Customer services: an extension of your brand and values

“As an internal communications specialist, I cannot stress the value of good customer service enough.”

“As the managing director of an agency, with responsibility for all client relations, I cannot stress the value of good customer service enough.”

“As a regular patron of the convenience store on my street, I cannot stress the value of good customer service enough.”

Seeing a pattern emerge?

It doesn’t require an industry expert to explain the importance of good customer service. In fact, as you might expect, that privilege usually belongs to your clients. I can put forward some pretty interest facts related to this area though; for example, 81% of customers would be willing to pay more in order to receive superior customer service. That’s a personal favourite.

‘Customer service’ usually makes people think of a retail scenario, but it applies to pretty much any sector you can think of. There are always customers as there’s always someone that benefits from the product or the services you provide. Otherwise you wouldn’t be paid to do it, would you?

Client service doesn’t only apply to making sure you always do a good job all of the time without issue. In fact, I’ve always said that an issue or problem dealt with effectively can actually be more beneficial than just doing a good job all of the time. Generally we expect good customer service and as a result we tend not to talk about it that much. We’re more inclined to moan about being poorly treated, or maybe wax lyrical about a speedy and sensitive resolution if a problem arises.

A customer-facing team are much the same. They’re expected to be empathic, efficient and good communicators by default. It isn’t until an employee goes truly beyond the call of duty, or possibly aggravates a client, that a particular transaction becomes noteworthy.

Because each customer should feel truly valued, and yet call centre operatives, retail assistants, front of house teams etc. can deal with hundreds of individuals on a daily basis, it’s essential that attributes of your corporate brand identity – put forward through your internal communications strategy – mirror those that will help a workforce achieve consistent excellence in their customer service.

Cynical decision makers might frown upon a brand built upon terms like ‘friendly’, ‘warm’ or ‘personable’ as part of a brand identity.  But, every conscientious employee endeavours to stay true to the identity of their company’s brand, using it as part of their role’s blueprint. Although an individual’s personality traits can never be underestimated, a brand identity that is easily implemented across a busy, customer-facing work environment is far more likely to be reach your client base.

Think of it this way: the easiest way for a member of your team to convey that your company is ‘friendly’ is to be friendly when dealing with clients. It’s the same for a company that wants to be seen as ‘understanding’ or ‘sympathetic.’

A brand identity that’s ‘optimised’ for those working in customer service – which draws upon personality traits that lend themselves to best client-facing protocol – is often the most successfully translated to stakeholders.

Guest Post from Sam Rainey, McGrath O’Toole: Internal comms specialist Sam Rainey was invited to join Leeds-based McGrath O’Toole as managing director last April, to develop the client services function that drew upon his 16 years’ experience in the creative and experiential event sectors.


The Future of Mobile Marketing: Smartphones and Augmented Reality

mobile marketing

With each new year, marketers continue to say that mobile marketing is going to be huge. Has the time already come, or are there more developments in mobile marketing and technology yet to be seen?

Mobile is one of the most innovative technology platforms out today, and with about 50% of mobile users (and 70% of affluent customers) owning a smartphone, the market for apps and further technological advancement is greater now than ever before.

The Future of Mobile Marketing

Smartphone users are expecting a deeper personalized engagement and assistance from their phones. Many people are dependent on their phone as their sole source of telecommunication, as well as a way to connect via social media and email. They also use it for entertainment and consuming content. This means that app and operating system developers need to fulfill a hefty order: To continue to make smartphones an integral part of user’s lives.

Facilitating Experiences

FourSquare and Yelp have released app updates in the last year that allow users to be notified when their friends have checked into the same location or are nearby. This type of GPS-location for a user’s social network is even further reducing the need to communicate directly with friends to find out where they are. This can be useful when attending large events, going out with new friends while running into some new ones or even avoiding an ex-girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife or boss.

Besides utilizing mobile to market locations as a place where a user’s friends are hanging out, mobile apps can also be used to market events or unique experiences. This includes secret concerts or performances for only certain app users or a special on hot air balloon rides that a user just happens to be a few blocks away from. Users like the gratification of having apps do the work for them. That way, they can focus more on their friends and the experience itself, rather than spending effort having to find it.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality (AR) continues to be the golden child in the minds of those thinking about the future of mobile marketing. Think of all the potential for local businesses – instant restaurant reviews (which Yelp has already been utilizing since 2009), hotel locations, online prices for products on shelves and more. Not to mention all the games and entertainment experiences that augmented reality can bring into users’ homes.

The potential of augmented reality is seemingly endless, especially because it is still in development and its potential remains vastly untapped. HowStuffWorks (who has a great video on AR) estimates that by 2020, there will be 50 billion devices connected to the internet. This means that online sensors can influence how users see reality in relation to their individual preferences and past history.

Price Comparison

Mobile makes it easy to instantly check for product and service prices, as well as for coupons and discounts, from anywhere there is wifi access or cell phone service. While many mobile marketing apps, like CouponSherpa (available at Google Play and iTunes) and Apple’s passbook, have utilized this to create services based on a user’s location, search and available connected profiles, the future still remains wide for further possibilities.

For instance, what if a restaurant’s app noticed a user’s negative tweet about a competitor and instantly text them a lucrative coupon? Or if a user’s smart phone GPS says they are in the area, a business could pay to be part of an app that offers instant, unique deals personalized to that user, depending on where they are (Groupon is going down this road with their instant deals).

The future of mobile marketing will depend largely on apps reacting to the customer, instead of the customer initiating the request for information themselves. GPS location, as well as inter-connected social media APIs will make this second nature.

Interaction With the Outside World

In relation to augmented reality and mobile marketing based on a user’s behavior and location, mobile technology may also continue to make a user’s life easier by increasing their ability to interact with the outside world. Instances may include:

  • Using Shazam to listen to an infomercial to instantly buy the advertised product.
  • Ordering photos from Shutterfly directly from a user’s smart phone camera album.
  • Using apps or bluetooth to pay for purchases at a department store.
  • Scanning a piece of furniture’s barcode to search for tutorial videos on how to assemble it.

There are many instances where the Internet already makes smartphone users’ lives easier than ever, but the key to future development is fine-tuning what has already been done while also innovating further ways to streamline and make things more efficient.

While mobile marketing has already come quite far in just the past few years, the fact remains that there is much more that can still be done. With almost every electronic device available being built to connect to the Internet, smartphones and other gadgets alike will bring marketers and users together to create experiences, influence purchases and make life a little easier.

Mobile Future Photo via Shutterstock

The post The Future of Mobile Marketing: Smartphones and Augmented Reality appeared first on Small Business Trends.

via Small Business Trends

Five steps to using online video as an effective communications tool

The way people process information is changing. Today we
look for bite-sized video content that can be easily processed and
instantly shared, take for example Twitter’s recent 6-second
Check out these top tips from
Detlev Weise, Chief Executive Officer at simpleshow, for using video to
communicate with your customer.

Microsoft suggests that by simply having a video embedded
into a landing page, a website is 500 per cent more
likely to retain visitors, making video an essential tool for
any 21st century business. Here are five techniques marketers can
adopt to ensure online video conveys the right messages and reaches
the right audience.

1. Tell a story

Before you even begin to approach your storyboard, you must
consider your audience’s point of view – what previous knowledge do
they have of your product or service? It’s key to analyse your
topic and filter out layers of information omitting anything that
isn’t core to your message. With video the age-old saying “Less is
more,” is certainly true. A good story can help your audience
understand and, above all, remember the message. Whether you are
marketing a product, launching a service or making an announcement,
make sure your video encompasses the three key elements of a story:
identification, dramatic composition and resolution.

2. Visualise it

Our background is in animation and so while there are many ways
to tell a story, we’re firm believers that images are a hugely
effective way to communicate a message: they remain in people’s
minds longer than words and many symbols are understood at first
glance globally. For this reason, don’t be afraid of presenting
your message symbolically. Simple illustrations can help convey the
content in an easily comprehensible manner. You can source your own
images if you have a talented animator on your team, but otherwise
we would advise taking your concepts to a professional to execute
the drawings.

3. Turn up the sound

Speech, music and sound effects are all perceived differently to
visual stimuli, but exert an enormous influence on your audience
sub-consciously. Be ambitious when it comes to the soundtrack.
Using background music in your clip helps you stir different
emotions in your audience. While you do need to bear in mind the
editing and usage rights, using music can also help the pace and
atmosphere of the film. Good sound design can help your film become
easier to understand and attention to detail will further improve
its impact.

4. Spread the word

Decide the objective of your video and think how to reach that
audience. Do you want it to explain your service, communicate a
milestone or attract visitors to your website? How you host and
distribute the clip will determine whether it reaches the target
audience and, ultimately, whether it will achieve the desired
effect that makes a tangible difference to your brand.

How and why a particular video is shared online is almost
impossible to predict, it must evolve naturally from a piece of
genuinely engaging content that people are compelled to share. That
being said, help things along by making your video shareable, easy
to find and easy to embed onto other sites.

5. If in doubt, ask an expert

Videos made off a shoestring can reach hundreds of millions of
people across the globe however, a professional-looking video is
key when it comes to presenting your business. A poor-quality video
can ruin even the most beautiful concept or even an entire brand
reputation, so if in doubt follow the golden rule and ask an

via Small business advice from Smarta

Top 5 Ways To Protect Your Store

A struggling economy has led to an increase in retail theft. Theft itself has always been an issue, but lately more organized groups are running the show, stealing large amounts of store inventory and reselling the goods for profit. These groups contribute to the billions of dollars lost by retailers every year.

You’ll need to protect your store and inventory from shoplifters, employees, and break-ins when you close for the night. Your insurance policy will help you get back on your feet in case something happens, but you should still do all that you can to minimize threats. Review your security and procedures consistently once implemented, so that you stay up to date.

If you notice any security issues take immediate action. Failure to do so will open the way for thieves but it will also compromise your insurance policy. Most insurance companies require some security measures to be implemented by you in order for the policy to be effective. Failure to comply will invalidate the policy and put you at risk. Here are the top five ways to protect your store.

Keep Up To Date With Inventory

This point tops the list because it will help you identify what was lost if the unthinkable happens. You can use manual methods to keep track of your inventory, but with so many computerized programs it is easy to implement an automated program. This will help you keep accurate records as it happens. At any point in time you’ll be able to look and see how many items you have in stock.

Proper inventory makes it easy when you have to fill out insurance claims. While you’re taking inventory, record the serial numbers and models of your computers, scanners and other equipment.

Install Video Cameras In The Store

Cameras are a costly investment, but they are invaluable when you want to protect your store. Burglars might think twice about carrying out a heist if they spot surveillance cameras on the building. If the cameras are hidden they can be used to help security and law enforcement personal catch the thieves and recover your stolen goods.

When you set up surveillance cameras, make sure to record the footage and keep it for a minimum of seven days. This way you’ll be able to access the footage if you don’t immediately determine that you’ve been robbed. Use signage to alert thieves to the fact that the property is under surveillance.

Lighting and Design

The lighting within and around the building can also serve as a deterrent to thieves. Make sure that parking lots, doorways and entryways around the building are well lit so that people in the area can identify anyone trying to gain forceful entry into the store.

The building, doors and windows should be well constructed to prevent easy access to the valuables inside. The doors should be fitted with deadlocks and locked securely when leaving the store. Sturdy gates should also be installed to prevent vehicle ram raids.


Install a safe in the store if you handle large sums of cash. Ideally you should make deposits to the bank daily, but where this is not possible, store the money in a hidden safe. Lock the safe before you leave the store.

You should also have a written policy detailing how cash is handled. An irregular banking procedure will protect you from attacks. Employ a third party company to transport cash if you’re dealing with large sums of money. Leave keys to the store and safe only in the hands of your most trusted employees.

Security Guards

Security guards are not always a foolproof means of safeguarding your stores, but it will go a long way to deter petty thieves. Your security guards can serve double duty. When the store is opened they can look out for shoplifters and do bag checks at the door. When the store is closed they can stand guard and spot any unusual activity.

Don’t be a victim; use these and any other methods to protect your store against active thieves. When they fail, your insurance policy will step in to cover any losses that you incur.

These methods might not be applicable to some stores, so they might need to be adapted to suit your own particular circumstance.

What are some other things that you have done to protect your store? 

By: Kole for Quantum Security Gates

30 Ways to Tell if You’re a Social Media Success

social media success

Social media is used by businesses to increase brand loyalty, share new products, and even gain new customers. Every company uses social media differently, some more successfully than others. Below are ways to tell if your company is a social media success.

30 Ways to Tell if You’re a Social Media Success

1. Customers Seek You Out

In the early days of creating a social media account, you likely had to try very hard to find new connections and convince them that your brand was worth following. If customers begin finding you without you needing to go through all this extra work, you’re well on your way to social media success.

2. Your Message Gets Across

Even if you have a sizable network, your social media campaigns are worth nothing if your customers don’t hear what you have to say. If customers acknowledge your message, or if you use tools like Facebook analytics to see that many of your connections actually viewed your posts, you’re on the right track towards social media success.

3. You Gain Website Traffic

It’s likely that one of your main social media goals involves getting your followers to a separate website, whether that’s your online store, your company’s site or your blog. Social media can be a great tool to bring visitors to your other sites, if you’re using it effectively.

4. Followers Interact With You

A high follower count alone doesn’t necessarily make you a success if none of your followers respond to your posts. A more accurate sign of success is whether you gain responses, likes, retweets and engaging interactions from your followers.

5. People Talk About You

This is related to the point above. But instead of followers talking directly to you, they are talking to their other connections about you. This could mean they’re recommending that others follow you or try one of your products that they recently purchased.

6. People Share Your Links

Even more specifically, having others share your links to products, blog posts or other online pages can really mean they like what you have to offer.

7. You Gain Insights

Social media is so much more than just a way for you to broadcast your company’s message. You can learn a lot from following others and tracking your company’s mentions. Companies that do this successfully can gain a lot more than higher website traffic.

8. Your Target Audience is Clear

In order to use social media effectively, you have to know who you’re talking to. You should be able to scroll through your followers and see that most of them fit into the audience you’re trying to target.

9. You’ve Found a Good Balance

There are so many social networks and types of posts. You should be able to figure out which networks and which types of posts work best for you and your target audience, instead of just broadcasting new product listings or blog posts across every single social channel.

10. Your Content Has a Clear Focus

You should be able to scroll through your timeline or your twitter feed and see how each post fits together and works towards accomplishing your company’s overall social media goals.

11. You’ve Become an Authority

Your followers trust what you have to say and even others in your industry look to you as an industry authority.

12. People Ask You Questions

Along those same lines, if your followers come to you with their questions, whether it’s just a general question about your industry or more specific question about a particular product, you’re headed towards social media success.

13. Issues Are Brought to Your Attention

Not everything your company does, in social media or otherwise, is going to be perfect. But when there are problems or issues, if your customers on social media bring them to your attention so that you can correct the problem, you’re gaining social media success.

14. You Don’t Need to Advertise

Most social media outlets offer advertising options that can be very useful for companies just starting out. Although these ads can also be helpful for more established companies, you shouldn’t necessarily need them if you’re accomplishing all your social media goals.

15. You Keep It Simple

Social media shouldn’t be complicated. You should be able to quickly sum up your social media strategy and see that you are following through with it.

16. Customers Appreciate You

Not only should customers interact with you, but you should also be able to tell that they are happy with what you have to say. If they thank you for responses or recommend you to their own networks, you know they appreciate you and you’re heading towards social media success.

17. You Find Useful Trends

Aside from just using social media to gain insights about your own brand, you should use it to gain insights about your industry and/or network as a whole.

18. You’ve Tested Different Strategies

You can’t know if what you’re doing is right for you unless you’ve tried other things. You should have tested out different strategies at some point and know that your current one gets the best results.

19. You Keep Your Campaigns Organized

If you’re a seasoned social media vet, you should have a pretty good system for organizing your social media campaigns and initiatives.

20. You’ve Found a Way to Measure Impact

Whether it’s through services like Google Analytics or the built-in tools on many social media sites, you should have a way to quantify results so that you know you’re on the right track towards social media success.

21. You Don’t Spend All Day on Social Media

It might be tempting to use social media non-stop, especially if you’re constantly talking to customers. But you should be able to accomplish your goals without spending all day monitoring tweets or Facebook mentions.

22. You Maintain Relationships

More than just responding to individual messages, you should be using social media to actually keep in constant contact with your connections. And they should do the same with you.

23. You Create Brand Advocates

If you do successfully maintain relationships on social media, you have probably created some brand advocates – those who continually share your links and recommend your company to friends.  If this is the case, you’re inching closer towards social media success.

24. You Have a Plan

You shouldn’t go into social media without knowing what it is you want to accomplish, though many companies do. If, by now, you have a clear-cut plan, you’re that much closer to social media success.

25. You Accomplish Your Goals

Once you have a plan, you should see that you’re accomplishing what you set out to do, whether that’s increasing brand awareness, gaining website traffic or gaining valuable insights.

26. You Receive Suggestions

If your customers or others in your network come to you with ideas for new products or website features, it means they want to see you succeed and they think of you specifically when they have ideas related to your industry.

27. Your Network is Constantly Growing

Social media can turn into a numbers game for some companies. But there is no magic number of followers or interactions that means your brand has become a social media success. A better gauge is whether your network, both in terms of followers and interactions, grows steadily.

28. Customers Treat You Like a Real Person

Social media users don’t want to follow companies. They want to follow people. If your followers treat your company like a friend, you’re likely running your account like that of a person, rather than a brand.

29. You Gain Customers

Even if gaining new customers isn’t one of your main social media goals, at some point new people will come across your profiles and, hopefully, support your business.

30. You Listen

Social media is not a one-way communication street. The sooner your company stops treating it as one, the sooner you can realize social media success.

Of course, there are different levels of social media success, but if you’ve achieved at least some of the items mentioned above, you’re well on your way.

Thirty Photo via Shutterstock

The post 30 Ways to Tell if You’re a Social Media Success appeared first on Small Business Trends.

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Beyond the Black and White of Google’s Panda Update

Beyond the Black and White of Google’s Panda Update

Panda 25, the most recent of Google’s search algorithm updates, was launched on Feb. 21, 2013. If you use online marketing to sell your product or service (and if you don’t, start now), here’s what you need to know to keep your content optimized for Panda and ahead of the competition.

1. Content Will Always Be King

Panda’s 25 all-new updates have all had the goal, according to Google, of weeding out sites with thin or duplicate content and making search results more relevant to Internet users. The brass-tacks results of Google’s Panda efforts to rework Google’s search algorithm have been mixed, at best. However, well-written, useful, engaging content will always have a place on the Internet.

2. Future Updates Will Be More Subtle

Google’s Matt Cutts announced at the recent Search Marketing West conference that future algorithm updates will be an integral part of Google’s regular maintenance routine. No more Panda-type updates are expected to be announced. This means that you shouldn’t see any more major jumps in your site’s search-engine placement.

3. Learning From Previous Updates

Although the dust is still settling from Panda 25, previous Panda updates have penalized sites with poor content, high advertising content (this refers to paid ads, not the pages you post yourself), websites with empty pages, and sites with purchased links. If you’ve been following a well-grounded Internet marketing plan, these issues probably don’t affect you. However, if you were tempted to buy links or copy content, now is the time to bring your marketing back on the Google-approved straight and narrow. The Panda concept, though limiting to some, is here to stay.

4. Making Content More Than Words

Content and sites that are “Liked” and “Shared” on social media sites have been rewarded in past Panda updates. Sites with videos, images, and polls that engage the reader are more like to be shared by readers. If your pages are filled with just text, it’s time to mix it up a little. Take your personal social circles as cues for the kind of content you might want to include on your website or blog. What content are your friends sharing? Would the style work for your marketing campaign?

5. Faster Rebounds

One of the benefits from Google’s plan to roll future Panda changes into their regular daily updates is that you can see results of your Panda recovery efforts a lot sooner. If you’ve had duplicate content issues or have eliminated questionable links, you can now see results in a matter of days rather than waiting a month or more for the next large Panda update. This should allow your site to rebound more quickly after you fix any issues. Notify your web team and keep up to date on your Analytics reports for your websites and adjust accordingly.

Don’t panic when you hear the word Panda. Although the Google algorithm changes over the past two years have shaken up the Internet marketing world, not all of the changes have been bad. A well-conceived, well-executed, long-range marketing plan will always have a place on the Internet. Keep at it!

Matthew Toren is an Award Winning Author, Serial Entrepreneur, and Investor. He Co-Founded along with his brother Adam. Matthew is co-author of the newly released book: Small Business, Big Vision: “Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right” and also co-author of Kidpreneurs.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @matthewtoren

via Blogtrepreneur | Entrepreneur Blog

What You Need to Know When Buying Land for Business

Planning to establish your own business and searching for an office space? There are lots of details that need to be taken into consideration when buying land especially for business. Thorough search is required to get a premium land at affordable prices. Here are some important tips for buying a plot for your business and cracking the best deal.

Things to Consider

1. Premium Location:

Depending on the type of business you want to start, location is the most important thing that may determine the success of the business. You may want to consider the top business locations but they usually cost too much and there is a lot of competition for the ideal location as well. So depending on your budget, business domain and size, you can also consider buying a plot in the residential areas as well. There are many most happening residential areas and you can definitely consider buying residential plots in Pune that are close to the IT areas and other major spots.

Here are examples of some types of business locations:

  • For an eatery, places near cinema halls, colleges, and railway stations are the best locations.
  • Software parks provide attractive deals for an IT company.
  • In case of manufacturing units, availability of raw material and utilities in the vicinity of the unit is essential.

2. Analysis of Real Estate Developers:

Once the location is decided, now it is time to look for real estate developers in that area. Every day hundreds of ads are published in newspapers and internet about the property sales. It’s not important to go out search yourself; you can always search for the ads like plot for sale in Pune, residential plots in Pune etc and contact the publishers, agents via phone or email. This will help you get in touch with more sellers in short period of time. Approach them or the real estate agents to find proposed property rates by different developers. Also, check for any special offers or discounts on the property.

3. Select the Seller:

After analyzing all the real estate developers, decide from whom to buy the property, try to negotiate with the seller. It may be possible that you are able to save some money which you can later invest in the business.

4. Legal Check of the Property:

Finding a plot for sale in Pune is not difficult but to get a genuine one with no legal issues or problems, it is important to take some time and do the research. To avoid legal hassles, it is mandatory to do a background check of the property. Check if the property is approved by any financial institution (public or private sector bank) and the title is cleared by the government development authorities. If possible hire a lawyer to check the authenticity of the property papers. Double-check all the terms and conditions associated with the property and ensure that there are no hidden charges in the land deal.

5. Utilities Availability:

Another factor that is also important to consider when buying land is the availability of the utilities like electrical supply, water, and telecommunication systems in the area. Non-availability may cause problem in future and affect the business.

6. Payment for the Property:

It is recommended that if possible try to make the payment in cash. Going for the loan option from financial institutions may be time consuming and expensive. For example, if the land cost is 15 lakhs and a loan of the same amount for 10 years is taken, then the buyer may end up paying somewhere around 20-25 lakhs at the end of the tenure. This may be a huge amount in the initial stages of business establishment. So try to save more and snap the best deal.

7. Registration of the Property:

Get the property registered to ensure the legitimacy of the transaction. This can be done at the state department office of the registrar. Procure all property papers from the seller.

All the above discussed points serve as a checklist to look for when buying a plot for business.

The Verdict:

Well, as you see, buying a property for business and buying it clean without any issue and just about on right price, is bit of a work. You need to consider a lot of things like explained above while going for one. If you are short on time and want to get settled and started quickly, do consider taking help of a professional agent or experienced legal person. There are hundreds of residential plots in Pune that get published for sale every single day.

Just do your homework well, study every legal procedure and documents requirements, take professional help and start your business with a boom! Enjoy.