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The things that make you stay

posted in Marketing on September 8th, 2008

Apparently, I am the kind of customer that manages to discover problems in bulletproof systems all the time: I have managed to break my former provider’s online payment solution in a way that any payment I did, would not go through (even though it was deducted from my bank account) and I have managed to get my PayPal account locked, more than once, because I sent a certain kind of transaction in a special way that would trigger alarms everywhere.

Last week, I managed to discover one such problem in Vodafone’s service: it turns out that, when you switch your subscription type (I am a prepaid user), your extras automatically are terminated.

Being a heavy SMS user, I pay Vodafone 10 EUROs up-front for a premium service called “Zorgeloos SMS BloX“, which basically translates into a free pass at text messaging - 1000 messages before you have to pay again.

I usually get anywhere between 250 and 400 messages out, every month and as such, the BloX subscription translates into huge savings for me and I was quite appalled when I was told by a CSR that I had already used up my allotted 1000 messages (which would have been a first) and was SOL and would have to wait until mid-September to get more messages.

Now, you see, the issue here was not that I had to invest additional money, or that Vodafone, supposedly ripped 10 EUROs from me, I could care less about the money, the issue, here, was that I did not like the way they did it - blaming me and not taking into account that their system had failed me, and by extension: them.

Having read about Patrick de Laive’s experiences with Vodafone last November, I knew that this would be troublesome to work out and I was prepared to switch to another provider, in the blink of an eye if Vodafone did not play ball.

Today, I received an email from a new CSR at Vodafone, responding to my query and explaining the situation: the representative offered the standard apologies you always get (which, let’s be honest: have to be included in any such communication, even though most customers do not care about them); he also reactivated my BloX subscription and gave me an additional 5 EUROs for “any trouble caused”.

All in all, I am glad that Vodafone handled this issue the way they did and not leave me with a feeling of unimportance and deceit.

Granted, the whole deal could have been avoided if their system was (even more) bulletproof, but since their system is built by humans, and humans are bound to make mistakes, this is a more than acceptable outcome.

So, to Vodafone and the represenative that followed up on this issue, I say: thank you for not screwing me over and taking care of me the right way.

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Taggin’ NYC: I ♥ SMS style

posted in Marketing, Projects on August 12th, 2008

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s post about what Treasuremytext is all about and also the announcement of me joining their Board of Advisors, is this visual treat for everybody who loves to tag random things in public … like I did.

During the Software Social Summer BBQ, back in May, I was able to snag a few I ♥ SMS stickers and I decided that, the best way to expose New York City to Treasuremytext, would be by putting some of their stickers in more or less visible locations, such as trains, post boxes, abandoned cars and the likes.

Even though some may call this pointless, I definitely had my fun and, so far, had three people approach me about the sticker and what the message was all about.

In case you want to see even more tagged areas, head on over to my gallery!

And if you have come this far and still have no idea what Treasuremytext is all about, I suggest you have a look at the following clip.

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The things that keep you coming back - redux

posted in Marketing on July 10th, 2008

Close to a year ago, I jotted down some thoughts on how companies treat their customers and what makes me come back to them.

Paypal:

First up is Paypal. Most people know Paypal from eBay, some use it in conjunction with Skype, another eBay property and many people downright hate the service. There is a myriad sites available that deal with how sucky Paypal is and how wrong they treat you.

For me, however, Paypal, means ease of use and I am so comfortable with the service that a month ago, I decided to pay a four-digit sum with it and although the payment initially went through, my account was quickly locked down, pending a number of steps, two of which I could complete (change password, fax / email official document stating my name and address) and one which Paypal would have to do: review my transactions.

Up to this date, I have not found out why they locked my account, but to be honest, I am very happy that they did. For one, my usual transactions range in the single to double digit area, hardly ever peaking $50, now, all of a sudden, I transfer a four digit amount of money to someone and that from a country from which my Paypal account has never been used before. I can see how that would trigger a few security checks along the line.

The problem with having your account locked down is that not only does Paypal hold the current transaction, they also change old, already completed transactions from the last couple of days to “pending review”.

One of the payments that was held, was for Namecheap, my preferred supplier for domains and they quickly informed me that their system noticed a “chargeback” and that I had to pay an administrative fee of approximately $60, as well as the money I, technically, owed them (due to the fact that Paypal had reversed the transaction).

After a few mails to Paypal’s customer service, their Dutch division still was not able to assist me and provided me with nothing but canned responses - not the kind of thing that puts your mind at ease when somebody took a four digit amount of money from you and is now keeping it.

Luckily, after some searching on the web though, I found two community managers and sent off my story in email form. Only a couple of hours later, I got a few suggestions from Jason Miner and was also informed that my case was upgraded to the next level.

One of the suggestions included calling the Paypal customer center, which I promptly did. I had to prove that I am indeed who I am, I got apologies aplenty and the issue was very quickly taken care off, in the most professional manner I could even think of.

With my account returned to me and all my transactions unlocked, Namecheap still was not too happy with me as a customer, so I fired off another email to Jason, who ensured me that his team would take care of the issue and lo’ and behold, they did: the next business day, I got an email from Namecheap stating that any issues were resolved and that they were sorry for the inconvenience.

As for my happiness level: Paypal did not only pick up the ball in this, they ensured that everything was solved and assisted me with anything I needed. Yes, technically, that is to be expected, but looking at the state of the current customer service industry, this certainly deserves a mention.

STM Bags:

Back in the beginning of 2005, I got myself a bag from STM, which I love and use to this day. This bag has accompanied me to every conference I have been to, it has met the forces of nature and clumsy waitresses and through all that time, has kept my laptop safe and sound.

On my trip to New York, however, I managed to break one of the plastic clamps that keeps the bag attached to your shoulders. While it was still technically possible to use the bag, I felt that it would be safer (and better looking) to get myself a new strap.

After drafting a quick email to STM Bags North America, outlining my problem and trying to find out the price for one of the straps, a friendly CSR, Yvonne Studebaker, confirmed which strap I had / needed and also asked for my address.

Three days later, USPS delivered a brand new strap to me, for a product that I bought more than three years ago, that was way beyond any warranty and what is more: the broken strap was normal wear and tear.

The commitment STM has shown in this case not only won my heart, it also made sure that STM will keep my business in the future, because if a company can take care of its customers like that, I believe that they deserve my money.

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The things that keep you coming back

posted in Marketing on August 7th, 2007

In today’s (commercial) world, everyone seems to be focused on one thing and one thing only: money. Many companies forget that without customers, they would not be where they are right now and yet, some companies still believe they can treat their customers the way they want.

Normally, this kind of post would turn into a rant, but I think it is important to point out those companies that actually care about their customers and will do (just about) everything to keep you coming back:

First up is QH Networks. I came across them while looking for some professional help on getting a new Operating System installed on my server. Since I value my data and like to be kept in the loop, I bombarded one of their employees with a myriad of questions during the whole project. I had special requirements and special circumstances, yet they did not give up on me and move on to the next, probably more profitable client. By doing so, they earned my respect and I will most certainly come back when I am in need of their services again.

Next stop is Proporta.com. I initially came across them in 2003, while looking for some accessories for my Pocket PC and while I am not ordering from them every other week, they are always the first site that I check. The reason for that is simple: their employees are very responsive and in the rare case that your order cannot be shipped out the same day, they will try to, and actually do, their level best to keep you happy as a customer. It is not so much the reparations they are willing to make but their concern for you as a customer. Granted, said concern is probably based on the fact that they want to keep you as a customer, but still, they care, while others do not. And besides that, Proporta.com includes a selection of English Breakfast Tea with every order, a small gesture, yes, but one I like a lot.

Both of these companies work harder to keep you as a customer than most other companies you will ever come across. It may be related to their respective area of operations, which are more niche than your ordinary brick and mortar store or it may be related to the fact that their employees actually give a damn. Either way, it works out very nicely for the consumer.

mobile advertising, powered by: (who else) Google

posted in Marketing on July 14th, 2007

Google just stealth-launched a new service (beta, naturally) in the Americas called AdSense for mobile. The service has already been tested for about 15 months now in Japan and was deemed successful enough to roll it out to a broader public.

While I am not a huge fan of advertising in general, I believe that the monetary reward that a publisher can get from services like AdSense can be beneficial to the end user as far as making content freely available goes.

If Google enforces the same guidelines as it does with “normal” AdSense, I believe that this will be a great way to provide mobile users with content free of charge, while at the same time being able to monetize those same visitors.

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