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Answer Up Right Now
By: Developer Shed
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    Answer Up Right Now
    by Bob McElwain

    Online businesses that once thrived continue to fail
    to our left and right. Yours has no special immunity.

    If you have begun to notice the ground shifting about you,
    the foundations of your business may already need shoring up.
    They may even need to be rebuilt upon the more secure ground
    of fundamental business principles. Which includes, right
    at the top of the list, providing excellent customer support.

    Microsoft Models Will Fail

    Microsoft is notorious for launching a new product or a new
    version of one, that crashes on most systems the moment it is
    installed. And it often crashes other software as well, even
    tools you need and use every day.

    Have you ever tried to get an answer from MS regarding such
    a problem? I don't know of anyone who has received one that was
    helpful. The best I have seen was, "We're working on it."

    I don't have a profound observation to share, for my thinking
    is not sufficiently clear. But Microsoft will not be around
    forever. They can be beat. And since it's possible, it will
    happen. Not in the near term, of course, but it will happen,
    perhaps sooner than anyone expects.

    Adobe Acrobat's Days Are Numbered

    Acrobat's claim to fame is its ability to run compiled
    postscript files on most any computer system. If we produce
    software or ebooks that run only on Windows systems, we ignore
    MAC users, and in many cases, those with older PCs as well. To
    date, Acrobat offers the only solution. But they are doomed.

    There is not a word of explanation on the site about how to
    use the program. There are no specifics
    about what it can and can not do. There is no email address
    offering answers to questions. Only some fuzzy Q & As intended
    to sell related products. There is a user forum. However it is
    not supported by Adobe and the information available is limited
    in scope and accuracy. There is no contact information of any
    kind for Adobe Systems. Not even a phone number or street

    Since there is no trial version (the trial on their site is
    a joke; it will compile only a single web page), I had to buy
    it to try it ($268). And it's just awful. The documentation
    is written in computerese with a liberal sprinkling of Adobe
    jargon. There is no search function.

    I have never seen a more cumbersome piece of software, or one
    tougher to get going. Further, results in converting web pages
    are disappointing; they are not the equal of those produced by
    Internet Explorer or Netscape.

    The technology is available to do it right. Adobe apparently
    sees no need to change. One day some creative person is going to
    produce a cross-platform compiler that works effectively,
    intuitively, and as expected. When they add in solid customer
    support, Acrobat will be history.

    The Danger In Rigidity

    Adobe has taken an extreme position regards the way in which
    Acrobat is sold, and in denying support. It works only because
    there is no competition.

    Given a competitor, they will begin the long slide to
    failure. Large businesses such as Adobe (or Microsoft) simply
    can not shift gears quickly enough. The business model in place
    tends to remain the mode, long after its usefulness has ended.
    Others with more effective contemporary models will shut them

    What Shape Is Your Model In?

    If you are not using the best business models available, you
    are at risk. Even if you are, a further step is required. All
    must continually be reevaluated, then enhanced as new thinking
    becomes available. To the extent you lack flexibility, you are
    at risk.

    Two More Examples

    I have been using Eudora to handle my email for many years.
    I was forced to upgrade Internet Explorer recently, and this
    clobbered Eudora (among other programs). When I visited Eudora's
    site, the upgrade price was $29. This is kind of steep, since
    a new user pays only $39. It's even steeper, since I needed an
    upgrade only for compatibility with Internet Explorer. It should
    have been free. Instead, the arrogance of Microsoft was
    converted to a "business opportunity."

    Eudora has provided excellent support over the years. But it
    is slipping now. A purchaser can ask only six questions. The
    new version is not working well; I have more than six questions
    right now. It took me six business days to get an answer to the
    first one I asked. They now appear to be riding the no-support
    trail, a dead end not far ahead.

    I signed up with the my current hosting service quite some
    time back. I liked the performance and support very much. Now
    both are slipping. Support is a joke. Replies are incorrect,
    and often off target.

    My Options

    I'm stuck with Windows. And I'm stuck with Adobe for now,
    if I want to support MAC users. But Eudora is not the only mail
    handling program available. And hosting services abound. I am
    considering options.

    Customer Support

    There is a clear trend within many businesses to minimize
    the need to provide customer support. Given its awesome size,
    Microsoft may be able to ignore customers indefinitely.
    A smaller firm such as Adobe faces greater immediate risk.
    A small business has no hope of making this model work.

    Support Is Expensive

    The reason companies block support questions is the expense.
    If Adobe were to suddenly open the doors, they would be flooded
    with questions. They might see much of their profits disappear
    in answering them. And collectively the questions might demand
    modification of the program, another great expense.

    If you are handling all aspects of your business, the time
    required to respond to questions comes out of your day. If you
    hire someone to respond, the dollars come out of your pocket.
    Either way, the questions will likely indicate things about your
    business or products which must be changed. Which is another
    expense. But such costs must be accepted as a part of doing

    Customer Service Is The Key

    Provide a great newsletter. It's a must. Even if most
    site visitors do not subscribe, they expect the option to
    do so. Coupons and special offers need to be abundant.
    In all ways possible, you must demonstrate your concern
    for, and interest in, your customers.

    What Matters Most

    Answer all questions received. Do so quickly, completely,
    and cheerfully. And from the questions asked, seek ways to
    improve your products and services.

    New ways of interacting with customers are coming. Some will
    provide exciting opportunities. None will beat the effectiveness
    of answering a customer's question. And doing so right now!

    Bob McElwain
    Want to build a winning site? Improve one you already
    have? Fix one that's busted? Get ANSWERS. Subscribe
    to "STAT News" now!

    Web marketing and consulting since 1993
    Phone: 209-742-6349

    DISCLAIMER: The content provided in this article is not warranted or guaranteed by Developer Shed, Inc. The content provided is intended for entertainment and/or educational purposes in order to introduce to the reader key ideas, concepts, and/or product reviews. As such it is incumbent upon the reader to employ real-world tactics for security and implementation of best practices. We are not liable for any negative consequences that may result from implementing any information covered in our articles or tutorials. If this is a hardware review, it is not recommended to open and/or modify your hardware.

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