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Manners maketh happy clients

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Manners maketh happy clients

When working with small businesses and talking about how to be more successful, we often stray into the world of Unique Selling Points (USPs) and often I hear people say 'we deliver exceptional customer service', or 'we exceed our clients' expectations'. 

My issue is that many small businesses say the same, so how do you walk your talk, so it becomes something clients experience every time you speak to or deliver to them?

 Looking back over years of being the client or customer, I believe 'old fashioned' manners are what makes us come back for more and recommend friends and colleagues to do the same.  A triple Michelin star chef will struggle to fill their restaurant if the staff are rude; likewise, the best accountants around will be kicking their heels during the last week of January if they don't impress and engage with their clients the other 51 weeks of the year.

It's easier to comment on customer service when we go to restaurants or are buying from a retail outlet. These are short transactional experiences and judging the attention we receive or, in some cases, lack of it is straight forward. Feedback is often requested after these types of interactions. More and more a shop assistant asks you to complete an online feedback form for the chance of winning a prize in a draw so the company can monitor customer service.

For many small businesses, the product is a service, likely to be a longer-term proposition and therefore, the client experience is ongoing.  Your service should be premium, five stars, top-notch as this is where we have the opportunity to wow. The tips below may seem obvious but how many times are you the customer and this is not how it goes:-

1. Contrary to belief, the customer is far from always right. However, getting defensive, needing to prove a point and being confrontational is not the best way to handle the situation. Showing respect, dealing with issues in a professional and empathetic manner and displaying dignity is a better alternative.

2. Understanding a clients personality, even at a basic level, will help you communicate successfully, they'll feel more assured, and the experience will be positive.  Please have a look at essential DISC profile traits to help you recognise personality types and how to communicate best with them. Practice recognising types in friends and family and experiment with how to manage conversations with them.  

3. Avoid getting over-friendly or too relaxed in the way you treat clients.  Address people appropriately using their title and surname or first name with permission. There are definite lines in the sand and boundaries that need identifying in a business relationship. The key is recognising and respecting them

4. Letting the customer speak and actively listening gives you the best opportunity to truly understand their needs and make sure you're fulfilling them. Ask how you can help them and use open questions to explore more. Avoid interrupting them or making assumptions about what they're about to say. Don't switch off and start thinking about other things - you might miss a key message from your client or prospective client. You can only demonstrate your ability to resolve an issue if you've heard and understood it in the first place.

5. Respect the clients time, opinion and experience. Their time is valuable, their opinion valid their experience potentially relevant and ignoring any one or all of these is the ultimate in bad manners and will make you a leader in the rudeness stakes. So avoid being late to an appointment, going off on tangents during the conversation or letting the meeting run over - listen to their opinion, explore it and explore compromises with solid reasons for doing so – discuss any relevant experience and how this could be beneficial.

6. Repeat back crucial points of a conversation to show you have listened and understood. As well as showing respect, this also allows you to make sure you have not only heard but understood correctly. If you don't know something, then go away and come back with the answer. Do not be tempted to guess at a solution or make it up; they'll see right through you and could feel you see them as a fool.

7. Be effusive and not disingenuous. Let the client know that you're delighted at the prospect of working together and starting the relationship, whether it's for the long term or just a short project or engagement. By the point of committing, you should both be equally excited and looking forward to it.

8. More than words… When face to face with clients remember that your body language also needs to be positive, friendly and respectful.  Sitting with your arms crossed, frequently glancing out the window or glazing over show a lack of manners. When sending emails, texts or other messages take 2 minutes to re-read, not just for mistakes but also for tone.  Messaging when your busy means the message might be brief, which can be perceived as offhand, uninterested or rude.

9. Follow up on everything you said you would and deliver everything you committed to as an absolute minimum. It's such bad manners to offer something and then not provide what you've said you would.

10. Avoid all distractions while with a client and give them your 100% attention. It's obvious to think of external causes such as phones but be mindful of your internal dialogue that allows your mind to wander off too.

11. If you make a mistake or there is an issue, admit the error as quickly as possible. Apologise and give your solution to resolving it as quickly and effectively as possible for the client.

12. Thank you should be your finale. It's basic manners in life and business and should never be, underestimated, overlooked ignored nor forgotten.

In a competitive market where you not only want to in clients but ensure you keep them over-delivering on manners is cost neutral, lifts everyone's spirits and often gives you an edge.

Small Business with Big Goals at your Service!

Small Business with Big Goals at your Service!

Many small business owners will have kicked off 2020 with some exciting and hopefully challenging goals. Did you title them ‘2020 vision’? Go on…we did!

Our chances of achieving business goals are better if we write them down and we’ll all have our preferred way. Mind maps – vision boards – SMART goals – goal setting apps – year planners – action lists – 90 day focussed sub goals. The great news is that there’s not a right or wrong way to set goals. The important thing is doing what works for you; set things you feel motivated by and will push you whilst remaining manageable. We should add here that if the word ‘goals’ turns you off, then replace it with something that excites you. Expectation - Dreams – Visions – Aspirations – Aims – Targets – Objectives.  Don’t use someone else’s word pick one for yourself that sits well with you. If you haven’t thought about what you want to achieve for your business this year then don’t stop reading; it’s definitely not too late! 

For some people, even as early as one month in, you will have fallen behind and not achieved everything you set out to do in January. The issue with this is not just that you’re now behind on your plan for 2020, and that you have some catching up to do, but more than your first month’s experience has not been positive and compelling.  You have mentally accepted that it’s ok not to commit yourself fully or worse that you are not capable of achieving what you set out to do. These negative thoughts can incite a feeding frenzy for our inner demons and then we have them to deal with too and at best get in our way going forward.

So what can we do about this whilst we still have the bulk of the year ahead of us…

Firstly, we’d encourage you to get yourself a buddy.  Choosing a buddy may not be a simple as it sounds as you need to think about these points: -

  • Is this someone I can be honest with?
  • Will they be committed to support me and not make it about them?
  • Do they have a vested interest in the outcome that might be an issue? (i.e. if it’s your partner they may be too worried about your income or hours your working to fully support you)
  • Will they hold me accountable and not let me wriggle off the hook?
  • Are they prepared to put the time aside to regularly check in with me as agreed?
  • Will they encourage me to celebrate my success too?

Support comes in many guises: - encouragement, empathy, inspiration, motivation and the ability to give you a reality check (aka a kick up the butt) when required. Try to find someone who will provide you with all of the above and some who you can accept their support without feeling anything negative towards them.

It may be that a reciprocal buddying arrangement is possible and this is very good as you can support the other person too.  A little caveat is to make sure that you both have equal time for giving and receiving support so that it doesn’t become one sided.

Once you have a buddy decide if you’re going to meet face-to-face, online via Skype, or similar, or by phone. Next set a date, time and duration for your buddy sessions. Finally discuss how you like to be buddied. If your buddy is too relaxed, you’ll get wriggle room, and let’s be honest we all love a bit of wiggle room. The flipside is that your buddy challenges too hard makes feel attacked leading to you become defensive and potentially losing motivation. 

A good buddy will support you without destroying you or letting you underachieve on what, let’s face it, you decided you wanted. They will question you to bring out your best. Here are some questions a buddy might ask during the month:--

  • This month you committed to…. (review each goal separately)
  • So far you have achieved…(be honest you’re only kidding yourself)
  • What is left to achieve….(be laser specific, nothing woolly)
  • What do you need to do….(list of specific achievable)
  • When will you do this by….(to the day or hour)
  • How will you feel when I feed when you have achieved this... (one word)

This check in will re-focus you and give you a step by step action plan for what else you need to do in order to achieve your goals and commitments for the month.

At the end of the month you should have another review. This part involves another key element in goal setting which is monitoring and measuring the results of your actions and activities to see what is working well and what you should be tweaking or changing all together as it’s not giving you the results you want.

 Again here are some questions a good buddy might ask:-

  • Did you achieve your goals last month?
  • What went well?
  • What didn’t go so well?
  • What could you have done differently?
  • What took me completely by surprise? (positively or negatively)
  • What do I need to do more of?
  • What do I need to do differently?
  • Overall how did the month make me feel?

I’d wish you good luck but luck doesn’t really come into it; so I’ll leave you with two of my favourite quotes, not sure who said them but I love them all the same…

After all is said and done – more is said than done!

Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most!

Part of the support you get at The Business Spa is focussed on your goals, buddies and accountability. If you’d like to come and meet our members and find out more then click here and choose a date to suit.

Stand Out from the Crowd

Stand Out from the Crowd

Most businesses are in a market place with others who offer the same/similar services and products. Attracting clients and customers to use you rather than a.n.other is the key to a healthy growing business.

By highlighting what makes a business, any business, stand out for you personally and why you’d use them above their competition can give us great insight into what we should be doing in our own businesses.

Grab a sheet of paper and think about some personal experiences you’ve had when you’d definitely be happy to make a recommendation. It might be a hotel you love, your favourite restaurant, the taxi firm you have on speed dial or it might be a service you’ve experienced and been blown away by.

Explore what you’ve jotted down.  You will find that most of the time it’s the experience and how it made you feel that is the notable factor, and rarely the cost.  The better the experience the less important cost becomes.

Now have a look at your product or service and think of a way or ways you might improve the service your clients receive. Even tiny improvements will positively improve the overall experience and therefore increase the chances of you standing out from the competition.

We can always learn from others and to have something that turns our customers into raving fans will ensure we have an edge in a competitive world. Don’t forget to ask them to rave about you publicly on social media and by doing recommendations too.

Employment law changes to be aware of as a small business

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Is your business affected by the changes in employment law?

We asked Rebecca Woolmington of HR Central to share her expertise in this field as we know it affects small businesses like us.

Upcoming employment law changes to be aware of as a small business and an employer of choice.

Some of the promises made in the Government’s Good Work Plan last year will strengthen workers rights in some areas. for you to retain your employees it will help to be aware of these common sense management and payment issues.

Here is a whistle stop tour of some of the proposed changes that may affect you as a small business owner.

businessspa2Right to reasonable notice of work schedules and compensation for cancelled shifts

Under new proposed rules that are still under consultation until October 2019, workers would be entitled to “reasonable” notice of their work schedule. What would be considered “reasonable” is as yet undefined, but the government has indicated that employers would incur a penalty if they fail to do this. For small business scheduling work there could be an additional cost to the business. 

If a worker’s shift or number of hours they are required to work are cut at the last minute the worker would be entitled to compensation, under a new rule referenced as the “one-sided flexibility”. The Government are considering what the level of compensation will be, but options currently being considered for the level of compensation awarded include: the amount the worker would have earned from the hours or shift; their national minimum wage rate multiplied by the number of hours cancelled; and a set multiple of their national minimum wage rate.

Worth ensuring that your contracts allow for your workers to carry out alternative tasks so if you don’t need them for the original work booked, you can use them elsewhere in the business. 

Phased returns for workers on sick leave.

Employees returning from a period of sickness absence will be entitled to a flexible, phased return to work, with payments made from a combination of statutory sick pay and their wages.

The Government will also fine organisations that do not pay staff the SSP they are owed. Treat your staff right, look after their well being and ensure that you pay them what they are due. It is a poor reflection that the Government feels it necessary to put these sanctions in place, but also good that those organisations who don’t/won’t pay will be called to task. Having transparency about phased returns to work will benefit the employee and the employer alike. Sickness absence can be crippling for a small business. 

Right to request workplace adjustments

Employees with health conditions will also be given the right to request workplace adjustments on health grounds. An organisation would have to demonstrate it has a legitimate business case for its decision if a request was refused. Ask your potential employees at interview what reasonable adjustments should be made, if any to accommodate their needs. 

Parental leave and pay

New and expectant mums, and employees who have adopted or who are partaking in shared parental leave, will soon have better protection against being made redundant until six months from the date they return to work. The redundancy protection period will also apply from the point they inform the employer they are pregnant.

The government has acknowledged shared parental leave works differently to maternity and adoption leave in that it offers more flexibility around when the leave can be taken. The government are considering this when designing how protections can be implemented.

Parents of babies in neonatal care could receive neonatal leave and pay for as long as their baby is in hospital. One of the final consultations discussed as part of Theresa May’s government is seeking views on whether the rights should be targeted at the parents who are most in need of the additional time off work, such as those whose children have spent a minimum of two weeks in hospital or are most seriously ill; the consultation is considering whether this right should be from their first day of employment or after a qualifying period. Payment terms are yet to be decided. 

Get to know your staff and be supportive of their personal situations, life balance and an understanding of your employee’s challenges outside of the workplace tends to generate loyalty.

The employment market is tough right now, be the employer of choice and treat your employees well from the moment they engage with you, this starts with the recruitment process. 

For more help with untangling your responsibilities as an employer, please do consider calling Rebecca at HR Central to talk about your HR challenges.

0118 324 2526/07968 787182 - HRCentral.co.uk - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

At the Business Spa, each month, we tackle many of the issues faced by small business owners – why not come along and experience our SMILE (Support – Motivation – Inspiration – Learning – Expertise) for yourself.

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Do you suffer from Comparisonitis?

comparisonitisRecently we were joined by the amazing Jenny Gordon of Jenuine Consulting Ltd who shared her experience of setting up and running a business with us. There were so many lightbulb moments and we’ve managed to capture a few that might help you too.

Heart Felt

Starting your business come from your heart and not because someone else said it’s a great idea. You may love doing something, a hobby perhaps ie for some home baking is wonderful and you might be brilliant at it – but would it for a living? You need to understand why you want to do something, what it will give you, does it unleash your passion – without this you will give up at times it’s tough – and they will happen.

Outsourcing

When we start a business there are a myriad of tasks to complete you may not have considered; sales – marketing – video – admin – bookkeeping – social Media to name a few. If you are not comfortable with these it will be like using your left hand if you’re righthanded, you can do it but it will take much longer than needed and will not be done as well as if you outsourced to an expert.

Ideal Client

For most new businesses the early days are the most difficult our excitability and adrenaline are easily diluted by the reality of the day to day. It’s so important to know who your ideal client is and to trust that there is enough business to go around. Knowing who you want to work with and focussing all your messaging and marketing activities towards attracting them is key. Try to avoid the broad-brush approach of I’d like introductions anyone…. as this is not specific enough and hard for others to understand and support you.
‘Yes’ person - Another trait of the new business owner is to try to please everyone which leads to a lack of self-confidence and value in what you do. Funny thing is once you stop and learn to say no the right business starts to flow. Knowing what you offer and the price you offer it at and being courageous enough to stick to it is the best way to grow your business.

comparisonitis2Comparisonitis

It’s the thing that stops us being who we can be because we are continually comparing ourselves to others. There will always be some one bigger, more out there, have a better website, already dealing with your ideal clients but this is also only in your opinion. The truth is we never really know how others are doing, we only see what see and it might not be the reality. Being a comparisonist wastes time, drains energy and feeds are mid with negativity. Be you and do it your way.

Perfection

Getting it right first time is rare, and perfection a myth. If you wait until something is perfect or till you have all the answers, you run the risk of not doing anything at all. Have a go and see what happens, create a first draft and try it out – then at least you are doing something and can improve as you go! So many successful people had a go, learned what didn’t work, made some tweaks and went again…Edison, J. K. Rowling, Richard Branson to name a tiny few.

Vulnerability

When you meet other businesses, particularly out networking, and ask how’s business the response is unlikely to be ‘bloody awful’, even if it is! This creates the illusion that business is booming but doesn’t tap into the amazing support that can be found in being part of a business group, something we know well at The Business Spa. Being able to admit when things are tough may feel like exposing a vulnerability, but everyone goes through tough times and like to be able to support others experiencing the same. Honesty is the only way to access the support, advice and help that will move you through a situation. Reserve this vulnerability for a safe space, a person or group of people who will allow you to be honest and genuinely want to help.

Accountability

Without a boss it can be easy to miss deadlines, motivate yourself to do the tasks you don’t enjoy or that are out of your comfort zone or generally be proactive. We can all find reasons but are they just excuses? Having accountability buddies to keep you on track will ensure deadlines are hit and goals achieved. Drifting is a dangerous pastime for a new business owner.
Spending time learning from others and working on your business not in it are both important for growth and success..

Our SMILE is contagious. Come and see for yourself!

If you would like to find out more, why not follow the link to book on to one of our next events...

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Get In Touch

The Business Spa
Sandford Gate
Eastpoint Business Park
Oxford, OX4 6LB

Tel: 07818 453105
Email: kate@businessspa.co.uk