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Weekend Favs February Sixteen

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr or one that I took out there on the road.

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Floridian skies – shot this on a recent trip to Orlando

Good stuff I found this week:

Hangouts on Air Schedule – Find, join or watch Google Hangouts on Air of interest and schedule and promote your own.

yutongo – Idea crowdsourcing tool that allows you to develop ideas with staff, friends or the greater yutongo community.

Instamonial – Social word or mouth testimonial app that makes it easy for you and your customers to post testimonial images and text to social newtworks

5 Ways to Turn Incredible Customer Support Into a Profit Center

This post is one in a series of tips for making your small business run better and is sponsored by UPS. UPS is all about logistics — the logistics that makes your business run better and faster

customer support

photo credit: paul bica via photopin cc

Providing customer training and support is costly, but it’s also quite important.

Some organizations view it as a necessary evil while other, more innovative thinking companies, view it as a way to differentiate, up sell and create additional profits.

The key to creating support that generates profit is to create support that’s worth paying for. The way to do this is make it a formal package, think about it like a product and offer it either as a tangible added value or as an à la carte offering.

The Apple Genius Bar is a great example of how to generate profits from support. They sell service packages, offer training programs and even take back and recycle old products when you upgrade.

There are many ways to tap this mindset. Below are just five examples of how to turn extraordinary customer service into a revenue stream.

Live Q and A chats

When someone buys a product or service of any kind you can offer reassurance that they will receive full value from their purchase by implementing regularly scheduled chat sessions where users or customers may ask questions about their purchase and receive help with features or implementations.

Of course this is also something you could offer as a pre-sales education tactic as well as a paid subscription add-on.

There are many tools available that make this tactic somewhat easy to implement. If you are a 37Signals software user you probably already use their integrated chat tool Campfire. There are other tools such as Chatroll that allow you to embed a group chat tool on your website for a simple branded option.

Drop in Fridays

If your customers are primarily local you may want to schedule a time where customers can come in or bring a product in and receive additional advice, specific training or simply a chance to network with other users.

Trade in days

If you sell a product that is upgraded frequently, such as technology, or has you going head to head with competitors, create and promote specific times when customers or prospects can come in and get credit for recycling an old version or upgrading to your product over a competitors.

Be prepared to offer a service that makes it both very attractive and very easy to switch.

This tactic lends itself to hard goods, but certainly software and other process driven services could benefit from this approach as well.

Weekly Hangouts

One of my favorite tools right now is Google+ Hangouts. Using this tool you could easily create video Q and A chats, offer weekly lessons or simply create a series of expert adviser knowledge sharing sessions to benefit your clients.

One of the reasons I really like this tool is that you also broadcast these sessions publicly or password protected and archive them on YouTube to instantly create a library of customer service and training videos.

Online courses

Once someone buys a product or engages you to provide a service you easily establish a relationship of ongoing support through online courses.

The technology to create, manage and deliver content using full-blown membership site tools such as Kajabi or WordPress plugins such as Premise or Wishlist Member makes this approach something that every business should consider as a way to expand offerings and generate a residual stream of revenue.

Most content delivery applications today integrate with leading eCommerce payment systems as well as shopping cart, CRM and email service providers.

The need to provide basic support and training will always be part of the deal, but by creating even greater levels of support, delivering it in new and exciting ways and making is worth paying for is how you grow your profitability in ways that also makes your organization stand out.

Google Plus Hangouts On Air is a Killer App

The Google+ live video chat function called Hangouts has been with us over a year now and I thought at the time it might be the best feature of Google+. However, it was the recent On Air addition, which allows you to broadcast and record your Hangout to your YouTube channel, that made me really take note.

Google+Hangouts On AirThe opportunity to create and record engaging video content just got a whole lot easier with this tool.

Whether you want to do a one on one interview or host an industry panel discussion featuring ten experts, Google+Hangouts On Air gives you a live streaming platform and automatic HD video capture.

I love the immediacy of a live broadcast, but you also have the option to edit the final version in YouTube to take out slower moments or edit out questions or to simply give it punch with an intro or images.

If you have someone monitoring the live YouTube stream you can even take text questions from the live audience. There is a screen sharing option so you can also present slides or share anything from a Google doc or spreadsheet.

I conducted a recent panel discussion with six participants. We had over 300 live viewers and the archive has been viewed several thousand times. The format, platform and ease of use has me hooked.

I could see some great uses for this:

  • One on one interviews vcast style for a video blog
  • Peer to peer industry discussions
  • Pre conference or event showcases
  • Opinion or current event discussions
  • Survey data analysis and discussion
  • Live customer case study or success profile
  • Meet the author book club groups
  • Product launches
  • Educational seminars

The tool is very easy to use, but I thought I would share a couple tips

  • When you create a Hangout you will have the option (in Advanced drop down box) of making it just a Hangout or adding the On Air feature. (You will be asked to confirm ownership of the YouTube channel you are linking to so you must be using a YouTube channel that is associated with the same email as your Google+ account)
  • Privacy settings in Google+ make it so that you may not be able to add or invite someone to a Hangout unless they have you in a circle, so make sure all invitees take this step and be careful not to add Public or anyone will be able to join (Also make sure you click the option that restricts your guests from adding anyone unless you want to give them this option.)
  • Remind your guests to log in to Google+ at show time and join the Hangout that will be listed on their page.
  • Remind them further to have their video camera on, microphone chosen and earphones for listening. (They cannot play the Hangout through speakers or it will echo back through their mic)
  • It’s a great idea to test everything ahead of time if you can so you make sure all plugins and such are up to date.
  • Good, natural lighting is a real plus when it comes to video
  • It is a good practice to share the URL for the YouTube channel so your guests can invite viewers, but remind them not to have the YouTube broadcast live in a browser tab as it is delayed a few seconds and can cause some real confusion
  • When you launch the Hangout the On Air function is not live so you have some time to make sure everyone is on and has working tech. When you want to go live you push the On Air button and wait for the countdown plus add about 3 seconds of you smiling into the camera before you start to make sure you record everything
  • When On Air Hangouts has the host featured in the video box with all the guests in small panes below the main box. It moves whoever is speaking to the main view so any noise can be interpreted by the tool as speaking – tell you guests to make sure they are in a private, noise free environment and that they are on camera at all times, so even the pecking of keys while they return email will move them to the main screen.
  • Once you’ve finished with your event you turn the On Air feature off and have the ability to debrief with guests if you like.
  • Go to your YouTube channel and make immediate modifications if you like such as choosing a thumbnail and adding rich description. You can also use the increasingly full set of editing tools to add more flair.
  • You are suppose to be able to schedule Hangouts as Events in the future and have them show on your YouTube channel as coming soon, but I tried to use this feature and it did not work.

So, there you have it, yet another great way to create content. Use a tool like Speaker Text to create a transcript of your Hangout and you have content in several forms.

So, how have you used or viewed a Google+Hangout On Air?