Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Who They Gonna Call (and How You Gonna Answer)?

Stocksy_txpba8ad81dGw4000_Small_178379Is your small business paying enough attention to incoming calls? Today, with so much focus on social media, email and online marketing, it’s easy to believe that providing customer service through live chat is all you need to do, or that customers are content to contact you by email and wait to hear back from you.

In reality, human behavior hasn’t changed—just the technology has. When customers are frustrated about something, have questions about your product or service, or are ready to buy, their first instinct is often to pick up the phone and call your business. In other words, customers who take the trouble to call you are primed—to buy, to vent, to ask questions. What’s more, if your business is involved in any kind of inbound marketing program—whether using SEO, click-to-call buttons on your website or in your ads—you’re spending good money to generate those calls from interested customers.

How callers are treated can make all the difference in whether they move to the next stage in the purchasing process, get over their anger, actually make a purchase…or get turned off of your company forever.

So how are customers and prospects treated when they call your business? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do they get through right away? Set standards for employees to answer the phone on the second ring (third ring at the absolute latest). Make sure all employees—not just the receptionist or office manager—know it’s their responsibility to answer the phone if necessary.
  2. Are they greeted pleasantly? Do the employees who answer your phone sound excited to talk to customers—or like it’s an interruption in their busy day? Remember, customers are the ones who pay your bills, and they have plenty of options to go elsewhere.
  3. Do employees have the tools they need to help customers? Internal FAQ lists can help employees quickly find answers to questions customers may have. Make sure all employees know how to transfer calls to the proper person.
  4. When customers are on hold, can they tell? There’s nothing worse than being put on hold and hearing dead silence, so you don’t know if you’ve been cut off or should continue to wait. Use on-hold messages or music so customers know what’s going on.
  5. Are calls returned within a reasonable time? The faster you can respond to a customer’s inquiry, the more likely you are to make a sale. If you can’t answer all calls, strive to return all calls within 30 minutes—yes, 30 minutes—for best results. Outgoing voice mail messages should state how quickly customers can expect their calls to be returned.

By paying as much attention to incoming calls as you do to your social media outreach, you’ll rapidly see results—and increased sales.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: The Truth About Negative Online Reviews

?????????????????????????????Are you in denial about negative online reviews of your business? I know plenty of small business owners who don’t list their companies on review sites like Yelp! Others are listed, but never bother to check their listing to see what kinds of reviews their businesses are getting.

While I can understand the impulse to hide your head in the sand when it comes to online reviews, here are four reasons why playing ostrich isn’t a good thing.

  1. Your potential customers are reading online reviews, so you should be, too. A whopping 79 percent of U.S. adult Internet users check online reviews sometimes or always before they buy something, a survey by YouGov reports. Just 7 percent never do. Online reviews have become essential to both online and offline shoppers, so if you aren’t checking them, you’re in the dark about how customers view your business.
  2. The reality probably isn’t as bad as you fear it is. Yes, we’ve all heard horror stories about bad reviews going viral. However, the YouGov survey says Internet users are far more likely to post good or mixed reviews than negative ones. Just 21 percent say they’ve ever left a bad review, compared to 54 percent who have left a good one and 59 percent who have left a mixed one.
  3. Even the negative reviewers aren’t out to get you. Tales of vengeful competitors posting bad reviews of small businesses get a lot of attention in the media. In reality, though, 88 percent of reviewers who write bad reviews do so to prevent other customers from having a bad experience, not out of vengeance. About one-fourth leave bad reviews to help get over their anger, while 21 percent do so hoping the business will take steps to remedy the problem they’re complaining about.
  4. Which leads to the fourth and most important reason not to ignore negative reviews: Bad reviews are a valuable tool for growing your business. Negative reviews show you what you’re doing wrong (or what the customer perceives as wrong, which is pretty much the same thing). They offer a chance to make it right and then share what you’ve done with the world. If you can convince an unsatisfied customer you care about their experience and you’ve got their best interests at heart, you just might earn a customer for life—one who will evangelize your business to their friends, family and online connections.

Did you ever think so many positive things could come out of one negative online review?


Work Your Biz Wednesday: How to Provide Outstanding Customer Service

The real secret to keeping customers coming back is to deliver great customer service. Find out how to deliver the "wow" from Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson:


Mondays with Mike: Boost Your Revenue with Recurring Fees

While some of us derive great satisfaction from the role our business plays in the community, the services we offer our clients, and the rewards of having built a successful business from scratch, we’re all – at the end of the day – concerned about growing our company’s revenue.   In order to keep the lights on and pay the staff, we have to bring in money, and it seems like we need a little more if it each year.   One of the most effective methods I’ve found for managing and increasing revenue is by converting customers to a recurring fee plan. 

Here’s how it works:

Say you’re in the office equipment repair business.  Your average visit costs $200, and you visit each of your customers an average of twice per year, for a total of about $400 annual revenue per client per year.  If you were to offer an annual service plan, billed at $40 per month, you would be providing a solution that benefits both your company and your clients.  You give your clients predictable expenses, alleviating the stress of funding the entire cost of a repair all at once.  You get the benefit of predictable revenue.  You can count on the monthly payment and bridge the gap that slow months can create, and at the end of the year, you’ve brought in $480 per client, increasing your overall revenue. 

Makes sense, right?  Now here’s why it works:

In addition to establishing consistent expenses and income, there’s another key benefit.  Once you’re no longer billing for the service itself, you have new motivation to operate as efficiently as possible.  Your new goal won’t be increasing billable hours, but will be doing every job quickly and properly.  You know that poor quality work will end up costing you more in the long run, so you provide the best service possible the first time.

Stocksy_txpd093e56ePf2000_Small_27507Skeptical about your customers’ willingness to commit to a contract?  Think about gym memberships.  Millions of people pay $29 monthly for a gym membership they seldom use.  They sign up (usually in January,) go regularly for a little while, and by the time they stop using the gym, they’re so used to the monthly debit that they don’t even notice it.  Sure, some members will cancel, but others will not.  Once your clients are used to the monthly premium, they will cease to think about it.  You’ve gotten them accustomed to a steady-as-she-goes expense that lands in your bank account each month.

Think that your business won’t support a recurring fee structure?   Think again!  Nearly every business has an aspect that can be transformed into a regular fee cycle.  If you own a candy shop, you can sell monthly subscriptions with seasonal offerings available exclusively to your subscribers.  They get special treats, and you get regular revenue.  Own a bookstore?  Offer an annual reader rewards card with a modest fee that entitles customers to exclusive events and special discounts.  Challenging yourself to find ways to reward customers for committing to you in the form of a recurring fee can – if managed properly – yield both steady income and consumer loyalty: a magical combination.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Give Your Customer Service a Checkup

Is your customer service up to par? Even if your business starts off with stellar service, it’s easy for your standards to slip as your business grows and you become less hands-on with all aspects of the company. Plus, consumers’ standards for service are higher than they’ve ever been,–and they have many options if your business doesn’t live up to their expectations.

How can you make sure your customer service stays stellar day in and day out? Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my website user-friendly? Can customers easily tell what to do when they visit your business website? Make sure key information, like your business’s phone number, hours, address and directions, are visible right near the top of the home page.
  • Stocksy_txpc1714160lD3000_Small_130635Is my physical location welcoming? A clearly-marked entrance; an inviting store window or lobby; and employees who make eye contact, smile and greet customers with a friendly welcome as they walk in the door all combine to kick the customer experience off on a positive note.
  • Are my employees empowered to give great service? If employees have to “get a manager” to make any exception to a rule, irate customers are likely to get even more annoyed. Set parameters, but within those guidelines, give your employees leeway to make their own decisions about how to satisfy a customer.
  • Are my employees educated about my product or service? These days, customers can instantly turn to the Internet on their smartphones to get a wealth of information about the products you sell—and the other companies that sell them. It’s crucial your employees know your wares thoroughly so they can answer questions, make suggestions and offer expert advice before customers turn to your competitors.
  • Do I listen as well as talk on social media? Social media is a great way to engage with customers, but make sure it’s not a one-way street. Don’t just share info about your business; also listen to what customers are saying about your business. If what they’re saying is negative or critical, or if a customer is asking for help, respond immediately and take steps to make changes.
  • Do I offer lots of customer service options? Customers today want choices in everything—even in how they communicate with your company. Offer as many options as possible for how you provide customer service—from in-person and by phone to email and live chat. If you have something for everyone, you’ll keep everyone happy. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Encourage Online Reviews

Have you ever been in the mood for a certain type of food and hopped on Yelp to look for a new restaurant to try? Then you know that online ratings and reviews from customers are key to driving new customers to your business and growing your sales. The more reviews you have, the more trustworthy your business will appear to be. But too many small business owners aren’t doing all they can to get customers to post online reviews. As a result, they have few or no reviews and get passed over in favor of businesses with more feedback.

How can you encourage customers to leave reviews? Encourage is the key word here, because actively soliciting or requesting reviews is frowned on by review sites, and providing incentives such as discounts or freebies in exchange for reviews can get you in trouble. Try these steps instead:

  1. Give them a sign. Posting signage in your store, restaurant or office is a simple and subtle way to remind customers that your business is on review sites and that you’d love a review. For example, Yelp has downloadable “Find us on Yelp” banners you can print out as signage for your store window or point-of-sale counter.
  2. Provide postsale reminders. Your store receipts or restaurant checks could say: “Like us? Review us on [list the review sites where you have a presence].” An ecommerce company can send follow-up emails after the sale to make sure the customer was satisfied and include a reminder that your business is on review sites.
  3. Spread the word. Put icons for the review sites where you have a presence in your print marketing materials, on your website (you can use the downloadable Yelp banners there), in your email signature and anywhere else you can think of.
  4. Make it easy. Everyone’s more inclined to write a review if it’s not a big hassle, so if your site says, “Like us? Review us on Yelp,” make sure there’s a clickable link so they can do so in a minute.

Whatever you do about online reviews, there’s one big “don’t:” Don’t fake them or have friends and family write them because you’re worried you don’t have enough. Use the tips above to grow your online review status organically. 

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Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 3 Ways to Make Your Customers Feel Special in 2014

During the holidays our thoughts turn to celebration—acknowledging our friends, families and all those who make our lives special. For small business owners, that includes your customers. How can you celebrate your customers in 2014? Here are three ideas.

  1. Find out what they think. Make it a point to “check in” with your customers at the beginning of the year and find out what they think of your service. What do they love about your business, and what do they hate? What did you do right this year, and where can you stand to improve? If you’re a B2B business, make appointments to meet with your customers in person. Taking them out for lunch will make them feel special. If you’re a B2C business, you can find out what your customers think by using online surveys, surveying them on social media or sending surveys by email. (Just be sure to keep the surveys short for best results.) Once you know what customers want from you, you’ll have ideas for how to improve your service (and how to sell them more of what they want).
  2. Share your customers’ stories. Give your customers their moment in the sun by featuring them on your website or social media accounts, in case studies or in testimonials in your marketing materials. You could ask customers to post photos or videos of themselves using your product or service on your social media pages or on your website; interview top customers and feature their stories (with photos) on your website or blog; videotape your customers’ testimonials talking about how your product or service helped them…you get the idea.
  3. Honor a “customer of the month.” Many small businesses have employees of the month—so why not name a customer of the month? Feature the person in your email newsletter, on your website and on social media. Put a big photo of them in your office or store. Give them a prize such as a free or discounted product or service. At the end of the year, host a special luncheon for that year’s customers of the month. 

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Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Start a Customer E-Newsletter

customer-experience-digitalDo you want to remind customers of your business, encourage them to interact with you and provide useful information to help make their lives better? You can accomplish all of these goals and more with a customer e-newsletter.

Starting an e-newsletter for your customers may sound intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many email marketing services that provide design templates you can use to create your newsletter, send it out for you, and provide tools and analytics you can use to measure results. Plus, email marketing services stay up-to-date on the latest laws regarding email marketing and spam, which can help ensure your business isn’t running afoul of FTC regulations.

Your e-newsletter should contain a mix of useful information to help your customers and special offers from your business. You don’t want it to be solely promotional, but you also want it to inspire customers to click through to your website, visit your store or otherwise engage with your business. For instance, if you own an ecommerce site that sells gardening supplies, you could send a monthly email newsletter with do-it-yourself tips on gardening activities like preparing your yard for winter, along with timely offers such as discounts on seasonal supplies. Also be sure to include links to your social media accounts so customers can follow you on social media.

How often should you send an email newsletter? The key is regularity—if your schedule is sporadic, customers may think you’ve gone out of business or are not professional. A monthly newsletter is a good starting point for most small businesses. If that’s too much, consider starting quarterly, or if you have more bandwidth, try biweekly or weekly. Monitor your readers’ unsubscribes to make sure you’re not sending too often.

Once you’ve got your email newsletter going, be sure to promote it everywhere you can with links to sign up on the home page of your website, in your marketing materials, on your social media accounts and at the end of your email signature. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is Your Small Business Website Boomer- and Senior-Friendly?

woman-at-computerYour small business could be missing out on a key target market with money to spend because your website isn’t suited to their needs. A recent poll by McAfee of Internet users age 50 and up—that is, baby boomers and seniors—found this group is nearly equivalent to Millennials in their reliance on the Internet.

Users aged 50 and up in the study spend an average of five hours a day online—and specifically, those aged 50 to 61 spend an average of 5 hours and 42 minutes a day online. Those figures are just slightly less than the time Millennials spend online. And even those aged 62 to 75 spend an average of four hours and 36 minutes a day online!

About 90 percent of users in this age group have bought things online, 80 percent have done online banking and more than three-fourths have paid bills online.

To make sure your business website provides the best possible customer experience for these users:

  • Use larger fonts or provide options to enlarge the font (some users may not know how to do this with their browsers).
  • Avoid hard-to-read color combinations like white or light type on a dark background or light-colored type on a white background.
  • Make it functional. Put plenty of white space around buttons or tabs so it’s easy to click in the right place. This is especially important on the mobile versions of your website.
  • Provide options to talk to a real person. Many seniors still like speaking to customer service on the phone, so make sure this is a choice on your website and display your phone number prominently on the top of every page.
  • Keep it simple. Busy designs can overwhelm older users who still aren’t totally Internet-savvy. Make your site design as simple as possible so it’s easy to see how to take relevant actions like checking out, contacting you for more information, or getting directions to your location. Simple design will not only appeal to boomers, but also to most of your customers. 



 
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