Categories
Healthcare Call Centers

Review Your Website

Plan to Evaluate Your Online Information and Make Sure It’s Up to Date

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD

For the past 25 years I’ve worked on my own websites, designing them, posting content, and keeping them up to date. Sometimes I break them too; then I get to fix my mistakes.

I currently have ten websites for myself, my writing, and my business. Though this experience doesn’t make me a website guru, it has taught me to look at the sites I visit with a critical eye.

Author and blogger Peter Lyle DeHaan

Sadly, I see areas that need improvement on most websites. And too many have obsolete information. You probably know your website needs some attention, but you haven’t gotten around to doing it yet.

I urge you to move this task from your want-to-do list, and put it on your schedule. Write it down and put a date on it. Then do it. Here’s some things to consider:

Read Through Your Website

Start by going through your website. Read through your site methodically, page by page, and read every one. Unless you want to be really diligent, you can skip blog posts. The main thing is to focus on the pages.

This is hard to do and time consuming, especially for large sites. It’s something I don’t do often enough myself, but don’t follow my example. You can do better; after all, you probably don’t have ten sites to go through.

To get through it faster, you can always ask for the help of other people in your organization. This will make the job go faster and be less taxing for everyone.

As you read each page, look for out-of-date text and missing information. Also be on the lookout for missing words, wrong words, and punctuation errors. Likewise flag confusing information so you can fix it later.

Pages To Remove

As you go through your site, you may come across pages you don’t need anymore. Make a note to remove those obsolete pages. The good news is that once you decide you don’t need it, you can stop reading it.

Pages To Add

Just as there are pages you may want to remove, you’ll also discover important content that’s missing. Make a note to add it. This may include new services or products, procedural changes, and information your patients or visitors may commonly seek.

For ideas, check with your call center agents to find out what questions they keep hearing over and over. This is prime material to go online. Yes, not everyone will see it, and they’ll still call and ask. But some people will notice it, and then you’ve just saved your staff a needless phone call.

Site Navigation

When it comes to adding new pages and removing obsolete ones, this affects your website menu and site navigation. You need to adjust your menu accordingly.

Don’t just add or delete options. Instead take a step back, and see if the navigation is logical, intuitive, and easy to use. For help, ask someone outside your organization to look at it and tell you what confuses them about moving through your website. Then implement their suggestions.

Conclusion

For your website to best do the job it’s supposed to do, it must have correct information and give visitors what they’re looking for. This requires periodic reviews of your website’s content and navigation.

Don’t put this step off. Both your staff and your patients will appreciate it.

Read more in Peter Lyle DeHaan’s Healthcare Call Center Essentials, available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D., is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat and Medical Call Center News covering the healthcare call center industry. Get his book, Sticky Customer Service.

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
Writing and Publishing

Six Things to Check on Your Website

As authors, our websites are our home base, the destination all of our online activity points to. We need to make sure our sites are up at all times and working correctly. When there is a problem, we limit our ability to connect with others about our writing.

Here are six things to check:

  1. That it is running: A down site helps no one. Make sure it is working.
  2. That all links work: Broken links are a disservice to our audience and cause Google to devalue our site. Regularly search for and fix broken links
  3. That there are no spam comments: Quickly remove spam. Spam in the comment section clutters the site and reflects badly on its owner.
  4. That there is no malware: Malware that infiltrates a site can potentially infect computers that visit it. No one wants to cause problems on other people’s computers.
  5. That it properly displays on mobile devices: More people access websites from smartphones and mobile devices than from computers. To display properly on a smaller screen, use a “responsive” theme. If your site is not responsive, view it on a mobile device to see how it looks.
  6. That all forms work: Periodically test forms to make sure they work. A broken form is a missed opportunity.

The good news is that the first four of these items can be automated. That leaves only two items needing direct attention – and only one when using a mobile responsive theme.

Save

Save

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Three Reasons to Comment on Blog Posts – and One Reason Not To

There are several blogs I follow; I read them whenever I can. Sometimes I just read, and other times I read and comment. Only a small percent of blog readers take time to comment. The reasons are many: too busy, a lack of confidence, not knowing what to say, fear, and so forth. There are, however, some reasons why we should comment. Here are three:

1) To Interact With Others: The biggest reason to comment is to connect with other likeminded readers. Some do more than just comment on the post, they also comment on other comments. Just remember to keep things positive and civil. Don’t say something online you wouldn’t say in person to your closest friends.

2) To Connect With The Author: As we read blogs, we get to know the author, but the author doesn’t know us at all, though most want to. Adding relevant comments, with appropriate self-disclosure allows the author (and other readers) to get to know us. And don’t we all want to be known?

3) A Link to Our Site: Though it’s secondary, most commenting programs allows us to include a link to our website when we comment. This is good for search engine optimization (SEO), and it provides a means for others to learn more about us if they wish.

4) Not to Promote Our Book: Commenting on blogs is not the place to promote ourselves or our books. Comments are for dialogue not marketing. Avoid temptation.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Is Your Website Responsive?

With more and more people viewing websites from mobile devices, it’s critical that our sites work well with smaller screens, that they are “responsive.” In simple terms, a responsive website is one that automatically resizes to fit the viewing area of the appliance accessing it.

In the past this meant making a separate version of each page for mobile screens, be it a smartphone, tablet, e-reader, and so forth. Now many website themes have this functionality built into them. If a theme isn’t “responsive,” then don’t use it.

Having a responsive website, one that is mobile-friendly, is important for two reasons. First, we are near a point where the majority of sites are accessed not by a computer but by a portable device. Not having a responsive site hampers half our readers from having a usable experience.

The other key reason is that Google is reportedly rewarding responsive sites by placing them higher in search engine results. This means they are effectively penalizing sites that do not play well with mobile devices.

Although you could test your site with every size and type of mobile appliance to see if it is responsive, Google has provided an online tool to check for us. Just enter your web address (URL) and click “analyze.” It takes less than a minute.

If it says “mobile-friendly,” then you are all set. If it reports your site is “not mobile-friendly,” then find a responsive theme or hire a website developer to correct the problem.

Whether we are selling books or promoting something else, our websites are there for people to use. We don’t want to eliminate half the population because our site doesn’t work well with mobile devices.

Categories
Writing and Publishing

Three More Tips for Your Book-Promoting Platform

In using your website as the foundation of your book-selling, platform-building initiative, there are several key points to follow. The first three are to make it mobile responsive, remove clutter, and delete slow plugins. That is, to pursue a minimalist design; less is more.

Here are three more website tips:

  • Fix Broken Links: Broken links—be it internal links to other pages on your site or external links to other websites— are disrespectful to visitors. At the very least, broken links will frustrate them and at the worst, cause them to leave. Search engines also don’t like broken links. If they find broken links on your site, they will lower your ranking and thereby suggest your site to fewer people. Fortunately, there are programs that can search for and notify you of broken links so you can fix them.
  • Implement SEO Best Practices: Books have been written detailing search engine optimization (SEO), so a brief blog post won’t cover everything. But the basics are to use alt tags on your graphics, appropriately include your targeted keywords in your content, consider both people and search engines when writing your titles and include a good description and relevant keywords. Whatever you do, don’t try to game the system, because you will eventually be caught and penalized.
  • Keep Your Site Up-To-Date and Regularly Add New Content: Regular visitors (your biggest supporters) and search engines both like to see new content on your site. Keep them happy with regular posts. Also, be sure to remove outdated information so you don’t frustrate visitors.

That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll talk about the importance of capturing email addresses.


Categories
Writing and Publishing

Less is More in Website Design

In my post The First Step in Building Your Platform I laid out a number of recommendations for a website, as the foundation for a book-promoting platform. The first three were to make our sites responsive to mobile devices, remove the clutter, and delete slow plugins. In short, embrace the concept that less is more.

Minimalist designs are in; including every possible item on one page is out.

As more and more people access websites from smartphones, we want to make it easy for them to find what they want, access it quickly, and not introduce needless delays. By showing them less, we give them more.

A few years ago, I hired a website designer to provide a fresh and up-to-date look for my main website. Although pleased with the results, even from the beginning it felt a bit cluttered. Last month, I unveiled a new look for the site, embracing the less is more mantra. As a bonus, I retained all key information and simplified the navigation. Although I’ll never proclaim it as finished, I like what I see.


Categories
Writing and Publishing

The First Step in Building Your Platform

After you write and publish your book, the next step is to promote it. This requires a platform.

However, don’t build your platform around a social media site. You can’t control that. Overnight they could change the rules, limit your reach, make you pay to be seen, or even summarily turn off your account. Then, you’ve lost the platform you worked hard to build.

Instead, make your website the home base for your platform, a website you control and own. Then use social media as a tool to point people to your site.

So, the first step in building your platform is to have a website—or fix your existing one. Do this before you spend another moment on social media or even think about growing your platform or reach.

On your website:

  • Make your site responsive to mobile devices.
  • Remove the clutter.
  • Delete slow plugins.
  • Fix all broken links.
  • Implement SEO best practices.
  • Keep your site up-to-date and regularly add new content.
  • Capture visitor email addresses.
  • Link to your social media sites and other online content – and link them back.
  • Integrate your blog with your site, and make it your primary means to interact with followers.

Once you complete these steps, then, and only then, should you work to build out your platform.