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Monthly Archives: October 2016

7 Tips for Online Customer Service

1. Add an FAQ page

You already know which questions come up again and again. Answer them once and for all on your website by creating a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page. Update this page regularly to keep up with the latest developments and to answer timely questions.

2. Review your website navigation

Maybe you already have plenty of information on your site, but no one can find it. If you use a creative, nonstandard navigation scheme, take a look at your web analytics to see if that is preventing people from finding the information they need. Even if you use standard navigation, check your labels. Are they clear and accurate?

3. Add a video demonstration

If you’re spending a lot of time on the phone giving directions on how to use your product, a video demonstration could save time. And because nothing beats a visual demonstration, an online video will be more helpful to your customers than a phone conversation with you.

4. Offer Internet-only sales

Take a page from the airlines’ book, and offer lower prices for customers who purchase online. Or, offer online-only sales to encourage people to buy online rather than calling or visiting your store. Financially, this strategy makes sense because buying online does not use your staff resources they way an in-person or telephone sale does. And, a lower online rate helps defray the cost of shipping, which is one reason many customers prefer to shop in person.

5. Utilise your social channels

These days, people are very content to engage with a business on social media to get to the bottom of their issues. Instead of leaving an email or making a call, why not enquire on an open platform like Facebook or Twitter – you might even find your answer on a business’ profile already.

6. Display your security and encryption features prominently

Some people still prefer placing an order by telephone because of fears about online security. Help overcome this obstacle by highlighting the steps you take to safeguard their information, and make it clear that you won’t sell their information to third parties.

7. Offer email support

Display your email address more prominently than your phone number. Email is a real time-saver compared to a phone call. First, you don’t have to drop everything to answer an email. Second, you can take your time to find the answer to the questions, and you can get right to the point in your conversation with the customer.

7 Tips for Managing Your Time

 Providing both vision and leadership, entrepreneurs know that the success or failure of their businesses depends on them. As a result, many find themselves working a staggering number of hours. They say they will slow down after making it over the next hurdle. But another hurdle always appears. Running at such a fast clip may bring short-term results, but those gains can be lost quickly through ill health or divorce. Learning to use your time more efficiently not only helps you achieve a healthier balance between your business and personal lives but it can also save your business from missed deadlines, overtime wages, lost customers and more. Putting in more hours isn’t the key to success. Managing your time more effectively is. You’ll be more productive in fewer hours and live a happier, healthier life as a result.

1. Work towards larger life goals

The first step in effective time management is to determine where exactly you want to go. Without a clear picture of your destination, you’ll wind up someplace else. Think long-term: What do you want to achieve by the end of your life? Or even at the end of this decade? Write it down and be as specific as possible. Then determine what steps you must take to meet your goals. Write these down too.

Next, keep a time log of everything you do for at least a week, preferably a month. Note the number of hours or minutes you spend on each work project, meeting, phone call or other activity. Log activities as they occur; just doing it a few times a day results in missing important details.

2. Figure out where you are spending your time

Compare your time log to your life goals. The majority of your time should be spent on activities contributing to the realisation of your goals. Make a note of any activities not directed towards this end, and try to eliminate them. It might be better, for example, to discharge a difficult client whose projects stray from your company’s core business, and instead put more effort into marketing and finding new clients. Consider ways to streamline the tasks you are obliged to do: for instance, you can sometimes accomplish just as much with a teleconference as a lunch meeting. Say no to any new endeavours unless they somehow support your goals.

3. Delegate

Don’t hesitate, as many entrepreneurs do, to delegate some of your tasks. One print shop owner, who was putting in 90 hours a week, was so discouraged he was ready to close down his business. He couldn’t give additional responsibility to his employees, he said, because they were not experienced enough. Then a health crisis kept him out of the shop for several weeks. In his absence, those same employees performed extremely well.

4. Use an organisational system

Organise the information you use most frequently, such as appointment dates, telephone numbers, action lists, mileage and so on. There are many fine organisational systems available. If you are a procrastinator, make a concerted effort to cure yourself. Consider whether your tendency to procrastinate is caused by a lack of enthusiasm for your projects. If this is the case, it may be that they do not support your life goals. If you’re a slow starter or consistently underestimate how long a project will take, schedule frequent project reviews to hold yourself accountable or set false deadlines so you are not frantic when the actual deadline arrives.

5. Commit to better time management

Each week, set aside time for personal planning. Review your goals as well as your schedule for the coming week to make sure they are mutually supportive. Remember, the most important thing is to make a strong commitment to managing your time. If you don’t, time will control you.

6. Clean off your desk.

Use folders to contain all documents relating to the same project and keep all work-in-progress folders in one place. Toss aging industry journals or create a corporate library. Don’t leave a cluttered desk at night.

7. Group similar tasks

Time is often wasted changing from one task to another. Do all of your writing, emailing and telephoning at one time. Take this step further: group similar types of email. All good email programmes have filtering functions so that all email with the words “Project: Destroy Them” can be grouped, and all email from a particular address can be coloured in blue, and so on. In other words, let technology make less work for you.

7 Tips for Starting out in Farming

 The agri sector needs young, well-educated people to provide vibrancy and fresh thinking to aid industry progression, but entry isn’t always easy, particularly for those who don’t inherit a farm.

In the latest edition of AIB Agri Matters two young progressive farmers offer advice to aspiring young farmers in setting up a new farm enterprise or starting out in farming:

1.      Know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing – if you don’t it’s hard for anybody else to know. Explore the options and pick the one that suits you best. Seek advice from others to see what worked for them.

2.      Establish a good track record when you’re young – in work, in college and with the Bank – it gives others more comfort you have the credentials to deliver on your plans.

3.      Put your best foot forward when meeting the bank – prepare well in advance. Don’t sell yourself short – Have your costing’s and have your research done. Show you understand your business and its profitability and most importantly ensure your lender understands it.

4.      Treat the farm as a business – if you don’t look after the business, financial management is useless. The opposite is also true. Costs and cash flow must be controlled and monitored to ensure the business remains profitable and bills can be paid, when they fall.

5.      Have a simple system – more easily expanded, and helps ensure consistency and accuracy – especially important where additional labour is employed.

6.      Ask for help – you don’t know everything and it won’t all be plain sailing. Build up a goodsupport network and use them.

7.      Take a break – it’s important to maintain an appropriate work life balance.

How to Identify Your Target Market

 Start with the problem

A good way to determine who is likely to become your customer is to clarify the problem that your product or service addresses. For example, you run a housecleaning service. The problem that you solve is doing cleaning for people who cannot or do not want to do these jobs themselves. Upper income families, families where both parents work, and older people who no longer have the ability to do their own housekeeping, are all potential customers for your services.

Define your customer’s characteristics

Listing out the characteristics of your typical customer is another good step towards identifying your target audience. These characteristics need not be personal ones; they can pertain to lifestyle, income, geographical location, hobbies, and many other things. For example, for a gardening service, one type of target customer are people who live in neighborhoods with well-manicured lawns, attractive plantings and colorful flowers around their homes.

The business could also target corporate clients who want their office surroundings landscaped. For a business that specialises in home security, the ideal customers may be in a residential area that has a high crime rate and in high-income residential areas. Women living alone who worry about safety may be another potential target for sales. Listing out these characteristics allows you to zero in on your target audience accurately.

What is your primary market?

Many products and services address the needs of a variety of people but they still have a primary audience. These are the people who:

  • Gain the most benefits
  • Have the greatest need for these services/products
  • Have the ability to pay for them
  • Buy the biggest quantity of them on a regular basis.

Knowing who makes up this primary audience should be your goal when you are trying to identify your target market. For example, for a bakery, the local consumer may be a recurring source of business, but the icing on the cake (forgive the pun) may be local restaurants who buy breads and desserts in quantity to serve to their customers.