Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The importance of keeping your corporate website up-to-date.

Always keep your website updated.
In spite of the recommendations that professionals who are dedicated to the world of marketing, advertising and social media offer their clients about keeping their corporate web pages updated, there are still many companies that pay little or no attention at all to this subject.

For today’s post, I will exclusively be referring to your corporate website, because I’m going to be sharing with you a story I’ve been going through recently and which could be, if you can picture yourself on it, very important for the growth (or not) of your business.

It all starts with the search.

I know it's something you should be familiar with, however, assuming you have a website. If you don’t have it yet, then read the following story I’m about to share with you.

Per my new job, I’ve to make contact with business prospects through Central and South America making use of listings and specialized directories published on the Internet. In the simplest of cases, these directories contain the name of the company, a phone number and corresponding website.

My first task is to gather information about the company I’m getting in contact with to make sure the company’s profile is compatible with the product we’re trying to sell. If there is no website, I take the phone and call the possible prospect, with the hope the person on the other side will explain me what the company is about and, on the best scenario, indicate me whether or not the company has a web page so that I can check everything myself in more detail and at my own pace.

If it doesn’t have a website, your business doesn’t exist.

Although it seems a very radical statement, it’s certainly true. Think for a moment that the Internet has created a true global village in which any business, no matter how small it is, may have a presence, if they want to do so.

In my case, what happens with the companies that don’t have a website and I can’t reach them on the phone? It's very simple: I delete them from my list of prospects to call and move on to the next one. It's that simple. No matter what size the company may have, or its relevance within the industry.

It’s about using time efficiently. Please note that for me (or your potential customer, if we were to think about it) all your company’s information is unknown until he can have access to it.

How am I (or your potential customer) supposed to know that your vintage car shop is the most recognized one in your country and has won four international awards, if there is no way for me to gain access to such information?

Your corporate website is (should be) more than a business card.

Your corporate website offers the perfect complement to enhance your sales people’s job. Why is it so? Because through your website you can showcase all the information you want about your business, your achievements, awards, products, catalogs, and all the information you might consider relevant to your customers, your industry, society and the world.

It’s not just a place to put a phone number, a physical address and a generic type email address such as info@thisismybusiness.com to which you will not even respond when someone submits a request.

There are thousands of ways to capitalize on your website and you will find many specialists on the web who can tell you what to do. The important thing is to take the most advantage possible out of it.

How does your customer know your page hasn’t been updated?

Your client may find that your website hasn’t been updated in many ways. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The footer that says "Date Last Updated" indicates some day five years ago.
  • The telephone numbers on your website are not current phones and it’s impossible to reach your company using them.
  • You have a tab for "News" and the last one published is dated three months ago.
  • When moving from the home page to any page, your potential client gets the “this page under construction".
  • You are still listing as contacts people that no longer work for the company.
  • If when filling out a contact or request form, your client receives a reply three weeks later, or simply does not receive any response at all.

And surely there will be many other ways in which your customer can see that your page is not updated.

The problem is not how much money you would have to pay to keep your website updated or not. The really complicated impact is the perception you can create in possible business prospects visiting your page.

Why should you keep your website updated?

In my case, for example, a company that I cannot contact by phone and has no website, or facebook, or something, disappears. The reasoning is simple: There are many similar companies in any industry and if the company hasn’t given importance enough to proudly communicating who they are, what they do and why we should do business with them, then they probably don’t have something important or different to offer or say, and become one more on the pile.

Although it may seem unfair, it isn’t. If a potential customer visits your site and it’s outdated, he could simply think your company is no longer in business, and will take his business somewhere else with a competitor.

And in this case, your competition is not necessarily the bigger company, or the best one. It could simply be the one who has paid a little more attention to maximizing the benefits that can be obtained from their webpage and using it to showcase what they do to the world.

So take advantage of it! Don’t let your customers visit and leave your website wondering what your company is about, with a clear misrepresentation of what your business is.

Make the most use of the space you already have and use it proudly to show what you do, what makes you different from others, and offer your customers many reasons to do business with you.

Related post: Relationship Value: What can you expect from social media?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Customer Experience: The importance of a consistent message.

The importance of a consistent message.
If you read me regularly, you already know through my blog I’ve always defended the client’s side, and I will continue doing it. 

Several reasons exist for this, out of which the most important one is that your business depends on your clients and if they don’t have a positive experience with you, they will go with the competition. Really simple.

I don’t think I can put it in a simpler way. Whatever you do, regardless of the money you invest, the platform being used and the format you choose, if you can’t generate a positive customer experience, your clients will take their business somewhere else.

Your message should be, above all, consistent.

This article is a follow up to the previous one in which I shared with you my experience with the technician who repaired my computer. I got motivated to write this post as one day, looking for the technician's mobile phone to call her and ask what the status of my computer was, I got into their company’s website and got struck by the beautiful things they write regarding their commitment to satisfy their customers and offer the best service, excellent response times, and so on. You know how it goes!

While reading it, I said to myself: "Look at it. How funny this is!: I've been trying to get my laptop repaired for over three months now and these people here said that their mission is to offer customers the best of services. "

How I felt at that moment? It was a mix between feeling deceived, disappointed and willing to scream to the world "Yes, those who say they offer the best service in the world, really leave you hanging when you need them the most and wash their hands as Pilate did. Talk about being inconsistent! On one hand they say one thing and do the opposite on the other side "

Your facts will confirm what you say with words.

How many times has this happened to you? How many times have you found yourself doing business with a company that promises the moon and stars before doing business with you and, once the agreement or the sale is closed, just forget all the promises they made.

In this case, it’s clear how important is to be consistent with what we say, and not promise more than we can truly deliver. What you say must be corroborated by what you do. It's simple and doesn´t have any fine print.

If your website states that your commitment is to give all your customers a smile when they get to your counters, make sure it does happen like that. And if you have an employee who does not understand the reasons why he’s got to give your customers a smile as they approach the counter, explain him that, above all, your company wants to fulfill each and every one of the promises it makes to its customers and that one of them is giving them a smile as they approach the counter.

Could it be that we are getting used to "paper can hold everything"?

Does it continue to be important for all of us to fulfill the promises we make in writing in our promotional materials or on our website? Could it be that we don’t care that much if a customer feels frustrated about our service, as I did feel, when he realizes that what we promise and what we deliver are two different things?

Maybe at some point you have been tempted to excuse yourself by saying something like, "Everybody does it", or perhaps something like, "That's just advertising”, or even worst “It’s simply marketing." Perhaps you still have a 1.0 mentality and think that your client is not going to react negatively against your business when you stop honoring your promises.

Providing a positive customer experience should be part of your corporate culture.

Gone are the days when customers were not important for businesses. Competition is in all segments. Options exist in all industries. No company in the world can say to be the "one-and-only" in any specific market. No one!

Understanding that your business depends on your customers will be key for you to realize how important the product or service experience you can deliver to your customer, and also understand why your message has to be consistent throughout all platforms and forms you use to communicate with your client.

It is necessary to leave aside the mentality of "I'd say anything to close the sale" and concentrate on something else, perhaps "I fulfill what I promise so that my client is happy and always does business with me".

Don’t you think it would be a better way of doing things and, above all, more productive?

Related posts:
Customer Service: Wash your hands as Pilate did?
Loyalty and CKCH: When is it that you really lose a customer?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Customer Service: Wash your hands as Pilate did?

Don't ever wash your hands as Pilate did!
It’s been my goal through this blog to share with you information that might help you obtain more benefits out of your marketing and advertising activities, whether in social networks or not.

Sometimes, I have written based on my personal opinions, while others it’s been based on real life experiences.

This time, I will share with you something I've experienced personally while trying to get my laptop fixed by a technician.

I’m not including the company’s name because it’s not about damaging anyone’s reputation, but rather, learning from the things that happen in the real world so that we can all make a better job servicing our customers.

You’ve got to learn how to use your own mistakes to improve and grow better.

First I'll tell you what happened to me and then will highlight what I believe were the errors, the things that shouldn’t have happened and how I think it should have been done to avoid unpleasant situations for the customer.

Six months ago I had to take my laptop to the technician because it suddenly stopped working. After its diagnosis, it was found the hard drive was faulty and needed to be replaced.
Since it was the second time the same thing happened, the technician told me she would try to retrieve the information on the hard drive then send it back to the factory because it was still under warranty. She said it would take about twenty working days for the hard drive to be replaced, which at the time seemed quite a long time for me, but since I didn’t have a choice, I accepted it.
A month passed and the technician didn’t contact me about my computer, so I decided to stop by the store to see what was going on. To my surprise, the technician told me its supplier hadn’t answered yet. I’d have to wait a couple more weeks.
Two weeks went by, and being on the same “I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on” situation, I decided to stop by the store, again. One more time, the technician did have nothing. This time the story was that the factory was 6 months behind on the resolution of guarantees.
Again, I had to wait. The technician told me there was nothing she could do, that it wasn’t in her hands. I asked her to please come up with a solution because I really needed to have my laptop fixed and back. She said to understand, but what could she do?
Back to the waiting process, I let one more month to go by, believing this time the technician would get back to me as soon as my situation was solved, but again nothing. Getting a little exasperated, I decided to stop by again to see what’s going on. I really expected a different response this time, but I found the technician shrugged, saying the same thing, with no answer for me.
I finally got upset. After three months waiting I needed to tell the technician how wrong this all had been and told her if she didn’t solve my problem, I was taking my laptop somewhere else and asking for a refund of what I initially paid for the hard drive. Apparently from that conversation on, the technician is taking it more seriously and will probably have my problem resolved soon.

This was more than a week ago. Yesterday I did stop by to pick up my laptop and take it back home with the hard drive fixed.

Let’s see which the mistakes were on this situation.

The bold text on the story is mine and is meant to highlight situations I believe were poorly managed and that could have been done differently focusing on the customer, so that he doesn’t get upset with the company and ends up taking his business somewhere else, as I will do in this case.

  • She said it would take about twenty working days: If you depend on your vendors to service your customers or, specifically, to resolve an incident like this one, you should explain that clearly from the beginning. Make sure your customer understands the situation is not completely in your hands and delivery dates don’t depend on you. Although it’s not the most professional thing you can do, at least you're being upfront honest with your customer and being clear from the beginning.
  • A month passed and the technician didn’t contact me about my computer: it ain’t possible that, with all means available today (SMS, WhatsApp, email, Facebook, or just a phone call), you haven’t taken the time to contact your client for a quick update. Maybe for the technician it was simply one more computer to fix, but for me it was MY computer, MY tool. For me, it did matter. If you've committed yourself for a specific date, and you’re not going to deliver, the worst thing you can do is to remain silent and not contact your client. Your silence, apart from being unprofessional, is showing your customer that you don’t really care about his situation, and that's not what you meant, did you?
  • The factory was 6 months behind on the resolution of guarantees: You should consider this one a NO-NO: Don’t wash your hands as Pilate did, telling your client that the responsible one is another person, because for your client it neither is of his interest or solves the problem. In addition, your client is doing business with you, not your vendor. In any case, you’ll earn the gold medal by apologizing to your customer when your suppliers screw up, taking full responsibility for the situation and showing you do care, but never, really NEVER put the responsibility on your suppliers.
  • I found the technician shrugged, saying the same thing, with no answer for me. If you've already failed your client several times, try to anticipate their reactions. Don’t wait for them to come to you asking for a response. Do follow up properly and reach out for them before they do. Show them how important they are to your business, and that you want to continue working with them. Don’t ever stay crossed arms and do nothing. That simply makes your client feel that it’s not important to you and will go with your competitors. Is that what you want? I would think not, but in any case is a decision you have to make.
  • Apparently from that conversation on, the technician is taking it more seriously: Don’t wait for this moment to come. If you get this far, you will probably lose a customer. In my case, I’m not bringing my computers back to this store. I know I’ve to find another technician to work with, but neither me or my wife will be coming back to this one. And when someone asks me about them, you already know what my response is going to be.

This is what is called "a chain of errors": It all started six months ago, and little by little escalated to what it is today. Maybe in your business you’ve already been through it a few times.

In any case, note how many errors can occur in a situation as simple as this one, in which you’re solving a small problem. Can you imagine what would happen if, instead of a simple laptop, it had been something more serious?

Or is it that just because the situation appears to be simpler than others, it means we pay less attention to it?

Related post: Loyalty and CKCH: When is it that you really lose a customer?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Top 10 most read and commented post of our first year!

Happy First Birthday!
Today is especially significant for me and I want to share it with you

A year ago I started writing this blog very excited, highly motivated, enthusiastic, with great effort and, on top of everything, eager to share and learn from the experience of all of us who, day after day go around the world, giving our best to build successful businesses in this highly complicated world.

Today, after 58 articles and 12 months of putting it all in paper, I am very proud to say it's been a wonderful journey. We've walked together many, many miles and I have learned a lot from you through your comments and messages.

To show you my appreciation and gratitude, I have selected for you the Top 10 articles of this first year. I didn't think it would be so difficult to choose them, because somehow there are some of them which are my favorites ones, but I had to be fair and come up with a list of only the top 10.

What criteria did I use to choose them?

Quite simple: This is a space to do a little talking and, therefore, the winners have been those posts that have generated the most interaction from you, either because you did click on the "+1" Google, or because you engaged with your comments.

Here is the selection of the Top Ten posts of the year:

A special mention to my two favorite posts

As always, there are two posts I wish they had made the cut, but they didn´t. I want to include them as an added value, if you don't mind. Those two are:

Thanks again for your support, your visits and comments.

¡This first year has been a spectacular experience! Having had the opportunity to write about and share with you my points of view and opinions about this exciting marketing, advertising and social media world we're all involved with has been terrific.

I look forward to continue seeing you here as often as always, and I reiterate my commitment to share with you only relevant topics that may add value to our professional lives, and why not?, on a personal level as well.

With all my heart, thank you!

Joel Pinto