Tag Archives: business advice

Considering the Customer’s Perspective

One of the most difficult things in the world to do is take a look at yourself through a different lens. When we look at ourselves or our businesses, we see the full context of our experience, from startup to present day. We know exactly why everything is the way it is, why certain decisions were made, and are often heavily invested in the method we’ve used to build what we have.

It’s tough to take a step back and look at things from another perspective. Sometimes we’re too close to the company not to take criticism personally. It’s often a business owner’s first instinct to go on the defensive and try to over-explain, or worse, get obviously upset with a customer.

New Perspective

Try looking at things from another angle… like the customer’s point of view.

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

Unfortunately, we must remember that other people are only seeing things from the outside. We’ve had many clients get ruffled over a negative Yelp review, explaining how the reviewer had a skewed experience or is just flat-out wrong. There are a few things to keep in mind in these instances.

An outside perspective can give you new insight. You may immediately bristle at criticism of your business, but it’s vital to pay attention and seriously consider what your customers are saying. Even if you ultimately disagree, remember that they’re seeing things from a different angle, and that angle can be invaluable. They may uncover something that you never see because you’re too close.

Remember that customers have a limited view. Many businesses respond to negative sentiment with explanations, but when you’re online, these exchanges have a very different tone for your customers. Regardless of how polite you are, explanations come off as excuses and any implication that the customer may be wrong will be met with offense. Worse yet, uninvolved parties may feel you’re being confrontational and defensive, and wonder what you’re hiding.

Negative sentiment is a catalyst for change. Instead of trying to explain issues away, always thank customers for their feedback and verbalize the steps you’re taking toward ensuring their negative experience isn’t repeated. Then consider their feedback critically and decide what changes really do need to occur, if any.

Learn which battles are worth fighting. We all know that there are customers that will never be happy no matter what you do. They come into a complaint looking for a fight with their teeth bared. The reasons why this happens are unimportant. What’s important is to remember that when you’re dealing with customers like this publicly or online, you have a silent audience watching in the wings. Keep your head, stay classy, and show that you’re making a true effort to rectify the situation. Even if the initial customer can’t be appeased, other customers will take note of your behavior.

These are some of the many ways you can turn potentially negative criticism into something that makes your business stronger. In addition to customer insights, you may want to ask another outside agency or knowledgeable individual to give their thoughts on how to improve your business. When you hear suggestions, try to consider them with an open mind, even if your first impulse is to reject them. It may be just what you need to reinvent your business!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Flexibility in the Digital Space

With the constantly changing landscape of technology and online marketing, it’s vital to remain flexible. Many people attempt to apply old techniques to a new market or operate based on information that’s already several years old. While the latter are at least attempting to keep up with the lightning-fast pace of today’s world, ultimately both fall victim to the same problem – they’re not being flexible enough.

Learn Flexibility

Learn to get a little wavey

Flexibility isn’t just about being able to change direction. It’s about being able to change direction quickly. Realistically, many businesses have processes in place for implementing new plans. This often means changes are wrapped up in months’ worth of red tape, if they happen at all.

There’s nothing wrong with having a structure in place before taking the business in a completely different direction. In fact, it’s often necessary to ensure things aren’t being turned on their head every few months, which can be even more harmful that not evolving with the times. In an ideal world, there’s room for both.

Unfortunately, the rapidly shifting arena of the online marketplace doesn’t wait for you to play catch-up. That’s why it’s important to implement a plan for keeping up early. It’s also essential to work with someone who keeps their fingers on the pulse of the internet, whether that person is an internal hire or a consulting professional. Do you know how to set these gears in motion?

First and foremost, you have to believe in the power of internet marketing. We don’t mean that in a “clap your hands if you believe in fairies” kind of way, but in a “you should trust that this outlet will have real value for your business” kind of way. If you’re skeptical or think the internet is a waste of time, then you won’t really invest in getting your marketing off the ground, which will result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. Anyone can quote you all of the relevant statistics, but it’s up to you to find the place where you feel comfortable and willing to get behind the effort.

Once you’ve found your “happy place” with online marketing, you can move on to implementation. If you’re in an industry where things are very slow moving, this may take some considerable reorganization. Don’t leave everything up to one person – assemble a team that can work together to get all of the moving parts in place. If you don’t have the staff for a maneuver like this, consider an internet marketing agency. We may know of one you can call on. Just saying.

Work with someone who is keeping up with all the latest news. This should be an internet professional, not someone who’s playing catch-up on blogs that may be years out of date. Your internet marketer should really know their stuff. Do your research before hiring and speak with current clients if possible.

Now the pieces of your puzzle are in place. From here, your business should be able to move nimbly in the marketplace. It’s important to work openly with your internet marketing specialist and put your faith in them to do the best thing for your business. Checks and balances for big decisions are expected, but remember to remain flexible and not tie things up so tightly that direction changes are impossible.

The digi-scape moves quickly. In order to keep up, you need to work with someone who knows the information highway and can make hairpin turns when needed. It’ll do wonders for your business!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Help Your Business Help Itself

September is Self-Improvement Month, so why not try a few popular self-help suggestions for your business? There’s always room for improvement.

Business Self Help

  • Before others can love your business, it must love itself. Or rather, you must love it. Do you love your company? Do you truly appreciate the service or product you’re providing? This advice seems pretty straightforward. What makes you care about a business or brand? Think it over. If you don’t love what your company is doing, you can’t expect other people to care, either. Find all the things that make you respect and support a brand and apply those elements to your own business. Learn to love it again.
  • When you’ve made a mistake, admit it and make amends. Everyone screws up eventually. As your business grows, you’re likely to come across people who are unhappy with it. You simply can’t please everyone, but when you make an error, the first step is admitting it. First to yourself, and then to any wronged customers. Come clean. Once you’ve done that, take appropriate steps to make amends for the mistake. Show people that you’ve learned. Becoming defensive or sticking your head in the sand will only bite you in the end. Learn how to manage negative sentiment effectively.
  • Learn how to win friends and influence people. All of that age-old advice stands – be the kind of business people would want to hang out with at a party. Be genuinely interested in your customers. Sincerity goes a long way. Let them talk about themselves. Ask questions where the answer will be “yes.” SMILE. It just seems to lend itself naturally to business application, doesn’t it?
  • As Mr. Abraham Maslow once said: diversify your toolbox, because not every problem is a nail. Translation: if you’re only using one method of solving problems, you’re essentially using a hammer on a screw. Different problems call for different solutions. Remain flexible and draw on your employee base for help. Utilize all of your available tools! Try something new!
  • Help your business help itself. The most successful business leaders take initiative and lead the charge for their brand. Are you doing the same thing you’ve always done and hoping something will change? Are you waiting for someone else to come along with the solution? Don’t. Take the reins! That doesn’t mean you have to do everything. It just means it’s up to you to figure out what’s going to make your business work!

Onward, fair business owners. Let your brand soar!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.

Control vs Management: Striking a Better Balance

It’s not unusual to want to be involved in all of the aspects of your business. In fact, it’s completely understandable. When you really care about the company you’ve built, you like to make sure everything’s working smoothly and nothing’s falling by the wayside.

But is there a point where involvement turns into excessive control that can stifle your business’ continued growth?

Office ManagerIn the business world, we all know there will be a certain number of things we can’t control. There will be misunderstandings, mistakes, disgruntled customers, and more loops than we could ever predict. For some personalities, this just isn’t good enough. They’re convinced that everything can be solved or prevented so long as they’re involved.

Unfortunately, it’s often too much for a single person to handle. That’s where the issues start.

Investment in your company is a good thing. Proper management is a good thing. But are you biting off more than you can chew to the detriment of your business? Here are a few warning signs to watch for.

  •  Do you micromanage the activities of your workers?
  • Do you refuse to delegate tasks to the appropriate people, opting to do the work yourself because you “only trust yourself” to do it correctly?
  • Do you insist that you know better than people specifically trained in the tasks they’re responsible for, even if you have little to no experience or training in that area?
  • Are you missing deadlines because you insist on checking everything personally before it goes out and you just don’t have the time to reasonably get to it all?

There are a few elements at play here. First, are you working with the right people? If you’re genuinely concerned about the quality of an employee or contractor’s work, that’s something that needs to be addressed. However, if the employee or contractor is consistently doing good work, you may be keeping them from reaching their full potential. Worse, you may be frustrating them or making them doubt their abilities.

High standards are never a bad thing for a good business owner. However, there comes a time when they need to trust in their people. If the trust isn’t there, action needs to be taken to build it. You hire people to do specific tasks. As a manager or overseer, your job is to manage their workflow and ensure requirements or deadlines are being met. When you hire experts, allow them to do their work. You don’t have to take everything on blind faith. Regular updates are a must, but not to the point of disrupting workflow.

If you can’t loosen the reins a little, you’re going to harm your business and yourself by proxy. There’s just no way for one person to carry all marketing efforts for a considerably-sized business on their own. Remember, a Jack of all trades is the master of none. If you can’t do all the work on your plate on a reasonable timeline, something has to change. It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything… and if you need help with your online marketing, email marketing, you know where to look!

Your stress levels, and your business, will thank you!

Stephanie Wargin is the Social Media Strategist at Zenergy Works, a web design and SEO company located in Santa Rosa, California. Her friends like to brush her hair into her eyes whenever she talks about Facebook.