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6 Ways Small Businesses Can Improve Communication

6 Ways Small Businesses Can Improve Communication

Communication has evolved rapidly in the last few decades and even just the last few years. But, many small businesses aren’t getting the most out of customer communication — and that can impact both customer satisfaction and sales. Here are six ways small businesses can improve customer communication.

Chatbots can help deliver instant answers to FAQs.

What if your business could respond to a customer instantly? Chatbots make that kind of interaction possible. Working with chatbots is simply a matter of programming the most frequently asked questions and their answers. When a customer types in one of those questions, the chatbot can answer. Besides giving the customer a quick response, chatbots can potentially free up staff time. Social media networks like Facebook Messenger has chatbots, while there are many other ways to integrate chatbots into your website or social platforms. Be sure to regularly check for messages that couldn’t be answered by the chatbot.

New platforms can help encourage more customers to reach out.

Communication is no longer just mail and phone. New social media networks arrive on scene regularly, and businesses should at least keep an eye out to see which ones might cater to their target audience. WhatsApp is a major communication platform that only recently opened up to businesses, allowing customers to chat directly with your company.

Data can drive more tailored communication than ever before.

Technology has long been able to insert a name into an email — but technology can now do much more. Many platforms can now offer more data, such as where the customer is located and the last products they browsed on your website. Look to see if your email communication service offers more than what you are currently using, or if it’s time to switch for even more potential.

Communication should be a process, not a one-and-done deal.

Customers often need to hear a business’ name several time before they actually make a purchase. Communicating with customers is a process. Along with reaching out regularly, work to reach out more than once during the purchase process. Send out emails for customers that haven’t checked out with the items in their cart yet, for example. Follow up with customers that reached out via chat. The more effort you put into communication, the more results you will see.

Communication should be meaningful and authentic.

Chatbots can be great tools, but customers will easily cringe at obvious robot communication. Make sure that your electronic communication sounds authentic and personal. Then, be sure to follow up with actual human interaction for the communication that bots can’t cover.

More is not always better.

As you up your communications game, remember that more is not always better. Customers will often opt out of emails if you send them multiple times a day. Be sure that all the communication that you are sending out is valuable for the customer and don’t overfill subscribers inboxes.

Communicating with customers is essential to running a successful business — in 2020, business owners should give their communications a check-up to see what can be improved with the newest technology and the newest ideas.

4 Things We Learned From CES 2020

4 Things We Learned From CES 2020

The year always starts with a look at the latest tech at the annual Consumer Electronics Show. Now that the dust has settled on the annual show, the tech announced at the show is starting to trickle out into the real world. And several of those new announcements could be ideal for the small business owner. Here’s what we learned from CES 2020.

Wearables are getting weirder.

Sure, you’ve heard of smart watches, but what about adding a smart belt to your business attire? The Welt Smart Belt Pro will measure the usual things that a smartwatch does, like step count and how much time you spend sitting. But, the waist-bound design also introduces a few other new features. The app will help monitor your waist size and eating patterns, while the smart belt also has an option to help prevent falls. Finally, Welt offers a way to track how much you sit at your desk for those who hate wearing things around their wrist.

But wearables are also getting smarter.

Smart belt not your style? The traditional smartwatches are getting smarter. The Suunto 7 is a new smartwatch with a unique feature, the ability to bring up a map of your location right on your watch. The watch will also control your music through your wrist and track your heartbeat. Oh, and it’s stylish enough to go with any business attire.

Laptops are getting more powerful — and foldable.

Laptops are simultaneously getting more powerful while also getting more portable. The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook was a CES crowd favorite with the latest Intel Core processor and a 4K touchscreen that flips either way.

But the folding capability of some smartphones could also make a big splash in the laptop category. The ThinkPad X1 Fold is sort of tablet-laptop with a folding screen, a magnetic add-on keyboard, and touchscreen pen. The unique portable device will use Windows 10.

Another interesting laptop for small business — or anyone, really — is the Lenovo ThinkBook Plus. The laptop has an e-ink display built into the top, so open, it’s a laptop, closed, it’s an e-reader that’s not as hard on your eyes.

Wireless charging is here — and built into the most convenient devices.

Wireless charging has slowly been entering the fray — but why just have a charging centre when it could be part of something more convenient? The Citation Oasis is an alarm clock that has a built-in wireless charging pad. Imagine getting ready for work in the morning with your smartphone on hand without any wires. Made by Harmon Kardon, the smart alarm clock also has Google Assistant built in.

Technology can help make the lives of small business owners simpler — and there’s no place to get a better glimpse at upcoming technology than at CES. Weird, smart wearables, folding laptops, and smart alarm clocks were among the devices we can’t wait to see.

Is 2020 a revolutionary year for delivery? Here’s what small businesses need to know

Is 2020 a revolutionary year for delivery? Here’s what small businesses need to know

Just a year or two ago, two-day delivery was fast. But it’s 2020 and Amazon has same-day delivery and restaurants and grocery stores will now deliver to your door. The shipping of online transactions has changed drastically over the last few years — and small businesses not in the know could be left behind. Here are five key delivery trends small businesses need to consider.

Speed is key.

In order to compete with each other, online stores started offering faster delivery speeds. Soon enough, everyone was wanting to compete and delivery speeds jumped from a week to just days. If you can offer your customers a product faster, you could open up a lot of potential income from customers that just can’t wait — or that would buy from competitors for a faster delivery.

Services make the impossible deliveries possible.

Small businesses can’t be expected to do same-day deliveries themselves — and that’s where a service comes in. Fast food restaurants now use Doordash to deliver food to customers for a fee. Grocery stores are using companies like Shipt to shop and deliver groceries to busy customers. Explore the different options and services that would work for your business. In many cases, the customer pays for the service, ideal for busy customers willing to pay more for added convenience.

Data makes deliveries even sweeter.

When will that delivery come? Giving customers more detail on the delivery is another key to customer satisfaction. Look for a shipping service that offers advanced tracking tools — even better, one that offers an estimated delivery time and not just a date.

Free shipping is expected.

Customers comparison shop and include any shipping costs when considering who to buy from. Free shipping is becoming so common, it’s nearly standard. Most will include a minimum purchase requirement, which tends to actually encourage customers to buy more in order to reach that free shipping rate. Here’s where knowing the competition comes in handy — is a competitor offering free shipping at a lower minimum purchase than you are?

The essentials are still, well, essential.

Speed, delivery services, detailed tracking, free shipping — none of it actually matters if the order doesn’t actually get there. When working to expand your shipping to offer more convenience to customers, make sure that you aren’t missing the essentials. If the package doesn’t arrive on time or is damaged, none of that matters. Make sure to choose a shipping partner that will ensure those things, including delivery to rural or hard-to-access areas.

Delivery trends for online shipping have grown rapidly in the last few years. Look for new ways to offer customers more convenience in getting their orders, and you can open up big potential for growth.

5 Key Retail Trends to Watch in 2020

5 Key Retail Trends to Watch in 2020

A new decade is here — and retailers are facing a quickly changing industry. Businesses that stay on top of the trends, however, can capitalise new technology and increase customer base and profits. So what trends are experts predicting for 2020?

The gap between online and in-store is all but gone.

E-commerce and in-person shopping in 2020 will no longer feel like entirely different beasts. Online stores now have pop-up physical stores — Like Amazon’s cashier-free stores, for example. And traditional brick-and-motor stores have almost all jumped on the online shopping, offering multiple ways for customers to buy and convenience like in-store pick-up. Local stores are also beginning to use delivery services to allow for local same day delivers for a fee, including grocery stores and restaurants with platforms like Door Dash. Many stores blend the online and in-person experience with an app that allows customers to shop online, located items in-store and check stock, and clip and save coupons and offers.

Speed is key.

Watching giants like Amazon is a good indicator of what trends are coming up next — and Amazon Prime now offers customers two day shipping, allowing online shoppers to receive their items faster than ever before. Other major retailers have followed suite. Small businesses should take note of this trend and brainstorm ways to offer customers additional speed. Along the same line, customers appreciate other changes that help save time, like in-store pick-ups and a well-built app or website that offers fast load times.

Subscriptions are making huge growth.

The number of customers subscribing to a service has skyrocketed in recent years. From clothing, food, and nappies to ebooks and photo books, subscriptions are convent, hands-off and fast options for customers. Even small businesses can brainstorm subscription options and auto re-fills.

Experience is paramount.

Along with speed, customers are looking for a shopping experience. Companies that have been able to brainstorm ways to improve customer experience, or even offer something entirely new, have seen major benefits. From the experience of niche pop-up stores to in-app augmented reality tools to try before you buy, businesses should consider the experience that they are offering customers, both online and off.

Social shopping is growing.

Customers today often use more than one platform for shopping or browsing products. Chief among them is social media. Users can now buy directly on some platforms, such as Pinterest, while others are continuing to grow in helping customers discover new products and research others. A social presence has long been important, but 2020 could be the year that a social prescience isn’t enough, but social shopping drives growth.

Following retail trends can help small businesses look for new ways to grow and spark ideas for how to better reach customers. From speed and experience, to subscriptions and social shopping, there’s likely a trend that could help your business grow.

Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks with these 5 Password Tips

Protect Your Business from Cyber Attacks with these 5 Password Tips

Does your business password contain any word from the dictionary or a sequence of numbers that means something to you? A majority of cyber attacks are the result of passwords that have either been compromised or were just too weak to begin with. One study even estimated as many as 67 percent of businesses were using compromised passwords.

Will a compromised password allow a hacker access to your bank account or sensitive customer information? Thankfully, a weak password is a simple fix. Here are five ways small businesses can help prevent cyber attacks with password best practices.

Start with a strong password.

The easiest way to prevent a compromised password is to create an off-the-wall password without a recognisable phrase or set of numbers in it. If the password is going to be hard for you to remember, it’s going to be hard for hackers to guess the password. Don’t use any word that you can find in the dictionary and stay away from number sequences that mean something to you — like a birthday or address. Avoid using the same password for multiple log-ins.

Consider a password manager.

Worried you won’t be able to remember that random jumble of letters and numbers, with a different random jumble for each account? The Australian Cyber Security Centre suggests businesses look into password manager systems. With these systems, you only need to remember one master password to log-in to the password manager, but each account has a different, randomly generated password. While ideal for many, you’d need to protect that master password, including not sharing that information with employees.

Take advantage of features like two-factor authentication.

Every platform is a bit different in the tools that they offer to protect your accounts, but a common option is two-factor authentication. This option requires an extra password, usually sent to your smartphone via text, whenever you log in to a new device. If your password is stolen, the hacker will have trouble logging in on a different computer without also gaining access to your smartphone.

Work with your employees.

Maybe you’ve always had great, hard-to-guess password — but it just takes one employee using password123 for your business to be compromised. Teach your employees the same best practices for passwords, if they set their own passwords. On shared accounts, share the password on a physical piece of paper rather than electronically, if possible.

Consider a dark web monitoring service.

Many hacks involve more than just one hacker — passwords are commonly sold on the dark web, or sites hidden from search engines. That opens businesses up to multiple hacks from across the globe. Some services will monitor the dark web for you, offering a quick heads up when your data is up for grabs.

If your password is compromised, hackers could access anything from banking to your customer’s data. Simple password tips can help prevent a cyber attack.

Diland International Passport Photos

Using the international passport product on your photo kiosk software allows access to all international passport and visa sizes from a single-entry point and biometric requirements will be kept up to date.

Diland will show as default the country that is set in your PC’s language and regional settings in windows so if Australian is the most commonly used make sure your settings are on Australia.

 

To start using international passport go to configuration / products / new /  international passport.

 

You can vary the default settings and customise to fit your needs, the settings below will give you a guide.

 

This example produces 8 Australian passport photos with no room for crop/cut lines, store logos or text. You could have fewer and add these items.

Also, the system will adjust the number of images based on the country, USA for example will produce 2 images as they are 50×50 and with margins etc don’t fit more.

Make sure the product is showing in categories, if not add it.

If you are making passports behind the counter ie. on Studio make sure under categories the product/category is not visible on kiosk.

 

ID Photos to USB

You can also save the passport image (along with original) to USB, to do this simply turn on and add a price. You can then either give the USB to the customer or some stores use it to email.  Generally, for a fee.

 

For more information please contact us on 03 9894 1644 or email at sales@photodirect.com.au.

5 Ways For Small Business Owners To Find More Time

5 Ways For Small Business Owners To Find More Time

Running a business can be hectic, chaotic and unpredictable — one thing most small business owners could use more of is time. And since no one has perfected the time machine yet, business owners find themselves looking to better manage the time that they do have. Try these 5 time management tips for small business owners.

Start with the priorities.

Sure, starting with the most important may be obvious advice, but what, exactly, is the most important? Before you figure out how to better manage your time, you need to first sit down and figure out your goals, both long and short term. Identify the aspects you want to work on now, as well as a larger goal for the future. With your goals in mind, only then can you decide what’s truly a priority and what’s not. And once you set those priorities, don’t feel obligated to say yes to any opportunity that comes along,  especially the ones that don’t line up with your goals.

Get — and stay — organised.

How much time do you loose looking for that spreadsheet you can’t quite place, or digging through desk drawers? Getting organised — and, most importantly, staying that way — can help open up more of your time. Create an organisation scheme that gives everything a place, both physical things and digital files. Be sure to keep that organisation up by returning everything to its proper place.

Use lists and schedules.

Organise more than just your office, but your time by using a something as simple as a list or a planner. With your priorities in mind, write out a list of what you need to accomplish today (or this week, if you prefer). But don’t just create a basic to-do list. Instead, write it in on a calendar, noting what time you’ll be working on what task. Scheduling specific tasks can help ensure those priorities aren’t forgotten. Note your own work habits — if you tend to be more alert in the morning, for example, schedule your most important tasks during that time frame. If you find yourself more energetic after lunch, schedule the big items in that time slot instead.

Delegate responsibilities.

What tasks are you regularly tackling that could be instead relegated to employees? Small business owners are often DIYers at the start, but as you grow, you need to adjust that mentality. Train an employee in the tasks that are taking up lots of time, but don’t fit with your priorities

Take advantage of software.

What tasks are you doing regularly that technology could better manage for you instead? Set up auto pay for business bills. Create templates for the types of emails you send out most and copy and paste the text instead of spending all that time composing a new email for a question you’ve answered hundreds of times. Besides allowing technology to actually cross some items off the to-do list for you, take advantage of tools like auto reminders, and, if you find yourself distracted, set screentime limits on your smartphone to lock out of certain apps after you’ve used them for a specific amount of time.

6 Tips for Small Business Owners Hiring Their First Employee

6 Tips for Small Business Owners Hiring Their First Employee

Your small business isn’t quite so small any more and you’re ready to add to your team — but how? Adding employees is a daunting task for business owners used to going it solo, from selecting the right person to training and evaluations. Here are some tips for small business owners ready to start hiring.

Start with a goal-setting session.

What are your goals for adding an employee? You won’t be successful in adding a new employee if you don’t first figure out exactly what you want. Take a few minutes to write down your goals for the new employee. Do you just want to be able to take some time off? Do you want to expand sales? Get specific — what tasks do you want the new employee to handle? What changes would you like to see i the business as a result of that new hire?

Identify the qualities you need to obtain those goals.

To find the right fit, next figure out what qualities will help an employee reach those goals. For example, you may want to hire an employee that is adept in the areas that you aren’t.  Figure out which qualities are most important to helping you reach your goals, then, rank those qualities in order of importance. Keep that list in mind as you consider the job candidates.

Make a plan.

When will the new hire start? How will you measure the new employees performance? What kind of training will the new employee need? These are all questions that you should answer ahead of time. Take the time to outline the steps that will need to be completed in order to reach the goals from the goal-setting session.

Create an environment that allows for growth.

Hiring the right employee, and creating goals and plans is only part of the process. Environment matters. Build the type of work environment that encourages success. Create rewards for meeting goals. Make a positive work culture with simple things like bringing in doughnuts or taking employees out to lunch.

Regularly return to that goals list.

Don’t wait to analyse how those original goals are being met. Evaluate the new employee regularly and offer guidance and direction when those goals are not being met, and praise when they are. In fact, it’s a good idea when setting those goals to determine how you’ll measure the success and how often.

Assess your own performance, too.

If you’ve never had employees before, that first hire turns you into a manager. And just like that new hire needs to learn new skills, you’ll need to develop some management skills too. Take the time to consider what you could do to improve as a manager and be open to ways to improve.