Monthly Archives: July 2014

Will Your Next Customer Service Rep be Virtually Alive?

I want you to imagine for a minute what your business will be like in the future. What if you could reduce your costs while providing your customers with better service, and at the same time, maximizing your sales and profit? What if you could provide your customers with the product information they require to make a buying decision, without you having to be there? What if you could answer customer’s questions without even speaking to them?

Stop imagining! The future is now!

An interactive kiosk and digital signage system can augment your CSR staff.

 

Virtual Sales Person
Virtual Greeter
Virtual Receptionist
Virtual Information Booth
Virtual Concierge
And More

Display products you don’t normally stock, so that you can provide the full product line without having the extra cost of carrying those products. Change your in-house display’s content yourself, so that you could quickly and easily respond to changing conditions, such as, daily or weekly specials. This customer service rep is available 24/7, never takes a break, and is never sick or in a foul mood.

It can virtually perform many functions that your current staff does now. This allows your staff to spend quality time with customers whose needs are more complicated and need the human touch. The kiosk can provide customers with product or business information at a high and consistent level.  The kiosk can pre-sell customers on what they want to buy so that when a customer service rep does become available; their order can be quickly processed so you can move on to the next customer more efficiently.

Front line staff on a daily basis performs the tasks in the table below. If the volume of your customers is too great for your front line staff, customers will have to wait and if they wait too long, some of them will move on. Now if you had a kiosk, your customers could self-serve this minimizing or eliminating wait time.

Common Front Line Staff Activities and In-House Displays

Occupy your customer’s dead time while waiting

 

Provide a tool for customers to find the right product or service based on their needs

 

Display detailed product information

 

Encourage impulse buying
Display specials

 

Display featured products

 

Information booth while staff is busy or not available

 

Answer questions

 

Display product or service while in use

 

Give product recommendations

 

Show where to find product

 

Display events

 

Display schedules

 

Place orders
Display maps

 

Display announcements

 

What’s the Solution?

Skeptical? If you are like most people, you use the internet and ATMs to do most of your banking. Would a kiosk ever fully replace human CSR? Doubtful, we always need human interaction to assist in complicated issues. However, it was not that long ago that if I told you ATMs would greatly reduce the times you went to a bank teller, you would think I was crazy.

Kiosks and digital signs can reduce your operating cost while providing better service to your customers. Whether you need a kiosk to assist in selling product or service or to act as a virtual information booth; with a kiosk on your side, it will be a competition killer.

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

Are you too old to play with Lego?

I am guessing that as a child, most of us have played with Lego. You can build all kinds of interesting structures. You can even enter Lego building competitions. As an individual or group, you build structures out of blocks based on your creativity and the functionality you are looking to accomplish. What was once a pile of blocks becomes a functional structure. Individually, the blocks are useful, but when the blocks are assembled together they become even more valuable.

You are thinking “Ok Keith, but I’m too old to play with Lego”. Not really, you now have a new opportunity to play with business building blocks. Let’s look at three common business building blocks, Online Shopping Cart; CRM; and Invoicing. You could individually enter a customer into each one of these blocks, however if the blocks were assembled together, entering a customer in one block, makes it automatically available for the other two blocks to use. Make sense? Sure it does. It is creative and functional. Adults like building blocks too!

Some examples of business building blocks are:

CRM Block– Your company’s sales rep is away on vacation and you need to answer questions about that rep’s accounts. When the sales rep is on the road, they needed to be able to access their prospect’s information.

Product Kiosk Block – Your company has a show room and you need to be able to communicate product information, be able to cross sell, up sell, show videos, etc. so your prospects can find the products they need and then you can make the sale.

On-line Ordering Block – Your sales costs are out of control and you want to give your prospects 24/7 product search capability.

Remote Access Block – You’re a service company who has technicians working out in the field and you want to know the status of their work. The technicians need to know what parts/service/location to go to and get the job done.

Scheduling Block – Scheduling is a nightmare, who’s on first, what’s his name is on second…you know.

Inventory Block – Your company has too much money tied up in inventory because you can’t manage inventory levels. You are paying interest on stock that is just sitting on your shelves.

CRM Block – Your company has a good size sale force, and you need to be able to divide your sales force into hunters and farmers. You need to micro manage your farmers, and you need sales targets to be able to monitor the hunter’s activities to see where they are spending their time. Your prospects are staying too long in the sales cycle, and you need tools to move prospects from one stage to the next, and then close the deal.

Remote Access Block – Your business has information in multiple locations; and you needed a one stop shop to quickly and easily find information.

Supply Chain Block – You’re a supplier who wants a tight relationship with your vendors, and you need to know what your vendor’s inventory levels are, track past buys, rebates, and control back door deviations from your manufacturers.

 

Business Intelligence Block – Your company needs to know what is going on in your business in real time so that events, transactions, etc. can be monitored and then acted on. You need to be able to make critical decisions and know in real time how things are going.

Workflow Block – Normally you go from employee to employee letting them know what to do next and find out the status of their current work. Most of the time when one employee finished a task, it is then passed on to another employee to continue the process. You spend a lot of time just running around coordinating. You want a system where you can enter, manage, and monitor the entire work process. Know who’s doing what, that they are on schedule, and where your attention is needed.

Operations Block – Your business needs to be able to quote, invoice and process your customer’s order.

E-mail Marketing Block – You want to send, track, and manage your email marketing campaigns.

Still think you are too old to play with blocks? What business building blocks are you going to assemble together to create your business? Contact us today and start building your business one block at a time; then enter it into the biggest competition ever…Competitive Business.

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

 

Sales & Service Software – Case Study

Company: Log Cabin RV & Marine

Industry: Trailer Sales and Service

Problem: Customers called this client regularly looking for a single hitch or part that they need from more than a half a million available. It would take 15 minutes or more for staff to look up the item and then call the customer back with a cost estimate. They needed a system to speed up the identification and information retrieval process.

Solution: Virtually Live developed an integrated quoting, invoicing, purchase order, and inventory system to meet their particular needs. To speed up hitch quoting, a hitch-to-vehicle lookup program was created, which reduced lookup time to 30 seconds or less.  This allowed the client to turn more inquiries into purchase orders as a result of rapid client service.

Result: When someone calls for a quote on a trailer part, the quoting process went from 15 minutes to 2 minutes so Log Cabin could give the quote on the spot without having to call the customer back. The quoting on what hitch fits what vehicle went from 5 minutes to 30 seconds. Log Cabin now has customer history of what each customer has purchased in the past.

Testimony: The entire quote process can now be handled with one call  in two minutes or less. Despite the fact that custom software needed to be created, to solve the problem, the return on investment for the new system was in months, not years.

Reference: Len Legros (905-688-5562)

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

 

Inspection Software – Case Study

Company: Heat Seekers Infrared Inspection Services

Industry: Infrared Inspection Services (factories, mines, casinos, etc.)

Problem: This client is in the high-tech field of infrared thermographic inspection services. Thermal images, visual photos and a seemingly endless stream of important data all have to be complied and analyzed by their office for frequent customer reports. They found that their reporting and data management needs were not being met by standard off-the-shelf software. Data management and report generation were reducing their billable time and adding to their office costs.

Solution: Virtually Live assessed the needs of the client and created a program that would allow inspectors to enter data into a mobile device in the field that automatically sends the data to a laptop after the field inspection.  This drastically reduced the time required for the inspectors to complete the report. The report is then sent electronically to head office for processing and then send out electronically to their client using the software.  No more duplication of effort is required between data collection and report writing.

As an added benefit, they can now leave a preliminary report out in the field. For many clients they choose to have their data analysis displayed on a website where they have charts, reports, and other tools to answer business intelligence questions for all of the client’s locations, so they can find their biggest risk and what it takes to resolve it.

Result: This custom software solution has reduced duplication of work, and they now have a searchable database of every inspection done.  Every time an inspector went back to a previous location they had to retype up the list of equipment inspected; now they only have to edit the equipment list for items that have changed since last inspection. Their client can now look at summary or detail information of all locations and all inspections in one convenient online database so they can better manage their equipment risk.

Testimony: Our reporting problems are gone.  Virtually Live Software took the time to understand my business and build a solution that worked effectively.

Reference: Randy Greenall (416-565-7655)

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

 

Vineyard Management Software – Case Study

Company: Glenlake Orchards Ltd.

Industry: Vineyard and Fruit Farm

Problem: This client needed an easy way to assess costs on each particular block (section of land) of the farm, so they could determine the profitability of each block. Also, they wanted to see history records and trends for soil testing by block over time to evaluate the condition and productivity of each block. The data collection and analysis process was very inefficient and not properly tracked over time.

Solution: Virtually Live Software designed an easy-to-use software system that records all labour and machinery costs, as well as the costs of chemicals by particular block and grape variety. The system provides Cost of Production and Profit & Loss reports by “Farm” or “Block” and produces detailed and summary cost accounting reports. It tracks their leaf and soil analysis reports on an individual block basis and highlights blocks whose values are out of range.

Result: This custom software implementation has greatly improved the efficiency and accuracy of data collection and analysis on the farm allowing the farmer to make better business decisions, most importantly knowing the profitability.

Testimony: Virtually Live Software developed a custom software solution that allows us to intuitively track and manage our vineyard operations that has resulted in major efficiencies, so that I can spend more time on effectively managing the business and developing opportunities rather than manually monitoring the vineyard.
They took the time to meet and understand our problems, learn our protocols, and then designed a system that met our needs. I have tried 3 off-the-shelf programs and none met our requirements. They were either cumbersome to work with or did not supply me with the information I needed.

Reference: Kevin Buis (905-651-3003)

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

Preventing a Disaster

Many disasters are preventable, however, there are those when there is nothing to do but hope you survive the storm. In business, we do not like to think of the later, but we certainly do need to concentrate on the first and do all we can to prevent them.

So, what are some potential disasters?

You forgot to follow up on a lead

An order got misplaced

An invoice is lost

You double booked a technician

You gave a different quote when a prospect came in to buy

A sales person is off, and no one knows details to help assist the prospect who just walked in the door

You missed a meeting

You sold more products to a customer who already has outstanding invoices

A staff takes too long to process a phone order and the prospect hangs up

You are unable to find the customer’s history while an irate customer waits

You spend too much time batch invoicing your customers, can’t get to other important work

So on and so on and so on…

What do the above and others like it have in common?

Systems, systems, systems! While it use to be a paper system, in today’s world it would be a software and web system. You would enter into the system important information about the marketing, sales, and operations of your business activities. The system would remind you that there was something that needed to be done. Many business activities could be automated to happen on its own. For example, if you wanted to send a prospect 5 different emails, 1 every other day (drip marketing), you could enter the prospect into the system, and the system would automatically send out the emails (auto-responder).

So let’s look at those same business disasters and see what a system would do.

 

You forgot to follow up on a lead – your system would list all outstanding leads until you follow up on them

An order got misplaced – your system has all orders sorted by date/number or by customer

An invoice is lost – your system has all invoices sorted by date/number or by customer

You double booked a technician – your system shows you who is working on what job by date and time

You gave a different quote when a prospect came in to buy – your system has the original quote that is easy to find when the prospect comes in to purchase

A sales person is off, and no one knows details to help assist the prospect who just walked in the door – your system has all the details of every contact with your prospects including quotes, proposals, notes, etc

You missed a meeting – your system has where you should be by date and time and reminds you ahead of time

You sold more products to a customer who already has outstanding invoices – your system warns you that the customer has an outstanding balance when you try to sell them more products

A staff takes too long to process a phone order and the prospect hangs up – within seconds your system can create a new order and start the process of filling that order for the customer

You are unable to find the customer’s history while an irate customer waits – within seconds your system has all the history of every contact and transaction with the customer so you know the full story

You spend too much time batch invoicing your customers, can’t get to other important work – with a click of a button your system creates and prints all invoices for customers who needs a re-accruing invoice (i.e. annual alarm monitoring invoice)

So on – There is a system in place for all aspects of the business from the time you are prospecting to get a sale, you create or provide product or service, and finally follow up after the sale. Nothing is left to chance.

There are many other day to day situations that businesses face that a system can prevent disasters from happening. And like insurance, systems are what you want to add before there is a problem.

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

 

Navigate Your Business with Software

A smart sailor will consider an investment in charts and navigation tools; like nautical slide rulers and course plotters; to be money well spent. Sure some may rely on the old tried and true methods of celestial navigation and calculate position with the stars and a compass, but those sailors are far and few these days.  Today’s sailors admit (like all of us) that we love the convenience of electronic navigation–whether it’s with an electronic chart plotter, a GPS, or simply our computer.   Why not navigate our businesses in the same way? With the proper tools, it is some of the best insurance you can buy.

So what would typical “process” navigation for placing an order at a print shop look like?

  1. Customer orders business cards
  2. Art department gets initial design for customer
  3. Art department creates design
  4. Customer shown proof for approval
  5. Print department checks that they have materials to make business card
  6. Print department schedules time on press
  7. Print department prints business cards
  8. Shipping department packages business cards
  9. Customer notified order is ready and picks it up
  10. Admin marks order completed

Now if you were in charge of this process, you would want to know the status of each order in the process (because you are successful and have several orders daily) so that you can schedule staff, have sufficient supplies on hand, proper machinery, quality control, efficiency and track shipping schedules.  This information is needed daily and is very important. However, what about longer term?

Your system should be letting you know that there was a delay getting to the press as the machine could not keep up with the volume of work. This would allow you to find a way to increase capacity like run a second shift; or get another press. The system should know what your sales are, who your customers are and what their purchase history is.  You should know who your prospects are and have a system in place to turn them into happy customers. Your system should be a business dashboard that lets you see the status of your business at this point in time and in the future to let you know whether or not you are on track. And this electronic navigation tools needs to be convenient and would be an investment well spent.

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

 

How to Manage Your Operations: Then Maximize Profit and Customer Satisfaction

Every business has three main business departments. Marketing creates interest in your product or service; sales take that interest and turns it into a sale and finally operations fills the order. There is nothing worst then making the sales but not being able to fill all the orders.

In a properly ran business, marketing will have a monthly forecast of the interest they expect to generate. Sales will have a monthly sales forecast and a real-time, predicable sales funnel. With a proper system, operations should know well in advance the number of orders they have to fill and when.

Having a system would be next to useless unless you were constantly monitoring the system and making adjustments to operations as required. To maximize profit and minimize customer’s wait for their order to be filled, operations has to have Just in Time Inventory along with a labour pool that can expand or contract as volume rises and falls.

You need to find ways to increase operational efficiency. This may be accomplished by employee training or better tools and machines that allow employees to fill more orders in less time. It is important to note that operations needs to do continuous improvement, always looking for ways to improve the quality of your product or service while increasing capacity and lowering cost. You need to do quality assurance, ensuring that your product or service consistently meets or exceeds your quality standards.

Easier said than done, but you can bet that your competition is trying real hard to continuously improve, and if you are not careful, they can leave you behind in the dust.

You need to know the status of every order and whether or not you will make the promised delivery date/time. By staying on top of your order status, you can be proactive and avoid missed deadlines. You need to manage your work force in relationship to the order. You would want to schedule employees to certain tasks of completing the order. This allows employees to know what is required and for management to know everything is taken care of and is running smoothly.

Your business may need to manage raw material inventory, third party inventory and possibly finished goods inventory. Again, remember we are striving to minimize inventory and maximize customer satisfaction, which is at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Each day employees can come to work and decide what they feel like doing, or you can have a system in place so everyone knows what needs to be done, by who, and when, so that you maximize profit and customer satisfaction.

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

 

 

How One Niagara Company Transformed the Way They do Business…One Step at a Time

Bickles Hardware & Supply has been a lead industrial supplier in Niagara for decades. Their product list is in the hundreds of thousands and the number of parts they have on hand in their warehouse is in the thousands.  They have thousands of customers who make multiple purchases sometimes with hundreds of items per order each and every day.  Many customers reorder all, or part of what they have purchased in the past, and employees at Bickles have to locate the order history to fill the orders promptly and accurately.

Bickles Hardware & Supply came to Virtually Live Software with a problem. They were running their business manually. They were drowning in paper; looking anything up was very time consuming; looking for trends was out of the picture and quite frankly, they needed a solution. Like most business, they were good at what they do, but when it came to a computerized system…

They had been taken advantage of before so, it was very important that they work with a company they could trust. Someone they could work with. Someone who would take the time to listen to their needs. Someone who would be there when they needed them.

“We had tried different accounting packages to try and run our business, but we found that accounting packages do a great job of doing bookkeeping but did little to help us run our company” says Victor Decaria, president of Bickles Hardware & Supply.  “Virtually Live Software helped me to install, setup, and feel confident with their software. They work from the business side of my company to make sure at the end of the day my system is there to make life easier and more profitable. The Business Solution allows us to plan for the future.”

We sat down with the team at Bickles and determined what they needed. Like most business, they run lean and preferred to make small changes to reach their goal, rather than a major transformation all at once. Victor says “I like being able to pick up the phone and ask a question and know that Virtually Live Software will answer the question in my best interest, not theirs. They are always there when I want to bounce an idea off them. Virtually Live Software took care of getting the system up and running for us. They trained us on how to use the system. They made sure that it was operating properly allowing us to concentrate on running our business rather than concentrating on getting the new system up and running.”

Once the system was in place, staff at Bickles could easily look up a customer’s history. They were able to look at product sales and see the trends. Pleased with their system Victor continues by saying “Over time there are always new enhancements and new features that we need as business, economy, and technology changes. We know that Virtually Live Software is in our corner ready to help us when we need them. Our next big step is on-line ordering and bar coding in the warehouse, but you know Rome wasn’t built in a day. “

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca

Practical Applications: How Can Using a Self-Serve Kiosk Help Your Business?

Last post I told you about self-serve kiosks and the impact they are having in the business world today. If you recall, some of the main reasons “self-serve” is appealing to customers is that customers are busy with little time to wait; they want convenience; they want to make informed buying decisions and customers like to do things for themselves without feeling pressured in some way.

If your business is like mine, you want to be competitive and stay cutting edge. We need to come up with new or innovative ways to improve our customers’ experience when doing business with us.  Using self-serve kiosks might be just what your business is looking for to improve your productivity, efficiency and sales and give your customer a new buying experience.

Some companies who have embraced technology have shared some examples of how using kiosks would work in their business.  Take a look at the examples and adapt it for your own situation.

Show Products/Service

Customers can quickly and easily search through an electronic catalog to see what we are selling. They want to search using attributes to find the right product. For a nursery, while busy with another customer, they can search for a plant that like the sun needs little water, have red blooms, and is hearty.

Show Products/Service in use

By showing a product or service in use it helps the customer decide whether it will do what it is that they want to buy it for. For example, you could show a cordless drill drilling through different materials.

Show products not in stock

You may not carry all items you sell in inventory; you could show products that can be ordered in. This allows you to only stock only the most common items and then order in less frequently sold products as required.

Order product/service

A customer can see what you have to offer and then they can place an order on the kiosk and then pick it up at the counter.

Show Featured products/services

You may have certain products that you want to feature and want customers to see them.

Where to find products/store/office

Customer looks up a product, a store or an office and the kiosk shows a map of where it is located.

Show samples of work done

Maybe you are a printer, home renovator or a graphic artist etc and you use a kiosk to show your work.

Show product/service in different states

For home improvement you could show before and after, for a nursery you can show pictures of the plant in bloom, during summer, and then in winter.

Provide info after hours

You want to provide information to your customers when you are closed so the kiosk is a virtual salesperson at your car lot or RV lot to assist a customer in your absence.

Provide info when there is excess demand

When there are more customers than you can handle, the kiosk can be a virtual salesperson to help out during peak demand.

Sign in/sign up

Your customers are required to sign in or sign up for service. An example is signing in to a gym and sign up for the 7:00 aerobics class.

Software Designed For the Way You Do Business

www.virtuallylive.ca