Forbes Names the Web Celeb 25

Congratulations to the influencers of the influencers who were named “The Web Celeb 25″ by Forbes.

What’s most interesting about the list is that, while many tech leaders and bloggers are on the list (Mike Arrington – #2, congrats!), a celebrity gossip hound is at the top and a stay-at-home Mom has one of the most widely read blogs in the world.

It just goes to show once again that the Internet has evened the playing field – from authors and actors to the corner CEO’s office, the world is open for the taking and the Internet makes it possible for anyone to do so. What an exciting concept.

Who Caught Your Eye in 2007? Tell the Crunchies Committee

Anyone that hasn’t had a chance to nominate for the Crunchies Awards should take a look and place votes for your favorite sites, people and emerging tech companies of 2007.

Nominations are only open through tomorrow, December 12, so log on and list your favorites now. The Crunchies Committee will then choose five finalists from the submissions and voting will start on December 13 and last for approximately one month.

If you are looking for some inspiration on who to vote for, check out some of PerkettPR’s clients nominated for selection this year:

Conduit ; “best international start-up” – community toolbars

Moola.com ; “best time sink site,” “best consumer start up” and “best international start up” – the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Rewards Game (MMRG)

Ezmo ; “best consumer start up” and “best international start-up” – social music sharing

Sosius ; “best business model” – free online collaborative workspaces

Here’s some additional background on the awards from the Crunchies blog:

“Together GigaOm, Read/WriteWeb, VentureBeat and TechCrunch are pleased to announce that nominations for the inaugural 2007 Crunchies Awards are now open.

We created twenty award categories to recognize the year’s most innovative technical, creative and business accomplishments of key companies, products and people. We hope you’ll agree that the award categories are good reasons for celebration and fit for a proper ceremony.

We invite you to submit your favorite companies and products for consideration. Read the official rules. Nominations will be open through midnight pst Wednesday, December 12. Finalist voting will open Thursday, December 13 and run for approximately one month before the awards ceremony on Friday, January 18 in San Francisco.”

Customer Service Part II – Do Your Customers Hate You?

On Friday we wrote about how customer service still matters. Today’s Boston Globe reiterates the importance of great customer care in a Business Filter blurb titled, “Customers Hate You.”

The Globe pulls a few gems from the recent Marketing Daily study, “America Suffering Customer-Service Meltdown,” indicating, “that about 62 percent of Americans say companies “don’t
care much” about their needs. That’s up from 52 percent in 2004.”

Looks like we were on the money last week when we mentioned that it’s nice to experience some human interaction in the day and age of “do-it-yourself” online services – the report states that “92 percent [of survey respondents] say they have tried to circumvent an automated phone tree
to find a real person, futilely jabbing at the zero and pound sign,” and that it’s one of their biggest frustrations.

Marketing Should Focus on Existing Customers as well as New Ones
“67% of the survey participants say marketers care more about selling existing products than really helping the customer, an increase from 58% in 2004.”

Marketing is often solely viewed as a lead generation function. But this report, and the loud frustrations echoed by today’s customers, indicates that it must wrap current customers into the mix as well. How does your marketing department work with customer service and relations? Should marketing focus on customer retention in addition to customer acquisition? Perhaps if more marketers worked closely with their existing customers they could build more honest, compelling and effective campaigns.

Your customer base is one of the best mouthpieces for your business – treat them well and they will naturally become a key part of your customer acquisition and marketing strategy – nothing speaks louder than a referral from a happy customer. Except maybe an unhappy one.

In a Web 2.0 World, Customer Service Still Matters

With all the do-it-yourself technologies prevalent in today’s Web 2.0 environment, customer service is very often stripped down to an IM chat or email. Often it’s impossible to get a human on the phone when you most need it, and when you do happen to “catch” a customer service representative, cultural barriers, sour attitudes and long processes tend to prevail. Now, more than ever, customer service matters.

One of our clients, Constant Contact, has always recognized this – their entire culture is built around taking care of the customer. Personally, we’ve experienced some great customer service this month from other vendors – and as a small business, it’s great to be treated with the care, respect and importance that is often only reserved for large customers.

Two examples:

Promopeddler

We had to order a rather large supply of light up glasses for the TechCrunch Boston MeetUp. We called a vendor we had used before and when we were negotiating some timing/pricing issues, the approach was a threatening “we may be more expensive, but you’ll regret it if you don’t use us” attitude. That doesn’t play well with us, so we tried a new vendor, Promopeddler. Promopeddler won our business due to their sales rep, Laurie. Laurie’s approach was not only that she was grateful for our business but she went above and beyond with her customer service. She was truly the reason they won our business.

Laurie was proactive, persistent and consistent – all the way past the point of the glasses being delivered. She provided extensive contact information, contacted us daily to let us know the status of the rushed order, called us when she thought a color aspect could be better – and provided a recommendation – and even followed up to ask us how our event was and if the glasses worked out. Our customer experience was so outstanding due to this woman that as long as she’s there, we’ll be a customer. We noticed they made the Inc. 500 “because we give personal service with every order.” Yes – they really do.

Verizon Wireless

We had a unique situation to solve with some BlackBerry purchase from Verizon. It required getting on the phone with some customer service representatives, which is not always a very positive experience. However, one customer service representative, Anthony in New York, made all the difference today. He was very clear every step of the way through the process and he was so personable we ended up chatting about baseball and football – and even though he was a dreaded Yankees fan and we are diehard Red Sox fans (most of us, anyway), we felt like a customer that mattered. Anthony made a time consuming process not only bearable but even entertaining – and experiences like that stick with your customers, so they stick with you.

The point here is that yes, the Internet provides a mostly do-it-yourself marketplace and opportunities to communicate without ever saying a word. But positive, helpful and verbal human connections are still important ways to make your brand memorable – and your customers loyal.