Saturday, August 24, 2013

7 Steps to Proactive Customer Service

I have to say the easiest way to solve a customer issue is - to PREVENT them! A little extra time and thought on your part can go a LONG way in client happiness. When I set down to write this post, I started as always going to some of my favorite business news sites, business pages, blogs, and even resorted to straight up google.. looking for additional tips to add to my own knowledge in order to provide you with the most "bang for your minute". I was SHOCKED at how little was available! Sure, there are plenty of tips regarding how to offer "good service" and what to do when someone is already upset, but very little talking about techniques to have in your back pocket in order to handle that middle ground before things get out of control.
I know that there are many of you who do not have a background in sells, or service so I hope that you gain knowledge from this post. Those of you who have delt with situations and learned from them - I hope you add to this in order to share and prevent your mistakes from being repeated!
So to start.. many of you know good service. Greet your client, answer phones politely, return emails quickly, be polite... this post isn't about those.. this is about knowledge, knowing where the pitfalls might be so you can acknowledge them, finding the mine fields in your business so you can guide your clients around them without one going off!

1. Know your product. If you are a MLM, or you are creating your own product, or selling from multiple vendors... know as much as you can about how its made, what it does, problems people have experienced with it, obstacles in using it, even know other names people call it - or if you have 2 items that are similar (or named similar) know the differences to them! Know your competition as well! Know how much things cost, or where to quickly find the information. I once had someone tell me they were upset because they ordered a product, and the consultant didn't verify the order with them. Turns out there were two patterns that were similar, and had similar names... obviously there was confusion and the wrong thing got ordered. It became a customer service issue, because the consultant didn't very clearly, explain that she was verifying the product because they were named so similarly. This goes to show a little extra time on the front side, and a little extra knowlage will really keep your clients happy and confusion and frustration on the backside at a minim!

2. Gather information. This step comes after you greet your client and start the selling process... find out things about them, ask questions... I often asked clients if it was ok if I asked them a few questions so that I could help them better, before selling them something or before setting a photo-shoot. Knowing things like, what they think they are looking for, why they want it, how they plan on using it, lifestyle choices (such as being active outside, having kids, pets.. etc could be very relevant), where they plan on using it (is it for something specific, for a specific event or occasion) WHEN they need it by (good to know if you need to order, or create product or if you need to work with stock on hand) For photography and design I ask about personal style, how they see or describe themselves. This should by far be the longest part of your sells process. If you do this step correctly, you will know a lot of information about your client and be able to point them directly to the one or two things that would match with them the best!

3. Appropriately Share your knowledge. Just because YOU know everything about your product doesn't mean your client needs to! Appropriately sharing, means taking the information that you gathered and saying - here are the products / services that I think would fit you the best and here is why... then sharing 2-3 of those reasons for each product. You might be very excited to share everything you know.. but studies show that when you overwhelm your clients with information they tend to "think about it" more... because they need to process everything you told them... they are more likely to buy when you keep it simple! (Btw, this step has also been called "DON'T PUKE on THEM! As people who are given too much information often have that look on their face... just like you have thrown up your lunch all over them... its just TOO much to process!)

4. Set and manage expectations. From when to expect product, to what the product can do... setting expectations keeps your clients grounded and happy! If you do photography and you limit your images to 100 per shoot... tell your clients that up front. Don't hide information! Offer FAQ pages on your website, and if you know your client is a backpacker with kids... that's looking at a fragile item... address why you think the "waterproof" or other product may fit them better! It is their choice, but they will thank you for bringing the other option to their attention (and maybe buy BOTH)

This is also a very wonderful time to suggest adding time to delivery - if you set the expectation that products are delivered in 1 week.. that's when its expected... 7 calendar days. If you say.. 7 business days... that could be 1- 1 1/2 weeks... you get yourself in trouble if you get sick and the order doesn't go in immediately, or maybe shipping gets delayed do to a snow storm... whatever... instead of giving your clients the quickest possible time it could arrive... give a range and pad it with a few days. If product is usually 1 week - say - 7-10 business days - they will be THRILLED to receive it earlier then expected! Then you have not only managed expectations - but EXCEEDED Expectations!

5. CONFIRMATION: Many orders are placed in person,email or even texts these days... don't be afraid to re-confirm before placing the order.  Place a call or email back to your client and say.. I wanted to confirm your order for XXX and a quantity of XXX your payment of $$$ will be charged on XX date when I place this order - Please contact me immediately if you need to add to this or change any part of it.  Be sure to make sure you include any book pages of where the images are shown, or website links so your client can easily look at them to view. Reconfirm any special order instructions, size, style, color... in addition to the name.. especially if these items are from an MLM where different books may be available and names might be similar. Saying... I have you ordering the blue earrings, but I thought you wanted the emerald which is your birthstone instead... could save you a re-order situation! A simple follow up is all it takes!

6. Addressing concerns. Don't run away from concerns, address them and embrace them before they become more serious. If someone is worried about the cost of a product.. you might try FFF... (FEEL FELT FOUND) I understand how you feel, I have felt that way myself, but what I found is (insert your addressing concerns statement here. Such as... when you spray this on a cotton ball and then apply it to your face, you use very little of it, so one bottle should last you 6 months, that would break down to only $5 a month does that fit your budget better?)
Many concerns stem from lack of knowledge. A client may be intimidated by the technology, or their own perception of how long or how much is needed... by offering your clients information, follow up visits, classes or personal instruction... even facebook groups to join - you create an environment of "were in this together" which addresses those concerns and gives the client the comfort that you will be there to help them! You also set yourself apart from your competition!

7. BE PROACTIVE / BE PREPARED. Do you know something is going to be late, or was damaged in shipping... keep your client updated - CALL them - this is not an email situation! Have a solution ready. "Your canvas print was damaged in shipping when I received it, I have already placed a new order AND put a RUSH on it, because I know you needed it for your daughters wedding in two weeks.  Of course there is no charge to you for the reorder and RUSH, and I expect it to be here on X day." sounds a whole lot better then waiting till your customer calls you, or worse is expecting to pick it up... only to find out you don't have it, or something is wrong with it!  DON'T FEAR making the call - accept it as part of business - and if you have a solution or a couple of options available it will ALWAYS be better then " I have to call to see what we can do... " WOW I'm telling you no one likes to know there is a problem and YOU can't fix it RIGHT then! You should just  set your ear on fire now!

This also is good advice for simply taking the step to share how long orders take, what to bring to an event, or how much something costs... people don't like surprises. If your a photographer, have a PDF available of what to wear, or bring for each type of shoot! Scout the location are there bathrooms available, is it kid friendly, is there an alternative available... be prepared. I know our good friend Mrs. Theresa J brings a "just in case" emergency bag to her events... bobby pins, sewing kits... band-aides... shes got her brides back - because she is PREPARED!

I hope this gives each of you a step up, and a few things to think about, words to use, or processes to change so that you can work towards offering even better service to your clients. Maintaining clients is SO much easier then gaining new ones, plus when you go above and beyond, spend the extra time, and really get to know your clients THEY are sure to refer their friends to you JUST like we do in the groups, because you have CONNECTED with them!

At the end of the day we all have more to learn and share - please feel free to add your comments and suggestions to this list!

Friday, August 9, 2013

5 Apps for Business On the Go!

1. The Mailbox App

I know several people that aren't a fan of this app, and that's okay but it works for me. It makes it easy to get rid of the stuff I don't want or need in my inbox and get to the stuff I do. It also makes it easy to stay organized, as well as, put things back into my inbox when I need it to be there with the "later" feature.  I love that if it's Friday at 6pm and I get details for a client project that I won't be working on until the next Monday I can tell it to put it in my inbox on Monday so it doesn't fall through the cracks.  You delete things, mark things as read, use the later feature or put it in the right folder after it's taken care of.  For example - I have a folder that is for the A-List and another for Paid/Receipts for Bills.  This allows me to find the items that I need quickly and efficiently because they are in the folder. 

2. USPS App. 
Even though I've been quite frustrated with the UPSP lately, I use them to ship all of my orders and  their app is probably one of my most used and favorite apps. 

You can schedule pick ups, track orders, order supplies, and more!
 I'm an obsessive tracker. It's true. If something is going or I have something I know that is on it's way - I track it. Every day. I'm weird like that. I love that I can keep up to date on where things are, if there is a problem and when it's received. I use this app almost daily.

3. PayPal App (And PayPal Here)

I run a lot of things with PayPal. I have some business clients that pay with it, all of my shop orders come in through it and I've exchanged money with friends for items through PayPal.  With the app it makes it even easier - allowing you to check your balance, send money, request money and they now even have a bump feature, just in case you are standing next to your friend you want to send money too or get money from. 
You can also set it up so anytime money comes into your PayPal account or is taken out you get a push notification to your phone! 

The PayPal here app is perfect for accepting non-PayPal payments (ie. Credit Cards/Debit Cards) on the go.  When you sign up for PayPal Here they send you a card reader that plugs into your earphone jack.  This makes it super easier for business transactions for your small business or any kind.  With the PayPal Here app, you also are able to 

4. Google Drive App

I run a lot of things on Google Drive. I have all kinds of forms and documents that I check on, on a daily basis. Everything from Spreadsheets to A-List submission forms, and Small Business Saturday forms to joint projects with other business owners. Being able to have this accessible on my iPhone no matter where I am is imperative, especially since Google Drive doesn't send you any type of notification when a document is changed or a form is submitted.

I also love having Google Drive right at my fingertips so if I have ideas or something that I need to get out of my head and onto paper all I have to do is open up the app and type it out and I can access it from anywhere whether it's my tablet, my desktop, my iPhone or my laptop. 

5. Mail Chimp App
I use MailChimp for email campaigns for the shop, my business solutions company and the A-List.  With the MailChimp app I can add subscribers to the appropriate mailing lists while I'm on the go, as well as, check reports about how has been opening the emails, if any emails bounced and the click-rate of the messages.   This lets me know who is active, who isn't and who just gave me a random e-mail address to make themselves look more interested than they really were.

What are Your Favorite On-The-Go Apps for Business?

This article was submitted by WINN member Kristina Streeter. Kristina is a new mom, blogger,  owner of a successful online shop, as well as part owner of Forward Business Solutions. FBS offers virtual assisting, web and blog design, as well as countless other solutions for business owners.