Posts Tagged ‘Tuesday Tip’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 5 Keys to Success in a Family Business

Stocksy_txp9b4a083fTr5000_Small_64619Did you know that 70 percent of family businesses never make it to the second generation? How can you avoid your family business becoming that kind of sad statistic? The key to keeping a family business surviving—and thriving—is communication. Here are five keys to good communication in your family-owned business.

  1. Pay attention. Is someone making a lot of bitter comments, showing up to work late (or not at all), or otherwise acting out? Keeping your eyes and ears open to what’s going on around you can nip communication problems in the bud.
  2. Address issues openly. Rightly or wrongly, many families “communicate” (or don’t) by sweeping things under the rug or denying that problems exist. When this kind of miscommunication infects the workplace, it can destroy your business. No matter how tough it is, make it a point to bring up problems before they fester.
  3. Keep it all in the family. Family business conflicts should be addressed openly, but that doesn’t mean they should be discussed in front of non-family employees. Call a family meeting or hold a one-on-one with the individual involved to hash out the problem before you involve non-family workers.
  4. Never assume. Because people are family, you may assume they will respond to things in certain ways or assign certain behaviors to them. (“Susan always gets offended by little things.”) Try to get beyond the “roles” that siblings, parents or other family members play in the family (the smart one, the peacemaker) and focus on the roles they play in the business. Give your family employees the same respect you’d give non-family employees and don’t attribute feelings to them without actually asking them how they’re feeling and what they’re thinking.
  5. Air the grievances. Let each family member get their feelings out in the open, even if you feel that one person is obviously right and the other wrong. An outside advisor, such as a family business consultant, your board of advisors or even a family therapist, can be helpful in mediating family business issues impartially. (It’s important, though, to make sure all family business members agree on who the outside advisor/s should be—ideally, before any problems arise.)

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 3 Ways to Conduct Focus Groups for Your Business

Have you ever conducted a focus group for your small business? Focus groups are a great way to find out what customers—and potential customers—think about your business, your customer service, new products or services you’re considering launching. The list of questions you can ask is pretty much endless.

Technology has greatly expanded your options for doing focus groups. Here are three alternatives:

  1. Hold an in-person focus group. In this method, you bring a small group of people who fit your customer profile together to discuss questions about your business. Because this option requires someone to record the conversation, someone to lead it, and getting people physically to your location, it can be costly and inefficient.
  2. Hold a virtual focus group. You can use conference calling or video conferencing technology to hold a virtual focus group. Videoconferencing can make it a bit easier to identify who’s talking and for people to feel comfortable with each other. The benefits of the virtual alternative are many: It’s cheaper and faster than bringing people to your location, and enables you to bring in potential customers from around the country or even around the globe. Typically, videoconferencing or conference call technology is set up to record your interaction, so you don’t need someone to tape or take notes.
  3. Hold a focus group on social media. Go beyond the basics—like just asking poll questions on your Facebook Page—to dig a little deeper. Technology is available to help you create more in-depth surveys on social media. For instance, you can use SurveyMonkey to create a free survey you can embed into your business’s Facebook Page. Or you can use Napkin Labs’ Brainstorm app with Facebook to make it easier to engage with your focus group. When doing a social media focus group, choose the social network where your customers interact with you the most. And keep in mind that people probably don’t want to spend a ton of time on a social media focus group—so consider breaking it down into small parts. For example, you could ask your focus group five questions a day for a week, or one question a day for a month.

Whichever venue you choose for your focus group:

  • Narrow your focus. Have a detailed list of questions drilling down into a specific topic, such as your online customer service, your in-store customer service or your product mix. Don’t try to cover every possible subject.
  • Reward participants. Whether focus group members give up five hours of their day to come to an in-person session or five minutes a day to answer social media questions, they deserve some reward for participating. This could range from money to coupons, discounts or free products. If you’re on a really tight budget and can’t reward everyone, draw one person’s name to win a prize.
  • Act on what you learn. Let participants—and all your customers—know what changes you’re making as a result of their input. It will make them feel that your business truly listens and cares about their opinions. 

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Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Using Twitter for Customer Service

shutterstock_81656434In order to provide the best possible customer service, smart small business owners learn from the big companies’ best practices. One tactic more and more big corporations are using is providing customer service on Twitter.

Doing customer service on Twitter makes sense, since so many consumers are turning to Twitter to share information and, sometimes, complaints about companies that provide poor service. If your small business is using Twitter for customer service—or considering doing so—a study by SimplyMeasured polled the top 100 global brands to find out what tactics they use. Here’s some of what they found:

Consumer expectations have changed. From being pleasantly surprised if your company replies to their tweet about your service, they have now come to expect and even demand a response. Ignoring negative comments on Twitter can lead to a PR nightmare for your business.

Create a dedicated customer service Twitter handle, such as @customerserviceyourbiz. This enables you to quickly spot and flag customer-service oriented tweets. Just 32 percent of the companies in the study did this; however, consumers’ use of these dedicated handles increased 44 percent in the last year.

Be aware that creating a dedicated handle will also raise expectations for a quick response from your business. The average response time of companies in the study was about 4 hours. However, a response time of less than 24 hours is generally acceptable; 90 percent of companies were able to respond to dedicated customer service tweets within that time.

How are companies keeping pace with the increasing flow of customer service tweets? First, they’re staffing up their customer service teams. Second, they’re making their existing teams more efficient by using Twitter as the first step of the customer service process. One common tactic is to direct users to a Web page, such as a FAQ or self-help page. Another is to have the user contact the company directly by mail, phone or direct message. This has the added benefit of taking the problem resolution out of the public eye on Twitter. Finally, using “canned responses” to common problems, complaints or questions speeds response time greatly and can handle most situations.

Finally, it’s important to pay attention to when most of your customer service tweets come in. Not surprisingly, most companies saw the heaviest traffic from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. during business days, and customers were most likely to get quick responses at this time. But if you find that half of your tweets are coming in, say, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., you may need to add to your customer service staff to handle this. Outsourcing to someone in another time zone can be a good way to handle this issue. 


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: 10 Warning Signs an Employee’s Ready to Quit

Do you think taking lots of sick days, coming to work dressed up and then going to a “doctor’s appointment,” or leaving on the dot of 5:00 are warning signs an employee is about to quit? Then you could be missing subtler, more serious signs.

A study by Utah State University associate professor Tim Gardner identified 10 behaviors employees who are planning to quit ????????????????????????????????????????typically display:

  1. They offered fewer suggestions in meetings.
  2. They became reluctant to commit to long-term projects.
  3. They became quieter and more reserved.
  4. They became less interested in advancing in their jobs.
  5. They were less interested in pleasing the boss.
  6. They avoided interacting socially with their boss or other managers.
  7. They were less likely to suggest new ideas or innovative approaches.
  8. They started doing the bare minimum at work and stopped going above and beyond the call of duty.
  9. They became less interested in workplace training and development programs.
  10. Their productivity at work declined.

According to Gardner, if an employee displays at least six of these behaviors, he can predict with 80 percent accuracy that the person is about to quit.

What can you do if you spot these behaviors in a key employee? Since the behaviors typically arise one to two months before quitting, there’s not much time to change the employee’s mind—so you need to be proactive.

As a busy boss, it’s easy to get wrapped up in your own work and not engage with your employees much. Walk around, talk to your team every day and really listen—not just to what they say, but also to their body language and how they act. Is a formerly chatty employee now staring at her computer every time you come by? Does a formerly jovial employee no longer look you in the eye?

If you suspect a key employee is ready to jump ship, call the person in for an honest talk. If they are considering leaving but haven’t yet made a firm decision, what can you offer that would make them reconsider? Perhaps employees feel their ideas aren’t taken seriously, that there’s no room for advancement or not enough workplace training. Can you address these issues?

If the employee has already accepted or is about to accept a job offer, you face a bigger challenge—but you may still be able to keep the person on board by making a counteroffer or addressing his or her concerns.

If the employee does leave, conduct an exit interview to probe what prompted the decision. It’s likely this employee isn’t the only one bothered by the same issues, and by becoming more aware, you can remedy the problem before other employees leave, too.  


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Should You Hire Your Spouse to Work in Your Business?

Stocksy_txpb6090cd68s3000_Small_17056If you have trouble finding workers with the dedication and loyalty you need, there’s a solution that can offer the best of both worlds: hiring your spouse. You get an employee who you know truly cares about your business, and the money you pay your spouse stays “all in the family.”

But before you broach the idea to your spouse, there are some important factors to consider.

How will working together affect your relationship? Some spouses can work together all day long and enjoy a happy marriage after hours, while others find business stresses spilling over into their personal lives. Clearly define roles within the business so each of you knows what he or she is responsible for. Also set boundaries outside the business, such as not discussing business over dinner or taking regular weekends off.

What does your spouse expect from the job? Perhaps your spouse expects to work closely together and spend lots of time with you, while you expect to scarcely see each other because you’ll both be so busy handling your separate duties. Clarify your expectations from the beginning and make sure you are both on the same page. Is this a short-term arrangement or a permanent move? Will your spouse need to work for free if money is tight?

How will a spouse working in the business affect your company’s dynamic? When you bring a family member into the business, nonfamily employees may assume your spouse will get favored treatment, that they will be passed over for promotions or that they can’t be honest with you about problems with your spouse. Discuss these issues openly to ease their worries.

What are the legal and tax implications? The way that you report and pay taxes for a spouse in the business will vary depending on whether your spouse is considered an employee or partner/co-owner. If the spouse is an employee, you need to withhold appropriate taxes from his or her pay just as with any employee. If your spouse has an equal say in the business and/or contributes capital, he or she is considered a partner, which affects your business’s tax reporting and payments. (See this IRS article for more information.) To avoid unpleasant surprises, consult your attorney and accountant regarding the tax and legal implications of bringing a spouse on board. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is Your Business Senior-Friendly?

Stocksy_txp2258803bJk3000_Small_80398You may think your small business is doing a great job of providing amazing customer service. But if your customer experience isn’t in line with what senior shoppers want and need, you could be leaving money on the table. And since the latest Global Aging Report from Nielsen projects that by 2050, nearly one in five people will be 60 or older, that could be a lot of cash!

Seniors often have more money to spend and more time to spend it than younger consumers. Here are some things seniors care about that you should consider when creating a senior-friendly customer experience:

  • Print size. Half the seniors surveyed struggle to read package labels. Make sure your in-store signage, menus or marketing materials are legible for older readers. In general, a minimum of 12-point type is best. Avoid reverse-out type (light type on a black background), as this is harder to read.
  • Good lighting. Is lighting in your store, office or restaurant adequate for older shoppers? If they can’t read your menu without getting a headache or worry about tripping and falling in a dimly lighted store, they may avoid your business altogether. 
  • Noise. As we age, background noise can drown out normal conversation. Make sure your location is conversation-friendly by using window coverings, carpet and décor to cover hard surfaces and muffle noise. Keep background music to a level that doesn’t make hearing difficult or offer to seat older customers away from speakers.
  • Physical comfort. Wide aisles, handicapped-accessible restrooms and seating that can accommodate walkers or wheelchairs make a difference in whether older customers visit your location. About one-fourth of older customers in Nielsen’s survey complain that retailers don’t have enough places to sit down and rest, handicapped parking, handicapped bathrooms or wheelchair-accessible ramps.
  • Personal assistance. Older customers may need help with heavy packages or bags. They are also more likely to want personal advice before making a purchase, rather than using a smartphone to go online to look up product information as younger customers tend to do. Be sure your employees are sensitive to older shoppers’ needs.
  • Senior-friendly websites. Older customers do go online, but typically on their desktop computers. Make sure your site is senior-friendly by keeping it simple and readable. Use plenty of white space, easy-to-read fonts and colors, and clear navigation. You can even provide options for enlarging type in case users don’t know how to do that in their browsers. Finally, provide various options for seniors to contact your customer service department—they may prefer to speak to someone on the phone rather than use chat or email. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 6 Steps to Hosting a Good Conference Call

funny-video-conference-call-in-real-lifeHave you seen the funny YouTube video “A Conference Call In Real Life?” With more than 5 million views at the time I write this, clearly this spoof of common conference call missteps is hitting a nerve among businesspeople. To ensure your next conference call is focused, and not a fiasco, follow these steps:

  1. Treat a conference call like an in-person meeting. Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean it requires any less organization. Choose a time that works for everyone, being sensitive to time zones. Send an invitation and get confirmation from recipients (if no one responds, maybe your invitation didn’t work, so doublecheck). Send a reminder the day before for good measure.
  2. Be prepared. Preparation is even more important in the virtual world than in real life. If people need to review data, make sure you send it to them in plenty of time for them to prepare. Create an agenda and let everyone know what you’ll be discussing.
  3. Take charge. Dial into the call early to make sure everything is working. As the meeting organizer, you need to keep the call on track while also ensuring everyone has a chance to speak. Make sure everyone introduces him- or herself at the beginning of the call, as well as throughout the call if there are people who don’t know each other well enough to recognize voices. Periodically check in with those who aren’t speaking up—they may find it difficult to interrupt others, so make sure their opinions are heard.
  4. Learn your conference calling tools and use them. Become familiar with the tools your conference calling system offers, such as the ability to record calls, mute voices or share visuals and data online. The last thing you want is to learn “on the spot” while on a conference call with a big client!
  5. Keep it short. With most participants sitting at their desks in front of their computers, it’s easy for them to get bored and start surfing the web or checking email during your conference call. Keep it moving quickly and try to wrap it up in 30 minutes at most so people stay focused.
  6. Follow up. End the call with action items so everyone knows what their role is. Send a quick follow-up email the same day summing up what was discussed, conclusions, next steps and deadlines. This should go to all invitees (even those who couldn’t attend) so everyone is kept in the loop. 

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. 



 
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