Category Archives: Tips & Resources

How to avoid email overload


Email has been one of the most popular forms of communication for many years now. With the rise of chatbots, instant messaging and social media, you may be forgiven for thinking that It isn’t quite as important as it once was, but this isn’t the case. In fact, a recent American study found that over 50% of respondents check their emails more than 10 times a day. Not to mention, the number of active email accounts worldwide is expected to pass 5.6 billion by the end of this decade. Clearly email is as popular as it ever was- even when facing fierce competition.

One of the main problems with email is that it’s too popular. With the advent of smart phones, the email app is literally a click away and the compulsion to check and respond to messages is constant. Many people are swamped with hundreds of unanswered emails which require substantial time and effort to process. The problem is that new emails are generated each and every day, so the backlog grows and individuals can often feel overwhelmed. Email is not going away any time soon, so the question becomes how can we deal with this growing epidemic of email overload.

Organise

There’s no problem that didn’t get at least a little bit better with some organisation and this applies here. Most email accounts do some sort of basic organising for you, for example priority and spam, however this isn’t usually enough. There are so many types of messages which hit our accounts every day, whether promotional, work, news or social. Creating dedicated folders will allow you to have a clearer picture of your emails and therefore the constant stream won’t be as overwhelming. Folders also allow you prioritise your messages.

Prioritise

It can be easy to fall into the trap of treating all emails equally and attempting to respond to everything as you receive it. However, this can often just exacerbate the frustration of not being able to keep on top of everything. The truth is that the majority of emails that we receive can be placed on the back burner, at least for a short time. Therefore, the next step after organising should be prioritising. Reserve your time for the most important emails that require immediate attention and then work backwards. This means that even if you don’t have a lot of time dedicated to your emails, the time you do have will be prioritised, ensuring greater overall efficiency.

Compartmentalise

One of the reasons why emails can very quickly take over daily life is because they’re ever present. We are notified with every new message, which immediately puts pressure on people to respond. The outcome of this cycle is continual interruption of the day and a feeling that the job is never done. One way to combat this is to allot a specific portion of time each day which is dedicated to processing emails. Outside of these times, you should be in an email free zone, either by blocking notifications or simply resisting temptation. This approach may be difficult at first but after a while the routine becomes second nature and you can successful compartmentalise this aspect of your life and stop is taking over.

Revolutionise

With email overload becoming such a problem, some individuals and organisations are attempting more drastic changes to combat the issue. For example, this idea of unnecessary messaging and reducing this to bring down the overall amount. So, if you’re replying to an email with a single word answer or a simple “thanks”, this often just adds to the general bulk of messages and is often not needed. Follow up emails may be polite but they just tend to add to the mass.

Building on this concept, there is a discussion happening about whether email is always better when compared with other forms of communication. There are discussions, agreements or deals that would take countless back and forth messages over email but could be completed in a single phone call or face to face meeting. This is easier said than done, especially when considering that millennials will soon make up the largest proportion of the workforce and as a group, they tend favour email above all else. In fact, a massive 73% of millennials prefer business communication to come via email.

It’s clear that the overload problem will take some creative thinking and that is exactly what company owner Tony Hsieh has done. He is known for out of the box, unconventional ideas, for example abolishing managers. His approach towards email is a concept called “Yesterbox”, the idea being that we only reply to emails that we received the previous day- unless you get an urgent message that can’t wait. It may not seem that exciting at first but many people have tried it to get success. Whilst today’s emails are continual, yesterdays are fixed and therefore there’s a clear, finite target to aim for. This technique doesn’t actually change the amount of emails that we deal with but its changes our perception of them. The difference between a set amount and non-stop, continual stream can be huge when it comes to stress and management.

One thing that is for certain, emails are not going anywhere so the emphasis needs to be on how we interact with this form of communication. With the right approach and boundaries, we can enjoy all the benefits of email, without the stress.

How can remarketing help my business?

Companies invest huge amounts of time and money in to marketing in the hope of directing new customers to their website. Whether its banner ads, viral marketing or social media, the eventual goal is to convert leads in to sales. However, whilst many forms of marketing will be successful in getting people on to a website- that doesn’t automatically lead to a sale. There’s a whole host of reasons why this may be the case, but the overall outcome is the same. In situations such as these, remarketing may be the ideal solution.

When a customer leaves your site without making a sale, they could potentially never return. In fact, a whopping 96% of visitors will leave without making a purchase and on average, it will take 9.5 visits before a person will actually complete a transaction. Therefore, the time, resources and money that was invested in to attracting the visitor could be potentially wasted. This is where remarketing comes in. It’s a technique in which companies will follow visitors who have left their website, showcasing their own banner ads on other websites and apps that the customer visits. Often the ad will be specific, advertising the individual product that the customer was viewing.

Some of the most popular vehicles for remarketing are Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Whilst the majority of remarketing is done using cookies, user IDs and mobile advertising IDs, you can also utilise email addresses, phone numbers and physical addresses. It’s also worth noting that many companies are now utilising social media and apps more as they receive so much traffic.

The remarketing process falls in to two different camps, self-service and 3rd party platforms. Self-service tools such as those offered by Google and Facebook, are cheaper and offer more control but require more time, effort and skill. 3rd party platforms are more expensive and offer less control but are easier to use. Both routes offer their own advantages and disadvantages but it’s worth noting that self-service platforms tend to be more popular.

There are many benefits to remarketing with the obvious one being that it can lead to an increase in sales. People get distracted when surfing the web and the gentle reminders provided by banner ads can lead to visitors returning to your site and making a purchase. This is especially likely if the visitor was close to making a sale before leaving the site. Another often overlooked benefit to this type of marketing is the effect it has on overall brand awareness. Building a brand identity using traditional methods can be time consuming and expensive. Remarketing allows companies to push certain products or services, but it also helps in showcasing the business as a whole. With banner ads continually in the periphery of potential customers, it’s a very subtle but effective approach to boosting overall awareness.

When discussing remarketing, the focus tends to be on traditional banner ads but there are other techniques at hand. Another form of remarketing which tends to be particularly successful for generating sales is to remind customers that they have items within their basket and then offer them an incentive in order to complete the sale. This usually comes in the form of a discount offer or free delivery, sent via an email. An offer which has been specifically targeted in such a way can make all the difference for customers who are on the fence.

Clearly, there are many upsides to remarketing but there are some disadvantages to consider. One of the major pitfalls is the “creep factor” – as many customers dislike the idea that brands will follow them to other websites. It’s all part of the growing unease with companies collecting so much of our data, often without us noticing. The best way to combat this idea is through moderation. For example, don’t be too aggressive with remarketing in terms of the frequency of ads. Also, don’t remarket to customers who have already made a purchase, instead aim at potential customers who are close to converting.

It’s also worth noting that many experts believe that the “creep factor” is overblown and the numbers back this up. Remarketing is still a very powerful tool, and this wouldn’t be the case if customers were being alienated by the technique.

As marketing become more sophisticated and companies have even more access to customer data, it’s likely remarketing will evolve further, offering even more benefits in the future.

Turning Complaints into Compliments

No businesses like to receive customer complaints but they are often unavoidable. Organisations aren’t perfect and mistakes do happen, especially when you factor in human error. However inconvenient, many companies fail to realise that complaints can offer a unique opportunity to gain valuable feedback and turn a frustrated customer in to a happy and therefore loyal customer. This is particularly important as many business owners know, retaining customers is a lot easier and cheaper than attracting new ones. So how can business owners ensure that they turn their complaints in to compliments?

Before even considering the process of dealing with complaints, companies should try to change their entire mindset. Instead of viewing complaints as a chore, see them as a resource. Many businesses go out of their way to gain feedback on their products and overall customer service but ignore the consistent stream of feedback which rolls in from complaints. Furthermore, if a customer is urged to actually make a complaint- usually that means it’s about a fairly pertinent issue and one the company should be aware of.

The initial reaction to a complaint is incredibly important and will dictate the ongoing relationship with the consumer and business. It’s vital that each complaint, no matter how large or small is treated with the same level of professionalism and seriousness. Although it’s likely that the grievance has nothing to do with the customer service agent personally, apologising on behalf of the company and thanking the customer for getting in touch can go a long way to rebuilding trust.

The next step should be about gathering as much information as possible about the customer and their problem. This will both illustrate a sincere attempt at help and will expedite the process of offering a solution.

When dealing with a disgruntled customer, communication is key. The customer want to know what the agent is going to do about the complaint and an approximate timeline. Many companies will fail to keep in contact with a consumer during this process and this is a sure-fire way to lose a them forever. It’s therefore important to explain how the complaint will be dealt and when the customer will find out the end result. Contact, whether it’s via phone or email, should be initiated at all appropriate stages.

Of course, how the complaint is handled is going to play a large role in customer satisfaction or dissatisfaction. This all depends on the complaint and company policy. However, it’s obvious that faulty products should be replaced or refunded. If the situation is more complex, for example a problem with a service, it may be pertinent to reimburse or “reward” the customer in the form of vouchers, credit or free products.

It’s worth noting that agents can actually ask customers on their preferred solution. Customers often react positively to this technique because it allows them to see the agent as an ally, rather than a faceless company worker.

Once a solution is agreed upon, it should be delivered as it was explained to the customer. When attempting to rebuild trust with consumers, honesty is integral and any perceived deception will most likely lead to an irreparable break down in trust.

Businesses should be encouraged to deal with complaints correctly, not only because of the benefits but also the potential damage. Social media is everywhere and it doesn’t take much for a simple complaint to grow in to something much larger, whether through consumer review websites or even just social networking. There is also the potential for a complaint to go viral which can often lead to disastrous consequences for the company. All of these scenarios can be avoided with successful customer service.

As already mentioned, this approach to retaining customers is incredibly important because keeping existing customers is much cheaper and easier than attracting new ones. A company that settles a complaint and satisfies the customer can actually create stronger, more trusting relationships with their consumers. In fact, a whopping 95% of customers will give companies a second chance if they handle their complaint to their satisfaction.

The idea of turning a complaint in to a compliment all depends on the customer and their opinion on the process and therefore the company in question. A complaint which is dealt with quickly and in a satisfactory way will engender trust and that customer is not only much more likely to repeat business but also advertise the company through word of mouth. Considering the current age of social media, good word of mouth is worth its weight in gold.

 

 

 

Is big data for little companies?

Big data has drastically transformed the business landscape in recent years. Companies have always collected data but not necessarily used it to it’s fullest potential. Rather than storing data in a folder or on a disk, never to be seen again, businesses can employ the big data approach and use this information as a way to gain valuable insight.

Big data involves the analysis of large sets of statistics, whether that be consumer information, revenue, advertising, footfall or ever social media. This data is collected and analysed in order to find patterns that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible to recognise using standard methods. The information which is produced from big data can offer a wealth of benefits, including financial, promotional and organisational, just to name a few

The reason that big data has become so popular in recent years is because it is now much more affordable and easy to use thanks to the evolution of technology. However, there does seem to be a disconnect between this new type of analysis and smaller businesses. Many small to medium companies won’t even consider big data because they assume it’s suited to larger organisations and out of their reach, but this just isn’t the case.

It is true that larger amounts of data does facilitate more accurate results and this may seem to benefit larger companies but any amount of data can be useful. This is particularly true if the business in question hasn’t been analysing much or any data previously, which tends to be the case with smaller companies.

So why are so many smaller businesses failing to embrace big data? It’s likely that there is a number of factors behind this. Money is probably the main issue, with many smaller companies assuming that they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of the equipment, software and personnel required to utilise this new technique.

Another problem is the assumption that utilising big data techniques would require a designated department or member of staff with the expertise to run it. The majority of small business owners employ a small number of staff and don’t have the budget in place to hire new employees, never mind a whole team of specialists.

The concept of big data itself can be quite intimidating and many business owners feel that they don’t have the full understanding in order to get the most value from this tool. Even if they are able to collect and analyse the data, there is a worry that they won’t be able to fully utilise the results in any meaningful way.

Although understandable and very common, these worries are often misconceptions and are holding companies back from embracing an invaluable tool. Thanks to the rise of another huge business trend- self service solutions, companies are no longer forced to modify their own infrastructure in order to utilise new techniques, they can simply outsource.

There are many online organisations that offer self service big data solutions, levelling the playing field for every company, no matter how large or small. These services not only help businesses to collect and analyse their own data, they also convert the raw data in to meaningful, simple to understand information. This information is incredibly useful and can be used to make informed decisions that will hopefully cut costs, streamline processes or attract new custom.

The best part of the self-service approach is that it doesn’t require new software, hardware or personnel and is therefore much more affordable, straightforward and infinitely more attractive to smaller businesses.

In the past, techniques such as big data may have been more accessible to larger, richer companies but thanks to the continual evolution of technology- this is no longer the case. Fortunately, the breaking down of technological barriers is helping to create a much more egalitarian business landscape.

In fact, it’s worth noting that there are advantages that smaller companies have over their larger competitors when it comes to big data. For example, they benefit from a much more flexible approach to change- meaning they can react to data in real time. Larger companies tend to be fixed and have many more moving parts- therefore modifications are complex and require more time.

It has never been a better time for smaller businesses to adopt a bigger approach to data.

So where do you start?  The choice is yours but one company we have worked with may be worth a call https://brainlogic.co.uk