Tag Archives: teamwork

Tips for Customer Retention & Keeping Your Cool

Tips for Customer Retention & Keeping Your Cool.

“The customer is always right,” is an old cliché, but here’s why it’s true. It’s harder to win new customers than to keep old ones. A recent survey conducted by accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers found that it costs five to ten times more to acquire new clients than to keep existing ones happy. And with customer turnover of about 50 to 65 percent on average every five years for the typical shop, learning to keep customers is a key part of doing business. Even when your customers are upset (or worse), take a deep breath and remember that their satisfaction is literally part of your bottom line.

Here are 10 tips to manage your clients successfully and to increase retention and overall customer bliss:

  • First impressions about how you communicate are important: Your first contact with customers is often pivotal in determining the tone of your business relationship. When you send your project proposal on time, it signals you are diligent and efficient. When you send an email follow-up, it signals you are organized and thoughtful. When you produce correspondence and all other branded material in the same way, it signals you are consistent and professional. On the other hand, you don’t want to set up unrealistic expectations. If you respond to an email within minutes of it being sent, that might set a precedent you can’t live up to later. If you allow your customers to call you at anytime, they may call you when you are on a deadline or have other pressing priorities.
  • Set boundaries and expectations and then live up to them: Particularly if you are a freelancer, you should make your customers aware of your boundaries. Freelancers have to balance their development time with customer consultation time, which can become impossible if customers call at inopportune times. Try to make a routine for emails. Instead of checking emails all day, consider checking email only once or twice per day, but make it a point to respond within 24 hours. As for phone calls and IMs, make sure that you schedule them so they don’t become disruptive. If you explain to your customer that setting an appointment for a phone call will be more productive because you can prepare ahead of time, you can make the customer feel appreciated without needing to be on high alert for random calls. When you keep up habits and patterns, customers will know what to expect and will adapt accordingly.
  • Be transparent and professional about billing, time sheets, and turnaround times: If you show how much you bill and how, your customers will face less sticker shock. One of the most frequent complaints in customer care is a lack of billing transparency or a gap between perceived value and price. Being upfront can ease this. It also helps to develop real plans for turning around project work items so that you can accurately and confidently quote this information in future correspondence. If the customer suggests a change but you don’t know how long it will take, follow up with more information instead of offering a vague promise. It’s better to follow up with more information confidently than to set your customer up for later disappointment.
  • Build self-service, timely updates, and useful features into your website: Your website should offer continuing value for your business. Freelancers should sign up for project management and billing sites to make sure they make professional and accurate communication with their clients. Self-service can help customers to feel empowered, but make sure that your site provides a quality personalized experience.
  • Approach confrontation with the customer with their perspective in mind: Everyone eventually faces the irate call from a customer due to a missed deadline or some other problem. Listen to the customer, and respond gracefully and professionally. It helps to repeat back the customer’s question or complaint to confirm that you have listened. It also helps to use positive phrasing such as “Here’s how we can solve this problem”. If the conversation becomes particularly personal, gently remind the customer by saying something such as “I know that these comments are not directed towards me but this situation, which if I were you I wouldn’t be satisfied with either.” Some social scientists have discovered that in the case of refunds, it can actually be helpful to ask the customer to suggest a fair refund price. More often than not, the customer will offer a price lower than you expect, and if you keep the customer, this goodwill will pay dividends.
  • Personalize all correspondence and communication as much as possible: When you send correspondence to your customers, use their name and information about a recent conversation to make the correspondence seem more urgent and timely, which gives the customer greater satisfaction. If sending a generic email, at least give users a chance to opt-out. Sending email too often will seem like spam, so use software that detects whether the user is reading your emails or not. Use a service like Scrubly to make sure that your address book contains the best name to use to address customers and that all email addresses in your address book are clean, neat, and up-to-date, which will prevent annoying customers with accidental duplicates and improper salutations.
  • Use automated telephone systems with care:If you use a computerized telephone system, make sure that customers are able to speak to a real live person at any time. If you can afford it, use professionally recorded audio instead of text-to-speech, which can sound robotic and unfriendly.
  • Ensure that customer care representatives have everything they need to interact successfully with the clients: You should keep a log that documents all customer interactions. No customer likes the sense that they’ve had to repeat information from earlier conversations. This log will also help you to develop a rapport and to find leads.
  • Under-promise and over-deliver: Customers get excited about big project plans at deep discounts, but this is a recipe for disaster either because you can’t meet the price or you can’t meet the high expectations. Going the extra mile on a smaller project plan will delight the customer and will show extra value than failing to deliver a bigger plan.
  • Cold-call old clients and win them back: One of the difficult things to do, particularly for freelancers, is to learn to cold-call old clients. Old clients could be easier to win back than you think even if you parted on not-so-good terms. Focus on a technique called “the soft sell”. Instead of convincing customers they should come back, remind them of what it was like when they did business with you. Talking about the past conversations you had and other information about your relationship shows that you are considerate and remember their specific business. If they talk about their current projects, suggest how those projects would have been on time and on budget if they were still a client.

Up Next: “Avoiding the 10 Common Killers of a Small Business”

Google ITO: Can the Innovation Time Off Method Benefit Your Workplace?

Can the Google ITO method work for you?

ITO Explained: How to Increase Your Organizations Creativity

Everyone in today’s work environment is looking to maximize on their organizations time management and creativity skills. One such company that has seemingly cornered the market on a unique concept is Google. It is no secret that Google’s work environment is not the atypical corporate environment of yesteryear. So it is no surprise that Google incorporated a twist of the 80/20 rule also known as “Pareto Rule”.

Google has taken “Pareto Rule” and morphed it into Innovative Time Off or ITO for short. ITO is generally the concept of organizations encouraging that 20% of the work week or day to be focused on innovation, while the remaining 80% focuses on” core” responsibilities

This concept has placed Google as the rule and not the exception. Here we will explore the nuts and bolts of this concept and how you can merge this into your entrepreneurial activities and/or small business and encourage team building.

  • Project Management: It is important to note that while the ITO concept is innovative, the process to implementing this concept between management and employee is one of structure to give continuity and ease of communication. Generally the employee will write a proposal and specify key points and how they plan to measure the progress of the project and what outcomes they expect to meet. This process allows for both management and the general workforce to have interdependence. This goes a long ways towards more efficiency during the 80% of the work week or day that employee is not necessarily working on their project. It is important to also note that this structure also encourages creativity within a structured environment.
  • Fail to Succeed: This is an important key point in team building. When employees become encouraged to fail, the fear of taking risks is all but eliminated from the process. Employees working as team members are more likely to build confidence and pursue creative problem solving to come up with ideas that will help the organization. Meanwhile management gets the opportunity to watch and be that voice of reason if things get a little too harried.
  • Micro Projects: ITO also allows team members to try their ideas on a smaller scale with little to no extra investment on the company’s part. This is a great way of trying out product launches, new techniques without risking large amounts of the capital to bring a service or product to market. Thereby creating relief to key owners and management and protecting the core business while giving employees the opportunity to spread their wings. As a whole, the organization will be stronger and more on trend to protect their place in the market.
  • Bridge the Gap: This point in the process encourages communication between upper, senior management and employees. Owners and CEO of organization get to meet and explore avenues and talents of both middle management and employees in other departments without the added cost of hiring out or outside consulting groups. The process is self inclusive and allows employees to build their resume through projects that they initiated and have had approved for implementation. This type work flow allows the organization to truly promote from within and set up a structured open door policy.
  • Reality Check: While Innovative Time Off is great for encouraging creativity it can also be a source of frustration for employees if they have delusions of grandeur the first time out. It is important that at the beginning of the ITO process those employees are not over reaching their expectation that every idea will be a success. For upper and senior management it becomes important to buffer excitement with a little dose of reality. Overall this concept will allow the organization to stay realistically optimistic.

On a last note it is also important that any implementation of this team building process and project management becomes not just a strategy but a sort of corporate culture within the organization. It becomes imperative that before making this transition to an ITO work program that senior and upper management do their homework of other companies that have successfully implemented this strategy. This extra bit of foot work will go a long way to keep up the moral of employees and the organization.

As you can see, this is a process that can help grow a company but yet keep the best of the best with little to no extra investment. Do your due diligence and see how this idea can keep your company on track from the very start.

Even if the ITO method doesn’t work for you, there are other Leadership Styles that might!

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