Posts Tagged ‘Office Tips’


How to Encourage Your Employees to Adopt New Technology Solutions

Most people are averse to change. If employees are accustomed to using a certain technology or process, it can be difficult for them to accept a new solution.  Whenever a new technology is implemented, business owners should expect pushback and have a plan ready to overcome it.  Here are some simple steps you can take to prepare your employees for a new technology implementation: 

  1. Communicate the Benefits

Perhaps the most important part of introducing a new workplace solution is explaining why you are doing so.  Focus on the positives; share with employees the new perks, efficiency, convenience, etc. that they will benefit from after the implementation is complete.  For example, if adopting your business is switching to a VoIP system, such as Nextiva’s, you can focus on the increased reliability, time-saving features, and lower cost to the company.  If you have done your research and chosen a solution that is an improvement over the previous one, it shouldn’t be too hard to deflect objections and help your employees understand why this is a change for the better.

  1. Provide Realistic Expectations

It is unfair to expect your entire company to switch to a new system and learn all the features in one day.  There should be a transitional period for everyone to grow accustomed to the new system and become comfortable with everything.  Following the Nextiva VoIP example, it should be fairly simple to train everyone on how to make and receive phone calls in one day, but it may be a bit more difficult for everyone to learn the star codes and embrace new features, such as call parking.  Offer a timeline for learning so that nobody feels rushed.

  1. Designate Practice Time

If employees have to use the system for the first time during their normal work activities, they may feel flustered.  They also may not want to spend time learning a new solution when they can be working on ongoing projects.  To avoid this common source of tension and stress, provide a designated time for employees to test out the new system.  An hour or two set aside on one day can be enough depending on the complexity of the technology.  Allow your staff to openly explore the features and learn what they can through experimentation under low-stress conditions.  They can help each other, ask for assistance, and get a handle on using the program before being in a higher-stakes environment.

  1. Offer Support

Instructions and help should be easily accessible to everyone who will be using the new system.  In most cases, the company providing the new service should have some of these resources available.  For example, Nextiva offers a Customer Support Center with written explanations and videos for common questions, along with a dedicated Support line you can call to speak to a technical specialist.  Your company may want to provide more resources, however, so it could be beneficial to have a few experts on your team.  These experts will then be available to train individuals seeking more assistance and answer questions on site.   

  1. Allow Feedback

Employees want to know that their opinions are valid and sought after by their company.  Encourage feedback on the new system so your employees know their thoughts and feelings are valued and taken into consideration.  Gaining feedback is also beneficial for identifying areas that may be problematic in a new system, where training needs to be conducted, and just the general feeling from employees.  It is important to keep your staff happy, so take their feedback and suggestions to heart, and make the new solution a positive change for everyone!

Adopting new workplace solutions can be a hurdle, but with proper training and explanation, it should be simple to keep your workforce happy.


5 Underrated VoIP Features That Will Improve Your Productivity

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is becoming the new business norm. Companies are steadily transitioning away from their old analog phone services in favor of the newer, more adaptable and feature-rich communications technology that VoIP has to offer.

VoIP’s surge in popularity can be attributed to its numerous value-added features. VoIP makes it easy for companies to choose and implement the features that would benefit their business. New features are being created on a regular basis to enhance VoIP’s capabilities and enhance the user experience.

The problem now is that with so many new and easily-accessible features, it can be easy for businesses to overlook some of the features that can potentially increase their operational efficiency. A few examples are listed below, but it is important to remember that there are numerous other useful features to consider adopting.  

Call Me Now

From a sales standpoint, Call Me Now might be one of the most useful features available with VoIP. This feature allows people to call your company by clicking on a web-based icon. Call Me Now offers sales-oriented professionals the opportunity to immediately respond to any objections from the customer.

Call Me Now is also a useful feature to improve customer service. You can use Call Me Now to quickly get customers connected with a service professional so that their issues can be resolved in a more timely manner.

Custom Ring Back

Looking for ways to generate interest without increasing talk time? When a customer calls your company, you can have custom music or verbal recordings play in place of the typical ringing sound. 

This feature is a great way to provide information, generate questions from customers, and provide future talking points during the phone call.

Push to Talk

Think of this feature as a more advanced walkie-talkie. Push to Talk allows you to call a phone within your network and activate the other line’s speaker. The other line then becomes an intercom; however, the receiver of the call can also talk back by pressing a button.

Call Pick-Up

Call Pick-Up allows you to enter a star code to answer any phone that is ringing in your network. This prevents your company from missing phone calls that ring to someone who is not currently available at their desk.

Call Parking

Call Parking allows you to “park” a call and put it in an extension. Once the call is parked, the line that the call originally rang to is freed for future calls.

There are many practical applications for parking a call. For example, let’s say you need to run downstairs to look for an item. You can park the call, go downstairs, and then pick up the call from a phone downstairs. You can also park a call if the caller is trying to reach a certain employee who is on a different call. Once that employee is done with their call, they can dial an extension to pick up the call that you parked.

VoIP’s growing feature set provides numerous opportunities to increase the efficiency of your communications system. Visit Nextiva’s website to learn more about the many features of VoIP.


Why Your Email Signature Matters

The single marketing message that any business person sends the most every day is in their email signature. This is why it is critical to use only the information that reflects the company’s brand and further builds a relationship with the recipient.

The essentials

Name, title, company, email address, web site URL, phone number and social media links where you are active. Include your email address since many times it is not included in the header of the reply.

Forget these closing salutations

I am not a fan of legal disclosures since it adds unnecessary length to the email especially since it  probably will be opened on a smart phone. I question the legal effectiveness even if these are used. I also do not believe in using motivational sayings unless it is part of your brand.

Stay away from silly closing salutations like “Blue skies” or “Cheers”. Now I am not an ogre, but these are not always appropriate. Consider that you just told someone in an email they did not get the job and then close with “Cheers”. This does not help your ongoing reputation or brand. I am also not sure what “Regards” means. Is this “Best regards” or “Kind Regards”? I also don’t like “Sincerely” because it always seems patronizing. Also forget “Reach for the Stars”, “Peace Out”, “Your Boy”, “Your Girl”, or “Your Compatriot”.

Use these closing salutations

Think of something that is more closely tied to your brand. I use “here’s to getting unstuck and moving…forward”. If a branded one does not work, use old standbys like “Hope this helps”, “Thank You”, “Much Appreciated”, “Let me know where I can help”

Other email signatures that work

  • The brand tag line with a link to more explanation like a video
  • Use a company logo or a very small photo
  • “Here is recent recognition we received! Thank you!” with a link
  • “Come see us at _______________ (upcoming event)” with a link
  • “We are growing! Know someone that would make a good ___________ for our company”
  • “We were recently honored to be featured in _______________” with a link

Remember, the email signature should be changed no more than every quarter so it can make multiple impressions on the recipients.

Overall, keep it short and in plain text with no animations (except for a photo or logo). Remember, most will be opened on a mobile device. Test out what looks good on various devices, but also on different web browsers and on Gmail and Yahoo mail.

What is in your email signature?


Making A Scene With Your Business

What impression are you trying to create–what feelings and thoughts are you trying to invoke–with your business? This is an important question.  The work you do here is what I call "setting a scene," a scene that supports the storyline, the plotline, of your business.

Every significant touchpoint of the customer experience can be conceived of as a scene.

For example: What scene do you want to set at the register in your clothing store: “Fast?” Undoubtedly, but that’s not enough. Yet “fast” is about all you’re going to measure with your KPI’s: fast, and maybe accurate.  But there’s so much more.  The register (or, at more forward looking merchants, the non-register) is one of the last moments in the customer’s retail journey.  Think about how much more than just “fast” it can be. Nordstrom thinks it should also be “warm,” reassuring, and streamlined, so they ensure that the counter is uncluttered, they make a point of coming around from behind the register to hand you the bag, making it more of a collegial, collaborative process than handing the bag over the barrier of the counter, and they accompany you to your car if you need or want an extra hand with your new loot.

All of which fits into the overall Nordstrom storyline, which is, I would say, “You can trust us beyond a doubt.”

Even a car repair shop can transform impressions through scene-setting. Jiffy Lube, not a name that probably springs immediately to mind when it comes to exceptional service with a human touch, has improved its service model by setting a different scene from what they did in the past.  By offloading transactional details that had previously preoccupied its employees and customers, rolling out an intricate nationwide database to store each customer’s vehicle history and manufacturer-prescribed service requirements. This information is now a couple of clicks away for every customer-facing Jiffy Lube employee, freeing them from onerous paperwork and allowing them to assist customers more easily and knowledgeably.

This fits as part of the overall storyline of Jiffy Lube, which I would describe, in a rhyming couplet of my own making, as “with a minimum of fuss, you can count on us.”

Or think about the experience of walking into an Apple Store.  Here, right smack dab in the center of the technology industry, we have a brand that has relentlessly worked to downplay all of the transactional items and processes that would bring you down to earth as a customer, that would make you feel that you’re doing something other than embarking on a great adventure into the future.  In an Apple Store, there are no cash registers or checkout lines, and no receipts or owner’s manuals in sight; the stores are uncluttered and the employees are empowered to provide a peerless retail experience. Apple has invested in training a large team of salespeople and customer service representatives to help customers on the floor and at the Genius Bar, where the diagnostic specialists are famously called “Geniuses.”

The storyline here? I’d say it’s along the lines of “We are about your experience, not about technology, processes, specs and minutae.” (Sorry, I couldn’t make that one rhyme; if you succeed in doing so, email me and I’ll update this article.)

What’s your business’s storyline? And do the scenes that customers encounter at your business support it? Think it through and get it right. It’s worth it.  Because customers don’t think of the little details they encounter at your business in isolation.  In their heads, they wrap their whole experience up with a bow and decide if they liked it or not, if they want to return or not.  Make sure they get the right impression, so they’ll make a business-friendly decision.


Are You Pickier Than Your Pickiest Customer? (You Should Be)

12-31 Picky Eater smallIt’s time for you to stop cutting your business a break, to stop letting things slide. If you want to improve as a business, learn to out-picky your pickiest customer. Try putting on your pickiest view of the world, and force-fit this filter onto your employees’ eyes as well.

Let’s try out this pickier-than-the-pickiest-customer view of the world with a look at the very simple, often ambiguous behavior that one of your employees might exhibit. For example, you could be watching, through your new grump-tinted glasses, one of your clerks coming out from behind the checkout counter chewing on her last bite of a ham and cheese sandwich.

 Your employee makes her way to the register, swallows the last bite of her sandwich, and says, “May I help you?” to the customer waiting at the counter.  Not an uncommon behavior and something most of us have seen at some time or other in our life as customers (people gotta eat, right?)

Now that you’ve watched this scene unfold, take your employee aside and ask her to describe what the customer at the register thought of the interaction, including the not-quite-finished sandwich with which it started.  Your employee will usually ascribe the mindset of someone like her own sweet grandmother to the customer; she’ll hear in her mind’s eye the customer thinking “Oh, that poor dear. She missed her dinner and had to eat standing up. She rushed right back to work after taking only five minutes of her lunch break. She’s so dedicated.”

This, my friend, is one of those big ole teachable moments: If you take this opportunity to ask your staff member to look at her own behavior as your pickiest customer would see it, you help her understand how her behavior actually appears to some customers. Because your pickiest customer would interpret the sales clerk who comes out to the register chewing the last bite of her sandwich more like the following: (with dripping sarcasm): “Oh, how nice! You have time to sit back there and have a leisurely lunch while I’m standing in the line for 20 minutes waiting for you to get off your backside and come help me. I’m soooo sorry to have bothered you – no – you go back and finish up while I stand here, at your leisure, just waiting to give you my money. Don’t worry about me or anyone else dying here in line…”

Needless to say, this is a very different interpretation – but it’s the one that will help you grow as service providers and as a business entity.

If you teach yourself, and your staff, to view their service behaviors as would a customer who’s a hypersensitive, hypercritical crank, your staff and you will begin to see flaws in the customer experience and any number of inanities that you’d otherwise miss. Let’s say you manage a restaurant and catch a busser in the following behavior:  He sees a half-empty glass of ice water and says to the guest, “Would you care for some more water?” It’s a pretty innocuous service gesture, and intended to be helpful. However, viewed through the eyes of your pickiest customer, the response might be something like, “No, don’t bother – let me die of thirst” or “what do you need, an engraved invitation – it’s just ice water” or “Excuse me, I was talking!”

Viewed through this lens, you can help your employee reevaluate whether or not he should continue to interrogate guests on their refill needs, rather than just pouring it without a word and moving away from the table.  


6 Tips to Run a Successful Home-Based Business

Many entrepreneurs make their homes into their businesses. With no mandatory meetings, set schedule or co-workers, this might sound like the perfect work situation, but if you are not personally disciplined you might not get very much done.  While using your home as your business office gives you a great commute, you’ll also face challenges that you might not have considered. You might even need to change some bad habits in order to make working from home work for you.

Here are six tips to run a successful home-based business.

1. Dress the Part

Working at home in your pajamas all day sounds appealing, but what effect does it have on your productivity? Even if you’re working at home, you need to shower and get dressed as it will help you start your day. No one is saying you should throw on your best suit, but getting ready in the morning will help you get your mind on the business.

2. Set a Schedule

One of the perks of working for home is that you aren’t running on anyone else’s schedule. This can be a great thing because you can truly make your own hours. Flexibility is great, but to get the most out of your business, you still need to have a set schdule. Since you work from home, you may decide you don’t want to be nine-to-five; maybe you want to work noon to 8 p.m. It’s completely up to you – but stick to it, and be productive in those eight hours.

3. Discipline

When running a home-based business, discipline will be an important factor. If you want take a two-hour lunch break, no one is there to stop you! Still, you must remain focused and dedicated to your daily tasks. The last thing you want to do is make a habit out of slacking off. Your lack of productivity and sales will be obvious at the end of the month.

4. Leverage Technology

If you’re going to run a business from your home, you need all of the same amenities you would have at an office. You will need a computer, high speed internet, a landline phone, and a reliable all-in-one machine with copy, fax ans scan capabilities. You also want to get a smart phone so that you can catch calls and emails on the fly. You need to be prepared to communicate however a client or customer wants to.

5. Create a work area

Working from your couch all day sounds good in theory, but trying to be super productive in an area where you’d normally kick back and relax is counterintuitive. Set up a space dedicated to getting work done and get in the “work” mindset while you’re there. It’s best if it’s a work space with a door.

6. Protect your personal time

When you are working at home, it can be easy to forget how many hours you’ve actually worked each week. You don’t want to slip into being an unhealthy workaholic. At the end of your day, shut down your computer, plug up your cellphone in your office and don’t check email anymore. Even though you are working out of your home, you need to keep your work life and personal life separate.

There’s no set way to run a successful business. If you’ve decided run a home-based business, follow these steps so that you can stay on track.


Flexible Work Environments: Today’s Workforce Wants Them

The standard 9-to-5 job is no longer the norm, it’s the exception. People want to be able to work when they want, where they want without sacrificing productivity. In order to do this, your business needs to utilize a variety of communications tools that allow for real-time communication between employees, teams and customers, no matter where they are that day.

Below are four communications tools I rely on, and your business can benefit from implementing, to stay productive and get work done whether you’re in the office, working from a coffee shop or on a flight.

Email Access from Anywhere

Can you imagine conducting business without email? It seems impossible in today’s world. Email allows you to communicate and share information with people across the world. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was able to work from my hotel room, from the back seat of my Uber, and while waiting for a delayed flight at the airport all thanks to email access on my cell phone. This type of flexibility and mobility wasn’t available a few years ago, but now I can’t imagine working without it.

Instant messenger/Chat

Instant messaging (or chat) is to email what a phone call is to sending a letter. It allows for real-time communication between employees and customers. If your business doesn’t currently use a company-wide instant messaging system, you’re missing out on an easy and effective communication channel. There are a ton of free instant messenger options out there, but for more advanced features and usability, you may need to pay a small fee (worth it!). An added bonus, many solutions come with mobile apps so you can chat with co-workers even when you’re away from your computer.

Business cloud phone system

There are times when email and instant massager aren’t enough; you need to actually speak with a colleague or customer on the phone. Business cloud phone systems, such as Nextiva, allow you to take your business phone with you anywhere. There’s no need for two different phones or to provide people with an office and cell number anymore. Think of your phone number as any “anywhere” number when you have a cloud phone system. People can call one number and reach you in the office, on your home office phone or on your mobile device via the Nextiva App—really any device that has your number assigned to it. Even if you don’t have the mobile app, you can forward calls to a device of your choice based on a schedule or number of rings.

Online project management system

If you frequently collaborate on projects with different team members or departments, an online project management system will be a game changer. Emails are easy to miss, but housing all communication related to a project within a single system (Asana and Slack are popular, low-cost options), ensures nothing is missed. You can receive alerts for projects you are a part of when team members comment or add attachments. You can create tasks and sub-tasks that need to be completed for a project and they will all be housed within the larger project, keeping everything organized an in one place. Also, assign tasks to different team members and set due dates to keep people accountable and on track. Since the project management system is hosted online, you can access documents and see progress anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Moving everyday work systems to the cloud has not only cut down on expensive IT costs, but it enables employees to be productive wherever and whenever they want.

What is your favorite communications tool to use when working outside of the office?


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.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Provide Proactive Customer Care

How proactive is your small business’s customer service? Even if your customer service reps are ready to respond to phone calls on the first ring, know all the answers and can solve every possible problem a customer may have, they could still be doing more. “Proactive customer care” is one of the top customer service trends identified in WDS’ latest report, 10 Trends In Customer Care 2015.

Being proactive means providing customer service assistance before the customer even asks—and WDS believes it will be an increasingly important differentiator in the coming years. In brick-and-mortar retailing, the proactive “How can I help you?” greeting is ingrained in customer service. But how can this proactive attitude extend to other industries and online-only businesses? Here are some suggestions.

  • Follow up when an order is placed to confirm the order and provide an estimated delivery date. Make the message personalized by using a particular customer service rep’s name and having them take ownership of the customer.
  • Have salespeople contact customers after the purchase is completed to see if they are happy with the product or service, have any questions or would like to learn about complementary products or services. Using CRM, this can easily be done using templates that salespeople personalize and scheduling the outreach ahead of time.
  • Learn from customers’ activity on your website. If a customer is spending a lot of time on a particular page or product, or looking at “Help” and “FAQ” areas, reach out with a popup asking if the customer needs help and offering the option of live chat or a customer service phone number to call. This way, customers can get help in the way they prefer.
  • If your data shows certain customers make recurring or seasonal purchases (such as garden supplies every spring, a thorough housecleaning before Thanksgiving or skincare products every few months), contact them a few weeks ahead of the next time they’re likely to buy, and offer to set them up on an auto-ship or recurring service plan at a discount to lock in the current price.

By reaching out to offer assistance before customers need it, you’ll make their lives easier—and your business more memorable the next time they’re looking for what you sell. 




 
Nextiva's XBert

Contact an Amazing Service
Sales Expert
(800) 799-0600

See how Nextiva will transform
the way you communicate.

Nextiva's XBert

Contact an Amazing Service
Sales Expert
(800) 799-0600
Learn how much Nextiva can save your business.