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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Issues Escalation and Support Guidelines in a start-up environment

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

images[2]You may have noticed a pattern here at KikScore where feedback and the question of when is a product ‘ready’  are hot topics. So, how do you define, measure, and enforce quality in a start up product? Once the product is ‘live’, how can you effectively support your product and react to customer issues and concerns? There are a few key software quality assurance guidelines to follow that apply to products of all shapes and sizes.

During the development phase you must test, test and retest. Depending upon the complexity of the software being developed, this could be a short or lengthy venture. Testing in phases, as pieces of the application become available, is highly recommended. This allows you to not only find major issues early, but also helps ensure you aren’t building upon sub-par code as the product continues through the life-cycle. Also, find a means to track and report status on any and all issues found during the test cycles. A spreadsheet can work if you don’t have a bug tracking system and there are a few free/easy to use ones available.

Even if you had ample time to test everything you could think of, upon release to the general user community, they will find issues you never dreamed of. Once you are ‘live’, your team needs to gauge the severity of any issue that is uncovered or reported to assess the impact and allocate resource(s) accordingly to address it. This is critical in the case where there are limited development resources and you need to prioritize their work so as not to affect other focus growth areas.

Severity can be broken into 3 levels – this also gives the entire team a common terminology when discussing issues.

Severity 1

– Core functionality is not working.
– There is no available work-around to perform the requested action.
– Error messages are displayed.

Severity 2

– Basic functionality is in question.
– There is a work-around to gain access and perform the requested action.
– The system handles the situation gracefully, either with a general ‘logged out’ message or other user-friendly notification.

Severity 3

– General usability items.
– Application is functioning fine, but confusion is raised throughout the display or general system navigation.

Once you’ve qualified the issue, how do you support it through the process and keep the customer informed?
Let’s assume you have a Severity 1 – how do you deal with it? In a small start-up shop, where most of the team has day jobs, creating an on-call or support tier works wonders.

1. Create a weekly on-call support staff that rotates and consists of 2 resources per week.
On a weekly call (or other avenue that applies) — Identify the 2 on-call resources per 1 week interval

2. During the support week, the 2 resources on-call are responsible for researching issues reported and be point of contact for:
– responding to the customer(s) who reported the issue
– involving other team members as needed to escalate/resolve the issue(s)

3. Support resources are required to provide daily updates to the rest of the team on progress of reported issues.

4. Where a code change or update is required, the support resource(s) schedule a team call to outline next steps and expectations

5. If 4 happens, the entire team should discuss the response back to customer(s) on the fix.

The Golden Rule – If a customer found the issue and actively complains – always treat as Severity 1. Be open and honest with your customers surrounding errors that are found and get a fix released in a timely manner. This builds trust in not only your product and support but builds integrity into your brand. What is your quality cycle or lessons learned?

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

KikScore's New Look: Don't Go Changin' Unless It's A Lot Better

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

So we launched KikScore a few months ago and we had, in our minds, a pretty good marketing site.  But in our own echo-chamber, all of our ideas sound great.  We then did something that was truly smart — we started listening to people outside our own company.  We asked for feedback from friends and family, customers and industry professionals.  We even used a cool site called usertesting.com — which allows you to watch strangers review your site (you hear their comments and see how they navigate the pages).

We gathered up the feedback and the trends were eye-opening.  They broke out along the general categories of: (a) how is your product different; (b) where do you sign up; and (c) what exactly does the service work.  So we went back to the drawing board (and when I say we, I mean our partner, Joel, went spent countless hours on the re-design).

Our new marketing site is out (www.KikScore.com).  In a post coming soon, Joel will provide his thoughts on design and the evolution of messaging.  But until then, we’re going to continue to solicit feedback…as we can always get better.  Please take a look at our new site and provide us your thoughts.

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Is There Brand Loyalty In A Recession?

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

sThere are no atheists in a foxhole, but is there brand loyalty in a recession?  In our household, the answer is…nope.  I’ve been noticing this past year the slow emergence of generic groceries cropping up in our cabinets.  Generics?  Dear Lord, the last time I was subjected to generic groceries was growing up with my frugal parents.  Instead of Fruit Loops, we got those Fruity O’s…you know the similarly colored, fruit-flavored cereal that comes in a bag.  Yum.  But my wife insists that times have changed and store-label food products are just as good.  So instead of Irish Spring, we now use Up And Up (Target’s generic brand of green soap).  It’s not bad.  Instead of NyQuil, another Target brand (we love Target).  Instead of Cinnamon Toast Crunch…we continue to get Cinnamon Toast Crunch (you don’t skimp on the important things).  But our household isn’t alone.  It appears that in 2009 there was a surge of generic and store label brands in grocery stores.

But besides my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, I did notice that our household isn’t going generic on clothing…specifically my wife’s boots and jeans.  And she is making the point to go to her favorite small business boutique to get these items (Garbarini, just in case you’re looking to do some shopping in Denver).  When I asked why, the reason she said 1)  because Garbarini has a much better selection than the department stores; and 2) she wants to make sure her favorites stores survive the Recession.

So this Recession may be an opportunity for small and online businesses for a couple of reasons.  First, shoppers are obviously looking to save money and don’t really care where they buy their Sony Bravia — obviously an advantage for online sellers with no overhead cost.  However, ther may also be some brand loyalty to stores and business that specialize on certain product lines and/or customer service.

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Are Successful Entrepreneurs Really Risk Takers? Malcom Gladwell Doesn't Think So

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

malcom-gladwellBy nature, I’m a contrarian.  It could be that I just like to argue, but if the conventional wisdom is one way, I’m inclined to believe the opposite.  Since “Blink” and “Tipping Point” became the reference points for almost everyone in the business world, I started to heavily discount any theory or research posited by Malcom Gladwell.  The great thing about being a contrarian, you don’t even need to read the work or understand the position that you’re disagreeing with — you just take the opposite side.  So, of course, I had a very good handle on Mr. Gladwell’s work without actually reading it.  Unfortunately, my intentional ignorance didn’t last long.  As a reader of the The New Yorker, I kept coming across articles that I really enjoyed.  The problem: these articles were written by Malcom Gladwell.  When does this guys sleep?  He’s everywhere.  I wouldn’t be surprised if shows up on Sesame Street, explaining  supply side economics in a child-friendly way. 

Why this long explanation?  Because I’ve completely abandoned by dim view of Mr. Gladwell, and repeat every single thing he writes as gospel.  I sicken myself.  Today will be no different.  In a recent New Yorker article, Malcom takes on the widely held belief that successful entrepreneurs are risk takers and mavericks.  In his view, that may be true for many entrepreneurs, it just isn’t so for successful ones.

Instead of being risk-takers, successful entrepreneurs are those with unique insight or information that see the value in something that others do not, and strike.  These individuals don’t risk their own money (or if they do, very little of it) and act more as predators than as free-wheeling mavericks.  He profiles Ted Turner and John Paulson to make these points.  And ends the with the results of a survey of individual business owners — where it establishes that this group is much more willing to settle for less monetary compensation so long as it is more certain.

So what’s your view?  Do you agree with Malcom, or are entrepreneurs risk takers?

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Small Biz interview with Little Duck Organics owner Zak Normandin

Monday, January 25th, 2010

LDO LogoToday’s KikScore interview is with Zak Normandin, owner of Little Duck Organicsa unique and tasty organic snack food for infants and toddlers – and adults too!  We came across Zak and Little Duck Organics on Twitter where Zak and team are actively promoting their yummy organic treats.  Little Duck Organics is relatively new to the online community and shares a passion for the world of small business and bringing a much needed product to the organic conscious community.  I had the pleasure of talking for awhile with Zak and sharing startup ideas and promotional concepts.  Thanks for your insight Zak and for being a KikScore customer!

1. Tell us about Little Duck Organics and who you focus on serving?

Little Duck Organics is a business that I started developing in February of 2009. My wife and I have always been a fan of all natural/organic/locally produced products, and when we went food shopping for our daughters we really didn’t see anything like that available in the baby aisle. Most of the products that were available contained added sugars, artificial flavors, and preservatives which we preferred not to feed to our kids. When we talked to other parents, they agreed that there was definitely a lack of wholesome, nutritious products available for babies. At the time, I was looking for a new venture to invest in, so I started researching what it would take to bring an organic line of baby products to market. It took me about 10 months to design our first line of products and arrange to have it manufactured and packaged. In December of 2009, we formally launched on Amazon.com and at independent grocery stores in New Hampshire.

2. How did you get started with selling online?

One of our first customers was Amazon.com. They started buying products from us in December to sell through their online grocery division. This was the first experience that we had with selling products online. At the beginning of this month (January), we set up our own online store to begin selling Little Duck snacks directly to customers through our website. This allowed us to have a little bit more control over product placement, descriptions, Etc. Overall, the experience has been great. We’re focusing now on increasing our conversion rate and finding new ways to advertise to potential customers.

3. Where will Little Duck Organics focus most of its energy in 2010?

In 2010, our goals will be to expand our retail and online distribution channels and develop the Little Duck Organics brand. One of our main focuses will be to build customer loyalty and awareness within the baby products niche. We will be working closely with the blogging community, and plan to do a lot of traveling to sample our products at retail stores. In addition, we’re planning on introducing two new products later this year that will compliment our current line of products.

4. If you had 1 lesson that you learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what would it be?

The biggest lesson that I have learned so far since we set up our online store is that you need to be very aware and organized with all of the external costs associated with selling a product through a website. Credit card fees, boxes, packing materials & shipping costs all add up with you are selling a product with a low retail price. You need to keep these things in mind and adjust your prices accordingly so that what you are offering to customers is still attractively priced.

5. As 2010 begins, what trends do you see in your business this year?

As far as trending goes in the organic baby sector, I think that there will be more of a shift from the conventional baby food companies to upgrade their product lines to incorporate more natural/organic options. Fortunately for us, Gerber will always be Gerber and Beech-Nut will always be Beech-Nut. No matter how they market their products, they will always have the same brand-association in the mind of most consumers. Our advantage is that we were able to start from ground zero and build a brand around a mindset (Creating delicious organic baby snacks with no preservatives or additives).

6. If your business could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

I’ve always loved the movie “Click” with Adam Sandler. I really relate to his character, and although the movie does not directly relate to Little Duck Organics, I can see a lot of similarities between the story-line and our business. For anyone who has not seen the film, the main character is an architect who has the ability to fast forward his life to critical points of success. Basically, he does not want to have to go through the mundane and only wants to experience the promotions, bonuses, success Etc. I don’t want to ruin the movie for anyone who has not seen it, but at the end Sandler learns to appreciate his family, friends, and the journey of life more than he previously had. I’m making a big effort to do the same in my life and at Little Duck Organics this year. I need to enjoy the process of building the business and everything that comes along with it. We’re doing something that most people only dream of , and that in itself should be viewed as an accomplishment.

7. If Little Duck Organics could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

I can’t think of anyone specific off the top of my head, but it would have to be a celebrity or someone famous who has the same mindset as our company. I would prefer a mom who understands the value in feeding wholesome organic foods to their children.

8. How do the folks at Little Duck Organics let loose after a busy day working?

Although most of my time is spent building the business, It is nice to wind down after a long day at work. At home, I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughters. We love trying out new foods and traveling. In the summer, we usually go for a walk every night with our dog. My older daughter loves helping me cook, so I try to do that with her whenever I can. At three years old, she can already make a mean Alfredo sauce :-)

9. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Know your competition, Work your butt off, Pray for luck.  Cheers!

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

What Sparks a Small Business Venture?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

ks Pic2When starting a small business, what drives and motivates you? Is it passion for a cause or the imminent proof that there is a vacancy for a certain need? In talking with a variety of small business owners for our KikScore blog, the desires and drive to start their own venture vary as much as the different products and services they offer such as KKBB and SimplyAstro

If I were to have followed true passion in where I could be doing the daily equivalent of a comforting and true cause past time, I would have opened a No-Kill Cat shelter… however, this was a very difficult venture to get past my husband Lou, who has more of a passion for golfthan rescuing cats. Add the fact that neither of us has the building space or other means to house so many furry friends. Plus the overhead of running a shelter can be very costly and you need to ensure you have ample vet care on site and plenty of other key resources.

The general thought is you will find happiness doing what you love, it takes the ‘work’ out of ‘work’.   So what you need to find is a viable product, service, or solution that people need — or something that you can convince the general populous they can’t live without.

So how did my KikScore business partners and I end up here?

Another key element in launching a successful start up is to tap into the inner expertise of yourself to uncover a passion that had been slighted due to mundane day job activities, or inability (not to mention lack of desire) to climb the corporate ladder.   All of us at KikScore have vastly different backgrounds, yet a strong desire to not only be our own bosses eventually, but also to provide a product that is cutting edge.

Technology became a strong passion of mine, having launched my career shortly after college working for one of the most accredited entrepreneurs out there, Bob Parsons at Parsons Technology.  As technology and the Internet have migrated over time, running in stride and identifying the gaps are what caused KikScore to come to fruition.

How do I feed that need to own a cat shelter someday? Well… we do have multipe cats running about our home which reminds me I’ve saved some great lives. I frequently volunteer at the local shelter to share the warmth and experience some excess purring.DaxCosmoHeineken

Back to the original question, when starting a small business, what drives and motivates you? Share your stories and ideas with us. We’d love to showcase your small business story for the next KikScore blog!

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Diary of a Start-Up: Is this Business Making Me Fat?

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

fat_bastardMost of us on the KikScore team work day-time jobs. Working on nights and weekends is very reminiscent of grad school — your days are filled up and then you do your homework at night. Not a big deal. We are all thankful for our jobs as well as having a growing side business.

But this weekend, after watching Brett Favre put a hurt on the Dallas Cowboys, I thought about working out. Now mind you, I’m not a fitness buff (Raj, please stop laughing). It doesn’t take much to convince me to put off a work out — I just thought about some KikScore business that needed attention and that was that. It did get me to think about other small business owners, however, who have an erratic schedule. Does owning your own business make you fat(ter)?

Take my Dad…please. No, I’m kidding. He’s a great guy and has owned his own businesses for 30 years. But exercise came after raising a family and bulding a business. So, in other words, he could drop some pounds. Of course, there are plenty of examples of successful small owners who are in terrific shape. But are they the except to the rule? Most Americans are heavy by definition. But controlling for other factors, are small business owners in worse shape than most? After spending some time Googling some rather offensive search queries (‘are small business owners fat’, ‘are entrepreneurs in worse shape?’) I still can’t find a good answer. I did see that most small business owners are against the latest health care bill — but that has to do with the fatness of their wallets, not waistline.

So, any anectodal information or actual research on this would be appreciated. My wife is particularly interested in any information you may have.

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Customer Reviews and Blogs: Do They Matter?

Monday, December 14th, 2009

There are a lot of websites and blogs that track the good and bad customer experiences with online sites and service providers.  The general notion is that these past experiences will help predict what future experiences will be.  The concept makes a lot of sense, but it presumes a few things to be true.  I just finished reading SuperFreakonomics, so I think I’m more than qualified to address these issues in a rigorous manner (did I mention that I am a scientist?  Yep, I graduated with a degree in political science, so you’re in good hands):

Sample Issues: The review sites and blogs are very much slanted towards those actually inclined to share their experiences, and those who actually know how to share them.   There is a large bloc of people not interested in telling the world about how they were ripped off by an unknown online seller (it’s called “loss avoidance” and most of us engage in it at some point…see I told you I was a scientist).  The sample of these comments are further vexed by the fact that some people don’t know how to voice their opinions (or which sites to do it with) — so the sample will likely skew towards more positive and be made by those familiar with technology/online industries.

Fraud: This is also a concern, and likely why most ratings skew overly positive…online sellers/service providers rate themselves (via fake accounts or their friends).  It’s not “fraud” in the sense of defrauding someone out of their money, but it’s not honest and defeats the purpose of customer reviews.  It’s similar to how I used to inscribe my own yearbook to make it seem like I had more friends.

Low Visibility/Little Negative Impact:  An online seller isn’t likely to promote their customer reviews unless  they are positive, so it takes a consumer extra effort to research the negative reviews.  And once you do come across those reviews, what do they mean?  If you’re about to save 20% on the new plasma t.v., it’s likely that you’ll take your chances — it’s likely the previous customers were just complainers. 

Time for the anecdotal: My wife bought a new light fixture online.  She receives it and finds out it can’t be used in a bathroom because of a potential fire hazard.  The contacts the owner of the site, he tells her “she should be fine putting it in the bathroom”).  After realizing she is not going to be able to return the item, she threatens to “blog about her experience”.  Of course, she has other things to worry about and in time she moves one — no negative review, no blog posting, no negative effect for the online seller.

Of course, we here at KikScore think we’ve solved the issue, but until we’re ubiquitous, we’ll have to determine whether customer reviews are helpful.  What are your thoughts?

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Posts Tagged ‘reputation management’

Brett Favre and Business

Monday, December 7th, 2009

brett

I may be starting something I shouldn’t with this post, as most of us on the KikScore team are ardent professional football fans (except Raj, who likes the Cleveland Browns).  The first 20 minutes of our Monday meetings are consumed with rehashing Sunday games (we get a lot more done during baseball season).  This year my favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, signed Brett Favre and, in turn, they are having a great season.  So, to the disgust of Mike Collins (my business partner and Green Bay fan), I’m going to write what Business lessons can learn from the Brett Favre acquisition.

Patience:

Everyone assumes that when you come out with a new product or service, it has to have immediate market success, as-is.  But as Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes clear in his book “The Black Swan”, one of the greatest strengths entrepreneurs have is the ability to tinker.  Tinkering with a concept until it suits the market is the whole point of business.  What’s the tie-in to Brett Favre?  Well, his first year in the NFL wasn’t notable.  He was a back-up quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons — and didn’t show any indications of being a future Hall of Famer that he is.  But over time, he changed his work-out methods, how he approached the game and now, at the age of 40, he’s having one of his best years ever (that’s after 20 years of tinkering).

Talent:

Last year, the Vikings had almost every member of the current team.  They lost in the first-round of the playoffs.  Now, who knows how it will end this year, but this year’s team is much different than last year.  The biggest difference is Brett Favre — his experience and talent.  The business lesson is pretty obvious.  You can have all the supporting pieces, but talented leadership (or lack of it) can raise or sink the level of everyone else around him/her.

Brains Over Brawn:

Somewhat related to patience, is the importance of experience/intelligence.  There are a lot of faster, younger players than Brett.  In fact, the Vikings have two younger/faster quarterbacks and they still chose to hire Mr. Favre at $14M/year.  When it comes to business, it may be tempting to promote the new HBS graduate — she knows all the cool Malcom Gladwell terminology and interned at some investment bank (that no longer exists).  But maybe you should look again at the company veteran, the one that knows your product and industry well.

This posting could go on and on…so out of interest of preserving my dignity, I’m going to now end my love-letter to Brett.  Feel free to send any jeers or life-sports lessons.

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