Sunday, March 30, 2008
6 Warning Signs of Bad Customer Service
By Bob Harris, Managing Director, The Attrition Busters
Many business owners and managers seem to be ignoring the main signs that customer service quality isn't as good as it should be, according to Bob Harris, managing director for The Attrition Busters, who has compiled a list of the six key signs to watch out for.
Businesses that deal with consumers seem to be suffering from a definite disconnect between the level of service they want to provide and the service that their employees actually provide.
Six signs of poor service
As a result, Harris suggests the following six key signs that customer service may be in need of some attention - and most probably some staff training - to help restore the customer's faith:
1. Poor employee retention
If employees are leaving too quickly (i.e. within three years), there can be no real opportunity for them to build up relationships with customers. Knowledge about individual customers leaves the company with every lost employee. If this is the case, consider bringing in an outside HR (human resources) consultant to talk to employees and find out what needs to be done to change the situation; employees will often tell an 'outsider' things that they would never tell their manager.
2. Customer complaints
On average, only around 6% of dissatisfied customers will actually take the time to complain. So, out of all the customers who encounter a problem, 94% won't tell you (but they'll tell their friends and family, of course). When these dissatisfied customers do gather the strength to actually complain, many front line employees have a natural instinct to refer the customer to someone else or, worse still, to deny that there's really a problem. So if management sees that there are very few complaints, that doesn't mean that customer service is perfect at all. If employees have not built relationships with customers, many customers will defect without any further prompting. Make sure that your front line teams are required to record all complaints and any action taken to solve them. Complaints data should be treasured, documented, and shared with management. If you're not getting complaint data from the front line, there's a serious problem.
3. Employees aren't empowered to handle problems
Unless front line employees are empowered to resolve customer complaints and problems without resorting to calling supervisors or referring the customer to a manager, customer service - and the company's reputation - will suffer greatly. Customer issues should be handled from start to finish by the same person if at all possible. Customers do not want to wait or, even worse, be transferred to multiple people to have their problems solved. There is nothing worse than having to repeat the problem over and over again to different people. This is where you need employee training and empowerment: give the whole customer-facing team the knowledge, tools, and authority they need to defuse angry customers.
4. Loss of long-term customers
When a long-term customer leaves, you need to notice it and query it. When you have built a long-term relationship with a customer, your ability to retain that customer significantly increases. So when a customer who would normally give you the benefit of the doubt takes their business elsewhere, the problem is almost always the service they've received. Try to find out the real reason they defected, and use that information to prevent it from happening again. Remember that flexibility is needed in order to make changes in the company based on information from lost customers.
5. Fewer referrals
A business with delighted customers should always be gaining new customers from referrals. If your service isn't good, referrals will drop off first - even before your existing customers defect to a competitor. This makes the continual monitoring of referral levels one of the most powerful indicators of ongoing customer satisfaction. To quote a wise mentor, "Satisfied customers buy from you, but delighted customers sell for you." Also, if you're gaining lots of new customers but losing just as many existing customers, this indicates a serious disparity between what your brand is promising and what it actually delivers.
6. Low morale
Employees' morale is something that shows whenever they interact with customers, and the customer is quick to pick up on negative sentiment toward the company. While low morale is not always a result of poor customer service (although it can be due to a lack of empowerment), it always creates poor service. If this is the case, the management needs to try to instill a sense of pride throughout the company, and offer employees some well-deserved rewards and recognition. Empower employees to make decisions (within reasonable limits), and train them to make good decisions that have both the customer's and company's interests at heart.
While there are obviously more than six signs that identify bad customer service, these are certainly among the main ones to watch out for. If you recognize any single one of these six signs, the time has come to focus attention on fixing it urgently. If you recognize more than one of these six signs, there's no time to waste: you're already losing market share.
---Source: Reprinted from The Wise Marketer Feb 22, 2008 newsletter www.thewisemarketer.com.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Las Vegas, Nevada- Kennedy Advertising, http://www.kennedyadv.com/ , recently launched a Web site to continue giving custom printing and promotional products buyers the best service possible. The new site features an electronic catalog of more than 155,000 promotional products along with a detailed list of custom printing services.
Customers can now go to http://www.kennedyadv.com/ and research products for any promotional opportunity including: custom printing, business gifts, awards, recognition items, motivation, event promotion and product fulfillment. With the advanced product search function, visitors can search for products by price range, production time, or product category.
Kennedy Advertising also serves up promotional ideas in Promotion Connection, the company’s monthly online newsletter to keep you informed of the latest trends in promotions. Just visit the store, click on Promotion Connection and read about a successful promotion. There's even a planning calendar that lists well-known and not-so-well-known events throughout the year.
Kennedy Advertising has a secure server that accepts orders directly from the Web site in a secure setting. The server uses the latest encryption technology to ensure that all sensitive information is transmitted virtually risk-free. Still, many people prefer to place orders by phone. Users who wish to research the products online and then place an order by phone may call Kennedy Advertising at: 888-725-4487
As an added bonus, each month visitors to Kennedy Advertising’s web site, can register for a chance to win $1,000 in promotional products of their choice. Just click on the moneybag icon that says, "Enter $1000 Drawing."
Kennedy Advertising is a Full Service Custom Printing and Imprinted Promotional Products Company located in Las Vegas, Nevada. Established in Minneapolis Minnesota in 1971, Kennedy Advertising, has been a member of the Advertising Specialty Institute for over 35 years. As the company expanded its selling capabilities on the Internet, they relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada in 2002 to centralize fulfillment operations, expand fulfillment capabilities and trade show services.
For more information contact:
Phone: In Las Vegas: 702-324-1334 or Toll Free 888-725-4487
Date: March 26, 2008
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
The week of April 27th is National Volunteer Week
Thank all of your volunteers with a small memento of their efforts. Hold a thank-you celebration and include table favors that commemorate their contributions. Select a Volunteer of the Year and award them with a larger commemorative gift. And, be sure to get pictures and send to the local papers.
Some other designations for April that you might be interested in are:
* Alcohol Awareness Month
* National Child Abuse Prevention Month
* Holy Week
* National Donate Life Month
* April 1st: April Fools Day
* April 2nd: International Children's Book Day
* April 3rd: Tweed Day
* April 4th: Victims Of Violence day
* April 5th: National Fun At Work Day
* April 6th: Teflon Day
* April 7th: No Housework Day
* April 9th - 15th: Egg Salad Week
* April 10th: National Sibilings Day
* April 11th: Trivia Day
* April 13th: International Plant Appreciation Day
* April 7th - 11th: National Public Health Week
* April 13th - 19th: National Library Week
* April 27th: National Volunteer Week
* April 15th: Income Tax Pay Day
* April 17th: International Ford Mustang Day
* April 19th - 27th: National Wildlife Week
* April 22nd: Earth Day
* April 24th: Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day
* April 27th: Mother, Father Deaf Day
* April 28th: Cubicle Day
* April 29th: National Dance Day
* April 30th: Spank Out Day USA
May 11th is Eat What You Want Day
* Have salespeople deliver snack baskets to their customers when they visit on this day.
* Create a promotion based on the Eat What You Want Day making the connection between feeling like you can't eat what you want and you can't seem to get what you want when it comes to (plug in your product or service category). Tell them that on May 11th they can not only eat what they want, but they can have what they want when it comes to (plug in your product or service) by scheduling an appointment with one of your sales reps. When the rep makes the call on May 11 he or she brings a logoed basket of goodies or cookies.
Some other designations for May that you might be interested in are:
* National Barbecue Month
* National Arthritis Month
* Heal The Children Month
* Motorcycle Safety Month
* May 1st: School Principals Day
* May 2nd: No Pants Day
* May 3rd: Free Comic Book Day
* May 4th: Respect for Chickens Day
* May 5th: Cindo e Mayo
* May 4th - 10th: Be Kind To Animals Week ®
* May 5th - 11th: National Wildflower Week
* May 8th: World Red Cross Day
* May 11th: Mother's Day
* May 11th: Eat What You Want Day
* May 12th: Stamp Out Hunger
* May 11th - 17th: National Police Week
* May 14th: National Receptionists Day
* May 16th: National Pizza Party Day
* May 17th: Armed Forces Day
* May 18th: International Museum Day
* May 19th: Armed Forces Day
* May 18th - 24th: National Dog Bite Prevention Week
* May 20th - 26th: World Trade Week
* May 21st: National Employee Health & Fitness Day
* May 23rd: World Turtle Day
* May 24th: Brother's Day
* May 25th: National Missing Children's Day
* May 26th: International Jazz Day
* May 26th: Memorial Day
* May 30th: Hg Your Cat Day
* May 31st: World No-Tobacco Day
June 14th is World Juggling Day
Everyone is juggling something so recognizing that can be used for a broad spectrum of promotional needs. There are juggling balls, juggle sets and juggle stress relievers.
Some other designations for June that you might be interested in are:
* Adopt - A Shelter-Cat Month
* Children's Awareness Month
* National Candy Month
* National Rose Month
* June 1st: National Leave The Office Earlier Day
* June 1st: National Cancer Survivors Day
* June 1st - 7th: National Business Etiquette Week
* June 7th - 14th: International Clothesline Week
* June 2nd: National Bubba Day
* June 4th: National Tailors Day
* June 5th: Hunger Awareness Day
* June 6th: D-Day Anniversary
* June 8th - 14th: National Flag Week
* June 14th: World Juggling Day
* June 15th: Native American Citizenship Day
* June 15th: Father's Day
* June 16th: Fudge Day
* June 20th: June Solstice
* June 20th: Toad Hollow Day Of Thank You
* June 21st: Baby Boomer's Recognition Day
* June 22nd: Stupid Guy Thing Day
* June 23rd: Let It Go Day
* June 24th: Celebration Of The Senses
* June 26th: Hand Shake Day
* June 27th: National HIV Testing Day
* June 28th: Marble Day
* June 29th: Log Cabin Day
* June 30th: Please Take My Children To Work Day
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Here are seven ideas to get you started on a master plan from Renea Myers at Myers Marketing.
1. Wait for the right window of opportunity to share your information.
Show an interest in others first and then when the focus turns to you, share your business card and business goals. When someone walks in handing out business cards indiscriminately, it’s tantamount to “network spamming.”
2. Networking is about looking for opportunities to give.
Anyone is capable of great networking through good listening and caring about others’ success. Furthermore, everyone has a wealth of resources to offer. If your first goal is to be a valuable resource to others, the networking karma will be returned many times over.
3. Become adept at gathering information.
After you have built relationships with your contacts, it’s time to share your business needs. Be as specific as possible when asking for leads, referrals or information. Specific requests glean the best results. It’s also helpful to provide examples of how you have helped a client. Always acknowledge any kind of help you receive and ask how you can return the favor.
4. Find your comfort zone.
If you’re uncomfortable in a new group situation, it’s helpful to have a job. Volunteer to work registration or serve as a greeter. You will meet the attendees, but you’ll also be positioning yourself as one of the “inner circle.” You can also mitigate the fear of rejection by getting into the habit of talking about your business goals in a conversational manner, avoiding “yes or no” questions. You can also ask for “advice” instead of business leads. People like to be asked for their opinion.
5. Identify your sphere of influence.
Make a list of people you know who are considered “connectors” to your customers, prospects, or industry. Identify which ones are in your sphere of influence. These are people who consider you visible, credible, resourceful and knowledgeable. Look for opportunities to build relationships with connectors and grow that sphere.
6. Strategic organizational involvement.
Consider getting involved in select organizations such as your industry group or your best customer’s trade association. Be willing to take on a leadership role, but if you’re not willing to commit the necessary time, don’t add your name to the list. Additionally, finding creative ways to contribute will differentiate you within the organization. Remember, having your picture taken is a good thing, so don’t get shy!
7. Develop some stealth marketing strategies.
• Be willing to give away something to build visibility.
• Attend industry trade shows to evaluate the competition.
• Teach a class.
• Write an article or a column.
• Prepare for networking events as if it were a sales call.
Source: Renea Myers is the President of Renea Myers Marketing.
Sunday, March 2, 2008
So Why Does It Take So Long?
Think about this - every promotional product I sell is customized. Unlike retail products, these products aren't just taken off shelves and shipped. The reality is that they require time to produce.
So what should you expect when it comes to timing? Well to start, you should figure on the art preparation (1 to 3 days) the production (standard 5 to 14 days) and the shipping (ground 3 to 5 days).A good rule of thumb is standard production on most items with shipping and art prep require 3 to 4 weeks from the time you order to the time you receive your goods. Keep in mind some products require more or less time.The bottom line is this - If you order early, you will save money and eliminate unnecessary stress for both of us.
Rush Jobs Go Bad
Consider this! If you think paying through the nose to rush an order is your biggest problem, guess again! The fact is- rush orders have twice the risk of creating much bigger problems. Imagine getting the wrong product, having a misprint, or even missing a delivery in time for the show.
So what should you do? Remember, there are approximately 5000 manufacturers in this industry. The problems start when you pick a product you see on a large website or catalog and your distributor has to deal with a manufacturer they have no experience with. The solution! Keep it simple… like my Blog Postings. And believe me when I tell you to trust only about 50 of them.
Here's a True Story
I had a customer who ordered luggage tags requiring a special imprint. So I called a manufacturer I found who could print them. They assured me the order would ship on time with a 30% increase in the price. It was a large order and it absolutely had to ship on time, so cost was not an issue. Just to make sure, I would call every couple of days to see that we were on schedule. Needless to say, they assured me everything was O.K. You can probably guess what happened next.
I called on the day the tags were scheduled to ship and what did the customer service agent tell me? "We don't guarantee any order would ship when it is scheduled. Just because you have a scheduled ship date doesn't mean it will ship on that day" They conveniently forgot to mention this "Company Policy" when I was calling around with this large order.
Now, I'm a guy who is always honest with my customers. I like to keep them informed of the status of rush orders. So I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I felt sick to my stomach over this. So completely nerve wracked, I had to wait until the next day (the day my customer was expecting the shipment!) to find out if it had shipped out or not. Meanwhile my client was in Las Vegas anxiously awaiting the product at the hotel where the trade show was located.
Fortunately, this story did have a happy ending. This order did ship that day and the customer was happy. But make no mistake about it - it could have been a disaster. I'm a firm believer in the "under-promise," "over-deliver" philosophy. If I can't say with confidence that I can't get an order to them on time – I will tell them that. Better that, than let them down and ruin my customer's confidence in my service.
Believe me when I tell you again - there are a large majority of manufacturers in this industry who simply do not care about you or me. But always keep in mind that there are 50 great suppliers who do and I do a lot of business with 33 of them.
Times Have Changed
Here is the good news! Because of the nature of the Promotional Products Industry, (and our customers buying habits) companies that can turn things around quickly, with quality, have risen to the top.
Standard production times over the last 10 years have been cut in half. Rush service has been built into production schedules and some companies have mastered it without charging you an arm and a leg. Believe it or not, one of the leading manufacturers in the industry now offers all of their products available to ship in 4 days at just a small additional cost. (And YES, you will find them at www.KennedyAdv.com
Since the marketing budget for a small business is typically limited, you’ll want to have some promotional ideas on hand that are cost-effective. With that in mind, below are some of the many possible promotional ideas that can be easy to execute.
Local Events and Activities: Use anything from setting up a booth at a street fair to sponsoring a little league team to display your product or company name.
Free Samples: Look for key locations where your target group can be found and give out free samples. If possible give free demonstrations of your service or product.
Contests: Find a prize of interest to your target audience and hold a contest.
Speaking Engagements: Contact local schools, speaker groups and associations to inquire about speaking engagements, lectures, seminars or teaching a class.
Fliers: Exchange fliers with other noncompetitive businesses who will display them at their location. Also find locations where you can post a flier or bulletin.
Vehicles: Paint the name of your business on any trucks you use and even put a sign on your car or in the car window.
Press: Develop a list of local editors and producers and send press releases of important upcoming activities. Also look for unique angles about your business that might make for an interesting story.
Newsletters: Email newsletters or print newsletters are an effective, inexpensive means of promoting your business.
Printed Matter: Promote yourself on all of your printed matter.
Imprinted Promotional Items: Keep an inventory of useful imprinted promotional items to hand out as gifts at trade shows, as customer and employee appreciation gifts.
Contacts and Networking: Hand out your business cards to as many people as possible and network regularly to make new contacts.
In Store or Online Values: Offer special discounts for second purchases or free downloads online.
Attend Meetings of Professional Groups: Attend meetings of the Chamber of Commerce and other local groups where you can introduce yourself and your business to others.
Directories: Make sure to list your company in all appropriate free directories.