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When talking about their biggest challenges for 2019, many of the entrepreneurs I speak with say they’re overwhelmed with the rapid pace at which business operates today. Today’s consumers have come to expect instant gratification, and they’re putting pressure on companies to make sure that they get what they want right now.
Technology’s partly to blame for these questionably reasonable expectations. We’ve got virtually countless hours of on-demand video streaming content at our fingertips. We’re on the cusp of mass product delivery by drone. We get frustrated when customer service departments fail to respond to our queries within minutes.
Just a couple of decades ago, looking up information meant going to the library to check out references. Today, we don’t even type out our Google searches. We just holler at Siri or Alexa to get the answers, products and media we want.
In a survey by PwC, nearly four out of five surveyed customers customers say that they want experiences that are speedy, convenient and helpful. For businesses, reliably offering these experiences has become a constant challenge.
With 2019 already underway, why not make speed improvement one of your key objectives for the year ahead? Here are five strategies you can apply to speed up your processes as we get ready to zoom through another year.
1. Maximize your real-time social media opportunities
Knowing what delights customers most is a huge component of business leadership. Data from the 2018 Sprout Social Index suggests that there’s a widening disconnect between what brands’ social media profiles are posting about (61 percent of the 2,000 social marketers surveyed favored teaching, while 58 percent favored telling stories) and what customers want (73 percent of the 1,200 surveyed prefer deals, while 60 percent prefer posts showcasing new products and services).
So, how can you improve your organization’s ability to discern what the market really wants right now? Conducting your own market surveys can help, but it’s a resource-heavy solution that yields dubious insights. Social listening, on the other hand, allows marketers to follow what people are saying about your industry, products, and competitors.
I’ve used solutions like SentiOne that can track such mentions across social platforms and online communities in real-time. Armed with this information, you’d be able to act on customer issues in a timely manner and even launch targeted campaigns that speak directly to customers’ interests with precision. It’s also a useful way to know what new features or products to roll-out or at least give you the starting point to start your market research.
2. Shorten time to delivery
Customers don’t like waiting for their online orders to arrive at their doorsteps. Last year, the maximum time that ecommerce buyers found acceptable for orders with free shipping was just 4.5 days, as reported by Emarketing. If they’re paying for shipping, they expect to receive their packages even sooner.
Having the ability to expedite delivery can be a major differentiator, but it’s a tall order if you’re a smaller enterprise. Thankfully, as the independent ecommerce economy has grown, so has the ecosystem of logistics services empowering the industry.
Using a third-party, fully white label-ready fulfillment partner gives you the capability to offer two-day shipping, without being dependent on Amazon.
Industry leader ShipBob, for one, can store your inventory in a network of shared warehouses around the country, so that products are ready to ship, with maximum proximity, as soon as your customers check out. Better fulfillment partners integrate directly with leading shopping cart systems like Shopify and WooCommerce and can save you and customers massive amounts of wait time.
3. Maintain a bird’s eye view of your business
With competition seemingly getting tougher every year, in 2019 your ability to make quick but informed decisions has become mission-critical. However, getting hold of the necessary information may require pulling data from dozens of sources, each with its own interface, before you are able to generate reports that are comprehensive enough to act upon.
A consolidated business data resource can provide you with an integrated dashboard that pools together information from all the platforms you use for social media, sales, project management, finance and marketing.
Even if you use separate services like HubSpot, MailChimp and Twitter, Rivery.io’s platform, for example, can aggregate real-time information from your accounts and even push metrics to the data repository of your choice.
You can’t afford to get stuck in the nitty-gritty anymore. Keep an eye on the trends that matter, so you can make smarter strategic decisions on the fly. I also like to use tools like Kipfolio, for interactive business dashboards that give me a pulse on everything from sales to accounting to marketing spend.
4. Accompany your customers on their journeys
As reported by Strategy and PwC, three out of four surveyed buyers in the U.S. say that customer experience is a major factor in their shopping decisions, citing speed and ease as their most valued factors. Yet, despite the efforts of developers and designers to create intuitive interfaces, some customers, especially those who lack tech savvy, have been known to hit roadblocks on their paths to purchase.
To avoid alienating these customers, you can ease access to your interface with an interactive walkthrough solution. Offering onsite chat, either automated or human-driven, can help maximize a sense of accessibility and trust, shortening the time to convert prospects into customers.
This type of "digital adoption" hand-holding can be a major game changer, especially if your sales prospects are less comfortable experimenting in digital environments. There are all types of new chatbot software tools that can be used for streamlining these conversations and navigating customers. We’ve used Drift across my various companies and found it works well.
5. Minimize slowdowns caused by absenteeism
Team productivity gets compromised due to staff taking unexpected time off can derail your entire operation. If you can’t find someone else to quickly step in and pick up the slack, it can be hard to fulfill orders and maintain pace on projects.
Using workforce management platforms can help you sort out staffing and scheduling issues, largely on autopilot.
Deputy, for instance, has functionalities that can help line up shift replacements when someone suddenly needs time off. Using the employee-facing app, team members can inform HR with just a few taps that they’ll be out, and the scheduling system automatically dispatches push notifications to others who have similar skills, asking for substitutions that can often be lined up before you even know they were needed.
Absenteeism was a big issue for one of the nonprofits I’m involved with and tools like Deputy have helped us to make necessary adjustments on the fly. Don’t let people interfere with your systems. Manage the systems that manage the people.
Be quick and nimble
Today’s business landscape moves at breakneck speed. But, things always go wrong. For your startups and scaling businesses to keep pace in the coming year, you need to be prepared, with systems in place to expedite processes and minimize the impact of bumps in the road. I wish you a prosperous 2019!
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January 8, 2019 at 01:01PM