Posts Tagged ‘business tips’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Measure and Use Net Promoter Scores

2-17 promoter score smallHow loyal are customers to your business? How likely are they to recommend your products and services to others? Doing a Net Promoter Score survey (NPS) can help you get the answers to these questions quickly and take action to build more customer loyalty.

The Net Promoter Score survey was developed by Bain & Company and works like this: You ask customers one simple question: How likely are you to recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague? and have users answer on a scale of 0 to 10 (where 0 means not at all likely and 10 means definitely likely.

The test is scored this way:

  • Promoters” are loyal customers who keep buying from a company and urge friends to do the same (scores of 9 and 10)
  • “Passives” (scores of 7 and 8) are satisfied customers, but are also at risk of being wooed away by your competitors.
  • “Detractors” (scores of 6 or under) are dissatisfied and at risk of spreading negative word-of-mouth about your company.

To find your Net Promoter Score, subtract the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. The resulting percentage is your score. For instance, a company with 40 percent Promoters and 10 percent Detractors has an NPS of 30 percent.  Any NPS over zero is good; an NPS of 50 percent or more is considered excellent.

In order to make your Net Promoter Score survey effective:

Deliver the survey at the right time. It needs to taken sent soon enough after the customer experience that customers remember it, but not so soon that they haven’t gotten to use the product or service yet.

Include room for open-ended follow-up. After the single question, include an optional section on your survey for additional comments:

  • Please tell us what you like or don’t like about our company.
  • Would you like to be contacted to discuss this?
  • Name/Phone Number/Email

This gives customers who are unhappy with you space to “vent” about what they didn’t like, as well as to be heard.

Take action on both Detractors and Promoters. Promoters are much more likely to be loyal to your business, buy more from your business and prove more profitable to your business. Use tactics such as:

  • Offering them loyalty rewards
  • Offering rewards for referring a new customer
  • Upselling additional related products and services

Detractors, meanwhile, are likely to badmouth your business, so do your best to change what they’re unhappy about. If a Detractor asks to be contacted, do so immediately! Positive outreach can turn Detractors into Promoters.

Share results with your team. Let your staff know your business’s NPS as well as any specific praise or criticism that customers share in the survey. By doing so, you can help them improve customer service and overall performance.


Mondays with Mike: 6 Steps to Building Better Proposals

2-16 business proposal smallWhether you do it many times a day or only occasionally, we all use written proposals from time to time in order to land new clients.  As important as generating revenue is, I’m consistently surprised by how little time many entrepreneurs spend on perfecting these opportunities to shine.  Here are six concrete ways you can make your proposal stand out from the crowd.

  1. Put your pricing options in the right order.  Your best bet is to start with your highest priced option and descend from there.  Why?  Your prospective clients know how much they’re willing to spend, and you want them making comparisons against your high figure first.  That way, every other option looks like a comparative bargain.
  2. Offer three options.  More than three choices can give your prospect analysis paralysis – an inability to decide when faced with an overload of information.  Fewer than three options can make a prospect feel forced into a decision.  Three is the perfect number.  It lets your clients select one option that’s the best fit and discard the options that don’t suit their needs as well.
  3. Include a partially completed contract.  In short, you want to make it as easy as possible for a prospect to say yes.  Doing as much of the paperwork as you can in advance not only makes it easy, but it also gives them a sense of progress toward a goal – in this case, the completed contract.  We’re much more likely to finish a task if we feel like we’re getting somewhere.  Don’t overwhelm your client with a mountain of blank pages to fill out.
  4. Use the power of font size.  I am not suggesting you hide important details in fine print.  What I am suggesting is that tiny modifications of font size can influence the way your prospects read a proposal.  Making the font just one point larger when you mention their name or their company’s name or highlight a key benefit makes the appealing stuff just slightly more apparent.  Reducing the font size one point for discussion of price – the less fun stuff – can minimize the impact of the cost.
  5. Personalize your proposal.  Odds are good that your prospect is receiving proposals from other businesses, and one sure way to make your stand out is by customizing it to reflect unique details just for your client.  If you send off boilerplate wording, it’s going to be less compelling.  If you use your client’s name and refer to specific attributes or benefits for their particular situation, you’re making a connection between your company and the client that’s hard to ignore.
  6.  Use good quality paper.  So many proposals are delivered electronically that seizing the opportunity to present a polished hard copy on heavy, substantial paper will always make you stand out among the other contenders.  You’re showing the client how important their business is to you, and you’re demonstrating your willingness to go above and beyond to ensure high quality results.

Whether you own a construction company that regularly writes high dollar proposals, or you’re a catering company who sends out occasional quotes, making sure you get your proposals right makes a big difference in your bottom line.


6 Steps to Systemizing Your Business

2-13 business systems smallWhether you recognize it or not, your business already has a system. But when tasks take too long, cost too much or create substandard results, your system needs anything from a little Botox to a full face lift. Here are six-steps to help you see what you’ve got, identify where it’s going wrong and fix your system to get your business humming.

Step 1: Document Your Current System

Without documentation, you can’t get a clear picture of what you’re doing now, much less how to make it better. Don’t assume that you know what each employee does. Talk to them before you write down every step, identifying who is responsible for performing each task and the flow of work from one employee to the next.

Many employees will have opinions regarding what tasks need to change (or go away entirely). Encourage them to voice their thoughts so that you can note down that information, too. You are now armed with a playbook that you can review before moving to the next step.

Step 2: Eliminate Unnecessary Tasks

Scan your documentation for clearly unnecessary or redundant tasks (including those exposed during employee feedback), and get rid of them. If your employees are performing ten steps when five steps would do the job without loss of quality, they are wasting valuable time. And the extra steps may even make their work less accurate.

This is not a do-it-yourself process. Before eliminating tasks, talk again to the people who perform them, as well as everyone connected with the process. If Joe recommends eliminating two quality checks in his process, but Mary says she spends too much time correcting Joe’s errors, you need to figure out why Joe is so error-prone, and then fix it.

Make sure that you enter these and other changes into your documentation. You’re going to need it later (and forever).

Step 3: Automate

Your employees can become more effective when you judiciously introduce some automation to the process. With technology costs coming down and becoming easily accessible through the cloud, this is now more viable than ever.  Sometimes, you can also automate with a simple tweak. A tool as simple as setting up an auto-responder provides amazing value by buying extra time for responding to email requests.

Step 4: Monitor Results

Until you try out your new system, you cannot be sure of its success. After implementation, keep a sharp eye on the results. Are operations moving along more efficiently in the hands of happier employees? Or is the process hitting bottlenecks while your employees have become numb with boredom? If the latter, work may slow down, leaving you with a system that looks good on paper, but requires further adjustment.

Step 5: Make Tweaks

If you expect to get everything right the first time, think again. This is typically an iterative process involving testing, tweaking and documenting. You probably will see improvements on your first attempt, but no system is perfect. A tweak made to one task may create issues in a later step.

After tweaking problem areas, change the documentation so that your employees will know the steps that they need to perform, and monitor the results again. Rinse and repeat until the system works well.

Step 6: Update Documentation

Once you are satisfied with your new system, it’s time to formalize the documentation. Your employees will need to follow a procedures manual until they know all of the steps. And, when you hire new employees, you can reduce training time while increasing accuracy when they have a step-by-step manual at their fingertips.

Of course, no system is forever. As your business changes, additional changes to the process are almost inevitable. And, let’s face it: busy business owners don’t have the free time to change documentation on the fly — or even think about it, so put a periodic review on your calendar.

Your review may uncover missing information or, more importantly, the need for system enhancements. A semi-annual or annual review requires only a small effort (sort of like regularly straightening your closets, rather than waiting for a major mess). This effort ensures that your information is accurate, while alerting you if it’s time to go back to Step 2.

A Good System Does Not Stifle Creativity

Remember: a great system for your business does not equate to a mindless factory assembly line. Remove unnecessary, confusing or redundant tasks, and you free minds to develop new ideas. Everyone, from yourself on down, can add meaningful contributions to your business.


How to Hire an Attorney for Your Small Business

Lawyer handing over legal document at  a meeting in a cafeEvery business needs the services of an attorney. Having access to one can help you navigate complex areas like patents, trademarks, copyrights, and contracts. They can also help you choose the best business structure for your company and create employment contracts and nondisclosure agreements, if you need them. Some attorneys specialize in helping small businesses and can be reasonably priced, even for the smallest budget.

Start by Identifying What You Need

Beyond identifying the areas you need legal expertise in, you’ll also need to determine what type of lawyer you need. Some can help with general small business tasks, while others specialize in trademarks, patents, and copyrights. If there’s a specialist for what you need, seek him out. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner if you had orthopedic issues.

If you have no need for copyrights or any complex legal advice, you can probably get by taking care of your needs on your legal questions with a general small business attorney. If, on the other hand, you want to patent your intellectual property or need several different complex contracts drafted, you’re better off hiring a professional with that expertise.

Ask Your Network for Referrals

Before you do an internet search for an attorney, see if anyone you know is acquainted with a small business lawyer. A referral can go a long way toward helping you find the right person for the job, and it will cut down on the time you spend vetting different options.

If no one you know can refer a lawyer, check with your local SCORE or Small Business Development Center to see what leads they can offer. You might even find one that partners with the local bar association to offer pro bono advice to startups!

Do Some Research

Once you’ve got your shortlist of possible attorneys to work with, dig into their qualifications online. You can review each one’s credentials on your state bar’s website or here. You want to ensure that your attorney is licensed and admitted to practice before the courts in your state. It may also be helpful to see if he has ever been reprimanded or involved in illegal activities (red flag).

Interview Your Top Three Choices

Starting a relationship with a lawyer is something you want to do carefully, because the right fit could make for a long and fruitful relationship. Always ask for business references (and check them), as well as questions like these:

  • Do I need to provide a large retainer to get started
  • What is your fee schedule for routine and non-routine services?
  • Will you provide itemized bills?
  • What is your typical response time?
  • What is the best way to reach you?
  • Have you worked with any businesses in my industry?
  • Can you give me an example of how you have helped clients secure business opportunities?
  • Can I call you on any legal problem?

Not only should the right lawyer give you satisfactory answers to these questions, but you should get a good feeling from her. You need to be able to trust your attorney with your business, so it’s important you listen to your gut in the interview.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Customer Service Reps

Waiting Room: Receptionist Takes Insurance CardWhen hiring customer service reps, you need to do more than assess the job candidate’s experience and dot the i’s and cross the t’s on a job application. Here are five factors that are just as important as experience, and how to assess them during the interview process.

  1. Friendliness. Natural curiosity about others, openness and willingness to engage and ask questions are key characteristics of a good customer service employee. Small talk during the interview is a good way to explore how friendly a job candidate is. (Just be sure you talk steer the conversation to topics interviewers are forbidden to ask about, such as whether a candidate is married, has children or how old they are.)
  2. Ability to handle negativity. Good customer service representatives deal with negative emotions (their own and other people’s) in a mature way and, ideally, turn negative situations around. In addition to asking employees about a negative person at their prior job and how they dealt with him or her, try putting them to the test by incorporating stressful situations into the interview, such as telling them the interview is delayed and having the receptionist observe how they behave while waiting, having other employees continually interrupt the interview, or having your receptionist purposely be rude to them so you can see how they react.
  3. Multitasking ability. Customer service requires being able to multitask. A representative might be on the phone with one customer while dealing with a queue of other customers on hold. He might be assisting an indecisive customer at the point-of-sale in a store while the line of impatient customers is growing by the minute. Try setting tasks that incorporate multitasking or distractions, such as taking a written test in a room where the candidate has also been told to answer the phone, or interrupting the test to have the candidate complete a form or sign a document.
  4. Pleasant demeanor. A calming presence and soothing speaking voice can go a long way toward making ruffled customers feel better. If the employee will be dealing with customers on the phone, try conducting a pre-interview by phone to see how he or she comes across. You might be able to eliminate candidates who don’t present themselves well by phone and save yourself some interview time.
  5. Emotional awareness. Often called “emotional intelligence” or EQ (like IQ), emotional intelligence incorporates many facets, but basically it’s the ability to sense and respond appropriately to others’ emotions. A customer service rep with high EQ will know when a complaining customer just wants to be heard more than he or she wants an actual solution, when customers are in a rush and need to get off the phone quickly, or when customers need to be escalated to the next level of service before the situation deteriorates.

When interviewing customer service candidates, be sure to trust your gut. If a job candidate doesn’t put you at ease and you don’t enjoy interacting with the person, your customers probably won’t, either.


Mondays with Mike: 7 Habits Entrepreneurs Should Eradicate

2-9 bad entrep habits  smallI’ve started, run, grown, and sold businesses long enough to know how much we can learn from the unsuccessful habits of entrepreneurs who don’t make it.  By seeing the recipe for failure, we learn much about success.  Here are seven destructive entrepreneurial habits you should watch out for.

  1. Playing the victim, rather than the victor.  If you’re constantly whining “why me?” and focusing on all the bad things that are out of your control, you’re unlikely to be the sort of take-charge, positive person who flourishes as an entrepreneur.  You question should instead be “why not me?”
  2. Favoring ideas over action.  You’re far better off having a mediocre idea and putting in hard work to see it through than you are with a brilliant idea and no work ethic.  Inspiration is the spark, but perspiration is the day-to-day practice of putting your nose to the grindstone and getting things done.  You can’t feed your family on your brilliant ideas alone.  You have to be willing to work.
  3. Raising money, rather than making money.  Many small businesses need occasional infusions of cash, whether it’s for expansion or improvements.  The danger, though, is in spending more of your time chasing down investors than you spend wooing customers.  Revenue is the lifeblood of a company.  Focus on increasing your sales, and you’ll need less investor support.
  4. Relying on your backup plan.  It’s very seldom that you see great things achieved without risk.  If you’re constantly hedging your bets, tinkering with your arrangements in case your new venture flops, then you’re not really all in.  Commit to making your business succeed, rather than spending your energy planning for your failure.
  5. Hiring quickly and firing slowly.  Good employees are worth their weight in gold, and bad employees can cost you far more than you’d ever imagined.  If I could impress entrepreneurs with one single tip in terms of recruiting talent, it would be to slow the process down.  Take your time, hire staff that’s a good fit your company’s climate and values, and if an employee turns out to be a poor fit, then cut that employee out.  You can’t afford to let bad apples spoil a good bunch of employees.
  6. Failing to identify your target market.  If you don’t know who you’re selling to, your efforts in marketing, collecting feedback, and making changes will be seriously inhibited.  Successful entrepreneurs can clearly articulate who their ideal users are, and they frequently cater to a particular niche in a market.
  7. Doing minimum wage work.  I can’t tell you how often I see brilliant entrepreneurs doing unskilled work in their companies.  If you’re spending your time doing work you could hire someone to knock out for $10 an hour, you’re not doing your business any favors.  Your time and your talent are more valuable than that.  Put your energy toward the stuff you can’t hire people to do for you.  Grow your business.  Attract new clients.  Leave the simple tasks for someone else.

Some of the smartest entrepreneurs I know are the ones who see and avoid the obstacles that have tripped up their colleagues.  Success isn’t just about learning what to do; it’s also about learning what you should avoid.


The Customer Service Speed Trap

2-6 stop watch smallI finding myself carrying on quite often about the need to speed up customer service and the customer experience, because customer expectations for speed of service have become so frenzied. This is thanks to mobile and amazon.com and Starbucks, and is a phenomenon that’s even more intense among the important millennial generation of customers. (Born 1980-2000, Millennials are the biggest generation in history. And they've never known a world without a smartphone.)

But there's a speed trap here, so to speak, and I want to encourage you to be aware of it: In most business contexts you should be equally leery of sacrificing the customer's experience due to some enforced speed march. What you will find–and what you should emulate– is how the companies most cognizant of time are also the ones who allow time for lingering, for connection. Which is the approach you should take as well.

Take Starbucks, since they are such a paragon of consistent timeliness. Even though Starbucks spends a lot of time measuring and improving how well they match their customers’ speed expectations—delivering a custom (truly from scratch) beverage in a matter of minutes—they don’t let the need for speed suck the life out of the Starbucks experience.

In fact, they go in the other direction: They want the world to linger with them over coffee. Everything is designed to facilitate this lingering, which puts them right on track to please the millennial generation (as well as the rest of us). In spite of their penchant for mobile and online socializing, customers today also yearn for face-to-face interaction and collaboration—from their peers and, often, from your more empathetic employees. All of which takes time and the allowance of time.  

Customers today want the stupid, transactional stuff to take less time, less of their time. They want to wave their phones and have their purchase paid for, but they want the meaningful parts of the customer experience to take more time, or at least better time.

Think about Apple, specifically the Apple Stores: When you're face to face with the genius, you want the breathing room to state your problem, to understand the solution. No rush, thank you very much, now that I've driven across town to meet with you. But you do want to be able to pre-schedule that meeting, and you do want to be able to pay and leave without a lick of paperwork or delay.  Getting this dance just right is the sign of a master approach to respecting the customers' time, and it can be a real competitive advantage. 


What You Can Learn from the Businesses in Mumbai’s Dharavi Slum

2-5 Dharavi Mumbai smallIn January, I had the opportunity to visit India. One of the most eye opening parts of the trip was the half day I spent at the Dharavi slum that was made famous by the movie, “Slumdog Millionaire”. It sits in the middle of Mumbai, the financial capital of India and is the second largest slum in Asia. Dharavi is only one square mile, but is home to over 1M people. The density of the slum grew over the last 100 years because of the expulsion of factories and residents from Mumbai and the rural poor migrating to the city. 

This slum is big business. Dharavi has an active economy with approximately 10,000 household enterprises that mainly employ residents. Being so densely populated, many of them sleep and work in the same place. Dharavi exports buffalo leather, fabric and pottery products around the world. The total “reported” annual revenue of all the small businesses in the slum is estimated at over $665M per year. Most people I talked to believe it is actually over a billion dollars per year.

There is a lot that American entrepreneurs can learn from these business owners. They include:

  1. Find a niche by doing what others won’t. A lot of the work done in the slum is what others in the rest of Mumbai do not want to do. There is a big business of recycling all types of plastics and metals. These need to be sorted by hand which is labor intensive. Many materials also need to be dried manually in the sun afterward. Lesson: What can your business do that customers need, but other people don’t want to do? Go do that at a profit.
  2. Always be testing (ABT). There are no long term business plans written here. People simply find a job that needs to be done and start doing it. Alternatively, they set up shop outside their home or the one restroom that serves 1,000 people daily and see what people buy. If their product or service does not sell well, they adjust the next day. Lesson: Prototyping and testing are an important part of growing any business until you find want your customer will buy over a long period of time.
  3. The highest price is what people actually pay. There is a tremendous amount of competition in Dharavi since there are so many people. They still focus on the value a product or service brings. For example, there is always a “tourist” price which is the highest since they are willing to pay more than anyone living inside the slum. Lesson: Find customers that value your products the most so you can sell at a top price for maximum profit.
  4. Relationships still matter. It’s not only about price, but who you know and have trusted to work with in the past. In Dharavi, historical ties, religion and geographic location within the slum play an important role in the supplier and customer relationships. Lesson: Everywhere in the world, people do business with who they know, like, and trust. Think about the actual basis of your relationships with your suppliers and customers. If it’s not based on trust, then it is more fragile than you think.

What have you learned about business traveling outside the U.S.?


Marketing 101: 5 Key Marketing Terms to Know

2-4 Mktg 101 smallWhen you start a business, it is extremely important to have a marketing plan. A marketing plan is essential in helping you develop an understanding of what actions you can take to bring success. When people look at statistics about small businesses and see that only about half of all small businesses make it to their fifth birthday, it can be daunting to jump into such cold waters.

However, if you take the steps to prepare for entrepreneurship, you have given yourself a boost over the hurdles that plague the small business owners who become just another statistic. Your marketing plan establishes how and to whom you promote your product or service. Before your write your marketing plan, let’s review some crucial marketing terms to help you have a clear idea of what this approach entails.

1. Marketing

The term marketing encompasses a large range of behaviors undertaken by businesses to communicate their brand message with their customers. In a nutshell, marketing presents products or services in ways that make them desirable. Your advertising, website, social media profiles, and newsletter are all part of your marketing efforts, and are the efforts you undertake to persuade potential customers to become paying customers. Marketing uses both emotional and rational appeals to attract customers and encompasses a wide variety of actions and components. Creativity in your marketing is vital, and the returns can be enormous.

2. Market Research

The term market research may seem overly dry or academic, but it is extremely important. In short, market research tells you who is your customer and why they could buy form you. It also can tell you how many potential customers exist for your market. You may think that everyone will want what you offer, but your market research will tell how likely that scenario is.

For example, the cost of your product may eliminate much of the potential market, or your product may be too specialized to attract enough customers to support your costs. It is important to not just examine the current market, but look ahead to the long-term as technological or cultural changes might transform the market. Good market research gives you solid ground on which to begin your endeavor.

3. Advertising

Advertising is another broad category of marketing focused on bringing attention to a product or service in order to create a sale or build awareness. Product placement in movies is a form of paid advertising, as are pay-per-click ads online. Branding is a key component of advertising. You can use advertising to build brand awareness via media, such as a placing a Facebook ad. Your market research will tell you where, how, and when you should be advertising.

4. Sales

The culmination of all your efforts is sales — that moment when you have convinced your audience to take action and bring out that plastic to make a purchase. Sales is the goal where your marketing, market research, and advertising all lead. Sales activities include direct marketing, selling (including in person, via the Internet, phone, or networking) and trade shows. Any action that results in an exchange of goods or services for money or an equivalent is a sale. How much you sell and when you sell all factor into your bottom line.

5. Profit

Profit is how you measure your success in purely economic terms. It is the amount of money you’ve made after you deduct all your costs of doing business, such as direct and indirect expenditures. Pricing directly impacts your profit! A completed business plan gives you insight in how your specific profit model works. Remember, if you are prepared from the outset, you have strengthened your chances of success in the future.

Understanding these key terms and applying them in your marketing plan ensures that you have a solid plan for what you are selling, how you will sell it, and to whom you will sell. Marketing is the umbrella under which you will execute your marketing research, plan your advertising, make your sales, and calculate your profit. Social media — and media in general — is the means by which you take your message to you audience, but a tight marketing plan is meant to guide your messaging and help you identify the best channels for it.




 
Nextiva Logo

phone-icon Sales phone-icon Support
Nextiva is the leader in Business VoIP Services. Copyright 2015 Nextiva, All Rights Reserved,
Terms and Conditions, Privacy Policy, Patents, Sitemap