What’s the worst customer service experience you’ve ever had? We’ve all had one and it’s pretty likely that we all remember it as well. Whether you were treated rudely by an employee or discovered that a bakery had botched the birthday cake you ordered, these experiences can permanently taint your perception of a company. As a result, you might choose never to shop there again or you might share your experience with everyone you know, encouraging them to boycott the store as well. You’ve probably done all these things as a customer, but people don’t often remember that when they start their own business. That’s why the author points out that one of the most important things you can do as an entrepreneur is specialize in superior customer service.
The advent of the internet has made this an even greater necessity. Because our world is now digitally connected, your customer’s sphere of influence isn’t limited to the people they see at work or school. Instead, a single customer can have anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand followers across multiple social media platforms, all of whom can see what they think about your company. The presence of social media can therefore serve as a type of double-edged sword for businesses. While there’s no question that social media is a necessary evil for putting yourself out there and connecting with your customer base, it can also backfire on you if dissatisfied customers share their thoughts with their followers. But if you play your cards right, social media platforms can give you a lot of free publicity, with one shout-out from a happy customer reaching thousands in a few minutes.
This means that, as a company, you have a difficult balance to strike. So, how can you do that? The author affirms that the best thing you can do is establish a commitment to customer service. Let your customers know from the get-go that their satisfaction is important to you and provide clear and accessible options for getting in touch with you. And once your customers reach out, don’t leave them on “read” or wait too long to reply. It also helps to keep two things in mind: firstly, no one wants a bad customer service experience — not you and not your customers. And secondly, it’s easier to keep an existing customer than it is to go out there and get a new one. So, if you work to keep your current customers happy, it’s likely that you’ll not only keep them, you’ll gain some positive publicity as a result!
For example, I recently saw a post on Facebook about one of my favorite brands. A friend of mine was sharing her experience with their customer service team after her order was delayed due to COVID-19. The brand’s customer service reps got ahead of the issue by proactively reaching out to her to apologize for the delay before announcing that they would refund her shipping fees and give her a free item as a way to thank her for her business. She was so impressed by their response that she made a post about it,drawing the attention of her followers to their positive business practices. And as a result, that company saw an increase in new orders and social media support! As you can see from this example, this is the kind of review you want! And over the course of the next few chapters, we’re going to talk about how you can get it.
Chapter 1: Your Customers Are Your Greatest Resource
This probably sounds like a no-brainer, right? We know that without our customers, we wouldn’t have a business. But we don’t always allow that knowledge to inform our business practices as it should. For example, how often do you post on social media or blog about your new products? How often do you create surveys, asking for your customers’ opinions on new changes with your company? How often do you ask your customers what they would like to see? If you don’t, it might be due to the impression that companies ought to keep their practices secret to maintain a competitive edge. Many companies believe this and they avoid publicizing new developments until their release date because they think this will keep them safe. But in fact, this is often a mistake!
That’s because the digital age hasn’t just revolutionized the way we do business, it’s also transformed the way we think about business. Today, customers prioritize transparency and engagement, so that’s what they’re going to respond to. And interacting with your customers on social media shows that you value their feedback. So, when you trial new product ideas by asking your customers about them, you not only build a connection with your customers, you get instant feedback on your products before you launch them! This is especially valuable because this way, if it turns out that a product isn’t such a great idea, you’ll know before you sink a lot of time and money into producing it!
The author points out that Google sets the standard for this by making all of its products available in beta form first. This means that users can try the new product and see how they like it before it’s officially released. As customers test-drive the new features, Google gets to see how real people engage with their product in real time and they use this data to craft a better user experience. They also get to learn what their customers like and what they don’t and this improves their understanding of their target market. The end result is happier customers, improved data, better products, and more money for Google! And that’s only one of the ways they manage to stay at the top of their game. The best part is that you can implement that strategy right now and watch your company reap the rewards!
Chapter 2: Be HOT
Now, that doesn’t mean that we’re advising you to be a sexy or provocative company. Instead, in this case, HOT is an acronym: one that stands for “Honest,” “Open,” and “Transparent.” Because, as we discussed in the previous chapter, transparency — especially through social media — is key to connecting with your customers. That’s because we’re no longer dealing with the same generation of buyers. Older consumers had different standards of what they expected from the media and from companies and those standards have now gone out of style. Where you might have been able to get away with keeping secrets from the older generation, today’s consumers expect for mistakes to be acknowledged with honesty and humility and they care a great deal about the ethics of the companies they buy from.
So, how can you be HOT in your business practices? The author believes that a twofold approach is necessary here and this is how it works. For starters, it’s important to admit to your mistakes when (not if!) they happen. Owning up to your mistakes and admitting you’re human will encourage your customers to trust you and show them that your company values integrity. It will also set you apart from your less ethical competitors who are still hoping to cover up their mistakes! But the second part of your strategy is equally important and Google sets a strong example in this area once again. Mistakes — like shipping delays or product errors — are inevitable; you can’t control that and those mistakes are okay as long as you work to rectify them with superior customer service practices.
What’s not okay is doing sneaky, underhanded things that would leave you ashamed if your customers found out. And although we all probably heard it from our moms growing up, the age-old warning, “Don’t do anything you’d be ashamed to admit to publicly” is still a good standard! Google sums up this ideology with their motto, “Don’t be evil” and uses “evil” to encompass a wide variety of shady behavior, including everything from dishonesty to covering up important information to misleading customers. To combat this, Google makes a conscious effort to let users know when they are advertising or supporting something and separate this from the objective truth they try to represent in search results.
If that seems like a lot of unnecessary hassle and you think that it might be easier to get forgiveness than permission, the author cautions you to remember two vital things. Firstly, the court of public opinion is a harsh one. And secondly, if you think back to the negative publicity we discussed earlier and the way word can spread like wildfire on social media, tanking and then reclaiming your reputation might not be as easy as you think! And if that’s not enough of a cautionary tale, just remember that Google’s commitment to objective representation includes you too. If you try to pad your stats or misrepresent information, your wrongdoings can easily be googled and called out. So,before you do something “evil” or simply something you’ll regret, stop and ask yourself: is it really worth it?
Chapter 3: Make Google Work For You
So, now that we’ve devoted a few chapters to discussing how awesome Google is and how we can emulate their business practices, let’s take a moment to consider how you can make Google work for you. Because just like Google can be used to find the truth about anything you cover up or to fuel the wildfire of negative publicity, it can also be used to help you get ahead! Here’s how: for starters, your website needs to be clear and informative. This is a pretty solid rule of thumb, no matter what you’re selling. Whether you’re a landscaping business, an HR blog, or an online boutique, your site needs to be user friendly so potential customers don’t come to your site with questions and leave even more confused.
And that’s where SEO comes in handy. SEO stands for “search engine optimization” and it’s an online marketing strategy that helps your content get more traction online. Why does it matter? Well, consider the vastness of the internet; it’s easy to get lost out there! When you’re just one of millions of websites on the internet, how do your customers know how to find you? How will they know about all the amazing content you have to offer if they never realize you exist? Optimizing your content so that it stands out in search engines is one of the best ways to make Google work for you because this will help you gain the attention of potential customers. But how do you know what keywords customers are looking for?
You can start by considering your content. If you write about flower arranging, for example, do some research to discover the top Google searches for things related to flower arranging. Once you know that, you can tailor your content’s headings, key points, and page titles so that they’ll pop up in these searches! This will also boost your PageRank and you definitely want that because your PageRank is what determines how popular your page is in Google. For example, your PageRank dictates whether you’re the first search result to pop up in a Google search or the five thousandth. Which one do you want to be?
SEO will boost your PageRank because it helps you engage with the most-searched topics. This tells Google that you’re relevant and drives more traffic to your site which in turn increases your popularity. As you can see, it’s a cycle that brings an endless loop of positive results in exchange for very little work! Optimizing your content does take a bit of effort, but if you just create a user-friendly website, do some research on popular searches, and optimize your content so that it picks up popular keywords in Google, you can make Google work for you!
Chapter 4: Build Your Network
Just as social networks allow your customers to connect and spread the word at hyperspeed, the same is true for entrepreneurs! Staying connected in the digital age can be a powerful business strategy. But how does it work? And why would you want to do it? The author acknowledges that establishing a collective rather than a one-person platform can be a great opportunity because it encourages collaboration and increases the value that’s added to your organization. Instead of your platform relying solely on you, a network is comprised of multiple different contributors, all of whom can create and learn from each other. You will not only be able to draw on each other’s strengths, you can also benefit from exposure to everyone’s social networks. Because you’re all promoting the network to your various followers, you’ll get more exposure and experience more growth!
If you’ve only ever thought of your business as a one-man show, it might surprise you to learn that this can be more successfully — and more easily executed — than you’d think! For example, you could partner up with other sites who host content similar to yours. If your thing is makeup tips, why not link up with other makeup specialists and drive traffic to each other’s sites through SEO content and embedded links that direct readers to helpful resources on the other site? This then syncs your products, your sites, and your follower base with the aim of growing both. To consider an example of this practice in action, let’s take a look at Google Maps. Google Maps is an exclusively Google-based product; that’s just how it works, right? So, you might think that means that Google retains exclusive rights, prohibiting anyone else from using it.
But in fact, as Google Maps’ popularity grew, Google realized that it would make more sense to partner with other sites and allow them to drive traffic back to Google Maps through their collaboration. And that’s exactly what they did! By allowing other sites to link to Google Maps, to use them as a resource, and to even create apps that incorporated Google Maps, they recognized that they could market their product in a whole new way. And in addition to increasing their exposure, they also increased their customer base. By making Google Maps so accessible — and free — customers developed a loyalty to both the product and the brand. This meant that they were unlikely to be poached by another competitor, especially one who wanted to make users pay for their services.
This also highlights another valuable lesson: making your products available for free is sometimes the best thing you can do. Google knows that you can’t beat a service that’s user-friendly, accessible, and free, so they try to make as many of their products free as possible. And because it’s impossible to offer a price that’s lower than free,Google Maps (along with many other Google products) can become the number-one app by default and eliminate competition through collaboration! Pretty smart strategy, right?
Chapter 5: Final Summary
The digital has unlocked a brave new world in which to grow your business. With the advent of the internet, entrepreneurs are faced with a host of new advantages and challenges alike. Although it may be hard to adapt at first, a quick study of digital success stories like Google reveals that it’s actually not that tough to succeed in our ever-changing world (as long as you know the right tricks). Having conducted his own careful study of Google’s best practices, the author surmises that being HOT (or honest, open, and transparent) is one of the best things you can do for your business.
That’s because this generation of consumers values transparency in media and business and if you want to earn the respect of your customers, you have to show yourself to be ethical. You can also learn to make Google work for you by optimizing your content for SEO and increasing your PageRank with Google. These strategies — combined with the value of collaborating with other businesses — can help you stand out amongst the vastness of the internet and empower your business to succeed.