Day: February 26, 2016

The Personal Touch: 7 Steps to Stellar Customer Service

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Ask anyone with a thriving company to share their secret to success, and the most common response will be: “Good customer service.”

This short statement may seem simplistic in theory, but without consistently positive experiences, the customers you’re hoping will keep your financial boat afloat may walk away with their money, leaving you to sink into the ocean of failed businesses.

The best product in the world won’t earn repeat purchases without excellent customer service, and nothing helps a company grow like positive word-of-mouth. With social media outlets like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, positive and negative stories about products and services can now spread rapidly, quickly making or breaking businesses.

According to the 2013 Customer-Rage Study conducted by the ASU W.P Carey School of Business, the amount of people reporting service problems has risen from 32% in the 1976 study, to 45% in 2011, to 50% in this year’s survey.

Customers also admit to yelling at company representatives more than ever before. This is because people are still 11 times more likely to complain via the phone, making well-trained, professional phone representatives a must-have for any company wanting to appease and retain dissatisfied customers.

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If you can train all employees in the art of delivering great customer service, this is the most important step on the road to success you can take. Fortunately, being good at customer service and handling complaints are both easily achieved with respect, empathy and patience.

Below are 7 steps any company can take to provide amazing customer service that will increase sales and create loyal, happy clients.

 

1. Build a Relationship—

The most important thing any business can do to keep customers happy and returning is to interpersonally bond with them. Any effective salesperson will tell you that you’re not just selling a

product: you’re selling consistency, accountability—and your friendship. If you can develop strong relationships with your clients, you will win their consumer loyalty.

Learn the names and personal details of customers to help you cater to their shopping needs, and to develop a bond with them. People will return to a business that treats them like a person, rather than just another dollar to be made.

 

2. Stand Behind Your Product—

If you don’t believe in the quality of your product, why should anyone else? This means that if a customer brings back a broken or faulty item, don’t fight them about replacing it: if you happily remedy the issue, you will eventually make your money back with their repeat business.

People remember positive service experiences like this and share them on social media, so your kindness may also pay you back in new business from friends and family. Older, established companies like Bunn and Radio Flyer have been around for a long time and are well-known for their excellent customer service—and this is no coincidence. If you call complaining of a broken or missing part, both of these companies will replace it, no questions asked.

This incredible customer service and “How can we make this right?” attitude, handled by live humans on the phone and not frustrating automated menus, is exactly how to create and keep brand-loyal customers.

 

3. Validation and Acknowledgement—

When a customer calls to complain, one of the best responses a phone service employee can give them is verbal empathy. Sometimes an angry and dissatisfied buyer can be assuaged very quickly if they feel the employee understands and agrees with their issue.

Validating the customer’s emotions can be as easy as saying, “I understand why you’re feeling frustrated—that would make me feel frustrated, too,” or any type of comment that will let them know you’re on their side and want to find a solution.

Once a customer realizes you’re actively trying to help them, they will usually calm down and realize they no longer need to fight. Acknowledge the issue, validate their concerns, and then fix the problem to the best of your ability, and the customer will walk away feeling pleased with your positive attitude and assistance.

 

4. Human Handling Helps—

Nothing annoys customers more than calling to speak to a person, and being forced to suffer through an automated menu. Many people who might have only been mildly frustrated will move into the “officially angry” phase when forced to push buttons and enunciate yes or no-type answers for a computer.

This has become a problem, according to Scott Broetzmann of Customer Care Measurement and Consulting, because companies are focusing on the wrong things, such as “bad use of technology” like web chats and email complaints, when most people want to speak to a living person via phone.  The website GetHuman.com was designed to help consumers bypass annoying phone trees to speak to a person as quickly as possible, further proving that customers are highly annoyed by time-wasting automated menus.

If your company doesn’t have the staff to handle customer phone calls without leaving clients languishing on hold, consider hiring a professional answering service. Having trained customer service representatives handling questions and complaints will help your business retain clients who may have hung up on an automated menu—and your company—forever.

 

5. Pay Attention to Social Media—

As people spend more time on the Internet, they learn to use different outlets to communicate with companies, making your website, Facebook and Twitter pages important opportunities to establish great customer relationships. Consider using blogs, videos or even podcasts to connect with your desired demographic.

Customer concerns discussed on social media should be addressed immediately, because feeling ignored can make a client think a company doesn’t care about their issue.

Answer all questions and address problems in a helpful and friendly manner, making it clear that customer service is your top priority, and that you want to right any wrongs as quickly as possible.

 

6. Apologizing is Awesome—

Never underestimate the power of saying, “I’m sorry this happened. How can we make it better for you?” You are not admitting guilt, you’re simply apologizing for the inconvenience and frustration your customer is feeling—and you’d be amazed by how quickly an angry person will calm down once they realize you want to help.

Because there are many poorly-trained customer service representatives, customers often call expecting a battle to get the problem resolution they’re seeking. You can completely disarm them and turn their feelings from negative to positive by apologizing, empathizing, and cheerfully fixing the problem.

According to the 2013 Customer-Rage Study, when companies added free remedies like apologies to monetary compensation, this increased customer satisfaction from 37% to 74%, proving that people are surprisingly forgiving when treated with respect and kindness.

 

7. Training is Terrific—

You’ve hired great employees, but that doesn’t guarantee that when faced with an irate customer they’ll know how to handle them with the professionalism to salvage the client-company relationship.

Make certain all representatives of your business can handle conflict in a manner that promotes customer loyalty and satisfaction. And don’t forget to lead by example: If you treat your employees in an unkind or rude manner, they aren’t going to believe you place worth on being respectful to others.

Employees given raises based on good customer service skills will also be motivated to work hard to keep clients happy. A successful company known for this smart business model would be Trader Joe’s, with employee reviews and potential raises every 3 months, and an emphasis on great customer service.

 

As you read the tips above for giving great customer service, one thing becomes clear: people want to be listened to and treated with dignity, kindness, and the respect they deserve. The customer is the reason anyone employed has their job, and should be treated like the valuable commodity they are; but most of all, they want to be treated like valuable human beings.

If you can train your employees to build positive relationships with customers and solve problems in a compassionate, helpful way, you will have a successful, thriving company with a great reputation—and the excellent profits to match.

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SEO Success: 6 Top Tips for Small Business Owners

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Whether a small business is running its own SEO operation, or has decided to hire a marketing firm to help advertise their product or service, there are many strategies that can be used to guarantee success.

Too many keywords or poorly-implemented search terms can actually lower the search engine ranking for a business, making it important to launch an SEO campaign that will help rather than hinder your company’s Internet presence and brand.

Below are 6 top tips to help small business owners achieve SEO success:

 

1. Consider Quality Content—

Your customers want content that will grab their interest, give them new information, and keep them reading and exploring your site. Show your demographic the respect they deserve with intelligent and educational data, and they will respect your company in return.

Above-average and enlightening content will also allow your site to stand out from the crowd, possibly sending more Internet traffic and potential customers your way.

 

2. Killer Keywords and Key Phrases—

It’s important to find keywords and key phases relevant to your product or services, but try to steer clear of the more obvious ones to avoid getting lumped in with your competition.

Some SEO experts recommend researching high-ranking search engine hits in your company’s category to figure out what sets them apart, and which keywords and key phrases might be getting them all of the attention. So study the sites of your high-ranking competition to seek out their secrets.

 

3. Frustration-Free Fact Finding—

When a consumer is researching a product or service, hoping to purchase, they want the information-gathering process to be as simple as possible. This makes it vitally important to have a user-friendly website that loads quickly and boasts easy-to-navigate menus on every page.

If a potential customer becomes frustrated because they’re unable to find the facts they seek about your company, they will leave your page in search of easier pickings.

In short: People are busy, so skip the fancy, slow-loading graphics and present simple and clear information to keep the customer engaged.

 

4. Super Social Media Marketing—

Obviously you will want to seize social media marketing opportunities such as creating a Facebook page for your brand, opening a Twitter account, and utilizing other networking sites like Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. But creating social media presence means more than merely representing your company; you’ll need to maintain interest as well.

Updating your assorted social media pages daily is highly recommended, as this can drive traffic to your company’s sites and get your name out there when people share your interesting content with friends.

Also: Remember to register with all major search engines. Don’t wait for the world to find you—let them know exactly where you are from the get-go.

 

5. Stagnating is Silly—

Because SEO is a constantly evolving beast, be careful not to get stuck in a rut with your keywords, key phrases, marketing choices, or by following the latest trends. Trends are what everybody else is doing: that’s what makes them trends. You want to stand out and be an SEO leader, not a member of the herd.

Try different things and conduct “experiments” with different SEO strategies, taking notes on what does or doesn’t work for your company, and never be afraid to try something completely different. Everything changes, so what didn’t work a year ago might win your business major web traffic today.

 

6. Terrific Titles and Tags—

Use every opportunity to attract clientele to your website, including titles that stand out and pop, separating your brand from the generic, overused and bland headings currently boring people on the Internet. And make sure the tags at the bottom of every article are optimal for your product and attract your desired demographic.

All images should be given names that double as search engine tags, and describe what is being pictured for those with slow or non-loading computers. This helps people with less powerful technology be able to feel like they’re still in the loop and able to glean the information they need.

 

Getting customers to your site is the first step towards a sale, making it an extremely important piece of the marketing puzzle. Use the steps above to help your company achieve search engine optimization that will turn your small business into a huge success.

Strategies for Success: Helping Kids with ADHD Develop Math Skills

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Every person learns differently – some kids are visual learners, some auditory, some tactile – but children with ADHD have difficulty focusing, sitting still, and are easily distracted, sometimes making it feel impossible to teach them anything.

This impulsive, fidgeting behavior can make it seem as if ADHD-brained kids aren’t listening, frustrating the teachers, parents and other adults in their lives trying to help them master the math concepts crucial to their continuing education.  But people with ADHD have drastic and consistent differences in brain scans from those without ADHD, making it important to remember that ADHD is a physiological condition that involves the frontal cortex part of the brain, which controls executive functions like impulse control, memory, and distractibility. (Source: PubMed.gov.)

Children with ADHD are often extremely intelligent, but because they lack the ability to focus or memorize at neurologically typical levels and don’t behave in an age-appropriate manner, they are sometimes dismissed intellectually. This is why untreated ADHD can lead to trouble in school and low self-esteem, even when children are very bright and trying their hardest, despite neurological limitations beyond their control.

One of the toughest aspects of continued mathematical learning is that it is cumulative, becoming more difficult as those with ADHD progress in school. When the core concepts become longer, with more steps to remember, it’s hard for an ADHD-brained person to complete complex tasks.

Fortunately, there are many ways to work with the very different ADHD learning style to help these kids succeed. Below are 5 professional educator-recommended tips and methods that have been shown to help kids with ADHD learn and retain mathematical knowledge.

 

1. Make Use of Movement—

Kids with ADHD often describe their need to wiggle as an uncontrollable urge akin to an inner itch in need of scratching via movement, and are given “fidgets” such as plastic, textured items to quietly play with in an attempt to channel this nervous energy in a less distracting manner.

But what smart teachers know is that all kids – even those without ADHD – can benefit from the chance to work out excess energy at every available opportunity. Rather than giving kids something to play with in their laps to hinder big movement: embrace it. Work movement into the math lessons. Use the classroom space as a big board game, for example, and have kids move from desk to desk after solving equations. Let the kids get up and have a dance break or do jumping jacks between assignments.

Most importantly, never, ever use the removal of recess as a punishment, as this only leaves kids with ADHD full of energy and less likely to behave the rest of the day, which is completely counterproductive.

 

2. Taking the Time—

Kids with learning disabilities that involve memorization problems can become stressed out by timed tests, further hindering recall, and creating negative results like low scores and anxiety.

A simple and fair solution to this is to give kids with ADHD the same amount of time for tests and assignments as other kids, while allowing them to get up and take breaks to work out excess energy and refocus.

Using a timer or watch that can be stopped and started will ensure that kids who require breaks aren’t given an unfair advantage over kids who’d rather work straight through to the finish.

 

3. Perfect Placement—

For those who are easily distracted, location is everything. A seat near a window can greatly hinder the focus of kids with ADHD, as can a chatty classmate or a seat near the pencil sharpener.

To allow for the best possible focus during math assignments, and especially during testing, place kids with ADHD in the quietest area of the classroom, and consider placement up front near the teacher to help them listen and learn.  Some schools will even provide a portable cardboard “office” with a back and sides called a study carrel to sit on a desk for kids with ADHD (this can be written into an official 504 Plan, an IEP designed especially for kids with ADD/ADHD), blocking out all distractions for better student concentration.

 

4. Handwriting Helps—

One of the most common issues faced by kids with ADHD is trouble with handwriting. This task requires attention to detail, patience, and concentration, which impulsive and energetic kids can find difficult.

But 25% of all math errors can be traced to poor or unreadable handwriting, making it very important for kids with ADHD to practice writing neatly, as hard as this can be for them. (Source: FamilyEducation.com.)

Kids can practice handwriting by tracing over numbers you’ve written lightly in pencil. Also consider using paper made specifically for handwriting practice, because this will give them dotted lines to use for extra guidance.

 

5. Same Sheet for All Steps—

Following multiple steps, and moving back and forth between tasks is extremely difficult for those with atypical neurology. Because their memories don’t retain information as long as typical brains do, having a separate answer sheet or place to show their work can seriously sabotage kids with ADHD.

By keeping questions and answers within the same space on the paper, you will make it easier for kids solving intricate math problems to stay focused and less likely to become distracted.

Also: If there are formulas involved, expecting ADHD-brained kids to memorize them is unrealistic, and pointless when you consider that in the “real world” application of math or statistics, there is no reason a person in a career field that requires formulas can’t look them up.

 

Recent EEG brainwave tests published in the journal Biological Psychiatry showed that the brain scans of teens with ADHD were consistently different enough that someday the analysis of brainwaves may help doctors diagnose and properly treat those with this condition. (Source: Medical News Today.)

Brain scan differences prove that kids with ADD/ADHD perceive information and learn differently than other kids. When teaching mathematics, or any other subject to kids with ADHD, keep in mind that ADHD is a very real and physiological issue. Kids with ADHD are not being defiant or not listening; they have a biological difference that can be treated with behavioral therapy and medication, making it understandably difficult, yet extremely important to remain patient with them.

If you find yourself becoming exasperated, take some deep breaths, and consider trying some of the helpful math skill-building tips for kids with ADHD listed above. Kids with ADHD may have to try a little harder, or take a different path on the journey to mastering math concepts, but they can do it.