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Working in Different Time Zones

As more and more companies expand globally and source employees from around the world, working in different time zones is becoming increasingly common. Working with clients and employees in different …Read More »

As more and more companies expand globally and source employees from around the world, working in different time zones is becoming increasingly common. Working with clients and employees in different time zones can be a challenge. It also requires making some changes to the way you think about conducting business. If you’re new to international business, this may take some time in getting used to, especially when it comes to remembering everyone’s current time zone. Here are some tips and tools to help.

 

Mind the Time

Make the most of the clock features on your mobile phone or tablet. If you have employees or clients in multiple geographic locations, set up a world clock for each of them so you can see at a glance what the time is wherever they are.

Set Time Zone Boundaries

Each time you begin working with a new employee or client who is in a different time zone, discuss issues which may arise because of time differences. This is particularly important when it comes to arranging meetings, setting deadlines and any other time-sensitive communications. You will need to decide whether to book the dates and times in your zone or theirs.

Be Considerate Of Time Differences

If you’re working with clients or employees in a time zone that is very different from yours, show some consideration. Don’t book meetings or set deadlines that are very early in the morning in their time zone, unless they specifically request that. Bear the same thing in mind when you are texting or calling people.

Keep Communication Channels Open

If you are rarely going to meet with your clients or employees in person, it’s important to maintain regular communication. Otherwise, they will begin to feel left out of the loop. Schedule a Skype or Facetime call now and again so that your communications don’t become too depersonalized.

Keep Communications Running 24/7

If you own an online company and you are providing products, services, or both and your reach is global, your customers will need 24/7 access to your customer service team. If you’re a small business and you don’t have a call center, an easy and affordable way to get around this is with international call forwarding. You can give your customers virtual, toll-free international numbers that are local to them and the calls will be forwarded to the number of your choice.

Maintain Realistic Boundaries

Although it may be dinner time in your time zone, it might be breakfast time in your client’s region. Although you may be gung-ho about working 24-7, not everyone else can handle that kind of rigor, especially if they are part of a different culture. Remember that your employees and clients may have family responsibilities and it is important to be reasonable with your expectations.

Tools for Managing Time Zones

Here’s a rundown of some tools and apps that can help you manage time zone differences.

World Clock Meeting Planner: Things can get tricky when you’re trying to schedule a meeting with three different people, each of whom is located in a different time zone. But it doesn’t have to get too confusing. This tool will let you pick a date and plug in your location and the locations of your clients. The app will then generate a series of suggested times that may be feasible for your meeting. It even color-codes the times into sleeping, non-working and working hours so you can clearly find a time that is suitable for everyone involved.

Spacetime.am: Slack has become one of the most popular cloud-based collaboration tools available today. If you are one of the 3 million users, you might want to add on Slack bot Spacetime.am to benefit your whole team. Each member of your group can add their location and schedule their work hours so everyone can see who is available online, when, and for how long. This tool also allows you to arrange meetings and will automatically adjust the time zone to suit each user.

World Time Buddy: This tool has a three-fold application; it converts world clocks and time zones, and it can be used to schedule meetings. You can plug in numerous locations, and each time you revisit the site, they will load up. The neat color-coding system helps you keep track of business hours and where they sync.

Every Time Zone: If you’re looking for a tool that can keep track of your time zones with a pleasing and easy to use overlay, this is the one. Wherever in the world you and your clients are, Every Time Zone makes it easy to see the location and the time and how they correspond.

Time Zone Converter: When you need a simple tool that quickly converts the time across any time zone, then this is a great choice. It’s a great app for people who are constantly making business trips all over the world.

24 Time Zones: This app’s colorful interactive world map makes it easy for users to see where in the world it’s time for business and where it is night time. Just click on a city to see the time there.

Time.is: Designed for time zone management, this tool displays the atomic clock which can be set for any time zone in the world. The clock is accompanied by other useful graphics. It’s also a good app for telling if your computer’s clock is slightly off.

Time Zone Abbreviations: Are you familiar with AEDT (Australian Eastern Daylight Time), CAT (Central Africa Time) and PYT (Paraguay Time)? Time zone abbreviations can be confusing, especially when you come across one you haven’t seen before. This tool provides a list of all of them, so you can easily look them up and avoid the confusion. Now you won’t get mixed up between British Summer Time and Bangladesh Standard Time.

With more than 24 global times zones it can be difficult to keep up with everyone if you’re conducting business internationally. Following these tips and using the suggested tools, can help you keep your time under control.

To Conference or Not to Conference – That is the Question

Being active in your trade involves quite a lot these days. Pursuits such as continuing education and constant networking can really take a toll on the average professional, and conferencing …Read More »

Being active in your trade involves quite a lot these days. Pursuits such as continuing education and constant networking can really take a toll on the average professional, and conferencing may seem like one of these time-consuming activities. However, when done the right way, participating in regular conferences offers a return on your investment that makes it ultimately worthwhile.

 

A conference – also known as a trade show, seminar, or convention – often seems like a waste of time and resources. This is especially true if you spend a few days out of the office and shell out revenue for plane tickets, hotel reservations, and meals. Sponsors of conferences also set aside budgets for marketing materials. But you should know that if you have attended conferences in the past and have seen little to no results, you might be attending the wrong types of conferences. Read below to learn how you can purposefully choose a trade show to reach your business goals.

Choosing the Right Type of Professional Conference

There are many different types of events out there, and millions are planned on an international level every year. Workshops, for instance, are focused on educating professionals, while a consumer show is open to the general public. Not every event will be beneficial for your company, however. Here’s a list to guide you through the decision-making process.

  • Business goals – Before you begin searching for events this year, ask yourself these questions: “What do we want to get out of this conference? What are our goals?” For instance, you might be looking to generate new leads or meet new vendors. By keeping your ultimate goal in mind, it is easier to pick which will be best for you.
  • Cost – Add up the total cost of attending the event, and then consider your potential return on investment. If gaining just one or two new customers covers your cost, then it might be worth your time to go.
  • Attendees – Who is your target audience, and will they be in attendance at the event? For instance, if you are only looking to meet C-level executives, then an academic networking event is not necessarily the best fit.
  • Speakers and topics – Make sure that any topics covered are relevant to your field. It won’t do you much good to attend an accounting seminar if you’re in the auto industry.
  • Networking opportunities – Some conferences will have events specifically for down time and social activities. You need to decide whether or not these can be used as time for connecting with other professionals.

How to Prepare for a Professional Conference

Even if a conference lasts through a long weekend, it can still fly by pretty quickly. This is why planning everything ahead of time is absolutely essential.

This includes making the right travel arrangements. Consider reservations for hotel rooms, rental cars, and transportation. Sometimes conferences will give you a discount on specific vendors, so it doesn’t hurt to give them a call and ask. Because there will be hundreds of other attendees, you want to make sure you have all the accommodations in place beforehand. Otherwise, you will waste valuable time.

Right before you travel, gather all of the necessary travel documents and confirmation numbers. These should all be in one place for easy access. This is especially true when traveling with a team of other people.

Pack accordingly. Since you will be on your feet for most of the events, bring a pair of comfortable shoes for walking in. If the weather is cold, bring a few layers of clothing. Extra phone chargers and small snacks also come in handy. Just be sure to make a list of everything that needs to travel with you so you won’t run into surprises if something necessary is forgotten.

When it comes to the actual seminars, are you prepared to promote your business? This is a very common mistake for conference attendees. When a potential customer is interested in your products or services, and you don’t have anything to show them, this can cost you revenue in the long run. Instead, print out additional business cards and marketing materials like brochures (if relevant). Most companies order promotional items like keychains and pens ahead of time. Keep business cards with you at all times, because you never know when you will run into a new opportunity.

By the way, don’t forget to follow up with new connections as soon as the conference is over! Gather their workplace email, phone number, and website if possible. There are many opportunities to sell to a potential lead by offering a special discount simply because you met in person at a seminar.

How to Make the Most Out of a Professional Conference

Gain visibility with active participation. Become a presenter, facilitator, or volunteer for just a few hours. Organizers are always looking for an extra set of hands to help. This is a proven way to strengthen professional relationships and get in front of your target audience.

Our next tip is to make sure to choose the sessions that will benefit your business the most. There are many different types of sessions, ranging from skill-building to simple meet and greets. Each type of event will have a host of different attendees, so plan your time wisely. Ideally, your agenda should be fairly full. However, if you need to take a quick break away from the crowds, plan a time for rest during the “less busy” hours of the conference.

Finally, participate in the conference through popular social media channels. Major attendees and speakers will already have Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts, so you can follow and connect with these accounts before the conference even begins. Have your social media coordinator write about the event and make several announcements about your attendance. This helps build excitement for the event.

Additionally, conferences should have a designated hashtag that everyone can use. For example, this year’s popular Consumer Electronics Show (CES) has the official hashtag #CES2018. Be sure to take plenty of photos and use this hashtag when you post them. Hundreds (or even thousands) of people will potentially view the hashtag, so your account will most likely get noticed!

The Importance of Effective Project Management

Companies of all sizes should know the importance of proper project management. As C-level executives become busier than ever and deal with the many responsibilities of leadership, funding, and keeping …Read More »

Companies of all sizes should know the importance of proper project management. As C-level executives become busier than ever and deal with the many responsibilities of leadership, funding, and keeping investors happy, they simply do not have the energy or space to handle projects on a working level. However, they do hire managers for a range of tasks and get the job done.

 

The ultimate goal of a dedicated manager is to oversee a project from the very beginning to the end. Managers measure and identify the right requirements, establish clear goals, and ultimately help the business succeed.

Resource Managing

“Resources” is a broad term. This can include anything from the number of people working on a project to the set of tools you use to complete it. Ideally, project managers will already know which of the company resources are at their disposal and how to use them. When resource management is done the right way, nothing is ever wasted.

Managers should also know not to “overspend” on small projects. For instance, if a team spends company overtime attempting to complete an unimportant task; this ends up being wasteful in a variety of ways. They guide not only their own resources but an employee’s resources as well. Here are just a few other examples of areas that suffer:

  • Financial resources, such as cash
  • Software, hardware, or any technical tools needed
  • Equipment or machinery
  • Property, such as a land, or a building site

If a team member needs additional help, resources, or does not know how to complete a task on their list, it is the manager’s responsibility to provide what they need. For instance, a workspace, computer, and general office supplies.

Alternately, managers should have enough experience to know what puts a project at risk. So if something goes awry, managers know how to manage expectations and change timelines and resources accordingly. This allows them to anticipate potential issues before they ever occur. This is seen as a proactive process rather than a reactive one. The difference is that you’re preventing fires, not constantly putting them out.

Employee Managing

It’s not just the actual project that needs overseeing. Higher level managers keep people and teams united and focused on the same goals. This is because conflict between individuals can truly kill productivity. Those with previous managerial experience, no matter the industry, will tell you that the most effective ‘best practices’ will include communication between team members as well as clear milestones and defined roles.

Great managers know how to encourage others to collaborate, share, and engage in teamwork. This is a cornerstone of making sure everyone is on the same page. However, one of the most difficult aspects of being a project manager has to do with keeping people accountable. When a task is not completed on time, or an employee is constantly showing up late, this may negatively affect other individuals’ tasks, perhaps derailing the project altogether. And when a project fails, the manager must accept full responsibility.

A true leader also provides a vision for every team member. If employees work on tasks without knowing anything about the “big picture”, there’s little to no motivation for them to do their best.

Give them the right information on why they are doing the work to give them better focus, as well as excitement for its successful completion. Along those lines, managers can offer incentives for completing work before the deadline. Gift cards from a local restaurant, for instance, is an excellent way to show appreciation.

Client Managing

Even if managers are not doing much of the actual legwork themselves, they should still be familiar with the many talking points of a project. Communication is key here. Managers must be able to update other key players about resources, budgets, the timeline, and more. Those involved could include:

  • Employees
  • Vendors
  • Stakeholders
  • Clients
  • C-level Executives
  • Human Resources (HR)
  • And Others

Since there are many individuals involved, it’s best to have managers be the assigned “point” person so there is no confusion. In fact, it’s a common practice for those on this list to “check in” to ensure the company’s goals are being met. And while they don’t always need every detail, it’s still necessary to provide a thorough rundown when needed.

Client managing is one of the most vital parts of the lifecycle of a project. Managers can set the right expectations with regular phone calls, meetings, or email so they stay up to date.

Mostly clients need to know what exactly is being delivered, when it will be delivered, and all of the different costs involved. Since all businesses are different, keep a running list of items clients want to discuss and make it a point to talk about each one during a dedicated time together.

Many people see managers as middlemen, and employees can save a lot of time by having the right managers in place to execute daily functioning. For instance, if a stakeholder had a question about a software program, they should not have to contact the developer coding it. The manager should be able to address it. This way, the developer can continue work uninterrupted.

Managing Changes

Sometimes clients will refocus a project and unexpected changes will occur. Unfortunately, this can happen at any point in a working timeline. When this does happen, however, a manager should be able to take a step back and refocus the list of priorities. After discussing the changes with the client and team, they can map out a new timeline with expected delivery dates. If a team is stressed out, the manager needs to be able to reassess resources as well so that no one is overworked.

The Necessity of Accurate Reports

When it comes to numbers, clients do not appreciate vagueness. Reporting is another aspect of a project manager’s job. Reports help track progress and they give special insights as to what tasks require the most amount of time and resources. This information is also useful for when a team completes a similar project later on.
Finally, after everything is considered complete, a project manager does not necessarily deliver it automatically to the client. Sometimes they must act as a quality assurance agent to ensure it is actually deliverable in its entirety, and nothing was rushed or remains incomplete.

Are You Sleeping Enough?

It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep impacts your physical and mental health. Many recent studies have all concluded that there are links between insufficient sleep and heart …Read More »

It’s no secret that getting a good night’s sleep impacts your physical and mental health. Many recent studies have all concluded that there are links between insufficient sleep and heart disease, obesity, and even diabetes. These serious health risks come into effect if sleep loss occurs over the span of a lifetime.

 

If you just have one night of restful sleep, you feel the positive effects almost right away. There is a boost in terms of energy. You’re in a better mood and can think much more clearly. So, if you believe you’re ready to reap these benefits, it’s important to first determine if you’re getting enough sleep.

 

The National Sleep Foundation offers a range of articles describing all of these benefits and how to improve your current sleep cycle. They also explain facts about sleep disorders and how to combat them. The experts at the National Sleep Foundation recommend individuals get a certain number of hours of sleep each and every night. The number is based on your age:

 

  • Newborns aged 0-3 months: 14-17 hours
  • Infants aged 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Toddlers aged 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • Preschoolers aged 3-5: 10-13 hours
  • Children aged 6-13: 9-11 hours
  • Teenagers aged 14-17: 8-10 hours
  • Young adults aged 18-25: 7-9 hours
  • Adults aged 26-64: 7-9 hours
  • Seniors aged 65+: 7-8 hours

 

Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

 

For those not following this guide on a regular basis, you will start feeling the symptoms in your daily life. Here are some of the more obvious signs of not getting enough sleep:  

 

  • If you tend to be forgetful, this is a common sign of sleep deprivation. In adults, a lack of sleep means that memories stay in the hippocampus region of the brain and are not able to reach the prefrontal cortex, which accounts for memory.
  • If you tend to be hungrier than normal. A decrease in sleep causes an imbalance of our hormones, including Leptin and Ghrelin. These hormones tell our bodies when to stop eating because we’re full.
  • If you read the same sentences over and over. This is due to a lack of concentration and ability to stay focused. This sign causes poor performance in the workplace because it takes longer to complete tasks.
  • If you tend to get angry or agitated. When normal, everyday conversations become an annoyance, your body is trying to tell you that you’re tired. People who don’t get enough rest do not handle conflict well.
  • If you’re “zoning out” or “spacing out.” This is especially true if it occurs during the daytime. This means you’re in “autopilot” mode and not concentrating on daily activities.
  • If you fall asleep too quickly. This is associated with narcolepsy, a disorder that causes you to fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly. If you are showing symptoms of narcolepsy, it’s important to see your local healthcare provider right away. This is because narcolepsy can cause some potentially dangerous scenarios, such as falling asleep while driving.

 

Tips For Sleeping Well

 

Your body has a natural internal clock that gets tired when you don’t get enough rest. It might be difficult to realize when you’re tossing and turning at 2 AM, but you have much control over how you sleep. Once you’ve determined the number of hours needed each night, there are things you can do to make the experience better for yourself. Making simple changes to your daily routine has a profound impact on your sleeping habits. If you follow some of the following advice, you may find that you can’t wait to go to bed tonight!

 

  • If your schedule allows, try to get to sleep at the same time every single night. For example, set an alarm on your clock for 10 PM and try to stick to that time as closely as you can.
  • Feel free to take naps when needed, but don’t make them too long. By limiting them to about 20 minutes, you ensure that you’re not too rested, thus potentially ruining your nighttime sleep.
  • In the morning, if you are still feeling drowsy after waking up, expose yourself to natural sunlight for a few minutes or drink a glass of cold water. This will help you ease the transition a little better.
  • Avoid screens for at least an hour before bed. This includes smartphones, computers, or TV screens. This is because the blue light it emits disrupts sleep. However, this can be amended by downloading a smartphone app to minimize this type of blue light. If you need a stimulating activity before bedtime, try listening to music or an audiobook instead of a movie.
  • Once you head off to bed for the night, the room should be absolutely dark. Draw the curtains, or at least make sure the light from the window is blocked. Also, remember to cover up the light from your electronics. If this is not possible, use a comfortable sleep mask instead.
  • During the day, limit your caffeine and nicotine intake. This is important because caffeine causes sleep issues even 10 hours later! If you absolutely must have coffee, drink it in the morning, especially before noon.
  • Having a big meal right before bed, as well as eating spicy and acidic food, can cause indigestion, which is another interrupter of the sleep process. But if you want to have a snack, have something healthy, such as fruit. Drinking too many liquids also results in frequent bathroom trips, so try to limit your drinks before bed.
  • If the stress of daily life affects your sleep, many find that meditation and deep breathing is an effective means of relaxation. This allows you to put aside your busy schedule and refresh your brain for the next day. Simply close your eyes and take slow, deep breaths for a few moments.
  • If you take the time to make your bedroom comfortable, this is an unexpected and pleasant way to have a great night’s sleep. Try a different mattress setting for firmness and give yourself more support. Cozy pillows and blankets are also little additions that make a big difference. Making the experience feel more “luxurious” is another excellent way to ensure you go to bed the same time every night as well. Consider it a long-term gift to yourself, as taking care of your health should always be a top priority!

How to Develop Excellent Networking Skills

Developing effective networking skills is an important way to build your business or organization. Networking involves more than just attending mixers and local business meetings, though these can be useful. …Read More »

Developing effective networking skills is an important way to build your business or organization. Networking involves more than just attending mixers and local business meetings, though these can be useful. These tips will help you develop excellent networking skills and avoid the most common pitfalls when you’re developing business contacts.

 

Choose Your Goal

At the outset, it’s important to ask yourself what your goals are. That way you will pick network meetings that will help you achieve what you’re looking for. Networking groups can be quite diverse. For example, some may be focused on learning certain business skills, whereas others are intended specifically for making contacts.

Be Genuine

Remember that networking is about being genuine. Be sincere and work to build trust with the people you meet. Talk to your new contacts about how you can help them. Networking is not just about exchanging business cards, it’s about sharing ideas and skills, and building relationships based on mutuality.

Become a Volunteer

Not only does volunteering allow you an opportunity to meet new people within your community, it is also a great way to learn new skills and gain insight into different businesses and career situations. Additionally, you will gain satisfaction from knowing that you’re giving something back to your community.

Prior to an Event

Always be prepared when you attend a networking event. Bring along plenty of business cards and a small notebook and pen. Make sure you are fully aware of the nature of each particular event and think about what you expect from it. For example, do you want to make new contacts or to strengthen an existing relationship? Remember to ask the host about the dress code, some events may be business formal while others may be more casual. If you know in advance, it will ensure that you feel comfortable within the group.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of your role in business and how you can use your skills to help others. In order to get referrals, you must be able to articulate what you can do for the other people at your networking meetings. Also take some time to think about what you are looking for, and how people you meet may be able to help you.

During an Event

It’s best to arrive a little early when the group of attendees is still relatively small. Always enter the room with a smile so that others will find you easy to approach. Don’t isolate yourself among just the people you know; mingle and greet other attendees. When you meet a person for the first time, shake their hand. As you are talking to them, listen attentively and sum up your personal details succinctly. Make sure you say their name several times during the course of your conversation, this will help you hold their attention and to remember their names. Ask questions that will help you evaluate whether the person will be a useful contact for you and you for them. Try to spend no more than ten minutes talking to each person, this will give you time to circulate the room. Exchange business cards and take notes after you have finished talking to help you remember what each person has said.

After an Event

If you have collected a number of business cards from the networking event, make sure that you follow up with each person within 48 hours; otherwise, your new contacts are likely to forget who you are. If you want to strengthen your newly-forged relationships, call the individual and invite them to lunch. As you add future networking events, add some time in afterward in case you want to have a follow-up meeting with any new or current contacts.

Don’t expect too much too soon. Take plenty of time to establish each relationship through follow-up meetings or communications. If you try to rush or put pressure on contacts, you will lose them, and that may cost you other referrals down the road.

Common Networking Mistakes

Here is a rundown of some common networking pitfalls to avoid:

  • A lack of professionalism: Spend some time improving your brand image. Take a look at your website and social media platforms and make sure they express your professional persona.
  • Too much vagueness: Don’t fall into the trap of not being specific about your skills when you meet new contacts. Make sure they know exactly who you are and what you have to offer.
  • A Lack of Patience: Business relationships can be fragile things, particularly in the early stages of formation. Don’t be in a hurry to toss out your pitch. Be patient, and focus on the other person for a while and look for ways in which the two of you can connect.
  • A lack of politeness: You may be surprised to know that one of the most common mistakes in networking is forgetting to say thank you. Not expressing your gratitude can present a very negative impression and undermine all your hard work. This is a really simple way to keep things on the positive.
  • Insufficient face-to-face contact: While the internet is a convenient way to network, don’t underestimate the value of personal contact.
Are your Networking Skills Adequate?
  • Can you broaden the resources you already have?
  • Are you involved with networking groups that interest you, and where you can make a contribution?
  • Do you go to network meetings prepared?
  • Are you confident that you communicate well?
  • Do you follow up with new contacts within the first 48 hours?

If you answered no to three or more of these questions, you probably need to develop more effective networking skills. Consider how you can broaden your resources by finding out about different networking groups in your area.

Make sure you attend meetings equipped with your business cards and bring your passion and enthusiasm to the table. Be open to possibilities regarding what you get from the meeting. Don’t forget to follow up with contacts within the first 48 hours; or they are most likely to forget you.

2018 Trends in Mobile Technology

During 2017, mobile marketing became a major strategy for most companies. The main reason for this trend is that it enables small and medium-sized business to use resources that were …Read More »

During 2017, mobile marketing became a major strategy for most companies. The main reason for this trend is that it enables small and medium-sized business to use resources that were formerly only available to global organizations. In spite of this convenient availability, many businesses are still reluctant to implement mobile technology. This may be because they lack sufficient information about the services, they have monetary constraints, or they do not see the benefits. However, companies who do not take advantage of mobile marketing are destined to not only lose money, but they risk giving their competitors the upper hand.

 

If you are a small business owner who is not yet implementing mobile technology, you can gain some insight by taking a look back over 2017 to see which mobile technologies were being most widely used. Whether you are a restaurant owner, a car mechanic, or a florist, mobile technology can benefit your business. What’s more, is that it’s not difficult to implement it into your business strategy for 2018, because these areas are expected to advance even further.

Mobile technology is impacting small businesses in a number of ways. Here are several examples:

  • Improving business: Thanks to mobile technology, you can improve your business in a cost-effective manner. Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on a piece of software, you can purchase an app that will do the same things for a lot less money.
  • Increasing business capabilities: Mobile technology allows you to conduct business wherever you are, on your phone or tablet. Add cloud computing to that, and you can also store or share information easily and conveniently.
  • Helping expansion: Mobile tech combined with cloud-based tools make it easier and more affordable than ever for you to scale your business. Tools like, Slack, PayPal, and Google Drive significantly reduce the time it takes for companies to expand internationally.
  • Making data accessible: Mobile technology puts data at your fingertips. These days your business can stay in touch with data in ways that would not have been possible just a few years ago. You can have easy access to your client accounts via live dashboards whether you’re at your desk or having a business lunch.
  • Enhancing communication: You can use mobile technology to keep your employees in touch with each other no matter where they are with easy-to-use apps like Slack. This type of service also presents a useful way to stay in touch with clients.
  • Retaining flexibility: The ability to work anytime, anywhere is a valuable asset these days for you and your employees, especially if you are part of the global market and you’re working in different time zones. Flexibility also helps keep your workforce happy.

Trends in Mobile Technology from 2017

Android Instant Apps

Android Instant Apps allow business owners to host app interfaces on their websites so that customers can use the app without having to download it to their mobile device. This means that consumers can use the app any time without having to commit to keeping it on their phone or tablet.

Artificial Intelligence

Adding AI to apps boosts their power and value significantly. AI-enhanced apps can adapt to whoever is using them. For example, personal assistant apps allow the user to ask for certain things such as searching for information, reading email, making a call, and finding a document.

Location Based Services

This type of service uses GPS data to control its features. For example, mobile apps can alert customers of offers and special events when they are close to your business. Promotional alerts can be created specifically for individual users based on their purchasing history and their personal preferences.

The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) makes just about everything smart. This type of integration became a driving force in 2017. Streaming technologies are already available in many areas of daily life such as televisions, watches, and even coffee pots. Mobile apps are allowing consumers to control more and more aspects of their lives from the interface of their mobile device. In the business world, such a level of interconnectivity can be used to accumulate large amounts of data, which can help you become more aware of each of your customer’s needs.

Augmented Reality

Augmented reality makes information available through the use of an interface; usually by means of a mobile device. For example, a customer is refurbishing her kitchen and isn’t sure which appliances to buy. AR can help her to see what each different model would look like in her home.

Mobile Security

Security has become a critical issue for consumers, particularly because of the increased interest in data businesses from hackers. In an effort to combat these threats, mobile security software is rapidly advancing. It has to consistently protect the information which is required for mobile technology to run successfully. Due to constantly evolving threats, 2017 saw mobile security at the forefront of trending technology. As a business owner, mobile security is vital if you want customers to trust your systems.

What the Future Holds

In the coming year, these areas of mobile technology will continue to expand rapidly. One area to keep an eye on includes IoT, where you can expect to see an increase in wearable apps to help you control things in your environment.

Another upcoming trend is Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). Lazy loading is always an issue because if a page takes too long to load, visitors will bounce. AMP speeds up page loading on mobile devices.

Mobile payments are becoming increasingly popular, and customers who are shopping online have been using internet banking for some time. With the introduction of Google Wallet and Apple Pay, this trend is stretching even further as more customers switch to mobile commerce.

To make shopping even easier, 2018 will see more use of biometrics such as fingerprints, voice ID, and facial recognition to verify your merchant identity. It will also add to the security of mobile payments.

On-demand apps will be even more in demand in 2018. Their ease of use and convenience is what makes them so popular for finding things like restaurants laundry services, taxi services, and food delivery.

2018 is sure to bring some interesting new developments to the realm of mobile technology. One this is for certain, consumers are ready to adapt and accept these changes as quickly as they arise.

What to do When you Make a Mistake with a Client

If you want your business to succeed, you know how important it is to provide quality service. But bear in mind that no matter how dedicated you are, accidents can …Read More »

If you want your business to succeed, you know how important it is to provide quality service. But bear in mind that no matter how dedicated you are, accidents can still happen. You could be in the middle of working on a client’s project when your computer crashed, your distributor could have misplaced an order, or your billing department may have sent a client the wrong invoice. Now your client feels let down.

 

So what do you do now? One of the first things that comes to mind is to correct the problem so that you can prevent it from happening again with a different client. However, don’t just leave the disgruntled client hanging.

It pays to have a plan in place for when something like this happens so that if and when things do go wrong, you can fix them as efficiently as possible before you lose a client. What you should not do is to blame someone else to save your reputation, pass on a superficial solution to try and buy yourself extra time, or turn your back on the problem and hope it will go away. Remember, maintaining your integrity is important, and even if you’ve messed up, your client will respect your honesty.

What to do When You Make a Mistake

  • Accept it: There’s no point denying it, it’s not just going to disappear. You need to know exactly how and why this happened. Find out what your company promised your client, exactly what the client was expecting, and what the client got or did not get. Don’t make assumptions, talk to every member of your team who was involved in this transaction.
  • Don’t hide: If you find out about a mistake before your client does, be upfront about it and tell them. This can go a long way to restoring their confidence in you and increasing the possibility that they will use your business again.
  • Communicate: The first thing to do is to apologize. Then let the client know what you are doing to try to fix the problem. Let them know how long it will take you, and be realistic with your timeline. Always keep your word. If the client calls you and for some reason, you cannot answer, always return their calls promptly. If other team members have to answer the client’s calls, advise them how to do so.
  • Be empathetic: Put yourself in the client’s shoes. Don’t attack them even if they are angry, after all, it was you who made a mistake. If you take a fair approach to the client, you may even still be able to retain their business. You must re-earn their trust by fixing the problem promptly and continuing to deliver a great service.
  • Explain what went wrong: Don’t skimp on the details; your client deserves to know exactly what went wrong. Reassure your client that the situation is under control and that it will not happen again. Keep a positive tone but be realistic. Ask questions and be prepared to listen to what your client has to say.
  • Present options: Depending on the type of mistake and why it happened, the solution may not always be cut and dry. For this reason, it’s important to give your client some options. For example, you could offer a refund, an alternative service or a discount to make up for the impact of the error.
  • Maintain perspective: Sometimes it’s hard to keep a sense of perspective when you feel you’ve let your client, your team or yourself down. However, try to keep your reaction proportional to the mistake you’ve made; don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. Unless it’s a life or death situation, most mistakes can be corrected fairly quickly.
  • Create a protocol: Discuss the problem with your team. Learn from your mistake and create a strategy to deal with future mistakes. You may have to make some changes to the way your company functions, with the technology you are using, or within the structure of your personnel. Don’t be stubborn, be prepared to make adjustments to improve the quality of your service and reduce the risk of future errors. Make sure everyone is on the same page.

Mistakes to Avoid When Interacting With a Client

  • Assuming the client is always right: If your client is requesting a product or service that you feel does not meet their needs, tell them. This can prevent things going wrong before you deliver the goods. If you remain silent and just go along with it, you may get blamed later and lose the client and potential referrals.
  • Not handling criticism: If an unhappy client is offering fair criticism, take it on board and learn from it. This is not the time to get defensive. Research shows that 90 percent of dissatisfied clients switch to a different service provider. Try not to let your client walk away feeling that they should never have hired you in the first place. A disappointed client can cost you more than you may think.
  • Not maintaining regular contact with your clients: When you have completed a transaction with a client, don’t think your job is done. You need to contact them from time to time, even if it’s just to see how they are doing. Keep them abreast of new products and services which may benefit them.
  • Avoiding answering questions: If a client asks you a question and you are not sure of the answer, don’t avoid it, and don’t provide an answer that may not be accurate. Admit that you are not sure and explain that you will find out straight away. Don’t leave them hanging, do your research and get back to them as soon as you can. Communication counts for so much!

Mistakes will happen; no business can be run flawlessly. The important thing is to learn from your experiences and ensure that you don’t make the same mistake twice.

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best office pranks

The Best Office Pranks

For years practical jokes have been used as a way to welcome or “initiate” employees into a new or unfamiliar office environment. The great news is that harmless pranks are …Read More »

For years practical jokes have been used as a way to welcome or “initiate” employees into a new or unfamiliar office environment. The great news is that harmless pranks are an excellent way to help promote camaraderie and an overall positive attitude in the workplace.

firecracker keyboard

When pranking is done the right way, it also helps more isolated or introverted people feel included. Whether you’re planning on a simple prank or a more elaborate prank, we’ve got some great ideas for you to try.

Office Pranks Using Common Household Items

Try the following pranks using only these simple items found around the house.

Wrapping paper: You will need at least a few hours to complete this prank, so try to accomplish this on their day off. Just take all of your leftover wrapping paper from the holidays and cover everything in their office. This includes the desk, chair, walls, and individual items such as the computer, stapler, and even pencil cup.

Add some colorful bows and ribbons for an extra bit of flourish. If you want to get creative, place “To” and “From” gift tags on each item, too. When your coworker returns to work after their short break, they will have plenty of “presents” to open. This prank is pretty popular around the holiday season, but it’s certainly funny any time of the year!

sticky notes on car prankSticky notes: For this prank, your office mate needs to be away from their car, truck, van, or other vehicle for a short while. While they are preoccupied, take sticky notes and place them over every inch of the car. It’s possible you will need at least a few hundred.

If you really want to leave a lasting impression, you can use one type of color for each part of the car – windshield, doors, windows, and roof. Create patterns or write a special message. Since sticky notes are lightweight and easy to remove, they won’t cause any damage to the vehicle at all.

Use just one sticky note: If you don’t have hundreds of sticky notes at your disposal, it’s possible to create the perfect prank with only one. Write the words “Voice Activated” on a note and stick it on an appliance in the kitchen. A toaster, microwave, or coffee maker will be perfect. If the item is new to the break room, even better! Employees will see the note and attempt to “command” the appliance into working.

Balloons: Enclosed offices or cubicles can easily be filled to the brim with balloons. Enlist the help of others to blow up the right amount of balloons in a short period of time.

Googly eyes: Purchase Googly eyes in bulk. Now you can decorate small items in the kitchen or shared space. Place them on appliances or items on your coworker’s desk. Or, take them to your boss’ office and redecorate their photos.

chia keyboard prankKeyboard Chia Garden: Even those without a green thumb can participate. Simply swap your coworker’s keyboard with an old one (can be purchased at thrift stores for a few bucks), and shake a little potting soil inside. Carefully spread the tiny Chia seeds in between the buttons. Spray a little water, add some sunshine, and in a few days, you will have a mini keyboard garden growing on your victim’s desk.

Office Pranks With Easy to Use Technology

Change their desktop background: To warn you ahead of time, your coworker may think there’s something wrong with their computer! First, access their computer and capture their current screen (just hold down the Control and Print Screen keys simultaneously). Then save the captured image. Next, go to their Control Panel and save that image as their desktop background. It will look exactly like their current desktop, but without the ability to click or open programs.

Use a Chrome extension: There is a Chrome extension called nCage that you can download to a coworker’s computer. This… unique extension changes every single image in your browser to Nicolas Cage. They may realize something is wrong pretty quickly after they visit a few websites.

Use Autocomplete: Enter funny words or phrases into Microsoft Word’s Autocomplete feature. There are a lot of possibilities for this prank. For example, every time they type their own name, you can automatically change it to “Fool”. For something a little more subtle, replace a word with a misspelling. For instance, change the word “Work” to “Werk.”

Change the screen orientation: This computer prank changes how you view the desktop screen entirely. Just go to the computer’s Control Panel, then select “Display”. There you can change the orientation settings by selecting “Landscape.” This flips the screen to a very confusing landscape view!

Use their mouse: If your boss or coworker has an optical mouse, place a tiny piece of Scotch tape over the bottom. The cursor will stop moving as a result.

Change their homepage: Another simple yet effective one. You can go into a person’s browser preferences and change their homepage to a website of your choosing. It’s better to pick a funny or ridiculous website instead of the company website. For some inspiration, try out this video.

Rules of Etiquette for Office Pranks

Finally, just a few rules. Pranks that go too far are no fun for anyone, so as long as you stick to some common etiquette, you shouldn’t have a problem.

  • Make sure no one can get hurt. If there’s a chance someone will fall or hit something because of your prank, this could result in a serious injury or a costly bill from the hospital. Just keep it safe.
  • If someone expressly says they don’t want to be pranked, try to respect that. Sometimes individuals don’t appreciate being tricked, and that’s okay. Keep these pranks between yourself and those who you think would enjoy it.
  • Don’t bring up serious subjects. If you are in a position of management and you prank employees by stating “You’re fired!,” “You’re getting relocated!,” or “You’re working over the weekend!” it might evoke a strong reaction. Try to maintain some sensitivity.
  • Be prepared for retaliation. If you prank others, you should definitely expect them to get creative and return the favor as well!

Five Customer Service Rules You Should Know

We may not realize it, but our lives are ruled by the companies that surround us. Whether we’re job seeking from our iPhones, sporting the latest sneakers from our favorite …Read More »

We may not realize it, but our lives are ruled by the companies that surround us. Whether we’re job seeking from our iPhones, sporting the latest sneakers from our favorite running shoe company, or rolling out our Lululemon yoga mat to get in some exercise for the day, we’re surrounded by brands. And when these brands don’t meet our needs or fulfill their promise, we turn to their corporate number for help resolving the issue. Often, our only point of contact with these companies is with their customer service representatives.

 

A strong, positive customer service experience often leads to repeat business, referrals, and loyal customers. Dealing with a cranky customer service representative can tarnish a company’s reputation, customer by customer, regardless of how good their product is. Here are some surprising statistics about customer service and its effect on customers: https://www.helpscout.net/75-customer-service-facts-quotes-statistics/

  • 78% of consumers have, at some point, bailed on a purchase because of poor service.
  • After one negative experience, a customer needs to experience an average of 12 positive experiences to reverse their negative impression of a company.
  • People share negative customer service experiences 2.3 times more often than they share positive customer service experiences.
  • It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to keep existing ones.
  • Consumers reported that 50% of the time, their questions were not answered by customer service agents.
  • 75% of consumers think it takes too long to get to a real agent on the phone, and 67% of customers last year hung up the phone out of frustration on this specific issue.
  • 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer is feeling.
  • 81% of companies considered to have excellent customer service are outperforming their competitors.

What all of this means is that companies who put the effort into developing an excellent customer service team reap the rewards. They outperform competitors, save on customer acquisition, keep their names out of the negative reviews, and get more repeat business.

Even if your company has a reputation for having awful customer service, it’s never too late to turn it around. Here is a list of the five most important customer service rules to instill in your customer service team-members, and frankly in employees throughout your organization:

  1. Every Single Interaction Matters – No Exceptions. If you’re tired or having an off day, when the phone rings or an email pops up, you have to be able to turn it on. As a customer service representative, it’s important to remember that YOU are the face of the company to this customer.
  2. You represent the entire organization. You alone are responsible for how they feel when they walk away from the conversation. You have the power to make or break this person’s day.
  3. No Such Thing as “Not my Job” – Most companies known for their strong customer service instill an organization-wide mandate that no person is too good for a particular job. If help is needed, employees pitch in for the greater good of the company. Creating this sense of community and mutual reliance makes each team member feel supported and able to effect change.
  4. Autonomy and Empowerment- When customer service representatives are trusted to make decisions on their own regarding customer requests (refunds, compensations, giveaways, etc.), this sense of autonomy makes them feel able and excited to help. Rather than putting a customer on hold to “check with their manager,” an agent can decide if, when, and how much to give to keep a customer happy. Allowing employees the chance to get creative can also result in huge benefits. Empower your people to do good work, and they will!
  5. Incentive – As much as we hope to find a job we enjoy so much that we would do it for free, this isn’t the reality of work for most of us. So,
  6. incentivize your employees! Offer customer service representatives a bonus or reward for positive customer feedback. When incentives are combined with a good company culture, employees show greater workplace satisfaction.
  7. Listen – One of the most frustrating things when you’re on the phone with a customer service representative is repeating yourself over and over again, and getting the same response. Good customer service representatives know how to listen, and actually hear what you are saying, and then respond accordingly and appropriately. Feeling heard is often the only thing we really need when we feel a company has fallen short or taken advantage of us. To feel heard can often validate a disgruntled customer, and soften their feelings of anger.

These five rules of customer service will help you build customer loyalty, avoid losing sales and build a good reputation for your product and company name. These aren’t hacks or tactics, they are consistent behaviors that the company and individual employee have to live by each and every day. There isn’t a shortcut for excellent work, but by putting in the effort to train your staff to listen, make decisions, and be empathetic, you will see the reward in your profits.

There are countless instances where companies go above and beyond for their customers and made lasting positive customers for life. One customer service representative ordered a pizza to the office of the man she was on the phone with because she overheard employees in the back say that they were hungry. An airline passed out free tickets to over a dozen passengers for answering trivia questions correctly. A representative from a shoe company sent flowers to a woman after hearing that she was undergoing health issues – AND she upgraded the woman to VIP customer status for life, for free.

There are dozens of stories like these online – proof that a little bit of kindness and extra care go a long way with customers. Answering the phone and being ready to handle anything on the other end with grace and understanding is something that can never be replaced. When it comes to customer service, maintaining this understanding of your customer can be enormous in not only acquiring customers but retaining them as for years to come.

The 7 Different Types of Managers – Which are you?

When you’re first thrown into a management position, how do you handle workflow, delegation, and conflict resolution? Managers have different styles for taking on some of the more difficult aspects …Read More »

When you’re first thrown into a management position, how do you handle workflow, delegation, and conflict resolution? Managers have different styles for taking on some of the more difficult aspects of leadership while others “let things be.” But how do you know which style is right for your team?

Quality leadership involves finding a balance between knowing when to be “tough” on team members with deadlines and when to offer flexibility.

Effective managers know how to improve efficiency and morale at the same time, and when it’s done right, top executives and bosses notice. To help you find ultimate career success, here are the 7 different types of managers and how you can decide which is best for you.

1. Autocratic

This one is considered the most “old-fashioned,” so we’ll get this out of the way right at the beginning. This is a leader who is in complete control over everyone else, leaving little room for flexibility or input from others.

There are benefits to this style. Decisions are made rather quickly, and deadlines are more likely to be met. Resources and instructions are very clear and there is little to no confusion in following orders. This doesn’t mean that ongoing training and education isn’t provided for workers, however, and it also doesn’t mean they don’t have opportunities to grow.

Unless there is a special circumstance, any instructions given by autocratic leaders should be followed to the letter. In many cases, this truly could mean the difference between life or death. For instance, when a Head Surgeon is giving directions to a surgical student there is absolutely no room for error or veering outside of the strict structure of the requirements. Employees who seek creative positions are far less likely to respond to autocratic leadership.

Who uses the autocratic management style?

  • High ranking military officers
  • Police officers or first responders
  • Medical professionals overseeing students or nurses
  • Leaders in manufacturing and heavy industry

2. Affiliative

For a business to be truly productive, there must be a certain amount of trust in a fellow co-worker. In opposition to autocratic managers, affiliative managers are more relationship-focused. They are best at resolving issues or conflicts between team members and keeping up employee morale.

Affiliative managers are also good at recognizing the skillsets of each individual. So if a project goes off the rails, this type of manager can identify what tasks a person is best at and assign new roles or responsibilities as needed.

Extroverts particularly thrive in building relationships in the office. They know how to guide others through stressful situations to preserve a harmonious and happy work environment.

Who uses the affiliative management style?

  • Human resources managers
  • Therapists, counselors, and psychiatrists
  • Mediators

3. Coaching

Coaches aren’t just for athletics. Professionals know how to use coaching techniques in the workplace to bring out an employee’s natural strengths.

This style relies much on encouragement, but also plenty of feedback as well. Sometimes an individual needs to know where they can improve performance, and a coach can skillfully explain where a person went wrong and how they can make it right in the future.

For this management style to truly work, employees must be willing to learn, change, and try new things. Otherwise, coaches will face pushback or even defiance.

Who uses the coaching management style?

  • Any management position that requires training employees
  • A “life coach” or personal development coach
  • An athletic coach or personal trainer
4. Democratic or Participative

This style of management involves everyone. Democratic leaders allow each team members’ voice to be heard at work.

This style allows for the highest level of feedback from workers. There are many ways to do this, including brainstorming sessions on how best to complete a task. When used occasionally, it is very effective. However, when used too frequently, a lot of time is wasted in the discussion process instead of actually accomplishing anything.

The concept of teamwork is key here. Ultimately, however, it is the manager who has a final say in all decisions, usually lending itself to the majority. Democratic leaders often find that this allows for more loyalty from the group.

Who uses the democratic or participative management style?

  • Office supervisors or coordinators
  • Branch leader or team leader
  • Operations manager
5. Pacesetting

Pacesetting follows the concept of “leading by example.” In this setting, managers set a high standard for employees by working hard and meeting the needed deadlines themselves.

If not done correctly, pacesetting can lead to a poor work ethic or a decline in company culture. This is because employees must work at a certain “pace.” Instead, these managers should set clear, but achievable short term and long-term goals.

More than that, it is vital to prevent the “burnout” and high turnover rates that sometimes occur when this is put into practice. Healthy work schedules and balance gives the best results for pacesetting.

Who uses the pacesetting management style?

  • Managers who oversee sales positions
  • Team leaders in retail and food service
  • Directors in hospitality
6. Visionary

Do you like to inspire others? You might be a visionary. Visionary leaders motivate their teams to perform well. They accomplish this through the concept of making work meaningful for their employees. Because everyone is working towards a shared vision for the company as a whole, this empowers everyone involved.

Those who use this style should use caution and pair a visionary style with real, tangible goals and timelines. This keeps employees grounded and rooted in the company’s expectations as well as goals for success for the future.

Who uses the visionary management style?

  • CEOs and other C-level executives
  • Learning and development managers
  • Public speakers or presenters
7. Laissez-faire

If there was a style that was a perfect opposite of autocracy, it’s Laissez-faire or “hands-off” management. In this case, the leader is more like a mentor than a true manager.

Laissez-faire is all about delegation and allowing your team members to step up and make decisions for themselves. While there is little guidance, Laissez-faire managers must also provide the needed tools for success.

While this is the most “relaxed” form of management and is popular among workers, researchers say that this is also one of the least productive methods of leadership.

Who uses the Laissez-faire management style?

  • Startup companies
  • Creative firms, such as advertising agencies
  • Leaders in art, photography, and graphic design
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