For the first time in more than five years, slightly more Americans are feeling financially better off, according to a Gallup survey. Thirty-eight percent of Americans now say they are financially better off than they were one year ago compared to the 34% who say they are financially worse off. Although Americans' evaluations of their current finances are still fairly tepid, 66% are optimistic when asked whether they expect their financial situations to be better one year from now.
No More Pain at the Pump?
Fewer consumers say gas prices are impacting their spending compared to one year ago, according to research from BIGInsight. But seven out of 10 people still say their budgets are negatively impacted by pain at the pump. As a result, consumers have curbed their fuel costs in a variety of ways. The top three:
41% - Driving Less
35.3% - Reducing Dining Out
31.3% - Decreasing Vacation/Travel
Gray May Bring Green
Research done on 22 plants in California, Arizona, Colorado and Texas shows gray water - recycled water from sinks, washing machines and showers - can actually benefit some plant growth, says an article in the L.A. Times. Plants like peach trees and black-eyed Susans thrived on the water, possibly responding well to the salts left from soaps.
Nearly one in four Americans (24%) say now is a good time to find a quality job, reflecting the most positive job market perceptions since March 2008 - before the financial crisis but still during the U.S. recession, Gallup reports. Regionally, Americans in the West (31%) and East (28%) are more positive about current job conditions, while those in the Midwest (22%) and South (19%) are less positive.
Customer Service: The Biggest Loser
Each year, U.S. companies lose an estimated $83 billion in sales they could have earned.
Why? Because customers defected as a direct result of poor customer experiences. In fact, a research study by Genesys, a customer service management software company, says nearly two-thirds of consumers end business relationships solely because of the way they were treated. While 61 percent of those customers do end up with a competitor, 39 percent of them are completely lost or abandoned.
Knowing how much money has been left on the table as a result of something as simple as good service is a tough pill to swallow. When you think about every level of service in your company - from the people who answer the phones to salespeople to managers to the front lines of employees performing services at customers' homes, there are so many areas where the fragile service shell can crack.
Luckily, the Genesys study revealed some areas where service tends to fall short. Improving these areas could make a world of difference in your service this season.
- Customers don't like automated self-service. Today, customers spend an average of more than 9.5 minutes trying to reach a human via phone, according to Genesys. They have other communication options, yet when consumers were asked to list their preferred interaction channels, their first choice was phone. Does your phone too frequently go to voicemail or an automated self-service menu when customers call? Do you have a live, friendly, knowledgeable person answering your phone and directing people to the proper contacts?
- Customers don't like waiting too long for service. When customers call or email, how long do you make them wait before you respond? Then, how long do you make them wait before you show up to their home? Customers don't wait more than 28 seconds on hold via phone when dealing with the top 10 companies with the shortest average hold time - Disney and Nordstrom among them. Customers don't wait more than five hours for an email response from the top 10 companies with the shortest average email response time - Kohl's and Coldwater Creek among them. That's what customers are used to. What are your average hold times?
- Customers don't like when they can't use different communication channels to reach you. Maybe you have a great phone system and friendly people answering the phone and routing callers to appropriate sources. But what happens when customers email you? Can customers text you? What do you do when customers send letters? What do you do when customers ask questions on Facebook or Twitter? Today, customers are using multiple communication channels in their daily lives, and they want to be able to use these channels in dealing with their landscape professionals as well. Have a process your people follow and track for each communication channel so you aren't missing sales opportunities.
Friends Buy from Friends
Relationships may drive business growth even more than originally thought, reports a study by Reachable.
Salespeople who have personal connections with prospects - even indirect connections, such as acquaintances or colleagues - are five times more likely to get callbacks, the study says. Direct connections improve the odds to 11 times.
Since 50% to 70% of the buying process happens online or through other product research before a sales representative even gets involved, according to Forrester RESEARCH, this makes relationships even more crucial in closing sales.
To build better customer relationships, business consultants suggest landscape design professionals provide educational content in the form of newsletters, e-newsletters or blogs to help their customers make informed buying decisions, ask for more referrals from their loyal customers or reach out to try and reactivate old customers.
Many marketing experts say social media can have a positive impact on brands. Vocus Marketing points out a few of the relative stats.
- 29% of people on Twitter follow a brand.
- 39% of people on Twitter have tweeted about a brand.
- 29% of people on Twitter have retweeted about a brand.
- 58% of Facebook users have liked a brand.
- 42% of Facebook users have mentioned a brand in a status update.
- 41% of Facebook users have shared a link, video or story about a brand.
- 51% of people who "like" brands on Facebook say they're more likely to buy a product after "liking" them.