Thursday, September 18, 2008

Customer Service: A department or a way of life?

As I was making my way around the world of small business blogs, I saw a post on Small Biz Survival that caught my eye. In it, the writer describes how a trainer was working with a trainee at a big box office supply store, ostensibly teaching him how to handle his customer-facing job at that retailer. The trouble is, the trainer completely ignored the customer in order to go into the finer points of how to offer tech services. In other words, rather than taking the opportunity to teach the trainee how “our customers are our most important asset” the trainer instead chose to focus on some arcane computer procedure.

It’s really kind of a funny perspective. The reason it caught my eye, of course, is how much effort we at Protus put in to our customer service. It’s one of the things that draws the highest praise from customers who have to use it. Often, they seem shocked that it’s so attentive and their issues are resolved so quickly. I guess in the technology space in particular the expectation is getting into a Battle Royale, followed by the opportunity to meet three or four new people over the phone before anything is resolved.

In my daily life, I’m amazed how many companies simply don’t get it. They will list a “customer service” number, but when you call it you find it leads to a phone tree that seems to have been designed by the same people who create those Sudoku puzzles. When you finally do make your way through the maze, you’re met by someone reading a script, who is more clueless about the product or service you’re calling about than you are. It’s only after getting belligerent and practically squeezing your phone to dust that they finally get you to someone who can help. It’s almost like running a gambit – you have to earn the right to speak with someone who actually knows what’s going on by first making your way through an army of minions.

Worse are the live ones – the service providers who ignore your questions, or the people in stores who are more interested in folding the sweaters than helping you find what you want. It’s like they view you, the customer, as an inconvenience instead of the reason they have a job.

That’s just not right. “Customer service” has to be more than a department or a marketing slogan. It has to be an approach to doing business. I’m proud to work for a company that still understands that, and borders on being obsessed with making sure customers are happy. Too bad that way of thinking seems to have gone out of style.

Have a cusotmer support story, good or bad? I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Improve your Home Office Week

Well, well, allow me to be the first to wish a Happy Improve Your Home Office Week to you and yours.

Seriously, who even knew there was such a thing, much less that it’s happening September 7-13? I didn’t until someone I know told me about it. But it makes sense, all you have to do is look at the entries we had at the beginning of the year in our Messy Office Contest and you can see there are a lot of home offices that could use some improvement at least once a year. Of course, some would take a bulldozer but don’t get me started.

Beyond just the general clean-up and learning to put things away, there are all kinds of things you can do to improve a home office. Here’s my top 5:
  1. Obviously number 1 is signing up for MyFax and my1voice. Both of these services can really help small business owners work more efficiently and present a professional appearance to customers, partners and suppliers.

  2. Update your home wireless access (or get wireless access if you don’t have itJ). A ton of improvements have occurred since you bought that 802.11 b wireless router at Radio Shack so it’s time to let it go and get faster download speeds over a longer distance. While you’re at it, look in to upgrading your PC/laptop, monitor, or business applications.

  3. Join the organizer mania! Everyone is doing it! Organizers can actually give you places for your stuff, so you can find it when you need it (instead of a week later after you’ve bought another one). My top recommendation is the charging station. It lets you store and charge all your little portable electronic devices (mobile phone, iPod, PDA, camera, etc.) in one handy unit. Sure beats having all those bulky charging block under the desk and all those cord snaking around your work area.

  4. Replace your old desk chair. If you’re like me you probably lugged your current chair home from a garage sale and fixed it with duct tape. But you really can’t underestimate the value of a comfy work chair.

  5. Give your office space a facelift. Even if it doesn’t “need” it, a fresh coat of paint can be a real pick-me-up in your work environment. Don’t just settle for beige either. Us traditional office types have to settle for beige but you don’t. Pick a color that inspires you and revel in your non-corporate freedom.

So there you have it. I’d love to turn this in to a top 10 list so let me know what you’re planning or what you’ve all ready done to improve your home office?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

New Features for MyFax and my1voice

In case you haven’t heard, we’ve just implemented some great new enhancements to both MyFax and my1voice, and the best part is you don’t have to buy, or sign up for anything in order to take advantage of them. As with all MyFax and my1voice enhancements, they’re free and already available to you as part of your service (of course there is a charge to purchase additional phone numbers).

For my1voice there are three big changes I think are really going to add an incredible amount of value to your service:

The first is Internet Fax Reception. Now faxes can be sent to your my1voice number! my1voice will recognize a fax call and will save the fax to your my1voiceCentral Inbox. From there you can read it, forward it, even save it to your hard drive. A great bonus to this is you will never again pick up the phone expecting to hear a human and instead be deafened with that horrible fax machine sound!

The second is what we call Web Calls. Basically, you can place a "Call Me" link on your website or in emails. Visitors to your site, or readers of your email can click this link, enter their phone number in the pop up box and my1voice will connect the caller to you at the number or extension you choose. One benefit with this is you can mask your number so callers aren’t aware of the number they’re calling, this is good because if you change your phone number or add new numbers, your callers are not affected. Callers will always be able to get a hold of you with no thinking required! This is also another great way to make sure your customers or even potential customers can reach you from yet another medium. Imagine what this can do for your business.

Finally, the third addition to my1voice is Multiple Number Support. Not only does this allow you to have both a toll free and a local number, but you can also use this enhancement to have numbers that dial directly to your auto-attendant, or extensions, queue, or mailbox.

Finally, our last enhancement applies to both MyFax and my1voice. It may not seem as flashy as the others but it’s a great addition to our service and really quite valuable.

We’ve simplified our password reset process, you can now reset your password online or you can choose to receive and email with a secure link. What this means is, if you do forget your password it is now a lot easier for you assign a new one with the absolute minimum of wait time.
So there you have it, our newest enhancements in a nutshell. To explore them further just login to your my1voiceCentral and/or your MyFaxCentral account. As always, our Technical Support Teams are available 24/7 x 7 to answer all of your questions, or if you have an Account Manager, give them a call for more information.
I’d love to hear what you think of our latest enhancements and as always if there is something you’ve been dying to see us add to either service, post a comment and I’ll put in a good word for you with our development team!