Archive for June, 2007

Secrets to making your customers happy – prioritize and outsource, including your blog

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Stephen Covey said it to great applause. That you’re most effective when you properly prioritize your time. And the way I remember it, his proposition seemed intellectual and complex…that big box divided into four sections with so much explanation for each! But the gist was, do important and urgent things first.

He’s right, of course. And all good things flow therefrom–including excellence in customer service. You’ll find several intriguing formulas in this new book for maximizing high personal effectiveness (note: not high efficiency, which just means doing more stuff), The 4-hour Work Week. Timothy Ferriss suggests if you truly want to become more effective, ONLY do the quadrant I stuff. And that means learning to delegate…and outsource.

Among other things, Ferriss says you must write your employees an email saying, “Keep the customers happy. If it is a problem that takes less than $100 [you pick the amount based on what your time is worth] to fix, use your judgment and fix it yourself.” Do you recall the times when a service person said something like, “Oh, I’m sorry, sir/madam, let me fix that for you right now”? Of course you do. Those are the golden customer service moments of our lives. You tell all our friends. You might even blog about it…

Assuming of course you’ve hired the right people–supervisors and employees with brains who care about the company and the customers–this alone should gain you a significant amount of time…time that you would have spent answering questions and giving permission. I love this quote, “It’s amazing how someone’s IQ seems to double when you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them.” If it doesn’t work that way with somebody, hire someone with whom it does.

Great advice: Set yourself up as information-free as possible–a huge challenge in today’s multimedia-ed assaultive world. Do you read newspapers and/or watch television news? My long-time personal favorite–stop. You’ll gain that time every day. And you’ll discover that if there’s anything you should know, you’ll find it out anyway. Set up specific times when you’ll read your email and check your voice mail–let people know what those times are, and then stick to them.

He also suggests outsourcing parts of your life–and mentions a Smart Money article that talks about using an overseas resource for outsourced virtual assistance–Brickwork, based in Bangalore, India. I haven’t tried it yet, but this book gives a great case study.

The point is that your customers get better service when you’re not the bottleneck. And you can apply this principle to your blog authorship–hire an expert–if you follow certain mandates:

1. Make sure the person knows how to listen carefully to you–as much as possible it should be your voice out there.

2. Do a bit of painless market research. Ask your customers, vendors, colleagues, what they would like to hear/read in your blog. 

3. Develop an A-list of sources for your writer–sources you personally read and those your colleagues, vendors and customers read.

4. If yours is a complex industry or there are areas that require extreme care and/or privacy, work out a general list of topics and cautions so that the writer can research and create without consulting you every time.

5. Email your own thoughts for the blog as they occur to you. You’ll never remember to tell your writer unless you pass it on as soon as you think of it. 

There’s no more powerful online public relations tool than a blog that reflects your voice and gives readers valuable information. Since the presence of a business blog has also now become an accepted part of a solid search engine marketing strategy, there’s no reason not to get started. Questions? Want to start one now? Email me here.

What the heck is Web 2.0 and why should you care?

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007

Every other headline these days features “Web 2.0″ and many of us just let our eyes glaze over.  Here’s another software thing I’m supposed to “get” (we might think) but I don’t have time!

Just think of it this way: when you see Web 2.0 they’re talking about helping your prospects and customers interact with you online. Which means blogs, wikis and stuff like that. Everyone reading this knows what a blog is. Many people read blogs but choose not to leave comments (interact)–professional/corporate blogs are generally more about giving information in a personal way. You’ll find that most blogs that get a lot of comments are one of two kinds: 1) a personal blog that plays on controversy to get comments from people who like to argue, or b) the blog of a very high-profile person where commenters can touch the fame and glory of that person by appearing on their blog.

If you are an executive with a famous company, your blog may get lots of comments. That’s great. But don’t be worried if your blog doesn’t get comments. As long as you are providing value to your readers–information, entertainment, encouragement, or whatever–your blog is being read and is building credibility and trust in your company. You can be sure of that.

Wikis are another form of interactivity. In this case, users are the co-creators of documents that all hold to be of interest. Say, for example, you want to invite your customers to help you shape the next product you will invest in producing. How valuable do you think it is to get direct input from them on exactly the features they like and the things they don’t like? Talk about cheap and on-target research!

But Web 2.0 is also about giving you better access to information/data/reports. When you collect subscribers to your blog, you’re building a database of names of people who REALLY CARE about what you do and what you say. That’s the kind of market research businesses have traditionally paid huge sums for. And you’re collecting it simply and painlessly over time. There is no more valuable marketing resource in the world than a database of people who have volunteered to hear more about your products and services.

So if you’re still on the fence about blogging for your business, get off. It’s a trend of the future for direct marketing.–both for large and small businesses. Questions? Call me. 773.292.3294 or 216.472.8502.