One of my favourite business books is “Raving Fans – A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service” by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles. Published in 1993, the concepts in this book are as relevant today as they were then – perhaps even more so. One of the best ways to increase customer retention is to simply over deliver whenever possible. Giving your customers or clients more than they were expecting is a great way to keep them returning to your store or website (read: “raving fan”).
Who doesn’t like to get free stuff?
How can you over deliver to your customers as often as possible? Here are some unique customer service ideas to get you started (not surprisingly, it’s the little things that count and it doesn’t have to cost much).
- Give your customer a bonus, this could be a sample product, access to a coaching call or access to a private mastermind;
- Send them an article or a website link about something you know they’re interested in;
- Offer your customer a coupon for a discount on their next purchase. This also helps to get your customers visiting your store or website again. You could also offer a free sample, a consultation or a buy one get one free;
- If you offer a service, the best way to over deliver is to get the project finished ahead of time. Beating deadlines is a wonderful way to add value to your own offers and gain lifelong customers;
- Small gestures can go a long way in gaining appreciative customers. Sending a handwritten thank-you note by regular mail is one way to achieve this. Other small gestures include sending birthday and anniversary cards, or any number of other card ideas. (Tip: ‘Lumpy mail’ gets opened more often than flat mail…)
- Why not set up something such as a Customer of the Month or Customer Shout Out. Here you would thank your customer or highlight something they did that you thought was really cool;
- Invite them on an outing at your cost and go with them – a round of golf, a cycling trip, concert, festival. This is a fantastic way to build rapport with your customers and shows them you care.
Don’t forget to celebrate with your clients and customers and even fellow business owners. If they win a new contract or make a significant improvement in their business, send them a card or small gift. This sends the message that you’re paying attention.
Another fantastic way to over deliver to your present customers is to network with other business owners. Refer local businesses that offer quality services and products, which you do not carry. By doing this, you create resources for your customers and clients and you also help support local business. Always be sure to check out these sources first though because your reputation is on the line. You don’t want to recommend a bad resource or product to anyone.
When you think of the most expensive admin assistant on the Planet, you might think of someone like Tony Stark’s assistant who puts up with all his quirks, but who is handsomely paid for her hardship. Or a billionaire’s assistant who is available 24/7 and at a moment’s notice may be called upon to drop everything and jump on a plane to Tokyo to attend meetings with their boss. You might think that…… and you would be wrong.
YOU.. yes.. you… are the most expensive admin assistant on the planet.
How can this be true? It’s because studies show that administrative tasks take up as much as 25% of an organization’s time.
So, what does this mean? Before we even talk about the dollar cost of this truth let’s talk about time. As a business owner, working a very conservative 60 hours a week, this equates to 15 hours per week. Which may not seem like that much, but how about when we look at the annual cost of this truth?
720 HOURS per year the average business owner spends on administrative tasks, that’s THREE MONTHS! Take that 720 hours and multiply by your client charge out rate. Not only is that a lot of money for doing back-office work that you shouldn’t be doing in the first place, it’s also money you haven’t billed because you’ve been doing “the paperwork”. If you outsourced these tasks alone at a much lower rate (hopefully) than you bill your clients, just think what you could do with an extra three month’s worth of time and a whole lot of extra money every year!!!
- How could your organization grow?
- What activities could you do with your family?
- How could you invest in your network and members?
- How could you serve your community?
If you have ever thought, “if only I had more time…” (you know that’s just an excuse, right?!?) and yet repeatedly find yourself burning the midnight oil filing invoices, inputting information into a database, updating your social media (or wishing you had time for social media)…
Everyone has the same 24 hours in a day so why not change things up and use those hours to full advantage?
When an organization needs to write a proposal, it can be for many different reasons, such as business proposals, project proposals, proposals for research funding or non-profit organization funding, each of which require a particular focus. Today I’ll focus on writing proposals in response to a solicited request, like contract work.
All organizations need revenue, whether they are non-profits, associations or business enterprises. While it’s great to have repeat clients and members, there are times where organizations have to get out there and look for that work by other means and one method is by responding to a Tender, Request for Quotation, Request for Services, Request for Proposal, etc.
At times when an organization is provided with one of these Request documents, it can be met with some shock as to the amount of information being requested for a simple piece of work. Why so much detail? In short, some of the Requests may be from clients that use public funds and are accountable for how those funds are spent or the client is simply seeking good value for money and are looking for evidence from organizations that their potential contractor is capable of providing the services in a manner that is of good quality and is cost effective.
So, what makes a good proposal?
Like any consumer, the client is looking for good value for the money they plan on spending. By responding to what they are looking for, or solving their problem, stated in the request in a clear manner, a well written proposal can give you the edge on the competition.
There are many areas on the internet to find information on how to prepare a proposal. For example, if you are considering preparing a proposal for the Government of Canada, you may want to check out their site at buyandsell.gc.ca on Preparing Proposals.
Let’s take a look at some of the Do’s in proposal writing:
- Do read the request thoroughly to understand what the client is looking for. You need to understand where the client is coming from in their current state, their needs, and possible opportunities to provide a solution to their problem.
- Do ensure the goods or services are something your organization provides. If you are looking at a Request that is asking for something you may not provide, you may have to look at sub-contracting a portion of that work (if allowable), or it may not be worth your time to respond.
- Do ask questions where something is not clear, or you need information to help you prepare your proposal. These questions are helpful to the organization submitting a proposal and it may tell the client where they need to make the request clearer for all.
- Do watch out for question deadlines and submission deadlines – Proposals received after deadlines are usually not allowed.
- Do really take a look at the criteria in the Request. In most cases it is the criteria what your proposal will be reviewed against, so make sure to answer all parts of each criteria listed in the Request document.
- Do plan ahead to make sure there is enough time not only to write the proposal, but research the Client, understand the resources you have available, and have the proposal reviewed a few other people in your organization to make sure the submission is aligned with the Request. Another pair of eyes is always good!
The obvious Don’ts are those actions contrary to the Do’s above and:
- Don’t have the client search on external links for supporting material, especially if the request states that all supporting material must be in the proposal. In many cases, information from external sources can’t be taken into consideration and proposals are reviewed as they are provided, with no opportunity to add more in later. NB: some exceptions may be allowable, but they will probably be stated in the Request document, if they are.
- Don’t put it on your references to fill in the blanks of what should be in your proposal. If there is a request to provide references these are most likely only to verify what was stated in your proposal.
While it was mentioned above that Requests are received from clients, there are also many sites where organizations can search for potential Request documents to provide a proposal to such as MERX, Biddingo. Also check your city’s municipal, university, hospital or non-profit websites.
Best of luck in your proposal writing endeavors!
Have you ever come out of a meeting, or the end of day and caught yourself in a mirror and realized that you have a piece of schmutz in your teeth, or your cow-lick is asserting its personality again? We have all had that moment when we think “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TELL ME?”
As small business owners we can spend so much time in the tasks that we forget what our goals are. If only gauging how well we are running our business is as simple as looking in the mirror! When it comes to taking your business to the next level, a level of self-awareness is required to assess the needs of your business and how your management style can be maximized for growth.
Take a look at your business and your strengths and values (and be honest about it!). Determine what makes sense for you to do and what is reasonable for someone else to take care of.
To identify exactly what you need, do the following for one work-week:
- As you go through each workday, write down the daily tasks that you dislike doing (or, put another way, make a list of the things you do last because you keep putting them off)
- Write down all the projects you’ve “had on the back burner”; those projects and tasks that never seem to get done week after week, month after month.
- Write down all the things you spend too much time doing (why are you really in the office all the time?).
- Write down all the things you wish you had more time to do.
- Write down all the tasks you must do as a business owner.
Ask people you know to work through this with you as they may provide a different perspective. There might be metaphorical spinach in your teeth that they are begging for the chance to tell you about!
Don’t think about how much it will cost or how long to get these resources in place. Just think about you for now and ask yourself what you need to do in order to move your business forward.
Need help? Click here to get my free e-book to help you gain clarity.
Remote support was pretty much non-existent 25 years ago. Facebook didn’t exist 20 years ago. Times, they are a’changing…
Remote work has grown in popularity over the last 5-10 years and more so with the pandemic we’ve been dealing with the past 2+ years, it’s become a necessity. The Internet and evolving technology drive the ability for remote support workers to be just that: “remote”. That can mean being remote locally or remote internationally; it can mean telecommuting for employees or freelancing as a contractor from anywhere on the planet for clients anywhere on the planet. The world has become larger and smaller at the same time: larger because remote working can easily tap into new markets around the world and increase competition (which can be a good thing); smaller because it takes less time and cost to do so.
It wasn’t too long ago that the average person didn’t know too much about video meetings or needed an international calling plan. Today, companies are expanding their enterprises globally without ever leaving their hometown; hiring remote employees who are local to new markets gives enterprise an edge. While this can be a very cost-effective way to conduct business, it takes more than just hiring people to work for you; it takes a thorough review of all factors that come into play for all stakeholders. It’s important to know the legal and accounting aspects of these relationships as well as being mindful of language barriers of both employees and clients.
Even in spite of the pandemic, the world is open for new opportunities. With ever-evolving technology and lower costs to connect, open your mind to the endless possibilities that are happening around the world and around the clock.
“Before the pandemic, I was making arrangements for my summer holiday to the U.K. Among those many arrangements and bookings I had to make, two stood out in my mind – each of which are a great example of customer loyalty, how to build it and how to lose it quickly.
The first experience was with a large, well known mail order firm in the U.S. I had purchased travel clothing for my trip and not everything fit well so I had to return a few things. The return slip was easy to complete and advise what I wanted done with the returned items.
Rather than me hunting all over the house for a copy of their catalogue, they included one with the order so it would be easy to find substitutions if I wanted. They included a pre-printed return label within its own folded card with instructions. These few easy to do steps made the return of the clothing really easy and hassle free to the extent that I just had to fill in the sender address on the label, tape up the box and drop off at my local post office. It was almost a joy to return the things I didn’t want. Will I purchase from them again? Absolutely!
The other experience was with a tour operator for an excursion of a now well-known castle in Britain. I had made the booking back in March and I was so happy that the date was available as it was going to be one of my last days in Britain – I really lucked out! I was so looking forward to it even though it was 6 months away.
In May, I received a notice by email that my booking was cancelled and asked what other date would I like to choose? I replied by saying it was the only date I was available for the tour and requested that my money be refunded. I waited a week and sent them a reminder. A couple of days after that, they requested my PayPal account address. A week later I checked my account and there was considerably less money in my account than the original amount I paid. There was no explanation by email for the difference. I researched their website to see if there was a cancellation policy, none to be found. I emailed again advising what I had paid and what I had received as a refund and requested they remit the difference immediately. Will I purchase from them again? Absolutely not! Will I recommend them? Not a chance.
In both these situations, the return process is handled by using a few simple steps to keep the customer (me) happy and coming back. One of them has it perfected; the other has a lot to learn!
Do you have any customer loyalty examples to share that we can all learn from? Please comment and feel free to social share below. Thanks!