An Important Key to a Successful Long-Lasting Business

January 26, 2021 by  

Just because a person has a great idea for a new business does not guarantee that it will be successful or long-lasting. That is because many people do not know how to run a business or how to be a good “boss”. Some people are just naturally good at it but others need to learn what to do so that they can attract and keep good employees. This is one of the reasons that so many new businesses are not successful and have to close up.

In order for a business to be successful and long-lasting, the senior leadership need to create, maintain and commit to a respectful, supportive, encouraging, and acknowledging internal culture and they need to model the behaviours they want their employees to use. Senior leadership must use effective communication skills, especially active listening so that they can communicate honestly, clearly, and with impact and influence.
So, let us look at what that all means. The respectful piece means that no matter the colour, creed, religion or culture of an employee they will be respected and treated just like anyone else. In addition, one needs to be more aware of how what they say and do is being perceived by those around them so that if they are making someone uncomfortable or feeling disrespected they can ask what they said or did so that they do not repeat it and of course, apologize for the mistake.

According to Canadian and provincial labor laws and our human rights act, everyone is entitled to a safe and respectful workplace so that certainly needs to be provided. Having a diverse employee pool can teach us about other cultures and what they look for in products and services which can also benefit one’s business.
When an organization offers its employees training to improve or update current skills and also provide the opportunity to learn new ones, the employees feel valued as their organization is making an investment in them so that they can do well. New skills may offer them the chance for new responsibilities that may be more interesting and challenging than their current ones and so will keep them engaged and interested. Plus, perhaps the new skills will later give them the opportunity for promotion.

Human beings are very imperfect creatures so mistakes will be made. Mistakes are opportunities to learn and if handled in private in a supportive and encouraging manner, the person will be far less likely to repeat the mistake. Here is a way to handle it. Call them into your private office and suggest that there seems to be a problem. Can they tell you how that might have happened and what do they think they can do to rectify that problem. Let them offer suggestions and if you have others you can ask if you can suggest some options as well. Then tell them that if they need help sorting this out to be sure and come back and you will assist them in any way you can. Then before they go off to “fix the problem” ask them what they will do the next time this situation or a similar one arises so that this sort of outcome does not happen again. Once more, do listen to their suggestions and again, if you feel that there is something that they may benefit from, you can suggest it. Again, reassure them that you are here to help if they run into any snags sorting this out. When you handle it using this sort of approach, the employees know you have their back and that when there is a problem they will not be yelled at or blamed but rather will be given support so they can fix it. That will could mean that in the future they will be accountable and responsible for what they do and not cover up a mistake which could cause worse problems. In addition, when anyone in senior management makes an error, they too need to own it and fix it and not blame someone else. If that behaviour is modelled it is more likely that the employees will react in a similar fashion, especially if they have had your support in the past.

When a person goes above and beyond to help on a project or to meet a deadline, you must acknowledge that so that they will know that you noticed and will be more likely to continue that sort of behaviour. It might not be a bad idea to offer a reward, like a gift card to a store that you know they like to frequent or a dinner certificate. When employees feel valued and acknowledged for their contributions, they will be happy. Happy employees are more productive, efficient and creative. Also, happiness changes one’s brain chemistry and releases more endorphins which give one a feeling of well-being and enhance one’s immune system……so happy employees are likely to be sick less often as well. When employees are happy they are less likely to leave and we all know that turnover is very expensive. Creative ideas from employees can enhance your business so you must be a good listener and if something beneficial is suggested, it might be a good idea to thank them for the suggestion and implement it. Again, they will feel like they are contributing to the organization and feel more like they fit in well. In addition, be sure to give them credit for this suggestion.

When a change is necessary it would be a good idea to bring it up at a meeting so that the group can contribute to the discussion and you can offer compelling reasons why the change will be beneficial to everyone. If the discussion is a collaborative effort and employees feel that they have contributed to that discussion they will be far more likely to accept the change rather than if it is just imposed upon them. Buy in is always more likely when everyone feels they had a stake in it.
If you build and maintain this sort of culture your business will gain a reputation for being a good place to work and as your business grows and you need to hire more people you will likely attract good candidates who have heard about the working conditions and want to be a part of your organization.

Finally, when employees are happy and proud of where they work, they will be more likely to deliver excellent and consistent customer service to your customers. This is something that can set you apart from your competition and help to grow your business. Happy customers who have been well taken care of and treated respectfully are going to keep returning and will possibly tell their friends, family, and colleagues about your business so it could bring you more customers.
So, in closing, one of the most important keys to a successful long-lasting business is the development, maintenance and commitment to an internal culture that is respectful, supportive, encouraging, and acknowledging and if you create that for your business you will have happy employees who will stay with you a very long time and happy customers who will also continue to use your services and products. This will ensure that your business will be successful and last a very long time.

5 Ways Help Your Business Stand out from the Competition

June 13, 2020 by  

Meet customers’ needs in these critical areas to stand out from the crowd.
Everywhere you turn, there is more competition. No matter what type of store or business you operate, there are bound to be others clamouring for your customers and your piece of the market. Plus, with consumers counting every penny and business purchasers scrutinizing expenditures like never before, winning over new customers and up-selling old ones has become more challenging.  In addition, great, consistent customer service will always bring customers back and they will also likely tell their friends how well you handled the problem.

What will cause customers to buy from you rather than your competitors? The answer is to meet their needs in these five critical areas:
1. Price
Getting this right is the first order of business. Nearly three-quarters of Americans say they are living a simpler life, spending less and being more frugal as a result of the recession, according to the latest American Pulse survey from BIG research. More than one-third of the survey respondents said that being able to pay their bills on time was a “luxury.” In the face of this overwhelming need to fulfill shoppers’ demand for affordability, it is essential to meet or beat the competition’s pricing on selected front-line products and services. Then you can provide bundled services or additional products at more profitable price points.

2. Added Value
Online comparison shopping is the norm these days, and whether you sell online, offline or both, shoppers are looking for that little extra nudge when choosing where to make their final purchase. Free shipping, coupons and buy-one-get-one sales are currently among the most popular incentives. You can also offer unique incentives, such as a special money-back guarantee or a free initial consultation, depending on your type of business, product or service. Evaluate what your unique customers need in this recession-era economy and create a special incentive that will motivate them to take action.

3. Convenience
Gone are the days of cheap gas and moms with unlimited time to shop. Now customers want and expect convenience, which accounts in part for the tremendous surge in online shopping. If you have an e-commerce website, streamline the checkout process, particularly for returning customers. Make it easy to find in-depth information about products and to make returns, and offer great customer service via e-mail and by phone for shoppers who want
immediate answers. Traditional brick-and-mortar store owners should re-evaluate hours of operation, as well as checkout wait times and staffing to ensure a speedy and convenient shopping experience, especially if working mothers are your bread and butter.

4. Trust
Customers are careful to spend their limited dollars wisely and are scrutinizing each purchase to make sure they are making a “safe” decision. They want to buy from companies they trust and believe in. Increasingly, shoppers are looking at business owners’ backgrounds, the company history and even staff bios, and they want to learn what other customers have experienced. Recommendations from friends and peers, including consumer opinions posted online, are among the most trusted and can have the greatest influence on a purchase decision. So include testimonials, reviews or a message board on your website that helps customers understand why they should believe in your company and trust what you sell.

5. Conscience
Increasingly, consumers want to know you’re a good corporate citizen. Businesses with a conscience care for their communities, others who are less fortunate and the world around them. Does your business engage in green practices? What are your charitable affiliations? Detail your activism on your website, in your company newsletter or through in-store promotions. Get involved at the local level and encourage your customers to participate, such as through food or clothing drives, or by cleaning up the local park. You’ll establish a positive relationship with customers that sets you apart from your competition and motivates like-minded customers to buy from you.

Consumers are more knowledgeable and savvy than they have ever been, so it is crucial to differentiate your company. Use the tips above, and you will be well on your way to making your company stand out from the crowd.

Keys to Achieving Excellence in Customer Service

May 16, 2018 by  

Customer satisfaction is essential to the building of a successful, growing, and long-lasting business, so what can you do to ensure that your company is providing good customer service?

Here are 4 elements to consider when establishing or improving the customer service within your business:
1) the Customer Desires & Needs
Everyone makes daily purchasing decisions, therefore, everyone is actually a potential customer. Understanding the desires, concerns, and needs of your customers prepares your customer service representatives with the necessary information to assist in the most effective manner. In fact, this knowledge gives them the ability to provide whatever your customer needs to be a happy, contented and then a returning customer.  In order to learn those important issues you mush train your employees to practice Active Listening.

2) Your Service Culture
Customer service is an important aspect of every employee’s job. Each and every customer service contact has the potential to gain repeat business or drive it away. Therefore, selecting the best people to deal with your customers is extremely important. Every organization wants to avoid negative publicity, especially today with social media able to make issues go viral in a matter of minutes! If that happens, it can easily and quickly damage your business reputation. Being cognizant of this issue can help you to avoid this issue as it can be difficult to recover from that sort of attack.

3) Trust & Loyalty
Your biggest source of business is repeat customers and it costs much more to acquire a new one. So, it is essential to institute practices that help to maintain your existing ones. Customers like to feel special and can be easily lost if they sense that you don’t care much about them. A single negative experience can cost you a customer. In both good times and bad, the long-term value of a customer is much greater than a series of single transactions from one-time customers. Here is one other important thing to remember…..if something does go wrong, that is when you have to do something outstanding to fix it so that the customer will be more likely to remember how you fixed the problem rather than the problem itself. In addition, if what happened was something that you were not aware of, such as a failure of a product, you should also thank the customer for bringing this issue to your attention.

4) Customer Service Employees
Frontline employees are the ones who portray the image of your company in the eyes of the consumer. Not all employees necessarily value the importance of excellent and consistent customer service. Therefore, it is extremely important to evaluate the behaviors, attitudes, and skills of the individuals who work for you to determine who is the most capable of holding a customer-facing position and then invest in appropriate training for those people. A single customer poor encounter with an employee can make or break a sale. In addition, if your culture is one that appreciates, supports and encourages your employees, they will be more likely to treat your customers with the same respect and courtesy.

In the end, meeting your customers’ expectations can lead to customer satisfaction; however, in today’s competitive marketplace going above and beyond expectations will ensure customer satisfaction. Companies with poor customer service risk losing current and potential customers. However, acknowledging and focusing on the key elements described above will enable your business to develop a good plan that will provide your business with excellent, consistent, and memorable customer service.

5 Key Ways to Ensure Good Customer Service Outcomes

August 22, 2017 by  

To effectively cater to your customers’ wants and needs, it is very important to have specific customer service etiquette, delivery, and consistency in how your customers are treated. In addition, in today’s very competitive world, staying ahead of the crowd is pretty difficult so one of the main ways to do so is by delivering consist, excellent customer service experiences.

Here are five ways to maintain high customer service outcomes:

1. Have organization-specific guidelines and policies. When hiring and managing customer service employees, it is crucial to outline and specify guidelines that are needed and expected to succeed in that position. Different organizations and positions require different customer service characteristics. For example, the customer service skills needed for a fine dining restaurant are different than those of a bank. Therefore it is essential to create a detailed job description outlining the roles and responsibilities as well as a list of the qualifications necessary to fulfill this position effectively.

2. Use customer service assessments.
Customer service employees represent the face and brand of your organization, so it is extremely important to hire individuals that reflect your organization’s core values, aims, and beliefs. Customer service assessments reveal whether a candidate will be right for your specific needs. For example, these surveys measure how well a person fits the behaviors and characteristics of a specific customer service position and can be industry-specific for hospitality, healthcare, financial services, and retail. This sort of tool can be most helpful in determining if a person will fit into your culture.

3. Be experts.
In customer service positions, it is imperative that one is able to show your customers that you have extensive product knowledge. No matter what industry you are in, competition is steep and customers are faced with many options. In order to have a competitive edge, you want to make sure that every customer service representative has the information and resources needed to show customers they are valued, respected, and cared for.

4. Get direct feedback from customers.
To really know what customers want, direct reports and customer surveys are certainly helpful. Customer surveys can reveal what customer service techniques worked and what did not. This is important to know when you are trying to build loyal, long lasting customer relationships. Remember, it is all about what the customer wants and needs, and how you can best accommodate them that will help to make your business stand out from the competition.

5. Offer employees recognition and rewards.
Employee recognition is a key motivator for customer service employees. Whether it is an employee-of-the-month bonus or an announcement during a team meeting, customer service employees should know they are valued and respected, just like your customers.

If you follow these customer service tips, they should help to raise your customer loyalty and service performance. Remember, it is much easier to please and keep current customers than it is to get new ones and repeat business from happy customers can lead to referral business as well.

How Can you Win Customer Loyalty?

April 28, 2017 by  

Very few businesses amaze and delight their customers and those that do, really stand out. Being innovative is one way to stand out from the crowd, however, in most businesses, our competitors soon copy our innovation and that levels the playing field. The only way to truly stand out and stay ahead of the herd is to win customer loyalty by providing outstanding and memorable customer service. This is the only sustainable competitive advantage that really matters and will differentiate you from the competition.

Here are 10 simple and easy ways to provide consistent and outstanding service to your customers:

1. Adopt a customer-service mindset
Try to stop thinking just about the business you are in and start realizing that providing customer service is essential to your survival and success. Start understanding that you are in the customer service business and happen to sell whatever your products or services are. This sort of mindset has to start at the top and be committed to by the upper echelon. They then need to model it until it becomes the mindset of the entire business.

2. Be proactive
That will require you and your team to make note of your customers’ preferences and take every opportunity to cater to them. You can keep files on your customers in order to remember those preferences and call when their favourite product comes in or you are planning a promotion for something they use regularly, etc.

3. Remember the names of your customers/clients
The sweetest sound to anyone’s ears is their name. you will make a very positive impression on your customers if you can address them by their name when they come into your establishment or when they call, etc.

4. Look the part
Dress professionally and accessorize your fashion statement with a smile. Remember what Denis Waitley wrote: “A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” In any event, people will react more positively to someone with a smile on their face rather than someone who looks angry, upset, or stern. Be sure your attire is clean, pressed, and appropriate for your industry and customer base.

5. Involve your customers in your service program
Provide simple, easy tools that will encourage your customers to give you suggestions that could improve your service or product line. Then truly listen to their ideas and let them know that their opinions are valued.

6. Be punctual
If you set a meeting time of 2 pm then be sure to move heaven and earth to make that happen as promised. Phone as early as possible if events conspire to make it impossible for you to maintain your schedule. No one likes to feel that their time has been wasted as we are all busy!

7. Policies & procedures
Create policies and procedures that are customer-friendly and then infuse these elements into the culture of your business in order for there to be consistency in how all customers are treated:
• how should phone calls be answered?
• what response time is acceptable for emails?
• who pays the postage for returned products?
• do you provide a toll-free phone number?
• how do you process warranty claims?
• how does your business say ‘thank you’

8. Empower employees by giving them autonomy
Give your employees the authority to work around policies that are getting in the way of a satisfied customer.

9. Handle complaints in a timely fashion
Respond rapidly to customer complaints. Acknowledge the issue at hand and take responsibility for fixing it. Don’t be defensive or just quote policy, rather offer a way to make them happy. Bite your tongue, actively listen, and allow them to vent. Then ask them what would make them happy. Finally, do what it takes to regain their trust because the cost of gaining a new customer is many times the cost of simply regaining lost trust.

10. Measure customer sentiment
Use conversations, feedback forms, and surveys to gauge the quality of your customers’ experiences. Do they feel they are receiving your value proposition? If not, what’s getting in the way? Then, be sure to fix it!

Final thought…..
These 10 ideas can give you simple ways to build an outstanding customer service program without huge costs.
But you must remember that today social media and customer review websites have placed enormous power in the hands of your customers. They now have a “megaphone” to tell the world about your service. You can get it right and build loyal relationships or you can get it wrong and become irrelevant in your industry and be on your way to obscurity.

So, be a customer service champ, that is the way to enhance your business and keep you ahead of your competition!

Networking….the Art of Relationship Building

March 2, 2015 by  

  • Do you ever feel that the “networking event rules” ought to be posted at the door of every networking venue?
    • How many times have you come home with a pocketful of business cards and not known what to do with them?
    • Are you annoyed when you start receiving someone’s newsletter and you hardly remember who they are?
    • Don’t you just hate it when someone you just met tries to “sell” you something?

If these have been your experiences with networking let me offer you some tips.
1. Networking events are great opportunities to meet new people and catch up with those we know. We have about 90 seconds to give a new person a quick idea of who we are and what we do. Once we have exchanged business cards we can decide if this is someone we want to know more about….or not. If yes, make sure you follow up either that same day or within the next day or so….so they will remember who you are. And remember: This is not the time to be selling anything!!  Be complimentary, ask them about themselves and their business.  They will remember you if you are interested and listen to them!

2. Once a meeting has been arranged we will now have the chance to learn more about who they are and what they do and vice versa. Following this exchange we can decide if we might be making a new friend, if they may have need of our product or services, if we might be interested in their services or products or if there is an opportunity for some sort of collaboration. This might also be the time to see if sharing newsletters or blog sites etc. would be appropriate. Now a relationship can begin and grow from this exploratory meeting, or not.

3. With regard to the cards collected…… I use the two pocket filing system at such events….the cards I plan on following up with , go into my right hand pocket, the others, in the left. I review those choices when I get home, sometimes moving cards from one pile to the other and then actually discard those I have not chosen to pursue. The ones I wish to follow up on, I either call or send an email that night or the next day. If anyone from the discarded group contacts me, I will generally give them a “second chance” since they made an effort to follow up with me.  Devise a system that works for you because if you are not doing the follow up why are you going to networking events?

4. Finally, remember to have fun….this is what your business should be about….enjoying yourself. As Michael Gerber says, “we should be working on our business, not in our business.” Networking is part of working on our business as it helps us to set up strategic alliances, build a valuable network of contacts and familiarize ourselves with the business community.

Happy Networking!!

8 Tips for Consistent Good Customer Service

December 30, 2014 by  

Good customer service is the lifeblood of any business. You can offer promotions and reduce prices to attract new customers, however unless you can encourage some of those customers to come back, your business won’t be profitable for long.

Good customer service is all about retaining customers for repeat business and referrals. It is also about sending them away happy – if they do not leave feeling satisfied, customer service is a misnomer. You want them sharing positive feedback about your business with others, who may then be enticed to try your product or service for themselves and in turn also become repeat customers.

The essence of good customer service is forming a solid relationship with customers – one that the individual customer feels he would like to retain and grow.
How do you go about forming such a relationship? By remembering the one true secret of good customer service and acting accordingly; “You will be judged by what you do, not what you say.” Providing good customer service IS a simple thing.

If you truly want to have good consistent customer service, all you have to do is ensure that your business consistently does the following:

1) Always answer your phone.
Have call forwarding, an answering service, or staff if you necessary. But make sure that someone is picking up the phone when a customer calls your business. People who call want to talk to a live person, not an automated message taking device.

2) Don’t make promises unless you will keep them.
Reliability is one of the main keys to this consistency. If you say, “Your new unit will be ready for occupancy on Tuesday”, make sure it is ready on Tuesday. Otherwise, don’t promise it. The same rule applies to appointments, deliveries, etc. Nothing annoys customers more broken promises.

3) Listen to your customers.
Is there anything more exasperating than telling someone what you want or what your problem is and then discovering that that person hasn’t been paying attention and needs to have it explained again? The most important skill you require for consistent good customer service and long term meaningful relationships: active listening! Allow your customer to talk, show them that you are listening by making the appropriate responses, and ultimately suggesting possible solutions to their problem or directly addressing the concerns expressed to you.

4) Deal with complaints.
No one likes hearing complaints, however if you give the complaint your attention, you may be able to please the person and that will indicate your willingness to provide good customer service…..that will make you memorable in a positive way and possibly put your business ahead of the competition!

5) Be helpful – even if there’s no immediate profit in it.
Doing something nice for a customer to solve a simple problem will leave a very favourable impression on that person, especially if you do it for free. Then when they actually need something in that realm they will be most likely to think of you and what you offer because the memory is positive.

6) Train your staff to be always helpful, courteous, and knowledgeable.
Do it yourself or hire someone to train your staff so that they are all dealing with issues in the same consistent manner achieving positive win/win outcomes. Emphasize the importance good consistent customer service and what they should be doing to accomplish it. Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and the power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so they can be flexible enough with company policy to provide a solution that allows the customer to walk away happy.

7) Take the extra step.
If someone is looking for an item in your establishment, don’t just tell them: “It’s in Aisle 3”, rather take them to the item and see if they need anything else. Whatever that extra step may be, be sure you and your staff do it! People notice when someone makes an extra effort and will be likely to tell others about that pleasant experience.

8) Throw in something extra.
It could be a coupon for a future discount, additional information or a demonstration on how to use the product, or a genuine smile. Human beings love to end up with more than they expect. It does not have to be anything big to be effective. An art framer could attach a package of picture hangers to the back of every picture framed……a small thing, but greatly appreciated.

If you employ these 8 simple tips regularly, your business will become known for its consistent good customer service. The interesting twist about good customer service is eventually it will attract more new customers than promotions and price cutting!

Five Key Tips for Starting a Successful Business

March 4, 2013 by  

1. Listen more than you talk
We have two ears and one mouth, which indicates quite obviously that we need to listen twice as much as we speak. Good leaders have to be great listeners. Brilliant ideas can arise from the most unlikely places, so you need to keep your ears open so you do not miss one when it comes along. Be out there, listen to your people, draw them out, encourage input, and be willing to learn from others.
2. Keep it simple
In order to stand out from the crowd we have to do something completely different from our competitors. Nobody ever said different had to be complicated. There are lots of simple business solutions available just waiting to be discovered and implemented in the business world. Focus on innovation, but don’t try to reinvent the wheel. A simple change for the better is far more effective than several complicated changes for the worse.
3. Take pride in your work
Pride in our work and our company comes when employees have been empowered, supported, encouraged and challenged. Remember your staff is your most valuable asset and your strongest advocates, so invest in them so that they will develop their own purpose to the benefit of the company and its success.
4. Have fun, success will follow
My credo is: when I quit having fun, I am done! If we aren’t having fun, we are not doing it right. Life is just too short not to be doing something we love! If you feel like getting up in the morning and going to work is a big chore, then it’s time for a change. When we are having a good time, there is a higher happiness factor which creates a positive, innovative atmosphere in which your business will flourish. A smile and a joke can go a long way, so make use of your sense of humour, you will enjoy your life much more!
5. Rip it up and start again
If you are an entrepreneur and your first venture wasn’t successful, welcome to the club! Most successful businesspersons have experienced a few failures along the way, we are human we make mistakes;  the important thing is to learn from those errors and not to repeat them. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged by a setback or two, rather dust yourself off, determine what went wrong, and try a new approach. Celebrate the positives, analyze where to improve, then rip it up and start over.