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Creating Passionate Users with Email Tips


This is a terrific guest writer post by Jean MacDonald from SmileOnMyMac. I wrote about the company’s awesome newsletters back in October.

Offering a free trial to download is a standard technique in the software business. The trial may be limited in timeframe or features, but the idea is the same: get potential customers to try out the product. When they see how useful it is for them, they’ll happily purchase it.

But downloading and installing software is not the same as trying it. Many people, myself included, might download something that looks interesting one day, but never make time to actually try it out. This is a gaping pothole on the road to a sale. To fill it in, we decided to try out a technique known as the “autoresponder”.

With the help of our email marketing service company eROI, we set up a series of email tips that customers would receive on a regular basis after they installed the software. The first time they launched the software, an alert appears, asking for a name and email address. The tip emails were designed to say, “Hey, remember me? I’m that useful application you installed. By the way, here’s something cool you can do with it.”

I admit that I was a little skeptical about what kind of response we’d get. People are already suffering from inbox overload — would they really voluntarily sign up for more email?

They did sign up. Not only that, we started getting fan mail for the tips. Nice notes like these:

“Thank you so much for your helpful emails re: DiscLabel.  I like the program and your
support makes buying the program even more appealing.  I’m on my way to download the paid version right now.”

“Just wanted to let you know that I find the mailing list tips for PDFpen and TextExpander enormously useful. What a great idea!”

“The e-mailed tips are welcome, they are interesting and useful, and they do give the impression that you care – even to a cynic like me!”

And some even blogged about [including here at Service Untitled] how helpful the emails were and how they demonstrated our commitment to a great customer experience.

What had started out as a strategy for encouraging more purchases became recognized as a great resource for people who had already purchased. Customers love to find more uses for something they already own. The reason these emails appeal to potential buyers and current customers alike is that they are truly useful. They are not just a sales pitch. Here are some guidelines to help you write tip emails that your customers will find valuable.

Find out what questions your customers are really asking.
Before deciding on the topics for tip emails, it’s important to make sure that your content will be relevant. In my case, the company co-founders are also our lead developers and customer support representatives. We looked at what questions kept coming up again and again.

Find out what questions they don’t know to ask.
When we start planning a new version of one of our software programs, I will survey our current users. I always ask them about how often they use the various features of the software, and one of the options is “I didn’t know I could do that.” If a significant percentage of customers say they didn’t know about a certain feature, that makes it a good candidate for a tip email.

Make it brief.
Focus in on a specific topic and try to keep the length to 150-200 words. It needs to be brief enough for the user to read in less than a minute. A longer email might prompt some folks to say “I’ll read that later when I have time,” significantly reducing the chance they’ll read it at all. If a couple emails pile up without being read, not only will your customers not get the benefit of your tips, they might even unsubscribe from all your emails.

Use an illustration or two, but don’t overdo it on graphics.
Include a screenshot or other graphic that helps explain your tip. It is important to remember, though, that many people don’t load images into their email by default. Your tip need make sense without any illustration.

We just use a small company logo in the signature of our tips. Much more than that, and your tip might be mistaken for a sales pitch. This is not what your customer signed up for, making it more likely they’ll unsubscribe or, even worse, click the “Spam” button.

Encourage sharing.
In a P.S., we ask users to send us their own tips, which we post on our blog. And we get ideas that help shape future tip emails!

Writer Bio:
Jean MacDonald is the Marketing Director at SmileOnMyMac, a software company that develops productivity tools for Mac OS X. Before joining the company, she was the principal of Well-Tempered Web, a web design and internet marketing firm in Portland, Oregon.

Your Secret Weapon – Internal PR

This is a guest writer post by a Service Untitled reader Joseph Wilburn (bio and link below). It’s about a very interesting way to use a less known form of PR to help customer service. Enjoy!

Getting the real prospective on how your organization is functioning is always a good thing. It is especially important in a call center setting where the organization sets the tone for communicating the right message from the executive down to the front line and out to the client. In a high volume call center, there may be thousands of contacts and each one of those needs to be the best possible one it can be. How do we create an environment for that sort of contact? It is not always possible to control the externalities that may affect your organization, but it is quite possible to manage communication with the “internal public” on your front-lines. This concept is called internal PR, an oft talked about yet continually elusive management function. Internal PR functions can give structure to internal dialogue to keep morale high, stop persistent turnover, and provide a way to measure and manage crisis situations.

Internal social networking tools, blogs and Intranet especially are invaluable tools to get the frontline talking and trading experiences. Of course, as with all networking tools there should be guidelines for decorum, but this aside, they can give access to management for suggestions, social functions, and generally enhancing transparency in internal communication as a whole. When employees have a chance to express themselves in a professional environment this helps to support and boost morale amongst the frontlines.

An environment for good morale translates into higher retention rates for employees. Plainly, the more satisfied employees are, the more likely they will stay. This is crucial in the call centre environment where training is often job-specific and high rates of turn over create a persistent learning curve which projects an unpolished image to the outside client.

Creating an environment for internal PR to flourish is invaluable during times of crisis. If your organization is perceived as a competent communicator by its employees, the more faith they will have during times when everyone needs to pull together for mutual benefit. As well, having a greased communications machine helps get the message out quickly, to the right people, in the right manner. Frontline staff need not have a complete training in media relations, but rest assured (and this is from personal experience) the media will call your number to get a statement from an insider, even a call center agent, so plan for that eventuality.

Having a good internal PR machine can be likened to eating well. The healthier the communicative process is from the inside, the better the organization will look to outsiders. That just makes sense, if your organization serves itself well, it will be well positioned to serve its clientele in the same fashion. Of course, it would be impossible to train your frontline to be PR professionals, but with the right structure and process installed they don’t need to be. They will be able to rely on the management structure to help them communicate what needs to be projected and help to protect and build upon the goodwill everyone in the organization has strived to acheive.

About the Writer: Joseph Wilburn, is a Public Relations graduate student at Niagara College in Welland, Ontario, Canada. He has worked extensively in the call centre environment, from agent to management and is now transitioning into a career in PR. He blogs regularly at http://prcogitation.wordpress.com about PR-related issues from a student prospective.

Compliance Posters

Note: I’ve chosen to try out ReviewMe. I won’t do it more than once per week and ReviewMe posts will never be during the week days (and thus interfere with regular content). Service Untitled is being compensated for this post, but the reviews, thoughts, opinions, etc. are our own.

Today I am reviewing a company called Compliance Labor Company. What these guys do is provide the posters that are required in many states by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

The posters that CPC provides cover everything from smoking rules, adult CPR, first aid, wage notices, etc. For example, this California All-On-One poster outlines a whole bunch of laws and rules that the government requires you show. They offer a variety of general office posters, ones specifically for industrial companies, and others for safety training. For HR employees, the company also offers some standard human resources forms and other materials.

My favorite part of the site is their extensive article and resource section. There are lots of useful articles and quite a few pages explaining exactly what companies have to do. The company is focused on keeping posters up to date (the posters are easy to update – they use a Peel ‘N Post overlays that makes it easy to update them) and is constantly researching the laws and regulations to ensure all posters are up to date.

Customer service wise, CPC has a clearly published 800 phone, email address, physical address, a great BBB record, and an email form. They also offer a 30 day money back guarantee, and a satisfaction guarantee. It’s always great to see companies that focus on a small thing, but because of their focus, do a good job at it. CPC seems to be such a company.

Note: Again, this is a sponsored post.

Identifying Good Customer Service Candidates

Today’s post is a guest writer post written by Darlene McDaniel, who for a lack of a better term, is an interviewing and hiring guru. She knows her stuff when it comes to interviewing, hiring, and training new and potential employees. I asked her to write a guest post for Service Untitled and this is what she came up with – a very interesting and informative read.

Most prospective candidates walk into an interview and hope the hiring manager likes them. While most Managers go into an interview hoping this next prospective candidate will be the right person for the job. When you are looking for new employees, most of the time it is critical that you find the person quickly, because there is a gap in your organization and you need someone to fill it. As a result many managers make quick decisions and rather than ask one more question, they make a decision and many times, unfortunately it is the wrong decision. It is very important that as the hiring manager you ask enough of the right questions to ensure that you are hiring the best candidate for the job. Interviewing prospective employees is never a guarantee.

Here are a few ideas that will help you interview prospective Customer Service Representatives and find the right employees for your organization:

1. As the hiring manager you must have an excellent understanding of your organizational climate. What type of organization do you work for? Who has been successful and who has not been successful in that climate. Some organizations are very open to creativity and a free exchange of ideas. While other organizations are not interested in what you, as an employee think should be changed. Look for candidates who will flow in the “current” of your organization. It will eliminate placing “square pegs in round holes.” If the person you are interviewing is use to working in an environment that allows creative problem solving, but your organization has very clear boundaries, rules and regulations that must be followed, it would be a mistake to bring them into the organization, no matter how well they say they can adjust to your rules. Unless the organization is moving towards creative problem solving it would be a bad fit.

2. Identify Customer Service Representative in your organization who display the skills and abilities you are looking for in your organization. Identify what makes them successful and develop a profile of the type of employee you are looking for based on someone who meets or exceeds your expectations. Match prospective employees with the profile. Know which skills and abilities in the profile are absolutes and which ones are negotiable. Which skills can be taught and which can’t be taught. Clearly articulate the skills and abilities you are looking for in the published job description and ensure that each of your prospective candidates has at a minimum 80% of those qualities. Two qualities that you should see in prospective CSR candidates is excellent problem-solving and an innate desire to help people. If finding solutions is not enjoyable to the prospective candidates, they may not be the right person for the job.

3. Create behavior-based questions that will be part of the screening process throughout the entire interview process. There should be key indicators that you are listening for during the actual interview. Based on your research, you should know when a prospective candidate is credible and when they are making it up as they go. Listen for inconsistencies during the interview. Look for inconsistencies on the resume/cover letter they provided.

4. Along with skills and abilities, personality does matter when hiring Customer Service Representatives. According to Robert Cialdini, “People do business with people they like.” If your Customer Service Representatives are not pleasant, patient and knowledgeable, they will only hurt your business. It cost more money to find a new customer, than it does to retain a customer. Personality is not something you can teach someone in a new hire training class. The people you hire should bring that to the table when they come into your organization.

Writer Bio:
Darlene S. McDaniel, Motivational Speaker, Facilitator and Coach has 8 years as a hiring manager for various large organization. She has hired 100’s of Customer Service Representatives working for organizations such has American Express and AT&T. She has written a workshop called Tough Questions? Great Answers! This workshop will give prospective candidates tangible keys for unlocking the mystery behind job interviews! She is an expert on both how to interview people effectively and teaching people to sharpen their skills so that “on a short list they get the first shot at the job!” For more information or to contact her send an e-mail to: info.toughquestions [at] yahoo [dot] com.

Customer Service Made Simple

I was kindly given permission to repost the following text by Jodi R. R. Smith, who is an author and etiquette consultant at Mannersmith (which has some cool stuff on it). She has written two books: one for men and another for women about the importantance of etiquette and how to be proper. The male version was given to me by a friend (my manners aren’t bad, I swear!) and I decided to send Jodi an email asking if she had any tips for people who worked in customer service and she suggested I use the text below:

Good help is hard to find. I stood there in utter amazement as the woman to whom I was trying to hand my money, answered a ringing phone and then, instead of putting the caller on hold, told me to wait until she finished the call. If the check had not already been written and had the event not been a fundraiser for a non-profit organization, I would have walked away. As I have said time and time again, etiquette is not rocket science, but it does require a bit of thought. Here are a few small steps that make a big
difference in customer service.

I Am Invisible ~ Even if you can not assist the customer immediately, eye contact will let the customer know that you are aware that he/she is there.

Take A Number ~ Customers should be assisted in the order that they arrived. And those customers who took the time to come in person should be assisted before those who call on the telephone.

Ask The Question ~ If you work in a place of business, the customer service question is “How may I help you?” If you work in a retail establishment, the customer service question is “May I help you?” The second question allows
for the possibility of browsing, the first does not.

Soft Sell Me ~ Any “special” offer that expires within 24 hours is clearly a pressure scam. If you are forcing the customer to make a quick decision, the customer can assume there is something about the product that you are hoping they will not discover.

Acknowledge and Empathize ~ Not all customers are as polite as they should be to you. With that said, a smile and a kind word can help defuse a situation. If the customer becomes abusive, then seek help from a manager; do not respond in kind.

Always Accessorize ~ You know the product better than the customer. If there is something that matches, something that will help the item last longer, or something that will make the customer’s life easier, please say so.

Don’t Look Down ~ You may be working for the chicest restaurant in town, but the customer is still the reason why you receive your salary. Please don’t assume a snooty attitude.

Privacy Please ~ By looking at the customer’s purchases you may be able to deduce a good deal about the customer. And maybe you can… but please do not pry by asking personal questions.

Dozens and Dozens ~ The marketing adage is that a happy customer may tell one or two of their friends. But an unhappy customer tells, on average, 11 others. So for every one customer who is treated badly, there are a dozen people who have discussed the experience. Being polite is your best marketing tool.

Thank Me ~ After the customer has patronized your establishment, do thank him/her for the business. This is not the same as “Here ya go,” or instructing the customer to “Have a nice day.” A simple thank you, with a smile thrown in, will suffice.

Exceed Expectations ~ At some point, customers may appear so exasperated that even the smallest gesture can create customer loyalty. Going even the smallest of extra steps helps to create feelings of good will as well as happy customers.

Here is a real life example of outstanding customer service:

With limited time (and patience) for shopping, I truly rely on the sales people in the stores I visit. I try to visit the fitting room once. Whenever possible I will have a sales person follow me through the store while I choose items. During a recent trip to Ann Taylor, Betsy offered to help me find the perfect, black, presentation pants suit. She followed me around the store watching what I was drawn to and what was rejected. Then, as I tried
the clothing on, Betsy ran in and out offering shirts, scarves, belts and shoes to finish the outfit. Once I had the outfit set, she gently reminded me that by adding the matching skirt I would double the use of the jacket (soft sell). Betsy offered to steam the outfit while I finished other errands (exceeding expectations). When I returned, my outfit was waiting for me near the cashier. I paid and left the mall. On my way out, the parking attendant informed me that had my parking pass been stamped by the store, the parking would have been complimentary. I went from being pleased with my purchase to being annoyed that my parking had not been validated. Not having time to run back into the mall, I drove home. People who also live in big cities know that just a few hours in a parking garage can quickly exceed $30.00. So I called Betsy. Not to complain, but to let her know that the cashier should be asking each customer if they need their parking validated. Betsy and manager, Laurie, both apologized to me (acknowledge and empathize). I thought the situation was over. But then, they sent me an Ann Taylor gift certificate equal to the amount I paid in parking (exceeding expectations). As to be expected, I have told all of my friends and acquaintances this story (dozens and dozens). Ann Taylor has a very loyal customer in me.

Writer Bio:
Jodi R. R. Smith, president and owner of Mannersmith, is an etiquette consultant who creates and leads seminars on social and professional conduct. Working with individuals, corporations, and other organizations, she educates in a way that is both instructional and entertaining, helping her clients to increase their confidence levels and achieve success in today’s world. Ms. Smith is the author of From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Woman and From Clueless to Class Act: Manners for the Modern Man.

An Old Dog Learns a New Trick: How to Drive Phone Leads from Your Web Site

This guest post is written by John Federman, the CEO of eStara, a leading click-to-call company.

Remember the golden age of e-commerce when the entire industry leaned almost exclusively on internet self-help tools to address their customer service? Finding a 1-800 on a Website was next to impossible. The problem with this singular reliance is simple: consumers shy away from large or complex online purchases if they are not 100% certain about their expenditure. One issue, however insignificant, can spook the potential customer, resulting in Website abandonment and great dissatisfaction.

Anyone reading the business trade pubs this past week has no doubt seen the news about Google and eBay partnering to offer click to call service to online merchants, thus opening the promise of online advertising to an audience who may have avoided it in the past due to the complexity of their transactions or lack of a web presence. This partnership signifies the growing need for online merchants to connect with potential buyers over the phone. However, click to call offers much more than just a connection between buyers and sellers. When used strategically, click to call can increase sales conversion, reduce site abandonment and improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Google and eBay are not the first to discover the customer service benefits of offering potential buyers instant phone connection to an online merchant. Major companies like Sears and Jenny Craig have been using click to call solutions to provide better service and improve customer loyalty. Because it is IP-based, click to call has the potential to erase the usual customer frustration of having to start a transaction over when the they transition from the web to a phone conversation. And, it could help reduce the need for customers to wade through “IVR hell” to speak to the right agent.

Customer-oriented companies have found that by offering click to call rather than a static toll-free number, they can ensure a continuity of customer experience by transferring information about the customer and the context of their online session directly to the call center at the time of call initiation. With click to call, call center software can be configured to display this information directly on the agent’s desktop screen, or it can use the incoming data values to trigger lookups into the company’s own databases to retrieve related details (customer records, purchase history, billing information, etc.)

Some companies may be concerned about the added cost of taking calls rather than allowing customers to complete transactions online, but what if the customer has a question or just isn’t comfortable purchasing online? Wouldn’t it benefit companies to offer these kinds customers a chance to speak to a live agent and thus complete the transaction?

A recent study by Jupiter Research found that for high-value, complex transactions, most customers still prefer live voice interaction over other methods of contact, including e-mail, text chat and FAQs. Ironically, the future of customer service isn’t a fancy new technology; in fact, it’s one of the oldest tools in existence: the human voice.

The fact is that the kinds of products and services that can be found online are becoming more and more complex. We’re not just buying books on Amazon or EBay anymore; we’re buying TVs, Cars and Boats. For these kinds of interactions, consumers have traditionally shown that they’re more comfortable researching online and buying offline. Click to call service bridges that gap.

This guest post was written by John Federman of eStara, a leading provider of proactive conversion solutions for enhancing online sales. Mr. Federman’s worked with companies such as Amazon.com, Dell, Sears and Verizon to improve online customer service and sales. To learn more, visit http://www.estara.com or call 1-866-4ESTARA.

If you have an idea for a guest writer, feel free to post the person or company’s name, web site, etc. in the comments section.

Stop the Revolving Door of Employee Turnover

This is a guest post written by Robert A. Cameron of from Robert A. Cameron & Associates in Weston FL. Mr. Cameron works with employers to help them increase the effectiveness of their employee selection and retention, and improve their company’s productivity and profitability. They can be reached at 954-385-8701 or visit their website at http://www.racameron.com.

Stop the revolving door of employee turnover. Employee assessment tools have advanced so companies can now more effectively identify, select, and retain top performing employees, and that means providing better service.

The challenge and cost of employee turnover is one of the most discussed, most frustrating and most misunderstood problems businesses face. CEO’s have identified employee retention as one of their key challenges. Yet organizations continue to struggle with this costly issue. The science of psychological assessments has recently advanced, allowing the development of much more predictive assessment tools.

If you do not know what your employee turnover cost is, many experts agree that you can come surprisingly close to the cost of a single turnover incident by simply multiplying the annual salary for the position times 2.5 – that will cover productivity loss, recruiting and hiring cost, training cost, liability, unemployment and the other 101 hidden costs that we usually try not to think of when we lose an employee. What is the cost of poor customer service!

Employee turnover often begins with a poor hiring decision. When we hire someone who is a poor job fit, we have already begun an almost inevitable course that will end with failure – and another turnover casualty. Part of the problem of poor hiring lies with our poor tools: One comprehensive study of the hiring process indicated that, if an interview is your only tool, you have only a 14% chance of making a good hire. Add good reference checking (and we all know how difficult that can be), you can raise your success ratio to 26%. If your goal is to beat one out of four odds, you need better tools!

Fortunately, the science of employee assessments has produced increasingly useful tools to add to the art of hiring. While no assessment, or even a combination of assessments, guarantees success, the same study showed that use of personality, abilities, interests, and job matching measures can raise your success rate to 75% or better. Equally important, valid pre employment screening assessment tools in all of those areas can be applied for well below 1% of the projected cost of a bad hire.

Why don’t more of us use employee assessments to improve our hiring (and lower turnover)? Part of the answer lies in lack of education on the topic – not many of us have even attended a single seminar on use of scientific assessment tools. Part lies in reluctance to spend any money on new processes. Part of it, frankly, is the already overwhelming load we place on the people who are doing the hiring – they are so busy bailing the boat, they can’t take time out to turn on the bilge pumps! To change the course of turnover, you must recognize that the costs are killing you, that you can change course, and that the rewards are well worth the trouble.

For more information on employee assessments, you can call Robert A. Cameron & Associates at 954-385-8701 or visit their website at http://www.racameron.com. Thank you to Mr. Cameron for writing this post about a very interesting topic.

If you have an idea for a guest writer, feel free to post the person or company’s name, web site, etc. in the comments section.

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