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From the blog

Boost Your Team’s Efficiency With These Tips

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Teamwork is one of the most important parts of just about any job, because one way or another, we will find ourselves working alongside others in some aspect. Without a properly functioning team, the work becomes tedious, the days long, and the efficiency of your work takes a nosedive into the red zone. So what can we do to keep the team afloat? What things need to be done to make sure every member of the team is putting out exactly what they need to — and doing it happily? Here are some five tips on how to improve team efficiency.

Whose job is it, anyway? While it may take the entire team to work on a project, there needs to be some kind of “job assignment”, so things can get done effectively, rather than everyone picking on the portion of the project they want to work on and avoiding all the others. The team leader needs to portion tasks out fairly, but also take into consideration the team members’ passions and strengths, as well as weaknesses.

It’s about strengths AND weaknesses. Knowing each and every team members’ strong points is one thing; it might just lead you down the right path for a great outcome, but without knowing what they struggle with, you’re putting the team at risk of faltering. Delegating jobs based on not only their skills, but also the things they struggle with, if the best way to get your task or tasks done without many hiccups.

Communication!!! Yes, that definitely deserves three exclamation points, because without communication, you cannot function as a team. It’s just not possible. There are hundreds of ways to communicate with your team, and unless you want to watch the chaos descend upon your project, then you need to utilize at least one of them.

Use incentives. The hard truth is that people tend to work happier, faster, and better when there are incentives involved. Think up rewards, even if it’s just something like “if this gets done early, then you can all go home early, too.”

Be a good example for your team members. As a team leader, your teammates will mimic your behavior when it comes to approaching their project. Should you face something with a negative attitude and snarky remarks, the others will do the same, because you haven’t given them anything else to go on.

So long as you remember these things, your team will remain successful in all that they approach. These people are like an extended family, so take the time to treat them and train them right, and everything else will follow!

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How to Confront Without Rocking the Boat

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Working in a customer service job is one of the most stressful jobs someone can be in, because you’re dealing with — you guessed it — people. Not just people, but oftentimes disgruntled people. People who aren’t very kind. Sometimes, there are moments where we might have to confront someone, but we don’t want to do it to the point where it blows up in our faces and creates a bigger problem, right? So here’s what we’ve come up with on how to confront someone, but without rocking the boat:

Make an observation, then ask a question. This is probably one of the easiest and non-confrontational ways to confront someone about something. You telling them what you have noticed and perceived is a great way of avoiding labels and diagnosis, and asking the follow up question gives them a gentle push towards an explanation and open dialogue: “I’m noticing ______. I’m wondering if _______.”

Being direct doesn’t have to mean being rude. Direct conversation is probably one of the most valuable forms, but also one that gets a bad rap as being “rude” and “blunt.” The fact of the matter is, you can be direct without coming off as a stuck-up know it all. Always start your conversation with a compliment; it not only disarms the person you’re confronting, but also lowers their walls and opens them up for what you’re about to say. The words coming out of your mouth need to be either neutral, or positively associated words — so avoid words like “never,” “lazy,” “disappointed,” etc. Direct communication also means walking into the conversation with a solution already on hand, relaxed body language, and a smile. Your goal is to talk about the important parts without sounding like you’re condemning the other person.

Understanding your own emotions is just as important as acknowledging the other person’s emotions. If you find that you’re in a high-emotions situations, and you can’t seem to allow yourself a deep breath, then it’s okay to get a rain check on the conversation. If you cannot fight back the anger or the tears (sometimes they come hand-in-hand), then you cannot confront the situation in a healthy and professional way. There is no shame in taking a step back.

No one is a real fan of confrontation, but if it’s done in a calm, cool, and collected manner, then the experience really isn’t as scary as most people think. The goal is to be open and accepting of the other person; have a discussion, not an argument.

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Why Cybersecurity is Essential for Retail Businesses

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Online shopping has possibly become the easiest way to get what we need and get it fast — we use it to order food, entertainment, clothing, and even groceries and anything else! With a convenient click, and copying a few numbers down from a plastic card, we have the world at our fingertips. The only downside? We’re copying a few numbers from a little plastic card. As it turns out, though, these numbers have a grave weight in the world; It’s astounding to think that something so small can have such a massive impact on our lives — we use them so much and rely on them far more than we do cash, and if anyone got a hold of our credit or debit cards? Yikes. So, it’s important to make sure that your retail business is armed to the very teeth, because cybersecurity…

Boosts clientele.

If your customers know that your website is not only useful, but also safe, then they will be sure to spread the word about it to their friends and family. Keeping your current customers safe is the best way to get a bigger client base.

Protects your products.

If someone can hack into the most secured part of your website and access all of the sensitive information, there’s no telling what can sneak in with it; they could pull the card numbers and do all kinds of damage in the process or on the way out, like just a physical robbery.

Protects your business.

Not only will you lose hundreds — maybe even thousands — of dollars’ worth of products and potential, but you will also face possible legal action as well. PCI Compliance is a set of guidelines that all businesses that work with credit/debit card information are required to abide by, as stated by the PCI Standards Council. Should these guidelines be violated, you will most likely find yourself deep in legal paperwork and with a headache.

Cybersecurity is no longer a luxury for high-end websites; if you want to run a business from the web, you need it, and you need the absolute best. Without it, you will see a drop in first customer satisfaction, and then customers themselves will drop like flies, you will lose money, which is the opposite of what you’re doing with your business, and you will most likely find yourself a friend to your attorney. So, make sure you keep yourself safe!

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Why Multitasking May Not Really Be the Best Strategy

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We have all learned to do things in the most effective way possible, and oftentimes, we think that way might be with multitasking. We think that, if we can get two or three things done at the same or at about the same time, our days would be much easier, right? Well, the truth is, multitasking isn’t for everyone — or for just any project; you may actually be spending more time doing these things at once than you would if you did it all one at a time.

Multitasking isn’t really what it’s called; it’s a basic task-switch. You’re not really getting anything done because you keep switching from one task to another. Have you ever watched a toddler go from building a block castle to coloring a single page from a coloring book? When they switch off from task to task, neither gets done right away, or the way they want it. Or maybe you’ve noticed that it takes longer while driving to your destination while on the phone, rather than not? That’s because your brain is split between two different — and important — things, when the tasks really deserve your undivided attention. What will get things done faster, though, is doing things in batches. For example: send out all your emails at once, write your reports one after another, etc. Your brain gets super-focused on the task at hand and you fly right through everything.

Not only is it a total time-waster, but with the more projects or tasks you take on, the more mistakes you’ll make, especially when you’re doing something important that involves critical thinking. People can lose up to 40% productivity when they choose to task-switch, and honestly, that doesn’t sound worth the time you think you might be saving.

It’s also incredibly stressful! Have you noticed that the terms “busybody” and “hectic” always seem to coexist alongside individuals who try an multitask? That’s because it’s true! When you’re busy doing all sorts of things at once, your body jumps into an anxiety-driven panic, and your heart rate is stuck at a racing speed. So, by the end of the day, you’re exhausted, and have no energy for any other activities outside of work.

While we think that multitasking is a great way to get things done and have more time in the day, it’s more trouble than it’s worth; your work isn’t as neat, your body is tired, and your mind wants to shut down by the end of the day. So, take your time, work on one task before turning to another, and enjoy what you’re doing!

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Top Customer Service Tips

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If there’s one job that’s harder than it looks, it’s customer service. Anything that involves dealing with other people who may or may not have high emotions is hard, but being a good customer service worker? It’s tough – but rewarding to help others needing your product or service. So, whether you’re an HR rep, or a salesperson, here are our five underrated customer service tips:

  1. Always practice empathy. It’s something we take for granted because it comes naturally in certain situations, but it can be very hard to do when you’re faced with a rude customer. Be empathetic to what the customer or client is telling you – or possibly screaming at you – because there is most likely a way you can help them without it getting too nasty. Sometimes you can’t, but that isn’t your fault. Just remember to always give them the benefit of the doubt, and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. Empathy gets you a long way.
  1. You’re human, too, so show them! Identifying with the customer is one of the greatest ways to build their trust in you and your company. Express your similarities; if they like cats, mention your pet, or if they like a specific movie or movie genre, mention one you like, too. Too many customer service situations are approached with an automated system, and the splash of humanity gives them that breath of fresh air they so crave.
  1. Be honest. It’s easy to try and talk your way out of answering something you don’t know, but nine times out of ten, the customers can tell when you’re doing it, and then begin to distrust you. If you don’t know the answer to something, own up to it. “I don’t know” is an acceptable thing to say in these situations.
  1. Be accessible. It’s not something that everyone likes to do, but it gives you an added bonus when talking to a customer when you give them your contact information. That’s e-mail, phone, and some people even give them their personal number! (If that’s something you would like to do, just make sure you set up boundaries as to when they can and cannot call. They’ll understand.) Making yourself available at the customer’s disposal is another great trust-building habit you should cling to.
  1. Use positive language. The trick is to avoid negatives — can’t, won’t, isn’t, etc — when dealing with a customer. It’s not about what you can’t do, it’s about what you can! So, for example of negative: “I can’t get your shipment to you until Friday,” versus an example of positive: “I can have your shipment to you as soon as Friday!” The mood shift is what sells it.

In customer service, there are so many different tips and guidelines on how to do the job and do it well — add your favorite tips in the comments!

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Self-Care Tips for Busy Leaders

As a leader, others orbit around you, looking to you for guidance and direction, hoping to better themselves in their work and overall everyday lives. Being a leader means putting the people who follow you first, and their livelihoods. A leader could be a boss, a co-worker, a politician, or just an everyday person; leader qualities live inside of everyone. Being a leader also means you might find yourself neglecting what is most important — your own self-care. Without it, everything is affected; our jobs, our relationships, and even our finances can suffer! It’s so important to take care of oneself, that we put together a list of four self-care tips for you desperate leaders. Keep reading!

#1. Be assertive! This one might not be too hard if you’re already sitting pretty with this personality trait trained and waiting in your arsenal, but if this doesn’t come naturally to join remember to practice it! Remember that YOU are your own master, and you’re not a slave to your own leadership. Say “no” when you want to — and don’t feel bad!

#2. Get away when you can. We strongly suggest that you use up your vacation days, or even weekends, to refocus. Center yourself back into the powerful leader that you are so you can attack the next work week. Sometimes just stepping away to look at the situation as a whole is just what you need to keep your sanity from slipping away.

#3. Stay involved in some sort of community. Even if you just visit your parents once a week, you’re still surrounding yourself with people who aren’t looking to you for a leadership. These people — your friends, your family, your lover — all hold you near and dear to their hearts, and will act as a softening agent to a reality that puts a lot of strain on you.

#4. The 3 Rs: Rest, Routine, Reward. You need to get the allocated 8 hours — or more — of sleep in a day. It’s hard when you’re busy, but SO MUCH changes when you’ve slept long and we’ll. You should also establish a morning routine that will leave you feeling happy and energized for the rest of the day (hint: avoid heavy starchy breakfasts). Finally, at the end of the day, you need to reward yourself with the things you like. It could be wine, a snack, a movie, or anything else, so long as you enjoy it.

Remember, self-care is the one thing we can’t afford to avoid! What are some of your self-care routines? Let us know in the comments!

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Does My Business Need to be PCI Compliant?

Different credit cards on table, closeup

PCI compliance is mandatory for every merchant that accepts credit or debit card payments on their website. The information entered by customers is sensitive data, so it must be well-protected.

The systems often store consumers’ credit card information for long periods of time, so it’s important that customers feel confident their information will not be compromised. In fact, a huge part of every customer’s buying decision is the degree to which they believe a website is trustworthy.

Technologies are advancing and being developed every day, so the amount of fraud activity is growing, and businesses can face liabilities as a result. That’s why every merchant or payment service provider with card payment solutions must be PCI compliant. Some people have been questioning the need for it, but here’s why it’s so important.

– Eliminate Risk

When you have a payment security option, your consumers will be happier with your product. When there is no security behind an online purchase, it’s available to the black market nearly immediately. In turn, your company could get sued.

– Fraud

As mentioned, purchasing anything online can be dangerous without security options. The black market is waiting to scam people out of their money. PCI compliance helps the consumer and the provider of the product or service.

– Secure YOUR Business

The world of business is tough and keeping your business safe is even tougher. If your payment system isn’t secure, you will have a problem at some point, if you haven’t already. It’s important to hold your payment system to as high a standard as you hold the rest of your business.

– Avoiding Fines

Fines can happen easily when you’re an online company.  Should your site get breached, not only will you have to deal with the loss of data, but you may also have to deal with fines or lawsuits from customers and other organizations. This could cost you hundreds of dollars if you’re extremely lucky, or hundreds of thousands if you’re only moderately unlucky.

– Standards

If your company is PCI compliant, it improves your reputation for everything. Assure your customers that your bottom-line is not your only priority, and that your company holds itself to a higher standard than competitors.

Companies that are PCI compliant are significantly more successful and safer. Many business leaders think PCI is not important for their business, but it is necessary for the consumer and producer. Consumers knowing that the information they put into a website is safe is of utmost importance. Protect yourself and your company by protecting your consumers.

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4 Office Spring Cleaning Tips

The weather is warming up and winter is on its way out! Now is the perfect time to start spring cleaning your office. Organizing and cleaning any room, especially if it has gotten out of hand, can seem like an overwhelming project. We’re here to help! We’ve compiled a few tips to help get you started on getting your office back to the productive workspace it’s meant to be.

Clean out your desk.

Your desk should only hold your most important items. Computer, phone, notepads, pens, and other vital supplies are examples of these. If your desk has drawers, they should only hold important items as well. If your desk is cluttered with food wrappers, old documents or pieces of mail, it’s time to start cleaning it out. Only keep what you need and use regularly.

Get rid of your digital clutter.

Our online workspaces are important to our productivity just as much as our physical ones are. An inbox full of junk or unopened emails looks overwhelming to some. If you have a digital to-do list or schedule, optimize it so that it contains reasonable goals for each day. Keep up with it, too! If one task doesn’t get done, assign it to a different day where you’re sure you’ll have enough free time.

Clean your furniture.

When your desk and online workspaces are organized, it’s time to get down to the actual cleaning step. Wipe down all of your furniture surfaces with disinfectant. Dust your bookshelves. Polish your wooden furniture. These steps should be a weekly part of your routine. If you can’t keep up with it yourself, consider hiring a professional cleaning service.

Clean your floors.

You don’t want to ignore your floors! You’ll need to vacuum, mop, and (if needed) wax them. If you’re willing to make this project even bigger, get down to the baseboards, air ducts, and corners and clean up all the collected dirt and dust. Squeaky-clean floors will make the room seem bigger and more approachable.

Spring is a great time to kick-start your cleaning projects and it’s also an opportune time to set new cleanliness goals and habits for yourself. Take the time to deep clean your office and help it stay clean by working regular maintenance tasks into your routine. Something as simple as clearing clutter off your desk daily will make a big impact. Try not to think of these tasks as chores – think of them as you investing in your own productivity and success!

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What is Charismatic Leadership?

We’ve all learned about charismatic leaders throughout history. Some examples are Martin Luther King Jr., Sir Winston Churchill, and even Mother Teresa. What sets these kinds of leaders apart from typical leaders is that they are skilled communicators, have a way with words, and are able to communicate on an emotional level with their followers. What else does charismatic leadership entail?

Sensitivity to the needs of their followers.

A charismatic leader is always finely in tune with the needs of the people they’re leading. Many leaders simply focus on their goals and string their people along with them regardless of how it affects their peoples’ well-being. Charismatic leadership means knowing when your people need a break, when they need to be pushed more, and when they’ve reached a proper level of equilibrium between the two.

Articulate communication.

If you think of popular charismatic leaders, you’ll likely end up thinking about how well-spoken they are. Charismatic leaders know how to communicate on a deep level and inspire hope in the people who follow them. These types of leaders don’t just bark orders, they work with their people and motivate them to be their very best through intimate and moving language.

Prioritizing learning from mistakes.

Mistakes and mishaps are an inevitable part of working toward most goals, and charismatic leaders know and understand this. This plays into our first point of being in touch with the people who follow them – this includes knowing what kind of feedback motivates their followers the most. Being abrasive is not charismatic and doesn’t bring people together.

Inclined toward intelligent risk-taking behavior.

The best charismatic leaders know where and when to push the boundaries of what is considered normal and accepted. Moving toward change requires this kind of behavior, but the real skill comes in getting people to back them when they make these moves. Charismatic leaders are adept at working toward their goals in controversial ways and getting people to support them throughout the journey.

The world needs charismatic leaders because, typically, they advocate for a better world in whatever context that means to them. The scale can be as big as running for president or as small as motivating their sales team to meet their goals. They tend to have the courage to stick to their convictions despite pushback and advocate for what’s right. If you’re in a leadership position, take time to evaluate how you could incorporate these qualities into your own leadership style.

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4 Tips for Dealing with Angry Customers

Dissatisfied customers are par for the course when you work in a customer service role. However, you should note that each unhappy customer is an opportunity to maintain or even improve your customer base. Your response will determine whether the customer will spread bad publicity of your business or rave about your stellar customer service. When confronted with an angry customer, here are some things you can do to help resolve the situation:

Don’t evaluate whether the customer has a right to be angry.

When a customer calls and is unhappy with a product or service, it’s commonplace for the service representative to internally evaluate whether they think the customer is justified in their anger. The problem with this is that the only thing this thinking can do is frustrate you more if you don’t agree with their feelings.

Try not to do this and instead focus on the fact that the customer does have the privilege to be irate. If you listen carefully to their expression of their anger, you might be able to figure out the root of their concerns. This will help you resolve the complaint much more easily than internally judging the caller.

Be patient.

When the customer is at their height of expressing their emotions, be patient and listen to their concerns. Don’t interrupt them, as this will likely make them angrier and simply fuel the fire. Wait for the wave of emotion to pass and then interject with reassurances that you care about their business and are there to help. If the customer hits you with another wave of intensity, complete this process again. Wait for the customer to calm down before approaching the issue at hand.

Repeat the customer’s concerns back to them.

After you’ve thoroughly listened to the customer’s issues, reiterate the highlighted priorities that you believe you’ve heard from their perspective. This will help you figure out which aspects of the problem to tackle first and reassure the customer that you are on the same page with them.

Own the issue.

It doesn’t matter what happened before the customer came to you. Who created the problem isn’t important to your immediate task of providing excellent service. When confronted with an emotional customer, let them know that you own the problem and will work hard to achieve the best results possible for them.

Customer service is not an easy job, especially when faced with a combative customer. It’s important to remember that you can handle that kind of situation, even if it is overwhelming and sometimes confusing.

Call us today to find out how we can help you optimize productivity and deliver a better customer experience and provide outsourced customer service.

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