Tag: linkedin

Review of 2009

Dear Diary, Family and Friends,

Whilst I had many thoughts this year and published many ideas and deep thought pieces, it is always a pleasure to sit down just before Christmas and have a yearly review. Just a review of things that happened, things that should have happened and dreams I had, and of course dreams that came through.

Let’s start with work, not because it was the most important part in 2009, but to get it covered πŸ™‚ The year started with a big pitch and lots of work, many long nights and a great learning experience. However, it ended with my work not managing to secure the business. We had to make people redundant too, including one of my staff. It was a sad time at work. Privately, the times got more and more exciting, looking forward to my wife giving birth to our son in June.

I started writing weekly reviews as of March, just after the “big London snow” in February. The weekly columns helps me to keep track and sometimes I go and read them again. Our male cat Hansel for instance got his balls chopped off in February and we went to a Baby Show. Thinking about it, I still remember every minute of it, particularly the Baby Show πŸ™‚ We also changed our mortgage, thinking that interest rates had hit rock bottom. They hadn’t but we are still happy we have done it. A crystal ball could have helped with a lot of decisions this year. Santa, please put one under the tree this year πŸ™‚

Also in March I went to a conference in Oslo and had a very busy schedule leading up to another big pitch. On the private side of things, leading up to mid April, we had another scan and went to concert of Kate Rusby. Two weeks later I found out that my work closed the London office and since I couldn’t relocate to York, I had to find a new job.

Between anticipation of the arrival of Colin Heinrich Ballueder on June 12th, I went for interviews and could secure a new job which I started as of July this year. I was glad to not have to wait around for too long to find a new position and was very excited about the opportunity. However, as you know, things didn’t work out at the end.

I had never thought how Colin would have changed my life. Not only did you see my 8 weeks review, there was another one later on. He is great and we cannot wait to have another one soon. But when would be a good time? It was a steep learning curve for me to have a boy, and my focus shifted only slowly from “this is my wife’s job” to “I want to get engaged with my son”. I don’t want you to misunderstand this, but I think for someone who is very focused on his job and work, it is not the easiest to adopt to a baby. But, particularly with my time off in December and the great support of my wife Jenny – and of course the cutest smiles and laughs as of month four – I absolutely enjoy fatherhood.

In October I decided to get myself a career coach which helped me a lot towards goal definitions and motivations for my job and private life. Thanks to him, personal contacts, a lot of networking and long ongoing discussions, I decided to start a new exciting job as of January 2010. I think that the next year, from a work perspective, will be the most challenging and most exciting yet. And, whilst being a little bit scared of it, I am very much looking forward to making things happen. I will be starting a new technology service company for display advertising in the UK. The company already exists in Germany and I know the founder for many years. I appreciate his trust and I trust in him and his team’s expertise to conquer and grow in the UK market. Updates will follow next year but I can tell you that I am very much looking forward to it.

So, before we knew it, Christmas is here. I cannot believe that the recession might be over, I changed jobs twice and that my wife gave me the greatest of all gifts: a healthy boy. And, that I was blessed with a lot of family time this year too. (PS: of course we will still feel the recession for years to come unfortunately, but things will get better!)

Below are two pictures we took in the recent snow. My parents have been over to visit recently, and we are looking forward to seeing my mother in law for Christmas and finishing the year with a reflective detox. With us maybe having the last ever Christmas turkey as we might go 100% vegetarian (or Pescetarianism) next year, this Christmas, and with it being Colin’s first Christmas, it will be a very special one.

Wherever you are, we hope you have a peaceful Christmas. This year, more than any year before, made me appreciate what I have, that I am healthy and how well we are doing.

We wish you love and kindness from our home in Kent, just outside London.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

With Love from Volker, Jenny & Colin

Inbound Marketing for SMEs

I wrote a lot about inbound marketingg before. Mainly for start ups and SMEs in London.

Most of the stuff is applied from the gurus in the field: the guys from Hubspot!

As part of my consulting offer, I offer advice for SMEs on how to effectively use social media, search marketing and “inbound marketing” as a tool to succeed in their business ventures. A strategy I am using at work too. Whilst I won’t take this mainstream and will always look into being full time employed with my main job.

Here is the latest slideshare presentation on inbound marketing I put together:

Have a great weekend.

Multilingual Search Marketing

As most of you know I have a background in multilingual or international search marketing with speaking engagements at mayor conferences, e.g. SMX, SES and Internetworld. However, since changing jobs I noticed that multilingual search doesn’t seem to be much of a rocket science as most countries in the Western World are dominated by Google and its algorithm, and the Eastern World has a few search engines you need to watch out for, e.g. Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China, and Naver in Korea.

However, the key to make international search marketing successful is the use of native speakers for the tasks of SEO and PPC, such as keyword research, link building, campaign set up, landing page optimisation etc. Of course it is debatable whether doing that in-house or with satellite office is more successful, but that is a question of business models and objectives and should not be discussed.

Being bi-lingual one of my interests is how to deal with cultural differences and language differences. Teaching my son German whilst speaking to my wife in English is a challenge on its own. Even Eric Schmidt from Google said that in five years time the majority of the web will be “non English”, the web will be dominated by Chinese-language and social media content. That just shows the significance of international and multilingual search marketing.

One of the new developments are the International Domain Names. This does not refer to names in Western characters we are used to but the revelation is that you find domain names in Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and dozens of other non-Latin languages.

The BBC had an opinion on the multilingual side of the web too, particularly with the Internet having its 40th anniversary. They say that the international domain structure has been worked on since the mid 90s.

world-wide-web-is-your-oyster What implications would that have for us in the UK or us in search? I believe this will not make a huge difference, however the run for the keyword rich domains in other languages and characters will start now. People will apply the knowledge to different languages, as they have in the past, with more freedom to integrate their language in the URL structure, domain names etc. I believe it is a huge step forward, giving the web an international presence as it should have.

Not only will the web be more complex in five years, taking in consideration the growth it is going through at the moment, but with the adoption to languages, and that includes the instant translation on Google Wave, or translation of websites, we will get closer to our human neighbours in the East, West, North and South. So the Internet becomes a connection tool, and with being a connection tool, one big social network…..

The world wide web is your oyster, or something like that.

Blackberry Bold Review

I now had my Blackberry Bold for just over 2 weeks. Thanks to Vodafone, things got sorted and I absolutely love the Blackberry Bold. I had a Blackberry Curve for the past 18 months and without WiFi and proper 3G connection (I was with T-Mobile), it just wasn’t the same.

What I like about the Blackberry Bold is not only the slick design but the new outline of programmes, e.g. the way the desktop is presented. It comes with Vodafone SatNav free for 18 months. We tried it out and the first time it sent us in circles but the 2nd time it worked very well. So overall, that is great and save us getting a TomTom.

blackberry boldMy first Blackberry Bold that got delivered didn’t work properly over the weekend and crashed a couple of times. I had to reset it and re-install the software several times. I then exchanged it and the new one hasn’t had any problems yet. Fingers crossed.

One drawback is the 128 MB limitation for applications. Blackberry Application downloader makes it easy for you to pick and chose applications for your Bold, but after I installed

– Gmail
– Facebook
– Bloomberg Mobile
– SatNav
– Blackberry Maps
– Weather Eye

I am now running at the limit already. And those programmes are what I consider the basics of what you need additionally to the applications that came preinstalled: the document readers so you can work on Office files on the go. However, they are not compatible with the new OfficeXP version. But another step up from the curve.

So my first facit is that the Bold could improve the capabilities of being a bit quicker, but then again any phone could be πŸ™‚ Then a bit more memory for applications. I was even asked to delete some preinstalled language support items to create more space. It is a shame that I cannot install as many applications as my colleagues can on their I-Phone. Surely, this is something Research in Motion (RIM, the maker of the Blackberry) will improve over time.

They really are stepping up the game, and have to, to take on Apple. However, I am a Blackberry Enthusiast and from the looks of it, will stay it for at least another 24 months.

complex life

Now I hope you will enjoy this post. I want to talk about complex life. We have less time, more information and more things going on – all the time. This makes life very complex in my view.

For years I have been one of those people that needed a Blackberry, a mobile device, needed to extend their followers on Linkedin, Twitter, Xing, Facebook and make sure that all contact details I had from people were up to date. I was always on top of things. But then, life got even more complex.

complexity I noticed 3 years ago that I cannot just add every person I met in my life into a database that already had over 1,000 people on it. Every time I synchronised my phone it took almost an hour, and some people never made it to my list of “friends”. Even 5 years ago when I bought my last laptop, I thought I needed to evaluate every single option of the laptop and every feature to make sure I always have the most up to date equipment. Someone I know just admitted to research weeks (!) what kind of new TV to buy.

Over the years, not only thanks to my wife, I have realised it is not always important to actually have the best and knowing everything. I suppose with Google being available all the time (thanks to my Blackberry that is), you can look things up all the time. Actually LinkedIn and Twitter make things easier in a ways as you have your friends contact details on there and if not, you can send them a DM in order to find out. Or you just update your Twitter or Blog and everyone knows what you are up to. It makes it easier not to phone or talk to people.

I suppose Facebook is the same. You upload your pictures, you update your status that you are at home watching after the baby, get a comment or two and your “social life” is done. And, up to a few months ago, I absolutely loved it. Easy, isn’t it. Blackberry, on the road, updating Facebook, Twitter, coming home, day and job done. You can even poke your wife whilst being on the train and she is at home. Or just throw a sheep at her!

Actually I realised when changing phone contracts how little I use my phone. I haven’t called up my friend in Aberdeen for a while, although we exchanged numerous emails and read each other’s blog. We haven’t been down to Winchester to visit our friends and always found good excuses not to meet up. However, I would really like to but have I not seen their holiday pictures already on Facebook, and their new flat and….

I think social media is great. I live for it, I work for it and I enjoy it. However, and that is where I am a bit struggeling at the moment (hope that is not too honest), how many of those Facebooks we need? How much more time do we need to spend online to update our status and talk to our neighbours? Why not pop over for a cup of tea and have a chat?

Really, because it is easier. But it is actually less social. Instead of trying to keep up to date with 500 followers on Twitter, I decided to reduce the amount of people I follow. I am sorry but I rather start keeping up with less people and do it properly than with more and not really at all. And, if you are part of the ones I un-followed, please accept my apologies and feel free to add me on Facebook instead.

Or, add me on LinkedIn. I think I need to reduce my involvement online just a bit and concentrate more on other projects. My Buddhism and Management project has been neglected, I have to spend more time with the family and want to read more books. commute

I will use the commute, as I have done in the past, to wrap up work at night and answer emails that I didn’t manage to get to during the day – personal as well as work ones. And, in the morning, I will read a book on the train. But, when I am home at night and the weekends, do I really need to constantly update my Twitterfeed, talk about that I “cut my grass” on Twitter? I don’t believe so anymore. Of course that might change πŸ™‚

And, of course, I am still a big advocate of Social Media, and there are more things to it than the above networks. Watch this space and let me know what you think about the complexity of life?

Vodafone got things right!

Now, not only was I asked to tell everyone, but I am more than happy to do so!

Vodafone called me late tonight and gave me the offer I wanted. The person I was in contact originally was out of office. Now my question is WHY?

But first, let me say that Thomas Rushton and his Webteam (Thanks Lee) kept their promise and put things right after I tweeted and blogged about it.

It still does not go into my head that
– A company makes it so difficult to change between contracts and that I could have created more work by canceling my (consumer) contract and then becoming a new (business) customer again.
– That I need to push on social media, e.g. Twitter, Blogging, Linkedin to get attention.

And, I don’t believe that the social media influence itself has caused them to think about it. At least I don’t hope it did, but that somewhere along the line the “customer (e.g. me) was king”.

I tried to think of an analogy (maybe not the best but it is almost 10 pm): My teddy bear from years ago: I love him, I nurture him, I want to keep him but he keeps disappearing, gets uncool, looses his fur and although I am certain that I should get rid of him, I am almost in “love” with him – hence I don’t abandon him. But one day, he starts talking to me and says “Volker, I have to leave you.” Would you not be devastated?

Not sure if it makes sense that I “love” a brand like Vodafone (and other brands). I told the guys that I am more than happy to outline a social media strategy for them. I never wanted to leave Vodafone but they seemed to wanted to get rid of me. Maybe they will tell me why no one took ownership of my case and sorted things out for good? Would that not have been better and easier for all of us?

Anyway, Ian Shepherd wanted to make me an advocate, and I am. Of course subject to the free blackberry arriving this Friday πŸ™‚ Very excited.

I wrote to the Webteam, after sorting it, that I will blog positive about it. I also believe that it is essential for any brand to monitor the social media space and engage with the twitter community or with the bloggers. As an example when I mentioned O2 or Orange earlier, they should have engaged with me and offer me a contract, shouldn’t have they? I was saying I would go and join them instead. And Vodafone should get their voice out there too, engaging with me or others.

Just around 5 pm this afternoon, monitoring Twitter, I found Vodafone being mentioned almost once every minute. It is so essential for brands to monitor and engage. Engage with your customers where they are. Social Media. Offline. Mobile.

Ok, ok – before i go on and speak more about strategy, I should mention the post about “Don’t litter Twitter” by the guys from Jam. I think we should all have “freedom of speech” and should be allowed to say what we want.

If our followers drop/un-follow or if people don’t want to listen what we have to say – then that is ok. I don’t follow everyone back either. However, with brands it is different. They need to listen and get a more “personal” profile on the social media space in order to meet their customers on the same level.

Vodafone has sorted things this time, in future and I am confident they will engage with customers more in the future and think about their social media strategy. Happy to help you if you like!

Thanks again for sorting things out and getting things right. Whilst obviously being subjective, I think that was an objective way of putting things πŸ™‚

Happy to keep everyone posted of the progress!

Can Vodafone win me back last minute?

I am sitting here and just do NOT understand.

You must by now got the message of what I think of Vodafone. I hate Vodafone’s customer service. I direct messaged with the director of customer service on Twitter until he unfollowed me, and emailed with his team and finally got moved to a business account. That was, after I had to sign another direct debit mandate and form, because the online form we discussed several times on the phone had suddenly disappeared.

Now, I am officially a business customer and can upgrade my account. However, the upgrade means I need to pay for a new phone rather than getting one for free. To get the latter, I need to cancel my contract, change to a pay as you talk contract, and then come back to Vodafone as a new business customer. Could that be the solution.

I tried. I really think I tried it all. Writing on Twitter, being friendly in emails, asking for nothing else but being transferred to be a Vodafone business customer for a better deal and a free phone, and then, when I thought everything is sorted, I get stabbed in the back. I have to pay for the handset, a whopping Β£280.

So I wrote them another email, asking to sort things out by close of play today but they didn’t. 4 hours seemed enough to react to a customer enquiry, one that is ongoing for several weeks.

Now, all I can do is wait or cancel. The problem is that I don’t really want to change providers but Vodafone does not leave me a choice. I have to leave a brand I like, a company I care about but their customer service is just so bad.

Go on Twitter and search for Vodafone and you find out how many people talk bad about them. Shame!

I guess it is GOODBYE Vodafone – and the iPhone at last? Or Orange? I keep you posted.

Vodafone has bad customer service

Yes, I am very much pissed off. I cannot say it in any other way but the first things I did this Friday after I got home is to sit down now, and write this post. And, I feel better once I have done it. I still cannot believe it…empty promises!

Ian Shepherd, Director Customer Service Vodafone, wanted to make me an advocate of the brand, “Understand. We are better than your experience has shown, and will fix the issues you’ve blogged. I’m determined we will earn your loyalty!” – that was a message on the 16th of July after I complained through Twitter and on my blog, see here about my rant about Vodafone’s bad customer service.

Thomas Rushton even commented, saying “customer feedback is important to us“. They seem to have the social media channels, but I am thinking, do they know how to use them? I am here to help, if you need any advice?

Anyhow, to cut a long story short. On the 11th of July I filled in a form online to transfer from a customer account to a business account. Just after my last complaint, I got confirmed that:
– It takes 30 days from the date I filled in the transfer form, to be transferred to a business account.
– I will have a choice of phones and get the same deal as any other NEW business customer.

Hurray I thought. But I was too early to celebrate. I was told that after 2 weeks I would get an email confirming that things go ahead. So earlier this week, I wrote the following email to the customer service team, the director complaint office:

“30th of July:
… Regarding the transfer, if I understood correctly, I would be contacted after 2 weeks that things are going as planned.

Since I put the transfer request in on the 11th of July, I would assume that that things go as planned and someone will contact me next week? Or was there anything I needed to do after 2 weeks? It is a long waiting.

Thanks for confirming.”

The response I got was:

“I’ve spoken to a manager in the Transfer of Ownership team today and they asked me to send you the form to fill in again and then to send it to xyz.abc@vodafone.com who is the manager of the Transfer team, and also copy in this email address.

Once XYZ has received this, we will push the process through for you to take place with you as soon as possible.”

Wait a second, what was I missing? They said that they have all information and don’t need anything from me, for things to take place. They even confirmed receiving my form I filled in online, on the 11th of July:

“Dear Mr Volker Ballueder
This is to confirm that you have accepted the terms and conditions, to transfer your mobile from this account. The unique reference number for this request is 1234, please quote this at all times when referring to the transfer. If the transfer is accepted by Vodafone mobile number 07812345678, along with any others entered on the form will be transferred from 1234/5 to Mr Volker Ballueder.
A notification of this request has been sent to the email address xyz@123.co.uk.
The next stage of the transfer is that will receive an email, to notify them that the transfer has been requested. They will then enter the details of the account that they would like the transferred number/s
to be added to. Once this request has been submitted you will be notified, and once the request has been approved by Vodafone you will notified of the date of transfer.”

Now, looking at all that I don’t understand where I would have gone wrong. If I am missing anything, then I am more than happy to apologise to Vodafone and the customer complaint team.

a) I confirmed, complained, called, emailed and got told that Vodafone has all data and I don’t need to submit anything more to them.
b) The customer service director said that he wants things to be right.
c) I politely check on the progress to make sure that I didn’t miss an email – which happens. Just checking, as I really don’t want to wait longer than 30 days.
d) I get a request to fill in the same form in a pdf version, fax or scan it, that I filled in online and got confirmation for.

A couple of questions:
a) Did Vodafone take me serious in the first place and looked properly into the files I submitted? Did they listen to me when I called and talked to them?
b) If so, why did that “faux-pas” happen?

I believe that I was just put down as another case, no one cross referenced what I was saying, e.g. that I had problems with the date of birth on the online form, or that I am happy to not send more information because they confirmed they had everything from me.

After I tweeted excessively this afternoon, I got a call that they look into my case and from receiving my forms it takes 30 days for the transfer to take place.

I told them, quite frankly, that they really seem to want to piss me off – at least that is my impression. And, they seem to not care. And, I told them that I was told that it takes 30 days from filling in the form, e.g. 11th of July, to get transferred.

You can be sure that if I don’t have the deal I want, then I am going to go somewhere else. Just hope I can cancel my contract, the consumer one, which runs out the end of August. The only reason why I haven’t canceled yet is that Vodafone still has the best reception in the Scottish Highlands and my friends and my family are with Vodafone. If it happens that I change, this will surely have a ripple effect with my friends.

What was I offered: Β£25 for a 24 months plan, 500 minutes, 250 text, unlimited calls to UK landlines, unlimited email, 500 MB data, free phone…..and they had an offer that got me the first 3 months free of charge. The latter is not even the issue but would be nice to get an extra or special for all the hassle I had.

Ian Shepherd says he stays on the team to get it fixed. Thank you for your involvement, but I really question a company that need involvement from the top to sort out a simple transfer. Where are the good old days when the customer was king?

All I wanted is a smooth transfer. The alternative had been to cancel my contract to the end of August, transfer it to a “pay as you go” and then go to a shop and get a great deal. Why haven’t I done it? Because I thought I could trust a company like Vodafone.

Will they ever get my trust back? Will I ever be an advocate for a such a big brand?

Not to worry, I keep you posted. Follow me on twitter too!
An update was promised on Monday between 12 and 4 pm.

Have a good weekend.

Vodafone Customer Service

I wrote about my “unhappiness” with Vodafone before. However, this time it is different.

When I found out that my new work does not supply me with a blackberry, I decided to get one myself. I was thinking about it anyway and went to Vodafone as my contract is about to run out the end of August. In store they told me that I could not get a business contract, which includes the 24 hour phone replacement service and free land line calls as well as the free Blackberry, whilst having a customer account. Therefore, they suggested that I should cancel my contract to a “pay as you talk” and then come back to the store and take out a business account.

Of course I wasn’t happy with the solution and contacted their online and telephone team and got various answers. Whilst the telephone team sent me a very complicated transfer form, the online team sent me a link for an easy form to transfer my phone number and contract to a business account. However, that form had a usability issue which didn’t let me fill in my correct birth date, e.g. the days only went from 1 to 28.

Now, as I wanted things to go smoothly, I called them up and explained but no one seemed to bother. I then got the answer of

Hello Volkar,
I understand from your email that you want us to inform transfer team to correct you date of birth to 30/4/1977.
Volkar, you need to contact new connection team 08080741741 in order to correct you date of birth to 30/4/1977.
I trust I have done the needful.

Firstly, they couldn’t even address their customer with the correct name which I pointed out but still didn’t get an apology. Then, even for me as a foreigner, the English just doesn’t sound correct! And, lastly, the number wasn’t free. So because Vodafone could not get a form that allows me to do the correct thing, I had to pay money to get things sorted? I don’t think so. They then complied of me sending in a driving licence and again I refused being a customer for many years, they should surely know my birthday by now, shouldn’t they?

I spent another hour on the phone to the customer service, often ending up in a dead end, e.g. “yes, we are happy to put you through to the business account service team, enter your number.” But as my number hasn’t been recognised as a business number, I was thrown out of the line. That happened repetitively and I got so fed up that I went on Twitter!

That is where the whole “fun” started. No one but ex-Virgin and BT seemed to pick up on me complaining about Vodafone. I would have loved to take on the offer from BT who kindly send me a nice reply on how to become a BT Business Customer. BT’s customer service really improved! They are doing a great job of monitoring and engaging with their clients on social media sites, such as Twitter.

A friend finally pointed me in the direction of the Vodafone Directors Office on Twitter, Ian Sheperd. He and his team were great and engaged with me on the level I approached them: Social Media site Twitter! I got a call the very same day of approaching him that my account will be transferred within 30 days, I will get my free Blackberry, and that I don’t need to re-send any proof of my birth date.

Even the next day I got another call from his team, apologising for the poor experience and Ian said that he is determined to make me an advocate for Vodafone. But will I?

First of all it depends on how they deal with my account transfer. If by mid August I will have a blackberry and the contract and everything sorted the way I want, then I am more than happy to speak out for Vodafone. However, I truly believe they need to improve their customer service, not only customer service on Twitter.

For big brands it gets more important than ever to engage with their clients where they are. They need to be on social media sites such as Twitter and find out if anyone speaks about their brand. And, if the experience like in my case is poor, they need to engage with me, and make me an advocate there and then. However, the process Ian went through was quite lengthy and I am sure he shouldn’t be the one that is dealing with complaints, then again I am glad he did in my case.

As you might have noticed by now, I am very passionate about two things: Social Media and Customer Service. The latter is very important for anyone from my local ironing shop to brands like Vodafone. But the combination of both become more and more powerful. All Social Media does is to engage with the audience and clients where they are. If that is Twitter, YouTube or through games or communities does not matter. But Social Media is a channel brands can no longer ignore.

Ian, thanks again for your help and I hope we can sort out my account and you turn me into an advocate for Vodafone. Also, if you have questions about how Vodafone can embrace Social Media, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am more than happy to present you with some exciting ideas! You got my number πŸ˜‰

…to be continued…