Category Archives: Customer Service

Ask SCORE: What’s the best way to communicate with my customers?

by Ken Sethney, Kitsap SCORE

You’ve seen people so absorbed with their smartphones that they appear oblivious to what’s going on around them. True, everyone is entitled to a bit of privacy, and perhaps that message or video is really, really important. However, spending too much time in a “heads-down” mode can be off-putting and, sometimes dangerous.

Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who work from home, operate their small businesses much the same way when they rely too heavily on email to communicate with clients. Email is convenient, particularly for work related issues and updates, but numerous studies have come to the same conclusion — customers want to be treated as people, not as return email addresses. 

When you take a technology-centric approach to communication, you’re missing an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers. Don’t you think they would rather do business with someone they know? Wouldn’t you? 

Create an emotionally engaging customer experience.

It seems somewhat contradictory, but the more technologically savvy buyers become (and the less time they spend visiting stores or talking to services providers on the phone) the more they want a personal, emotionally gratifying experience with businesses.

Entrepreneurs must find ways to not only appeal to customers’ desire for quality products or services, but also to their hearts.

In a Harvard Business Review article by consumer intelligence experts Alan Zorfass and Daniel Leemon, “Our research across hundreds of brands in dozens of categories shows that the most effective way to maximize customer value is to move beyond mere customer satisfaction and connect with customers at an emotional level.”

What does this mean for you? Instead of just transactions, your business must make memorable interactions. To gain a competitive edge and win customer loyalty, you must make an emotional connection with buyers. Continue reading

Make sure your customers are happy with online surveys.

Embracing direct feedback from your customers can help you learn a lot about what your company is doing right and what you might improve upon to be more successful. Online customer surveys are one way to gather insight. 

Like any method of customer research, their usefulness depends on how well they’re planned and executed. And one of the most important components of planning a survey is crafting the questions it will include.

Tips for Creating Effective Customer Survey Questions  

Know What You Want to Accomplish.

Developing a survey that gives you helpful answers starts with knowing what you want to learn. Do you want to get insights into how you might improve the overall experience your customers have? Do you want to focus on product enhancements that would better satisfy your customers’ needs? Or do you want to find out if your customer support services are meeting customers’ expectations? 

As you begin to prepare your survey, consider your end goal and eliminate any questions that don’t align with it.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I improve my selling skills?

As the owner of a small business, you may be struggling with a frustrating reality. You are confident that you have excellent products and services, but people aren’t just lining up to buy them.

You know that you can solve problems for your customers and deliver significant value for a reasonable price. All you have to do is convince them to place an order.

Unfortunately, sales skills don’t come naturally to everyone, but they are essential if you want to build relationships with potential customers and generate orders for your products and services.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: How can I build solid customer relationships?

Keep your customers happy with a personal touch.

You’ve seen people so absorbed with their smartphones that they appear oblivious to everything that’s going on around them. Of course, everyone is entitled to their personal privacy, and perhaps the message or video on their phone really is that important, but spending too much time in a “heads-down” position can be off-putting to others.

Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who work from home, operate their small businesses much the same way when they rely too heavily on email or texting to communicate with clients. Digital communication is convenient, particularly for work-related issues and updates, but numerous studies have come to the same conclusion—customers want to be treated like people.

When you take a technology-centric approach to communication, you’re missing an opportunity to foster a relationship with your customers, a quality that is becoming increasingly critical when deciding who we want to do business with.  Continue reading

Effective Staff Communication: Tips for Small Businesses

Your small business team is top-notch. Everyone has the skills needed to do their work, knows where they fit in and brings something unique to the table. So, why are you still feeling stressed when deadlines approach? There’s a good chance you can eliminate that stress by brushing up on your internal communication strategy. Whether you’re running a brick and mortar company or working with a virtual team, communication skills will help you meet deadlines faster and with ease.

How are you verbally approaching your employees? Are you saying too much? Not enough? Using ambiguous language?

Here are five basic rules that will help you make the most of communication in the workplace.

Rule No. 1: Keep it Simple

Over-complication can happen all too easily. This is especially common for those who spend a lot of time researching and learning from experts in the industry. While doing your homework is beneficial for most aspects of running a business, this can sometimes leak out into conversations with employees. In some cases, you’re giving them more information than what they need to do their jobs. Sifting through the information can take more time than necessary and lead to lower productivity. So, keep workplace communications simple and to the point.  Continue reading

Lessons from the retail front: competing as an independent.

by Rod Stevens, Revitalization Strategist (LinkedIn)

Fifteen years ago, I was working on a large, mixed-use waterfront project for Microsoft founder Paul Allen, and a design firm out of Alexandria, VA, very handsomely paid, tried to convince us that we could lease 500,000 square feet of space to small, independent upscale retailers.

As I looked deeper, I learned two things:

1) Almost all of the lifestyle malls in America are less than 200,000 square feet (compared to a million square feet for a regional) and,

2) more than 75 percent of the space in most lifestyle malls and town centers is leased to chain stores, primarily because they can afford the higher rents that go with new construction.

Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated in how successful independents compete against the chains and especially the big box stores.

This last week I heard a great strategy from the owner of “Abracadabra”, a game, book and toy store in Port Townsend, in the far left hand corner of Washington State, in the far left hand corner of our country.

You can’t get much more end-of-the-road than Port Townsend, but even so, this store has doubled its size in the last ten years, despite the recession, a main street beautification project, and a shut down in ferry service that took out one of the two lifelines to the town. How did she do it?  With a great strategy that involves keeping the price points low, so that people can always find something to take home.

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E-Tip: Clean Your List

by Clyde McDade, Beach House Creative (LinkdIn)

Hello Fellow Business Owner,

Let’s talk about something most business owners don’t do. Instead they assume this part of their business is, okay.

How Clean is your List?

Smart businesses have built a list of names in their database. These are either current customers or prospects. If they’ve opted-in to receive your e-mails, they’re apart of your subscription e-mail list.  Continue reading

Ask SCORE: What can we do to gain more new customers?

by Gray Poehler, a volunteer with the Richmond, VA Chapter of SCORE

QUESTION: Ever since the beginning of the recession our growth has been stunted. Sales are now improving, but our client count is about the same. What can we do to gain more new customers?

ANSWER: Client growth is a function of attracting new customers and retaining old ones. It does no good to bring in a new account today if you lose an old customer tomorrow.  Continue reading