Posts Tagged ‘Tuesday Tip’


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. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Perfecting the “Dreaded” Employee Review

Stocksy_txp17ae6739N13000_Small_143559Few small business owners relish reviewing employees, but regular reviews are crucial to making your staff the best it can be. Follow these steps for effective reviews:

Be consistent. Use the same review form for each employee in the same capacity—such as all your hourly employees, all your customer service employees, etc. Check out the forms at DocStoc or Microsoft Office templates.

Be prepared. Reviews should be based on specifics, not on your general feeling as to how the person has done in the last three weeks. Document the employee’s performance during the year, both positive and negative, so you can refer to specific examples during the review.

Get input from the employee. Have the employee complete a self-evaluation before the review and give yourself time to read it thoroughly. This will tell you if the employee’s opinion of his or her performance is accurate or way off base.

Provide a balance of positive and negative feedback. Even the best employees need some ideas for how to stretch or improve, or they will become bored. Conversely, even the worst performers need some positive strokes in order not to be completely demoralized. Find something positive and constructive to say so that the review isn’t all lopsided.

Look back and ahead. In addition to reviewing the person’s performance since the last review, look ahead to what the outcomes will be if the person takes (or doesn’t) the steps you’ll recommend during the review. Will he or she be in line for a promotion, or at risk of termination?

Get feedback. It’s easy for the employer to do all the talking, especially in a review that is strongly negative or positive. But be sure you give the employee time to speak so he or she can clarify any issues that may arise. If you ask employees to share ideas for how they can improve, they are more likely to be invested in the outcome.

Clarify next steps.

  • If the employee got a good review, perhaps he or she is getting a promotion and/or a raise. Let the person know the new title, new wage or salary and when both will take effect.
  • If the person got a poor review, you’ll need to specify what remedial actions have to be taken by what date, and what will happen if the person does or does not achieve these milestones.

Codify the discussion. After the review, complete the form, making sure it’s accurate and that you fill in any details that arose during the review. Have the employee sign and date the review form, and add it to the personnel file.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Encourage Online Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Writing Emails That Get Results

Business-EmailDo you ever get frustrated when your emails seem to be ignored? If people don’t answer your emails, don’t respond fast enough or don’t understand what you write, maybe the problem is your emails. Here are five tips to help you write better emails—ones your recipients will read and act on.

1. Use a clear subject line. Your subject line should be brief but attention-getting so recipients quickly understand what the email is about. Stay away from vague subject lines like “Question” “Hi” or "1 more thing.” It’s much more useful to the recipient if you clearly label the email. Writing subject lines like, “Quick Question on Winston Project,” “Smith Proposal Attached” or “[Mutual friend] referred me to you” are all good ways to get attention while letting the recipient know what to expect.

2. Keep it short. Who wants to page down through a multi-paragraph email—especially these days when more and more people are reading their email on smartphones? Keep your email as brief as possible (ideally, no more than 5 sentences). Use line spaces between sentences so the email is a fast, easy read. If you must convey something complex, consider whether it would be better in an attachment instead of in the email, or whether you need to actually talk to the person face-to-face or by phone.

3. New topic, new email. Don’t piggyback a new topic onto an existing email chain. If the chain titled “December Sales Meeting” morphs into a discussion of redesigning your business website, people are going to get confused. When a new topic arises, start a new email chain. Also, avoid discussing more than one topic per email. Your emails are more likely to get read if you send several brief emails on different topics than one long email that covers six things.

4. Include a call to action. Just like in an ad or on your website, if you want the reader to take action, come out and say so. Include a time frame or deadline, and any contact information the reader may need to respond. For example:

Hi Steve,

Are you available for a conference call next week to discuss the next step in the Acme project? It should only take 30 minutes.

I am available M-W between 9am-noon EST, Thursday 9-5 EST and Friday 2-5pm EST.

Please call or email and let me know your availability.

Thank you,

Joe Smith

(contact information)

5. Follow up. Don’t be a pest who emails daily, but if a few days go by without a response, it’s wise to follow up either by email or phone to make sure the person got your email. 




 
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