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Neal Lacy

Neal Lacy is an expert in professional call center services. He provides great content on a wide variety of topics concerning answering services, message services, order taking, and virtual receptionist. He is main writer for United Call Center.

Dec 312014
 
business start up tools

For many people, the dream of owning and running your own business is just that—a dream.  But if you are interested in making this dream a reality, it is important to focus yourself on some tried and true business plans and ideas that will help you to succeed.  Every year, thousands of businesses close shop because they have no sound plan for success.  In order to avoid being one of these, here are some of the keys to making sure that your business start up succeeds where others do not.

  • Make Customers Your Top Priority—One of the keys to making any business successful is to make your customers your top priority.  You cannot make a successful company if you do not have any customers to sell your product to.  Once you have established a customer-base, it is generally easier to keep your customers and make money keeping them happy than it is to spend money to earn new customers.  This is why customer service is so important.  If a customer feels that he or she is valued by a business, then that customer will be more likely to spend money with you in the future.
  • Don’t Try to Do It All At First—One of the death-traps for many beginning companies is that they try to do too much too soon.  The idea with any business is to start off with what you do well and then build gradually, rather than try to do it all at once.  One of the best ideas is to figure out what your customers value the most and concentrate on that first.  Be sure to listen to customer feedback early on so that you can learn where to move with your company in the weeks and months to come.  And remember that even negative criticism can be turned into a positive if you are sure to move into correcting problems early before they become major issues.
  • Train Your Customer Service Staff Well—Your company will live or die based on the quality of its customer service.  As such, make sure that your customer service department is properly and adequately trained to handle complaints and service calls to ensure that clients are satisfied.  Also consider utilizing a reliable answering service to supplement your staff so that customers always receive immediate attention.
  • Be Sure to Study What Others Are “Doing Right”—Unfortunately, customer service seems to be a dying art form with modern companies.  But, many companies are doing things the right way and are succeeding with customers.  One of the best ways to be included in this list is to study other companies and see how you can adapt their business model and customer service style to your company.  Apple Computers, Publix, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos are great examples of companies to emulate and study.
  • Adopt a “Cutthroat” Business Model—This may seem uncomfortable, but it may be necessary in order to survive in this current economy.  There are some things that you are just going to have to do, especially if you plan to make it through the first couple of years.  For instance, get paid up front.  Many clients, unfortunately, will try to take advantage of a new company and let debts roll as long as possible, meaning that you will have to carry them.  Getting paid first will put a stop to this and show that you are serious about your work.  Also, be wary of clients who seem to want to lowball you when it comes to prices.  If you allow these clients to set the tone from the beginning, you are setting yourself up as a pushover that will not be able to succeed.

If you want your company to succeed, it is necessary for you to take a hard look at the realities of business and what it takes to succeed.  Customer service and support is a key component to being successful if you want your business to stand out from the rest of the crowd.  And, in the long run, this is the only way to ensure that your business is able to survive the competition from others.

 

 

Dec 052014
 
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One of the absolute truths that holds fast for businesses is that many of them rise or fall based on their level of customer service.  As such, it is imperative that companies invest heavily in customer service and support in order to maintain current customers and to entice new ones.  That is why a staff of trained customer service representatives is so important.  If you are considering adding a separate customer service staff to your workforce, here are some things you need to consider regarding what customers are looking for and what their repeat business means to you.

The first thing to consider is that customers do not necessarily want speedy service if it means a loss of quality.  A recent survey from Gallup indicated that customers are significantly more likely to no longer use a company if they are given inadequate or rude customer support as opposed to slow service.  Speed is still important; no customer wants to spend forever tied up with a customer service representative.  But, in the long run, it is better to have quality service representatives than quick service and turn-around.

  • Another lesson that business owners can take is that it is important to make the customer service experience feel personal and personable.  An experiment of wait staff at a restaurant showed that their tips increased if they provided more personalized service to their patrons.  This study can also apply to customer service.  If you provide a personalized experience, particularly with customized follow-up in the form of additional calls to make sure the issue has been satisfactorily resolved, you will see an increase in return business.  You should also consider personalized letters or mailers to your customers after a customer service call to show that their business is greatly appreciated.
  • A final idea that businesses can learn from their customers is that it does not take a great deal of money to keep them happy.  Hiring a well-trained staff to handle customer service complaints and issues is a great investment in that they can save you the loss of business that can cripple your company.  Conversely, it is more expensive to earn new customers than it is to keep repeat business so these representatives are a critical investment.

The importance of customer service has been a long-held standard that many companies are beginning to relearn due to the sagging economy.  Because the economy has been so tight with the recent recession, many businesses are becoming more competitive with each other for the few consumer dollars that are out there.  One of the best ways to make your company recession-proof is to step up your customer service department so that you can keep your clientele coming back for more.

 

Oct 312014
 
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Phrases such as “the customer is always right” and “the client comes first” are common in business and industry.  But, unfortunately, many businesses are still not fully utilizing customer opinions and surveys to truly find out what the customer actually wants.  Failing to do this will cause problems, especially with so many companies facing severe competition in this highly competitive climate.  Taking into account customer opinions and preferences is also one of the key ways to retain your clientele.  Doing so can literally save your business as it is easier to keep customers than it is to grow new revenue markets.

Customer Service:  Let’s Do the Math

One of the key ways that you can keep customers loyal is by listening to their opinions.  For instance, consider these key statistics regarding customer service:

  • 69% of customers who call a service line want to speak with a live person.  Only 31% want to use an automated system or communicate by email.
  • 69% of customers also have felt that they were kept on hold too long while waiting to speak to a live operator.  67% have actually hung up because they could not reach a person when they called a business.
  • 88% of customers surveyed said they would not give repeat business to a company that did not respond to their complaints.  However, 81% of customers affirmed that they would give repeat business to a company with quality customer service.

The numbers do not lie.  If you are still using an automated answering system for your customer service line, you are potentially losing customers every single day.  If customers call your business, they should be able to immediately reach a live operator who can help them with their issue.  Failure to do so will result in hang-ups as your customers decide they would rather go to your competitor rather than waste valuable time on hold.  What a businessperson needs to take away from this is the value of a reliable call center staffed with full-time operators.  These individuals can maintain your customer support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Why the Numbers Matter

Many people have a distrust of raw data, preferring to see how things play out in real-time with live customers.  But business owners need to understand that behind every statistic, there are real people with real problems and complaints that need to be addressed.  And the reality is that these numbers add up.  For instance, consider these statistics regarding customer retention:

  • If businesses can cut the loss of established customers by as little as 5%, that business could see a minimum of 45% in increased profits with the high end projections of profit boosting reaching 90%.
  • Overall, repeat customers spend 67% more money with a business than one-time customers do.
  • 70% of customers said they would be willing to use a new business provided that the company provides good customer service, such as giving them access to a live person on the telephone.
  • It costs 6-7 times more money to earn a new customer than it does to retain an older, established customer.

Customer retention is the key to keeping a thriving, surviving business.  And one of the easiest ways to keep these customers is by listening to them and providing them with quality customer service.  This includes giving them a live person to hear their complaints or answering their questions when they call.

Sep 302014
 
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One of the biggest trends in the business and marketing world over the past twenty years is how to expand your company’s line into new markets and to reach new customers.  But the reality is that keeping the customers you have is more important than earning new customers.  These are the tried and true customers that come back time after time to give you repeat business and they are the true reason why many businesses rise or fall.  Here, then, are some of the reasons why your company should focus more attention on customer retention and how you can make sure that you do not lose their business to your competitors.

Repeat Customers By the Numbers:

There are some statistics that actually can be quite surprising when it comes to repeat business and how important it should be to your company.  Among these:

  • 78% have cancelled a transaction with a business due to poor customer service.
  • Of customers who have a bad customer service experience, only 4% voice complaints.  If you think the other 96% come back and are willing to give you another chance, think again.  91% of those customers will not return to your business after this experience, even if they don’t tell you about it.
  • Approximately 60% of Americans are willing to leave a current business that they use if they are promised better customer service by a competitor.  70% said they are willing to spend more on a product if the customer service is better.

The bottom line is that getting customers through the door is not as big of an issue as getting them to come back in once they’ve visited once.  And the key to this is to provide them with stellar customer service that makes them feel special and respected.

How You Can Keep Customers With Quality Service

Only once you realize that there is a problem can you fully address that problem and correct it.  There are, however, several ways that you can improve customer service with your business as a means of retaining customers:

  • Be sure to listen carefully to every customer’s complaint while they are in the store or on the phone.  If they seem like they are exasperated or unsatisfied, do not let them leave until you have made the situation beneficial to them and you have resolved it to their liking.  You do not want to lose a good customer.
  • Take a personal approach with customer service.  Give personal follow-up calls or emails to your customers to ensure that everything is fine and that they are happy with the product or service they have received.  If they had a complaint, call or email them personally to make sure that the issue has been resolved and offer them a promotion as a means of smoothing things over and winning them back to you.
  • Read customer reviews and feedbacks, especially online.  Many businesses worry about negative online reviews as these have the potential to hurt new business.  However, look at these as a chance to correct the problem.  If you can reach out to the customer that posted the review, do so and try to fix the situation.  If they are happy with the resolution, ask them to post a new review or a review clarification.  If you cannot reach the customer, you can still address the problem to ensure that it does not happen again.

For many businesses, losing customers can be the proverbial kiss-of-death.  But it does not have to be this way.  Take the time to listen to your customer base and make changes to your customer service plan to ensure that you are keeping all of your current customers before you start looking to branch out into new avenues.

 

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