May Business eNewsletter

Welcome to our May business eNewsletter focused on improving customer service for your small business.

Quote of the month:
“Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” – Blaise Pascal, Mathematician, physicist and inventor)

In this Issue…

Five Ways To Improve Your Customer Service For Little Or No Money
By Micah Solomon, Contributor

In honor of National Small Business Week ( #SmallBusinessWeek ), here are five highly effective, low- or no-cost ways to amp up the quality of your customer service experience.

1. Train your employees to handle unhappy customers – and to win them back when things go wrong. When things go wrong, it’s uncomfortable for employee and customer alike. But if employees anticipate and train for the fact that things will go wrong, they’ll be ready when they do. Put a system in place that addresses these scenarios (what I call “customer service recovery”) and train your employees until they’re fluent in using it. There are various systems out there for customer service recovery; if you don’t already have an alternative system in place, feel free to make use of my AWARE approach – Acknowledge, Widen, Agree, Resolve, Evaluate – which you can read about in detail here.

When you become good at customer service recovery, your company will experience a wonderful bonus in terms of customer engagement and loyalty. When a customer encounters a problem and then experiences how splendidly you address and resolve it, they’e likely to develop a closer bond with your business than if everything had gone smoothly in the first place – and the customer therefore never got to see you demonstrate your service-recovery process.

2. Develop a company language lexicon. Even the most enthusiastic and well-meaning employees can sometimes turn off customers simply by using the wrong language. The solution to this is to undertake what I call “language engineering”: thinking about the specific phrases that employees should avoid using, and about the better alternatives that you prefer. Memorialize these word choices in a phrasebook or “language lexicon” that everyone in your company can refer to and make use of for customer service phone calls, chats, messaging, and email.

Here are four examples:
a) Discouraged: “You owe …”
Preferred: “Our records show a balance of …”

b) Discouraged: “You need to …”
Preferred: “We find it works best when …”

c) Discouraged: “Please hold.”
Preferred: “May I briefly place you on hold?” (And then actually listen to the caller’s answer.)

d) Discouraged: “No Problem” (in response to a customer thanking you).
Preferred: Almost anything is better than “no problem”: (“You’re welcome,” “You’re very welcome,” “My pleasure,” “Thank you.”)

3. Make the beginning and ending of the customer experience perfect. The human memory is far from egalitarian. It undemocratically selects “snapshots” to store based on whatever your brain considers to be important. One of these mental shortcuts is the brain’s assumption that the beginning and the ending of an experience are particularly worth remembering. Because of this quirk of memory, it’s important to get these two moments right. As follow:

    • First impressions: Walk up to, and into, your establishment and see things as best you can through the eye of a customer. Is it inviting? Is there anything to trip on? Are the handicapped parking spaces clearly marked and free of impediments? Are customers promptly and appropriately greeted? Do the same survey as well of a customer’s likely first impression when it occurs via the phone, chat, the web, or mobile.
    • Last impressions: It’s human nature that once you’ve pretty much finished up an interaction with or project for one customer, to rush on to the next one with the next customer. Doing so, without taking an extra moment to ensure everything feels truly complete for that first customer, can erase all the goodwill you created up to this point. So zero in on whether you’re truly giving your customers a fond farewell; if not, what could you do to improve

4. Commit to getting back to customers immediately. When a customer leaves a message by email or telephone or text, they’re hoping to hear back from you right away. My professional opinion is that it’s essential to respond to all such communications from customers within the same half day (even sooner, if it’s nearly closing time, so you don’t leave anyone hanging until tomorrow). This is essential to do, even if you don’t yet have a complete answer to the customer’s inquiry; if you don’t have all the needed information yet, communicate this to the customer right away, and let them know a realistic time frame for when you will get back to them with a complete answer.)

It’s essential to understand that customer time frames have tightened up dramatically from what they were even a few years ago. Perhaps in 2005 it was okay to take 24 hours to respond to a customer email. Not today. I’d argue that 24 hours feel like 48 years in Internet time.

5. Enable customers to find what they’re looking for themselves. Customers only want to be in touch with you when they choose to do so, not when you force them to do so because of bad process design and lazy systems implementation. They don’t want to have to call you just to find out that their order has shipped; they want an automated confirmation. They don’t want to be forced to call your receptionist to have them read out your GPS-friendly address because your site only lists your PO Box.

The solution is to do a complete review of your self-service options and publicly – available information. Are your FAQ’s reasonably complete and readily searchable? Are your hours of business clearly stated (and accurate)? And so forth. (Ultimately you should elevate this exercise of eliminating useless contact to the level of high art. Amazon, clearly, is a leader here; think of how they pioneered the auto-response so you know your order has been received; how easy they make it to return product­ – without having to call for an RA# – do you remember those bad old days?, and so forth. Another interesting company to emulate is Adobe, with its “curate before we create” approach to self-service customer support. You can read more about the Adobe approach here.

Read this article Forbes.com

The Impact of Good Customer Service in Small Business
By Kimberlee Leonard

Small businesses must compete for every customer they have. The cost of customer acquisition is much greater for small businesses, compared to big competitors, which have larger advertising budgets and what seems like unlimited resources for promotions. If you’ve worked hard and you’ve spent money to get a good customer, make sure you keep that customer so you will realize the value of your acquisition. Every small business owner should consider the effects that customer service has on your bottom line.

Building Loyal and Raving Clients

One of the first impacts that a business will see from good customer service is consumer loyalty and raving fans. People will return to a business in which they feel they are treated with respect. Not only do these customers come back but they also tell their friends, post on social media and discuss the positive experience they had.

For example, a lot of people hate going to the dentist. They fear what the X-rays will show and dread the sound of the drill. For some, this creates so much anxiety that they avoid the dentist until something is really wrong making matters worse. If this customer finds a dentist who not only understands how fearful his patient is but also has methods of making the entire process more enjoyable, the client will certainly share his experience. Of course, few think about dentists and good customer service in the same sentence, but there is a way to make the client feel cared about and validated in his fears while still taking care of the issue at hand.

Treating Non-Sales As Customers

Sometimes a business gets a prospect in the door that they feel is a sure sale. Then the sale doesn’t happen. It can be easy for a sales representative to take a negative tone. But if the representative takes a customer service perspective, he might get the sale later. An insurance agent is a good example of where this happens a lot. He might have a great rapport with the client and do the entire quote. The end might result in no sale either because of some problem in underwriting for that particular prospect. If the agent just says, “Sorry, I can’t help you,” he loses the sale forever.

Instead, if the agent tries to help the prospect resolve the issue with resources to the DMV to remove an inaccurate ticket citation or correct accident details, he has provided the prospect with valuable information and great customer service. He now has a better chance of eventually getting the customer.

Preventing Negative Reviews or Returns

As much as good customer service aids the sale process, bad customer service can kill an otherwise sure sale. When customer service representatives speak to customers in a condescending tone or cut them off, customers won’t tolerate it. When someone is willing to spend money with your business, they deserve to be heard and treated with respect.

Those customers who have negative experiences with your company are more likely to return products for the smallest issue. Additionally, those with negative customer service experiences will likely write negative reviews on social media platforms creating a bigger issue. The business will now need to work harder to overcome the negative publicity.

Hold customer service training and do role playing so your team knows what is expected of customer interactions. Teach them how to deal with questions and problems that occur in daily operations. Prepare them to be great customer services representatives of the company.

Read this article Chron.com

Your Customers Have Exactly 8 Seconds for You. This Is How You Get and Keep Their Attention
By Elizabeth Kiehner

How to lead and thrive in the post-channel era.

More than half of the companies named on the Fortune 500 have disappeared since the year 2000. When you look at consumer data, the average person is exposed to 10,000 brand messages per day. Attention spans have dropped from 12 seconds to 8 seconds over the last 15 years. With this accelerated pace of change and audience fragmentation, you have to lead or die. Fast followers will fail.

Despite what we know about human needs/desires and business opportunity, few companies truly give customers a seat at the table. While business’s lament the unfair dynamic Amazon has created, their mission state is to be the earth’s most customer-centric company. As of 2017, Amazon was named No. 1 in corporate reputation in a Harris Poll with over 23,000 votes.

While there are several customer-focused tool kits out there like Medallia, nothing beats actually baking costumer-centricity into your DNA. Some try to do this by adopting design thinking, but too frequently companies approach design thinking as either a one-off or quarterly exercise and fail to embed customer-centric strategies in the day to day operating model. This is more of a cultural challenge that people realize, and it requires, in part, the willingness and enthusiasm to spend at least 25 percent of your time in the presence of your customer. Not just listening but engaging, learning and asking why. Surveys usually don’t get to the why. It is critical to get these three things right:

    • Give customers multiple vehicles or outlets to provide unstructured feedback.
    • Empower employees with mechanisms to provide personalized customer experiences.
  • Design a system to share feedback especially the negative, and turn pain points into opportunities.

These opportunities can then fuel innovative customer experiences. New research from Forrester’s Customer Experience Index reveals that hybrid customer experience outperforms both purely digital and purely physical experiences. Several retailers have designed stellar experiences in this space, like Sephora and Uniqlo, and there has been a lack of persistent innovation in other industries and sectors (perhaps because they haven’t had an Amazon-like wake-up call yet).

According to a study by Harvard Business Review 86 percent of business leaders agree that customer experience is vital for success, so the question is, what can you do this year to move the needle?


Whether it is catching a ride with Didi Chuxing in China or binge watching media on Netflix, virtually worldwide, our expectation is on-demand commerce and entertainment. There is no exception.

Voice Is the New UI

Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and other virtual assistants, like Soul Machines harness developments in voice recognition and even provide humanoid interfaces. Determine what is best for your brand and embed voice into your experience.

Perpetual Flow

The traditional rules of day-parting no longer apply. Consumers switch screens up to 21 times in one hour. While we talk a lot of agility in product development, we need agile communications and customer experiences that could allow someone to save for later or show me tomorrow. If I receive the most compelling message for a brilliant product while I am on a deadline, guess what, I will ignore or delete it.

So get to know your customers, really. To win in the post-channel era of today we must adopt a customer-first mindset and put the customer at the center of everything we do.

Read this article at the Inc.com

4 Ways to Keep Customers Engaged for Life
By Rahul Varshneya, Co-founder of Arkenea.com

With a bit of outreach and authentic conversation, companies can develop stronger relationships that drive revenue and increase the average customer lifetime value.

Why do brands spend so much time, money, and effort recruiting new customers — all the while neglecting to maximize the value of the ones they already have?

Existing customers provide the most consistent long-term revenue streams to companies that know how to keep them engaged. According to Gallup, fully engaged customers provide a 23% boost to profitability compared to average ones.

Despite the obvious benefits, more than half of all companies in a recent Convero survey didn’t have any formal engagement programs, while 60% didn’t even know their customer attrition rate from the past year.

With so many brands competing for limited customer attention (and dollars), the companies that unlock the secrets of engagement have a powerful advantage.

Fortunately, the secret to customer engagement isn’t all that secret. With a bit of outreach and authentic conversation, companies can develop stronger relationships that drive revenue and increase the average customer lifetime value.

How Engagement Translates to Success

Companies are always seeking creative ways to reduce costs while increasing revenue. Focusing on engagement with existing customers is one of the fastest ways to do both.

The window of opportunity to become an engagement leader is quickly closing, though. According to Walker’s Customers 2020: A Progress Report, customer experience will overtake price and even product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

Brands that fail to create a strong experience before that time will find themselves struggling to compete in a market with competitors who saw the writing on the wall and developed better engagement practices.

No matter the industry, engagement consistently delivers results. One recent report from Gallup found that engagement drives double-digit percentage jumps in revenue in consumer electronics, banking, restaurants, travel, insurance, and more.

Whether customers are seeking fast-food experiences or lifelong mortgage relationships, engagement keeps them happy while boosting the bottom line of the brand.

With Econsultancy reporting that only 22% of businesses are pleased with their conversion rates — and with HubSpot showing 40% of leaders struggling to prove the ROI of their marketing — shifting focus to existing customers is a no-brainer.

These people are familiar with the brand, like the product, and want to pay for it. Why not dedicate more time and resources to the ones who have demonstrated their preference with their wallets?

What Engagement Means for Brands

Engagement is more than a buzzword — it’s the top lifestyle choice of the most successful brands.

Personalized experiences boost engagement like no other strategy. Experiential marketing gimmicks have their place, but when 62% of companies are beginning to view their call centers as a competitive differentiator, handling the boring parts is the quickest path to stronger engagement.

That said, customer service is now evolving beyond call centers. Today, customers are always plugged in via smartphone, meaning they expect a seamless experience across every channel.

Aberdeen Group discovered that companies with the strongest omnichannel engagement strategies retain, on average, 89% of their customers.

Couple that with figures showing that 89% of customers feel frustrated when they have to repeat their problems to multiple reps, and it’ easy to see why stronger engagement hinges on consistent, personalized service.

Winning Strategies to Boost Engagement

Customers don’t ask for much. They simply want consistent, authentic experiences when they interact with a brand, whether on Facebook, over the phone, or in person. Every company can get a head start on Walker’s 2020 engagement deadline by following these strategies.

1. Create a Seamless Experience

Customers don’t see the back end, where social media teams and call center teams are separate entities. They see only the brand, and they expect every interaction to be consistent with the last.

Prioritize dependable customer service by empowering frontline representatives and leveraging data to do as much of the work for the customer as possible.

Partner with an end-to-end customer engagement service like TeleTech to meet customers where they are — on social media, via email, or over the phone — to create consistent engagement that keeps customers coming back.

2. Develop a Community Bond

When customers find common ground over their affiliation with the brand, their engagement rates skyrocket. Invest in an active social media presence across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other relevant sites to provide customers with the platform — and the content — they need to engage.

Invite customer interaction through posts by building campaigns that ask for their feedback. Over the past few years, Nike has shifted away from traditional advertising in favor of thought leadership and community involvement.

The brand now gives customers workout advice and sponsors fitness-themed communities, positioning the brand as the leader of the conversation while encouraging customers to participate with one another.

3. Reward Repeat Business

Customers constantly receive promotional offers and discounts from brands trying to earn their business but few such offers from brands trying to retain their loyalty.

Rather than send coupons to new customers, who might take advantage of a sale and never return, spend that budget on rewarding customers who have proven their desire to spend on the brand.

This is important in an era when 40% of a company’s business is driven by 8 percent of visitors: those who are returning customers. Those return customers are the aim of companies like Ambassador, which is built around a relationship marketing platform that looks to increase referrals by leveraging the power of word of mouth.

Its platform restructures the referral process by helping companies enroll, track, and incentivize the customers, affiliates, and partners driving the most business.

Rewards and incentives don’t always have to come in the form of hard discounts. Offer existing newsletter subscribers exclusive access to new content before it hits the main page.

Provide early purchase access to new products. Post to social media pages with exclusive deals for followers. The more customers feel rewarded for interacting with the brand, the more often they will do so.

4. Forge a Connection

Chances are high that customers have multiple options when purchasing a product. When services and quality are similar, customers go with the choices they feel resonate with their personal values.

Provide customers that personal connection by taking a stand on relevant issues. That doesn’t mean picking sides in an election — advocating for a cause relevant to the core of the business is enough.

For example, a restaurant might publicize its cooperation with the local food bank, while a clothing brand could encourage customers to help provide winter coats to people in need.

When customers feel personally empowered through a connection with the brand, they’re more likely to make repeat purchases.

New customers aren’t everything. Although increasing conversion rates feels great, engaging current customers is the most cost-effective way to build long-term success. Follow these tips to boost engagement and become an industry leader in customer experience.

Read this article at the Inc.com

Beneficial Ownership
In May 2016, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCen”) issued a new regulation regarding the beneficial ownership of legal entity customers, most commonly referred to as the “Beneficial Ownership Rule.” Going forward, it will be mandatory for all financial institutions to comply with this regulation by identifying the beneficial owner(s) and a controlling person of all legal entity customers opening or maintaining an account.

Any time an account is opened or maintained for a legal entity, SpiritBank will request information that identifies the ultimate beneficial owner(s) and controlling person of the legal entity. The required identifying information includes name, address, date of birth, identification number, and other information that will help identify those individuals. This information will need to be collected whether or not the person identified is a customer of SpiritBank.

While we understand the information requested is personal and sensitive, we need to obtain this information in order to comply with the law. As always, we will treat all information collected with  the utmost care. All information will be stored securely and handled with the same standard of privacy that we have always maintained.

What you need to know about Beneficial Ownership

  • All legal entities are impacted by such events as opening or maintaining an account at any financial institution.
  • Legal entities will need to identify the natural persons who are beneficial owners that meet specific requirements as well as a controlling member (CEO, COO, CFO, Managing Member, President, Vice President, etc.).
  • SpiritBank will collect the information of beneficial owners and the control person of legal entities whether or not they have a personal relationship with the financial information.

Beneficial Ownership FAQ:

Why am I being asked to provide this new information?
New rules established under the Bank Secrecy Act by FinCen have been put in place to aid the government in the fight against financial crimes by requiring all banks to identify the beneficial owners of legal entity customers. Requiring the disclosure of key individuals who own or control a legal entity helps law enforcement investigate and prosecute financial crimes.

What is a “legal entity” customer?

“Legal entity customers” include the following entities created by a filing with a state office or with a Secretary of State:

  • corporations
  • limited liability companies
  • limited partnerships
  • general partner
  • ships business trusts
  • any other entity created by a filing with a state office
  • any similar entities formed under the laws of a non-US jurisdiction

The definition of “legal entity customer” does not include:

  • sole proprietorships
  • unincorporated associations, such as a local Girl Scout troop or a neighborhood
  • trusts, other than statutory trusts created by a filing with a state office

Who qualifies as a beneficial owner?
A “beneficial owner” includes individuals who fit within at least one of the following “prongs”:

  • Any individual who, directly or indirectly, owns 25 percent or more of the legal
    entity customer (The owners identified must be natural persons.);
  • One individual who has “significant responsibility to control, manage, or direct the
    legal entity.” (CEO, CFO, COO, President, Vice President, Treasurer, etc.)

What information will be required from beneficial owners?
The rule requires customers to provide the name, address, date of birth, and identification number such as a Social Security Number (or passport number or other similar information, in the case of foreign persons) of the beneficial owners. The information will be collected using a “Certification of Beneficial Ownership” form.

What types of accounts will be affected?
The new rules apply to all types of accounts opened by legal entity customers including checking accounts, savings accounts, loans, certificates, and safe deposit boxes.

When will legal entity customers need to provide this information?
Beneficial ownership information will need to be provided at the time a new account is opened, when any changes are made, or when select services are added to an existing account. The information must be collected before a new account is opened or changed.

Will beneficial owners need to be present at account opening?
No, this information can be provided by the person opening a new account on behalf of a legal entity. The person opening the new account will be required to complete a “Certification of Beneficial Ownership” form which is a legally required. By completing the form, the person present is attesting that the information provided is accurate to the best of their knowledge.

Will beneficial ownership information be stored or shared?
SpiritBank will maintain beneficial ownership information in its system of record. We maintain strict privacy policies and procedures. Any customer information, including beneficial ownership information, will not be shared.

Read this article at the SpiritBank.com

The views and opinions presented in this newsletter do not necessarily represent those of SpiritBank.
Property of SpiritBank. 2018.