Having a thick skin in business is important but so is having a soft side that is vulnerable.

If we operate in business with our defences up, we miss the learnings we can gather along the way. Such learnings can help transform our business as it grows and matures.

When a customer complains we often do one of two things:

1. Become defensive and justify why we did what we did.
2. Say sorry and try to rectify the situation

A third option and the one I’d like to explore is showing gratitude.

If we have undelivered to our customer they have a few options as well.

1. Walk away and never say anything and never come back
2. Bad mouth the business every opportunity they get
3. Take the time and effort to confront us to tell us why they are unhappy.

When people take the effort to complain they are showing that they still care enough to want to work on the relationship. It’s quite significant. If they didn’t, they’d just walk away. But they don’t. They stay and want to talk about it.

They want to give you a second chance. They want to help you improve your products or processes. They want you to listen.

That in itself is a gift, but here’s where your business can really impress them.

How you respond to that complaint can dramatically transform how they see your business and the story they tell about your business.

If you show them that you value their feedback and make amends that address their problem you can create an advocate for life. Your relationship can be significantly enhanced because of the problem and how you resolve it.

When you satisfy someone’s needs the customer experience is neutral. When you under deliver it is a negative response. When you over deliver they are excited and pleased.

In most business dealings we set out to satisfy our customers needs. It’s a neutral exchange. A problem or a complaint provides the opportunity to over deliver in terms of expectations.

What was once a negative becomes a resounding positive. The trick is to do it with grace and not resentment. Let the customer understand you are pleased they have bothered to let you know about the issue. That you are sorry it occurred and you are keen to rectify the problem.

Then do it.

Here’s an example I just had today after I started writing this article. I noticed on my credit card a debit for hundreds of dollars for a service I hadn’t used in almost a year. I logged in and realised I had left the auto renew option selected.

$234 for a service I no longer use or currently need. I was annoyed at myself for not deselecting the auto renew setting. It’s a trap for new players and I should have known better.

But still I didn’t want to have to pay for something that I wasn’t using. So I emailed their help desk. I explained that I haven’t used the service for almost a year, I don’t need the service and I’d appreciate a refund as soon as possible.

I received an automated response saying they had received my enquiry. Pretty standard. Then almost as quickly I received this email.

Hi there Geoff,

Thanks for getting in touch with us about the renewal, and I’m really sorry to hear if your account’s auto-renewal may have caught you off guard. We keep auto-renewal active on accounts after upgrading to ensure that your access won’t be limited during the middle of a project, and you can disable auto-renew any time. We mention this when you upgrade and in our terms of use, but I’m sorry if you weren’t aware. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but I’d definitely be happy to help you out.

I just refunded your payment method for the last Select Yearly plan renewal for your account, and turned off auto-renewal for your account so you can rest assured you won’t be charged going forward for this SurveyMonkey account.

It may take your bank up to 5 business days to post the refund in your account. Here are the links to your refund receipts, which you can also view from the Billing Details tab in My Account (LINK PROVIDED)

Your account is now on a free Basic plan. Please review this article for more information on how this affects your surveys and available features: http://help.surveymonkey.com/articles/en_US/kb/Limitations-of-the-BASIC-Free-Plan

I hope this helps you out today! If you do have any questions, please feel free to write in and I will be glad to help out! Thanks so much for your time and patience.

Best regards,

Customer Engagement Representative

I was blown away. How good is that? They gently pointed out that I should have known better, but regardless they were not only going to help me out, they already had. They’ve turned off the auto renewal – without my asking and reassured me that all is good in the world again.

They also take the opportunity to remind me of the limitations of the free account, in case I change my mind.

Now at present I don’t need their service, but if I do down the track I will most likely come back to Survey Monkey given how they have handled this issue. And I’ve just shared this story with everyone who reads this blog.

This is great example of how to turn a complaint into a gift. When have you been able to turn a disgruntled customer into a raving fan?

Social skills are an integral part of client relationship management.

Every time you interact with a client, they will be judging you and deciding whether you’re capable and competent for the job, whether you’re trustworthy and honest, or whether you’re likeable and recommendable to others.

Being able to communicate these messages to your client is part of your customer management strategy and it is the lifeblood of your business. If you have strong social skills then you’ll be able to retain and attract clients with ease. However, if you lack in social skills then your mistakes could drive clients away.

In this article, I want to share with you five social skills mistakes that you should avoid so you don’t lose clients.

Mistake #1 – Not Looking Like a Leader

For your client to see you as a leader, you must look like a leader. When you dress too casually, inappropriately or provocatively, your client will question your competence, intelligence and leadership ability. Why? Even though we’re told “you should never judge a book by its cover”, we do. It’s a natural human instinct to categorise people based on what they wear.

Which category do you want to be put in?

Mistake #2 – Not Being Able to Lead a Conversation

Leading a conversation takes confidence, skill and an understanding of the role of a conversation leader. Many people incorrectly assume that the conversation leader is the one who does most of the talking. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The conversation leader is the one who asks the questions and encourages the other person to talk. When you ask the questions, you can steer the conversation to where you want it to go. Clients will subconsciously associate your ability to steer conversations with your ability to guide them toward a final result.

Mistake #3 – Not Establishing Trust With Your Client

Without trust, your client will not feel safe working with you, they will not feel they can rely on you, and they might even question whether you’re capable of completing the job. Trust is a critical element of any business relationship. Yet many entrepreneurs overlook the importance of developing trust with their clients. It’s a shame because all it takes is a consistent series of very small gestures. For example, follow up with clients to see if they’re satisfied with your work. Or send thank you cards every 3-6 months conveying gratitude for that client’s business. You can even share informative and insightful articles with your clients on LinkedIn. Consistently “being there” and “being helpful” will help you establish trust with your clients.

Mistake #4 – Not Proving Your Competence on LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the first place potential clients will go to look for information about you, and your products and services. From the moment they look at your profile photo to when they can scroll no further down the page, they will be looking for evidence and confirmation about your competence and ability to serve them well. Your competence can easily be proven. Start by making sure your education and experience sections are filled out, and include information about how you helped that company achieve their goals. Then focus on collecting recommendations. Recommendations are an extremely powerful way to prove to your clients why they should work with you.

Mistake #5 – Not Following Up With Clients

Following up with current and past clients is critical for managing relationships and maintaining a constant cash flow in your business. When was the last time you followed up with your list of clients? If it was more than 3 months ago, you need to pick up the phone and reignite a connection. When you’re on top of the mind of your clients they will know who to call when they need your services and who to refer friends or colleagues to. This will retain old clients, attract new clients and help grow your business.

Client relationship management should be a strong focus for any business owner. A high level of social skill in your business interactions will help you manage your clients well and make your business more successful.


Kara Ronin is a business etiquette and social skills expert. Her unique approach has been featured in TIME Inc., The Daily Muse, YFS Magazine, and many more. She is regularly interviewed on prominent podcasts and was ranked as one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts to follow on Twitter. You can get social skills training by Kara in her new video course, Business Etiquette 101: Social Skills for Professional Success.

It is easy to just be focused on the product you are selling, and trying to get your clients to purchase your fantastic product. You know how great it is, and perhaps you think everyone needs your product , too!

Clients, buyers and potential customers aren’t concerned about how great you think your product is. The question that the potential clients are asking themselves is “What is in this for me?”

What’s in it for me?

How can this fabulous product improve my life? How can it make my life easier? How can it make my life less complicated? How can this product help save me money? It’s about thinking about the benefits of what your product brings that is the selling point.

At the time, your product might be solving a problem that is totally off the radar of the potential clients you happen to be talking to. You may be raising awareness of your product , which is great, but when people meet you for the first time and hear about your amazing product, they are unlikely to buy. The purchase process takes a number of “Touch-points” before people buy – this is also dependant on the type of product and assuming your are connecting with people who potentially will need your product.

So what will get your potential clients – the ones who you are meant to serve who now know about your fabulous product – what will get them to buy?

1. The Benefits

Marketers and business coaches will talk about selling the benefits, not the features, of your product. This is because talking about the benefits explains to your potential client:

a. What is in the product for them, and
How they will solve a problem they are experiencing by using your product. They are interested in knowing how the product will change their lives for the better.

You should be able to clearly define your benefits for your clients if you want to sell your product successfully, and understand how these benefits impact the end user.

There’s four benefits – the financial, emotional, physical and spiritual benefits. So let’s see what these four benefits look like:

Financial: On first thought, everyone may think that this is the most important benefit, but actually it is much lower on the Importance Ladder. The financial benefits come after all the hard work is done, but may be what brings the purchaser to you first.

Emotional: This is what makes people buy – on emotion. How does you product reduce stress, help people overcome nervousness, improve people’s happiness and bring joy to people’s lives? The product has to make people’s lives easier in the areas they are emotionally attached to.

Physical: How does your product help physically? By giving some sound approach, this gives a framework either figuratively or actually. How does the product make people’s lives better in a constructive way.

Spiritual: This is about the feeling of community, support, belonging. This benefit is about engagement. The spiritual benefit is what raises the attention first and then the other benefits follow.

The question really is how does your product enrich and help your client to improve the issues they are facing? The product is just a means to bring the results: the benefits the purchasers are wanting to achieve.

Take some time to think the benefits through of your product because its the benefits of the product that will sell the product or service you are keen to sell.

2. Trust

If you have just met someone , you are unlikely to believe or want a product they are trying to sell to you. Purchasing is really dependant on the relationship the buyer has with the seller – the more trust that is built up over time, the more you have kept your name and business on the front of the buyers mind for that product. Then, when the client is experiencing the problem that your product solves , when the buyer understands the benefits that your products brings from a Financial, Emotional, Physical and Spiritual perspective plus you are on “front of mind”, then the client will give you a call and you can have a sales conversation.

But its essential to be connecting and building the trust. People buy from people they trust.

3. Timing

Buyers are not likely to buy until they have the need. The more urgent the need the more likely they are to buy, and if you have been keeping in touch, and have been building trust and a relationship with this potential buyer, the buyer will come straight to you when there is an urgent need, because they know the benefits your product brings, and that your product can solve their problem.

When the time is right, you have appropriate pricing and you can discuss your client’s options clearly and assuredly, you will be able to book the business because you have educated your potential client on the benefits of your products or services.

So , in summary, you might have a great product with many bells and whistles, but to sell the product, it’s all about the benefits it brings to the buyer. Work out what’s in it for the buyerand what benefits your product delivers, because at the end of the day, that’s the purpose of your product.


Featured image via Pixabay via Creative Commons CC0


Adrienne McLean Corporate shots 012_edited-5Adrienne McLean
Adrienne McLean is the Founder of The Speakers Practice, which offers Presentation Skills training program for business people, individuals, teenagers and groups. Adrienne is an Internationally Accredited SpeakersTrainingCamp Instructor and is a Distinguished Toastmaster. Adrienne has studied marketing with Michael Port the author of the Top Business and Marketing book – BookYourselfSolid.

Adrienne, with her experience of growing up in a family business, working in the corporate and small business sector plus building her own business, gives an enthusiastic and practical approach to the benefits of presentation skills development, learning to promote yourself and building a successful business. She is a regular presenter, blogger and a contributing author in four recent business publications.

Follow her via Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+

Are you a lover of fashion? Ever wanted to run your own clothing line or fashion store? For our final Day in the Life interview series, we have moved away from the corporate sectors to look at a typical day in the life of a fashion retailer. Brisbane business owner, Eleni Zaphir, sells on trend affordable fashion for women through her retail store and online fashion boutique called V I G A R I . Here is her story:

1. What time do you wake up?

I wake up at 5am most days. Yes, it’s a ridiculous time I know. Weekends…… maybe 5:30­ or 6am, I struggle to sleep in.

2. What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Waking up so early allows me to have “me time”. This means while everyone is still asleep for an hour and a half longer, I can get to the gym while it’s still quiet. I’ll train twice a week with my personal trainer and now it’s 2015, I’ve decided to try boxing and bikrim yoga other mornings.

3. Breakfast?

Breakfast on the go is such a great convenience for the kids and I. We have invested in an amazing juicer. Our popular morning kick-start juice is spinach (lots of) with pear, banana, and some oats. Some mornings I may also make poached eggs (sounds all fancy but so easy to make!) with sourdough toast and spinach and salmon or ham. But I did say ‘some days’, meaning once a weekday.

4. How do you get to work and how long does it take?

We generally leave home by 8am. We live close to my son’s school and my daughters Dental clinic where she works. It’s only 2 minute drive from my store, V I G A R I, so it pretty much just takes us 15 minutes to do our morning drop off.

5. Lunch?

I will generally pack healthy chicken wraps for our lunches, nuts or a banana to snack on, or hard boiled eggs as it’s rare I get a moment to stop and eat at work as it’s always go, go, go. I also have the convenience of an amazing cafe next to my shop, so most days the staff just pop their heads in and ask what I’d like for lunch while I manage the shop.

6. What are the typical things you do every day?

Each day is hectic, there is never a dull moment. As I direct all and every aspect involved in my business it’s important my team and I work really well. Monday mornings are photo shoots. Soon after I’m back at the shop where I will prep the week ahead. I’ll schedule my “showings” which involve viewing new ranges for the seasons ahead (there is so much to see). I also meet with my social media guru and plan our posts for the week(s) ahead and any special or big events coming up.

By Tuesday, all edited work comes from my photographer and is uploaded to the website. I also write fashion blogs for a couple of magazines plus there’s all the other exciting things one does every week running her own business like paper work (boring!).

But my most favourite part of each day is seeing new faces and greeting my long term loyal amazing customers who I truly do this for. Everyday I have a few regulars I see and we catch up over a tea have a little chit chat as we ladies do, I’ll show them the latest styles and they’ll be off with their new pieces.

7. What do you love most about your job?

I generally enjoy everything I do in my business. It’s become a lifestyle for me. But seeing a regular customer each day is amazing, they truly have become dear friends and keep me in business.

8. How do manage all the tasks you need to do?

I schedule my daily tasks, you have to. I use to suffer from anxiety quite bad, and it wasn’t until I researched further more into it, I become aware that, yes, I have a lot on my plate but I wasn’t giving everything 100%. I use to do half arsed jobs, and think I was doing so much, but I wasn’t completing work as I should of. I realised that it was ok to start one job, complete it 100%, be content and then continue onto another.

So I now “schedule” everything that needs to be addressed, I give it a time limit that I can work on it should I wish to apply more things that day.

9. When is hometime?

Home time is roughly 6pm. The kids are home before I am and we have a roster in place for weekdays of who is cooking on what day. We have nominated “Fat Fridays”. We go out or take in on junk food. C’mon who doesn’t love a burger and fries and wash it down with a soft drink? We when follow it with ice cream. Gotta love Fat Fridays!

10. How do you relax when you do get home?

Once I am home, I obviously greet the kids, I’ll shower and chill with them, which is cool. We chat about their day and school. We never have the idiot box (TV) on. Family time is our time to talk about anything, oh and we always have music on, so whomever is cooking, it’s their night of tunes.

11. How do you manage the balance between work and personal life?

It’s important to balance both work and personal life. I have so many amazing people surrounding me and I adore them all. So catching up with friends for a cheeky wine or few is necessary.

12. How has the business changed from when you first began?

I have gained so much more knowledge and confidence running my business over the years. So much has changed in retail but i am always up for the challenge.

13. Who and/or what inspires you?

My inspirations are my kids, cliché as it may sound, but being a young mother I was determined to conquer the best in order to provide for my kids. It was a hard slog, but it was all worth it.

14. Why do you do what you do?

I own a fashion boutique because I love fashion; I love educating woman on how to dress to their personality and shape. It’s rare to find exceptional customer service, especially these days, and we deliver every time. Women come back for the whole experience. And I love that.

15. Tips for other business owners?

Ladies and gentlemen, it is so vital to have systems in place within your business. And schedule your daily tasks – yes I use this word often, but its so easy to get caught up with the day to day tasks that involve running a business and not completing them properly.

So always schedule, and always have staff meetings. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Be sure all staff add value to your brand and business also.

16. How do you define success?

Where I am today, after running a business for 8 years as I have. Success to me is not just getting through a retail economic downturn but conquering more. I have provided a lifestyle that I only wished of 19yrs ago when I had my daughter as a teenager. I have gained a sincere support from my customers, that as mentioned, who most have now become long term friends. And the kids and I have an amazing friendship and life. This is success to me.

17. What challenges have you faced as a business owner and how do you overcome them?

Retail is up and down sometimes. One of the hardship moments was the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), that was scary. But what I learnt was to have 2 ears and 1 mouth – that is, listen to your consumers, they are your free access to what is going on out there in ‘retail land’. At one point my store V I G A R I only had high end designer brands in store. However, soon after the GFC, I realised that no one was spending, not on the higher price pointed garments anyhow. I lost a lot of coin, but quickly discovered brands with quality and design that women wanted. I learnt to run my business as a directer and remove my emotional attachments I had with it. And it works.

Do you run your own retail business? How did you get through the GFC? Tell us in the comments below!

The advent of social media has given every person with an account a voice. It has allowed the ordinary person to publicise any perceived discrimination. But like the metaphorical double-edged sword, social media can also be a weapon of mass destruction.

Just recently a café in a Brisbane bayside suburb made headlines after a request by a reporter to the small business owner to put on some lipstick or not be in the picture promoting her business. The business owner vented her displeasure on her business Facebook page, and then social media took it to the next level turning on the reporter and newspaper. This was just after another café posted ‘housekeeping rules’ about their expectations of child patrons on the NSW central coast.

And further up the Hunter Valley a burger restaurant mocked a vegan customer on Facebook and all hell broke loose (socially speaking).

Back in 1995, an episode of the classic TV sitcom Seinfeld addressed the quirks of a small business owner who specialised in soup. The small business owner had precise requirements for ordering and taking the soup.

Jerry: “The guy who runs the place is a little temperamental, especially about the ordering procedure.”

Elaine: “Why? What happens if you don’t order right?”

Jerry: “He yells and you don’t get your soup.”

When not followed correctly, the business owner would yell “No Soup For You!” and threw the customer out. Now imagine how that would have played out in today’s culture of social media shaming.

With most small business owners running their own social media accounts, this puts you in direct contact with your customers. Your business Facebook page allows you to develop and write messages for your customer base about situations or issues but you need to consider how these will be perceived by your customers, their contacts and even the media.

Social media users and the media outlets that picked up the stories above expressed different levels of outrage and sympathy – but what impact does this type of behaviour by business owners have on their business? The Hunter Valley burger restaurant received death threats when the business owner’s personal mobile phone number was posted on a page set up in response to the initial post.

When there is a great deal of publicity surrounding a business page like the examples above, social media users anywhere can post an opinion. Which often include negative reactions. How a business owner reacts to these opinions is important.

So what lessons can you take from their experiences?

1. Don’t post on your business page when angry

Very important! Engaging with backlash needs to be thoughtful so don’t provoke the social media beast. Take a deep breath. Have a glass of wine or hit the gym. Write your rant on a piece of paper then burn it! You are not sharing your problems with a small group of friends, you are essentially shouting into a global microphone. Having a post go viral for the wrong reasons can be a social media disaster, rather than a boon to business.

2. Don’t allow your business Facebook page to be hijacked.

You should calmly reiterate your message to focus on the issue. To emphasise the stance on child patrons, the business owner pointed out to casual readers that her business was based in a commercial/industrial area and not a mall, with business hours reflecting that.

3. Control the information on your page

False information on the Internet can be difficult to dispel (… if it’s on the internet is must be true). You hold the power.

4. Champion your business

The Hunter Valley burger café had an existing larrikin tone to all their posts – they reiterated their stance and took action against the hate page created to harm their business by engaging lawyers to send a cease and desist letter. When they realised things were getting out of hand on their own page, they posted a notice calling for a stop to it.

5. Don’t delete the post, comments or page

Unless they are malicious or go against the Facebook code of conduct then leave them there. Critics in your audience will see it as proof that they were right if you delete them. Call out those posting vitriol and respond rationally and keep it civil – this is your business.

5. Monitor the posts

Plenty of people sympathised with the small business owner who was asked to put on some lipstick – however comments directed at the journalist were plainly inappropriate. Monitoring the social media reaction allows the business owner to educate any reader about their stance.

6. Thank your audience for their support

It is important to keep your customers on side and thank them for their support but also underline that personal attacks of any form are not acceptable on your business page. This highlights an ethical stance that you should embrace – and practice.

Remember, your business Facebook page is advertising your business. You may double or triple your likes, but it needs to be sustainable and for the right reasons.

Do you know what happened to the business owner in the Seinfeld episode?

Elaine gets the upper hand and says to him, “You’re through. Pack it up. No more soup for you. NEXT!”

It’s in your best interest to have positive effects in moving your business forward. Keep your social media professional. A good rule of thumb is to think – would I sign off on this statement on my marketing materials?

Have you ever been in a similar situation? Tell us in the comments how you dealt with it.

Yolanda Floro is Leaders in Heels’ Social Media Editor and currently completing her Masters in Law, Media and Journalism studies, focusing on New Media.

Photo credit: Jeff Cutler

Your Customer Service Team is the face of your company and it is important that all the human interactions are as good as your product. After working for 8+ years with Customer Service Teams, here are the top 5 mistakes I’ve seen and how to solve them.

1. Lack of communication between teams

Some procedural changes take place inside the company and your Customer Service Team is the last one to know. If this situation sounds familiar take some action:

  • Send weekly emails with updates and make special remarks during team meetings.
  • Have a person in your time zone in charge of making sure all templates and manuals are up to date.
  • Periodically test your CS team with questionnaires to detect misunderstandings or poor knowledge of your business.
  • Give incentives to those who are most knowledgeable!

2. Unmotivated Agents

Your customer service team along with your sales team is the face of your company. Treat them well. Make sure they know how important they are and give them all the tools they need to have fun at work:

  • Create fun competitions between teams.
  • Provide extensive trainings so people feel like they have a domain of your product.
  • See point 5. Give them a channel to provide feedback and product-related suggestions for future development, because it has the side-effect of motivating and involving your CS team.
  • Provide awards to entire teams.
  • Make sure your CRM tool meets all the needs your team has.

3. Unification of Multi-lingual Teams

The response of your company must be unified, but each culture and each language has a unique way of expressing itself. Make sure you give each Language/Country Team Leader some room to personalize templates and treat your customers according to their culture or language.

If the agents are natives of that language, they will know how to improve the process so your clients from that country get the service they expect. You can also have them do some research to confirm certain details, like what titles, if any, you should use when addressing those customers. This helps customers identify with your brand.

4. Something isn’t right: Prepare for the worst

The same way cities have evacuation plans and disaster sirens, your Customer Service Team needs a plan for when things go poorly. Think about all the things that could go wrong and how you are going to communicate with your customers to make them better. Here are some examples:

  • Your CRM doesn’t work: prepare a plan so you can communicate with your customers via Social Media and phone.
  • A feature of your product is buggy or not working: have a generic plan for all such cases, including the provision of service discounts or coupons.
  • Your page is down: have a page ready to be uploaded in this situation.
  • Have a contact plan that includes a service email to all of your customers, and special contact methods like telephone for your VIP customers.

5. Involve your CS team in product improvements

Use surveys to ask your Customer Service representatives what needs improvement; don’t wait for the problems to appear to solve them. Get their perspective on what your customers really need, and what they think they need. They work 40h/week on the balance between customer and product, and they have a perspective that you may not have. Inquire, listen and take action!

photo credit: gordon2208 via photopin cc

Anna Danés
Anna worked in the web sector before founding Ricaris have a nice day (www.ricaris.com) in 2009, a successful services company providing distributed solutions for companies in the web sector. Managing Virtual Teams (www.managing-virtual-teams.com) is a new consulting product bringing together all of the experience across the distributed teams of Ricaris, and putting it into bite-sized courses, virtual team activities, and consulting packages. Follow Anna @virtualteams.