Posts Tagged ‘clients’

5 Tips for Solving Customer Service Issues

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We ALL make mistakes, it’s the nature of the business. But it’s how you deal with those mistakes that can make or break your company. And yes, maybe the customer was at fault or maybe the contractor or subcontractor is the one who created a huge mess, but none of that matters.

Playing the blame game will only get you in a bigger mess with your clients, so don’t start doing that. Your job is to remember the customer really is always right – or at least they need to feel like you’re going to make it right for them! Because the way you deal with mistakes is going to decide if your client is reasonable, AND how they are going to talk about you in the future…to other prospective clients! It’s that important, so always make it right.

So here are 5 things to do to get those customer service issues nipped in the bud:

1. Stop, listen, and ask questions. Yes, you have to really really really listen to them. What are they really upset about? What is the issue and how did it happen? Sometimes your customer wants to just vent and get it out of their system, so do not interrupt, do not try to give them a solution too soon. You want to let them feel like they have been heard completely and fully. If your client is more uncommunicative, you need to be the one to reach out and to get to the bottom of what the problem is. But be sure your tone of voice is caring and concerned, not like you want to interrogate them.

2. Think about things from their point of view. It’s oh-so-easy to just think your client is high-strung and way too demanding, but that won’t help anything. Think of it from their point of view. This is a lot of money for them, it’s one of the most personal places in their lives (namely their house) and they are worried about every aspect of it. They want it to be right, just like you do.

3. Apologize sincerely. You need to apologize fully and completely – don’t do any halfway or passive-aggressive apologies. People see right through those immediately. Again, you want them to feel that they are being heard and understood. If it’s your fault, take that hit and accept the blame. People really respect someone who can stand up and say “I did this and I apologize.” Too many want to hide behind someone else or just not accept that they did anything wrong. Don’t be that person. And if someone else is really to blame, the buck still stops with you. So you can say “I am so sorry this happened,” even if the contractor is the one who made the mistake. Just don’t throw anyone under the bus (especially your own team members) and don’t start pointing fingers. When emotions are high, that does not help.

4. Don’t get angry. Yes, clients can make us all mad, but we have to be the person in control in any confrontation with our clients. They are already stressed and uptight about spending money and allowing someone else to have control in their homes. So they probably aren’t going to react the way they normally would in any stressful situation that comes up. You have to be the calm, cool, and collected person, even when you want to scream. So do whatever you have to do to stay calm – count to 10, step outside for a second, think about fluffy kittens. If you get angry, it will only escalate the situation and that isn’t going to help at all.

5. Do what you have to do to make it right – and FAST. Sometimes, you’re going to have to eat the cost of that $5,000 sofa. Or you’re going to have to have someone re-hang all that wallpaper at your expense. It is what it is. But think about it this way – if you spend $5,000 now, you may have a client for life. Or at least a client who will tell others how amazing you are. So think of it as a marketing expense. Communication is KEY. Like it always is. This is the time to really over-communicate what you’re doing, how you’re doing it, and when a solution will be ready. You want the customer to really feel that you’re resolving everything as quickly, efficiently, and painlessly as possible for her. So be sure you tell her that.

And yes, I know there are some mistakes or issues that are SO big that a client may not be appeased with anything at all. But it’s still better to try to make it as right as you can. Send them a note, email them, call them – even if they’ve said they want to cut ties with you.

It’s better to have tried and let them know that you do care. Most clients will come around eventually – but you have to do the hard work to get them back into a good place.

If you follow these steps, you should be able to smooth over any bumps in the road for your customer service!

xo,

 

 

 

 

 

Make Time for Gratitude

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Now that the holiday season is about to hit full swing, chances are that you will soon be giving and receiving and thanking up a storm! It’s interesting how we can show so much appreciation and gratitude for friends and family, though, and can forget to thank the people we spend an enormous amount of time with. And that’s our employees and our clients!

We all love to feel appreciated for our hard work, and it’s no different for the employees and contract people that you work with. MIT professor Daniel Ariely’s research has shown that employees actually leave jobs more often because they feel undervalued and underappreciated, rather than because of pay issues.

It’s important to remember to thank someone who works for you, to show true gratitude for all the ways they contribute to your company’s success. It can be as simple as telling them what a great job they did on a specific project, to writing a formal note, to giving them a bonus at the end of the year.

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Other important ways to show appreciation include welcoming their ideas, thanking them when appropriate, offer flexibility in their schedules, following through on what you say you’ll do, and celebrating milestones with them. Even just being on time for meetings, keeping your word, and being positive in your work will show respect and appreciation for others.

How important is this? Studies show that when employees don’t feel valued, their enthusiasm and productivity goes down, and the lack of excitement they feel could start to impact your clients and your business. And that is definitely not good.

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Speaking of your clients – how are you showing THEM that you’re thankful for their business? If you want their repeat business, or if you want them to recommend you to others, then you definitely should be sure that they know how much you appreciate and value them. I love to show gratitude to my clients with small gifts, notes, and emails through the design process that let them know how much I love working with them. And at the end of the project, there’s always a little something waiting for them in their homes to say thanks for their business.

It’s so important to practice gratitude every day, for the things we have, and for the people in our lives. So during this holiday season – and throughout the year – be sure you’re telling your “work family” how thankful you are for them, too! Make gratitude part of your business plan today.

Thank you for being here with me – for reading my blog and for commenting! I appreciate each and every one of you!

In gratitude,

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Top 5 Reasons to Add Video to Your Marketing

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There’s a reason that I regularly post videos on my blog, that I have a Tobi TV page on my website, and that I have both a YouTube channel and a Vimeo site. It’s because video really is the future of online content and marketing. Actually, it’s already a major player!

Did you know that 78% of all the people in the U.S. watch a video online every week? That’s a lot of people! And if you look at a worldwide audience, it’s mind-boggling how many people are creating and viewing videos! So why should you include a video strategy in your business marketing plan? I’ll give you 5 good reasons!

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1. Volume. By next year, research says that video will account for 69% of all online traffic. And there are over 1 billion visitors on YouTube every month – that’s with a B! That may make you think that you don’t need to get into a crowded field, but I would turn that around and say that there are so many people who want to see video that you should jump right in and give it a shot! There are plenty of “eyes” to go around!

2. Engagement. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text! Video is naturally engaging for viewers – they are drawn in almost without realizing it. And here’s another amazing fact: Videos in emails generate 76% more clickthroughs.

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3. Attention and retention. In this day of information overload, video offers the quickest and easiest way to send a message. Forrester’s Research says 1 minute of video is worth 1.8 million words in terms of how quickly it can get your point across. And most people retain 95% of the information they get from a video, compared to only 10% for text. Even more importantly for small businesses, visitors will stay on your site 2 minutes longer after having viewed a video.

4. Branding. Axxon Research says that 70% of people view a brand more positively after they watch a video from that brand. People also remember videos much longer than they do text – which means they’ll remember your brand more easily if you use video, too!

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5. Emotional rescue. Brand strategists all agree that they way to attract and retain customers is to make an emotional connection or relationship with them. A study by Forbes and Distilled showed that it can take 15 seconds to make an emotional connection with text, but only 5 seconds or less to hit that emotional button with a video. Given that humans now have the attention span of a goldfish (roughly 8 seconds), the quicker you connect, the better!

Really, video is just storytelling in visual form. It’s a way to really show your personality and engage. So you want to have some fun with it. But you do also need to have a strategy. What goals would you want to achieve with video engagement – what do you want people to learn about your business? And remember that short attention span and keep your videos short, too. Micro-video is really starting to ramp up, thanks to Instagram, which would be videos that are about 15 seconds.

Don’t let fear hold you back! Get out your phone and start practicing. You may be a YouTube star in the making!

xo,

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8 Ways to Offer White Glove Service

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What if each time a client walked in the door of your offices, she was offered mint-infused water in gorgeous glassware and a handmade chocolate truffle? What if you showed up for every appointment at her house, unruffled, fully prepared, and right on time? What if she never once had to pick up the phone to call you because you and your staff were in regular contact, anticipating her questions before she even knew she had them? What if you gave her an exquisite thank-you gift at the end of the project? What if you gave every client that iconic white-glove service? Wouldn’t YOU want to work with a company that did all of that? I know I would!

Designing a white-glove customer experience is like designing a room — you have to think carefully about every element. So here are 8 ideas that will help you create that incredible experience for your clients:

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1. Create a system for every point of contact. I want you to standardize all the points of contact with your clients by making checklists and setting up procedures so that you offer a consistently high level of customer service. If you have a system, you won’t drop the ball. And remember that your first point of contact is when a customer hits your website or calls your office, so be sure your brand is well represented in both of those areas, too.

2. Consistency is key. Do it the same way (fabulously) every single time for every single client. Besides the fact that it’s the right thing to do, also imagine how a client would feel if she compares notes with another of your clients and finds out she isn’t getting the same service. Yikes.

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3. Gifts are great. Who doesn’t like to receive a little present? Pampering clients with thoughtfully chosen gifts at key stages of the project is an easy way to elevate your level of customer service. They don’t have to cost a lot to mean a lot. And never forget the power of a handwritten note!

4. Don’t leave them hanging. After the exciting presentation and before the installation is one long quiet time, as far as your client can tell. So be sure you have a communication system in place to keep them up-to-date and to let them know that you’re working hard on their project.

5. Elevate your ideas. Look at every system and step you have in place, from your presentation to any gifts you give. How can you add a WOW factor to really take your customer service to the next level? It could be something like sending an on-site video to them to tell them how excited you are to see progress on their home, to giving them their own private page on your website.

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6. Do what you say you will. If you get down to basics, though, do you know what will make your client the absolute happiest? It’s if you can really deliver their project on time and on budget. So be sure you’re focusing on that as your top priority.

7. Own any mistakes. Hey, things happen – especially when there are so many moving parts to a project. But how you own up to your mistakes is what will really make your client feel like you care.

8. Say thank you. This seems so simple, but too many people forget it. Be sure to thank your clients for their business. They could have gone to anyone, but they chose you. Let them know you appreciate it – and don’t just stop with the end of their project. Check in with them throughout the year to let them know you’re still thinking of them.

Use these eight tips to take your customer service to that white-glove level! And let me know what you do to “wow” your clients in the comments section below.

xo,

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Not Everything Is an Emergency

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Have you ever had a client call you after hours in a panic to tell you something had gone horribly wrong with their project, only to find out that it was something minor or that could have waited till the next day? Of course you have; it happens all the time in business. But how did you respond?

Did you immediately answer? Did you promise to come up with a solution right then and there? Or, worse, did you then start calling others to get them involved in the drama? Because that’s the key – how you respond to those “emergencies” can make or break you and your business.

Yes, customer service is the keystone of any successful company – I talk about that all the time. But there’s customer service and then there’s enabling, and you have to understand the difference and know how to handle those non-emergency panic attacks.

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Business is just a series of calm and crazy, especially when you’re dealing with so many players. And sometimes you’re working with people who just seem to thrive on drama. We can find ourselves getting absolutely nothing done because we’re putting out wildfires that didn’t really need our immediate attention. And there are two particular reasons for why immediately responding to a non-emergency is not a good idea.

First, you get caught up in the crazy – especially if you’re responding to all of those “emergencies” after hours. And sometimes, if you get caught up in the crazy, you can help spin it even further without meaning to. It can escalate in the heat of the moment. So it’s good to have some space, and allow things to calm down to a more rational point before you deal with it.

One thing you can try is to let calls from your clients go to voicemail after 5pm or 6pm. If it’s truly something important, you can call them back immediately. But if it isn’t, you can call them back the next day, during working hours. It sends the subtle message that you have a life, too, and that there are boundaries that need to be observed.

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The second reason for avoiding those panicked non-emergencies is that they will take your eye off the ball. You can end up spending most of your time doing someone else’s bidding, not the important (planned) things on your to-do list, or the projects that are on deadline, or even REAL emergencies. In other words, sometimes we let other people’s agendas, poor time management, poor planning, and procrastination, take priority and control over our workday goals. And that’s not good.

Yes, plans rarely go exactly as planned, especially on interior design projects. But save your energy, your time, and your stress for real emergencies. For your own health, don’t let those faux panics wind you up, too. And be sure that the actual priorities on your to-do list get the attention they deserve. Sometimes, the squeaky wheel shouldn’t get the grease.

xo,

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