Tricks to Give Your Business a More Personal Touch

21 Aug, 2015 | Tags: , , , , ,

According to a recent Gallup poll, customer engagement is more critical today because consumers prefer to have an emotional connection to a businesses. Fully engaged customers are emotionally bonded and loyal to the company. On the other hand, actively disengaged customers easily switch between products or services. For example, fully engaged bank customers add up to 40 percent more annual revenue, compared with disengaged customers. Below explains three ways to personalize your customer’s experience with your business.

Genuine Engagement


Surprise your customers by actively engaging them through genuine interactions. Set the standard that employees address customers by name and require that all employees wear name tags or state their name at the beginning of an interaction. Most customers appreciate not being treated like just another face or account number. Encourage employees to engage customers in polite conversation while focusing on meeting their needs. Whenever a customer has a problem, instruct employees to actively listen and problem solve at the lowest possible level. Employees should not simply transfer the phone or pass the problem along to someone else. If the problem is more complex, a timely follow up is critical, even if there is no immediate solution available.

Elicit Feedback

Many businesses want to adjust their business practices to meet their customers’ needs, but are unsure how to go about doing this. Improving the customer experience begins with properly documenting and responding to customer comments and complaints. Hard data and numbers work best when it comes to improving the overall customer experience. Consider formally surveying customers through email, phone, or in-person surveys. Monitor social media sites for postings that shed light on improvement opportunities. Cloud-based platforms that customers can access, such as healthcare communication systems like Solutionreach Patient Engagement, offer Patient Reminder Software and allow customers to easily connect to the company more personally.

Improve the Customer Service Experience

According to Forbes, certain industries are better suited to excel at customer service, such as the real estate and healthcare industries. However, retail and social media are at the bottom of the list. According to Forbes, the key to a satisfying customer service experience is through personal relationships and ample self-service resources. Every customer service interaction should begin and end on a positive note. As mentioned above, genuine and helpful customer service interactions will resolve most problems. On the other hand, many savvy customers can take care of their own problems, but often lack the means to do it. Be sure that your website and social media sites offer right resources, such as FAQs and Forums, so customers can answer their own questions as well.

To recap, businesses today can offer a more personal experienced through genuine engagement, eliciting feedback, and improving the customer service experience. Businesses that offer a personalized experience will increase the number of fully engaged, loyal customers and increase their revenue as a result.

“Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.”


Outsourcing Smarter: How to Free Up Company Resources for Less

04 Aug, 2015 |

Spending company resources on every project can end up costing your business a significant amount of money. Whether you own a bar or restaurant, or even a growing daycare, you have a lot on your hands and not a lot of time to deal with each project that comes up. Outsourcing can save you time and resources, which can be used to further develop your company and improve your ability to respond to a fast-changing marketplace. By outsourcing certain jobs, you can free up resources and make it possible to better manage your company. Different kinds of outsourcing can improve the quality of the services you offer, without having to spend a lot of money on specialized teams and staff.

IT Professionals

Not all IT work can be outsourced, but you can reduce your overall costs by outsourcing certain key components of your business infrastructure. Software development, on-site or remote help desk options, email, virus, spam, and online threat protection services can all be outsourced. IT services in Ottawa like Bedrock’s managed services offer firewall protection along with anti-malware and desktop support services for businesses large and small. It’s also possible to outsource your website hosting services, managed server hosting, managed application hosting, and your hardware, software, and network installation and support infrastructure. For keeping your records and billing secure, it’s a no-brainer to find a good IT company.

Infrastructure Support

Disaster recovery is something that can be time consuming, and hiring an external body to manage your recovery and emergency services can greatly minimize your costs. Costs like data back-up, recovery, and transfers can all be dedicated to outside back up and security professionals for less cost overall. When you have professionals on hand, you can be more prepared to handle IT crashes, and even physical dangers like fires or floods.

Graphic Design

A small business doesn’t always a need an internal full-scale graphics company. Many times, you just need a graphic designer for quick projects. Hiring extra graphic designers only when you need them can help save your company a substantial amount of money. It avoids the need to pay for health insurance, ensures you’re only paying for services you need, and can help an existing graphics team complete time-sensitive projects. You can quickly scale the scope of your business and respond to large projects as necessary.

Packaging Companies

Packaging companies can help make your products stand out, without the need to manage your own factory. For a small business, it often makes sense to hire a packaging company on an as-needed basis. Whether you need custom bottling solutions or company product packaging, solutions are available to help specific industries like the healthcare, automotive, household and beverage industry. You can shop around for a place that will go to the places you need your products to be, and can help come up with a good package design maybe not super unique to your business, but help you stand out from competitors for less cost.

Advertising Companies

One of the more common ways a company can save money is by hiring an outside advertising company. You’ll meet with professional advertisers, discuss your project, and let them design your campaign. This frees up more resources to allow you to concentrate on growing your company.

Outsourcing is a smart way to boost your company productivity and effectiveness. The best managers and business owners know how to delegate tasks and select the right people for each job. Outsourcing work is no different. Choosing the right company to help your company grow frees up your time and resources to concentrate on selling your drinks, food, services and products. And we can’t close without mentioning our very own schedule managing software. You can always outsource your shift scheduling while still keeping it in house by taking advantage of our free trial whenever you are ready!

 


How to Survive Bad Press Like a Pro

19 Jun, 2015 | Tags: , , , , , ,

We are living in the age of the Internet: where all types of communication and attitudes are welcome, bad news actually does travel faster than the speed of light, and everyone waits in the shadows for an opportunity to hop on a good (or bad) story. You know you’ve seen it before; the little business down some street you’ve never heard of is suddenly the talk of the entire Internet. Everyone starts ganging up on the business sharing the story via Facebook and Twitter with posts encouraging everyone to stop being a patron. Then after you’ve seen the story show up in your feed for the third time in an hour, you decide to read the story, and you realize the way the business handled a situation was cringe worthy.

Let’s be honest, in the age of Internet, sometimes you won’t be able to stop some bad press from happening. There’s always going to be the outraged man who’s water wasn’t cold enough who fumed in your Yelp reviews. And don’t be too upset with the woman who keeps tagging your business on Facebook with hate posts, because truth be told, you probably won’t be able to make her happy. If you recall when Facebook would change their layouts, you would think a violent revolution was brewing based on the angry posts on your timeline. The internet makes it easy for people to indulge in anger, but eventually it all blows over. So here are some rules for dealing with bad press, and how to do it like a pro so that you can survive it and come out stronger in the process.

Don’t Bring Fuel To The Fire Fight

One thing you should always remember about the internet: there is always a user somewhere that will “out-insult” you, and wherever you are, once you bring your best fight, that user will come out of the shadows and find you. Bad press happens. As a business owner, NEVER turn to your caps lock or profanity. The only way all caps are acceptable are when driving the point home to never reply to a customer IN ALL CAPS. Keep your cool, which leads us to our second rule.

Pick Your Battles Carefully

While you’re remaining cool, calm, and collected, still choose your battles wisely. The barrage of commenters will likely not back down, even if you are using legitimate arguments for reasons your business is being portrayed in an ugly light. Do spend time if necessary commenting on the situation, but don’t feel like you need to get into a comment battle with every individual with an opinion. Another option in these situations is to hire an outside PR agency to handle communication.

Sometimes It’s Best Not To Say Anything

No one is forcing you to say anything at all, and sometimes you may find the odds are in your favor if you’re silent anyway. Again, the users of the Internet will comment until they’re blue in the face whether or not you’re an active participant. Standing in the shadows quietly until the waters have calmed is never a bad idea.

Your Silence Is A Good Time To Listen

If you do choose silence as a strategy, this is a good time for you to listen to your customers. Don’t try to read every comment on the Internet, but do try to seek out your customers and listen to ways their experience with your business could be made better. At this step, your job is not to try and fix your bad press, or to make the press go away. Your job is to just listen.

Find Opportunities To Grow

After the bad press starts to calm down, you’ve carefully chosen which battles to engage, and you’ve spent time listening to your customers, take this as an opportunity to come on the other side of this bad press as a better business owner. Take everything you learned during your time in front of the bad press spotlight to come back as a stronger business and business owner. Be honest about what took place, how you handled the event, and lastly what you’re doing to be a better business. Your customers will appreciate your honesty, and the Internet commenters will slither back into their shadows and await their next victim.

If you have any stories, experiences you can share, feel free to leave them in the comments!


The 5 Best Ways to Optimize Your Company’s Finances

08 Jun, 2015 | Tags: , , , ,

Optimizing your company’s finances is an important part of staying in business for the long term. This process is something business owners learn to do more efficiently over time. As they become better at handling large sums of money, a business owner will recognize the value of staying on top of their company’s finances and carefully scrutinizing the general flow of cash in and out of their business. Here are the five best methods for optimizing a company’s finances.

Knowing the Essential Operating Costs

To ensure that your company’s finances are operating at peak efficiency, it first requires that you have a solid grasp on your company’s essential operating costs. This means that, if push comes to shove, you want to determine the minimal amount of money required each quarter, month, week and day to keep your company up and running. After calculating items like rent, lights, payroll, and other factors your company will not be able to avoid paying out, this establishes a target amount that you will use to make sure your company is going to be able to handle its essential budgeting requirements. If your company is failing to bring in enough money to handle its weekly requirements, despite meeting its quarterly requirements, then adjustments to your operating costs may need to be introduced to ensure a more consistent financial outcome.

The Future Projections

It is not enough to ensure that your company will be alive and kicking at the end of the first quarter of operations. Your funding sources should be scrutinized in order to develop a financial plan to ensure that your company will be prepared to hold out for the next five years. Having a financial projection that meets this duration requirement, where you know how you are paying off all your operating costs well into the future, is important to getting your company over a critical financial hump. The reason this is critical is because most start-up companies never develop a proven financial strategy to meet such long term financial projections.

Cutting Wasteful Spending

If you notice that your company is spending money in areas that do not prove to generate considerable profit, then such spending will typically turn into nothing more than long term waste. It is your job, as controller of your company’s finances to spot and eliminate these wasteful spending habits. Every dollar wasted in unprofitable spending efforts literally translates to a financial loss.

Stop Mixing Personal and Business Finances Together

One of the temptations that business owners tend to have is that they use their company finances to carry out personal transactions. This generally tends to make for a growing financial mess and should be avoided at all costs. For example, if you are ordering checks, do not put your custom designer personal checks in as an item you pay for with company money. Once you figure out where to buy checks online, be sure to purchase them with your own money instead.

Use a Financial Consultant

Sometimes the trick to ensuring the best path to optimizing your company’s finances involves utilizing the services of a competent financial adviser. It may be the case that your particular niche industry produces special or even abnormal financial challenges. Using a consultant that has experience navigating through such niche specific challenges will be key to ensuring the best possible outcome for your company’s continued financial success.

Conclusion

The key to optimizing your company’s finances is more about getting down to basics than attempting to over-complicate matters. The more complicated your company’s financial situation gets, the more room there is for inefficiency to creep into the works. The straighter forward your company finances happen to be, the easier it is to spot any perceived financial problems and wasteful spending. This will make managing your company’s financial course far easier and profitable over the long term.


The Extra Step: How To Best Your Competitors’ Marketing Efforts

16 Apr, 2015 |

Competition in business

You can do your business as well as the next guy, cover all your basis, put out a quality product and provide your customers with premium service, but ultimately you will come to the conclusion that what you’ve been told is 100% true – marketing matters. A lot.

 You may like it or hate it, but one thing you can be sure of is that your competitors are doing everything within their means to separate themselves from the pack and establish themselves as the golden standard within their market/community. Today more than ever marketing is an integral part of any quality business plan, and just as much as you care about the standard of your service you need to make sure that your marketing efforts are up to par.

 Of course, there are only 24 hours in a day, and money is always tight, but neglecting the promotional aspect of your business is one sure way to bury it into the ground. Make peace with the fact that it is necessary, and set about doing it the best possible way.

Know your competition

Marketing is a game you play to win, and grabbing your share of the market is not going to be easy. If you wish to overcome your competitors, you will need to pay close attention to what they are doing. Take note of what they are doing right, and also try to seek out anything they might be doing wrong. In this day and age promotion is conducted on many diverse levels, from your visual identity and overall message to choosing the channels over which you will spread it. Let’s take a look at each of those aspects.

The Identity of Your Brand

Try to think about the specific qualities of your business. What type of cuisine dominates your menu? What type of “atmosphere” are you going for (think “modern”, “traditional”, “homely”, “innovative”, etc.)? What type of clientele do you envision (young, older, families, business people…)? Even if you’re a general, all around restaurant, you still need to find your niche and position yourself as a unique entity on the market. Catering to “everyone” simply won’t cut it.

Once you find the answers to those questions (and many more we have neglected to ask) you have to streamline everything – from your logo to the interiors with all of their elements – into a clear and striking package that reflects your core values and intentions. All the elements need to fall in line to form an identity that is clearly positioned on the market.

Brand loyalty

The key to attracting customers is filling a gap on the market. The key to maintaining them is meeting, and hopefully exceeding their expectations. Your primary focus is and should be the quality of your product and your service. Basically, do your job and you have yourself a nice starting platform.

There are many things businesses can do to solidify their brand, but ultimately it comes down to sending a positive message to the community. Whether it’s aligning yourself with other successful and respectable businesses, taking an active part in the community through carefully selected sponsorships (think supporting a local sports team or sponsoring a young talent), charitable work or community events. Think about what you believe in and what you’re passionate about, and whichever choice you make do your best to let the public know all about your activities.

Advertising

No revolutionary advice here. Formulating a marketing strategy is largely dependant on the specific nature of your business as well as the market in which you operate, and there are no universal rules here. Assuming your competitors are doing their job, you will need to find a way to stand out. You need to give your potential clients a specific reason to come to you and not your competitors. Identify (or create) a quality that separates you from the pack, and insist on it. Don’t be afraid to be daring and let your voice be heard, just make sure that your message is consistent with the overall image you are trying to achieve.

Feedback

Online presence is a two way street. Having a functional website and being active across social network is important not because “you don’t exist if you’re not online” (or any other empty cliche being passed around these days), but because it provides you with a direct channel of communication with a large audience. Your present and future customers can do a lot of your work for you simply by pointing out what you’re getting right, and what you could improve. Therefore, giving them a platform to provide you with feedback is simply essential. Make sure that you’re website is “user-friendly”, and if you don’t possess the necessary know how find professionals to provide you with a striking and functional web design. Be present on the social networks and try to devise creative ways to engage the community. At the least, keep them updated on all your activities

Besting your competitor’s promotional efforts is often all about covering all the bases. Essentially, if the quality of your product and your service is up to par, if you have a clear vision of what your business represents, if you utilize the things that come for free (i.e., social networks) and formulate your marketing strategy with regards to the specific nature of your desired clientele, chances are you’re good to go.