Customer Service

Are you aware how disappointing you are?

 @LinkedIn & @gapingvoid

@LinkedIn & @gapingvoid

As a consumer, I genuinely want to help the companies I buy from. Sometimes it comes out as criticism, but there is always a genuine intention to assist. Sometimes they just don't listen until you give them more direct and sometimes hurtful feedback. Take LinkedIn for example. I have been giving them feedback for years now on their customer service. I have even resorted to writing about it. You can find my articles here and here.

When you want to give feedback to brands and companies and nobody takes you seriously your love for them dies a tiny bit every time until one day you may turn around and say enough is enough. It's like the whole world falls in all at once, but it never did happen all at once, it happens a little bit at a time, usually over a long period of time. 

My wife and I stayed at a recent venue for a short retreat and when checking out, I wanted to give the receptionist, whose sole duty there was to check people out, some feedback on a couple of things during our stay.  Her answer was not unsympathetic but she answered by saying to include our comments on the feedback form, which would be emailed to us. Needless to say the feedback form was very impersonal, no place to add your own personal details and just one generic box to add comments. My love for them died a tiny bit. Not huge but it did hurt a little and whilst I could have been a raving fan, I'm now just a fan. It won't take many more incongruent experiences for me to no longer be a fan.

Brands and companies across the board struggle with this. I do understand, nowadays comments can be flying in from all directions. In the old days the only way you received customer feedback was when they were directly opposite you or you received a letter of complaint.  There was no mistaking how that feedback would be received. Now the comments can arrive in at least a dozen different ways and actually they will never find their way directly to you. They just exist in the cloud and potential customers find them, read them and decide their action. 

We are wired to think negatively or rather we have a survival instinct. This means that when we read negative reviews about a brand or company, we take them seriously. Even if it's just about food, which as we all know is highly subjective. Our primitive brain assumes that if the food is bad we could die, so we will avoid it at all costs. Yes people can get food poisoning however, I personally don't see that many stories of people dyeing in restaurants. When we absorb reviews about places to sleep, we too believe that we could end up feeling threatened in some way. Our physical or mental health could be under threat. 

I do get it, brands and companies lose customers every single day and it's natural to do so. You buy your loaf of bread from one outlet one day and then maybe some other outlet the next. And this is because very few brands and companies really think through the whole buyer's journey, from reading reviews, seeing their network's comments, adverts, the physical buying experience online and offline and the follow-up. How many times do you get a call from your baker to ask you if you were happy with your loaf today?  Not that many right?  It's just an extreme metaphor to make the point.

As the image suggests, true engagement is something you feel!

What's your view? Answers on a postcard or in the comments field below will do nicely!

LinkedIn created a brilliant eBook with my favourite illustrator. @gapingvoid (Hugh Macleod) creates the most amazing messages through his illustrations. Read more about him and @gapingvoid here: (http://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/team-members/hugh-macleod/)

Regularly I will share one of the articles and illustrations from the eBook and give you my opinion, interpretation, insight and my meaning.

@stayingaliveuk 

#contentmarketing #content #socialmedia #engagement #marketing #socialselling #sales #empathy #distraction #purpose #relevance #customerservice #help #feedback #reviews

Online is great and talking is even better. Everyone's ultimate goal in business and life is to make real connections, where you meet someone face to face. Before that meeting a conversation is the ultimate icebreaker. I value my LinkedIn connections and realise that I don't really know you or what your goals are and how I might facilitate or support those goals.  Feel free to click through and book a call with me http://styin.me/discovery-call-20mins.

Are you sure you like change?

 @LinkedIn & @gapingvoid

@LinkedIn & @gapingvoid

Seriously though do you? 

I was browsing the news app on my iPhone early one morning in the past week when I read that there is a new social media channel on the rise, like Twitter but no spam or trolls and a Tweet is called a Toot.

The new network is called https://mastodon.social. And it has the picture of a cute mammoth holding a smart phone.

My first thought was, oh no not another social media network.  And I felt a heavy feeling with the prospect of having to master yet another Social Media platform. Of course I decided to investigate and was actually pleased to learn that registrations have been paused to ensure the quality of existing subscribers. Also they refer to ‘Instances’, another new language to learn. Give us a break please?!

The trouble is the digital news media have been all over this like a rash and this is what causes ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) in all of us.

Anyway no doubt if it catches on and millions flock there from twitter. Might see you there or then again maybe not.

Now back to ‘Change’.

The hardest job in that world is actually to change yourself. Just try brushing your teeth with your other hand or put your trousers (pants for my USA friends) on with the opposite leg first.

If you wish to change a habit or start a new habit it is incredibly tough, because you've hardwired your habits over years of regular repetition. The neurones in your brain are fused together forever or are they?

The good news is that your brain is plastic, a term neuroscientists came up with when they discovered that your brain can change even if its damaged and for the purpose of this article you can re-wire your habits, it just takes the same amount of repetition that caused you to develop your habits in the first place.

Coming back to why this is all important in the new digital and social landscape. 

If we want to get attention for our product or service, we have to change our learned habit of spraying and praying. Instead we have to get up close and personal. Deal with people one-on-one and treat them like individuals instead of a commodity. 

Stop email newsletters and instead send personal emails. Stop adding connections to email lists and instead tell them that they can opt-in if they wish and they can unsubscribe at any time they want. Don't cloak a mass email as if it was a personal email. I have witnessed so many bad and quite frankly stupid practices that my jaw literally hit the desk in amazement. 

Nobody by the way is waiting for your email message, your new product or service, your new book, your next blog post, your Facebook live video or even your next Social Media post inside LinkedIn and Twitter or your story in Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and no doubt others.

Why? Because everyone is overwhelmed with too much stuff. This article will hardly receive any views or engagement, because a hundred thousand other articles were posted in the same week and actually your real attention is on fear, like Donald Trump or Brexit or Syria or your own focus on getting your own content seen.

We all have to change our habits with publishing content or trying to get attention, become relevant and build relationships with real people who might if you do it right become a 'Raving Fan'

Because that is your only mission and 'spraying and praying' is not the way to achieve that.

I'd love to hear what you are looking to change in your approach to Social Media, Social Selling and content marketing. Let's change together forever.

LinkedIn created a brilliant eBook with my favourite illustrator. @gapingvoid (Hugh Macleod) creates the most amazing messages through his illustrations. Read more about him and @gapingvoid here: (http://www.gapingvoid.com/blog/team-members/hugh-macleod/)

Regularly I will share one of the articles and illustrations from the eBook and give you my opinion, interpretation, insight and my meaning.

@stayingaliveuk

 http://linkedinlectures.com

http://linkedinlectures.com

#contentmarketing #content #socialmedia #engagement #marketing #socialselling #sales #empathy #distraction #purpose #relevance #trust #love #mastodon #change

Online is great and talking is even better. Everyone's ultimate goal in business and life is to make real connections, where you meet someone face to face. Before that meeting a conversation is the ultimate icebreaker. I value my LinkedIn connections and realise that I don't really know you or what your goals are and how I might facilitate or support those goals. Feel free to click through and book a call with me (https://www.stayingaliveuk.com/discovery-call/). I have blocked out only Fridays each week, excluding holidays, for calls. Hope to speak with you soon.

Have you installed THE BEST Customer Service message button yet?

Twitter has given us all a brilliant gift.

‘A button for our websites to receive direct messages via Twitter.’

Twitter direct messages is very under-used I feel.  The only way Twitter users are utilising it is by auto-messages when you follow them. I’m sorry but that’s a massive turn off for me. It’s not personal, it’s not intimate and it’s not engaging. I have stopped responding to those, because I know there was no real individual involved in sending those.

If you are a business, no matter how small or large, you must be on Twitter and you must have a direct message button on your website. In my experience, I have sent countless customer service tweets to companies, which have resulted in a fantastic response and outcome. I really value it when companies respond to me using Twitter, it’s way better than the email, way better than the voice-automated call routing and usually far more personal.

And now that we can add a direct message button it means the customer doesn’t have to send those bitter tweets publicly, they can message you direct without all that embarrassment.

‘Provide your customers with a direct message facility and you will be able to jump on those questions super fast and privately’.

Right then some instructions on how to do this, because it took me a while to figure it out. Twitter’s instructions are not that crystal clear.

Go to your Twitter account. Desktop only. Click on your profile photo top right and from the drop down, select ‘Settings’.

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Select ‘Security and privacy’ from the left hand menu.

Scroll down in the right column and at the very bottom of the ‘Privacy’ section, there is an item titled ‘Direct Messages’. Select by ticking the box next to ‘Receive Direct Messages from anyone’.

This is THE most important step, as without it nothing works.

Stay inside the same screen (Settings) and select from the left hand menu, one from last on the list ‘Your Twitter data’.  Underneath Account history is your Username and User ID (I have blanked mine). You already know your own username and please make a note of your User ID. You will need both.


Visit https://publish.twitter.com/#. Enter your Twitter handle in the box below ‘What would you like to embed?’ Click the arrow or press enter.

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Next you will scroll down to 4 options for embedding Twitter code on your website. Please select ‘Twitter Buttons’.

This will generate a pop-up with 5 options. Please select option 5 ‘Message Button’.

This will generate a second pop-up. Please enter your Twitter Handle and User ID from item 5 and click ‘Preview’.

Next are some customisation options, for example you can pre-fill some initial text and decide whether you’re like a large button. Click Update and a preview will be displayed below, together with the HTML code that is needed to supply to your webmaster or you can copy yourself and add to your website, maybe on the contact page.

Now it's your turn, go to your Twitter account and start grabbing the information you need from there and then head to https://publish.twitter.com/# 

And if you enjoyed this tutorial and it worked for you, please send me a DM via Twitter. Success!

Did Microsoft break Skype's password recovery process?

Well it certainly looked that way to me.  My Skype app on my desktop just opens and logs-in automatically. I have never needed to enter my password, for years.  I wanted to get a link for my Skype name from Skype's own website and naturally it asked to me login.  I haven’t logged into Skype’s website for years, which was confirmed when my password wasn't auto filling after entering my email. Generally I save all my passwords.

After trying to log in 3 times, it suspended my account, gone. I couldn't login any longer on the Skype app anywhere.

After a fair amount of research, I discovered where I could reset my password. When I completed my email, it said, no such account exists.
When I tried a different one, I only have 2 emails, same answer. Oh shoot what happened?  There was still another route, but this is where it all totally broke down. 

Here are the key questions that you must answer to reset your account and be verified again.

  1. "What name, first and last name did you provide when you first registered". Fair enough that should be straight forward, I haven't changed my name.
  2. "What country did you select when you first registered?" Hmm, A little bit harder, but should still be correct, as I haven't lived in any other country since 2004.
  3. "What email did you provide when you first registered?" Now this one is quite a bit tougher. Actually I haven't got a clue, we all have more than one email address right? So it could have been one of three emails, not too bad, but genuinely I haven't a clue.
  4. When did you create your Skype account (mm/yy)? Busted!! Who actually remembers that? I could guess at the year, I was definitely an early adopter, so maybe 2004, 2005 or even 2006. I had to look up when Skype actually launched, which was 2003. So I would have to guess the year and try to give a few option, but as far as the month is concerned, no chance!

These 4 questions had the * against them, which means they are required and if you fail any of them, your account doesn't get verified, which of course was the case with me. 

In the slideshare below, you will see the full form and also my email correspondence with Skype customer service.  In fairness they varied the text slightly in every email, but essentially it said the same. “If you don't complete the form correctly you will remain unverified. Do go through the slideshare, you will love it!

 

At the same time I reached out to Twitter and although it took them a while to get back to me, have a look at how they resolved it. Very simple really.

Thank you to Twitter, for enabling a platform that just works for customer service. I guess its because you're visible there and they can verify you better compared to email, which anyone can send.

Big lessons: 

  1. Microsoft screws with their acquired platforms and stops us from getting anywhere to solve problems, it's the usual customer service loops, which I experienced years ago from Microsoft.  
  2. In the case of Skype, workflows become customer unfriendly and restrictive. With the exception of their Twitter support.
  3. Write down which month/year, I signed up for any internet based service. Yeah, that's never going to happen.
  4. Use Twitter for customer service, every single time, don't even bother with email or telephone support.

I think I will stick with Google Hangouts, Zoom and even FaceTime, instead of Skype in future.

@stayingaliveuk

Below is the Twitter DM messages with Skype Support, which thankfully resolved the situation.

Does LinkedIn Help confuse you?

 They say Robots are the future, but maybe they have already arrived at LinkedIn?

They say Robots are the future, but maybe they have already arrived at LinkedIn?

Well, I can confirm most definitely, I am totally and utterly confused with LinkedIn's Help. For years now I have received responses to my queries where the support team at LinkedIn, haven’t really got a clue what I am talking about.

Maybe it is me and the way I ask my questions is not clear enough?

I don’t know about you, but I find that all I seem to receive is a bunch of ‘template’ responses to try and close my ticket as soon as possible. In fact LinkedIn Help already closes the ticket, when they deem that my question has been answered satisfactorily by them. Most times I have to reopen the ticket to send a follow up response or question.

This brings me nicely on to my latest example, ‘The Reminder’.

This feature was introduced when LinkedIn had a major upgrade, released maybe a couple of years ago.

It allows any member to schedule a reminder on a connection’s profile. The reminder can be set for 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or recurring. A strange way of setting reminders by the way, normally you would specify a specific date. Anyway that’s the way it was set and is still the way it exists.

 The 'Reminder' feature appears under the 'Relationship' tab, just under the Profile Header.

The 'Reminder' feature appears under the 'Relationship' tab, just under the Profile Header.

When this new feature was introduced, LinkedIn then also started to email us all a daily digest of our connection’s major activity, like a job change, a work anniversary and their birthday. If by any chance you had set a reminder, this would also arrive in the same email. Thereby listing all your reminders and you could take action on those. A great way to be reminded about your reminders don't you think?

In the past 12 months LinkedIn have changed their policy on the volume of email, because of some public criticism they had received.

I agree there was just far too much. However this has meant that they have done away with the 'Daily Digest' email, but you are still able to see your connection’s major activity under the ‘connections’ section and engage with your connection’s activity by sending them an email message, like or comment on their activity. You get daily new notifications on your mobile app too, although you can only message your connections to congratulate them, like and commenting at time of writing is not available on mobile. I won't bore you with the ’Connected app’ that was retired recently, which was created specifically for this purpose. 

Anyway, it now means that ‘The Reminder’ notification via email is missing in action. You no longer receive an email, because the ‘Daily Digest’ has been retired and it also doesn’t receive a flag, which would have been the most sensible thing to do, but it does appear under your ‘connections’ section (desktop), although you may have to keep expanding by clicking the ‘see more people to contact’ tab underneath the 9 cards that will show up.

Anyway I did know about the failure of this, but decided when I saw a forum thread on the subject to investigate further and ask LinkedIn Help the question about reminders.

Below is a screenshot of the thread of my email conversation exchange with them. In conclusion the reminder feature is no longer very useful, unless you are disciplined enough to view your connections page on a daily basis, just to check for reminders. 🙄

You’ll see from the email thread that support completely gets the wrong meaning of my question to begin with. Why? Answer: ’Template responses’. 

Conclusion:
1.  The ’Reminder’ feature will probably be retired very soon. 
2.  LinkedIn Help agents are robots 🤖?

Wishing you success with LinkedIn's features. Just remember that one day those features may be rendered useless or retired, you just never know. Whether you are a paying premium member or not, it doesn't matter.

@stayingaliveuk 😎👍

Do You Listen to Your Customers?

Buffer does...

IMG_1002

Buffer is an app that allows you to schedule your social posts via a pre-determined time-schedule. It works, it's beautiful and their customer service is astounding, no really the best I have EVER experienced of any software company that I've ever dealt with. The founders started the company with Customer Service at it’s core and certainly, for me, they have always delivered. Not only in the way they create their app but at every stage in their communication with me. I'm a MASSIVE fan, can you tell?

So, whilst being active on the buffer web app, I noticed something new, ’Feeds’, a new and very innovative feed engine built inside the app, allowing users to pull in feeds from blogs and thereby sharing articles into their buffer. A brilliant innovation and even before I heard the announcement I started testing it.

The only issue was that they announced that users (me) on the ’awesome’ plan would have the ability for 1 feed and users on the ’business plan’ would get 20 feeds. By the way both sets of users pay for their plans.

Here is the blog that announced the release of 'Feeds'; http://blog.bufferapp.com/introducing-rss-feeds-buffer-social-media-sharing

I was deeply disappointed and because I know that Buffer cares about their customers I decided to say something on their blog, which announced this new release and the limitation for 'awesome' users. And noticed that I wasn't the only ’awesome’ user who was unhappy. I also emailed buffer via their standard email, as they are ALWAYS telling us to reach out to them for any reason at all. I've never seen anyone do this as well as they do. And they ALWAYS respond quickly to any of my emails.

How pleasing then to see how Buffer responded to their disappointed customers. Their response was fantastic and to be honest, they far exceeded my expectations in this. It was also impressive how quickly they responded to me and their customer base.

Below you can read the correspondence for yourself and see how Buffer yet again sets the standard for how companies should deal with their customers and how they listen to what they have to say.

Announcement Email

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My response Email

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Their initial response

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Follow up response

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Joel's Tweet

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Confirmation Email

20140516-224540.jpg

A great example of how, when you place customers in the centre of your business, you will get their feedback fast, know that it's genuine and you can respond quickly and with integrity. I'm sure this has been a massive learning opportunity for Buffer and I'm pretty sure they will have a different strategy going forward when deciding to differentiate between plans for their paying customers. It's never an easy problem to solve.

Well done Buffer and I look forward to more of your developments in the future!

If you're reading this and haven't experienced Buffer and their awesome service, go ahead and test it out. http://bufferapp.com

Wishing you success always!

http://uk.linkedin.com/in/stayingaliveuk

@stayingaliveuk

Do You Really Know How to Sell?

If you're in business or you're an ambitious sales professional, this post is for you. I know that we all want business but...

You need to read the signs before upsetting to your buyers. Read the email below and let me know what you think?

{I have removed sensitive information in order to protect the email sender}

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 11.03.09

I was horrified, not because the email upset me, but because I couldn't believe the tone of the email.

Let me give you the background without giving away who or what it was that I was buying.

After some difficulty, I needed a quote from a third-party in order to fulfil a potential project that I was quoting for. It took me over a week to get a response and that was because my emails weren't getting through to the supplier. In the end it was an IT issue with servers, but still it took some considerable time to sort out. Probably not the supplier's fault, but it happened.

After finally agreeing a quote, which wasn't that easy either, I sent my proposal to my potential client. In the meantime, I'm assisting and sorting out email server issues with my potential supplier. They then send several emails chasing me to see if the project is on or not. That's fine I don't have an issue with chasers and I did warn my supplier that my client had a budget he needed to achieve, so he was probably searching elsewhere.

So after receiving another chaser email from my supplier, I advised them that I had already chased up my potential client and that it was entirely possible that they would be searching for a cheaper price in their local country.

At this stage I have never placed any business with my supplier, so you would have thought that they would hold back a bit. But then that email arrived and I was amazed.

The message here is a simple one. Respect your potential buyer's process and lead-time for getting things done. Do NOT chase too many times.

You have to know when it's appropriate to send a reminder and when it's appropriate to send a chaser. They are not the same! And certainly when you are waiting to get the order confirmed don't send chaser emails.

And then there is the 'UpSelling' tactic. NEVER 'UpSell' when you haven't even got onto first base yet. Why would anyone wish to buy other products when they haven't even experienced your service yet? Especially as the service so far hasn't been that great!

Wishing you massive success always!

uk.linkedin.com/in/stayingaliveuk/

@stayingaliveuk

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Are You a Milkman?

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I was awake at 4.30am the other day and heard our milkman drive up outside our house and deliver a pint of milk on the doorstep.

At that precise moment, I felt a lot of appreciation for our milkman and I am also very impressed for his dedicated customer service.

Clair, my wife, tells me that he has been her milkman for 11 years and when she moved house 7 years ago, he continued to deliver to her new house, because his depot wasn't far from where we now live.

That means we are the only customers in the street he delivers to. That is unbelievable customer service and I can't think of any business that would even consider doing that!

What a great example the British milkman sets for business leaders far and wide.

He has NEVER missed a day of delivery, he has never phoned to say that he was sick or he is going on holiday. He has never stayed away when the country has come to a standstill because of snow or flooding.

This guy, the trusted British milkman, ALWAYS delivers, without fail!

Can you imagine that?

What if, just what if every leader, every worker, every self-employed person, could behave and deliver like the British milkman.

What country would we be living in today? A successful one? A brilliant one!

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3 Must Do's to Win Business and Get More Leads

flickr | draken413o LinkedIn connection Mark Langston of Crystal Thought asked me to contribute to a blog he's writing. He wanted '3 Must Do's to Win Business and Get More Leads'.

Well that's a tough one, I can think of loads. Its easier to say what 3 things you must do when you get up in the morning then decide which are the '3 Must Do's to Win Business and Get More Leads'. Bathroom, Shower, Breakfast and sometimes in reverse order!

In my view the following 'Must Do's' are quite basic and of course as we know the basics are often forgotten.

So here goes;

1. Stop talking about yourself and start listening!

You have two ears, two eyes and JUST one mouth. A common mistake I see all the time is over-promotion. STOP! When you engage with someone either face to face or online, listen, watch and learn. Its in the stories they tell you, they share the secrets of what they need. SHUT UP! Do not be tempted to jump in and solution sell at the first opportunity of hearing their need. It could well be a false direction they are trying to send you in and after all nobody will truly say what they are struggling with. That would be too obvious, too revealing, too embarrassing and definitely not English. All is actually OK, if the government just got their act together, we would be OK. DON'T! Get drawn into politics, focus on the job in hand and ask the most important question, which is; 'What Else?'

2. How can you assist in ways that are not profitable for you but profitable for your prospect?

Business is built on trust and the fastest way to build trust is to do something for someone without expecting anything back in return. When doing your listening whether face to face or online, listen out for clues as to who they wish to meet and who their ideal prospect is. In fact if they don't give you those clues, which actually most people don't, then you MUST ask the question. It is highly probable that you know someone, who knows someone and before you know you could make an introduction. With the power of LinkedIn this is now very easy to do. Its YOUR job to deliver the potential prospect to your prospect. Trust is built on what you DO for people, not what you COULD do for them.

3. Its a numbers game, but they don't add up until you get personal!

Yes indeed, you have to kiss a few frogs before you find the ideal prospect, however you also need to get to know your network better than you actually do. In my experience you have an intimate network of only 150 people. I call these the 'Power 150'. These are the ones you need to leverage more than you are actually doing. Can you tell me what these 150 people do, who they want to get in front of and what their personal aspirations are? Whether you meet them face to face or via a video call, it doesn't matter, but get intimate, get to know who they are and what their business is about. They are the ones who will help you find the business that you need. As humans we will remember those that make the most noise. I'm not saying be noisy, but definitely be there alongside them, so they notice you. So now go and make a list of your 'Power 150'!

To get more FREE tips on social selling you can visit; http://stayingaliveuk.com/linkedinstinct/

Success!

Are You Interested in Cost Saving Tips?

Are you a Consumer and also in Business? Then you will be interested in knowing how I have found some excellent suppliers, delivering some excellent savings.

Whenever I research a supplier I evaluate not just the cost but also the customer service ethos, including how they have dealt with my complaints. I am not really convinced that UK suppliers know how to deal properly with complaints, so I will just say that all of them have been satisfactory on that front, apart from one who has been truly outstanding. And yes I do have very high standards when it comes to dealing with customer complaints. I think it comes from my many years in the Textiles Industry and my training within it, which means I am very critical when it comes to receiving customer service, especially when you are connected to foreign call centres, and are given the runaround.

Anyway let's get on with it;

Supplier no.1 is Plusnet

They are a telecoms and broadband company, supplying landline rental, calls and broadband. For the purpose of this article, I am only going to discuss the broadband.

BT have recently upgraded broadband services in the area where I live (Wyre Forest, Worcestershire) and have installed fibre to the green boxes on street corners. It's still copper from there to the house, so it's not cable like Virgin. I have kept looking out for fibre for a while and when I got confirmation that I could get it, I went for it.

So I have fibre broadband for the home/business at £19.99 per month, delivering 55mb download and 18mb upload with an allowance of a massive 250gb per month. This doesn't only satisfy my personal and business requirements, it copes with everyone in the household as well, including accessing internet with iPlayer through the TV, all my video education and my business requirement to upload a lot of videos quickly.

Plusnet are actually owned by BT and only use the BT network. Therefore any upgrades that BT make Plusnet will immediately benefit from this.

If I introduce customers, I can get discounts, so if you are interested, please follow this link.

Click here for information on Plusnet products.

Supplier no.2 is GiffGaff

GiffGaff are a mobile network and run by it's customers, an interesting concept, so as far as I know there are no call centres, but an excellent forum to post questions and interaction via the web with agents.

Freedom from the contract lock-in, when you buy a sim only agreement with a monthly top-up. Your phone does need to be unlocked. So this is what I went through.

I was with T-Mobile, who I haven't had major issues with, but I have just found them too expensive an not very forthcoming with deals. I have been with them for many years and loyalty counts really for nothing when you are in a lock-in contract with a mobile phone company.

  1. I requested T-Mobile to unlock my phone.
  2. I ordered a sim from GiffGaff.
  3. Phone was unlocked, which did take far too long with T-Mobile (30 days and it should only take 10-28 days and costs £15)
  4. I gave T-Mobile also 30 days notice and requested a PAC code, which they gave me straight away.
  5. I activated the SIM online with GiffGaff.
  6. I synched my iPhone with iTunes, plus changed some other settings, which GiffGaff sent via text, which was for MMS settings, although you can do those manually very easily.
  7. I gave GiffGaff via their website the PAC code and when I wanted my number ported across.
  8. They moved my number across on the day I requested and job done.

GiffGaff runs on the O2 network and I know you'll all be thinking, well that went down, but as you will agree that doesn't happen very often, well part from blackberry that is, oops!

Anyway the package I have got with them is just £10 per month, with 250 minutes, unlimited data and unlimited texts, which is a bargain!

If I introduce customers, they get some discount upfront and I can earn points too for discount.

Click here for information on GiffGaff.

Supplier no.3 is 1&1 Internet

1&1 are a hosting company, who provides hosting for my wordpress website, plus domains.

There is not a huge amount to say really apart from the fact that it's easy to use, great support and I mean great support and very good prices.

I also use them for my email against my own domain name and because I use and iPhone, iPad and Mac and they support IMAP for my emails (Internet Message Access Protocol), which means wherever I read my email or delete, its instantly updated on all my devices, which is brilliant.

Same with them, if I introduce customers, I can earn some discount on what I pay.

Click here for more information on 1&1 Internet.

It's really interesting how these companies are very clever in suggesting introductions to others and thereby getting some discounts.  With the advent of Social Media, this is really easy to do, as people like to investigate personal recommendations, as supposed to having to investigate from scratch.

I hope you check them all out and receive the same support and savings I have been able to achieve with these companies. Let me know how you get on!

Success!

Have You Complained Recently?

We don't like complaining much in Britain, it's not the done thing, we prefer to moan about a company or a service we have received to each other, but not actually go to the company and complain and request compensation. Let me share with you three examples that it pays to complain. And...in this current economic climate and the existence of social media means most companies are now well aware what can happen with negative comments, they can go viral and it will most certainly hit them where it hurts. 20120820-210806.jpg

Example number one is Tesco Insurance. 12 months ago I needed to find a new car insurance policy and as we are Tesco shoppers, we have a club card and like to earn points too. So we found Tesco compare and were delighted that not only did we find an affordable policy, they were throwing in club card points and a free MOT. Excellent just what I needed. Except the MOT voucher never arrived and when queried, they needed my proof of no claim bonus before they could send it. So I did this, but still no voucher, chased them again and then completely forgot about it until...now!

I need to get my car MOT'd and so called them 3 weeks ago where they apologized for not sending it and it would arrive in less than 10 days. But it didn't arrive...so I called again and after some investigation and to my horror the answer was...you don't qualify for the voucher...what???

Allegedly I came via an aggregator and not direct via their site, so I didn't qualify. BUT the aggregator was a Tesco site!!! Yes but it's not run by them...well tough!!! I demanded to speak to someone else, who completely understood my feeling and after a further debate, agreed to send me a £50 voucher. Great that will cover the MOT adequately.

UPDATE: And here is the gift card, which arrived in the post!

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Example number two is T-mobile. I am in the process of leaving them and need my phone to be unlocked in order to move to another network. I requested this to be actioned on the 12th July and the promise is 10-28 days, which has now passed. After several calls to UK and Philippines service staff they agreed that it should have been done by now. I also had to pay £15.32 for the privilege of them sending and email to apple, to get the phone unlocked. Anyway finally they agreed to compensate me and added £15 to my account.

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Example number three is South West Water. I was on holiday in Cornwall and doing some cycling on the road. A South West Water van nearly knocked me off my bike and I sent a message via their website to complain.

And here's their response;

Dear Mr De Groot

Thank you for your email received on the 8 August regarding dangerous driving by a South West Water employee on the A3074 between Lelant and Longston, I am sorry you have had to contact us about this matter but I am pleased to have this opportunity to reply to you. In keeping with South West Water’s correspondence policy, I have attached to this reply, copies of our Complaints and Compliments and Customer Promise Leaflets, which offer information about the level of customer service we aim to provide.

I tried to speak with you today and I do hope you received the answer phone message I left. I would like to apologise on behalf of South West Water (SWW) that you experienced dangerous driving and appreciate you taking the time to inform us. I would like to assure you we take these matters very seriously and have strict policies on how we expect our workforce to behave whilst they undertake their work.

Our Transport Department has investigated this further using the sophisticated measures we have in place which allows us to monitor all our vehicles movements and the manner they are being driven, the van in question has been successfully identified and we have provided feedback to the Manager responsible for these employees.

The employees have been made aware that a complaint has been made towards them and have been reminded about how they should conduct themselves in the future. We have highlighted they should always be vigilant for cyclists on the road and to drive in a safe and responsible manner at all times.

I trust my reply has been helpful. If you require any further advice on this matter, please call me. For all general enquiries, please call our free Helpline on 0800 169 1144.

Yours sincerely

Henry

Customer Manager

I was delighted to receive this response from them.

So my message to you is that complaining does deliver results and often in favourable ways, plus you may even change the world a little bit too.

Success!

Honesty is the best Policy...or not?

I have been having a great time uncovering, albeit by accident, some interesting practices by Broadband Providers. The companies in question are Plusnet and Sky.

You will all know Sky, because they are very famous and owned by the Murdoch Empire, but Plusnet only emerged a few years ago and not many people know that they are owned by BT! Yep BT broadband trading under a different name, just to fool us all.

Anyway it all started when I wanted to challenge Plusnet, why they haven't been able to give me lower prices as per their advertised rates on their website and also in their advertising on bill boards and TV. It's something I have challenged them on, from time to time, and the last time actually was over a year ago. But more about that in a bit.

Firstly I needed to do my research and as I detest Talk Talk the other leading broadband provider, (just had enough of their door to door cold calling techniques) and we are Sky TV customers (and I don't really want to be), they are showing some great offers on their website (Sky).

So I did my research and to my absolute amazement they are offering existing Sky customers £7.50 for Unlimited Broadband and 3 months free! But you have to purchase Sky Talk line rental as well, which includes free evening and weekend calls, so that's ok and they are showing that at £4.75 per month.

And here is the picture of my basket to prove to you that it's very very clear. A total of £12.25 per month and on top of that 3 months free!!

Are you still following me?

Basically by moving to Sky, we could save ourselves over £200 per year, OMG that's an amazing deal, or so I thought!

I nearly hit the purchase button, I was very close, but I decided to get one stage further in the checkout process and saw this...

As you can see it's still showing me the same figures £7.50 and £4.75, but can you see that other statement at the end 'when your offer finishes', suggesting that the price increases to £49.50? (It does include our Sky TV, don't worry about that it's the increase of £7.50 that is important to focus on.

So how was this calculated then?  Cut a long story short, I decided to call them and check it out and after 20 minutes getting nowhere in India, they transferred me to the UK and the agent confirmed to me, after speaking to 2 other colleagues as she had a tough time figuring it out as well, that they had discounted the Sky Talk by £7.50 per month to allow for the free broadband for 3 months.  So they had hidden the discount inside the Sky Talk rate for 3 months.

Why the ... did they do it in this way?  This is surely completely misleading the customer!  Making me think they I am going to get a really low rate but really after 3 months the Sky Talk rate goes up, which means the original £12.25 per month become £19.75.  Not such a great deal after all!

'Honesty is the best policy', so why did they not show honestly how the calculations work?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45Q13-poFBg

OK, on to Plusnet. Back in August 2010, I asked them why I was not able to get their cheap rates as advertised everywhere. They told me (a bit technical now), that my exchange was in what's called a market 1 and it needed to be market 3.  Basically it means that it needed more suppliers at the exchange and at least 3 of them need to have their equipment installed. All of this info I learned is available on www.samknows.com.  A great site with loads of detail about your exchange, and well worth reviewing in order to challenge your provider.  See the video a little bit further below.

Ok so then I asked them, when were they planning to put their equipment in the exchange and of course they were not, as they use the core BT network, after all they are owned by them!

So probably no chance of getting a cheaper rate then, so I left it.

Until now that is. See I decided to share with them the fact that Sky are able to give me unlimited Broadband for £7.50 per month and Sky and Talk Talk do actually have their equipment installed at the exchange.

Now instead of me writing what was said, I thought it would be interesting for you to read the full text of correspondence that went on between us.

22.11.11 2.48pm

I have noticed that you are offering some amazing deals at the moment. And although I have been in touch with you previously, we continue not to be eligible for these prices!  We are paying £17.99 for 60GB Broadband, plus £11.99 line rental. You are offering the Broadband now for £11.49, that's a saving of £6.50 per month and over the year of £78. I really believe that we are at a significant disadvantage staying with you.  As I am a Sky TV customer, I can get unlimited monthly broadband for £7.50 per month and line rental for £4.75 per month.  That is just £12.25 per month compared to your £29.98 per month. That is a massive saving of £212.76 per year! £17.73 per month!  Can you think of one reason why I shouldn't switch away from you?  I am really looking forward to hearing your recommendation on how I should proceed.

22.11.11 3.04pm!

Thank you for getting in touch. I can confirm you are now eligible for Plusnet Extra at £11.49 per month due to market area change. You were previously in a market 1 area meaning your price was higher, you are now in a market 2 area reducing costs.  To find out how this affects you please visit - http://www.plus.net/support/broadband/products/low_cost_areas.shtml If you choose to take up this new lower price service your monthly costs will be: Line rental - £11.99 (£12.99 as of 06/12/11) Plusnet Extra - £11.49 Total cost - £23.48 (£24.48 as of 06/12/11)

22.11.11 7.03pm

Thank you Kelly for coming back so quickly.  That's really interesting. In the past I was advised that I was not able to get cheaper prices. Here is one of the responses I received from Nick Godbehere, back in August 2010, when I tried previously to get cheaper prices from you.  "Thank you for your query. An exchange has to have at least 5 suppliers to be in a market 3 area. The rule is set in place by ofcom that lines with less than 5 available broadband service providers".  So it's now interesting to learn that a market 2 area now can give me cheaper prices!  Would you please be so kind as to confirm, when the exchange when to market 2?  If not I can find out from Samknows if need be.  Obviously you will be so kind as to give me a refund for the length of time that I could have had cheaper prices.  And you will obviously change the account on the cheaper prices immediately.  Looking forward to your response.

A short video explaining how to make use of Samknows and to learn about the differences between market areas and the resulting prices that you will pay for your Broadband.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k-5K9Ycxco

23.11.11 9.35am

Hello, I just received confirmation from Samknows that my exchange went to market 2 in December 2010.  According to my calculations, that will be a refund of: 10 months @ £6.50 = £65.00 providing that today's bill will be at the cheaper price.  Looking forward to your confirmation.

23.11.11 11.21am

Thank you for getting back to us.  The most we can refund regarding market changes is 3 moths. We can either provide you either a 3 month discount of £6.50 or a refund of £19.50. Please advise how you wish to proceed.  Please do not hesitate to get back in touch online at http://contactus.plus.net or by phone on 0800 432 0200 if we can be of further assistance.

23.11.11 11.33am

Please advise why you are only able to provide 3 months refund?  I have been asking about a discounted price since August 2010, without success.  Surely it is down to you to advise your customers that there was a market change and change their prices, as otherwise you are effectively stealing from your customers.  I wonder what Ofcom will have to say about this?  I look forward to a more positive response please advise who else does this need to be escalated to?

23.11.11 2.49pm

Up until July this year the only areas we had the lower prices in were those designated as Market 3 exchanges. From July 2011 we allowed new customers signing up in Market 2 areas to obtain the lower price too. Your exchange is currently set as Market 2.  As we've only been offering the lower prices on Market 2 exchanges since July, this is the maximum period we can backdate any discounts to you for. The changes took effect in the August bills so that's 4 months discounts we can give you at £6.50 per month.  I've applied these to your account for the next 4 months on top of ongoing reduction you're now entitled to following the Market classification change in July.

23.11.11 4.16pm

Thank you and of course I am grateful for the 4 months instead of 3. It does beg the question though why I was not offered 4 months by Phil and zero by Kelly?  My I remind you that the only reason you are now offering me cheaper rates is because I advised Plusnet yesterday that I was looking to move to Sky.  Now I am no expert, however I am being advised by Samknowsbroadband that the change to Market 2 took effect in December 2010. And they sent me this link as reference: http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/wba/wba-statement/.  I have today spoken with Ofcom and lodged a complaint about this and have written to your Customer Services Director, of which letter is attached. You can look through tickets that I have raised back in August 2010, where I have been asking about why I was not able to receive cheaper rates, so you can look in the archives to read all those.  As a company you are really not portraying a good image for the Broadband supplier market and I thought Plusnet were different to all the others and clearly you are not.  I am not satisfied with the 4 months refund and if indeed the market 2 rules changed in December 2010, I expect a full 10 month refund accordingly.

23.11.11 5.24pm

Your exchange did indeed change to Market 2 back in December 2010, however at that time our prices for Market 2 customers were the same as for Market 1 (the higher value).  It was only in July this year that we made the decision to move Market 2 prices to match those of Market 3 (the lower value).  This is the reason that I've only offered 4 months as this is the timescale that Market 2 customers have had the cheaper price.  With regards to rules for the pricing in each Market area, that's up to us (Plusnet) to set what we sell these at to our customers and as I've said in my previous reply and this reply we didn't lower the price for Market 2 until July this year.

And it continued on Twitter too...

Plusnet's slogan 'Good Honest Broadband from Yorkshire' is very far fetched indeed, don't you think?

Sky's slogan 'Happily ever After', yes indeed after we have misled you and increase your rates 'after'!

Please share this article with all and every broadband user, so that they too can challenge their supplier for the best possible rates!

Good luck...

Is the Email Monkey Male or Female?

After a few years absence from the email newsletter scene, I decided to venture out and try it again.  I used to be with constant contact, but having seen better alternatives, I decided to give MailChimp a go. I had used them previously for a small list and now that I have changed direction in my business it was time to email a bigger list.

I have spent some time building my list of trusted contacts on LinkedIn, so I thought why not start with them as a base and build from there.  After all most of them do know me and if I ask nicely, maybe they will just stay 'opted-in' to my list.

I got down to drafting my email and this time I had to refrain from selling or promoting what I can do for them.  So thinking of writing something that would get them to genuinely believe me and that I wanted to have their permission before they would receive the first newsletter.

So an opt-out email was the plan and making it clear that I only wanted to send them an email in the future with information they could use, free of charge and no selling.  Tough one really because sending someone an email, they automatically think you are selling to them.  I think we have just been conditioned this way.  I really did not want to do this, my aim is to give something away for free to people who have taken the trouble to link or follow me.

If you wish to have a read of it by all means check it out here:  http://bit.ly/k78Mug

I was reasonably pleased with it. I know you can always improve it, ask some others to proofread it, but I decided it was good enough to get some feedback.

Oh boy, feedback I got indeed!  But not what I had expected.  I got unsubscribes, plenty of them, but that’s what I wanted, so that was ok.  I sent emails out to 663 people and I got 50 unsubscribes.  Fantastic, at least people were reading my email and they responded.  It means 613 did not unsubscribe yet!

What I had not expected was to receive written feedback as well and in some cases great feedback.  So instead of paraphrasing it, here are some of them for you to read for yourself;

Hi Michael…I can hear the Bee Gees song in my head ! Happy to receive your newsletter..I use Linkedin, Twitter, Google alerts and my website….not Facebook so much.  Mark

Like the idea! Nice way to start it as well by offering people the opt out. Will keenly keep an eye out for your first one. Jack

I *love* this approach! I’ve been toying with whether I should send an e-mail out to my user base, but am a very strong believer in “permission marketing”.

This is a wonderful approach. Do you mind if I S.W.I.P.E it? Richard

Yes, go for it!  Look forward to receiving your next newsletter. David

Certainly, I will look forward to your updates etc. Karen

See below - high praise indeed coming from Jeremy, somebody who I consider a leader in our field! If you’re not reading his blog – go read it now! Richard

Brilliantly done! Jeremy

I just wanted to drop you a quick line to say I think your newsletter is great. As a graphic design agency, helping businesses with newsletters is something we do pretty regularly - I found yours warm and engaging while still being professional and informative. It's obvious that you do this for a living! Liz

That was delightful email,and yes permission granted. Dev

I'm intrigued, count me in. Rene

Thanks - I really appreciate the fact that you've asked, and I'm happy to hear what you have to say. Richard

No problem with you contacting me in the future. Ken

Sounds good right?  Well what I had not expected was this email from the Monkey!

We want to make you aware that that your campaign from your account with the username stayingaliveuk  generated an unsubscribe rate of 3.05%.  At this point this is just a notification of the activity occurring on your campaign.  Your account is still active but we want to make you aware that we will continue to watch this campaign and may send additional warnings.  As an ESP, we’re required to enforce an unsubscribe rate of 1% or less (1.01% is considered to be over the limit). When this is exceeded, ISPs and SpamCop organizations begin to question the integrity of your list which can cause blacklisting or blocks for both your domains and MailChimp domains and IP addresses. It can also indicate there are readers on the list who do not want to receive your content and were not expecting to receive it.  If the unsubscribe activity continues and exceeds the 1% limit this can lead to account suspension and further investigation into the matter by our compliance team.  At this time we want to make you aware of the activity and provide some steps to help reduce the issue in the future.

Not so great then after all!

There I was thinking carefully about not spamming people and asking them for permission and BOOM, I got my wrists slapped by the email monkey!  I was a bit concerned to say the least.  Thankfully they have confirmed that my account is still active, so I will be able to send my first newsletter out as planned very soon!  So if you are planning a new newsletter to a new audience, using a new email tool, be careful!

Customer Service in Social Media

I am sharing with you my own personal experience of the impact of social media in customer service. Now my experience of conventional customer service was very poor, but via social media it was excellent.

Firstly a little bit of background.

I am a T-Mobile customer and have been a customer of theirs for about 6 years, when I decided to purchase my very first blackberry, when the Blackberry Pearl was released. I was with Orange ever since I became a mobile phone user, so it took a lot of convincing for me to move to another network.

The service I had received from Orange was superb.

Anyway I made the jump and that was it. I was equally impressed with T-Mobile's service and their agents did an excellent job. So it all worked out for me. I was a very late adopter in the Blackberry market, but felt with the smaller phone my wait was justified.

Now fast forward to September 2010 and for my Birthday I treated myself to an iPhone 4, and had an early contract upgrade, which was a real gift.

All seemed to be well and my first bill was a bit of a mess coming out of one contract and starting a new one. Anyway I decided to leave it for a few months and review it again to make sure all was well. I don't get paper bills, so I get a monthly text to let me know that the bill is ready online. I don't know about you but when I get that message I don't immediately jump online and check my bill so I ignored it for a few months. I did notice that although I am not a huge user, the bill appeared high so decided to investigate further.

I then discovered they had been overcharging me ever since my changeover for Blackberry Booster, which of course I did not need or indeed use on my iPhone! So I decided to call.

I will just summarise this quickly as I want to get on to the social media bit.

I initially phoned their customer services and connected with the Philippines and it was not a pleasant experience at all. Basically I could not hear them properly because of the line quality and on top of that the agent would not allow me to speak and if I did speak she would repeat back what I had said to make sure she understood what I had just said. This meant a lot of wasted 'yes that is correct' sentences on my part.

After a long while, when she finally realised she could not solve my problem, she ended the call by saying she would send my account for re-calculation.

I decided to share my frustration on twitter and I received a nice response from T-Mobile.

In the end I had to email T-Mobile to get them in the UK to call me to sort it, which in fairness they did quickly.

My bill should now be showing the correct figures. OK when I did check a few days later, surprise, surprise it did not. Better still they had given me an early termination penalty for cancelling my Blackberry booster. I have not had a Blackberry for 4 months now! After sorting that with the Philippines again, they confirmed all should be well. However my bill online was still incorrect, so I resorted to Twitter.

What I received from T-Mobile via twitter was a very fast and satisfactory conversation that was resolved to my satisfaction, whereas the initial telephone conversation I had was far from resolved.

For me it shows that Social Media can work and have significant impact on the Brand, providing it is done well and T-Mobile have done this very well on this occasion.