This week on our Friends on Friday guest blog post, my friend and colleague Michel Falcon shares six strategies to make any small businesses successful. I especially like number two as I strongly believe training is a key to success. – Shep Hyken
Small business owners admire billion dollar brands for their operational strategies and programs similar to how young athletes admire Lebron James for his jump shot. However, small business owner’s admiration can quickly turn into “I wish we had the budget to…” after concluding that they don’t have the same infrastructure to create these programs. This is where I think most small business owners are misguided in their thought. Small businesses, in any industry, can reap the same benefits as these billion dollar juggernauts if they work smart and hard.
There are six areas where a small business can operate like a billion dollar brand:
1. Refined Recruiting: How are you hiring? Are you simply posting an ad on Craigslist, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best?
If so, this is a great opportunity to refine the way you are operating. Similar to how you carefully select who you invite to your wedding or house warming party you need to strategically think of who you are going to welcome to your place of business.
Tip: What type of questions are you asking candidates? Are they generic, easy to answer questions or ones that really make the candidate think and challenge their intelligence and thought process? Spend some time this week evaluating the questions you are asking.
2. World Class Customer Experience Training: What is your training and on boarding program like? Does your new team member have a designated period of time to truly understand the business?
One of the biggest disconnects in business today is the lack of investment in employee training. Now, you may have a nicely developed program but what does it consist of? If you’re still simply teaching your team to “be nice” or “look your customers in the eye and shake their hand” then you have an opportunity to improve.
Tip: We need to be teaching our front line employees, the people who create customer loyalty within our business, on the high level terms and strategies of customer experience such as: what is organic growth, what are the three customer personality types, what is brand admiration and how do you earn it.
3. Increased Customer Intelligence: Most business owners believe they know how their customers behave but having anecdotal thoughts isn’t enough nor is it accurate. How are you gathering customer data today, to increase revenue and profitability tomorrow?
We spend a lot of time trying to increase customer acquisition and completely ignore that we haven’t truly got to know our current customers. What do they love about us? What are their aversions? Try and understand your current customers better, I guarantee if you focus on them you will be able to develop strategies to increase the amount they spend with you and frequency of visits.
Tip: Use Survey Monkey to easily develop a formal customer survey. I personally recommend using the Net Promoter Score as I’ve seen it grow businesses if properly deployed.
4. Employee Recognition: Don’t reward your employees positive behaviors and actions by acting like their uncle: giving them cash.
Yes, I love cash as much as the next person but I don’t believe it’s the right way to incentivize employees (if you’ve hired correctly). Team members that genuinely want to contribute and grow within your company want “meaning.” They want a reason to contribute that is beyond money because cash and gifts can be spent or lost ruining the experience of how they earned it.
Tip: As a small business owner or leader within your organization, set a recurring calendar meeting every week for 30 minutes. During this time your only responsibility is to find someone in your organization who is doing great work and take them out for coffee or lunch. Leave your phone and laptop at your desk and really get to know the people who are building your business. Do not cancel this meeting. Ever!
5. Leverage Your Advocates: “We need to increase the amount of our customers we have” says the small business owner. This is common in business, we wake up every Monday morning hunting for new customers.
Before you do this, what have you done to increase referrals? If you’re delivering a memorable customer experience your customers will be more than willing to help you grow your business. You just need to ask them, business is not a passive person’s game.
Tip: Determine who your most loyal customers are. Now, pick up the phone or put together an email thanking them for their business and simply ask them to think of 2-5 people that also might need your service or product. Your PPC or SEO campaign can wait because this works very well. Yes, it’s that easy!
6. No Customer Left Behind: As consumers, we get so angry when a company ignore our complaints or move like snails to handle them. But, wait, we do the exact same thing when we are in the position of handling them.
A customer who has had a complaint properly handle will become more loyal than if nothing went wrong at all. Plus, you will give them a great story to tell. After all, business has moved into the story telling game. Whatever company has the most amount of customers telling positive stories about their brands is winning.
Tip: Set a service level agreement (SLA) to handle customer complaints. Contact the customer within one business day and document the reasons why the complaint happened in the first place. Once you’ve gathered enough “customer intelligence” started creating initiatives to reduce these complaint reasons.
Addressing these six tactics isn’t a walk in the park. It will take time and effort but the beauty is that they are low cost initiatives. You may not be able to spend as much as a billion dollar behemoth but you can definitely work as hard as them. Sweaty equity is a beautiful thing.
Michel Falcon is a customer and employee experience coach and keynote speaker based in Vancouver, Canada. He works with organizations who want to develop strategies to strengthen their customer experience efforts and increase their revenue and profits. If you enjoyed this post, more of his thoughts and full bio can be found on his website www.michelfalcon.com. You can connect with him on Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michelfalcon and Twitter https://twitter.com/MichelFalcon.