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Simple Rules for Stellar Customer Service Which You Should Always Apply

simple-rules-for-stellar-customer-service-which-you-should-always-applyGreat customer service is at the core of every successful business. After all, it’s not like you’re alone out there – there are many companies selling similar products and services. Some are successful, others are not. Setting aside low quality products, what makes the difference between a company with lots of loyal customers and a company which barely survives on the market is the way in which they treat their clients.

Customer service is not something reserved for brick-and-mortar stores and large companies, but to home based businesses, as well. In fact, small business owners should strive even harder than other companies to provide stellar customer service, in compensation for their smaller marketing budgets, loyalty programs, and advertising.

Today we will talk about the most basic rules of customer service, which you should use in every aspect of dealing with your prospects and clients:

1. Listen to Your Customers
In every kind of communication, the golden rule is that it should be a two-way process. Social media and email interactions are not an endless monologue where you tell people how great your products are and how well you treat your customers. You have to keep your attention focused on what they are actually saying to you. Maybe they are not sold on your claims, and you will have to prove them. Maybe they have questions, and you have to answer them. Maybe the entire trend of the discussion is moving in an unexpected direction, and you need to adapt your communications to this new angle.

2. Do Not Make Promises You Cannot Keep

Small businesses keep their eyes on their competition just as closely as large corporations. When they see that their competitor offers something extra or different, they use this insight to up the ante and deliver something better. That is absolutely no problem if you can deliver on your promises. But remember that the principle “fake it until you make it” does not work when you deal with customer service. You need to be in a position to give your customers what you promise them, or their faith in you will waver. Either put your actions where your words are, or don’t attempt to mislead people with false promises.

The online world is an unforgiving jungle, where false promises are kept, reshared, and commented on forever, ruining your reputation beyond repair.

3. Be Helpful, Even If It Doesn’t Bring You an Immediate Profit

When people ask questions, even if they are not directly related to a potential sale, take the time to answer them, and be helpful. This is the simplest and most direct way of building trust with your prospects and encouraging them to become clients. On many occasions, you will find that people who ask you unrelated questions on social media come back later on and make a purchase. Faced with various options, they will pick the business who took the time to help them without expecting an immediate profit out of that interaction.

4. Go The Extra Mile in Supplying Your Products and Services

It is simple to deliver basic services such as computer troubleshooting. What makes the difference between any IT specialist out there and successful freelancers and home based business owners is a small how-to guide enclosed with a Thank You message. This is helpful in that it empowers people to keep their computers safe from viruses, as well as being very unique and thoughtful. This is not an expensive extra to prepare and offer, but it will mean a lot to your customers and keep them loyal to your business.

5. Deal with Complaints

Complaints are the part of doing business which no one wants to deal with. But you have to, quite simply, if you want to keep your customers, and generate new ones. Just take a look at the storm of angry tweets when any given company makes a mistake. They can still be viewed years after the unfortunate event. Likewise, you can also see how the company dealt with them. Be honest: if you saw no response to a large number of complaints in the past, would you do business with that company now? Probably not. The same judgment is applied to your own home based business as well. Be proactive – deal with your complaints as quickly and as humbly as possible.

Most of these rules pertain to basic common sense. You are probably applying them already. But it is always good to go over this sort of thing, once in a while, and find ways in which you can improve the manner you deal with your customers.

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What Home Based Business Owners Need to Know for a Comfortable Retirement

what-home-based-business-owners-need-to-know-for-a-comfortable-retirementHome-based business owners have their work cut for themselves on a day-to-day basis. There are so many things they need to plan ahead and adapt on the go, which it is understandable when they forget about planning for one all-important aspect of their lives: retirement.

Yes, no matter how passionate you are about running your business, there comes a day when you will want to stop working, enjoy your golden years and be financially secure. However, if you do not start planning ahead of time and saving up, you may be forced to keep working, just to make ends meet. This is not a pleasant prospect, so today we will discuss about how to prepare for retirement.

As an entrepreneur, you cannot count on a retirement plan the way employees can. You need to learn how to save and invest money, how to protect your retirement fund from any kind of claims, and how to be consistent in your savings. When it comes to retirement, there is one simple rule: the sooner you start saving, the better off you will be when you decide to retire.

Here are a few ideas to help you start planning for your retirement:

1. Understand Your Future Financial Needs

In traditional retirement planning, there is the golden statement that 70% to 80% of your monthly earnings during your active years are sufficient as retirement income. However, this rule is not always applicable to entrepreneurs. There are good months and bad months. There are months when you make a decent profit, and months when you barely break even.

You need to learn how to estimate your future needs, based on your spending habits and your revenues. There are various online calculators available, such as the T. Rowe Price, the Motley Fool, or the FireCalc. These applications show you an estimate of how much money you will need upon retirement, or how adequate your savings plan is, compared to your financial needs, after retirement.

2. Take Advantage of All Tax Reliefs

One way of saving money and running your business successfully is always being aware of what and how much you can deduct on your tax return. Retirement savings are deductible, and it is up to you to learn the statutory levels applicable in your state, and for your marital status.

3. Try to Grow Your Business. It Is Good for Your Retirement

The bigger the business, the greater its credit and the more advantageous the terms of retirement savings plan, offered by various institutions. This is one golden rule for everyone running a business. There is a vast difference between applying for a savings plan as sole proprietor, and as the owner of an LLC with a number of employees. Group plans are always more flexible and advantageous in terms of initial set-up and ongoing fees. Plus, if you offer a retirement plan in your package of benefits, you stand greater chances of recruiting talented and experienced people who will help you grow a successful company. It is a win-win situation for everyone involved.

4. Consider Your Exit Strategy

In terms of planning for retirement, a critical consideration is how you plan to part with your business. Will you hand it down to a family member to continue running it? Will you sell it, or your participation in it? Or will you liquidate the company? It is important to discuss these options with a qualified financial advisor, because your choice will impact your future finances, tremendously.

5. Sign-Up for an Adequate Retirement Plan

There are various retirement plans available for home-based and small business owners. The most frequently used are the Simple-IRA, the 401(k) plan, and the Keogh profit-sharing plans. Depending on your circumstances, one may be more adequate than the other. A financial advisor will be able to explain the differences, benefits and drawbacks of each plan, and help you select the best one for you.

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How to Start a Local Tour Guide Business From Home

how-to-start-a-local-tour-guide-business-from-homeToday we will discuss one of the most exciting ideas for a home-based business: becoming a local tour guide. If you love the outdoors, are proud of your local community, the sights, the local customs and historical monuments, and want to make a real contribution to your neighborhood or city being a local tour guide is the ideal business idea for you.

How Do You Become a Tour Guide?

There needs to be a meeting between your own enthusiasm and curiosity to discover attractive places which tourists would pay to see. This should include some specialized courses and a dash of your own business acumen, as well. The most important part is your own excitement to promote your local area and community to tourists, and to be persuasive in your presentation.  And, of course, you’ll need to be good at talking to people, showing them around and giving them explanations.

The most successful local tour guides are those who grew up in a specific area and know all its ins and outs from their own childhood. But do not despair if you have just moved with your family a couple of months or years before starting. As you plan for opening a business, you can use your free time driving around, inspecting various local tourism websites and discovering areas which you could include in your tours.

Considering you are now familiar with the area you wish to promote as a tour guide, here are the basic steps you should follow to open and successfully run your home-based tour business:

1. Incorporate Your Business

One of the things we suppose is self-evident is that you’ll need to run a legally incorporated business, be it a sole proprietorship, LLC or S-Corp. Before you contact your first customer and earn your first fee, you should be registered for tax purposes with the IRS. Since the field of home based businesses is so wide, many people do not consider their operation to be a “true” business. However, if you make money from it, it is a business, and it must be registered. Otherwise you might fall afoul with the taxman.

2. Pass a Tour Guide Certification Test

As a tour guide, you must prove you possess a few basic skills needed in your work, such as reading a map, using a compass, giving first aid in case of emergency, and so on. Also, you will have to prove solid knowledge of the local history, architecture and landscape of your area.

The certification must be given by an institution approved by your local tourism authority, making them the best place to go and choose where you will write this test.

3. Decide How You Want to Offer Your Services

As a local tour guide, you could offer your services to different travel agencies, or try to seek out customers on your own, negotiating directly with them. Here are a few things you need to know about both of these possibilities:

Working With Travel Agencies

As an independent contractor for travel agencies, you will receive a fee for your services. They will send clients to you and you will probably have to follow a set of rules imposed by the agencies in dealing with tourists. This is a good option if you do not want to deal with the aspect of finding clients by yourself, but your revenue will be limited to the commission you are paid by the agency.

Working On Your Own

This option will offer you greater opportunities to earn money, because you will negotiate directly with tourists, receiving the full price for your services. If you worry about being able to compete with large travel agencies, we are pleased to tell you that there are lots of websites and apps where you can connect directly with tourists, looking to avoid dealing with travel agencies. They want local tour guides, and that makes you a strong candidate for their business. Some of the more popular resources are:

⦁ Shiroube
⦁ Vayable
⦁ ToursByLocals
⦁ Rent a Local Friend

Once you have created your profile on one (or all) of these websites, it is up to you to make the most attractive presentation possible of your local area. Do the same for your skills as a guide, and start bringing customers. Good luck!

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