Archives for sales

Have YOU had Your Customers for a Sleepover Yet?

But, it’s good customer service!

Getting and keeping customers today is harder than ever. When opportunities arise to WOW! the customer, you need to jump on it immediately.
Take a look at this story of an opportunity that presented itself in what could have been a dire situation for both the customers and the employees. But the lead manager of the John Lewis department store in London made lemonade.
This inspiring story is delivered in this fun Prezi as you follow the adventure of an open-minded, risk-taking manager (Deborah), who did what was right for the customers, all 100+ of them.
Ask yourself, would you stick your neck out to do this? The last few slides say it the best: “It shows that great service isn’t a set of rules, it’s a mindset.”

Use right and left arrows at the bottom to view presentation at your pace. Some slides have sound, not all.

Listen carefully to Deborah as she describes the experience. Find the key culture characteristics that drive this behavior and how as a manager, she was totally comfortable in doing this at a cost. How does that culture become not only unquestioned, but supported by senior managers? And note the enabling, not constraining nature of the effort.

“Sharing your customers’ problem and doing all you can to help solve them.”

Share your customer service hero experience here.                          

Small Business vs. Unlimited Guarantees

“Is the customer is always right”?

In reality, is the customer always right? No, not really. Many customers have taken advantage of that adage and have started using it to get something for nothing.

This mindset has occurred as corporations  have extended warrantees for longer terms and in some instances for a lifetime. The wording of such warrantees varies as to what constitutes a guarantee-able cause. Some are unconditional.

Why have companies made these promises to repair or replace their goods with such risk? Well, they either believe their products will last that long, they are desperate to compete on something other than price or they are playing the odds that most people will not return their purchases. All of these have associated costs that you pay for upon purchase.

What has gotten customers (a minority that is growing) to this point? Why are customers willing to lie to get “free stuff”? Retail clerks tell stories of products returned way past their guarantee expiration and with elevated tones decry the failure of the products until they have talked to higher ups and gotten what they want. Are their claims legit? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. They just know that if they scream loud enough they’ll get what they want.

With online and telephone (mail order) purchasing, it gets even worse. Without face to face contact on a return, theReturns line elevation of tone, the assertiveness of conversation and the “I won’t take no for an answer” speech can become
belligerent and often does. Lacking eye contact and the emotional connection of a personal conversation, the clerk on the other end of the line seems less human. Getting your way results in a freebie. The caller goes away swinging high fives while the clerk on the other end feels diminished, defeated and demoralized. After all, this is the company he works for, the products he believes in resulting in a desire for combat pay.

Big business created this practice

Companies have that right to offer any extended warrantees they wish. The do need to live up to them. They also need to spell them out completely. If a $10 billion company makes $800 million in profits, they can afford to risk a 7-9% return rate without affecting the bottom line much. They may get added business because of their warranty which will more than make up for the return rate. Returns may be resold at discounted prices if not damaged.

How can I as a small business compete?

Small businesses that resell products can live by their product manufacturers’ warrantees. If they provide an installation of the products, they should warranty the installation as well or declare in the terms that installation is not included. Some manufacturers offer some compensation for re-installation of their products at a pre-negotiated discounted rate if failure occurs. For large failures, say an entire commercial HVAC system, a negotiation with the manufacturer should be executed in order to not put a small business under financial duress.

Are customers ‘entitled’ to warranty freebies?

  • Customers returning products claiming failure, defective performance or damaged items are entitled to a replacement or repair per the warranty terms. If cash refunds are available, they should be spelled out in the terms. Many products are replacement or repair only.
  • Returns PolicyCustomer honesty is important. If the customer is lying about the performance of the product, they damaged the product themselves or misrepresented how they received the product, the conversations become ugly. Situations such as these need to be protected under the warranty terms and conditions.
  • Don’t offer cash back unless there is proof of purchase/receipt and the time elapsed is limited.  Most people don’t read warrantees until they need to use them, so make sure you’ve covered your company.
  • Do the math. What exactly is it costing to accept, say 8%, of sold products back? In your calculations, figure the labor, postage/trucking etc. as well. What handling will be needed afterwards to re-sell, re-condition, liquidate or dispose of the item? Whatever the average cost is, include it in the sale of the product after deducting the re-sale. If the cost is high, manage your warranty terms carefully.
  • In the case of service-only businesses, call-backs are costly. Sending a technician, installer, service person back to a customer has hidden costs. Not only is the employee time lost, the transportation costs (mileage, time), that tech’s billable time is lost, parts replacements and the lost confidence in your business’ ability to do the job right the first time is now questioned. Remember that customers talk and one bad experience gets shared many times over.

Returned sales cost small businesses thousands of dollars each year. If they aren’t accounted for ahead of time, they come off the bottom line. It is possible to protect yourself by planning ahead. Do the math and protect your profits.

7 Ways to Change Your World and Prosper

7 Ways to Change Your World and Prosper

It’s not unusual for a business owner to fall into a rut and find that things are moving along okay, but just not great. What is it that needs to change? What moves or risks need to be taken? Here are six things you can do to enter your brave new world.

It’s not a bad thing to get into the same old, same old and feel comfortable. After all, you’ve worked hard to get to where you are and now it’s comfortable, less stressful and you’ve worked out the kinks. It’s time to sail smoothly. But, as anyone knows in business, if you stay there too long, your competitors are busy dreaming up ways to beat you at your game. So, don’t hang around too long.

If you’re in a technological field, you’ll also find that you have to deal with innovation on an almost daily basis. Depending on your company structure and size, you may need one person to keep an eye on technology.

What do you do? Here’s how to change your world.

  1. Change your environment. We have a tendency to gravitate to routines as a normal practice. It helps us feel secure, keep on time and generally give us peace of mind. So, change it. If you always read the morning paper with your coffee, try reading a business magazine or a hobby blog. Reading is a necessary part of being in business, but by reading the same publications every day, you’re thinking becomes linear and you start thinking like the people you read. It is extremely important to see fresh ideas and new thoughts as often as you can.
  2. If you’re a runner, change your route. If you wear ear buds when you run, change your music, your audiobook or whatever you listen to.
  3. If you go for coffee to the same place each day, find a new location with different people. I used to stop at a coffee shop with the same customers each morning. The talk became very negative when one loud character coming in each day. He dominated the conversation and complained and mocked about other people, some were my customers. Others began joining in. I finally stopped going there and found a new place with a much more pleasant atmosphere.
  4. Re-examine your employees and see if you can switch some around to initiate some creativity with manufacturing processes, customer interactions or cost savings. Get them engaged in changing things up.
  5. Start calling on your competitors. There’s no better way to find out what they are doing then to stop in and say hi. I worked in a business where we repaired our competitors’ products. We were constantly at their locations picking up parts as they were at ours. There’s no better time to be inquisitive and find out what they are doing, sometimes just by walking in and observing.
  6. If you take the highway to work each day, try taking the secondary roads to work. There’s a lot more to see and at a lower speed, a lot more to take in. It stimulates the brain.
  7. Make new friends. Whether they be client friends or personal friends finding someone new will change the conversations and that is where differing thoughts come from.

Making changes will stimulate you into new thoughts, new ways and will enhance your prosperity in the long run. Plus it makes every day seem new and exciting! For your customers, they will see the changes they wished for. Don’t discount them, they’re looking for improvements.

Paul Beaudette is president of Leading Edge Business Strategies, a business consulting firm that assists companies in developing new sources of revenues, improving profitability and becoming financially sustainable.

4 Powerful Tools for Irate Customers

Customers are diminishing your profits. They come armed and ready to deal. Are you ready?

By Paul Beaudette, President- Leading Edge Business Strategies

Angry Customer

The typical customer of today when purchasing goods and services comes armed with more information than even your sales clerks or sales people have. Your clerks and reps. must learn an entire inventory of products and services. Your customers learn specifically about the one product they are looking for. They research the internet for specs and prices, they read reviews and check competitors. They know what they need to pay or expect. And, they understand your product guarantees better than you’d like them to.

Addtionally, the customer knows how to handle your clerks and sales reps. quite handily. If they have the slightest inkling that you are not going to negotiate, that you will not accept a return or that you are not meeting their expectations, the assertiveness rocket kicks in. The tone of the conversation elevates and the customer is now in control. The threats start, the historical disappointments fly and the clerk is now in the passenger seat. It used to be that the person on the other end of the phone or behind the counter was respected for what they knew and how they treated the customer. Now, the customer assumes control by putting the company down, reliving a series of disappointments over the years or even demanding to talk with the President or the CEO. The ultimate outcome, depending on the level of unreasonableness of the customer will be a refund, a break on the price or they will no longer be a customer. Whose loss this ends up being is left to each party to decide. The company has lost money or a customer or both. Depending on the genuineness of the customer, yes, some customers are worth losing.

What can you do? Try this:

  1. Arm your salespeople, service people and delivery people (they all come in contact with customers) with knowledge. They must be trained and maintained to be knowledgeable about everything you sell and service. You’ll spend money doing it, but it will still be less expensive than dealing with irate customers and the accompanying high percentage of returns and credits.
  2. In the same vein, arm your employees with your competitors’ information. Depending on your products or services, this could vary as to what degree they need to know. When I worked for a heavy equipment manufacturer, they trained us in not only our equipment, but also in the competitor’s products as well. We actually got to sit in each type of equipment, run it and compare ours with the competitors. Knowledge is power.
  3. Train your sales people to deal with irate customers. They are not mad at them, but mad at the company. So, the need to retaliate is unnecessary, and the best thing to do is listen and if the company has done something wrong, apologize and develop a correction. If the company has not done anything wrong, don’t apologize. Just be empathic and offer a way to make the situation right. Irate customers can be verbally abusive especially if over the phone, texting or chatting. A simple statement, “I would very much like to help you resolve this, however, we need to be civil with each other. If you would prefer calling back when you are calm, we’ll be glad to help you then.”
  4. Guarantees can and will be abused by some customers. With lifetime, customer satisfaction and unlimited guarantees being promised today, many people are taking advantage of them to an extreme, much to the disadvantage of the retailer. For example:
    • Eddie Bauer – For 50 years, “100% unconditional lifetime guarantee.”
    • Zappos – “If you are not 100% satisfied with your purchase from Zappos, you can return your item(s) for a full refund within 365 days after purchase. (Returns must be unworn, in the state you received them, and in the original packaging.”
    • L.L. Bean – “Our products are guaranteed to give 100% satisfaction in every way. Return anything purchased from us at any time if it proves otherwise. We do not want you to have anything from L.L. Bean that is not completely satisfactory.”

The bottom line with these warrantees is they put the cost of returns back into their products. We, the consumers, are paying for this. With some of these guarantees, 20% of the cost could be an anticipated return. If you’ve used a wearable product for 10 years, should you expect a replacement at no cost to you? Some people do. Some go longer than 10 years. Unfortunately, these companies have created these customer expectations and this level of ethical discernment. Just because you can, does it make it right?

With as many people who make no compunction about taking advantage of these guarantees knowing that satisfaction does not mean any product will last your lifetime, but maybe the expected lifetime of the product, companies are sacrificing millions of dollars of profit to appease these customers and live up to their word. The net result is customers who now expect the same from many other companies and don’t hesitate to let them know, sometimes at the top of their lungs.

The era of the customer is always right is approaching the finish line. The population is growing and retailers will soon find out that there are too many good customers out there that can reciprocate a good transaction. Verbally abusing sales people and clerks will not become the standard.

 

Leading Edge Business Strategies, LLC is a consulting firm for small business. Paul Beaudette is the President and has over 30 years of successful business experience managing companies to sustainable profits and leading employees to being productive and aspiring to growth.

“Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.” ~ Stephen Covey

10 Reasons Why Baby Boomers are Key to Your Success

<a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_habman18'>habman18 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>Baby boomer entrepreneurs are everywhere. Some are retiring, some are still working and others are just beginning new entrepreneurships. Didn’t you hear, 70 is the new 50? We are healthier than our parents were at our age, our life expectancy is longer (into the 90’s) and we can’t afford to retire at 65. If we do, we’ll be bored for 25 to 30 years. Now find out why we’ll save you from self-destruction.
We have something that will help you accelerate your start-up or grow your existing business. And, if you’re struggling to stay afloat, hey, chances are, we’ve been there and worked through it. We can help you with that too. Some call it experience, I call it money in your pocket.
So, take advantage of us. Here are 10 reasons baby boomers can speed up your startup and/or grow your business:

  1. We’re a dime a dozen. There are enough of us around to have 3 for each business person in the country.
  2. We have the experience of entrepreneurship. Yes, we’ve been there and done that, sometimes over and over again. We know it’s not the same today as it was back then. But, believe us, the basics are very much the same.
  3. We’ve failed and we’ve succeeded. We know what it takes to make money, be successful and grow a business.
  4. Need money? We know where to get it. The resources today and a hundred times greater than they were ‘back then’.
  5. Need a qualified objective opinion on hiring, yes, we can do that. You still need someone with passion, smarts and resourcefulness.
  6. We can lift up your sales people to higher performance. (Don’t forget performance, that’s what they get paid for.)
  7. Making an investment and you want to run it by someone who’s not directly involved in your business?  Ask us.
  8. Can’t stay ahead of your competitor? We’ll take you there!
  9. Cash flow going haywire. Let’s re-structure it together.
  10. If you’re a business that needs an objective opinion, we’re ready, willing and able.

Are you ready to fast track your success? Get the experience you need from someone who has been there and done it. Catapult your business ahead of your competition. Find your boomer today!

Leading Edge Business Strategies, LLC is a consulting firm for small business. Paul Beaudette (a boomer) is the President and has over 30 years of successful business experience managing companies to sustainable profits and business growth.

“Listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply.”  – Stephen Covey