Sunday, January 4, 2015

How to handle customer complaints

No one likes to be criticized. But customers do understand how your products and services affect them. So a wise business owner will pay attention to customer complaints, even when they seem to descend from left field, even when criticisms seem  on the surface, at least  unreasonable.

It's important, first of all, to defuse emotions. Like the bomb squad called in to deactivate a deadly device, you want to make sure the situation doesn't escalate out of control. Once tension has diminished, you can engage in rational conversation with your customer.
Usually some grain of truth can be gleaned from even the most irrational grievance. Sometimes the problem is obvious  a defective product or poor customer service from an untrained employee, for example. Other times, you may need to listen long and hard to discover the underlying problem, like a patient doctor who studies symptoms and consults with colleagues before prescribing a remedy.
Following are three tried-and-true suggestions for dealing with customer complaints:
  • Don't ignore them. Whether or not you agree, it's important to let customers know that you've heard them and will attempt to meet their needs. Employees should be trained to treat customers with respect, make eye contact, and listen without interruption. Such simple acts of courtesy will often lower the level of emotion so that complaints can be constructively addressed. A customer who isn't acknowledged may leave in a huff and start broadcasting complaints about your business to anyone who will listen.
  • Keep the process positive. If a customer shows signs of frustration or anger, a response in kind may simply add fuel to the fire. Don't be afraid to apologize. There's a reason the customer is upset, regardless of whether you're at fault. Take the time to listen. Acknowledge the importance of the issue and be willing to make things right.
  • Work toward a solution. If a product was defective, replace it — no questions asked, no excuses given. If someone was treated poorly by one of your employees, acknowledge the problem and let the customer know that you take such complaints seriously. Get the details. Complaints often highlight the need for additional training or revised procedures. Track complaints with a log and use them to your advantage.
Over time, dealing constructively with customer complaints can build loyalty and may even generate new business.
© MC 2014
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Use both general and subsidiary ledgers to make better business decisions

Prudent business managers don't relegate their company's recordkeeping to the accounting department — at least not entirely. That doesn't mean managers have to be CPAs or debit-and-credit experts. But having a basic understanding of a business's accounting records shouldn't be considered optional. More than one firm has floundered because the company continued to spend beyond its means, suffering cash flow shortages while managers remained in the dark — until the accounting department showed up with bad news.

Central to any modern accounting system is the general ledger, also known as the book of accounts. It's "general" because it contains all the accounts of the business. These include balance sheet accounts such as cash, accounts receivable, accounts payable, property and equipment, owner's equity, and the like. Also included are accounts presented on the profit and loss statement: sales revenue, salary and administrative expense, cost of goods sold, and so on. If the accounts are accurate, a report from the general ledger known as a "trial balance" will show that debits (entries on the left side of the ledger) and credits (entries on the right) agree. That's the essence of double-entry bookkeeping. It's simply a way of making sure that financial transactions are recorded accurately.
A business may also maintain separate accounting journals and subsidiary ledgers, sometimes called "books of original entry" because that's where transactions are first recorded before information is "posted" (transferred) to the general ledger. The detail in the subsidiary substantiates the account balance in the general ledger.
Why use subsidiary ledgers?
For one thing, recording every accounting transaction directly to the general ledger can make analysis challenging and tedious. Subsidiary ledgers focus on a single type of transaction such as accounts receivable or accounts payable. By analyzing an accounts payable subsidiary ledger, for example, a manager might discover problems with collections and payments that may have gone undetected if buried in the general ledger.
In a similar way, an accounts receivable subsidiary ledger contains the individual accounts of a company's charge clients. Tracking customer payments and balances is, therefore, simplified. Maintaining separate cash receipt and disbursement journals may provide a similar benefit, making it clear, at a glance, where the company is getting and spending its cash.
A foundational knowledge of your company's financial records can help you make better decisions and keep your business on track. Call us if you have any questions.

Friday, December 26, 2014

What Is Mobile Marketing?

Mobile marketing involves marketing and advertising strategies that are focused and conducted on mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. Mobile marketers communicate with consumers by sending text messages or SMS. Smart phone owners can also be targeted by marketers via mobile internet, social media, and mobile applications.

With mobile marketing, you can send a simple marketing message to consumers or ask them to participate in a contest, survey or poll. Smart phone users can also visit a mobile website. Mobile marketing was not feasible just a few years ago but now that consumers can receive text messages and view images on their smart phones, marketers and business owners must adapt and embrace this new medium or fall by the wayside.

 There are over 5.6 billion cell phones in use globally, which means that close to 80% of the world's 7 billion inhabitants has access to a mobile phone. With that kind of reach, businesses can no longer afford to ignore the opportunities presented by mobile marketing. In particular, small business owners should also consider how the mobile market can benefit them.