A call is all it takes
Have you ever received a call from a business you frequent to ask you about the service? Or — even better — has anyone ever called you to thank you for complaining?
I once had a problem with the air-conditioner of my car and the dealership simply couldn’t seem to fix the defect. I complained to the service department, only to later receive a phone call from the general manager of the dealership. He thanked me for the call, explained that my car would be sent to a new air-con specialist at their expense to have it seen to again and that if it wasn’t fixed my bill would be refunded in full.
He invited me to come into the dealership to discuss it further if I wished. Although my car air-con wasn’t repaired, I really appreciated the manager going the extra mile to phone me and address my concerns.
Related: Customer Service Success Secrets
A phone call to address customer comments or complaints is a method that should be used by all businesses. The script is simple:
- Thank the customer for their feedback.
- Address their complaint.
- Tell them how it’s going to be sorted out.
- Thank them again.
- Invite them to come back soon. This is yet another way to turn a possibly damaging incident into a positive customer experience.
The sound of your own name has a certain magic about it. It makes you feel special, and it establishes a connection with the person speaking to you.
We all feel that way, so try to make your customers experience that special bond by using their first names when dealing with them. It elevates your interaction to the personal level from being just a bland transaction. You learn someone’s first name by introducing yourself by name when they come into your shop or from your business communications.
When speaking to your customer, pay attention to how they pronounce their name, then use it accordingly, and best of all, remember it. Practice using people’s first names as you address them. “I can do you a half lamb for just under R1 000, Dave. How does that grab you?”
This kind of thing will be sure to grab Dave a lot better since you’re using his first name. You’ve established a special personal bond, right there in your butchery.
Online customers, online customer service
Whether you do business on the Internet, or your store simply has a Facebook account, you have an online presence. You need to have an online customer-service ethic.
Be sure to deal with every query and comment you come across online. Do web searches for your company’s name on Facebook and Twitter. Visit your store’s Facebook page regularly and respond to every comment
on there. Check your company email inbox.
Online conversations are personal, in the same way a chat with a customer in your store is a personal one. So show the same sincere, positive, personal attitude you do in your shop. Make it personal, and someone who was initially having a rant about what they thought was a faceless company, will calm down and become reasonable.
Don’t look at your Facebook page or your Twitter account as a one-way broadcast for you to announce your promotions. It is a two-way forum for communication, and a great tool for customer service and to build positivity about your business.
A site like hellopeter.com is specifically for consumers to report on the service that they receive from suppliers. Go on there from time to time and do a search for your company name. If you find a comment — positive or negative — engage the individual. The same applies to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
In the case of an upset individual going on a bit of a rant, be reasonable and try to take the conversation offline. Ask for the person’s email address so they can explain their problem more fully. If necessary, give them a phone call. Show you care and address all issues sincerely, just as you would in real life.
Social media protocol
On social media like Twitter and Facebook you have a chance to interact with customers about your store or your brand. It’s a great opportunity. Here are a few pointers:
The point of social media is that it’s a form of multi-user interaction. Don’t think of it like a television ad or a newspaper promo that goes out from you to your customers. Everyone has the right to an opinion on your brand. Luckily you know it better than anyone. So get on there and join the conversation. Accept praise, manage complaints, and correct any possible misunderstandings.
2. Have an account manager
If the volume of your social media traffic is large, or you’re not an expert, hire a social media manager to look after your account. They will handle day-to-day interactions and flag any serious issues for your input.
3. Be positive
As in life, positivity is contagious. Negative comments from you reflect poorly on your business. So don’t diss your competition or any unhappy customers. Come at it from a positive, constructive point of view. Get on it, pronto. A message on your FB page, or on Twitter is not something to be put on your to-do list. It needs to be addressed immediately. Engage the person and start a conversation. Leaving them hanging or ignoring them is rude.
4. Don’t feed the trolls
If someone descends into abuse and disrespect, stop the conversation. State your case, and if people are unreasonable or abusive, move on. If necessary, block them.
More haste, less speed
You know that some of the fastest service is not always a sign of good service. If I place an order at a restaurant and my meal arrives 40 seconds later, I’ll be slightly suspicious.
Similarly, customer service is not always just about speed. Sure, we are all under time pressure, but we still require quality service from the businesses we support. The Gallup Organization has conducted research that found satisfying the emotional needs of customers is equally, or more important than the speed of service.
So don’t neglect the personal aspect of your interaction with customers. Favouring speed above courtesy and effectiveness can actually be counter-productive. Who wants a meal prepared in a minute by grumpy staff that tastes awful?
Also, if your customer’s experience in your store is pleasant, the time they spend there can be irrelevant. They might spend a fun 20 minutes chatting to the waiters, watching sport on the big screen and reading your store magazine. Then their tasty meal arrives!
Most of the time, quality of service trumps speed.
6 Top Tips For Reading Management Accounts
There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.
There is a golden key that reveals the secret of whether your business will survive and thrive. It is not the brilliance of your business concept. It is not your talent for talking clients to sign on the dotted line. It is keeping tabs on the figures that summarise the strength of your business – your monthly management accounts.
Many entrepreneurs are usually more interested in operations and find product development or sales much more enjoyable than catching up on accounts. I sympathise – I’m one of them! So if you feel the same way, my top tip is always to make sure that you partner with or employ someone who can oversee the finances for you.
But that does not mean you can let the figure boffins and the finances take care of themselves. To function properly in your business, you need to know the outcome of your sales and development strategies – and the story of that is told in your management accounts.
If you never look at your management accounts, it is like blinding yourself in one eye. It means you risk being literally blindsided by a big surprise, whether it is heading for a significant loss or being confronted by an unexpected provisional tax payment.
Here is how Engela van Loggerenberg, our Group Financial Manager, puts management accounts in perspective for our new franchisees. She urges them to focus on six key areas:
- Priorities: Management accounts can help you pinpoint areas that you need to prioritise, whether to capitalise on growth or because they are not performing as well as you hoped.
- Strength: All businesses aim to grow their assets over time and the balance sheet in your management accounts will reflect whether and how you are achieving that.
- Control: A strong balance sheet is one that shows you have your business liabilities well controlled. The key marker here is your current liquidity ratio, which results from dividing your current assets by your current liabilities. To keep your business healthy, always aim to keep this ratio at least 2:1.
- Revenue: Ideally, you want to see your revenue grow month by month. Check your income statement both for the trend in actual revenue and also for actual against budgeted revenue to check how well your strategies are delivering results.
- Profitability: Of course, revenue is not the same as profitability. You need to know your gross profit – the basic figure of your sales less the cost of those goods – and net profit, which also deducts a range of other expenses including taxes. Track the percentage of these two profit figures as well as the actual cash amount they represent to keep a check on whether your costs are creeping up too high.
- Finance: Most businesses at some point want to finance their growth by borrowing from a bank. A set of well-regulated management accounts is a prerequisite to obtaining finance.
Your management accounts do not have to be particularly complicated to give you these vital pointers – and if you are figure-shy, the more straightforward the better.
The important thing, though, is that you do not allow yourself to be too scared to ask if there is something which is not clear to you. That is the way to keep control of this key to your business fortunes and to keep building your business from strength to strength.
A Three-Pronged Approach To Franchise Success
Danie Nel, head of business development for Cash Crusaders franchising, says the brand’s success over the past 22 years is attributed to the sentiment that “a profitable franchisee is a happy franchisee.”
What is your current footprint?
220 Stores. We’re looking to increase that number by another 20 stores for the 2018 financial year, which will then bring us to a total of 240 stores. Depending on the economy, we’re looking to grow our footprint even more to around 300 to 350 stores nationwide in the near future.
What are some of your brand’s biggest achievements that other franchises can learn from?
Our ability to read the retail market and innovate to stay ahead of times. We have recently launched an online platform where customers can sell their goods or borrow money — all online. This was a first for online retailing. One other achievement that I would wish to highlight is the launch of our mobile phone range, Doogee, exclusive to Cash Crusaders. Personally, having the honour of opening our 200th store was a tremendous achievement.
Franchisor involvement has also played a big role in the success of the organisation. Our CEO Sean Stegmann and other senior managers are as much involved in the business as any other operations manager or operator.
There is simply no ‘ivory tower’ management in our business and it makes a huge difference.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered and how have you overcome these?
Some of our daily challenges include securing a premises at a favourable rental and securing a franchisee with sufficient unencumbered capital, who is credit- worthy. Once the store is open, cash flow management and stock procurement is key.
In addition to this, it’s a challenge to achieve profitability immediately and to meet franchisee expectations. It’s also vital to ensure superb customer service and to retain those customers in the current retail and economic climate. I would say that our single biggest challenge is to retain and to build our customer base.
What attracts franchisees to Cash Crusaders?
Our unique retail model that allows for multiple streams of income through one business. These three profit centres include: New goods (variety of imported quality goods), second-hand goods (which we buy directly from the public, either through customers coming directly to our stores, or via our house-buy system offered by some of our stores) and secured lending (a financial service where customers can borrow money against valuables, determined at store level, and the loan is repaid within 30 days — or the contract is renewed for another 30 days with interest and service fees charged).
Why is it important for successful franchises such as yours to have a strong banking partner and how does it benefit both the franchisor and the franchisee?
Gone are the days where you just got a deposit book or cheque book and a little business loan from your bank. Banking has become more sophisticated and the technology that the bank offers is as important as its service, making life for both the franchisee and the franchisor easier on a day-to-day basis.
5 S-Words Make Your Store Site Pay For Itself
Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters recently addressed delegates at the FASA (Franchise Association of SA) conference on the topic of choosing the best location for their business. He spoke about the 5-S technique to assist business owners with deciding which premises is best suited for their business.
The combination of continuing trading uncertainty in South Africa and the new financial year for many businesses can add up to carefully reviewing costs – including leases on premises. Choosing a site to set up or relocate your business can be just as stressful as deciding where to buy a house – and just as fundamental to its health, finances and sustainability, says Richard Mukheibir, CEO of Cash Converters.
This is not the time to snap up the property with the cheapest rental as that might turn out to be something you regret in the long run. Nor is it the time to be dazzled by the swankiest premises you can find. The potential for bragging rights could turn out to be poor value for money.
“This is a time for your head to rule your heart regardless of the industry you trade in.” he says.
The real-estate mantra of “location, location, location” works just as effectively in commercial as it does in private property but you will often be looking for rather different factors. Mukheibir shares his 5-S technique to help you begin narrowing down the areas where you will consider locating your business – first at the macro level, focus in further to the meso level, then look more closely at the micro level before you start weighing up specific sites.
Remind yourself of the medium and long-term strategies you have developed for your business. Keep your understanding of your business’s customers, purpose and growth prospects top of mind when you are selecting the areas where you will start looking for sites.
Within those areas, redline any sections where you feel the competition from other businesses will detract from your potential to grow your market. Greenline areas where there are good synergies between the people who live or work there and the demographic that you have identified as your target market.
Make sure there is clearly a good pool of potential customers for you – size definitely matters when it comes to ensuring that there are plenty of customers available to you. Look specifically for facilities that cater for the kind of customers you want to attract. Sports stores benefit from being close to schools and tertiary colleges, for example.
Although many businesses now have an online element, most still benefit from attracting customers to walk through the door. For your premises to be a good fit for your business, you should be located in plain sight and ensure that your ability to market yourself locally through signage and lamp-post posters is not restricted by local bylaws.
You will attract and retain good customers and staff if they feel they’re secure in the area. This perception includes factors such as easy, safe parking and a welcoming environment.
“Making a success of your business is not just about the product or your branding,” says Mukheibir. “It can be as fundamental as finding a site that ends up paying for itself. To do this, it must offer you a well-calculated gap in the market where the strong demand for the product or service that your business offers ensures sales and profit. If you have considered all these steps carefully, you will never worry about making rent and wages payment again.”
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