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Business Leaders Live the “American Dream” by Capturing the Right Work-Life Balance

Eighty-nine percent of Americans report that work-life balance is a problem, with 54 percent of those calling it a significant problem.1 For business leaders, the data doesn’t get any better. Over half of small business leaders work more than 50 hours a week, and 20 percent indicate they work more than 60 hours a week.2

What some small business leaders may have originally pined as “living the dream” may no longer be their perception. Indeed, only 24 percent of business leaders claim they have never experienced larger psychological issues as a result of work-related stress. When asked why their work-life balance is off-kilter, the most often-cited reason is that some tasks they cannot delegate or felt they could not outsource the work.3

The Art of Delegation

Delegating responsibilities and outsourcing are two different functions. When it comes to delegating tasks, 65 percent of business leaders indicate they are good or very good at delegation.4 This seems to contradict the fact that they cite the inability to delegate as their number one work-life balance challenge. Digging underneath the hood provides clarification—specifically why they don’t delegate. The following are the top reasons why business leaders fail to delegate:

  • 30 percent indicate they are more capable than their employees
  • 20 percent note their employees don’t have the right skill sets
  • 20 percent are in a hurry to get it done
  • 19 percent enjoy the task and don’t want to give it to someone else

The first three can be solved with better hiring practices, time management, and employment empowerment. In the case of the final reason, job fulfillment may trump the need/desire to delegate the task.

Intelligent Outsourcing

The rise of freelance marketplaces such as Upwork, Toptal, Work Market, among many others makes it easy and faster to search for, select, and manage freelance workers for one-off projects. They also provide freelance workers at significant lower cost than via agencies or other third-party providers.

But not all outsourced work is the same. There are some areas where the expertise of a third-party supplier is needed. Interactions a business has with its prospects and customers are its lifeblood. For prospects, first impressions are crucial. In his award-winning book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell finds that first impressions—whether personal or professional—happen in a matter of seconds. Individuals connect with other people and companies based on their initial perceptions. Getting beyond a bad initial impression is virtually impossible. (Check out our blog post, “Making First Impressions Count: 9 Factors for Consideration,” for more details on this subject.)

For customers, ongoing positive experience translates not only into higher satisfaction and loyalty but willingness to advocate on behalf of the company and solution in question. But the flip side is also true. The proliferation of technology makes it increasingly easy for customers to leave and go to competitors, as well as become digital detractors via their social networks, third-party review sites, among other digital channels. How a business manages its digital and human interactions with its customers is thus critical.

The entry point for live inbound and outbound answering services such as Davinci Live Receptionists has never been lower than today. No longer tethered to a full-time receptionist but rather relying on a team of customer service representatives, small businesses can have highly knowledgeable professionals handle inbound-and-outbound communications with prospects and customers as well as various other marketing and customer service functions. And with teams of customer service representatives dedicated to 10 to 15 customers, Davinci Live Receptionists can scale up and down to accommodate changes in business.

But the need to make the key moments of impact with prospects and customers count extends beyond voice interactions. A growing demand for digital engagement options—from prospects such as live web chat ratchets up the work-life pressures placed upon business leaders even further. Davinci Live Web Chat gives business leaders the ability to offer prospects and customers live digital engagement without the cost and maintenance of the technology as well as responsibility for the ongoing staffing and management of the solution.

Suddenly, with the one-two punch of Live Receptionists and Live Web Chat, business leaders can see an equilibrium return to the work-life teeter totter. They can focus on evolving the business and forming strategic business relationships with customers rather than managing tactical execution of customer service and sales support.

DIY Customer Service

Seventy-five percent of consumers like using do-it-yourself (DIY) customer options, with 65 percent preferring it over email and phone engagement channels. B2B customer support is comparable; Gartner predicts today’s 55 percent of DIY customer service interactions will rise to two-thirds by 2017.5 DIY is also just as important for prospects: almost half of consumers indicate they will abandon an online purchase if they cannot find answers to their questions.6

All of this means that companies need to provide customers with FAQs and knowledgebases on their websites and customer communities so that they can answer their questions themselves. And since they are answering their own questions instead of calling, emailing, or submitting them via live chat small business leaders are able to reallocate the time spent doing so to other tasks—and to work on improving their work-life balance.

Bringing Balance to the “Work-Life Force”

There are certainly other ways to create a better work-life balance such as transitioning from a fixed-office location to a virtual model or instituting a work-from-home policy.7 Using virtual office space via services such as Davinci Virtual Office Solutions enables small businesses to reduce cost, improve productivity, increase retention rates, as well as revitalize work-life balance.

Business leaders who feel there is a “disturbance” in the work-life force need to take a step back and look their options: learn the art of delegation, be intelligent in outsourcing tasks and functions, and give prospects and customers DIY choices.

Resources:

1Kathy Gurchiek, “Survey: Work/Life Balance Off-Kilter in U.S.,” Society for Human Resource Management, September 15, 2010.
2 “New Survey Shows Work-Life Balance Is Possible, But Not Likely for Entrepreneurs,” The Alternative Board, November 8, 2013.
3Ibid.
4Ibid.
5 Brian Manusama, “Why You Need to Rethink Your Customer Self-Service Strategy,” Gartner, March 17, 2015.
6 “Customers Want to Help Themselves?” Zendesk, accessed January 27, 2016.
7 Nicolas Bloom, “To Raise Productivity, Let More Employees Work from Home,” Harvard Business Review (January-February 2014).

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10 Ways to Keep Your Enemies (Competitors) Close, Part II

Following the instructions of Sun Zi, the author of The Art of War, we argued in Part I of this two-part blog post that businesses should “keep their friends close, but their enemies (competitors) closer.” In the post, we included five ways that businesses can learn from their competitors:

1. Digital Engagement

2. Website Traffic

3. Search

4. Content Marketing

5. Social Media

Understanding what your competitors are doing—including pro and con—can help businesses gain valuable insights into market dynamics and trends as well as what they should and shouldn’t be doing. The following are the final 6 of 10 things businesses can learn from their competitors:

6. Customer Service

In today’s digital age, customer service has taken on much greater meaning and importance. Businesses should find out what their competitors are doing on the customer service front and leverage that intelligence to their advantage. Here are three areas for consideration:

Human component. How are your competitors using humans to differentiate their customer service experiences? Are they elevating live human interactions at the right moments that optimize their resources while delivering great customer experiences?

Omnichannel engagement.
Customers want the option to interact with brands through multiple channels. Are your competitors forcing their customers to use one or two channels rather than giving them options?

Customer service experience.
Where do your competitors engage with customers for service? Is their website the sole destination or are they meeting them on third-party communities and forums? If the latter, then you need to get there.

In each of these instances, businesses can learn what is effective with their customers based on what competitors are doing or not doing. They also can capture a competitive advantage by providing experiences customers want but are not getting from competitors.

7. Email Marketing

Despite prognostications that the end of email marketing is fast approaching, it still is one of the most effective campaign tools today. Understanding how your competitors leverage email marketing gives you valuable information as to what is effective and if any one competitor has an advantage over you because of what they are doing when it comes to email. Some of the competitive areas to explore include:

1. Use of customized emails to personalize touches with buyers and customers

2. Leverage of email campaign automation (efficiencies)

3. Links to content and events within emails

4. Connections in other marketing channels to sign up for email communications (where, when)—including third-party sites

5. Frequency of email communications to buyers and customers based on personas and journey stage

8. Advertising

Finding out where your competitors locate their online ads, what types of banners and text they employ, and how much they spend is valuable business intelligence. A starting point in the process is to launch your own display advertising campaign. The following are some of the tools that you can use; these will give you intelligence on your rivals at the same time.

SEMrush enables users to determine which type of ads (both text and image) competitors are running.

Whatrunswhere pinpoints where competitors are running ads and what metrics are being generated for both desktop and mobile views.

Adbeat reveals where competitors are spending money and the profitability of each ad channels.

9. Trade Shows

Trade shows are expensive expenditures and optimizing your attendance is critical. Understanding how your competitors approach trade shows and then execute at them will uncover what works and doesn’t work as well as opportunities where competitors have gaps. The following are some areas to investigate:

What trade shows are they attending? Which ones are they sponsoring?

How do rivals communicate with buyers and customers in advance, at, and after trade shows?

How do they employ social networks as part of their larger event strategy?

Are they promoting their business in a special manner—sponsorship levels, booth space, presentation spots, etc.?

How do they engage with customers at the trade shows—in their booths, in sessions, outside of sessions, etc.?

What offers do they make available at trade shows and the response they generate?

Is there something you can offer that rivals cannot at tradeshows?

10. Talent Management

For certain skill sets, there is a talent war in many markets today. Organizations able to attract and recruit the best talent—full time and contingent—perform better than those who struggle to do so. Businesses—big and small—need to understand what their competitors are doing when it comes to talent management. Consider the following:

1. First impressions with a brand matter. Are your competitors doing something special with their online job ads (videos, images, content in job postings, etc.)? Do they showcase a particular element of their brand that differentiates them from other brands?

2. Frequency of impressions matter. How often do job ads appear and are they aligned with the right audiences? For example, if Millennials are a targeted talent pool for a business, then they need to have job postings on the social networks where Millennials go.

3. Interview experience. Do your competitors do something special or different during the interview process? Candidate experiences do matter…look at Glassdoor if you don’t believe this to be the case.

4. Employee and candidate feedback. Do workers like working at rival companies? Do job candidates like the recruiting and interview processes? Check out their reviews on Glassdoor.

We’re interested to find out how you keep your “enemies” close. Post your ideas in the comments section below.

Competing as a small business is never an easy undertaking. Davinci Virtual has worked with thousands of small businesses to help them compete like big businesses by leveraging our broad portfolio of services. For help in tackling your business needs, call us, email us, or chat with us today.

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Customer success story – Virtual Touch Pro

This month’s success story focuses on Virtual Touch Pro, a computer repair business operating out of Seattle and utilizing our virtual receptionist & call answering service. The company was founded in 2012 and services the Seattle area but also provides computer assistance remotely. Virtual Touch Pro has successfully integrated Davinci Virtual answering service & virtual receptionists into their company, so we bring you their story in our Customer Success Series this month.

When the company started their search for an answering service that works for the tech industry, they got online and started browsing the options, like most of our customers do, and they came across Davinci Virtual. Scot Runyan, one of the managers at the company, took a look at Davinci Virtual solutions when it comes to outsourcing their call answering and customer support needs. After comparing the reviews and offerings of what was currently out there, the company decided to go with Davinci.

In the initial feedback from the customers, they stated, “We looked at other solutions, but there was nothing like what Davinci does. Most impressive thing is that if a problem came up, they had a great system to taking care of it and were very professional about it”. This came in very helpful as the main pain point Virtual Touch Pro was trying to solve is to have someone there to get information from the person on the other end. Scot went on to say, “[We] needed a professional to answer and give the correct information and also to be able to receive the information around the time that it came in. You need to have a 5 star business to have a 5 star life, and Davinci helps to get us there”.

This isn't the first time the company’s management team has used an answering service, as Scot let us know that they used a local answering company for their receptionist needs in the late 70’s and 80’s, but is glad to be with Davinci in the 21st century. He noted, “I never had any problems with Davinci’s phone system. And phones can drive you crazy! We are always busy and [with Davinci], we are now able to get back to our client’s issues and saving time”. Although the company is still looking at their data, they feel confident to say that Davinci has had an impact on their overall new business opportunities and sales.

The end results for this tech company was that they were able to focus on growing their business and assisting customers, while greatly reducing distractions. When we asked Scot if he would recommend Davinci Virtual Office Solutions, he stated, “If there is a business that has any communication by phone, I would let them know that they would be able to have an intelligent representative who can answer your calls clearly, professionally and efficiently. The team that answers my calls do a great job!” It is stories like these that Davinci is known for, and why our reviews outshine the rest, as we care about the success of each and every one of our customers. Give us a call for a free consultation on how we can help you streamline your business. You can also take a look at our call answering cost calculator to see how much we could save you in terms of time you spend answering calls.

If you are interested in learning more about Virtual Touch Pro, visit their website at www.virtualtouchpro.com.

If you would like to learn more about the Live Receptionist Services at Davinci, give us a call at 888.863.3423 or visit our website at www.davincivirtual.com.

 

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10 Ways to Keep Your Enemies (Competitors) Close, Part I

Nearly every film aficionado can cite various lines and scenes from The Godfather. One of the most famous lines from the trilogy occurs in the second installment when Michael Corleone recounts one of the lessons he learned from his father, “keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

The origins of this philosophical maxim actually actually dates back 2,600 years to 6th century BCE China. The instruction to “keep your enemies close” is one of the truths disseminated by the esteemed Chinese General Sun Zi in The Art of War, a military treatise embraced in eastern and western societies for everything from military strategy, to business tactics, to legal practices. Sun Zi’s original precept is longer than the one in The Godfather:

“It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

Businesses seeking to learn from their competitors should not simply copy what they do. Merely mimicking their marketing programs and business practices is a passive imitation that will prove short-lived and ineffective. Rather, successful businesses are leaders and not followers. As Sun Zi argued and Michael Corleone contend, individuals and organizations can learn much when they study their competitors (aka “enemies”). Understanding what your competitors provides valuable market analysis and insights into trends.

The following are 5 of 10 things that competitors can teach small businesses. Watch for Part II of this blog post for the final five things.

1. Digital Engagement

Responsive websites are the norm today. They must display seamlessly across all types of devices and browsers. Do your competitors haveresponsive websites? Do you? If you are behind on this front, then you need to catch up. 

And when it comes to buyer and customer engagement, do your competitors offer multiple digital engagement channels? Or just traditional phone and email support? A growing majority of companies offer live web chat, and not just static chat but proactive, predictive live chat. With hosted solutions like Davinci Live Web Chat, small businesses can offer the same experiences to buyers and customers as their larger counterparts. Other digital engagement solutions such as real-time content personalization and offers as well as online self-service capabilities also provide small businesses with a low entry point. 

Here are the takeaways. If your competitors aren’t offering digital engagement, then you have a chance to leapfrog them. If they are doing so, you need to catch up—and soon. The imperative is undeniable: companies offering digital engagement options to their buyers and customers have a definitive competitive advantage. 

2. Website Traffic

There are a growing number of applications that allow companies to see what personas and visitors are hitting competitor websites—and how they are getting there. Audienti and SimilarWeb are two applications that provide this type of intelligence. There are some SEO tools such as Open Site Explorer from Moz and SEMrush that give companies the ability to see which websites are referring the most traffic to competitor websites. In addition to creating a list of websites to target for backlinks, businesses can concurrently gain insights into what keywords are generating the most traffic for competitors. 

3. Search

There are a number of tools that enable companies to discover how often visitors are getting to your competitor’s websites. Some of the tools to investigate include: 

Searchmetrics that drills down into images, videos, news, etc.

SEMrush that includes details such as mobile friendliness and search performance

Ahref’s Organic Traffic that provides insights on keywords that are not bringing traffic to competitor domains (that you could use)

Ispionage that pinpoints PPC keywords as well as instances where your brand name is being used by a competitor

Horizon that enables companies to see how they compare in terms of traffic as compared to their competitors

SEOmonitor Competition Insight that looks at keywords and location (helps companies understand website performance against competitors at regional levels)

Others such as SpyFu, Compete, and Hitwise from Experian that show competitor organic and paid search results 

Leveraging the intelligence gathered about competitors, businesses can optimize their organic and paid search efforts to generate more traffic, and moreover the kind of traffic that will produce measureable results (viz., leads, opportunities, and sales). 

4. Content Marketing

Understanding your audience is an essential building block to content marketing. Organizations that fail to develop buyer and customer personas and journey maps for each one put themselves at a disadvantage directly out of the gate. All too often, businesses focus their content creation efforts on one segment of the funnel and moreover on only a portion of the personas who make or influence decisions. 

In the case of competitive research, analysis of what content your competitors are creating and what their campaigns look like can identify holes in your campaign and content strategies. Alternatively, this competitive analysis can pinpoint gaps in competitor strategies and execution that can be exposed (missed opportunities that a business can leverage). Businesses can also discover what content is producing the best results for competitors and develop content strategies to tap similar veins of interest. Content curation tools such as Curata, Trap.It, Feedly, Scoop.It, among others provide organizations with a quick view of what is trending in particular market spaces—including what content competitors are producing. 

5. Social Media

Just as it important to understand what your competitors are doing on their websites, it is also important to know what they are doing on social networks. Getting the scoop on what rivals are doing on social networks and what content is resonating enables businesses to determine whether it is most effective to post photos or videos, what types of captions to include, and when to post videos and photos. They can also see what competitor social posts are performing the best and use this data to come up with their own high-performing posts. 

There are some social “snooping” tools that companies can use to uncover information on their competitors; these include: 

RivalIQ gathers data and content from any social network channel and allows users to track and consolidate it to compare how their social media activities compare to that of competitors.

Social Bakers sends notifications when competitors outperform you on social media. Specifically, by understanding how competitors are spending money, businesses can optimize their ad spend and reach a larger social audience.

Fanpage Karma tracks social media presence of competitors daily and provides information such as the best time to post, best topics, and best types of posts.

The following are 10 things companies can find out about competitors and their use of social media: 

1. The social networks they use

2. How they position themselves

3. Types of visuals they use

4. Frequency of their posting activities

5. What they post

6. What trends they are talking about

7. What others are saying about them

8. Social plugins they use

9. The groups they join

10. Where they publish content 

We’re interested to find out how you keep your “enemies” close. Post your ideas in the comments section below. 

Competing as a small business is never an easy undertaking. Davinci Virtual has worked with thousands of small businesses to help them compete like big businesses by leveraging our broad portfolio of services. For help in tackling your business needs, call us, email us, or chat with us today.

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Using A Virtual Office to Help With New Business Goals

It’s a new year – the perfect time to draw the line and set some new goals and resolutions for the benchmarking of your progress and success. Truth be told, any time is the best time to embark on some productive measures and planning for your new successes. It’s just that the turning of the page of the New Year calendar offers a particularly poignant starting point. It then becomes a race to see if perseverance and fire will trump ‘goal’ apathy and procrastination. Good luck with that one!

Perhaps one of the greatest business and social evolutions of the past few decades is the advent of accessible, affordable entrepreneurialism. This evolution has provided a way for the little guy to get into business, with big dreams, and have a decent shot at competing with the big guy. No longer are the cards so thoroughly stacked against the relatively low budgeted freelancer, thanks to two major factors: IT advancements and gadgetry coupled with suitable, affordable, newfangled workplace and work-way options that offer practically all the required physical and personnel support to make the pursuit of a dream business, and uber-success, tangible.

Leading the charge in that second main ingredient to personal, new business goal success are the economically feasible right-sized spaces and ways to work that also lend legitimacy-points to a business, which its prospects and clients can soak up, and which are superb networking and proving grounds for biz launches – Yes, it’s the variety of dynamic Virtual Office Plans and providers being offered today.

To succeed with your new business goals, you need to have the right place, with the right feel, level of support, capabilities – and perhaps more importantly, the right price tag so that you don’t break the bank through misapplied ‘dreamer’ enthusiasm; or overcommit, especially financially, and risk going bust before giving your dream business enough time to take root. There’s no reason, in this day and age, for start-ups to budget for a big, prestigious, full-time office that they’ll only use spottily in today’s nomadic, work-anytime/anywhere work universe, when there are much more savvy ways for a budding entrepreneurs to spend their ‘early’ money wisely. Legitimacy-promoting, fully-enclosed, leased office space is no longer the absolute first-step required of start-ups, as was the case in the last Millennium.

That’s why Virtual Officing makes so much sense. It’s a way to keep expenses low, and commitments in check at a time when an inspired, small business dreamer can use all the breathing room he or she can get. The flexibility of the various Virtual Office programs out there gives great comfort to, and makes a heckuva lot of sense for, today’s enterprising newbies, since it takes the stress of over-commitment off the table with their flexible terms through relative rock-bottom spending on what is traditionally the #2 expenditure (after #1, salaries). While the business gets in gear, hopefully momentum and success will sprout.

Virtual Offices are the perfect bet-hedger for the new breed of business winners … a perfectly reasonable and prudent way to accommodate business goals. And if you think Virtual Officing has experienced some outstanding growth in the past decade, as Al Jolson used to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” As more and more individuals shed their central/HQ, full-time office must-ness; and corporations continue to downsize and outsource various functions of their organizations to freelancers, there’ll be an acceleration of the need for Virtual Offices to satisfy the on-the-go small business dreamers who value flexible, affordable workplace and work-way options in even greater proportions than we’ve seen to date.

Virtual Office demand is still spiking since they are simply one of the smartest ways, and ideal homes, to support new business goals. It is a fabulous New Year’s Resolution launching pad for the motivated solo-preneur if there ever was one!

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