How to ensure your startup is a success

Every day there are hundreds of thousands of startups which open their doors and hope to succeed. But with a sea of competitive ideas, there’s a differentiating factor between those which fail and those which succeed. It’s always tricky taking a leap of faith, but to succeed, you need to have that “X” factor.

Not every thriving startup is supported by investors. Success is about the habits you develop in your startup to (hopefully) achieve greatness. But either way, whether you’re supported by venture capitalists or not, a successful business takes dedication to keep your business relevant and competitive. It also requires an effort to attend innovation and tech conferences in Africa to see what trends are out there.

Here are a few tips to consider when looking to increase the odds of your startup’s success.

Start with a clear purpose

You constantly need to focus on your goals to ensure that you’re working towards them. Have one core idea, without feeling the need to focus on several areas of your business. This is the quickest way to lose focus of your purpose and forget the reason behind your startup dream. You need to stay committed to one idea and constantly work at bettering it to meet the needs of your customers. If you have a clear understanding of where you’re headed, you will always be able to measure your performance.

Take advantage of different challenges

When most startups open their doors, they tend to have a niche market they want to explore. Usually, you specialise in certain areas that you’re confident in. And you try to keep within those boundaries. While this is the safe way to do business, startup owners need to take advantage of difficult challenges. These are the projects that are going to differentiate you against your competitors. Try not to limit yourself to what you do, without trying to succeed in other areas. If you don’t take the opportunity to develop your skills and grow your business offerings, you’re going to be overtaken by other companies which are willing to test their limits. You need to be open to innovation. After all, you are a startup. People will understand a mistake on something you’re not a professional at far more than if you were a massive corporate company.

Include innovation in your business plan

You need to embrace the latest digital technologies to help improve your business. And you can find out more about this by speaking to influential leaders in the industry or by attending tech startup conferences near you. It’s important to note that successful business owners have a clear understanding of who their customers are and what they want. It’s about being able to identify their pain points and structure your approach to solve those pain points. If you’re able to provide a product or service that really adds value to your customers’ lives, you will constantly be able to build around that foundation. There are so many entrepreneurs in the world with brilliant ideas and expertise. The ones who succeed are the ones who are willing to go out of their comfort zone to try new things and educate themselves about the market.

Build a diverse team

As a startup owner, you need to hire people to assist you. It’s impossible to wear several hats for a long period of time as you will not be able to touch on everything. This may even lead to burnout. So, the beauty with hiring talent in the startup space is the ability to offer people opportunities based on their skills, not necessarily their experience. You are able to mould someone into the ideal employee you want. It’s also important to hire employees out of absolute necessity as you don’t want to over capitalise on your overhead expenses. You also need to focus your energy on hiring diverse employees.

Seek funding where needed

The reality of any startup is that you need capital. You need money to build your business and to keep it afloat. Often times, businesses think that they can keep themselves going as long as possible before they seek funding. But that is usually too late. You need to realise that success doesn’t happen overnight. Most startup companies give themselves two to three years before they see a difference. And, unfortunately, not every company is able to wait that long to see the return on investment (ROI) on their bottom line.

Be patient. Always.

On the back of the previous point, you need to be patient and you need to be motivated by the right things. By this, it means that you need to have a clear understanding of what you want. Of course, every business owner is motivated by money. But think about other motivating factors during this time. For example, your reputation, your idea (and how it’s impacted your customers’ lives) and your growth potential. Focus on the positive, and encourage your team to learn new skills to help make your business more resilient. Visit technology conferences and digital marketing talks where you will learn from other startups. The vision you have for your business is going to take dedication and plenty of hard work.

How to avoid these 4 common customer service errors

There are some companies who think that all there is to customer service is great quality products. But customer service is about knowing who your customers are and considering their needs and wants in relation to what you can offer them. It’s about building a relationship with your customers to establish loyalty and build a brand reputation.

Customer service is about accepting feedback from your loyal customers and listening to what they have to say in order to improve as a business. To provide this type of quality customer service, you need to start paying more attention to your customers and avoid the common errors of the customer support industry. Customers are a crucial part of profiting in a business so this is relevant to every business owner. We’re going to go through four common mistakes that customer service agents make and provide you with a simple solution that will take care of all them.

Inconsistent customer service

As a customer service agent, it’s important to be polite, helpful and have the customer’s interests at heart. As a customer service department manager, you need to make sure that each of your customer service agents is adhering to those customer service qualities.

Every customer service agent needs to respect the urgency of each customer request or complaint that comes in. There’s surely a reason why a customer has contacted you, and it’s up to you to assist them as quickly and as best you can. It’s part of the job to have difficult customer calls and to be frustrated at times. But that isn’t an excuse to lower your standard of customer care or compromise on the customer service values established by your profession.

You will likely have to deal with the same customer more than once and it’s important that every interaction is conducted in a professional and cooperative manner. Those are your loyal customers and if you want to keep your business reputation in a good light, you’re going to need to be consistent with your service quality.

One-channel customer support

Another mistake companies make is by limiting their customer support channels to one medium. In smaller companies, this might seem like the simplest solution when you don’t have an entire customer service department who can take care of customers. But it’s not sustainable and will only frustrate your customers and send them to a competitor.

The more methods in which a customer can contact your company and receive assistance, the more likely they are to remain loyal. Many times you’ll hear customers complain that they’ve tried to resolve an issue through the provided channel but are unable to gain clarity. Customer service is about making the customer experience convenient throughout every interaction with the business, even when it’s an opportunity for them to provide constructive feedback.

“How can I direct your call”

There is nothing more frustrating for a customer than calling the customer service line and being asked “how can I direct your call?” or “please hold while I find someone who can help you”. That defeats the purpose of having a support line when they still need to be transferred to the correct support line.

Tiered customer service does not work. The customer has to repeat themselves three (or more) times before reaching the correct person, and then having to state their situation one more time. Time is wasted, patience is tested and it’s not a step towards a good customer service review.

A collaborative customer support system would be the best option where customer service agents can request for more experienced assistance to seamlessly take over and help until the issue is resolved.

A solely reactive approach

 

Yes, in customer service it’s important to respond to any incoming enquiries. But, it’s also important to be proactive in your customer service – something business don’t always have the resources for.  

There is customer service software that can monitor statistics such as the last time a customer was in contact with you, for example. Then your customer service agents can be the one to get in touch with the customer and make sure they’re still happy with your service. It pays to be proactive in customer service to have your customers remain loyal and choose your business every time.

A solution to all of the above

 

If you want to perfect your customer service and not have to worry about being understaffed, under qualified or under-resourced in terms of the latest technologies, there is a single solution.

What you need is a business process outsourcing call centre service. This is a business process outsourcing (BPO) company that can see to all of your customer service needs. Their resources will be at your disposal when you choose to use their business process outsourcing services for your customer support. You will be able to remain focused on providing that quality product or service to your customers and they will take care of the necessary customer interactions. It really is a simple way to avoid all of the above errors.

How business process outsourcing can save your business

It’s not uncommon for startup, small and even large businesses to find themselves running out of money and facing the reality of having to close their doors. But before business owners give up hope and throw in the towel on their big career dreams, there’s a service option out there for them to consider.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is when businesses make use of a third-party company’s services to take over and transform their business operations. Through BPO, you can save your business from more troubles than just financial ones. There are so many business benefits to business process outsourcing services and if you haven’t given it a try in your business yet, this might just be your saving grace.

Popular BPO services that companies choose to hand over to a third-party BOP company include document conversion, data processing, contact centre outsourcing, human resources, customer service, systems integration and invoice processing amongst many more.

Business process outsourcing will save your business money, provide new market opportunities, give you the chance to affordably work with professionals and gain a competitive edge above your competitors. All of which, together, can save your company as a whole.

BPO will save you money and time

Not every business can afford all the corporate departments, professionals and relevant technologies that support those job roles. By turning an outsourcing company for help, you’ll be saving the business money on hiring new talent, training new staff and financing new equipment.

Your BPO company already has the resources you need and once you choose to work with them, they’re at your disposal. This is the first way in which BPO companies reduce operational costs in a business. And as business owners, there will always be more places where money can be saved and invested for future opportunities.

By handing over some of your business processes to an outsourcing company, you’ll also be saving yourself time from having to do those admin tasks every day. When time is money, that’s another way for you to save in business. It also means that you’ll have an extra resource of time to distribute to the more business-focused aspects of the company.  

BPO allows for focus on core business

Unfortunately, owning and running a business isn’t as simple as having a business idea based on something you’re passionate about doing. There are other elements required to run a company that may not be your greatest strengths.

With BPO, you can hand over those frustrating but mandatory business processes over and focus solely on the parts of the business that make you happy. You’ll have more time to focus on the core business processes and spend more time being hands-on than having to sit at your desk with piles of paperwork.  

BPO offers the best talent in the business

Recruiting and retaining top talent in the industry can be an expensive venture on the business account. Especially when each department needs their own proficient manager. When you choose to outsource your business processes, you are offered the best talent in the business. They will take over your outsourced departments at a fraction of the cost that the business would have paid to do it themselves.

This means business owners can rest assured knowing that their company is in qualified and talented hands.

BPO gives access to new technologies

When you want to save on resources in your business, the best methods usually include hiring top talent and using the latest technologies. Business process outsourcing offers both. We’ve just mentioned how it offers the best talents in the business. But you should know that those people are using the latest technology to do your work for you. Again, at a fraction of the cost.

When you choose your BPO service company, you should take a look at what technologies they use and how they will be able to raise your business to the forefront of development in its industry.

BPO provides a competitive edge

With a BPOs talent and technology doing your business operations, your company will have a competitive edge above your other industry competitors. At the least, it will bring you up to the standard that the big names in the industry are operating at.

For example, if you were to use a contact centre as a service, you could extend your client service and support hours to 24/7. That BPO contact centre company would allow your business to accommodate local and international clients which would increase your business’ appeal and improve your customer service. And, just like that, you have more to offer than your corporate peers. With BPO, you can expect an increase in sales and consider your business saved.

If you feel like your business is starting to decline, make sure you consider all the ways business process outsourcing can help save your business.

Unwritten etiquette rules in business writing

Communicating on behalf of your business requires professionalism and a clear understanding of writing etiquette. For many reasons, you need to pay attention to detail when writing for business as writing does not always portray the tone and humour you hoped for a client to read. Keep your writing clear and to the point. After all, you want to be taken seriously with whatever you say to a client or customer.

Not everyone is capable of writing beautiful emails and lengthy business strategies in a professional manner. If that is the case for you or one of your staff members, consider looking into business writing skills courses. Skills development in the workplace is always valuable for any position, giving employees the tools they need to succeed in many different environments, and on a professional level. 

Here are a few important tips to consider when writing for your business:

  • Avoid slang and jargon in your writing

So, you might be a jolly employee or content writer who is used to writing humorous blog articles and so forth, but when you’re writing to a professional in the industry, you need to keep your approach standard and neutral. If you don’t know the person, you might not know what type of mood they’re going to receive your email in or what their personality is like, so this could lead to a very bad experience. Another tip is that you might not be contacting someone in your field of work, therefore they will not be familiar with your jargon. Stick to formal writing that is free of slang and any complex words that might make it difficult for the person reading the email to understand. After all, the wrong approach can cause a major misunderstanding which could have been prevented by keeping to the topic and being clear.

  • Keep business emails conversational

As much as you want to keep it formal and professional, try to steer away from having your business writing sound like a sales pitch. You need to speak in a conversational manner, without overstuffing the content with fluffy information that doesn’t add any value. Keep things to the point, but write according to the way that you speak. Always remember that an email is a business conversation through a different medium, so should you be meeting up with your colleague, client or customer thereafter, you will need to continue your conversation in such a way that complements your business writing on paper.

  • Consider cultural differences

When speaking on behalf of your business or the company which you work for, it’s important to consider cultural differences. You might not know the person who you will be communicating with, therefore a standard universal communication approach is best. Always avoid political encounters and respect the cultural differences the person might have. Everyone has different attitudes and beliefs on certain topics, therefore you need to think carefully about your words and try your best not to offend the reader in any way. The same goes for blog writing and general business communications, offline and online.

  • General know-how

Once you’ve considered the above, think about the time in which you send and respond to emails as this could negatively affect your relationship with the person on the other side. Speak with courtesy and address people in the right manner. If you’ve received an email from someone with other people copied into the email, be sure to think wisely about replying to “all”. Business communication is restrictive in the sense that you should only show others what they need to know. It could look petty if you copy everyone in everytime you receive an email, and it could give away confidential information to the wrong people. As minor as you might think the need for business writing skills and courses can be, always remember that the first encounter over email can leave a good or bad impression. You choose what you’d like to portray.

Proofread the copy before you press send and make sure that you spell everyone’s names properly.

Final thoughts

Staff training in Cape Town and elsewhere in South Africa is something businesses should always consider when looking to make a good impression. People who deal with clients and projects on a daily basis will have a knack for good business writing skills. However, if you’re not familiar with how to communicate with your customers, you need to learn how to speak professionally for your own good and the sake of your company.

The above-mentioned tips are four simple, yet very important rules of email and writing etiquette you should keep in mind if you want to impress the next person you communicate with. Creating new relationships with clients will depend on the type of impression you’ve made. Successful partnerships have strong communication as their foundation, so be respectful in your choice of words and always be courteous. You’ll be able to avoid several awkward encounters or miscommunications simply by following these tips.

What to look for in a BPO service for your business

Business process outsourcing (BPO) is a popular service that businesses choose to make use of. By outsourcing some of the more mundane and non-directly-business-related tasks, they can focus on core business processes and reduce operating costs. These, amongst other benefits, have created a demand for BPO companies which has been catered for. The issue, now, is to try and choose the correct outsourcing centre for your business.

You need to know what to look for in a BPO company, whether it’s for human resources, a contact centre company or financial outsourcing. Each outsourced operation concerns the wellbeing of your business, so you cannot afford to hire a BPO service company which won’t do your business justice.

Understands business goals

 

Your BPO company needs to understand your business goals in order to approach and perform their processes the same way you would if you had decided to undertake those tasks. More importantly, you need to establish what your outsourcing goals are with the company you’re considering.

Knowing exactly what you want out of an outsourcing centre will make it easier to find one that can accommodate most, if not all, of those goals. If you’re looking to reduce operations costs, provide a contact centre as a service, enhance your customers’ experience or see a return on investment through outsourcing, you need to find a company that is willing to help you achieve that.    

Industry proficiency

 

When browsing for a contact centre company, for example, you need to think beyond the service offering of handling your customer service department. You need to know that they are at least knowledgeable in your industry.

It’s important to your customers that they are able to communicate their issue and have the consultant on the other end understand and know exactly how to help them. When you look for a BPO service, make sure they have trained employees with an industry background that covers your type of work.

You find this out by asking about previous clients and industries that they’ve dealt with. The idea is to have it be an in-house level of service from an outsourced centre. And if you’re confident that the company you choose can deliver that, then they’re likely a good fit for your business.

Turnover rate

 

If you’re spending money on a company in return for a service, you want to know that the employees of that company are treated well. Take a look at a BPO company’s turnover rate before you make a final decision.

An outsourcing centres’ greatest asset is their people and their people become your concern when you entrust the wellness of your business processes in their hands. Employee morale and satisfaction in your BPO company is indirectly your concern as it can have an effect on the quality of service they give your customers on your behalf.

Not to mention that employees at outsourcing centres need to be trained and the higher the turnover rate, the more new employees need to be trained which could increase the rates you were initially offered.

Range of technology

One of the advantages of using a business process outsource service is that you don’t need to find a way to finance the latest technology and equipment for those services in-office. You simply pay for the service from an outsourcing company which already has these assets available to them. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

When you’re in the process of finding a BPO service, find out about the technology and systems they use to do their outsourcing tasks. This is an opportunity for you to invest in a range of technologies at an affordable price and use it for the benefit of your business. And just like that, you have an opportunity to compete with larger businesses and be considered an industry-forward business.

Clear communication

Another thing you need to look for in a BPO company is clear communication. Especially if it’s a contact centre company (for obvious reasons). You need to be able to trust this company to take care of your customers and to keep you informed.

Developing a relationship with your outsource centre is important to ensure that there’s transparency in your conversations. You need to be clear about what you want and they need to be clear about how they are implementing that. More so, they need to be able to provide detailed reports that can show you where you’re getting a return on your investment (ROI) and how it’s working for your business.

It should be easy to negotiate, set terms and collaborate with your BPO partner. You both have the same goals for your business so there needs to be trust in this partnership – together you will make your business better.

No one can tell you which outsourcing company to use. It’s up to you to do your research, match your goals to their offerings and find a company that you’re comfortable with. It might take time, but it’s not a process you can afford to rush.