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How Marketers Can Connect Profit and Purpose

It takes time for a big idea to make its way into business practice. Six years ago, Harvard’s Michael Porter and FSG’s Mark Kramer made the bold statement that shared value —the idea that the purpose of a company is to achieve both shareholder profit and social purpose — 

 

To  reinvent capitalism.

 

They encouraged companies to go beyond CSR (corporate social responsibility) and integrate social impact into companies’ competitive strategy. And, Nathaniel Foote and Russ Eisenstat proposed 

 

“ A better way to manage in the 21st century.

 

They found “higher-ambition” leaders achieved superior performance by doing well and doing good. For the last six years, they have worked with a group of top marketing executives and business leaders in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area from companies large and small. Each year they assess the issues that are most top-of-mind. From digital platforms to customer experience to crisis management, these priorities have been a bellwether for what would soon dominate boardroom discussions and headline business publications.

This year the issue of profit and propose came to the fore, echoing the earlier manifestos. To understand the connections and applications, interviews with over 20 CMOs and CEOs, finding a remarkably similar pattern across a highly diverse set of companies. To find widespread agreement that having great products and services and being a “good corporate citizen” are table stakes in a world of empowered citizens and consumers.

Melissa Waters, CMO of Lyft, says,

Any customer these days is asking for transparency on what a company stands for and why they operate. But you can’t exist just to make the world a better place.

Purpose today goes well beyond corporate social responsibility. According to Alicia Tillman, CMO of SAP,

Purpose can’t be viewed as a department or initiative. It must be woven into a company’s operational fabric. Purpose is a lodestar guiding and inspiring everyone to create economic and societal value together.”

In a sense, purpose is following the path that digital has taken in the enterprise.


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News & Economic Trends

 

Learning and Flow

 

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Because flow emerges in the zone in which an activity challenges people to the fullest to their capacities, as their skills increase it takes a heightened challenge to get into flow.

If a task is too simple, it is boring; if too challenging, the result is anxiety, rather than flow.

It can be argued that mastery in a craft or skill is spurred on by the experience of flow that the motivation to get better and better at something, be it playing the violin, dancing, or gene spicing, is at least in part to stay in flow while doing it.

“Flow is an internal state that signifies a kid is engaged in a task that’s right.”

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The flow model suggests that achieving mastery of any skill or body of knowledge should ideally happen naturally.

Csikszentmihalyi found that it was those who in their student days had savored the sheer joy, became serious. Whether it be in controlling impulse and putting off gratification, regulating our mood so they facilitate rather than impede thinking, motivating ourselves to persist and try, try again in the face of setbacks, all bespeak the power of emotion to guide effective effort.


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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

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A chance to catch up on much-needed reading to refresh and recharge your standards and leadership style scoured this lists of books that helped to look at life and work in a whole new way. While these books are not your typical newest releases, they have timeless value and are best read together to rejuvenate yourself and, by extension, your team.

The review by Rebecca Talbot, Content Marketing & Research Manager & Leadership Story Lab sais:

Feeling comfortable in our workplace can have its downsides. It’s easy to fall into patterns and make assumptions about the people we spend our days with.”

The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier offers a way to get beyond our assumptions about our coworkers’ behavior and learn their stories instead. Stanier’s short book explores seven questions managers can use to get people talking, and to train themselves to avoid thinking they “already know” what’s motivating people. His first question is simply:

What’s on your mind?

When we are willing to start our conversations with an open-ended question, the answers might surprise us!And that’s Stanier’s whole point-that we need to approach each other with far more curiosity.

The “what’s on your mind” question resonated with me because it is a question my dad used to ask me often when I was a teenager. The respect and curiosity implied in the question worked well to encourage a teenager to talk.

Likewise, family, friends and colleagues generally need an invitation before they will share what’s been important to them lately. Now that Stanier has reminded of that, I’ll be using this question more frequently.

 


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Latest Financial Topics for Strategy & Business Developments

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By the end of the century, a third of the workforce will be “knowledge workers”, or people whose productivity is marked by adding value to information, whether as market analyst, writers, or computer programmers.

Peter Druker, the eminent business maven who coined the term “knowledge worker“, points out that such workers’ expertise is highly specialized, and that their productivity depends on their efforts being coordinated as part of an organisational team: writers are not publishers; computer programmers are not software distributors. While people have always worked in tandem, Druker notes that with knowledge work,

” Teams become the work unit rather than the individual himself.”

Perhaps the most rudimental form of organisational team-work is the meeting, that inescapable part of an executive’s office in a boardroom, on a conference call, in someone’s office.

Meetings bodies in the same room are but the most obvious, and at the somewhat antiquated, example of the sense in which work is shared.

Electronic networks, email, teleconferences, work teams, informal networks and the like are emerging as new functional entities in organisations. To the degree that explicit hierarchy as mapped on an organisational chart is the skeleton of an organisation, these human touch points are its central nervous system.

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The total the talents and skills involved, whatever people come together to collaborate, whether it be in an executive planning meeting or as a team-working toward a shared product, there are in a very real sense on which they have been included in a group of IQ.

In maximizing the excellence of a group’s product, the degree to which the members were able to create a state of internal harmony, lets them take the advantage of the full talent of their members.


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Latest News Section Sources Including Companies and Bank Reviews

Exploring Corporate Strategy

1. Human resource management and global business strategy

Challenges position, choices and action that should be seen as closely related. In practise none has priority over another, this sequence is not meant to suggest that the process of strategic management must follow a neat and tidy path. Indeed, the evidence on how strategic management happens in practice suggest that it usually does not occur in tidy ways.
Elements of strategic management in linear sequence is characterised first by understanding the strategic position, than strategic choices and finally putting strategy in action. Indeed, many texts on the subject to just this. However, in practise, the elements of strategic management do not follow this linear sequence, they are interlinked and feed back on each other.

The inter-connected circles of the above exhibit are designed to emphasise this non-linear nature of strategy.

Corporate social responsibility is among the top challenges. Companies face when expanding into new markets, especially in developing regions.

Business practices that are acceptable locally are frequently at odds with the values of the company and the laws of its regulatory agencies. This creates a tug-of-war between social responsibility and the need to be successful in those markets, which can turn into significant risk.
Guiding corporate strategic decision-making challenge incorporating the human capital opportunities and risks from operating abroad into corporate strategic decision-making workforce opportunities that are marked both by steady improvements through the political machinations that open trade across borders and enable cross-border migrations, and by sudden and often unexpected changes such as the relaxation in relations between the United States and Cuba; conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine; and dramatic swings in oil prices.
The challenge for companies is to remain nimble to take advantage of the opportunities while avoiding the risks. HR’s challenge is to gather, assess and understand all the cultural, labor and market complexities of operating in each market so that the company can predict opportunities and risks, know when to enter or exit a market, and integrate successfully into new local markets.
The success of a company’s global growth hinges on HR integrating the workforce. HR-led teams need to assess the complexities of bringing together workforces with often dissimilar societal and corporate cultures. HR can, for example, identify potential roadblocks early and plan interventions before problems arise. The food facilities management company Sodexo identified a need for diversity and inclusion across its 355,000 employees from North American to China. It developed training programs that resulted in significant numbers of women, youths, people with disabilities and indigenous workers productively joining its workforce across the globe.

2.Making the business case for CSR

The challenge for HR is to gain a detailed understanding of local environments and their accepted business practices. It then needs to establish protocols that are customized for each region and communicate these protocols throughout the organization and across its supply chain.
When local labor laws or practices conflict with the organization’s CSR policies, HR needs to be the voice of the individual and ensure that the company maintains its integrity, even when this goes against the potential economic value.

HR faces the additional challenge of demonstrating to the company how good CSR policies strengthen the brand, increase customer loyalty and boost shareholder value.

3.Balancing corporate and societal cultures while promoting diversity

Some cultural attributes, such as a command-and-control management style, can be modified to fit local cultures, while others, such as integrity and human rights policies, cannot be compromised. HR needs to understand and deal with the complexities, deciding which corporate culture elements can change and which are essential to protecting the organization’s values and ethics. The company cannot change anti-bribery policies, but it may choose to change its dress-down-Fridays rule.

Management may also choose to impose cultural elements, such as giving back to the community consistently across the global organization. The challenge becomes even more complex when dealing with new workers, those engaged through means such as crowdsourcing, as well as remote and temporary workers.

HR also needs to develop programs to assist executives to adapt when they move from the head office to regions with different societal and cultural norms.



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The Latest News on Business & Development Strategy Practise

Systems of Record

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Money all spent in systematization, as you all know more than I do, it is not easy with all that data that you have collected. 

Until recently mainly used to expedite manufacturing, robots are increasingly appearing outside factory floors, in hospitals, labs and offices. To meet the requirements of these varying situations, developers have designed new models, such as soft robots and software robots. This creates 

 

“a digital workforce”

 

which represents a whole new operational, highly scalable, reliable and auditable work capability for businesses.

The use of software robots in this context has been called robotic process automation, or RPA.  While many people have fantasized about a day when they can delegate chores to robots and let them take the reins when it comes to innovation, the rise of these new breeds has left some observers wondering about their value to the workforce.

Many have expressed concern that by taking on core processes in factories, labs, hospitals, offices, robots will make people irrelevant and unemployed. But instead what’s resulting with early adoption of these machines is that there’s room for both robots and people – and the combination is enabling an unparalleled level of efficiency, customer service and innovation. Take Telefonica, for instance.

Under the direction of its head of digital service and transformation Wayne Butterfield, the telecom provider turned to software robotics made by my company, Blue Prism, after fully exhausting other methods of reducing costs while increasing efficiency of the back-office transactions it completes for customers. While software robots were an obvious choice in terms of speeding up processes and slashing corporate spending, members of the IT department were skeptical. They doubted whether the software robots were capable of accurately completing complex procedures like transferring customers’ SIM card data from old phones to new devices. But as software robots repeatedly demonstrated their value automating thousands of monthly transactions, the IT department could no longer dispute the advantages of a digital workforce.

 

What’s important to understand is that people are still involved in the process.

 

Not only do managers train robots much like how they do for new employees – teaching them rules and the ins and outs of particular procedures – but processes can be triggered by a customer or an employee. Many of you are doing this for over 30 years but now it’s not about being focused in improving your process, but also being focused in connecting it with your customer and now mobilising that information to be out in the field. It’s a study made by McKinsey that said that digital transformation is very important to us but we are 13% ready. So how do you get ready?

 



 

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The Latest Business Strategy Practise & Contemporary DevelopmentsNews

 

 

Differentiation Strategy

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Executives of young companies are constantly questioning how to build a differentiated identity in a saturated industry. Even pioneers in uncharted territory will, before too long, need to find their voice.”
Intense competition means you’re onto something good. It also means your industry will shape you if you are not tenacious about defining yourself. There are three fundamental strategies that are instrumental in distinguishing a company from its peers:

1. Cultivate a work environment that enables you to hire exceptional people
The prospect of achieving true value-driven business hinges on your ability to recruit the best talent in the industry. “A” players want to work alongside “A” players, so there is nothing more important than building a strong nucleus of talent. Hiring hastily during an inflection point of your growth can be the kiss of death in creating a culture of excellence.
Nothing gets top-tier employees more excited than being challenged to take on outsized responsibility, yet most work environments still adhere to a stripes-earning, teeth-cutting, dues-paying mentality that stifles growth.
One of the ways you’ll be able to succeed in attracting exceptional talent is by showing that you strive to be a perfect meritocracy, unfettered by the requirements around age or experience.

2. Question everything but challenge selectively

Adhering solely to industry standards and best practices is a surefire way to camouflage a company in the market. Businesses strongly positioned for long-term success tend to believe adamantly that their industry’s best practices have yet to be discovered. There is an important distinction between questioning every industry assumption and assuming that every industry practice is flawed – it is a thin line between curiosity and arrogance. In the quest to innovate, leave no stone unturned. If the industry got it right, turn that stone back over.


3. Focus relentlessly on value
Proclaiming the need to focus on value may sound like a truism, but it is remarkably easy to forsake the path of substance. Businessman and author Ben Horowitz aptly said in order for a customer to switch to your product, it needs to be 10 times better than the product they are currently using. The only way to ensure this is by employing a laser focus on value and eliminating all distractions.
This demands not only discernment between value and distraction, but requires the discipline not to pursue the distraction. As a young company, you’ll face this challenge every day, and sometimes the choice is between less engaging tasks to create value or more interesting tasks destroying value. Making the choice to select substance over splash is critical in building a deep, unique product.


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Latest News for Strategy Business Developments

Outthink The Future

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| Identifying and Engaging |

One of the main reasons for this failure rate is that entrepreneurs don’t identify their target demographic correctly. Without clarifying your core customers, selling is ultimately a function of individual, heroic efforts in the field, not a scalable platform for growth.

The following four steps can reverse this downward trend:

 

Assemble and analyze customer data

Every firm should know how customer attributes link to core selling metrics, including profitability, cost of customer acquisition and customer-lifetime value. While this information is often scattered across multiple functions in a company, it’s worth pulling together to establish a common language of customer value across functions.

 

Get the field involved

People in frontline positions hold the best understanding of customer behavior as it relates to the seller’s cost implications and should be involved in reviewing the data gathered. What can they tell us about profitable or unprofitable customer attributes? What else might be driving customer acquisition costs in a segment? What are the implications for the organizational change?

 

Determine who actually generates cash

Implications from deeper understanding of your customers typically involve changes in how you measure sales effectiveness, performance reviews, incentives, product mix, channels and sometimes “addition by subtraction,” or the process of improving performance by not selling to certain types of customers. The costs of serving customers, for example, can vary dramatically for the seller. Some customers require more calls, some buy few large production-efficient order quantities and others may buy more in overall volume but with many just-in-time orders, impacting delivery and other cost-to-serve elements.

Sales people can be dogged optimists in their call patterns, often assuming that “there must be a pony in there somewhere.” Yet by knowing who the customers that generate cash really are, you’re able to clarify the value proposition embedded in a strategy and align resources accordingly.

 

Communicate your criteria

The breadth of potential changes means that communication is critical. Leaders must devote time and effort to discussing the rationale and what they mean for the business. In practice, most companies do not take customer selection seriously until things go sour. However, communicating customer criteria now can contribute to faster decision making and greater profit later.

The marketplace has no responsibility to inform you whether or not your sales people are barking up the wrong tree.

It’s your responsibility as an entrepreneur to think through and clarify your customer selection criteria. Done correctly, it can provide a scalable sales model, focus resources and establish an ongoing process for adapting your criteria in the face of inevitable market changes.


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NEWS & OVERVIEW DISCUSSIONS IN DIFFERENT MARKET INDUSTRIES

Excellence Overview

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A case management on collaboration is fixing the problem right at the first time.  So, whats next?

Believe it or not, a full quarter of employees don’t trust their employer, according to a American Association survey of 1,562 U.S. workers. What’s more, the survey also found that only about half believe their employer is open and upfront with them.

This lack of trust is likely due to a lack of transparency in the workplace. Transparent leadership is the key to fostering a culture of trust between leaders and their employees. Employees who are kept in the loop and understand their role in the overarching purpose and goals of the company are, understandably, more likely to put their trust in their employer.

By now, most of us have heard a thing or two about how to achieve and sustain transparency in the workplace. Here are four reasons why that transparency and culture of trust is necessary:

 

Better relationships

Employees don’t just quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. In fact, CareerBuilder survey revealed that 37 percent of the 3,008 employees surveyed were likely to leave their jobs due to a poor opinion about their boss’s performance.

When it comes to building solid workplace relationships, trust takes center stage. Take Unbounce, for example. It took transparency to another level with its “Inside Unbounce” blog, a staff-authored, un-curated window in the organization. Not only does this demonstrate transparency to potential job seekers, customers, etc., it also keeps employees involved and up to date on company happenings, successes and feedback.

 

Better alignment

Employee alignment, for transparency’s sake, means taking a look at the big picture and seeking to understand everyone’s role within it. This is easily done when employers practice transparency in the workplace. Transparent leadership results in employees who understand the company vision and how their efforts help achieve company-wide goals.

Transparency is at the top of HubSpot’s Culture Code. Its internal wiki includes financials (cash balances, burn-rate, profits and losses, etc.), board meeting decks, management meeting decks, “strategic” topics, HubSpot Lore & Mythology — basically anything and everything employees need to stay informed and aligned with the company vision.

 

Better solutions

When leaders are transparent, problems are solved faster. By being open and honest about company problems, employees can help find solutions. And two heads (or however many heads make up the company) are better than one.

Social sharing app Buffer makes company performance public with progress reports on customer support, blog performance, business performance and more. Not only does doing so increase accountability, it also highlights issues and encourages employees to find solutions.

 

Better engagement

A culture that values transparency in the workplace breeds engaged employees. In fact, Harvard Business Review’s employee engagement survey revealed that 70 percent of those surveyed say they’re most engaged when senior leadership continually updates and communicates company strategy.

When it comes to engaging employees, it’s best to be open about company matters. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner fosters an organization built on transparency. He even takes the time to hold bi-weekly meetings, during which he updates employees on company matters and listens to their suggestions.

What do you think? What are some results you’ve experienced from workplace transparency? Please share in the comments section below.


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Social Trends |Visit News Section On Aspects Of Life And Work|

 


 

New Happenings

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  • Its all about the survival of the those who can adapt. Its a mass of changes.

When you’re a start-up with few employees and few customers, it’s easy to stay on top of what customers want and what they’re getting. But as you add more customers and employees, you add links to the customer service chain.”

That creates the potential for growth and the potential for poor service along the way. That’s why creating a customer service policy and adhering to it is so important. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your clients receive excellent service every step of the way.

  1. Put your customer service policy in writing.These principles should come from you, but every employee should know what the rules are and be ready to live up to them. This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Something as simple as “the customer is always right” can lay the necessary groundwork, although you may want to get more detailed by saying, for instance, “any employee is empowered to grant a 10 percent discount to any dissatisfied customer at any time.”
  2. Establish support systems that give employees clear instructions for gaining and maintaining service superiority.These systems will help you outservice any competitor by giving more to customers and anticipating problems before they arise.
  3. Develop a measurement of superb customer service.Don’t forget to reward employees who practice it consistently.
  4. Be certain that your passion for customer service runs rampant throughout your company.Employees should see how good service relates to your profits and to their futures with the company.
  5. Be genuinely committed to providing more customer service excellence than anyone else in your industry.This commitment must be so powerful that every one of your customers can sense it.
  6. Share information with people on the front lines.Meet with your employees regularly to talk about improving service. Solicit ideas from employees-they are the ones who are dealing with customers most often.
  7. Act on the knowledge that what customers value most are attention, dependability, promptness and competence.They love being treated as individuals and being referred to by name.

 

Phrases That’ll Make Your Customers Happy

Principles of customer service are all very well, but you need to put those principles into action with everything you do and say.

 

There are certain “magic words” customers want to hear from you and your staff. Make sure all your employees understand the importance of these key phrases:

 

  • How can I help?”Customers want the opportunity to explain in detail what they want and need. Too often, business owners feel the desire or the obligation to guess what customers need rather than carefully listening first. By asking how you can help, you begin the dialogue on a positive note (you are “helping,” not “selling”). And by using an open-ended question, you invite discussion.
  • “I can solve that problem.”Most customers, especially business-to-business customers, are looking to buy solutions. They appreciate direct answers in a language they can understand.
  • I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”When confronted with a truly difficult question that requires research on your part, admit that you don’t know the answer. Few things ruin your credibility faster than trying to answer a question when you are unsure of all the facts. Savvy buyers may test you with a question they know you can’t answer and then just sit quietly while you struggle to fake an intelligent reply. An honest answer enhances your integrity.
  • “I will take responsibility.”Tell your customer you realize it’s your responsibility to ensure a satisfactory outcome to the transaction. Assure the customer you know what he or she expects and will deliver the product or service at the agreed-upon price. There will be no unexpected changes or expenses required to solve the problem.
  • “I will keep you updated.”Even if your business is a cash-and-carry operation, it probably requires scheduling and coordinating numerous events. Assure your customers they will be advised of the status of these events. The longer your lead time, the more important this is. The vendors customers trust the most are those that keep them apprised of the situation, whether the news is good or bad.
  • I will deliver on time.”A due date that has been agreed upon is a promise that must be kept. “Close” doesn’t count.
  • Monday means Monday.”The first week in July means the first week in July, even though it contains a national holiday. Your clients are waiting to hear you say “I deliver on time.” The supplier who consistently does so is a rarity and will be remembered.
  • It’ll be just what you ordered.”It will not be “similar to,” and it will not be “better than” what was ordered. It will be exactly what was ordered. Even if you believe a substitute would be in the client’s best interests, that’s a topic for discussion, not something you decide on your own. Your customer may not know (or be at liberty to explain) all the ramifications of the purchase.
  • The job will be complete.”Assure the customer there will be no waiting for a final piece or a last document. Never say you are finished “except for….”
  • “I appreciate your business.“This means more than a simple “Thanks for the order.” Genuine appreciation involves follow-up calls, offering to answer questions, making sure everything is performing satisfactorily, and ascertaining that the original problem has been solved.

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Neglecting any of these steps conveys the impression that you were interested in the person only until the sale was made. This leaves the buyer feeling deceived and used, and creates ill will and negative advertising for your company. Sincerely proving you care about your customers leads to recommendations and repeat sales.

 

Never Let Your Customers Forget You


One important tool for generating repeat business is following up. Effective follow-up begins immediately after the sale when you call the customer to say “thank you” and find out if he or she is pleased with your product or service. Beyond this, there are several effective ways to follow up that ensure your business is always in the customer’s mind.

  • Let customers know what you are doing for them. This can be in the form of a newsletter mailed to existing customers, or it can be more informal, such as a phone call. Whatever method you use, the key is to dramatically point out to customers the excellent service you are giving them. If you never mention all the things you are doing for them, customers may not notice. You aren’t being cocky when you talk to customers about all the work you have done to please them. Just make a phone call and let them know they don’t have to worry because you handled the paperwork, called the attorney or double-checked on the shipment-one less thing they have to do.
  • Write old customers personal, handwritten notes frequently.“I was just sitting at my desk and your name popped into my head. Are you still having a great time flying all over the country? Let me know if you need another set of luggage. I can stop by with our latest models any time.” Or if you run into an old customer at an event, follow up with a note: “It was great seeing you at the CDC Christmas party. I’ll call you early in the New Year to schedule a lunch.”
  • Keep it personal.Voice mail and e-mail make it easy to communicate, but the personal touch is often lost. If you’re having trouble getting through to someone whose problem requires that personal touch, leave a voice-mail message that you want to talk to the person directly or will stop by his or her office at a designated time.
  • Remember special occasions.Send regular customers birthday cards, anniversary cards, holiday cards…you name it. Gifts are excellent follow-up tools, too. You don’t have to spend a fortune to show you care; use your creativity to come up with interesting gift ideas that tie into your business, the customer’s business or his or her recent purchase.
  • Pass on information.If you read an article, see a new book, or hear about an organization a customer might be interested in, drop a note or make a quick call to let them know.
  • Consider follow-up calls as business development calls.When you talk to or visit old clients or customers, you’ll often find they have referrals to give you, which can lead to new business.

With all your existing customers can do for you, there’s simply no reason not to stay in regular contact with them. Use your imagination, and you’ll think of plenty of other ideas that can help you develop a lasting relationship.

 

Dealing With Unsatisfied Customers

Studies show that the vast majority of unsatisfied customers will never come right out and tell you they’re unsatisfied. They simply leave quietly, later telling everyone they know not to do business with you. So when a customer complains, don’t think of it as a nuisance-think of it as a golden opportunity to change that customer’s mind and retain his or her business.

Even the best product or service receives complaints now and then. Here’s how to handle them for positive results:

 

  • Let customers vent their feelings. Encourage them to get their frustrations out in the open.
  • Never argue with a customer.
  • Never tell a customer “You do not have a problem.” Those are fighting words.
  • Share your point of view as politely as you can.
  • Take responsibility for the problem. Don’t make excuses. If an employee was sick or a supplier let you down, that’s not the customer’s concern.
  • Immediately take action to remedy the situation. Promising a solution and then delaying it only makes matters worse.
  • Empower your front-line employees to be flexible in resolving complaints. Give employees some leeway in deciding when to bend the rules. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, make sure they have you or another manager handle the situation.

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Latest News Section Sources Including Companies and Bank Reviews

 

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Businesses existed before there were computers, fax machines, telephones and copiers, but few entrepreneurs these days would want to try to grow a company without the advantages modern information technology can bring.”

Merely having access to the internet–with its myriad opportunities for finding customers, building brands, researching suppliers and communicating with employees and others–can easily justify updating the technology in your office. For many companies, having the appropriate office technology can mean the difference between a successful expansion and one that falls flat on its face.

Managing technology and taking advantage of the opportunities it provides can prove daunting–particularly for small-business owners who lack an extensive budget and a dedicated IT department.

After all, achieving success in this technology-dominant era is far more complicated than putting a personal computer and a printer on a desk. You now have to understand how to take advantage of an IT infrastructure, including a robust network, to compete more effectively. Ultimately, it’s as much about vision-and developing a viable strategy-as it is about actual computing.

Too often, companies jump from one system or application to another but never realize the full benefit of their technology. Without a defined strategy, they make poor buying decisions, adopt ineffective tools, and often experience a high level of frustration. Businesses that excel typically establish technology strategies that help them gain a competitive advantage through cost savings, process improvements, faster time to market, and improved quality and service levels. These firms often exceed the expectations of customers, business partners and employees.

 

Developing a Tech Strategy


The smartest companies embrace a process for evaluating their technology goals and requirements before implementation. Your first step is to conduct an IT/network audit to document the technologies you already have in place and how they match your goals. You’ll want to determine the strengths and shortcomings of your current systems and their relative importance to your business objectives. The audit should cover the following areas:

  • Your company’s business requirements paired with the corresponding technology hardware/software/services solutions that address them.
  • A timeline for investment and deployment, showing how the timeline tracks to the priorities in the overall company business plan.
  • A design for a robust network architecture, which should include a network map of where your company is today technically–and how you plan to build your network in an evolutionary way.
  • Metrics and ways to measure the success of the IT investments.

Technology is vital to your business, but that doesn’t mean you always have to have the latest, greatest piece of equipment or software. Here’s how to evaluate your current technology to see whether it’s time to upgrade:

Computers are most likely to need upgrading as a result of a software update. If you’ve recently begun using a new version of an important software package and your computers’ performance seems unsatisfactorily slow, it may be time to buy new hardware. Otherwise, you can-and probably should-make do with what you have. Don’t delay buying new computers just because the ones you have are only a few years old, though. During that span of time, performance of the models on the market typically doubles. Forcing customers and employees to wait on slow computers can cost you far more than a new system would.

Telephone systems should be upgraded quickly if a problem develops because they’re your lifeline to customers and suppliers. If customers complain about being kept on hold, about phones not ringing or calls not being answered, you may need to add lines, improve your answering system, or perhaps hire more telephone operators. If you expect your call volume to surge sharply-perhaps because of an upcoming new product launch or seasonal buying-you may want to upgrade your phone system before trouble starts, making sure you have enough time to implement a new system, train employees and work out all the bugs.

High-end copiers can cost more than a whole office full of computers. Today’s models are increasingly interchangeable with printers, thanks to the new generation of digital, network-ready copiers. Some late-model digital copiers will also scan documents and send faxes. But fancy features don’t mean you need one of these costly machines. Upgrade your copiers when you experience or foresee a significant increase in the volume of copies you produce. Adding extras such as automatic document feeders and staplers are nice but probably don’t justify an upgrade.

The great thing about the march of technology is not so much that the equipment keeps getting cheaper, it’s that it keeps getting better. And while you don’t want to be on the bleeding edge of technology adoption, one exception is when you absolutely need a specific technology that has been introduced very recently. Most new gadgets go through a steep price decline after an initial phase of high pricing. If you need something that’s currently the latest thing but you can live without it for a while, you can save significant amounts of money by waiting to purchase until several months after it debuts.

 

What About Upgrading?

Even when you can’t justify purchasing new equipment, that doesn’t mean your old tech has to languish. You can always improve your office computers by making upgrades–adding memory or purchasing external storage devices or faster processors. Many people would rather prolong the lives of their computers than get rid of them, and upgrading piece by piece can also eliminate the learning curve needed to adjust to a new machine. You’ll need to be somewhat tech-savvy to take care of these upgrades yourself–or have access to a tech savvy employee or friend.

Here are some of the most effective and least expensive items you may want to buy to bring your older computers back up to speed:

  • Hard Drives. One of the most important features of any computer is its ability to store large amounts of data. Many systems today come standard with 20 to 40 gigabytes (GB) of storage, but with the growing interest in digital music and digital video, even 40GB may not be enough.
  • Whether you need desktop drives to back up your primary hard drives or store your digital video files, or a portable large-capacity drive to carry a hefty business presentation, there are several solutions that may help meet your needs. Consumer hard drives, such as FireWire and FireWire/USB combo hard drives, offer anywhere from an extra 20GB to upwards of more than 300GB of storage capacity. Such external drives allow for quick transfer rates between systems and other drives. Most come with accessories and are easy to install, making the upgrade process quick and painless. And when you’re ready to invest in new computers for the office, you’ll always have the extra digital storage space on hand should you need it.
  • CD-ROM/R/RW and DVD-ROM/R/RW Drives. If you regularly use your computer’s original CD drive to install or run software, listen to music and so on, you’ve probably noticed that it isn’t as fast as it used to be. You’ll find that CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW drives are a good option because they allow you to burn large amounts of data, making them an ideal storage solution.
  • Processor Upgrades and Accelerators.Perhaps you’re simply looking for a little more “zoom.” Processor upgrades and accelerators allow you to increase the overall performance of a computer by allowing it to process information faster. Accelerators do this by shifting operational functionality and providing additional cache memory, thereby freeing up the computer’s main processor so it can do its real job–running software applications. And with recently released processor upgrades available at great values that enable older computers to perform at faster clock speeds, anyone planning to replace office computers simply because “new ones are faster” should seriously reconsider.
  • MemoryWhile everything that’s already been mentioned can help increase the usability of your current computers, one of the most tried-and-true ways to improve performance is to simply install more random access memory (RAM). If your office is running applications that require large portions of system resources, upgrading the amount and/or type of memory can speed up those applications and allow you to run more programs with less strain on your hardware. And with memory prices currently near bargain-basement levels, upgrading a computer’s RAM is one of the most affordable options you have to prolong its life.

The bottom line is that even with computer prices dropping, the more you can do to upgrade your existing machines, the more money you’re going to save until you’re ready to purchase the new machines. In the long run, upgrading one piece at a time allows you to further extend the effective lives of your computers without cutting out chunks of your bottom line.

 

Purchasing New Technology

If you’ve absolutely decided that you need to do more than upgrade your current equipment and software, however, it’s important to answer a few questions when considering making a new technology purchase:

  • Can my business achieve an immediate gain from the technology?
  • What benefits are possible and how long will it take us to achieve success?
  • What resources are required to implement and manage the technology?
  • Does the hardware or application support a foundation for future growth?

Once you know what you really need, you can start shopping around. One of the most common tech products entrepreneurs consider purchasing is new software. But before you rush off to buy any new programs, keep in mind that you have several factors to consider other than just the capabilities and costs of the software. Your selections should be based on your company’s size, industry, internal organization, computing environment, technical expertise and, of course, the ever-important user interface. Even a great product can end up being a nuisance if it’s not intuitive to you as a user.

Before you go shopping, be sure to evaluate your company’s staple software. For each program, draw up a wish list of features or enhancements that would make using the package easier. Often, the solution may be as simple as an upgrade to the latest version available. Consider hiring an IT professional to examine your system and business needs and tell you whether you even need to upgrade. Getting an expert opinion can be a money-saving move for small-business owners who would prefer to spend time keeping up on the latest developments in their industries than on the latest in software.

Once you decide you need something new, try it before you buy it:

Check out software company websites for downloadable demos that can help you better gauge how easy their products are to use. If a demo version isn’t available, there’s usually a detailed online tour that gives you a lot more information than a paper brochure. And before you buy the package outright, check with the software company to see if it’s bundled with other software or equipment that you might be in the market to buy anyway. If you’re shopping for a new accounting package or other critical software, consider doing a “scripted demo,” where you enter your data and run through test scenarios specific to your business’s transactions. It may be time-consuming, but if you buy the wrong software, it will be more costly later.

Take a good look at your business and pinpoint those activities that take more time than you’d like-the ones that make you mutter to yourself “There must be something out there that can do this quicker than I can.” No doubt, there probably is. For that matter, think about those activities you never seem to have time to do. From tools for creating websites to time-billing software, new products could provide brilliant solutions to problems you haven’t yet resolved. Make sure, though, that the solutions are worth the money and time you’ll have to spend to implement them successfully.

A customer relationship management (CRM) solution can help you streamline customer service, simplify sales and marketing efforts, find new customers and generate more revenue from existing customers. You can record customer interactions with sales and customer service personnel and keep a centralized database with current customer information that everyone in your company can access. This will allow your entire organization to understand what each customer wants and needs and give you a 360-degree view of your business 24/7, which will help you keep customers happy and boost your bottom line.

Improving Your Network

While setting up a traditional wired network for your computers and peripherals is still a viable option, wireless networks are becoming faster, more affordable and easier to adopt than ever. Growing small businesses that have adopted a wireless solution are already reporting immediate paybacks in higher productivity, flexible application mobility and greater worker satisfaction.

A wireless infrastructure can make it easier to reconfigure your office space as your company grows and changes. Also, the total cost of a wireless local area network (LAN) is relatively inexpensive–it’s become very affordable in the past few years and prices are continuing to drop. And a wireless network can help you improve your productivity:

Multiple computers can share printers and a single broadband internet connection without the hassle of running cables through walls. You can access your customer database whether you’re in your office or meeting clients in a conference room. Employees in the stockroom can update your inventory database in real-time using wireless PDAs. When you take into account productivity gains, both inside the office and at public “hot spots,” going wireless is an obvious choice, especially when compared to the cost of running a Cat 5 network LAN cable throughout a building.

However, since wireless networks transmit data over radio waves, which can potentially be intercepted, it’s important to have a security strategy for your wireless network. An unprotected wireless network is like an unlocked door–and too many small businesses are leaving their doors wide open.

Below are some steps small businesses can take to make their wireless connection more secure:

  • Change your device’s default password. Wireless access points/routers come with default passwords set by the factory. Once entered, the password gives you access to change the device’s settings. Hackers know these default passwords and can use them to access your wireless access point/router and change its settings, for instance, turning off security features. To prevent unauthorized access to your wireless network equipment, change the device’s password to something difficult to guess. This password should preferably be an alphanumeric combination longer than 10 characters.
  • Change the default SSID
  • A service set identifier (SSID) is the name used to identify your wireless network. Your wireless access point/router came with a default, preset SSID. Hackers often look specifically for these preset SSIDs when scanning for networks, because they’re considered easy targets. As soon as possible, change the default SSID to something unique and, for extra security, change it regularly.
  • Don’t broadcast the SSIDBy default, wireless access points/routers broadcast SSIDs, making it easy for legitimate users–as well as hackers–to find and join a wireless network. However, you can choose not to broadcast your network’s SSID. Devices such as wireless computers and PDAs that require access to the network can be configured to automatically connect to your network’s SSID, so they don’t need the SSID to be broadcast to hook up.
  • Keep your wireless hardware’s firmware updatedThe software that enables access points/routers to operate properly, called firmware, is frequently updated by the device manufacturer. Often, updates include enhanced security. Updated firmware is available for free downloading online. Check your device manufacturer’s website support area regularly to ensure you have the most current firmware version installed.
  • Enable MAC address filteringA media access control (MAC) address is a unique series of numbers and letters assigned to every network device. You can configure your wireless access point/router to only allow access to specified MAC addresses (such as the addresses of each wireless computer on your network). MAC address filtering makes it much more difficult for hackers to access your network. The downside: It’s also more difficult to give wireless network access to clients, partners or others visiting your offices or locations. But protecting your system may be worth it.
  • Set a wireless policyCreate a clear but simple wireless network usage policy for all your employees to follow. The policy should include guidelines on the use of passwords, personal devices, such as wireless PDAs, and public Wi-Fi hot spots.

 

Disposing of Old Tech

Old PCs don’t die, and they don’t fade away, either. The average PC will run almost forever, and the harmful chemicals inside it will survive in your local landfill for even longer. How many long-lived-but-obsolete computers is your company moving around among staffers? There’s definitely a point of diminishing returns in holding on to PCs past their prime, as well as hidden costs in just about any disposal method you choose. Recycling, selling them to employees or giving them to charity are all viable options, but they all have costs attached–many of which may surprise you. It’s a good idea to have an exit strategy for your old hardware–and it should be in place long before the intrinsic value of your PCs hits zero.

Complete depreciation is often here before you know it, but there’s good news in that respect: The average middle-of-the-road PC now has a useful life of about three years; a high-end desktop, about four years. But be careful: Nurse an old PC along for too long, and productivity suffers–for low-level staffers as well as managers. Worker efficiency declines along with equipment efficiency, so when software takes longer to load, screens take longer to redraw and incompatibilities start to occur, memory upgrades need to be deployed. Most old PCs have years of utility left in them–just not for you. There are tons of schools, community groups, senior homes and other needy institutions that would be happy to take them off your hands. Unfortunately, donation is another of the more costly disposal options. By the time you get done with moving, temporarily storing, shipping, tax record-keeping, making contractual arrangements with the beneficiary, possible testing and repair, and, of course, facing the ever-present legal exposure, IDC figures it will cost you $344 for each PC donated.

And the legal exposure is real. You could get sued for donating a defective or virus-infected computer, or you may be asked to defend the tax deduction. On the upside, the infrastructure for charitable donations is well-advanced, making this option less time-consuming.

One popular option for PC disposal is selling them. IDC says your net out-of-pocket per PC is $272 if you can sell it to an employee for $100, and $119 if you sell it to a third-party broker for $200. (Remember, costs vary among disposal options and you’ll still need to scrub the machines of company information.) The good news is, the PC is gone. But in both cases, you have to sell the PC before its value reaches zero. And those three years for a mid-range PC and four years for a high-end box go by quickly. Of course, brands vary. You can look up the residual value of your PC in the Orion Computer Blue Book. You can purchase the latest version of the Blue Book with the most recent prices from the Orion Research website. You also can look up prices for individual PCs online at $3.99 per shot.

In general, a lot of PC disposal costs are realized in soft dollars, and a certain amount of those are fixed. IDC says it will cost companies at least $150 for every PC taken out of service. First, there’s the labor involved in physically removing a system and its network components, disconnecting peripherals and scrubbing the hard drive of software, passwords and sensitive company files. Then there’s the downtime for employees during the move. After that, your costs will vary depending on how you choose to dispose of the old PC and may include payment for things like testing and repair or, in many cases, contractual or other legal costs.

And don’t even think about tossing them in the trash. Old PCs have chlorinated and brominated substances, Poly Chlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC), heavy metals, gases, acids and plastic additives–and that’s just for starters. All those chemicals have incredibly long half-lives. You want your new house sitting on top of this stuff? Not to mention, the EPA will be all over you if you’re discovered throwing PCs in the trash.

 

Training


Buying new technology is usually just the beginning. If employees aren’t trained on how to use the new equipment, your business won’t get the full benefit of your investment. You can get employees trained in almost any technology, at any level and any subject. Even highly experienced users may need training to use the latest programming and networking tools.

Start your search for training by quizzing the company that sold you the technology. Many vendors have on-staff professional trainers who can come to your site to train employees on using new technologies. If not, they can probably refer you to a local firm that offers appropriate training. You can also look in the business Yellow Pages under “Training Programs” and “Training Consultants.” You can choose from various types of training: Classroom training with a live instructor can be done at your business or off-site, in the form of a short tutorial or continuing series of classroom lessons. Having an instructor on hand helps learners get questions answered.

If you can do without a live teacher, check out video-based training. Class starts when you insert a pre-recorded tape or DVD into a VCR or DVD player. Students take notes and follow along in workbooks, just like with live teachers. Video courses can be repeated any time and are low in cost. Computerized training can be delivered in a classroom with PCs, or via the web. Internet classes let students choose the time, place and pace of learning. Some are taught by an instructor who communicates over the internet. Students can mix, mingle and discuss lessons in online chat rooms.

 

Managing Your Technology Costs

Many business owners today tend to set their tech budgets without having done adequate research–and therefore have unrealistic expectations about how much technology really costs. In fact, many businesses don’t have a good understanding of the total cost of ownership of their technology. When making decisions about technology budgets, businesses should focus less on the technology itself and make decisions about how technology complements other areas of the business. Figure out what you need to do to run your business better, and then go find the tools to support it.

Steps you can take to lower technology cost include timely purchases, clever negotiation and internal controls can help businesses save megabucks. You can renegotiate existing contracts for services such as network support and consulting. Telecom is especially ripe for bargains. You can start by setting bench marks for rates and auditing bills to ensure you’re not overpaying. And instead of buying all long-distance, local phone and other telecom services from one vendor, dual-source it.

You should also make sure you need whatever new technology you do buy. Inventory all PCs, printers and software. Look for opportunities to consolidate purchases, standardize configurations and root out duplication. Set up a system to keep doing it. Pick a team of people from IT and other departments, and meet with them regularly to discuss what they need and how to save on it.

Another way to save money on tech purchases is buying refurbished hardware. Many online manufacturers and retailers have sections of their websites devoted to clearance outlets. You may have to poke around the site to find them, but it’s worth checking into when you’re on a tight budget. Refurbished items are usually returns that have been looked over and checked for functionality. As with auctions, check to see if all documentation and software is included. Compare prices to what is normally charged to see if the savings is worthwhile. Often warranties are shortened. What might have originally come with a one-year warranty may only include a 90-day warranty when it’s sold as refurbished. If you’re comfortable with that, go ahead and save some money.

Looking online for deals is also a great way to save money on your tech budget. And bargain hunting over the Internet doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Web sites such as PriceGrabber.com, PriceSCAN.com and MySimon.comare hubs for price comparisons. They’re especially handy if you already know what you want and are just looking for the lowest price. Don’t be blinded by what seem to be incredible bargains. Always check into an online retailer’s reputation if you’re not already familiar with it. You probably know this already, but always use a credit card for your purchases in case you have to dispute charges later.

Another great resource for hardware is eBay. You can pick up a wide array of products-from extra cell phone batteries to monitors and ink cartridges-at prices that would make some retailers blush. But eBay is no utopia. You still have to check into the seller’s reputation. Also check to see if the product you’re buying is refurbished, if it comes with an original warranty or tech support, and if all documentation and pieces are included. Some entrepreneurs may decide that the savings are worth living without some or all of those things. It’s not good or bad, it’s just a matter of deciding what you feel comfortable with.

If you’re the type of person who likes to “handle the merchandise” before you buy, find a local retailer you can visit in person. Prices may be a little higher when you just walk into a store, but you also have the security of having a physical location to return the product to in case of a problem. The Sunday ads are a good place to compare prices, and you should keep an eye out for specials and rebates at your local stores.

Buy or Lease?

As quickly as technology becomes obsolete, it sometimes makes sense to rent instead of buy your next round of upgrades. You can rent or lease most kinds of office technology, including computers, printers, copiers and phone systems. Here’s how your options stack up:

 

Leasing


If you’re like many small businesses, you’re willing to lease costly technology that’s likely to become quickly outdated. Leasing lets you get higher-end, more costly gear while reducing upfront outlays. Monthly payments will also usually be lower than those for credit-purchased equipment. Maybe most important, however, you’re transferring the risk of obsolescence to somebody else. If that high-end PC is a clunker by lease’s end, just hand it back to the owner and get a new model. Check the terms of your lease carefully. Scrutinize your options for the end of the lease. You may be able to buy the equipment for a small additional fee if you want to.

The ability to have the latest equipment is leasing’s number-one perceived benefit and you’ll have predictable monthly expenses. With a lease, you have a pre-determined monthly line item, which can help you budget more effectively. Many small businesses struggle with cash flow and must keep their coffers as full as possible, and leasing means you won’t have to invest cash up front. Because leases rarely require a down payment, you can acquire new equipment without tapping much-needed funds.

The downside of leasing is that you’ll pay more in the long run. Ultimately, leasing is almost always more expensive than purchasing. For example, a $4,000 computer would cost a total of $5,760 if leased for three years at $160 per month, but only $4,000 (plus sales tax) if purchased outright.

And you’re obligated to keep paying even if you stop using the equipment. Depending on the lease terms, you may have to make payments for the entire lease period, even if you no longer need the equipment, which can happen if your business changes.

 

Buying


Buying your equipment costs more upfront. If you’re buying on an installment plan rather than paying cash, monthly payments are usually higher. It may be comforting to know you own your equipment rather than rent it, but you may find yourself with an out-of-date machine right as you put the last check in the mail. One of the benefits of buying is that it’s easier than leasing. Buying equipment is easy–you decide what you need, then go out and buy it. Taking out a lease, however, involves at least some paperwork, as leasing companies often ask for detailed, updated financial information. They may also ask how and where the leased equipment will be used. Also, lease terms can be complicated to negotiate. And if you don’t negotiate properly, you could end up paying more than you should or receive unfavorable terms.

When you purchase equipment, you call the shots regarding maintenance. Equipment leases often require you to maintain equipment according to the leasing company’s specifications, and that can get expensive. When you buy the equipment outright, you determine the maintenance schedule yourself. Buying equipment is also tax deductible. Section 179 of the IRS code lets you deduct the full cost of newly purchased assets, such as computer equipment, in the first year. With most leases favored by small businesses–called operating leases–you can only deduct the monthly payment.

The disadvantages of buying equipment is that the initial outlay may be too much. Your business may have to tie up lines of credit or cough up a hefty sum to acquire the equipment it needs. Those lines of credit and funds could be used elsewhere for marketing, advertising or other functions that can help grow your business.

And eventually, you’re stuck with outdated equipment. As mentioned earlier, computer technology becomes outdated quickly. A growing small business may need to refresh its technology in some areas every 18 months. That means you’re eventually stuck with outdated equipment that you must donate, sell or recycle.

 

Contingency Plan


You never know how much you depend on technology until you don’t have access to it anymore. If a disaster strikes, you may not only suffer direct losses of data and hardware, but indirect losses due to downtime. But with some foresight and planning, you can avoid sustained downtime–and lost profits.

First, create a broad, holistic plan to ensure business continuity, not just disaster recovery. This plan should involve every part of your business, such as processes, operations, assets, employees and so on. Your overall goal: to prevent business disruption–then minimize it if it does occur. To this end, you should:

  • Conduct an impact analysis. How much downtime, loss of productivity, loss of data, loss of revenues and so on can your company sustain? For how long?
  • Develop a plan for dealing with mission-critical (revenue-impacting, customer-facing) functions and business-critical (back office, supply chain, e-mail) functions under various disruptive scenarios. Determine which business technologies to employ.
  • Educate your workers about the plan before a crisis occurs.
  • From time to time, revisit the plan to make sure it remains practicable and viable.

                                                                                                                                 Default
Latest News Section Involving Key Financial and Monetary Statistics

 

Uniquely world

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What we are gonna be seeing is more and more organisations that use technology like sales force, cloud base technologies like social mobile, data science, to bring together their employee, their patients and other partners outside the organisation.

A lot of the software that powers companies is decades old, expensive and not intuitive to operate. If you use Salesforce or SAP, you know how convoluted those systems are.”

From long-time employees who still remember green-screen terminals to 20-somethings who think all of this sounds archaic, a 2-year-old company named Sapho is working to make basic tasks easier for everyone. Sapho aims to bypass all of the gobbledygook and behave more like your favorite social networking apps.

After nearly two decades of founding and selling companies, Peter Yared and Fouad EINaggar met in late 2011 when they began executive roles at CBS Interactive. Yared, brought on as CIO/CTO, had a technical background designing internet infrastructure. EINaggar, on the business operations side, had spent seven years as a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

In 2014, they founded Sapho, and today, they are announcing the Sapho Micro App Platform. It allows companies to build applications that serve specific functions, such as prompting a business owner to sign a contract or approve a product discount. Sapho taps into behemoth software systems such as Salesforce, SAP, Omniture, Oracle and Workday and acts as a liaison between the information they contain and the employee who needs that information.

Users don’t have to log in to a hard-to-decipher interface and navigate to the data they need. Sapho anticipates users’ needs and pushes notifications to them when they need to fulfill a particular duty, such as approving an employee’s vacation time, according to the company.

Sapho allows clients to pay based on the number of monthly active users of its software ($2 to $10, depending on company size). Clients include Turner, Google and the founders’ former employer, CBS Interactive, among others, and the company just completed a $9.5 million series A funding round.

Yared and EINaggar have faced skepticism from those who have mastered legacy software or are reluctant to add a third party into the mix. But the reality is, most people in a given company have little concept of what enterprise software is for or how to harness it to their advantage.

In an interview with Entrepreneur, the founders explained how they came up with the idea for Sapho and how they approach legacy tech users – by respecting rather than dismissing those who are set in their ways.

What is your approach to modernizing business software?

Fouad EINaggar, Sapho co-founder and CEO: Workflows on enterprise software haven’t changed in 30 years. Salesforce today looks just Siebel did in 1999, Workday today looks just like PeopleSoft in 1998. You’ve got to think about what you want, you’ve got to remember where it is, you’ve got to log in somewhere and then you’ve got to navigate a piece of software that looks like a tax form.

Things like Google Now, Siri and Facebook, they’re telling us that there’s a new way. Systems are figuring out what’s relevant to you in advance and pushing it to you before you even know that you need it.

Sapho offers a simplified mobile interface that prompts employees to complete essential tasks without logging in to and navigating large enterprise software systems.

 

What is a micro app?

EINaggar: A micro app is a small piece of a bigger app. There are 8 million features in an HR system, but one thing that everyone has to do is approve vacation time. I don’t need to log into a system that has 8 million features to go and do this one thing.

There’s a photocopier in your office right now. It’s got a million buttons on the left. Someone in your office knows how to use that thing like a Ferrari. They can print out 30 double-sided color-copies that are pre-stapled. I do not know how to use any of those buttons. I walk up to a copier and I just want to push a green button, make my copy and move on. And that’s what we do. These micro apps are the green button on the copier.

We’re not necessarily replacing things. We’re making things that people have already spent money on more useful.

 

How did your background experience, founding various companies and working at CBS Interactive, pave the way for Sapho?

Peter Yared, Sapho co-founder and CTO:CBS had bought a series of companies, and the technology was a little long in the tooth. Fouad joined just after me to run the business operations there, and we met each other very early. Our offices were next to each other. We brought in modern software, and we really enjoyed working together and partnered well together, and we were like, we should go solve this problem.

EINaggar: We’re both really strong personalities. Peter is a technical genius who hasn’t really had a great business partner on the other side. And I’m, what would you say, Peter, an above-mediocre business person? (Laughs.) I’ve never really had a great technical partner.

At CBS, Peter and I sat down and were like, “Why aren’t people using this software that we’re spending money on?” We spend $300 billion a year on enterprise software and IT infrastructure, and people aren’t using it. We’re not getting increases in productivity. We’re not extracting values from these investments.

That’s what got us really excited. Changing the way people work going forward, making work different, making work better. That is a really exciting way to wake up every morning, at 4:30 or 5 a.m. and be excited about the day, be ready to tapdance to work. You’re solving something real. We’re not another laundry on-demand delivery service.

In Silicon Valley, I think people forget to respect the investments that people have made. It’s so much easier to call somebody a dinosaur than to actually think about why they’re doing things the way they are. And we were the dinosaurs when we were at CBS. When you are the dinosaur, you start realizing there’s a reason that people have to make decisions the way that they do. And our view has been, let’s respect that, let’s be pragmatic, let’s fit into the infrastructure that people have. Because people aren’t going to just rip out a billion dollars of infrastructure investment because they’re called a dinosaur. That’s just not how the world works.

Sapho’s drag-and-drop micro app builder allows companies to customize how and when employees receive data information from databases, internal web servers and other systems of record.

 

Adding a new third-party mediator into the mix requires trust. How do you mitigate those concerns?

EINaggar: I was a VC in Silicon Valley for seven years. Peter’s been in Silicon Valley for three decades. Everyone there is living in the future. We had lots of friends come to CBS being like, “Can you guys deploy my awesome solution?” and then be like, “We’re gonna punch a hole in your firewall,” or “Don’t worry, we’re gonna download all of your ERP data into our public cloud.” And what we learned really quickly was that, at these big companies, that model just does not work when you’re touching mission-critical data. Security is becoming more and more of a concern.

Yared: That’s why we didn’t build this as a cloud system. Their HR and financial data is on their own database that they control. It’s harder to deploy and sell and build software that way, but it also makes the customers much, much more comfortable.

And then, some companies just don’t like to buy from startups, and others do. We have a good pedigree and a good background, and if people are like, “Hey, you’re a little too young for us,” we don’t take offense to it, we’re just like, “Well, let’s keep this conversation going.”

Adopting Sapho will require people who are set in their ways to make a change.

 

How do you address those challenges, and others, in trying to get organizations to implement Sapho and see that it will be helpful to them?

EINaggar: It’s something that we learned the hard way at CBS, where we were modernizing a lot of the infrastructure in the organization.

You know, you have people who are as legacy as the legacy systems. We’ve got one customer that, the CEO of the company is a wizard on that green-screen terminal. I mean, the guy knows how to do everything he wants on it. In fact, he got them to build an emulator on his iPad of the green-screen terminal so he knows how it works!

And so, when we thought about Sapho, we said, OK, how are we going to get around that? Millennials don’t like using Salesforce, because it’s a piece of crap. They don’t like going onto a green-screen terminal. They can’t even comprehend that things like this still exist, but we find them at Fortune 100 companies all the time.

We remember an era when you had to load software onto your machine with a cassette, or with a floppy disc. You have a new generation of employees whose whole concept of loading software is an app store. Where they just go and they download Instagram, it takes one second, and they take a picture and type a sentence and it magically goes out to their social networks. They didn’t need a training session for half a day. They didn’t need a manual that’s 800 pages. It just works.

People at these organizations start using the micro app, and they go, “oh, God, this is so easy.” And that’s how we start expanding in an organization.

That power user, they’re still going to go in, and they’re still going to use their Salesforce. They’re still going to go into their SAP. And more power to them. We don’t reinvent the wheel. It’s about 15 minutes to success. We want to make it very easy for people to drop this in, connect it to their system and start building these micro apps. And that only happens if you respect the infrastructure that people have spent trillions of dollars on.

This interview has been edited.


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In challenge, success is based on others success.

The adage that two brains are better than one may explain why a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners, including me, create partnerships. However, it’s not just those brains that should work well together. Partners’ personalities need to get along too.

As a serial entrepreneur who’s launched many companies, I’ve made a number of partnerships. Along the way, I’ve learned some lessons when creating those partnerships.

Among the most helpful tips that I’ve discovered is making sure that you get along with your business partner. It’s important to find someone who complements your skills, but don’t underestimate the importance liking one another.

Communication is another big part of a business relationship

There’s a great article from earlier this year about a long-lasting business partnership and communication is a theme that runs throughout.

I’ve learned many things about creating and maintaining partnerships during the past two decades. Although there are dozens of tips, here are five key lessons:

  • Partnership agreements: As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been burned by not having the right agreements in place. It’s important for business partners to have clear partnership agreements drafted by attorneys.
  • Clear expectations: I’ve also learned the hard way that people, including business partners, can’t read my mind. I believe business partners should consistently set their expectations with each other.
  • Think about your clients: When evaluating a potential business partnership, I look at my weaknesses and what I need help with. I also think about my clients and what type of partnership would benefit them.
  • Mutually beneficial: It might sound obvious, but still should be noted. Partnerships should be mutually beneficial. In my experience, both sides need to gain something from the relationship for it to be worthwhile.
  • It’s ok to walk away: Like any relationship, a business partnership holds a great deal of promise. However, sometimes it doesn’t work out. That’s alright. Don’t stay in a business partnership if you believe it’s no longer viable. I’ve learned that it’s better to end the partnership and regroup than to force something that’s not working.

“For a better understanding to how to get started in achieving good partnerships, is taking in consideration the history in the early 1700s when workers gave way to machine operations and then the 1800s Henry Ford in mass production changed manufacturing forever, then came robotics, computers, lean manufacturing and the lean sigma. “

Each revolution is made to get products out the door and now we got a connected revolution.


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Guiding to accelerate contributions

 

In selling directing through distributors and collaborate with installers and contributors for project service distribution, putting a system engagement employee it’s a solution that allows you to access information and make it available to your organisation. An article from Harvart Business Reviews with the headline “The Digital Transformation of Business”, where they surveyed 537 of their customers that were asked about the most important place where they can begin in making investment, and there answer is in customer facing technology.

Although the four “megatrends” of cloud, big data, mobile and social technologies are clearly having a positive impact, industry watchers who believe that only a few early adopters have been able to transform their organizations with these technologies are mistaken.

Digital transformation is occurring rapidly at a majority of public and private sector organizations. Business leaders are not simply deploying the four technologies to boost efficiency or otherwise cut costs. Instead, research shows that firms are embracing the megatrends to craft new business models, develop new revenue streams, or drive other material changes that lead to an increase in the top or bottom lines.

It’s a full-fledged mobile sales terminal for the whole customer experience,” says Greenbaum.

Eventually, the mobile devices—together with a growing number of in-seat flat screen TVs—will enable Delta to sell higher-value seats, book new flights, reserve hotel rooms, or rent cars while in flight, delivering new services and new sources of revenue. In addition, the airline says it will eventually provide flight attendants with customer-specific information from Delta’s customer relationship management (CRM) system on their mobile devices to enable more personalized service. “That’s pretty transformational,” says Greenbaum.

The widespread use of mobile technologies is also having an impact on the public sector. For example, the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom wanted to dramatically improve the way suspects brought into the police station were processed. Aside from the fact that the suspects weren’t always cooperative, the technology used to capture photos of the suspects was aging, and image capture had to be performed in a fixed manner by trained specialists in a specified location. At the end of the day “it was a cumbersome and difficult process,” says Richard Thwaite, chief information officer of the Metropolitan Police.

 

MOBILE CONNECTS EMPLOYEES TO THEIR WORK AND EACH OTHER

Benefits of using mobile devices and applications

To improve its booking process, the agency deployed tablets with specialized mobile applications to police officers so they themselves could capture multiple images and video clips of the suspects, including tattoos or clothing, in a less confrontational manner, and enter it into their systems quickly. Other innovations the Metropolitan Police is pursuing include cameras on officers and a text messaging service to reduce emergency calls. “We are going to use technology to stop crime, arrest offenders, or help victims. We need to keep police officers out of police stations and reduce bureaucracy,” said Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. “Digital policing will help us to do this.”5 Similarly, the growing ubiquity of mobile technologies is having a transformative impact by helping to deliver healthcare services to underserved populations. Nearly one quarter of all stillborn births happen in India—600,000 a year in that country alone—largely because so many expectant mothers live too far away from sources of good maternal and obstetric care. Wipro, a system integration services company, looked at the inefficiencies in delivery of medical care to these women in India and decided that there were several areas where technology could dramatically improve the process. Last year, Wipro unveiled a system that enabled healthcare providers to deliver remote prenatal and cardiac care using mobile technologies. The AssureHealth platform combines a mobile application, integrated medical devices, analytics, and cloud services. A wireless monitor records heart rates or uterine activity and delivers the information via Bluetooth to the mobile device. The device sends the data to the cloud, where it is analyzed, and a doctor hundreds of miles away can download the results and provide an assessment in real time. In areas of India where health services aren’t readily available, explains T.K. Padmanabha, CTO of Wipro, “what is available is the phone.” With regard to the risks involved in deploying mobile technologies, the survey found that data security far outpaces other concerns.

Survey respondents who said mobile technologies are a critical part of their infrastructure are also likely to name data security as their number one worry. “Employees have access to your data on a device they can—and will—lose,” says David Chappell, principal with technology consultancy Chappell & Associates. The portability of data and apps, plus the use of personal devices, raises red flags.

 

SECURITY RISKS ARE RELATIVE

Data security ranks as an important risk, especially for mobile and cloud

Security is an important concern with all four of the megatrends. Figure 3 When it comes to the public cloud, for example, security is “a trust issue,” says Chappell. “And it takes time to build that trust.” Greenbaum notes that executives are more aware of security issues these days because of recent events, including revelations about the U.S. government’s National Security Agency (NSA) snooping, massive data breaches at Target and other retailers, and the Heartbleed bug that exposed vulnerabilities in a widely used web security protocol.6 Leading companies are dealing with the security risks associated with the widespread adoption of mobile technologies by developing sound BYOD strategies.7 They are adopting device encryption and two-factor authentication, as well as using Mobile Device Management (MDM) solutions to wipe out corporate data on devices if they are lost or stolen.

 

CLOUD COMPUTING DRIVES BUSINESS AGILITY

According to the study, 53 percent of respondents said that the cloud’s ability to deliver flexible capacity as needed is the technology’s leading benefit, followed by 50 percent of respondents who said that increased business agility was its main benefit. Forty-three percent pointed to lower fixed costs from using cloud-based solutions as its key benefit. Figure 4 Going forward, cloud computing is primed to have a powerful impact on businesses in 2015. More than three-fifths (62 percent) of respondents say cloud will transform their businesses in the next 12 months, up from 47 percent who say it’s doing so today. It will also change the way people work, according to 56 percent of those surveyed. While cloud technologies have clearly had an impact on IT departments, companies are doing more with them than revamping IT operations.

“We’re beyond the first generation of cloud transformation, which was just facilitating the move from capital to operating expense. Now we’re looking at ways in which we can more easily enable collaboration and deploy services in elastic fashion,” offers Greenbaum.

 

CLOUD MAKES BUSINESS FLEXIBLE AND COST EFFECTIVE

Benefits of cloud computing

Companies need to be agile, flexible, and fast to meet customer expectations. Cloud computing can be key to that responsiveness. “We have customers who give us 90 days to get something up and running,” observes Padmanabha of Wipro. “There’s no way I can do that in my traditional data center.” The public cloud delivers a time-to-market advantage that’s hard for enterprises to beat.

“We see a lot of traction with customers who have projects that have a short window of time to deliver results,” Padmanabha says. Dr. Wu Feng, a professor of computer science, electrical & computer engineering, and health sciences at Virginia Tech, concurs that the flexible capacity of cloud-based solutions can enable dramatic increases in performance that weren’t available previously. Next-generation sequencers are capable of doubling the amount of data that they generate every eight or nine months. “We’re generating data faster than we can analyze it,” Feng says. A cloud solution, which optimizes data management and data transfer, delivers better performance and access to DNA sequencing tools and resources, leading to faster advancements in medical research. As with mobile, security issues and privacy concerns are the main barriers that inhibit cloud adoption.

“I’m in a highly regulated business. Beyond that, I’m in a consumer-facing business where I’m accountable for the stewardship of personally identifiable customer data,” says Ray Voelker, CIO of Progressive Insurance. Because encrypting data in the cloud would slow down the speed of analytics, Voelker says he’s evaluating hybrid cloud solutions. “Most companies look at a hybrid environment,” says Greenbaum. “They don’t do everything in the cloud. But as new services and capabilities and opportunities come up, they look to do that via cloud services.” Despite some hesitation, the study identified strong support for cloud-based solutions as more than just a way to reduce IT infrastructure and personnel spending. The study found that leading companies are using the rise of public and private cloud computing to create new business models and services in addition to taking advantage of the greater cost efficiencies and scalability features that the cloud provides.

 

BIG DATA HELPS COMPANIES INNOVATE

The advent of new data analysis solutions such as in-memory computing, along with the ability to host many of these solutions in the cloud, is enabling enterprises to overcome the traditional barriers to big data analysis. Organizations today have the ability to process and analyze large quantities of structured and unstructured data to generate business insight in real time. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT)—including wearable computing, connected cars, and smart cities—the amount of data organizations have available to analyze is set to increase exponentially.

Even now, just over half (54 percent) of respondents say that big data has transformed their organizations; 70 percent expect it to do so going forward. For those who master big data, the biggest payoffs are allowing the integration of more data into decision making processes (according to 62 percent) and enabling faster generation of insights (cited by 52 percent).

Progressive has collected more than 178 terabytes of data via Snapshot—11 times the amount of all data stored by the Library of Congress. It provides for a much more accurate pricing method for Progressive than estimating a customer’s potential for loss based on information like age, gender, and type of car, says Voelker. What’s more, it has enabled an entirely new and successful product category—usage-based auto insurance. “It’s revolutionary to us,” says Voelker. “Every time we find a more powerful segmentation variable, it drives more growth.” Another example of a leading organization using big data to innovate comes from Auckland Transport, New Zealand’s public transport agency.

The agency analyzes four terabytes of operational data, including bus ridership, to discover the most popular routes, identify routes to expand, and improve the customer experience. “It’s a substantial undertaking,” says Roger Jones, Auckland Transport’s manager of IT and business systems.

We have to figure out how to transform that data to information and then make that information relevant to the customer.”

In the future, Auckland Transport plans to analyze images from around the city to understand where traffic congestion occurs or to assist with public safety. Ultimately, the agency will deliver personalized alerts to citizens letting them know their bus is running late or that there’s increased traffic on their usual route to work.

Despite the promise of big data, however, it remains hard to manage, hard to interpret, and hard to integrate into day-to-day business operations and decision making. Further, success doesn’t happen overnight. “The companies that are good at [big data] have been working on it for quite a while,” says Thomas H. Davenport, professor of IT and Management at Babson College and author of Big Data @ Work. Davenport points out that one of the earliest users of business analytics—UPS—has been working on telematics to track its packages and delivery trucks for 25 years but only recently announced plans for analytics-based dynamic routing (itself a project 10 years in development). Further, skilled data analysts and scientists, who understand both the statistical modeling and the business applications of big data, are hard to find.

Nearly half of respondents (48 percent) say that a lack of data analysis skills is the biggest barrier to big data. Even those who regard big data as a critical part of their operations find it difficult to hire the necessary talent. Leading companies are addressing this talent shortage by hiring skilled contractors or working with consulting firms that have big data practices.

Some are getting more creative. Jones, at Auckland Transport, is addressing the talent shortage by working with data scientists at local universities. There’s a wealth of opportunity for PhDs who might unearth something interesting mixing our data sets with other data sets,” he explains.The department is also sponsoring a hackathon.

It’s about exposing some of our data feeds so others can analyze it in ways we might not be able to internally.”

Further, the study results highlight that successful organizations are those that adopt a big data mind-set. Business leaders must create a culture that embraces the intelligence big data delivers, agrees Donald A. Marchand, professor of strategy execution and information management at the International Institute for Management Development (IMD). “

You have to treat bad news as good news and be willing to act on it,” he says. “You need the ability to see that the way you thought about things in the past may not be productive in the future.” And this point of view has to be pervasive—from the C-suite to sales and product development to the front lines.

 

SOCIAL TRANSFORMS CORE BUSINESS PROCESSES

According to the survey, the consulting and business services sector is the most transformed by social media—more than half of that sector’s respondents indicated that they had already experienced a transformational effect from social. Early business successes with social networking are most visible in outbound marketing activities: 51 percent of respondents say that social media has increased their company’s ability to effectively communicate with its customers.

 

THE DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION OF BUSINESS

Industry experts observe that social media is becoming a core aspect of modern digital marketing strategies, and they see potential for it to radically transform the marketing function. But forward-thinking organizations are not using social networks only to listen to and better understand customer sentiment about products, brands, and companies as a whole. They are also using social technologies for recruiting and HR management, and for collaboration and communication with employees, partners and suppliers. The survey findings indicate that social technology is positioned to have a broad impact. Survey respondents who deem social technology to be critical to their infrastructure (22 percent) are significantly more likely than their peers to say they benefit from an increased ability to innovate.

Even businesses that haven’t yet embraced social media anticipate its potential. More than half of all respondents say that social technology will transform their organizations (57 percent) and the way they work (58 percent) in the next few years.

Four years ago, Ask.com, a leading online brand for questions and answers, hired Eric McKirdy to improve the customer support experience and improve the support team’s internal operations. By deploying a CRM application that integrates mobile social media listening capabilities, the company has transformed both. One key change in how Ask.com’s customer support team works is that they can now manage support tickets, including those generated through social media, entirely by smartphone, without being tethered to a laptop or an office.

Similarly, Auckland Transport is evaluating social tools to listen and respond quickly to citizen comments and even prevent security dangers. The agency plans to mine that unstructured data, analyze it, and feed it to the operations team to respond to—and someday prevent— transportation problems. Like Ask.com, Auckland Transport eventually plans to create service requests from complaints posted on social networks, feed them into a CRM system, and manage them proactively. Business leaders note, however, that it isn’t always clear how best to incorporate social media into core business operations.

Social technologies are often not integrated with core operational systems, and the data they generate is unstructured.

As far as enabling line of business transactions and being used beyond boosting marketing and the employment brand,” says Progressive Insurance’s Voelker, “it’s less mature as a business tool.”

The main concerns survey respondents have about social technology include the time spent by employees using it (cited by 45 percent) and employee information overload (cited by 40 percent). But leading companies are using social in their core lines of business, turning to social tools that provide a greater level of integration with their mission critical business systems. For example, McKirdy of Ask.com said the company once used a variety of social media monitoring and communication tools to identify and respond to issues. But now that Ask.com uses one social module in a cloud-based CRM system, “We monitor all major social media channels and can respond with the click of a mouse,” says McKirdy.

 

HOW DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION HAPPENS

While it is clear that each of the four technology megatrends has had a tremendous impact independently, the study finds that deploying integrated solutions is where the greatest impact is achieved. “The most important trends, the most interesting things, are happening at the intersections of these four different technologies,” asserts Babson College’s Davenport. Similarly, Horrom, of the Detroit Lions, says,

There’s less value to the Lions in having big data coming in if we don’t have a method of compute in the cloud or on premises to interact in real time with our fans via a mobile platform.”

The survey found the likelihood that organizations are being transformed to be significantly greater among those that deem multiple technologies to be critical. Among “multi-adopters”— organizations that view at least three of the megatrends as playing a critical role in operations— more than two-thirds (67 percent) report they have transformed, compared to as few as onethird (34 percent) of single adopters. Even dual-adopters (using two technologies in critical areas) are better poised to reap the benefits that sit at the nexus of these technology trends.

Most importantly, the innovation and improved agility described in the examples above are not simply a result of spending more on IT. At this point in cloud, mobile, social media, and analytics development, C-level and senior line of business executives should be assessing the various business capabilities of their organizations and developing a strategy and a road map to improve and differentiate their core capabilities with these digital technologies. The firms that take advantage of the new capabilities can not only transform themselves but also achieve success in the 21st century.

None of the changes enabled by these technologies comes without accompanying organizational changes—management mind-sets, organizational behavior, operating cultures,” says Marchand of IMD. Deep change over time coupled with these technologies is where transformation happens.”


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Every step of complex inquiring

Achieve to order smarter to proactive customers, partner and distributor engagement, to be both together in global collaboration across experts anywhere.A point to the increase of profitability with faster CPO and higher margin for better solutions.

When you’re a start-up with few employees and few customers, it’s easy to stay on top of what customers want and what they’re getting.

But as you add more customers and employees, you add links to the customer service chain. That creates the potential for growth and the potential for poor service along the way. That’s why creating a customer service policy and adhering to it is so important.

Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your clients receive excellent service every step of the way.

  1. Put your customer service policy in writing. These principles should come from you, but every employee should know what the rules are and be ready to live up to them. This doesn’t have to be elaborate. Something as simple as “the customer is always right” can lay the necessary groundwork, although you may want to get more detailed by saying, for instance, “any employee is empowered to grant a 10 percent discount to any dissatisfied customer at any time.”
  2. Establish support systems that give employees clear instructions for gaining and maintaining service superiority.These systems will help you outservice any competitor by giving more to customers and anticipating problems before they arise.
  3. Develop a measurement of superb customer service.Don’t forget to reward employees who practice it consistently.
  4. Be certain that your passion for customer service runs rampant throughout your company. Employees should see how good service relates to your profits and to their futures with the company.
  5. Be genuinely committed to providing more customer service excellence than anyone else in your industry.This commitment must be so powerful that every one of your customers can sense it.
  6. Share information with people on the front lines.Meet with your employees regularly to talk about improving service. Solicit ideas from employees-they are the ones who are dealing with customers most often.
  7. Act on the knowledge that what customers value most are attention, dependability, promptness and competence.They love being treated as individuals and being referred to by name.

 

Phrases That’ll Make Your Customers Happy


Principles of customer service are all very well, but you need to put those principles into action with everything you do and say. There are certain “magic words” customers want to hear from you and your staff. Make sure all your employees understand the importance of these key phrases:

  • “How can I help?”Customers want the opportunity to explain in detail what they want and need. Too often, business owners feel the desire or the obligation to guess what customers need rather than carefully listening first. By asking how you can help, you begin the dialogue on a positive note (you are “helping,” not “selling”). And by using an open-ended question, you invite discussion.
  • I can solve that problem.”Most customers, especially business-to-business customers, are looking to buy solutions. They appreciate direct answers in a language they can understand.
  • I don’t know, but I’ll find out.When confronted with a truly difficult question that requires research on your part, admit that you don’t know the answer. Few things ruin your credibility faster than trying to answer a question when you are unsure of all the facts. Savvy buyers may test you with a question they know you can’t answer and then just sit quietly while you struggle to fake an intelligent reply. An honest answer enhances your integrity.
  • I will take responsibility.”Tell your customer you realize it’s your responsibility to ensure a satisfactory outcome to the transaction. Assure the customer you know what he or she expects and will deliver the product or service at the agreed-upon price. There will be no unexpected changes or expenses required to solve the problem.
  • I will keep you updated.”Even if your business is a cash-and-carry operation, it probably requires scheduling and coordinating numerous events. Assure your customers they will be advised of the status of these events. The longer your lead time, the more important this is. The vendors customers trust the most are those that keep them apprised of the situation, whether the news is good or bad.
  • I will deliver on time.”A due date that has been agreed upon is a promise that must be kept. “Close” doesn’t count.
  • Monday means Monday.”The first week in July means the first week in July, even though it contains a national holiday. Your clients are waiting to hear you say “I deliver on time.” The supplier who consistently does so is a rarity and will be remembered.
  • It’ll be just what you ordered.”It will not be “similar to,” and it will not be “better than” what was ordered. It will be exactly what was ordered. Even if you believe a substitute would be in the client’s best interests, that’s a topic for discussion, not something you decide on your own. Your customer may not know (or be at liberty to explain) all the ramifications of the purchase.
  • The job will be complete.”Assure the customer there will be no waiting for a final piece or a last document. Never say you are finished “except for….”
  • “I appreciate your business.”This means more than a simple “Thanks for the order.” Genuine appreciation involves follow-up calls, offering to answer questions, making sure everything is performing satisfactorily, and ascertaining that the original problem has been solved.

Neglecting any of these steps conveys the impression that you were interested in the person only until the sale was made. This leaves the buyer feeling deceived and used, and creates ill will and negative advertising for your company. Sincerely proving you care about your customers leads to recommendations and repeat sales.

 

Never Let Your Customers Forget You


One important tool for generating repeat business is following up. Effective follow-up begins immediately after the sale when you call the customer to say “thank you” and find out if he or she is pleased with your product or service. Beyond this, there are several effective ways to follow up that ensure your business is always in the customer’s mind.

  • Let customers know what you are doing for them.This can be in the form of a newsletter mailed to existing customers, or it can be more informal, such as a phone call. Whatever method you use, the key is to dramatically point out to customers the excellent service you are giving them. If you never mention all the things you are doing for them, customers may not notice. You aren’t being cocky when you talk to customers about all the work you have done to please them. Just make a phone call and let them know they don’t have to worry because you handled the paperwork, called the attorney or double-checked on the shipment-one less thing they have to do.
  • Write old customers personal, handwritten notes frequently.I was just sitting at my desk and your name popped into my head. Are you still having a great time flying all over the country? Let me know if you need another set of luggage. I can stop by with our latest models any time.” Or if you run into an old customer at an event, follow up with a note: “It was great seeing you at the CDC Christmas party. I’ll call you early in the New Year to schedule a lunch.”
  • Keep it personal.Voice mail and e-mail make it easy to communicate, but the personal touch is often lost. If you’re having trouble getting through to someone whose problem requires that personal touch, leave a voice-mail message that you want to talk to the person directly or will stop by his or her office at a designated time.
  • Remember special occasions.Send regular customers birthday cards, anniversary cards, holiday cards…you name it. Gifts are excellent follow-up tools, too. You don’t have to spend a fortune to show you care; use your creativity to come up with interesting gift ideas that tie into your business, the customer’s business or his or her recent purchase.
  • Pass on information.If you read an article, see a new book, or hear about an organization a customer might be interested in, drop a note or make a quick call to let them know.
  • Consider follow-up calls as business development calls.When you talk to or visit old clients or customers, you’ll often find they have referrals to give you, which can lead to new business.

With all your existing customers can do for you, there’s simply no reason not to stay in regular contact with them. Use your imagination, and you’ll think of plenty of other ideas that can help you develop a lasting relationship.

 

Dealing With Unsatisfied Customers


Studies show that the vast majority of unsatisfied customers will never come right out and tell you they’re unsatisfied. They simply leave quietly, later telling everyone they know not to do business with you. So when a customer complains, don’t think of it as a nuisance-think of it as a golden opportunity to change that customer’s mind and retain his or her business.

Even the best product or service receives complaints now and then. Here’s how to handle them for positive results:

  • Let customers vent their feelings. Encourage them to get their frustrations out in the open.
  • Never argue with a customer.
  • Never tell a customer “You do not have a problem.” Those are fighting words.
  • Share your point of view as politely as you can.
  • Take responsibility for the problem. Don’t make excuses. If an employee was sick or a supplier let you down, that’s not the customer’s concern.
  • Immediately take action to remedy the situation. Promising a solution and then delaying it only makes matters worse.
  • Empower your front-line employees to be flexible in resolving complaints. Give employees some leeway in deciding when to bend the rules. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, make sure they have you or another manager handle the situation.

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