Using EzPSA Technology for Better Customer Service

Using EzPSA Technology for Better Customer Service
Great customer service is more than just answering the phone or tracking down orders. To really deliver great customer service you need two things: smart informative employees that are well-trained and the right technology to help them deliver exceptional customer service. But what if you could bring your level of customer service up a notch and make it anticipatory customer service that can help your customers by anticipating their unexpressed desires? That is how the Ritz-Carlton explains its top of the line customer service, and you can do it too.

Creating that Emotional Customer Commitment
When you deliver customer service that anticipates your customer needs, you move your company out of the acceptable business experience into the kind of experience that creates real loyalty. It is easy to see why, once you look closely at what they need you to deliver. We aren't talking about spam here but real customer service that understands customer needs and anticipates them for them. Keep in mind that although having the right technology can help you to deliver this exceptional service, it is only part of the equation. Great people and top notch training combine to make this an unbeatable way to keep customers coming back again and again. When your customers see that you anticipate every roadblock for them, they can relax and leave it all in your hands. This is the kind of service anyone would come back for, and you can deliver it with the right mindset and the technology to deliver it. Here are just a few examples.

Delays in Service – The moment it is obvious that something has happened that can delay a service being delivered, a part being shipped or an event taking place as anticipated, let them know. If you offer travel services and a flight is delayed, offer to rebook and give them options. If that order needed to be in time for the holidays and it might not happen, tell them the instant you know.

Keeping Track – Some services happen regularly, such as delivering prescriptions or handling mortgages. If you have a business that has this kind of cyclical service, why not do the basic steps to ensure there are no delays? My Internet provider recently sent a notice they were changing their billing cycle to give customers more time to review the bill, which they send out reminders for via email. They now would send those notices two weeks in advance of billing instead of just a few days before. This is responsive and thoughtful.

Keeping the Human Touch
While using technology, such as your EzPSA system, can be a big part of organizing the information that helps you deliver anticipatory customer service, remember that in the end it always comes down to the human touch. Always give your customer a way to talk to a real live human being when sending out notices of changes or updates. Salespeople sweat blood for human contacts so always give your customer a human alternative to a tech solution when a problem pops up.

Even if you are using your PSA technology to contact them, they should always have the option to talk to a person. We developed our EzPSA system to help business stay in touch with their customers and serve them better. Taking the next logical step and making that customer service become an anticipatory service is just one more way you can use technology to deliver the best service possible and in turn have customers who wouldn't think of doing business with anyone else.

Tips for Marketing A Service Business

Tips for Marketing A Service Business
If you have a small service business, you probably cringe at the idea of finding out the best way for marketing a service business on the web. Like many business owners, the idea of online marketing sounds complicated. But the reality is it isn't if you know where to begin. The tips listed below can help any small businesses, but particularly a service business, to get the edge when it comes to marketing a service business on the web.

Of course, if you have some smart business tools to keep your business organized, you can capitalize on this increased business. That is where using the right professional services automation software or PSA software can really help. Combine smart marketing online with a great PSA to make your service business work smarter instead of harder and you have a formula for success.

Tip #1 – Tell Us Your Services
All too often when I am visiting a service business website I see the same mistake. Their services page may list their services, but never tells me about them. This is the perfect opportunity to both let others know what it is that makes your services the best and a great way to increase your page rank by giving Google more information. It is far easier for people to find you through a search on Google if you devote more space and words to describing what the services are that you have to offer. Making a list just won't cut it. Every major service that deserves a bullet point on your services page also deserves its own page. Just take the time to write 3-500 words about it on a separate page. You would be surprised how many people looking for that particular service will find your page and from there your company. To be compelling each page should have:

  1. A good description of what you offer. This should be at least 300 words long and include any key phrases that someone might use when looking for this service. 
  2. Pictures tell the story so include before and after photos whenever possible. Think about them the next time you are on a client call and take pics as you go. Don't forget to label those photos so that Google knows what they are. 
  3. Include testimonials. Everyone feels more comfortable trusting the word of someone you have actually done business with. Ask your clients at the time of the job if they would be comfortable giving a testimonial on your service. Making a video tape with your phone can be an easy solution, but even if you don't want to use video, always ask.

Tip #2 – Use Social Media
Every business should have its own Facebook page, Google+ page and Twitter account. These three social media accounts alone can create dialogue about your business on the web. If you have a very visual business such as a hairdresser or interior designer, you might want to add Pinterest to the mix.
These days many consumers will look through social media to find out more about a business before contacting them. If they don't see you on it, they may assume you aren't a good risk. Spending a few minutes at the start of each day on these sites can make a huge difference to your Internet profile. You answer email, why not chat on each of these formats each day to let others know your business is out there and looking for new clients?

Tip #3 - Get Listed
While I am not saying to list your business on every business directory on the web, local ones can be a big help. Add to this any directories that are for your industry and you have a quick way to make your company more visible on the web. Not sure where to find local directories? Why not check out Moz Local and let them find local directories for you. The great thing about these is that you do it once and you are finished. Remember, web users can utilize many different ways to find you and you want your business to be seen on all of them.

These are just a few of the ways marketing a service business online can contribute to your bottom line. While having a website is a good start, don't forget to make the best use of what the Internet has to offer to keep your service business relevant in today's modern business climate. Adding in blogs, newsletters and special events can also be smart approaches to marketing a service business that brings in new customers. Just remember, it isn't brain surgery and plenty of smart service businesses like yours have benefited from these new marketing tools. You can too.

Managed Service Agreements – Why Your Customers Need Them

Managed Service Agreements – Why Your Customers Need Them
While you may think that managed service agreements are small potatoes when compared to the larger projects you take on such as upgrades and moves, these steady incremental agreements have value. For one thing, when you offer your small and medium business (SMB) customers the ability to control costs with a managed service agreement (MSA), you are helping them to control the bottom line. But the biggest reason your business should consider expanding into the role of managed service provider (MSP) is the ability of the agreement to keep your competitors out of your own backyard. This is why when it comes to creating and pricing, you need to think about all the reasons both you and your client will benefit from a managed service agreement.

Know Your Competition
These days it isn't just other IT service companies that you will be competing against for your customer's money. When it comes to offering managed services, everyone from their office supply company to the manufacturer of their computers is eyeing the option of including the role of MSP. As your clients grow, they will want to streamline their processes by reducing the number of vendors they have. You want to be sure that when they do, you are on the short list of who they continue to do business with, not who they intend to drop.

Why Your Clients Need a Managed Service Agreement
If you have SMB clients who are strained to cover all their IT bases, they are the perfect company for offering an MSA. You can take on their day-to-day IT operations, freeing their staff to focus on key goals such as the roll-out of new projects. This allows you to put out the fires that tend to come up with any SMB while they work on building their business. The kinds of services you should be offering include:

  • Networking Services 
  • Security Services 
  • Storage and Disaster Recovery 
  • Email 
  • Web Hosting 

Identifying the crucial services that each particular client needs will be your most valuable tool in selling this service to them. You know your clients, and that means you know their strengths and weaknesses too. With over half of the companies surveyed saying that they chose their MSP because of either the service they offered or the fact that they already had a relationship with the company that they trusted and valued, you have won half the battle if you consider these factors as you put together your proposal.

Creating the Proposal
While it will be tempting to give each client a proposal that is tailored exactly to their needs, it may not be the best approach. Most MSPs offer a flat fee service. You will need to decide how often you want to bill them (annually, quarterly or monthly) and exactly what is and isn't covered in the agreement. Flat fees are easier to manage, especially if you plan to ramp up your offerings. However, they require careful consideration regarding how many devices are supported and exactly which services the customer will need to have included. Keep in mind if offering flat fee services just how much service this customer tends to need. Underestimating the service hours can erode your profit quickly.

Your EzPSA Software and MSP Agreements
The core of the information you will use to provide a clear picture of what your customer needs for their MSP agreement will come from your own records in the EzPSA software. Here you can pull a clear picture of the size of the business, the devices that will need to be serviced and a history of how this particular company is growing. It will help you to pinpoint problem areas for them and address them in your proposal. If you already offer your clients IT services, then this will be a great tool for creating an interactive proposal that takes their needs well into consideration. But even if you use your EzPSA software for a non-IT service business, you can pull client records, get the big picture of growth and problem areas and create a proposal that will allow you to address your client needs.

Building a new MSP business may sound intimidating. Truth is you have the tools and knowledge right now to take on this new profit center for your company. Taking the time to gain an understanding of what a client expects from a managed service agreement, and talking to others, who are already doing so, will help. In the end you will find you are servicing your clients more proactively and helping them to become more successful.
Isn't that truly what we want for all of our clients?

Tips to Get More Clients for Your Service Business

Tips to Get More Clients for Your Service Business
In the service industry, like every small business, finding out how to get more clients and keep them is a top priority. But how to do it with a small or non-existent staff is the question. The truth of the matter is that in this situation size doesn't count half as much as smarts. But then every great service business knows getting more clients comes from giving great service. The key to this is to commit from the beginning to providing outstanding service and using both your ties to the community and your knowledge of technology to serve your customer base better. You do those things, and you have a head start. Want to know the details? Here are a handful of tips to help you get more clients for your IT service business or any service business, no matter what the size of your company.

Tip#1 – Talk it Up
You love what you are doing, let people know. Make sure you tell at least three people every day about your business and what you do. Get out from that computer and grab a coffee at the local coffee shop. Find out where prospective customers hang out and go there; network where they network. Hand out cards, talk about the services you offer, let the folks you meet know you are the kind of pro-active service provider they would love to have. Don't wait for customers to come to you, get out there and toot your own horn.

Tip #2 – Speak Up on Social Networks
If you are savvy about the net, you know that social networks are the best place online to talk up what you do. But do you just post updates or are you truly active? Find social network sites that speak to your passions in your business and then join the conversation. Lurkers don't get points for listening; you have to let others know about what you have to offer. Be a valuable part of your social network by offering good advice, helping others and answering questions. Above all, be consistent because sporadic comments don't help your reputation.

Tip #3 – Follow up on these Conversations
It doesn't help your cause if you meet people, give then advice, get a nibble of interest and then do nothing to follow up on it. One of the worst sins that many entrepreneurs do is network and then never follow-up. It's a waste of your time and your potential client's time. Don't say you are too busy, make time to follow-up on every card, response and email you get, and do it in a timely manner. This shows you are just as serious about what you do as they are about what they need. Never "leave money on the table" from opportunities lost.

Tip #4 – Use Your Website
Your website is not just a giant business card; it is an interactive representation of you and your business. When potential customers come by your site, what do you have to offer them? There should be a no-strings-attached download to build trust and an opt-in offer such as a newsletter to convert them to a customer. They are there to solve a problem, do you have a solution? Show them by the content of your site that you are familiar with their problems and are the one to solve it. You worked hard at that event or on that social network to get them to your site, make it worth their while.

Tip #5 – Make Customer Service Responsive
All of this doesn't help if you don't have someone at the other end of the phone who can help turn that potential client into a paying one. This is where having a great customer service desk and the right software to manage it counts. The right software means that everyone on your service desk has all the tools they need to give your customers and potential customers what they need, when they need it. Make sure that your customer service people care about your product because if they don't neither will the callers. Find those people who are passionate about what you do and they will ensure that your customers will sing their praises. If you have an auto response system, make reaching a human being the first option to accommodate those customers who need to talk first. It all adds up to making the best use of your resources, human and otherwise, to service the customer's needs.

Great Tech and People Get More Clients
In the end, as you can see, it isn't just the great technology you use and offer or the people. Just as you would expect, it is the combination of passion, smarts and great technology that will help your company to get more clients that want your services. In the service business, people are our first priority. Reaching out and helping those in our community, wherever that community is, can be a great first step to not only getting more clients but also to keeping them.

Planning Your Business for the Holidays

Planning Your Business for the Holidays
With the season around the corner, now is the time to anticipate holiday chaos, plan for staff time off and learn to handle customers panicking because they are overloaded. Do you know how your clients will reach out to their customers at this time of year? Have you thought about what they need to know to be prepared? Making sure you are staffed up and employees can anticipate the kinds of tech problems clients may encounter is one step in the right direction. Here are some ideas on how to plan for the best way to manage your customers and your own staff so you are not only prepared but able to keep your cool.

Get Informed and Stay Connected
According to the latest polls, 8 out of 10 small businesses are optimistic about the upcoming holiday sales. But to help keep them that way remember that even if your business doesn't revolve around holiday shopping sprees, your clients might. Have you discussed with them where the key tipping points are in their technology and how you can help them keep everything humming?

More companies these days are using technology to leverage that good shopping experience for their customers. That means that you, as their IT and technology guru, need to be able to offer pro-active services to help them keep their customers happy. As more people shop online for holiday gift buying, your small business clients are counting on your technology expertise to help them stay on top.

Find A Balance Between Life and Work
This is the time of year many staff will feel stressed. Work may be cranking up a notch, but so is the home front. In fact, this is the one time of the year when you may find that your most reliable workers are not quite as focused because of family events. By recognizing this early on and scheduling so everyone has time for both aspects of life, you will lower stress and increase productivity. Helping you and your staff find the balance between the needs of the office and the call of the family holidays may in the end give them the best of both worlds. And you will spend less on coffee and aspirin this holiday.

Shore Up Your Supply Chain
This is an excellent time to reconnect with all your vendors. If you have a sudden rush, can they handle it? The bottleneck in your business might be that vendor who just can't handle big orders or is not flexible enough to make sudden changes. The holidays are always a time when your clients will make demands because they are getting them from their own customers. Do you have the kind of relationship with your staff and vendors that can take the heat and keep on producing?

Test Drive Those Websites
If you are a website developer, make sure to do a quick check of your client sites before the holiday rush hits. This can include your own site, since your customers will be hitting it at lightning speed when they suddenly find that demand exceeds ability on their shopping cart software or coupon download app. If you are prepared for glitches in the system, you can bring that response time down when those panicked customers call.

Reward Your Top Clients and Employees
In the midst of all this preparation don't forget to give recognition to the season. Now is the perfect time to reach out to your clients with small tokens of appreciation. The same goes for your employees. Has someone gone above and beyond the call of duty? Do you have a client who has shown endless patience even when things don't work right the first time? Here at EzPSA we have noticed that when you let your clients and employees know they are appreciated, it has never been a bad decision. So make this holiday season a great one. Share the joy with those around you and keep the stress down with some careful planning today.

How to Keep IT Service Contracts Simple

How to Keep IT Service Contracts Simple
Most businesses, especially IT service or other related service businesses use contracts to define the relationships they have with their clients. It can be intimidating for any small business owner to find they are responsible for creating a contract for their business, but it doesn't have to be. The best contracts for an IT service business or any other service business is one that doesn't contain a lot of legalise in it and is easy for both parties to understand. You don't have to fill your contract with mind-numbing legal language for it to be binding; you simply have to have two basic elements in it:
1. All parties must be in agreement. Generally this means that one party has made an offer and the other has accepted the offer.
2. Something has been exchanged that is of value. This can be cash, services or goods and it can include an offer to exchange these items in the future as well. Both what has been offered initially and what is offered in exchange must be noted by both parties to have value.

Get It In Writing
While most business people will stand by this rule, your agreement doesn't have to be written to be legal. But you will need to check on what the standing rule is for your region before making that decision. This is why whenever you are dealing with business matters, getting the agreement in writing is always the smartest move. But know that even if you have a handshake deal, most courts of law will still see that as legally binding if you can prove there was an expectation that the deal was sealed by both parties. But the bottom line remains that when in doubt get it in writing.

The Basic Steps
So how do you even start putting a contract together? While it may sound intimidating, it is really very easy to do if you follow these five basic steps:
1. Clarifying the Offer – Be sure that you are clear what the initial offer is. Someone stating they would like to do business with you is nice, but someone saying they have a budget of $100 a month for your services and they are willing to pay it is a more clearly defined offer. Don't be shy to ask them to clarify what they want to do first.
2. Accepting the Offer – Once you know for sure an offer has been made, be clear about your own acceptance of it. If that prospective client is clear they want to hire you to take care of their IT needs for $100 a month, contact them accepting the offer. This leads us to the next step.
3. Defining the Details – Make sure both parties know and understand what this agreement covers. This is the area many smaller businesses fail to do. Talk over the details first, and then follow up with a letter of proposal. In the letter accepting their offer, clearly outline what the project will include and most of all what it will not include. Say it simply in clear language.
4. Documenting the Agreement – The best way to ensure you both are happy is to define the agreement clearly in a written document. Give the contract a name, clearly state the names of each party involved and clearly state what the responsibilities of each party will be. This should be based upon your letter of agreement or phone conversations. Include all terms and conditions and don't forget to date it.
5. Signing and Notarizing the Deal – Once all the details have been agreed upon, print up two copies of the document and have both of you sign it, preferably in front of a notary to legally witness the document. Banks are often a good place to find a local notary for this.

Keeping Your Contract Simple
The bottom line is that while you should have what you agree to do in writing, it doesn't have to be complicated. Most agreements can be written up with a simple conversation to clarify the details, a phone call to confirm everything and then write it up and sign it. Whether creating an agreement to provide one time service or an on-going maintenance contract, keeping the language simple and outlining everything it includes will make the contract easy for everyone to understand and follow.

Great Management Books for Better IT Managers

Great Management Books for Better IT Managers
Great IT managers are made, not born. Great management books are much the same. Like just about anything in life, it always helps if you can get some good advice from others. This includes the best approach to some important things in life, such as managing your IT business or department. I am sure that some days it feels a lot like herding cats, while other days you would swear that everyone in your area is on the same wavelength. While we all can't have our own private guru to show us the way, there are some really great books out there that can help.

Not every book will work for you, and some will make you want to throw them across the room. But I have found that just about every one of these books has some little gem I can apply to my situation. The trick is to be open to what they are bringing you, and think about your own department or business when reading them. I listen to these as audio books while in the car. I have a friend who plays them while doing housework on weekends. I know several people who simply make it a habit to read one of these books for an hour each night before turning out the light to sleep. However you find the time, I really strongly suggest you find it to read at least a few of these books. I have rated them out of a total value of ten to give you an idea of how important I found them for my business.

The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spenser Johnson - 10 out of 10
I would consider this to be my book of the year and it is about 30 years old. It has sold 13 million copies and been translated into 37 languages, to simply show you how influential this book has become. It is a quick read, and focuses on three simple techniques every manager should know: the one minute goal, the one minute praising and the one minute reprimand. If you manage staff and are a technical binary type person, this is compulsory reading.

High Tech, High Touch, Customer Service by Micah Solomon – 10 out 10
These days, especially in the tech world, customer service is what separates the men from the boys. If you think you can do it without engaging digital media for you and your customers, you need to read this book. The point that Solomon makes is that while not every business needs to use social media, if you don't use it be prepared for social media to use you. This was another of my favorites as I really appreciate and happily pay extra for great customer service. If you serve customers you should read this one.

EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches by Dave Ramsey - 10 out 10
A long time advocate of business intelligence and a leading voice for financial sense, Ramsey has written a book that looks at the best approach to leading a company. It is something he knows plenty about. It covers everything from practical advice to making hard decisions and more. Dave Ramsey is so inspiring and this was another of my favorites.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh - 10 out of 10
The CEO of Zappos, a legendary online shoe company with tremendous reputation for amazing customer service shares his story. He tells how he created a corporate culture with a commitment to service that aims to improve the lives of its backers, employees, customers and vendors. If you are passionate about customer service this is a great book.

Eat that Frog by Brian Tracey - 10 out of 10
This has become a classic book for just about anyone, but especially if you deal in management issues. I have read some of Brian Tracey's other books but this was a standout. The main takeaway? Learn how to stop procrastinating and eat that frog.

Our Iceberg is Melting by John Kotter - 9 out of 10 This book is a great one for anyone who knows and understands the difficulty of change. We are right now living in a time of great change, but finding ways to recognize that and make changes in our business lives can be a huge challenge. Kotter uses a parable about Antarctic penguins to illustrate the eight steps any organization needs to use to implement change successfully.

The Trusted Advisor by David H. Maister, Charles H. Green, and Robert M. Galford - 8 out of 10
More than business skills and knowledge, to be successful in business today you must earn the trust of your clients. That is the groundwork for this very readable book. I had this in paperback for a couple of years and it is a classic. This is especially true if you are an MSP since our job is to become the client's trusted advisor and not the computer guy.

Getting Things Done by David Allen - 8 out of 10
A great time management book, I have found that many people are obsessed with this book. I enjoyed it and will read again. Maybe overrated but is one of those books you just have to read.

Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne – 7 out of 10
A very popular book when it first came out in 2005, it still has some innovative ways to look at competition. The authors are both directors of the Blue Ocean Institute and the book is based on their study of 150 strategies over the last 100 years. When companies create "blue oceans" of uncontested markets they gain value and open up new demands.

Finally, a word about Seth Godin – 
Seth has done a number of books that are worth checking out. He is not just one of the leading experts of marketing he also has a great voice and his audio books are very inspiring listening. You always find great nuggets of information in all his books. Among the best ones, in my opinion are The Icarus Deception, Purple Cow, All Markets Are Liars, Poke the Box and Tribes (my favorite).