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Five Tips to Keep Customers Happy This Summer

May 9, 2022

By: The Maine SBDC

Another busy summer is expected, providing both an opportunity and a challenge for small businesses across Maine. The ongoing labor shortage means that many businesses will again need to do more with less. Here you can find some basic customer service tips that can help businesses stand out. Click To Tweet

Start with Your Employees

Good customer service starts with you and your employees. Satisfied employees are more likely to provide better customer service, plus they are more likely to stick around. Retaining employees is not always an issue of pay; studies show that the workplace environment and culture can be just as important to employee morale.  Listening, responding, respecting, and supporting your employees is an excellent first step in delivering great customer service. Consider what perks you can offer to support your employees, whether it’s free coffee and bagels once a week or an end-of-summer bonus.
 

Get creative with your hiring.

Identify the most important traits you need employees to have and cast a wide net.  Often a cheery disposition and great attitude can outweigh experience; you can train a person how to clean a hotel room, but it’s really hard to change a personality.
 

Provide training on the key elements of customer service.

Maine’s Office of Tourism offers a free certification program called Welcome ME 2.0. In addition to training, establish guidelines that help regulate the conduct of your workers towards customers, management, and fellow workers. It is also important to identify behaviors that reflect your company’s culture and drive success.
 

Set Realistic Expectations

When working with fewer human resources, set realistic expectations. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to have customers and employees disappointed. Like last summer, you may need to make modifications to your business such as limiting hours or days open, simplifying product offerings, and/or cutting back on service offerings. With both staffing and product shortages, it is more important than ever to make sure you have alternative vendors and service providers lined up in case of emergencies.  If you can’t get products in from your usual suppliers, where else can you turn in a pinch?
 
As you are making these changes, communication is absolutely essential to ensuring your new and existing customers are satisfied. Communicate using the signage on your business, your website, your social media, and in-person conversations. Again, it’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than have unhappy customers.
 

Be Welcoming to All

Overcoming barriers to customer service and achieving a culture of inclusion begins with understanding the needs of the people you serve. Consider the perspective of your customer. Are your customers those with young families, aging couples, or disabilities? Does your business welcome them? Make sure you are able to provide accessible accommodations that make them feel comfortable. Removing these barriers will be a simple way to make the experience a good one.
 

Personalize the Experience

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you do, but they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
 
True service excellence makes the customer feel important, heard, and special. For repeat customers, try to remember their preferences and offer helpful information. For new customers, ask good questions, listen, and respond to their needs.
 
In order to provide personalized service, businesses need to understand what drives customer satisfaction and how to meet their needs. Offering your customers a unique experience will help differentiate yourself from your competitors.
 

Invite Customer Feedback

Embrace an approach that encourages your customers to create positive word-of-mouth marketing, which in turn will allow your business to innovate and meet the needs of customers. Listen to their suggestions and attend to their complaints promptly. When customers are delighted with their experience, they are more likely to return to your business or spread the word about your brand. So, make every moment count. This builds trust and engagement.
About the Author: The Maine SBDC program helps build and strengthen small businesses through business advising, training and educational resources. Certified business advisors provide guidance on topics such as business feasibility, business plan development, capital acquisition, financial management, marketing and sales, e-commerce, customer service, personnel management, small business strategic planning and more.

Second Stimulus Eases Lending Terms, Creating a Buyer’s Market

February 16, 2021
By FranNet – 

The recently signed second stimulus package includes several provisions that should make it easier than ever for qualified buyers to access capital through the Small Business Administration (SBA) for starting a new business. We spoke with our friends at Benetrends Financial regarding the details of the new package and the impact it will have on entrepreneurs considering owning a business.

Eric Schechterman, Chief Development Officer at Benetrends Financial, said, “While the lending environment continues to rebound and lenders continue to adapt what they are looking for from borrowers these provisions should have a huge impact in 2021.” Not to be confused with specific Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan details, here is the information buyers need to know about enhanced borrowing opportunities with the SBA: Click To Tweet (more…)

The Truth Behind Franchise Ownership

October 28, 2015

frannet-the-truth-behind-franchise-ownershipWhat does it take to own a franchise? In many ways, the responsibilities of a franchise owner align quite similarly with those of a small business owner. Even though they are essentially the same, the franchise owner starts off with a few more advantages.

There are many franchise concepts and some of them offer a type of product or service that connects directly with the customer. Depending on which franchise you choose, you could be very involved with the public on a daily basis. If you don’t have the patience or personality to deal with complaints, demands and the occasional attitude, then you might want to look for a franchise that does not need you on the front lines. Carefully understand the outline of your responsibilities and don’t settle for something you aren’t passionate about.

As an owner you need to make sure you have a strong team of employees, so you need to prepare for effectively training and motivating your team. The franchisee’s training and on-going support will come from the franchisor; however, the franchisee must pass on his or her knowledge and use it to better their individual operation.  (more…)

Consider the Legal and Financial Aspects of Owning a Franchise

October 15, 2015

FranNet-Blog-10-15-2015As with any major investment, the best decision can be made only if you’re as informed as possible. You need to spend a good deal of time researching, interviewing and exploring your options — and a part of the process is determining what the legal and financial aspects are.

As your focus gets more serious with the idea of owning your own franchise, you need to genuinely look at your financials and propose a budget with which you feel comfortable. Research the many options you have, like the Self-Directed 401K option or loans. Financing a franchise may be considered a lower risk investment, mostly because franchises have proven track records and an established trademark and brand. That being said, it is still crucial that you prepare an in-depth business plan and explore a range of options so you commit to the one that makes the most sense for your budget.  (more…)

Why An FDD Should Be Your Guiding Beacon

August 27, 2015

financial-disclosure-document-1With over 3,000 choices of franchise concepts in the marketplace today, your options for owning your own business are limitless. But not all franchises are created equally.

Say hello to the Franchise Disclosure Document, or FDD for short. Quite simply, it’s a legal document mandated by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), designed to assist the potential franchisee through the due diligence process. Every legitimate franchise must produce one. If a company doesn’t, remove yourself from discussions as quickly as possible. At its core, the FDD removes any emotion from the process.

Under FTC guidelines, the FDD must be presented to the potential buyer in the pre-sales process no less than 10-14 days prior to entering a contract or paying any amount of money for a franchise. Regardless of the type, size or scope of a franchise opportunity, the FDD follows a strict format. FDD’s are uniform and consist of 23 specific items. Expect to see franchise fees, initial investment totals, trademarks, assigned territories, renewals, restrictions and advertising efforts.  (more…)