Recent Blog Posts

Handling refunds gracefully

Posted By on May 28, 2010

When I first started my business – I’m sure like many other new business owners – I guarded my money closely and was hesitant to offer a money-back guarantee on my services. Then, a few years ago, while attending a networking event, the topic came up in discussion. As the facilitator of the event pointed out, if you believe that your product or service is of the highest quality, why wouldn’t you offer a guarantee? That made sense to me, so I immediately changed my attitude and policy. So it went for a couple of years – until recently. In the five months of 2010, I have been asked for a refund twice.

The most important thing to remember about refunds is to remain professional and honor your word. Recently, a client emailed me to let me know she didn’t feel like a priority in the process and wanted a refund. She was extremely polite about it, and I matched her tone. In my response, I told her I would be happy to terminate our professional relationship and outlined what parts of the package she had received and for what she had paid. She had originally requested half her money be returned, and after calculating time and giving her a couple of freebies, I provided a number that was a little less than half. I told her that, if she agreed to that amount, I would put a check in the mail to her that day.

The client’s response was what surprised me. Not only did she agree to the amount, she said she’d refer me in the future! I was dumbfounded. She had originally stated she didn’t feel like a priority, and here she was saying she would send referrals (note: she mentioned nothing about poor quality). I spoke to a couple of business colleagues about the situation, who were able to explain where I disconnected in the conversation.

I had honored my word and handled the situation with professionalism and dignity. I thanked the client for her feedback, acknowledged where I had fallen short (by delivering her document later than originally promised), and provided a reasonable refund amount. By not arguing with the client or discounting her, I maintained my integrity in her eyes – hence why she said she would refer me.

Refunds are going to happen, especially in a time when clients are struggling financially and having to make tough choices about where to spend their money. When you’re asked for money back, be sure you have a clear policy, learn from the experience to improve your business, and remain professional in your interactions. You never know what good might come from the experience.

Customers, Clients, or Guests: Which Do You Serve?

Posted By on May 21, 2010

As a successful business owner, you should have a clear understanding of the differences between the terms customers, clients, and guests. In fact, your view of these words should define your business model.

Customers
A customer is simply someone who buys something from another person or organization. This is the base of sales interactions. Customers don’t typically develop a relationship with the company. You may consider yourself a customer of your local grocery store, for example. You won’t differentiate your business or yourself by relating to people as customers.

Clients
A client has a relationship with an organization with whom s/he is doing business. You will cultivate clients and remain in touch with them through drip-marketing campaigns that may include phone, email, and direct mail interactions. Clients are those people who come back to you again and again – and refer their friends and family because they trust your services. Most small business owners refer to those they serve as clients.

Guests
A guest is a person who is invited to do business with you. S/he feels valued and welcomed to your office (whether brick-and-mortar or virtual), and is engaged in the process. This is what you should aspire to have in your business. Think of each interaction as building a long-term relationship. You may notice that many larger businesses are transitioning to this term in their quest to provide the highest level of customer service. Walt Disney mastered this approach, and it is what turned the Disney name into an empire.

I encourage you to consider how you’re relating to those with whom you do business. Are they customers who just give you money in exchange for a service? Are they clients with whom you are developing a relationship? Or are they guests who feel warmly greeted and cared for throughout the process? The answer to those questions will define your interactions – and have a profound effect on how you do business.

Overcoming your fear of success

Posted By on May 17, 2010

About a year after I started my company, when I hadn’t put a lot of energy into it and was frustrated with myself and its lack of forward motion, something strange and random happened to me that really got me thinking. At a dinner party, a friend did a handwriting analysis on me and said that I feared success. At first I thought that was just silly; who fears success? After I sat with it a while, though, I started to realize that my friend might be on to something.

Most people will acknowledge a fear of failure. Who wants to admit defeat? Doesn’t everyone want to be successful? The truth is, however, that sometimes being an accomplished business leader is just as fear-inducing as never getting anywhere. For me, my lingering thought was, “What if someone finds out I DON’T know everything?”

Fear of success and fear of failure originate in the same place: your comfort zone.  While comfort seems welcoming and, well, comfortable, it’s not the best place in which to live your life – or business. It’s sometimes said that one is either moving forward or dying; staying primarily in your comfort zone certainly doesn’t allow you to move forward. So where does that leave you and your business?

In order to keep your business vital and forward-thinking, you need to stay just on the outside of that comfort zone. Know that, no matter what issue is presented to you by clients or in the process of growing your business, you will be able to find help. No business owner is an island. The truth is that you need to have a strong group of colleagues with whom you will share your fears and successes. When you don’t know the answer, you can find it! The Internet is a wonderful thing, and your fellow networkers and friends will offer an amazing resource.

Sometimes, just the knowledge of that fear and that you control your destiny can give you enough power to overcome it.