Surprise: IT magazine says customer service quality is down. Really.

This month, CIO Insight magazine (see http://www.cioinsight.com/article2/0,1540,2062373,00.asp ) noted that despite all the investment in technology that companies are making, customer service is getting worse.

Did any of you have to read a magazine to figure that out?

The good thing about articles like this is that they have metrics to go with the reality. The CIO site makes me crazy with 99% ads, 1% content, but the content is good, so deal with it just this once, ok?

So lets talk about the issues they cover in the article.
The #1 answer was billing or account problems, chosen by 53% of the people surveyed.

Big surprise. So far this month, Iâ??ve spent 2+ hrs trying to reach a human at Bank of America since they bought out MBNA. No luck. â??Weâ??re currently experiencing high call volumesâ?. Really?
Speaking of, I had to call Paypal about a debit card (I use Paypal for one of my online stores, so a debit card to pay for shipping when I have to use USPS makes sense). Because of a stupid restriction on businesses that use PO Boxes as a billing address, I had to call them. Paypalâ??s phone system (voice based response) is annoying because the guy talks SO SLOW you could read this blog while waiting for him to finish. However you can get to a helpful, friendly human by just saying â??HELPâ? when you are in their phone tree. That one issue aside, Paypalâ??s customer service has improved drastically. Every call Ive placed in the last year has been quick, friendly, successful, accurate. Good for you, guys.

Guess what #2 is? Getting to a real person to discuss a problem. How ironic. B of A, read up.
#3 was customer service email delays.

#4 was product or service quality. Not surprisingly, #4 was the ONLY choice that improved from 2005 to 2006. Pathetic.

Just like Ive been telling you in my print newsletter, great service differentiates you from the losers. I shouldnt even have to say it, but SO MANY try to scrimp on this – yet its the one place where you can cream your competition if you really seriously address it.

Its one more slight edge. So get off your keester & make your service amazing. A lady counted change back to me at Walgreens a while back. I was blown away because NO ONE does that anymore. Geez, is that all it takes to stand out today?

By the way, I’m not saying to avoid replacing web customer service with the real person. Instead, have them compliment each other.
Take action quickly. Implement TODAY.

“Dear Valued Customer”

Delta, Delta, Delta. Your DNS was such a great idea. Did you forget a mail merge feature?

I received a “personal” email from Delta today. It started off like this:

Dear Valued Customer,

On behalf of the hundreds of Delta Global Sales professionals dedicated to serving you and your travelers worldwide, “Thank You!” for choosing Delta as your preferred airline

Are you kidding me?

Tell me, if your business relationship is truly valued by a business’s owner, would they DREAM of sending an email or letter to you that starts off as “Dear Valued Customer”

Let’s refocus this for a moment. I can just guess what Jeffrey Gitomer would say if he and I were talking about this. Jeff’d probably say something like: “If you were feeling romantic and rolled over toward your wife, would you say ‘Dear Valued Woman Next To Me’? Yeah, right.” If you were dumb enough to do that, would you expect a positive, romantically-inclined response? Not likely.

Here’s a company that is sending me an email because I am part of a program they run. They have my full name, phone, frequent flier #, address, fax, cell and they know where I fly and how often (if they pay attention).

Despite all this, they send me an email that says “Dear Valued Customer”.

If that was my name, it’d be ok. It’s not and it isnt.

How about “Dear faceless, nameless member of our customer herd whose wallet we so adore while caring little about he who carries it”?

That’s one interpretation of the message it sends. Im sure you can think of others. More importantly perhaps is the activity a greeting like that causes: PRESSING THE DELETE KEY.

Did they accomplish the goal of the email by sending me something addressed like that? I doubt it. In fact, I’ll bet that the majority of the people who received it didnt get past the first paragraph.

Remember, the goal is not to SEND the email, or DELIVER the email, though these things are certainly important. The goal of your email, or your direct mail, or your billboard (etc) is to get someone to READ it and take ACTION. Someone forgot about that.

When’s the last time you had FUN at the airport?

Flew to Atlanta the other day for a meeting with Bill and Dan, and to attend the Atlanta GKIC meeting (Fred Gagnon’s group) and had some fun in the most unusual place: the Salt Lake City airport (SLC).

These days, airports feel like little more than cross between a strip mall, the waiting room at a proctologist’s office and a bus station. Air travel used to seem fun. Nowadays its work. Security, crowded planes and so on.
However, this was Halloween. The SLC airport was actually FUN. All the cart drivers were costumed big-time. You know who I mean, right? The guys who have the oversized golf carts to hurry people to their gate and carry folks who need some help getting around? Those guys. The men were mostly dressed as Batman (the original one), complete with half-face masks, capes and in one case, blue tights and black boots. Hilarious, plus they were having a ball with it. The lady drivers were mostly dressed as witches and they clearly were trying to match the enthusiasm of the “Batmen”. Even better, the folks in the airport stores (almost all of them!) were also dressed up in great costumes as well, from a witch to a French maid to a ghost.

Folks, this is an airport. You know, the place where all the people working there are grumpy, surly and often seem not all that interested in being nice and helpful, right?

On Halloween, they were all smiling, laughing and a lot more fun. The entire airport was in a lighter mood because of it and a nicer place to be as a result. Kudos to whoever on the SLC staff decided it was cool to do this. I asked the ladies in the Crown Room why they werent dressed up, they said they werent allowed to and clearly were disappointed about it. Despite that, one of the gate agents had some face paint on along with his Delta blues. He was just as professional, but people lined up for him more so than the agent next to him. Wonder why?

You dont have to dress up to have fun, but if you make your business more enjoyable to work in and visit, what’s the harm in that? If nothing else, people might stay longer, your employees should be friendlier and that’s bound to wear off on your bottom line. Find a way to do it.

Stuff You Gotta Read

People ask me on a fairly regular basis what I read, particularly about marketing, personal development and similar. I have a few in the DogEars section, but havent gotten to reviewing all of the ones I would recommend to someone.

Add to that, Im in the process of moving a bunch of stuff from home to office, and reorganizing the office, so book are everywhere – including a pile in my car:)

So…Ill add them here as I encounter them, reviewed or not, and get reviews up in the DogEars area as time permits. Understand that the topics are all over the place, so make do, ok? Authors may also be listed here, just to give you a heads up till I find the book title.

IMPORTANT: These are NOT in order of importance, quality, my opinion of them, etc. They just are.

The individual links (below) go to Amazon, or you can just go here to select from an Amazon-created pile of Mark-recommended books.

The Not-Yet-Complete-List

7 Habits – Covey

Customer Satisfaction is Worthless, Customer Loyalty is Priceless – Gitomer

Patterson Principles of Selling – Gitomer

Dan Kennedy’s books

Zig Ziglar’s books

Jim Rohn’s books
Some are in print, some in audio.
More info on Jim at his site (click here)


Acres of Diamonds

Obvious Adams

John Maxwell

Psychocybernetics – Maxwell Maltz (or the Kennedy-Maltz version)

Add to this list: Almost any old (early 1900’s) sales/marketing/personal improvement books. Some real classics exist from those days.

Obvious Adams

Obvious Adams is a short little book about an ordinary man who sees beyond the obvious. So much so that he achieves repeated success, simply by studying things around him and taking action on what he learns. Figure out what people want, make it available to them. Simple. Obvious. A very quick read, but dont discard it as trash just because its such a small book.

The Simple Truths of Service – Inspired by Johnny the Bagger

Barbara Glantz’s heartwarming and very motivational book is more than just touchy-feely – it offers serious advice to the business owner and their staff. It shows the business owner and EVERY staff member how they can make a substantial impact on making a company GREAT, if not “seemingly bulletproof” in the marketplace – simply by making their customers’ experience memorable. “Put your personal signature on the job” is the premise of the book.

No dog ears, just not that kind of book, but it is something you should buy a copy of for every employee. Every kid getting his first job, and so on.

Your company can be the Nordstrom of its niche. Or, it could be your competitor. You decide.

WAYMISH

WAYMISH- Why are you making it so hard….for me to give you my money?

Primarily, its a litany of lessons and war stories about ridiculous actions that companies take in their eternal effort to tick you off, run you off, or just make you want to go into competition against them because theyre so incompetent. There’s more to it than that, but believe me, when youre done, youll recall a list of your own WAYMISHs.
11 dogears, deserves more. The whole thing should be read by anyone in sales or service position, or by someone who manages sales/service people, and the CEO/owner, of course.

Sniff. Sniff. Does your website stink?

What’s that smell? I hope its not your website:)

Here are 5 common mistakes we find on websites during our “Rescue My Website” evaluations:

1 – No opt-in email capture mechanisms

Opt-in email capture mechanisms come in many forms, including special reports, newsletters (See #2) and squeeze pages. Squeeze pages are a last resort vs the other 2, in my mind. A squeeze page is a page that requires you to enter your first name (usually) and email address before you can view any information – often including the sales pitch. While they are effective, they can annoy people.

2 – No sequenced email autoresponders

This one more or less requires #1, because without #1, it cant work because you have no email address. Once you get an email address, you should have a sequence of INFORMATIVE emails on a regular basis – for lack of a better term – and email newsletter.

3 – No mechanism to capture an address for print newsletters and other mailings.

Roughly the same as #1, but remember – the internet is just another media. Remember when broadcast fax was outlawed? Remember when the Do-Not-Call list was put in place?

If you only have ONE means to communicate with your prospects and some lobby-intoxicated elected official decides to shut down that media, you’re out of business. Get the mailing address. Offer a CD, a small book or gift. ANYTHING that will get you the address so that later, you can offer them other items, information, etc. Worst case, a postcard from Hawaii.

4 – No audio or video

It’s the 21st century folks. Video and audio aren’t geek toys, they are yet another media that is better than printed words for many people. Audio that your prospect chooses to start, not that annoying automatically started audio that makes you reach for the volume on your PC (or the X button to close the browser).

Ditto for video. You can provide SO MUCH MORE information via video. Don’t use it as a toy, use it as an effective way to get your message across. You don’t need a $15000 camera and a professional studio to make good web video these days. A cheap digital camcorder from Walmart will work if it has to.  Video and audio allow you to establish a personal relationship with the prospect. Remember, companies don’t buy things, PEOPLE do. Even at companies.

5 – No contact form

Spam is getting worse by the minute. The last thing you need is another 300 Viagra emails or hot stock tips. If your email address is on your site in plain text, spammers can find it. Provide an easy to use contact form on your site so that people can contact you without opening their email program. You need to be careful with these, because of something called “injection attacks”, but any coherent web person or website portal software should have this under control by now.

Food for thought

Look at your site as if you have never heard of your product, service or company – or anything like it. What is missing that someone who has never seen your product simply has to have? Hint: here’s the perfect opportunity for a free report that requires an email or address capture.

Remember why your site is there. To inform/educate, to communicate what you offer to the prospect and to allow them to contact you. In the case of an online store, to do all that and lead the customer down your marketing funnel to make a purchase.

Do you have goals for your website? Concrete, measurable ones? What are they? How are they measured?

What are you doing to market the site now?

How does information get from your web store to your internal company systems? Same question, vice versa.

I could go on, but I suspect you already have work to do. I know I do.

Postcards from heaven!

I just about dropped it today.

The mail, that is.

I got a birthday postcard from one of my local hardware stores today, Cardinal True Value (those who get it, get mentioned by name).

OK, it was coded as a carrier route sort and it was barely personalized but they DID MAKE THE EFFORT.

It’s not the same as a hand written one, but they are trying. They even included an offer, a comparison (did you get a birthday card from any OTHER home store?) and a DEADLINE!

Scary. Better be careful, there might actually be some marketing going on before you know it.

Now….ARE YOU DOING THIS? If not, why the heck not? Are you nuts?

Losing customers? What ARE you thinking?

Do you pursue your lost customers? Most big, dumb corporations dont. In fact, most SMALL dumb businesses dont either. Every business loses customers at some point. What separates the successful from the lamers is how they act after that.

For example, today I received an email from buy.com. I dont buy too much at buy.com. In fact, I cant recall the last time I bought something there. But still, they decided to email me. Smart move.
Here’s the email:

We’ve noticed that you have not shopped at Buy.com in awhile and we miss you! So, to thank you for being one of our past customers, we’ve created a special coupon just for you. We look forward to seeing you again soon! You must use your myemail@domain.com account to redeem this offer. 10% OFF Coupon (Some Restrictions apply. See site for details. Expires xx/xx/xx) http://enews.buy.com/cgi-bin5/DM/y/yadayada

Continue reading Losing customers? What ARE you thinking?