Jola Cloud Solutions' Blog

Measuring customer experience

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 10-Feb-2021 14:11:51

Recurring revenue businesses rely on customer acquisition and retention. It is tempting to focus all efforts on recruitment, but churning customers is a real concern for growing businesses.

Understanding and monitoring customer experience, can help to identify early warning signs, put in measures and reduce churn. By improving the customer experience, you can increase customer retention and revenue per customer, whilst also enhancing brand perceptions in the marketplace. By getting this process right, you create ‘fans’ of your business, ‘advocates’ who freely recommend your services to others and buy frequently from you.

In order to measure customer experience, you must first identify relevant KPIs. What are the measures in your business of customer satisfaction? Many companies use NPS (Net Promoter Score) which gives an overall satisfaction score. You ask the question: How likely are you to recommend us? You use an answer scale of one to ten. You may also want to ask more granular questions to understand satisfaction across each customer touch point.

Next think about what influences the satisfaction score. This can often be obtained through a comments box on your survey, or by calling a cross-section of clients to ask specific questions about their experience. Having the right products, at the right price, on the right management portals, is key, combined with excellent service and accurately and timely billing.

By surveying customers regularly and gathering feedback, you can identify any shortcomings and work with customers to improve them. Going the extra mile to fix a problem can save a churning customer, but when handled well, also turn them into an advocate.

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Topics: jola

Companies encouraged to address burn-out

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 07-Oct-2020 13:02:41

A recent article written by Sheryl Sandberg in the Wall Street Journal, suggested that there is a crisis looming in corporate America with more than one in four women considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce. This got me to thinking, is the same thing happening here in the UK and if it does happen, what effect will that have?

LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co have run a study over the last six years and published their findings in the 2020 Women in the Workplace Report. It showed slow but measurable progress for women in all levels of management and that these slow gains could be wiped out within a single year, as up to two million women are thinking of leaving their jobs.

In the channel we are starting to see a rise in female leadership, but during COVID many women have felt the strain of extra responsibility and worry. This has amplified a need to work longer and harder than their male counterparts at work, as they feel they are held to a higher standard and judged more harshly if they fail. Many do not feel comfortable sharing their concerns, or even communicating their childcare issues, to avoid being perceived negatively at work.

Today women are under immense pressure at home and at work, taking the lion’s share of the childcaring, relative caring and domestic tasks. The American statistics show that among senior level leaders with partners, 63% of women have one who works full time, compared with 35% of men. Senior level women are therefore 1.5 times as likely as men to consider downshifting or leaving. The top reason they give is burnout. Ethnic minorities and those with additional conditions are finding it even tougher, as they often feel excluded and don’t always feel they can properly express themselves.

If I think of my own friendship group of senior managers in large corporates around the UK. I am the only one left working full-time with a family. Some went part-time, others gave up work completely and cited burn-out as the reason. In our own organisations in the channel, working from home has blurred the lines for many, and we are seeing illness levels increasing.

If we don’t address these issues, we will continue to see absence levels increase and employee satisfaction decrease, which could lead to us losing some of our most valuable employees, who would be hard to replace.

If we come up with a solution now, we can increase productivity, employee satisfaction and retain the progress we are making to achieve diverse and inclusive teams.

We need to look at working from home and how we can make this work for our employees. Encourage regular breaks and regular hours, as well as a good balance of two-way communication and trust to work alone. What I think we need is good managers. Socially I think we need to look at the balance of responsibilities in the home and support our partners for healthier work life balances.

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Topics: jola

How best to support teams working from home?

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 07-Oct-2020 12:55:04

Current guidelines advise us to work from home where possible. In our industry this is something we can do easily because we have the technology and already use it. During the last lock-down many of us found our businesses not just survived but thrived with teams working from home. Call answer times remained high, tickets were answered quickly and a surge in orders was processed efficiently. We sent home care packages and thank you gifts to our employees, we arranged online quizzes and benefitted from more time at home. As time went on however some employees found it more difficult to switch off. When the laptop and phone are in the sitting room with you, the temptation to continue working after hours is high. Some really missed the friendships and banter from the office and others struggled managing parental responsibilities with a full-time job.

As restrictions have lifted, anxiety levels are still high with parents worried about kids mixing at schools and colleges and the situation at universities around the country. Uncertainty has crept in with people not sure whether they should be ‘eating out to help out’ or staying in to be on the safe side. Some of us are worrying about relatives in care homes or shielding.

More worrying still is the affect the pandemic is having on our nation’s mental health. The Office for National Statistics said, “Generally, higher rates of suicide among middle aged men in recent years might be because this group is more likely to be affected by economic adversity, alcoholism, and isolation. It could also be that this group is less inclined to seek help.”

What can we do to help team members suffering in silence? Firstly, we need to know what to look out for. Common signs are:

  • Long-lasting sadness or irritability.
  • Extremely high and low moods.
  • Excessive fear, worry, or anxiety.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Dramatic changes in eating or sleeping habits.

If you are worried about any of your team there are resources available to help.

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/mental-health-helplines/

https://www.mind.org.uk

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help

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Topics: jola

How has COVID-19 impacted the telecoms industry?

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 05-Aug-2020 11:07:38

Supply Chain

Right at the start of the global pandemic, the supply chain for devices, such as 4G routers, was affected. Factories in China had closed down and for a while devices manufactured there were in short supply.

 

Conferences were cancelled

Mobile World Congress was cancelled, Margin in Voice and Data went online and Channel Live was moved to January 2021. Opportunities to collaborate and partner were lost, as well as companies being out of pocket.

 

Fixed Line Services

Installation of fixed line services stalled, and some companies reported a decline in sales, as end users looked for an alternative solution.

 

 

Mobile Broadband

The need for fast, reliable internet connectivity increased dramatically, with parents working from home and kids being home-schooled. Many households turned to online shopping and invested in online entertainment such as Netflix and Disney+. Although the need for faster internet connectivity was evident, fear of 5G increased, with online scare campaigns linking COVID-19 to 5G masts.

 

Changes in behaviour

As customers went online, businesses changed their approach, many offering buy-online options, supported by digital marketing campaigns. Messaging changed to reflect the mood of the nation. Companies started to empathise more and respond with positive messaging. Supporting the NHS and key workers became part of many advertising campaigns. As events were cancelled, so were the sponsorships and alternative ways to engage with consumers were developed. With much more time being spent on social networks across the age groups, new digital campaigns were rolled out.

 

What can we learn from this?

We need to be aware of the changing needs of our customers, as businesses implement return-to-work strategies. It may not be possible for all staff to return to offices, due to social distancing measures so companies may need help managing their IT and Telecoms in a much more flexible way. With so many companies being influenced by social media, do we need to consider our marketing strategies to attract new customers? With so many companies looking to buy online do we need to consider the way in which our customers are now buying services? Do we need to review what we sell and how we sell it? With social distancing here for a while do we need to re-consider the way we collaborate and partner with others to ensure innovation is not stifled?

 

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Topics: jola

Managing Churn

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 29-Jul-2020 12:33:32

Most resellers focus on acquiring new business and many don’t address churn until it is too late.  If you want to grow your business effectively, managing your churn pro-actively, from the outset, is essential.

You can’t grow your business if for every new customer won, two existing customers are lost, yet by reducing churn, your bottom line can be improved.

Acquiring new customers is much more expensive than retaining the ones you have.  Also, the probability of a successful sale with an existing customer is much higher than that of a new prospect.

Strategies for managing churn

Start by setting realistic objectives and KPIs. Make sure they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

Gather information

By analysing churn figures, you may start to understand why your customers are leaving and put a plan in place to turn things around.

If your customers are on short-term contracts in a price-sensitive, commodity market, like mobile broadband, they can give 30-days’ notice and move to a cheaper provider very easily. Customers will move to get more data at a reduced monthly cost.

Red Flags

You may already be aware of issues within the company. Sales may have raised issues relating to competitor offerings, and billing managers may have reported complaints, resulting in withheld payments. If you know where the problems are, you can start to put processes in place to address them.

Depending on the issues raised, you may want to compare your offerings and look for differentiated services. Consider reviewing your ‘buy prices’, on-boarding processes and customer support.

By being proactive and being in constant contact with customers experiencing pain points, you may be able to resolve issues and help to reduce churn.

Prioritisation

Where do I start? Start with your biggest customers by spend. Focus on customers you want to save and who can be saved. 

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Topics: 4G, jola

Building a strong business model

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 17-Jul-2020 12:16:27

Strength and depth of management

A good way to attract and keep the best individuals at the head of an organisation is to share ownership. Investors like a strong leader supported by expertise in key areas. As the business grows, external investment is a good way for shareholders to de-risk, and ensure the future growth of the company.

Recurring revenues

Subscription models, preferably on long term contracts, are more valuable than once-off project fees. They protect the business in a down-turn and provide a solid base to grow the business, and scale the establishment required to support it.

Cash collection and cash flow

Companies with a high percentage of customers paying via Direct Debit are more valuable. Working capital is more predictable and finance costs, including debt collecting, are minimised. Operate a rolling cash flow forecast and focus on converting as much of the profits into cash. The ability of the business to generate cash is a primary driver when investors are valuing the business.

Product Development

Companies that develop their own unique products and are first to market with new innovations demonstrate value. An efficient and agile product development process demonstrates long term value, especially in extremely competitive markets.

Great sales and marketing

Great sales and marketing strategies and teams are essential to building a strong business model. You must have a process for recruiting, retaining and developing staff as the business grows. Sales and marketing teams that work together by design demonstrate strong management. By building a large, strong, loyal and diverse customer base, you minimise the risk of the business’s reliance on top customers and verticals.

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Topics: jola

Lockdown Blues

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 17-Jul-2020 12:04:19

Working from home in our sector has been widely recognised as a success. 100 days in though, how are your employees holding up?

At the start of lock-down, working from home was a novelty for some. They enjoyed their home comforts, without missing a meeting, ticket or phone call. Employers were quick to provide headsets, chairs, screens etc. to make working from the kitchen table or spare room, easier. Companies organised weekly quizzes, checked in regularly with Teams calls and sent little gifts to reward and encourage their staff.

As many of us continue to work from home, and some companies consider making it a more permanent arrangement, do we as employers need to do more, to ensure the health and happiness of our employees?

Companies like Perkbox and Vitality offer employee wellbeing programmes, which include; exclusive free online fitness programmes, free online GP, day and night appointments, same-day prescriptions, perks and discounts, as well as 24/7 emotional support.

Employee Assistance Provider (EAP) Programmes provide articles, newsletters and webinars, on topics such as anxiety, depression, debt management, legal issues, bereavements, relationships and childcare. A 24-hour confidential helpline is provided to all employees to get immediate support and counselling.

Programmes such as these help to recognise and reward staff with online vouchers, but also support physical and emotional wellbeing. They allow you to track the happiness of your workforce, as well as gathering feedback on what could be done to improve motivation and results.

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Topics: jola

Productising Processes

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 29-Jan-2019 17:03:53

In the channel we are well-versed in productising products and services. We know how to package them, how to promote them and how to sell them, promoting our USPs over the competition. We seem to accept processes as part and parcel and rarely productise them. Are we missing a trick?

When the processes we offer form part of our USPs, we are definitely missing a trick by not productising them. Everyone says they offer ‘excellent customer service’, but what if this is the one thing you know makes you different from the competition? By productising your processes, you can demonstrate the value to your customer base and reap the benefits.

Where to start?

By defining your customers needs. What are customers looking for? How do you meet these requirements better than the rest? What evidence do you have to support this? By noting down the journey, you can productise your unique process, reflecting back the customers’ needs and how you are meeting them.

Understand success

By mapping processes next to KPIs to help you track success, you can start to see how you achieved success. Analyse your biggest customer deals, where did the original lead come from? How was it generated? How was it converted? How was the first opportunity generated? How was this closed? How was the order placed and processed? How did you prevent any installation issues? How did you ensure the customer was billed correctly? How did the customer feel when the first order had gone live? What support was given along the way? How does the customer rate the support given?

Map your unique process

Once successful order journeys have been mapped, unique processes ensuring success become visible. Describe and name each step of the process. Write it up as a flyer and advertise it on your website and as part of your proposals.

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Topics: marketing, jola

Increasing business competitiveness

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 19-Dec-2018 09:39:41

According to recent ONS labour market report, there is a huge gender imbalance in IT and technology. Only 18% are female compared to 50% in other industries. Why is there such a gender imbalance in our industry and is this affecting our competitive advantage?

From a purely marketing point of view, having balanced and diverse teams, gives us a wide range of skills, helping us to develop products for a wider audience. The more we can understand the needs of our audience, the better our products will be, and the more we should sell. When developing new technologies and unique solutions, we need to ensure that we are connecting with all of our audience. McKinsey found that organisations with ethnic, social and gender diversity were 33% more likely to outperform their industry average. By hiring similar people, with similar skill sets, we will no doubt miss opportunities.

Speaking to business owners in the channel, there are a mixture of opinions that range from, ‘it’s not much of an issue’ to ‘I want to hire the best person for the job, but don’t see a diverse range of candidates to choose from.’ The issue seems to be that women and other minorities are not applying for vacancies or rising through the ranks quickly enough. So, what’s the problem?

Fewer females are taking STEM subjects than males from the age of 14 onwards. As parents we can try to keep career paths open and encourage STEM subjects. As individuals we can become role models to demonstrate what is possible. As businesses we can offer work experience placements, apprenticeship schemes and graduate placements. We can run mentoring schemes and personal development support. We can look at our recruitment communications and processes to make sure we are not putting off potential candidates with unconscious bias. We can look at career progression and development internally. We can look at making hours flexible and encourage working from home. We can share maternity leave and think outside the box to be more inclusive to all groups, using technology to help us.

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Topics: jola

Encouraging diversity in the workplace

Posted by Cherie Howlett on 21-Nov-2018 10:00:48

McKinsey found that organisations with ethnic, social and gender diversity were 33% more likely to outperform their industry average. These companies also have lower customer churn thanks to a consistent level of excellent service and the will to go the extra mile.

Diverse organisations are more successful because of the way they utilise the wide range of skills they have recruited and the corporate culture they have cultivated. Diversity is part of their values and positively effects how they do business. It starts with an ingrained respect for others and a desire to work together to achieve a common goal. This influences their marketing style, their attitude to on-boarding and training, quoting and ordering tools and their after-sales service.

Hiring people from diverse backgrounds can help to foster creativity and offer a range of perspectives and ideas. Employees are more likely to feel comfortable and happy in an environment where inclusivity is a priority. Equality in the workplace is important for encouraging workers from all backgrounds to feel confident in their ability and to achieve their best.

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Topics: jola

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