Tag: customer service

Online Customer Service Basics: A Primer

Online Customer Service Basics: A PrimerAs a small, but growing business, you might feel that your options are limited for interacting with your customers. This feeling is especially relevant for businesses that have no physical location. You may think that without being able to physically interact with your clientele, you will have a hard time getting to know the people who contribute to your success.

While it’s true that many great relationships have roots in personal interaction, the ever-evolving online world has provided us with a whole new realm of possibilities for getting to know your customers — and for attracting new ones.

In fact, in-person marketing may not always be the best option for a small business owner. Why? You’re busy. It might take a full day to speak to 100 customers face-to-face, while you can interact with at least that many clients via online tools like email marketing campaigns and social customer service.

Likewise, you can address issues of importance to your customers through digital platforms such as blogs, podcasts and videos. In some cases, you may even consider launching a customer service line or offering chat support.

What medium of communication you choose will depend on the nature and size of your business. 

Regardless of what method(s) you use to communicate with customers, there are some universal expectations that you should have of yourself — a customer service code of conduct, if you will. It is important to understand these guidelines going in, not just to avoid ugly disagreements, but to foster a sense of trust between you and the public that will reward you with loyal return customers.

Online customer service guidelines

In no particular order, here are some useful guidelines to follow when interacting with customers online:

Mind your P’s and Q’s!

A rude business owner or employee will drive customers away faster than anything else. Respect and courtesy always come first. Never lose your temper with a customer or let them push your buttons.

When communicating in written form, take care to use proper grammar, complete sentences, and spell everything correctly. Use “too” instead of “2,” capitalize your I’s, and know the difference between “your” and “you’re.” Part of professionalism lies in appearance — and if your customers can’t physically see you, you need to be mindful of what they can see.

Be quick to respond.

Whether you are using a real-time chat app, or are emailing back-and-forth, you don’t want your customers to feel neglected. Be mindful of how long it takes you to respond, and consider what an acceptable time-frame for a response is. This will vary depending on your method of contact, but it’s critical to be prompt and efficient in your communications.

Be clear and concise.

You and your customer might not be on the same page. Since you can’t rely on each other’s body language to help clear up any confusion, it’s important to ask the right questions and repeat back your understanding of the issue. Explain to your customer the situation as you understand it, explain to them any policies in place, or why you came to the decision you did.

Offer to help in any way you can, but be clear about your reach. It is good-natured to want to step out of your bounds to help others, but make sure that doing so does not put you in over your head.

Pretty simple stuff, huh? Even if it is a brave new frontier for your business, the basics of online customer service don’t differ too widely from your expectations in-person. Just equip yourself with some foundational knowledge and you will be ready to conquer this new medium in no time.

About the Author

Eirk WongErik Wong is a small business/tech consultant for GoDaddy and a freelance pop-culture writer. He has written a regular column for a current events blog, and his commentary has been featured on realclearpolitics.com. Connect with Erik on Google+. The world’s largest domain name registrar and Web hosting provider, GoDaddy gives small business owners the tools to name their idea, build a beautiful online presence, attract customers and manage their business. To get more tips for your small business—including articles, videos and webinars—check out the GoDaddy Training Hub.

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Today's Customer Service 3 Nov

Today’s Customer Service

Whether good or bad, customers now have several channels to voice their opinions of a business, product, service, restaurant, store, your business!
Customer service isn’t what it used to be!

These days, you really have know your customer. According to eMarketer

  • 43% of Internet users are more forgiving of companies that they think know them.
  • 57% say that mistakes make them think about swtiching
  • 52% say they like it when service is personalized to them or their business
  • 49% say it should matter who they are

Before, one happy person would tell just a few friends. Now, with social media, they tell a few thousand friends. Same applies to an unhappy customer.

Today's Customer SerivceAnd that’s after a positive experience. An unhappy customer expects a very quick response especially if they post something on social media.

One thing’s for sure, if you understand today’s buyer, you’re going to have problems.

A SCORE mentor can help you define and get to know your customer. Click here to schedule a free mentoring session in Phoenix valley location near you!

Written by Giselle Aguiar, AZ Social Media Wiz

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Lies Scams and Myths of Credit Card Processing

Lies Scams and Myths of Credit Card ProcessingCredit card processing is an unregulated industry. It is electronically based with no short cuts. Pricing is the biggest area of misinformation. It flows like this: The Processor (big computer in the sky) gives “interchange rate”, then to ISO then to merchant. Interchange rate is a risk assignment and has more several hundred lines of rates based on type of card and how it is processed. The ISOs have several levels and each level is slightly more expensive. Level One pricing is the first level of pricing down from processor. They provide pricing to banks, wholesale big box stores, associations, who offer Level Two pricing.

Pricing comes in two kinds. Most typical is TIERED. It is the easiest to sell and the most misleading. You will see this promoted using one “rate” as a come on. The fine print says rewards cards, corporate and foreign cards clear at a higher but unspecified rate.

INTERCHANGE, also known as cost plus, is the lowest rate to the merchant. It takes rate of the credit card actually presents clears at plus a small fixed amount. This system is harder to explain to merchants but assures them the lowest possible rates. The best managed stores insist on “interchange plus’ rate. This is the ONLY rate big box store will even look at!
Processing a charge and money: the charge transaction ALWAYS goes direct to the processor, then VMCD for funding, back the processor for distribution to the merchants account. NO SHORT CUTS, ever.

  • LIE: keep all you money in one place. TRUTH: it simply is not possible for the system to work like that.
  • LIE: we work directly with the processor. TRUTH only a few Level One ISOs work with pricing direct from the processor but ALL machines, shopping cards, etc., work directly with the processor. Typical sales lie.
  • LIE: you don’t need a contract. TRUTH: VMCD will not process a merchant without a contract ever. A three year contract is typical. All have auto renewals and a buy out clause. Read your contract!
  • LIE: We will give you a free machine. TRUTH: machines cost hundreds of dollars. They WILL make up the money by increasing in your processing fees and hiding it. No free lunch.
  • LIE: the sales person has you best interest at heart. TRUTH: most salespeople are only paid to sign up a merchant and stay in the business a few months. No responsibility or follow up. Find a salesperson that only gets paid if they keep you! They are interested in keeping you happy.
  • LIE: The sales person knows what they are talking about. TRUTH: most sales people have no training on anything but the contract. They have no idea about the reality of what they say. While some are intentionally lying, the majority simply do not know what they are talking about. That may be even worse! Ask about their initial and ongoing training. The best have continuous training in this constantly changing industry. They can give you information you need to informed business decisions.

About the Author:

Bear ThomasBear Thomas is the SW Regional Account Rep at Merchant Solutions International – providing low cost credit card processing that really is low cost. They offer all processing methods at cost-plus pricing, like all the big box stores get. His goal is to help merchants keep more of the money they have already earned. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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The Power of Saying Thanks

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

One of the most powerful rules for successful entrepreneurs is “show appreciation” often and sincerely. Psychologists confirm that this single act can do more to foster great attitudes and this leads to better performance. In employee surveys, time and time again , over 50% of the respondents are dissatisfied with the recognition they receive. Appreciate everything your employees, suppliers and customers do for your business. Your successes result from a group effort.

The Power of Saying Thanks

The Power of Saying ThanksAs we celebrate Thanksgiving, it is a natural time to express our appreciation, not only to our families, but to employees, customers and suppliers for their support. Our thanks should not be delivered solely when it is expected on Thanksgiving or year-end. Thanks to the folks that help make a business successful should be given often and when it’s unexpected.

Saying thank you helps motivate employees, encourages suppliers to go the “extra mile” with their service and helps create loyalty among customers.

Entrepreneurs need to develop a culture of meaningful appreciation.

Spontaneous, sincere personal touches go a long way to acknowledging employee contributions. And, employee satisfaction is directly tied to customer satisfaction.

Don’t miss an opportunity to thank when thanks are merited. Put it in writing, be specific, be personal and be unexpected. “Old fashioned” personal notes are better than e mail or text messages. But e mails are better than not doing anything. Thank employees, vendors, and customers for specific actions that were positive and beneficial.

Companies that foster a climate of appreciation and reinforce it often, generally have lower employee turnover, higher customer retention, and more committed vendors

We want to take this opportunity to thank you, our readers, for your encouragement and feedback. Our idea is to help make your business idea or business more successful. We are dedicated to making our Greater Phoenix SCORE Blog specific, educational, and beneficial to you personally and your business. Our circulation now totals over 12,000 readers, a significant accomplishment during these hectic times when it’s difficult to find time to “keep up”. Thanks for making our Blog part of your weekly reading ritual. As always, we welcome your comments and suggestions.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.




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Got Problems – Solve them Fast!

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

Got Problems – Solve them Fast!No matter what industry, no matter what business you are engaged in, unresolved problems will fester like an infected sore.  Problems may seem easy to fix, but all too often the symptom may be fixed and the underlying problem is still there.  To effectively solve problems, you need to find their underlying cause. 

Every business, no matter how big or small has processes.  Some may be written as procedures and others may be unwritten but repeated every day.  When something goes wrong with a process, you have a problem.  Generally, unresolved problems lead to poor quality and service, and may lead, ultimately, to the failure of the business.

Let’s take an example of a business process failure.  The delivery of the flowers was late, after the customer’s promised delivery date.  The customer refused to pay.

There are a number of effective problem solving techniques and the one described here is both simple to apply and effective.  It is described, along with other problem solving techniques,  on the Mind Tools, Ltd. web site, an excellent source for management training.

Ask the why question, four or five times to get at the root of the problem.  Why won’t the customer pay for the flowers?  Answer – The flowers were delivered after the promised delivery date.  Why was the delivery late? Answer – An employee was out sick.  Why didn’t another employee fulfill the order?  Answer – The back-up employee needed roses and the roses in stock were not fresh.  Why couldn’t the supplier replace the roses?  Answer – The supplier required a full day to deliver flowers and this order was placed late, as a consequence of the absent employee.

Now, we observe there are two underlying problems, what to do when an employee is absent, and, second, in case of an unexpected event, how can expedited flower delivery in less than a day become an expected outcome.  In today’s competitive world, the businesses that bat near 100% are sure to flourish, while others that give clients excuses for bad service will come in second or maybe even last.

The flower shop initiated a new procedure.  At the start of every business day, all orders will be reassigned immediately if an employee is absent. Secondly, the shop owner researched other suppliers and found one that had an operating policy to fulfill any and all emergency orders within four hours, not a full day.  The flower shop switched to that supplier.

This “why” technique for solving problems was started in the 1930’s by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of the Toyota Motor Company.  It was revolutionary in its day, as most businesses simply lived with mistakes that were repeated time after time.  The premise of the “why” technique is that the answers to most problems come from the people who are working within the process being examined.  Indeed, this was the beginning of problem solving teams. Once the “why” questions are answered, steps can be taken to ensure that the particular problem does not repeat itself.  Businesses that have this problem solving mentality may deal with a myriad of problems over time, but they are different problems.  The old ones have had corrective procedures or processes put in place.

Problem solving businesses have competitive advantage as their products and services are better and more consistent, resulting in more satisfied customers.

If you want to improve your quality and service, contact a SCORE mentor today.  SCORE , a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration, can help you solve your business issues, Or, if you are starting a business, SCORE can help get your business  launched successfully. SCORE has more than 70 certified mentors skilled in most business applications, who will meet with you, at no cost, as often as you feel it is beneficial.  Call 602 745-7250 or click here to make your appointment with a SCORE mentor today.

About the Author:

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, purchasing, financing and selling businesses.


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Charting Strategies for Business Growth

By George Obst, Certified SCORE Mentor

Strategies for Business GrowthIn every industry there are individual companies that grow their sales each year no matter the economic conditions.  We are talking about organic sales, not increased prices.  In other words these companies sell more of their products and services each year.  The question is, “how do they do it?”

Creating a market driven organization requires a culture that actively targets market growth.  The key components follow:

  1. Achieve product and/or service quality with every sale, every day, every month, and every year.  In other words strive for consistency of product or service.
  2. Create product and service leadership that differentiates you from competitors.  Strive to make your company unique, in both product and service.  Develop a list of ways you could distinguish your product/service from the others.  Implement the necessary changes in your organization to deliver the differences you identify.
  3. Connect with customers to create customer intimacy.  To achieve customer intimacy the customers are at the top of the organization chart.  They are followed by the front line sales and service staff, and all other staff who have direct customer contact.

In this setting management is the catalyst that provides this customer intimate environment, and achieves it by taking the following actions:

  1. Consciously decides to improve what is already in place by focusing on manufacturing and/or service effectiveness.  These companies strive to deliver a product or service at a lower cost, in record time, and with no errors.  The result is operational excellence.
  2. Ensures that all staff who deal with customers have adequate training both in their area of expertise as well as customer listening skills.
  3. Listens to feedback from those who deal with customers and determines where to initiate changes to better serve customers.
  4. Values highly those who interact with customers and recognizes/rewards incidents of exceptional customer service.
  5. Avoids all polices and rules that stop those in contact with customers from being able to solve their problems.  In other words, empower those in contact with customers to be able to solve problems on the spot.

Creating this climate of customer and operational excellence will ensure that your company will grow and take market share from your competitors.

SCORE, a resource partner of the US Small Business Administration has certified mentors who can help you achieve market leadership.  Call  today, (602 745-7250) or click here to make your no fee appointment with a SCORE mentor.  There is never a charge and you can be assured of the very best counsel and advice.

About the Author

George Obst, Certified SCORE MentorGeorge Obst is a Certified SCORE mentor with more than 30 years experience profitably managing and growing businesses, including start-ups, financing, purchasing, and selling businesses.


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