Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Engendering customer loyalty in a B2B environment

We all want to be heard. It is simply human nature. At home, my kids often say ‘mum, are you listening to me!?’ My three year old has a habit of pulling my face to his and letting me know what he has to say – eyeball to eyeball – just to make sure.

In business, it is no different. Your customers expect to be heard. The more you listen, the more likely that you will provide a better customer experience that will lead to repeat business.

Here are some ideas to engender customer loyalty in a B2B environment:

·         Response times: How soon do you get back to your customers or potential customers when they make contact with you? In general, I respond within 24 hours. In reality, it is within three hours unless it is overnight.

·         Contact information: Is it easy for customers to locate your contact information? Do you have a standard contact form on your website? If you don’t have a receptionist, do you use a messaging service so someone can leave a message with a person rather than a voice recording? A messaging service can also give customers a sense that your business is bigger than it really is.

·         Complaints resolution: Do you have a policy when it comes to handling complaints? Is there someone in your business who is trained to handle difficult customers? Complaints can either be nipped in the bud or escalated quickly. Excellent customer skills combined with conflict resolution skills are excellent attributes to have in an employee and should be highly sought after in any business.

·         Provide value all the time: Part of my service offering is providing recruitment services. Everyone loves to hate recruiters so I need to add value from the start. I deal mostly with SMEs. I am a small business myself so I understand their challenges and needs. Recently, I assisted a client in finding some quality candidates to be interviewed for a job share role. The night before the interview, I designed an interview run-sheet that included appropriate interview questions for the role on offer. My client responded immediately letting me know that they were extremely grateful for this information as they were starting to stress about how to run the interviews the following day. 

·         Follow-up: After you have delivered your work, find out how you performed. What did they like and what could be improved? You have to be resilient enough to accept constructive criticism from time-to-time.

·         Consider how you are treated by your service providers: What do you like and what would you change? The adapt or adopt the best parts to suit your business.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Case Study: Anna's successful journey back to work

After finishing school, I became an Enrolled Nurse and worked in major Melbourne hospitals for 14 years.  Then I became pregnant and finished my working life and began to prepare for the next phase of life.  After having 3 children under 4, I stayed at home and became wife and Mum.  I spent 12 years experiencing highest of highs and the lowest of lows.  No one ever explained to me how being a Mum can be all consuming.  From when my eldest started Pre-School, I have been involved in my children’s education by being on committees.  When I look back it seems that I have done everything, from gardening to being Chairperson at the primary school’s Community Council.

Once all my girls were at school, I thought that I would enjoy having some time to myself, as it happened I seem to be spending nearly as much time at school as the girls. Then the time had come for me to start looking for work. This was   something that I had been dreading.  My nursing registration had lapsed and because I hadn’t had paid work for so long my confidence in getting a job was very low.  I was very good at playing down my abilities, but financially it was time for me to earn an income.

I started to look on websites at public service jobs and the application process eroded my confidence even more.  I started to ask around at school for help from those that worked in the public service and anyone else who I thought could assist me.  On a Friday after assembly I approached one of the mums and asked for her assistance in writing my resume.  She asked what kind of work I wanted to do; I said I would prefer part time school hours.  As it happened her husband was looking to employ someone for their small business.  I left school and went straight to meet her husband, I didn’t even have time to change.  I started work the following Monday.

At first I did anything from sweeping the floor to packaging, anything that was asked of me. Gradually I learned more about the business, answering phones, quoting and invoicing.  As my skill base grew so did my responsibilities and I became the office manager.  After four years, I decided that is was time for me to advance my career.  Again I asked for assistance from anyone who I thought would be able to give me some direction. A girlfriend suggested I contact Kate, at Career Mums; this was a very positive move.  Kate not only made me think about my skills, but gave me direction on how to improve them.  One being enrolling in Business Administration Certificate course at CIT, which I did and this gave me immense confidence in my abilities.

Again by asking for help from anyone and everyone, I was offered a new position with a Not For Profit Company. I am now their Executive Assistant.  I am doing things that I never thought I was capable of and enjoying a career like never before. 

My advice to any Mum that is looking to get back into the work force is to talk to anyone and everyone because you just don’t know what is out there until you ask.

Anna is a Canberra based mum who has three daughters - now all at school