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Candace D'Agnolo

5 Steps to Defuse Conflict with Customers

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Ever had a customer who wants her money back on a destroyed plush dog toy because “you said it was indestructible”? In your head, your response is something like, “Yeah right, crazy lady. You obviously weren’t listening because I would never say that!” Or how about an angry customer getting visibly upset saying, “I’m two hours late for my grooming appointment, but you told me I could walk in at any time. It even says so on your website! You have to wash my dog! I have guests coming tomorrow. You’re ruining our entire weekend!” How do you respond to these customer issues without making things worse?

Whether you believe the customer is always right or not, you still must do all you can to make sure the customer leaves satisfied and feels her problem was properly resolved. Follow my five-step process and move from a defensive, stand-your-ground approach to a “the-customer-is-always-right” mindset.

1

Listen. Whether they are coming at you calm, with anger or just plain sass, listen, listen, listen. Let them vent without interruption. If they aren’t saying much, ask questions like, “Tell me more” or “What were you hoping for?” By using this technique, you 1. allow the customer to get it off his chest, and 2. are better able to understand his needs so you can offer the best solution.

2

Empathize. Empathizing with their situation and expressing a genuine understanding of their frustration might be the most important part of helping unsatisfied customers. Make sure you don’t miss this opportunity to connect. Say things like, “I can understand how disappointing this is,” or “I would be just as frustrated. I really feel what you’re going through.” Then repeat the problem they’ve shared with you. By doing this, you’re validating that you’ve heard their concerns and that you understand their problem.

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3

Ask. Instead of offering what you think is the best solution, ask them what they want. I spent years giving a huge discount or a full refund because I feared that bad Yelp review. But the simple questions, “How can I make this right?” or “What do you think is a reasonable solution?” puts the ball in their court. Sometimes they may ask for something you can’t possibly do, but in most cases their request is reasonable. When you solve the problem with the customer’s idea, you know they’ll be satisfied. Even better, you let the customer know you really care and thus deepen customer loyalty.

4

Recommend. If you can do what they are asking, that’s the best result. Get excited and tell them you can absolutely meet their request. If you can’t, politely say, “While I can’t give you X, I really do want to help you, so here’s what I can do …” Provide a thoughtful solution, one that truly helps them. So, back to our customer with the dog who has guests coming … if you can’t give that the dog a bath, give her a free bottle of bath spritz or wipes and a fresh bandana to hold the dog over. Then tell her that for the inconvenience you’ll squeeze the dog in for your first available appointment with a 15 percent discount.

5

Surprise. You can always do more — surprise, delight, and give them a cherry on top. Rather than think you’re rewarding a complaining customer, recognize the situation as a marketing opportunity where you’re converting bad situations into loyal customers who will likely share their experience. Remember, 92 percent of consumers trust word of mouth over other forms of advertising. So give them an additional perk like a future discount or a gift that complements their needs. Approach this situation from an abundance mindset and create a win-win situation.

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As a business owner, you must transition mindsets, from “But I’m right!” to “I truly care about my customer.” Your customers must be happy. Focus on loyalty investment rather than a one-time margin hit. You will spend a lot more to get a new customer than making this one happy.

Candace D’Agnolo owns successful pet business Dogaholics and offers business consulting at Pet Boss Nation. For help creating a customized 90-day plan to tackle all your business goals, download a free worksheet, at petbossnation.com/petsplus. Contact her at hello@petbossnation.com.


 This article originally appeared in the April 2018 edition of PETS+. 

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Candace D'Agnolo

10 Ways to Prevent New Hires from ‘Ghosting’ You

Here are some strategies to help you find the love of a true teammate.

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ONE OF THE MAJOR challenges facing pet businesses is finding people to a) apply, b) show up for interviews and c) to get through training. “Ghosting” isn’t just a term used in dating when someone stops communicating with you. Job applicants and new hires just disappearing has become a big headache. Here are some strategies to help you find the love of a true teammate.

1. Keep your ears open for people you encounter and enjoy engaging with when you’re out and about. Say something like, “You’re so great at your job! I wish I had a team member like you.” You’ll find out if they are either perfectly happy where they are or are ready for a change. Maybe they feel underappreciated, or they are looking for extra work.

2. In your job posting, share what you can do for them. Of course, list job requirements, but to attract highly interested applicants, share more about why they would want to work for you. Share that the team can bring their pets to work, they can get discounts, or perhaps you have additional perks.

3. Don’t be so picky when sifting through initial applications. If you spot two or three things that stand out about the person, reach out. You can always train skills.

4. Pick up the phone. Call an applicant out of the blue. See how they handle the conversation. Keep the conversation light. Say that you received their application and would like to know why they applied. If you like what you hear, keep the conversation going. If you have to leave a message, tell them to call you back. If they don’t, toss the application.

5. While on the phone, explain that the first step of your interview process is for them to record a 3-minute video on their phone and send it to you. In this video, they need to state their name, share the best quality they would bring to your business and then tell how they can make an impact with that skill if they were hired. Give them 24 hours to text or email it to you. This puts the ball in their court and requires them to meet a deadline.

6. Toss them some easy projects. If it’s a sales associate position, have them work a sample table in your store for an hour. Give them some basic guidelines and then see how they interact with customers and whether they can get across the important things you wanted them to. Observing them in action tells you more than a sit-down interview.

7. Pressed to hire multiple people at once? Host an “Open Interview Day.” This is a great way to quickly go through applications while meeting people face-to-face, have a quick conversation and then move them onto a project like picking something from the store, doing some quick research on the product and then selling it to you. There’s lots of ways to run group interviews, and it all depends on the position you’re trying to fill.

8. Offer promising candidates the opportunity to work for a trial period. At our doggy daycare, we’ll bring in two to four potential dog handlers at different times throughout the week. This allows all team members to work with them and assess which person will be the best fit. Give the applicant a few core things they need to do, provide them with the opportunity to ask questions, and experience their work ethic and abilities before committing to a formal offer.

9. When you’re ready to make an offer, or just shortly after, make sure to communicate your vision one-on-one with them. Share the back story of your company and the direction you want to take the business. This will help connect the applicant to your business and may strengthen their commitment to you.

10. Always keep applications flowing in. Even when you’ve done an interview, and the person is in their training phase, still keep talking to potential hires on the phone and having them send in their video messages. This will give you some backup options in case your current trainee doesn’t work out as planned.

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Candace D'Agnolo

How Pet Businesses Can Profit From Facebook Live

In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day.

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PET RETAILERS AND MANUFACTURERS all over the country are making big bucks by going live and hosting what I like to call a virtual “Paw Party.”

A “Paw Party” is when you jump on a Facebook Live, have fun with your audience and sell stuff! In 60 minutes or less, you could make as much as you do during an entire business day. Seriously. My clients are seeing crazy results, and I want you to get a piece of the action.

How to Do It

Pick a date and time for your Paw Party. Tell your audience in advance, and do it at a time that you think the most people will show up (maybe at 7 or 8 on a weeknight). You’ll want assistance from two people. One can be helping with the camera and review comments on the video as they are coming in. And the other can help prepare product and be your assistant show host.

The merchandise you feature should have a number written on a card assigned to it. When you show the product to the audience, describe it, share the hashtag and tell the price. To increase the desire for the item, you can offer a limited-time discount or have a limited quantity to sell. If a viewer is interested, they type sold and the hashtag in the comments. There are a variety of ways you can accept payment, so come up with the way that will work the easiest for potential buyers and is something you can easily handle — phone call, website, PayPal, in-store, etc.

How to Make It Interesting

Treat it like a party you’d be hosting or would want to go to. Pick a theme based on the season or an upcoming holiday. Wear festive clothing or have an interesting backdrop to create a great visual. Make it BYOB … Bring Your Own Beverage. You could be toasting the viewers and chatting with them about what they chose to bring to the viewing party.

All great parties have games! Utilize a prize wheel (see Pet Pro Gear on page 23), numbered boxes, a dry-erase board, Post-It notes on a wall — really anything you can think of to help create a game of chance that can hold either a number or the name of a prize. Encourage your viewers when it’s time to play the game to participate with you in the comments of your post. Believe it or not, viewers love this! Have fun with your viewers, engage with them and keep your energy up.

How to Make It Profitable

Sell merchandise that you no longer want to carry. Maybe it’s older than six months. (Yes, you should mark it down and move it out if you’ve had it longer than six months!) While selling something at a discount doesn’t seem profitable, goods that are just sitting on your shelves like they are in a museum will serve you better to take what you can get and replace them with something that your customers want to buy. You’ll be surprised that what they won’t buy in store, they will buy on a live video sale. Why do you think the Home Shopping Network is so successful?

Are the wheels already turning? Here are two examples for inspiration: petsplusmag.com/5193, petsplusmag.com/5194.

Grab your smartphone, head to Facebook or Instagram, and hit that “go live” button! Don’t overthink this! Just hit the button, look at the camera and be your wonderful self. This isn’t about perfection, it’s about taking action! We’re all rooting for you and can’t wait to come to your party!

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Candace D'Agnolo

Free Business Tools for Marketing, Growth & Team!

3 apps this writer’s business can’t live without.

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AS A BUSINESS OWNER, it can be so overwhelming to find the proper software, websites or apps to use in your business for some of the most basic tasks. There’s a lot of trial and error involved. They’re time-consuming to set up, and then you find out you dislike the program, or it isn’t working for you. Why even bother, right?!

Elsewhere in this issue (“An App for That,” page 31), readers have suggested their favorite business apps, and here, I share three of my favorites, two of which are shared by readers. These are proven apps that have been highly beneficial in my business for digital marketing, organization and scheduling. I hope you will find them as useful as I do!

Linktr.ee for Instagram

If you use Instagram, you know that you can’t hyperlink to anything in your posts, and you only have one space to put a clickable URL in your profile. This is why you often see, or perhaps write yourself, “Link in Bio,” and then you have to constantly change the link. As time passes on, so does your post, but the link never gets updated because you forget.

Linktr.ee gives you one URL to put in your bio, but you can connect an unlimited amount of destinations to your Linktr.ee URL. There are free and paid versions, allowing for branding, email capture and more. Send your followers anywhere: articles, web store, events, socials and more. Only your custom Linktree URL stays within your Instagram bio.

Maybe you want to direct customers to your website homepage, then your grooming appointment scheduler, your Facebook Event list for your anniversary party, your training class schedule, your wholesale website. By not utilizing this super-easy tool, you are missing out! And your customers are, too!

Trello for Organization

I’ve been using Trello since 2011 when it was released. I’ve tried a dozen other project management/team tracking/organization tools since, and I just keep coming back to Trello. It allows you to keep all your systems, process, checklists, research, customer conversations and order flow organized, all in one location.

Trello allows you to create all kinds of lists via boards, lists and cards almost like virtual Post-It Notes, all organized into journals. But they are Post-It Notes on steroids! You can make checklists, attach photos, assign team members, link to other cards and communicate with your team about intricate and specific details, from customer issues to shipment details. Additionally, add due dates, duplicate lists easily and store ideas.

You can also set notifications, so when anyone updates a task you see what changes were made, or what was marked completed. Everything is in real time, so when an update happens, everyone sees it immediately. I use Trello for just about everything in my business and personal life to keep on top of my tasks — even to shop for groceries.

When I Work for Scheduling

When I Work allows managers, like at our doggie daycare, to easily schedule their employees, keep track of clocking in and out, and availability, and it is convenient for employees to view and manage their schedules as well. The best part is, you can use this on your mobile device or desktop computer. This also allows you to view multiple locations if you have more than one.

This intuitive program allows companies to easily schedule their staff. You can create shift templates that allow you to quickly copy and paste a previous week, then edit as needed. Managers and employees can communicate and leave notes for each other. Everyone can get notifications as well. Employees can view their schedule, update their availability, request time off, swap shifts and more all from their mobile devices. There is also a function where employees acknowledge they have viewed their schedule. There are free and paid versions of the software.

With these tools, you can successfully funnel new customers, stay more organized than ever with projects and easily schedule employees — all for free!

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