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5 Ideas for Successful Remote Shopping and Customer Pickup Services

As more areas of the country move into Phase 1 of re-opening the economy, you may be able to offer remote shopping and curbside (no contact) pickup.  While you may already have a way to hold items for pickup by customers, moving completely to the “take out” model of business requires you to make changes and scale your processes.  Here are 5 ideas to improve your customer experience:

1. Accept Online and Advance Payments

Customers paying online or by phone before coming for their pickup dramatically reduces the in-person interaction needed to complete the sale. This is safe for your employees and your customers.

  • Adding a shopping cart experience to your website is not a simple process; check with your web developer and verify they have the experience to create a secure, easy to use flow for your customers.
  • If adding a shopping cart experience to your website is not feasible in the short term, you have alternatives:
    • Check with your current card processing service; many offer payment portals that can work well in this situation.
    • Spin up a separate online store using a turnkey solution, like Shopify, to which you can upload inventory and product information
    • Create an online payment account via services like PayPal or Venmo (make sure you have or create a company-specific account)
  • Remember that you must still comply with PCI regulations.  Make sure employees know that when taking credit card information, they should not write down or otherwise record the information expect to put it into the POS or card processing systems.

2. Offer Video Shopping Appointments

Allow customers to schedule video shopping appointments, during with a member of your staff can walk the store and help your customers pick out items.

  • Use a secure video meeting tool. If you use Microsoft Office 365 or G Suite, you already have access to video meetings via Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, respectively. Employees should NOT be using personal accounts, email addresses, or phone numbers to setup or run these sessions.
  • Roll out a scheduling tool that lets customers pick from preset, available times.  Bookings is a free tool included with MS Office 365.  Tools like Calendly integrate with both G Suite and Office 365 services.
  • Get a few tripods with phone/tablet holders.  This will allow a single employee to manage the camera while displaying merchandise. It also makes for a “steady” shot and better shopping experience.

3. Live Chat with Customers

Give your customers an easy way to get in touch with you once they are on your website.

  • Live chat is an inexpensive way for customers to communicate with your team.
  • Most live chat solutions allow your staff to answer questions and transfer the conversation.  Staff working from home can cover the live chat service and answer most customer questions. The chat can be transferred to in-store staff as needed.

4. Create a “Service Desk” for Customer Questions

Going beyond live chat, let your customers interact with you however they want, when they want.  At the same time, you can enable staff working from home to support the team working in-store.

  • Setup a cloud-based service desk phone system that allows multiple team members to answer calls, text messages, and voice messages.
    • Employees sign in as ‘agents’ and can indicate when they are available / not available to answer calls.
    • The system will route calls to an available ‘agent’ in a round robin basis or other priority that you configure.
    • Using a “soft phone” application, your employees access the system via computer or mobile device; their personal phone numbers and information remain private.
  • Setup a shared inbox to allow your staff to respond to, and manage, email communications.
    • More than a distribution list, a managed shared inbox lets your team assign emails and discussion threads to employees and track their work and progress.
    • Using the shared inbox, employees’ personal information and individual work emails remain private.
    • Employees can connect/disconnect to the service as needed to cover shifts

5. Measure Customer Satisfaction

Follow up every sale with a thank you email and solicit customer feedback.

  • Cloud-based customer satisfaction (CSAT) tools let you embed one-click feedback questions into your email templates. These often use familiar green, yellow, and red icons to indicate satisfaction levels.
  • CSAT tools can also solicit comments. These comments can be used to identify and resolve customer issues, as well as generate testimonials for your web site and marketing efforts.
  • More advanced CSAT tools can also ask a “Net Promoter Score” question, so you can measure how many of your customers would recommend your business to others.

A Final Note: As you implement these (or other) ideas, procedures, and technologies, remember to take care of your “back office” and employees. Initiating or improving your customer pickup services means new and changed processes. You may also decide to change roles. For example, some stores dedicate one team member per shift to process online payments as a way of managing access to the tools and information.  Take the time to train your staff and make sure they are comfortable with the changes.  Also, solicit their feedback and ideas. They probably have suggestions that will help you impress your customers.


Please contact us for a free Response and Recovery Assessment. We are happy to discuss ideas and solutions, and to assist with getting the technologies and training in place.


 

5 Ways We Can Lower Your Chrome Device Costs

As part of our ChromeCycle Program, we help you manage the total cost of ownership of your Chrome devices. Here are five (5) ways we can lower the purchase cost for your next round of Chrome devices.

  1. Preregister Your Purchase: We can often secure preferred pricing when we preregister your intended purchase with your preferred Chrome device manufacturer. Letting your manufacturer know now how many units you plan to buy later helps them plan production and distribution. Some of those savings come back to you.
     
  2. Competitive Bidding: If you do not have a preferred Chrome device manufacturer, we can bid your intended purchased out across manufacturers and distributors to obtain the best purchase price possible.
  3. Trade-In: Trading in devices at the end of their life cycle can lower the cost of refreshing your devices by as much as 20%. We can estimate trade-in value now, to help with your budgets for purchases later in the year.
     
  4. Buy-Back: Even if you are not buying your refresh fleet from us, we can buy back devices you are retiring. The international market for used devices and parts can save you money.
  5. Financing Services: We work with multiple finance partners to offer both finance and fair market value leasing options. We can put your purchase financing out to bid to help get the best rate and terms possible.

Click here to learn more about our ChromeCycle services, or contact us for a no-obligation Cloud Advisor consultation.


 

Cloud Forward

What is a MCSP?

Cloud ForwardAs noted in our recent post, Moving Cloud Gets Real, many small and midsize businesses are approaching the tipping point between on-premise and cloud service. When (not if) you reach this point, how you manage and support your IT will change. The need to monitor and maintain equipment and infrastructure drops off while your need to monitor and manage services, apps, and data increases.

Enter the MCSP

A MCSP is a Managed Cloud Service Provider. Similar to a traditional managed service provider, or MSP, the MCSP provides you with end to end monitoring, management, and support for your IT ecosystem.

The big difference:

  • MSPs focus on on-premise solutions
  • Your MCSP will provide your IT services using cloud services, cloud-connected end user devices, and the infrastructure needed to connect the two

Because you MCSP covers you end to end, you still have coverage for your users’ computers, networks, file sharing, printing, and applications.

The MCSP Value Proposition

Historically, most MSPs charge monthly fees based on:

  • The number and type of services
  • The number of users
  • Number of devices
  • Number of vendors

MCSPs, in comparison, typically charge a single, inclusive, per-user fee covering cloud subscriptions and services and included devices. If part of the covered services, monthly fees for networking and other infrastructure may also apply.

The value proposition is greater given the MCSP per-user fee covers the user and the system — you do not have separate charges for servers and vendors. The chart, below, illustrates a sample comparison of the per-device versus per-user fees in which the monthly fees quoted were identical.

Traditional
MSP
Cumulus Global
MCSP
Device(s) Yes (Optional) Yes (Optional)
Operating System Yes Yes
Office 365 Subscription Yes Yes
Endpoint Protection Yes Yes
Support Yes Yes
Mobile Device Management Yes
Advanced Threat Protection Yes
Data Backup / Recovery (for Office 365) Yes
O365 PSTN Conferencing Yes
Message-Level Email Encryption Yes
Web Security Yes

In addition to the per-device fees in the chart, above, the MSP options included monitoring and management fees for Active Directory and other on-premise servers that do not exist in the MCSP solution — further enhancing the value proposition.

Next Step

Your next step is to understand when MCSP services are right for your business. Contact us for a complementary Cloud Advisor session; let’s discuss the opportunities and options.

SMB Cloud Tipping Point

Moving Cloud Gets Real

SMB Cloud Tipping PointCloud Computing is reaching a tipping point for small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) as the number and value of cloud-based applications and systems surpasses those running on site. Beyond email, SMBs use Software-as-a-Service solutions for customer relationship management, operations, finance, customer service, and vendor/supply chain management. SMBs want better integration between SaaS solutions and custom-built solutions to further enhance operations, marketing, sales, and the bottom line. Over the next few years, bots, machine learning/AI, and business intelligence will become the norm for SMBs as well as larger enterprises.

SMBs are moving core systems, infrastructure, and services to the cloud.

If all you have left on premise are your Active Directory services, some of your file and print servers/services, and a few business applications, moving your remaining IT services to the cloud makes sense. You can provide the same applications, data, and services without maintaining the physical infrastructure while enabling better integration of systems, processes, and information.

3 Strategies

You have three basic strategies to choose from when moving apps and systems to the cloud:

  • Beautify
    • Also referred to as “lift and load”, this strategy works best when you have (1) a custom-built application; (2) a customized system that cannot migrate to the vendor’s SaaS offering; and/or (3) a solution you do not want to further modify or rebuild as a cloud app.
    • In this scenario, we create cloud-based networks and servers to host and run your existing systems “as-is” with remote, secure access.
    • This option is an effective interim step to a more complete cloud solution.
  • Buy
    • In this scenario, you “buy” a SaaS solution from your current software vendor or move from your existing system to a new SaaS solution.
    • Your ability to “buy” depends on the capabilities of the SaaS solution(s) versus your current system usage and needs. For example, many businesses find that the SaaS version of Quickbooks lacks features and reports that they need an use.
  • Build
    • As the name implies, build means you are replacing an app or system with a new, cloud-based solution.
    • With the current evolution in bots, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and tools, many of your existing processes can be automated by cloud-native services with little or no traditional programming.
    • No-code and low-code solutions are the wave of the future.

Next Steps

Which strategy, or combination of strategies, is best for your business depends on several factors, starting with business goals, objectives, and priorities. Current capabilities, needed features/functions, competitive positioning, internal culture, cost, and value all come into play. When you properly plan and execute your cloud migration, you should see tangible and intangible benefits.


Contact us to discuss the possibilities and opportunities for your business.


 

Still on Windows Server 2003? Don’t Migrate, Modernize!

Sunset
If something works, why fix it?

We understand why you may still be running Windows Server 2003. For businesses with relatively simple IT needs, the benefits of moving off Windows Server 2003 has never quite justified the cost. After all, migrating means more than new hardware and a new version of Windows Server. Migrating triggers a major round of updates to other systems, such as backups, virus protection, databases, and business software.

Let’s face reality: Migrating is expensive and probably adds little or no value to your business.

Modernization Adds Value

When people remodel kitchens and baths, they do more than replacing aging appliances and cabinets with new versions of the same old stuff. People improve their space utilization, make traffic flows more efficient, add features that make life easier and more convenient, and improve aesthetics.

The same is true for IT. When you modernize your infrastructure, you have the opportunity to update how your IT supports the way you and your team work on a day to day basis.

Companies that modernize their IT, they …

  • Improve the ways in which employees communicate with each other and with customers
  • Enhance and enable collaboration and the sharing if information
  • Make work more efficient with better access to information and applications
  • Empower people to work remotely and from mobile devices
  • Reinforce efficient and improved processes

Modernization 101: Server to Service

One of the most effective ways to modernize is to replace aging servers with cloud-based services.

Replacing Exchange servers with Google Apps or other cloud email services is a long-proven to reduce costs, outages, and frustration. This modernization can enhance data privacy while enabling new communication capabilities, ranging from secure instant messaging and voice calling to video conferencing and integrated mobile services.

When you move from a physical file server to a managed cloud file service, your modernization still leaves you with shared file space, control over access and permissions, data backup and recovery, and malware protection. More than lowering the cost of file storage, file service modernization  ….

  • Enables more efficient and effective sharing of files and information
  • Improves version control for files and documents
  • Delivers easy and secure access from mobile devices and remote users (without the cost and headaches of VPNs)
  • Lets users work together, in real time or not, as part of a team
  • Provides a slew of additional capabilities proven to enhance productivity

Getting Started

Just like your kitchen, your first steps in your IT Modernization are to think about what …

  • currently works,
  • could work better, and
  • new features and ideas you need or want to incorporate.

For your IT modernization, you need to look around and window-shop … get ideas and a sense of the market. As you learn about your options, think in terms of services, not things, and how you want your employees to work with one another, with your customers, and with others. From there, you can start thinking about features, design, and how you can best use new, cloud-based solutions.


 

If you are worried about the end of Windows Server 2003 in July, or if you are dreading a migration from aging systems to new versions of the same old solution, contact us to discuss your needs and priorities. Give us a chance to design a solution to modernize your technology, and your business.


 

 

Tuesday Take-Away: Expanded Support for Google Apps

On Monday, Nov 14th, Google announced a significant expansion of its support services for Google Apps.

Google now provides 24 x 7 phone support to small, medium, and large Google Apps for Business customers for all issues affecting the core services.  Customers may also receive support from Google Apps experts via Google’s web-based support portal, online help forms, and online help center.

These services further augment and support the customized support, training, and related services offered by Cumulus Global and other Google Apps Authorized Resellers.

The expanded support services is one more in a continuing list of service and product enhancements designed to address business owners’ and IT directors’ concerns about moving to Google Apps and cloud computing.  Other recent changes include  SLA and up-time improvements, as well as enhancements such as unthreaded email and read receipts in Gmail, and a scheduled release process.