Thursday

It is possible to avoid past due invoices?

Doing business with other businesses may seem like it is less risky than dealing with the public but unfortunately, you may still feel you have too many invoices unpaid. First, it is helpful to review your business credit policies from time to time. Another way to reduce unpaid invoices is to ensure you are not overlooking problems that are causing unpaid invoices.

Reviewing your policies

When you extend credit to another business are you running a business credit report? You can potentially avoid unpaid invoices by ensuring the company you are doing business with has a history of paying invoices on time. This single step can save you time and result in a higher percentage of paid invoices. A collections partner can help by providing credit reports beginning at the time of sale.  This helps minimize your risk of an uncollected invoice.

Understanding the root causes

Businesses understand the concept of customer service but oftentimes, they do not have the staff to thoroughly follow up on some of the basics. Stop and think about how many payment issues could be avoided if you know the following: 
  • The client received the goods - if you send a product overseas you need to follow up with the client to ensure they received the item and are happy with the delivery. 
  • The client received the invoice - some invoices simply get lost in transit. This is a fact. Even if they reach the company the invoice could get misdirected. 
  • You did not issue a mismatched invoice - if you have a process in place to match your invoice to your customer's purchase order, you have a far better chance of getting paid on time.


Too often, business accounts receivable staff members are buried in dealing with issuing new invoices and overlook the outstanding invoices until they begin aging. 

Friday

Quality service to customers should be the standard

During these times of increasingly powerful technology one thing that often gets lost in the shuffle is customer service. Before technological advances were made, quality service was something that all businesses worked hard to obtain. The customer was always right and complaints and comments were handled promptly and efficiently.

Impact of outsourcing on customer service

In growing numbers, companies are outsourcing their customer service needs and depending on technology to be the "end all" for all of their customer service needs. When customers call a company today, rather than speaking directly with a customer service agent they are directed through a series of prompts to get automated answers to get questions. Often, getting to a "human" is so frustrating that by the time customers are able to reach a person, they are already frustrated.

Quality service to all customers must be the standard. Providing quality service means developing customer loyalty. It often means new streams of business. New streams of business are created when a customer feels they have been treated well, that their needs are met and they will likely share their story about your company with another person.

While technology is available as a tool, there is really little that it does to help keeps customers happy. Technology should be one of the tools that is used to keep your customers needs filled, but there must be quick, efficient ways for all customers to exit an automated system and reach a person if they are having difficulty using an automated system.

Customer bill of rights

While it is true that many businesses take the approach that the customer is always right, this is not always true. There are however, some basic rights that all customers should be entitled to.

  • Accuracy - When a customer calls inquiring about their account the information they are presented with should always be accurate.
  • Benefit - Make sure that your customer understands the benefits of working with your company to resolve problems.
  • Courtesy - Customers should always be treated with courtesy. Everyone has the right to be treated with courtesy.
  • Dignity - Just because a customers problem may seem insignificant to a customer service agent, they are not insignificant to the customer.


Making sure that customers are happy is the secret to developing a strong reputation for every business. A strong reputation means that the business is more likely continue to thrive even in difficult economic times. Making a commitment today to providing customers with great customer service means that customers may be more loyal. Sharing your belief with everyone in your company that great customer service must be the standard should promote an air of cooperation and help promote customer and employee loyalty.

Image credit By Tomwsulcer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Deciding if you should outsource your social media efforts

Social media marketing may take up a considerable amount of time if a user fails to plan their efforts properly. More business owners are including social media marketing as part of their overall business plan and their marketing plan. In many cases, some are trying to determine whether they should keep their marketing efforts in hour or whether they should outsource their social media efforts. When this happens, there are some things that should be taken into consideration.

Time considerations

Before making the final decision to outsource social media marketing efforts, it is a good idea to determine if someone has the time to fill this role. Social media marketing involves more than scheduling updates and sending them out via automated services. Typically in order to maintain a successful social media plan, followers must be vetted, regular updates must be made and content must be prepared and disbursed. For many companies, the added time burden can take away from other primary functions of the business.

Proper plan and expertise

Social media marketing requires a business have a plan in place that includes creating and developing lists of followers. In addition to the time necessary for attracting new followers, there must be well written, well thought out, quality content. Some business owners may not have the needed expertise to implement a successful campaign. Content must be written on a fairly regular basis to provide followers with information that will ultimately intrigue them to learn more about the products or services offered by the company.

Managing multiple accounts

One of the primary reasons why a company should consider outsourcing their social media campaigns is that the best approach for many campaigns involves numerous accounts. Each social media site will have different terms of service, restrictions and other rules that must be adhered to. Hiring someone who has previous expertise may help avoid some of the common pitfalls involved with the various social media platforms and avoid potential problems.

Great social media marketing campaigns are well managed, provide timely information to followers and includes well written content. Outsourcing social media efforts can help a business owner launch successful campaigns without taking away from efforts in house in other parts of their business. Finding a social media expert who has the skills and time needed to dedicate to a well-run, carefully crafted marketing plan can provide significant advantages for most business owners. In many cases, outsourcing social media campaigns can be more cost effective than trying to train someone who is already on staff to handle the marketing plan on their own. Hiring someone with existing expertise can save not only time, but money.

Thursday

Five ways to reduce clutter at the office

Many people celebrated the "information age" by discussing how nice it would be to have less paper in their office. However, what was never taken into consideration was the number of people who are still living in an era where they feel that unless it's on paper, it doesn't exist. There are a myriad of things that can cause clutter in the office, paper being one of them. There are five tips to reduce clutter at the office that is caused by paper:


  1. Don't ignore it - Clutter isn't going to go away. In fact, if you continue to ignore it, chances are it's only going to get worse! If you have files that are piling up on your desk (and beyond) put them away! It is usually most helpful to set aside some time each day to take care of all of your filing. This will at least begin to reduce clutter at the office.
  2. Sort it out - For many people, paper is a necessity and not just an annoyance. Sort your papers by level of importance - do this groups that you can handle easily. For instance, you might have a pile that is for paper you have to save, paper that you have to read, paper that is questionable. Don't waste time or space making a "junk pile" just keep a wastebasket or shredder nearby and get rid of it.
  3. Scan it - If you have papers that you are just unsure if you are going to need later, why not consider scanning it to a CD Rom and storing it. For many, this is a great answer. Make sure that as you name files of scanned papers, that you can identify them later. This is also a great solution for paper that you know you are going to need but, may not need the hard copies of. This is a great clutter-reducing technique as you've preserved your documents and reduced the space to store them.
  4. Reduce junk mail - There are hundreds of ways we get on junk mail lists. You can take control of your junk mail by requesting your name be removed from mailing lists. There are number of stop junk mail services that are free and/or low cost. This will not occur overnight, but it can make a significant impact in reducing clutter at the office.
  5. Be sensible - Many of us have magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions, and other professional subscriptions that we get on a monthly basis. Find out if they are available online. This is a great way to reduce clutter at the office. In addition, an online newsletter or magazine is the "green" way to go.

There are many causes of clutter at the office, paper being only one of them. However, these five ways to reduce clutter at the office caused by paper will help you keep your work area free of excess paper. For most people, taking the time to reduce clutter at the office will lead to greater productivity.

Image credit: By Yinan Chen (www.goodfreephotos.com (gallery, image)) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Flex-time will not attract new hires

Flex-time is considered an employment benefit that allows employees to start work later in the morning for the purposes of missing rush hour traffic, meeting family obligations, or simply not having to wake up at early hours.  While there are certainly is a work life and home life balance to be met, flex time does not always solve these issues.  Here are some of the reasons that flex time will not attract new hires:

Flex-time late arrivals

While initially the idea of arriving at work at a later hour (say 10 a.m. versus 9 a.m.) may initially sound like a good idea, the reality is that for many flex-time workers this will mean working until 6 p.m. instead of 5 p.m.  When flex-time openings are advertised they generally will advertise the hours that are flexible. It does not take long for someone to see the downside of getting out of work at 6 p.m.

Days on - days off

Companies that offer abbreviated work weeks including four ten-hour work days and one day off typically have more stringent requirements for sick time, and may even limit vacation days.  In addition, for those positions that this type of flex-time arrangement is unavailable, it invariably will mean more work.  Another problem with this model is that for those employees who are paid hourly, one sick day on a day when you are scheduled to work can mean the loss of ten hours of pay.  This is a deterrent for most to accept this type of a flex-time model.

Overtime pay problems

Some flex-time models may require certain employees to work more than 40 hours in a seven day week. Depending on how the contracts are written, these hours may or may not be covered under overtime provisions.  Those who are seeking new jobs are often well versed in employment law and may turn away from flex-time arrangements because of these rules.

Seasoned employees versus new hires

New hires come into a company already dreading their first few days of work. Being hired under a flex-time work scheme when more seasoned employees may not have been offered this option can create an extra layer of politics to deal with.  New hires do not want to be treated different than their peers and flex-time hiring models often pit them against seasoned members of a team.

While flex-time may work for two parent families, single moms, or single dads, the pool of new hires may consist of new graduates or people who are reentering the workforce after their families are grown.  These new hires are generally not the ones who will be interested in flex-time arrangements meaning these schemes will not always attract new hires.