Your Independence Solution
844-884-3766
.
.

Archive for the Customer Service Tips Category

Five Ways to Add Pizzazz to Your Customer Service

It’s the little things that add up to make an exceptional experience for your customers. Here are five “little things” you can add to your services to create an exponentially memorable connection with your customers.

Generosity

Add a little extra something to the products or services you offer. It could be a piece of chocolate like Hershey’s® Kisses®. It might be a handwritten thank you note. It could be a coupon for their next visit. It could be a bottle of water.

These little additions pack a huge wallop for the customer experience. And none of them cost a lot to implement (unless you eat all the Hershey’s® candies yourself). Think of what you can add to your customer experience so that the customer sees you as generous and caring.

Speed

Many customers value their time, and adding speed to your service will be appreciated. When customers call in or email you for a service question, how fast do you respond?

Set response time goals for you and your employees to respond to customer issues and questions. You might choose one minute, four hours, or one day for response time, depending on your business. Make sure customer emails are answered first, and have someone monitoring the phone during business hours.

Track your results and reward your speediest employees.

Acknowledge and Apologize

Sometimes things go wrong, and an apology to the customer is in order. In most cases, customers simply want to be heard, so your listening skills are your best asset at that moment.

As an entrepreneur, the buck stops with you. Even though it might not have been your fault, it’s sometimes a good idea to simply apologize in the sincerest way possible. If there’s something that needs to be done to make it right, go overboard. Give the refund, take the loss, and let the customer win.

Positive Communications

How you word things can make all the difference. Which sounds nicer?

“That item is out of stock and won’t be in for six weeks.”

“We will have that item in stock in six weeks.”

The first sentence has two negatives (out of stock and won’t), while the second sentence is positive. It avoids the negative wording.

It’s a small but powerful change in the customer experience. Think about how you can word your communications so that there are more positive words and fewer negative words when speaking with customers.

Your Full Attention

Although you want to respond to customer issues with speed as mentioned above, while you are working with the customer, take time to slow down and really engage with the person. Our world is so fast, and some companies even reward multi-tasking, but no customer appreciates interruptions when being helped.

When you are with a customer, even on a phone call, be with the customer. Avoid interruptions and distractions, and give them your full attention. It’s the most powerful thing on this list. Treat them as a real person, not just another figure, and the customer will notice.

Try one or more of these five customer service boosts to take your customer service experience to the next level.

Five Digital Marketing Trends to Get More Customers

Online marketing is a large component of marketing for many small businesses.  There are many aspects to online marketing that you’ll want to consider for your business.  Here are just five for your consideration.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is huge, and it consists of generating articles, blog posts, social media updates, white papers, videos, and other educational materials about your company’s products and services. Content marketing provides your prospects with something to read, watch, or learn from.

You can offer your content via your website, social media pages, a special landing page, in a blog, in the description portion of your profiles, via paid ads, or almost anywhere online. Your content should promote your brand as well as show your prospect how to use your product or service.

Video

Video has become incredibly important.  It’s no longer enough to generate text.  Graphics are better than text, but video trumps them all when it comes to effectiveness, higher search rankings, engagement, and sales conversions.

The good news is you don’t have to hire an expensive video team anymore.  A good video camera is less than $500, and you can also use your smartphone for some very decent footage.

Directories

It’s no longer enough to simply have a website.  Being listed in online directories will help your business expand its visibility.  Some common directories for small business include:

  • Yelp
  • Angie’s List
  • Manta
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Yellow Pages (online version)
  • Thumbtack
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce
  • Craigslist
  • Google for Business (Google Places)

Some of these directories work best if you ask customers to post reviews.  Be sure to also check out your industry-specific directories.

Social Media

Including social media in your digital marketing is a no-brainer today.  Graphic and video posts are far more effective than text posts, so it’s important to make this content switch if you haven’t already.

If you’ve focused on the “big 3” platforms – LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook – it might be time to try some new ones. Pinterest and Instagram lend themselves to graphic representation of your product. Google Plus is often overlooked but can help search engine rankings. And YouTube is a must because of the importance of video.

Public Relations

Digital public relations has been around for a while as well. If you don’t already have a Press page on your website, consider this addition. It can list contact information for reporters as well as a list of articles that your product, company, or employees have been featured in. You can also post press releases to this page.

Distributing press releases is less expensive than ever with options such as PRWeb and PRNewswire.

Make sure your digital marketing campaign has all the components above and that you have updated your content for these latest trends.  Having an up-to-date digital campaign will help you generate more revenue and grow your business.

5 Tips to Implement to Give Your Clients 5-Star Service

Are you interested in being known for your extraordinary customer service? Or perhaps you just want your customers to feel like it’s easy to work with you or purchase from you. If so, try these five tips for five-star client service.

1. A good old-fashioned handwritten thank you note.

Almost extinct, this customer pleaser shows you are willing to go the extra mile for a personal touch and connection with your client. You can purchase boxes of thank you notes from any stationery store or order them with your company logo from a local printer.

2. Remember your customer’s preferences.

High-end hotels are good at remembering what you like, and almost any business can add this idea by using a CRM – customer relationship management system – that stores customer preferences, order history, last conversations, and any notes you want to remember about the client. The trick is keeping the system notes updated and using them when it counts.

3. Deliver an unexpected extra.

When your customer least expects it, give them more than what they paid for. This manifests itself in many ways, depending on your business type. Here are some examples:

  • Restaurants: Give an appetizer, dessert, or coffee at no charge or pick up the bill of a regular once in a while.
  • Retail or offices: Offer an unexpected beverage and fruit tray or snacks like you would find at a spa or country club.
  • Real estate: Provide a list of local phone numbers, a fancy map or GPS app, or coupons to restaurants you partner with.
  • Construction: Offer a tool, a warranty, a list of reliable repairmen, or a full set of replacement lightbulbs.
  • Landscaping: Offer a birdfeeder, a fertilizer schedule, or a lawn tool.
  • Any office: Partner with a business that has your same client base and exchange coupons so that you have a book of them to give to all your clients.

4. Give clients your cell number.

Giving clients your personal or business cell number is not as risky as you might think. Very few clients will actually call you. Surprisingly, the goodwill you gain by sharing your personal number far outweighs any disruption. But here’s a warning – don’t share your number with sales reps of vendors; you’ll get relentless calls every day from them.

5. Offer a VIP membership.

Some customers care about and are willing to pay more for excellent service, and others don’t. Separate your customer base by offering a VIP membership. By paying a nominal fee each year, these members get priority access to your appointment time, sales, overnight shipping, or whatever else you can distinguish. The good news is it’s a new revenue stream as well.

Choose one of these ideas and implement it to increase your customer service to five stars.

5 Ways to Delight Your Customers

Providing great service can make a huge difference in a small business. For companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines, customer service is a differentiator from their competitors. Done right, good customer service can bring lots of referrals that lead to increased revenue. Here are five tips to improve service to your customers.

1- “Welcome Home” Greeting

Consider your business as your home and your customers as invited guests. No matter how they come to you, whether by phone, email, or in person, greet them like you would a guest. If your business has a storefront and customers walk in, have your employees greet them immediately with a welcome message that ends in “Please, make yourself at home.” If your prospect or customer calls you, greet them warmly with “I’m so glad you called.” If a customer or prospect emails you, personally email them back (no autoresponders) to let them know you received their message and when you will be replying.

A warm welcome every time your customer contacts you will make them feel important.

2- Throwback Thank You Cards

Be old-fashioned for a change and handwrite thank you cards to your top clients. You can get blank folding cards with matching envelopes from your local printer or paper shop and have your company logo printed on them. If you don’t have time for that, consider SendOutCards.com.

3- Apologize

Things are bound to go wrong. Be quick with a heartfelt apology whether it’s your fault or not. If your customer struggled with anything – your website, shopping cart, store display, out-of-stock item, and so on – teach your employees to apologize first, then own the problem and get it fixed for all future clients. You can also teach them the language, “thank you for giving us the opportunity to fix this for all future clients.”

4- Mystery Shop

Periodically hire a mystery shopper to evaluate the customer experience at your business. These customer service experts will provide you with a list of suggestions, from your initial voice mail recording to paying your bill. Everywhere your business touches a client should be streamlined, easy, and sealed with a smile.

5- Listen

Your customers can be the best source of ideas for your next new revenue stream. Listen to their feedback and incorporate their ideas into your business.

Try these customer service tips to delight your customers, and watch your revenue grow.

Does Your Small Business Need a CRM?

Have you ever stayed at a hotel and then returned, finding that they have stocked your room with everything you asked for the last time you were here?  Your special allergenic pillow was already waiting for you, you were asked if you would like a dinner reservation made just like you always do the first night, and there were even extra hangars because you always need extra hangars.  None of this would be possible for the hotel if it didn’t have a CRM, customer relationship management, system in place.

Would your clients be impressed if you remembered all of the details about your last conversation, their last purchase, or their preferences?  If so, your business might benefit from a CRM system.

Businesses that have more than 30 or so clients may benefit from a system that allows you and your employees to enter detailed information about each client interaction that they have.  It can work for both current and future clients, i.e., prospects.  A CRM is basically a great big customer database at its core.  It contains master file information on a customer or client, such as name, company, address, contact info, and custom fields.  It is also transaction-driven in that you can log activity such as calls, meetings, proposal dates, and more.

A good CRM system is also integrated with your other internal systems, such as your accounting or POS system or both.  In some CRM systems, you can see invoice and payment history, so that when a client calls in, you can also peek to see whether they owe you money or what goods they ordered that they may be calling about.

There are literally hundreds of CRM systems to choose from.  The gold standard for large companies is SalesForce.com; however, some small businesses use it as well.  SugarCRM is the largest open source CRM, meaning its programming code is available to the public.  ZohoCRM is one of the largest small business CRMs and offers a suite of products for small businesses.  And Act! is also very popular and plays well with social media.

Before choosing a CRM, decide what you want it to do and how you will be using it.  One of the most important aspects of profiting from a CRM is to make sure it gets used, and that takes some habit-changing from you and your staff.  Once you have your requirements, you can evaluate the software options available, and choose the one that works best for you.

When your clients start talking about how great your service is and how much attention you pay to the details they care about, you’ll know your CRM is paying off for you.

Nine Tips to Dazzle and Retain Your Top Customers

Your top customers are your most important customers in your business, and it’s important that you hang onto them if at all possible.  It’s much more cost-effective in most business models to retain repeat customers than it is to find new ones.   Here are nine tips you can use to dazzle and delight your top customers:

  1. Know who they are by name. 
    Do you know which customers generated the highest sales for you last year?  If not, let us run a Sales by Customer Summary sorted by descending revenue for you to be sure.  Your top customers will be listed on the first lines of this report.  These are the customers you should be contacting at least once a month, having lunch with periodically, or doing a few extra things for.
  2. Know who sent the most business to you. 
    Do you track referrals?  If not, you may want to consider adding a field to your accounting system if there’s room.  At the least, you can use the report generated above and add a column to it labeled referral source.  Drop in the person’s name that referred the customer to you.  Once you’ve completed the field, you can re-sort it to total up the dollar value of each referral source.

    You should be in monthly contact with these folks, just as if they were your top customers and even if they’re not a customer at all.  Make a plan to lunch with these individuals and/or do something extra for them periodically to let them know you appreciate their referrals.

  3. Ask customers how they would like to be contacted. 

    Do your customers prefer to be contacted via email?  Phone? Text? In person?  If a customer hates being called on their cell phone, wouldn’t you want to know?

    Everyone is different, so find out by asking, and make a note in their file.  Also find out how often they’d like an update.  Some worriers might want to know daily, others prefer a short monthly email.  The best time to do this is during customer onboarding or at the time of the first sale.

  4. Find out what customers need from you.

    At the end of each project, ask your customer two things:

    a. How could we have served you better?
    b. What else can we do for you?

    Then empty your mind and really listen.  Take copious notes, don’t defend yourself, and thank your customer.   Think about what they said, and implement what makes sense.

  5. Provide a customer service contact and great support. 

    Does your customer know who to call when they need to talk with someone in your business?  If the customer has a follow up question on their purchase or service, let them know what to do ahead of time so they won’t feel lost.  This will make the customer feel at home and will have them coming back because of your great support experience.

  6. Practice “consumption marketing.” 

    Consumption marketing is helping the customer fully consume their purchase from you.  The more likely they are to get benefits from your product or service, the more likely they are to come back for more.

    Help clients use your products and services to their fullest by creating a consumption marketing program that includes tips sheets, educational aids, how-to videos, instructional blog posts, and the like.

  7. Develop multiple relationships.

    If your customers are from large companies, strengthen that business by meeting multiple buyers within the company.  If one employee leaves, it won’t be such a crisis to your account if you know multiple people in the company.

  8. Say thanks promptly. 

    Send a thank you note to a new customer or referral source within a week of their purchase or referral.  Acknowledge their action quickly and generously so that you make a great personal impression.

  9. Create and implement a client retention plan.

    Be proactive about customer retention by planning touch points throughout the year and systematizing the contact process with your top customers.  This can be as simple as taking your top 12 customers out to lunch, one each month, or as complex as planning some kind of touch point – a newsletter, email, or thank you note – once a month for each of your top clients and referral sources.

    Try any of these nine tips to dazzle your top customers and boost your customer retention for stronger sales.

How Painless Is Your New Customer Experience?

Is your business easy to do business with?  Or is it difficult?   The answer could impact your revenue as well as your reputation for service.  Here are a few tips to help you stand in your customer’s shoes for just a few minutes to answer those questions.

First Impressions

What is the first image of your business that your future customer sees?  Is it your website?  A sign in your office window?  An ad?   Whatever it is, take a look at it with fresh eyes, like you’ve never seen it before.  You may have several images to consider if clients approach your business in many different ways.

What do you notice first?  Is the website simple or cluttered?  Is your sign rusty and crooked or new and cute?  Do you need to make any changes based on what you see?

Voice Time

If a customer calls, how many times does the phone ring before it’s picked up?  Does the voice sound inviting and excited that someone called, or is it as if you were just interrupted?  Or worse, did they get a recording?

If they walk in face to face, how are they greeted?  What does your waiting room look like?

Service

What is the interaction like with you?  Are you able to answer the prospect’s questions?  Do they feel comfortable with you or are they intimidated?    What do you suspect it’s like for your clients?

If the prospect becomes a client, what do they have to do?  Are there lots of forms to complete?  How organized are you in getting the client started and serviced for the first time?  Are you respectful of their time if they are in a hurry?

Mystery Shoppers

You’ve probably heard of mystery shoppers who are hired to give their opinions of what their client experience was like for them.  They go through a similar process, evaluating every client touch point and suggest ways to make it a smoother experience.

Almost every business could benefit from periodically reviewing the client experience to discover where the weakest links are and how they can be fixed.  Ask yourself these questions to see where you can improve your client’s experience and make it easy to do business with you.

What to Do When Calling the Help Line Doesn’t Help

Have you ever called a help line and at the end of the call had a bigger problem than before you called?  Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

Navigating the help line process can be a challenge for anyone’s patience.   Here are a couple of tips you can try to make the process a little less painful.

Repeat Business

If you get someone that does a good job of solving your problem, ask them if you can contact them directly.  You will begin to establish a rapport, and you’ll have an inside ally you can turn to.  They’ll also begin to know your issues, the product you’re calling about, and how you use it.

Fly First Class

Sometimes, it’s just worth it to pay for a higher level of access.  You can check that out yourself, or you may have expert vendors you can tap to access their higher-level resources.  By paying for a higher level of service, you can get priority service and access to more highly trained personnel.

Learn the Language

How you communicate your request to the help line personnel can make all the difference in the world when it comes to saving time.  To speed up the process, have the following things handy:

  • If an error message is involved, take a screen print or write down the exact wording or error code, if any.
  • If software is involved, be ready to let your technician know the operating system you’re on, what browser you’re using if the Internet is relevant, and other details that will isolate the problem.
  • If software is involved, they may ask you what version you have.  You can find that by choosing File, Help from the menu, or they can walk you through it.

Call Off-Peak

For shorter wait times, try to call when no one else in calling.  For hardware and software support, this may mean avoiding Mondays and rush hours.  For questions to the IRS, it may mean calling earlier in the season.

Hire an Expert

Some of your vendors (including us!) may have access to a higher level of support based on their connection with the company.  For example, certain QuickBooks ProAdvisors have access to an elite group of support technicians and get priority services as well.  Accountants have a special line in to the IRS.

You may be able to save money and especially time by delegating these help line calls to those privileged vendors.  (And if we can help save you time and frustration in this area, please let us know.)

Try these tips to improve both the speed and accuracy of your help line calls.

Avoid the Three Biggest Sales Mistakes and Close More Business

Every sales lead is precious.  It takes a lot to get people’s attention these days, and once a lead or prospect comes in your door, you’ve accomplished that hurdle, but now you have another one:  getting the business.  To ensure you can turn those prospects into paying customers as often as possible, here are three mistakes we can all learn from and avoid at the very beginning of the sales process.

#1 Tech-Speak

Every industry has its own vocabulary.  For example, pool service companies talk about “shock,” booster pumps, and cyanuric acid levels.  If the salesperson starts slinging too many of these words around, the new pool owner is going to freak out.

Worse, you can end up going down a technical conversational path that derails the sale and has you answering all sorts of educational questions that the prospect doesn’t even need to know about if they hired you.  It’s a sort of foxhole you don’t want to go down, at least not during a sales call, and especially not during the very first interaction with a prospect.

Continuing our example, a pool owner’s goals are usually that they want their pool looking awesome and safe to swim in. Although your business is likely to be far more complex than your prospect realizes, they will be scared away if you overwhelm them and sound like you will be difficult to work with.   Instead, focus on their goals and how your services meet their goals.

#2 Lack of Interest

If your staff is tired when they answer the phone or if they simply answer the questions of the prospect and wait for them to ask the next question, then you’re likely to make a ho-hum impression on that prospect.  It will feel like your company is not interested in them.

A great salesperson – or even receptionist — will answer a prospect’s questions, and will go further to find out more about the prospect’s situation.   Establish a rapport by finding something in common with your prospect.  Perhaps you went to the same college, grew up in the same neighborhood, or attended the same church.

Then find out about the business issue to be solved.  What are their goals?  Ask them for the big picture so that you understand where they’re coming from before you get into the details.   This will make for a great start to the sales process as well as your relationship.

#3 Lack of Preparation

You may have called a vendor in hopes of finding out more about what they have to offer, only to discover they are not ready.  This typically happens with new business owners or new staff.  If the staff does not know the answers to the most basic of questions, then you could have a problem.

Prepare a list of questions that your staff is likely to get, and write in the answers so they will have this cheat sheet in front of them when they field calls.  This will allow your employees to speak more confidently and more accurately with prospects.

Be sure they also know how to best handle the question we all love, “How much do you charge?”  Providing a good answer to this question requires extra skills.  You might consider putting together a sales script to handle that question or even putting your employees through some basic sales training.

Check to see if you need to avoid any of these three selling mistakes, and you’ll be on your way to more sales.

Five Fun Things to Add to Your Invoices

When it comes to marketing, the company invoice might be the last thing you’d think about.  But think again:  it’s a great place to make every attempt to get paid faster and have your customer coming back for more services and products.  Here are five fun easy-to-implement ideas to add to your invoices:

 1.      A Thank-You

A simple “Thank you for your business” or a “We appreciate your business” is a nice added touch on the bottom of every invoice.

QuickBooks invoices include a comment line where you can choose your comment or write one for yourself.  You can also customize the form so that it appears on every invoice.

2.      Your Current Special Offer

A customer that just purchased from you now trusts you; it’s the perfect time to let them know what else you have available that they could benefit from.  Your offer could be a small amount off their invoice for referrals they send you, your monthly special, a sale item, or an item related to what they purchased.

Just add a quick text line to your invoice letting them know the special and where to call for more information.  If you haven’t ever tried this, you will be surprised and delighted at the results.

3.      A Prominent Due Date

Most invoices include terms, but you can make it even easier on your client by computing their specific due date.  If at all possible, include the due date on your invoice so the customer can see clearly when they need to pay you.

Make the due date stand out, too.  Bold it, print it in a different color, increase the font, or do all of the above.  You want it to be really clear when that payment is due in your office.

 4.       A Payment Link

Can you take payments online?  If so, include the web link that customers can use to pay you online.  This might be to a shopping cart, PayPal®, or another online payment system.  If it’s convenient for your client to pay, you’ll get paid faster.

5.      A Friendly Warning for Overdue Invoices: “Does your mother know you haven’t paid this invoice?”

If all the above fails and the customer does not pay you by the invoice’s due date, you’ll want to have a process for re-sending the invoice and/or statement until the customer pays or until you’re ready to turn it over to a collections agency.  Here are some sample sentences you can choose from:

“We hope you’ve just overlooked this bill and can send your payment right away.”

“We’re re-sending this invoice in case it got lost.  Please send payment right away.”

“Could you check on the status of this payment for us? Our records show it’s past due.”

“Please contact us if you have questions or issues with this invoice. Payment is now past due; please remit immediately.”

“Hey, we need to pay the rent!  Please send your payment as soon as possible.”

When the invoice gets older, sometimes it helps to add a little humor:

“Does your mother know you haven’t paid this invoice?”

Marketing to Get Paid

With these five low-cost ideas, you’re sort of “marketing” to get the payment sooner.   They are easy to implement, cost very little, and will improve your cash flow.   Try them and let us know how they are working.

Page 1 of 212

Contact Us

CFO and controller services for small and mid-sized businesses in Naples, FL as well as throughout the U.S.

www.tieroneservices.net

844-884-3766 | david@tieroneservices.net

Connect with Us