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Posts Tagged ‘Customer Service’

Friday Small Business Roundup: Customer Service and More

June 14th, 2013 ::

What Are Consumers Spending on This Summer—and How Can You Get Your Share? Read Karen Axelton’s post to find out.

Is a Talent Shortage Hurting Your Customer Service? Find out why small business owners still struggle to fill jobs in Rieva Lesonsky’s post.

Are you scrimping on new technology? It could be hurting your business. Read Maria Valdez Haubrich’s post How Does Your Small Business’s IT Spending Measure Up? to learn whether you’re getting left behind.

Dan Zarrella’s new book has valuable lessons for small business owners. Get the scoop in Monika Jansen’s series, Top Takeaways From the Science of Marketing, Part 1, and Top Takeaways From the Science of Marketing, Part 2.

Is your customer service up to par? Find out if you’ve got The 4 Factors in Great Customer Service.

People Are Talking—About Your Customer Service, That Is. To make sure they’re saying nice things, read  Rieva Lesonsky’s advice.

Want to learn something new? Read Monika Jansen’s post 6 Easy Ways to Improve Your Graphic Design Skills.

8 Signs It’s Time to Fire a Client

April 23rd, 2013 ::

Buh-byeIn a recent blog post, I wrote about how to turn difficult clients into customer success stories. Sometimes, though, despite your best efforts, it is just not working.

Here are 8 signs it’s time to fire a client:

1 – Your client undoes all of your work

Have you ever delivered a project to a client, only to have them dismantle it piece by piece and then rearrange it so that it makes no sense? For me, this is a sign that they don’t recognize or appreciate your expertise and have decided that they are the true expert. If that’s the case, well, good luck to them!

2 – Your client is never available

If your client is very slow to respond to emails and voicemails – or doesn’t even bother to respond – and is constantly cancelling and rescheduling meetings, then the project you are working on is not a priority for them.

3 – Your client withholds information

At the beginning of your project, you told your client what resources and information you need from them in order to do your job and meet their goals. If they withhold that information, it might be literally impossible for you to complete the project.

4 – Your client does stuff behind your back

This is always a fun one to deal with: clients who hire another consultant without telling you, shift strategies, or ignore your recommendations (for a graphics firm, manufacturer, etc.) and go with someone else instead (who turns out to be, oh, not very good).

5 – Your client asks you do something unethical

Thankfully, I have never had a client ask me to do this, but I did work for a company in which the CEO asked a colleague to do a whole list of unethical things. Going to jail for someone else’s hubris is not a good idea.

6 – Your client doesn’t pay

I just got paid for a small project 8 months after the work was complete. This client had the audacity to brush it off and then ask me to work on another project with him. Um, no.

A corollary to this is if a client balks at the price and tries to negotiate it down or push it back. You might never get paid (this happened to me on a big project).

7 – Your client constantly changes scope of work

Changing the scope of a project happens often, and it is usually not a big deal. What is a big deal is when the client expects you to do more work for free.

8 – Your client is never satisfied

Some people are literally impossible to please. Maybe they ask for one tweak after another, thus dragging out the project. Maybe they take one look at what you did and say they hate it – and refuse to pay. The stress of trying to please a negative Nelly is just not worth it. Save your sanity, and say good-bye.

Have you ever fired a client? Why?

Image courtesy of zainjoyce.com

No Same-Day Delivery? No Big Deal, Shoppers Say

March 29th, 2013 ::

By Rieva Lesonsky

Are you stressing because you know big retailers are increasingly offering same-day delivery, and your small ecommerce site can’t afford to do so? If you’re worried that same-day delivery is a game-changer that will make or break your business, you can breathe a sigh of relief. A new study by the Boston Consulting Group found that customers don’t actually care that much about same-day delivery, despite the emphasis that big ecommerce sites and retailers like Amazon.com and Wal-Mart may put on this service.

The BCG study found that consumers care much more about low prices and free shipping than they do about same-day delivery. Only 9 percent of consumers polled say same-day delivery would improve their online shopping experience. In contrast, 74 percent say free shipping would and 50 percent say lower prices would.

The study notes that lots of dotcom companies touted same-day delivery in the first dotcom boom in the 1990s-2000s, and that the service didn’t prove popular enough to keep those companies afloat.

There is one niche market that could be willing to spend on same-day delivery. Affluent, urban Millennials with incomes of $150,000 or more have shown greater than average interest in this service. If that’s your target market, you may want to consider this option.

However, even so, keep in mind this advice that BCG offers for making same-day delivery work without breaking the bank:

  • Charge additional fees for same-day delivery. The average respondent in the survey was willing to pay $6 for this service; affluent Millennials were willing to pay up to $10.
  • Limit same-day delivery offerings. It’s best to offer same-day shipping only for smaller, lightweight products, like electronics, office supplies or apparel, that can be quickly packed and don’t cost a lot to ship.
  • Focus on high-margin items. Products where you’re making a higher profit make more sense for same-day delivery.
  • Consider your location. If your customers are primarily in upscale, urban areas where delivery is common, such as New York City or Boston, it may make sense to test same-day delivery. If you’re in a rural or suburban area, however, it’s likely not going to be cost-effective.

Keep an eye on what happens with same-day delivery so you don’t get caught behind the eight-ball if the concept takes off—but also keep in mind that currently, BCG found that only 2 percent of online purchases are delivered the same day, meaning demand for this service is far from widespread.

Image by Flickr user Lachlan Hardy (Creative Commons)

How to Turn Difficult Customers Into Marketing Success Stories

March 7th, 2013 ::

Difficult customers make me want to pull my hair out.When you run your own small business, you will inevitably work with a difficult customer (believe me, I have!). Difficult customers come in all shapes and sizes, whether they are perpetually grumpy and hard to please or come to the table with unrealistic expectations – and expect you to figure everything out for them.

No matter how difficult or easy the customer, your goal is to do a great job, thus turning the project into one more marketing success story. Here are some ways that I have turned difficult customers and projects into marketing successes:

1 – Put a detailed plan together

Putting together a detailed plan before you start working with a customer is the best way to avoid any misunderstanding or conflict. In your plan, detail the goals of the project, your responsibilities, the customer’s responsibilities, how you will perform the work, how you will measure success, the timeline, and the cost.

Why this will lead to marketing success: When both you and your customer sign off on the plan, you should be on the same page and in full agreement. If this is a long-term project, revisit the plan at regular intervals to make sure everything in it is still correct and relevant.

2 – Never get defensive

When a customer criticizes you or your work or makes a bunch of changes to what you worked so hard on, don’t take it personally. Instead of getting defensive, take the high road and just listen to them.

Why this will lead to marketing success: Listening to your customer is advantageous for a few reasons: People like to know they’re being heard; you can repeat back to them what they said to ensure you understood correctly; and you have a chance to clarify expectations.

3 – Thank them

This may sound counterintuitive, but once you apologize, thank your customer for pointing out problems or mistakes. Use it as an opportunity to revisit the plan and make adjustments as needed.

Why this will lead to marketing success: You will show your customer you care, you want to fix the problem, and you value their input.

4 – Get them involved

I have found that most conflicts with customers are due to a lack of understanding and/or expertise on their part, simply because their expertise lies elsewhere. Put forth a plan on how to fix things, what you will do, what they can expect, and ask them for their ideas.

Why this will lead to marketing success: People hate to feel powerless. By giving your customer some power over how to proceed, they will feel more invested in the outcome.

5 – Put yourself in their shoes

When all else fails, just put yourself in their shoes. Maybe their business is struggling, their job is on the line, or their personal life is a mess. Try to be as empathetic as possible – even if you want to run away from them as fast as possible.

Why this will lead to marketing success: It could turn your attitude towards them around, making you more inclined to do the best job possible.

Do you have a bad customer horror story? How did you turn it around and come out on top?

Image courtesy of thewrestlingtalk.com

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: Zendesk (Customer Service Solution)

March 4th, 2013 ::

Zendesk: If you’re finding yourself spending most of your time handling customer service questions, it may be time to get some help. Now there’s a way to provide good customer service without having to hire a full-time staff. For $9 per month, Zendesk offers startup businesses 12 months of customer support by Web, email, phone, Twitter, Facebook, online chat and more. And for those first 12 months your $9 per month goes to a chosen charity. After the year, the lowest level goes to $29 per month. Zendesk’s mobile app makes sure you never miss a customer’s request and support is available in 40 different languages.

Maybe Showrooming Isn’t as Scary as You Think

February 28th, 2013 ::

By Karen Axelton

During this past holiday shopping season, media reports were full of stories about how brick-and-mortar shoppers were “showrooming”—viewing products in-store, then checking their mobile phones to find lower prices at other retailers or online. The trend struck fear into the hearts of retailers, but those fears may be unfounded, according to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Consumers are using mobile phones while shopping like never before—that much is true.  The report, In-Store Mobile Commerce During the 2012 Holiday Season, found that nearly six in 10 cell owners used their phone inside a physical store for assistance or guidance in making a purchasing decision during the 2012 holiday season. But they’re not just comparing prices. Here’s what they’re doing:

  • 46 percent of cell owners used their phone while inside a store to call a friend or family member for advice about a purchase they were considering. Women and young adults (age 18 to 29) are more likely to do this.
  • 28 percent of cell owners used their phone while inside a store to look up product reviews to help them decide whether to buy a product it or not. Young adults (18 to 29), smartphone owners, and those with at least some college experience are more likely than average to use their phones to search for product reviews in-store.
  • 27 percent of cell owners used their phone while inside a store to look up the price of a product and see if they could get a better price either online or at another retail store. Young adults, smartphone owners and those with some college experience were most likely to do price comparisons.

Altogether, more than half (58 percent) of cell owners used their phone for at least one of these purposes. As you might expect, young adults and smartphone owners led the way, with 78 percent of those aged 18-29 and 72 percent of smartphone owners using their phones for at least one of these purposes in the 2012 holiday season.

But here’s the good news: Even among those who look up prices in-store, a majority end up either buying the item in the store or not buying it at all. Some 46 percent of “mobile price matchers” report they ultimately bought the product in that store. That’s an 11-point increase from the 35 percent who said this in last year’s study. Just 12 percent ended up buying the product online, compared to 19 percent who did so in last year’s survey. So while consumers are becoming more sophisticated in using their cell phones to become savvier shoppers, what they learn from doing so is persuading more of them to make purchases in-store.

Image by Flickr user Rebecca L. Daily (Creative Commons)

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: ParkerMap (Parking App)

February 26th, 2013 ::


More often than not, customers will look up a business’s website to do price comparisons, check store hours or even to get directions and figure out where to park. You can make the latter easy for them by adding the free ParkerMap app to your website. ParkerMap lets visitors know where on- and off-street parking is available near your business in real time. Visitors can also find out rates, hours and other policy information about the parking locations. Simply enter in your business’s location, choose a map size, embed your special code on your site and you’re done.

4 Lessons On How Customer Service Is Your Brand

February 26th, 2013 ::

Customer serviceIt’s not a secret that your brand is very closely tied to you and your employees. The customer service you provide speaks volumes about your company and values and leaves a very strong impression – for good or for bad.

Scott Stratten, President of UnMarketing and author of The Book of Business Awesome, put together a great Slideshare presentation for Citrix about how you can take your company from good to awesome. It’s worth reading, as I am not really going to share what is in the presentation.

What I am going to share is 3 lessons in branding via customer service that he provided – as well as one of my own. All of the stories drive home the fact that you and your employees are a critical part of your brand.

The Ritz-Carlton Goes Above and Beyond

When a little boy left behind his favorite stuffed animal, Joshie, following a family vacation, the Ritz-Carlton didn’t just mail it back posthaste. Nope, the employees took photos of Joshie enjoying his extended vacation – on a chaise lounge by the pool, on the golf course, hanging with friends, getting a massage, etc. When Joshie arrived home, the photos were enclosed, along with his own Ritz-Carlton employee ID. As you can imagine, this story went viral.

A CEO Saves the Day

A few years ago, my husband went to Neiman Marcus to buy me a Tom Binns necklace as a surprise birthday present. When the jewelry counter employee refused to help my husband track down the necklace, my husband went straight to the source: Tom Binns. The company’s CEO was horrified by my husband’s experience, and she personally packed and mailed the necklace, including a handwritten note. My husband and the CEO are now on a first-name basis, and we tell this story every time I wear the necklace. I am not a big jewelry person, but I am a big Tom Binns fan.

A Delta Flight Attendant Said What?

Stratten was waiting on an impossibly long security line on his way to a Delta flight at JFK. He was nearly at the front of the line, when a crew of Delta flight attendants pushed their way to the front of the line, bumping and pushing Statten without a word. When he said, “Come on now. Not even an ‘excuse me?’” he got a nasty retort from one flight attendant, “We said excuse me. Why don’t you open your ears?” Stratten jumped on Twitter, where he has more than 135,000 followers, and got a reply and apology from Delta pretty quickly.

FedEx Employee Plays Catch

This is another story that went viral. A FedEx employee was caught on video chucking a computer monitor over a gate at someone’s house. Instead of ringing the bell and walking it up to the house, he decided to play catch – with the ground. FedEx had to go into major crisis control mode. They responded super fast and published a blog post on their corporate page titled, “Absolutely, Positively Unacceptable” and their senior vice president of U.S. operations recorded a video to apologize. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

So, how do you ensure your employees represent your brand more like the Ritz-Carlton and Tom Binns and less like Neiman Marcus, Delta, and FedEx?

  • Be passionate about your work and customers
  • Show your employees how they make a difference
  • Empower your employees to help customers – and then recognize or reward them for it
  • If you need to apologize, do it swiftly and genuinely

How has customer service improved or hurt your experience with a brand?

Image courtesy of postcardmania.com

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: OrderAhead (Customer Service App)

February 25th, 2013 ::


Here’s a tool that can add to your business’s bottom line and makes preorders a no-brainer. OrderAhead is a mobile app that allows consumers to place and pay for orders from their phones or computers and then pick them up at a designated time. For your customers, it saves time and makes shopping more convenient. For your business, it eliminates some of the hassle of preordering. The orders are placed and paid for through OrderAhead (which takes a 7.9 percent commission on each order). Customer orders are then faxed to your business and you receive your check from the company weekly. You still get the chance to interact face to face with your customers when they pick up their order.

Web.com Small Business Toolkit: TalkToTheManager (Business Review Solution)

January 30th, 2013 ::


Why wait to see the Yelp review to know what customers think of your business when you can find out instantly with TalkToTheManager? You post a phone number and customers can text you anonymous reviews of your service, products, food or whatever your business does well or not so well. The text is then forwarded to your cell phone and you may choose to respond or not. Your cell number is kept private at all times. TalkToTheManager costs $29 per month and you can cancel at any time. You can also receive preprinted signs with your assigned number for displaying in your store or restaurant.