Posts Tagged ‘Small Business’


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.

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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


5 Essential Skills to Hire For Customer Service

It’s always one of the most critical questions in any business. Do you hire based on specific skills or the candidate’s attitude and company culture fit?

When hiring for any customer service position, attitude is everything. Only an employee with the right attitude can come to work every day and truly help the customer service effort. In a survey, American Express revealed that the most successful customer service people have experience in the hospitality area (hotels, restaurant, and tourism). This type of industry experience encourages employees to build deeper relationships with customers. 

Most customers that call with a problem or question realize it may not be solved immediately. As a result, actual problem solving skills are not high on the hiring list. Instead, here are the skills that will enable employees to give the customers exactly what they really need for them to remain loyal to a company:

1. Courtesy. Throughout hundreds of individual calls and interactions with customers, can the employee remain courteous to each customer? The caller (emailer or social media poster) doesn’t care how many other customers the rep dealt with or if they are having a bad day. Can the employee set all this aside and treat this customer with the courtesy they deserve?

2. Focus. Does the employee have a proven ability to focus on a single task and follow it through to the end? Many customers complain that they constantly get passed around a company and have to explain an issue over and over again. When surveyed, this is always a very sore point for customers.

3. Empathy. Can the employee put themselves in the customer’s shoes even if they think they are wrong? Can they truly say, “I understand how you can see things that way”. When calling a company, empathy is what customers truly want in order to be satisfied.

4. Calm. Can the employee keep calm even when the customer gets angry and begins to shout? Many people have a tendency to mirror the other person’s reaction and ratchet up the emotion. This never leads to effective customer service. 

5. Improvise. Can they improvise and not just be robotic by following a script and standard practices? Can they recognize when an exception to the rules needs to be made? Can they see the bigger profit picture and offer what is best for the customer and the company?

At the interview, it is important to actually test for these skills through work simulations before an employee is hired for customer service. Are they able to remain courteous, focused and calm in the tested situation? Do they always show empathy in their responses?  Are they able to improvise?

Which skills does your company value 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


Nextiva Customer Success Story: 19th Ave. Dental Care

Last week, we met with Doctor Marc Kay, owner of Phoenix-based 19th Ave. Dental Care to chat about his office’s Nextiva phone service.  One of his practice’s most important commitments is delivering seamless, comfortable service, so we were thrilled to hear that Nextiva’s phone systems were able to help them increase patient satisfaction and overall efficiency.

Nextiva’s cloud-based phone systems offer dozens of benefits for medical practices, including:

  • The ability to swap calls between a desk phone and cell phone so that doctors can stay mobile while remaining connected
  • An auto attendant to act as an automated receptionist for patients while the office is closed
  • Call continuity in the rare case of a disaster
  • Call logging to view all incoming and outgoing calls for easy tracking of billing and appointments
  • A customized greeting message, professionally recorded by Nextiva for free
  • Shared line appearance so incoming calls ring directly to all of a doctor’s phones and front desk simultaneously

Dr. Kay’s staff has found automatic rerouting to be particularly useful in their office during everyday office hours and in cases of patient emergencies. Watch the full interview to see how Nextiva has helped 19th Ave Dental Care stay mobile and save money:


How to Keep Track of Your Passwords

These days, there’s a password for everything. But in the interest of your own security, every password should be different, which makes remembering them a difficult task. The following are some creative ways that can help you create new passwords and actually remember them all.

Remember 100 different passwords with 1 rule
One way to generate unique passwords that you can remember is to choose a base password and then include part of the name of the service associated with it, recommends LifeHacker.com. An example is use your base password – say “Love” – and add letters from the service. So your Yahoo password might be LOVEYHAO and your Google password cloud be “GOGLOVE”. Or, you can use your initials or favorite number to start plus the first 3 letters of a service name. So for Amazon, John Bob Smith could use JBS10AMA. To make a password even more secure, or applicable for services that require other characters, add special characters around it, like # JBS10AMA#.

Here are some other examples of patterns you could use:

  • Three letters, special character, three numbers
  • Three numbers, special character, three letters
  • Take a word and insert numbers and special characters in specific positions

Those are the basic components of your new password system. Even the simplest version is a fairly difficult password to crack. If you’re really security conscious you can make passwords stronger by:

  • Use both upper and lower case letters
  • Use more special characters
  • Make the way you combine them more complicated

4 Small Business Hiring Tips

Are you getting your small business off the ground but need help with the HR aspect of things? Find dedicated, quality employees to help run your business with these four tips:

Attract the right employee.         

Know what kind of person you want to hire before beginning the hiring process – you need to be able to fit the right piece into the puzzle. Decide what level of education and experience you will require for the position, and any special skills or personality traits that you would like them to have. Then, advertise the position in places your ideal demographic looks. Think outside the box by utilizing LinkedIn, Facebook, or a local networking website for your industry.

Make your position desirable.

Hiring a new employee is a two way street. Once they have shown interest in the position by submitting an application, it is the company’s turn to show interest in appropriate candidates by convincing them that the job is right for them. Tell your candidates what makes you stand out from other companies – growth opportunities, employee perks, a casual work environment. Differentiate yourself.

Keep your employees happy

It starts with the employees you already have. When an employee is fanatical about the company they work for, they tell their friends and acquaintances. Companies that are respected as a great work environment have the pleasure of larger pools of applicants to select future employees. On the other hand, if you have a team of unhappy workers, they may express their opinions to future hires, turning the qualified ones away.

Have a respected manager conduct the interview

Choose an interviewer that will show the company in a positive light. Do not send in a disliked manager, as they may give your company a poor image and potential hires could look elsewhere. Don’t scare away a good match! Select someone who is personable, knowledgeable, and knows what to look for in a candidate. 


Nextiva Customer Success Story: Apparel Candy

Online wholesaler of women’s clothing, accessories and perfume, ApparelCandy.com strives to offer the ultimate in hot styles for fashionistas across the country. The company strives to offer the best service and quality to their customers by offering new and innovative ways for them to easily place their orders, whether it’s through the phone, fax or on their website. Four years ago, Kam Javidzad realized the necessity of upgrading from basic landlines to a more sophisticated phone service, and chose Nextiva as the company’s communications provider.

Last month, we visited Apparel Candy’s California headquarters and met with Kam to learn more about his experience of switching to Nextiva’s cloud-based system. He explained to us how a reliable phone system is crucial to their revenue stream, as many of the company’s incoming orders are received over the phone.

We were thrilled to hear how much their employees appreciate Nextiva’s HD voice quality when conversing with customers and that the numerous features were benefitting their service delivery. Companies like Apparel Candy are ideal users of Nextiva’s voicemail-to-email feature, which allows Kam and his team to efficiently respond to customers’ questions and orders in a timely manner. Check out Apparel Candy’s full review of Nextiva’s VoIP service, here:


How to be More Productive When Working While Traveling

Working and traveling simultaneously is a fact of life for many people. Yet traveling often cuts into a person’s productivity significantly. The following are some tips to help you be more productive when you’re away on business.

Know your work habits

Be aware of the times when you’re the most productive and when you’re not. Then plan working on the more difficult or pressing work during those times and leave the easier work for the time of day you’re usually not as productive.

Block out Distractions

Cut out the countless distractions that can sabotage your work, including email that can interrupt your productivity. Close your web browser and resist the urge to engage in social media and read articles and any other Internet activities not related to work. Save those for your downtime. If you’re working in a busy coffee shop, wear earphones and listen to classical music.

Find a Dedicated Workspace

Having a dedicated work space puts you into productivity mode, but when you travel this can be more difficult. You can use the hotel kitchen table, but a local coffee shop is often better. Better yet, go to the local library for less distraction.

Set Concrete Work Hours

Trying setting a time limit to get your work done, say 90 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at just how productive you’ll be in that short time, says FreelanceSwitch.com. With a limited time frame, people are often more efficient, since Parkinson’s Law suggests that a task will inflate in difficulty and importance relative to the time allocated to it, the site says.

Keep three lists of three

Zen Habits suggests creating a list that prioritizes work. The first list has three things to be done today. The second is three things you’d like to get done, but aren’t essential. The third is three things that need to be done at some point.


Nextiva Customer Success Story: Retrospec Bicycles

Retrospec Bicycles produces fixed-gear, single speed, and urban bicycles to sell around the globe. The youthful company designs, manufactures and distributes the products from their Los Angeles headquarters to offer cycling enthusiasts the most customized, high quality riding experience around. Retrospec takes pride in delivering riders with powerful and durable products – so it’s fitting that they have chosen Nextiva’s robust, feature-full service to support their efforts.

Although their office currently has only four employees, Retrospec is expanding quickly to support their growing demand. Their Nextiva cloud-based service will easily expand as they add new employees, and the marginal cost structure will allow them to save money in the process. We spoke with Ely Alexander, CEO of Retrospec, to learn more about his experience with Nextiva over the past three years:

If you find yourself frequently traveling like Ely and his team, don’t be afraid to trust your cell phone to keep in touch with customers and clients. Nextiva’s fax-to-email and Nextiva Anywhere are great for helping you stay in touch with office communications through your mobile device!




 
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