Customer service staff needs support
Discover new sites and the secrets to web success
Vol. 3, No. 5 March 6, 2002
In This Issue:
1. Web content tip
2. Email tip
3. Readers Write
4. The Y Files (Q&A)
5. Surf Club - web site reviews
6. Reader's choice
7. Weekly chuckle
Web version and back issues
ADVERTISEMENT - Second e-newsletter date
E-newsletter Workshop ($495+GST)
Brisbane - 11 March (sold out)
Brisbane - 13 March (a few seats left)
Sydney - 24 April
Web Content Workshop ($995+GST)
Sydney - April 11-12
Canberra - April 18-19
From the editor - Customer service staff needs support
Seems the more "evolved" we become, the more difficulty we have telling the difference between human beings and robots.
Judging by the comments in online forums, customer service (or the lack thereof), is a growing source of discontent in the 21st century.
It's hard enough to get a sensible response from email help, let alone phone.
After waiting a month for an accounting software upgrade (ordered and paid for over the Net), I rang the company's customer service number (for the fourth time) to check on the whereabouts of my package.
The voice on the other end was human but might as well have been computer generated. She kept repeating the standard response despite my frustrated attempts to explain the situation (and the fact my BAS tax statement was already late).
Eventually, I gave up, hung up and dialled back later in the hope of connecting with a real person. Fortunately, the second woman was far more receptive and the package arrived on my doorstep first thing this morning.
I empathise with customer service staff. Theirs can't be an easy job in a society deficient in courtesy. But if businesses invested as much in the education and training of their people as they do in machines, everyone wins.
People want to be treated like people, whether customers or staff, online or offline.
The way the boss communicates with the employees is the way the employees will communicate with the customer.
Treat people with respect, listen to their concerns and show gratitude. Ultimately human beings, not tools or capital, are your greatest asset.
What do you think? Have your say on the brizcommunicator discussion list. To join, go to -
Web content tip
Not surprisingly, more than half of all Internet users lose their temper with the Net at least once a week, according to a new study.
Top grievances are slow page downloads, unhelpful help buttons, and demands for personal details before entering a site. Mice and keyboards bear the brunt of the anger while one IT manager admitted to smashing up his £2,500 laptop in frustration.
Read more on the study -
And an article I wrote about Net rage last year -
Should you send out your e-newsletter as plain text or the more attractive HTML?
That's one of the questions we'll address in next week's E-newsletter Workshops. As with all online content, the decision depends largely on your purpose and reader.
Clickz columnist Heidi Anderson presents a case study that shows how plain text can sometimes work best -
Sun-safe Pollyanna discovers the joys of swimming with the opening of a covered heated pool in her small town. She also graciously reviews a book for us, "Following the Wrong God Home" by Catherine Lim.
If I've sent you a book and you have a few moments, please email through a brief review (you can use a pen name if you're scared).
Read them at - http://www.brizcomm.com.au/readerswrite/default.asp
* Send your review to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be happy to publish it - along with your own URL, if you have one.
The Y Files
Keren Bell from Brisbane sent in this week's question - and picks up "Revenge - Trinity 2" by Fiona McIntosh.
Q: I recently purchased Windows XP Home Edition and uploaded it to my home computer. The operating system (OS) is great with the opportunity to maintain an excellent My Pictures section etc but every time I'd go to a site to look up some real estate (I'm hoping to buy a new home soon) I'd get a message "must download Java Virtual Machine". How frustrating. Apparently Microsoft decided not to add this to their OS package and it took me several tries to download the 5.3MB file from the Internet over nearly an hour on my so-called 56K V90 modem. Why? Why? Why?
A: Ah, at last, a question I cannot answer. Why does Microsoft do anything? For a company of its size and scope, you would think they'd lead the way in customer service and usability. Not so. At least their shortcomings leave room for the rest of us to shine.
For hints and news on XP, PCs and other computing acronyms, see the archives of Ray Shaw's helpful newsletter at http://www.rayshaw.im.com.au/
Email your stumper to email@example.com (and I'll post you a book).
* Previewed on ABC Radio Queensland with Andrew Lofthouse on Monday evenings
Peter Pan's Home Page
If you thought Peter Pan was safely tucked away in Never Never Land, think again. Peter's actually a 48-year-old computer programmer in Florida. He wears green tights, has his own Tinkerbell and wants to encourage other pixies, elves and fairies to be themselves. The site won a Webby Award in 2001 - in the weird category.
In a net shell: Fairy strange.
Walk the Great Wall
Take a virtual stroll along the Great Wall of China, thanks to a collection of 360-degree panoramas. Images are taken from a section of the wall between Jinshanling and Simatai, a picturesque walk taking between three and five hours. The Great Wall of China was built more than 2000 years ago to protect agriculture and resist the Huns and other warrior tribes from the north. Follow the links for a virtual tour of Tiananmen Square, see the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe in action, view Hong Kong from aboard the Star Ferry or try to achieve Nirvana in The Tibet Game.
In a net shell: Walk on the wide side.
With so many Net services starting to charge money, it's refreshing to find some things are still free. These online arcade, card, puzzle and strategy games run inside your web browser so you don't have to download or install anything. Choose from Clix, Rush Hours, Frogger, Pacman and other favourites. Game creators will find tips, chat and library.
In a net shell: Keep your coins.
Open Source Web Design
Want to build a personal web site but don't have an aesthetic bone in your body? Choose a free pre-designed template from this contributed collection. Most of the designs are in tables, categorised and ranked. Now you just have to figure out the content (what you're going to put on your site).
In a net shell: Free head start.
Send a fax directly from your email address to almost any fax machine in the world with this free advertising-supported online service. You can dispatch the fax direct from the OURFAX web site or use any email service (browser-based email or personal programs such as Eudora or Outlook). Just register then type the firstname.lastname@example.org (where "faxnumber" is your destination fax number) and the email goes out as a fax.
In a net shell: Just the facts.
World's Greatest Shave For A Cure
In the name of a good cause and an attempt to break the world record, more than 40,000 Australians will shave or colour their hair (heads, eyebrows, legs, beard, chest). The event, from 14-16 March 2002, aims to raise $7 million for leukaemia research and support. Click on the map to find your nearest shave location, register online as a participant, make a donation, sponsor a shavee, send a fun e-card or download fact sheets and images.
In a net shell: Can you cut it?
Wow. What a response to my plea last week for reviews of favourite sites. Lots of great books are on their way to readers who answered the call. We have enough now to last us for months. Thanks heaps.
Carol Gregson from Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast is first cab off the rank. She scores a copy of "How Women Succeed in Business" by Pru Goward.
I have become very addicted to the forum on the Weather Channel. It's serious plus fun. The site has very informative updates on the weather. For technical advice about the weather, visit http://www.weatherzone.com.au
Send your brief site review to email@example.com
English is a crazy language
* whose cruel idea was it for the word "lisp" to have an "s" in it?
* how come abbreviated is such a long word?
* why is the alphabet in that order?
* why does the word "monosyllabic" have five syllables?
CONTENT EDITOR WANTED: Are you a dynamic communicator who understands the many modern applications of the written word? Leading Brisbane web applications provider ICE Media has junior and senior openings for talented wordsmiths. You'll be confident in undertaking a variety of writing and editing work across electronic and print media. Working for us, you might be writing case studies, producing and editing web content, or advising clients on information design. You will ideally have experience or a formal qualification in writing or editing, some exposure to new media environments and an ability to produce quality work to a deadline. If you know how to make content count, email your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org or post it to: Content Editor's Position, ICE Media Pty Ltd, PO Box 1612, Milton Q 4064 Closing: 11/03/2002.