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Writing and Publishing

Login Fatigue

Do you suffer from “login fatigue?” I know I do. Login fatigue is that overwhelmed feeling produced by having too many computer login names, passwords, and codes to keep track of. (A Google search for “login fatigue” resulted in 75,400,000 entries, more than a hundred times higher then when I last checked. I am sure that number will keep growing.)

It’s not that I’m lazy or trying to make a statement about logging in. The sad reality is that I had way too many logins to keep track of.  As a result, I’ve had to resort to maintaining a list of my various cyberspace logins.

For the most part, I needed every one of them to conduct business. There are a variety of financial websites, secure access for numerous services, a plethora of logins for my diverse Internet presence (email, Websites, blogs, search engines, and so forth), and even a few—a precious few—for personal enjoyment.

Because of this frustration, I used to regularly close websites that require I login just to peek at their treasure trove of information. I’m not talking about those pay-for, subscription sites—which I steadfastly avoid. I’m referring to those free sites that demand that I setup an account and login with each visit. Nope, it’s not going to happen.

Its been suggested that we need some sort of universal login, one login that will work for multiple sites. That sounded great to me. I needed it.

So when I’ve heard about Last Pass and 1Password, I got excited. I looked into them. Both securely manage passwords and generate unique passwords for each website you use. Try them. You’ll like it.

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Writing and Publishing

So, You Found My Website, Which One?

Many people were amazed and impressed that my web address matches my name: PeterDeHaan.com. It is my main author website. I’ve had it for almost twenty years. When I registered it in 2000, it was not hard to procure a domain name matching one’s given name. (At the time, DeHaan.com was also available, and I vacillated on which one to register.)

However, I also have several other websites:

ConnectionsMagazine.com for call centers, AnswerStat.com and Medical Call Center News are for healthcare/medical call center, and TAS Trader for the telephone answering service industry.

Most of my other sites relate to the call center industry. Three are locator sites: FindACallCenter.com, FindAnAnsweringService.com, and FindAHealthcareCallCenter.com

I also have Peter DeHaan Publishing (my business website).

Then there is ABibleADay.com, a site to encourage regular Bible reading, with basic information for those not familiar with the Bible. Plus there are six more.

Altogether, they represent thousands of pages of information and collectively generate millions of page views a year.

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Business

What if the Internet Were Unplugged

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Several years ago, there was a time when I lost my Internet connection. Although I had a lot of work to do, I couldn’t think of anything I could accomplish without Internet access. It was about a quarter to twelve, so I took an early lunch.

An hour later it still wasn’t working, so I made the dreaded call to my provider. I greatly disliked doing so because they had an attitude that the problem was my fault. It’s the technological world’s version of “guilty until proven innocence.”

After enduring numerous automated prompts and punching in an inordinate number of digits, they performed an automatic test of my line. They pronounced it good and—coincidently or not—my Internet connection started working shortly thereafter.

That prompted a renewed reminder of just how much I depend on the Internet to work. It was a time to give serious thought to how I would conduct business if I were to lose Internet access for a prolonged period of time.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

Email Insanity

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Several years ago, I ordered an inversion table online. Part of the ordering process was to give them my email address.

Once they had my email address, they did the logical thing and began sending me email messages. One or two of them were offers for complementary health devices and exercise equipment, but most were for inversion tables. 

In case you are wondering what an inversion table is, it is essentially a device that allows you to hang upside down. That might cause you to wonder why anyone would want two.  It sure makes me wonder. 

Maybe I’m missing something.  Perhaps my enjoyment would be doubled if I had two.  Could it be that other purchasers of inversion tables turn around a buy a second one a couple of weeks later? I think not.

Apparently, their marketing department wasn’t thinking either. Why else would they insist on trying to sell me something I had already bought from them?

Likely they reasoned that it costs next to nothing to send an email to me—no matter how nonsensical. After all, I might decide that I need two: one for the basement and a second one for the living room.  Yeah, right!

Their logic is shortsighted, however, because it will cost them something—my business. You see, in exasperation for their thoughtless barrage of messages, I opted out.

Now, because of an ill-conceived email strategy, they have forever lost the opportunity to sell me something else.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

Is Your Website Working?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

There was a local coffee shop that I frequent, which given that I don’t drink coffee seems a bit strange. Even so, it was a great place for meetings and I generally found myself there at least once a week.

I noticed a free newspaper there.  Actually, calling it a newspaper was generous; “news sheet” might be more accurate. It was a single 11 x 17 piece of paper, printed on both sides and folded twice.

On each side was a center column of random news trivia, with a column of local ads on each side. Presumably, they had not sold all the space, as many ads were repeated on both sides, along with a couple of “your ad here” fillers.

Ever curious, I checked their Website and was treated to a “Website coming soon message.” Assuming the site was down, I called them only to learn that they were still working on it. The owner was not embarrassed by this fact but was rather nonchalant.  Three weeks later, the site was still “coming soon.”

You would think that if your site was still under development you would not prominently advertise it. That does not send a positive message to potential advertisers. It would be like publishing a phone number knowing it was not working. What right-minded business owner would do such a thing?

Upon further investigation, I found that the content of the “news sheet” is syndicated and distributed to local, exclusive franchises who sell ads and distribute it.

How do I know this? Because the franchiser’s website was working.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

Your Company’s Future May Be Online

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I have long been a proponent of the necessity for companies to have websites. In fact, I view a website as a veritable requirement for success in today’s market.

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Organizations lacking a website are quickly viewed as second-rate providers and not worth the consideration of first-rate prospects. With the current concerns over attracting new customers, now is the time for site-less companies to embrace the Internet as a means of marketing and validation.

I know there are still organizations out there that have not yet fully embraced the internet revolution. Sadly, I hear from them on a somewhat regular basis. In addition, a few business owners and managers still say they don’t have an email address. Lastly are those who do not have a website or who states that “it’s not up yet.”

How can these companies serve customers, market to prospects, and stay in business? If you are one of these organizations, take action today to embrace the Internet before it is too late, with your business paying the price.

Website Basics

Although it can cost thousands of dollars to have a whiz-bang, high-tech, professional-looking Website designed, there are less costly options. After all, we don’t all drive a Mercedes-Benz—sometimes a Chevy will do. You can make an inexpensive website yourself for under $100. The goal is for it to not look cheap. Most hosting companies offer do-it-yourself website templates that you—yes, you—can customize to provide a basic, yet professional-looking site. However, there are a few beginner mistakes that you will want to avoid:

  • Stay away from line art graphics or any artwork that looks like it was homemade.
  • If you need to resize a graphic, be sure to keep it proportional. Otherwise, it will distort, either being stretched or squished.
  • Take time to proofread the text, verify spelling, use correct grammar, and employ commonly accepted punctuation. Have others double- and triple-check your work.
  • Don’t go crazy with different fonts. Use one or two at the most.
  • Avoid uppercase text; people will feel like you’re screaming at them. (The one possible exception might be listing your company name at the top of the page.)
  • You might be tempted to insert a page counter or some other nifty gadget. Resist that urge. Just because those features are available doesn’t mean you should use them.
  • Although not available with predesigned Website templates, you might think you need to have a flashy animation on your home page. Don’t go there; the only ones who will be impressed will be you and the person who designs it. Everyone else will be irritated, and the search companies will dismiss you.
  • Don’t piggyback off someone else’s domain name; get your own. This can be inexpensively obtained from your hosting company. While you’re at it, set up an email account using that domain name. Post that email address on your Website. If need be, you can have this new address forwarded to an existing email account.

Search Engine Optimization

Now that you have a functioning website (which avoids all the beginner errors), you want people to find it. Aside from telling everyone you meet and listing it on every piece of literature and stationery that you have, you need search engines to notice and appreciate your website. This is Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Although this is more of an art form than an exact science (since the search engine companies closely guard their methodologies), here’s some generally agreed upon SEO basics:

  • Each page of your site needs a title tag, and each page’s title should be different.
  • Each page also needs a description tag; again each one should be different from the other pages.
  • Add reasonable and accurate keywords. Although most experts say Google ignores them, some search engines will use them, so it’s a good idea. Again, they should not be the same for each page.
  • Although some people still value reciprocal linking (that is, “I’ll link to your site if you link to mine”), the conventional wisdom is that in most cases this no longer helps and may actually hurt your visibility with the search engines.
  • Most of the companies that guarantee you top search engine placement for a fee, fail to deliver or can’t do so for the long-term. There are experts who can do this, but they are in a minority and their skill is often hard to substantiate.

Search Engine Marketing

If you want people to find your site and contacting you, the next step to consider might be Search Engine Marketing (SEM). This is when you sign up with Internet advertising companies such as Google, Yahoo, or a host of others.

Basically, you tell them how much you are willing to pay each time a person clicks on your ad, and they place your ad on Websites where potential prospects frequent. If you go this route, proceed slowly and carefully until you have a good understanding of how this works.

I have heard stories of novices spending hundreds of dollars in a couple of hours with not much to show for it. A key thing to remember is that just because they clicked on a link that points to your Website does not mean they will become a customer—or even contact you.

Given the current concerns over the economy and finding new business, organizations need to do everything they can to help them succeed. The Internet is a cost-effective and increasingly popular method.

It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner in this area, have the experience, or are a veteran, there are always more opportunities waiting in the rapidly growing realm of cyberspace.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

Responding to Email

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

My website FindaCallCenter.com features a directory of call centers. All the information listed has been submitted by the businesses themselves. To ensure the information is current and accurate, I periodically email each call center, asking them to review and confirm their information.

The lack of response—and the slowness of response—to my recent verification effort was appalling. Only 25 percent responded to my first email message, while 11 percent of the addresses generated a failure notice.

The majority of those responding did so the first day, but many trickled in over the next week.

For the second email message to the remaining non-responders, 13 percent replied, but only one third did so within one day, with the rest taking up to five days. For the third and final email, only 5 percent responded.

Altogether, only 37 percent responded at all; 13 percent had non-working email addresses; 50 percent apparently received but did not bother to reply to any of the three messages. Furthermore, of the minority who responded, only about half did so on the same business day.

We live in a world that expects a response and wants it immediately. The above dismal results—which are likely applicable to all industries—suggests that merely responding to email on the same business day would make your organization stand out.

How sad. Few consumers will be patient that long. Stand out even more, and strive to respond within an hour—and the sooner the better.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

Euphemisms for Broken

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I subscribe to an online computer file backup service. It is easy to use and does its work automatically with little assistance from me. This is how all backups should function—automatically and without human involvement.

However, there was a time that it warned me that it hadn’t backed up any files for more than 24 hours.  I did what I could to do a manual backup, but without success.

After an hour of futile effort, I decided that the problem was on the provider’s ends. Unfortunately, by that time their tech support call center had closed for the day. So, I used the email support optionand waited.

The next day, things were no different, so I called. Once I finally was able to talk to someone, he quickly informed me that the server handling my backups was “unavailable because of extended maintenance.” The maintenance was expected to be complete by mid-afternoon.

Why couldn’t they just be honest and tell me it’s “down and being worked on?”

I also wonder why they didn’t put that useful information on the call center recording that kept repeating every 20 seconds. Why did they instead say that tech support was “busy due to a high number of new subscribers?”

Additionally, the application’s interface allows them to send me messages, so why didn’t they simply use it to notify me it was down? After all, they did use it to communicate the “busy due to a high number of new subscribers” message and suggest I use email.

The backup was again backing up my filesjust as they promised. As for the “extended maintenance,” it took about 44 hours.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

The Internet: Once a Curious Novelty Becomes an Essential Business Tool

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I first heard about the Internet over thirty years ago from one of my college friends. He landed a job with a computer mainframe manufacturer and was assigned to work at a university. He regaled me with tales of instantaneously sending text messages across the country at no cost. “That is fantastic,” I said. “How can I get in on this?”

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

“You can’t,” he replied matter-of-factly, “not unless you’re at a major university or work for a defense contractor.” I was disappointed. My visions of fast and free communications faded as quickly as they formed.

With little more thought, I dismissed the Internet as a non-issue, one with limited utility and no future.

That was in 1981.

Fast-forward a decade. Suddenly, it seemed, everyone was talking about the Internet. I was perplexed. How could something so limited be treated as the next big thing? Had something changed to make the Internet a practical reality for the masses? Indeed, it had.

I signed up for a dial-up Internet account. Back then, using the Internet seemed like a waste of time. It took eons to be connected, a bit of luck to stay connected, and patience to accomplish anything useful – not that there was much to do from a business standpoint.

When a colleague would get email, I would note their address, but would invariably pick up the phone for any future communication.

As more people became connected, I tried to check email once a day, while checking voicemail multiple times. However, it wasn’t long before I was checking email several times a day and voicemail only once or twice. Now I have dedicated Internet access and spend all day connected, receiving, and sending hundreds of messages. All too often, I forget to check voicemail.

I recently considered what my day would be like without email. Indeed, about 99 percent of my publishing work is accomplished via email. Articles are submitted electronically, then routed to our proofreaders, passed back to me, and finally forwarded to production. Design proofs are sent as PDF attachments, and communication with my printer is via email.

Without email, we would play phone tag and rely on snail mail and overnight delivery services. This would increase costs and lengthen our production cycle. In fact, if I only had the phone and delivery services for communications, I would need to hire an assistant just to accomplish the same amount of work.

In addition, I would not be nearly as effective or efficient. In short, the Internet is great!

Email is just one aspect of the Internet; the World Wide Web is another part. Once the realm of large companies with big budgets, websites are now expected for organizations of all sizes. In many cases, divisions, departments, and even projects within organizations boast their own website.

Now, an organization without a website is viewed as second rate or is ignored. Websites are also a great equalizer, leveling the playing field between major corporations, smaller competitors, and start-ups.

One seemingly obvious feature of websites is to provide a means for further communication. Therefore, a “contact us” page is a common element. Yet, it’s confounding when contact information can’t be found. These organizations should want to interact with customers and prospects, but visitors to these sites can’t call, write, or even email.

Of course sending a message to an email address found on a website isn’t any guarantee of dialogue. Once, when researching an article, I used a search engine and contacted the first ten companies listed via email.

One site responded within five minutes with a personal response. Two more followed later that day, and a fourth, three days later. But six never responded or even acknowledged receipt of my message. Now it could be that a message or two got lost in cyberspace. That does happen, but certainly not 60 percent of the time.

In another instance, I sent out a targeted email to over 100 addresses gleaned from printed directories and listings. Again, the results were disconcerting.

Six percent were returned because the mailbox was full, 8 percent were rejected because the domain name was “unknown,” 14 percent were refused because the user name “could not be found” and 61 percent did not respond, and only 11 percent replied.

This suggests some steps to take to achieve the best Internet results. The first is basic, but often overlooked: periodically verify that your website is up and running.

True, there are software programs that can do this, but who is checking to make sure the programs are actually running? In addition, who is watching for error messages?

A second critical task is to periodically send out test email messages to important email addresses. If it bounces back or there is an error, the recipient or technical staff can be contacted to correct the problem. This is especially needed for generic email addresses, such as info@…, sales@…, customerservice@…, and so forth.

Don’t leave your online presence to chance. The risk is too great.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.

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Business

What If There Was No Mail?

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

On Monday this week (in the United States) we had no mail delivery because of Veterans’ Day.

To miss mail for one day is not a problem, but what if this occurred on a regular basis? What if Saturday delivery was omitted or we only received mail three days a week? (These ideas are considerations to help the USPS — United States Postal Service — save money.)

I could deal with that, too.

But what if all deliveries stopped? Looking at what I receive via US mail, what would be the contingency plan?

  • Magazines: I like my magazines but would not start reading them online (at least not how it works today). I guess I’d go without — and that would give me more time for other activities. (Of course this would be a problem for those in the magazine business.)
  • Bills: More and more companies send invoices and statements via email. This allows me to move one step closer to paperless bill paying.
  • Checks: My business receives some checks via mail. But payment could be made by credit card or electronic funds transfer instead.
  • Formal communication: Invitations and thank you notes, as well as cards are typically mailed. If need be, they could go online as well.
  • Shipments: Although the USPS is sometimes the least expensive option, it’s far from the only one.
  • Ads and junk mail: I could do without this category of mail, but I supposed they’d go online too and start spamming me.

The USPS isn’t likely to stop all mail delivery anytime soon, but if they did, we could get by.

Read more in Peter’s new book, Sticky Customer Service, to uncover helpful customer service tips, encouraging you to do better and celebrating what you do best.

Peter Lyle DeHaan is an entrepreneur and businessman who has managed, owned, and started multiple businesses over his carer. Recurring themes included customer service, sales and marketing, and leadership and management. He shares his lifetime of business experience and personal insights through his books and posts.