What every dental (& other customer service) experiences should be

Let’s face it, when it comes to putting these bad boys in our mouth we really want to know who is doing it. My mom recently went to a new dentist. For the last THREE days she’s been talking about her experience and what great customer service they’ve provided.

First she dropped in on them in person. Hey, she’s retired, she’s got time. They indicated they did indeed take new patients and scheduled her for the NEXTday.

The first thing that blew her away was the phone call that evening. Joshua D.M.D himself called and asked if she had any questions about the next day’s appointment. Not a receptionist. Not even a hygienist. Her actual DENTIST called.

They had a tremendous sales package. If she purchased a plan, all her care would be discounted. Her first medical bill for her first exam and cleaning were the equivalent. So she signed up, and started saving.

At her appointment, they offered her a blanket because they know patients can get chilled.

The dentist noted a condition that she’s had for three years that could easily be addressed. She’d be asking her previous dentist, on deaf ears. The new guy discussed the overall health of all her teeth if this was done. She was so pleased she didn’t have to ask him!

At the end of her first visit they offered her a carnation. A free flower. First day.

For three days as some other thoughtful, caring act took place, she shared. What a great job of providing customer service.

When I looked up their website, they are committed to paying it forward.

Loved the customer service, how they took care of my mom and her needs. How does your dentist customer service measure up?


How to manage and address your reputation

Your word and your reputation cannot afford a poor image when you’re a business owner. You might have the best bed and breakfast or the savviest bookkeeping skills or the cleanliest service, but if your referral reputation doesn’t match that, you could be out of business.

Know what’s being said about you and where. Check your reputation. They can manage negative comments for a price;  you can see where you and your company are listed for free.  They can also help you correct all the bad info out there. You’d be surprised what comes up. I did a search and one source had me working for a company I know, but have never worked for. Another client is battling outdated info. Some sources have her business location that’s been inaccurate for more than 10 years!

There are tons of review sites: Google Places, Yelp, Consumer Reports, AngiesList and hundreds more. They can be related to service, trips, professionals, teachers, the list is endless. Then several business sites such as Amazon.com and CraigsList also have review options. Your name and reputation could be anywhere. Know it. Check it regularly.

If your business is getting less than stellar or 5 star ratings, here are a few recommendations on how to address:

  1. If there is a system problem, fix it. Make sure cleaning staff have maps to location. Call two days ahead to confirm date and time and location for service or reservation. Address the scheduling needs for the client. Whatever it is that leads to the common complaints, address. It’s amazing how a poor tracking system or timing can impact customer service.
  2. If there was a lack of clarity for coupon test services like Groupon, be sure to clarify the expectations for any further patrons. Sometimes the expectations aren’t clear and so the client gets disappointed
  3. Reach out to every client on the bad reviews, assuming you can identify them and offer a  compensation for their service challenges. Either another stay, a free meal, something to try to make it work.
  4. Take advantage of using the owners comment section to indicate how you were willing to fix this situation. You should apologize on each one and not leave them hanging. DO NOT ARGUE as the owners response. If you disagree with their assessment, don’t say so on a public comment. That just starts a disagreement war and you’ll lose. Perception is key; they didn’t like the service, doesn’t matter what went wrong. I’d use language to the effect:“ We are sorry you experienced service that didn’t meet your expectations. We have improved our follow up system and are providing staff clear directions. We are adjusting our schedule to address delays. We want you to be satisfied with your  service and are willing to make it up to you if you’ll give us a chance.” If they take you up on it, you may or may not salvage a client. But if you at least show you are willing to try, anyone else reading the review can take that into account.
    1. Don’t use the exact same language on each, address the biggest concern and tell them how you’d like to fix it.
    2. Contact the review site directly. Check if they filtered” positive comments; if the positives are legitimate, then ask the review site to put them up. Understand that if you get friends to put up comments all on the same day as the negative, that can be filtered.
    3. If any of the  negative reviews aren’t accurate or you have a different perception of what actually happened you can actually challenge the review with most review sites—but you may not be successful.

It’s tough to please clients. You might also consider sending each client a follow up email after their service and ask for a review on the site you preferand provide them to the link. You could do this every Friday or something. Make it easy. Send it to the clients who love your work and your staff at first. But get in the habit of sending to all clients; checking the reviews and RESPONDING to them—good or bad.

Just remember to always respond to negatives. Try to make it right. Get in the habit of seeking positive comments. Pay attention to what’s being said about you. It matters. It’ll save your reputation.


Pinkwashing recovery will take decades

In the last two weeks a lot of public relations criticism has been directed at the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and well deserved. I’ve refrained from participating because in full disclosure I’ve worked or volunteered with Planned Parenthood for more than 21 years.

Without debating the merits of the SGK decision, as a Public Relations practitioner, it’s an amazing case study. First it’s a study in how not to sabotage your own organization by succumbing to internal and external pressures to change the mission of the organization. Kivi Leroux Miller did an excellent non-partisan job of covering this issue in her article The Accidental Rebranding of Komen for the Cure.

Komen changed their position after three days of unprecedented response from women and men across the country. Who knows how many thousands of people across the country weighed in nationally, locally and across every platform imaginable. The social media viralness contributed to the three day ordeal for Komen. Clearly SGK was not prepared for the tsunami of response and show how NOT to respond to a crisis of your own making. They threw a sponsor under the bus but posting a new corporate sponsor during the crisis. Whether Energizer battery intends to stick with is its sponsorship remains to be seen.And women are pissed off. Reversing the decision has opened a big problem with financials investigated, prior relationships investigated. “Pinkwashing is now a verb in the lexicon for long time detractors of Komen. Locals are finding rebuke from former volunteers not willing to do races. Sponsors not willing to connect to ‘controversial’ entities are not willing to offer race locations. And through all this the fight against breast cancer must go on.

Other groups exist to fight cancer, and breast cancer specifically. It is going to take decades for SGK to recover from their 3 days of not understanding their audience, not understanding the connection women feel to Planned Parenthood and not having a crisis communication plan in place to address their ongoing challenges. Breast cancer wins over women’s health because of the political debate. May be get back to the focus of making women’s health a priority and not political or religious debate.

Locally chapters are left relatively to their own devices on mending relationships with local donors and volunteers. Women are mad at these attacks and the politicization of women’s health. SGK failed to recognize: while one in eight women contract breast cancer, one in five uses Planned Parenthood in her life time. One percent of annual 200,000 diagnoses of breast cancer happens in men, but Komen doesn’t provide access to services or screening to men. One percent of the nearly 5 million patients at Planned Parenthood are male.

Twelve Actions to Build your Biz in the New Year

  1. First write a business plan–or update it if you have one on a shelf. You can buy my friend Erica Olsen’s book. Can’t bother with a book, try her online program to help you keep track. Whatever it takes, make a plan and review it regularly.
  2. Target your audience. Really dig deep in their demographics-age, gender, marital status, everything you can figure out. Then figure out what their lifestyle is. Then figure out what motivates them to buy what you offer. If you have clients it’s easy to engage them. If you are starting up a business you need to research the possibilities and check competition.
  3. Next flesh out the marketing plan. Know just how much networking, customer relations, social media, publicity, events, media relations, etc you need to reach the clients on your plan.
  4. Invest in list management.You need a place to put your leads and a way to communicate. Ideally you move beyond the capability of the 50-100 limited emails you can send with your personal email. You need at least 5 times as many people to talk to so you can get the “yes” sales you need. That’s a lot to track. We use iContact. Also recommend Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. There are others–find what is most user friendly to you.
  5. Work your customers. Best sales force is word-of-mouth. Best way to get positive WOM is to talk to your customers. Stay connected. Offer them value. Engage them into your company-you know, like a relationship. Not a hook up.
  6. Focus your business growth on what you do best-not on the 10% that you suck at. We spend so much time trying to fix that last percent of what’s broken–and will never get fixed–rather than build the best thing into the superlative thing.Focus on what you love or are best at.You’ll grow even more.
  7. Make things easy for your clients. Whether its sending them reminders about their appointments or offering to drop materials off at their work site–whatever it is you can do to make their lives easier do.
  8. Make time for sales and marketing. You spend 40 hours a week making the product or doing the service. It’s best if you sell it.
  9. Delegate what you can’t get done. Building on the fact that you should be the primary sales force, what can you delegate to others? Bookkeeping? Marketing and public relations? Being in the store? Remember focus on your favorite element for your own pleasure and then delegate–enlist family or hire staff or outsource some services.
  10. Play it forward. You’ll really reap more if you give to prospects and share with others than if you are stingy with your time.
  11. Make sure your marketing outreach materials are current. When is the last time you updated your website? Your handouts? If you pulled everything together and put samples on a board can you tell it’s the same company or does it look like you picked up an assortment–if visually it doesn’t look the same, you need to do some branding.
  12. Stuck? Hire a coach. Coaches can help you puzzle through what blocks you; train you on beginning steps; help you break down a giant project into manageable pieces. They also can provide the accountability you might need to meet deadlines. Not to mention the encouragement. Solo-preneurs definitely need that sounding board. And we can help you with that.


Girls Want Superheros, not just Pink Princesses

Young Riley noticed and articulated what is wrong with most marketing practices and highlights our cultural failings around gender roles in one small video.

From a public relations marketing perspective, her rant against the ‘all pink’ trick is something marketers (as in those who devise and focus group test the products) need to heed. As a culture we have a responsibility to create toys that generate more than princess syndrome for little girls. Not all children, regardless of gender, fit into the same box. Not all 40 year old women do either–there are 40 year old grandmothers, 40 year old new moms and 40 year old highly successful single women with no desire to parent. We can no longer market merely by age and gender. Instead we need to focus our products on LIFESTYLE and what consumer behaviors are.

As small business owners, we likely make products that we love–but not all our customers will look  like us. And that’s something to take into account.

In Riley’s case, we need to figure out if our target plays with dolls or super heroes or both. And if they play with either, what colors do they prefer–or are they color blind (figuratively or literally)?

The packaging and advertising needs to target our audience, but not to the exclusion of those who might be interested in the product if we don’t over market to one segment. Princesses could come in a rainbow of colors. Princesses can be superheros. And superheros come in a variety of colors. This is the balance for all products and services and takes self control for small business owners. Not all sports or hunting fans are men; not all home decor designers are women or focus on women. And some girls don’t want to be tricked into pink princesses-they’d rather have a super hero.

Six tips in the ART of Giving from Business

The holidays are upon us. Every non-profit worth their salt is reaching out to businesses because they know tax write-off season is the end of the calendar year and they are making the asks. Corporate philanthropy should be a value for the company first, before being a public relations tactic. If you get involved in the community, give because it’s the right thing to do. Corporate sponsorship can be philanthropic, but if you expect a lot of kudos for the gift, it’s not altruistic.

Know why you want to give and to whom and what, if anything you want to get out of it

  • Set a criteria now–because some smart non-profit is going to ask you to be a donor—programs that involve kids, animals, education? Women’s issues, political philosophy. Up to you, but think about it now.
  • Decide a budget for how many raffle prizes you donate or table tickets you want to purchase. Then stick to it.
  • Know your cash flow so you know WHEN you can buy tickets or provide a financial contribution.
  • Decide if you’re going to do a philanthropic effort for your community–putting food collection barrels in your office or taking your entire team to  volunteer for a needy group. Spend some time with seniors–help them decorate their homes and then clean up after the holidays. Volunteer to help a non-profit spruce up ITs space–either decorations or maybe just “winter cleaning”.
  • Certainly get the word out, because the media loves human interest stories. But be sure it’s newsworthy. Try reaching out to groups often neglected. Nothing against kids, but lots of folks do toy drives. How about a drive for foster kids aging out of the system with no where to go. They turn 18 and get turned out. Help them get set up with apartment necessities.
  • Share your stories of giving back–take pictures and post them on all your online platforms.
  • Consider employees when making a philanthropic gesture. Even a paid day off can go a long way for company morale. Can’t swing that, maybe half a day. Or a staff gift basket of goodies.

Philanthropy is about generosity that shows concern for human advancement. Underwriting an endeavor – being the sponsor – can be philanthropy with benefits. May you celebrate the coming holidays. And give as generously to your charities of choice as you can.

Small Business Saturdays–and keep it going through the holiday

Hopefully you haven’t been living under a rock and you know that today is Small Business Saturday. It’s a corporate philanthropy day suggested by American Express. You don’t need to be an American Express member to go shop at small businesses in your community. Your small businesses don’t have to accept American Express to participate. But the Amex folks know that small business is what drives our economy-it’s the 99.7 percent of all employer firms and hires half of all private sector jobs.

From a PR perspective, Amex is providing a great service. Yes, they could as a company benefit because of their small business solutions arm. They are a financing force; but they used it to get great coverage, it’s resounding with a lot of shoppers–many of whom don’t know it’s an idea sponsored by American Express.

For you the small business owner, you’ve missed the shot at Small  Business Saturday window signs and the easy set up that Amex offered on their pages. But what you can do for the rest of the holiday season is to communicate with your customers–across all platforms.

  • Tell them what deals you have and remind them of small business purchases. If it seems too bold, share about other businesses.
  • Give them ideas–like a certificate for a bookkeeping or house cleaning service, personal grooming or pet care services, local restaurants.
  • Partner up with businesses in your block. One winery I go to partners with the local restaurant next door who doesn’t charge a corkage few if you bring in a bottle from the winery.
  • Create an experience–harried shoppers want convenience, no hassle. After yesterday, they don’t want to go where they could get pepper-sprayed over a video game! Offer refreshments, maybe have a masseuse doing 15 minute stress relief moments.
  • Service, from the minute the walk in the door till two years after, counts. Knock ’em dead with the right amount of attention without hounding them to buy. It’s a balance. Offer information about bargains or special benefits.
  • Find enticements: free gift wrap (discount at another local store, perhaps), gift basket ideas, free delivery.

Get going. You still have time. But there is only about three weeks shopping left-depending on what holiday you commemorate.