I’m pleased to welcome Serge Lescouarnec, owner of New Jersey Concierges as a writer for Smallbiztechnology.com.
Serge’s expertise is the hospitality & restaurant industry. He’s not a “technologist” per se, but as a frequent user of gadgets and hands-on explorer of the world of blogging and social media, Serge will provide a valuable perspective to various aspects of technology, as it relates to small businesses.
In this first article, Serge reviews his shopping experience for a flat panel monitor and back up drive – something small businesses do frequently – shopping for things online. At the end of his article, I’ll offer some lessons learned for YOUR web site.
How do companies such as Cisco, Dell, Western Digital, Intuit and others sell and communicate with their customers? by Serge Lescouarnec.
Like most small business owners, I am most often the IT Department, Purchasing and I also have to pay with my hard earned cash. This means that when I need to replace, upgrade equipment or software or add to it, I first do my research online.
Right now my most pressing need is a flat screen monitor to replace my heavy and slightly tired 19” CRT Monitor. Another thing I have to come up with quickly is a good Back Up and Storage Drive.
I will share with you what I learned in my search for the products that fit my needs best in these areas. Things I will look at are reliability, simplicity in setting up, good phone and online tech support and what the community of users has to say about it.
When looking for software and hardware, I usually start my search checking product reviews such as here on Smallbiztechnology.com, in the Thursday New York Times, Friday Financial Times and say on CNET Reviews. Checking a few sources gives you a more balanced view.
After checking reviews, I decided to look at 4 companies in the search for a flat panel monitor.
I started with Dell. The showcase product was the SE198WFP 19-inch Wide-screen monitor. After being criticized for its disconnect with customers, Dell has changed its approach and the product page for example offers bad as well as good customer reviews on this item, detailed specifications, photos, features.
One thing Dell could add besides the price of $189 and the average shipping time (1 to 2 days) is the cost of shipping. It would save customers time and help with their purchase decision.
The company also offers the Small Business community, practical resources through Dell 360 which also has a Community Forum. That community space was influential in Dell’s decision to add computers equipped with Ubuntu (Linux) to its line.
Like many discussion boards you need to be a registered member in order to participate.
Let’s move on to HP. The site is a little dry. You get the technical specs, price, rebate availability and the like but after checking the HP L1940T Flat Panel Monitor, it left me wanting. HP web site does not offer much as far as resources go except for printing project suggestions in its Activity Center. No user forums, no blog, no customer reviews, they seem stuck in a time warp. [Editor’s note: HP does have blogs but they are not readily accessed from their web site] Mind you, I currently use an HP printer and bought a couple of HP Desktops as well. I have no complaints about their customer service and tech support or their products. On the other hand Dell has a more dynamic online presence but I cannot say that their Tech support satisfied me rather frustrated me actually. My main desktop is currently a Dell and I have not experienced any problem with it.
Next, a big player in the display field is View Sonic. I checked their V2025wm (20″ display model). Let’s call it a good value price, only drawback, the lack of a swivel base.
Their online offering is kind of in between Dell and HP.
They go beyond the basic specs and features page by offering videos on the products as well as an Award Winner link, options on where to buy and many more useful links. I wish they listed a price for each item.
Same as HP, View Sonic has still to embrace its users by allowing them to share their feedback and start a conversation rather than to talk to them and control the message.
I concluded my trip with a visit to Lenovo and Acer. Lenovo had a few flat panels and as for Acer even though their selection was wider, I still visited one of my favorite retailers (in our area) J and R World to get additional pricing and details.
On to Back Up and Storage solutions.
Starting again with the reviews, it sounds like some of the best offers come from LaCie especially their Rugged All-Terrain Hard Drive USB 2.0 Series.
Their site is easy to navigate, uncluttered and to the point. I guess it makes sense for a company that received design awards for its products.
One drawback is that calls to the company’s technical support phone lines are not toll free. Not an issue for me since I use a VOIP phone with unlimited calls.
A little less pricey but with some good offerings is Western Digital. Check the detailed notes on the Passport Line of Portable Drives. Once again the page design is simple, neat, clear.
I like the addition of a “what it holds?” section to the usual information. This one feature might tell you more than anything else if the product selected fits your needs.
Western Digital also offers links to press reviews, a good frequently asked questions page and the option to search the knowledge base and Ask WD a question if the previous 2 options do not help, all valuable time savers if you encounter some problems.
Surprisingly enough neither LaCie nor Western Digital has a User Forum or Weblog.
If I had to give awards for overall user satisfaction, of the companies I surveyed here, Dell wins the Gold Medal because they have the broadest options (including Forum and Blog), and Western Digital gets the Silver.
I will conclude by mentioning a few other companies that set the standard in communicating with their current and potential clients in the technology field.
First would be Cisco. Every page offers information in Video form and Small Business owners like me can glean a wealth of information thanks to the Interaction Network.
Choose between BizWise and TechWize challenges on Video or listen to Audio Podcasts and find out about Live Events near you.
I guess we will stop here as I do not want to give you indigestion.
I hope this trip we took together was worth your time.
Feel free to add to it and share what you learned with your comments.
Check out my blog here Serge the Concierge
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