Archive for category training

Resolving complaints well is vital to protect your reputation.

Handling complaints well and resolving conflict situations caused by equipment failure, broken promises, inaccurate information or poor communication or service is vital in business.  Resolve a complaint in the customers favour and they will do business with you again 70% of the time.  Up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner.

Logging complaints is helpful to see if there is a pattern of complaints relating to the same issue.  Research shows that companies that are customer focussed get more complaints because they ask for them, and with this information they can turn a negative situation into a loyal customer.  Interestingly if you have no complaints, it doesn’t mean your customers are happy, they just can’t be bothered to complain and the first you know of it is when they defect.  This can have a significant impact on B2B companies who may have become complacent as a result of long term business relationships.

With the impact of social media and the threat of everyone being well connected it is important to get complaints ‘offline’ as quickly as possible.  The use of a dedicated email address is important so that you can quickly resolve the complaint without the complaint building an online following which leads to significant brand damage.

Some of the messages used by members of the Business Exposure Group in their complaint departments were expressed at the last meeting of our members.  They included:

‘Just say sorry, and ask how you might resolve the issue’

‘Transfer the customer quickly and explain why the transfer is to their benefit, say you will be transferred to XX our specialist who can better answer your questions’

‘Drop formalities and refer to ‘our chat’ not ‘our correspondence’ and all communication should be in the first person ‘I am sorry not we’.

Businesses that resolve matters when things go wrong can charge 5-10% more than businesses that don’t appear to care.  If your business operates in a market with small margins, an effective complaints handling process can be the all-important differentiator when attracting new customers.

Customer service is so important.  It takes 12 positive incidents to make up for one negative incident, which is why businesses nowadays need to positively delight customers to earn their loyalty.

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Developing staff and team profiling – How can it help your business?

Why do some people get your thinking while others don’t seem to get it at all?

In business, we generally avoid the second group but research suggests they may be the very people we need to solve our problems.

Homogenous teams are more compatible, yet diverse teams are more effective at solving problems and also have a proven track record of stimulating innovation. But businesses need to ensure they value these differences in their workforce and create an inclusive culture to promote career growth and productivity.

Many businesses are using behavioural profiling to help them manage their teams to get the best out of their staff and also to provide them with a stronger sense of certainty in their recruitment decisions. It can also be used as part of a staff retention strategy as gaining a greater understanding of your employees improves communication skills, reduces conflict and helps unlock potential.

Profiling gets to the heart of team issues identifying where things are going wrong, personality clashes and challenges that need to be overcome. It enables people to understand what makes their colleagues tick.

The process can also be used to repair dysfunctional teams and train individually talented employees to work well with each other and to improve commitment as well as fix communication breakdowns.

However, there are some pitfalls. Do some people get unnecessarily labelled through the process or are some talented employees lost because they come down on the wrong side of the profile test? If the results of profiling are not interpreted correctly, they can actually steer you away from hiring someone who would have been an exceptional candidate.

Whether you opt for psychometric testing or more traditional methods of staff improvement, investing in training and career development is still regarded as one of the most effective ways of retaining a skilled and specialised workforce.

In times of financial uncertainty, it is vital you have staff in place who are as motivated to making the business a success as the senior management team. Staff development should never be abandoned, even when the budget is tight or non-existent.
There are a number of low-cost or even free sources of training on offer including internal knowledge sharingwhere businesses seize on the experience and knowledge which already exists within their company to train and motivate other members of staff. There is also a wealth of online courses which staff can complete from their own desktop at a time which suits them.

According to Michael Gerber of “E-myth” fame, 80% of all businesses fail in the first 5 years, and of the rest only 4% are successful within another 5 years. So if that’s true, then developing and harnessing the talent of our staff is fundamental to success.

This article came from a discussion event at the Business Exposure Group.

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Recruitment: Some great tips and Best Practice ideas

recruitment tips

Look to recruit the best people in order to become a better business

Securing the right staff helps businesses to thrive and the need for positive, forward-thinking team members is especially critical if you’re looking to drive forward growth in today’s difficult economic conditions.

Hiring the right person first time usually ensures people stay in their jobs longer which results in significant savings for the firm and also reduces disruption to the day-to-day operation. It also has a positive effect on the morale of existing employees.
Sourcing top talent will also provide a benchmark for your current staff to live up to and encourage healthy work-related competition.

The recruitment process is often regarded as one of the ‘headaches’ of management. We’ve all been there – hired someone we thought was perfect, someone who made all the right noises at the interview and then before they have even made it through the first month you realise you’ve made a huge mistake. “Fitting in” is the toughest thing to get right when it comes to hiring and getting it wrong can be costly.

Managers should spend 30% of their time recruiting and then staff turnover will be low. So how much time do you invest in finding people who fit?

There is a link between good people and good business and therefore attracting the best talent is a strategic move. Businesses need to develop a relationship with the people in their market to provide an accessible pipeline of talent into the business when required.

Recruitment agencies provide access to talent that you don’t have, but often the company’s culture can be misunderstood. You can also lose the opportunity to build a relationship with candidates in the marketplace by removing yourself from this stage of the process. Becoming partners with recruitment agencies helps them to better understand your needs and requirements.

Attracting desirable, talented staff requires creativity. Job boards are effectively dead. The best people are already fully employed but maybe concerned about their future. They look for career moves in a certain way, such as networking with close associates and recruiters and Googling for jobs as well as scouring websites.
They won’t look at your website and apply for a particular job so it’s important your message is highly visible on the best recruitment websites and those applicable to your industry.

Employers should target the early birds, not the leftovers as they are merely accepting ‘another job’. Candidates should be provided with an opportunity to just ‘look’ rather be forced to buy. Top candidates will not want too much information initially. Most job descriptions are written to prevent unqualified people from applying rather than written to attract the best people.

Ask your employees to recommend rather than just asking them who is looking for a job. Contact the potential candidate and find an excuse to stay in contact with them, so that they will approach you first when they become unsettled.

Recruiters should stop using job descriptions that define and attract average people. Ask yourself why a person with all the experience in the world would want the job – show the job as a growth opportunity.

Should you cull less effective staff or work with them to improve performance?

Culling would boost financial performance and productivity. Only 4% of companies cull but this can be effective if it is part of your performance management. Businesses need to ensure strong team members are not carrying weaker ones.

Companies often spend so much time on underperformers that they forget to stretch the top performers. Research shows 10% of people in a business are doing the wrong job.

When it comes to recruitment, identify what role your business needs and what type of person and experience will benefit your company. Keep to an agreed timeframe and allow time for recruitment.

Top considerations for employers when trying to secure talent:

• Provide a complete job description
• Involve your current employees
• Make the candidate feel comfortable
• Sell the role and the company
• Provide constructive feedback
• Make a clear offer and get verbal agreement
• Continue the recruitment process after the offer has been made
• Prepare for the candidates start date – get the first day right, or you’ll be playing catch-up.
• Become a great employer

The information for this article came from a discussion at a Business Exposure Group event

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How are you getting past the gatekeeper?

One of the fundamental skills an entrepreneur must learn if they are to develop a successful business is the ability to get past the gatekeeper; in other words, the receptionist, personal assistant or secretary who stands between you and the key decision maker of a company.

Most influential people or business owners will establish some form of shield to safeguard their time and relieve workload pressure.  This means your email, phone call or visit is likely to be wasted, unless you cultivate the skills which will enable you to bypass these defences.

Good salespeople tend to differentiate their voice so they don’t sound like they’re ringing from a call centre. Asking for the decision-maker’s first name will give the impression you’re already well acquainted.
A strong and professional tone will project an air of seniority and the gatekeeper may not wish to offend you by probing too deeply into your purpose for calling.

Successfully bypassing the gatekeeper involves more research on the prospect and fewer calls. You need to understand who you’re dealing with and identify an angle or common ground that effortlessly leads on to your message.

It’s important that during your research you identify the key decision-maker straightaway and make sure you talk to them otherwise your message is ultimately lost. Business owners should adopt a different strategy when communicating to corporate clients, SMEs or sole traders.

Be friendly with the gatekeeper and create a relationship. The more you can engage the gatekeeper, the more successful you will be at getting close to the decision maker. Ask the gatekeeper about the best time and method of contacting the decision-maker. Help the gatekeeper to look good in the business eyes of their boss by providing a solution to them.
Gatekeepers aren’t just there to field calls, their judgement can be key to providing added value to the decision maker’s business so their influence should be respected.

The first call should always be about research and not the sale. Gatekeepers will know and understand an organisation inside and out and will know who you should be talking to.

Friday afternoons are a good time to call especially if you want the senior decision maker.

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Do you have the confidence to allow your business to flourish?

Business owners commonly find themselves unable to delegate tasks because of the illusion that they are the only ones who can do the job properly. But if SMEs are to succeed in the long-term, entrepreneurs need to occasionally take a back step to allow their employees to drive business forward.

Business owners should prevent themselves from falling into the trap of micro-managing every aspect of their organisation. Staff should be allowed to flourish and get on with it.

Because if you check everything your employees do before long they will be less careful and you have given yourself another job.

Entrepreneurs need to consider how it would feel if every time they did something, it was pulled to bits by the boss.

Dispose of the tasks you don’t want to do by outsourcing non-key resources such as health and safety, administrative roles or accountancy. Also, hiring a good office manager can take away a large part of the burden, you can specialise on strategy and the important issues affecting your business .

The key is managing by exception rather than managing everything.

Build a system whereby you can spot check, but do not interfere with simple processes.

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Techniques to control sales staff and make them accountable

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.

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How to take the risk out of outsourcing

A growing number of businesses are looking externally to carry out aspects of their operation. Is this trend the result of the recent recession?

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.

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