10 Ways to Better Customer Support

On October 8, 2009, in Online Branding, by Adelard

customer-supportSometimes I really dread calling customer support for some companies. I am starting to think several companies add annoying obstacles just so they don’t have to bother with us customer. I wonder if they forget that us customers are the reason they are in business. After dealing with some major companies like Sprint, ATT, Chase, and Wachovia to name a few I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to improve customer support for business that actually want to stay in business (I’m pissed since I had to spent over 40 minutes on hold with ATT/Bellsouth just to cancel my phone service, and they still tried to upgrade me).

Here are 10 rules I use to make sure clients get the proper attention they deserve and are happy with our services.

1. Offer Multiply Support Options
Offering a customer the opportunity to contact you on multiply levels gives them piece of mind from my experience. Not only do all my clients have access to the cell phone numbers of their account reps, but also project managers, marketing, the development team, the CEO, and me.

They also can get quick contact to us through our website through email, through a contact directory on our website, and as well as our project management system. What is a project management system; check out Basecamp, they know what they are doing.

Worst case scenario, if they lose their phone, or are not at their own computer, they can get in contact with us easily by visiting our website and looking up who and what department they want. Make communicating with clients easy for them.

2. Offer A 24/7 Emergency Line of Communication
Emergencies happen. Customer needs to communicate with you sometimes in the middle of the night. Lucky for me, I’m usually up at that time, but for other business owners allow customers quick access to an emergency number that does a round-robin connection to an “emergency team” will a better client experience. Nextiva is a service that offers such a way for cheap. (I’m not an affiliate).

3. Remove the Fax Process
Okay, serious there seem to be still companies that require a fax for certain documents. It might make sense, for example having a signed copy, but recently I need to reduce the overdraft to zero on a Wachovia account, and they only accept fax request of this one particular thing. Maybe it’s because the major banks are literally banking off of people overdrafting and know that by requesting my overdraft to be set to zero, there is no chance of me every overdrafting and them charging me $35 each time, they put a 1001 hurdles in front of me.

But seriously if I can open up an ING Direct account over the Internet, why do I need a Fax machine to make a change to my current account with Wachovia? I don’t even have a Fax machine. So now I gotta “figure this out”. Please business owners, making it easier for customers to handle their account will only keep them. In regards to Wachovia, yes, I am in the search for a new bank of course; I don’t have time to play around or figure out the ancient art of facsimile.

4. Metrics & Measure Performance
If you are running a business, especially a growing business, bottlenecks are going to happen. Having metric programs and measuring tools in place to monitor what is going on with customer support is essential. Even if you are a 2 person operation, there are programs that allow business owners to measure phone call times, time it takes to respond to email inquiries, message, project management, and other communication. Measure and understand where the bottlenecks are happening; then reduce or eliminate them!

5. Reduce Phone Waiting Time
I was really pissed at ATT, so I decided to cancel my phone service. Guess what?? I can only cancel my service by calling between certain business hours. I can’t cancel through the web or email, just by calling. 2 days later I remembered to call during business hours, and guess what, I was on hold for over 40 minutes. Seriously, 40 minutes of business day waiting on hold to cancel a crappy phone and Internet service. Am I to believe that ATT doesn’t have data analysts that see and say “Hey during business time, people are on hold for 40 minutes, maybe we should get more people to answer the phones?”

I mean ATT, you’re the freaking phone company, how come I can analyze my sales teams and support phone calls, and know how many minutes each of them have been on the phone, and you can’t? ATT you fail. Don’t leave clients on hold for over 3 minutes in my opinion, 3 minutes and I am outta there.

6. Allow Call Back Numbers
Allowing customers to leave a call back numbers in my opinion is the best thing compared to leaving them on hold for 40 minute, ATT… The first time I encounter this was with Sprint, I called support, which for some reason is available 24/7 unlike ATT, and they gave the option to press 1, I think it was 1, to have a Sprint Rep call me back when they are available. 15 minutes later I get a call back, from someone waiting to help me out. Kudos Sprint. The technology exists, I don’t know where but if you can’t get it, simply stating on your voicemail to leave a call back number will give customers better piece of mind. Also in your voicemail, let them know about other opportunities to contact you like visiting your website, or your email address.

7. Lead Management
This one is more for sales that customer support. Lead management is critically to streamlining the sales process. If I fill out a form on your website at 9am on Monday, I should not have to wait till Thursday to get a phone call back about my inquiry. We have a lead management system in place at Karma Snack that once we get an inquiry we have email and text alerts going out and someone is calling the lead back within 5 to 20 minutes of them filling out the form, no matter WHAT TIME it is. If they filled it out at midnight, hey they are probably in the mood to talk at midnight, so we contact them (unless they specify a time to call them of course). A proper lead manage also eliminates the chance of losing deals/sales/potential clients. Know what stage a prospect is in, and the notes about conversations that were talked about. Lead management, it’s important for any business that has potential clients.

8. Ticket Support System
A ticket support system is also a great tool to help you communicate better with clients. A ticket support system allows support and clients the opportunity for back and forth online, and saves the conversation for later references. I’ve seen mostly software and online technology companies using them, but they can be a great replacement for simply emails for customers.

9. Don’t Outsource Support
Yeah, outsourcing is great for a business to reduce costs, but in the long run you are hurting your business, in my opinion. If a customer or client is calling you for support they have a problem, and are anxious or antsy to solve the problem. Now a days they get either an automated system or someone that is in a foreign land that is not even a part of the company that they are calling with the problem about.

It can really go down hill from there if a person has a heavy accent and is hard to understand. Remember they are calling because they have a problem, now they have to talk to someone who is not a part of the company in which they have a problem with, and now have a new problem of understanding what this current person is saying.

Or the person, who they are talking to, doesn’t even have the power to solve their problem, so the customer is just wasting their time talking and now have to re-explain their problem to a supervisor. In my opinion, if a customer has a problem, you as a business owner better fix the problem before they even realize they have a problem; it’s your business. Making the customer jump through hurdles doesn’t help your business in the long run, so the couple of dollars you saved outsourcing your support, probably costs you hundred of thousands in lost future sales.

I am trying to stress quality in this article. Giving your customer better quality support will keep your customer happy in the long run.

10. Listen To Customers
The saying goes, “Customers are always right”, right? I feel customers want to be loyal to a product/services they bought. In communicating with your customers you may find that several customers are suggesting certain things that can help you improve your business, company, or product. Listen to them. Enhance your product/services, and be glad that you are getting feedback.

If you don’t listen to them what will happen is that a competitor might listen and improve upon your product/services and steal your customers. A prime example is Chase, somehow I became a customer since WAMU was bought by them, and now there are ridiculous fees up my “you know what”. Chase is known for its fees, so I simply got tired and switched to ING Direct, No freaking fees on anything. All banking is online, I can get a great interest rate on savings and checking accounts, and did I mention, no fees? Listen to customers, otherwise they won’t customers for long.

Conclusion
Well that’s all for my ranting about improving customer support. I hope that anyone with a business can come out with a couple of great new ideas to better their interaction with customers. Contact me if you want more of my personal suggestions about any of items I talked about or to simply pick my brain! Adelard [at] KarmaSnack.com is my email.

Try Not To Burn Out

On May 27, 2009, in Personal Revelations, by Adelard

Try Not To Burn Out Seriously, the last 4 years I’ve been going at it pretty hard. Got that goal of trying to get a million. I’ve done the playbook. Sacrificed having a light, no partying, and no hanging out with friends, nothing, just trying to get to the level I need to be at financially. I’m almost there, I feel the sacrifices have been well worth it, and with several of my projects I am almost at the really get rich profit level.

In the last 4 years I went on vacation for about 3 weeks total, and those weeks were spent mostly with my family, so really no vacation. You know how it gets when you get family together for of all things a road trip.

Well everything almost came crashing down a couple of weeks ago. It’s like people all want, want, and want from you. There became hardly an instance were people were trying to give. Phone calls, emails, voicemails, all with people’s wants, they want me to do this, want me to do that, and oh by the way no upfront money, LOL, really. Jokesters. I was burnt out in all terms of the word; the only thing that kept me going was getting work done for my current clients. I wasn’t burnt out from working; I was burnt out from crazy demands from people that aren’t even considered to be my clients.

I seriously had to step back and re-evaluate who am I in contact with, who was MY best interest, and who has only THEIR best interested when contacting me on a personal level. Sometimes I wonder if all of these sacrifices are worth it, but then I remember why I do it.

For me it’s to be financially secure, happy, and doing what I love. In all accounts at this very moments I am doing great, so unloading all of unnecessary baggage whether it be personal or business helped me out a lot. I am refocused and energized to get the job done that I love so much. The one thing I love is getting that phone call from a new referral or prospect who was heard that I’m the man, everyone’s heard so much great stuff about me, I get the job done, and get really excited to work with me. Those are the moments I live for, cause that means there was another satisfied customer that I did well for.

I really hope that anyone that’s been down and almost out can relate to this message, keep on going, keep on at it, and but don’t burn out. Take a break when you need to, schedule yourself according ON YOUR TIME. And do what you love, otherwise you are just walking through a life that could be potentially more fruitful for you.

Targeting Your Online Brand's Audience Correctly For any web marketing and online website owner, you have to realize the reality of branding. There are going to be an audience you will not be able to gain with your specific brand. There are cases when it is necessary to create a 2nd or 3rd brand, if you have the resource, to target different segments of an audience. Fact is that some people won’t like your message one way, but offering the same product/services under a different brand and message might get them.

Getting Traffic
Getting the traffic and prospective customers is the first step. Go after everyone you possible can, and watch what type of client responds positively and what type respond negatively. You should always try to generate proactive leads in any business, reach out to prospects to get their business. You need to concentrate on proactively driving the sales on one end, and also attracting sales/leads on your website’s end. It’s a 2-pronged approach. Time is a factor in life; so knowing what to focus on in the very beginning of a new business is important.

For a NEW online website there should be a focus on increasing leads and increase sales for the first several months until you can get things off the ground and come back and fix the brand image, and refocus IF necessary. During this time you will truly begin to understand what type of audience your brand attracts and how you should focus your brand’s image going forward.

In the early stages of any business you have to be aware that you are not going to get the brand perfect the first time. If the design and layout doesn’t work after a given period of time like 3 to 6 months then change it. But that doesn’t mean just run with the layout you got, always be testing. Use a/b split testing methods; Google has a Website Optimizer program that helps to increase leads and revenue by focusing the traffic you have. Every website can use improvements, so testing should go on forever. After 3 to 6 months if review everything in the brand and refocus your message to your target audience. You might find out that the target audience might not even be the most profitable one, and can re-convey your message towards the new one.

I’ve been in the lead generating game for a long time as well; I’ve worked in boiler room situations as well. Did I do great cold calling? NO! But when the leads were warm, fresh, or even hot leads generated from an online website, they were more likely to close. That’s where I realized to really engage users I had to go back to what I new best the Internet. That’s why I’m in Internet marketing. I’ve had first hand experience in the mortgage, health care, and entertainment industry. I have noticed in all lead generating scenarios the majority of leads being generating are going to be shitty leads. That’s a fact.

It is simply human psychology that people don’t like change, they fear it. That’s why there is “tire kicking” in every lead generation niche.

Your Brand
Your brands’ website and it’s design/layout is a big part of the message conveyed to visitors. Like I said before there is always room to improve everything, that’s why I concentrate on doing split tests with all my clients’ website and my own sites. I’ve even experimented with creating dynamic SEO programs for website to “self improve” over time as new keywords are found.

In the early stage of a business I recommend not sit around talking about brand image for weeks on end, cause the business will be completely broke cause there are no sales. You don’t have time for that.

Online Branding doesn’t mean anything to a site with no traffic. AND traffic to a bland site does mean anything when your audience is not excited, attentive, or interested in your offer. You have to really understand the mentality of individuals online.

People Want Information Quickly
I will again state this because I have the number to back it up; PEOPLE DON”T READ EVERYTHING YOU WRITE ONLINE. It’s all about their experience. There are too many distractions when visitors are on their computer to read any and everything you have written. Most people are not going to get past the 4 or 5 page without being distracted with emails, instant message, and the ADHD that our society has. This scenario is only hyper inflated when it comes to online. People want you to get to the point they are here for quickly.

Different Types of People
There is a great article at WickedFire.com that everyone should read -
http://www.wickedfire.com/affiliate-marketing/35927-howto-create-ultra-targeted-ads-get-highly-converting-campaigns.html

It talks about demographics and how to create better AD for them. The demographics is divided into roughly 4 categories online:

———- Excerpt ———-
The 4 classic types of buyers’ personalities are described as:

-Methodical. Very thorough and slow-paced in researching a purchase. May be skeptical of contests, free shipping and returns – what’s the catch? Likes side-by-side product comparison to make a rational decision. They want to know: How this product/service will help them. They want accuracy, details, features, hard evidence, superior service, proof, etc.

-Spontaneous. Why should I or should I not order this now? They are spontaneous, appreciate a personal touch, and prefer quick decisions. Responds to sales, discounts, limited stock and time-limited offers. Responds to free overnight shipping (I can have it tomorrow!). Interested in “how many” reviews there are, not necessarily reading them.

-Humanistic. They are slower-paced, have no rush, and might ask, ”Who else has used this product to solve my problem?” They enjoy getting to know other users, enjoy real testimonials, shared experiences. Looks for the perfect gift, use gift finders and wish lists. Cares what others have to say. Appreciates live support and human interaction.

-Competitive. Logical, but faster-minded. Likes to be the first to own a product – responds to new items, featured or best sellers. Doesn’t want to dig for information. He or she is into facts, summaries and some detail‚ but rather not spend too much time on research.
———- Excerpt ———-

For a discount brand, it would be looking at the “Spontaneous” and “Competitive” target audience as customers.

For a high-end brand, you are most likely looking for the “Methodical” and “Humanistic” target audience.
But most people are mixed examples of the demographic. They all have a little of each in them, and depending on what their current mentality is and what they are looking searching for, they can completely switch demographic.

For example a customer might be in the “Methodical” and “Spontaneous” targeted audience, with coverage in the “Competitive” since they talked about how much money the competition is constantly doing.

The wickedfire article is a small piece of the research I have used to understand who and what I am targeting for my Karma Snack clients. This understanding of how to gauge a consumer and gain their trust to have them become a client is a part of the research I do.

This understanding goes into all of my Karma Snack client’s marketing efforts, and into my own. That’s why at times I suggest a 2nd brand to use for marketing. You can also have plans down the road to acquire/buy other brands that appeal better to a particular audience that your current brands do. In the end the only thing that matters in increasing leads and increasing sales, bottom line. That’s where the “brand value” really occurs.

Everything I try to do is extraordinary and that is why I left previous companies cause they where bland, boring, and not getting the job done even though the traffic was there. They failed because they couldn’t understand how the Internet works, even though for years I kept explaining to them that trying to please everyone in one brand was completely wrong.

Branding all comes down to an old saying:

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.” – Bill Cosby

If you have any questions about anything I wrote, or comments please feel free to comment or even contact me directly. Thanks for reading my blog/rant.