Monthly Archives: November 2016

Tips to Handle Client Misunderstandings and Miscommunication

Misunderstandings and miscommunication are bound to happen with clients, but it’s how you handle them that’s important. No matter who’s at fault, these are the three areas you should address when clearing up a problem with your client.

No one likes to admit they are wrong. No one likes to make mistakes. And I don’t think any of us are really excited about rework. Especially if its free.

Consultants are supposed to be the experts, so if you’re the consultant and you make a mistake on one of your consulting engagements it can be painful. And embarrassing. And possibly costly.

Likewise, our clients can make mistakes and miscommunicate and overlook details that cost the engagement time and money. Pointing those out to the client – if we discover them and they don’t – can be painful, too. Then what? Do you charge them more to fix the problems that were caused or do you give the fix away for free as a show of good faith? Your goal of course is to keep the customer, but usually not at “any cost.”

The bottom line is that, on each side of the fence, mistakes can happen. Should we always point fingers and assign blame? No, I don’t think so. If you and the client are truly working togethe –.really have a effective working relationship and actually respect one another –then certainly no blame needs to be ascribed. You just know and move on. At least that’s how it should always be.

So, instead of focusing on the mistake or miscommunication from that perspective, try handling the problem by staying true to these 3 concepts.

Strategize the best and lowest cost options before going to the client. Normally I would say brainstorm this with your team. However, if you are an independent consultant like me, 95% of the time I am the “team.” Either way, you must come up with some solutions or at least actions that will get you and the client down the road to a “fix” of whatever the complication or miscommunication is. Think them through – especially from the perspective the the “at fault” party, if there is one. Is cost a necessary consideration? How should that be handled? Prepare some options before going to the client to discuss.

Discuss options with the client. These options you come up with may solve the problem or they may not. At the very least they will probably serve as a good stepping stone and an opening up of the communication lines to get progress made on whatever the problem is. I have a client right now who owes me money because their request was they wanted to pay half of a two month agreement up front and then half of it one half of the way through. Reasonable enough.

So, at the end of the current month, I invoiced them for part 2 of the payment. Now my direct contact is stating that they are waiting for their review of the latest material I’ve provided as well as the out-of-the-office supervisor’s approval of the payment. There was nothing stipulated in our agreement or the initial invoice that stated anything other than “2nd payment halfway through the two month agreement”. And they have been happy with services so far…no problems. It’s probably more due to a timing / cashflow issue at the moment more than anything else. There isn’t much I can do to expedite the payment as my goal is to keep them as clients and not take any drastic action, so offering some options and opening up discussions is the best I can do at this point. Obviously, there was miscommunication and misperception involved in the process – no matter how thoroughly it was documented via email and on the initial invoice.

How to Handle Client Misunderstandings and Miscommunication
Consider price. If you can do some work for free in the face of mistakes, that is the best way to go. If the mistake is due to your oversight, then it goes without saying that the work is going to have to be free. The only exception is if the client thought you were doing ‘x’ and you thought you were doing ‘y’ and those are far enough apart that you’re going to need compensation, then you’ll need compensation. Any leeway you have to make that more affordable for the client, though, would make it easier to swallow and to make for a better lasting long term relationship. Price is always an issue…be careful in this part of the negotiation process when trying to resolve.

Summary

Mistakes happen. It’s what you do with them and how you respond to them that likely define the rest of the consulting engagement and whether or not you do any future business with this client. And depending on the outcome, you may or may not want to….but it’s usually easier to keep a client than find a new one to replace him…so I try to keep them. Good luck!

Get More Customers with Online Marketing

Think you can’t afford to promote your business the way you’d hoped to? Don’t let money hold you back. Use these 7 cost-free online marketing strategies to attract customers this year.

You probably made big plans for your business in 2017. Did they include pumping up your business’s online marketing? Whether they did or they didn’t, don’t let “but it costs too much” be your excuse for not driving more customers and clients to your business. Here are 7 great ideas for improving your online business profile this year using very little time and absolutely no money. It doesn’t get much better than that.

1) Claim your business’ Google My Business page

What do you see when you type your business name in Google? Hopefully, your website will come up number 1 in Google and to the right of the search results you will see what is called the “info box” on your business. In that info box hopefully all of the information is completely correct and the words “Own this business?” does not appear. Why? Because “Own this business?” means that the business has never been claimed.

Here’s what to do if “Own this business?” appears. Click on the “Own this business?” link while you are logged in to a Google account (usually gmail) and begin the process of claiming your business. Claiming your business will give you the opportunity to keep the information updated and appear in Google Maps, Google Local and all other Google properties.

What to do if no info box appears for your business? Easy, just go to https://business.google.com while you are logged into your Google account and start the process of setting up your Google My Business page.

No matter how you claim or set up your Google My Business page, you will probably need to confirm your business via having a postcard sent to you, which you should receive in 5 – 10 days. Google already has some business information for your business, you may have the option to receve a telephone call to that number for confirmation.

The easiest, fastest and simplest way to receive free traffic from Google is to have a claimed and optimized Google My Business page.

2) Claim your review site accounts and ask for reviews

One of the ways that Google determines the quality and authority of a business is by the number of reviews on the internet for that business. This is especially important for businesses that serve a local market.

Your Google My Business page Is also a review site, so once you have that set up, the biggest review site is done. But when you search your company name, which I recommended in item 1, you probably noticed that other sites, usually review sites, are some of the next listings that will come up under your name. Make sure to claim your business listing for each, optimize them with good images and copy and then regularly ask for reviews will help you control the quality of reviews that people find about your business.

What are the most important ones to claim besides Google? Yelp, YP and, if you have a Facebook page, Facebook. There are also industry-based review sites, such as Houzz, Health Grades, Angie’s list and others.

3) Commit to email marketing

No other action you will take this year will mean more to the long term viability of your business. You can get a free account at MailChimp that allows you to send 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 subscribers. Imagine getting a sweet deal from your distributor on a popular product, sending an email to your list and selling your full order out in a day or two. You can do that and lots more with an email list.

How do you build your email list? Here are a few ideas:

Put an email signup form on your website
Ask new customers for their email address and permission to mail to them
Put out a fishbowl for business cards for a monthly drawing and ask if you can put them on an email list
Put a link to your email signup on your social media
Once you get that ball rolling, make it a monthly or biweekly to do to create a fun, informative email that makes using your product or service easier and more enjoyable.

4) Understand your customer’s “pain point”

Why do your customers give you money? You solve a problem for them – whether it’s allowing them to be fashionably dressed or saving them from a legal problem. Whatever your product or service, look at it as a “pain point” for a prospective customer that you solve. You are really in the solution business!

Take out a piece of paper and write down all of the different “pains” and problems that you solve. Now keep that paper handy (hang it on the wall if need be). Every time you need to write an ad, put together a new brochure, redesign business cards, come back to that list and be sure to include at least one, if not more, of these pains and how your business is the solution in every form of communication you make with prospective and current customers and clients.

5) Look at your website on a mobile device

Does it look good? Is it usable? Do the forms work? Does it take forever to load?

More than 60% of all search is currently being done on mobile devices. If your site doesn’t work on mobile, well, it doesn’t work. Making a website be responsive to the device that is using it is called “responsive design”.

Granted fixing this problem isn’t free, but recognizing that it’s a problem that needs to be addressed is. 😉

6) Look for your top 5 competitors on social media

If you are trying to figure out what you should be doing with social media or you can’t quite figure out what might work for your company, the easy, fast and free way to get some ideas and clear direction is by looking at what your competitors are doing.

Go to their websites. Down near the bottom of their pages should be links to their social media. Once you click through, here are some questions to ask.

What social media are they committing to publishing regularly on?
How many likes, friends or followers do they have?
How often are they posting?
Are they getting people to post, comment or acknowledge their posts in some way?
Follow, like or connect your personal social media accounts with their business social media accounts. This will give you a lot of insight to how they are doing social media. It will be up to you to decide whether they are doing a good job or not and what you would need to do to do it better than they are.

7) Commit to educating yourself on online marketing

There is a lot to know about online marketing, but that is not an excuse for putting off educating yourself as to how to do it effectively. In 2017, more than ever before, the internet is the first, last and pretty much only place where people go to find a business and the solutions they provide. Look for a solution that stays focused on getting your business the most results for the least amount of effort.

Tips For Company Success in 2017

Working on your business goals for 2017? More often than not, resolutions don’t pan out, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these seven steps to succeed in reaching your goals for the New Year.

It’s that time of year again to think about change, improvement, and new achievements for your company in 2017. But we know from research that 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail. So you might say, why bother? Instead, perhaps you should go about those resolutions in a more effective way.

There are a number of reasons why business resolutions fail. But having studied and worked with successful companies for over three decades, there are some secrets to success. So to get your company off to a great start, consider these tips:

1. Set a Baseline. Spend some time with your team to reflect on your past accomplishments. The New Year is a perfect time to take stock of where you are and where you want to go as an organization at any level – the entire company, a department, or a team. Creating a list of accomplishments for 2016 is a good starting place. Even if your unit is doing routine work such as processing payroll, celebrate your on-time performance or accuracy. It requires work to do those things well. Other departments can celebrate new sales, products, processes, or customers.

2. Reaffirm your vision and mission. Today’s workforce, especially Millennials, wants to be a part of an organization that makes a difference. Have you translated your purpose and mission into terms that employees can rally around? If not, take a day to work through this; even better is building or updating a compelling story with teams of employees from different functions, levels, and locations. When done, you have a rallying cry that everyone understands and buys into.

3. Help your employees reflect. Ask your employees to spend some introspective time reflecting on their life goals and the role of their work in that. While this may sound soft and squishy to you, I assure you it is not. Achieving fulfillment in life is important to nearly every person we interviewed recently in our research. Offer them resources to help that thinking – books, training, a webinar, or a mentor. What we are discovering in our research is that fulfilled employees are far more productive because they are more aligned, capable and engaged with the organization. Unfulfilled people either leave or stay in a way that is debilitating for others.

4. Set realistic and stretch goals that will energize people. The realistic targets should be ones that you are fairly confident that you can accomplish. It’s best to break those up into smaller milestones that will allow you to celebrate accomplishments throughout the year. The stretch targets create a bit of risk and challenge, which, as we learned from our research, create greater fulfillment for people. Most of the highly fulfilled people in our study reflected back to times along the way in which they took risks and had some of their best learnings in life.

5. Measure, measure, measure. Vague goals never really generate much momentum. A long history of psychological research tells us that goals which are specific and measureable are the most motivating and likely to be accomplished. Nearly everything at work, even softer things like employee engagement or customer loyalty, can be measured. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth measuring. If you don’t know how to set up measurements, ask your HR or quality department or bring in outside resources – it’s not that hard if you know what you’re doing.

6. Feedback. We also know from years of research that performance feedback is critical in enabling people to make course corrections in pursuit of goals. Without good feedback, we are often distracted by competing demands. Today this is a big issue with the constant bombardment of information and many alternatives competing for our time. Timely, frequent feedback from a respected source – a measure, customers, or a supervisor – will provide that extra momentum boost to reach those resolutions which otherwise will go unfinished.

7. Accountability. While most of us take responsibility for actions leading to those agreed upon goals, stuff happens. It helps to have rewards tied to the accomplishment of goals. Stretch goals should be rewarded handsomely. Rewards are the last element that will provide the finishing touches to keep your resolutions on track.

Lastly, it pays to jump on these early in the year while there is plenty of time to launch new plans and goals. Remember, it will be impossible to accomplish stretch goals by doing the same thing you have done before. If you innovate and take new approaches, you’ll set yourself up for success in 2017.