Tuesday

A Tribute to all that is right in America. GM, an all American Brand, Says Thank you #custserv

As the nation celebrated Thanksgiving on Thursday, General Motors said thank you to the American people. In a 60-second commercial with no voice over, serious and comic images of failure appear on screen back to back followed by images of recovery, or comeback, as the advertisement is titled. The ad closes with the words: "We all fall down. Thank you for helping us get back up."

GM shares returned to the New York Stock Exchange last week in an initial public offering that reduced the U.S. Treasury's ownership stake from more than 60 percent to about 33 percent, just 16 months after emerging from bankruptcy reorganization.

Monday

Terror Group Gets A Rating From Better Business Bureau? Consumer Watchdog Accused of Running Pay for Play #custserv

The Better Business Bureau, one of the country's best known consumer watchdog groups, is being accused by business owners of running a "pay for play" scheme in which A plus ratings are awarded to those who pay membership fees, and F ratings used to punish those who don't.

To prove the point, a group of Los Angeles business owners paid $425 to the Better Business Bureau and were able to obtain an A minus grade for a non-existent company called Hamas, named after the Middle Eastern terror group.

"Right now, this rating system is really unworthy of consumer trust or confidence," said Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal in an interview to be broadcast as part of an ABC News investigation airing tonight on 20/20.

In an official demand letter sent to the national headquarters of the Better Business Bureau Thursday, Blumenthal called on the BBB to stop using its grading system, which he said was "potentially harmful and misleading" to consumers.

Click Here To Read Blumenthal's Letter

"The BBB accreditation and the BBB ratings systems is not about generating money," said BBB national president and CEO Steve Cox. He said the A minus grade for Hamas was given in error. "Plain and simple, we made a mistake," Cox told ABC News.

Errors seem to abound at the Better Business Bureau. As reported by an anonymous blogger the BBB also awarded an A minus rating to a non-existent sushi restaurant in Santa Ana, California and an A plus to a skinhead, neo-Nazi web site called Stormfront.

Each listing cost $425.

"They ran the credit card and within 12 hours they were an approved, accredited member," said the anonymous blogger, who runs a site called bbbroundup.com.

"They're more interested in the money than their credibility," he said.

The BBB's Cox said the three listings were all mistakes made by sales people.

"That's an inaccurate statement that business people are able to buy A's," Cox said. "We have more than 500,000 non-accredited businesses who have A ratings," he added.

Yet, as part of the ABC News investigation, an ABC News producer with a camera was present as two small business owners in Los Angeles were told by Better Business Bureau tele-marketers that their grades of C could be raised to A plus if they paid $395 membership fees.

Terri Hartman, the manager of a Los Angeles antique fixtures store, Liz's Antique Hardware, was told only a payment could change her grade, based on one old complaint that had already been resolved.

"So, if I don't pay, even though the complaint has been resolved, I still have a C rating?"

Hartman then read off her credit card number and the next business day the C grade was replaced with an A plus, and the one complaint was wiped off the record.

In a second case, Carmen Tellez, the owner of a company that provides clowns for parties was also told she had to pay to fix her C- grade, based on a two-year old complaint that she says had already been resolved.

The C minus became an A plus the very next day after she provided her credit card number for the $395 charge.

"If I'm paying for a grade, then how are the customers supposed to really trust the Better Business Bureau?" she asked.

Read more at abcnews.go.com

I wrote about this years ago and no one believed me ... believe me now?

Tuesday

eBay Sellers: In 2011, PayPal will be required by the IRS to report sales information. Understanding IRS 6050W

NEW TAX LAW FOR ONLINE SELLERS

Everything you need to know about IRS 6050W

Starting in 2011, all U.S. payment providers including PayPal will be required by the IRS to report sales information about certain merchants to the IRS. We want to help you understand these changes.

  •   Applies to merchants receiving over $20,000 in gross sales volume AND 200 payments or more
  •   Applies only for sales beginning on January 1, 2011
Questions? Log in to your account or call 1-888-221-1161

What Is IRS 6050W?

Under the new legislation, PayPal will be required to report to the IRS the total payment volume received by PayPal customers in the US who:

* Receive more than $20,000 in gross payment volume in a single year, AND
* Receive 200 or more payments in a single year.

The IRS changes will apply to all payment providers, including PayPal. They will take effect on January 1, 2011, with the first reports going to the IRS in early 2012. Our goal is to help PayPal merchants to understand and comply with the new requirements.

If you meet the stated thresholds, you will be required to verify your identity by adding a SSN/TIN/EIN to your existing account.

Be sure to read more on PayPal

Tuesday

How does Google Search work? What exactly happens when you click?

Here’s a video that should answer some of your questions as to how Google works. It provides a very brief and easy-to-understand explanation of what happens when you perform a search in Google! It even gives you some interesting SEO (search engine optimization) ideas. The person presenting is Matt Cutts, who works for the Search Quality group in Google.

If your Small business would like a simple Facebook welcome page without knowing FBML, check @hy_ly Welcome app

The folks at hy.ly are doing some great things, most recently a simple to use Facebook welcome page app. You can put together a welcoming page on your Business or Fan page in just a few minutes. The best part is that it won't look like a giant ad and overwhelm your visitors.

Once you've installed the app, just adjust your privacy settings so that new visitors will land on your welcome page first.

Hy.ly plans to adapt this app to allow you to run contests, show specials and lots more.

Monday

Webcom-Montréal International will explore how Web 2.0 can reboot business: I'll be there w @armano, will we see you?

On November 17th, new Web technologies, strategies and trends for Web 2.0 will be explored during the 9th edition of the webcom-Montréal International conference.

“Corporate rebooting” is the theme of this year’s conference, and methods for accomplishing that reboot through collaboration and communities will be discussed. Technology such as Wikis, real-time Web software such as Seesmic and Foursquare, Internet and Intranet communities, professional networks and mobility will be explored.

This year, I'll be one of the keynote speakers along with Jared Spool, founder of User Interface Engineering and an expert on the concept of usability. (My talk will be on "Connecting to the Soul of your Customer.")

We will be joined by an amazing group of more than 30 local and international experts in the fields of Web 2.0 and engaging community. I'll be lucky to hear the presentations from Jen Evans (Sequentia-Environics), Bevin Hernandez (Firebrand Tribe) and David Armano (Edelman Digital). There will be numerous case studies, including those of companies like CSC, Caisse d'Epargne, Penn State University, Navstar, CapAcadie, NASA, BART-San Francisco

webcom-Montréal takes place on November 17th from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, click here.

Wednesday

Play for keeps: Game Mechanics Give Brands a New Power Play from the mind of @getshust at @Resource

From Resource Interactive: www.resource.com

If you long for diversion from the mundane daily grind and find yourself unexpectedly engrossed in becoming Mayor of the local Starbucks, collecting check-in awards and badges at every destination, or simply stating your location via Facebook Places—you're far from alone. Ten percent of U.S. Internet time is now spent on online games. Foursquare now has over three million users who have posted over one hundred million check-ins. Mobile apps offering gaming and geolocation services are growing exponentially with the ever-increasing number of smartphone users in the U.S.

Our latest POV on Game Mechanics (aka: "gamification") explores the phenomenon of this fast-growing array of activities that engage consumers online and off through competitions, rewards, ego boosters and virtual entertainment. What's more, it illustrates how brands that leverage them ultimately offer more than momentary entertainment—they can inform, inspire, enlighten and delight customers over the long haul.

Thursday

Excellent Customer Service Analysis: Great Takeaways from #custserv Discrimination Chat

3 Great Takeaways from #custserv Discrimination Chat



We regret we were unable to participate in eBay guru Marsha Collier’s customer service Twitter chat (hashtag #custserv) last night.  Even though we missed it, the post chat transcript made for some great reading, including a B plot on discrimination! There were a lot of good points raised, many of them quite unexpected. While a lot of the talk pertained mostly to brick and mortar store policies, the advice could be just as useful to all the ecommerce sellers out there!
Dressing Down

@bevhillsporsche says, “We don’t judge “dress code” either. Our richest customers dress down when car shopping.
You never can tell who your best customer or client will be. Even that one guy who comes in every Friday and just buys a stick of gum might sell his business or win the lottery the next day and buy half of your merchandise just because you were nice to him. To discriminate based on what your customers buys or, worse, what you think they MIGHT buy based on appearance will bring you big problems.
Online sellers have a unique advantage in this regard – there’s no telling what their customers look like unless said customer updates their avatar every time they change their clothes. However, have you ever had problems giving customer service to someone who bought a low price item from your store? Or perhaps you have several people who buy loads of items – do you pay more attention to them? Should you?
Empowering Your Customers

@marshacollier says, “Empowering the customer with facts (any business can do this) leads to a more educated customer at any age.”
This came from a brief aside about the age of customers, especially when it came to providing or receiving customer service through social media. The general consensus was that the majority of the customers you encounter (especially offline) are not exactly “social media mavens” and are more inclined to do things the old fashioned way.
This is especially true with people 45 and older. So making sure your customers have all the information they need to get right to you when problems arise can only help. As an online seller, you might be unintentionally discriminating against your older customers by only offering online support but foregoing an 800 number.
Is there any way for you to further educate visitors to your store on how to get customer support?
Nobody Likes Being the Laughingstock

Another topic of discussion included several stories of being ridiculed by customer service reps for having outdated technology. I can personally attest to this; I was trading in an old phone at a store and the clerks chuckled at how old it was. They even took out the SIM card and marveled at the ancient civilization that created it.
While I wasn’t completely offended (it was a super old phone – it worked fine for my needs dang it), it was slightly unprofessional. It made me feel like they were part of some secret club and just because I didn’t have a phone that had been released that day that I wasn’t invited (@marshcollier said the rep in her case made her feel “like I was an alien”).
You may or may not agree with the old adage that “there is no such thing as a stupid question,” but when it comes to your customers you have to adhere to it. Discriminating because of lack of knowledge or preferring older/alternative products might lead to poor customer service and even loss of sales.
Essentially, if you want to make your business feel like a secret club, make sure your customers are invited, too!
Please join us on Twitter for the Tuesday night customer service chat. Search twitter for #custserv. Live chat Tuesday at 6p PT/9p ET