Companies of all size make this common mistake
No matter the size of a company, what commonly happens when you hit a certain stride is that comfort sets in. It isn’t always apparent, and it doesn’t always end in dramatic tweet-offs or Yelp battles, rather results in dissatisfied consumers and clients.
On this topic, Omar Aqel has observed seven signs that your company may be too comfortable and in need of a change. Aqel is the Co-Founder of PTel, one of the original no-contract wireless companies in the United States, and Co-Founder of newly created GIV Mobile, a new no-contract wireless service dedicated to giving 8 percent of a monthly Unlimited Everything Plan to charities of the customer’s choice.
Aqel asserts that no business leader should ever quit learning, so in his own words offers the following seven signs based on his company’s culture that will reveal whether or not your own company is too comfortable:
1. Letting Emotions Make Decisions for You:
Work can be stressful at times but that is no excuse for allowing emotions to get involved. Oftentimes employees or even managers make the mistake of letting heated conversations between themselves and customers reach the point where they act out of emotion. For example, by denying a customer the courtesy of waiving a shipping fee because the customer was rude, he or she potentially lost that customer’s business.
If nothing else, letting your emotions get the best of you once makes it easier for them to get the best of you again. We teach our employees to understand our customers first before seeking to be understood themselves. It’s very unlikely customers are contacting us with the intent to be spiteful. More than likely, they are looking for someone to help them with their problem. Remember, your hurt feelings will last a minute. A lost customer will probably be forever.
2. You Forget You Need Every Customer:
We train our employees to treat each customer as if they were our most important one because I honestly believe that’s true. The moment you lose this mentality and take the customer for granted is the moment your company begins its decline. On top of making each customer happy, this objective creates happier employees. If a customer representative denies a customer’s request to waive a fee, a charge, etc. this could be considered “good” for our bottom line. Objectively, our employee saved us money.
But the customer representative doesn’t get anything out of it, right? Instead, they got an uncomfortable, maybe even heated, conversation. By telling our employees to treat each customer as the most important customer, we give them the freedom to do right by them. With this practice, our employees never hesitate to pick up the phone, making happier employees and in turn happy customers. Your business will never fail if the customers are happy.
3. Companies Don’t Give Back:
Many companies these days make an effort to be charitable to their communities and employees. However, this giving often time dries up with added success. Whether or not a company becomes too busy, I believe companies stop being charitable at their own risk. For GIV Mobile, giving to charity is the cornerstone of our business.
I believe it’s our responsibility as a company to give back in an effort to better our community and in turn, the world. Giving back fosters a community of “people doing good,” which is what our company stands for. On top of boosting morale, giving back also helps us appreciate how much we have.
4. Outsourcing Customer Support and Becoming Out of Touch with Customers’ Concerns:
Everybody knows that many U.S. companies outsource their customer service call centers to different countries with the benefit of reducing overhead. However, there is a reason these call centers have developed a negative stigma. Oftentimes customers will call these centers looking for assistance and end up on the phone twice as long just trying to explain their situation. Outsourcing customer service to another company comes with the risk that the employees will not have the same level of knowledge or care as your own employees.
Our customer service representatives are part of our company in more ways than one. We do our best to treat our customer representatives like family and instill in them a sense of pride at GIV Mobile. If they can’t answer a question they will find the person who can. Our customer service representatives want to do everything in their power to make sure the customer hangs up happy. Companies should constantly research if their customers are truly happy with the customer service they are being provided – if not, immediately make appropriate changes so that the next time they call, they are 100% satisfied.
5. They Don’t Regularly Train Their Employees:
A lot of lip service is paid to training when a company is first established. Often there are training regiments and procedures in place to audit an employee’s performance. However, when a company grows quickly or aims to cut costs, training sessions can become less of a priority or even an inconvenience. When a company allows training to fall by the wayside, they are communicating that the service they are providing is just “good enough.” The real issue isn’t a busy schedule; rather the attitude that “good enough” is acceptable.
6. Lack of Discipline, from Top to Bottom:
The art of discipline cannot be overvalued in any company. A manager might avoid using discipline for fear of being seen as the “bad guy,” but more often than not he or she will come off as lazy, incompetent or apathetic. This can cause employees to lose respect for them. A lack of discipline can also translate into a lack of feedback, causing employees to feel stressed by not knowing whether or not they are doing a good job.
Discipline often gets harder the higher one climbs up the corporate ladder, but if a CEO can’t find it in his or her heart to discipline the managers, one can hardly expect managers to do the same for their people. Discipline always starts at the top.
7. They Forget to Thank Their Customers:
A friend of mine once told me an interesting story: her father never threw out his trash at a fast food restaurants unless the lid had “Thank You” written on it. Quirky, to say the least, but that story had a significant effect on me as a businessman. We always thank our customers. When customers call in, e-mail us or even if they are returning a product, we thank them.
Of course we want to show our customers gratitude, but by thanking them we are constantly reminding ourselves, as well as the customer, how valuable he or she is. Your customers don’t have to give you their business. If you’re selling socks, so is someone else. At GIV Mobile, we remind ourselves that appreciating and thanking our customers is essential to maintain a long-term relationship.
Becoming to comfortable is not synonymous with complacency – sometimes overlooking the simple details can cause a decline in the perception of your brand, and as Aqel said, every customer counts. Revamp your efforts today to keep your business successful.
PopCom designs smart vending machines to automate regulated products
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) PopCom raises $1.3 million in equity crowd funding to launch smart vending machines that will securely sell regulated products like cannabis and alcohol.
Dawn Dickson is upgrading the beloved vending machine to thrive in the era of COVID-19. Dickson is the Founder & CEO of PopCom, a black-owned retail technology company whose mission is to “equip entrepreneurs and brands with future-ready retail solutions that allow rapid retail expansion, incredible customer experiences, and powerful sales data.”
Dickson started her entrepreneurial career with Flat Out Heels, rollable flat shoes that fit in a purse. The business was an e-commerce hit, relying on online data analytics to drive sales and growth. She found there was a disconnect in leveraging that technology when she looked for traditional vending machines to sell her products in places with high foot traffic like airports. Like any good entrepreneur, she created her own solution to the problem.
PopCom vending machines use facial detection and machine learning to create an interactive and intelligent retail experience. In 2020, the Columbus, Ohio based company is rolling out secure pilots for automated vending of regulated products like alcohol and cannabis. The machines rely on biometric analysis to verify identity, and can even anonymously evaluate age, gender, and emotional sentiment while a customer is browsing to convert sales. Products can therefore be available on demand with minimal human interaction.
The growth of this technology is timely as COVID-19 continues to ravage retail in the United States. “Vending machines and convenience services are becoming more essential, and retailers are looking for more ways to deliver their products direct-to-customer with less human friction. We are excited about what is to come,” Dickson told BlackNews.com.
And what is to come is coming quickly. Dickson just completed a record-setting equity crowdfunding campaign on Start Engine, being the first female founder in history to raise $1.3 million in just 47 days! Previously, PopCom raised an initial $1.07 million from their first campaign. According to SEC regulations, companies can raise up to $1.07 million from regulation crowd funding sources in a 12-month period.
How to choose the right software for your business
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software options for your company? Well, we have a list of suggestions and questions to help you determine what is best for you.
It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.
Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.
Determining Your Core Needs
First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:
- Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
- Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
- Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
- Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
- Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
- Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
- Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.
Key Factors to Consider
From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:
- Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
- Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
- Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
- Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
- Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
- Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
- Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
- Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.
Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.
Finding the Balance
It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.
You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.
‘Small’ business was once a stigma, but is now a growing point of pride
(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses make up the majority of companies, employers, and money makers of the American economy, that’s something to be proud of.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all businesses were small businesses. Independent craftsmen served communities with vital services. Small merchants opened shops to provide the community with goods. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals hung out a shingle to offer their services to neighbors. Small businesses were the norm. Some of the most beloved American companies started out local. John Deere, Harley Davidson, and King Arthur Flour, all got their start as small businesses.
Business changes led to a attitude change
It wasn’t until manufacturing allowed businesses to scale and produce more efficiently that the idea of big business became more important. Post-World War II, the idea of a small business became derogatory. It was the age of big government. Media was growing. Everyone wanted to be on top. Small businesses took a back seat as people moved from rural to urban communities. Small business growth plateaued for a number of years in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, the stigma of small business is fading.
Small businesses are the backbone of the economy
According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the “American business is overwhelmingly small business.” In 2016, 99.7% of firms in American had fewer than 500 workers. Firms with 20 workers or less accounted for 89.0% of the 5.6 million employer firms. The SBE also reports that “Small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” Small businesses account for a huge portion of innovation and growth in today’s economy.
Modern consumers support small businesses
According to a Guidant Financial survey, the most common reason for opening a small business is to be your own boss. Small business owners are also dissatisfied with corporate America. Consumers also want to support small businesses. SCORE reports that 91% of Americans patronize a small business at least once a week. Almost half of Americans (47%) frequent small businesses 2 to 4 times a week.
Be proud of small business status
Small businesses are the innovators of tomorrow. Your neighbors want to support small businesses, knowing that their tax dollars stay in the community, and that they’re creating opportunities within their own city. Your small business status isn’t a slight. It’s a source of pride in today’s economy. Celebrate the fact that you’ve stepped out on your own in uncertain times. Celebrate the dirt under your fingernails, literally, or figuratively, that made you take a risk to do what mattered to you.
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Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. National Anthem
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