Thursday, January 21, 2016

11 Tips for Retaining Customers: Treat them like Royalty to Maintain their Loyalty

If you struggle to keep customers on board with your brand -- don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Via a 2015 survey conducted by Constant Contact, retaining existing customers (40%) is one of the top 3 leading concerns among U.S. small business owners.

Regardless of your business’ industry, age, location or demographic, holding onto your customers is vital to your brand’s lifeline. Your customer base is the bread and butter of your bottom line. So what can you do? Treating them a little like family will go a long way. If you want loyalty, treat them like royalty. Can’t be too hard, right? Here are 11 tips for retaining customers.


Start with a firm handshake. This works both literally and figuratively. Whether meeting your customers (or prospective customers) in person or virtually, first impressions are critical. Strive to position your business in a positive space in his/her memory. Making a strong introduction will serve you well when it comes time for a customer’s future purchase decisions.


Make them feel at home. A welcome package or program is an essential piece of your relationship with a customer. An introductory phone call, email or visit demonstrates that the brand is personally invested in the customer. Offering a welcoming environment to your customer base will allow you to set expectations, provide policies and learn more about those supporting your business.


Don’t fade away. Competition is fierce in every market. Nurture your customers with periodic phone calls, visits and recognition. BBB’s Community Outreach Team is out in the field, connecting with Accredited Businesses in our service area. Our Specialists take this time to answer questions, update on BBB offerings and align a face with the brand. According to Strativity, frequency of interaction builds loyalty and advocacy: 87% daily, 64% weekly, 49% monthly and 33% few times/year. Staying in touch with your customers allows you to show appreciation for their support as well as keep your brand top-of-mind (and hopefully in front of your competitors). It also presents an opportunity for educating on product and service offerings.


Easy like Sunday morning. Make working with your business painless. Daunting processes, especially online, detract from the customer experience. Keep things easy to navigate. The same goes for when it comes time to renew a contract with your customer. The easier it is for the user to stay loyal, the more appealing it will be and the higher likelihood they’ll continue to choose you. Customers crave an effortless and efficient experience.


Customers are the real MVP. Keep your regulars happy by incorporating the art of personalization. Whether it’s an email, phone call or marketing materials -- do your best to customize their experience with your brand. Make your MVP’s feel like VIP’s. A small gesture like a birthday email with a discount or recognizing their business’ milestone will go a long way. Personal offers and recommendations based on their past participation or purchases show you listen to what your customer needs.


Make memories. Just because you make it simple to engage with your business, doesn’t mean it can’t also be memorable. What’s the first thing you’re likely to discuss after interacting with a customer service specialist? Were they nice, helpful, patient or the complete opposite? SDL conducted a global study across three generations and 9 countries and found once a customer experiences what they consider a major customer experience failure, 64% will stop recommending the organization, start looking for an alternative brand or actively disparage the company via word of mouth, social media or other online channels. Be remembered for the right reasons.


Be timely and reliable. As is true in any relationship, communication is key. A study organized by Aspect Software on consumers and their preferences regarding customer service revealed 76% of American shoppers view customer service as a "true test" of how much a brand values them. This means the pressure is on to not disappoint. Don’t panic. Communicate in a timely fashion when fielding inquiries and be accessible. If customers can’t find you to communicate with you, how can you hold up your end of the relationship?  Offer official hours for customer service and when your team can’t be available -- ensure that your website offers as much info as possible for troubleshooting when you go dark. Include FAQ’s and how-to’s. Building a dynamic with your customers that includes consistent and reliable communication will breed loyalty. This is equally important when a customer is unhappy. If and when a business receives a complaint via BBB, there is an opportunity for your business to efficiently resolve what might have only been a misunderstanding.

  

Show gratitude. It goes without saying that producing a quality product or service is imperative in order to keep people coming back. After you’ve made that stellar sale, it’s equally important to thank your customers for well, being a customer. Don’t assume your customers know how much they mean to you. You appreciate them, so why not tell them? And while you are at it -- ask them to tell you about their experience. Customer reviews can provide helpful feedback to help you get a jump on competition, learn about improvements needed and grow your relationship with the customer. And when you get that feedback -- especially if constructive -- don’t let it fall on deaf ears. Let customers know you heard their suggestions and invite them to try something new, different or improved. In some cases, a simple survey with your long term customers can be very eye opening.


Celebrate, good times -- c’mon. The more your customers feel like an MVP, the more likely they’ll be to continue supporting your business. Try reminding them with rewards. The small time and money you spend to reward your devotees will pale in contrast to the return you could see. Offer renewal and or referral programs. Show appreciation for your customers who recommend your product or service to family and friends with a discount or added perks. Better yet, if rewards -- like that 10% coupon you offer, could be shared -- 70% of consumers would shop more often and 45% would spend more!


Keep spinning, to keep winning. Continue to win over your customers by staying relevant. The Earth will keep spinning and so should your brand. In order to continue to offer a solution to a problem, you may very well need to evolve. Stay mindful of what the marketplace is dictating along with what you’re learning from your loyal customers and adjust your business plan as necessary. For example, 80% of Internet users own a smartphone. Is your business mobile-ready? Having a presence where your customers are puts you in a position to succeed. Similarly, offering convenience will always win. Today that means interacting on social media platforms. From NewsCred, 62% of millennials feel that online content drives their loyalty to a brand. And those millennials (ages 18-34)...they make up approximately 75 million of the U.S. population.


All hands on deck. When trying to keep customers on board, make sure your team is on board with the importance of customer satisfaction. Retention doesn’t start and stop with the customer service team alone. The value of your existing customers should be understood business-wide. On average, customer retention rates are 18% higher when employees are highly engaged in the retention program.   


We want to know -- how loyal are your customers? What programs or practices do you implement to keep your customers loyal to your brand? For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT. Meet Steph.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Giving Back: How Team BBB Makes a Difference

This time of year, it feels extra special to give more and take less! The holidays just have that effect on us. Some individuals also take the initiative to give back year round. Meet just a handful of BBB team members whose generosity is more than worthy of a “thank you!" In making the gift of kindness sound easy, they inspire us to do some good everyday.

AMY SCHRAM
BookPALS (Performing Artists for Literacy in Schools) is a signature children’s literacy program of the SAG-AFTRA Foundation designed to provide an opportunity for performers, gifted in the art of storytelling, to help develop a love of reading in children and give back to their local communities.

With teachers for parents, Amy has always loved school. In addition to her upbringing surrounded by educators, she has held roles in the field of education and performing arts including an elementary school, library. theatre camps and talent agencies. “Being able to give back to underprivileged children is a gift to me, just as much as it is for them.” Her favorite part of working with BookPALS is being in the classroom reading to the children -- seeing their faces light up when you walk in the room.

Make-A-Wish-Foundation’s mission is to grant the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength and joy.

Amy’s passion for the performing arts includes time spent with The Walt Disney World Company in Orlando, FL. It was during her time spent as a Disney employee that her heart was truly warmed by Make-A-Wish’s efforts.  As a performer she was able to see first hand the absolute magic that this experience creates for families. “To see the faces of not only the wish children light up, but their families as well, is something I will never forget. Being able to shine a bit of hope and help them enjoy happiness and respite from their daily medical routines, drives me to want to involve myself even more.” When Amy moved back to Massachusetts from Florida, she felt this organization was a great way to stay involved and spread a little ‘pixie dust ‘ outside of Disney!

Random Acts of Kindness In addition to regular volunteering with the above mentioned organizations, Amy used a recent vacation to demonstrate 30 Random Acts of Kindness. In celebration of her own 30th birthday, she made others feel special. On the trip to Disney World, she handed out stickers and jellybeans to children waiting in line, lollipops to toll booth attendants, and notebooks to "princesses" hoping for magical autographs from their favorites. Though some of Amy's 30 gestures remained anonymous, most of her efforts involved face-to-face interaction with both guests and park employees. All together it was a simple way to give a little and have it mean a lot.


JOAN SCHMITH
Bellingham High School Soccer Boosters is a parent-run, nonprofit group that provides support for the boys soccer program.

Joan has volunteered and served as Treasurer of the boosters for the past 5 years. She was motivated to get involved with the group in order to help make soccer a fun experience for her boys.  Joan’s favorite part of volunteering for the organization is "being able to provide the players with things that are outside the school's budget like warm-up jackets and hats, team bonding events, additional equipment, a banquet and awards."


ZINDA BRACKEN
Polar Plunge is the best day at the beach all year — and it’s in the middle of winter! Every year Special Olympics Massachusetts’ brrrravest supporters are “Freezin’ for a Reason” when they plunge into icy Atlantic waters. Plungers and Chickens (fundraisers who don’t take the plunge) compete for bragging rights in various team and individual fundraising categories, and are then treated to a big party on the beach with music, food, costume contests and more!

This year is Zinda’s third year doing the Polar Plunge for The Massachusetts Special Olympics, a cause for which she feels fortunate to be part of. Zinda is one of several BBB employees who “take the plunge” at one of 5 beaches in Massachusetts. Through the generosity of its participants and donors, Special Olympic athletes are not asked to pay for programs.

Keefe Tech Boosters is a nonprofit organization run by volunteers serving the communities of Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton and Natick, MA. The boosters raise funds for scholarships for students of Keefe Regional Technical School. The group's Indoor Snack Shack is open after school as well as during evening school classes and special events.

This is also Zinda’s third year with the boosters. During the football season, she is part of a team who run the Outdoor Snack Shack during the games. Though Zinda doesn’t have any children, her nephew attends Keefe Tech and she is a proud Alumni. Last year they raised an impressive $18,000 for scholarships, helped sports teams with their banquet and sweatshirts, bought a prom dress for a student who couldn't afford it, donated to 4 homeless students’ families and gave a gift to the teacher of the year. Zinda finds great reward in giving back to the students, “I am really glad I can help these kids out and I have seen how wonderful they are. They are respectful, caring and always take care of each other.”


DAN SCHMITH
Love of the Game runs sports programs that benefit individuals with disabilities. Their mission is to emulate the joys of being a collegiate athlete for those who wouldn't normally get that opportunity. With an emphasis on school spirit, the group provides an outlet for guests to connect, learn, and grow through on-campus sports clinics that are coached by student varsity and club athletes. Clinics are open to individuals with developmental disabilities ages 8+ and are held at the community recreation center on campus at the University of Massachusetts Lowell with tentative spring and summer events planned for Volleyball, Floor Hockey, Soccer and Baseball.

As a student at UMass Lowell, Dan entered an idea into the DifferenceMaker program. Half ‘Idea Hatcher’ and half ‘Shark Tank’, he formed a team around his concept and led it through the competition to win a few thousand dollars in funding. As founder of the program, Dan is involved in the entire process from setting up events to working directly with guests of the program.





Love of the Game’s first clinic took place in October 2015 featuring the Men's Riverhawk Varsity Basketball team who taught guests the game of basketball and made them feel included throughout the event. Dan’s inspiration for his program is his experience with Track & Field. After running at the high school level and currently a Division 1 runner for the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Dan felt athletics provided him with many benefits including mental, physical and emotional toughness, confidence, leadership and time management skills. “I decided that I owed it to life to pay these benefits forward and if I can do it in a very scalable way, all the better!” All eight of Dan’s LOTG teammates are not only athletes but most of them currently play or have played sports at the Division 1 level at their university and are now paying the benefits of sports forward. “Everyone involved in my program from the volunteers, to my co-workers, to the guests are very excited to be there. I get to work very enthusiastic people.”

In addition to running Love of the Game, Dan volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell in their athletics program.


Are you or your business considering involvement with a charity? Always do your research before you contribute your time or money to a cause. Visit Give.org for a nationwide list of charities and their reviews. BBB Wise Giving Alliance uses 20 standards to evaluate philanthropic organizations including finances and complaints. For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Apps that Deliver: 5 Marketing Professionals Share their Favorites

We’re all striving for that work/life balance. The struggle is real for most of us. We admit it. It can be tough to turn off work. We want to be the best we can be and find it hard to relax until we’ve tackled the total to-do list. If professionals can rely on something (or things) to help us simplify a busy lifestyle -- there’s a good chance it will be technology-based.

Whether it’s staying organized while offsite and on the go, or injecting personality into work from the palm of your hand -- being a modern day professional means getting on-board and online with apps for your smart device to remain pleased with your productivity. Everyone deserves time for family, friends and that pilates or crossfit class.


Members of our Communications and Marketing team weigh in on their favorite apps and why they consistently deliver.

Amy Schram, Senior Community Outreach Specialist
Fave: Google Calendar: time and event management
Why: It is literally my whole life. I have anywhere from 10 - 15 places each day that I need to be, often in different cities in different states. I am able to not only save and reference the address of each location but contact names, phone numbers, links to relevant websites and details on each event as well. I could not do my job without it!

Jaime Slatt, Community Outreach Specialist
Fave: Waze: real-time map with re-routing functionality
Why: I actually do not know what I would do without it, especially as someone who is on the road on a daily basis visiting with businesses in BBB’s service area. Not only does it alert me to delays on my route, it updates me with opportunities to avoid the issues that crop up between me and my destination. It is the best traffic app out there, in my opinion.

Paula Fleming, Vice President of Communications and Marketing

Fave: Google Drive: file storage accessible from any of your devices
Why: It allows me to work on the go. I can edit, share and review files with the team. Drive is very user friendly from a handheld device and documents can be worked on simultaneously with a colleague. In addition, edits are made quickly and automatically.

Rachel Gelb, Communications and Marketing Manager

Fave: Giffage: gifs literally at your fingertips
Why: The app allows you to send gifs right in a text message, using your own keyboard to search for them. You can see trending gifs and save your favorites. You can even make your own gifs and save them for later. It makes finding and using gifs effortless. In an increasingly gif-centric world, it’s a marketer’s dream.

Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate

Fave(s): Twitter and Pic Stitch: an online timeline and one-stop shop for photo editing
Why: If you can’t find me, check Twitter. It’s where I go for real-time news, how I stay up to speed on what other BBB’s are saying or doing and one of the main platforms for communication with BBB Accredited Businesses online. Pic Stitch and Twitter go hand-in-hand for my social media efforts. Since tweets including media are proven to perform better than those without, many of our BBB tweets will contain an image. In addition, our Instagram account is a mainstay for featuring snapshots from our Community Outreach team’s travels. Pic Stitch allows me to edit, embellish and create images for both social media accounts -- all in one app.

Do you have a favorite app? Do you use it for personal or professional reasons -- or maybe it’s one that allows you to balance the two? Let us know. Tweet us at @BostonBBB with the app and your “why” and we’ll retweet you! #FaveApp


For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and Linkedin.

Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

15 Ways for your Small Business to Save

Penny pinching for your business? It can be painful. Instead of getting frustrated, why not get frugal? Start by balancing your budget, separating your personal banking and business expense accounts and cleaning up your debt. There are many techniques for saving your business’s bottom line. Here are 15 ways you can implement simple changes and save.


Network (It)
  • Attend free and/or affordable workshops and events run by organizations like General Assembly to network with other small businesses and/or participate in ongoing education.
  • Host and/or co-host events with like-minded partners to deflect cost and get double the exposure for your brand and/or initiative.
  • Connect with your alma mater(s). Attend networking events that are often free for alumni. Offer to speak in front of alums and/or soon-to-be graduates on a topic in an area of your expertise.
  • Join or register your business with local organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, applicable trade associations and Better Business Bureau.


Reward Yourself
  • When applying for credit or gas cards, cash back or point-collecting programs will prove thrifty. Take annual fees into consideration but more often than not, these cards act like a VIP pass. Same holds true for hotel and airline loyalty programs. These accounts will not only present amenities but enable you to track spending activity and evaluate where your business spends the most.
  • Join a wholesale shopping club like Costco or BJ’s. Necessities like paper supplies and printer cartridges can be more affordable when purchased in bulk. If you do buy a membership, always request a business account. Remember, keep it separate from your personal one so you can track spending and how long supplies last in the office.


Staff and Space
  • Growing and established businesses alike struggle with the hiring process. Save money, management sweat equity and time by employing a temp agency or hiring independent contractors.
  • Take advantage of universities in your surrounding community. College and Graduate students are often eager to apply their newly-acquired skills with businesses who support their education endeavors and offer opportunities in their area of study.
  • Embrace the telecommuter. Avoid office space headaches, like shifting of employees desks and/or the need to expand physical space all together by allowing staff to go "virtual."
  • For younger small businesses and/or businesses without a physical office space, consider utilizing community workspaces like WeWork and WorkBar. A business can rent coworking space by the day and/or maintain a dedicated space as well as access conference rooms.
  • On the road 24/7? Plan out your trip for the most direct route AND one based on where you can find free wifi. Cafes, sandwich shops, etc. are pretty commonplace for offering wifi to its customers free of charge.


Tackle Tech
  • Could your business benefit from streamlining your technology needs? Like small businesses, Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT (BBB) is consistently faced with finding ways to be financially efficient. In 2014, BBB merged hardware and software applications onto one platform. This decision to streamline with Google proved to be a profitable venture. Converting the staff to universal devices eliminated the need for full-time IT support and improved confidence regarding security. BBB's technology guru, Lisa Ventura, said:


Not only are we greatly reducing IT issues, we have saved roughly $900 per seat by purchasing Chromeboxes versus computers with added software. With a staff of approximately 50 people, that savings really adds up.


  • Be willing to invest your time in free online tools as part of your business plan. The art of engaging with your customers and customers-to-be online - if executed well - can be very rewarding for lead generation, customer retention, and more. Keep in mind, online tools don’t run themselves. Carving out time to participate in forums on topics you can add value to as well as having an active presence on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, not only increase your Internet footprint but won’t cost much (if anything) to incorporate into your marketing efforts. Sound like a lot? Find out and evaluate how and where your customers interact and spend your online-time accordingly.
  • YouTube can be a gateway to new customers as well as an effective branding tool. Content and quality are key there (as is keeping most videos under 90 seconds). Everyday devices like an iPhone can be used as a legitimate recording tool. A focused YouTube account allows you to effortlessly cross-promote video content via your website and/or social media accounts and can serve as a 'priceless' component of your marketing budget. Cue the Mastercard commercials.
  • Make a habit of periodically circling back to service providers like Internet, cable and cell phone. There are often promotions available at the start of a new quarter or a credit you might qualify for, especially if you are a loyal client.

Let the saving begin!

Did you know that 7 out of 10 consumers prefer to do business with an Accredited Business? Learn how to become part of a community of trustworthy businesses. If your business is already Accredited, find out how you can update your business online for free with Google and BBB and make it easier for people to find you online. For more information you can trust, visit us at bbb.org/boston, like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.


Written by Stephanie Benz, Senior Social Media Associate for Better Business Bureau Serving E. Massachusetts, ME, RI & VT.