Online opportunities offer great improvements to your business' efficiency and productivity. You can easily outsource and manage tasks in ways that were previously impossible, and collect customer information and feedback with ease.
However, with ‘high tech’ opportunities also comes risk. As businesses develop their online strategy, they move their focus and resources these new online spaces. This shift in focus can risk leaving traditional ‘high touch’ elements of your business, such as customer service, behind.
The key, of course, is balance – your overall business strategy needs to appropriately mix both these ‘high tech’ and ‘high touch’ elements. Here we look at some ‘high tech’ strategies your business should be considering, as well as tips to keeping focused on ‘high touch’ strategies.
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High Tech Business Strategy 1: Outsourcing
Many business owners start out with little cash, so they are in the habit of being frugal and doing everything themselves. This can be okay – and is often necessary – in the early days of running your business. Eventually however, you should be looking at delegating or outsourcing these tasks so that you can focus on the next step: business growth.
The key to making an outsourcing decision is to figure out how much your time is worth versus the cost of outsourcing. If the cost of outsourcing is less than your own ‘hourly rate’, then it makes good business sense to outsource that task.
Despite this simple rule, many businesses are sceptical or unaware of the benefits of outsourcing. Let’s have a look at some common challenges to delegating by outsourcing:
Failing to identify opportunities
Sometimes we are so caught up in day-to-day tasks that we don’t stop to consider the alternative ways of doing these tasks. Make the time to stop, look and listen; you may identify better ways of completing these tasks, including discovering areas to outsource.
Lack of trust
If you want something done properly you have to do it yourself, right? Wrong! Chances are you are not an expert book keeper, graphic designer, copywriter or marketing manager – don’t be afraid to outsource these tasks.
You can’t just focus on online and you can’t just focus on offline. You need balance.
Being "too busy"
The reason you are too busy today is because you didn’t make changes yesterday. Setting up outsourcing is an investment of your time—it will pay dividends tomorrow when you have time for growing your business.
Small business owners often develop their own unique methods of doing things, however this can become an impediment to outsourcing. Spend some time developing processes so that you can easily pass tasks onto others. The effort today will pay off in the long run.
If you want to grow your business you can’t afford not to outsource. Although outsourcing has a cost, you are increasing your business productivity. Your time is limited—make sure that you’re making the most of it!
High Tech Business Strategy 2: Feedback Automation
A simple, yet highly effective strategy to improving your business is being open to honest customer feedback.
Thanks to online tools and email marketing, gathering this information easy! For example, an online business selling products which are packaged up and delivered can have an automated reminder to follow up with the client and gather feedback.
A great way to gauge your business’ strengths and weaknesses is asking customers two simple questions:
- “What did you Like Best about our product/service?”
- “What can we do better Next Time?”
This strategy is simply ‘LB and NT’. It's not enough to just ask your customer if they liked the product—many will say “yes” regardless of what they really think. Not only is that kind of feedback useless, it can be damaging if you believe it. There is little worse than heading down the wrong business path due to incorrect information.
By contrast, LB and NT works because you get real information from your customers. You find out what it is you do best and what makes you stand out from competitors. You also find out where you can improve, and where to focus your energy when it comes to developing future business strategies. It's also easy for the customer to answer!
Of course, you have to be prepared for negative feedback. But remember, negative feedback is valuable information. So be brave and find out how to develop a way to get your LBs and NTs from your customers. Online 'high tech' solutions are your friend.
High Touch Business Strategy 1: Human Customer Service
The leverage offered by technology is great, but so is being human. Being ‘high touch’ means that as customers work their way through your sales structure they have regular contact with a real person.
There’s nothing more annoying for customers than having to deal with a different person each time they contact your company. So here are some simple 'high touch' tips:
- Give customers a number they can call, and make sure it’s answered by a person, not a machine.
- Give customers the name of a representative they can deal with personally, and make sure that person follows through on their transaction.
The 'high touch' aspect of your business is also about making an emotional connection. This is a powerful tool to make sure you get repeat business and referrals.
For the coffee shop owners, this could be baking muffins at the front of the store, so that the smell greets people as they walk in. Or if you are a mechanic, have a nice reception area with a coffee machine and a full-time receptionist to make clients feel welcome (don’t make them walk into your greasy and grimy workshop).
How could your business go the extra mile?
High Touch Business Strategy 2: Scalable Human Resources
To make sure you continue to be 'high touch' as you grow, the people element of your business needs to be scalable. As your business grows, the number of customer service staff and customer functions need to grow with it. The key is to anticipate growth and keep slightly ahead of customer demand.
For example, a Melbourne cafe owner says he has 'the best barista in Melbourne'. But is this scalable? Clearly not. It doesn't matter how good this guy is, he can’t serve 20 customers at once.
To deal with this, as he grows, the owner then needs to find the second-best barista in Melbourne just before demand requires it, and then he needs to add another, and so on, staying just ahead of the demand.
It's important to remember that being ‘high touch’ means that as your future clients work their way through your sales structure they have regular contact with a living and breathing human being. If your human resources are streched to capacity, you loose your business' 'high touch' advantage.
Learn how to balance your business strategy
No matter how enticing online strategies are, you cannot be a faceless company. You should not deal with your clients exclusively through your website or an automated phone service. After all, your clients don’t want you to add to their problems – they want you to solve them.
You can’t just focus on online and you can’t just focus on offline. You need balance. By developing strategies for both 'high tech' and 'high touch' aspects in your business plan you can get the best of both worlds.
Looking for strategies to grow your business? Or do you need to restructure your business fundamentals?
Business Benchmark Group are business specialists and small business coaches who have worked with countless Melbourne companies and helped them find the path to growth. Call 03 9001 0878 to discuss your future.
Stefan Kazakis on 5 May 2018
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