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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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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

If you’re easily distracted, you’re more likely to thrive as an entrepreneur

(ENTREPRENEUR) If monotony and boredom at work- well bores you, it’s possible you may fit with the other entrepreneurs with a quick and constantly changing career.

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When Bill Gates was a kid, he knew he liked messing around with code. He couldn’t have known how it might evolve, but he was willing to live in the distraction, focusing on details when needed, but always learning, moving on, taking risks and growing in the process.

Some of the most successful folks among us are not content to sit and make widgets every day. They cannot thrive in a detail and focused work environment. So, it may come as no surprise to know that people who are more easily distracted are also more likely to thrive as entrepreneurs.

According to this study, if you are intelligent and get distracted more easily, those two qualities combined will likely enhance your creativity. And, that creativity and ability to use distraction as an advantage can be channeled to create new things, jobs, companies, etc.

For those of us who are more easily distracted, who enjoy doing different things every day, and who like learning, a recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests a good option is to find a career path that provides the right amount of distraction and which is a great fit for your personality. If you do that your talent is more likely to be apparent because you are playing to your strengths. Also, if you are working in your sweet spot you will be more productive and motivated.

Maybe not surprisingly, the top job for those who live in distraction is entrepreneur. The term “easily distracted” often comes with a negative connotation, but considering an entrepreneur is taking risks, making things happen and creating companies, ideas, products that may have never existed, this spins that idea on its head. Entrepreneurs are the chief cooks and bottle washers of the world. They ideate, create, hire and inspire. None of that is possible in a monotonous work environment.

“Unsurprisingly, meta-analyses indicate that entrepreneurs tend to have higher levels of ‘openness to experience,’ so they differ from managers and leaders in that they are more curious, interested in variety and novelty, and are more prone to boredom — as well as less likely to tolerate routine and predictability,” according to the HBR story.

Other careers that are great fits for those of us (me included) who enjoy distraction are PR/Media Production, Journalism and Consultant. What these fields all have in common is, there is never a dull moment, switching from task to task is pretty commonplace, and you will do well if you can be a generalist – synthesizing information and weeding out the unnecessary.

Not sure where your strengths lie? Here’s a quick quiz to give you some feedback on how curious you really are.

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Business Entrepreneur

How can a small business beat a large competitor moving in next door?

(BUSINESS) How do you stand out when a big competitor moves to your neighborhood? Reddit has a few suggestions – some obvious, some not so much.

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Small businesses, especially restaurants have been hit hard by lockdowns. Many closed for good this year, and those that are still hanging on are in a precarious position as their local economies shift.

Last week, a user on r/smallbusiness asked a timeless question that is especially relevant right now. Reddit user longbottomjr writes: “We have a strong competitor moving in next door in a few months. Our restaurant is one that pays the bills but […] I feel that if this new competitor takes up enough market share we will lose our restaurant. Can anyone chime in with resources/ideas I can use to help put together our plan of action?”

Comments quickly pointed out what common sense would dictate.

First, ensure the basics are covered. Being clean, quick, friendly, and high quality will take you far, no matter what competition you’re up against. And as u/horsemullet said, “Customer service also happens before someone walks through the door!” So make sure that your online hours, contact info, menus and social media accounts are up to date and accurate.

Another point emerged that is less intuitive: Competing businesses will naturally gravitate towards similar locations. This is a well-established phenomenon known within game theory as Nash’s Equilibrium. In the restaurant industry, this is actually a good thing. It brings entirely new customers to the area and ultimately benefits all the other nearby businesses, too.

Take advantage of the attention by offering something other spots don’t, like loyalty rewards, specials, unique offerings, or meal deals.

Speaking of the area, a great way to stand out from larger competitors is to build relationships with the community you serve, as u/sugarface2134 emphasized. “In my city there are two Italian restaurants in the same location – just across the parking lot from each other. We always pick the smaller one because the owner truly makes you feel like a member of the family.”

That’s an advantage of being a small, local business that all the money in the world couldn’t buy. Get to know your customers personally and you will not only create loyal regulars, but friends as well.

One of the top rated responses, from u/seefooddiet2200, made an often overlooked but critically important point.

“Talk to your staff and see if they have any ideas. These are the people that are working every single day and may know one or two ‘annoying’ things that if they were switched would make things easier. Or maybe they see that there’s specific things people ask for that you don’t serve. Every single [one] of your employees is a gold mine of insight, you just need to be open to listening to them.”

That is applicable to any business owner who wants to improve their practices.

Ask employees what they think, especially the ones who have stuck around a long time. Not only do they know the ins-and-outs of their jobs, but this builds rapport and trust with your staff. A good boss realizes that employees are more than their job descriptions. They have valuable thoughts about what’s working and not working, and direct access to customer’s opinions.

Good luck, u/longbottomjr! We’ll be rooting for you.

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Business Entrepreneur

How a newly funded coffee delivery startup is thriving during COVID

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) Seattle’s Joe Coffee finds successful funding in hyper specific clientele and operations even mid-pandemic. But how did they do it?

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Amidst a pandemic, you might not expect a small company with limited clientele to thrive. Yet, Joe Coffee, a Seattle-based delivery service, is doing just that.

Joe Coffee, an aptly named coffee runner, has received millions in funding, a large chunk of which was raised mid-pandemic. Their mission is simple: to bring coffee from smaller shops to local consumers, especially without endangering either party.

There’s a lot to be said about Joe Coffee’s valuation and mission, but what’s more intriguing is their unlikely success.

A food delivery service that focuses on coffee may not seem that niche, but when you look at Joe Coffee’s determination to stick to the Seattle area, coupled with its staunch resolve for frequenting smaller shops (e.g., not Starbucks), the service begins to look pretty specific–and, in an economy that honors sweeping solutions, this is a welcome change of pace.

The way their service works is fairly simple: Joe Coffee provides shops with signs and information on how to order through the Joe network, then consumers are able to download and order through a mobile app on all of the usual platforms. Joe Coffee takes a nine percent cut of the order total, credit card fees included.

In return, customers are able to order from their favorite, local, non-chain coffee shops, both supporting them and sustaining their caffeine addiction at a time where alertness is paramount and grouchiness is all too common.

What’s truly interesting about Joe Coffee’s example is that it demonstrates an availability for small services with extreme specificity in terms of operating capacity. By sticking to unique businesses in a relatively small metropolitan area (as opposed to, say, multiple cities), the service is more likely to be successful in execution and delivery, thereby solidifying its relevance to both consumers and businesses alike.

And, by playing into the need for curbside pickup or home delivery these days, Joe Coffee only furthers the perception that its service is necessary.

If the country begins to reopen–whenever that happens–it will be no surprise to see Joe Coffee maintain a relationship between consumers and smaller businesses in the Seattle area. For anyone offering a similarly niche service, this is a perfect example of a company to which you should pay attention.

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