Archive for October, 2012


How to be Productive Working from Home

Telecommuting offers compelling benefits for both workers and employers. Businesses can save nearly $8,000 annually for each telecommuter, according to Lister and Harnish. Plus, studies have found that telecommuters are more productive working from home than when working at the office. Employees also look for work from home situations. A study from the Families and Work Institute found that 87 percent of people surveyed said that flexible schedules that would let them better manage work and personal life would be “extremely” or “very” important.

A survey by Cisco found that a majority of teleworking respondents experienced a significant increase in work-life flexibility, productivity and overall satisfaction as a result of their ability to work remotely. However, working from home presents numerous challenges. The following are some key ways workers from home can be successful:

  • Separate the Work from Home - Allocate a room dedicated to working. If you don’t have an extra room, make your desk your workspace. That way, when you enter the room or sit down at your desk, you know why you’re there: to do work. It changes the state of mind from “I’m at home” to “I’m at work”. Make sure to close the door and send the signal to family that you’re working and shouldn’t be interrupted.
  • Keep your desk and work area orderly - An uncluttered workspace makes for an uncluttered mind, which makes you more productive.
  • Turn Off/Limit the Internet - When you need to work without distraction, disconnect the Internet and phone if possible. The Internet offers countless distractions that can pull you away from your work.
  • Stay on Track by Planning - Create a daily to-do list that includes goals for big projects. Then, hold yourself accountable for meeting self-imposed deadlines, says Robert Half International.
  • Log Off - Once you’re finished, don’t go back to work, unless of course there is a pressing project your boss is pressuring you about.At the end of the day, shut off your computer and move to a different room,” says Robert Half. “This serves as a signal to leave ‘work’ and return ‘home.’” Some people even go for a quick errand or walk to officially end the day.

Master the Art of Balance as a Road Warrior

Traveling and working isn’t easy, but still many companies expect it from employees, especially with new communication tools that allow for always-on connectivity.

Yet workers can actually stay productive and work while traveling if they follow certain steps.

  • Find a Dedicated Workspace - The first issue is finding a workspace that nurtures your work mentality and put you into productivity mode. Finding this while traveling may not be easy though. You can use the hotel kitchen table, but a local coffee shop is often better. Better yet, go to the local library for minimal distractions.
  • Identify When You’re Most Productive - Once you identify when you’re most productive, you should plan your most difficult or pressing work during those times and leave the easier work for the time of day you’re usually not as productive.
  • Create a Work List - Zen Habits suggests creating a list that prioritizes work. The first list has three things to be done today. The second is three things you’d like to get done, but aren’t essential. The third is three things that need to be done at some point.
  • Set Concrete Work Hours - Try setting a time limit to get your work done, say 90 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at just how productive you’ll be in that short time, says FreelanceSwitch.com. With a limited time frame, people are often more efficient, since Parkinson’s Law suggests that a task will inflate in difficulty and importance relative to the time allocated to it, the site says.
  • Block out Distractions - Cut out the countless distractions that can sabotage your work, including email that can interrupt your productivity. Close your web browser and resist the urge to engage in social media and read articles and any other Internet activities not related to work. Save those for your downtime. If you’re working in a busy coffee shop, wear earphones and listen to classical music.

We hope these tips are helpful for your days out of the office as a road warrior. To learn more ways that you can experience more mobility and flexibility with your incoming and outgoing business calls, give us a ring at 800-983-4289! We would be happy to tell you about Nextiva Connect – a virtual phone system that allows you to route your calls to anywhere you are at any time through an online control panel.


5 Tips for Improving the Customer Experience

Customer service includes every touch point that a customer experiences with a representative of your company, and it can make or break your customers’ perception of your brand. It is just as important to provide polished, professional service to customers, as it is to provide them with reliable, quality products. When interacting with a representative from your company, the care that the employee provides can make or break the perception that the customer has of your company.

The personality of your business is reflected through the service that your customers receive. It can be professional, energetic, respectful, or smart. It can also be lazy, careless, ignorant, or immature. These five steps are designed to allow your employees’ service delivery to flourish and to let your customers and clients know that they are valued.

  1. Know your customers. Take the time to identify your target market(s). Make the effort to put yourself in their shoes so you can accurately determine what their wants and needs may be. The key to a satisfied customer base is to focus on specializing your products and services toward your designated market, rather than trying to be everything to everyone. By actively listening to what your customers are saying, it will let them know you value their feelings and opinions. If a problem arises, empathize with the customer or client and go above and beyond to fix any issues they may have.
  2. Treat your employees well. Happy employees lead to great service for your customers. When a company’s representatives are in a good or a bad mood, it reflects directly through the service they deliver. Optimize employees’ attitudes by creating a soothing, productive work environment for them so they are able to focus on providing a stellar customer experience without any distractions. And most importantly, treat your employees with respect and insist that they treat others the same.
  3. Strengthen your interoffice communication efforts. Ensure employees are in the know about promotions, potential product/service problems, and other information that customers may inquire about so they are consistently knowledgeable and informed. If there is a customer with a problem, circulate a simple email or memo to employees who may come in contact with the customer to keep everyone prepared and in the loop. The more your staff knows, the less time customers will have to spend in line or on hold while waiting for an answer.
  4. Utilize social media outlets. A variety of free social media sources are readily available to keep you in touch with your customers and clients. Establish a branded Facebook and Twitter account for your business and use it to encourage customers’ interactions with each other and with your company. Suggest they share stories of their experience with your business. Ask for their feedback on new products. Invite them to promotional events your company is hosting. Initiate conversations with customers to make them feel welcomed to your online community. Social media outlets are often the quickest and easiest way for customers to engage with a company representative.
  5. Delight your customers. It’s the thought that counts. There are numerous small gestures that you can make that would “wow” your customers and clients. Develop a special promotion to a targeted group (Twitter followers; potential customers; those with birthdays this month) to let them know they’re valued. Excite repeat visitors and shoppers by mailing them a company t-shirt, coffee mug, key chain, or other small trinket on occasion. Have your client’s favorite beverage prepared for when they arrive to a meeting. Set aside new items that you think a frequent shopper may like. Send a quick birthday card to a customer that you overheard planning her party. Alert a loyal Facebook fan of an upcoming sale with a personalized email. The possibilities are endless!

By incorporating the goal of delivering high quality customer service into your overall business plan, your employees will naturally develop the ability to respond to customers’ needs and concerns. This ongoing commitment is one of the most important ingredients in the recipe to customer satisfaction and, in turn, your business’s success.


Cost Savings Tips for Small Businesses

Small businesses are constantly under pressure to do more with less. They often struggle to balance the demands of their business with costs associated with growing and maintaining the business. That’s why cost savings measures are integral to the success of a small business and why the following can help in the success of your small business.

Teleconference - Why pay costly travel expenses for meeting clients when you can have a teleconference? Businesses of all sizes are taking advantage of new teleconferencing tools to hold meetings virtually with people from all over the world.

Use Independent Contractors - By using independent contractors, you typically save money on payroll expenses like benefits and payroll taxes. Plus, you don’t have to pay for office space, office equipment and often pay a flat fee for services.

Negotiate - Small businesses should avoid paying retail prices as much as possible, according to PowerHomeBiz.com. You can negotiate with vendors for lower prices for products, reduction in shipping costs and other deals.

Partner for Advertising -Team up with non-competing businesses in your area and purchase group advertising, says Entrepreneur.com.

Consider bundled services - You can save hundreds of dollars a year with a company that offers bundled services that include phone service, cable, Internet, fax, and web hosting, says the Minority Business Development Agency. Bundling two or more services from the same company can save your business hundreds of dollars per year.

Lease equipment - Small businesses can big upfront purchases of equipment by leasing it. For example, instead of buying an office PBX system, go with a hosted system. This saves money that could be spent on repairs, upgrades and maintenance since many lease agreements cover these expenses.

Here at Nextiva, one of our main goals is to save small and midsize businesses money through affordable phone service. For more information, click here or call us at 800-983-4289.


Finding the Right Balance between Life and Work

Balancing work and life is one of the most difficult challenges we face. Now, with access to work information from our phones, home computers and other devices, it’s even more difficult to separate the two, especially in the U.S.

“Americans report sharply higher levels of work-family conflict than do citizens of other industrialized countries,” says The Center for American Progress. “Fully 90% of American mothers and 95% of American fathers report work-family conflict.”

The following are some useful tips to help find that ideal balance between work and your personal life.

Recharge with Downtime

Downtime isn’t just about vacation. It’s about consciously creating time throughout the week for yourself and loved ones in order to rejuvenate and not get burned out on work. Schedule activities each week with your family and friends that help you recharge. If you schedule a date night with your spouse and a tennis match with a friend, it provides extra incentive to manage your time and something to look forward too.

Another way is to schedule regular workout routines, coffee or similar events. Michael Neithardt, an actor and television commercial producer in New York City, wakes up three hours before work to jog and spend time with his family.

Eliminate Activities that Suck Your Time

You can free up valuable time by eliminating the activities that don’t enhance your personal life or career. “Many people waste their time on activities or people that add no value — for example, spending too much time at work with a colleague who is constantly venting and gossiping, said Marilyn Puder-York, PhD, a psychologist and executive coach, in WebMD.”

Tracking your time is a useful way to identify time-wasting activities you may be doing while supposedly working (Facebook, Pinterest, personal calls, etc.). “We often get sucked into these habits that are making us much less efficient without realizing it,” said Laura Stack, author of SuperCompetent: The Six Keys to Perform at Your Productive Best.

Exercise

Exercising may seem like a luxury when you have a hectic schedule, but many health experts say exercise can help you get more done by increasing your energy level and helping you concentrate.

“Research shows exercise can help you to be more alert,” Brooks says. “And I’ve noticed that when I don’t exercise because I’m trying to squeeze in another half hour of writing, I don’t feel as alert.”

Take Breaks

If you’re working for 8 or 10 hours, it’s not a good idea to do it non-stop. At least once an hour get up and walk around, preferably outside. Stretch and massage your shoulders and get your blood moving says Zen Habits. Do some squats or push-ups if you want to start getting fit. Talk to someone. Drink water and eat fruits and vegetables.




 
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