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How to Secure Your Company’s Valuable Devices

How to Secure Your Company’s Valuable Devices

As small-business owners focus more on keeping their digital information out of harm’s way, many can neglect to provide the same level of security for their physical assets — including company-owned cell phones, laptops, tablets and digital cameras.

The good news is that a growing number of affordable products, beyond traditional alarm systems, can help keep your physical facilities and equipment safe. Here are six tools to consider if you’re looking to secure your company’s valuable devices as well as the data that’s on them:

1. A Keypad, Key Card or “Biometric” Lock System 
Digital lock systems can replace a traditional key with a digital combination, employee identification card, finger print or retina scan. Systems with keycards or passwords can be centrally controlled and monitored, and they are more convenient than traditional locks and keys. Prices for these systems can start as low as $100 per door.

Some entry-level options include a LockState keyless lock (around $120) and the BioAxxis Biometric Deadbolt ($225).

2. Device-Tracking Software 
With more employees taking company equipment home, there’s a greater chance that some items can go missing. Installing tracking software can help you locate and retrieve these devices when they go missing.

Tracking software uses global positioning system coordinates — just like the GPS in your car and the mapping software on your mobile phone — to pinpoint where your missing device is. Some systems also can locate your mobile device through proprietary technology if someone uses it to access the Internet.

There are free, open-source options such as Prey, as well as numerous products with additional features that you can buy. Absolute Software’s LoJack for laptops, for example, starts at $40 for one year.

3. Portable Device Locks 
Laptops and other portable technology devices are among some of the most commonly stolen business items. But installing locks that tether them to desks or other hard-to-move objects can reduce the likelihood of theft. Such locks typically start around $20 and can go as high as $100, depending on the brand and style.

Some examples include Kensington’s combination laptop lock ($20) as well as its iPad case/lock combination ($60).

4. Non-Removable Identification Labels 
Metal tags engraved with company information can be attached with weather resistant and tamper resistant “high bond” adhesive to business equipment that can be easily stolen. Thieves know that it will be harder to sell stolen devices with permanent labels or to use them in public.

Prices vary depending on the type of label and quantity ordered, but expect to spend about $8 apiece for metal labels with adhesive backing. Two companies to consider for custom metal labels are and YEUELL.

5. Motion-Sensing Lights 
Motion-sensing light technology systems trigger lights when there is activity in the immediate vicinity, alerting employees to suspicious activity. These detectors can work with any light, whether in a secure area inside your office or in a dark area outside.

Simple outdoor motion-sensing spotlights are relatively inexpensive, such as the Lithonia double-head spotlight (about $120). The price of indoor systems can vary depending on the size of your space.

6. New or Updated Surveillance Equipment
Unless you’re a relatively new business, chances are your security cameras and monitoring system are outdated. That is, if you have any at all.

For less than $500, several systems allow you to view your security camera feeds from any device, using a Wi-Fi network. Options include an entry-level Uniden three-camera wireless system ($300) and the Lorex four-camera set ($650) which is designed for mobile viewing.

The physical security of your business and the devices you use is as important as the safety of your business data. Using one or a combination of these tools can help ensure that your business is not an easy target for theft.

10 Time Management Tips That Work

10 Time Management Tips That Work

Chances are good that, at some  in your life, you’ve taken a time management class, read about it in books, and tried to use an electronic or paper-based day planner to organize, prioritize and schedule your day. “Why, with this knowledge and these gadgets,” you may ask, “do I still feel like I can’t get everything done I need to?”

The answer is simple. Before you can even begin to manage time, you must learn what time is. A dictionary defines time as “the point or period at which things occur.” Put simply, time is when stuff happens.

There are two types of time:  time and . In clock time, there are 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year. All time passes equally. When someone turns 50, they are exactly 50 years old, no more or no less.

In real time, all time is relative. Time flies or drags depending on what you’re doing. Two hours at the Department of Motor Vehicles can feel like 12 years. And yet our 12-year-old children seem to have grown up in only two hours.

Which time describes the world in which you really live, real time or clock time?

The reason time management gadgets and systems don’t work is that these systems are designed to manage clock time. Clock time is irrelevant. You don’t live in or even have access to clock time. You live in real time, a world in which all time flies when you are having fun or drags when you are doing your taxes.

The good news is that real time is mental. It exists between your ears. You create it. Anything you create, you can manage. It’s time to remove any self-sabotage or self-limitation you have around “not having enough time,” or today not being “the ” to start a business or manage your current business properly.

There are only three ways to spend time: thoughts, conversations and actions. Regardless of the type of business you own, your work will be composed of those three items.

As an entrepreneur, you may be frequently interrupted or pulled in different directions. While you cannot eliminate interruptions, you do get a say on how much time you will spend on them and how much time you will spend on the thoughts, conversations and actions that will lead you to success.

Free Tools for Improving Online Security

Free Tools for Improving Online Security

Many small-business owners fall below what some people call the “security poverty line.” Bootstrapping entrepreneurs can be especially vulnerable to hackers because they don’t have the money or personnel to buy, install and maintain the fancy security products large companies take for granted.

On the hunt for easy pickings, hackers are attacking these security-poor businesses, typically with indiscriminate, automated assaults that could be stopped by basic security tools and computer hygiene. Seven in 10 of the cyber break-ins analyzed in Verizon’s 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report occurred at organizations with 100 employees or less.

The good news is that it can be surprisingly easy and inexpensive to mount a quality defense on a budget. We spoke with Grady Summers, a vice president at Mandiant Corp., an Alexandria, Va.-based information-security firm, and former chief information security officer at General Electric Co., to assemble a list of easy-to-use, free tools that any company — including those without a technology staff — can use to create a comprehensive security program to protect its network, computers and data.

While no security program is perfect, applying these free tools can defend against the most common attacks. “A small business with a part-time IT person could probably do this in a day,” Summers says.

Defend your network.
Most of the threats to company networks come over the Web, Summers says. He recommends using filtering software to block dangerous websites, including “phishing” sites designed to trick unwitting employees into falling for a scam or infect their computers with malware.

San Francisco-based OpenDNS offers a free, cloud-based Web filtering product that can protect a single PC or mobile device, or an entire network, from known phishing sites. OpenDNS’s paid services offer more security features and the ability to block porn and other sites companies may not want people to access while in the office.

To find any weak spots on your network, run a scan. Lumension Security of Scottsdale, Ariz., offers a free vulnerability scanner for checking networks of 25 or fewer computers. It can identify software vulnerabilities and misconfigurations that could put you at risk.

Also, scan your website for security vulnerabilities. Hackers often break into customer databases by striking company websites or hack sites to plant malware that will infect visitors. Qualys, a Redwood Shores, Calif., security company, offers FreeScan, a free tool for detecting security vulnerabilities in Web applications and finding malware infections and threats in websites. Users are limited to five free scans.

If you have a capable in-house technology staff, you also may want to consider using Security Onion, a compilation of free tools for intrusion detection and network monitoring.

Secure your computers.
Protecting computers on your network starts with firewalls and antivirus software. Free basic firewalls now come with Windows and Mac computers, so make sure they’re turned on. Antivirus protection will require a download.

Among the most popular free antivirus programs is one from AVG. Another is Microsoft’s free basic security product Microsoft Security Essentials. It’s made for consumers and businesses with 10 PCs or fewer. And firewall giant Check Point Software of Redwood City, Calif., has a free security suite that includes antivirus and a ZoneAlarm firewall that monitors traffic leaving your computer, as well as standard inbound traffic. In addition, U.K.-based Sophos offers free antivirus software for Macs.

Eliminate security vulnerabilities by applying the free fixes software makers regularly issue. To make that easy, use automatic update features for MicrosoftApple, Adobe and other products you use. Windows users can make sure all their programs are current by using the free tool FileHippo.

Protect your data.
Full disk encryption software can make company and customer data on your devices unreadable to unauthorized people. Free open-source software TrueCrypt is available for Windows, Mac and Linux machines and can be used to secure data on thumb drives and other storage devices. For Mac, Apple offers free full disk encryption dubbed FileVault2 to users with the Lion operating system.

If you have particularly sensitive information, Summers recommends creating a special encrypted area for that data with its own password. You can create this sort of encrypted “volume” with TrueCrypt and a similar Apple feature.

Also back up the data on your computers in case of loss, theft or damage. With Mozy, you can backup two gigs of data for free offsite and encrypted in Mozy’s data centers.

How to Make Your Website Hacker-Proof

How to Make Your Website Hacker-Proof

Hackers are constantly breaking into innocent websites and using them to infect visitors with malware, lure them to dodgy sites and infiltrate databases to grab sensitive customer information. But you can avoid trouble — or eliminate it quickly — by taking some relatively simple steps.

Each day, Google identifies 9,500 malware-infected websites, about 4,000 of which are legitimate sites compromised by hackers. About half of these victims learn they’ve been hacked when they see the same browser and search-engine danger warnings their customers see, a sign they’ve been blacklisted, according to a survey by StopBadware, a nonprofit anti-malware organization in Cambridge, Mass. Some 45 percent are notified of the problem by one of their technology providers — a much better scenario.

Small businesses are especially vulnerable to hacking because they usually lack the technology expertise and site security that larger companies have. They also suffer more if their lack of expertise slows repairs and their ability to get back to work. Business owners can lose significant online traffic and sales if their site lands on blacklists operated by Google and other search engines.

Take, an Austin, Texas-based startup that offers online guides to cities’ “personalities,” for instance. The site was down for a week in early June after hackers broke in and pointed all its links to sites selling Viagra. Exactly how hackers got in wasn’t clear, so CEO Ysmay Gray tackled every entry point. In addition to cleaning all links, MetroSeeker erased and rebuilt its server, upgraded its content management software, and revamped how employees log in and change site content. “I’m a little paranoid now,” Gray says.’sovery required the full-time work of three people and significant help from the company’s hosting service, DreamHost, Gray says. While it achieved a clean bill of health from Google’s Webmaster Tools service more quickly, Web searches triggered a scary warning that “This site may be compromised” for more than three weeks, casting a shadow over the new business, she says. When contacted about the issue, Google said residual “spammy content” in search results caused the warning, but that it would remove it because the spam itself was gone.

“A lot of people will have to tangle with [a hack] at some point in time,” laments Maxim Weinstein, executive director of StopBadware. His advice for small companies? “Secure everything.” Here’s how to get started:

Keep your software up to date.
Hackers aggressively target security flaws in popular Web software such as content management systems and blogging programs so they can attack websites en masse. Stay out of the line of fire by using the latest versions of software and applying security patches promptly.

“Sites that get infected and clean up, but don’t fix the vulnerability in their software, just get re-infected,” says Lucas Ballard, a software engineer with Google’s Safe Browsing team. He urges webmasters to address the underlying weakness that enabled the hack, as well as remove hackers’ malicious code from site pages.

Use strong passwords and keep them safe.
Using strong passwords is crucial because hackers frequently attempt to crack or steal passwords for web software and FTP servers, which are computers that use the File Transfer Protocol to move web pages and other files to another computer, such as a Web-hosting server. Default, common or predicable passwords can be easily broken.

Also make sure to protect your PCs from a virus infection since that can lead to the theft of site passwords. A February 2010 infection in a computer belonging to freelance writer and editor David Congreave allowed hackers to steal his FTP password and plant malware that tried to infect visitors to his sites. Luckily, the malware was buggy, and he noticed the problem immediately. His hosting service, Hostgator, removed the malicious code in hours. Congreave changed his password and began using CuteFTP for more secure file management.

Register with Google’s Webmaster Tools.
Getting on Google’s blacklist, which is used by the search site and the Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers, can reduce traffic to your site. By registering with Webmaster Tools, you can receive notifications of malware infections immediately, sometimes before blacklisting occurs, so you can get rid of them faster. The service also provides details about the precise problem Google is seeing. That can speed your clean up and your return to Google’s good graces.

Get expert help.
Companies that are heavily dependent on their websites may want to hire a firm that provides alerts if they get on a blacklist, monitoring for malicious activity, scanning for security vulnerabilities or help with repairs after a hack. Firms that serve smaller companies include Stop the HackerSiteLockSucuri and Qualys. Prices start at about $90 a year. Businesses that have databases with sensitive customer information connected to their sites should get help building security into their sites and scouring software code for bugs.

4 Essential WordPress Plugins for Business Blogs

4 Essential WordPress Plugins for Business Blogs

Whether you have a blog for your small business or blogging is your business, WordPress has a number of plugins that can help you maintain and grow your blog with minimal effort.

Plugins are snippets of code that, once activated, automatically embed themselves into your blog. They can be installed directly from your WordPress dashboard by clicking on “plugins” in the sidebar, then choosing “add new.” From there you can search by category or type in the name of the plugin you’re looking for. Once you’ve installed a plugin, you’ll need to click “activate” and, in some cases, follow the instructions to configure the application.

From moderating comments to social sharing to raising your search engine visibility, here are four plugins that every owner should have installed on his or her small-business blog:

1. Akismet
The Akismet plugin automatically checks every comment that comes into your blog to see if it’s spam. Those messages are marked and moved into a separate folder where they can be deleted with one button. The system is remarkably reliable and can save a lot of time.

Akismet is now charging $5 a month for use on small-business blogs. There are a few free alternatives, such as the Growmap Anti Spambot Plugin and comment override plugins such as Disqus. The downside is that these systems discourage commenting because they require commenters to jump through additional hoops in order to complete the task.

2. All in One SEO
WordPress is already search-engine friendly but it can’t hurt to give your blog an extra boost. The All in One SEO plugin fine-tunes your blog settings making it easier for search engines to index your content.

On the low end, you can fill out the title, keywords and description box for your blog, then let the plugin handle the rest. If you’re a more advanced user, All in One SEO allows you to change the index settings to your exact specifications. The system also allows you to override the global blog keywords and description on any individual post for even more targeted results.

The basic plugin is free. Power users can upgrade to the Pro version for $39 plus $10 a month which includes free support and no ads on the options page.

3. Google Analytics for WordPress
This free plugin brings the power of Google Analytics right into your blog’s dashboard. Every time you update your site you’ll see a traffic graph, stats, Top Post, Top Referrers and Top Searches. That’s data you can use on the fly to make your blog even more popular.

WordPress has its own stats program but Google Analytics is more detailed and accurate because it does a better job of removing bot traffic and counting Visits in addition to Page Views and other numbers WordPress doesn’t capture.

If you have a multi-author blog, you can also customize Google Analytics so writers can see their own individual post stats.

4. Social Sharing Plugins
Make it easier for your visitors to share their favorite stories with plugins such as AddThis or ShareThis. The plugin automatically inserts icons for Facebook, Twitter and other top social networks at the start or the end of every post. The plugins are free to download, all you have to provide is interesting content.

Note that not all plugins are compatible with all versions of WordPress. Make sure your version of WordPress is up-to-date before downloading a new plugin and heed any compatibility warnings. Also, be sure to back up your database if your provider doesn’t do that for you. If a plugin doesn’t work properly, it could be in conflict with your theme or other options. Simply deactivate the plugin from the dashboard then delete it safely.

The Most Bizarre and Dramatic Executive Blog You Might Ever Read

The Most Bizarre and Dramatic Executive Blog You Might Ever Read

“I could go on, and will at later point, but I need to tell my story. I will have to tell it in short increments because I have limited and intermittent access to a computer and the Internet. I am on the run, remember. Consider this introduction the first chapter.” 

This isn’t an excerpt from a novel, but instead a paragraph from the blog of John McAfee, founder of McAfee Anti-Virus. In essence, it’s an executive blog — and unlike anything you’ve read (or ghost-written) for your boss.

McAfee, as you may have heard, is on the lam from authorities in Belize — where the British-born American lives — after the murder of the software entrepreneur’s neighbor, American ex-patriot Gregory Viant Faull. No charges have been filed, but police want to speak with McAfee about the slaying.

McAfee thinks the Belize police want to kill him, according to a phone interview he gave to Wired magazine.

On Saturday, he launched the most bizarre and dramatic blog from a current or former executive that you’ll probably ever read. It’s “The Count of Monte Cristo” meets “The Diary of Samuel Papys” — if Pepys was incredibly paranoid. The blog even bears a theatric, even ominous named,The Hinterland.

The first post takes aim at a Gizmodo contributor as well as Wired, over their coverage of him. In subsequent posts, McAfee explains the treatment he has received from Belize authorities and shares details of his life on the run with his 20-year-old Belize girlfriend, Samantha.

“For the past week, Sam has kept our clothes clean and has fed us and kept me distracted by telling stories of her life and humorous anecdotes about her family. She is a natural raconteur and mimic. She has also helped me evade detection by grabbing me and kissing me, in public, in a fashion that causes passerby’s to feel embarrassment at the thought of staring and by creating emotional scenes that cause the curious to momentarily forget what they were looking for. She is acutely aware of her surroundings and is as street smart as a sober hobo. She does not drink or take drugs.

“Sam insists she will be with me to the end, whatever end that may be.”

According to Reuters, McAfee, 67, has led a life in Belize marked by semi-seclusion, bodyguards, and the company of young women, and, in reports in other media, drugs and firearms.

McAfee, a former employee of NASA and Lockheed Martin, founded his namesake anti-virus software company in 1987. Seven years later, he sold his stake in the firm.

If the eccentric McAfee is caught, he claims the blog will continue for as long as a year, because he’s written that many posts. His administrator, Chad, will continue posting the stories, according to McAfee.

Lessons in Customer Service From the World’s Most Beloved Companies

Lessons in Customer Service From the World’s Most Beloved Companies

An intense level of customer focus is a trait you’ll find at any company known for world-class service.

The only “problem” is that we don’t often get to peek at these companies specific practices: details as to what these companies are doing differently is often lacking.

Today I thought we’d shed at least a little light on what these “Usual Suspects” of notable service seem to get exactly right.

Why This Matters

Before we get into the nitty gritty, let’s begin with a reminder as to why the investment in great service is worth the effort.

In Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising report, “Recommendations from people I know” has once again trounced every other medium for level of trust.

Lessons in Customer Service From the World's Most Beloved Companies

It pays to have happy customers, and since we know that customers are ready, willing, and able to reward companies with great service, it’s smart to study the best in the business to see if we can find takeaways that are applicable to what we are building.


1. Amazon Builds Its Culture Around Service

Amazon is one of those companies that regularly tops the charts for their outstanding service. Anyone who has had to return an item to Amazon knows how helpful and flexible their support team is.

This is likely due to the fact that few founders are as passionate about their customer’s experience as Jeff Bezos. Absurdly sharp and insightful, Bezos is an oft quoted idol in all areas of business, but some of my favorites thoughts from him are his viewpoints on how to treat customers.

Take, for instance, Bezos’ now infamous use of the “empty chair” in boardroom meetings, which serves as a powerful reminder of who the real boss is:

Bezos periodically leaves one seat open at a conference table and informs all attendees that they should consider that seat occupied by their customer, ‘the most important person in the room.'”

In his efforts to build such a customer-centric company, you might not be surprised to find that Bezos expects all employees to be able to interact with customers.

In fact, he’s been quoted as saying that “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.” Putting words to work, Bezos has employees at all levels in the company get in touch with customers, even if it’s only for a few days:

Bezos asks thousands of Amazon managers, including himself, to attend two days of call-center training each year. The payoff: humility and empathy for the customer.”

The practice of Whole Company Support has only grown more popular since then, and it’s not hard to see why–understanding how your customers view, use, and talk about your product is vital information that often gets left behind on the front lines.

Why should support reps be the only people getting their hands dirty with the people who purchase products and services? Even the top of the food chain can benefit from the insights of regularly refreshing themselves with the customer’s perspective.

And if the top brass at Amazon can spare some time to talk with customers, why can’t you?

2. How Ritz-Carlton Plans for Mistakes

One of the best stories in customer service has to be the tale of Joshie the Giraffe. It’s one of those examples that proves why the “hype” around Ritz Carlton’s customer service is well deserved (read more about Joshie here).

One lesson that you might not expect to find, however, is how proactive Ritz-Carlton is in planning for mistakes and accidents. When you really think about it, this actually makes a whole lot of sense–it’s much harder for employees to keep their cool when situations start going bad if they’re ill-prepared for surprises.

Since complaining customers are unavoidable in totality, Ritz-Carlton deserves kudos for the insight to plan ahead. One of my favorite examples is their practice of “resetting a customer’s internal clock” when the service is taking too long in delivering food orders, as Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo explains here:

When my wife and I were staying at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead, we were waiting a long time for our entr?es. Just when my wife was about to ask about our order, the waiter appeared and gave us a tomato and mozzarella appetizer ‘courtesy of the chef.'”

Notice how this tactic works: With a relatively small gift, the staff can reset the internal clock with a customer by establishing a new “last point of contact.” While it’s not the perfect solution, it’s certainly better than a waiter returning to a table multiple times to say “I’m sorry.”

One of the best ways to put this into practice is to use a psychological practice known as implementation intentions, otherwise known as “if-then planning.” To continue with the example above, you could encourage employees to act in this manner:

IF a customer has been waiting for more than 20 minutes, THEN reset their internal clock with a complimentary item from the appetizer menu or with a free drink.

The practice doesn’t end there, however, as this proactive state of mind can also be used to plan positive “WOWs” for customers. Gallo explains how Ritz-Carlton employees anticipate those unspoken needs that pleasantly surprise customers:

Ritz-Carlton employees are trained to anticipate the unexpressed wishes of their guests. During one stay the receptionist called me and said, ‘We see that you are scheduled to leave very early tomorrow. Can we leave a pot of fresh, hot coffee outside your door?'”

Another great example where an implementation intention could be used:

IF a customer is scheduled to check out before 7am, THEN offer to leave a pot of fresh coffee outside their door.

This sort of planning helps employees remember key touch-points with customers, which will in turn aid in their ability to provide exceptional service more consistently, a surefire plan to increase your company’s overall customer satisfaction rate.


3. Nordstrom Uses Service as a Competitive Advantage

The customer focus at Nordstrom has led to the retail giant having a reputation for absurdly good service. In fact, the company is perhaps known more for its service than for the merchandise it sells.

Nordstrom has managed to make service its strongest selling point, and it certainly seems to have been the smart choice.

Consider Nordstrom’s competitor JCPenney. While Nordstrom bolsters their ability to provide great service year after year, JCPenney recently made the misstep of thinking that they could do away with coupons and sale prices. The insight to invest in what they do best has definitely been a key part of their success.

But what exactly do their employees do differently?

You’ll gain an abstract sort of insight if you’ve ever viewed their notorious employee handbook, but fortunately, we’ll be able to do a bit better.

Ambra Benjamin, a former Nordstrom employee who worked in the corporate office, highlighted just a few of their procedures, specifically put in place to create a superior experience for customers:

  • “Salespeople can offer to ring up your purchase without you ever having to stand in line.”
  • “Salespeople are taught to walk your bagged purchase around the counter to you vs. just handing it across the counter.”
  • “A Nordstrom salesperson rarely points. If you have a question about where something is located, they walk you there.”
  • “One-to-one service. In most departments, if you indicate the desire to shop, there is a salesperson designated to helping you find sizes, etc.”
  • “Separate checkout bays by department (unlike department stores like Sears or JCPenney that have central checkout bays that can feel like a cattle call).”

I recommend you read her full list, but as you can see, the devil is definitely in the details–many of these practices are not outrageous by any means, but you are not likely to find them in many other stores.

The most important thing to highlight here is each employee’s nearly unfettered control in helping customers.

It’s well known that Nordstrom salespeople are incentivized to help customers leave as happy as possible through a very rewarding commission structure, and this practice manifests itself in the many unbelievable stories you’ve likely read about the lengths they will go to help shoppers (do you remember this one?).

What’s funny is that the employee handbook mentioned above is still relevant today–the #1 quality that Nordstrom looks for in employees (and looks to instill company wide) is the use of good judgment when taking care of customers.

Just as important, the company gives their employees training, motivation, and the ability to take action on the values that they hope to achieve–no wonder the only rule at Nordstrom to this day is “Use good judgment in all situations.”

4. Zappos Avoids the Rat Race of Fast Service

As paradoxical as it may seem, for a long time now some very smart entrepreneurs (such as Derek Sivers) have coached their customer champions to spend more time on the phone with customers, or at the least, not be imposed upon by the “time spent per ticket.”

Using ticket time as the yardstick for which great customer service is measured is fine…if you want a bunch of employees racing the clock to “deal” with customers as fast as possible, undoubtedly dropping the ball along the way.

Few people understood this better than Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who (quite literally) wrote the book on memorable service in Delivering Happiness.

The Zappos way of doing things was expertly analyzed in this great overview by Ashley Verrill, which explains how the Zappos team justifies ditching a superficially faster ticket time:

Zappos uses call center technology to track average call time per agent. But the goal isn’t to reduce this average… “It’s more important that we make an emotional connection with the customer, rather than just quickly getting them off the phone.”

Instead, Zappos created a point scale called the Happiness Experience Form, which encourages reps to make a personal emotional contact, create a “wow” experience, and address unstated customer needs.

This effort to improve the less easily measured, but far more personal aspects, of service contributed to a 5% improvement in the company’s overall Net Promoter Score.

According to Verrill’s discussion with Zappos loyalty manager Derek Carder, this was a HUGE win for the company because:

70-75% of purchases came from returning customers. They order about 2.5x more than single customers.”

The subsequently high level of customer retention that Zappos was able to achieve was the main reason why service became their biggest asset, and their main “marketing” strategy in reaching new loyal customers.

So take a page from Zappos’ book, and understand that in the quest to do things as fast as possible, many companies miss the mark, forgetting that customer service is all about what the customer wants and speed isn’t always what they care about most.

As William J. McEwen put in this Gallup analysis:

What builds a stronger tie to Arby’s may not be whether a customer receives a sandwich in less than three minutes. Speed won’t compensate for a cold, tasteless sandwich or for rude and incompetent service.”

Make sure your speedy service isn’t leaving a bad taste in customers’ mouths, either.

5. L.L. Bean Says Forget Tricks, Just Keep Improving

To end our expose on the greats of customer service, I thought we might look at a piece of advice that doesn’t get talked about all that much, likely because it isn’t flashy or a “hack” of any kind.

One of my favorite quotes about customer service comes from L.L. Bean CEO and company president Chris McCormick, who says that there just aren’t any “cheat codes” for great service:

A lot of people have fancy things to say about customer service, but it’s just a day-in, day-out, ongoing, never-ending, persevering, compassionate kind of activity.”

Very true, and a lesson that we regularly need to remind ourselves of as we peruse a myriad of articles on customer service tips (yes, even on this very blog!).

Customer service is a long game, and as Paul Graham would say, it’s one that every company needs to pursue, even if it “doesn’t scale”:

You should take extraordinary measures not just to acquire users, but also to make them happy. Your first users should feel that signing up with you was one of the best choices they ever made. And you in turn should be racking your brains to think of new ways to delight them.”

Just like L.L. Bean, make sure your company isn’t taking any shortcuts in delivering service, because as Beverly Sills is so oft quoted as saying, “There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

Bank Lending to Small Business Slips, Crowdfunding on the Rise

Bank Lending to Small Business Slips, Crowdfunding on the Rise

New York-based crowdfunding platform Kickstarter broke its previous record for the most any single project has raised in April with Pebble, a watch that synchs with your smartphone. So far (the funding round is not over yet), the watch has raised more than $9 million from over 61,000 backers. And while alternative funding appears to be on the rise, loan approval rates at the best banks across the nation have slipped, according to the most recent analysis from Biz2Credit, an online marketplace that matches small and medium sized businesses with lenders.

Banks with more than $10 billion in assets approved 10.6% of loans in April, down from the 10.9% approval rate in March, according to the report released today from New York-based Biz2Credit. That also marks a continuing decline from January and February of this year, when big banks approved 11.7% of small business loans.

Smaller banks, or those with less than $10 billion in assets — recently the bright spot in an otherwise challenging lending market for small businesses — approved 45.9% of loans last month, down from the 47.6% in March and February this year. Approval rates at credit unions also dipped slightly to 57.4% in April from 57.9% the previous month.

Part of the decline was attributed to a decrease in the number of loans demanded by small businesses and because the terms of loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration changed in April, according to Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit. In an effort to stimulate the lending market, the government had temporarily sweetened the deal for SBA-backed loans for both the lender and the borrower. Those “sweeteners” expired in at the end of March.

However, while all other categories of lenders tightened their approval rates, the Biz2Credit “alternative lending” category — including account receivable financiers, microlenders, Community Development Financial Institutions, and merchant cash advance lenders — held steady and even showed slight gains compared with earlier this year. Approval rates for alternative lenders held their ground at 63% in March and April, but were up from the 62.5% and 62.4% approval rates in February and January respectively.

Meanwhile, crowdfunding, the term coined for raising small amounts of money from large groups of investors, has also increased in popularity as a source of funding for startups, thanks in part to legislation passed earlier this year that’s expected to help the industry grow even more.

A report released today from massolution, a crowdsourcing and crowdfunding research firm, showed that crowdfunding platforms across the globe raised $1.5 billion in 1 million campaigns last year. In 2011, the largest geographic market was North America and the most popular sort of crowdfunding was donation-based crowdfunding, where an investor gives money without expecting anything in return.

10 Interesting Articles You Can Read About The Future Of Digital Marketing

10 Interesting Articles You Can Read About The Future Of Digital Marketing

Emerging technolologies and developments are shaping the future. The modern-day marketing is different than a decade ago, and the future of digital marketing will be way more different.

So where is the marketing today and what can we expect from the future of digital marketing?

Must-read articles about the future of digital marketing can shed light on this important subject. But before mentioning these 10 articles, let’s see what has changed in the marketing from then and now.

Mobile is on the rise. Digital transformation affects buying behaviours and decisions of consumers. People spend time on their mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets or laptops more than ever.

The way that people interact with a brand and their real-time conversations through mobile apps or websites has been changing the nature of marketing.

The marketing landscape is shifting its focus from the brand itself to putting the customer at the center of the strategy. Apparently, marketers should stay a step ahead of their customers’ needs.

Marketing departments are using powerful narratives to tap into people’s desires, wishes, and aspirations. They combine creativity, technical data, analytics and also digital engineering in order to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technology.

There are plenty of technological developments in this field to take in today such as AI, VR, chatbots and more. If you want to explore how the marketing is evolving and learn about predictions, these 10 articles about the future of digital marketing will be helpful for you.

How Digital Marketing Will Change in 2019

One of the big reasons we are seeing digital marketing change so much is because of the adoption of new technologies. But also because the web is getting saturated… there are 1,805,260,010 websites on the web.”

The founder of Neil Patel Digital and Wall Street Journal’s “top influencer on the web” Neil Patel shares 2019 tips with marketers. Patel thinks that search engine algorithm will continue to change in this year. The complicated algorithm updates will make things harder. He says “If you want to beat Google, you have to shift your mindset.”

Means that you need to understand your users first. As there is so much content on the internet, you need to focus on new content types and on new search engines.

In his article, you can also find useful information about conversion rate optimization and funnels, which will continue to be in the center of all digital marketing activities in the future.

Digital Marketing in 2020: A glimpse into the future

The Economist Intelligence Unit asked 499 (one can’t help but think they were aiming for 500) Chief Marketing Officers and Senior Marketing Execs about how they saw marketing evolving, and also conducted some in-depth, one on one interviews with CMOs from leading brands such as Unilever and JPMorgan Chase.

They were looking to find out what key technologies and trends will drive change in the marketing industry over the next four years, and the results make for interesting reading.”

Robert Allen from Smart Insights thinks that marketers will have full control of customer experience in the near future. According to The Economist Intelligent Unit’s research, by 2020 top 3 hottest trends for marketers will impact the organizations.

These are mobile devices and networks, Personalization Technologies and the Internet of Things. The key channels for measuring marketing efforts will still be social media, web and mobile apps.

Online Jobs from Home Without Investment

Online Jobs from Home Without Investment

Our generation is spoiled with choices with multiple ways of earning money online from wherever you are. The number of people who choose to work online or from home are increasing by the year, which is helping them spend time with their family while they are making money. It has also helped many people become independent as they are able to contribute to their livelihood without investing any money. Some even choose to have their online jobs from home, to earn extra apart from their salary they draw every month. The best part of these online jobs is that you can start without any investment.

People who are new to the world of wanting to work online, please make sure that the sites you pick them from, are not fake and are from trusted sources. Usually, you do not pay to start your online job. It starts without investment.

Here are some of the best options to have online jobs from home without investment in India:

1. Freelancer


Freelancing is one of the oldest ways that people have chosen to earn money online. A computer or a smartphone and an internet connection is required to start freelancing online. Choose from content writing, video making, graphic designing, insurance and many more options to make money from. There are a lot of portals online where you can add your skills and you will be allotted with jobs based on those skills. Freelancing helps you make money by at the preferred timings you want and for however long you want in the day. After finalising on the kind of work you want to do, you can strategize on the rate you will be charging. You can also shoot cold mails to companies and writing to them on social media for projects to be given to you. Some websites ask for all your skills and pitch you to the clients they have on board. Starting with smaller jobs in your initial days is alright, as experience counts with time.

Once you are a freelancer, keep in mind that you are usually paid once the task is completed and is accepted by the clients which means, you might have to rework if needed. Your account details can be given to them for the money to be transferred to you.

2. Become a YouTuber


Becoming a YouTuber is a great online job without investment for students as all they need is a camera, even a mobile camera to shoot videos and upload them. A little knowledge on editing images and videos would help them. Their topics can be anything from a subject they know, or a musical instrument, singing, dancing, and hacks, etc. They can earn based on the quality of the videos and views, subscribers which will help them increase their earnings.

YouTube is a great space to earn money online for the housewives too! The opportunity to have an online job through YouTube without any investment helps women upload videos of what they are really interested in. Women usually upload videos of recipes, fashion, parenting, diets and many more topics. They can choose the topic they want to upload videos and share them on their YouTube channel. There can be collaborations, and a lot of organisations get in touch with good YouTubers for their promotional activities, which helps the YouTubers earn money often.

3. Online Reselling Business


This is by far the most exciting way of earning money online without any investment in India. Crores of Indians are already started their online Reselling Business and are making thousands every month. One of the most trusted platforms right now is Meesho in India, having more than 1 crore women earning their income from this app. Starting an own business HAS become everyone’s cup of tea by Meesho. All you need is a phone and internet connection to start your online store. There are lakhs of products on the app that you need to share with your contacts on WhatsApp and other social media platforms. Sell it to those who are interested after adding your margin price to the products. That way the amount you add as your margin amount is yours.

The trick in this business lies in sharing the right products to the right people, and adding the right margin amount. People usually start by selling it to their friends and family first, and then share them among other contacts too. Generally people earn 25,000 every month, but there have been cases where people have earned even 2 lakhs every month.

You can sell it to your contacts across India and Meesho takes care of the shipping. Many people utilise this platform as a part time online job, to earn from home as it doesn’t involve any amount of money to be invested.

Download Meesho and start earning today

4. Blogger


Blogging is probably the best online work from home jobs for the housewives. Everybody has a different way to create unique content. Take the easiest way to start off, that is by starting your own blog. There are many content ideas to blog about and earn online for housewives in India. Women can choose to write about fashion, cooking, beauty, motherhood, crafts, hobbies, health, and so many more options to write about.

Start your blog based on the topic you want to write about, and name it accordingly. You can either start off for free or  buy your domain name. Be a regular at blogging, share it with your friends and family. Check the performance of the blogs you are writing on often.

Share your write up on social media and other platforms until it goes viral and once your blog starts receiving traffic. Google Ad sense is a recommended way of earning money from blogs. As google earns quite some amount of revenue from ads, they share a percentage of it with people on whose blog the ads appear on. For this to start, the space on your blog needs to be leased to Google.

5. Online Teaching/Coaching


If you love teaching but can’t step out to work, online coaching is for you. It is one of the upcoming career options and gives the advantage of working from anywhere without any geographical limitations. There are a lot of websites online where you can enroll and start teaching. Some of them ask your educational qualifications and experience, however, some websites would just require your expertise in the subject you chose to train in. this is a great regular source of income and you get to save a lot of time traveling.  This is not only a great option for the housewives, but also for college students who want to have their business online without any investment. The amount one earns would depend on many factors, on the amount of time he/she is spending on this, experience, expertise in the subject and good communication skills.

All you need is a computer with good internet speed. If need be, you should be able to create video and presentations of the lecture.

6. Selling products of your interests


You may be talented in a lot of things like, panting, art, craft, fashion, jewellery and many things that you may have learnt in your younger days. Why not sell them online and make money? You can create your own website and sell your work or even use social media to share your creativity.

Some housewives who are great at cooking, can even start their catering business by taking orders online.

It needn’t be physical products all the time, it can be e-books, videos on subjects that you are an expert at can be shared online and sold. It could be on diets, weight loss, childcare, motherhood, academic subjects that you could be an expert at.

You do not have to fear about any risks as you would go through, as you can be providing them the download link in your blogs after the payment is made. You can share it your own website. Start your online business with minimal or no money involved.

7. Data Entry/Typing


Data entry jobs are one of the easiest online jobs that you can start from home without any investment. They can be started when you just have a computer and a good internet connection. One needs to have the skills of entering the required data into the system. This has been popular amongst people to earn easy money, and few earn close to ₹20,000 every month. Please be careful while choosing the jobs as there could be many fake ones on the internet. Please note that you do not pay to get these data entry jobs.

Typing jobs have been the most chosen easy money options where just one needs the skill of typing, which many these days have. People would be given huge texts that need to be entered into the systems.

Data Entry and Typing jobs are taken as full time or part-time jobs to increase their monthly income. Such jobs are taken usually by housewives and students to earn some income. Not many people work on such an online job, but work on other online jobs that can earn earn more money and opportunities.

8. Online Surveys


Online surveys is a great online job to work from home without any investment. You just need to give your opinion and review what is asked.

A lot of survey conducting companies need to get people’s opinion when their clients are about to launch a new service or product. So, these companies give out online surveys to people and collect their responses, to help them. So you can just sign up for free with these organisations and keep helping them with their surveys which helps you earn more. These companies give out cash or gift vouchers.

Make sure that the survey companies are not scammers and you do not have to pay to join them. These are best for housewives and students who want to increase their income easily. Here, you do not always have to be in a particular city, you can be from anywhere in the country, so that is definitely an advantage.

9. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one popular free way of working online and making money online. You just need to have your own blog, paid preferably. Register to many Affiliate Marketing programs that you need to be in, Amazon, Flipkart, Citibank, and many more offer affiliate programs. All you need to do is write articles on the products you have picked and redirect them to these sites. When there is a transaction made after going through your blog, then you get a percentage as your commission. You need to be convincing and be honest in your reviews and articles. These are the best online job for people who want to work from home and earn money online without any investment.

You will be able to get daily payments online. Though it doesn’t fetch results immediately, you will be able to make money when you are ranking and share your work across platforms as well. It could be through YouTube too. A lot of influencers on YouTube, Instagram and other social media upload posts and videos along with links of products. This way, they will be earning well every time there is a transaction from their post. This too, is a way of earning money through affiliate marketing.

Choosing the best way for you to earn online is very important but there is almost nothing to lose while figuring out what suits you best as you are starting your online businesses without any investment.


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