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Growing Business and Customer Service Highlighted at Local Seminars

Alysia Cook of Opportunity Strategies offers advice to business owners and to those in the customer service field.
Cindy Roller
Cooper Review

Two seminars held by the City of Sulphur Springs not only highlighted “how to grow business” but also the importance of customer service.

City of Sulphur Springs Community Development Director Shane Shepard introduced the speaker.

Alysia Cook of Opportunity Strategies presented helpful tips and hints on how to “shake up your business” but this will only work if “you are willing to do something different.”

She advised utilizing social media – as it is not a fad or a trend – plus for the most part it is free.

“Snapchat is the No. 1 business application of 2016,” said Alysia Cook. She listed the various platforms which included: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn, Periscope, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Angie’s List.

Her advice was to pay attention to detail, especially spelling. She stressed the importance of “social proof” adding to the legitimacy of a business. She explained Periscope as a mobile app which incorporates live video streaming with an interactive feature for commenting; however, the replay abilities disappear after 24 hours. It is a new platform that started in March last year. Facebook is trying to stay competitive by also offering Facebook Live feature, look for it coming soon to many pages. She said Facebook is moving into a more business-like, money-making platform.

“This was not true six months ago,” Cook said on Facebook’s changes.   “They are making sponsored posts and ‘pay to play’ more user friendly but at the same time if you opt not to boost a post it will not show up in news feeds as frequently and you will find yourself with less ‘likes.’” This is all a part of marketing. Posting daily is another necessity.

Cook said respond to comments – good, bad and the ugly. Reputation management is the key.

“Word of mouth is 50 times more powerful than any other advertising,” said Cook, who had been doing her homework as a secret shopper and perusing local establishments’ websites and Facebook pages. “You must eliminate the negatives to build the positives.”

She noted business owners should not forget about “employee service.”

“If you treat them [your employees] like gold and in turn they will treat customers like gold,” said Cook, referencing the Ritz Carlton Gold Standard – “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” She offered a site useful in gauging employee’s strength. The tool is www.gallupstrengthcenter.com. The survey does cost money but there are amounts for various budget ranges.

She said greetings are very important leaving lasting impressions. “Thank you. Have a great day. Come back again. Which should be followed by another Thank you, My Pleasure or You’re welcome,” added Cook. “The customer does not want to be dragged down – a smile and friendly greeting is a must. You are always having a good day (even if you are not.)”

Other helpful tips for increasing foot traffic are: hosting an open house, sidewalk sales, cross promotion with another business (like coupons) and college ID specials.

In the second seminar held that evening at City Hall she emphasized customer service.

“There should be eye contact, focus on listening and ask questions,” Cook said on helping customers. “Practice active listening.”

Remembering “The Golden Rule” is one of the easiest ways to make a difference towards a customer. Take responsibility. If there is a mistake made, don’t lay blame, just make it right.

Make a clear division in the business’s mission statement and the vision statement (hopes for the future). Always make sure the employees feel empowered to solve problems. Try to find ways to do something extra and don’t be negative in responses like “that’s against our policy.”

She also reminded it is very important for employees to know “what business is worth.” She cited examples as if an employee parks where a customer parks it can cost a business upwards of $10,000 in sales lost.

“We know that thriving communities don’t just ‘happen.’” said Cook. “Your community and region need a healthy mix of residential, commercial, industrial, and tourism. Too much or too little of any of those hinder communities.”

More information can be found on: OpportunityStrategies.com or by e-mailing her at alysia@opportunitystrategies.com.

The City of Sulphur Springs provided both of these seminars at no cost to the attendees and also provided breakfast and supper for those present. The Community Development department will be following up with local establishments on information Cook provides from her experiences in the City of Sulphur Springs.

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