Dealing with the Dreaded Cranky Customer

A few days ago, a co-worker asked me what my strategy was in handling the really disgruntled customers. You know the type, the players that, at times, submit some really angry, downright nasty support tickets and emails. I feel that one thing that helps me manage, is recognizing that the majority of the time our medium for communication with our players and customers is the internet. It is difficult to convey one’s tone in text over the web, and couple that with the fact that dealings are not face-to-face, and it’s a little easier to understand how a disgruntled customer can easily come off as aggressive. Also, many complaints revolve around money and poker. As someone who has logged over 2M hands of online poker, I understand how emotional someone can become when the cards don’t fall their way. And when money is involved, emotions often become amplified. Being able to recognize this allows me to let the more personal criticisms roll off my back.

If a player is especially angry, heated, or nasty, I typically go over other support requests and come back to the “angry” guy. Things never seem as angry or personal when reading them over the second time around. Another method I use to appease a disgruntled customer is something I learned a few summers ago when working in the dining room of a high end spa and resort. Often time’s customers simply wanted to be treated with respect, and recognized with a little personal attention. After all, they are the ones that make a business run, and sometimes customers just want some recognition that the company needs them.

Something else I learned at that old summer job was if someone is especially offensive, I try to be overly polite, and explain the entire situation. Giving out minor details in regards to how a process is run, instead of a just a blanket response of “we are working on it” or “it will be done soon”, helps to foster understanding between the customers and the company. Often times in the course of text correspondence, things are overlooked or forgotten. At times I’ll receive complaints that a player only received a Freeroll invitation 3-4 days before the tournament. They didn’t check their email until now, and forgot about and/or missed out on the Freeroll tournament. Now they are livid that we did not provide them with adequate notice. When this happens, I very politely let them know that the email is just a friendly extra reminder, and provide them a link to the rakeback page where all Freerolls and events are typically posted 3-4 weeks in advance. Back when I was more involved in playing online tournaments, I would often have Post-its stuck to the four corners of my monitor, scribbled notes, and multiple cell phone alarms set for different times of the day when various tournaments and freerolls were going off.

All-in-all, dealing well with a disgruntled customer comes down to patience, politeness, and understanding. You need to put yourself in the players’ shoes, and try to imagine where they were, and in what state of mind they would have been when they fired off that angry email. Understanding the customers’ predicament, while responding politely and informing them of the current situation has helped me to disarm many tense situations and foster a better relationship with our players and customers.

SEO Presentation

I attended a talk last week and two of the speakers were SEO consultants from Distilled, a company with close ties to SEO Moz. The following are some of the ideas presented in that talk. It is by no means comprehensive, but contains some of the more relevant points.

Page Title

The page title appears in multiple places: browser bar (above URL), bookmark text, search engine results page and external sites (delicious, etc). There was a high level of importance placed on this, especially among ‘on page’ ranking factors. The tricky part about the page title is balancing the value of the brand with the value for a keyword. Consider the following:

Example #1: Primary Keyword – Secondary Keyword | Brand Name
or
Example #2: Brand Name | Primary Keyword and Secondary Keyword

Basically it was said that in most cases, especially if the term is highly competitive, use Example #1. If the brand gives added value or is known as an authority, then use Example #2.

URLs/Domains

Page Names

Use short, descriptive URLs with relevant keywords. Use dashes (-) instead of underscores (_).

GOOD: www.mydomain.com/texas-holdem-tips.html

BAD: www.mydomain.com/view_item.php?listing_id=477443&pic_id=2

Domains

Same as above: use short, descriptive domains with relevant keywords.

GOOD: http://www.poker-tips.com

BAD: http://www.something-not-related-to-your-site-and-way-too-long.com

Canonical URLs

Duplicate content comes with penalties, so be sure to use a consistent URL structure for all of your links to help your site get properly indexed.

GOOD:

BAD:

For more info, see this Google Webmaster Blog post or this article by Matt Cutts.

Page level content SEO

Text

There is a zen like balance between on page factors such as URL, page title, H1-H6, text and images/media. Basically the page title, H1, image ALT tags, should have keywords and variations thereof sprinkled throughout in Goldilocks/Three Bears like fashion.

Images

As far as images, use keywords in the following areas:

  • ALT tags: use on all images (alt=”Good Texas Holdem Hand” )
  • Filename: (good-texas-holdem-hand.jpg, NOT image12.jpg)
  • Text that surrounds the image

Meta Description

Basically it does not affect SEO/ranking per se, but that it can help (along with page title) with click through rates. This is because it is what users see/read on the search engine results page so be sure to keep these more ‘human friendly’ than search engine friendly.

Page speed

Although not a huge ranking factor, it is being used by Google and will only improve your visitor’s experience. The question really is why NOT optimize?

5 Reasons to Use YouTube to Host Videos

Displaying videos on websites has always been tricky and can quickly become frustrating when you’re trying to make them work in all browsers. One of the easiest ways to avoid the headaches of hosting and embedding issues is to use YouTube (or others, such as Vimeo). Here are 5 reasons why:

Ease of Use

Upload is easy and source video can be in a variety of formats including: AVI, MPG, MOV, WMV, & more. Currently videos can be up to 2GB in size and 15 minutes in length. In most cases, this is plenty. The whole process takes a few minutes; video will be encoded automatically and available online within an hour or so.

Customizable

When you click “Embed” you can select a few options, the most obvious being the dimensions of the video. There are even more customization options as well:

• Autoplay
• Loop
• Start
• Border
• Full screen
• Related Videos
• HD playback

For details on these settings, see the YouTube Embedded Player Parameters.

Free Hosting

Videos use up a lot of server space and can quickly eat up bandwidth. Why pay for this when you can easily offload the work and get it for free? If you post a lot of videos this becomes even more invaluable.

Browser Compatibility

To get videos working properly in all browsers while using valid code there are a variety of embedding techniques, some easier than the others. Even with HTML5 and the new video tags, this will continue to be a bit of a headache for developers if a self hosted solution is used. Save time debugging and post video with confidence that it will work flawlessly every time.

More Exposure

If you’ve created a video, why not share it and gain more exposure to your site? You can also keep it private if need be but in most cases you might as well keep it public and post a link to your site.