Archive for August 30, 2013

How to Make Your Customers Happy?

Fostering a healthy relationship with customers is important for the success of a business.  It is all the more important in this competitive world, where a customer has plenty of options to choose from. Moreover, an unhappy customer can share his views on online networking sites and that can have a really negative influence on your business. This is why it’s important now more than ever before to create and sustain a healthy customer base. Walt Disney said it best, “Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.” Happy customers contribute to the success of a business in many different ways. For example, your customers are the most powerful tool for your marketing and no marketing effort can be as effective as the recommendation of an existing customer.

So, what should a business do to keep its customers happy and satisfied? What are the measures that a business should put in place to make customers happy?

Be Professional

Be professional in all your communication with customers. People do not like talking to nameless people – introduce yourself whenever you answer a customer call or a customer email. It is equally important to maintain phone etiquette and email etiquette while replying to customers. They might feel neglected or even offended if you answer their call or email too casually.

Give Your Customers an Attentive Ear

Listen to their problem and then suggest a solution. Do not interrupt a customer in the middle and start with your solution. Yes, they have called for a solution. Listen to what they have to say and then reply to them. If you interrupt they might feel you are underestimating their problem. Even if you know what the customer is going to say, let the customer finish first. Remember, effective communication is always two ways. First listen to the problem and then address it.

Assure Them of Your Service

While making a purchase, customers are worried about post-sales service. They also want to be assured that they can reach the business anytime they need. A toll free number as your business number can boost your customer satisfaction to a large degree. First, it assures customers that they can reach you any time. Second, they get automatically convinced about post sales service and they feel more confident to call you because these numbers never charge the caller.

Ask for Feedback

You should also ask customers for feedback at regular intervals. Ask them to rate your service on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being the poorest and 5 being the highest. Also ask for their suggestions and advice on the areas of your service or products that they feel needs improvement.

Are your customers satisfied? What do you do to keep them happy? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Auto Attendant – the Automated Operator of your Business

In most cases, your telephone operator is the first point of contact with your customers. So, it is extremely important that you make your operator sound smart and professional to depict a perfect business image. But what if customers call after business hours or on a holiday? These days, businesses are not limited to one specific country or even one continent so getting business calls any time of day or on holidays is nothing unusual. For a small business, it is difficult to hire receptionists to cover 24×7 shifts including weekends and holidays. An auto attendant is the best alternative for this reason and others.

Customizable Messages

Entrepreneurs can record custom messages on their automated attendant. Messages on an auto attendant can be customized for specific business hours, holidays or to greet and direct customers who have called after business hours. The greetings of an automated attendant can also be customized to match the season or holiday.

Format of Messages

While recording messages on an auto attendant, it is better for entrepreneurs to follow the general standard and try not to experiment with the format. Trying something very different may confuse callers and so it is better not to become too innovative. The most popular format of an automated receptionist goes something like this: “Thank you for calling ABC Company. Dial 1 for sales, 2 for customer service…” Introduce the caller to your business first and then present them a menu to choose from.

Works Around the Clock

An auto attendant works around the clock. An entrepreneur does not need to hire receptionists for his business. The automated attendant works like an automated receptionist answering and directing calls 24×7, including weekends, holidays and after business hours. Entrepreneurs have the flexibility to customize the greetings and messages for after hours, holidays and weekends.

Forwards Calls to Phone or Voicemail box

An auto attendant answers and forwards call to the right person or department. Since this is automated, it drastically reduces the chances of forwarding calls to the wrong person or department. Moreover, the automated attendant of a virtual phone system can forward calls to more than one phone number (using the advanced call forwarding feature). It can also forward a call to the voicemail box.

Can Be Used for Promotions

An automated attendant can also play an important part in the marketing efforts of a business. An auto receptionist answers a call and keeps the caller on hold for a few seconds before connecting him to the right person or department. Instead of playing on hold music, an entrepreneur can play important business information during that time interval. This is one of the most effective ways to reach out to targeted customers. Moreover, you do not have to spend extra money to do this.

How does an auto attendant contribute to your business? Share your views on Facebook or Twitter

Importance of Cloud Phone System in a Business

Recently there has been an increase in the number of cloud phone providers. More and more businesses are switching over to virtual phone system and consequentially there has been an increase in the number of providers. As with any other service, it is very important to know and understand the features of a cloud phone system to make best use of it in business:

Advanced Service at Affordable Price

The most significant feature of a cloud phone is its cost. It is cheaper than a traditional phone system. Most of the service providers also provide flexible plans that include considerable number of free minutes. The user is to pay only for overage use. For a small entrepreneur or a medium business owner this is a great advantage. With a cloud phone they can enjoy all the features of a phone system including call forwarding, call routing and voicemail at a most affordable cost.

Improved Features for Better Productivity

Another great advantage of cloud phone systems is that they let you work from anywhere. This is definitely a great boost for the productivity of a business. It does need to be installed and can be used with any of your phone lines, even your cell phone. So this allows you to stay productive even when you are not in the office or are travelling. A cloud phone service allows you to call a client or colleague, answer a call, forward calls, answer voicemails and can also send a fax.

Highly Flexible and Customizable

A cloud phone is extremely flexible and is customizable. This phone system can be set up in minutes and is ready to use. Users also have the flexibility to customize the messages and greetings of this phone system. You can customize the message according to your hours of business operation, weekends, or according to a festival or season.  You can also customize the message of a cloud phone to include promotional information. Moreover, this telephony platform is incredibly scalable. It actually grows with a business.

Callers Will Never Find You Busy

A phone system is the most important gateway of communication of a business. Use a cloud phone system to build a professional image of your business. A cloud phone also allows its users to create extensions. So your customers will never hear a busy tone. If you are busy talking with a customer it will forward the next caller to another number or will place the caller in voicemail.

Multiple extensions, auto attendant, voicemail, and advanced call forwarding are some of the wonderful features of this phone system. The influence of this phone system on a business can be immense. Its influence is directly reflected in almost all aspects of a business including branding, marketing, lead generation and sales.

 

Have you started using Cloud Phone System yet? If not, then it’s time for you to switch over to cloud phone.  

5 Ways 1 800 Numbers Help to Boost your Customer Satisfaction

A lot of businesses are switching over to toll free numbers as their official contact number. These numbers are not difficult to get and are not expensive. Moreover, businesses are aware of the marketing and advertising power of a toll free number. But the benefits of using this number are not only limited to successful marketing campaigns. A toll free number can be used for other important functions of a business. Toll free numbers, also known as 1 800 numbers, play an important role in customer satisfaction as well.

Here are a few ways in which an 800 number can enhance customer satisfaction:

No Charge to the Caller

1 800 numbers do not charge the caller – this is perhaps the most important factor for using this number for customer service.  When a customer is calling you with a complaint, he will obviously not be happy to pay for the call. It is equally unwise to charge a customer when he is calling with a request or for some simple information. Using a toll free number helps to gain your customers’ confidence and also shows a business to be more credible and professional.

Makes a Business Look Professional

Traditionally, 1 800 numbers have been the trademark of big corporations. Businesses that can afford to offer one such number to its customers are considered professional, credible and big. When a small business or a new business adopts a toll free number, it automatically enters this elite group. You do not have to spend time convincing people of your capabilities and professionalism – your toll free number can easily do that for you.

Assures Quality Product/Service

A toll free number service has always been a mark of big organizations and quality services/products.  Any business using an 800 number is considered to be established and its products/services are conceived to be of high quality. Attaching a toll free number to your business can have a positive influence on its sales.

Assures Your Availability

Using a toll free number in your business assures customers and prospects of your availability 24×7. While making a purchase, one of the primary concerns of a buyer is your post-sales service. A 1 800 number goes a long way in convincing customers about your availability. A home phone number or a cell phone number not only makes a business look small, but also unprofessional. Customers are worried about the services and products of such a business.

Better Customer Reach

Research has shown that 1 800 numbers can generate more customer responses than a normal phone number. Using a toll free number for your marketing campaigns and advertisements can help you in reaching out to your customers better.

What do you do to improve your customer satisfaction? What else would you add to this list? Share your views on Facebook and Twitter.

How Call Capture Can Help Real Estate Professionals

You can hardly ever find a realtor at his office. He is always busy showing properties, planning his advertisements or following up with prospects. On average, a real estate professional receives over a thousand business calls in a year and everybody intends to have a personal conversation with him. This becomes quite a challenge. If a real estate professional stays glued to his phone all the time, it becomes impossible for him to do his other business tasks.  Call capture is an important feature that keeps a realtor close to his callers and yet allows him to concentrate on every other need of his business.

Makes a Realtor Always Available

Answering callers is crucial for the success of a real estate professional. If a caller cannot talk to you or if he feels neglected he will immediately move to the next agent in the yellow pages. Hence it’s important for a real estate agent to make his callers feel valued. The call capture feature of a virtual phone does this. This feature is gradually becoming a favorite among real estate agents and mortgage professionals because it does not tie them to their desks and yet none of their calls go unanswered.

Captures Information of a Caller

Call capture captures information about a caller that helps a realtor in making sales better. A realtor can advertise his business number on lawn signs, door hangers, classifieds, real estate magazines, sign riders or on business cards. He can also record some basic information about different properties and assign separate extensions for each property. When a caller calls his business number, the auto attendant greets him and presents him a list of options. He can choose the one that suits him and can listen to some basic information about a property. If he is interested or wants to know more he can leave a voicemail for the agent.

Provides Alternative Contact Number

Call capture collects the caller’s phone number – even if it is an unlisted one! So if a caller forgets to leave his contact number, a real estate agent can still call him back using this feature. Moreover, realtors can also have an alternative phone number of the caller using this feature. Call capture with unblockable caller ID helps real estate agents in their hunt for prospects, which might mean a big commission otherwise lost.

Helps a Realtor be More Successful

It does not need any explanation, that in real estate every call is associated with a dollar value. Missing a call is equivalent to a monetary loss for a real estate agent. Call capture negates this financial loss and plays an important role in making a realtor successful.

Do you use call capture in your business? How does it add value to your business? Tell us on Facebook or Twitter.

“Homepreneurs” and Virtual Phone Systems

Running a business from home has never been easy. But the recent technological advancements including the internet, smart phones, cloud technology, online collaboration tools and virtual business communication have made is easier. The rise of homepreneurs (the term “homepreneur” has been taken from a study entitled “Homepreneurs: A Vital Economic Force”) can primarily be attributed to the recession. The recession has forced people to move out of their 9 to 5 work schedule and look for alternatives. Wall Street Journal clearly explains the trend, “The recession is causing a growing number of people to venture into home businesses, a boost for the economy…”

A study, Homepreneurs: A Vital Economic Force, finds that there are 6.6 million home-based businesses in the US, employing more than 13 million people nationwide. Hence it can be said without any doubt that home business is the latest trend in US economy and a virtual phone system provides the lifeline to these new economic entities.

Specifically Designed for Home Businesses

In most cases, the communication needs of a home business are similar to its larger counterparts. Though the communication needs of a home business and a big organization are similar, a home business cannot afford to have elaborate traditional PBX systems with its expansive equipment and hardware shoved into a home. A virtual phone system on the other hand, can be used with any existing phone connection and with any existing handset. The entire system is hosted on the provider’s hardware, eliminating the need for any hardware installation in the home.

Provides Advanced Business Features

Virtual phone systems allow homepreneurs to enjoy advanced telecommuting features including call forwarding, voicemail and voicemail box, voicemail transcription, virtual fax and auto attendant. They can also use toll free numbers to project the perfect business image and provide their customers convenience and satisfaction. A hosted phone system is also easy to use and does not require any training. Thus it is easier for a home based business owner to buy a virtual phone service and start using it instantly for his business.

A Few Special Features

Homepreneurs can expect all the benefits of a traditional phone system from a virtual PBX and also a few special features to cater to their special business needs. For example, customizable auto greeting and messages 24/7, call forwarding to more than one phone number or sending faxes without a fax machine. Moreover, they can also create multiple extensions using their toll free number.

Not Heavy on Your Pocket

A virtual phone system is also very affordable. Service providers offer different plans to cater to the needs of every entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs are also given the flexibility to change their plan. They do not have to sign any contract to use this phone service and can generally enjoy a considerable free trial period. A virtual phone substantially reduces the communication cost of a business while making it stronger and more effective.

Are you a homepreneur too? What do you think about a virtual phone? Share with us on Facebook or Twitter

7 Smart Web Marketing Opportunities for your Small Business

Creating a successful web marketing strategy is important for every business – large or small. While you need to have a budget for some online marketing, there are several other ways as well that can help to build an effective online presence. Below are a few ideas that can help in building a successful web presence:

#1 Build a Brand

Establishing a brand is important for the growth of a business. It is important that you associate the name and image of your business with quality in the minds of customers. So when they see your brand online, they are reminded of your trust and they can choose your product over your competitors. It’s important that you brand all your social networking pages, website pages and marketing materials online.

#2 Stay Updated with the Latest Search Engine Trends

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the foundation of all your online marketing efforts. It’s important that your page ranks on search results on Google and other similar search engines. Search engines including Google often update their algorithm to refine their search results. You must be aware of the latest trends in SEO to make sure that your website and other pages ranks.

#3 Start Interacting with Customers

Social networking sites offer a way to interact with customers that was unthinkable even a decade ago. Customers can contact you via Twitter and you can resolve their issues. You can also post an update or news release on your Facebook page. Customers can read it and share it with those they want to. You can also start a dialogue with customers using Facebook or Twitter.

#4 Update Your Content

Fresh content is important for successful web marketing. Visitors come to your website not only to check your services or contact information. They expect something more. You can share videos explaining the features of your website or interesting relevant content that will engage customers’ attention. It is important that you refresh all your online content periodically to make it more attractive to your visitors as well as to the search engine bots.

#5 Add Testimonials

Customer testimonials add credibility to a business. Testimonials are powerful and you can feature them on your site and link them to sites including Yelp. You can also use Google review. Adding useful content helps in building your brand and also effectively engages your customers. Asking customers for testimonials also helps to stay updated about reviews your business receives, so that you can layout your plan for future improvement and development.

#6 Combine Strategies

Successful web marketing is said to be a combination of content, social and search strategies.  You must have a killer webpage for your business where visitors can get to know about your services and find your contact information. You must also have a search strategy so that customers can find you on search engines and a presence on social media to engage customers and prospects.

#7 Check the New Features

Often you have to change certain features of your online marketing resources including your website to accommodate new web strategies. When you change a feature, make sure it’s viable before going live.

 How are you ranking on search engines? What is your strategy? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter.

5 Smart Tips for Small Businesses to Grow

Planning is important for any business but implementing your plans is the toughest part. It’s not only time consuming but also needs a few important considerations – your customers and their needs being the most important among them. The time for implementation also plays an important role in success. You must wait for the right time to start a new project or plan. Being an entrepreneur, your goal is to get the right product or service to the market at the right time for maximum business benefit. So, what will you do to scale up your business? How can you attain maximum growth with minimum investment?

#1 Consider Forming Small Teams

Small teams are always preferable over big teams. Small teams are more flexible and agile. A large team can take hours just to find a time to meet. Moreover, discussions of a large team can go on for hours. A small team on the other hand can meet quickly and decide on an issue. The size of a team is not important, what is important is your employees. They should be focused and dedicated. Dedicated employees are important for the success of any business.

#2 Consider Permanent Hiring

Rather than hiring a consultant or marketer, it may be better to hire a permanent resource, even if the resource has less experience. Permanent hiring makes a resource dedicated and more accountable and you can expect quality service from a dedicated resource. If your business is small and you do not have a proper HR department, or if you do not have time to interview prospective candidates, you can of course take the help of a staffing company. But hiring a permanent resource is important for the growth of a business.

#3 Consider Measuring Every Effort

For a company that has just started out it will not be wise to use definitive, quantitative standards from the very beginning. Instead managers should concentrate on employees’ learning and try to present a comprehensive concept of the company and the market it is operating in to their teammates. Think of other metrics that can be used at this stage.

#4 Keep the Funds Coming In

Never consider investments as a steady allowance. Investors will invest only when you have proven that you can manage finances responsibly and appropriately. You can expect investments from them only after you have completed a step successfully. Investments are not like a quarterly reward that will come in automatically. You have to prove yourself in order to get it. Being the owner of a business you have to be very methodical and careful about informing your investors of every achievement in order to ensure continued flow of funds.

#5 Consult Your Employees

You want your business to grow and you have ambitious plans for it. But before you implement anything, it is better to consult everybody – even your employees. There can be something impossible which you have overlooked. Include your employees in your decision-making – this will make your employees feel more empowered and thus more dedicated.

What are your tips to grow a small business? How do you go about realizing your goals? You can share with us on Facebook or Twitter.

Synchronize Your Online And Offline Marketing

This is a guest post from Karen James (Beachwings)

We all understand the need for online and offline marketing but the challenge is how to integrate them to achieve better results. The effectiveness of offline marketing is very hard to gauge but using online features can help you measure ROI and audience engagement. Offline events and campaigns can be supported by online marketing and online marketing can advertise offline events and activities such as product launches and attendance at exhibitions. Providing there is consistency across all your business’s marketing channels then you will gain the benefit of synchronising your online and offline activity.

Offline Needs Online to Survive

There is no better way to reach your target audience to promote an offline event by creating an online campaign. First of all your offline activity provides plenty of material for discussion online on your blog, in a newsletter or on social media. If you have written and posted an article on your latest news then be sure to add a link on Twitter and Facebook so people can follow your activity and engage in discussion. Online marketing provides an instant way to reach your target audience to let people know exactly what is going on in your organisation at any given moment.

Online Needs Offline to Survive

You can drive traffic online by ensuring the URL’s for your website and social media are on all of your marketing collateral. QR codes also allow potential customers in an offline situation reach you online. The QR code is one of the most effective ways to link your offline activity to online. If you are exhibiting at a trade show, a QR code could allow prospective customers to link direct to your website or a video to learn more about your business, current promotion or special offer. Ensuring your online details are on brochures, leaflets, posters banners and feather flags will help you encourage your offline audience online, allowing them to follow you on social media or to subscribe to your enewsletters.

Connecting Online and Offline Marketing

Online marketing has transformed our buying behaviour, we research, gain information and make a decision based on this knowledge. We have established that marketing online is essential and digital marketing techniques help us get closer to our current and potential customers. However, we live in the real world and not a digital one therefore we need to make the most out of joined up thinking and maximise the connection between our online and offline activities.

Network the Old Fashioned Way

So you’re hot on the social media thing but nothing beats getting in front of people and reminding them who you are. People do business with people and those that they see and are in touch with on a regular basis will be most prevalent in their minds. Offer your services as a speaker and be sure to hand out business cards with your web and LinkedIn details on them, add a QR code that takes them to a special offer page or a landing page with free downloads. Offering information for free is an excellent way of building a relationship with a future customer.

Printed Media

Ensure you put your domain name on all your printed materials from letterhead to brochures. Giving people a reason to visit your website will encourage it to happen by offering a free download, an invitation to a networking event or a sales incentive will help get them onside. If you have recently sent an enewsletter then why not get some printed up for your next trade show and ensure you include a call to action, a reason for visiting your website. Pay attention to the design, location, and message of the CTA and remember to keep them fresh, change them on a regular basis to encourage fresh response.

Write Articles and Blogs

Writing for your local newspaper, trade press or as a guest blogger is another powerful way to get publicity for your business and website. Try to get a regular slot and you will start to build up a following and will become an expert in your field. Be part of your local media landscape and people will remember you and your business.

Success of a Small Business Depends on Its Communication

The formula for success varies from business to business. Small businesses need to work on their communication system for success. Effective communications is an important aspect of what small businesses do. Below are a few tips to strengthen the communication system of a small business:

Talk to Your Customers

Being an entrepreneur, it is important that you talk to your customers and try to establish a relationship with them. Creating a relationship with clients is important both for retaining a client, building your business image and adding new clients through referrals. Talking to customers does not necessarily mean that you have to pick up your phone and call your customers every day. No. But try maintaining a regular contact with them. Send email informing them about the launch or update of a new product or service, a special promotion, addition of new offices, a new merger or acquisition or simply send them wishes on special days including Christmas and New Years. Remember to ask your customers for regular feedback. This is important for your business and also to improve customer satisfaction.

Start Blogging

Your blogs can be a wonderful way to talk to customers. Blogging is perhaps the best and the most effective way to talk to engage your customers and attract potential clients. Blogs should be personal and focused – you must talk about your business in the blogs. You can also address a specific customer issue in a blog. A blog may turn out to be an indispensable part of your business with time. But when you are blogging, it is important to remember that the blog represents your brand. In other words, it’s a micro replica of your business.

Go Social

Creating an online presence is important for a small business. You must have a Facebook fan page, a twitter account, a company page on LinkedIn, videos on YouTube, etc. But the real challenge is how do you draw customers to the social networking sites? Put a link to all the social networking sites at the end of your blog. You can also add links to your social sites in all your marketing collateral, your corporate website, brochures, flyers, business cards and anywhere you put your contact details.

Phone over Email

The young generation prefers to send an email over speaking on phone.  But remember, business people receive tons of email a day and your email will be just one among them. Though email can be official and professional, talking to a customer sounds personal and encourages developing a relationship. So if possible, pick up your phone and call your customer rather than sending them email. Show them they are special and you value their association.

What more can you do to make your business communications more effective? What are your tips? Please share with us on Facebook or Twitter.