Could Google+ Local benefit your business?

Could your business benefit from more local custom? Then Google+ Local could be the marketing channel for you.

Previously known as Google Places, Google+ Local is a free, online local business directory. You simply register your business and when customers are looking for the service you provide in the right area, your specially selected business details will show up in the Google search results.

You can display your company location, contact information, description, opening hours, prices, payment, photos and logos and you’ll appear on Google Maps. Customers’ reviews of your business will also show up in the search, which is great for optimising your presence in search engine results. While your business will probably still show up on the results without a Google+ Local listing, the listing gives you control to impact where that listing is and what information is shown.

Google Plus Local

Signing up is easy and only takes a few minutes. Firstly, sign up to Google+ Local, create a new account for your business, and follow the steps. You will have to verify your business by post, phone or text at some point to prove the business is yours-none of the details you have entered while registering will show up online until you have been verified.

The next step is to make sure your account is fully optimised (meaning it will show up high in the list of search results )-

  • fill in all the requested information in detail
  • add good quality photographs, making sure you put a picture of your logo or shop front so that customers can recognise you
  • ask happy customers to give you reviews (the more reviews the merrier)
  • put your Google listing on your other relevant forms of advertising

There is more information on how to optimise your Google+ Local listing in “Local Search Ecosystems” by David Mihm.

A major benefit of the service is that you are able to see local insights for your Google+ page, including analytics displaying how many customers saw your posts, shares, and business information on Google.

With Google being the biggest search engine on the net and 1 in 5 searches on the search engine has local intent, a Google+ Local listing is a great way to get your business out there and can have faster results than other, more traditional advertising methods. You also gain an insight into what words customers are using in their searches, which gives you a chance to add those keywords to your listing information for further optimisation.

To be the first port of call for customers in your area, a listing on an online directory like Google+ Local can really help.

Have you already listed yourself? What difference have you noticed? Let us know in the comments below.

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Tradesmen and the importance of good customer service

As a tradesman, your business will be largely generated by word-of-mouth so leaving your customer with a positive opinion of your work is of the utmost importance. This is even more important with social media commentary and new technology, when sites such as Rated People allow customers to share their experiences of tradesmen, making or breaking a business in a matter of minutes.

Tradesman Customer Service

By damaging the reputation of the rest of the industry, ‘cowboy’ traders have a lot to answer for; would-be customers now have trouble trusting tradesman without several recommendations and are wary even after work has started. However, there is a hidden benefit to this- by proving this distrust to be unfounded, giving a great service and exceeding expectations, you will create your own free, personal marketers in the form of happy customers singing your praises.

Make sure you give great customer service and in doing so retain customers and reach out to new ones.

Love your customer

It sounds silly and should definitely not be taken literally, but the rules of good customer service don’t actually differ too much from the rules of how you should treat a loved-one the only difference is professionalism.

Build a relationship based on good communication and understanding. Use language that your customer will understand, be ready to answer questions in detail and communicate what’s happening with the project regularly to put their minds at ease.

Make sure you are contactable and happy to speak to them if they call. If for whatever reason you’re unavailable, get back to them as soon as possible.

Listen. Take into account exactly what the customer wants and make sure you remember this when speaking to them. If you have a lot of customers to keep track of, make sure you know what’s going on with each one by keeping a record and making sure it’s up-to-date.

Be reliable. It sounds obvious but doing things when you say you’ll do them will go a long way and be remembered.

Be aware of complaints and deal with them

If you have a complaint, do everything you can to make the customer happy again, even if you feel they are being unreasonable. Offer a service for free. Re-do a job. Apologise. One complaint can do a lot of damage to your business if a customer takes their views online so make sure you solve any problems as soon as they arise.

Go the extra mile

Offer to visit the site of the potential job for free to give a quote, this’ll not only be a more accurate quote but face-to-face communication is more likely to instil confidence.

Offer your insurance information.  Telling the customer outright that you have the right insurance and showing them proof is another great trust building exercise. You could go even further and post a picture of your insurance documents on your website or on sites where you’re featured. The home owner may also need to take out insurance for the project so be up to speed with what’s needed and ready to explain this to the customer.

Clean and tidy up afterwards. A tradesman’s work can be messy and if you don’t clear up after yourself, a customer’s first impression will be the mess rather than the great job you’ve done.

Throw in advice for free. As a tradesman you have specialist knowledge of a subject that costs you nothing to share. By answering all enquiries fully, giving honest advice if necessary, you show your expertise and trustworthiness. Even if you give advice to someone who isn’t yet a customer, the person will go away with a good impression and might tell others of your great customer service.

Feedback and getting a recommendation

When you’re finishing a job, it is essential you ask whether the customer is happy with the work you’ve done and if there is anything else you can do for them. This should be followed up by a call later on to ask for feedback, perhaps once the customer has been given a chance to use and benefit from what you’ve done. If they’re happy with everything, politely ask them if they could recommend you on a relevant website. If they aren’t, do your best to rectify the situation.

Remember, you love your customers and your business would be nothing without them- make sure you show it!

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Safety-critical jobs: what you need to know

With a high number of health and safety risks, construction is one of the most dangerous industries to work in. With this is mind it is little wonder that special measures are put in place; such as the regulations for workers and their jobs classified as ‘safety-critical’.

Although there is no official list, there are a large number of jobs that could be deemed safety critical in construction and it is up to the employer to identify them and proceed accordingly.

Safety Critical Job

Safety-critical work is defined as: “Where the ill health of an individual may compromise their ability to undertake a task defined as safety critical, thereby posing a significant risk to the health and safety of others.”

This basically means that some jobs, such as operating heavy machinery, for example, can be extremely dangerous if the operator becomes unable to safely do their job.

For a ‘safety-critical worker’ to carry out their ‘safety-critical job’, they must be in good health and therefore in full control of their physical and mental capacities.

When faced with what could be a safety-critical task, make sure the following are considered:

  • Identification-Is the task, or part of the task, safety-critical? Use a task analysis to outline what makes the job safety-critical.
  • What abilities does the worker need to do the job? Something preventing a worker from doing a job could be impaired vision or hearing, epilepsy or other conditions or impaired balance or awareness, but only some of these would affect the worker’s ability to do a particular job.
  • Taking the above into account, ensure the worker has a full medical assessment by a qualified occupational health practitioner or GP. The results of this assessment are confidential but as an employer you have the right to know whether the worker is fit for work; fit for work with restrictions; temporarily does not meet the fitness standard; or unable to meet the fitness for work to carry out specific jobs so you are able to assign jobs appropriately. The Constructing Better Health (CBH) website gives guidance on elements of worker health that needs to be checked.
  • Perform on-going health checks. A safety-critical worker’s fitness for work could change so regular check-ups are necessary, using the CBH system.
  • Be aware of the state of employees’ health and ensure employees communicate any health problems in-between check-ups that may affect their work.
  • If they are on medication, ask if there are side-effects e.g. drowsiness.
  • Drugs and alcohol are a lead cause of danger in the workplace. If you suspect an employee is under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, follow appropriate channels according to your company’s policy.
  • Disability discrimination. The HSE website warns employers to: “Make sure that health and safety is not used as an excuse to discriminate, even if this is not the intention. Risk assessments should be sensible, not over cautious, and you may need to consider adjusting the task to make it possible for a worker to do a job safely before discriminating against them. For example, a plant operator with restricted movement might need to use a vehicle with a particular type of controls.”

With an effective safety-critical procedure you not only protect your employees and members of the public from ill-health and injuries, but you also safeguard your business against avoidable insurance claims. Find out more at the Health and Safety Executive and Constructing Better Health websites.

Disclaimer: This website contains general information about safety-critical related procedures. Always seek professional advice.

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How to Fire Someone

As your business grows and you have more staff to manage, unless you are very lucky you will need to fire an employee at some point. If you have contracted your employee you will have gone a long way to making your life much easier if you need to fire them. Your contract should set out not only what you expect from an employee, but also how you will terminate a contract, and the steps an employee can expect you to take.

How to Fire SomeoneTo avoid your employee having grounds to take you to court for unfair dismissal, you need to be aware of your duties in Employment Law. These relate to the contents of the Employment Act 2002 which requires employers, as of 1 October 2004, to follow new statutory discipline and grievance procedures. It also says that employees should be made aware of these procedures as well as having the right to apply the grievance procedure and to appeal against decisions made during the disciplinary procedure. If you fail to follow recognised procedures, and your employee complains or seeks compensation from the courts, failing to follow procedure is likely to lead to the finding of unfair dismissal and could also increase any compensation payable.

It’s worth including a trial or probationary period in your employee contract so that if a new recruit isn’t a good fit with the team or the business, you can ask them to leave without too much ado, although for the first year of work you can dismiss someone without too much formality. For employees who have been working with you for longer than twelve months you will need to take clear, step by step action to dismiss them. And to stay on the right side of the law, you need to have good reason to let an employee go.

There are five reasons recognised by law, these are:

  1. Conduct (where the employee’s behaviour is seriously unacceptable)
  2. Capability (where the employee can no longer do their job)
  3. Legality (for example, where the loss of a driving licence means your foreman cannot collect and deliver materials to site)
  4. Redundancy (for example, where there is insufficient work – the rules are very detailed in this area)
  5. Some other substantial reason (sometimes called a catch-all reason but it must be used carefully as the reason must be shown to be ‘substantial’.)

Dismissing an Employee

As soon as you feel you have a problem with an employee you need to take steps to remedy the situation; you need to be open with the employee about your concerns and document the process that you follow. You must follow the procedure described by law which involves writing, meeting and discussing, then attempting to resolve the matter informally – for example by agreement, training or changing working practises in some way. If an informal agreement isn’t possible, or if the employee fails to meet with the agreement you have made informally then it’s time to start a more formal process of warnings – first warning, final warning and advise of right to appeal and then ultimately, if all else fails, dismissal.

If you have any doubts about an employee’s performance you should formally write to your employee and tell them what your concerns are; keeping a record on file. Then when they have had chance to read the letter, arrange a meeting with them to discuss your concerns. In this meeting you may be able to work out a way to address your concerns, if the employee is in agreement. This kind of informal agreement is the best outcome – you both address the problem constructively and look for a possible solution together. Sometimes you can’t resolve matters informally. Performance may be poor, the employee may not have the skills needed for the job, or they may not be willing to reach an informal agreement with you. This is when you need to give them a first warning about your dissatisfaction.

The first warning needs to describe the problem, the change you are looking for, by when and the consequences if the employee does not comply. It should offer the employee a chance to meet with you to discuss the problem and give them a chance to tell you if they have any problems with what you are asking them to do. If things aren’t resolved with the first warning, a final warning can be given after which, if the matter is not resolved, you can dismiss the employee. At each stage you must give the employee chance to appeal and put forward their case. Make sure you give them the amount of notice you promised them in your contract. Do everything in writing and give them chance to appeal against dismissal.

Check out our managment articles more guidance on managing employees or to get more information on employee dismissals see: https://www.gov.uk/dismiss-staff.

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