December 27th, 2012
Shell Haffner, Xerox Corporation
In my previous post I discussed the ways in which small businesses can gain and preserve customer loyalty by letting their human qualities play a major role in their everyday business interactions.
In the following I expand on that notion with a discussion about how small businesses must learn as many details about their customers’ human qualities (and, therefore, their buying preferences and habits) to compete in today’s marketplace.
Product availability used to be a differentiating attribute for a business. Commerce sites have changed this by offering anytime availability. The ease of the transaction is now the most desired attribute. By that, I mean the customer is looking to buy a product, but the choice of where to buy that product hinges more on non-product-specific attributes—they are looking for the best experience. Check out “The Experience Economy” by Pine & Gilmore to read more about this phenomenon. The experience of the buying process earns loyal customers.
This experience notion prevails in businesses today. It’s the greeter that welcomes you at Wal-Mart, the “Recommendations for You” on Amazon’s website; and the free coffee as you wait for your car to be serviced. Every business wants to make you feel more comfortable while you spend your money. These methods certainly work for some of us (like me and my sub-shop example from last time). To make these experiences work, you need to know your customer. The Amazon “recommends” list would not be as influential if Amazon simply guessed at the new books offered to me. Instead, Amazon uses data mining to serve up similar content that others like me have purchased.
How do your customers react to different offers and approaches? And why? Enter the field of behavioral economics; which studies the social, cognitive and emotional factors influencing the purchase decisions of individuals. We believe we are individuals and that our decisions are made logically. Studies show the opposite—we often react similarly. Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist with passion for his field; he’s the author of many books, TED talks and has his own blog.
Just last week, I sat through a presentation by a fellow marketing companion from a large consumer technology company. They have a behavioral economist (Dan Ariely) on a consulting arrangement to help with the phrasing of offers, the colors used in design, and other aspects of marketing materials; all to optimize viewing and effectiveness. The lesson here: know as much as possible about your customer and this will help drive your business. Read Dan’s blog or start with his first book, “Predictably Irrational.” You’ll definitely use some of the material in your small business and learn a little about yourself in the process.
Figuring out what drives your customers will help you give your customers a great experience with your business. Obviously, this is a critical advantage for small businesses with little margin for error. How to accomplish that task is the topic for my next article. In the meantime, please leave comments and share with me and other readers what steps you take to learn about your customers.
December 20th, 2012
Most of us in business would probably agree: customer retention/loyalty is critical. That is especially true for small businesses where sustained growth is paramount.
The Loyalty Research Center defines customer loyalty: “…loyalty means a customer wants to do business with you and does.” Bottom line: loyal customers stick with you through the good times and bad. The lowest-price-hunters will defect to your competition.
One key to keeping customers is to be true, i.e., be human. Potential customers can easily compare your small business to the competition with pricing and more. In a recent report detailing shopping behavior in stores, Vibes Research found that one-third of smartphone shoppers did competitive comparisons while in the store. If you are carrying the same product brands, the only substantial difference you can offer to that prospect (besides price) is customer service. The one-to-one experience makes the difference. Hyatt Hotels understands this notion well. Read about Mark Hoplamazian’s Quantifying the Value of Customer Service in Knowledge@Wharton. Hyatt found that satisfied customers are 2-3 times more likely to return than neutral or unsatisfied customers.
I frequent a certain sandwich shop because of the personal attention I receive. The employees remember what I usually order, they ask about my day, and they note my absence. It’s this human connection that keeps me coming back. Frankly, there are plenty of other sandwich shops offering the same basic options, some even at lower prices. I choose “my” shop for the people and the personal attention.
To underscore the point, some of the most successful sites selling online give the appearance of human interaction. Amazon and Netflix, for example, have their “recommendations for you.” One of the 5 Universal Principles For Successful eCommerce Sites by Smashing Magazine cites the need for using social media content before, during, and after the sale, such as letting customers comment on the products to potential customers. Again, a human interaction about your small business.
Charlie Kindel, a former Microsoft executive, once stated, “A human sales person, acting 1:1 with a customer is an extremely powerful force.” That power can convince customers to return or can send them running. YOU and your interaction with customers can be that positive force.
Other than pleasantries, how do you interact with customers to keep them coming back? We’ll tackle that question in my next article, “Do you know your customers?”
May 29th, 2012
As time goes by, many nonprofits are finding that making the switch to digital is in their best interest. Simply put, digitizing documents is a great way to be more organized and save time in the long run. However, it should be a “look before you leap” situation, so we’re offering some things to consider when making the transition.
Know the Lay of the Land
If you’re thinking about going digital, it’s time to take a critical look at your situation and create a road map. In other words, where are you now — and where do you want to be? You may know where you want to go, but it’s crucial to make sure the way is paved for a smooth trip. To that end, an honest assessment of your hardware and networking system may be the place to start. The first step in your plan might require an upgrade of your technology infrastructure to handle the load of a digitized system.
Also, understand that there may be some prep work involved. Often there’s a need to do some manual uploading and/or scanning of paper records before the new system is in place. Make sure you account for these and other preliminary steps before roll-out.
Now it’s time to decide exactly what records you are going to digitize. Consider how often people in your organization need to view different types of records. Questions like, “How important is it” and “What would happen if it were lost or destroyed” will help you decide what to turn digital and what stays in hard-copy form. For records you access often, it’s probably a good idea to have them digitized so you can view them quickly from your computer. You’ll also save many hours by no longer trying to keep those physical files in order. If a record is extremely important, you’ll have another reason to store it digitally, because cloud storage is ultra-safe, secure, and reliable. Of course, in some cases you may want to keep a hard copy, too. If records are out of date and/or not important, consider storing a digital copy and then having the original shredded.
Getting Others Onboard
One of the most difficult parts of any new initiative is getting buy-in from those who are going to execute the plan. However, the effort is worth it. If you can get everyone on the same page, the chances of success increase dramatically. The general plan for roll-out should go something like this:
1) Get management buy-in
2) Announce plan to all staff
3) Implement training schedule
4) Official roll-out
Of course, there will be challenges along the way. In fact, most organizations will have numerous steps within each of the four points listed above. For instance, if you have a staff member who is resistant to change, you may want to start selling your idea to him or her before you let the rest of the staff in on the details. It will help pave the way for consensus- building later if you have the biggest potential opponent already on your side. Another strategy is to bring in a “devil’s advocate.” This should be someone who is not involved with the planning phase. His or her job is to be negative and find potential problems before roll-out. If you have a tough devil’s advocate, and you can satisfy the concerns he or she highlights, then you should be able to withstand any scrutiny from other staff members.
As we said earlier, as long as you “look before you leap,” the jump to digital should be an easy one.
The content shared in this blog post is the author’s opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of Xerox. Shawn Kendrick is a researcher and blogger for VolunteerHub, a cloud-based volunteer management software application that offers online event registration, email and SMS (text) messaging, report generation, and much more. VolunteerHub is a member of Xerox’s Free Color Printers Program: https://www.freecolorprinters.xerox.com/vhub/volunteerhub.jsp
February 21st, 2012
Picture this – cluttered desks, overflowing file cabinets, employees digging through piles of documents to, maybe, find the one they need. Can you see the wasted productivity and dollars?
Time and money are precious commodities to a small business that doesn’t have a “big business” budget but has the same back-office needs as a large enterprise. An effective content management solution can help a small business provide that “big business” feel while achieving increased productivity by simplifying document processes, keeping employees focused on what is most important – serving customers and expanding the business.
Freedman & Co., a forward-thinking New York City-based boutique CPA firm, was using valuable square footage in their office to house rows of file cabinets full of client data. With a comprehensive content management solution, they were able to become almost paper free and exponentially boosted their efficiency and service. Their fast response to client requests has helped the firm grow its customer base and expand the business. After DocuShare, Freedman’s technology strategy took off – now paperless, the office boasts TV-style computer screens throughout so CPAs can securely access electronic versions of client documents in seconds.
Time and money are not the only benefit of a content management solution – small businesses will also be able to accomplish compliance initiatives. Businesses in various industries must abide by document retention regulations to stay compliant, which can easily be accomplished by setting permissions and expiration dates on documents in a content management system. Changes are tracked through version history, document retention schedules are automated and a trail of document activity can be captured.
Have you seen benefits from implementing a content management system? We would like to hear from you!
January 19th, 2012
Yes, EVERY business.
You likely consider Xerox to be one of those companies only interested in selling to big companies. You may have even seen an ad or commercial talking about how Xerox is helping large businesses like Michelin, Ducati or Marriot Hotels, and it is true to say we have a strong heritage in this area but…
Our mission is to solve business problems for companies of any size.
We accomplish our mission in several different ways. For example, we “rightsize” our technology. With our recently announced Xerox Phaser 7800, we specifically designed that color printer for small design firms. In bringing that product to market, we used technology found in much larger machines. The toner technology, the advanced methods for ensuring accurate color and the output folding, stapling and stacking components were all first used to satisfy the needs of large volume color print shops.
We also “upsize” our technology. Our solid ink technology was designed from scratch to solve the needs of color printing in small businesses. Our Phaser 8560 color printer helps a one-person catering company in Wisconsin print menus. The professional appearance of the printed documents helps the firm win more bids by cost effectively showing prospective clients the capabilities of the firm.
Besides products and services, we also believe in small business. So much so, we rely on a network of resellers, agents and dealers – the majority of whom have less than 50 employees – to represent our products in North America, Europe and the rest of the world. Smaller firms want to purchase from other smaller firms. We want to support those smaller firms by investing in small business.
Yes, you often hear about Xerox working with large companies but there are many more smaller firms that do business with Xerox every day. We want to work with yours.
How do we specifically help smaller businesses? That’s the topic for my next post coming in February.
November 7th, 2011
Smaller firms, especially in the advertising and marketing industries, are scrambling. But surprisingly, business owners biggest worry isn’t about healthcare or taxes. The number one worry is getting more customers in the door… to win more bids. With over 3.5 million small businesses, 130,000 in advertising and marketing in the U.S. alone, the scarcity of customers leads to intense competition. At first glance, seems gloomy.
Yet there is evidence to the contrary. Gordon Kaye from Graphic Design states “90% of graphic designers still work on print”. Some small boutique firms are winning new customers by providing excellent service and fast response times.
With the introduction of the Xerox Phaser 7800 tabloid-size color printer, we are bringing our experience in print and marketing communications to help smaller firms solve real business problems.
The current business climate pushes advertising agencies, graphic design shops, marketing communications firms, and even creative departments within larger companies to:
- get jobs done quicker,
- and cheaper,
- all while improving effectiveness of printed material itself.
In looking for a color printer, these firms want to simply choose the color they want, get that color on the print, and maintain that color while pumping out those pages.
We even filmed a customer.
I think the Phaser 7800 is perfect for the smaller graphic firms. Check out the new Phaser 7800 and let us know if you have any questions. More importantly, tell us what you think.