Posts

Showing posts from January, 2006

Hidden costs of outsourcing the call center

Image
We were just talking on the way back from lunch and made a realization that seemed worthy of talking about here. We, like most rapidly growing companies, have looked at outsourcing our call center. But there is an unseen cost in this.

Feedback
With our CSR's continually using our websites to take orders, we continually get feedback on what is and what isn't working. If something changes that we weren't anticipating, we usually know within a matter of hours, if not minutes. When USPS changed their site and we stopped getting rates, it didn't take long before I was being asked why we weren't offering that option any more.

QA
Quality assurance is a great thing. By having many computers of known setups hitting our site, we can make sure our site is working in all common browsers easy enough. We know that it's continually being tested in IE and FireFox, so I don't have to worry about having one of those "Oops" moments when some oddball error shows up in a …

Yahoo has a bigger ego than Google

Image
Ok, so I can't speak for the entire company, but by using egosurf.org's tool to measure the ego's of two well known search engine employees I get the following results:

Jeremy Zawodny (Yahoo) 12847 when first posted

Matt Cutts (Google) 7452 when first posted

Click on either score image to re-run it and update the ego rank score.

Sure, it isn't a scientific approach to figuring out who has the bigger ego, but it's somewhat fun. I'm sure it has to do with Jeremy's blog being around longer, so I'll have to check back on this post later to see how the numbers have changed.

Service Provider Errors

Image
I've got to post this somewhere, so this seems like as good of a spot as any. I've just got to go on a few minute vent about a certain service provider we use for PCI compliance (that's a credit card security compliance term that I didn't want to deal with, so we use a service provider.)

In any case, what we really wanted was someone to validate that our security was up to par with Visa and MasterCard's standards. We didn't want to have to research security every day until we got it all right, we just wanted someone to tell us when an issue presented itself. This worked well for a while, then they started making rule changes and upgrading things for PCI but not for this service. That's made things confusing.

Today, however, we have a new issue with them. We have random "vulnerabilities" that don't exist showing up, saying they're on 0 devices but still downgrading our compliance on every single device. The entire live chat we had with them i…

Online Reviews and Unreal Expectations

Reviews on other websites of our sites are usually pretty positive. I enjoy it when I find reviews of some of our competitors that aren't so good. But, realizing the unrealistic expectations of our customers, I almost feel bad for them when I see those, but not quite.

The latest I saw was one of our larger competitors (there aren't all that many left in that category) that had 3 out of 4 at a site with negative feedback. I checked some of the other review sites and saw some really negative comments, including comments about unethical business practices (capturing funds when they place the order, not when it's shipping was one example).

At the same time, I know that we've had comments left about us saying "If you ever want to be as good as them, you need to change this or that." People seem to want everything tomorrow, shipped for free while getting the lowest price for the product that they can and not paying sales tax. Sort of a "Give it all to me, but I&…

Business Growth

Image
Growth in business is a good thing, right? Every small business dreams of becoming a medium sized business. Every medium sized business dreams of becoming a large business. Every large business dreams of becoming a large Enterprise.

What we've experienced over the past 24 months far exceeded most of our dreams. However, to truly understand, let's go back 6 years when I started with the company.

My Beginning - A Strip Mall
That's right, when I started with ToolBarn.com, we were leasing 2 bays in a strip mall. The Brick-n-Mortar had been running for a while already and had gone from needing 1 bay to having to add the second bay for the service center and a bit of extra warehouse space. My office was up a long, narrow staircase in some space shared with our accountant at the time. We also had a desk that was shared by a few people at different times of the day.

Building Upgrade #1 : Part of our own building
The first building upgrade wasn't long after I started. We moved about…

Gmail Spam Filtering

I enjoy reading Jeremy's blog (Yahoo employee), so when he suggested using gmail for spam filtering, I laughed. Of course, Matt's blog is more up my alley most days, but a Yahoo employee saying he's using Google technology to filter his email is just priceless. So I spent part of today setting that up for myself.

I'm able to forward my email address to gmail, then have it forward anything that isn't spam back to me at a different account. And, since I use IMAP, I can drag and drop all of the email on my old account to the new one pretty easily. Of course, if I used POP I wouldn't have anything to drag and drop, but I also couldn't get my email form the road as easily, including history and sent items. It also works very well for our CSR's. Well, ever since we got Tim's mouse fixed. ;-)

In any event, the gmail spam filter is doing a great job for me so far. I can find the good stuff and haven't lost anything I needed yet. I'll have to keep tabs…

SEO latency

SEO is annoying. I make changes today and see results in weeks or months. I make changes, may not see results, may see a huge boost. Frustrating. I don't know of any other profession where you wait weeks or months to see if what you did made any difference.

Of course, if you wait weeks to months in between changes, that means competitors get stronger while you sit and wait. So you're forced to make more changes while you're waiting to see what the prior ones did, meaning you never really know what it was that made the difference.

What a frustrating profession.

Geo Location Report - Google Analytics

There are a couple of really cool reports that Google Analytics has available that most analytics packages ignore. They are the Geo Location Report and Geo Map Overlay.

Google Analytics / Marketing Optimization / Visitor Segment Performance / Geo Location
This report will show the top countries. From there, you can break it down to states (or providences or territories). From there, by city. Nothing earthshattering, but things started making sense to me during the USC vs. Texas game.

Sales have looked a little off since the game started. Normally, I'd say it's a Wednesday so there are a lot of people at church. However, tonight I can take a different view. Our top state just happens to normally be California, and our 3rd best is normally Texas. Take a bunch of those people out due to the game and traffic is suddenly down. By breaking it down by city under each state, things really start getting interesting.

Normally, we don't care that much what our top states are. However, wh…

Google Analytics is Odd

As an analytics customer, what is the main thing that I want to find? Well, that's simple. I want to find the most common key phrases that people are finding my site for. However, that's one of the toughest things to find on Google Analytics. So where is it hiding?

The easiest way I've located the keywords is about 6 steps deep. I click on Marketing Optimization, then choose Visitor Segment Performance, then click on Referring Source. From there, you've got a new report to look at. You should see the organic search engines (and perhaps some others) listed in the report. Clicking on one of the double arrow icons will bring up a few options, one being Cross Segment Performance. Click on Cross Segment Performance, then you'll have a list of options, with one of them being Keywords. Clicking on that will show your top 10, with a drop down above the graph for choosing more at once.

How's that for intuitive?