Good Customer Services Leads to a Thriving Business

Whether you’re a small business owner or a big business manager, the nuts and bolts of success comes down to customer service. Outstanding service rewards a business with repeat customers while poor service alienates them. Think of this mantra: “If you don’t take care of your customers, trust the competition to.” That said, let’s take a look at some tips to enhance your customer service.

Get to know a little about your customers. By getting to know who you provide a service to or a product for, you help inspire loyalty and loyalty keeps customers coming back. You don’t need to be intrusive, but by remembering a few of your customer’s concerns, you’ll leave them with a good feeling and good feelings generally lead to repeat business and recommendations from your customers.

For example, if you run an automotive shop, learn your customer’s names. If you have a family with small children and they depend on their car being in good shape, make that concern yours. If you have a cookie business, get to know what type of cookies your customers like. Smile. Be pleasant and approachable. It’s the little things like smiles that customers remember.

The next thing to remember is to provide “true” customer service. Sadly, in today’s hustle and bustle world, service itself has almost become cliché. Be creative – customize your service. If you can, personalize your service. By taking an extra step you’ll leave your customer satisfied. Keep in mind one type of service might not be suitable for your diverse base. For example, if you feature home delivery, several customers might appreciate that because they’re handicap and it’s hard for them to get out, however you might have customers who like to window shop and hold their items as they peruse. Offer a discount for a second purchase item or an additional in store percentage off.

Next, be honest with your customers. If you try to be dishonest and the customer finds out, you can say a permanent goodbye to them. If you buy something wholesale, pass on a savings. Don’t try to sell an item out of date at a regular price – put it on discount if you can and be honest about the reason why. Honesty goes a long way with customers.

Do your best to educate your staff. You want them to be as concerned about the customer as you are. It’s easier on a small business scale, but even if you have a larger business, communicate to your managers and supervisors to instill that in your staff. Say you own the local fix-it shop. Have staff be aware of what you sell, what the customers might be looking for and if the staff member doesn’t know the difference between a tire patching kit and rubber cement, have that staff member find out. By being genuine and honest with a good attitude, that staff member will give good customer service.

Lastly, keep in mind the mantra, “The customer is always right.” Act serious and concerned when a customer brings a compliant to you. Do your best to calm an angry or upset customer with your listening skills. Even if the customer is wrong, take into consideration compensating the customer, despite the loss so as to keep the customer’s repeat business. Remember there’s nothing worse than a “silent complainer.” That’s the customer who walks out without saying another word knowing that he or she won’t frequent your business again. Not only that, they’ll recommend to family and friends that they stop their patronage as well.

Always try to take care of your customers. They’ll take care of you by going back and giving you glowing recommendations.

Are You Wasting Time and Money Printing Business Cards?

If you use business cards, you’ve probably thought about printing your own. After all, you own an inkjet printer, a computer, and some graphics software. How hard could it be to save a few bucks?

To check out how well this works in practice, my employees and I conducted a small experiment. We created 3 batches of business cards, using 3 different techniques.

The first technique was fairly straightforward: We took the business card down to our neighborhood print shop, and asked them to print up some more. We brought a blown up copy of our logo, which served as “camera ready artwork.” The copy shop took care of the typesetting, proofreading, printing, etc. It was fairly painless, although it did involve physically getting to the print shop. Next time we’ll email them a TIF file. We had planned on getting 500 cards, but the price for 1,000 was only a little higher, so we went with the larger quantity. The cards took 5 business days, apparently because they were not printed on-site, but rather outsourced to a wholesale printer.

The second technique may sound unorthodox, but it worked. We used a custom made rubber stamp to create the cards. This was fun, though it took a while. We also wrecked a few cards by stamping carelessly.

Finally, we created some cards on our inkjet printer, an Epson Stylus C84. There’s special software available for placing the images 10-up on the page, but we opted to use Adobe PageMaker, since that’s what we’re familiar with. We printed the cards on Avery #8871 Clean Edge Business Card paper.

All three methods have their proponents, and none of the methods was clearly the best choice for everyone. The rubber stamped cards were definitely funky looking. If you work at a bank, don’t even think about it. On the other hand, if you just need a few dozen cards for your part time cookie baking business, rubber stamped cards might be just what you need to convey the “home made” impression. Art stamp enthusiasts often have fun with multiple ink colors. The more ink pads you have, the more variety your cards can have. The cost of rubber stamped cards was 12.4 cents each. Unfortunately, our 8 year-old assistant got bored, so we aborted the experiment after an hour and a half, and about 150 cards.

The inkjet printed cards were a little harder to evaluate. The image was clear and sharp, and we chose to use the printer’s abilities to mix several colors and a blend on the page. However, the designing is not quite as trivial as it sounds. You can easily end up designing a card that’s too busy. Also, our first few designs had type that went too close to the edge. If you’re not a professional designer, count on printing out some experiments to look at before you hit the “Print” button for 200 cards.

No matter how careful you are, however, you still end up with cards that look like they were printed on an inkjet printer. The “clean” edges were still perceptibly perforated, and the ink ran a little when it got damp. An informal poll of small business owners in New England showed that inkjet printed cards still convey a “less serious” impression. Of course, this could be fine for many businesses, but it deserves some consideration. All together, we spent about 3 hours designing and printing 200 cards. We saved the design, so next time it could be quicker.

We expected the inkjet printed cards to be much cheaper than the professionally printed ones. That was before we tallied the cost of ink cartridges and paper. The paper was $16.88 online, plus $7.95 shipping, for 200 cards. That works out to 12.4 cents per card. If you include a 10% waste factor, the final paper cost is 13.66 cents per card. Then we calculated the ink cost. Overall, we averaged 42 cents per page, or 4.2 cents per card. (Each page had room for 10 cards.) Again, a waste factor of 10% meant a final ink cost of 4.62 cents per card. Total cost for ink and paper was 18.28 cents per card. An excellent price if you only need a few dozen, but for larger quantities, we could do better.

The professionally printed cards were simple 2 color (black and dark blue inks) raised printing on an off-white card stock. The raised printing and lack of perforations won the thumbs up from the New England small business owners. One middle aged woman observed that “they look like a real business printed them.” The price of professionally printed business cards varied quite a bit when we called around, so it may pay you to do a little shopping. Remember that you’ll likely use the same printer again in the future, if only for the convenience. Most print shops keep your data on file for quick reordering.

The print shop we chose charged us $43.00 for 1,000 cards, which works out to 4.3 cents per card, or about a 76% discount from the inkjet printed cards. Had we chosen to order only 500 cards, the price would have been $38.00, or 7.6 cents per card. That’s still a savings of 58.4%. More importantly, we felt we had a good looking card. While not exciting, it was professional enough to hand out anywhere.

A few other points to consider: The price we paid at the print shop was for a fairly simple job. We didn’t choose, for example, to have solid ink coverage extending all the way to the edge (a “bleed”.) Nor did we have a custom color mixed up for us. These charges can add up, so if your design isn’t set in stone just yet, you might want to check with the print shop about their policies. Also, we chose to do our inkjet printing on specially made inkjet paper. You can save money by choosing a cheaper paper, but we haven’t had good results with any we’ve found so far.

Our verdict: Go with the method that’s right for you! For the homemade cookie business, get a rubber stamp. If you only need a few business cards, and aren’t overly concerned with appearances, go with the inkjet method. However, for most people in business, the professionally printed business card wins on convenience, cost, and professional image.

Keys to Powerful Business Blogging

Basic Blogging

Blogging (originating from the conjunction “Web Log”) is a powerful tool to communicate information across the internet. A basic Blog consists of articles written by an individual, company, journalist, or by a Blogging Professional who may be hired to write for any of the aforementioned parties. Blogging Professionals who write anonymously for someone else are sometimes referred to as “Ghost Writers”.

Blogging in a personal context is often similar to journaling, and is casual and open in style. In a business context though, it may or may not be appropriate to remove all barriers in communication. Once a piece of communication is released on the internet, in all reality it may never be taken back. Therefore, having a well developed strategy is essential to avoid costly mishaps for your business.

Think of Business Blogging this way – if you were communicating to someone who had walked into your office and asked for you to give them an explanation about what your company does, what products or services you provide, and why they should do business with you… what would you say? Most likely, you would want to be well spoken, on task, and provide valuable information to that person.

Several things to do not want to do in Business Blogging is to directly criticize the competition, come across as rude or vulgar, or to say something you would regret at a later date. Business Blogging is an essential part of your marketing in today’s world. Because of the extremely low cost of Business Blogging, it should be taken into consideration by every business that wants to be successful.

Strategic Business Blogging

Some businesses have entered in to the process of communicating to their potential constituent base via Blogging, and have become frustrated with the process either because of the time it takes or because they do not see or understand the results that Blogging is having on their business. Rest assured that Blogging always has an effect on your business, and when strategically applied, it can be developed in such a way as to have a positive effect on your overall performance.

Strategic Business Blogging accomplishes the following when done properly:

o It forces you to define and refine your message to the world
o It places the writer in a good practice of communication about the business, product, or service
o It generates content that can be reused in additional contexts
o It creates an ongoing stream of information for your constituent base
o It boosts your exposure on the internet
o It challenges the competition
o It attracts more customers
o It automates your sales process
o It fits any budget
o It is not dependent on equipment, location, or special skill set to produce marketing content

Keys to Success
There are many keys to successful Business Blogging, but several are worth mentioning for their simplicity. Each of the following tactics will produce better results through web exposure for your business. Oddly though, many Business Bloggers fail to understand these simple techniques, and thereby loose the power that blogging can bring to their company.

#1 Know Where To Go
If you wanted to communicate you a quality group of people about your business, you wouldn’t be likely to spend time shouting in the middle of the desert. The same is true with blogging – go where the people are that you want to be your current and future customers.

If you are a Business-to-Consumer based organization, then you should be Blogging where your customers will potentially read the articles you post. For example, if your business made a special calendar booklet for busy stay-at-home moms, the best place to blog would be on a website (or dedicated blog) that is aimed a moms, allows moms to communicate with one another, and allows for the potential of businesses who may have a helpful product to share that product with that online community.

For a Business-to-Business based organization, then the best places to Blog are professional association websites and online communities that cater to the specific industries and professions. If you were a supplier of Soft Drink Dispensing Machines, then participating in a Hospitality and Tourism, or Restaurant Blog website would be a great investment of time.

With the advanced state of Blogging in our world today – it is more than likely that there are online communities that support your local business market, and provide a place for you to communicate with your target geographic market through Blogging.

#2 Describe Who You Are – Every Time

Readers will discover your Blog from an unlimited number of sources on the internet. Because of this, they may arrive with little to no information about who you are and what you do. In order to make sure that each and every reader can understand who is writing the article, it is extremely important to include a small paragraph at the bottom of each Blog with a small company description and your contact information. One format than can be used is the following:

ABC, Inc. is a company that provides XYZ to [Businesses/Consumers] who are looking for the highest quality XYZ in the [Your Location] area. We enjoy helping our clients find exactly the right solution, and would enjoy hearing from you today! [Include Contact Information]

#3 Use Links to Send People to Your Website

It is important to remember that people will be reading your articles on the internet – and therefore they expect to be provided with relevant links to websites that have to do with the topics being covered in your Blog. As a result of this, every Blog you write should include a minimum of two links back to your website embedded into the article itself.
For example if you owned a home-baked cookie business, you would want to create your links in this manner:

Yummie Bakery of Atlanta, GA is proud to announce our latest line of home baked cookies – The Mini Bites. Mini Bites continue the tradition of providing the best in Organic Cookies with the healthy convenience of smaller sizes and on-the-go eco friendly cookie packaging.

Take note that each of the areas underlined in blue is a link to a particular area of the Yummie Bakery website that will provide further information about that particular topic. This is known as Keyword Linking. Nearly every Blogging platform (the website used for Blogging) will allow the writer to create links to any page on the internet. When a search engine reviews your Blog, it will find those links, and will begin to calculate a higher ranking for your company website, and thereby make it easier for people to find you on the web.

#4 Keep It Short and Sweet

People today are very busy and want to feel as if they are getting the most of their time. When it comes to Blogging, people make only take the time to quickly scan your article to see if they want to invest the time to read the rest. Your first sentence should capture the reader’s attention and give them an indication of what the remainder of the article is about. Additionally, if your article is picked up in a search engine, it will be the first few words that appear to give an indication of what the article is about, thus increasing the likelihood that someone will read your article if they find it in a search engine.

Creating Success

Blogging in a business context can be a highly effective method of attracting more customers to your business by providing them with relevant information on the web. With each Blog you write, you will find that the process becomes smoother, the words flow more freely, and the ideas to create success for your business on the web are endless. We look forward to reading your next Blog sometime soon!