Wednesday, April 30, 2014

How to Handle Bad Online Reviews

You know your business offers honest, high-quality service and products and you have loyal customers who agree with you. Recently, you decided to Google your company name and check out what review sites such as Yelp had to say about you. At first, you were pleased to see some positive comments. But then you scrolled down and found a few negative reviews and they didn’t sugarcoat anything. How did this happen? You don’t even remember the experience the customer is talking about. This can’t be good. So what do you do?

First of all, don’t post fake positive reviews. Fake reviews are everywhere, and if Yelp finds it suspicious, it will not publish it. Fake reviews can also get you in trouble with the law, in which you buy reviews which are dishonest and inaccurate. You are doing a disservice to your customers and business by posting fake positive reviews.

Second, address negative feedback personally, but with care.  Connect with negative reviewers personally through a phone call or email. Ask questions, let them vent, and offer a discount or refund if warranted. Then prioritize each future customer service interaction. Act as if they will post a review about you. Practice self restraint when responding rather than jumping to defend your business. Next, move conversations offline. Talk to customers outside of social media and encourage them to write a follow up post when the problem has been solved.

Finally, be proactive. Ask customers in an email or phone call how they did during their time in the store, which will catch complaints before a person vents publicly. This can help you uncover things that are broken and find solutions to reoccurring problems. Make it happen!
© 2014 eMarketing 4 Business LLC

Friday, February 21, 2014

Should I Buy a Franchise?

In some ways, franchise owners have the best of both worlds. They have the freedom, authority, and sense of accomplishment that comes with owning their own businesses with a support system from other franchise owners from the same company and a starting point—they aren’t building it from scratch.  There are a few good reasons to own a franchise, as well as some risks involved. If you’re considering buying a franchise, these points may help you tip the scale to see if it is right for you.

If you want to work for yourself and avoid the tough job market, buying a franchise can help you do that. However, you will have to deal with the corporate headquarters’ regulations and restriction. A really headstrong owner may want to incorporate unique ideas that are not part of the business model and will get rejected.  People who are excited about hard work will enjoy owning a franchise. The less well-known the brand is in the area, the more work you will have to do to increase its popularity. You need to be willing to put time and energy into the business while following the franchisor’s system to the letter. If you are considering owning multiple small businesses or you want to be a business owner with a lower risk, buying a franchise is a good place to start. The business model is tried and true and the corporate leaders will offer training and support you won’t get with a business completely your own.

Now let’s look at the reasons buying a franchise may not be a good idea. First of all, it is expensive. If you don’t have wealth built up or stellar credit so you can get a business loan, buying a franchise is next to impossible. Even with a loan, you may find you need more money than you thought at the beginning. That could mean taking out another loan or borrowing against your home. Franchise costs can range from $15,000 to up to $2 million depending on the complexity and total size of the franchisor.  Secondly, the risk is smaller, but still there. If your franchise doesn’t succeed and you need to close before the end of your contract, you can end up paying fees in the tens of thousands of dollars for breaking the contract.

After considering all these factors and more that apply to your individual situation, buying a franchise can be an adventure or a disaster. It’s important to do your research, make an informed decision, and decide when the time is right to buy a franchise.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Don’t Make Them Tell You a Thousand Times

It’s safe to say we’ve all been in a customer service situation where we wondered if our issue was ever going to get resolved. You may have had multiple concerns simultaneously or simply had to explain your concern one way and then explain it again…and again.

Recently, I was listening to a phone conversation my dad was having about a customer service issue in which he had one simple request and one simple question. They were not unreasonable and certainly sounded like things the company should have dealt with and taken care of on a daily basis. Despite his patience, I listened to him repeat the same two statements at least five times in the same phone call. He was transferred from person to person, each time having to start over and express in detail why he was calling and what he needed. He was on the phone for almost 45 minutes. I started thinking: There has to be a more efficient way of resolving this issue. Why isn’t he off the phone yet? My dad concluded the conversation fairly confident the problem would not happen again, but not 100% sure.

So why did it take the company so many tries to fulfill a simple request? Of course, not every associate will know how to handle every situation, but there should be a streamlined system in place to get customers to the right person in a matter of minutes. This company’s customer service procedures were clearly disorganized—make sure yours won’t be with a few easy tips.

First, associates need to be prepared for various customer service scenarios. My dad was very polite, but not everyone will be. Employees need to learn how to listen to the problem, remain calm, acknowledge the mistake, and if needed, ask for help. If they take every disgruntled attitude personally, they will never survive in their position. If the first person didn’t know what to do, he should have known who to put on the line to take care of the issue and that should have been the end of it. Second, policies and procedures for daily operations and simple requests should not only be taught in training to each employee, but also available in writing for quick learning on the fly. When ideas for improvement come about, they should be implemented as soon as possible.  Finally, no matter what the problem is, don’t make the customer repeat themselves a thousand times to explain the problem to several different people. If you are the first person they contact, listen carefully and take notes if needed so that if someone else (or more than one person) needs to step in, you can be the one to reiterate their request, not them. At the very least, you can tell them you will call them back within the hour if more time is needed to resolve the problem. This will save the company and the customer time and hopefully, keep them from getting frustrated. Make it happen.
© 2014 eMarketing 4 Business LLC

Friday, January 10, 2014

Recovering from Dropping the Ball

If you’ve been in business long enough, there will come a point in time when you or an employee will “drop the ball”. Mistakes happen and not every situation will benefit from further reprimanding after the mistake has been made.  While your ultimate goal is to avoid making the same mistake in the future, there are always new mistakes to be made. In the meantime, you have to resolve the current problem if you except to keep the customer. It’s a good idea to have a set of actions in place to recover from this “ball dropping”.

First, own the mistake. If you made the mistake, admit it and don’t pin the blame on someone else. If another employee made the mistake, they should do the same.  Customers and supervisors alike respond better and recover more quickly when you skip all the excuses and move on to solving the problem, which shows sincerity.

Next, ask the customer what you can do to make up for the mistake. There are limitations to what you can offer them (one free meal is reasonable, but you can’t hand over a $100 gift card), but work within those limitations to give them something to show them you appreciate their business.

Finally, the hard part comes in—making the situation right. You have to deliver on your promise, even if it means you are late or over budget. Then go the extra mile to not only reassure them that his won’t happen again, but make them feel like you can trust them. People remember bad service, but they also remember excellent service. Mediocre, run of the mill service is what will be forgotten. So chase down that ball, pick it up, and score some points to get your team and your customer back on track. Make it happen!
© 2014 eMarketing 4 Business LLC

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Social Media “Face Palms”: Be Careful What You Post

In 2013, social media is continually evolving—you can do more than ever online and the user base for all of these sites from Facebook to Google Plus is expanding. Kids as young as 13 and older adults as well are becoming daily, active users of social media. These platforms can be a great tool for staying in touch with friends, sharing personal and professional updates, and networking. But posts made in haste can get you in some hot water, whether you realize it immediately or not. Real life can bring us some “face-palm” moments; that feeling of “I can’t believe I said/did that”. This embarrassment is completely avoidable online if you are proactive. Once a post is out there, however, it is tough to do damage control. Here are a few basic rules to keep in mind to avoid posting something that will embarrass you or worse, get you fired.

If you don’t want your parents or kids to see it, you probably don’t want to post it. We all have moments where have a little too much to drink and maybe snap a flushed faced photo with a friend wearing a ridiculous hat and holding a beer.  Maybe writing about the great deal you got on a case of king sized candy bars (even though you’re on a low fat diet) seems like a good idea in the store, but the resulting comments of concerned family members may not be worth it.  There are a lot worse examples you can probably think of here, but the point is, once that awkward picture or questionable status is posted, those who you think won’t see it just might.

If you’re extremely angry or depressed about something, keep the details offline. It happens to the nicest of people—you have a disagreement with your significant other, a friend does something unexpected, or a major disappointment comes from out of the blue. While it can be tempting to vent on your page or to post something just to spite the person you’re conflicting with, do you really want your entire friends list to know this personal information? You probably won’t remember at the time that Jenny from 12th grade is friends with your friend; if she sees you lashing out, she might stick her nose in the drama. (You don’t want that, do you?) When emotions run high, people often construe the situation disproportionately and say things they don’t mean. Who knows when an important professional connection will see this and get the wrong impression? It’s best to stay away from your social media pages until the problem has subsided.

Whatever you do, don’t post anything negative about your boss, your coworkers, or your job itself online.  You can work for someone who is impossible, do a project with a lazy coworker, or have the worst day ever, but don’t post any details about these things online. It makes you look bad and more importantly, it can taint the image of your company. Even when you’re off the clock, you are still representing who you work for. So you’re the one in charge? It’s even more important in that case not to post negative things about your employees or company frustrations.

While these things may seem obvious, it happens all too often where people just don’t think about what they post until it’s too late. It’s ok to ask for advice, celebrate positive news, and talk to your friends and family through your social media pages. They can also be a way to make initial business connections and boost your company’s reputation. Like most things, social media can be used for good or for bad. When it doubt, don’t post it. Keeping your online presence clean makes your real presence all the more easy for others to feel confident in.