Who’s the Boss?

Business to consumer (B2C) relationships can be one of the most complex relationships to have. Unlike personal relationships which have a foundation of emotional attachment, history and mutual understanding, B2C relationships are very temperamental and customers can easily find other “fish in the sea”.
In business, you should always try your best to accommodate the customers’ needs. In fact, this is a critical step in business relationship building. However, accommodating customers has its boundaries. You shouldn’t do anything that would compromise the integrity, security or financial strength of your company. So although you may occasionally bend the rules to accommodate a customer, you should never break the rules completely.
Sometimes you have to show a customer who’s the boss in a very polite, yet assertive way.  Your primary goal is to maintain a successful business while helping your customers understand, that although you want their business, they have to respect yours. Here are a few tips for showing your customers who’s the boss:
1. Create policies and procedures then publicize them and enforce them: Taking the time to create guidelines for how your business will be operated is not only a good practice, but it will save you a lot of hassle when it’s time to apply the rules to a situation. If a customer is well-informed of the guidelines in doing business with you, they are more likely to stay within certain boundaries and respect your decision to enforce the rules.
2. Don’t negotiate too much: Sometimes when you give a customer an inch, they’ll take a mile, which means that if you give them a little wiggle room with the rules, they tend to bend those rules consistently. Remind customers of your terms and conditions when negotiating a deal. Make sure they understand that although you may be negotiating or making an exception this one time, your policies remain in tact and the exception can not be applied to all transactions.
3. Be friendly and firm: Always apply rules of customer service to every business dealing or interaction. However, don’t be so courteous that you are taken advantage of, or worse, you aren’t taken seriously. Customers should respect and appreciate your service at all times– regardless if there are rules they don’t like. So although you may share a laugh, open up a bit or get to know your customer, remember business rules come first!
4. Don’t let a customer’s concerns fall on deaf ears: Being the boss doesn’t mean you shouldn’t empathize with your customers. In fact, simply listening to your customers gives them a feeling of appreciation. Hear their concerns regarding your business because their points may be valuable to your continued success. Additionally, if a customer is having difficulty adhering to your policies and procedures, listen to their explanations. Sometimes customers need to vent before they accept the rules.
5. Make an executive decision: You know what’s best when it comes to your business. You know when to bend the rules, when to enforce them or even when to change them altogether. Remember this is a business relationship, not a dictatorship. So although you may be compelled to make a big decision that impacts customer relationships, keep in mind that rules or processes which are too stringent could backfire and cause additional problems.

These are just a few tips on letting a customer know who’s the boss. For additional tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

There will be countless times in your professional relationships that you will be required to convey a message to a group of people. It will be critical that your message is detailed, clear and to the point so that your message is comprehensive and well-received.
Equally as important, you want your audience to make a decision on what to do with the information you share with them. In order to do this effectively, you must convey your messages properly.
A strong message creates a call to action for the reader or listener. They should feel compelled to make a decision based on the information you’ve presented and the energy behind that message.
Whether written or verbal, your statements should help shape the actions of your audience. Your message should be easily understood and have the ability to be correctly interpreted and shared with others. Here are a few tips on conveying your messages:
1)Know what you’re talking about: Clear messages are delivered when the speaker is knowledgeable about their topic. This instills confidence in the speaker and brings a level of confidence in their delivery of the message. Additionally, if the speaker is also passionate about what they’re saying, the message is informative AND and energetic. Make sure before you deliver any message, whether written or verbal, that you not only know what you’re discussing, but that you care about it as well. This step will help produce better audience engagement.
2) Written and verbal outlines are key: Sticking to the point and being concise is critical in delivering comprehensive messages. Resist your urge to create multiple anecdotes, over explain or toggle between topics by creating an outline. Know the most important points you want to discuss and then decide what information must be discussed within those topics (most likely the 5 W’s– who, what, when, where and why). This method will ensure that your message, whether verbal or written, will make sense, stay on topic and produce a productive conversation.
3) Test the level of engagement during the conversation: A true measure of determining if your audience is receptive of your message is to test their engagement. In verbal conversations, asking questions at certain points will help you determine who’s listening and the general tone of the audience. Head nods, smiles, or other reaffirming body language shows that your message is understood. Uncomfortable movements, folded shoulders or the resting of a chin on the hand can indicate that tour audience is bored, unresponsive or not pleased with tour message or its delivery. When writing your message, check engagement in the same manner by asking questions. However, since you obviously can’t read body language, substitute it with call-to-action phrases. Ask your reader to try something, visit a website or some other tangible measure which allows you to test track their engagement.
4) Get the audience involved: Although audience participation can be uncomfortable, it generally breaks the ice and makes people pay attention. If you can get people in the audience to play a role in your message such as taking notes on an easel, distributing literature during your delivery, taking requests for questions or feedback, assembling teams, etc., it puts the audience in charge of their engagement and making sure they understand your message. Think of it this way, if your message is clear, your audience members will be able to follow instructions regarding their participation and actively become involved in making sure others understand the message as well.
5) Follow up effectively: Performing all of the above steps will definitely produce an outcome. But how do you know if the outcome is favorable? Follow up! Ask questions via surveys, polls, one-on-one meetings or any other method which allows you to solicit feedback. You won’t know how clear your message was or how engaged your audience was unless you ask. Try to do this within 24 hours of delivering a message, otherwise you could have fewer response results because your audience has moved on.

These are just a few tips for delivering clear messages. For more detailed tips, contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.

Turn a Compliment into a Customer

As a business owner, you know that customer satisfaction is an essential part of keeping your doors open. Compliments on your product, service or general operation mean that you are meeting the needs of your market and you’ve probably got customers spreading the word for you. However, an abundance of compliments does not necessarily create an abundance of sales. In which case, a gold star for effort may not pay for your expenses.
It’s important that business owners take charge of a compliment and don’t treat it passively. Compliments are direct, qualified leads for a new opportunity to  create revenue. Here are some tips for turning a compliment into a sale:
1) Acknowledge the compliment beyond “Thank You”: Every compliment deserves a polite response, but it shouldn’t stop there. This is the beginning of  transitioning to a sale. Discuss details about the compliment such as what the ingredients are, how it’s made, where it comes from or a brief history about its concept. This will engage the lead and identify any pain points, which is critical in closing a sale.
2) Reverse the compliment:  Reversing the compliment means noticing a pain point, tying it to the compliment and identifying a value in using the product or service. For instance, if you make shirts and a woman compliments you, reversing the compliment would mean: “Thanks for noticing! It’s handmade from organic cotton and non-toxic dye. In fact, those jeans you’re wearing would look amazing with this shirt.” This is a tricky step. But if it’s done correctly, it’ll decrease the gap between a compliment and a sale.

3) Discuss other products or services that are related to the compliment: If you’ve got a full offering of inventory, the person who is complimenting you should be made aware of it. Don’t be cold about it and pull out brochures, refer them to a website or leave them with a business card (just yet). Transitioning a compliment is about building rapport. In the above example of the shirt maker, talk about the dresses, pants or accessories you make as well. Give your potential customer an option of “yesses” to pique their interest and open up about what they may be looking for. If you don’t offer the product or service now, perhaps you could customize an order for them or at least maintain a warm lead for the future.

4) Do some undercover research: When a customer or a lead compliments you, ask them why they like it. You’re looking for details about the product or service that could help you develop new strategies for advertising, sales, production and customer support. Of course, you shouldn’t divulge why you’re asking. Remember, this is a conversation, not a focus group. Keep the questions light and simple. In the instance of the shirt maker, you may ask, “So are you into organically made clothing?”

5) KIT: Keep in Touch– If you can’t close the sale directly after a compliment, make sure you follow-up with the lead. Exchange business cards and tentatively schedule a follow-up or invite them to an upcoming event regarding your company. Maintain a warm lead  by keeping them actively interested in what you offer. Exchanging email or business cards is not enough because those methods can become stale. The compliment is the bait and the effective follow-up is the hook.

These are just a few tips on turning a compliment into a sale. For more tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them. I’d love to have your feedback.

How to treat the customer who is never satisfied.

As a business owner, you’re pretty  familiar with the idea that “the customer is always right”. I’m sure you’ve tried to apply this rule to even the most disgruntled customer, who is headstrong on proving that your business has the worst product or service they’ve ever experienced.  Perhaps you’ve been apologetic and even sympathetic that they are unhappy, but no matter what, the customer just isn’t satisfied. Although you may want to ignore or  dismiss this type of customer,  there are ways to benefit from their input.
Here are a few tips for dealing with a customer who just can’t be satisfied:

1) Politely ask why they initially decided to use your service. This approach allows you to identify whether their pain is simply a mismatch in supply & demand. If you never had the capability to meet their needs, no matter what you do to rectify the situatuon, your business may never be the right solution.

2) Ask how you can accommodate them. Sometimes, the customer has their own solution for the problem. Ask them what they think would be a good fix for the problem. And as long as it doesn’t compromise your integrity or hurt your pockets too much, simply oblige.

3) Ask if you could use their troublesome situation to help other customers who may be experiencing the same problems, but make sure you focus on your high-level of customer focus too! You can use their woes to develop a comprehensive FAQ, support forum, newsletter topic, etc. Additionally, you can spotlight the customer.  Tag them on social media networks for added coverage of their situation.  Who doesn’t like their name in the spotlight?

4) After you’ve helped the customer, reach out to them with a phone call (yes, actually call them). Even if they’ve decided not to use your product/ service after their bad experience, your level of customer service may convince them to eventually return or at least spread the word about your dynamic customer support. And of course, word -of-mouth is the best form of advertising.

For more tips on satisfying a disgruntled customer, contact me!
Do you have your own tips? Share them! I’d like to hear your feedback.