*This* is how you do customer service.

With two large dogs in the Newbill household, we go through a lot of dog food. Pet Food Direct has great prices and service, and best of all, they have an auto-ship service. I was able to sign up to have my girls’ regular food delivered every four weeks so I never have to worry about running out or making a last-minute run to the pet store.

Last week I noticed that the end-of-April shipment was overdue. I checked the UPS tracking number on my order status, to find out that it had been delivered April 30. “Left in garage,” it said.

Um… not my garage! Well, these things happen from time to time. We probably had a new driver on the route who got our address confused with another that’s very similar. (We swap mail frequently, those other homeowners and I.) But this time they didn’t have it.

I went to the pet store for an emergency supply and emailed Pet Food Direct that my shipment was feeding someone else’s fortunate pooches. They immediately sent a replacement order and said they would file an inquiry with UPS. The second shipment came, my doggie girls were fat and happy, and all was well in the world.

Usual procedure in customer service, right?

The extraordinary part comes next.

Last Saturday another neighbor brought the box over. The original shipment that had been left in his garage on April 30.

Oh, dear.

I emailed Pet Food Direct. (It was Saturday — I didn’t expect that anyone would be manning the phones and a reply on Monday would be fine). I explained what had happened, told them I would keep both shipments, but of course I needed to pay for the second one and could they please charge my card on file in my account?

In just a few minutes I had this response by email:

Thank you so very much for being such an upstanding & honest individual. I have spoken with my supervisor & please do keep the food. We will NOT be charging any additional amount to your account. Please keep the extra shipment with our compliments.

I was stunned.

They thanked me for doing what was simply the right thing? They were surprised that I planned to pay for both shipments? And then they gave me the better part of $75 in merchandise for doing that?

This is how you do customer service.

Pet Food Direct has a loyal customer as long as I have dogs.

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How to handle Russian spam comments

Recently we’ve been seeing a number of spam comments written in Cyrillic (Russian) characters. Because they are not in English, they slip past anti-spam plugins like Akismet and Anti-Spam Bee.

What to do?

Jeff Starr of Perishable Press suggests adding the most common Cyrillic characters to your comment moderation file.

If you expect to get comments from visitors writing in other languages, of course, this might not be a good idea. But for normal blogging activity, especially if you prefer to leave comments open indefinitely, take a look at Jeff’s article and consider implementing his suggestions.

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The Mysterious Billboard, Part II: Tracking your results

um... what?

Someone was half clever.

Two weeks ago, I wrote about a mysterious billboard and why, after some thought, I realized that sometimes “What??” is exactly the response you want.

After I wrote that post, I considered calling the people who had bought the billboard ad and asking them — did it work? Did you get the website traffic, physical visitors, and increased sales you wanted from the mysterious billboard? What were your results?

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How we predicted and prevented a client’s shipping nightmare

One of our clients’ sites uses a shopping cart with real-time shipping calculations from the US Postal Service. The shipping module adds up the weight of the order and phones home to the USPS to ask how much it will cost, then displays the result to the customer prior to checkout.

Last November, the Postal Service announced that they were going to raise rates on January 22, 2012, add a number of new service classes to Priority Mail and change up the parcel classes. I knew from similar experiences in 2009 and 2010 that this would break the shipping module and shut down her shopping cart until the software company fixed it.

In mid-December I sent an inquiry to the software company explaining this potential problem, reminding them what happened the last two times, and asking if they would have a patch for the shipping prior to January 22. The company rep responded that “it would update itself” and there was no need to worry.

I was not so sure.

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When lack of progress becomes an act of creation

Yesterday this Tweet from Steve Plunkett in my stream caught my attention. At first glance, I wasn’t sure why, but I’ve learned to heed these nags — it means my subconscious is poking me. “Hey! Here’s something you need to know!”

At first glance, this implies that running at 90 miles per hour with a roadmap in mind is normal, that it’s desirable, that everyone should be doing it. Following the analogy, though: where can you run 90 miles per hour? In a speedboat on open water… in a racer on the Bonneville Salt Flats… in a fast car on a major highway where the land is wide open and there are no speed limits and no obstacles.

Either no obstructions, or else you are running wide open on a highway paved by someone else, going to the destination they have chosen.

Aha.

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When “WTF?” is exactly the response you want.

um... what?

On Saturday, my husband and I drove to a city about an hour north of us. It was a lovely day and we enjoyed getting out for a bit.

Then I noticed the billboard. Oh, billboards are everywhere, and I’m pretty good at ignoring them. But this one was really strange.

A generic graphic: a leaf in the center of water ripples. Directions: “Take next exit, 2 miles on right.” And a website domain name.

That was all. No company name, no indication as to what the billboard was advertising. Just those three elements.

At first glance… huh?

Who in the world would spend somewhere around $2000 a month for such an ineffectual advertisement with limited reach? Are passersby really likely to zip off the next exit and drive two miles out of their way to see what in the world this thing was talking about?

But… it creates a sense of mystery, doesn’t it? A sense of curiosity. Now I wanted to know what the billboard was about, what company or place or thing it was advertising. I was driving at the time or I might have whipped out my smartphone and looked up the URL to find out.

Later, I did look up the URL. Unfortunately, the site is built in Flash so it wouldn’t work on my iPhone anyway. Note to website designers: if your target audience is mobile, it might be a good idea to make sure the site will work on mobile devices, don’t you think?

Creating curiosity = good.

Take this same idea and apply it to your own marketing. Can you create a sense of mystery, infuse your readers with the itch to explore and discover?

Publix, a chain of supermarkets headquartered in Florida, frequently runs an ad with a coupon for a “Mystery 1¢ Item.” The coupon is good only on Sunday. The item costs only one penny and you only get one at that price, but it’s always something good, something that most people would find worth trying. They use it to promote house brand products and sometimes to clear out overstocks, but you never know what it’s going to be. A package of bathroom tissue? a 5-pound bag of flour? pasta or rice or a half-gallon of milk? Hey, we need a loaf of bread anyway — why don’t we run by there and see what the one cent mystery is this week?

In your next newsletter or sale event on your website, why not offer a mystery item for a low price, perhaps with a minimum purchase? Use it to clear out a slow seller or offer a sample of something that your customers will want to come back for once they’ve tried it.

Sometimes, “what??” is exactly the response you want.

Give it a try and see.

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Visitor Statistics in your WordPress Dashboard

Once you have your WordPress blog up and running, you’ll naturally want to know how many people come to visit you. Google Analytics is the gold standard of statistical information, of course, but that means opening another browser tab or window and signing in to a separate service.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your visitor statistics right in your WordPress dashboard?

Here are three plugins that allow just that.

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3 Quick Fixes to Increase Your Site’s Visibility

You’re familiar with the usual search engine optimization advice: put keywords in your site and page titles and meta tags; make sure your page copy contains the words you want people to find in search. Those are good places to start, and you’re probably doing them already.

If you’re ready to do more to help your site be found, here are three less-obvious tips that you can quickly start utilizing on every new page you publish.
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How to add Title tags to links

In the edit window, type in the text that you want to show as your link text, such as “More information.” Select it and click on “link” if you are using the HTML editor or the link icon if you are using the visual editor. (Note: the link icon won’t be active until you select the text you want to link.)

Location of Link button on HTML edit window

Location of Link button on visualedit window

A lightbox window will pop up where you can either enter the URL to want to link to, or choose a page or post from your previously-published material.

Where to add your title link text

Click on the Add Link button, and you’re done!

Note: Are you wondering why it’s a good idea to add title tags to links? The answer is coming tomorrow on 2FishWeb.com.

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Curly quotes and inch marks

When you type a paragraph into WordPress, the software automatically converts your straight quotes into angled or curly quotes, like so:

"Good morning, world!"

becomes

“Good morning, world!”

But what if you are writing something that requires straight quotes, such as measurements? Then your dimensions will be displayed this way:

Artwork is 12″ wide by 18″ high

To use the straight quotes for inch marks, you’ll need to tweak the HTML just a tiny bit. Finish your post and save the draft. Then switch to HTML mode. Wherever you need an inch mark instead of an angled or curly quote, change the " to " . Save your draft in HTML mode and preview. You should now see your dimensions displayed properly, like so:

Artwork is 12" wide by 18" high

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