RSS

Tag Archives: customer service

Good, Cheap, Fast: The dilemma of providing ideal service

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


service

Just a few days ago I was in a local mechanic’s shop and amidst the shelves stacked high with dusty papers and some foreign-looking objects that were likely common knowledge auto parts, there was a simple sign hung on the window that looked into the garage. It read, “We offer three kinds of service: Good – Cheap – Fast. You can pick any two.” After my initial amusement from envisioning an old crotchety man pleased with himself as he hung this sign in his shop, I realized that is the dilemma every business owner faces when trying to offer ideal customer service. For a laundry list of reasons, my business is very different from this mechanic’s. But when it comes to customer service, this sign accurately summarizes us both.

If it’s fast and good, it won’t be cheap. “Rush” projects are common in almost every industry. From the mechanic to the Public Relations professional, sometimes some things just cannot wait. Because a rush project can save a client from a terrible inconvenience, loss of potential business or increase their revenue, I certainly accommodate them whenever possible. In fact, one of my main reasons for keeping ahead of my planned projects is to allow for the occasional rush project. Allow me to say what most other business owners think; we keep this open time for rush projects because they’re a great source of unexpected and well-paying work. People are willing to pay more to prevent a bad situation – and thus, the dilemma of rush service. A bad business owner takes advantage of this opportunity to gauge a client in a vulnerable situation (i.e. obscene rush shipping charges or overtime wages), while a good business owner charges just enough more to compensate them for the extra hours of work and the opportunity-cost of pushing their scheduled projects to the side.

If it’s good and cheap, it won’t be fast. For clients who want the highest quality of service at the best price possible, the key is to be flexible with your deadlines and to start well ahead of when you need something done. The best example I can give here is my experience with mass mailings and the postal system. If I have a large enough mailing, I can benefit from pre-sorted postage rates which are half that of a regular stamp. This is a huge cost savings when your list is in the thousands! However, the big caveat here is that you must give yourself ample lead time for the mailing to process and hit mailboxes—I’m talking about a month. The postal service offers this discount rate, but it can take up to 25 business days to be delivered, as opposed to the standard 2-3. If you want something done good and cheap, you must be more flexible on the time frame in which you wish to have it completed. A long lead time (and ample patience) can save you a lot of money in the long run if you can plan ahead for it.

If it’s fast and cheap, it won’t be good. This combination of service is the one that most good business owners would prefer to avoid entirely. When it’s all said and done, neither the customer nor the business will be happy with a final product that was done quickly and cheaply. I know this is one of the rare instances where I might need to step away from a project if I think it will poorly reflect upon me or my business. Certainly I offer every client my best services at the fairest rates; it’s only when I’m stretched beyond reason that it becomes a problem. The two other options above prove why fast and cheap service won’t be the best quality. A business either needs to charge more for a rush project that pushes all other projects to the side or needs more time and flexibility from a client to do the best work on a tight budget.

Can we ever have all three? If you’re talking in extremes, I’d say the answer is no. An award-winning web site design done in three days for under $500 is either a scam or poor business management. In the real world, one of these three factors (time, quality or cost) would need to give. In less extreme examples, I have personally benefited from rush projects, done completely to my standard and for a fair price. The key is relationships. Once you build a good relationship with a business owner or contractor, you can work with them to achieve a good balance of all three.

As for me and the mechanic, I paid well under what the dealership would have charged me, fulfilled my inspection for the year and had my car back in just a few hours. So regardless of what that sign hanging in his window said, I think I just might have gotten away with getting a little bit of all three!

Advertisements
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Revealing Character Through Communication

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!


textingDuring the steps along my career path, I’ve encountered some truly great communicators who were friendly, organized and a pleasure to work with. As with any balance to life, I have also encountered a memorable few who were quite the opposite – impatient, rude and condescending. I used to take negative communication very personally, wondering what I could have done to make it a more pleasant experience, but have since reconciled that it had little to do with me. I wasn’t giving the person the answer they wanted (maybe I wasn’t the right contact to address their request or maybe it simply couldn’t be done). And because of this, they felt as though they could treat me with less respect or professionalism than someone who could offer them immediate solutions.

I continue to encounter similar styles of communication from time to time and it really grates on me. I believe that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Therefore, these incidences are a reflection of a character flaw that many people may be unaware they exhibit. I’m sure I am not exempt from this – a lapse in my communication may have left someone else feeling brushed off or belittled at one point or another. In an effort to put an end to unprofessional communication, I want to examine the following key points to shed light on why this is such a critical problem:

The importance of always being professional

It’s a small world. We all know the meaning of this phrase as we have likely had the experience of running into contacts again and again through similar circles or completely unrelated circumstances. This is a reminder to me every day that my reputation is my most valuable business asset. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you can’t afford to burn bridges if you want to be successful in your career. Nothing slows down business growth faster. The importance of always being professional when communicating with customers or vendors is realizing that you may very likely have to deal with them again. Don’t ignore this important lesson! Most of the unprofessional communicators I’ve had to deal with have popped up in my life again, needing information or services from me – often with their tail tucked between their legs.

Identifying the subtle negatives

Sometimes the worst communication experiences are hard to identify because they’re subtle, yet leave you with an overall feeling of hurt, frustration or anger. It may be hard to pinpoint the exact reasons the conversation was so unpleasant, but the feeling it leaves you with is real nonetheless. The subtle negatives I’ve most often identified have involved someone exerting their power or position to make me feel dumb or incorrect about an answer I have provided. Another common subtle negative is someone being bossy or aggressive in their tone and in the type of services they demand. In less subtle situations, I’ve had people outright yell at me, hang up the phone or threaten me in various ways (chalk this up to some good old political campaign experience). Most often negative communication can be identified in someone’s tone and word choice. Even if you have something negative you must communicate – and this does happen – there are various ways to still make it a positive communication experience overall. There’s no excuse.

Letting someone know when they’re being unprofessional

This is a difficult subject to breach. No one wants to directly confront someone else about their attitude or negativity because it can be, well…scary. We’re more willing to put up with the unprofessionalism and belittlement than we are willing to tell someone they’re just being rude. The risk is that we end up looking rude in return or that we anger them even more and the communication further declines. If the negative communication is subtle and you’re not sure if they even know they’re coming across this way, it’s important to handle the situation softly, but directly. Let them know that it’s how they’re making you feel rather than accusing them of being outright mean. No one can argue with how you feel and hopefully even if they don’t want to recognize that their actions are causing this, they will at least be professional enough to make an effort to change. On the other extreme, if someone is being unprofessional to the point of yelling or insulting you, then you must also address this directly, but more firmly. Identify specific examples in which their communication is unacceptable (swearing, yelling and hanging up a phone are never acceptable in my mind) and let them know that you will have to cut off further communication if they can’t approach the situation more professionally. Hopefully such instances are rare, but it’s important to know how to speak up to put and end to it.

They key concept worth taking away from all of this is that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Negativity is never acceptable even if you realize you’re “only” dealing with an office administrator, assistant or intern. Most often, these are the gatekeepers for who you really want to be talking to. As I said before, it’s a small world, so be sure to be kind and professional to everyone you encounter. It truly takes no more (maybe even less) effort than it does to be rude and when the world connects you with them again you’ll be glad you have a friend, not a burnt bridge, to work with.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Delivering Happiness: How to Provide Clients with More Than Just Services

How to Provide Clients with More Than Just Services

Whether you are an entrepreneur growing a small business or a CEO of an established company, you likely understand the importance of “delivering happiness” to your clients. Your clients expect to receive quality service and products from you – that’s standard. But what really makes your business stand out is going one step further to provide them with unexpected, but much appreciated benefits. These benefits are the reason people will come back to you time and time again for more business.

So what can (and should) you do to provide more than just your basic goods and services, but to really deliver happiness? Take a look at these four tips.

Tip #1: Share your advice or expertise at no charge

No one likes to feel like they’re getting “nickel and dimed.” It usually takes one a few minutes of your time to share a little extra advice or expertise with your clients. For example, someone might ask for advice on getting more likes on their Facebook page. Rather than stick them with a costly proposal right off the bat, offer one or two simple tips to establish credibility and build trust. You shouldn’t invest too much time in free advice, but giving just a little at no charge will almost always come back to you ten-fold in future business.

Tip #2: Form a friendship…get to know about them, personally!
Solid connections and meaningful relationships are at the heart of every successful business. Keep this in mind as you cultivate your client relationships into friendships. Really get to know your clients and customers. Remember their birthdays, the names of their children and their hobbies. Not only will this give you something to make small talk over at your next meeting, it will also demonstrate your listening skills and attention to detail. Clients who are friends are more likely to be satisfied with your service and stay loyal to doing business with you in the future.

Tip #3: Resolve any issues promptly and for free (as long as reasonable)

Solving a problem promptly and effectively is a great opportunity for your business to create happy clients. Use the “customer is always right” motto and resolve the issue without sticking your client with a bill for it (so long as it’s a reasonable request). Yes, you may lose a few bucks in billable hours, but you will more than make up for it in future business from a happy and loyal customer. (Note: if this proves to be a reoccurring theme with a client, it may be time to weight the cost-benefits of the relationship altogether).

Tip #4: Follow-up to see how they’re enjoying your product/service

Timely and friendly follow-up is key for delivering happiness to your clients. You don’t want to be intrusive or annoying (like that waiter that pops over 7+ times during a meal asking if everything is okay), but regular “check-ins” can help to nip any issues in the bud before they leave a lasting negative impression. Clients may not be inclined to bring up an issue thinking it’s too small to initiate a conversation about it. But if you present an easy opportunity for them to speak up by being the first to ask, you’d be surprised how some little adjustments early on will keep a client much happier in the long-run!

How do you go above and beyond to provide your clients and customers with more than just goods or services? Share your personal thoughts by commenting below!

 
6 Comments

Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Business & Success, Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Tips for Getting Quality Survey Responses

Don't let this be how your customers perceive your survey!

Don’t let this be how your customers perceive your survey!

Surveying your customers or network is one of the most powerful ways to quickly collect feedback on a multitude of specific topics. If you want to know what’s working – or not working effectively for your business, you should consider sending out a survey.

But simply compiling a few questions and blasting out an email won’t guarantee hundreds of responses with quality data. You must be strategic with how you craft your survey and the ways in which you incentivize your audience to care enough to provide you with answers. Check out these 7 tips for getting quality survey responses that will get you started in the right direction.

  1. Timing is everything.

If you want the most honest and detailed answers, you want to hit your audience as soon as a particular event or experience with you has ended. For example, maybe a customer just purchased a product from you. Your survey should reach them 1-2 days after that product hits their hands. This will have given them enough time to try the product and assess how it functions and the results it produces. This is the prime to capture this feedback while it’s fresh on their mind.

Also, if something happens to be less than acceptable, they will feel they have an easy way to reach you without having to look up your contact information and talk to customer service. You can then right any wrongs and improve your chances of saving that business relationship – maybe even earning a positive review to boot!

  1. Keep it short…really short.

The next key for quality survey results is to limit the number of questions you’re asking to five or less. You’re already asking for someone to take time from their day to complete your survey, if you then ask them to dedicate a half hour to this task, you’re far more likely to get people who simply click out before answering any question. Limiting your questions to only the most important will get you more responses and better answers as you’re not pushing people beyond a reasonable degree of patience.

  1. Make it utterly convenient.

Especially in today’s society of instant gratification and fast moving technology, we want everything quick and easy. If it takes even one click too many to access your survey, you’re likely to lose a large percentage of potential respondents. Send out your survey by email and include the direct link to the survey two or more times. Use big and color fonts for your survey link so people simply can’t miss it. Then be sure to use a survey platform, like SurveyMonkey.com, that is professional and trusted so you’re confident that the survey won’t crash or frustrate users in other ways.

  1. Ask interesting questions to inspire interesting answers.

Just because you should keep you survey short and easy, this doesn’t mean that you have to make it boring. Carefully craft the text of each question to ask for specific or helpful information you really care about. Sure, there are the obvious questions like “Overall, are you satisfied with our service?” but don’t feel obligated to ask this if it’s really not the most important information you are after. Make your questions fun, creative and reflective of your brand. Ultimately, aim to make your survey a fun experience for your customers.

  1. Offer (appealing) incentive.

Many different businesses will offer a free prize drawing or giveaway to one or a few lucky survey respondents. This is a great technique to get people to provide quality responses in exchange for a chance to win something cool. If you choose to only give away one item, make sure it’s a big enough prize that it incentivizes your hundreds or thousands of customers to care enough to respond. Another strategy is offering something smaller, but to everyone who responds. Maybe it’s a $5 credit to their account or a percentage off their next order. If this information is of enough value to you, don’t be afraid to pay a little for it!

  1. Make use of the intro message and closing message.

As I mentioned above, a quality survey platform such as surveymonkey.com will allow you to customize your survey with a brief intro and closing message to your audience. Be sure and take advantage of this opportunity to thank your respondents and let them know that you appreciate their input and exactly how you plan to use it to improve things for them in the future. This is also another great area to strengthen your branding through messaging. Are you a fun, hip and modern brand? Use similar language in your message.

  1. The best way to show appreciation is to put the information to use!

Finally, the best way to continue to encourage your audience to provide quality responses to your surveys is to let them see just how you put their data to use. Maybe one survey provided you with a great idea for a new product, be sure and use your social media, blog, newsletter and other marketing assets to express your thanks as well as inspire other customers to join in the conversation. A sincere showing of customer appreciate will always be one of your most powerful tools for building a community of advocates who want to help you better yourself.

Have you ever sent out a survey to your customers or networks? Share what you did right – or wrong and how it impacted your responses by commenting below!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on December 1, 2014 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dealing with the Pain Points: The right way to identify your customers’ needs

pain pointsIn my line of work, I’m often brought on board to deal with pain. Let me clarify this a bit further. I help my clients identify the pain points of their business as it pertains to communication. I also help them identify the pain points of their target audience so we know how to better connect with them. And even with years of experience now under my belt, this task has become no easier than the very first time I learned about the abstract concept of pain points – mostly due to the fact that every client is different, and so is their pain.

Uncovering a client or customer’s pain points shouldn’t inflict them with more pain. Which is why we can’t overlook the fact there are right ways – and some very wrong ways – to go about this process. I’m willing to bet many of you have been subjected to the wrong way at least once, even if you didn’t realize it at the time. This is the salesperson who tells YOU what your pain is, before really getting to know you or your needs. This is the business advisor who offers no insight and simply asks you to tell him what your biggest pain points are as he jots them down with a nod and smile.

So what’s the right way to identify your customers’ needs? Here are four snippets of wisdom I’ve compiled after talking with fellow communications professionals and business owners. Across the board, these are the key concepts you need to keep in mind whether you’re identifying your own pain points or the pain points of your target audience.

Make it a discussion

Clients and customers just want to be heard, especially when it comes to understanding their greatest pains. Don’t walk into a meeting with a list of predetermined pain points to sell them. Instead, start a conversation. Get to know more about them, their business and their needs. As the conversation progresses, you’ll gain a better understanding of the pain points they share with fellow businesses in the industry as well as pain points that are completely unique to them.

In an effort to start a discussion, don’t go to the other extreme of making them do all the talking either. Sure, ask questions, but don’t drop a bomb like “What are all your biggest pain points right now?” First, you can’t assume your client even really knows what a pain point is. Second, you’re likely to turn a nice conversation into an interrogation with a loaded question like that. Let them talk and then offer insight. You know, like a dialogue?

Share your experience

Once you’ve started a pleasant discussion and gained a foundation for understanding their needs, it’s time to offer some valuable input. Given things have progressed in the direction you anticipated, you can refer to some information you’ve prepared in advance. For example, this could be a slide or printout of what you have found to be common pain points within their industry – shared by other professionals with whom you’ve worked. Guide them with your experience, but acknowledge and respect the fact that every business is unique and so are their pains.

Peel back the onion

What many perceive to be their pain points is only the first layer. This is where your expertise becomes so valuable! Don’t take what your clients or customers identify as their pain points to be the final answer. Ask more questions to gain a deeper understanding and even challenge some of the points, if you feel necessary. Your goal should be to expand your clients’ understanding of their business’s needs or customers’ pains. You need to be the mirror that allows them to see their blind spots – this is where you add value to the process.

Keep it reasonable

Some strategies aim to amplify pain points and blow them out of proportion. I find that this comes across both dramatic and cheesy – and at the end of the day, makes YOU look less professional. Make your pain points both real and relatable. For example, if you choose to incorporate your pain points on your website, you want them to ask rhetorical questions that almost everyone in your target audience can answer with a resounding “Yes!” They should be general enough to relate to the vast majority of people you’re trying to reach, yet specific enough to still be meaningful. You want your pain points to really strike a chord with your audience, and after they answer these rhetorical questions, make them want to do business with you!

What strategies have you used to identify your own pain points or the pain points of your customers? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 
4 Comments

Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What is Public Relations?

PRThis is a question I’m asked quite often. Whether it’s directly or indirectly, in most initial conversations I find myself explaining – or defending – what it is I do. The challenge is that Public Relations doesn’t fit in a neat little box like when someone says “I’m a dentist” or “I’m a teacher.” Sure there are variances within those fields, but for the most part you can state that as your job title and people get the picture. With Public Relations, not so much. It’s ambiguous, abstract and ever-changing. Most challenging is that even the professionals in the field can’t agree upon a single definition for our work. As a result, I’ve created my own definition that has changed over the years along with type of services I offer my clients. In a recent conversation I was told that I have a very broad definition of PR to which my response was, “Of course, PR can be found everywhere!” And I firmly believe that. This is my personal explanation of Public Relations. While it may be broad and it may not be what you’ll find in any book, it’s coming from years of first-hand experience in the field. I’d say that makes it just as legitimate as any other definition out there!

It’s relationship management.

Foremost public relations is building and maintaining positive relationships with your audience. Technology provides us with the power to directly engage our customers unlike ever before. It’s important that businesses embrace this opportunity and carefully consider the image they’re promoting through these interactions. Some of the services I provide such as blog writing, social media management and web site content creation can be the first interaction people have with you. It’s important that your brand is intentional and polished. While many businesses successful manage their own relationships, it’s often with a good PR consultant at their side.

It’s about telling your story.

I’ve worked with quite a variety of clients and for each one I’ve been able to identify the underlying story that makes them stand out. This story is often hidden, underutilized or misrepresented – all affecting the impact it has on the target audience. You can promote your “value, service and integrity” and sound like every other business out there or you can use some Public Relations to help you craft a unique and memorable story that demonstrates these same qualities. I help tell this story and carry it across every communication channel, from web site content to marketing materials to company culture. Storytelling has become one of my specialties. I love the challenge of extracting a story upon being introduced to a new business and I love how drastic the results can be when a business proudly showcases their story to the world.

It’s common sense.

When I really want to state what I do in as few words as possible, I say Public Relations is common sense. OK, common sense to me at least. Really though I would say most people know that the basis of Public Relations – building relationships, telling your story, providing exceptional customer service – should be a core part of their business. Yet so many forget to implement it. I help clients regain this common sense by keeping them organized, staying on top of projects and deadlines so they don’t have to and overseeing the interactions between the business and its customers. Saying that Public Relations is “common sense” makes it sound easy, but it still takes someone with a specialty for PR to develop an effective strategy.

So yes, my understanding of Public Relations is basic and broad. It’s not overly technical and puffed up with jargon. Instead it’s relatable to every business. I see Public Relations opportunities everywhere and this inspires me to continue to grow my passion. What is your personal understanding of Public Relations? How has it been explained to you by others? Share your definitions so we can compare and discuss!

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 18, 2013 in Business & Success

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Revealing Character Through Communication

angry person on phoneDuring the steps along my career path, I’ve encountered some truly great communicators who were friendly, organized and a pleasure to work with. As with any balance to life, I have also encountered a memorable few who were quite the opposite – impatient, rude and condescending. I used to take negative communication very personally, wondering what I could have done to make it a more pleasant experience, but have since reconciled that it had little to do with me. I wasn’t giving the person the answer they wanted (maybe I wasn’t the right contact to address their request or maybe it simply couldn’t be done). And because of this, they felt as though they could treat me with less respect or professionalism than someone who could offer them immediate solutions.

I continue to encounter similar styles of communication from time to time and it really grates on me. I believe that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Therefore, these incidences are a reflection of a character flaw that many people may be unaware they exhibit. I’m sure I am not exempt from this – a lapse in my communication may have left someone else feeling brushed off or belittled at one point or another. In an effort to put an end to unprofessional communication, I want to examine the following key points to shed light on why this is such a critical problem:

The importance of always being professional

It’s a small world. We all know the meaning of this phrase as we have likely had the experience of running into contacts again and again through similar circles or completely unrelated circumstances. This is a reminder to me every day that my reputation is my most valuable business asset. Whether you live in a big city or a small town, you can’t afford to burn bridges if you want to be successful in your career. Nothing slows down business growth faster. The importance of always being professional when communicating with customers or vendors is realizing that you may very likely have to deal with them again. Don’t ignore this important lesson! Most of the unprofessional communicators I’ve had to deal with have popped up in my life again, needing information or services from me – often with their tail tucked between their legs.

Identifying the subtle negatives

Sometimes the worst communication experiences are hard to identify because they’re subtle, yet leave you with an overall feeling of hurt, frustration or anger. It may be hard to pinpoint the exact reasons the conversation was so unpleasant, but the feeling it leaves you with is real nonetheless. The subtle negatives I’ve most often identified have involved someone exerting their power or position to make me feel dumb or incorrect about an answer I have provided. Another common subtle negative is someone being bossy or aggressive in their tone and in the type of services they demand. In less subtle situations, I’ve had people outright yell at me, hang up the phone or threaten me in various ways (chalk this up to some good old political campaign experience). Most often negative communication can be identified in someone’s tone and word choice. Even if you have something negative you must communicate – and this does happen – there are various ways to still make it a positive communication experience overall. There’s no excuse.

Letting someone know when they’re being unprofessional

This is a difficult subject to breach. No one wants to directly confront someone else about their attitude or negativity because it can be, well…scary. We’re more willing to put up with the unprofessionalism and belittlement than we are willing to tell someone they’re just being rude. The risk is that we end up looking rude in return or that we anger them even more and the communication further declines. If the negative communication is subtle and you’re not sure if they even know they’re coming across this way, it’s important to handle the situation softly, but directly. Let them know that it’s how they’re making you feel rather than accusing them of being outright mean. No one can argue with how you feel and hopefully even if they don’t want to recognize that their actions are causing this, they will at least be professional enough to make an effort to change. On the other extreme, if someone is being unprofessional to the point of yelling or insulting you, then you must also address this directly, but more firmly. Identify specific examples in which their communication is unacceptable (swearing, yelling and hanging up a phone are never acceptable in my mind) and let them know that you will have to cut off further communication if they can’t approach the situation more professionally. Hopefully such instances are rare, but it’s important to know how to speak up to put and end to it.

They key concept worth taking away from all of this is that character is best demonstrated by how you treat those who can do nothing for you. Negativity is never acceptable even if you realize you’re “only” dealing with an office administrator, assistant or intern. Most often, these are the gatekeepers for who you really want to be talking to. As I said before, it’s a small world, so be sure to be kind and professional to everyone you encounter. It truly takes no more (maybe even less) effort than it does to be rude and when the world connects you with them again you’ll be glad you have a friend, not a burnt bridge, to work with.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: