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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.

The SBDC Millennial Conference M3 Goes “Back-to-Back”

June 28, 2017

M32017 Attendees

Creating a sequel to your favorite movie is always a challenge. I mean, it’s almost impossible to duplicate the success. Think about it. Was Ice Cube’s “Next Friday” as good as “Friday?” How about “The Hangover Part II” compared to “The Hangover?” Or take it back even further and compare the original “Grease” and “Grease 2.” Back-to-back success is no guarantee, but for the second annual Maximizing Millennial Minds Conference (#M32017), it did what most can’t do – surpassed the success of its inaugural year!

#M32017 was centered around its content, New Orleans’ culture, and there were cocktails!  (more…)

Young Entrepreneur Trades Job Search for Fashion Dreams

November 18, 2015

defeliceAs a recent college graduate, Sarah DeFelice was committed to a career that fulfilled both her passion for fashion and her love for life in the Green Mountain State. But as she researched the local job market, few opportunities matched her criteria for happiness.

“In short, my motivation to starting my own was that my dream job didn’t exist unless I created myself,” DeFelice said. And that’s exactly what she did.

Earlier this year, the 26-year-old fashion maven opened the Bailey Road boutique at 44 Main Street in Montpelier. The store offers elevated clothing, handbags and jewelry at accessible prices.

“We are dedicated to helping our customers achieve both professionally and personally,” Defelice said. “Whether you are on the hunt for that knock ‘em dead outfit, want help updating your wardrobe or are just looking for some retail therapy, Bailey Road can be your personalized fashion expert every step of the way.”

But long before DeFelice could make her dream become a reality, she encountered many challenges along the way. First and foremost, having little financial history and assets, DeFelice struggled to prove her business was viable to lenders. “One of the hardest parts of starting a small business as a young entrepreneur is that most traditional lending opportunities look only at the numbers and not your business plan,” she said.  (more…)

Amped Apparel – Taking Your Brand to the Customer

August 17, 2015
Amped-ApparelSuccess Story: Pennsylvania

Shippensburg University SBDC
• SBDC Counselor: Cheryl Young
• Client: Amped Apparel – SBDC client since 2013

“Try and go about it in the correct way. Consult with the SBDC. It’s easy to not want to spend as much money and time, but by taking the proper steps first, you’re establishing a brand that can grow.” – Adam Sitz, Owner, Amped Apparel

Impact of working with the Shippensburg University SBDC: Adam Sitz attended Shippensburg University to pursue a college education. While at Shippensburg, he continued to develop the Amped Apparel business that he started as a teen and that is celebrating its 6-year anniversary this year. Today, Amped Apparel is an action sport and lifestyle clothing brand. Amped also sponsors multiple athletes in various action sports. Amped Apparel’s products include t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, girls’ tanks, beanies, accessories, socks, bags, and eyewear.  (more…)

Washing Cars… Protecting the Environment

August 3, 2015
Simple-Car-WashSuccess Story: Pennsylvania

Impact of working with the Penn State SBDC: In March of 2014, Taylor Mitcham reached out to the Penn State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) by stopping in at their on-campus walk-in office to discuss her business idea for a waterless car wash.

The SBDC helped Taylor navigate the maze of legal and tax issues that she would need to address. She formed a Limited Liability Company and obtained an Employer Identification Number and a Pennsylvania Sales and Use Tax License.

Taylor officially launched Simple Car Wash in July, 2014, offering her services to other Penn State students and residents in the State College area. Since there is no brick-and mortar storefront, she needed to be creative in ways to market her business. (more…)