Categories
Telephone Answering Service

What Does Your Website Do for You?

Make the Most of Your Online Presence to Better Serve Customers and Grow Your Business

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Does your telephone answering service have a website? I hope so. What does your website do for your business? Over the years, I’ve seen a wide range of TAS websites, from severely lacking to impressively professional.

They fall into some common categories. Consider which category yours fits into. Then determine if it’s the right one.

A Placeholder

Some websites are nothing more than a placeholder. It may say “coming soon” or have generic text that gives no specific information.

I suspect this is from companies that registered the domain name to use for email purposes. Or maybe it’s businesses that registered the name but never got around to setting up the site.

Either way, be aware that prospects and others looking to learn about your business will stumble upon it. The message a placeholder website sends is not a good one. You’d be better off if it didn’t exist.

An Online Brochure

Moving beyond a do-nothing placeholder website is turning it into an online brochure. Effectively this means taking what once would have been in printed marketing materials and putting them online.

Typically this begins as a one-page website. There’s nothing wrong with this. At a basic level, an online brochure provides visitors with some information about your operation. It’s a great start.

An Information Center

Building upon a website as an online brochure, add other content that prospects will find helpful. This means adding more pages. In addition to your marketing information, you’ll want a homepage, an about us page, and a contact page.

You may also want a blog to post news and content marketing pieces, but don’t jump into starting a blog without first thinking it through and making sure you or someone on your team has the commitment to produce content on a regular basis.

A Marketing Tool

You can expand your website beyond an information center and turn it into a marketing tool. You can add pages that cover services offered, specialties or industries served, testimonials or reviews, pricing, and a sign-up form.

Which ones you include will vary with your marketing strategy, so don’t think you need to pursue every suggestion. Just add what makes sense for your situation.

A Client Support Resource

Until now we covered website options from the perspective of a prospect. It should also have a section for clients. Provide client-specific information to help them get the most out of their experience with your answering service.

You can also include a client portal to allow them to access messages, submit a customer service request, and make on-call or employee directory changes. You can also allow them to pay their bill online.

Most or all these options should require a customer login, thereby blocking prospects from accessing this information or trolls intent on causing mischief.

Your Online Hub for All Interaction

The best websites are both a marketing tool and a customer support resource. It becomes your online hub for communication with both prospects and clients.

If your website is currently at this level, well done! But that doesn’t mean you’re finished. Look for ways to make it simpler to navigate and more user-friendly.

A website is never done and requires ongoing tweaking. The goal is that each change makes it better and more effective.

Learn more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s book, How to Start a Telephone Answering Service.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of TAS Trader, covering the telephone answering service industry. Check out his books How to Start a Telephone Answering Service and Sticky Customer Service.

Categories
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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
Business

Stop Selling and Start Serving

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Once when I needed to order some ink cartridges for my printer—the kind I can only buy directly from the vendor. There was a problem with the website, so I picked up the phone to place my order.

I told the agent I wanted to order two black ink cartridges.

Not surprisingly, she suggested I buy a package that included two color cartridges as well. “No thank you, just black.”

Upon discovering the age of my printer, she tried to sell me a new printer. “No thank you—I just need ink.”

When I acknowledged that I own several computers from her company, she asked if they were working okay and did I… “No, I just want to buy ink.”

Then she offered me a special price on anti-virus software for only…, “No, I only want ink!”

Next, she inquired if I was interested in a maintenance plan to… “NO, just ink!”

Perhaps she was supposed to try to upsell me five times or maybe she was on commission. I don’t know. What I do know is when the call took twice as long as it needed to, I became irritated, and the likelihood of me buying another printer from them is highly unlikely.

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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
Business

The Side Effects of Discounts

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

I recently shared my experience with my office supply chain’s enticing coupon offers. The result was a short-term increase in my buying habits, followed by a prolonged lull.

In like manner, years ago, my Internet hosting company embarked on a similar strategy. Their approach was offering discounts. Depending on the offer, it would be 10 to 30 percent off for a specific product purchase or for a certain level of spending. Each discount offer was time-sensitive, lasting from a few days to a couple of weeks.

They had sent me 10 such offers for four weeks; that averages one discount about every three days. Whenever I needed to buy something from them, I know there was a discount that would apply.  I simply picked the best, most applicable one, and saved money—on every purchase.

Not only had their incessant discount offers trained me to expect to not pay their standard prices, they had also lost money, as I would had made every purchase anyway.

While I was enjoying the savings, I was left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
Business

The Side Effects of Coupons

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

A couple of years ago my preferred office supply store embarked on a creative strategy to sell me more stuff. And it worked—for a while.

They started emailing me coupons that offered nice discountsif I spent about 50% more than what had been my typical historical purchase. Not wanting to pass up a good deal, I used their coupons, buying what I needed now and stocking up for the future.

If anyone were tracking the results of their marketing efforts on me, they would have been pleased; there was at least a 50 percent boost in my spending with them, likely more.

The problem was that my growing stock of office supplies would already cover me for the next several years. Aside from ink cartridges and batteries, I’m nicely provisioned.

I had enough printer paper, file folders, highlighters, paperclips, staplers, rubber bands, pens, and what not to last me a good long time. In fact, I don’t think I would needed to buy file folders or paperclips for the rest of my life.

So, after enticing me to increase my purchasing for a couple years, they were paying the price of that short-term gain. I was buying next to nothing.

When I received my $15 reward certificate, I had trouble finding anything I neededeven though it would be free! Of course, that just further forestalled me from actually buying something from them.

If you multiply my experience by the thousands of others who received similar coupon promotions, I suspect that corporate was scratching their collective heads over what happened; it wouldn’t surprise me if careers where made and lost over this whole ordeal.

The lesson to be learned is that a coupon today could result in a no-sale tomorrow.

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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
Business

Opt-in Email Marketing: Proceed with Caution

Use Opt-in Email Marketing With Care

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Years ago, two companies that I “opted in” to receive messages did it wrong—so I voted with the cancel link and opted out.

I had happily bought from both and eagerly accepted their requests to opt-in to receive promotional emails. I don’t know how often they were sending messages, but it seemed like a reasonable amount.  If I were to guess, I would say it was once or twice a month.

When Christmas season approached, there was a definite increase in frequency to about once a week. Still, that was okay. One sent a coupon for a 20% discount and the other an offer for free shipping. Using these promotions, I placed orders with each. I was pleased with the results.

As Christmas approached, the flow of messages increased even more, as did the urgency to act. I assumed I would need to tolerate their push for Christmas sales until after December 25th, when things would return to normal.

Things didn’t go back to normal. Soon I was receiving a message every day from both companies. When my irritation hit my breaking point, I opted out. Relief at last.

I would likely have ordered from both in the future, but it might have been months. Enduring an email message everyday, just so I might have a valuable discount in six months is not worth the frustration. Unfortunately for them, they are now off my radar screen, so if a competitor shows up at the right time, I could end up buying from them instead.

I’m sure that each time these companies sent out an email blast, they were rewarded with orders. However, if many otherwise-satisfied customers reacted as I did, the cost of these short-term sales will be a long-term loss of customers.

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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
Business

When Customer Rewards Programs Go Bad

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Ten years ago, I have signed up for the “rewards” program at my favorite office supply store. In addition to mailing me coupons and emailing me special offers (which is how I bought a paper shredder for $10), they also keep track of my purchases, which allows me to earn quarterly discounts.

Conceptually, this is a great business idea. It promotes store/brand loyalty and gives me an incentive to not consider their competition.

When I was emailed my recent statement of activity, I actually looked at it. I wanted to make sure that the recent ink cartridges that I returned for recycling had been credited to my account.

They had not. Nor was the purchase that I made that day. Looking through each statement for this year, they had a record of only one purchase.

Why do they scan my card? Since charges don’t end up in my statement, scanning it seems to be largely an exercise in futility.

It makes me wonder if their competitor—whose store is right across the street from them—has a rewards program that works better and could actually capture all my purchases.

I’m sure that it’s not the goal of their rewards program is to drive customers to their competition, but that could very well be what happens.

Sadly, their rewards program has gone bad—and as a result, this customer could go away.

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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
Call Center

A Disconnect Between Marketing and Technology

I was a loyal customer of a national office supply chain (they’ll remain nameless to protect their otherwise good image). I was a preferred customer, which entitles me to special discounts and occasional rewards (on those rare quarters when I buy “enough” product.) They also send me an email, seemingly weekly, of sales and special offers.

Ten years ago,  I scanned their latest missive and noticed deals on paper shredders. I’ve been using a light-duty model for years and it’s showing its age as it groans through the documents I feed it. I figured that when it shredded its last page, I would replace it with a heavy-duty model.

Incredibly, they were offering an “on-line only” price of $10 for a light-duty model, similar to, but better than my old faithful.  At $10, there was little to lose; the super-deluxe model could wait.

I went to their website to place my order. I entered my email address only to be informed that they had no record of it in their files.

How curious. They had just emailed me that morning; obviously, someone had a record of my email. Unfortunately, the marketing department and the IT (information technology) department were not operating from a common resource.

I was going to abort my order (one explanation why e-commerce shopping charts are abandoned). However, out of a sense of adventure, I forged on. I placed my order without logging in; at it’s conclusion I was asked to sign-up to receive email alerts. I entered my address and they happily took it.

There was an obvious disconnect between what Marketing was doing and IT’s ability to support them.  I wonder how many sales were lost as a result.

Check out Sticky Customer Service for practical insights into how to provide great customer service (and what to avoid).

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Connections Magazine, covering the call center teleservices industry. Read his latest book, Healthcare Call Center Essentials.

Categories
Business

Beware the Survey Turned Sales Pitch

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

Several years ago, as I was mowing my lawn, a stranger pulled into my driveway. He approached with the determined look of a salesman. With no way to make myself scarce, I waited as he approached. He was taking a survey.

Suspicious that it was really a guise for a sales pitch, I hesitated, contemplating the most effective way of returning to my lawn-mowing mission. Finally I consented out of a sense of expedience.

His Question 1: “Do you think that right here today there is air pollution?”

My Answer: “Yes.”

Question 2: “Do you think the air in your house is better, worse, or the same as the air outside?”

Answer: “The same.” (Actually I recall hearing that it is usually worse, but I was taking a calculated middle ground.)

Question 3: “Do you and anyone in your family suffer from asthma or allergies?” 

Answer: “No.”  (Real answer: “Some allergies,” but I didn’t want to give Kevin too much encouragement.

Kevin said he would enter me into a drawing, asking for my name, my bride’s name, and my phone number. Knowing that all three pieces of information are readily available, I supplied them, but determined to provide no more.

Fortunately that was all he asked. I was now registered to be in a quarterly drawing for 1,000 gallons of gas and a daily drawing for two pizzas and eight movies passes.

Three hours later Meg called from “Southside” to tell me that my name had been drawn—imagine that. This was playing out as I suspected, so I went along. Kevin wanted to personally come out and give me my prize.

A time was set and then Meg said that Kevin would get a bonus if I listened to a brief sales presentation about Rainbow products. (Brief, by the way, is “35 minutes—depending on how many questions you ask.”)

Pretending to be unaware, I asked what Rainbow was and Meg hesitated, “Well it’s like cleaning the air with water.”

Unfortunately collecting my prize was contingent on spending 35 minutes will Kevin. Although pizzas and movies are very high on my list of preferred things, I suspected that even after enduring a 35-minute sales spiel, there would still be a catch, so I declined.

“Do you want me to give your prize to someone else?” Meg implored with feigned incredulity.

“Sure,” I responded, “go ahead.” I wasn’t any closer to my pizzas and movies—but at least I had enough info for my blog.

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 insghts through his books and posts.

Categories
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 insghts through his books and posts.