Making Online Customer Service Information Safer

People tend to trust search engines. The concept seems simple, actually. When you have a question, click over to your favorite search engine, ask your question, and browse through the results offering a bevy of information that usually – hopefully – answers your question.

However, phishers, scammers and anyone with the intention of stealing information and personal data are now leveraging search engines for their own use. One recent story suggests these harmful users are taking advantage of unknowing people who attempt to find customer service contact information for mega-sized companies such as Facebook and Google. After all, do you know Facebook’s customer service 800-number? Why not “Google” it?

When a person types in “Facebook customer service”, there are results that appear that look to be official web pages offering up contact numbers for the company’s customer service department.

Upon further review, these numbers lead people directly to harmful scammers who are quick to use tactics that obtain personal information and security details.

We shouldn’t be quick to sound the alarm. This article isn’t designed to deter people from using their favorite search engine, which still serve a monumentally helpful purpose in research and obtaining information.

However, when it comes to engaging and communicating with a certain company or brand, such as contacting the customer service team at a specific company, there may be a better, safer, way.

Customer service is moving toward more digital support and for many brands a self-support environment, where consumers log onto a brand’s website or social channels, type in their query and access a variety of digital support materials available to help answer their question. And since those channels and the website are controlled by the brand, the information is more trusted and reliable than what may be found in general search engine results.

The upside here, besides the increased security of the data, is the fact that people of all age groups are now used to searching online for answers to their own queries. Favorite things to do in Key West? Best minivan for my family? Cooking instructions for a turkey at Thanksgiving? These are all questions we ask a search engine, and the results help get answers to what we’re looking for.

Customers call on service departments all the time, or even walk into their local store to get help. Consider a new smartphone purchase; often times after the purchase, customers will have a variety of questions regarding their account, or the functionality of the mobile device itself. Rather than waiting on hold for thirty minutes to speak with a customer service agent at their mobile carrier to ask questions, this same customer service information is now pre-loaded onto the carrier’s website and digital properties like Facebook, accessible to any customer, anytime, anywhere, for a more convenient way of handling customer queries and concerns.

With today’s artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, the more customers utilize this type of channel with a positive outcome, the “smarter” the process becomes for future customer interactions.

For example, the way to optimize search for self-service is to implement a metric that allows the best results to match a user’s satisfaction rating. The best measure of quality for search results is content effectiveness. Content effectiveness combines the frequency with which a customer selects a piece of content based on the search terms and the quality of the interaction with content as measured by positive feedback, time spent on content and deflection of calls to customer service.

As more customers rely on branded websites and self-service digital support materials, the more convenient and safer the customer support process will become in the future.

Editor’s Note: James Ramey is CEO of DeviceBits, a software company that services clients through a predictive and personalized understanding of interactive tutorials, adaptive FAQs, Interactive Guides, and Videos designed to for self-serving consumers. For more info visit Device Bits.

Amazon Files Third Lawsuit to Avoid Fraudulent Reviews

One of the best marketing techniques any business can have, is to receive and publish glowing reviews from purchasers. Amazon, selling everything from books, technology and even fashion and health related items, clearly has plenty to win or lose if doubts are cast with respect to the veracity of its customer reviews. In an effort to crack down on allegedly fake reviews the online company recently filed its third lawsuit against the owners of five new sites promising positive customer reviews.

One of the sites was Paid Book Reviews offering customers 100 reviews for $2,200. This site states that it comprises “a team of writers who understand the effect of positive customer reviews on your book’s sales.” Two types of book reviews are covered: unverified (the writers read the sample pages of a book on Amazon.com and post positive comments) and verified (the company buys the client’s book, reads it on Kindle and posts positive comments on Amazon). Purchasers can opt for as few as five book reviews, for only $125. Thanks to Kindle, tablets and other mobile technology the reviews can clearly be lucrative for the company offering them, since there is no need to purchase a physical copy of the books. Kindle books, which can be read on mobile devices regardless of the reader’s location in the world, cost less than physical books and can be reviewed by writers and critics form anywhere in the world.

Amazon began filing lawsuits in April 2015; so far, over 1,000 reviewers have been targeted. Some of these sites have already closed, and the information obtained has enabled Amazon to also ban specific sellers and reviewers from using their site. In its official statement,   Amazon claims that legal action has been taken to stop sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fake reviews, but also to put an end to the larger ecosystem of individuals and businesses that support inauthentic reviews in return for money.

Savvy Amazon users take note; it is possible to spot fake reviews thanks to free website, Fakespot. Just copy and paste the link to the product page, and click Analyze. If you use Chrome,   add the Fakespot extension and simply click the Fakespot icon in your toolbar –   you will instantly be told if the reviews you are reading are considered low quality .  If Fakespot deems a review ‘low quality’, the likelihood is that those reviewing the product are likely to have reviewed other items by the same company, that they have written only extremely positive reviews, or that they have reviews products they have not purchased. These are pretty good indicators that reviews given are not based on one’s real experience or opinion.

Research indicates that up to 90 per cent of customers make purchasing decisions influenced by positive online reviews, while around 86 per cent are influenced by negative reviews. Around two thirds of online buyers read reviews, since brands can sell similar products and lack of awareness of differences in quality and features of online items makes reviews an invaluable source of information.

Research has also shown that B2B companies stand most to gain from customers who have had a good experience with them and who review their products and services online. Over 60 per cent of purchasers claim to have purchased products or services from a B2B company after reading positive reviews. The key to receiving a good review does not only lie in the product itself, but also customer service, which is ranked as a primary factor in influencing the degree to which customers trust companies.

Because customer service is so important,  marketing managers should work closely alongside customer service personnel , so that customer concerns expressed on social networking sites are attended to promptly and efficiently. Equally important is the practice of answering negative comments and reviews online, for others to see. Often, the percentage of negative comments can be reduced simply by attending speedily to complaints and problems, offering solutions and bonuses to clients who chose to remain loyal despite a glitch or two. Social media platforms should also be used to announce changes made to service policy or products, based on comments by customers. Ultimately, reviews, even negative ones, should be seen as an opportunity for companies to grow and adapt to the changing demands of the market and their target client.

Author

Author is Helen Young

The Science of Graphics

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Infographic was created by Bigstock Photo

Knock Your Clients’ Socks Off: 6 Customer Service Musts

Agents who provide superior customer service build bonds with their clients that lead to long-term relationships. Therefore, the service you provide lies at the heart of your referral pipeline. It’s not good enough to be average when it comes to your customers’ experience. There are many agents to choose from, so you have to prevent your clients from looking elsewhere. Make sure that your excitement and desire to work with a customer is matched by your words, your actions and your behavior.

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Put on Your Friendly Face

First impressions are crucial. Whether a client likes you is determined in the first few seconds of meeting. You can have the most professional marketing materials in the world but the test of your likeability and trust comes in the first connection. If early on you aren’t projecting warmth and friendliness, and putting your to-be client at ease quickly, the chances of getting to the next level of a business relationship are reduced.

Text Your Leads

Conventional wisdom says to call a lead, but more than 90 percent of people respond to texts within five minutes. And keep texting and calling them. Research shows that it takes on average six attempts to get a hold of a new client, so your persistence pays off. When you text, make your copy concise and action oriented, such as “I’m setting my appts for the next few days, what day and time would work best for us to meet?”

Communicate All News Good and Bad

If you aren’t brave enough to make a hard phone call, real estate might not be for you. Clients expect you to not be afraid to pick up the phone and deliver bad, conflicting or contrary news. And, the quicker you communicate with a client, the better for all involved. You increase the chances your client will want to use your services again or refer you to others when you demonstrate the ability to communicate bad news effectively.

Learn From Bad Experiences

It’s a good idea in your early interactions with clients to ask them what they didn’t like about their last Realtor. Odds are, the list of what went poorly, or not as the expected, will tell you a lot about how to conduct yourself with the client. Sometimes a complaint might be around communication such as, “My agent would never call me back!” or “My agent didn’t keep me updated.” Take notes of these negatives and use them to inform your responses.

Inform and Educate

Many clients don’t have a clue about what lies ahead in their transaction. It’s important to spend time with them at the very beginning, giving them a short-course on what to expect during their buying or selling process. For example, explain your commission. Many clients think agents are paid a lot for doing little. So explain how it works; how a commission split works, the fees involved, the cost of things like photography and marketing, etc. Make sure they know key terms and people such as what earnest money is, who escrow is, what title does. The more informed they are, the more likely they’ll be positive about the process.

Do the Extras

The key to rising above the crowd is to consistently exceed expectations. Do you roll up your sleeves and stain a fence, perform minor maintenance, plant plants? How about advising clients on how to protect their credit or their identity throughout the transaction? Do you refer and meet contractors at the house, even if the client is there, too? Do you regularly send thank you cards, pay for a bill that might be someone else’s responsibility, or call back with an answer sooner than the client expected? Showing your willingness to step in and get involved. Advising clients on topics that might seem over the top to other agents is a sure-fire way to be a stand-out in your clients’ minds and build a positive reputation.

Note: Even though I’m taking a break, I did say I would create blog posts and share them on social media:

  • If I have something to say
  • If a guest blogger has something to say.

Hope this helps.

Semi – final post

This is my semi-final post. What does this mean? I am taking some time off for some long needed, rest and relaxation. But I will still be active on all my normal, social media channels. And I will still be devoting time each day to studying the following languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • Portuguese
  • German

If I have something interesting to say, I will write a blog post. Then I will promote it that week, through the usual, social media channels. And if a guest blogger wishes to share an article, I will promote it for them – via the usually, social media channels.

But I do need a rest from regular blog posts. And there is a rich history of historical blog posts to view.

This does not mean retirement. Nor does it mean a devastating illness. All it means is that I am taking time off from writing blog posts.

Any words of advice? Sure. Watch out for fake social media profiles. They are pretty easy to spot. Most of the time, they only put a minimum of information in them. Take LinkedIn, for instance. Do they have a list of active skills? Have they had these skills endorsed by a few people? Do they have any recommendations present?

Most of the time, they are trying to get something quick. Like they are a tax agent and need you to pay by debit card. Where is the formal IRS letter? Will they give you sufficient time to consult with your tax attorney and/or accountant?

Or they have a romance scam. And they use a picture you can track down with a Google image search.

Or they get emotionally attached to you very quickly – like in a week’s time. And they will try to conger a story about needing money. Like they volunteer for Unicef and need money to pay the doctor. But Unicef provides excellent, free medical coverage for volunteers and are not even situated, where they party want’s money sent to. Go figure!

Or they have several million and want your help getting it out of the country. As if you can’t find someone to hire in your own country?

I’m going back to using more direct response methods in products I sell. I’m a big fan of this style of copywriting and wish to use it more – for my own ends. I miss the good, old days of studying ads by folks like Clayton Makepeace, Ben Heart, Dan Kennedy and Bob Bly. It’s kind of fun and you can use these methods, in your own web copy and promotional landing pages.

I’ll stop back in – from time to time. And I might have guest bloggers stop by – from time to time. But this is a offical period of blog post resting.

Reward Online Customers with Offline Services

E-commerce customers deserve rewards no less than customers who visit retail shops. Whether it’s earning points for each purchase or a notch punched into a loyalty card, smart merchants understand online customers expect pretty much the same as in-store shoppers: competitive pricing, customer service when they need it, and not overwhelming them with frequent communication.

Online payment

As Mark Macdonald wrote on Shopify’s blog, shoppers everywhere — online and those who stand in line to pay — respond to a merchant’s personality much more so than they do to a brand. It stands to reason that repeat customers should get similar awards regardless of where, when and how they shop and not what they buy.

E-commerce Should Adopt the Local Touch

While e-commerce businesses have national or international customers, they would do well to adopt a personal touch, which Yodle recently found helps smaller businesses win more customers than national chains, even when their prices are higher. In fact, the survey found local businesses outperform chains in personalizing services and treating customers fairly by a factor of more than 9:1. It isn’t that customers yearn for face-to-face service, either. In fact, their number-one wish about their favorite stores is for an improved online presence.

This provides a lot of food for thought for companies that sell online exclusively or to supplement brick-and-mortar stores. An independent online site can adopt the same personalized tactics local businesses depend on to compete with big-box stores.

Consumers Like Online Rewards Best

According to another recent study — this one from Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School — Loyalty programs pay off best when used online. Why? Because most consumers do their initial product research online. They “scour the Internet” for the best deal, with little regard to a loyalty concept, but an appreciation for offers that give them a reason to return to an e-commerce site.

Here are a few incentives that can encourage online shoppers to remain on a site, order from it and return:

  • Free shipping. Unexpected shipping costs lead to an abandonment rate approaching 30 percent, says Kissmetrics. One solution is to offer a low-cost membership that provides free shipping year-round, particularly for perishable gift items like chocolates or flowers that happen to be go-to gifts for just about any occasion: birthdays, housewarmings, Mother’s Day, anniversaries, sympathy gestures.
  • Inexpensive upgrades. For $5 or $10 more, offer a minor upgrade or add-on product such as a business card case.
  • Coupon code for the next purchase. To get the most out of this offer, make sure the code appears in the shopping cart when the customer connects via an email. Kissmetrics notes that a small number of shoppers will abandon a cart when they can’t find a discount code.
  • Provide upfront cash rewards. Pymt.com reports 60 percent of consumers prefer a rewards program connected to a credit card rather than business-specific programs customers are expected to track themselves.

Online Shoppers & DIY Customer Service

Shopify’s Macdonald notes that online customers are fine with the DIY approach to customer service so long as the information is accurate. FAQs are helpful tools for this; smart companies ask customers for feedback and update them as needed. Customers also share FAQs on online boards and chats, including social media outlets.

In addition, more customers turn to Twitter and Facebook for customer service, making these tools important ones to check on at least daily.

Lessons Learned from Door Installation

You would think that Buying an entry door is an easy process. But it takes some work. Here are some of my recent experiences.

Home Centers

There’s a couple interesting articles at Home Depot and Lowe’s Installations Services…A Good Deal?? and Home Improvement Sales Gimmicks.

If you go to Menards, they don’t have an installation service. Instead they have recommended contractors, from their bulletin board of independent contractors.

Home Depot and Lowes have their own installation services. But they try to charge you thirty five dollars for measurements. The problem is that Menards independent contractors and door and windows companies will do measurements and proposals for free. Luckily, I had a special for free measurement services from Home Depot. They charge around 300 for basic installation. But they had a proposal of around six hundred for installation. There were costs for hauling away the old door, supplies needed to put in the door, etc. It would be the same story at Lowes.

Pelle Doors and Windows.

This is an interesting proposal. They had a construction company they work with, give me a bid. For the door, it was around $3100. Now the problem is that Pelle has two door lines and both are sold at Lowes. They sell for $900 and $1000 for the same door measurements and features I’ve asked for. And all the home centers say that installation takes two to four hours. So are they carrying doors that Lowes doesn’t sell? And what could possible take around 2000 is costs for a simple two to four hour door installation?

Felco

They actually have a cost proposal similar to Pelle. But I can’t really obtain the line of doors they sell, via the home centers. So I can’t compare prices. And they do have a current rating of F from the Better Business Bureau. But the salesman did explain it was from past advertising using the word free. He did give a reasonable explanation. And their doors and windows are made by Amish craftsmen. But I really don’t need anything that fancy.

Most fiberglass entry doors from the home centers would sell from six hundred to one thousand. These are really good doors and even if you paid three to five hundred for installation, it’s a big savings over Felco and Pelle.

Local door and window company

They actually had the best proposal on a factor painted installed door for about $1375. It’s really not that much different from the home centers.

The secret for the consumer? Menards doesn’t have an installation service but will just provide recommended contractors, from their bulletin board. Pick 3 and get quotes – check them out. Try to do the project when contractors are not busy with construction periods. Then pick one to do the install project and get the door, windows, etc., from Lowes, Home Depot or Menards. Let the contractor pick them up at the store. Don’t use the Home Depot or Lowes installation services.