Reposted from my column in the Portland Business Tribune.
It’s the start of a new year, which means it’s time to decide how you want to improve your organization. Yes, even your business can have New Year’s resolutions!
January is a perfect time to review your goals and set new ones. If you’re not sure where to start, here are a few ideas that could help your business succeed in 2015.
1. Improve customer service.
Most businesses would be nothing without the loyalty of their customers or clients, so customer service should be a priority for every business.
According to Oracle.com, 73 percent of consumers love a brand because of friendly customer service. The kindness and helpfulness of your employees can make or break your relationship with current and future customers — which also affects your bottom line. A 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect as decreasing costs by 10 percent, according to “Leading on the Edge of Chaos” by Emmet and Mark Murphy.
Be innovative with how you engage your customers — and view them in terms of relationships, not transactions. Motivate your employees to treat customers with respect and fairness. When a known loyal customer enters your store, personally greet him. Show appreciation through freebies or discounts, and deliver value before and after making a sale.
By going above and beyond expectations, your customers will be so impressed that they will tell their friends about their experience, which will hopefully result in even more loyal customers!
2. Revamp your recruitment or hiring process.
New employees will either improve your company or weaken it, so recruit people who will contribute to the growth and profitability of your organization.
Your job announcements or postings should clearly define all of the position requirements, such as education, experience, skills and attitude. This will simplify the interview process, because you’ll have a “map” to follow to evaluate each candidate against your requirements. In turn, it will be easier to determine who is the best fit and who will be most successful in your organization.
Unfortunately, some people stretch the truth on their resumes. So don’t just take someone’s word for it — put candidates to the test! Does the person claim to have copy editing skills? Give him a poorly written document to edit and correct. Does she allege to be great at conflict resolution? Role play as a disgruntled customer, and see how she handles it. Is he an applicant for a PR position? Ask him to write a press release for a make-believe product or event. Tests will help you differentiate between who has the necessary skills and who does not.
Have a promising job candidate interview with several people throughout your company, especially those she would interact with the most if she is hired. Your opinion of someone is just one viewpoint. Gaining additional perspectives will increase your odds of hiring the best person for the position.
3. Increase your social media presence.
Too often, the task of connecting with customers and marketing a business on social media falls to the bottom of the to-do list. But if you want to attract new customers and keep old ones interested, make it a priority to regularly and consistently promote your business.
Create a calendar to help you plan out social media posts as well as blogs, articles and campaigns for big events. This will also help keep you on track with your posting goals, such as two blogs per week or one tweet per day.
Consider delegating some of the posting responsibilities to your employees. You may find you have a few people on your team with a hidden talent for blogging or social networking! It will also lend a diverse voice to your posts, which will keep customers interested.
Social media is not just about posting, but it’s also important to engage with your audience. Don’t have a one-sided conversation — ask questions, have discussions and always respond to feedback, whether positive or negative. According to Oracle.com, only 23 percent of companies provide customer service on Facebook; and according to MaritzResearch.com, 70 percent of companies ignore complaints on Twitter. Shocking, isn’t it? With the bar set so low, it should be easy for you to stand out from your competition!