How Entrepreneurs Should Prepare for Emergencies

Moss Sidell Business Header

Preparing for emergencies might be difficult if you don’t know how to approach things. Entrepreneurs should have plans in place that they can turn to during certain emergency situations. Take a look at how entrepreneurs should prepare for emergencies by reading the information below. This will allow you to put yourself in a better position so that you won’t be caught off guard by an emergency situation. 

Save Money

Saving money is an excellent idea if you’re trying to prepare for an emergency. Most business emergencies are going to involve weathering some type of financial crisis. If you are able to save enough money for the business, then you can keep things going for a while even when the business is not going well. Try to save as much cash as you can as a protective buffer for your business. 

Develop Plans

Develop plans for what you should do during a business crisis. You might need to shift your focus to certain areas while abandoning plans in other areas. Some business owners might want to examine how they’re scaling their businesses as well. You might want to take a slower approach to growth that will be safer so that you can weather an emergency situation instead of being put in a difficult position. 

Be Prepared to Make Tough Choices

Tough choices might have to be made if you’re facing a business emergency. A financial crisis could put you in a position where you will need to downsize the business or free up money in certain ways. This could mean that you will need to fire or lay off employees. Be prepared to make tough choices such as firing individuals or closing stores if it becomes necessary to save your business as a whole. 

Cultivate Good Relationships with Lenders

Cultivating good relationships with lenders will prove to be helpful, too. If you can work with lenders to get a line of credit set up, then you can use these funds to weather financial emergencies. This could be an option to turn to when your savings run dry. An emergency business loan might be the right move to save your business from failing.

from Moss Sidell on Business http://mosssidell.org/how-entrepreneurs-should-prepare-for-emergencies/
via IFTTT

How Millennials Will Affect the Future of Real Estate

Moss Sidell Millenial Real Estate Header

The future of the real estate industry is going to be impacted by millennials no matter what. Many real estate agencies and agents are curious about how millennials will change things moving forward. There are many factors to consider when looking at millennials and real estate. Read on to look at this topic further so that you can glimpse into how things might be just a few years down the road. 

Millennials Are the Largest Consumer Base

Currently, millennials are the largest consumer base and they are helping to drive many industries forward. The issue that some companies and industries are facing has to do with not understanding millennial spending habits to a fine degree. Many millennials seem very hesitant to commit to ownership in various fields. Obviously, this could have a huge impact on the housing market and real estate could wind up changing significantly. 

Millennials seem to value experiences and other intangible things more than ownership. This isn’t going to be true of all millennials, but it is something that needs to be considered. If they are hesitant to commit to buying things like cars, then they’re definitely going to pause when thinking of purchasing real estate. This could mean that the millennial generation will be more likely to rent homes than they will to buy them. 

A large number of millennials think that buying a home is not a good investment. They would rather spend their money elsewhere and this presents problems for the real estate industry. How do you sell homes to a generation that isn’t as interested in them? This is an issue that real estate companies are going to have to grapple with over the coming years. 

Renting Might Be King

Renting might be king in the future of real estate. If millennials hold true to the current statistical trends, then home ownership numbers might go down substantially. This could lead to more rentals being available and you might have a generation of adults who prefer short-term renting options over committing to settling down in one area by buying a home. Predicting the future is not entirely possible, though, and it makes sense to pay attention to see how things play out in the coming years. 

from Moss Sidell | Real Estate Attorney http://mosssidell.com/how-millennials-will-affect-the-future-of-real-estate/
via IFTTT

Five Mistakes That Make Customers Hang Up

When a customer hangs up on you mid-conversation, it’s easy to tell what you did wrong. In fact, they probably spent the previous five minutes telling you exactly what their issue was.

But when customers hang up on your phone system before you even get to speak with them, that’s another problem.

According to some statistics, about 80% of callers will hang up on a phone system if they don’t feel like their call is going straight to voicemail. That means that you’re already missing out on most important customer calls by not having a robust, organic phone system in place.

How can you turn it around? Make sure that when you set up your business’s phone system, you avoid these other key mistakes that make customers want to hang up:

Mistake #1: Putting Them in the Driver’s Seat

It sounds counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t any self-respecting customer want to be in the driver’s seat in an interaction with a company?

Yes and no. If you give your customer too much power—or give them too many choices—you run into the problem known as Paradox of Choice, first popularized by an author named Barry Schwartz.

In one study, shoppers were exposed to an astonishing variety of gourmet jam: 24 whole choices, with samples to boot. On another day, the available jams were limited to six.

Researchers found that while more choices attracted more initial attention, fewer choices meant that customers were ten times as likely to make a choice from the jams and bring it to purchase.

What does this have to do with your phone system? Simple: don’t give them too many choices. Give them options, sure—they need to navigate your business as well as possible. But keep the choices limited. Don’t let customers grow frustrated with your never-ending web of call forwarding.

We’ve all been in the situation of being the customer who loses all patience with a phone system and shouts into the phone, “just get me a human!” Don’t make your customers do that.

Mistake #2: Creating a Fancy, Elaborate Script

If a customer calls you on the phone, it’s important to give them a sense that you’re a real person—or at least a real company.

The problem is that some companies believe that to come across “real,” they need to simulate the feeling of authenticity by creating a script. Then they lose sight of why they created a script in the first place and simply want to create the most flowery, over-the-top script possible.

Avoid this instinct. When SoftwareAdvice.com ran a study, they found that customers had a strong negative impression of calls when they thought agents were reading from scripts. If a customer perceived a call as unscripted, their perception of the call improved 78% of the time.

If you’re building a voicemail system for directing phone calls, you will have to use automated messages to guide your customer. The way to avoid the negative-script effect is to keep things simple and professional. Get the essential information to the customer and let them move on.

Mistake #3: Weaving a Tangled Web of Call Forwarding

If you’ve ever been on a long phone call with a company, you know that it can feel like a temporary boost when you’re forwarded to the appropriate expert. That’s all well and good, but when your phone call gets passed on and on again, you start to feel like the entire effort is futile.

The same effect occurs when you create an overly complicated phone structure for answering customer phone calls. Yes, it’s important that you get the customer to the person who can solve their problem or answer their question. But if it takes too many steps to get there, customers won’t care about your good intentions. They’ll just care that they couldn’t get through.

Mistake #4: An Unprofessional Voicemail Greeting

If you have clients or customers call your personal number, it can be a bit disorienting to hear a casual and obviously personal voicemail greeting on the other end.

Even if you work out of a home office, it’s important that your phone system—or even something as simple as your voicemail greeting—displays that you have a professional business presence. Heed a few of the tips that we’ve provided in our post on voicemail greetings and make sure to:

  • Limit background noise. Hearing family members in the background is an obvious no-no. But even hearing general office sounds can have a negative effect on the quality of your voicemail greeting.
  • Smile as you record. You’d be surprised at the effect a smile can have on the tone of your voice. You want to be positive, upbeat, and professional—and sometimes, there’s no way to fake that except to smile.

Mistake #5: Too Little Information

If you’re convinced about the paradox of choice and you want to avoid an overly-elaborate script, it’s tempting to go too far in the other direction and record a Laconic voice greeting like “Hi. Leave a message at the tone.”

There’s nothing wrong with simple. But if you want your customers to stay engaged with your phone system, there’s no harm in infusing a little personality into their interactions with your automated responses. Just as long as these hints of your personality don’t get in the way of a customer perceiving you as a competent professional, they’ll likely stay on the line.

Give Your Customer a Reason to Stick Around

Just as you work hard to earn sales through marketing, analytics, and good, old-fashioned quality business practices, you don’t want the hard work to go to waste once a customer gets a hold of your phone number. Avoid these mistakes and create a simple, intuitive voicemail system that customers will understand and even enjoy. The better it is, the more likely it is you’ll retain those customers who would have otherwise given up. When it comes to your phone system and your customers, every second counts.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/Five Mistakes That Make Customers Hang Up/
via IFTTT

5 Common Struggles of a Small Business Owner

Launching a business is hard, and sustaining one is even harder. As a business owner, it is very likely that you will find yourself in situations wherein you are left with no choice but to take on more than you can handle. A good example of this is the global pandemic we are all facing at the moment. To ensure that you and your business are able to stand up to challenging situations, you have to familiarize yourself with some of the typical problems small business owners face and adequately prepare for them. That being said, here are five of the most common struggles that small business owners experience:

Feeling anxious about the future

Even before the circumstances changed due to the ongoing pandemic we are all facing, lots of business owners struggled with anxiety when thinking about the future of their companies. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, 49% of entrepreneurs suffer from at least one form of mental health condition during their lifetime. To cope with the anxiety linked to the uncertainty of what the future holds for your business, it would be a good idea to set aside some time for mindful reflection and to read biographies from successful entrepreneurs to stave off the feeling of “being alone” in the midst of your struggle.

Struggling with huge changes

As explained in our previous post on ‘How to Effortlessly Connect a Team of Remote Workers’, the current situation has driven companies, big and small, to encourage their employees to work from home. This sudden change places small businesses – especially those who never experienced having remote workers before and hence haven’t instituted the right infrastructure that supports these kinds of workers – in a tight spot. To soften the blow, The Balance suggests conducting SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis frequently to help identify which areas require some improvements and a little more attention. It’s also a good idea to adopt a forward-thinking attitude and to keep a positive mindset.

Having trouble with hiring

In a recent report by Wasp Barcode Technologies, 50% of the surveyed small business owners admitted that the biggest challenge they face is hiring the right employees. Recruiting new talent has never been an easy task, even for big enterprises, but small businesses struggle more because they have limited funds and resources. A good way to address this issue is by aiming for new graduates who have a lot of potential but do not (yet) have the experience to command a large salary. It’s also advisable to provide lots of non-financial benefits that are proven to be more persuasive when it comes to hiring employees such as healthcare, flexible working options, mentoring programs and time off.

Having difficulty with cash flow

Due to the lack of available funds, the majority of small businesses tend to struggle to make payments on time. According to a recent survey on Forbes, 66% of business owners claim that delays in payment processing causes major issues with cash flow. To combat cash flow problems, many small businesses turn to loans for aid, even going down the route of personal loans when things get really bad. Marcus explains how personal loans come with a fixed payment schedule so that borrowers are fully aware of how much they need to repay. It can also be used to pay off credit card debt, finance structural improvements, cover costs associated with moving and even handle vacation costs. Aside from applying for a loan, cash flow problems can also be mitigated by expanding your payment options and by having a proper budget plan.

Having too many competitors

One of the toughest things small business owners face is getting ahead of the competition. To withstand the problem of having too many competitors, Business 2 Community discusses how it’s essential for small business owners to use competition to stimulate innovation. Innovate and be inspired to provide products and services that are better than that of your competitors. Examine your competitors – know the strategies they’ve employed before, and try to determine and understand the ones that worked for them. By doing this, it will help you steer away mistakes, thus saving you a significant amount of time, money and energy.

Entrepreneurs are known for their determination, tenacity and grit. However, before they become the very figures we all look up to, they had to go through different struggles at the beginning of their career. To come out successful, you have to power through every challenge and learn from them.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/5 Common Struggles of a Small Business Owner/
via IFTTT

How to Build a Remote Customer Support Team for a Seamless Customer Experience

Did you know that 86% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience (CX)?

Also, 49% of buyers have made purchases after receiving a personalized experience and over two-thirds of businesses now compete primarily on customer experience.

Your support team is the primary (and often the only) customer touchpoint. Therefore, it’s important to build a customer care department that can deliver a seamless CX.

Meanwhile, it has become more cost-efficient for companies to leverage a remote workforce for customer support. They can take advantage of the reduced overhead cost, access a larger candidate pool, and provide round-the-clock support to customers in different time zones at no additional cost.

However, running a remote customer support team isn’t without its challenges – especially if you want to deliver a top-notch and personalized experience to every customer.

Some common hurdles include:

  • Ensuring timely communication and information sharing so every team member is on the same page.
  • Tracking work and monitoring results to help employees stay focused and productive.
  • Making sure that team members can deliver an on-brand and consistent customer experience.
  • Enabling team members to work autonomously, especially if their supervisors are in a different time zone.
  • Implementing endpoint security to protect your customer data.

Here’s how you can overcome these challenges and build a remote customer support team to deliver a seamless customer experience:

Hire Team Members With a Customer-Centric Mindset

The interaction between support team members and your customers will define the quality of the customer experience. Hiring the right people is key to delivering an outstanding contact center experience and here are some important traits to look for:

  • Basic soft skills such as patience, empathy, attentiveness, communication skills, positivity, and the ability to “read” the customers.
  • Technical knowledge about your product and general understanding of your industry.
  • Self-management and time-management skills, as well as self-motivation to complete tasks on time.
  • The drive to act proactively and make decisions autonomously.
  • Collaboration skills and a track record of working in virtual teams.
  • The ability to thrive under a low-touch and flexible management style.
  • A customer-centric mindset that drives them to think outside of the box and prioritize the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

Use Cloud-Based Communication and Collaboration Tools

Cloud-based software applications, such as project management, communication, and file-sharing platforms, allow team members to collaborate cost-efficiently from anywhere with an internet connection.

Meanwhile, a unified communications (UC) platform and contact center software enable your team to communicate with customers via multiple channels (e.g., phone, email, chat, social media.) You can have all the interactions synched up in a centralized location to ensure a seamless support experience.

Many of these platforms integrate well with each other so supervisors can manage progress at a glance on a unified dashboard. Also, they allow employees from different time zones to catch up with all the communications when they start their shifts to minimize errors and delays when they interact with customers.

Set Up a Centralized and Searchable Knowledge Base

Customers expect your support team to help them resolve issues quickly. In fact, 99% of consumers say that interacting with knowledgeable reps is an essential part of a great CX while the first contact resolution rate is a key indicator of customer satisfaction.

However, a remote customer support team member can’t simply walk over to the next desk and ask for help when she encounters a question for which she doesn’t have an answer. Therefore, you need to provide the resources your agents need to resolve customer queries independently.

To do so, set up an online searchable knowledge base (e.g., a private wiki) on which your team can access the latest information about your products. Such information should include detailed step-by-step instructions, troubleshooting procedures, and links to how-to videos that agents can share with customers.

Your team should also have the ability to update the information, ask questions, and add answers on an ongoing basis. This will create a supportive culture, increase employee engagement, and ensure that the knowledge base is current and relevant.

Implement a Customer Service Software Application

A customer service platform enables you to manage customer interactions across all touchpoints in a centralized location so any team member can pick up where the conversations have left off to deliver a seamless customer experience.

Some key features to look for in customer service software include omnichannel communication capabilities, ticketing system, live chat support, customer self-service portal, customer sentiment analysis, and survey tool.

These platforms also allow supervisors to see all customer interactions and metrics on a unified dashboard so they don’t have to micro-manage team members.

For example, managers can see the number of calls taken, the number of issues resolved, hours worked, high-priority issues, and tasks assigned to each team member to ensure that every agent is staying productive and delivering a high-quality customer experience.

Implement a Comprehensive Onboarding Process

A thorough and well-orchestrated onboarding process is particularly important for getting remote employees up to speed since they may not have immediate access to their colleagues or supervisors due to time zone differences and have to make decisions independently.

In order to deliver a seamless customer experience, your reps need to understand internal processes, communication protocols, and other operational procedures so they can resolve issues appropriately or route inquiries to the right departments.

Your team also needs to be trained on how to use all the communication and customer service applications effectively so they can optimize the tools they have at their disposal and ensure the effective functioning of the team.

In addition, since team members need to connect to your systems and access customer information using their own network and equipment, it’s important to ensure the security of the connections and the privacy of their networks.

Data breaches aren’t only costly but will also impact customer experience and erode trust. It’s therefore important to provide the necessary support and training to team members from day one to make sure your network is secure and your customer data is safe.

Educate Your Team About Your Customers

Your team requires an in-depth understanding of your ideal customers in order to deliver the most relevant CX, meet customer expectations, make product recommendations, and resolve product-related issues.

Create customer avatars/buyer personas and share them with your support team. Educate your agents about your audience, such as demographic information, their expectations, what they want from your products, as well as their preferences and values so your team can build rapport with your customers and anticipate their needs.

Also, enable your support team to deliver an on-brand customer experience by educating them about your company’s vision and values. When you build a team culture based on your brand identity, you can empower your agents to proactively take initiatives to surprise and delight your customers with an outstanding CX.

Final Thoughts

Delivering seamless customer experience is the key to acquiring and retaining more customers so you can increase sales and boost your bottom line.

Not to mention, hiring the right customer service agents and providing them with the appropriate tools can improve employee satisfaction and retention. These long-term employees often possess the much-needed institutional knowledge, insights about your audience, and enthusiasm about your brand that will turn any customer interaction into an outstanding experience.

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/How to Build a Remote Customer Support Team for a Seamless Customer Experience/
via IFTTT

Choosing a Credit Card Processor for Your Business

Whether you’re the owner of a brick-and-mortar storefront, you’re strictly an online merchant, or you run your business from a food truck, you want to ensure that customers can pay conveniently and that you understand exactly what it costs your business to make that happen.

 

With the arrival of innovative payment options like digital wallets, businesses of every size have had to transition away from accepting cash-only to choosing merchant account services and mobile payment processors that can keep up with the newer demands of potential customers.

Understanding merchant accounts and credit card processors

 

If your business will accept credit and debit card payments, that money needs a place to go, and that’s where credit card merchant accounts factor into your business plan.

 

A merchant account is a bank account that receives money collected from debit and credit card transactions. After each card transaction, the resulting payment gets transferred to the account, and from there the money can be funneled into a standard business account.

 

If your company takes both online and in-store transactions, the merchant account for card-present transactions may be different than the one you use for online purchases, but basically every modern business needs at least one merchant account to do business in the modern era. Once you have an account, you then have to think about how your customer will be interacting with your business. This will determine what sort of credit card processing solution can best facilitate those transactions.

 

If your customers come to you and most of your transactions happen inside your physical location at a traditional point of sale, your needs will vary from those of a business that’s physically mobile and brings the business directly to the customer. Likewise, if most of your transactions take place without being face-to-face with your customer, this will affect what type of credit card processor you’ll want to use. Luckily, there are several credit card processing methods to choose from to ensure your business is prepared for your customers’ payment preferences.

Selecting the processor that’s right for you

If your business is a traditional physical storefront, the most commonly used processor is a retail merchant account. This allows your customers’ credit and debit cards to be swiped (or inserted or tapped) through payment terminals at your store.

 

It’s becoming less common to see businesses that don’t also have an online component for handling transactions. To process payments online, you need an internet merchant account. You can then process both credit and debit card payments through your website.

 

In lieu of traditional point-of sale systems used with most cash registers, you can also set up your business to use smartphones and tablets as payment terminals. In these cases, you’d need mobile credit processors to allow your business to accept payments anywhere you have a WiFi or data connection. Nearly any type of business or individual can use this sales processing method, from artists selling paintings at local art fairs, to local coffee shops and beyond.

 

One payment processor type that’s less often used these days, but can still cater to a specific type of transaction, is mail or telephone order merchant accounts (MOTO). These accounts let you process payments by phone or direct mail as the name suggests, and may be necessary for some businesses.

 

There are other considerations, too. For one, if necessary, make sure the processor you’re considering supports multiple merchant account types. If you already have a point-of-sale system or website merchant page set up, make sure any processors you’re looking to work with in the future are compatible with your current setup.

Facing the Fees

 

You may think that you can credit and debit cards at your business along to your customers. This is mostly true, but be wary of adjusting your prices to accommodate this, especially if your business is in a highly competitive space where a rise in prices could put a competitor into a more appealing position in the eyes of the customer. Most merchants choose to eat interchange fees as an expected cost of doing business.

Since costs are arguably the most important factor when choosing a credit card processor, become familiar with the types of fees you can face.

 

One-Time Fees

Initial costs, like equipment installation and application fees are common one-time fees associated with credit card processors.

 

Transaction Fees

When using a credit card processor for card payments, you’ll be charged an “interchange” fee for every transaction made with a debit or credit card. These fees usually fall between 1.5%–4% of the total purchase amount. For smaller businesses where low-volume and low-cost purchases are commonplace, this can be a major hurdle when trying to remain competitive with bigger chains.

 

Several factors, including the type of card used and how the transaction takes place, can affect these fees. For instance, with less risk of credit card fraud with in-person transactions, in-store payments could cost you less than online or phone payments. There are no additional fees to use EMV chip cards at your business, but it does cost money to equip your business with EMV technology, which is basically mandatory in modern times.

 

Monthly Charges

Look out for small monthly fees, including costs for mailed monthly statements, or rental charges for the processing terminals themselves, generally around $20 to $100 a month. Some processors may charge a fee for early contract cancellation. Plus, most processors will have minimum requirements for the fees they collect every month, and if your business is shy of this minimum amount, you can be charged the difference.

 

Additional Charges

Another cost to be mindful of is the price of leased equipment, which you’d be responsible for even if you were looking to sell your business, or worse, if you were forced to close shop. Other ancillary costs to keep in mind are modern payment amenities like mobile readers to plug into devices you’re planning to use for your transactions.

 

Be sure to ask all the relevant questions pertaining to what charges you’ll have to plan for when finding a processor since every business has their own considerations.

 

The reason merchants may opt to charge customers more for using their credit cards is because they have to pay fees to accept credit card transactions.

Wrapping up

Ultimately, you know your own business the best, and therefore, the most rock-solid thing you can do when choosing a credit card processor is make the most informed decision you can that will accommodate you.

 

from The Grasshopper Blog – Insights for Entrepreneurs https://grasshopper.com/blog/Choosing a Credit Card Processor For Your Business/
via IFTTT

How to Start Right as an Entrepreneur

Moss Sidell Attorney Beginning Entrepreneur

Getting started as an entrepreneur can be difficult if you are not prepared. If you focus on certain things, then you can ensure that you will start out right as an entrepreneur. Read on to explore things that you can do to fuel future entrepreneurial success. Some of these are even things that you should start doing before you decide to take the leap to become an entrepreneur. 

Figure Out What You’re Passionate About

Figuring out what you’re passionate about will put you in a better position to succeed as an entrepreneur. Your startup company will be more likely to succeed if you are excited about what you’re doing. Taking the time to learn what you’re passionate about will allow you to pick a business focus that makes sense for you. Explore your feelings while also considering how viable specific business ideas are based on market trends. 

Learn About Your Market

Learning about your market will allow you to make the best decisions as an entrepreneur who is just starting out. You should be very knowledgeable about the marketing that you’re trying to enter. Do some market research so that you can understand the needs of the community where you’re trying to start a business. It’s also beneficial to research the companies that you will be competing with while determining if you can do things better than them in certain areas. 

Save Money

Saving money can help you as an entrepreneur. You’ll likely want to try to get funding for your startup business from a traditional lender. Even so, it can be beneficial to have money that you can pour into your business that isn’t tied to loans. Having a small nest egg could help you to do what you need to do to make your business an initial success. 

Look for a Mentor

Looking for a mentor is an excellent idea if you want to learn about the business world. Having someone in your life who has been there before will prove invaluable to you. They can impart knowledge that will allow you to navigate the dangerous waters of entrepreneurship. If you can find a mentor who is willing to work with you, then you should take advantage of the opportunity. 

Make Personal Sacrifices

Making personal sacrifices might be necessary for you to succeed. Most entrepreneurs have to sacrifice a lot of their personal time to launch a business. You will also have to be very careful financially during those first few years of starting your business. It might require you to make lifestyle changes, and preparing for those changes ahead of time will make things easier. 

from Moss Sidell on Business http://mosssidell.org/how-to-start-right-as-an-entrepreneur/
via IFTTT