E-Web Marketing was recognised this year in two categories at the Australian Business Awards, with accolades for Service Excellence and Recommended Employer.
“It’s deeply reflective of E-Web’s culture that the two award categories we won were about outstanding customer service and being an ideal place to work,” confides E-Web’s founder and CEO, Gary Ng. “They’re so aligned with our Company Vision: We exist to bring Happiness, Success and Fun to everyone we encounter.”
We often receive comments that our Company Vision about spreading Happiness, Success and Fun – or HSF, as we refer to it for short – is an unusual one for an online marketing business. But when considering the reasoning behind it, HSF doesn’t seem so strange at all. Gary explains, “Ultimately, our Vision comes back to the basic human desire to have a positive influence on the world.”
“So with that in mind, instead of a issuing a usual generic press release to announce our awards win, we wanted to use this as a chance to share what we’ve learned on our journey toward creating and sharing Happiness, Success and Fun. We hope that other companies can learn from the mistakes we’ve made along the way to get where we are now.”
Service Excellence: What We’ve Learned About Bringing Happiness to our Clients
The Australian Business Award for Service Excellence recognises organisations that deliver exceptional customer service. It was by far the most popular category, with 236 entrants. However, as anyone who’s ever run a business will testify, achieving customer happiness is not something that happens overnight.
“From the start, we always wanted to bring happiness to each and every client,” recalls Simon Lissa, former Head of Client Services. “The problem was never motivation or attitude, it was know-how. It goes against common sense, but one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned is that you can actually make a client unhappy by being too giving. We used to make that mistake a lot, by consistently going the extra mile and putting in extra resources, even though this usually meant we weren’t turning a profit on the account.”
But, as Simon remembers with a grimace, working harder instead of smarter hardly ever worked out the way we hoped. “95% of the time, trying too hard hurt the client relationship beyond repair. Either the client would get annoyed when we eventually scaled the extra level of service back to what was normal for what they were paying. Or, they’d start seeing us as the clingy boyfriend or girlfriend who is so desperate to be loved that we’d do anything at the drop of a hat.”
“Knowing what I know now, I’d advise any company struggling with customer satisfaction to remember these three facts: One, clients don’t respect someone who just obeys orders. Two, clients can’t have a good relationship with someone they don’t respect. And finally, clients can never feel like they get excellent service from someone with whom they don’t have a good relationship.”
Though Simon is quick to add: “I’m not saying that you shouldn’t go the extra mile for your clients! But when you do, you need to let them know about it. When you don’t tell someone you’re working late for them, or bringing on extra team members to help them reach their business goals, you’re denying them the opportunity to feel special and valued. It’s just like with any relationship: clear communication is paramount to success.”
Tristen Tan, one of E-Web’s most experienced Campaign Managers, agrees with Simon that happy clients rarely come about by accident. “I’m all about the Three Rs,” says Tristen. “Right Expectations, Respect, and Relationships.”
“Right Expectations is crucial, especially with SEO campaigns. For example, if your client is expecting to rank on the first page of Google for a certain keyword in three months and you know it’s going to take at least six, then that’s an issue you can’t ignore if you expect your client to be happy.”
“Whereas Respect and Relationships are two sides of the same coin,” Tristen continues. “The not-so-secret ingredient to client happiness is building the quality of relationship where you can openly and respectfully talk about difficult issues, just like you would with your friends.”
Tristen chuckles when asked to provide an example. “Just recently I had a client proudly show me a new website design that his wife made up in Photoshop. It was ugly, with a highly user-unfriendly layout, and would have caused his online enquiry rate to plummet. That wasn’t an easy conversation to start, but by the end of it we were both laughing – and I’m happy to report that my client’s online business and his marriage are both still doing well!”
The importance of approaching customer relationships with honesty and integrity is shared by by Arnold Kluck, Director of Bayswater Car Rentals and a longtime happy client of E-Web Marketing. For Arnold, the quality of a company’s customer service comes down to the quality of their customer relationships.
“My team at E-Web have never steered me wrong in any of Bayswater’s online business ventures,” Arnold says. “The dollar results we’ve gotten from our internet marketing campaigns are fantastic, but equally important to our relationship with E-Web is the complete honesty and transparency that they bring to the table.”
Most of all, Arnold values being able to trust his online marketing team to do what’s best for him and his business. “E-Web are not out to spend our money for the sake of it. They have even sometimes told us to reduce our online ad spend during quiet periods when there’s less opportunity for ROI. That’s what great service means to me: trust built on solid communication, ethics, and always keeping the customer’s best interests at heart.”
Recommended Employer: How We Turned “Workplace” into “Personal Growth Place”
The Australian Business Award for Recommended Employer recognises organisations that provide a stimulating and supportive workplace. Knowing that people are the most valuable asset of any company, E-Web has always made it a priority to provide staff with educational resources, coaching and leadership, and reward and recognition for their achievements. But believe it or not, sometimes that’s not enough to make a truly happy employee!
“Something we’ve only recently realised is that you need to put people in their zone of strength,” says Irene Lee, Business Analyst. “Forget the ping pong table, the PlayStation 3, the massage chair, the office parties and even the library of over 400 books – if an E-Webber doesn’t feel like they’re awesome at their job, and learning and growing, and bringing all the HSF they can, then all the toys and perks in the world aren’t going to make a difference. I mean, how can anyone be truly happy if they have to struggle doing something they don’t really enjoy or aren’t that good at?”
It’s a lesson Irene has learned through personal experience. “During my five years at E-Web, I’ve been a Web Designer, SEO Programmer, Campaign Manager, the Head of Paid Search, and now Business Analyst. I’ve been luckier than some of our employees because I joined the company when it was still quite small and fluid and job positions titles didn’t mean that much. So I got to try a bit of everything and find my zone of strength through trial and error.
“But as E-Web has grown, job descriptions became fixed and people had to check certain boxes in order to perform well in their roles. So it ended up that we had people with great interpersonal skills working as SEO coders, salespeople who would have done better on the PPC team, and managers whose natural talents lay outside management.”
Thankfully, now that our company has grown even more, E-Web has the size and the capacity to identify the personal strengths of every staff member, and create roles that cater to those strengths. Within the last quarter, six E-Webbers have been reassigned to roles tailor-made to help them achieve their own personal best and make a greater contribution to the growth of the Company Vision.
Among them is Simon Lissa, former Head of Client Services. “As a Campaign Manager, I was probably the best soldier in the trenches we had,” Simon claims, “but when I was promoted to the head of my team, I had no idea what I was in for. Being the platoon leader is light years away from being a soldier! Trying to get eight commandos to follow my instructions was a nightmare. I tried everything – to the point of grey hairs! - but it just didn’t work, and the whole team suffered for it.”
In his new role as Director of Strategy, Simon feels like the weight of the world has been lifted from his shoulders. “I’m happier than I’ve ever been,” he reveals with a huge grin. “Now I get to do what I’m best at: developing and implementing strategies to help our clients smash their online business goals and completely dominate their market segments. And I don’t need to spend nearly as much time at the hair salon!”
Fortunately, E-Web has had greater successes in identifying the strengths of some of our newer staff. “I first interviewed for an accounts assistant position,” says E-Webber Wendy Huang. “They ended up hiring someone else for that, but the COO noticed that I have my own successful online businesses that I promote on Facebook. He called me back about working for E-Web as a social media consultant … it’s 8 months later, and now I’m the Head of Social Media Department!
“I never thought I’d end up leading a team of social media consultants when I came in applying for an accounts. That’s what’s so special and nurturing about our work environment: everyone is encouraged to find their niche and reach their full potential.”
Keeping HSF Alive
When asked about what winning at the Australian Business Awards means to E-Web’s Company Vision, Gary Ng becomes philosophical.
“When I think about what these awards mean for bringing Happiness, Success and Fun to others, I’m very grateful,” the CEO says. “The most challenging thing about making HSF a reality is creating and sustaining the belief in it, both in ourselves and in others.
“Awards are nice to put on our wall, but the real win is that our team have been recognised for delivering excellent service and an creating an uplifting work environment. It gives us confidence and encouragement that we’re on the right track, and will inspire us to keep moving forward on our journey to bring Happiness, Success and Fun to everyone we encounter.”
We now invite you to share your experiences regarding Happiness, Success and Fun in the business world. Is this something that is relevant to your own company culture? Do you approach achieving fulfilment for your customers and employees in a different way to us? In the spirit of continued growth and learning, we encourage you to please leave your comments in feedback section below.
About the Australian Business Awards
Details about the awards program can be found at www.australianbusinessawards.com.au.