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Networking is to Your Business as a Bee is to Honey

Posted By Julie Armstrong, Arizona Small Business Association, Monday, November 2, 2015

Many people tell me, “You make it look so easy”.  My response back is “networking” is not easy, however it should be worthwhile.  I have found over the 20+ years I have been interacting in the business to business social scene that very little has changed, given the prevalent changes in technology and the social media surge.  The formula to successful networking is to focus on the outcomes you wish to accomplish during the event.

 

Be prepared…here are some tips to get you there:

  1. Bring your smile, it will increase your face value

  2. Know your business, know your brand.  Focus on the benefits of your product/service rather than the features

  3. Speak with conviction and confidence

  4. Listen, Listen, Listen – genuinely engage in conversation

  5. Ask questions relevant to conversation

  6. Make eye contact with the person you are speaking with (don't be looking around the room to see who else is there)

  7. Bring your end game.  Know what is it that you want to accomplish from attending the networking opportunity

In addition to these tips, here are things you should always practice when preparing for networking.

Remain positive.  The attendance and audience size are a consideration; smaller numbers can render greater outcomes.  Choose networking events you know will be advantageous for the audience (clients) you are seeking. Research the event, check history, sponsors/partners and search for feedback from past events the organization has hosted.

 

Dress for success.  Ensure you present yourself in a professional, well-dressed manner. Your name badge should always be on your right upper chest for clear visual during handshake and other exchanges.  Have a place to store collected business cards, keeping your hands free to meet and greet people.  Have your business cards handy and bring plenty with you.

 

Be aware of your non-verbal communication and the message you might send with wondering eyes and looking around the room while trying to communicate.  Chewing gum, tobacco and smoking is a distraction in any networking environment. Be respectful of others.  Breath mints are a suggested sidekick.

 

Use technology only as a means to exchange ideas or show people your website or other business related content.  No texting, talking on your phone or communicating with non-attendees during the event.  If you need to make a call or text, step outside.

 

Many times I will circle back to an individual before leaving to gather further information or ask a few more questions, if necessary.  After the event, take notes for appropriate follow-up.  Make a quick assessment of your brief meeting with the person; ascertain the benefits of furthering a conversation or another meeting with them.  What can they learn from you, what can you learn from them.  This will be good information when following up via email to set an appointment.  Do not rely solely on social media to relationship build with your new contacts.  Send an email to make initial contact, then pick up the phone and set an appointment with them.

 

Happy Networking!

Tags:  asba  asba news  b2b  brand  networking  thinksmallbiz 

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Rebranding Your Customer Service Department

Posted By Jason Trujillo, Woodbury Financial, Monday, February 23, 2015

Rebranding Your Customer Service Department by Steve Parrish

Article originally appeared on Forbes.com on February 23, 2015.

Click here to read original article.

Do you ever feel like the concept of “customer service” needs a makeover? Sometimes when I hear this term bandied about I think of my local bank teller who always asks me in a robo-voice, “How’s your day going so far?” She then invariably mispronounces my name (the computer has her convinced my name is Stefan).

In all fairness, she handles my requests fine, but I just have this feeling someone has forced her to read a script instead of actually interacting with customers.

Perhaps a way to reenergize the customer service experience is to rebrand the department that handles this essential function. Here are some suggestions that may awaken and motivate service providers and their trainers.

The just-say-no department

OK, this is a tongue-in-cheek idea, but I think it’s a key tenet of customer service to be able to deliver a “no” to a customer.

Back when I taught employees how to work with life insurance agents, I told them I had a cardinal rule. Never say “maybe.” Agents love to hear “yes,” but can also handle a “no.” They are used to rejection, and though they may ask two or three times before giving up, they truly can accept a clear “no.”

A “maybe”, however, costs them time and takes money out of their wallet. I told these service providers that requests are either doable, not doable or something that can be checked out and responded to within a specified time frame. Which leads to my next idea.

The we’re-good-for-the-date-we-give-you department

In a recent sizeable transaction with my bank, I was upset with the number of days they planned to put a hold on a check I deposited. I protested, and they relented, assuring me they would release the funds several days earlier.

They didn’t.

After 24 years with the same bank, I moved my money to a competitor.

Was it their hold-on-deposit policy that caused the change? No. I could live with that decision. It was the fact that they gave me a date in order to mollify me and then failed to make that date. Customer service is best when it makes a promise and sticks with it. And hey, if they get it done even sooner, it’s a bonus!

The technology-that-serves-the-customer department

I hear people complain about how customer service has been relegated to computers, and I’m mystified with their frustration. I believe technology has radically improved the consumer experience. It’s simply a matter of focus.

Companies should concentrate on using technology to help the customer and let the cost savings be a byproduct. Two positive examples come to mind. Amazon is known for its world-class, computer-based service. I actually look forward to interacting with them because I can easily find what I’m looking for and get an answer … all on my schedule.

I’ve done hundreds of transactions with them – actually – with their computers. On the one occasion when I really needed the help of a human, their customer service area answered my call and handled my question within seconds.

In other cases, the experience starts with a computer but is bounced to a human and then back to a computer again to wrap up.

I recently needed help from an insurance company with a billing change. When I called their customer service department, the call tree quickly got me to the person who could help. She captured the needed information, flooded a form with the required data, and emailed it to me within seconds. My needs were met, and I suspect it was cost-effective for them.

The we-make-it-right department

A TV ad for a rental company has a service rep stating, “But if there is ever a problem, we all have the power to make it right. I don’t have to find a manager. I don’t have to make a phone call.”

This truly embodies the ideal customer service experience. It’s not enough to just rebrand customer service. It’s even more important to empower customer service. Give representatives clear parameters of what they can do, and then let them do their job – serving the customer.

During the credits of the long-running NPR comedy call-in show “Car Talk,” they include a litany of play-on-words names for their staff. Their customer service representative? Haywood J. Bussoff. Get it? We associate a business and its brand with the customer service it provides. So, rather than teach customer service representatives cute greetings, let’s teach these key employees to understand just how far they can go to meet customer needs, leverage the technology provided them and serve as the proud, public faces of the company.

Tags:  amazon  billing change  brand  Car Talk  consumer experience  customer service  customer service experience  customer service representative  Haywood J. Bussoff  insurance company  life insurance agents  NPR  Principal Financial Group  rebrand customer service  Steve Parrish  technology 

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