How to engage Existing Clients for Growth

If you are not losing clients in your business, something is not right. I remember when I first started my business I survived by trying to get everyone to stay on a regular service schedule. It hurt every time one of them said: “No thanks, don’t call me ‘I will call you’ …” They all had a reason but it was never very comforting for me to hear those dreaded words. Today I am managing existing clients very different than I did years ago, and my life and business is better for it.

What you are currently doing is broken

I know you probably feel otherwise, but if your way of managing clients is not radically different than everyone else, then the truth I am about to share is going to sting. Now I am not saying your current process is irredeemable. Even in my early days I somehow managed to not screw *everything* up. But my mountain of past mistakes is piled high with #FacePalm moments mixed with a few success stories.  Today the stench and emotional pain I feel from these past mistakes are like scar tissue in my brain.

Losing clients is a sign of life

If you are living and breathing, your client list will atrophy. it is just a part of life. Even long-time clients will eventually move on. In a piano service business if you are doing everything right, then over the course of 5 years, 40%+ of all your clients will disappear. After 10 years less than 30% of your clients will likely be around. After 20 years less than 10% of your client list will still be calling you for service. We call this “churn” in the software world, “client attrition” in other industries. Either way, it basically means that you need to constantly be culling the dead wood from your client list or it will rot and cause more pervasive problems in your business.

You don’t need deadend clients

If you are keeping deadend clients around, they will cause you to make poor business decisions. Imagine you have 1200 clients and you are trying to figure out how to grow & manage your business. If you don’t know that 900 of those clients are never going to call you again, then you are about to make a very ill-informed decision. The only way to know who is “Active” and who is “Inactive” is to contact them an ask “Hey, are you still interested in servicing your piano?”. Additionally, if you have a healthy “Active” list then you can take this data and create a “Look-Alike Audience” on social media to try to find new clients who look like your best clients. You can’t do this if you have deadend clients hanging around.

Online Reviews are about more than just getting new clients…

If your client gives you an online review, they will be singing your praises long after they leave your active client roster. So get online reviews! Google, Facebook, Yelp, … anywhere, everywhere. Treat online reviews like the hen that lays your golden eggs.

This plays into engaging your existing clients at a future date because if they publically volunteer a commitment to “…tune my piano again in 6 months…” then in 6 months they are 2-3x more likely to do it. You will be surprised how many people say in their review “I will have them come out again in X months….” So get online reviews and pile them high.

(Note: If you can’t get at least 30-50% of your clients to leave you a review, then you are doing something wrong. But that is a topic for another day)

Always Ask, never “remind”

Talk to any colleague and you will find that they are likely doing some type of reminders as their clients come due for service, but usually not enough and they are going about it all wrong. For starters, the piano technicians I know usually hate this part of their job. It is awkward and often filled with rejection. I mean let’s be honest, it sucks when 40% of your clients tell you “No thanks, we are not going to value our piano like you want us to…” But it doesn’t have to be this way. You are probably unknowingly conditioning your clients to say “no” by saying “I am calling to remind you that your piano is due for tuning…” If this is what you are doing, you are in good company because this is exactly what I said for years. So let’s unpack why this is such a bad approach:

Ask them to tell you what they intend to do rather than reminding them what they should do

Save yourself the heartache and just stop saying “…I am calling to remind you your piano is due for a tuning…”. It is too easy to say “no” or “not now” to this question. Instead, say “Hi Sally, this is Tim from Well-Loved Piano, I was out there X months ago and was calling to see if you are interested in keeping the piano serviced” – a little hint, almost no one says “no” to this initial question unless they really are literally not interested in ever servicing the piano again (aka they sold it).

Touch base with them far more often than you are

If you are not giving your clients at least 8-12 reminders a year, you are not doing it enough. I am not talking about pestering people, I am simply saying that our clients live busy lives and you are doing them a service, so let’s make it feel that way:

  • Give them plenty of notice. A month in advance shoot them an email that simply says “Just a heads up, I will be touching base soon to check in on you and your piano”. We call this ‘future framing’ the conversation.
  • Remind them more often around their due date and less as time goes on
  • Build strategic pauses into the rhythm so that after 4-6 attempts there are some weeks/months they don’t get anything from you.
  • Balance automated email/text message reminders with personal phone calls and postcards.
  • Never stop reminding them until they ask you to stop. Once they are more than 90 days overdue you should be touching base at least a minimum of once every month. Once they are more than 6 months overdue you should be touching base 4-6 times a year.
  • Check the verbiage of all your emails/call scripts/texts/etc… Make sure everything is client focused, brief, and to the point.
  • Get over your fear of upsetting your clients. If your attempts to touch base are not a blessing then the problem is with you, not the client. Change it up, fix what is broken, and press on.

Signs you have some room to grow

If you don’t hear back from the majority of your clients within 30 days of their due date, then you are doing something wrong. This doesn’t mean everyone booked an appointment. It just means that within 30 days of their due date you know whether:

  • They are ready to book now
  • They are not ready to book and you have rescheduled their reminder
  • They are not going to service the piano again and should be removed from future reminders.

We don’t have time in this article to get into how you should phrase each email/text/phone call. However, if you want any help just reach out to support@gazellenetwork.com and we will be happy to help you audit your process and recommend some changes.

 

 

Simplicity

Simplicity is something we are choosing to focus on at Gazelle and my service business Well-Loved Piano. It is  something we all need in our life and business. At Gazelle we are simplifying everything about our product. At Well-Loved Piano we are simplifying our product, our message, our marketing, and our company. Why?  Because I have matured as a business owner and I have discovered there is a huge price to pay for complexity.

All businesses simplify over time, the ones that don’t will die. So how are you doing? Does your business pass the “Simple” test?

The simple test: Is it “easy”? 

The simple test kills more of my ‘great’ ideas than anything else. I learned to apply this test by listening to Dewey Jenkins, the owner of the largest HVAC Company in the Southeast. Mr. Jenkins turned an $800,000 company into a $50,000,000 company by asking one question “Is it easy to do business with us?”. I thought so, As a matter of fact I was so impressed every time I engaged with his company that word quickly got around I wanted to talk to him. One day my phone rang “Mr Barnes, this is Dewey Jenkins, I hear you want to talk to me…” I dropped everything. Over the next 30 minutes I became the student and asked every question I could think of. That was 2 years ago and I am just now starting to bear the fruit in my own life and business.

Simple is a philosophy, not an end product

In 2014 Luke introduced me to a different type of simplicity when we created Gazelle. He introduced me to people who have influenced him like Jason Fried and DHH who founded a company called Basecamp, Ruby on Rails, and 37Signals.com.  Luke taught me that simplicity is something you never actually achieve, it is a way of life. I started to realize that I had been learning this lesson the hard way at Well-Loved Piano. Both Gazelle and Well-Loved Piano are each at different stages of simplicity. But with every passing day, we are growing by cutting out everything that is not necessary and focusing the way we run our business.

Simplicity comes with time

You cannot bypass the effect of time. Your company will either become more simple or more complex as time moves on. It is the difference between a healthy manicured rose bush and a wild overgrown tangled mess. As business owners this is true of our business, but you are the gardener, not the rose bush.  Look at Dewey Jenkins, after 30 years he talked to me like he was still trying to simplify his company.  He achieved great success because he never stopped trying to simplify.

Simplicity comes with maturity

If you are a business owner and your business is not simple, then you are really bad at running a business. I say this as a business owner who spent the first 15 years being really bad at running my business. I figured this out about 2 years ago and I have spent every day since trying to ‘fix me’ and ‘fix my business’ so that we can thrive together.

You will fail without simplicity

You need simplicity in your life. That is why one of our biggest goals at Gazelle is to help you simplify your life. We know we have not arrived, we know there is a lot of hard work ahead of us, and we know that our success hinges on whether or not you are able to simplify your business in the years to come. If we are going to thrive we need to help you simplify. It really is that simple.

New Self-Scheduler Feature Launches Today!

We are excited to announce Gazelle’s new self-scheduling feature is here! It will be live for everyone on Feb 28, but you can turn it on early by clicking here.

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Watch the Live Demo

Full Internationalization

  • Every bit of our new User Interface is being built for internationalization and localization. IE – On this scheduler the Dates & times are displayed according to the country you reside in.

New/Better Language Support

  • The Gazelle Self-Scheduler is now in 5 languages: English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese! The scheduler will auto-detect the language setting of your customer’s browser and default to the language of your choice.

Better Map Centric Display

  • Better visualization of the addresses clients enter

Easier Selection of Dates

  • Better visualization of the times you have available and presentation of alternative dates that favor your scheduling preferences.

Better Mobile Experience for your Customers

  • Almost half of all self-schedule reservations are completed using a mobile device. This new UI provides a much better user experience for your customers especially when they are using a mobile device.

War on Spam; and Gazelle’s Contribution

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There is a war on spam and the good guys are winning.  Here at Gazelle, we are making some changes to do our part in this struggle.

New standards have emerged that require changes to be made to the way we handle sending email reminders. We believe things are moving in a positive direction and our inboxes will be thankful the Internet is fighting back hard in this ongoing war on spam.  

The Problem

Over the past 15+ years, it has become increasingly common for spammers to hijack your identity and send thousands of emails claiming to be your.email.address@xyz.com.  This confuses consumers because the email appears to come from someone they trust. Historically, email providers like Gmail have chosen to tolerate 3rd parties sending email on your behalf because there are legitimate use cases. But this is starting to change.

New standards like DKIM are now being implemented that will affect the way Gazelle is able to send email on your behalf.  If we do nothing, the prognosis is grim. In order to maintain our +98% email deliverability rate, we must comply with the new DKIM standard. Once major players (like Gmail) adopt the DKIM standard we can easily predict +40% of our emails will fail. Gazelle is essentially getting caught in the crossfire of new standards designed to curb SPAM. 

The Solution

There are a lot of ways to prevent SPAM, and we are following all the current rules defined by industry norms.  But on January 15, 2018, we are moving to fully adopt the DKIM standard. This move means we are holding ourselves to a higher standard before we are required to do so. In terms of fighting spam, this is a great thing and it will even improve your customer’s experience with Gazelle email reminders. 

What will be different?

Prior to this change, email providers like Gmail would attach a notice “From: Your Company Name via gazellenetwork.com” when an email is sent using a 3rd party provider who is not fully DKIM compliant.  Eventually, they will stop doing this and just block the email outright.

View of a non-DKIM Compliant Email

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View of a DKIM Compliant Email

After Gazelle’s change on January 15th, email providers will treat us like a normal email and will drop the “…via gazellenetwork.com” notice.

dkim

Customizing Your New Gazelle Email Address

After January 15th, all email will be sent from YourGazelleEmailAddress@gznmail.com. You can customize your new Gazelle email sending address in your account “Settings” which will help identify your business to your customers. If you don’t customize your Gazelle email address before the deadline, we will simply choose one for you based on your company name.

Please let us know if you have any questions. We are committed to ensuring a smooth email delivery experience for you and your customers.

 

At Gazelle, December is “Bit Rot” Month!

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What is Bit Rot?

Bit rot is a technical term for the natural deterioration of software. Bit rot is like tooth decay. At first, it is not noticeable and everything seems inconsequential but if you look closely you can see it, and if you ignore it the downhill spiral accelerates until one day you look up and realize you are in the software graveyard of the world.

The question for any software company quickly becomes “What are you doing today to ensure you stay relevant?” To be honest, we are doing a lot…

How to avoid Bit Rot?

You can’t. Bit rot happens, it is just a fact of life. Every year Google Chrome is going to release 4-6 updates to its browser, Apple is going to update their iOS platform, Hackers are going to exploit security flaws, and companies will scramble to release security updates to patch the holes.  In short, the software world is constantly pushing forward, and if we don’t keep up with these small incremental changes, over time we will be left in the dust.

Our Approach to Bit Rot

At Gazelle, we have decided to dedicate the entire month of December, every year, to cleaning up bit rot.  An entire month might sound extreme but the consequence of not doing this is far too great. We choose December for a few reasons:

  1. Fixing bit rot requires a structured plan – If you don’t set aside time every year to do this, other priorities will inevitably creep up.  This is an easy task to justify setting aside when we have lots of other new features we want to develop.  But if we do that, over time we will end up spending more and more time chasing preventable bugs as the product deteriorates.
  2. Starting fresh every January is a really good feeling – Having a clean slate at the beginning of the year enables us to better plan next years development schedule. We have a lot of improvements planned for 2018 and having the bit rot behind us enables us to accomplish more than we otherwise would be able to achieve.
  3. Most software updates happen over the summer – Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and many of the libraries we use inside Gazelle usually release their annual product updates between May-August of each year. By waiting until the end of the year we are able to address everything at one time.
  4. New bugs get resolved within the user community – When big companies release new products, it is rare to not have any bugs. Immediately following any major software update, you expect to find bugs. By being patient we allow the user communities of each product to flush out any bugs and give the companies time to respond with additional updates. By the time December rolls around most of these bugs have been resolved and our confidence in utilizing the updated product increases.
  5. Coordination around the Holidays – With the holidays comes vacation time and varying degrees of availability.  As a team, focusing on bit rot in December is nice because we don’t need to coordinate as much and it lets us work with our own schedules giving flexibility around the holidays.

Our Philosophy of Software

At Gazelle, we believe the right way to build software is to plan to support it for the long haul. For us, that means we are planning to provide support until the end of the Internet. This is a crazy big idea that we will cover more in another blog post, but when this is your mindset you do things like dedicating an entire month to doing all the boring but necessary things to ensure the future viability of your product remains strong.

 

Kubernetes – that thing you didn’t know you needed…

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We are smiling ear to ear this week about something that probably has you asking “Kube’a What?”

Last week we made a massive change to the way Gazelle runs, and odds are you slept right through it. That is because running Kubernetes is all about scale, stability, and speed of future development. We have dedicated nearly all of 2017 preparing for some sweet new features (and redesigns of old ones) that will be coming in 2018. Kubernetes is going to make this possible.

Why Kubernetes?

You can think of Kubernetes like a cargo ship. Hauling around 3 or 4 shipping containers is easy, but 100,000 steel boxes, yikes! You need something to organize and manage everything just so you don’t spend all your development time looking for a needle in a haystack.

Doesn’t everyone build software this way?

No. Most software is built to last less than 2 years. Running Kubernetes is a statement that says “We plan to be around until the end of the internet…” It is the kind of thing you do when you plan to support a software for the long haul. It’s like upgrading the repetition springs on a concert grand. What you had before worked, but in 5 years it is not going to be enough.  In order to manage our growth and keep our focus on future development, it was necessary to spend several months upgrading all the backend components of our system. We did this because we are serious about keeping our promise to build Gazelle with the long-term in view.

How does this impact me?

There are some immediate ways this will impact you:

  1. No more scheduled downtimes to upgrade our servers – Kubernetes enable us to dynamically update our servers without taking them offline.
  2. Faster Development of New Features – Kubernetes helps us focus more of our time on developing new features instead of fussing with our infrastructure.
  3. More Reliability / Possibilities – With less of our time spent updating our infrastructure, our team will be able to focus on improving features and focusing on customer service.

Give Credit where Credit is Due

Nathan did all the heavy lifting to reconfigure our entire codebase to run on Kubernetes. His dedication and raw talent is the reason Gazelle is technically punching way above our class right now. We are so excited to have him on our team and to be moving forward with an ambitious 2018 development schedule. Because of Kubernetes, we anticipate accomplishing more next year than we have in years past.

 

 

 

“Traffic” by Gazelle

Gazelle now uses local traffic patterns to calculate routes! We are super excited to be rolling out a new feature this week!

Gazelle is business automation software solving problems unique to piano technicians, and now Gazelle can add time to your routes at certain times of the day depending on your local rush hour(s) and traffic patterns. No more worrying about construction zones or afternoon school congestion! Simply turn on “Traffic” and Gazelle will add extra time to your routes using historical traffic data for your location.

http://help.gazellenetwork.com/cale…/gazelle-traffic-feature

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