HixenBLOG: “It’s Always Your Move”   Leave a comment

Secret Prompts By-Pass ‘Voice-Mail Hell’

It’s a familiar scenario for all of us to heave a sigh when we have to call our cell phone company…or health insurer…or bank….or cable company.  We know it is a time suck.  We’re sent off into the auto-voice ozone for…well, for Verizon Fios, it averages 14 minutes.  For Microsoft Tech Support, 9 minutes.  Best Buy averages 15 minutes. 

Paul English is a geek that assembled a renowned work-around list for the customer service lines of major corporations.  Paul’s list gives you the secret prompts it takes to go straight to a human when your issue doesn’t fall within their audio FAQ.  It is a popular site.

Here are some examples:

 Bank of America  704-386-5687                                                                                                                 

This is their ‘Executive Relations’ line.  It is different from the line you use.  Feel free to use it.

 AT&T  888-387-6270                                                                                                                                          

Use this number.  It connects directly to a representative who assists you personally without transferring you.  No voice mail.

 United Airlines  800-864-8331                                                                                                                

Ignore the talking voice.  At each prompt, press 0 three times.

Comcast  800-266-2278                                                                                                                                  

Press *# at each prompt, ignoring the message. 

Key Bank  800-539-2968                                                                                                                                

Press ‘0’ at the first prompt.  At the second prompt, press 5.

 Another trick, if you don’t know the company’s secret code, is to say nothing.  Often, the system will repeat the question 3 times and if there is no response, pass you through to a person.

 There’s a lesson here.  These are large corporations.  Corporations that profess to care about customer service.  Corporations that can certainly afford to offer customer service.  Yet we’re all hungrily reading these secret techniques to get through to them.

 So how is the customer service for your company?  You spend quite a bit of effort attracting, nurturing and serving new customers.  How are they treated when the call with a question that doesn’t quite fit the FAQ?  Who do they talk to when they have an application question?  How are they treated by accounts receivable people when they fall behind? 

 As sales and marketing professionals this is our responsibility.  Other departments develop policies to guide their mission.  But we are the ones whose mission is to keep the company and the customer together. So if the policies don’t work, we owe it to our customers to speak out.  To change it.  To publish the ‘secret work-around codes’.

If your company has less than stellar customer service, and you know it, you are no better than the folks in the list above.  Think about that the next time you sit on hold, frustrated with the poor service.

Then speak out until you are heard and it changes.  Poor customer service only exists if sales and marketing enable it.

You can find an entire list of companies and their secret prompt codes at Paul’s site, www.gethuman.com.  I hope you aren’t on it.

Posted August 9, 2010 by D. Ryan Hixenbaugh in Sales Techniques, Uncategorized

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Search Engine Marketing is the most important marketing strategy you have at your disposal.  It is the most powerful marketing tool I’ve seen in my career.  There is no more important strategy for you to master than what you are doing online.

SEM has very specific algorithms, disciplines and best practices – some of which are known and others of which are proprietary to the search companies.

Also, Search is both young and changing.  So there are more myths and misinformation circulating the business community than can easily be addressed.  The basics however, are simple.  If you understand the basics and keep focused on the goal, the Inbound Marketing Program will present results and opportunities like no other medium.

 Harnessing the web requires a clear plan, with simple steps for continuous improvement.  If you follow these steps, the results will come.  But they are dynamic and need attention to keep momentum and improve performance.

Here are the key basics.                                               

#1:       Inbound Marketing belongs in marketing.  IT may manage the development, but it is a marketing discipline and budget, focused on customer acquisition.

 #2.      SEO starts before the site launches.  SEM touches the entire web presence.  You’ll make decisions on everything from selecting the URL to how you’ll use and host tools like Flash, blogs and videos.  Involve your SEM and marketing professionals from the beginning for a comprehensive plan.  Don’t start building the house until you have the blueprint.

#3.      First spend time understanding your customers and their customers.  Create ‘personas’ or deep profiles of purchasers, decision makers and influencers.  To really build relationships with folks, understand their situations, how they talk about their challenges and the terms they use when solving problems.  This simply requires interface time both live and online.  It begins by identifying networks and forums where prospects gather.  This is why SEM requires your marketing team and not a developer/designer.

#4.       Understand the buying cycle.  Not all leads are equal.  Ask the sales associate who evaluates your leads to decide if he’ll invest time on it.  No one is more discerning about the quality of a lead than a person who makes their living on commission.

SEM can nurture leads from early stage awareness to pipeline report inclusion.  Think about the needs for the customer to nurture them along the path of a sale.   Build these stages into the plan.

#5.       Keywords show intent.  It is how prospects express what they are working on.  Keywords are not products.  They are not categories.  They are not industry technical jargon and names.  It is real world terminology used by honest-to-goodness prospects trying to figure things out.  Get this right – and you are in the game. 

#6.       Don’t sweat the Home Page.  No one cares.  Landing pages are where the action centers.  This is where we deliver people seeking solutions we resolve.

So – what are our solutions?  (Not products…solutions.)  The only goal of the page is conversion.  The landing page leads the visitor to an action we have planned based on where they sit in the buying cycle.                                                     

–       Read something (minimal commitment)

–       Click on something – go to another page for more info.  (growing interest)

–       Sign up for something – webinar, download, e-book

–       Email us (permission to engage)

The landing page will close for action.  We actually have a formula for Landing Page Design to build the necessary incentives and address the traditional obstacles.

#7.       Web sites are not electronic brochures.  Content must equip people to understand and decide about the product.  Help them understand.  Research shows that what matters to visitors is the authority of the domain. Content is our way of establishing that authority and building trust.                      

#8.       Development skills are the technical underpinning of the web site.  Organize materials for the developer to add.  Title tags, headings, paragraph titles, image alt text, meta-description tags are all part of competent site design.  This is the area of major myths.  Just remember, search engines have gotten very sophisticated. You won’t trick them.  Just do the work and give them what they have clearly and publicly outlined.  No secrets.  No mumbo-jumbo.

#9.       The way to improve search rankings is to prove your ‘authority.’  Search engines, above all else, use links to find strong, authoritative content.  If people link to your site, they must value what you offer.

Optimization has a number of techniques, but number one are strategies to encourage links.  Develop authoratative content to attract links. 

#10     The Social Networks are simply gathering places for discussions.  It is our chance to talk to prospects.  This is the new marketing model.  Our prospects are seeking our participation.  They’d like to know what we know.  Through conversation.  Through question and answer. 

They don’t want a sales pitch.  They don’t want a product presentation.   They don’t want a sales sheet.  They want to talk. Invest the time to do that and    you’ll win visitors, links and customers.

#11.    Getting found by viewers requires that we be visible.  Our blogs discuss the things our prospects care about (which probably isn’t product – its process).  Use videos to show people things they haven’t seen…introduce people they couldn’t otherwise meet.  Links present new information that we endorse. Pay-per-click makes us contenders for competitive keywords.  E-books give free information, demonstrating our expertise.

Everything focuses on conversion – building the relationship that moves the prospect to your landing page, email acceptance and ongoing interaction.

#12.    Everything is measurable.  Build the template, analyze it continually and   improve week by week, month by month.  There are so many ‘Gee Whiz’ metrics available it is important to develop a Metric Plan that focuses your attention on elements that directly affect gross income.  Everything else is a distraction. Interesting, fun, but a distraction from the revenue goals of the site.

Start measuring day one.  How many visitors come to your site?  The bounce rate on our landing pages tells us if we are compelling.  What sites do they come from?  What words do they search?

 The fact that every individual’s movements are completely traceable makes inbound marketing the most manageable promotional medium in existence.  Metrics set the stage for continuous improvement. 

There are the basics in planning an Inbound Marketing program.  It isn’t difficult. It isn’t expensive. But it is time-consuming, which is why so many companies have trouble getting to it – or getting it right.  Time has finally become a more valuable resource than money.  But remember, SEM is more than a marketing communications tool. Today it is also a sales channel. You can no longer afford to not be in the game.

Posted August 3, 2010 by D. Ryan Hixenbaugh in Strategic Planning

HixenBlog IT’S ALWAYS YOUR MOVE…   1 comment

What IS ‘Good Service’?     How does yours rate?

I had an interesting experience with an orthopedic surgeon that was a customer.  He had been invited to speak to our sales force, sharing his perception of sales reps that visited his clinic.  As he spoke to us, he made the statement that in terms of reps, good service was difficult to find.

After his talk, I asked how many of the sales professionals in the room felt that they offered good service.  Every one of them raised their hand.  In fact, every time I’ve told this story, every rep raised their hand.

Why is it, when we all believe we provide good service – a valuable customer could make the statement that good service is difficult to find?  Either he doesn’t recognize good service.   Or we, as sales professionals, don’t.  And he is the customer.

So in the privacy of this blog let me ask you.  Do you provide good service?  Why do you say that?  Can you write down, in terms of your industry and your customers and your competition, what good service is?  I suggest you write it down, because it is more elusive than you may think.

In fact, many of your customers don’t think you provide it.  So if you DO know what it is, you should capture it and make sure you communicate it and live up to it.

After you’ve made your list, check this one.  We’ve identified 40 ideas for good sevice.  If you have ideas we haven’t listed, share them with us  the comments box and we’ll post them in the forum.

Elements of Good Service

                1)   Frequency of visits.    Be specific…what frequency?

                2)   Product Knowledge.  

                3)   Knowledge of Product Applications .   Not just what it does, but how your customer uses it, when and for what.

                4)   Attitude in their offices.  

                5)   Staff Relationships.     How many names do you know?  Do you know something personal about them?

                6)   Buyer Relationships.      What makes you think you have a relationship?

                7)   Management Relationships.         Have you met the top executives or physcians?  Do they know your name?

                8)   Communications.      How do you communicate with the decision maker?  How often?  Why?

                9)    Follow-up.                 Do you always find a reason to follow-up after a visit?

                10)  Timeliness.                

                11)  Service and Support (time in the office when you aren’t presenting).

                12)  Do what you say.

                13)  Ideas for the business.

                14)  Referrals for the business.

                15)  Network for the business.

                16)  Understand terminology.

                17)  Understand how their business is differentiated.

                18)  Present product options in terms of revenue, profit, productivity.

                19)  Add to the morale of the company through your own attitude when you arrive.

                20)  Respect confidentiality.

                21)  Reduces our risk of trying new things.

                22)  Reliable supply.

                23)  Personally stand behind the product performance.

                24)  Protect the company from over-inventory.

                25)  Recognize and appreciate individual efforts within the company.

                26)  Share in company successes.

                27)  Take responsibility for promptly correcting miscommunications and problems.

                28)  Readily available.

                29)  Easily accessible by phone, online and in person.

                30)  Effective and creative use of technology to promote support and communication.

                31)  Prompt introduction of new products and promotions

                32)  Break the rules for the buyer’s benefit.

                34)  Knows their kid’s names.  Knows their spouse’s name.

                35)  Knows their favorite hobbies and interests.

                36)  Knows where they went on their last (or favorite) vacation.

                33)  Knows their boss, but doesn’t go around them.  Knows their staff, but doesn’t ignore them.

                34)  Keeps them up to date on happenings in the business, market and industry.

                35)  Respectfully introduces them to executives at the company at trade shows.

                36)  Understands their concerns before defending your policies.  Champions their business.

                37)  Understands how their company uses your products, when and in what volumes. 

                38)  Anticipates their needs (product and otherwise)

                39)  Have proven yourself trustworthy.

                40)  Typically makes them laugh when visiting.

Posted July 29, 2010 by D. Ryan Hixenbaugh in Sales Techniques, Uncategorized