Archive | April, 2013

Lesson #13: The Internet Can Do That

30 Apr

If you described today’s internet to someone from olden times (and by that I mean pre-1999), it would sound pretty magical.

The internet is actually way better than magic, though. For one thing, it’s real (important distinction). And anyone can use it, not just witches and warlocks. The internet even has magic on it.

I bet if you stumbled onto some magic spell that could help your business, you would use it. So why not take advantage of the real-life version? There are tons of resources out there to help you maximize your online presence, and you can also find business tools that will help you online or in-person. After all, the internet may just be science, but…

(Source: cachaotoycafe.com)

Why Customer Service Matters

29 Apr

whycustomerservice

Customers are thoughtful about where they do their spending. A great customer experience means that friends, colleagues and family are likely to hear about it. Take care of your customers by giving them your time and attention and they, in turn, will show their appreciation.

Check out RingByName’s desktop application. It is a Comprehensive Call Management system, designed to make your team more effective by providing one-click calling and note-taking. It has everything you need built-in to a single convenient screen. Never miss a call and never miss an opportunity again. When you sign up for RingByName, we create a single company-wide database that keeps track of all inbound and outbound calls. So everyone in the company can sell, service customers, and build important business relationships from any browser.

Reader Question: Keeping the Personal Touch Online

26 Apr

I couldn’t find a “You’ve Got Reader Question” graphic (source: famewiz.com)

We’ve got a reader question!

I was kind of hoping the first reader question would be something really existential, so I could expound on it in a introspective, philosophical way. Something like:

What is?

– Person Humanberg, Placeville

And then I would come up with some meaningful counsel like, “I think the real question, Person, is ‘What Isn’t?'”

That didn’t happen, and it’s probably for the best. Because Jeff from Wilkes-Barre, PA has a way better question:

I believe my business is successful because we offer extremely personal service. I can never hope to technologically compete with a national company, so why should I invest in expanding my business online? Anyone who shops online is going to go with the big name.

Well, Jeff, I think the real question is, “What isn’t?”

Wait, sorry. Still stuck in the previous thought. You asked a great question.

First the bad news… you’re right. You can’t compete with the resources available to a huge corporation when it comes to technology. But here’s the thing: in theory, you also can’t compete with them in a whole bunch of other ways, but you do anyway. Big companies can offer better prices, a wider selection – basically, anything.

And yet, you’re still in business, so obviously you’ve overcome those hurdles (unlike this fellow). I’m sure a big reason for your success is your personal touch, which can help entice customers to buy local and maybe even pay a little more.

Jeff’s personal touch (source: wikipedia.org)

But you shouldn’t be worried that going on the world wide webernets, will make you lose that special something that keeps Wilkes-Barrians (Wilkes-Barrese? Wilkes-Barrites?) coming back to you. I think you can eat your cake and have it, too. In fact, expanding your online presence can help your business feel even more personal than the big companies.

Let’s do a Pepsi vs Coke thing. Jeff Co. vs Globalcorp.

Let’s say I bought a wicket from a Globalcorp location, and now that I’m home I have a wicket-related inquiry. I go on Globalcorp’s website. The website offers A LOT. Pretty much every product under the sun, a 24 hour customer service chat window, blah blah blah. I have a question about something the salesperson said to me, but I can’t quite remember all the details, or her name, or my customer number. How the heck are you supposed to explain that problem over a webchat to a customer service rep 2,000 miles from you?

On the other hand, Jeff Co. has an easily navigable website with some simple info. I can still buy things, but there’s also a directory of employees that helps me remember the salesperson’s name (it was Sarah). It also has her e-mail address, where I can send my question. It also has the e-mail of her boss (JEFF!) in case the question is a little more complicated. It also also also has a map, community reviews, pricing info, and a whole bunch of other stuff that will streamline my next visit to Jeff Co., making business easier for both of us.

Mind blowing. (Source: thezoom.com)

DID I JUST BLOW YOUR MIND, JEFF? I hope not, because that’s not the goal. I just want you to see how helpful an online presence can be. If you use it right, the internet will help you – with your bottom line and with your customers.

And if it doesn’t… well, we can both go back to philosophy.

Lesson #12: Lines Don’t Work

25 Apr

A good customer service rep isn’t all that different from a good date, if you think about it.

Likewise, a bad customer service rep can be a real buzzkill. The tricky thing is, there’s no secret formula or magic opening line that will help you or your employees win a customer over.

If we expand this dating metaphor for a second (it’s not exactly “all the world’s a stage,” but at least it’s relatable), what are the things you look for when you hire an employee? Someone who’s personable. Smart. Funny, maybe. Put together – not necessarily attractive, but someone who shows the ability to take care of themselves. Basically, all the same things that you would want on a first date. The first date attitude is a good thing to keep in mind when talking to a potential client for the first time. That outlook, combined with a good product and tech savvy will improve your customer satisfaction more than any line.

How Successful Businesses Use Social Media

23 Apr

howsucessfulbusinessusesocialmedia

It is absolutely essential for businesses to understand why they should be using social media to reach their customers. Social media is a powerful tool that is easily accessible to many people and a great way to build a relationship with with your customers.

With RingByName, your business can integrate over 25 leading CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and social networking tools. That includes Salesforce.com, Google Contacts, Microsoft Outlook, and many others. Today, relationships with customers are vital and having a phone system that integrates with them is a real plus.

Lesson #11: Be Different

23 Apr

Remember when Apple told everyone to think different? Probably not, since everyone thinks like Apple these days. But “different” is still important.

This isn’t to say you should be different for different’s sake. As the video above points out, some things that are inherently similar can also be different – and finding those differences can help your company succeed. Odds are you’re not the only business in your field. If you were, you’d be a mega-billionaire and wouldn’t be reading this. In fact, there are probably lots of people trying to offer the same basic service you are, and so the key to your success lies in highlighting the differences between you and them. The things that you do better are what will get you customers.

Maybe you have nicer employees, maybe you’ve optimized your technology, maybe you have a catchier jingle – whatever you do different, emphasize it.

Top Phrases That Customers Do Not Want to Hear

22 Apr

topphrasescustomersdonot

Smart business owners should know that one of the best ways to differentiate is by going the extra mile with customers. With the general population being frustrated with customer service as a whole, your business can easily turn this around with just a few key changes.

One way to do that is by building better relationships with your customers. With RingByName built in CRM, you can take notes about your conversation right within RingByName while on a call. Then, whenever that person calls you back, you will be shown the recent notes in the desktop application for RingByName. This desktop app also gives you access to contact information, notes, company information, email and it logs all inbound and outbound voice calls.

 

JC Penney: Inspiration or Cautionary Tale?

19 Apr

I haven’t been to JC Penney in a while. As I remember it from trips with my mom for back to school shopping, the 111-year old department store was an endless maze of post-modern

Rack

Racks by Andy Warhol (Source: retail-display-racks.com)

clothing racks and stupid looking pants (really glad my mom didn’t let me get the stupid looking pants).

Not exactly a bastion of progress.

Apparently, the times they are a changin’. According to CiteWorld.com, since late 2012 JC Penney has been using the Apple’s iPod Touch as a primary means of customer service.

“It’s a customer service initiative,” said Kate Coultas, a spokesperson for the 111-year-old retailer. “We want to make the process of shopping at J.C. Penney as easy and seamless as possible. Our associates want to be able to be out on the floor helping customers. It doesn’t help if they are stuck behind the registers. Now, if you are on the floor, you need to have an iPod Touch with you.”

Pretty heady stuff for an old-fashioned company from Kemmerer, Wyoming (if you’ve ever heard of Kemmerer, Wyoming I’ll give you a dollar).

So far, the devices have been a big hit with the company’s salespeople, she said. “Some have nicknamed them ‘Libby,’ for ‘Libby the Liberator’ because they can be assisting customers without being chained down to a register,” said Coultas.

Artist’s rendering of Libby the Liberatory (source: digital-art-gallery.com)

I wish Libby the Liberator was the viking mascot of JC Penney, but I digress. This is all part of JC Penney CEO and former Apple executive Ron Johnson’s attempt to modernize the company. Unfortunately, that strategy has met with mixed results, to say the least (Johnson was fired last week after 17 months on the job). In fact, at least one sales associates is less than thrilled about the new system:

We use iPods in some of the departments now. Often they do not work. If a customer does go to an associate and the associate uses an iPod that’s working for a sale, and then customer wants a paper receipt, we have to go halfway through the store to get the receipt and then take it back to the customer. That is not convenient for the customer. At least we don’t see how it is [on the sales floor].

Sure to cure what ails Ron Johnson (Source: orange-papers.org)

What’s to be learned from this from the technofication (a word I just made up) of the huge retail chain? Obviously, the iPods won’t cure all of JC Penney’s woes – for that they’d have to turn to some sort of late-1890’s miracle elixir. This is a company that’s lost huge chunks of its market share to Macy’s, Kohl’s, and online retailers, and there’s no quick fix. Some other thoughts:

  • Most plans take a long time to come to fruition, but unfortunately you don’t always get that time. Ron Johnson was fired 17 months into his three-year plan for revitalizing Penney’s. So if you’ve got an idea to improve your business, you better start now.
  • Technology won’t always save you, because everyone else has it too.
  • Know your culture. Analysts have been quick to point out how ambitious Johnson’s ideas were – he essentially wanted to turn JC Penney into the Apple Store of clothing. Unfortunately, for a brand and sales force built on family clothes at discount prizes, the gear shift may have been too much, too quick.

I think that last point is particularly important. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the importance of technology to your business, and I’ll continue to do so. But slowly integrating new things into your business plan will help employees and customers adjust. Try starting with something small that can help you focus your customer service, then build to bigger things that will change the way your business runs.

Lesson #10: Learn About The Cloud

18 Apr

Cloud computing is so hot right now. But it’s kind of a nebulous term (get it? nebulous?).

For the uninitiated, in its simplest terms the cloud is a way of storing data and offering business services over a network (usually the internet, though an in-house network can work, too). It’s becoming more and more useful, with over half of all US businesses taking advantage of cloud-based services. So don’t fret if you used to take a nap during environmental science like I did (sorry, Dr. Tobin). The cloud is easy to use and can help you streamline, or even upgrade, your business tools.

The Power of Happy Customers

17 Apr

keepyourcustomershappy

The landscape of customer service is changing rapidly as customers gain more tools to give companies feedback on how they are doing. While excellent service may appear more costly at first, it is one of the best ways to differentiate yourself from competition.  Having loyal and happy customers actually makes your business more effective in the long run.

With RingByName, you can personalize your business. Once a caller uses RingByName and has been identified, he or she is greeted by name from then on. Putting extra attention toward customers and potential customers means more people will chose to stay with your company plus more prospects will choose your business in the first place.