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.

You’ve made a BIG mistake!

                                                                            Photo courtesy of thecoolwind.info

Mistakes happen everywhere, but in business, when a mistake happens it can cause system malfunctions, product recalls, brand crises and ultimately revenue decreases. These mistakes cause panic. However, it’s important to remember that mistakes are still a process in the way we learn. If we don’t accidentally do something wrong, how can we ensure to do something right? It is inevitable that a colleague or staff member will make a mistake that costs you time, money or resources. You may become frustrated having to report the mishap to a superior or possibly deal with the consequences on your own. But remember, you’re a part of a team and at one point or another, everyone will have their share of taking the blame or causing the mistake.
No matter the error, there are proper ways to deal with a mistake so that it is treated as a lesson well learned versus a an irreparable flaw. Here are a few tips:
1) Admire before you admonish: Take a moment to tell the person at least one positive thing related to their mistake. After you’ve genuinely discussed their effort and contribution, outline the mistake and what has happened as a result of the mistake. For instance, “Mary, you did a great job enlisting the team on this project. Everyone talked about your enthusiasm and willingness to assist them during this long process. I appreciate your effort. However, the client has stated that you omitted their updated contact information and slogan. As a result, they are asking us to redesign a new campaign in less than 24 hours for free. We have to accommodate this request.”

2) Ask why the mistake may have happened: The best way to revise a strategy is to figure out what went wrong in the first place. Ask questions that don’t directly place blame on a person; uncover their reasoning or oversight instead. The mistake may have been completely out of their control. In which case, fixing the problem may involve other people or resources. For instance, “Mary, would you happen to know why the updated contact information was omitted?” The reason could be because the client sent the information after a critical deadline. This would change the situation drastically.

3) Allow the person to accept the mistake: Most people feel bad when they’ve made a mistake. So don’t rush into scolding them or creating a hostile situation. Let them be forthcoming with information that may not only create a resolution, but helps them deal with the embarrassment, shock or consequences.

4) Allow the person to reject the mistake: Most people who honestly feel they are not at fault for a mistake, will openly reject any association with the blame. Allow them to express what they feel has happened and work with them to discover facts about the situation. If they are not at blame, offer a sincere apology and follow-up with them to let them know the status (not details) of the situation. If they are, in fact, at fault show them how you’ve come to the conclusion.

5) Give them an opportunity to assist with correcting the mistake: Putting someone “in charge” of their mistake allows them to accept responsibility to fix the mistake as well. Pulling from their strengths and understanding of what went wrong, work together to develop a strategy to resolve the issue. Create an open door policy to facilitate feedback and discuss progress or concerns as they work to fix the problem. Don’t forget to congratulate them after the mistake has been successfully corrected.

 

These are just a few tips for dealing with a mistake. For other tips, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like to have your feedback.

Is your staff loyal to you?

 

Your company has a mission. You need to provide a stellar product or service to your customers in a timely manner and with little to no error. Additionally, you need to meet certain revenue goals in order to successfully remain in business. Business owners and executives understand and appreciate this type of focus when it comes to the daily operation of an organization. But what about employees? How often is a regular employee excited to help its employer excel?
When it gets down to it, most employees remain loyal to a company because their livelihood is attached to it. Quite frankly, steady paychecks may make up for the fulfillment they lack in their regular job duties. And yes, there are plenty of examples of employees who are committed to their job because they genuinely like what they do. However, neither of these instances relate to their commitment to your organization. If they could earn money or have their dream career elsewhere, there’s a good chance they could jump ship on your company at any time.
Building employee loyalty takes the right consistency  of effort from an organization’s leaders. Here are a few tips you can use on a regular basis to incite loyalty from your employees:

1) Incorporate their passion into their job duties: Your employees are multi-talented. Their professional capabilities extend beyond what they were hired to do. Take time to learn about what your staff’s’ hobbies are and come up with creative (and meaningful) ways to bring their true passion to their job or workplace in general. For instance, if your Administrative Assistant is  very passionate about baking, perhaps you can ask her to bake something for the next departmental meeting. The compliments and conversations she’ll get from her peers will add more pep to her step and get her more excited about preparing for and attending the next meeting.
2) Regularly provide development opportunities: An employee who feels he/she can’t grow is most likely wasting their time and yours. Most people thrive from knowing there are possibilities to advance.  You can provide these possibilities by adding courses, events and activities to an employee’s core requirements in their job description. Employees can participate in mentoring or shadowing programs, learn a new software or sit in on meetings to provide input or valuable information. Challenge your employees to better themselves. Your company will reap the benefits.
3) Recharge them during the day: 8 hours sitting in front of a computer or performing the same task repeatedly is enough to make anyone sluggish or lackadaisical. Offer recharging “stations” throughout the office filled with healthy snacks, fun but challenging toys (rubik’s cube anyone?), magazines or even a laptop full of music that they can download to their iPods. These quick breaks can revitalize your staff and also provide them with an opportunity to mingle with their peers, productively let off some steam and get geared to face the rest of their day.
4) Ask for their input and actually do something with it: When you ask an employee’s opinion, you shouldn’t do it out of obligation. You should genuinely care about what they’re saying about your business, products and workplace. Engage in an informal conversation about their opinions on the happenings and practices within the organization and follow-up with them to let them know you’re considering what they’ve said. You never know, their opinion could be your next million-dollar strategy. You don’t have to be have an MBA to have a great sense of business.
5) Interview them…again: Things and people change frequently. Some of your employees may be rapidly outgrowing their positions, while others are struggling to keep up. Make it a point to re-interview your employees to evaluate their satisfaction and adjustments within their current role. Don’t be too formal because it can come across as an employee having to compete to keep their job. Simply talk with them using some of the questions you may have asked during their initial interview. Note their comfort with their role, concerns they may have and accomplishment’s they’ve made. This will help you determine any necessary changes you may need to make to improve the chances of retaining a good employee.

These are just a few tips on how to create a loyal relationship with your employees. For more tips on this topic, please contact me. Do you have tips of your own? Share them! I’d like 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.