Business @dvisor

  • Winter 2014
  • 2015 Business Trends; Fight the Flu; Green Biz Ideas; Bust Scams; Get Organized

  • Fall 2014
  • Protect Computers; Communicate Better; Overcome Obstacles; Subcontractor Tips; Prepare for Winter

  • Summer 2014
  • Prevent Burglaries; Networking Tips; Facebook Marketing Tips; Roof Maintenance; Finance for Start-Ups

  • Spring 2014
  • Business Trends; Electrical Safety; Social Media Tips; Business Insurance; Business Accelerator

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Business @dvisor

Spring 2013

Good Customer Service Keeps 'em Coming Back for More

In business, there's always someone somewhere who offers the same thing you do. What separates you from the rest is the service you provide.

Good customer service is making sure your customer is satisfied, happy and impressed with you and your product. It tells your customer, "We care about you.We value your business. We want you back."

New media, new rules

With the explosion of social media, a customer can tell thousands of people about their experience with you – positive or negative – in a matter of seconds.

Avoid negative press by taking care of your customer. In a recent survey, 70 percent of customers who had a problem said they will do business with that business again if the problem is resolved in their favor. Resolve it instantly and that number rises to 95 percent.

Tips for providing good customer service

When it comes to customer service, follow the "Golden Rule" — treat your customers the way you want to be treated. Here are a few suggestions for creating a top-notch service culture:

  • Keep your promises – If you say, "Your product will be delivered Tuesday," deliver it Tuesday!
  • Listen to your customers – When someone describes their problem, listen! It's frustrating for a customer to discover no one paid attention. Prove you're listening by offering appropriate solutions.
  • Train your staff to be helpful, courteous and empowered – Give your staff the information and authority to solve any problem they get. Don't ever let a customer hear, "I'm sorry but I don't have that authority."
  • Take the extra step – If someone asks you to help them find something, lead them to the item and wait and see if they have additional questions or needs.
  • Throw in something extra – Whether it's a future discount, additional information or maybe an accessory, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. It doesn't have to be large to be effective.

The best part about good customer service? It could bring in more business than advertising and price slashing ever did.

Is Your Business Prepared for Floods?

Don't let your business dreams get washed away. March 18-22 marks Flood Safety Awareness Week, focusing on the hazards of floods and what you can do to protect your life, home and business from surging floodwaters.

Flooding can occur in any place at any time. Common causes include heavy rains, melting snow, inadequate drainage systems, and failed levees and dams. You don't have to be in a flood plain to be at risk for a flood.

Just a few inches of water can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage. According to the National Flood Insurance Program the average commercial flood claim between 2007 and 2011 was more than $75,000. After a flood, almost 40 percent of small businesses never reopen.

Be proactive

Following are tips from the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety that could help minimize your losses.

When flooding is imminent:

  • Clear drains, gutters and downspouts, and inspect sump pumps and drains.
  • Move carpets, furniture and electronics off the floor on lower levels.
  • Anchor fuel tanks.

If time allows:

  • Hire a licensed electrician to raise electrical switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring at least 12 inches above expected flood levels.
  • Hire a licensed plumber to install an interior or exterior backflow valve to prevent sewage backup.
  • Make sure grading directs water away from your building.

After a flood:

  • When it is safe, disconnect all electronics/electrical equipment and move them to a dry location.
  • Remove standing water from inside the building.
  • Remove water-damaged materials immediately.

The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety offers additional recommendations.

What coverage is available?

Flood insurance is available for commercial and residential buildings and contents. Typically, there's a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase before the policy goes into effect. That means now is the best time to buy flood insurance. Because most commercial or homeowners insurance policies do not provide coverage for flood damage, American Family works through the National Flood Insurance Program to offer flood insurance coverage.

Learn more about flood insurance and consider requesting a flood insurance quote.

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Secrets to Small Business Success

Russell Zimny dreams big.

That helps explain his success as an entrepreneur. In a matter of years, Russell has grown his start-up from a two-person operation in his basement to a booming business, ZLan Partners, employing more than 20 people.

Based in Downers Grove, Ill., Russell's firm offers computer network support to hundreds of small- to medium-sized businesses, in sectors ranging from finance to manufacturing.

A long-time American Family Insurance customer, Russell recently was featured in the company's annual report.

Here are just a few secrets to his success.

Don't Shy Away from Sales - Russell freely admits he was reluctant to pursue sales when he decided to start his business. But he quickly learned that effective selling involves listening to customers' needs and presenting good solutions. "I have taken that approach with my business," Russell says. "I want my employees to offer solutions and options, and keep the passion going in the conversation."

Keep It Simple - Don't provide too many options when providing solutions to customers. "I've seen other companies give too many options," he says. "Keep it simple." In addition, Russell and his employees always present information to customers in a way that makes sense and is easy to understand. This helps build trust.

Be Persistent - When he started out, Russell and his first employee made thousands of calls from the basement of Russell's home. They often were rejected. Yet their persistence paid off, and they slowly but steadily built their customer base.

Plan Ahead - If you want your business to thrive over the long haul, you have to plan ahead. This includes planning for the unexpected, and getting appropriate business insurance coverage. From lightning strikes or winds taking out his firm's electricity, Russell made sure he had the coverage he needed, and it has paid off, too. "I always look at what my risks are," he says, and then he plans ways to minimize those risks.

Give Back - If you're able to do so, getting involved with local charities is a good way to build your ties to the local community. Russell is involved with a local non-profit that empowers individuals with disabilities to achieve personal success. It helps others, and feels good, too!

For more about Russell, as well as American Family Insurance, check out American Family's annual report.

Is Your Business Green?

Green business practices are sweeping the nation. They're good for the environment and save money, too. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has developed a free Green Business Guide to help businesses learn and adopt green practices. The guide includes tips on:

  • Becoming more energy efficient
  • Marketing
  • Product development
  • Green certification and eco-labeling

The SBA also includes case studies from companies such as Ben & Jerry's, Whole Foods, GE and McDonalds.

Visit the SBA Green Business Guide to learn more about how your business can go green. It just might make the world a better place!