If you own a small business, one of the first major milestones is getting customers to like and pay for your product or service. But a one-time hit is not what will keep the business afloat. You need repeat customers who want to stick around as much as you want them to. To keep customers coming back time and time again takes a plan, not just a prayer. These important strategies will let your customers know you care about their overall satisfaction and value their time and money. The customer may always be right, but they'll know you're doing right by them too.

Get Down to a Personal Level

Customers want to feel important. Otherwise, why should they choose your company over a competitor's? In this age of computers and robots, a human connection pulls at the heartstrings. As Small Business Computing notes, "When customers receive a more personal customer experience they can develop a hard to break emotional attachment to the business." And Entrepreneur says, "Companies need to see their customers as people not data points."

This can be a money-maker for the business. Along with the repeat customer, you may find this customer willing to spend more with you too. Small Business Computing posted a study from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that found, "Waiters were able to increase their tips by 23 percent by carrying out a simple act of returning to a table with a second set of mints. This left the customer satisfied enough to leave a bigger tip." The personal care and attention made all the difference.

American Express reminds small business owners to treat everybody as individuals. "In a small shop, you can go as far as keeping notes about a customer's likes, dislikes and family so you can ask about them the next time you see the customer. Something as simple as keeping track of how long they've been your customer—and mentioning it with a thank you—shows you view them as more than just a note in your profit-and-loss report."

Customizing and tailoring to a customer's desires is imperative as well. Entrepreneur notes that "A 2013 Bain & Co. survey found that 25-30 percent of consumers want to customize their purchases. If 25 percent of online sales of footwear were customized, that would equate to a market of $2 billion per year."

Not to mention, allowing a customer to customize gives new ideas to a company that can increase sales from other consumers who also become fond of the product or service addition. Allow your customers to work for you in a sense!

Get Feedback

Your customers' response to your business is everything. Whether the feedback is positive or negative, constructive or potentially destructive, you need to know what's on their minds in order to keep chugging along with the good stuff and make changes where there's room for improvement.

Vertical Response notes, "Asking for feedback about a customer's experience or product quality shows that you're engaged in your business and looking for ways to improve. You should consider sending a satisfaction survey directly to your customers. Not only will you get valuable feedback to help you make improvements to your business, but it keeps your business top of mind with customers." In addition, be sure to keep on top of review sites where customers can leave comments about your business. A social media or communications employee should comb such pages daily and respond promptly to show your company is on the ball and available to help.

Even if you think you're doing a good job getting your customers' point of view, there's always room for more feedback. All perspectives are valid and can only help your business better itself. In fact, as per American Express, "A recent Harvard Management survey found that 80 percent of companies believed they offered above-average customer service. Just 8 percent of customers of those companies agreed. The last thing you want is a good customer who's silently seething over something you don't know about. Be prepared to handle any complaints you find quickly and in good faith."

Feedback keeps a business on its toes and shows the customer you care about their wants and needs. If customers offer advice and it's ignored, they'll find another company to do business with. Simple as that.

Stay Connected

Just because the customer has left the shop, made an online purchase, or utilized your service doesn't mean the transaction is over. You want a repeat customer, not a "one and done" relationship. That's why keeping connected regularly is the way to keep customers engaged.

"Reach out to your customers on a regular basis. Whether it's a newsletter, coupon, or an event invitation, customers want to hear from you about new products, services, discounts or events," notes Vertical Response. Stay on top of your social media pages as well with updates about the business, sales, new products, and even entertaining posts to keep your fans interested in checking in on your pages just for fun.

Small Business Computing adds, "Digital marketing represents a greater chunk of the market now, and the unrelenting popularity of smartphones means that people are more likely to get their information from a mobile device. Collecting customer information lets you continue to nurture the customer relationship long after the first sale."

This means texting special offers and emailing with a smartphone interface in mind to keep your business on your customers' minds even when they're not making a purchase at the moment. Even a call to check in, depending on the nature of your business, is appreciated. Huffington Post reminds us, "Business relationships are just like any other relationship. They require effort to maintain and they must be mutually beneficial. And don't just call about business; ask about vacation plans and the kids. Be willing to give, share and support, not just try to go in for the up-sell." This non-salesy approach puts a customer at ease and they won't dread that every point of contact is a push to purchase. The true relationship builds trust, and when it is time for them to spend money, your company will be the first choice.

Keep things fresh, loyal, unique, and honest. Customers know when they are being taken for granted and when they are truly appreciated. Simple steps like these not only put a smile on the faces of your customers, but they will have them returning again and again – putting a smile on your face too!
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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.