PAUL AND SARAH EDWARDS: LIFESTYLES FOR THE MILLENNIUM
MARY ANN HALPIN PHOTOGRAPH Y
Paul and Sarah
Edwards ( www.
com) are the authors
of Middle Class Life-
boat and 16 other
Don’t drive away
HOW HARD DOES someone have to work to
become your customer? Are you guilty of any
of these things that drive folks away?
answering incorrectly requires users to reenter
all of their order or registration information
• Cluttered Web pages that load too slowly.
The average time a Web page takes to load is
3. 5 seconds, but today websites need to load
in just a second or two for mobile devices.
• Complex or confusing payment directions.
You need to make it extremely easy for users to
buy from you or to get further information. You
do this by offering call-to-action buttons or links
along with your content.
• User passwords and PINs getting rejected.
Sometimes this comes about because sites
change the requirements for passwords, such
as requiring both upper- and lowercase. If you
make a change like this, provide visible notice
that a user’s password will need to be changed.
• An automated voice mail system that
doesn’t give callers an opportunity to reach
an operator or leave a message
• A telephone-tree messaging system that
is so long or complex that people get lost
• Long messages repeated in another
language without the alternative for English
only at the outset of the call
• Telephone operators whose answers are
limited to scripted replies
• Putting people on group email lists without
• So many promotional emails that people
ask to be taken off your list
Unless what you offer is mandatory and you
are its sole source or you have decided to limit
your customers to only the most ardently dedi-
cated (such as restaurants that don’t have a
sign), you risk losing business unless you make
it easy! C
• Requiring CAPTCHA security (when you
type in and match the random letters presented in a box) in order for users to send an email
or access portions of your site, especially if
More in archives
On Costco.com, enter
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search “Paul and Sarah Edwards.”
CHRIS A RUSNAK
THE BASICS of owning your own business
can keep you up at night, with revenue generation and positive cash flow being two of
the biggest headaches. The Small Business
Barometer sponsored by Western Union
Payments offers several tips to help you deal
Cash flow. Forty-three percent of
business owners say 5 percent or more of
their customers are late in payment in an
average month. Look for a solution that
helps customers by accepting a spectrum of
payment options online (even without a
website), from credit cards to electronic
checks, at all times instead of only during
Time savings. Some billing and payment solutions offer automated services to
ensure monthly invoices, reminders and
receipts can be sent simply and efficiently.
Also, provide an automatic debit option for
customers’ convenience—and yours.
Customer relations. Look for a customer relationship management (CRM) tool
with customizable components to track customers’ behaviors and preferences. It should
have integrated CRM functions to help you,
in seconds, better understand your customers—and their purchase history, preferences
Better communication. Improve
marketing with a customizable tool that provides the opportunity to market to and educate your current customers. Offer referral
discounts, updates and general info that will
help you retain and grow your customer base.
Competitive pricing. Find a solution
that charges a flat monthly rate for all services,
does not limit the number of users and offers
competitive credit card transaction fees. C
For more information about the Small
Business Barometer survey, go to http://
A YELLOW PAGES listing was once necessary for business. That evolved into the need for a Web page. Now, it’s all
about apps: interactive tools for smartphones and tablets.
Costco member Daniel Burrus, a tech-
nology forecaster, business strategist and
the founder and CEO of Burrus Research
www.burrus.com), says, “Most retailers
haven’t considered a mobile strategy yet.
They know their customers and consum-
ers use smartphones and tablets, yet they
view these things more as threats than
opportunities. But if you want to thrive in
2012 and beyond, having a well-planned
mobile strategy is key.”
Here are some points to consider.
Embrace the shift. Society has
shifted from the information age to the
communication age. Don’t just inform
people of products and services. You
need to connect, interact, engage, create
and share with consumers.
Look where technology is going.
Intelligent personal assistants, such as
the iPhone’s Siri, employ a natural-language technology that allows users to
ask a question in regular language, with
the assistant answering in a human-like
voice. The time for a retail-specific
version is ripe. Think of it as a mobile
concierge for your store.
Don’t frustrate customers. When
customers can’t find what they’re looking
for and can’t find a salesperson to help
them, they leave frustrated. You would
make more sales with an app that enables them to find what they want, with
a store layout and showing where salespeople are in real time.
Make it easy to work for you.
Instead of keeping employees tied to a
countertop computer, use tablets with
apps that enable them to help customers
on the floor in real time by checking
if products are in stock, giving arrival
dates, processing simple exchanges, etc.
Let your apps sell for you. Create
a feature that lets customers type in a
specific product’s brand name and find
the equivalents you carry, and that also
explains why the brands you stock are
better than what the customers request-ed. You’ll be helping them make better
and more informed buying decisions.
If app development is beyond your
knowledge, use your search engine to
find “mobile app developers.” C
MAY 2012 ;e Costco Connection