Ask INVISION: April 2015

Be careful of overlooking a customer who has already begun his "shake sequence".

How do you greet your patients ... shake or no shake?

ODs on Facebook had a thread on this very subject a few months back, for which we tallied the results. Ta-DUM!: 37 ODs were shakers (or had no problem with shaking), while 21 were non-shakers (or preferred not to shake). Among the shakers, there were a number of “shakers then washers” (showing concern about germs), as well as “washers than shakers” (making the client comfortable you don’t have germs). Some only shake with new patients. Others shake except during cold and flu season. Some prefer not to shake, but will if the patient sticks their hand out first. Others avoid shakes by employing other strategies — hugs, fist bumps, or high-fives for kids. Hint from a non-shaker to avoid awkward situations: Watch carefully from the corner of your eye for a customer’s initiation of the shake sequence. End result? How you shake ... or don’t shake ... is up to you.

Do I have to pay severance to an employee I am letting go?

There is no requirement in the Fair Labor Standards Act that obliges you to pay laid-off workers. Depending on the state you are in, however, you might be legally required to provide severance if: You signed a written contract stating that severance would be paid; you stated in your personnel policies that such payments would be made; your business has a history of paying severance; you made an oral promise to the employee.

As for whether you should, if the employee has done nothing wrong, it’s not a bad idea. Such sweet farewells soften the blow of being terminated, and a happier former employee is a less litigious former employee. If you do decide to pay severance, treat your employees equally. If you’re less than even-handed, you risk being sued for discrimination.

As a business-owner, I have a hard time setting priorities. What should I be spending my time on?

Yes, there are only so many hours in a day. Jeffrey J. Fox, author of How To Make Big Money In Your Own Small Business provides a list to help you fill them. Here they are, listed in order of importance:

Keep existing business.

Grow existing business.

Get new business.

Do pricing, billing, collections.

Have cash.

Meet payroll.

Have excellent people.

Listen carefully to everyone.

Train people.

Have excellent product quality, as defined by the customer.

Know how your product or service is different from what is offered by the competition.

Set goals.

Delegate tasks down, down, down to the lowest person competent enough to handle the task.

Coddle suppliers.

Coddle lenders.

Review expenditures over $1,000.

When shopping or dining out, I frequently meet people who I think would be great salespeople for me, but don’t know how to approach them. Any ideas?

Here’s a great one from jewelry industry consultant David Geller, who says: “Go to Office Depot and buy non-perforated business cards. Using a template in Microsoft Word, print cards with the following words: ‘I was very impressed with your sales presentation and service level today. If you consider changing employers, please give me a call.’ Then sign your name.” Then, when you go dining, or shopping, or even to another eyewear store, if you happen upon someone who interests you, give them the card and walk away. If they’re interested, they’ll get back to you. Plus, they can’t talk during business hours anyway. Says Geller: “There will be those who think this is terrible. But it was also terrible when I stole your girlfriend away from you in high school!”

One of your daily tips said not to respond to a client’s “Thank you” by saying “No problem.” But is there really such a problem with this term? Seems perfectly friendly to me.

The case against “no problem” is two-pronged: that it sounds like the act of serving the customer potentially was a problem, and that it is too informal. Instead, use the tried-and-true “You’re welcome” ... or perhaps: “My pleasure.” It has a happier tone, has no negative connotations, and sounds more up-market. While most customers will have no problem with the phrase “no problem,” why take that risk? Of course, the bottom line in such situations is to go with what feels most natural and friendly to you and is the best fit with your customer base and location. So if you insist on “No problem”? No problem!