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?
Outsourcing of services is becoming more and more mainstream and with the abundance of former corporate workers who have vast knowledge and experience and now run their own businesses, you will likely be able to find someone to help you for a reasonable amount of money. Just as business owners can operate from just about anywhere, resources can provide services from anywhere. But whatever your needs are, always remember: “buyer beware”!!
Here’s a few things to consider when outsourcing:
- The lowest priced outsourced solution may not be the best; good people cost money and beware that even these days, you still get what you pay for.
- If you’re just starting out, outsource from the very beginning with a Virtual Assistant and a bookkeeper and grow your team from there. As your business grows, you can take on a web designer, a ghost writer, a graphic designer, an executive assistant, a project manager, etc.
- Don’t outsource a task just because you don’t want to do it. There will be tasks that only you can do because they’re important to operations and strategic plan.
- Always strike a fair deal with your resources and treat them with respect. You’re relying on them to handle important tasks for you and your business so don’t take advantage of them.
- Bartering. This is a great way to get things done for no cost in exchange for services. Make sure that you and the resource are clear about the terms and that the services you each provide are both what you want. Beware that this mode of payment isn’t for everyone.
On the personal side of your life, you might think about outsourcing to further free up your time:
- A personal assistant to help keep you and your family organized;
- Housekeeper/house cleaning service;
- Property maintenance;
- Grocery service, errand service
When I first started my remote support agency, I thought I would lay-off my housekeeper, thinking that since I would be working from home, I could manage the house myself. A very wise business coach I met during my early networking days advised me against it. The reason? “You’re going to be at work during the day.” She was correct, of course, and my housekeeper is still with me to this day. What are your priorities? What would make your life easier and be less stressful for you? Give it some thought!
Over the past several years the physical landscape of the traditional office space has changed to evolve and promote productivity of its workers. Ergonomics assessments, increasing natural lighting and working with flexible schedules are examples of changes that have helped in this regard, but what if your employees are finding they are more productive outside of the office environment?
While some companies have successfully integrated the ability for workers to work from home where feasible and as shown in this Globe and Mail article,(dated 2017) some managers and leaders find it challenging to manage workers that are not located on the company’s site. Many times, there is a trust issue between management and employees or hired virtual workers that need to be dealt with to allow a successful off-site arrangement to work. These issues are as relevant today as they were when remote working was becoming more commonplace.
A common question that we hear is “How will I know if the work is being done right, or being done at all?”
The simple answer: Outcomes and Results.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. This may be accomplished by setting goals for the day, week, and month for the off-site worker to meet and if actual time worked is a concern, the worker can submit a weekly time sheet either manually, or using time tracking software online.
For the most part, when an off-site worker is trusted they may feel more invested in a company that understands the importance of working off-site and may want to have their best work shine through in those results and outcomes. So if you’re on the fence about off-site work, here are just a few benefits to this way of working:
- Your very valuable time. The day of a manager or leader can be packed,with all employees in the office valuable time is taken by “doing the rounds” to check and see what everyone is up to, but is there a value in this?
- Workers that have opted for off-site work tend to be more productive, as there may be things within the office environment they find distracting or may just work at a different pace and timeline than what has been established as the norm.
- Workers that have opted for off-site work and have been given the opportunity to do so may have greater respect for those they are working for, as they may feel they are being understood.
- Many off-site workers tend to find a better balance of their social commitments and work with less absenteeism.
- Communications with your off-site worker are as simple as picking up the phone, sending an instant message, sending an email, or starting a Skype conversation.
Remember though that remote working isn’t for everyone! Some people are their most productive working on their own in peace and quiet (like yours truly). Other people need a place to go every day and work well with interruptions and face-to-face interactions. Either way, in today’s information society it still comes down to outcomes and results however, working remotely allows for much more autonomy for the responsible human to provide the results on the due date without management knowing when the work was actually done.