Archive for Twitter

5 Simple Steps to Online Success: What Every Small to Mid-Size Business Must Know

If you are a small to mid-size business with more energy than cash to get started in the online arena, this is for you. These actionable tips can be done on a reasonable budget and are the bottom line necessities for any small to mid-size business today. This article is stripped of heavy techno-lingo and allows most anyone a jumping off point whether they go it alone or are about to meet with their agency and need a guideline of must-do’s.

  1. Have a Website. While you might have a Facebook page, and that is important, it is not a substitute for a Website. Your website must be well-constructed and up-to-date (see step 4). It is important that your website is visited (see the rest of the steps) and visitors stay once they find it.
  2. Be on Social Media. Though it takes time, getting known and building “social” relationships builds a solid market where once there was none – and you can drive those followers to your blog or website to build even more activity for your business. I suggest Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. And to manage your time, try Buffer, which allows you to delay your links and other information to be posted to each of your social spaces when your readers are most likely online for the best impact.
  3. Be Graceful. All of your actions should not be self-promoting. Take time to promote others’ work and business as well. Link to others. They will notice and be more likely to treat you well in return. Also be sure to provide superior customer service to keep everyone talking about you.
  4. Blog and Create Content. You’ll keep your website higher on results pages with updated blogs because search engines tend to pick up the quality content found in blogs. Moreover, because your blog regularly changes, you have an excellent way of keeping your website fresh and up-to-date. No time to blog? Ask your staff to submit short articles, or hire a writer specifically for this task.
  5. Connect Your Way to Success. Your website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or whatever social channels you choose, must connect to one another. Don’t forget to point your offline and online marketing efforts to each other as well. These connections make up the smartest, most effective way to impact your market.

As you apply this information, keep in mind that sometimes less is more. Be certain that your information is not only compelling, but that it is clear. Have someone outside of your business try out your website for ease of use and clarity. Be sure your customers are getting the best care you can offer. Here’s to your success and be sure to share this with someone you know.

(Parts of this article from 5 Tips for Boosting Your SEO on a Tight BudgetBusiness 2 Community by Ken Mueller)

The Pro’s and Con’s of Offshore Customer Service

We’ve all seen the Discover Card commercial “Hello, welcome to USA Prime Credit, my name is Peggy”. It’s a funny commercial and we can all laugh at the frustration experienced by the caller. Obviously this is an exaggeration, a caricature of sorts, to entertain and to make you want to watch the commercial. BUT… it is based on the common premise that offshore customer service has a few barriers; first of which is language and dialect. It is often times very difficult to understand what is being said when the person on the other end of the phone has a heavy accent and only a casual understanding of the English language; second is knowledge. Many times the person you speak with at what is called “Level 1 Support” is trained to handle only the most common questions or problems (Frequently Asked Questions, usually with scripted responses). The theory behind this from a company’s perspective is to spend as little money as possible to answer the majority of the questions. This is a solid, cost-effective measure indeed… or is it?

Before I continue with my editorial, let me first share a recent customer service call I experienced.

I have a credit card that had been paid off and was put in a drawer in case of future needs. A charge was put on this card without my knowledge and because I didn’t pay it (I didn’t know about it), it accrued late fees and interest charges of almost $100 in two months. The credit card company called me (non offshore… a very nice lady named Audrey) to arrange payment. I told Audrey that I needed to check on the purchase to verify its validity and would call them back. I called the company who made the charge and spoke with someone (not offshore). I was able to discuss the situation, identify it as an unapproved transaction and get a refund processed, all in one call. GREAT, then I called the credit card company back to tell them a refund was being processed and got the company’s “Level One Support”. I didn’t understand the name of the person who picked up my call, but it was obviously offshore, based on the dialect. When I posed my situation, the representative said that he would have to transfer me to a Supervisor… and then hung up (or totally blew the transfer), so I had to call back. The second call also had to be transferred and this time I was put on hold, or “Ignore” and the call went into limbo, it didn’t terminate but after 5 minutes of nothing (no music, just silence), I hung up (with thoughts of “Peggy” haunting my brain). The third time I finally got transferred properly and I could tell that I was back in the States. The Supervisor was friendly, polite and helpful. We got the situation resolved and all was finally good, but only after having to provide my account number, date of birth, address, last four digits of my SSN, and explain the reason for my call… FOUR TIMES. This experience frustrated me to no end. I can’t even tell you how angry I was by the time I reached someone who could actually help me. Been here? I thought so.

I understand the need to save money, align resources and try to achieve the greatest efficiencies, but if those efficiencies result in losing customers or damaging a company’s reputation, what have you gained? There needs to be another way.

Complimenting the usual phone support with social media support is a growing trend. Many companies are setting up social media customer service units to monitor Facebook, Twitter and other online channels for questions and problems related to their products or services. This might be a good way to get your request in ONCE, have the company triage the problem to resolution and get back to you with an answer without the frustration experienced in my example. The responsibility is then on the company to do whatever is necessary, talk to whoever is required to resolve the situation… behind the scenes… and then get back to the customer with the answer.

So here’s my final question… Am I overreacting based on my recent experience or do you see this as a viable way to buffer the consumer from “back-office” operations?

Blending the Old with the New

We’ve said it many times before; more than 70% of consumers are using the internet to find their goods and services.  Your goal, as a business owner, is to get as high a ranking on search engines as you possibly can so that you broaden your exposure and drive more traffic to your website or blog or Facebook Page or…wherever.  If you think consumers are still picking up the Yellow Pages you’re fooling yourself.

There is still a need for offline promotional media however.  I just gave a presentation on Social Media Marketing to a group of business owners.  A majority of them had a LinkedIn profile, but most only used it sporadically.  Less than half used Facebook for personal reasons and less than half of those had a Facebook Business Page.  When I asked about Twitter, only a few people raised their hand.  I expressed the importance of having an online presence and gave examples of how they could use Social Media to strengthen their brand and attract new customers.

I also told them that traditional marketing activities can still be effective but that whenever they hand someone a physical marketing piece, whether it be a business card, brochure, flyer, or advertisement on paper, include a URL pointing them to other forms of online advertising and information.  Say you have a restaurant napkin; it could include a link to your website, a promotional offer or a loyalty rewards program. A new type of offline-to-online link is called the QR-Code (Quick Response) which is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background (see picture).

The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.  More common in Japan, this type of “offline-link” is becoming popular in the U.S. for many companies.  Imagine the effectiveness of marketing when someone can use their smart-phone to “read” the offline QR-Code from a paper ad and it sends them to a site on the internet.

I may be getting ahead of myself here but you can see the possibilities.  The bottom line is this; put URL’s on everything, no matter what form it happens to be in.  Use them to direct your customers to things such as special offers, email newsletters, sign-ups for free products…etc.

Whether you’re an offline business that’s in denial and avoiding the online world, or you’re an online business that thinks your next customer is only a tweet away, you’ve got to remember that with a healthy blend between the old and the new techniques in marketing, your business can find people where they are, not just where you happen to be more comfortable.

It Started With a Single Tweet

Some time ago, I wrote a blog post about the importance of customer service in this new “Transparent” world of social media.  I wrote that if you were not 100% confident with your products and services, you needed to get your act together before putting yourself and your reputation in the public eye.  Good news travels fast online, but bad news travels much, much faster.

Do you remember the flood that resulted from the 6” or more of rain we had in the Milwaukee area in July of this year?  Well we were one of the countless homes affected by that storm, although ours was not nearly as bad as many others.  In our case, it was the excessive amount of rain water that flooded our septic system, which backed up into our finished basement resulting in about 5” of standing water.  The carpeting and the baseboards were pretty much destroyed.

After the rain stopped, Susi was on Twitter and saw the following tweet from Drexel Inc.(via Stacey Stoffel):

 

 

Followed up a bit later by this one:

 

Susi Re-Tweeted that one and Drexel followed with:

 

We set up a meeting with Drexel to discuss the possibility of them replacing our ruined basement carpeting.  Initially we were going to go to their store but because of how busy we were, they offered to come to the house.  They arrived on time, with a variety of samples.  We talked, and they were very informative and personable.  They gave us a price quote for each of the selections we chose.  We’re all about customer service and they showed that they are too.  Later, Susi posted a note on Drexel’s Facebook Page.  Here is Drexel’s reply on Twitter:

 

Followed a day later with:

 

 

We decided to have them re-carpet our basement with “Tuxedo” a very modern blend of black and gray tight-pile carpeting.  The job was done perfectly, on time and we were super-satisfied.  It looked Awesome.  We both thought they did an outstanding job and needless to say, Twitter was the basis for this relationship to blossom.

As Jeffrey Gitomer said in The Little Red Book of Selling, “All things being equal, people want to do business with their friends. All things being not quite so equal, people STILL want to do business with their friends.”

This relationship started on Twitter and has developed into a mutually beneficial relationship based on friendship, caring about others, honesty and trust.  We have been to Drexel’s since the flood.  They held a “Pet Day” and we took our puppy there to commiserate with the other dogs.  We had a great time, ate a couple of brats and talked with Drexel’s staff.

The relationship continues: As you know, we have been working hard to make this Lake Country Caring charity event a success which involved looking for sponsors to donate their time, talents, raffle prizes and of course dollars.  Drexel said “We would love to help” and donated a super-nice area rug valued at $300.  That’s what I call stepping up to help others.  Thank you Drexel and also thank you Twitter for bringing us together.  And yes, you can re-tweet me on that.