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Set your business apart with personalized customer service

(Business News) Times are changing, and customer service is not as easy as a smile and a kind greeting. Let’s talk about ways to set your business apart without breaking the bank.

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customer service

customer service

Make Something Unoriginal Your Own

The other day I saw a short video on You Tube where three men sing a very unique version of the Friends theme song, “I’ll Be There For You.” Apparently, I’m not the only one to have watched it because, at the time of this writing, their performance has well of 500,000 views!

What’s unique about what the do (watch it even just for 40 seconds) is that they take something totally unoriginal—the theme of a now off-air television program—and remake it into something wonderful and totally unique.

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As business people, we continuously need to be reinventing ourselves, refreshing our image, our marketing techniques, and our product in order to address the changing needs of the consumer. The remake of the “Friends” theme song, shows us that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but that we can actually take something that’s already there—something that’s right in front of our eyes—and make it our own.

Viral opportunities are few and far between. If we spent our days obsessing over how many YouTube views we had or how many retweets we received, we would not be moving forward, but circling back. The goal is to be remarkable, and this can be accomplished not only by leaps and bounds, but also in the small things you do every day.

Tips for Personalized Customer Service

Here are three ideas for little things you can do to set your business apart from the rest:

  1. Answer the phone. Have you ever been involved in a long interchange on email? People often defer to email and text message when a simple phone call will address more questions and alleviate concerns in a much shorter period of time. Not to mention, in a phone call, you can actually sell your services or your product through tone and voice quality.

    A phone call, while increasingly an obsolete method of communication, often sets your customer service skills apart from the rest.

  2. Make physical contact. (Sounds dirty, doesn’t it?) All joking aside, if you’ve ever shopped at Nordstrom, then you know that each and every item purchased at the store is neatly wrapped in a shopping bag, which is handed to you by an employee that walks around the counter and with whom you have direct contact. No item is passed over a reception station or placed in a bag on a winding turnstile for you to pick up yourself.

    This simple method sends the message that the customer is very important and special. And, how easy is it to walk over and give somebody a bag? Consider what you can do to send the same kind of message.

  3. Respond to everyone daily. Almost everywhere I go and everyone that I have contact with rants about some unreturned phone call or an individual that appears to have gone AWOL. In fact, I may actually still be waiting for that return phone call from the doctor’s office.

    You can set yourself apart by responding to all of your phone messages and emails everyday—instead of ignoring them or leaving them for tomorrow. In a world where this is increasingly uncommon, people like to know that they’ve been heard.

Getting face-to-face with consumers and adding your personal touch is not so difficult and it can make a big difference. Your customers feel special because you have paid attention to them instead of sending brief text or shooting off an email. Even if you cannot sing even half as well as those gents on YouTube, and even if your product isn’t as high end as the jewelry sold at Nordstrom, these three easy steps can still make your business remarkable.

Melissa Zavala is the Broker/Owner of Broadpoint Properties and Head Honcho of Short Sale Expeditor®, and Chief Executive Officer of Transaction 911. Before landing in real estate, she had careers in education and publishing. Most recently, she has been able to use her teaching and organizational skills while traveling the world over—dispelling myths about the distressed property market, engaging and motivating real estate agents, and sharing her passion for real estate. When she isn’t speaking or writing, Melissa enjoys practicing yoga, walking the dog, and vacationing at beach resorts.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Shep Hyken

    January 27, 2014 at 10:52 am

    One of the strongest customer service strategies/tactics is to make it personal. It can be as simple as
    using a customer’s name. Even an automated email that confirms a person’s order can help personalize the experience. It’s the personal touch that people remember. Here are some reminders that just about any business can use to personalize their service.

  2. Jeff Staton

    January 27, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Answer the phone! Amen, sister! I love that you placed answering the phone as the first bullet point. Our customers erect an emotional wall just before walking in the door, just before making that call. It is our responsibility to get them to remove that bastion between us and the customer so that we can create a wonderful experience. A pleasant, helpful, human voice accomplishes that 10x better than robots. Excellent Job!

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Business Entrepreneur

Product Hunt is putting their money where their hunt is

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Product Hunt is putting money where their hunt is by announcing a new Maker Grants service to boost small and independent creators.

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Meeting of product creators making their pitch for Product Hunt.

Product Hunt – a technology centric site that aggregates new products daily – recently announced a new Maker Grant program that is designed to identify and help startups get their products started with a $5,000 grant.

Since its inception in 2013 by Ryan Hoover, Product Hunt has been a success vehicle for numerous products and companies by giving them access to a large audience of potential customers and investors. Available as an app across multiple formats, it allows groups to post their ideas and get feedback from a number of sources through comments and an integrated voting system. Everything from books, podcasts, hardware, and games can be found on Product Hunt, with dozens of new entries every day.

And now, Product Hunt’s new venture is to give 3 promising products their own substantial grant each month in an effort to give back to its community by placing money into the hands of its followers.

In a statement in its press release, Product Hunt announced that, “We know that building products can be expensive work, and passion doesn’t always pay the bills. As a way of saying thank you to the community, and to encourage makers to keep building, this year we’re offering cash gifts of $5,000 to three makers each month.”

Users will be able to nominate Makers that they feel deserve the investment by filling out a form. Product Hunt will take these suggestions and make decisions from there. In terms of how this will all be done, the official word is, “We’re reviewing makers who launched in the previous month who we believe are shining examples of innovation, grit, and engagement with the PH community. We’ll also be prioritizing those who are bootstrapping their businesses or working on their side projects without the help of venture funding.”

The big takeaway here is that Product Hunt is championing its support of its Makers through direct monetary help. By giving back into their own users, it strengthens and encourages them to put their best ideas forward and believe in their own innovation. Whereas more standard and traditional methods of grants may require several layers of arbitration, paperwork, and other hurdles, Product Hunt is providing a fast track to capital by leveraging its existing group of passionate users. Even knowing where to look can be intimidating and overwhelming.

At a time when banks may not be the best option for grants and loans, seeing a company choose to instead redirect its own money into the hands of its users is uplifting (and even more so given the turbulent market in a pandemic-choked world). Product Hunt maintains that it will do this each month, and will listen to feedback as it continues to build out the program.

Product Hunt’s userbase has reacted with incredible enthusiasm and praise, with repeated posts expressing a huge level of excitement and gratitude. While there are still some questions to be answered, Product Hunt’s flexible and community-driven approach is poised to potentially change the lives of many Makers. It will be exciting to see how this all plays out, and hopefully will encourage other companies to follow suit in creating positive outcomes through financial support.

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Business Entrepreneur

Snowpocalypse disaster 2021: How can businesses help their employees?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) How did your business manage your human resources during snowpocalypse? How can you protect your team and prepare for the next disaster?

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Snow storm disaster, inches of snow where it was unexpected in front of a home and car.

The effects of Snowpocalypse 2021 will be felt for months. It’s not just fixing the power grid, paying off electric bills, or repairing pipes. Many employees lost wages because they couldn’t work. CNBC estimates that over 40% of Americans couldn’t last a month on their savings. Combined with the impact of COVID-19 across many industries, recovering from a 2-week loss of wages from the snowstorm disaster could devastate many Texans.

How does your business manage time off during disasters?

Larger businesses often continue to pay their employee’s salaries during disasters. Exempt employees have different rules over non-exempt employees, but we’ve seen many instances where larger organizations continued to pay employees, even though they couldn’t get into work. Employees with small to medium sized businesses often don’t have an option. These employees either take PTO or don’t get paid. While this might be legal and understandable from the business point of view, there might be other options. What can a business do when a disaster occurs when it comes to employee wages?

Know the law to pay employees right

I’m not even going to try to and sort through the multitude of laws that pertain to nonexempt or exempt employees. Every business should have a disaster policy that informs employees how their salary will be handled during the disaster, whether employees can stay home and work, choose to stay home out of safety or are forced to stay home and can’t work. Know the policies of the ADA, OSHA and FMLA to know what your rights and responsibilities are as an employer when disaster strikes. Make sure you’re paying employees according to state and federal laws.

Consider options to protect employees

We’re not suggesting that businesses put themselves in debt to pay workers during a crisis, but Texas has experienced so many disasters over the past few years, it does make sense to think about how to help employees during those times. Critical time off (CTO) is one option as a benefit to workers during crises. By lowering stress during critical times, your employees come back to work ready to deal with your business.

Building trust with your team by helping them through a crisis can help your business keep your best workers. Now’s the time to look at your disaster response and figure out how to take steps to prepare for the next time.

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Business Entrepreneur

4 tips for acquiring a business: The why and how

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Acquiring a business can be a key part of your business’s future growth, but there are some factors you should consider before signing the deal.

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A meeting room with people shaking hands over acquiring a business

Growing businesses have multiple levers that can be pulled separately or in unison to continue scaling and expanding. And while many companies choose to grow internally, there’s always the option of acquiring other businesses to supercharge results and instantly expand.

Why Acquire?

Acquiring a business is certainly a complicated path to expansion, but it’s also a highly attractive one for a variety of reasons. This includes:

  • Increased market share. If you’re acquiring a business that happens to be a competitor, you can instantly increase your market share. If you currently own 20 percent of the market share and the competition has 15 percent, you suddenly catapult to 35 percent. That might make you the industry leader overnight!
  • Expansion into new markets. Sometimes you acquire a business outside of your industry or niche. In this case, it allows you to expand vertically or horizontally. This can improve top-line revenue and/or reduce costs and benefit profit margins.
  • Advanced tech and IP. In some situations, an acquisition is about acquiring a specific piece of technology or intellectual property (IP). This may prove to be the final boost you need to accelerate growth and initiate further expansion.
  • Talent acquisition. One of the secondary benefits of an acquisition is the opportunity to welcome new talent into your team. Whether it’s a seasoned executive or a highly effective sales staff, this is one benefit you can’t ignore.

Mergers and acquisitions aren’t the correct solutions in every situation, but they often make sense. It’s ultimately up to your team to sit down and discuss the pros, cons, opportunities, drawbacks, and possibilities of pursuing this option.

Helpful Acquisition Tips

Should your business choose to move forward with the acquisition route, here are some essential tips to be aware of:

1. Assemble a Talented Team

Don’t do anything until you first develop an acquisition team. This is a very important step and should not be delayed. (Many businesses make the mistake of starting the search and then forming a team on the fly, but this results in missed opportunities and foundational errors that can compromise an otherwise smart acquisition.)

A good acquisition team should include an experienced mergers and acquisitions advisor, a responsible executive, an attorney, an HR professional, and an IT expert. You’ll also want to bring on a public relations professional as soon as possible. This will ensure you control the messaging that customers, investors, and even employees hear.

2. Do Extensive Due Diligence

With the support of a talented dream team, you’re equipped to find the best acquisition opportunities. As you narrow your targets down, you’ll want to identify and implement a very detailed due diligence process for acquiring a business. This may include an extensive, objective analysis that consists of a letter of intent, confidentiality agreement, contracts and leases, financial statements, tax returns, and other important documents.

3. Make an Initial Offer

If the due diligence checks out, then it’s time to work on formulating an offer for acquiring a business. While the first offer almost certainly won’t be the offer that gets accepted, it’s the single most important offer you’ll make. It frames the transaction and sets the tone for the rest of the negotiations. It’s generally a good idea to offer no more than 75 to 90 percent of what you’re willing to pay. It should be low enough to leave room to inch up, but not so low that the other party could potentially see it as an insult.

4. Negotiate

Your first offer won’t get accepted. But unless you’ve totally insulted the other business, they should come back with a counter. Now is where things get really interesting. Negotiations ensue and it’s time to counter back and forth. The offer consists of a variety of elements – not just a price tag – so consider all of these variables in your subsequent counters.

Adding it All Up

As valuable as an acquisition can be, the process is often filled with friction. It’s up to your team to make the transition after closing as smooth as possible.

It’s very important that you respect the products, services, employees, and customers that the acquired business has. If you come into an acquisition and attempt to shake things up on day one, you’re going to get backlash. There’s nothing wrong with making changes – you now own the business – but be diplomatic and patient. Build trust, work together, and gradually introduce changes.

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