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!
I was in denial. My driveway needed re-sealing for quite a few years and I was really hoping the night fairies would come and do it for me. Alas, no. A couple of summers ago, I thought I’d do it myself: get the bucket of black goo and the roller from the DIY store and spend time in 35C heat rolling said black goo on my 2 cars wide and 2 cars long driveway. I never quite got around to it. I’m not a procrastinator but somehow I always managed to justify my lack of dedication to this part of home ownership.
About a month ago, a young man from 2 streets away knocked on my door and told me that he had a new business re-sealing driveways for the summer. He was studying accounting at university and thought this type of business venture would help him in school. (Great idea!)
I asked him how much to do the job and he said $195 tax in. I had to think about it – that’s quite a bit of money just to roll out a bucketful of black goo. I looked at my dismal driveway and thought woefully how long I had been putting off the task. I called him back to say that I would take him up on his offer. We scheduled the work for the following day.
My hero came over close to supper time the next day and while I was preparing the meal, I checked in on the progress by periodically going back and forth between the kitchen and the living room. The first thing I saw was him power spraying all the weeds out from between the driveway and the curb. I didn’t even think of that. The next trip to the living room I saw him power spraying the entire surface of the driveway. I would have swept the driveway; I didn’t even think of power spraying it. Then he taped off the entire perimeter of the driveway so that no black goo would get on the lawn. After that, he manually filled in all the cracks and holes (there were many). Only then did he roll out the black goo.
By the time he finished, that $195 was the best money I ever spent for value of work. Not only did he save me the labour of doing that type of work in the summer’s heat, he also provided value because he knew what he was doing. He’s done a lot of driveways and has a level of expertise that I will never have (nor wish to have). Sure, I could have done it, but outsourcing this task yielded much better quality results and freed up my time. Now I have this task off my to-do list.
There is value in everything we do, both personally and professionally; our expertise in what we do daily provides value to others. What do you need help with in your daily life? In my view, it’s worthwhile seeking out resources to help you get things done, things that you don’t know how to do, or have no wish to learn how to do, and free up your time on what matters most to you. Agree? Disagree?
Just a little reminder today that the art of the follow up is now easier than ever. Why? Because of our ever-increasing virtual world of electronic media, social media, video, audio, smart phones and goodness knows what else will be available tomorrow!
Add these resources to what were used even 10 years ago, and there really is no reason not to follow up with your donors and sponsors for their contribution and to keep in touch with your members.
It’s so easy for organizations to post to their donors’ and sponsors’ Facebook feeds: send them a text message, record a personal video or send an email. On top of this you can use Skype, Facebook or Google Chat or Hangouts to connect and have a virtual coffee break to check in. AND add to this the more traditional ways of keeping in touch with cards, notes and gifts in the regular “snail” mail, there’s no excuse not to keep in touch with your networks. Personally, I like to mail hand-written cards and gifts. From a marketing perspective, there’s nothing more alluring than ‘lumpy’ mail, so include a pen, a block of sticky notes or a little gift with a card; the chances of that piece of mail being opened will increase exponentially. Even if you just write thank-you (for your time, for your call, for your donation, for your sponsorship…), doing so will go a long way. The combinations you can use to keep in touch are endless!
While most organizations spend time recruiting potential members, sponsors and donors, what about your current members, sponsors and donors? Do you ever thank them, take them out to lunch or send them a birthday card or gift? Your current database of contacts are your biggest fans and the most likely to refer. Stay connected with them and nurture those relationships! It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money – it’s the thought that counts.