Zee2A's Marketing Edge Blog

January 27, 2010

Are you sick of spam?

Like almost every email user (and that’s prettymuch everyone these days!) you probably get plenty of email newsletters landing in your inbox on a daily basis. But how many did you actually sign up to yourself?

If you’re anything like us you are probably receiving a wide variety of newsletters, offers, sales pitches, and local business announcements that you never requested.

Worse still is that if you don’t actually appreciate receiving them you probably can’t even have yourself removed from the mailing lists, can you?

It’s bad enough when you are the victim… But what if you are the perpetrator?

Over the next few days we’ll be sharing five of the top guidelines that ezine publishers need to adhere to – check back tomorrow for tip number one and make sure that you start getting it right!

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July 6, 2009

How’s YOUR Reputation?

Three Ways to Ruin Your
Business Reputation

Funny how the minute I use the word ‘reputation’ ears prick up. We all know the power of a good reputation, and the damage a bad one can do. Businesses are concerned over matters like their environmental impact; Fair-trade policies; adherence to health and safety standards; etc because those issues impact on their reputation. A good reputation drives good publicity and ultimately longevity of a business. A bad reputation leads to bad publicity (whether via the media or simply the power of ‘word-of-mouth’), lost customers, and can ultimately result in business failure.

This article is not about to focus on environmental impact, Fair-trade policies, or health and safety. What it is going to focus on is three other areas that customers find critically important. Customers are, after all, the lifeblood of your business. If we as businesses are not delivering what our customers deem important they will drift away and go to our competitors that are. Specifically we are going to address three customer satisfaction issues that impact on your business reputation.

I hosted a survey among a group of consumers to find out what key issues made them extremely dissatisfied with a service provider. The following three issues came up over and over and over again. They were:

  1. Recurrent Mistakes – with little or no attempt to prevent future occurrence,
  2. Disrespectful Behaviour from a member of staff, and
  3. Appalling Telephony Systems.

Recurrent Mistakes

No one is saying that we have to be perfect and are not allowed to ever make mistakes. Humans, being imperfect as we are, will always need to allow a margin for error. The problem comes in when people do not learn from their mistakes and keep on doing the same wrong things repeatedly. A number of complaints I have heard are around the lack of effort to correct mistakes.

There could be different reasons why mistakes are repeated. At times a lack of skills or training is to blame. At other times it is a personnel issue – either the wrong person has been assigned to do the job, or the employee involved is simply careless and takes no pride in their work. And of course a management issue is often involved – failing to address issues before they escalate (be they training, staffing, or attitude issues).

Disrespectful Behaviour from a Staff Member

Now while you as a business owner are gasping that none of your employees would ever treat a customer disrespectfully, 2 out of every 5 people I surveyed (that’s almost half of them) have a different view! The kind of behaviour that they find disrespectful includes:

  • An inconsistent level of service from different people in the same organisation;
  • Discrimination based on their perceived value (or lack thereof) as a client;
  • Staff members unwilling to take responsibility;
  • A member of staff who obviously regards customer interaction as an interruption; and
  • Unfulfilled promises (phone calls and emails not returned; promises not followed through; etc).

Would it surprise you to know that Harvard Business School conducted a study a few years ago, which established that nearly two thirds of customers that leave an organisation do so as a direct result of bad service or discourtesy from a member of staff? And it’s not just junior members of staff that are guilty of disrespectful behaviour either. In my survey there was evidence of managers and other senior people giving their junior staff very poor examples to follow.

Appalling Telephony Systems

Ooh, now this is a hot-potato isn’t it? Customers hate call centres!

We can all relate personal experiences of being caught in an automated loop with no quick way to a real, live person; or being stuck with “option 1, option 2, and option 3” whether our call had anything to do with those options or not; and when we do actually get to speak to somebody on the other end, often they can’t actually help us at all.

Is it the call centre per se that is the problem? Or is it perhaps the individuals on the other end of the telephone that either enhance or ruin your experience?

There are two distinct areas here that need addressing, and both relate to training. On the one hand, customers need to be better educated to use the alternatives available to them. I feel qualified to say (because I am frequently guilty of this myself) that if the customer first referred to their user manual/policy document/the business website; there would probably be no need to pick up the telephone at all. On the other hand, the staff within these call centres need to be more adequately trained in product knowledge and in effective use of the telephone.

Let’s face it, as a customer, I would have no objection (nor be any the wiser) to my call being answered anywhere and by anyone, as long as my call was efficiently dealt with.

It’s easy to see how failing in these three areas can completely ruin our business reputation. Customers talk. Fact. We really don’t want them spreading negative publicity about us. I’ve heard it said that a happy customer will share their story with one or two close friends, but an unhappy customer will tell everyone they can! So then is there an easy way to protect our reputations? Absolutely Yes!

These issues (and indeed many others too) can usually be resolved by the following three steps:

  1. Sharpening the recruitment process – finding the right people, and putting them in to the right roles;
  2. Managing problem staff more closely – being close to the causes, is it motivation, attitude, or a skills gap? and
  3. Providing an adequate, ongoing, and consistent training and personal development programme for all members of staff.

©Vanessa Deakin and Zee2A Limited 2009.  Vanessa Deakin works with Professional Service Executives frustrated and disappointed with their current growth rates, marketing efforts, and business profitability. Through one-on-one and group mentoring programmes she helps them to skyrocket their results and break their own best records. To learn more, sign up for her e-zine, or make an enquiry please visit her website at www.zee2a.com.

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June 30, 2009

Customer Service No-No’s

I noticed two interesting news headlines in the last few days.
Firstly, the OECD say that we are ‘at the bottom’ of the current economic recession – actually a positive thing, because it suggests (without promising) that things may begin the slow climb back to prosperity in the near future. The second indicated that the UK economy suffered a 2.4% shrinkage in the first quarter of 2009 – 0.5% worse than predicted and the worst for 51 years, apparently. Again,
although it may not at first blush seem like it, this is good news.
These type of figures are by definition retrospective – they look back at a period we have already lived through. There are many signs of recovery, mostly in the form of a slowdown in bad news!

In this week’s Marketing Edge (out for publiction tomorrow) we are re-running what was one of the most popular articles of 2008 – a critical look at customer service no-no’s. Remember that everyone struggles in a recession, but those who take customer service lightly will continue to struggle even when conditions improve. So take the key points to heart and root poor customer service out of your organisation. When you do, your customers will show their appreciation via longer, more profitable business relationships.

Sign up for your free subscription at: www.zee2a.com and make sure to verify your request before midnight tonight!

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December 24, 2008

Why Are Your Customers Giving You Bad Publicity?

Three Ways to Ruin Your
Business Reputation

 

Funny how the minute I use the word ‘reputation’ ears prick up. We all know the power of a good reputation, and the damage a bad one can do. Businesses are concerned over matters like their environmental impact; Fair-trade policies; adherence to health and safety standards; etc because those issues impact on their reputation. A good reputation drives good publicity and ultimately longevity of a business. A bad reputation leads to bad publicity (whether via the media or simply the power of ‘word-of-mouth’), lost customers, and can ultimately result in business failure.

 

This article is not about to focus on environmental impact, Fair-trade policies, or health and safety. What it is going to focus on is three other areas that customers find critically important. Customers are, after all, the lifeblood of your business. If we as businesses are not delivering what our customers deem important they will drift away and go to our competitors that are. Specifically we are going to address three customer satisfaction issues that impact on your business reputation.

 

I recently hosted a survey among a group of consumers, to find out what key issues made them extremely dissatisfied with a service provider. The following three issues came up over and over and over again. They were:

 

1.       Recurrent Mistakes – with little or no attempt to prevent future occurrence,

2.       Disrespectful Behaviour from a member of staff, and

3.       Appalling Telephony Systems.

 

Recurrent Mistakes

 

No one is saying that we have to be perfect and are not allowed to ever make mistakes. Humans, being imperfect as we are, will always need to allow a margin for error. The problem comes in when people do not learn from their mistakes and keep on doing the same wrong things repeatedly. A number of complaints I have heard are around the lack of effort to correct mistakes.

 

There could be different reasons why mistakes are repeated. At times a lack of skills or training is to blame. At other times it is a personnel issue – either the wrong person has been assigned to do the job, or the employee involved is simply careless and takes no pride in their work. And of course a management issue is often involved – failing to address issues before they escalate (be they training, staffing, or attitude issues).

 

Disrespectful Behaviour from a Staff Member

 

Now while you as a business owner are gasping that none of your employees would ever treat a customer disrespectfully, 2 out of every 5 people I surveyed (that’s almost half of them) have a different view! The kind of behaviour that they find disrespectful includes:

  • An inconsistent level of service from different people in the same organisation;
  • Discrimination based on their perceived value (or lack thereof) as a client;
  • Staff members unwilling to take responsibility;
  • A member of staff who obviously regards customer interaction as an interruption; and
  • Unfulfilled promises (phone calls and emails not returned; promises not followed through; etc).

Would it surprise you to know that Harvard Business School conducted a study a few years ago, which established that nearly two thirds of customers that leave an organisation do so as a direct result of bad service or discourtesy from a member of staff? And it’s not just junior members of staff that are guilty of disrespectful behaviour either. In my survey there was evidence of managers and other senior people giving their junior staff very poor examples to follow.

 

Appalling Telephony Systems

 

Ooh, now this is a hot-potato isn’t it? Customers hate call centres!

We can all relate personal experiences of being caught in an automated loop with no quick way to a real, live person; or being stuck with “”option 1, option 2, and option 3″ whether our call had anything to do with those options or not; and when we do actually get to speak to somebody on the other end, often they can’t actually help us at all.

 

Is it the call centre per se that is the problem? Or is it perhaps the individuals on the other end of the telephone that either enhance or ruin your experience?

 

There are two distinct areas here that need addressing, and both relate to training. On the one hand, customers need to be better educated to use the alternatives available to them. I feel qualified to say (because I am frequently guilty of this myself) that if the customer first referred to their user manual / policy document / the business website; there would probably be no need to pick up the telephone at all. On the other hand, the staff within these call centres need to be more adequately trained in product knowledge and in effective use of the telephone.

 

Let’s face it, as a customer, I would have no objection (nor be any the wiser) to my call being answered anywhere and by anyone, as long as my call was efficiently dealt with.

 

It’s easy to see how failing in these three areas can completely ruin our business reputation. Customers talk. Fact. We really don’t want them spreading negative publicity about us. I’ve heard it said that a happy customer will share their story with one or two close friends, but an unhappy customer will tell everyone they can! So then is there an easy way to protect our reputations? Absolutely Yes!

 

These issues (and indeed many others too) can usually be resolved by the following three steps:

1.       Sharpening the recruitment process – finding the right people, and putting them in to the right roles;

2.       Managing problem staff more closely – being close to the causes, is it motivation, attitude, or a skills gap? and

3.       Providing an adequate, ongoing, and consistent training and personal development programme for all members of staff.

 

© Vanessa Deakin and Zee2A Limited

This article was originally published on 20 February 2008 in The Marketing Edge

 

Would you like to reprint this article? You may do so as long as you include the copyright notice and the following paragraph: Vanessa Deakin is a Marketing Coach who works with Professional Service Executives frustrated and disappointed with their current growth rates, marketing efforts, and business profitability. Through one-on-one and group mentoring programmes she helps them to skyrocket their results and break their own best records. To learn more, sign up for her e-zine, or make an enquiry please visit our website at www.zee2a.com

Read More Articles Like This! Request a Free Subscription to The Marketing Edge

July 23, 2008

Spam: Where it Came From, and How to Escape It

Spam: Where it Came From, and How to Escape It

Written by Tom Kulzer (AWeber CEO)

  • Who Cooked This!? (How did it all start?)
  • Why Does Bad Spam Happen to Good People?
  • Stop The Flood to Your Inbox
  • Stay Off Spammed Lists in the Future
  • Think You’re Not a Spammer? Be Sure.
  • The Final Blow (more…)

March 5, 2008

Excuses rather than Solutions

In a recent issue of our e-zine The Marketing Edge we asked readers to share their experiences illustrating how service providers offer excuses rather than solutions. We ran the same question in the Q&A section of LinkedIn. Here are some of the best answers we received:

“Back in November I alerted my web host company about a problem with one of my accounts. I supplied the requisite paperwork to resolve the issue on my end with the promise by them that the issue would be resolved.No less than five phone calls later, a lost account, and excuses galore, I ended up recovering the account two months later, but it cost me time and money. I’m still not satisfied with the way that they handled this problem and I am closing this account after a five year business relationship. Worse, were the excuses and lack of customer support. There were times I felt insulted by their answers, never mind the canned answers I received for many of my problems.The bad thing about this company is that I am telling everyone how dissatisfied I am with their product. I am sure they’ll lose more business because of their customer nonsupport.”  – Matt Keegan

“I was unable to find my question addressed in the FAQs on the Web site. Past experience has taught me that sending a service request e-mail would only net me further frustration, so I called the service hotline instead. I was routed through a long menu of options, none of which seemed to fit my question. Then I was put on hold. No exaggeration, my phone timed it–I remained on hold for seven minutes.The rep who finally picked up told me I could not proceed any further without a credit card number. My name, PIN, account number, password, etc.–things that work from the Web site (assuming the Web site is functioning, which is another frequent problem) would not do–it had to be the credit card. I ran off and dug up my credit card…OK. I asked my question. The rep told me that wasn’t his department. He transferred me, at which point I went back on hold for another five minutes.The second rep took me through the credit card routine again, and I asked my question. The rep wanted to know why I called her because the other department should have answered. I told her the other department had transferred me, so what do I do? She put me on hold again (3 minutes) and came back with an answer this time…but unfortunately the answer was, we don’t offer that service. Before ending the call, the rep tried to pitch me an account upgrade. It’s easy, she said…I already have your credit card number and only need your authorization!Now that’s nerve. And it’s NOT “customer service.” ” – AnnaLisa Michalski

“Excuses vs Solutions. However best an excuse is, it will still remain an excuse and not satisfy the customers right to get a solution. The irony of today’s cost cutting competetion is that no one is allowed to build an infrastructure to support the customers, every penny goes into marketting and sales efforts. Upon this, there are chances of over committment to sell more. So, finally comes the role of Support staff to handle the customers problems. Really, the present situation is of firefighting and companies should understand the need to build the infrastructure to be proactive to serve the timely solutions to the customers everytime. They should understand that however best the firefighting operation is, it still leaves many damage marks which are difficult to erase/compensate for. Also, the classic case of using Service Providers, the principles should understand that they still are accountable/responsible for the after sales services to drive the repeat sales and so they should be really in the driver seat of all the activities of the service providers instead of allowing them the liberty of carrying out the service operation from A to Z. Its their brand name which sells and its their image which gets hurt when the customer does not get the desired/ committed solution.” – Bhupinder Sehgal

“Part of the answer to that question, I think, goes to the basic business model of the service provider. It is easy to illustrate in the case of a very small (micro) start-up, compared with a larger broad-market provider of the same basic service. The start-up model may rely upon word of mouth and customer referrals to grow the business, and this may work well up to a point. At some point, the company must leverage its reputation, that is, the company has to capitalize an expansion of its work force and delivery zone to keep growing, and this “lumpy” investment (bigger facilities, internal training, new layers of supervision/management, etc.) means borrowing based on past business performance, which was reputation-driven. It starts to get hard at this point. The larger competitor may operate on a different business model, one that invests much more heavily in advertising and sales. To the extent that the big company relies upon advertising and a well managed sales process, they will have less incentive to invest in customer service–because their new customers do not come from referrals, they come from advertising/sales! Now, at some point in their target market, the big company may find that negative feedback, transmitted by word of mouth, is harming new sales. But in many situations, this intuitively plausible outcome does not occur. How, after all, does an unhappy customer communicate their bad experience to prospective new customers? In some business environments (hospitals, say, where there are only a few thousand in the entire country), that’s a risk, but in others (snow removal services to residents in Chicago), it’s tough for an dissatisfied customer to “get the word out” about Ace Snow Removal on a broad scale; ASR can continue to advertise on TV and the Trib.”– Rod Bell

“My worst experience: I took an expensive gas trimmer (had it for 2 months and it busted) into a local shop for repair, the one required by the manufacturer – I had purchased this at a big box home improvement place, but was not allowed to take it back there for an exchange. (flag 1) The shop tagged it, said it would be ready in 2 weeks. I let 3 weeks go by, no phone call. I then call and they say (flag 3)”oh, it’s next in line, it’s not ready, but call in tomorrow, so you can come get it.” I call the next day and it’s still not ready. (flag 2 – me having to call, flag 3, it’s not even ready) Next week, “we don’t have the parts.” (flag 4) Okay, so you get the idea.After 2 months, I still don’t have my trimmer. I call the manufacturer and proceed to throw the shop directly under the bus. The final straw? They said “we have other stuff to work on here, your machine is not a priority.”
I ask for the manager of the shop and he is more rude than the other people that work there –this treatment is part of their company culture!
This small business amazed with their ignorance of the situation and had multiple opportunities to care for me, but chose instead to make me feel like I was a nuisance and a bother for wanting my machine repaired.That said, I don’t believe the clock starts ticking at the time of a complaint: it starts ticking the minute you begin a relationship with them. Like any relationship, they have an opportunity to knock your socks off with attentiveness and care or they have the opportunity to completely blow it and treat you like you’re not special at all. Making excuses does nothing but this – they don’t care. “ – Deb Kolaras

February 21, 2008

Three Ways to Ruin Your Business Reputation

Funny how the minute I use the word ‘reputation’ ears prick up. We all know the power of a good reputation, and the damage a bad one can do. Businesses are concerned over matters like their environmental impact; Fair-trade policies; adherence to health and safety standards; etc because those issues impact on their reputation. A good reputation drives good publicity and ultimately longevity of a business. A bad reputation leads to bad publicity (whether via the media or simply the power of ‘word-of-mouth’), lost customers, and can ultimately result in business failure.

This article is not about to focus on environmental impact, Fair-trade policies, or health and safety. What it is going to focus on is three other areas that customers find critically important. Customers are, after all, the lifeblood of your business. If we as businesses are not delivering what our customers deem important they will drift away and go to our competitors that are. Specifically we are going to address three customer satisfaction issues that impact on your business reputation.

I recently hosted a survey among a group of consumers, to find out what key issues made them extremely dissatisfied with a service provider. The following three issues came up over and over and over again. They were:

  • Recurrent Mistakes – with little or no attempt to prevent future occurrence,
  • Disrespectful Behaviour from a member of staff, and
  • Appalling Telephony Systems.

Recurrent Mistakes

No one is saying that we have to be perfect and are not allowed to ever make mistakes. Humans, being imperfect as we are, will always need to allow a margin for error. The problem comes in when people do not learn from their mistakes and keep on doing the same wrong things repeatedly. A number of complaints I have heard are around the lack of effort to correct mistakes.

There could be different reasons why mistakes are repeated. At times a lack of skills or training is to blame. At other times it is a personnel issue – either the wrong person has been assigned to do the job, or the employee involved is simply careless and takes no pride in their work. And of course a management issue is often involved – failing to address issues before they escalate (be they training, staffing, or attitude issues).

Disrespectful Behaviour from a Staff Member

Now while you as a business owner are gasping that none of your employees would ever treat a customer disrespectfully, 2 out of every 5 people I surveyed (that’s almost half of them) have a different view! The kind of behaviour that they find disrespectful includes:

  • An inconsistent level of service from different people in the same organisation;
  • Discrimination based on their perceived value (or lack thereof) as a client;
  • Staff members unwilling to take responsibility;
  • A member of staff who obviously regards customer interaction as an interruption; and
  • Unfulfilled promises (phone calls and emails not returned; promises not followed through; etc).

Would it surprise you to know that Harvard Business School conducted a study a few years ago, which established that nearly two thirds of customers that leave an organisation do so as a direct result of bad service or discourtesy from a member of staff? And it’s not just junior members of staff that are guilty of disrespectful behaviour either. In my survey there was evidence of managers and other senior people giving their junior staff very poor examples to follow.

Appalling Telephony Systems

Ooh, now this is a hot-potato isn’t it? Customers hate call centres!

We can all relate personal experiences of being caught in an automated loop with no quick way to a real, live person; or being stuck with “”option 1, option 2, and option 3″ whether our call had anything to do with those options or not; and when we do actually get to speak to somebody on the other end, often they can’t actually help us at all.

Is it the call centre per se that is the problem? Or is it perhaps the individuals on the other end of the telephone that either enhance or ruin your experience?

There are two distinct areas here that need addressing, and both relate to training. On the one hand, customers need to be better educated to use the alternatives available to them. I feel qualified to say (because I am frequently guilty of this myself) that if the customer first referred to their user manual / policy document / the business website; there would probably be no need to pick up the telephone at all. On the other hand, the staff within these call centres need to be more adequately trained in product knowledge and in effective use of the telephone.

Let’s face it, as a customer, I would have no objection (nor be any the wiser) to my call being answered anywhere and by anyone, as long as my call was efficiently dealt with.

It’s easy to see how failing in these three areas can completely ruin our business reputation. Customers talk. Fact. We really don’t want them spreading negative publicity about us. I’ve heard it said that a happy customer will share their story with one or two close friends, but an unhappy customer will tell everyone they can! So then is there an easy way to protect our reputations? Absolutely Yes!

These issues (and indeed many others too) can usually be resolved by the following three steps:

  • Sharpening the recruitment process – finding the right people, and putting them in to the right roles;
  • Managing problem staff more closely – being close to the causes, is it motivation, attitude, or a skills gap? and
  • Providing an adequate, ongoing, and consistent training and personal development programme for all members of staff.

Do you ever receive customer complaints? Are your staff repeating the same mistakes? Do you run a call centre? Don’t despair, Zee2A can help! Vanessa works with organisations who desire increased commitment from staff who take pride in their work. Organisations that are striving to provide a faster, friendlier, more efficient service. Organisations that want satisfied customers who remain loyal and evangelise about how great your service is, to others. Read about our Service Essentials Programme here.

©Vanessa Deakin and Zee2A Limited 2008. Would you like to reprint this article? You may do so as long as you include the copyright notice and the following paragraph: Vanessa Deakin, Operations Director at Zee2A, is a Marketing Coach who works with Professional Service Executives frustrated and disappointed with their current growth rates, marketing efforts, and business profitability. Through one-on-one and group mentoring programmes she helps them to skyrocket their results and break their own best records. To learn more, sign up for her e-zine, or make an enquiry please visit our website at www.zee2a.com