Not talent, not even education

 Calvin CoolidgeNothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference. Calvin Coolidge

How to get your rebate: Do it right, do it now

RebateIf you bought your lawn mower, paint, or computer but never got the promised rebate, you are one of many. The Federal Trade Commission reports that “the problem is huge.”
It may appear that the main function of rebate processors is to find a reason to deny the money-back offer. Rules are often so complicated and vague that most customers don’t even bother. Rebate complaints have risen 400 percent since 2002 according to the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
To get the rebate you expect:

  • Know the terms on the rebate form or store receipt. Ask the retailer to explain the terms.
  • Make copies of everything including store receipts, bar codes, forms, product containers, and serial numbers, recommends Sid Kirchheimer, author of Scam-Proof Your Life (AARP/Sterling).
  • Fill in every blank on the form. If it asks for your email address, for example, say you don’t have one rather than leaving the space blank.
  • Act fast. The average time to submit a claim is now 15 to 30 days.
  • Use certified mail and ask for a receipt. Fill out all forms in writing to avoid suspicions of mass-mailing fraud.
  • Shop where rebates are easy to apply for. Stores like Staples, Cingular, and Costco let customers fill out rebate forms at the checkout or online. Some stores have the rebate form printed out at the end of the sales receipt.

The best idea: Fill out forms carefully immediately after the purchase. Send them along with required proofs that day or the next day.

Managing Upset Customers

Having respect for your customers will ensure their faith in and loyalty to you and your business. Studies show that it is nine times more difficult to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing one, so it is critical to keep your customers happy. Surveys, focus groups and questionnaires are among the ways to measure your customers’ perceptions of you and determine how to improve.If you discover that a customer is dissatisfied, take action immediately to win back their confidence in the services you provide. People like to know that their opinion counts and if they feel like you care about what they think, they will think positive thoughts about you and your business.

Stay Calm
Listen carefully to your customers’ complaints without interrupting. Acknowledge that there is a problem and empathize with upset customers. Let them know what you can do for them and make them aware of all of their options. Always treat your customers with respect. Customers should sense that you are calm, but concerned. Your attitude when dealing with upset customers should be professional, mature, pleasant and reasonable.

Work at Gaining Loyal Customers
The number one reason that customers stop buying from a business is because they were treated poorly by someone. It is much more cost effective to retain loyal customers than to gain new ones. In order to create loyalty, you have to calm down upset customers and ensure them that you will work to find a solution that they deem acceptable. Let them know that their business is important. Thank them for their patience and cooperation. In many cases, it pays to reward upset customers in order to keep their business.

Look & Act Professional 
A first impression is a lasting impression. Your appearance should signal that you are professional, mature and knowledgeable. Nonverbal communication also says a lot. Your body language and tone of voice should be polite and tactful. Pay attention to your facial expressions, posture, gestures and speech.

Choose Who You Want to Do Business With
There are some people who will never be happy with your products or services. Repeated complaints from a customer and terminal dissatisfaction are signs that you cannot please him or her. Your business is better off without such customers and you may want to refer them elsewhere.

Ensure that Mistakes Aren’t Repeated
Once you determine the problem and how it originated, you can take steps to ensure that it does not happen again. Learning about a problem can actually help improve your business if you make sure that the problem is avoided in the future. Don’t make the same mistake twice. In dealing with upset customers, you also learn about human behavior and become better at resolving similar situations in the future.

Don’t Take Criticism Personally
Many discourteous customers act that way because they made a mistake and want to blame someone else. Don’t let these customers get to you by responding emotionally or giving in to outrageous demands. Tears, anger and sarcasm are inappropriate reactions.

Establishing Great Customer Service

Every once in awhile it pays to sit back and take stock of how you’re running your business. Is the accounting software still the best for the job? Is the phone system meeting your needs? And most importantly, are you focusing on your greatest asset of all: your customers? Sometimes we get so caught up in the mechanics of doing business that we forget the reason we’re in business in the first place.

Incorporate Customer Service into Your Business Culture
Customer service should be as routine as paying your bills or ordering office supplies. And it doesn’t have to be elaborate to make an impression. Often it’s the small things that customers remember: a phone call returned on time, a card to mark a special occasion, a thank you note or a gift.

Small Businesses Have a Customer Service Advantage
An advantage of being a small business is that it’s usually easier to respond quickly and personally to customer inquiries. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Ask yourself how you would like to be treated, and then act accordingly. Remember to be proactive toward your customers as well as reactive to their concerns and questions.

Communicate with Your Customers
Keep your customers apprised of the status of their accounts. If someone’s order is held up, let them know as soon as possible. If you promise to have a job done by a certain date and there are glitches, tell your client right away and let them know when you expect the issue will be resolved.

Respond to Customers Quickly 
When dealing with customers or clients over the telephone, try not to put them on hold for longer than a minute or two. If you expect to be tied up for longer than that, take a message and respond as soon as possible. When you plan to attend an important meeting or event with a client, call beforehand to remind them of how they should prepare. After the meeting, check back with the client to find out their impressions. The client will appreciate your concern, and you will gain valuable feedback.

Let Customers Know You Appreciate their Business
Thank customers for their business. If customers regularly visit your place of business, make them feel welcome with coffee. Also, if customers are likely to bring children to your store or office, keep a basket of toys handy. Harried parents will appreciate the distraction, and are likely to stick around longer if their children are occupied.

Ask Customers for Feedback
Finally, when you sit back and ask yourself how you’re business is doing, be sure to ask your customers as well. Send them postage-paid response cards or make a questionnaire available in your place of business.