Internet addiction? Or just good business practices?
Internet addiction: is that really a problem in internet marketing?
My wife and I recently took an 8-day cruise vacation to the Southern Caribbean with over 400 fellow internet marketers. This was our second year with this group and it is mostly for fun but the opportunity to network and form new business alliances is always there, so it isn’t total relaxation. Because we work out of our home we rarely get any real down time and are seldom not connected to the internet, so we wanted to emphasize the vacation element of the trip.
I thought it would be nice to really have a vacation from work, so I take full responsibility for my big idea to experiment with taking a real break from work by not taking our laptop computer on the trip. I wanted to see if we could break out of what my wife declares is my internet addiction and hand off our shipping to an associate, set everything on autopilot (including blog posts, Facebook and Twitter updates) and just not worry about it. My big mistake was thinking “what could go wrong?”
The verdict? It didn’t work as well as I would have liked. The day before the ship left port, while we’re sitting on a beach in Fort Lauderdale with no internet access, when I get a phone call that one of our client’s websites “broke”. All their links were okay but the theme was missing so although it was functional, it didn’t look very pretty. Not the end of the world, but really bad timing and a panic for them. I got on the hotel’s computer but there was nothing I could do from there. Sorry client, I’ll be home in two weeks.
During the trip I later found out that some of our customers had problems with items that they received (or didn’t receive) and suddenly several people urgently needed to speak with me.
In the middle of the cruise we went to a funky internet cafe with a slow connection on the Dutch island of Curacao. Just as we were sending some important emails to a customer who was upset about an order mixup, they announced that it was closing time. But wait, it’s just 4:00 PM! Oops, I was on ship’s time: it’s an hour later in Curacao. I was never sure if those final emails were even sent out.
Here’s a side story which seemed to serve as a metaphor to this topic: As we were were crossing the pontoon bridge that connects the Punda and Otrobanda districts of Willemstad, I slipped on the wet surface and nearly broke my big toe. It’s still sore and bruised.
We didn’t check email again until we were ensconced in a hotel in Cocoa Beach, Florida, a few days after the cruise. That was just over a week ago, we’ve been home for 6 days and I’m still digging out of the backlog of emails, website change requests and other work… and my toe is still sore.
One thing that became crystal clear is that people today expect immediate response to their emails. I think they believe that any online business has “operators standing by” 24/7. Looking at some of the emails I got from that upset customer, she only waited two minutes from sending a distress call to sending a message that she was upset that she had not received an answer.
Obviously, we’ll have to work harder to reassure our customers that their concerns will be heard but that we are not accessible around the clock. For all of my readers who are running a small business, this is an important point: you need to take time off, but you have to “be there” for your customers, however you do it.
My conclusion is that we cannot disconnect for over a week without a well-trained team backing us up, and we need to check-in more often. My ultimate goal is to have everything running on autopilot, but until that happens, next trip I’m giving in to my “internet addiction” and taking an iPad (good excuse to get one, right?).
Have you had this same experience in your business and how did you handle it? Comment below.
The topic for my next post on my cruise take aways – Smart marketers will succeed in any economic climate, and internet marketers have a strategic advantage over brick and mortar businesses. Subscribe to my feed so you’ll be notified when it posts.
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