Posts Tagged ‘business tips’


Anticipatory Customer Service In Action

7-02 training wheels smallWhat I call “anticipatory customer service” is the fastest, most direct way to create customer loyalty. The power of anticipatory customer service, of serving customer wishes that they haven’t even yet articulated, that they don’t even yet know they have, is this: While customer loyalty can be built through repeated iterations of merely satisfactory service, that’s a dangerous way to build a business. Every time someone has a satisfactory (but not extraordinary) experience at your property, it’s fine, and far preferable to that experience being unsatisfactory. But satisfactory service isn’t enough to draw you into a category where you’re not at the mercy of someone switching to get points from another brand, or because–when booking a return trip– they notice another hotel with a tripadvisor rating that’s .01 percent higher than yours in the same town and they’ve forgotten why (actually they haven’t been given a “why”) to return to you over checking out that other property. You’re in the dangerous, deadly realm of “who cares,” in other words.

What anticipatory customer service looks like

Tonya is a house attendant at The Inn At Palmetto Bluff, a strikingly picturesque inn-and-cottage institution nestled among ancient, Spanish moss-draped live oaks along the May River thirty minutes from Savannah.

What’s a house attendant? It’s the hospitality position that used to be called a “houseman”: part of the housekeeping team, with duties that include ensuring housekeepers are stocked with towels and waters, helping them to flip mattresses and the like, as well as helping with the cleaning itself. House Attendant is an essential position in hospitality, but one that is invisible to guests under normal circumstances and, like other housekeeping positions, at the low end of the hospitality org chart.

(Although intelligent hoteliers understand that housekeeping is the most essential department in a hotel—as Diana Oreck from The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center pithily puts it, “if the housekeepers didn’t come to work tomorrow we’d have to shutter our hotels,”—housekeepers, due to low socioeconomic status and the challenge of meeting with/socializing with the rest of the hospitality staff when you’re in a position that is as mobile and labor intensive as housekeeping, can get the short end of the respect stick in many hotels.)

Tonya pulled up outside our rooms in her golf cart–a necessity on the sprawling Palmetto Bluff campus–bringing supplies such as bottled water, towels and sheets to the housekeepers working inside. On her way in she greeted us cheerfully. (The three of us–my young son and his youngish parents–were out front of the cottage getting my son seated on one of the bikes The Inn provides to guests.) A minute or two later, on her way back out, Tonya again looked our way, took in that we were still more or less in the same positions where she’d left us, having not made any progress down the road as my son teetered atop a bike he clearly wasn’t ready to handle.

After Tonya [whose last name I’ve redacted, by the way, at her manager’s request] took in the details of the scene in front of her, she announced, “Your boy needs a bike with wheels,” by which she meant “training wheels.” “I’ll be back in five minutes.”

When she returned (in four minutes) with the newly equipped bike, she also brought Angella, a manager from Palmetto Bluff’s recreation department, with her to ensure our son was properly fitted and instructed in how to get off to a successful start with the new training wheel-equipped bike. (Tonya also brought a helmet, which showed further mind reading on her part, as we’re the kind of parents who would make our kids wear helmets even in the back seat of the car if we could.)

Her observation and anticipatory action that morning transformed the rest of our stay at Palmetto Bluff. Our son, on his now-appropriately equipped bicycle (more a quadricycle, I suppose), could range all over the gorgeous trails of Palmetto Bluff from that point forward. It was, if not life-changing, at least vacation-changing.

What Tonya did wasn’t just making an extra effort. It was making the right extra effort. Contrast how appropriate and on-point she was compared to the restaurant that messes up your check and then tries to give you a free dessert in compensation–the last thing you have time for at that point, after the 8 minutes it took to get your bill adjusted. Or the young lady at the Panera register who I just saw offer a roll “for just an additional 25 cents” to the gentleman who had just asked for no croutons in his Caesar salad. Or the hotel where five or six employees in succession ask you “how was your trip in today?” because they’ve all been told to ask that by a management that hasn’t calculated how grating that sounds after the third identical query.

Assistance like Tonya gave us didn’t cost her company anything, directly.  What this kind of service does cost is proper hiring, proper training, and proper reinforcement. When Tonya was hired (or, the term I prefer, “selected”) to work at Palmetto Bluff, she was selected not for her water-carrying, towel schlepping abilities, but for what is inside her: her natural affinity for people and for service.

Then she was trained, including a two-day onboarding with Palmetto Bluff’s current management company, Montage Resorts, that they call “morés,” which goes far beyond teaching brand standards like “answer the phone within three rings” to encompass how a talented employee like Tonya can make use of her innate empathy: to combine it with her senses, including her peripheral vision, to ensure she is picking up on issues and opportunities that are meaningful to her guests.

Finally, she is celebrated for it, and held up as an example to her co-workers of how things should be done. When I recounted to David Smiley, Director of Guest Services at Palmetto Bluff, the full Tonya saga, he reported back to me later the same day that he had set Tonya’s accomplishment to be the centerpiece of Housekeeping’s “lineup” the next morning: a celebration of Tonya’s work and a teachable moment for her co-workers.


4 Must-Have Keyword Research Tools for Your Business

7-1 Keywords for website smallKeywords are instrumental in helping people find your website. Every time someone searches for a keyword that relates to your brand, you want them to find your site, nestled toward the top of search results. If that’s not the case, you need to invest serious time in researching the right keywords and adding them to your website. These tools make it easy to do.


1. Google Keyword Planner

This tool is part of Google AdWords, but you don’t have to buy ads to use it. Google Keyword Planner lets you search for keyword ideas as well as see how many people are searching for a given keyword.

Go one step further: Once you find a handful of keywords that you think accurately describe your products or services, incorporate them on each page of your website. But only use one or two per page! Using more may trigger Google to push you down search results rather than up, as the search mogul is cracking down on black hat SEO strategies.

2. WordTracker

Google’s Keyword Planner is free to use, but WordTracker is a subscription-based keyword research tool. It also provides relevant and related keywords, and can help you find ones you wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. You get more keywords than with Keyword Planner, and you can access your searches by logging into your account, rather than dealing with clunky spreadsheets of data.

Go one step further: Check out WordTracker Academy for great resources to help sharpen your SEO skills and stay on top of the latest updates. They also offer some great reports and downloads.

3. Twitter Hashtags

Just like with Google Trends, hashtags on Twitter can let you know what people are buzzing about right now.

Go one step further: Check the lefthand sidebar on your Twitter homepage to see the hashtags that are being used heavily at any given moment. Use them in your own social updates, or use the topics as blog fodder.

4. Ubersuggest.org

UberSuggest is one of the best free Keyword suggestion tools with an easy to use graphical component. Übersuggest is one suggestion tool that makes good use of different suggest services. You can get suggestions from regular web searches or from search verticals like shopping, news or video. Ubersuggest can be very useful for quick keyword based post ideas.

Bonus tool: Google Trends

While not a keyword research tool per se, Google Trends shows you what’s hot right now. This is especially useful if you’re looking for blog topics. Ride on the tails of trending searches or news, and you’re more likely to see more readers for that particular post.

Go one step further: Subscribe to Trends to get emailed whenever topics you care about pop up as trending.

Keywords change over time, so make sure you constantly stay on top of the best keywords to promote your small business website.  


20 Quotes to Inspire Entrepreneurs

As an entrepreneur, you are most likely a glass-half-full kind of person. Without a positive attitude, it is nearly impossible to maintain the edge that you need to keep moving forward. But, no one can be happy and confident at all times. Here are some thoughts from entrepreneurs, athletes and innovators, including one from me, that can help you look at issues with a different viewpoint — and fill your goblet to the rim.

Persistence, Success and Failure

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

“Fail often so you can succeed sooner.” -Tom Kelley

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

“Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” -Dale Carnegie

“Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.” -Bill Gates

“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” -Wayne Gretzky

Ambition and Focus

“Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine.” -Elvis Presley

“Jet pilots don’t use rear view mirrors.” -Joel H. Weldon

“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps, down new roads, armed with nothing but their own vision.” -Ayn Rand

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” -Vince Lombardi

“Entrepreneurs too often make choices based on ROE– Return on Ego– vs. ROI– Return on Investment.  A particular opportunity may make you feel great, but if that opportunity is not supporting your goal, or isn’t the best way to achieve your goal quickly and efficiently, then pursue the opportunity that will.” –Carol Roth

Leadership

“A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit.” -Arnold H. Glasgow

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” -John Quincy Adams

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” -Peter Drucker

Competition and Motivation

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” -Steve Jobs

“And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.” -Andrew Carnegie

“I gave it my body and mind, but I have kept my soul.” -Phil Jackson

“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Problem Solving

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” -Albert Einstein

“The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong questions.” -Peter Drucker


Call Forwarding: Route Your Calls However You’d Like

Mature business woman talking with mobile phone on urban outdoors.You’ve probably experienced this scenario before: you’re calling a business and their phone rings, and rings, and rings. This causes you frustration and valuable time is wasted. This business did not have an essential tool in their business communication arsenal—call forwarding.

While the concept of call forwarding is pretty straightforward and basic, it can revolutionize your business. Reduce your customers and colleagues frustration and wait times by automatically redirecting, or forwarding, calls to a third party destination, such as a phone number or extension based on circumstances you specify.

Do you want a call to forward to your cell phone if you don’t answer your desk phone after three rings? Do you want to forward all calls to a specific number after your business is closed for the day? If you answered yes, then your business needs call forwarding.

Benefits of Call Forwarding:

  • Reduce customer frustration and unnecessary waiting
  • Ensure important customer calls are being answered
  • Redirect calls based on circumstances you specify
  • Receive calls on a different device if you’re away from your desk
  • And more!

The call forwarding feature is included in all of our Nextiva Office plans and is easy to manage in our customer portal. You can set specific schedules, circumstances and forwarding rules based on your business needs. If you don’t already use Nextiva for your business communication needs, give us a call at (800) 799-0600 or visit nextiva.com to learn more. 


Using Case Studies to Grow Your Business

One of the ways to build credibility for your business is to share information about your company’s products and services from satisfied customers. Your ability to get a foot in the door with prospective customers depends in part upon how well you tell your company’s story. If you are a service business, you can’t talk about a tangible product. But what you can do is develop case studies to do that help you illustrate the results you deliver for your existing customers.

case study is in-depth profile of work you've done. This is typically written to highlight the work you’ve done on a high-profile project or client. This summary report can then be used as a one-pager in a marketing kit or on your company’s website. Here are the elements to include on a compelling case study.

Name of Client and Type of Service

Always include the name of the client you plan to profile (with their permission, of course), and select a business that will resonate with your target audience. The goal of writing case studies is to ensure that your ideal customer will hire you after reading the case study.

Also include the type of service you provided. For example, if you provided social media consulting or online marketing, include that as a sub-heading after you list the client’s name in the title. Since this will live on your website, you'll need to ask the company’s permission before publishing.  

Purpose of the Project

This is where you write about the problem the client was facing, and why you were hired to solve it. For example, was the purpose of the project to raise awareness of their company or brand? Was it to build brand awareness, generate sales or increase their online traffic?

Execution Brief

Here is where you illustrate how you solved the problem for the client. Describe in detail all the services you provided, and highlight why you chose certain strategies over others. Do not simply say you increased the number of newsletter subscribers. Be specific and note HOW you increased the subscribers.

Since this section of the case study can be long, don’t be afraid to break up the text into sections with bolded headers, or use bullets and numbers.

Share Results for the Clients

Use real numbers to illustrate the successful work you did. Don’t just say, “We doubled traffic to the website.” Instead list the before and after numbers or percentages and consider displaying those figures in charts and graphs. Using screenshots of Google Analytics information are great additions if that reflects the work you did. This section is a great way to use visuals to display the information.

Client Endorsements

One of the most effective ways to sell your products and services is with customer testimonials. Potential customers are really not that interested in your passion or belief that your work produces amazing results. Let your customers do that bragging for you. Include a few testimonials from the satisfied clients in your case study. Ask the customer to write the testimonial in a way that highlights tangible results and benefits. These words are a great way to close the case study with praise for the work you conducted. 

The addition of case studies to your website will help you tell your business story, highlight the services you provide, and illustrate results at the same time. Try if you can to get testimonials in video as well, to add to your website as well.


To Fix Your Service, Fix Your Systems

Man working with electrial componentsLet’s imagine you own a body shop.  Some of your customers start reporting (in person if you’re lucky; on Yelp if you’re not) an unsatisfactory customer interaction with one of your cashiers.  Your first impulse is to bite the young lady’s head off, but I hope you’ll hold that impulse in check and look at the situation dispassionately.  You may see something like the following:  your cashier’s disorganized, doesn’t have proper change, doesn’t have her computer turned on at the beginning of her shift–in time to serve you, the first customer who walks up to her–and can’t find a pen for you to sign the credit card slip.

What you’ll discover, in other words, is a failure of systems.  Including some or all of the following:

• Onboarding: why wasn’t she prepped on what the necessary supplies are for starting a shift?

• Training: has she been instructed in one of the workplace organization systems, perhaps 5S, which is a component of Lean Manufacturing methodology?

• Scheduling:  Was she told to show up at the minute the body shop opens rather than a more realistic 30 minutes earlier so she could both mentally and physically prepare, get her terminal switched on, get her bank ready to make change, and so forth?

• Hiring. Saying that there was a failure in hiring is sort of like saying it’s the employee’s (cashier’s) fault, but not really.  If she is wrong for this position–too shy, not detail-oriented enough, etc.–it’s not her fault, it’s the fault of the system (or hunch, in far too many companies) that is responsible for selecting her, in error, for this position.

So, when the customer service at your business goes bad, it’s almost certainly because one or more of your customer service systems are broken. (As the founder of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company has often said, if something goes wrong once, it might be the fault of the employee.  If it happens twice, it’s definitely the system.) And that’s what’s most important to understand about customer service systems: Gaps in organizational performance are almost always the result of a breakdown or lack of an appropriate Service System.

In my cashier example, it’s clear that a system needs to be developed to ensure that all supplies are stocked before each shift. This could be in the form of a small checklist or a job description that clearly defines the role of each employee. However the organization chooses to deal with the situation is fine – as long as it solves the problem for good. The absolute wrong thing to do is to yell at the cashier for not stocking the items. Not only is this demoralizing for a good employee who is trying her best, but it also doesn’t solve the problem systematically–in other words, in a sustainable manner.

So, how do you discover the systems that are missing or mis-designed? There are systems for that, but it is first and foremost dependent on building a culture where mistakes are embraced as learning opportunities, and guest complaints as opportunities for improvement. Turning every issue that comes up into a witch hunt will make your service team timid to the extent that they’re more focused on covering their, uh, assets than on providing service. You need your employees to tell you when they’ve made a mistake – so that it can be fixed in the future–systematically.


The Nextiva Mobile App: The Death of the Desk Phone

6-18 Nextiva AppIn today’s hyperconnected world, your customers expect you to be available whenever they need to reach you. Today’s business environment moves at a rapid pace and you can’t afford to be disconnected from your customers or team members. In short, mobility is essential to your productivity and business success. Luckily for you, there are now communication tools available that can eliminate the stress of missing an important phone call. Cloud phone systems have quite a few features to help out today’s business professionals, but none are as essential to your business as a mobile app.

At Nextiva, we offer the Nextiva App that combines voice, video, instant messaging, and presence into a single application that you can access from your desk phone, computer, or mobile device. You no longer need to worry about giving out multiple phone numbers because you can be reached via your main business line at all times, no matter what device you are on. The Nextiva App gives your business the flexibility and freedom to take your business phone with you anywhere; you can even take that conference call from the beach and no one will know!

Business Benefits:

  • Stay connected on-the-go, 24/7
  • Transfer calls between devices
  • Manage your phone system from anywhere

Key Features:

  • Instant Messaging
  • Presence
  • Enterprise Directory
  • Voice Calling
  • Video Collaboration
  • Call Pulling
  • Cloud Sync
  • Chat Rooms
  • Call Controls

The Nextiva App is compatible with Nextiva Office plans and is supported in Windows, Mac OSC, iOS and Android platforms. It can be added to customer accounts, and a simple download from Nextiva.com of the version you need, along with a quick call to our support team, will add the freedom and mobility of the Nextiva App to your business communications.

To learn more, visit our Nextiva App page or call (800) 799-0600. 


How to Under Promise and Over Deliver to Your Customers

6-17 over deliver smallHow well you connect with your customers through your products, services, and support will determine whether they come back to you to buy again and again. But even if you sell the most amazing products ever, there’s still room to improve your customer service. One strategy is to underpromise and overdeliver. What do I mean by that?

Some may tell you to think of underpromising what you can give a customer as an “in case of emergency” cushion for worst-case scenarios, but it’s better to plan for success than for failure. By promising one thing (5-day delivery, for example) and beating expectations (2-day delivery) you'll surprise and delight your customers. And that will keep them coming back. Here are four ways to ensure that your customers are constantly enchanted with your service, plus one freebie tip for the customer who cannot be satisfied.

When you thank your customer for her business, ask her for feedback.

One way to know how to overdeliver to your customers and also gain valuable insight is to ask your customers what they want. Institute an outreach program that connects with customers within 7-10 days after the transaction is complete. Ask your customer to provide specific ratings and input on a few specific topics. Then look at trends. If you constantly hear that your product isn’t well-packaged and sometimes gets damaged in shipping, that’s something you can take direct action to improve.

Work smarter with Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM).

If you’ve ever called a customer service line, been transferred, and then had to re-explain your situation, you no doubt were frustrated that the company didn’t keep better records on your past interactions with it. Delight your customers by storing detailed records on past transactions and calls with CRMUsing CRM, anyone with access to the software can become an expert in your customer’s history quickly and painlessly and instantly improve your customer’s experience.

When your customer completes a transaction, surprise her with a gesture.

There are many ways to acknowledge your appreciation for your customer’s business. You might send a handwritten thank you note for doing business with you — in this day and age, handwritten notes carry a lot more significance than a canned email. You may offer a small discount if she purchases again within a short time frame. It is important to let your customer know that her business is important to you and that you value it — the incentive or gift is just the icing on top.

If your customer has a problem, find out what the problem is and solve it.

If your business is reviewed on yelp or any review site, you need to stay on top of anything unhappy customers are saying. Make it your mission to solve problems for your customers. In the event that a customer is unhappy with your product or service, make it right immediately. It's not worth them telling their story to 10 more people, is it? Keep that old adage, “the customer is always right” at the center of your actions, and go above and beyond in not only remedying the situation, but making her a glowing fan of your business.

Freebie: So what, if your customer’s demands are unreasonable, Can you say ‘no.’ Yes, you can!

Every now and again you may run into a customer whose demands are unreasonable and who refuses to be pacified with your customer service efforts. While you may be tempted to appease this customer’s demands, it is better to put your energy toward your customers who do appreciate your efforts. Sometimes you may have to tell these challenging customers, “I'm sorry, I couldn't possible do that.” Just say No, and move on, as there is little you can do salvage this type of customer relationship. Save your energy and focus for your rational customers.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How (and Why) to Improve Your Internal Customer Service

6-16 internal customer service smallYou’re all about customer service—but how well does your company handle internal customer service? Internal customers are the employees at your business, all of whom depend on—that is, are “customers” of—other employees to get their jobs done.

Internal customer service is important because if it isn’t up to par, your business will function less efficiently and professionally, and your external customer service will suffer. Here are 4 steps to improving your internal customer service.  

  1. Make sure employees understand the relationships among their roles. As your business grows, employees may become less familiar with what each person does and how their jobs support each other. You can introduce the concept of internal customer service by using an organizational chart and explaining what each department does and how its functions support other departments. For example, your marketing team generates leads that your salespeople pursue to make sales, while your fulfillment department ships the orders. If marketing doesn’t do its job, the salespeople can’t sell. If fulfillment messes up the orders, salespeople’s efforts are in vain.
  2. Cross train employees. Cross training employees to handle each other’s jobs gives them a real sense of how important each job is to internal customer service. It can also open their eyes to the challenges of other jobs, and ways they could be making their teammates’ jobs easier or more difficult.
  3. Improve your systems and processes. Work with your employee to identify sticking points in your existing systems and processes that are preventing good internal customer service. For instance, if salespeople aren't inputting orders in a timely fashion, this slows fulfillment and overloads customer service with angry calls.
  4. Build team spirit. Poor internal customer service often comes from personal rifts or misunderstandings between employees. When employees see each other as comrades and even friends, however, providing great internal customer service comes naturally. Encourage employee bonding by hosting regular events like Friday potluck or pizza lunches, company picnics and other outings. Model the behavior you want to see by being friendly, upbeat and getting to know your employees.

Encouraging employees to see each one another as customers will spark better behavior and greater professionalism. That means a happier team…and happier customers. 




 
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