Going The Extra Mile – How To Give Your Readers Outstanding Customer Service

I love it when I see or receive an example of awesome customer service, just as much as I really dislike being on the receiving end of bad customer service. Today, I was lucky enough to come across a great example of someone willing to go the extra mile just to make their customer happy.

A shopping trip to the mall was going as expected, when I came across a guy offering free shoe shine trials. I had a bit of free time so I thought I’d give it a go. Now, I’m normally very skeptical about free trials and I’m always looking for the catch, but this guy shined my shoes brilliantly, made great conversation during the time I was in the chair, and to cap it off he gave me a $10 voucher for his shoe and sneaker store in the mall to use whenever I next needed a new pair of shoes.
Shopping mall
Within fifteen minutes he had secured a new customer, and boosted his business, while I came out of it feeling great about our transaction. Bringing together a great service, a great personality and a great offer, he demonstrated just how simple it is to attract new custom, no matter what trade you are operating in.

That got me thinking about how we can offer great service to our customers online. Here are some top tips.

Under promise and over deliver

This is a classic way of ensuring clients comes back to you again and again. Clients are always really impressed when they get a better than expected response. If you put a time limit on when you will respond back to them, can you regularly beat that by 50%?

Ask questions and listen to the answers

Often the most difficult, but certainly the most beneficial, question you can ask your customers is ‘How can we improve our product/service to you?’ The fear is all the negative things that they might say… and I mean MIGHT say. In reality, customers love to feel that their opinion is valued. If you get feedback good or bad, listen and act on it, they will make going the extra mile easy for you because they’ll tell you how!

Thank your clients for their business

The most grateful act you can do is to personally thank your clients for the business they have placed with you. Whether that is through a web order, a postal order or a face-to-face order, the best thing you can do is to sincerely say ‘Thank You’. A card, an email, a letter all give a personal touch that leave your customers feeling like they are valued and – guess what… they’ll come back to you again and again.

Reward your customers for their loyalty

Loyal customers are the most precious thing in the world. I read somewhere once that it is six times more expensive to get new customers than it is to keep your existing clients. If you give great service and great value for money, then your clients will keep coming back. Another great strategy for ensuring they keep coming back is to reward their loyalty. A voucher each quarter, money off next time they shop with you, a free gift when they purchase in a certain period of time are all great ideas. What would be suitable for your business?

Going the extra mile with your customers means you will create a customer base that will stay with you and not go elsewhere. Valuing your customers is an essential step to maintaining and developing your business.

How Much Does An Email Subscriber Cost You?

I was speaking to a client the other week when an interesting topic came up regarding people signing up to your email list for free. Email subscribers aren’t free.

If, for the moment, we ignore the cost of a newsletter email service like AWeber, Constant Contact, MailChimp etc, then how much can a subscriber possibly cost you? Well it’s all about time and effort.
contact letter
So say you have 20 email subscribers, and it takes you an hour and a half to write, format and send an email. That amount of your time could be worth, for example, $100.

So each email subscriber has just cost you $5 for them to receive your email.

Now if you have 1,000 subscribers then your cost is still the same but then the email is costing you $0.10 per subscriber.

Your email system might be costing you $50 per month. So another scenario:

Email system cost per month: $50
Emails sent per month: 6
Time/cost per email: 1 hour/$60 = $360
Email subscribers: 3,000

Your total cost per month is $410 or $68.33 per email.

Each email subscriber is costing you $0.14 per month or $0.02 per email you’ve sent out.

How are you earning money back on these subscribers?

A bigger list costs more money but also divides that cost between more subscribers. You may have also spent 20 hours creating a free report to entice people to sign up to your email list. But once you have the subscribers, how are you getting value from them?

How many people are opening these emails?

If your email system charges you per number of subscribers and yet only 5% are opening your emails then your costs get much worse. Add that to the fact that in most email systems you need to delete unsubscribes as these contribute to your total, you are paying for a lot of unresponsive “subscribers”.

You don’t have to sell via email to make money

I don’t sell many things via email. I offer some of my own services and promote other valuable related tools (like AWeber and HostGator) but providing value and creating a trusted brand via email, and also getting targeted visitors to your site can also pay back what you’re spending on email services. It’s just harder to quantify!

How do you use your email service? Do you worry about quantifying value? And if so, how do you do it?

The Art of Terrible Customer Service

Last week I experienced the worst customer service I think I have ever had. It was worse as I received it from a source I trusted and didn’t expect it from. I’m not the perfect client and never claim to be. I have high standards of myself and expect the same of other people and companies.

I won’t name the company as it would be unfair to them and they of course have their side of the story, but essentially it boils down to this:

Blaming your customer for your mistakes is not the solution

Question Mark
A number of remarkable statements were given to me. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been as angry or bemused:

– I was told the developer used was not suited to the particular task. However I hired the company, not the developer, for that task.

– I was told I was not spending enough money with them. However they never responded to three quote requests.

– I was told other clients didn’t “blink” when spending large amounts. I’m sorry but you can’t have a blank check/cheque and just get back to me when you’re done. I’ll happily “blink” all day long.

– I was told that breaking working parts of software was “an inherent risk in software development” and therefore I should have to pay for it to be fixed. Even if they broke it. Incidentally if you wanted, you could make a great business model around breaking things and charging to fix them apparently.

So, as if you needed reminding, here are some things I never do:

  • Belittle a customer because they don’t have a huge budget. I only have a one hour minimum.
  • Wait a few weeks before responding to an email. I try to respond within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays of course.
  • Hide from making a mistake and avoid rectifying it unless paid for. If any occur, I will fix a new problem that appears because of my work, for no charge. After all, I caused it.
  • Charge you for work completed when you’re not satisfied. I will do everything I can to make it right.

Of course I’m not perfect. I try to be, but I’m not. Maybe this other company will stay in business longer and be more successful than me. But doing the right thing is more important than that to me.

If you want a quick, brilliant, read, then How Doing Less Work for More Money Saved Client Work… by Josh Blankenship is great. Sample quotes:

When clients were frustrating to work with despite my best efforts on my best days, hey, I picked them, right? I chose to enter into a business relationship with that client. In short, I was never a victim of anyone other than myself. And my clients paid for it.

and

I Over-Communicate Over-Communication

Every client is different, but in general I want clients to want me to stop bothering them. I’d much rather be the annoying one than the one they can’t get in touch with for a week.

So it’s time to dust-off, get back up and find another PHP developer. If you know any great ones, please let me know below or via my contact form.

Is Collaboration The Answer?

I work with a lot of clients in a lot of different fields. For the most part they are individuals and/or small businesses trying to make their place in the world. Whether it’s business services, life coaching, physical products, or just talking about subjects to show their expertise, often they’re doing it alone.

I have (what I like to think) a very successful collaboration with Andrew Rondeau of We Build Your Blog. We run several things together including the successful all-in-one blogging and website course Income Blogging Guide, and the upcoming WordPress plugin to see all your stats in one place, Pro Blog Stats. We each bring our own unique skills and experiences to make things better than if we did them alone.

However I don’t see many others collaborating or joining together. A lot of people seem to be struggling on their own, setting up a site, producing content, driving traffic, getting business, and so on.
ampersand symbol
I often think why don’t more people find others that do what they do online and join up? I guess there are a few barriers:

– Trust. If you haven’t met this person before, and perhaps may not meet in person for a long time, how do you trust them?
I say look around their site, look on their social media profiles and see what kind of person they are. Contact other people who may have dealt with them, and see what kind of experiences they have had. Gut feeling is also often a good sign, however you have to be careful, see below.

– Relationship. How do you know you’re going to get along with this person and they will do what they say they will do?
You don’t. You can try it and see. Start small, perhaps write a guest blog for each other. Perhaps collaborate on an eBook, or a webinar or a small product that doesn’t take much time and see how that goes.

– Money. How can you trust this person will pay you money that is owed to you?
Well if you’re currently earning $0 then half of nothing is still zero. However there are safe guards you can put in place. You can alternate payments, perhaps someone pays for the domain name, the other for hosting. Income can be split at certain levels, so when you reach your first $100 then it is split. Don’t wait until it’s $1,000. Keep a spreadsheet or online Google Document that both have access to and can see income and expenditure on.

I have a problem letting go and sharing things and (when it comes to outsourcing) delegating, but I don’t believe I would be anywhere near where I am today without collaboration. What has been your experience?

How To Stay Motivated

It’s the age old question – how do we keep the momentum going with our blogs, and make sure we stay motivated enough to achieve everything we need to do, without letting our energies slip and becoming fed up with work? Motivation isn’t something that can be learned, and many of us are left floundering without inspiration, forgetting what gave us the drive and ambition to succeed when we first started our businesses.

The problem with motivation is it always seems dependent upon the environment and external circumstances. If we get bad feedback, our will to work disappears as quickly as you can say ‘loss of confidence.’ Similarly, when life is going brilliantly it can be hard to knuckle down to work, as we are keen to enjoy our circumstances while the going is good, and it feels tough to have to apply ourselves and stop having fun.

So, motivation can ebb and flow, but our businesses demand a constant stream of input in order to thrive. Blogging, of all the disciplines to do with work, is probably one of the most demanding jobs we can have. If we slack off, it’s immediately evident in the fact that we haven’t published anything for a while, or our readers’ comments lie unanswered for days on end. As a time critical and highly visible platform for marketing, blogging is relentless and requires the maximum input from us as site owners.

Given the amount of investment we need to make in our blogs, having the right amount of motivation is a really important element of our jobs. Without it, we’ll be left with an out of date site, and disgruntled customers. Additionally, it takes motivation to produce new products, post articles as a guest writer, commit to commenting on other people’s sites each day, and undertake the tasks necessary to do a great job on our sites. So, how do we get motivated, and what can we do to ensure that even when things are becoming stressful or we feel too jaded to make a great impact with our work, it doesn’t show in what we do?

Here are some ideas…

Manage your time

Nothing saps motivation more than feeling that things are getting on top of us. Instead of rallying when this happens, we tend instead to procrastinate, putting things off until the situation becomes even worse. For some reason, most business owners find that the more stressed they are with their work, the less work they can actually complete!

Because of this, time management is one of the most important elements which contribute to great motivation. Knowing you have a fantastic routine to tackle each day, which is proven to deliver results and produce a satisfactory outcome for your efforts is motivational in itself.

Don’t get distracted

Most of us who run a blogging business work from home, and this is a terrible breeding-ground for distractions. There will always be laundry that needs doing, someone popping in for a social call, and the television (that well-known attention vacuum which can suck away two hours of your life before you have the chance to say ‘Talk Show’). Because of this, it’s important not to let yourself get distracted from what your work, no matter how hard that may be at the time.

Another huge pull on our attention is the internet, which lures us away from our purpose at every turn with advertisements for online gaming, e-mails which pop in to our box and suck us in with tantalizing titles, and Skype chats from people whom you haven’t spoken to for at least two hours.

Distractions, then, are a hugely negative sap on motivation. The more we procrastinate and get sidetracked, the lower our motivation to get things done will become. Instead, we begin to feel stressed, disorganized and demotivated, as work piles up and we flounder in a sea of red e-mails and things to do.

Remind yourself of your goals

Motivation and ambition go hand in hand. This is because when we clearly identify what we want to achieve, and hold it in our minds at all times, it becomes easier to work towards this achievement with single-minded perseverance. Business owners who are not sure where they want to go, what they want to achieve nor how to set about achieving it will not have the motivation which is needed to

Speak to experts

Nothing sparks off the creative process and gets your motivational juices flowing quite like speaking with like-minded enthusiasts. These are the people who can show you where you want to be, and give you the advice which you need to achieve it.

Learn something new every day

Learning and acquiring new knowledge is one of the mainstays of business development and achievement. It also opens up new possibilities for your business, and starts off the ideas process which can lead to motivation. The more possibilities you can see, the easier it is to generate the energy and enthusiasm needed to do a kick-ass job with your blog and business, leaping out of bed each day to make your plans come to fruition.

Learning new things also stimulates our brains and makes us come alive. It sparks off new thought processes and wakes us up to new possibilities and potential for our blogs. Learning can also become a habit, as we waken up our brains and make them more receptive to picking up new concepts and stretching our capabilities.

As soon as the savvy blogger hits the books, a wealth of new ideas will start to flood in to your strategic plan for the business, and this is one of the most effective catalysts for keeping you enthusiastic, motivated and raring to go. Don’t believe me? Try it. Pick a subject close to both your heart and your industry, read up on it, and see where it leads. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Laugh

Being tired and jaded saps motivation quicker than an SUV drinks gas. The surefire way of combating the miserable feeling of being tired and de-motivated is to have a good solid belly-laugh. This could be at someone else’s expense, at your own, or simply for the heck of it. Find a way to laugh off your worries and think more positively about your business, and you’ll be more motivated than Bill Gates when he looks at a particularly sexy microchip.

Cutting Down On Distractions

We each of us have at least eight hours a day which we can use to be highly productive, when we work from home. With no commuting time, nothing else to focus on, no distractions from peers of colleagues, and full choice over whether we answer the door or phone, or not, people who work from home must be the most productive, prolific and successful people on the planet.

Right?

So, why do we seem to be stressed, floundering or sometimes simply swamped with work? How come we can never seem to reach the end of the bottomless pit which is our list of things to do, and walk away from the end of the working day feeling smug, satisfied and relaxed?

Distractions. The one thing coming between each of us and reaching our goals for our business. The thing which prevents full productivity, and stops us from achieving everything which we dream of both on our blogs and throughout the rest of our lives.

When you take any given day, how is yours filled? What do you do, usually, which takes you away from your desk and plunges you in to the sphere of unproductivity? For me, it’s small things which you don’t even question – helping out around the house, popping out to the store, tinkering in the garden. All of these things, as valid activities, tend to work well to keep me from doing the actions which I have set out for the day to help my business, without making me feel guilty about wasting time.

The problem is, however, they are all time wasters. If I had the method and perseverance to stop getting sidetracked by activities which weren’t associated with my blog or business, imagine how much I could achieve? Imagine the potential if I could tap in to a full eight hours a day without getting carried away with a job in the house or garden, a phone call from a friend or that sudden desperate urge I have to go and check out the box set of ‘24’?

The reality is, not one person on the planet has the power, diligence or downright stubbornness to seat themselves at their desk and apply themselves to their business for a full eight hours. Basic needs such as the washroom or lunch time will come in to play. We will need a coffee. The dog will need walking. All of these activities can be undertaken in less than half an hour a day, perhaps. This still leaves a full seven and a half hours to get on with what needs to be done.

Breaks from work are positive – they leave us feeling refreshed and comfortable, ready to apply ourselves again. The trick is to know just how long a break you may need to leave you ready for work, without letting your break expand until it becomes your full day. If you go to the kitchen to fix a sandwich, don’t suddenly notice that the washing up needs doing, the shopping putting away, the refrigerator re-stocking. Do what needs to be done, and then go back to work.

Having a conscious battle against distractions is tough at first, but very soon it becomes a habit – a discipline which you can apply automatically without feeling an internal struggle. Give it a go – and see what you are capable of, if you set your mind to it.

Create Your Own Product in Under Seven Days

This is the answer to the most common question I get asked!

I get asked a lot of questions. Every day I get email after email asking me me a variety of questions and to find solutions for their problems. If I can help with a simple reply I do, but some questions take a lot longer.

The most common questions I get asked are:

“How can I make money from my blog?”

“How do I create a product?”

“What product can I create to sell?”

As you can see they are all essentially the same question. The answer is not so simple, so I have co-written a new eBook called:
eBook
Create Your Own Best-Selling Product In Under 7 Days

We have a special ridiculously low introductory price of just $17.

It includes:

  • – The 6 steps you MUST include in your research to make certain your product ‘flies off the shelf’
  • The 1 little known thing that often makes the difference between the success and failure of product creation, and it’s not the price
  • The 2 most valuable pieces of information we can share about pricing your product…that most people ignore. You won’t!
  • 20 awesome ideas for your next product
  • 100 power phrases you can use to create the ideal product title

More details are available here http://yourownproductinaweek.com/ and remember it’s only $17 for a limited time.

Any questions please let me know!

Optimizing Your Home Office For Business Blogging

Most people who run an online blog as their primary source of income tend to be home workers, with a dedicated space in the house given over to their office. This is a dream for the majority of people, as it frees up time for focusing upon work, while staying close to the domestic side of life which is close to all of our hearts.

Continue reading Optimizing Your Home Office For Business Blogging

Three Years and Three Hundred Clients

BTG technically went live in November 2007 but I didn’t really start my business proper until late March 2008. So it’s about my real three year anniversary and as I sit here writing this I have had 297 clients. So by the time you read this a few weeks later, I will have over 300 clients which I think is pretty amazing!

So thank you to all the entrepreneurs (57% women and 43% men, in case you’re interested!) who have made my business possible. Of my first five clients those years ago, four of them are still using me today which is fantastic. About 70% of my business is repeat business so I’m glad clients trust me enough to use me again and again.

If you need help with your blog or business website, let me know and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

Here, join me and have some cake.

Creating Blog Addiction

This is a newsletter article from the November 2010 edition my monthly email newsletter. If you like it and aren’t signed up, simply fill in the form to the right or at the bottom of this post to join.

Creating blog addiction – taking a tip from the world of online gaming

We humans are great at getting hooked on things. Whatever your pleasure, the chances are that you will have one thing at least in your life that you find irresistible. Some people love chocolate, and can’t get enough of it. Some people like gambling, drinking, shopping or travelling. Whatever your guilty pleasure, you know the beauty of indulging it, and the satisfaction that giving in to a craving can bring.

In the blogosphere, things are no different. Some people manage to produce sites which keep you going back and back for another fix, like a hungry addict. There are a number of ways to get your blog moved from a passing interest to a solid addiction for your readers, and learning these techniques are the best possible way to ensure you have a steady stream of traffic which doesn’t diminish over time.

One way of gaining insight in to the ‘addiction’ factor for your site is to think of a site or application which manages to do it perfectly, and look at the methods they use to draw you in. most of us have a site which we visit on a daily basis, that makes us tetchy if we can’t access it.

If you’ve ever played a game on line regularly, you know the slight pull you get to go and visit the site when you should be working. The gaming industry has an instinctive knack of knowing what works and what doesn’t, and tap in to this knack in order to ensure your continued loyalty.

An example of this would be Facebook’s Bejeweled Blitz application. Every day, millions of people go on to the site to play the game, vying to beat their previous scores, and competing against friends to succeed.

How does the gaming industry keep people engaged?

Bejeweled is available on the iPhone, through Facebook, or as a regular download for your PC. There are literally thousands of sites out there telling people how to increase their scores and generate cheats and tips for winning. The game uses the following techniques to make sure people stay loyal to the game, going back and back for more like addicted maniacs…

  • Make it competitive, by using a leader board where you can see your friends’ high scores
  • Make it engaging, with user-friendly graphics and sound effects
  • Create new versions of the game for special events like Halloween or Christmas
  • Reset the game every week, so players’ scores are back to zero and they need to visit the site again to play and generate a new score
  • Add incentives such as free coin rewards for people who visit every day
  • Make the game length just one minute, so people don’t feel guilty about popping in to play (even though they will probably stay for twenty or so minutes!)
  • Encourage people to share their high scores, replays of the game and other news on social networking sites.

With all this in place, it’s not surprising that the game is effective when it comes to keeping players loyal. While not all of the techniques used within the gaming industry are directly translatable to your blog, there are some great lessons to be learned by looking at an industry sector which is geared towards fuelling addiction and promoting user loyalty.

What can we take from the gaming industry to encourage loyalty in our readers?

Here’s how some of the techniques used by the gaming industry can be appropriated for your own site…

Offer something for nothing
It goes without saying that people like to gain from spending time online. By offering a free product as well as content, you will draw people in and gain their trust. Once people have had something of value for free, they will be much more kindly disposed to your site, and also more likely to take up any services which you offer. Think of the free product as you being altruistic, rather than focusing upon what it can do for you, and you will be in an ideal position to serve your customers without an ulterior motive.

Change the content – every day
News blogs are among the most popular out there, for a simple reason. They update their content every day with interesting and informative material that people want to read. You can do the same on your blog by having a strong content strategy in place, encouraging people to pop in on a daily basis.

Make it easy for people to subscribe
The best gaming sites make it easy for people to sign up for new offers, and get alerted when things change. They do this by having clear steps for people to follow to subscribe to news, and provide encouragement by offering free credit or other incentives through the subscription. Follow suit by offering a members area, giving away information for people who sign up to your site, and making people feel as if they are accessing more useful material when they become members.

Open up discussion
People like to talk, especially online. Encourage comments and feedback, consider setting up a discussion forum relating to your chosen field of industry, and support people to submit material by making it easy and worthwhile for them to do so. Some of the best blogs practically manage themselves, by making it accessible and engaging when people choose to pop in and post up a comment.

Change your site to attract revisits
Just as Google changes its homepage to mark special occasions or important dates, and the gaming industry theme their sites to coincide with holidays or festivals, so you can consider updating your site to mark out seasonal events. If you have a monthly theme which changes, for example, you are more likely to get people to revisit you to see what you are up to.

Publicise it everywhere
Making your blog accessible for people on social networking sites such as Twitter, Linked In and Facebook provides you with an ideal platform for sharing information. WordPress allows you to link to most networking sites with the click of a button, meaning you can alert everyone who follows you that you have published something new.

There are more benefits than just encouraging readers to your site when you link up to the virtual network. People can re-tweet and comment on your posts, sharing them around their own group of followers and making it more likely for your site to attract a wide readership.