Leveling up the customer service experience with Facebook chatbots

Facebook has just made it even easier for its 900 million consumer and business users to connect with each other. Currently, consumers rely on Facebook Pages to learn updates and get in touch with their favorite brands, an opportunity that Facebook saw to introduce an easier way for both sides to interact. And so far, businesses have flocked to try out this latest offering.

The latest from Facebook comes in the form of bots, confirming TechCrunch’s scoop earlier this year that Facebook’s Messenger team has indeed been working to create programs of automated messages. Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook Messenger’s head of product, discussed during one of his interviews that the current state of communication between businesses and consumers online are seemingly highly robotic and the chatbots role is to improve that connection. Before, when chatting with a bot, you would simply be asked basic information whereas now you get more customized messages to help address your need.

Taking the Leap

Among the many businesses that have taken a shot at using Messenger’s latest platform is Dutch airline KLM who soon plans to allow customers to obtain their boarding pass directly through the app. Uber, on the other hand, has already gotten an early start with the service, now allowing customers to order rides via the app, adding greater convenience to its service offering.

An estimated 5,000 Shopify merchants are also distributing order confirmation and shipping alerts using Messenger’s platform. This only goes to show how e-commerce companies are eager to further engage Facebook’s almost one billion users.

What chatbots can do to level up the customer service experience

Using the platform’s new Send/Receive API, chatbots are able to send structured messages that include images, links and even call-to-action buttons. This means people can now perform tasks like make restaurant reservations, purchase tickets and even send flowers to loved ones all on one platform via means of messaging. There will be no payments allowed as of now though for fear of possible hacks and security breaches.

Businesses would also be able to send out sponsored messages ads to people who have started a conversation with their bot. Advertisers have an option of promoting the ‘click to message’ feature on Facebook’s newsfeed to attract target consumers to engage in a conversation with their bot.

Consumers need not worry about the chatbots getting too spammy as just like with ordinary chats with friends, there is also an option to silence notifications from the bot.

Chatbot Analytics on the Way

Alongside the chat feature, Facebook also introduced analytics to see how customers actually respond and engage with these chatbots. Given that the service is fairly new, such insights will help Facebook to continually improve its service and give the best online-customer service experience.

Chatbot analytics will also help programmers see the messages that most people find engaging or which call to action or messaging schedules come across as unappealing. This way, it’s win-win for both consumers and businesses.

The introduction of chatbots has led to many financial experts see Facebook potentially doubling up its revenues in a few years, if it can successfully bridge customers and advertisers using this app. This could lead to Facebook domineering the online market world and changing the way that many businesses manage their customers.

Keep Website Visitors Coming By Balancing SEO & User Experience

Back when Google was just a few years old, the company’s management penned down ten things they knew to be true. The first one on the list? ‘Focus on the user and all else will follow’. And then a few years later, they went ahead and invented Search Engine Optimization. Brands quickly replaced user design (UX) and instead opted for SEO-centric design with web pages stuffed with keywords, indexable content and crawlable link structures.

That said, user-centric design cannot be completely forgotten in a bid to serve the user. For instance, there are some design elements that makes it tough for Google to crawl a website successfully. A good website is one which balances both UX and SEO such that they complement each other perfectly.

Tips to keep in mind to ensure that both UX and SEO co-exist for a marketing win:

  • Stop Keyword Stuffing – Using keywords in your web content is essential to increase your website’s visibility among all search engine results. Do this wisely. Google’s intelligence can easily tell if you are unnecessarily filling your content with keywords that simply aren’t relevant to the web page. So don’t write for search engines. Write for your readers.
  • The onslaught of content that audiences are being exposed to ensures their ever-changing positions in the evolutionary customer lifecycle. Your website content has to be updated at a speed that’s faster than the change your audience is going through. To optimize user experience, ensure that your website is up to date with all the necessary news, trends and updates your brand is experiencing.
  • Forget complicated elements on your website. Your website should be clean, simple and easy to navigate. The average human being’s attention span dropped from 12 seconds in 2008 to 8 seconds in 2013, which is one second lesser than that of a goldfish! So if viewers aren’t able to find what they are looking for in a few seconds, they’re going to switch on to something else. It’s also recommended that an XML sitemap be submitted to search engines. This will help them understand the structure of the website and index web pages, thereby aiding your SEO mechanism. When your websites doles out a stellar user experience, your traffic will increase and your SEO will grow as Google’s algorithm measures overall usability of the website.
  • Make the jump to responsive design – You never know what device your website is going to be viewed on. Between PCs, laptops, mobiles and tablets that all vary in screen size, responsive design is your best bet. This feature automatically resizes and reformats your website based on the device the viewer is using.

Today, the equation has changed. It’s no longer about SEO vs. UX. It’s about SEO + UX.

At the end of the day, it boils down to the overall experience a website can offer a user. With Google’s 200+ signals and trademark Page Rank algorithm, it’s going to measure which websites users ‘vote’ as best among all the others in the search engine sphere. And that’s what is going to matter the most!

Walk In Your Customers’ Shoes To Create A Great User Experience

To ensure great user experience, build your website, product or service from the perspective of your customers. Anticipate all their needs from the start to the end of their interaction with your business and you will be able to reap results.

Think like your customer to build a great user experience

What constitutes a great user experience?

In the design field, user experience is often thought of as defining and managing an individual’s experience of a product, service or a website. This means that designers create products, websites or services based on how they believe their customers would use it. A perspective like this is simply flawed because it takes customers out of the picture, who are the ones that actually decide whether a product is great or not. The value of a product, service or website is often dependent on the customers’ perception because they are the ones who choose whether one brand is worth purchasing over another. Simply put, creating a great user experience is putting your customer in the centre of the design process.

The Ritz-Carlton hotel chain is one company that makes the experience of its customers a priority; no wonder why it is one of the top luxury hotels worldwide. In one example, a family was vacationing at the Ritz hotel in Bali when they faced a problem: the specialised eggs and milk they brought for their son with food allergies had gone bad. Staff at the Ritz-Carlton tried to find in vain these products in town but found none. The executive chef of the hotel remembered that a store in Singapore sells them; so he called his mother-in-law and asked her to purchase them. He then flew her to Bali to deliver the products to the family. Such effort of the hotel helped ensure that the family had a wonderful time at the Ritz-Carlton and enjoyed their vacation. It also shows the great lengths the hotel would go to provide its guests a hassle-free stay.

With the availability of the Internet and social media, feel-good stories like this can get around fast, and so does customer complaints. A negative comment or a feedback can quickly put your business in a bad light, and discourage other people from purchasing your product or your services. If you don’t rectify the issue immediately, the public can easily think that you do not care about your customers, which can hurt your business. Since many enterprises would like to avoid this, some of them are replacing the term “user experience” with “customer experience” to cultivate a customer-centric mindset in their day-to-day operations.

In fact, businesses need to enhance their focus on customers nowadays as technological developments intensify competition. For instance, ride-sharing app Uber has gotten the cab industry up in arms as it provides people an easier way to get a ride by booking in advance, increasingly taking customers away from traditional cabbies. Payment is done via credit card, eliminating the need to tip. If cabbies or other businesses want staying power, they need to enhance customers’ experience to secure their loyalty.

Simply put, businesses need to give more importance to providing a great “customer experience” if they want to remain competitive. Make sure that all points of interaction that a customer has with your website, product or service address their needs. You wouldn’t want to end up seeing a customer complaint go viral because a certain issue wasn’t addressed properly. United Airlines lost US$ 180 million in 2009 after a customer made a music video on how baggage handlers broke his custom-made guitar, and when the airline was not responding to his calls about the issue. For any business owner, a massive loss such as this should be avoided at all costs.

Great user experience can guide your business toward growth

Providing a great user experience to your customers will yield returns for your business. Some of these are:

  1. Greater customer satisfaction, which enhances customer retention – As mentioned earlier, your customer gets to decide the value for your product or service, not you. A great user experience can win the loyalty of your customer, and ensure repeat business for your company.
  2. Increased productivity – A seamless transaction on your website, or a product that allows your customers to easily accomplish tasks can increase sales or complement your marketing efforts when you receive great feedback. Always consider the feedback of your customers because these can show you room for improvement and help you achieve efficiency in your business.
  3. Better lead generation – Customers that are satisfied with their experience on your website, product or services can help promote your business through word-of-mouth. They can tell others how your business provided convenience or efficiency for them, and point them to you. As a result, your customer base expands, which generates additional sales.
  4. Differentiates you from competitors – A great user experience will help you win the loyalty of your customers and set your business apart. As a result, your customers will always prefer your brand over others and even encourage their family, friends and other acquaintances to try your products or services. This can increase your market share against your competitors because your customers are seen as credible source of information.
  5. Less costs on staff training, support – When your website is easy to navigate, or when the service you offer is very simple, your employees will easily learn their role in the company and need fewer hours for training. This allows you to save time and expenses related to training. When customers quickly grasp how to use your product or your service, you can also avoid the expense of providing support for basic issues, and instead allocate resources for complex problems.

Simply put, providing a great user experience is a win-win for your company. It allows you to gain more customers, while helping you save on costs to achieve efficiency. Whenever you are planning to release a new product, service or a feature, try to get into the mind of your customers first to address their needs in order to provide them an experience they will never forget.

Taking a bite out of iOS 8 becomes treacherous for Apple users in Australia

By Sandra D’Souza

Apple rolled out iOS 8.0.2. to repair glitches such as Wi-Fi issues and problems with the Touch ID feature from its recently-released iOS 8.0.1. update.  However, these issues remain persistent for Apple customers in Australia who updated to the latest iOS version.

A great mobile device keeps it simple

Smartphones and tablets which implement simple and easy to use controls offer customers a great user experience.  This means that the device should be ready to use once it is outside of the box, without the cumbersome need to set up its different features. This is very important since mobile devices are now being used for tasks that are normally done on a desktop computer, because they offer a faster and a more convenient alternative.

One of the mobile device makers that put a premium on simplicity is Apple, especially on the physical appearance of its mobile phones.  From 2007 up to now, iPhones still feature a glass screen and a single button on the front. This includes the newly-launched iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models. Now the company seeks to expand its portfolio with a smartwatch and a mobile payment service.  These efforts may underscore Apple’s drive to keep things simple and convenient for its customers through its products in the market.  As a result, the demand for Apple products increased. The company has been able to ship 800 million OSX devices this year, said CEO Tim Cook.  This means that Apple products are widely used all over the world.

However, the company cannot escape a tidal wave of customer backlash if glitches are experienced in its products. Customers quickly publish their complaints online to elicit an immediate response from the company.

The iOS update that proved to be poisonous

            Apple rolled out its iOS 8 platform following its launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus models.  Customers who have updated to the iOS 8 platform encountered Wi-Fi connectivity issues, shorter battery life and slow performance of the Safari browser on their mobile devices. In response, the company released the iOS 8.0.1 to address these problems. However, the new operating system only made matters worse after causing dropped calls for users and disabling the Touch ID fingerprint feature on iPhone 6. It also prevented users from accessingthe HealthKit apps as part of the iPhone 6 rollout. This prompted Apple to release theiOS 8.0.2 update.

Unfortunately, some of these glitches remain persistent for some Apple users.  The problems with the updated iOS are particularly prevalent among Apple customers in Australia.  After updating his iPhone 6 to iOS 8.0.2, one customer said that the Touch ID has been “completely broken.” This has prevented him from “unlocking” his phone with his fingerprint.  Another user lamented that he has issues with Touch ID and cellular service that should have been resolved with the 8.0.2. update.

Other comments at the thread state that there have been improvements with the iOS 8.0.2. The issues appear to be concentrated among users in Australia. However, Apple Australia has yet to provide comments regarding these problems as of press time.

The temporary cure

For iPhones afflicted with iOS problems, there is still hope in having them fixed and returning them to a proper running condition. The answer lies in downgrading to the iOS 8 operating system. However, this would delete everything on the phone.

Users need to connect their phones first to iTunes on their computer, and back up their data with iCloud. After this, they can download the ipsw file for iOS 8 here. Users would need to enter their phone model to download the iOS8.0 firmware. And then, they should plug their phone once again to iTunes, and open the device window. They need to press the alt/option for Mac, or shift for Windows and then click the Restore button. Once done, users would need to select the ipsw software they have downloaded.

This would return the iPhone back to a working condition, but it is not advised to restore any data as it would overwhelm the service. The IOS 8.0 platform would only be temporary as Apple continues to address the glitches on its operating system.

However, users need to refrain from rebooting all their settings on iOS 8. A glitch on the system would delete documents from the iCloud drive on iPhone and iCloud.com.  The “Reset All Settings” option states that any data or media will not be deleted, but it does the opposite. Apple users at Macrumors.com reported that the bug takes out iWork documents such as spreadsheets. Meanwhile, Preview and TextEdit documents remain unaffected because these cannot be accessed on an iPhone.  The administration at the site tried the same thing, and even synced an iPhone with a Mac running on OS X Yosemite.  The Preview and TextEdit documents were immune to the bug, but all other documents were deleted from the machine as well.  One user tried theTime Machine application to retrieve the documents, but another said that his account was placed in troubleshooting mode to restore data. Apple is still waiting on the investigation of its engineers on the issue, and has yet to issue a solution for the problem.

This article originally appeared in http://www.learnmarketing.com.au/user-experience/taking-a-bite-out-of-ios-8-becomes-treacherous-for-apple-users-in-australia/

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Fundamentals of Email Marketing Every Marketer Should Know

By Sandra D’Souza

Email marketing is one of the most popular and widely used methods to reach potential customers and generate leads. It is more cost-effective than traditional forms of advertisingand its results are quick and immediate. It is relatively easier to create and monitor, too. But before you incorporate this particular marketing method into your overall digital strategy, it is important for you to understand several key principles behind email marketing. Having a clear understanding of what email marketing is all about can help you develop better strategies, which could lead to better results and bigger profits.

How Email is Delivered

According to Derek Harding, every email marketer should know how their email gets deliveredto their intended recipients. Although knowing such technical details may seem irrelevant or even useless, he explained that it is still important because it can affect a wide range of areas.

For instance, spam filtering affects and depends on how your message gets delivered. If you don’t understand how spam filtering works, you cannot say for sure if your prospects are indeed receiving your emails. Knowing what blocking and filtering, the difference between RIBL and URIBL, bounce codes and responses are, as well as understanding how they impact the delivery process will help ensure that your messages are being sent successfully to your intended recipients.

How Email is Displayed

Today, there are many different ways for internet users to access and read their emails. Some check out their inbox through their desktop computers, while others do it on their tablets and smart phones. For this reason, it is important for an email marketer like you to know how emails display across different platforms. This will allow you to fully optimise the content and design of your emails to be responsive to different device screens, thus, making it easier for your intended recipients to read them.

Basic Metrics and Analytics

According to Derek, email marketing is a data-driven medium. Unfortunately, many marketers don’t know how to use valuable data, such as delivery, open, and click rates, to their advantage. As a result, their email marketing campaigns are almost always under-performing.

It is very important for you to have a good grasp of data analysis and to use basic metrics when crafting your messages. For example, if your emails have very low open and click rates, you should determine what prevents your prospects from reading them and following through. Are your subject lines not enticing enough? Are your email messages lacklustre and boring?  If they are, you should create interesting and compelling subject lines and email copies to encourage your recipients to click and open them. You should also include a clear and concise call to action to direct readers towards your desired conversion goal. This will help improve your open and click rates and at the same time, help you generate more conversions. 

Privacy and Security

As an email marketer, you might be handling a vast amount of data and information that could possibly indentify an individual. Therefore, it is essential that you are aware of and that you fully understand the latest privacy and security laws. This is to protect the privacy of your prospects and customers, as well as ensure that you are not unknowingly breaking anti-spam laws and placing your company at a risk of being sued.

Knowing the basics and the fundamentals of email marketing will serve as a good foundation for your campaigns. The benefits of successful email marketing campaigns include repeat customers, bigger sales, and an increase in your customer database over time.

This article originally appeared in http://www.learnmarketing.com.au/user-experience/fundamentals-of-email-marketing-every-marketer-should-know/

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A Beginner’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

By Sandra D’Souza

Having the ability or being able to work with someone who has the ability to influence others and affect change is a powerful attribute many marketers want to posses. After all, having the capability to easily convince others to do something simply by virtue of being popular or an expert in your field can definitely have a huge impact on the success of your business. This thought process, along with other factors, gave rise to what we know today as influencer marketing.

For those who have no idea what influencer marketing is, Eric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting, offered a brief explanation. According to him, influencer marketing is “the process of developing relationships with influential people that can lead to their assisting you in creating visibility for your product or service.”

There are three major ways influencers can significantly affect your business, Enge explained. First, they can write a blog post/article about you. Second, they can share information about you in their social media accounts and with their respective communities. And third, they can ask you or permit you to guest post on their site. All of these methods can give you more exposure and boost your online visibility, which are helpful in creating bigger brand awareness and attracting more potential clients or followers.

However, one does not simply approach an influential person to aid your cause. According to Evy Wilkins of Search Engine Watch, marketers should look beyond demographics. If you want someone to help you influence your prospects, you should look for influencers based on their interests and passions. Wilkins said people are more inclined to listen to influencers who produce and share content that can get them excited about specific things.

And before you get influencers to help you establish a solid reputation online, first you must help them serve their audience. At this point, influencers care more about their own community than your brand. After all, it is through this community that they were able to become influential. As such, if you want influencers to help you, you must first lay the groundwork by understanding their community. Help them address the needs of their audience and it is very likely that they will return the gesture.

Also, don’t ask influencers to endorse you right from the get-go. Chances are, any attempt you make at winning their trust (and ultimately, their assistance) will be ignored. Not to mention asking someone you don’t know to do you a favour can be quite rude. Therefore, you should treat them well and “focus on their unique passions, interests, and personalities” so you can convince them to back you up. Wilkins stressed out that you have to build connections with influencers before you can “unlock their value.”

Once you have earned the trust of influencers and successfully convinced them to help you out, you should take the time to maintain strong relationships with them. According to Wilkins, the value of your influencer relationships grows over time. “Invest the time it takes to spark connections, earning trust, and sustaining relationships. The more you get to know each other, the more value you can create for each other,” she said.

It has proven time and again that most people follow and trust the opinions of experts, authority figures, and influential people. As such, it would certainly help to enlist the assistance of influencers.

This article originally appeared in http://www.learnmarketing.com.au/user-experience/a-beginners-guide-to-influencer-marketing/

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The ‘Flat’ Look – Passing Trend or Strategic Move?

By Pat Gudhka

Flat design is getting more and more popular with each passing day, and while people often dismiss this style of design as simply altering the aesthetic component of a digital product, take a look deeper and you’ll notice a lot more strategy behind the ‘flat’ look.

Despite the restraints of minimalism, flat design offers sophistication and complexity. It aims to embrace the limits of the screen, streamline designs, make exploring the web easier and faster, and often more functional. It trades in the gradients for plain colours, a reaction to the smothering skeuomorphic designs that we see everywhere.

‘Skeuomorphism’, in context of the digital world, is to emulate any objects in the physical world in the Graphical User Interface or GUI.  Apple products are popular for skeuomorphism – take the Apple Clock for example; the design incorporates subtle details such as the shuddering movement of the second hand that otherwise only happens on the physical counterpart.

Problems with Skeuomorphism:

  • It limits creativity and functionality when emulating components that are irrelevant in the digital format.
  • It looks inconsistent when combined with less dimensional components.
  • It can take up valuable screen space and increase load times.

Is flat design the solution?

  • Flat design embraces the limitations of the digital experience. By accepting that anything on a screen will never truly look three dimensional, it strips away the decorative illusion and uses beautiful yet simple design to create a better user experience.
  • It looks friendly and inviting, but it does this by displaying a clear, engaging GUI rather than mimicking a physical product that you are familiar with. It strips out the unnecessary visual elements but is not as restrictive as minimalism.
  • It works great for small screens, particularly app or mobile design. The Android platform and the Windows Phone both use flat design for their operating systems.
  • Through simplicity, it allows users to grasp messages more quickly. Images such as icons can indicate universal actions or purposes so that any user can easily understand them. The Noun Project is a great resource for such icons, supporting the flat design approach.
  • It ‘pops’ through the use of vivid colour – lots of it! In the example below you can see the UI aspect of searching for a flight on an app designed by Indonesian UI designer Bady and how the design relies on colours and icons to give users meaning.
  • It puts the focus back on words. The message on your site is essential, and flat design gives you the responsibility to play with the typography and layout to truly explore what works.

Because it strips away all the unnecessary components of design, flat design is often hard to achieve and requires a lot of work and attention to every detail. There are no places to hide with this approach.

That being said, flat design has all the ingredients to make a site beautiful and enhance functionality. It understands that a sense of familiarity is important to the user experience but does this via the digital medium and not through replication of the physical world. It’s adaptable and open to new ideas, and is far more than a passing fad.

This article originally appeared on http://www.learnmarketing.com.au/user-experience/the-flat-look-passing-trend-or-strategic-move/

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User Experience: The Terms You Need To Know

By Pat Gudhka

General terms used in UX and their definitions:

Accessibility

The attributes and characteristics of a system allowing people with limited vision, hearing, dexterity, cognition or physical mobility to interact effectively with a website. Guidelines are available and certain standards can often be enforced in some markets.

Brainstorming

A method for generating ideas, with the intention to inspire a free-flowing discussion and exploration of thoughts of an individual or a team, typically while avoiding criticism in order to promote uninhibited thinking.

Braindrawing

Braindrawing is a type of visual brainstorming in which a group of participants sketch ideas for designs, icons, screen layouts, or other visual concepts.

Card Sorting

A technique for exploring how people group items represented by cards, so that you can develop structures that maximise the probability of users being able to find items easily and effectively.

Cognitive Walkthrough

The cognitive walkthrough is a usability evaluation method in which one or more evaluators work through a series of tasks and ask a set of questions from the perspective of the user.

Persona

Fictional person created to model and describe the goals, needs, and characteristics of a specific type or group of users. Does not describe a real, individual user nor an average user. Often includes made-up personal details to make the fictional person more “real”.

Scenario

A story which has the key elements of a realistic situation when the user would interact with the system being designed or evaluated. The scenario includes consideration of the user’s goals, tasks and interaction. Scenarios can be created for user groups, workflows or tasks to explore, understand and test the different types of needs and goals.

Storyboard

A technique for illustrating an interaction between a person and a product (or multiple people and multiple products) in narrative format, which includes a series of drawings, sketches, or pictures and sometimes words that tell a story.

Usability

Usability is the degree to which something – software, hardware or anything else – is easy to use and a good fit for the people who use it.

Wireframe

Rough outline of navigation and content elements that make up a user interface. Typically visual design and precise layout are not addressed.

This article originally appeared on http://www.learnmarketing.com.au/user-experience/user-experience-the-terms-you-need-to-know/

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