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yourcompanysucks.com

What would you do if I suddenly decided I had nothing better to do than slam your company? Not everyone has a customer service blog to vent on, but almost everyone has the 9 or 10 bucks to buy a domain name that is along the lines of yourcompanysucks.com.

It only takes like a half hour of initial setup time and maybe 10-15 minutes a day to get the companysucks.com site to show up on the first page of Google. I’ve seen “companysucks” sites show up right below the official site many times before.

Moves like that can seriously impact a company’s business. Depending on how well done the sites are, it can discourage new orders and even scare away existing customers. If the company is relatively small or doesn’t have a super established reputation, it can be really damaging.

Smart companies buy these domains. They just do and it makes sense. For a few hundred bucks, you can probably buy every type of companysucks.com domain. It’ll save you a lot of time and headaches down the road.

Don’t just buy the .com, also buy the:

  • .net
  • .org
  • .biz
  • .info
  • similar words to suck
  • hyphenated versions
  • etc.

Of course, a motivated person will come up with some alternative domain name. However, if the major ones are taken, it is less likely that the site will be found.

I read on Guy Kawasaki’s blog about how he “surrounded” his project’s name with a whole bunch of different domains and variations. He bought over $1,000 worth of domains. Yet, if I wanted to spend the 9, I could register truemorssucks.com. I could put a little work forth and get it right below the official Truemors site. $1,000 bucks wasted almost.

A lot of companies have already bought these domains.

I’ve posted about how to deal with angry forum posters before. Dealing with yourcompanysucks.com sites is very similar.

  • Stay clam.
  • Try to keep communication private.
  • Deal with the problem.
  • Post the results.
  • Follow-up.

Do not send a cease and desist letter. Those sites love getting them. Don’t try to get the site shut down. Do try and find out what the problem is and try to get it all resolved. A lot of times these people just want to be heard and want someone to listen. If you can do that, there is a very good chance that they will calm down.

Today’s advice: go and buy everything having to do with your company sucking. It’ll help you a lot later.

With customer service, price is (almost) a non-issue.

I consistently hear that people will buy a more expensive product if the customer experience is better.

Nordstrom isn’t the cheapest department store, but people shop there because the customer service is usually great. People don’t really care that the hardware store I talked about is 20% more expensive than Home Depot. A big part of the reason that people stay in the Ritz Carlton instead of the Marriott is because of the customer service.

I’ve worked with a lot of companies who charge a premium and depend on high end customer service to set themselves apart from their competitors. It’s amazing to see companies charge a 10, 20, 30, or even 50%+ more than their competitors and continue to grow. I think customer service, which leads to customer loyalty, which leads to customers referring your company to others plays a big part in that.

I’ve read and heard that companies shouldn’t discount, but instead add value. When you discount, it can make your company and your brand look bad, but when you add value, you are doing some that is good for everyone. It doesn’t make your brand look bad, but it also gives your product or service more value. It’s a win-win-win for everyone involved: the company, the customer, and the brand. 1 and 3 are kind of related (or at least have similar goals), but they are dependent on each other.

Pretty much every industry has room for the “better customer service” company. The most saturated industries have that sort of company, the least profitable industries have that sort of company, etc. One thing about the best customer service type company is that they often aren’t billion dollar type companies. They are smaller, but they are still successful.

There is a difference between customer service justifying a price increase and using customer service as a key competitive advantage. Many companies use both (i. e. all the companies I mentioned above), but others (I’m thinking about Headsets.com) are still competitive when it comes to price, but use customer service as a big competitive advantage. Those are really interesting companies.

What are examples of companies that charge more, but provide better customer service? Is it worth it to you?

The Best Email Signatures

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An important part of email signatures is how well you know the person and what type of interaction you’re having. In some industries, a mailing address may not be that relevant, but in others it could be very important. I wouldn’t consider any of the signatures posted perfect. Some of them are fine, but others are pretty much unacceptable.

  • If a CEO was writing a letter to the board and signed it as J, it’d be unacceptable.
  • If you were writing a note to your spouse asking where to go to dinner that night, there is no need to include the full signature with every contact type imaginable.

My general rule of thumb is I include my phone number for more formal message to people I know would be likely to call me. If the person doesn’t usually call me, I leave my phone number out. If I know they use Skype, I include my Skype address. I almost always include my blog URL, because I think almost everyone could benefit from it (I’m so humble!).

Glenn Ross pointed out that signatures attached to emails that go out to other people shouldn’t include just an inward dial number, but a regular number (as well or instead of). If you are sending an email to someone who you don’t work with, an inward dial number doesn’t do much good. Glenn also suggested that the signature block should include the company’s main number and the voicemail message should let you reach an operator. All good suggestions. An example of a good phone number section would probably be:

800-123-4567 ext. 202

That way, the caller obviously knows the main number, but also has the person’s extension. Internal callers can just put in extension 202. It works great for everyone.

So the best email signatures:

  • are customized. One email signature does not fit all.
  • have ways for people inside and outside the company to contact you.
  • are flexible (phone and Skype listed)
  • have a nice closing (best regards, sincerely, etc.)
  • meet the needs of the people you communicate with

With that in mind, let’s continue looking for the (near) perfect email signature. If you find it, post it in the comments.

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Wow.

Akismet has caught 105,272 spam for you since you first installed it.

That’s a lot of spam. A fair amount (quite a few day) still gets through, but all and all, Akismet is a big help.

Sample Email Signatures

A lot of the last have been about little things. The subject is my specialty and one of my favorite things to talk about. I’m going to continue with the Little Things, Big Differences theme and talk about email signatures today.

I’ve seen every variation of every possible email signature in the world. That’s a pretty broad statement, but I am 99% sure I have seen pretty much everything one can do with their email signature.

Our hypothetical person today is John Smith. He is the CEO of Company XYZ, which is based at 123 Main Street, Anytown, NY 10011. His office phone number is 800-123-4567. His cell phone number is 123-456-7891. Email is john@companyxyz.com. Fax number is 123-888-4341. John also writes a blog called XYZNews. And of course, his Skype username is johnsmith. People can certainly be contacted a lot of ways.

Here are some examples of various signatures from different people at different companies that I have sitting around my email:

john smith
Company XYZ, CEO
office: 800-123-4567, cell: 123-456-7891

John Smith
CEO
Office – 800-123-4567
Wireless – 123-456-7891
Company XYZ
123 Main Street
Anytown NY 10011

John Smith
Chief Executive Officer
Company XYZ

__________________________________
John Smith
CEO
Company XYZ, Inc.
john@companyxyz.com
XYZNews
Skype: johnsmith


John Smith
CEO, Company XYZ
Work – (800) 123-4567
Cell – (123) 456-7891
Fax – (123) 888-4341

123 Main Street
Anytown, NY
10011

Thanks!

John Smith
Company XYZ

John Smith
Company XYZ
Chief Executive Officer
Office 800.123.4567  Mobile 123.456.7891

Best regards,
John Smith
J
Best,
John
John
Thanks,
John Smith
thanks!
JS
Thanks!
John
JS
John Smith
Company XYZ
— John

Personally, I use:

Best regards,
John Smith

-or-

Best regards,

John Smith
Company XYZ
123-456-7891

There are hundreds more. It’s amazing how something as simple as an email signature can be varied so much. A majority of letter signatures are pretty much the same, but email signatures are very, very different. Most of these signatures aren’t bad – some are. More about which type of email signature is best tomorrow.

In the mean time, post your comments and thoughts. What type of signature do you use?

Learn a Customer’s Name and Build Loyalty

My apologies for posting a day late. I had to write parts of this post as I ran around like crazy yesterday (Friday) and didn’t actually finish it up and get a chance to post it until this morning.

I would not hesitate to say that every time you learn a customer’s name (and use it), you make that customer more loyal to your company. People love to be recognized and it can make a big difference. Smaller companies are great at this – they build a great relationship with their customers and obviously, they learn their names. Every time a customer walks in the door, they are greeted by name (the employees just know) and it makes a huge difference in not only the customer service experience, but the entire customer experience.

A little thing that makes a big difference.
Learning a customer’s name is a classic example of a little thing that can really make a big difference. Customers will definitely notice it (and even get used to it after a while) and will almost always appreciate it. “The folks at Company XYZ always treat me well” is the sort of reaction that you should strive for. Knowing a customer’s name and giving them personal attention is an excellent first step.

Builds a lot of loyalty and relationship.
People like to come back to places where people know them. I know I like to go to certain places (restaurants mainly) because one or more of the employees know me by name, what my interests are, etc. People like to feel like regulars and knowing a customer’s name is the best way to do that.

Make a contest out of it.
A terrific way to motivate employees to start learning customers’ names is to make a contest out of it. Give $1 for every name an employee can learn. If they learn 100 names, they get $100. There can be other ways to create a bit of internal competition – have a monthly contest that gives one reward to the person who can remember the most names, etc.

Pay attention to little details.
Some people are great with names, others are terrible. I’m in the middle. I recognize people I’ve met and am usually pretty good at putting a name to their face. If I learn someone’s name, I very rarely forget it. If you don’t have a natural gnack for learning names, pay attention to facial details, how the person usually dresses, how they act, what their voice sounds like, etc.

Don’t overuse names.
This is more of a common sense element, but don’t overuse names. My general rule of thumb is to use a person’s name wherever you would use sir or maddam.

The little hardware store.

I’m staying with friends in a city I have never been to before. In part of their little tour of the city, my friends took me to this hardware store downtown. This hardware store has been in the city for quite a while and it is a family owned and operated store. The store is doing well. They have plenty of traffic and plenty of sales. There is a Home Depot about a mile away, but the store still does well. Oh, and the prices are 20% higher. So what does this little hardware store use to stay competitive? You have one guess. Customer service. Ding! Customer service is what the store has used to stay competitive since they were founded.

Better people.
They may charge more, but they seem to use that premium to hire better people. The people I was with mentioned to several employees that they were giving us a tour and the employees all reacted well. They joked, were friendly, and were actual humans (not customer service bots). I think this would be hard to find at a Home Depot or a similar large chain store.

Relationships with customers.
My friend was talking about how he could go into this store with the most obscure bolt and the employees at the store would have no problem finding the right nut to go with it. By having this great service which is not only friendly and courteous, but also effective in “getting the job done”, the store builds a great relationship with its customers.

Price not being an issue.
Since the store has built these great relationships and gained a lot of loyal customers through customer service, price is less of an issue. People who want to get the budget stuff can go to Home Depot, but the service will be totally different. If they want that extra customer service help, they should go to this store. The better service you provide, the less of an issue price becomes.

A strong focus.
This store realizes they can’t compete with Home Depot when it comes to price. They kept their focus on customer service and seem to remain focused. Keeping a focus on one thing (customer service in this case) is extremely important.

Quick lessons.

  • If you are going to charge more, provide something of value (i. e. better service).
  • Pay more to get better employees. And work on developing the talents and skills of those employees. They are an extremely important asset!
  • Build a relationship with your customers. It’ll be well, well worth it in the end.

Marriott is At Your Service

I’m staying at a Marriott and have noticed they promote and seem to follow an “At Your Service” philosophy. Pretty much the only hotel specific button on the phone is labeled “At Your Service.” When you push it, the call is forwarded to the front desk and they act as your operator. While I haven’t needed much from the hotel, I’ve been pretty impressed with how the way things are run so far. 

I did some research and “At Your Service” is more than just a one touch to an operator, but also a mix of a concierge, pre-arrival planning, and the company’s service philosophy. Marriott seems to have invested a lot of time and money into this and the employees seem to know about it. 

A press release said that At Your Service focuses on “the total guest experience from point of reservation to check-out.” Those are important things to focus on and something that it seems like Marriott has been doing.

I like it when companies pick a generally few words to focus around and really use that as their mission. If Marriott’s is At Your Service, that’s good for them. Rackspace has Fanatical Support. I think those short, simple culture phrases (if that’s what you want to call him) are very important to a customer service organization.

So that is today’s challenge. Try and think of a few words that summarize your customer service philosophy and what you want to do. Things like At Your Service, Fanatical Support, Customer Love, etc. Those are all great examples. Post what you come up with (or are already using) and I’ll feature it here.

Some unprofessional things I’ve noticed:

  • The front desk clerk joked about something related to my reservation. He said something along the lines of “You have a parking lot view, correct?” when I specifically asked for a mountain view. He was kidding, but I don’t usually appreciate that kind of humor.
  • I was in the little restaurant in the lobby and one employee was talking about how he is looking for a new job because his current job doesn’t allow for much growth and doesn’t pay very much.

Those are two things that I would generally label as unacceptable.

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