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Why customer service still remains the most valuable weapon in your digital strategy

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Why customer service still remains the most valuable weapon in your digital strategy

Chris McClellan, CEO at RAM Tracking 

As a CEO of a growing technology company I’ve had my fair share of LinkedIn messages, emails and conference presentations. Every year it’s always the same declaration that a tactic is now dead or the latest buzzword is the “next big thing”. In the last 5 years we’ve had content marketing, big data, SoLoMo, gamification, blockchain etc. Each one has been heralded by the gurus, ninjas and “experts” as something that I absolutely must be doing in my business to survive online. Every year I hear this I always eagerly wait for someone to actually hit the nail on the head, but I’m always left disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these tactics and approaches have their place and some are wildly exciting and innovative, but too many companies from SME to PLC get caught up in trying to “find the next big thing”. Ironically, the latest next big thing is one of the oldest lessons in the book – customer service.

When I started RAM Tracking in 2004 I made a conscious decision to position the company as an online-first vehicle tracking provider. We invested in our website, social media, email marketing, PPC and SEO. Before I spent a single penny on any of these though I made sure that the culture right throughout my team was that customer service was the most important element of everything we do online.

Now in 2018, it’s interesting to see that the value of a positive customer service is becoming more important again. Gartner recently revealed that more than 50% of businesses plan to reinvest in improving their customer service experience. Another study recently showed that 72% of customers will share a positive experience with 6 or more people. Getting your customer service right not only improves retention and brand reputation, but it reduces the reliance on new business through upselling to an already captive audience as well as gaining positive customer referrals is highly likely to help bring in conversions and leads.

With this in mind, I’ve written down some of the core activities I believe every small business should be doing in 2018 to improve their customer service experience online.

CRM

  • A Customer Relationship Management system like Salesforce (which RAM Tracking use throughout every aspect of the business) is vital for maintaining a positive customer service. Not only does it allow your business to track and view the entire sales journey from initial first click through to repeat orders, but it gives your entire team (from telesales through to social media) access to a customer’s history in seconds. Having all of that information at your fingertips instantly means that representatives of your company appear knowledgeable, up to speed and can help understand the customer’s business and relationship with you in a matter of seconds.

Segmentation for all activity

  • Blanketing your customers with the same messaging and content is likely to see your engagement rates drop, bounce rates increase and annoy your customer base. One of the benefits of using a CRM is that you can begin to categorise your customers based on their location, revenue and what product/services are applicable to them. We learnt early on that sending sales content to customers who in fact already utilise all our services would only have a negative effect. Instead, we segment all of our communications as to not upset or bombard customers but instead send them a personalised experience.

Value-added content

  • In a competitive marketplace creating content can be a difficult task. In many instances it’s hard to differentiate from what has been said already before. There is a temptation to create content that is off-brand or even irrelevant in a bid to be more creative. Alternatively, if you’re trying to improve your Organic Search performance a poor but common approach is to create content solely for search engines. Instead, look to create value for your customers. Have your content and customer services team sit down, discuss what the most frequently asked questions are on the phone and then go away and create this content to help answer it. Not only will this help your site rank for intent-based questions for SEO but it’ll give your customer service team an asset to be able to direct customers to.

Make referral rewarding

  • As previously mentioned, the power of referral or word of mouth is enormous, yet many businesses do little to tap into it. Set up a simple referral scheme that rewards loyal customers for recommending you. Rewarding them with a £25 or £50 Amazon voucher is a great way of incentivising and encouraging this behaviour. In many industries a CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) of £25 is likely to be substantially less compared to PPC.

Constant customer feedback

  • The most important of all my tips is to be never scared of seeking out feedback. Without it, it’s hard to know where to start (or even identify if there is a problem). We regularly work with the IIC (Investor In Customers) to have our customer service independently assessed. From some of the feedback we received, we made changes quickly to improve upon these areas and saw our rating go from two star to the top standard of a three star rating. This isn’t something we do every few years to get a nice accreditation, but something we aim to do this every 6 months. It allows us to adapt and evolve our offering with customers’ expectations, new technology and gives my management team benchmarks to measure against.

All in all, investing in customer service doesn’t need to be tasking. By making a few steps you can improve the way your brand is perceived, how many customers you retain for repeat business and improve internal operation efficiencies.

Business

Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’

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Finding and following your website’s ‘North Star Metric’ 1

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.

Andy Woods

Andy Woods

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.

Final destination

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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Risk assessment: How to plan and execute a security audit as a small business

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Risk assessment: How to plan and execute a security audit as a small business 2

By Izzy Schulman, Director at Keys 4 U

Despite the current global coronavirus pandemic and the uncertainty it has placed on the modern workplace, businesses cannot afford to relax their attitude towards security. Especially as there have been reports of increased break-ins and cyberattacks among the crisis.

Conducting a thorough security audit could be the key to improving employee awareness and identifying weak points in the business to avoid breaches.

Starting from scratch

The first step in an effective business security audit is a risk assessment – reviewing the workplace and all business processes to identify every risk.

No stone should be left unturned. This means conducting a physical inspection of the office, plus breaking down all employee tasks and demands and even reviewing how employees are working from home amid the current pandemic.

It’s important all risks are identified, so relevant and proportionate measures can be put in place – from heavy lifting to ensuring a comfortable office temperature.

At this stage, it’s also important to get employees to buy-in to security policy. Everyone needs to play their part to ensure complete safety.

Let employees know you understand they’re busy with their role but everyone needs to pull together to stay secure.

Offering incentives like employee recognition emails or even small rewards like gift vouchers may incentivise employees to go the extra mile.

Assessing the workplace

The average small business break-in sees around £2,000 lost in stolen property – not to mention the cost of disruption as a result of lost or damaged equipment.

Office security audits should begin with entry points, checking potential break-in spots like doors – and windows if you’re on a low floor – are monitored by alarms and cameras. Make sure these are visible, as this is known to deter potential intruders from trying their luck.

The workplace must also be protected against fire risks. Not only do fires threaten to destroy property and disrupt businesses, but hefty fines can be issued for failing to meet fire safety standards.

Carry out a thorough fire risk assessment, including nominating and clearly signing fire exits, establishing an emergency procedure and educating staff on its steps.

Safety audits should also highlight any trip hazards or danger of falling objects, plus any electrical or flooding risks.

Plus, this year has brought its own health and safety risks, with the coronavirus pandemic demanding new hygiene and social distancing measures.

For businesses with over five employees, the government has put together a specialised risk assessment for a COVID-19 compliant workplace, including advice on handwash stations and staggering shifts to avoid contact.

The online threat

The cost of cyberattacks to UK businesses is estimated at around £34 million a year – from the theft of intellectual property and the cost of recovering from the attack.

However, the coronavirus pandemic has only increased the risk, with many employees encouraged to work remotely, away from employers and IT managers.

A combination of technical IT solutions and educating employees on cybersecurity best practices can help businesses navigate these uncertain times.

For example, multi-factor authentication technology means employees are prompted to enter multiple login credentials to confirm their identity – typically their standard password plus a one-time code sent to their phone.

Even if their password is stolen, the attacker is still unable to log in to the company network without the additional code.

Managing permissions by employee case adds an extra layer of security, with individuals only able to access the data they need. If an employee’s device is breached, it limits the amount of data available to the attacker.

Keeping the company network secure is a team responsibility. Arrange calls in small groups in which IT professionals can explain new remote working protocols in detail and emphasise the importance of adherence, as well as answering employee questions.

Look ahead

Investing time and budget into identifying and addressing threats now, places businesses in a stronger position to maintain high standards of security in the future.

All information gathered from the security audit should be recorded, laying the foundations for a security framework and annual security audits. Log each hazard, along with the status of the risk and measures taken to prevent it.

The idea is to create a clear and structured audit process, which is intuitive to follow if personnel changes occur, or in an emergency. Include a priority checklist with the most significant risks, along with key dates for renewals or updates of any key equipment or facilities.

Update the file year-round, with all new information which may impact business or employee security. Any physical changes to the office should be recorded, along with new or updated equipment and machinery and any significant IT updates. Include key contacts and manufacturer information in the notes to speed things up in case of an emergency.

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Buying enterprise professional services: Five considerations for business leaders in turbulent times

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Buying enterprise professional services: Five considerations for business leaders in turbulent times 3

By James Sandoval, Founder and CEO,  MeasureMatch 

The platformization of professional services provides businesses with direct, seamless access to the skills required to face any crisis or opportunity. 

The business world was ill-prepared for the current crisis, but a new breed of professional services marketplace platforms is providing valuable access to much-needed enterprise software and data specialists to curb the damage and rise to the challenge. 

In today’s age of distributed teams, remote working and material lifts in online communication and commerce, digital systems and data skills are highly important and a matter of success or failure for many organizations.

Enter the ‘platformization of professional services’. Over the last few decades – in a majority of sectors – consumers’ worlds have been reshaped by platformization and personalization. Companies which have offered traditional products and services have moved online or they have been replaced by nimbler online competitors. 

The most successful of these companies exhibit two qualities: They offer a platform for others to trade, communicate and to build upon, tailoring their services to the needs of individual consumers. Platformization and personalization.

The innovations born out of the platformization and personalization of B2C businesses are now beginning to transform the buying and selling of goods and services between businesses as well. 

This means that businesses increasingly have extraordinary human capital investment flexibility and can safely, cost effectively remain well-equipped to survive and thrive through the most turbulent of times.

Here, MeasureMatch Founder and CEO, James Sandoval, has summarised five core benefits of the platformization of professional services for organizations feeling the heat from shareholders, competitors and even disruptions from pandemics.

  1. Unparalleled Accountability

The best of today’s professional services marketplaces will win the confidence – and budgets – from clients because they not only provide access to highly desired skills and services, but they’ve also gone to extraordinary lengths to maximise success by conducting, amongst other things, identity, insurance, skills vendor partner verifications. And this is on top of star ratings, written reviews, flexible contract management and more.  

  1. Exceptional Speed

The combination of cloud computing services, plus deep ravines of data from historical customer engagement and completed contracts, means that professional services platforms can and should add exceptional value immediately on entry, and across every step of the experience – prior to spending a penny. 

  1. ‍Mind-blowing Service

Professional services platforms are built for people to use – people from different walks of life and with different business needs. The best platforms provide an equally exceptional layer of people. They differentiate with added human value in the form of due diligence, domain and process expertise. 

  1. Lower Costs

The OECD says unit labour costs “can be expressed as the ratio of total labour compensation per hour worked to output per hour worked (labour productivity).” Teams and individuals contracted via marketplace platforms, however, are armed and ready with requisite domain knowledge, experience and skills – which means there’s no requirement for the overhead costs commonly required for training, insurance, HR, office rent, utilities, which can amount to 25% to 100% on top of salaries. 

  1. Material Value

Taking into account the contributions made by an unlimited capacity for precise machine-driven matching, exceptional accountability and flexibility, measurable productivity lifts, topped with human customer service and an attractive cost basis, it’s no wonder professional services marketplaces are exploding in popularity. The opportunities for value creation are material and available now.

The future will come with more complexity, surprises and risk. The platformization of professional services, together with advancements in enterprise personalization, will help everyone to embrace it all with confidence, balance and success. 

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