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Tuesday, 08 April 2014 05:02

How to avoid common customer service mistakes

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One of the worst things to say to customers is “no.” Instead of responding that you don’t have a product in stock or provide a service, always provide some other option, says Rick Voigt, president of Today’s Business Products. “If it’s something you don’t sell, suggest an equivalent product. Mention that you have this alternate item, and ask if that would work for the customer,” Voigt says. “The answer is never no, even when it’s really no. There’s always an option you can present.” Smart Business spoke with Voigt about customer service mistakes, and how to ensure they don’t occur…
In February, the IRS issued some final regulations relating to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), basically delaying full implementation. One major change was allowing employers with 50 to 99 employees until Jan. 1, 2016, to comply with the mandate to either provide health insurance or pay excise taxes in certain circumstances. “In effect, smaller employers have another year to determine how they are going to approach this,” says Ted Ginsburg, CPA, J.D., a principal at Skoda Minotti. Smart Business spoke with Ginsburg about the recent changes to the ACA regulations and how they affect small and midsize companies. What significant…
The on-site clinic model — a quick care center that focuses on primary care, workplace wellness screenings, disease management and any acute colds, pains, etc. — is still somewhat of an unknown for small and midsize employers. Typically, on-site clinics are utilized by large employers, so employers with less than 1,000 employees may think it is too expensive or too much of a startup expense. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Dr. Ken Rybicki, an internal medicine specialist who runs several on-site clinics, says employers can put together an on-site clinic for less than they might think, while…
Tax planning is a key component of mergers and acquisitions for both buyers and sellers. It can impact the deal price and play a role in the post-transaction integration. Tax issues are probably more stressful for sellers, because if there are tax exposures they may need to make representations and warranties. It also can have a bigger impact on the seller’s individual taxes. However, from a buying standpoint, if you want management to stay on but there’s a tax problem, say with executive compensation plans, that can have an adverse effect on operations prospectively. “It’s one of those things where…
If longevity is a sign of success, Beech Brook stands alone in Greater Cleveland. The Beech Ball, Beech Brook’s annual fundraiser to benefit its program, will be from 6 to 11 p.m. April 11 at the InterContinental Cleveland. For more information, call (216) 831-2255. Founded in 1852 as the Cleveland Orphan Asylum, its mission is still much the same today: To heal and find safe and caring homes for emotionally disturbed and at-risk children, as well as providing education and support to at-risk families to break the cycle of abuse and neglect. President and CEO Debra Rex admits she can’t…
Engineering innovation took the spotlight in several ways at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC in Elyria in February — and that included getting engineers of tomorrow on board. In celebration of Engineers Week 2014, Bendix hosted its first Discover Engineering event at its Elyria headquarters on Presidents Day, introducing middle school and high school students to engineering. The company is committed to inspiring the next generation of engineers and helping students unleash their creativity and innovative spirit through engineering. Discover Engineering was open to children and grandchildren of Bendix employees, allowing students to meet Bendix engineers and learn firsthand what…
No matter how well you make your products or provide your services, one of your customers will eventually experience a problem. The way that you deal with these inevitable problems determines how your customers view your company, and ultimately, if they’ll buy from you again. Do you know how well your customer service processes are working? To prepare for the recent holidays, I decided to replace our dwindling and mismatched collection of wine glasses. I browsed the Web, and placed an order for 16 — eight whites and eight reds. A few days later, my shipment arrived with two cartons…
Can you name a single aspect of business that doesn’t require communication? Of course not. Whether that communication is internal, external or both, nothing happens that doesn’t demand effective communication. If you want to win, it needs to be done well. That just makes common sense. What isn’t logical, is the environment in which businesses communicate today. Here are five major communication challenges facing every company: Anger We live in an angry country right now. People are angry with their leaders, their media, their judicial system, their schools and, yes, with corporate America. As they lash out, that makes doing…
Laura Bennett took on an uphill battle and co-founded Embrace Pet Insurance Thursday, April 10, 2014 Laura Bennett was trying to get her fledgling pet insurance business off the ground in 2005 when she had to confront the reality that the insurance industry was a male-dominated one. Bennett and co-founder Alex Krooglik were searching for an insurance partner who would back Embrace Pet Insurance, her company, and left for London to seal a deal with Lloyd’s of London, the global specialist insurance king. “Well, that was the problem — trying to find a partner that would work with two people…
If your company is interested in establishing or enhancing its collaboration with philanthropic organizations, Dan D’Armond, community and government relations director for BMC Software, offers some excellent observations and questions to ask as you review your involvement.Here is my interview with him:Deena: What are corporations typically asked about corporate giving and forming strategic partnerships?Dan: One of the most commonly asked questions corporations receive from nonprofits is, ‘What is your giving strategy?’ Maybe the better question is, ‘Can a corporation afford not to collaborate with nonprofits as part of its strategy?’Many nonprofits approach potential corporate partners with the promise of a…
The field of marketing is changing rapidly. Customers can engage with businesses anytime and have higher expectations than ever. Free next-day shipping, 24-hour support and social media have created the need to improve service without necessarily creating additional revenue opportunities. As a business owner, how do you allocate your resources?Here are two startling statistics when listed together: It costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than retain a current one, according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs. A study conducted by Bain & Co. cited that increasing customer retention rates by 5 percent increases…
The Tuesday Musical Association has been providing classical music concerts to the Akron community for more than 125 years. Its mantra, “Presenting the Finest,” is exactly what it does, according to Jarrod Hartzler, executive director of the association.“Most of the world’s most successful and acclaimed musicians have appeared on our concert stage. Annually, musical legends such as Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Renée Fleming and ensembles such as The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, and the Vienna Boys Choir comprise our concert season,” he says.In addition to its six-concert main-stage series, the TMA offers a broad range of education…
Describing what has stayed the same during National Interstate’s first 25 years is easier than listing everything that’s changed, according to Dave Michelson, the company’s president and CEO.Today, National Interstate Corp. remains an underwriter of passenger transportation operators across the country. “But really almost everything else to some degree has changed,” Michelson says. National Interstate has gone from a private company to a publicly traded one, has expanded beyond passenger transportation into half a dozen wheels-type niches and has gone from a target of acquisition to an acquirer. Back when Michelson was hired, he was the company’s 20th employee, now…
Stark State College is focused on preparing students and graduates for the jobs that exist in its environment, says Para M. Jones, the college’s president. In order to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the community, however, the college must be able to pivot itself and its 500-plus employees to meet the needs of today’s businesses.“We’re continuously scanning the environment, talking to businesses,” Jones says. “We’ve got an ongoing dialogue about what are the needs of business, and then our job, our mission, is to develop programs and develop the workforce to respond to those needs.” Jones, the college’s first…
Recent media attention, including ubiquitous coverage of the Target Corp. security breach over the holidays, has highlighted the increase in security intrusions affecting organizations across industries. As technology moves forward exponentially, security threats and leaks continue to emerge.“In the digital age, nearly every company holds personally identifiable information of its employees or customers in digital form,” says Christina D. Frangiosa, an attorney at Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. “It’s imperative that this information is protected from unauthorized disclosure and that companies have a plan to address any breaches.”Smart Business spoke with Frangiosa about data protection, the role of state…
Companies update their systems to replace outdated software and to modernize or streamline supporting IT resources. They also implement new systems in hopes of benefitting from internal efficiencies through added features, better workflow, etc. The problem is most companies that implement a new system do not achieve all of their objectives, and many fail miserably.“Ultimately, the new system may be better, but if executives listed the top things they wanted to accomplish by implementing the new system, many times they don’t achieve those things,” says Brian Thomas, partner in IT Advisory Services at Weaver. Smart Business spoke with Thomas about…
Some 45 percent of executives are on the move these days, actively looking for new job opportunities, a trend that should concern employers, says Joe Crea, president of Benefits Resource Group.“Often an executive is just not engaged, he or she has decided there’s more money to be made elsewhere, or they’re dissatisfied with the company,” Crea says.Smaller companies that lose a key executive are the most affected. “On average, it costs companies 2.5 times the salary of the executive lost in order to find and hire their replacement,” Crea says. However, there are strategies employers can use to keep key…
When switching to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone systems, a business will need to incorporate new equipment and technology. Though it may seem daunting, the transition and subsequent result leads to more manageable communications, a shallow learning curve and support during the process. “One of the biggest differences between using a traditional phone system and going to a VoIP platform is the huge reduction in equipment that is needed, and you’d be getting better features and advantages out of it,” says Alex Desberg, sales and marketing director at Ohio.net. “When you’re moving from a traditional world to a VoIP…
Figuring out how much liability coverage to buy isn’t easy, but it’s very important.General liability covers an entity for bodily injury, property damage, personal and advertising injury, and medical payments to a third party because of negligence of the insured. So, adequately selecting the appropriate limits provides defense costs and indemnification to that third party, which will properly indemnify that claimant.“As an organization, ask yourself, ‘If my limits are not enough to cover the injury, what happens?’” says Andrew Rowles, vice president at SeibertKeck Insurance Agency. “You hope the insurance company will offer a settlement at your policy limits or…
Have any of your employees tried to do a selfie in the office in response to the one Ellen DeGeneres took at the Academy Awards last month? It was one of those moments that seemingly everyone was talking about and trying to recreate in the days after the Oscars. It served as yet another reminder of the blazing speed with which information can travel in this day and age when it hits the right note. If only that new product your company has been working on for the past six weeks had the same ability to captivate the masses. Unfortunately,…
With 25 regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ programs, making the cut to become a finalist in one of the 11 national award categories is tough — you’re competing against more than 200 of the nation’s top entrepreneurs. So landing three national finalists and one national category winner is something worth talking about. Last year, the Gulf Coast Area region landed four of its 11 regional EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ winners on the national stage: Steve Pate, chairman and CEO of Strike LLC; Kenneth L. Robison, CEO of Crest Industries LLC; Peter M. Duncan, founder, president and CEO of…
“HR bytes” refers to human resources technologies being developed, deployed and adopted at a breakneck pace. New and innovative software applications are making the delivery of HR services better, faster and simpler. For years now, large Fortune 500 companies have invested in HR technology that streamlines back office processes, enhances learning opportunities and simplifies employee procedures. Now, though, progressive HR service providers are expanding their service offering beyond mere administrative and tactical HR to include more strategic services and the systems to support them, giving smaller companies access to these tools as well. Time and labor management Automated Web-based time…
More midsize companies are seeking to do something extra for a select group of employees, usually executive-level staff. Nonqualified deferred compensation plans, which are not subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, have no discrimination restrictions, so employers can choose to whom they offer the plan. The plans also have no restrictions on deferral amounts, unlike qualified retirement plans. “The economy has been getting a little better, and top talent is very valuable,” says John Carey, CPA, J.D., associate director of tax at SS&G. “Companies want to take that extra step to keep people and offer them…
When Eve Yen arrived in the United States 20 years ago from Taiwan, she wasn’t thinking about building a multimillion-dollar business, she just needed a way to support her family. “I was bringing my daughter over here for the schools, for a better education,” says Yen, founder, owner and president of Diamond Wipes International Inc. “My thinking was if I could have one machine, I could make money to pay the rent.” Building the business from a small restaurant wipe supplier to the largest consumer and industrial wet wipes manufacturer on the West Coast wasn’t easy, but Yen had her…
PANELISTS: Laura Bennett, Sheila Dunn, Kristen Morris and Lindsay Sims Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield is proud to sponsor the Perspectives 2014 Women Who Excel Conference, and over the past several years, the pace of change has certainly increased, especially in health care. In my 30 years in the industry, I’ve never experienced so much change in such a short period of time. Women business leaders are facing important and increasingly complex decisions about the health care coverage they offer to their associates. Not only is health care coverage one of the biggest expenses in many companies’ budgets, it…
Subtle adjustments to the claim adjudication process have led to managed care organizations (MCOs) being asked to start collecting expanded data on new injuries. “An employer’s MCO plays a key role in initiating claims,” says Lance Watkins, AVP, Client Services, CompManagement Health Systems. All injury reports are routed through MCOs to ensure that the required data is in place before a claim is reviewed by the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) for allowance. Smart Business spoke with Watkins to better understand how MCOs will operate under the new process.What is changing in the data collection process for MCOs? Previously,…
We’ve all heard stories — many of which have taken on legendary proportions — about extraordinary service provided by the likes of Nordstrom, Disney and Ritz-Carlton employees. The luxury retail and hospitality industries have elevated customer service expectations in every business category, from fast food to financial, and yes, even pediatric hospital services. The difference is that at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, nothing less than children’s lives are at stake, and it’s our honor, privilege and sacred obligation to serve. The prospect of entering a children’s hospital can be terrifying. A parent’s most precious gift, his or her…
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