A recent study conducted by the online marketing firm Vertical Response and reported on in Forbes concludes that small businesses are spending more time on social media but struggling with the added workload it represents. Perhaps as a consequence, most are doing social media marketing in a vacuum because they’re not tracking results, which means they have no way of quantifying if their time and effort are paying off.
“Our survey confirms that small businesses are understanding the value of social media,” says Vertical Response CEO and founder Janine Popick. “They’re spending more time doing it, and investing more money into it at a faster rate. But the extra work will likely lead to time management issues, especially for the small business owner who’s handling social media on top of all the other responsibilities of running a company. This implies that small businesses are in need of tactics and tools now to help them save time.”
The study, conducted among almost 500 Vertical Response customers, focused on a variety of social media activities ranging from finding and sharing content to blogging. The firm was interested in knowing which platforms small businesses are most active on, their marketing and social media budgets, and how much they’re spending on tools to manage and analyze social media efforts. Findings include:
Two-thirds of small businesses are spending more time on social media today than they did a year ago.
Forty-three percent of those surveyed spend over six hours per week on social media, 25 percent spend six to ten hours per week and 18 percent spend more than 11 hours per week.
Facebook is still the king of social media for small businesses, with 90 percent reporting that they post there. Nearly 70 percent tweet on Twitter, 50 percent are connected on LinkedIn, 32 percent show up on Google Plus and 29 percent pin on Pinterest.
One-third of the CEOs, owners and proprietors who responded said they want to spend less time on social media.
More than half (55 percent) of small businesses operate a blog. Among those that do, 45 percent spend one to three hours to create a post, while 16 percent require more than three hours.
Respondents ranked the following from most to least time consuming: finding and posting content, learning and education, analyzing efforts, scoping out the competition and responding to questions.
Some small businesses rely on tools to publish and analyze their social media. Thirty-six percent pay for publishing and analytic tools; 58 percent spend $26 or more per month on it.
Social media budgets are on the rise, with four times as many small businesses having increased their budgets compared to those that have decreased their budgets. By comparison, only twice as many businesses have increased their overall marketing budgets.
Food for thought: Writing for Forbes, Carol Tice admitted that she was surprised that fully half of the business owners said they never use LinkedIn.
“My experience as a solo owner of my own freelance writing and coaching business is that LinkedIn is the online phone book for hiring solopreneurs. Heavyweight companies do searches on there every day, looking for providers to hire,” she says, adding that it “seems foolish not to have a presence on LinkedIn, especially when the platform demands so much less of you than Facebook or Twitter. A weekly status update and maybe a few questions answered or comments made in groups, and you’re good.
So, how does my company stay afloat, you ask? Good question.
You may not be frequently giving out an embarrassingly gushing smile and you might not write little love notes during your lunch break. But, there are ways to tell if you love your job.
Of course, no job is perfect -- even the best of relationships have their down days. We all have to do things we don’t like. I love working at HubSpot, it's the best job I've ever had (but, that's by design). But, even I have “off” days where I'm not spending all my time doing things I absolutely love.
So all of the following may not be the case all of the time. But when you love your job, many of the following should be the case much of the time:
1. You don’t talk about other people; you talk about the cool things other people are doing.
“I hear Michelle has really improved our customer happiness scores.” or “I’d love to know how Mike managed to rescue that sale.” “Sherry developed a new tool that's made our lives so much better.”
When you love your job you don’t gossip about the personal failings of others. You talk about their successes, because you’re happy for them – and because you’re happy with yourself.
2. You think, “I hope I get to…” instead of, “I hope I don’t have to…”
When you love your job it’s like peeling an onion. There are always more layers to discover and explore.
When you hate your job it’s also like peeling an onion – but all you discover are more tears.
3. You see your internal and external customers not as people to satisfy but simply as people.
They aren't numbers. You think of them as real people who have real needs.
And you gain a real sense of fulfillment and purpose from taking care of those needs.
4. You enjoy your time at work.
You don't have to put in time at work and then escape to life to be happy. You believe in enjoying life and enjoying work.
When you love your job, it’s a part of your life. You feel alive and joyful not just at home – but also at work.
5. You would recommend working at your company to your best friend…
In fact, you can't stop talking about how cool your company is and the awesome work you're doing even when you're away from work. Your friends and family are envious.
6. You enjoy attending meetings.
No, seriously, you enjoy meetings. Why? Because it’s fun to be at the center of thoughtful, challenging discussions that lead to decisions, initiatives, and changes – changes you get to be a part of.
7. You don’t think about surviving. You think about winning.
You don't worry much about losing your job. You're more worried about not achieving your potential. Not being as impactful as you can be.
8. You see your manager as a person you work with, not for.
You feel valued. You feel respected.
You feel trusted.
9. You don’t want to let your coworkers down.
Not because you’ll get in trouble or get a bad performance review, but because you admire them – and you want them to admire you.
10. You hardly ever look at the clock.
You’re too busy making things happen. When you do look at the clock, you often find that the time has flown.
11. You view success in terms of fulfillment and gratification – not just promotions and money.
Everyone wants to be promoted. Everyone wants to earn more.
You definitely feel that way too… but somewhere along the way your job has come to mean a lot more to you than just a paycheck. And if you left this job, even if for a lot higher salary… you would still miss it.
12. You leave work with items on your to-do list you’re excited about tackling tomorrow.
Many people cross the “fun” tasks off their to-do lists within the first hour or two.
You often have cool stuff – new initiatives, side projects, hunches you want to confirm with data, people you want to talk to – left over when it’s time to go home.
13. You help without thinking.
You like seeing your colleagues succeed, so it’s second nature to help them out. You pitch in automatically.
And they do the same for you.
14. You can't imagine being somewhere else.
You're having too much fun. Learning too much.
How many of the above statements apply to you and your job?
If you said: 0-3: You may want to find a new job. Life is too short. 4-6: You don't hate your job... but you don't love it either. What can you do differently? 7-10: You really enjoy your job and the people you work with 11-14: You are deeply, madly in love with your job! (and your friends are definitely jealous!)
According to a study conducted by Purdue University's Customer Service Benchmarking Center for Customer-Driven Quality, 25% of all contact between a typical company and its customers is conducted via email.
In fact, your customer service agents' emails may make a bigger difference to your bottom line than any marketing, advertising or PR campaign you conduct this year.
This quick report includes: a. What are the biggest email problems and why do they occur? b. Five specific tactics to improve your email c. Three ways to measure customer service email effectiveness
-> a. What are the biggest email problems and why do they occur?
Chances are, your current outbound customer service email is being written poorly enough that you are losing sales.
"The situation is dire," says Marilyn Rudick who together with partner Leslie O'Flahavan has trained thousands of agents on how to better handle email.
"People who handle email are expected to be nearly superhumanly helpful. They work under really tough conditions. Their jobs are like a battle. They are expected to answer 50-60 emails a day which is an awful lot, often while taking phone calls. If they do live chat, it's 3-4 chats simultaneously."
"Most often they don't come to the job with strong writing skills. Imagine you're trying to keep up under a constant barrage of customer questions and have deep product knowledge, all for $7 an hour."
The canned answers most call centers use to help automate email processing present three challenges as well:
1. Customers often write garbled, half-incoherent emails and expect excellent answers in return. O'Flahavan says, "If you were on the phone, you could ask questions and pluck out which thread to follow from their mess. You can't do that with email."
Instead the rep must double-check each automated reply to see if it really answers the question that is being asked. No matter how advanced software is, imperfect questions often equal imperfect answers.
2. Customers often ask more than one question. The agent will get two or more suggested replies from your automated system to address different items. Then that agent must knit the answers together, segueing between an intro and each paragraph or idea.
"Improvisation of this type is very difficult, and you're putting the burden on the shoulders of some of the least capable writers in the employment food chain," says Rudick.
3. Sometimes the canned answers themselves read as though they are written by an uptight bureaucrat (or the IRS) so all those warm-fuzzy feelings you have been working to build around your brand go flying out the window.
Your company may be sending email, a very personal, human communication, that sounds like it was written by a robot.
-> b. Five specific tactics to improve your email
Rudick and O'Flahavan reviewed all types of customer service email responses from more than 300 companies in a variety of industries to isolate factors that can improve your email responses.
Tactic #1. Personalize your auto-responder
Many companies use an auto-responder or some other nearly instant response system to give customers the benefit a quick "thanks for your email" message while they are waiting for the full answer to work its way through the queue.
However, some customers are unwilling to wait the 24-48 hours for their full answer. When they get the auto-responder they pick up the phone instead, which is more expensive for your company to handle.
To head off that restlessness, try altering your auto-responder system to include some personalization. The customer's name in the text of the message will help. Even better, reference their question in the response.
People love to hear their own words said back to them. Something as simple as pasting their question in the middle of the reply (not at the end) can make a big difference.
Tactic #2. Deep-link if you link at all
Answers that simply read "Check our Web site" with a link to your home page are infuriating to many of your customers.
If they wanted to go to your Web site, they would have done so. In fact, often they have *already* done so and did not find the answer they were looking for. They have chosen the communication method they would like you to use to help them, and now it is your turn to follow their lead.
If you do reference your Web site address in your reply, give a deep link that goes directly to the answer to the question the customer was looking for.
If you cannot link deep, never give your Web site home page as your only or primary answer to the customer question. Instead, send out your fast reply auto-responder, put the email in the queue and answer the question properly, clearly and completely, via email as soon as you can.
Tactic #3. Personalize Reply Message Intros
Increase customer loyalty by adding a little extra personalization to the beginning of your final, complete email reply.
O'Flahavan says, "Draw on what you know about a customer to personalize. If they are a long-time customer, or a new one, acknowledge that. Make them feel like a person, not just a number."
Tactic #4. Review Your Canned Answers
Have a copywriter familiar with your brand review all your canned answers for appropriate tone. While the facts may be right, the tone may be so off-putting the answer will boomerang on you badly.
While reviewing your canned answers, check to see that those with step-by-step instructions present these in a series of separate numbered paragraphs. Do not pile several steps into one paragraph of text, it is harder for customers to comprehend.
Tactic #5. Hold Email Agent Get-Togethers
Invite your agents to a special 'sharing ideas' meeting at least once a month on company time so they can interact with each other.
O'Flahavan says, "It's extremely valuable to convene a panel of agents. Ask them to each bring sample questions and decide amongst themselves, 'What was the customer asking? Was their question fully answered?'
"It's incredible to see how grateful the agents are to talk to each other about writing. They are so isolated otherwise - you spend eight hours with your fingers on the keyboard talking to customers."
-> c. Three ways to measure customer service email effectiveness
Most companies currently measure effectiveness primarily by speed (how long are emails in the queue to be answered?) and by cost per answer.
Rudick and O'Flahavan suggest three additional metrics that may help you measure results:
1. Spot-checking answers for completeness
Seems obvious, pretend to be a customer and send in a variety of questions to your service center and your competitors'.
Instead of merely checking for speed and typos, review each answer with one primary goal in mind, "Was my question clearly and comprehensively answered, or do I need to ask additional questions to get a useful answer?"
Remember, if customers have to ask more questions it costs you more in terms of service time, inbound call lines, and satisfaction-based loyalty.
2. Measure impact on loyalty
Your database systems may be too separate to manage this, but it should be a long-term goal. The question you need data to answer is: are customers whom we have interacted with via email more loyal than others?
If you can measure customer lifetime value by email interaction, it gives you numbers you can use when considering investing more in email quality. If you can prove in a data-driven presentation that improved email equals more profitable accounts, you will be able to argue for a bigger budget.
3. Measure multi-channel question askers
Is the same individual customer using several channels such as email and phone to get an answer to his or her question?
This measurement shows how effective the initial email response is, whether the recipient was satisfied enough to not try another channel in addition.
It also reveals where you may be able to achieve cost-savings. For example, if you can reduce the percent of email questions that turn into follow-up in-bound phone calls, you will save a lot.
We all know that email can be overwhelming and time consuming. You have a million things to do during your business day, and email may not be your priority. That needs to change. Email is informative, helpful and necessary for your present and future customers.
We're going to give you a few simple tips that will make managing your email quick and painless for you.
First and most important - answer every email. If someone has taken the time to find your website, your email address and then write to you, do them the courtesy of responding.
Answer every email within 24 hours. Don't let an email from a potential customer sit in your inbox. If you don't answer promptly, your customer or potential customer will not feel valued, and that will reflect on your business.
Personalize your reply. Don't send an automated response to an email. Address the writer by name and focus on their specific question or problem. Sign your email with your name and title; not just your company signature.
Reply all. If one email address is delivered to several inboxes, replying to all will let others know that the question has been answered.
Always start with a thank you, even if the email is negative. Thank the writer for taking the time to contact you. That can change the tone of a negative email and turn the exchange into a positive experience for you and the sender.
Find the requested information. Even if you're not able to answer a question right away, let the writer know that you will find the right answer and get back to them. They need to know that you received their email.
Conclude your email with another thank you (or a sincere apology if needed). Be genuine.
Creating your web site can be a tricky process. Choosing the best web design company for your site is extremely important. Unless you run a web-based business, you probably do not have web design experience within your company. Building your web site will take time and a little homework!
To create a web site for your business, follow these 4 simple steps:
Establish your goals
Determine your budget
Pick a web design company
Pick a web hosting company
Establish Your Goals
Before you begin looking for company to help you design and build your web site, take the time to understand the goals of your web site. This will be extremely important to help set expectations with the web design company you choose.
In order to set your web site goals, ask yourself the following questions:
Why do you want a web site?
Are you selling something?
Do you have a catalog of products that changes on a regular basis?
Who is your target market?
Do you already have a brand?
What is your industry?
Who are your competitors?
Do they already have web sites? If so, what do they look like?
If you're selling something, will you accept credit cards over the internet?
How soon do you want your web site?
What happens if you never create a web site for your business?
Take the time to answer each of the above questions and if you have time, write the answers down on a sheet of paper. These are the same questions most web design companies will ask you before they begin to create your site. If you have these questions answered up front, you will have some criteria for choosing the right web design company. For example, if you are a real estate agent, and want to publish listings on your web site, you should seek a web design company that knows about the real estate business and has created web pages for other real estate agents.
Determine Your Budget
How much do you want to spend on your web site? Web sites can cost you anywhere from $100 to $100,000 depending upon what you want it to do. Know your spending constraints before you begin negotiating with design companies. Whatever you do, do not tell a web design company what your budget is!! Always get pricing based on your needs, not you budget.
Pick a Web Design Company
Your choice of a web design company is a very important step. Take your time to investigate all of your options. Here are some important items to consider.
Design vs. Build
Depending upon the scope of your web site, you may need to choose two different companies. Building a web site is a highly technical process. Designing a web site is a highly creative process. Many advertising firms specialize in web site design which does not necessarily require any web development skills whatsoever. The process of creating a web site is similar to the process of building a new home. Before you ask a construction company to start building, you first seek out an architect who creates a blueprint of your house taking into account what you want (number of stories, square footage, etc.). Creating a detailed blueprint before construction begins can help you accurately estimate the final price. Without the blueprint, you may end up paying a lot of money for a house that does not fit your needs. Creating a web site is exactly the same except most web site "builders" also claim to be "designers". The good news is that you can look at other sites a web design company has created (like looking at other homes that a home builder has made). Make sure you ask the web design company what their process is for designing a web site vs. building a web site. They should understand the difference between these two concepts. If they don't, they're probably builder that think they can also architect.
Has the web design company created web sites similar to yours? Do they have relevant industry experience? As with any services company, choosing someone that has relevant experience. If you want to sell products through your web site and accept credit card payments, does the web design company you are considering have experience doing just that?
Review the Portfolio
A well established web design company will have a solid portfolio of web sites that they have created for other clients. Ask for links to other site the design company has created and review each one. Do you like what you see? Do the sites have a style that appeals to you? In addition to reviewing web sites, ask for customer references. Contact their clients and ask them about their experience with the web design company. Were they happy with the results? Did they get what they paid for? How much did they pay? Would they recommend them? How long did it take? What didn't they like about the company? How responsive was the company when they had questions?
Pricing for creating a web site can vary. Typically, web design companies will charge one of three ways:
Time and materials: price is variable based on the actual number of hours spent working on your site. For example, a web design company may charge you $75 per hour. If it takes 100 hours to create your web site, your price would end up being $7,500.
Fixed Price: some design companies will charge you a fixed fee based on a fixed set of requirements. If you outline your requirements very carefully, many web design companies will quote you a single price.
Component Pricing: some design companies will charge "by the page". By creating a price based on the number of pages, you can control the cost by designing a specific number of pages. Buyer beware: some design companies will charge by the page but will have "special pricing" for components such as custom graphics, animated images, and the like.
The most important step in pricing is to make sure the potential design company outline all of the prices associated with the work and puts it all in writing. Never enter into a deal unless all of the costs are well understood up front. Also make sure that you understand what "done" means. Try and structure the payments such that a significant portion of the fees (20%) are not due until you "accept" the final web site. Include the agreed-upon dates in your contract and provisions for what will happen if these dates are not met.
Solicit bids from multiple web design companies and compare both the pricing models and the prices themselves.
There are thousands of web designers across the country and they should all fight feverously for your business! Be picky! If a web design company dismisses any of your questions regarding their design process, pricing, or client references, take your business elsewhere!
Many businesses launch their social media programs because they feel they have to. Then they have to figure out how they will make programs work and how to manage them without having a goal in mind or understanding how social media works.
Start your SMM planning right by following these five easy steps.
1: Create Your Executive Overview Business Plan
Define your business in a page:
Your Business Mission and History
Your Business or Revenue Model
Descriptions of your Products & Services
Details of Your Target Audience
Review of Your Current Marketing Efforts
2: Define Your Specific Social Media Goals
It is impossible to reach and attain a goal without defining exact specifics. Too many business owners let social metrics define their goals, such as “More Twitter Followers”, “More Fans on Facebook”, “More YouTube Views.”
As marketers, we all know that it is really about engagement that counts. But, what engagement are we talking about? Positive engagement? Volume of commenting on a controversial piece of content?
You need to go a step beyond to define specific, actionable, and (most importantly) reasonable SMM goals. Here are some specific SMM goals you might use after completing your business review:
Validate a new product or service using social as a research platform.
Develop buzz and interest around a new product.
Engage users in social to generate relevant and targeted traffic to your site.
Gain market share by leading customer/client service through social.
Generate registrations to branded events through social.
3: Find Your Social Voice
One of the keys to ensuring your success in social is to create and implement a voice that resonates with your specific target audience. For each audience type, break down and research age, income, location, and reasons for possibly buying your products/services.
4: Choosing Your Social Tools
Choosing your social tools appropriately is an essential piece of your online communications plan, so choose wisely. Let’s do a short review of the leading social sites to assist you in your selection:
Facebook:More than 955 million users. Majority between 18-25; 60 percent female. Best opportunity for community building with customers.
Twitter:More than 555 million users. Majority between 26-34; 57 percent female. Best tool for interacting in real-time.
Google Plus+:More than 170 million users. Majority between 26-34; 63 percent male. Platform for driving visibility around a brand.
LinkedIn:More than 150 million users. Majority between 26-34, directly followed by 35-44. The number one B2B social networking tool.
Pinterest: More than 12 Million Users. Majority between 26-44; 68 percent female. A viral platform for sharing stories via pictures.
5: Plan & Execute Content & Delivery
Now to the hard part – finding, creating, and delivering engaging social media content. Social media execution can be daunting, but with a proper plan it is doable and can drive real (marketing) results.
What needs to be defined:
Frequency of content delivery & response to social engagement.
Types and specific topics for content creation.
Ways to increase audience engagement.
Events that can drive social media.
Your social success metrics (number of followers, number of fans, volume of traffic back to site, number of retweets, etc.).
Social media marketing can be an excellent vehicle for developing online brand awareness, customer engagement, and audience growth. This requires a solid, measurable plan and a commitment to developing consistent and valuable content. In addition, it’s crucial for you to have a clear understanding of why social can be useful for reaching your business goals.
Contributors are the people who actually create content in your community.
They may only account for 1-10% of your community, but they’re the most important members. Without them, there is no conversation.
And so it’s really important for you to know why they come back to your community in the first place.
This way you can focus on those triggers, keep your contributors coming back and build a thriving community.
Here are 5 things that trigger people to contribute in a community:
1. To see who responded to their posts or comments
People don’t just write things online for the sake of it. They write for other people to read it. When they get a response, that serves as reassurance that people are listening and care about what they have to say.
Focus on encouraging responses to new posts on the community. A great place to start is to respond yourself. Then be proactive in asking others to join in the conversation.
2. The possibility of starting a really long thread
It’s a community contributor’s dream to start a long thread that lasts a long time and gets a lot of responses.
If a conversation gets a really good start but starts to get buried by other content, bump it back up to the top with a response so you can draw in more people.
3. To build a reputation by answering questions
They’ll come back to see if there’s any new content they can respond to. They like to be perceived as knowledgable and are always looking for opportunities to chime in.
When you want to increase activity in your community, think about topics that your contributors have been vocal about in the past and ask a question related to that topic. Give people opportunities to share their expertise.
4. To ask for help with something
A lot of the best conversations in a community happen when a contributor asks for advice and the community comes out to help them.
Recommendation: Make sure you’re building an environment where your community members feel comfortable asking questions and getting help. You can do this by creating some level of privacy within the group, by encouraging members to ask question and by setting the example and asking questions that make you look vulnerable.
5. To crowdsource ideas
Contributors love to ask the community for their ideas. Maybe for a blog post, or every day things like what to cook that night.
When someone asks for ideas, help them get a response by recommending specific people who would have good ideas.
What are some other reasons that contributors come back to communities? Share any reasons that you’ve seen in your own experience.
There is an almost infinite variety of minor circumstances that can occupy your attention and create frustration for social media and content marketing professionals. The pace of change is breathtaking, and the feedback loop is instantaneous. This creates a culture of disproportionate attention to detail. So much has been written about the mechanics of social media marketing in the past year, that we’re losing sight of the horizon.
Make sure you can answer these three questions at all times in 2013. If you can, the direction will take care of itself.
1. How Does Social Media Make Us Money, and How Can We Prove That?The goal isn’t to be good at social media; the goal is to be good at business because of social media.
2013 is the year of social optimization. Growth is slowing, and it’s time to focus on making money, saving money or both. It is essential that you have a defined social media strategic plan that supports real business objectives like customer acquisition or customer loyalty.
If you’re still using social connections (fans, followers) as a major proof-point of your efforts, stop. Take the time and make the effort to measure financial impact. Is it easy? Often, it is not. Is it doable? Yes.
2. Do We Have Adequate Resources To Succeed? Social media isn’t inexpensive, it’s just different expensive.
You’re better off having a more narrow social media marketing program, and focusing on excelling in the venues in which you choose to participate. But I recognize that isn’t reality. Most companies see a social network gaining traction and they feel a gravitational pull that forces them to “be where our customers are” and participate. That can spread your attention very thin, dangerously so.
Customers increasingly expect real-time customer service via social media, and fees required to maximize your exposure on Facebook and elsewhere are only going to rise. On the labor side, in particular, this is also the year where more and more companies will decentralize social, and make it a part of many people’s jobs, instead of relying upon dedicated social media teams. Much more scalable that way, and it recognizes the truth that all employees are in marketing and customer service now, whether or not they want to be.
3. How Are We Segmenting Our Participation? If you’re doing the same stuff in every social network, why bother?
The tractor beam effect and social network expansion has turned the former “Big 3″ of Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin into the “Big 6″ of Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +/Google Communities.
How is your participation in Twitter different from your participation in Facebook? How does Instagram differ from Pinterest? If you don’t have clear segmentation for the audiences, content, objectives and metrics of each of your social presences, you need to figure it out immediately. Realize that Facebook isn’t a social network, it’s a social layer. The truth is that almost every person that is on Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest or any other social network is ALSO on Facebook. Thus, if you’re playing the same cards on Facebook that you’re playing elsewhere, you’re just wasting time and money.
For each and every social network, you need to understand what audience you want to engage with; your content plan and editorial calendar; necessary resources; and how you’ll measure the success of that specific presence.
Your 3 Business Words for 2013
Many people perform a "3 words" exercise to help them frame personal and business goals for the coming year. For social media marketing, consider these three words to help guide your success:
1. Start at the top. The CEO's attitude towards customer service is the primary determinant of the quality of service that a company delivers. If the CEO thinks that customers are a pain in the ass who always want something for nothing, that attitude will permeate the company, and service will be lousy. So if you are the CEO, get your act together. If you're not the CEO, either convince her to change her mind, quit, or learn to live with mediocrity--in that order.
2. Put the customer in control. The best kind of customer service happens when management enables employees to put the customer in control. This require two leaps of faith: first, that management trusts customers not take advantage of the situation; second, that management trust employees with this empowerment. If you can make these leaps, then the quality of your customer service will zoom; if not, there is nothing more frustrating than companies copping the attitude that something is “against company policy.”
3. Take responsibility for your shortcomings. A company that takes responsibility for its shortcomings is likely to provide great customer service for two reasons: first, it's acknowledged that it's the company's fault and the company's responsibility to fix. Second, customers won't go through the aggravating process of getting you to accept blame--if you got to the airport on time and checked your baggage, it's hard to see how it's your fault that it got sent to the wrong continent. (Except if you were a schmuck to the ticket counter person.)
4. Don't point the finger. This is the flip side of taking responsibility. As computer owners we all know that when a program doesn't work, vendors often resort to finger pointing: “It's Apple's system software.” “It's Microsoft's 'special' way of doing things.” “It's the way Adobe created PDF.” A great customer service company doesn't point the finger--it figures out what the solution is regardless of whose fault the problem is and makes the customer happy. As my mother used to say, “You're either part of the problem or part of the solution.” (By the way, as a rule of thumb, the company with the largest market capitalization is the one at fault.)
5. Don't finger the pointer. Great customer service companies don't shoot the messenger. When it comes to customer service, it could be a customer, an employee, a vendor, or a consultant who's doing the pointing. The goal is not to silence the messenger, but to fix the problem that the messenger brought so that other customers don't have a bad experience.
6. Don't be paranoid. One of the most common justifications for anti-service is “What if everyone did this?” For example, what if everyone bought a new wardrobe when we lost their luggage? Or, to cite the often-told, perhaps apocryphal, story of a customer returning a tire to Nordstrom even though everyone knows Nordstrom doesn't sell tires, what if everyone started returning tires to Nordstrom? The point is: Don't assume that the worst case is going to be the common case. There will be outlier abusers, yes, but generally people are reasonable. If you put in a policy to take care of the worst case, bad people, it will antagonize and insult the bulk of your customers.
7. Hire the right kind of people. To put it mildly, customer service is not a job for everyone. The ideal customer service person derives great satisfaction by helping people and solving problems. This cannot be said of every job candidate. It's the company's responsibility to hire the right kind of people for this job because it can be a bad experience for the employee and the customer when you hire folks without a service orientation.
8. Under promise and over deliver. The goal is to delight a customer. For example, the signs in the lines at DisneyLand that tell you how long you'll have to wait from each point are purposely over-stated. When you get to the ride in less time, you're delighted. Imagine if the signs were understated--you'd be angry because Disneyland lied to you.
9. Integrate customer service into the maintstream. Let's see: sales makes the big bucks. Marketing does the fun stuff. Engineers, well, you leave them alone in their dark caves. Accounting cuts the paychecks. And support? Do to the dirty work of talking to pissed off customers when nothing else works. Herein lies the problem: customer service has as much to do with a company's reputation as sales, marketing, engineering, and finance. So integrate customer service into the mainstream of the company and do not consider it profit-sucking necessary evil. A customer service hero deserves all the accolades that a sales, marketing, or engineering one does.
10. Put it all together. To put several recommendations in action, suppose a part breaks in the gizmo that a customer bought from you. First, take responsibility: “I'm sorry that it broke.” Second, don't point the finger--that is, don't say, “We buy that part from a supplier.” Third, put the customer in control: “When would like the replacement by?” Fourth, under promise and over deliver: Send it at no additional charge via a faster shipping method than necessary. That's the way to create legendary customer service.
For almost any business operating in the 21st Century, digital marketing is an exciting, growing and ever more essential tool. It also seems deceptively easy – just set up a few social media accounts and write a blog and you’re set — right?
Not at all. There are many layers, nuances, tricks and best practices to online marketing — and often these are overlooked by people who haven’t been trained in online, or simply think that they know better.
Here are the top five mistakes that people make in the online space.
1. Love it and leave it A lot of time, care and thought usually goes in to developing an online space like a website. Unfortunately, once it goes live, it suddenly loses all that loving attention since it looks like it’s finished. In the online world, things work a bit differently. Things change so fast that your digital marketing platforms should be considered to be works in progress. You must keep updating, iterating, tweaking and optimising them to make them truly effective – and this covers everything from the home page design to the SEO meta data you use.
2. Acting on instinct The web offers an unparalleled opportunity to measure and evaluate the performance of online tactics, but people often fail to take advantage of this. There are three main errors that fall under this:
The first is acting without data. Some people make the mistake of basing their campaigns and platforms on instinct, feelings and presumptions rather than looking at the cold, hard facts contained in analytics data.
The second is gathering data, but not using it. This covers both ignoring the data entirely and sticking to just a few vanity metrics. While there are some things that web analytics data can’t tell you, it does contain a multitude of insights and trends that are well worth looking at.
The third error is not testing. If you have a platform that’s struggling, or even one that’s running just fine, testing is a great and inexpensive way to make it do better. Testing involves creating new versions of existing content and seeing which one results in a better response and more conversions.
3. Thinking tactic X is magic Everyone in the industry has their favourite “tactic X” – that one flawless tool or platform that they hold up as the solution to all online marketing questions. Social media, online advertising and search engine optimisation are the three biggest culprits here.
But things aren’t that simple online. Each tactic has its own risks and shortcomings. Take social media, for example. It’s excellent for building a community, sharing great content and really engaging with your audience, but it takes an awful lot of time, money and dedication to get it right – and it opens you up to risks like brand attacks.
Likewise, online advertising isn’t going to do you much good if your website looks unprofessional, while SEO is pretty useless without rich, fresh content and solid user experience design.
4. Marketing in silos Leading on from this, a lot of people in the space look at their digital efforts as siloed, stand-alone channels. They end up creating unique marketing plans for each one, and each channel is managed by a different team, leading to mixed messages. On top of that, online and offline efforts are completely disconnected.
In the digital age, however, integration is key. A brand needs to speak with one unified voice across all its communications, and all marketing needs to act together to maximise its potential. If you’re not supporting your social media with a solid website and online reputation management strategy, or your email newsletter with a content marketing or SEO plan, you’re not going to see the returns you deserve.
5. Doing too much at once Finally, because the potential of digital marketing seems limitless, many enthusiastic marketing managers want to do it all. They sign the brand up for every social network under the sun, launch a blog, go mobile, and all the rest – but never stop to think about the value each tactic will bring, or even whether it’s useful at all.
Slow and steady is the name of the game in internet marketing, especially if it’s new for your brand. Do a bit of research (and again, look at the data) to find out where the best starting points are. For example, if less than 1% of your website traffic is mobile, you probably don’t need a mobi site just yet. If you’re selling teen fashion, there’s not much use in having a LinkedIn profile.
Start somewhere, build your presence, get used to the platform, and only then move on. There’s already so much that you need to be doing from the start – a good website, SEO strategy, ORM plan and UX design are pretty vital – that there’s no need to overfill your plate.