Know Your Clients: Tips for Effective Surveys

user-satisfaction-2800863_640Based on discussions at TAB meetings, I have found that regular client feedback is essential for business improvement. Because of this, business owners often ask me how they can create surveys that get opened and collect relevant information.

To increase the probability that clients will complete your survey, here are the practices I follow:

  • Use action verbs. Much of English conversation consists of the verb “to be”, resulting in dull, passive language. Try to use the active voice as much as possible.
  • Create an easy user experience. Because the human attention span is generally quite short, I suggest creating a simple survey using multiple choice and dropdown questions rather than paragraph-style questions where possible.
  • Offer an incentive. Who doesn’t like free or discounted products and services? Consider holding a draw for clients that submit the survey or providing a discount code upon completion.

As for which questions to ask, here are my suggestions based on the type of data you want to collect:

Client Data

Do you want your client email list to answer which demographics your clients are from and in which neighbourhoods or countries they live? If this kind of client information might benefit your business, surveys are great opportunities to ask for targeted information, which in turn allows you to customize marketing campaigns.

Consider including these questions to gather useful information about your clients:

  • What is your postal code?
  • In which age range do you belong?
  • What is your ethic background?
  • What is your job title?

In order to assure clients that their information is safe with you, it is likely in your best interest to include a disclaimer at the bottom of your survey that states how the information will be used. 

Product/Business Data

When a business’s sale decrease or become stagnant, I have found that surveys are effective tools to find out why that is. Your loyal clients want to see your business succeed and are likely more than happy to suggest a couple small areas of improvement. But whom you really want to hear from are the one-time buyers that didn’t return. How can you get them back or at least prevent future clients from walking away for the same reasons they did?

Consider including these questions to gather useful feedback about your products and your business practices:

  • Which of our products or services do you use?
  • Are you satisfied with the product or service quality you received?
  • How can we improve your customer service experience in the future?
  • Will you continue to do business with us in the future?
  • What types of discounts would encourage you to purchase our products or services in the future?

If you would like to discuss different forms of client engagement with a peer advisory board, contact me today to find out more about TAB!

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Holiday Pay: Is It Worth It?

K-P-32-WorkSchedule-id-1551-jpegThe Victoria Day long weekend is approaching, and as a business owner, you may be debating whether or not you should pay employees holiday pay in order to continue your business operations during this holiday.

To clarify, when I say “holiday pay,” what I mean is the regular holiday pay plus premium pay employers are required to grant employees that agree to work on a public holiday. For guidelines regarding how holiday pay is calculated, you can visit the Ontario Ministry of Labour’s website. In most cases, holiday pay is 2.5 times an employee’s regular salary.

When my clients are making this decision, I suggest they ask themselves this question: Does the cost of paying employees holiday pay outweigh the potential value added to your clients?

Are your clients 24/7/365? Then perhaps your business should be too. If there is a high probability that your clients will need your products/services on a holiday, you may want to consider having employees on hand. Providing availability on public holidays can greatly improve client relationships and ROIs, as it’s an uncommon and possibly lucrative practice.

Since paying employees 2.5 times their regular salary can take a big hit on any small- or medium-sized business’s bottom line, I’d like to share some alternatives to providing holiday pay in order to minimize your costs:

Have Employees Be On Call

If you don’t want to trust the “chance” that clients may need attention, you could have employees be on call rather than officially in the office. However, this won’t be without it’s own price. As a result of Bill 148, beginning on January 1, 2019, on-call employees are entitled to at least 3 hours of pay, even if they aren’t called in to work.

Schedule a Substitute Holiday

In order to avoid the cost of holiday pay or the eventual cost of having an employee on call, you could instead provide employees with substitute holidays. This would save you money, but it may leave you short-staffed on later dates. As a business owner, I know that being only one person short can have a large impact on the productivity of a regular workday.

Is paying employees holiday pay worth it? The truth is, there is no one-size-fits-all formula to decide, even though the government provides a handy calculator to help you figure out the exact cost of an employee’s holiday pay depending on their wage. If you would like some business advice or would like to connect with other business owners in a peer advisory board, contact me today to find out more about TAB!


How to Terminate an Employee Without Decreasing Morale

pexels-photo-70292Have you made a recent quick hire that isn’t quite fitting the bill? Or perhaps you’ve realized that an employee’s quality of work isn’t what it used to be? For smaller businesses especially, an underperforming employee can have a large impact on the organization as a whole. But what should you do if you encounter such a scenario in your business?

Letting employees go isn’t always the easiest decision to make, but sometimes it’s necessary, especially if all other options, such as coaching and job accommodations, have been exhausted. Before making your final decision, you may want to consider how the termination of an employee could affect your overall business. Consider these factors:

  1. Customers are perceptive. If you have employees with low morale, customers may sense that something is off.
  2. Employees startle easily. Discharging one employee could cause others to worry that they’re the next to go. This can result in a decrease in office morale.

In order to keep your customers happy and avoid employee turnover, I have put together a list of suggestions to hopefully minimize low morale within your business after letting an employee go:

Plan for the Increased Workload

Before terminating the employee, if you don’t already have a replacement lined up, I suggest having a plan in place for the increased workload. One in four Canadians have left an employer due to work-related stress. Note which team members would be best suited to take on which additional tasks, and try your best not to overload any one employee. You may even want to consider taking on some of the tasks yourself, to show your solidarity with the team.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

After the employee has been let go, communication is key. Carefully prepare how to explain the termination to your team without possibly opening yourself up to legal repercussions. It’s also important to assure your employees that they are appreciated and that their jobs are secure.

Remember, communication is a two-way street. Not only should you keep them in the loop, but also you should give them the opportunity to provide their input and ask questions. Employees are 4.6 times more likely feel motivated at work if they feel their opinions are heard and valued.

Get Out of the Office

I’ve found that the quickest boost to office morale is getting your employees out of the office. Organize outdoor team-building activities or a team lunch. Maybe put your teamwork to the test in an escape room. Such outings can remind your employees that you care that they are members of your successful, ambitious team.

Deciding when it’s best to dismiss an employee is not an easy task. If you need help preparing your business for change, contact me today!


Customer Retention: The Benefits of a Loyalty Program

Customer Incentive.jpgAt a few TAB meetings I’ve recently facilitated, the business owners around the table have asked how they can ensure their customers keep coming back. When the cost of acquiring a new customer is five times more than the cost of customer retention, we need to show our customers that we care.

Many of you may be familiar with loyalty programs in your personal life such as from your gym or a preferred airline, but loyalty programs are also relevant for those who sell B2B products and services. So, what constitutes a loyalty program?

Loyalty programs can encourage your customers to continue purchasing your products or services by providing them rewards for their continued business. Such rewards may include discounts or free products by spending earned points, advance notice of a new product, or participation in loyalty members-only sales.

I’d like to share with you four possible benefits of implementing a loyalty program:

Money Savings

Not all money-saving offers, such as frequent sales and deeper discounts, are likely to be ideal for your business, but some loyalty programs allow customers to earn their own personal sale so you don’t need to cut prices across the board. A good example of this is programs that give money back after spending a certain amount (Spend $X, Get $X Back). You could create service packages like this as well. The customers get the satisfaction of feeling like they are saving money, but in reality they tend to spend even more money at the time of reward redemption.

Loyalty programs can increase your sales without needing to lower your overall prices, giving your bottom line a valuable boost.

Promotion of New or Less-Popular Products

As a business owner, you might find that your business has difficulty selling certain products/services or getting customers to try something new. A well-designed loyalty program can offer greater rewards – and greater incentives – for specific purchases, which can compel customers to add or explore products or services that they would normally ignore.

Collection of Unique Customer Data

In order to sign up for your loyalty program, you’ll need your customers to provide you with some basic information. This is an opportunity to ask for more targeted information than what you may already have on your customer, which in turn allows you to customize future offers to them. You may ask them about their preference for certain services, packages, or types of offers they’d like to see. Keep the questions brief, and offer dropdowns with possible answers for a simple user experience.

Knowledge of Your Customers’ Spending Habits

Once a customer is registered for a loyalty program, you can track their activity with your business through an identification number or membership card. The more they use the program, the more data you collect on how often they make purchases, when they tend to shop at your business, and what products/services they buy and in what combinations. You can never know too much about your customers’ spending habits.

If you do decide a loyalty program is a right fit for your business it can become an integral component of your customer retention program, but it can also be a deciding factor for a potential customer to choose you over one of your competitors.

Building customer loyalty is just one of many solutions to help business owners grow their business. Contact me today to discuss the benefits of working with TAB and growing your business!


When Does It Make Sense to Hire an Intern?

k-11_dsc4360_palm-bwI know it’s only the beginning of March, but college and university students have been lining up their summer internships as I write this blog. On the surface, many small business owners consider interns, particularly unpaid interns, a great way to get those unwanted tasks completed in the office. However, interns can help a small business but only in certain situations. In this blog, I will discuss those situations where an intern may or may not be beneficial to your business.

Do You Have the Time To Train an Intern?

An intern may be a great option for you if you have a specific project that you haven’t had time to do, or a new customer relationship management (CRM) tool you haven’t had time to research. However, before you jump on the intern bandwagon, consider more than the “low-cost extra help” viewpoint, and look at an intern as a training opportunity for them. This will require you or a dedicated experienced staff member to be available to train the intern, and the special project should have defined goals and measurable outcomes for interns to complete. You’ll need to ensure internships are relevant to the students’ career interests and that supervisors and mentors will be available to provide regular feedback and evaluation. To make the most of the experience for both your business and the intern, clear directions and proper training need to be provided. This is particularly the case if the intern is being provided through an educational institution.

Need a Fresh Set of Eyes?

Interns are typically young and eager to learn and therefore usually are bursting with ideas. They approach the job with a more open mindset, rather than someone from another department with set habits and preconceived ideas on how to do certain tasks. Be sure to include the intern in brainstorming sessions and encourage them to speak up in meetings, as their fresh ideas and approaches can be great for your business. However, implementing their ideas may be best suited for your current staff as they have a better understanding of the businesses processes and protocols and accountability.

What are Your Business’ Long-Term Plans?

If your business also has long-term plans to expand, an intern might be the first step in that process. Consider any recurring projects that are about 12 weeks in duration, or your regular use of contractors for overflow projects or tasks; these could all be completed by an intern. When you consider adding an intern, a person who is bursting with new ideas and is plugged in to the latest technologies, who knows what they may come up with – perhaps an idea that changes and improves the way you do business!

Determining if your business needs could use an intern can be challenging for many business owners, and one I often see as a business advisor with TAB. If your business would benefit from the guidance of other business owners who have “been there”, as well as an advisor who has “done that”, contact me to see how I can help!


Four Tips to Deal With Conflict on Your Team

Screen Shot 2018-02-20 at 10.10.03 AMEvery business owner has had some amount of conflict on their team, whether it has been the slamming of doors, a screaming session, or someone walking off a job site. No matter when it happens, or who started it, as the owner you’ll need to address the conflict and provide resolution as soon as possible.

How you approach resolving the issue is a question on the minds of many business owners because conflict resolution can disrupt the momentum you’ve set as an owner, your team dynamics and possibly your entire company. We all know how important it is to confront the issue directly before your workplace becomes toxic. I’ve outlined below four tips to keep in mind when dealing with conflict.

Pick Your Battles

When your staff work alongside each other every day, it’s inevitable that small disagreements will arise, so let these small issues work themselves out. However, when there is hard proof that an employee is causing conflict, it is an ongoing conflict, or other employees are being negatively impacted by this conflict, then it is time for you to intervene. More often than not, your staff is waiting for you to resolve the issue and if you wait too long, it can put your leadership reputation at risk.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

As owners, we are often too busy to create formal roles and responsibilities, but by not creating these documents, it can leave your employees unsure about what is and what is not part of their job. This ambiguity can often lead to one employee blaming another for issues on a project. The best way to ensure any role conflicts do not happen is to create and define each role and responsibility by clearly defining task objectives and expected outputs, and ensuring their job descriptions are up-to-date and reviewed regularly so their role’s purpose and duties are clear.

Don’t Take Sides

Just as there are low-performing employees who can irritate their coworkers, there are also high-performing employees who insist on doing things their way. Sometimes in a small office, we might even have members of our team who we get along with more, but it’s critical as a business owner to ensure that all employees feel heard and understood, and know that their manager is willing to step in and help solve an issue, rather than “side” with an employee who is liked or valued more.

Keep Things Private

Effective and supportive communication is often all that’s needed to solve conflicts in the workplace. Find a private setting, or maybe go grab a coffee with the employee so they feel supported and feel they can speak freely without judgment or embarrassment. They need to feel they can trust you to help resolve the conflict. Trust forms the foundation for every important relationship at work and typically, workplace disputes should not be discussed with the entire team unless it becomes necessary.

Conflict is an issue that you can minimize in the workplace and by doing so, can help you to build a more supportive, welcoming and productive environment. If you’re a business owner dealing with issues like this, don’t face it alone – contact TAB to find out how to become a member, or contact me today.


As a Smaller Business, Are You Prepared for Marijuana in Your Workplace?

herbal-3122362_640There really isn’t too many Ontarians that aren’t aware of the new legislation about to be passed in July regarding the legalization of marijuana. There are copious articles on how big business is planning on dealing with this. However, what has many of my clients, owners of smaller businesses, asking me is will this impact their business and if so, what do they really need to know to be prepared?

I’ve outlined below a few of the key areas of concern for smaller business owners, as well as a few tips on how you can prepare your workplace for the effects of legalized marijuana.

A 2017 study of over 650 Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) members reveals that almost half of employers do not believe their current workplace policies adequately address the potential new issues that may arise with the legalization and expected increased use of marijuana. Many owners want to know and need some direction about:

  • How to accurately test drug levels (with no reliable test of THC)
  • What constitutes use, and how to adjust internal policies to reflect medical vs. recreational usage
  • Possible increase in poor performance, decreased productivity, reduced attendance, and safety issues

Many owners feel this new legislation will not impact their employees or workplace, but I am recommending you take a look at the following tips, because every business owner who hires staff must be aware of how this could impact their bottom line:

  1. Create/Update Your Policies
    Review your drug and alcohol policies, if you have them, and add in a line or two about marijuana usage. If you have legal counsel, have them take a look at the language. This way, you are covered from a legal and optics perspective. If you don’t have policies, take time to think about drafting one (there are some templates available online).
  2. Be Sensitive
    Detecting possible impairment of your employees in your office must be approached and handled very carefully, particularly when signs of marijuana use are apparent. You’ll need proof to make a case for a clear connection between substance use and a drop in productivity.
  3. Watch Behaviours
    Start noting (not tracking) your employee behaviour. This may be easier with a smaller team, but if you can have someone in your office (e.g. main reception, EA) dedicated to simply noting current employee behaviours, then once the new legislation is in place, if there are any outliers (e.g. employees are late, taking more sick days, or their performance has been slipping), you’ll need to meet with them to go over this and put steps in place, with timelines for improvement.

We are entering fairly new territory with regards to policies on marijuana, so right now there are no hard and fast rules on this, but making a few small changes will help you navigate.

Is your business ready for marijuana legalization? Contact me to help you navigate these waters.