Archive for the ‘Business’ Category


6 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know About

A lot has changed in the business world since 2007, but perhaps what’s changed the most is how rapidly customer service expectations have risen. As customers evolve, your customer service has to keep pace. Just how are customers’ expectations changing? Customer2020, a new study from Accenture, has some insights every business owner should know about.

  1. They want it now. Accenture dubs today’s consumer the “Nonstop Customer”—which should give you a clue as to what type of service they expect. Customers don’t just want rapid resolution and minimal hassle—they expect it. If your business doesn’t deliver, they’ll move on to your competitor. Slightly more than half of consumers polled say they have become more impatient with the buying process since last year; two-thirds say they turn to online channels for customer service because they’re seeking speed and convenience.
  2. They have more options. Not only are consumers today more impatient, but they also have more places to go if they’re not happy with your customer service. Two-thirds report that the number of companies or brands they consider when making a purchase has increased significantly compared to 10 years ago.
  3. They care about what others have to say. Word-of-mouth has always been important to growing a business—but never more so than today. Last year, Accenture reported that 78 percent of consumers used at least one online channel when prospecting. Today, 88 percent do, which means they have many more opportunities to hear good (or bad) things about your customer service. More than half of respondents say they rely “much more” on other people’s experiences or reviews when making a purchase decision than they did 10 years ago. If bad word-of-mouth about your service spreads, either offline or online, you’ve got to turn it around.
  4. They’re itching to switch. Consumer loyalty isn’t quite a thing of the past, but it’s definitely become much harder to come by. Two-thirds of respondents say they have switched providers in at least one industry as a result of poor customer service. Six in 10 say they are more likely to switch providers now than they were 10 years ago.
  5. They want you to fix it the first time. Of those respondents who switched providers because of poor service, over 80 percent say the original company could have kept their business if their issue had been resolved the first time they contacted the company about it. In fact, first-contact resolution has been consumers’ number-one source of frustration for the past five years of the study—which suggests that companies aren’t getting much better at it.
  6. They still like human contact. While some consumers have “gone digital,” seeking to interact with customer service via online channels at every opportunity, many others of all ages still prefer traditional channels for resolving issues. To keep everyone happy (isn’t that the whole point of customer service?), your best bet is to provide a wide variety of ways for customers to resolve service problems.

By incorporating these six trends into your customer service systems, you’ll be able to step ahead of the pack and provide the kind of service today’s customers expect. 


To Win the Hearts of Today’s Consumer, Stand for Something and Mean It

A business that wants to win the hearts of today’s consumers benefits from standing for something and meaning it.  “Meaning it” is key: Customers are always on the lookout for corporate hypocrisy. One test for gauging an organization’s trustworthiness is whether it engages in greenwashing, the practice of merely paying lip service to environmental issues. Greenwashing is considered bad enough on its own, but customers also feel it likely to indicate hypocrisy at the company concerning other ethical issues as well. These knocks include the more general phenomenon called “causewashing,” where companies put up a façade of sympathetic labor practices, community involvement, ethical dealings with vendors, humane treatment of animals and more. One millennial I interviewed told me, “People my age are especially attuned to and adept at figuring out if a company is being pro-people or pro-environment in its marketing, and anti-peopleor anti-environment in its actions.”

With social media ubiquitous and “inside information” a Google search away, an organization can’t hope to hide its hypocrisy for long. A causewashing company, or any company that appears to differ between its words and its deeds, can find itself flayed online before it knows what happened. When Lululemon showed reluctance to take responsibility for a see-through yoga-pants debacle, it turned off customers, who had previously considered the company a paragon of New Age virtue, to the tune of a massive drop in share price. You’d do better as a company to emulate Starbucks and strive for honest marketing practices, walking the talk of your corporate philosophy. The coffee giant spends more than it needs to spend on coffee beans to buy only the most ethically sourced beans. It also famously shells out (heh) more on employee compensation by insisting on giving health insurance to every part-time worker, not just to the company’s full-timers

Transparency is a corporate attribute that today’s customers particularly value. And transparency is inherently an attribute that a business can’t superficially slap atop its brand. “I look for total transparency in a company I buy from—or, for that matter, work for,” says Adriana Dunn, a customer behavior and marketing expert and a youthful consumer herself. “I want to know what’s behind the brand.” Two brands that Dunn singled out for making transparency a cornerstone of their business practices are Everlane and Honest by. Everlane offers designer goods with transparent pricing and sourcing: Vendor practices, markup, and materials and production processes are laid out online for all to see. Honest by sells luxury brands with complete sourcing transparency. Its openness corresponds to its lengthy ethical statement, so lengthy in fact that I'm not going to strain your eyesight reprinting it here.

This phenomenon is significant, and extends to all demographics.   Three years ago, a study of consumer habits confirmed that shoppers are becoming “more deliberate and purposeful” in their purchasing decisions, and another study showed that 87% of consumers in the United States believe that companies should value the interests of society at least as much as strict business interests.  Today, with the rise of millennials (born circa 1980-2000) as customers, this commitment to values-based purchasing is becoming more pronounced than ever.  So getting ahead of the curve is key. 


Nextiva Customer Success Story: Carroll Organization

Businesses are always looking for ways to cut costs when it comes to their operating expenses without sacrificing the features and systems they rely on to run and grow their businesses. With a cloud-based phone system, businesses get more functionality than a traditional provider, but at a flat monthly fee per user. This significantly reduces a main operating expense—the phone system. Over the past few years more and more businesses have made the switch to a cloud-based phone system for these reasons.

We love meeting Nextiva customers, learning more about their business, and why they made the switch to Nextiva. Recently, our team had the opportunity to meet with Pavan Nanduri, Director of Information Systems at Carroll Organization in Atlanta, Georgia who is one of the larger businesses Nextiva serves. Pavan began looking for a new phone system because the company wanted to cut costs and find a solution that was easy to implement at the high-quality multi-family homes across the country the company invests in and manages. The old on-premises PBX system they were using was costly to maintain, changes to the system could take days, and it was not a scalable solution to grow with the company as they acquire and build more properties. Pavan knew a cloud-based solution would meet Carroll Organization’s communication needs. This led him to Nextiva.

Nextiva provided the value, reliability and features Pavan wanted, at an affordable price that pleased Carroll Organization’s investors and partners. Additionally, by moving to Nextiva’s NextOS platform, the company now benefits from:

  • Quick implementation of Nextiva’s cloud phone service at properties they acquire and invest in. They can plug in the phones and be operational in a matter of minutes.
  • No service or maintenance fees, and all system upgrades are handled by Nextiva so the company always has the latest technology available.
  • Crystal clear call quality that reflects the professionalism of the organization.
  • Reliable service that ensures investors, partners and residence can always reach the company.
  • Easily transfer calls between the main office in Atlanta and the properties Carroll Organization manages throughout the country.

Meet Pavan and hear Carroll Organization’s Nextiva story in the video below. 


Finally, The Top 10 Email and Text Acronyms Explained

8-13 Business Acronyms smallBusiness conversation is becoming more informal these days with the use of email and texting. The need to respond quickly has given birth to an entirely new vocabulary and acronyms. Many small business owners need to look them up to understand what people are talking about.

Here is your short guide to the most common acronyms and what they really mean:

1. EOM- End of Message. This is especially useful on mobile phones that only download the header for the message. By putting EOM in the title, the receiver knows that is the entire message and does not need to read further.

2. NRN- No Reply Necessary. A perennial favorite for the cluttered email box, this message means that it is FYI or “For Your Information” and does not need to be replied to (so don’t).

3. TLTR- Too Long to Read. Some people send long volumes of emails or very detailed text messages. This acronym is used to tell the sender to shorten it up and just send a summary. Sometimes it is written TL:DR or “ Too Long, Did Not Read”

4. Y/N- Yes or No. This asks for a simple answer from the receiver. Any further explanation is not required. They may respond IDK or “I Don’t Know”.

5. EOD- End of Day. This typically refers to when a task will be completed by or sets a deadline. It is interchangeable with COB or by “Close of Business”. Another acronym used instead is PRB or “Please Reply By”. A longer time frame is signified as EOW or “End of Week”. This is the opposite of TYT or “Take Your Time”

6. WFH- Working from Home. It is an increasingly popular option to not work in an office. This acronym is used to let the receiver know they are working, but will not be able to meet at the office. However, they are not OOO or “Out of the Office”.

7. LET- Leaving Early Today. Fewer jobs are 9 to 5 these days and this acronym is used to alert the receiver on a work schedule change.

8. SFW- Safe for Work. Many people are afraid to open attachments especially at work for fear of a virus. This signifies that it is okay to open whatever has been sent.

9. IMO or IMHO- In My “Humble” Opinion. No one wants to sound like they know everything at work. This adds humility to a response instead of stating it as fact. FWIW or “For What It’s Worth” can also be used.

10. ITT- In This Thread. Many times a receiver needs to follow the email thread to make sense of the entire conversation. This reminds them to read more.

BTW or “By The Way”, there are more acronyms that are important to know so you can LMAO. Look it up!


Creating a Spinoff Product Business From Your Service Business

Service providers deal in the commodity of knowledge. Your lawyer knows the intricacies of small business law. Your marketing consultant is well-versed in content marketing and social media. Your accountant knows how to minimize the hurt come tax time. All of them get paid for a transfer and application of their knowledge. But sometimes there’s an opportunity beyond providing services to create a complementary product business.

For me, as SmallBizLady, I get paid to work one-on-one with small businesses who need guidance and consultation. They pay for my knowledge and experience. But not everyone in my network can afford to hire me for a consultation. And that’s why I also offer information products at a much lower price point. People with tiny budgets can still afford to learn to be social media ninjas or become their own bosses through my books, mastermind groups and ecourses.

Catering to Two Markets: More Money for You

If you’re in a services industry, there are only so many people you can serve, especially if your prices are high. But what if you could also connect with another market, one who wants to read what you’ve learned and use it themselves to DIY whatever you’re teaching them?

What I love about having a product business is that once it’s created, I don’t have to worry about it. My products sell through my website and Amazon, and I don’t have to do anything to fulfill orders because they’re all digital products. So I’m making money on top of making money! Sound good to you?

Consider Who You’re Not Serving Currently

If you’re ready to spin off a new products business, start by considering who calls you but doesn’t end up becoming a client. What are they looking for? You’ll likely find several topics for ebooks, webinars, and courses immediately.

Do you attract a crowd of do-it-yourselfers? How can you share your knowledge to empower them to take care of specific tasks on their own? The more hands-on and detailed your instructions, the more successful your products will be.

See What’s Already Out There

You know what they say about not reinventing the wheel. Look at your competitors and see if they sell products, then figure out how you can fill a gap that isn’t currently served. Maybe you gear your content to a specific industry that you know is interested, or provide samples and templates that don’t already exist to help people.

Price Accordingly

Coming up with the perfect price point is always a challenge. You don’t want to alienate people who can’t afford your products, and you don’t want to charge so little that you don’t recuperate your expenses. Again, do some research to see what others charge and base yours on what you think you can get.

Where to Sell

Naturally, if you sell your products on your own website, you’ll get 100% of the profit, but setting up your site for ecommerce can take time and money. A quick solution is to sell on Amazon or on a digital products site like Gumroad. Yes, they’ll take a commission, but the traffic is so much better on these sites than your own, that you’ll likely make up for that chunk taken out in volume.

Adding a product business to your existing service business is the perfect balance: you provide in-real-time consulting, but you also make money while you sleep.


7 Ways to Use Social Media to Improve Your Customer Service

Your company’s social media presence is extremely important, and an essential channel to promote your brand image, but it’s not just about the content you’re posting to your company pages. The most important thing is what your customers are saying about your product/service, business and customer service. With so many different social media channels out there these days (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.), it is important to establish a presence on the channels that your customers use most so you can keep an eye on what is being said about your company. Keeping tabs on how customers feel about your business provides tremendous insight to what you’re doing right and areas of opportunity that need to be addressed.

As consumers, we’re more likely to listen and trust our peers than a company’s well-crafted message about how great they are. It is important to remember that every interaction your customers have with your business has the potential to be shared on social media. Rave reviews, as well as rants about horrible customer service, can dramatically impact your sales, brand image and ability to grow.

In today’s digital age, social media breaks down the barriers between consumers and companies. There are huge advantages of this for both sides. Companies and consumers can now have a direct dialogue that wasn’t previously possible 10 years ago. However, as with anything, this comes with a downside. If customers have a negative experience with your product/service or a member of your team, they are likely to share it online, which can create a snowball effect of negative comments about your business. This is why it is essential to provide great customer service via your company’s social media channels to mitigate negativity and promote a positive brand image. 

Here are 7 tips we follow at Nextiva that will improve your customer service via social media.

  • Engage with people who post about your company on social media. Make it a two-way conversation. This builds loyalty and goodwill.
  • Know your customers and the social media channels they’re active on. Constantly monitor these channels so you have a pulse on how your customers feel about your product/services, customer service and brand overall.
  • Be personal with your posts and responses. No one likes to receive a canned response. At Nextiva, we reply via a personal  video whenever possible.

​         Video Response

  • Address customer questions, concerns and issues as quickly as possible. Speed is everything in today’s hyper-connected digital world.

         Responding to customer questions

  • Follow-up after a customer concern or issue has been resolved. This builds trust and shows others that you follow through. 
  • Download the app version of social channels your company uses so you can post and engage with followers from anywhere, at anytime.

​           social apps

  • Set up email alerts for your social media accounts so you’re always notified when someone mentions your company.  

Have some other tips for providing great customer service via social media? Share in the comments below.


Four Ways to Grow Your Business With New Products and Services

Your small business may be successful, but you still need to modify your product or service offerings over time. At some point, customers no longer need what you’re selling and you also need to capitalize on new demands created by changing trends. Granted, it costs less to retain customers than to attract new ones, but you also still need to look for ways to get new customers in the door. In many cases, you will have a clear picture of what you need to do to freshen your product line. If you know you need a change but the ideas are not flowing, however, here are four ideas to spark your creative juices.

#1. Offer an Out-of-The Box Service that Complements Your Core Competency

A colleague recently told me that her doctor’s waiting room became filled with young clientele when they started offering piercings. With a small amount of extra training, this office drew in both existing and new patients because of the promise of sterile, medically-sound conditions.

Even better, this new service was quick and easy, so the added business did not affect the wait times of traditional patients. Plus, since kids and young adults were a large part of this demographic, adding this service attracted new patients who were happy to return to a cool doctor for more standard medical concerns as well.

#2. Go On-Demand

Quality services that your customers can get when they need them show that you care. Where “while-you-wait” services were limited to things like printing and oil changes, more businesses are jumping on the on-demand bandwagon. Medical offices now bring more patients in with appointment-free flu shots. And many lawyers now offer fixed-fee phone support for clients who need speedy legal advice for anything from a simple divorce to learning their rights in landlord disputes.

Even if instant turnaround is not an option for your area of business, quick convenience-oriented services added to your product mix (for example, perhaps a free Notary Public service) can capture the interest of many clients.

#3. Invest in Technology

Investing in technology can be a way to differentiate your business or can even be a new source of recurring revenue.  Consider what happens when a busy two-person auto insurance agency equips policyholders with a free auto accident app. With a few smart phone swipes, the stressed-out accident victims know what to say and do — including gathering and organizing evidence. The end result is a file that the policyholder sends to the agent, who then has everything needed to handle the claim more efficiently.

Similarly, a tax accountant can provide clients with a phone app that lets them quickly record expenses on the spot. Record-keeping becomes a no-brainer for the client. And, what tax accountant wouldn’t prefer a file that is compatible with tax preparation software over a receipt-filled shoebox during the busy tax season?

If you can make your customers’ lives easier or give them a reason to interact with your business, it can provide an easy boost.

#4. Get Mobile

The mantra “if you build it, they will come” no longer applies to business.  And many businesses have found that they can expand by doing the opposite—going to their customers directly.  Breaking away from the confines of your store or office is good for business.

Doctors making house calls was en vogue in the past and now, home health care is starting to become a value added premium service.  But, who else can benefit?

How many locals have never visited your big-city restaurant? A food truck can get them eating your food for the first time. It may even convince them to make the effort to visit your brick and mortar restaurant. Plus, investing in a food truck can be done at the fraction of the cost of a new location. Catering, anyone?

Wheels are not the only way to get mobile. You can also bring convenience to customers by expanding your presence at more locations — particularly during times of increased demand. So, if you sell anything from gift products to foot massages for sore shoppers’ feet, perhaps open a pop-up shop during the holidays or at intervals throughout the year to reach a new customer base.  Or better yet, consider a mobile delivery service for your store to get to the customer who doesn’t have time to get to you.

Embrace Change at Any Time

Even when your profits are soaring, always keep your mind open to new ideas. You may decide to add a small enhancement to an existing product that is showing signs of stagnating sales. Or, perhaps a client suggested something that sparked your interest. You don’t have to wait for times of desperation to beef up your product line. Change at any time keeps things fresh for customers — and for you, too.  Just make sure not to invest too much in any new offering before you test its compatibility with your customer base.


3 Benefits of Using Auto Attendants for Your Business Communication

8:7 Auto Attendant Benefits smallThere are a variety of ways to route incoming calls to specific departments, teams, groups of employees, or individuals. The most common ways to route calls is by an employee answering the phone when it rings, via a live receptionist, or through an Auto Attendant. All options will help a caller get to where they need to go eventually, but utilizing an Auto Attendant with your phone system will significantly improve the likelihood they reach the correct destination the first time. Not only does this improve the customer experience, but it also saves your company from wasting precious time that can be better spent on other tasks and projects.

So what exactly is an Auto Attendant? Think of it as a virtual receptionist. An Auto Attendant presents the caller with an audible greeting (that is customized for your business), which offers the caller options to select. Once an option has been made, the call will be redirected to the chosen destination.

Auto Attendants are an invaluable feature of cloud-based business phone systems, and we’ve highlighted three key benefits below.

Top 3 benefits of implementing an Auto Attendant at your business

1. Your own virtual receptionist:

Gone are the days of needing someone, whether a dedicated receptionist or team member, to answer the phone and route calls to the appropriate destination. With cloud-based phone systems, such as Nextiva Office®, you can program callers’ options and route calls automatically to the specified destination.  

2. Increase team productivity:

How many times has a customer called your office when they meant to call your location across town, or you answered a call that was meant for the Billing department? By understanding your customers and what they commonly call in about, you can customize your Auto Attendant to include these options and significantly reduce the amount of times your team answers a call that is not related to their job responsibilities. Reducing the amount of time wasted on these calls will increase your team’s productivity (less interruptions!).

3. Significant cost savings:

Eliminating the need for a receptionist or team member to route calls saves you significant operating costs and human resources. The money previously spent on these wages can be reallocated to other areas of your business that will propel it forward.

All Nextiva Office plans come with the Auto Attendant feature. To learn more about how Auto Attendants and other cloud-based features can improve your business communications visit www.nextiva.com.


Five Customer Trends That You Need To Be On Top Of

8-6 customer trends smallHere are five ways that customer expectations may have grown beyond what your company is providing. If you aren’t keeping up, the question becomes how quickly you can get up to speed, and the answer to this can make or break your bottom line and your survival prospects. So check out the list and see where you stand.  

1. Customers expect extended hours: hours that you’re open, hours that you provide support.  This may mean 24/7 or as close as you can get. For example: For its advertising clients, Google now not only offers support in 42 languages, it does so nearly around the clock, and offers English language support English-language support 24/5. That’s pretty good, considering we’re talking about B2B, non mission-critical support.

Customers also expect more flexibility and options during traditionally “off” hours. For example, if you’re in foodservice, consider letting customers order from either the dinner or lunch menu in the mid-afternoon, and consider offering a cold sandwich menu available late in the evening after the kitchen has closed but your bar is still open.

2. Customers expect self-service–well-designed self-service–to be an option: No matter how good your human-delivered customer service, customers expect self-service options as well. Self-service, which includes everything from web-based e-commerce to IVR (interactive voice response telephone systems) to concierge-like self-help touch-screen menus in public spaces to passengers printing their own boarding passes at home before traveling, is a powerful trend in customer service, and companies that ignore it, pursue it reluctantly, or violate the basic laws of its implementation will be left in the dust.

3. “Fast enough” isn’t, anymore:  Does your company still refer to internal documents with obsolete standards like “We strive to respond to Internet inquiries within 48 hours.  Maybe such a time frame made sense a few years ago (I actually doubt it, but maybe), but today, such a response time is the equivalent of 36 years in Internet time.  Your customer support standard needs to be response within just a few hours; after that, your customer is going to assume that you’re never going to get back to them. An intensified expectation of timeliness also applies to product and services delivery, an area where amazon.com is obviously one of the leaders. Amazon’s example, and the twitchiness that apps and the Internet itself invoke, means that your company’s traditional definition of “fast enough” probably isn’t, anymore.

4. Social consumption is now the norm. “If I don’t have a picture of it on my phone, it didn’t happen”: Lisa Holladay, branding and marketing guru at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, tells me she’s heard this sentiment lately from young customers. This means that if business isn’t building opportunities for social sharing into the customer experience, you’re missing out on a chance to delight–rather than drive away–your customers. (Ritz-Carlton does this gently with the Shareable Experiences feature in their app and their #RCMemories “Let us stay with you” campaign; for an entirely different and kind of niftily over the top approach to this, you should also check out 1888 in Sydney, aka the “instagram hotel.”)

5. Customers are looking to blur the lines between the fun and the mundane: On the one hand, there’s a new expectation that fun, adventure, even ‘danger’ can be incorporated in potentially mundane interactions. Business travel is a great example of this: More and more travelers try to integrate some adventure, some local exploration, into what are ostensibly business trips. At the other end of this blurring of leisure and business, we have mostly given up on “fully unplugging,” so it makes sense to accommodate even leisure customers’ need or desire to work and keep in touch.  For example, it makes sense that some airlines’ long-haul flights now offer a “quick dine” option so passengers can quickly get back to work without the food tray being in their way, as it makes sense for businesses of all types to offer fast, no login required wifi and other tools to their waiting, “captive” customers.




 
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