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It’s the Little Things …

August 24, 2011

There’s a golfing cliché “driving for show and putting for dough” that mirrors my experience in setting up my new business. Like driving the ball off the tee, so much of it has been easy and quick, and I’ve made a lot of distance on setting up the business in ‘one hit’.

And by quick, often blindingly so!

I’ve probably spent more than a year mulling around the idea of starting my own business, before making the decision to do so. After deciding it was time, I sat down with my accountant Trevor to get the ball rolling to register my new company. The meeting was at 3pm. At 5:55pm, the same day, an email arrived with both my ABN and ASIC certificate of incorporation. Within a couple of days, I had my first postal correspondence from the ATO and other regulatory authorities with documentation and forms relating to Explore Communications.

Similarly, my web experience has been rapid. Registering a domain name – www.explorecomms.com.au – was painless and virtually instant. Getting an email account established – maungle@explorecomms.com.au – was also fast. Setting up my blog on WordPress was simple and easy too.

So that’s the analogy with driving done. However, getting the ball in the cup can be frustratingly difficult.

Armed with my ABN and ASIC certificate of incorporation, I set off to my bank to set up a business account. I have multiple products with this bank – home loan, credit card, savings and insurance – but they were completely unresponsive when it came to working with me to set up a business account. I persevered over a number of weeks, with no joy. Even a tersely-worded complaint only produced an apology letter full of bland motherhood statements and no action.

Finally, I went to a second bank who signed me up on the spot. However, my personal ‘business banker’ has been virtually impossible to track down since – to the point that one day I waited in ambush for him when I heard he was at my local branch.

As for my email address and domain name, registering was the easy part. Getting them to work, another matter. My hosting provider gave me technical instructions to set up my email account , including this: “Outgoing : Your ISP’s SMTP server.” I hopped onto the web to see what information I could find, and quickly located the SMTP server settings I needed. I put in all the other settings and tried to set up the account, but it kept failing. Maybe the SMTP server details were wrong? No – all seemed OK. Did I need to authenticate to the SMTP server with my ISP user name and password? No, that didn’t work either. All this killed a couple of hours of my evening, and I still didn’t have a working email.

It turned out that I needed to select a different port number. The account uses POP, not IMAP, which means port 110, not 143. I only got that information the next day, a 24-hour delay on setting up email.

It’s been a similar experience with my domain name. I want my explorecomms.com.au domain to transfer to this WordPress blog (you can read about WordPress Domain Mapping here)  but it has taken me a number of emails over a number of days, and at the time of writing this post, it’s still not done.

Now, the point of this post is not to complain about the service I’ve received from my bank and my hosting provider, but to highlight the fact that the more efficient and amazing technology becomes in the way we do things, the bigger the disappointment when we are let down by inefficient personal communication and response.

I’ve thought about how my new business can help in each of these scenarios.

First, my banking experience and the ‘sorry’ letter I received. If I had a say in it, I wouldn’t be sending out a letter to a high-value customer that didn’t have some form of action promised. I’d make sure the bank staff responding to complaints were armed with a number of communication options, that would be backed up by real action. As the customer, it actually made me angrier to receive a letter like that, and made me more likely to take my business elsewhere!

Second, my hosting provider could have done a much better job in advising me on setting up my email. How hard would it be to cover the basics in terms of setting up a POP account, which includes the required port number , and why not provide a list of the top ten Australian ISPs, their SMTP mail server addresses and whether or not you need to authenticate to them? Not only does it save your customers time and aggravation, but it saves you from having to field calls and emails from those customers when they can’t get their email to work.

As for my elusive business banker, there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to fix that … I just have to continue stalking him.

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