Three Ways to Thank Your Clients

Three Ways to Thank Your Clients

Blog business tip Customer Service small business

I am big on the value of a thank you card. As a business owner, it doesn’t matter if a person is a one-time or a long-term client. Nor does it matter if they spend a few hundred dollars or a concierge package for thousands. I think each client deserves a thank you. Clients are not dollar signs. They are people that like to be appreciated. They are people that like to recommend what they love to their family and friends. They are people that will talk if they are not happy with your service. They are people that will be loyal, if you build and nurture the relationship. One of my favorite quotes is:

As a consumer, I really appreciate it when someone takes time from their busy day to thank me. This post was prompted by a card I received today. Months ago, I sent a thank you card and restaurant gift card to an optician that my family and I have appreciated for years. I was so surprised today to receive a hand-written note from her. She went to the restaurant and was writing to thank me again and to tell me about her night out. It MADE my day.

On the flip side, recently I have spent a considerable amount of money at a few local stores, including a family-owned furniture store, a local appliance dealer and an outdoor furniture store. As I said earlier, it’s not about how much money is spent. But, if I owned a business and had a customer that I wanted to keep, I would hope for a few things;

  • That they were happy with their purchase and think positively of their experience.
  • That they will recommend me to their family and friends.
  • They will return if I can help them in the future.

I think businesses often react in a time of crisis, rather than plan for any bumps in the road. What if your business suddenly starts losing money? Wouldn’t you wish that you had taken the time to build relationships with your customers? Do it now, before you are scrambling and wondering where all of your customers went. Here are three simple ways to thank your clients and build a relationship with them.

Send a Personal Note

How often have you received a thank you note? Not an email, but an actual note in the mail. Doesn’t it make you smile? Make your customers smile and send them a simple thank you note.

 

Bonus Tip: Make the note personal. Use their name, mention something positive about working with them, compliment them and be genuine.

 

Invite Them to Coffee or Lunch

If you have already established a bit of a relationship with them, ask to take them out for coffee or lunch. This is a great way to continue relationship building. You will have time to learn more about the person and connect on a personal level. It goes without saying, but I’ll mention anyway – your personal safety is foremost.

 

Send Them a Gift

Do you ever order from One Kings Lane? Almost every time I receive an order, there is a small token gift in the box. Typically it’s a candle with One Kings Lane logo on the cover. It smells great and I appreciate it. If you own a retail store, consider a small token gift that announces a new line you are carrying. It’s a great way to promote new products and to let your customers know they are valued. I know it’s old-fashioned, but if you know they love cookies and you are a great baker, creatively package some cookies and deliver them with a short note.

 

Bonus Tip: Likely one of the nicest ways you can thank someone is by recommending them. If you are happy with someone’s service or product;

  • Share a review or a post on social media and tag them.
  • Share images of what you purchased on social media and tag them. Did you buy a great dress and went to dinner? Take a photo and use that to let them know how much you love the dress and your experience in their store.
  • If you worked with them, share some images, tag them, and talk about the experience.

One of my favorite posts to share on Facebook and Instagram are ones where I thank people and businesses for their amazing service, products or general experience. Here’s one example:

 

 

Have you received a hand-written thank you note from a business? Tell me about it in the comments. If you own a business, how do you thank your customers?

If you need ideas about how to show appreciation for your clients, post below. I’d love to help.

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
3 Ways to Build Customer Relationships

3 Ways to Build Customer Relationships

Blog Customer Service

What if your customers disappeared tomorrow?

Would you wish that you had nurtured those relationships instead of taking them for granted? If you’re like most of us, you didn’t open your business and have hundreds of customers knocking down your doors. You worked hard for your first customer and likely continue to work hard for each and every new customer. Building a lasting relationship with your customers is much like working out. While it would be great if we could go the the gym once and be fit for life, sadly that is not the reality. If we want to be in great shape, we need to work at it everyday. You need to lift weights, take a spin class or two and make healthy choices in the kitchen. The same goes for building customer relationships. You might be the most energetic, magnetic, memorable person on the planet, but you still need to establish, build and nurture those relationships. It’s time to do some heavy lifting and marathon training where your customers are concerned. Here are three ways to build a relationship with your customers.

#1: Thank Them

I am big on the value of a thank you card. As a business owner, it doesn’t matter if a person is a one-time or a long-term client. Sending a thank you and letting each customer know they are appreciated might turn them into long-term clients. And they will be more likely to recommend your business to family and friends if they have had a positive experience. A thank you is like icing on a cupcake. You would likely have enjoyed the cupcake all by itself, but with the icing it’s that much sweeter. Just this week I received a hand-written note from a person I have only met once. We are connected via a private Facebook group. A note from her was completely unexpected and greatly appreciated. Receiving this note furthers our relationship and makes me feel more connected. People like to feel appreciated. It doesn’t take much effort, but can have measurable, lasting results.

#2: Express Genuine Appreciation

Do you ever receive mailers offering “new customers” a special price or savings? When I receive those, I wonder why new customers are more important than loyal, existing customers. Do you know what it costs to acquire a new customer? If you’ve ever looked into it, you’ll know that is a lot cheaper and easier to keep existing customers. According to an article on Entrepreneur.com, written by Lon Safko,

One miscalculation that many business owners make involves the ease with which they will attract customers. This is called field of dreams marketing. Small-business owners are generally experts in some other areas and somehow they believe that if the core message of their marketing is, “Hey! We are selling XYZ, and we’re now open!” people will start pouring through the door.

When I was researching data for this post, I found many articles all with widely varying statistics about how much it costs to acquire a new customer versus keeping an existing customer. Some sources say it costs 4 – 10 times to acquire a new customer as it does to retain current customers. Other sources say it’s as high as 30 times more! If that doesn’t make you appreciate your current customers, I don’t know what will. They are valuable – make sure they know it!

#3: Connect With Them, As People

This can be as simple as an email. We have all heard the old adage, out of sight out of mind. It’s never a good thing to be “out of mind” of your customers. Do you ever send a message to an existing customer just to say hello? I’m sure you send your usual funnel of emails and offers to purchase your latest products or services. But, do you ever really just send them an email that is completely for them? It could be a free download, a webinar series or other piece of information that would benefit your customers, without benefit to you.

For those of you that work from home, this next one can be tough, but trust me – it’s essential. Networking. Yes, I said it. You need to get out and network. While I’d hope your customers would be happy to receive your emails, I bet they would still prefer to see you in person. Have you ever been friends with someone on social media and then you get the chance to meet in real life? I have and it was amazing, on many levels. Here are a few stories.

Thank You | Gramercy Social | Sonja Pound

In 2013, I decided to attend a Mari Smith event. I had been following and learning from her for years. The event she was promoting was for an intimate group of people (I think it was 20) to spend two days with her to learn about Facebook and online marketing. As an add-on, I chose to spend a third day with her and only 5 other people. For years I knew all about the online Mari, but I had never interacted with her face-to-face. She is genuine and caring online, but meeting her in person and spending real time with her allowed me to get to know more about her. It allowed us to connect on a personal level that had nothing to do with Facebook. We found that we had more than just social media in common.

Have you ever heard of Lisa Larter? She is another woman I had the privilege of meeting in person. I noticed her Facebook group one day in my sidebar. I don’t know if it was an ad or if I had friends that were in the group. Something compelled me to click. I joined one of her private Facebook groups and began interacting with her and the group. I learned a lot from her and months later found out that she lives not too far from me. We arranged to meet in person just a few months ago. She was delightful. I really appreciate strong women that tell it like it is. That’s how I describe Lisa.  She is incredibly smart, giving, thoughtful and savvy. Again, meeting her in person, allowed me to see if the online Lisa was at all like the real person. I couldn’t have been happier that they are one in the same. Her personality really comes across on Facebook Live, her posts and in her book. But if you ever have the opportunity to attend one of her events – hurry up and register! If you aren’t already following her, start here.

You can also connect with people you know online that sell products. I connected with Vickie MacFadden who owns PromoRX, a company that sells upscale promotional items. We have only spoken on the phone once, but we refer work to each other, knowing that we both have the same quality standard and work ethic. We continually build our relationship by referrals, emails and providing feedback for each other.

These three women know exactly how to build and nurture relationships. Just this week I received a wonderful, hand-written note from Lisa. Small gestures like that are meaningful and will make your customers see how important they are. I have probably read the note she sent to me, somewhere in the neighborhood of five times. It makes me smile every time. And, a few months ago Vickie sent me a water bottle that her company sells. Each time I use it, I think of her and it makes me smile.

These two meetings with Mari and Lisa would not have happened if I sat home and decided not to network. Nor would they have happened if they didn’t value relationships. Sometimes, you need to get out of your comfort zone and push yourself. I would not have built relationships with these two women from my home office.

Do you have other ideas for building customer relationships? How do you thank your existing customer? Have you received a thank you that reminded you that the business appreciated and valued you?

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
How to Make a Continental First Impression

How to Make a Continental First Impression

Blog Customer Service dining naples

{Review} Do you ever go to a new restaurant with great anticipation? Once I decide on a new restaurant and make reservations, I am super excited and can’t wait to see if my expectations are anything near the reality. It’s not only about the food, but the experience. Last night I tried The Continental in Naples, Florida. Their website describes this restaurant as,

D’Amico’s The Continental American Provisions and Craft Bar is Naples newest addition to Third Street South. The perfect blend of steak house and craft bar, The Continental adds ever more allure with a meticulously designed indoor and outdoor setting of New York Steakhouse meets 1920’s Parisian Bistro.

For those of you familiar with Naples, you certainly know many of the other D’Amico family restaurants. They include: Lurcat, Masa, Parma and Campiello. They are some of the best restaurants in Southwest Florida. For this reason alone, I was very anxious to try The Continental. It is located in an artsy, touristy section of Naples known as Third Street South.

Third Street South is one of the Main Streets of Naples. It is a wonderful place to wander, shop, dine and people watch. Third Street South’s website describes the area as;

Next to the beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, the 19th century Naples Pier, and the colorful original beach cottages, the sophisticated and delightful shopping and dining on historic Third Street South awaits – amidst courtyards, antique European fountains, and lush colorful cascading flowers.
Fine restaurants, relaxing cafes, fun bistros and pubs are meccas of delicious choices in many different cuisines nestled near shops, while the markets and delicatessens provide delicious foods and superb wines to take with you.

Even if you never plan to visit Naples and eat at The Continental, read on for customer service do’s and don’ts that pertain to any business.

The Design

The Continental is the newest dining option on Third Street South, at just six months beyond their opening. When I arrived, with my husband and 15 year old daughter, I was immediately wowed! I walked into a dazzling, eclectic courtyard framed with tented dining areas and wrought iron edged sidewalk tables. Walking to the hostess stand, which is made to look like a retro steamer trunk, I passed a rectangular water feature that provides a nice backdrop to the buzz of this new hotspot. This is a place where I immediately felt comfortable. It is visually interesting, but not over the top. It does not look like a shiny new restaurant. Instead, it feels like it has always been here. It has a worn feel, kind of like my favorite pair of jeans. While the interior is beautiful, I always enjoy eating outside on a clear night. The table we chose was in the perfect location. We could see where the band was going to be playing and we were covered by a large umbrella just in case the usual Florida summer storms rolled in. Some of the trees are strung with vintage white lights, that provide a beautiful contrast to the summer sky. They add a touch of romance and whimsy. After sitting there for a few minutes I noticed two negatives with our table choice. The first was that there were no fans anywhere near us. It was hot. The second issue was that each time anyone walked behind my chair and stepped on the stone paver supporting one of the legs, it rocked my chair. At first I thought the servers kept kicking my chair leg, but they were actually raising the paver each time they put weight on it. My only other issue is the chairs. They are so reclined, it is uncomfortable. It’s not possible to sit up for long periods of time. If you lean back in the chairs, it’s almost in a sleeping position. They are not the type of chairs that encourage relaxed, lengthy dining.

The Bar

We were in no rush and wanted to enjoy our surroundings, so we ordered drinks first. Their wine by the glass offerings were limited, but they do offer many craft cocktails. I started with PS It’s a Champagne Cocktail. It consisted of Bloom Gin, Maraschino, Sparkling Rose and Tarragon. At $15. I would not order it again. It was not my favorite drink and it was really small for the price.

I moved on to Stoneburn Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Wines by the glass are offered in 6 ounce or 9 ounce pours. This was a much better choice over the champagne cocktail.

{During the summer, bottles of wine under $99. are half price on Thursdays.}

The Menu

The menus were beautifully leather bound with silver ring clips. Each night, the fish and shellfish selection varies. Diners can see their choices on a skinny, long retro-looking clipboard. The items that are being offered simply have a check mark next to them. I mainly eat a vegan diet, but on occasion I enjoy seafood. When I looked at the menu online, I noticed they had scallops and halibut. For me that was huge, since I only eat about four types of seafood/shellfish. Their website did say to call and see what was fresh that day, but I figured I had a chance they would be offering at least the scallops, so I did not call ahead. Good thing I am not a gambler, because my bet didn’t pay off. They had no shellfish and only three fresh fish options: none that I like. So, I was on to Plan B – a vegetable plate. This is when I began to question if this restaurant was going to make my list of favorites in Naples.

On the menu they have a steamed vegetable plate with a champagne lemon vinaigrette. I have eaten a vegan diet for years. There are many exciting options and a steamed vegetable plate with salad dressing is not one of them. I instead requested the chef make a entree-sized plate from the vegetable side selections. It was nothing out of the ordinary. All four of the items were offered as side dishes on the menu. They were priced at $12 – $14 each. Clearly, I did not want a full portion of each, as they are meant to share among 2-3 people. I was met with confusion, and told that I could order the steamed vegetables on the menu. When I told him I didn’t want that, he said, “I don’t think they will do that, but since it’s not busy tonight I will ask.” Why say that to a customer? If you don’t know if the chef will accommodate, why not ask first and not give the customer a negative response? I told our server which four vegetables I would like. He never came back to tell me, as I expected, that my request was not a problem. The chef, did manage to put together my dinner, almost. Instead of gratin brussels sprouts I was given shaved, steamed, plain sprouts. Not what I asked for, but the other three choices were terrific.

Second Visit: I ordered the same vegetable plate. It was wonderful, and I was not met with any resistance. Christina cheerfully took my order even repeating it to make sure she was getting it right. It was just as good the second time around.

Continental | Gramercy Social | Sonja Pound

Customer Service

I LOVE dining out. Who doesn’t love to be taken care of? For me, nearly as important as the food, is the customer service. I have been to many restaurants with amazing food, but somehow it does not taste as good if the service is sub par. Have you ever been a regular at a restaurant and requested the same amazing server each time? Now, what happens if that server is not there? Is your experience the same? Typically, I do not have the same experience when my usual server is not there.

While our server often seemed distracted, he heard me mention to my husband that I was hot, and probably noticed that my daughter and I both took off a layer. He asked if we were warm and offered to bring out a fan. That was HUGE customer service points in my book. I don’t fully enjoy a meal or the experience if I am dealing with weather extremes.

As I mentioned above, I was not impressed when he was not happy to accommodate my food request. But, I give him points again for making it right. I asked him why the brussels sprouts were plain instead of the gratin version, he said he assumed that was what I wanted. Not sure where he got that from, but he did bring out the correct version without my having to ask.

In general, I felt that the staff was not attentive. I have some favorite places to dine that are made even more amazing because of their servers. I appreciate when a server tries to connect with me by being friendly and asking questions and making small talk. That did not happen with our server. Sadly, at The Continental, our server detracted from our experience.

When we finished our meals, two people came to clear our plates. I told them I would like to take home the remaining vegetables. They never returned with them.

Second Visit: This time service was much friendlier and attentive. Enrique and Christina, were our servers. They were both welcoming and accommodating. I dined with my 13 year old son. We began at a table inside. He was cold so we moved outside. Then he was being bitten by bugs, so we went back inside. Each time we requested to move they were wonderful. Enrique even brought out a fan in hopes that the bugs would be displaced and leave my son’s legs alone. When that didn’t work, he moved us inside.

The only issue I had this visit was my check. First time around the wine was not discounted. It was half off, but I was charged $48. I told Christina and she changed it. Then I noticed that the vegetable entree was being charged as individual sides, at $12-$14 each. Adding up the four sides I had made a vegetable plate $50! My son had a filet mignon and it was $38. Vegetables for $50? I was shocked. When I left, I spoke with Heinz and Igor. Heinz is the manager. He accepted responsibility for the billing error. He said that their system requires it to be added as full priced items and then he has to go in and discount. He said he forgot. Thank goodness. They were good, but not $50 good. Heinz did adjust my bill. In all, there were three mistakes on my check. Look at your bill before you leave.

  • I was overcharged 50% for a bottle of wine
  • I was overcharged for my vegetable plate
  • I was charged for an additional bottle of wine ($52) that I did not order or drink

The Social 4-1-1

When I sat down and was first greeted by our server I asked him what The Continental’s Instagram user name was. He looked puzzled and said he didn’t know. The only thing he did know was that is was not simply The Continental, because there were too many businesses with that name. He asked another employee and was met with the same quizzical look. I decided it would be easier to hunt down their user name myself. For any business with a physical location it is so important to use social to their full advantage. Don’t you want people to find you? Don’t you want people to share with their hundreds of friends? It’s free advertising and word of mouth recommendations are social proof.

I was surprised at their lack of social. Each week I receive an email from D’Amico Family Restaurants. Usually it’s a SpeakEasy Code that offers a discount on craft drinks. I have also received emails thanking me for visiting their restaurant. So, why is social so invisible? It’s the easiest detail to put your social user names on your menu. Have you noticed that 90% of diners don’t sit and talk to each other – they are on their devices. This is the perfect opportunity for your diners to share your business with friends. And, why not encourage selfies? How about a contest? Ask followers to tag themselves in a photo while dining and enter them in a contest. I know D’Amico has done this in the past. But, I found it completely by accident. Let your customers know and encourage them to participate.

Here’s a blog post I wrote about how to be a more social business.

After dining at The Continental twice, I posted several images on Instagram. I give them huge credit for paying attention to their tags. Each time I have posted, my image is either liked or commented on by D’Amico Partners. It’s nice to know that they are paying attention to their customers.

Outside vs. Inside Dining

The first time I dined at The Continental I sat outside. That is always my first choice when the weather is cooperating. Their outdoor dining is a beautiful courtyard that made me feel like I was sitting in a delightful cafe in Europe. There is so much to look at; from the fountain, trees with vintage lights wrapped around their limbs contrasting with bright purple bougainvilia, the eclectic collection of tables and chairs and the band entertaining diners, nicely positioned under one of the tents. Why would anyone choose to sit inside? Here’s your answer.

Second Visit: The second time I dined at The Continental, I sat inside. I wanted to compare the experience inside versus the courtyard. The interior design is stunning. I LOVE the room with the large bull painting. It’s dark, but not steak house dark. It’s small, but not suffocating. It is the perfect mix of cozy, intimate and artsy. The leather chairs are so much more comfortable than the faux wicker outdoor chairs. In this room it’s possible for the doors to pocket in and then diners are inside, but get the benefit of hearing the band and feeling connected to the courtyard.

Details, Details…

Continental | Gramercy Social | Sonja Pound


If you plan to visit here’s their info:

Address: 1205 Third Street South Naples, Florida

Phone: 239.659.0007

They are also on OpenTable.


Have you been to The Continental? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below, and don’t forget to share this with friends that love to dine out.

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
Branding Fail: 3 Lessons

Branding Fail: 3 Lessons

Blog business tip Customer Service

What is branding? Does it matter? Is there an emotional connection that makes people want to do business with you because of your brand? According to businessdictionary.com, by definition, branding is,

“the process involved in creating an unique name and image for the product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.”

Have you ever done business with a company because you liked their logo, commercial or marketing materials? I have and what a mistake! The good news is, you can learn from my experience. Don’t let great branding fool you. Take the time to unwrap the packaging to see what’s inside. Here’s what happened when I followed great branding without finding out what was on the inside.

I had just moved to Florida and needed a safe deposit box. In order to get one I had to open a basic checking or savings account. I had many choices including national banks and a few local ones. I know this is strange, but I chose a bank based on how I felt driving by them. I had many choices including PNC, Bank of America, Iberia, Mutual of Omaha, SunTrust, Chase, Wells Fargo and Fifth Third. Having a design background, I tend to navigate towards things I find visually pleasing or interesting. Boy, was that the wrong way to choose this time.

I chose Chase to open a basic checking account and to rent a safe deposit box. I chose them because I found their buildings, logo and interior relaxing. I’ve been in some banks and find them to be stressful. Chase branding is a soothing blue, gently backlit with easy to identify logo. In my attempt to learn where things were in my new town, it was important that I easily find branches. Their buildings and logo is easily recognizable even when driving down the highway. Sadly, when I physically entered a branch it was anything but relaxing and soothing.

I went into my closest branch and was in for a surprise. The private banking person that greeted me was pleasant and seemed to enjoy his job. Then the assault began. I was given the third degree;

  • How much money do I have in my current savings accounts?
  • How much money do I have in my current checking accounts?
  • Do I have a mortgage or did I pay cash for my house?
  • Do I have investment accounts?
  • How much money do I have invested?
  • What company do I use for investments?
  • Are my investments stocks, money markets…?
  • How much money do I make annually?
  • Do I own a business? How many employees do I have? Do I have a business account?
  • Do I plan to transfer my accounts to Florida?
  • What is my income range?

I was so insulted and enraged. I was raised to never ask about money. I never knew how much money my parents made, spent or invested. It was a personal matter, not to be discussed with anyone. I told the agent that I found his line of questions unwarranted and intrusive. His response was he was “getting to know me”. I said, absolutely not. You are trying to gather as much information about me and my finances so you can try and sell me other services. The things you are asking are simply none of your business and have NOTHING to do with opening a basic checking account.

Here’s what you can learn as a business owner;

Lesson One:

Treat your customers as humans, not as dollar signs and commissions. Nobody wants to deal with the stereotypical “used car salesperson”. People want to be listened to, understood and valued. It’s not about pressuring a customer into a purchase. That might get you a quick sale, but won’t get you a long term customer that refers you to others. 

Lesson Two:

There is a very distinct line between being interested in getting to know your customers and being intrusive. Who wants to feel violated after a conversation? I’m jumping up and down raising my hand, NOT ME, NOT ME! I’m sure you’re with me on this one. Having a conversation without motive is one way to do it. If you are constantly thinking about gathering information for the sake of a sale, it’s not natural and your customers will know.

Lesson Three:

Relationships take time. They are built on trust, consistent service and treatment. I really appreciate when I walk into a business and feel good. I want to be acknowledged, taken care of and appreciated. How great do you feel when you walk in and people know your name? It makes me think of Cheers, when everyone would yell “Norm” as he entered the bar. Don’t we all want the feel that everyone knows our name?

As a customer it’s important to always remember that you have a choice. If one company is difficult to deal with, then move on to a business that will appreciate you as a human and treat you the right way. Do not accept poor customer service – just move on to another business. Don’t let their branding fool you. As I’m sure we’ve all experienced, just because the book cover is beautifully designed doesn’t necessarily mean the contents are worth reading. 

Have you experienced any businesses that cross the line? If so, how did you deal with them? As a business owner, how do you build relationships?

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
Honesty is the Best Policy

Honesty is the Best Policy

Blog business tip Customer Service

As our parents and teachers taught us growing up, honesty is the best policy. That doesn’t change as we get older and run a business. Setting clear expectations for your customers is key to a thriving business. Be up front and honest with customers and potential customers. In the long run, it will save your reputation and earn you repeat and referral business.

I was prompted to write this post after a recent interaction with a consignment furniture store. As you know, I moved to Florida from New Jersey. When I moved, I sold most of my furniture while still in New Jersey. Once I purchased a home in Florida, I had some items that I needed to get rid of. That is when I began to visit consignment stores in the area. I probably went to eight stores. I wanted to see which ones carried the type and quality of furniture I was looking to sell. I decided to consign my items with a store in Bonita Springs. I talked at length with the owners and even bought some of their daughter’s artwork for my new home. I felt good about doing business with them.

I arranged, at my expense, to have two items delivered to their store. I was consigning a large television cabinet and a bedroom dresser. Prior to signing the contract they told me the television cabinet would be offered for $2,000 and the dresser for $800. Once they sold, I would receive a check for 50% of that amount.

Imagine how shocked I was to receive a check when the television cabinet sold, for ONLY $375! I was expecting $1,000. Keep in mind that I paid 100% of the delivery fee to get my items to the store. I ended up making only $100, once I factored in the delivery fee. When I questioned the store about what I received, I was simply told that they had an offer they could not refuse. Did it ever occur to them to call me, their client? Perhaps they could have asked me if it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

When I spoke with the recommended delivery company they told me it would take no more than an hour and would cost $75. They failed to mention that I had to pay for drive time and even if they only went 5 minutes over the hour, I would be charged for another 30 minutes! In the end, I was charged $275!

I can’t even begin to tell you how shocked I was. How do people do business like this? Do they feel good about ripping people off? I really felt like both companies were masters at “bait and switch” tactics. In the end, I was angry, will never recommend them to anyone and will, of course, not do business with them again. I would have been further ahead if I had donated the items and taken a tax credit.

Here’s what you can learn from their dishonesty;

1. Set clear expectations from the beginning.

Do you expect to complete their project in a month or six months? Be upfront. Do you need to bring in a consultant or additional team members to work on their job? I would much rather over-deliver than disappoint a client. This is easily done when both parties understand and agree on exactly what the expectations are.

2. Be honest.

Not all customers or clients will be a great fit. Perhaps it’s a personality difference, pricing issue or geographic concern. If you feel that you are not the right person for the job, tell them. This is a great opportunity to refer business to a colleague or friend.

3. Know Your Business.

In order for you to quote accurately, you need to understand your business. How much time will the project take? Will you have to pay team members, expenses or travel? Be transparent with your customers and potential customers.

Have you experienced a dishonest business? How did you handle it? What advice would you offer to businesses? What about to people dealing with a dishonest business?

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
American Express Travel Glitch

American Express Travel Glitch

Blog Customer Service travel

You won’t believe what happened when I booked a vacation through American Express Travel! American Express is a credit card that is supposed to make my life easier. As a Platinum cardholder, I am supposed to receive many membership perks that help my business be more productive and organized. As credit cards go, it is expensive to have one. I pay $300 per year for the privilege of my two cards. After a frustrating week with American Express Travel, I was just on their website and had to laugh at their slogan.

Wherever the journey takes you, let Membership be there.

I have been a loyal American Express cardholder for six years. All of my business and personal charges go solely on American Express. That is until now. I often blog about travel and customer service details. I pay attention and appreciate great customer service. I am shocked and disappointed at the sub-par customer service provided by American Express Travel. Here’s what happened and how American Express membership did not take me on my journey, as their slogan suggests.

February 2nd:

I booked a vacation to Cancun for the beginning of April. Through American Express Travel website I booked a hotel and airfare. I completed the process and was looking forward to my family vacation.

March 22nd:

I thought it was strange that I hadn’t received any emails from American Express Travel about my upcoming vacation. I logged into my account and looked under My Trips tab to find out that I had NO trip booked! I immediately called an agent, and was met with many questions and little solutions. My agent, Matthew, said there was a glitch in the system and my booking did not complete. He could see a $2.00 charge that day. That is apparently standard for American Express travel to test the card, prior to charging the entire vacation. I asked how American Express Travel was going to fix the problem. I was simply told to rebook another vacation. That’s great, except that with a little more than two weeks to go before departure and it’s spring break – there were few options. To rebook the same vacation it would have cost me 150% more! When I booked in February hotel and airfare totaled around $10,200. Now for just the rooms it was $25,000!

Sonja Pound | Gramercy Social | American Express TravelMarch 23rd:

Most of this day I spent searching for another vacation. I tried Nevis, St. Thomas, Anguilla, Cancun, Antigua, Aruba, Grand Cayman and several places in California. I also spoke with an agent, Corliss, at American Express Travel. She was so pleasant and tried to help, but there was nothing available. I was transferred to an Online Travel Technical supervisor, Tracy. She wanted to argue with me. Everything I said was met with an excuse. In the end, I was told that if I booked with an iPad, other Apple product or was using Safari that is the reason my booking failed. I did book using a Macbook Pro, but via Google Chrome. On my end, there were no error messages and no reason to believe the booking did not complete. I asked Tracy why there was not a failsafe in place to alert American Express if there is a $2.00 charge and the subsequent charge does not complete. Her reply was abrupt and unpleasant. She told me that it is not something American Express does. End of story. She clearly was not interested in making their error right, instead she wanted to blame me and Apple products.

March 24th:

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with another supervisor, Charlotte. {yes, I’m being sarcastic} She said she was able to see my original vacation and would find me something comparable. She offered me JW Marriott or Zoetry, both in Cancun. Not to be difficult, but if I originally booked a Ritz Carlton, why would I now choose a Marriott? I did look at each property on Trip Advisor and neither are places I would be willing to stay at – especially for $12,000! I was told by Charlotte that Zoetry is very exclusive and was offering a special where I could book two rooms for $12,000 when normally one room is that price. There is a reason why, at this stage in the spring break game, this place has availability. Several Trip Advisor traveler photos showed mold on curtains and bedding. It looked awful.

March 25th:

Charlotte was supposed to call be back last night and never did. I asked her for an extension so I could easily reach her. She refused to give me one. She instead told me to call the 800-number and ask for Supervisor Charlotte. What fun! When I called the 800-number, it took agents nearly 15 minutes to figure out where to find Supervisor Charlotte. Once they found her – she was busy! So, I started over with another supervisor named Dustin. He was helpful and was able to rebuild my original vacation at the Ritz Carlton in Cancun. We spent about 30 minutes going through the details of the rooms and flights. He read me a novel of disclaimers and I authorized the booking. THE BOOKING FAILED! I wanted to scream! We then moved on to the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman. Again, we went through rooms, flights and disclaimers. Another 30 minutes of my day wasted. THE BOOKING FAILED!

My Request:

I simply wanted American Express Travel to make it right. Their system had a glitch that should not become my problem. They tried to rebook a vacation for us at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman, but with all four of us in one room. That is not what we booked originally. Our kids are 15 and 13 and a bit too tall for rollaways and sleep sofas. The room they wanted us in was super small and would not have been comfortable – especially at nearly $12,000. Here is what I requested;

  1. American Express Travel absorb the cost of the additional room -or-
  2. American Express Travel issue bonus miles for all of our wasted time and trouble

They refused to do anything. As a cardholder that spends a lot of money per month, I expected more from American Express. I expected great customer service and for them to make it right. Simple. Just fix the error and book me a vacation comparable to what I originally booked. I wasn’t asking for a free vacation, a discounted hotel or for them to do anything crazy. I just wanted them to book a vacation for my family – without any GLITCHES!

In the end we did get an email offering a $100 credit and an apology. What an insult! I booked a vacation through a travel agent and we are set to visit Aruba for our spring break, with no help from American Express Travel. I am using our 1,000,000 miles to pay for this vacation and have cut up our cards and plan to cancel our account.

American Express, you have lost a loyal customer.

What does this mean to your business and what can you learn?

Here are three lessons;

Listen to your custoGramercy Social | Sonja Poundmers.

If your customer has a problem with your business, chances are they are not the only ones. Listen and learn. There is always room for improvement in any business. Take the opportunity to improve and grow. Your customers will appreciate it.

 

Have a system in2 place to deal with any errors.

Mistakes happen, it’s part of being human. What is also part of being human is fixing mistakes. Own up to them and make it right.

 

 

3 copyValue your customers.

Treat your customers like they matter. If you make a commitment to return a call, gather information or anything else – do it! Your business and reputation depends on it.

 

 

Has your business faced any customer service issues? If so, how did you deal with them? As a customer, have you experienced stellar customer service in the face of a issue? How did the company make it right?

Thanks Sonja

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
Customer Service: Silence Isn’t Golden

Customer Service: Silence Isn’t Golden

Blog Customer Service

Would you like to grow your business? Would you appreciate more loyal customers? Does your reputation matter? If you can answer yes to some or all of these questions, here’s my greatest piece of advice. Silence is not golden! No, really. As a customer or potential customer, do not make it a chore to contact your business. Do not make people think their messages are falling into a black hole – never to be returned or acknowledged.

This post was prompted by a recent experience with a mobile groomer in Naples. I spoke with her in August, but I was outside of her grooming area. I just moved so I thought I would try her again. I called. I emailed. I even Facebook messaged.

SILENCE.

When I spoke with the owner in August she was very pleasant and even referred me to another groomer that did work in my area. Has customer service fallen off of her to do list? I don’t get it. As a business owner, especially in a smaller town, it should be at the top of your list. In the last week alone, I have had three people ask me about groomers. Had she bothered to call me back, email me or reply to my Facebook message, I probably would have passed along her contact information. But, who recommends someone that can’t respond to a request for service? Even if a business is not taking new clients, it’s simple to either state that in your voicemail greeting or simply take 30 seconds to return a call. It’s really not much of an effort to call someone and thank them for thinking of your business, but explain that you are not taking new clients.

What can you learn from this? Here are five simple takeaways.

1. Do Not Ignore People.

Everyone likes to be heard. To have a voice and be recognized is a basic rule of connecting with others. Yes, it’s easier to ignore people, especially on social media. But, that is not a way to run a business.

2. Dedicate Time.

Schedule time in your day to respond to people. Return voicemails, emails and comment and like on your social media pages. Believe it or not, it takes very little time and can have a huge return. Put it on your calendar for 30 minutes each day. Set a timer and only work on responses.

3. Be Helpful.

The first time I spoke with this non-responsive groomer, she referred me to someone else because she was not in my area. Maintain a list of people that you would recommend. Be careful not to just add random businesses and people to your list. Only recommend  them if you would do business with them yourself.

4. Train Your Employees.

If you are not there do your employees know how to take over? Do you have standard responses, greetings and guidelines? If yes, do you regularly review them with your employees? How would your employees handle a customer service issue when you are not there to manage? Would you still have a customer or would their responses lose you business?

5. Consider the Future.

Ask them for their contact information, mainly name and email. Who knows what your business future might bring? You might hire ten new employees and all of a sudden wish you hadn’t turned away business a few months ago. This is the perfect opportunity to begin forming a relationship with potential clients.

Bonus Tip:

Ask your customers how you are doing. Don’t settle for fine or ok. Ask the right questions to get answers that can help you learn and improve. Be honest when you ask. Consider, “I am working to improve my business so my customers have a better experience. What would you change? What do you appreciate about my business? I would value your honest feedback.” Be an active listener. When they are finished, even if you do not agree with what they said, genuinely thank them for sharing.

I offer a service to business owners where review their business from a customer service perspective. I visit as an undercover customer. I talk with employees, shop, review any online media and then discuss my experience with the owner. Contact me if you are interested in how your customers feel when interacting with your business.

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.
Choosing a Business: How Do You Decide?

Choosing a Business: How Do You Decide?

Blog business Customer Service

How do you choose a business to do business with? I recently moved from the Philadelphia area where I had lived for nearly 20 years. Moving to a completely new area, I started thinking about how I was going to choose whom to do business with. I had a huge list of services and products that I needed and very few word-of-mouth referrals. So, I began searching for; general practitioners, pediatrician, dentist, orthodontist, veterinarian, dog groomer, dog walker, hair salon, restaurants, electrician, home security contractor, plumber, painter and more.

It was a bit overwhelming at first. I wasn’t going to just pick a random business and give it a go. I don’t like to waste time or money, so knowing I was choosing the right business was important. 

This made me think about how I have chosen a business in the past and how I would go about it now in my new location.

Here are five ways to choose a business;

Referral. In my opinion this is often the most reliable and easiest way to find a great business. When I moved to Florida, a friend already living in the area took the time to email me a list of all of the people and businesses that she relied on. This was a huge help. I printed the list and kept it handy. It also became easier as I met more people. It’s great to be able to ask a friend where she gets her hair done, who she calls for small household fixes, where to grocery shop and more. I have found that when someone comes across a reliable, friendly business they like to share their information. Certainly as a business this is your most valuable source of referrals.

Emotion. I am a visual person. There have been times when I really wanted to choose a business simply because I loved their logo or the design of their building or office. My husband recently asked me if I chose a new bank. My reply was that I really liked Chase because all of their branches had a nice, simple design, a great logo and a soothing blue color scheme. He’s very analytical and could care less what the place looks like as long as he is happy with their service. I on the other hand, really value excellent customer service and a business that makes me smile. I wouldn’t want to walk into an old bank branch that looked like it is stuck in the 80’s or that looks unclean. I want to walk in and smile and enjoy my surroundings, as long as it’s paired with friendly people and they value their customers.

Research. I had a friend years ago that would spend countless hours researching even seemingly simple choices like where to have dinner. For vacations I think it turned into nearly a full time job for her – checking all of the details of hotels, reading reviews, mapping the locations of all activities and establishing a timeline for each day. I’m not patient enough to do all of that, but it clearly works for some people. The problem I have with research, is that you can read all the reviews you want but you have no idea who these people are and if their idea of a great meal is the same as yours. Reviews don’t account for personal preferences, tastes, expectations and other demographics. On occasion, I do rely on Angie’s List to at least see if the contractor/service provider has great reviews of not only their work, but their professionalism. Do they show up on time? Do they complete job on schedule? Was their final bill close to their original estimate? Would reviewer hire them again?

Price. I think the old adage, “you get what you pay for” is often true. Certainly it’s appealing to find the lowest price for a product or service, but I value great customer service and great products so I don’t mind paying a bit more if I know I will be treated well and be happy with my purchase or service.

Location. Moving to a new town and not knowing where anything his makes it very appealing to just choose a business based on being able to find it. However, just because someone has a convenient location doesn’t mean they will be a business you want to frequent. Close is good, but if I need to drive for ten more minutes to have a better experience, then that’s what I am going to do.

How do you choose a business? Do you rely on social media or online reviews? Do you have any good or bad experiences to share?

If you own a business do you know how your customers feel while visiting? What about their complete experience? Will they return? Will they recommend you to their family and friends? Find out with an undercover customer review. If your business would benefit from an undercover customer visit, contact me.

Thanks Sonja

Social Media Manager ★ Second Opinion ★ Your Virtual Partner Let’s focus on what you need and how I can help. Whether it’s Facebook management, a review of your website, testing of a new product, critique of packaging and shipping, undercover customer visits or anything in between – let me know. My goal is to give you more time to focus on your business and clients, while I handle the rest.