Customer Service / Online Marketing – One Rock at a Time

How to move mountains – eCommerce & eMarketing strategy for success!

I tend to write a lot about customer service because the web is inherently a faceless communications tool where customer service is often lacking, but can be enhanced through usability, simplicity and truly knowing your visitors.

Offline examples of good / bad service offer great learning opportunities. One such lesson occurred Christmas evening when my family went out for a dinner.

As you can imagine the choice is somewhat limited on Christmas and were expecting a little wait. We ended up at Jerry’s Deli in Encino, a popular and ‘famous’ (in their own words) traditional New York deli experience, with a bit of Encino attitude thrown into the mix.

Surprise (not) it was crowded. Actual surprise, there were about 50 people waiting for tables, the list about 20 party long “30-40 minute wait”

A few real surprises:

  1. Every time the door opened, the ice cold wind blew in, arousing curses and complaints from the Encino crowd (not known for their patience). The hostess was shivering, dressed as she was. Not a great environment for a waiting area as we waited for the hostess to come down with pneumonia!

  2. I walked into the restaurant area to find > 15 tables / booths open. Absolutely empty. When I asked the manager “What’s up?” she said that they didn’t want to “overwhelm” the kitchen. Yep. Much better to underwhelm the waiting customers.

  3. I asked the manager if she could serve some hot chocolate to the crowd of cold, patient and ‘growing rapidly restless’ patrons. “That’s a great idea. We don’t do it. But it’s a great idea.” No. A great idea is one you implement and find out it’s even better than you expect it would be, to actually demonstrate true unexpected customer service! Surprise We care!

It didn’t get much better, as by the time we reached our table (50 mins after we arrived) the service was slow, the food cold (what was available as they were ‘out’ of lots of stuff) and the apologies of the waitress were lame as they provided little in the way of empathy, only excuses.

It doesn’t take much to exceed expectations. Seriously.

A cup of hot chocolate, a bit of holiday cheer, and hot food isn’t too much to ask, is it?

As it turns out, I think Jerry’s has finally lost us as customers, we’ll go to Fromin’s down the road, who at least welcomed us will a smile and excellent service this morning.

Cost of a mug of hot chocolate (bulk – one serving, including dishwasher) = 25c

Lifetime value of my patronage – $40×12 times / year x 10 years = $4,800

Online it doesn’t take much to meet or exceed expectations either. Offering something as a surprise or something unexpected (free upgrade on shipping? smoother checkout?) can often tip the balance, changing an online visit into an online experience.

Don’t think of the sale as a one time event, think of the customer experience as a lifetime relationship, one in which all parties involved profit.

Complimentary hot chocolate when you’re cold and waiting? That’s just one way to start a relationship.

I admit it. I’m a 98% guy. I believe the extra 2% can take 98% of your time. I’m never certain that the extra effort delivers the equivalent reward.

There is one area, however, where I feel you can never do too much.


Whether it’s a blog, social media site, Twitter, school or volunteering at the local non profit, participation can, and should, be considered as the best “return on effort” for any company or individual.

Whatever your goal;  online, offline, business or personal, getting involved will always give back more than it takes.

It’s never enough to not participate more.

Merry Christmas, happy holidays.

SEO is simple.

Be unique in what you say.

Search engines don’t care who you are, what you do, rather they care about how different you are from the eleventy billion other voices out there.

Search engines are dumb. They don’t have a thought of their own. They rely on others’ recommendations and opinions.

SEO depends on being unique and being found and being talked about.

Are you being unique? If not, why not?

Writing a blog, creating content for a website, or crafting an email requires little talent.

Anyone can write something interesting or of interest to themselves.

Writing, creating or crafting can only be considered effective if it is understood by the intended audience in the manner with which it was intended.

The phrase “on yer bike” would be quite effective, for example, when dealing with some of the wayward lads I went to school with, to essentially tell them to “leave”.

For americans, for whom the phrase is perhaps unknown, they may infer I was requesting they go off and perambulate on a two-wheeled vehicle.

Language is a funny animal. Success is not measure by the number or quality of the words written, rather by the connection it creates and maintains with an audience.

So though I could say “get on yer bike!” before I sign off, I’d like to add, for my american readership… “cheerio”


Many businesses are looking at their marketing Return On Investment (ROI) as a key area of focus when considering cost cutting, cost savings and cost justification.

Whether justifying to management or shareholders – I tend to blur the line of accountability between the two – in tough times every line item in a marketing budget tends to get scrutinized for efficiency, economy and priority.

ROI (Return On Investment) is a great metric – and buzzword – for bean counters. For project managers and marketers like myself a much better, and more fitting, interpretation would be Return On Implementation.

This is based on my “un-patented but all mine” success equation:

effort + smarts + implementation + follow-up = success

The term “investment” makes me think of one-off effort, the term “implementation” references a definitive and deliberate process to distinct and measurable goals.

What’s your ROI?

You would have thought the commute through Los Angeles traffic is enough to bring most drivers to their knees, but observation would show you a plethora of commuters humming, singing, attentively listening and *enjoying* LA radio stations*.

This is the definition of ‘captive audience’ – a metal shell one must endure for 30-90 minutes every week day, with little to do but listen.

Captive can be far from captivating!

Whilst many people take advantage of a captive audience – talk radio soapbox, food stands at Disneyland, bar at the opera, teacher in class, loudmouth at cocktail party, popcorn at the movie – what most people tend to forget is that most captive audiences have a choice.

Choice allows people to change stations, bring their own food & drink, drop out of school or leave the room.

Choice liberates, empowers and mobilizes the consumer.

Choice means the provider of entertainment, information, consumables and / or education must understand the competitive nature of consumer capture.

Choice must drive providers to “broadcast” value, interest and relevance.

Imagine the typical scenario of a channel surfer flipping through TV channels, taking a couple of seconds to gauge their interest in a program or subject matter. A few times I’ve ended up watch Discovery Channel, Sci-Fi Channel or CNN programming just because something caught my eye on a ‘flip’.

Online, the exact same principles apply.

On arrival at your site, for a moment you have a captive audience.

Within a second or two, that audience has decided whether to stick around or move on.

Help them decide (in your favor)... provide immediate and obvious value, interest and relevance and they’ll stick around, recommend and return.

(*Note: this does not include those on their cell phones, typing on their Blackberries, playing “Bejeweled 2” on their iPhones or craning their necks to watch the video screen in the back seat)

Please excuse the erratic (read non-existent) blog posts this week.

I started a new job that required enough attention to give me a weak excuse not to write or post.

Doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about it 🙂

Clarity that came to me during the self-serving excuse process.

  • Time is a scare resource

  • Time is a finite commodity

  • Time is valuable

Procrastination does not always mean laziness, sometimes it boils down to prioritization and the simple fact of 24 hours in a day.

There’s no excuse necessary when there simply isn’t enough time to get things done. What is important is being able to recognize and prioritize based on finite resource allocation – such at time – to deliver the best bang for the buck, best return on investment, or best decision for a balanced life (work or personal).

No excuse for no blogs posts this week.

We now return to our normal blogging schedule.