The Characteristics Many Successful Businesspeople Share

Successful entrepreneurs like to plan. They don’t like to go into a meeting blind or launch a product without making absolutely certain that they have done everything they can to make it great and to launch it at the perfect time. If you want to be successful, you can’t just go with the flow; you need to set out and follow a roadmap for success.

They’re Natural Leaders

If you want to create a business that does well, you’re going to need to have direction, and you must be able to lead others in that direction with you. All of the best-known business people, who’ve experienced great success have done so because they’ve been able to get the best out of their employees. That’s why so many entrepreneurs are now enrolling on leadership masters programs or taking leadership and communication classes locally. No matter how determined you are or how good your business idea is, if you can’t lead your team, you’re unlikely to reach the top of your game.

They Know How to Manage Money

Money is the lifeblood of business. You need to know how to invest money wisely, when to cut it off and how to streamline your cash flow for the best results. So, it shouldn’t be surprising to know that successful business-people are almost always great with figures. If you aren’t exactly up to speed with all things financial, it might, therefore, be worth taking a class or two to get you up to speed.

They’re Confident

When you run a business, you have to be confident in your abilities, and you need to be able to get up and sell your products and services to others. If you’re a shrinking violet, you won’t impress investors, customers or, well anyone really and that won’t help you gain success.

Dos and Don’ts of Using Social Media for Customer Service

Using social media for customer service makes sense for businesses and customers alike. J.D. Power published data showing  more than two-thirds of all customers who contacted a company via a social network did so for customer service. It is no surprise that companies have learned the benefits that come with a public display of customer service excellence.

Despite the attractiveness of leveraging social media as a customer service channel,  companies that have tried often deliver disappointing results. As an example, another study reveals that more than one-third of consumers who have tried to use social media to get help were disappointed.

Unlike traditional situations where customers privately interact with companies via either telephone or in-person visits, social media dialog occurs in public for everyone to see. Although this can present valuable opportunities, they may also lead to damaging negative publicity. Read the following dos and don’ts for great social media customer service.

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1. Respond quickly

Customers want immediate results. In response, you offer expedited shipping options, same day shipping and similar perks that compress the gap between order placement and fulfillment. Why stop there? Customers also want to receive prompt replies to their inquiries.

Did you know more than 40% of customers want to receive a response within one hour of contacting you? In fact, one third of your customers want to receive a response in 30 minutes. Even if you need more time to achieve a final resolution, a quick response to customer contacts to achieve a high level of satisfaction.

2. Be Polite and Empathetic

While online, people often speak more candidly than they might in face-to-face conversations. When an irate customer rants all over social media about a problem, you understandably might want to fire back in a similar manner. Don’t. Always use a respectful and empathetic tone when using social media for customer service.

When others see you and your team maintain a professional attitude under pressure, they will have confidence in your commitment to them. When an irate customer speaks via social media, accept their concerns as valid and guide them to possible resolutions.

A customer first attitude will make it much easier to find a mutually satisfactory resolutions. When this happens, your brand will shine.

3. Add a Personal Touch

Get personal with your customers, prospects and leads and you will endear them to you, your company and your brand. People want to feel important and valued, and allow that desire to guide their buying choices. Use names and personal details while interacting with customers and you will build long-lasting, profitable relationships.

With its Happiness Heroes initiative, Buffer sets a standard that every firm can follow. The brand’s cheery customer service specialists always sign their messages with their first names, helping to humanize the brand. As a result, the company has built a reputation as being friendly and helpful, leading to loyal customers who freely promote the brand.

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Another way to add a personal touch to your social media customer service effort is to write well. When you and your team take the time to properly spell words and construct grammatically correct sentences, you appear professional and communicate that you value your audience.

4. Admit You Made a Mistake

Sometimes your company will make a mistake and do something wrong. Win the hearts of the social media world by admitting the problem and apologizing. When you interact this way, you connect with customers who understand that “stuff happens.”

Rather than ignoring complaints or playing a blame game, take responsibility for mistakes that your company has made, take steps to make sure they never recur, and then take steps to make things right. When you take an open, honest and transparent approach, your customer service effort on social media will earn a solid reputation for your firm that will translate into sales revenue and profits.

DON’T

1. Let the Issue Linger for Too Long

In the hope that problems disappear, some people will either ignore or delete negative social media comments. Never let an uncomfortable situation cause you to run and hide. Doing so sends the wrong message to the public. In spite of the discomfort or embarrassment you feel when something goes wrong, you must promptly and positively respond to inspire confidence of the community of social media users.

Of course, every prompt response might not result in a positive result. In fact, some conversations involving complex issues can seem to drag on forever. In such circumstances, consider inviting customers to an offline channel where you can work together without exposing the extended saga to the world.

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In fact, after two interactions in public, moving to a private message other than social media might help create a positive customer experience and promote the reputation of your brand. By limiting the “dirty laundry” on your social media profiles you do yourself a favor while offering improved opportunities to affected customers.

2. Neglect Customer Feedback

Your exposure to the social media community gives you access to almost unlimited feedback streams that include both suggestions and criticisms. All such information comes to you free, at no cost, so make sure you and your team pays attention to it.

Some companies fail to spend the time or attention necessary to digest all the feedback left for them on social media, but they do so to their detriment. Even more so, businesses that acknowledge feedback and fail to act upon it hurt themselves. Act upon the information you receive via social media, even when it seems negative. Use it to improve your business.

3. Send Them to Another Channel

You’ve already learned about the damaging effect prolonged discussions can have on your brand. Aside from that, you need to accommodate your customers on the same channel that they choose to initiate contact. For example, if someone reaches out to you on Facebook, don’t immediately tell them to call your customer service telephone number.

Customers have a reason for contacting you via social media, so you should accommodate them on their preferred channel as long as possible.

4. Rely on Canned Responses

Automation has snagged many headlines in the marketing and tech world, but sometimes automation can cause major turnoffs. When you use social media for customer service, give your audience the luxury of interacting with a human being. If you lack the time to respond to comments, enlist the help of your staff. When your staff lacks the time, consider employing some remote workers to engage your customers.

Canned responses give your brand an inhuman, austere character and can quickly lead customers to wonder whether they will ever receive the attention they crave. A seemingly countless number of brands have tried to cut corners with automated responses and they have paid the price. Learn the lesson and rely on human, personal interactions instead.

Social media has forever changed the online landscape. Through it people interact with friends and their favorite brands. In contrast with companies that have made mistakes, learn from the above dos and don’ts to give your brand an edge over your competitors, and your firm a promising and profitable future.

Author byline:

Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter @ericdavidgordon

Give Your Customers Something To Remember You By

What’s the one thing which is necessary for repeat custom, above all else? Great customer service and an outstanding product are essential, but most of all, you need to be remembered. When competition is so fierce, it’s easy to blend into the background. Which means you need to be outstanding, high-quality, and memorable. It isn’t about offering a product or service which is zany and off the wall, but about offering a service which leaves the client feeling warm, welcome, and wanted.

Great service

One of the best ways to be remembered is by going above and beyond your call of duty for a customer. This practice proves to them that you want their custom, but most of all, that they’re important to you. It means that they leave feeling like the experience they had was so unexpectedly positive, they can’t imagine not wanting to go back. This requires you to be attentive, on the ball, and a great listener, forming a natural connection. Being able to understand their wants and desires, even if they’re not necessarily able to verbalize what it is they’re looking for, enables you to offer top class customer service. Try to avoid being too over-familiar, as this can sometimes come across as overbearing and uncomfortable for the client. A friendly, professional, and no-job-is-below-me attitude are all it takes.

A parting gift

It might seem strange, but letting your customer leave with a small parting gift, as well as their goods, can be a great way to cement their loyalty. A die-cut sticker of your company logo, such as those at http://www.bluebeeprinting.com/diecut-stickers/, is the perfect example. If they loved the service they received (and your logo is attractive), chances are they’ll pop this sticker somewhere visible. That means that they’re constantly being exposed to your logo, and when the time arises that they require your services again, your brand will be the first one that comes to mind. A pen in the company colors with the logo, a drinks cooler, or even a keychain are all great ideas, and work like a charm.

Follow-up

Once your customer has walked out of the door with their goods (and parting gift) in hand, don’t let that be the last they hear from you. In a week or a month, give them a call and ask how they’re getting on with their product. Offer any advice for any concerns they have, and ensure they know that the follow-up service is free. What this serves to do is remind them of your existence. It acts as a memory jog, making your company a more prevalent memory than it might previously have been. It’s also great customer service, so it helps to solidify that reputation in their mind, meaning they’re more likely to come back and far more likely to recommend you to a colleague or a friend. The follow-up is a vastly underused sales method, perhaps because it has no immediate benefit, but the long-term positives make it more than worth your while.

When your client walks out the door, you want your company to be the first one in the industry that comes to mind next time they need your services. A great customer experience and a few tactical memory jogs are all it takes to keep them coming back.

The Foremost Factors Of Any Transportation Company

When it comes to setting up a new business, there are many different kinds to choose from. One which is almost always likely to be a good idea, however, is that of transportation. There are certain kinds of business which are likely to always be needed by certain industries. Going for these kinds of business is therefore a relatively safe way to get started in the world of business. This makes them a good option for those who do not have much – or any – experience in running a business. Transportation is the perfect example of such a business. Of course, that doesn’t mean that running a transportation company is easy or straightforward. There is a lot to it, and you need to know as much as possible before you get started to ensure your success. Let’s have a look at some of the foremost factors of any transportation company. Here are your main considerations.

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Find Your Place

As we have seen, the major benefit of a company of this kind is that it is always going to be needed by someone or other. Of course, there is another side to that: you are likely to have a considerable amount of competition as well. Competition is not necessarily a problem as such, but it is definitely something that you want to consider and take on board as early as possible. Before you even get started, you need to decide on a location for your transportation business. In one respect, you might say that the location is not all that important for a business of this nature. After all, the main task is transportation. But the location of the depot does matter – and so too does the area that your business is likely to service. So how can you find the best possible location for your new transportation business?

Above all, you want to try and find somewhere that does not have too much in the way of competition. This can be hard to discern to begin with, but with a little research you should be able to find out a good location in your area before long. You want to try and place your business physically so that you are as likely as possible to get as many customers as you can. It might help if you draw your desired radius of operation on a map, and try from there to work out the ideal location for your depot. Wherever it ends up being, you want it somewhere neither too cluttered, nor too distant from anything else. You should be locatable, but not dwarfed by other, well-established businesses all around your depot. You would be surprised at just how important this kind of detail really can turn out to be.

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The Fleet

Regardless of what kind of transportation you are going to be involved in, you will need to get your hands on some vehicles. Finding your vehicles is one of the most important early stages of setting up a transportation business. You should endeavor to spend a lot of time on trying to find only the very best for your fleet. What you want to end up with is a fleet of trustworthy and well-maintained vehicles with a good history. If you can’t trust the vehicles that your colleagues will be driving, then you will find that you lose faith also in your business, so be sure to find the best vehicles that you can.

Where do you look for such vehicles? In general, it is a good idea to stay within the industry. Don’t go straight for private sellers offering incredible deals. More often than not, you will find that this results in poorer vehicles and a fast buck for them. Instead, look to reputable dealers whose reputation would be damaged if they sold you something of poor quality. You will need to make some executive decisions here regarding balancing your books and the quality of the transportation itself. But it is worth bearing in mind that the quality of the vehicles is something that will see your business through to the future, regardless of their short-term cost.

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It’s also hugely important that you do everything you can to keep your vehicles in proper working order. Being able to properly maintain them is a big part of running this kind of business. If you allow them to fall into disrepair, it causes a number of issues. For a start, it is not the most financially savvy move for your business to allow your most important assets to fall apart over time. But more importantly, you should not do anything to put your staff or clients at risk. So it is very important that you carry out regular checks on your vehicles, and give them everything they need to keep as good as new. When a vehicle has really had its day, don’t be afraid to replace it entirely with a brand new alternative. Look after your fleet; look after your business.

Staffing Levels

In any business, finding and keeping hold of the right staff, and the right numbers of staff, is always something of a challenge. For a business of this kind, it is no different – except that you need to make sure you are being pretty diligent with your recruitment process. You need to be very careful about the people you hire, not least because they are going to be driving your precious fleet and the cargo that you have chosen to transport in your company. You should be rigorous, put them through a lot of tests and so on, and make sure that you are hiring primarily for experience rather than motivation. As long as you are able to trust your employees, there is no limit to what you can achieve in your transportation business. But the moment that you don’t quite feel you can trust them, you will find that your business soon starts to fall apart. A strong recruitment is necessary, and so is a solid training program for all new members.

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Training is vital, because it ensures that you keep your employees in the right way from the very beginning. They need to know exactly what you expect of them and why, and this is the best way to get that information across without hassle. Training is not just for the start of employment, either – you should try to re-train your employees every now and then (about every six to eight months) just to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep them at their best. Get the staffing right, and you will have much more faith in your new business – the team themselves are the core of any business.

Safety

As an employer, you have something of a moral and legal duty to keep your employees as safe as possible at all times. For a lot of transportation businesses, safety is going to be hugely important. Clearly, for drivers in particular it is important that safety is given the status it deserves. The most beneficial way to approach this topic in your business is to have clear, defined rules that everyone knows they should follow. These rules should be clear to all, available to view or read at any time, and they should make sense to everybody. You should also try to encourage in your employees a sense of individual responsibility. At the end of the day, everybody is responsible for their own safety. Make sure everyone understands that, and it is much more likely that your employees will enjoy their work in safety.

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It’s just as important that your workers know their rights, should there be an accident of some kind. Whenever anyone in your employ suffers an injury as a result of a truck accident on the road, they have the right to contact a truck accident attorney. They also have the right to time off with sick pay – but how much should be delineated in your rules and regulations. It is vital that you allow your employees everything they are entitled to, otherwise they might not be quite so pleased, and before long you could find yourself in a much less reputable position with your employees. Safety ensures that you are taking care of everyone in your business, so this really cannot be overlooked.

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Licensing & Insurance

There are always certain legal procedures that any business needs to follow, and yours is going to be no different. For a transportation business, some of the most important regulations and laws are licensing and insurance. You need to have a license to carry out the kind of business you are engaged in – as a business and individually. You also need to make sure that every single person in your company is insured to drive. If they are not, you will find that your business gets into some very big trouble very fast. But as long as you have this satisfied, your business will be able to continue trading for as long as you like. And that is what you are likely to aim for in the early days of your business.

Speed Up and Simplify Your Everyday Business Tasks

Today, we have more tools than ever to make business easier. It would then be foolish not to utilize them, so that we and our employees can spend less time on those mundane tasks and more time doing things of real value that will help our businesses to grow.

Here are some of the ways that you can use automation to speed up and simplify your everyday business tasks:

Use Tech to Take Care of Your Finances

From using software to take care of your payroll tasks in a couple of clicks to using products like FreshBooks to take care of your accounts, it has never been easier to automate the financial side of your business. As well as the two examples above, you can use technology to schedule recurring invoice payments and pay the bills and use online banking to more closely and quickly monitor your bank accounts than ever before.

Automate Your Network Management Tasks

Network management tasks may be necessary, but they can also be very time-consuming and extremely tedious, so why not free up your staff by using an IT management solution like Spiceworks to automate them instead? You’ll never have to worry about monitoring your network again because Spiceworks will do it all for you.

Use Software to Track Your Leads

No matter what industry your business is operating in, it’s almost a certainty that following up leads will be high on your agenda. This is one of the best ways to make more sales, so it really is very important, but if you’re running a large business, it can be difficult to track all the hundreds and thousands of leads your company generates each month. With software like Salesforce, you don’t have to.

What Salesforce and similar products do is automatically capture leads from your website, assign them to the most appropriate members of your sales team. They can even forecast future sales activity and carry out marketing campaigns targeted closely at your leads. They really can save so much time and money.

Email Marketing Made Easy

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Email marketing is a very good way of increasing sales. Especially if you’re a relatively small online business. Of course, it is pretty time consuming too, well it is if you’re doing it all yourself anyway. To simplify and speed up the process of email marketing, all you need to do is use a program which can be programmed with rules, so that you can run a tightly-targeted marketing campaign, that will kick into action when a particular trigger goes off, contacting the right people at the right time. There are many such programs and investing in one could be one of the best purchases you ever make.

Schedule Your Social Media

Using social media is one of the best ways to advertise your goods and services in the 21st Century, but often you have more pressing concerns than sending out a Tweet to your followers. That’s where tools like Hootsuite come in. They allow you to schedule posts in advance, so you can schedule a blog of time to write them, specify the date and time you’d like them to go out and then get back to your other work.

Do you run a business? Which automation tools have you found to be most useful?

How To Keep Your Employees Safe

The people that work for you are your greatest resource. They are more versatile, creative and productive than any other aspect of a small business. As great as technology is, its intelligence is still artificial and many supposed smart systems actually just use brute force in the form of processing power to solve problems that humans require a great deal less work and energy to figure out. Besides, computers cannot come up with new ideas or offer the sort of professional and personal support that makes an office a productive, successful environment. That is not to say that computers are not useful, it is just that they are a tool rather than the core of your business. With this in mind, it is apropos to consider how you, as the business owner, can best protect the people that work for you. This concern is obviously of a moral character, but it is also has a more practical, possibly cynical, component. That is that if someone is injured on your property, you could be liable. Lawsuits are expensive. When you win, you still have to pay all of your legal fees. This is why it is important to invest in professional liability insurance. However, prevention is better than the cure in this case too. Here are a few ways that you can help ensure that your office is a safe, happy environment that is not a threat to the people who work there:

You may not give much thought to the value and usefulness of electricity until it is not available, but it is also quite dangerous. With the average volts running through the sockets in your building being 110 to 120, it is imperative that the system is properly maintained. A shock from 120 volts is exceptionally serious and can kill. As a responsible employer, you should make sure that you regularly invest in rcd testing. This refers to a residual current device which prevents accidents from occurring by detecting and disconnecting the power to your system. However, it is not just the electronic aspects of your building that you need to worry about. The threat of fire is quite serious, not only to you and your employees, but also to the continued viability of your business. You should also consider investing in commercial property insurance, as it will also cover you in the event of flooding, burst pipes, storms and subsidence theft. However, to make sure that these things never happen and that your insurance remains just a useful salve for your peace of mind, you should learn about the fire codes in your area and ensure that your business is compliant. If you do have a fire break out and your office is destroyed, you may get all of the money back, but the time and stress involved in rebuilding is simply not worth it.

Not every threat is so concrete though. A strong, dynamic HR department is crucial if you are going to ensure that your employees feel safe while at work. A lot of cases have been coming to light recently that involve charges of discrimination or other types of abuse. These are not only reprehensible, they can also be expensive. Ensuring that these things don’t happen in your office is a matter of communication.

You Don’t Need To Be An Accounting Genius To Keep Business Costs Down

There are a lot of costs when running a business, no-one can deny that. The people, the tools, the processes, the products, they all cost money. It can become a tangled web where every cost has to be balanced precariously to fit a budget. However, if you’re having trouble with high costs, the solutions might not be all that complicated. There are a few practices to start putting in place across the board that can result in giving you a bit more balance to your budget.

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There’s always another supplier

Every physical asset you bring into the business can likely be found elsewhere. In most cases, if you need an industry level of supply, then you want to go straight to the source. Instead of a commercial front, go to your supplier’s supplier. That might be the manufacturer themselves or their distributor in the company. For everything else, spend a little more time comparing prices across the board. Sites like DontPayFull.com are a good starting point to source different deals of assets of all kinds. From hardware to furniture, there is always more than one option to get the resources the business needs. Of course, for certain supplies like paper and printer ink, it’s a good idea to create a business account with a local supplier. Long-term relationships with suppliers often tend to lead to better deals and discounts over time.

Consider going outside the business

Not all costs are about the physical resources the business needs, either. A lot of spending will go to the work that has to be done itself. Not just the day-to-day tasks of facilitating the business and selling the products or carrying out the services that are central to the business. There are tertiary tasks, such as branding, marketing, creating a website, running an internal IT system and more. One of the issues that new business owners have is that they create new business roles for these tasks without considering how economical it is. Instead, it might make more sense to outsource for those tasks that won’t require ongoing effort from a full-time member of staff.

 

Hire smarter

Naturally, there are roles that have to be handled internally, as well. However, when it comes to cutting the costs of the people in the business, prevention is much better than having to scale down the number of employees in the business. By simply hiring smarter, you can save yourself the costs of excess staff. This means taking a fine-toothed comb to the different roles in the business. It might mean re-drawing the lines, accounting for new duties in existing roles and creating new roles only when the demand for duties can’t already be met by existing staff as MindTools.com suggests. In some cases, existing duties might be taken from current staff members if they can be fit into a position where they can be done more efficiently, as well.

 

Once you know the best ways to source resources and assets and how to handle labor, you’re being truly resourceful. Resourcefulness should always come before having to make any cuts. Hopefully, the tips above make it a lot easier to keep costs manageable in the business.