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 savy 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).

Get New Customers - Tips for Using the Internet

Get New Customers - Tips for Using the Internet
While there are tons of ways to get new customers, from putting up giant billboards to late night infomercials, using the net is one of the best in today's business world. If you are in a service industry, especially a hi-tech one such as IT Service, your customers are already looking for you on the web. These days when someone needs a specific service, the first place they will look is the internet. That is why for today's modern businesses it is the best place to get new customers. Here are a few ideas of how to increase your reach.

Update Your Website
Does your website look like a refugee from the 90s? Too many small businesses get a simple website done and then ignore it. But the web constantly goes through changes, and more importantly Google is always updating the rules on how a search will find a website. Investing in keeping your website up to date, especially when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

When a potential client comes to your site, they need to see up-to-date relevant information. Over time the software to make certain parts of your website work will not function, so visitors will click on a tab or button and nothing will happen except that potential client will go away. Your website is your most important tool for finding new customers; don't fritter that opportunity away with a badly designed out of date website. Don't forget to make your web site personal you don't have to be a model just a real person.

Share Your Knowledge with Newsletters
This is one of the best ways to stay in touch with old clients and get new customers by showing off your expertise. You start with the customers you have now, add a button to your website so they can sign up and then keep adding new names. The beauty of today's electronic newsletters is that it doesn't matter how many you send out, the cost remains simply the time spent on the newsletter itself.

Show off a new product, impart your insight into the industry and ask local experts to share their knowledge too. Salespeople are great resources, vendors are often happy to contribute and there are even websites that specialize in providing articles such as articlebiz.com or dmoz.org. Newsletters keep your brand in front of current customers and potential new clients. Not sure how to start one up? Check out our previous post on MailChimp for some easy instructions and links to the site.

Get New Clients with Blogging
For many small businesses blogging is a mystery. What began as a simple online diary has become one of the hottest ways to stay connected and bring in new potential clients. In fact, e-Strategy Trends latest survey showed that 95% of small businesses view blogging as an effective marketing tool. But if you want to get new customers with a blog, you have to first consider what they need to know.

Most blogs reflect the personality of the business. Lawyer blogs generally talk in serious tones about legal issues. Retail blogs can be funny or sassy, depending on the owner. If you are blogging as a service industry, you probably want to talk about the service you are providing. Adding a blog to your website is easy; you probably already have the capability since the vast majority of small business sites use WordPress, a website platform designed for blogging. Google loves blogs that reflect a real person's views, so write about what you know and love, and let new readers find you and your blog.

Connect in New Ways with Social Media
Unless you have been living under a rock the last few years, you probably know that social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ have become the way more and more people make buying decisions. These days, social media recommendations are the new networking. A recent Techi.com survey showed that over 50% of social media users below the age of 35 go to their online friends for product and service recommendations.

In addition, almost three quarters of those surveyed say they go online to chat boards to find out the reputation of a company before buying from them. If you aren't talking up your service and products with social media, your competitor certainly is. Find new customers and stay visible with current ones through Facebook pages, Twitter tweets and updates on your Google+ account. It takes only minutes each day and keeps you on those smartphones everyone is watching by the minute.

Making Complex Simple
 In the same way that your EzPSA dashboard helps you to keep those complex client issues simple, a dashboard for social media can help you to organize your online marketing. One of the more successful companies providing this service is HootSuite, a Canadian start-up that helps you organize your social media. It also tells you what people on those sites are saying about your company so you can resolve issues quickly.
The internet, particularly social media, has grown quickly into a whole new way for businesses big and small to get new customers and keep the current ones happy. While it can be intimidating for anyone who has never used it before, the internet can open up new doors and opportunities that could grow your business in ways you may have never conceived. It's a brave new world, and the internet is one of the best ways to explore it.

Marketing Your Service Business - Using Mailchimp

Marketing Your Service Business - Using Mailchimp
Like many other folks with a service business, you are probably too busy taking care of your customers to have any spare time to market your business. Life is busy, work is busy and while it would be great to expand your customer base, who has the time? Not that you would object. You actually might have some ideas in the back of your mind about where those potential new clients might be. While you may know your own business, whether it is supplying IT solutions, cutting hair or walking dogs, how to market it is another question entirely. But MailChimp makes it easy.

But I Have a Website – Isn't That Enough?
Most companies these days, no matter what the size or service, have a website. If you don't, well that would be another blog on another day. But even if you do have a website, that isn't the end of the story. Your website is your online handshake. It introduces you to that potential client, but you can't have a relationship with them. To do that you need a conversation and that conversation is called marketing. I have always found that some kind of regular topic of conversation helps to keep that ball rolling, and that is why I have used Mailchimp to create newsletters and other ongoing mailings to keep those conversation balls in the air.

Smart Informative MailChimp Email
So how easy is it to use MailChimp to reach out and stay connected? Truth is, it is much easier than you think. If you have a list of email addresses of old and potential clients, and a product or service worth shouting about, you are ready to use MailChimp. You can send out to a maximum of 2,000 subscribers on the free platform, with a limit of 12,000 emails a month. This platform doesn't let you use auto responders, but you can find other software that does that. It is worth it as a cost-free way to get your mailing campaign off the ground.

Once you have set up your account with them, you are ready to go. Just be sure to note that you need to have a physical address with MailChimp and this address will appear on the footer to comply with anti-spam laws. They have easy to follow instructions on setting up that initial mailing list and how to do it in a way so instead of being treated as spam, you are treated as information that person wants to see and read. You can choose the type of campaign you want to do from a list. This can be:


  • An email campaign 
  • A campaign that sends out your latest blog post 
  • A newsletter type that mixes pictures and words 

What you do will drive how you do it. But how do you know if you are reaching your intended audience?

Looking Good Was Never So Easy
Of course, you want your email to look professional. MailChimp offers templates for your emails and you can choose from the wide array they offer, make your own or even use one you made for another campaign. This will mean your emails look familiar, have a smart professional look and take you less time to create. We will have some tips and tricks for you as well in this blog, so watch for those! Once your template is done you use their checklist to make sure everything is how it needs to be for a successful campaign.

Reporting for Duty Sir!
You can decide at the time of the campaign if you want reports that tell you things like who answers your email, who deletes it without opening and who clicks on the links in it. You can even create goals for a mailing, such as a certain percentage opening the email, and see how your campaign is tracking against that goal. It makes keeping track of what works and what doesn't much easier.

Schedule and Go
One of the great features is that you can create this email and then schedule it to send at an optimum time. Want to remind your regular customers of an upcoming change in software? Create the mailing and schedule for the date they need to see this. It means you can plan in advance, control the flow of information and never be behind in your announcements, sales events or updates.

Get Started Now
So are you ready to start your own campaign? Check out all the videos and tutorials that they have on the site to help you get started. Start with something simple, like an announcement, and build from there. With this quick and easy tool you can make the full use of the internet to reach out to old customers, stay in touch with current ones and find and bring into the fold those potential new ones. It is as easy as writing an email, just so much more effective.

How to Get and Keep Great Customer Service Staff

How to Get and Keep Great Customer Service Staff
While every business struggles with finding the right staff, for IT service companies, their customer service staff are worth gold. If you have someone in your customer service staff that seems to always know how to make your customers feel comfortable and cared for, then you have someone who will grow your company right alongside you. This is especially true if they understand how important they are to you and the business. But how do you find these great people, and keep them once you find them? Here are a few ideas on how to find that staff person, particularly that great customer service staff, and ensure they stay.

It's Isn't All About Money
While offering a very competitive salary may be one element, there are plenty of stories about great staff members who stick with lower paying jobs for other reasons. It may be the benefits, it may be the opportunities to learn and grow or even that their boss truly values them. If you have someone on staff now that you know is your star, let them know. Smart employees like a challenge, enjoy taking on more responsibility and appreciate getting recognition for a job well done.

Connect with Your Staff
Sometimes being the owner or manager of an IT service business can leave little time for interacting with the customer service staff. But if you hire them and then walk away, they won't stay long. Being a good listener, letting them know your door is always open, and always attacking the problems they bring you head on will let them know you care and are part of the solution. If you are fair with both compliments and criticisms, they will be the same with your customers.

Watch the Workloads
All too often the brightest staff members are also the ones that take on the majority of the work. Be aware if your star customer service staff member is taking on more than they can handle. Don't wait until they burn out. Sometimes that may mean bringing in a temporary worker until they are caught up, or reassessing the work. Just because they are willing to take it on doesn't mean they will continue to do so. Also, always reward the extra work by recognizing it in some way.

Digging for Treasure
Even if you aren't hiring right now, you should be aware of at least ten people who would make great additions to your team. Get great service at the local store? IT can be learned, but great customer service is an innate sense of being. You may be surprised where your next hire comes from, so always be on the lookout for that next great customer service staff possibility. In the end when it is time to hire, you want to have at least 20 people who will interview for that position. Keep in mind that social media is just as powerful a tool for finding great people as that ad in the local paper. And don't forget that these days customer service can be administered remotely, so your next hire may not even live in your country!

EzPSA and Customer Service Staff
Of course, it always helps if you give that customer service staff the best tools for the job. When you add smart customer support to intuitive tools like our dashboard, you get the best customer service for your clients. This is why we feel that keeping all your staff up to date on the latest training videos for our EzPSA software will help you to have the best customer service staff. We are always happy to answer questions and help you to get the most out of our software. Contact us today and find out how our EzPSA software can help your customer service staff.