Worst Practice Customer Relationship Management in a car park

Recognising your customer is essential for an effective customer relationship.

If you fail to hear the voice of your customer you are hurtling towards worst practice customer relationship management. This amusing story about an automated car park in England has lessons for everyone involved in customer support.

How difficult can it be to get a ticket for a car park?

The car park is rarely the main destination. Most of us want to park the car, get a ticket and then do whatever activity we had planned. We expect the process of getting a ticket to be simple and quick.  It is also a bonus when there is more than one way to pay.  I keep a small bag of coins in my car, so that I always have change for the parking meter.  Modern technology allows payment by text, even if there is an extra charge.  So how difficult can it be to get a parking ticket?

Car Registration Plate

Click to listen to audio. How does “ECA” sound to you?

You can probably guess by now that there is a story to tell. I was on a visit to England, the land that nurtured me until my late 20’s. Even though I have spent most of the last 30 years in New Zealand, my accent is more English than Kiwi. I do have a slight Kiwi intonation, but this is  mild when you consider the huge variations in spoken English in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

Back to my story. I drove to Southampton to catch the passenger ferry to the Isle of Wight.  I know the area fairly well, having made several visits over the last few years.  FInding a car park was the easy part.  There was no attendant, just a sign with instructions to phone a toll-free number, state the car registration number and the length of time the car would be parked and a credit card number. Very simple, you might say.  I dialed the number and followed the automated messages.

“State the registration number” was the step that caught me.

“KR60ECA” was what I said clearly and loudly to this faceless machine, which repeated my message as “KR60ECE“. I then had to press some more buttons to try again. I made an extra effort to articulate each number and letter clearly, but to no avail. The reply was the same “KR60ECE“. At this point the faceless machine was beaten and advised me to wait whilst a human being deigned to speak to me. After what seemed like a long wait, I found myself speaking to a person. Someone with whom I could converse. “What is the problem?” The matter was quickly resolved and we managed to get to the ferry in time.  I was still aghast at being treated like a foreigner in the land of my birth.

I should explain that the New Zealand (Kiwi) accent tends to pronounce vowels in a distinctive way. “Fish and chips” sounds more like “fush and chups” and they write with a “pin” instead of a pen.Customer Relationship

What lesson can we draw from this breakdown in communication?

  1. Do not allow your internal business processes to dictate the way you communicate with customers.
  2. Offer a choice in how a customer can communicate with you.
  3. Recognise that not all customers are the same and they may be differences in the language they use.
  4. Make the customer feel welcome and valued.  Even very small gestures can have a big impact.
  5. If you do rely on technology to offer an automated service, check to see how well this works with different accents.
Simon Fawkes Caricature

Aim to be different. not just better.

I am pleased to report that I did recover from the shock of being treated like a foreigner in the land of my birth. This could be a case of “forgiven, but not forgotten “, as the experience reinforces the need to hear the voice of your customer.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this blog post.  Please do share it, especially with those with an interest in language or customer relationship management.

How does my recording of the registration plate sound to you?

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd

How to avoid common mistakes in translation

Poor translations undermine your credibility

Do not expect a machine translation to produce a translation that is clear and true to the original. You always need a native speaker of the target language to check the translation.  Machine translation can be a useful tool, especially when you want to translate from a foreign language to your own language. This will probably convey the overall meaning of the original, but you may lose some of the nuances.

Avoid common mistakes in translation

If a brass plaque on a castle wall is one end of the spectrum, a printed sign in the toilet of a café is close to the other end.

The three sentences in French are quite clear.

  • Please leave this place clean.
  • Don’t thow anything in the toilet other than paper.
  • Thank you for your understanding.

The middle sentence is poorly translated, but the sense is still clear given the context.  You are reading this in the toilet.

The German translation is far worse and rather funny. The instruction about what not to throw in the toilet reads: don’t throw anything in the toilet other than yourself!

The word order is jumbled and “thank you for your understanding” is repeated.

A simple example of a proper use of machine translation is to distinguish between two German words that sound similar:

  • Sauerstoff is the German for oxygen
  • Sauerkraut is the German for pickled cabbage.

How can you check your translation?

There is a simple way to check if your machine translation into a foreign language makes sense.  Use the same translation software to translate the translation back into English.  The result may surprise you. More complex texts need a more sophistaced translation.

Please note that I am giving general advice on translation and not reviewing any proprietary software. No matter how smart the software, you do need a native speaker to check the translation.  You may still need to use a professional translator.

Simon Fawkes Caricature

Aim to be different, not just better.

There are other tips in my blog post “Lessons in translation.

Feel free to share this post and pleaser remember that a good translation is important.

Do contact me if you have any questions or would like some general advice on translation. Please note that I am not a professional translator.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd

Tips to make your profile one of the top 1% in LinkedIn

LinkedIn has reached a new milestone of 200 million members

Simon, congratulations! You have one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiles for 2012!

This was the subject line of the email that caught my attention on Saturday morning.  Needless to say, I opened the email straight away.  This came as a complete surprise, in particular as I did not think I was putting enough regular effort into updating my profile and giving people a reason to view my profile.  The important word here is “regular”.  As with all aspects of social media, regular and consistent content is important.

LinkedIn Milestone
My achievement was not a matter of luck or charm, but the latter may have played a small role. There is a serious side to the reference to charm. One of the main reasons for being active in social media is to create engagement and stimulate interest in you and what you have to give.

Do not hire a PR consultant to conduct a charm offensive.  Be yourself, give and be willing to share.

How did I react to the good news from LinkedIn?

The box in the right-hand part of the image tells the story.  I clicked on the “Share” button and posted this news to:

  • LinkedIn Updates
  • Several LinkedIn Groups with under the heading: how well do you use LinkedIn?
  • Some of my LinkedIn connections as a gentle way of staying in touch.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook Profile and Page

This might have taken one minute, as there are several ways to share an update from the one screen.

Tips to get more views to your LinkedIn profile

  1. Recognise that LinkedIn is an important business network and use it to cultivate business contacts
  2. Make sure your personal profile is complete.  Set aside 30 minutes a week to update your profile, paying attention to Skills & Expertise.
  3. Endorse others and they in turn may endorse you.
  4. Be SEO friendly by selecting the most appropriate keywords and use them throughout your profile.
  5. Build your network, but do vet people you do not know before you accept their invitation.
  6. Add a short personal message when inviting someone to connect with you.
  7. Join LinkedIn Groups that are of interest to you and start to contribute to the discussions. Later on, start to invite other group members to connect.
  8. Make use of the weekly free LinkedIn Learining Webinars.

Do visit your LinkedIn website at least monthly, as LinkedIn seems to change at an increasing rate. One of the great ways to get noticed was to respond to LinkedIn Answers.  This feature ceased on 31 January 2013.

We all have to start somewhere and a colleague kindly invited me to join LinkedIn in 2005.  My network hit the 500 milestone in 2010 and is now getting close to 1000.  How did I grow my network from 1 to 500?  The answer is simple: two new contacts a week gives you 100 in a year.  As your network grows, so does you ability to increase your connections. Remember, quality counts as much if not more than quantity.

Do share this blog post with anyone you know who would like to make better use of LinkedIn.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd

View Simon Fawkes's profile on LinkedIn

Marketing Grader – does your website make the grade?

HubSpot’s Marketing Grader is a very useful resource

Have you ever asked yourself the question: how well is my website really performing? You can get a free report on your website by going to Marketing Grader. You just need to enter the domain name and your email address and in less than a minute, you get a comprehensive report.

As you can see from the screen shot below, you get an overall score as well as a score and recommended actions under three headings:

  1. Top of the funnel
  2. Middle of the funnel
  3. Analytics
HubSpot Marketing Grader Report

Typical results from Marketing Grader

The full report may run to 15 pages. You may not agree with all the recommendations and some of them may not be relevant to your business. Nevertheless, they are well worth reading and sharing with your website developer. You may get some surprises!

Benchmark your website

You can use the Competitors area to compare your website with your competitors. See how they score and track changes to their website and see how the grades vary over time. You can also use this to benchmark your website with companies that you admire and wish to emulate.

Effective use of social media is vital

The extent to which a website uses social media will probably be a major reason in the marketing grade. There are a number of important aspects you need to consider, including:

  • Having a blog and one that is easy to find
  • Making your blog posts easy to share
  • How often your blog posts are shared
  • How often you publish new posts.

Is your website mobile friendly?

One simple test is to view your own website on a smart phone. It is surprising just how many websites are not mobile friendly.  The Business to Markets website is fully mobile-friendly. Making the Global Marketing Insight blog mobile-friendly only required a few key strokes with the newly installed Jetpack WordPress.com  plugin, which is now available to WordPress.org users.

Does your website have all the basics?

Too many websites do not have all the basics.  I was looking at a very smart new website today and decided to do a Marketing Grader Report.  Three of the internal pages had identical Page TItle and Page Descriptions.This means that search engines will not “see” different pages as they will all look the same.  Don’t get carried away with Search Engine Optimisation, but do at least get the basic right!

Are you using Analytics to measure your success?

You cannot manage what you do not measure and there is no excuse for not doing this. Google Analytics is free and you can choose frorm other options.

Take action today!

Marketing Grader is one of many free packages that you can use.  Try out some of the others too and compare results.  If you want to spend some money on a website review, your first investment need only be $5 with Fiverr. 

I don’t pretend to be an expert in websites, but I do understand some of the basics. The most important question to answer is: what is the purpose of my website? One size does not fit all. Remember the fundamentals of strategy.  Your overall business strategy should drive your marketing strategy, which in turn will drive your website strategy.  The Art of Action stresses clarity of intent and alignment  Avoid the trap of allowing your website to be in the driving seat.

Do you have a friend who worries about his or her website’s performance?  Feel free to share this blog post.

If you are having problems with your defining what you want your website to achieve, do contact me.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd

The rise of video in social media

Social Media will play an even more important part in shaping marketing in 2013. Traditional marketing was about bombarding customers with attention-grabbing inducements to buy more products.  There was a fundamental flaw and that is that with so much material every day, even the best designed campaigns were failing to grab any attention.  Social Media is in some ways the antithesis – that is the opposite – of traditional marketing.  Social Media is all about a conversation and and power shifting to the consumer. Creating an emotional experience is an important, if not essential part of stimulating enough interest to start a conversation.  Video can be a very effective way of creating this emotional experience.

This is my new promotional video, which was filmed and edited by a true professional, Ilya Ruppeldt of Golem Productions. I talk about my passion and what makes my company unique. This is the fourth of my videos and you can watch the other three on my YouTube channel B2MGlobal:

There are two questions that everyone in business needs to answer:

  1. What is your passion?
  2. What makes you unique?

You can pose the second question in different ways such as: what is your point of difference?

Simon Fawkes Caricature

Aim to be different. not just better.

If you are not passionate about what you do and cannot convey this passion to people who appreciate the products or services you offer, then you have limited chances of success.

If you are having problems answering these questions, do contact me.

Simon Fawkes
Accredited Mindshop Facilitator
Business to Markets Ltd