$15,000 Later, Verizon Still Doesn't Care About Me

I love Verizon's wireless network. This will be my sixth year using their mobile services. Recently, I found myself in a pickle while talking to their customer service. 

A few days ago, I spoke with Verizon Wireless' Customer service over my account, a family plan with four users. While on the phone with a customer service agent, I started crunching some numbers. Over the past five years, I have paid Verizon Wireless over $15,000! We'll come back to that in a bit, first, let me explain my situation.

My Verizon plan consists of four lines; mom, dad, sister, and me. Whats the problem?The family plan over the years has become somewhat disjointed. The lines are no longer in sync. Two of those lines are now out of contract, my mom's and dad's. The other two are tied to Verizon until March and April, respectively. 

So why did I call Verizon? I was planning on upgrading my parent's phones. Before, I tied up the family for another two years with Verizon, I wanted to learn more about their current offerings. The customer service agent on the line was friendly. He let me know that if I upgraded two lines, there would be the standard upgrade fee. I thought to myself, "well if its standard, yeah, that's okay." But, then I remembered that in the past, I never payed a fee to upgrade... 

I felt betrayed, it sounds silly, but I did. A company, I have given money on a monthly basis for over six years, was asking for $30 to retain me as a customer with a contract for two more years. That is interesting! Why would Verizon Wireless add a barrier to retain me? Let's look at some numbers. I pay about $218 per month. That equals to $2612 per year. I have been with them for over six years, lets make it an even 6, that is $15,672 I have paid Verizon. Okay, that’s a pretty fair amount of cash, for a service. 

It makes sense for Verizon to keep me around, I am a great customer! Why would they make it harder for me to stay? Every business needs to acquire customers/users to fill its pipeline. Investopedia defines customer acquisition cost as,

"The cost of a business to acquire a new customer. The company recognizes costs, including marketing and incentives, to introduce new customers to the company's products and services. The customer acquisition cost is calculated by dividing total acquisition costs by total new customers over a set period of time." 

This article, from Entrepreneur.com, states the customer acquisition cost is about $315 for Sprint. I am sure that Verizon's customer acquisition costs are higher than Sprint's, but we will use $315. To acquire four new customers it would cost Verizon $1,260. Not to mention the mobile market is nearing saturation, that makes it harder to acquire new customers thereby raising the cost of acquisition.

So, if I decided to leave Verizon, not only would they lose out on my money, but they would have to spend $1,260 to replace my family. Instead of lowering the resistance for staying with Verizon, they raised it by adding a fee. $30 times 4 is $120 worth of fees to stay with them.

Let's go back to my phone call. There I was crunching all these numbers in my head while I spoke to Verizon's customer service agent. I brought the numbers into the conversation, in hopes of no fees. The agent listened intently... What I was offered by my representative and his supervisor? No Fees! I let them him know I would think about it. Something felt wrong. The upgrade fee is not very old. If anything, all I got expunged was a tariff that Verizon uses to offset customer acquisition cost. 

Aftermath 

I have not upgraded any phone lines. It looks like in early Spring my relationship with Verizon will come to an end. It is not really the fees but the lack of customer service. After six years, I am not expecting free smartphones or deep discounts. But, I was expecting some sign that Verizon cares about its loyal customer base. Mostly, because it makes financial sense to keep us. 

EDIT

What I wanted to emphasize is the customer acquisition cost vs the cost of maintaining a customer. In this scenario Verizon loses money by losing me. Exceptional customer service has been a proven market strategy by companies like Zappos. I am not arguing for Verizon to adopt Zappos' vigor for making customers happy, because it would make them feel better. But, because it makes financial sense. 

Boost your SEO: 9 Simple Tips to Rank Higher

blog written for matchist

How come some websites are the first search result and others are not to be found in the first few pages? The answer has to do with their search ranking. If you are reading this, you want the glorious first spot in the Google search results. Below are a 9 things you can do to raise your rank.

First, I want to give a quick overview on how site’s are ranked. The ranks are malleable and always shifting. Search engines, like Google, bing, or Yahoo, use web crawlers to scour the internet. As the internet matures, so do these crawlers. Google is constantly updating how websites rank in their search results by using an ever-evolving complex algorithm. The web crawlers analyze a website’s content for keywords and phrases. Analyzing the content within a site is only part of what the crawlers do.

Hyperlinks connect the web and it is important to not be an island. A website should have hyperlinks on other web properties that link back to the source. A search engine can gather enough information with web crawlers to deem one website more desirable than another. This is where optimization comes into play.

The matchist team recently talked with a SEO and Content Marketing guru, Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media. We listened closely to what Andy had to say. He has used the very same techniques, covered here, to place Orbit Media content (blogs) to the top of Google’s search results. Below are 9 things one can do to raise their SEO rank.

1. Decide in advance what target key phrases to optimize for

If there is one thing to take away it is this; be deliberate. In order to raise your ranking for, lets say, “home improvement,” that phrase has to be included in the content. There should be a measurable goal attached to each of the phrases selected.

2. Look at what the competition ranks in; keywords, phrases, their own give rank

After one has selected a few key phrases to focus on, research has to be done. Find your fellow competitors site and find what words or phrases they have a high rank in. Studying the landscape will give you an idea of how hard it will be to succeed with your chosen phrases. It will also provide insight into what terms are avoided or coveted.

3. What each page’s focus, target keyword, is?

Not only do you have to select the phrase or phrases to focus on, it is important to pick what page will be optimized for the key phrase. It wouldn’t be a good idea to optimize for the same key phrase on every page.

4. Frequency (4-6 times in body)

Once you have the key phrases or terms signaled out and you know on what page will be the focus. That term will need to be inserted in the body of the content at least four times, ideally six. A web crawler should understand what term the page is about.

5. +50 guest blog posts per year

As I mentioned above, links are important for ranking. While internal links are important (you can read Andy’s post on internal links here), inbound links give credibility to your site. Create a content strategy that facilitates guest blog posting. It will help you foster relationships and grow the network of sites that link to your own.

6. Backlinks need to be natural, can not look artificial, Google knows!

White hat SEO techniques follow the rules and policies of search engines. Even if, you are following all the proper rules, sometimes links can look unnatural to the web crawlers. Like posting a large number of comments with a link back to your website in blogs. Those type of links will be labeled as “un follow” and will not be counted in your ranking.

7. Tools:

Moz – provides software and tools to help with inbound marketing

Ispionage.com – helps you learn what keywords are valuable and what your competitors SEO efforts are.

Ubersuggest – helps brainstorm keywords, like Google Suggest on steroids.

Google AdWords – includes Keyword Planner to manage your PPC campaigns and research keywords.

Google Trends – is an exploration tool that visualizes how terms are trending

8. It takes hard work to get traction

All of these tactics are not impossible to implement, but they require persistence. They also require constant monitoring. Do not give up, and continue to measure your success with the tools mentioned above.

9. Blog posts need “KEYWORD AS TITLE FIRST: blog headline”

If you are using content marketing to raise your SEO, the key term you selected needs to be the first phrase in the blog headline. For example; Home Improvement: Where to start to save costs. 

With these 9 tips you can start on improving and optimizing your websites to boost your rank! SEO is not static, but it is measurable. Two things to keep in mind when working on SEO. They will help you get in the mindset of the web crawlers. Google is constantly reacting to the internet in an attempt to better search results. Stay on top of the changes if you want to maintain or raise your ranking.

Thanks to Andy for giving us a run down on SEO!

 

6 Tips for Hiring a Great Startup Team

blog post written for matchist

Forget startups and companies, and put yourself back in twelve year old you’s shoes. You are standing under the hot sun, this is P.E., your favorite class. Your rival and you are staring at 24 students, each player falls under a different skill level. Some players are not even wearing gym shoes, and others are ball hogs. You know several of the players closely, they are your friends. You won the coin toss, its time to start picking players for your team. What do you do? How do you begin to form a winning team to go all the way? In this scenario, it might only be P.E., but we have been picking teams, since we were kids. I sat in on a hiring and firing panel, recently for our Polsky Accelerator Program. Picking a team for a startup is not easy, and requires time. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when hiring for your startup.

1. Trust

One of the recurring themes of the panel, was trust. Trust wins over skills, experiences, and culture. If you can trust a person, then the relationship is over. Trust is a complex and grey area. One of the panelist gave this description; trust happens when you know the other person will go through the same thought process for a decision. That means they will evaluate the choices, like you would, they will take into consideration all the things you do. The person might not make the reach the same conclusion, but the process was the same.

2. Differences

When hiring early in a startup, take the time to find teammates that are complementary. Your team does not need more of you. If you are looking for a cofounder find a person who has a different skillset than yourself. Take the time to asses your own strengths, and recognize where there are knowledge gaps. It is better for the team’s health to have players, with different skillsets.

3. Hire slow

You have heard this one before, but it is important to the long term success of the team. I want to give an example from one of the panelists. He met a developer through his network, and kept up communication with him for over a year. Throughout the year, he evaluated how the developer was working, and what motivated the developer. When time came to bring a developer on board, he know the developer would be a perfect fit. This is a best case scenario, but it illustrates what it takes to find those “perfect” fits.

4. Fire Fast

Fire fast, sounds harsh, it’s not. Everyone agrees that red flags will be apparent, when its time to let someone go. Not only will the team know this, the person will know its time. “High performers do not like to work with low performers,” it brings down the team morale.

5. Think long term

Hire, overqualified people. Why? because startups are created to grow exponentially. Its like when you were a kid, and you purchased shoes, a little big, to grow into them. You need your team to have the proper skills to manage a growing startup.

6. Rise of the T Shaped people

I think this is the most important tip. What it does it mean to be a “T” person. Early on your startup not only needs generalists, you need specialists, too. Can this magical person exists? Yes, they are out there. We call them T shaped people. Like the letter “T” on top, they have a broad skillset. They can take on any role, but they also have one area of specialty. Their skillset goes deep into one specific area. This goes with tip 5, T shaped people are long term hires. They can specialize when they need to, but can also take out the trash.

Hiring is a complex task! These tips are designed to help you think hiring.  Take your time, find “T” shaped people, trustworthy, fit great, and who bring a needed skill set to the team. Your are only as good as your weakest player.

 

It Ends with a Fall

In the middle of a call it fell, five stories, sixty feet down. I thought its last few seconds were spent glowing in an dark elevator shaft. The Lumia 920, pictured below, survived the fall, sort of. The internals all seem to work fine, reception, wireless charging, NFC, and the ports. The resilient plastic only dented on the upper right corner. The screen and digitizer are cracked, as well. I was expecting to find nothing but a plastic shell that looked like avant-garde art. To my surprise the phone worked!

I dug into the web on how to fix this phone. It looks like a new screen and digitizer will run me anywhere from $150 to $199. The phone will also need a new plastic shell, those cost around $70 dollars. At first, I was ready to tackle this project, but realized it might be cheaper to buy a new phone on eBay. 

What is amazing is how this phone survived the fall. If this was an iPhone, or a Samsung phone, this would be a different story. The phone is robust! 

 

 
 

iOS 7 Flat and Colorful

Apple announced the new version of OSX, Mavericks, alongside the new version of iOS. iOS 7 maintains most of the past iOS functionality while adding a new visual aesthetic. How would I describe iOS 7 to someone who has not seen one image of it? 

  • Lots of Gaussian blur: overlay screens
  • More colorful:  shift focus away from primary colors, instead a focus on colorful tones and shades
  •  Change in UX/UI some buttons are now just text, and they added a swipe up feature
  • Typography: Helvetica Neue Light
  • A Blend: it looks like a was inspired by WebOS(multitasking), Windows Phone 8, and the new Google Mobile Apps (Google Search, Gmail) 

 

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The new iOS will evoke a different emotion when using the iPhone or iPad than the current design. The new design feels youthful and light. Just by the looks of it, I do not want to create spreadsheets or write long documents. It makes me want to take pictures and listen to some music. I wanted iOS 7 to implement more choices! They redesigned the whole system around their new motif. But, the OS still lacks widgets and a customizable homescreen.

I use my phone all day and consume all sorts of content; video, pictures, games, pdfs, etc. I have a Galaxy Nexus running stock Android 4.2.2 with a different launcher, and an icon pack. From the beginning the phone felt sterile, and robotic. One of the reasons why I choose Android was for the choices.  I wanted to change the "look" and "feel" of the OS.  I dug around the Play store and found apps that altered the OS's native feel. They enhanced and changed the tone of my phone.  

It took me a while to understand how something simple, like a color scheme, can effect my mood. I can not stress enough how great it is to have choices on my phone. I want the iOS 7 to bring more user defined settings. I think Apple's hardware is great and would like to own an iPhone or iPad, but not until I can have more open platform.