Folding and remembering. Getting more value out of a business card.

My job introduces me to a lot of people. Sometimes a few hundred in a day. Most of those are very casual and random. But about 30 times a day, at a conference, I get a business card from someone that wants to connect in some way. It could be a current customer looking for help, a potential customer looking for advice, a current customer looking to buy more, a current customer that wants to talk to me ASAP about something – there are a lot of reasons I get business cards.

Over the last two years I have accidentally discovered a way to both listen to a customer, and remember who they are, and what they need – days later, when I have traveled back home.

When I receive a business card I hold it in my hand as my conversation continues. I hold it face up, right-side up. If I am talking to a current customer, I bend over the upper right corner. If I am talking to a potential customer, I bend over the upper left corner. A current customer that wants to buy more gets both upper corners bent.

I have a lot of variations of how I bend business cards. A card folded in half means someone wants to talk to me ASAP. A card folded diagonally belongs to a competitor that I feel I can talk to.

Each fold can include the components of the other folds. Happy customer, wants to buy more, and do it ASAP. Upper left and right corners folded over, card folded in half.

If I am talking with someone that is not happy, I fold the bottom right or left corner – depending on if they are a customer or not.

How you fold business cards, or if you do – is up to you. What each fold means to you, is up to you. And if you can somehow manage all these contacts without having to resort to “memory games” – then good for you. I can’t. So I use something that is easy for me to figure out even a week later. And each fold helps me remember more of the conversation I had with that person – which makes me better suited to respond correctly to them after the conference.

It doesn’t matter how you remember people, but you DO need to remember them – and the context in which you met them. If folding business cards turns out to be useful for you, please let me know. I know it has made me much more effective in my follow up conversations.

It is an easy “trick”, and I like easy.

Working with customers when you are disappointing them

Not something most people enjoy doing.  Most people don’t like talking to “angry” customers.  I actually do – because that is my absolute best chance to amaze them – to turn them around – to prove to them that we really are fanatical about support.  To prove I really do care about them.  To make myself feel good by making them feel better.

It’s not easy – and it shouldn’t be easy – you have let a customer down.  A process, or a promise, has broken.

So how do you “deal with” a really angry customer?

First off – you better really care about them, because if you don’t, you are screwed.  They will know it, and they won’t trust you.  Customers know when you are blowing smoke – even if you are REALLY good at blowing smoke.  Set your corporate and personal values high – and live up to them.

Second, it helps if you can put yourself in their shoes – particularly if you have actually been in their shoes.  I manage customer relations for a hosting company (although I am not technically IN support) – so it helps that I have been hosting web sites for well over a decade.  It helps even more that I was a customer of my employer for years before I became an employee.

Third – and most important.  Don’t lie.  Don’t EVER lie.  Customers can forgive a lot – but they will not forgive a liar.  When I can’t tell a customer something specific I just tell them that I can’t answer that.  Simple. And when I honestly don’t know something, I tell them that. No harm in not knowing every answer.  Extra credit if you know where and how to get the answers, and get back to the customer quickly.

Fourth – don’t try to funnel customers into a “system” for support.  Support customers where and when you find them.  They may not like your systems.  They may prefer Skype, or Twitter, or comments on a blog post.  Don’t expect customers with issues to find you – you need to be looking for them – and talking to them wherever (and whenever) you find them wanting help.

Fifth – have a personality.  Be human.  Customers relate to real people.  Be open, and honest, share your contact info – make it VERY clear that you exist to talk to customers.  When you leave a blog comment, leave your entire title and phone number.  I “Tweet” my home phone number at least a dozen times a month.  I *want* customers to find me – taking care of them is my job.  Actually – it is more than a job – it is what I love doing.  And that leads us to #6.

Sixth – if customers annoy you, and you are in the service business – do us all a favor.  Get. Out. Now. I often have my waitstaff at restaurants replaced if they just don’t seem to like their jobs.  Sorry – I am paying for more than food – I am buying an experience – and if that includes listening to someone bitch about how much they hate serving me, I just get a manager to replace them.  I don’t feel bad about it.  If they get fired, they deserved it.  They aren’t suited for this line of work, and better they find out now.  I deserve the experience I am paying for. And that brings me to number 7.

Seventh – don’t put up with bad service.  When you allow a company – ANY company to give you bad service, and you don’t complain to correct, you are setting the new standard.  You are in actuality lowering that standard.  Demand more.  From everyone.  Don’t tolerate mediocrity.  Demand more, don’t settle.  Ever.

Finally – I know customer support can seem like an “expense”.  But when you look at the cost of customer acquisition – a good support representative – one that really “get’s it”, and loves it – they can be a gold mine for your company.

Avoid the burn of churn and support customers where, when and how they want support.  They will love you for it, and you will profit from it.

Twitter and Track

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Update – as of today, 29MAY08 Twitter Track is disabled. I will update this post when it is turned back on.

Twitter has been described as a “micro-blogging tool”. And it is that. It is also a chat client.

And it is an extremely useful research tool. By tracking specific keywords (your company name for example) you can obtain a near-real-time feed anytime anyone on Twitter mentions your company.

First, the “Track” command. According to the Twitter FAQ:

What is tracking?
Tracking is an SMS or IM only feature that allows you to receive all twitters that match a word you’re tracking. For example, if you send track Obama, you will receive all updates that match “Obama.” All updates sent from tracking will begin with parenthesis. You can easily stop getting these messages by sending untrack Obama.

So using track is quite simple. From your cell phone your could use a Twitter Mobile Client and send Twitter a message like “track Microsoft” and you would receive a message every time Microsoft is mentioned. Of course, receiving an update every time someone mentions Microsoft is probably not what you want to do on your cell phone.

talk_logo And that is where GTalk comes in. GTalk is a Google Chat Client. And it works wonderfully with the Twitter Track function.

And if you have a GMail account (get one here for free) GTalk can also automatically archive all of your “Tweets and Tracks” into your GMail account.

After downloading and installing GTalk (and creating an account) you can now add Twitter to GTalk You do this on Twitter.com by going to the Settings page and clicking on the “Devices” tab.

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Enter your GMail address and select GTalk from the drop-down menu.

Click “Save”

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You will be prompted to send a unique code back to Twitter from within GTalk

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Just type in the code in the GTalk Chat window (after selecting twitter@twitter.com from the user list) and press enter.

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Nearly instantly (assuming GTalk/Twitter are both functioning) you will receive a response from Twitter.

Now you are set.

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To track something (Microsoft for example), just type “track microsoft” into the chat window. Twitter replies letting you know it heard your request. And as you can see, it took only seconds to get a result.

To stop tracking type “untrack microsoft”.

You can also correspond with all of your Twitter friends with GTalk. Let me know you got this working by sending “@kr8tr – Tracking is set up” or something similar to me!

Of course, for normal Twitter use, I recommend Twhirl – and Adobe AIR-based application that has a lot more bells and whistles for Twitter.

And soon you’ll be able to use Track in Twhirl as well.

Final notes on Track – it does NOT pay attention to punctuation, so Tracking “@kr8tr” is the same as Tracking “kr8tr”. Track also ignores CASE.

And as of now, there is no filtering in Track – so you will get every instance of the word you track, even if it includes words you would rather not see. I expect this to be addressed (at least at the Twitter client level) very soon. In fact, the CEO of Seesmic was interviewed on The Gillmor Gang and committed to adding these features to Twhirl very soon.

My favorite poker game I was in

I was in a Texas Hold ’em cash game with about 6 other people and I had won 7 straight hands – three of them on the bluff. On the eighth hand I was caught in a really bad bluff. I lost 20% of my chips.

The next thing I did was ask, “OK, what’s my tell? Seven hands I had the top cards and I try a bluff and you see it?”

Nobody said anything, but they were suddenly all wondering if this guy who beat me had seen something. So I started changing slight facial expressions and moving my chips differently. People were looking for tells, and I was giving them to them.

Two hands later I had doubled-up and later I ended the night the big chip winner.

All I did was disrupt their rhythm.

Disrupting rhythm can be a very powerful thing.

Enough is Enough – hot-linking is wrong, folks.

I was really surprised to find out how much of my bandwidth was being stolen. Yes – stolen.

When you hot-link to an image on someone else’s site you are, in effect, stealing their bandwidth.

Last month I had 632 MB of bandwidth stolen from just one server.

Wikipedia defines Hot-Linking as:

Inline linking (also known as hotlinking, leeching, piggy-backing, direct linking, offsite image grabs and bandwidth theft) is the use of a linked object, often an image, from one site into a web page belonging to a second site. The second site is said to have an inline link to the site where the object is located.

Now Hot-Linking in and of itself isn’t always bad. If you link to an image on one of my sites and have a conversation on your site about the image, or at least my initial post about the image, and you give me a trackback, then I consider that fair use – I am getting something in return for you using my image. I’m getting potential traffic to my site. That is a lot different then just stealing data (and bandwidth) from my site.

But if you just re-purpose my image for you own needs you are stealing my bandwidth (not to mention the image).

So what to do about it?

.htaccess. This is a “magic file” that is very powerful – and it can be used to a) prevent hot-linking completely, or b) replace the “stolen” image with one of your choice.

I implemented b).

So if someone hotlinks to any image on my site, the actual image that is displayed on their site is:

This is pretty easy to implement, and you can read more about it here.