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How to Avoid Being a Bonehead With Your Customers

Beyond • March 7, 2013

Whether you have thousands and thousands of customers, a few hundred here and there or are just getting ready to open a new business this year, your customers matter more than anything else. So, how can you best avoid in essence making boneheaded decisions when it comes to keeping the bread and butter of your business happy? Trust most who will tell you, it really is not rocket science. On any given day of the week, even one small gaffe on your part or of your employees can lead to disaster, a disaster that you may not be able to recover from if it becomes too repetitive over time. In order to lessen the chance of being in hot water with your customer base, file away these tips: The customer is always right. While 99.9% of business owners adhere to this age-old adage, the majority of them also know it not to be true. Customers make just as many if not more mistakes than those they shop from. Also keep in mind, however, that they can in many cases just as easily go to someone else in order to meet their shopping needs. Always approach a situation like you have to prove the customer wrong in their assertion that you did everything right. Don’t be a spammer. Whether it is through marketing promotions that involve email marketing or social media, do not spam both current and potential customers. The reasons for this are several, but two of the most important are consumer patience and your search engine ranking. As for the former, consumers get enough stuff in their email boxes on a daily basis, not to mention having to be subjected to a variety of tweets and shares that at times can seem overwhelming. Avoid turning off people who feel like you’re only interested in piling more and more sales down their throats. When it comes to the latter, your search engine ranking can take a negative hit if you’re site is viewed as being too spammy, along with the fact that some consumers may report you. We’ll get to you when we can. Time is of the essence when it comes to answering customer questions, issues and even complaints. If you are responding to them via phone or email, make sure you and/or your team do it in a prompt fashion. Every hour that you let go by gives the customer another reason to think about going over to your competition for their products and services moving forward. If you are engaging them via social media, there really is no excuse for being late, as social media allows you to deal one-on-one with customers in a real-time fashion. Stress upon your team that customer service should always be their first and biggest priority. Losing a customer here and there does not matter. Last but not least, don’t get the feeling that losing a customer here and there will not have an impact on your sales. In reality, it does not take too long for that number of lost customers to add up if you keep giving them less than stellar customer service. Before long, you will find yourself wondering where so many of them went. Each customer is valuable to the survival of you and your business, so never act or treat them otherwise. As a business owner, what do you do to make your customers feel like they are second to none?

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Is a Bad Online Reputation Branding You a Loser?

Beyond • February 28, 2013

Whether you have been a business owner for years or just recently opened your doors to the world, how much time and effort do you put into your online reputation? If you have trouble answering that question, you could find yourself with more problems than you truly want. As many who run companies can attest to, it just takes one bad online experience to turn their business world upside down. Before the advent of the Internet, business owners typically only had to deal with negative customer experiences in a handful of ways, most notably in-person encounters, a phone call or perhaps a letter. Now, however, the Internet has opened up an entire new world of communication, some of which is not always good for those who run companies. More Shoppers Going Online These Days In the event you have not given thought to how your online reputation could impact your ability to promote your brand, consider these factors: Shoppers go online - A number of reports indicate that more and more consumers are taking their shopping efforts online. According to a recent Safe Home Products survey, 96 percent of those responding indicated they shop online for convenience, while 91 percent of shoppers go online for researching purposes. With that in mind, is your online reputation really what you want it to be (see below) moving forward? Brandings bits - If you’ve ever had a run-in with a disgruntled customer, you know that such an experience can have negative consequences. For example, say a customer is unhappy with you over a pricing issue, when and how an order was suppose to be delivered, or an exchange they had with one of your employees. Any of these scenarios can end up having a negative impact on your brand, especially when it plays out online (see below). Online offenses - Even in cases where you feel you and/or your team are right when it comes to a customer issue, by no means take a negative tone with that customer online. From online forums to social media pages, engaging in a negative manner with a customer can do more harm than good for your business. Let the customer have their say if they go online to address a problem they had with your business, then respond in a positive manner, asking them how you can help them rectify the problem to their approval. If you choose to go negative, your brand can suffer as other current or even potential customers will think twice about dealing with you moving forward. Be a problem solver - Finally, use any online encounters with customers to solve their problems, not add to them or yours for that matter. Whether through direct contact on a social media page or through an educational blog post, look to solve the problem as soon as possible. In the event you choose to ignore the matter, you could see your online reputation take a hit, as some consumers will see you as just someone out to make a dollar, not assist them en route to making money. You should always be working to improve your online reputation as a business owner, even when you think it can’t get any better. With the right attention to detail, how you and your business are viewed online could help you ring up more sales in 2013.

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