Good Customer Service is Key to Small Business Success

All customers place a high value on excellent customer service. Learn how to give your customers the five-star customer service treatment with these five steps.

 

One of the most important things a small business needs to do is to retain their customers. In this crazy and competitive business world, it is very easy to lose customers and harder to keep them. Retaining good customers may take some time and effort on your part, but it is the best way to keep your business growing and improving. Poor customer service is the quickest way to lose customers. Even one incident can be enough to send your customers running to your competition. And in today’s online marketplace, it is easier than ever for them to find another business with which to spend their money. Therefore, it is incumbent upon you to make sure your customer service is top-notch and makes your customers want to do business with you. 

Consistently providing good customer service is not easy but it is very important to keeping good customers and to keeping a good reputation for your business. So, how can you improve your customer service? 

Step 1: Conduct an assessment of your communication and support strategies. Start with a review of the first line of communication, which may be a receptionist or how you answer your inbound calls. Are customers greeted warmly and made to feel important? Are your phone calls answered in a timely manner? Can customers reach you or leave a message? Do you return calls promptly? First impressions are important and can go a long way toward keeping current customers and acquiring new ones.

Step 2: Next, review how you handle complaints or situations. A positive response will keep customers happy, while a negative response will send them packing. Remember, word-of-mouth is powerful and you don’t want them telling other prospective customers about any negative experiences. If you listen, understand, and apologize, when necessary, much is often forgiven. Following this guidance can help you wind up with a happy and a faithful customer after all.

RELATED: Read more by Tim Dimoff.

Step 3: Personalize your service. Offering a customized service experience is another excellent way to keep customers. One size does not fit all in this situation. Simply listening to what your customers are asking for and helping them find the right solution for them, tells them that you care and are sincere in trying to help them. Make sure they feel supported by taking time to return phone calls and to respond to messages. Be sure to tailor your responses to them and their situations. 

Step 4: Make sure your customers are engaged. Don’t forget to go the extra mile by finding ways to connect with customers and increase how engaged they are with your business. This can be as simple as offering an incentive or by personally thanking them for referring you to another potential customer. More touchpoints means more engagement—which often leads to loyal customers.

Step 5: Get your whole team on the same page. Take the time to make sure all of your employees are trained in good customer service. Provide regular trainings to ensure everyone understands and implements your customer service policies. 

RELATED: Why you should invest in sales training.

Remember that everyone wants to feel valued and in today’s competitive marketplace, it is very easy to find a new vendor. No one wants to spend money or do business with a company that makes them feel like they are being taken for granted.

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues. He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University. Contact him at info@sacsconsulting.com.

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  • Next up: How to improv my elevator speech

    How to improv my elevator speech

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  • Next up: FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

    FAQs With Phil: How Can I Improve My Elevator Pitch?

    In this new series, COSE's own Phil Stella advises creating an effective elevator pitch using the (soon-to-be-famous) SSCBH approach—impressing people you connect with and improving networking results.

     

    In this new Mind Your Business series, FAQs With Phil, COSE’s own Phil Stella answers some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners have regarding how to communicate effectively*. 

    This is a good question and I get it a lot. Before I dive into the answer, let me first explain why I prefer “elevator speech” to “elevator pitch.” Using the word “pitch” sounds like you are trying to sell something. No one likes to be sold to or to feel like you are only interested in talking with them to make a sale. Calling it a “speech” sounds like you want to share some information. Even though the difference in connotation is subtle, it can impact the mindset of the person doing it.

    That said, the purpose of an elevator speech is to answer a stranger's question “What do you do?" in an effective, efficient, and engaging manner. It begins a short, focused dialog. It is important to remember that this is not an invitation for a monologue. The purpose of the dialog is to begin to answer two important networking objectives questions:

    1. Is this person someone I or someone I know can help? Or,
    2. Can this person or someone he or she knows help me? 

    They're separate concepts and connected with an “or,” not an “and.” Thinking about it with an “and” implies that you can't have one without the other. This is simply not true for best-in-class network pros.

    RELATED: The 10 worst networking practices and how to avoid them

    Let’s take a look at an example of an effective elevator speech: 

    Imagine I get in the elevator on my way down from a conference in Key Tower. A fellow conference-goer hops in the elevator with me. She turns to me, takes a look at my conference name tag, and says…

    “What do you do, Phil?” 

    “I empower business leaders to reduce their pain when communicating with colleagues or customers by phone, in person, in writing or through presentations... The pain they experience and, often, the pain they cause others.”

    Why is it effective? This is a compelling elevator speech because it uses the famous SSCBH approach. OK, we just made this up, but it works. The SSCBH approach calls on you as the deliverer to ensure your pitch is Short and Simple, includes Clear language, has a Benefits-related focus, and includes a clever Hook at the end.

    RELATED: Read more by Phil Stella

    This speech does just that. But I’m not going to only talk about myself. I am going to ask her in return about her profession, and look for a connection between what we both do and how we might be able to help each other. By the time we get down to the lobby, we will exchange goodbyes and business cards. And, chances are good that that elevator encounter won’t be the last time we are in contact with each other. 

    So, stop pitching in the elevator and start engaging in dialogues. The people you talk with will appreciate the difference and your results will improve.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.

    *If you have a question for Phil, please send him an email at Phil@communicate-confidently.com

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  • Next up: How to Make a Future-Proof Website

    How to Make a Future-Proof Website

    From focusing on evergreen content to investing in SEO, here are seven tips to creating a website that stands the test of time.

     

    If you do not want to completely re-imagine your website every time there are changes in technology, here are a few tips on how you can future-proof it.

    1. Focus on Evergreen Content
    Anyone visiting your website should draw value from the content. If not, they will check other sites that provide the information they need. For that reason, you should ensure that your website has evergreen content to remain relevant and offer the value that your audience is seeking.

    That means that you should refresh the content on your site often. Also, keeping in touch with industry trends and addressing customer pain points with the right content is the other way to ensure that your site has evergreen content throughout the year.

    2. Use WordPress as Your CMS
    As one of the most popular platforms worldwide, WordPress is an ideal Content Management System (CMS) that is versatile enough to help you build a range of digital experiences.
    Additionally, WordPress allows users to work with their online content with little to no coding knowledge. 

    Indeed, entrepreneurs need a system by which they can create, post, and update their online content, and that is what WordPress affords them. In that case, using WordPress as a CMS will not only reduce your expenses, it allows you to manage your content from a single platform.

    As such, you will not need to invest in several content management systems when you opt for WordPress, and that can act as a future-proof strategy.

    3. Prioritize User Experience and Speed
    Capturing your audience’s and clients’ attention and encouraging them to take action whenever they visit your website is a priority. Unfortunately, that is not achievable if your business site is not user-friendly.

    You also need to appreciate that all of Google’s algorithmic evolutions focus on giving users the best experience possible. That implies that any updates or changes you make on your website should prioritize users. Indeed, users are the reason behind making such an investment.

    Responsive design
    For example, most individuals use their mobile devices to access various websites today. So, if your site does not have a responsive design, it will affect the user experience.
    The solution here is to ensure that your website is compatible with mobile devices by adopting a responsive design.

    Site speed
    On the other hand, if your site is slow, users will probably opt out after a short time. In that case, sacrificing bells and whistles for speed may be a wise idea because it will ultimately improve the user experience.

    Intuitive hierarchy
    You should also consider creating an intuitive hierarchal flow to your website for easy navigation. Think of your site as a filing cabinet and design the hierarchy accordingly. This allows for easy additions to your website without having to redesign the entire site and URL structures—a tedious and expensive proposition.

    To that end, adding a site map to your website is required to promote easy navigation as part of your enhanced user experience initiatives. Implementing either or all of these approaches will, in turn, help your future-proof website thrive.

    4. Simplify Design and Coding
    The ability to make quick updates is paramount if you want your business site to be future-proof. When you overcomplicate your codebase, responding to your clients’ changing demands within the shortest time possible becomes a challenge. Cracking code that is hard to understand takes time, and if you cannot provide prompt solutions, you may lose clients to competitors.

    Additionally, having lean code and plugins will help with the load speed of the site as well—an¬¬ obvious benefit to your site users. It is worth mentioning that using personal shortcuts and shorthand when coding and creating your website is not an option. Also, hiring other designers and coders may be necessary as your enterprise expands. In that case, using clean code to allow straightforward interpretation by those who come after you, even as they add to what is already set up, is prudent.

    Simplifying your web design will also facilitate quick changes and updates when making necessary website adjustments. Clean code and a simple website design will go a long way toward making your business site future-proof.

    5. Consider Investing in Premium Hosting 
    In today’s world, speed is of the essence for any business using an online platform. Unfortunately, you can unintentionally lose your customers to competitors if your site is slow. No individuals will be willing to visit your website, let alone stay on the platform if speed is an issue.

    The solution here is opting for a premium hosting service. That way, your website will be fast enough to improve users’ experience, and it can turn visitors into customers as well. Increasing your website’s speed is an approach that can help you attract and retain traffic.

    6. Invest in SEO
    Any business worth its salt needs a steady flow of relevant traffic to its website. Ideally, this is accomplished by ranking high in search engine result pages for the keyword terms, goods, and services associated with your business.

    To accomplish this, you need to make sure your site is optimized for SEO. However, it’s important to realize that Search Engine Optimization or SEO is not a set-and-forget proposition.

    Technical SEO
    Foundationally, your site should be built optimized for SEO with the tips we mentioned above, such as lean coding, intuitive design, and site architecture, etc. SEO and User Experience (UX) go hand in hand.

    On-Page Optimization
    But it’s just as important to constantly be adding valuable content to your site that has been optimized for SEO as well. On-page optimization techniques will help this new content get found and rank well by the search engines.

    By doing so, you raise the probability that your content will be shared and earn valuable backlinks to your website.

    Backlink Building
    Speaking of backlinks, as a business you should always be trying to improve and build your website’s backlink profile. Links are the fuel that powers your website, therefore link building should be a core of your business interactions.

    Ongoing SEO initiatives such as these, to grow your relevant website traffic, are one of the best and economical ways to create a future-proof website for your business.

    7. Budget for Changes and Updates 
    Sometimes, you need to make prompt decisions as an entrepreneur, depending on the situation at hand. However, when making critical decisions about your business operations, you need to take time to consider various factors before deciding on the best course of action.

    For instance, if you intend to conduct an overhaul of your website, ensure your budget allows room for future updates and changes. Such a budget should focus on long-term aspects rather than short-term goals. Otherwise, you may end up spending more than necessary when you discover that there are new updates you need to factor in as soon as possible that did not feature in your previous budget.

    Additionally, budgeting allows you to spend a particular allocation on website changes and updates to ensure that you do not eat into the company resources you should direct elsewhere.
    Allowing room for site improvements in your long-term budget can help you make and implement decisions that will future-proof your website.

    Conclusion
    Change is inevitable in the technology arena. Since you cannot tell when you can expect new developments affecting online platforms, the solution is to ensure that you have a future-proof website by adopting the tips above.

    If you need more information or help to make your site future-proof, contact us today!

    Nachum Langsner is the Co-Founder & CMO of LocalBizGuru, a full-service digital marketing agency based in Cleveland, OH. He has over 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry and is a frequent presenter and instructor of digital marketing and SEO seminars for entrepreneurs and small business owners in the Greater Cleveland area for organizations such as COSE, Jumpstart, the Better Business Bureau, Score and the Ohio SBDC at CSU.  

     
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  • Next up: Key American Rescue Plan Provisions Will Help Advance GCP Priorities

    Key American Rescue Plan Provisions Will Help Advance GCP Priorities

     

    Last week, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act - a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill. Here are some key provisions that will help advance our priorities:

     

    - Public Transit: Provides $30 billion for transit agencies who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and forced to cut service and jobs in 2020.

     

    Our 2021-2022 Public Policy Agenda calls for revitalizing development around our existing transit hubs and funding multimodal transit that better connects residents to jobs, goods, and services. 

     

    - Broadband: Invests $7 billion in broadband so millions of public school students will receive the internet services they need for their education.

     

    We are a strong advocate for affordable, high-quality broadband in digitally divided communities, understanding that Cleveland’s unaffordable and unreliable internet service options prevent economic progress. Our long-term success hinges on a strong partnership with local governments, the state of Ohio, federal partners and the private sector. 

     

    - Small Business Support: Provides $15 billion in additional relief for the nation’s small businesses and hard-hit industries through increased funding for Targeted EIDL grants; $25 billion in funding for a new dedicated grant relief program for restaurants; $7 billion for expanded PPP assistance for nonprofits and digital news services; and $1 billion in Save Our Stages grants for independent live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions.

     

    Our agenda lays out our federal priorities to build wealth for minority entrepreneurs and small businesses but doing so will mean addressing disparities in lending. 

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  • Next up: Month in Review: May 2021

    Month in Review: May 2021

     

    Mind Your Business was full of great information last month to help you grow your business.  From employee retention challenges to strategic planning—and a compilation of business resource recommendations from COSE members—check out our favorite articles from May. 

    What Ohio Business Owners Need to Know About Anti-Harassment & Anti-Retaliation Laws
    As a business owner, providing your employees with a safe working environment is one of your most important tasks. This includes a workplace free from unwanted sexual advances, jokes and other types of sexual harassment. It also means having an understanding of the laws created around employee-relations issues.

    Here is what you need to know about anti-harassment and anti-retaliation laws in the workplace.

    So, Do I Need a Strategic Plan? Who Cares?
    Is there anything scarier to a business owner than those two words? Strategic plan (*shudders*). 

    But a strategic plan doesn't have to be overwhelming—or scary. In fact, the end result of a strategic plan should be a more effectively-run business, less stress, and more free time.

    MYB's very own strategic planning expert can help you get there. Read on for a breakdown of the terminology and components of a strategic plan, and guidance on how it can be helpful to your business—and to you.

    Employee Retention Challenges and Solutions
    It's no secret that the key to a great business is great employees. But does your small business struggle to hire or retain top talent? 

    From recognizing your staff to opening lines of communication, here are nine suggestions to hiring and retaining excellent employees to grow your business.

    COSE Members Share Their Favorite Small Business Resources
    We asked some of our COSE members to tell us about their favorite resources they turn to while running their small businesses and growing as leaders—and we received several noteworthy submissions to share with you.

    Podcasts, books, websites, YouTube channels... and some are even written or produced by the members themselves. Check out their suggestions and add them to your to-do list!

     
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