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Archive for the ‘Customer Service’ Category

The Economy and Small Business

Posted by collinsadmin on July 8, 2008

Due to the status of the US economy right now, many small businesses are having a hard time with sustainability.  Even though the price of gas, food, and other necessities are rising, small businesses are reluctant to raise their prices.  They don’t want to put any more of a hardship on their clients but yet they also need to be able to run a business that is profitable. 

 Raising prices for products/services should be a last resort.  A few things can be done to cut corners without compromising the service to clients. 

  1. Do you really need the newest gadget? In a world of cell phones, laptops, computers, blackberries, Iphones etc who wouldn’t want the newest greatest gadget to go with the technological world that we live in?  This is when you have to really sit back and think, do you really need it?  Are you losing time and productivity because of the technology that you have now? If the answer is yes then by all means if you can afford it, go out and buy it, but if you just want the latest, greatest, coolest gadget out there for the prestige, walk away. If you do feel that you need new equipment, check out sites like www.ebay.com, www.amazon.com, and www.woot.com for low-cost alternatives.  If you use Ebay, just be leary of what you are purchasing and make sure they have good feedback from previous customers. On Amazon, you can read reviews, and often choose between new and used. Always test a trial version of new software before you buy.
     
  2. Do you really show your clients that you care? There is more to customer satisfaction than just getting their work to them by the deadline. Your clients need to know that you care.  This doesn’t need to cost anything.  It can be something as simple as talking to them and finding out about their problems and then finding a solution for them. I don’t mean selling them more services/products, I mean actually listening and offering a solution. Doing small and thoughtful good deeds can mean the difference between retaining a client or losing one.
     
  3. Are you flexible in how to get more clients? With the economic woes, people are going to need different types of things than they once did.  People need to be more cautious about how they spend their hard-earned money.  Do you have a plan on how to capitalize on this?  At times, this may mean offering different types of services/products at different prices.  I don’t mean a lower quality but I do mean a lower price product. For example, if somebody only needs a letter tweaked, instead of charging hourly, just charge a flat rate or don’t charge at all unless it is intensive tweaking.  Are you willing to barter, will you help someone with a custom solution, and can you revise your product or service to meet a new need? You will gain more clients by showing that you care about them and their needs.
     
  4. Can you outsource any of your business tasks? Outsourcing does require you to spend money but it can also help you to receive money. Some people may think they are saving money by handling everything themselves from administrative work to website design and everything in between. If you are one of those people, next time you start working on your website or you administrative work, make a mental note as to how much time you are spending on these things and what you could be doing in that time to help increase your profits. If you are spending 5 hours doing a task that a pro could do in 1, you are losing money at it – if you charge $45 per hour for your time, and a pro charges less, you are losing money even if you can do it in the same time. If a pro can help you avoid costly mistakes due to inexperience, it also makes more sense to hire it out. 

Being a small business in hard economic times is doable it just depends on what you do to create the sustainability factor. It may require thinking outside of the box a little bit but it can be done in a wildly successful way.

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Posted in business, Customer Service, Virtual Assistance | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

How Are You Keeping Your Clients Happy?

Posted by collinsadmin on June 10, 2008

Recently, I had to drop a service that I have had for 5 years. The main reason was they didn’t have all the features that I needed and I found something a bit cheaper that has the features I wanted.

Once I contacted the company to cancel my service, I received two phone calls from them offering a free month service as well as some other features. I know this is how corporate America works; the question is why? Had they offered me those same incentives while I was a client, I would have been more apt to deal with the inconveniences and the slightly higher price, but they didn’t. They waited until I canceled my subscription.

More and more, corporate America is more interested in getting rich than the needs and wants of their clients. They are forgetting about the clients that made their pocketbooks as fat as they are today. For instance, look at the gas prices. We all know the prices are high and it is hurting the little guy, while the oil companies are making record profits (but I digress).

As a small business owner, we have to make sure that we are keeping our clients happy. I’m not saying to go out and decrease your profits by offering free services constantly, but maybe send them a thank you card with a gift card in it for a local restaurant, offer a discount on their next month invoice, something just to let them know that you care about them and their needs and wants. Do this at other times besides Christmas. Your clients will really appreciate the fact that you are thinking of them and you appreciate them.

If you don’t have the finances at the time to do this type of thing, contact them once every six months or so and ask them if they are happy with your service and if there is anything that they are unhappy with. Sure, this might be tough to hear at times but your clients will appreciate the fact that you value their input and you value their business so much that you are willing to get their opinion. Also, if anything that they are unhappy with is something that you can fix or change without costing a fortune, do it. They will appreciate it.

Some customer service follow-ups can be automated. Look over your website, and see what it can be doing to help keep your customers happy – from providing easily accessible support, to automating customer awards, or collecting customer feedback.

Make sure that if you are in a business where service or product fees decline over time, that you keep your older customers up with the current pricing. Nothing is more distressing to them than to look at your website and realize that you are offering a higher service for a lower price to new customers, while the existing customer service package has not changed. Customer incentives need not be expensive to work – they just need to be meaningful and sincere. Some examples are:

 Create an award such as client of the year, client of the month, etc

Send Out Cards (www.sendoutcards.com)

Greeting Card templates to print your own

Ezine Director (www.ezinedirector.com)

SugarCRM (www.sugarcrm.com)

National Pens (www.nationalpen.com)

My Contact Form (www.mycontactform.com) for feedback from clients

Also, if you created/maintain your own website, do a client spotlight once a month or so. Have a link to their website, a write-up about them and their business, why you chose them etc. Just make sure that it is okay with your client first.

In conclusion, once you start making a comfortable living doing the business of your choice, don’t forget your current clients. If it wasn’t for them, you wouldn’t be where you are today.

Posted in business, Customer Service | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Credit Cards, Identity Theft and Customer Service, Oh My!

Posted by collinsadmin on October 20, 2007

With the fears of identity theft, credit card fraud and the ever dwindling good customer services issues facing our technological world today, I thought I would take a moment and tell you about an experience I had on Thursday.

I was in the process of making a purchase online for some virus scan software that has won numerous awards and is highly acclaimed.  The purchase was for roughly $65.00, not a huge amount by any means. I go through the whole process of making this purchase (of course making sure that the site is an https site)and it’s not completely processed on my computer screen yet when I get a phone call. To my amazement, it was my credit card company calling me to make sure that this was a legitimate purchase. I was like wow! that was quick. 

So once I go through all the questions they have to ask me such as, purchase amount, company name, security code etc I thanked the lady for making the phone call and verifying my information. It made me fill good that they were watching out for my best interests.

 Now some would argue that they are not watching out for your best interest but for the interests of the company because fraud and identity theft cost businesses billions of dollars each year. You know what, there ulterior motives are fine as long as they are protecting me from identity theft and fraud all while giving me good customer service.

You always hear in business that in order to get clients (consumers) you need to help them understand the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) aspect of doing business with you. In my opinion, their trying to help themselves by verifying purchases is also helping their customers.

Can you imagine what my life would be like if somebody really had my card and made that purchase or an even bigger purchase and my CC company didn’t call me to verify it.  It would take me months, maybe even years to regain my credit and my identity back because I didn’t get the option of stopping the charge before it went through.

 This credit card company has now captured my continued loyalty to their business.  Notice what a little bit of good customer service has accomplished and if they do this for every consumer, I guarantee people will think twice before switching their company.

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