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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business (Contribution from Keith Coppersmith)

The following post comes to us from Keith Coppersmith, an experienced business consultant who serves small businesses and startups.


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How to Master Customer Support for your Small Business

Did you know that 51% of customers stop doing business after just one negative experience? Research further shows that businesses lose over $62 billion every year on poor customer service.

Precisely because of that, wise small business owners don’t look at great customer support as a cost. For them, this is a chance to increase sales and boost brand loyalty.

Now, when it comes to providing spotless customer support, there is always room for improvement. Here are a few great tactics that will help you take your customer relationships to the next level.

Don’t Overcomplicate Customer Conversations

Providing customer support is not an opportunity for you to showcase your impressive industry knowledge. When reaching out to you, a customer expects to get a specific answer that solves their problem.

Using overly complex technical jargon may cause miscommunication issues and hurt user experience. It may even seem as if you yourself don’t know the answer to the question. To keep your customers happy, you need to speak their language. Simple and effective explanations will boost their satisfaction and motivate them to buy from you again.

Help your Customers Make Payments Faster

The flexibility of your services can get you a long way. Let’s take an example of invoicing, as this is one of the major problems businesses face. Stats say that 64% of businesses have unpaid invoices that have gone unpaid for at least 60 days.

Sure, in the short term, you need to find the right financing method to boost your bottom line. For example, you can improve cash flow with invoice finance. This financing option brings numerous benefits to small businesses and startups. First, invoice finance firms usually pay businesses about 80% of the total sum within 48 hours, meaning you’ll get your money fast. Second, unlike with bank loans, there are no high-interest rates. Finally, invoicing doesn’t hurt user experience and helps you maintain stronger client relationships.

Sure, these are all short-term solutions. To boost your cash flow in the long run, you need to manage your late payments strategically. Here are a few ideas to incorporate into your customer support:

  • Offer multiple payment options to boost their buying experience and encourage them to buy from you.
  • B2B businesses should also have a billing policy, where they would clearly state when and how you want to get paid and how you will handle late payments.
  • Send invoices on time to get customers to take them seriously.
  • Automate your rebilling process. With the help of the right software, your customers will be able to track their payments directly from an app, get informed about any failed payments, and get actionable tips to solve these problems faster.

Answer Customer Questions in Real-Time

The demands of a modern customer have changed. They now use multiple channels to communicate with brands. Unsurprisingly, they expect businesses to use these channels, too. Research says most customers expect to get an answer within 2 hours, while 84% of them don’t want to wait longer than a day.

Precisely because of that, you need to need to provide multichannel customer services. Update your contact information on your site regularly and get listed on all major business directories. You should also provide your email address, links to social media support profiles, and live chats. Multichannel communication increases user satisfaction and helps them resolve the problem faster.

Leverage the Power of Social Networks

Many brands have started seeing the value of social networks in building customer relationships. First, you can use AI-powered software like chatbots to provide customers with timely and relevant answers. Today’s chatbots are smart and they’re constantly learning from customer interactions to understand their intent and give relevant feedback.

You can also use social monitoring tools to track your brand/product mentions on social networks and participate in customers’ conversations instantly. These tools give you a great opportunity to identify customers experiencing problems with your products, help them fix these problems effectively, and turn them into brand advocates.

Collect Customer Feedback Regularly

There are numerous metrics you can track to assess your small business’ performance. And, one of the most important ones is customer satisfaction. You need to understand how your customers feel about your brand, what they like, appreciate, or hate about it.

Collecting customer feedback is one of the most significant aspects of customer support, given that 91% of unhappy customers won’t complain about poor experiences with your brand. They will simply leave you for your competitors.

There are numerous ways to do gather user feedback. I’ve already mentioned the importance of social listening and AI-powered chatbots. These tools let you see what questions your customers usually ask and what problems they experience.

You could also create a dedicated feedback form on your website and even reach out to a customer that abandoned the shopping cart. Live chat support can also be effective. Once a customer support agent helps a customer, they can send them feedback. Finally, you can always call a customer and ask them for their opinions directly.

Over to You

With the rise of sophisticated customer relationship management tools, providing subpar customer services are not acceptable anymore. You need to provide timely customer support, answer customer feedback professionally, and customize your customer services. This way, you will build stronger customer relationships and increase brand loyalty.

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About the Author: Keith Coppersmith is an Adelaide based business consultant with a degree in Media Management. With experience in numerous small businesses and startups, he enjoys giving advice on all things marketing.

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5 Ways To Help And Support Employees Coping With Grief (Contribution from freelance writer Jenny Holt)

The following post comes to us from Jenny Holt, who transitioned from a corporate HR career into freelance writing. In this article, she shares her insights on helping employees cope with grief.


5 Ways To Help And Support Employees Coping With Grief

pablo-varela-311608Grieving a deceased loved one is one of the most unbearable things that a person can go through, and it’s even harder to cope with the loss when you have to be at work. In the U.S., workers typically get two to three days off for funeral leave, but according to experts, workers need at least a week to deal with their grief, apart from the logistics that surround a death and burial. Even more troubling is the fact that only 57% of small businesses with staff under 100 employees provide funeral leave. Organizations must recognize the fact that grieving workers need to be given enough time to cope with their loss. Moreover, companies should find ways to help and support their employees during this difficult time.

The effects of grief

According to a study, 75% of mourners said that their ability to concentrate in the workplace has been affected. And while grieving employees may turn up for work after their bereavement leave, these employees are more likely to make poor decisions, put workplace safety at risk, and supervise ineffectively. It’s also common for grieving workers to have difficulty concentrating, become socially isolated from their co-workers, and have lower productivity. For all these reasons, it’s imperative that companies should help their employees cope with the death of a loved one. Not only will it help to ease some of the worker’s personal burden, but it’s also better for the organization as a whole. Here are some tips on how to help and support your employee who’s coping with grief.

Offer an effective bereavement policy

A good bereavement policy includes paid leave for up to a week, extended unpaid leave, and vacation leave. Find out how much paid leave your company can offer and make sure to take into account the cultural differences, as some mourning traditions may take some time.

Don’t rush your employee to get back to work

There is no specific time frame as to when grief ends, so you will have to be flexible with regards to this situation. Ask your employee if they need more time to mourn and offer other work arrangements such as telecommuting or job sharing during this time. It’s important for them to get back into a well-balanced lifestyle and process their grief so when they come back they are truly ready to give 100% for the company again.

Acknowledge the fact that your employee is grieving

Let your employee know that you are sorry for his or her loss. Offer your support during this difficult time and ask if there’s anything you can possibly do to help. Assure the worker that everything is fine at work and that his job is secure and his duties are being looked after.

Create a culture of respect

Ask the grieving employee whether he or she would like you to speak to the team about the loss. Make sure that the team members are not gossiping about the situation, as this can be offensive and stressful.

Offer support

Help your grieving employee to get grief counseling once he or she returns to work. You should also encourage team members to offer their support and thank them for their efforts to support their colleague.

The grieving process can be difficult for any worker, but building a caring and supportive working environment can do a lot as your employee learns to cope with grief. With an effective bereavement policy, you will  help your employees properly cope with grief and sooner return to their job ready to re-engage.

What is your company’s bereavement policy? How could this policy be improved to offer more support to grieving employees? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2017 in Business & Success

 

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Entrepreneurship in 2015 (Guest Blog by Amy Klimek of ZipRecruiter)

The following guest post comes to us from Amy Klimek, an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter. Enjoy her insights and expertise on the topic of entrepreneurship. Be sure to visit her author’s bio below to learn more about Amy and her business and to connect!

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Entrepreneurship in 2015

Insights and Encouragement from an Expert

Entrepreneurship is equally rewarding as it is difficult. Though you may be free from the shackles of retail and corporate, such freedom comes with a price. As far as 2015 goes, the time has never been better for you to finally build that start-up you’ve always dreamed of having. Just be sure you understand the responsibility that is inextricably linked to power.

Start It
Too many people talk about their dreams but never act on them. They dedicate hours of the day envisioning that perfect business but never actually take the steps to achieve it only to regret their failure to act in their older years. For most, it’s fear that holds them back. Because we no longer have anything to fear, our mind makes up some that exist outside of our comfort zones. Anything that is not part of what it is used to is deemed impossible and not worth it. If you’re going to successfully start on your own path, it’s time to learn how to overcome that negative voice. Instead, use it to guide what precautionary steps you want to take to give yourself a safety net to fall into should something go wrong.

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Understand the Competition
Now that you are putting together the research, you will inevitably come across blogs that give you reasons not to go after your dream and, specifically, the dream in your field. They all decry the sheer number of people vying for the same thing as reason enough to give up. Never listen to these people. If you wind up falling down a rabbit hole of negativity, stop researching for the day. What you need to realize is the reality of the situation. Those that generally enjoy what they do will share useful knowledge and be very positive about their accomplishments. The other 90% lack the talent and discipline required to succeed, no matter what credentials they try to throw at you. Instead, focus only on the 10%. These are the experts in their field. Though it will take you years to achieve what they have accomplished, they are great examples to look to for motivation and ideas.

10 Year Rule
Overnight sensations are a dream. The only people that earn this title are children that appear on television shows. What the media never reveals are the years of hard work the professionals put into their craft before they finally caught the public’s attention. Dubbed the “10 year rule”, John Hayes researched this phenomenon by taking the lives of famous artists (think Mozart) and statistically looking at how long it took each of them to begin producing their most famous pieces. In the end, 10 years was the magic number. Each and every master required a decade of dedication to their concentration before major success came into play. You are no different. Accept this and use it when you feel like you should just give up. Success takes time. It is a slow and steady pace that will get you to where you want to be.

Be Flexible
You might be the personality type that obsesses over every little detail, and with a venture into entrepreneurship, you’ve already plotted out every modicum of possibility. Unfortunately, this still won’t be enough to prepare for the future. Think big, plan small. Have a single goal in mind but do not be dead set on the path you take to get there. What may seem like something out of left field could turn out to be a well-placed opportunity that opens even more doors for you. Basically, pursue every avenue. As an entrepreneur, this translates into how you find your first clients. The importance of this lies in a single word: experience. If you haven’t already built a career in the corporate world, you are still young and lacking resume fodder that potential clients use as a means to judge your credibility. In these beginning years, you will not have much behind you and need to be willing to take on projects that don’t fit your ideal match but still bring some value to the brand.

Build What You Believe
As an entrepreneur, the world is your oyster. You are now free to pursue anything. While scary, it is nonetheless a freeing feeling. No longer are you wasting your time for someone else. You are working for you. A popular quote entrepreneurs cite describes that they would rather work 80 hours a week for themselves than 40 hours a week for someone else. When you focus on something that means a lot to you, 80 hours is still not enough time to devote. Yes, there will be days you wake up and wish you could just spend the day in front of the TV, but there are never days where you wake up and want to disappear. The stresses between business and freelance are different in many ways, but at least with freelance, success relies on your ability to work hard.

You Are Accountable
You are accountable for everything that happens, especially if you begin your run with just you heading up the fledgling business. This means that before you start reaching out to clients or hiring others to manage your affairs, you better have your own self-importance under control. Don’t think you can continue to take out your frustrations on others. They will no longer work with you. Don’t assume you can make excuses for a poorly completed project. You were the only one working on it. Instead, turn this accountability into a positive. Use it to continually better yourself and what you offer. If something goes wrong, assess what happened and make notes on how you can avoid the situation in the future. If you feel like berating others, take time away to understand why you are frustrated and what you can do to ease the tension. Turn everything into a learning exercise and you will be amazed at how far you can go on your own.

Amy KlimekAbout the Author: Amy Klimek is an experienced HR recruiter and VP of Human Resources for ZipRecruiter, a company that simplifies the hiring process for small to medium size businesses. Prior to that, Amy has held similar roles at Rent.com, eBay and US Interactive. For Amy, corporate culture isn’t about dogs and free lunches, it’s about empowering employees and creating an enriching environment for people to excel. Connect with ZipRecruiter on Twitter or Facebook.

 

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