This comes under the heading of really useful. Also under the headings of kind of cool, and different from your competitors. How often have you gone to call someone in another time zone and, after getting their phone number from their website, struggled to work out the exact time where they are? If it happens when you call other people, imagine how often it happens when people call you from abroad?
Enter ClockLink. A range of fully customisable, free clocks for your website or blog. Very nifty, very clever, and just a bit fun. How about a retro digital clock, in the colour of your choice, showing the time in Osaka? Or a more traditional clock face showing the time in Moscow? Or you might want to be sensible and let people know what time it is in Wooton-Under-Edge. In fact, just about any look, colour, face and size is possible. They've even got count down clocks, perfect for your next event. Check out the website and give them a whirl.
Is this a blog from a professional marketer, or a thinly disguised rant from a miffed customer? I don't know, but after a visit to my local coffee shop this morning, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts on the subject of... smiling.
I've read no end of marketing books over the years and always taken some great advice from each one, in addition to some cracking statements that I use when training small businesses in the art of marketing on a shoestring. Most recently, the line: "the process is as important as the outcome" about the delivery of a product or service, really stuck out. And this morning, it was in at the front of my mind when being served by the owner of the coffee shop. She did the right things, albeit in an efficient manner that was bordering on brusque. However, she didn't make eye contact with me and she failed to smile even though I gave her a big beam. What made it worse was that she became animated and smiling when talking to her colleague.
It got me thinking that in our zeal to find the big marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow, we can often overlook the fact that the smallest things make the biggest difference. It's not simply what we actually deliver - whether we sell cakes and coffee or build websites, it is how we actually deliver and whether we make our customers feel fabulous. In my experience, many small businesses can get caught up in searching high and low for their unique selling point when in fact what makes them unique in a sea of "me too" products and services is how they interact with their customers.
So, a warm and genuine smile can go a long way, especially if we deliver products and services face to face. But, if we are not within an arm's-length of our customers, the words we use to describe what we deliver should communicate passion, warmth and enthusiasm. I believe that relevance, simplicity and humanity will define the successful brands of the future and not just the clever use of technology. Now will someone put the kettle on!
I've just returned from taking my wife (Jan) for an eye-test and experienced both ends of the customer care spectrum.
The good - I told Jan we'd meet in a coffee shop when she'd done and suggested she call me when she'd finished. She'd forgotten her mobile but the Assistant in SpecSavers overhearing said, "No problem, we'll call you, Sir..." Brilliant!
The bad - I drove to Jewsons meantime to get some wood. But I needed to borrow a tape measure as I self-selected from their warehouse. I went to the counter and waited while two 'Assistants' gazed blankly at a computer. 'Excuse me...' No response!
Then a bloke came to the counter and put a tin of paint in front of me saying nothing. Still no response from either 'Assistant' to either of us. I gave up and returned to the warehouse where I shifted 15ft lengths of timber while a fork-lift truck circled around me - and I had no health & safety measures while I shopped.... eventually I gave up.
At least when I went to Homebase I found a lady that knew where the stock was, a polite bloke at the till who told me I could cash all my Nectar points off the timber making the whole deal a lot cheaper.
Ah, my mobile. Now where's that coffee...?
Yes, you read that right. I was bowled over when I received customer service that went beyond the call of duty by my mobile phone operator, Phones4U.
I recently received an upgrade on my phone but for one reason or another was sent the wrong phone. When I rang Phones4U at teatime on a Friday, I assumed I’d be waiting in a queue for at least 5 minutes, but was instead put through to an operator straight away. They took my details, listened to my complaint and then transferred me to someone in customer accounts who would sort out swopping my phone for the one I wanted.
Given past experience with other phone companies, I was expecting to have to put up a bit of a fight to get what I wanted but the woman I spoke to was very apologetic for the mistake.
She asked if I would mind using my current sim card and handset for a few more days while they posted an SAE for me to return the phone they’d originally sent me. She was sorry that I would have to pay the postage for sending it back to them but they would include a cheque for £6 to reimburse me for this. As soon as they receive the wrong phone they’ll put the new, correct one in the post straight away.
So why am I so taken aback by this incident? Because it is so rare. How many times have you had to get on the phone to sort out a problem and been left fuming as you are put on hold and then passed from one person to another having to re-confirm your details and re-explain your story every time, that is if you don’t get cut off and left to start all over again.
Customer service matters and if your business gets a reputation for good customer service it will guarantee you customers.
As I said to a potential consultancy client last week (she asked for honest feedback).
“Your business is like a rabbit frozen in the headlights, incapable of making a move or a decision, unable to move in one direction or another.
“You need to unfreeze, relax, take stock and weigh up the choices. With great speed you need to take the bold decision: left or right, up or down. Speed is of the essence. The consequences of making no decision are there for all to see. Do you want to be one more piece of roadkill for the statistics book?”
I apologised for my bluntness but the world seems to be dividing into the decisive and the indecisive, the bold and the meek. The brave and the stupid.
Yes, it is scary out there but we/I/you need to be clear about what we are doing and take clear decisive action.
First things first. Find out who your raving ambassadors are – the people who think your service is remarkable (and are not buying on price). Ask them what they can do to help you get more business. They will tell you. This is certainly a starting point.
What decisions have you been avoiding making? How will you benefit from putting them off?
Robert Craven shows MDs and owners how to grow their sales and profits and focuses on how to do this in recessionary times. His latest book is the runaway success “Beating the Credit Crunch – survive and thrive in the current recession” www.directorscentre.com.
You can argue that the aim of marketing is to build momentum. You need to raise awareness and establish how people perceive your brand. Traditionally this worked well, but I have news for you -- attempting to set perceptions is becoming an increasingly dangerous strategy. You may recall a marketing campaign that had the sole intention of altering your perception of a brand. A soft drinks manufacturer who specialised in blackcurrant-based drinks had complaints about the sugar content and related tooth decay. This caused it to launch a low sugar version. It even had the cojones to sell it as “Toothkind”. The rebranding promoted health benefits and claimed four times the vitamin C levels of rivals. The inconvenient truth proved the product wasn’t good for your teeth and one drink in the range had negligible vitamin C! This little oversight cost the company significant sums of money. But the real stinker was the “corrective advertisements” it was forced to run on national television. It’s always been dangerous to try to build a false perception. Now the rise of social networking has upped the ante. There has been a seismic shift in our abilities to interact and talk to each other, and to build or rubbish brands that annoy us. We are the mob, and the mob is now all seeing. If you are bluffing, it won’t take long for people to find you out. It’s simple; the quality of your offering builds the perceptions. These will be based on fact and customer experience, not marketing spin. Ignore this at your peril.