How to Handle Customer Complaints Effectively

Few aspects of running a business can be more frustrating — or more expected — than customer complaints. It’s impossible for even the most successful companies to please every customer every time. Knowing how to handle customer complaints effectively and professionally can improve brand reputation and turn a disgruntled customer around.

Listen and acknowledge the customer

It sounds basic, but a surprising number of businesses care more about defending their actions than listening to the customer. Remember that the vast majority of people who have a problem with your company won’t bother complaining to you. They’ll just complain to everyone else. Every customer who takes the time to complain directly to you should be thanked for the opportunity to make the situation right. This means listening carefully to everything the customer has to say about the experience and offering an apology for their discontent.

If you encounter a complaint online, reach out and publicly acknowledge the complaint online as well. Let the person know how disappointed you are that they were unhappy and ask for the opportunity to discuss the incident with them privately.

Discover the source of their frustration

If a customer complains that they can’t find something in your store, you might assume they’re asking you to reorganize your shelves. However, they might really be upset that no staff members noticed their frustration and stepped in to help before they started complaining.

Find out what the company can do to help

Sometimes all the customer really wants is an apology or information about how you’ll work to improve so you don’t make the same mistake again. In these situations, it’s easy to exceed customer expectations by offering coupons or a similar incentive in addition to meeting their request.

If the customer’s not sure how they’d like to be compensated or if they have demands you can’t reasonably meet, you should have a policy in place to help alleviate the customer’s concerns. Make a point of explaining what your company’s doing to improve in the area of the complaint, and thank them for their feedback.

Handle the publicity of social media

If a complaint originates on social media, take the solution back to social media once the situation’s resolved. Everything in social media is public, so once a customer posts a complaint, it can be seen by countless potential customers. Bringing the solution back to social media will help those who saw the original complaint see how well you did addressing it.

If someone complains to you through a blog post, ask them to either update the post so new readers know the situation was resolved or remove it altogether. If the complaint was made on Facebook or a similar platform, return to the original post and make an update yourself, such as, “I’m so glad we were able to work together to resolve this problem. We look forward to doing more business with you in the future.”

Customer complaints are an aspect of business no one enjoys but everyone has to know how to manage. Keeping the above guidelines in mind should help you successfully navigate this terrain, strengthen your company’s brand, and improve your reputation.

What Gardening Can Teach You About Marketing

Spring is in the air (or at least on the calendar), and people everywhere are starting to think about their gardens for the year. While gardening might not seem to have much to do with business, in reality, it has several lessons it can teach us about running a successful marketing campaign. Here are four to keep in mind as you prepare your yard this year.

Start with a plan

Any experienced gardener knows a garden must be carefully planned. From lighting and shade considerations to eventual plant heights, watering needs, and general arrangement, failure to consider the characteristics of each individual plant can easily result in a struggling garden that doesn’t please the eye.

Marketing is the same. Randomly throwing together a variety of different strategies and hoping something sticks is never a good approach. You need to plan how each piece will fit together and serve your ultimate goal: getting your message in front of the people who are most likely to buy from your company.

Provide regular maintenance

Once you plan and plant your garden, you’ll find yourself returning regularly to care for it. Weeding prevents undesirable plants from taking over. Watering ensures the garden prospers and grows. Without regular care, your plants could die, and the entire garden might turn into a small, wild field.

Your marketing also requires regular attention. Track how well each strategy performs and how much you’re spending per customer. Identify areas to improve and refine your marketing. On social media, use each platform to interact with your followers. They aren’t going to magically buy just because you set up a page.

Have patience when tracking results

Gardeners know the fruits of their labor might not be visible for several weeks or even a couple months. They put in the work and planning so their yard can look amazing in the future.

You must also be willing to wait to see the results of your marketing efforts. Just because you sent out a direct mail flyer or set up a few social media sites doesn’t mean customers will just start rolling in. You need to have patience to see results and understand that marketing is all part of the plan to grow your business.

Make a plan to handle abundance

Anyone who’s ever planted a garden knows that sometimes you get too much in return. Maybe your bushes have started to grow so much they’re overtaking the other plants. If you planted vegetables, you might suddenly have too much produce on your hands. You need a plan to deal with this excess.

It’s also possible in business to get overwhelmed by a very successful marketing campaign. A sudden influx of customers can leave your company scrambling to keep up with demand. Make sure you have a plan for dealing with fluctuating customer numbers. Consider part-time help and training staff to adequately handle larger numbers so no customer gets neglected.

Why the U.S. Has Fallen Behind in Internet Speed

America’s slow and expensive Internet is more than just an annoyance for people trying to watch “Doctor Who” on Netflix. Largely a consequence of monopoly providers, the sluggish service could have long-term economic consequences for American competitiveness.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/31/upshot/why-the-us-has-fallen-behind-in-internet-speed-and-affordability.html?_r=0&abt=0002&abg=1

Finding Your Niche in a Crowded Industry

The Internet has been an enormous asset when it comes to doing business. We now have the power to reach potential customers around the world. But while the Internet has given us incredible benefits, it has also produced one major drawback: competition.

Thanks to the Internet, you’re likely competing with far more businesses than ever before. Today’s consumers often research companies online before giving them a try, so avoiding the Internet altogether is not an option. Even local businesses must often compete with one another online, too.

To survive in this intensely competitive atmosphere, you need to carve yourself a niche. With the right niche, you’ll have something unique to offer your customers and will know exactly what type of clients you’re looking to reach. Thanks to modern technology, you can now find each other.

So, how do you discover your niche?

Start by focusing on what makes your company unique. For some, that might mean discovering a product or service that appeals to a very specific group of people. For example, there might be a few different companies that make pet clothing, but you can set yourself apart by focusing on a particular type of clothing, such as winter gear or beach gear for pooches.

If yours is more of a service industry, focus on finding what makes your service different from your competition. There are countless companies and professionals who provide marketing services, for example, so branding yourself as a general marketer might not be that helpful. Instead, specialize in a particular type of business, gain particular certifications, or focus on a particular type of marketing.

Look for groups that have been under-served within a particular industry. You want to find potential customers who have been just waiting for someone like you to come in and help fulfill their need. When you reach these customers, you’ll have the best chance of growing your business.

What do you do once you have your niche?

Once you’ve figured out what sets you apart from the crowd, make sure your potential customers see your value as well. Take the examples above. If you want to specialize in producing beach gear for dogs, you don’t want to focus your advertising efforts on attracting the attention of people who just want dog clothes. You’ll be up against countless competitors! Instead, focus your marketing efforts on those who are seeking your specific products. Target those going to beaches regularly, those researching information about taking pets on vacation, or those who live in seaside towns.

In the second example, incorporate your unique qualifications into your advertising materials and use them as keywords in your online marketing.

Once you’ve identified your niche and discovered how to market specifically to them, you need to focus your efforts on becoming the niche authority. Since this is your specialty, you’ll have incredible insight to offer your customers. Take the time to develop valuable information and content that can help you stand out even further. This will help potential customers trust you.

In today’s competitive marketplace, you don’t have the luxury of being a general provider. You need to find something that sets you apart. Whether you provide services or products, finding a way to appeal to your customers on a unique level will provide you with the key to growing your business.

Are You Neglecting This Valuable Source of Income?

When most people think of marketing, their minds automatically turn toward finding ways to attract new customers. In the process, they’re overlooking one key customer segment, and that could be costing them enormously.

Who is this precious group? Their existing customers.

Why existing customers are so critical

It costs an estimated 6 to 7 times more to attract new customers than to retain existing ones. Neglecting your existing customers doesn’t just waste time and money; it cuts into the bottom line, as you continually search for enough new customers to replace those who leave.

Existing customers can be excellent resources for expanding your consumer base. Customers in general are much more trusting of referrals they receive from friends and family than they are of advertising produced by a company itself. This is also true of reviews on websites and review sites. Taking the time to cultivate a fantastic customer experience will not only help encourage customers to come back, but will also lead to more referrals and positive reviews, which can increase your customer base and improve your reputation.

Encouraging customers to come back

To encourage your customers to return to you time and again, you must create a superior customer experience from the moment they first interact with your brand. Part of creating an ideal customer experience means investing in your employees. Treat your employees well and cultivate a culture that works well with the brand. Happy employees tend to present the best possible image to potential customers.

Train your employees to exceed customer expectations at every turn. This often means under-promising what they can do for the customer, then over-delivering. It means personalizing communications from the company to the person, even in a mass email. Make sure the content is relevant by segmenting email lists.

Make sure the content you develop for your website and blog is relevant and valuable to those who have already purchased from you. While much of your content will be more oriented toward potential customers you’re looking to land, you should also have some content geared toward existing customers. This content might suggest ways for them to get the most out of the products or services they’re using, offer continued education, or provide other useful information existing customers might find interesting.

In the same way, you should also be paying attention to your existing customers when it comes to promotions and deals. Too many companies focus on special sales and discounts for first time customers. This can leave existing customers feeling annoyed, overlooked, and put off. Make sure you run deals regularly for loyal customers, too, such as milestone discounts and points promotions. Such deals will help to m ake your customers feel valued.

Your existing customers can be a fantastic resource for building your business. These are the people who have already trusted you enough to do business with you, so show them how much they matter. Demonstrate you care about your customers through outstanding service, valuable content, and relevant promotions. You’ll keep more customers around, build loyalty, and see a rapid impact on your bottom line.

How to Use Keywords to Get Attention

How to Use Keywords to Get Attention

When it comes to developing content, few buzzwords are thrown around quite as much as “keywords.” While quality content remains by far the gold standard for SEO, keywords can be very helpful for guiding search engines and those making queries on them to relevant content on your website. Of course, figuring out what keywords to focus on can be a challenge. Keywords should match the vocabulary and information sought by potential customers, while also flowing naturally within the piece. Here’s what every professional should know about finding quality keywords for their website.

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Determine the keywords people use

You don’t want to use keywords you think potential customers might use. Instead, you want keywords you know are commonly used. Use resources such as Google Trends and Adwords to monitor how frequently certain keywords are used. Look at trends within your market or industry, too. If a keyword has been decreasing in usage, focus somewhere else. If usage is low but has been growing steadily over the past few months, it may be worth looking at ways to incorporate that word or phrase more prominently on your site.

Look for words that match the vocabulary of your customers

In many industries, there’s a difference between the language used by the professionals and that used by their customers. Make sure the keywords you include on your website reflect the language your customers use. If you use your industry jargon, you’re more likely to attract your competitors or others in the industry rather than potential customers.

Make sure your content answers the query

It’s always good practice to run your own searches using keywords before developing your content. This will give you a good idea about the type of content that already exists for a particular keyword or phrase. It will also help you gain insight into the type of content people expect when they type those words or phrases into the search engine.

How well does your content line up with customer expectations? Even if you are able to use a keyword naturally in your content, if you aren’t answering the questions people have, your content will rank poorly. Google and the other search engines want to present helpful, relevant content for users. If your content isn’t addressing customer needs, it will quickly find itself falling behind.

See what your customers respond to

As you develop content, keep a careful eye on the type of content most likely to attract customers to your website. Note the keywords and topics that bring the most traffic and the most conversions. This can help you hone in on what your customers are responding to the most, helping to refine your efforts and increase traffic to your website. It will also help you better understand your customers, which will help you serve them better.

Keywords can be enormous assets when it comes to catching the attention of search engines and potential customers. When you take the time to determine the right types of keywords that will best serve your business, you’ll see much greater return on your efforts. If you’re looking to develop a strong marketing campaign, contact us today to see how we can help.