New Year, New Resolutions – Excellent Customer Service

Welcome to 2012. Happy New Year. It is that time of the year where many people reflect on what has taken place in the year before and what they want to achieve in the following year.

Yes, it is the time for a New Year Resolution. For businesses, many people think about this in terms of key objectives. That is good. But there is one “management objective” that gets to me at this time of the year. Yes, you see it in the title “excellent customer service”.

You hear the head honchos, the chiefs, the GMs; the boss – they say this, “This year, our key strategic focus will be on a) profits, b) growth and c) excellent customer service.”

You know, if you have excellent customer service as your focus this coming year, what were you doing last year? Lousy service?

Let us not confuse what would amount to the essentials with the differentiating factors that set your business apart. A business is always about profits. Growth, maybe also true in many instances, but excellent customer service is not a strategic thrust. Really. It is actually, surprisingly, a fundamental expectation from your customers, of your business.

As a small business, most of us have no time for fluff. We need to focus on the essentials and then, try to identify the one or two defining qualities that set us apart from our competitors. What do you do for your new year’s resolution?

Social Networking in the Working World

It is so easy to take part in the social networking world when you are just a student. What you had for breakfast, where are you now and the many other foibles don’t seem to matter that much.

Then, look at the people who have had some really bad things happen to them when they too participated. The lady who lost her job because she was partying while on Medical Leave, the guy who bad-mouthed his boss…

Well, I don’t know where my friend got this, but I thought it was a really interesting decision tree to share with everyone. So, take a look and let me know what you think.

Have you heard of managed hosting?

For those who have experienced it before, you know that when you site gets into trouble, it is a painful experience.

We recently got our site taken down because someone hacked through some WordPress loophole. Anyway, it’s all good now. But since then, we always pay attention whenever we see any information on web hosting appearing before us.

So, it was only natural and rather tempting to take on a managed hosting package, if nothing else, simply because we could stop worrying about a lot of stuff related to managing the servers.

But that is an over-kill for a small time business like us. But when we do have larger web needs, that is definitely a direction to consider seriously. After all, what is the point of having a nice thriving business if you have to spend all your spare time looking after the little stuff?

At this time, we are still happy with our simple hosted site. But if ever we do grow, its good to know that there are lots of options out there!

Yet Another Web Hosting Review Site!

Well, I had nothing to do over the weekend and decided to see if I could find a better bargain for my webhosting needs. So, I found this webhosting review site and decided to take a look.

Frankly, the “guy” that pops up and starts speaking when you first hit the website sort of scared me. I guess that is one of those new-fangled interactive touches that so many websites today have. Didn’t work for me though I am sure some people dig this kind of stuff.

But after I managed to stop that avatar from speaking, the rest of the site looked good. The information was organised well and I went straight to look at Linux webhosting because that is likely the cheapest option.

What I realized immediately was that there were a lot of webhosts that I have never heard of before. In the end, I more or less made up my mind what I wanted. The information I found on the site helped. But I also wished that the star ratings were a little more relevant. Most of the webhosts seem to be rated 4 or 5 stars and I had to go through the Compare Plans step over and over again to gain more insights.

Maybe I was just lazy, but an expert guide might have helped me better. Sometimes, expert advise is better than us amateurs trying to sort through all the information ourselves. I will likely stick with my current webhost, but this site should be a good reference when I am shopping for a new host.

Small Business Web Hosting

In our previous post, we talked about web sites and translations. Thank you for your comments and feedback. But one of the challenges facing many of us, other than creating a great website, is how to get started in the first place.

Many times, web hosting becomes the first biggest hurdle. Yes, it is not a complicated thing. However, its like text messages on your mobile phone. Whether you are using T9, iTap or pressing buttons repeatedly to tap out your messages, it was tough at first. Most small business owners are not familiar with web hosting even if they are comfortable online with emails and social networks.

There are three key things you need to be aware of:

Is the Web Hosting company reputable/reliable?

The worse thing that can happen is if you got your web site hosted, then a year or two or even three years later, the web hosting company folds up. As a non-technical person, transferring web sites, back up and moving to a new web server is a nightmare.

Is the Web Hosting Plan affordable?

The top tier web hosts are, of course, reliable. But they are also expensive. Many of the smaller web hosting companies are serious businesses with dedicated staff and a solid business plan. Good deals can be found. You just need to spend time asking around and checking.

Is the Customer Service good?

Usually, with a good web hosting company, the only time you need them is at the beginning, when you set up your web site. And of course, at first, everyone is nice. The most important though, is when things go wrong. If you do not have a good customer service, there is little you can do to your web site if the problems are on the “server side” of your site.

Do you have good or bad experiences to share?

Are you talking to me? Translate!

Today’s business can no longer be confined to servicing your neighbourhood. But more importantly, the Internet has created a culture where the whole world is able to look in on you.

While English is considered the de-facto language online, there are really millions of web sites and web users who do not speak English. And the progress of browser technology and computers mean that many languages have found their way online. Sure, you have Google Translate, but are you sure you want your information to be read in that way?

There is a simple solution – professional translation. There are many such services. For convenience, you can use online translation services.

Before you take this path, make sure that you are clear which languages you want to target. Using content management software with multi-language capabilities will save you a lot of time and effort, however, you still need to define the languages you want to appear on your site.

Unless you are a huge multi-national company, it is doubtful if you need more than 2 languages on your website. Beware of this trap. Too many languages may mean that your maintenance costs will increase, or worse, you will have broken content as you struggle to keep up with the translations or to keep the various versions updated.

Web Sites and Usability

Just read an interesting interview over at the Corporate Eye blog about good usability.

This is an interesting read. You would think that after so many years of being online, most of us will have a good grasp of this concept of usability. Well, just as common sense is rather uncommon, than good usability is yet another illusive phantom for many.

Many small companies cannot afford to get a full time team to take care of their website. These sites become white elephants faster than you can eat a Happy Meal. Worse, many of them “cannot afford” to spend to create a decent site. Just yesterday, I saw a site where they simply scanned in their promotion flyer and put it up as a single JPEG file. So, that website had one page, and one page only. Worse, it was just a jagged, slightly blurry JPEG file of a handbill.

There are some nice solutions. For example, if you just need a simple site, yet want it to look professional (eg. Flash, animated menus etc), you can use professional templates that can give you almost an instant site – see www.domains4everyone.com and www.myezynet.com for example.

A professionally designed site will give you a good level of usability. It makes the user feel comfortable and imparts a certain level of trust that they are dealing with an “OK” company. Another important reason for having good usability on your site, you need your visitors to be able to actually find something useful for them. You really don’t want them to come to your website, click around in futility and leave in a huff.

So, if you are interested to hear what an expert has to say about good website usability, go on over to read: Expert interview: David Hamill, Good Usability

Why Corporates Aren’t Blogging?

This post was inspired by Laura Spencer’s The Art of Building Relationship on business blogging as well as the questions I’ve received since I’ve started to blog. Primarily, I was asked if it’s a worthwhile effort to keep a corporate blog as it takes lots of commitment and time to blog consistently. My answer is ‘yes’. Starting this blog has indeed been very rewarding. I had shared with my “Money and You” community recently that this Versa Creations’ blog has created a lot of value for me in many different ways:

  1. more business opportunities to discuss, propose and quote on marketing and advertising projects
  2. more business deals sealed
  3. develop relationship-marketing by sharing my thoughts and experience
  4. build trust and credibility
  5. create corporate branding and give a human voice to the company, and in turn, building a personal branding for myself
  6. provide a differentiator
  7. gain higher visibility online
  8. receive invitations to write for trade publications like Affliate KB and Marketing.
  9. make more friends and develop contacts with people all over the world. (This is how I got to know Laura, a professional copywriter from the USA)
  10. make residual income through text-link advertising

Still, most businesses and corporate companies don’t keep a corporate blog. Yet corporate blogs can be a hit with their customers. Some quick examples are Continue reading “Why Corporates Aren’t Blogging?”