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Candace D'Agnolo

Customer Service vs. Customer-Friendly: Knowing the Difference Could Be the Key to Your Success

There’s a big difference, and knowing it may be your key to success.

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IF I ASKED YOU what sets you apart from your competition, would you say “great customer service”? I bet you would. But if I asked you if your policies, hours and experience were in turn “customer-friendly,” could you respond with the same enthusiasm?

I know you’re thankful for every customer who walks through your door. You offer them amazing customer service, no doubt. But does your customer think your return policy, for example, shows you’re grateful to have them as a customer? Do they feel forced into too many rules? Do signs in your store say, “If they pee on it, you pay for it”?
How would your business change if you looked at it through the lens of being thankful for your customers? Here are strategies to show customers you’re thankful during each phase of contact.

Show Thankfulness at First Point of Contact

Are you open when your customers need you to be? If your pet parents are working 9-to-5 jobs, are you open at least a couple later evenings and/or weekends? And when they arrive at your store, first impressions are everything! You want an inviting entry, free from cluttered signs that could detract from their experience or convey a negative tone from the start. Ensure that when customers walk in the door, their experience is rewarding. Are employees greeting every customer in a unique and genuine way?

Show Gratitude During the Experience

The second phase for your customers is the shopping experience. If you were shopping for clothes or food for a party, you would want to try things on and sample the goods to ensure you will be pleased with your purchases. When it comes to your store, do you allow pets to try things on? Why not? If not, do you have a sizing chart for types of dogs and weights to help your customers choose the correct size? Do your employees know how to make the proper recommendations? Do you offer treat samples? You can easily open a bag to allow a customer’s pet to try a treat, then if they don’t purchase it you can use it for future samples.

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Show Them How Much You Trust Them

The third phase happens at the register. Are your return policies customer-friendly? Are they clear and simple like … “Your Satisfaction is Our No. 1 Priority,” or is your receipt filled with rules? Customers are busy. As much as they may wish to get back to your store in the 14 days your policy allows for, life happens, and a return very well could be put on the back burner. The same goes with the returning of used, opened or defective merchandise. Think not only about what is a reasonable expectation for these scenarios, but what will make your customers happy at the end of each transaction?
Having a customer-centered shopping experience is the key to increasing return customers. Become comfortable with releasing the worry of customers taking advantage of policies. Don’t be afraid to let go of the rules! When you do, it releases the friction and tension for employees and customers alike when bringing up the dreaded returns or damaged goods.

It’s the time of year that we’re all hyper-focused on being thankful for what we have, but according to scientists, feeling thankful year-round will boost your well-being, improving your chances for success, and in turn, I believe your sales will increase as a result. An easy place to start is to be thankful for your customers, showing them through their experience with you.

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.

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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Candace D'Agnolo

3 Ways to Get More Bang for Your Buck at Festivals

Just gotta have the right strategy.

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WITH WARMER WEATHER coming, it will be time for outdoor pet fests and fundraisers. Having a booth at an event can be a significant investment, both in money and in time. Get the biggest bang for your buck by having the right strategy.

Be a Center of Attention

One of the first things to consider is hosting an activity. You can ask the organizer whether you can run an activity at your booth or sponsor something already planned. For example, one client sponsored the “fun zone.” Her booth was near the entrance of this area, and as a result she constantly had people standing and waiting for the agility equipment and games. The pet parents shopped while they were in line with their fur kids.

Or you can come up with your own game or activity. It can be a photo booth, doggy tattoos, giant costumed dog, a spin-the-wheel for a prize, doggy ball pit — anything fun that requires participation and garners attention.

Keep Your Booth on Point

Get all the marketing materials you need: branded tablecloth, backdrop, tent, promo items, signs, brochures, cards, stickers. Make sure people know exactly what business booth they are visiting. Avoid overcrowding your booth, and don’t clutter the space with too many messages.

Be clear on your goal for the event and strategize how you can best get that result. A pet sitter’s goal should be to schedule “meet and greets.” So, focus your time and energy on those potential clients. How can you identify them from the sea of people?What questions can you ask to engage people and book that meet and greet while at the event?

Regardless of whether they are potential customers, make sure they walk away remembering your business name and with a way to contact you.

Get Leads

While you want them to take your business name home, you don’t just want to hand out a bunch of promotional materials and not hear back from anyone, right? Great sales are always in the follow-up. You’re the one investing in being at the event, so you should walk away from the event with leads. Get as much information as you can from as many people as possible, dig through them post-event to find your hottest leads, and follow up to hook them as customers.

To start, raffle off something super cool that everyone will want. Something of high perceived value. One year, we invested in an iPad Mini as a prize, and we had a line of 50 people waiting at our booth to sign up throughout event. We collected 400 new leads!

Have your raffle slips gather all kinds of information that will help you after the event: mobile number, email, ZIP code, dog type and age, type of food they feed, even biggest challenge with their dog, which allows for you to have a jumping off point for a follow-up discussion.

Walk the event and network with other vendors and volunteers. Drop off your cards and collect their cards. They may be great partners for cross-promotions.

Follow-up is vital. After the event when you’ve collected all these new contacts, upload them into your system and start getting those follow-up emails, texts and phone calls out. With these strategies, you’ll feel confident while you’re there, you’ll be finding new business, and you’ll feel like it was worth your investment.

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Candace D'Agnolo

3 Principles Learned While Traveling That You Can Apply to Your Business

A trip to South Africa was ‘one of the best things I’ve done,’ Candace writes.

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TRAVELING TO SOUTH AFRICA was one of the best things I’ve done with my time and money. I went with eight other women entrepreneurs, visiting local businesses that are making a big impact in their communities. While their products and services may have been different from pets, their business models and attitudes provided inspiration, no matter the industry.

Farm-to-table dining and products were available at Babylonstoren.

CURATION. At Babylonstoren, we experienced farm-to-table dining and products. They grow everything they use in their hotel and restaurant right there on the property. From the meats, cheese and vegetables at dinner, to the bath soaps, shampoos and wine in the room, it’s all made on site. Because of seasonal changes in availability of the ingredients, the menu is always variable, consistently fresh and curated.

The takeaway: Are there local farmers, meat packers or treat makers who you can get involved with? Do you have a set of standards you measure your products by? How fresh are your goods? In retail, your entire shop should be averaging a turn of at least 4. We encourage our clients to have new merchandise every 90 days or more.

“Biodynamic” wine from Waterkloof.

QUALITY. At Waterkloof Wine Estate, they produce “biodynamic” wines, which means they don’t put chemicals in their products and work to create a diverse, balanced ecosystem that generates health and vitality. Horses can be seen tilling the ground. Cows walk the vineyards to fertilize the soil. And if a wine doesn’t turn out to their standards, they just don’t use it. Their success comes not only from the great wine they produce, but from the quality they demand every step of the way.

The takeaway: Start caring about the “health” of your business from the inside out. Would taking better care of your team result in better customer service? Yes! Would ensuring your products are looking their best turn into more sales? You bet!

Charcuterie platter served on a tree trunk slab.

EXPERTISE. At Culture Club Cheese, we received a massive charcuterie platter served on a tree trunk slab. The owner of the shop shared with us all about the cheeses, where they came from and the history behind each. As our group asked questions, the shop owner shared further about discovering the cheese at the world’s largest cheese festival in Italy. This story kept many of us engaged and interested, while others listened and shopped for goodies to eat later.

span class=”company-or-featured-name”>The takeaway: Share more about the products you’re selling. Learn the stories behind the brands. Share reasons why you chose to bring it in and what your excitement was when you discovered it. This will help your customers connect to you and the products you represent.

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I really loved that all the places we discovered knew exactly who they were, what their vision was, and the fact they acted in alignment with each every day. Use expertise, quality and curation to build loyal customers, to convert more sales and to position yourself as an industry expert in your community.

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