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Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Time is money, honey

Posted by Vicki Moulton on March 4, 2011

I’ve noticed a disturbing trend toward rudeness among business contacts, and it’s time to stand up and say something about it.

Would you expect a client to wait more than 30 minutes for you to show up to a meeting? How about a good friend or maybe a member of your family? It’s considered good manners, and good business, to show up on time to your appointments. If you are unavoidably detained–accident on the highway, family emergency, stuck in another meeting–then at least send an email or a text message comunicating the delay. Don’t just leave your client, vendor, or friend twisting in the wind, wondering what the hell happened to you.

I’m not the most punctual person in my personal life, it’s true. If you are one of my friends and we plan to meet for coffee, I am likely to be running about 5 minutes late (or more, now that I have a new baby). But I do not show up late for business appointments or conference calls. I am prompt and professional enough to expect the same from my clients and associates. Making someone wait more than half an hour to hear that you’re running late is just rude. And if you’re the client, and you do this repeatedly, you should expect to be billed for that time.

Just because you run a small business does not make your time any less important or valuable than your client’s or colleague’s time. Be clear about your expectations for professionalism, and your  reputation will reflect that. And if your reputation is solid, that’s great PR for your business.

Posted in communications | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Humanizing your brand

Posted by Vicki Moulton on February 22, 2011

Borrowing an idea from a Mashable article I just read about preventing “badvocacy” (which is a new way of describing how certain unhappy campers can badmouth your business through social media channels), I’m thinking today about how brands can and have become completely dehumanized.

It’s easy to think of a huge corporation with a well-known brand as having no soul, as though everything were completely automated and run by robots. When something goes wrong with that company’s product or service, it’s easy to get angry at the machine. It’s not personal; it’s business. (Hey, didn’t Tom Hanks’ cutthroat bookseller character say that in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail”?)

So what happens when it’s your small business that draws the ire of an unhappy customer? And then, when that unhappy customer goes on Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter to complain about your company, how are you supposed to react? It certainly feels personal when you’re the only person behind your brand, like someone is mad at you–not your company, but you personally. It’s really hard to combat a growing chorus of online negativity if you don’t already have a personal association with your brand.

Now think about the positive side. If your business succeeds in making a customer happy enough that she wants to help other customers find out about you by singing your praises on Yelp, Facebook, and Twitter, does that feel like personal praise for you as a person or like good publicity for your brand? Any kind of feedback in this fast-paced online world reflects instantly on your brand, positive or negative. And that also reflects on you, the person behind the brand.

If you want to help your customers feel like they’re either shaking your hand in thanks or slapping your face in anger, put a human face on your brand. Post your photo on your About page, and use it as your avatar when commenting on posts and websites. It’s much harder for the viral feedback machine to go completely negative and out of control if your brand image is personal, warm, smiling, and human–just like everyone else.

Posted in communications, MarComm, marketing, messaging | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Making it right

Posted by Vicki Moulton on January 19, 2011

Most of us could whip out a story about a bad customer service experience at a moment’s notice. But when was the last time you told a friend about a company that provided really good customer service?

Here’s my happy-ending story about customer service.

A cute top I ordered online for my daughter arrived in the mail last week. She wore it for a few hours, and then I noticed that two of the five unique flower appliques that made the shirt so fashionable had fallen off. They were ironed on rather than sewn on, and the idea that something so flimsy had been passed off as great workmanship made me want to give the company a piece of my mind.

So I went to the website, searching for some kind of complaint forum, maybe an online comment form or something. I found the name, email address, and direct phone number for the customer service manager (and thought, wow, that’s unusual). I sent a message detailing what happened; this was during a three-day weekend.

Within a couple of days, I got a return email with an apology and a request for a photo of the shirt to see whether it was still in stock. (The photo I sent is included in this post.) Another email included a request for my address (I had purchased it through a third-party website). I replied with an email asking whether it would be safe to put this replacement shirt with the iron-on appliques in the washing machine. The reply I got stunned me: the replacement shirt we would receive, free of charge, no merchandise return required, would be specially prepared for me to avoid this problem happening again (hello needle and thread!).

Not only did this manager provide the right kind of customer service–solving my problem without making it seem like I did something wrong–she also went above and beyond my expectations by doing something special just for my circumstance, without my even asking for it.

This got me thinking… How often we forget that our clients are people too. Nobody likes to be treated like their problems don’t matter. If you’re the one who caused the problem, making it right is your responsibility. And if you can go that extra mile to ensure complete customer satisfaction, you’ll safeguard your company brand for the next client. That’s just smart business.

Posted in marketing | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pricing by value

Posted by Vicki Moulton on October 12, 2009

100 percentWhen you run a small business, especially during a recession, it’s tempting to set your prices on the lower end of the spectrum to attract more customers. But that strategy is sending the wrong message about how your services should be valued.

Here’s an argument all freelancers and small business owners might want to consider, from SmallBizTrends “Best-Kept Marketing Secrets: Editor’s Picks”:

“While important, the price we ask for a product or service is far less important than you might think. Our customers want value. They are paying for solutions. They expect results and they are not put out by paying a fair price to get what they need. We entrepreneurs are often guilty of prematurely lowering our prices, perhaps out of a sense of fear or perceived competition. We need to be in the practice of adding so much value that our customer does not even blink at our price. We must learn to present our expected price with confidence, without flinching.”—Daniel Sitter, Idea Seller

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Making peace with frustration

Posted by Vicki Moulton on July 3, 2009

abstract redMy new business cards, the ones I ordered online, meticulously cropped to make sure they would look perfect in print, arrived a couple of days ago… with the crop marks showing, as though I had never touched the file.

After trying to get them fixed in person and then by phone—having learned to my horror that the online printer I chose is an all-automated, no-human operation—I am now forced to wait until after the holiday weekend to get them fixed, reprinted, and reshipped. Here’s the incredibly lame reason: customer service gets the day off, even though it’s not really a holiday until tomorrow.

Not that I will need business cards this weekend, as I have no plans to attend any business functions. But, seriously… Why must it be so difficult to get a human being involved in solving an online problem? For crying out loud… ARGH!!!

So now comes the part where I explain how I’m “making peace” with this situation. I would love to say that I’m so zen that this doesn’t ruffle my feathers one bit. But since I’ve already said “argh” in this post, with several exclamation points no less, the jig is up. Deep breath… Reboot… Move on to another task. The weekend will be over before I know it.

There. That’s a peaceful thought. I can go along with that.

Posted in communications | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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