It's difficult to run a successful business. There is no doubt about it. Those that have never tried to start a company and make it successful will never truly understand the intensity of the struggle. Being a small business owner has many challenges and sometimes we forget that it's the small things that make a huge difference. We're so busy managing suppliers, trying to keep customers happy and trying to find and retain good staff we seldom have the time to sit down and really refine our businesses. It's that refining of our business practices that elevates us from being a startup to a successful brand conscious business.
Your brand is everything. It's your livelihood and it's a representation of everything you stand for. By doing a few simple things you can ensure that your image is always professional.
Yes, I know. That sounds quite obvious doesn't it? The reality is that few businesses succeed with this simple task. There is nothing more annoying to a consumer when a company's phone just rings and rings. It's not that difficult to sort out either. Get a cheap answering machine and allow customers to leave messages. It's not ideal, but it sure beats not answering your phone at all. Businesses lose enormous amounts of potential revenue because they don't answer their phones. The excuse that they are short-staffed or too busy is nonsensical. They shouldn't be in business if they don't answer their phone. It's not just bad business, it's plain rude.
Similar to the phone problem. For some reason many businesses just don't respond to emails. Why is that? Don't they want customers? A quick reply to a customer to say that you have received their email is good manners. Not replying or even acknowledging that someone has sent you an email is rude.
People want to be able to get hold of you. How many times have you tried to get the contact details of a company you have communicated with just to find that they don't have any contact details on their emails. If you're a professional business, your job is to make it easier for customers to contact you, not more difficult. After the client has spent an hour trying to find your number they are already annoyed and irritated and not in a good frame of mind to do businesses.
These voicemail messages that just read the number you dialed is not ok for a professional business. If you're a teenager maybe, but not if you want to create a professional image. Insist that all of your employees have voicemail activated and have a professional voicemail message.
Whether you like it or not we live in a multicultural society. If we were in France you can get away with insisting on only speaking French, but we are not in France. Speak the language that you customer prefers, if you can. If you can't, then politely ask them if it's ok that you speak in your mother tongue. Being polite is just good manners.
Don't tell a customer that you will do something and then not do it. Don't make promises you can't keep. If you tell them that you will call them at 5pm, then call them at 5pm exactly. You are expecting them to spend money with you. Treat them with respect. They pay your salary after all.
We forget quickly that we are all consumers at the end of the day. These same companies that forget how important these issues are complain bitterly when another company does that to them. Fix you own house first and learn from your experiences with other businesses. Learn from those that get it right and learn from those that get it wrong.