5 Ways to Turn Incredible Customer Support Into a Profit Center

This post is one in a series of tips for making your small business run better and is sponsored by UPS. UPS is all about logistics — the logistics that makes your business run better and faster

customer support

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Providing customer training and support is costly, but it’s also quite important.

Some organizations view it as a necessary evil while other, more innovative thinking companies, view it as a way to differentiate, up sell and create additional profits.

The key to creating support that generates profit is to create support that’s worth paying for. The way to do this is make it a formal package, think about it like a product and offer it either as a tangible added value or as an à la carte offering.

The Apple Genius Bar is a great example of how to generate profits from support. They sell service packages, offer training programs and even take back and recycle old products when you upgrade.

There are many ways to tap this mindset. Below are just five examples of how to turn extraordinary customer service into a revenue stream.

Live Q and A chats

When someone buys a product or service of any kind you can offer reassurance that they will receive full value from their purchase by implementing regularly scheduled chat sessions where users or customers may ask questions about their purchase and receive help with features or implementations.

Of course this is also something you could offer as a pre-sales education tactic as well as a paid subscription add-on.

There are many tools available that make this tactic somewhat easy to implement. If you are a 37Signals software user you probably already use their integrated chat tool Campfire. There are other tools such as Chatroll that allow you to embed a group chat tool on your website for a simple branded option.

Drop in Fridays

If your customers are primarily local you may want to schedule a time where customers can come in or bring a product in and receive additional advice, specific training or simply a chance to network with other users.

Trade in days

If you sell a product that is upgraded frequently, such as technology, or has you going head to head with competitors, create and promote specific times when customers or prospects can come in and get credit for recycling an old version or upgrading to your product over a competitors.

Be prepared to offer a service that makes it both very attractive and very easy to switch.

This tactic lends itself to hard goods, but certainly software and other process driven services could benefit from this approach as well.

Weekly Hangouts

One of my favorite tools right now is Google+ Hangouts. Using this tool you could easily create video Q and A chats, offer weekly lessons or simply create a series of expert adviser knowledge sharing sessions to benefit your clients.

One of the reasons I really like this tool is that you also broadcast these sessions publicly or password protected and archive them on YouTube to instantly create a library of customer service and training videos.

Online courses

Once someone buys a product or engages you to provide a service you easily establish a relationship of ongoing support through online courses.

The technology to create, manage and deliver content using full-blown membership site tools such as Kajabi or WordPress plugins such as Premise or Wishlist Member makes this approach something that every business should consider as a way to expand offerings and generate a residual stream of revenue.

Most content delivery applications today integrate with leading eCommerce payment systems as well as shopping cart, CRM and email service providers.

The need to provide basic support and training will always be part of the deal, but by creating even greater levels of support, delivering it in new and exciting ways and making is worth paying for is how you grow your profitability in ways that also makes your organization stand out.

The Only Path to Sustainable Growth

This post is one in a series of tips for making your small business run better and is sponsored by UPS. UPS is all about logistics — the logistics that makes your business run better and faster

Sustainable growth comes from doing more of what really creates growth and less of what you get pulled into in the name of growth.

photo credit: swisscan via photopin cc

Your business doesn’t care how you spend your day – only you can determine the most profitable use of the only unrenewable resource available – your time.

But the incredibly tricky part is determining what should and what should not get your attention. There are many things that seem important, feel important, and look important that simply shield you from what is important.

If you are ever going to grow your business beyond what you can contain in the grasp of your outstretched arms, you’ll have to let go of a great deal of what you do to fill each day.

Take a mental trip back over the last few days at your business. Or better yet, create an hour-by-hour time sheet and recount the activities that consumed your day. If you can’t remember what you did, other than the fact that you were busy, start today and jot down notes about the activities you engage in over the span of the next few days.

Now for the fun part. Try to assign a dollar value to the work you did. In other words, what would it cost if you had to pay someone else to do the work. Experience suggests that your list contains plenty of $10, $20 and $30 an hour work.

The problem with this reality is that to make a decent living you need to earn about $125 an hour for every hour you put in.

So, if you are making a decent living from your business then what’s really going on is you are doing a bunch of $10/hr work mixed in with the occasional $500/hr payoff.

I know this is pretty simple math and I also know that all this stuff you’re doing needs to get done. But, it also robs you from doing more of the highest payoff work.

The equation for true growth is pretty darn simple. Do more high payoff work and less low payoff work.

The path to adopting a high payoff mindset is understanding and creating the priorities for your work, defining the highest payoff activities and then letting go and allowing yourself to focus on them.

Define your activities

Sit for a while and sift through everything you do in your business and see if you can highlight the three of four highest payoff activities that you do. You know, the place where make your money. Think about what it would mean to your business if you focused on little else in your business but those activities. It doesn’t mean you know right now how you could free up the time to them, but acknowledging them is the first step.

Every business is different, but generally the highest payoff activities are things that fall into the strategic work in categories such as selling, creating new products and services, and marketing.

Note the word strategic above – mining LinkedIn for leads, proofreading copy for the new service agreement and designing ads all fit into the categories above, but as tasks better handled as low payoff work.

Create your list of three of four activities and lock down your commitment to find a way to focus more time on those activities while delegating or outsourcing everything that frees you to do this.

Get serious about getting free

As you make your to do list today mentally make note of this question and pose it each and everyday. Could I get someone else to do this task?

Once you get serious about this mindset you’ll start seeking ways to get it done. There so many ways to get tasks accomplished by people more proficient and less costly than you that it’s almost a crime not to do it.

Find virtual assistants experienced in proofreading, bookkeeping, social media management, blogging and research and get these things off your plate. Explore project based services like Fiverr and Fancy Hands to do those things you’ve been meaning to get around to.

Create and protect space

The final step in your high payoff transition is to take your priority list and, well, make it a priority. The best way to do this is carve out a day or two each week and make those your “high payoff activity only” days.

That means during those days you map out a plan to work on the highest payoff work and leave the rest alone. No email, no tweaking your website, no meetings – unless these are truly high payoff.

For some, two entire days for this might seem like more than they can afford, so start with two afternoons. The point is if you don’t create a protect time for this, it won’t happen.

What you work on during your high payoff days will change based on what’s going on, but when you identify the priorities you can plan each week with these days and priorities in mind and know that you are growing your highest payoff work space and ultimately growing your business with a high payoff mindset.

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