Did Infusionsoft Make it Right? You Decide.

Customer experience and back-end service support have always been hot buttons for me. When you work your backside off to close sales deals, the last thing you want to find out is that a customer bailed because excellence in another part of the customer experience broke down. iStock_000016225393Medium

In the “old” model, you sold something and everything was fine – until it wasn’t. When something went awry, fingers crossed, your service team handled it. But waiting to react is not consistent with the world we now find ourselves doing business in.

Companies remain too internally focused. Most do not stop to consider what their policies feel like to the prospect or customer. Policies are almost always focused on what’s best for the company not for the people who will choose to interact and do business with them.

An Update to a Recent Post About Service

Twenty days ago, I wrote a post called Just Cancel My Account – Part 1 In the post, I shared my personal story of what happened when I decided to end my business relationship with Infusionsoft. I did my best to be professional in my post, but I was ticked off. You can read the original post to understand all the details, but I was not happy to be billed for another month when I believed I was canceling my account ahead of the billing cycle.

Monday, I was surprised to receive an email from a senior manager at Infusionsoft (I’ll name the company but not the individual) telling me that Infusionsoft was aware of the situation, apparently management had a conversation about it and had decided to refund my money. OK. Nice. Unexpected. Thank you. It shows that they are trying. I give them credit for that.

And…

Read my correlating tale of Kick Butt Service delivered by Zappos when something went wrong. You’ll understand why Infusionsoft, well meaning as they may be, has work to do.

Stop Justifying…Get Outside Your Company Walls

I originally planned to post the entire email, but decided to pull key statements from it instead. Here is my reaction to the email.

1. I do appreciate the refund. Though to me it felt like 3-days into the cycle didn’t justify keeping my entire monthly fee, I now understand that the timing of “their systems” didn’t quite jive with my understanding of when billing actually happened. More importantly, and to be fair to Infusionsoft, I did agree to their terms and conditions when I initially became a customer.

The refund is a nice gesture and…

2. I received the email 18 days after I wrote my blog post. The post was circulated widely through Twitter, LinkedIn and by my blog followers but I’m hearing from someone 18 days later? Though I didn’t expect a response at all, the fact that this wasn’t picked up sooner is surprising. Are Infusionsoft folks not monitoring the net and social networks for mention of them? Or did they pick the post up within a day or so and then spent 2-weeks deliberating what to do?

3. My colleague, Jonathan Farrington would argue that Infusionsoft wouldn’t have done anything if I had not written a blog post that cast their company in a negative light. That’s probably true. The question is…should you wait until someone calls you out online before you decide to do something? I did ask the billing folks to refund my money given I was barely 3-days into the billing cycle. Aren’t their employees empowered to “do the right thing” immediately?

Then there is the justification…

4. Is the “justification” for Infusionsoft policies and their behind the scenes reasoning warranted when sending me the conciliatory email? Probably not. It always bugs me when a company (or person) says, “We value your feedback.” and then goes on to tell you all the reasons why they do what they do.

“We don’t have online cancellations for several reasons, one of which is we have customers that we talk with every day that needed extra help, or specific consulting that have actually stayed with us and been very successful in using the application.”

Perhaps Infusionsoft does have customers who don’t know the difference between contacting tech support for help and canceling their account. I don’t know. But I am still asking why I had to call, talk to someone, tell them what I wanted and why, and then be forced to wait for a call back from another employee to spend more time going over it again? The process needs to be revisited.

5. What are your thoughts about being asked to “remove” or “rewrite” your blog post, because a company now tries to do the right thing?

“I would also ask that you consider removing, or rewriting the post to share that while we might have been slow to do the right thing, we did strive to get there.”

Infusionsoft made an attempt, and I do give them credit for it. But no, I won’t remove my original post or rewrite history; the story happened as I told it. Thanks for the refund though.

Expert: Leader, Follower or Copycat?

When it comes to social media, probably 4 in 5 people you meet these days are experts. A quick Internet search reveals there are 310Genius baby million “social media” experts with 166 million grabbing the “social selling” expert moniker. That’s a lot of experts.

The problem, as I see it, is that “social media” is so big, so broad and so misunderstood that it is tough to pinpoint what expert really means. How do you really know if you are talking to one? Are you talking to someone who leads, follows or just copycat’s the work of others?

It takes 10,000 Hours (or close to it) 

Just yesterday I was interviewed for an edition of Top Sales World’s HardTalk podcast series. While talking to Jonathan Farrington about what it means to be an expert, for grins, I had looked up the definition before we got started with the interview. With so much noise being created by self-proclaimed experts, potential customers need a way to determine who’s got the goods and who does not, which might be tough if they aren’t even sure of the questions to ask or what skills to vet.

As defined on Wikipedia, “Experts have a prolonged or intense experience through practice and education in a particular field.”

While some will argue that you don’t need the 10,000 hours of experience that Malcolm Gladwell talks about in Outliers, I happen to believe that demonstrable experience actually matters. Do you think someone with no athletic experience can take up figure skating and within a year be competing in the Olympics? Anything is possible, but I’ve  NEVER heard of it happening.

Gladwell said in his book that “the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.” If you did nothing else but study, work with clients and practice your craft 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you could get there in just over a year. Of course, we all know that isn’t realistic at all. More likely, we are talking in the neighborhood of five years at least. Expert status, I believe, takes time, it takes hard work and especially where social media is concerned, you must be constantly learning and adapting.

Tactics and One Trick Ponies

When it gets right down to it, you know you are talking to someone with social media chops when they demonstrate breadth and depth of knowledge of the various platforms and how they fit together. You may be a really good LinkedIn trainer, but that does not make you a social media (or social selling) expert. Someone who understands social media strategy and how it impacts Sales, Marketing and Service will have a clear sense of best practices, and they will also know where the potential for disaster or failure lies. They will be able to show you the strategic work that they’ve done.

Be wary of one proven process or one way of approaching things. What works for one customer won’t necessarily work for another one.  A truly experienced social media player knows that it all begins with strategy and that strategy is crafted after you invest the time to understand the core of a customers business. Tactics come after strategy and not the other way around.

Buyer Beware

At the end of the day, I suppose it is the way of the world. People latch onto hot ideas and hot terms and want to ride the wave without learning how to surf. But trusting your reputation, your sales and your business to “experts” could be dangerous. You may find out that all they are expert in is taking taking your money.

 

Just Cancel My Account – Part 2

This is the story of how I became a client and canceled my AWeber account all in the span of 3-days. Game Over

In part 1, I talked about Infusionsoft and how frustrating their process is for canceling your account. Had it been easy to walk away, I wouldn’t have broadcast to my followers that Infusionsoft doesn’t live up to its promise, and they are tough to do business with. In AWeber’s case, the process for canceling my account wasn’t difficult and they refunded a portion of my money to boot. But a process that they spin as being better for you – the customer – isn’t.

For 8 years, I’ve been building my email list. I take the CANN-SPAM act seriously and have always followed the rules of email marketing. This is so important to me that I NEVER add anyone I meet who hands me a business card. That’s not permission to add to a list my friends, although far too many people do it. Subscribers can easily opt-out of my list; I don’t waste their time even asking why. I assume their reason is nothing personal. Everyone is on overload these days. I’m no exception. Email inboxes are more crowded than ever and people often just don’t have the time to read one more newsletter. I opt out of plenty of them myself.

While using the Infusionsoft system, I once again scrubbed the list. If a lot of people start opting out, Infusionsoft assumes you are a spammer and will halt you in your tracks. I think that’s a good thing. But imagine my surprise when we wanted to upload our mailing list to the AWeber account only to find out that they insist on sending out a “reconfirmation” email. That means that people who have opted in to my list, now have to go to another step to say yes again.

AWeber will tell you that it is the best way to ensure that emails are not blocked by spam filters. They claim that their process is why they have a high rate of delivery versus other email marketing companies. I don’t believe it. There’s a back story there somewhere.

As I’m working to get my email marketing back on track, this little hiccup didn’t make me happy. I asked a couple of my colleagues what they thought about the double opt-in policy. Depending on who you talk too there are two ways to look at it.

1. You can think of the process are further cleaning and purging your list. Makes sense. I really do want people to find what I send them valuable.

On the other hand…

2. People are super busy. What if they never get around to reconfirming? Depending on how long it takes people to confirm again, my email marketing might not be very effective.

I did some checking on AWeber’s support site to find out if there was a way around this default. After all, quite a few of their competitors don’t require this and have their own ways of verifying if you have a purchased or spam list. It turned out that – yes – you could ask them to waive this default setting if you have a clean list. Awesome, I thought. Now we can move forward.

Uh, not so fast.

I sent AWeber my request, explaining my reason for switching providers and confirming that I had just gone through the process of scrubbing the list about 12 months earlier. Pretty quickly I received a response that essentially said that AWeber rarely makes an exception to their policy (OK, why is it on your website and written in a way that suggests you do make exceptions?). The service rep goes on to say that if I will answer their list of questions, they will research my situation and get back to me. They are trying to verify that I’m legit…I get it.

The next email I receive now says they aren’t sure and that maybe they’ll make an exception, which they will rarely do, but now I need to give them the log in details to the Infusionsoft account so that they could verify the last campaign that I’d sent. Well, for starters, I told them I had not sent a campaign in a few months. I also told them that I’d canceled my Imfusionsoft account, which at the time, I didn’t know was still active.

Now I’m fuming. Time is already being wasted; I’m no closer to getting a newsletter out. And there was no guarantee that they’d say yes anyway. Screw it, I said to myself. I told the service rep that this was a complete waste of my time and wasn’t worth it. I said that I planned to cancel the account, which I did right away.

And then…

I receive another email from the same service guy saying that if I would provide the list, they’d do some sort of verification thing to see if the addresses were valid. More of my time to be wasted and again no promise that my request would be approved.

Thank you, MailChimp.

MailChimp and AWeber both receive good reviews and recommendations but AWeber seemed have just a bit more under the hood that would suit my purposes. After my brief experience with them, I went to MailChimp. They have ecommerce hooks and other things that I need. They also happen to be a business local to me, many of my colleagues use them, and they have a fair number of corporate client. Good enough for me. But the biggie…they don’t force the double opt-in process.

MailChimp has designed an algorithm that can test your list to determine validity. Guess what…within a few minutes, my list was verified and I was ready to go.

If you won’t, your competitors will.

There must be hundreds of email marketing systems available. Why would any company want to make it difficult for new and existing customers? It is beyond me.

The experience with AWeber left me feeling a little like being back in grade school. It feels like their “rule” is meant to stop the real spammers, but in the process they penalize legitimate business people who work hard to do the right thing.

Well, thanks for the memories AWeber. MailChimp, I look forward to a beautiful relationship!

A Tale of Kick-Butt Service

I love Zappos.iStock_000015017344Medium

Hard to remember when I first heard about Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO. Digging back into my memory banks, I think it was when I was still with Microsoft and Tony’s company, LinkExchange was acquired for a hefty sum. I remember thinking…a multi-millionaire at 24? I barely had a steady job at that age. WOW!

But I don’t love Zappos because I’m a big shoe buyer. Contrary to urban myth, not all women are! I don’t like “traditional” shopping either. I love the Internet; hate going to the mall. There is something so deliciously fun and easy about having packages delivered right to your door. I admit that my face lights up when I come home from a meeting and find presents waiting for me. So what if I sent them, it’s still fun.

OK, I got off track for a moment.

I am a Zappos customer.

When I need shoes or athletic wear, I’ve bought from them. They have other great stuff too. Point is that the process has always been smooth and easy. Though I’ve purchased from Zappos, that isn’t the only reason I am a fan. For starters, I love their CEO.

As CEO, Tony is quite engaged on social media. He interacts and engages with people online and demonstrates that he cares about the people who buy from him. His beliefs around culture and service mirror mine.

And who can’t love a company whose CEO pens a book called Delivering Happiness?

The company culture is amazing. Heck, they are so keen to get the right people into their culture of excellence, that they’ll pay you to walk away if you do not fit.

Service practices should be designed to make your life, as a buyer, easy. Zappos has got this down. You can automatically return something that you ordered from them if it doesn’t work for you with no hassle AND for free. The return authorization is sent with your order.

I love Zappos, and I had also never had a problem until…

On 2/4, I placed an order. Fine with the regular shipping, I figured the order would arrive around the 8th. Then I receive the confirmation email today that says my order just shipped. What? Ordered 2/4 but not shipped until 2-days later? I took to Twitter with my question at 3:56pm Eastern.

Bam! 4:01pm Eastern I had a response. The response wasn’t a lame…click this link and report your problem here…a real person was actually engaging me.

This is the exchange that ensued (read from the bottom up):

zappos

I had selected the free shipping, because I wasn’t in a big hurry. But when I saw that 2-days had elapsed between order and ship date, I was a bit annoyed. I wanted an answer as to why my order wasn’t shipped sooner. That had never happened before.

The support rep didn’t justify, argue or give me excuses. I’m simply told my shipping was upgraded; I can expect my order tomorrow. That is seriously cool!

I didn’t actually receive an answer to my question about what went wrong, but obviously something went awry. OR, maybe I misunderstood the email and that’s why the rep said “no worries” when I inquired if I’d made the mistake. Again, no blame assigned to me…the customer. The way the service person handled it, who cares what went wrong, if anything?

That’s the lesson.

When things go wrong or customers misunderstand your communication, all that is expected is that you make it right. WOW them! Don’t make their life challenging or difficult. Don’t put the burden on them. Just handle it.

If you compare this story to the one I shared in my prior post about Infusionsoft and their “make it a challenge to cancel my account policy”, the differences are stark. Point of fact, I have spent a heck of a lot more money with Infusionsoft than Zappos, but Zappos treated me as if I have been spending thousands on Christian Louboutin’s for years. Not only will I continue to be a loyal buyer, which will translate into thousands over time, I will continue to tell everyone I know to buy Zappos!

Finally, what I really love is that Zappos understands that their customers will interact with them in ways that suit them. Zappos’s doesn’t force you to communicate with them in their way, they adapt to YOUR WAY! They actually have people manning a Twitter account who are clearly held to responding fast. I contrast that with other companies who claim to have service presence online but never actually respond to you.

Zappos gets an A+ from me. They are a shining example of what kick-butt service looks like AND feels like to the customer. If you don’t buy from them – you should!

Talk is Cheap

In 2005, I wrote an article outdated customer service. It is now 2013, and I’m still asking the same questions about service and customer experience as I did back then.

Person Annoyed by Others Talking

When it comes to delivering a service experience that WOWS are most companies talking rather than doing?

At the time that I wrote my article, I quoted Tom Peters from his book The Pursuit of Wow in which he said, “70% of customers hit the road not because of price or product quality issues, but because they did not like the human side of doing business with the provider of the product or service.”

It doesn’t feel like much has changed. Yes, companies like Zappos and Amazon WOW. But what about all the thousands of other brands out there?

I recently read a blog post penned by Frank Eliason, Director of Global Social Media at Citi. In his post, he says that “One of the reasons the Customer experience is broken at many companies is we have tried to force the Customer into our view instead of taking the Customer view.” Exactly. I couldn’t agree more. How often are companies insisting that their employees walk in the shoes of their customers? How often is the boss going “undercover” to really see what’s going on?

We’ve had rapid advancements in technology – digital, mobile, social networks – in the past 10 years. More people can be reached faster and in more unique ways, but what good does any of that do if you talk about service but never actually deliver. As buyers, have we become so accustomed to mediocre service or worse that we just tolerate it?

Customers want to work with those businesses who demonstrate a sincere desire to help them with anything they need, and they are willing to pay for it. Yes, they want products to work and services that meet their needs. More importantly though, they want people who care that what they sell does their business no harm.

Major departments inside organizations continue to work in silos. Pour a little social media into the mix and the problem is exacerbated. Proudly proclaiming to the world that you provide service and support via Twitter means nothing if you never respond to complaints shared on your page. It happens all the time.

I’m going to be talking a lot more about customer experience in the coming days and weeks. Businesses need to start realizing that there is no “linear” path that a prospect now takes on the way to becoming a customer. Marketing, sales and service folks all need to work together to define and deliver exceptional experience at every touch point in the prospect–to-customer life cycle. Beyond the feel good aspect of delivering WOW experiences, there is financial gain as well.

Is providing great a rich and robust customer experience really that difficult?

I’ll close with these words from IBM founder Thomas Watson who said, “If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work”.

Connect, Influence, Engage

Conversations in the social media are now more influential to the buying decision than traditional sales and marketing tactics. Traditionally, as salespeople, our job was education. To make buying decisions, buyers relied on us to tell them about what we sold. They had their own systems of stack ranking their choices. People skills played a huge role, because we either established rapport and they trusted what we told them, or not. Those days are gone. As Paul Greenberg at Inside View puts it, “The conversation is in control of the customer; the customer has the means and the networks necessary to get what they want and formulate their opinions—without the company or the sales person.” Social selling is based on this new reality.

Relationships—who you know—has always been a sales professional’s edge. So, until now salespeople focused on networking, establishing rapport, and leveraging relationships via face-to-face meetings, conferences, clubs, and civic organizations. As technology keeps influencing the way we do business, social selling becomes a model that allows sellers to attract, interact, and close business with buyers online by tapping the conversational power of the web. This new approach—when done right—leads to higher sales velocity, volume and profits.

If you liked the short excerpt above, then I encourage you to read the full article (page 16 in the PDF) that I wrote and was published in Sales and Service Excellence Magazine. You’ll also be able to enjoy many more great business articles in the October edition. Just click on the link and enjoy! Publication is compliments of Ken Shelton, Editor/CEO of Leadership Excellence.