Archive for September, 2010

Plan the Work — Work the Plan

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Proficient time management is the key in maximizing your business’ efficiency.

A strategic plan is vital in helping to accomplish tasks, projects and the ultimate goal of running a successful business. Even the best intentions may never be realized without a plan. Once you have a plan outlined, it’s time to move to the implementation stage and set everything in motion.

  • Break things down into manageable tasks and create a schedule that will allow you to complete them.
  • Don’t allow yourself to become bogged down with thoughts that you won’t be able to accomplish before you’ve really even tried.
  • Be receptive to the idea and push past any self doubt.
  • Let go of negative thoughts and approach the process with an open mind.
  • Allow yourself to be open to progress, change and success – you can do this!

Effective time management will enable you to meet deadlines more easily and improve teamwork, motivation and morale. Peter Turla, a time management expert and president of The National Management Institute, says managing a small business “is like being the parent of a large family that you have to feed. Each aspect of your job can be like another child that needs nurturing. You can’t neglect any one of the ‘children’ and expect to have a healthy family.”

Customer Service: Going Above and Beyond

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Competition is tough.  In fact, your competition is probably plotting to attract your customers as you read this!  To achieve long-term profitability you should offer more than great service – you have to help customers solve their problems. Develop strong customer relationships that will enhance loyalty and provide solutions to problems that may arise.  Commit to these efforts and gain a competitive advantage in today’s tough economy.

Listen to Your Customer: Customers want you to understand their problems, needs, expectations and priorities. If you do not listen, they will find someone else who does – your competition.

You Are in Sales: No matter what your position may be, you are a salesperson. You must keep that in mind with every interaction and decision you make. Customers are constantly evaluating you and whether they will continue to do business with you. Every time they have contact with you, it is important that you show care and concern. What type of answers do you give? How is your tone of voice? Do you sound professional and happy to be serving them – even though you may not feel like it? Everything you say and do has an effect on business and customer loyalty.

Every current and prospective customer should be treated as valuable, priceless resources to be cherished and handled with delicacy.

Create a Quality Service Culture: A quality service culture recognizes opportunities to exceed customer expectations.  If everyone commits to a high level of service in every aspect of customer interaction, your business will be in a better position to maintain a profitable business.

Referrals: Market to your existing long-term customers; they are more likely to refer others.  Focus a significant amount of your time, effort and resources on your current customers.  They are already doing business with you and are apt to discuss the merits of your business.  Referrals are a great way to reach your target market and can be an inside shortcut to supercharging your business.

By providing excellent customer care in addition to a referral bonus program, your current customers can become an invaluable marketing tool in helping you increase your sales. Give your current customers something to talk about, and offer them an incentive to use their bragging rights!  Providing the best service is half the equation, encouraging happy customers to spread the good vibes is the other half. Satisfied customers are your best salespeople, because they spread the word about your quality, value and service to their friends. Consider implementing a loyalty program, where your long-term customers are rewarded.

Have fun!: Be sure to have fun. It is easy to get caught up in goals, outcomes and deliverables. These are important, but customers also want to deal with people who enjoy what they do. The more fun you have while providing outstanding service, the longer your customers will stay.

The Cost of Customer Service

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Employees are any business’ biggest asset. Your employees’ attitude toward your current and prospective custom­ers and the service they provide has a major impact on the perception of your business. Don’t make the mistake of spending money on promotional activities, but fail to get customer service right!

  • Remember: it costs between three and ten times as much to replace customers who have gone to a competitor than to keep them.
  • It is easy to make the mistake of lowering your prices to win customers. Most customers value personal and excellent service and are willing to pay for it.
  • Measuring customer satisfaction levels on an ongoing basis will help you to keep in touch with what your cus­tomers want from you and how those needs are changing.
  • Welcome complaints – record and analyze them to see how you can make improvements. A customer making a complaint is telling you that they want to stay with you, but something is wrong. You can act on this informa­tion and keep them. Once you have put things right they will tell others about what you have done and become ambassadors for your business.
  • Don’t rely on just being reactive. Be proactive by measuring customer satisfaction and try to give yourself some early warning if things start to go wrong.

Source: Scottish Enterprises

Community outreach strengthens ties to customers and improves public image. Grow your grassroots marketing efforts by participat­ing in your local Chamber of Commerce, serving on a board for a local charity and performing volunteer work. Take your involvement a step further by supporting local events, sponsoring sports teams and participating in activities.

It may not be easy to measure the return on investment of commu­nity outreach. The benefits may be intangible, but the value is there nonetheless. As with many marketing activities, community outreach should be viewed as one of many contributing factors in your business development efforts.

Retaining Good Employees

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

Although the basics of employee retention are linked to compensation, (1) competitive salary, (2) competitive vacation and holidays and (3) tuition reimbursement, employee retention is also closely related to a healthy, productive working environment. Successful managers develop and maintain a culture to support their em­ployees’ needs:

  1. Listen to employees and provide opportunities for them to communicate with management.
  2. Foster trust for successful two-way communication.
  3. Keep the work environment safe and allow employees to share their thoughts regarding work satisfac­tion and morale.
  4. Praise good efforts and results.
  5. Recognize and celebrate success.
  6. Staff adequately.
  7. Provide the opportunity for career and personal growth through training and education, challenging as­signments and more responsibility.
  8. Provide opportunities for employees to share their knowledge via training sessions, presentations, mentoring others and team assignments.
  9. Communicate goals, roles and responsibilities so employees know what is expected.
  10. Demonstrate respect for employees at all times.