Bose Great Customer Service on Damaged In-Ear Headphones

Normally I would not just do a post to plug a specific company, unless they had done something really outstanding (or perhaps done something really poorly), which Bose has done now, at least twice.  Way back on November 26th 2008 I bought a pair of Bose TriPort In-Ear Headphones from Best Buy for around $100 including tax.  At the time, they were probably the most expensive ear-bud type headphones I had purchased but looking back, it was the best money ever spent for that type of thing.

Not only do these headphones have the best sound quality of any ear bud headphones (see my product review on CNET) but Bose backs them up with a total and complete one year warranty.  Big deal right, well, except for when you wear them every day in all different conditions and they don’t make it that one year.

In July 2009 the wires fried and my nice expensive headphones had lasted about 8 months.  I contacted Bose and they replaced the damaged pair, for free, and in about a week I had a brand new pair of headphones.  Those Bose sent me in 2009 lasted until last week with photo below, about another 8-9 months.  So I emailed Bose again, thinking this time I was out of luck, and once again they offered to replace them for free.  Not only that, but they even offered to upgrade the set to the mobile version with the inline mic for $29.

It seems that once you pay for something from Bose, if you use them like I do, you have a perpetual warranty.

Bose told me again that this new pair, being shipped around June 1 2010 will carry the same full one year warranty. Wow, just love when a company stands by their products. Our culture is fully immersed in the generic, low quality, disposable, product lines that flood our discount box stores, but there are still a few companies that make a high quality product, and usually the higher price is well worth paying. Of course, they also get my business beyond these headphones.

My wife has a pair of these headphones, and I also own a pair of their QuietComfort 15 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones (probably the best pair of headphones on the market for the price, see my CNET review), and their Bose On-Ear Headphones (an in-between model).  Some audiophile will argue my point on sound quality, but for the price, and some are far far more expensive, Bose has found a great medium between price and quality

In this case, my high price of $100 for a pair of high quality in-ear headphones from Bose cost me about $0.08 per day if I include the new pair that are on their way.  There are a couple of caveats with this of course.  If your headphones last longer than a year, you are pretty much out of luck.  I am probably not the most typical user of these headphones.  I wear them, and have worn them, on a tractor cutting 40 acres of grass through the entire summer, in the woods, on a bike, a motorcycle, in the car, in the rain, snow, and every other imaginable condition.

Of course the negative you can take from this is that obviously, under heavy and daily use, these headphones lack a bit of durability, but as long as Bose continues to stand behind them, I’m ok with that at this point.  Products today, even high quality products, anything that is mass produced, are really made for the “averages”.  If you are an under-average user, you pay more and get less, and if you are an over-average user, you pay less and get more, simple as that.

Good customer service and high quality products are a hard combination to find today so I like to point it out when it comes across path.  I can think of only a handful, like Apple, maybe Honda? What are some of the companies and products you have found today that have similar customer service?

Update 2011

The above post was made after Bose had replaced my in-ear headphones. The ones above last just about one year, and once again, they replaced them, for free, in the summer of 2011. I’m still amazed at their customer service, and still love the in-ear headphones, even though I can’t get them to last more than a year.

Update 2012

Once again, as comical as it seems now, these headphones lasted me about a year. They fell apart just about at the 10-11 month date, and once again, Bose replaced them for me, for free. This is now about my 5th set of these headphones, which I paid for back in 2008-2009. I would like to point out that I am probably considered to be a very heavy user of these headphones. I wear them several hours a day, every single day, and often wear them outside on a tractor while mowing the pasture.

How to Determine if You Are a Linchpin :: Assignment

This week I was given a seemingly easy assignment. To answer the question; are you a Linchpin, and if yes, why? If you are familiar with the phrase that Seth Godin has made into a coined term at this point, the immediate answer to that question is easy, yes, of course. But the longer I thought about the second part of the question the more I got knotted up into a self debate of what exactly is a Linchpin before I could determine the why of the yes or no.

In short, a Linchpin is the irreplaceable person. You might say that in today’s culture and business market, there is no such thing as a person who can’t be easily replaced.  For a large percentage of the workforce, this is probably the case, but the key to that statement is “easily” replaced.  Many jobs today are just mental factory workers, plug and play, just take out person A and replace them with person B and in a short period of time, no one will notice the difference, certainly not the balance sheet.  It’s all about the value that each warm body adds to the factory by following the manual or map for each task.

The factory workers today are programmers, accountants, customer service reps, students (all positions I have done in the past), any position that can be given a set of procedures, required to then follow them without any thinking or creativity required, expected, or desired, to complete their task.

A Linchpin on the other hand is someone who creates spurts of enormous value to the company or organization by doing those tasks that can’t be written down in a manual because they require art, the art of thinking, the art of challenging the status-quo, the art of being a problem solver or troubleshooter, a person who is hard to replace in a replaceable world.

How about it, are you a Linchpin, and if so, why? I’m still thinking about it myself but I’ll let you know next week.

Damaged or Defective Kindle 2 Screen Failure :: Photos

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Screen Shot of Damaged Kindle 2 Screen

Working Kindle Screen

Last week I traded in a few pieces of camera equipment for the new Kindle to really see if I could just whip through books at lightning speed and to my surprise, after about 2 days of use, I managed to mess up the screen.  I am in the middle of doing an in depth review of the Kindle 2 that I will post at a later date, but after having the Kindle 2 for about 2 days, I seems that the screen on the Kindle 2 was damaged beyond a simple fix.  The reason for this post was really to show what the customer service representative at Amazon did to fix the problem.

For those who don’t know, I really missed my calling in life to be a product tester.  No matter what the product, I can an uncanny way of being able to break the unbreakable and find problems or issues that manufactures somehow seem to miss.  I was told that the Kindle 2 was tested for durability and could withstand a drop from a two story building, but 2 days in my backpack managed to screw up the top of the screen.

Once I went through the normal troubleshooting that I knew how to do, I called the customer service number for the Kindle.  She walked me through a few other tests, had me “reboot” the system (you can hold the power slider over for 20 seconds and that will initiate a reboot on the Kindle 2).  After that (all of which took about 2 minutes total) Amazon told me they would just ship me a new one overnight.  No questions asked, they just shipped me a new one.  They paid for the shipping to return the old one, and I transferred all my book from the old kindle to the new kindle.  It was easy as it possibly could have been.

As for what I did to the Kindle, I have no idea.  I did put it in my backpack (in its own case) and perhaps to much pressure what applied to the top of the screen somewhere.  I am not sure about the 2 story drop, didn’t try that, but I will be a little more careful with it in the future regardless.  I was totally and completely thrilled with Amazon’s customer service on the kindle.

That doesn’t really have anything to do with the practicalities of the Kindle, that will come later, but as far as their customer service goes, it was great.  Having also sold on Amazon for years, I can say that all of Amazon’s customers service is geared towards their buying customers (as opposed to their sellers) and they will bend over backwards to provide the best service they can.

You can see the screen issue on the photos below.  It covers about an inch from the top with a blank line of gray going across the screen with a slash in the upper left corner.  The last two shots are what the screen shot from the damaged kindle looks like (so it is seeing everything correctly under the screen issue) and what the new one looked like when it arrived.

Update May 21, 2010

I thought I would update this post with a few comments since it is still one of the most read posts on my blog. As some have suggested, my Kindle was NOT dropped.  I simply put it in my backpack, which also wasn’t dropped, and took it out an hour later and it showed up with the damaged screen.

I did get a free replacement from Amazon, but I returned the replacement within a week for a refund (see my review A Not-So-Normal Kindle 2 Review for my reasons), but one major reason was I knew the “free screen replacement” was only going to last a short time, and it was a one time shot.  Amazon did replace the damaged screen, but they said they weren’t going to do it again.  Looking back now, more than a year later, it was the best decision and I am not super happy with my iPad.

Update February 12, 2011

As this post still gets heavy traffic and questions, I will say after using and testing the Apple iPad since it came out, I have never had a better ebook reader than the iPad and I am looking forward to seeing the new iPad 2 some time around April. The Kindle App for the iPad is one of the ebook reader apps I use, and although not my favorite, I do use it frequently.

The problem I still have with the Kindle is you basically can’t do anything else with it other than read a book. I can type out notes and highlights in my Kindle app on the iPad and it works great. The one great thing Amazon has done for the Kindle is continue to lower it’s price, but if you have an iPad I’m not sure what use one would have for the Kindle.

Watch Those Dos and Don'ts or Get Muted on Etsy

Different companies have different ways to deal with spam, we all know that, but some go to such great lengths that they keep their regular customers or visitors from being able to function properly through their system as it is setup.

After getting muted on Etsy for trying to ask a few shop owners a business question for a yahoo group we run I wanted to look into Etsy a little more and find out just what they do and how they operate.

Who is Etsy and What do They Sell

Some of you may not be to familiar with Etsy since it deals in “hand mades”, as their website says, Your Place to Buy and Sell all Things Handmade. While their tagline doesn’t always ring true to the products posted for sale on their site, they do have a very large network of handmade items for sale.

Etsy is a cross between Facebook and eBay where you can sell on a shop type setup with many of the social networking aspects setup on the site. Founded in 2005:

We are a community and a company. Click the image to the right for a view of the community, and see below for who works at Etsy Inc.

Etsy is an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade.
Our mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers.

Our vision is to build a new economy and present a better choice:
Buy, Sell, and Live Handmade.

A quick search through their products and you will see a wide range of handmade items, but recently they have allowed the supplies that go into making those products to be sold on their website. Anything from beads, silver, and raw materials that are used to craft and create handmade products.

The Etsy Do’s and Don’ts

As with all selling and social sites, Etsy has a large, did I say large, very large list of do’s and don’ts. At least it is all on one page and you don’t have to hunt around for it like you do on some other big sales channel sites. The list includes what you should and shouldn’t do in the areas of:

  • General Site Usage
  • Member Accounts
  • Buying
  • Selling
  • Reporting Items (Flagging)
  • Communications
  • Feedback

From my count, just about a 4,000 word document that does take some studying BEFORE you decide to do anything in the way of business on their site. It apparently is very important to read and understand these rules as a newbie so you don’t get caught up in their net of “don’ts” and get yourself banned before you get going.

One example in the selling category, is you can’t be a reseller. This technically means that you have to be the one who actually made the goods offered for sale. I am not sure how that works with suppliers of the raw materials that are now being sold? One of my clients has a store and sells a few items here and there, and they only sell raw materials.

Don’t Get Yourself Muted on Etsy, You Can’t Communicate

Being new to Etsy, and a business owner, I wanted to ask some other shop owners a few questions about their shop, and a group we run that was directly related to the group in question. In fact, each shop owner I looked at (there was 5 in total) came from blog reviews of their Etsy shop.

We all understand the fine line you sometimes walk sometimes when you reach out and contact someone you have never talked to before. Today, it seems EVERYTHING is labeled as spam, regardless of your intentions. None of us like to deal with spam, or worse, the spammer themselves, but sometimes the overly aggressiveness some social sites use to deal with spam prevents real and normal conversations.

I tried to contact 5 different shop owners and was immediately “muted” on Etsy. This apparently is not an uncommon thing as you look through the forums. It mostly ranges from people that sent to many messages in a short period of time to one lady who was sending “thank you notices” to her customers and quickly found herself muted.

In all fairness, it is in their do’s and don’ts as:

Your ability to send Conversations may be temporarily revoked if you are suspected of spamming other users. Sending spam Conversations also may trigger Etsy’s Auto-Muter, which will disable you from sending new messages. You must contact to be unmuted. Using Convos to threaten or harass other members will result in the termination of your Etsy account.

What ever happened to the word verification box or something? That is pretty standard now and it seems to work well? Well, I contacted the support email requesting to be unmuted, we will see if I am banned for life or if I get my tongue back at some point. Either way, very aggressive spam controls going on over at Etsy. Not sure to question it or praise it.

What Does it Cost to Sell on Etsy

As with almost all ecommerce channels, it does cost something to setup a store and sell. While the store doesn’t cost anything, the fees are there as usually. The fees involved with seller are basically setup like other channels, it costs you $.20 for each listing and you pay 3.5% of each completed sale. You have to pay your fees twice a month (the 1st and the 15th) and if you are selling outside the U.S. you will have to content with the currency conversion they use. Probably not a bad thing with the dollar right now.

Conversations and Sales Rates

The big question I have as with any sales channel… can I sell anything? To me this is still an unanswered question and I would like to hear from other shop owners to see how their sales are going, in general terms. If you have a shop, please let me know how it is going sales wise, although you might not want to use the contact system through Etsy and get yourself muted. Just leave a comment here, that would be great.

I am working with a test store setup through one of my clients and although we don’t have many products listed, we have generated a few sales. Not much revenue to write home about but a few good sales. The buzz around Etsy is quite interesting. We do have several niche markets we are involved with that are in the craft area and Etsy comes up everywhere among readers, visitors, and buyers. That part is encouraging as a shop owner.

Conclusion on Etsy

What has your experience been with Etsy? Is it a sales channel you might try in the future or is it some place you buy different handmades from? They certainly seem to be generating a lot of traffic and buzz so it will be interesting to see where the folks at Etsy take their service.

Perhaps some day I won’t be muted and I will be able to talk to you, until then, if you send me a message over at Etsy I will be sure to read it, but don’t expect a response.

Thanksgiving is a U.S. Holiday, Maybe We Should Think Global

Passport Stamp for Hong Kong How far does your Internet connection reach? I am speaking mostly to those of us in the United States, but the question is a valid one for everyone. How far does your blog reach? To the ends of the political borders you live in?

To some of us here in the U.S. that might be as far as a writer might think about, but thinking that way is very limiting, and offending to some. So, happy Thanksgiving to those readers that are in the U.S. (or that celebrate this holiday), and to everyone else, happy regular Thursday.

Write and Correspond for a Worldwide Audience

I just love seeing posts in forums and blogs that have a huge “Happy Thanksgiving” greeting as if the entire world is celebrating Thanksgiving. I really wish some of us here in the U.S. would have a little broader perspective of the world and realize that just because it is going on over here, doesn’t mean it is the same everywhere else in the world.

It does show how the writer probably has a book full of blank pages on their passport (if they have one) and just doesn’t think about the readers from other countries. Once you have traveled around the world just a little bit, you can see that there are so many cultural differences that thinking globally is important.

So, when writing, remember that you are writing to a worldwide audience. Don’t limit your work, or offend your readers by totally ignoring what takes place outside the 50 states, or your country.

Get Out and Travel to Another Country

I will say that Americans probably don’t get out and travel to other countries as frequently, or as much as we should. Those in Europe for example, are accustom to interacting with different cultures and languages where traveling to another country means a weekend holiday or visiting a relative. After-all, if you are in the U.K., France is just a train ride away.

If you live in the U.S. Mid-West (or interior somewhere), you might not ever hear another language other than your native tongue if you don’t leave your home state. So if you get the chance to travel to another country, take it. Not only will it be enjoyable experience, but you will learn so much that you can apply to how you correspond to other readers, on the Internet especially where borders are non-existent.

Use an IP to Country Flag Plugin

IP Country Flag IP Country Flag IP Country Flag If you think you are not reaching the international crowd, just install one of the IP to Country plugins that shows the country flag in your comments. There are a few different versions that will show the country, browser, operating system and a few other options, but they all use an IP to Country database.

The plugin I use for WordPress right now is called Easy IP2Country and is based on the IP2C database, which should be updated every so often to ensure the flags show correctly. If you don’t want it to show in your comments, you can still install the plugin and just not use it in your comments area. It will still show you where your readers are viewing your blog or website.

Happy Thanksgiving and Thursday in November

For those of us in the U.S. and who celebrate Thanksgiving, it is a great time of celebration. Abraham Lincoln put it as:

“I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.” The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln edited by Roy P. Basler, Volume VI, “Proclamation of Thanksgiving” (October 3, 1863), p. 497.

World AtlasSo, to all my U.S. readers, I would like to wish them a happy Thanksgiving and lets try to think globally as we move into the fall season. Your readers will appreciate a different perspective. There are a whole bunch of readers in Europe, Asia, and all over the world that have access to your blog, write as if you know this fact.

I have to admit it has been several years since I have visited another country, but when I did, it was a great learning experience for me. I have been lucky enough to travel quite a bit. From Sydney, to London, Hong Kong, Paris, Munich, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, among a few, and many places in between. Each trip gave me a little more perspective from another part of the world, and I have learned to appreciate other cultures and differences, and it has taught me to be aware that my Internet connection does reach outside of my state, region, and country.

Steps to Improve Customer Service by Answering Your Email

In a previous post, Why Your Business Should Always Answer Email, I went through several reasons why you should answer your email.

Now, as a follow up, I am now going to go through some simple steps that will show you how to effectively answered your customer emails, and in the process, improve your customer service. It may not be physically possible to answer every single email you receive from your customers (although in my mind it should be), but using some of the methods below might help to improve the quality of customer service your business provides.

It may also improve your ASP (average sales price) on eBay, improve your sales revenue on your eCommerce store store, and also might change the way customers view your business, so crank up that inbox and hit the reply button and remove one of the easier ways to keep your customers happy.  Returning email is a simple thing and probably one of the easiest ways to please, or irritate a customer, depending on if you actually answer that email or not.

Reduce the Number of Emails You Receive

Yes, that is the first way to effectively handle a higher volume of email. Lower the volume. There are so many ways to reduce the actual number of emails you receive (other than just deleting them) that this one step may bring your email volume down to a manageable level.

Check for emails that repeat the same question. If you are getting the same question over and over it might be that you haven’t addressed that properly on your website or storefront. An easy solution to this problem is to just create an FAQ page and post it in a high visibility spot. A good rule of thumb might be if you receive the same question more than three times you should probably add it to your FAQ page.

Do Not Post Your Email Address on Multiple Pages

Don’t post your email address everywhere. You do want your customers to be able to get a hold of you, but you don’t want it to be so easy that they will just shot off an email without doing any reading whatsoever. Most people don’t really do this anymore anyway, but look at your store and see how many places you might have your email address listed.

If you have to post your email address, only do it on your contact page, and if you can, use a contact form instead of an email address. Posting an email address on your web page is also an invitation for spammers to send you even more email, so if you do post it, do not use a mailto link and type it out in full form like chipseo [at] gmail dot com if you need to post your address online.

Use an Email Client with Mobile Access

This doesn’t necessarily mean check your email on your mobile phone (which is nice if you can), but rather try to use an email client that can be checked easily while you are traveling or out of the normal office environment. Preferably you want to be able to check your email regardless of what computer you are currently using.

Gmail IMAP SupportEmail clients have come a long way. You can use your corporate accounts on the road with your Blackberry, you can access gmail and yahoo mail on any computer and still make use of a company domain email address. I have an email address that uses my company domain name, but I use gmail because I can access it from anywhere. I can setup a pop account, forward my “company name” email to gmail and I have mobile access anywhere I go.

Gmail now even has IMAP support. Just a quick blog search for IMAP will tell you how excited everyone is about this new feature. Yahoo mail and Gmail both have great mobile phone interfaces as well for access on your web enabled phone. Some companies do not like to use free email accounts because they think it looks cheap and unprofessional, so if you don’t want to use a free email client, use your own and just setup the account in a way you can access it while you are not in your office.

This is important for you as it is anything else. If you can keep up with your email, even on a limited basis, when you get back to the office you will not have page after page of unread emails to go through. Even if you don’t respond to them while you are out of the office you can at least read them and save a little time when you get back.

When Possible, Use a Canned Response in Reply to Email

Canned Email ResponsesThis doesn’t have to be a cold, dry, response, and I would say sometimes, any response is better than nothing. Find out what your most common questions are that can’t really be addressed on your FAQ page and make a text document that has the question and canned response. You can make these more personal than you might think. Just write out a thoughtful response to each question as if you were emailing your customer.

Create this document slowly as the questions arrive. After about 6 months of doing this I created a 5-7 page document of reasonable responses, and it would take than the one minute to respond to each email in a thoughtful manner that the customer would appreciate.  Don’t know what questions to put down on a canned response, just make the list as the questions come in.  I usually put down a response or answer to a question once I got that question more than one time.  So on the second email I send out, I just past the response into my canned email file for later use.  It really doesn’t matter if you don’t use it ever again.

Cutting and pasting a response already typed out doesn’t take but a minute to do, and if it ever comes up again you have the answer.  I might add, it isn’t the amount of time that it takes to write the answer, it is the amount of time it takes to think of a thoughful answer to write that takes the most amount of time.  Reduce that by not having to thinkg about the answer again.

Use Filters, Folders, and Labels for Automatic Notices

Google Gmail FiltersIf you have a high volume of automatic notice emails, be sure you have these going into their own folder, filter, or label. Most of the time you want to receive these emails so you have a record of the transaction, but you don’t need to read them.

Many shopping channel storefronts will email a receipt of each order, a confirmation of each listing, shipping notifications, or any number of other types of emails that are automatically sent.

These emails can be very time consuming to move, delete, or mark as read. Setup a filter to move them automatically and have them marked as read. Don’t waste your time with automatic notifications. You will probably want to setup filters for non-automated emails as well. Filters will save time having to hunt around and will further categorize your responses.  Almost all email programs now have the ability to automatically move messages into specific folders.  Microsoft Outlook has done this for years and even though I don’t use the program any more, it was one of the first things I would setup in Outlook.  You can even have these automatic notices marked as read once they hit the specific folder.

Of course you might ask why receive the email in the first place if you are just going to mark it as read and move it to another file folder, but there are many reasons to do this, much like keeping a receipt from an office supply store for your taxes, you want a record of the transaction you can access at a later time, so automatic filters work great for that purpose.

Use an Auto Responder For Specific Email Addresses

If the questions might be different but the answer is going to be the same, setup an auto responder to answer the email for you. You can setup an alias email address for just about anything, even using Google’s Gmail or Yahoo mail. Most of the time you can use an auto responder for when you go on vacation or will be out of town for more than a few days.

You can also use an auto responder just to say, “thanks, I received your email and I will be sure to read it”. That is responding to your email too. Sometimes that is all it takes to make a customer happy. Just knowing that you received the email and are going to read it, and they know this because they received a response from your company.

Sometimes, time will answer an email. So, use a detailed auto responder to answer a question and by the time you can get to the specifics, an additional response might not be needed. One a recent post titled, How Not to Reply to an Email, Adam talked about an email he received from a fellow blog after leaving a comment. It was most likely an auto responder for a first time commenter, but laked some good detail or links that could have been useful in bringing the visitor back to the site.

When using an auto responder, you don’t have to assume it will never be read, make it good, you only have to type the email once.

Prioritize By Importance and Time to Respond

Realistically, we probably can not respond to every single message we receive. If not, prioritize the emails by importance and time it takes to answer. The second one is very important. You might have an email that is more important, but another you might readily know the answer without any research and it will only take a few seconds to respond. Do those first and get them out of the way.

After you respond to all “quick” emails, then tackle the ones that will take a little time to write or look up. Once you take out those two categories there might be very little email left to answer.

Don’t Spend a Lot of Time Answering a Single Email

I am the worst at this. I will spend an enormous amount of time writing out a response, re-writing, editing, modifying, changing, until it is just perfect, only to never receive a response or it be something they didn’t want to hear in the first place. Be brief and to the point and include enough detail for the customer not to have to email you back again to ask another question.

Being wordy can also have the opposite effect, and can be the same as opening your mouth when silence is a better option. The more you write, the more the customer has to argue or quip with. Most of the time a customer can not argue with something you didn’t say, so keep it as brief as you can without insulting the other person.

Concluding Thoughts

Even though the norm may not be to answer those pesky emails, I think if you do answer the majority of them, your company’s image will improve and your sales revenue may benefit. It may not be possible all the time, but if no one else is, and you do, it will make your company stand out among the large crowd of online sellers and your customers will appreciate your service.

If you think it doesn’t matter to your customers, just think about that the next time you email a company to ask a question (one you really want an answer to) and never hear back from anyone. Does it give you a positive or negative view of that company, or do you just assume they must be a company doing great things and making a lot of money, they certainly don’t need to bother with my email?

What other ways do you have to keep up with your email? Does the issue of answering email matter to your company at all or do you just have better things to do?

Update: I just read a great article title, 10 Reasons I Delete Your Email, by shoemoney, and of course I didn’t really take into account that some people have no email etiquette either. When you come across these situations, a little tact and patience will probably go a long way with your customers.

Why Your Business Should Always Answer Email

Are you running a business? Then you should answer your email. Period. There was a recent article post called, Treat Your Blog like a Business, where Ben made some very good points about how you should run your blog. I want take that a little step farther and state the obvious. You should treat your business like a business, and one of those steps is to answer your email, in a professional manner no less.

This will probably not be the most popular post in the world, after all, we all get to much email, and some we just don’t want to mess with. I am speaking about the necessity of answering your email if you are in business, but this includes those who run a small home based business, or someone that sells their services online as well, large or small. If you are online just purely for personal reasons then, answer it, delete, do whatever you want, but I think this applies to personal accounts as well if you want to be successful online. It seems to be common place now to not answer your email. It is the easiest means of communication to ignore, and takes a lot of time.

So if you want to stand out among the others, respond to those emails.

You should try to either answer your emails personally, or if there is just to much to handle, you should delegate it to someone you have hired for administrative duties. Just be sure they reflect your company’s good customer service and aren’t going to add to a problem. Either way, the volume should dictate who answers it, but that doesn’t mean it should go unanswered.

If you receive to much email to answer then it sounds like your business is big enough to have an employee take over these duties, if not, it sounds a lot like an excuse. So, lets look at a few quick reasons why you should and a few steps how to keep up with answering your email.

It is Your Business Reputation

Nothing can turn away business faster than word of mouth or a bad reputation. This could be in print media all the way down to a small forum in your niche market. You want new visitors, right? When a customer first finds your site, they have some initial questions, and most are easily answered but sometimes they want to interact with someone for one reason or another.

When you receive an email from a new customer (or site visitor) like this, they are evaluating your business and how you interact with people. By not answering their email it sends a pretty clear message to them. You are not important enough for me to hit the reply button. They don’t care if you have been out of town, have more pressing (revenue generating) things to do, all they get is this business probably doesn’t care (and you may not). On the other hand, if you make efforts to reply to even the most mundane emails, it will make a very good impression on your customer or visitor. I am not suggesting that you have to answer their email within 5 minutes, time is not the most important thing here. I have responded to an emails from customers days later, after their orders have arrived, because I just couldn’t get to it, and they even appreciate a late response.

Something I always try to remember from the customer side of things. I can always remember who did not reply to my emails, sometimes years later, and it usually is on a negative note. This goes with the smallest business up to the largest corporations, people in general just tend to remember the negative and forget the positive things. Just something to keep in mind when ignoring or deleting that email, or even responding in a negative way. It took some planning and understanding of how to use email effectively, but I have responded to just about every email in the past 5-10 years and when someone sends me an email saying “you never responded to me”, I generally have a good answer to that question, a copy of my response.

It Can Increase Your Sales Revenue

This flows right down from the first point. Once you have established a rapport with your customer they may actually want to buy something from you. Want to loose a sale or a repeat customer fast? Don’t answer their email. This is especially true on eBay.

eBay has an easy way for potential bidders to contact you, so you will tend to get overwhelmed with email about trite things that don’t really matter, or that the customer should be able to figure out on their own. Well, if they could figure it out on their own they probably wouldn’t have shot off that email to you. I have found that there is a direct correlation on eBay to bidding and responding to emails. I can attest, yes, most emails are stupid questions, and yes, I have come to realize there ARE stupid questions. This fact doesn’t really make a difference to the customer. If you respond to their email, they are much more likely to bid on your auction.

If you don’t answer their question before they actually buy the item from you, from the customers point of view, what are you likely to do when they have a problem with the product or service after they have spent their money.

Responding Can Avert Problems

One of the fastest ways to solve a problem, or fix a potential one, is to respond to customer questions. Some customers or visitors are not as dumb as you may think. They may have found a problem with your product or service that you did not know about.

This works for the smallest to the largest companies. My wife is a pattern designer and she has received emails asking about a particular area of the pattern, and sometimes there is an error in the pattern and she can change it before it becomes a bigger problem. This works on your eCommerce platform. Take Amazon for example. A book store may have emails come in that ask about if this book is a certain edition, publication year or whatever. Answering the email will provide the customer with enough information about the product so they know whether to buy or not to buy it, but you don’t want them to just buy it just to have them return it a week later?

I have emailed several companies about bugs in their software. Some have returned their emails thanking me for the information and others I have received no response. I still use the software from that particular vendor.

It Builds Your Networking

Something to always keep in mind when deciding whether to ignore an email or reply to an email. You may never know who you are actually corresponding with. It may actually be someone that can help or improve your business, or just wants to give you something. It is not always that stupid customer that should know you have an FAQ page posted with all these dumb questions. An email from a business exec can look the same as an email from Joe Bob who types in all CAPS because he just bought his first computer last week and doesn’t know his mouse from his dog, you just don’t know who is on the other side of the screen much of the time.

Ignoring emails will certainly get you results, just not much. There are many other ways to communicate and network with people on the net other than email, but email is a personal response that tells your recipient that they are important enough to respond to. Sometimes time can be the most precious gift ever given. Spend a few minutes to respond to that person and you never know where the relationship might take you. It has given me more than a few freelance jobs in my day.

A Few Recent Examples

First, I had another consultant ask me for advise that would help him with his clients. I responded to his email with some basic information and he gave no response. About two weeks later he did email me and asked me a more in depth question and I took about two hours of my busy day to write out a specific how to he could use for his clients.

Weeks went by and I receive no response. I emailed him again and just asked him if that was helpful for his clients. He didn’t respond. I am not likely to respond with ANY more information to “help” anyone over there. All that was needed was a very quick reply saying “I got it, it worked”. I don’t need a pat on the back, just some communication to know my 2 hours wasn’t wasted. A second example would be when I contacted a very small (one person) online business, but one that reached a large audience. I had something from my business I wanted to give him. That’s it. I didn’t want anything from him, I didn’t ask for anything other than an address to which I could ship an item I thought he would want.

I sent two emails before I received a response, but I had already decided to give it to someone else until I received the email. Once I got the email with the address I was able to ship the item off to the business. We can all give example after example, but when someone takes the time to send an email the least you can do is respond to it, and you might be surprised who is on the other end or what they can do for your business.

Some Concluding Thoughts

If you want to be successful online, answer your email. Yes, email can be one of the biggest headaches of the business day, and many business now just do not respond to email, so be one that does and stand out. I have read so many company profiles (and about me blog pages) that say they get to much email to respond to each one. This may be the case, but think about what that says about your company.

I effectively answered my emails to all my customers for years by doing some basic steps I will outline in my next post called, How to Effectively Answer All Your Emails, that explain how to prioritize and plan for those emails, and also as important, how to reduce the number of emails you receive. Reducing the number is as effective and keeps you from having to live in your inbox. I will say that you can take this to absurdity, and that is not the point of course. There are some emails I don’t respond to like spam, fraud, or phishing emails, and the occasional badgering customer that we have taken all business to its utmost conclusion, and one other… when you don’t respond to my email.

What about your company? Do you respond to your emails or ignore them until they go away? What positive effects can you show when you answer those questions? Now I better go answer all those emails I have been ignoring for days now, the inbox runeth over.