Being a customer-service driven business

I'm generally a really easy customer to please. I do most of my own research and by the time I come to you with a purchase, I've already decided what I want, what options I want with it, and I've anticipated your up-sell questions to the point where you won't get stuck with me in your line for extra minutes while I call people to ask their opinions.

To please me, all you really have to do is carry the product you say you carry, successfully process either a cash or credit card transaction, and tell me to have a nice day. It can even be half-hearted if you're not feeling it.

I've had some interesting customer service run-ins lately. We'll go with the bad, the satisfactory and the really good, in that order.

Best Western. I'm headed to a wedding in the middle of nowhere, New York, next weekend. I hopped online and discovered there were hotels in the area. One was full, one looked like a place I'd likely stay out of desperation, and one was a Best Western. So, I made a reservation. Two adults, two nights, enter credit card info, print out reservation number. Right?

I checked my credit card balance the next day to discover some strange balance information. I emailed my bank, who said there's a pending transaction of a dollar amount that I definitely didn't authorize. It was a multiple of what the hotel cost. I contacted the hotel, who had someone get back to me four days later. A hotel manager left a message on my voice mail which said, "Our systems were down and we ended up trying to process the transaction several times."

Several times? Really? Your systems were down and you didn't realize it? You couldn't have just run it through once and waited for the system to come back up? I'm pretty sure this isn't the first time Best Western has seen their authorization go down.

The next day, she left another message which said, "I left you a message yesterday." Meanwhile, I was still waiting for balances on my credit card to clear through – almost two weeks later. I called the hotel and said I'd let them know when I saw the balance clear through.

Well, the balances have sort of cleared through. All the charges are gone, including the initial charge. As in, I haven't been charged. We'll see what that's about when we show up at the front desk on Friday.

Will I go back to Best Western? Maybe. It definitely won't be my first choice, and I'll have to have a good experience to be a repeat customer.

Syracuse BizBuzz. There was a social media for businesses conference in Syracuse recently called BizBuzz. I let the organizers know that I unfortunately wasn't going to be able to make it due to work. About two weeks before the conference, I got an invitation in my email. Then I got one via LinkedIn. Then another one via email. In about a 3-hour span.

I got on Twitter and complained, using the conference hashtag, figuring one of the organizers would see it. The next day, I got another email and another LinkedIn invitation, and I got on Twitter again and noted that I had already complained and was still getting invitations.

Pause for a moment here. Even if I hadn't told the organizers I couldn't make it, five personal invitations in two work days is too much for any event (if you want to flood your Twitter or Facebook stream, fine). In fact, I've reported companies as spam to their Web hosts for less than that.

At that point, I got a message from one of the organizers, which said two things. First, it said I'd be removed from the invitation list. Second, it said I could just delete the emails. Which is true, of course, but frankly (and I told the organizer this), if your conference is about Internet marketing, you really need to use good Internet marketing tactics.

Anyway, I got my wish, which was to not receive any more invitations to the event. We'll call that one satisfactory customer service. I'd give the organizers another chance, and would probably attend a conference of this sort.

SEOQuake Team. SEOQuake Team has a keyword research tool I really like called SEMRush. Go ahead and try that puppy out. Even without signing up for the free one, you can see how this might be useful.

Anyway, the free account gives you 10 queries per day, and if you look at their paid products, the lower-cost one is 10,000 queries per day at about $50 per month. For work I had been using what they called their "lite" product, which is 1,000 queries per day at about $20 per month. I was looking to do that, since the $50 per month package is out of my price range right now.

I emailed them, and within 10 hours they told me they had, in fact, discontinued the lite package. But they let me buy it anyway, and I promised to upgrade to the $50 per month package as soon as it makes sense. And you know what? I will.

Now that is how you make me a repeat customer and get me to refer your business all over the place.


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