The ‘golden rule’ of great customer service?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In one form or another we have learned this rule for as long as we can remember. But can the simplest life lessons apply to our sales or service careers? Many people try their best to apply this rule in their everyday lives. But, how many of us try to follow such a simple principle when it comes to business?

If you think about it, this could single-handedly be the most important rule to follow in business. After unpleasant sales encounters, it is not the product or service that customers are most upset about even though they may have been the root of the problem. The reason most people leave these situations upset is because of the way they have been treated. They feel upset when they have spent their hard-earned money on your product or service and that for one reason or another it did not perform to their expectations. This upsets them, but what really angers them is when they feel that no-one cares.

This applies equally to sales and service environments. In fact, it also applies to general stakeholder management. We have all had negative customer service experiences. Whatever your business, you have most likely been on both sides of such exchanges. With this in mind, never underestimate the importance of treating others as you would like them to treat you. By doing so, it is often possible to turn a negative customer experience into a very positive one that will bring far greater rewards to your business in the long run.

But much more than that, if we are able to keep the good old “Golden Rule” in our consciousness at all times when dealing with customers, we are likely to find our jobs more enjoyable, our customers happier and yes, even our profits on the rise!

Instant Messaging – Friend or Foe?

As the 21st century gathers momentum, it is bringing with it the increased expectation that we will find rapid answers to our questions – at home and in the workplace.  The internet has opened up a whole new medium for researching, gathering, sharing and receiving knowledge very quickly.  This is backed up by more and more options when it comes to communicating with our peers: telephony (in particular, mobile phones); emails; text messages; video calls and instant messaging; to name a few.

When used in the right way, the increased ability to communicate clearly and quickly can only be a good thing.  However, what happens when good manners and sensible protocols are discarded; when communication becomes a distraction to the task in hand?  Instant messaging is perhaps the best example of this very real danger.

Designed to enable a quick exchange of dialogue between two or more participants, it can be a great tool to obtain a fast response to an urgent query.  All too often though, instant messaging can be a devil in disguise as it encourages bad grammar and poor meeting etiquette.  It can also be the source of bad manners and that is never a good thing in business.

  • Bad Grammar – by its very nature, instant messaging encourages us to use poorly constructed sentences; words are often also abbreviated or written phonetically in a kind of ‘text talk’.  This can lead to confusion and misunderstanding.  In extreme cases, it can lead to participants completely misunderstanding each other – without even realising it.  If you are familiar with the abbreviated form, LOL might be interpreted as ‘Laugh Out Load’ but what if the recipient is only vaguely familiar with this form of communication and interprets it as ‘Lots Of Love’?
  • Poor Meeting Etiquette – have you even been in a meeting with someone whose attention is suddenly distracted by an instant message which they then proceed to answer, leaving you hanging mid-sentence?  This sort of action is a distraction to everyone in the meeting and can cause you to lose valuable time while the message recipient responds to their message and then takes time to re-engage with your own discussion which was already in hand.  The same principle applies if you are having a one-to-one conversation with someone.
  • Bad Manners – this really encompasses both of the above and potentially more besides!  Needless to say, there is no place for bad manners in good business.

BIG’s Conclusion: When it is used correctly, instant messaging can be a fantastic tool that can be used to improve business communication.  But it is all too easy for us to slip into bad habits; more often than not we become the perpetrators of bad actions without even realising it.  This leads me to conclude that we must all be vigilant so as to avoid falling into the trap of poor communication.  So, take time to reflect on your own actions and circumstances: is instant messaging a friend or a foe in your life and in your business?

9 Quick Ways to Increase Business Profits

Many business owners want as many clients as possible but the objective of increasing business profits isn’t only met by attracting more clients.  There are several other reasons why a business doesn’t make as much money as it should besides not having enough clients.

Here are a few simple, yet effective business coaching ideas that will help you unlock the hidden profits in your business – whatever your key product or service:

  1.  Focus more time on the important matters – you may not have enough time available to boost your business, especially if you are the one who is serving clients on a regular basis. In this case, you should consider hiring somebody to help. Running a business takes a lot of work, so let the employees handle the day-to-day issues, while you take care of the important ones such as developing strategies for present and future growth.  Set aside an hour each week to brainstorm ideas, implement strategies and nurture key business relationships.
  2. Carry out competitive intelligence on other businesses (especially the ones that are successful) and emulate them. This doesn’t mean copying whatever they do.  Take the best parts of your competitor’s business and apply them to your own.  It is also very important to keep a close eye on the competition, regardless of the nature of your business. If you are running a restaurant, for example, you should inspect the services, the offers and the prices of the competition. By doing a little research on other businesses, you will be able to reorganize, improve your services, adjust the prices depending on the competition, as well as introduce new offers to your clients. By knowing what your competitors are up to, you will always be one step ahead of them.
  3. Spend less of your gross profit on overheads and ineffective marketing.  Lease unused space in your office or warehouse.  Track sales as a result of expense.  Employ salespeople on a higher commission scale rather than a high base salary.  Test and measure marketing effectiveness before splashing out on an expensive marketing campaign; start small and build up when your strategy brings in results.
  4. Instead of competing on price, develop an ultimate strategic advantage or unique selling proposition.  Emphasize the qualities that make your business stand out and create a whole new positioning in the industry.  Find out what really matters to your clients by surveying them – and then offer them what they want. 
  5. Talk with clients and find out if they are delighted or not.  Ask for suggestions and don’t be afraid to ask satisfied customers for referrals. Dissatisfied customers will not return but a delighted client will often be happy to refer others.
  6. Nurture existing clients.  Instead of focusing on acquiring new customers, concentrate on nurturing and maintaining the clients that you already have. Make sure they are pleased with the services you provide for them and pay attention to their needs, desires and complaints. It is very important to establish and maintain good relations with your clients, as they are the ones who will keep your business running. Many business coaching companies encourage selling more to existing clients because it improves a business bottom line by increasing the lifetime value of a client.  It also brings new clients, attracted by positive experiences from your existing ones.  Referrals lower your acquisition costs through word-of-mouth marketing and this also adds to business profits.
  7. Up-sell other products/services.  Selling ‘extras’ is known to be a great method of increasing profits.  For example, grocery stores strategically place magazines and snacks near the checkout. People browse and buy these while waiting in line, raising the value of their average sales.  McDonald’s is well-known for its up-sell before a sale is completed. They do this by asking a simple question to add on more products (e.g. would you like that as a meal or with fries, sundae, or apple pie, etc).
  8. Increase your advertising – advertising is expensive but if things work well, the money will definitely return to you. You can also try to make the best use you can out of free advertising. Get the most out of promotions and limited offers, especially around holiday periods.
  9. Seek out business coaching advice. Having a comprehensive set of business strategies can help you further, by providing you with new efficient methods of increasing the profits of your business.  To operate a business effectively long-term, most businesses will have to deploy several strategies in order to diversify their sources of leads and maximize their profitability through smart marketing, team building, and business process management.

BIG’s Conclusion: As a business owner, be sure to allocate sufficient time and regular opportunities within your busy schedule, to review how your business operates. Develop a number of strategies around key topics such as business development and marketing; above all, see your strategies through to completion and then develop new ones to ensure your business stays fresh and appealing to new and existing customers alike.