Are Christmas Parties Good for Your Business?

It’s that time of year again when thoughts turn to the festive season and the inevitable office Christmas party. Whether it’s actually held in the office or in the local pub, the work’s “do” can often elicit a strong reaction, ranging from excitement, to dread and everything in between. However, how do Christmas parties affect business and is it time to rethink them?

Before we look at the drawbacks of the office Christmas party, we should outline the benefits. One of the main upsides to organising some type of office Christmas event is that it gives employees something to look forward to and acts as a “reward” for hard work throughout the year. Taking both of these in to consideration, Christmas parties can therefore can really help to boost morale. Especially during the colder months when getting up for work can be particularly hard.

Another major benefit to office parties is that they help to create a stronger bond between employees. Ice breakers and group work can only go so far and sometimes there’s nothing better than allowing colleagues to bond in a non-work environment. A greater degree of familiarity between staff can improve team work, boost efficiency and lead to a much more congenial workplace.

I hate to channel Scrooge but we need to talk about the drawbacks and potential pitfalls of hosting a Christmas event for employees. Of course, one of the main considerations for these events is cost- especially for companies that employ many people. It’s very easy for the budget to blow up when you have to pay for venue, food, drinks, transport etc. It’s worth noting that businesses do get a tax-free allowance for staff events that comes in at £150 per person but there can be quite severe penalties if you go over the limit, which is easily done.

The staff Christmas party has a reputation for people over-indulging and this I often used as a punchline but it can have some real-world consequences for business owners. It’s very common for employees to over-indulge at these events and this can lead to inappropriate behaviour, confrontations and overall awkward situations. Any event that is organised by the company or employer is considered an extension of the workplace, even if it’s out of working hours. Therefore, the employer is still responsible for their employees when it comes to specific legislation- whether it’s health and safety, sexual harassment or discrimination. Suffice to say, a simple work event could potentially lead to a much more complex situation.

Worst case scenario, any disputes or bad behaviour can spill in to the workplace or even lead to suspensions.

It’s not just what happens during the Christmas party that can have an effect on business. There is a tendency for drinking too much which could lead to poor performance in work the following day or a spike in absences. Obviously, this has a knock-on effect and can lead to a loss in efficiency and cost the company even more.

This may paint a bleak picture but there are ways for companies to hold an event without having to worry about all of these potential drawbacks. For example, if the party does involve alcohol then it would be best to limit the amount available as this reduces the likelihood of inappropriate behaviour and severe hangovers.

Many companies are changing the way they celebrate altogether- moving on from booze filled parties to more activity-based events- such as craft days or something for foodies. You could also host trips out, such as to the theatre or cinema.

Furthermore, some companies have forgone the Staff Christmas party completely, opting for smaller weekly or monthly communal activities. This takes the pressure off the business but offers the same benefits in terms of morale and team building.

Should my Business Worry about Blockchain?

 

Blockchain is the technology that allows for cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to exist and whilst much of the attention has been around the cryptocurrencies themselves, it seems as if this technology is finally being noticed in the mainstream.

The way in which the Blockchain technology works is relatively simple. Rather than storing date within a central server- information is stored in blocks instead. When the system wants to add another block, it solves the cryptographic key and the multiple blocks then form a chain. The technology can record information between two parties and store it in a way that makes it permanent and resistant to alteration.

One of the main reasons why Blockchain is causing so much excitement across the business world is that it offers a wealth of benefits compared with conventional methods. For example, due to the nature of the technology, the way in which data is stored offers a greater degree of transparency. All of the parties involved have access to the same set of data and alteration can only happen if there is consensus between everyone involved.

Security is another incredibly important issue, especially in light of the numerous breaches and hacks in recent years. Blockchain is known for safety as data is both encrypted and stored across a network of computer, rather than just a single server. All of these measures mean it’s incredibly difficult for hackers to get at the information.

Of course, one of the main reasons why industries are now looking into this technology is due to the fact it can help companies to save money. This is because Blockchain is automated, efficient and cuts out the need for third parties. This is why Blockchain could potentially be revolutionary- cutting out the need for banks and credit card companies and allowing individuals to complete transactions without oversite from a large organisation.

So why should businesses be worried about Blockchain technology? The truth is Blockchain could be the next big disrupter, if not one of the biggest disruptive technologies in the digital age.  This is because it’s not just a new type of security measure or a different form of banking- it’s a completely new transaction model and one that could replace the standard third-party system that we have come to expect.

We are already seeing the rise of Blockchain in a number of start-up companies in recent years. A good example of this is BitTicket, a start-up that is offering an alternative to the large ticket selling organisations. They use Blockchain technology in order to create a direct and secure relationship between the buyer and seller which tackles the problem of scalping and individuals purchasing large amounts of tickets. This is just one example of how this technology is disrupting one particular industry but it showcases just how versatile Blockchain can be in providing solutions to common problems.

Whilst this technology is most definitely on the horizon, it’s worth noting that it’s still in its infancy and therefore there won’t likely be a seismic shift any time soon. That being said, companies need to be aware of Blockchain and ascertain if they need to make any changes in order to prepare for any possible disruption.

Good questions to ask is whether there would be any benefits to introducing Blockchain in to any aspect of your business. Conversely there is a question about whether this would be a risk, strategically or financially. Fellow competitors are another litmus test to use. If a competitor has introduced Blockchain technology then will this affect your consumer base and overall success? Timing is key and choosing whether to introduce Blockchain or not, is specific to each individual company and their own circumstances.

 

 

How Mobile Friendly is your Business?

Mobile has become a major fixture within the business world with more customers choosing to use their mobile devices over more traditional methods. In fact, statistics show that a whopping 50% of all web traffic comes from mobile devices and this number is only going to grow in the future. Therefore, it has never been more important that businesses ensure they are mobile friendly if they want to succeed in the current corporate landscape.

However, there is a misconception that many business owners have that this mobile trend is specific to B2C companies and not as important when it comes to B2B, but this just isn’t the case. The move to mobile is happening just as fast within B2B, in fact 50% of B2B queries are made on smartphones and research shows that this number is likely to rise to 70% by the year 2020. It may be that we expect a greater degree of mobile friendly interaction between businesses and customers but many interactions between companies are also happening through mobile devices.

A major factor in the rise of mobile in B2B is the impact of millennials on the workforce- obviously this new generation are tech savvy and rely much more on mobile platforms. However, interestingly, statistics have shown that age isn’t the only defining factor as baby-boomers are also conducting more and more business using their smartphones. Therefore, it seems as if the cultural and technological shift that is happening is bigger than the generational divide. A report by Salesforce which looked at over 7000 business buyers found that over 80% of millennials believe that their mobile device is essential to their work. Although the amount of Baby-Boomers who felt the same was lower (over 60%) it’s still the vast majority and signals a shift in thinking.

Mobile B2B sales are still relatively low but are continually rising and are likely to make up a significant percentage of revenue in the future. It’s also worth noting that sales figures are not the only measure of the impact of smartphones. The decision to purchase is often influenced by research conducted using smartphones and tablets and whilst the actual purchase isn’t completed using these devices- they are still playing a vital role in the overall process.

The idea of the pre-purchase activity which eventually leads to a sale is often overlooked but it can be vital. Research has found that 70% of executives will use their phone to research a product or service after receiving an offer. Furthermore, 68% of respondents actually use their mobile phones to look at news which is related to their field. What these statistics show is that even if business owners aren’t actually making purchases on a mobile platform- they are being influenced by phones and tablets.

Taking all of this in to account- it’s obviously beneficial to have a website that is mobile-friendly because it allows potential customers to not only research products and services but also encourages them to make the actual sale. Interestingly, a mobile friendly website can have a significant effect on brand loyalty. 90% of B2B buyers are more likely to repeat business with a company that provides a good mobile experience- compared with only 50% of buyers who said they would repeat business with a company that offered a poor mobile experience. Clearly, this is an aspect of the B2B landscape that is important to a lot of buyers.

The interaction between businesses is changing, in fact it seems to be becoming much more like a conventional business to customer relationship. Ensuring that the process is as easy and satisfactory as possible is integral and this includes constructing a website that is tailored to desktop and mobile platforms.

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.