Why and How to Amp Up Your Customer Service

By Audrey Isaac, 100Candles.com

It should come as no surprise that your customers expect a certain level of respect and professionalism when using your products and/or services. With that said, do you know how much your customer service really affects your business?

Read on to learn why your customer service needs a boost, as well as how to get started.

Why it’s essential

Customer service goes beyond accepting returns and shipping out exchanges (although, that’s certainly a big part of it!). Treating your customers well touches every aspect of interaction, from email correspondence regarding order statuses to a question about your current selection of products. In any situation, customers expect to receive a prompt and comprehensive answer to their questions and concerns. If they don’t, you can bet that they’ll be clicking over to your competitor’s website next. 

While this can certainly have an effect on your bottom line, it can also harm something even more fragile: your brand. One lost customer may not seem like a big deal, but consider how far that one customer can spread their experience with your company. A damaged reputation can be difficult to come back from, so it’s always better to address any customer service issues upfront.

How to do it

While customer service can come easily for some, for others it can be a challenge. Everyone is different and, as a part of customer service, you will need to deal with all sorts of personalities. One of the best ways to boost your outreach to clients and customers is to make yourself easily accessible. Nobody likes having a question and not knowing how to ask it! If you don’t already have one, create a contact form on your website that is easy to use and includes a space for them to send questions or concerns. If possible, include an email address and phone number on the contact page as well.

Frequently asked questions are another great tool to take your customer experience to the next level. Emailing a company with a question isn’t fun, so why not save potential customers the extra step? An FAQ page shares common questions with those who are interested and, in many cases, will provide them the answer they were looking for before they even have to reach out. Bonus: FAQs also save you the time of fielding and responding to emails with the same questions! 

While these strategies will certainly boost your user experience, the number one key to great customer service is to always be kind and respectful. People want to feel like they are talking to another human when they reach out with questions, so be personable while maintaining a level of professionalism. If you have a team that handles customer relations, ensure that they are fully trained for the job and don’t be afraid to give them a test run with some mock questions and/or complaints. Remember: A team is only as strong as its leader, so be sure that you are keeping an eye on all outgoing communications with customers to guarantee its quality. 

Audrey Isaac is the spokesperson of 100 Candles, a wholesale market for candles and lights. Since 2002, thousands of wedding and event professionals have entrusted 100 Candles with their wholesale candle accounts. For more information, please visit https://www.100candles.com/.

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Swipe Left- How Online Dating Can Help You Network Better!

By Regina Young, Meant2Be Events

Before I got married in 2015, I liked to joke that I had my “online dating pro-card”. I was on every site, had dates weekly, and have more crazy stories then one would think possible. From building an honest, yet ridiculously flattering profile, being memorable, to being available just enough to keep them interested, I had the technique and got the results I wanted.

But no, you didn’t come to this website for those stories. Although they are wildly entertaining, those are better shared over cocktails and in person. What I will tell you is the relationship savvy I had to keep my dance card full is also the model I use for business relationships.

Think about it. Dating is the perfect analogy when networking for profit and it certainly makes it more fun. From the first impression to the walk down the aisle, you are in essence taking the same journey with your business partnerships.

Creating the Perfect Profile It goes without saying, you should always put your best foot forward. The best dating profile pics always included a picture or two with “activities” like hiking and water sports. The idea of me doing either of those on a regular basis is hysterical, but I wanted a date who was active. So I was appealing to my audience in order to attract what I was looking for.

In business, you should always appeal to the business you want, not just the business you have. My Wedding Planning brand has always been more casual than most in my area. You will rarely catch me in high heels. But when you are setting up a meeting, lunch or attending a function, dress for the client you want. This may mean you invest in a few designer labels or an updated hair style. The idea of being the best dressed in the room is always appreciated.

Making a first impression Oh the delicate balance of being memorable, but not annoying. Usually online the one word, “hey” was enough to at least acknowledge someone. When networking it takes a lot more effort and maybe even a few attempts. It’s important to be respectful of each other’s time while also making your introduction. I always suggest when wanting to meet someone new, drop off or mail your marketing materials with a little treat. Now you actually have a reason to follow up. “I just wanted to check in and make sure you got the chocolate truffles we dropped off last week. Hope it sweetened up your day”. Viola, the door is open.

Getting the First Date So in dating maybe you’ve been flirting via text message for a while. You know they love dogs just like you, love to travel just like you and they have passed the “you’re not a creeper” tests. The Facebook photos seem harmless and no criminal record. Great! Time get make the first date. You know that first date has to have an easy exit option, just in case it goes bad. It doesn’t take long to know if the “spark” is there!

In this case, maybe you have seen your contact at various functions, maybe had a casual conversation.Or you took my advice and did a drop off + follow up. You have discovered that they have similar business goals. Maybe they have the client demographic you are after. It takes more than just professional similarities to seal the deal on a partnership. You have to actually like working together- that’s the “spark”! Setting up a coffee date or lunch with the goal in mind to find that common ground shows you’re invested not just in what they can do for you, but who they are and what you can do for them.

It’s Getting Serious Just like in dating, it takes a lot of effort to become “exclusive”. You know that crazy girl that immediately talks about marriage and babies on a second date. You know what happens there? No third date. When you are building up a referral network, trying to “close” that opportunity out the gate rarely ends well. While we know that time is money, a referral is worth it’s weight in gold.

My golden rule is 5. Five one on one meetings, lunches, coffee dates or happy hour drinks. We both know each other way beyond the professional boundaries of day to day business.

TIP: If business referrals come up naturally in conversation, for example, “what photographers do you work with?” Don’t talk poorly about that person- ever.

Saying I Do You’ve gone on dates, enjoyed a few ups and downs, and it’s time to make the commitment. The first thing you might think of is “how well does this person know me? How important is this relationship?” You marry someone who has your back and who provides value to your life.

Just like that relationship, a referrals come not from a place of need, but of desire. There are “plenty of fish in the sea” as they say. Your partners could really send their business to anyone, but they choose you.

Here are a few of my favorite tips to staying on the favorites list:

First, every year those people we have a relationship with get a survey from us with 2-3 questions like: when is your anniversary? what’s your favorite vacation? favorite halloween candy? any pets? That way when we do have a chance to acknowledge our partners it can be in a more personalized way. Like on their birthday for example! Think about it, would you “marry” someone who didn’t know your birthday?

Next, newsletters. Creating a monthly or quarterly newsletter is an easy way to stay relevant in between the lunch and the next association event. Be sure to include something fun or personal, not just business.

While the first two action items were focused on communication, this final one is all about gratitude. After the referral, we are always quick to thank our partners immediately. We send an email and a little gift in the mail. Greetbls have become my new easy favorite. Then, after every event all the vendors get a thank you in the mail from us as well.

So whether you are brand new to the industry, new to your market, or are wanting to up your professional game, try the dating comparison. It’s a heck of a lot more fun and it becomes much easier to determine what your next step should be while working your pipeline.

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WeddingIQ welcomes guest posts from wedding professionals and industry experts on all topics relevant to running a wedding business. Please review our guest contributor guidelines and email us with your submissions!


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Nurturing Media Relationships to Your Benefit

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

In the world of public relations, there is one fact that will forever ring true- we cannot exist without the media and vice versa. 

In the last several years, editorial relationships have shifted because of the sheer volume of pitches they receive everyday- quite simply, there are more pitches then there are editors. With that said, having a good relationship with them has become an essential part of getting noticed and will likely lead to more opportunities to get published. 

So, what do you need to know when it comes to getting on an editor’s good side? See some of my best tips below:

Be Their Resource

There is no doubt that you are an expert in your field and have a lot of great insight to contribute, but you are far more likely to stick out in an editor’s mind if you stop thinking, “How can I get featured?” and instead think, “How can I be their resource?” The fact is, at the beginning, you may get more no’s than yes’s, but your communication shouldn’t end there. Put your research hat on and do some digging into the editor’s previous articles and pitch them more topics that are in line with what they’re writing. Does your expertise not quite line up with an article their writing? Get them in touch with some of your wedding pro friends that would be the right fit- they won’t forget it. 

Keep it Professional

Once you’re in the habit of pitching to editors on a regular basis, you’ll likely find yourself getting on friendlier terms with many of them, which can certainly work to your advantage. However, when that happens, it’s easy to start falling into the trap of letting your pitches and attitude get a little too casual. A little informality with your emails can be a good thing (you’re not a robot!), but make sure you are always mindful of deadlines and submission guidelines, and not asking for extensions because you’re on friendly terms. 

Be Authentic

My best editorial relationships are with people that I have connected with on something outside of just pitching. Whether it’s a mutual love of pizza or our distaste of burlap everything in rustic weddings, it’s nice to share a laugh with someone you are working with. Professionalism is always king of course, but it’s ok to get to know editors on a personal level as well. 

Getting to know editors and cultivating those relationships does take time and effort, but it will pay off in dividends when editors start using you more and more as their resource!

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WeddingIQ welcomes guest posts from wedding professionals and industry experts on all topics relevant to running a wedding business. Please review our guest contributor guidelines and email us with your submissions!


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The Benefits of Association Membership

By Kevin Dennis, WeddingIQ

Membership in reputable industry associations, whether local or national, can come at a premium cost, not always just in money, but also in time, product and effort. It’s not enough to simply pay your dues and wait for a return; you also have to contribute your involvement in monthly meetings, special events and other networking opportunities to get the most out of your membership. You know what you bring to the table, but what kind of return can you expect? Why exactly should you join an industry association?

Networking Opportunities

One of the most common reasons wedding professionals join industry associations is access to networking opportunities. What better way to meet like-minded peers than in a setting focused on promoting education and excellence in the wedding industry? The key to taking advantage of the networking benefit, though, is your own efforts and involvement. 

First, you have to show up! It’s tough to meet folks and establish relationships if you miss every meeting. Your colleagues will be most likely to refer businesses with which they are familiar, and you can build that recognition through regular attendance and active participation.

Exclusive Education 

Great associations commit to providing members with exclusive, invaluable education opportunities. Your dues and event admissions are translated into business-building knowledge that can help propel you to the next level. Most meetings feature expert speakers, and often there are multiple opportunities each year for you, and sometimes for your team, to engage in professional development. Choose an association that values education among its top priorities and you will undoubtedly see a return on your membership investment.

Exposure through Participation

A unique benefit to association membership is the opportunity to demonstrate your product or services to a group of professionals who may have need for what you sell. You can share your specialty baked goods, show off your design ideas or demonstrate something unique that sells best through experience. You not only get your brand in front of the key players, but you also build good will as you contribute value to the membership of others. 

Generally, there is a programs or events committee that organizes contributions. Reach out and ask for the schedule of upcoming events and find out which needs you might be able to meet. Only sign up if you are truly committed to participating, though. Failure to come through will have an extremely detrimental effect on your business – the exact opposite of your goal for your membership!

Build Credibility and Take Advantage of Leadership Opportunities

Membership in reputable industry associations offers a level of credibility that many customers recognize, especially if you are a great ambassador and educate them about the value of your organization. Colleagues will also recognize your commitment to excellence and growth when they realize you are affiliated with a great association.

Even better, you get opportunities to lead. If you are able to commit the time and effort, you can build some of the strongest relationships through service as a chapter, regional or national leader. Start with a manageable role in which you are likely to excel and look for new opportunities as your familiarity with the organization grows. Your dedication and sacrifice will be rewarded through recognition and respect, leading naturally to business referrals and new levels of success.

The benefits of membership in an industry association are numerous if you are willing to do more than just pay your dues. The time and effort you invest can make all the difference in the world to the growth and success of your wedding business.

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Event Day Management

By: Theres Cole-Hubbs, Electric Karma International

It’s the big day! Are you going crazy? Is the client going crazy? 

Well...CRAZY IS NOT ALLOWED! 

Event day management can be interpreted in many ways: 

Client’s Prospective

I hate when I receive the sales inquiry, “I only need a day of coordinator or manager, I have everything done!” They are surprised when I answer back, “What does that mean?” Really! The caller is expecting us to come in on the day of their event and execute a plan that someone with little or NO experience has organized? And did I mention they want it to be SPECIAL and perfect? This terminology of "Day of" Management must stop! What we recommend, is that you review the clients plan, be sure they are open to critiquing, and adjustments. Then we make a decision if this client and the experience will be beneficial to both parties. 

Cooperation and Collaboration by a Professional Team

The day of experience for all professionals is directly related to the outcome for the event. All professionals are important and each has a responsibility to the client. This being said, it is critical that all service providers are respected and that the team understands what expectations they have of each other.  On the day of, is not the time to say, “this is what the client wanted, I’m sorry that the tall centerpieces are in the sight line of the screens and I can’t move them!” Or “we are busy with getting all the décor done and we don’t have time to set up the stage, so that you can finish the DJ equipment. It’s not our problem that your staff is on the clock and have been waiting for 3 hours.” Who’s going to tell the client of the decisions of changes or delays? It is NEVER acceptable to throw another professional under the bus. With proper communication these occurrences will lessen.

5 Tips to Successful Day of Management

  1. Communication is the most essential tool that all professionals have for Day of Management. 

  2. Collaboratively creating a production schedule with all of the professionals that will be participating. It is important that each service speaks to the amount of time required to execute their service, and what needs to proceed or happen after so that everyone can communicate, if there are changes.  If this isn’t in place, it can create a domino effect and put the project in jeopardy.  Changes and adjustments will happen.  Have a method in place to address these items. Establish a plan of how they will be communicated with the affected teams. It is necessary to establish a lead person that will communicate and oversee the project.

  3. Having a production schedule for all installations, complete with move in time markers, helps in assessing if things are running ahead or behind so adjustments can be made.

  4. It works well to have a final meeting with all the professionals, to make each one responsible to the other.

  5. Having a clear expectation of services or products with the client and the other professionals helps to keep plans aligned. 

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