Running an Efficient Customer Service/Errand Service

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Question
QUESTION: Hello,

I am unemployed and I would like to start an errand service for the elderly and disabled people.  I do not have the funds to purchase a portable credit card terminal so, for now I would have to accept cash. I would like to collect the fee for my service and the amount owed for services/products that they needed(groceries, dry cleaning, etc.)when I return. However, I don't know many people who have that much cash in their home, especially the elderly. My question is, do you have any ideas of how I can receive what is owed to me in a way that I don't get cheated?

Thank You,
Lynnsie

ANSWER: Hulloo, Lynnsie!

Unemployment is scary. I applaud your desire to take control of the situation rather than depending on someone else to fix it for you.

A few thoughts:

1. Don't worry about getting cheated. Most people just aren't going to take advantage. Build your business on trust, and folks will feel it. Don't be foolish, but if you're careful about who you work with, you won't have to worry.
2. Get a PayPal business account (it's free) and get their credit card terminal, which will plug into any smart phone. Cards are the best way to go. Cash is messy, as you know.
3. If you truly must deal with cash, start with referrals: someone you know, friends of friends, that sort of thing. Make it clear you don't work with strangers, only friends of friends, because your business is all about trust.
4. One huge concern is built into your question: the folks who need these services rarely have much money. The place my mom lives, the notice boards always have one or two people advertising these kinds of services. Tell me what you've done for a living in the past, what skills and passions you have, and perhaps there's something else you can do (in addition) to earn your living.

If there's anything else I can do to help just ask.

joel

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hi Joel,

Thanks for the response.  To be more clear, I meant to say that most people don't have much money laying around in their house.  That was why I was concerned about accepting cash only because most people use credit cards for purchase and have their money in accounts.  Unfortunately, I don't have a smartphone and cannot afford one for now.

Attached is a summary of my work history.  I definitely like working in the field and helping kids and the elderly.

Thanks for the great ideas.

Experience
2009-2013 Survey Administrator, Mathematica Policy Research
-Conducted surveys to grammar and high school teachers/students

2005-2009 Personal Caregiver, Dr. William Collins DDS
- Contracted to provide professional services to nursing home inpatient

2004-2005 Tutor, Knowledge Learning Corporation
- Tutored for President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Program

2004 Substitute Teacher for Chicago Public Schools

2004-2005 Field Interviewer, Research Triangle Institute
- Determined location sites based on certain demographic information
- Called potential clients to set appointments
- Conducted field interviews using the CAPI System (Computer Assisted Personal Interview)
- Transmitted data via computer to the corporate office
- Transmitted payroll and expense information to the corporate office via telephone
- Met with management weekly for updates and progress reports

1997-2004 Dental Assistant, Alpha Medical Center/ Dr. William Collins DDS
- Sterilized and provided all instruments and supplies during dental procedures
- Administered x-rays/ Set appointments
- Interacted with lab technicians and supply companies via phone, fax and internet

1997-1999 Field Interviewer, Safe Children Project (University of Illinois)
- Determined location sites based on certain demographic information
- Conducted interviews via the CAPI System in the clients’ homes
- Videotaped interactive assessments of the child’s behavior (targeted group ages 7-13)

1993-1997 Service Representative, Perruso Cleaners
- Assisted the customers with apparel delivery and pick up
- Responded to phone inquiries/troubleshooter when necessary



Lynnsie

Answer
Got it.

I'd suggest you emphasize your work experience in your marketing. Many folks who do this are unemployed because they have no skills. You're actually a qualified professional.

I think with your skill set you could offer small businesses help with their online marketing. Do you have access to a computer with internet access? Someone with research skills, people skills, the stuff you've done, you could really help the right small business engage with potential customers and clients.  

Running an Efficient Customer Service

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Joel D Canfield

Expertise

I'm a problem-solver; I specialize in finding practical win-win solutions to difficult customer service issues. Anything to do with maintaining good relations with your customers and still running a profitable business is fair game.

Experience

I've operated more than one successful small business of my own, and provided support for multiple small businesses as a consultant.

Education/Credentials
I am self-taught. I've been a voracious reader since I was 4 years old. I absorb three to five new books a month on virtually every subject of interest to a small business owner/operator.

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