Tag

Omnichannel Support Archives - IdeasUnlimited

Preparing for Employees Going on Annual Leave

9 Ways to Prepare Your Business for Employees Going on Holiday Leave

By | Business Improvement, Call Center Support, Employee Management, Time Management, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

Last year’s holiday season retail sales in the US alone topped $161 billion and 43% shoppers supported small businesses on Small Business Saturday. With the holiday season coming up, now is the time to plan out a company strategy to ensure you have backup staff handling essential business activities at all times.

Figures for Holiday Season Retail Sales

You don’t have to dread the holiday season when your employees go on leave, when the company’s manpower is down and productivity seems to nosedive. Simply follow our tips that we’ve practiced and improved upon through trial and error over 8 years of operations and you will be well prepared. You can easily handle holiday leave while maintaining a healthy culture and employer brand.

  1. Use a Workforce Management Software

Using a scheduling and staffing software or even a shared Google calendar can make your life infinitely easier. This way you won’t have clashes in scheduling vacations and can plan accurately in advance for holidays. Most workforce management softwares have additional features like communication, task management, and time reporting. Here is our rundown of some effective softwares:

Deputy

With unlimited users, shift swapping, forecasting and QuickBooks integration, Deputy is a mobile platform that can cut your time spent scheduling considerably. It is perfect for small to medium businesses employing shift workers.

When I Work

Offering templates and shortcuts with its mobile and desktop adaptive platform, When I Work is also integrated with some POS and Payroll systems and has a very intuitive user interface (UI).

Quinyx

It allows you to schedule work keeping in mind employee contracts and working time directives. You can also set up an optimal schedule matching the best employee to the most appropriate task and set up a staffing schedule taking expected sales into account.

TrackSmart

Their online time and attendance management software allows for scheduling based on employee availability and job skills. You can even set up recurring schedules. All these are accessible from all devices 24/7. These smarter schedules will ensure you are never understaffed, even for the holiday season.

  1. Be Transparent

Make sure you communicate your holiday leave policy and vacation policy to your employees as soon as they are hired. Is it first come first served? Are there any vacation blackout periods when no vacation requests would be entertained due to an expected rise in traffic or a special project? Will you be encouraging them to take their vacation in the slower periods? Communicating all this in advance will be fairer and more acceptable to your employees. Make sure any vacations are granted judiciously—with employees fully cognizant of the decision-making criteria—after due deliberation and without any favoritism.

  1.  Set a Deadline

Set a deadline by which employees can request holiday leave. Depending on your needs, this can be anywhere from a few days to several weeks before the staff wants to use leave time. This deadline should be far enough in advance for you to ensure that it does not affect a project’s productivity or deadline and you are not understaffed. Also cap the number of employees of each specialization who can take off at the same time.

  1. Get Pertinent Information

When an employee puts in a leave request, request a report on current projects. Ask them how they plan to meet deadlines before they head out the door. Nicolas Gremion told SmallBizTrends that this process “gives me piece of mind that their absence won’t be problematic and they can leave knowing that they’ve tied up any loose ends.”

Get a detailed breakdown of projects they are currently working on, tasks to be performed, access details for pertinent files and accounts, deadlines for current projects, important contact information, and any other information needed by the employees covering the vacationers’ jobs. Create a checklist of these that each vacationing employee can tally against before leaving.

Project NameDeadlineTasks to be PerformedContact PersonContact InformationAccess Details
AccountPassword
Project 1
Project 2
Project 3
  1. Delegate Tasks

Then make sure that someone is covering for the missing employee. Sometimes, that requires handing off tasks and projects to a few different people in the office instead of asking one person to do the work of two. Crosstrain employees in preparation for the upcoming holiday season, ensuring that the backup employee is fully conversant with the appropriate project training manual.

  1. Trade-off

Trade-off between your employees. Some employees may have important commitments at other times of the year that they can take time off for and then work during the holiday season. Allow employees with similar job descriptions to trade off their vacations with each other, one picking up the slack when the other is on leave. Stagger your employee vacations so you always have coverage; allow some to work the morning shift, some the afternoon shift, or schedule one set of employees for the first few days of the week and the other for the rest of the weekdays during the holiday season.

  1. Offer Incentives for Working Employees

Give cash bonuses, extra paid leaves redeemable after the holiday season, and other incentives for those willing to work during the most popular vacation periods. This will ensure that you have a productive skeleton staff even during the heart of the holiday season. It will also boost the morale of those who have to work over the holidays when the other employees are on leave and enjoying themselves.

  1. Hire Temporary Support

In some cases, you can even hire a temporary virtual assistant to pick up the slack in an employee’s absence. Especially in the retail industry, business booms in the holiday season and having employees on holiday leave can cause a stress on operations. Hire a qualified virtual assistant to take care of ecommerce sales, provide administrative and operational support, or even act as a virtual receptionist service during the holidays.

You can even hire a temporary call center operator or a customer service center to handle customer service, field incoming calls, generate leads, and make telemarketing calls to take advantage of the boost in sales in the holiday season.

Having part-time staff as backup all year round is always a sound decision, so they can come in if you have any shortages and during the holiday season when most employees are on leave.

  1. Prep for the Manager’s Leave

What if the manager is the one going on leave? We suggest that you let your employees know far enough in advance so they can prepare. Make the manager’s calendar public so that the staff will know when he or she will be back. Ask the manager to train the second-in-command to pick up the slack. The administrative support staff must also be familiarized with how to handle certain tasks while the manager is out of the office, such as where to direct calls and how to respond to requests. Then, consider having a protocol for an emergency, so employees can determine when to call the manager while he or she is on leave.

With these tactics, you can ensure that handling the holiday season won’t be such a hassle. Let us know down below what some best practices are that you have seen or used for handling employee leave during the holiday season.

Five Reasons Why Ecommerce is Growing

Five Reasons Why Ecommerce is Growing

By | Business Improvement, Customer Service, Ecommerce Support Services | No Comments

Take advantage of these 5 Ecommerce Trends and help grow and transform your customer base.

The last decade witnessed a dramatic shift from physical stores to fewer brick-and-mortar locations or a complete switch to online commerce. Today, this trend shows no signs of abating, with Forbes attributing a 23% year-on-year growth rate to ecommerce. Expanding customer reach from the immediate surroundings of businesses to anywhere in the world was one of the initial promises of ecommerce. What is fueling the growth of this industry beyond that? Here are five major causes of the growth of ecommerce in today’s technology-driven world that you must be aware of and incorporate into your business growth strategy.

1. Mobile Adaptivity

More and more web traffic is generated by smartphones and tablets, driving ecommerce sales. All major brands ensure that their websites are mobile-adaptive—enhancing the customer experience—and more often than not they have native mobile apps to make shopping even easier. If your website is not mobile and tablet adaptive, you will definitely be losing millennial customers and the youth of Generation Z.

In addition to this, technological advancements such as voice-activated shopping and better connectivity have caused a surge in mobile shopping revenue from $3 billion to $31 billion in America alone. Customers get real-time updates of new product launches, exclusive deals and promotional schemes, and the one-touch purchase option has caused an exponential growth in ecommerce. Smartphones also allow for location-specific offerings, building a more intimate customer-business relationship that attracts more customers.

Think about hiring a technical support expert or an ecommerce support virtual assistant to easily transition into this new phase of online commerce.

2. Omnichannel Retailing

Ecommerce has progressed beyond search engine optimization to other channels of marketing to and interacting with customers. Businesses interact with their customers through their websites, email, social media, and physical stores. This creates multiple channels of purchase, receipt, and exchange of goods, with a prevalence of shopper-friendly shipping and return policies. Customers can purchase online, pick their purchases up at a physical store, return any defective items online, and avail discount offers based on a certain number of referrals. This integrated online and physical experience drives more sales.

Your business must manage the omnichannel customer experience so that each channel is a seamless brand extension and the customer can pick up the conversation on any channel without any discordant experiences. Partner with a firm that can ensure a consistent omnichannel brand voice.

3. Convenience

The accessibility of a store is out of the purchase equation now. Ecommerce promises 24/7 accessibility, 365 days a year, with no downtime for public holidays, closing times, bad weather conditions etc. Customers can shop as and when they like, from where they want, be it the comfort of their own bed. Ecommerce makes purchasing faster and easier, without the hassle of crowds, traffic, and awkward social interactions.

Customers can compare offerings online and read up reviews to see how the product or service fared in the view of like-minded individuals to determine which offer has the best value, all without having to go from one shop to the other.

The ability to find the desired product or service, order it, and receive it at the time and in the form convenient to the customer at a single touch or click has transformed buying behavior, encouraging instant gratification and thus boosting ecommerce transactions. In this fast-paced world ecommerce today offers the value proposition of a full shopping experience during the only real free time available to millennials—long commutes.

To take advantage of this trend, your website should be search-engine optimized, have fast loading speeds, should have a functional shopping cart, and have updated product catalogs. Most importantly, your customer service must be par excellence and for ecommerce especially, it should extend to 24 hour call center support since the majority of buyers shop after business hours. This will also significantly enhance your reputation.

4. Greater Range of Offerings

With incredibly low overheads like negligible utility bills, skeletal staff, and the ability to provide a product or service from any location to a worldwide customer base, ecommerce dramatically reduces costs of operations. This allows businesses to transfer some of these onward to price-sensitive customers in the form of cheaper products with automatic replenishment since warehouses are no longer restricted to certain geographic locations.

Ecommerce also allows businesses to outsource their administrative backend operations to specialist support services providers located virtually anywhere in the world. There is no longer a need to have call center support teams for customer service, technical and multilingual support on-site when companies like IdeasUnlimited can do the job for you at a fraction of the cost and with round-the-clock support, switching teams between time zones to ensure zero downtime. The industry has grown to include service offerings that were not possible before, such as hiring virtual assistance for the marketing, healthcare, and real estate needs of your business.

So move with the times and lower your overhead costs by partnering with firms that provide administrative support, backend and operational support, allowing you to focus on your core competencies and grow your business.

5. Individualized Products and Services

More sophisticated algorithms allow companies to offer more personalized, customer centric recommendations. A far cry from recommendations based on typical buying habits and products purchased together, ecommerce today allows businesses to give customer suggestions based on their individual preferences. These encourage customers to purchase items that appear completely necessary since they are so aligned with their personal preferences. Lower start-up costs allow more sellers to operate, targeting niche markets with highly customized options, selling more sizes, colors, personalized designs etc. than would be feasible to offer in a physical store.

Study your typical customers’ characteristics and ensure your offering adds value to their lives. You don’t need to cater to a wide demographic, rather specialize in offering the best value to your target segment.

These new trends in ecommerce and its phenomenal growth open up numerous new avenues to grow your business, if you have a suitable operational support network to pull it off. Shed the extra layers that bog down your business and work with professionals so you are freed up to focus on perfecting your value proposition, making it the most attractive in the market. Get 24/7 coverage, customer service, technical and other forms of call center support as well as multilingual support agents to cater to the needs of your diverse customer base by contacting IdeasUnlimited, a global support services provider.

2018: A New Era of Customer Service – Are You Ready?

2018: A New Era of Customer Service – Are You Ready?

By | Backend Support Services, Business Improvement, Call Center Support, Customer Service, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

Your business relies on good customer service for its success – far more than it used to, in fact. According to IT research company Gartner, 89% of market leaders anticipate that the omnichannel customer experience will be their primary business concern, as opposed to four years ago, when only 36% did. This signals a fundamental change in the role and function of businesses.

While the products or services that the company offered used to be the main concern, now the excellence of your customer care center will be the thing that sets you apart from the competition. After all, there are very few businesses out there that can afford to alienate their clientele because their products or services are good enough to keep people coming back regardless of their experience.

With this rise in the importance of customer service, many companies are going to have to do a massive overhaul of their current methods. This is because the support systems that companies utilize are becoming increasingly reliant on social media compatibility, 24/7 service, and mobile-friendly options. If your company doesn’t keep up with the modern standards, you will likely face losing clients and thus revenue.

So what exactly should you be aiming for in terms of customer service?

Live Chat & 24/7 Call Center Support

If you haven’t already set these up for customers, you are already behind. Most medium to larger companies have already set up an inbound call center solution, ensuring that someone can always be reached in case customers have questions or concerns. Even smaller businesses are upgrading their systems, each setting up a call center for small business. Live chat is one of the newer options, to be sure, but it has quickly become ubiquitous.

Omnichannel Support

Many customers now prefer to contact companies through multiple channels, some of the most popular of which are their social media accounts. There should always be an easy way for customers to use Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc. to contact your company. These channels should also be easy to switch between in the event that the user wants to employ several at a time and there should be someone providing omnichannel support services so you are never out of touch with your customers.

Text-Based Help

Since so many people consider texting to be the preferred mode of communication, it makes sense that your company should have some form of it enabled on your site.

Remote Secondary Access for Technical Support

When your customer can’t figure out how to do something on your site, having an IT professional try to figure out what to do through verbal means is rather like flying a plane blind. Having an option for them to get remote access to the customer’s computer (with their permission, of course) is one of the best ways to sort out the problem quickly and effectively. You thus need someone qualified to provide such technical and backend support services.

No Automated Menu

People are sick and tired of automated menus and trying to interact with recordings. If you want to truly please your customers, offer them a real human being to talk to. It proves almost automatically that you care more about their concerns and are willing to pay someone to listen to them. Having a trained, empathetic, and skilled call center operator automatically enhances customer loyalty.

Virtual Assistant Support

Virtual assistant support services can help you delegate administrative support and operational support tasks. This is especially good for growing businesses that don’t generally need around the clock support in-house. You will never have to turn away customers and can even get extra help around the holiday season. These assistants can perform a wide variety of tasks, from answering phones and emails to scheduling and data entry, payroll processing, lead generation, and practically anything else you need.

These are just some of the customer support services that are becoming the norm for businesses. Implement these and you can practically ensure customer satisfaction – and keep them coming back!

Real Estate Virtual Assistant: Do You Need One?

Real Estate Virtual Assistant: Do You Need One?

By | Business Improvement, Entrepreneurship, Real Estate Virtual Assistant, Remote Support Services, Virtual Assistant Support | No Comments

Real estate is a demanding industry. This makes it extremely valuable for realtors like you to stay ahead of the curve. It also explains why running a real estate practice or agency is time-consuming. The introduction of new technologies that support virtual assistants has made it easier for realtors to focus their efforts on enhancing the core competencies that come with running a real estate agency. Support services ancillary to core business activities such as paperwork have been delegated to real estate virtual assistants. These assistants provide the tools needed to fuel your success, whether you are a solo agent or own your own real estate or brokerage firm. The following are some reasons to consider the services of a virtual assistant:

Cost-Effective

Real estate agents live a fast-paced, busy life. They spend many hours going through emails and phone messages. They then need to organize the day’s events and transactions. You could avoid all this by getting an assistant. This will help but it is not a cost-efficient solution. Get yourself a real estate virtual assistant who will handle all these tasks at a cheaper price than what you would spend to maintain an in-house employee. You also save on expenses such as getting insurance and pension plans for in-house assistants.

Increase the Level of Productivity

A real estate virtual assistant’s primary function is to handle your day-to-day schedule and organize your emails and messages. When you hire an in-house assistant you will have to give them vacation days or sick leave. Rather than lose all this valuable time and resources, get yourself a virtual assistant who is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Increase Sales Conversion

When it comes to the real estate industry, lead generation is as important as making a sale. When you get yourself an experienced real estate virtual assistant, they can help you make calls and follow-ups with prospective clients through both online and traditional methods.

Omnichannel Support

All client engagement touchpoints you require—inbound and outbound calls, email, live chat, mobile SMS/text, and social media—will be covered by the real estate virtual assistant to improve the client experience and ensure there are no missed opportunities. A virtual assistant can cover your busy hours or take up the slack of your office staff. A remote workforce also allows you to choose from a much larger, more talented pool of applicants than candidates available for in-house work.

Multilingual Support

Firms and agents in the real estate industry face language barriers in dealing with tenants, owners, vendors, and clients. Get an edge over competitors by hiring a multilingual virtual assistant as the need arises and communicate with your client base and vendors in their native languages. The virtual assistant can also provide administrative and backend support for those particular projects.

These reasons clearly highlight why you should get yourself a real estate virtual assistant…click here to hire yours today!

The Secret to Having the Best Customer Service

The Secret to Having the Best Customer Service

By | Business Improvement, Call Center Support | No Comments

To judge a person, one needs to interact. The information extracted from tone, gesture, and body language is a deciding factor for that person. Similarly, customer service is the body language for a successful business. Name any business—there always exists competition to fulfill the demands or needs of the people. To blow your trumpet in the market, excellent customer service is a must. The key to the best customer service is feedback, well-skilled staff, social media, appreciation, loyalty, updates, and a helpline. Let’s walk through each of these key points.

Customer Service Feedback

Feedback is a crucial factor for the growth of the business and improvement of your service. The data gathered from feedback nurtures and shapes the business. It also helps the business gain a strong market share since acting according to the needs of your customers allows you to stay ahead of your competitors.

Online feedback: Most people are attached to their smartphones. Gathering data through this method requires a couple of minutes from a customer. However, a customer may opt-out of answering your boring question. So, get creative and prepare a list of “yes or no” or multiple choice questions. Keep it simple, and never use frictional words like “wrong”, “unsatisfied”, or any other negative words. Voice-authorized feedback is also a great technique.

Offline feedback: This is the oldest approach and a quick way of gathering data. This method involves investing your money and time. In this case, if there is a need for on-spot feedback, this method could be followed.

Well-Skilled Customer Service Staff

A weak labor force is enough to kill a healthy business. Focus on investing in training the customer support staff since it is important to establish a better relationship with the customer beyond a single transaction. Your customer care center staff must be skilled in everything from query resolution to crisis handling to maintain a positive reputation.

Omnichannel Support

A company needs to stay open to all issues on all channels of communication with the customer. That’s why your business should manage the omnichannel customer experience and especially stay active on social media. Highlight all the possible social platforms based on the geographical location, as social platforms differ from region to region.

Appreciation

Appreciation is critical for better growth. Appreciation might point the customer towards reporting a flaw or any hiccup in service. The call center support staff also deserve some appreciation for their valuable contribution. We can divide appreciation into two parts:

Customer appreciation: First, customer appreciation is a key factor in business growth since customers can help gather sensitive data to perfect the business procedures. The customer who spends his/her valuable time in bringing a significant aspect to your attention deserves some sort of reward. Reward the person with a coupon or discount and recognize the contribution on your social platforms. This will gain a lot of attention from the community and could land you more business.

Staff appreciation: Second, servicing a customer is a critical role. A call center operator providing a well-balanced and well-structured service must be appreciated. This not only improves employee morale but also enhances the company’s reputation as an employer.

Loyalty

Customer loyalty makes or breaks a business. Your business must be structured around delivering a consistent, high-quality value proposition with no hidden charges or terms and conditions, especially in marketing promotions. Any short-term gains in revenue from campaigns that customers feel shortchanged them will cause manifold drops in long-term revenue. Instead, you should create loyalty programs, offering rewards and discounts to your loyal customers.

Customer Service Helpline

Invest in a customer service helpline, with chat support, email support, and call center support. If customers can reach you easily and get their grievances resolved efficiently, you can prevent escalation, retain customers, and spread positive word of mouth regarding your business. Call center support can also help answer queries and improve your conversion rates if your inbound call center solution is trained and effective.

Share Updates

A business that wishes to stay ahead of competition evolves with market trends and customer needs. Communicating these service upgrades is as important as the improvements themselves. So do not hesitate to spread the news of exciting new offers to celebrate an occasion or the addition of a new store to the locality. These update can be shared via social media, outbound calls, newsletters, or your website.

Adopt these strategies and see your customer service improve considerably, translating into more loyal evangelical customers.