• Home
  • About
  • Archives
  • Authors
  • Contact
  • Polls
  • Small Biz Interviews

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Customer Service 2.0: Is the Phone Number Dead?

Friday, August 27th, 2010

First off, you know you’re getting old when you begin a blog post with the phrase “this new generation”…and then comment on how things used to be done.  Of course, you’re probably not that old if you’re writing a blog post in the first place, but my point is, when you start noticing differences, you’re aging is noticeable.

But this new generation has a different view towards customer service.  In my day (ahhh, the 90’s…Nirvana was popular, there were new “Twilight” books, and I had a full head of hair), customer service meant an 800 number.  A big break through was an email address, but you never really relied on getting a message back…so you called customer service to get an answer.

As our customer base at KikScore grows, there is something very noticeably absent — that would be phone calls.  Instead, people are looking at our product videos, sending us emails, asking questions on Twitter.  It’s great in many respects — phone calls are time consuming to process and that costs money.  But the written word and videos often don’t convey specifically the information what a customer is looking to get…so it can either result in a frustrating customer experience or it results in a lot of interaction to get a question answered.

So, I’m getting older and I can roll with the punches and not complain about how things have changed…but I’m not sure if the extinction of the phone number is a good thing.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Small Business Lessons from Alli Donofrio of Pre-Loved Consignment Boutique

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Today KikScore sits down with Alli Donofrio, the owner of the very cool boutique called Pre-Loved Consignment.  Her store is a very unique type of boutique that offers a variety of quality merchandise ranging from casual to formal wear, to accessories, handbags and much more.  Alli’s store is in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, but she also sells online.  In this interview, she gives the small business community (and all of the shoppers out there) some great tips on small business life.

1. Tell us about Pre-Loved Consignment and who you focus on serving?

Pre Loved Consignment is a unique boutique……. far from your average thrift shop! I focus on serving everyone. I think with today’s economy… budgeting your money and saving is most important! My store is focused on value & style.. what more could you ask for !

2. How did you get started selling online?

I just recently opened up my store online- I did my homework first before doing so- searching for the best website designers I could find (Palmtree Creative LLC). We get a good amount of customers in the store- but I think to widen the audience and viewers of our selection of awesome stuff – opening an online store was the greatest idea!

3. What inspires you to grow the
Pre-Loved Consignment business?

Other successful stores and consignment boutiques – like my own.

If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

Customer service is very important- Make sure you are there to help them at all times! Also make sure you use a secure website (such as PayPal)- people want to know they are using a secure site – which means they will come back to shop again.

5. Where will
Pre-Loved Consignment focus most of its energy this year?

It will focus on what my customers want and will focus on finding new ideas on how to grow!

6. What do you see as new trends in for small business and in your business?

Consignment boutiques are flourishing every where. They are the hottest businesses to open up today. Id say Consignment alone is a new hot trend! And this article on NorthJersey.com actually discusses the tend!

7. If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

I think it would be Betty Boop – Shes Hip, chic , flirty and fun – which best describes my store!

8. If
Pre-Loved Consignment could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

I think any young or old woman into fashion- and not afraid to wear pre-owned clothing , handbags and shoes. It does not necessarily mean you are poor or do not have enough to buy new. It just means you know how to shop smart and you know how to get more for your money!

9. What is the biggest challenge that Pre-Loved Consignment faces as a small business and how do you work to overcome that challenge?

The biggest challenge is trying to get our name out there more! Advertising can be pricey but its the most important thing to get involved with when opening up a Small business!

10. Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

“Don’t Underestimate consignment you’ll be surprised by the treasures you can find !” “Buy More Pay Less!”

Let us know if you have any thoughts for Alli and Pre-Loved Consignment.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Kebabs, $18 Wine & Customer Service – A Small Business Story of Feeding on the New Competition

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

This is a story about one of my my family’s favorite neighborhood restaurants and what they have done to respond when the competition has literally moved right next door.  My wife and I love middle eastern food. I could easily live on a meal plan of  hummus, lamb kabobs, donner platters and falafel for lunch and dinner…..yes, call me crazy but I really like good middle eastern food.  So one of our favorite restaurants is called Pasha Bistro and is literally right down the street from our house (and one of KikScore’s offices!).  So my wife and I either make the trek over there or order out from Pasha Bistro almost once a week.  And we are not the only ones.  We have close friends in the neighborhood who also love Pasha Bistro too.  So much so, that on a recent night out at a spring bbq, a number of the attendees spent way too much time talking about what were our favorite menu items and even discussing a comparison on Pasha’s fantastic and extra garlicy hummus versus other more watered down hummus from lesser take out places (Mike, yes, that includes Lebanese Taverna the place he drags us all each time he is in DC- by the way for anyone with real taste buds and not from Fargo, Pasha is so much better than that Taverna!).  Bottom line, if you are in DC and especially in Dupont Circle, check Pasha Bistro out you will not regret it.

So what’s the point to this story?  Well the big talk in the neighborhood this summer in DC has been, Did you see who moved right next door to Pasha Bistro? Well that formerly empty location next door to Pasha Bistro was only known to me as the nasty bar where I had to watch the Red Sox complete their inevitable come back from a 3-1 series deficit in 2007 and beat my Cleveland Indians to advance to the World Series. It is now a brand new Mediterranean restaurant called Agora.  Take that Pasha Bistro the owners of Agora must have thought when they opened up in newly renovated digs, right next door.  The two restaurants are so close that a diner eating on the patio at Pasha can literally reach over a small patio fence that separates the two restaurant’s respective patios and swipe his bread in the hummus dish of a customer at Agora.

So when you were the only Middle Eastern restaurant on the block (17th Street) for years and build up a large and loyal following, what did Pasha Bistro do in response to Agora’s arrival right next door?  Well all of us small businesses and startups can take a lesson from what Pasha Bistro did to fight back against Agora over the last few months since its opening:

1) Beat them with customer service – So Pasha Bistro typically has good customer service when we eat there or order take out from the restaurant.  But when we visited Pasha after the “new neighbor” arrived, the service was amazing.  Every little item related to our dining experience seemed like it was focused on by the wait staff at Pasha.  They greeted us even more warmly then ever, they fawned over us before, during and after dinner and they truly looked after us.  The Pasha Bistro staff clearly went the extra mile and made that dinner out even more enjoyable that on previous occasions by being just so amazingly customer focused.

2) Emphasize your strengths – So when the competition moved in, it was almost like Pasha said lets ignore those Turkish invaders on 17th Street.  Pasha did not get distracted by trying to introduce new food dishes and entrees to compete.  Instead, Pasha cooked the same food the same way and the dishes remained first rate, the customer service (which was already a highlight) only got better and Pasha focused on one main ingredient, keeping their customers happy.  These were (and are) Pasha’s strengths and what the ownership did was played to those strengths every day at dinner when new and returning customers came to dine.

3)  Focused on your target market – The invading restaurant clearly was pushing more of an “upscale” dining experience that even included a chef standing outside decked out in a head to toe white chefs outfit with that funny hat. It would have been easy for Pasha to abandon their target market and try to go after the more “upscale” diners.  Instead, Pasha remained loyal to serving their target market of casual middle eastern dining.  There was no white table cloths or stuffy waiters – Pasha just said keep it casual and keep it good – real good.

4) Create unique offerings that keep your loyal customers happy – Following up on the last point, Pasha actually said from a strategic perspective what can we do to further solidify our customer base?  Pasha created a great, every day special that appeals to all diners (that especially like to have a drink with dinner!) and that is an $18 special for any bottle of wine, any day of the week including weekends.  And no, Pasha did not fill their wine list with Boone’s Farm or Mad Dog and try to sell that for $18.  They largely kept their same wine list with good wines and applied this great discounted offering for any dinner.  With this new deal, they got my wife and I hooked and a bunch of my other friends in the neighborhood too.  The $18 a bottle wine offer was a great competitive response by Pasha Cafe to Agora that allowed Pasha to lock in their customers and give us something new to keep bringing us all back.

5) Do not freak out when the competition moves in – From all of this, the one thing is clear and admirable: Pasha Bistro did not freak out when Agora moved in next door. They could have and in many instances you hear of small businesses and startups that freak out when they get a little competition.  The learning from here from Pasha’s experience is they took a deep breathe and said lets go on the offensive, but lets also be smart, targeted and tactical about going on the offensive against Agora.  That is the key here, Pasha mounted a competitive response to the new entry and now Pasha just needs to sit back and keep executing on their response to Agora.

What do you think about Pasha Bistro’s response to Agora?  Please tell us your stories of responding to a competitor moving next door.

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark

Posts Tagged ‘customer service’

Small Business Interview with Kimberley Stewart from OnBoard Outfitters

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Kimberley Stewart with OnBoard Outfitters took some time to share some small business tips with us including her thoughts on website development, corporate vision, getting venture capital funding, and Matthew McConaughey (what else!).  Onboard Outfitters specializes in making comfortable baby carriers that can be used in water or on land.

Tell us about OnBoard Outfitters and who you focus on serving?

OnBoard Outfitters designs products and accessories for the active lifestyle so you can get onboard with life!  We use performance fabrics to innovate and enhance the use of products that individuals and families use in their active, everyday lives.  We also develop fitness programs that utilize some of our products, to encourage families to be fit and active together, and to teach kids to love fitness at an early age.  Our products are made for all ages, in various markets such as juvenile products, sports/athletics, outdoor recreation, travel, health/fitness, and medical/therapeutic.

Our first product is the innovative SportsBabyTM infant carrier, the only dual water-land carrier on the market, made for active moms and dads who live life “on the go” and want to take baby everywhere with them:  in the pool, to the beach, camping and hiking, in the snow and rain, or just a walk in the park.  Moms swear to us that their babies don’t want to get out of the carrier – it’s so soft and comfortable.  And several parents tell us that it is their preferred carrier.  Dads love it because of its “engineered” design – “It’s not just a piece of cotton with shoulder straps.”  

How did you get your started selling online?

When I joined OnBoard in 2008, we created a new LLC and decided to sell the remaining inventory of our SportsBaby infant carrier (from my partner’s former LLC), while we prepared a business plan to obtain funding.  So, we needed a website to sell the carriers.  We have also reached out to several other online retailers who now also sell the SportsBaby.  OnBoard will not be a retailer to the public going forward.  We will sell via retail partners, such as small, independent retailers and boutiques, and larger mass merchandisers.  We will also have a limited B2B division to sell directly to practitioners.

Where will OnBoard Outfitters focus most of its energy in 2010?

Getting funding!  And developing our launch products and fitness programs.  We will also focus on building consumer awareness, sales, and brand loyalty.

If you had 2 lessons learned from your business that you could pass on to others about selling online, what are those?

1.  Spend the money to get a good website.  We went with a woman who did “websites for small businesses” but she really wasn’t experienced in sites with a retail/shopping cart component.  So, the site looked okay on the surface, but I later learned that she had used very amateur programming on the back end, making it enormously difficult for another web programmer to make changes.  This also limited our SEO.  And she chose archaic shopping cart software, which also limits us in being able to calculate international shipping, for example.

2.  Have a reliable customer service and fulfillment system in place.  You have to be able to ship within 24 hours of receiving the order.  With a new company and product, you can’t afford to alienate any customers with bad service.  Once, a woman from Ohio called me, wanting to buy a carrier for her daughter.  She said she had tried to apply a promotional discount to her order online but couldn’t get it to work, so I gave her our Friends and Family discount, which was a greater discount.  I didn’t have the capability to process her order and credit card over the phone, so I trusted her word that she would mail me a check that day, and I shipped the carrier to her.  I did whatever was required to give her a positive shopping experience with OnBoard Outfitters and the SportsBaby carrier.

As 2009 closes, what do you see as 2 new trends in your business this year?

We haven’t been in business long enough, or had enough sales, to see a trend, but we are now finding other sites that focus on active parents and outdoor living with kids, so we are gaining a lot of attention with these sites, and finding people who “catch our vision” of sporty, fun products for infants and parents.

Overall, the fitness/health industry and the juvenile products industry have remained strong in spite of the weak economy, so we think this will help us be competitive and see some growth in the next few years.

If your business/store could be any movie or movie character, what movie/movie character would it be and why?

Let’s see . . . If OnBoard Outfitters were a movie, we’d be a cross between “Baby Boom” (Diane Keaton) and “Gracie.”  “Baby Boom” is, at the highest level, about a woman (we’re two women) who saw a need in the baby market and created a solution.  “Gracie” is a film about a young girl who loves to play soccer, and pushes to get other girls involved in the game.  Both films also express the theme of not letting anyone tell you that you can’t do something – anything is possible with some effort and vision! 

OnBoard’s underlying goal is to help combat childhood obesity by getting kids involved in fitness at a young age – even as infants – and to exercise with their parents so family fitness becomes a way of life and a fun way to spend time together.

If OnBoard Outfitters could have a dream spokesperson for your company who would it be and why?

Based on our current SportsBaby product, our dream MALE spokesperson would be Matthew McConaughey.  He is the epitome of a cool sports-loving dad, who lives on Malibu beach and sports his baby around.

Our dream FEMALE spokesperson would be Kathy Ireland.  She is an amazingly successful female entrepreneur, mom, and a dedicated spokesperson for families and family fitness.

How do the folks at OnBoard Outfitters let loose after a busy day working?

My business partner, Lisa LaBelle, is the fitness expert, so she’ll do something like run a marathon.  I eat chocolate.  All day long.

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers and the small business community?

Starting a business is hard work, and requires a clear vision and plan of how to move from point A to point B to point C.  Get good, seasoned advisors on your team to guide you and also open doors for you.  Spend time at your local Small Business Community Development Center for free advice (or for a nominal fee) on all aspects of business development.  And network like crazy!

Post to Twitter Tweet This Post

  • Share/Bookmark