Improve Customer Service With Great Recommendations

December 9, 2008

A great way to improve customer service and encourage customers to come back to you, is to make useful recommendations.

Now I know some of you don’t like recommending additional products or services to your customers, as you worry it might seem like you’re trying to sell to them all the time. But that simply isn’t true.

Recommending good products, services, or articles, either in person, on your website, or by letter, phone or email, is one of the best ways to improve customer service. And if you don’t do it, you’re actually giving bad customer service, because your customers may have to rely on guesswork to get what they need and they could wind up making a bad choice.

Good Recommendations Not Only Improve Customer Service - They Can Be Profitable Too

Making good recommendations improves customer service and it can also be profitable. Until a few months ago, I rarely made any product recommendations on this blog. Then I would get emails from folk saying, they’d read an article of mine and went out and bought a particular product or book to find out more.

The trouble was, sometimes, those products sucked. So to avoid letting my readers buy worthless crap, I knew I had to make my own recommendations. Sometimes I receive a commission for those recommendations and sometimes I don’t. But people don’t mind you getting a commission if you recommend something that’s useful to them.

For example, I’ve mentioned the Amazon Associates Program before and pointed out that the commission they pay is low. And it is - you only get a few cents for each book you sell. But I added Amazon stores to my blog yesterday.

If you’ve read widely in your niche, it’s worth adding an Amazon store. They’re easy to put together and you may not make a fortune in commissions but you’ll be doing your customers a huge favour.

Folk who want to learn more about your particular niche will be able to make good book choices, if you make personal recommendations. For example, all the books in my writer’s book store. They’re all ones I’ve read and would recommend.

* The two Jesse Livermore books in the business section are for entertainment purposes only. They’re fascinating to read but you should not try to copy his investment methods.

You Can Improve Customer Service By Saving Your Customer Money

Would you rather improve customer service by saving your customer money, or avoid making recommendations altogether and risk your customers losing a whole heap of dough?

A few months ago, a reader emailed me to say they were having a business blog built, by some Joe Bloggs guy and it was costing them over £2000. Well it was too late for me to say anything, as it was almost complete. But Men with Pens could have customized an existing blog theme for less money and made a much better job. So, now, when I’m discussing a topic, I make sure I make good recommendations where I can, to stop my readers from getting ripped off.

Not Telling Customers About All The Products And Services You Offer Is Bad Customer Service

You should always keep in touch with your customers and make them aware of products and services you offer. It’s bad customer service if you don’t, as your customer may wind up using a mediocre competitor.

This happened to me a few years ago. I was telling a loyal customer about a service we offered. And she was disappointed, as she hadn’t been aware that we offered that service. So she used a competitor and she was disappointed with the results. So it’s definitely worthwhile making sure your customers know about every single service and product you offer.

Providing Links To Excellent Resources Will Keep Customers Coming Back To You

As well as recommending good products and services, you can instantly improve your customer service by providing links to excellent resources from your website. Your customer will love you if you link to helpful articles. And don’t forget, as well as linking out to other websites, it’s useful to provide a related reading list at the end of each post, with links to related articles on your own website too.

Improve Customer Service By Telling Folk When They Don’t Need Something

Don’t give recommendations just for the sake of it. You can also improve customer service by telling customers that they don’t need something. For example, a reader recently mentioned that she was considering buying a product to help her blog.

To me, the best product for setting up a blog and learning how to promote it is the 8 Week Power Blog Launch. But it soon became apparent that the customer was already working through one guide on how to blog. So I told her that she really didn’t need another one.

If your customer is considering buying something from you, or someone else and you don’t think it’s something they need, you’ll be providing good customer service if you point out that it won’t be useful to them.

Do you provide your customers with recommendations for products and services that you like? Do you use the recommendations of businesses that you know and trust? Please share in the comments section.

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Internet Presence: Do You Need One?

December 1, 2008

“We just need an Internet presence,” yet another business owner tells me. And I’m looking at their ineffective, one page website, trying to think of a nice way to tell them it sucks.

Too many business owners have this type of Internet presence. They only operate offline, so assume that a boring, ineffective page, with address and telephone number will do.

Is Having A Decent Website Really That Important?

Put it like this, if you don’t have a decent Internet presence and you have a business, you’re seriously screwing up your future. More and more business is being done online, as opposed to offline. And Credit Suisse estimate that by 2010, $263 billion per annum will be spent online.

Even when customers don’t actually buy directly online, you can bet that many of them do their research on the Internet, before making a decision. But if you have no internet presence, or a one page website, your business isn’t going to be much use to them.

Do People Actually Look For Your Type Of Business Online?

Whatever type of business you’re in, you can bet that folk will try to find it online. And if you don’t have a decent Internet presence, someone else will beat you to it.

Service businesses are at risk, because national web savvy call centres are taking work that could have been yours and making a hefty profit, by farming the work out to cheap subcontractors. And if you’re in retail, you could lose out, as online stores are able to charge a lot less than you, because they have fewer overheads.

A Mere Internet Presence Is Like Having An Empty Shop Window

Sticking one of those basic websites on the Internet, is like opening a store in the high street, putting your name and address in the window and leaving the doors locked. Would you be inspired to buy anything from that type of business? I know I wouldn’t.

So What Can You Do About Your Internet Presence

You have a few choices but, if you already have a basic Internet presence, you’d probably be better off ditching your original website designer. They most likely charged you a small fortune for something that took them 30 minutes to knock up.

If you don’t have the time, or skill to do the design yourself, find a decent website designer who specializes in something more than giving you a basic Internet presence. Men With Pens did a great job of customizing the design for this website and it didn’t cost the earth.

Do bear in mind that it’s not all about design though. If you suck at writing and you don’t have time to learn search engine optimization, you’ll need to find someone who can do that too. Also, you’ll need to market your website effectively. So the costs of outsourcing everything can mount up quickly.

But if you don’t have the budget to outsource it, building your own website isn’t that difficult. You don’t need to learn html, or anything too complicated, as there’s plenty of decent software that’s easy to use. Site Build it is an excellent choice for people who want to build a website for their offline business. It’s a comprehensive package that includes web hosting, domain name, search engine optimization, online marketing and everything else you’ll need.

Site Build it takes the headache out of building a website for your business and it’s a lot cheaper than outsourcing the whole thing. Also, Site Build It comes with a free action guide, which shows you what to do, every step of the way.

And here’s two excellent free books you can download, which have been written especially for offline business owners, who want to build a website for their business. Feel free to save them to your computer, print them out, or share them with friends.

The first is the Service Sellers Masters Course and it’s great for tradespeople, or folk who have a service business.

The second is the Webmaster Masters Course, which is brilliant if you have a business which sells products.

Have you built a website for your business before? What was the most challenging aspect? Would you recommend others to build their own website, or get a designer and outsource the content writing and SEO.

Or, are you thinking about building a business website? What are your biggest concerns? Please share in the comments section.

Related Resources

How To Build A Website
How To Choose Website Hosting
How To Get Free Internet Traffic
The Recipe: 26 Practical Resources For Starting An Internet Business
Internet Marketing - Are You Forgetting Something?
Internet Popularity - Are You Faking It?
Why Keeping Up With The Jones’s Is Bad For Business

Image Credit: Kevin Jarrett

Affiliate Commissions - Is Your Anti-Virus Eating Them?

November 29, 2008

If you use affiliate marketing on your website, or blog, your Anti-Virus software could be preventing you from getting affiliate commissions.

Over the last few days, three people have mentioned in emails that they bought products advertised on my blog. Trouble is, I didn’t receive affiliate commissions for any of them. The first couple of times it happened, I figured those people had previously clicked an ad on another site. But when I got the last email, I was a bit concerned, as it wasn’t an ad I’ve seen in many places.

I know three sales doesn’t sound like too much to worry about. But you’ve got to remember that only a tiny fraction of visitors to this website would ever email me and mention that they’d bought a product.

So, I did a bit of research and discovered your anti-virus software can actually block the tracking copies, used by some affiliate programs. And sure enough, when I checked mine, I discovered that McAfee was doing this.

I had no idea it was happening. I’m not particularly technically minded and I tend to install these things and leave them to get on with their job; without really knowing what they’re doing.

Now, I don’t know how to change the settings on other Anti-Virus software but on McAfee, here’s what I did:

Go into advanced menu, then go into Computers And Files.

Click configure. Then click real time scanning.

On Virus Protection Enabled, go into Advanced. Uncheck scan and remove tracking cookies, then click apply and ok.

Next click custom scan, then click scan and remove tracking cookies - click apply, then ok.

You also need to ensure that your browser enables cookies. For Firefox, go to Tools, Options, Privacy, then tick accept cookies and accept third party cookies.

For Internet explorer go into tools, internet options, privacy and change the settings to accept all cookies.

Problems like this can be prevented if you do your research properly. But it’s easy to read a whole heap of information and forget a lot of it. I’m now re-reading the Super Affiliate Handbook, to make sure I’m not making any more glaring errors.

If you use affiliate programs on your website or blog and haven’t read the Super Affiliate Handbook, I’d encourage you to do so. You could save yourself a lot of trouble, not to mention loss of affiliate commissions because of silly mistakes.

Have you lost affiliate commissions, due to anti-virus software, or other reasons? Do you have any other tips, or advice to share on protecting affiliate commissions?

Related Resources

How To Get Free Internet Traffic

Affiliate Commissions - Don’t Get Screwed
Become A Super Affiliate
Top 5 Affiliate Programs
Create A Profitable Viral Ebook
Making Money From A Blog - Mistakes To Avoid

Why You Should Never Charge Hourly Rates

November 17, 2008

I’m a firm believer that a service business should never charge hourly rates. And lately, I’ve heard a few business owners complain that they don’t want to charge hourly rates, but can’t see a way round it. There’s always a way.

Some Reason’s Why Your Business Shouldn’t Charge Hourly Rates

  • Your customer will constantly have their eye on you and the clock, in case you’re trying to spin things out and charge them more (if you’re a lawyer or accountant, they may have good reason).

  • Giving an hourly rate upfront encourages comparison shopping. You may not even have the opportunity to show your customer why you can offer more value than your competitors, if you offer an upfront hourly price.

  • If you charge hourly, folk will compare your hourly earnings to theirs and question whether you’re worth the cost.

  • If you do subcontract work for other businesses, most will want a price for the whole job, not hourly rates. They will be working within a budget too and they’ll want to know that a complete job will be done for a set price.

  • But What If You’re A Consultant: Can You Avoid Charging Hourly Rates?

  • What if you’re a coach, or consultant, or even a personal trainer? Your customers aren’t stupid. If you offer packages that include a particular amount of hours, they can easily figure out your hourly rates.

  • The best way to get round this is to offer additional products, services, or materials that can’t be measured by the hour, as part of the package.

  • What If You Offer Heaps Of Different Services? Doesn’t It Make Things More Complicated?

  • If you offer many different services, it can make things a little more complicated, if you don’t charge by the hour - especially if you have folk working for you. But remember, working a little harder and smarter will always put you ahead of the competition.

  • And a bit of initial hard work will pay off. All you need to do, is work out prices for each different service, put them all on a spreadsheet and give a copy to each member of staff.

Does your business charge hourly rates? Are you struggling to find a way round it? Do you use businesses that charge hourly rates, or do you prefer to pay fixed rates for particular packages?

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