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Tweaks that touch the bottom line

Yesterday, we talked about a little tiny, totally-free thing that you could do to ensure that someone comes back to your business on a day that you can’t serve them.

As you might guess, there are a bunch of these little things.

They range from how you answer the phone to that little something extra you do when packing something for shipment to a customer.

It definitely impacts how you respond to calls, emails, tweets and other inquiries – such as “Do you have any iPads in stock?” (a frequent question to Apple dealers these days).

How do you answer questions that you *know* aren’t going to immediately close a sale?

Let’s use a software developer as an easy example. Upon detection of an error, they have a ton of choices:

  • You can display a technical message about what happened (“Stack push failure in c70mss.dll at C53DAE.”)
  • You can display a friendly message explaining what happened in non-technical terms. (“I’m not sure what’s wrong, but you’ve gotta reboot.”)
  • You can display a message that provides instructions to fix the problem. (“Don’t do that again. Do this instead.”)
  • You can make the program blow up and force the user to start all over again, and just skip that whole “display a message” thing.
  • You can fix the problem (and if necessary, inform the user) and move on.

That last one might make you scratch your head a bit. Remember, you went to the trouble to *detect it* and create a message, so why not just fix it when you can?

Sure, there are cases where you can’t assume what to do and you have to ask… but those are normally the exception.

Not just the geeks

The same goes for handling customer issues in your business.

You could force your staff to say “Sorry, my manager has to be here to fix that.” or you could simply put a process in place that allows them to deal with it – and do so without risking financial loss.

That’s a win in several ways:

  • It’s a win for your customer because they get helped immediately rather than having to wait for you and even worse, make a return trip to the store for something that should’ve been right in the first place.
  • It’s a win for your staff because it empowers them, giving them the emotional “reward” for helping a customer – which will motivate them to want to continue that little buzz-fest.
  • It’s a win for you because it keeps you off the phone. Rather than dealing with minimum wage questions you shouldn’t be interrupted with anyway, you can keep playing golf, fishing, planning your next strategic move and/or creating the next big thing that’ll push your business into its next big growth cycle.

If Wal-Mart can issue a refund (or execute an exchange) without requiring a phone call to the CEO in Bentonville, I think you can find a way too.

Look around. What can you tweak? Most of these things cost nothing. We might simply be talking about a once a month (or quarter) email.

You simply have to be a little more enthusiastic about thinking about the needs of your customer and how to make the next interaction with your business *even better*.

All of these things contribute to the kind of customer service, the kind of quality feel, the kind of thought process that makes a customer want to do business with no one else but you – even if they can’t put a finger on why that is.

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Book Reviews Business Resources Competition Employees Improvement Management Retail Small Business

The Retail Doctor’s newest book helps you diagnose, treat, cure

Stethoscope
Creative Commons License photo credit: a.drian

Bob Phibbs’ staff recently sent me a review copy of The Retail Doctor’s Guide to Growing Your Business, his newest book for the retailer looking to improve their business’ performance.

Or to go from wondering about survival to reaching a state of “thrival”.

The Guide’s subtitle, “A step-by-step approach to quickly diagnose, treat, and cure”, gives away the structure of the book. It’s organized by areas you need to address, such financials, training, hiring, retail presentation (merchandising, sort of), the internet, sales and finally, what to do after you’ve read the book.

When you have a business and you buy a book in hopes of solving its problems, one of the things that sometimes makes it difficult to take the first (and next) step is gleaning what to do from all those good ideas. Bob solves this with sections called “Stat” (medical-ese for “Do it now”) at the end of every chapter. Stat lists a half-dozen things to do RIGHT NOW based on that chapter’s teachings.

The Stat summary is a clever tool for the busy business owner because it not only tells you where to start, but with those things behind you, their success will encourage you to go back and look for more things to do.

As a whole, the Guide to Growing Your Business could become the roots of the operations manual you’ve never gotten around to creating. It’s rich in the what and why of fixing things rooted in common (yet incorrect) maxims of retail businesses, such as “if there’s enough gross, there has to be some net around here somewhere” (a Dan Kennedy quote).

About that operations manual thing – I know that you might think your business doesn’t really need one. However, since Bob has done much of the work for the core of it – why not take that and run with it? As he states in the hiring chapter’s discussion on job descriptions, every job needs a complete description. Likewise, every retail business needs an operations guide, which is simply a consistent rules-of-the-road document for how to run the place.

If it (it being an operations manual) is good enough to get 16 year olds to competently run a profitable franchise store, it’s probably good enough for you.

Even if your business isn’t struggling, each chapter of the Guide is bound to reveal at least one nugget, strategy, technique or “Stat” item that you should be doing. There’s bound to be something that you’ve overlooked, forgotten or just didn’t think about. Take those things, implement them and continue your success.

I suggest you grab a copy. I suspect it’ll end up dogeared.

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Blogging Competition Customer relationships customer retention Internet marketing Positioning Restaurants Retail Small Business Technology The Slight Edge

22 things you dont know about your customers’ web viewing habits

Today’s guest post is from Ian over at Conversation Marketing and talks about little things you need to know about the folks who visit your site.

These kinds of things hit close to home here at Business is Personal. Little tweaks make a big difference.

What are 22 things (at least) that you dont know about your customers’ website viewing habits?

Most of us want people to stay on our site for as long as possible.

These 22 things are the kinds of things that drive them off.

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Marketing

Inherit the earth, inhale the opportunity

All around us, people are being laid off.

The companies in (and near) my little town in rural, northwest Montana – have seen more than 800 layoffs.

Thankfully (if there is a bright spot), not all of the 800 people laid off live here in our town of 4500 people – but it still affects everyone as it trickles through the town’s economy.

A local banker told me a few weeks ago, “You can see it on them when they come in…they’re wearing it”.

“It” being the weight of unemployment.

The bright spot

There is a bright spot to all of this. Our local community college has seen a massive peak in registrations.

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” –   Eric Hoffer

You know that a lot of the folks who are getting laid off are unprepared to move on. Not all of them, of course, but a substantial percentage.

As a business owner, you already know that you have to be careful who you hire in these situations. Many folks will bolt back to their former job as soon as it opens up – because you probably can’t pay them what a manufacturing job does, for example.

Scout motto – “Be prepared”

How are you preparing your staff and *your company* for the world that doesn’t yet exist?

You might think that you don’t care because tomorrow isn’t here, and those newfangled things won’t appear for a while.

Or you might be the town’s Yahoo and the new business in town just might be the Google that makes you irrelevant.  Heaven help you if that new business actually has some funding and isn’t bootstrapping like so many others.

It isn’t about Silicon Valley, Yahoo and Google. This conversation is just as applicable to them as it is to your dry cleaning store.

It isn’t just laid off employees that need to be learning. You likely recognize that they should have updated their skills BEFORE they found themselves in a position to be laid off.

Look in the mirror, cuz the same goes for you.

Your business needs to learn and grow as well if it is to inherit its rightful place as the dominant innovative business in your niche.

That has to happen before your Google arrives on the scene.