A concept image of a happy businessman

Small Business: Delivering excellent customer service

Customer service is a skill which all of us can learn and improve upon.

A concept image of a happy businessman

It is said that the main reason for customer churn is not price, but bad customer service. Many unhappy customers simply don’t return, especially in today’s world where there are plenty of alternatives and choices available. On the other hand, happy customers can help your business grow, as they tend to purchase more and refer others through valuable word-of-mouth referrals.

At Tax Agility, we are small business accountants in London and we help other small businesses to grow through exceptional accounting services. If you have worked with us, you know that we diligently take care of the accounting and bookkeeping duties, along with providing solid tax advice and payroll administration, leaving you time to focus on running the business.

We are also keen to share tips that can help small business owners like us. So in this article, we shall take a look at the principles that underpin customer service and discuss how to deliver excellent customer service.

Principles of good customer service

Every business has some ideas on how to provide good customer service. Generally, they centre around:

  • Listening to your customers – finding out what they consider to be good customer service and what they expect from you.
  • Understanding that customer service is a process – it exists in all aspects of your business and every interaction is an opportunity to show your professionalism.
  • Following up with both positive and negative feedback – resolving the issues quickly and amicably, without getting emotional, will win you respect.
  • Being honest – if you don’t understand how a product works or if you can’t troubleshoot, let them know and find another solution for them.
  • Practising empathy – putting yourself in their shoes when addressing their concerns.

Delivering good customer service

After speaking to small business owners who excel at customer service, we are able to categorise the three aspects needed to deliver good customer service. They are commitment from you the business owners, a good understanding of how your customers expect you to meet their needs, and an effective customer service program to help you deliver. When all the three aspects are working cohesively, you will create a virtuous cycle that can yield a string of positive outcomes.

Commitment from you

If you are fully committed to customer service, you will hire like-minded individuals, foster a service culture, empower your staff to take ownership, recognise and reward their work, and provide adequate training. You want happy staff who will go out of their way to give the customers what they want and deliver when they want it, in the best possible way.

Having a positive attitude goes a long way too. Remember to:

  • Smile: Someone said that a smile alone doesn’t guarantee good customer service, but good customer service almost always starts with a smile.
  • Take initiatives: Go up to the customers and ask if they need assistance or suggest complementary products, if you run a brick and mortar business.
  • Be patience: Some customers may require more time to convey what they want or what is wrong with the product purchased. Take time to understand, clarify if needed, and always offer genuine help.
  • Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’: When you say please, you are showing respect; and when you say thank you, you are showing gratitude. Small business owners who value their customers use ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ regularly.

Know what your customers expect from you

Every customer has a unique perception as to what customer service means to them. The level of service they expect also varies from one provider to another. For example, they may expect a no-frill service from a discount store, but more personalised service from a close-contact provider like a hairdresser, a sports therapist and a tailor. If you don’t yet know what your customers want from you (and your business), it is time to start talking to them and gathering feedback.

Creating a customer service program

An effective customer service program should contain three things – it should define the level of customers service your business wants to provide at every interaction, describe the necessary steps to achieve it, and methods to sustain the program.

Here are a few examples:

  • Your business receives a fair amount of calls and you want your staff to answer them within the first three rings, use a greeting message, and remain professional throughout.
  • You want your staff to take the initiative and suggest complementary products to customers – like a pack of rechargeable batteries to go with an electronic gadget.
  • Your business may receive a bad review on social media from time to time. When it happens, your staff will contact the unhappy customer quickly (hopefully within the same business day). The process will see them investigate the issue, acknowledge when there is a mistake, and seek to resolve the issue with the customer amicably.

Don’t forget your staff

As a small business owner, you know the importance of hiring and retaining staff who are as committed as you. So it makes sense to invest in training and equip them with the appropriate skills and knowledge to help you meet your business goals.

It is equally important to recognise and reward staff who put in the hard work. Some recognition could be spontaneous – whenever you see them do a good job, thank them personally. On the other hand, planned recognition could involve a monetary or non-cash incentive when they reach certain targets, or when they consistently offer a high level of service to your customers.

Data protection and your business

If your business collects and stores customer information, you must understand the legal requirements regarding what you can do with the information. The data protection rules state that you must make sure the information is kept secure, accurate and up-to-date. When you collect their personal data, you must also tell them who you are and how you will use their information (and if you intend to share the information with another organisation). You must also inform them that they have a right to:

  • See any information you hold about them and correct if it is wrong
  • Request to have their data deleted
  • Request their data is not used for certain purposes

Good customer service will help you grow

Your happy customers will undoubtedly come back to buy more and recommend others to you through word of mouth referrals. They can generate more sales for you, which in turn will feed a positive loop and produce more favourable results.

At Tax Agility, we know the importance of good customer service because most of our clients come through referrals, from other small business owners who are very happy with our accounting, bookkeeping, tax and payroll services. If you are a new client, you will know that our approach is to understand you first – including your business objectives and financial circumstances – only then we can suggest how to assist you.

You also have the freedom to choose the level of engagement you want from us – for instance, you may need us to manage bookkeeping for now, give you tax advice when you need money to invest, add payroll when your team expands, and use our management consultancy service when you are ready to grow. All of our services are competitively priced with no hidden charges, and our small business accountants are always here to assist.

Call us today on 020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

Our services:

  • Accounting & Bookkeeping: leave your day-to-day finances to us. We will also provide monthly management accounts, prepare statements and help you set-up cloud accounting.
  • Tax: if you are tax-efficient, you will have more money to invest, expand and create jobs in your community. Let us help you with tax planning, tax computation and tax returns.
  • VAT: from VAT returns to manging VAT on import and export goods, we take care of them so you don’t have to.
  • Payroll: as your team grows, outsource your payroll administration to us so that you and your team can continue to enjoy accurate and on-time payslips every month.
  • Management consultancy: take your business forward with practical advice based on financial data and benchmark analysis.


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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.

A concept image of going paperless

Companies House is stopping paper reminders

A concept image of going paperless

With Companies House stopping paper reminders, directors of LTDs and partners of LLPs can opt for email reminders instead.

In the past, Companies House sent out paper reminders to limited companies and limited liability partnerships, informing them that their accounts and confirmation statement were due for filing. This process cost Companies House £1.2 million in 2019. Aiming to improve efficiency, Companies House is stopping paper reminders.

Companies House also makes it clear that it is the directors’ responsibility to file a company’s information on time. If you are working with our team at Tax Agility, then you already know that we file your accounts on schedule.

Email reminders

For directors and partners who have been relying on paper reminders, you can take this opportunity to switch to email reminders instead. The email reminder service is free and it allows you to:

  • Choose up to four email recipients to receive a reminder (including your agent)
  • File your document immediately from a link within the reminder

In essence, email reminders should be more convenient for business owners, while also cutting paper waste and helping Companies House to become a fully-digital organisation.

To sign up for email reminders, sign in to the Companies House online filing service, select ‘Get email reminders’ from your company overview screen, click ‘Add an email address’ and continue to add (up to four email addresses). After that, Companies House will send you an email asking you to validate your email address, which you need to follow to join the email reminder service successfully.

Company House takes filing seriously – directors who do not file company accounts on time face penalties. In addition, failure to file confirmation statements and accounts is a criminal offence which can result in directors being fined personally in the criminal courts. At Tax Agility, we take deadlines seriously too, which is why we file your accounts on time if you are a client of ours.

We can also assist with the confirmation statement on your behalf, should you choose to.

Contact our friendly Small Business Accountants today on 020 8108 0090. We’re always here to help and safeguard your business interests.

A concept image of business that is closed due to COVID-19

An update on COVID-19 support available to small businesses

A concept image of business that is closed due to COVID-19

As the daily number of people tested positive for COVID-19 continues to rise across England, many businesses and self-employed individuals are bracing for tighter restrictions.

(Updated on 7 November 2020)

On Friday (30 October), as the Furlough Scheme was coming to an end, we wrote this blog to talk about the Job Support Scheme (JSS) and other measures. But a day later, Prime Minister Johnson announced the second lockdown in an attempt to slow down the spread of Coronavirus. Accordingly, we have updated this post to reflect the latest support available to small business owners.

The Furlough Scheme is extended

Introduced in March, the Furlough Scheme (also known as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme or CJRS) was supposed to end on 31 October 2020, but as the second lockdown is set to begin on 5 November 2020, the scheme will be extended until March 2021. Essentially, it allows you to furlough your staff full-time, or ask them to work on a part-time basis and furlough them for the rest of their usual working hours. You will have to cover their wages for the hours worked, as well as National Insurance and employer pension contributions. You will be able to claim either shortly before, during or after running your payroll.

Employees who are being furloughed will receive 80% of the current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month. All of the 80% is fully funded by the government – this is in contrast to how the scheme was administered previously. Before November, the scheme required affected employers to pay 20% and the government paid 60% to make up 80% of the salary.

Employee eligibility: You can claim for employees who were on your PAYE payroll on 30 October 2020. You must have made a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission to HMRC between 20 March 2020 and 30 October 2020, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee. If employees were on your payroll on 23 September 2020 (i.e. notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 23 September) and were made redundant or stopped working for you afterwards, they can also qualify for the scheme if you re-employ them. Neither you nor your employee needs to have previously used the Furlough Scheme.

For employers, the first task is to check if your employees are eligible for the scheme, based on the information above. Then talk to your employees so they know if they are being furloughed fully or part-time, and agree working hours if applicable. Keep the records that support the amount of the furlough grant you claim, in case HMRC needs to check it. You can view, print or download copies of your previously submitted claims by logging onto your CJRS service on GOV.UK

Other forms of support

Before the announcement of the second lockdown, local councils have different levels of support to help businesses based on the COVID alert level of the area. But as the second lockdown is affecting the whole of England, the government has announced the followings:

  • If your premises is forced to closed, you will get £1,334 per month (for properties with a rateable value of £15k or under), £2,000 per month (for properties with a rateable value of £15k to £51k), and £3,000 per month (for properties with a rateable value of more than £51k).
  • £1,000 for every furloughed employee kept on until at least the end of January.
  • £1,500 for every out-of-work 16-24 year-old given a "high quality" six-month work placement.
  • £2,000 for every under-25 apprentice taken on until the end of January, or £1,500 for over-25s.

Job Support Scheme (JSS)

The Job Support Scheme (JSS) aims to help employers retain their employees if they are struggling or when they are required to close. The JSS, which was scheduled to come in on 1 November, has now been postponed.

Professional services grant

In July 2020, the government announced £20 million in new grants to help small and medium-sized businesses recover from the effects of this pandemic. The scheme will offer grants between £1,000 to £5,000 to these businesses, helping them purchase new technology and equipment, as well as paying for professional services (legal, financial, HR and other qualified services).

The schemed is administered through the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and each LEP has a minimum of £250,000 to get the program going.

For businesses in London, you can access the businesshub.London page for more information.

Deferral of VAT

Back in March, the government announced that VAT-registered companies could opt-in to defer their VAT payments (between 20 March 2020 to 30 June 2020) and pay them by 31 March 2021. This scheme is now closed, but those who have opted-in have the option in pay in smaller payments until 31 March 2022 instead, a much longer period than previously announced.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

Introduced in March 2020, the SEISS allows self-employed individuals whose businesses had been adversely affected by the pandemic to claim a taxable grant. To be eligible, you must have:

  • Traded in the tax year 2018 to 2019 and submitted your Self Assessment tax return on or before 23 April 2020 for that year
  • Traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
  • The intention to continue to trade in the tax year 2020 to 2021
  • Trading profits less than £50,000 and at least equal to your non-trading income (if you are not eligible based on the 2018 to 2019 Self Assessment tax return, HMRC will look at the previous tax years)

The first SEISS grant ended on 13 July 2020 and the second grant ended on 19 October 2020. On 5 November 2020, the chancellor Rishi Sunak confirmed that a third grant – and a more generous one – will be made available to help self-employed individuals. The third grant will cover 80% of profits for November, December and January, up to a total limit of £7,500. Applications will be open from 30 November 2020. Details for the fourth grant, covering three months from February 2021 to April 2021, will be announced later.

Deferral of second payment on account

Self-employed individuals are aware of the two payments on account taking place each year, with the first one due on 31 January during the tax year and the second one on 31 July following the end of the tax year. The second payment on account for the 2019/20 tax year was supposedly due by 31 July 2020, but taxpayers with up to £30,000 of Self Assessment liabilities could defer the second payment (due July 2020) to 31 January 2021. In September 2020, the government further announced that you could pay instalments (by entering into a Time to Pay arrangement) if you couldn’t pay in full by 31 January 2021 – this means you could stretch the final payment to January 2022.

Other things to be aware of

Before the announcement of the second lockdown, the government had already encouraged companies to allow employees to work from home if they can carry out their normal duties without going to the office. Now people are told to stay at home, except for education, work (if cannot be done at home), exercise, medical reasons, shopping for food and essential items, or to care for others.

If an employee must self-isolate (either they have tested positive or been in contact with someone who has tested positive), the business owner must not knowingly allow the employee to come into the office or attend meetings elsewhere. Violating this provision is an offence with fines starting at £1,000 for the first offence, rising to £10,000 for the fourth and subsequent offences.

Be careful of COVID-19 scams

The pandemic has already affected millions of people across the UK, yet scammers are still actively targeting small business owners, their employees, as well as self-employed individuals. Apart from criminals pretending to be government agencies ‘phishing’ for information, some of us have also received emails from supposedly company server informing us of unread messages – but taking us to a phishing site instead.

Members of the public have also seen texts informing them of tax rebate from ‘HMRC’ and encountered fraudulent products, anything from hand sanitisers to COVID-19 swabbing kits. Remain vigilant is key, and report the scams to Action Fraud (0300 123 2040 or online).

The information contained in this newsletter is of a general nature and no assurance of accuracy can be given. It is not a substitute for specific professional advice in your own circumstances. No action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore, no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a consequence of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.

A concept image of marketing

Small Business: Simplify marketing to increase sales

Every business needs to market their brand, products and services. Have you done enough to create awareness, attract new customers and build relationships?

A concept image of marketing
Marketing is a process where you (the business owner) identify your unique selling proposition (USP), profile your target market, communicate your brand and your USP to the target market, persuade them that your products and services can satisfy their current and future needs, and your company is here to nurture loyal customers.

The marketing process is long, sometimes costly, and definitely more comprehensive than just ‘advertising and selling’. Occasionally, marketing also requires unwavering commitment from you and your staff.

At Tax Agility, we are small business accountants working with entrepreneurs from all walks of life. Our objective is to help small businesses flourish by managing their business accounts accurately and effectively. In addition, we provide a range of business consulting services that aim to help companies reaching their goals. Like our clients, we are small business owners ourselves, and we see marketing as a key discipline which allows us to communicate what we do and build lasting relationships with our clients. With this in mind, we spoke to several marketing specialists and put together this article which we hope could help our clients and other small businesses to establish a stronger competitive advantage through marketing.

The seven ‘Ps’ of marketing

The seven ‘Ps’ refer to a set of recognised marketing tactics which small business owners could use in any combination to create a successful marketing strategy. The seven aspects are:

1. Product

Product refers to the goods and services you are selling – naturally, you want to sell goods and services that are in demand. Successful small business owners tend to spend time researching what the target market needs (or wants), and can highlight the features and advantages of their products and services to the target group, convincing them to purchase.

When marketing products or services, bear in mind that you cannot give false or misleading information to customers. It pays to understand the law on product safety and demonstrate compliance. You should also prepare for (and respond to) product safety incidents and take up appropriate product liability insurance.

Here’s a quick example: one of our clients found out that there is a market for toy robots in the UK and he imports them to sell. In his marketing campaign, he highlights the physical features of the robots and shows how these robots can interact with growing children (through voice, touch and/or remote control). All toy robots he sells also comply with the provisions of the Toys Regulations 2011, meaning they bear the CE mark, satisfy the ‘essential safety requirements’ in the regulations, be properly marked to ensure traceability, and be accompanied by instructions for use, along with warnings where necessary.

2. Price

As consumers ourselves, we all know that a product or a service is only worth what the customers are prepared to pay for it. The price has to be ‘right’ and perhaps even competitive, but not necessary the cheapest. Ideally, the optimal price is what your customers are willing to pay and it also allows you to make a profit (after covering your costs).

Accordingly, setting a suitable pricing strategy for your products and services take some planning. You probably need to spend a good amount of time reviewing your costs – fixed and variable – as well as knowing your break-even point. The break-even point can help you to work out how much you need to sell before you make a profit and how profitable a particular product or service is. If you need help with business costs, talk to a trusted small business accountant like our team here at Tax Agility.

Sometimes, you may choose to enforce the value of your products or services through a higher price tag. This could be a wise approach, especially if the value you provide is not something that your competitors can easily copy.

3. Promotion

This is about the promotional activities you undertake to make your customers aware of your products and services. They can include direct marketing, telemarketing, above-the-line advertising, PR activities such as media releases, sponsorship, as well as short-term sales.

Successful promotional campaigns tend to tell a story, so give your brand a story – why it exists, why it cares about customers and the world, for instance. Savvy customers today prefer to engage with businesses that they can connect and build direct relationships with, so don’t be afraid to show your passion, talk about the values you stand for, and why your business is the one to choose.

Keeping up with the times, your promotional activities may include an online element too. You can find out more about online marketing by following the link to the article Small Business: Win customers with a strong online presence.

4. Place

The place refers to where your customers are able to see and purchase your products and services. The place may be your website, an online marketplace, a physical store, via other distributors, or a combination of the above.

If you are selling your products and services in a physical store, then you probably know the importance of using effective visual display to create an identity and maximise sales. Retail display is actually a part of branding, helping to make a statement about your business as well as attracting prospects to purchase your products and services.

If you are selling online, then you know the benefits of using excellent photographs and concise product descriptions, along with online optimisation. You may also consider using ‘behaviour targeting’ to show your products and services to your target market throughout their buying process – from needs or problem recognition, information search, evaluation of alternatives, making a decision, to purchasing.

5. People

The fifth P here refers to everyone in your company, including yourself and your staff. The aim here is to recruit the right people who are as committed to the company as you are. Devoted staff will champion excellent customer service, which in turn will help you win referrals and grow your business.

To retain good staff, you may need to provide adequate training and skill development opportunities, along with suitable motivators (which may or may not be monetary). A good tip that our small business accountants often share with entrepreneurs is to look at the products and services with the highest profit margins, and check to see if they are adequately supported by your staff.

6. Processes

This refers to the processes involved in delivering your products and services to the customers. It ranges from the process to ordering new stock, ensuring products and services are delivered in a timely manner, allowing customers to give feedback, handling negative customer reviews, and regularly reviewing your financial statements to make sure that your company is on track.

Good processes will undoubtedly increase efficiency, thereby saving your company time and money. On the other hand, inadequate processes (or lack of) may create confusion and mistakes, risking a vicious circle that may lead to business failure.

7. Physical evidence

Physical evidence refers to everything your customers see when interacting with your company. Ideally, everything they see should reinforce a positive image of your company and boost their confidence in your brand, products and services.

Accordingly, think about every aspect, from how you package your products, the physical environment where you provide or sell the products or services, to how your staff act in the premises.

Marketing and growth

While the above seven ‘Ps’ of marketing are vital points for small business owners to consider before creating a marketing strategy, we must also point out the financial aspect. For instance, your marketing plan should have a clear financial objective, like how a campaign can help you achieve a net profit of x through sales of product y within the next 12 months.

Your marketing plan should also include campaign costs, which must be affordable by your business. From time to time, we do hear stories that business owners spending most of their money on branding or sponsorship, hoping to make a big impact but only to find little return.

As the financial aspect is critical, do talk to an experienced small business accountant like our team here at Tax Agility. We can help to review costs associating with your products and services, find ways to reduce wastage, calculate the break-even point, make profitability projections, among others.

We can also help you with the followings:

  • Accounting & Bookkeeping: leave your day-to-day finances to us. We will also provide monthly management accounts, prepare statements and help you set-up cloud accounting.
  • Tax: if you are tax-efficient, you will have more money to invest, expand and create jobs in your community. Let us help you with tax planning, tax computation and tax returns.
  • VAT: from VAT returns to manging VAT on import and export goods, we take care of them so you don’t have to.
  • Payroll: as your team grows, outsource your payroll administration to us so that you and your team can continue to enjoy accurate and on-time payslips every month.
  • Management consultancy: take your business forward with practical advice based on financial data and benchmark analysis.

Call our small business accountants today on 020 8108 0090.

Alternatively, you can use the contact us form to get in touch.

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This blog is a general summary. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstance.