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Ask The Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Never Slack on Customer Service

Ask The Entrepreneurs: 14 Ways to Never Slack on Customer Service

Ask The Entrepreneurs is a regular series where members of those involved in the Young Entrepreneur Council are asked a single question that aims to help Lifehack readers level up their own lives, whether in a area of management, communication, business or life in general.

Here’s the question posed in this edition of Ask The Entrepreneurs:

How do you stay on top of customer service, no matter how busy you get?

1. Make FuseDesk a Feature

    My teams use FuseDesk to handle incoming requests, assign cases and track case history. The app links directly to an Infusionsoft account so we don’t spend a lot of extra time trying to remember who is emailing for support, what they bought and when it was shipped. It’s all integrated making it easy to send a template response. The system cut our response time dramatically!

    Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

    2. HelpScout Helps Out

      We use HelpScout to provide a technical help desk for students of our online school. To them it means simply being able to request help by email — no logging into a dashboard to see updates or followups. For us, it means we can provide greater personalized support, really get to know students and manage all requests in one place — no cluttering up inboxes, yet still providing that personal touch.

      Lea Woodward, Startup Training School

      3. Take It to Twitter

        No matter what’s going on, our team is always on Twitter — and so are most of our users/readers. They resort to it if there’s any trouble and it gives us an opportunity to answer back, help out, and throw in some personality.

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        Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

         

        4. Segmented Customer Support

          Providing customer service throughout the day will only break up your day and take focus away from the stuff that’s making you busy. Instead, take an hour in the morning and an hour before you finish for the day to close out all customer service requests. By doing this, it becomes a game, as you work diligently to finish in that specific time slot you have allocated for customer support.

          Todd Garland, BuySellAds.com

          5. Real Time With Olark

            Olark

            gives us instant access to our customers and since users want to chat right away, it’s a good way to force us to talk with them and remember that they are the most important part of the business.

            Wade Foster, Zapier

             

            6. It’s a Team Effort

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              For many businesses, customer service may be easily shared among all members of the organization. Addressing customers’ needs is something no one should be too senior to do, and spreading the load will ensure that no customer feedback goes unaddressed. It’s a model worth trying out if you’re overburdened with customer requests.

              Doreen Bloch, Poshly Inc.

               

              7. Figure It Out Face to Face

                Establishing genuine relationships with clients needs to be a top priority for all leaders. Yes, this means taking time out of your “busy” schedule and really asking them for feedback over coffee, drinks or dinner. You should likewise create opportunities for group client engagement. Results from a facilitated focus group at my company produced the “pivot” that we now credit for our success.

                Christopher Kelly, Sentry Centers

                8. Give Access to Real People

                  As long as someone human has heard a concern and has made it clear that it will be addressed, most customers can be a little flexible about how long it takes to fix an issue. But the human touch is key to getting that room to work from your customers — if they feel like they haven’t been heard, they’re going to keep hammering until they get a response.

                  Thursday Bram, Hyper Modern Consulting

                   

                  9. If It’s So Important, Create a System

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                    If customer service is truly a top priority for you, then you should have systems in place to ensure quality control. Record and review all client interactions with your employees so they can constantly improve, and hold each employee accountable for customer service standards.

                    Nick Friedman, College Hunks Hauling Junk

                     

                    10. Stay Steps Ahead

                      Always be prepared and be a few steps ahead of your client to guide them in the right direction. With a team that’s great at project management and account management, you can seamlessly stay in contact with clients, updating them and building their trust.

                      Bobby Emamian, Prolific Interactive

                       

                      11. Create a Process Checklist

                        Documenting procedures and processes are key for us. We have developed a checklist called “The Customer Experience” in our office. This makes us more in-tune to consistently deliver our vision for how a customer should feel after doing business with us, no matter how busy we get. We make sure every client we have has experienced each step of the checklist before proceeding further in the relationship and project.

                        Kenny Nguyen, Big Fish Presentations

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                        12. Remember Their Importance

                          Ultimately, our businesses exist to serve our existing customers, not to create products or to attract new customers. Both of the latter two items are important, but not the most important. By reminding yourself of your priorities, it makes it easier to set aside the time to serve them well.

                          Elizabeth Saunders, Real Life E®

                           

                          13. Keep Up Communication

                            It’s not so much important what you say, but how often you say it. Customers, clients, and people in general love to feel that you are aware of their presence. Providing good customer service isn’t all about being pleasant, but also just communicating often and allowing your clients to feel validated. So whether it’s staying on top of emails or phone calls, make sure you respond often and quickly.

                            Steven Le Vine, grapevine pr

                            14. Make It Natural

                              Build a team that has natural customer service skills. Personally, I don’t have to get as involved with customer relations because my team is awesome and cares about each of our clients.

                              John Hall, Digital Talent Agents

                                More by this author

                                9 No-Brainer Ways to Track Employee Time Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Things Entrepreneurs Should Stop Doing Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Best Note Taking Tools Ask the Entrepreneurs: 12 Tips for Mastering Public Speaking Ask the Entrepreneurs: 9 Tasks You Should be Outsourcing

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                                Published on December 13, 2018

                                How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

                                How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide)

                                If you’ve ever thought about starting and running your own business, you’re not alone. Being your own boss, having flexibility with your schedule and keeping more of the financial rewards that come with business ownership are all good reasons to own your own company.

                                But as you might expect, it’s not all vacations and fat bank accounts. According to the SBA, 2/3 of businesses survive at least 2 years and approximately 50% survive 5 years.[1] So why is the failure rate so high? At least for the businesses that fail early on, lack of, or poor planning can be a major factor.

                                So how to start a company?

                                Starting a business from scratch doesn’t have to be hard or complicated, but it does take planning and work. Here are the first and most important 9 steps to take when your are starting a company from scratch.

                                1. Do an Honest Evaluation of Yourself

                                Do you work better in a structured or unstructured environment? Does a daily routine reduce your anxiety? What kinds of things are you good at? Does public speaking or making presentations make you nervous? Are you good at accounting and numbers? Can you handle the rejections you’re bound to get when selling or cold calling?

                                These are all important questions to ask yourself, in fact it’s a good idea to get other peoples opinion about their perception of you in each of these situations.

                                Whatever the answers you come up with for your evaluation, remember that’s all it is, an evaluation of where you are now. Think of it as a way to identify both your areas of strength and weaknesses.

                                You maybe good at public speaking which can help when raising money, but bad at accounting which just means that you’ll need to find some kind of help with that area of the business.

                                2. Evaluate Your Idea

                                If your business idea involves a new product or service (or even an enhancement to an existing product or service), it needs to be evaluated. This is technically called market research.

                                There are firms that specialize in doing market research for new products, but if you are on a tight budget, you can do this yourself.

                                First, if you can build a prototype for people to use, touch and look at that’s the best option. If a prototype is not possible or it’s a service business, then offer a highly descriptive presentation of the business plan complete with it’s unique benefits and how it’s different from the competition.

                                Then listen! Remember that this is not about others liking your product, this is not your baby that they are talking about. You want honest market research that gives you the best chance for a successful business. Take notes, when someone tells you that they didn’t like a feature or some aspect of your idea tell them ‘Thank you”.

                                After several rounds of market research with different groups of people, you should see patterns emerging about things that they both liked and didn’t like. Use this information to tweak your product or service and do another round of market research.

                                Keep in mind that you’ll never come up with a universally loved product, your job is to produce a product or service that appeals to the broadest range of your target market.

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                                3. Make a Business Plan

                                I know, I know this isn’t the “fun” part of starting your own business, but it is an very important step in creating a successful business!

                                Basically, you can think of a business plan as an outline or blueprint of your business. A good business plan should have the following elements:

                                • Executive Summary – This should lay out the businesses product or service and the problem that it solves for the consumer.
                                • Market Evaluation – This should talk about the market you are serving. Is it an expanding market, and how does your product better fulfill the consumers in that market.
                                • Market Strategies – How are you going to penetrate the market and sell your product.
                                • Operational Plan – How will the company run from day to day? Who are the key employees and what are their specific rolls. Do your key players have specific goals set for them in advance?

                                A final word on making a business plan: while lying is never acceptable especially when you are using the business plan to raise money, it is acceptable to “put your best foot forward”.

                                Playing up the positives while minimizing the negatives is almost expected in a business plan.

                                Besides, banks as well as professional investors will both do a more in-depth analysis before investing any money into your idea.

                                4. Decide on a Business Structure

                                You have many options here, and discussing them with your accountant or financial adviser is really the only way to know what’s right for you. But just to give you a quick rundown of the types of business entities and their pros and cons we will briefly go through them:

                                Sole Proprietorship

                                This is a common way for small businesses to get started.

                                The pros being:

                                Relatively low costs to set up (usually a business license and sales tax license).Owners normally do not have to set up a special bank account, they are allowed to use their personal one. Any income earned can be offset by other losses (check with your state!). You as the sole proprietor have complete control over all decision making. 

                                Finally, sole proprietorship’s are relative easy to dissolve.

                                The cons of using a sole proprietorship include:

                                You as the sole proprietor can be held personally responsible for the debts and liabilities of the company. Some benefits, such as health insurance premiums, are not directly deductible from business income.

                                If you need to raise money, you are not allowed to sell an equity stake in the company. In that same vein, hiring key people maybe more difficult because you cannot offer them an equity stake in the company.

                                Partnership

                                A partnership is formed when two or more people decide to start a business. Although there is no legal requirement for any documentation to form a partnership, it is my advice that you never enter into a partnership without having a partnership agreement. (Remember, spending $1500 now can save you $150,000 in legal fees later!).

                                The pros of a partnership include:

                                Being relatively easy and inexpensive to start. Hiring key employees can be easier as you are allowed to give equity ownership to as many partners as you want.

                                For tax purposes, partnerships are relative simple as any income is treated as “pass through” meaning that each partner pays tax on their individual portion of the partnerships income (As of this writing, always check with your tax adviser).

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                                As far as the cons go:

                                It can be difficult for some general partnerships to raise capitol. Because it is a partnership, the actions of one of the partners can obligate the entire organisation. All profits must be shared according to the partnership agreement regardless of the amount of work done by any single partner.

                                Some employee benefits may not be able to be deducted on income tax returns.

                                Limited Liability Company (LLC)

                                This is a very popular business entity for small to medium sized businesses. The reason for this is the cost of set up is not prohibitive and there is a separation between the owners and the company.

                                The pros of an LLC include:

                                Limited liability for the partners, unlike sole proprietorship’s and partnerships where the owners are held responsible for all of the companies debts and liabilities, an LLC provides some protection against certain debts and liabilities that are solely the companies.

                                Simple taxation, just like the sole proprietorship and partnerships, income is considered “pass through” and is only taxed once on an individual level.

                                There is no limit on the number of shareholders in an LLC. An LLC requires fewer fillings and administrative requirements than a corporation.

                                Corporation

                                A corporation is much more complex and expensive to set up. And a corporation is legally considered an independent entity that is separate from its owners.

                                The pros of a corporation include:

                                Complete separation between the owners and the company. Because the corporation is considered its own legal entity, owners can not be held personally responsible for any debts or liabilities of the company.

                                A corporation can raise capital much easier just by selling more shares in the company.

                                Cons of corporations include:

                                Much higher administrative costs than any other business entity. Corporations generally have a higher tax rate. Dividends are not tax deductible for corporations. Income paid in dividends is taxed twice, once by the corporation and again by the shareholder.

                                Again, this is just a short summary of the pros and cons, always check with your tax adviser about what will work best in your situation.

                                5. Address Finances

                                Again, not one of the “Sexier” parts of starting your business from scratch, but very important nonetheless.

                                So, you’ve done your business plan and an estimate of your start up funding should be included. It should include the amount of funding you’ll need to get you through your first full year of operations.

                                Now, how do you get that money?

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                                Self Funding

                                If possible, self funding is the easiest. You won’t have to go to banks and investors with hat in hand, or give up ownership or control of your company. But as we know, this is not a reality for most people. But don’t worry, there are still plenty of options available.

                                Friends and Family

                                They can be a good source of funding your business if they can see and understand your vision.

                                Remember that business plan? Pass them out to everyone you know. Then follow up, be prepared to tell them the total amount of money you expect to raise, the minimum investment you are looking for and what you will give in return for the investment.

                                For example, you give a friend your business plan and follow up with him/her a few days later. You can explain that you have secured funding for $80,000 of the $100,000 you need. You are selling a 2% share in the company for every $2,000 investment. How many shares would he like?

                                And when he/she tells you no, thank him/her and ask if he/she can think of anyone off the top of his head who might be interested? Tell him/her you really appreciate his/her time and if he/she does come across someone who might be interested to let you know.

                                Banks

                                These guys are happy to lend you money when you don’t need it, but all of the sudden they get stingy when you actually need a loan! This is where preparation comes in.

                                It’s a good idea to go over your business plan with an expert and maybe even have it rewritten by an expert before you approach either a bank or professional investor. Both will want to go over your business plan with a fine tooth comb, verifying all the numbers and data you provide.

                                You should also brush up on everything in the plan so that you can answer any questions they have with authority.

                                Crowdfunding

                                Finally, there is crowdfunding through sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Crowdfunding helps to build interest, community spirit, and a customer base. It’s also an efficient way to raise funds. You can take a look at these tips to find out more:

                                6 Crowdfunding Tips To Get Your Project 100 Percent Funded

                                6. Register with the Government

                                As stated earlier, different types of business entities have different filling and administrative requirements. At the very least, you’ll probably need a business license as well as a state sales tax license.

                                Unless you are forming a corporation, there are many good resources on the web that will do everything for you at a minimal cost.

                                7. Assemble Your Team

                                Remember when we evaluated your strengths and weaknesses? Here is where we fill in the gaps!

                                Do you hate sales and cold calling? Great! There are people who love selling and wouldn’t want to do anything else.

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                                Bored to death with accounting? There are a ton of small accounting firms out there that will take care of that for you.

                                What about marketing? You can hire someone in-house or out-source that too.

                                Your job is to keep on top of all the different aspects of the business to make sure they are all running smoothly and getting the results you need. If not, it’s your job to figure out the problem and implement a solution.

                                Check out this guide and learn how to delegate effectively:

                                How to Delegate Work (the Definitive Guide for Successful Leaders)

                                8. Buy Insurance

                                No matter what kind of business you start, you need insurance! Yes, I know, no one likes to buy insurance, but it can literally be the difference between having a minor inconvenience and declaring bankruptcy.

                                We live in a very litigious time, even a minor slip and fall at your place of business could bankrupt you without insurance. If you need help finding a good agent, check with your local trade organizations or fellow business owners.

                                9. Start Branding Yourself

                                Has anyone ever ask you for a Kleenex or a QTip? We all know what they are because of branding, Kleenex is just a brand of tissue and QTip is just a brand of cotton swab. It doesn’t have to be as widely known as Kleenex or QTip, but you can make your brand a common name within your niche.

                                I once owned a manufacturing company that developed a product that was so popular that my competitors started co-opting my brand name for their products.

                                If you aren’t sure how to kickstart branding yourself, check out these ways:

                                5 Ways to Build your Personal Brand & Make More Money

                                The Bottom Line

                                Starting a business from scratch can be one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have.

                                But do you know what’s even more rewarding? Having a business that succeeds, is profitable and provides a good source of income for you, your employees and their family’s.

                                More Resources About Entrepreneurship

                                Featured photo credit: Tyler Franta via unsplash.com

                                Reference

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