Monthly Archives: September 2012

An astute airline executive once said that if a passenger noticed coffee stains on their tray when they pulled it down from the seat in front of them, they would wonder what else was being overlooked regarding the maintenance of the plane. The same philosophy applies to a web site.

Is there a link on your site that says “Click Here” to read more about your company or a product you’re offering that doesn’t work when a visitor clicks on it?

Hmmmm….coffee stains on a tray = “Is this plane safe?”

On the surface, this might seem like a long reach, but think about it. I’m not saying that it immediately goes to the airline passenger wondering if a technician’s maintenance checklist was followed precisely, meaning that the procedure to follow when replacing a particular gasket and tightening each bolt to the correct foot-pound level in proper sequence was adhered to, so the access door won’t allow a cabin pressure problem, that would lead to an in-flight emergency, that could lead to a crash. Of course it doesn’t work that way. A passenger on a plane doesn’t have a clue about specific maintenance procedures. But they can decide on a dime that there may be a reason not to trust, and trust is what it’s all about.

Let’s face it. The Internet is rife with fraud and other depravities, and people know it.

Oh, they’re willing to give you a chance to prove that you can be trusted, and when they click on that aforementioned link and it works like it’s supposed to, their trust factor, which is tantamount to giving you the benefit of the doubt, is there. However, if that link doesn’t work, well, like the Elvis Presley song  “Suspicious Minds”, which is about a mistrusting and dysfunctional relationship and the need of the characters to overcome their issues in order to “go on together” says, things just aren’t working out.

How do you maintain your trust factor?

The first step is to make sure that part of your arrangement with your designer is that their fee not only covers getting your site up and running, but covers maintenance for a 12-month period.

The second step is to set aside a few minutes to look on your site every day. If there is a link to something, click on it to make sure it works. If you have “Add To Cart” buttons on your site, go shopping and make sure the right item winds up in the cart at the right price (yes, you can just empty your cart and won’t have to wind up buying something just to check on your site).

And, when was the last time you read your “About Us” text on your site? Is there a typo that’s been lurking there from the beginning but nobody (other than visitors to your site) has noticed it yet? If there have only been a couple of pairs of eyes involved in the text on your site, find more people to read it on purpose. Perhaps a simple edit will make more sense, or make it say the same thing in fewer words.

Having your site accomplished in WordPress is part of making this work. While other systems are complex and can only be managed by a designer who is familiar with the software, code, language, programming, or whatever all that stuff is called, you can, with a reasonable investment of time and energy either by you or someone in your office, become skilled enough to make minor changes on your site’s pages when this simple content management system is employed. And, of course, when it’s necessary to go beyond the minor changes, that’s when you call for help from the designer you hired to accomplish the site and provide a given amount of time every month in order to handle necessary major updates and other functions that are beyond your skill level.

It’s simple. Building a site is only the beginning. Keeping it fresh and up-to-date is ultimately what allows you to do business on the web.

Learn from yesterday….Live for today…Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

Many people who have been in business long-term and still are today will admit to you that if you had told them 20, or even 10 years ago, that they would be earning a significant amount of their revenue via the Internet, and providing goods and services to people not only in parts of the United States that are thousands of miles away from their ‘brick and mortar’ location, but in foreign countries, they would have been skeptical to say the least. But, it’s the truth. Things have changed, and “doing business on the web” is a way of life even if your company only serves customers in a local service area.

And, many service contractors in the appliance and HVACR industries have adapted to customers requesting service via email, selling non-functional parts and other goods on their web site and shipping them without any phone contact whatsoever with their customer….just an Add To Cart button on their site that allows a customer to make a purchase after viewing photos, reading detailed descriptions, or watching a video.

And, there are some contractors that haven’t done an exemplary job of creating a web presence and keeping it up.

With that thought in mind, I will offer my not-so-humble opinion about what makes a good site for a service company (or any company for that matter), and what doesn’t live up to what people now just simply expect when it comes to web commerce.

Rule One: Hire somebody to build your site and maintain it. I know that there are likely hundreds or maybe even thousands of opportunities to have a site built for free or almost free….and when you see some of these sites, that’s exactly what it looks like: done for free in a couple of evenings with the help of some downloaded freeware or maybe a “Web Sites For Dummies” book. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating flashing pages and a booming audio that looks and sounds like it a Hollywood production. But I am saying that you need to do your research and take advantage of what’s out there in the way of an up-to-date system and outsourcing the job to an independent contractor.

For example, instead of using any software system, move on to what is known strictly as a content management system employing WordPress. And…this is ironic….WordPress, since it isn’t somebody’s software, is free. But, that doesn’t mean you should just grab it up and then haul off and design and build your own site. Sure, either you, or somebody in your office will want to learn something about it so you can do some of the minor changes and even some experimenting once your site is up, but the bottom line in getting what you want means that you’ll have to hire a designer.

And in the world of WordPress that means getting the word out (via the web, of course) that you are looking for someone to handle your design, and you’ll have plenty of people getting back to you. And, be ready to consider entering into an agreement without ever having a face-to-face meeting. You might get lucky and have someone pop up near you, but then again, they might be hours out of your time zone.

When it comes to hiring a web designer, there are some important (and maybe not so comfortable) things for you to consider. For example, in the world of web people, you’ll most likely have to muscle up the faith to make some kind of payment of up front. That’s just how it is. I personally would not recommend  paying the entire fee up front the first time you work with somebody, and some designers out there want you to do that. I think it’s reasonable to enter into a 50/50 agreement.

The reason I think this OK is because some of the hands-down best designers you will encounter don’t have a team of people to work on your site, or even an office you can go to, unless you’re invited into their home and down the hall to their spare bedroom. And the fact of the matter is, when you’re hiring an independent designer, they have to protect themselves just like you do. So, get used to the idea of investing a deposit in order to to get things started on your new site.

How do you decide whether or not to hire somebody? Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. In the course of doing that, you’ll find the right person for the job and the end result will be a site that has what you want for your business, and one that your customers will respond to in a positive way.

On that subject, I’ll discuss that in detail in another segment.

Until next week….

Learn from yesterday….Live for today….Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

Redbook Magazine….imagine, not being able to trust an American institution like Redbook Magazine.

I found out recently that Redbook magazine, which has been around since 1903, can’t be trusted. It turns out that a while back, there was a special offer regarding a subscription to Redbook Magazine. If you were already subscribing to another magazine, you could, for the wonderfully small sum of $2.00 also purchase a one-year subscription to Redbook by using a credit card. What the offer didn’t tell you was that once your subscription was up, it would automatically be renewed via an automatic hit on the credit card you used to make the original purchase.

And, as it turns out, the only way you could find out that your credit card was about to be hit was if you happened to notice a small loose piece (called a ‘blow-in’ because that’s how they insert it in between two pages) that was included in a recent issue. And, if you did notice the piece in the first place, you also had to check the fine print on this seemingly innocuous and unimportant piece of paper to find out that if you don’t take action to cancel your subscription…well, as I said, your card will wind up being hit for a renewed subscription. Which, by the way, as I’m sure you can figure out, won’t be at the original $2.00 price.

And, oh, by the way, no matter how hard you search on the small blow-in piece, there’s no toll-free phone number listed so you can call to cancel if you want to. Heck, there isn’t even a non toll-free number listed so you can call to tell them that you don’t want them to hit your card for a renewal.

Redbook Magazine…so named by its first editor because, “Red is the color of cheerfulness, of brightness, of gayety.”

Well, there’s no cheerfulness, brightness, nor gayety in the fact that they’re engaged in what I consider to be a less-than-above-board practice. I mean, c’mon….I’m eligible for Social Security and my grandmother subscribed to Redbook Magazine! If Redbook Magazine is engaging in this kind of chicanery to sell subscriptions, how can you trust anything that’s printed on their pages anymore?

Well, they’re getting away with it, but we can all imagine what would happen if the HVACR industry decided that it would be OK to sell a service contract one year, and then just haul off and automatically hit the customer’s credit card for another year with nothing more than some kind of non-descript, easily ignorable “notice” that was inserted into a monthly issue of a magazine, and that ‘notice’ didn’t offer any simple and easy way to opt out of a renewed contract. All three major T.V. networks would be reporting the unsavory practice on their evening news reports. CNN’s Clark Howard would be warning us about this ripoff scam that would be reaching into our pocket for money.  There would be a thread on an Internet discussion board that would have several hundred comments about how HVACR contractors can’t be trusted.

No, we wouldn’t pull a stunt like this. We would let our customer know that their contract was due to expire and then ask them if they would like to renew.

Shame on Redbook.

Learn from yesterday…Live for today…. Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

 

 

To close or not to close, that is the question….

Ahhh, but, is that the question…?

No, it’s not. In reality it’s not the question because of course, anybody who is in the business of selling something is always supposed to close and ask for the order.  But, when it comes to the difference between closing in person (or, even on the phone), and closing via email, there is a question, and it needs to be answered.

In this day and age of e-commerce, it’s easy for people who sell things for a living to see the Internet as a double-edged sword. On one hand, being able to field a phone call and respond to a question with, “We can explain that by looking at our web site right now. If you’ll go ahead and bring it up, I’ll be able to show you the answer to that question,” or having the ability to post informational videos on You-Tube that lead people to your site is nothing short of wonderful. On the other hand, smart phones, Google, etc…have made fact and price confirmation almost second nature for savvy customers, and while I personally don’t see a problem with that, I know that some people in sales wish the Internet had never been invented…..whether Al Gore did it or not.

But, going beyond the love it/hate it relationship idea, there’s another issue that is important for salespeople while they are communicating with a potential customer who has chosen to use email rather than a phone to ask the questions they feel they need to ask in order to arrive at a buying decision. (By the way, this is not a discussion about shoppers shopping for nothing more than the cheapest price via the Internet. You’ll note that I said that it’s about customers who choose to confirm pricing and information via today’s technology, not somebody looking for the least possible low-ball price.) And, replying to those customers with answers to their questions is part of what it’s all about, and it’s also about closing the sale…..or is it?

Well, yes, but not in the same way we might close if we were dealing personally with perspective customer.

In a face-to-face situation, when the time is right, there’s nothing wrong with being direct, closing, and asking for the order. A simple “Are you ready to go ahead?” is a direct close that some might refer to as a ‘hard close’. But, as I said, in a face-to-face situation where you can judge what the customer is feeling, I don’t necessarily consider this  a ‘hard’ close as much as it is just a ‘direct’ close. If you’ve answered all the questions and explained all the benefits of making the purchase, then, by all means, go ahead and be direct.

In the event that it’s not face-to-face, though,  asking the same question via email doesn’t work. It’s just type on a screen, which makes it impersonal by nature. And, to the customer the same statement can feel like, “all right already, we’ve talked enough, so now are you ready to go ahead, and, if you’re not, say so and I’ll move on to the next customer”, which at best, is disappointing to them. At worst, they will be offended by what the perceive as nothing more than greed, and decide they don’t want to do business with you after all.

Closing via email is better accomplished with a “Please let me know if you have any more questions and let me know when you are ready to go ahead.”

Learn from yesterday….Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

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