Posts Tagged ‘Incentives’

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. 


Work Your Biz Wednesday: 5 Things Your Employees Need

Support your employees and develop a win-win relationship to help your business succeed. Learn how with this week's Work Your Biz Wednesday video from The Small Biz Lady, Melinda Emerson.

Effective Ways to Train Customer Service Employees

The best customer service employees are highly trained, strongly motivated, and on the receiving end of constant encouragement and positive reinforcement from management.

Here, Barbara Khozam, customer service training facilitator and author of How Organizations Deliver BAD Customer Service (and Strategies that Turn it Around!), offers a few of her favorite ways to educate incoming customer service reps.

Site real-world examples

Before launching a training session, Khozam assumes the role of “mystery shopper” for the company she is training. She will call the customer service line to ask questions or walk, in-person, into the company she is helping to see how staffers respond. She will then reference her experiences and use them as a teaching tool for new customer service employees.

“I will site specific examples of customer service successes or failures from their own facility; it usually gets their attention very quickly,” she says. “From there, we will discuss better methods and why certain actions were helpful or unhelpful.”

Small business owners can do this by asking a friend to be the company’s incognito shopper and then reporting back.

Make training interactive

Talk at your employees, i.e. via PowerPoint presentations and the like, and your training will go in one ear and out the other, says Khozam. Instead, involve participants by asking them questions and even encouraging them to break off into groups to solve simulated customer service situations.

“Section employees into groups of three and have them watch a YouTube video of a terrible customer service scenario,” she recommends. “Then, ask them to act out how the service on the video could be improved.” 

Get detailed

Don’t assume that just because you hired a nice person they will be the world’s best customer service employees. Spell out each of your expectations in detail.

“Tell them that you want phones answered on the first ring if that is important to you,” advises Khozam. “The more detailed you can get, the better.”

Talk big picture

Discuss why superior customer service is so important to your company as a whole during training.

“Talk about the fact that when you have customers, the company makes more money,” she says. “Employees will be more motivated if they can see beyond just day-to-day tasks.”

Don’t ever stop training (and motivating) your employees

“My most successful clients have daily huddles,” Khozam says. “At the beginning of every shift, they reiterate important points of good customer service and make sure their employees are engaged and feel motivated and valued.

“If business owners dedicate time to do that every day, their companies will do well.”  


Should Employees Be Giving out the Bonuses?

bonusesIt is a common refrain that is heard from many employees. While they want bonuses, many complain that they are not given out fairly. Comments range from these bonuses either being too subjective to being too objective.  Many small business owners are frustrated in this no win scenario. Maybe a small business owner should just let the employees themselves decide?

A startup called wants to help the owner do just that. Raphael Crawford Marks who co-founded the company says that his tool encourages "meaningful praise and recognition through timely peer bonuses and rewards based on the company's values." His web service helps companies implement a successful peer bonus system.

How a peer recognition program at a small business can work:

1.    The management team decides on a monthly budget. This can be cash or other incentives employees value (time off, trips, and electronic gifts). The budget should start at about 2% of total payroll.

2.    Educate employees on what peer bonuses should be awarded. This will start to help employees take this seriously and not just give money away to people they like (or want a favor from).

3.    Each employees gets a monthly allowance for granting peer bonuses. They can give bonuses in preset increments. This should start at $20 and go up by $10. They should be for a maximum of $100 especially in the beginning.

4.    Monthly allowances should not roll over. This ensures employees can't bank them and then give out larger bonuses than everyone else. In other words, it's give it away or lose it.'s software monitors giving data and provides information on the top company performers. In the beginning, it is critical to monitor the giving behavior of peers. There is a danger that this turns into a popularity contest or a barter system where "I give you a bonus and you give me one". However, managed effectively, it can generate excellent teamwork and a positive company culture.


Barry Moltz ( gets small business owners unstuck. He is a motivational speaker, author and consultant. 

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