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The harsh realities of cybercrime

There are four ways we can demonstrate leadership when it comes to the proactive
prevention of cybercrime:

1. First, we can establish a corporate culture of preparedness for cyberattacks. Just as with other corporate policies and procedures, the topic of cybersecurity ought to receive its share of well-planned policies and expectations. These policies are just as foundational to new hire onboarding and employee training as building security, payroll information, etc. All employees serve as chief gatekeepers on the cybercrime front, and by properly preparing
them, we can significantly reduce cyberthreats.

2. A culture of preparedness ought to be distilled into and entrusted to a cybersecurity team which is committed to
prevention and detection. A team strategically assembled from broad spheres of responsibility—IT, security, fi nance, accounting—ensures widespread attention to prevention, solidifi es the organization’s commitment to cyber protection, and allows quick response to an actual attack. When we experience breaches and don’t know where we store data or who to call to address the problem, we lose critical time reacting to the breach. Identifying a team and outlining each team member’s role is key to implementing a timely response to cyberattacks or security breaches.

3. In direct correlation to the identified team listed above, once we create policies and assemble a team, ongoing testing should be a regular occurrence. Testing encompasses the regular running of backups, as well as simulating hacks and disaster plans. It’s likely that ongoing testing and other best practices against cyber threats will be managed by someone other than the CEO; still, it’s important that top leadership fully engage in the oversight of these three processes.

4. Ensure that your organization receives an annual third-party audit of its cybersecurity measures. This kind of audit serves as both a best practice for organizational health and a guideline for cybersecurity insurance needs. Invariably, an organizational audit of cybersecurity protocols will focus on an organization’s vendors and whether or not security measures have been filtered throughout the supply chain.

Whether we are just beginning to implement security protocols or have had security systems in place for many years, the fact is that the landscape of cybercrime is constantly changing. New hacking schemes and threats have become a near-constant source of concern, and protecting ourselves requires ongoing vigilance.

Try these 9 Steps To Generate Worthy Referrals!

We all know that enthusiastic referrals are among the very best ways to grow a company. Few things in business are more valuable than heartfelt referrals and being able to honestly say that “our customers are our best sales people”! Well-known Fortune 500 firms such as Costco and eBay have grown principally through word-of-mouth referrals, not advertising or traditional marketing. They find that referred customers cost less to serve because they’ve already been coached by an enthusiastic ‘promoter’ about their company. We know that trust, generated by excellent service and customer satisfaction is the bedrock necessary to fuel such activity. But it’s also clear that the marketplace is saturated with a flood of ‘spamming’ referrals and networking that often serve to irritate and erode customer trust.

There’s much we can do to maximize the likelihood that satisfied customers, employees and other colleagues will refer us. A few beneficial practices:

■ Have a Baseline: Identify incoming customers that select your firm based on
reputation or referral, so that you can actually track the progress you make in
improving your company’s “referability.”

■ Referral Generation Plan: Create a plan that formally enlists your employees, key
trade associates, and suppliers, complementary business serving the same markets,
and known ‘promoter’ customers. Even though superb performance earns you the
right to ask, with many potential referral sources you’ll still need to ask. Identify
specific points in the customer management process where you’ll routinely ask for
referrals from those who are highly satisfied. This must become ‘second nature’
and happen like clockwork as a normal part of our business process. Request their
answer to The Ultimate Question and then follow through appropriately to leverage
or salvage the relationship, depending on whether they’re positive or negative.

■ Make it Easy: Make generating referrals easy by providing helpful information and
aids. Give your best customers and promoters something of real value to offer to
friends and associates (e.g., coupon, gift certificate, easily forward-able email pieces
that emphasize the benefits they gained by buying from you, etc.). Sometimes, financial
incentives can be appropriate for the referring customer (e.g., discount on a
future purchase or a gift certificate), especially if they’re likely repeat buyers. This can
help to build your long-term relationship as well. Many businesses can build their referral
‘system’ right into the transaction. Social media can help here. Tell your referral sources
specifically what you’ll do with their suggestions and be sure to thank them.

■ Target Customers: Consider tailoring collateral materials specifically for referral purposes
(e.g., business cards, brochures, website, newsletter, e-newsletter, postcard-sized
invitation, personalized letter on your behalf, related educational materials, etc.) so that
your target customers (i.e., the 20% in your ‘strike zone’ that generate 80% of your profit)
receive a compelling message that takes them to their own special call-in number or
landing page on your website. Doing business with the ‘wrong’ customers slows us down,
as marginal customers still utilize the same resources as the best-paying customers and
can eventually dilute our focus and cause employee burnout.

■ Key Relationships: Specifically use the relationships you have with your best and/or most
influential customers since they carry lots of weight and know others like themselves who
would be high quality referrals. Also consider strategic affiliations with complementary
companies and organizations that also have your ideal customers as a target and can refer
you, perhaps based on a reciprocal agreement, based on historical experience and trust.
Consider co-branding ‘white papers’ for technical sales.

■ Vivid Company Values: Buyers are increasingly looking for suppliers with worthy values,
not just faceless marketers. Young & Rubicam, an ad agency with the world’s largest
consumer attitudes research data base, reports that kindness and generosity are among
the qualities customers increasingly demand most from business. Last year, Hyundai’s
buyer reassurance program, which promised that customers that had lost their jobs could
return their car, grew company sales 12% in a dismal market. We, of all people, shouldn’t
be timid in sharing our values as a basis for doing trustworthy business.

■ Consider Timing: With some businesses, it may be better to wait awhile after the sale,
until customers have had time to experience the benefit of the purchase, or after they’ve
become repeat buyers, before you ask for referrals.

■ Training: If your staff receives referrals from customers, train them in precisely how to
script their customer interaction to properly refer to the referring client. Be sure that
those answering phone, web, and email inquiries are able to quickly reference previous
customer records so they can smoothly handle incoming calls while knowing your
historical experience with the referring client. Provide relevant customer testimonials and
your sales logic to both internal and external referral sources. Be ready to request faceto-face
meetings with both high-energy referral sources and high-potential prospects.

■ Track and celebrate: Keep a referral activity scoreboard (e.g., initial leads, completed
connections, actual orders booked, NPS trend, detractor ‘turnarounds’) and recognize
departments, product lines, and sales territories that do a great job. Personally pitchin
to help establish or rekindle key client relationships. Remember, we’re creating a
referrals culture based on high customer satisfaction. Generating referrals is just the first
step. Next is converting them into actual client relationships that beget future referrals.
Be clear in conversations and marketing materials that your goal is to grow by referrals
and that highly satisfied customers are your best salespeople. Consider hosting referral
appreciation lunches with your best clients and creating an ‘inner circle’ focus group to
generate more ideas to expand and refine your appeal to target segments.

Consider these Top Types of Lead Sources
■ Existing regular customers
■ Previous, but inactive, customers
■ Prior known contacts/prospects from your database
■ Passive leads – coming from ads, web searches, PR, trade shows, direct marketing, third
party lists based on target customer attributes, campaigns, coupons, etc.
■ Referrals – generated by customers, employees, friends, suppliers, trade associates,
complementary businesses serving same customers, or prospects
■ Networking – personal associations, groups, and intentional face-to-face encounters (e.g.,
chambers of commerce)
■ Publications and directories – print and online industry and community news and
information (e.g., Thomas Register, local phone and community directories).

Does a Christian World-view Matter in Business?

In this era, we are living our lives in two concurrent dimensions, physical and spiritual. The spiritual dimension, began in the heart of God before He made the universe and continues forever. The other, the physical dimension, began with our physical birth and ends at our physical death.

It’s easy to believe that our physical life, and the senses that define our experiences, seem more “real” than the spiritual life. Therefore, we tend to focus most of our thought, and most of our decisions, on the false premise that physical life is the more important of the two. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our physical lives may last 100 years or more (most much less), but eternal life is infinite. Eternity is our beginning and our end. Teilhard De Chardin, the French philosopher said, “We are not physical beings who have occasional spiritual experiences, we are spiritual beings who are having a temporary physical experience!”

We have been sent here to function as Ambassadors for Christ for a season, returning home to our Sender. Upon which, our success will be evaluated and measured in His terms. (see Hebrews 9:27-28)

While we are here, what we do (or do not do) will matter when we meet Jesus. So what is a Christian worldview and how does it relate to our businesses? It is the perspective of life through the lens of both a personal and cosmic eternity. We are created and controlled by a Sovereign God who sent His Son to reconcile the world to Himself and offer forgiveness of our sin and eternal life with Him.

A truly Christian worldview accepts His definitions of success, provided in Scripture. Our work, being where we spend the majority of our lives, is an area of eternal concern, as it should be a part of one life in Christ.

In our Business Forums we regularly ask each other “What would Jesus do in that situation?” or “What does the scripture say about that?” We answer questions and question answers, digging deep on both levels. As a group of believers learning how to chase after Christ, together we find ways to build great businesses (in the now) for a greater purpose (in eternity).

The art of customer loyalty

Create a company your customers will love

And according to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain but will tell between 9-15 people about their negative experience.

That can be bad news for a business’ bottom line.

So as Christian CEOs and business owners, how do you satisfy your customer’s needs and desires, including difficult-to-articulate intangibles? This is where the concept of customer sacrifice – the gap between what customers want or need and what they actually experience or settle for – comes into play.

This is most obvious with customers conditioned to expect mediocrity from offerings designed for the mythical -average  customer.

Commercial airline travel is a perfect example. Years ago, air travel offered free personalized touches that made passengers feel special. Today, you’re unlikely to be offered: your preferred brand of cola, help with stowing your luggage, enough room to work on your laptop computer or a satisfying snack/meal on a long flight.

Southwest Airlines has distanced itself from competitors by simply enabling customers to retain a semblance of personal control while escaping certain customer sacrifices such as baggage fees, ticket change fees, and delayed airplane ingress/egress due to sloppy concourse and gate management.

Unfortunately, across other industries, numerous examples of high-customer sacrifices exist, including:

– inability to use your preferred credit card

-waiting in line due to being unable to reserve an appointment

-rules that prevent substitutions, refunds, or changes

– inability to access wireless internet (or being charged for the privilege)

– blackout dates on frequent flyer miles, vacations, or coupons

– service delays, interruptions, or waiting (e.g., medical clinics, airports, government)

If you reduce transaction costs in a way that adds to customer sacrifice, you can easily end up a net loser.

So how does your company fare versus your industry’s best-in-class on transaction cost and customer sacrifice? Do you even know?

You must know your customers well enough to be able to accurately assess any new initiative’s impact on transaction cost and customer sacrifice. Plus, you need to press into the softer issues of how satisfied people feel when doing business with you using the following four levels of perceived value:

Basic: the minimum level of performance, service, or quality, which customers will accept. Below this level of service, it’s impossible to sustain a business. This “no frills” level of service is acceptable when superior alternatives aren’t readily available or affordable.

Expected: possessing attributes that customers view as customary. For example: a salesperson will explain the vehicle’s features, restaurants offer a reasonable selection of menu items at sensible prices, hotels provide fresh-brewed coffee, and web or mail order retailers will accept returns if you’re not pleased with the product.

Desired: attributes that customers don’t necessarily expect, but understand and appreciate. For example: the salesperson offers helpful hints about enjoying the car, a server suggests special menu items or makes the dining experience more enjoyable, the front desk provides special assistance to make your stay more comfortable, and retailers enable “no-cost” returns for unwanted items.

Unanticipated: this breakthrough level creates customer loyalty and delight by incorporating surprising attributes that add memorable value beyond a customer’s typical desires and expectations. For example: the salesperson personally delivers the new car to your home or office, the restaurant manager offers samples of a popular appetizer, the hotel clerk offers complimentary bottled water, coffee, and fresh-baked cookies during registration, or the mail order retailer contacts you to confirm your satisfaction.

Every client transaction falls into one of the above four categories. We need to clearly understand our service through  our customer’s eyes and our “cradle-to-grave” customer cycle which includes the many moments of truth our customers experience with us.

This cycle is comprised of every customer interaction over the life of our relationship, from initial awareness to pricing, ordering, delivery, payment, training, warranty, and post-sale assistance.

Many well-known tools can help us measure customer satisfaction, including surveys, focus groups, personal visits, complaint analysis, and competitive benchmarking.

Nothing is more vital to our long-term success than staying in our customers’ heads! No matter how sophisticated our technology becomes, our ability to understand and satisfy customer desires is the key to our long-term growth and success.

At the end of the day, we most want to serve others as we would want to be served (Mt 7:12). When we do this, satisfaction, loyalty, and honoring God with our work is much more likely to follow!