Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams
Posted by InternetReputation.com on Friday, December 05, 2014
Nobody ever gets out of bed in the morning and says, “I want to build the kind of company who develops a reputation for screwing customers.” Yet every day, companies develop policies which are in danger of creating just such a reputation.
Your company’s future revenue, reputation, and culture are all in the hands of the people at your customer service desk. Yet those people can only carry out the policies you’ve imposed on them.
Here are four policies that probably require your immediate attention.
1. Your Billing Policy
Do your customer service and sales representatives currently work to clearly and concisely explain each and every bill? Do you have any hidden fees or charges (even very small ones)? Is there any mechanism in your company which might cause someone to receive surprise charges, say, for lifetime memberships or extended contracts which they might not want or need?
We’ve all heard stories of companies with bad billing practices. Many of them have been publically denounced as “scammers” or worse.
When you take a person’s credit card number, enter into an ACH agreement with them, or issue them a bill you are literally playing with their lives. Make sure that your policies respect that reality. Billing should be clear, straightforward, easy, and stress free.
2. Your Service Policy
Does your business requires you to have service people on hand to fix technical problems? You’ve got a few reputation landmines that need evaluation.
First, the employees themselves. Do they really work hard to make sure that they aren’t missing the homeowner? Or do they knock oh-so-lightly on the door, then leave a door hanger, walking away from customers who are right there?
Do you charge customers to see service technicians? Are those charges explained up front? Did customers know they might be charged for service when they began doing business with their company?
You never want to hit your customers with a “surprise” or “gotcha” of any kind, especially when they’re having technical problems with something you sold to them.
3. Your Cancellation Policy
Is it easy for customers to tell you that they don’t want to do business with you any more, or do you turn it into a long, drawn out ordeal in which you try to milk a few extra dollars from the customer before they go?
Remember, today’s cancellation could be tomorrow’s repeat business. Customers cancel for a variety of reasons—including temporary cash flow problems. They may come back to you later if you don’t make their lives any harder today.
That’s not to say that you aren’t entitled to what you’re owed if the customer signed a contract. Nor is it to say that you shouldn’t collect the customer’s final bill. I’m just saying that you need to make the entire process as quick, easy, and pain free as you possibly can.
4. Your Refund Policy
Does your customer service team have the ability to issue a painless refund or credit to a customer who is angry? If they don’t, they should. Often a refund is the quickest way to resolve a situation.
Yes, you might lose some revenue. But the customer will walk away happy. Happy customers come back. They don’t go around trashing you on Internet websites or telling all of their family and friends why they’ll never do business with you again. This reputation threat can mean thousands of dollars in lost sales. Ask yourself if it’s worth it.
Of course, there are situations when a refund is not going to be at all appropriate, and your team should be trained on those situations so that you’re not simply giving away the farm to everyone who asks. Once they have this training, however, you can trust them to do a good job of resolving situations.
All of these policies go back to money—and for good reason. Money is a touchy subject. If consumers feel, at any point, that you’re out to take more than your fair share of their hard-earned dollar then you’re going to be in for some trouble. The bottom line? Craft policies that treat your customers the way you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes. You’ll be rewarded with more profits, and a stronger company overall.
Posted by InternetReputation.com on Monday, November 10, 2014
Inspiring your employees to pull together as a cohesive team can be one of the most challenging parts of running a business. Employee engagement isn’t just a buzz word. It’s a metric which can have a significant impact on your bottom line.
For example, one Towers Perrin-ISR study noted that firms with high levels of employee engagement had a 3.74 percent operating margin, vs. a -2.01 percent margin for low-engagement firms. They saw an impact in profit margins as well, noting a net margin of 2.06 in the firms staffed by highly engaged employees. Profits were at -1.38 percent when employees were disengaged.
In short, employee engagement is the key to a workplace that actually works. Here are seven ways to make it happen.
1. Assess your culture.
Company culture isn’t just something that you decide on. It has to grow organically from what’s already happening or it won’t ring true to your employees.
This doesn’t mean you can’t make some decisions about the direction you’d like to go. You do, however, have to know your starting point. I recently outlined a method both for identifying the existing culture and shaping a future culture; it explains how to forge a company culture without creating one that seems as though you’re completely divorced from reality.
2. Develop your expectations.
If you don’t set your expectations for each role and position in your company then you can’t expect real productivity. Your employees won’t know what to do, and you’ll be wasting money because you have no idea what you hired them to do. You won’t even have a way to measure your productivity in the first place.
Make sure you can clearly articulate each and every one of these expectations. It’s not enough to set them—you have to be able to communicate them as well.
3. Learn how to hire the people who will fit in, and meet your expectations.
Every member of your team needs to be able to meet both of these goals. Of course, you’ll have to look beyond resumes, skill tests, and clichéd interviews to be absolutely certain that you’re making the right decisions here.
4. Step back and trust these people to get the job done.
If you don’t trust people to meet your expectations then why are you bothering to hire them? Tell them what they need to accomplish and then get out of their way. For the most part, you’re going to be staffing your office with adults. Give them the freedom to be adults. The infantilizing nature of many workplaces has a direct impact on why so many workers grow so disconnected from and disillusioned with the work they are doing.
5. Stay accessible and available.
Your employees may actually need to ask you some clarifying questions about the work that they’re doing. They might want to bounce an idea off of you. They might need to request a resource. If you’re constantly and consistently touching base with them and interacting with them in a friendly fashion (without retreating to your office or micromanaging everything they do) then they will typically feel very comfortable doing these things. They will also appreciate your leadership, and willingness to help.
6. Avoid “TPS Report” syndrome.
Remember the movie Office Space? Those TPS Reports were funny because they rang so true. Plenty of businesses impose lots of pointless busywork on their employees.
If an activity doesn’t have a direct impact on your ability to build a better product or sell that product to additional people, then nobody in your organization needs to be engaged in that activity. Pointless meetings, overly tedious processes and low-value activities should be ruthlessly slashed from all job descriptions.
7. Act with integrity.
Integrity is powerful. Employees have dealt with many employers who don’t keep their promises. Who make things look great on paper but who ultimately do the opposite of what they say they’re going to do. Some have even dealt with wage theft. In a world like that, integrity is the best engagement and retention policy that you could ever implement. It’s as simple as saying what you’re going to do and then doing it, consistently. And it pays enormous dividends, especially when combined with all of these other steps.
Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams
Posted by InternetReputation.com on Sunday, October 26, 2014
Yelp.com and Angie’s List are both reporting low earnings. Both companies have seen tanking stock prices, too.
One of the reasons why these sites aren’t doing too well is that customers simply don’t trust them. They’re well aware that businesses find ways to post fake reviews. They believe that Yelp manipulates reviews in order to sell ads. Angie’s List has suffered from similar complaints.
These companies can’t make a convincing claim that they are consumer advocates by turning around to make the bulk of their money on by selling ads to the very companies customers are meant to critique. They can take money from one source or the other without earning suspicion, but they can’t take money from both. As a result, some people have ruled that these “review giants” had a doomed business model from the start.
The fact that some businesses have resorted to lampooning them certainly isn’t helping their business case. Some businesses have also chosen to overreact to bad reviews, too, and this has caused some of the negative feelings generated by those businesses to spill over onto the review sites. It’s ironic that these sites, who have so much control over other people’s reputations, have such poor reputations themselves.
So does this mean that business owners can stop worrying about review sites specifically, or their online reputations in general?
Of course not. It simply means you can stop devoting so much energy to these two sites in particular.
First of all, these aren’t the only review sites. Google has been in the review game for some time, for example, and Google isn’t going away. Google has even tied reviews into their local search rankings, and their reviews are, on the whole, quite trusted in comparison to Angie’s List, or Yelp’s.
Second, review sites aren’t the only place where your reputation can take a beating. Just ask some of the companies who have been beaten down in the Twitterverse. Just ask anyone who has dealt with the RipOff Report. Or bloggers. Or websites whose entire existence is dedicated to warning people about how bad a particular business is. Yelp was only ever the tip of a much greater iceberg.
So rejoice over the apparent downfall of these giants if you must. Just don’t relax your vigilance. Continue to monitor your reputation, and continue to build a SEO firewall of positive web entries about your company, your service, and your products.
Successful companies generate enemies—it’s just a fact of life. You need to be ready when they attack, even if it looks like their favorite sites are struggling to stay in business.
Reviewed by author: Ashley Adams