Archive for category customer service
Part of any business owners dream is to have rapid growth and an influx of business. But increased demand puts pressure on your systems, people and cashflow.
So, how do you handle an influx of business? Have you been able to maintain the same level of customer experience? Have you made any changes in how you service your customers? Do you have a strategy for growth?
This was the topic discussed by members of the Business Exposure Group at our recent meeting.
Some of the barriers to growth are – lack of business plans / muddled marketing / running the business in the same old way / meddling and misspent time / wrong objectives based on just sales / no financial strategy and poor controls.
Check your systems, processes and procedures are up to date and adopt a proactive management approach with a quality control system where everyone uses the ‘same scripts’. The ability to grow must be influenced by your willingness to devolve certain decisions to staff. You must have a strategic plan for the short, medium and long term growth of the business.
To achieve growth – invest in ‘safe bets’ / identify strategies with a good probability of success / start with core business and eliminate secondary products on a regular basis.
Good information equals good decisions. Can you deal with a sudden influx of orders with no way to fulfil them?
First of all spend time finding out what is causing growth and understand why your company is suddenly getting more business, as this is could be important to many of your future decisions. It is also important to understand the reasons why business is slowing down.
One way to overcome barriers to growth is to invest in staff development. Try to plug the skills gap in your business to move your business up a level. Identify staff responsibilities and make sure you employ and retain the right people.
Be careful not to expand too quickly, look at whether you are growing to be more profitable or is it growth for growths sake.
Many fast growing companies change their goals too often; they never quite complete a plan before starting the next one, and because of this will get into all sorts of difficulties when business growth stalls. It’s important to retain the culture of your business when taking on new staff. Be careful not to let them dilute the personality of your business.
Ask yourself when looking at growth:
- Do I have the qualities and diversity of people
- Do I have systems in place
- Do I have the ability to delegate
- Do I have enough cash
And finally, ensure that it is not your mind set that is holding your business back.
Companies typically run their sales operations on either model. Inside sales have sales people report daily to their office and make sales via phone or web. Outside sales includes reps that travel for more personal face to face meetings.
Which one do you use and why? – This was the question posed to members of the Business Exposure Group at their last meeting.
There are pros and cons for both inside and outside sales. Should you choose one model or have teams doing both.
A sales rep can only do so many appointments in a day. Is it about quantity v quality and the size of the sale.
Inside sales teams are centered around low cost products, lower complexity, small scale orders. An inside sales rep makes 7+ more pitches but an outside sales rep converts 40% of prospects. Inside sales reps close new business 18% of the time and for every one field rep hired, 10 inside reps are hired.
Small business customers can react badly to having to take time out of their day for face to face meetings. 75% of buyers would prefer not to spend time in meetings. Therefore do inside sales better cater for today’s customers?
Customer acquisition costs money, inside sales teams can bring in new customers for 40%-70% less than a field rep. If you spend more time in the office you can deal with all the admin of the sales process quickly so you are more efficient, but is it different if you are going for major accounts as the core of your sales commitment.
Is the field rep an outdated sales approach? Outside sales require far more business intelligence, situational awareness and planning. Inside sales, whilst equally demanding, requires persistence, research and back end work.
Many of our members thought that their inside sales may be underutilised as traditionally the field rep drove strategy and execution of the account and inside sales reps provided the support function. But recently has the emphasis of sales changed, particularly with the impact of PPC technology on the buying process.
The sales model that a business adopts is often influenced by the business owners’ perception of which sales model would be the most effective. Is inside sales telemarketing or something more? Nowadays inside sales people are highly skilled and knowledgeable. Yet they get paid a fraction of their higher paid, harder to manage colleagues in outside sales. The average B2B deal takes an average of 5 decision makers – so inside sales allows the business to touch base more times with email, etc and keep the prospect warm. No longer is the quarterly call by the sales rep fit for purpose.
In our meeting 80% of business owners said it is easier to take on board new sales people and share best practice with an inside sales team.
But one of the biggest challenges is how do you get the two different sales teams to work together? The answers from the Group were as follows –
Define the differences / support each other on different size of deals / reward fairly / have a common sales manager / have all-inclusive sales meetings with both teams so that they are not in conflict competing for the same customers.
This discussion left the members of the Business Exposure Group with food for thought as to the future role of their sales operations.
To create distinctive customer experiences, businesses need to push the boundaries and adopt next-generation thinking in six key areas.
Some companies are moving fast to adapt, applying a range of approaches to improve customer experiences. A great experience that delights customers and earns their loyalty is needed. Improving a customer experience from merely average to something that wows the customer can lead to a 30/50% increase in measures such as likelihood to renew or to buy another product.
Here are six areas discussed at a recent Business Exposure Group meeting.
- Measure customer behaviour and spend time with customers to understand them
Companies need to empathize with customers when they experience difficulties and obstacles.
This means embracing new techniques for understanding customer journeys. Such approaches allow companies to uncover new insights that allow them to design and deliver truly great customer experiences.
One of our Business Exposure Group members is an insurance broker specialising in the farming community. He was developing a new product and took time out to observe the daily activities of farmers.
He learnt that farmers are pressed for time but also very tech savvy, relying heavily on PCs and mobile devices in their daily activities. He had originally planned to market his new product through traditional channels, but lessons learned from an observation trip led him to create a digital solution, which allowed farmers to gather information and buy policies online at night and at weekends.
- Designing the complete customer experience
Design is not about making devices and screens look pretty. True customer-experience design involves each interaction customers have with your company. Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
To design a customer journey, companies must enlist everyone who has an impact on any part of a customer’s journey, not just people with the word “design” in their title—in particular operations and IT.
A Business Exposure Group member has a marketing agency whose client specialises in visitor attractions. After a 12 month effort to root out pain points in the experience of visitors to theme parks, their clients introduced wrist bands. These brightly coloured wristbands allow visitors to board rides, pay for meals and gifts. More important, the bands and the technology behind them—which is in every part of the attraction—allow visitors to select exactly what they want to see and do in advance. That has helped turn a day out from a series of highlight attractions interrupted by waiting in line to a smooth end-to-end experience.
- Completely rethink the customer experience
The focus is addressing customer needs, not improving a process. Many of our members bring in people who are not normally involved in the business to encourage fresh thinking. Looking at the best experiences employed in other industries can be extremely enlightening.
- Become an agile organisation
Managers responsible for developing new offerings need the authority to make decisions quickly and to hold staff accountable.
One of the Business Exposure Group members who has an IT software company shifted entirely to cloud technologies, which allowed new software developed by their team to go live on the clients websites in a matter of seconds. By making the whole organisation agile, the IT company dramatically reduced time to market for their clients products and services.
- From delivering a product to constant tweaking
Many businesses figure out what new product or service offering they want to create for customers and then launch pilots.
It’s impossible to know in advance how an experience will be embraced by customers. It’s better to launch sooner with fewer features and a simpler interface and learn what works, based on real customer input.
Using this approach, one of the Business Exposure Group members was able to build a new tablet-based app in just 6 weeks. It then tweaked new versions based on user feedback, improving the process. After these tweaks, the app was scaled across new markets and more products within the company’s range.
- Working together spontaneously
Companies need to push their people to move beyond traditional roles and work together to reinvent customer journeys. Improvements come from having motivated, empowered frontline employees driven by clear purpose.
Many of our members are working hard to reinvent their customers’ journeys. The ones that win will be those that push the boundaries and adopt new practices.
How many of us have dead wood in our businesses?
It’s actually about moving a load of people.
The big challenge business owner’s face is that we need to shift non-performers or the blockers in the business. We need people that are more innovative and in touch with the demands of customers. People who will do it cheaper than some of the more senior staff.
But a question was raised at the Business Exposure Group meeting as to whether they were under performers when you hired them or did they become so once they started working? Did you have a role in creating that dead wood? Something must have happened and the business owner must take some responsibility.
Owners who don’t understand that they must create a management system that allows people to think, create and act are failing as leaders no matter how visionary. But how do you make staff feel they have a career with you? How do you put a plan in place to make people realise their future is either with you or not!
It is important to energise high performers – they love to perform. Provide them with relevant training and get out of the way, because they don’t like meddlers. Keep them doing things they like doing and always celebrate progress.
If you have made a mistake release weak hires and disgruntled employees as soon as possible, because
– they are unlikely to get better
– they take up everyone’s time
– they delay the hire of recruiting a quality replacement
One of our members pays off weak hires to leave within the month because he believes the
damage they can cause with clients is immense if they are not on board and enjoying working for the business.
Yet few businesses actually employ ‘managing out’ tactics.
Staff statistics show – 48% don’t like their job / 80% feel stressed / 30% feel engaged /18% are actively disengaged, ie present at work but hating it.
So what causes disengagement was relayed around the table at the meeting with the
following comments made.
a. Micromanagement saps the life out of us and causes apathy at work – it tells an employee that you don’t trust his work
b. Lack of progress – too much red tape, to many unnecessary rules
c. Job insecurity – no confidence in leadership
d. Poor communications
e. Unpleasant co-worker (people with a best friend at work are 7 times more likely to engage with the business)
Many believe that a constant turnover of staff is inevitable in business and fresh blood is good and not a problem and that once dead wood has been released a tremendous honeymoon period of camaraderie and productivity hits the business. The secret is keeping the honeymoon period for as long as possible, to take advantage of the opportunity to develop the business.
In modern business there’s increased competition, crowded markets, lesser product differentiation and flatter sales.
So measuring customer satisfaction is key. It reportedly costs five to eight times as much to get a new customer than to hold onto new ones.
So why not operate a measurement system for customer satisfaction and find out what your customers expect from you?
Firstly, don’t just watch sales volumes or rely on a sales rep determining your customer’s state of mind. Also, don’t just track the frequency of complaints or look at ageing debt.
Implement a survey via mail, e-mail, or over the phone and rate experiences on a weighted scale (1 out of 5 etc.). Ensure to repeat this process to see how your customers experience changes over time.
Consider these factors:
- Who is responsible for implementing a system – sales and marketing.
- Management must champion the initiative.
- Compare your own customer satisfaction with your competitors.
- Engage all employees.
- Inform your customers about the changes made due to the survey. Its important to communicate.
Satisfaction can be based on:-
- Business relationship
- The Service and Product meeting or exceeding customer expectations
Did you know? A 5% increase in loyalty can increase profit by more than 25%.
A very satisfied customer is six times more likely to be loyal than a satisfied customer.
Only 4% of dissatisfied customers actually bother to complain, and on average that same dissatisfied customer is likely to tell nine other people about it.
In comparison, satisfied customers will tell five other people on average about the good treatment they received.
You also need to consider the following:
- Are your products less than advertised?
- Are employees making promises they can’t keep?
- Do you know why customers prefer another brand over yours?
- Do you get customers to compare and contrast?
- What is the technology expectation? – E.G. Mobile phones are constantly evolving.
- Conduct a Customer Satisfaction Survey on a regular basis and look for:
- Overall satisfaction: How satisfied are you with ……
- Loyalty Measure: Would you recommend us to…
- Intention to repurchase: Do you intend to repurchase…
Here are 6 thoughts for putting together a customer satisfaction programme:
- Who should be interviewed? The end user, the manager or the directors or all?
- What should be measured? Put yourself in the customers mind-set – what do they consider important?
- How should the interview be carried out?
- How should satisfaction be measured?
- What should the measurement mean?
- How to use the survey to the greatest effect?
It’s debatable whether these should be anonymous or not.
Another strategy is to identify the best company in your sector and set your benchmark against them.
There are links between customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction as happy employee’s work harder, providing greater customer satisfaction.
If a survey is right for your business, then your customer will in-turn expect positive changes to come from it. Most surveys just sit gathering dust. Be sure to communicate quick wins. The newsletter can be a good starting point and turn your customers into very satisfied customers.
This article was taken from a discussion of the Business Exposure Group.
If you are a Director or business owner and would like to attend one of their informative round-table discussions, please contact email@example.com
Becoming more cost competitive is one of the most critical factors experienced by companies over the last few years.
However, high performing businesses have looked outside the box and decided to up-sell and increase their prices, majoring on the value of their service in the market place.
Adopting a low price strategy can weaken small businesses. Exclusivity protects SMEs from falling prices and businesses should value the aspects of their operation which set them apart from competitors.
Pricing shapes customer expectations and unreasonably low prices draws attention away from the product or service’s beneficial value, with the price itself becoming the only reference point.
Sales staff are a necessary component to all businesses and can influence whether your
business succeeds or fails.
If you’re considering taking on additional sales staff to help push your products or
services, there are important factors to bear in mind to ensure they bring value to your business.
When looking for sales staff, it’s important not to recruit in your own image. This
basically means employ people who use a different way of doing things and a different approach, so that they can complement your business offering.
It’s a good idea to use a professional recruiter to find sales staff because they can sift
through the good, bad and mediocre candidates more skilfully and effectively than you can and bring quality people to the table.
Many business owners simply think to themselves ‘this person’s in sales, I’ll try them out’ which can be an expensive process if it repeatedly fails. We should never take on people just because they have come to us with a sales background, it’s worth spending time and money on getting the right people in the first place and maximising your chance of success.
In any sales department, there needs to be a strong reporting infrastructure so the managing director fully understands what the sales staff are doing on a daily basis.
Sales should be about going and getting sales and maximising the opportunity, once you have got past the gatekeeper.
Owners of businesses should ask themselves when they last spent a day with their sales
force making calls. It’s impossible to set sales targets if you don’t understand the issues they are up against.
Overall you need to be more hands on and create realistic targets which people can achieve – so they are motivated.
The world of marketing is changing rapidly and a ‘one size fits all’ policy has no place in today’s business environment.
Following the current recession, businesses need to appeal more to the nervous buyer and provide reassurance of their value and credibility. Testimonials, reviews and news of the awards we have won can all help to portray reliability and establish trust which will ensure those people in the mood for buying feel comfortable with you.
It’s much more cost-effective to market your business to the people you already know and your current client base can be the key to future referrals, which is currently big business.
Direct marketing techniques are increasing as a result of the economic climate, possibly for pricing tactics. Businesses are reducing the thresholds for discounts and pricing smaller packs more aggressively.
The current M&S ‘dine in for £10’ deal is a great example of clever marketing, which reflects the economic hardships most families find themselves in.
It’s not so much that £10 is cheap for a meal for two it’s the fact that it’s good value in comparison to a meal out. It’s all about putting the right message across and how to get that message to your customers.
Customers look to brands to reassure them when times are tough.
Gimmicks have no place in a recession. It’s all about reliability, durability and safety.
Businesses always encounter periods in which they need to draw upon the expertise of someone else to carry out a function that will improve their business or to cut costs where staffing is concerned. But the question we’re left with is if the economic climate wasn’t so challenging would they still be so keen?
New businesses usually tend to take on every aspect of their operation themselves but as they start to grow, the idea of outsourcing
becomes very appealing and many see it as a way of cutting costs and buying expertise without the hassle of employment issues. Like a wave effect, eventually that same business will bring everything back in-house again to re-establish control when they become even bigger.
There are a number of benefits of course to outsourcing, most notably the fact it allows you to concentrate on what you’re good at. It provides the perfect opportunity of acquiring the skills of external experts who can help give you a competitive edge and can reduce staffing costs.
However, there are as many pitfalls as there are advantages. You don’t have direct control, service delivery can be hit and miss and you can occasionally encounter problems with confidentiality.
There’s also the issue of training. If you’re outsourcing call centre work, they have to be able to deal with every eventuality facing them and how long is this training going to take and cost?
Obviously if you’re outsourcing overseas there are also big cultural differences. And when people already have staff and say they’re going to outsource does that create issues with the current workforce?
It is for these reasons why 50% of outsourcing fails.
But lessons have been learnt and there are factors which give outsourcing a better chance of working.
If you want to outsource, use it for secondary functions only such as IT, Lead generation, HR, and PR & Marketing.
There’s also a greater chance of success if time is spent building a relationship with the outsourcing agent and the expectation needs to be very realistic. Business people need to research the provider’s track record, take bank references, check out how stable they are and create a ‘ways of working’ document between the two parties.