5 posts categorized "Consumer publications"

December 09, 2010

How to write a complaint letter.

Tiz the season for things to go wrong. You can jump on one of the complaint site links on the left and vent, but before you do be prepared and professional in your communications. Below are some great tips from a site on Internet providers. 
  1. Getting your complaint to the right person and for sure the correct department will hopefully hasten a response.  Typing your letter will be better than hand written, however if you are not equipped to type then make extra sure your handwritten letter is legible and free of muss.
  2. Date the letter
  3. Name of the Company
  4. Address it as you would any letter with city, state, zip. Adding:  ATTN:  (name of person or department to whom the complaint is addressed)
  5. Give the date of purchase and having a copy of the receipt and where you purchased the item is of great value, as well as the serial number and model. Be brief and to the point of what you perceive the problem to be.  Also let them know what you expect them to do about it.  It isn’t necessary to be sarcastic or rude, there may be time for that later, but to this point you have not dealt with anyone rude.  Realistically you have a malfunctioning product you want replaced, repaired or refunded.  So tell them about it.
  6. Let them know how much time you will reasonably give them to handle the problem.  Include your contact information and your hours available to take their call.
  7. You might want to ask if the item should be returned for exchange.
  8. Make copies of all the receipts, and other pertinent information that goes with the product.
  9. Don’t send your originals.  Send copies.
  10. I am old fashioned enough to still sign my letters with “Sincerely Yours”, or “Yours Truly”.  It exudes professionalism on your part.  It is a tried and true closing to a business letter.

For other useful tips go here.

April 29, 2008

Ode to Women and Green Marketing

Dscn3758Have you seen this month's Ode Magazine? It arrived the same day I said to four women, "I know 8 women who own a Prius. One of the women raised her hand and said, "Make that nine." Then the others raised their hands as well. Four out of five of us owned a Prius. I was the fifth who didn't and that's only because they weren't available the day I HAD to buy a new car. (I have a 40 mpg Civic, however.)

I said to them, "See, you're the reason that Detroit changed its ways." (I don't have the research, but I'm betting that the majority of Prius owners are women.) Because women purchased Priuses for the gas mileage, practicality, environmental statement, looks, whatever...Toyota went to the front of the eco-car class and Detroit has been playing catch up ever since.

Now back to Ode. On Page 50 is an ad for the Green Festival in Chicago and topics of what the 350 exhibitors will cover. How many of these areas are women's topics that you'd find in any woman's magazine? Nine out of the 14 topics are traditional women's magazine's story lines. The others are topics that feed or support those nine.

  • Green careers/education
  • Social Justice
  • Eco-fashion
  • natural health and body
  • green media
  • green technology
  • natural home and garden
  • green business practices
  • fair trade
  • indigenous goods
  • organic food/agriculture
  • natural foods
  • green kids' zone

And because is was a women's issue, here are a few more items.

Page 18, Rosa Hilda Ramos, she was/is a housewife in Puerto Rico who tried to protect her family from pollution. Rosa founded CUCco (Communities United against Contamination) in 1991. She didn't start it because wanted to run a business. She did it because it was the right thing to do.

Page 33 - The Not-So-Secret Secret to Changing the World - "Women can lead the way from the survival of the fittest to the survival of the connected."  by Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen.

Page 46 - No More Business as Usual - how social investors can help bring about corporate and political change - by Amy Domini, the CEO of  Domini Social Investments and author or several books on ethical investing.

Dscn3757 Page 55 - A band of women in pink hats and boots are heading to a store to challenge the management by asking, "How can you be sure this cushion wasn't made by children?" or "What percentage of the sales price of this chocolate bar goes to the cocoa farmer"?

Gary Hirshberg CE Yo of Stonyfield Yogurt said about making an environmental impact:

"I realized I needed to move into capitalism if I wanted to have a bigger influence. Business is the only source powerful enough to manifest the change we need." (amen Gary)

Who buys the Stonyfield Yogurt that helps capitalism work? Women. Who buys the majority of the things listed in the Green Festival Categories? Women.

Therein lies the new world order that's emerging from the co-creation of a Sustainable life. The world of buyers and sellers - the buyers being primarily women. Think about that the next time you see a green consumer study. Be sure to check out the methodology behind it. If the survey was a 50/50 split of men and women being surveyed ask to see just the stats coming from women. I'm betting that you'll see a far more engaged group appear.

The pictures came from Ode. Pick up a copy and read it from cover to cover. You'll feel better afterwards.


April 23, 2008

Why Do Green Women Gather? See Below.

" Ever notice how bloggers talk about the same people over and over? That's because we have relationships with them." Yvonne DiVita, Lipsticking

I laughed out loud when I opened my email this morning. In one of my Feedblitz aggregators, the two new Divita_2 posts offered came from Yvonne DiVita and the other Toby Bloomberg. As I scrolled down to see what they were talking about I ran into myself and the cover shot from Bloomberg_2 WECAI this month. (12,727 readers so far) Wecai_trust_cover_2WE is published by Heidi Richards, who is also Heidi_2 another great blog and biz buddy with 35,000 on her mailing list.

Emily_2 What made it particularly poignant was that I just read an email from Emily McKhann from The Motherhood (who I met through BlogHer).(23,000 women bloggers/8 million readers) She asked if I (or Diane MacEachern) (2500 eco women) would be interested in talking to a grad student (another woman) Maceachern_2 regarding ECO women's green groups.

Why do we gather? For the same reason we blog together - to support one another.

These are crazy times, we need each other to help keep the crazies at bay. Kimberly Danke Pinkson of Eco Mom Alliance (11,000 women) sure knows the answer to that one. It's the same reason Kimberly_danke_pinkson_2 we join Weight Watchers or AA. Like any good 12 step program, first you have to acknowledge you have a problem and then, by being accountable to others in your group, you can work to solve it. Why are we accountable? Because we have a build a relationship with the members of the group.

Terry_2Let's take it a step further, take a look at the banner on this blog, see the woman who is in the black suit (second from the left) that's Terry Gamer. She recently bought the rights to 500 women's small town, local level news sources which account for 36 million readers. Small, local papers who would have thought they have much to do with why women gather? The answer is as simple as to why do they subscribe to a small women's paper - it's all about the relationships that it helps to foster between women.

That's the short list, but these are the nine whom I intersected in the last 4 days. Nine women representing a reach into over 45 million women's lives. Why do green women gather? Because we can!

September 18, 2006

Judy’s Book: One women, two guys and millions of readers…

Sometimes you are born into the softer side of business and sometimes you get there by embracing that side’s concept and expanding it. Such is the case with the co-founders of Judy’s Book (and blog) Andy Sack and Chris DeVore. Their story is worth reading as a lesson to all who want to work with the softer side of social search, but don't know how.

Judy’s Book is an online consumer review site for services and soon, products. Think yellow pages with a lot of local color opinions and deals. I talked with Chris DeVore, the COO, of Judy’s book to learn more about how two guys managed to “get” and expand word-of-mouth marketing which is the core of Judy's book.

First some background.

Judy’s Book really started with Andy’s mother-in-law, Judy Albert back when she and her husband managed real estate in Seattle. As a house warming present for their new home owners and renters, Judy gave them a copy of her “little green book” which contained the names of professionals and business in the area that she trusted and used.

Andy and his wife were the recipients of her book when they first came to Seattle. They found it so useful that it got him and his friend Chris thinking about how people make choices while shopping for services offline and online. Both have extensive experience in web applications and they soon learned that there was very little in “institutional content” that supported the friend-to-friend process. You could read opinions from strangers, or check out a feature benefit comparison sites, but nothing there was nothing based on personal recommendations from trusted friends.

In June of 2004 they launched an application that could take this rather closed and private experience and put it online making it public and collaborative. In honor of its originator, they called it Judy’s Book and today it has over 1 million unique visitors a month. Sadly, Judy Albert passed away from cancer during its formation, but her namesake is a true reflection of her helpful nature.

Chris and Andy are examples of what it means to embrace the cultural shift to the softer side of business. Yes, they are young men who understand the business benefits of using the Internet. Yes, they have managed to get through two rounds of venture capital financing which means they can “talk” as well as they “tech.” But they also understand and respect the real give and take of a social exchange and have built in ways to keep the system self-policing and honest. Human nature, not policies, keep everyone in check and talking in Judy’s Book.

Just how did they take a little book with a face-to-face conversation and bring it online while maintaining its friendly nature and honesty?

“Andy and I are both men and so we thought about [the design] in as much as our needs were met as women, it wasn’t gender specific. What we found after it was launched, however, was that the folks that tended to gravitate towards it and become the most active and passionate users were women,” Chris told me.

Briefly, Judy’s Book is based on several social systems. First, Judy Albert’s personality and need to share what worked and didn’t work for her, second E-Bay’s rating system and third Craig’s list method of flagging idiots and getting them out of the mix.

“We tried to learn from the folks that are doing a good job of community work already,” Chris explained, “I’m sure you’re familiar with Craig’s List and E-Bay. Both of those sites, E-Bay in particular have seller rating mechanism that allows folks to develop a reputation in their community based on how well they fulfill their commitment – do they have good products, do they deliver on time, do they honor returns… and the Craig’s list model gave the community a way to self-police jargon by using flags which identifies bad actors and remove them from the site. There are just too many categories and pockets for us to do it ourselves. Our members have been very good about taking responsibility for the health of the community. Some examples of jargon that might be flagged would be spam, porn, really nasty remarks, or promoting something that isn’t what people searched for.”

The difference between Judy’s little green book and Judy’s Book online is that now thousands and thousands of “Judys” (and some Jim’s) are able to recommend to others a service in their own town. Each month millions of unique visitors visit the site. Of them, 10,000 or more leave one recommendation and over 2,000 have become passionate and active reviewers. “The one-time reviewer base is split about 50/50 men to women, but multiple-time reviewers who are really the heart and soul of Judy’s Book are predominately, women – about 80%,” Chris offered. “They are very passionate and active, posting over 10 reviews a day with lots of comments and lots of feedback to other members.”

Judy’s Book has become a consumer knowledge gathering machine, not only collecting critical buying triggers, but also learning what kind of social environment women thrive in.

Chris said that what they intended originally changed as more and more women came on board. “What we found is that we built something for the local experience to be used by those in their city or town,” he said, “And what we learned was that those who were using it the most actively and trying hard to help out each other locally, also wanted to connect at a national level. They really saw each other as a community.”

So who are these consumers and reviewers of Judy’s Book?

“Predominately, they are people who are making the purchasing decisions for their family,” says Chris. “They typically aren’t young [25-54], are college educated, aren’t using the Internet for fun, and are using the Internet to help run their family lives and save their family money. For them, saving money wasn’t something that was just nice to have, it was a core part of their value system. They were using Judy’s Book as a tool to connect, share their passions and how to make better choices.”

Now the big question… how do you keep everyone on the up and up?

“We have a ‘TrustScore’ which we modeled after Google who uses page rank to determine relevancy, “explains Chris. “In the case of Google, the more people link to you and rely on your site, the higher the ranking.  The same logic applies to our TrustScore which measures the activities of people over a period of time… how often they come, what they’ve written, what have they bookmarked, how many thumbs up votes… and we turn that into a score which reflects not our opinion but the communities opinion of a trusted reviewer. It’s not a substitute for going in and making your own judgment, but it is a way to say at first glance, that this person’s been around for a while maybe they do know what they are talking about. Or, hey, this person’s new, maybe I should take what they say with a grain of salt.”

Judy’s Book is very simple in its execution. Members can join for free and start putting together their own network of new friends, using the TrustScore as a way to start identifying those who seem good for their word. It’s sort of a mini blog inside of the Judy’s Book environment. Soon, they are allowing outside bloggers to be part of this network as well.

This friend-to-friend thing is a big difference from other rating or opinion sites; it lets you get a feel for the person who is making the recommendation. You can go behind the scenes and see a photo of them and start to trust them as a person based on the history that they have on the site which is all transparent to visitors. And if you’re new best friends don’t have an answer, you can always make a public post and ask the other millions coming to the site for their opinion. What’s not to like?

What else has changed in a year?

What I liked best about Judy's team is that they really listen to their reviewers. With the help and coaching of their more passionate members,[women] they introduced a series of features to bring price into the concept. It’s in beta testing now, but it will give the buyer the most complete picture possible and help validate a buyer’s decision.

“The aha for us which just came to us after the first iteration of the site, was really about quality and reviews and ratings of local services. That helped us discover that value is a big deal for these folks... Part of determining value was the price and there was always a trade off in the decision in that they wanted to get the best product and service, but one at a price that fits into their budget. Our original idea didn’t really have make room for the discussion of price,” Chris remarked.

“People can check out the price beta site now at http://deals.judysbook.com,” said Chris, “We’re still making lots of changes, but we had to start somewhere so people had data to give us feedback on. We asked Amazon, GAP, Office Depot, Apple and Dell to send us their latest information. We essentially maintain a current database on all the deals. After that, then it’s up to the community to say ‘this is a good deal’ or ‘I bought this product and I’m wasn’t satisfied.’ They can put their own layer of ratings and reviews on top of it,” Chris stresses. “We’re moving deals to the top of the site based on community. Someone might say, ‘I’ve been shopping for this for a long time and it’s a really good deal.’ It’s very democratic in that the more votes something receives, the more visible it becomes on the site. We’re trying to let the community acknowledge and bring the best deals to the surface.”

This is great for consumers, but are merchant’s liking it? Stay tuned for Part II

September 12, 2006

Arthur Frommer's Smart Shopping, bargains for both men and women

I'm going to do my womanly thing and spread the word about a very helpful shopping tool - Arthur Frommer's Smart Shopping magazine and website. If you appreciated his travel for less guide, then you'll love how much far he'll take your dollar in a store. It's meant for men and women, but we both know who will be reading it more.

Check out the bargains for yourself and if you sell consumer items, read it in self defense.

For example how much would pay for razor blades, $.17 a piece or $3.44?  Are five blades really giving you a better shave than one? Maybe, it depends on your technique and how critical a missed whisker or two matters. For a $3.27 difference, how much do you care? The summer edition compared 25 kinds of blades from single to quintuple blades. It was an unscientific study and written by David Appell who donated his face for the nick-by-nick test and also wrangled the faces of friends. This is exactly what women and men want to hear in a review, an honest appraisal followed by - How much? How good? Where can I buy it?

Razors blades not your thing? How about a comparison between VoIP? If you're like me, you have a land line, a cell phone, IM and Skype accounts. It's time for me to give my communication system a shakedown, and this article covers all the pros and cons the top Voice over Internet options.

Those two tips alone saved me the cost of the magazine, and there are $7000 cost savings ideas beyond that. Consumers are in control and after reading this, they'll be putting that control through it's paces. Besides straight forward tips, the magazine also lists a couple dozen cost-cutting or product evaluating websites.

This magazine picks up where Consumer Reports leaves off and this new publication is well timed for a consumer driven world.