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Perfect Websites 1

Phew. There seems to be so many things that can go wrong with a website, it’s starting to stress me out. As a beginner, I had to just tinker with my company website and see what worked, what didn’t, and why. This in-at-the-deep-end approach certainly has something to be said for it – at least we got things done, without months of training for me first – but I am coming round to the realisation that I had, and still have, little idea what I am doing. And that I may have damaged my website irreparably… whoops.

Today I ran the website through (a free trial of) SILKTIDE. This is truly excellent, I must say. It gives a full report on “how good” your website is – not just search engine ranking chat, or usability, but everything. It was certainly an eye-opener. So I thought I would blog about some of the things you really must consider, and how to find out more about them, in a do-as-I-say,-not-as-I-do style ūüôā

A LOT of these things are covered in Silktide’s report, so definitely definitely try that first and work from there. They have help pages as well. But I am trying to condense some of it into a user-friendly Blog.. hope the nice people at Silktide don’t mind!

Let’s start with…
Usability. aka Will Web Users Love You?
It is crucial that people can USE (and want to use) your website for whatever it is intended for. So think to yourself – what is it intended for? Do I want to give people information? Make them contact me? Etc. If a customer cannot do what they want to do on your website, or access the information they require, they will go to a competitor. A lot of these points actually overlap with my second area, SEARCHABILITY, because search engines love websites that customers love to use. Simple.

Content: An easy starting point. Make sure your website is up-to-date and relevant, with appropriate information, and ensure there are no errors or omissions. It is possible to take a page offline while you work on it, so that users will not be confronted with a half-page of content. Silktide will score on “content” – quite simply, the number of pages with a substantial amount of text.

Headings and Alt Tags: If you are posting images – and you probably should be – remember to include ALT tags (this stands for “alternative text” and is the text that will be displayed if something is wrong and the image cannot be displayed – it is essential for images) and TITLE tags (this is the “title” of the image which will display usually when the mouse hovers over the image. Title tags can also be used on pretty much any element on your webpage, and can be used to squeeze more all-important keywords in – when relevant.) These are designed to aid people with difficulties, so do try to use them for what they are intended to be used for. The ALT tag should describe the image and the TITLE tag should be a suitable title and maybe short description.
Example:

<img src="http://www.website.com/folder/train.jpg" title="The F500 Train - Click for more details" alt="picture of the f500 Train, 2010" />

Links should also have TITLES so that people can see where the link will take them if they were to click on it.
Remember, using these attributes properly and effectively will increase your website’s usability for humans, and also its searchability for web spiders.¬†Some more useful information on these attributes.

External and Internal Links Websites with broken links (both to external sites and to pages within your own web domain, such as the Menu) are useless to your visitors and to the search engines trying to rank your page. There are sites which will run your site through a wee checker, looking for links which go nowhere. Remember, this won’t point out links that you no longer *want* to direct people too, so don’t neglect a manual once-over. Google won’t love you if you link to rubbish websites, frankly.
Previously I have used Xenu to check for broken links, but for some reason this no longer works. Google “broken link checker” to find various options – I recently tried this one which was fine, and the free trial of Silktide should show you as well. Once you find them, do remember to actually fix them ūüôā
As for internal links, Silktide says: “Pages which are linked to frequently and prominently are given higher weight in search engines, and are more likely to be visited by users. You should ensure that your most important marketing pages rank highly here, or reconsider your internal linking strategy.” Good point.

Contact Details: Sounds pretty obvious, but it’s amazing how many sites make it difficult to contact someone. Make sure your contact details are on every page, are easy to spot, and do work. Enquiry forms are good if you don’t want your email address publicised all over the place, but I personally hate them. Don’t ask for more information than you really really need if you do use a contact/enquiry form. Also, ensure you provide more than one way for people to contact you.

Speed: As most users will make up their mind about your website (i.e. whether they like it or not) within ten seconds, you would hope that they will actually *see* your site within that time. If the load speed is too lengthy, people will give up, and you would rather they didn’t do that. Find your website’s (or any website’s) load speed at this cute wee site. And it also gives you an idea of what a reasonable speed would be.¬†So how do you get your pages to load more quickly? Image size is probably the greatest factor, as these take a while to download – especially if they haven’t been appropriately saved for web use.

Readability: Silktide analyses the content of your website and delivers a “reading age” – the rough age at which people would be able to read all of the words on the page! The ideal (because, presumably, this is the average reading age) is apparently 14, so if it returns an age higher than that, you should think about simplifying the language and reducing sentence length. People do find it harder to read on a computer… and it can be accessed by anyone. So don’t alienate potential customers by making your content super long and wordy (like this Blog, hmm.) Interesting wee article here.

Content Keywords: Silktide asks for a list of keywords from you when it checks your site, and reports a score based on how well “emphasised” those keywords are. It also guesses, from your page titles and other content, what other keywords you might have wished to emphasise, and then tells you whether you do or not. Very clever!
This is one of the key elements of Search Engine Optimisation – making sure that the search terms your customers use to access your sorts of products and services (what ARE the words and phrases they use? Are they the same as what you would use?) are mentioned in your website enough times to rank it highly in the search results. Basically. Without detracting from the readability of your content. Sounds straightforward, but it is harder than it seems. Tips include: using Google Keywords to find out what people are searching for, trying out terms on Google (and other search engines – but Google is used most by far), including relevant search terms within alt and title tags, as well as within your metadata (see below.)

Link States: Your stylesheet should include formatting for various link states – it should be clear, for example, that a link is indeed a clickable link (different colour, underline, perhaps even bold), then a different format for when it *has* been clicked. Silktide also suggests a different format for hovered-over links and also focused links – this applies particularly to users with access problems, who may only have a keyboard to “focus” on the link.
These can be coded in the following way:

a:hover { text-decoration: none; }

a:visited { color: #808; }

a:focus, a:active { color: #B00; }

Spelling: Again, fairly obvious, but do check your content is all spelt correctly. Sadly my Silktide score for spelling was poor, but they had included every industry term and proper noun in the test, so I do know deep down that my spelling is fine. Shouldn’t make too much difference in terms of ranking, unless you are misspelling your keywords!

Image Usage: As discussed, do make use of images but make sure you are using them wisely and they are not taking up unnecessary space and download time. Make sure they are good quality but web-friendly, accessible (with alt tags) and Silktide recommends defining sizes for all images. Sizing is a whole Blog post in itself, once I work out what the best practice is for making websites work on all browsers, screens, devices, resolutions etc but still stay in the correct location!

Social interest: Silktide gives a score for “social interest”, that is, how frequently pages on your website have been shared on Facebook and Twitter (since these are the most popular social networking sites.) This is a measure of how much people – literally! – “LIKE” your website/pages within it. Don’t worry about this too much, as not every business or project requires social media attention; it might not be appropriate.
You can make it easy for people to Tweet a link to your page or to Like you on Facebook by having these features installed directly on to your page. The code (get it here) will look something like this for a Facebook LIKE button (the href doesn’t have to be a Facebook page…):

<div id="fb-root">
</div>
<span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 20px">Like us on Facebook<br />
</span>
<script src="http://connect.facebook.net/en_US/blahblahblahblah">
</script>
<fb:like href="http://www.facebook.com/yourfacebookpage" send="false" layout="button_count" width="150" show_faces="false" colorscheme="dark"font="arial"></fb:like><br />

And this (more straightforward) for Twitter:

<p>Tweet This Site<br /><a href="http://twitter.com/share" class="twitter-share-button" data-count="horizontal" data-via="Username">Tweet This</a></p>
<script type="text/javascript" src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"></script>

 


Visual interest: Users need to be attracted by your homepage, and also by the other pages on your site. Silktide gives a score on “visual interest” based on how different each of the pages on your website are. This is a subjective element, it can’t really be measured by a site like Silktide, and a consistent look and feel is usually advocated by web design types. So just make sure it is pretty and set out well, with matching colours, readable font, and so on, but retaining useability and an obvious layout.

Printability: If there is information on your website that your users may want to print – this may not apply to every page – then consider the printability. Things like graphics and colours are great if a page is just being viewed online, but if printing is desired then an alternative stylesheet should be used.
Silktide shows how this might be done in a webpage:

“You can implement print styles in many ways, including attaching a specific stylesheet:
<link href="print.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" media="print" />
Or use the @import at-rule inside a stylesheet:
@import url("print.css") print;
Or use the @media at-rule inside your stylesheet:
@media print {

… styles go here …

}
It isn’t enough to just define styles however. SiteBeam must detect that the styles which have been defined for print are actually being used. An empty stylesheet, or one that doesn’t affect the page will not affect this score.”

So what WOULD the stylesheet for a printable page require? Check out this handy guide!

Sitemap/Site Navigation:¬†Make sure people can navigate your website: ask someone who hasn’t seen the website before to click around and let you know how user-friendly the menu bars etc. were. Analytics also has a feature allowing you to see where people click to the most. A website should have a sitemap on it somewhere as a fail-safe: if users find themselves in a confuddling mess of links and menus, they need to be able to see a very clear map of where on earth they can go or have been. It will look like this when they click on it (all of these would be links to the relevant page):

  • Home
  • About Us
  • Products
    • Product 1
    • Product 2
    • Product 3
  • Services¬†
    • Service A
    • Service B
    • Service C
  • Testimonials
  • Contact Us
    • How to get here

Test all browsers/devices: Your website and pages in it will look different depending on which browsers you view it in, which devices you use and the screen resolution. It is worth testing your website to make sure it looks how you want it to look on each of these – and your users can see what they need to see. If you have Google analytics installed then it should provide data on the most common ways your users are accessing and viewing your site.

Above the Fold: Quick tip – have all the reallllly important stuff at the top of your webpage, because users rarely scroll past the “fold” (bottom of the screen.) Again, bear in mind different screens/browsers/devices will cut off the page at different points.

In the NEXT BLOG: We move from user-friendly web design tips to Search-Engine-Friendly web development tips!

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Facebook Landing Pages

I am not trained in web design, web development or even IT. So maybe I shouldn’t be blogging about how to create a Facebook landing page, or update a website, or switch from using tables. But:
1. A lot of readers might also be new to this web design shizzle, and might welcome a beginners-style approach/voice.
2. I do try. I work with HTML every day and think it is the sort of thing that you can teach yourself (even if I am not yet fully qualified) and
3. There are so many useful resources online that I want to share with you that make the process a bit easier, even for total novices.

Facebook Landing Pages

This isn’t really where I should start, of course, but this is what I did today.

Basically, if you have a Facebook business page, you can sneakily¬†alter¬†it to make users “land” on a page that YOU can design. See, for example, this Facebook page for Pepsi.

As a Facebook-webpage-designer, you essentially have some white space to play with. All you have to do is add a new App to your page called “Static FBML” (NB.¬†FBML is also the Facebook equivalent of HTML – Facebook Markup Language.) Find the App here. Once you have added it or liked it (as I now have the app I cannot tell how I originally got it – d’oh!) you can go to “Edit Page” –> “Apps” and it should be listed there. Hit “Go to Application” and you will see you can add a title and content. Now, I really don’t know much about what exact kind of code this content box will take – it does take some HTML as well as FBML – but I do know that one can certainly add an image using the following code:

<img src="typethewebaddresshere" title="imagetitle">

You can put <center> </center> round this to make sure it is nicely in the middle.

You can use a host site to upload images to, such as Image Shack, or better still upload them to your business website. Images should be 520px in width and whatever height you want – but remember to keep anything important “above the fold” (people don’t tend to scroll down very often.)

Here is the first simple one I did for my company:

 

What you then have to do is make sure that the FBML tab – which by now you will have renamed to something like “Welcome to My Company” (with your company name… obviously) – is the one people see first when they click to your company Facebook. Simply go back into “Edit Page” (I’m assuming you came out of the editor to view the glory of your new Welcome image…) and change the settings under¬†“Manage Permissions” ->¬†“Default Landing Tab”. Job done!

The next step I took today was to turn my landing page into something more dynamic, with clickable links. One way to do this is to create a Client-Side Image Map – something I do actually¬†know how to do with HTML, but this usual way of producing code didn’t seem to work on Facebook.

I created this image on Photoshop (it mirrors our business website):

And then I had to create code to make all of the supposed links on this image (the menu words) clickable. (You can check it out for real at www.facebook.com/HandsOnGlasgow Рlet me know your thoughts!)

So I got advice from this page:¬†http://illuminea.com/social-media/image-map-in-fbml-tab-facebook/¬†which told me to use an Image Map creator. As I said, normally I would create my own image map code by obtaining the co-ordinates of the areas I need to be clickable –¬†¬†use an image editor like Photoshop which allows you to¬†view the coordinates¬†at any point in an image –¬†and using the following code:

<MAP NAME="kirsty_map">

<AREA SHAPE=”rect” alt=”Something” title=”Something “coords=”157,76,129,130” (the rectangle coordinates work as: top left corner, x and y, and bottom right corner, x and y) href="http://www.website.com/page1.html">

<AREA SHAPE=”poly” alt=”Something Else” title=”Something Else” coords=”125, 122, 103, 150, 217, 208, 240, 169″¬†(for a polygon, you need the x and y coordinates of every point and the interweb cleverly joins the dots) href="http://www.website.com/page2.html">

<AREA SHAPE=”circ” title=”One More Thing” alt=”One More Thing” coords=”97,157,23″ (for a circle, you need the centre point x and y, then the radius in pixels as well) href="http://www.website.com/page3.html">

</MAP>
<IMG SRC=”http://www.website.com/siteimages/image.jpg&#8221; USEMAP=”kirsty_map”>

Your¬†“title”¬†is text is displayed when hovering over the clickable – and “href” is the hyperlink reference to the webpage you want to link to.

However, as this didn’t seem to work, I used the image map creator which¬†automatically creates the CSS Code required for a Facebook Landing Page. What I chose to do was copy and paste the automatically generated code (which I created for just one link) and then I repeated it throughout my FBML Static landing page.

This method uses DIV code instead of the usual Image Map coding I indicated above. You can just use the automatic image map code creator as it is, but if you want to play about with it yourself – or you want to do a fair quantity of links – you can try my copy & paste method. (Also, note that it pastes text below your image.)

You need to start with the code that will insert your image, as follows:

<div style="display:block; width:520px; height:571px; background:url(http://www.hands-on-uk.com/siteimages/fblanding2.jpg)[enter your own URL of course, and dimensions]; position:relative; margin:2px auto 2px auto;">

This is how the code for each link can be inputted, for example:

<div><a style="left:16px; top:213px; background:transparent; display:block; width:112px; height:0; padding-top:45px; overflow:hidden; position:absolute;" title="About Us" href="http://www.hands-on-uk.com/aboutus.html"></a></div>

In this case, the “left” refers to how many pixels from the left side of the image, the “top” of course refers to how far from the top of the page it is. Then the width is how wide you want the clickable area to be. Finally, the height of your clickable area is determined by “padding-top” distance. You should know this information using the same method indicated above. Add title and link reference as before.¬†Repeat as desired! I had to do about twenty but it was worth it. Let me know how you get on!

(PS To do a blog like this with code printed in the body of the blog, use <code>... </code> round the text… and also take the advice of this chap:¬†http://www.kavoir.com/2009/08/how-to-display-html-code-on-a-web-page.html¬†)
//

The Facebook Timeline

Dun dun DUNNNN!! As of VERY SOON, everybody on Facebook (that’s people, not businesses/fan pages) will have to deal with change. The new Facebook timeline, which has been around for a while as an optional interface, will become the compulsory new look. It basically outlines your life in reverse chronological order, based of course on what you chose to put on Facebook and when, and looks like a neat technological scrapbook. While some are hating on this (slightly controversial, in terms of privacy) timeline-of-your-life concept, many (like me) are embracing the chance to play around with it. (And it isn’t that bad.)

(Clearly, as this is not yet the format for business pages, this is slightly off-topic in terms of marketing/communications unless you are a sole-trader using your personal page. However, it is not remotely unlikely that the same format will eventually be rolled out for all types of Faceyb page.) It is already being used for certain campaigns, such as this anti-drug campaign.

In terms of fun and design, the main new feature is that of the Cover Photo. This goes alongside your profile photo as shown:

Now Mr Zuckerberg hasn’t been particularly creative here. There are plenty of cool ways to make your profile photo and cover photo complement each other, interact with each other, and make you look like a right whizz.

So, for some inspiration, check out these blogs Рcreative examples at  http://www.hongkiat.com/blog/creative-facebook-timeline-covers/ and http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/16-creative-ways-to-create-your-facebook-timeline-cover-photo/.

My favourites are:

aly moffatt Facebook Timeline Cover: 40 (Really) Creative Examples

louise lundberg Facebook Timeline Cover: 40 (Really) Creative Examples

antonio fadda Facebook Timeline Cover: 40 (Really) Creative Examples

tomaselli

jessica barnard Facebook Timeline Cover: 40 (Really) Creative Examples

(I did mine a bit like that one above, but not as good!)

How to do it?? Hmmm, well you could download beautiful ones, such as at Fookcover. Or use some web program to come up with something cool – Mashable has rated the best ways to do it. Or try yourself – using Photoshop or something like that…

What you might want to bear in mind:
* The banner-style cover photo is 851 x 315 pixels. Your profile photo, once they add the wee white border, is 315 x 315.
* You can choose or make an image larger than that and it will automatically shrink to that size when uploaded.
* If it is too large, you can drag it up and down to decide where it goes.
* The easiest way to work out where your profile picture fits into all of this may be to take a screen shot of a Facebook page and work from there.
* There are templates you can work with for Photoshop… but you are too smart for that, right?!

Need Help With Website Stuff?

As a (self-proclaimed) Marketing Guru, I am called upon to perform basic website editing duties in the office, as well as looking after the Facebook and Twitter. I often find myself scouring the web for useful sites giving quick tips, tutorials, help and cool stuff. So, a by no means exhaustive list follows:

* The WC3 website is really the first place to go to get any HTML questions answered.
* Unbelievably helpful: Real-time HTML Editor, to see what the code you are typing will look like as a webpage. Genius!

* USEFUL – what colours you can use within HTML. Also, a list of safe fonts to use.

* A bit silly, but very cool –¬†falling snowflakes Javascript code¬†for your webpage, nice and festive.

* How to turn a PDF document into a book with turning pages. (zip file)

* PHPList – this is what we use for sending FREE eflyers to our contacts. Didn’t install it myself, lots of little issues and not the most user-friendly interface… but did you hear me say free?

* For those trying to optimise their website – find out what your customers are searching for with the Google keyword tool.

* Translation. Enough said really.

* Centering text and images. I must have found it tricky, as I have saved this in my favourite pages!

* Making a fab Facebook fanpage (might be out of date now) and using FBML to create a landing page for your Facebook mini-site. Not as hard as it seems.

* And check out Social Mention as a potential way to find out what people are saying about your company.

These are all sites that I have used myself, but I am not an actual expert… so feel free to leave comments as to what was good, rubbish or a wee bit helpful. And links to other useful places will be greatly appreciated as I continue on my educational journey through the web-development morass.

Are You Being Served (Nicely)?

As an antidote to my slightly negative last post, this entry is intended to highlight some examples of great customer service, experienced recently and filling me with hope…

The lovely people at John Lewis are a fantastic place to start. I don’t know if its just the sort of people who associate themselves with the John Lewis brand and therefore want to work there, or the fact that every employee owns shares in the company (and therefore has a vested interest in the success of it), but the service there is truly excellent.

When my parents recently ordered a sofa for their new house, delivery took far longer than anticipated. This left them, rather obviously, with nowhere to sit. So, by way of apology for the delay, John Lewis offered them a “stand-in” leather suite while they waited, free of charge. Not every company can afford to be so generous, but it is something to bear in mind – what problem does your product solve for the customer? If it is not solving it very well, how can your company solve it (better, or in the meantime)?

It is providing excellent PR, as my parents are telling all their friends the story – usually when they compliment the nice leather suite which my parents are not keeping!

Another nice thing to see is a bit of up-close, personal, engaging (and charitable) salesmanship. I was fortunate to be at networking/charity event recently and there was a great demonstration provided by the lady at Temper Chocolates, who makes the best hot chocolate in Glasgow (and it has been said by others.) The demonstration and information was given informally and warmly, and that personal touch is what will make people want to support this business and give it custom. (Along with the other stalls, she also donated some of the profits to the charity of the night, Women’s Refuge in East Dunbartonshire. How nice.)

Another company with a stall at the event was Sparkle Candy jewellery, who again had the opportunity to give their business a “face” and encourage people to support it. I did. I bought some lovely pieces from their website after being handed a flyer offering free delivery – these little pushes do work when you are already engaged with the company! I received real emails from real people during the purchasing process (which may need to be ironed out a little), and this definitely enhanced my overall opinion of small, successful, growing, local and generally nice company.

Last but not least, Sloans in Glasgow had the opportunity to show their “crisis-management” customer service skills when I was there recently. Although we booked a booth, my friends and I were shown to a long table. We pointed out that we had booked a more relaxed space in the bar, as some of the party weren’t eating dinner, and we didn’t wish to take up room in the restaurant area needlessly. The lady who had taken the booking apologised, accepted she was to blame, and said we were of course free to order as much or as little food as we wanted to at our dining table. We also received table service for our drinks all night, which was a bonus.

Clever staff and clever businesses turn these slight disappointments and mix-ups into positive experiences, by taking on responsibility and fully assessing what can be done to create very happy customers.

At the moment, then, my view of good service seems to hinge on personal touches and the seizing of opportunities to generate not just one happy customer, but repeat custom and great PR. Keep it up Glasgow!

5 Worst Customer Service Traits

I do hate to be negative, but when it comes to customer service, there are a few things that I find inexcusable.

1. Staff having a private conversation – with each other, or to someone on the phone. Customers there in person are more important than co-workers, friends, family – basically anyone else. They have made the effort to come in to your place of business; you should have the courtesy to greet them, see to their needs and wave them off into the sunset before discussing the office party.

2. Drawing smiley faces on receipts.

3. Incorrectly using the reflexive pronoun. It does seem to occur most frequently in customer-service exchanges. “Can we do anything else for yourself?” Can’t work out if they are trying to sound more clever than they (blatantly) are by using a longer word, or just genuinely think that is the right way to word their sentence. Infuriating.

4. Moany faces.

5. Poor adherence to appropriate dress code and/or uniform. It actually does make a difference, as customers will think you a) hate your job and b) have no respect for your employers, and also that you are a bit of a mess and therefore have a messy approach to your workplace responsibilities. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Smarten up.

What You Can Give Customers For Free

We hear a lot about “good customer service” – but how can we provide “good service” in a way that doesn’t cost the business anything (financially, at least)? Buyer experience – and the importance of creating a positive one – is a new area of marketing that has emerged from the explosion of the web. Your competitor may have a better price (and the customer will not struggle to find this out) but if they don’t create an enjoyable buying experience, the customer won’t give them repeat business. So my top tips for satisfied customers are:¬†

  • (Obviously) Give them good stuff. It doesn’t matter if you do everything else on this list, if your actual product is pants, they won’t be come back. That said, you can’t please all the people all of the time: some customers may not agree with you on the level of quality you have delivered. However, if you treat them really well, a positive mindset will be created and they are less likely to bad-mouth you to their friends. This is still extremely valuable.¬†
  • Provide your customers with really clear product information. Images, technical specifications, videos, how-to-use guides‚Ķ all of these represent valuable information to an existing or prospective customer. Keep your website updated regularly with information (good content) to make it a place customers and potential customers want to come back to.¬†
  • Remember to make your website customer-focused rather than bleating on about how great a company you are: with any luck, they will find this out for themselves. As the marketing mantra goes, do try to turn “features” into “benefits”, and always think of the products and services you offer from the customer’s point of view. (A bit of research wouldn’t hurt.)
  • Create an easy, straightforward buying experience. Don‚Äôt over-complicate the process, and don‚Äôt expect customers to understand the intricacies of how you operate. Basically, make purchasing from your company as easy and stress-free as possible.¬†
  • Be on hand to provide expert advice and guidance. If you are good at what you do, you will be able to offer the customer the benefits of your experience and talk them through how to use products, how to make the most of items you supply and how to fix any problems that may arise. Think of new ways you can deliver this value-added service, such as internet communicators and forums. (These do cost you in terms of time, but it will be worth it) and remind customers frequently that they are able to use this service.¬†
  • Show honest prices ‚Äď if you can, include VAT/delivery/whatever extras they may not have expected. One slightly larger figure from the outset is more pleasant to view than a new one on the payment screen, larger than originally stated with lots of hidden extras. Nobody likes nasty surprises.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver! Certainly don‚Äôt over-promise and end up disappointing your customer needlessly. Provide realistic delivery dates, meeting times or follow-up slots that you are sure to be able to meet. If you can‚Äôt provide something ‚ÄstSAY SO. Which leads us to:
  • Provide excellent communication! You may not always have an answer ‚Äď or a particularly welcome answer ‚Äď to a customer enquiry, but you should always be in communication with them, letting them know the situation as clearly as possible. Phone when you can, rather than email ‚Äď it is more likely to reach them, far more personal and allows for two-way dialogue.¬†
  • Get things to your customer when you say you will. Track their delivery and let them know the status of their order. Promise to (and do) follow up the order when it has supposedly arrived with them to check it has arrived in one piece. Make sure you have a good courier (not necessarily the cheapest…)
  • Offer a bit of free marketing ‚Äď mention their company or project on your website or social media sites if it seems like something your other customers may be interested in. They are more likely to recommend you if you are the sort of company that recommends others. But don’t go mental.¬†
  • Give excellent aftercare. If something goes wrong, fix it. If something is missing, replace it. And above all, keep the communication open so that customers are not too scared to pass comment on your products and their buying experience. You NEED feedback, especially bad feedback, if you want to improve your product/service and the buyer experience.

Remember: think of everything from your customers’ point of view. Listen to them and change your system accordingly. And always treat a customer complaint as a chance to a) turn the customers’ experience into a positive one and b) improve your business!¬†