Earth Hour 27 March 2021

The first Earth Hour was started by WWF, as a symbolic lights-out event in Sydney in 2007, but has since become one of the world’s largest grassroots movements for the environment. Held every year on the last Saturday of March, millions of people worldwide turn their lights off to show support for our planet.  

Although Earth Hour is technically only one hour a year, it has become a lasting catalyst for positive environmental impact, driving major legislative changes. This is a very rare event that encourages every single person on the planet to participate. Only by working together, are we going to save the beautiful planet we live on.

For 2021, with the current Covid restrictions, instead of meeting in a public place, people will be participating in Earth Hour online. They are asking you to share a video link on your social media pages and take photos of you and your family switching off all of the lights and electronics in your home at 8.30pm (your local time), on Saturday 27 March.

Take part tonight – Click here to see the video link that you can share

Why support Earth Hour?

Nature underpins everything around us, from the food we eat, the water we drink and the air we breathe, to our very livelihoods and quality of life. Nature is crucial for all our futures and helps against the current climate crisis. The biodiversity of our planet is under threat and we can do something about it…

What is biodiversity, why is it under threat and why does it matter?

According to worldwildlife.org

“Diversity is all the different kinds of life you’ll find in one area—the variety of animals, plants, fungi, and even microorganisms like bacteria that make up our natural world. Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive: food, clean water, medicine, and shelter.

But as humans put increasing pressure on the planet, using and consuming more resources than ever before, we risk upsetting the balance of ecosystems and losing biodiversity. WWF’s 2018 Living Planet Report found an average 60% decline in global populations of mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, and amphibians since 1970. The 2019 landmark, Global Assessment Report, by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reported one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction – the highest number in human history. 

Three-quarters of the land-based environment and roughly 66% of the ocean environment have been significantly altered. More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. Climate change worsens the impact of other stressors on nature and our wellbeing. Humans have overfished the oceans, cleared forests, polluted our water sources, and created a climate crisis. These actions are impacting biodiversity around the world, from the most remote locales to our own backyards.”

WWF also tell us that one of the most wonderful things about biodiversity is its resilience. If we “ease up on the pressure, manage resources well, give it time, and the ecosystem will adapt. Nature and biodiversity will recover.” 

What can you do to support this event?

2021 is an important year for change. World leaders will be coming together in key global conferences to set the environmental agenda for the next decade and beyond. Decisions will be made around climate action, nature and sustainable development – this will directly affect the fate of humanity and our planet for years to come.

EARTH HOUR 2021 could help put nature in the spotlight and show world leaders and other decision makers around the world that nature matter and urgent action must be taken to reverse nature loss.

So, as a reminder, switch your lights off for an hour – you can light candles and post your photos on social media of you and your family switching the lights off or sitting in candlelight to show your support.  

And don’t forget to share Earth Hour’s official video on your social media pages.

Essential Website Policies

Most businesses these days have a website. Some of them have several different pages, and some are very simple with just two or three pages. Whatever type of website you have, there are some essential policies that you should include.

Why would you have policies on your website?

Everyone is more savvy about handing out their credit card details or even giving out their email addresses. So, when they land on your website pages, they need to know that your site is safe and that you make them feel safe. If they know that any data they give you is safe, for example, they are more likely to trust you. And trust inevitably leads to loyalty…and loyalty to purchases.

Some of the policies are not only essential, they are a legal requirement, with the right kind of legal language.

So what policies should you have on your website?  

Depending on what your business is, whether you sell products or offer services, will determine the kind of policies you need.

First of all, let’s look at the absolute legal stuff – what you MUST have on your website.

Privacy Policy

Every business should have a privacy policy on their website, which details how you keep your customers’ information safe and secure, and how your business complies with the latest GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).

Your Privacy Policy tells your customers what personal information you collect from them; why you need to collect it and what you do with it.

Both the UK and the EU, follow rules set out by the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulations that became law in May 2018. Any time your business takes personal information from a customer or potential customer, they need to be pointed to your Privacy Policy. According to the GDPR, your Privacy Policy (or Privacy Notice as some people prefer to call it), must:

  • Be concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible
  • Be written in clear and plain language, especially if any information is addressed specifically to a child
  • Be delivered in a timely manner
  • Be provided free of charge

Here’s a quick checklist of what you will need. Please note, however, that you should always check out the relevant government advice, depending on what kind of business you are. Generally, you need to include:

  • An explanation of the information you collect and what it is used for. For example, if you have an opt-in form on your website, to get people to subscribe to your email, you will be collecting email addresses.
  • Details of how people can get access to the data you hold on them and how they can change any details you have previously collected. If you use opt-in forms, you need to provide information on how to unsubscribe at any time.
  • Details of how you will notify visitors of any changes in your Privacy Policy
  • A statement about age restrictions – usually this involves restricting the site to individuals who are either 13 and older, or 18 or older.
  • How you share any information you collect. For example, you might use email marketing software or payment software from a third party – this is sharing your customers’ information. So they need to be aware of this.

There are loads of rules and regulations which I can’t cover in this blog post, but you should check out your country’s rules and regulations to ensure that you comply.

UK ADDRESS 

EU ADDRESS 

Can I just copy a Privacy Policy from someone else’s website?

You can, but it’s not a good idea. There could be legal consequences of copying another website’s Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions, as they are not likely to cover what you need for your business. Every business is different. Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies are copyright protected, so unless you have express permission to use and adapt someone else’s policies, I would steer well clear.

Where do I put my Privacy Policy?

Generally, a link to your Privacy Policy is situated in the footer of your website – usually alongside similar policies on Cookies, Terms and Conditions and contact details. This makes it clearly visible to any visitors who want to know how their personal data will be used.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and Conditions are basically what it says on the tin…it’s the terms and condition, or contract, that you make with any visitors to your website. It sets out what you expect from them and what they can expect from you…in other words, to record what you agree with your customers.

They set out business procedures, limit your liability and protect your business and your rights.  

Why do you need terms and conditions?

Terms and Conditions can save you a whole lot of hassle further down the line, especially if your visitors become customers. If you have these in place, and point every customer to them when they order from you, they can save you from any disputes coming from the use of, or purchases from, you site.

What should your terms and conditions contain?

Your Terms and Conditions can contain whatever you think you should include, or want to include. However, here are a few basic ideas that I always ensure are included.  

  • Make it clear exactly what you are selling
  • Your products or services should be described in detail – you can put a link to a PDF or catalogue, or a link to your website product or services pages
  • It’s impossible to state a set price as this can vary, but worth mentioning your general pricing for your products, with a link to your current price list, stating that you reserve the right to change your prices from time to time – maybe state that you raise your prices every April, for example
  • If you’re a services business, a link can be included to a page where you show fixed price contracts, your cost per hour, or however you operate. Again, you should include that you reserve the right to change your prices from time to time – maybe state that you raise your prices every April, for example
  • Don’t use sales talk or make promises, such as ‘we will reply to any enquiries within 24 hours’…unless that is a set policy and you can deliver
  • You can use this page to talk about shipping, delivery, risk and insurance. Don’t generalise on this – make sure it is what you’re going to do. Some people have a separate shipping policy, which is a good idea if you sell physical products.
  • Returns and refunds – what are your policies around returns and refunds? Again, some people prefer to have a separate returns and refunds policy – this is a good idea if you sell physical products.

Termination

Some contracts will be over with almost as soon as they’re made – if you sell products, they are paid for up front, posted, received and customer is happy.

Other contracts might be ongoing and need renewal, so it would be worth including something around this. You might want to consider the following:

  • How long will your contract last?
  • Why would it terminate? Cover a natural termination – simply come to the end of a contract. It might be because your customer is not happy about some aspect of your work.
  • What happens to any services not completed, especially if they are paid for up front?
  • Do you want to impose a penalty if your customer terminates the contract early?
  • If you’re going to lose money because of a contract termination, how are you going to prove what you’ve lost?
  • If you are creating software, a game, or a bespoke item, who will it belong to if the contract is terminated early? This needs to be clear on your website and on any sales material relating to this kind of product/service.

Product or Service Liability

Think about what will happen if you have to pay your customer for either products or services that fail. For example…

  • What will happen if you don’t provide good or services you advertised?
  • What if something you sell if faulty?
  • What kind of fault is a good enough reason for the good to be returned?
  • What if your customer thinks your services are inadequate, or you don’t provide what they thought you would?

Protect yourself from clients

You need to make sure that, as well as protecting your clients, that you also protect yourself and your business. If you write something for a client, for example, who owns the copyright? Generally, once it is completed, it belongs to your client, for example if you are a ghost writer of a book.

If you do this kind of work, it would be worth including a confidentiality clause, detailing ownership of intellectual property.

If there is a problem

It’s worth putting something in your terms and conditions to set out how you resolve any problems. This might be a simple statement just saying that ‘if there are any problems with my products or services, please contact me by email in the first instance. I will do my best to work with you to resolve any problems you might have.’

ALWAYS DO YOUR OWN TERMS AND CONDITIONS – DO NOT COPY ANYONE ELSE’S. No two businesses are exactly the same, there are certain rules and regulations in some countries, which may differ from where you live, so always worth checking out your country’s government website for guidance.  

Finally, your clients must agree to your terms and conditions to be bound by them. So, if you do a contract, make sure you get your client to sign the contract that states they have read, understood and agree to your terms and conditions.

Refund Policy

A refund policy can be part of your terms and conditions. But, if you sell products, I think it’s more important to have this on your website as a separate policy…or do both!

Refunds are sadly, a part of life and there will be a time when a customer receives your product or service, doesn’t like it and want a refund. So it’s really important to make it absolutely clear what is and what is not acceptable to you.

Most refund policies state that a refund will be made if the goods received are faulty or damaged.  

You don’t have to offer refunds – if you don’t, that’s fine, but you need to make it crystal clear in your refunds policy.

Please note: If you live in the EU, it is mandatory to offer a refund, so you don’t have a choice!

Things to think about…

  • Do you have a time limit on returns?
  • What condition does the product need to be in for a return to be accepted?
  • Who pays for the return shipping?
  • What if your product arrives in a damaged state? Or doesn’t arrive at all?
  • What if your product does not live up to its advertising and a customer is disappointed with quality?
  • How long does it take you to process a return?
  • If you decide that a return is acceptable, how long before your customer gets their money back?

Copyright Notice

The Copyright Notice tells visitors to your website that all the content is legally yours. They do not have the right to use it or reproduce it without your expressed permission.

This notice should include:

  • The copyright symbol
  • The year you created your site
  • The name of the copyright holder – most likely you or your business

If you are happy for visitors to use certain aspects of your material, you need to ensure this is stated very clearly. If you do this, it’s worth making it clear that you still maintain ownership of the material at all times.  

Cookie Policy

Cookies are small text files that your browser downloads and stores on your device. It is anonymous data and is stored separately from any personal information that people provide, so it is impossible to connect it to any particular person. Cookies are used to improve your website and services. 

You need to:

  • Give clear and comprehensive information about the purposes for which cookies are stored and accessed
  • Get visitors to give consent to cookies being used, usually in the form of a pop-up banner
  • Give details of all cookies used and purpose for which they are used – your website provider will have these details available online for you to use

Conclusion

There are lots of different policies you can use, but the essential policies that you legally need to have on your website are:

  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms and Conditions
  • Cookie Policy

I also like to include a Copyright Policy. If you sell any kind of products, it’s a good idea to also have a Shipping Policy and Refund & Returns Policy.

Please always check out your country’s government website, as that will advise you what is legally required for your business. Please note that I am not a lawyer. The information in this article is absolutely not legal advice and I cannot be held responsible for its accuracy.

Manage your time working from home

Working from home is always a challenge, as it is so easy to be side-tracked by distractions. That’s where managing your time comes in. Distractions can range from children, pets, housework and washing, to social media, having snacks and general procrastination. We’ve all been there, and since the pandemic has encouraged more and more of us to work from home, managing time has often meant working long hours in order to fit everything in. Sometimes, working late at night after the kids have gone to bed, simply just to be able to fit everything in, alongside the distractions that take us away from our work during the day. Put into the mix, the fact that we are in the throes of a worldwide pandemic, which also brings its own stresses and challenges.

So, how do you manage your time effectively without causing yourself even more stress?

You probably think I’m going to say that you just need to be more organised…and to a certain extent, I guess that’s true, but there are other things you can do.

  • The first thing is not to put too much pressure on yourself and don’t have ridiculously high expectations of what you can achieve in a day. Be kind to yourself!
  • I’ve heard some people say that they’re working from their bed on their laptop. Whilst this might feel good to start with, you’re not actually shifting your mind-set into work mode, and are likely to be less productive. Try and find a small space where you are comfortable that you can dedicate as your work space. It might be just a corner of a room or at the kitchen table, but you’ll feel better if you feel like you’re ‘going to work’.
  • Get ready in the morning as if you are going to work – have a shower, brush your hair, get dressed – you’ll feel more professional and ready to face the day.
  • Surround yourself with things that make you feel ‘work-like’. For me, it’s stationery (!) as I love stationery! I have fresh notebooks, nice pens, a diary and a calendar so I can keep track of what I’m doing.
  • Think about when you are most productive. Are you a morning person or a night person? When you feel awake, it can help boost your productivity. For example, if you love quiet mornings and feel focused in solitude, try working on more challenging tasks as soon as you start your day. Many of us feel tired after we eat lunch and the afternoon hours hit, so consider answering emails or making phone calls at that time. Nothing is set in stone when you work from home, so it’s up to you to decide what works best for you.
  • Create a to do list…NOT a long list as it will feel overwhelming. I make a list of everything I need to do, then do a separate list of things I know are achievable in one day. Split some of the bigger jobs down into more manageable chunks. It feels good to be able to tick off each little task and you feel you are really achieving something.
  • Block out time in your diary. Split your tasks into time slots. Work on the hardest and most time consuming things first…try to keep that to no more than two hours at a time and work hard and deep on that particular task so you get it done in the allotted time.  Then take a break, move around and have a drink. Walk outside and get some fresh air. Then start your next task – that might be one hour, or 20 minutes. If you give every task a set time, you’re more likely to get it done.
  • Have a set time to work on social media…and stick to it! It’s very easy to set sucked into browsing social media and, before you know it, two hours have passed.
  • Set specific times to check emails and make phone calls. This might be a couple of times a day, maybe more, but try and do it in half hour slots. Let customers know that you’re only available on email and phone calls at certain times.
  • When you’re not on social media or email, switch your device off, so you’re not interrupted. If you use a landline, put the answer phone on. This will help you avoid those distractions. This is my worst enemy…if I hear the ‘ping’ of social media, I have to look. If my device is not on, I don’t hear it!
  • Make sure you stop and have lunch – then you won’t get the munchies and want to snack all day.

You might find that you do need to do certain things during the day, if you are at home. You may have to take and collect children from school, prepare snacks for younger children, take your dog out for a walk etc. That’s fine – just incorporate that time into your day. I know it’s easier said than done, but as much as you can.

Planning your to do list

A big part of being effective when you are working from home is planning. I’ve mentioned writing down all the tasks that need doing and then narrowing that down to manageable chunks, or a smaller daily to do list.

Prioritising those tasks is also important. Sort your tasks into one of these categories…

Important and urgent… tasks in this category must be done right away, so focus all your energy on doing these before moving on to others

Important but not urgent…tasks in this category will be those that appear important but on closer inspection, they could be left until a later date if necessary.

Urgent but not important…these are tasks that nag at you, but once done have little or no lasting value to your business. These can be delegated or outsourced.

Not urgent and not important…these are low priority tasks that often give the illusion that you’re really busy. Can be done at a later date, when you’re not so busy.

Add the important and urgent tasks to your ‘to do’ list and tick them off as you do them, then you can move on to the other categories in a more timely way.

Delegation

If you are a small business and find that you are spending too long on tasks that could easily be done by someone else, then delegate or outsource those tasks.

That leaves you time to focus on the important stuff. For example, you might not be good at keeping up with social media, so hiring someone to do that would really free up more of your time.

Hire someone to either do the mundane stuff that you really don’t have time for, or for the more complicated things that you don’t know how to do, or that you know will take you too long as you’re not experienced in that area.

You can also delegate or outsource tasks you absolutely hate doing. There is nothing wrong in delegating or outsourcing; it simply gives you more time to do the things you enjoy or that need to have your undivided attention.

At the end of the day, it’s important to create a structure of time management that works for you and your family, and for your particular circumstances. The most important thing is to look after yourself and don’t succumb to burnout. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan – things often don’t. Just start again the following day. If you’re comfortable and happy with your routine, and have some planning around time management, you’ll feel more in control.

The pros and cons of Opt-In

We all get loads of spam in our email inboxes every day. I don’t know about you, but I find it really irritating when I get an email that I’m not expecting, especially if it’s someone trying to sell me something…or cold calling. But, if I am interested in a business and want to receive emails from them, I like to be able to request that myself. This process of filling in a form to say you want to subscribe to an email list is called Opt-In.

The legal stuff

Opt-In is regulated by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) in the UK and the CNIL in France in the form of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations).

Regulations state that the consent process must be ‘specific, granular, clear, prominent, opted-in, documented and easily withdrawn’. So, all consent options need to follow these specific requirements in order to be compliant with the GDPR rules.

Any consent processes on your website need to be separated from other terms and conditions. This is known as being unbundles. This is the way to make it clearer and more prominent in what you’re asking of any individuals, without them being confused by other information.

Opt-In forms are usually on websites in the form of a pop-up or as separate page that you point your potential customers to.

If a person opts-in to your email list or freebie, they complete a form. This gives their permission for you to send them emails. The only other real requirement is that when emails go out to customers, there must be an option somewhere on the email for them to unsubscribe at any time, with no repercussions.

What are the pros of having an opt-in?

  • Opt-ins help you grow your email list quickly. You can choose from setting up a single opt-in or a double opt-in*
  • When someone opts-in to your email, it gives you the opportunity to predict the kind of content that a particular customer wants from you
  • If you just send a random email, the open rate is virtually nil, but if a customer has agreed to receive emails through the opt-in form, you will get very high open rates on your sent emails.
  • If a customer, or group of customers buy a specific kind of product or service from you, you can segment those customers into a group. This gives you the opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell other products or services that you think they might be interested in.
  • You can also automate your email service, using platforms such as MailChimp or Convertkit. Using these platforms you can ensure that when someone completes your opt-in form, they get an automatic welcome email. Then you can automate further emails in a sequence to let them know about your other products or services and their benefits and features. You can also use these platforms to set up and automate regular email newsletters or promotions.
  • Opt-in also saves you time and effort once the automation is set up – you’ll be interacting with your target audience and current customers on a regular basis, with little or no work.    

*Single opt-in versus double opt-in

A single opt-in, as the name suggests, is a one-step process. A person simply needs to enter their email address once in the sign up box on your website and they immediately become a subscriber.

A double opt-in is a two-step process. When a person enters their email into the sign up box, they will receive a confirmation email that they must click on to confirm being added to your email list.

The single opt-in is easier for your subscriber as they only have to do one thing – enter their email address and they are subscribed, so you are guaranteed subscribers immediately. So, it builds your list quicker than the double opt-in. But it has been found that more subscribers tend to unsubscribe with single opt-in, once they get what they want.

Double opt-in means that the subscriber has to go into their email and press confirm in order to get what they want. This has the disadvantage of getting lost in the hundreds of emails received every day, unless the person subscribing goes straight in and does it immediately. So, it doesn’t grow your email list quite so quickly. The double opt-in generally means that once the confirmation has been completed, it’s given the subscriber time to think about it and they are more likely to be genuine subscribers who are genuinely interested in your products or services. And you’re more likely to have a higher open rate of subsequent emails with the double opt-in. The double opt-in also leaves less room for error as it will be obvious if the person has entered an incorrect or spammy email address, so the leads are more solid.

The cons of having an opt-in

  • Your first email will most likely be opened as the customer is likely to be getting something, but subsequent emails might be considered junk emails…and they just won’t be opened or the recipient will mark them as spam
  • If you leave too long between the first automated email and the next one, your recipient can forget what they signed up to, so it’s important to do a small email sequence and ask them to add you to their contacts list to avoid this happening
  • If you already have a list of contacts and are adding to that list with new subscribers, then you or your admin team send an email out of the blue, it could cause subscribers to unsubscribe. It’s important to let them know exactly what to expect up front.  

Most email lists are grown using the opt-in method. Usually subscribers sign up for your regular email or newsletter in return for a free checklist, product or other freebie. This is usually advertised via a landing page on your website, on social media or hosted on a platform such as MailChimp or Convertkit.

If you need any help in setting up a landing page to help grow your small business, please feel free to email me. I can help you set this, and the email sequence up for you… cindymobey@outlook.com

15 Key Customer Service Skills

We all know that excellent customer service is good for your business, whether you’re a huge corporate, or a small business. No matter what you do, your customers are what makes your business work, so it’s crucial to look after them and make them feel valued.

According to Dimensional Research, 52% of consumers say that they have made an additional purchase from a company after a positive customer service experience. And that 90% of customers are influenced by positive reviews when buying a product.

So, what key customer service skills do you need to possess to make your business stand out?

Patience

They say that ‘Patience is a virtue’ and I’m a firm believer in this. It isn’t the easiest of skills to master, but patience will help you and your customer. It’s very important to hear what your customers have to say; they might be frustrated about something, or just simply confused. They might ask totally irrelevant questions, but it is absolutely crucial to keep calm, hear them out and then try and work through their issues together.

Active listening

Active listening is closely linked to patience. Don’t just hear what your customers are saying – listen carefully and, if necessary, repeat back to them what they’ve just said to you. This demonstrates that you’re listening and understand what they want or what issue they have.

Respect

Hand in hand with patience and active listening is respect. This might seem obvious, but important to remember. Respect is about treating your customers as you would like to be treated. You’d want the person on the end of the phone or email to solve your problem, be polite and actually do something. You can show respect by:

  • Using their name
  • Don’t interrupt them when they’re speaking
  • If you are face to face, look at them when they’re speaking.
  • If you’re on the phone, don’t be checking emails or scrolling your phone, give them your full attention and SMILE! It really does come over the air waves!
  • Wait until they have finished talking or telling you their problem before responding – then summarise what they’ve said and offer a solution.
  • If you can’t offer an immediate solution or alternative, tell them that you will investigate and get back to them.
  • Get back to them in a timely manner – when you said you would!

Self-Control

You are going to get a range of customers calling your business. Some will be happy and calm, will speak in a low voice. Some will be excitable and speak loudly and quickly; and inevitably, you will get the angry customer who shouts and yells, using harsh words – maybe even using expletives to insult you or your business personally.

This is the time to exercise self-control. This is not an easy skill to master, but it’s absolutely vital, especially with the shouting and yelling customer!  Don’t interrupt or tell them you’re not prepared to listen to them – they might just want to be heard and the only way they know how is to shout. Even though they are shouting, try to listen to the actual problem they have encountered. When they have finished, take a couple of deep breaths and then respond. Apologise if necessary and ask them how you can resolve their problem – ascertain what they want. Tell them that you understand their issue and repeat it back to them. Then, in a calm voice, try and discuss a solution that is good for them and for you and your business. You might have to offer an alternative product or service. They might want a refund or replacement. Whatever it is, there is usually a solution to be found, by talking it through with them.

Genuine concern

It’s well-known that showing genuine concern for your customers’ well-being is one of the most important good customer service skills. Concern for your customer is linked to being concerned for the reputation of your business. If you are not concerned about the success of your business and your businesses reputation, you’re not going to be very concerned about the happiness of your customers. They are inextricably linked.

Use positive language. Language and how you say something to a customer plays a big role in delivering excellent customer service. For example, if a customer contacts you to ask about ordering a particular product, but you don’t have any in stock

Negative response – That product isn’t in stock, so unavailable at the moment.

Positive response – We will be restocking that product next week, so I’ll contact you as soon as it’s available.

It’s a very subtle change in language, but makes all the difference to a customer.

Be flexible

It’s important to be flexible when dealing with customers. You may have a policy that says you don’t give away a free product or service, or you don’t do refunds. But there are times when this will be necessary to resolve an issue. If you find you have to bend the rules from time to time to keep your customers happy, it’s not a failure on your part. It can turn an unhappy customer into a future loyal customer – one who tells their friends and family how great you are and how you solved their problem, so worth keeping that in mind.

Communication Skills

This goes without saying really, but thought I’d add this into the mix. Communication is more than the words that you use – it also involves body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, to name a few. These can be very important when dealing with a customer who is not happy. 

  • Keep your body relaxed
  • Show genuine concern on your face
  • Keep your voice calm and neutral
  • Use positive language – words such as can, will, help and resolve are great words to use to help diffuse a situation.

Time Management Skills

It’s always important to be aware of the time you are spending with a customer. If you are finding that a particular customer is just too demanding, or you find you can’t resolve their problem, you need to recognise your limitations. It might be that they are not a good fit for you and your business. There is no shame in admitting this and referring them to someone who will be a better fit. This will save you both time and money in the long run. And that customer will respect you for solving their problem by referring them to someone who can help them.

Handling the unexpected

No matter how long you’ve been in business, there will at times be an element of surprise. At some point, you will face an unexpected situation, so always worth thinking about this so you have a plan.

Now, I have no idea what you might face with your business, but it’s worth knowing what you’ll do if you are faced with something you don’t know how to handle. I would ask the customer for a contact name and number, then make sure I completely understand the situation and tell them that I’ll come back to them. I always give them a specific time – even if I say, ‘I’ll ring you between 10 and 12 tomorrow morning’. This gives them confidence that you’ll look into their issue and gives you time to think about it and work out how you can solve it.

Just ensure that you do get back to them at the time you said you would. If you haven’t been able to get them an answer by that time, still ring them. Be honest and say that you are working on the problem, but it’s taking longer than you expected and give them a new time that you’ll ring to let them know the answer.

Responsibility

Responsibility links in with the element of surprise. If you take responsibility for the problem, your customer will respect and trust you in future. Get involved, be honest with them and stay with the problem until you resolve it.

Persuasion Skills

You will have customers who will be happy with the solution you offer. And there will, inevitably, be some that won’t. This is where persuasive techniques come in. Sometimes, a customer will want to know more about a product or service in more detail before buying. Persuasive skills will be giving them more details and turning that into why the product or service is suitable for them (if it is of course). This will obviously be beneficial to your business too.

You might need to use your persuasive abilities to illustrate exactly why the solution you offer is the best for them. You many need to offer an alternative offer – or try to explain in a different way. 

Improves your brand image

Your company brand is linked to your reputation. Part of earning that reputation with your customers is by doing things well, no matter how hard they might be.

Customer service sets the tone for your whole brand. First impressions really count and a helpful attitude assists in shaping that first impression. Everyone likes to have a positive customer experience and friendly, honest customer service. A good communications strategy will help you and your business to be seen as caring and one that really values its customers and their opinions. It should cover everything from how to talk to your customers and how that aligns with your brand and business strategy.

Feedback

Never underestimate the power of your customers. Customer servicing calls can give you valuable feedback about your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. For example, if you are made aware of an issue, you can ask for your customers’ opinions, through feedback surveys, social media and emails. These tools can serve two purposes; gathering feedback about a potential solution and getting you positive reviews and feedback that you can use to promote your business.  

Asking for opinions makes customers feel valued and can help improve your customer retention. If you use their opinions and suggestions, they will become brand advocates.

Measuring customer satisfaction, through the use of surveys, social media polls etc., help you keep an eye on your customers’ overall experience with your business and brand. You can often deal with a potential problem before it becomes an issue.    

Ability to close

I don’t mean closing a sale here. I’m talking about ending a conversation with a customer. Sometimes a customer just wants to chat and can go completely off subject. You need to be able to steer the conversation back to the point. Only end your conversation after you have solved the problem, or told them that you’ll find a solution and get back to them.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and treat their problem as yours. The customer needs to be aware that you care, value their opinion and they need to be confident that you will deal with whatever they throw at you.

Conclusion

It is well-known that customers are more loyal to those businesses that show transparency in everything they do. And they don’t mind paying a bit more if they are confident in your business and its transparency.

Excellent customer service promotes trust and loyalty; customers are more likely to try other products or services that you offer and they are more likely to recommend your business to their friends and family.     

The 4 Rs of Content Creation

If you write content, you’ll know how long it takes. It’s not just about the time and the money, but as a content creator, you put your heart and soul into everything you write.

This is where the 4 Rs of content marketing comes in. It puts the oomph back into what you’ve written before and gives it a whole new lease of life.

So, let’s take a look at those 4 Rs of content marketing:

Repurpose

As a content creator, you’ll have written hundreds of blog posts or articles and, in order to reorganise that content, you need to take a long, hard look at that older content. How can you repurpose some of your content and make it into something else?

Repurpose content

You could tie some blog posts together and make an eBook that you can sell, or give away as part of a lead magnet. You could make an infographic, or break down a post into several parts and make social media posts. And the great bit about that is that you’ve already done all the hard work to produce the content in the first place – it’s just about repurposing it into something new and fresh for your audience.

Retire

Sometimes you will come across an old piece of content that is just past its sell-by date! It might be that things have moved on and it is no longer relevant, or it could be that it just wasn’t something that performed well and probably still wouldn’t.

The other thing to look at is, ‘is this still relevant to my target audience?’ If it isn’t something that they would care about, it’s time to retire that content.

Revamp

I’ve talked about retiring old content that is out of date and no longer relevant to your target audience. However, you don’t want to simply delete or archive that content, as it may have good links attached to it or great SEO (search engine optimisation). Have a look at ways that you may be able to replace it with something more vibrant and current…revamp it!

It could be that you can rewrite some of it – has technology moved on, so you can update some of the information that is out of date? Can you add new statistics? Don’t forget to also add new images and bring your design up to date, so it’s more in keeping with how you do things now.  

Everything you write, or have written in the past, has its value, so updating is a very worthwhile exercise. Simply put a note at the top of the article, blog or whatever, saying when the article was first published and noting that it’s been updated with new information.  

Readability

Do you read other peoples’ content? I’m sure you do, but most of us only remain focused on something for a few minutes, unless it is something we are personally interested in. The internet has so much information, with loads of articles on similar subjects, that choice for your reader is vast.

So, ensure that your readers stay on your page. But how?

Make your content easy to read and easy to scan for information. Use bullet points, small paragraphs, headings and sub-headings and numbered lists. This breaks up the text and makes it easier to read.

Call to Action

Don’t forget to put a CTA (call to action) at the end so they know what to do next and you could offer an incentive to go somewhere else on your website, such as a freebie that takes them to an opt-in to your newsletter. For more useful articles on marketing, please visit my blog. If you need some help with writing creative content for your blog, website or social media posts…or if you’d like help creating your lead magnet, please feel free to email me – cindymobey@outlook.com

User Generated Content ideas

User generated content (UGC) is the original content that is created by your audience. It can be anything from comments or reviews on your blog or social media site, to images and videos.

According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising. This is probably because UGC is not paid for by the brand and created by your audience, so it is unbiased and seen as more trustworthy and genuine. It acts as social proof and helps you to grow your following, strengthen relationships with your clients, helps with SEO and can boost sales.

Here are a few ways to use user generated content for your business.

Credibility

When potential customers want to buy something, most like to look at product reviews before taking the plunge. Reviews show them that your product or service is reliable. Ratings and reviews can help increase traffic to your website, which ultimately can help grow your business and encourage those potential customers to buy from you.

I would advise every business to encourage customers to leave reviews wherever possible. You can ask them to leave reviews on your website, social media page, or on your Google My Business page.  

You can also give an incentive to get more reviews, by offering something like a discount or gift card. Send an email with incentive keywords in your subject line to encourage customers to open them.

If you get a negative review, don’t ignore it. Treat it as an opportunity to turn the customer round and gain their trust. Always reply personally to show that you care about their experience and try to solve the problem they’ve highlighted. If you do turn them around, they will then recommend you to their friends and family.

Host a contest

One way to get customer content is to host a contest on social media. You can even create a unique contest hashtag and get followers to contribute to the hashtag. Users could share their photos or videos accompanied by your specific hashtag to win a prize. If enough of your followers do this, it can push your hashtag to trend, which will not only build engagement with your target audience, but also build awareness of your brand and boost sales.

If you do decide to do this, just keep in mind that your hashtag needs to be simple and not difficult to spell…and also use one that sets you and your business apart from your competitors. And don’t forget to start using your new hashtag in all your own posts.  

Video

Video is a fantastic way to create user generated content. Video has such great potential for sharing and there is a higher possibility that video content will go viral.

User generated video give your audience a new perspective on your brand, which not only boosts your credibility, it also illustrates that your brand is genuine as these are the videos of real customers…not something you’ve created yourself.

Use events and holidays    

There are loads of different holiday seasons and individual days in the calendar, from Christmas and Easter, to Valentine’s Day or just summer! You could also choose to use a major event.

These holidays or events gives you an opportunity to engage with your customers and connect with them. This gives your followers the chance to share images or videos, use your hashtags, take part in a competition or even write a testimonial and share it with their friends.  

A few years ago, a major coffee chain launched a campaign during December. They produced a branded coffee cup with a Christmas theme and asked for inspiring and innovative photos with their cup in the photo. There was a prize of a gift card…and of course, in order to take part, customers had to buy the cup first. They were inundated with photos, which were really imaginative and published them on their website. Customers absolutely loved coming up with really innovative ideas, they loved seeing their entry on the website, (which of course they shared with their friends) and the coffee brand sold loads of coffee. All for a very simple idea.

Have a think about what you could come up with for your business.  

Recap

User generated content acts as social proof and helps you grow your following, strengthen relationships with your clients, helps with SEO and help boost sales.

Have you ever done this? If you have, I’d love to know how you got on. If not, why not try it out. Again, I’d love to hear all about it. Please comment below and share your story.   

Data Protection and your small business

If your business collects or stores any kind of information from your customers, you need to ensure that you are complying with the current rules and regulations of GDPR (the General Data Protection Regulations).

Every business should have a privacy policy on their website, which details how you keep your customers’ information safe and secure, and how your business complies with the latest GDPR rules and regulations.

Disclaimer

GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) is a very large and complicated piece of legislation. I am not a lawyer. The information in this article is absolutely not legal advice and I cannot be held responsible for its accuracy. Details of where to get the appropriate legal information for both EU and UK can be found at the end of this article. However, the information in this short article will give you a heads up that you need to make sure that your business complies and that there is now BOTH an EU GDPR and a UK GDPR following the UK’s exit from Europe.  

Customer data

It is up to you to make sure that the information you hold on your customers is kept secure, accurate and up to date. When you collect someone’s personal data, you must tell them who you are and how you’ll use their information, including if it’s being shared with other organisations.

You must also tell them that they have the right to:

  • See any information you hold about them and correct it if it’s wrong
  • Request their data is deleted
  • Request their data is not used for certain purposes

If you control or process any kind of customer personal data, then your business is impacted by the GDPR rules and regulations. This is everything from the simple collecting of customers’ names and addresses, telephone numbers or IP addresses, to the m ore complex keeping of medical information, bank account details etc.   

Two key principles

Data protection is just about protecting your customers from having their data fall into the wrong hands. The two key principles are that businesses must have appropriate, legal reasons for processing personal data, and a business can only collect personal information for a specific purpose…and it is only to be used for that purpose!

Most of us who have a small business hold some form of personal information about our customers. It might be just an email address, or name and postal address, so we all have to ensure we comply. There are very steep fines for those that don’t.

UK and EU Data protection

Up until their exit from the EU, the UK was subject to the EU GDPR rules and regulations as they were still affiliated to the EU, but the UK now has its own UK GDPR rules and regulations.

I am NOT an expert on all the legalities of the General Data Protection Regulations for UK or EU, so it is up to you as a small business to ensure that your business, website and all data you hold on your customers complies with the relevant regulations of your country.

As today (28 January 2021) is Data Protection Day, I thought I’d just bring this to your attention and give you the relevant links so you can do some research and take any advice that you might need from a proper legal representative for your country.

UK GDPR and data protection

GDPR and data protection for France/EU

I wrote a more in-depth article about this in January 2020, which was based on EU regulations, which you are more than welcome to read.  Click here to read it.

The 7 Cs of Communication

Communication is the most important aspect of your business. It is the general term used to describe how you speak to your target audience and how you write your blogs or emails.

Our language enables us to share our ideas with other people, and communication is probably the most important aspect of our culture. Without communication, the pyramids wouldn’t have been built, the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t be standing – communication enabled the architects to convey their plans to their workers. 

Effective communication helps avoid any misunderstanding with your audience, employees and customers alike.

My blog this week looks at the 7 Cs of communication and how, if you keep these seven things in mind, your written communication will be much more effective. 

Clear

It’s important to always keep in mind the purpose of every message, email or post you put out. So, what is the purpose of this communication? As long as you keep this in mind, you will better be able to put your message across to your target audience.

If you don’t know the purpose of your communication, your audience won’t either!

Being clear is also about giving clarity to your reader – avoid complex words, long sentences and jargon. Keep it simple and to the point.

Concise

Keep your message short, simple, concise and to the point. Why use a whole paragraph to explain something that can take one sentence?

Being concise will also keep your audience’s attention, saving them and you time and energy.

BUT, keep in mind that, although you are keeping your message concise, you still need to give detail for the message to be complete.  

Concrete

This is about being specific with your communication, avoiding it being too general, vague or obscure.

Use words and sentences that can’t be misinterpreted, and it’s a good idea to add facts and figures if you can to underline your meaning. But keep the balance so that any illustrations or examples don’t detract from your main message.

Correct

ALWAYS proofread your message before publishing. I find that reading it aloud ensures that it makes sense. If you use facts and figures, put a link to the source, so you have proof that they are correct and that you haven’t just plucked statistics out of the air!

Check for typos or spelling mistakes, and ensure that sentences are short – this makes it so much easier to read.

Doing these checks saves you time in the long run and boosts your credibility.

Coherent

Look at the structure of your communication. Does it flow in a logical way? You don’t want to be jumping from one subject to the other, as that makes it harder to read and understand.

Do a sense check to make sure you haven’t tried to be too in-depth and cover too much in one message. And ensure your communication doesn’t go off on tangents and side issues.

Complete

In order for you to get the desired response to your message or communication, it must contain all the necessary information.

The best way to do this is to think about your message and about any questions your target audience might have as a result of reading it. Then you can make sure that those questions are answered in the communication.

Include a call to action, so your audience knows exactly what you expect them to do next.

Courteous

Always be polite. Being polite builds trust and goodwill with your readers. Make sure that your communication shows respect for your readers and their feelings.

My parents always taught me that manners cost nothing and this is just as relevant to written communication as to verbal.

Conclusion

Overall, the 7 Cs of Communication is an effective checklist, which will ensure you are communicating with your audience more effectively.

If you use this simple checklist, you can be assured that you are delivering the best and clearest message you can, with little in the way of misunderstanding.

Ultimately, this will boost the reliability and trustworthiness of your business, as well as saving you more time.

Let me know how you get on with this checklist the next time you write a message or communication.   

The Benefits of using Google My Business

In general, people across the world are relying more and more on Google to find answers to their questions, or to find out information about absolutely anything. Google My Business (GMB), is a free online tool for businesses to manage their online presence across the Google platform. This is especially good news for small businesses and start-ups to help them with their online visibility.

According to searchengineland.com more than 2 trillion users log onto Google search every year – more than 5 billion searches per day. That’s pretty mind-blowing in itself, but just think how many people your small business could be exposed to, simply by having the right keywords and being on Google My Business. Wow!

How to claim your Google My Business profile

You need to have a Google account (Gmail account), in order to be able to claim your Google My Business profile. If you sign into your Gmail account, then log into GMB, simply enter the name of your business into the field of the form and confirm that you are authorised to manage the business. There will then be several fields to complete in order to set up your account, such as your opening hours, about you section etc.

You have to choose a service category too, from the list provided and it’s important to make sure that your business name, address and phone number is up to date –if your business is on other search engines, such as Bing, you need to make sure that they are all have exactly the same details, so it’s easier for you to be found. By putting in your address, a map will pop up so anyone local to you will be able to easily find you. You can also add a link to your website.  

There is an area to add photos of your business – both external view, which is great if you have physical premises as it makes it again, much easier for people to know what they’re looking for if they decide to visit your business. You can also add photos of the interior, so you could add photos of employees, processes you carry out, and photos of your products. This is really important to make these as engaging as possible as it will encourage people to choose you over your competitors.

One of THE most important parts of GMB is the reviews section. Online reviews are obviously testimonials that you are the best at what you do. Encourage your existing customers to leave a review on your GMB page, by sending them a link to the page and ask them! Most will be happy to oblige. If you have an email list, or send out a regular email newsletter to your customers, this is a great item to add to that … and the reviews will really help your Google rankings. As all small businesses will know, good reviews are absolute gold in helping potential customers to choose to buy from you over your competitors. When I want to buy something, I always look at the reviews first.

Put the link to your GMB on your website and on your social media pages, so potential customers and existing customers know that you’re there.

GMB is cost-effective

Well, it’s free (!), so why wouldn’t you want to have it? For start-ups and small businesses, it really is a fabulous platform to get your business out there with no cost – we all know that every penny counts if you’ve just started, or if you’re a small business. GMB gives customers all the information they need to know about you, all in one place…but if you put a link to your website or to your Etsy shop, for example, you can also point them to your other resources, products or services.

You can post to your GMB

Just like social media platforms, you can also put posts on your GMB page. You can use this to promote your business, talk about offers or discounts, new products, updates, news, announcements etc. The possibilities are endless! I use my posts to highlight new blog posts, as well as news about my business or about marketing. I also share some of the posts I use on Instagram and Facebook.

Your post title should only use four or five words, and although you are allowed to use up to 1500 characters for the post, I always keep it to as few as I can – 100-200 at most. The reason for this is that under the post there is the option to use a Call to Action (CTA), which encourages your visitors to take a particular action, such as ‘Buy’, ‘Book online’, ‘Learn more’, ‘Call’ or ‘Visit’. For my blog, I use ‘Learn more’ and then a box appears so I can put in the URL of my blog post, so if visitors want to find out more about the blog I’ve written, they click on the URL box and it takes them to my full blog post and website.

Posts only stay in front of your customers for seven days, so you do need to update your posts regularly. If a customer clicks on posts, they will be able to see old ones, but they won’t be ‘live’ on the homepage of your page.

You can post an event, and this is the only exception to the rule of seven days. Once you input all the relevant details of the event, it will be displayed until the event is over.

A fairly new feature, which is good news for restaurants or cafes, is that GMB now has a menu editor, which includes titles, descriptions, prices, and you can break the menu into sections – starters, main, desserts etc.

Video

You can share video on GMB, and this is a fairly new feature. The video should be no more than 30 seconds and once uploaded, it can take up to 24 hours before the video content shows in local search results.

The maximum video file size is 100MB and minimum resolution should be 720p. 

Messaging feature

There is a message feature on GMB, which you have to switch on via your dashboard on your page. This means that customers can message you directly. There will be a message icon which they can click on to send a message and if you have an iOS device you can get these directly via an app. Otherwise, you will need to make sure you check your GMB page regularly. Please not that Google advise that you don’t encourage customers to share sensitive information via their messaging service. 

Conclusion

Google My Business (GMB), is a fabulous, free platform for you to advertise your business. The many features make it easy for your customers to find you and find out all they need to know about your business. It’s up to you to add as much or as little information about your business that you choose to. As with any platform, it’s a good idea to have a strategy around using the platform, factor in time to keep it up to date and keep track of any messages and changes that might affect your business or that platform. But, in today’s online world, where billions of people are searching Google every day, it totally makes sense to make use of this great tool.