Category Archives: Customer Service

How to Become Indispensable?

Critics say that Linchpin is Seth Godin’s most passionate book and I have to agree. First, he reveals that “there are no longer any great jobs where someone else tells you precisely what to do.” Linchpins who hold meaningful jobs don’t just follow orders. They add creativity-filled innovation and thus, create art.

Seth shows how to free people so they can become artists, which means creators of unique and compelling value. It does not matter what these individuals do for living. It’s the attitude that matters. Linchpin’s drive and passion make it possible to create art every day.

If people can become artists, “they will rise to a level you can’t even imagine. When people realize that they are not an easily replaceable commodity….they produce more than you pay them to, because you are paying them with something worth more than money …” People crave connection and respect.

As an individual, you can’t become a linchpin merely because you are different.

Linchpin is a most unusual, thought-provoking and concise book about becoming indispensable, whether you work for someone else or are self-employed. Godin’s principles can be applied to other aspects of life. Linchpins can be spouses, friends and community members. They can be indispensable in many ways.

Godin says that if you want customers to flock to you, it’s tempting to race to the bottom of the price chart. There’s plenty of room there, but the only way to win is to race to the top.

Are you indispensable? Do you create art?

Running Late? – Share Your Where with Glympse

A free service for cellphones, called Glympse, lets you share your location in small increments of time. By fall, it will be available for most phones.

This software from Android Market shows where you are on a map and will allow you to share your location by sending a Glympse to a person or people. It’s available for blocks of time up to four hours. Selecting four hours means recipients can track you for that period, no matter where you go, including the speed of the car. You can share your location with a business partner, client or your family.

Glympses can also include a short message.

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Small Business Lessons Learned in 2008

1.    Not very profitable, but time – consuming demanding customers tend to refer prospects and customers who reflect their style and values.

2.    Customers who value you and what you do are the best referral sources.

3.    Set boundaries for your customers from the outset, tell them “This is how we work…”, otherwise they will create their own boundaries.

4.    Pay attention when your prospect complains about being treated badly by the rest of the world including partners, vendors, consultants and former customers – you may become the next entrepreneur they will complain about.      

 5.    If you are a coach or consultant, try to avoid customers who have never worked with a consultant, unless they show sure signs of their willingness to learn and implement new things.      

6.    Social networking is important, but prioritize – plan your activities and their frequency, otherwise social networking becomes a burden.       

7.    Get to know your associates, subcontractors and business partners before you commit to long-term projects – mavericks may be crucial to changing this world, but they may not always contribute to helping you achieve your goals.      

8.    Become a frequently improving, always up-to-date resource for other small business owners and your customers.      

9.    Reward your best customers, subcontractors and business partners.     

10.    If you are very driven, results oriented, nimble and forward looking – don’t take on customers who are not.I am sure that 2009 will be a year of re-evaluation, reinvention, recycling and repurposing as we all try to find smarter cost-effective ways of living and conducting business.  Will small business owners see a light in the end of a tunnel in 2009? 

Improve Your Sales and Marketing Skills

In tough economic times, customers may be feeling more pain than you know. They want to feel better, and you can help. Show how your product or service can solve a problem or improve their bottom line.

* Making more money for yourself should not be your goal. Making yourself the best you can be is a better choice.

* Be happy even when you can’t get an appointment or close the sale. Dr. G. Clotaire Rapaille, consultant to 50 of the top Fortune 100 companies, says rejection allows the game to continue. Send a gift to the one who turned you down and you will be remembered.

* Prepare. Know what your prospect will say and what your response will be. Study your prospects and their operation so you know the answers.

* Speak in a natural conversational way. If you memorize a script, you may come across as dull. Be prepared, and you will be able to improvise on the spot.

* Make a connection if there is an opportunity. Master small talk.

* Know that sales are not entirely based on the logic and intelligence of the prospect.

* Believe in the benefits your product or service will provide. Think of what the product or service will do and love it.

Best salespeople I know are all good communicators, they love people and know how to handle rejection.

Should Small Business Owners Call or Email Their Customers and Prospects?

Getting through the maze of choices on a big company’s phone system can be aggravating.  Sometimes you keep going in circles without an opportunity to  speak to a human being.

Small business people can have a problem handling phones during busy business hours, too. But, for small business owners, the initial telephone contact can be crucial to making a sale.

Customers and prospects usually don’t call to chat. They want information and they want it now. They want to speak with someone who can help them.  If the person who “just answers the phone” is the lowest-paid, least knowledgeable person in the building, customers can get frustrated.

One idea for small businesses: Put your best people on the phone and if necessary, share the duty. If that is impossible, then the receptionist should know the company terrain and staff and should not seem rushed or upset on the phone.

I often find it to be more effient to communicate with customers via email. Will email and Twitter replace phone calls in the future? Is Microblogging the future of communications?

Protecting Laptop Data

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If your small business is among the many that have remote workers, you could be sending sensitive customer data, credit card or Social Security numbers out the door.

Half of all organizations reported a laptop or other mobile device stolen last year. Each customer record may cost a company $150 more in legal fees, notification costs, and other expenses, according to Inc. magazine.

For about $9.95 – $149 per month, you can give a laptop its own GPS system. Free trial is available. If MyLaptop GPS is installed on your laptop, the stolen machine will report its location as soon as the thief connects to the Internet.

Encrypting the hard drive will keep thieves from using the data. The Enterprise edition of the Windows Vista has an encryption feature built into it. Other systems cost from $50 to $120 per computer.

Without encryption or a GPS system, your only course of action is just to report the theft to police. Always keep laptop serial numbers in a handy place. If the unit goes to a repair shop, the police will be notified.

Treat your laptop like a wallet. You wouldn’t leave your wallet in the car or laying around where someone could pick it up.

The Best Free Software in 2008 – PC Magazine Review

My “love affair” with computers, gadgets and all kinds of computer software started about 12 years ago.  Marketers would say that I am an “early adopter.” My address is definitely passed on from one marketer to another and someone keeps eye on my purchases as I get offers in the mail all the time.  I recently realized that there is no need to purchase the latest software if you can get it for free.

People at PC Magazine did the math: If you bought popular applications instead of checking out their free counter-parts, at the manufacturers’ list prices you’d give up $5,183 and change! Why spend money when you can get what you need for free? But beware, sometimes you do get what you don’t pay for.

Find out what is on the list of the Best Free Software. Read more

 

Moving Or In Need Of Custom Packaging?

Problem: Anyone who has looked through ANY stock box catalogue knows that as the sizes get larger, the choices dwindle. Many times shippers are stuck buying a size box that costs more to ship because the length plus girth of the box goes above the lower limit of an OVERSIZE CATEGORY. If the box is too large for the product being shipped, so that the length, width or height could be reduced, there is a real possibility to reduce or even eliminate the oversize charges.

Solution: At Custom Packaging Options, they make the box to fit the product! And they make just the quantity you need. You won’t have to buy hundreds to get a custom size. They have done this for a furniture manufacturer who saves $18.00 in freight charges per box! Another customer, a local tannery, is saving $8.50 per bear rug that is shipped. And they use stronger material (44 ect rather than 32 ect) which eliminated the shipping damage she was experiencing with the weaker stock box, giving her additional savings and consumer confidence in her company.

Eight Rules To Remember When Calling Tech Support

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No matter how well you know your computer, sooner or later, every small business owner is going to call tech support. Remember, what you say, and how you say it, are important factors in getting your problem solved. Here are some tips for efficient interactions with tech staff.

1. Do the obvious: Restart your computer. After restart, make sure you have no other programs opened, other than the one causing problems.

2. Check for system and program upgrades and install them.

3. Write down what operating system you are using and the name of version of the software you are using.

4. Clarify in your mind exactly what the problem is. Lots of things may concern you, but try to state the symptoms first. Remember that a simple statement is not the same as an empty statement. Do not contact tech support and say: It doesn’t work. This does not count as stating the problem. Do not attempt to make the tech support person ask 20 questions from you before he can even get to the point of the call. Less-than-patient tech support people may and will waste your time, too, and then nothing will be solved.

5. Remember that 99 percent of the time the problem is not with the computer or the program. The problem is most likely with the user. So, adopt a humble, business-like attitude, and treat your tech support person with respect.

6. Be open minded and patient. The support person likely will have several theories about solutions. Even if you have used the program or computer for years and never had this problem, try to be open to possible solutions the tech support person offers. You may have never had a problem with your CD drive, but it is possible that today is the day you are having one.

7. Offer context when relevant. If you just added new hardware to your computer, and your problem is with the computer, tell this to the tech support person. If you opened an email attachment, and now you are having problems, tell this to tech support.

8. Accusing tech support of incompetence doesn’t solve the problem.


What Do Small Business Owners and Triathletes Have In Common?

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Six weeks after major surgery I finally started to train for my third upcoming Danskin triathlon in Seattle, Washington. While creating my training plan, It occurred to me that running a small business is like participating in a triathlon – you as a small business owner need to have some knowledge of all “events” – financial management, customer service and marketing, – or your business will not survive. You may not be good at all of them, but you have to build stamina to stay in competition and finish the race. All successful entrepreneurs I have ever known have had passion for their field. Just like triathletes, small business owners need passion to go out and compete no matter what the circumstances. Not all of us will win. Reaching the goals we have set for ourselves as small business owners, marketers or triathletes may bear bigger significance. Unfortunately I meet too many business owners each week who lack clear goals and desire to become better at what they do. At the same time, when we gain new insights, we become more confident at marketing our services.

“Everything can always be better. This game is fluid. It’s always changing, it’s always evolving. I could always hit the ball better, chip better, putt better, think better. You can get better tomorrow than you are today.”

-Tiger Woods

In addition, most successful individuals I know have created systems for every aspect of their lives. It may sound boring, but they stay on track without wasting energy on defeating chaos. They have streamlined their lives. I admire their productivity, therefore I am reading Getting Things Done by Dave Allen this week.