Business Forward Issue Sixty Five


Customer experience: what's your first impression?

We've all heard it: first impressions count.  But what does it mean for your business?  What do new customers notice about your business that will persuade them to return?  And tell their friends?

First impressions are powerful.  They can lead to strong relationships with customers who keep coming back.  They position people to think your business is great and make them want to be proved right.  It's not easy to overcome a bad first impression; it can be done but your business has to work twice as hard.  Analyse customer experience with your team and brainstorm how to make it even better.  Build on the list below to analyse all your first points of contact with customers.

Every touch point is important - it might only be something small today but it could be big tomorrow.  If a first time contact has an OK experience, that's good, but an AMAZING experience will prompt them to come back and to tell their friends.  Sure, you have to deliver on quality and service, but a great first impression makes it so much more likely that you'll be asked to.

What is customer experience from the first...


answered quickly

friendly and eager to help, (smile when you pick up the phone, it really works)

quickly through to the right person, or

accurate message taken, 'no problem' attitude, speedy callback
view online?

value proposition easy to understand, typo-free

easy to navigate and to order your products or services

easy to contact you with queries or feedback

not too many clicks or too much scrolling
required.  No annoying pop-ups
visit to your office?

greeted straightaway

friendly, welcoming, professional, attractive premises

the team is amazing, keen to work with the customer

if asked to wait, they are made comfortable, offered refreshment

time in the showroom?

looks good, feels better

team presence is just right (not all over the visitor or ignoring them)

staff know the product, but listen to what the customer needs

shop floor is well organised, good signage, good-looking displays

Six of the best ways to increase productivity

Do you often wonder why successful people seem to have so much spare time?  Enough time to exercise, share holidays with family and yet, to still be completely relaxed and stress free?  Those people probably have the balancing act right and are efficient at managing time. 

Here are six things that really productive people do that could help:

Define your priorities

Defining these can often be tricky and it isn't always about work.  Part of you wants to say that work is your priority, but stop before you answer this question.  What do you find fun?  Think about the kind of lifestyle you want and go from there.  If you want to be a CEO, you're going to have to be willing to take the level of work commitment that goes with it.  If you want to have a life filled with family, then work out what your priorities are in order to make this happen.

Do what you're best at

You don't do everything well, but what you do well is often more enjoyable and will take you less time.  It's also more than likely that if you don't enjoy something, you may not complete it or do it to the best standard.  Don't take on new challenges if they're too much for you to handle.  Be efficient and use your best skills and expertise to shine and get the job done to time.

Integrate your activities

It can be a real balancing act trying to manage work, fitness, a social life and family, so look at ways to incorporate these.  Find someone at work who wants a workout buddy so you can exercise together in lunch hours.  It also helps to try and develop your work life and career around your interests.  You will soon find yourself amongst peers with similar interests which can in turn lead to a healthy and balanced social life.  Instead of feeling pulled between work and play while trying to keep everyone happy, aim for a happy medium and let everyone come to you.

Stop wasting time

Social media can be an excellent business tool… but it can also be a very good time waster.  Unless you're using a social media site to do something specific, put it away.  Ignore gaming apps which send reminders and updates - these will only lead to distraction.  You need to actually budget time for necessary activities with family and friends and don't do anything that doesn't energise and uplift you.

Learn more

In spite of what you may think, learning can give you back time.  By discovering new tools or ways to do things, you can become more time efficient and effective in your way of doing them.  If it starts to drag on though, leave it.  Nothing should take up your time, only enhance it.

Don't beat yourself up

Remember that you are only human, so don't get too down on yourself if you can't attend to everything on the list.  Also remember to celebrate your achievements as you do them.  Reward yourself for the items you do tick off the list because completions can act as a form of motivation for other tasks.

It's not easy to do all of these things at once, but by gradually incorporating each tool into day to day work and play, you might find that over time, stress levels will be lower and life more enjoyable.


Has the sharing economy touched your business?

An emerging trend is both disrupting and creating business.  It's the sharing economy, sometimes referred to as collaborative consumption.  Put simply, it gives people the option to hire access where before they could only buy a product.

What's new, you say.  Rental business is well established.  However, driven by new technologies, the sharing economy is connecting people using social media, peer to peer sites or mobile apps.  It's a new marketplace.  People are behaving differently within it.  And in some cases, the products are new.

The explosion of digital goods created new industries.  Social media accustomed us to information shared rapid-fire.  Where iTunes revolutionised music purchases, Spotify has disrupted the whole notion of buying music, giving customers access to a shared music library.  Netflix have done it with movies.  While the e-reader market is based on 'buying' a book in electronic form, this model may already be changing shape with proposals to launch all-you-can read books for one monthly fee.

The risk associated with lending things to strangers was a barrier to the share economy.  In the past, businesses overcame it by marketing themselves as reputable and reliable, with safeguards in place such as contracts and bonds.  Social networking and peer to peer sites such as Trademe have changed the game.  For online consumers, research indicates that recommendations from personal acquaintances or online customer opinions are now the most trusted forms of advertising.

The sharing economy also appeals to eco-conscious consumers.  They may have a lighter carbon footprint sharing a tool or a vehicle than consumers who each purchase that tool or vehicle for themselves.  And, if you work out that you only use that power drill eight or nine days a year, maybe sharing makes more sense.

In New Zealand, space hire saw early buy-in to the sharing economy.  Sites such as 'book a bach' and 'airbnb' unlock the holiday home or the spare room to travellers.  More diverse spaces for business use are available through sites such as 'sharedspace' which offers shared access to meeting rooms, office facilities, studio space, kitchen, pop-up retail, event space, and parking.  Shared boat ownership seems like the odd man out here but 'sharedspace' offers that too.

Service-based businesses in New Zealand are using sites such as 'Pocket.Jobs'.  Overseas, consumers are connecting with people in their community to share tools, vehicles, equipment, toys and designer clothing.  The UK's 'BorrowMyDoggy' matches dog owners with local borrowers for walkies, play days and holidays.  Around the world bike-sharing schemes have livened up the tourist landscape.

Peer to peer lending and crowd-funding are relatively recent phenomena, bypassing traditional financial institutions as another option for startups and seed funding.
Businesses like 'Simplist' are starting to piggyback off the trend, offering to keep track of friends and contacts so your network is more effective connecting you with goods and services you're looking for.

The potential for tie-ins with innovative businesses is wide open.  Some businesses are threatened by newbie competitors without traditional overheads, while others may find a raft of opportunities.  How will the sharing economy touch your business?

Netiquette - blogging for business

Business blogging has increased rapidly, as by writing one and keeping up to date with it, you can help drive traffic to your website and increase your business' rankings in search engines.  If you do have a business blog, think about what you're posting before you post it and remember -

  1. Be mindful - always think about your audience and who will be reading your blog.  Remember to keep each entry to a relevant length.
  2. Respond to comments - don't ignore the people commenting on your blog.  They, along with other readers, will show more of an interest and will respect your feedback.  And if someone says something nice, share it on your blog!
  3. Comment on other blogs - find other blogs that have similar business interests.  It's not only healthy to be aware of the competition, but at the same time, you will raise your own profile.
  4. Give credit where it's due - if you do post content from another blog, acknowledge your source and link back. 
  5. Be the bigger person - don't be put off if you encounter the odd mean-spirited comment on your blog.  People feel safer in cyberspace to dash off a nasty post and click 'Submit' before they've thought it through.  Respond calmly or not at all.  If it's bad for business, just block them.
  6. Check it - go over your spelling and grammar with the proverbial fine tooth comb.  Readers will disengage if they spot too many errors.

'The shortest answer is doing.'   Lord Herbert


Sales discounts and discount reserves:  Does your business regularly offer sales or cash discounts to customers who pay early on their invoices for goods and services?  If so, it's a good idea to set aside a reserve fund to cover these sales discounts.  The amount of this discount reserve should be based on your estimate of the likely total figure for discounts that will be taken.

As customers actually take the discounts, credit the accounts receivable account for the amount of the discount and debit the sales discount reserve.  This way the discount is clearly in the same period as the associated invoices, so it is easier to account for all aspects of the sale transaction. 

An Important Message

While every effort has been made to provide valuable, useful information in this publication, this firm and any related suppliers or associated companies accept no responsibility or any form of liability from reliance upon or use of its contents.  Any suggestions should be considered carefully within your own particular circumstances, as they are intended as general information only.


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