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.

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.

Reuniting with “The Ghost of Customers Past”

Returning customers are always a plus. You know their history and they appreciate the way you conduct business. And although all customers should create revenue for your company, returning customers fair better with spending more money more frequently.  After all, they trust you and your service and they know that you provide great results.
Returning customers deserve special attention so that no matter how or when their needs change, they continue to seek you out and rely on your company to provide solutions.  Here are some quick tips on gaining from the relationship between your company and a returning customer:
1) Make sure to play catch up. Learn how their needs have changed since you last worked with each other. Talk about their successes and failures, trials with other vendors and progress as a company.
2) Be appreciative and be careful not to gloat. Perhaps you knew all along you were the best provider for your customer’s needs, but maybe they wanted to check out the green grass on the other side. Understand their reasoning and thank them for returning to you.
3) Talk long-term strategies with them. Conjure up a feasible plan that creates a long-standing relationship with the customer.  If they’re comfortable with a contract, have them sign one that secures priority space, rates or service.  Now that the customer has returned, your goal is to keep them with you.

4) Make the customer a brand ambassador. The notion behind this strategy is to turn your customer into a lead   generator. They will provide the best word-of-mouth advertising and share their positive personal experiences with anyone who can benefit from the service you provide. Discuss referral fees or kickbacks for their loyalty to your business.
5) Reward their return. Any customer– new or returning– deserves to be rewarded. Show them you value their commitment to your business with something like a free upgrade to a better service/product, a coupon for a discount, a promotional item– or even get social media savvy and tag them on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or on your blog.

These are just a few tips on how to build from a relationship with a returning client. For more tips, please contact me.
Do you have strategies of your own? Share them! I’d like to hear what works for you.

Responding to positive feedback

This morning I woke up to an email from a client who was on vacation. The email was two sentences long, but it spoke volumes:

“Thank you, Shannon for handling this project for my company. Job well done.”

This jolted me more than any cup of coffee could. Not only did my client approve the work I had done, he took the time to graciously respond at 6:15 am ON HIS VACATION!

So with this exciting piece of information, I immediately questioned, how should someone respond to a customer’s positive feedback?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1. Use social media to share the news with others.
2. Ask if you can use their feedback as a testimony on your website or in sales collateral.
3. Respond in an alternative manner such as sending a video response.
4. Write an article about what you did for the client and post it as a piece on your blog or send it to the client. Include their logo and company bio.
5. Ask if you can share the positive experience with people your client refers to you.

Either way, responding to a client’s positive feedback is a great way to show you’re appreciative of the relationship you have with them and it opens the door for more opportunities.

For more tips on this topic or to learn how you can expand on the tips I’ve offered in this blog, please contact me.