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The Team at NOW bring you topics of interest to owners of small businesses. Please feel free to leave a comment or let us know if there are particular topics you'd like us to cover.

Lies Small Business Owners Tell Themselves

The Team - Wednesday, May 05, 2010

They're not really lies, they are the stories we all tell ourselves from time to time which stop us breaking old habits and developing a truly successful independent business:

1.  "Once I've got over this busy period I'm going to have a serious look at where my business is going."

The mountain of work rarely goes away and so much of a small business owner's week is spent fighting unanticipated fires.

Can you really remember a time recently when you paused to sit and seriously think about:

a) where your business is going; and

b) whether things could be arranged more efficiently?

Success follows business owners who have realised that effective planning and designing great systems gives them the opportunity to work on the business rather than in the business.

 

2. "I can't get good staff."
For many businesses finding, retaining and managing quality staff is one of the most significant potential restrictions on growth and success.

Firstly, you need to pay for quality. Assess the nature of the job you are offering, is it boring and repetitive, or is there scope for an employee with skill and brains to show initiative? If you want initiative and brains, you are going to have to compete sensibly with other businesses that are offering more money.

Have you got more to offer than high wages? Access to transport, free parking, a friendly work environment, proper tools for the job, a career path - all these things may persuade a prospective employee that money's not everything.

Secondly, train them, train them again and never stop training them. Make sure they understand your business, how you want them to treat fellow employees and customers, and how the job is to be carried out. A written job duty description is a minimum.

Thirdly, never stop communicating. Make sure they understand your business values and culture.  Give your employees regular feedback and listen to their complaints and suggestions.

Finally, finding experienced staff can be an expensive nightmare and sometimes you need to re-assess your requirements and find a keen talented junior that you can train, coach and mentor.

 

3. "I'd be able to do a lot more work if I didn't keep getting interrupted by the phone ringing every couple of minutes!"
We hear this one quite often and we wonder how business owners would feel if the phone stopped ringing.

Hopefully those calls are from customers wanting to place orders, invariably they are customer complaints and queries!

If you are getting repetitive complaints or requests for information that "only you" can handle then you need to look at your business systems and processes - and your ability to delegate.

It's a great idea to keep a log of incoming calls over a couple of days and analyse the complaints and queries. You may find that you can make changes to your systems and eliminate the causes for many of these calls and free up time for yourself to work on your business.

If you have a high number of calls from customers asking repetitive questions, why not have a look at your product documentation or your website? The FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on your website, if properly set up, can sit there and answer customer queries all day every day - and after hours.

"Lies" are the repetitive behaviours that stop us having a great small business. Sometimes we need to give these sacred cows a prod and see whether there really is any truth in them or whether they just serve to keep us in our comfort zones.

 

4. All this talk about vision, mission, values and planning - that's just for big business.

In fact, it is so much more important for the operators of small business to get this right.  When you went into your business you had a vision.  It may have been forgotten or become blurred over time.  However, unless you really have a vision; a truly meaningful aspiration for what you want out of the business then it ceases to be your business – it becomes a job, albeit one with longer hours and less money than the equivalent role in big business!



Keeping an eye on the main game and planning accordingly is what distinguished successful small business owners from the also-rans. 

Having a clear vision and a proper plan feed your motivation and lack of motivation is one of the major reasons small businesses fail to prosper.

Think about how energetic, creative and productive you can be when you're motivated. Re-kindling the inspirational spark that you had when you first went into business could transform you and your business.

So when are you going to make a start?



Comments
Rhys Nagas commented on 07-Jul-2010 01:07 PM
All to true From Good staff to "Interruptions" Yeh turn the phone off if younhave to mute it Forward calls to message bank with a informative message advertising or marketing your need for quality staff use your answering machine to market your business and get a bit of work one at the same time Provide an email adress to leave their details and you'll get back to them........... I love your suggestions their excellent

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Surprise Your Customers With Unexpected Levels of Service

The Team - Thursday, March 25, 2010
One of the main features of marketing and branding is how customers evaluate your service. Why not surprise your customers by exceeding their service expectations?

Go on, do it! It's not that hard to do because most of us have been battered into submission by years of mediocre service.

In his book "Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable," Seth Godin says that the key to success is to find a way to stand out--to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins. And when you stand out in the crowd your customers talk about you, they spread the word, they make remarks about the great experience they had and you become "Remarkable".

One way to be remarkable is take your customers by surprise and offer superlative customer service - well in excess of their expectations.

We are so used to expecting customer service to be lousy or insincere and corporatised (Coles - "Have a Nice Day"). So when we get good friendly customer service, personal attention, and an unexpected "something extra" - it is so surprising that we tell our friends and colleagues.

I had a remarkable customer service experience recently with Kalamunda Dental Care. The exemplary greeting and courtesy at reception was an indication of their special service culture. Coupled with the care and attention I received whilst being drilled and filled was  enough to make me recommend this dentist to my friends and relatives. But a couple of days after the visit I received a thank you letter for my custom and 3 scratch lottery tickets. Now that was unexpected, remarkable in fact, and here I am raving about it. What a surprising thing! A business that took the time to thank me and reward me for my custom.

Now, it's not that hard to do but someone had to think it, plan it, make it someone's responsibility and execute it.

One of the tickets was a winner by the way!

Imagine what it would mean to your business if you spent time each week planning and tweaking your customer service. How would you be able to pleasantly surprise your customers.

Think about ways you can build a remarkable customer service experience in your business:

Stop and think about what you want your customers to experience.

Write down all the ways you and your staff come into contact with your customers -this includes telephone, face to face contact, letters, invoices, website, email, advertising.

From your marketing through to your after sales service, plot and write down the things you are your staff can do to make your customers rave about you.

Pity the supermarket check out staff who are instructed to mouth "how are you today?" and "have a nice day" and end up so flat and phoney - the big corporations so often fail when it comes to understanding personalised service.

Recruit people that are capable of understanding your culture and can absorb your training  - if you need to pay a bit more to get the right people then do it - the cost of inadequate staff will cost you far more than the extra wages you may have to pay to get someone remarkable.

Ensure that you quickly assess the capability of new staff and if they cannot deliver the customer service excellence you want move them on quickly or take them out of a frontline customer role before they do any more damage to your business.

Amongst the many results of customer service is the fact that customers often don't think about price - and you are now differentiating yourself on the basis of service, whilst your competitors are competing on one thing and that's "price."

Why not share your thought and successes with others? Drop us an email at team@nowbusinessmastery.com and we'll publish your tips here or, better still, leave a comment on this page.
Comments
Dave commented on 26-Mar-2010 07:48 AM
I can count my experience of great service on the fingers of one hand. It is so important to stand back from your business every now and then and really think about whether your customer experience could be improves
Anonymous commented on 30-Mar-2010 05:24 PM
This has been a great reminder of how important this is and will be certainly attending to it in my current project. To create a remarkable customer experience in OZ will certainly provide advantage as it is so rare.
Jon commented on 30-Mar-2010 07:44 PM
Maybe we should start a NOW Customer Service rating service and shout about businesses that give exceptional service

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