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Customer Service How may I help you? make client a brand advocate worst customers

How to Deal With Demanding Clients

demanding clients

Every business wants to do right by its customers. At the end of the day, that’s what a business is there for: to serve its customers and clients and to serve them well. A business will not stay in business without training its employees on the best practices for dealing with the customer base.

When one of those customers asks for everything, demands extras for free, and complains about the work you provide, hard conversations sometimes have to happen. Here’s how to handle your problem customers with grace and how to ensure your clientele become long-lasting, loyal patrons of your business.

Why it’s Important to Serve Tough Customers Well

You know what it’s like: You’re going about your day and minding your own business when a rude customer insists you drop everything and cater to their every whim.

It can be tempting to snap back at them or let your irritation show. But when issues occur — which they will, with even the best clients — the wisest action you or your team can take is to quickly and calmly find an equitable resolution for both of you.

When you prioritize customer service above all, you’re more likely to retain customers in the long term. In some cases, a good customer service experience can actually turn a problem client into one of your brand’s biggest proponents. But how, exactly, do you turn a customer into a brand advocate?

How to Handle Your Worst Customers

Your customers look to you — not just for your product or service — but for help and a pleasant experience. You will find that a brand advocate is your best tool against complaints and the best way to build your your company.

Make Sure You’re on the Same Page

With most of your problem customers, the root of the problem is miscommunication. Understanding the customer issues with concrete examples is key: Ask for the specifics of what they’re looking for, what went wrong, or what’s bothering them. Then take a moment and respond with equally specific solutions.

Be intentional about how you communicate. Make sure the words you choose are clear and calm. An easy way to quickly understand a situation is to mirror the language the other person is using. Be sure to parrot (mirror) your customer’s questions or concerns back to them — to see if you have truly understood their concerns.

Acknowledge Where They’re Coming From

Sometimes, all people want is to be heard. While that sounds simple — allowing your customer to talk through their situation without interruption takes a little time. Resist the temptation to jump in the conversation with a quick fix (this will make an enemy faster than almost anything you could do)! While listening — only ask questions to clarify their position. DO NOT tell them to take a breath, breathe, or “calm down.” These responses are generally known to be non-helpful.

Full and careful listening with mirroring language will help them calm down naturally and will give you the information you’ll need to diagnose the problem.

To be clear — taking time to hear, mirror and respond doesn’t mean that you have to agree with your customer. Merely listening and acknowledging their frustration will help you move closer to a resolution.

Use Any Soothing Trick to Help Yourself

You can silently be soothing yourself. “I’m okay, I can’t wait to tell the other co-workers, I’m handling everything in my life better. Instead of contradicting someone by saying “but,â€� make a point to say, “yes, and…â€� The word, “butâ€� can sound antagonistic, condescending or rude — while “yes, andâ€� lets people know you’re on their side.

Keep Tabs

If you have a customer that’s constantly demanding more or being rude, document their behavior. Record emails, voice messages and anything else that displays their problematic behavior. Make yourself a few notes of dates, times and a few quick details.

Say a customer is being particularly needy or making a ton of complaints, some of which start to sound very similar. Pointing them back to what they’ve already said can help keep them on track. Plus, it can give them a taste of what communication with them is actually like.

Call in Support

Sometimes, you just have to pass the baton. When it comes to difficult customers, don’t be afraid to ask for support. Whether from a colleague or someone in leadership, having an extra voice in the room can be comforting, and can help you reach a resolution faster.

Watch for signals for when you need to call in help, like when someone is asking for more than what you’re able to give. That is the time to call in your manager. Let him or her explain why you can’t do what they (the customer) are asking.

Go the Extra Mile

At long last, you’re finally finished helping your problem customer. You can either throw in the towel, or take this one extra step that may help you and your company retain this customer in the long run.

It’s simple: After you’re finished helping them, ask if there’s anything else you can help them with.

Being willing to go the extra mile to help does two things: First, it shows you appreciate them as a customer. Secondly, it allows them to voice other concerns that they may have forgotten about. Either way, it’s good business to do this one last check-in before sending them off.

Pushing back on a demanding customer is rarely the correct choice. You’re already busy and stressed — the last thing you need is a problem client.

By taking a mental step back, you’ll approach the situation with new eyes. With a little luck, you might even turn the terror of a customer into a loyal brand advocate. When you’ve turned an enemy into an advocate, it’s a beautiful transformation and well worth the effort.

Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels

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automation Back office business automation Productivity workflow automation

How Workflow Automation is Changing the Back Office

workflow automation

The back office of your business consists of employees in administrative and supportive roles. While the admin responsibilities don’t directly work with customers, they’re the engine of your ship. The back-office staff keeps everything up and running no matter what happens up front, and they need support to do so.

Workflow automation changes how the back office operates, maximizing efficiency and ensuring a more effective system overall. As powerful as workflow automation can be, implementing it is no small task.

Don’t know where to start with office automation? These examples will get your wheels turning and help you find direction.

Software Integration

Back offices rely on a variety of software programs to keep operations going. Keeping track of all the tools involved can lead to confusion. Workflow automation eliminates these issues by seamlessly integrating systems together.

Using iPaaS, or integration platforms as a service, you can set up your own workflow automation to tie all your programs together. For example, you can put a trigger in your project management software that will automatically download any files that your team shares to your email. This one simple step might not seem like much, but set up enough automation and you’ll be saving a ton of time.

Human Resources

The back office takes care of all employee management, whether they’re at the front desk or the warehouse. Hiring new employees, training and retention, and compliance are all essential aspects of business management. The more attention an organization can give to their employees, the more they will give back to the company.

Automation greatly assists in managing document-related tasks, which are the name of the game in human resource departments. Automatically generating and filing all the needed paperwork enables HR managers to spend less time at a desk and more time addressing employee needs and concerns. Workflow automation can also help with employee training for new hires or seasoned veterans who may need a refresher.

Banking and Finances

Nearly every back office has a financial team. They make sure books are lined up, invoices are sent and received, and budgets are followed. Automation helps ensure accuracy when taking care of company finances while accomplishing tasks at a quicker pace.

A simple example can be found with invoicing. Having workplace automation send and collect invoices takes a load off of your financial team so they can focus on other things. All they have to do is double-check the work and move on.

Purchasing and Inventory

Your procurement team will greatly benefit from workflow automation. Tracking inventory on its own is very time consuming, and it’s not an activity many enjoy doing. Automating inventory and subsequent purchasing will streamline the process, saving both time and money.

You can automate your inventory list to automatically update with purchases and shipments. When your inventory hits a certain level, your automation will trigger a notification to your procurement team that an order needs to be placed. While you still need the proper manpower to double-check industry counts and confirm shipments — automation helps ensure accuracy and timeliness with orders.

Data Analytics

Right on pace with automation is the growth of data analytics in business. Data-driven decision making has shown to be more effective than relying on intuition and experience alone. Businesses generate tons of data each day, so automation is an essential requirement for making it all work together.

Workflow automation will sift through the data generated by your business to pick out relevant information for your needs. One valuable aspect of data is its potential for trend forecasting. As workflow automation picks out key pieces of data for you, you can use it to make business plans based on perceived future events.

Data analytics also helps with product development, marketing, operations, and a whole lot more. Every aspect of your business can benefit from data, so this is one of the most important workflow automation areas to focus on.

Customer Experience

The front office consists of customer service and sales representatives who form a direct relationship with consumers. The back office, however, still has an impact on customer experience. For example, web developers work to build a site that enables customers to easily find the information and products they need, which plays a major role in the customer experience.

Developers and IT professionals know very well how beneficial automation can be. Workflow automation can siphon the data they need to make decisions that will improve the customer experience, helping them perform their jobs to a higher level. Automation also helps companies provide targeted content for customers visiting their sites. This personalizes the web experience, ensuring that every visitor finds exactly what they need.

Security

Another vital task performed by your tech team is that of security. Keeping malware and digital attacks at bay protect your data and information and that of your customers. Breaches can be catastrophic, driving away customers and slashing revenue streams.

Workflow automation can detect potential threats automatically, no matter the type of threat or time of day. This can trigger preemptive actions to slow down attacks until a technician can fully address the problem. Automation can also send prompt notifications to further accelerate response times.

In addition to cybersecurity, workflow automation can also help with physical security. It can track employee ID scans and other forms of entry to pick up on trends that may seem suspicious and need verification.

Office Maintenance

There’s nothing worse than finding out you’re out of copy paper or need to make repairs right in the moment. With workflow automation, you can keep track of office materials and equipment to provide proper maintenance for ensuring smooth workdays.

You can set up a workflow that calculates the number of materials your company uses and determines when restocking needs to be done. You can also use these algorithms to track printer toner, air filters, and cleaning materials as well.

Filing and Organization

No one wants to spend a day filing documents, and no manager would have one of their best workers waste time doing so. Digital filing systems and storage are more efficient than their physical counterparts but still need maintenance to ensure proper documents can be readily accessed when needed.

You can set up your own organizational system using workflow automation. Tag certain files to be sent to specific locations, so you know exactly where they’ll be when you need them. You can also automatically send the documents you need directly to your inbox, avoiding the need to hunt them down.

With workflow automation, your back office will never be the same. Not only will you be increasing your company’s efficiency, but you’ll also be giving your workers a huge quality-of-life boost as well. Any team that made it through 2020 unscathed deserves a break, and workflow automation can be just that.

Image Credit: charles parker; pexels

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Lifestyle living abroad taxes

5 Things U.S. Expats Need to Know

US expats living abroad

As an American expatriate, it’s easy to lose touch with what’s happening stateside. But just because you’re a U.S. expat working abroad doesn’t mean you can forget about your obligations at home.

Excluding members of the military, almost 9 million Americans are expats. Spread across at least 160 countries, expats live abroad but retain their U.S. citizenship.

Whether you’re a long-time expat or still packing your bags, there are a few things you should know about living and working in a foreign country:

1. Take Care of Your Taxes

No matter where they live or work, American citizens are subject to U.S. income taxes. Even those whose tax burden is zero must still file tax forms with the IRS.

Paying taxes is enough of a pain for domestic workers. Many American expats need a financial professional’s help to stay compliant. Platforms like MyExpatTaxes make it possible to complete returns in as little as 30 minutes.

“The average time for expat tax firms to complete a return is 1-2 months,� explains MyExpatTaxes Founder Nathalie Goldstein, a U.S. expat living in Vienna. “Our turnaround time has helped us handle this year’s ten-fold growth while maintaining our quality standards.�

What does Goldstein attribute the glut to? Expats getting Covid-19 stimulus checks. “Stimulus checks count as income,� Goldstein reminds clients. “They need to be reported, even if you haven’t earned other income this year.�

2. Get Your Visa Early

The visa process can be extremely long, and Covid-19 restrictions have only made things worse. Goldstein suggests starting early: “As is true of taxes, getting your work visa ironed out early can save you a lot of last-minute headaches.�

Different countries have different visa requirements. Some require you to return to your home country periodically in order for it to remain valid. Others need an employer to verify your status for you to legally remain in your host country.

Getting verification letters and travel plans squared away takes time. Don’t wait until the last minute to reach out to your sponsor or to book a plane ticket.

3. Embrace the Local Culture

Working abroad does not need to be all work and no fun. Even though you might bleed red, white, and blue, you’ll benefit from embracing the local culture. Breaking down language and cultural barriers make it a lot easier to fit in, get comfortable, and make the most of your time outside of the United States.

Getting acquainted with the local culture can also benefit your work. Look for ways to connect with supervisors and coworkers. Try some local cuisine with them, or ask them to help you learn key phrases in the native language.

What are you waiting for? Go scope out tourist sites, local restaurants, and historical locations in your new home. You can’t go wrong exploring where you live.

4. Keep Up to Date on U.S. Affairs

What happens in the U.S. inevitably affects Americans living abroad. A good example is the latest round of stimulus checks. Checks are due to be cut just weeks after the new stimulus deal broke.

“If Americans living abroad are up to date with their tax filings, they should receive the second stimulus check,� says Goldstein. “However, it’s not too late for those who are not.�

Expats who have not filed should follow the streamlined procedures for tax filing, Goldstein recommends. Otherwise, they may not be eligible. Eligibility requirements for the second round of checks mirror those of the first round.

5. Monitor Local News, Too

Not only will you be affected by policy changes and other news from the U.S., but you have to keep an eye on what’s happening in your new country. Local and national governments might make changes that affect you directly as an expat.

This doesn’t have to be a lot of work. “You can read the foreign newspaper, you can watch foreign movies, you can Skype with your friends,� argues Nan Sussman, a psychology professor at the College of Staten Island who’s studied repatriation.

What should you look out for? Anything that could change your working status or affect your security. You might need to know, for example, about a local Covid-19 lockdown that prevents you from going to the office.

U.S. expats have their work cut out for them. Living in a foreign country might sound fun, but working in one can be a challenge. The good news is, there are plenty of companies and other expats eager to help.

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Gifts Health immune system immune system boost Lifestyle Ryla self-care Vit C wellness

Meet Ryla — COVID Boosts Health Food Products and Immune System Awareness

Ryla immune system support

With the holidays in full swing all around us and COVID claiming its share of the attention this year — many of us are giving closer consideration to self-care, including finding out more about the immune system. Care of our immune system may be a life-saving opportunity at this critical time. The health food industry has seen an increase in the number of people seeking ways to boost their immune system — and Ryla is here to help.

Here is an easy way to quickly begin supporting your immune system to withstand the viruses of life (stress) and maybe even COVID.

You can do something today to begin to boost your immune system. Exercising, reducing stress, and getting the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals in your body has never been quite so important than it is right now.

Buy the ingredients and make yourself a fresh-squeezed juice shot when you can — or head to the juice-bar for fresh-squeezed. Both of these options are quite time-consuming and expensive.

Try Ryla — If you want a quick and convenient option for immune support with plant-based wellness.

Ryla is a quick and convenient option for your immune support. Ryla’s plant-based wellness shots are a superfood loaded packet. They are immunity support blends in powder form made with organic immune-boosting superfoods and 500mg of Vitamin C.

These packets are vegan, keto, non-GMO, and gluten, soy, and dairy-free. The ingredients list contains real, recognizable foods that you will know how to pronounce. Contains NO refined sugar.

The packets are convenient and portable — you merely toss the powder into a glass of water — stir and drink. Open a packet and dump it in your water bottle and shake for a refreshing drink on your break or at your desk.

“Ryla was created to offer a plant-based immunity support solution that is easy to take on the go,� said Chris Douglass, co-founder of Ryla.

Ryla’s drink powders come in three blends; check them out below.

immune boosting shot
Orange Strawberry

Orange Strawberry Link

Fruity and tangy, the Orange Strawberry shot is juicy and approachable, containing, you guessed it — real organic oranges and strawberries, with a touch of organic stevia.

Super fruity with a bit of a tart kick, this fresh-squeezed powder is great in a smoothie or your water bottle. It’s been featured on Goop as one of their best in wellness products — so you know it’s the real deal.

Ensure that you are eating and drinking high immune-boosting nutrients as your personal way to stay active in maintaining your personal health and wellness.

 

immunity boosting shots
Turmeric Orange Ginger Black Pepper

Turmeric Orange Ginger Black Pepper Link

The Turmeric Orange Ginger Black Pepper shot is dynamic and flavorful. It brings warm citrus, a fun tart bite from the organic ginger and organic turmeric, and a slight spicy kick from the organic black pepper.

I think this shot tastes great in a glass of water and it is also delicious when made as a hot cozy tea. The turmeric and ginger are also full-spectrum, so there is no nutrient deterioration in the roots when they are dried.

Turmeric has long been known for its anti-inflammatory response. Reducing inflammation throughout the body also helps your antibodies respond to toxins better—a must during cold and flu season.

immunity boosting shot
Ginger Lemon Cayenne

Ginger Lemon Cayenne Pepper Link

If you love spicy, you’ll be incorporating this shot into your daily routine in no time. The Ginger Lemon Cayenne Pepper shot is all about tart and spice —Ryla calls it her “no pain no gain” shot, and she’s not kidding. It is fantastic.

The organic ginger and 500 mg of Vitamin C are there to support your immune system, and the organic cayenne pepper helps clear your sinuses.

Cayenne Pepper has been found to help with stomach issues and is a natural pain reliever — Ginger, so refreshing to sip, is also a pain reliever.

Want to mix it up? Try this shot warm with a touch of soothing honey added — you won’t be disappointed.

immunity boosting shots
Try the variety pack for immunity-boosting power.

Variety Pack Link

If you’re not sure where to start, please try out Ryla’s Variety Pack. The variety pack gives you a chance to sample all of the shots, each containing healthy superfoods and immune-boosting goodness. Stock up on your favorites and feel safe and secure, knowing that you are doing the best for your immune system and relieving stress by taking care of yourself.

With each of these packs, you’ll notice that sometimes the juice will settle, just like a fresh-squeezed juice you see at the store. This is because the Ryla company doesn’t add any additional dissolvents, chemicals, or fillers. Pure goodness.

Conclusion

Start each day off with a different Ryla shot and rotate through the different flavors — you’ll love them all. It’s reassuring to know that you’re getting a healthy dose of Vitamin C during this pandemic.

It’s also wonderful to know that you’re consuming immune-boosting superfood plants like ginger, turmeric, black pepper, and cayenne pepper, which have been used medicinally for thousands of years.

Ryla’s straight-forward list of ingredients is pure transparency — you’ll recognize every word on the list.  The minute you take a refreshing drink — you’ll love it.

We are all in this pandemic-thing together — and can pass along any information we think might be a help at this time. Remember, the best time to support your immune system is now — to avoid getting sick.

These ingredients and processes are clean and simple. This drink is clean and simple. Can’t think of a better place to grab some immune-boosting power than with Ryla’s. Check it out — grab glass — take a shot — and stay well. Happy sipping!

 

Top Image Credit: andrea piacquadio; pexels

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Edtech Experts: Educational Disruption Extends Beyond Online Learning

education disruption

Education has changed more in the past 10 years than it did in the prior 100. Those changes are only accelerating, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic and the disruptive nature of digital technology.

It’s no secret that technological change has taken a lot of industries by storm. As students hunker down at home during the pandemic, tech experts foresee more than a trend toward online education. Tomorrow’s education system will be more interactive, workforce-oriented, and certificate-based.

How do Educational Challenges and Changes Occur?

How these helpful and needed changes happen, exactly, is up for debate. Benjamin Arabov, CEO of education marketing firm Grow Enrollments, sees new platforms as just the start. “The future of learning lies in teaching institutions that will revolutionize that space, not simply turn conventional education into an online format,� he says. “Disruptive education will emphasize gamification and visual learning to engage the next generation of students.�

Arabov, a 2021 inductee to the Forbes 30 Under 30, thinks disruptive education will have a significant impact on how the majority of us learn and prepare for a career in the future. Here’s how and why that might happen:

What Does Disruption Look Like in the Education Industry?

Definitionally, disruption is the process of displacing an established technology, process, or industry in a groundbreaking, meaningful way. In the context of education, disruption refers to technology’s ability to provide students with modern education, shake up educational institutions, and revolutionize the way we think about learning.

Prominent examples of tech disruption exist in education already: Online courses, degrees, and certifications are becoming common and accepted by employers. Libraries are shifting from print books toward digital archives. Sites like Wikipedia are now respected educational institutions in their own right.

According to Arabov, those changes are just the start. In his eyes, disruptive education offers elegant solutions for the problems that plague the traditional education system.

“To this day, what traditional learning institutions struggle to deliver is student development opportunities. Schools are struggling to engage students. They’re coming up short on creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.�

What does Arabov propose? Digital programs that teach employer-desired skill sets more effectively and quickly than traditional degree programs. And he’s working with edtech entrepreneurs to bring those to fruition.

What Can We Expect from Disruptive Education Companies?

The future of education will be shaped by the edtech startups of today. It’s Arabov’s belief that these companies will get ahead by not just providing innovative learning programs, but also by solving the current problems that exist within the traditional education system.

One of those problems? The stubborn skills gap for many students who are gearing up to enter the workforce.

“To produce the sort of candidates companies want to hire, education providers have to address the issue of integrating technology with learning,� Arabov said. He points to programs like Distance Learning Systems, which offers digital courses it guarantees will transfer to accredited schools.

Distance Learning Systems makes university programs more accessible and career-oriented using technology. “With today’s increasing cost and time required for higher education, it has become extremely challenging for many to fast-track, or even obtain a college degree,� explains David Christy, the company’s president.

Distance Learning Systems delivers classes live online and records them for students. Students can earn college credit by attending just one class per week.

Another is personalization, Arabov explains. Historically, classroom education has been one size fits all. As is true elsewhere in the economy, that’s changing.

Data by Education Week Research Center suggests half of the educators consider personalized learning an important tool in improving education. Just 11% said they saw it as a fad.

Personalized learning can take many forms. Learn-at-your-own-pace online courses are an early example. In the future, VR experiences may be tailored to the lessons each student struggles with. Expect degree programs to be tailored to each student’s desired skill set, not just the subject area they’re interested in.

Regardless, Arabov says, disruptive education companies will use technology to get there. They’ll help students get insight into their own learning habits, create personalized approaches to education, and keep up with the constant changes that will continue to rock the education industry. And frankly, it’s about time.

Image Credit: anastasiya gepp; pexels

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The Pandemic, Social Injustice and the Roles Brands Need to Play

social injustice and brands

In 2018, a survey of global consumers determined that almost two-thirds of customers preferred to do business with companies that stood for a purpose. Consumers want a company that reflects their personal values and beliefs as opposed to organizations that do not. Here is the pandemic, social injustice and the roles brands need to play.

As 2020 comes to a close, how do you think the numbers have changed with clients, customers and others that we serve? With so many impactful events in the headlines, companies seem to be more and more involved in making statements and spurring change in the face of adversity.

Companies and brands have always tried to set the trend — but spurring change has become the new norm for businesses.

Understanding how your brand can make an impact is crucial to growing your business in today’s world. Take it from these experts who believe that the key to successful branding in 2021 will involve addressing the issues and pain points their customers face.

Brands Have a Responsibility

Companies can no longer sit by as the chaos of the world rages around them. Instead of ignoring unrest or adding to it, they strive to provide order and ease to their customers whenever possible. These efforts, on the part of businesses, helps to give back to the community, increases your customer base, and builds brand loyalty while you’re at it.

David Brier, the author of the book Brand Intervention and winner of countless awards in the field, takes this responsibility seriously. He stresses the need for humanitarian efforts and community outreach to be a part of brand management at all times.

“Brands need to stay in touch now more than ever,� Brier says. “Not to just say, “Hey, how are you doing?� in the hopes that it may result in a sale. Brands, like people, MUST care first, must be selfless first.�

“Say things that unite, that empower, that open eyes, ears and minds. If the words and messages that brands are saying don’t meet those criteria, then drop it, like a freakin’ hot potato.�

Actions Speak Louder than Words

While your brand should definitely address problems and say the right things, what your company does is much more important in the face of adversity. You can say all you want, but your words are meaningless if you don’t do anything about it.

Brier addresses the “do-nothing-attitude” as well. “We’ve gotten into a calm of hypersensitivity to words, with absurd levels of “political correctness.” For me, those who only look at words and ignore actions are shortsighted and frankly missing the boat, to put it nicely. I look at actions. Say whatever you want to, but your actions will tell the tale.

While some customers will always read into words too much, actions are undeniable. Saying you’re dedicated to helping inequality in your community without performing actions to meet that goal says a lot about your brand. Actions that serve a purpose represent much good for the positive side.

Genuine Brands Will Succeed

Donating a bunch of money to local companies is well and good, but is the action sincere? Additionally,  is the company simply “cutting a check,â€� or are they sincerely trying to make a difference? Still donate and give the funds — but sincerity and feeling will serve a much greater cause.

Eliza VanCort sheds some light on this subject. She is a Cook House Fellow at Cornell University and a prolific speaker on various topics addressing inequality and empowerment.

VanCort’s first book, A Woman’s Guide to Claiming Space: Stand Tall. Raise Your Voice. Be Heard — will be released in May 2021.

“It’s actually not a bad idea to “cut a check� to help various organizations,� she says. “Giving to The United Negro College Fund or Girl Up, if it’s a substantial donation, can make a longitudinal difference which changes lives. That said, if companies want to genuinely commit to making our world better, they must look inward.�

Is your company taking care of its own employees, especially during COVID-19 and the challenges it presents?

Are your hiring practices fair and diverse, and are you developing a positive culture that makes a difference? These are the adjustments that lead to successful brands.

The sincerity of words is also key to successful branding. If customers can tell you’re only publishing a statement to appease the masses or take advantage of buzzwords and trending issues, your reputation will take a major hit.

“Being seen as paying lip-service to life or death social justice issues, such as Black Lives Matter, in service of a brand’s bottom line, feels morally repugnant to many consumers and can indelibly harm brand integrity,â€� says VanCort. “The best way to avoid being seen as taking advantage of any given issue is to truly invest in making a difference, rather than trotting out slogans for the sake of optics.â€�

Something is Better than Nothing

The bottom line for brands today is that any form of positive action is better than ignoring issues entirely. Don’t let fear prevent you from speaking out by listening to the advice Eliza VanCort has for you.

“Many brands are truly wanting to engage in change-making, but they are fearful they might take a misstep. There are three things you can do to avoid making an error.

  • Firstly, you can hire an outside consultant to guide you.
  • Secondly, if a company truly commits to making a difference, and this commitment is not in the service of optics but in the service of making the world better for all, the chances of them misstepping are reduced substantially.
  • Finally, the work of making change is sloppy, but when we don’t all commit to doing it when we let the fear of making a mistake stop us from doing anything at all, we lodge a huge spoke in the wheel of progress.â€�

Whether it’s a pandemic, social injustice, or the myriad of other problems our nation and the world face every day, your brand can make a positive impact. Making a solid plan-of-action to have a positive impact will strengthen your company and the community around you.

Improving life for people and involving everyone in that effort will enhance your brand and the brand management process.

Image Credit: nandhu kumar; pexels

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outsourcing Software software development

Nearshore Outsourcing Is Up During Covid-19. Here’s Why.

nearshore outsourcing software development

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought about two simultaneous but seemingly paradoxical trends: remote work and deglobalization. Leaders trust their team members to deliver from afar, but they’re not so confident these days in global supply chains. 

While manufacturing supply chains have faced particular disruptions, the software development sector has also come under scrutiny. The halt in global travel has hampered U.S. companies’ access to many overseas programming hubs.

With that said, no industry experts we are aware of foresee a slowdown in the offshoring of programming work. Large companies and startups alike will continue to tap into less expensive labor markets.

How can leaders square the trend toward global software development with its supply chain risks? Through a strategy known as nearshore outsourcing.

Nearshore Outsourcing in Software Development

In the context of software development, nearshore outsourcing is the exportation of programming work from mature markets to developing ones in relative geographic proximity. A Texas-based SaaS company is engaging in nearshore outsourcing when it hires programmers in Mexico, for instance.

Interest in nearshore outsourcing among the Fortune 500 has skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to global consulting firm MJV Technology & Innovation. “We have seen that the pandemic has accelerated deglobalization,� MJV CEO Mauricio Vianna says, “as manufacturing and development in farshore locations have been suspended. Companies are shifting to nearshoring to solve the problems of a hyper-globalized production chain.�

But what, exactly, separates nearshore from farshore outsourcing? And what does it take to outsource to nearby markets effectively?

Nearshore vs. Farshore

The distinction between “nearshore� and “farshore� isn’t always clear. One key variable is proximity: Executives are looking for locales that they could reach within a few hours’ plane ride.

American business leaders can’t hop on a plane to Siberia and arrive the same day. Companies like MJV have offices across South America, which is much more reachable from North American cities.

Another consideration is the time difference between office locations. “I believe the biggest of the benefits of nearshore over farshore outsourcing is the proximity of the teams,� Vianna explains. “By being on the same or in a very close timezone, farshoring problems like working hours, alignment meetings, and longer trips are avoided. Besides, companies don’t need to wait twelve hours to get an answer or talk with the development team.�

A third is cultural similarity. American software developers will have a much easier time relating to their Canadian counterparts than, say, those based in China. “Education, business practices and work-life customs are very similar in America and Canada,� notes Evelyn Ackah, founder of Ackah Law, a Canadian business immigration law firm. “Most American project managers, as well as end-users, would not recognize an American product that was developed in Canada.�

Common Nearshoring Mistakes

To be sure, there are risks associated with nearshore outsourcing. Whether a company is pivoting its software development from either a farshore location or an in-house team, these must be mitigated. 

Just as in a farshore outsourcing project, cost savings are top of mind for executives. But vetting a nearshore partner who can deliver the required results on the desired budget is where many companies fall short. “Your choice of partner should not be a decision based solely on cost,� warns Vianna.

Security is also critical. Any form of offshoring can expose companies to data security liabilities. Due diligence is necessary to ensure that potential partners are compliant with relevant data privacy and security regulations in both local and international markets.

Beware, too, of labor laws. Nearshoring company MobSquad was recently accused of misusing a temporary foreign worker program. When in doubt, ask for proof of compliance. 

Finding a Nearshore Outsourcing Team

Nearshore outsourcing offers all the benefits of outsourcing without many of the headaches of a foreshore location. Still, cultural fit and production capacity should not be overlooked.

Vianna recommends looking for outsourcing partners with multidisciplinary teams that are familiar with modern programming languages. And don’t forget to check for value alignment. Ethics matter, wherever a development team is based or whatever its contribution. 

Finding a nearshoring provider that ticks all the boxes is just as tough as locating one that specializes in farshore outsourcing. Scrutinizing another company’s culture, creative philosophy, and values is no small task. But with any partner, checking for fit on all three fronts must be a priority.

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ads during pandemic AI Analysis covid-19 data delivery orders Healthcare ReadWrite real-time behavior robotics telehealth

How These 9 Startups are Thriving in the Covid-19 Economy

startups in covid-19

The year 2020 will forever be known as “devastating to all businesses,” but the year has been especially brutal to industries such as hospitality, travel, retail, and restaurants. However, companies in other sectors, such as health and technology, have taken off. Here is how nine startups are thriving in the Covid-19 economy.

These 9 startup companies found ways to grow their business by making needed adjustments and serving the community during the pandemic.

1. Nurx

Nurx is a disruptor in the telehealth industry. It connects patients with providers virtually for consultations and prescriptions for a variety of health services, including birth control, PrEP, HPV tests and migraine treatment.

The company offers patients consulting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via text. After paying the initial consultation fee, patients can message providers for a full year. Because patients don’t have to schedule in-person doctor visits to get care, Nurx is both a more convenient and safer option during the pandemic.

With telemedicine surging in 2020, and an additional $22.5 million in new financing, the company is positioned for long-term stability and growth. While telehealth is increasing overall, its niche serving women’s intimate health issues gives Nurx a competitive advantage.

The company has the opportunity to continue expanding the services it provides and to grow beyond the 29 states in which it is currently licensed.

2. Databricks

Databricks uses open source coding for data engineering, collaborative data analysis, and machine learning. Its platform offers clients:

  • Options tailored to their individual needs
  • Reduced supply chain operation costs
  • Web content creation based on visitor activity

The company has raised $400 million in new funding and expanded its customer dashboard capabilities by buying Redash. LinkedIn ranks Databricks as the No. 5 U.S. startup company for 2020.

Databricks’ most significant strength is its ability to make complex data analysis easier to conduct. The information gained from these analyses helps its customers save money and offer better service to their customers.

3. Verkada

Verkada provides enterprise building security with both hardware and cloud-based software. Its controls allow users to access its command platform from any browser with an internet connection. Integrated cameras and environmental sensors enable clients to detect changes happening across their locations and take data-driven action.

As the pandemic spread, Verkada adapted its system to highlight when and where crowds were beginning to form. This allows clients to disperse large groups and maintain social distancing. The company also created a heat map of high-traffic areas so clients could mark those for deeper and more frequent cleaning.

Verkada raised $80 million and doubled its workforce this year. The company’s advantage is its ability to see new opportunities and pivot to meet customer needs in new ways.

4. Nuro

Nuro’s goal is to use robotics and artificial intelligence to take over delivery orders.

The company launched the first self-driving delivery car in 2016. It initially partnered with Kroger in Phoenix to deliver groceries to such customers as:

  • Parents with young children
  • The elderly
  • Individuals who don’t drive

During the pandemic, Nuro has also used its driverless fleet to deliver medical supplies to Covid-19 patients in California.

On November 9, 2020, it announced a Series C funding round of $500 million. Nuro’s greatest strength is its bold ambition to bring robotics technology to Americans’ everyday lives, during the pandemic and beyond.

5. Movandi

Movandi is achieving success with innovative technologies that make 5G more widely available. Its 5G repeaters are designed to improve 5G coverage in public spaces and buildings in ways that expand the signal around corners.

Movandi’s achievements have resulted in the following awards this year:

  • AspenCore World Electronics Achievement Awards Startup of the Year 2020
  • CNBC Disruptor 50 for 2020
  • Orange County Business Journal Innovator of the Year 2020

Covid-19 has shown that the need for robust broadband is greater than ever. By finding new ways to overcome earlier technologies’ line-of-sight challenges, Movandi is making a signal contribution (pun intended).

6. FullStory

FullStory is a provider of analytical software that enables its clients to improve their websites. The company employs heat maps and other tracking tools to discover where visitors go on a website. Its software also helps pinpoint where retail sites lose customers in the sales funnel.

FullStory’s software is so effective that one client gained $5.63 million in benefits (increased conversion rates, improved error resolution, etc.) over three years. The result was a 411% return on investment.

LinkedIn ranked FullStory one of the top startups of 2020. The company quadrupled its workforce between 2017-19 and has raised $67 million in funding since its inception.

Allowing its clients to detect pandemic-driven consumer behavior changes helps them respond rapidly and effectively to these shifts. The quality of FullStory’s service to its clients provides a benchmark to copy.

7. Attentive

Attentive is a marketing and advertising company that uses real-time behavioral data to target customers and convert sales. Over 2,000 businesses currently use Attentive’s messaging platform to drive sales.

The company recently raised $230 million in Series D investments and has grown to over 400 full-time employees.

Attentive’s most significant strength is its consistent performance over time and deep client base. The company succeeds because its messaging platform helps its clients reach their own customers so effectively.

8. Modern Health

Modern Health is a digital benefits platform that provides mental health support for its clients’ employees. The company uses virtual visits and text messages to connect employees to certified coaches and licensed therapists.

During the pandemic, the company began offering free mental health resources, including live sessions with its network therapists, to the public at large. Its goal was to help the community as a whole get through this challenging year.

Like other top-performing startups in telehealth, Modern Health’s competitive advantage lies in finding its niche: in this case, mental health. It has raised over $42 million in venture funding and has been named to LinkedIn’s list of top startups for 2020.

9. FIG

FIG was founded as an alternative to traditional agency marketing. Its goal is to be the storytellers of the information age.

Among its honors, FIG has been:

  • Named to the Inc. 5000 in 2019 and 2020
  • Listed on Ad Age’s A-list of standout agencies for 2018, 2019, and 2020
  • Designated one of LinkedIn’s top 50 startups for 2020

The company has achieved a three-year revenue growth of 150%. FIG is an inspired leadership story of how connecting with people on an emotional level can drive success.

In 2020, many startups floundered due to the ultimate “beyond their controlâ€� circumstances — The Global Coronavirus Epidemic.

The startups listed here are thriving despite the pandemic and ensuing recession.

These companies are succeeding by finding niche specialties, excelling through customer and community service, and adjusting their offerings to help the community during trying times.

Image Credit: ketut subiyanto; pexels

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Product Reviews stationary bike reviews UREVO Indoor cycling bike UREVO indoor spin bike UREVO stationary bike review

UREVO Indoor Stationary Bike: A Comfortable Ride and Challenging Workout

Urevo Indoor Spin Bike

With all this remote work, it feels like we have become even more sedentary, simply replacing sitting in a car during a commute for sitting longer in front of our devices at home or on the sofa. To get us up and moving, UREVO has introduced an indoor stationary spin bike.

Priced at $199.99 and available on Amazon, I was instantly drawn to the comfort of the ride and the challenging workout it gave me. Here’s my review.

Features and Performance

The spin bike can be personalized to your preferences, including adjustable handlebar, seat height, and resistance. The bike comes with an LCD monitor to easily track distance, time, speed, and calories burned. The seat can be easily adjusted to go either up and down or front and back.

The bike also comes with a free floor mat, which is great to put down on the carpet or hard flooring to protect the flooring while helping keep the bike in-place.

The aluminum alloy cage style pedals can be adjusted to accommodate different foot sizes. It also provides good traction so my foot doesn’t slip.

Other features include a bottle holder and tablet holder, which also kept me on the bike longer. I had my drink and entertainment to distract me from the challenging ride.

Urevo Indoor Cycling Bike

Design

Available in black or white, this is a smooth-riding, sturdy stationary bike that is quiet but yet can really push me to a good workout. Its design features a belt-driven system along with a steel frame and heavy weighted flywheel. The brake pad is made of pure wool to decrease the noise level.

It offers continuous infinite resistance adjustment so it feels like real road cycling. To stop, all you have to do is pull the emergency brake lever and it will stop immediately.

What I Like and What Could Be Better

The bike was challenging and comfortable, which motivated me to keep using it and enjoying a much longer bike ride. I also like its safety features like the resistance bar that will immediately stop the flywheel. It was also easy to put together and lightweight enough to move around the house. For storage, it also doesn’t take up too much room.

The bike does only hold a person up to 260 pounds so it may not be made for some who want to drop pounds over that limit.

Overall Thoughts

The UREVO offered a comfortable indoor riding experience with an ergonomic design that gives me no excuses for not working out. This is a high-quality bike that is fairly priced. I like that it also comes with one year of free parts replacement. It’s easy to assemble, move, and use.

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Digital Divide Digital Education education Learn Tech

Digital Education is Here to Stay if it Tackles the Digital Divide

digital divide

Education and tech have collided like never before in 2020. People have realized that the tools needed to do remote business or accomplish remote learning education is possible with tools like Zoom. Here is all about digital education and how it is here to stay — if it can only tackle the digital divide.

Like Zoom, Canvas has seen a similar rise in popularity and the number of users. The learning management system is now statewide in 13 states and has over 30 million users. Larger institutions are also using a tool called Construct to build digital-specific lessons and game-based content.

Large video game makers are also jumping into education. Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford has added Borderlands Science inside their popular Borderlands franchise. For in-game rewards, players can help map the human gut microbiome. So now, when a parent tells a kid to do something productive instead of playing video games, they have a great comeback.

A new Instructure study details the State of Education During COVID-19: what’s working, what’s here to stay, and what will need to be fixed and addressed as we move forward.

As with any advancement in tech or disruption of an industry or institution, there are unintended challenges. Here is what this study found to be the most important.

Faculty-to-Student Engagement is Still Key

With an increase in remote learning and digital education, the definition of student success will have to change. There is also a broadening conversation happening on emphasizing retention and aptitude versus being present and remembering facts. As kids already have access to a million things on their phones, critical thinking skills, and how to use their resources best becomes more applicable.

Still, the big key in retaining information is engaging content and hands-on instruction. 86% of students list this as their key to driving future success.

Engagement is key, too, because only 69% of students feel engaged with their classwork during these massive disruptions to conventional learning.

Improved Views on Remote Learning

That said, most people are pleasantly surprised by what kids are achieving remotely. Just like with workplaces and Zoom calls, the shift wasn’t seamless, but it worked.

60% of administrators and 50% of students have a more positive attitude toward online learning now. That means even after we conquer this pandemic, there may no be a majority that wants to continue online — but just like in business, there will be many who have done better because of remote learning.

Short-term remote learning challenges.

There are still challenges in the short-term. 70% of students are reportedly falling behind in some way due to the pandemic. Falling behind can be due to a variety of factors including slow changes to cut quickly on the technology in the spring, or school closures from in-person classes in the fall.

It takes an adjustment period, but there are larger potential benefits going forward with online education. For example, parents will be able to more easily stay engaged with their students and know exactly where their kids are in lesson plans. A parent will have a better grasp on when to step in and help their child when school-teacher-and students are on track in real-time.

Addressing an Increasing Digital Divide

The digital divide is the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed for the future of online education.

Access to devices, Wi-Fi and other tech varies across households. More remote learning also means variance in household distractions and support.

Kids in upper economic households (56%) feel two and a half times more engaged in their schoolwork than kids from lower-income households (21%). These issues could merely come from closer-quarters in lower-income households. As parents are better trained in the needs of their children (i.e., need for a quiet study atmosphere) most adults will step up to the task, and we’ll all have a better experience.

What will lessen the digital divide?

Four times more students from lower-income households find it harder to stay engaged during online learning. But these discrepancies have always been present in varying income households.

Innovation

What will it take to change the stats? Innovation. In the late 70’s the innovation was Sesame Street that suddenly catapulted lower-income students to be able to compete with higher income students. As tech rapidly progresses we will see more and more innovation that can bring everyone up to speed.

Tech, Time, and Innovation

The issues to bring about a satisfactory resolution will include technological advances, time and the innovation to impliment new processes. It starts with the tech. We are transitioning to long-term online learning principle as we learn how to learn. We are teaching teachers how to teach in this forced digital climate.

As we forge ahead with new ideas and innovation — we lessen a digital-divide and make things better for all. Education has always had to move with the times and now is no different. Teaching and learning is becoming more consistent and uniform as we face the challenges of the digital — and pandemic — learning.

More discussions will need to take place and we’ll want the experts to weighin.

Household distraction and time to complete work are more systemic going forward now. Greater discussions are taking place about the need for parental workplace flexibility amidst pandemic issues.

Large companies and employers in different industries are addressing the challenges with the knowledge that our world has become complicated and won’t continue the same after this current pandemic. Many businesses are working on a departure of what work has looked like in the past. Introductions to flexible working and all that entails is being discussed.

Cost Saving in the Digital Divide

One of the interesting possibilities about education and a potentially huge benefit to more online learning will be cost savings.

Institutions, such as schools, will incur less hard costs with its buildings and leases. Large structures require upkeep, cleaning, power, gas, electricity and extensive repair.

However, moving forward we will still face what we have always faced. Logistics. Finding and retaining good employees in the education sector. Competent salary to retain quality teachers.

As we get better technology in the hands of every student, and pay our teachers a salary comensurate with what their job entails — our education system will get better and we can compete better in the global arena.

But for now — let’s keep the kids engaged — and tackle the digital divide.

Image Credit: julia m cameron; pexels

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