4 Small Adjustments that Bring 5-Star Customer Service

Did you know it only takes seven seconds to make a lasting impression on new people that you meet?

If this is true in personal relationships, how significant are the impressions your business makes with customers? Great entrepreneurs know that if you want long-lasting, loyal clients (who spend AND who voluntarily advertise your excellent service by word of mouth), then you must prioritize customer relationships and consistently offer superior service.

Going From Good to Great

What does five-star service look like from a patron’s perspective?

Here is a snapshot of where a business moves from average to above-average:

   3 — Service is average, fair, “the usual” satisfactory, expected, etc.

   4 — Customer is very satisfied. Service is average, above average, exceeded expectations, etc.

   5 — The client is delighted and amazed. Service is extraordinary because employees “walk on water” for customers.

To elevate your customer experience, you have to be proactive, not reactive. Five-star customer service gives extra attention to the smallest of details and does this with an authentic care for each individual you serve.

Here are four areas of focus to grow a culture of excellent service in your team:

1. Be Visible

Whether you respond to clients through e-mail, phone, or live service, be accessible and prompt in every response.

Let clients know they can always reach out to you and where you can be reached if they need anything. Never break communication – whether clients are pleased, waiting, or upset, don’t leave any attempt to communicate unanswered. Acknowledge the feelings behind the communication, and – in difficult situations – offer creative customer reparations (refunds, replacements, bonus items, etc.) if possible. 

2. Anticipate Unexpressed Needs

Five-star service providers seek to surprise and delight their clients.

Here employees deliver not only “at” the level expected, but above and beyond what is promised. When you check in with a client, what do you expect they MIGHT need (i.e., help navigating your new software)? Can you have the solution ready before they ask (i.e., a tutorial video attached to your check-in e-mail)? Seek to bring solutions, even if the client is at fault, and your business will be more memorable and responsive.

Anticipating needs is a way you tangibly care for people, and when you do this, it touches emotions. One general manager with five-star hotel experience put it perfectly:

“It is the small, simple, special moments that we create through personal engagement with each guest that they will recall when they return home. To accomplish this type of sustainability, we carefully and methodically select our employees, and then continuously train. It’s not about the tactical as much as it is about speaking the language of the guest.”

3. Train Your Team to Employ Creative Problem-Solving Skills

Five-star service includes the ability to think outside the box and create unique solutions to problems.

Customer service is primarily about problem-solving, so train your team to embrace problems rather than dreading them, and you will shift the culture in your business. A great team member isn’t afraid to come up with creative solutions. Give them the authority to do this and see what happens!

Publicly commend employees who do, and you’ll reinforce this attitude for everyone.

4. Use the Feedback You Receive

Five-star teams are never satisfied with the status quo.

Teams that excel in service are ruthless about gathering feedback and doing something with it. Do you collect customer comments? If so, how do you review it and identify areas for improvement? Companies that make specific changes in response to feedback are strategic, dynamic, and are genuinely customer-focused.

Build “Every Day” Excellence

Excellent service is something that happens consistently, so challenge your team to create memorable experiences that are repeatable every day.

Be visible, creative, and proactive, and challenge everyone on your team to take ownership as they follow through on guest requests every time.

How Re-Purposed Malls Can Teach Entrepreneurs a Lesson

Have you been to a dying mall lately?

It can be pretty depressing. Empty storefronts litter the hallways like missing teeth in a hockey player’s mouth. Dim lighting seems to permeate each corner, and mall walkers bring more energy than any hint of retail activity. What was booming 30 years ago now feels like a bust.

With consumers shifting more of their shopping from physical to online spaces, young generations have a different perspective on what a buying experience should bring. This explains why some malls are dying, while others are thriving. What’s the difference?

In Maryland, one mall is renting space to a theater company while, in Michigan, one mall is now home to a cultural association that sponsors Chinese festivals. Some malls have transformed parts of their space to offer thriving art schools for walk-in shoppers. Others have created customer-centric experiences, like combining fashion consultants with on-site purchasing options.

Like most other sales venues, there is still a future for brick-and-mortar businesses. But this requires companies to sell strategically to young generations through methods that resonate.

What lessons can we learn from our friends in the mall?

Engaging, Experiential Shopping

There are numerous definitions of experiential purchasing.

Generally, this idea refers to stores where “extra” things happen in addition to selling, and where shoppers do more than just buying. As an entrepreneur, how can you offer people a chance to buy an experience or a memory rather than just an object or service? This may include massage chairs at the gym, in-store skills classes, or lifestyle opportunities (like art galleries in malls) that can be combined with a shopping experience.

Added Online Convenience

If you want people to visit your business, can you ease their journey by adding online convenience?

Like store pickups for pre-ordered groceries, merchants that simplify the purchasing experience will have more success. One business took orders for online samples then had three options ready and waiting when the customer came to preview them in the store.

Digital Campaigns with On-Site Flash Sales

One benefit of physical stores is strengthening emotional connections between consumers and brands.

While it is nice to order things online, sometimes swooping in to nab a deal brings a huge adrenaline rush (think Black Friday!). Can your business combine timely print or digital ads to promote 24-hour flash sales on the hottest items in your store? This creates the opportunity to lock in a client while potentially up-selling other products when people visit in person.

Lively, Professional Environments

People don’t just crave convenience; they crave connections.

When asked why people choose physical stores over online retailers, the number one response was a “need to see, touch, feel, and try out items.” How can you offer people better opportunities to interact directly with your products? When you do this, the physical shopping experience provides a tactile experience that simply can’t be matched online.

Your displays are a huge part of this. From oversized banners and full-panel window displays to music, lighting, and even scents, the environment you create must be better than ever. And with today’s print and digital technology, everything can be customized to immerse your clients in the most authentic brand experience possible!

The Definition of Success

While online shopping has re-written the rules of purchasing, buyers still crave experiences that can only be delivered in person. Remember, a successful space is one that people want to visit, so give people a reason to be there.

When they’re spending their time somewhere, they’re more likely to spend their money as well.

4 “No Fail” Strategies for Organizing Your Next Big Event

Do you have any “nightmare” trade show experiences?

Maybe you worry that an impending disaster is ahead. Everyone who manages a big event knows the feeling.

You know . . . the nagging sense that you’ve forgotten something crucial (but have no idea what).

Or . . . one of several million things is about to go wrong (but there is no way to prevent it).

4 “No-Fail” Strategies for Organizing Your Next Big Event

Large events can be stressful, but most large-scale events can be managed with confidence if you have a plan.

Here are four “no-fail” strategies for navigating your next conference, convention, or trade show.

1. Generate an Event Checklist

Early planning and great organization are the keys to a stress-free event.

Make a master list of marketing and print deadlines, reservation dates, and travel coordination details. Months in advance, nail down every date possible and organize your task list in chronological order. Then you can work from a checklist with physical guidelines that keep your team grounded.

2. Create Beautiful Displays

Your exhibits are often the fulcrum of your entire event.

Don’t skimp! Take the time (or get help) to arrange the backdrops, banners, and lighting so a fabulous display of your brand and personality takes center stage. Depending on your budget, you may have anything from a small pop-up booth to a grand multi-sensory exhibit.

Whatever the scale, your graphics need to be eye-catching, clean, and crisp to make your exhibit as open and welcoming as possible.

3. Empower the Right People

The staff at your exhibits are the face of your company and culture.

As your most visible brand ambassadors, their interaction with potential clients can make or break your big day. Have clearly defined roles for each team member and train them to be friendly, outgoing, and equipped to address diverse audiences.

Pro-tip: Be intentional about including a technically gifted team member to answer in-depth product questions or to handle unexpected display glitches.

4. Prepare Excellent Follow-Up Materials

In some cases, the amount of preparation required for a big event can cause you to overlook the most crucial marketing materials needed for good follow up.

Often the success of an event is not fleshed out for months afterward, so it is essential that you come ready with several printed materials. Your “Big Five” may include:

  1. Professionally Printed Business Cards – Include a hand-written note at the close of your conversations to add a personal touch.
  2. Sell Sheets and Rack Cards – Like a walking billboard for your business, these grab-and-go items can keep your prospects considering after the conversation has concluded.
  3. Eye-catching Notepads or Sticky Notes – Everyone loves a good freebie, and swag items increase the longevity of your name and your impression.
  4. Loyalty Coupons or Cards – Offer exclusive coupon codes or punch cards for your products or services.
  5. Best-Quality Brochures – Events typically offer an introduction to a longer conversation. Brochures are a pocket-friendly advertisement that offers vital product details, informative graphics, and a compelling call to action.

One Final Freebie

Think you’re ready?

If you still have that niggling sense of dread, here’s one last tip — pack duct tape. Beyond great team members, displays, and print materials, duct tape can fix about anything that could go wrong on the side.

How This Successful Entrepreneur Keeps Inspiration Flowing

When you were a kid, what did you love to build?

When Frank Yang was eight, he dreamt of building all kinds of things. One of his first creative concepts was a dog food dispenser with a timer that could feed house pets on demand. Yang used to tell people he wanted to be an inventor, but the adults in his life said he should be an accountant or an attorney instead.

Today, Yang is the founder and CEO of Simplehuman, a privately-owned company that designs and manufactures kitchen, bath, and beauty tools. Simplehuman is devoted to finding ways to streamline daily tasks for efficient living, including touch-free soap pumps, sensor-activated vanity mirrors, and automated trash cans.

Last year Yang’s love for building practical “problem solvers” grew Simplehuman’s revenues by $15% to more than $200 million. Yang says he continues to find joy in the dreaming:

“Even though I’m the CEO of Simplehuman, I spend about 60% of my time on [Research and Development], because that’s what I love – I think about it all day,” said Yang.

Maximize Mental Energy Through Your Weekly Routine

What fuels your inspiration?

Though your job may be full of many “ordinary” tasks, how can you keep creativity alive each day?

Some experts believe grounding yourself in daily rituals can be a foundation for success. In his book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, Mason Currey writes about the habits, routines, and rituals of hundreds of artists, including Frederic Chopin, Benjamin Franklin, Karl Marx, and Ernest Hemingway. Even though their routines varied wildly, each individual had steps they followed to put them in an optimal state of mind. Currey came to this conclusion:

“In the right hands, [a routine] can be a finely calibrated mechanism for taking advantage of a range of limited resources: time (the most limited resource of all) as well as willpower, self-discipline, optimism. A solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.”

Rituals you might include to fuel your creativity could consist of things like:

  • Rising early
  • Making coffee or making your bed
  • Morning runs or daily stretching
  • Prayer, breathing exercises, personal affirmations, or journaling
  • Lunchtime yoga or sports commitments
  • 10 minutes of browsing Pinterest or your favorite design publications
  • Accessible scratch pads in your car, office, or house (for random idea bursts)
  • Regular times spent visualizing success, writing goals, or brainstorming for future projects
  • Weekly lunch gatherings with friends who inspire you
  • Writing tomorrow’s goals at the end of each workday
  • Wind-down routines like space tidying, piano playing, evening walks, light reading, or “brain dumps” in a journal

Finding Solutions in Unlikely Places

Yang says that, though he has many responsibilities as CEO, he likes to stay focused on his primary passion, which is creating and developing.

And when he’s stuck in a rut, he goes back to simple pleasures:

“I really believe that my mind and body work together. We have a basketball court in the office, and if there’s a problem my team and I can’t solve, we’ll go there and shoot around . . . I [also] love cycling. I have three bikes in my office, and when I need a break, I ride around the parking lot for 15 minutes. I get this sense of freedom when I ride, but I also love the mechanical aspect of bikes, the way the gears shift, the way the frame is made, the geometry of the design. That inspires me.”

What is the “bicycle” in your life? Sometimes taking your mind in a different direction can help you find solutions when you are stuck!

5 Pro Tips for Spectacular Sell Sheets

Looking to showcase the benefits of your business or idea in a concise, compelling way?

Use sell sheets to connect and close the sale! Like one-page billboards, these grab-and-go promotions can educate prospects, motivate buyers, and offer a point of reference for further review.

What is a Sell Sheet?

Perhaps you’re new to the concept of sell sheets.

Sell sheets are simple. Like a miniature billboard, they showcase the benefits of your idea in a concise, persuasive way. Typically, these documents are just 1-2 pages, and contain all the information about a product or offer that your decision-maker needs. When you’re ready to multiply your message, sell sheets can be delivered by mail or in person.

5 Tips for Head-Turning Sell Sheets

Ready to get started with your sell sheet design? Here a few helpful guidelines.

1. Use High-Quality Photos

One of the most important features of your sell sheet is an image of the product, concept, or the people engaging with your company.

Typically, this “beauty shot” is the focal point of any sell sheet, so be sure your photos or graphics are top-notch.

2. Highlight the Big Benefit

What can your product or idea do for the customer?

Will it save them time? Eliminate fear or reduce spending? Maybe you just want to make them smile. Whatever your pitch, try to reduce it to one sentence and then again to 2-3 words (think, “Eat Fresh,” or “The Quicker Picker-Upper”). Your unique selling proposition should drive the theme of the sell sheet and also be a visual priority on the page.

3. Offer Testimonials or Video Links

To bring your big benefit to life, feature people who have tried your services and love them.

Use real names, cities, or customer photos, or link them to YouTube videos or website landing pages where people can see your product in action. Social proof is a highly effective sales strategy.

4. Include Pertinent Contact Information

Beyond a strong call to action, sell sheets should clarify how clients can get in touch.

Round out your sell sheet with a next step teaser (i.e., “call today for a free estimate”) and include your website, phone, e-mail, etc.

5. Avoid Information Overload

The goal of a sell sheet is to provide enough information to prompt a second look, but not so much detail that you overwhelm readers.

Organize information so that it is easy to read in a glance and to lead viewers to a clear next step.

Put Sell Sheets to Work for Your Business

Are sell sheets the right fit for you?

These simple tools can be used for trade shows, personal sales visits, mailers, and more. Use sell sheets to build awareness and sales for:

  • Presentation folder inserts
  • New product promotions
  • One-time events
  • Take-out menus or special-order items
  • Seasonal sales
  • Travel packages or subscription services
  • VIP or customer-loyalty perks
  • Salon, chiropractic, or health services
  • Handyman, lawn care, cleaning, or consulting

Perfectly Custom

Whether you’d like an uncoated recycled look or a glossy ultra-thick stock, you can make your sell sheet stand out by going creatively custom.

Upload your own file, consult with our team, or rely on our start-to-finish professional design services to attract attention and put the facts in focus. Contact us today to talk about custom design options.

How to Make Performance Reviews More Effective and Enjoyable

Performance reviews don’t have to be something to sweat about.

These conversations offer a valuable feedback loop for people to ask questions, identify needs, and drive professional growth.

Building Conversations that Count

Whether you’re conducting or participating in a review, here are a few strategies to make the most of your next review:

Share Facts and Document Goals

Before a review, make sure you are clear about what is expected.

Review job descriptions and jot down ways success has been achieved or where one person is being overloaded. Include measurable data (i.e., project output, sales goals achieved, etc.) that is understood by all participants. Link any examples (like improvement strategies or success stories) to the facts. Then, conclude by recording time-sensitive, measurable goals that are linked to the objectives discussed in the review.

Questions to Consider:

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What has been your greatest accomplishment or challenge this year?
  • Where do you feel there is room to improve?
  • What’s something you don’t think I see but should know?

Regularly Document Progress

To avoid the “dread” factor, intentionally calendar regular check-ins that are communicated in person or through e-mail.

While many yearly goals end up at the bottom of the drawer, monthly or quarterly updates make space for effective dialogue and regular course corrections. This relieves pressure from the yearly review while keeping everyone on the same page.

Questions to Consider:

  • In what areas are you delivering the best results?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face in your current position?
  • Where has your team been helping or hindering your work?

Build From Personal Strengths

While everyone has particular tasks to accomplish, each person has gifts that can positively impact the company in unique ways.

During reviews, ask this question: “What 20 percent of my contribution generates 80 percent of my impact at work?” Work together to clarify untapped potential and discuss how this could be optimized for greater results. If needed, seek extra support, resources, or an alteration of current responsibilities.

Questions to Consider:

  • Do you have everything needed to perform your job?
  • What are the main drivers for success in your position?
  • What skills do you have that could be used more effectively?

A Structure That Builds Success

Want to create a positive environment for good communication?

Structure your reviews around facts, goals, and strengths to make your company as productive as possible.

5 Keys to a Simple Design Update

The United States Open Tennis Championships is a professional tennis tournament that takes place in New York City around Labor Day each summer.

The US Open draws fans from around the world to watch players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams compete. The 2019 US Open set an all-time attendance record with 737,872 fans coming to the National Tennis Center, with the largest stadium (Arthur Ashe) selling out 23 of 24 sessions.

In 2018, the United States Tennis Association announced it was introducing a new logo for the tournament. This featured a speeding tennis ball with an updated font while dispensing with several elements of the old logo. The previous icon (a flaming ball with a red swoosh) was a dated image that presented challenges in digital media and failed to represent the US Open as a premium sporting brand.

By keeping elements of the original logo, the USTA was able to redesign in a way that captured the excitement and movement of their world-class event. The entire Tennis Center (including grounds, merchandise, and courts) received a surge of energy as the logo came to life at the tournament.  

How to Overcome Frumpy Designs

Are your designs starting to fade with age?

After many years in business, your branding may not feel as contemporary as it should. Your 1990’s neon-colored bubble letters could certainly use a fresh take, or maybe your mascot (or your photos) look like they need plastic surgery. Some companies may require a total design overhaul, while others need to freshen up a logo, a catalog, or point of purchase display.

No matter the scope of your project, here are five steps to guide you through graphic re-designs:

1. Start with the focal point

Decide what it is you want viewers to see first.

Unless you have a very symmetrical, consistent design, be sure your focal point leaps out by providing strong contrasts in font size, color, typeface, etc.

2. Organize information into logical groupings

If items are related to each other, group them into closer proximity (like a title with a subtitle or an address with a phone number).

The most important groupings should be the focal point of the page. Create generous visual space between the focal point groupings and less prominent pairings.

3. Build and maintain strong alignments

If you see a strong edge (such as a photograph or vertical line), strengthen this edge by aligning it with other texts or objects within the design.

4. Create repetition

Brainstorm ways that specific colors, symbols, or fonts can be repeated in a design.

In multi-page pieces (like a brochure), create connection through the repetition of bold typeface, spatial arrangements, or unique bullet or list icons. In a simple logo, repetition can be used by highlighting key letters or adding shadows or overlaid shapes for depth.

5. Use bold contrasts

Contrast is everything because the eye is irresistibly attracted to distinct differences.

For example: if all your elements are bold and flashy, nothing will stand out. Contrast a logo with a graphic, a bold typeface with a script font, a dark sidebar with a white text box, or a rigid graphic with a free-flowing tagline.

A Visual Identity That Better Carries Your Brand

When announcing its logo update, the USTA said the new design “better captures and expresses the dynamism of the US Open,” with a visual identity that will confidently carry the tournament forward in years to come.

What about your image? By refreshing your look in five simple steps, you can transform your look from one that drags to one that excites!