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We recently published a list of the top 100 marketing buzzwords for 2008. Noticeably absent from the list was "customer service". Maybe it's because customer service is not a buzzword, it's more of a necessity. The whole premise behind customer service is to enhance the level of customer satisfaction that your customer receives. For it is this very customer that allows you to market your product. If you have not been able to figure it out yet, the customer is in control. They are the reason you are in business. Whether it's B2C or in the B2B arena, your clients/customers are your lifeline.
Is customer service an over-hyped buzzword? Or is customer service a vital key to success? Many would argue the later. Sure everyone says that the provide great customer service, but those who truly focus on providing outstanding customer service understand:
7 Reasons Why Customer Service is Necessary for Success
#7. Accountability - Especially in the online world where online reputation can mean the success or failure of your business, customers tend to be more forgiving of organizations who acknowledge and apologize for their mistakes rather than denying them. Owning up to mistakes and errors can go a long way to providing exceptional customer service to grow your business.
#6. Customer Perception - Great customer service vs. good customer service or poor customer service can change the customer's perception of your brand. If you rub your customer the wrong way enough times you will lose them for life. In the online world, if your website does not provide the right experience for your prospect or existing client they will abandon your site and visit a competitor. In addition their perception of your brand may be impacted in a negative manner as they share their experience with others.
#5. You Cannot Afford to Not Provide Exceptional Customer Service - If you turn one, and yes just one customer away due to poor customer service, two things may happen:
A). They Resent You and Your Brand Never to Return
B). They Turn to One of Your Competitors
#4. To Build Relationships/Evangelists - providing great customer service is a great first step in building a relationship with your clients. The greater the relationship you develop, the more likely it is that your client will become an evangelist for your brand and your organization. Have you ever overheard a conversation where one person professed a positive experience with a brand or company such as a restaurant where they experienced a great meal and great service? Personally I have, and as a result I filed the name of the restaurant in my memory so that the next time I was in town I made a point of visiting that restaurant. I too experienced a great meal with exceptional customer service.
#3. Continuous Improvement - Customer Service is necessary for continuous improvement. Through client feedback and interaction, you can learn about what clients liked about your brand and which areas you may need improvement in. Using customer service as a tool for continuous improvement often leads to customer satisfaction. In fact many use customer satisfaction as a key performance indicator when measuring their success. Take ASK.com for example. I attended a Webcast that described how ASK.com used customer satisfaction analytics to guide their site redesign. This was a very interesting process for ASK.com. They started by measuring online customer satisfaction in 2004. They wanted to gain a better understanding of who the users that were coming to their site were and why they were coming to ASK.com. They ran two surveys, one being a Model survey and the other being a custom survey to see what their users felt about ASK.com. ASK compiled results for a number of months until they came to some obvious conclusions.
In 2005, ASK determined that Search Results were the most critical item for them to improve. So they began beta testing the ASK X interface. They also found that a number of users had old stereotypes associated with ASK Jeeves (in terms of using the search engine by asking questions...) So they retired Jeeves.... Through the use of A/B testing (of the ASK X and ASK 3-D design) and customer feedback, ASK began testing a new look with their search results. The results proved to be interesting. Visitors to ASK 3-D were more satisfied with accuracy, freshness and comprehensiveness of the new look site. With certain market segments, that included skilled searchers, researchers and tech-influencers, the satisfaction levels with ASK 3-D were very positive.
ASK determined that there was a need to promote channels with high satisfaction such as ASK City, Maps and News. Really this was a prelude into ASK incorporating more blended search results into their search results pages. The end result was the launch of the new ASK.com in June of 2007. ASK used customer satisfaction surveys as part of their continuous improvement process to provide better value/service with their search product. It has proven somewhat successful as comScore reports that ASK continues to be the fastest growing search engine.
#2. The Need for Lifetime Value - Similar to our entry at number four, customer service is a necessary means of creating lifetime value. If you are able to provide your customer with an unforgettable positive experience, they will stick with you for life. The cool thing about lifetime value is that it is measured not only with the experience of that single customer, but with all of the additional business that they may have brought to you (either directly or indirectly) as being an evangelist for your brand. Once an Apple user always an Apple user.
#1. The Customer is Your Lifeline - as mentioned earlier, the customer is why you are in business. Think about if advertisers had no way to market their product and services online. There was no pay per click model like Google Adwords. Google would not be the multi-billion company that it is. These advertisers are Google's lifeline and represent how Google makes money. From retailers to car dealerships to record companies and musicians, without an audience (customers) you are not going to be in business for too long. As corny as it sounds, you need customers to "run" your business.
The fact of the matter is that exceptional customer service can lead to customer satisfaction. In turn, customer satisfaction can mold the future of your success.
You have, by now, probably have heard Ebay's announcement that they are lowering fees for listing items, raising minimum selling standards et al in an attempt to improve the overall experience for eBay customers. Hmmm let's look at this further...
The Good: Starting Feb. 20 in the U.S., eBay (EBAY) is reducing its fees to list items (called "Insertion" fees) by 25 to 50 percent.
The Bad: EBay is increasing the fees it charges when an item is sold (the Final Value fees). According to President and CEO-elect of eBay, John Donahoe "Sellers prefer this structure, as it lowers their risk if an item doesn't sell." Uh wait a sec John. I'm an eBayer and I don't necessarily prefer this structure. What this means is that everytime I make money on Ebay, Ebay will now be making more money. For small ticket items this sucks. The greatest fee increase will come for goods selling for less than $25. EBay's fee for those transactions will rise 67 percent, to 8.75 percent of the final sale price. For large ticket items it's relative.
One of the items that is long overdue is that the company is making its minimum standards more stringent for anyone who sells on the site, primarily to discourage behavior that causes buyer dissatisfaction, such as charging excessive shipping fees or not describing items accurately. People charge the most ridiculous amount for shipping sometimes. It is truly disgusting what some have been able to get away with. So this is a welcome change.
Last week, EBay announced its fourth quarter earnings for 2007. Guess what? They're doing fine. As a result the need to make more money off of the people that sell items on Ebay is a joke. In a letter to John Donahoe at Ebay, the author asks, "...Could you make it so the sellers get to keep a bit more of the profit from their work?" 'Nuff said. EBay does very well, but it looks as though Mr. Donahoe is looking to do a little better. (I guess the $5.8 million he received in compensation last year was not quite enough..) According to the financial statements, total revenue for EBay went up by 28 and a half percent in 2007 over 2006. Gross Profit was up by over 25%.
I guess my point is is that there are always going to be some disgruntled folks on Ebay. You cannot please everybody all of the time. EBay however does need to be careful as they are treading a fine line having ignored disgruntled former eBayers who became frustrated with EBay in recent months. The fact of the matter is that EBay has struggled with flattening growth in recent years and at times drops in the number of items for sale on its site. EBay may fast become known as FeeBay for many other users of the auction based service.
eBay Tries On the Cheap Suit
Oh man!! Ebay gettting Greeddy again!
Ebay lowers listing fees
EBay cutting listing fees, boosting commissions
Ebay Sellers Riled Up About New Fees, Rules
It wasn't great news for Yahoo yesterday as they reported their Q4 earnings. Representing the eighth drop in a row, Yahoo reported that the fourth quarter earnings showed a 24% drop and the full year profits went down $13%. In addition, the company is planning to lay off 7% of their 14,000 employees. Yahoo (YHOO) shares fell about 9 percent on Wednesday amidst reports that Yahoo was in for another tough year in 2008.
So what's wrong with Yahoo? Well maybe they underestimated Google a few years back. Maybe it's the fact the the Internet has become a very competitive landscape with popular online destinations being social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. The fact of the matter is, is that Internet is a much busier place than it was when Yahoo started out in the mid-90's. Yahoo has been losing search market share for the past few years. Goldman Sachs analyst Jennifer Watson said,
"Given the continued investments in 2008, we are increasingly concerned about the cost of maintaining leadership" in key markets such as e-mail and search."
What's next for Yahoo? Before everyone starts pushing the panic button suggesting that Microsoft is going to purchase Yahoo, wait just a minute. It is most unlikely that this will happen. The fact is that Yahoo needs to regroup and establish some goals as to where they see themselves going. If it's search they need to focus on search. If it's as an entertainment portal/community then focus should be there. The fact of the matter is, the team at Yahoo need to pull together, get on the same page and focus on what's best for Yahoo.
Social networks continue to be all the rage although frankly I am getting bored with them. I was on a Facebook kick for a while and now I have reverted back to MySpace. I also have profiles at a number of other communities including LinkedIn, Yahoo Kickstart, Sphinn and a number of others. Some of these social communities I visit more than others. Some I just visit to see what they are all about. (By the way feel free to add me on any of the social networks listed above.)
It has come to the point where I have difficulty in keeping track with all of the social networks that I have a presence in. So it was great to hear about Mahalo Social and their multi-profile service that allows you to aggregate your social networks. The multi-profile service allows you to organize accounts in Pownce, MySpace, StumbleUpon, Digg, Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even your blog. The platform will allow users to access most major social networking sites within Mahalo itself.
We've discussed social network aggregators before with MyLifeBrand another service that lets user’s aggregate social networking memberships and navigate between them from the one place. So any new technology that can help users organize their social networks and blogs is ok by me.
It's pretty easy to get started. You just have to add your user name or user ID into the boxes provided, and it then pulls your profiles from each service. You will want to make sure that you use the full URL when entering your information for social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Once set up, you can you can visit each page via tabs on Mahalo itself.
You can expect to see more of these types of services. There is still quite a buzz around social networking. Rumors persist that Google is working to reinvent online social networking as well with a project called Socialstream. One things for sure, social networking continues to gain popularity which I personally find a bit surprising.
What are the guys from Metallica going to do now? For all of you music lovers out there, have you heard of Qtrax? If not you may want to check it out. Qtrax offers free and legal music downloads. They have an inventory of over 25 million songs. And did I mention that the downloads were free? Qtrax is the world’s first free and legal peer-to-peer (P2P) digital music site. Music lovers can discover new music and legally download full-length, high-quality versions of their favorite songs while compensating both the artists and the record labels through non-intrusive and relevant advertising.
Qtrax works directly with record labels and publishers who have licensed their content for distribution online. There is no cost to download and use the software. There are no membership fees or per song costs. When users download and play music, the support of advertisers allows Qtrax to compensate artists for their work. Some of the cool features of Qtrax include:
an inventory of 25 million songs
no adware or spyware
accurate and comprehensive search results
Downfalls of the Qtrax service is that the service is not iPod compatible and ads are displayed during playback, even on music devices.
Qtrax launched yesterday January 26th. For more on Qtrax see the following resources:
Tech Crunch Review of QTrax
WIRED on Qtrax
Silicon Alley Insider Report on Qtrax from August 2007
Official Qtrax Website
It's time for our monthly countdown of the top 7 search related stories of the month. Last month was pretty quiet in the world of search. Google did top the charts again with news that the FTC investigation in Google's attempt to acquire DoubleClick had been completed. Let's have a look at the top stories that have happened over the past month to start 2007 off.
What sort of noise have the search engines made this month?
#7. New Search Tool Wikia is Released - the tool is basically a collection of freely-hosted ad-supported wiki communities using the Open Source MediaWiki software.
#6. Google Applies for Patent with Regards to Plans to Read Text from Within Images and Video - blended search optimization just got a little more interesting as Google recently applied for a patent where Google will have a method for reading content within images and video.
#5. ASK Announced "Click to Speak" Mobile Service - a free voice activated capabilities to its ASK Mobile Directions service. The new innovation is called "Click to Speak" and will allow people to simply speak their location and desired destination to receive directions on their mobile devices (providing that they are web-enabled).
#4. Google Gets Set for their Q4 2007 Earnings Release - on January 31, Google will be holding their Q4 2007 Earnings Release Conference Call at 1:30 pm PST. Amidst reports by analysts that Google, Yahoo and other Internet companies fueled by online ads could suffer in a recession, Google is set to announce their Q4 results. With talk of a recessio0n and the markets fluctuating, many expect the online ad market might hold up better than other media.
#3. The State of Yahoo - at the time of this writing, Yahoo is preparing to announce the results of their Q4 earnings for 2007. The actual announcement is set for Tuesday, January 29th. Rumors persist that Yahoo will also be announcing a substantial number of layoffs during this time.
#2. ASK Replaces their CEO - out was search visionary Jim Lanzone, in was marketing man Jim Safka. In a somewhat surprising move, ASK announced that effectively immediately, Mr. Safka would be replacing Jim Lanzone. The announcement had many talking about the move wondering if it was a good move or not.
#1. Microsoft (MSFT) Reports Record Second Quarter Results - Robust holiday sales and enterprise demand drive revenue growth of 30%. The Redmond, Wash., software company posted revenue of $16.4 billion, up 30% from $12.5 billion in the prior year's quarter. Analysts were expecting a top line of $15.95 billion, according to Thomson Financial. According to Chief Accounting Officer Frank Brod, "...the boost is due to strong sales across product lines..."
Interesting to see that the financials dominate the stories this month. We'll feature more detailed coverage of both Yahoo and Google's earnings reports later in the week.
I love stuff like this. Over at Fortune, they have a series of interesting articles all about Google or relating to Google including:
Google topping the 100 Best Companies to Work for in 2008 list
10 Fascinating Googlers
Top 50 Companies - yup you guessed it, Google gets the nod
Where are they now? A story on 13 ex-Googlers and what they have been up to since leaving the Googleplex.
Help Wanted: Google - thinking of sending your resume to Google? Check this out.
9 Things your didn't know about Google
This is cool stuff. I knew Google was innovative and have heard the hype about working at the Googleplex, but some of this stuff is pretty amazing. For example did you know that:
for the release of blockbuster films (think Transformers and Lord of the Rings) Google rents an entire theater for the day. Upwards of 6,000 Googlers and one guest each. Cool.
Google's intranet "Moma" is most often used to search out other Googlers as the directory provides photos of nearly 16, 000 employees.
Google's office have some interesting designs including an all Lego built Google logo at their New York office.
We've all heard about Google's chefs and their amazing cafeterias... well Google actually has a rule that workers can never be more than 100 feet away from food. No wonder Googlers never want to leave the Googleplex.
Some of Google's job openings in the past include; Lawyers to negotiate licensing deals with Hollywood for video and digital music, Strategic Negotiator, Submarine Cable ('nuff said) and a Mobile Wireless Application Developer (for assistance with their Android operating system perhaps?)
Andy Rubin, Google's Director of Mobile Platforms and creator of Android, Google's operating system for cellphones got his start as a robot engineer. Speaking of Android, does anyone know if these Android based phones will be available in Canada out of the gate? If so when?
Many of Google's former employees are becoming "angel investors" based on the wealth they have acquired from Google.
I am lucky to experience similar items here at Enquiro. While we don't have the Googleplex, we have the Enquiro-Dome. We have employees that are brilliant, unique and innovative. We have a trendy office with street signs and traffic lights. We have monthly and annual events to support our community. We have highly sought after SEO and SEM consultants. We perform leading edge research. We have fun together through annual events such as our whitewater rafting adventures, we have subsidized gym memberships. We have a kitchen full of nutritional snacks and beverages. We are proud of our corporate culture. Google is famous for their corporate culture. This may be the one single reason as to why they again top the list of the best places to work. The same could be said about Enquiro but on a much smaller level.
For all of you investors out there... sheesh it's been a rough couple of weeks hasn't it? Microsoft (MSFT) is set to announce their quarterly earnings tomorrow/ Their Q2 2008 Earnings Conference Call is scheduled for 5:30PM EST.
According to Kramer's picks from January 18th, he says to buy MSFT shares. Here is a look at their last quarter results based on their Q1 2008 report.
(In millions, except per share amounts)(Unaudited)
According to comScore Video Metrix, Googles’ share of online video market jumped to 31 percent in November 2007.
Top U.S. Online Video Properties* by Videos Viewed
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Video Metrix
Share (%) of
Fox Interactive Media
Time Warner Network
*Rankings based on video content sites; excludes video server networks. Online video includes both streaming and progressive download video.
In total, 138 million Americans – approximately three in four U.S Internet users – viewed online video in November. Google Sites also captured the largest online video audience with 76.2 million unique viewers, followed by Fox Interactive Media with 46.3 million and Yahoo! Sites with 37.3 million.
Top U.S. Online Video Properties* by Unique Video Viewers
Shhh did you hear that? Nah me neither, it's just the sound of Yahoo doing nothing. Anyone else notice how Yahoo has been eerily quiet as of late? Seriously, earth to Yahoo, where are you?
Well the silence may be about to be broken as there are numerous reports that Yahoo is gearing up for mass layoffs worldwide. According to one report from the New York Times, the layoffs are
in an effort to increase its profitability, prop up its deflated stock price and narrow the focus of its sprawling Internet portal to a smaller number of crucial areas...
The report goes on to suggest that Yahoo (YHOO) plans to eliminate some areas of the business that don’t support the company’s priorities. Interesting and just what are those priorities? According to a report from Bloomberg, Yahoo may announce the cuts around the same time as it reports earnings on Jan. 29.
Yahoo is still one of the most visited destinations on the Web with nearly a half a billion visitors each month. You would think that they would be able to better leverage this kind of traffic. Why then would Yahoo consider laying off as much as 20 percent of its work force? Pressure from the Board of the Directors perhaps. Yahoo has been in a bit of a downward spiral since early 2006 as their share price has lost more than half of their value since this time.
So what can we expect from Yahoo with regards to their search product? I think that Yahoo will be looking to incorporating more blended search results into their main results pages. Look for things such as images and video to frequent the Yahoo SERP more often. As a result, Yahoo may place more focus on products such as Flickr and Yahoo Video. With increasing competition from social sites such as MySpace and Facebook, you can bet that Yahoo will try to step it up on the social networking front. Last year's launch of Yahoo Kickstart has fizzled since it's release. To sum up, I think the areas that Yahoo will be focusing on in 2008 will be:
Blended Search - as mentioned look for Yahoo to try and seriously improve the user experience within their search results.
Personalization - Yahoo will begin to work harder to understand their user's search habits and will try to offer a more personal user experience a la Google with promotion of their Personalized Yahoo page
Social Networking - still a hot topic and really, couldn't we say that Yahoo was the original social network/portal on the Web?
I wonder if Yahoo has become accustomed to being the proverbial second most popular girl at the dance? You'd think they would get tired of being #2 in the world of search. Well if proper steps are not taken, Yahoo could be looking at the number three spot. Well one thing that you can't take away from Yahoo is their 2008 Proggy Award for having the most vegetarian- and earth-friendly corporate cafeteria. Actually in all honesty, Yahoo has a number of pretty cool products. I love Yahoo Pipes. Let's hope that Yahoo can pull it together and give Google some serious competition in the years to come.
Google has released a Quickstart Guide for Webmaster Tools. The Guide is intended for new users of Google Webmaster Tools and covers the main features of Webmaster Tools, and will help new users to get started right away. The Quickstart Guide currently features 10 pages on the fundamentals of Google Webmaster Tools including:
An overview of the dashboard outlining how to add your sitemap
A detailed look at the "Overview" section of Webmaster Tools
A look at the Diagnostics tab which lists problems Googlebot encountered during its latest crawl of your site.
A review of top search queries from the statistics of Google Webmaster Tools
A look at Crawl Stats
A look into what sites are using in the anchor text of their links to your site through the "What Googlebot Sees" section of Webmaster Tools.
An overview of the links section which lets you examine your internal and external link inventories.
Overview of Sitemaps
A review of the Tools that are within Google Webmaster Tools
It's a great place to start if you have never used Google Webmaster Tools. Webmaster Tools is a fantastic tool to use to determine if Google is having issues indexing the content of your site. Google Webmaster Tools can be accessed via http://www.google.com/webmasters/tools
Looking through various reports we see that Google (GOOG) share price is down recently and now Nielsen Online reports that Google's market share was down in December as well. Not the greatest news as Google prepares to announce their quarterly earnings with their Q4 2007 Earnings Conference Call scheduled for January 31.
According to the Nielsen report, Google had a 56.3 percent share of the search market in the U.S., down from a 57.7 percent share the previous month. Ah but lets not overreact. Google is strong and I wouldn't expect this trend to continue. Google's known for their innovation and drive to organize the world's information. They are constantly working on numerous projects that vary from updates on their existing services such as Google Analytics of Google Webmaster Tools (Check out the new Google Webmaster Tools Quickstart Guide)to new endeavors such their Open Social Project. Google has been so strong for so long that they are bound to have a lull which is what they may be experiencing now.
As I turned on Hockey Night in Canada yesterday evening, I was saddened to learn the passing of CBC broadcasting great Mr. Don Wittman. Mr. Wittman lost his battle with cancer earlier on Saturday morning.
Anyone living in Canada who watched CBC sports will recall Mr. Wittman's entertaining calls of events from the Olympics (He might be best remembered as the voice that called the men's 100-metre race at the 1996 Summer Olympics, when sprinter Donovan Bailey won a gold medal for Canada.) to classic football games in the CFL to Stanley Cup winning games in the NHL. His last CBC assignment was on October 13th, when he called an Ottawa Senators-New York Rangers game. Mr. Wittman was a native of Winnipeg and on January 8th, the CBC held a retirement luncheon in The Manitoba capital as they inducted Mr. Wittman into the CBC Sports Hall of Fame. (Video courtesy of CBC News via YouTube.)
Mr. Wittman was my favorite broadcaster of all. I grew up listening to his commentary and play by play action from Olympic events to memorable sports moments such as the infamous 1987 World Junior Hockey Championship game between Canada and Russia which saw Mr. Wittman to report: "..."you don't see this in International hockey, you just don't see players getting their helmets off and fighting...they've turned the lights off in the arena, but that isn't going to solve anything they're still fighting... I've never seen anything like this...I wouldn't be surprised if the game is over. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the game is called..." Sure enough the game was called due to the brawl. Canada and Russia were both kicked out of the tournament.
Mr. Wittman is a legend. He was one of Canada's greatest spokespersons and through his call of sporting events was as entertaining as they come. According to the Globe and Mail, Scott Moore, the head of CBC Sports, described Mr. Wittman as a pioneer in TV sports. His career in broadcasting started in radio in 1955 when he was 18. He joined the CBC in 1961. In 1972, Mr. Wittman got an uncomfortably close look at a Munich hostage-taker as discussed here. Growing up in Alberta I can remember Mr. Wittman calling the epic Battle of Alberta games between the Calgary Flames and my favorite Edmonton Oilers.
Mr. Wittman was known for having amazing memory recall. He never forgot a name or an event. For me, Mr. Wittman was the voice of the Olympics, the voice of curling and the voice of classic CFL games. Mr. Wittman will always be the "pre-eminent football voice" in Canada. Mr. Don Wittman WAS the voice of CBC. Words like "consummate professional", "broadcasting pioneer", or "never forget a name" often describe Mr. Wittman. His class, distinctive voice and diversity are an inspiration to broadcasters across the nation. I was lucky enough to get to listen to him and be entertained by him. For those that were friends and family and were able to converse with Mr. Wittman you were lucky enough to be in the presence of a great man. I would suggest that the CFL, and NHL or CBC introduce a new trophy to be given out to the athlete, coach, executive or broadcaster who conveys the most class in their endeavors. The Don Wittman trophy for the athlete, player, coach, executive, or broadcaster who exemplifies professionalism and class in their industry.
Mr. Wittman you will be missed. CBC Sports will never be the same. We lost a great one. Mr. Wittman is survived by his wife, Judy, and two daughters, Karen and Kristen and son David.
Other Interesting Facts About Mr. Don Wittman
Mr. Don Wittman was born in Herbert, Sask., and attended the University of Saskatchewan.
He began his broadcasting career as a radio news reporter in 1955 at CFQC in Saskatoon.
The 1964 Winter Games in Innsbruck were Wittman's first
As a sportscaster, Mr. Wittman participated in 18 Summer and Winter Olympics
Mr. Wittman was the voice when Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson brought the nation to their feet with his win (later retracted due to a positive steroids test) in the 100 metre event at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
Mr. Wittman's interview with Sandra Schmirler's after the 1998 gold medal win in curling for Team Canada was one of his favourite moments.
As reported by CBC in their tribute to Mr. Wittman,
Covering a calamity more sobering than any sporting event could ever be, Wittman was near the scene in Munich in 1972 after gunmen attacked and held hostage members of Israel's Olympic team, with 11 eventually killed.
During the standoff, Wittman and producer Bob Moir crawled under a fence to get into the Olympic Village and the evacuated Canadian quarters. They were positioned directly across a courtyard from the Israeli dormitory.