Saturday, February 28, 2009

Paying Attention To Your Customers

Writen by Liane Bate

Webmasters can easily whip up the most brilliant website, loaded with information, articles, links, and quality content. With this tool and that tool, they can create a website masterpiece, ready to display to the world. Then when the sales don't come in, they are left wondering what more they could possibly do to their site that they haven't already done. Well before throwing our arms up in the air, we must remember that the customer comes first, and that a website cannot just be a static, unchanging piece of work. Our websites have to engage the customer, entice them, and they must be interactive. Our web businesses are not mechanical slot machines, as much as we might like them to be!

Engaging our customers means that we are not only providing them with quality content, but we are giving them a chance to reply, respond, question, and comment on our site and what we have to offer. One way to do this is by including a feedback or email form that allows them to send their questions and comments back to you. If it is easy for them to contact you, and they receive quality assistance and replies from you, then they will feel more like you are someone they can trust. You can establish trust and credibility by providing your name, address, phone number, and email address, as well as posting your picture and some information about yourself. It also helps to offer a money-back guarantee.

There is software available that allows you to capture information about your customers. It will categorize them so that you know what they bought, and what other similar products or services you have that you can also entice them into purchasing. Keeping track of your website statistics and what your customers are doing on your site is crucial for you to know where your sales and visits are or are not coming from and why. Sometimes tweaking one small aspect of your wording or site layout can make a huge difference to your sales and may mean repeat customers for you. Also, if you know what your customers are looking at on your site, and what is passing them by, then you can adjust your page to their desires. Sometimes offering a survey to your customers and subscribers is a good way to find out exactly what they want.

Your subscriber list consists of your current or potential customers, so you also want to personalize your auto-responder and broadcast messages. Make sure you use the customer's name in your mailings, and be more personal than the typical auto-responder message to show that you care. Include links to your products and services but try to tailor your messages to your customers' personalities and preferences.

Paying attention to your customers also means following up with them consistently either by phone or email and building a relationship with them. Just getting to know who they are, and letting them know that you are a real person who cares about their needs and not just a website can mean the difference between making a sale and making nothing. As the saying goes, "you don't know a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins", so find out who your customers are, what they want, and let them know how you can be of service to them.

Liane Bate owns a Plugin Profit Site web business, is a member of Success University, and the IAHBE. Visit:

Friday, February 27, 2009

Computer Consulting Excellent Customer Service Inspires Growth

Writen by Joshua Feinberg

From a customer service perspective, what can you do to sell more monitoring and managed services? What would it be worth to a computer consulting client if you could predict and prevent a major problem before it occurred?

For example, if someone incurred $1,700 in billing last quarter due to some virus-related problems, is there something that you could offer them, a solution that you could give them going forward that could have prevented this?

What's The Best Service Choice?

Is it a matter of upgrading them to more complete virus protection? Is it a matter of giving them more thorough end user or internal guru training?

You should be looking at your service tickets and your invoices proactively so you can make some of those suggestions. That's phenomenal customer service because you're anticipating your computer consulting clients' needs.

You and Your Computer Consulting Staff Should Be Proactive

The same way that when people are married for a long time, they start anticipating their spouse's needs, these client relationships evolve over time. You should be able to spot these a mile away as long as you know what you're looking for.

Also, reward your technical staff for spotting and passing along some of these additional opportunities for you to follow up on. Also compensate your account managers and your technical staff based on their customer satisfaction ratings. These essentially become their report cards.

Copyright MMI-MMVI, Computer Consulting 101. All Worldwide Rights Reserved. {Attention Publishers: Live hyperlink in author resource box required for copyright compliance}

Joshua Feinberg, co-founder of Computer Consulting 101, helps computer consulting business owners get more steady, high-paying clients. Learn how you can too. Sign-up now for your free access to field-tested, proven computer consulting secrets at Computer Consulting 101.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tips For Uncovering Quotcustomer Hasslesquot

Writen by Adele Sommers

Are you wrestling with cranky customers, low-vitality products, congested services, and an aching bottom line? You certainly don't need to. Why exactly does this occur?

One major reason is that consumers expect products and services to work exactly as advertised, in a confusion- and error-free manner. It's easy to understand why these expectations exist because we ourselves are consumers. If given a choice between something that's easy to use and functions correctly, and something that's not easy to use or doesn't function correctly, we'll pick the former every time.

When consumers aren't happy with the quality of their experiences, what will they do? Unless it's a catastrophic situation, will they contact you to tell you about it, so that you'll know how to correct the problem? Perhaps some will, to vent their frustrations about what they've been experiencing. But research shows that the vast majority will quietly take their business elsewhere, and you might not ever hear why. To help you put a stop to the silent exodus, this article suggests four ways to uncover the causes of "customer hassles."

First, Why Do Customer Hassles Occur?

You'd think that any company that provides a product or service would put itself in the shoes of its own customers, and thus provide the very best product or service possible. Unfortunately, that's not always the case, especially if there is not much competition in a certain market. Yet even when product and service providers have the very best of intentions, here's another pervasive problem...

Any products (such as tools, gadgets, or software systems) -- or even services (such as auto repair shops, telephone companies, or transportation businesses) -- can burden consumers by introducing complex requirements of their own.

Those requirements can include queuing time, waiting time, installing or upgrading something, setting things up, programming in some cases (think about your VCR), learning curves, maintenance, wrestling with bugs, troubleshooting, waiting on hold for customer support, and potentially much, much more.

These are all examples of customer headaches of various sizes. When these extra requirements begin adding up, no matter how "good" your product or service might be, hassles can negatively affect your customers' experiences with your offerings. These are just a few characteristics:

-- Hassles can range from something that seems relatively small and only mildly annoying all the way to making the product or service impossible to use for its intended purpose. They can drive customers crazy, or make them feel really angry or stupid.

-- In the worst cases, customer headaches can cause catastrophic ripple effects that affect wider and wider circles of people, circumstances, and/or operations.

-- No bargain-basement pricing can ever compensate for the worst hassles!

What's the Antidote?

In contrast, what would you want to see happen? You'd want to have headache-free offerings that attract loyal customers, right? Good! There's every reason why you would want that.

Customer retention research shows that once companies have loyal customers, the cost of keeping them is just one-fifth the cost of attracting new ones. Research also shows that companies can boost their bottom-line results up to 100% just from increasing customer loyalty by only 5%!

So to attract loyal customers, we certainly must remove headaches, and we should strive to create consistently pleasant experiences with all interactions customers have. The interactions can include visiting a Web site or storefront, asking for more information, purchasing something, receiving order shipments, interacting with the products or services themselves, using any training and documentation, contacting customer service, and so on. Note that an unpleasant experience anywhere along the way could destroy a customer's positive perceptions of all other interactions!

Tips for Uncovering Customer Headaches

So, let's discuss how you can reveal the sources of your customers' aggravations. Below are four tips for exposing this critical information:

1. Poll customers using Web, mail, or e-mail surveys, or support calls.

You might ask what your customers love and don't love about your products and services, and how they might suggest improving them. You could even consider expanding routine customer support calls by asking customers: "Is there anything you can think of that could enable our products or services to better assist you?" Customers may find it very refreshing to finally reveal their pet peeves.

2. Comb your technical support logs to locate hassles of every type.

What's really been bugging your customers or stopping them from getting something done? See which kinds of trends you can spot. For example, are people calling technical support mainly to get training on using the system? Are they having problems installing, setting up, or getting going? Are they reporting bugs? Are the instructions incomplete or confusing? Another way of looking at this is to ask why your system is not completely transparent in helping customers to accomplish their real goals.

3. Observe your customers using your products at their own facilities.

It may be a real eye-opener to watch your customers try to install, set up, learn, and troubleshoot your product without having someone guide them through every step. If you had intended your products to be self-explaining and easy to use, this could reveal several aspects in which they are not.

4. Prioritize your findings using the 80:20 rule.

Try to determine which 20% of the hassles (the "vital few") seem to be giving your customers 80% of the grief. Then, continuously work toward eliminating the heaviest hitters until you've removed everything down to the noise level. It's easier said than done, but in the long run, your customers will really appreciate it!

In conclusion, revealing and remedying annoying hassles can stem the exodus of cranky customers and help you begin building a base of "raving fans." Your customers deserve no less than the very best of experiences with every facet of your offerings.

Copyright 2006 Adele Sommers

Adele Sommers, Ph.D. is the creator of the "Straight Talk on Boosting Business Performance" success formula. To learn more about her tools and resources and sign up for other free tips like these, visit her site at

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Find The Ideal Vending Location Hire A Vending Locator

Writen by Jade De Guzman

Vending Locator Service - Overview

Most vending locator services promise you to provide the best and top quality vending location services. In such a situation when all services sound good, choosing a perfect vending locator service provider gets most tedious. At the same time, you should remember that your chances of making money through vending machine installations can be brighten up if the vending service provider you hire knows his job best. Hence select a vending locator who knows his job best.

Your ideal vending locator

    Take a look at the key features of an ideal vending locator service:
  • Capability to find most suitable and safe vending machine locations
  • Conduct a through research while selecting locations
  • Should provide vending machine maintenance
  • Experienced and professional vending machine locators
  • Customer/Technical Support
  • Provide vending locator consulting
  • Should be able to provide vending locator service for one or 100 machines
  • Qualified and skilled staff

How vending locators work

Once you hire a vending locator service after discussing your vending machine requirements, a vending locater service provider should chalk out a strategic plan keeping in mind the kind of vending machine that needs to be placed. Different kinds of vending machines are suited for different locations. For example, a beer vending machine is ideal for hotels and restaurants while a snack vending machine is ideal for shopping centers.

Once the ideal locations for your vending machines are short listed, calls need to be made to contact shop owners, retailers, hotel owners, restaurant owners, salon owners, and other suitable businesses to find out if they are interested in having a vending machine at their premises. Demonstration is given to those who are interested in installing vending machines on their locations. Once all is finalized, the vending machines are installed. According to the settlement, vending location services also provide vending machine repair and maintenance services.

Jade de Guzman is the owner of, a call center that caters to the diverse cold... calling needs of entrepreneurs and small to medium businesses. He has found locations for thousands of machines nationwide.

Business Beanstalk is an unmatched combination of affordable price and technological perfection. We use the award winning Five9 Virtual Contact Center suite of applications. To add to it, our call agents have worked with some of the biggest companies in the world. We deal in sales telemarketing lead generation, b2b lead generation, lead qualification as well as mortgage telemarketing and appointment setting telemarketing lead generation. Remember this is only the partial list! The use of the latest technology at Business Beanstalk reduces the average cost of telemarketing lead generation. We can also provide the requisite Do Not Call Registry scrubbing for your organization for Business to Consumer (B2C) calls. For any queries feel free to contact us at. Call us at 1(877)270-4480.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Which Is Better Repeat Business Or Adding New Customers Part 2 Of 2

Writen by Paul Lemberg

Recently we asked which was more important: new customer growth or repeat business?

The answer depends on your business goals. If you want fast-paced quantum growth, you should concentrate energy on adding new customers. But if your goals are more incremental - if you envision continual year over year growth in the 10 to 20 percent range - booking repeat customer revenue is far easier than adding new customers.

(Of course, don't lose sight of new customer acquisition; doing so entirely would doom the future of your business.)

While it is not easy to double your existing customers spending year after year, it is easy enough to 1) keep them happy and loyal, and 2) develop additional products and services for them, which they will buy if they are happy and loyal.

How can you build loyalty and garner repeat business? With two customer words: service and communication.

  • Enhance the customer's service experience

  • Customer service is all about fixing customer problems. What kinds of problems?

  • Fixing things which are broken, or that don't work as expected.

  • Facilitating deliveries, exchanges and returns.

  • Resolving billing and payment issues.

  • Fulfilling the exceptional need or the odd request.

  • Providing technical advice and user guidance.

This last is very important because many products are so complicated they can't really work without solid service.

And that doesn't go just for technical products. It applies to self-assembled furniture - the kind you can't seem to put together based on cryptic instructions. Or home repair - consider those valuable retired plumbers in orange aprons at Home Depot. Or what about your weekend hotel stay, transformed by that special concierge into something you remember the rest of your life.

In each case customer service is a critical part of the product. And in every case, it's the part that makes customers feel great about doing business with you.

Customer Service = Repeat Business

McDonalds believes that once you successfully address a customer's complaint, that customer is several times more likely to come back and buy more Big Macs. McDonalds store managers search for problems; they long for problems; they pray for problems.

Train your people to listen closely for problems and look for things that are out of whack. Establish customer service protocols to insure those issues are dealt with quickly and completely.

Plus, your company gets a bonus for good listening: creatively solved complaints are often the genesis of new products and services. Build a system which rewards both customers and employees for those new business ideas.

Too many companies see customer service as an expense. In reality it is the most cost-effective customer retention program you could possibly have. So hire reps who want to help people and train them to spot opportunities. Use technology to make it easier to find solutions. Lavish money on it. Gather knowledge and wisdom in databases and make it available to everyone in the service chain.

Customer Communications

Continual communication is another key to building the kind of customer loyalty that translates into repeat, and increasing, business.

Here are seven ways to stay in touch with your customers.

  1. Find out how customers are really using your products and services. Call them casually or conduct formal surveys. Visit and observe them in action. Track their online behavior. Look for ways to enhance the value they get from you.

  2. Put yourself in front of your customers. User groups, conventions, conferences, road shows, tours, online forums, and even interactive webcasts, are viable ways to create a two-way free flowing dialogue. Give customers a deeper understanding of how you help them, and find out what's on their minds so you can serve them even better. For high-end, big-spending customers, schedule an annual review or strategy meeting to set the agenda and lock them in.

  3. Publish a valuable newsletter. Most newsletters are filled with self-serving drivel about the company. Who cares who got promoted, or that you just had a wonderful company picnic? Fill your newsletter with stimulating ideas, case studies and practical tips that add value to your customers and help them do better business. Important to your newsletter's success is frequency and consistency, so publish often - monthly or even twice a month, and keep it on schedule.

  4. Ask your customers the magic question: "What would you like to buy from us, if only we'd offer it to you?" Do this yourself or outsource it. Either way, these answers are like customer retention gold.

  5. Keep your product and service offer fresh. Keep upgrading and adding on, and announce to your customers that you are doing so.

  6. Make special offers to your special customers. And all your existing customers are special. Give them special offers and loyalty discounts that plain old new customers can't get. Make sure they know it is only for them.

  7. Revive the art of the hand-written note. In this age of hyper-convenient email and instant messaging, a hand-written note acknowledges the unique nature of the recipient. There's just no way to duplicate the one to one feeling a note will create. Do this and you could have the customer for life!

These customer service and communications tips are just a few of the hundreds of ways to communicate with customers to build loyalty and repeat business. Combine them with judicious up-sells, re-sells, and cross-sells, and that 20 percent annual revenue growth is yours forever.

(c) Copyright Paul Lemberg. All rights reserved

Paul Lemberg is the president of Quantum Growth Coaching, the world's only fully systemized business coaching program guaranteed to help entrepreneurs rapidly create More Profits and More Life™. To get your copy of our free special report with detailed steps on how to grow your business at least 40% faster, even when you aren't sure what to do next, go to Paul's business coaching website.

Click here if you are interested in Quantum's Business Coaching Franchise opportunities.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Customer Service Begins With An Quotaquot

Writen by Kevin Dwyer

Customer service is built on the bedrock of a positive attitude. Without the positive attitude all of the attempts to "train" customer service will fail.

Picture this; a man, Mr Jones, walks up to the front desk of an hotel at the beginning of a holiday.

He has just completed a twelve hour flight in economy class overnight to reach his destination. The food and service were passable, nothing better or worse than expected in economy class. Immigration officials at both ends of his journey were pleasant, if not so efficient.

There was a little problem with getting a taxi and he got to the hotel no more than an hour or so later than he anticipated. On a journey with a twelve hour flight he considered that to be not too bad in his experience and was content although quite tired as he was not a good sleeper on flights.

His well earned holiday had been at the forefront of his mind as he boarded the aeroplane. It had now receded somewhat as the need to clean off the sweat of travel and the smells of the aeroplane by getting under a steaming hot shower became his compelling desire. And perhaps to rest his head on a clean, fluffy pillow for twenty minutes or so to recuperate before having a nice, fresh breakfast.

He was a seasoned traveller so he made sure that he booked a day ahead to enable him to book in after sunrise and not to have to wait until the previous occupants, if there were any, had checked out.

Unfortunately, a mix up in his booking had occurred. The night shift staff, recognising that he had not turned up by midnight, assumed he was not going to arrive and sold his room to a late arrival who was part of a small tour party larger in size than expected.

His room was not going to be available until sometime after 12:00.

Think of two different attitudes of the hotel front office staff member who greeted him upon his arrival.

First, let us think of the "blame the night staff" attitude. After initial pleasantries the conversation may have gone something like this.

Staff member: "I am sorry sir. The night staff gave your room away when you did not turn up. You will have to wait for your room. I am so sorry those people are so bad."

Guest (irritated): "I did turn up, I am here now."

Staff member: "But you did not turn up on time last night when the staff expected you to."

Guest: "I was never supposed to be here last night. I gave you my flight details in the booking. I was always due here this morning."

Staff member: "I am sorry sir. If you would wait over there I'll let you know when your room is available".

Guest: "When will the room be available?"

Staff member: "I don't know sir. It depends on when the people in your room sign out. We were fully booked last night."

And so the conversation goes on with perhaps an escalation to a supervisor and perhaps with the guest becoming irate.

Let us now think of the customer service attitude. A similar conversation may have gone something like this.

Staff member: "I am sorry, sir, your room is not available as you expected."

Guest (annoyed): "Why is it not available? I booked it!"

Staff member: "I do not know what has happened specifically Mr Jones, but let me see if I can make you comfortable whilst I solve this problem. Did you fly in overnight? Would it be helpful if I could arrange for you to be able to have a shower and get changed whilst I sort this out?"

Guest: "What I would really like is my room, but a shower would be nice. Thanks."

Staff member: "Are you hungry? I can organise a nice hot breakfast for you after your shower".

Guest: "That would be great".

In the first instance the attitude is wrong. The focus is not on the customer and his expectations, a shower and breakfast and a sleep, or possible solutions. It is on shifting blame and the customer is left thinking "Who cares about you, what about me?"

Customer service begins and ends with attitude. Attitude is partly a factor of an individual's personality, but is also driven by the environment people work in. It is the leadership, processes, policies, performance management, motivation and team spirit that dictate the attitude of individuals in a corporation to a large degree.

If you are a leader and you want your people to deliver great customer service, then remember that is your attitude to developing an appropriate environment that will drive their attitude. Their attitude will determine what level of service your customers enjoy.

Kevin Dwyer is Director of Change Factory. Change Factory helps organisations who do do not like their business outcomes to get better outcomes by changing people's behaviour. Businesses we help have greater clarity of purpose and ability to achieve their desired business outcomes. To learn more visit or email

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Customer Service Flops At A Restaurant When Something Was So Going Well Why Change It

Writen by Glory Borgeson

Before I get started on this article, I'd like to say goodbye to the phrase, at the end of the day, because, at the end of the day, the phrase is still there, taunting me. I don't want to say it anymore and I'm sick of hearing it, quite frankly. Lately, whenever I hear someone use that phrase, I almost burst out laughing. And I don't want to do that. That would be rude. So, instead, I stifle the laugh and work hard to not smile. If I smiled they would wonder why I'm smiling. They know they didn't say anything funny. (Is she laughing at me? Why, yes, I am, because, at the end of the day, I'm sick and tired of that phrase.) So I don't even smile.


Okay, back to Customer Service Flops at a Restaurant!

On a Saturday, I wanted to get out of the house to do some writing, to get a change of atmosphere and to perhaps be inspired by different surroundings.

I headed to Borders Books, but they didn't have enough tables; all were taken. (They've had room for more tables for a few years, but haven't figured that out yet! Or maybe they have, but they don't want more tables to clean.)

So I went to a place called Corner Bakery. This is an old-fashioned-inspired place owned by a local chain of restaurants. While the other restaurants owned by the chain are sit-down places, Corner Bakery is a walk-up style restaurant where you order your food at a counter, pay for it, and then take it to your table. All they keep on the tables is salt and pepper, so customers have to get everything else they need from a service area. The service area has ice, a soda machine, iced tea, water, napkins, cutlery, sugar, milk, and anything else you would need (except, of course, for salt and pepper, because, as I said, that's all you find on their tables).

I asked the woman taking my order if they served their tea in pots, and she replied that she didn't know what I meant. So I asked another employee, who said they did not have teapots. (Border's does!) They knew I was there for here (not to go), but my tea was served in a take-out cup. I also ordered something to eat. They handed everything to me over the cash register. I set it down while I put my change back into my wallet, and then I looked around for a tray. (I recalled using a tray every other time I was there.) I didn't see any trays.

So I asked the two employees behind the counter if they had any trays. They both said no. Hmm. What happened to the trays? Well, one employee said, when they remodeled the kitchen and ordering area, they got rid of the trays.

So I had to pick up the items I purchased, bring them to a table, then go back to the service area to get flatware, napkins, etc., and bring that back to the table.

Being a tea person who likes to have her tea just so, next, I brought my take-out tea cup to the service area for milk and sugar. After pouring some milk in the cup and breaking open a sugar packet, I deposited the used sugar packet in the garbage slot conveniently located on the counter of the service area (just like Starbucks!). Then I grabbed a spoon, stirred the tea, and looked for a basket or container to place the used spoon. I didn't find any such container, so I shrugged my shoulders (in my mind, anyway) and left the spoon on the counter of the service area (not like Starbucks!).

Then it was back to the table again. After a couple minutes I realized that the tea was still extremely hot, and I wanted a spoon. (Of course! I should have carried that spoon back to the table with me!). As I got up from the table to go back to the service area, my hip hit the table, spilling sugary tea on the table and on the pen with which I'm writing. Great! So along with the spoon, I grabbed more napkins to clean up the mess.

A tray would have made the whole experience so much easier! What do people who dine at Corner Bakery do when they have their young children with them? Tote the kids back and forth between the front counter, their table, and the service area, carrying as much as they can hold, until they get everything they need?

So my message to Corner Bakery is: Make your customers' lives easier when they come to your restaurant: bring back the trays!

At what businesses have you experienced improved or poorer customer service (or other business decisions)? How did that affect your decision to repurchase?

What changes is your business considering? Will the changes make a real improvement that your customers will recognize for the better?

Because, you know, at the end of the day, businesses need their customers to come back and buy again!

© 2006 Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

Glory Borgeson is a business coach and consultant, and the president of Borgeson Consulting, Inc. She works with two groups of people: small business owners (with 500 employees or less) to help them increase their Entrepreneurial IQ, which leads to increased profit and decreased stress; and with executives in the "honeymoon phase" of a new position (typically the first two years) to coach them to success. Top athletes have a coach; why not you?

Click here for Borgeson Consulting, Inc.

This article was originally published in The Business Express, Borgeson's free monthly ezine. You may subscribe by clicking here: Ezine.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stand Out In Business The Write Way

Writen by Lydia Ramsey

When was the last time you received a handwritten note from a business associate? It may be that it was too long ago for you to remember. On the other hand, if you have gotten one lately, you know exactly who sent it and when. Handwritten notes have become almost extinct in the business world. So if you are looking for ways to stand from the crowd, to be noticed by your colleagues and clients, try putting pen to paper whenever you have the slightest excuse.

There are few acts more impressive than handwriting a letter or a note to someone with whom you do business or would like to. Most people think that writing notes by hand requires extra time and effort. Ironically, it can be quick and painless if you do it frequently and follow these tips:

1. Have writing supplies close at hand. Store stationery and stamps in the most convenient place in your desk. When you need to send a note, all you have to do is reach for your stationary, dash off a few lines, address the envelope, put the stamp in place and mail it.

2. Keep your message brief. These are notes so you only have to come up with three or four sentences. If you attempt to compose more than a few lines, writer's block is liable to set in and you will never get past "start."

3. Develop a system. Before you head out of the office to a business meal or function that someone else is hosting, address an envelop to your host. It will be a breeze to jot down your short message when you return.

4. Use the appropriate professional stationary. Both single-sided correspondence cards and fold-over notes with the company name or logo imprinted on them are business-like and will represent you and your organization well.

5. Poor penmanship is no excuse unless your handwriting is totally illegible. The person who receives your note will appreciate your thoughtfulness and will not be grading your handwriting. If your penmanship does not meet your standards, it is never too late to improve. There are numerous resources at your library or on the Internet to teach you to write legibly.

6. Use any occasion to get noticed with a note. A few of those instances are when...

You have received a gift

You were a guest in someone's home

You were hosted to a meal

You received a business favor

You are replying to an invitation

You are sending condolences

You want to offer congratulations

You need to apologize

7. Make your message timely. Whether you are sending a note of appreciation, congratulation or condolence, do it as quickly as possible. A thank you should go out within 24 to 48 hours. However, don't forgo sending a note because you think too much time has elapsed. There is no definite statute of limitations on appreciation.

8. Understand that e-mail is not a substitute for the personal handwritten message. The Internet is fast, efficient and remote. If you are corresponding by e-mail immediately following a meeting with a business associate, include your expression of gratitude, but don't let that stop you from sending a second message by ground.

Successful people pay attention to the details and look for ways to build better business relationships. When you take the time to send handwritten notes, you will stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons. Your next big sale or job promotion may came about as a result of your doing business just a little differently.

(c) 2005, Lydia Ramsey. All rights in all media reserved.

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, corporate trainer and author of MANNERS THAT SELL - ADDING THE POLISH THAT BUILDS PROFITS. She has been quoted or featured in The New York Times, Investors' Business Daily, Entrepreneur, Inc., Real Simple and Woman's Day. For more information about her programs, products and services, e-mail her at or visit her web site

Friday, February 20, 2009

How To Write A Complaint Letter That Gets The Result You Want

Writen by Kathy Swann

Have you been double-charged on your credit card? Did the poor service at that restaurant ruin your special evening? Were the flowers you ordered delivered to the wrong address? Then it's time you write a complaint letter that gets the situation resolved to your satisfaction.

Make your opening sentence a positive one and get to the point in the first paragraph. The flower shop doesn't need to know this was your grandmother's 90th birthday, but they do need to know that you've been their customer for five years. Beginning on an upbeat note will let them know you want to continue doing business with them.

Tell your story precisely and in as few words as possible. You don't need to tell the restaurant that you were hosting a business dinner with your new boss, but rather this was a special evening to celebrate an important occasion. State specifically what went wrong, such as the food was cold or they neglected to bring the appetizers until the main course was served. Be humorous if possible- this wasn't brain surgery even though it was important to you.

Don't threaten. Swearing to never shop there again or to call the Better Business Bureau just makes you appear out of control. No one will be in a hurry to handle your problem. If you act respectfully, you can expect the same behavior in return.

State exactly how this mistake cost you (time, money or embarrassment) and what result you want (refund, free meal or gift certificate). Be reasonable in your request- you won't get unlimited free meals for life because the waiter spilled coffee on your new suit. However, you may get a free bottle of wine on your next visit.

Provide a copy of your receipts, correspondence or contracts with your letter. If you had a contract with a caterer and he didn't provide the desserts you ordered, having the agreement to prove it will further your cause.

When the matter has been resolved, be sure to do the company a favor in return. Telling your friends about the flowers that were delivered to the wrong hospital and how the florist personally took a fresh arrangement to the patient himself shows how far the merchant was willing to go to provide excellent customer service.

Remember, the purpose of business is to keep the customer coming back. How you let the company know about their mistake is just as important as how they remedy the situation- it can be a win-win solution for both parties.

Kathy Swann has over 25 years experience in office administration, payroll and Human Resources. Her e-book "How to Win When You Lose Your Job: A Handbook for Those Soon to Be Unemployed" was written to help employees understand what benefits are available to them should they lose their job through no fault of their own. Purchase this e-book at

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can You Believe Your Customer Can You Trust Traditional Market Research

Writen by Mike T. Davis

One of the most common objectives of market research is to find the customers wants and wishes, or their hot buttons. But what if traditional market research identifies the wrong hot buttons? What if conventional market research singles out hot buttons that freeze your fingers? What if standard market research uses malfunctioning thermometers? A recent scientific study by Professors Dan Horsky, Paul Nelson, and Steven S. Posavac published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology examined this possibility.

The study (Horsky D., Nelson P., Posavac SS. Stating Preference for the Ethereal but Choosing the Concrete: How the Tangibility of Attributes Affects Attribute Weighting in Value Elicitation and Choice. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2004, Vol. 14, No. 1&2, Pages 132-140) compared the attractiveness of five sporty car attributes calculated using answers provided in a market research study (what people say), and the attractiveness of the same five attributes derived from the actual buying behavior of the car buyers (what people do). The five attributes were Performance, Dependability, Comfort, Prestige, and Exterior Styling.

The relative attractiveness of the performance, dependability, comfort, prestige, and exterior styling attributes calculated using the answers in the market research study were 0.13, 0.22, 0.13, 0.16, and 0.20. The relative attractiveness of the same five attributes calculated using the real behavior in the marketplace were 0.24, 0.21, 0.13, 0.00, and 0.19 (note the change in the bold and underline numbers).

According to the authors: "a rather dramatic change in the ordering of the average weights occurs ... Specifically, the tangible attribute Performance, previously one of the least important attributes on average, is now the most important to sporty sedan buyers. … In contrast, the weight of Prestige, an intangible attribute, falls dramatically and becomes the least important attribute. The remaining attributes change little."

This "dramatic change" has dramatic implications. "The implication of our findings is that stated preferences may not be highly predictive of actual consumer decisions because the relative importance of attributes differs in value elicitation and choice. This finding is troubling because of the reliance of marketing practitioners on research data pertaining to attitudes, purchase intentions, and attribute importance rankings. If predictions based on stated preferences are markedly different from reality, marketers' decisions (e.g., product positioning, advertising emphasis) made based on the stated preference data may be suboptimal." In other words, "forecasts of choice based on stated attribute importances would have been erroneous."


So, can you believe what people say about their wants and wishes? Yes, if you have the formula that converts what people say into what people do. If, you are not using this formula, be prepared to face some unpleasant surprises when implementing the raw customers' suggestions.

Mike T. Davis, SCI, Rochester NY

We are the inventors of Computer Intuition™, a psycholinguistics based program that analyzes the language that people use to describe themselves and their environment, and "converts what people say into what people do"™. When clients hire our services, they send us their qualitative data. We input the data to the computer, which calculates the psychological intensity, or psytensity, of every idea found in the text. We then isolate the ideas with the highest psytensities, and document them in a report that also includes our "Do this, do that"™ recommendations. Within a week of receiving the data, we present the results to the client. SCI's clients include many Fortune 500 companies, such as Apple Computer, Sears, Allergan Pharmaceuticals, Chrysler, Citibank, IBM, Motorola, Anheuser-Busch, Gannett Newspapers, and Xerox. We also serve many smaller companies and individuals who came to realize that Computer Intuition™ is the only tool for a correct analysis of text.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Minimize The Pain Of Check Recovery

Writen by Jason Schwartz

$350 million in bad checks are written each and every week. That fact alone makes bad checks a serious problem for American businesses. It is almost inevitable that, if your business accepts checks, you have been affected by this. As well as being stuck with bank fees for depositing a bad check - and the very real possibility that the bad check could impact your bottom line - there is the time, aggravation and cost associated with recovering the funds. It is often the case that recovering the check can incur more in costs than the value of the original debt. Inevitably, many smaller businesses write off bad checks, believing that they cannot afford to pursue the debt. However, there are a number of ways your business can fight back and minimize the pain of bad check recovery.


For small and mid-sized businesses, the first recourse is to call the customer and explain the problem. Don't immediately assume that the customer intended to defraud your business. It is often true that an innocent mistake has been made and a calm, reasoned telephone call will recover your funds and keep what may be a valuable customer. Please be aware that threatening a debtor with publicizing their name or notifying their employer is illegal, so speak only to the person owing the funds and stay cool !


In most States, you are required to send a certified letter to the check writer before you can institute court proceedings. You may request that the debtor also repays the bad check fee you have incurred. The check writer is usually required respond within 10 or 30 days. This varies by state, so please check with your State Attorney General's office. Again, a calm and reasonable tone often works well and will ensure you stay within the law. Reviewing the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ( ) before you draft your letter or make a call is highly recommended.

While these two methods are time and cost-effective, if you have still been unable to recover the check the obvious next step is to institute court proceedings or hire a professional debt collection agency. However, these are time consuming and potentially expensive options and - for many small businesses - may mean that the cost outweighs the benefit. Nevertheless, there are alternative check recovery methods that don't have these possible downsides.


Some areas now have a check enforcement or check recovery unit that is part of the state or district attorney's office. These are not available in every state and the services provided do vary. In general, though, the check enforcement unit will investigate and prosecute the debtor on your behalf and you will receive the full face value of the check. Contact your local District Attorney's office to see if this service is offered in your area.


A better all round option is to consider using one of the electronic check recovery services now available. There are many advantages to electronic check collection over traditional recovery methods, not least the fact that many of the companies offering this service charge no fees to your company. Other benefits include:

i) Increased Recovery Rates : The National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA) reports increases in recovery rates by as much as 50% in comparison with traditional recovery methods.

ii) Low Recovery Costs: No bank fees for redepositing an NSF check electronically.

iii) Benefits to Customers: No need for customers to receive collection letters and calls or supply a money order or cashier's check.

iv) Fast Recovery Times: Traditional recovery methods can take between 30 and 60 days. On average, electronic check recovery takes 7 days, after which time the recovered check is deposited into the merchant's account.

v) Out of town checks are handled as quickly and easily as local checks.

While bad checks are a fact of business life, recovering funds owed to you is not the herculean task it might first appear. You can fight back and still avoid many of the headaches that have been traditionally associated with pursuing a debt.

Jason Schwartz is CEO of Creative CashFlow Solutions, a check processing company established in 1998. Learn more about their free electronic check recovery service here:

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Poor Customer Service Deal Breaker

Writen by John Dir

One of the first signs of a sinking ship in business is poor customer service. To magnify this fact, when customers are not satisfied with the level of service they receive after the sale, poorly handled relations can reverse all the effort and expense invested in advertising, sales, marketing, product development and company image building. This scenario is playing out every day in both large and small businesses across the country. If you think businesses understand the importance of serving their customers, just take some time to do a little research. When companies hire people to perform these duties, the pay associated with customer service jobs is often less than what they are willing to pay for good clerical or reception help.

Many large firms have rushed into implementing completely automated systems for handling customer issues. In dealing with these types of systems, I have not found a single person who tells me they enjoy the experience of wading through touch tone menus to find answers to their needs. The reason why a business implements an automated phone answering system is to channel the large volume of frequently encountered issues through the automated process in order to devote more resources to less frequently asked questions. Even though these systems seem to manage such traffic, there are untold numbers of people who become so frustrated by the experience, they stop trying before they obtain the information they were seeking, rendering the solution inadequate. For every customer who turns away in disgust over the level of service they receive, there is an opening for someone else to capture their business. When a low paid, unenthusiastic service representative answers a call, the end results can be equally devastating to the future relationship with a customer. Using automation to divert the flow of frequently encountered problems does not solve the lack of understanding and communication that causes the problems to occur in the first place. Instead of funneling the issue down some automated sink hole, it would help to have someone who is able to find methods to eliminate the reasons why people are dealing with these troubles in the first place.

People do not generally interpret their importance to your business from the perspective of how much money they represent in profit. Each person approaches their interaction from the perspective that they are the only customer you will ever have. Even the best of systems will occasionally disappoint the expectations of isolated individuals, but when the numbers of disgruntled customers swell into a significant group, the phenomenon can rapidly reverse the fortunes of a company in a very short interval. If a company is not willing to invest an appropriate level of resources to properly training customer service staff, they might as well hire people to schedule appointments with more important staff members in the sales and marketing areas of the company, or directly with the CEO. Failure to achieve and maintain good customer relations will guarantee loss of income. If an executive is not willing to put the responsibility of steering the company's future into the hands of a clerk, they should not be assigning the task of customer service to unskilled workers.

One of the significant advantages of creating a small business is the ability to focus on the organization's hunger for growth. The smaller, more flexible organization allows employees to invest more of themselves in building intimate relationships with the people they serve. The level of vitality that remains associated with these relationships will determine how large the company will become, and how long it will be able to last. Unless customers develop a deep reliance on the products and services of a particular business, they will part with what a company has to offer, and stay away from doing future business with the organization when their tolerance for disappointment is finally reached. Failures of big businesses to meet projected growth in earnings and sales goals can often be tied directly to their loss of ability to dance with the one who brought them to where they are today.

Recent red flags pointing to a crisis in customer service is a trend toward off shore outsourcing of support and customer service functions. Many company executives appear to be totally blind to the negative impact of these practices on the future of their business. In pursuing the expansion into global markets, it makes good sense to enlist the services of indigenous service representatives to handle the needs of customers who are buying products and services in those foreign markets. This practice allows a company to capture responses that are sensitive to the culture, perspectives, and needs of the customers who buy American made goods. However, when American based customers are not handled with the same level of respect for their own culture and needs, a serious threat to customer relationships arises. Whether or not the majority of business leaders listen to the public, the negative impact is enormous when an American citizen who speaks fluent English is being served in their own country by a foreign service representative. Many companies readily recognize the benefit of offering the courtesy of bilingual services to a large Hispanic customer base in America, while adopting policies that insult and alienate the other sectors of our local economy.

Somewhere in the scheme of things, American business has lost sight of how people here expect to be treated as valued customers. The wake up call is in the hands of American consumers and their patronage.

Director of Software Concepts BHO Technologists - LittleTek Center

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Monday, February 16, 2009

Call Center Consulting Solutions

Writen by Kent Pinkerton

Call center consulting solutions offer result oriented solutions to enhance the productivity of a business concern. Call centers are customer support departments that ensure customer satisfaction. Apart from product support, call centers also provide additional services to meet the entire customer strategy. Call center consulting solutions provide information resources to equip the client for real-world challenges. Call center consulting formulates a comprehensive solution to enhance the working strategy. Consulting solutions offer an efficient delivery of the results at the targeted time.

Call center consulting solutions are offered by experienced professionals. They analyze the issue and respond to queries depending on the overall strategy of the concern. They offer sophisticated tools for the complete evaluation of the scene. Call center consulting solutions provide workforce management with application integration. The required reporting and statistical analysis are incorporated with data integration. Performance optimization is enabled with self service automated systems and Internet contact. The maintenance of appointment scheduling is an integral part of call center consulting services. The real time personalized consulting helps to resolve problems immediately. The solutions are regularly monitored by a pool of professionals. They also customize the solutions in accordance with customer feed backs.

Call center consulting solutions are tailor made to suit various business domains such as banking, insurance, health care, financial services, travel, technology, telecom, pharmaceutical, and retail. The services usually include customer care, technical support, data conversion, collections, telesales, transaction processing and other value additions. Call center consulting solutions are available these days on a round the clock basis. Call center solutions can be either voice based or web based.

Call Center Solutions provides detailed information on Call Center Solutions, Call Center Software Solutions, Call Center CRM Solutions, Call Center Management Solutions and more. Call Center Solutions is affiliated with Outsourcing Call Centers.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Managing Customer Expectations

Writen by Laurie Brown

Everyone talks about exceeding your customers expectations. It is true. It is no longer good enough to just meet their expectations, you DO have to exceed their expectations to succeed. Today's customer is very well educated and demanding. The internet has opened up a whole world of possibilities. They want high quality, exceptional service and low low prices. I am reminded of a sign I once read at a printers office... "Fast, cheap, good..Pick two." However customers don't want to just "pick two", they want the whole enchilada!

There is a simple way to exceed your customers expectations most of the time. And that is to manage those expectations. Be in control. To put it simply, it is like competing in a race, AFTER you decide where the finish line should be.

Often times you don't know what their expectations are. It is almost impossible for you to win without this knowledge. If you help to establish the expectations you are far more likely to impress your customer.

Last week I was looking for some real estate in Chicago for my son. On Sunday I called a realtor. He told me he was at an open house, but would be back to his office later that afternoon and would email me some listings. He never sent me any emails that night and he didn't call me back until the next day. Clearly he set up an expectation that he didn't meet. Now the interesting part of this story is that I had no expectation about when he would get back to me BEFORE he set one in my head. At best since I was calling on a Sunday I assumed that he wouldn't get back to me before the next day. But he set an expectation in my head and he didn't follow through. He would have done better by saying " I will email you the listings tomorrow" and then email them to me that night. He would have set up my expectation and then exceeded it.

My orthopedic surgeon, when looking at the xray of my broken ankle, told me that this was a "good" break and there was no damage to the ligaments and that when the bone healed there would be no other problems. Imagine my surprise to still be limping four months later. He didn't manage my expectations well. If he had said "It looks like a simple break, but only time will tell how fast you get better" I would have been less unhappy with the outcome.

Think about what you promise your customer. Are you sure you can fulfill that promise? If not DON'T make it. Give yourself some wiggle room, give yourself some ability to "under promise and over deliver." Set your customers expectations so that you can always exceed them.

Laurie Brown is an international speaker, trainer and consultant who works to help people improve their sales, service and presentation skills. She is the author of The Teleprompter Manual, for Executives, Politicians, Broadcasters and Speakers. Laurie can be contacted through, or 1-877.999.3433, or at

Saturday, February 14, 2009

At The Carwash The Customer Really Is Always Right

Writen by Lance Winslow

You have no doubt heard the saying that the customer is always right. When you are a customer you happy with this position, when you are the owner of a small business, sometimes you see this is like opening Pandora's box. But for the sake of argument, let me add a caveat to that saying: "The customer is always right, even when they're wrong and you know it." After 27 years in the car wash and cleaning industry, I have heard it all. Here are some ways carwashes can mitigate upset customers.

Handling Complaints

When you handle a complaint, you need to treat the customer as though they are in the right for expressing their opinion, and since you are taking their money, they have every right to complain. You can handle these complaints by simply listening to what it is they have to say and offering suggestions as to how the problem can be fixed. Often fixing the problem might be very easy. Drips from a door jam or a streaked window is easily handled, and we've already suggested solutions and ideas to help that customer return with their business.

If you don't think you can fix the problem (for whatever reason), you can have them call the owner and let them handle any situation, and help mediate or settle any problem that might have occurred. This will not change their attitude towards the manager or employee, every business man knows you cannot please everyone. Some customers just like to complain and a little empathy goes a long way.

Removing A Customer

If a customer continually complains, and you've given them free car washes, discounts, and just about everything within your power, the next step is to give them a business card or referral to the most expensive car wash or detail shop in the area and say "I'm sorry, we're just unable to please you." Let them learn for themselves just how valuable and affordable your service is to them. They may be sorry for complaining and come back, but in the meantime you'll have removed them from your database and saved yourself weeks of problems. As well as eliminated an irate and irrational customer from tainting your image in front of your more decent clientele.

Bad Checks

Occasionally, maybe once a week, someone will write you a bad check. Usually it's under thirty dollars, and they'll really be embarrassed. The best thing, of course, is not to confront the customer in front of others. Never say to someone "You wrote me a bad check" in front of their co-workers or even people they do not know. This will embarrass your customer.

Simply mail the bad check back to the person who wrote it and request to be paid in cash the next time you see them. If it's a customer you've never seen before and think you never will again, mail it back to them and ask them to write another check 'now that your funds may be more sufficient.' We've found this to be the easiest way to handle a touchy situation. They'll usually feel bad and mail you the money back. If they don't, don't worry about it, just write it off and go on with being the best car wash company in the world. If a person seems to write bad checks consistently you should, of course, politely suggest to that person that business should be done on a cash-only basis.

Remember the customer is always right and they need to know that you know that, so show empathy and understanding and make them feel that you respect them and want their business at your carwash. Think about it.

Lance Winslow

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Truth About Really Great Customer Service

Writen by Alan Fairweather

When was the last time you had really great customer service? Perhaps it was when you bought something in a store, checked in at a hotel or the airport or even made an enquiry over the phone.

When I ask this question of participants on my seminars, people respond with all sorts of great customer service stories.

They say things like - "The lady I dealt with was really warm and friendly" or "The guy in the store made me feel really important" or "They always remember my name when I go back to that shop." What al these comments have in common is that - they're all Human Level responses.

We tend to base our judgement of great customer service on how we're treated as humans. Very rarely do I hear - "The goods were delivered on time" or "They replaced my faulty items without a quibble." We tend take these Business Level responses as a given. It's the Human Level responses that influence us in terms of whether we'll use the service again and/or recommend it to others.

When dealing with other people be they Internal or External customers, it's important to open the conversation on a Human Level before doing the business; then say something during the interaction that is not about the business at hand. Then, when the business is complete, close the conversation on a Human Level. This is even more important when dealing with a customer who is upset.

It's just as important to deal with our Internal customers on a Human Level before discussing business. Start thinking about making your emails a bit more Human.

People nowadays will tell you that there's no time for Human Level responses and customers, both Internal and External, want you to cut straight to the business. However a short Human Level response can speed up the business and make your life so much easier.

So there you have it; human beings have a massive need for acknowledgement. We want to know that other people care about us, that we're important and we're accepted. If we satisfy that need in others by communicating on a Human Level as well as a Business Level, then all our interactions will be much more productive.

Alan Fairweather - The Motivation Doctor - is a professional speaker, author and business development expert. To receive your free newsletter and free ebooks, visit:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Great Products Great Service And Great People A Great Business

Writen by Lance Winslow

Are you interested in having a Great Business? Sure you are and it is not as hard as you think. In fact consider if you will what the customer really wants. They want a friend to sell them a great product and give them terrific service. But as consumers and customers how often do we really get that?

Well not so often and when someone or some company gives that to us whether it is a small business or Large Corporation, well we tend to remember it don’t we? Even better we go tell all of our friends and add a “Buzz” or create fresh new word of mouth advertising for that company.

Consider yourself one of their many new salesmen and the better the products, service and people at that company are the more “Free” salesmen out promoting them. And let’s face it; testimonials from happy customers are in fact the best advertising any marketing consultant could ever come up with no matter how many marketing books he wrote, even if he wrote 3-marketing books; the fact is you cannot trump Great Products, Great Service and Great People in the market place.

No competitor or advertising specialist or even self-proclaimed marketing consultant can beat that. You see customers know when your employees have a fake smile and they know when they genuinely care. So when you have great employees, well they will know it and feel it.

People are not stupid when it comes to who is a friend and who is foe. As far as great products and great service, well you better have that or your competition will slaughter you. Consider all this in 2006.

Lance Winslow - Online Think Tank forum board. If you have innovative thoughts and unique perspectives, come think with Lance;

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Customer Service Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Writen by Andy Britnell

Obviously you communicate with customers by words, both written and spoken, but they are also picking up strong messages by other means which could have a significant influence on whether they choose to continue to do business with you.

What impression does the appearance of your staff give customers? Many traditional businesses still have strict rules on suitable clothes for work – they know their staff are more likely to be taken seriously in formal dress than in jeans and T shirts. Conversely, creative and high-tech companies encourage casual clothing.

Similarly, absolutely everything which represents your business must convey a coherent message, whether it be your premises, vehicles, packaging or equipment. Any small glitch in the message, such as a dirty van with cigarette packets strewn on the floor, or poorly-maintained tools, can sow the seed of doubt in your customer's mind about your professionalism or integrity.

Body language can belie the words we are saying to customers. How much faith do you have in a sales assistant who avoids making eye contact? Would you happily approach them for help if they stood glaring at you with their arms crossed?

Your own attitude to your job influences the messages customers are picking up from you – are they going to feel valued if you are having a bad day, or will they sense your distraction and impatience and take it personally?

The actions your business takes are the ultimate communication with its customers. If you have promised delivery by noon and nothing has turned up, it will be very hard to convince them that customer service is important to you. Better to under-promise and over-deliver.

For example, there is an internet book service I use regularly which informs me when my books have been dispatched and provides an estimated delivery date. Each time the package turns up a couple of days early. The result – customer satisfaction and repeat orders, not to mention glowing recommendations to friends.

In the end, any customer will tell you that clever mission statements and expensive advertising are meaningless if the goods are not delivered or the sales assistant is offhand.

Andy Britnell specialises in sales and customer service training for the private and public sectors. Go to and you can sign up for my FREE short monthly newsletter and FREE e-mail coaching.

I coach corporate and SME clients who wish to achieve better results - see

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fun Email Quiz

Writen by Kelly Watkins

Are you creating a positive, professional impression when you email your co-workers and customers? Or, is Miss Manners shrieking in horror every time you hit the send button? Are you being efficient and effective when you send messages, or are you wasting time? To find out, take this fun quiz.

1. The tone of a professional email message should be:

a. Conversational.
b. Formal.
c. Casual – like the tone you use with friends.
d. "Yo, dude! Whassup?"

Answer: A. You may be as casual as you like with friends, breaking all the grammar and punctuation rules you want. But, that isn't true for communicating with clients and colleagues. Business correspondence should be professional. In email, professional translates into conversational – not too casual and not too formal.

2. One method to achieve a conversational tone is to:

a. Use slang terms and jargon.
b. Use contractions.
c. Use acronyms.
d. Stand up and yell across the office. See if you can start "the wave."

Answer: B. When you speak in a conversation, you use contractions. So, it's acceptable to use them in email to create a conversational tone.

3. When beginning to type an email, start with:

a. The addressee's email address.
b. The message.
c. The addressee's name.
d. "Yo, dude or dudette!"

Answer: C. Starting a message with the addressee's name is not only more personal, it will help avoid miscommunication and confusion. If you begin a message without the addressee's name, the person won't know if the message is intended for him/her.

4. When writing an email message, paragraphs should:

a. Be long.
b. Be short.
c. Be indented.
d. Be invisible – no one can mess it up that way.

Answer: B. People aren't willing to invest time reading messages that appear too long or tedious. Short paragraphs appear easier to read because there is more white space. There is also less chance that the reader will miss a point.

5. The best way to make several points in an email is:

a. Include all the points in the first paragraph.
b. Include all the points in the last paragraph.
c. Use lists with bullets or numbers.
d. Put it on a banner and rent an airplane to fly over the office pulling the banner.

Answer: C. If you put more than one point in a paragraph, it may be overlooked. Lists and bullets make your points stand out. They are also easier for the person to see.

6. At the end of an email message, you should include:

a. Only your name.
b. Only your name and company.
c. All your relevant contact information.
d. A picture of your pet python and twin tarantulas.

Answer: C. Provide people with all the information they need to contact you – in whatever way is most convenient for them. They may prefer the telephone or regular mail over email.

7. If you know the recipient reads emails quickly and is often in a hurry, the best way to send a supporting document is:

a. Paste it into the body of the message.
b. Attach it as a separate document.
c. Type slowly.
d. Have it delivered by carrier pigeon.

Answer: A. When the recipient is in a hurry, he/she will be less likely to open an attachment because it takes extra time. The person is more likely to read something that's pasted right in front of him/her.

8. When sending a message, you should copy ("cc"):

a. Everyone in the department – just in case.
b. Your boss and your boss' boss – so they know that you're working hard.
c. Only those people who absolutely need to know.
d. The whole world. Why not? Everyone else does.

Answer: C. The "cc" function is the most abused function in email. Don't be a pain!

9. When writing a Subject Line:

a. Use something general, such as "Greetings" or "Hello."
b. Be specific, but brief.
c. Use several sentences.
d. "If you don't respond, I'll send Uncle Guido to break your knee caps."

Answer: B. A generic Subject Line doesn't tell the recipient anything. The more specific you are, the better chance you have of getting the recipient to open the message.

10. To write a concise email message:

a. Omit wordy phrases.
b. Use very small font (8 point).
c. Type fast.
d. Omit every other letter. "Oi eey ohr lte."

Answer: A. An effective method for concise writing is to omit unnecessary words. For example, use, "now" instead of "in the immediate future" and "twice" instead of "on two different occasions."

11. When possible, email messages should be:

a. Extremely detailed, even if the message is quite lengthy.
b. Kept to one screen.
c. Forwarded to the author of a cartoon for future material.

Answer: B. Most readers won't take time to read more than one screen. The shorter the message is, the better chance you'll have of getting it read.

12. How much space can typically be viewed in the Subject Line?

a. 25 - 35 characters.
b. 25 – 35 words.
c. 50 – 75 characters.
d. 50 – 75 words.

Answer: A. Characters are defined as every letter or space. In other words, every time you move the space bar, it counts as one character. The subject line that appears in most people's email will display approximately 25 – 35 character.

13. When responding to a message regarding the best time for a meeting, you should select:

a. Reply All.
b. Reply.

Answer: B. The "Reply All" button will send a response to everyone who was sent the original message. They don't need to know your schedule. You should "Reply" only to the meeting coordinator. Then, he/she can select the best time and notify everyone.


13 = You're perfect. (But, you knew that already.) Keep emailing!

10 -12 = You're okay. Be a little more cautious, though. You could learn a few tips from my book, Email Etiquette Made Easy (

7 - 9 = You could use some help. Try my book, Email Etiquette Made Easy (

Less than 7 = Ugh! Call me now! We'll schedule your intense therapy immediately.

Kelly J. Watkins, MBA, based near Louisville, KY, offers motivational speeches and customized communication training. For lots of communication tips and articles (which you can reprint), visit: or call (812) 246-2424 or

Monday, February 9, 2009

Career Advice Success Requires Management Of Change

Writen by Ramon Greenwood

Change is certain and constant. Benjamin Franklin would have been wise to add "change" to his adage that "death and taxes are the only certainties of life."

We are inundated every day with new relationships, new ways to do things, new expectations and new information. The total of all knowledge doubles every five years. It has been estimated that 75 percent of all current workers will need retraining by the year 2010; today's high school graduates will have to be prepared to change jobs or careers at least 10 times in their lifetimes.

The way each of us handles change bears a direct correlation with our career success.

We can resist change – deny its existence, keep on doing things in the same old ways because that's the way we've always done them. Then we will be buried with the other relics of the past, done in by what the author Alvin Toffler termed, "Future Shock."

We can merely accept change and go along with the world it produces for us. If so, we will dance on cue to whatever tune the fiddler chooses to play.


Or we can recognize that change is inevitable and embrace it. We can become agents of change, so we have a hand in shaping the environment in which we live and in determining our own success.

The alternative is obvious: be content to remain with the old and familiar, accepting the idea that the comfort of a known environment is worth being left behind as the world marches on.

In order to live with change, we have to realize that success is never finally achieved. Mountain climbers have a saying, "You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few moments, then the wind blows your footprints away."

Peter Drucker, the chief management guru, declares, " ... success always means organizing for the abandonment of what has already been achieved. There is no more difficult challenge."

This means to try new and unfamiliar ideas, untested ground, unthinkable thoughts. That is uncomfortable, but always exciting territory. But it can be dangerous. However, like it or not, that is where the gold is to be found.

Machiavelli wrote in The Prince in the early 1500's: "There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

George Bernard Shaw wrote: "Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything."

Being an agent of change and a beneficiary requires flexibility and imagination, as well as courage.


But most of all, to prosper in a changing environment requires that we be able to thrive in ambiguity, because uncertainty is the constant handmaiden of change. Change and ambiguity go against the grain of human nature; many people simply can't tolerate that condition. They want everything in order and ready answers for all questions. Unfortunately, that is not the nature of organizations in flux.

The successful careerists will recognize this truth and see that uncertainties offer the opportunity for answers and for leadership. Confident in their abilities and the future, they will seize the moment.

No one ever said it would be easy. But common sense tells us that we have no choice about the fact that change – at an ever increasing pace – is a sure bet. We also know that unless we change ourselves and bring about change in the organization where we live and work there can be no progress.

Greenwood is a former Senior Vice President of American Express. For information about his E-Book on "boss relationshhips" and to subscriber to his f*ee semi-monthly newsletter contact him at

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bad Customer Service Horror Stories Watch Out Or Bloggers Will Be All Over It

Writen by Tino Buntic

If you're in business today you best be watchful of your company's customer service, whether it be customer service via telephone, call centers, face-to-face, email, snail mail, or fax. Everybody loves to tell their customer service horror stories, including bloggers. But bloggers have a viral tool in their customer service wars; they can publish their stories on the internet for the whole world to see.

Take care of your customers, give great service, and you won't have a problem, unlike the following companies that were recently written about in blogs due to their bad customer service. How's this for customer service horror stories:

  • Don't travel British Airways unless you're referred to as Her Majesty: A blogger's sister was traveling to The United States, from India, via British Airways. British Airways required her to complete a food form on preferred food. On the flight, despite completing her food form well in advance, they had no food for her. The flight attendant suggested she share her food tray with the Indian guy beside her. I doubt Her Majesty would be asked to share her food tray.
  • Don't you dare try to cancel your AOL account: Apparantly, one of the most difficult things to do is cancel your AOL account. One blogger, having heard about AOL customer service horror stories, decided to tape his telephone call when he called AOL's customer service to cancel his account. The telephone recording made its rounds on the internet and has become hugely popular. AOL doesn't let you cancel. They go as far as being straight out rude and calling their customers' liars. It's right there on the recording. Solution: Don't bother signing up with AOL in the first place.
  • Don't put quarters into Wal-Mart gumball machines: One blogger wrote about being given a hard time when he asked a cashier to change a one dollar bill so that he could buy candy for his daughter from the gumball machines at the front of his store. He put a quarter in the machine. The machine got stuck and he couldn't retrieve his quarter. He wanted the quarter back, not for the money but for the principle. Wal-Mart's customer service asked him to complete a form before they could give him back his quarter.
  • Not in stock. Would you like a rain-check?: In one blogger's opinion, whenever grocery chain, Kroger, advertises an item to be on sale they never seem to have that item in stock when she visits the store. Readers get to read all about her dissatisfaction in her blog

As you can see, bad service these days gets noticed more than it did in pre-internet and pre-blog days. A dissatisfied customer can, now, tell the world about her experiences before getting a chance to cool off. Everybody has a bad customer service horror story. Let's just hope that if you're a business owner, there no bad stories about you.

Tino Buntic runs TradePals, a website providing free B2B sales leads without cold calling to business professionals across North America. Tino also enjoys reading blogs and two of his favorites include Lifehacker and Score More Sales.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Keep Your Business Promises Online And Offline

Writen by David Malan

Keep your business promises, no matter how small they may be.

Sounds like the most basic of business principles, doesn't it? Why then do so few businesses keep their day to day promises? This is something I've always taken for granted in my business dealings, but my own recent experiences have highlighted how much of a real differentiator reliability can be to online and offline to businesses that excel in this area. If you want to make people remember and trust your brand, keep your promises, no matter how big or small.

Think about it this way. If your business website promises delivery within 24 hours, but your actual delivery time is 48 hours, what does that say to to your customers? Surely 48 hours is still a good turnaround time? Probably not to your customers, at least not any more. Simply put, you have created an expectation in your customers' minds, and your actual delivery has been 100% overtime on that expectation. If your site promised 48 hours, and you delivered on time, I doubt that your customers would pay attention nearly as much to the turnaround time as to the fact that you keep your business promises of timeous delivery.

Now, when it comes time for your customers to assess that big expectation of a one year guarantee on the quality of your products, it will certainly be skewed heavily by your performance on smaller promises to date. When it comes to the big promises, your customer will probably be having some serious doubts about your ability to deliver. After all, if you cannot keep your small promises, it's much more likely that you won't keep your big ones. That makes it very unlikely that customers will believe anything more that you say to them, simply because you didn't even keep a very simple promise made up front. That is bad for referrals, bad for repeat business, and bad for the general reputation of your business.

I recently had need to contract with a number of businesses for various facets of my wedding. Of those that promised to phone me back about something, most who made that promise never did, at least not within the time frame they promised to, and in some cases up to a week thereafter. In most cases I had to follow up and make sure that they delivered according to their promised deadlines.

One of the businesses that I contracted was a small, home-based catering business. When we visited them, we were treated like royalty, and I was promised a phone call on a specific date, a number of weeks into the future. Did I get my call on the specified date? Absolutely. In fact, at the time I was in a meeting with a client, and the caterer not only left messages on all available contact numbers, he phoned me again first thing the following morning, before I had even had a chance to return the messages. So, when it came to worrying about our catering, do you think I did? Not at all. I knew that this was one service provider who always kept his word. So while I spent a great deal of time keeping close tabs on the progress of some of our other suppliers, this was one that I knew I did not need to worry about.

Check the promises made on your website carefully. Are they well-intended but overly optimistic when it comes down to your actual ability to deliver? Do you promise high quality products and services that are actually only reasonable quality, but at a very good price? Chances are that if your sell them as what they really are you will get a far better match of customer expectations to actual results, which results in trust. And the results of customers trusting you is that they will refer you to their friends and make use of your services again, because they got what they expected the first time around.

Another point I should make here relates to first impressions and your first few interactions with prospective and new customers. I am consistently amazed by how many business still have "Contact Us" forms on their website that don't work, or that are not monitored for submissions. If a client emails you with a query, reply promptly and efficiently, and that is how they (probably correctly) will perceive your future communications with them when they really have a pressing need. When you promise to email or phone a customer on a specific date or time, make a note of it and stick to it rigidly. When you promise delivery of a product or service in a certain way, by a certain date, you can be sure that your customer will not be as forgiving as you would hope if you do not deliver as promised. If you really cannot deliver as expected, most people are reasonable if you give them a call to explain the problem, and assure them of your fullest attention at resolving it. Most people will still prefer to deal with a business that encountered difficulties delivering, but explained the problem and worked hard to resolve it, over a business that makes promises and only delivers in their own time.

Think about it. A few small basics that are neglected by your competitors can really make you stand out. After all, is it really that difficult to remember the small things like punctuality, courtesy and efficiency? If you don't, your customers certainly will!

David Malan is an internet and e-commerce expert with over ten years experience in designing and developing enterprise grade online solutions for business.

He owns and runs RealmSurfer Consulting, based in Perth, Western Australia.

Website: Web Design Perth About: About RealmSurfer Web Design Perth

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Power Of Open Consumer Feedback

Writen by Jon Gropper

In the dynamic new world we live in, we might almost be forgiven for thinking that we are enslaved by technology and run over on the information highway. Yet, the other way of looking at it is how technology and all those doses of free-flowing information have empowered us, in ways previously unimaginable.

Nowhere is this new power bestowed on us more pronounced than in the world of business and marketing. The Internet has given a whole new impetus to viral and word of mouth marketing; in fact, one could say that it has led to the resurrection of these age old marketing methods. Today, news about a company or business- both good and bad- flows so quickly and with such momentum that it has the potency to create or destroy businesses.

Businesses that don't listen to what their consumers are saying and how the society rates them are bound to fail, sooner rather than later. In fact, consumer feedback and its impact on branding has become a recurring theme amongst marketing thinkers recently. A growing number of books and case studies highlight the correlation between the success of companies that are in tune with their customers' needs and feedback, or the rapid decline or fall from grace of companies that do not take customer feedback as seriously.

Most companies do have their own mechanisms to gather customer feedback in an organized and structured manner, but unfortunately many of these feedback mechanisms are designed to tell the companies what they really want to hear. Companies would be foolish to ignore the subtle signals from the market or the muffled voices of disillusioned customers floating around the Internet.

Such public feedback forums certainly have their skeptics and critics who question the creditability of comments that are not moderated. Anyone can say anything about anyone and get away with it, they say. Yet, these skeptics need to understand that the general public seems to have an uncanny knack of discerning right and wrong, and separating the genuine from the fake. Simply put, despite the susceptibility to manipulation, there seems to be a kind of auto-correction in operation that ensures that businesses can ignore their consumer sentiments voiced over public forums at their own peril.

Companies would do well to realize and accept at least the spirit of the statement: Business is for the consumer, by the consumer, of the consumer.

Jonathan Gropper is founder of, an open public forum for people to rate companies, businesses, music, movies and pretty much everything on the planet. aims to create a thriving online community for voicing opinions, letting out rants, writing reviews & blogs and even get considerable marketing mileage with free localized classifieds.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What Does A Thank You Cost What Is It Worth

Writen by Marte Cliff

You've known it all your life: Saying Thank You is a good thing. It makes people feel good, it makes people like you better, and it makes you feel good when you see a smile in return. Or better yet, a "Your welcome."

Unfortunately, in too many businesses those two words have fallen by the wayside. And they shouldn't. Some might argue that business isn't about feeling good, but I disagree. It is about making your customers feel good and glad to do business with you. It's about having employees who are glad to be with us and treat our customers well as a result. It's about us feeling good about our work, too.

And, since "no man is an island," we need our vendors and even our competitors to feel good about us. Saying thank you to them makes them more cooperative and more willing to help next time we need them.

Even better is adding a little compliment. Sometimes its hard to think of one - like when the girl in the deli hands your purchase over the counter. But if you try, you can. And you'll be shocked at the reward you get when you compliment someone who isn't used to hearing it. Their smiles can light the room. As a result, they'll feel good and do a better job all day. And - you'll feel good and do a better job all day.

Sales people, such as those in real estate and insurance, should take it one step further and send a note. It doesn't have to be long, and in fact it shouldn't be. Just say something such as:

Thanks for meeting with me on Tuesday. I enjoyed visiting with you and appreciated the tour of your home. I'd love to hang a "sold" sign out front for you!

Please call when I can be of assistance.

Retail sales people can achieve similar success with thank you notes. There was once a lady in a major department store who kept track of her customer's preferences and sent them a note when something new came in. After they came in she sent a thank you - even if they didn't make a purchase. Were her customers loyal? You bet they were. They wouldn't dream of shopping in that store when she wasn't on duty.

And then there was the furniture store man. His story is a lesson in using common sense. I purchased a recliner for my husband - the store owner even helped me trick him into trying one on for size so I'd get it right - and then he sent a thank you note immediately. So, my husband didn't see his recliner until Christmas, but he knew he was getting it two weeks earlier.

The rule is that a thank you note should be sent within 48 hours - especially if you're thanking people for donations - but do use common sense during the holidays!

Marte Cliff is a Freelance Copywriter who specializes in writing for real estate and related industries - and in fund raising for animal rescue. Visit her at and sign up for a free monthly advertising ezine. Marte also offers a no-obligation critique of your present advertising.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Give Yourself A Vigorous Visual Audit

Writen by Ron Kaufman

I recently visited my university alma mater in the United States.

This Ivy League institution is a powerhouse of education and research. But you wouldn't know it from the huge cracks and peeling paint on the walls of the Student Union.

The Student Union is not where traditional academic work is done; it's not a library or a lab.

But the Student Union is where students sip coffee and read the paper. It's where prospective students and their parents 'take in the atmosphere' and assess the student body. And it's where alumni go to feel proud of their college days and reconnect with the campus.

Millions are spent annually on research facilities and excellent faculty members, but not enough money is spent on simple maintenance to keep the Student Union looking sharp.

I was embarrassed by the dilapidation and left the campus disappointed.

Key Learning Point

Give yourself a vigorous visual audit. Your customers do it every day.

Action Steps

What can you do now to improve your visual image? How about: change the toner cartridge in your printer, cut away dead leaves on your office plants, update or remove old items hanging on the walls, find a better place to stash that box gathering dust in the corner, create an e-mail signature that projects a positive image, get a haircut, shine your shoes, throw out whatever is no longer current, replace every light bulb that isn't working, scrub down the walks and the handrails, put on a fresh coat of paint. Take a look around you. I am sure you can see many more.

Ron Kaufman is an internationally acclaimed educator and motivator for partnerships and quality customer service. He is author of the bestselling "UP Your Service!" and founder of "UP Your Service College". Visit for more such Customer Service articles, subscribe to his Newsletter, or to buy his bestselling Books, Videos, Audio CDs on Customer Service from his secure Online Store. You can also watch Ron live or listen to him at