Sunday, 26 April 2015

Billy’s Forty-Sixth Law: Sometimes you can do almost everything wrong and still make money

This law is the inspiration of my friend George, of the Fifteenth Law.  He has a customer who does almost everything wrong, and still makes piles of money.  George is a technical specialist, and looks at the world through the eyes of technology.  Here are his observations on this e-commerce company:
  1. The search snippet (The brief snippet Google displays below the company name, describing the Website) is useless at driving business. Nine out of ten users ignore the search results and select a competitor’s website. The company spends time and money for search optimisation, yet fails to convert due to this one small, but critical error.  
  2. The home page leaves new users confused.  Testing shows the entire forty-nine page Website is so confusing that most users simply give up.  The calls to action do not stand out and it is unclear what action the customer should take.
  3. The Website does not take advantage of any management tools such as page based SEO or split testing. There is no conversion optimization testing, but rather the owner bases the design on guessing what customers really want. To make matters worse, there is no performance testing to confirm if the guess was correct.
  4. The president institutes changes without any strategy or change management process. The result is unreliable and inconsistent performance.
  5. It takes over twenty seconds to return a list of products selected to the shopping cart.  This is due to high levels of unnecessary customization.  Twenty seconds is an eternity in the internet world.

This company breaks every e-commerce rule in the book except one…that they make money!  They are doing one very important thing right that is customer service.  Company policy is is always do right by the customer.  Examples include:

  1. Anyone who complains receives a free company T Shirt; talk about turning enemies into friends.
  2. If a customer perceives any financial loss, the company reimburses them without question. 
  3. The customer support staff are empowered to do whatever it takes to make a sad customer happy.
  4. The company president follows up every complaint with an email asking the complainant, "Did we solve your problem, are you happy, and is there anything else we should do? “

Every customer who has an issue is made whole and happy.  The result is Yelp and other review sites are full of meaningful complements.  This fanatical dedication to over the top customer service results in thousands of positive reviews all over the Internet.  Due to this massive volume of positive reviews, the Website enjoys an unprecedented number one ranking for any related Google search.
When a company is successful in spite of themselves, it is difficult to suggest changes.  “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is an oft-heard cliché in such situations.    The challenge for those of us who provide advice to business owners is to encourage change when things are going well.  This is far more difficult than forced change when things are going badly.

In my experience, most business owners are lousy business people.  They are, typically, very good at what they do or very good at sales and marketing.  To sustain a business, owners and their teams must develop a more complete skill set, incorporating all aspects of business and not merely in the areas they prefer or the areas in which they are comfortable.

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