Your new customer service motto should be ‘make it easy’

A Harvard Business Review article shared this important insight on customer service for businesses — customers are much more likely to stop using a business that provided a poor service experience than they are to stay with one that provided exceptional customer service.

Similarly customers are more likely to share a poor service experience then share a positive service experience.

Reducing customer barriers is one of the best ways to avoid a negative customer experience.

Here are some ideas on avoiding poor customer service (and some technology ideas to help you).

Make it easy.

Look for opportunities to eliminate customers having to repeat their problems or contact you about them multiple times.

Consider proactively following up with customers to discover and resolve any issues they may be having. Whether the follow-up is initiated by a person or automated, make sure customers get the help they need right away.

Be consistent.

Customers want to know what they’re getting. For example, if a salon’s customers are used to appointments taking 75 minutes, they do not want an appointment to take 50 minutes one visit and 100 minutes another visit.

Follow through.

If you promise something – even something small – make sure you deliver.

Using a customer relationship management (CRM) system can make it easier to track interactions with customers and collaborate with colleagues on delivering service as promised.

Alternatively, using a cloud-based note taking app is a simple way for your team to track their customer service to-do list.

Essential Elements of Your Small Business Technology Strategy

 

As a small business owner, running your day-to-day operations probably consumes most of your time.  While you know its important, strategic planning my take a backseat to shipping your latest order or project.

Could you be missing out on opportunities to grow your business through technology?  To help you jumpstart your growth efforts, here is an outline of essential elements for your technology strategic plan:

1. Value Delivery

Consider all the aspects of how you service your audience.  What does your audience value most about what your company delivers? How does your value proposition compare to your competitors?  What would have to change for you to maintain (or improve) quality while servicing a larger audience?

For example, a family attorney valued for her trusted estate planning advice, could use a web form to capture her clients’ basic information.  Thereby, spending less time on paperwork and more time interacting with and learning about her clients.

2. Customer Experience

To manage the customer experience, first identify what your brand communicates to your audience.  Simple, thorough, speedy, handcrafted, cheap, luxurious, etc.  Your customers’ experience must reflect this.    Examine the functions that go into delivering value to your audience.  What is the most crucial part of the experience from your audience’s perspective?  Is your brand identity reflected well in this part of the experience?

For example, customers of a small co-op grocery store might sacrifice selection and variety at a larger grocery store for novelty and service.  The small grocer could use text message notifications to inform loyal customers of new exotic food inventories.

3. Customer Intelligence

Customer intelligence is really about managing your relationship with your customer.  To be effective, you have to be willing to make a gathering and analyzing information a priority.  More than just basic demographic information, understanding your audience’s interests and concerns will enable you to more effectively communicate with them.

For example, a doctor can track patients with risk factors for developing diabetes or heart disease, and periodically follow-up way with these patients to see how they’re doing and offer advice.

3 Strategies for getting the most out of your Small Business CRM

Your investment in customer relationship management (CRM) software can be a costly one.  Costly not just in terms of money but also in the time and effort spent in managing it.  Make sure that investment is worth your while.

Here are three strategies to help you increase your ability to serve your audience by leveraging your CRM software.

Track the edges.

Imagine that you were to plot the extremes of personal tastes along spectrums –  Simple/Complex, Cheap/Expensive, Subdued/Bold, etc…

Whatever extremes you use to identify yourself, use your socially-integrated CRM to find an folks that identify themselves in the same way.

Get a 360° view.

Use you CRM to track all of the touchpoints you have with your audience including social media posts, email, blog updates, phone calls and in-person meetings.

Make sure all these touch points translate into superior value for your audience, and you will earn and preserve their trust.

Connect to community.

Track your audience’s interests and build user personas.  Use this knowledge connect your audience to other ideas, people, products and services they may also be interested in.  Your generosity will make you even more valuable to your audience.

Investing in technology and adding value

If you are looking to adopt new tech, look for software that will help you deliver more value to your audience.

Make interactions easier or more convenient.  How can you integrate with something your audience already gives attention to?

Promise less, deliver more.  What can you offer that is surprising?

Connect your audience to something else they care about.  What additional information or connection can you provide your audience?

When you feel like you have been left behind

It may seem like everyone else is benefitting from the new social connection and sharing economy….but what about you?

You built your project/business a sleek website, plugged in to social media, hired a coupon marketing service, adopted cloud applications…..but what you want — what you are working for — still isn’t happening.

If the customers aren’t coming, your audience isn’t showing up and you feel like you are being left behind, give more.

What the connection economy has done is make it easier than ever for each person to find exactly what she is looking for, and it is pushing you to be more generous in the area of your choice.  Its an opportunity to make our projects and businesses better.  Things not working the way we want is our signal to keep making them better.  Not to get it over with, or arrive at some destination.  But so we can keep doing work we love.

The Right One

If you were drawn to this blog post, you are probably not the kind of person whose head gets turned by every sexy new piece of software that comes your way.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy the right new software, every now and then.  Here are a few ways to know when you found the right one (software for your business, that is):

It improves your ability to connect with and serve your audience.

If the new software does not translate into your being able to offer more and connect more with your audience, you might end up with tech adopters remorse.

The benefits of adoption grow over time.

This is particularly true for applications that capture customer or operational data.  As you continue to use the application and collect more data, the insight you can discover might be well worth the time, money and effort spent on implementing the software.

To Invest or Not Invest in New Technology

In the 2014 Brother Small Business Survey, conducted by Brother International in partnership with SCORE, business owners are split on what causes the greater business risk:

  1. Investing in a new technology too soon and not receiving a sufficient return on investment, or
  2. Investing in a new technology too late and giving competitors an advantage.

If you tend to be late to adopt new tech, here are some ways to tell when to make the switch:

  • Stay customer-centric: Listen to your audience.  What are their needs and expectations?
  • Seek inspiration: Look to other firms that offer similar value propositions or business models.  Which technologies are they adopting?  What are the outcomes of these decisions?
  • Accept the learning curve:  Even when we know what to do, it can be hard to finally decide to act.  Being decisive and committing to see a change through builds confidence and encourages stakeholders trust.

25 Years in the Future

A recent article on Singularity Hub describes some predictions for the next 25 years made by futurist/inventor/Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil.

The overarching theme is this: advancements in technology will grow exponentially and fundamentally change the ways we eat, move, live, die and understand.  Kurzweil asserts non-biological intelligence will be a billion times more capable than biological intelligence.

I am not writing about this to support or disagree with the article.  But I do think it is interesting to consider the implications of living in such a world.

In a world where unimaginable human intelligence can be duplicated by almost anyone, what will it mean to be human?  Will intangible experience-forged traits like courage, authenticity and grit become the new way we choose to identify, express and define ourselves?

Behavior That Sustains Your Business

Today, it is easier than ever to create alignment in your business.

  • Create pricing that will support your business goals.
  • Create community around the value you deliver and make it easy for customers to share their experiences.
  • Think about all the traits your competitors typically lack – trustworthiness, caring, authenticity, courage – and make them central to the value you deliver.

You have the freedom to define how you want your business to run.  Be mindful of it and take responsibility.

Cool Meet Useful

With so many technologies vying for attention and visibility, sometimes these tools become more cool and flashy than useful.

This is no the case for the light-based virus detection device developed by NexGen Arrays.  This cool little device could positively impact the healthcare for millions of people around the world.

As consumers and producers, we must be careful to not be overly concerned with flash when the ability to make an impact awaits us.