business involves some kind of technology, make sure that it works. You can launch without all its future features, and still not quite working exactly like you want it to, but make sure that it works, and will not crash or be buggy if someone actually attempts to use it.

The goal, of course, is to get people who visited your site or used your technology to say, at first glance, that it looks good. They may lift up the rug and find out that what you are showing them isn’t complete, that it’s not as good as it looked at first, but you do not want to turn them off without them taking that closer look.

And honestly, most people never take the time to lift up the rugs.

There will be time to perfect things, to make sure that everything is exactly, precisely working. But until then, make sure that your appearance is good enough.

Photo by givepeasachance

How to generate customer devotion

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2007

I read a blog post today that caught my eye because of the title: “Turn your customers into raving fans.”

CustomInk logoI am a raving fan, and CustomInk.com is the object of my affection. I recently used their services to make t-shirts for a charity walk that I organized. Going into it, I had a few issues to overcome with the t-shirts:

1)      I had a deadline of less than 2 weeks to get the t-shirts printed and delivered

2)      I am not a designer and had to design the t-shirts

3)      I was trying to create something that would appeal to men, women and children

4)      I wanted to be able to get input from someone else on my team to help me make the final decision, but we don’t live in the same city

I did a search on Google for “t-shirt design” and customink.com was the first listing. (Another testimony to the power and importance of SEO, but I’ll save that discussion for another blog post.)

t-shirt frontSo there are a lot of reasons that I love this company. The first thing I discovered is that they are able to rush-deliver an order in less than 7 days. Perfect! Second, their online tool is really user-friendly and fun to use. You pick the item to design (they have shirts, pants, hats, etc.) and the color. Then you head to the “design online lab.” The tool starts you off with a blank t-shirt and then lets you add text, graphics (you can upload your own or choose from their clip art library), change colors, layouts, put effects on the text…there are wide range of options. Then, to top it all off, you can save the design, email it to people to get their opinions and then start again with t-shirt backa new design if you aren’t totally satisfied. This tool managed to help me overcome all four of the issues that I was having with designing these t-shirts. That was enough to make me love the service.

But there was more. I placed my order, got my final proofs, talked to someone at the company to answer a few questions that they had about tricky parts of the design. Great. Everyone was pleasant, I felt a high degree of confidence that my t-shirts would be done on-time and that they would look great. Then came the kicker. I got the following email:

Hi Melissa,I noticed that you have designed shirts that could possibly be for a charity event. If that’s the case, CustomInk would love to donate to your team or to the charity itself on your behalf! Please let me know if your order is for one of these events. If you  would like us to pitch in and support your cause, please include information about your charity event, a link if you have one or the organization’s name if there is no link to a team web page.Warmest Regards,
Lori Mayfield
CustomInk.com

I immediately sent them a note back with the instructions about how to donate with a comment like “wow, I really love you” or something hero-worshipping like that. To which, Lori, my personal, human contact, sends me this delightful note back:

Thank you for the information, the link worked perfectly!

We try to donate to every charity event that our customers hold close to their hearts, so we are delighted to help with this event. Of course, we wish we could offer a large sponsorship, but because we do so many, I’m limited to small donations ($30). I just want to make sure you know that, even though we know every bit counts.

This is outstanding customer service and a fantastic policy for retention. Plus, it’s just really smart. I spent more than $500 with this company. The likelihood of me doing so again is high. I ordered 33 t-shirts – this means that I will tell all 33 of the people who are getting the t-shirts the story about this company (and I did!) because the company donated to our common cause. And finally, they know that they are reaching someone who has influence – the person who is in charge of the t-shirt ordering is likely someone who is making decisions for a large group of people and probably has other areas of responsibility and influence. This is really smart business. This article from Dosh Dosh talks about 9 great ways to dominate your niche, such as focusing on your reputation and developing retention equity, and CustomInk.com is doing all of these things.

See? I have become a raving fan.

 

~Today’s view:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/13799608@N08/1471632095/