Mayday – Customer Service, Amazon Style

The ad for Amazon’s new Kindle Fire HDX range of tablets states the new Mayday service as being revolutionary; And in a way it is.

The fact that a customer service rep in a video frame pops up at the touch of button, for free, is testament that Amazon understands the fundamental requirement of a business to succeed in the tech market: Giving their customers the confidence that if and when they trip up using new technology someone is just a reliable click away ready to help.

Today’s technology moves so fast that only the biggest technophiles probably feel as though they can tackle any new features presented to them; Most consumers however feel they are playing catch up most of the time and feel the strain of picking up a new piece of technology and instantly being able to use it effectively. And that’s where Amazon wins.

Mayday – Amazon Kindle Fire HDX

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Social Media is changing Customer Service

“The customer is always right” is a term that is taking on new meaning in the increasingly connected consumer world. Why? Because a bad experience can be advertised around the Internet within minutes by a disgruntled consumer using their connections on various social networks they are a member of, doing damage to a brand that could take months to repair.

Consumers have never before had such power to reach literally thousands of like-minded individuals with their opinions of a product or service. Where before a bad experience would have been told of to a handful of people, usually family and friends, today those same family and friends too will have hundreds of connections that they can pass the news on to instantly.

Even worse for businesses, anyone can now create a concerted campaign using a cheap video camera and the power of services like YouTube. Ann Minch started a ‘Debtors Revolt’ in exactly this way against the Bank of America when they raised the interest on her credit card. She created a short, 5 minute video stating her case to Bank of America and made the video publicly available to view. The campaign took off rapidly as the link to the video started appearing on blogs, social networks and Twitter. The video, below, has had over 240,000 views since September.

The bank reacted the only way it could without the publicity getting worse – it reversed the hike after attempting to negotiate another rate – Ann Minch refused and made the bank reinstate the original interest rate.

Such stories are going to become mainstream as more and more consumers realise the power they have at their fingertips.  Businesses have only ever had to worry about a small percentage of customers coming back to them with returns and complaints, A small customer service department would suffice in dealing with the low rate of complaints. Feedback involved polling the customer base where typically only a small percentage would respond, never providing a true picture of what customers felt.

Now, a business needs to be more on the ball with how their customers perceive the service or product. They need to feel  the real-time pulse of the marketplace in order to prevent a small number of customers from negatively influencing a larger number of potential customers.

Customer service departments need to become more involved in the marketplace by becoming part of the conversations their customers are having. This will not only enable gathering of real, emotional feedback but allow the business to gauge the direction the marketplace is moving in to give them an advantage over competitors who are not involved in the social media space. If a business engages with it’s customer base where they are most active they have the ability to influence perception in a positive way and increase business as a result.

Twitter and LinkedIn announce ‘status update’ partnership

In an announcement on Monday Twitter and LinkedIn said they are rolling out a service whereby it will be possible sync status updates between the two services. Facebook and Twitter already do this to a degree and it just makes sense that the world’s most popular micro-blogging platform and the world’s most popular professional networking platform should collaborate in this way.

Check out the announcement video from Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman –

Why you should build a Positive Personal Brand

What is a personal brand? It’s the process by which you market yourself to others, whether you’re looking for a job or establishing yourself as an expert in your field or even just posting tweets on Twitter. It’s what you’re seen to wear in online photos, what your ‘voice’ on the Internet sounds like, what your personal web site talks about, what your Facebook page is all about – basically the ‘digital’ you.

In this ever-connected world, everyone is a brand, and this gives each of us great power and opportunity to really sell ourselves. If you use social networks or blog or participate in online forums then you are already in the public eye to some degree. Anyone can Google you and find out all kinds of information by reading your tweets, your blog posts and the conversations you’re involved in anywhere on the ‘net. 
Of course, the flip side of this is that if you’re not active in the digital realm then your personal brand profile is going to be pretty small and in today’s world that’s probably going to work against you in the long run. The Internet has enabled transparency and the less transparent you are the less desirable you become, especially as other personal brands around you become more prominent.

The question is, is your personal brand Positive or Negative?

Today, practically anyone who is likely to interact with you at almost any level of your life is going to Google you and find out everything they can. Employers already do this, as do recruitment agents when checking on potential matches for jobs. If you want someone to collaborate or partner up on a project they’re going to check out the ‘digital’ you first for suitability. 

What many people don’t realize is that almost anything they put out on the Internet is likely to remain available to view for all posterity. This includes Facebook posts, Twitter tweets, comments on blogs, personal videos on Youtube and Vimeo – anything and everything, and if even some of that stuff is ‘bad’ it’s going to work against you to some degree. As Gary Vaynerchuk likes to say, “your grandkids are going to be able to check out everything you’ve ever done”! A good example of how negative content can come back to bite is when a few Virgin Atlantic staff were laid off last year for making derogatory comments about their employer on their Facebook pages.
So you want to make sure everything you do in this digital landscape is positive. Anything that can be found out about your interactions need to show you in the best possible light.

Do that and you’re already on your way to building a strong personal brand.

Crush It! Why Gary Vaynerchuk wrote his new book

Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book Crush It! is already available from retailers all over and I’ve already ordered my copy – if you’re not sure if this is for you check out this video montage from Gary about why he wrote the book…

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Gary Vaynerchuk interview

Raj Kotecha of Creative Content Agency interviews Gary Vaynerchuk on how to leverage social media and build a brand. This 30 minute interview is one of the best I’ve watched in quite some time with many gems of wisdom from Gary. He also talks a little about his new new book on social media, Crush It!

ICANN relaxes rules on Top Level Domains

TechRadar.com reports today that ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names, is relaxing its rules for Top Level Domains next year.

With billions of web sites populating the Internet it’s really no wonder ICANN are doing this – I can’t remember the last time I registered the exact domain that I or a client wanted. Practically every good top level domain has been snapped up, a lot of these by cyber-squatterswho register a domain early on and sell it to the highest bidder.

The new rules will allow the registration of ‘anything’ as a TLD e.g. .ny for New York or .ldn for London. I could register .chandeshparekh as long as I had a good enough ‘business’ reason for doing so.

As the TechRadar.com article notes, it’s hard to know whether this will improve the Internet or hinder it; consider the number of yet to come ‘dead’ websites that will litter the Internet landscape as a result of the new rules.

Read more about this on the ICANN site

Read the TechRadar.com article

Is Google Phone On The Way?

Google PhoneI’m a big fan of Google and especially its attitude toward making its services accessible to all so I’m getting pretty excited about the rumour going around the Internet that the Google Phone is due out in the first quarter of 2008. Google has already made the web largely accessible to computer users and is now extending their ethos to mobile phones.

But, what is the Google Phone all about? From what I gather, Google will first release software that will be compatible with the hardware from phone vendors before actually releasing it’s own range of phones. This last bit is still a bit foggy but it seems the software release is imminent.

The software will bundle Google Mail, Google Maps, Search and YouTube for video-sharing. However, the best part of this software is that it will be ‘open’ so that developers can actually build additional phone features.

What does this mean for you and me? Just that we’ll get access to some of the best free web applications on our mobile phones.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets – The Viral Games Web Site

National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the new Nicholas Cage movie, is the sequel to the 2004 movie National Treasure and is due out later this year.

The official website is packed with the movie trailers, info about the story about the movie but the better site is the games site sponsored by Mercedes Benz here. However, rather than the usual dull advertising banners, Mercedes Benz have advertised within the games.

For example, there are 2 games based in London; in one, the action game called Thames River Race, you drive a Mercedes Benz along the Victoria Embankment avoiding buses, black-cabs and other obstacles.
The puzzle game called Break Into Buckingham, a game very much like Tetris, involves destroying symbols to unlock the gates to Buckingham Palace. One of these symbols is the Mercedes Benz star.

The prizes are impressive, with a chance to win $50,000 in the London games and for all 5 city games the chance to win the $50,00 plus a Mercedes Benz!
The site is viral as one of the other cities is unlocked every week, revealing the games specific to that location. This week, running to the 24th of October, is London and the other cities are Cairo, Paris, New York and Washington D.C.

All in all, a great fun site packed with fairly unobtrusive branding and great viral games.

Let us know if you win the Merc!

Microsoft reveals Office Live Workspace (OLW)

Microsoft extended its web strategy by unveiling Office Live Workspace (beta), an online sharing repository for Office documents. Not what many thought would be Microsoft’s answer to Google Docs, this service actually extends Office to the online space.

To use OLW, you need to have a registered version of MS Office 2003 or 2007. The site provides 250MB of space to share documents with other users, though does not have the ability for the user to create or edit documents. Microsoft says OLW will play nice with other office suites too, though there probably will be some compatibility issues.

It’s a smart play by MS as users will still need to own a registered copy of Office as will any other users who they may want to share documents with.

Personally I think OpenOffice used together with Google Docs can do the same job with these added advantages over OLW:

  1. Neither I nor the users I share docs with have to pay anything as both OpenOffice and Google Docs are free to use
  2. Google Docs doesn’t have a cap on space as opposed to OLW’s 250MB which won’t be enough for serious users.

Which would you use and why: MS Office/OLW or OpenOffice/Google Docs for your business? Post your comments below…

Do you respect your own web site?

With the advent of so many social networks like Facebook, Bebo, MySpace etc, many web site owners are losing focus when it comes to their Internet marketing strategy.

Because such social network sites make it easy most of the marketing is done, primarily, through them and this is foolhardy.

Whatever reason your web site exists; to sell products, raise awareness of your services etc, it needs to be at the centre of your strategy with multiple traffic sources leading back to it.

Why? Because that’s where you, as the web site owner, have full control over content and how it’s presented to your potential or current customers. It’s where you can reinforce your brand and make sure that the next time they come directly to your site and not via Facebook or something similar. It’s also where you can capture their email addresses so you can now market directly to them, tailoring your offers to make them more attractive.

And remember, social networks come and go – you may have experienced some success using them at present but the moment they’re sliding downhill and hemorrhaging users you’ll have to repeat all that hard work on the next big site, where your market has migrated to.

It makes more sense to drive traffic to your own site and keep them there so you don’t have to keep chasing after them.

3 ways to Strengthen Your Brand using the correct email address

Branding on the Internet can be done in many ways and one of the easiest, if not the easiest is by using your own domain name in your email addresses. This may seem like an obvious thing to do but all too often we see email addresses in the form “companyname@ispname.com” where the only branding going on is by the Internet Service Provider that provides your email needs. Much too often companies register their own domains but doesn’t make use of the email facilities that are provided along with the domain.

Today, using email-forwarding and POP3 mailbox settings, it’s possible to use an online email service like Google Mail or Hotmail or traditional email clients like Outlook, Thunderbird e.t.c., to manage your email whilst using an email address in the form myname@mydomain.com.

But why would you want to? Consider that email has become the most widely used communication format today. If you’re reading this article on our web site the chances are you have your own Internet access and your own email address. If you use your own domain name every person that you send email to is going to see the email address and understand that the domain (the ‘mydomain.com’ bit) probably has a web site attached to it and that all they have to do to visit it is type into their browser www.mydomain.com.

That’s the first way in which you can strengthen your brand. The second is by making use of the “From” alias so that it reads something like “From: Mr. A. Name of Mycompany Ltd., www.mycompany.com”. Most of the time, only the name of the person is used in the “From” alias. By correctly utilising the “From” alias, you’ll provide the email recipient with a lot more information including your company name and your web site address.

Thirdly, always make use of the “signature” tool that practically every email client, web-based or not, has built-in. The signature, once set up, is automatically added to the bottom of every email you send out. This is one of the most powerful branding tools as there is no limit to what you could put in the signature file. For example, your signature file could read:

Mr. A. Name
My Company Ltd.

e: a.name@mycompany.com
w: www.mycompany.com
t: +44 123 456 7890

Sale, this week only: all prices slashed by 25%!! Click here to see the sale

New stock coming soon.

Using this simple tool, every email you send out with this signature effectively acts like an ad for your sale. It drives traffic to your web site where you can further strengthen your brand and will likely get you some sales too!

By using these tips, every email you send out can push your brand in three different ways. Not bad for something that only takes a few minutes to implement!