FedEx Delivers—Why Can’t You?

Photo showing FedEx trucks

On Christmas Eve, I had one more gift I was waiting for to arrive. I had two packages coming from FedEx. The gift for one of my nieces was due to arrive at 10:30 a.m., or so the tracking site said. The other package, which was a gift for me, was due to arrive at 4:30 p.m.

At around 10:40 or so, I checked the FedEx tracker again for the gift I cared about. Under “Scheduled to Arrive” it now said “N/A.” I called FedEx and talked to a cheery Tim, who put me on hold and then said they’d check with the driver and someone would call me. An hour and a half later, there was still no package and no call.

At about 1:30 p.m., just as I was thinking “Well, it’s not the worst thing in the world if the gift is a day late,” a FedEx truck pulled in my driveway.

Another cheery man, whose name I didn’t get, popped out of the truck with both my packages. I was hoping that would happen—that their systems would show I have two packages coming from two different places—so only one driver had to make a trip out.

“Oh great, you have both packages,” I said. “I don’t really care about that one,” I pointed to the envelope from the Gap. “But that was the one I was waiting for because it’s a gift.”

He said, with a knowing smile, “Ah yes, everybody wants these packages.”

As he was walking away, I wished him a Merry Christmas and said I hoped he didn’t have to work too late. “I only have an hour left,” he said with so much enthusiasm I couldn’t help but smile too.

If people working on Christmas Eve (probably dealing with a lot of cranky people waiting for their packages) can be cheery, why can’t people at every company?

I worked retail for years, so I know how nasty customers can get. It’s not always easy to stay cheery. But, here is one day—Christmas Eve, a very important day—and this company left me with such a positive experience.

I didn’t have to wait long for a person to answer the phone. I didn’t have to wait long when Tim put me on hold (yet he thanked me for my patience and apologized for keeping me waiting). My two packages arrived courtesy of a friendly FedEx driver. And Yolanda from FedEx’s Memphis office called me an hour later to make sure my packages arrived, and she was also super-friendly.

As a bonus, the Amazon items I ordered a few days ago were delivered in the mail (four days early!).

Be nice to your customers. Wow your customers. It’s the simple things that make us happy, so deliver—like FedEx does.

Google Plus Takes Another Thoughtful Step Forward with Communities

Photo from G+ Communities page

Last week, Google+ introduced another fantastic feature—Communities. If you’re not convinced on moving your business over to Google+, read J.C. Kendall’s persuasive and detailed argument on why Google+ beats Facebook in his article, “Using Google+ Communities for Business.

How Communities Work

The Communities feature works pretty much as you’d imagine. The focus is on getting people with similar interests together for closer and more in-depth interaction.

Screenshot of communities choices

Earlier this year, I created a Writing Circle page to help create a writers community on Google+. But the interactive features weren’t there yet, and coupled with the restrictions on how Pages interact with others, it was difficult to build a community. I feel like Google+ read my mind and understood my frustration. Communities is the perfect solution.

Public and Private Options

Here’s where Communities takes a page from LinkedIn Groups, with a bit more flexibility.

Public communities are indexed by Google for search. And you have two options here.

  1. Allow anyone to join, create posts, share content and comment on other posts.
  2. Keep the group invitation only but still be found through search.

Private communities can also be set up two ways:

  1. Restrict membership as invitation only but still make content discoverable by search engines.
  2. Close the group entirely so that membership is controlled and content is viewable only through a private URL.

Be careful though, once you set up your group, you cannot change this public or private setting.

Google+ was Thoughtful, You Should Be Too

Many people are so excited by this new feature, they’re rushing to set up their own communities. Take your time though. Make sure you have a well thought-out idea for your community—how you’ll moderate and manage it, how you’ll help it grow, etc.

Search and see what communities other people have created, and as always join a few and monitor others. Learn from others’ mistakes. If you want to create a community around your business, make sure it fits your brand, your goals, and offers value to the members who join and participate.

Struggling with reach on Facebook due to the ever so cranky EdgeRank algorithm? Encourage your Facebook fans to join your community on Google+. You’ll reach all of them, not just a selected few.

Integrate Other Features

Google+ Hangouts and Communities seem like they were made for each other. And with Hangouts, you can give your audience a close-up and personal experience they still can’t get anywhere else.

Be creative and remember, the more you use interactive features like this, the more you get to know your audience.

Stealing Families and Friends from Facebook

Communities aren’t just great for businesses. Google+ now seems more family and friend oriented as well. Currently on Facebook, you don’t get to see posts from all your friends because Facebook decides which ones appear in your feed.

Create a private community on Google+ and stay even closer to family and friends. Set up your phone and tablet so all the photos you take load onto Google+ and then choose which ones to share. You can have Hangouts with far away cousins, siblings and friends and still share the posts and content you’re used to sharing on Facebook.

Full of Possibilities

I’m so excited about this feature, and I hope you are too. Think of all the possibilities. If you are already a fan of Google+, you’ve probably already heard of how virtual photo walks have changed lives of people who can’t travel or explore nature on their own.

Now, nonprofits can hold support groups in a new, private community. Friends around the world can hold virtual book clubs and interact while they’re reading and then hold a hangout when they’re done. Someone send this post to Oprah—she did just revive her book club and would love this idea.

Start exploring for yourself. You’ll see—the ideas will keep coming. There are a ton of ways you can use Google+ Communities. So, what do you think? Will this make you use Google+ or, if you’re already there, will you use it more?

Email Marketing: Don’t Flush This Opportunity Away

The problem with online shopping and online contests is you inevitably end up on yet another email list. Many people solve this problem by setting up an email account specifically for these instances, which they pay very little attention to. That’s a problem for marketers.

So how can businesses make sure their emails are actually seen and read?

Make them useful.

Horizon Services—a plumbing, heating and air conditioning company—sets a terrific example. I don’t even own a home, yet I still subscribe to their emails.

Let me repeat that—I currently have no use for their services, but I still read their emails.

See How Horizon Does It Right

If you’re in the Philadelphia area, you probably know about Horizon. They sponsor Phillies games and advertise on Septa buses. Their orange-wrapped buses are hard to miss!

Bus wrapped in orange Horizon advertising

I got on their email list because I entered a contest to win Phillies tickets earlier this year. I had planned on unsubscribing, but now I see no need to.

Why? They demonstrate the triad of traits important for good email marketing:

  1. Purpose
  2. Timing
  3. Rewards

Purpose: Help is on the Horizon

This is ultimately why I keep reading their emails—they are useful. Their emails don’t just sell their services. They’re informative, filled with fantastic tips for maintaining your home.

Note the subject line. It’s not, “Save $67.50 on any plumbing service.” It’s “Discover tips to keep your drains and pipes flowing.” Which are you more likely to open?

Top half of Horizon email

Bottom half of Horizon email

When you click on the link, you’re sent to their “Comfort Zone” blog that has a ton of tips you can use.

No, I don’t own a home yet, but I do like to take care of what I can in my rented home on my own—especially the minor things that go wrong. And I appreciate that this company is taking time to educate me on that.

Building trust like that is how customers remember you and recommend you. I’m not even a customer of theirs, but I am likely to send them business.

Timing: Not Pushy, Not Even Frequent

This is why I haven’t unsubscribed from Horizon’s emails. Now that holiday season is upon us, I get emails everyday from the same merchants—sometimes twice a day. That’s crazy and unnecessary. And it’s a good way to get your customers to unsubscribe.

Horizon shows up in my box a one or two times a month. Very unobtrusive, yet often enough that I remember they’re there.

Rewards: Discounts for Certain Services

I personally don’t need these discounts (as a non-homeowner), but my friends and family might need them, so I keep an eye on what Horizon is advertising. And, if something did go wrong in my home, I could offer my landlord the coupon too.

What’s even better is I know they do good work. My parents had a hot water heater start to go and Horizon came out in a flash. A new hot water heater was installed without the normal mess to clean up when a hot water heater unexpectedly goes and empties out all over the place.

The service man they sent was friendly, helpful and treated my parents like people in need of help, not just people to sell to. So, really, their emails fit very much with their brand.

Yes, they’re in business to sell you services. But they’re also a company you can rely on to help. If only other companies would follow their lead.