Give A Little, Get A Lot
Subject Line: Give A Little, Get A Lot.
The Write Market Release
Vol. 3. Issue 2
Give A Little, Get A Lot.
CONTENTS IN THIS ISSUE
1. Editor’s Remarks
2. How to Write a Marketing Plan – Part VII
a) Quick Outline of a Marketing Plan
Customer Service Strategies
c) What My Auto Mechanic Taught Me About Customer Service by Joe Chapuis
d) Pricing Strategies
3. What’s New at The Write Market
4. Get Your Ad in TWM’s Release!
5. Administrative Information
I just love summer. The kids are out of school which means I don’t have to worry about nagging them to do their homework, I don’t have to prepare the nightly harangue to get them to pack their lunches, and I can even be a little more lax on their bedtime. I have three kids, aged 10, 8 and 4.
Now I know you must be asking yourself, “What on earth do kids have to do with Marketing?” Well, believe it or not, taking care of kids is similar to taking care of customers. You have to give them lots of attention, sometimes you need to guide them over the rough spots, most importantly, you have to show them how much you appreciate them. If you have any mothering instincts whatsoever, let it all hang out with your customers.
In this issue, we are going to talk about Customer Service. I believe that a small business owner has to make the Customer Service Policy one of the chief priorities of the marketing plan. If you’ve been following our marketing plan tutorial http://www.thewritemarket.com/marketing-plan you know by now, that you have to find a niche and that you have to find some way to differentiate yourself from your competition.
Customer Service is probably the ultimate way a small business can differentiate. If your customer service is better than your competitors, who do you think your customers will return to again and again?
In the first article, we will provide several strategies that could help you improve your customer service and that you can include in your Marketing Plan.
The second article is wonderful piece written by a guest author. It is really worth a read (it’s humorous and so “to the point.”)
I also promised you an article on pricing last month. So, the third article is all about pricing. Also, I tell you one of my dirty little secrets, baring all, coming out of the closet, however you want to put it.
Lastly, I’d like to congratulate the winner of our book: Moe Rubenzahl.
If any one else is interested in a copy of our book – go here: http://www.thewritemarket.com/promotion Search Engine Optimization and Placement: An Internet Marketing Course for Webmasters. The e-book is only $9.00!
This newsletter is free. However, we also have a few sponsors throughout. Do me a huge favor and take a minute to read their stuff, you may find something you’re interested in.
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QUICK OUTLINE OF MARKETING PLAN
(This is a quick review to show you where we’re at and where we’re going.)
1. Market Research
2. Target Market
5. Mission Statement
6. Market Strategies
7. Pricing, Positioning and Branding ** We’re STILL Here **
9. Marketing Goals
10. Monitor Your Results
For more details on this plan see: http://www.thewritemarket.com/marketing
CUSTOMER SERVICE ISSUES
We have a lot of wonderful clients. However there is one in particular that I’d like to tell you about. We started working with this client over two years ago. At first, we did some little stuff for them, a few graphics and a few web pages. We were available to them at their convenience. We answered the phone at dinner hour, we worked on the weekends, we catered to their needs and their deadlines. We gave them a lot of extras for their money, including free advice.
A year later, they came back to us and asked us to do a larger project. Again, we provided the same stellar customer service setting our guidelines for service around what they could afford and what we were capable of providing.
Recently, they just signed on for a three month service contract to maintain all their web sites.
We feel that the reason our customers come back to us is because we provide ultimate customer service. We work very hard to provide the services that they need at prices they can afford (still making the profit that we need.)
Through our experiences, we’ve worked out certain plans that we follow to provide great service. This starts with the initial consultation and quote, and goes right through to the end of the project. Of course, new issues always arise due to the specifics of each project and the individual nature’s of our clients. However, we take these new issues and incorporate them into our Customer Service Policy. Each time we learn new things, it helps us to become more business savvy.
If you own a small business, your Customer Service Policy should continually be under development to account for new issues that will undoubtedly pop up.
In order to start developing a good Customer Service Policy, you may need to think about issues that could come up and the strategies that you are going to use to resolve problems. Then you should write down your strategies so that you have a logical plan to follow in the event of problems. It also becomes a good document to refer back to, a history of your business practices.
Below, we’ve provided some general issues that apply to any business. There will be customer service issues that you need to consider that are specific to your business.
1. Employee Handbook
Your employees will be dealing with your customers on a daily basis. If you have, in writing, some simple guidelines for them to follow, they will be able to handle customer inquiries with a method that is consistent with your business policies. The other strategies below could be included in your employee handbook. Even if you only have one or two employees, a handbook is important.
2. Answering the Phone:
What will you and/or employees say when you answer the phone? Something as simple as, “Good afternoon, how may I help you,” with a smile on your face makes people feel good.
3. Answering Email:
You should have a policy in place that you will answer emails in a certain period of time. For instance, the same business day or within 24 hours. I receive a gazillion emails a day and I have to prioritize who I will answer and how I will answer them. Sometimes, if I can’t provide an answer immediately, I may shoot off a quick email that simply says, “I’ve received your email and I’m working on your problem.” Let your customers know what your policy is and put your response time on your web site.
4. What Can You Handle?
If you are in a service oriented business there are bound to be issues that will arise that you cannot handle. If you outline the things you can do and also have consultants that you can refer people to for issues that you can’t handle, then you can provide ultimate customer service. For instance, a few of our clients need script work. If the script is beyond our capabilities we do have good people that we can refer them to. If you are selling products, are you the manufacturer or are you selling products created by other business? You will need to have policy regarding how you will handle questions regarding problems with those products. If you cannot answer a question properly, how are you going to respond to your customers? Have a good response in writing.
5. Return Policy:
Will you allow customers to return merchandise through your outlet? Here’s an example that really bugs me. I bought some electronic products through Amazon. If I have problems with the products, I can’t return those products through Amazon. That bugs me. I have to go to the manufacturer of the product in order to return it. I won’t be buying any more electronic products through Amazon, it’s too much hassle. Are you doing everything you can to eliminate your customer’s hassles?
6. Guarantees or Warranties:
100% guarantee is always the best guarantee. You should give a 100% guarantee. If people are not satisfied they are not going to return to your store. What will you do when people want to return something or are not satisfied with your work? Do everything in your power to help them, ask them why they aren’t satisfied, accept the return with a smile on your face and then give them something else for their troubles. I guarantee you, they will turn to your business if they need your services or products again.
If you’re serious about Search Engine Promotion, it is a must for you to own Web Position Gold. WPG does it all – checks ranks in all popular search engines, analyzes your competitors, tells you what’s wrong with your pages and how to rank higher, tracks your traffic and so much more.
WHAT MY AUTO MECHANIC TAUGHT ME ABOUT
CUSTOMER SERVICE (and why it’s worth a fortune)
by Joseph P. Chapuis
I live in a rural part of Connecticut and drive a Volvo wagon (I’m not sure, but I think it’s a state law now that everyone has to drive a Volvo). Despite its boxy, almost hearse-like styling, I love it. Plus, the fact that it’s a turbo makes this family truckster a rocket ship on wheels. (This is an 850 we’re talking about, made when Volvos were still Volvos, before they were Americanized by Ford. Ugh.)
Recently, my car was in need of service which could be postponed no longer, despite my best efforts. Being out in the country, it’s hard to find a good mechanic I can trust that can service an import. As a result, I made arrangements to take it to one of the bigger dealers in the state, nearly an hour away.
When I first called to make an appointment, the service rep was polite, helpful, and eager to answer my questions. As I hadn’t purchased the vehicle from them, a loaner was not available.
“Would you like me to make rental arrangements for you?” he asked. “I’ll have them pick you up when you drop off your car and bring you back after you drop off the rental. I can get you a good rate, too.”
“Huh?” I thought, “You mean you’re going to go out of your way to solve my problems?”
I’ve rarely experienced anything like that before, and never with a mechanic. I made the arrangements for the following week.
When the day came and I walked into the service area, I noticed a conspicuous absence of, well, for lack of a better word, grease monkeys. Instead, I encountered professionally-attired men and women busily hurrying about their duties. They weren’t too busy, however, to extend a warm “hello – we’ll be right with you”. I also noticed a fresh pot of coffee in the waiting area, next to the TV and very comfy-looking couches.
I waited less than a minute before a service rep helped me. I gave my name, and my paperwork was there, waiting for me. I didn’t have to complete any forms, or give the same information that I had previously given on the phone all over again. I alerted him to another potential problem, and he made a note to have it checked out. He knew what had to be done, and wasted no time – all without making me feel hurried.
This was mid-morning. He said he’d call me to confirm the work, and if all went well, the car would be ready by the end of the day. I handed over the keys.
An hour later, I was in a meeting when my cell phone rang (normally, I turn it off – but this is my Volvo we’re talking about here).
“Hi Mr. Chapuis. I just want to let you know that everything looks good. It’s exactly what you thought it was. Here’s your estimate…”
“What about that other problem?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s fine. There’s no need to have it done,” he replied. “I’ll give you a call when the car’s ready.”
After we hung up, I thought to myself: they could have milked me for another couple hundred bucks (like many other mechanics would have). I wouldn’t have known the difference.
Just after lunch, the phone rang again. “All done Mr. Chapuis,” the rep said. I was expecting the car at 5:00. It was ready four hours early.
After the rental car agency drove me back to the dealership, I noticed a conspicuously shiny vehicle backed into a parking space. It looked just like mine would if it were for sale on the lot. Upon further inspection, I saw that the floors were clean, too – spotless almost. Couldn’t be my car.
“I hope you don’t mind we cleaned your car up a bit,” I was told when paying inside.
I looked behind me for cameras or the ghost of Alan Fundt. I walked outside, a bit stunned by what had transpired.
Before pulling away in my new-looking, smooth-driving car, I noticed the service light hadn’t been turned off. I went back in just as the shop was closing. I found a man in a sharp suit who looked a sales manager, or at the very least, like someone who has never had to scrub grease off their hands. A few seconds later, he had popped open the hood, removed some covers, fidgeted with some buttons and wires, and then merrily sent me on my way.
I can hear you asking: “OK, Joe, what in the world does this story have to do with internet business?”
Everything. The internet is no different from the “real world”. Just faster.
Here are a few questions you need to be asking yourself about your business and online activities:
Is your organization trained to respond to inquiries in a timely and professional manner?
Are you catering to the customer’s wants and needs?
Are you showing an appreciation for your customer’s business?
Are you greeting and responding to people by name?
Are you going out of your way to solve problems?
Are your services saving customers time instead of wasting it?
Are you offering solutions?
Are you instilling a sense of trust?
Are you delivering what you promise, on time?
Are you delivering MORE than you promise?
Do your customers leave feeling they received good value for their money?
Are your customers consistently coming back for more?
Are your customers so thrilled with your service that they’re doing the best advertising for you, for free?
Bottom Line: If you’re not answering “yes” to all of these questions, you’re losing money.
I may or may not go back for something as simple as an oil change. But, where am I going to go for a brake job or tune-up? Better yet, where do you think I’m going to buy my next Ford, um… I mean, Volvo?
Wishing you much online success…
¤ Working from home, Joe Chapuis is a self-employed internet ¤ business consultant and online publisher who swears he’ll ¤ never work for someone else again. His free report: ¤ The 10 Commandments of Online SuccessT and ¤ free email newsletter will show you how to ¤ get “amazing results online, fast.” ¤ Subscribe Here » » » http://RequiredReading.com
by Renee Kennedy and Terry Kent
Pricing is probably one of the toughest problems you will face. There is no pat solution when you are trying to price your goods or services.
Price = product + service + profit + image
Price will need to include:
1. the cost of producing your product
2. the cost of providing any needed services that may accompany the product.
3. the amount of profit that you need to make in order to stay in business.
4. you can play “image” into your price – are you trying to portray the best quality or the lowest price. This may also depend on your branding strategy.
Before you consider your image, take a look at your competition. What are they charging? If your USP (unique selling proposition) has nothing to do with your price, then you will want your price to be comparable to your competition. If your USP has everything to do with your price – for instance –
LOWEST PRICE IN TOWN or BEST QUALITY IN THE NATION
then you will need to adjust your prices accordingly.
Price can be a direct reflection of quality or even perceived quality.
When we started our business, we talked about price a lot. First, we determined we would charge everything by the hour. Second, we had to determine what to charge by the hour. We didn’t have a lot of experience in certain areas when we started, but we needed to get clients and we needed to get experience. So, we checked on rates of our competitors, they were charging around $50 – $100 per hour. So we charged $25 an hour. We were cheap, that was part of our branding. We got a few projects under our belt, read a lot, learned a lot, and kept up with technology. Within one year we determined to increase our rates. We doubled them. We’ve stayed at $50 an hour for the last 2 years. This did not deter clients from giving us repeat business.
“My Dirty Little Customer Service Secret”
Much of our support is provided free of charge.
However, there is a reason for this, we have a peculiar circumstance to deal with. I work out of my home and I have three kids. How do you answer the phone and speak to customers and look professional when you have three young children? It’s difficult. In fact, most of the time, it’s not possible. Since I am the main contact for our clients, we had to have a plan to handle this issue and determine how it would affect the price of our services:
1. I have caller ID. I have voice mail, I have all the bells and whistles the phone company can provide. I can usually tell when a specific client is calling.
2. For first contacts with clients, I make sure that I have control over my environment and that I am not interrupted. Usually, I choose the time to call them. During this first contact, I don’t let on to the fact that I have three kids or even that I work out of my home. I hook that client in any way that I can. (oooh, that’s bad, but that’s business.)
3. Usually, at some point, during the second call, I tell clients, “I am available at any time you need me because I work at home, BUT, I also have three children. You will, at times, hear my children. This is a trade off, I’m available, but I have kids.” or something close to that. (Depending on the client, sometimes, I may tell them up front, if I feel it’s going to be an issue.)
4. This affects price. We don’t charge for any support that we give over the phone. If a client calls me and hears my kids in the background or the call is interrupted by my kids, the client would probably feel a little slighted if I charged them for that time. Therefore, it is current company policy to offer any support work that I do while they are on the phone free of charge. (And sometimes this can rack up to hours of time for one project.)
5. Once the client is “hooked,” they have never refused to do business with us.
6. I can’t say that we will always give away free advice over the phone. Perhaps, in the future, when my kids are older, we will charge for some of this phone time. Perhaps, we will continue to give it away as a bonus, as part of our excellent customer service. We may need to raise our hourly rates to account for the phone time that is an inevitable part of our services.
“Bad Customer Service is Dirty Business”
Here’s another dirty little secret, I overheard at a print shop. This one is an example of bad customer service affecting price and customer satisfaction. This conversation just blows my mind:
The Scene: An employee, we’ll call her Rosie, calls out sick. There is a job that is due out on the day that she’s out. The temp. person doesn’t know about the job, but the Manager (we’ll call him Roger) does know about the job, although he does nothing.
The job does not get done. Then the following day, the customer comes in and hand delivers a disk. On the disk is a change requested by Rosie, (it must be changed in order to run the job correctly.)
The following conversation ensues:
Customer: You’re going to charge me another $18.75 for something that’s a really quick fix, whether I bring you a new disk or not [whether he fixes it or the print shop fixes it]. The job is also already a day later than was promised. Could you forgo that charge?
Roger: That is company policy, there is nothing I can do. We have an $18.75 minimum charge for changes.
Customer: I send files to other companies around here and they don’t charge me like that. If a service buereau shop opened across the street, they wouldn’t charge me like this.
Later, the following conversation between Rosie and Roger:
Rosie: Well fine, if a service bureau shop opens up across the street, he can go there but he won’t get the quality of customer service he gets here.
(Her attitude is that simply doing the customer’s job is quality enough.)
Roger: Right. He isn’t a big enough customer to change the rules for.
Bad, bad, bad… You’ve got to provide good customer service (at the least getting a job out on time) to everyone, big or little. Not that you should give all your work away, but if you’re at fault – as in this case, the job was late through no fault of the customer – maybe giving a little will get you back a lot later, in the form of a return customer and referrals.
We’d love it if you would share your dirty little customer service/pricing secrets (within reason!). We will publish them in the next issue and provide a link to your web site. Just email with DIRTY SECRET in the subject line: mailto:email@example.com
Next month, we’re definitely moving on to “Budget”.
That’s all for this month!
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