How The Collapse Of Thomas Cook Affects Your Business

How The Collapse Of Thomas Cook Affects Your Business

This week has seen the very sad news of Thomas Cook going into administration.

And let me tell you if a long-standing firm of 178 years in business can collapse, then we should all sit up and take notice.

Why?

Because if it can happen to a household name paying directors huge sums of money, it can happen to ‘amateurs’ like you and me.

In my humble opinion, there are two key reasons for the collapse of Thomas Cook.  And they can both easily happen to you.

They didn’t manage the money

The first and most easily identifiable reason is they simply didn’t manage the money.  End of!  A business is only successful if it is profitable, and Thomas Cook wasn’t.

Yes, that is a hugely simplistic statement to make but I see all too many small businesses go under for the same reason.

They forget to review their outgoings and make changes or cuts where needed such as Thomas Cook keeping over 500 high street outlets when other travel companies moved solely online.  They make investments that haven’t been researched thoroughly enough and which don’t give a return on investment.  Thomas Cook merged with a company that had only ever once made a profit itself.

This causes the business to sink deeper and deeper into debt and take riskier gambles to try and recoup their losses.  It’s a road to disaster.

Cashflow isn’t planned such as with Thomas Cook taking booking payments in the first part of the year but then having huge costs going out in the latter part of the year when income was low.

And owners keep paying themselves even when the business is in financial trouble.  Thomas Cook continued to pay dividends right up to last November even though they had been in serious trouble for some time.  If the profits aren’t there, stop paying yourself until they are!

They didn’t keep up with the changing needs of customers

The holiday choices of Thomas Cook customers have changed, but they didn’t identify this and react quickly enough.

As already mentioned, Thomas Cook kept 500 outlets on the high street with high rental and staffing costs where most people started to book online.
The holiday choices of their customers changed.  Rather than the traditional beach holiday, customers started to book more city breaks.  Thomas Cook failed to react to this and other travel agents picked up the city break business.

And of course, the B-word had an impact.  Brexit!  With the uncertainty of the British population not knowing what was going to happen economically, many decided to stay put in the UK to take their holiday.  Thomas Cook didn’t take advantage of that.

Harsh lessons here and it is terribly sad that such a long-standing company is no more.

But whatever the size of your company, the basics are the same for all.

  1. Constantly track the finances.  The essentials are to track money coming in and money going out.  You need to look at ways to make more money and save more money if things are tight.  Don’t stick your head in the sand.
  2. Keep up to date with the changing needs of your customers.  Trends come and go.  Changes happen to your industry.  Economic pressures change consumer spending.  You need to keep on top of this.

P.S.  If you want help to track your finances and to keep up with the changing needs of customers, come join the members club.  Don’t get left behind.

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Little things that make a big difference

Little things that make a big difference

As you may already realise by now, I am a stickler for customer service.

And I believe it’s the little things that make the big differences.

As Maya Angelou famously quoted:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Think about how you leave people feeling in your business.  Are there any small changes that could make a big difference in how you make prospects and clients feel?

Customer service isn’t rocket science.  It really is the little things such as a smile, a handwritten note, or a follow up to see how they are.

We tend to spend time focusing on wooing our prospects to turn them into clients and a big failing is stopping this once they have purchased.  These people can become our best marketers if we continue to show we care about them.

Send a thank you card, email to see if they are happy with their purchase or send a client only special offer for a future purchase.

I’ve got a touchpoint checklist with some ideas to get you started thinking about how you can wow your prospects and clients.  You can download it here for free.

And here are a few examples that I have come across just recently.

Good customer service

Good customer service

Received a package on a low-cost item where they had included a small bag of sweets – nice touch.

Had an online chat to discuss a problem.  After the chat, I received a lovely email with the direct contact details for the person I had been chatting to so I could go to them directly if any further problems (no having to repeat the problem again which is so frustrating).

An order was messed up and after trying to find out what happened, the customer services chap gave me false information to try and fob me off (very bad customer service).  I emailed a complaint and with no further fuss I had the product delivered along with a full refund to apologise (they have now kept me as a customer)

After a long tiring drive to stay at a hotel, upon arrival the lady at the desk said she had heard there were long delays on the motorway.  She said she thought we would be tired so had gone to our room to draw the curtains and turn on the lamps so we could have a lie-down and a rest.  A small but hugely appreciated touch.

Bad customer service

Poor customer service

I paid next day delivery for an item which didn’t arrive.  I contacted the company to find out what had happened.  There was no apology but just a barrage of excuses that drivers get tired and sometimes deliver to the wrong address, can’t find properties in rural locations etc.  Yes, they said they would investigate where the item was but no refund on delivery cost and didn’t seem to care.  They have lost a long-standing customer.

At the same hotel mentioned above, upon coming downstairs in the morning, my husband and I both said good morning to the new lady on the desk, but she couldn’t be bothered to lift her head and smile. She only just muttered ‘morning’ whilst continuing to look at her mobile! This made us feel rather unwelcome.

I emailed to book an appointment with a health and beauty therapist, gave her the dates I was available, and she simply said: “no, can’t do those” in her reply.  No other dates suggested, no saying ‘unfortunately I’m booked up’ or ‘I’m so sorry I can’t fit you in’.  The message was so short and snappy I won’t be going to her again.

I purchased a product on an ongoing subscription.  It was something new and I was a little nervous about trying it as the retailer knew.  After my first purchase, the only time I heard from the retailer was to let me know my next month’s payment was due.  There was nothing wrong with the product, but I didn’t feel valued as a customer, or that they cared if I was getting on with the product of not, but that they were only interested in getting money out of me.  Their direct competitor has been in contact more than them and so I am now in the process of switching.

Does any of this resonate with you either as a seller or a buyer?

If you receive either good or bad customer service, take note of it.  If you receive bad customer service, are you guilty of this also?  Be honest with yourself.  If you receive good customer service, do you do this with your business or could you incorporate it in some way?

I’d love to hear any stories of your own that you may have so let me know in the comments below.

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How To Know If You Have A Business Or A Hobby

How To Know If You Have A Business Or A Hobby

Are you running a business or hobby?

Are you showing up in your business the way you would show up for a ‘real’ job working for someone else?

What I mean is… are you completing your money-making and key tasks daily? Even when you’re tired and don’t feel like it.

When we work for someone else, we always show up.  We drag ourselves to work even when we don’t feel like it.  We might be feeling de-motivated or stayed out too late the night before, but we still show up.

But so many times we give ourselves excuses in our businesses and the work that matters never actually gets done.

  • “I’m tired today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”
  • “The sun is shining.  I’m off to the beach for the day.”
  • “There’s a sale on in my favourite shop.  I think I’ll skip work and go to that.”

Yes, we work for ourselves to give ourselves the flexibility that a 9 – 5 job doesn’t allow.  Yes, there are times when you should take a day out and do some self-care or indulge yourself.

But, if you truly want a successful business for the long term, you must stop the half-hearted excuses and step up to create that future you so badly want.

Think of yourself as an employee of your business.  Would your boss allow you the number of excuses you are coming up with on a regular basis such as showing up late, leaving early or procrastinating over key activities?

If you are not working to the same conditions that you would for someone else in your business, you are giving excuses!

This is the difference between having a business or a hobby.

I see a lot of people with hobbies. And it’s because they aren’t focused on doing the work that matters.

Write yourself a contract of employment.  Set out your responsibilities and set your working hours.  Factor in how many days off you will have.  Set yourself targets and what reward you will have for achieving these.

It’s your business on your terms.  But treat it as a business and not a hobby if you truly want a different life than you have now.

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How confident are you in your pricing structure?

How confident are you in your pricing structure?

I’m asking this question, purely from the fact that if you’re not fully confident in your pricing structure and what you’re charging, this will come through when you are talking to potential clients.

And this is whether you feel that your prices are too high, or whether you actually feel they’re too low.

Two examples of this.

Example one – no confidence in pricing structure

Just this week. I found a potential business coach for me, booked a call and the conversation was going quite well.  But then it ultimately came down to pricing.

I suspect that she had looked at my website and my online profile and put me in a category of earning six or seven figures, which, quite frankly I don’t.  And so she quoted me $25,000, per month.

Yeah, you read that right, $25,000.

After nearly falling off my chair and reaching for gin and tonic to take a good hard slug I informed her that this was completely and utterly out of my price bracket. She instantly discounted. And so, I thought I’ll see how far I can push her.

Within, literally one minute, two minutes maximum, she had bought that price down to $500 per month.

Now, what did I think? “Wow, this is fantastic. I can now afford her I’m going to sign up with her.”

No!  In fact, the complete opposite.

I instantly thought if she is discounting by $24,500 in less than two minutes, she’s a fraud. She’s making this up. She’s not confident in her pricing. She has no idea what she’s doing. And she’s certainly not someone that I want to work with.

Example 2 – 100% confidence

On the other hand, many moons ago when I was moving from employment to self-employment, I called a business coach who I really wanted to work with. And yet, yet again, she was out of my price range. I asked her what she could do for a lower finger, and she would not budge.

She knew her worth, she completely stuck by her pricing, she said to me, this is what it is. if you want to work with me. That’s what you’ve got to pay. She wasn’t quite that blunt, but that was the message that crystal clearly came across. What did I do? I found the money, and I went with her.

Do you see the difference? If people really believe in you, they will find the money and they will work with you if you’ve got something they really want. But you must believe in yourself. Instantly going into discount mode screams desperation, it screams you don’t believe in yourself; it screams you don’t really know what you’re doing.

Set your prices, believe in them. And as I mentioned, if your pricing is too low it’s going to come across because you’ll falter when talking, you’ll feel a bit icky inside.  You’ll think, bloody hell, I’m going to be doing all this work and I’m not really going to be charging my worth. It’s not a good feeling and it will come across in your voice.

Go sort your pricing structure out. Be 100% confident that you’re earning what you’re worth, but you’re also not pulling the wool over people’s eyes and just simply trying to rip them off.

Any thoughts? Let me know below.

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How To Deal With A Customer Complaint

How To Deal With A Customer Complaint

The thing we all hate happens. We get a customer complaint. It is inevitable that we will all get an unhappy customer at times but it is how we deal with them that matters.

We have two choices. We can either go on the defensive and potentially make matters worse, or we can use the opportunity to learn and improve our business for the future.

Problems are pregnant with possibilities

Generally, unless there is a fundamental fault with the product or service you are providing (and which you need to acknowledge and fix immediately), complaints arise from a misunderstanding between parties.

It may something as simple as an order arriving on a date that the customer believes is late but you believe is on time.  This will lead to you needing to set out your delivery policy in a more clear way.

It may be you supply a product such as a handbag and a customer complaint is the bag is not as large as shown in the picture.  This leads to more details needed with your images. Put the bag against something for scale in pictures or quote measurements.

But whatever the complaint, most can be resolved if dealt with in the right manner.

I met a client recently who had received a complaint and her reaction was to say ‘how dare he?’ and tell me how she was going to phone him and tell him in no uncertain terms how unhappy she was with him.  I can just about guarantee 100% with this attitude that this customer will never do business with my client again and will more than likely tell friends and family never to deal with her again either.

I sat her down and asked her to put herself in the customer’s shoes.  Something had happened that caused him to be unhappy and less than satisfied.  Finding out what this was and how to avoid the situation again in the future was imperative.  She needed to look upon this complaint as an opportunity to improve her business so that she did not find herself in the same situation again in the future and to help her improve customer satisfaction to retain other clients.

And again, very recently, I had someone who lost their key client. Why? Because he dared to complain about the standard of work and she took umbrage at this and had an argument with him over it. She is now left struggling to replace the income he took elsewhere.

How to deal with a customer complaint

Stay calm

The first thing to do is to stay calm and try not to take the complaint personally.  The complainant is usually dissatisfied with the product or service and not you personally.  Try to distance yourself and your feelings and put things into perspective.  Taking things personally will only lead to an emotional response that is likely to make matters worse.

Acknowledge the complaint

You then need to acknowledge the customer complaint and apologise for how the complainant is feeling.  This is not accepting responsibility but is showing empathy for how the other person feels and letting them know you wish to help.

Get the complaint in writing

Wherever possible, ask for the complaint in writing.  Or if the person is complaining to you verbally, let them know you are going to write everything down so you can ensure you have all the facts and do not forget anything.  This can help as when someone starts to write, they can realise how unreasonable they may be or how they may have overreacted somewhat.  Also, if they are in front of you and angry, they will see that you cannot write as fast as they speak and so will have to slow down, which in return will give them more time to breathe and calm down.

Take time to review

You do not need to give a solution immediately if you do not want to.  You can let them know that you are going to review the complaint, look into what has happened and will get them back to them with a response in a specified timescale.

This both gives the complainant the satisfaction that you have listened and something is being done and also gives you the time to consider what has happened and what you will do to resolve the situation.

Decide upon a solution or response

Now you need to get on and look into the situation and decide what you are going to do.  This will depend entirely upon your business and what the complaint relates to.  It could be a refund, a product replacement or simply an apology and assurance it won’t happen again if relevant.

If however, you find the complaint to be unfounded, be careful with your response.  Be clear that you have investigated the matter, fully understand their frustration but then explain why you feel there is not a complaint to answer.

Respond to the complainant

Do make sure you feedback to the customer within the timescale given or be prepared for the complaint to be escalated upon.

Always stay calm, speak slowly if talking to the customer, and assure them you are taking the complaint seriously as you value their custom.

Even if you cannot come to an amicable solution, they will hopefully appreciate that you have taken the time and trouble to listen and try to do something for them.

Document every customer complaint

Now document everything.  Just in case this complaint does not get resolved and is taken further, or resurrects its ugly head in the future, make sure you have all conversations and facts documented with dates and time.

The exception to the rule

There is always the exception to the rule of course and you may have the misfortune to come across someone who complains just for the fun of it.  This person is just out to cause trouble and the best thing to do is to apologise for the way they are feeling and state that you are not a good fit for each other and therefore it will be best to not deal with each other again.  Do not let these people bully you or get you to cave in to unreasonable demands.

Mary Angelou

Just remember, the customer will not so much remember what you said, but more how you made them feel.  Do your best to leave them feeling you took the time to take them seriously and valued their custom.  You may not do business with them again, but it may a good case of damage limitation as if they know you genuinely cared, they are less likely to bad mouth you to future prospects.

Hopefully, by using this method, any customer complaint you have will be dealt with amicably and gain you a reputation for excellent customer care.

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The Best Advice For A New Entrepreneur Today

The Best Advice For A New Entrepreneur Today

In an online forum that I’m in, the questions was asked ‘What’s the best piece of advice you would give to a new entrepreneur today?’

There were some great answers, so I picked out a few to share with you.

Don’t work without a contract, especially if you know them.

Yes!  This was a hot topic in a recent event that I hosted.  We can tend to work on trust with people we know such as family and friends but this is invariably where things go wrong.  We never know what is around the corner and without a contract, long standing relationships can be torn apart.

Invest in your business. Do not rely on free ANYTHING to grow your business

Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say not rely on free anything, but yes, if you are serious about your business, you are going to need to invest.  If you rely on free everything, it is going to take forever to get where you want to be.

Stay consistent and remember to always take a break when you are feeling overwhelmed

Yep!  Couldn’t agree more.  Consistency and persistency are key.  Too many give up too early after trying a new tactic for a week or so without results.  It takes time to build your visibility and gain relationships. 

And, yes, it is so important to take a break to rest, reflect and recharge, particularly when we are feeling overwhelmed.

Take action sooner. Do not get stuck in a learning loop

How many courses and books have you studied but never fully actioned?  Far too many I suspect.  Don’t fool yourself you are learning more.  There is no point learning anything if you don’t take what you have learned and put it into action.  I’ve read a book how to get a six pack but still don’t have one because I don’t do the exercises!!

Have set time to work your business. It cannot be a hobby.

If you work ad hoc as and when you feel like it, don’t be surprised when you get ad hoc results.  Schedule work time, get disciplined and work!

Never give up. And don’t take anything on board from people who want to steal your dream. Associate with people who have drive and are positive in their attitudes.

Oh, those dream stealers!  They all want to quash your dream because they don’t have the courage to do what you are doing.  They say you will act and become like the 5 people you spend the most time with.  Choose people wisely.

Dream stealers

Schedule your free time first and always be firm about it. — Work will take up as much time as you give it. So, schedule your free time first and then make the space for work around that.

When you’re on your death bed, (sorry to bring morbidity into this) I doubt you will say you wish you had spent more time at work.  Get your priorities right.  Block out time for friends and family and be present with them 100%.  You can always make more money.  You can’t get more time.

Do your accounting and get everything setup correctly from the start!

Cash is king and is the one deciding factor on your business success or failure.  You must get a grip on the finances.  Very simply, you need to know what money is coming in, what is going out and what is left.  Profit determines success.

Be authentically you, don’t fall for the fake stats and trust your gut. You got it…even when you doubt your ability…Keep on Pushing!

Yes, be you.  You are your business.  There is no point trying to be something you’re not as people will see through you as being fake.

You don’t need your website, business cards or a perfect branding strategy before you start. You need to get started and keep showing up.

True!  Yes, a website and branding can help grow your business but to start with, just get out there and start selling.  There is the danger of trying to get everything perfect before launching but this can take far too long and cause you to miss valuable sales.

Every day do a little something to get you closer to your goal.

This is one of my favourites.  If you take just one step each day, you will eventually be guaranteed to complete a marathon.  Trying to do everything can seem overwhelming and so we end up doing nothing.  Focus on one small thing each day and don’t give up.

Do you have something to add?  Leave your comment below.

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