If you have been reading my blog you know that I am not a negative person when it comes to talking about local businesses. In this post I will highlight some incredibly poor service from EQ3 Calgary in the hopes that other businesses can benefit from the lessons presented.
This post is broken into 2 sections. The first is my experience with EQ3 Calgary. The second is 4 lessons for local business.
I would also like to hear your feedback on our reaction to the situation (are we over reacting or unjustified in our approach) and/or your experiences with this organization (positive or negative), feel free to comment below.
Experience with EQ3 Calgary
My wife and I were in the market for a Platform Frame from our new King Size mattress. We decided to purchase the Magnolia Curved Slat Bed (King Size Frame). Like most furniture purchases there is always a waiting period for the product. From the time we purchased until the product came in was around 4-weeks. This seems to be a pretty standard waiting period. The only negative to this particular product was that it is manufactured in China. A little disappointing since EQ3 is proudly promotes themselves as a Canadian Manufacturer but I also understand that certain products are simply cheaper to manufacture overseas. Our purchase price was over $1100 and we opted not to have delivered, we would pick up at their warehouse location when it arrived.
After picking up the product, and coordinating with the Sleep Country on the delivery of the mattress, we were very disappointed to realize that the product had damage. Note – the box was completely sealed, so there was no way to know of the damage until it was opened. Here is a picture of the damage:
Although disappointed to realize our product had damage, we understand that this happens in manufacturing and we were unfortunate to get a damaged one. This was no fault to EQ3 Calgary as the product was sealed, although disappointing that the manufacturing quality control did not catch prior to sealing for shipment. We contacted EQ3 regarding the issue and our specific request to rectify the situation and this where EQ3 Calgary failed in their response.
Our request was two-fold; 1) we wanted a replacement frame and 2) since this was a manufacturing defect, we also requested that EQ3 delivery the new frame when it came in. Here is a the string of conversations with their customer service department:
August 23, 2009 – request made to customer service department regarding the damage issue. This is a subset of the original email.
I recently spoke to a woman in your customer service department regarding damage to a bed we just purchased. We discovered the damage when we unpacked the box Friday night to assemble the bed. She requested we email pictures of the damage.
August 26, 2009 – email response back from EQ3 to us, again subset of email;
I am putting in an exchange for the damaged pieces. The Calgary warehouse will be in contact with you once everything is in. At which time you will able to bring back the pieces you do have for an exchange.
August 27, 2009 – email from us back to EQ3:
Thanks for the quick feedback.
Due to poor quality control at the supplier end it is our expectation that the replacement parts will be delivered and the damaged ones picked up at the same time as a courtesy for the inconvenience. Please confirm.
September 1, 2009 – another email from us to EQ3:
I am following up on the email below. I have not yet received a response.
September 1, 2009 – email back from EQ3:
Just following up with you, sorry for the delay. At this time I am unable to have your pieces deliveries to you, but I would like to offer you a $25 Gift Card to EQ3 to be used on any future purchases.
Why EQ3 Calgary Sucks
We were very disappointed that they would not delivery the product to us or give us an equivalent in compensation. Note: EQ3 Calgary charges $95 for delivery. Their view of compensation was a $25.
My issue with this approach – they charge $95 for delivery, so in sending this message what they are saying is that their time is worth more than my time. At the very minimum, one should expect a $95 gift card to match their delivery charge. The value of their solution seemed like a token response. One could argue this approach ensures that EQ3 Calgary gets more money from the customer since you cannot purchase anything for this dollar amount and by default means you would spend more with them. Personally this sends me the wrong message that it is about them and not me.
Final note on this front – as of this posting, October 31, 2009 – we have not received our $25 gift card.
4 Customer Service Lessons for Local Businesses
1) Take Responsibility For Your Product
In manufacturing defects happen. Take responsibility and be proactive in your approach to dealing with customers. Think about it, your customer has chosen your business. They are putting their trust into your company and your product. When it does happen (if you are a quality company, likely the % of defects will be marginal) be aggressive in solving it for the customer and honor reasonable requests.
2) Don’t Insult Customers With Token Offers
Put yourself in the customers shoes and ask yourself, would you be happy with your company’s response? If you can’t answer a resounding yes, then likely you have not gone far enough. You also don’t have to go to extremes on unreasonable requests (I don’t agree with the philosophy that the customer is always right, in some cases the customer is just an asshole, every business has these) but if its a reasonable request make it happen for your customer. In the above case – the right solution would have been a) deliver the defective product or b) offer a $95 gift card, which is the value of the delivery.
3) Say What You are Going to Do and Actually Do It
If you tell a customer that you will do something, make damn sure you do it. Nothing is worse than saying you will do something and then not follow though.
4) Consider Your Customer Service as a One to Many Relationship
Customer service use to be a one-to-one relationship between the company and the customer. However, with today’s communication platforms, company’s need to consider that customer service issues are one-to-many. Good or bad customer service will get broadcasted. When building out your customer service policies build then with the view that they will be distributed to a much larger audience. Your customer service department is a marketing tool for your organization that will either propel your organization forward or slowly erode your customer base.
Tell me what you think? Was our request unreasonable? What should EQ3 have done? Do you agree that Customer Service departments are an extension of Marketing?
The YellowPages.ca Answer Service has been running for over 1-month now and the numbers of local questions being asked and answered is increasing steadily. There are a lot of questions around plumbers, mechanics, electricians, restaurants, etc, however, I wanted to highlight some questions that don’t really fall into the traditional categories of what people are looking for.
Here is my list of the 8 most usual or out of the ordinary local business questions asked by users:
- I need to find mannaquin arms, 10 to be precise. Where can i find them? – mannaguin arms, I wonder what he needs those for? What about the rest of the mannaquin?
- Does anyone know a good, high tech dentist w/ cute assistants in Montreal, QC (near downtown core)? – love this question, forget the dentist, it is all about the assistant
- Does anyone know a nice no-tell hotel in Montreal, QC? – hmmmm, I wonder what the no-tell is about
- Does anyone know a good escort service in saint john? – interesting, perhaps the person looking for the no-tell hotel could help, see above
- Does anyone know a mediocre taco bell restaurant in guelph on? – some would argue that all food at Taco Bell is mediocre
- Where is a good place to buy NHL jerseys in Toronto? Jerseys from other teams, not just the Leafs. – exactly, who would purchase a leaf’s jersey?
- Anyone know a mediator specialized in neighbour disputes in Montreal, QC? – see Samual L Jackson in Lakeview Terrace, might give you some ideas
- Where is the best place for happy hour on a Friday afternoon in Ottawa? – somebody has their priorities straight
I will continue to monitor and update this list later in the year with more unique questions that are being asked.
From a business perspective the Answer service can be used to increase sales and leads to your business. Here are 3-Steps on how a local businesses can take advantage of this service?
1) Create an account and if your business uses Twitter, connect it to your twitter feed
2) Monitor the questions
3) If a user is asking for a recommendation on your business category or you think you can help them out, provide a recommendation. I suggest that you disclose that you are recommending your own business. In the comments field give some insight into why that person should do business with you.
What this does for a local business is gives them direct access to users who might be interested in their products or services and opens a dialogue with users.
Would you follow your favorite healthy pizza place on Twitter? Through the power of Twitter, originally posted by @perryevans, which I found through a ReTweet by @sebprovencher – I am now following NakedPizza, a New Orleans super-health conscious pizza joint. The article that my twitter friends were talking about is “A Sign Of Things To Come: Naked Pizza Erects Twitter Billboard” from TechCrunch.
So, what did NakedPizza do that deserves such mention? Simple. They are using traditional media combined with social media to stay connected with their customers. Check out the picture below from TechCrunch.
From the article – “But if a business can get a customer to add their Twitter handle, it gets a free channel to constantly remind them that they exist. By tweeting out promotions a few times a week, Naked Pizza will maintain a presence in the customer’s consciousness, and the customer gets a chance to score some cheap pizza.”
What a brilliant strategy from a small business. Back in 2005, when I operated KS2 Solutions Inc., a Calgary based Internet Marketing firm, I did a lot of public speaking about small business marketing and how SMB’s could leverage the Internet. In February of that year I posted a blog titled, “Are You Letting Sales Slip Away” in which I discussed the importance of staying connected with your customers. At that time, the message in terms of doing this was through a eNewsletter, however, move ahead 4-years and now there is Twitter.
Twitter is likely one of the best tools, since eNewsletters, for constant communication with your customers. From a user perspective, I can follow my favorite local, regional or national brand players who will inform me through tiny 140 character updates about products, specials or whatever. When I compare Twitter to Email, I see 3 key advantages –
1) more viral, easier to share Tweets as opposed to forwarding emails
2) promotes two-way communication
3) small, short and focused messages, no more rambling newsletters about how great you are
I am still a fan of the eNewsletter but Twitter could be the next best thing to staying connected with your customers.
By the numbers, as of this posting:
1942 – the number of people following @NakedPizza
62 – the number of comments on the article posted on TechCrunch (note: was 60 when I started writing this blog post)
4 – the number of times my wife has asked me if I am done yet
[praized subtype="big" name="true" address="true" phone="true" pid="2badfefe121645a307dc20956f9bcf7d" type="badge" dynamic="true"]
“Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.”
In discussions with small business owners, when asked, what method of tracking do you use to measure your new sales, the most common response is “I ask my consumers where they heard about me”. Usually the second part of the conversation goes this way – “word of mouth is my best form of advertising” and “I tried many forms of advertising, none have worked for me”.
For this particular post I want to focus on two areas:
1) How word-of-mouth (WOM) needs support
2) How to leverage in-store questions and online traffic
I am a very strong believer in WOM and the incredible growth it can generate. That being said, WOM often takes more credit away from supporting advertising vehicles, giving the impression to a SME that their advertising is not working.
A typical conversation with a new customer may go like this:
Bus Owner: Thanks for coming in. How did you happen to hear about our store?
Customer: A friend recommended you
Bus Owner: That’s great, if you liked the service today, please tell your friends
The above dialogue is good, however, what if the conversation was slightly changed:
Bus Owner: Thanks for coming in. Can I ask you two questions about how you come to our store today?
Bus Owner: How did you hear about out store?
Customer: From a friend
Bus Owner: Thanks, how did you get our address?
Customer: From your website? From my friend? From the Yellow Pages?
Bus Owner: That’s great, if you liked the service today, please tell your friends about us and have them visit my website, Yellow Pages ad, etc. for my store details.
Of course the exact questions can be changed and tailored, but the main point is that in most cases WOM is supported by another medium that connects the buyer and the seller. People will refer people they like to people they trust, however, those same people will usually not know all the details about your business. WOM can accelerate your sales when you have a support mechanism behind it and you incorporate it into your WOM strategy.
In-Store Questions and Online Traffic
Continuing with the example above and examining customers who indicated they used the Internet to find your address, we need to examine our web analytics. The first question I usually get is, should I ask customers how they found me on the web? I advise against asking any questions about how people found you on the web. The reason is that there is a lot of confusion among web users – so the typical response is Google – even if they used MSN, Yahoo or something else. This gives the illusion that all web traffic is generated from Google – which is not the case. As a business owner, if you have a good analytics package – all you need to know from your customers is whether they saw your website. Once you have a in-store count you can cross-reference this with your web analytics to find out what is and is not working online.
As a side-note I want to share a quick story. I helped a auto dealer in Calgary with their tracking and customer acquisition strategies. Calgary has two major newspaper dailies – the Calgary Herald and the Calgary Sun. We started by creating a baseline, by spending one month asking customers how they came to stop by the dealership. Of the two newspaper dailies what we found was that 25% came from paper 1 and 15% came from paper 2. Here is where it gets interesting – this particular dealership had not advertised in paper 2 for a couple of years, yet 15% of new customers said they found the dealership there. Here is my take on this non-scientific survey – when asked, some customers will simply answer what comes to their mind first as opposed to what is actual. Not because they are dishonest, just that they most likely don’t care and will answer to shut you up. The same thing is happening on the web – I bet I could take 10 people who use Yahoo Search as their primary engine and half of them, when asked quickly, would probably say Google. My point is that only relying on asking people how they found you on the web can be misleading, whereas this potential misleading information does not exist with web analytics.
Here are some stats from my mom’s business, The Bra Lady. What we have learned over the past 4-years of tracking results is that WOM is by far her #1 way of generating new business with the Internet as her primary support mechanism to WOM. What we have also found is that many people are referred to her business, but use search engines and directories to find her web address. Probably 80% of her new clients indicate that Internet played a role. NOTE: this may be high and in her particular situation makes a lot of sense – because she is a home based business. However, when I worked with Auto Dealers – this number was about the same and dentists were up there as well.
On a monthly basis we compare the number of referrals who indicate the Internet was a source of them finding her to her actual analytics – we use Google Analytics to understand better exactly how these people ending up finding her.
Here is the aggregate view:
In the above you will notice that the top three referrers of traffic are Google, YellowPages.ca, and Direct. Examining just the top three referrers, typically I would examine further both the traffic from YellowPages.ca and Google.
What I notice is the majority of keywords from Google are good quality. You will notice that keyword #20 – the one that references ebay is not considered a good keyword, however, this is the nature of search engines. It is important when examining search engine traffic to look at the keywords to get a accurate picture. The conclusion is that Google is generating good traffic.
What I notice is that the top referring URL from yellowpages.ca is the merchant page that was built for her business by YPG – this is good – it supports the decision to have the website URL located on this page. If I continue to examine further I see that users were searching using keywords we anticipated and specifically in Calgary. What I like about directory traffic is that people don’t surf directories. They go there for a purpose – usually to find something in particular – so the traffic generated here is high-quality.
This is pretty self-explanatory.
You will notice that we are also showing other top referrers in Facebook and CalgaryPlus.ca. I did a posting back in July of this year – Facebook – Can Local Business Florish in Social Networking? and its potential impact on local business – watch for this. For those of you interested – here is an article I posted back in 2005 on the strength of media companies and front-page placement – Power of Front Page Placement.
In conclusion – I would challenge any SME to dig a little deeper in 2008 in terms of their tracking and understanding of customers. Also I would encourage you to not presuppose answers as to where online traffic might come from. In Canada – we are continually bombarded with US news and information about the Internet, which sometimes gives us a US perspective on traffic as opposed to a CDN perspective on traffic. Build your measurement criteria, find the tools to track and examine them monthly – this will generate great results for your business in 2008.
Question – do you own your own name as a domain name? For example, I own darbysieben.com (the site you are one) and darbysieben.ca a redirection to my .com address. I highly recommend that every person register their domain name for personal protection as well as future marketing.
Let me explain why. As the world continues to use the Internet or devices connected to the Internet as our primary communication medium, I am betting that 5-years from now you will rely on this communication vehicle more than you do today. Consider what happens 10-years or 20-years from now? I have conducted a number of interviews in the past few months where the applicants I have interviewed – Googled me (here is the Google link to darby sieben) to find out more information about me. What do you think I do as a person who is looking for talent – I Google them to.
So what does this mean? The Internet can and in some cases is becoming the personal marketing tool for business professionals. With sites like LinkedIn.com, business blogs, etc. you have an incredible opportunity to promote yourself – you are becoming media.
Now, back to your name? What happens when you wake up one day and realize that you need to own your domain name? Why – because every employer, every potential new partner, every supplier, and so on, that you are trying to work with is conducting a search on Google to see what you have done and you need to consolidate information to make yourself the #1 choice. Consider what happens if somebody else owns your domain name? What happens if they are linking it to an undesired location? What happens if they are fabricating information about you? What happens if nobody wants to conduct business with you because what they see is what they believe and there is no official “your name” website that speaks the truth?
Sound unrealistic – maybe, is it completely unlikely, I don’t think so. Remember what happen when corporate Canada and the US thought they didn’t need to register their domain names and porn companies, competitors, etc. scooped them up? This short-sighted view caused a lot of grief and money.
What if for under $20 per year – that’s $800 for 40-years of work, you owned your domain name and had the fully security of knowing that nobody could ever use it in a way that is unsavory? With country specific domain names, like .ca for example, you may have some protection – albeit limited, but for a .com – this is open season.
Right now the hottest thing on the web is “local search”. I predict that in the next few years (we have already started to see the incredible growth of people search sites in the last 6-months) that personal marketing (shared by my friend Mitch Joel of Twist Marketing) will explode. The rush for personal domain names might become the next boom of domain name squatters. If I am wrong, so be it, if I am right – I am going to make sure that nobody can mess with my name – it is too valuable as I continue to build my professional career.
I don’t like sounding negative but I think this is a reality and I would hate to see any good person have to fight this battle. My recommendation – get your domain name – it could just be the best personal investment you can make in the 21st Century.
Both of my domains are registered through DomainPeople.ca – however, if you conduct a Google search for “.ca domain names” you can price compare or conduct a YellowPages.ca search for “.ca domain names” to find Canadian only companies.
At least once per week, I just over and visit Google Maps Mania to see what the latest map mashups they have posted. Some of them are very interesting and really demonstrate how you can integrate maps and content together. One post that was intriguing was the launch of the LATimes Homicide Report, posted by Mike Pegg.
* Filter by victim’s race, gender, cause of death, and other parameters
* Find homicides near an address and/or ZIP code
* View photos of victims and link to Leovy’s reports
* RSS feeds or Google Earth viewing
Now, before you start thinking that I like to view “morbid” content online, I will tell you why I am posting specifically about this site. If you disregard the content, ie) the homicides, and simply appreciate the mashup for the simplicity of the design and the ability, as a user to very easily “drill-down” and filter the content – you may agree with me that this is a very well done mashup.
This is a great example of a traditional media outlet who has combined their content with a user focused interface. I give full credit to the design team and I think this mashup has lots of lessons that can learned by other traditional media about how to combine content and user interface.
Here’s a thought for traditional media – what if you take this concept and bring local news, community events, etc. in the same presentation? I may want to view my news at a global, national, regional, city or local view – could my local news content be plotted on a map? Could it contain a method to drill-down and filter the content using the same approach?
Today on the Google Blog – they have announced the release of Google Print which is intergated into your Adwords accounts.
From their blog:
“Even with the growth of online news sites, Americans still read newspapers. Over the course of a typical week, nearly 3 out of 4 adults (115 million) in the top 50 markets read a copy of a daily or Sunday newspaper.* That’s why thousands of businesses use print advertising every day to reach a local audience, and why we’ve announced that we’re extending Google AdWords to newspapers for most U.S. advertisers.”
The newspapers in the program include The New York Times (NYT), Washington Post (WPO), Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Seattle Times and San Jose Mercury News. The list of advertisers using the program includes NetFlix (NFLX), 1-800-FLOWERS (FLWS), Blue Nile (NILE), eBags, Mrs. Fields and LendingTree.
If you want to see more about this particular service – you can visit the Google Print Ads Site. If you happen to publish a daily newspaper and want to get in on the action, take at look at Adsense for Newspapers.
The next question is whether any of the Canadian newspaper publishers will push Google to open this program up in the Canadian market? Personally I think this is both a win for the publisher and the advertiser. Many small businesses in the US now have the opportunity to test newspaper advertising in a controlled and measurable fashion. Time will tell exactly how this impacts the newspaper industry in the US, but I sure the “net” will be positive.
Here is excert from the The Power of Newspapers page – Google’s Highlights of the value:
1) Newspapers give advertisers significant local reach. They are the voice of their community.
2) Newspapers help advertisers reach an attractive demographic
3) Newspapers are a key resource for shopping information that drives consumers to make purchases – online and offline
4) Newspapers are relevant throughout the purchase cycle
Online buyers in Canada are taking full advantage of the Web, scouring customer reviews and community sites for help making educated purchasing decisions, according to a new study by JC Williams Group (via Globe and Mail).
Around 38 percent of Canadian online buyers comparison shop, an increase of four percent from last year. Shoppers also trust peer reviews more than any other source: 60 percent called reviews by other customers their most trust source, while newspapers or magazines garnered only 31 percent of shopper confidence.
Right now the fastest growing media site in Canada is facebook, currently with 3M registered users.
Some top comparison sites in Canada include Shop To It, Price Canada and Price Grabber to name a few. For a complete list – please refer to Linda Bustos’s Post called – Canadian Comparison Shopping Roundup – this will give you the 411 on the comparison shopping in Canada. If you are still interested in learning more about Comparison Shopping in General – check out the Comparison Shopping Engine Strategies blog written by Scot Wingo the CEO of ChannelAdvisor.com.
More businesses in Canada need to get their product inventories online. I think there is a great opportunity for businesses to drive more sales using comparison engines (most of which will take your inventory for free) as another means of marketing. Even if you don’t sell the products online, having your inventory available online is critical. However, the main key is to do it right, meaning, don’t just slap up products you would like to carry or have access to it a catalogue – make sure that what you list is available in your store. If it is not available, remove it.
Would you ever tell a prospective customer over the phone that you had a product in stock, when you don’t? You would have one irate customer on your hands if they drove down to your store and realized that you lied to them on the phone. The same rule applies on the web – promote what you have and remove it when you don’t. If you are interested in a tool that allows you to get your inventory online – check our DriveIt.
Do you have other solutions that can help get inventory online for Canadian businesses? If so, please let them in the comments section – thanks.
This article came across my desk and since I have written on the past about the power of word of mouth advertising, I wanted to share this with all my readers.
Our friends at Zdnet have done a great job with there recent post – Google trumps Microsoft – here are some of the highlights for those of you that don’t have the time to read the full article.
99% of Google’s $122 billion market cap is derived from the sale of advertising – Adwords.
Question: If the Google CEO embraces advertising and the Google business model is wholly dependent on selling advertising, why then is Google so averse to spending money on advertising itself?
In Q3 Google generated $2.7 billion and spent $36 million on advertising (a mere 1.4% of its revenues)
Microsoft on the other hand spends a lot on R&D and Advertising – remember Windows 95 launch – expect a mega-million dollar ad spend with the launch of Vista as well.
Google’s utility and ease of use have made it one of the world’s best known brands almost entirely through word of mouth from satisfied users.
How does Google get away with it?
Google enjoys an unprecedented public good will and it manages that valuable asset keenly. Google is highly secretive and does not provide meaningful responses to press inquiries. Nevertheless, Google’s infrequent, but targeted, announcements routinely receive massive, and generally overwhelmingly positive, cost-free press coverage worldwide.
Google leverages its influence on the media to save hundreds of millions of dollars in product launch marketing expenses and to gain the interest of the world’s biggest free focus group, Google users.
Here are a couple of other related posts from Zdnet related to this subject:
Google vs. Yahoo: Google doesn’t support ad industry, Yahoo does – another good article discussing the differences between Google and Yahoo when it comes to spending money promoting their own sites.