The latest advances in IT provide secure, any device, any time access to data and boost employees’ productivity. When combined with intelligent finance and delivered as a service, they enable organisations to control cost and reduce risk while realising efficiencies and keeping ahead of the curve, writes Ewen Anderson at Centralis.
Desktop computing continues to see significant transformation. Sales of desktop and portable PCs are down, there is an increase in tablet PCs and smartphone adoption and corporate access to data is increasingly non-Windows driven. The future is mobile – Gartner predicts that mobile app development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1 by 2015.
Rapid evolution in mobile computing and growing demand for remote working and flexible work styles means many organisations have to look to deliver a desktop environment that combines applications from multiple sources, access to data and retention of desktop settings across multiple devices, with a uniform and high-quality user experience.
Many organisations accept that the shift to mobile has already happened and now require a strategy and capability to deal with mobile device management, secure data containers, individual app stores, and enterprise security. They also want to deliver a high quality end user experience at a known cost.
Good news! The capability to provide this ‘pure desktop’ experience, on demand and to any type of device, exists today. It uses the latest advances in virtualisation and cloud technology, and is available at a known price point on a pod-based platform – effectively a private cloud in a pod.
Typically, pods ship in modules supporting 500 users and can be rapidly configured and scaled easily. They provide a great fit for organisations with 1,000-5,000 users, who want a plug-and-play delivery with maximum flexibility. Furthermore, independent providers are innovating further on this modular base architecture to offer a pure desktop experience under a managed services contract, and with a range of additional functionality, links to hybrid clouds and intelligent finance options.
Using finance intelligently enables organisations to spread the cost over a 3-4 year period, with the desktop delivered ‘as service’ for a fixed price per user per month. They can scale the solution and depending on type of leasing option, may own the infrastructure at the end of it. This surety of cost, extended access to credit and ability to plan is vital for organisations looking to drive their business forward in the current climate of change and uncertainty.
IT as a commodity
Three key trends are re-shaping the corporate IT landscape – mobility, consumerisation, and cloud computing or ‘IT as a service’. All three come under the umbrella of ‘enterprise mobility’ and are not only driving transformation at the desktop, but an increase in user expectation levels, and a wider change in attitude towards corporate IT.
Whereas IT service provision used to be a highly-customised internal function, it’s now viewed as a commodity. The utility computing business model enables organisations to purchase the resources and services they need, either from an internal or external provider and potentially on a fixed-cost basis, in order to meet their business or operational requirements. Such a model is attractive for almost any organisation looking to reduce costs and increase efficiency and agility.
At the same time, there has been an explosion in the adoption of tablet PCs and smartphones. According to analysts at IDC, tablet shipments experienced their largest year-over-year growth in 2012, up 78 per cent on 2011, while smartphone shipments rose 46 per cent. Overall, the ‘smart connected device’ space surged to just over 1.2 billion shipments in 2012, while global PC shipments dropped by almost 4 per cent as buyers favoured other devices for their mobility and convenience features.
With the market for mobile devices booming, so too is the practice of using these for business – a trend often referred to as BYOD (bring your own device). Both business leaders and employees are accustomed to the instant-on, pick-up/put-down nature of tablets, dip in and out of work and personal life, and access applications and data from the cloud on the move. As a result, business leaders want to extend services beyond the traditional organisational boundaries both to mobile employees and third parties.
According to a survey by Harvey Nash, over half of global CIOs are actively promoting the development of solutions for smartphones and tablets, while Gartner describes the rise of BYOD as ‘the single most radical shift in the economics of client computing for business since PCs invaded the workplace’. Gartner also reports that CEOs and CIOs are pressuring IT teams to lower overheads by offloading services to cloud providers.
Pick and mix hybrid cloud
Given not all cloud services are created equal as far as security and compliance are concerned, a hybrid model is emerging. Organisations are building internal (private) clouds to house critical IT services, and are using external cloud resources (public cloud) for non-critical IT services and data, and to augment internal capacity and increase agility.
Under this ‘pick and mix’ hybrid, some budget is allocated for buy, and some for build. IT investment and business strategy are aligned. Utility computing becomes a business enabler rather than a pure IT tool, with the Finance Director balancing the procurement option against accounting rules and procurement regulations in order to optimise commercial benefits.
From an IT procurement perspective, there are two models for financing IT procurement:
Finance lease – where a business wants to eventually own the IT assets but wants to avoid upfront capital expenditure (a capital lease in accounting terms), effectively paying per month, and then owning the IT assets at the end of the finance period when title passes to the lessor
Operating lease – whereby the business pays a periodic amount for a fixed term of typically 3-4 years, but the IT assets are off balance sheet, and are not owned at the end of the finance period
A third option is a ‘buy-back’ option. Under this scenario, the new infrastructure has a residual value higher than book value. If the legacy infrastructure is bought back by the vendor a cash profit is delivered against book value to help subsidise or offset lease the payments.
Pay as you go
Opting for a pod-based solution under a managed services contract and spreading the cost using intelligent finance is now the closest organisations can get to a pure desktop experience, on demand, for a known fixed price. Such a model increases business confidence, as it helps organisations plan for change because they have absolute clarity on the incremental cost of adding new services. It also reduces risk, because it eliminates multiple components, and frees-up IT teams to address the higher value aspects of IT operations management rather than the fundamentals of pulling and plugging cables and building boxes of hardware.
Crucially, this model means that the ‘pure desktop’ experience can be delivered at a cost that is less than a high-street cup of coffee per day per user. By evolving the utility computing model to a simple price point decision, agreeing a design requirement and service levels, and providing a plug and play delivery, service providers are shortening the lead-time to productivity with a hard and fast on-premise, fixed-price desktop service.
Centralis is one of the UK’s leading independent IT consultancies, specialising in delivering applications securely to their point of use. Backed by top-level partnership with industry leading vendors, including Citrix, Microsoft and VMware, Centralis provides consultancy, support, managed services and resale of selected products. Strong technical skills and commitment to delivering on time and to budget has led to long-term business partnerships with many customers across the private and public sectors, including Standard Life, Centrica, BUPA and many NHS Trusts and Universities. Centralis remains independent and wholly owned by employee shareholders. For further information go to: http://www.centralis.co.uk/puredesktop/
Success beyond voice: Contact centres supporting retail shift online
As the nation continues to overcome the challenges presented by COVID-19, customers have shifted their channel preferences, and contact centres have demonstrated typical resourcefulness in adapting rapidly and maintaining uptime. It has been a steep learning curve, as they not only learn to operate digitally, but also build an understanding of consumers’ new shopping behaviours.
The closure of stores meant demand for customer service escalated, resulting in long telephone wait times, and consumers quickly realised that they could switch to online channels to fulfil their customer service needs. As a response to this change in channel preference, some providers quickly ramped up chatbots, social channels and private messaging apps. For example, recent research conducted by the CCMA (Call Centre Management Association), in partnership with Puzzel, revealed that some brands opened up their direct messaging channels on social media for the very first time, in a bid to ensure support across popular channels such as Facebook and Twitter. For others, the pandemic underscored the value of migrating customer interactions to self-service channels to manage demand and ensure customer service advisors’ time is directed to problems that customers cannot solve themselves.
Faced with severe constraints in many aspects of their everyday lives, the fact that contact centres remained open for business has been gratefully received by consumers. Even despite longer wait times, many contact centres reported skyrocketing customer satisfaction ratings due to lowered customer expectations. As the new normal starts to take hold, and customer expectations revert back, now is the time for contact centres to implement the right strategies to ensure customer satisfaction
ratings are maintained.
Jonathan Allan, Chief Marketing Officer, Puzzel, comments, “The short term reduction in customer expectations, which is driving increased customer satisfaction scores, will return to previous levels once we’ve all adapted to a new way of living. The accelerated move to online services and digital channels is, however, here to stay. Now, there is an increased expectation from consumers to receive support on social media, or to initiate a web to chat to receive immediate consultation or to book an appointment.
Allan continues, “Adapting to this multi-channel environment has become a necessity, not a nice to have, and relying on voice or email alone is no longer tenable. Customers expect to be able to initiate contact through their channel of choice, and to be able to start a conversation in one channel and seamlessly move between others. As customer’s expectations continue to rise, orchestrating these interactions is essential to ensure the most positive customer experiences, and enable the optimal selection of channels to drive efficiency and satisfaction. As customer behaviour changes for the long term, it is no longer viable to rely on only one channel for customer service as seamless customer experience becomes key to ensuring customer retention.”
7 Ways to Grow a Profitable Hospitality Business
The hospitality industry is a multibillion-dollar industry with lots of career opportunities in hotels, theme parks, restaurants, country clubs, etc. It is one of the fastest-growing sectors as a lot of industries are involved in it.
Though it can be very profitable for aspiring and established entrepreneurs, it can get challenging as it requires charisma, drive, and innovation to ensure you can meet your customers’ demands. Growing a hospitality business for profit requires a lot of thought and innovation. In this article, we’ll look at some practical ways to grow a profitable hospitality business.
1. Yield Management
Yield management refers to anticipating, understanding, and influencing your customers’ behavior to increase your business revenue to the max. This principle was first used in the hospitality industry in the late 80s. The main objective of yield management is not just to increase your rates or occupancy; instead, it involves forecasting your business’ supply and demand through different key factors to maximize your revenue. Let us consider some yield management examples. If you have a hotel, yield management will allow you to maximize the profit you can make from a specific number of rooms that must be sold on a deadline.
Another example is if you have a hotel located next to an event center or stadium, you will charge more for rooms than you do on a typical weekday or weekend during a conference or sporting event. Yield management involves targeting the right customer at the right time and selling for the right price.
It involves using gathered data to understand your customers and their sensitivity to pricing and combining that with seasonal demand. High demand, seasonality, and special events can allow you to alter your rates to increase revenue. Though the idea isn’t to increase rates only, it also involves attracting the right customer at the right time.
Yield management allows you to make more profit from your existing inventory.
2. Create a Website
Your hospitality business should have a well-maintained website as it adds to the first impression prospective customers have when they check out your business. For example, if you have a vacation rental, you can hire a competent web designer or a web design company to help you build a vacation rental website. Also, customers can make bookings through your website if you have one, and this will help you save more money as you will not have to rely on listing channels to gain customers.
Though listing channels can help you get bookings, you’d have to pay a commission and follow the transaction terms, which you will not det. When you have your website, you’ll have more control over how you present your business to customers. You can display a photo slideshow with high-resolution images of the property or add other enticing features that will help you gain more customers. A professional website helps to give your business a professional image while making it more visible online.
3. Maintain and Improve the Quality of Your Service
The hospitality industry is a highly competitive one, so it is important to stay on top of your game to gain more revenue. If your business is reputable for providing quality service, then you should maintain that standard. You can check out your competitors to get ideas on how to improve your service and set your business apart. This is very important as the reputation of your hospitality business is primarily determined and affected by your quality of service.
If your customers are satisfied with your quality of service, they are more likely to recommend you to prospective clients. To get more ideas on how to improve your service, you can check the online reviews about your business. Check what your past clients have said about their experience, what they like, what they dislike, and any improvement they might suggest. Once you improve your service quality, new and old customers will be willing to pay more even if you increase your rates as they will get enough value for their money. To grow a profitable hospitality business, you should be ready to offer more value than your competitors.
4. Have an Active Social Media Presence
This is a great way of making your hospitality business more visible online. It is also a means of reaching prospective clients. Apart from creating and maintaining a website, you should have an active presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
These are where a bulk of your prospective clients are, and most brands take advantage of this. Nowadays, brands and businesses employ social media handlers that stay in charge of their social media pages. They are responsible for creating content and interacting with customers and prospective clients on social media.
You can post images and videos of your property on social media to attract new customers. Another way you can grow your business on social media is through sponsored ads. Most social media platforms offer various forms of advertisements at a reasonable price.
With sponsored ads, you have a higher chance of getting new customers or driving traffic to your website as you’d be able to reach a wider audience.
5. Create a Rental Agreement
If you are fully managing your business, then oral agreements with customers may not be enough. Your clients may have some assumptions about the terms and conditions or interpret the rules and regulations differently.
Sites like Airbnb can take care of this for you if you are not fully managing your rentals. For example, you can easily create an Airbnb house manual visible to prospective clients once they click on your property.
To avoid misconceptions and misunderstandings, you should create an agreement that will be visible on your website or any booking medium you prefer. Your guests will sign this agreement and protect both you and the guest if there is a dispute.
Though the terms and conditions may vary depending on the type of hospitality business, you can consult a business attorney for verification before using the agreement for your business.
A rental agreement should include information about the property, rental party details, occupancy limitations, the minimum stay requirements, house rules, rates and additional fees, cancellation policy, payment details, and the customer’s signature.
You can add other details and terms depending on your type of business. Creating a rental agreement is an excellent way to ensure your hospitality business runs smoothly as it makes it easier to prevent and resolve disputes between you and your customers.
6. Make the Booking Process Easy
A complicated or strenuous booking process is likely to discourage new clients from patronizing your business. Firstly, your hospitality business should have an online booking and buying platform.
A large percentage of people prefer to make bookings online. If your business does not have an online booking platform, you are bound to lose a lot of customers. If you choose to use listing sites or booking platforms, make sure the platform is reputable and offer good customer service.
If you use your website for reservations, then customers should be able to make a booking with simple steps. The required information boxes should not be excessive.
The less time your guests spend booking, the better. You should include additional informational text to help your guests through the booking process. Before your booking system goes live, ensure you pre-test it to make sure it’s hitch-free. Also, you can create a mobile app that allows your guests to make bookings and other transactions.
7. Keep in Touch with Your Customers
Apart from gaining new customers, a good way to grow a profitable hospitality business is retaining valuable customers. Guests will value a company that can offer a personalized experience.
If your guests can get a personalized experience, they are more likely to make more bookings or refer your business to others. Always interact with your guests on a personal basis. You can send emails or appreciation messages after a successful booking.
You can also refer your customers to your social media pages or ask them to sign up for your newsletter if they prefer to. Though you shouldn’t spam your customers with ads or emails, ensure you send information periodically about new offers, promotions, or other relevant details.
This will help keep your business on your customers’ minds, thereby increasing the chances of having repeat bookings. Once you identify your most valuable customers, you should try to keep the communication lines open. Also, you can ask for referrals or recommendations from your long-term customers.
As we have previously stated, the hospitality industry is very competitive. You need to come up with creative ways to market your business. To ensure you get a steady flow of revenue from your hospitality business, ensure you follow these tips we have given above. Apart from these, always be on the lookout for new trends and innovations in the hospitality industry to help you stay on top of your game.
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Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’
By Andy Woods, Design Director of Rouge Media
The ‘North Star Metric’ (NSM) is one of many seemingly confusing terms to come out of Silicon Valley but its message is simple and universal.
It refers to the single metric businesses use to guide activity, drive key decisions and measure success. And while it may seem naïve on the surface, to boil business success down to a single metric, there is a method to the apparent madness.
It doesn’t mean businesses simply ignore all other performance data but instead measure it against the overarching goal they’re working towards.
Here’s how businesses can create their own North Star Metric and follow it to website success.
What is a North Star Metric?
The idea of a North Star Metric is to focus on the goal which delivers the most value for the business and its customers.
It’s a popular strategy adopted by successful business around the world. For example, Spotify set its North Star Metric as ‘time spent listening’, while Amazon focused on ‘purchases per month’. Every business decision was then geared towards increasing these metrics.
For the business, this increase means greater advertising revenue and sales, while for users, spending more time using the service or making more purchases shows the platform is meeting their needs.
Chasing this North Star Metric sees businesses align their efforts towards a single goal. For ecommerce businesses, this means sales and marketing activity is aimed at taking users to the website, where service experts provide relevant content and information and website designers add natural calls to action.
Finding the North Star Metric for your website project, whether it be sign-ups, purchases or more time spent on site, allows the whole team – plus your agency, if you work with one – to move in the same direction.
What does a successful NSM look like?
Nominating your NSM before undertaking a website project allows you to focus all your efforts in design, functionality and content on delivering your goal.
However, some businesses may have been operating for years with a North Star Metric that isn’t quite right. If you’ve been focusing your efforts towards a goal which isn’t driving value for the business or customers, and for which you struggle to measure impact, you may need to switch focus.
Key considerations for making sure your NSM delivers a positive impact for your business include:
Generating engagement: the internet is full of businesses fighting for custom and users don’t owe them anything. If a website doesn’t give them what they need, they can find one that does within minutes.
Solving consumer challenges: Customers want a product or service that solves their problems and they want it now. Does your website contain information that answers their questions? Does it call out the key features of your product or service that makes their life easier?
Building trust: The chances are, many businesses offer a similar product or service to you. Customers need to know your business is trustworthy if they’re to part with their cash. Case studies, awards and user reviews are examples of content which can improve your brand authority.
Finding your website’s NSM
Identifying your NSM doesn’t mean picking a goal that sounds good in the boardroom. It needs to be a targeted, realistic and measurable goal.
Dial-in on your NSM by answering these three questions:
What is the single most important thing your website should deliver? The answer to this should be simple and obvious – more sales, sign-ups, downloads or leads.
What do users want from the site? You’re likely to have many users, so try to identify your main three here. What are they looking for when they enter your site? Advice, a product, a follow-up from an employee?
Which metrics tie together the above? You need to be able to measure your performance in answering these questions. If you’re after more leads, monitoring on-site user data – like time spent on site and number of pages visited – gives you an indication of what users want and how well you’re meeting their needs.
There are many questions to answer when finding your NSM. A useful way to arrange the information is in a visual hierarchy. Place your NSM at the top, with the answers to these key questions as branches.
Breaking it down into a visual flow chart like this also helps with gaining crucial buy-in from the whole business, with teams visualising how their role fits into the wider goal.
As your business grows and industry and user demands change, you may need to adapt your NSM.
If you’ve been working towards an appropriate NSM, it may only need tweaking slightly. For example, as a start-up, your NSM may have been building awareness by generating more leads. After a few successful years, the business may decide to switch the focus from leads to online sales.
While the metric changes slightly, the original strategy has already laid the foundations for the new goal, with your website designed to drive traffic and provide helpful content to inform users’ buying decisions.
Using analytics data, businesses can make changes to their website to align with their changing goals. Look at how users are behaving on your site. Are there ways you can encourage them to convert or sign-up?
This data helps you understand where to add calls to action or how to improve website design and functionality, so completing a form becomes a natural part of navigating the site and accessing content.
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