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Is good customer service going to the dogs

Is Good Customer Service Going to the Dogs?

I had an experience the other day that has made me think about how too many customer service experiences unfold in the business world today, and about the difference that really good service can make.

I have two dogs. Earlier this week, it was time for them to get their summer haircuts so that they will be able to comfortably cope with the Houston heat.

The newest addition to the house is Jason, a miniature schnauzer who had been the prized pet of an old lady who had to give him up for adoption when she moved to a nursing home. She had chosen to keep him fully furred, not trimmed in the traditional schnauzer cut, so that he had a really nice wire haired coat to go with his bushy eyebrows and stubby tail. The other dog is Lucky, a schnauzer-poodle mix—poodle ears and body, schnauzer muzzle and curly tail—he gets the traditional cut.

So, I took the two little guys to the groomers the other morning. I was the first client of the day, and the salon was nice and quiet. I explained what I wanted to the person who would be doing the job—traditional schnauzer cut on Lucky, but not on Jason. Just a trim for him. This is important, I told her, because I don’t want his coat shaved off—once that wire hair is gone it never grows back. Did she understand, I asked?

Yes, she answered. But did I want Jason’s skirt trimmed?

Skirt? I stared blankly and finally figured out that she was talking about the feathery bits on his chest and belly. Yes, fine, I said. Trim that area but just don’t shave him. She nodded.

I went back a few hours later to pick up the boys. At that point the salon was buzzing with dogs, clients, and groomers. The fur was literally flying. First came Lucky, looking very dapper and neat. A few seconds later, out came Jason, and my mouth dropped open.

He had been completely shaved!!! The groomer had given him a standard schnauzer cut—and that lovely wire coat was gone forever.

I couldn’t believe it. I was angry and sad at the same time. What had happened? How could the conversation we had had in the morning have been so completely lost?

After discussing the situation with the salon owner, she reluctantly refunded my money, which was very small consolation for the snafu. It should be no surprise that I will not be going back to that salon when the boys’ fur has grown out.

This whole thing left me thinking about how this kind of customer service happens in other businesses. There were several points about the experience that translate:

1. Are we really listening to our customers? Do we ask the questions we need to ask to make sure that we understand what they want from us? Do we make accurate notes so that we retain instructions and deliver what was asked for? I got plenty of nods from the groomer during our talk, but my instructions obviously got lost somewhere between her ears and her shears.

2. Are we communicating clearly back to them, or do we use industry jargon that they may or may not understand? When the groomer asked me about trimming Jason’s skirt, I had to stop and think. It was MY responsibility to figure out what she was talking about. Not a great way to do business.

3. Finally, and very very important, when mistakes do get made on our side of the transaction, how do we make amends? Even the worst error doesn’t have to mean the loss of the customer. Respond to the mistake with restitution that matches its seriousness. In my case, given the extent of the mistake with Jason, and the permanence of the result, the salon owner fell far short in restitution and in terms of keeping my business. I had to struggle to simply get a refund, which was insufficient compared to the permanent impact this error has. I won’t be back to that salon.

These three points—listening to the customer, communicating back in ways that they will easily understand, and making appropriate amends when mistakes get made on our end—are the core of excellent service and the key to keeping loyal and happy customers.

(As a post script, I should note that Jason still looks darn cute, even without his fur. And I’m sure he doesn’t care one way or the other about all that wire hair!)

How to handle the occasional oop-see

How To Handle The Occasional Oop-See!

Q: My company is really in hot water with one of our best customers. I can’t reveal exactly what happened, but suffice it to say that we really dropped the ball and the customer is furious. I’m not even sure we can save the account. What’s the best way to get back in a customer’s good graces after making such a mistake?
— Charles W.

A: Without knowing the full story, Charles, I can’t give you a specific course of action, but let’s start at the sharp end of the uh-oh stick and work our way back to see if we can come with up some advice that might help.

First off, it’s important that you understand that the magnitude of your mistake will determine the course of action you take to make amends. If your company’s error was such that it caused your customer a significant amount of lost time or revenue, embarrassed them publicly, caused damage to their reputation, or otherwise negatively affected their bottom line, you may face legal repercussions that saying «I’m sorry» will not deter. If that’s the case you should consult an attorney immediately and prepare for the worst. Whether or not the worst comes is irrelevant. You must be prepared for it.

Now on to dealing with more minor offenses. As anyone who has read this column for any length of time knows, I’m cursed with daughters. I used to say I was blessed with daughters, then they learned to walk and talk. Blessed quickly became cursed. Now my oldest daughter is an inch taller than me and getting all lumpy in places I’d rather not think about. She’s a sad case, really. The poor kid needs an operation. She has a cellphone growing out of her ear. But I digress?€¦

When she was a toddler she coined the phrase, «Oop-see!» Whenever she did something innocently destructive, like knock over a glass of orange juice on my new computer keyboard or shove a Pop Tart in the VCR tape slot, she would look at me with her huge brown eyes and say, «Oop-see!» My wife says there is a reason God made kids cute. Oop-see moments are evidence that she is right.

Oop-see meant, «Uh oh, I didn’t mean to do that. I was wrong. I’ll never do that again. Forgive me? Love me? Buy me toys?€¦ Oop-see worked like a charm every time. Now, I certainly don’t expect you to bat your eyes at your customer and say, «Oop-see!» but consider the effect her words had on me. Instead of screaming at the top of my lungs like I wanted to do (hey, have you ever tried to dig a Pop Tart out of a VCR) I immediately softened and found myself actually taking her side. «Aw, it’s OK, really, we all make mistakes?€¦»

What my daughter had figured out is that it’s hard to stay mad at someone who admits a mistake, sincerely apologizes for it, and vows never to let it happen again. Little did I know this was only one of many tactics she would employ over the years in her never-ending quest to wrap her daddy several times around her little finger, but that’s a whole different column.

Dale Carnegie said it best: «Any fool can try to defend his or her mistakes — and most fools do — but it raises one above the herd and gives one a feeling of nobility and exultation to admit one’s mistakes.»

Carnegie and my daughter were basically saying the same thing: When you (or your company) make a mistake, no matter how large or small, the best thing you can do is quickly admit the error of your ways and face the consequences, come what may.

Here are a few things you can do to help set things right with your customer.

Assemble the facts. The very first thing you should do is find out what went wrong and why. Meet with your key people and gather the facts. Ask specific questions like: What was the mistake? What caused it? Who was involved? What could have been done to prevent the mistake from happening and what can be done to prevent it from happening again in the future.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes. I’ve been on both ends of the uh-oh stick and neither is very comfortable. My company has dropped the ball on occasion and we have also been negatively impacted when one of our vendors did the same. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes and consider what could be said or done to remedy the situation from their point of view.

Take responsibility for the actions of your company. In my role as a company president there have been times when I’ve had to call up a customer and confess that a mistake was made, and as president it was also my responsibility to take the heat for it. Remember, you’re the head cheese, Charles, you get to sit behind the big desk and take home the nice paycheck. You’re also the one that gets to mop up when your employees makes a mess. It just goes with the job.

Do not place the blame on specific employees. No matter how tempting it is to put the blame on specific people in your organization (even if that’s where the blame lies), do not do it. It is unprofessional, counterproductive and can backfire on you, especially if the person you’re blaming reports directly to you. Saying something like «My sales manager is always making mistakes like this!» is not going to make your customer feel any better. To the contrary, such statements will make the customer question your leadership ability and the quality of all your employees, not just the one that made the mistake. If you don’t have faith in your company and employees, why should your customer?

Don’t deny that a mistake was made, especially when there is clear evidence to the contrary. You’re not Richard Nixon, for petesake, so don’t try to pretend that the mistake didn’t happen or stage some elaborate cover-up to try and dodge the blame.

Admit your mistake. This may sounds trite, but you must admit your mistake before you can move ahead and start to make amends. Don’t be so afraid to take this step. I doubt your company is the first one to screw up with this customer and I can guarantee you certainly won’t be the last.

Apologize for the mistake. The one thing that could make the situation better is often the thing that companies find hardest to do. I don’t mean to sound like Dr. Phil, but simply saying you’re sorry is often the best way to get a business relationship back on track. Ensure the customer that it will never happen again. After you have taken responsibility for the mistake and apologized in a sincere and professional manner, you must then start the process of rebuilding the trust that was lost. Promising that such a mistake will not happen again is a good way to start.

Compensate the customer for his loss. Even if your mistake didn’t cost the customer a dime, he will appreciate an offer of compensation. This can be something as simple as a lunch on you or a discount on his next order. The size of the compensation offered should be in direct proportion to the size of your mistake. A word of warning: don’t let the customer bully you into overcompensating him for your mistake. That can be more detrimental to the relationship than the mistake itself.

As my daughter understood all those years ago, Charles, a sincere Oop-see can help make things all better.

Here’s to your success!

Tim Knox tim@dropshipwholesale.net

Important tips for buying an area rug online

Important Tips for Buying an Area Rug Online

Buying an area rug online can save you a fortune. But without seeing the rug in person, you have to do your homework first in order to insure that you’ll get a rug that truly compliments your décor and fits perfectly in your chosen room.

The following essential tips are designed to help the online area rug shopper find the perfect piece of fabric to brighten up their home, complete a look or just plain look great.

Tips for Buying an Area Rug Online

— Consider the color and how it impacts the room. As a general rule, area rugs that are darker in color will make a room feel smaller and cozier, while lighter, brighter colors make rooms feel more spacious.

— Take good measurements. Before you order any rug, make sure you have taken good measurements of the area you plan to fill beforehand. Note that there are three common sizes of area rug: 4×6, 6×9, and 8×10.

— Keep an open mind about shapes. When it comes to area rugs, square is not the only available shape. Consider unique designs that are round or interesting geometric forms.

— Handmade vs. Machine-made area rugs. If you want the highest quality craftsmanship, and don’t mind paying a little more money, then a handmade rug is the right investment. However, it is worth noting that many machine-made area rugs also offer high levels of craftsmanship, design and quality (and tend to cost less).

— The perfect rug if you have children or pets. Young children and pets are two of the greatest factors that contribute to the wear-and-tear on an area rug. If you have either, you might want to consider a wool rug or a nylon area rug — both are among the most durable types of rugs and stand up against constant abuse. Silk area rugs are beautiful and hold their value well over time — however they are not a good choice for high-traffic areas when the family spends a lot of time.

— Get extra padding. Many area rugs available online come with extra padding to place beneath the rug. If they don’t then you might want to order matching padding as it will help extended the life of the rug.

— The quality vs. price argument. While there are some exceptions, the quality of a rug is generally tied to the price. Therefore, you will need to make some important decisions about what you want to spend on your rug, and how long you plan on having it. If you want to buy an area rug that lasts for many years, you may need to put a little more money into it on the front end. However, if you are the type of person who likes to change their décor from time-to-time, or plans on moving in the near future, you can find a number of beautiful «lower-end» rug styles at a price that won’t bring you down.

When shopping online for an area rug, remember to follow the advice above, and above all else, have fun with your shopping experience!

How to working of joint venture

How to Working of Joint Venture?

It’s extremely difficult for businesses to find customers and generate new leads.

So, its vital to explore some under-used options that can provide access to large lists of new prospective customers. A well thought out joint venture can do just that — for almost zero cost.

Almost any marketer already knows how a joint venture basically works. However, very few people apply it properly to their business. If you do it creatively, you will build a strong list of new leads.

Isnt that the goal?

As soon as you have used your joint venture to generate your warm list of prospective clients, you can market to them every way you know how.

Specifically speaking, my office works in the mortgage industry. For those of us in this industry, the term joint venture immediately conjures images of working with real estat agents.

But, remember, the joint venture must be applied creatively. Although marketing to and with agents can be an excellent source of income, for more details visit to www.joint-ventures-secret.com the creative JV ideas go way beyond that.

My office learned this principle out of necessity. We sell owner builder construction loans nationwide. When you work in the owner builder niche (owner builder loans are simply mortgages for people who want to build without hiring a licensed general contractor), it becomes tougher to joint venture with any one real estate office.

Therefore, we decided to sell our owner builder product through joint ventures with businesses that have nothing to do with real estate or mortgages.

It doesnt matter what industry you work in. The concept will be the same for you. We sell owner builder financing. You might sell leather shoes. The concepts wont change.

The first step is to take a look around your town and see who has customers. At first, just compile a list of any businesses with a potentially large customer list.

Step two will be to narrow that list and apply your niche to it. Our niche is owner builder construction loans — your niche can be anything you like. Just make sure you work within a niche in whatever industry you are in. Ill explain.

Lets say you work in the mortgage industry, and you decide your niche is the Move Up buyer market. Your customers are those people who own their first home and are now looking to upgrade to a larger home to accommodate their needs for a larger family or their desires for a bit more luxury.

Now, you have made a list of as many local businesses as possible. Hopefully, that list includes restaurants, carpet cleaners, pet stores, for more details visit to www.jointwebventures.com and virtually any other retail business you can think of.

Approach the owners of these businesses with your proposition, remembering that you should offer something of value to the business owner, as well as get something of value in return.

My favorite idea is working with smart restaurant owners. They must be smart enough to maintain a mailing list of their customers. And, the really smart ones keep information, such as birthdays and anniversaries — just like you should be doing.

When you narrow your list down to the businesses that you want to approach, you must present your idea to the owner. The concept is pretty simple. You will ask the business owner to include an endorsement of your business (along with a coupon or offer) in his next mailing. And, you will return the favor for him in your next mail piece.

Using the restaurant example, the restaurant owner may send a monthly newsletter to his patrons. In that newsletter is a separately inserted letter from the owner saying how wonderful you are and what a great offer is enclosed. This letter will need to vary depending on how well you know the owner, but in any case, you should write it for him.

Dont be shy. Pump yourself up as a reputable, reliable expert at helping families move into a new, larger home (or whatever your proposition is for your specific niche). For example, in my offices case, we make a point to offer owner builder construction financing that requires no general contractor, no site supervisor, and no down payment. In your case, simply make sure you have a niche product and a unique selling proposition that makes you stand out from your competitors.

The included offer should be something that gets the recipient to respond to you, thereby adding their name to your pool of leads.

On the flip side, when a restaurant gives a free meal gift certificate to someone for their birthday, they can count on the fact that they will bring other, paying, customers with them. In fact, many people celebrate their birthday with a group. In the end, the restaurant makes plenty of money on that free meal, plus they earn the chance to win over a new regular customer.

For this reason, you should be able to get a free certificate to give to your customers on their birthday. At the very least, you should be able to negotiate a very steep discount for a certificate (pay about 35-45 cents on the dollar, which is about the cost of the actual food sold in the restaurant, if it is a fairly nice place — which it should be if you are doing this campaign!!). If the restaurant owner is not willing to give you the certificate or a steep discount, you are likely not dealing with a smart restaurant owner. Remember, you want to find smart business owners with whom to JV.

If you dont have a birthday list (which you need to get), enclose a certificate or coupon with your monthly newsletter.

You should be able to find one or more restaurants in your town that serve good food, have a nice atmosphere, and have an owner who understands the power of this type of joint venture concept.

How to effectively communicate with your boss

How To Effectively Communicate With Your Boss

Check out the video version of this guide on Howcast.com:

How To Effectively Communicate With Your Boss

For more tips on business and finance on Howcast.com:

Business & Finance

You Will Need

  • Timing
  • A good attitude
  • Listening skills

Step 1: Talk early

Schedule chats with your boss between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Research shows that’s when employers are most open to requests and suggestions—plus they’re just plain friendlier in the morning.

Step 2: Choose your seat

Seeing the boss? If it’s a woman, sit directly across from her. If it’s a man, subtly park your chair at a right angle. Studies show women feel more comfortable face to face, while men are more relaxed at a 90-degree angle.

Step 3: Don’t make excuses

Never make excuses—even if you’re in the right. Evading responsibility is employers’ number one pet peeve, according to surveys. If you’re criticized, just say, “It won’t happen again,” and let it go.

Step 4: Don’t mumble

Don’t mumble. It makes you seem indecisive and will just plain annoy the boss if she has to strain to understand you.

If you’re in the habit of saying “um”—break it! It makes you appear both insecure and stupid—not traits your boss wants to see in an employee.

Step 5: Be positive

Be positive—even when you have a beef with the boss. If you approach your employer with a “here’s how we can improve this” attitude, rather than from a whiney, “this isn’t working” standpoint, you’ll win major points.

Step 6: Listen

Talking less and listening more is the best thing you can do to impress the boss. And, hey, you just might learn something.

Did you know?

Only 36% of workers say their boss is honest and has integrity, and only 29% believe management cares about them.