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2017

Customer service can make or break your small business—especially when it comes to millennial customers. More than half (54 percent) of millennials report they have stopped doing business with a company because of poor customer service—more than any other age group.

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To make sure they don’t stop doing business with you, pay attention to these six things millennials want from customer service.

 

  1. Ease of use. Whether you’re using live chat on your e-commerce website or transferring a customer on phone support, millennials’ default expectation is the technology you’re using will function seamlessly. Long delays on chat responses or getting cut off mid-transfer won’t fly and can send them heading over to your competitors. Make sure the customer support technologies you use work well with each other, too.

  2. Social media responsiveness. Offering customer support through social media may not be practical for many small businesses, but you at least need to monitor what customers are saying on social platforms and reach out to those asking for support. Since millennials spend so much time on social media, it’s a natural place for them to ask for help from businesses. Popular platforms for millennials to post comments or questions are Facebook and Instagram. Contact social media users who post complaints, questions or requests and direct them to a a customer service experience such as chat, email or a phone conversation with a customer service rep.

  3. Accountability. Millennials don’t want to be passed to multiple faceless customer service employees. Have your reps use their names in interactions including email, chat and phone calls. If possible, have the same rep handle the customer throughout their transaction. For example, if a customer is returning a product they bought from your e-commerce site, and Susan responds to their initial request, Susan should also be the one to alert them when their return arrives in your mailroom and how their refund will be credited. It's OK if Susan is a bot—millennials are fine with that.

  4. Self-service. According to IBM, almost three out of four millennials would rather solve their own customer service issues than deal with a customer service rep. Provideways they can answer questions or resolve problems themselves if that’s their preference. This can range from the basic, such as FAQs or Troubleshooting Tips on your website, to the more complex, such as online videos or tutorials showing them how to use your product, or a user community where customers share tips and answer each other's questions. Self-service options enable millennial customers to get answers 24/7, which fits with their lifestyles.

  5. Options. A whopping 77 percent of millennials believe companies should offer customer service in a wide range of communication styles. While 40 percent would prefer customer service to be purely online, there are still times when in-person contact is necessary. Provide multiple options for contacting customer service, including email, phone, chat and text (36 percent of millennials would contact businesses more often if they could just text them).

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

     6. Personalization. There’s no reason your business shouldn’t be able to access customer information with a few keystrokes, so don’t

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make millennial customers repeat their information over and over or input data and then say the same thing to a phone rep. Almost three-fourths (72 percent) of consumers expect customer service reps to know their contact information, service history and product details as soon as they engage with a business, says the 2016 Microsoft State of Global Customer Service Report

. Millennials are very comfortable sharing their personal data, as long as it benefits their customer experience, so take advantage of that openness to collect and use information to provide better customer support.

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Convenience is What Customers Want Most - Here's How To Deliver

 

Now that you’re informed on how to better serve your millennial customers, pull ahead of your competitors, and earn customers for life.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Remember when social media first became a “thing” and businesses were obsessed with their number of followers, friends and likes?

 

Today, smart businesses use social media for much more sophisticated purposes—including “social media listening,” or monitoring what customers are saying on social media.

 

Some 42 percent of businesses in a recent report by Clutch say social media listening helps improve customer relationships, while 86 percent use it to monitor customers questions, concerns and requests. More than three-fourths use social media listening to monitor their competitors, 75 percent use it to monitor their own brands, 61 percent monitor industry trends and 60 percent monitor influencers in their industry.

 

Social media listening can show you:

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  • What questions your customers are asking
  • What problems your customers have
  • Which competitors your customers patronize
  • What your customers complain about
  • What your customers care about most
  • What your customers’ interests and passions are

 

Here are some questions to ask in your social listening and what you can learn from the answers

 

What are customers saying about their needs? Suppose you own a furniture store and you see a lot of customers in your target market complaining on social media that they can't find sofas to fit in small homes or apartments. You've just uncovered an unmet need—and by stocking more small-scale furniture and promoting it, you’ll grow your sales—and your business.

 

What are customers saying about your competition? Are people complaining about your competitors on social media or praising them? If your restaurant is open only for lunch and dinner, but your competitor down the street is getting lots of love for their weekend brunch, maybe you should add breakfast items to your menu and open earlier on weekends.

 

What problems do customers have with your business, your product or your services? When we see negative comments about our businesses on social media, it’s natural to want to hide our heads in the sand. But social listening requires responding to all comments—positive and negative. When dealing with critics, don’t get defensive. Start by acknowledging the person's feelings and apologizing for any problems. Then take the conversation off-line to resolve the issue, and post your solution online when it’s handled. You’ll impress the complaining customer and build a positive image with prospects as a company that listens to customer complaints. Create a professional business account on popular platforms, such as Yelp and TripAdvisor, where customers tend to write reviews.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

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What are your customers’ interests and passions? Become your own trend forecaster by listening to what your customers are interested in. Do you own a children’s clothing store and online boutique? Perhaps you see a few customers posting on social media that their little girls aren’t into pink and purple anymore and want more gender-neutral clothing. Is it a trend or just a fluke? If more and more people join the conversation and express the same interest, it’s probably a trend. Carrying more gender-neutral clothing can put you on the cutting edge—and ahead of your competition.

 

What are industry and market influencers saying? Influencers are social media users who have an outsize influence on others. They may include journalists, bloggers, industry experts or just individuals who have large followings. Connecting with the right influencers can expose your business to more prospects. Are influencers talking about your competition, but not about your business? Reach out to get on their radar by joining the social media conversation and sharing what you offer (without making a hard sell). Look for group events like TweetChats or Facebook Live discussions to join.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Harness the Power of Emotion in Social Media Marketing Campaigns

 

Need some help staying on top of the chatter?

  • Google Alerts and Social Mention offer a simple way to track mentions of your company, competitor, brands, products, services, and executives.
  • Mention, Sprout Social, Hootsuite and BuzzLogix are social media management tools with more sophisticated features for monitoring and responding to all your business’ social media accounts in one place.

 


 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Retirement might seem like a far off notion to you.

 

It shouldn’t be. Your IRA or 401(k) should be your best friend. And, like any friendship, it takes time, commitment, and trust.Steve Strauss Headshot SBC.png

 

Now, it may be that you are young and more concerned about funding a college savings plan  for the kids than a retirement plan, or that you have no real plans on retiring, or whatever the case, but the same inspiration that led you to entrepreneurship should also lead you to planning for retirement – no matter what your age or situation.

Think about it: Why did you start your own business? It is likely because you had an idea for a business that took hold that you could not ignore. But equally, it’s very likely that you chose entrepreneurship because you believe in yourself and you wanted to create something of value that would provide long-term security for yourself and your family.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ARTICLES FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

And that’s exactly why you need to think about funding a retirement plan, right now.15491704_s.jpg

 

Consider all of the reasons a retirement plan makes as much sense for you as starting a business did:

 

It provides financial security: Let’s face it, Social Security is neither a viable retirement option for most people nor a lock to be there 10, 15, or 20 years from now. By the same token, the income generated by your business now may not be the same 10, 15, or 20 years from now.

 

You create a hedge against both possibilities by starting to fund a retirement plan right now. It is your security against old age and outside risk.

 

Things change: Maybe right now you have no plans on retiring, or maybe your business income is such that you don’t think you need to worry about retirement income. But if you have been around the small business block a couple of times, you know that one of Buddha’s truths is that everything changes.

 

  • Your business can change
  • You might get sick
  • You might get bored
  • Life happens etc.

 

Whatever the case, the solution is the same: The funding of a retirement plan now puts you in control.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: How To Enjoy Vacation and Keep Your Business Humming

 

Control: Speaking of control, if you are an entrepreneur then you probably like control. Among other reasons, you likely started a business because you wanted to control your career and the type of work you do. You certainly like having control over your schedule. And if all that is true, then it follows again that creating a retirement plan makes sense because it puts you in control of your finances and your future.

 

Potential age discrimination: If you are a professional, if you sell yourself and your services, one thing you may encounter as you get older – that you may not be aware of now – is age discrimination.

 

Oh sure, if you are a doctor, patients will appreciate your gray hair. But will your employer? Might they want to replace you with a younger, cheaper, healthier version? Or what if you are a self-employed salesperson? At some point customers may think that someone younger “knows the market better,” or whatever.

 

Solution? A funded retirement.

 

Slowing down: The last reason creating a retirement plan now makes sense is you might want to  slow down a bit, but not fully retire.

 

Saving for retirement as soon as possible seems like a simple concept, but many Americans don’t know where to begin. Now that you know why you should start investing in your future, here’s a tip to kick-start your savings.

 

Use the 50/20/30 rule to budget for retirement

 

There is certainly no shortage of ways to spend your way. The first step in prioritizing your retirement is budgeting. If you tell your money where to go, you won’t have to wonder where it went.

 

50 percent of Your Income – Fixed Expenses 

 

These expenses typically don’t vary month to month. For example:

  • Housing
  • Food
  • Transportation, etc.

 

20 percent of Your Income – Savings and Retirement

 

Set automatic payments to your savings account each month.

  • Building an emergency fund
  • Paying down credit card debt
  • Retirement – IRA and 401(k)

 

30 percent of Your Income – Personal Lifestyle Expenses

  • Gym memberships

  • Coffee shops

  • Eating out for dinner

 

If you are looking to cut costs, this is the best category to forgo. Try limiting eating out to once or twice a week, going for a run, or bringing coffee from home.

 

Your business savvy is what helped start your business, now apply that same go-getter mentality to your future self. After all, funding a retirement plan now makes a lot of sense.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC.  ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Steve Strauss Headshot New.pngDid you hear the one about the guy who drove for Uber and Lyft, and worked for Task Rabbit on the side, and rented out his extra room on Airbnb on weekends?

 

Neither did his girlfriend since she never saw him.

 

By now, you’ve probably heard some buzz on the “gig economy.” If not, the “gig economy” refers to people who support themselves from one contract or project – one gig – to another. Gig workers could be almost anything:

 

  • Musicians and artists
  • Web and graphic designers
  • Carpenters and painters
  • Drivers and shoppers

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT STEVE STRAUSS

 

And apparently there is no shortage of gig workers today. According to US News, one-third of all workers are now part of the gig economy:

 

“A new study published by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates the U.S. holds between 54 million and 68 million “independent workers,” which it defines as “someone who chooses how much to work and when to work, who can move between jobs fluidly and who has multiple employers or clients over the course of the year.”

 

There certainly are a lot of benefits to being a gig worker. The first, and perhaps the most obvious, is the opportunity to be your own boss. Needles to say, making your own schedule, setting your own prices, working wherever and whenever you want, not having a boss, and doing work you (hopefully) enjoy are all very desirable things.

 

However, the gig economy also comes with its share of downfalls and challenges.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 6 TIPS FOR WORKING BETTER WITH FREELANCERS

 

For starters, in the gig economy, being your own boss means finding your own gigs. So, not only must you be able to do the task you are hired to do (play that song, create that content) but you must also be a master marketer. This in turn makes the prospect of a steady, reliable income pretty uncertain. When you worked for someone else, work was assigned to you; you didn’t have to go look for it.

 

46722376_s.jpgMoreover, working for yourself means that nobody is paying for your health insurance or vacations. That’s also big change from the world of employment.

 

Being a contract worker similarly requires an incredible amount of self-discipline. Setting your own schedule and hours can be great, but that means that it’s up to you – and only you – to decide what your deadlines are and what your rules are. A gig worker needs to be able to resist the desire to procrastinate and act on impulse – so self-discipline is key.

 

So, this all begs the questions: Is the gig economy worth it?

 

The numbers don’t provide black and white answers, but they are certainly illuminating. Consider that 71% of gig workers have had positive experiences working in the gig industry, yet 58% of gig workers also agree that the gig economy exploits a lack of regulation. These conflicting statistics make it tough to come to any clear-cut conclusion on the gig economy’s ultimate effects and consequences.

 

What we can be (mostly) sure of is that the rise of the gig economy appears to have been born of the confluence of digital technology and the still recent recession. It is no coincidence that 51% of gig economy workers are in the 18-34 age range: yes, Millennials are generally thought of as being the most technologically savvy, as well as the most unlucky in terms of entering the job market. Since 2007, finding jobs has only gotten harder and harder, whereas using technology has gotten easier and easier. That’s the void the gig economy filled. Apps like Postmates, Lyft, and Airbnb have made it significantly easier and less expensive to find a gig.

 

It really comes down to your personal work style and the things you value in work. If your goal is to supplement your primary source of income, then part-time gig work would be great for you. If you’re an artist who wants to take your career into your own hands, then yes, absolutely. If you know how to discipline yourself, handle stress well, market yourself, and be patient, then by all means, the gig economy might be exactly what you’re looking for.

 

While the gig economy began as a means of managing unfortunate economic circumstances, it can be a great way to make a little extra cash while also taking control of your career and getting your work out there.

 

If you want to, you could be your own boss today. And that’s pretty incredible.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.

 

Web: www.theselfemployed.com or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Steve Strauss to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Steve Strauss is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Steve Strauss. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

Rieva Lesonsky Headshot.png“How am I doing?” Do you really know how your customers would answer this question if you asked them?

 

Keeping your finger on the pulse of customer opinions is essential to keeping them satisfied with your products or services. Here are nine ways you can discover what customers really think of your business.

 

1. Do an online survey. No longer limited to big companies, online surveys are easy to create using tools such as Zoho Survey, SurveyMonkey or PollDaddy. You can have surveys pop up on your website after customers have spent a certain amount of time there; send customers a link to take the survey after you’ve completed your service or delivered a product; or offer a discount in return for taking a survey.

 

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM SMALL BUSINESS EXPERT RIEVA LESONSKY

 

2. Survey customers on social media. While social media isn’t suited for lengthy surveys, it’s a good place to get quick feedback on simple questions. For example, you can ask customers to choose between two options or solicit ideas for a product name. If you want to create more sophisticated Facebook polls, check out the Polls for Pages app.

 

3. Hand out feedback forms. Depending on your type of business, paper feedback forms can be an effective way to get customers’ opinions. Try including a quick survey form with your next billing statement, delivering it to your restaurant customers with the check, or having feedback forms available at the point-of-purchase.

 

4. Check in annually. If you provide a B2B service, try meeting with customers once a year to find out how they feel about your company. You can send them an introductory survey to complete before the meeting to get them thinking about issues they may want to bring up.

 

5. Listen in. Asking questions on social media isn’t the only way to find out what your customers think. Use social media monitoring tools to stay on top of everything that customers are saying about your business online. Hootsuite and Sprout Social are popular social media management programs that can help you keep your ear to the ground.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 7 QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR CUSTOMERS IMMEDIATELY

 

15749175_s.jpg6. Monitor your online reviews. Is your business listed on online ratings and review sites? If so, these are a gold mine of information about how customers view your business. Instead of constantly checking in at review sites, use tools such as ReviewPush and MarketSmart 360 to collect all your reviews in one place so you can stay on top of customer opinion without wasting any time.

 

7. Ask your employees. If you have front-line employees who spend time directly engaging with customers, ask them what types of problems they frequently run into with customers. If lots of customers are complaining about the same issue or can’t figure out how to make the best use of your product, it could be time to make a change.

 

8. Use your web analytics. Web analytics offer an indirect way of finding out what customers think of your business, especially if you sell a product or service online. Review your analytics to see what parts of your website users visit most often, where they spend the most time and what they do while they’re there. For example, if half your e-commerce customers abandon their shopping carts midway through checkout when they see their shipping costs, it likely means your shipping costs are too high.

 

9. Just ask. For many small business owners, finding out what customers think is as simple as asking them. You’re out among your customers every day, not locked away on the 45th floor of a corporate office. Take advantage of that and ask customers what they like about your business, what they don’t like and what you could be doing better. By keeping the conversation going and actually acting on the answers, you can continually improve your business.

 

About Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN,The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

You can read more articles from Rieva Lesonsky by clicking here

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Rieva Lesonsky to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Rieva Lesonsky is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Rieva Lesonsky. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America,its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

 

Bank of America, N.A. Member FDIC. ©2017 Bank of America Corporation

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