Inventory replenishment for better customer service

The key to the success of any business is the availability of the product when the customer desires for it. Once the business plan is made and the marketing takes off the next most important step is inventory forecast based on the market reaction and eventually inventory replenishment.

Inventory management was initially done manually that involved whole lot of manual calculation. The retail buyers too were experts in maximizing their sales while maintaining an inventory that was in line. There were many however, who struggled to maintain sales and inventory in line. These retail buyers turned their inventories at a very slow rate trapping in a lot of cash that would mean less profits and a whole lot of overstock every season. There were still others who sold at a certain rate without maintaining inventories. These retailers were unable to keep up the pace of sales due to less stocks loosing out in a long run.

The innumerable soft wares available today solve the problem of manual calculation. The availability of retail information system caters to the needs and the requirements of the retailer for inventories. Retailers in all the segments have utilized the advances made in retail information technology to maximize profits.

As the applications become more refined with exact details of demand forecast and inventory management models, it still depends a lot on the skill of the business person to interpret the data available in the right manner. The applications after all will not be able to do thinking for you. The thinking and interpretation needs to be done day in and out for profits. The applications will only facilitate the individual to take right decisions and make the inventory management work in the retailers favor. Sales planning and inventory replenishment modules too are usually incorporated in the sophisticated inventory planning packages.

ERP is an effective inventory management tool specifically aimed at the small retailers. These packages are however, not utilized to the fullest by the small retailers due to the limitations of the demand prediction and inventory management functions normally included in these soft wares. These tools capture the data provided and address the reporting in an amazing number of combinations. These soft wares have short comings that should be taken into account and not followed blindly. Demand forecasting should inventory management functions are just not sufficient to efficiently manage their stock.

The basic rules of inventory management and retailing remain unchanged. A successful business person has to understand the end customer well. Their needs, requirements and future expectation need to be taken into consideration. All this along with the data from past and the present day trend will help to formulate a basic successful inventory plan. The plan needs to be updated on a daily basis as the season progresses and specific trends have to be worked upon on urgent manner. Use the latest technology effectively for positive end results but do not solely depend on it.

How To Pacify Irate Customers

In addition to loyal customers, theres one kind that youll definitely meet along the way irate clients.

We know for a fact that you cannot please each and everyone who happens to be in your store or who availed of your service. So to be able to provide great customer service amidst the anger and outburst, here are some suggestions to defuse the heat, address the issue, and maintain loyalty among your clients:

“The Customer is Always Right.”

Its not that the client is always right in any situation; its more of you assuming that your clients have the right to become angry. And that right would be expressed in situations like when the product or service did not meet their expectations.

For example, if youre a postcard printing company and your result came out different from what is expected by your client, it is only right for him or her to be angry especially if this is not the first time that it happened.

Whatever the cause, you will definitely encounter an irate customer one time or another. The most appropriate response during situations like these is to not be angry yourself; instead, evaluate the complaint first and assume that the client has the right to be furious. When you finally understand what caused the problem, then thats the time you address the issue at hand.

Listen Before You React.

Listen to what your client have to say before you react to the anger. Do not, in any circumstance, fight emotion with another emotion.

Remember to listen to help you identify the problem. Hear the words as well as the emotion involved during the irate speech. Even if its a technical problem, you still have to acknowledge the distress and concern that beset your client.

And please, do not react with your own sentiment. Its nothing personal. You just have to be attentive and give significance to the emotion that your client is feeling at that time.

Patience is a virtue.

Learning to be patient and knowing how to listen attentively would help you mollify the client fast. The more you vie for your clients anger, the more time it would take before you could even resolve the problem.

Your clients emotion comes in waves. The first wave would definitely be anger, sorrow, and distress so its worthwhile for you to just go with it and listen. Do not interrupt. And wait for the next wave which is ebbing emotion. This is the time to take the opportunity to reassure your client that youll do everything in your power to provide a solution to the issue.

The bottom line is to be patient and wait for your clients ire to decline, and then you give reassurances. It may seem at first that your irate client does not care about you or whatever you have to say. Nevertheless, he or she needs your advice and reassurance thats why the client approached you. So be sure to address the issue at hand and not the emotion. This way, you client will more than likely be grateful that you were able to provide a solution despite his or her anger.

Relating to Your Customer

When earning a sale of any type of you must relate to your customer. A client will be turned off by someone who they cannot relate to. Not only in sales, but with any thing. You dont generally waste your time with things that dont interest you, right? Like with me, I like to read but when it comes to Shakespeare, I just cant wrap my arms around it. Why?, because I cannot relate to his words. When his literature is translated in to words I can relate to, they do interest me, but in Older English Id rather not read it. For example: I cant relate to Older English as well as Modern English, when dealing with a buyer you NEED to be on their level. If not, they wont relate to you.

The first step to relating to your client is noticing the way they speak. If you have a customer who talks slower, you will want to slow down your speech. Have you ever had to talk to someone who spoke with a different pace? They probably lost your attention if they spoke too slowly. If they talked too fast you most likely asked them, what?, more than once. When your customer clearly understands what you are telling them, you will then have their full attention.

The way you let your customers know you care and understand them, is by asking them questions. After you ask a question you MUST let them answer and push them to tell you more. This shows your client you are interested in them. Dont you love it when you are talking to someone who is interested in YOU? Of course you do, and you are also interested in them. Think about it. If somebody your interested in recommends a movie or restaurant to try, you want to try it out. Thats because you relate to them and believe they may like the same things as you.

You definitely want your customer to respect your judgment. This way when you explain to them why your product will benefit them. If your client feels you truly want whats best for them, this is when they want to buy from you.

Go Get Em!

Customer Service Making Every Phone Call Great!

Customer Service: Making Every Phone Call Great!

The phone rings. I answer it with trembling hand, because at the time I was an Eastern Regional Customer Service Manager for Matheson Tri-gas. Outside calls usually meant a displeased customer that asked for the manager. I thought “What did one of my customer service representatives do now?” After taking a deep breath, I answer the call to an anger customer. Funny thing was that the customer did not have a real problem… No late delivery, No billing issue, etc. He just did not like the way the customer service representative talk to him in a gruff manner. In fact, he got the information he needed. This article focuses on how to make every call GREAT!

What makes a GREAT call?
These five points will make your calls go smoothly and inspire that WOW feeling in your customers.

Greet the customer with style
The greeting sets the tone for the call. Before picking up the receiver, you should take a deep breath and get focused in the moment. Ready, Set, Go and answer the call. You need to answer the phone with the same greeting every time. The greeting starts with the “Hi”, “Hello”, “Good morning”, or “Good afternoon”. Next step is to state your company’s name. This might sound simple but you want the customer to know that they reached the right business. Third, you build instant rapport by stating your name. Finally, ask “how may I help you?” This statement leads into our next important topic of the tone of your voice.

Set the tone with your voice
Voice tone is a vital ingredient to the great call. You see, we receive almost 80% of a message through non verbal communication. On the phone, you stripe out all the hand motions, body postures, and facial expressions of a face to face conversation. This leaves you with only the tone of voice for non-verbal communication on the phone. To get the full impact on the phone, I suggest slightly exaggerating your tone of voice and voice inflection. Yes, I know it will feel strange at first, but you don’t want to end up like the customer service rep in the story above. Do you?

Smile
Tom Hopkins, a world renowned speaker on sales, says to place a mirror on your desk and smile before answer the phone. I got all of my customer service rep mirrors for their computers. Why smile? Smiling puts you in the right frame of mind, to answer the call with compassion and empathy. Smiling also affects your voice tone, helping you not sound so gruff. Even if the customer is angry, keep that smile on our face. It will help you control your emotions so that you will remain calm under fire and not get defensive.

Use their name
Nothing builds rapport quicker than using the customer’s name. On the call, you should say there name at least 3 time during the call. If you have difficulty remembering names, the best tip for this is to repeat it back to them. When the customer says “Hi, my name is Tom”, you simply say “Hi Tom, how can I assist you today?” or “Hi Tom, how are you today?” Don’t stop there. I always have a pad and paper next to the phone and write it down. If you can not understand, for example a customer with a heavy accent, I ask them to spell their name. I suggest stating their name at the beginning of the conversation, somewhere in the middle, and at the end, which takes us to the final point of thanking the caller.

Thank the caller
Thanking the caller is an often missed but important step. Thank the caller and make sure you use their name in the process. Instead of just stating goodbye, thank them for using your business. This step makes the customer feel appreciated and leaves a positive last impression.

As you can tell, you can minimize problems and create a great call with slight adjustment to your interaction with the customer. By starting the call with an excellent greeting, a great tone, and super attitude, you benefit by the customers reacting to you more positively. Most importantly, remember to make every call GREAT.

Are You Boring Your Customers

The business world is changing and your company must catch up. Consumers are driving the quest for information and personality. Customers are demanding to trade their hard earned cash for prompt, reliable, trust worthy and friendly services. Clients yearn for the days when a company took care of them.

Is your company doing all it can to establish a regular, consistent, focused, friendly relationship with each and every customer? Are you delivering powerful content and information to your clients? Are you providing answers to their concerns and questions before they have to ask? Are you doing all of this through old-fashioned, out-dated and ineffective marketing techniques?

Forget about the postcards that remind your customers to get their oil changed or the weekly sales circular. That is not innovation. In today’s business world those techniques are considered par. Your company should be doing something similar already.

However, your company needs an innovative, never-ending marketing campaign that leverages your database to its fullest potential. Your company needs to become the leader in your field; you must set yourself apart from all the others. You must put your company in front of your customer’s eyes every single chance you get. Your company must thrive on customer service and attention.

Your client sees your competitors every single day. They get the same sales letter from 15 different stores. They hear the same jingles and the same promises. In fact, your clients are getting tired of it. Your marketing campaign could be back firing on you! Think about it. You could be losing money because you current marketing campaign is stale and boring. It’s nothing special or spectacular. Are you spending tons of money just to be average?

Your company needs a fresh customer service campaign that delivers new and repeat business. It needs to be a lead generating machine and it needs to educate your current customers about your company and your services. You do not need to pay thousands of dollars to do this. You do not need to hire the world’s foremost marketing firms and you certainly do not need to spend all of your time creating new ideas.

It’s time businesses realize what their customers really want. They want honest answers from you. They want you to solve their problem. They want you to be the expert in your field. They want to trust you. They want to know that you have their best interest in mind and will do whatever it takes to make them happy.

The most successful businesses are taking advantage of the Internet revolution. They are building content focused websites for their current company, or they are starting brand new companies to fill a current market void.

You can create a targeted, lead generating, consumer focused website that delivers the goods for less than the cost of one yellow pages ad. These days you do not even have to learn HTML or some other seemingly foreign language. The web is exploding with do-it-yourself websites. The trick is finding one the produces results for your company.

Five Critical Steps to Be Customer Focused

In todays highly technical and fast paced world one piece of advice is very true listen to the customer. Unfortunately, selling complex technical products or solutions (or anything else), causes most salespeople to focus on product features rather that on their benefits to the customer.

This product focused approach to sales is from the old school. It focused on specific features and benefits that would be of interest to a prospective customer. Salespeople would immediately commit to memory as many of these product features as possible.

After a dissertation on the associated benefits that went along with these product features, the prospect is suppose to sign on the dotted line because the salesperson certainly must have found a “hot-button” during this product review.

But something bizarre happens. The prospect is often overwhelmed by all the facts and technical data that has been dumped on him. When you sell only on product features, you leave yourself open to price shopping by your prospect.

The smarter method of selling that is much more effective is called customer focused selling. Simply stated customer focused selling is first finding out what the customer wants and then providing the solution for his or her situation. Sound simple, yet it is surprising how few salespeople practice this method. Perhaps its because they spend so much time learning about the hardware and software features they sell, that they would burst open if they couldnt tell their prospect all they know. Another reason is that salespeople sometimes (too often) would rather talk than listen to their prospect. Here are the five critical steps to be customer focused:
Customer focused selling means the customer does most of the talking. How does the customer do most of the talking? The salesperson must probe and ask open ended questions to determine the customers business needs and personal wins. Open-ended questions ask the listener for more specific information. Open ended questions begin with words like what, when, how, where, why, and when. They ask for peoples opinions, facts and feelings. They open the conversational door. Examples: “What results are looking for in a new supplier?” ” What makes that business issue so important to you?”
To get the prospect to be more receptive to your probes and questions, try to cushion it with a softening preamble. Try, “May I ask you a question? ” or, “In your opinion, what factors do you consider most important in selecting a new supplier?” Be creative and ask a few thought-provoking questions that will provide you with information about this person as well as facts about their company. Differentiate yourself from other salespeople by asking what important challenges the prospect is facing this year and how they differentiate their company from the competition.
Probe to understand the business issues that are most important to them. For example, a General Manager might say Improving Productivity is a top priority. Probe to see what makes that issue so important, exactly what “improving productivity” means to him or her. Once you understand the important issues facing your prospect, ask open-ended questions to uncover problems with their present system or approach and identify the benefits they need because these will become opportunities for you.
Then probe to find their personal win. The owner of the store on the corner dreams about the day her business will expand from 1 shop to 2. Then from 2 shops to 3, to 5, and more. Think about your dreams; where you are today and where you want to be next year? Your customers also have dreams about their businesses and their careers. Who knows? They know, and uncovering their dreams is a critical step in the customer-focused sales approach. If you can find their dream, you can identify their personal win. When you do, you can then bring together a “customer focused solution” that addresses their business issues. More importantly, your solution will help them fulfill their dreams.
Finally, it is vitally important to listen actively, take notes, provide feedback when your prospect is responding to your questions. All too often, salespeople will ask a good question, and then not listen to the answer. This hardly builds credibility and trust with the prospect. Salespeople can significantly improve their listening and establish credibility and trust faster by providing feedback that creates an agreeable atmosphere with their prospects. Asking material questions and then listening actively to your prospect is one of the best ways to avoid these problems and differentiate yourself from the “not-so-great” salespeople. Increasing your ability to probe and ask questions and then listening to the prospects answers provides you with the information you need to identify needs, goals and priorities. Armed with this information, you can create a “Customer Focused” solution that addresses your prospects issues. Good luck and good selling!!!

Delighting Your Customers

The reward of delighting your customers is you capture a sustainable customer-base. From experience, the absolute heart of money making 123 on the Internet is having a sustainable customer-base. This is true of any business and the foundation of real personal wealth from the Internet. A sustainable customer base is one that is interested in your specific niche and finds value in your blog, newsletter, and emails. Your value to this base must be demonstrated with each and every communication. No one, even your loyal customers, wants to read “filler” on your website, in your newsletters, or in your emails. Do your customers a favor and provide some new information, new insight, or better yet, a free report or video for the niche.

Capturing the attention of customers is the first step with informative “squeeze pages.” This is a simple, informative graphic and message that captures the visitor in two seconds!!! Yes, two seconds. Would you prefer to design these pages yourself or use what has been tested and known to work? This is the ad stage of sales and needs to be memorable. This free report Clickbank Treasure Map explains one of the most important benefits of Clickbank Pirate membership professionally developed “squeeze pages” and free reports for your customers.

Minimum customer data is required for communications and this is the email address. For a friendlier message a username is nice to have. With the minimum of customer information, you can invite visitors to read informative and useful sites for more information of the specific subject. Do you have the tools and money to gather and maintain a database of customers or would you prefer someone to provide the service? This is the qualification stage of sales and should be as friendly as a hand-shake in the showroom when you are buying a new car. This is another feature of Clickbank Pirate membership. The system manages your customer interface based on a natural sequence of communications and follow-ups.

Follow-up communications are critical to keeping a customer comfortable with a product and with deepening the customer relationship by building trust. Trust can only be sustained if each step delivers the “goods” promised. This is why your personal plug-and-play blog from Clickbank Pirate is your repository of information on new products, techniques, and freebies. Learn to use and promote it during your traffic generation efforts.

The communications must be timely (pre-determined schedule) and helpful (new information). Do you have the tools and time to be consistent and provide value to the visitor? This is the on-going relationship part of sales management. Your personal blog needs to stress your specific value and plans for the reader. If you have monthly news state the schedule and what you will be reporting in advance. If you have plans for free reports or videos, also announce your plans for offering them to your readers.

Clickbank Pirate includes your customer database in the membership. You do not need to independently subscribe to an auto-responder which may cost as much as $30 per month. This is one of the major, major benefits of Clickbank Pirate. I figure it saves at least 10-15 hours a week because you do not have to prepare follow-up communications. You are on auto-pilot!

Why Do Companies Make Customer Service So Complicated

By: Vic Pichette owner of Eye on Success, a customer service consulting agency located in Rhode Island.

I like to take a few minutes to talk about some of my recent customer service issues that I’ve been involved with. I hope that someone who works with customers reads this and understands that this is not acceptable.

I am a huge fan of bold flavored coffee, and I really like this one national coffee chains coffee. The problem is their customer service is absolutely horrific. I have called the company several times and tried to find out if there was somebody I could talk to about helping resolve some of their customer service issues, but so far no one is interested. Let me tell you what I am talking about.

On two occasions during the same week I pulled up to this locations drive through. There was one car in front of me and one car parked outside. There were approximately 4 people inside working. The car in front of me ordered his drink, and I proceeded to order my medium regular coffee cream only. Let me make another note about this company. If you say the word medium coffee and not the ridiculous word that they use, they will correct you, which I find really disturbing that the actually take the time to correct you.

The car front of me moved up the line to the window, and we both waited approximately 7 minutes for him to get his coffee. If thats not long enough, when I got to the window my coffee wasn’t ready. I had to wait another minute or two to get my coffee. They ended up giving me and the person in front of me our coffees for free because it took so long.

I have no idea why it took so long, I have no idea what the person in front of me ordered, but it took almost nine minutes to get a coffee. This has actually happened to me on two different occasions during the same week.

So there is one simple and basic question that I as a customer need answered. Please tell me what was going on inside that coffee shop that could possibly take this long? Was it because they were brewing a new pot of coffee? Was it because they were really busy inside? What was the reason that it took that long that they had to give us free coffees?

Let’s take a look at the possible reasons and see if we can come up with a solution. If it was because they were brewing a new pot of coffee, they should’ve said to me and the customer front of me this very simple line. “Im sorry it’s going to take a few minutes were in the middle of brewing a new pot of coffee, would you like to wait or would you like something else?” How difficult would it be to say this? Instead they made us wait almost nine minutes for coffee, and then end up giving us our order for free.

On several other occasions when I went inside to get a coffee and I have been the only person in line, it can take you anywhere between four and six minutes to get your coffee.

While I’m on my high horse, let me tell you about one of my biggest pet peeves.
This applies to all companies that deal with customers directly. If you have customers in a line waiting and you have an employee whose cleaning, training, or doing something other than helping the customer, that employee immediately needs to drop what they’re doing and assist in getting the customers through the line quickly. Banks are famous for this. I guarantee if you do this, your customers will appreciate it big time. And once the rush is over, you can get back to doing what you doing. This is a very simple concept, but hardly ever done.

Getting back to my coffee shop experience. I am honestly concerned about this company survivability long term if they do not start taking customer service seriously, especially when their biggest competitor is extremely concerned about getting the customers out quickly. I believe that this is or will affect their bottom line. Quite frankly if I’m complaining, then many others are complaining about the same problems.

I tried contacting the regional manager, and told her that I would be very happy to do a free video shop so that they can see and hear everything that I see and hear when I purchase products. To date, I’ve gotten no reply.

CRM Software Real Time Access and Decision Making for Marketing, Sales and Customer Service

Additionally, a detailed CRM software solution will help you:
Reduce your customer service costs. You can identify, prioritise, and address the most costly aspects of your service process. For example if you have contact centres or agents, you can quickly identify better processes and so cutting training costs and develop a rewards program for efficient work practices.
Improve your service metrics by reviewing a real time dashboard. Monitoring the performance of service processes, centres, and agents will allow you to adjust resources and processes to address the most important issues. CRM software solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM, whether you choose an in house solution that integrates to your other business systems or a web based CRM software solution will help you monitor, measure, manage and drive your business. CRM can give you access to real time customer information in a simple drill down dashboard view. As such it is an essential management tool that allows you to analyse customer information and make more effective business decisions at the right time.

Customer Service Comes First!

Customers always appreciate businesses that go out of their way to make their customers feel special. If possible send them a card on their birthday or anniversary. Or send them a holiday card along with a special discount or sample. Customers love freebies and chances are they will leave your customers wanting more of your wonderful products. An added bonus to keeping in touch with your customers is that it keeps your business fresh in their minds. Taking extra steps in customer service will make your customer feel special.

If you deal with customers face to face always remember to dress professionally, greet them with a firm hand shake and most importantly SMILE! There is nothing more comforting than a warm friendly smile. When speaking with customers on the telephone make sure you are using a friendly, pleasant tone in your voice. Even if your only communication is through emails you can still come across as being friendly by the choice of words that you use such as a kind greeting or wishing them a wonderful day.

Always be easily accessible to your customers. There is nothing more frustrating than having a problem with an order only to reach a voicemail or receive an auto responder instead of an actual email from you. Make sure your customers can reach you right away should they need to contact you. Make it a habit to check and reply to your emails several times a day. And if you must use voicemail for your telephone be sure to check messages regularly and return phone calls promptly. Its also a good idea to post your contact information where your customers can easily find it. Knowing that you are easy to reach and when they should expect a reply is always comforting to customers.

In this day and age, where everything is automated, and you cannot speak to an actual customer service person on the phone unless you endure half an hour of easy listening tunes and a never ending series of press this and press that recordings, its a welcome relief for customers when they come across a business that puts customer service as their number one priority. When you go above and beyond to treat your customers the way they would like to be treated you will be rewarded with a very satisfied customer for life.