Tag Archives: customer service

customer.service

Getting Better Customer Service

How can your favorite businesses improve your customer experience and offer better types of service? Business leaders from around the world will gather in Phoenix next week to learn how to gain an advantage and win your loyalty. The 24th annual Compete through Service Symposium will feature speakers from Cisco, Disney Institute, FedEx Services, HP, IBM, Vanguard and other household names.

Some of the topics being covered this year: How services can help differentiate your business, lessons in innovation, how to use smart analytics, and how to create “wow” through the smallest things to make a difference for your customers.

This event is hosted by the prestigious Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. The center was created in response to the unique challenges faced by companies as services have become a driving force in economies around the world, with less growth happening in products and manufacturing. The center’s member firms include Boeing, FedEx, GE, IBM, Mayo Clinic, Michelin, PetSmart, State Farm Insurance Company and other household names. The center also offers online courses, a list of which can be found at http://wpcarey.asu.edu/research/services-leadership/online-courses.

WHEN: Wednesday to Friday, Nov. 6-8, Full schedule available at http://wpcarey.asu.edu/symposium

WHERE: Marriott Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, 50 E. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85004

customer.service

Is Your Company Naughty or Nice?

Generally, companies try to stay on their best behavior all year long. But during this holiday season—with decked halls, crowded malls, shrinking bank accounts, and frayed nerves—providing great service is even more critical than usual. Much like Santa, customers have their own “naughty or nice list,” and Ron Kaufman says they won’t hesitate to give you the business equivalent of a stocking full of coal (i.e., taking their business somewhere else) if you make your way into the wrong column.

“There’s no better time of the year than the holiday season to uplift your customers with great service,” says Kaufman, author of the New York Times bestseller Uplifting Service: The Proven Path to Delighting Your Customers, Colleagues, and Everyone Else You Meet (Evolve Publishing, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-9847625-0-7, $24.95, www.UpliftingService.com). “Unfortunately, there’s also no easier time of the year to do or say exactly the wrong thing.”

Often at the holidays companies find themselves overbooked and short staffed. Supplies of popular items run out of stock. Departments aren’t prepared for the increased volume of customer inquiries and complaints. Employees are too distracted by holiday events or travel plans or shopping lists to give customers their full attention.

“These practices are precisely what land companies on customers’ naughty lists,” says Kaufman. “But usually, these are not isolated incidents. Instead, they are evidence of a bigger problem in the organization’s overall service culture.”

Kaufman is at the head of a growing worldwide movement to uplift service in general—for customers and for colleagues. His new book takes readers on a journey into a world of uplifting service with dynamic case studies and perspective-changing insights. Readers learn how the world’s best-performing companies have changed the game in their industries through service and the action steps anyone can take to achieve an uplifting service transformation.

“Holiday happiness and great service needn’t be incompatible,” says Kaufman. “In fact, one of the true forces driving the holidays is our desire to take care of the people we love. And that’s what’s at the core of uplifting service—taking care of the needs and concerns of other people. When companies build a service culture that keeps this top of mind, they’ll find themselves on the nice list every time.”

How can you be sure to land on your customers’ nice lists? What behaviors will banish you to their naughty lists? Read on for a few tips from Kaufman:

To Stay on the Nice List:

Make it seamless. For many of your customers, the holiday season is the busiest time of the year. They will be shopping, ordering, and asking more questions than ever across every possible channel: in person, over the phone, at their computers, on their mobile devices, at work, in their cars, and from home.

“When you provide integrated, smooth service across channels, you’re making your customers’ lives a lot easier,” he says. “From web to email to ATM, to counter to SMS to phone calls, to social platforms and home deliveries, when all information about your customers accumulates and moves seamlessly, then your customers can get what they need from you quickly and get back to doing everything else in their lives.”

Customize for your customers. Sure, your customers know they aren’t your only customer, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be treated that way. Personalized service makes people feel special.

“When you offer options, choices, range, and variety and create more value through customization and personalization, your customers will feel like they’re your favorite,” notes Kaufman. “Implement processes that allow you to recall your customers’ questions, preferences, and choices in all future interactions. Then customize your offers and suggestions for their next visit or purchase. This increases your value each time a customer comes to you, and helps you become the vendor, store, or supplier they are glad to talk about and comfortable recommending to others.”

Say “Yes!” to service recovery. Companies on the nice list know that great service recovery turns “oops” into opportunities. Don’t treat customer complaints like they’re annoying or a waste of time, advises Kaufman. Instead, be grateful when unhappy customers give you a chance to win back their business. Why? Because for every customer who does complain, there are several others who had the same problem, but didn’t give you a second chance.

“Companies that ‘get’ service recovery understand when a customer complains, he is really telling you what he values,” points out Kaufman. “If he says you weren’t fast enough, he values speed. If he says he’s tired of not being able to get anyone on the phone, he values human interaction. ‘Nice’ companies quickly seek to identify what complaining customers value. And then they make sure that employees are empowered to make amends and offer an appropriately generous and valuable new action.”

Remember that happy (engaged) employees = service with a smile. Especially during the holidays, it can feel like the businesses, stores, and restaurants we frequent have been invaded by employee drones. Many service providers seem exhausted, frazzled, and too overwhelmed to do anything more than provide the minimum service to keep customers moving along.

“Companies on the nice list know how important employees—both customer-facing and non-customer-facing—are to providing uplifting service,” says Kaufman. “Your employees should be switched on and energized by their role at your company. When they’re clearly aligned, vigorously supported, and joyfully connected to the brand, to colleagues, and to customers, then job satisfaction fuels customer satisfaction in a virtuous cycle.”

Weave yourself into the fabric of the community. Uplifting service works because it makes everyone feel good, from employees to customers to other community members. When your company plays a socially responsible role in the community, then good feelings of service spread farther, and employees want to provide great service because it is so gratifying.

“When your company contributes and participates in the wider community, uplifting the commercial, civil, cultural, environmental, and economic eco-systems, people notice,” says Kaufman. “They’ll want to give you business because they know you give right back to their community. Being your customer makes them feel like they’re contributing, too. Many companies do this with local sports team sponsorships, school internship opportunities, highway and park adoption schemes, and other neighborhood development programs.”

To Get Stuck on the Naughty List:

Specialize in the run-around. Doing business with a company should be a choice, not a chore. But unfortunately, many companies make receiving service very difficult for their customers.

“Companies on the naughty list aren’t streamlined,” notes Kaufman. “Customers have to give the same information to one person after another as they’re passed from department to department seeking help. Departments are so siloed that customers can feel like they aren’t even talking to people who work at the same company.”

Treat customers like a number. Have you ever been to a business, office, or other facility where you had to literally take a number and wait for it to show up on the electronic sign before receiving service? It doesn’t feel so great, does it? That’s how customers feel when you don’t bother to get to know them as individuals.

“When you don’t personalize service by taking the time to learn your customers’ names or implementing systems that remember their needs, you make customers feel like they’re just one of many,” says Kaufman. “There’s no bond, nothing to make them feel any loyalty to you. Make one mistake and they will immediately go somewhere else.”

Exhibit a “the customer’s always wrong” mentality. If turning unhappy customers into loyal customers is what lands companies on the nice list, then the quickest way to land on the naughty list is to treat complaining customers like they’re ruining your day. This can mean anything from blame shifting to “punishing” an unhappy customer by making the interaction even less pleasant than it already is.

“Companies that don’t have a solid service recovery program react to complaining customers by seeking to avoid blame,” notes Kaufman. “Employees point the finger at their colleagues or back at the customers themselves and say, ‘It’s not my fault!’ They’re too focused on passing the buck to even take notice of the customers’ real needs. And to make it even worse, these companies tend to bog down customers even more by requiring a morass of receipts and time-consuming paperwork before they receive even a mediocre level of service.”

Put unhappy, clock-watching employees in front of customers. Naughty companies hire employees who are interested only in working for a wage, and it shows.

“For these companies, service with a smile is a pipe dream,” says Kaufman. “More like service with a grimace! You know you’re at a naughty company when a service representative won’t look you in the eye, has no energy to smile, and treats you like the service they provide is a chore. You might leave having received the product or service you need, but you won’t leave feeling uplifted or wanting to return.”

Put the bottom line on a pedestal. Some companies on the naughty list treat customers like a number; others treat customers like a dollar sign.

“Companies that put the bottom line on a pedestal above their customers can make customers feel like they’re being tricked or swindled,” notes Kaufman. “They offer deals that aren’t backed by great service. Or run ads touting low-cost products that don’t offer real satisfaction. Customers end up feeling as mercenary as the companies they buy from. Both parties may have completed a deal, but neither was uplifted by any lasting value.”

“What companies should be asking themselves now is, How can we make sure we’re on our customers’ nice lists?” says Kaufman. “There’s no better time of the year to assess your company’s service culture. What are your customers experiencing today? What will they expect from you tomorrow? Are you ahead of your competitors, or lagging behind?

“When you commit to creating an uplifting service culture where everyone is fully engaged, encouraging each other, improving the customer experience, making the company more successful, and contributing to the community at large, you’ll spend every holiday season on your customers’ nice lists,” he adds. “And you will reap the benefits year-round.”

customer.service

Help to ease Holiday Shopping Customer-Service Worries

As we approach holiday shopping time, many of us start thinking about long lines, frayed nerves and dealing with frazzled customer-service representatives. However, some companies are now taking the time to turn customer-service interactions into a strong point of competitive difference that makes consumers want to come back for more, especially when price and other considerations are basically equal.

A new program from the Center for Services Leadership at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is designed to help make your service experiences better. It’s also meant to help improve relationships between participating companies and the firms they work with, such as suppliers, distributors and retailers.

“We worked with Honeywell to create a groundbreaking, totally online program aimed at making every single customer-service representative and field service representative completely focused on excellent service,” says Associate Professor Nancy Stephens of the W. P. Carey School of Business, faculty director of the program. “Honeywell Aerospace is the first company to decide to send every one of its customer-oriented representatives – 1,400 people — through the program. They want to make a very visible commitment to customer service, and other companies are looking at the program, too.”

“The partnership that’s come together between the W. P. Carey School’s Center for Services Leadership at ASU and Honeywell has really allowed us to put together a fantastic program that develops the customer-service skills for Honeywell Aerospace employees,” says Adrian Paull, Honeywell vice president for customer and product support.

Honeywell’s first class just graduated from the academy in late October, but the program can be customized by other firms. Some units are already being taken online by employees at other big-name companies.

“All companies have business-to-business relationships they want to nurture,” says W. P. Carey School of Business Dean Robert Mittelstaedt. “This new program creates an opportunity for them to really polish their customer-service skills, not only for the general public, but also for those B2B customers.”

The Center for Services Leadership helps well-known firms respond to the challenges faced as services have become a driving force in economies around the world, with less growth happening in products and manufacturing. The center’s member companies include household names like Boeing, FedEx, Honeywell Aerospace, IBM Global Services, Mayo Clinic, PetSmart, Siemens Industries, Southwest Airlines and State Farm Insurance Company.

“The companies looking at this program understand that it offers expertise from the center, including faculty instructors from the Top 30-ranked W. P. Carey School of Business,” says Professor Mary Jo Bitner, executive director of the center. “At the same time, the program is also extremely flexible, since it’s offered online. It allows for standardized training across all of a company’s worldwide locations and the chance for employees anywhere from Dallas to Shanghai to Berlin, to get out of their everyday mindsets and interact with each other and make things better for their customers.”

“Wherever we are in the world, we need to operate within the cultural boundaries of that area and provide customer service that is needed and expected by the people in that area,” says Eileen Barry, a customer support project manager at Honeywell. “The major change that the W. P. Carey School training has provided to me personally and at work each day is to always think of things through the customer’s eyes.”

Some courses in the program include “Listening to the Voice of the Customer,” “Designing Customer-Focused Service Processes,” and “Recovering from Service Failures.” The idea is to make customers happy and to address any customer disappointments with great recovery. Those who complete the program receive a certificate and are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Arizona State University. These units are widely used as a measure of participation in non-credit, professional development courses.

For more information about the Center for Services Leadership or the new program, go to www.wpcarey.asu.edu/csl or call (480) 965-6201.

How to Keep Employee Morale Up

How To Keep Employee Morale Up, While Business Costs Are Rising

In July, I shared five tips for providing great customer service. I’d like to focus on another important aspect of customer service that may be attributed to common sense but is often overlooked — happy employees offer better customer service than disgruntled ones.

The cost of doing business is on the rise no matter what industry you’re in. Whether you’re in retail, service or production, the everyday cost of gas, insurance for employees, shipping etc., it’s all on the rise. There is, however, one area business owners do not need to spend more money in order to be effective. Employees want to be happy and feel like they’re part of the team.

Business owners and managers have to put a lot of the day-to-day business management tasks on their employees, but it’s important that we remember not to put all of our burdens on their shoulders. Attitude is essential. If we are positive, friendly, uplifting and welcoming, they are much more likely to do their jobs with a smile and support our needs. How we choose to interact with our employees will carry through to our customers and clients.

We’re all busy. No doubt about that. It’s challenging to keep our employees happy at all times.

But there are things we can do each day to help and keep employee morale up:

It’s all about the “little things” — morning hellos, praise of how great their hair or shoes look, remembering their favorite sports team. The acknowledgement will go a long way for boosting office morale. I’ve had several family members and friends tell me of their experience working for a great small business, but their boss had no idea what their name was or anything about them. This became their catalyst for looking for a new job.

Some companies band their employees from making their workspace personal. I’ve found that this can make them feel as though they don’t belong and are unattached to their work. Employees like to make their space feel special and unique to them. Allowing them to bring items such as photos, individualized mouse pad or a plant will make them feel at home, but not interrupt their work.

As I mentioned before, employees like to feel involved, a great way to make them feel involved and boost morale is an office pot luck for birthdays or special occasions. It allows an opportunity for the entire office to spend time together and break down some of the employee/boss barriers. If you’re feeling adventurous, a great way to make employees feel more engaged is to ask for their help planning the pot luck; give them ownership of the activity.

Develop an employee of the month program. This seemingly ordinary employee engagement gives them an extra incentive to put his/her best foot forward.

Additionally, it doesn’t cost a single cent to say “thank you.” When was the last time you said “thank you” to one of your employees for accomplishing a regular task? I make a concentrated effort to say “thank you” to each of my employees every week for something I catch them doing well. I also write “thank you” on each paycheck and include a smiley face. Once I forgot to include a smiley face, and I had an employee upset with me for a few weeks. I didn’t understand why until another employee told me he thought I was unhappy with his performance because I forgot the smiley face on his paycheck. I have never forgotten a smiley face since this experience. Employees notice the little things.

Employees don’t need special, individualized attention every day, but they do need to feel included. Every now and again, make an extra special effort to make sure they feel heard and understood.

No matter your size or industry, I know there is a way you can make your employees happier and feel special. Just remember, happier employees mean happier customers.

For more information about Benjamin Franking Plumbing, visit benfranklinplumbingaz.com.

Customer Service

5 Tips To Providing Great Customer Service

Are customers important to your business? They sure are to mine. If you find them to be important, I suggest reviewing the details of your customer service touches, process and ability to help customers as needed — even if that means working outside of the normal channels.

5 Customer Service Tips:

1. A business owner/supervisor/manager/employee cannot be too busy to handle customer service related issues.

We are all very busy, but it’s time to get over the “I’m too busy to help just one customer” mentality. We have to remember it takes less time to work on existing customer service needs then to find new customers to use your product or service. If the owner is available, have him or her resolve the concern. Customers rate working directly with the owner much higher than another employee, even if that employee is a manager. It makes them feel important and valued. However, when the owner is on vacation or unreachable, the employees need to have permission and feel empowered to handle customer service problems to resolve the issue and make the customer happier quicker.

Business owners and employees need to be able to think outside the box to make customer service special. Each business and industry have rules they need to stick by, but there are times that it is more important to go outside of or bend the rules in order to make up for a mistake in order to make your customers feel heard and happy.

2. As an owner, it is important to lead with good customer service.

Customers like to know you’re actually listening to them. If they have a good suggestion, let them know. Tell them you’ll bring it to your team and possibly implement the changes they’ve suggested. Give credit to your customers where credit is due if you make a change based on their needs and requests. Fox example, at Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, we added regular Sunday services a few years ago after several of our customers told us they couldn’t take time off during the week and needed to use our services on the weekend. We listened, we acknowledged, we acted, and we thanked our customers for helping us better understand their needs.

3. Customers don’t care until they know how much you care.

Customers want to be heard, and they want to be understood. Listen more than you speak. Make sure the customer has said everything he or she wants/needs to say before you interject. Once it’s time for you to speak, begin with, “I heard you say X, Y & Z.” This ensures that you understand what is at the heart of the customer’s frustrations. It’s not always a refund that they want; sometimes they just want to be heard. Relate to them. Use phrases such as, “I understand your frustration, you’re right,” “It is a hard position to be in,” etc. Make sure to keep your tone in check. How you say what you say is often times more important than what you actually say.

4. What to do if things go wrong:

Be patient. Give the customer time to talk and share. Acknowledge what happened. Don’t defend it. Be honest, upfront, and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention. More importantly, let them know that the entire team will be informed regarding the issue, regardless of what the issue is and what actions you plan on taking. Be sure this mistake doesn’t happen again; and if necessary, re-train employees on tasks or treatments, depending on your individual industries.

Don’t just get things back to normal. Go the extra mile. Do something special like send them to dinner or a movie, buy flowers, give them a gift certificate, etc. — depending on the severity of the mistake.

5. Stand behind your guarantee.

How do you feel when a company or organization states a guarantee only to give you an excuse on why it’s not met or avoided, then ignored when your opinion was not held up?  When your guarantee is not held, the reputation of your company declines, and customers no longer feel they can trust your product or service. Sometimes as human beings we have a tendency to focus on the negative, and every good thing you’ve ever done for a valued customer can go out the window with one grave mistake. If guarantees aren’t held up, everyone is at risk of losing their company’s growth, current customers and potential employees if there is no revenue to pay their salaries. Bottom line: If a guarantee is offered, it must be held up.

srp

Residential Customers Rank SRP Highest In West, U.S.

Salt River Project’s electric customers continue to give SRP high marks for customer satisfaction. In a report issued by J.D. Power and Associates, SRP received the top score for residential electric service in the Large Utilities segment in the western United States for the 11th consecutive year and the highest total among the nation’s largest utilities for the fourth year in a row.

SRP’s ranking was bolstered by sweeping the No. 1 spot in the survey’s Large Utilities segment in both the West region and nationally for all six survey components, Power Quality and Reliability, Billing and Payment, Corporate Citizenship, Price, Communications and Customer Service. SRP also earned the highest ranking in the nation of all 126 electric utility brands for the Billing and Payment category.

Among all large utilities across the nation, SRP scored highest in customer satisfaction for the seventh time in the 14 years J.D. Power and Associates has conducted its study of residential customers. With a Customer Satisfaction Index score of 700 on a 1,000-point scale in this year’s ranking, SRP is the only electric utility that has been ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. in all 14 years.

It is the 13th time in the last 14 years that SRP scored the highest in the West among large electric utilities (500,000 or more residential customers), sweeping the top spot in all six performance categories just as it did in the Large Utilities segment. The average score in the West large region, which covers utilities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, was 638.

“Earning these high marks from our customers year after year never gets old, and it only reinforces the fact that all of our employees play a role in receiving this significant recognition,” said SRP General Manager Mark Bonsall.

“For example, one of the main categories in the J.D. Power studies is Power Quality and Reliability. Our performance there is the result of the high standards set by employees in the areas that keep electricity flowing to customers and by restoring power as quickly as possible during an outage,” he said. “Another example is our high Corporate Citizenship rating, which is derived from SRP’s reputation as a resource steward, water as well as power, and the hundreds of hours of volunteer work in the communities we serve put in by employees from all parts of SRP.”

The 2012 Electric Utility Residential Customer Satisfaction Study was based on responses from more than 104,000 online interviews conducted from July 2011 through May 2012 among residential customers of the 126 largest electric utility brands across the nation, which collectively represent more than 93 million households. More information on the J.D. Power and Associates’ study can be found at www.jdpower.com/library/index.htm.

SRP is the largest provider of electricity to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, providing electric service to more than 950,000 customers.  SRP also is the metropolitan area’s largest supplier of water, delivering about 1 million acre-feet to agricultural, urban and municipal water users.

For more information on SRP, visit SRP’s website at srpnet.com.

Embezzlement

Protect Your Business From White-Collar Crime, Embezzlement

In a tough economy, white-collar crimes are more rampant than ever. A study by Marquet International, Ltd. on 2010 embezzlement data found that the average scheme lasted more than 4.5 years, the average loss was $1 million and two-thirds of the incidents were committed by employees who held finance and accounting positions. Whether you run a small start-up business or a Fortune 500 company, your finances are important ― and keeping track of them is essential.

While your business strengths may lie in production management, business development or customer service, it is imperative that you put certain safeguards and precautions in place to protect your business. If not, it doesn’t matter how strong you are in the other business areas.

To help protect yourself from financial fraud or embezzlement, consider implementing the following practices:

Conduct background checks prior to hiring

Although this may seem obvious, very few companies or small businesses actually do it. You not only want to pay attention to the criminal record, but also the credit history of the people you are hiring. This is especially true for people you are trusting to work in the finance department handling payments, credits, cash or expensive equipment.

Separate responsibilities

While you may consider the employees in your finance department very trustworthy, it is a good idea to have a system of checks and balances throughout the finance process. Avoid allowing a single individual to be in charge of all of the bookkeeping. Assigning separate employees for billing, accepting payments and depositing funds can serve as protection. If you have a small business that cannot disperse the duties, a simple safeguard can be limiting the number of people who can sign for checks, or only allowing specific people access to checks from certain accounts. This way, if something looks funny, you can easily trace it back. Having the business owner as the only one who can sign payroll checks is one idea, as well as only allowing the financial person to have access to the account that issues payments for goods or services.

Understand your books

Knowing the basics of your company’s finances can make all of the difference. Basic things like recognizing who your key vendors are and keeping record of all invoices, payments and purchases is an easy way to begin. Often times, embezzlement occurs by someone issuing payments to a vendor that doesn’t exist, or issuing additional payments on something that has already been paid.

Audit regularly

Along with the regular checks and balances, it is important to audit your books and inventory regularly. Surprise audits are sometimes a good idea if there are long periods of time between your routine audits. Consider hiring an outside professional to audit your books once a year to make sure that everything is on track. In addition to finding irregularities, you might find ways to improve efficiency or cash flow with these audits.

While you cannot anticipate every circumstance, establishing internal controls can help eliminate the risk of embezzlement within your organization. Of course, it is always a good idea regardless to know the financial aspects of your business — even if you decide to let someone else run the numbers on a day-to-day basis.

For more information about how you can protect your business from financial fraud or embezzlement, visit fswfunding.com.

Business Is Slow

10 Things To Do When Business Is Slow

No matter what business you’re in, no matter how great your product, no matter who’s buying, every business goes through a lull or slow period during the year. Making strategic use of this time can help businesses lay a solid foundation for the months and years that follow.

If you’re in a specific industry, you know from past experience or outside influences when business is going to be slower than normal.

Here are 10 suggestions to mitigate losses when business is slow:

Conduct a business audit

When was the last time you took an in-depth look at your financials? Set up a better inventory process? Cleaned out your warehouse? Figured out your hourly rate? What’s your success rate on proposals? Are you making more money this year than last? Which clients are the most profitable? Do you even know how much money you need to make to break even?

Improve customer service

You already know that stellar customer service is the foundation of business success, and this is never truer than during periods of business downturn. When business is slow, you need to go above the call of duty to show your customers that they are important to you.

Educate employees

Look for educational and training opportunities for you and your employees. Whether it’s fine tuning current skills or learning a new service, it’s a great time to increase abilities.

Network

Instead of waiting for the work to come to you, put yourself out there and make it happen. Face-to-face networking is the single most effective thing you can do to promote your business. Check out your local chamber of commerce or meetup.com for meetings of industry groups you have experience working with.

Offer employees incentives

Offer contest to employees based on their sales and/or customer retention. Last month at Benjamin Franklin, The Punctual Plumber, we offered all our staff TVs if they reached our sales goal for the month. I am happy to report I picked up 12 TVs for our employees.  Remember to keep incentives realistic and obtainable. If you can’t afford to offer paid time off, televisions or tickets to the Cardinals, don’t do it.

Be bold

Find something completely out of the ordinary whether it’s a holiday, event or community organization with which to partner. Your efforts can be rewarded greatly. For example, November 18th is National Toilet Day, and one of our employees dressed up as Benjamin Franklin and delivered chocolate cupcakes with toilet toppers to all of the major media outlets in the area. It was fun, it broke the norm, and it got us noticed.

Desk drawer digging

You know all those business cards you’ve collected over the past year that are accumulated in your desk drawer? Pull out a few, and connect with those folks. Put them in a bowl, and pull out a winner; offer them a free or discounted service, free meal or just call to see how you can be of help to them.

Layered advertising

If you know the lull is coming, start preparing six months in advance. Increase visibility by working on your SEO, promotions, introduce a new special service only good during that time period or update your website.

Contests/Referral discounts for customers

Engage your current customers in your social media efforts by holding a contest. Offer a free service, cash or gift card to your favorite restaurant, etc., for participating. Make sure it’s creative, fun and easy for them. Additionally, a great way to say “thank you” to your customers is offering a referral discount. It can be as simple as $10 off their next service.

Maintain a positive attitude

Keeping a positive attitude is perhaps the hardest thing to do when times get slow. You are on edge with no income and bills are coming in. Yet, you cannot wallow in a defeatist attitude that will only slow you down.

During difficult times, keep in mind the title of the popular book by Robert Schuller, “Tough Times Don’t Last But Tough People Do.” Every misfortune carries the seeds of growth and betterment if you can keep perspective. To help keep a positive attitude, socialize with friends and engage in activities you enjoy on a regular basis. This will help lighten your outlook and come back to the office with a fresh perspective.

new jobs pharmacy

OptumRx Adding 400 New Jobs In Arizona

OptumRx, a leading pharmacy benefits management (PBM) organization and one of the Optum companies of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), said it will create at least 400 new jobs in Tucson over the next 12-18 months.

The announcement was made at a news conference Thursday, attended by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO of UnitedHealth Group, at the company’s new office in the University of Arizona Science and Technology Park.

“We are strengthening the infrastructure of Optum Rx in advance of a major expansion early next year, and we especially appreciate the help and support that comes from the outstanding workers and leaders of Arizona in that effort,” said Larry C. Renfro, executive vice president of UnitedHealth Group and CEO of Optum.

“I am pleased that Optum and UnitedHealth Group recognize Tucson’s high-quality workforce and Arizona’s excellent business climate,” said Gov. Brewer. “The hundreds of jobs Optum will create here over the coming months show that Arizona is a premier destination for the growth of innovative businesses such as Optum. I look forward to a long and successful partnership between Optum and Arizona.”

The new OptumRx office, currently undergoing renovation, is expected to be ready for occupancy by mid-year, with recruiting for the new customer service positions expected to begin no later than the fourth quarter. The company will be hiring for Customer Service Advocates and a variety of positions involving training, workforce management and quality management. The company expects the facility to be fully staffed by the end of next year to help ensure OptumRx is prepared to serve millions of additional UnitedHealthcare employer and individual health plan participants.

“The technology at this facility, along with the commitment and know-how of our employees here, will help us fulfill our mission of making the health care system work better for everybody,” said Dirk McMahon, CEO of OptumRx. “An aging population and more people gaining access to health insurance mean more Americans will be using more prescription drugs, so the importance of our Tucson employees to our business will only increase.”

When hiring begins, people with health care or customer service experience are encouraged to apply for these new jobs.

For more information on OptumRx and their new jobs, visit their website at optum.com.

Family business

Handling Family-Driven Issues Within Your Family Business

Just about every business has one: the parent who either started the family business, ascended to the throne, or had the bright idea to buy the life-changing endeavor. Either way, he has the power to bring you into the company or kick you out, to raise your salary or lower your expectations. We’re calling him “Dad the Decider” because he’s the guy who makes the final decisions on just about everything. He may have gotten to where he is by exercising authority, but he can’t get to where he wants without restraint. His biggest frustration is that he’d rather run the business, not the family.

As the business grows, so does his family’s involvement; the more the family is involved, the more chance for conflict. By no means does he want to ever harm his family’s relationship’s, but — true to his passion — he has a business to run.

In the mind of the Decider, the business needs responsible adults behind him. The bridges that we cross of embarrassment and immaturity bring uncertain feelings at times of if we made the right decision bringing the kids into the business in the first place. At times, patterns develop where they are so wrapped up in themselves, they can’t see serious business issues at hand, much less on the horizon. There is a fear that begins to develop — that the business we have worked so hard to build will collapse from right under the self-created stress. The problem is this is true.

Studies show that one-third of family-owned businesses survive into the second generation. Only 10 percent make it to the third. These aren’t really the odds individuals wish to hear, but being forewarned of that, family-based issues are the greatest threat to family-run businesses.

If you’d don’t take action, the odds are against you from the get-go. Home life only adds to this initial frustration. Once, this was a refuge, now it’s just an extension of the establishment. Who do we protect? The children or the business? This becomes dinner conversation. Are we grateful for a successful opportunity? What better way could we have provided for our children?

Looking back, as we all do when faced with parental challenges, we imagine the hard times we went through in the industry — remembering our mentors, how we worked most nights and weekends and made our job the priority. Customer service and professional conduct seem to have taken a back seat to sibling rivalries and hurt feelings. This builds an uncomfortable atmosphere for everyone at the establishment. Employees pick up on family drama almost immediately, sad but true.

How do we put a lid on these infectious squabbles? Was there ever a way to really quell the storm when they were kids? Maybe by pretending the issues didn’t exist or thinking they would go away by themselves? These aren’t the answers; nor is pulling rank.

There are some tried and true avenues that have been taught through the industry that rank among the top in letting calming heads prevail.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned as Dad the Decider — how to handle family-driven issues within your family business:

· Pay as much attention to the family-driven issues as you would your customer-driven issues.

· Change from being in command to being the compromiser.

· Don’t try to solve all the family business issues alone.

· Predetermine the “rules of the business,” including operational standards, before the family joins you in the business.

· Encourage family members to work within the industry somewhere else before joining the family business.

· Don’t pay more than the appropriate salary for the position. “Pay market rates.”

· Remind family that they represent the company at all times, in and out of the establishment.

· Everyone needs to look at the business as the opportunity of a lifetime. You have; they, if wanting to follow, need to have the same outlook.

· There are always two key parts to family businesses — one who makes the operational decisions and one who handles finances (dad and mom). You end up leaning on each other, for better or worse; remember that. The CFO is the next power position in the family business.

Robert Molinari is the owner of Uncle Sal’s Restaurant & Bar, a family owned and operated restaurant in Scottsdale, Ariz., which provides classic Italian cuisine.
10 Great Customer Service Success Stories - AZ Business Magazine September/October 2011

10 Great Customer Service Success Stories And Tips

Troy Hazard, author of the best-selling book “Future-Proofing Your Business”, offers these 10 tips for great customer service:

1. THE ANGRY CUSTOMER: In an argumentative situation, think of how you would feel in your customer’s shoes. Take time to consider his or her personality and position. The faster you start talking in your customer’s language, the quicker the route to an amicable result.

2. WHEN SERVICE GOES WRONG: Try these customer service tips practiced by an airline with flight problems: Acknowledge the problem and take time for face-to-face when possible. Anticipate the needs of the customer and make the customer comfortable. Communicate the solution and offer as much information as you can.

3. PERSONAL TOUCH: After buying a car, the salesman, would send information about things I was personally interested in. The salesman ended up selling $1.5 million to my friends through endorsement or referral.

4. TRUE CUSTOMER APPRECIATION: Sometimes we think we are rewarding our loyal customers when really we are offering them a bribe. A random thank you note that says, “Thanks for being a great customer, please accept this voucher as a sign of our appreciation” is a reward.

5. KEEPING IT REAL: When I owned an advertising business, I did not try to be what I was not. I did not make promises I could not keep. And it got me the client.

6. PROVE YOUR WORTH: Instead of trying to convince potential customers that you can do the job better than your competitor, simply demonstrate to them a service that your competitors simply won’t do.

7. THREE QUESTIONS OF CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS: Two of the most important aspects of building customer relationships are communication and consistency. Ask yourself:

* How often are you reaching out to your customers outside of the times they come to you?
* How often do you offer them something that is good for them, which has nothing to do with you selling them another product or service?
* How often do you train or retrain your staff on how to build better customer relationships?

8. INFORMATION OVER BRICKS AND MORTAR: There is only one way to truly build solid customer relationships — understand their needs and do not assume their expectations. Ask them why they purchase from you and how that purchase affects their lives. You can then use that data to develop a significant emotional connection.

9. ANTICIPATE EXPECTATIONS: Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, and think about what they will want tomorrow — and deliver that product or service today.

10. BE SOCIAL ON SOCIAL MEDIA: As you launch your business into the world of social media marketing, remember that it is just that — social. It’s a means for your customers to praise or punish you.

[stextbox id="grey"]For more information by Troy Hazard about good customer service, visit his website at www.troyhazard.com.[/stextbox]

 Arizona Business Magazine September/October 2011

 

PayPal Employment

PayPal Hiring 1,600 More Employees at Chandler Location

While the job market in the Valley may seem bleak, job openings have arrived. The employer? PayPal.

The relatively new PayPal customer service and operations center located in Chandler, Ariz. opened this past November, and is looking forward to growing its business, according to PayPal spokesperson, Sara Parker.

“The development agreement with the City of Chandler has brought significant business opportunity to the area and allowed us to continue to further support PayPal operations,” said Parker. “We are in the process of planning a grand opening to take place early this year.”

So far, the center has over 350 employees. By the end of 2011, PayPal hopes to employ approximately 2,000 employees, total.

This means there are over 1,600 positions left to be filled.

For those interested in applying, PayPal is offering positions focused on customer service and operations, including answering phones, risk detection, underwriting, technical support, collections and more.

Please visit paypal.com/jobs or eBay Careers for job opportunities with PayPal.

For more information about PayPal, please visit PayPal’s website.

    Want to see the new building for yourself?

    PayPal
    1240 S. Price Rd.
    Chandler, AZ 85286
    Get Directions

Information: My Fox Phoenix

AJ’s Fine Foods Best of the Best 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Best of the Best Awards 2009: Entertainment

Entertainment Honoree: Wine Specialty Shops

AJ’s Fine Foods

AJ's Fine Foods - Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Photograph by Duane Darling

AJ’s Fine Foods provides an unparalleled shopping experience that delights the senses. As Arizona’s leading gourmet and specialty store, AJ’s offers the highest level of customer service and attention to detail. AJ’s Cellar Masters are on hand in every location to recommend new varietal experiences and to suggest the perfect wine to pair with a steak or fish dinner. Every year during the Summer Wine Spectacular, Cellar Masters personally taste, evaluate and rank more than 200 wines from around the world to bring only the best to AJ’s.

Owned and operated by Bashas’ Family of Stores, AJ’s operates 14 stores in Arizona. AJ’s has been voted Best Place to Work by its members three years in a row. For more information, visit www.ajsfinefoods.com.

22402 S. Basha Road, Chandler
480-895-9350
www.ajsfinefoods.com

Year Est: 1985 
Wine Tasting: At Desig. Locations
Principal(s): Bashas’ Family of Stores


Entertainment Finalist: Restaurants: Southwest/Eclectic

LON’s at the Hermosa

Built in the 1930s by cowboy artist Lon Megargee, LON’S at the Hermosa has a rich history and melds artful American cuisine and spectacular views to create a truly unique dining experience. LON’s diners can enjoy awardwinning, artful American cuisine on a romantic patio or by one of the glowing fireplaces. In addition to the warm ambience, LON’s is the proud recipient of the AAA Four-Diamond award. The menu at LON’s offers a memorable culinary experience, which captures spirit, creativity and warmth using bold flavors and compelling combinations that reflect a contemporary take on a multitude of foods originating in the Western Hemisphere.

5532 N. Palo Cristi Road, Paradise Valley
602-955-7878
www.lons.com


Entertainment Finalist: Restaurants: International

T. Cook’s at Royal Palms

Under the direction of Executive Chef Lee Hillson, Royal Palms Resort and Spa features the awardwinning T. Cook’s restaurant — serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Located in the original 1929 mansion of the Royal Palms, it creates a residential dining experience that’s comfortable yet elegant. Enveloped by palm trees, citrus, flowers and fountains, T. Cook’s is a true oasis in the desert. Receiving the highest ratings from both national food critics and locals for its select seasonal dishes, the menus feature a wide variety of creative dishes from the Mediterranean and exotic surrounding regions.

5200 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix
602-808-0766
www.royalpalmsresortandspa.com


Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

KPNX TV, Channel 12 - Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Best of the Best Awards 2009: Advertising, Marketing & Media

Advertising, Marketing & Media Honoree: Television Stations

KPNX-TV, Channel 12

KPNX TV, Channel 12 - Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking ArizonaChannel 12 is Arizona’s leading source for local news on television, online with top-viewed Web site azcentral.com, and on-the-go with text and video available on cell phones. With the combined resources of NBC News, The Arizona Republic and USA Today, 12 News is consistently the first choice for information whenever a major story breaks. Channel 12 is one of the top-performing NBC affiliates in the country, with ratings that frequently exceed the network’s national average.

With a long history as the leader in innovation, Channel 12 was the first to deliver a local newscast in high-definition. The power of the 12 News brand comes from combining the market’s most professional and trusted news team with an approach to reporting that’s clear and to the point. Channel 12 also serves the community with its consumer protection program, “Call 12 for Action,” its education initiative, “School Solutions,” and its awardwinning breast-health awareness campaign, “Buddy Check 12.” Whenever and wherever consumers want quality news and information, 12 News is uniquely positioned to meet their needs.

1101 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-257-1212
www.azcentral.com

Year Est: 1953
Weekly Audience: 1.1M
Principal(s): John Misner


Advertising, Marketing & Media Finalist: Radio Stations

News Talk 92.3 KTAR

KTAR is Arizona’s news, talk and sports leader. In its 87th year, KTAR has the unique distinction of being the state’s first broadcast company and now has a wider reach than any radio station, television station or newspaper in Arizona. More than half a million people each week tune into KTAR for breaking news alerts, talk shows, traffic reports, weather bulletins or game broadcasts. Its award-winning news and 14 hours of local talk shows are heard each day on 92.3 FM. Sports talk shows and game broadcasts are on 620 AM. The company’s Web site, KTAR.com, was voted the state’s No. 1 breaking news Web site.

5300 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
602-274-6200
www.ktar.com


Advertising, Marketing & Media Finalist: Commercial Printers

Prisma Graphic Corp.

To compete as a traditional commercial printer in today’s economic climate and evolving market takes vision. For Prisma Graphic, that vision has been to provide unmatched customer service, consider every client a partner and offer economical marketing solutions beyond ink on paper. The staff views every project as an opportunity to further the success of their clients’ image, initiatives and marketing efforts. From their 82,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix, they provide heatset web, sheetfed, variable data printing, full bindery, fulfillment services and complete direct mailing.

2937 E. Broadway Road, Phoenix
602-243-5777
www.prismagraphic.com


Best of the Best Awards 2009 presented by Ranking Arizona

Homebuilders Refining Their Services

In light of the economy’s condition, homebuilders are refining their services to meet the needs of their customers.

The Valley’s housing market continues to ride real estate’s proverbial wave, sometimes enjoying the crest, and right now just trying to survive the trough.

While the current down market isn’t good for homebuilders, it is providing homebuyers higher quality and stronger customer support to go along with the lower prices.

“Salespeople were in an order-taking mode for 10 years,” says Paula Sonkin, vice president of the real estate and construction industries practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

During the housing boom, Sonkin says homebuilders were unaccustomed to servicing the client beyond the initial point of sale. Now they are recognizing the importance of negotiating and developing relationships — new skills they have to learn as customers demand more sophisticated service.

Since a salesperson’s ability to meet clients’ changing needs generally has been subpar, homebuyers are turning to construction managers and on-site project managers who have become exponentially more important over the last year, Sonkin says.

“It’s a huge opportunity for builders, who are making sure construction managers have the people skills to communicate with the homebuyer,” Sonkin says. “Now builders and construction managers are having regular meetings with salespeople. We know the role of the salesperson has changed.”

Another example of how the slow market is good for buyers is better quality of construction. The J.D. Power and Associates 2007 New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study was recently released and shows an increase in home quality since 2006. Sonkin says that’s partly because builders are constructing fewer homes, so they have more time to fix problems before the buyer moves in. According to the survey, satisfaction among homebuyers has remained high in Phoenix and across the country. Phoenix’s overall average for customer satisfaction is 107, while the national average is slightly higher at 111.

The survey shows these four builders rank first in the Phoenix market in their respective categories:

  • Overall Customer Satisfaction: Centex Homes
  • New-Home Quality: Trend Homes
  • New-Home Design: T.W. Lewis Company
  • Mortgage Originator: CTX Mortgage (serving Centex Homes)

The global marketing information services firm annually surveys people who have purchased new homes in 34 markets nationwide. The 2007 study ranks only new homebuilders who closed 150 homes in the 2006 calendar year and whose buyers submitted at least 50 usable surveys about the builder. The Valley, Sonkin says, is a highly competitive market because there are more homebuilders here than in most other places.

“If you think buying a car is a big deal, let’s talk about building a home,” says Sonkin, relaying what J.D. Power III told her 13 years ago as he was on the cusp of embarking on a new business endeavor.

“We did nothing but our homework for two years,” she says, explaining the company set out to uncover what needs existed in the homebuilding industry that the firm could help meet. As it turns out, there was significant need, and the J.D. Power and Associates New-Home Builder Customer Satisfaction Study was born. Builders can purchase the full-length version of the survey, which comes with complimentary consulting services provided by J.D. Power and Associates. Now in its eleventh year, the survey provides current information to industry leaders.

“(The study) is designed for J.D. to work with builders to better (their business),” Sonkin says, adding that the company oftentimes helps builders differentiate themselves from competitors on quality or design. “Our goal is to raise the bar in terms of customer satisfaction with consumer benefits.”

Centex Homes-Arizona started purchasing the survey four years ago.

“The (J.D. Power and Associates) brand is recognized by consumers as credible. The information captured in the survey is terrific,” says John Michell, president of the Arizona division of Centex Homes. “It validates some of the things we have worked so hard to achieve, and it puts a spotlight on areas where we still have opportunities to delight our customers. The team at J.D. Power gives suggestions on ways to improve customer service and training we provide our employees.”

Tempe-based T.W. Lewis Company, which ranks first in new-home design, does not purchase the study because it employs its own third-party surveyor, Woodland O’Brien & Associates, to poll its buyers and provide monthly feedback.

Still, T.W. Lewis Company President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Egan says J.D. Power’s study has much to offer.

“(The study) would probably be beneficial to a homebuilder that rated poorly or one that lacks sophisticated survey systems,” Egan says. “The biggest value in the J.D. Power survey results is it validates what we’ve been doing, which is designing homes that fit our buyers’ needs and lifestyles.”

Fore more information on the companies mentioned,  please visit the corresponding websites:

www.centexhomes.com/phoenix
www.jdpower.com
www.twlewis.com