Posts Tagged ‘Tech’


Mondays with Mike: 8 Ways You Can Accomplish More By Going Old School

I love gadgets as much as the next guy, but I had an experience recently that made me realize that sometimes, putting all your technological eggs in one basket isn’t a good idea.  My phone died while I was traveling (long story) and I was left without my clock, directions to the hotel, or even the name of the hotel that my assistant had reserved for me.  I was paralyzed until I could get some juice for my phone, and I realized that sometimes, old school is best.  Here’s a list of devices that you should always have in reserve.

  1. Calculator.  Yes, I know your phone has one, but have you ever needed the calculator while you’re on the phone?  Happens to me all the time.  A pocket-sized solar calculator with a battery backup can be a lifesaver.
  2. Typewriter.  Don’t roll your eyes.  I’m serious.  If you’ve ever needed to fill in a form that you can’t edit online, then the typewriter is a godsend.   Print the form, type your entries, and you’re all set.  I don’t use mine often, but when I need it, it’s the perfect solution.
  3. GPS device.  Sure, most phones have this function, but again – when you’re on a call and you simultaneously need directions, you’ll be glad you have the separate unit.  The bonus is that prices have come way down, and you can get a great GPS for very little.
  4. Alarm clock.  This item’s about redundancy as well, but if your phone battery dies or the power goes out, you’ll still be on time for that important meeting if you’ve packed a battery or wind-up alarm clock.  No need to make excuses for oversleeping.
  5. Compass.  Yes, really.  It never fails that the very moment that I need my GPS the most – like in the middle of Manhattan – the buildings keep my GPS from working properly.  If I know I need to head uptown, my pocket compass saves the day.
  6. Watch.  I may be old fashioned, but people who constantly check their phones drive me crazy.  If you just need to check the time, you’ll look much more engaged if you glance at your watch, rather than checking your phone and incidentally seeing the twenty new emails that need your attention.
  7. Pen and paper.  Inevitably, every time I try to use my phone’s notes function, I get distracted by a text message or a calendar alert and frequently forget what I needed to jot down.  Pen and paper in my pocket solves the problem.
  8. Polaroid camera.  I tell people that I keep a Polaroid camera just for fun, but it’s actually a fantastic leave behind.  Physical pictures are becoming so rare that they’re a brilliant way to remind a client or a friend of a momentous occasion.

I increasingly hear folks making excuses for why they haven’t managed to get something done, usually blaming their shortcomings on technology.  It’s far better to be the one person who always delivers, every time, rather than being the person whining about a dead battery and a failure to plan ahead.  Don’t be caught unprepared.  

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7 Technologies to Ignore in 2014

New technologies are released every day. For those small business owners that have shiny object syndromes (SOS), they can be hard to resist. Many are pushed to thinking that in order to have a competitive edge, they need to offer their customers the latest technology. However, for the good of their company, here are seven that need to be ignored in the next 12 months:

  1. Smartphone Watch. Wearable technology is a hot topic, but unless your product is related to getting data directly from consumer movements, pass on this technology now. Let’s be realistic; do you really need to look at a watch for an incoming message or call instead of pulling out your smartphone? It’s uber cool (in a Dick Tracy kind of way), but the productivity factor so far is missing.
  2. 3-D Printers. Need one for the office? Probably not unless there is a physical part you sell that can be created from it, instead of ordering from a supplier. For $500 to $2,000 (supplies not included), you can probably fulfill the need some way else.
  3. QR Codes. This is a technology that had a lot of promise, but has never been really accepted by the consumer. Most will not go to their scanning app to retrieve the web site location referred by the QR Code. Sit this one out and use a web or social media address on your products.
  4. Big Data. Analyzing your company with data is a good thing, but small businesses need to forget about going big. The reason is that most owners don’t look at even the simplest information. Do the analysis of your financial statements and your customers’ buying habits before you even think big data.
  5. Snapchat-LogoTemporary Social Media. This has been a big hit in many teen circles where pictures and messages self-destruct after a period of time. Small business owners should run their companies as if every message sent or posted will last forever. This is the best way to measure company values and actions.
  6. Google Glass. While this technology has many exciting possibilities, it does not fit into the critical path for servicing your customer. Until Google brings down the price to $500, it will remain only for the leading edge techie and curiosity seeker.
  7. Bitcoin. Ever since Mt. Gox default disaster, this virtual currency has been derailed. Your customers won’t be paying in bitcoins anytime soon. Easy mobile and online payments should be your only focus

Someday, these technologies may be useful to a every small business, but not today. What technologies are you putting off implementing?


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Who They Gonna Call (and How You Gonna Answer)?

Stocksy_txpba8ad81dGw4000_Small_178379Is your small business paying enough attention to incoming calls? Today, with so much focus on social media, email and online marketing, it’s easy to believe that providing customer service through live chat is all you need to do, or that customers are content to contact you by email and wait to hear back from you.

In reality, human behavior hasn’t changed—just the technology has. When customers are frustrated about something, have questions about your product or service, or are ready to buy, their first instinct is often to pick up the phone and call your business. In other words, customers who take the trouble to call you are primed—to buy, to vent, to ask questions. What’s more, if your business is involved in any kind of inbound marketing program—whether using SEO, click-to-call buttons on your website or in your ads—you’re spending good money to generate those calls from interested customers.

How callers are treated can make all the difference in whether they move to the next stage in the purchasing process, get over their anger, actually make a purchase…or get turned off of your company forever.

So how are customers and prospects treated when they call your business? Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do they get through right away? Set standards for employees to answer the phone on the second ring (third ring at the absolute latest). Make sure all employees—not just the receptionist or office manager—know it’s their responsibility to answer the phone if necessary.
  2. Are they greeted pleasantly? Do the employees who answer your phone sound excited to talk to customers—or like it’s an interruption in their busy day? Remember, customers are the ones who pay your bills, and they have plenty of options to go elsewhere.
  3. Do employees have the tools they need to help customers? Internal FAQ lists can help employees quickly find answers to questions customers may have. Make sure all employees know how to transfer calls to the proper person.
  4. When customers are on hold, can they tell? There’s nothing worse than being put on hold and hearing dead silence, so you don’t know if you’ve been cut off or should continue to wait. Use on-hold messages or music so customers know what’s going on.
  5. Are calls returned within a reasonable time? The faster you can respond to a customer’s inquiry, the more likely you are to make a sale. If you can’t answer all calls, strive to return all calls within 30 minutes—yes, 30 minutes—for best results. Outgoing voice mail messages should state how quickly customers can expect their calls to be returned.

By paying as much attention to incoming calls as you do to your social media outreach, you’ll rapidly see results—and increased sales.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Is It Time to Invest in New Employees—or Is New Technology Enough?

Do you really need to hire new employees—or would new technology serve the same purpose? According to the fifth annual Brother Small Business Survey, a whopping 72 percent of small business owners believe new technology would provide a better return on their investments than hiring new employees (28 percent) this year. No wonder nearly half (49 percent) the small business owners surveyed said investing in new technology is their top priority this year.

It’s not exactly cut and dried. If you’re confused, you aren’t the only one: 63 percent of survey respondents say they often feel “overwhelmed” by the number of tech tools available to help run their companies, and struggle to keep up with knowing what technology to buy.

What are small business owners planning to buy this year? Well, 41 percent say they’re going to invest in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. About one-third will buy Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, 20 percent will buy social technologies and 15 percent say cloud services will be essential to their businesses this year.

So how do you know whether you should hire—or if buying new technology could fill the bill just as well? When debating new technology, ask yourself:

  • ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????What is the learning curve for this tool? Can you or your existing employees get up to speed quickly enough that the tool will quickly start providing a return on investment?
  • How much time will the tool save? If the amount of time it saves allows you or your employees to absorb the new tasks into your existing workday, that’s ideal. However, if the new technology will add hours to your workday, you may need to hire new staff to handle the load.
  • Will this tool create additional work or additional business? Sometimes a tech tool can work so well it creates more work. For instance, your new CRM system may create more work at first as you follow up more frequently with prospects and customers. However, eventually it should create new business, not just new work. When you implement a new tool, figure out the break-even point at which it’s generating enough new business to finance hiring a new employee. 

The Hottest Technologies to Watch in 2014

sparkling_2014_lightsWhat are the hottest technologies your company should know about next year? Here is my watch list for 2014:

Rapporative: People buy from who they know, like and trust. Form a relationship with your prospects and customers by integrating their social media posts inside your email. How to use it: When you receive an email from a prospect, you now see their latest social media posts attached. This is a fantastic time to comment on them to further your relationship.

Bitcoin: This internet currency is getting a lot of press this year. It uses peer-to-peer computer technology to operate with no central banks. The managing of these transactions and the issuing of bitcoins is carried out by the an Internet network. How to use it: Is it time for your company to accept this currency to gain an advantage over your competitors?

Mobile wallet: Is this finally the year for the customer to leave their wallet at home? With solutions like Coin, it is sure to make an impact. This new product allows consumers to program all your credit cards into one payment size card. The device must be near your smartphone or it locks! How to use it: Ensure your company accepts mobile wallet solutions at all brick and mortar locations.

Geofencing: When customers are searching for something on their phone, how does the small business get them to buy from their company? One answer is geofencing that uses GPS to set a virtual perimeter for a given geographic area. How to use it: Generate a fence around your store or a particular location. When the consumer enters the "fenced-in" area, a text or email with a special offer is pushed to the customer's phone with their permission.

Mobile check out: Apple pioneered mobile checkout from a sales person’s smart phone. Gone are the days of waiting in a cash register line. How to use it: Equip your staff with these devices and sales will increase as a result of a closer bond with the customer.

3D printing: Instant delivery of physical products are becoming a reality. If consumer 3D printer sales continue to double over the next two years, the download market could reach 73M units for 2015. Based on research conducted by 3Dagogo, an online marketplace for 3D designs, 70% of all 3D designs found online actually cause failed prints due to design flaws. How to use it: Can your company deliver its products through 3D printing?

Connected cars: Google’s self-driving car is not yet a reality, but with the Internet everywhere, why not in your car?  Auto makers are starting to make cars their own hot spot so they can receive data and communicate with the driver’s hand held devices. Leading auto companies Audi, BMW, and Mercedes are starting to make it standard in their cars. How to use it: What solutions does your company offer that should be accessed from the car?

The quantified self: Consumers are checking their own blood pressure, pulse and steps on mobile devices. Forty percent of smartphone users want their phone to log all of their physical activities and 56 percent would like to monitor their blood pressure and pulse using a ring. Popular wearables are currently available from Nike and Fitbit. How to use it: What solutions does your company offer should be monitored from smartphones?

Faster Wi-Fi: The average consumer household today has 6 devices that connect to the Internet. As more devices become connected, the burden on the existing Wi-Fi networks will begin to show strain. The next generation of the wireless networking standard called 5G WiFi, or 802.11ac will offer faster speeds making it more capable of handling the spiking demand for connectivity. How to use it: What solutions become more beneficial at higher Wi-Fi speeds? What else do you sell that can be connected to the Internet?

What would you add?


The ID10T Myth

All IT have come across them: the basic computer user who doesn’t have a clue about how a computer works, which leads to the “ID10T error”, which is code for “idiot” user. While declaring this error and dismissing the user to Microsoft support may be easiest, it certainly isn’t the most productive way of dealing with illiterate computer users.

Patience

While you may get the same question asked over and over, it’s all part of the job. Plus, if an issue continues to arise, it can be an indication of a larger problem. Practice patience and careful explanation without patronizing.

Treat others as you would like to be treated

This basic lesson learned in Kindergarten is especially important in tech support. Treat people with kindness and you’ll be rewarded with kindness – well, most of the time.

Don’t Be a Pushover

Some people may want you to go over every detail of their computer, or others are lonely and want to talk to somebody. Promptly and politely cut these people off, says tech expert Jeff Vogel. “It’s only worth the time to do tech support if you have the chance to, in a reasonable amount of time, fix a problem and make a loyal customer,” he says. Yet if you realize you will not have a happy person and a working product, end the conversation as quickly and pleasantly as possible.

The Users Will Lie To You

Much of tech support involves giving bad or time-consuming advice in the hope that the user will just go away, Vogel says. Users may say their computers are flawlessly-maintained, their drivers are up-to-date, and every program works, but they are often wrong. Knowing this brings you one step closer to the truth.

Bite Your Tongue

People may vent and throw a tantrum, but it’s almost always in your best interest to be non-reactive and calmly explain your position. If the person’s bad behavior continues, you can always leave politely.




 
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