Q: Can you give me some tips about where I could find good customer service training for my staff?
A: I met a store owner recently who takes a different member of staff every week and spends one hour training and retraining on customer service. I was complementing him on the commitment he has made, and he would say that since he has started doing this that the standard of service is so much higher in the business.
Customer service is one of these topics which needs continuous training and retraining. I have no doubt that the service you personally provide is exceptional because you know what is required, but sometimes staff need to be reminded and helped by showing them examples of how great service can be delivered. To be quite honest with you I do not believe you need anyone external to the business, but rather take an hour out of your own diary every week and allocate it to service training.
The second benefit will be that it is an opportunity for you to engage with your staff on a one-to-one basis which you might not otherwise have been able to achieve.
To keep your training sessions interesting choose different topics under the umbrella of customer service, for example greeting customers, looking for opportunities to add extra elements to service, understanding the difference between good and great customer service.
I know you could argue that you do not have an hour to spare every week to do this, however it will probably be one of the most productive hours where you can see a clear output at the other end.
Q: I have read that when starting a new business, cash flow can be a big concern. Have you any advice?
A: Indeed you are correct. In fact, it is probably the number one challenge for most early stage businesses and should be high on your list of priorities when structuring your business start-up.
Many businesses mistakenly believe they can accumulate cash flow as the business grows and gradually ramp up the growth. In the majority of cases this is simply impossible to do because any small amounts of cash that you do raise go straight back into paying for raw materials to make new product.
Whether it is a tiny micro business that you plan to start or something larger with growth aspirations, you will need cash. The amount will very much depend on how fast you plan to grow and how quickly those paying you will do so.
Once you start supplying any third party your biggest challenge will be to get paid for your goods in as short a time period as possible. Obviously if any trade customers can do you a favour and pay you on delivery for your product, then that is a major bonus at the beginning. You will find however that you become a nuisance when asking for this and that goodwill is unlikely to last for too long.
Many early stage businesses now tell me that quite typically they don’t get paid for at least 50 days. That is a lot of cash if you have been supplying product to that customer every week.
When setting out the funding requirements for your business, project forward the sales you will be making and then allow for this cash based on the payment terms you are likely to get.
There are some great new pieces of software that will help you to project forward your cash flow and which will also pinpoint when you might run out of cash.
I would complement you for raising this issue ahead of starting your business as many people forget about it and it can put them under huge pressure.
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