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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Tips for Coping with Cranky Customers

Unreasonable customers are always a pain, but they’re especially prevalent and stressful during the holiday shopping rush.

Lisa Girard

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Just ask Anton Skorucak, founder and CEO of xUmp.com, an online retailer of scientific educational supplies, toys and gifts. The company used to give customers a choice between ground and next-day air shipping on holiday orders. Often, they would choose the cheapest option, ignoring the details and later accusing the company of “ruining their Christmas” because their package didn’t arrive by December 24.

To try to eliminate such frustrating experiences, xUmp last year launched a “Guaranteed in time for Christmas” shipping offer. When customers choose this option, the onus falls on xUmp to select the shipping method that will ensure the package arrives in time.

The company adjusts the cost of this option daily, with the price increasing as Christmas Day draws closer. “I am happy to report that last year as a result of this, we did not ruin anyone’s Christmas,” Skorucak says.

To help you cope with difficult shoppers this holiday season, consider these five tips from customer-service experts:

1. Remember: The customer is always right.

The old “customer is always right” philosophy may still be the best approach for dealing with obnoxious shoppers. Customer service experts have long said that a happy customer tells one or two friends, while an unhappy customer tells several – or in the age of social media, hundreds of his closest strangers. And these statistics can be magnified by the emotions related to holiday shopping.

“Businesses spend so much of their money acquiring customers, yet can lose them over one complaint,” says Ken Varga, a marketing strategist in New Jersey. After all, he adds, 99% of customers will obey the rules, so it’s about appeasing that difficult 1%.

So when someone returns a product beyond the 30-day money back window, for example, you’re probably better off giving a refund with a smile. Otherwise, “they can hurt you badly,” Varga says, especially by badmouthing you on Facebook and Twitter.

2. Train employees to cope with problem customers.

Donna Fluss advises her small-business clients to hold staff meetings between the end of October and Thanksgiving to do scenario training and discuss best practices for dealing with nightmare customers. “Give [employees] as many options as possible, especially in a season when people are short on time and short on money,” says the founder of DMG Consulting in New Jersey.

Staff members should be trained to be sensitive and make a reasonable effort to solve a customer’s problem, Fluss says. “If a customer is over their credit limit, see if you can get them a one-time credit increase. Or if you know you can’t get them a gift item in time for Christmas, suggest where else they may be able to find it, even if it’s through a competitor.”

3. Hire enough holiday help to minimise customer frustration.

Staffing up adequately during the holidays can prevent a lot of aggravation for both customers and employees. If someone is already upset and then has to wait a long time on line or on hold, this will only add fuel to the fire.

Overworked employees also may mishandle customers. If there aren’t enough employees to deal with the increased holiday demand, Varga says, “the individual handling the disgruntled customer will try to rush, and as a result, the outcome won’t be good.”

4. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver.

You may want to appease an angry customer by promising to get a package delivered by Christmas Eve, but resist the temptation if the chances are slim. The last thing you want to do with a disgruntled shopper is make empty promises, says Esteban Kolsky, founder of thinkJar, a Kansas-based firm that focuses on customer service strategies.

“If you say you’re going to try to do it and you don’t do it, their problem becomes your problem,” he says. “They don’t use common sense, and then they expect the store or company to perform miracles. You always try to please your customer, but don’t give them a reason to heap blame on you.”

5. As a last resort, be willing to lose the customer and the sale.

If you offer your best plan for resolving a problem and the customer is still being difficult, it’s okay to part company and refund the purchase price.

Your generosity of spirit should have limits, says Varga, whose rule is: Only one chance to break the rules per customer. “Times are going to get very tough and people will begin to make demands that are unrealistic just to see what they can get away with,” he says.

Lisa Girard is a freelance writer who covers topics as diverse as golf fashion, health and beauty, the hardware industry and small business interests. She also has been Senior Apparel Editor for PGA Magazine for more than a decade. Lisa lives in New Jersey with her four children and two dogs.

Sales Strategy & Management

Boost Your Business With Smart Delivery

Differentiate your business in the one way that customers value the most: deliver the goods on time.

Morné Stoltz

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It can be difficult to carve out a competitive advantage in today’s cutthroat business environment. For some companies, investments have been focused on creating digital advantage through measures like apps or fancy websites, or improved processes with clever technology to make things run faster and better. While all those strategies have their place, there could be a far simpler way to put your business ahead of the competition. Deliver the goods, in a very literal sense.

The Internet revolution has made today’s markets very competitive in all sorts of ways. Barriers to entering many markets have tumbled and new competitors are everywhere. Consumers have greater choice than ever and can easily compare prices and service. That is good for consumers, but it makes it hard for companies to attract and retain a loyal following.

By now, it should be no secret that people are willing to pay for convenience. In fact, many of the digital initiatives we see today are succeeding because of the convenience they provide. Take the Uber example: Using technology services, it brings together willing sellers with willing buyers, with the ultimate convenience of being able to see where your Uber is, who the driver is and what car to expect. Even more convenient, your Uber shows up when you need it.

Related: A 7-Step Guide To Starting Your Own Trade Business

Extend the same concept to physical goods, no matter what they may be and it is not difficult to see how a delivery service can easily put a big smile on your customers’ faces. Whether you are selling horse saddles, operate a bicycle store, run the local grocer, hardware outlet or restaurant: bringing your goods to your customers saves them time, makes it easier to buy and has the added effect of establishing further rapport to build trusted relationships.

According to Forbes, the Internet has habituated today’s shoppers to instant gratification. While physical goods obviously cannot be accessed at a click, there is no doubt that speedy delivery has become a driver of competitive advantage.

Getting a delivery service set up can be easy and low-cost provided your market is fairly local and your product relatively easy to transport. There are a range of options for vehicles, from a versatile bakkie or minivan capable of handling large loads or bigger items, through to a delivery motorbike or scooter. For those providing smaller items, scooters or motorbikes are a great option, as they enable convenience when your customers might most need it: during rush hour. A bike can zip through the traffic, impressing your customer by ensuring that they get what they need, without wasting time stuck in the car due to traffic or lack of parking.

A big question would be whether your deliveries are handled in-house or by a third party. There are pros and cons, but there is an increasing trend for many smaller businesses to make use of specialised logistics/ delivery operations. After all, this means you do not have to make the capital investment in a vehicle or scooter, pay a staff member to do the job and take on the insurance and management issues. Not only are you engaging an expert, you are also doing your bit to support another business.

Third-party delivery partners also work well for deliveries in far-flung areas, or if your product is bulky.

It is a good idea to see what other businesses of your size are doing and who they are using. It is important to choose a delivery partner whose service ethos matches your own.

Related: 5 Success Hacks To Grow Your Business

Whatever option you choose, make sure you understand the risk and have the right kind of business insurance in place. It is also a good idea to have the ability to monitor where your deliveries are in real time. If you have a third-party partner, they should  be able to provide this for you.

With most big stores offering delivery services as part of their value proposition, adding this choice to your service offering increasingly makes good business sense. Customers are quite prepared to pay a slight premium to get what they want, right to their front door – and they will keep on coming back for more.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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Sales Strategy & Management

5 Reasons Why Your Business Is Losing Customers

Ever think about why people keep buying iPhones, even though they’re so darned pricey?

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Like it or not, your business is losing customers. Recent research from McKinsey & Company revealed that only 13 percent of customers surveyed said they were loyal to a single brand. The research found that 87 percent of customers surveyed said they shopped around, and 58 percent had switched to a new brand.

Why do people shop around? What motivates them to abandon the businesses they know and buy products or services from competitors? It’s time that you take a close look at why your business is losing customers – and, what you can do to fix it.

Here are five common reasons why customers leave small businesses … and effective tips you can use to start turning the tide.

1. You’re guilty of poor customer service experience.

Few things can sour a customer experience more quickly than poor customer service. To a customer, your support team is your business. Shauna Geraghty, a clinical psychologist and head of talent at the global customer support innovator TalkDesk revealed on the company’s blog that over 90 percent of customers who are dissatisfied with your customer service experience will — rather than telling you that something is wrong and how you can improve it — just not come back.

So, if you’re not paying attention to your customer-service policies and performance, there’s a good chance that neglect is costing you customers.

This is one reason why some companies, including Comcast, create create support-focused accounts like @comcastcares on Twitter. These accounts are public and are known for helping customers to resolve problems quickly.

Related: How to Lose Customers through your Website

What you can do:

Outline thoughtful, positive customer service practices. Start with an internal audit of the policies that govern your team. Conduct interviews with customer-support managers and representatives.

Assess what company policies have led to customer dissatisfaction. What internal issues are preventing your reps from supporting customers quickly and effectively? Use this data to improve your customer service practices.

Then, bear in mind these three golden rules of customer service:

Respond quickly. Acknowledge when a mistake is made and make it right.

Treat the customer with respect and empathy.

Support your customer support team. Give your customer service team the resources they need to provide your customers with awesome service. This includes the technical infrastructure as well as the autonomy to make choices that will benefit your business and support your customers.

2. Your product or service failed to meet expectations

Disappointed customers are likely to share their disappointment with friends on social media. And angry customers will post angry reviews for other prospective customers to see.

What you can do:

Design and build a quality product or service. Don’t think that marketing magic or any amount of other business trickery is going to make up for a poor product or badly executed service. So, work with a talented product designer.

Test. Build with quality materials. Adapt your service based on customer feedback.

Do whatever it takes to create and deliver a service or product that is worth paying for.

3. You didn’t show the value

valuePrice is what a customer pays. Value is what a customer gets. Sales expert and emotional intelligence coach Liz Wendling pointed out on her blog that customers don’t necessarily choose only “the lowest price or the cheapest in town.” Customer preferences, she said, have nothing to do with price and everything to do with the value you are conveying. When your potential customers tell you it is about the money, wrote Wendling, that is actually customer code for “show me the value.”

This is certainly one reason why Apple continues to dominate when it comes to smartphone profits. In Q4, 2017, Apple captured 87 percent of smartphone industry profits but accounted for only 18 percent of total units sold. Customers, clearly, are buying iPhones because they believe that Apple products deliver more value, despite the higher price.

What you can do:

Identify your unique value proposition. What awesome value do you bring to your customers that other businesses don’t? This is your unique value proposition.

Clearly articulate your unique value proposition on all platforms. Publish the benefits of your product or service on your website home page.

Educate your customer support and sales staffers so that they can speak fluently about the value included in your pricing.

Feature your unique value proposition on the landing page for every offer. (Check out https://www.crowdspring.com/blog/landing-page-guide/this article to learn more about creating effective landing pages.)

Related: 3 Ways To Stop Taking Your Most Loyal Customers For Granted

4. Your business is Inconsistent

In business, and in life, consistency breeds trust. Things that are consistent can be relied upon. And, things that can be relied upon don’t need to be worried about. Inconsistent branding, including using your company’s name or logo differently on your own site and on social networks, plus inconsistent quality or service, all have the potential to drive customers away.

United Airlines learned this lesson the hard way when young women wearing casual wear were not permitted to board a flight unless they changed out of Spandex leggings. Yet any traveler is going to see many, many women at the airport wearing leggings. And there’ was no previous record of United barring others from flying for wearing leggings. That’s why this particular decision created a social media firestorm and lots of confusion.

What you can do:

Deliver an experience customers can rely on. This starts with you and your employees.

Educate all of your employees about what a good customer experience should look like.

Create a branding guide to establish uniform branding guidelines and share it with your team.

Hold your employees accountable for delivering a consistently positive customer experience.

Create strong customer interaction policies. Whatever your policies are, make sure that they will serve your customers well before you implement them. Then stick with them! Be consistent.

5. Your sales tactics are out-of-date.

Aggressive sales techniques are more likely to drive customers away than lead to positive results. Leslie Ye, for HubSpot, wrote that the old sales playbook — dragging prospects through a sales process and strong-arming them into a purchase — worked only because there was no better way for buyers to buy.

If your sales techniques focus on manipulating or coercing a sale, your business is actively chasing customers away.

What you can do:

Employ value-based selling techniques. Take the time to learn what your customer actually needs. Then offer value-based solutions that address those needs. Show how your product benefits the customer and allow them to decide if it’s the right fit for them.

Build relationships with your customers. If you’re trying to sell with every single customer interaction, you’re doing it wrong. Instead, focus on establishing trust with your prospective customers.

Have honest interactions and provide value through useful content and entertaining social media engagement. Then, when a customer needs the product or service you provide, he or she will turn to you, a trusted resource.

The key to growing a business is to maintain the customers you already have while acquiring new ones. So, stop leaking customers. The success of your business depends is at stake.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Sales Strategy & Management

How To Find The Right Salespeople: And Attract Them To Your Business

A key part of finding star talent to join your business is to start the process much earlier than you need to, by building a strong talent pipeline – also known as a Virtual Bench.

Andrew Aitken

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In a previous article, we discussed the 3 things business owners and sales managers should be concerned about when trying to increase sales in a systematic, more sustainable manner. The first of these is to hire a sales team consisting of A-players, and as the owner of a business, you’ll know how hard it is to find this kind of talent.

A key part of finding star talent to join your business is to start the process much earlier than you need to, by building a strong talent pipeline – also known as a Virtual Bench.

Related: 3 Ways You Should Use Data Science to Skyrocket Sales

What is a Virtual Bench?

A virtual bench is the concept of building a pool or pipeline of strong, A-player talent before you need it. Like sports coaches in team sports who always have players on the bench that are ready to play when needed, you too, need to have a pool of people that can fill new spots and substitute existing players on your team when necessary. A virtual bench is about ensuring that you don’t only think about hiring when the need arises – as doing so can have painful, costly effects on your business.

Always be recruiting, even if you don’t yet have a position to fill.

How to build a Virtual Bench of A-player talent

1. Use your existing contacts

Go through your existing contacts – on your phonebook, on LinkedIn, etc. and shortlist, from your past experiences, which of them are A-players that you would like to have working with you one day.

  • Keep in contact with the people on this list – let them know that you believe they are talented and have a great attitude, and that you are always looking for great people to join the business. Make an appointment to meet with them to discuss where they are in their careers and what their future plans are. Use this meeting to get to know them even more and unearth possible synergies where you could potentially work together in future.

2. Keep an eye open at social functions and networking events

Use regular social interactions to identify people you could work with one day. Speak to the people you meet about what they do and about their future plans. Also ask mutual friends or acquaintances about your new contacts, so that you have a clearer picture of who they are. Then keep in touch to nurture your relationships with them.

Related: How To Structure A Fair Salary That Will Motivate Your Sales Team

3. Work with your marketing team

Most of the support you need when building your virtual bench should be from your marketing team and not necessarily your HR team.

Sit down with your marketing team to see what content and campaigns they can run to attract the right people to your business. A-players are attracted to organisations that have a clear mission, distinguishable energy and drive, as opposed to merely seeking a job and a regular paycheck. So, create content that portrays:

  • Who you are as a business and what you stand for
  • Who your customers/clients are
  • The wins you are getting
  • What the working culture is like in your organisation

If you think about hiring in this forward-thinking manner, you’ll be sure to not only prevent a scramble when you need new talent to join your business, but it could help you prevent a lot of costly mis-hires.

Keep an eye out for our next article in this series: What core skills do your salespeople need to have?

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