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Roberta Guise advises small business owners and professionals who want to build a profitable stable of customers, save money on ineffective promotions, and through precision marketing, branding, or placements in the media be visible and get known.

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Entries in Customer service (3)

Monday
Dec062010

When “new and improved” can ruin your reputation

Do you have a favorite coffee shop you eat at because everything there works perfectly, where the food, atmosphere and service make it like an old comfy couch you love to curl up on?

I used to. And when new owners took over, it changed.

My chosen spot was in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach, that tourist hot-spot where the aromas of garlic and coffee drift deliciously through the air at all hours. For years the café was a little hole-in-the-wall, so small that even early on a weekday there would be a line to eat breakfast at the counter. I had been eating there for more than 25 years.
After the owner-chef passed away, the family moved the coffee shop to another, larger space close-by. And his wife, who was now running the business, kept up the same personal, first-name relationship with her customers. My husband and I would beeline there for a hearty breakfast after a swim in the bay and chat with the owner about how business was doing, goings on in the neighborhood, and other niceties.

After a swim one day we went there for breakfast, grabbing our usual spot at the counter. But something felt wrong. The walls and paint were different. The old pictures and photos were missing. The familiar faces behind the counter were gone. And it took five minutes just to get menus.

When we were ready to order the server said a word I hear too often these days in retail establishments: No. No, you can’t substitute. No, you can’t mix items. No, we don’t have brown rice.

Our wonderful little coffee shop had been sold. Not only had it lost its soul, the new owners had no interest in pleasing their regular customers. We quickly ate our food and left, vowing never to return or recommend the place again as we had done countless times over the years.


This problem isn’t exclusive to new owners. It can happen to you if you start taking your long-term clients or customers for granted.

What are you intentionally doing to keep long-term customers coming back again and again? What would you have done differently had you taken over this enduring and popular breakfast hangout?

Roberta Guise enables successful women to become thought leaders. She also works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com

Saturday
Jul102010

Be fresh and crisp. Your reputation is at stake.

I went shopping today for mixed spring greens at a tiny local natural food store. I go there when I want a nice big fresh salad.

The object of my culinary desires was mixed spring greens. The greens are usually so crisp at this store you can virtually hear them brushing up against one another as you scoop them into the bag. But today they were tired and wilted, while some of them had turned black and soggy. I asked a worker whether there were fresh greens in storage.

I’ve asked for fresh salad greens at a big supermarket. There, the produce person willingly brought out a box overflowing with crisp leaves, promptly replacing the existing box with the new one.

At the little store the worker brought out a bag with fresh greens, held it open for me to take what I wanted, then silently took the open bag back into storage, leaving the wilted, soggy salad greens in place.

We’re all susceptible to harboring soggy, wilted areas in our businesses. And that could be costing us sales and repeat business.

Perhaps you have a service firm and pride yourself on results. But you find it hard to respond in a timely manner to client emails or phone calls. I can assure you that if this describes you, your clients are not happy that you keep them waiting for a response. The results of a customer survey I conducted for a client shocked her when I showed her they were crazy for her work, but found her hard to work with because they felt she was never available.

Sometimes the soggy area is more like a bog. My architect husband and I recently interviewed a contractor for a major remodel to our house. We’ve both known this contractor professionally for years – my husband has recommended him for many jobs. He promised an estimate “in two weeks.” Three months later, and he still hasn’t sent us the estimate.

It’s been said that people will tell at least 10 others when they’re unhappy with a business. We’ll never be able to recommend this contractor again, and when our remodeling colleagues ask about him we’ll be obliged to tell them why.

As for the little store that got its salad greens wrong: I’m willing to give them another chance. If they fail me again, they stand to lose thousands of dollars they would have got from me over time, because I’ll be food shopping somewhere else.

What can you do to ensure your services or products stay “fresh” and “crisp?”

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A small business marketing consultant and speaker, she is the founder of San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com

Thursday
Aug272009

Play with fire if you dare

In the old world order, companies were like fortresses.

In that old world, before the Internet, blogs, and social media such as YouTube, Yelp! and Twitter, your complaints about a big company would echo only in your head.

Today, you or your company’s reputation can go up in flames in a flash, with negative messages echoing across the Internet faster than a lightning strike.

An early sign that technology was giving people a voice came in June 2005, when tech writer and author Jeff Jarvis wrote a post to his blog under the title, “Dell sucks.” Dell dissed Jarvis, he got mad and he blogged about it.

Thousands of people left comments of support on his blog, and word spread. His blog posts ranked increasingly higher on Google.

In August, just two months after his first Dell post, Business Week ran a story about Jarvis’s Dell experience. Dell got the message, and made the needed changes to its customer service practices.

2009 brought us David Carroll’s song about United Airlines breaking his guitar – the song went viral on YouTube. United Airlines also made the needed changes to its customer service practices.

That’s two individuals who had monumental impact on two gigantic companies.

No business is too small to be the subject of negative comments or reviews that spread like wildfire.

Conventional wisdom decrees that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, that all visibility is good. If you believe this, ask yourself how much it could cost your business if disgruntled customers started writing about their experience, and word spread?

In this new world order, don’t wait till fire strikes to take preventive measures. As long as your shingle is hanging out for all to see, do whatever it takes to have happy customers.

That means learning what gets customers upset, understanding how to avoid upsetting them in the first place, knowing what they want, and “calming them right away with words that defuse anger and defensiveness,” says Rebecca Morgan, CSP, CMC, author of the business bestseller, Calming Upset Customers: Staying Effective During Unpleasant Situations.

Customers are a business’s crown jewels. Take good care of them, and they’ll last an eternity.

Roberta Guise works with experts, small business owners and professionals who want to be extraordinarily visible and sharpen their marketing edge. A marketing consultant and speaker, she owns San Francisco-based Guise Marketing & PR. If you'd like to know how to apply these concepts to your situation, call for a free 1/2 hour consultation. 415-979-0611. www.guisemarketing.com