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Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.
The Biz Question
I have an extensive customer base (to me, anyway) that I need to do follow-up with daily. (I have a weight-loss, herbal health & nutrition business.) So many are sending me referrals lately, that I can't seem to stay on top of the follow-up calls, keep enough inventory in stock, or have things ready to roll out the door when they are here. All of this is taking time that I need to be recruiting in my MLM business. My customers love me, or else they wouldn't be sending all of their friends and family to me, but I'm worried that they'll find someone else who can stay on top of all this! Any suggestions for getting organized? (by the way, I can't see the top of either of my desks, and I haven't pulled the faxes off my machine for over a week!)
Answer from our Guest Expert Donna Hall of The Right Answer, Customer Service Consultants
You're one smart cookie! Unlike many entrepreneurs, you realize that it's time to take action before your working situation is so far gone that even mouth-to-mouth won't bring it back to life. But even though you feel like you're drowning in a sea of paperwork, remember some folks would swallow a gold fish to have half the helping of biz prospects you seem to be scooping up. So before you get completely overwhelmed by the piles on your desk, let's see what you can do to get order restored to your bustling biz.
Get Some Kitchen Help!
After first reading your cyber-message, my first thought was, "This girl needs another set of hands, eyes, ears, and legs!" But since cloning is out of the question just yet, why not delegate and get a little help? Delegating is a wonderful tool for helping you free up your valuable time. It doesn't mean you're unable to do your job well, it simply means you acknowledge that in order to continue satisfying your customers and staying on top of both businesses, you need some assistance.
Do you have a family member, neighbor, or friend you could ask to come help you do a little office cleaning? Perhaps this person could simply get those faxes off the machine and organize them, or perhaps they could organize your shipping records, do labels? Anything to help you get a little more focused.
If it's possible, consider hiring an assistant, part-time, to take care of the busy work while you focus on the recruiting and following up. Eventually, you can train this office helper to assist you in serving your customers and referrals. Once the office work is more under control, you'll have more time to dedicate to satisfying those customers, and satisfying your customers extremely well, is the secret ingredient to any business's success.
Organizing Your Recipes
When it comes to keeping up with customer follow up, you're best bet is to find a good customer database program that will let you code customers and keep track of when you need to follow up with certain customers. Check out the software programs at your favorite computer or office store. Ask other biz owners how they stay on top of following up. Sales people are Terrific sources for this too. Consistent follow up is their bread and butter and many will share their organizing secrets, I'm sure.
To help you out right now, however, here's a homemade follow up organizing tip. First, find a box that will hold 3 by 5 inch recipe cards. Then, cut some regular typing paper up so they're five inches wide like the cards, but slightly taller than the cards, say 3 and a half inches. Cut out 31 of these paper pieces, and in the top, right-hand corner, number them from 1 to 31, this will represent the days of the month. Place these "dated" pieces of paper throughout your box of blank recipe cards.
Now, go through your piles of "need to follow up" notes, and for each one, write down their name, address, phone, fax, email addresses on a blank recipe card. Once you've written this info down on the recipe cards, priortize which card/customers you need to start following up with and insert them behind the appropriate "date" in your box. Some you'll have to do right away; others you can place for later in the month.
The cool thing about this homemade "tickler box" is that whenever you get a new referral or a current customer calls with a request, and you need to remember to follow up with them, you quickly write down their vitals on a recipe card, and any important notes about the referral or customer, and you file it behind the "date" you need to follow up.
The catch is you have to check your tickler file every morning first thing and make the calls for that day. Once you make the calls, jot down any important tidbits from the chat and you'll have a mini-record of your conversations with these guys. I hope this suggestion helps you get your follow ups in order so you don't let anyone down.
Of course, hanging files could be organized the same way as my homemade tickler box, and could be an easy way for you to get your piles of follow up notes coordinated.
Stocking the Pantry
As for keeping your pantry stocked, try to give yourself some breathing room by slowly stockpiling any product or papers you send out consistently. Better to have too much than not enough. In particular, try to keep an extended amount of one or two of your hottest-selling items. This way, you'll always have enough supply for your loyal customers as well as referrals.
Remember if you want to keep those customers rolling in, you have to learn when it's time to get some help and priortize your paperwork. I know it's the less glamourous side of being your own boss, but with no good organization and follow up, those valuble referrals will dry up. God Forbid! Remember customers will keep coming back to a company or business that runs like clockwork, is dependable and consistent, and who is friendly in the process. You're on the right track here, Crystal, your concern is for your customers and the service they expect, as long as you make them your number one priority and meet their needs, you'll be on your way!
Good luck! Donna
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DISCLAIMER: We hope whatever you find on this site is helpful, but be cautioned that it may not apply to your own situation, or be totally current at any given time. Idea Cafe Inc. and all of its current and past experts, sponsors, advertisers, agents, contractors and advisors disclaim all warranties with regard to anything found anywhere on this family of websites, quoted from, or sent from Idea Cafe. and its related sites, publications and companies. We also take no responsibility for comments published by others on these pages.
TRADEMARKS: The following are Registered Trademarks or Servicemarks of DevStart, Inc.: Idea Cafe®, Online Coffee Break®, The Small Business Gathering Place®, Take out Info®, Biz Bar & Grill®, Complaint-O-Meter®, A Fun Approach to Serious Business, CyberSchmooz, and BizCafe.