Keeping a home in good condition requires regular maintenance. Whenever seasons change, you need to ensure your home is ready for that season. Summer is when the sun would be blazing in the sky. You need to be prepared to block out sunlight from entering your home. You need to ensure the air-conditioner is working fine to keep you cool in the heat. There are many things that you need to do to get your home ready for summer. Having a checklist would ensure that you don’t miss out on anything.
Here’s a comprehensive summer home maintenance checklist that will help make your home ready for summer. The checklist has things that you need to do before the summer starts.
- Get the air-conditioner and fans ready
Summer is when your air-conditioner would work at full load. Make sure that the air-conditioner is in good condition as it probably would run throughout the day. You may need to change the air filter if it is clogged up. Preventive maintenance would be helpful to ensure your AC is in good condition. You can consider calling a maintenance person to get the air-conditioner services. If you prefer to do it yourself, make sure you change the filters, clean the vents and test whether it is cooling well. Check if any plants have grown near the AC, they could be blocking the outlet and reducing its efficiency. Get plants and shrubs near the AC trimmed.
If you use fans, then test if they are working. You may need to clean the fans thoroughly as dust would have accumulated on top of the blades. If your fan has a provision to change direction of blade movement, set it to anti-clockwise. This ensures the fan would push the cool air down. If you use standing fans, remove the grill and clean both the grills and the fan blades.
If you are thinking of buying a new fan or air-conditioner, the best time is to buy it well before summer starts. If you buy it during summer, the chances are that its prices would go up due to high demand.
- Do a thorough windowcleaning
Keep your windows clean by dusting them. You can wash the windows using water mixed with a little quantity of mild detergent. Don’t forget to clean the window screens too. If you are using curtains or blinds, clean them and make sure the blinds are working fine. Clean windows ensure energy efficiency. If there is too much of sunlight entering through your windows, you are considering getting a tint for the windows so it would block out the sunlight and keep your home cooler.
- Check out fire control measures
Fires are common during a hot summer. Ensure that your smoke detector is working fine. Do test it out. If required, call in a maintenance engineer to get it repaired. Sometimes all you need to do is change the batteries. Try it out first and if it is still not working, call in the maintenance person. If you have a fire extinguisher, check if it is in working condition.
- Take care of the exteriors
The exterior of your home is what makes it look good. Do a detailed check to see if there are any problem areas that need fixing. There could be damage because of winter, that needs fixing. Attend to this on your own or take the help of a specialist. Dusting, cleaning and a wash of exteriors can be planned. Fix any cracks that have come up. If the paint has peeled off you can give it a touch-up. If it has been many years since the house was painted, you can consider a full paint job for the house.
Do check out the fence or wall around your home. Any cleaning, repair work can be planned. A fresh coat of paint can be applied to make it look good. Any gaps in the fence can be sealed to prevent pests from entering your home. Summer is when many pests make their appearance. So, ensure that gaps all around the house and even on the roof are fixed to prevent entry of pests. If you already have a pest infestation, consider calling in the pest control people. Make sure the gutter outside the house is clean to prevent pests from breeding. Standing water is an invitation for mosquitoes to breed, so cleaning the gutter keeps you safe.
- Fix the deck
If you have a deck area, then you would probably be using it more during the summer evenings. This is the right time to clean up the deck and patio area. A complete dusting, cleaning, and washing would be helpful. It is possible that there may be molds on wood due to winter. Get it fixed. Check for loose boards and hammer the nails in place. Your deck may need resealing. It is best to get it done before the summer starts. Don’t forget to clean all the furniture outside. Dusting and cleaning with a soap solution and leaving it to dry is the best way to get this done.
- Fix the landscaping
In summer, pests can find a great place to breed on your lawn, if it is overgrown. Remove any weeds and use the lawn mower to have a sleek looking lawn, where there is no place for pests. You can check out the plants, they may need some work to be done. Trimming of bushes, removing weed, cutting out dead branches can be completed before the summer starts.
Summer is when your plants will need more watering. Start deep watering of plants a little before the start of the summer. This ensures that the plants are ready to be watered deep throughout the summer when it becomes dry. It also promotes root growth. You can consider sprucing up your garden with new plants that grow in the summer. Add mulch to the plants to allow them to retain moisture during the hot months.
Summer is also when you can use solar power effectively. Get solar light for outdoors. You can light up for the entire lawn and outdoor area for free. The solar cells will be charged during the day and run your lights at night. It is a good idea to plan this before the summer.
- Keep the water pipes ready
Since your plants need more water during the summer, you need to keep the water pipes ready. Check if the pipes are working fine. Check if there are any leaks anywhere, especially in the taps. You don’t want to waste water during the summer. If you use sprinklers, check out if they are working fine.
- Get ready for the BBQ parties
Summer is when you would like to have barbeque parties on the deck. Make sure that you have all that is required for a barbeque. Bring out the grill and give it a thorough cleaning. If you have a charcoal grill, it may need thorough cleaning. Check if it is working fine. Clean the grills using soap water, wipe it clean and allow it to dry. If you have a gas grill, light it to high heat keeping it closed. Then let it cool down and you can clean it thoroughly.
- Clean the driveway and the walkway.
Cleaning and a strong power wash will be helpful in making it look spic and span. If there are any cracks, you can fill them, so that dirt won’t accumulate.
- Get your interiors ready
Now that you are done with the outside work, it is time to look inside. A thorough cleaning of the entire home can be done once. Cleaning of carpets and floor is a must. Clean all the rooms. You would no longer need the heavy blankets in your bedroom. Replace them with light ones. You can replace heavy curtains with light ones to allow the breeze to enter your house.
Carry out a complete check of the home for mold. Get rid of it before summer starts or it would grow in the warmth of the summer. While cleaning the inside of your home, do clean the attic. It would definitely be a difficult job with a lot of junk. Cleaning it up would allow you to block any gaps that allow pests to enter your house.
- Clean the kitchen and bathroom
You would of course, keep your kitchen and bathroom clean throughout the year. If you postponed cleaning to summer, then this is the time to get it done. Clean the kitchen sink. Use hot water to flush the pipes and ensure it is clean. Clean the dishwasher and washing machine too. The refrigerator would also be used more during the summers, so clean it and carry out preventive maintenance. If you are getting periodic maintenance done from professionals, then this is the time to get it done. Check the shower-head and pipes to fix any leaks.
Summer months is where you can cut down on your electric bill by using solar water heaters for your bath. Since everyday would be sunny, you can install solar panels to heat water. You can thus avoid using electric water heaters during the summer.
- Keep out dirt
Don’t forget to add a new doormat. Summer is when there is a lot of dirt and doormats are needed to keep the dirt out. You can keep a rough mat outside and a soft one inside to ensure your house does not become dirty.
- Clean the trash
Ensure the trash can is emptied. Clean it thoroughly or get a new trash can. Keep the trash can closed so that garbage is not exposed inviting pests.
- Put out the clothes to dry
During summer, you can again make use of the sun to dry clothes. Setup a clothesline in your backyard, where you can hang out clothes to dry. There is nothing like the natural heat of the sun to dry clothes naturally.
The above list is fairly comprehensive and covers all the things that need to be done before summer starts. Doing all these before summer starts would be very helpful in keeping your home in good condition.
Digital collaboration: Shaping the Future of Finance
By Ryan Lester, Senior Director of Customer Experience Technologies at LogMeIn
With heightened economic uncertainty and increased customer expectation becoming the norm in the banking industry, it is understandable that the sector is struggling to keep afloat. Due to its precarious nature, banking institutions are trying their best to ensure they remain relevant in the competitive landscape and guarantee that their customers continue to be a priority.
When it comes to the first half of this year, the pandemic has shown how easy it is for industries to fail. Customers and companies alike had to get used to the new normal, as physical locations started to close. The banking industry felt this first hand, as banks were made to restructure how their business ran, with restricted opening hours and a wider push to motivate people to use online banking.
While some had already embraced digital options prior to the pandemic, this proved to be a stark contrast to the elderly population, who frequently visited branches to access their finances. Moving forward, banks have to adopt new methods to ensure customers get the most out of our their accounts, without their experience suffering.
Heightened Customer Expectations
When the pandemic reached its peak, people were encouraged to use online banking, as telephone contact was under strain with long waiting times and pressure mounting on contact centre agents. According to Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), which works with 50 of the world’s largest banks, there was a 200% jump in new mobile banking registrations in early April, while mobile banking traffic rose 85%.
With branches remaining closed, customers were continuously being urged to limit the amount of calls they made to the most urgent cases and consider whether they could solve their answers through mobile online banking or checking the company website. Although already being adopted in pockets of the industry, this was a real catalyst that spurred banks to up their game on digital channels and with self-service tools.
Banks are challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. With the demographic of customers changing over the last few years, customers are becoming increasingly younger and more comfortable with technology. Influenced by the “Amazon Effect”, their expectations have raised to an all-time high, placing record strain on the sector
Customer experience isn’t just about support anymore, it’s about serving your customer at every point in the journey. Companies have an opportunity to elevate the experience they provide by moving beyond one-and-done interactions to create continuous engagements with their customers. It is starting to become a primary competitive differentiator in the market and one that doesn’t have a lot of variation. Deploying AI chatbot technology will be able to strategically help banks improve customer experience and raise the level of support that agents provide.
Digital collaboration: Working around the Clock
The benefits of adopting digital channels and self-service tools are second to none. By implementing chatbots, fuelled by conversational AI, banks will be able to help serve a wide range of customer queries and ensure they are protected from fraud and scams.
Conversational AI is exactly what it sounds like: a computer programme that engages in a conversation with a human. When it comes to service delivery, conversational AI can be deployed across multiple channels to engage with customers in ways that effectively address evolving customer needs. At a time defined by COVID-19, self-service tools such a conversational chatbots can work around the clock to solve customer queries in a concise and timely way. Of course, self-service tools won’t completely replace human agents in the banking industry, but they will help companies re-distribute customer traffic and workflows in ways that enhance customer experience. Self-service tools fuelled by conversational AI can also improve employee experience because service employees can handle fewer, but higher-level service tasks that chatbots might escalate to them.
Adopting new tools to help facilitate consistent and concise answers and help maintain customer experience is on the forefront of many industry minds. Banks such as the Natwest Group have seen this first-hand and are testament to the benefits that a good digital experience can provide. Simon Johnson, Capability Consultant, Digital at NatWest Group highlights NatWest’s use of digital tools during lockdown, “Over the last few months, we’ve learnt how to use digital tools to help our employees remotely. From a banking perspective, there have been a lot of changes including base rates, waive fees and the best ways of contacting our vulnerable customers, ensuring we keep them protected from frauds and scams.
“By introducing our Bold360 chatbot interface, Ella, we’ve been able to get relevant information out quickly, apply the best practice and ensure that our customer journeys are being developed correctly. Due to the volume of questions, some of our customers were finding themselves waiting longer than usual. So digital channels become essential to helping reduce the wait time. Using Bold360, we were able to mitigate issues and answer questions in a more timely way through our chatbot.
“Moving forward, as we open more digital services, we are analysing our data to see if customer will return back to their usual way of banking, now that they’ve seen what a good digital experience can provide. Either way, with Ella, we are ready.”
Chatbots and Humans: The Best Option for Customer Service
Over the last year, banking institutions have recognised the power that digital collaboration can have to their success. Delivering exceptional customer service and support is key for any business wanting to stay competitive in today’s market and banks are especially challenged with precariously balancing customer needs with the cost of personalised support. Leveraging the right technology, such as AI-powered chatbots, will enable the banking industry to provide better support and a more robust customer experience in the long term. Other institutions must follow suit, or risk becoming obsolete.
A sleeping digital giant wakes? 4 key trends accelerating payments transformation in the US
By Lauren Jones, International Payments Ambassador, Icon Solutions
The US payments industry is undoubtedly ripe for change. Before the unprecedented shock of COVID-19, digitization and payments transformation initiatives had been organic, piecemeal and predominately the preserve of the largest banks.
Now, increasing pressure means that financial institutions of all sizes are working to define a digital strategy to unlock new opportunities, drive business value, and stay competitive. But beyond the immediate impact of COVID, what underlying trends are accelerating digitization in the US?
- Real-time payments – the stimulus for change
Real-time payments have been met with a degree of caution by US financial institutions. Risking traditional profit generators in return for potential revenues down the line is a gamble many have not been willing to take. But immediate payments are coming to the US whether banks like it or not.
Major payments infrastructure providers, including NACHA and The Clearing House (TCH), have moved to encourage immediate payment adoption in recent years. But the Fed, frustrated with a slow rate of progress, has announced that it is pressing ahead with the implementation of its FedNow system (despite significant industry objection). Although the Fed’s true intentions are open to interpretation and this may just be a play to accelerate private initiatives, it is a clear signal that they mean business.
This means holdouts risk their own ‘Kodak’ moment if they miss the huge opportunities in front of them by fixating on traditional revenue streams. Banks are in a position to support innovation across entire industries such as healthcare, which could be released from the constraints of paper-based bureaucracy and slow, expensive transactions.
Another opportunity that can be unlocked via instant payments is ISO 20022 (used in the TCH RTP system). It is the future of payments messaging standards and can greatly enhance various payments processes through increased data-carrying capabilities. More importantly given the current climate, citizens reliant on federal or state support can benefit from RTPs combined with additional data to immediately access emergency funds.
- The kids are growing up
The US is getting older. Consumers who were 10 when the iPhone first launched are now 23. This means we are seeing a ramp-up of digitally native Gen Z consumers (roughly those born between 1995 and 2010) accessing banking services.
Demographics are an inexact science and not perfect predictors (there are technophobe college students and 100-year-old Instagram influencers), but we can detect noticeable trends.
Younger customers don’t usually choose a bank because there is an ATM in their neighbourhood, a slightly better interest rate or an advert in the newspaper. Rather, a strong digital presence, personalised tools, rewards and experiences, and the trusted recommendations of friends and family, will have a more significant impact on customer acquisition.
Banks must look at the effect this will have on their longer-term digitalization strategy and be able to segment what this emerging customer base might want and how they will interact in years to come.
- Checkmate? Evolving corporate requirements
Corporate treasurers are people and their experience of seamless, immediate payments in their personal lives shapes expectations in the workplace. Although check usage for business-to-business (B2B) transactions is still the norm in the US and barriers remain, corporates are increasingly demanding the ability to transact in a real-time, omnichannel environment, 24×7.
The benefits are clear. Corporate treasurers stand to enjoy enhanced liquidity management and transparency, greater control over payments and enhanced data for reconciliation purposes. And for consumers, alternative digital payment options such as buy now pay later promote choice and flexibility.
- Increasing competition
A significant consequence of emerging consumer and business demand for digital offerings is the increase in competition from fintechs, technology giants and other third-parties. Traditionally, incumbent banks have enjoyed the advantage of consumer trust to offset more limited innovation. But as consumers become more comfortable entrusting their financial transactions to non-banks, banks must differentiate and digitize to remain competitive.
Data is where the technology giants excel, and their ability to personalise experiences and emotionally connect with their users is unprecedented. Banks need to learn from the positive aspects of this model to better understand their users and deliver meaningful, useful products and services.
For data to become the cornerstone of a banks’ customer relationship and take services to the next level, breaking the channel silos and extracting value from a comprehensive dataset will be decisive. But with only 18% of banks reporting that they are in the process of shifting from a transactional revenue model to a data-driven revenue model, this work has some way to go.
Taking customer propositions to the next level
Customers now expect services that work for them, not their banks. All banks, no matter the footprint, need to move quickly to offer a broad digital service platform that adds value to both the customer and the bank.
By defining a robust payments transformation strategy, banks of all sizes can remain fiercely competitive by rapidly lowering costs, unlocking revenues and promoting innovation
Return to Work Doesn’t Mean Business as Usual When it Comes to Travel and Expense
By Rob Harrison, MD UK & Ireland, SAP Concur
The last few months have been an exercise in adaptability for businesses across the UK. With the sudden mandate to work from home, company processes that were ingrained in employees’ day-to-day routines were either put on hold or turned upside down. The new office normal now includes virtual meetings, conversing through instant messaging instead of in the hallway, and the redefining of “business casual” attire.
Many of the processes that have undergone changes fall into the category of travel and expense. With most business travel on hold and the nature of expenses changing, finance managers have had to adjust policies and practices to accommodate the new world of work. Recent SAP Concur research found that 72% of businesses have seen changes in the levels and types of expenses submitted, but only 24% have changed their policies to support this. Examples of travel and expense related changes that were made at the beginning of work from home mandates include:
- A halt to business travel and its associated expenses.
- Temporarily ending expensed meals for business lunches, dinners, or in-office meetings.
- Increase in office expenses like monitors and chairs as employees furnish their home offices.
- New expenses to consider like Internet and cell phone bills for employees who must work from home.
Now, as companies begin thinking about return to work plans, finance managers are discovering it’s not simply business as usual again. SAP Concur research found that many expect finance will return to normal quicker than general workplace practices, but vast majority see the process taking up to 12 months. New policies and processes need to be put in place to accommodate travel restrictions and changes in expenses. While finance managers need to stay flexible as the business environment continues to evolve, spend control and compliance should still be a high priority.
Here are a few questions that can help finance managers prepare for return to work while keeping control and compliance top of mind:
- What will travel look like for the company? Finance managers must work with travel and HR counterparts to determine the need for employee travel, if at all, and how to keep employees safe. At SAP Concur, we surveyed 500 UK business travellers and found that health and safety is now seen as more than twice as important than their business goals being met on trips (34% versus 16%. Clear guidelines should be developed, even if they are temporary or evolving, so it’s clear who can travel, when they can travel, and how they can travel. Duty of care plans should also be re-evaluated and businesses should ensure they know at all times where employees are traveling for business and how they can communicate with them in the event of an emergency.
- Who needs to approve travel and expenses? While it may be temporary, businesses may have to implement a more stringent approval policy for travel and other expenses. Due to health concerns related to travel and the need to conserve cash flow, business leaders like CFOs may want to have final approval over all travel and expenses until the situation stabilises. To help ensure new approval processes don’t cause delays and inefficiencies, finance managers should implement an automated solution that streamlines the process and allows business leaders to review and approve travel requests, expenses, and invoices right from their phones. According to SAP Concur research, 11% of UK businesses implemented some automation of financial processes in response to COVID-19. This is definitely set to increase post-pandemic.
What types of expenses are within policy? Prior to social distancing, employees may have been allowed to take clients out to dinner. In-person team meetings held during the lunch hour, may have included expensed lunches. As employees return to work, finance managers need to determine if these activities and expenses will be allowed again. Clear guidelines must be put in place and expense policies need to be updated to reflect any changes.
- What happens to home office items that were purchased? While new office equipment may have been purchased for employees’ home offices, they remain the business’s property and what to do with them as employees return to work needs to be determined. Perhaps employees will continue to work from home a few days a week and need to keep the equipment to ensure productivity. However, if a full return to work is expected, finance managers have options that can maximise their asset investment and possibly save the company money, like replacing old office equipment with the new purchases, reselling to a used office furniture company, or donating to a non-profit.
- How can cost control be ensured? For many businesses, cash flow will be tight for the foreseeable future. Spend needs to be managed to help ensure recovery and stability. An important aspect of controlling costs is having full visibility of expenses throughout the company. Implementing an automated spend management solution that integrates expense and invoice management brings together a business’s spend, giving finance managers an understanding of where they can save, where to renegotiate, and where to redirect budgets based on plans and priorities.
Once finance managers have asked themselves the questions above and determined how they want to approach travel and expense procedures, it’s vital they create guidelines and communicate clearly to employees. Compliance can only be ensured if employees have a clear understanding of what has and has not changed with travel and expense policies and what’s expected as they return to work.
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