What A Pain In The Password

Password painThe volume of online activities, transactions and cloud based software applications has evolved and exploded in the last few years bringing with it a new challenge: managing passwords.  It used to be pretty simple to keep track of the one password you used for the few places you needed to log into to pay a bill, check a balance or status and see what your friends were having for lunch.  However the sheer number of sites that now require a login has created a complex landscape that we must manage and master just to survive.

Warning: don’t use one password for all sites

The days of having one password for everything you log into are following the same path as leg warmers, parachute pants and bag phones. Your best bet is to turn that habit into nostalgia immediately.  Hackers are smart enough to figure out that we reuse our passwords for multiple site logins.  Think for a moment about the damage a hacker could do once they unlock just one of your login password combinations.  One brief visit to Facebook and they know where you live, work, shop, bank and play based on what you like and follow.

Warning: don’t get too comfortable

So you’ve been using the same password to access your bank account for a zillion years. Unfortunately, the longer you keep the same password the more likely that you will be hacked.  Many online and cloud based software applications are moving to password expiration as an added level of security requiring that you change the password every few months.  If this feature is not available, do yourself a favor and schedule time to change your passwords across all your most critical login sites once each quarter.  Sites containing your business, customers or financial and personal information should be top priorities.

Warning: it’s only going to get worse

If the idea of keeping track of all these passwords and changes makes you dizzy don’t panic.  But do not ignore the fact that managing your passwords has now become a serious and real task.  The good news is that software gurus have developed password management tools to help you stay on top of the changes you’ll be making.  PC Magazine wrote this helpful article comparing the new password management technology and the features they offer.  The pricing ranges from a free level up to $30 per year which is a true bargain for keeping you organized and secure.

The bottom line: take your password management seriously.  If you think managing this task is a pain just wait until some hacker discovers the password key to your online kingdom.  Now that would be a real pain in the password.

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Social Media and Customer Service: Best Practices

Software toolWe’ve been exploring new trends in customer care by looking at how social media can be leveraged to meet the expectations of today’s connected customer.  In our last article we looked at why you should use social media as a customer service tool.  We collected a list of best practices that will make the management of this new approach simple and effective for any size business.

The need for speed

Customers expect a fast response to their inquiry or complaint. Facebook and Twitter are two platforms that provide the quick response capability your customers will appreciate. If you have a team member handling customer service in the conventional way add the task of watching Facebook and Twitter with a check in every hour or two.  If you are a one person operation the same rule should apply.  Set a reminder to check in throughout the day so you can head off any potential issues that you see in the comments.  Your business may not require this level of frequency but based on the trends we discussed in this article series every business must build this task into their customer management routine.

The right tool for the job

Don’t overwhelm yourself with using every social media platform for customer service. Decide on one platform and direct your customers to it throughout your website and marketing communication.  Nike uses Twitter where they established a separate Twitter handle just for customer support which they monitor and update throughout the day.  To simplify this task we recommend using a software to manage your social media in one place.  Hootsuite, ZenDesk, HappyFox, FreshDesk and Salesforce Desk are just a few examples of tools that will make this task much easier and less time consuming.

The direct approach

Being proactive, transparent and highly communicative will earn you the respect of both your existing and prospective customers. For example, if you discover a problem with your product take to social media before they do and address the issues directly.  Show your audience that you are willing to take responsibility for mistakes, problems and complaints. And don’t forget to add a touch of humor to show the human side of your company.  Using social media to broadcast updates, revisions and improvements to your product or service is another important communication tool for your fans and followers. This direct approach will build customer loyalty and your fan base to an even greater level.

Even a small business can leverage the power of social media as a tool to improve customer service.  How are you using social media for your customer service?  Do you have a favorite approach or tool?  Share your ideas in the comments below.

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Social Media For Customer Service? Absolutely!

customer serviceIn our last article we discussed the new rules of engagement in social media.  We believe that the power of your conventional approach to social media can be turned up significantly by combining it with a real time component.  When it comes to customer care a real time response can boost both your customer retention and your bottom line revenue.  Let’s take a closer look at some developing trends.

Customer service is changing

Customer service is the biggest and most important reason to incorporate a real time social media based approach to your customer care and retention efforts.  At the core of this reasoning is the changing expectations of your customers.  In general, customer expectations have expanded to the point where they expect to receive a response to a complaint or inquiry within an hour.  Dialing your way through a multi-level phone maze, enduring multiple transfers to different departments or filling out an online form and sending it into a black hole equal additional frustration for an already annoyed customer. And the ripple effect on your business can be significant.

An article at ClickZ Marketing News reported this data:

Social Media Marketing University (SMMU) survey conducted in February looking at data from 120 large companies such as Samsung, Macy’s, and BMW, SMMU found that 11 percent of brands have lost revenue, 15 percent have lost customers, and 26 percent have tarnished reputations, all because of negative comments on social media.

Meet them where they live

Social media sites have become an integral part of our culture. As a result the use of these platforms for customer service is turning the corner from cutting-edge concept to business necessity. And at a pretty good pace.  Dan Evans, in his great article on Fixing Customer Care explains this trend:

It’s driven by time-starved, gratification seeking customers for whom the prospect of calling and waiting is off-putting. Even though most issues are resolved promptly, the mental perception for most customers is ‘I need to call customer care… but I’ll do it later when I have time.’ And perception is reality.

Using social media your frustrated customer can be helped more quickly than by conventional methods. The result is a more positive overall experience reducing the likelihood of negative comments. This rapid response and attention also makes it less likely that you will be dealing with an upset customer phone call.

How do you make this work?

Companies are experimenting with all the social platforms but Twitter and Facebook seem to be the current leaders for real time engagement and customer service.  In our next article we will take a closer look at some best practices for providing excellent customer care through social media.

 

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Social Media: New Rules of Engagement

social media engagementWhen we talk about social media do you immediately think of your kids’ Facebook or Twitter proclaiming what they had for lunch and decide social is a frivolous and dangerous time-waster?  Are you one of those who put together a social media plan that cranks out posts and updates in a well scheduled highly mechanized manner?  If you answered yes to either one of those questions you must read the rest of this post.  Right now.  Please.

A conventional approach to social media

Social media has been part of the business landscape long enough that we are beginning to become entrenched in a method of management that is only partly effective.  As businesses adapt to managing an online presence they are becoming too mechanized in their approach.  A conventional approach favors a campaign that requires you to spend weeks or months planning to hit targets by developing messaging strategies and content with strict adherence to your marketing calendar.  Stuffy, formal and only taking advantage of half of the opportunity social offers.

A real-time approach to social media

Social media was designed around the idea of real-time communication.  A real-time approach  recognizes and leverages the importance of speed.  Let’s look at customer service for an example of leveraging speed.  Mike O’Brien at ClickZ Marketing News explains:

If a consumer contacts a business with a question or complaint, they typically expect a response within the hour. However, a Social Media Marketing University (SMMU) survey conducted in February shows that only 17 percent of businesses respond to customer complaints via social media within that hour time period and a surprising 21 percent of businesses never respond at all, which often leads to customers feeling negatively toward brands and sharing their bad experiences with their social networks.

The fact is the balance of power has shifted to the connected consumer. Real time response to customer inquiries will be the standard by which all companies will be judged in the very near future.

Stay calm and respond

First thing you absolutely must do is abandon the idea that social media is a frivolous and dangerous time-waster.  Real adults, real customers, in fact your customers are using social media to share their experiences.  Second, do not abandon the more conventional marketing content plan and calendar you took time to develop.  As we stated earlier it is fully half of the opportunity that social media offers and must work in concert with your real time engagement efforts.

In our next article we’ll be taking a closer look at using social media as a customer service tool.

By the way, does your business use a real-time approach to social media?  We’d love to hear about it so please leave a comment.

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Your Mobile Ready Website: To eCommerce And Beyond

eCommerceIn the last few articles we’ve been exploring the topic of mobile ready websites.  We started out by explaining the need for a Mini Me website then went on to discuss your mobile site from your customer’s perspective.  In this discussion we’ll tackle the topics of eCommerce and overall usability of your mobile ready website.  The goal here is to present helpful, valuable points on a technical topic in a simplified, easy to understand way.  Leave your comments at the bottom and let us know if we’ve hit the mark.

Timing with eCommerce really does matter

When it comes to eCommerce the timing and order of steps in your process does matter.  And that timing is even more important for the mobile user.  For example requiring registration too early in the process has the potential to turn users away.  Some best practices regarding eCommerce:

  • Make browsing easy and registration optional
  • Allow purchases as a guest but promote registration
  • Enable autofill of data for registered users
  • Provide a click-to-call button for complex or detailed orders and requests
  • Add a save to cart feature for users who might need to return later

Optimizing for mobile really does matter

We’ve talked a lot about your landing page but ultimately every page on your website should be optimized for the mobile user.  Some best practices regarding optimizing for the mobile user:

  • Make every page mobile ready to eliminate zooming and users missing a call to action
  • Use high quality images (for products) that can be easily enlarged for better viewing
  • Keep as much functionality as possible in a single window to avoid switching windows
  • Explain your user’s location requests as fully as possible
  • Make sure your page content loads in logical order (specifically for mobile)

Check out the GoMo Meter

We found this really cool analyzer that will evaluate your website and rate it on performance and readiness for multiple screen sizes.  The tool can be found on this Google page about halfway down the page on the right.  The analyzer will rate your mobile and desktop page speed, provide a user experience rating and make a list of suggested fixes to improve performance.  This page also offers some in depth whitepapers on mobility and websites for mobile users.

The bottom line

Some businesses and industries have a more urgent need to be mobile ready and user friendly.  But ultimately every business will have to deal with the multiple screen issue. Users will continue to demand easy access and fluid navigation from a variety of devices. And with the rapid advance of devices like wearable technology the challenge will be to keep pace and capture every possible user and make them a customer.

Did we do it? Did we hit the mark on this topic?  Please let us know in the comments below.

 

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