3 steps to great email customer support
As a consumer brand, is there a better way of getting customers to refer you business than offering excellent customer support? My inbox this afternoon showed two polar opposites of handling support by email and illustrated what great support looks like. I can sum up the differences: Ditch the "you're in a queue" email Really listen to the customer Offer further advice Ditch the "you're in a queue" email My depressing email exchange with Swiss Airlines starts when I tried to complain about the £4.50 credit card charge. I would normally never pay it, but their debit card payment route was broken, so to book the flight I had no choice. Dear customer, thank you for your message. We will get back to you as soon as possible. The response time may vary depending on the amount of research required. Please do not reply to this E-Mail. Use for your feedback our page: www.swiss.com/contacts We thank you for your understanding. Yours sincerely, Swiss International Air Lines Ltd. Let's unpack the sheer hostility of this: "thank you for your message" = we care so little we couldn't be bothered to add a capital letter "as soon as possible" = nor do we have enough staff to answer today "Please do not reply to this E-Mail" = we can't even be bothered to install a smart ticketing system Really it would be better not to send me an auto-response at all - just get back to me when a human is ready. Let's compare that with an email I get from TransferWise, which was my good experience of the day. At first glance, this looks like an automated response, but then I realise it's signed by a real person - and they actually want me to reply to the email. TransferWise are having to deal with genuinely onerous FCA anti-money laundering rules - and offering a helpful way to get around it. Really listen to the customer The Swiss conversation goes downhill from there. OK, I'm a bit smart Alec about the transaction fee - but it's a well known scam. On 24 Feb 2016, at 05:51, email@example.com wrote: Dear Mr. Upton, Thank you for writing to us with regards to your query and we apologizes for the inconvenience caused. We would like to inform you that GBP4.50 is the fee charged directly from the bank/bank fee. Therefore, we cannot grant a refund with regards to the above mentioned fees. We trust the above information will be of assistance and are available to assist you with any further questions at any time. Thank you for choosing SWISS and we wish you a pleasant day further. Kind regards, Miriama Consultant Customer Travel Services / R1S ----- From: Edward Upton [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] Dear Miriama, That is absolutely untrue. MasterCard charges you 0.3% for the transaction, which in this case is 51p https://www.mastercard.us/en-us/about-mastercard/what-we-do/interchange.html So please can you refund me GBP 4? regards, Edward Upton ----- From: email@example.com Dear Mr. Upton, Thank you for writing to us. We have reviewed your request regarding your reservation. Please note that in regards to your request we will not be able ot refund the OPC. Please note this (GBP4.50) is a charge placed by the credit card company and it applies as per the point of commencement of your ticket. We hope this information is useful. Please do let us know if you need additional information. Thank you for choosing SWISS. Kind Regards, Alexander Consultant Customer Travel Services / R1S This feels like someone has cut and pasted from a standard response list. It's robotic. And given that the original issue was actually about their website being broken, there is a total lack of empathy for the issue - just some 'apologizes' (sic). Offer further advice Often companies have to say no to refunds and extra requests, but at least be gracious. And sometimes the company can offer you something that benefits both parties: a guide to how to avoid needing to email in the future. Here is the exemplary reply from Transferwise Hi Edward, I hope you’re doing well! Thank you for getting back to us, and confirming that we can change the name on the payment ###### to your personal. I shall quickly pass this on to my colleagues, who are able to make the change and proceed with the transfer. As soon as the payment is sent out from our end, we shall send you a confirmation e-mail, like always. All you need to do is check your inbox every now and then.:) Just in case, I will explain how you can choose to use both your personal and business profiles on TransferWise. Once you log in to your TransferWise account, on the upper right corner you should see a logo (like a man in a circle). When you click on the logo, you should see: Use as Edward Upton Use as Littledata Consulting Ltd Therefore, if you want to set up a personal payment, and you’re planning to send money from your personal bank account, please make sure that “Use as Edward Upton” is ticked. And if you’re planning to make a business payment and send money from your business bank account, please make sure to choose the second option. If anything was left unclear or you would need help with something else, please don’t hesitate to get back to us. We are always happy if we can help! I hope you have a lovely day, Eliisa, TransferWise Support Which company do you think I'll recommend in the future? Comment below!
5 myths of Google Analytics Spam
Google Analytics referral spam is a growing problem, and since Littledata has launched a feature to set up spam filters for you with one click, we’d like to correct a few myths circulating. 1. Google has got spam all under control Our research shows the problem exploded in May – and is likely to get worse as the tactics get copied. From January to April this year, there were only a handful of spammers, generally sending one or two hits to each web property, just to get on their reports. In May, this stepped up over one thousand-fold, and over a sample of 700 websites, we counted 430,000 spam referrals – an average of 620 sessions per web property, and enough to skew even a higher traffic website. The number of spammers using this tactic has also multiplied, with sites such as ‘4webmasters.org’ and ‘best-seo-offer.com’ especially prolific. Unfortunately, due to the inherently open nature of Google Analytics, where anyone can start sending tracking events without authentication, this is really hard for Google to fix. 2. Blocking the spam domains from your server will remove them from your reports A few articles have suggested changing your server settings to exclude certain referral sources or IP addresses will help clear us the problem. But this misunderstands how many of these ‘ghost referrals’ work: they are not actual hits on your website, but rather tracking events sent directly to Google’s servers via the Measurement Protocol. In this case, blocking the referrer from your own servers won’t do a thing – since the spammers can just go directly to Google Analytics. It's also dangerous to amend the htaccess file (or equivalent on other servers), as it could prevent a whole lot of genuine visitors seeing your site. 3. Adding a filter will remove all historic spam Filters in Google Analytics are applied at the point that the data is first received, so they only apply to hits received AFTER the filter is added. They are the right solution to preventing future spam, but won’t clean up your historic reports. To do that you also need to set up a custom segment, with the same source exclusions are the filter. You can set up an exclusion segment by clicking 'Add Segment' and then red 'New Segment' button on the reporting pages and setting up a list of filters similar to this screenshot. 4. Adding the spammers to the referral exclusion list will remove them from reports This is especially dangerous, as it will hide the problem, without actually removing the spam from your reports. The referral exclusion list was set up to prevent visitors who went to a different domain as part of a normal journey on your website being counted as a new session when they returned. e.g. If the visitor is directed to PayPal to pay, and then returns to your site for confirmation, then adding 'paypal.com' to the referral exclusion list would be correct. However, if you add a spam domain to that list then the visit will disappear from your referral reports... but still, be included under Direct traffic. 5. Selecting the exclude known bots and spiders in the view setting will fix it Google released a feature in 2014 to exclude known bots and spiders from reports. Unfortunately, this is mainly based on an IP address - and the spammers, in this case, are not using consistent IP addresses, because they don't want to be excluded. So we do recommend opting into the bot exclusion, but you shouldn't rely on it to fix your issue Need more help? Comment below or get in touch!
Will a computer put you out of a job?
I see a two tier economy opening up in England, and it’s not as simple as the haves and have-nots. It’s between those that build machines, and those that will be replaced by them: between those that can code, and those that can’t. We’ve seen the massive social effects that declining heavy manufacturing jobs since 1970s have had on much of the North of England and Scotland, and I believe we’re at the start of a similar long-term decimation of service industry jobs – not due to outsourcing to China, but due to automation by computers. Lots of my professional friends in London would feel they’re beyond the reach of this automation: their job involves being smart and creative, not doing production-line tasks. But it is these jobs, which currently involve staring at numbers on a screen, which are most at risk from computer substitution. If your job involves processing a load of data into a more presentable format (analysts, accountants, consultants and some types of traders) then a computer will eventually - within the next 20 years - be able to do your job better than you. In fact, within 20 years computers will be much better than humans at almost every kind of data processing, as the relentless extension of Moore’s law means pound-for-pound computer processing will be 1 million times cheaper than it is now. As Marc Andreessen put it, ‘Software is eating the world’, and we’re only just beginning to work through the implications. This worries me. With the greater and greater levels of automation of the working world, what happens to employment? Last year we saw an incredible event in the sale of WhatsApp to Facebook: massive wealth creation ($17bn) accompanied by almost no job creation (33 employees at the time of sale). If a tiny number of highly skilled people can create a service with 300m paying customers, why do companies need to hire lots of people? In the utopian view of future work we give up all boring admin tasks to the machines, and focus on face-to-face interaction and making strategic decisions based on selected knowledge fed to us by our personal digital agents (like Google search on steroids). Lots more thinking space leads us to be more productive, and more leisure time makes us happier. But 30 years ago they thought computers would evolve into very capable personal assistants, when in fact office workers are chained to the screen for longer hours by the tyranny of email and real-time information flow. Look at Apple’s forecast from 1987 of what computing might look like in 2006: the professor is freed from the tedium of typing or travelling to the library. Yet they didn’t consider whether the professor himself might be needed in a world where students could get their lectures as pre-recorded videos. So the cynical view is that more volume of data will require more humans to interpret, and the technology will always need fixing. As companies become more automated there will be more and more jobs shifting into analysis and IT support; analogous to how, as postal mail has been replaced by email, jobs in the company post room have shifted into IT support. The problem is that there really are a limited number of humans that can set up and maintain the computers. I’d love to see society grappling with that limitation (see grass-roots initiative like CoderDojo) but there are some big barriers to retraining adults to code: limited maths skills, limited tolerance for the boredom of wading through code, and limited opportunities for people to test their skills (i.e. companies don’t trust this most critical of job roles to new apprentices). So those that have commercial experience in programming can command escalating day rates for their skills – and this is most apparent in London and San Francisco, while pay in other skilled areas is not even keeping up with core inflation. That leads us to the dystopian view: that the generation starting their working lives now (those 10 years younger than me) will see their prospects hugely diverge, based on which side of the ‘replace’ or ‘be replaced’ divide they are. If companies akin to Google and Facebook become the mainstay of the global economy, then they’ll be a tiny number of silicon sultans whose every whim is catered for – and a vast mass of technology consumers with little viable contribution to the workplace. Let’s hope our politicians start grasping the implications before they too are replaced by ‘democracy producing’ software!
How to audit your Web Analytics Ecommerce tracking
5 common Google Analytics setup problems
Can you rely on the data you are seeing in Google Analytics? If you use it daily in your business you should really give some time to auditing how the data is captured, and what glitches could be lurking unseen. The notifications feature in Google Analytics now alerts you to some common setup problems, but there are more simple ones you could check today. Here are 5 aspects of your Google Analytics account to check now. Are you running the latest Universal Analytics tracking code? Is your overall bounce rate below 10%? Are you getting referrals from your own website? Are you getting ‘referrals’ from your payment gateway? Have you got the correct website default URL set in GA? Are you getting full referring URL in reports? 1. Are you running the latest Universal Analytics tracking code? You may have clicked upgrade in the Google Analytics admin console, but have your developers successfully transferred over to the new tracker code? Use our handy tool to test for universal analytics (make sure you copy your URL as it appears in the browser bar). 2. Is your overall bounce rate below 10%? The 'bounce rate' is defined as sessions of only one page. It’s highly unlikely to be in single digits unless you have a very unique source of engaged traffic. However, it is possible that the tracking code is firing twice on a single page. This double counting would mean Google Analytics sees every single page view as two pages – i.e. not a bounce This is more common on template-driven sites like Wordpress or Joomla, where you may have one tracking script loaded by a plugin – and another pasted onto the main template page. You can check if you have multiple pageviews firing by using the Google Tag Assistant plugin for Chrome. 3. Are you getting referrals from your own website? A self-referral is traffic coming from your own domain – so if you are www.acme.com, then a self-referrals would be appearing as ‘acme.com’. Have a look at the (recently moved) referrals list and see if that is happening for you. This is usually caused by having pages on your website which are missing the GA tracking code, or have it misconfigured. You can see exactly which pages are causing the problem by clicking on your domain name in the list and seeing the referring path. If you are on universal analytics (please use our tool to check) you can exclude these referrals in one step with the Referral Exclusion list. For a fuller explanation, see the self-referral guide provided by Google. 4. Are you getting ‘referrals’ from your payment gateway? Similar to point 3: if you have a 3rd party payment service where customers enter their payment details, after they redirect to your site – if you are on Universal analytics – they will show up as a new visit… but originating from ‘paypal.com’ or ‘worldpay.com’. You need to add any payment gateway or similar 3rd party services to that referral exclusion list. Just add the domain name - so PayPal would be 'paypal.com' 5. Have you got the correct website default URL set in GA? When Google Analytics was first set up for your website you may have set a different domain name than what you now use. Or maybe you have switched to run your site on https:// rather than http://. So you need to change the default URL as set up in the admin page. For this go to Admin > Property > Property Settings. Once that is setup correctly, the ‘All Pages’ report becomes a lot more useful – because you can click through to view the actual page using the open link icon. Advanced: Are you getting full referring URL in reports? If you run your website across different subdomains (e.g. blog.littledata.co.uk and www.littledata.co.uk) then it can be difficult to tell which subdomain the page was on. The solution to this is to add the hostname to the URL using a custom filter. See the guide on how to view full page URLs in reports. What other setup issues are you experiencing? Let us know in the comments or by tweeting @LittledataUK.
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Agriculture in Uganda: Measure and Improve
I had a truly inspiring day visiting Send a Cow project near Masaka in Uganda. A group of 30 farmers underwent 4 years of training, supported by weekly visits from a social worker and agricultural trainer. From a group living in absolute under-a-dollar-a-day poverty, there are now farmers owning thousands of dollars worth of livestock and selling export crops like coffee. This education and support, plus the capital grant of one animal per household, has transformed their community. Although the success relied on a solid base of family and group cohesion, organised labour and animal husbandry, I want to focus on three aspects which have ongoing potential for the community. 1. Record keeping Yep, data to you and I. Writing daily details of milk yields, crop inputs, market sale prices and even visitor numbers enabled the farmers to measure and improve. Data also allows farmers to forecast and be inspired. Selling a regular surplus of milk from two cows (after family consumption – yes, they have great teeth!) gave the farmer a regular income of US$3.50 per day at the farm gate. That is more than a teacher’s salary in Uganda. With tender care and back-breaking forage harvesting, they now have a calf being reared – and can count just how much that will mean in further milk and profits. Maybe in 10 years they will be entering yields into a smartphone app, and have market prices forecast automatically. 2. Organic agriculture Oil derivatives (like diesel and fertiliser) are nearly as expensive in Uganda as the UK – in ridiculous contrast to the local market prices for vegetables. Efficient farming therefore has to rely on minimal imported inputs, and maximise the local bounty of sun, rain … and manure. Every precious drop of animal urine is captured – to mix with ash and chilli as an insect repellant for plants – or used neat as a fertiliser. In dry season, every rainfall is maximised, with lots of mulching of vegetables to prevent evaporation; and with a permaculture approach of shading coffee bushes with banana plants, and vegetables under the coffee. I am a fan of organic farming for health and environmental reasons, but out here I just do not see an alternative, cost-effective way to increase crop yields. 3. Peer-to-peer lending Developed-to-developing country lending networks, like Kiva.org, have grown rapidly – but with inevitable problems in vetting funding applications at distance. What farmers need are equivalents of 19th century Europe’s co-operative societies – where savers and lenders from the same area are brought together. These farmer groups operate a very effective local system. All members pledge to save every month: from just 1 cent a week. Then any member can ask for a short term (maximum 3 month) loan from the fund – which is now $2000. The default rate is low – around 2% - as members know the debtors ability to repay, and can monitor progress in person. Plus every debtor has savings in the scheme – so wants to preserve their share of the capital. Three month loans (and flat 10% interest) make repayments easy to predict – and work in a country where planting to harvest is only 3 months. Uganda’s government abolished co-operatives in the 1990s when they started sponsoring political campaigns. But if these lending clubs can grow they could go some way to unlocking the capital that Africa needs to grow. This post was written by Edward Upton, Founder of Littledata, @eUpton
Under the hood of Littledata
Littledata tool gives you insight into your customers' behaviour online. We look through hundreds of Google Analytics metrics and trends to give you summarised reports, alerts on significant changes, customised tips and benchmarks against competitor sites. This guide explains how we generate your reports and provide actionable analytics. 1. You authorise our app to access your Google Analytics data As a Google Analytics user you will already be sending data to Google every time someone interacts with your website or app. Google Analytics provides an API where our app can query this underlying data and provide summary reports in our own style. But you are only granting us READ access, so there is no possibility that any data or settings in your Google Analytics will change. 2. You pick which view to report on Once you've authorised the access, you pick which Google Analytics view you want to get the reports on. Some people will have multiple views (previously called ‘profiles’) set up for a particular website. They might have subtly different data – for example, one excludes traffic from company offices – so pick the most appropriate one for management reports. We will then ask for your email so we know where to send future alerts to. 3. Every day we look for significant changes and trending pages There are over 100 Google Analytics reports and our clever algorithms scan through all of them to find the most interesting changes to highlight. For all but the largest businesses, day-by-day comparisons are the most appropriate way of spotting changing behaviour on your website. Every morning (around 4am local time) our app fetches your traffic data from the previous day – broken down into relevant segments, like mobile traffic from organic search – and compares it against a pattern from the previous week. This isn’t just signalling whether a metric has changed – web traffic is unpredictable and changes every day (scientists call this ‘noise’). We are looking for how likely that yesterday’s value was out of line with the recent pattern. We express this as signal bars in the app: one bar means there is a 90% chance this result is significant (not chance), two bars means a 99% chance and three bars means 99.9% certain (less than a 1 in 1000 chance it is a fluke). Separately, we look for which individual pages are trending – based on the same probabilistic approach. Mostly this is change in overall views of the page, but sometimes in entrances or bounce rate. If you are not seeing screenshots for particular pages there are a few reasons why: The website URL you entered in Google Analytics may be out of date Your tracking code may run across a number of URLs – e.g. company.com and blog.company.com – and you don’t specify which in Google Analytics The page may be inaccessible to our app – typically because a person needs to login to see it 4. We look for common setup issues The tracking code that you (or your developers) copy and pasted from Google Analytics into your website is only the very basic setup. Tracking custom events and fixing issues like cross-domain tracking and spam referrals can give you more accurate data – and more useful reports from us. Littledata offers setup and consultancy to improve your data collection, or to do further manual audit. This is especially relevant if you are upgrading to Universal Analytics or planning a major site redesign. 5. We email the most significant changes to you Every day - but only if you have significant changes - we generate a summary email, with the highest priority reports you should look at. You can click through on any of these to see a mobile-friendly summary. An example change might be that 'Bounce rate from natural search traffic is down by 8% yesterday'. If you usually get a consistent bounce rate for natural / organic search traffic, and one day that changes, then it should be interesting to investigate why. If you want your colleagues to stay on top of these changes you can add them to the distribution list, or change the frequency of the emails in My Subscriptions. 6. Every Sunday we look for changes over the previous week Every week we look for longer-term trends – which are only visible when comparing the last week with the previous week. You should get more alerts on a Sunday. If you have a site with under 10,000 visits a month, you are likely to see more changes week-by-week than day-by-day. To check the setup of your reports, login to Littledata tool. For any further questions, please feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via phone or email, or send us a tweet @LittledataUK.
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