Is O2 Business bad for business?

12 Dec

o2 logoStarting up a new company is an exciting time, and there’s a lot of support for those looking to set out on their own and become their own boss. That makes it all the more frustrating when a company, like O2, who claim to have ‘communications to fit your business’ makes getting set up incredibly difficult.

I’ve been an O2 consumer customer for as long as O2 has been a company, and I can’t really remember a time when I’ve had any major issues with them. In fact, recent contact with them has been excellent, which makes it all the more annoying that O2 Business has awful customer service.

So where does O2 Business go wrong?

They don’t seem to understand modern small business hurdles

O2 naturally have a number of checks to ensure a customer has appropriate credit, but the inflexibility of this process left me in a position where I was without a mobile phone for the first month of trading. One part of the process requires a bank statement or utilities bill in the company name. As a brand new business a bank statement isn’t possible for at least one month, and having a home office means that a utility bill in the company name doesn’t exist. Despite explaining this to O2, and how not having a business phone for a whole month could be particularly damaging, they refused to be flexible, with the customer service rep showing complete apathy when asked why such a limiting process was in place. This credit check needs to evolve to take into account the way modern small businesses are set up.

They don’t seem to actually have any customer service

The very first email I received from the Teleweb Business Sales Team should have given me a hint as to how much effort they were going to put in to help me through the process. Apparently they’d been trying to get in touch with me all morning but couldn’t, odd really as I was in all day and there were no messages and missed calls. Since that point it was clear apathy was a standard setting. When chasing replies to emails, I’d find out the person I’d been speaking to was not in, there was no out of office alert, and no warning that they’d be away from their desk, despite knowing I’d be contacting them with further information on that day. If they’d said they were away for the day ahead of time, and simply reassured me they would be doing everything they could to help when they’d got back, I’d have been happy with that, and would have at least had my expectations managed appropriately.

They pass the buck

Calling to find out what’s happening was usually met with some excuse that I’d been given the wrong information from the person I spoke to last. It doesn’t fill me with confidence to know that half of the people I speak to at O2 apparently don’t know what they’re doing. Why not just apologise, say you’ll look into the delay and then just get on with sorting it?

They don’t do what they say they will

Apart from having to chase updates they’d promise to give, I’m still awaiting the protective phone case that comes as part of the contract. I’ve chased it three times now and each time I’m told it’s on its way, or that the person I spoke to before didn’t do what they were supposed to do. As a lease customer it’s vital I protect my phone, which I presume is why a case is provided. Therefore I’m particularly angry that despite taking the utmost care of my phone, there is now some accidental damage to the screen. This would have been prevented had O2 provided what they promised. Of course I expect O2 to cover the cost of the repair.

I will be putting in an official complaint to O2, I strongly believe that feedback is vital in ensuring any business improves. But they do have to listen. It’s clear they have severe problems with their staff having the desire to do their best for their customers, their colleagues on their consumer teams could probably help with that, and it’s clear their processes are very inflexible in helping modern small businesses with their communication needs.

O2 can learn from this, in fact any business can. It doesn’t matter if you’re an SME or big multinational, at the end of the day, your customer service and ability to provide what you promise is what defines you. Get that right and your customer will love you.

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LinkedIn needs to get its house in order

13 Nov
LinkedIn faces legal action

LinkedIn faces legal action

I blogged a while ago about how the potential for inaccuracy within LinkedIn profiles could well be its downfall. However it seems there’s another aspect to the professional networking platform that might prove a bigger problem.

As reported in Business Insider yesterday, LinkedIn is being sued by users who claim their job searches were hampered by LinkedIn’s premium ‘Reference Search’ service.

The service works by allowing potential employers to scour an applicant’s contact list for those who have worked with them and then ‘InMail’ those previous colleagues to ask for an unsolicited reference. In my opinion, very not cool. As Business Insider points out this raises a number of issues, the main one being that while many of us have LinkedIn connections based on where we have worked, many of those contacts won’t have worked closely enough with us to be in a position to give a reference?

The issue with accuracy I’ve already raised comes up again.

These contacts may well offer positive comments about your work but aside from the fact an HR manager should take those positive comments with a pinch of salt, what about those who may send over something negative?

That person may have no real facts surrounding your work and, let’s face it, some may well lean toward sabotage for the sheer unprofessional bitchiness of it all.

This US-based lawsuit cites that LinkedIn breaches the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). A law which came into effect in 1970 and protects people from being denied a job, or other opportunities, based on unfair background checks or references.

It’s unclear if similar laws in other jurisdictions might make this a global problem for LinkedIn. However, to my mind this does once again show that accuracy on LinkedIn, the one thing that it should hold most dear above all others, is being called into question.

The decision makers in LinkedIn need to look hard at the processes they have in place, designed to help people network for business, employment and hiring opportunities. As my previously written blog cites issues with the endorsement process, this problem with unsolicited references goes one step too far.

Simply put, if the applicant didn’t say you could ask someone for a reference or endorsement be it positive or not. It’s not worth anything at all.

*UPDATED* Good start, Instagram. Here’s what you should do next.

11 Nov

Instagram_Icon_LargeIt’s great to read that Instagram now lets users edit the posts below the pictures they upload. There’s still much more Instagram could to though before it’s truly user-friendly.

Of course I’ve already argued that social media platforms are ‘cash’ free and so we should just accept the way they are or leave. But with photo sharing social media being ever more popular, with both consumers and brands, there are a few features that Instagram should develop to help them evolve further – and remain photo sharing pioneers.

So, here are five ideas that I think would really help make Instagram users Instahappy:

  • Zoom: Being able to look at photos on Instagram a little more closely would be great. We know that double tap in Insatagram marks that picture as a favourite but allowing ‘pinch-zoom’ as a command would revolutionise our enjoyment of those photos you love.
  • Clickable links: Wouldn’t it be great if you could add a link to the website of the stately home you just snapped, or share that recipe for the #foodporn you just posted? Right now all you can do is add the link as text and just hope people have the patience to go old school and write that link down on paper, before typing it back into their browser.
  • Who follows you back?: Instagram is a social platform and so networking should be a lot easier. Of course we all get notifications when someone follows you, and they do show up in your follower list. But just like with Twitter, a simple ‘Follows You’ notice on their profile would make life a lot easier, especially if you follow a lot of other instagrammers.
  • Leave our Twitter posts alone: Currently if you add a twitter username in your description and it’s not associated with an account in Instagram, the ‘@’ will be removed when the post appears on Twitter. Who came up with this idea? Why is it even a thing? Now you can tag Instagram friends in photos, there’s no need to mess around with the text we attach to that photo. Just leave it as it is please.
  • Hashtag limits: OK this one is more of a personal annoyance but it’d be great if the post attached to the picture could have a hashtag limit, especially with those photos that get posted to other platforms. Some people go way over the top. By all means allow them to add more hashtags in the comment stream but for the sake of all humanity, let’s keep hashtag use to a minimum in the original post.
  • *UPDATE* Mange multiple accounts: We were reminded of this lack in Instagram’s features recently but it really should have made the original list. Those of us who manage multiple accounts/pages on Twitter and Facebook will know it’s relatively easy to access those within a single app, you simply add your details once and you can switch between a different organisation’s pages or groups at the click of a button. Instagram is way behind with this feature, that could be easily incorporated into their mobile app. At the moment to use more than one account you have to keep logging out and logging back in, which is frustratingly annoying, especially if you have multiple emails and passwords to remember for each account. Allowing the Instagram app to act as a portal to different accounts would save a heck of a lot of time, and could even encourage more business related accounts creating a potential revenue stream for Instagram.

If Instagram follows the mantra of its owners, Facebook, then it’s unlikely user feedback will be acted upon. We’ve also lived without these features for so long that not having them probably won’t bother many users either. But with other platforms competing for space amongst the social media elite, Instagram’s developers can’t afford to be dismissive of their users’ wishes.

Indeed it would be great if the recent posts editor is just the first of many user-friendly updates coming our way.

Reputation management doesn’t have to wait until something goes wrong

24 Sep

Crisis communications can often send shivers down even the hardiest of business owners. However good leaders will always be prepared and you will already have a crisis communications policy in place to preserve your good reputation. You don’t have to wait though until something goes wrong to make efforts to manage your reputation.

Day-to-day you’ll have opportunities to enhance your reputation as an excellent legal service provider. There are multiple ways you can do this, and as time goes on you’ll find many become second nature, establishing your firm as a great law firm that genuinely puts clients first.

  • Customer service: We’ve blogged recently about customer service and getting feedback. Continue to do this to find out where you can improve but also ask clients for a comment if they’ve been very pleased with your service. Some will allow you to use their words in a testimonial which you can use to show future clients that you deliver well.
  • Social Media: Get online and tell people about what you do. This doesn’t have to be a hard sell, simply open an account on the most appropriate platform and start providing information that will interest your clients. This can include blogs, leadership pieces and conversations with peers.
  • Respond to questions online: If someone asks you a question, especially on social media, try and answer. If not then that potential client will, quite rightly, think you don’t care. They may also take their question further and comment on the fact you’ve ignored them. It takes a few seconds to acknowledge a question online, but will quickly show you as a law firm who are prepared to help.
  • Apologise: If things do go a little awry then it’s ok to apologise. It might be that you weren’t able to call a client back when arranged or a document wasn’t issued in a timely fashion. While this will be frustrating for a client, acknowledging the error will do a lot to stop the situation from escalating.
  • Promote your achievements: Maybe your growth has led you to employing more people, maybe you’ve won a landmark case, or maybe you’ve secured a large contract. Whatever it may be, if appropriate, tell people. Legal media are interested in certain success stories from law firms and your local media will be interested in your success as a local business too. Tell them what you’ve achieved and they’ll in turn tell their readers.
  • Don’t under-deliver: Our recent blog about not delivering what your clients expect shows exactly how important it is to ensure clients are not disappointed with your service. While you’ll be trying to ensure your reputation is excellent, don’t create a false representation of yourself that will invariably end up with clients unhappy with your service.

In an increasingly competitive legal market, ensuring your reputation shines above your competitors is vital. Consumers will not stay loyal if they think they can get better service elsewhere and new clients won’t come to you if they’ve heard negative comments about you. Gently tweaking your reputation at every turn can soon become a standard feature of your day-to-day business processes and bring massive benefits with it in the long run.

Journalists aren’t the enemy

22 Sep

Working with journalists can often be quite daunting. The stereotype suggests that even when they’re writing good news you’ve sent them, they’re still looking for that point to exploit and create a sensationalist story.

We can honestly assure you, it’s really not as bad as that.

In any sector there are a couple of quirky titles that have a more tabloid approach to their reporting, for the most part though trade titles tend to focus on the facts surrounding a story and how they might affect their sector as a whole.

In fact I have experience where respected journalists are chomping at the bit to meet clients. Simply to get to know them better and develop a good relationship. There really is no ulterior motive.

Business titles are mostly interested in facts and the effects on their respective industries. Their readers, being professionals, are reading their pages for information that will make them better at their roles, not the latest gossip and rumour.

There will be times when you do want to push toward general media too, especially if you’re trying to attract consumer clients. This could be local or national newspapers, maybe radio too. Featuring in these can be harder. A good PR expert will be able to assist you in ensuring the information you provide those journalists is appropriate to the news you want to create, and also the sort of information they want to receive.

Naturally there will be times when you may have to discuss a difficult subject with a journalist, trade or otherwise. Maybe you’re facing a period of difficulty, maybe a case did not go to plan, perhaps a colleague’s personal circumstance have a knock-on effect to your business. Even if this is the case there are ways to work with journalists to minimise impact:

  • Understand the job journalists have to do. While there may be some who are difficult, not all are the same. Many work with the upmost professionalism and are there to create genuinely informative news pieces that are of interest to everyone.
  • Build relationships early. As we’ve detailed above, working with journalists, meeting them occasionally, and taking part in sector overview research helps develop relationships that will help you in the long run. It won’t guarantee that every media release you send them will be used, but it could mean that when they need an expert comment they come to you. It can also help you should you be faced with a difficult situation. Journalists who know you well are more likely to listen to, and publish, your side of the story.
  • Be honest. If a journalist has asked to speak with you about a difficult subject then always tell the truth. That doesn’t mean that you have to answer all or any of their questions but the questions you do choose to answer must not be under or over exaggerated.

Of course, you’re not expected to work with journalists every day. Your role is to service your customers or clients and give them the best of your time. Having marketing professionals in your firm, or instructing a PR agency, will take the pressure off you in developing a good flow of positive information to your target media, and also help buffer and respond appropriately when negative situations may occur.

Journalists will still want to meet and speak with the people behind the firm, and you should not be concerned as to why they want to do this. If your business is doing well, it’s only natural that you might attract interest. With some titles also carrying articles that explore the careers within their sector, there are plenty of opportunities for business to benefit from employees’ self-promotion too.

Make sure your services match your marketing

18 Sep

It’s fair to say that almost all businesses, whatever size, are aware they need to make an effort to attract new customers. Budgets and resources vary but with the variety of modern marketing methods available, it’s never been easier to promote yourself as the right choice for new business.

But what if your marketing goes too far? What if your offer doesn’t match up to reality?

Cast your mind back to how Heathrow’s Terminal 5 performed when it first opened. It promised to be the jewel in the British travel industry’s crown, however everyone is more likely to remember the huge issues with parking, security procedures delaying passengers, and a broken baggage handling system that led to a backlog of 15,000 bags, and dozens of flights cancelled.

Regardless of the reasons why these things went wrong, the promise of a better travel experience by Heathrow was simply not delivered. The initial excitement of those travellers using a brand new terminal quickly turned to disappointment, then to anger.

While your services may not be on the same scale as Heathrow, the impact of overpromising and under-delivering can be the same. If you say you’re a great business, customers will come to you expecting that. If they receive anything but that, they’ll most likely never use you again and tell all their friends and colleagues why.

So what can be done to ensure you’re able to provide what you say you can?

  • Speak to current customers. What things are important to them? What things have you done well, what things could have been done better? Use this information to start analysing where you need to improve. A previous blog has best practice ideas on how to do this.
  • Look at your internal resources objectively. If you promise something like answering all telephone calls or replying to emails within a set time, is this achievable?
  • Work with your entire team to understand what they can do and how their current processes may be amended to make way for better services.
  • Consider asking an external business consultant to come in and look at how your processes are managed. Not only will this help refine your customers’ experience, it may find further ways to maximise efficiency.
  • Once you’re confident that the promise of excellent service can be made, all your employees must be aware of their role in that service too. Help them understand what you’re telling new customers and how important a part they play in delivering that.

Of course it’s perhaps easier to simply just go out and say you’ll give a standard service with no thrills, you get what you pay for. Using the airline example again, you’ll know of some people who have made a lot of money out of that. But then they’re still following the same process detailed above in giving their customers exactly what they expect.

Many businesses though will no doubt want to shun the ‘budget’ image, shine above your competitors, and have strong repeat business retention and word of mouth recommendations. The best way to start achieving that is to simply be realistic and do everything you said you would.

Negative feedback can bring positive results

16 Sep

Inviting feedback from customers might sound scary. What if their comments are negative? What if they didn’t like the service? What if their feedback leads to us having to change something?

This can however be a good thing.

In today’s consumer-led world, business of all kinds must ensure they’re great at customer service. Being able to respond to feedback shows customers that you’re a business that really cares about their needs and that’s why you’re a better choice than your competitors.

As a customer yourself, it’s likely you have been asked to answer a few questions about the service you received. Maybe you were satisfied, maybe you were not. If you weren’t asked for your thoughts it’s a safe assumption that you didn’t tell the service provider directly. However, as soon as a friend asked you about your experience, we’re sure you gave them a warts and all account of how you’ll never use them again.

Knowing that customers do not always give feedback voluntarily, many businesses are now asking for comments so they can put things right before customers share negative reviews elsewhere.

You may find everything is OK or you’ll have a chance to hear that the customer has got some concerns and now you can discuss them to put it right. That customer will truly be grateful and what better endorsement than having them tell their friends and colleagues: “They’re a business that really listens to their customers.”

There are various ways of doing this. You could simply ask them face to face, offer them a feedback form, or an increasingly popular way of doing this is to email them with a short survey. Websites such as SurveyMonkey offer a convenient solution to asking clients for feedback in a controlled manner and for ratings about your service, which if positive can be used for marketing purposes in the future. You may also want to offer an incentive to encourage clients to respond. A small value voucher or entry into a competition could increase the responses.

Be mindful that a customer’s emotions may well run high if you offer a service that can have a big impact on their lives. A customer’s frustration may therefore be based more on how they perceive the situation than the actual reality. If this is the case, asking for feedback allows you to politely explain the situation, set the record straight and allow them to review their opinion.

While feedback in this manner can happen behind closed doors, the big challenge is asking for and responding to feedback in a public forum. I’ve already blogged about how managing a crisis in public need not become a drama, so I won’t delve again into the benefits of having good public two-way communication; suffice it to say that the same reasons for being open an honest in a public crisis, are the same reasons you should be encouraging day-to-day private feedback. It shows you care.

It really can’t be repeated enough that the quality of your the skills behind your product are no longer enough to keep customers or attract new ones. You may well be very well skilled but if you aren’t listening to customers about how well looked after they feel, then it will be too late before you realise anything is wrong.

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