A Small Idea to Turn To When Things Are Tough—#3 of 3

The third post in our series for small business survival during this economy focuses on an important part of your business - customer service. This part of a business is often overlooked, but it is relatively easy to spruce up your customer service practices and practically guarantees referral and repeat business. (For previous posts, see the first one here and the second one here.)

Customer service is one of those terms slapped on the end of lectures about succeeding in business. Yet, it is really a fine-tuned machine that can work to your benefit. A few tips on customer service that I've learned when times are tough.

1. How is your customer service? If you've never really thought about it (many small businesses are really small, especially b2b industries and service businesses; a single person even!) and the idea of customer service makes you want to run the other way—don't! It's as simple as a pleasant voice answering your phone (can you be pleasant?) to quick replies to emails to understanding when a customer or client is delayed or having problems on their end, even when it inconveniences your schedule.

2. Thank you goes a long way in the business world. Did a client refer you to another? Did you thank them? How about a thank you gift? How about referring them to someone you know? Mutual back scratching is one thing, but kindness goes far. And a heartfelt thank you goes even farther.

3. I may be too nice, but I think it serves me very well as a small business professional. There is nothing wrong with nice. It does not mean you are a pushover or that you won't ever completely lose your cool at one time or another; you just know how to be nice. It's easy. One thing that helps me is to realize that there is one fact I will never know in the life of my client and that one thing may be why they are late with their order, or why they never sent the work instructions they promised a week ago. Let it go and be nice. Be firm, but be nice.

The above tips may seem inconsequential at first glance, but when you think about how many times in a day you “touch” your clients and customers with your customer service, just picking up one of these ideas may be the difference between a one-order customer and a customer who comes back again and again. Try it!

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AccuConference | Sticking To Your Goals

Sticking To Your Goals

Recently, I wrote a post about why it’s hard for us to stick to our New Year’s resolutions. Now, I want to take a look at some ways that might help you follow through with your goal planning. Here are some tricks that can help you stay on track.

Broadcast You Resolution

I’m not talking about paying for an expensive TV ad to let others know what your plans of change are (although that might help make you more accountable if you did). But telling your friends and family and posting about your resolutions on Facebook or Twitter may help you commit more to your goals. It gives people an idea of what you plan to do, and it may even encourage them to do the same thing. In addition, you can post weekly or monthly updates so people can see how well you’re sticking to your guns. Posting your updates might even make you feel better about your ambitions and help you gain the encouragement you need to follow through. It may also help if you’re seeking advice from people who have accomplished goals similar to yours.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

An article from The Baltimore Sun suggests setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Think about it. If you tell yourself that you’re going to lose 50 pounds in 2 months, you’re setting yourself up for failure. While the goal is specific with the time and the number of pounds you want to lose, it’s not very realistic nor is it very healthy. However, if you tell yourself that you’re going to lose 10 pounds in 2 months, you will have a greater chance of achieving your goal. And you may leave yourself some room to surpass your expectations.

Prepare for Setbacks

Sometimes life throws us a curveball and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. So we have to prepare for the setbacks we’re faced with. Many times, people find themselves faced with a setback and it discourages them from continuing on with achieving their goals. While setbacks can be frustrating, you shouldn’t allow them to derail you. Take the late Steve Jobs as an example. During the beginning stages of Apple, Steve encountered many setbacks. A notable one would be in 1976 where he confused his first order of 50 Apple I computers. He delivered 50 circuit boards instead of finished machines. He could only take partial payment for the order, which gave his company a financial setback. However, he didn’t let that stop him. By the end of the year, they delivered 150 finished computers.

Saying you’re going to achieve a goal and actually accomplishing it are two different things. One takes thought while the other takes action. If you’re having a hard time following through with the goals you have planned, try using these steps to make them more attainable.

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