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Show Some Gratitude Towards Your Customers

Gratitude can be expressed in different ways in a business relationship. How small businesses demonstrate their gratitude to customers through support processes and systems are directly tied business issues such as account growth, customer retention, subscription renewals- among others. Businesses wanting to show true gratitude towards their customers allow them to engage anytime, anywhere, on any device. Businesses that fail to deliver what is known as an omnichannel service experience put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

Customers expect their service interactions to be easy, personalized, in-context, and across all channels. Businesses that seek to push digital-only channels or focus on traditional contact center interactions struggle to deliver the experiences their customers want—or, to put it a different way, to show appropriate gratitude toward their customers. A recent study shows that the majority of customers—both B2B and B2C—remain dissatisfied with the engagement options offered by businesses:

·       50% feel frustrated that they must repeat information as they move across engagement channels

·       48% indicate responses by customer service agents are too slow

·       43% note they cannot use their preferred channels of communication

·       41% say engagement responses are not consistent across touch points

Enterprise and mid-size businesses must evolve to meet these new business realities. Those running their own contact centers must reassess their technologies, people, information, and processes. In some cases, the ensuring projects to address related deficiencies are quite daunting. Top obstacles they cite include:

·       Lack of system functionality (73%)

·       Engagement channels that are not integrated (68%)

·       Inconsistent responses across touch points (44%)

·       Inability to share data across business systems due to the lack of integration (39%)

What small businesses often fail to recognize is that the incline they must scale to tackle these challenges are often less severe than the incline facing their larger counterparts. Services like Davinci Live Receptionists, Auto Receptionists, and Live Web Chat enable them to outsource customer service engagement. They can look and act like much larger competitors.

So, for small businesses looking to engage an external third-party provider for customer service, what are some of the things to consider?

1. Multiple engagement channels. Finding a provider that offers engagement across multiple channels is critical. Forcing customers to use one or two engagement options of your choice will aggravate many—and not just Millennials—and result in them taking their business elsewhere (upwards of 60% saying they will do so). This means that you need to provide engagement through phone, email, social, text, and live web chat. And with growing numbers of customers preferring to start with do-it-yourself (DIY) channels such as forums, knowledgebases, etc. before engaging directly with businesses, this is an area that requires exploration and thought (viz., what they want, what their typical journeys look like, etc.).

2. Integrated systems and processes. Customers don’t want to repeat themselves as they move across engagement channels. For example, if they start with live web chat but need to move to phone, they do not want to spend the first five minutes of conversation updating the customer service agent on the interaction that took place via live web chat. And for any who think customers only use one or two channels, you need to think again. Millennials use an average of five channels when engaging with a brand for customer service, and while that number drops for other demographics, it remains in the multiples—even for those age 65+.

3. Cost-effective solution. Most small businesses don’t have the resources to pay for dedicated customer service agents. Instead, they need to find third-party providers with teams of customer service specialists who concurrently serve multiple clients and are experts on multiple engagement models. This is where solutions like Davinci Live Receptionists, Auto Receptionists, and Live Web Chat services enable organizations to achieve scale.

4. Extension of your team. Outsourced customer service engagement doesn’t mean there should be any sacrifice of quality or expertise. Customers should never get a sense that your customer service agent is anything but a full-time paid employee. As a result, small businesses need to look for providers with systems and processes in place that provide checks and balances and customer service agents who are at the top of their profession.

5. Escalation channels. Sometimes your first tier of customer service cannot answer a customer’s question or resolve their issue. Small businesses need to ensure that there are clear escalation paths and processes when those instances occur.

The holiday season is a time when individuals and businesses take a moment to show their gratitude. If you’re a small business that is falling short on giving your customers the right engagement experience, now may be the time to show some gratitude towards them. 

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3 Reasons to Embrace Gratitude in Business

"If you count all your assets, you always show a profit."

-Robert Quillen

With Thanksgiving around the corner, there’s no better time to tackle the topic of gratitude in business. It’s not a topic that gets a whole of attention, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Here are three reasons you should embrace gratitude at the workplace:

Perspective

When we have an attitude of gratitude we look for the good in things. We don’t become so easily discouraged by downtrends, and instead we focus on what we have. 

That’s not to say that we as entrepreneurs shouldn’t take an honest look at our weaknesses so that we can improve them and remain competitive—but if we forget to look to the positive, we will lose pride and confidence in our entrepreneurial endeavors.

Culture 

In previous decades, no matter the conditions—one felt “lucky” to be hired. But ever since pioneers like Google came on to the scene in the 90’s, it seems like there’s been a cataclysmic shift in workplace culture. Nowadays its common and almost expected that management show touches of appreciation to their employees. 

Is this directional change motivated purely by good will towards mankind? It’s possible. But what’s more likely is that business owners are realizing the marketing potential of being a “fun” and “good” company to its people. These types of investments can help attract top talent, and reduce turnover.

Furthermore, gratitude turns employees and the public into fanboys and brand ambassadors. This gives employees pride and makes them want to work harder and spread the word about their company. When people have a positive impression and good feelings towards a company, that converts to dollars. 

Personal Health

Forbes quotes a study by Dr. Robert A. Emmons that purports that being grateful can increase your happiness:

"Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret. Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression."

This is one of several studies that have been conducted on the topic, others which have shown gratitude to improve sleep, increase mental strength, deal with adversity and improve relationships.

The fact is that gratitude is good not only for our spirits and health, but for business too. At Bookly, we make sure to send client anniversary cards to all of our stellar bookkeeping clients. Yes, it’s a small gesture. But it lets our fellow entrepreneurs that they are appreciated. 

This November as Thanksgiving approaches, consider ways to invest in a culture of gratitude at the workplace—we promise you it will pay dividends. As Eckhart Tole writes, the key to abundances is recognizing that which you already have.

We couldn’t agree more.

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How an Attitude of Gratitude Can Spur Business Success

Gratitude. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines it as “a feeling of appreciation or thanks.”

Much has been written about having an attitude of gratitude. Walking in gratitude is a powerful lifestyle. Robert Emmons is a psychologist widely considered the top expert on gratitude. His research shows gratitude can increases happiness levels by about 25 percent.

But gratitude goes beyond living happily ever after—it also holds business value.

Globoforce’s Spring 2014 Workforce Mood Tracker survey reveals 86 percent of employees who were shown gratitude in the workplace felt more motivated in their roles. What’s more, more than 80 percent of employees who felt appreciated at work wanted to hold steady at their current company, according to Globoforce’s Spring 2012 Workforce Mood Tracker. That compares to 60 percent who did not feel appreciated and were actively seeking a new job.

Gratitude also impacts employee engagement. Globoforce’s 2013 Workforce Mood Tracker study revealed employees empowered to give thanks to peers were over twice as engaged as those not empowered. The studies go on and on, confirming one another and demonstrating gratitude enhances social connections, health, energy levels and the capacity to achieve while reducing stress, depression and loneliness.

“Saying thank you is an emotional act. It doesn't just acknowledge someone's effort, kindness, intent, or action. It recognizes the person himself,” says Tim Askew, CEO of Corporate Rain International. “It's even more important than acknowledging the principal person you are doing business with because it sets a tone for discussion. And it is a winning tone. When you suffuse your preliminary actions with gratitude, it shines out of you as a penumbra of generosity.”

David Horsager, author of The Trust Edge: How Top Leaders Gain Faster Results, Deeper Relationships, and a Stronger Bottom Line, says his own academic research on trust has revealed not only that gratitude makes a difference but that people don’t require big gestures, just heartfelt ones.

“Simple but genuine thank-yous or small, handwritten notes of appreciation can mean the world to people. So if it’s so easy, why don’t we do it more often?” he asks. “When it comes to business, I think we fall into the trap of not seeing people when we work with them. We take them for granted and just assume they don’t need a show of gratitude. This oversight can have huge consequences, particularly if you’re the boss.”

Lori Saitz, a nationally recognized expert in using gratitude to boost client retention and increase referral business, says the unstated benefit of a thank you is the feeling you give to others. As see sees it, plenty of business people think that their clients make decisions based solely on practical, logical factors—but no one makes decisions without incorporating emotional factors as well.

“As humans, it’s virtually impossible to do. Which means that how you treat your clients, how your clients feel about working with you, whether they are buying for individual consumption or on behalf of their business, is of the utmost importance,” she says.

“Showing your appreciation is an integral part of building and strengthening your relationship. There was a study conducted not long ago that found a mere 5% improvement in customer retention would increase profits 25 to 100. Wow, that’s incredible! If you could use appreciation as the powerful and influential tool it is, and it actually increased your business, why in the world would you not take advantage?”

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How a Virtual Office Address Program Improves a Business’s Legitimacy and Success

 We live in a time where anyone with a dream of opening up a business, or even an enthusiastic hunch, can do so without breaking the bank. The first step in achieving legitimacy for a budding enterprise is to establish a business identity that says to the consumerist world that the business is not just a passing whim based out of a dining room table -- but that there is some substance to it since it’s housed in a professional workplace environment. That is the beauty of a Virtual Office provider. It’s legitimizing, and it speaks to the seriousness and determination of a businessperson to succeed without over-extending one’s financing or forcing itself into a lengthy term commitment. It’s a prudent and ideal hedge and stepping stone in the journey to greater success -- or even a business empire.

A Virtual Office plan, with its many components and advantages, most notably it’s address/mailbox feature, allows an entrepreneur to project that his or her business is beyond just the home-bound, ‘good idea’ stage. It shows that it is firmly established in a professional environment that can receive people, clients, mail and packages, hence forming the foundation for a legitimacy and a confidence that a prospect or client can bank on knowing that there’s a basic business structure in place, which is a critical step for any new business, especially a freelancing, solo-perineurial one.

There was a time when a Virtual Office itself wasn’t sufficiently legitimizing, often considered the space of last resort for an under-financed and under-committed businessperson, or a place where someone unemployed/in transition would park a pseudo/long-shot business in the hopes of getting lucky or buying time until latching on to a top-notch job. In that sense and in those times, in certain circles, Virtual Offices were sometimes considered the opposite of how they are regarded today -- more of a business de-legitimizer, a holding pattern for someone’s ultimate next step. But those days are long gone.

A Virtual Office plan, starting with an address plan plus the possibility of phone answering or meeting space option has gained tremendous momentum and popularity for the past ten years, to the point where today it is regarded as the wise and necessary jumpstarting step that demonstrates lean and savvy business planning, plus financial prudence. No longer is an enclosed, full-time, expensive, fixed-term, leased office -- that, at most, is used 40 hours a week, but usually a lot less these days -- a business requirement for gaining legitimacy and confidence in the marketplace. A Virtual Office, starting with a legitimizing address program, is not only highly acceptable; it also legitimizes an entrepreneur’s business acumen, wisdom, and respect for their, and their client’s expenses, which is why a Virtual Office is such a hugely successful work-way today, and more so tomorrow.

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Acting with Integrity Towards Your Customers with Omnichannel Engagement

Integrity Equals Omnichannel Engagement

The meaning of integrity has its roots in ancient Greco-Roman philosophy and ethics, implying a sense of fullness or wholeness in personal and professional relationships. For those businesses wishing to show integrity toward their customers, the extrapolation is that they take on a sense of completeness.

Yet, for those businesses that fail to offer their customers what is known as an omnichannel engagement experience, there is a sense of incompleteness—or we could even say a lack of integrity. These are pretty hard-hitting words and something that many may not want to hear. But the reality is that your customers (and prospects) cannot achieve fullness in their relationship unless you engage with them through the engagement channels of their choice.

It isn’t voice, email, self-service, social, or live web chat. It’s all of the above. For digital engagement, it isn’t simply the web or mobile; it also includes chatbots—both text and audio. And customers expect personalized, contextually aware journeys with integrated back-end systems. Failing deliver this level of customer experience shows a lack of integrity on the part of a business.

Omnichannel as a Differentiator

Digital engagement certainly is the name of the game today. Thirty-five percent of interactions take place on digital, which will overtake voice in two years. However, while voice will diminish as a share of engagement in the contact call center, it remains a preferred option across all demographic groups. For example, millennials even identify voice as a required option. Recognizing the importance of omnichannel engagement, call centers are turning to multiple technologies that enable them to deliver engagement across numerous channels.

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) are struggling to compete in this omnichannel world. Nearly one-half feel the always-on nature of the digital economy requires that they must be “always available” to deal with work-related issues. However, the digitization of the economy and technology disruption offers SMBs the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and in the case of customer relationship integrity, a chance to offer omnichannel engagement ahead others in their space.

One aspect that is important for SMBs to remember when they develop an omnichannel engagement strategy is that human engagement remains critical—whether voice, live web chat, email, or other methods. Despite a growth in self-service preferences and engagement delivery, an astounding 83 percent of customers indicate speaking with a person will always be an important part of a customer engagement channel. This sets a really high bar for SMBs that have limited budgets and time. Setting up and managing technologies that enable integrated omnichannel engagement is outside the realm of possibilities for many SMBs. Further, even if that were the case, staffing them with top-notch customer service and sales agents is just as difficult.

SMBs Use Omnichannel to Look and Act Big

The upside is that technology disruption now makes it possible to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience to customers. Additionally, SMBs can scale their capabilities by tapping external third-party providers and solutions such as Davinci Live Receptionists and Live Web Chat. SMBs can purchase the total number of voice, email, and live web chat interactions they need on a monthly basis, scaling those up and down to meet their business requirements. At the same time, they assume no overhead acquisition and management costs for the technology nor staffing. Under this model, SMBs are able to act with integrity towards their customers and look and behave like their much larger counterparts. 

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