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Tips For a Small Business to Compete With Larger Companies

4046372919_24448feb21The business world has never been more competitive than it is today. This is especially true if you run a small business and must compete with massive corporations with millions of dollars at their disposal. While going up against the big boys is a daunting task, there are some things you can do to make your odds of success much greater in the struggle of David against Goliath. Here are some tips to help small businesses get an edge against their much larger competitors:

1. Get personal

One of the main things that sets many small businesses apart from the huge companies is their ability to create personal relationships with their suppliers and customers. At the end of the day, people want to deal with someone they trust, not some gigantic corporation that views their customers only as dollar signs. For example, some large auto repair companies simply want to get as many people in and out as fast as they can, to make as much money as possible. If you are a mechanic running your own business, take the time to get to know your customers by name. Give them advice on how to take care of their car to prevent future repairs. They will reward you with repeat business.

2. Be nimble

Although large companies will have more resources and a bigger staff than you, those things will also increase the amount of bureaucracy in their infrastructure. If a company has a boatload of managers and vice presidents, it will most likely take that company a long time to create, develop, approve, and implement a change in the organization. Small businesses do not have to worry about this. Changes can be made almost instantly. This can lead to better customer satisfaction and increased sales. Customer complaints can also be dealt with swiftly, as opposed to large companies that may need to filter the complaint through several departments before a decision can be reached.

3. Social media and technology

We are living in the age of technology, so use it to your advantage. Nowadays, a business needs a social media presence to be successful. There is just no getting around it. Connecting with people on various social media platforms is a wonderful way to get the word out about your business and the products or services you provide. Companies that respond in a timely and creative manner to customer complaints through social media can resolve small issues before they become large issues and show customers that you care enough about them to respond personally to their comments and complaints. Being proficient with computers does not hurt either. For example, if you do not know what PDF to doc means, you may want to enroll in some basic computer courses to get yourself up to speed.

4. Promote your company by telling your story

People get bored by seeing the same bland press releases from companies promoting how great and innovative their latest product is. If you run a small business, you need to separate yourself from this style of promotion as much as you can. Instead, use your commercial to talk about how you started your business. Tell your potential customers how passionate you are about your product or service. Enlighten them about how you started your business and the struggles you have faced. Products that use “brand biographies” have a way of capturing the imagination of the general public. People will always be fascinated by personal stories that were not cooked up in an advertising agency boardroom.

Starting a small business is challenging. However, following these tips and implementing them into how you do business can reap large rewards. It is important to remember that every large company was once a small company, just like yours.

About the author: Jared Jaureguy is a freelance writer and technology consultant. He loves staying up to date on all things tech. You can follow him @jaredjaureguy.

 

 

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5 Tips For Dealing With Customer Service

Customer-Service-e1269228549577-300x240Whether you are calling to complain or enquire about services or products, you need to be savvy with call centre staff in order to have a successful conversation and get all the answers you need.  Here are tips you can use when dealing with call centre staff:

Be friendly

Don’t call the call centre of a company if you are still angry about their services.  Take some time to calm down before you make the phone call.  You may not get the help you need if you are rude to the person who is supposed to help you or lead you to help. Be friendly and start the conversation my mentioning your name.

Be patient

Sometimes call centre staff will ask you the same questions over and over.  Don’t get easily irritated. They are simply doing their job. In essence, this is to help you and reduce fraud. Repetition of questions can help in cases where someone else tries to use your details without your authorisation.  Be patient and give them your details as accurate as you can. Have all details on hand to provide the correct information as needed.

Get the name and surname of the staff member

Knowing the full names of the person you are talking to will help should you have to make follow up calls.  If you didn’t get the name at first, ask for the person to repeat it and right it down.  Getting the correct name will also help you to lodge a complaint should the consultant treat you in an unfriendly manner.

Get the right information

Research the market first if you are switching or want to get out of something.  Contacting the call centre unprepared may not get you the results you hope for. Use the internet to get all the information about your purpose for calling so that you can provide convincing answers.  Remember that companies don’t want to lose subscribers or money in compensations.  For this reason you have to make your case strong by providing all the necessary information.

Know your rights

Before you make the call, understand your position as a consumer.  Know your rightsconcerning the particular issue you are calling for.  Conduct online research on Citizens Advice Bureau. Read your contract with the company or complaints guidelines to understand fully where you stand as a customer or client, and use this information to your advantage.

Be honest

When you make the call, remember it could be recorded so try not to lie.  Be honest and provide the right information. Should matters be dragged to courts, your recorded calls will be used and you’d like the contents to work for you not against you.

No matter what your reason for calling may be, it would really help a great deal if you can stay calmand be friendly. Don’t contact the call centre with assumptions or rumours. Have the correct information so that you can receive the kind of help you need.  If you are not sure about your facts, ask for clarifications first.

David Jones from Supportnumbers.co.uk - A list of UK Support helplines for hard to reach companies.

 

 

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Have A Complaint About A Business? Turn To Online Review Sites

517415790_c_570_411As a consumer, there are going to be encounters with businesses that you enjoy, and then there are going to be encounters that are awful. When you have a complaint about a company, service or product, don’t keep it to yourself or simply rant about your complaint on your own personal social media accounts. Instead, turn to online review sites likeGoogle+ Local andYelp, and here’s why.

You can gain the company’s attention.

When you keep the complaint to yourself, the company is not going to know what they did wrong. And if you did complain to someone at the business, it’s likely it wasn’t to the right individual.

When you post your complaint online, you have a better chance of getting your complaint in front of the right people. More and more companies are starting to monitor their review sites, and when you post a negative review online, it will likely be seen by the right people, making your complaint more valid.

You can warn other consumers.

If your experience was really bad, you will not want other consumers to go through the same experience. By posting your complaint on the online review site, you will be warning other consumers about what they can expect if they were to visit the company or purchase a product or service from them. When consumers truly know what to expect, it can help make their own purchasing decision easier, and you will save many other people from going through the same awful experience as you.

You can help the company.

While you feel miserable about your experience, it is possible that the company managers and owners don’t truly know what’s going on in their business. When you write the review, you not only get the company’s attention, but you can also help them learn what they’re doing wrong. Companies need consumer feedback like your complaint to help them become better, and your complaint may draw them to a factor of their business that they overlooked. Plus, if your complaint is valid and the company truly cares about their business, you may even entice them to make the necessary changes needed to make their company a better place.

You may earn an incentive.

Some companies take online reviews very seriously, and they know that customers didn’t have to take their time to leave a review, whether good or bad. As a thank you for your review, some businesses may offer you some type of incentive for your bad experience. You may not only earn an apology from someone important at the company, but you may also earn a free item, gift card, promotional discount or some other incentive for taking the time to share your thoughts. Yes, it’s an effort by the company to apologize and get you to come back and check them out again, but it’s still something you wouldn’t receive had you never left the complaint in the first place.

 

Charlie Adams is a tech guru and IT specialist with Review Trackers. Charlie often blogs about technology and its role within the world of business in an attempt to educate.

 

 

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Thank You LinkedIn – NOT Part 2

PUBLISHERS NOTE:  I was able to find this, that explains how to simply post videos and images.  It seems to work pretty well and is self-prompting. It still does’t have the flexibility, of the old SlideShare application, like autostart.  I can’t figure out why they are taking this approach after spending $116M on SlideShare, but it’s not my dime….

PUBLISHERS UPDATE – 5.31.13 – Ive just been informed, and sadly confirmed, that the features below are indeed NOT available to all accounts.  Although it seemed to be no problem to drop the applications across the whole platform, for some reason LinkedIn is only allowing some accounts to upload files.  It has nothing to do with premium status, but I can upload and some of my clients cannot – yet?

 Olympus
BY EMILY PRICE
LinkedIn added the ability to showcase users’ talents in a whole new way Wednesday: pictures and video. Now LinkedIn users can add visual content to their profile pages, giving more depth to the written content already displayed on the site.For instance, a photographer might choose to include several of her best photos, or a copywriter might upload a video of that ad he wrote for last year’s Super Bowl. Architects can upload the blueprints for a building they designed, and musicians can upload videos of past performances.

Visual content can be added to your summary, work experience and education sections on the site, and can come from your computer’s hard drive or from the web.

On the flip side of the equation, people who are browsing profiles on the site can now like or comment on media uploaded to others’ profiles. A sharing option — for sharing content you find interesting with others — is also in the works.

New media-rich profiles are available now for LinkedIn members in English-speaking countries.

To add media to your own profile on LinkedIn click the “Edit” button on your profile page and follow the prompts in the summary, education and experience sections.

What sorts of content will you be adding to your LinkedIn Profile?

Images courtesy of Flickr, Alex Murphy

 

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Thank You LinkedIn –NOT!

LinkedOut

Well they have finally outdone themselves.

I thought all the crashes and “try later” warnings were bad.   Just like the “your contact list is currently not available.”

Then we had to deal with the totally random attacks on keyword stuffing by the LinkedIn Trust & Safety team.  If you look up any keyword on LinkedIn, I guarantee you that the first 4 or 5 pages of results will be keyword stuffed in the projects section. So you do the same thing, or you can’t compete.  I explained this and the fact that they could write a pretty simple algorithm to detect this, not anything like Google, but they never made an effort.

Now, just as I am getting used to my profile supposedly among the top 1% viewed in 2012, we get a total new look:  They have changed all the tabs, removed all the applications, stopped supporting blogs altogether, and cannot tell anyone when they will have the “new application” that will allow you to put up your experiences now supposedly in your summary section -all without any kind of announcement or warning.

WTF?   I make my living (in part) as a LinkedIn coach.  I have spent the better part of a complete day scrambling to read what little documentation they have, and emailing back and forth to other supposed LinkedIn Guru’s (like anyone can figure out what they are likely to do next) to figure out how to work around this latest “improvement.”

Could this have anything to do with their attempts to monetize LinkedIn?  To this point it hasn’t really made any sense to upgrade.  Keep your eyes and ears open for some sort of suggestion that there are plug-ins and gizmos available to Premium users, like video upload etc.

I’ll keep you posted as I sort this out (another day or two I didn’t have to re-invent the wheel) as it is excruciatingly apparent that they won’t.

 

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The New Rules Of Customer Complaints Management

complaints managementCompanies in the business of dealing with people know how important customer complaints management is – after all, there are very few companies that do not interact with customers on some level; even if there is no direct interaction.

The rules have changed a lot over the past few years, and they are changing even more just about each and every month. What worked in the early part of the 2000s will not work in 2013 – consumers have a far greater soapbox now for one thing, and the way that we communicate in general has also changed greatly.

Customer Complaints in the Era of Technology

What exactly are the ‘new rules’ that need to be considered for our current era, and what should companies be doing to adhere to best practices on complaints management? Here are some important things to keep in mind…

  • Customers are no longer limited to posted letters, limited email and telephone calls. Now, they have all of those channels, as well as personal blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, consumer feedback websites, forums AND word of mouth. Worse still, feedback posted online that mentions your company will show up in internet search results when people are searching for your business online.
  • Customers are more likely to report on a bad experience than a good one. What this means is that even though the past 150 customers who have purchased your wildly popular gizmo via your snazzy online store are thrilled, not all of them will be shouting your praise to the world. The one or two customers who were not too happy about that gizmo (or your store, or even your delivery process) are another story. Those are the ones who will tell everyone they can just how terrible your company, products and store are – often, on multiple channels for good measure.
  • Customers can not only become happy again, they can even become your number one fans. This is however, provided that you deal with their complaints properly. Complaints should not be seen as a bad thing for starters – this is a chance to improve your services and goods for the better. For another thing, the way that problems are addressed makes a lot more difference than the actual issue in many cases. In order to effectively address the complaint, you first need to catch it early, escalate it properly and route it to the right person though.

As you can see, the rules continue to change pretty much all the time. What doesn’t change however is the fact that response time and reaction are both vital when it comes to making a bad situation into a good one.

Automating the complaints process with a good software tool is one way to improve your overall systems. You may also want to think about other tools such as competency testing for employees who deal directly with customers. Product reviews and preventative measures such as customer surveys, and also making sure that customers can easily air their views should be top of mind too.

At the end of the day you see, it is far easier to handle a small upset soon after it happens, than risk dealing with the public relations disasters that can (and do) happen overnight when customer complaints are left unchecked. Quite an easy choice really when you think about it that way.

Featured images:

Christopher Stainow is actively involved in the streamlining of business quality processes and procedures through the use of quality management tools & document control software. Learn more at lennoxhill.co.uk.

 

 

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Ways to Show You Appreciate Your Customers

7650804342_9715bb425fYour business successes are the result of your own hard work, to be sure. But, you could not have built your business without the support of your customers.

Suppose you are already doing your part in your day-to-day business interactions with customers. You give them excellent service by proving that you are willing to make time for them. They feel important, knowing that you value their business. A customer who feels overlooked, rushed or senses that you would rather be doing something other than helping them is not likely to be among your loyal return customers. So, you treat all of your customers with respect, giving them the personal attention they need while they purchase your product or service.

However, your responsibility to your customers does not end with the completion of a business transaction. All individuals enjoy having their contributions acknowledged, and they will favor those who express awareness of their efforts. Recognizing how someone has supported your business and showing them that you appreciate them is crucial to your continued success. With the holidays fast approaching, your company has the opportunity to make a lasting, positive impression on your customers.

Here are a few simple ways to show your customers that you care about them:

  1. Give away materials with your company logo on them. Customers always love receiving free items. Order selections of small promotional materials such as pens, calendars and notepads. These materials are often inexpensive and will help to build your customers’ loyalty to you. You will also benefit from the added visibility to new potential customers.
  2. Send personalized holiday cards to your customers. Several companies offer attractive and professional designs that tell your customers you appreciate them. Sign the cards, or better yet, write a small note expressing your gratitude for their business. Customers will recognize the effort you put into mailing them the card, and they will be pleased that their loyalty is noticed and appreciated.

Do not limit your appreciations to the holidays. You may also want to send a card on other occasions to show your customers that they truly are important to you.

  1.  Offer special discounts to your customers. Sending a coupon or promotion along with a short note telling them you are grateful for their business is a great way to acknowledge your customers while simultaneously giving them an incentive to return.
  2.   Following up with your customers by sending them a personalized letter or e-mail after a transaction is complete is the best time to show your appreciation. Your customer will see no underlying motive for the letter other than you want to show your appreciation to them. A simple note or acknowledgement of their contribution to your business will certainly catch their attention and set you apart from other, more impersonal businesses.
  3. If you have the time or resources and it makes financial sense based on the dollar amount of products or services you offer, a brief “thank-you” phone call to your customers is very effective, especially directly following a transaction. The world of business has become very impersonal in many ways, so a human voice, even if heard merely in a voicemail or answering machine is very effective. In fact, some very successful companies hire customer service reps who have the single task of following up and thanking their customers. They also use this time to briefly survey each customer to find out how the company can improve.

Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. You must first earn their support by providing great initial service. But, do not make the mistake of passing by the chance to tell your customers that you appreciate them. Take the time to communicate with those who have supported you and reward their business with a personal note, phone call or gift. Your efforts to recognize them will be noticed, and they will be much more likely to return and recommend your business to others.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native and mother of two.  She occasionally blogs about DIY crafts and business. Show your customers you care through gifts by Vistaprint products.  Connect with her on Google + or on Twitter (@DollarHacks).

 

 

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6 Ways to Better Motivate Your Employees

How-To-Motivate-Your-Sales-Team-1024x682

 

As an employer it can sometimes feel like you are fighting an uphill battle to get your employees motivated. But employees are the driving force of any company, so you will not get much done with employees who do not pull their weight. Whether you find it a struggle to motivate your employees on a daily basis, or you are simply looking for ways to increase productivity, here are some suggestions that could help you out.

Reward Programs

Nothing motivates people like a reward. Whether it is something monetary, such as a bonus or raise, or something else, such as a paid vacation, a gift basket etc. if your employees know what they will receive as a result of their work, they are more likely to work harder. Additionally, it is always motivating to know that your hard work is appreciated and will be rewarded.

Friendly Competition

Workplace competitions can get everyone excited and motivated to do better work. The most important thing to remember however, is that it should not be a competition with high stakes and a professional reward (such as a promotion). You do not want to create tension in your workplace, and damaging the atmosphere of the workplace can cause damage to overall productivity.

Mission Statements and Goals

It helps employees to know what exactly they are working for. If your company does not have a mission statement or motto, create one. This will not only help people to understand the vision of your company, but it will also give them something to work towards. Once you have a broad vision in mind, create smaller, short term goals together with your employees that can help you to fulfill the mission.

Give Them Time Off

This goes along with rewards, in that it is a way to show employees that they are appreciated. But time off is unique in that it gives people time away from work to refresh and recharge their batteries. If they get the chance to do this, they will come back to work more motivated and enthusiastic.

Get-togethers outside of Work

Another good idea is to have events outside of work that will allow people to get to know each other outside of the office. Whether it is a paid-for dinner, party, or something else, it is also a good way to reward employees for productivity. Holding such events allows people to get to know each other better, creating an all around better work environment, which often increases productivity.

Get to Know Them On a Personal Level

It is incredibly hard to motivate people that you do not even know. Likewise, it is hard for employees to motivate themselves if they only see you as a distant boss. Get to know your employees and their personalities. Everyone is different, and they will be motivated in different ways, so get to know who they are and what makes them tick. It also helps if you can give them personal praise every once in awhile.

About the Author: Robert Cordray is a freelance writer and expert in business and finances. He has received many accolades for his work in teaching employee rewards programs.

 

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Attorney Offers Tips for Safeguarding Your Wealth in 2013

moneybags
Litigation is America’s fastest growing business because plaintiffs have everything to gain and nothing but a few hours’ time to lose, says Hillel Presser, author of “Financial Self-Defense (Revised Edition),” http://www.assetprotectionattorneys.com.
“Even if a case seems utterly ridiculous — like the man who struck and killed a teenager with his luxury car and then sued the boy’s family for damage to his bumper — defendants are encouraged to settle. It’s sometimes the only way to avoid potentially astronomical legal fees,” he says.
If you haven’t already taken steps to protect your assets, that’s one New Year’s resolution you’ll be glad you made and followed up on, Presser says. And while it helps to have the assistance of a lawyer who specializes in asset protection, there are many things you can do yourself.
“You shouldn’t have any non-exempt assets in your name,” Presser says. “The goal is to ‘own’ nothing but control everything.”
Presser suggests these resolutions for safeguarding your wealth in the event of a lawsuit:
• Inventory your wealth. Figure out how much assets you really have (most people have more than they think). Take stock of valuable domain names, telephone numbers, intellectual property, potential inheritances, and other liquid and non-liquid assets. That way you can then work on actions to cost effectively keep them safe.
• Set your goal. Setting your 2013 asset protection goal is your first step to becoming protected in the New Year! For instance, you could plan to execute an estate plan or set up a trust for your children in 2013. Decide what assets you want to protect in the New Year and a realistic timeline for implementation. Then — and most importantly — stick to your plan. Asset protection works only if you follow through.
• Protect your home. Find out how much of your home is protected by your state’s homestead laws and then encumber the remaining equity. Encumbering a home’s equity can be accomplished by recording a mortgage against it, re-financing a current mortgage or even taking out a lien of credit using your home as collateral! Another great strategy to protect your home is to transfer its title to a protective entity such as a limited liability company (LLC), trust, limited partnership, etc.
• Get everything out of your name. The worst thing you can do as far as exposure is titling all of your assets to your personal name. That doesn’t mean you have to lose control of them – the goal of asset protection is to “own nothing, but control everything.” In 2013, work on moving your assets out of your personal name and into the name of protective entities such as limited liability companies (LLC’s), trusts, limited partnerships, etc.
• Buy adequate insurance. Protect your loved ones. Make sure you have adequate insurance coverage in the event a job loss, natural disaster, or even a tragic loss of life. Those include — but are not limited to — your car, home, and other valuables.
About Hillel L. Presser, Esq., MBA
Hillel L. Presser’s law firm, The Presser Law Firm, P.A., represents individuals and businesses in establishing comprehensive asset protection plans. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s School of Management and Nova Southeastern University’s law school, and serves on Nova’s President’s Advisory Council. He also serves on the boards of several non-profit organizations for his professional athlete clients. He is a former adjunct faculty member for law at Lynn University. Complimentary copies of his best-selling book, “Financial Self-Defense (Revised Edition)” are available through assetprotectionattorneys.com.

 

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Standard Partitions or Glass Wall Panels in the Office?

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There have been hundreds of studies done by psychologists and business strategists in order to find out how they can optimise office space/decor with productivity in the staff. A small but significant part of the atmosphere created in an office comes down to the partitions by which it is divided.

 Listed below are the advantages of using wooden boards and glass screens as office partitions with regards to working environment and employee productivity.

 

Standard Partitions  

  • There is a defined area in which staff can call their own.
  • If the material is made out of chip board or a thick cloth, staff can spruce up their work space by pinning personal items on there. This gives them an identity rather than just another username and login number.
  • You’re less exposed and, when you need to, can get your head down and finish by those important deadlines.
  • There are far less distractions around the staff that will sway them from their tasks.
  • There is also more privacy for those days when you just want to be left alone and not get involved in other activities around you.

 

Glass Panels

  • Firstly, glass panels give a more open-plan feel to the office, making staff feel less stuffy and enclosed.
  • They can lead to a brighter working area, ensuring any tired eyes early in the morning can properly wake up.
  • There can be a more social vibe to the office which can lead to better working relationships, although this comes with the caveat that staff may socialise too much!
  • There is a sense of belonging in that staff may feel more involved on tasks which they may not necessarily be assigned to, but are aware of its presence. Stops any feeling of isolation.
  • Finally, the glass wall panels look stylish. A vibrant, interesting and modern office helps to perk up the spirits of its staff, even if it’s just a little.

Research has suggested that office design greatly influences productivity. For example the colour scheme of an office can dictate the mood of staff i.e. reds make staff more tense and alert whereas blues make them feel calmer and more serene.

If there is less interaction between staff, through standard partitions dividing the office, then productivity will increase. However, motivation and job satisfaction tends to decrease which, in the long run, is bad for productivity.

 If there are glass partitions, coupled with a more open plan office design, then there will be more interaction between staff for problem solving and an emphasis on team work. Of course, this could lead to the staff having more social conversations rather than work problem solving.

If you work in an office with either of these partitions, feel free to comment below to share your thoughts on how productivity is affected by it!

James Duval is an IT Support Manager during the day and an Applied Workplace blogger in his spare time.

 

 

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