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The 3 R’s of Handling Customer Complaints

Guest article by business consultant Tom Borg

Every organization receives complaints. The key is turning a complaint into win-win situation. Too often employees and managers take the customer’s complaint personally and get defensive. It would be better if they took the complaint professionally and look at the complaint as an opportunity to fix what went wrong and if possible keep the customer. The second reason is to take an action that would prevent that sort of problem from reoccurring in the future with other customers.

The first R in my formula stands for the word RESPECT. It is critical that you show respect to the customer. You can do this by listening and letting the customer vent their feelings and frustration. The longer you are able to listen, the better. Use cushion statements to ease the frustration level of the customer. A cushion statement is anything you say or do that shows the customer you empathize with their concern. Some examples would be: “You are right to feel concerned” or “That must be frustrating”.

The next R stands for the word RAPPORT. You can develop rapport with the person by sincerely apologizing for any trouble that was caused by the person who experienced the problem. One way you could say this is: “Mr. Jones, I want apologize for any trouble this has caused you”. Then thank them for bringing this concern to their attention.

The third R stands for RESOLVE. Here is where you resolve the situation to the best of your ability. One question you could ask is: “What action would you like us to take?” Many times the complaining person’s idea of a resolution is much less than you would think. The key here is to take action and if possible, resolve the problem. 

By following this three step process you will be able to use your customer’s complaints to strengthen and grow your business.

Tom Borg owns Tom Borg Consulting LLC.

(How do you handle customer complaints? Leave a comment below.)

Pure Michigan Venture Match Fund public hearing on Feb. 8 in Lansing

The Michigan Strategic Fund and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced a public hearing to accept questions and comments regarding the new Pure Michigan Venture Match (MVM) Fund. The hearing is scheduled to take place from 10 a.m. to noon on Feb. 8 at the MEDC, 300 N. Washington Sq., Lansing. 

“Innovative early-stage companies often need venture capital to help finance critical stages of their development and commercialization,” said MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney. “We are aiming to bridge this capital gap and help entrepreneurs to develop promising technologies to grow into new innovation companies, while we diversify Michigan’s economy and create new wealth in our state.” 

The Pure Michigan Venture Match Fund will match early stage investments from eligible venture funds in Michigan-based technology businesses. The minimum venture investment that will be considered is $700,000 and the maximum is no more than $3,000,000. The match from the MSF will be no less than $350,000 and no more than $500,000, with similar investment terms as the venture investment. 

Companies will only be allowed to apply for MSF funding once they have secured a qualified venture investment, making this a market driven application process. There will be a peer review of the company business plan and investors as required under the 21st Century Jobs Fund legislation. 

The program is intended to attract venture funds, within and outside of Michigan, to consider investments in early stage and pre-revenue Michigan-based technology companies and to mitigate some risk for venture fund investments at this stage by participating with MSF funds in early rounds. 

After consideration of the comments and information received at the public hearing, the final MVM Fund program guidelines will be presented to the MSF Board for approval and implementation. The program is anticipated to launch on March 1, 2012 if approved by the MSF board at the February board meeting.
Relevant documents regarding the Pure Michigan Venture Match Fund can be downloaded here.

What do you think of the Pure Michigan Venture Match Fund? Leave a comment below.

New survey report: small business confidence hits highest level in three years

SBAM’s national affiliate, the National Small Business Association (NSBA), today released its 2011 Year-End Economic Report, which shows a decidedly more positive outlook for America’s small businesses, with important gains in several key indicators. Most notably, more small-business owners report being confident about the future of their businesses than at any time in the last three years, up from 64 percent just six months ago to 75 percent today. 

“Although this report is by far the most positive we’ve seen in quite some time, it is imperative policymakers not mistake these gains for a task completed,” stated NSBA Chair Chris Holman, CEO of Michigan Business Network.com and President of The Greater Lansing Business Monthly. “There are countless issues that continue to hinder small businesses.”

While the majority of small-business owners (66 percent) continue to anticipate a flat economy in the coming year, the number expecting a recession was more than cut in half at 14 percent, down from 30 percent six months ago. Additionally, the number of small businesses expecting economic expansion in the coming year nearly doubled from 12 percent to 20 percent in six months.
Revenue growth was at its highest point in more than three years with 46 percent of small businesses reporting increases—up from 39 percent six months ago. There was a commensurate drop in those reporting decreases in revenue from 37 percent to 31 percent. And while job growth didn’t experience the same kind of growth—it remained unchanged at just 22 percent reporting increases—the number of small businesses (23 percent) reporting employment decreases was the lowest it’s been in three years.
When asked which issues are most important for policymakers to address, small businesses overwhelmingly ranked reducing the national deficit number one—up to 44 percent from 34 percent six months ago—followed by reducing tax and regulatory burdens and reigning in the costs of health care. Along those lines, there was a marked increase among small-business owners who cited regulatory burdens as a major challenge for their business—up from 31 percent six months ago to 40 percent today.
Please click here to access the 2011 Year-End Economic Report.


H-1B Filing Season To Begin April 2, 2012

Employers are reminded to identify new candidates who will require H-1B sponsorship as soon as possible, to ensure that these applications are accepted for processing. April 2, 2012 is the first date that an employer is able to file an H-1B petition on behalf of a foreign national who has not possessed H-1B status before. Employees with approved H-1B petitions will be able to begin work in that status on October 1, 2012.
 
The H-1B is a frequently used temporary work visa for professional positions. Generally, there are only 65,000 H-1Bs available per year. Although the annual limit in 2011 was not reached until November 2011, the annual limit has been reached in prior years on April 1st. If USCIS receives more than enough petitions in the first five days of processing, there will be computer generated random selection process to choose which H-1B petitions will be accepted for processing.
 
There are an additional 20,000 H-1Bs available for candidates with a Master's Degree or higher from a US university. Foreign nationals who work for a non-profit research organization, an institution of higher education, or work furthering the purposes of either of these, or have used a cap subject H-1B, are exempt from the H-1B quota. For more information on H-1Bs, see the Clark Hill website.

Attention employers - UI Tax reform underway

On Dec. 19, 2011, the State Legislature approved a comprehensive solution to Michigan’s defunct Unemployment Trust Fund. Prior to the reform action, the system, which is wholly financed through taxes on employers, was indebted to the federal government by nearly $3.4 billion and was structurally unstable. Without legislative intervention Michigan employers would have been subject to substantial and steadily increasing federal penalties to repay the debt and interest, without building solvency in the Trust Fund.

Specifically, the reform package issues bonds to repay the $3.4 billion debt. Employers are legally obligated to repay the balance. By issuing bonds and assessing employers for repayment, business owners will experience a significant savings relative to the heighted federal interest and penalties due in 2012. 

To insure that the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund remains stable and solvent going forward, the business community and the legislature agreed that the taxable wage would have to be raised from $9,000 to $9,500. However, the taxable wage base will automatically decrease to $9,000 once the Trust Fund returns to a balance of $2.5 billion. 

Fiscal reforms were not enough, however, to guarantee future solvency. Changes tightening qualifying standards, imposing more severe penalties for defrauding the system and loosening rules for seasonal employers will help make the reforms a complete solution. After years of decline, Michigan’s UI system is again stable.

Beginning this week, business owners will receive a detailed explanation of these reforms directly from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Members who have questions are encouraged to utilize the Department’s new Office of Employer Ombudsman through its toll-free phone number at 1-855-484-2636 (4-UIAOEO) or via e-mail at OEO@michigan.gov. The Office is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. SBAM members may also contact David Jessup, SBAM’s Director of Government Relations, via email at dave.jessup@sbam.org

Questions about UI reform? You can also leave a comment below!
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