Is Customer Service Dead?

You can get your groceries delivered to your door with the click of a button. You can shop hundreds of styles of clothes in less than a minute. You can connect with your friend visiting a town on the other side of the globe in an instant. All of this is possible behind a screen. With that, actual physical interaction with someone is slipping away. With the limited physical touches and conversations going on – has customer service taken a hit? When’s the last time a company went above and beyond for you?

The art of customer service

“Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”
– Walt Disney

Funny how one of the most valued commodities – if not the most – nowadays is time. You do whatever you can to save nanoseconds. You’d think businesses would see this and increase employees or response times to potential customers. However, it’s increasingly difficult to find someone with enough knowledge to actually answer the questions you need to be answered – whether it’s in-store or online.

In order to make your business stand out – try doing one step more. If you can answer one question – see if you can elaborate and suggest something more. My dad is amazing at this. He’s an upholsterer and every time he’s on a sales call – he always gets asked about the type / colour of the fabric his potential client should use. He answers the question by giving a few options and then BANG! He mentions pillows, and how a contrasting colour will make everything pop. It’s the classic up-sell, but it’s so much more than that. It’s providing value, suggesting something the potential client didn’t even think about, and increasing his profits at the same time.

Customer service quote

What can you do to add that extra touch?

My wife and I’s online shop – EverRose.com is similar. We try to add personal touches everywhere to ensure our fans know we care about them. After all, without them we wouldn’t be in business. My wife writes personal notes to each and every fan who orders. We also take it one step further than most online clothing stores by measuring each piece of clothing. This gives a comprehensive outline on whether or not it’s going to fit you. It’s all about taking it one-step further. It’s a pain in the ass on our end, but the end result is SALES. Plus, our fans love it. How do we know – they tell us in reviews and in personal emails they send us.

This is what makes your business a brand. It makes the person on the other end (customer) feel something for you, and your product / service.

“Courteous treatment will make a customer a walking ad.”
– James C. Penney, Founder, J.C. Penney

You want to know how to limit your advertising spend? Make your experience so memorable to a customer they’ll have no choice, but to recommend you to their friends and family. If that’s not enough – encourage them to do so by following up with requests for reviews (my wife and I do this for every sale by sending a personalized email to each fan). Word-of-mouth is the best form of advertising, and nothing creates more word-of-mouth than outstanding customer service.

It’s not that hard

With the majority of corporations pulling back on their customer service channels, and personnel it’s very easy to stand out. Even being present and engaging in conversation with your potential customer can put you over the top. At the very least give the customer what you’d expect to receive from a company. Then try and out do yourself. Make a suggestion above and beyond the question asked of you. Personalize everything. Respond as quickly as you can, and as honestly as you can.

A few of these will go along way in your customers mind, and will ensure success down the road.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Working 9 – 5 while having a business on the side

It’s an elusive balancing act that takes some time to master. You want / have to give 100% to your 9 to 5 employer, and you want to build something on your own on the side. I’m living proof that it’s very much possible, however it takes a serious amount of commitment. It’s a game of give-and-take. Do you watch Netflix or do you buckle down and do some bookkeeping? These are just a few of the questions you’ll ask yourself.

Here are some tips on how you can find time to build your business on the side while continuing to commit yourself to a 9 to 5:

 1) Build something online

It’s going to be extremely difficult to build something on the side that you have to attend to like a 9 to 5. That’s why e-commerce is so amazing. You can work on your site whenever you want – and the income rolls in 24-hours a day with little to no work on your behalf. Yes, there is a HUGE amount you have to put in before hand, but when it’s built – it’s a recurring income generator. If you don’t have an idea of what you can do on the side – here’s a quick guide to finding a product to sell online.

 2) Evenings and Weekends

This is your bread and butter. When your 9 to 5 stops – you put on your entrepreneur hat. This can be exhausting, so if you’ve had a tough day at your 9 to 5 – you may need to take an evening off. You don’t want your side biz to interfere and hurt your ability to work your day job. However, it can be done. You’ll have to work for it, and maybe miss out on things in your social life, but if you’re devoted to building something, and providing value to your future customers – you’ll succeed.

My wife and I both have 9 to 5 commitments, which we excel at. Then we come home, and get to our online fashion store – Ever Rose. I usually take 30 minutes to an hour in the morning to work through our social media channels – then I put my 9 to 5 hat on. In the evenings, my wife and I will fulfill orders, take product shots, edit photos, and do website maintenance. We also do our own bookkeeping using Wave.

It’s not easy knowing you won’t have a ‘day off’, but I’ve never done something that is so rewarding. Getting glowing customer reviews and having random strangers purchasing items is pretty cool.

Seth Godin, Seth Godin quote

 3) Have a Calendar

This is uber important. You need to keep track of what you’re going to do. The best way to do this is to have your 9 to 5 calendar as well as your side business calendar. I literally put everything into calendars. My wife makes fun of me because I always say, “If it’s not in my calendar, it doesn’t exist.” This helps me use my 9 to 5 brain power for what needs to be done, and helps automate the side biz for when I come home. It’s nearly impossible for me to forget what I need to do when I come home because an alert pops up every 30 minutes.

This also helps you focus on what needs to be done. You will be worn down, you will be tired, but those little alerts will go a long way in helping building your side biz. They’ll keep you on track, and keep your focus on what needs to be done.

4) Don’t worry about perfection

When it comes to your side business – just do it. Don’t worry about it being perfect or you’re never going to sleep. My wife is big on perfection – I’m big on getting things done and off my plate. What you see as perfect, may not be perfect in your customers eyes. Never waste time on being perfect. You never will be. Just get it done to the best of your abilities and move on.

At the same time, if one of your skills isn’t solid – than you may have to outsource. For example – if your English sucks and your trying to write product descriptions – get someone to proof your work. Whether it be a family member or friend – play to your strengths. You can also look at outsourcing work by using UpWork.

Finally, I know the struggle. I live it everyday, but I also know it can be done. You can be a 9 to 5 superstar and crack the whip on yourself everyday to ensure your side business is a success. Even a few hundred bucks on the side can make a HUGE difference. Whether you’re selling a product or service – you can be a 9 to 5er and an entrepreneur.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

The World has changed and Big Business hasn’t kept up

Adapt or Die. You may have heard this phrase before. It’s never more apparent than today. As a startup or small business you need to value your ability to adapt. That’s what keeps the ‘big guys’ on their toes. You have the ability to adjust on the fly where as the big businesses don’t. They’re mired in red tape, and meetings on top of meetings, and middle managers who are more concerned about keeping their jobs then about taking a risk to move the company forward.

The world of business is moving so quickly that most can’t keep up. Twenty years ago you went to school, got a decent job, worked your way up, and stayed with that company for many, many years…maybe your whole life. Now, on average you stay at the same job for 4-years. That’s nothing. There are so many options for you and I that it’s very easy to jump ship. Or say screw the corporate world, and start your own business. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it can be done. The tools are out there, and you no longer need a fancy degree from a prestigious college to get to where you want to be.

time to adapt, adapt or die

Here’s where Big Business is failing

  1. Hiring – take a look at job postings, especially those at larger companies. They want certain degrees, knowledge, etc…even for more entry level positions. However, the world has changed where the new wave of job seekers aren’t looking to get a MBA. They’re sticking with the arts or something more liberal. In essence, those large companies who are seeking new employees are effectively limiting their scope to a small percentage of the population. When in fact, they could have hundreds of candidates they don’t even look at who are equally as qualified or willing to learn, but they don’t have that pricey piece of paper.
  2. Benefits – my wife and I always joke that we missed the ‘Golden Era’ of business. Large expense accounts, business class flights, great benefits, etc… Before I left my corporate job within five years, my benefits were slashed by close to 30%. Did profits and revenues go down by 30%? No, but large corporations thought they could do away with benefits. This is the exact opposite of what most new job seekers are expecting. In the age of work life balance, and caring for one another – it’s a huge slap in the face to those looking for a corporate job right out of school.
  3. Transparency – before it used to be put your head down and get your job done. Now, with all this access to information – you can’t hide behind a pleasant email from the CEO (or CEO’s assistant). How many times have you heard of something positive or negative about your company BEFORE anything was said from within the organization. Nowadays you get updates straight to your phone. You didn’t have to wait for the news at night, the newspaper the next day or to go searching for it on the radio – it comes directly to you. New job seekers, and employees expect the truth – whether it’s good or bad. Or at least a version that’s close enough to the truth. BS will KILL YOU.
  4. Technology –  you only have to look in front of you to see how this world has changed. Whether you’re reading this on your computer, tablet or phone, you know exactly what I mean. Everything is changing quickly, and large corporations are mired in hierarchies, red tape, and endless indecisive managers. Something that may take one day in the startup world could take months or even years in larger corporations. Even with technology larger corporations have been slow to adapt. Those who aren’t looking forward – are in big, big trouble.

The above isn’t solely my opinion. I read / hear about these situations regularly. Recently, I spoke with a head hunter, and she was saying how most of the 20 – 30 year-old job seekers are looking for those companies that are willing to adapt. That are willing to change the status quo. Unfortunately for her, most of the larger businesses aren’t quite ready to adapt. Hell, I know of one company in the financial sector who, up until recently, didn’t have any digital / social footprint. Someone who was including tech stocks in their funds, didn’t have any idea how to use these platforms themselves. Thankfully, a bunch of younger fund managers urged the President to dabble in these areas. The blue-hairs are going to die off soon, and change is coming…FAST!

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Entrepreneurial Expectation vs. Reality

You have this amazing idea, that’s going to change the world forever. Or you don’t have an idea yet, but you know you’re going to be an entrepreneur and make buckets of money. Funny how the mind plays trick, and lets ambition and hope take over to make it appear as though you’re destined for greatness. While this may be true – it’s not going to happen immediately. Expectation and Reality are very different things.

expectation vs reality, expectation

Expectation

You’re going to solve all the worlds problems with your new app or idea. And / or you’re going to be an instant billionaire. All of these thoughts will pass through your mind if you have the entrepreneurial spirit that seems to be going around these days. We’re all entrepreneurs in some way, shape or form. We’re all owners of Me Inc.

With any new venture you will always see the end of the road – whether it’s an awesome house, fancy cars or whatever you’re dream future may be. You rarely look around the corner, and she the other side – bankruptcy, lay-offs, creditors, etc… It’s always good to have the positive in mind, but you cannot forget about the bumpy road to get you there. Plus, if you have the blinders on and all you’re doing it for are things that can be purchased with money – stop doing what you’re doing. I know of countless people who make upwards of 400k a year. A rough estimate would put about 80% of those people living what they would call a miserable life.

Your mind has been altered to show you all of the positive entrepreneurial experiences. You think Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg and so on, while forgetting about the long road it took them to get to where they were / are. Not to mention – not everyone receives the accolades or the successes of those two. For every Zuck – there are 1,000,000 middle class entrepreneur’s duking it out in the trenches.

It’s like when you meet THAT girl or guy, and you have all these dreams of love, and happiness, only to have reality kick you in the ass…HARD! This is one of my favourite scenes showcasing Expectation vs. Reality in the real world. It’s great to visualize success, but you must not forget about the Reality lurking around the corner.

Reality

The stats are floating around everywhere. Only 20% of new businesses will make it past year 2. One out of 10 startups will eventually turn into something. Every time your entrepreneurial spirit kicks in, please keep this in mind. It’s going to be an extremely tough road ahead, and there’s a good chance you won’t make it. However, you MUST try.

My wife and I had these HUGE ideas of how successful our online dress shop Ever Rose was / is going to be. It’s getting there, but not as quickly as her or I wanted. When we started – expectation took over. And we’ve been hit with a firm dose of reality time-and-time again. You learn from this, and carry on. We understand it’s a marathon, and success isn’t going to be given just because we built something. We appreciate all the little moments of success, like a positive review, a new order or getting the chance to make someone’s day.

We celebrate the small wins, knowing the BIG wins will come. We keep working at it every day. Yes, our social lives have taken a hit, and we’ve taken on some debt, but we’re trying. Trying to create jobs, and create what we feel is the right and honest way to go about business in the very crazy world of e-commerce. Win or Lose we’re trying.

You have to take the positive with the negative. You’re a fool to think you can get into a boxing ring with the expectation of not getting hit or hurt by your opponent. The lumps and bruises will come. It’s surviving these ups-and-downs that make you an entrepreneur. It’s getting up every morning, on little to no sleep to do what you want to do. Not what someone else expects you to do. It’s building, creating, and providing value to those around you.

Set your expectations high, but never forget that reality will always kick you in the ass.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Lessons From My Father

I’ve never met my biological father. He left my Mom before I was born, and has since started his own family. The man who I call Dad took me in as his own when I was 5. I have so much respect for someone who can love and care for someone who isn’t his own blood. He’s the man I’m proud to call my Father this Father’s Day. Here’s what he taught me, and what you can learn from it when it comes to life and business.

Dad at my wedding

Patience

It took my Dad many years to find my Mom, but when he did, that was it. He was patient knowing the right one was going to come along whether or not she had a child. He also understood it was going to take some time to really love the child that wasn’t truly his. His patience paid off on both counts. I like to think I turned out okay, and my Mom and Dad went on to have my brother, who I’m so proud to call my brother.

My Dad also owns a small business. It was an upholstery business out of his garage – as he needed to work a regular 9-5 to pay the bills while he toiled on evenings and weekends in the garage doing what he was meant to do. His first customers were family and friends who referred others to him. It took him 10-years to move from the garage to an actual store front. He understood success, and income wasn’t going to come for some time, and his patience paid off.

During this time he taught me so much about life, and business. I didn’t know it yet, but during this period of seeing my Dad’s success, and failures in business – he ignited my inner entrepreneur. I owe my life, and my business life to him. Although now they’re one in the same. My life is my business. And my business is my life.

Do you expect success to come right away? Do you understand it may take some time to bear the fruits of your labour?

Seeds do not become edible crops overnight. It takes month’s of love. How much love, and patience are you devoting to your business? To your life?

Care

Labour of love is a cliché for a reason. It takes time and dedication to put in an effort without immediate gratification. I’ve been writing this blog for over 2-years now. It took me 6-months to get a paying client. My intention when I first started was never to make money, it was to provide value to those who are in the same situation I’m in. Turns out – they’re many entrepreneurs or soon-to-be business owners that connected with what I wrote, and continue to write about.

My Dad devoted his life to his business, and his family. When his business suffered, so did the family, and when the time came – he chose his family over his business. He shut his doors, and went back to working a 9-5 while dabbling in his own business on evenings, and weekends. His families well being took precedence over his business. His love for his family was stronger than that of his business. It’s an interesting cross roads you’ll be faced with. What’s more important? Are you able to intertwine business and family? I don’t have answers to these, but you’ll know what to do when the time comes.

Being self-aware

This is HUGE in today’s environment. The lines are blurred between who we really are, and who we present ourselves to be through social channels. In the age of selfies, and posting pictures ad nauseam to networks who then sell our personal information – do you become less aware of who you are?

My Dad has no apologies on who he is, or what he believes. He’s as far right-wing as you can be. To the point where it makes most people uncomfortable. I don’t mind it because he’s been that way for as long as I’ve know him. I may not agree with him, but I appreciate that he’s willing to be himself. He’s extremely intelligent, but will never put anyone down for being lower on the totem pole than he is. He has a bit of an ego, but he’s always willing to check his ego to do what’s best for his family. He understands how he is viewed by other people. Do you? Do you pretend to be someone else at your 9-5 only to change when you come home? Is your business self different than your home self? If so, which ‘self’ are you lying to?

Call up your Dad – tell him you love him, and take time to reflect on what he’s taught you – good and bad.

Happy Father’s Day,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

The Journey of the Do – Stage 2 – Testing and Research

BUILD IT THEY WILL COME!

Not any more fine sir. The market place is packed with competitors, similar ideas, huge corporations fighting over 1% of market share, and there you are…the little guy. How in the hell do you know an idea is going to work? Well, this week I’ll show you a couple steps that can lead you on your way to building a successful business (keep in mind my wife, and I are doing an online biz) without spending a ton of money on marketing, etc…

Your idea at work

You have this idea, and you’ve played over the scenario in your head a million times on how it can work, and some of the road blocks. The good thing is – YOU ACTUALLY DECIDED TO ACT ON THE IDEA. That’s the biggest step. Now, we get into the fun stuff to test your hypothesis. In my case – an online fashion store for Canadians, and Canadians only.

First – we did a bit of research through family and friends. You can sign up for a free trial with Survey Monkey. Or choose another online survey program. We just happened to land on Survey Monkey as we used it in the past for a couple other ventures.

My wife compiled a few different surveys where we took the product we planned on selling and asked questions like: On a scale of 1-10 how much do you like this shirt, how much would you be willing to spend on said dress, etc… This is a great way to test your hypothesis while getting some interesting insights.

You have to take everything with a grain of salt, and don’t let the survey results sway your direction too much. It’s one thing for people to tell you how much they THINK they would pay, and it’s a whole other matter when it comes to actually opening their wallets.

The biggest thing you can take from these results is copy. The people we surveyed opened our eyes a bit on what makes people tick. We dove into the psychology of what makes people buy, and what doesn’t. Therefore, when we launch we will use the exact words we received from potential customers in our survey. For example – we had a few responses that said, “I would wear this dress for this (event)” BAM! That’s going to be in our copy when describing the dress online. If one person feels it, someone else probably does too.

You can get too much inside your own head when it comes to launching a biz, so get some outside perspective, and doing surveys will help.

John Deere, tractor

Testing out the latest John Deere because I’m a man, and that’s what men do…

Checking out your competitors

There are a couple trains of thought when it comes to this. My wife is a heavy user of a couple of our soon to be competitors. Therefore, she knows what she likes, and doesn’t like about these services, and that’s how we found our niche. We analysed the competition from their aesthetic, their customer service (we’ve called them on many occasions), and even the colours they use in the logo. As you can tell – we’re big on researching our competitors.

On the flip side – I’ve seen successful business owners who don’t care what their competitors are doing. They just go about their business, and it seems to work for them.

Me – I suggest doing a bit of research on what your potential customers are doing. On top of that – you can also do a bit of research on a company or two that you admire. They may or may not be your competition, but you could pull some valuable insight from them. Example – we like the shipping model of a certain company that has nothing to do with our line of work, so we’re going to try and replicate it to see if it works in our field.

Never stop testing 

The BIGGEST thing to keep in mind when it comes to starting up your own biz – online or not – is to NEVER STOP TESTING. Consumer habits change, the economy changes, the weather changes, prices change, and everything happens at different times. Everything is changing, so that’s why it’s sooo important to keep on studying your customer, and getting their feedback. By doing this, you may be able to sense a change in the market before it actually happens. When I was doing some Real Estate consulting, I was able to key in on a trend from the latest generation of home buyers (I just happened to be one of them) that helped one of the agents I was working with.

We saw a dramatic shift (in a certain market) from personality driven agents to knowledgeable agents. In this market – the newest generation of home buyers didn’t care that much about connecting with their agent. They wanted someone who knew a ton about the market they were in. In this case, we flipped from personality driven marketing to a giving away free market information online through a blog. This was close to 10 years ago before blogging really exploded. Now, pretty much every Realtor has a blog speaking to their market knowledge. My client, and I were on this before it was cool because we constantly tested, and researched the market. The best part – we pretty much did this testing for free, and you have the same capability with the tech available to you.

Next week – banking and the product. Until then…

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft

Ps. So far we’ve spent under $1000 from the Articles of Incorporation, to securing the domain name, to our physical e-commerce store / website.

2015 Marketers Guide For Those Who Don’t Have Marketing Departments – Experiment and Evolve

cat, scotch, cute cat, cat pic

Will this pic of my cat lead to more hits?

2015 should be labelled as the year of experimentation for you. With so much info about how to do this, and that, you can paralyse yourself, and your business by thinking too much, and not acting. More importantly, you do all the thinking, and strategizing only to find out when you put your new marketing campaign, product, service, etc… to market…no one really cares about your new product / service / marketing campaign / video you think will go viral.

I’m with you, I analyse a lot, and in turn I end up making stupid decisions based off what’s swirling around in my head. Especially after reading books, articles, and everything else being fired at you, and I on a daily basis.

We think we know all the answers, and this is backwards thinking. We know what we know, but also we don’t know what we don’t know. Does that make sense? Or am I thinking too much? If it doesn’t make sense GOOD! One of my goals of 2015 is to confuse the hell out of you…HA!

Here’s what I, and you forget the majority of the time…it doesn’t matter what we think. It matters what THEY think. They being the customer / consumer. This happens in the startup world time, and time again. Some big headed teenager (okay, I’m generalizing here) thinks he / she can ‘change the world’ with a piece of technology. He / she goes out, and generates $$$ through investors, conducts research, builds a team, promotes their product, generates publicity, and then goes to market with their product / service and no one cares. This could have been thwarted by experimenting with REAL consumers with a shitty prototype of the product / service early on in the development stage of the product / service.

You could say the startup group learned something, and failure is the price of learning. I used to think that. Now, it doesn’t resonate with me. Using the model above, you only learn how to fail. If you EXPERIMENT from day one with REAL customers / consumers you’ll learn more in a week than you will in 6-months using the ‘business’ model from above.

Let’s put this experimentation into practice.

My wife, and I are planning on launching a restaurant / cafe with a twist (you have to have a twist with the current cluttered marketplace) either late this or next year. Ideas have been swirling in our heads from price points to location to food offerings, etc… However, we caught ourselves a couple days ago, and the light clicked – how do we know people are going to even want what we offer? Why go through the investment, planning, etc…if we don’t even know if there’s a market? More so, how will our potential customers even know if they want our product (think iPod or iPhone here, people didn’t know they wanted it until they had it, and then the iPod, and iPhone evolved to suit the customer)?

Here’s what we know:
A similar concept has worked in other markets
The overhead is not that high
We have a decent ‘test’ group of friends to experiment

We’re not talking focus groups here, we’re talking people, who will actually use our product / service in the future. This way, we can get honest feedback, and from our hypothesis of “This restaurant / cafe will work” we will be able to experiment to see if it actually will work. Of course, if we find a solid enough market, there will also be a TON of experimenting when / if this thing launches. The best part – we’re not going to wait until it’s perfect (which too many people do). What is perfect? Is it in your mind or the customers mind? All of your customers minds are different, so perfect to one person is anything but to another. DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING PERFECT! It’s a word that shouldn’t exist as perfection does not exist.

Something to chew on

When Disney released Frozen they had no idea it was going to be as popular as it was. They made the regular amount of plush toys, and promotional items, etc… forecasting for a normal box office, and following. However, as you know, the movie exploded. It was a MASSIVE hit for Disney, and for months following its release you couldn’t get any toys, or more importantly stuffed Olaf dolls. At one point Olaf was selling for $80 on eBay. NUTS!

The point – if Disney doesn’t know whether or not a product is going be hit, how in the hell should you or I know? You, and I don’t have a clue just like Disney. We can forecast, and research, and rack our brains, but really it’s just wasted time, and money. Don’t over analyse. Instead get your product to market. Ask your customers questions, see how they use the product / service, and find out how you can make it better. Then keep testing, and experimenting because as your product / service evolves, so does society.

Love you,

Jordan ‘The Guy with the Bow Tie’ Rycroft