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The Importance Of Evolving Customer Service And Communication Strategies

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Customer service and its importance is nothing new. For as long as businesses have been around, customer service has always been at the forefront of their success and failure.

What has evolved is what customer service looks like and exactly how we interact and engage with customers. Previous generations grew up understanding the importance of the face-to-face handshake mentality. Customer interaction came from a visit to your store, or perhaps a phone call.

Fast forward to the present day, and customers learn all about your business without ever picking up the phone or visiting your establishment. Nowadays we have Google reviews, websites and, of course, social media. Businesses now have to look at customer service in an entirely different light.

All of these mediums have created new challenges. First on that list is instant customer feedback. I’ve found that most customers expect near-immediate responses to their questions and concerns. They also have the power to brag about your business or bash your business with the click of a button.

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You must also consider how you can be present on all these platforms — or if you need to be. How will you manage them? What will you look for regarding return on investment?

Here are five of the biggest lessons I think brands need to learn to succeed in customer service in today’s age:

1. Right Platform, Right Message

Chasing all the various platforms can be more damaging than being on none at all. Companies must first look at staffing and create a game plan for each platform they plan to interact with. When considering what platform(s) to use, you must ask yourself: Are my customers there? If so, how do those customers consume content?

A simple blanket approach does not apply here. Each platform has different demographics, some with crossover demographics. And the messaging consumed by customers is relative to that platform.

You must also ensure you will have the time to dedicate to interacting with customers and potential customers on the platforms you choose. Unanswered questions and comments are like not answering the phone.

2. Analytics And Agility Are Key

One of the great things about social media, in particular, is the fact that it’s instant. You can quickly and easily measure the success of a campaign or promotion with little effort. Utilizing that data/feedback and being agile enough to make adjustments on the fly is the key to successfully navigating social media.

It’s important to learn who your audience is and how they interact with your business. It’s equally as important to consistently measure and adjust your messaging based on analytics.

3. Don’t Ignore Feedback (Positive Or Negative)

Just as important, if not more so, is to not ignore customer feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. As I stated above, social media has created the opportunity for real-time feedback from your customers and potential customers. It’s important to treat every one of these interactions as though the customer is standing in front of you.

Individuals are utilizing these mediums to learn about you, and how you interact with them can make or break that relationship. Current customers apply here as well. They can be some of your best influencers and brand loyalists online, or they can quite easily turn off a great number of future customers.

Consider this: Before the advent of social media, a person who was unhappy with your company may have told a few of their friends about their experience. Those friends could have potentially shared with their friends. Now, with a simple click of a button, they make it easy for all their friends to see the negative feedback, but also make it quite sharable. Now it’s reaching friends of friends of friends, and that’s hard to undo!

4. Be Authentic

Hand in hand with “don’t ignore feedback” is being authentic. Point No. 1 talked about the right messaging, right platform. That’s ensuring you are on-brand and providing the correct content. Being authentic is sticking to your brand, your company mantra.

We all make mistakes. How we handle those mistakes is often what sets truly successful companies apart. It’s difficult to hide from mistakes, and customers are not looking for the perfect company. They’re seeking a business that treats them fairly and is always honest and authentic.

5. Have Fun, And Let Your Personalities Show

Much like the days of a face-to-face meeting and handshake, it is important to connect with the customer. Creating auto-replies and scripts does not allow your company’s personality to shine through.

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You want customers to feel connected to you and your brand. Your content should align with this as well. Allow things like videos to show your staff’s personality. Give potential customers the chance to identify with someone, and then carry that over to your online customer service.

With all that being said, yes, the way we interact with people has changed dramatically over the years, but the principals of good customer service have not.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

CMO at Walnut Ridge and Primeaux RV. He lives with his wife, son and two corgis in Indiana. www.walnutridgerv.com. Read Daniel Plumlee’s full executive profile here..

Source: The Importance Of Evolving Customer Service And Communication Strategies

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Success Means Solving Customers’ Challenges

Visit Strokes of Genius to read more stories about the technologies behind the paints and coatings that are transforming everything–from the way we work to the way we fly.

Companies that serve a wide spectrum of markets with diverse products often view their breadth as a potent cross-selling opportunity–and they’re right. But PPG understands that adapting product technologies from one market to solve the problems of another requires more than a desire to grow the business.

First and foremost, such cross-selling requires being close to the customer and focusing on solving customer challenges. Clearly illustrating the effectiveness of this approach has been PPG’s successful application of technology developed for marine coatings customers to solve a problem for automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).

The opportunity surfaced when an onsite PPG support team at an assembly plant of a major automotive original equipment manufacturer saw an opportunity to help address a problem the carmaker was having with maintaining a key piece of paint shop equipment. The metal carriers that move cars through the manufacturing line were quickly becoming coated with thick, dripping paint, which required frequent cleaning with high-pressure spray.

Greater efficiency and safety

The problem added cost and was a safety concern. “It’s been an issue for decades” with carmakers, says Kevin Cunningham, PPG custom platform manager for substrate protection systems, who joined PPG after a 40-year career with major automotive manufacturer. “It’s a major hassle and expense. Plus, the power-washing equipment needs to be operated at extremely high pressures, so it’s also dangerous for the operators.”

After identifying the problem, the PPG team set in motion an initiative to identify and adapt existing PPG technology to solve this problem. The initial contact between PPG’s customer technical team led to the identification of a technology used in the oil and gas industry as a potential solution for protecting the automotive paint-shop car carriers. The final product, PPG ENVIROGREEN® 84, resists damage in the operating environment, but it also resists adhesion of dirt and is easy to clean.

A better solution

Where a typical car carrier might have to be taken out of service for cleaning every 300 to 350 cycles, a carrier coated with PPG Envirogreen 84 can go thousands of cycles between cleanings. After the initial application, another trial took place at a different customer’s assembly plant. The success of that trial led to a full-scale commercialization effort in 2018 that demonstrated the power of “One PPG.” Two PPG teams collaborated to develop documentation and application guides for PPG Envirogreen 84, sales strategies for reaching the decision-makers, and a turn-key solution that includes application.

“It really took off,” says Chris Meier, PPG’s protective and marine coatings national accounts manager. “We have been able to adapt an existing technology for a new market that could ultimately represent significant new business.”

He added that nearly all major automotive OEMs are adopting PPG Envirogreen 84 to coat car carriers at new plants as well as some existing facilities. In addition to illustrating the power of cooperation across business units, the PPG Envirogreen 84 example shows the importance of being close to the customer, according to Randy Peterson, director, business development, PPG’s automotive OEM services.

“It’s a big win,” he says, “that all began by leveraging our daily presence within the customer’s plant and finding a way to create and share in the resulting value.”

By: PPGView

Source: Success Means Solving Customers’ Challenges

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Watch Chuck Wood explain how HPE SimpliVity is helping customers solve IT challenges. Learn more about HPE SimpliVity at http://www.hpe.com/info/simplivity.

How Can Banks Rise to The Omnichannel challenge?

Banks should follow in the footsteps of other innovative consumer-focused industries to deliver an omnichannel banking experience that is relationship-focused, interactive, relevant and personal.

Never has technology accelerated changes in consumer behavior so quickly that whatever is cutting-edge today becomes tomorrow’s status quo. And, consumers’ expectations of digital services and platforms change even more rapidly.

For example, consumers are no longer completely satisfied with having content available digitally and on demand; they want personalized suggestions specifically tailored for them. And why shouldn’t they? They expect the same from their social media platforms, where personalized ads are as familiar now as they were once disconcerting.

In fact, today’s mobile-first society enables conversationalist on a scale never seen before, which has transformed consumer habits – from how they spend their free time to how they plan vacations, where and when they shop, and even how they manage their homes.

New age banking

Banking customers are no different when it comes to managing their money. They expect to access their information, and perform an ever-expanding list of banking actions anywhere, anytime and on any device. They expect their bank to meet their individual needs and preferences in the same way that their media streaming service or favorite big tech company does. With these expectations, they’re challenging what banks do, why they do it and how it’s done.

Large-scale changes in the banking landscape mean that consumers are spoil for choice, and recent studies indicate that many would even consider going over to the competition – including to non-traditional players – if their current providers fell behind in service delivery and no longer met their expectations.

Meeting customers’ expectations no longer hinges on a omnichannel strategy per se. Although multichannel banking has been around for years, it is no longer ground-breaking and certainly does not provide a competitive advantage. What can give banks the edge, however, is taking stock of their various channels and strategically considering how their customers use them, and what this reveals about their preferences.

Taking lessons from retail

Traditionally, banks spend much of their time and effort ensuring accurate transaction processing, but they’re starting to recognize that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from industries, like retail, that place a strong emphasis on customer experience. Some of the world’s top-rated banks understood this years ago when they were still considered challenger banks. They succeeded in turning customer experience into a competitive advantage that resulted in increased market share and remarkable customer satisfaction rates.

For the retailers known for their customer-first perspective, it is their store of data that gives them the edge over their competitors. They know that every time a customer searches online from their computer or mobile device, or calls the customer service department, that customer leaves a digital trail. This data-rich trail leads to a more intimate understanding of that customer and therefore what it takes to provide them with more relevant services and offerings – the essence of contextual commerce.

Smart organizations recognize the possibilities that using data in this way opens up. Instead of having a handful of interactions with their consumers each month, they can establish meaningful, ongoing and highly personalized interactions every day.

Mobile-centric

Ensuring that these exchanges are truly valuable to customers is not always easy, especially when a bank must simultaneously balance factors like cost, legacy systems and competition. For many banks, a digital-first, or even a digital-only strategy, seemed like the answer. After all, digital channels have great potential in terms of cost savings and keeping up with the competition. However, research indicates that satisfaction levels among digital-only banking customers is significantly lower than among digital-centric customers, i.e., those that occasionally also use branches. So, while leveraging digital channels is a must for any bank, losing sight of the importance of branches, and the opportunity they provide to personally interact with customers, can be detrimental.

So, how can banks provide the level of service consumers demand, through the channels they prefer, while managing to offer a consistent experience across them all? Leveraging the mobile device, a universal tool that consumers always have with them, could provide the answer.

If the mobile device could be leveraged to securely identify a customer to their bank, it could become the ideal way to build confidence in sophisticated technologies. And even though the mobile device is a digital tool, it could also enhance the customer’s in-branch experience. For example, customers could use it to check in at a specific branch, authenticate interactions and digitally sign documents. A phone also delivers contextual information about a consumer, such as their location, which can initiate highly relevant and interactive dialogues at key moments. In this way, the mobile device can become the portal to the other channels – a trusted and familiar key to an omnichannel banking relationship.

True multichannel means more than just many ways

Today, banks are starting to realize that a true omnichannel approach to banking means more than just providing multiple ways for customers to transact. It’s about a thoughtfully designed, seamless and consistent interaction between customers and their financial institutions across multiple channels, with each channel complementing the others.

In the financial services industry, we’re still in the early stages of digital transformation. As Millennial and Gen Z consumers start to make up larger portions of the workforce, there will be countless changes in the ways they will want to interact with service providers like banks. To meet all these changing demands, banks will need to think about their multichannel capabilities, as well as the insights they can gain from their multiple consumer touch points, as a competitive advantage. In doing so, they can offer their customers the personalized experiences they have come to expect – no matter the channel.


About the Author

Frans Labuschagne, UK & Ireland Country Manager, Entersekt. Business Leadership and Management: Comprehensive international general management, sales and marketing management experience. Broad knowledge of the technology industry, especially financial services, enterprise software, and broad base of partnership management, with a focus on highly integrated solutions of management consulting, technology integration and application development.

Featured image: ©REDPIXEL

Source: How can banks rise to the Omnichannel challenge?

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The retail and supply chain industries are buzzing with strategies for succeeding in a multichannel marketplace: How do you give customers the choices they want on the channels they want, while fulfilling the order in a way that’s convenient for the customer as well as efficient and profitable for the retailer? Circling around this question, though, is yet a larger one –to protect your brand and reputation, how do you ensure a consistent customer experience across all channels? Executing your omni-channel strategy is easier said than done. In this video series, we invite retailers and grocers to think outside of the warehouse box about how to incorporate brick-and-mortar stores into the order fulfillment process. Watch to discover how businesses are implementing these techniques today to offer a seamless customer experience, reduce costs, and increase e-commerce profitability! Watch the full video series here: http://www.highjump.com/video-series-…

How’s the Consumer Doing? Financial Sector Earnings Next Week Could Help Tell Us

Key Takeaways:

  • Big banks to kick off reporting season the week of October 14
  • Earnings for sector expected to fall slightly, analysts say
  • Brexit, trade, consumer health on topic list for Financial earnings calls

During Q2 earnings season, Financial sector results helped renew investor confidence in the U.S. consumer.

The question heading into Q3 is whether banking executives still see the same kind of strength, and if they think it can continue amid trade wars, Brexit, and signs of weakness in the U.S. economy.

Over the last three months, as the broader stock market rallied to an all-time high, slammed the brakes, and then re-tested earlier peaks, consumer health arguably did much of the heavy lifting. It felt like every time stocks pulled back, they got a second wind from retail sales, housing or some other data or earnings news that showed consumers still out there buying.

Today In: Money

The banks played a huge role in setting the stage by reporting better-than-expected Q2 results that showed signs of strong consumer demand even as some of the banks’ trading divisions took a hit. Next week, six of the biggest banks come back to talk about their Q3 experience and what they expect for Q4. Analysts expect Financial sector earnings to drop slightly in Q3.

That said, most of the major banking names have done an excellent job keeping costs in check as they wrestle with fundamental industry headwinds like falling interest rates and slowing revenue from their trading divisions. This time out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of the same, and you can’t rule out a bit more vigor from the trading business thanks to all the volatility we saw in the markets last quarter.

Earnings growth may not be there for Financials this time around, or it could be negligible. At the end of the day, though, Financial companies are still likely to be remarkably profitable considering a yield curve that remains relatively flat and global macroeconomic concerns, according to Briefing.com. This sector knows how to make money, but it might just not make as much as it did a year ago. Earnings will likely show large banking companies still in good financial condition with the U.S. consumer generally in decent shape for now, as the U.S. economy arguably remains the best-kept house on a tough block.

Investors have started to pick up on all this, judging from the S&P 500 Financial sector’s good health over the last month and year to date. The sector is up 3.4% from a month ago to easily lead all sectors over that time period, and up 15% since the start of 2019. The 15% gain is below the SPX’s 17% year-to-date pace, but it’s an improvement after a few years when Financials generally didn’t participate as much in major market rallies.

What to Listen For

No one necessarily planned it, but it’s helpful in a way that banks report early in the earnings season. Few other industries have larger megaphones or the ability to set the tone like the biggest financial institutions can. The other sectors are important, too, but they often see things from their own silos. Combined, the big banks have a view of the entire economy and all the industries, as well as what consumers and investors are doing. Their positive remarks last quarter didn’t really give Financial stocks an immediate lift, but it did apparently help reassure investors who were nervous about everything from trade wars to Brexit.

Going into Q3 earnings, those same issues dog the market, and bank executives have a front-row seat. How do they see trade negotiations playing out? Can consumers hold up if trade negotiations start to go south? How’s the consumer and corporate credit situation? Will weakness in Europe spread its tentacles more into the U.S.? And is there anything bank CEOs think the Fed or Congress can do to fend off all these challenges?

On another subject closer to the banks’ own business outlook, what about the shaky initial public offering (IPO) situation? That’s getting a closer look as a few recent IPOs haven’t performed as well as some market participants had expected. One question is whether other potential IPOs might get cold feet, potentially hurting businesses for some of the major investment banks.

All the big bank calls are important, but JP Morgan Chase (JPM) on Tuesday morning might stand out. Last time, CEO Jamie Dimon said he saw positive momentum with the U.S. consumer, and his words helped ease concerns about the economic outlook. More words like that this time out might be well timed when you consider how nervous many investors seem to be right now. On the other hand, if Dimon doesn’t sound as positive, that’s worth considering, too.

While few analysts see a recession in the works—at least in the short term—bank executives might be asked if they’re starting to see any slowdown in lending, which might be a possible sign of the economy putting on the brakes. Softer manufacturing sector data over the last few months and falling capital investment by businesses could provide subject matter on the big bank earnings calls.

Regionals Vs. Multinationals

While big banks like JPM operate around the world and might be particularly attuned to the effects of trade, regional banks make most of their loans within the U.S., potentially shielding them from overseas turbulence.

Regional banks also might provide a deeper view into what consumers are doing in the housing and credit card markets. With rates still near three-year lows, we’ve seen some data suggest a bump in the housing sector lately, and that’s been backed by solid earnings data out of that industry. If regional banks report more borrowing demand, that would be another sign pointing to potential strength in consumer sentiment. Refinancing apparently got a big lift over the last few months, and now we’ll hear if banks saw any benefit.

One possible source of weakness, especially for some of the regional players, could be in the oil patch. With crude prices and Energy sector earnings both under pressure, there’s been a big drop in the number of rigs drilling for oil in places like Texas over the last few months, according to energy industry data. That could potentially weigh on borrowing demand. Also, the manufacturing sector is looking sluggish, if recent data paint an accurate picture, maybe hurting results from regional banks in the Midwest. It might be interesting to hear if bank executives are worried more about the U.S. manufacturing situation.

Another challenge for the entire sector is the rate picture. The Fed lowered rates twice since banks last reported, and the futures market is penciling in another rate cut as pretty likely for later this month. Lower rates generally squeeze banks’ margins. If rates drop, banks simply can’t make as much money.

The 10-year Treasury yield has fallen from last autumn’s high above 3.2% to recent levels just above 1.5% amid fears of economic sluggishness and widespread predictions of central bank rate cuts. The long trade standoff between China and the U.S. has also contributed to lower yields as many investors pile into defensive investments like U.S. Treasuries, cautious about the growth outlook.

Another thing on many investors’ minds is the current structure of the yield curve. The 10-year and two-year yields inverted for a stretch in Q3, typically an indication that investors believe that growth will be weak. That curve isn’t inverted now, but it remains historically narrow. Still, some analysts say the current low five-year and two-year yields might mean healthy corporate credit, maybe a good sign for banks.

Q3 Financial Sector Earnings

Analysts making their Q3 projections for the Financial sector expect a slowdown in earnings growth from Q2. Forecasting firm FactSet pegs Financial sector earnings to fall 1.8%, which is worse than its previous estimate in late September for a 0.9% drop. By comparison, Financial earnings grew 5.2% in Q2, way better than FactSet’s June 30 estimate for 0.6% growth.

Revenue for the Financial sector is expected to fall 1.6% in Q3, down from 2.6% growth in Q2, FactSet said.

While estimates are for falling earnings and revenue, the Financial sector did surprise last quarter with results that exceeded the average analyst estimate. You can’t rule out a repeat, but last time consumer strength might have taken some analysts by surprise. Now, consumer strength in Q3 seems like a given, with the mystery being whether it can last into Q4.

Upcoming Earnings Dates:

  • Citigroup (C) – Tuesday, October 15
  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) – Tuesday, October 15
  • Wells Fargo (WFC) – Tuesday, Oct. 15, (B)
  • Goldman Sachs (GS) – Tuesday, October 15
  • Bank of America (BAC) – Wednesday, October 16
  • Morgan Stanley (MS) – Thursday, October 17

TD Ameritrade® commentary for educational purposes only. Member SIPC.

I am Chief Market Strategist for TD Ameritrade and began my career as a Chicago Board Options Exchange market maker, trading primarily in the S&P 100 and S&P 500 pits. I’ve also worked for ING Bank, Blue Capital and was Managing Director of Option Trading for Van Der Moolen, USA. In 2006, I joined the thinkorswim Group, which was eventually acquired by TD Ameritrade. I am a 30-year trading veteran and a regular CNBC guest, as well as a member of the Board of Directors at NYSE ARCA and a member of the Arbitration Committee at the CBOE. My licenses include the 3, 4, 7, 24 and 66.

Source: How’s the Consumer Doing? Financial Sector Earnings Next Week Could Help Tell Us

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JP Morgan Chase: https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/JPM… PNC Bank: https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/PNC… US Bank: https://www.zacks.com/stock/quote/USB… Banks are usually at the front of earnings season and help to set the tone for the rest of the market. However, with a terrible interest rate outlook, can the space still post good profits and give us a positive lead-off for this earnings season? Follow us on StockTwits: http://stocktwits.com/ZacksResearch Follow us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ZacksResearch Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ZacksInvestm…

Why Your Customers Should Be Central To Your Innovation Efforts

There’s a big mistake that a lot of companies make. It’s one that until a few years ago was common in my own organization, and it stems from a worthy goal: to boost innovation. The mistake is adopting what I call the “science fair” mentality: encouraging employees throughout the organization to innovate freely but without much, if any, direct contact with the very customers these innovations are intended for.

Unconstrained innovation sounds exciting, like the sort of thing startups do. But the truth is that successful startups actually don’t do that, because they know that innovation without a framework rarely leads to business success. It does lead to inventions that are impressive and creative, but they ultimately prove impractical or irrelevant for driving business growth.

How, then, can you get employees to innovate products and services that actually improve the performance of your business? The answer is by creating a structure that involves your customers, from an early stage, in your innovation efforts.

Focusing on the customer (for real)

It’s a rare company these days that doesn’t claim to put its customers first. It’s also a rare company that doesn’t do market research. But what is exceptional is a company with a framework to channel innovative energies so that they solve customer pain points and result in a commercial outcome the market will pay for.

Getting employees to innovate products and services that improve the performance of your business requires a structure that involves customers, from an early stage, in your innovation efforts.

Building this framework does not mean stifling creative energies under a heavy layer of bureaucracy. Rather, it means making sure that the innovation responds to customer needs and has the flexibility to evolve as you better understand those needs.

For instance, one of the projects I lead at PwC, the Global Innovation Challenge, could be a model for your organization. Invite employees from around your network, from all disciplines, to submit early-stage, technology-enabled business solutions. But require that before a team can enter the contest, it must include examples of marketplace interest — not just an explanation of how (and how soon) the project will meet specific client needs, but also feedback from potential or actual clients on a prototype or pilot.

Internal incubators are also ways you can create ongoing feedback loops with the marketplace. Multiple customer and third-party interviews and growing signs of market interest are required for a project to receive and keep funding from these groups. As you assess the customers’ feedback, the teams make changes in line with the customers’ needs — and if the market response isn’t promising, you pull the plug.

Four steps to make customers your innovation partners

No part of this process is improvised: Criteria and milestones are critical, including a framework that ensures that the customers are guiding the innovation. To take just one example, before PwC New Ventures, an internal software-as-a-service incubator, releases the first round of funding for a project, it needs to see at least 20 interviews with customers. Indeed, many projects have more than 100 interviews over the development period.

Here are some ideas to get that innovation-guiding framework started:

1. Get specific. It’s not enough to say “talk to customers” or “research the market.” Set specific criteria for the quantity and quality of customer interviews.

2. Set milestones. Even after you’ve made the decision to invest in an innovative project, continue to check not just technical progress, but also customer feedback, on a regular basis.

3. Offer expert guidance. Brilliant technical minds aren’t always brilliant at interacting with customers. Assign a person or team to train technical people on customer outreach, and to do the outreach directly when needed.

4. Set procedures to react. Ensure that the team has the time and the processes to reflect on market feedback and adjust design appropriately. Be ready, if the feedback is poor, to terminate the project and reallocate resources.

What happens when you listen

A team at PwC recently developed a new tool for franchise owners designed to quickly, easily, and digitally market their stores. The team planned to make this digital platform the core feature of a new product.

Following our framework — and our core principle of customer-driven innovation — PwC team members reached out to customers. Listening to the franchise owners, the team learned that one of their top priorities was to support their customers, the franchisees. So the team members went back to work, adding components that the owners could use to help franchisees reach their end-users. The resulting product that was introduced to the marketplace attempted to solve problems for our clients while enabling them to solve problems for their clients.

The result of listening with empathy and emotional intelligence is that you will be able to not just mostly fulfill a customer’s needs but truly fulfill them, which is usually the difference between that customer ultimately buying or not buying your product.

Another big benefit of really listening is stronger customer relationships. After frequent interactions with your design teams to ensure that the final product will meet your customers’ needs, these customers start to view your people as partners and friends. And frequently, customers discover needs — which your new product or service can meet — that they didn’t even know they had.

If your innovation efforts are to truly add value to your business, customer-centricity will have to be more than a motto. It will have to be a framework to turn your customers into your innovation partners. The insights they bring will make all the difference in ensuring that the product not only solves their problems, but also provides an exceptional experience they’ll keep coming back for.

Vicki Huff By: Vicki Huff

Source: Why your customers should be central to your innovation efforts

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A Simple Hack to Discover What Your Customers Really Want

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As a business owner, you think about your customers every day. Still, it’s a good idea to make time to regularly reflect on how your products and services meet their current needs. This begs the question to small business owners and entrepreneurs alike: “What do my customers really want?”

 

There’s no single way to answer this question. How you gather your data will depend on your business, and it may change over time. Kabbage customers explain below a simple hack to getting to know your customers better: simply asking them.

 

Ongoing survey data guides bakery choices

The humble suggestion box used to be a fixture in many businesses seeking input from customers. Today, business owners have digital tools for gathering suggestions, making it easy to find out what customers want. Laura and Johnny Hobson, owners of Serendipity Cafe in Maynard, Massachusetts, make a habit of surveying customers on everything from bread preferences to cafe hours.

 

“We really try to connect with the community,” Laura says. When she and Johnny started out with a farmers market stand, they collected customer email addresses; in the cafe, customers can add addresses in the point-of-sale system. Laura and Johnny then use online tools like SurveyMonkey to ask for feedback.

 

The survey results guidedthe couple when they launched the cafe and new data helps them ponder new products and services. “When we were outgrowing the farmers market, we asked really specific questions about how often people would come to a cafe, what products they would buy, and what the town already had enough of,” Laura says.

Adjusting pricing and creating a welcoming vibe

 

For Michelle Baker, owner of Next Level Fitness and Personal Training in Kansas City, Missouri, asking, listening and observing is key to understanding what local residents needed. She worked for another personal trainer before opening her own gym, and heard clients complain about high prices for classes and personal training sessions.

As a 23-year resident of her moderate-income neighborhood, Baker knew that locals couldn’t afford hundreds of dollars a month for training. She also knew that her neighbors had unique wellness challenges, like diabetes and weight control, which might make them hesitant to work out in a crowded gym with body-building regulars. For many people in her community, fitness is about developing healthier habits.

 

When Baker launched Next Level Fitness with her husband in 2009, she knew that affordability and an inclusive, welcoming gym environment were key to growing the business. “We had to keep prices low enough so that the average person would come to us,” Baker says. Next Level offers an introductory six-week program of training sessions for $99, an accessible price point for her customers.

 

Baker and her husband boost cash flow by teaching small group training sessions. “That way we maximize the time we spend training,” she says. She’s also added services that will help her customers achieve their fitness and health goals, like nutritious ready-to-cook meals.

 

To ease customer concerns about working out with others, Baker posts regular videos on her Facebook page showing the diversity of body types, fitness levels and ages of her clients. “When people see the videos, they think ‘I see people who look like me,'” Baker says. “They know no one’s going to make them feel uncomfortable. We’re a smaller, friendly gym where everyone knows everyone, and no one feels out of place.”

The Greatest Fund Managers Midyear Review

An updated spreadsheet of the greatest fund managers is available to download at the link at the end of this article.

An updated spreadsheet of the greatest fund managers is available to download at the link at the end of this article.

At the midpoint of the year, it’s time to review the performance of the greatest fund managers. I have received many emails from readers asking how to use the spreadsheet listing the greatest fund managers that I make available for download. Many readers start by sorting the spreadsheet by year-to-date returns. Let me explain why that does not get you to funds I would recommend as top choices.

The top 3 funds on the spreadsheet sorted by year-to-date (YTD) return are Kinetics Internet (WWWFX) up 38.47% YTD, Virtus Zevenbergen Innovative (SAGAX) up 36.58% YTD, and Artisan Mid Cap (ARTMX) up 33.95% YTD. Here’s how I look at each of them.

Kinetics Internet

Murray Stahl has been at the helm for 18 years. For the last 10 years, he has beaten his category benchmark by 0.26% a year — including the past 6 months of stellar returns. If you invested $10,000 in this fund 10 years ago, you would have beaten the category benchmark by $263.06. Beating his benchmark for 10 years is an achievement for Stahl, but the outperformance is not enough to make a difference for investors.

Virtus Zevenbergen Innovative

Brooke de Boutray has managed this fund for 11 years. Over the last 10, she beat her category benchmark by 3.21% a year which translates to an additional $3,715.69 return on a $10,000 investment over 10 years — that’s more like it. The only problem is the fund has a hefty 5.75% load. Although the manager has proven her skill, I would prefer not to pay a load unless there was no other alternative.

Artisan Mid Cap Investor

James D. Hamel has managed the fund for 10 years, outperforming his benchmark by 1.19% a year which means Hamel added $1,255.79 over 10 years on a $10,000 investment on top of the benchmark return.

My Take: The best evidence of a manager’s skill is the margin of outperformance over a market cycle (10 years minimum). The bigger the gap between the manager’s return and the benchmark the more confident you can be of a manager’s skill.

Stahl’s outperformance of 0.26% a year, is better than about 98% of mutual fund managers, but it is not large enough to be compelling. I leave him on the spreadsheet because he may be the best one available in many 401k plans, but he would not be among my top choices.

Even when a great manager outperforms by a large margin (as Boutray did) the fund company can make it a bad choice for investors by loading up the fees. I leave Boutray’s fund on the spreadsheet, because a lot of 401k plans only offer load funds. In that case, Boutray’s fund could be your best choice, even if it would not be among my top choices.

Hamel’s Artisan Mid Cap Fund is the best of these three, but there may be others what have performed slightly less well year-to-date but with much bigger margins over their benchmark for the past 10 years. There is a trade-off to make between recent returns and long-term returns. I will do a deep dive on this next time.

Click here to download the most recent spreadsheet listing all the funds that passed muster.

To see previous articles in this series, click here.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I am the CEO and founder of Marketocracy, Inc.,and portfolio manager at Marketocracy Capital Management, LLC. My firm maintains a database of the world’s greatest

Source: The Greatest Fund Managers Midyear Review

Singapore Starts Probing Goldman Sachs for 1MDB Scandal

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Singapore’s law enforcement authorities have extended their criminal probe against the Malaysian state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to include Goldman Sachs, according to a Bloomberg report.

Although the city-state’s authorities have been investigating Goldman Sachs’ involvement with the Malaysian scandal-plagued firm since 2017, now they are focusing on the firm’s local unit. The primary focus of the investigation is to see if Goldman’s Singapore subsidiary was involved in moving around $600 million acquired from the three controversial bond deal sales from 2012 to 2013.
The Scandal Explained

1MDB came under the limelight soon after its establishment in 2009, which was then chaired by the former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. Leaked financial documents surfaced that huge sums of money were borrowed via government bonds and syphoned into bank accounts in Switzerland, Singapore, and the US.

The 10 Most Customer Focused Companies In Asia -Blake Morgan

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All over the world customers are king. But it’s especially true in Asia. Customers in Asia are unlike any others in the world. They tend to be more connected to their mobile devices and are eager to spend and connect with brands. Many of the most successful companies are those that are completely focused on their customers. Here are 10 of the most customer-focused companies in Asia. Customers are front and center at Singapore-based DBS Bank. The company has a Customer Experience Council, chaired by the CEO, which proactively anticipates and addresses customer needs……………

 

 

 

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5 Powerful Examples Of Social Media Customer Care – Alina Gorbatch

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Social media customer care doesn’t sound like something worth an entire article. After all, social media has been with us for a while. We know that customer care is important, we have business pages on multiple platforms, we reply to messages and direct tweets, solve tickets, and gradually forget how to use a phone. What else is there to do? Unfortunately, it turns out that most of us don’t do even that. Social media customer care suffers from a sheer lack of attention. Research shows that brands reply to only 11% of customers…….

Read more: https://www.jeffbullas.com/social-media-customer-care/

 

 

 

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