My Article Published by the RI Small Business Journal – Improving the Customer Experience

Business Consultant

Improving the Customer Experience

An article I wrote was just published in the October edition of the Rhode Island Small Business Journal print and online versions (www.RISBJ.com). In it, I describe six steps small businesses can take to improve their customer’s experience.

Everybody knows that the experience a customer has with his or her purchase will factor significantly into a decision to do business with that company again.  Unhappy customers tend to tell their friends and that can tarnish your reputation.  A great experience can make that customer an ally or even an evangelist.

Here they are:

  1. Identify What Your Customers Want.
  2. Have a Chief Market Listener (the person at your company who listens to and talks with the online community).
  3. Have a Chief Customer Advocate (the person at your company who solved customer problems.
  4. Use Social Media as a Channel to Provide Customer Service.
  5. Build Good Will by helping customers get what they want, even if you don’t sell it.
  6. Deliver Customer Service that is tailored for each Type of Customer.

For more details, see the full article on page 13 of the October issue at

https://issuu.com/gillantini/docs/risbj_20v6_20no9_issue_20proof

10 Mistakes Small Businesses Make When Preparing for a Busy Season

Business Consulting

Tips For Improving Profitability

This is a very good article on do’s and don’ts to maximize your small business profitability from the upcoming holiday season.  Ideas include maintaining your service level and advice on when and how much to discount.

See the full article at https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/11/small-business-holiday-season-mistakes.html

The holidays aren’t too far away, but they also aren’t right there, staring us in the face. This is the perfect time, before the rush but not too soon, where you can really start working on those holiday promotion plans. But as a small business you have to make sure…

Building an Economic Moat: Strategy Nerd Stuff for Service Providers

Improving the Customer Experience

Create a Wall to Stop Competitors

Here is an article that is really about differentiating your product or service.  In this way, you can charge more because you are providing more value to the customer.  I often recommend providing a great customer experience for those in retail or services, but it applies to almost any company.  The better your service, the harder it is for competitors to take your customers.  And if you work on it continuously, your competitors will not be able to catch up.  This translates into a long term competitive advantage.  You don’t have to be a business strategy consultant to see that.

Read the full article at: http://mspmentor.net/blog/building-economic-moat-strategy-nerd-stuff-service-providers

My Article Published by the RI Small Business Journal – Contractors’ Key to Customer Satisfaction

Satisfaction With Contractors

An article I wrote was just published in the September edition of the Rhode Island Small Business Journal print and online versions (www.RISBJ.com). In it, I describe the most important action that contractors can take to have satisfied customers.

I have found with the research I have done as a small business consultant that having a contractor do the work when he said is what customers most want.  Customers don’t want their lives disrupted any more than necessary for a renovation and delays kill customer satisfaction.  So what is it that allows contractors to complete projects on time?  It really comes down to estimating and scheduling.

Estimating

I am sure that all contractors try to break down the required tasks and then estimate them accordingly.  Where many contractors fall short is in gathering information during a job and then putting it together at the end.  The most important thing to do is effectively use this information in perfecting their estimating process.

Scheduling

This is the point where most small contractors really drop the ball. They just have lots of challenges in sequencing, resourcing, and identifying dependencies, if they do it at all.  The hardest thing of all is to build in just the right amount of flexibility for potential delays caused by other trades working on the same job.  Without a good schedule that contains all of your existing committed jobs, how can you tell the next prospective customer when you can deliver?  You can’t.  If you do, you are setting yourself up to give your customer a bad customer experience.

As a small business consultant, I can tell you that estimating and scheduling along with solid project management, optimizing workflows and providing a great customer experience are critically important.

So for those contractors that are able to deliver their services when they said they would, they will have given themselves the best chance to satisfy their customers.  Happy customers mean free word of mouth advertising.  This reduces the money you will have to spend on marketing in general and the execution of your marketing plan in particular.

See the full article on page 13 of the September issue at:

https://issuu.com/gillantini/docs/risbj_v6_no8_issue_proof

Best Buy’s Secrets for Thriving in the Amazon Age

Improving the Customer Experience

A great article about Best Buy and how it has adapted to the competition by creating a great customer experience.  I have over 20 posts on improving the customer experience just this year.  It is really important for all companies but a matter of life and death for small companies.

Read the full article at:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/18/business/best-buy-amazon.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fbusiness&action=click&contentCollection=business&region=rank&module=package&version=highlights&contentPlacement=1&pgtype=sectionfront

If America’s Economy Is Winner-Take-All, Why Are Some Smaller Businesses Thriving?

Niche Marketing

This article discusses how the retail landscape has changed over the last 30 years.  However, it points out that margins have increased and that many small businesses are thriving by providing a better customer experience, a niche product or serving a hard to serve market, points that I make every day to my clients.

See the complete article at https://hbr.org/2017/09/if-americas-economy-is-winner-take-all-why-are-some-smaller-businesses-thriving?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+harvardbusiness+%28HBR.org%29

Customer Care: 7 Ways to Provide Stellar Customer Service on Social Media

This article suggests some good practices when interacting with customers on social media.  This is an important topic that I have posted on several times.  I especially want to emphasize that you need to keep your cool.

The full article can be found at http://www.business2community.com/social-media/customer-care-7-ways-provide-stellar-customer-service-social-media-01880821#x6laoMkSFku6lh5U.99

Here’s How Small Businesses Beat the E-commerce Big Guys

Here is a useful article describing how to offer e-commerce capability and fulfillment with service that matches or exceeds the big boys while maintaining your company’s uniqueness.

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/295945

 

Offer flawless service, and your customers will keep coming back.

Lately, e-commerce order and fulfillment seems dominated by Goliaths. In 2016, e-commerce giant Amazon set a new precedent — delivering more than two billion items for other merchants, double the number from just one year before. It may seem like Amazon is going to gobble up all of e-commerce any day now, but as more vendors default to FBA, Fulfillment by Amazon, I see a golden opportunity to embrace smallness…

A Small Business Guide to Protecting Customer Data and Information

Following up on a post from last week on ways to control the use of employees’ own devices when used for work, here is a useful article on protecting customer data.  This is very important topic and most small businesses don’t know what to do, or even how to approach the problem. This is a good introduction.

https://smallbiztrends.com/2017/06/ways-to-protect-customer-information-small-business.html

Customer Service Needs to be Different for Different Types of Customers – Part 2 – Improving The Customer Experience

In last week’s post, I talked about needing to provide a different experience for different types of customers.  Then I provided the first of five approaches to getting the right kind of customer facing staff to be able to do it.  I now continue with the remaining four approaches.

2. Instill a culture that values diversity. Every business has a culture and hopefully, yours values and respects diversity. This goes beyond the usual race, religion, etc.  It needs to include a diversity of thought.  This may mean that there are multiple ways to do something, not just one.  They need to be able to approach different customers in different ways.  (There goes your intro script!)  Your employees need to focus on meeting customers’ needs and desires but in different ways.  Your staff needs to understand that this is the right thing to do and that it is in everyone’s interest to serve a broad and diverse group of customers.

3. Training. One way to get the right values and approaches in your staff is to describe hypothetical situations and work through the right approaches to fit the situation. While this is hard and needs to be ongoing, consider the alternative-having staff that cannot meet the needs of a diverse customer set.

4. Be tuned in to the details. Get your staff to watch the faces and mannerisms of your customers and react appropriately. Get them to anticipate the needs of your customers and offer help when they look puzzled. Don’t always wait for a customer to approach.  By teaching your staff to pay attention to body language and expressions – comfortable or not, stressed confused, overwhelmed, etc. you teach your employees to focus on the whole customer.  This will allow them to be much more effective at meeting your customers’ needs and in providing a good customer experience.

5. Be gracious. When an employee is helping a customer, they need to find the right product to meet their needs and they need to do it in a way that does not make the customer feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. By choosing words that shift the conversation to the benefit for the customer from the emotional state or uncomfortable situation the customer finds himself in, sales effectiveness with be greatly improved.