Archive for December, 2009

How to Cut Your Mobile Phone International Calling Expenses in 2010

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Everyone is looking for ways to cut costs in 2010 – including us.

We are using a NEW mobile service called “Skype to Go” that is very easy-to-use and has been saving us a lot of money each month. The service lets you make international calls from any mobile phone at dramatically reduced prices, compared to typical phone company rates. You do NOT need your PC or Mac to make these calls.

We call London (UK) on a regular basis using an Apple iPhone or a Google Android MyTouch mobile phone. Our carrier, AT&T Wireless, offered us an international discount plan that reduced our mobile phone costs from $1.25 to 99 cents per minute when calling London. That sounded good before we tested the new “Skype to Go” Service.

A few months ago, we switched to using a “Skype to Go” number which dramatically cut our costs to about 2.4 cents per minute.. a 96-cent per minute savings. We talk about 8 hours per month on international calls and now save approximately $460 per month. Wow!

The “Skype to Go” number is very easy-to-use and set up.

8 Easy Steps to Set Up the “Skype to Go” Service

  1. Go to the Skype Website
  2. Select either the Pay-as-You-Go or Monthly Payment Plans to set up your account. There are NO long-term contracts to sign.
  3. Important: Once Your Account is established, Look for the “Skype to Go” Set-up Button and Press it.
  4. Select a “Skype to Go” Number. The number is your “Skype to Go” local phone number. Write it down.
  5. Enter the Mobile Phone Number(s) you plan to use to call overseas.
  6. Enter up to 10 phone numbers that you commonly call overseas in the Auto-Dial Fields.  Note: You can also directly dial any international number from your mobile phone when you are out and about.
  7. Key in your “Skype to Go” number into your mobile phone Contact List to make life easier when you dial international calls.
  8. You will get an email confirmation for your new account and your new Skype to Go Number..

3 Easy Steps to Use “Skype to Go”

  1. Go to the “Skype to Go” Number in your mobile phone and Dial It
  2. After the recording, either Select a Pre-Set Phone Number or key in the International phone number you are calling
  3. That’s it!

So… is There Anything else You Should Know?

The phone service has been wonderful, sound quality has been very good. However, we have heard from others that the Skype customer service could be improved. The good news is that there is NO contract! If you don’t like Skype, and the money you are saving,  just cancel the service.

My other comment is, if you don’t like new technology, and saving money is no big deal, then skip this service… but then again, you probably wouldn’t be reading this article… would you?

If you want to instantly cut your monthly international calling costs, get a “Skype to Go” Number for your small business or personal use.

For More info click on this link and Search on: “Skype to Go”

Top 10 Things NOT to do When a Customers Calls!

Friday, December 11th, 2009

I’ve had lots of bad experiences (and a few great ones) this HolidaySeason with automated phone systems and customer service centers.  I will not name the poor company experiences here…tis the holiday Season :)  However, if you want a great experience… call with a customer service problem…and listen to the magic.

According to a recent survey of 8,880 consumers across 16 countries, poor customer service cost an aggregate of $338.5 billion per year, the average value of each lost relationship across all countries surveyed costing $243.  2009  (Survey by Greenfield Online and Ovum).

It’s hard enough to find a customer service phone number on a customer website.  However, when you make the call, the experience should not make the situation even worse.

Phone System Best Practices

I thought I would share some Phone System Best Practice Reminders for Small Businesses:

  1. Don’t transfer the customer to a non-working phone extension (or busy signal)
  2. Don’t trap a customer in your automated self-service (so you need to hang up, re-dial and start again)
  3. Always have  the option to press “O” to get to a live operator at any time (only the better companies do this)
  4. Don’t make the customer wait too long  before reaching a live rep (especially during the Holidays)
  5. Don’t require customers to repeat themselves to several Representatives
  6. Don’t be cheap on continuous Representatives skills training  on how to answer inquiries
  7. Don’t forget to train outsourced Reps on US (or any host country) Culture and Thinking
  8. Offer to send an email confirmation of the conversation (Great way to collect customer email addresses)
  9. Always put your phone number on your “Contact Us” web page.
  10. Don’t forget to Thank the Customer for their Business

You may want to complete a quick audit of your customer service and phone system NOW to fix any short-term major issues.   However, plan on a more formal review and repair of your phone system, customer policies and call center  procedures in Q1 2010. If you are concerned about the cost, review the costs of lost business at the beginning of this article.

Important 2010 Tip

Don’t forget to budget time and money for adding and  expanding Social Networking Programs. It’s NOT an option anymore…but a “requirement” for high customer satisfaction.

Feel free to add comments on your own Holiday Customer Service Experiences… any great company customer service experiences out there?

Happy Holidays!

Small Business Tips on Sending out eMail this Holiday Season & in the New Year

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Are you planning to send out Marketing eMail and eNewsletters in the New Year?  If so,  are you aware of  the relatively new Federal Laws in this area?

In addition to following the law, these guidelines are just good business sense and company policy.  Your new and existing customers will appreciate your attention to these details.

An easy way to comply with the law is to use an outsource company for your mass Marketing eMails and eNewsletters. We have been using Vertical Response for the last 5 years.   The service is very easy to use and the customer service is outstanding.

Below is a copy of the Federal Trade Commission Law and a link to their website.  It is very easy to comply with the 7 mandatory requirements.

Federal Trade Commission –  CAN-SPAM US Law

Do you use email in your business? The CAN-SPAM Act, a law that sets the rules for commercial email, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to have you stop emailing them, and spells out tough penalties for violations.

Despite its name, the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t apply just to bulk email. It covers all commercial messages, which the law defines as “any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” including email that promotes content on commercial websites. The law makes no exception for business-to-business email. That means all email – for example, a message to former customers announcing a new product line – must comply with the law.

Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000, so non-compliance can be costly. But following the law isn’t complicated. Here’s a rundown of CAN-SPAM’s main requirements:

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

The CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business

More Inforamation on the FTC Website on CAN-SPAM