All posts by Jon Bradshaw

Level Up Customer Service: 3 Methods for Your Business

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Level Up Customer Service: 3 Methods for Your Business

Businesses may refer to them as customers, clients, patrons, shoppers, consumers, purchasers, or something different. Whatever name they choose, it describes the people they need for their business to survive…and the ongoing need to level up customer service.

All other things being equal, such as product, quality, and price point, customer service is what sets competitors apart. Consequently, it takes great customer service to bring people in, entice them back, and keep them loyal. That’s the stuff successful enterprises are made of.

Businesses that believe their customer service is delivering everything they can should beware of complacency. This is one part of doing business that requires constant feeding and attention. Customer desires are always changing, and businesses need to keep pace at a minimum — and set the pace if possible.

Even businesses that think they’re at the top of their customer service game should be looking for ways to level up. Here’s how they can serve their customers even better.

1. Adopt a continuous improvement model.

Customer service is a long game. It’s also one that touches every single internal business process, from setting prices through service after the transaction. That means it touches every tool used along the way.

Businesses should continuously assess their online scheduling software, customer data collection and management systems, and automated phone systems. And they should do so through a customer-centric lens. Does the business put the customer first in everything it does?

There’s a reason why this model is called “continuous” as opposed to “continual.” The former is uninterrupted while the latter occurs periodically.

Businesses tend to look at these systems only in annual reviews or while planning, when they should be business as usual. If a customer calls with a problem and it’s resolved, that experience should inform the next one. The information about the issue and the resolution needs to be shared with all staff to level up customer service across the organization.

Continuous improvement across the board, from appointment scheduling to payment systems, is vital to customer satisfaction. A business stands to lose 63% of customers who think they had a poor experience. Put the customer first everywhere in the business, without interruption, and improve service every day, all the time.

2. Make customer service training systematic.

There are a couple of key factors in stellar customer service. One is that everyone in the business should know how to deliver it and focus on doing so. Second is that customer service practice is always changing, which means the people delivering it need ongoing training.

Require customer service training to some degree in every employee position, from front of the house to back.

Often, individual employees are working on their own with their own customers. How is individual input shared routinely among all employees so they can all improve how they deliver their services?

Great customer service isn’t as easy as just being polite and accommodating. Solving customer complaints and issues involves asking the right questions, which not everyone knows how to do. Companies can’t count on the customer being able to express a problem, which makes questioning crucial to a good experience.

Businesses should provide ongoing, routine training on the mechanics of customer service. At the same time, they need to systematically use real customer service issues to continuously improve delivery. Managers must devote time to coaching, mentoring, and rewarding good practices.

Making customer service training systematic in a business supports that customer-centric focus. There are myriad customer service training tools even the smallest businesses can use to teach their employees how to build relationships. Use the right ones often and deliberately. Doing so will move customer satisfaction in the right direction.

3. Make the business more accessible to more customers.

Making a business more accessible to more customers means opening the doors to a much larger pool of prospects. However, accessibility goes far beyond making those doors wider or constructing wheelchair curb transitions. It also involves more than a business’s physical space.

Physical space considerations include button-activated doors, braille and audio wayfinding systems, and consistent flooring. Although laws prohibit most denials of service animals, businesses can go further. They can provide water, snacks, and relief areas for these animal helpers as well.

Customers who tend to be accompanied by children will appreciate kid-friendly spaces. Those who find children disruptive appreciate it when common spaces are designed to keep kids from disturbing them. As a result, when done cleverly, businesses can make customers in both camps happy.

Businesses should provide print and online forms and information in more than one language. Employing bilingual employees or subscribing to language translation services will likewise improve service to non-native speakers of English. To better accommodate the visually impaired, employees could learn how to use WhatsApp and its accessibility features.

Differently abled people make up a significant portion of our population. Being differently abled doesn’t mean they aren’t consumers…with money to spend! Businesses that accommodate those differences may find themselves opening their automatic doors to future loyalists.

We can always do better!

Regardless of what a business is doing right now to serve customers, it can do better.

Unless a business is the only one of its type in town, it’s going to need to find ways to be competitive. Going above and beyond in its customer service efforts will distinguish it from the others. And that will make all the difference.

How to Manage the Influx of Back-to-School New Customers

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New Customers; Busy Hair Salon

Students aren’t the only ones who deal with back-to-school stress — an appointment-based business can, too. Whether you operate a hair salon or a healthcare facility, you may be affected by an increase in new customers as the school year begins. Consequently, a busier schedule is a great opportunity for business but can also lead to stress and turmoil if managed improperly.

Is your business feeling unprepared for an increase in appointments? Here are a few ways you can prepare for the influx of customers as students return to campus.

Prepare Your Staff

A happy customer starts with a happy employee. While businesses enjoy customer satisfaction, it’s important you aren’t sacrificing your employees’ happiness as a result. As a result, an increase in appointments can lead to employees deferring their own needs.

Whether it’s for a doctor’s appointment or a therapy session, make sure your employees still feel comfortable taking time off when needed. To prioritize your employees’ well-being, start by providing a healthy work environment your employees feel comfortable being a part of.

One way to reduce the stress of your employees could be to offer additional paid time off. An overstuffed schedule can lead to employee burnout.

Reward your employees for taking on ample new appointments by providing them with the relaxation they deserve. After some time off, they will come back less stressed and more welcoming toward new clients.

Offer Deals on Services

For many college students, going back to school also means relocating to another city or state. Searching for a new hair salon, doctor’s office, or therapist can be overwhelming, especially when those services are expensive.

Relieve stress for new clients on tight budgets by offering deals on your services and loyalty program discounts. Extending special appointment deals to new student clients can make them feel better about choosing your business.

Special discounts are a great reward to give as an appointment-based business.

For example, if you own a beauty salon, you could give a first-time bonus to new customers for your initial services. This could include a free eyebrow wax, bonus facial massage, or a discounted haircut. Such offers not only help your customers save money, they also allow them to become familiar with your services.

Therefore, start cycling these deals for birthdays and anniversaries to continue to pique interest in your company.

Balance Scheduled and Walk-In Appointments

The arrival of new clients can lead to long wait times, which can ultimately turn away both new and current clients. Prevent losing your customers to competitors by properly balancing your scheduled and walk-in appointments.

If you do accept walk-ins, try limiting the range of services you provide to those without a scheduled appointment.

For example, if you own a tattoo studio, only offer to accept walk-ins if the client needs a touch-up or consultation. If they’re seeking a more time-consuming service, make them an appointment for a later date. That way, you avoid increasing the wait time of customers already on your schedule.

If your business doesn’t accept walk-in appointments, make sure this is clearly stated to avoid annoying would-be customers.

Turn this policy into a positive opportunity for new customers by giving them an incentive to schedule in advance. You might provide a coupon to those who make their first appointment online or offer a bonus service for booking in advance. Either is a great way to keep your clients satisfied without overworking your employees.

Keep Information Updated and Relevant

Save your customers hassle by ensuring your business’s information is updated and easily accessible.

Try looking at your business from a client perspective to see where your company can improve. Review your company website to see whether it states your current business hours and provides the location information they need to visit your business.

Update any required online customer information forms and ensure all links navigate to the correct pages. Many times, your online presence is your customer’s first impression of your business. Avoid phone calls from confused prospects by tidying up your site’s information.

To remain relevant to your new customers, your business must stay current with the latest technologies.

Update any outdated tech so that you can handle more customer traffic without the pain of slow response times or server crashes. Robust appointment software that enables automated email reminders and calendar sync options can make your business run more smoothly.

With help from these technologies, you can take on more customers and retain old ones, thereby increasing business revenue.

Appreciate Your Increased Business

Back-to-school season is a great time to boost revenue and build loyalty among customers and employees.

It can also be a joyful experience for college students, as they embrace the adventure of a new school year. You’ll do right by customers new and old if you prepare your business for the influx and attend to your staff’s needs. By following the tips above, you can optimize your back-to-school customer experience.

Featured Image Credit: David Geib; Pexels.com. Thank you!

4 Ways to Inspire and Motivate Employees

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motivate and inspire employees

Managing a team of employees is one of the greatest challenges when it comes to running a business. Workers can’t be consigned to a spreadsheet and assigned responsibilities that are fulfilled without question. To motivate your employees, they need considerably more care — which they deserve! — but they’re also the backbone of your business.

Given the continued tight labor market, businesses throughout the country have taken a variety of approaches to retaining critical employees. Some have offered creative benefits such as reimbursements for streaming services or discount programs for local restaurants. Others have provided onsite services such as an in-house coffee shop or a company gym.

What often succeeds better than any of that is striving to keep your employees engaged and motivated in their work.

You should be constantly seeking different means of motivating, inspiring, and empowering your workforce. If you’re always looking for ways to keep them engaged, you won’t encounter as many productivity ruts. The following are a few motivational tips you can try out to give your team a push forward.

1. Encourage Days Off

When trying to motivate your employees to work harder, encouraging them to take time off might not be your first thought. Yet this is exactly what you should be doing.

Employees who are able to consistently take time off tend to be happier and more well-rested. This equates to more engaged workers during the hours they are clocked in.

Numerous studies have shown that the best-performing employees usually have a healthy work-life balance. They’re not as worried about their families or disappointed that they are too busy to pursue hobbies.

When an organization enables this sort of balance, it gets repaid by maximum effort when employees are at work.

There are several ways you can encourage your team members to take time off. Give your employees vacation time and urge them to use it annually. Improve your workflows so that they don’t have to work nights and weekends. Conduct cross-training so other colleagues can pick up the slack when employees take some time for themselves. These efforts will enable employees to return to their tasks with greater focus and energy.

2. Host Team Events

If your employees work in a team environment, you should always be trying to encourage team bonding. Team members who understand and trust each other work more effectively. Additionally, having a close relationship with co-workers can make work days feel shorter and more enjoyable.

Team lunches and group training sessions will allow employees to grow closer together. Trusting that your teammates are capable and will pull their weight can be quite encouraging. Team training can help each worker feel like they can perform their job properly and feel motivated to do so.

Perhaps more valuable than work activities are team events held outside of the office. These are opportunities for your team to connect without everything being about workplace responsibilities. Consider taking employees and their families to the park or buying baseball tickets for the entire team as an outing.

3. Spruce Up the Office

The environment in which your employees work has a great effect on their motivation. Bland, bare walls won’t be cause for much inspiration. A little additional light and color can go a long way toward boosting employee morale.

You don’t have to resort to a new paint job to lighten up your office, though. Start with your actual lighting. Do you have natural light coming in? Have you lit your rooms well, or do you need to install some new fixtures? Even an additional desk or floor lamp can brighten the place up.

Other ways to spruce up your office include a colorful paint job, some green plants, or new amenities in the break room. Employees who feel comfortable at work will have more energy in the office they spend so much time in.

4. Offer Incentives

Even with a gelled team and a convivial environment, a little extra push every now and then won’t hurt.

Employee incentives are a great way to spur some extra motivation within your team. They give team members something to strive toward, which is very helpful when the routine nature of work begins to wear them down.

Arranging a friendly competition is a common and effective way companies can offer incentives. Whoever is able to close the most sales or complete the most project tasks can win a prize. If this is the route you choose, make sure everyone feels fairly treated, or their momentum may quickly hit a wall.

Individual development incentives require a more hands-on approach but may be even more motivational. Set benchmarks and incentives for each individual employee to reward them for exceeding past performance. Competing against themselves can be just as inspiring as competition with others.

Remember that your employees are human beings with needs and desires. If they feel like these aren’t being addressed in your workplace, they’ll be willing to look somewhere else.

To retain your best people, seek to motivate all of your employees and make sure they feel fulfilled in their work. They will reciprocate with improved productivity, making your efforts well worth the investment.

Image Credit: Fauxels; Pexels; Thanks! 

How to Lighten Up Your Waiting Room for the Summer

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lighten up waiting room

Nobody enjoys sitting in a waiting room before an appointment. Even with a smartphone to keep oneself occupied, waiting rooms can be unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and uninviting. Yet the waiting room is a major part of any appointment-based business. That’s why it deserves just as much attention as the rest of your business operations.

If there were a single theme that should epitomize your waiting room, it would be light. It’s as simple as that. A bright waiting room, both literally and figuratively, can make a huge difference for your customers. Here’s how you can make some changes this summer that can make an impact all year round:

Lighten Up, Literally

If you want to brighten the mood, you need to literally lighten the room. Seasonal depression in the colder months occurs in large part due to the lack of sunshine throughout the day. If your waiting room is dark and gloomy, it can inspire similar feelings even during the summer. 

Lightening up can be as easy as switching out your light bulbs. Newer LEDs are not only brighter bulbs, but they are more efficient as well. You’ll brighten up the space without having to pay more for utilities. 

In addition to turning on actual lights, consider taking a look at your waiting room’s color scheme. Lighter colors, such as yellow, can feel more positive than dreary grays and dull browns. Even a splash of color on an accent wall can bring life to your place of business. 

Use the Right Playlist

Many businesses play music to fill the empty space of their waiting rooms. This is a great strategy to implement and doesn’t take a lot of effort. What you need to be conscious about is the type of music that you’re playing in your waiting area.

Your playlist should consist of upbeat music, no matter your genre of choice. Instrumental music is easy; just select beats and melodies that sound positive and vibrant. For other types of music, you’ll do the same while also paying attention to the lyrics. Clean, happy lyrics will lighten up your waiting room a lot better than sad songs. 

Offer Refreshments

A light snack or a good beverage can perk your customers right up. Waiting for an appointment is a much worse experience on an empty stomach than it would be otherwise. You can’t know whether your customers managed to grab lunch before coming to their appointment. While their hunger and thirst are out of your control, you can offer refreshments to tide them over until their names are called. 

Water is an easy and inexpensive beverage to provide and essential for proper hydration. If you want to put a light twist on your H2O offering, add some fresh fruit. A little bit of orange or strawberry can add a memorable twist to your waiting room’s water cooler.  

For snacks, make sure anything you provide is light — think granola bars or fresh fruit. Foods packed with sugar and fat won’t do the trick. They will cause your customers to feel sluggish rather than help them stay alert. 

Take Advantage of Scent

How your waiting room smells is an underrated part of your business. It’s often one of the first things new customers experience, especially when unpleasant odors are involved. Obviously you’ll want to begin by minimizing these with improved ventilation. But while a lack of smell might be an improvement, the air might feel stale with no scent whatsoever.

Plan to introduce new scents into your waiting room gradually. Scents that are too strong, even if they smell good, can be overwhelming. Try a single scented candle and see whether that makes a noticeable difference. You can switch these out to fit seasonal moods. Summer scents like flowers can be replaced later in the year with cinnamon or piney smells.

Don’t Forget the Feels

So far every single one of the five senses has been covered except one. The only one missing is touch. When was the last time you updated your seating arrangement? Customers will feel a lot better when their seats feel like clouds rather than rocks. 

In addition to improved cushioning, don’t forget the climate control. A hot waiting room in the summer is not the place your customers want to be. They are more likely to forgive long wait times if it means they can spend some extra time in the air conditioning. 

Customers will appreciate a waiting room that feels safe and welcoming. A kids play area will make your waiting room family-friendly. The latest security features on display help parents feel safe while they are waiting with their children. 

These changes to your waiting room can be implemented throughout your business space. In most cases, this theme of light will also help you and your employees. Lighter spaces and a lighter atmosphere can help boost mood and productivity. It’s time to turn on the lights this summer and witness the change it will make. 

Image Credit: Curtis Adams; Pexels; Thanks!

5 Ways You Can Prepare Yourself for a Difficult Client

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Difficult Client

Chances are, you’ll experience a difficult client from time to time. And while most clients mean well, some are overly demanding, have unrealistic expectations, and are downright rude. The good news is that there are strategies you can put in place to deal with those difficult clients. From being proactive and scheduling phone calls to cutting ties, here are a few tips you should consider adopting:

1. Schedule A Phone Call

The last thing you probably want is to hop on a phone call with a difficult client. But the truth is, that’s the first thing you should do. Communication is key. And while texting and emailing might seem like enough, it’s all too easy for information to get misinterpreted. That’s why you should consider scheduling a phone call or even a face-to-face meeting with a client. 

During the conversation, make sure you go over expectations. Not just what the client expects but what’s actually included in their contract. For instance, let’s say you were hired to write a 500-word blog post. Make sure the client is aware of the word count and doesn’t expect 600 or 700 words. Incorrect expectations can often lead to disappointment from one party or the other.

You should also take time to ask the client any questions you may have on the project. For example, maybe you’re confused about the topic or want to make sure you’re clear on how to start. The more you know, the easier it should be to create an outline for the project and provide the client with realistic due dates.

As a rule of thumb, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a client during the onboarding process. Doing so could help you two get off on a good start and potentially keep them from becoming a difficult client. 

2. Ask The Right Questions

Before starting a project, it’s important you have a strong grasp of what’s expected from you. To do that, you have to ask questions. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to onboard your clients with a phone call. This phone call provides the perfect setting to ask your questions.

Keep in mind that you want to make sure you’re asking the right questions. Not doing so could make the process harder and may rub your client the wrong way. Before the call, figure out what you want to ask. Do you need more clarity on a certain section? Do you want a better understanding of the target audience or the client’s goal for the project?

Make sure you take time to go over the project details and gather information on your client. Don’t be afraid to ask your co-workers for their input or brainstorm ideas beforehand. While you want to ask questions, you don’t want the client to think you’re unprepared.

3. Listen To Your Clients

Asking questions is one thing, but listening is something else entirely. Instead of viewing your client as a problem, view them as a resource. After all, your client is someone you have to study and pay attention to in order to be successful. When they speak, listen and make sure you’re taking notes. 

Listening can also help you build a better relationship with your client, as it shows good customer service. According to a study, 86% of clients say good customer service can keep them with a company long-term. Think about it. How quickly are you turned off when someone speaks over you or doesn’t remember anything you say? Exactly. Make sure the client knows you’re listening.

Listening is especially important with a difficult client who likes vocalizing their complaints. While it can be uncomfortable, it’s important your client feels heard. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything they’re saying, but show that you care and want to help. Empathizing is crucial when it comes to dealing with clients. 

4. Don’t Take It Personally

One of the biggest mistakes you could make with a difficult client is taking what they say personally. It’s important to remember that you aren’t the problem. Chances are that there’s some miscommunication. Or maybe you, or the client, haven’t been clear on expectations. While this can be upsetting, it can be fixed. And definitely not something you should take personally. 

Remind yourself that you’re in a customer-facing role. Your job is to work with the client as best as you can to produce something you’re both proud of. For this to happen, you may receive criticism and have to change a few things. It’s all a part of the process. Try not to stress. 

5. Walk Away

It’s important to remember that your mental health is just as important as your client list. While having the occasional difficult client is bound to happen, it shouldn’t be a regular experience. If a client continuously talks down to you and makes it impossible for you to work, consider walking away. 

With that said, there are a few things you should consider before walking away from a client. First, pay attention to their attitude. If a client is rude or degrading, that’s a sign to walk away. Not to mention, many clients won’t do repeat business with you after one bad experience.

You should also consider the amount of time and resources you’re giving to the client. If they’re demanding more time and energy than other clients, that’s another sign to walk away. You might think you should stick it out with a difficult client, but that might not be the best move. This way, you can both move on and find someone you can have a better working relationship with. 

Difficult clients can be demanding, but they can also help you grow. The key is to be prepared to deal with them and know when enough is enough. The tips above can help you deal with difficult clients in an effective way. 

Image Credit: Yan Krukov; Pexels; Thanks!

5 Power Foods to Offer Customers at Appointments

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waiting room

Many people don’t think about eating or hydrating before their appointments. Sitting in the waiting room on an empty stomach can quickly put visitors in a bad mood. One of the ways you can ensure your customers are happy and taken care of is by offering free refreshments.

While it’s not your responsibility what others put into their bodies, consider offering some healthy alternatives to the typical refreshments. Healthy eating can lead to a boost in mood and energy. Visitors will enter and leave their appointments feeling so much better thanks to a combination of good service and quality refreshments.

This list contains five power foods that your business can consider offering to your customers:

1. Trail Mix

Trail mix is a prepackaged snack that frequently gets overlooked in favor of more sugary treats. The typical pouch of trail mix is full of protein and fiber. This is thanks to the nuts and seeds that are staples for the recipe.

Another great aspect of trail mix is that it comes in so many varieties. You can get bags that contain M&M’s, yogurt bites, or dried fruits. These add-ins don’t compromise the healthiness of the snack. Rather, they add a little bit of extra flavor and excitement to every package. Different flavors will also appeal to the variety of customers who visit.

2. Granola

Another great snack food is granola. This treat consists of rolled oats, often with nuts and honey. A good batch of granola is packed with protein and vitamins, such as iron and zinc. Just be sure not to purchase a variety that contains a bunch of added sugars. While this might be more flavorful, it changes it from a power food to a sweet treat.

A more common snack is the granola bar. The concept is similar, but the granola is packed tightly into a travel sized snack. These bars often have chocolate chips, peanut butter, or even marshmallows added in. While not as nutritious and power boosting as old-fashioned granola, this is still a solid choice. It sure beats a bowl of candy sitting on your front desk.

3. Yogurt

Yogurt isn’t typically top-of-mind when it comes to snacks, but think about the portable options at a hotel breakfast bar. It is quick, easy, and prepackaged. With the variety of flavors, it’s also often a kid-friendly option. Parents waiting with their kids at an appointment can appreciate this choice.

Yogurt is a great source of calcium, which is important for teeth and bone health. It’s also delicious and easy to eat, which is perfect for kids! Parents can ensure that messes aren’t made, and you’ll have some happy families entering and leaving your establishment. If you choose this choice, make sure to also have spoons available.

4. Fresh Fruit

Few snacks rival the power of fresh fruit. Fruit is part of a balanced diet, yet many Americans are failing to include it in their meals. Providing fresh fruit for your customers can help patch those holes in their food pyramid.

Fruits, unlike many snacks, are full of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. More importantly, they lack a lot of the additives found in packaged foods, such as artificial coloring and added sugars. Fruit isn’t lacking in taste either. Bananas, apples, and oranges are full of unique flavors and can be eaten at any age without utensils.

The only thing you need to worry about with fruit is ensuring its quality. Fruit needs to be monitored much more frequently than other foods. They expire much more quickly and may need to be washed before consumption. You should make sure any fruit that has gone bad is disposed of quickly to avoid gnats or fruit flies.

5. Juice

When it comes to beverages, water is the easiest and most preferred option. Most people just don’t stay as hydrated as they should. After that, coffee and soda are often the most common drinks available in a waiting room. While these are popular beverages, there are some better options to consider.

Just like fresh fruit is more optimal than sugary snacks, fruit juice can be more rejuvenating than even a cup of coffee. While customers can get a quick surge of energy from coffee, their energy can take a sharp dive after the caffeine wears off.

Juice can provide all the energy needed for a busy day without the threat of a crash later on. Not only that, but the nutritional value is far superior to that of a can of soda. Any sugar found in natural juice is just that — natural.

A good snack can really make a difference in the days of your customers. Supplying your body with better nutrients from the snacks you consume, has mood-boosting power. If you provide the same healthy foods to your work team, you can witness a change in their attitude as well. Healthy eating should never be underestimated.

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How to Help Your Business Succeed by Putting Your Customer First

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putting customers first

Ask any business owner, and they can share a plethora of stories involving difficult customers. The sad truth is that many consumers are a challenge to deal with. But without customers, even the bad ones, businesses have no foot to stand on.

Putting the customer first isn’t always easy, but it’s necessary. Poor experiences can turn into memorable events that are shared with friends and family, and you don’t want that. By contrast, helping a disgruntled customer might even convert them into a lifelong buyer. Additionally, it feels good to know that you did everything in your power to try and fix the problem.

Putting your customers first leads to higher retention rates, referral numbers, and company success. Here are some ways you can shift your focus in that direction.

Gather Customer Feedback

You might not believe that the customer is always right. However, you can’t deny that they sometimes have some valuable insight. Gathering customer feedback with the intent to implement it may just be the secret key to your business’s success.

Making changes based on feedback shows your customers that you have their best interest in mind. Business owners can easily wave off suggestions and trust their own intuition. However, doing this may cause you to miss out on good opportunities. At the very least, when you are willing to accept feedback, you strengthen your relationship with paying customers.

There are a few different methods you might use to gather customer feedback. One of the easiest ways is through a survey. You could send this out in an email following an appointment asking for feedback on their experience. You can also turn to social media and even customer reviews on sites such as Google.

Learn to Listen

Customers are often notorious for their inability to reason. When something goes wrong with the product or service they received, some customers resort to lashing out. This certainly isn’t acceptable behavior, but responding positively is crucial.

Instruct your team members to listen to customers before taking action. This will start with you. Listen to your employees and implement strategies that you want them to use when talking to customers.

Active listening includes repeating back key information and suggesting possible solutions. Taking this approach, rather than a defensive one, will help to solve a lot more problems. A good customer service team is sure to take your business a long way.

Enable Self-Service

Sometimes putting the customer first is as easy as letting them do their own thing. This can be accomplished by providing self-service solutions . Today, many customers are finding value in navigating through the business process by themselves. This cuts out the middleman — a customer service representative or a salesperson — when the customer would rather avoid interaction.

There are plenty of examples of self-service in the world today. In many parts of the country, pumping your own gas is an example you might see every day. Self-check-out counters at the grocery store and online shopping are two other instances you probably come across regularly. Customers can take care of themselves while the business still benefits from their purchases.

Think of ways that your company could enable self-service. For example, you might install a chatbot on your website to answer frequently asked questions even after regular business hours. Implementing this form of AI allows customers to receive assistance when there’s not an employee readily available.

Customize Each Experience

Cookie-cutter solutions that work for each customer may certainly be convenient. However, customers feel much more appreciated when their experience with your business is tailored to fit their needs. This helps them to feel like they are more than just another number on a business spreadsheet.

For instance, when you get your haircut at the salon, the stylist often keeps a record of the services provided. This helps them remember the specific details of each customer and their style preferences. In the same way, hotels note room preferences for their guests to make their stays more comfortable. Streaming services suggest new shows based on your watch history for a more personalized viewing experience.

Your business can easily replicate these strategies using customer profiles. This system allows you to keep track of everything pertaining to the products and services you provide to each customer. This allows you to better serve each customer when they return to your business.

Implement a Rewards Program

Give thanks to your paying customers by tacking on rewards for recurring visits. This incentivizes customers to keep returning to your business and rewards them for doing so. You can get creative with the prizes and gifts you offer as well.

A basic rewards program offers discounts on products and services. The more frequently you see a customer, the more savings they may receive. But you don’t have to stop there. You can host raffles for concert tickets or even give out Christmas gifts to your most loyal clientele. If you’re keeping the customer in mind, the rewards you select should hit home.

If you’re a business owner and stuck on what to do next, just put yourself in your customers’ shoes. As the customer, what would you want the business to do for you? Use this mindset to develop plans and strategies that put the customer first every single day.

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5 Software Tools to Ease Communication Hurdles on Your Team

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Software tools

Communication is an important part of teamwork. Miscommunications have lost Super Bowl trophies, Olympic medals, and sunk Fortune 500 businesses. Strong communication has lifted up teams past their competitors even if they lack the star power and resources of their opponents.

While you might not be in an intense competition, you are responsible for overseeing a team and leading them to success. As is the case for any other team, communication is essential. There are resources at your disposal that will help teams of all shapes and sizes to communicate more effectively. Here are five resources to consider:

1. Appointment

One of the most classic lines of communication starts with a receptionist. They’ll field a call or see an online request for an appointment. It doesn’t matter if it’s to see a doctor, dentist, massage therapist, or vehicle mechanic. The responsibility of the receptionist is to pass on necessary information to the service provider. One of the best ways to avoid communication mishaps in this scenario is to use a scheduling app like Appointment.

Appointment can be synced up with nearly every major online calendar application. As appointments are created they can be automatically sent to the calendars of everyone involved. Appointment can also be integrated into other applications for easier accessibility.

In addition to helping appointment-based businesses manage their schedules, there are some other helpful features to keep in mind. Quality security, data reporting, and appointment reminders will come in handy every single day.

2. Slack

A surefire way to ease communication hurdles on your team is to make it easier for team members to connect. Many organizations have found success through software tools such as Slack. This is a platform that allows you to create custom chatrooms for your team, enabling a constant flow of communication between teammates.

The best part about Slack is that it can be used in an office, hybrid, or remote capacity. Managers can quickly send messages to a group of individuals regardless of where they’re located at the time. Instant messaging is also faster and cleaner than using email and much easier to keep track of.

Slack is also great for team bonding. Not every message has to sound like a formal email written by a robot. Team members can send GIFs and funny images to each other or even share stories from the weekend. As long as it doesn’t derail work entirely, this can help form strong bonds that increase overall teamwork capabilities.

3. ClickUp

What’s a business without a number of due dates to monitor? There are deadlines for utility bills, employee paychecks, product releases, marketing pitches, and so much more. That many deadlines can be overwhelming for your team, especially if it’s unorganized.

Insert ClickUp. This is an example of a project management software tool. You can lay out projects and tasks with due dates for each step needed to complete them. Each task can be shared with those who are involved, so anyone who needs an update can receive one on command.

ClickUp’s calendar view is especially helpful for team planning. Teams can look at upcoming schedules to divert time and resources toward upcoming deadlines. Everyone will know their role as it will be specifically designated within the software itself.

4. Google Drive

Businesses go through a lot of data and information on a daily basis. This normally uses up a lot of paper, but most organizations have made the transition to digital filing systems. This saves a lot of money, helps the environment, and can be a more effective way to organize files. However, you have to build a system that your team can easily work with.

That’s why so many individuals and businesses rely on Google Drive for file storage and sharing. With Google you can create slideshows, documents, forms, and spreadsheets and group them in designated folders. You have complete control over the names and even the colors of the files you create.

You can set permissions for individual files or for entire folders to share with members of your team. Most of your team members won’t need access to every single document. They likely don’t want to sift through every file either. Of course, a search bar within Google Drive makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.

5. Microsoft Teams

Some things just have to be explained face to face. In those times, sometimes the best you can do is hop on a video call. This is one of the features available through Microsoft Teams. It allows you to organize and execute meetings within a single platform.

Start by using a chat room to coordinate times for an upcoming video chat. This could be a one-on-one call with a new hire or banding together your army of contracted workers from around the country. You can use team chats to share any necessary files for the meeting, like an itinerary or marketing outline.

Now it’s time for the meeting. You don’t have to go to a different software tool for this. Microsoft Teams provides an optimal video conferencing experience with features such as live captioning and real-time polls.

Take advantage of free trials to give each of these software tools a spin. Eventually, you’ll find a solution that fits your team and its needs perfectly. Communication will quickly become a strength with the help of technology.

Image Credit: Anete Lusina; Pixels; Thank you!

How to Make Sure Your Team Can Take Vacations

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Unplug Completely on Vacation

Most of the time employers look for employees that will work hard every single day. Sometimes hard workers are difficult to come by, so when you do find valuable employees, you need to take care of them. A strange and often undiscussed aspect of employee management is making sure workers are taking adequate time off for vacations.

Telling your employees not to work might sound counterproductive at first. In reality, regular vacations can do wonders for employee morale and health. Life isn’t all about working, nor should it be. By encouraging your team members to take time off you’re helping them get needed rest, time with family, and lifelong memories to look back on.

Part of your responsibility is to cultivate a culture and environment that allows workers to take vacations without being punished for it. The following are examples of policies and tactics you can put into place to make sure your team gets their proper vacation time:

Implement Vacation Policies

One of the surest ways to make sure your team is using their vacation time is by implementing specific vacation policies. These policies will be a condition of employment and must be followed.

Let’s say your employees accrue roughly 10 days of vacation time per year. This is roughly the average time granted to full-time employees with minimal experience at a company. A policy that you choose to implement may revolve around vacation time accrual and rollover. Perhaps an employee can only hold up to 15 days of vacation time, which encourages them to use some of it up before they’re topped off.

For particularly stubborn employees, you can select days for them to take off when they’ve hit a certain amount of hours accrued. If their day off is in the schedule, it will be a lot harder for them to dispute the time. Restrictions on overtime hours can also be of help.  At the very least make sure your federal holidays are acknowledged and plan around these days for additional company days. This allows your employees to have longer breaks and it not hurt productivity as much since others outside the company are also on vacations.

Communicate Mandatory Event Details

Knowing the days that are available for booking vacations will help your employees know when to pull the trigger. You need to communicate any mandatory company events well-beforehand to make this possible. Getting a late notice about a company-wide mandatory meeting will strongly discourage employees from booking their vacations.

Your annual meetings at the turn of the calendar should address any meetings that will be mandatory for all employees. Even if it’s only a single meeting that you will make universally required, you should try and set the date as early as possible. Even providing a range of dates will allow employees to plan for time off around the proposed meeting without any issues.

Encourage Department Collaboration

Communication and collaboration need to be just as strong on a departmental level. While you are encouraging employees to take time off, you need to acknowledge that in most circumstances they will need a temporary stand-in. Coordination is required to make sure that too many workers aren’t absent from the same department simultaneously.

An easy rule to establish is that vacation time must be requested at least two weeks in advance. If certain days have already been claimed, no one else can take vacation time on those days. Two weeks should be plenty of time to make adequate arrangements. Besides, many vacations can be planned even further in advance to iron out all the details.

The exact guidelines you put into place will greatly depend on your organization. A marketing company might not need others to cover shifts and therefore can be more lenient when granting vacation time. All businesses might make adjustments to their policies during the holidays when everyone wants to plan trips and time off. Do what’s best for your team specifically.

Check Vacation Calendars Regularly

As a manager, you will have access to the work calendars of each member of your team. You will also have access to their vacation calendar, or lack of one. If you notice that one of your employees never takes time off, you can approach them to work out a plan.

Talk with your employee and discuss the reasons why they don’t take vacation time. Maybe they’re overly concerned about job security or really want to get a promotion. This opens up doors for mentorship and guidance as well as assurance that all will be well even if they take some extra time off.

When workers return from their vacations, welcome them with open arms. Ask about their travels and maybe even request to see the pictures they took. Then, do what you can to help them hit the ground running upon their return. Employees will feel invigorated after trips and not guilty about taking them in the first place.

Everyone loves a good vacation and your hard-working employees certainly are deserving. Enabling them to take good vacations will improve their morale, work-life balance, and satisfaction with your company. All of this adds up to an improved workforce. What employer doesn’t want that?

Image Credit: Element5 Digital; Pexels; Thanks!

5 Ways to Up Your Workplace Efficiency

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workplace efficiency

“Work smarter, not harder,” they say. We’ve all heard this modern productivity axiom by now, but there’s actually a lot of truth in the statement. Working hard is important, but working efficiently is even better. The two combined can lead to incredible results.

So, what’s the secret to making work more efficient? This is a question that business owners and managers ask themselves every day. This article outlines some ways employers can enable and motivate their workers to become even more efficient without working them into the ground.

1. Implement Self-Service Options

This one is a no-brainer for appointment-based businesses operating in the modern era. Self-service can open up so many possibilities for both your business and its customers. For example, having online booking options takes a huge load off of your employees and simultaneously empowers your customers. Clients can set and adjust appointment times whenever they want, and employees no longer have to spend hours on the phone coordinating bookings.

This frees up a lot of time for your employees during a regular shift. Instead of manning the phones all day, they can work on other projects. This could be as simple as staying on top of office organization or taking part in training to prepare for other roles.

In addition to online appointment scheduling, you can implement a self-check-in system for when customers arrive to their bookings. A tablet or kiosk can do all of the work that a front desk representative can. Customers can signal their presence and make relevant notes in their customer portal upon their arrival.

2. Embrace Office Automation

Businesses have myriad ways to automate processes, from CRM systems that will auto-email leads to social media tools that will auto-post on Instagram. But even humbler forms of automation can improve your workplace efficiency. There are myriad small tasks that consume workers’ attention during the day. A coffee maker set to auto brew will give your office manager 15 minutes back each morning, and that’s just one example.

A smart thermostat saves energy and keeps the temperature even so that extreme heat or cold don’t throw your employees for a loop. Smart light fixtures are likewise energy efficient and can also be set to dim or turn off without any human intervention. No one will have to traipse through the office at the beginning or end of the workday turning lights on and off. While these solutions might seem small, together they can make your workplace more efficient than you realize.

3. Retool — or Replace — Meetings

Companies waste a lot of time in meetings. Some estimates state that over 30 hours are squandered each month in meetings that aren’t necessary. Simply put, most meetings can be condensed or bypassed entirely to allow for greater workplace efficiency.

One solution is to plan meetings more effectively. Have an agenda prepared and share it with all participants beforehand. Practice getting to the point and rein in discussions to make sure the group doesn’t get sidetracked. Better yet, replace frequent meetings with constant communication through technology.

Take project management software, for instance. Instead of a status update meeting, you can use a digital chatroom to send messages, updates, and reminders. These can be addressed to the entire company, a specific department, or even to an individual. Such communications keep parties informed and don’t cut into productivity like a formal meeting where everyone is trapped inside a room with no escape.

4. Crunch the Numbers

The value of data cannot be underestimated. Insights gleaned from data can help you serve your customers better, increase revenue, and also make your workplace more efficient. Gathering data is easy; it’s knowing what to do with the data you have that’s the trickier part.

Let’s focus on workplace efficiency, which you can monitor with a time-tracking tool like Toggl or Harvest. Here are some examples of workplace data you can track:

  • Number of tasks completed on average per day
  • Amount of time spent per task
  • Amount of time spent per task category
  • Average time spent in meetings
  • Hours worked per week

This doesn’t have to be your full list, but it’s certainly a good place to start. Once you have a sufficient sample size, you can start to make some conclusions about what needs to change to increase productivity and efficiency. You may notice that efficiency takes a huge dive for the last hour of the day, for example. You might opt for a shorter workday or add an additional 15-minute break to try to keep energy levels high.

5. Improve Employees’ Quality of Life

No matter what the numbers say, sometimes the best adjustments you can make are to the quality of life in the office. Happy employees are more productive employees, so seek out work-life enhancement opportunities. Ergonomic solutions such as sit-stand desks and optimized keyboards can help employees work more comfortably for longer periods of time. Improved lighting can make early mornings and gray days more bearable.

Helping your employees outside of the office will often improve their efficiency on the clock. Benefits such as hybrid work or childcare services give workers fewer things to worry about at home, so they’ll be less distracted while working. Workers who also feel cared for by their employers are also more likely to stick around for the long haul. High retention rates improve company efficiency, as you won’t be spending a lot of time and resources on constant training and hiring cycles.

With greater workplace efficiency, you’ll see improvements in company profits, customer satisfaction, and work quality. To maintain optimal efficiency, you’ll need to continue to adapt, so keep looking for new ways to enable your workers to be the best they can be.

Image Credit: Pixabay; Pexels; Thank you!

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