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Customer Experience: Why it’s a Necessity for All Businesses Today

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A primary topic of conversation circling throughout the business world today is focused on customer experience: why it’s a necessity for all businesses at the current time. Organizational leaders are recognizing the importance of delivering a customer experience that allows them to stand out in comparison to their competition.

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Whether directly related to customer service, product quality or the way customers feel about the organizations they do business with, customer experience is at the top of the list with regard to what determines if a customer will continue to do business with a brand or not.

It All Comes Down to Customer Experience

Current studies indicate that 89 percent of organizations compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. There is a large amount of opportunity to disrupt competitors and gain market share within an industry. Every single thing that a brand does – marketing, research, advertising or other areas – plays a role in forming the customer experience. This is precisely why customer experience is such a necessity for all businesses. In fact, focusing on customer experience may be the most important investment a brand can make in today’s competitive global business climate.

In the past, there were three general ways through which a customer could interact with a company – in person, via a phone call, or through writing a letter. Today, you can add faxing, emailing, and social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Social media, in particular, has given customers an outlet through which to complain to the world if they are unhappy with a product or service they have been provided. Customers who are pleased with products and services also tend to share their experiences via social media.

Improving Customer Experience

With all of these new ways for customers to communicate with businesses, it makes the creation of a unique and powerful customer experience even more challenging. Regardless of the additional challenges, it is a vital component on the road to success for any company and this is why leaders of every organization should sit down and discuss the importance of the customer experience. To provide a starting point for discussion, here are some tips to consider when discussing how to improve customer experience:

  • Data from customer interactions via various channels should all be stored in one place. A customer may reach out via telephone one time and via a live chat the next time, but notes regarding these interactions should all be stored in one location for easy reviewing by your customer service team.
  • Carry consistency throughout the company. Particularly when a company is large, there may be different departments or teams to carry out various individual tasks. This can become frustrating to customers if they are bounced around from one department to the next and the individual teams do not seem to be on the same page. It is important for there to be consistency from one department to the next in explaining procedures and the handling of various situations.

Customers Determine the Effectiveness of Your Efforts

A company establishes what they want their brand to represent and how they convey that message to their market, but the customers are the ones who decide whether or not that message is clear to them and if they are happy with the way it has been conveyed. There is a lot that rides of providing a consistently positive customer experience. A company should hire and train good people and then ensure they are given the right tools to meet customer expectations.

If you are a business owner and have not already, it is time to undertake a full analysis of the customer experience and realize why it’s a necessity for all businesses today.

The Skills You Need for Effective Leadership

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Whether you are an office manager, a project leader, or the CEO, all effective leaders require a number of skills to help positively and successfully interact with staff and other team members. Here are a few of the skills you need for effective leadership:

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The Power of Communication

Communication easily ranks at the top with regard to the skills you need for effective leadership. As a leader, you have to be able to clearly and concisely explain things to your employees. Topics that require communication by a leader may range from a description of goals to details involved in a specific task. Effective leaders have to master all forms of communication, including but not limited to full staff discussions, one-on-one, and communication via telephone, social media, and email. A large part of communication revolves around listening, so leaders should establish a clear and easy flow of communication with their team and staff through regular conversations and an open door policy. Other necessary skills that fall under communication include: clarity, articulation, business storytelling, expression, presentation, reading body language, and reducing ambiguity.

Another one of the skills you need for effective leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate. Effective leaders must be able to inspire their workers to go the extra mile for the company. There are many ways to accomplish this. Among them are: building employee self esteem through recognition and rewards and giving more responsibility to those who show extra initiative, thereby increasing their investment in the company. Some of the skills you need for effective leadership that are related directly to motivation are asking for input, mentoring, team building, thanking staff, and understanding employee differences and concerns.

The Importance of Effective Leadership

Leaders who attempt to take on too many tasks themselves will face challenges in getting things done. Some leaders fear that delegating tasks is a sign of weakness, when it is actually a sign of a strong leader. Therefore, another one of the skills you need for effective leadership is in identifying the skills of each of your staff members and assigning duties to each of the staff members based on their skill set. By delegating, you are able to focus on other important tasks.

Positivity can go a long way in running a business. Being able to laugh at yourself when something goes wrong helps to create a healthy and happy work environment, even during stressful and busy periods of time. Simple acts like asking staff members about holiday plans can help to boost morale in the workplace. Some of the skills you need for effective leadership that are related to infusing positivity in the workplace are developing rapport, humor, helping others, friendliness, respect, empathy, and diplomacy.

Character Traits of Leadership

Trustworthiness is yet another one of the skills you need for effective leadership. Employees should be able to feel comfortable going to their leader with questions or concerns. It is important for a leader to demonstrate integrity as employees will only trust leaders that they can respect. Being open and honest will encourage the same kind of honesty in your staff. The ability to apologize, along with having credibility, accountability, business ethics, consistent behavior towards employees, emotional intelligence, empathy, reliability, and thoughtfulness all support the building of trust with your staff.

A few more of the skills you need for effective leadership include:

  • Creativity: the ability to think outside of the box, analyze, embrace different perspectives, observe, be open minded, and innovate.
  • Give feedback: offer positive reinforcement, mentoring, coaching, and a clear layout of expectations.
  • Responsibility: A leader is responsible for failures and successes and should be willing to accept responsibility when something goes wrong and also evaluate best solutions, learn from mistakes, and reflect.
  • Commitment: this includes follow through, determination, passion, and work ethic.

Last but certainly not least, flexibility is one of the skills you need for effective leadership that is most important as mishaps and last minute changes happen often. Adaptability is critical in being an effective leader.

Expert Tips for Moms with a Home Business

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If you’re a new mom you may not think that the timing is right to start a new home business, but the timing may actually be perfect. You’re probably already rethinking how you spend your time and how you’re going to need a job with some extra flexibility. Your baby might even be the reason for your new idea; many new parents have created products out of accidental trial and error and last-minute need.

Of course, you do need to think about the serious risks and things that you’re giving up, like a weekly paycheck. Everyone is different but if you find that the risk is worth the reward then read on to find out about what it takes to succeed as a mother and as a CEO of your own business, run from home.

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1. The Work is Going to be Hard

People often believe that working from home is just sitting at home all day, but the reality is much different. They don’t realize that there is actual work that must be done, and it all falls on your shoulders. It may look comfortable and relaxed to your family and friends, and maybe even your overworked spouse, but small businesses require a great deal of effort when starting off. Remember to work towards bringing in new clients and really growing your business because there may be a lot of naysayers in the beginning.

2. Find Balance

This may be hard at first, but just like when you had your new baby, you had to completely change up your schedule. Eventually, you made it work and it was all worth it. That’s just how running your business from home will be. Remember that creating a schedule that works for you, your business, and your family will take time to get used to. There will be twists, turns, and unexpected blow-ups; you might feel like you’re failing if you don’t see the revenue you want rolling in right away. It’s important to stay grounded, though. Take a step back whenever necessary, and persevere through the bad times and know that the good times are on the way.

3. You and Your Baby Need Health Insurance

If you live in an area where your health insurance needs are covered or if your spouse has good insurance to cover your whole family, then you don’t have to worry about this one. Single moms, however, need to take their baby’s health into consideration before starting a new business. Health insurance is a must when it comes to your child (and yourself), so be sure to budget this in.

4. Set Realistic Expectations

It’s okay to dream; that’s how you came up with your business in the first place. But if you think that running a business and taking care of your family is going to eventually become a piece of cake, you may want to rethink some things. There are immense perks for moms with their own home business; you get greater flexibility, more time with your family, the ability to oversee your children’s needs with greater ease, however, the challenges will be there without a doubt. When you’re juggling a full-time business with a full-time family, things can and will go wrong. You might need to take an important phone call just when you can’t get your child to stop crying, or you might have to skip out on date night with your spouse because one of your clients is in China needs immediate attention at an unusual hour. This goes back to #1, if you think you’re going to just be sitting at home all day playing with the kids, you’ve got it wrong. Being a mom with a home business is much different than being a stay at home mom.

5. Decide When You’re At Home and When You’re At Work

You might need to lock yourself inside your office just to get some alone time with your work at times. If your family and business are too much of a demand, you are going to need to take some time out from one or both in order to manage. Owning a business and working from home will not be any less demanding than owning a business down the street. The main difference is that your stress from home is more likely to creep in at one over the other. Let your family members know when you’re working and when you’re off duty, otherwise, frustrations will set in, and everyone will feel the effects of it.

6. Take Advantage of Digital Tools for Automation and Convenience

Running a business can be really difficult, and business owners of all varieties have found immense value in an array of tools that exist to simplify daily functions and cut down their busy work. As a busy mom with a business being run from home, we can’t stress the importance of streamlining your processes as much as possible. Depending on your business model and the type of business you have, it is very much worth it to learn about options like virtual phone numbers and call forwarding, hiring freelancers to handle some of your busy work, and different automation tools such as MailChimp and Hootsuite.

Having a new business or a new baby can be hard things to manage for anyone. However, if you’re ready to take on the challenge of having both, then you’re ready to enjoy double the success and double the rewards that come with both. Keep an open mind, stay flexible, and stay centered on your goals. Home businesses are a reality for many moms out there for good reason!

4 Simple Steps To Get Return Customers

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It takes effort to create a return customer, but with the number of sales they bring to your store in return, they’re worth the extra effort. If your business is using up all of its resources towards directing its advertising budget on attracting new clients, you may be missing out on a huge market… the customers that you already have.

The Power of Loyalty

Getting a new customer will usually cost your business money on marketing and advertising. Loyal customers don’t just buy your products; they tell other people about them. They might even post your products on their social media pages, giving your business free advertising to hundreds or even thousands of new potential customers.

New customers may appear once or twice and you’ll never hear from them again, but every new customer is an opportunity to create a return customer. And that is why it is important to take care of every single customer as well as you can. If you do it right, every customer can become a lifelong customer, which really pays over time. If you offer a great product or service, there is no reason why you won’t be able to create a strong following of return customers.

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Here are 4 simple steps to create a loyal following of return customers

Create The Right Environment

If your business isn’t presentable, you probably won’t get many people wanting to return. Take a walk around your store and make notes. Your store should be comfortable and welcoming. The inside and outside should be clean, the lighting should be inviting, and the layout should be easy to maneuver through. If a customer cannot find the product that they need, then your layout might need some changing up. Take some time out to think about your decor and finishing touches, too. Listen to the feedback you hear from staff and customers about the environment and see what could use some sprucing up, while leaving the things that are already working.

Have Your Staff Put Their Best Foot Forward

If you’re not always around or selling directly to your customer, then you need to be sure that you have a loyal and friendly staff, who preferably believe in the products they are selling. Your staff should not only be friendly, but they need to be knowledgeable as well. A kind and well-informed staff will leave the right kind of impression on your customers. If a customer has a positive experience, they are more likely to return even if they did not purchase anything the first time. Gather your staff together for training sessions to be sure that they are upholding your business to the highest degree. Having a properly trained staff will ensure positive interactions.

Learn Your Customers’ Names

Introductions are the best way to make a good impression on someone right away. If you are not great at remembering names, try to make a mental note about something that the person is wearing and repeat their name back to them. If your business is very busy and you don’t have time to introduce yourself to everyone, go out of your way to introduce yourself to people that you already recognize. Recognizing a frequent customer will help you to learn what the customer wants and expects.

Remember Your Customers and What They Like and Don’t Like

Now that you have brought in a customer for a second time and have introduced yourself to them and gotten their name, you can start taking notes about their shopping habits. Many businesses use this technique and it makes their repeat customers feel appreciated. For example, if you run a wine store and you already know that a customer likes a certain wine region, you can remind them when you know you are getting a new wine from that particular region. If you own a restaurant, remembering people’s allergies and sending out their favorite appetizer as a compliment will guarantee that your customers will return.

Return Customers = Greater Value

If you remember to do all four of these simple steps, your business will soon be on its way to maximizing its profits. As a business, you want as many customers as possible, however, loyalty goes very far in the long-run. Gaining a customer and keeping them for years to come means your initial marketing efforts were ultimately successful, enabling you to bank on them long-term. Considering the large expense marketing can be, why not extend your efforts for the highest yield?

The Best Business Voicemail Greetings

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There’s nothing more annoying than getting sent to a voicemail box that is full or hasn’t been set up yet. And you could be missing out on customers if you don’t have a quality voicemail system for those callers who contact you outside of business hours. If you can’t be available 24/7, the best thing to have set up is a fail-safe. After all, you don’t want to miss out on a potential sale.

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One of the best things you can do for your business is to set up the best voicemail greeting for your business so that your customers actually want to leave a message, and trust that you will get back to them.

Here are the Dos and Don’ts of creating the perfect business voicemail greeting

  • Do apologize that you are unavailable to take their call
  • Don’t use an overused phrase that will annoy callers right off the bat
  • Do encourage your customer to leave a message
  • Don’t just keep the default voicemail greeting
  • Do let the customer know which department and voicemail box they have reached
  • Don’t over-complicate the voicemail message; it should be simple and to the point
  • Do give the customer an expected time that you will return their call, such as during regular business hours
  • Don’t forget to follow up with them
  • Do give the customer alternate ways to get the information that they need, whether that is directing them to an FAQ page on your website or providing a customer service email address. If your business deals with emergencies, there should be an emergency line available for them to call.

Now that you know the Dos and Don’ts of creating an awesome outgoing voicemail message, you are ready to follow a very simple formula to creating a professional business greeting that gets the information you need out while keeping the message short. Here’s how:

  1. State your name or the name of your business.
  2. Apologize for missing the calls (you can give a quick reason why you’re not available such as “not at my desk” or “closed for the holiday.”
  3. Ask for their information so you can call them back. For example, asking them to state their name, number, and issue with the service or product will be very helpful for you. It is very important to find out why they are having an issue and calling before you call them back. You need to be prepared to be able to solve their problem.
  4. On the other hand, you can encourage them to call back at a certain date and time where you are more likely to answer the phone. Offering to call them back and giving them an option to call you again at a better time will establish trust between you and the customer. They know that no matter what, they will be able to reach you next time, whether you call them or they call you back.
  5. Seize the opportunity to tell them about a promotion. Since you already have them on the phone, let them know about any new products or information that they may be interested in learning about.
  6. End the message politely. It is as simple as thanking them for making the call and wishing that they have a great rest of their day.

An example of a great voicemail greeting is, “Hi you’ve reached the office of (your company name). Unfortunately, we cannot get to the phone right now and apologize for the inconvenience. If you leave your name, number, and the reason you are calling we will get back to you as soon as we can. Otherwise, you can reach us at our regular business hours, Monday thru Friday 8am-8pm. Thank you for calling and I hope you have a great rest of your day!”

If you have a virtual phone system set up for your business, then you already have the tools to create a great business voicemail message. When you’re creating the perfect voicemail greeting, simply apply these guidelines and remember to be polite, informative, and encourage the customer to leave a voicemail so you can follow up with them. It’s as simple as that!

How To Turn A Disgruntled Customer into a Loyal One

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A customer’s happiness is the most important component of a business’ success. Without customers, there is no business. Therefore, making customer service an integral part of your business model is extremely important. Since it all starts with customer service, make sure that your staff is fully trained in how to deal with an angry customer should a problem occur. One bad customer experience is the quickest way to turn your customers over to your competitors, so being able to diffuse bad situations is the key to success. Having a great relationship with your customers will bring up the value of your brand and increase your sales. If your customer is angry, there are ways to please them, and even turn them into a customer for life. Here are several tips to keep in mind:

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Actively Listen To Your Customer

Take into account what your customers are saying about your products. There are times when a customer is angry about something outside of the service. Perhaps they are just having a bad day, so remember it is only your business to be sure that you solve their anger surrounding the issue with your product. Listen to what their issue is with intent, let them completely explain everything. Be completely silent while they explain, you may nod or acknowledge that you are listening, but be sure that they are finished talking before you begin.

Apologize Immediately

No matter what the issue is, be sure to apologize right away for the mistake or miscommunication. It might be an immediate reaction to want to be defensive of your products, but you have to remember that this person is allowed to air their grievances since they purchased the product and supported your business.

Go Out Of Your Way To Make Them Happy

This is what could turn your angry customer into a loyal one. If you do it right, your customer will be excited to return to your store. Going out of your way also makes your customer feel special. Perhaps you work at a restaurant and a customer was unsatisfied with their meal; you could comp the food and include a gift card to get them to return. When they return, you can go out of your way to make the next experience much better. By going above and beyond, you’ve created a customer for life.

Create an Opportunity for Improvement

Every angry customer brings up a solid point about issues with your company or your product. Take every opportunity to learn about what you need to improve on in order to give yourself a leg up from the competition. Treat complaints as if they are a problem that you need to figure out with your brand. If one customer is unhappy and lets you know there is a problem, surely there have been customers with the same issue but never mentioned it; they respond by simply not buying your product again. With that in mind, customer complaints are invaluable resources for improvement. Your business will never stop growing as long as your customers’ needs are being met and your product continues to improve. If you feel that your business does have room to grow and you don’t want to sit around waiting for complaints to roll in, consider sending out a survey that your customers can opt-in or out of to gauge their satisfaction.

Build Up Your Reputation

By consistently meeting consumer needs and providing excellent customer service, you will quickly gain a reputation for being delightful to shop with. Brands like Nordstrom have built up their reputation with customers and they have thousands of reviews from customers gushing about their dependability. People are more likely to go with a dependable option than something that has a wishy-washy reputation. Just remember, every angry customer is a chance to win customers over and invite them back.

By using these four simple tips and responding to angry customers in a positive and approachable manner, your business will be flourishing in no time. Since your company is now focusing on customer relationships, you have the tools to thrive in any market.

How To Boost Morale At Work

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Are your employees excited to come into work? Or do they shuffle in begrudgingly five minutes late every day? Are your employees’ friends with each other and you often find them sharing a laugh at the water cooler? Or do they keep themselves? If you find that your employees display poor moods while working, low employee morale could be damaging to your business. Productivity slows down, people seek alternative employment at high rates, and cooperation between employees worsens when your employees aren’t happy to come into work. This has the potential to put your business’ success at risk. When you are in a leadership position, it is your responsibility to strengthen morale among your employees. Read on to learn some simple yet creative ways to boost employee morale at work.

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Plan a Company Outing

Company outings are a great way for employees to get to know each other. You may have been to an outing or two for your company. It could have gone well or ended up a flop. Instead of having the head of HR plan the outing, ask your team what they would like to do. If people are hesitant to come up with ideas, make it an anonymous nomination. Once you have a few ideas your team can vote for what they would like to. It shows your employees you are interested in them and your rewarding activity will be more appreciated.

Show Your Employees That Their Jobs Matter

A 9-6 can get monotonous when employees are working on the same thing every day. Monotony gives time for pondering with what’s going on in places where the grass may (possibly) be greener. Show your employees that their work does have value in the real world. For example, restaurants will often read aloud 5-star Yelp reviews and congratulate their team when they’ve done a good job. Positive reinforcement can come in the most simple of ways.

Have Fun In The Office

Take a day each month where your employees can just have fun together for an hour, or even the whole day! Set up a Wii tennis match, play board games, or split your employees into teams and have them solve a mystery. The winning person or team can win awesome rewards like tickets to a sporting event or concert.

Get Rid of The Bullies

Sometimes we work with jerks. As the saying goes, “one bad apple could spoil the whole bunch.” If you find that a member of your team is often intimidating, rude, negative, or belittling it might be time to let that person go. They’re probably making everyone around them as miserable as they are. This is especially important in upper management, where one foul boss can have a seriously negative impact on their employees. A good way to weed these people out is to encourage constant feedback between employees and HR.

Take Time To Inspire Your Employees

Depression and anxiety rates are at an all-time high so giving your team the tools they need to combat anxiousness and depression at work is crucial. Schedule a monthly meditation and offer to reimburse gym memberships since exercise is shown to decrease anxiety and depression. Set up a time to watch inspirational videos, or have an inspirational speaker come in to speak to your team, then have an open discussion afterward so the ideas really stick.

Give Your Employees Real Lunch Breaks

Many white-collar employees opt to eat at their desks. However, taking a walk outside or trying a new restaurant would actually boost their moods and creative thinking. Taking a short break from work is a great way to recharge your batteries and encouraging your employees to take advantage of that is great for boosting employee morale.

Celebrate Your Employees

If your team surpassed their quarterly goals, reward them! Throw a pizza party in honor of their hard work or present your hardworking employees with a much-deserved bonus. Don’t forget work anniversaries either! Show your employees you appreciate the job that they’re doing by sending a little note or giving a bonus when they’ve reached a great milestone.

When your employees are in the presence of capable leadership, are recognized for their hard work, and feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves, they exhibit higher morale, which in turn results in a higher level of performance. Keep encouraging and rewarding great work, and you will soon be reaping the rewards of a successful business that is powered by hard-working, happy employees.