Thursday, 18 April 2013

Plan To Prosper

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 18/4/2013 P.105

Preparation is key to succeeding in business, yet not enough is done on a regular bases when it comes to business planning. With so little time to work on the business, most business owners are only working in the business and in turn they lose sight of why they started in the first place. They often wonder why it’s not going to plan.  A very common reason is that there was no plan to begin with.  Many businesses start out as an idea, growing their commercial outings on a wing and a prayer without ever writing a business plan. These businesses, although they may do well, may never meet their true potential as they drive their business without knowing exactly where they are going. When you write a business plan for your future or current business you set precise intentions in place that allow you to track your progress and follow up on goals. You need to establish what's going to happen? When it’s going to happen? How it’s going to happen? And why should it happen?  In truth, you're really just expanding on the ideas in your head, putting them in logical form on paper and making a commitment to work hard on that idea. If you plan to succeed you need to write a business plan and plan to prosper. With so many businesses opening and closing today it’s very important to forecast your desired outcome and get it as near to a real estimate as possible. You need to know exactly where you intend to be with you business when entering the exciting and tough world of commerce, selling, buying, customers, lack of customers, profits and the reality of being responsible for others.
Your business plan is the foundation of your business that will give support and energy to your original idea. It will give you clarity on how you aim to grow the business, how many staff you intend to hire, what kind of assets you’ll need, how much capital you’ll want to raise, who you key customers will be, how you’ll serve them and why you want to be in business. You can use a business plan to grow your existing business and establish a strategy that will allow that plan to move forward at a measureable pace.
As your business grows you need to organise and plan in a professional and fast thinking manner; be strategic. When you think of a new business idea or if you simply wish to focus on your existing business use a plan to establish the right steps to take when starting. Think about what you need to do, what resources you will need, and what you expect to achieve. Develop a plan; don't do it on a wing and a prayer. Do it with the confidence of knowing every single angle has been covered and all foreseeable pitfalls have been accounted for. A business plan is of vital importance if you're going to start a business of any type. It is also an essential tool for established businesses that wish to grow and keep the business in great shape. Great businesses are dynamic; they change and grow. The company's original business plan needs to be revised, as new plans are made. Reassessing the business plan can also help you see what plans have been successfully accomplished, what parts of the plan need tweaking, or what plans should be stopped so that the energy of the company can be refocused on what is actually working. The business plan allows you to put your long term and short-term goals for your business at the best viewpoint so your can achieve attainable objectives and reach your desired outcome. It's not always the plan that’s important; it's the pre-planning, the planning, and re-planning, which all happens in a continuous loop that feeds into the flow of success.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Customer Service & Social Media

From the 'Drop the Monkey Business' column in The Galway Advertiser 04/4/2013 P.81

Many customers, especially younger people, don't want to sit on the phone with a company's customer service representative to get an issue resolved when they can post their questions or problems directly to the company’s Facebook page for all to see. With the increasing popularity of social media, more people are veering away from traditional ways of contacting businesses and using sites like Facebook and Twitter instead. Are you 100% providing customer service in the social media space?
Customers are now controlling where they will do business with you. Not long ago, the customer use to come to the shop to make a purchase. Things have changed and now it’s the shop that goes to the customer via online e-commerce and social media. How do you bring customer service and social media together? Nowadays, a lot of businesses are providing a more responsive customer service on the social media networks, as they know everybody is watching.  Consumers are making decisions every day based on social media interactions. Facebook and Twitter aren’t just for business brand exposure or product marketing.  These are more and more becoming two-way communication tools, just like you’d send an email or make a telephone call. Now the customer has another way to contact you and your business. Social media is fast becoming the channel of choice for customers who have issues or questions. The difference is that everybody can see your interaction, comment on it and have an opinion on what was once deem a private engagement between the business and the client. To provide a good service in this area you need to understand what customer service means to you and how you can apply your philosophy to the growing world of social media.

We all know and would say that the businesses we run and are involved in have some level of customer service. In fact, most business owners will claim to have customer service to some degree. From one extreme of you ‘call, we’ll put you on hold and we will never answer’ to the other extreme of ‘order today and get it yesterday’. Have you ever asked yourself if you deliver good customer service online? Have you ever measured it? Would you say you have systems in place that allow your customers to have great customer experiences when they interact with your business on the Internet. It doesn’t leave a great impression when a potential customer arrives at your social media site and sees that your profile picture isn’t very professional and that the last comment you answered was two weeks ago. People will perceive your level of customer service off-line by how you engage and respond online; therefore it’s important to cross over your level of customer service to your social media platforms. Why? So you can be everywhere your customer and potential customer is, so to give customer service. To be active where your customers are active, so you can engage and give customer service. To be a fly on the wall when your customers are talking about your business. Years ago, before the time of the internet a lot of businesses would have paid a lot of money to be a fly on the wall when customers were talking about them or their products outside the walls of the shop. Now you can do that with social media. You can create that space. It empowers you to be active in reaching out to customers and answer feedback, negative or positive. Customer service is about meeting expectations, engaging and communicating with customers wherever they are looking for you, be it online or off-line. Engage with your customers online in the same way that you would if they rang you or came to your store to make a purchase. There is nothing more frustrating than being in a queue that doesn’t move or phoning a number that doesn’t get answered. It’s no different online, so pimp up your social media sites and invite your customers to participate with you in these spaces. Get active and responsive to meet the expectations of your customers on social media.