Archive for April, 2013


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Managing Remote Employees

Being able to work from home is a huge perk for many employees. If your small business doesn’t already allow remote work, consider starting—employees will not only be grateful, but chances are, they’ll also be more productive without the distractions of the office.

Remote EmployeesBefore starting a remote work program, however, there are some important steps to take. Follow these tips to make the most of your offsite employees.

Communicate regularly. When you can’t pop your head into someone’s office to see how their work is coming along, you need to be in frequent communication. Use VoIP tools to keep the team in contact, whether they’re in the office or out. Holding regular conference calls is a good way to ensure everyone’s on track and up-to-date with what the others on the team are doing.

Put in face-time. Even if you have employees who work from home full-time, it’s important for them to feel a sense of community with the rest of your team. Plan regular events such as after-hours get-togethers or monthly or quarterly team meetings where offsite and on-site employees can mingle and bond.

Play it safe. Make sure your remote employees’ computer systems are compatible with what’s in your business and that they are using appropriate security precautions to protect against computer viruses, malware or security breaches. If employees use laptops on the road, make sure they are careful to never leave the machine unattended in the car or in a coffee shop. Many data thefts occur when laptops are stolen.

Get cloud-savvy. Use cloud storage services and backup systems so your employees can store and access files from wherever they happen to be. You’ll also benefit from some type of project management and collaboration tool to enable easy scheduling, sharing and time-tracking among all your employees, both those working remotely and those in the office.

With a few simple steps in place, working remotely can benefit both your employees and your business.

Do you have a favorite tool (offsite storage, or backup system or project management). Share it with us.

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Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Twitter.com/Rieva and visit her website, SmallBizDaily.com, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.

 


How to Make the Most of a First Impression

Studies show that people make a judgment on their first impression in less than a second. Research from Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov and co-author Janine Willis, shows that people will make snap judgments in a tenth of a second! This does not leave a lot of room for small businesses to make the best impression on a prospective customer.

First Impression

Unfortunately, that impression will not be changed with additional interactions. Once a customer classifies a company in one category, it is tough for them to make a mental switch. This can be good if the customer’s impression is positive about a company, but fatal if it is negative.

Here are the steps for a company to follow to give that all important first impression:

  1. Plan. Don’t leave that first impression to chance. What exactly do you want the customer to feel and experience the first time they are exposed to your company? Specifically what impression do you want to leave afterwards? What will they be talking about next day to their friends? This should be taught to every employee and be reflected in all marketing since where language, print size and photos are only a one way communication medium.
  2. Practice. Make sure that all employees can accurately reflect this. Can the employee authentically mirror the impression the company wants to make? At each interaction, it is critical to practice with employees what gets said or written. This is not the type of training that gets done once, but must be taught on an ongoing basis.
  3. Test. What do customers think? Is there a positive or negative reaction? Do they come back? Different approaches should be tested to see which yields the best results. An effective way to do this is to use simple A/B testing for web pages, emails and telephone greetings.
  4. Refine. Make changes based on feedback and results. This is an evolving process since customers make their impression inside the context of contact with other competitors and what is going on in the world around them.

Having a bad day? Admit it. With only one chance for a first impression, you may want to think of staying away from customers that day if you can’t faithfully reflect the brand.

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


How Employees Influence Your Brand Even If They Are Not at Work

A small business owner may not realize it, but their employees are constantly influencing customers even when they go home from work. Their behavior in this Internet connected world always reflects their company’s brand, image and reputation everywhere they go.

Have you every experienced any of these?

  • A car with a branded logo on it cuts you off while you are driving. Alternately, you notice that a branded truck is parked in a designated handicap spot.
  • A person wearing a shirt with their company logo on it (or in a business uniform) cuts in front of a long line at the grocery store or gets in an express lane with 25 items.
  • A person on Twitter or Facebook posts something that is distasteful and you notice they work for a company that you patronize frequently.

Similarly, when a video surfaced one Christmas of a FedEx employee throwing a fragile computer package over a customer’s fence, how did that reflect on FedEx? Sure, the employee lost their job, but what was the effect on the company’s brand?

EmployeesWhen consumers experience the acts of employees outside of work, they make them think more negatively about the company the person is associated with. Unfortunately, there is no separation for the consumer here. Companies often hire people who match their own corporate values, so it is easy for the consumer to make the leap from bad personal behavior to distrusting their employer. If a consumer sees a person being lazy, arrogant, or inconsiderate outside of work, they reason that they are probably this way when they are on the job. It reinforces a negative brand for the company the next time they think about buying from them.

What advice can you give employees? Remind them that their actions outside of work always reflect the company. This includes in person, by telephone or on social media. They always need to think of how their actions will match company values in almost everything they do. While this may seem uncomfortable or unfair to the employee, it is a stark reality.

They should ask themselves, what would my CEO or manager do? Does their behavior outside of work reflect the values of the company?

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


Why Your Latest Customer Service Complaint is a Gift

There are only three types of customers that always tell your company what they are thinking:

  1. The very happy. They can’t wait to tell you how great your product or service is and how it changed their life. They are falling over themselves to express their gratitude in person, by phone or on the web.
  2. The very unhappy. They can’t wait to tell you how your product or service just ruined “their life” and they wish they never met your company. They too are falling over themselves to express their dismay in person, by phone or on the web.
  3. The people you pay. Customers love to be “bribed” to tell their opinion.  Many retail stores give a $2 – $5 discount on a customer’s next order for completing a survey.

Customer ServiceUnfortunately, the majority of disgruntled customers will say nothing directly to the company. They will sulk away and never buy from that company again. In this case, no news is not always good news. It may be broken and the company may not even know it.

According to Harvard Business Review http://hbr.org/2010/07/stop-trying-to-delight-your-customers

  • 25% of customers are likely to say something positive about their customer service experience.
  • 65% are likely to speak negatively about it.
  • 23% of customers who had a positive service interaction told 10 or more people.
  • 48% of customers who had negative experiences told 10 or more people.

So while customers are more likely to complain, see it as a gift. They have taken their valuable time to give the feedback dir

ectly to the company. The business benefits in two ways:

  1. The company gets a chance to turn around their experience. Surveys show that a dissatisfied customer whose problem is fixed becomes even more loyal to the company.
  2. The company gets valuable feedback that many other customers have experienced, but never mentioned. Customer service is a moving target so customer concerns may change every month.

What should a company do? Listen carefully to make sure they understand the concern. Try not to find blame or hide problems.  Ask the customer for their best solution. Get back to the customer on how it will be solved. Collect all of these concerns so an overall trend can be spotted by the company.

How can you treat customer complaints as a gift?

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


How to Measure the Lifetime Value of Customer

Smart small businesses don’t just focus on the initial transaction with a customer. They look at the potential profit that a particular customer can bring to the company over the next few years. For example, a bank doesn’t just earn interest on a customer’s money, but can make additional profit from overdraft fees, check printing, money orders, and home loans. This is why so many companies incent customers to switch their business in an effort to profit from them in the long term.

iStock_CustomerMeasure2

It is also critical not to value a customer just based on their individual purchases with the company. Here are 6 other areas every small business should consider:

  1. Revenue minus cost. Too many times, small businesses only look at the top line sales number when evaluating the customer and forget abut the cost of actually servicing them. Why it’s important. Remember that sales is vanity and profit is sanity. If a customer costs more than their revenue to service, that customer is actually costing the company money. It would make more sense to have them do business with a competitor!
  2. Revenue timing. Some companies are very busy in December and can’t fill all of their orders. Why it’s important. A customer that orders during the non-peak month of January could be worth more for that company since business is slow.
  3. The customer’s brand. Is the customer a famous person or an expert in the industry that can add credibility to your company? Why this is important. It is valuable for small businesses to depend on the credibility and reputation of more famous brands. The fact is that if your company does business with Apple, more customers will buy from you.
  4. Referrals and buzz. Does the customer refer other customers or talk about you in social media? Why this is important. Customers now believe other customer reviews more than advertising. This will increase company credibility and sales.
  5. Retention. How long does the customer remain with your company? Why this is important. It is of course more profitable to sell to an existing customer than a new one because there is less of a marketing expense.
  6. Feedback. Does the customer give valuable feedback on your product of service? Why this is important. Most customers will never give the company any positive or negative feedback. This is incredible important in targeting the right customer with the right product.

How does your company measure the lifetime value of a customer?

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


Creating a Customer Service Manifesto for Your Company

A customer service manifesto for every small business serves two purposes. It gives every employee a standard to which they can strive to meet and a roadmap to adhere to while interacting with each customer. It further sets customer expectations through a public declaration. If the company does not set expectations for customers, they will set their own!

Any manager can start formulating their manifesto by asking three questions:

  1. What would you want as your own customer?
  2. What is the most important things my customers expect from the company?
  3. What do I like or hate that other businesses offer as their customer?

A customer service manifesto for your company should publicly include these elements:

1. We will deliver on what we promised. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. You also need to ensure that you can keep this promise and still make a profit. Promises that loose money over the long term typically fade.

2. If you are dissatisfied with our product or service, we will listen attentively to all your concerns. You may not always be able to solve them, but you promise to always listen to them.

3. When things go wrong, we will be easy to reach in an economically feasible manner. One of the biggest frustrations for any customer is to have an issue and not be able to talk to a live person through the telephone or web chat.

4. We will resolve your issues in a reasonable manner or give you a refund. Never be stingy with refunds. In the long run, it is many times the least expensive alternative and it totally disarms customer complaints.

5. We will admit when we made a mistake. It’s the magic words all customers want to hear: “We made a mistake”. These words are a salve for any issue.

6. We will empower our employees to solve your issue at the point it occurs. Companies must give employees the power to solve exceptional situations with customers and not always pass it to a manager.

7. We will make it easy to end our business relationship. Too many companies force a customer to get on the phone with the business in order to end the relationship. Make it easy for a customer to leave and they have more of a chance of actually returning.

8. We will not charge separate nuisance fees or surcharges. There is nothing that gets customers more upset than added surcharges. Price products and services profitably so extras can freely be added to a customer’s purchase.

9. When we decide to change something in our agreement (raise or lower our prices, alter our hours, drop or add a product), we will tell you in advance in a very public way. Changes should never come as a surprise to customers if trust is to be maintained.

10. We will not fill your e-mail with marketing material you don’t want to see. We will make it easy for you to opt in or out of information that we send. Ask the customer how and when they want to be communicated with and never ever sell their contact information.

What should be in your customer service manifesto?

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


The Biggest Myths of Customer Service

There are myths of customer service that small businesses believe are true without ever questioning them. Unfortunately, running a company based on these principles can actually hurt it. Here are the biggest myths of customer service and how a company can use the truth to improve their business:

Myth #1:  The customer is always right. This has been the justification for every irritating customer since Caesar Ritz declared this 100 years ago.

The Truth: If the customer was always right, many small companies would go out of business. Instead, always listen to the customer’s point of view since they think they are always right. Having empathy will lead to a fair resolution form the customer’s point of view.

Myth #2:  Good customer service is just plain common sense. Many small business owners think if they just hire “smart people with good common sense” that they will do a great job at customer service.

The Truth: Since customer service means different things to different employees, each company needs to carefully train their staff to a standard that will satisfy their customers.

Myth #3:  Good customer service is about having high-quality products. Great products lower customer complaints.

The Truth: All companies (even Apple) will get customer service inquiries because of malfunctioning or broken products. The business can never predict how the customers might use them.  

Myth #4:  The term “good customer service” means the same thing to everyone. Unfortunately, this term means different things from customer to customer and from day to day.

The Truth: Customer service people need to be trained to find out what the customer’s own definition is and how they can satisfy them.

Myth #5:  Ethics, pride, and altruism are all reasons for providing excellent customer service. Some companies think that customer service is just the right thing to do.

The Truth: Small business owners should practice outstanding customer service because it will make the company more money by keeping customers who are loyal and can become promoters for the company.

Myth # 6:  Unhappy customers are a part of doing business. If you handle a customer complaint well, the offended customer will be even a more loyal customer.

The Truth: While this is partially true, most disgruntled customers will just go away and the company will never know about it. Unfortunately, they will still tell the story of their bad experience all over the web.

Myth #7:  Customers don’t care about great service; they just want the lowest price possible. While customers do focus on price especially if what they are buying is a commodity, people do not always buy the lowest priced product or service.

The Truth: Customer will pay a higher price for value. Think Apple and Harley Davidson.

What myths do you need to bust in customer service?

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


5 Steps to Building a Customer-Centric Company

Many small business owners joke that they would really love their business if only they didn’t need customers. For better of worse, building a company by focusing on customers is the only path to profitability.  

Here are 5 steps every company needs to take to get there:

1. Identify the pain that the company solves for customers. In any economy, customers will always buy painkillers, not vitamins. People buy when they are in pain or have a very great need. For example, most companies can’t do without a phone system for their employees who need talk to customers and prospects. When the phone system doesn’t work properly, this is a pain that affects the sales of the business. Successful companies tie their brand to solving customers’ pain.

2. Identify those customers that have the money to solve the pain. No small business owner runs a company intentionally as a not for profit. If targeted customers do not have money to solve their pain, then the company won’t sell many of their products. Companies need to focus on prospects that actually have the funds to solve their pain and are willing to spend them.

3. Focus on growing current profitable customers.  Companies need to keep the customers that make them money and fire others that cost too much to keep. Many times this is in terms of the extra time it takes to satisfy problem customers who always ask for refunds or ask for more than they paid for. Additionally look at the total lifetime value of a customer by looking at other areas besides revenue including the referrals they generate and the buzz they create. Treat current customers to special offers for their loyalty. Too often companies offer special financial incentives to new customers and forget their existing ones.

4. Tie a portion of every employee’s compensation to the company’s Net Promoter Score. This is an industry standard of the company’s level of customer service. It allows each business to identify their detractors and promoters. A higher net promoter score will always lead to an increase in sales because customers will become the company’s biggest marketers.

5. Establish a customer advisory board. Find 6 current customers that would sit on a quarterly meeting to discuss current company products and service issues confidentially. This should be a mix of customers that represent the business’ demographics. Listen to their feedback and report back to them on action plans.

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com


How to Instill a Passion for Customer Service in Your Company

Ask any small business owner if it is important to deliver outstanding customer service and they will answer yes without hesitation. In practice, most companies never actually do. This focus on the customer gets lost somewhere between the owner’s mission statement and the employees’ actions because they miss key steps.

Here is how to ensure your employees have a passion for customer service:

1. Practice what you preach. If the small business owner is not passionate, then none of the employees will be. They need to show that they are willing to put immediate customer needs above the short term monetary gain of the company on a daily basis. This is important since every employee is always watching the actions managers take and how they prioritize profit vs. customers. The small business owner needs to be involved with customer issues regularly and reward employees that demonstrate “extreme” customer service.

2. Hire people that actually like working with other people. To work well with customers on the phone or through email, the small business owner must hire employees that actually like other people. This may seem like a silly criteria, but it is an important distinction. A good indicator is to check out their social media feeds to see if they have supportive interactions with others and just don’t post their updates focused solely on themselves.

3. Demonstrate that customer service is the new marketing. Social media allows a disgruntled customer to tell thousands of people rather than just a few. Now, buyers consistently use online reviews in their purchase decision more than company advertising. Loyal customers can amplify the company’s message and increase its sales! The danger is that customers are always more likely to say something negative about their experience with a company than positive. Both of these responses can be harnessed by a savvy customer service staff that realizes how important responding to these comments truly are.

4. Quantify the cost of a new customer. Show the team how much it actually costs to get a new customer vs. keeping one that the company has. Ensure that as much resources goes into keeping customers as finding new ones. This is rarely done as most companies are too busy chasing new customers in the front door with special offers as existing ones leave out their back door. These activities actually do nothing to increase long term sales or profitability.

How do you instill a passion for customer service in your company?

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Barry Moltz gets small businesses unstuck. He is a small business motivational speaker, writer, and radio host. Barry can be found at www.barrymoltz.com




 
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