Category Archives: Business

How to Handle Security Breaches

In the last 12 months, the number of cybersecurity attacks has grown significantly. The potential ramifications of a cybersecurity breach to a business can be devastating, such as loss of customer confidence, damage to company reputation, theft of assets and extensive administrative costs in dealing with all affected stakeholders. However, there are a number of actions a business can take to reduce the likelihood of a cybersecurity breach and deal with the consequences where the company suffers an attack, writes Barry Connolly of Flynn O’Driscoll.

Risk assessment. Similar to any other risks that a business may face, when seeking to prevent cybersecurity breaches, the first step should include quantifying the risk. In the cybersecurity context, this will include identifying certain elements of a business’s system that are particularly exposed. This will range from the vulnerability of the company’s online web presence to the possibility of physical access (on-site) to a networked platform. Risk assessments should be carried out on a regular basis so that new threats can be identified and the business remains aware of current trends in cyber threats.

 

Software Security Measures. Having identified areas of risk, tailored security measures should be put in place to address these concerns. The company’s IT environment should include effective firewalls and antivirus software to deal with threats. It should also ensure that software used in the business is kept up-to-date with the latest security patches and updates.

Improve Your Customer Support

‘Preaching to the choir’ is an expression which comes to mind when someone tells business owners that the customers they already have are important. Of course they are. Having said that, in today’s commercial environment, there is an increasing focus on customer experience. From an existing customer perspective, the most critical function to get right is of course customer support and service, writes Neil Doyle from Blueface.

Customer support or service interactions have the potential for a wide variety of outcomes – both good and bad. Customers contact your support team when they have an issue. Understanding this and making the interaction as efficient and effective as possible should be your goal. If you deal with the issue well you’ll have a happy customer, and potentially positive recommendations. Worst case scenario, you could be losing business.

How you use your phone system can be a key determinant of how your customers perceive your support service and their experience with your organisation. The option for the customer to speak to someone in the business over the phone is a communication method commonly offered in customer service. However if your employees are picking up the phone to someone who has already been transferred two or three times, you’ve already given your customer a bad experience.

Identifying ways to improve the experience your customers have with your support function, or company as a whole, can be tricky. One place to start at is when your customer makes the call. Here are four ways which your phone system can improve your customer support experience, before and during each call:

 

1. Use interactive voice response with time of day settings

Interactive voice response (IVR), otherwise known as virtual receptionists are used to direct those calling your business to the appropriate person by providing a menu of options which the customer can select. The longer your customer spends on hold or being transferred from department to department the more you are failing in providing them with an efficient and effective interaction.

Everyone has had poor experiences being left on hold waiting to be transferred. Use an IVR and avoid subjecting your customers to this. When constructing your menu, ideally have an option for each of your main customer facing departments. You should also finish with something similar to ‘for all other queries press 0’. This means even if your customers are unsure, they still have an option to press.

Time of day settings allow you to provide different instructions or menus depending on when a customer calls. For example, if a customer calls outside of office hours you can play a message which tells them your office is closed, what time it will be open at and provide an alternative contact method such as your customer service email address or a specific out of hours number. Accurately setting the expectations of your customer in terms of response or resolution time is critical for good customer service experience.

 

2. Use ring groups

A ring group is a feature which allows a number of phones to ring when one number is dialled. For example, when a customer selects the menu option for support on your IVR, it is possible to have every team member’s phone ring. If each team member’s phone is calling the chances of the call will only be missed or not answerable immediately if the whole team is already busy.

Using a cloud phone system it is also possible to add extra steps if the ring group goes unanswered by the whole team. After a certain amount of time, you could redirect the call to the department manager before eventually to a voicemail box. A common mistake that businesses make is not having a voicemail box as the end point for every possible path a call can take. After waiting on hold to speak to someone and being transferred around the sound of a disconnected line is disheartening to say the least.

Adding a voicemail box will allow you to set a voicemail greeting which can explain that all employees are busy for the moment and once again offer an alternative means of contact.

 

3. Everyone in your organisation needs an internal transfer number accessible via a centralised document

From time to time a customer with an issue is going to call the number for a different department or pick the wrong menu item. In this case, the first step is to get them talking to someone who can help with their problem. This means call transfer.

With a cloud phone system, setting up internal transfer numbers such as 102 or 2007 for each employee can be accomplished with ease. Make sure that each member of your organisation, with a priority on those which are customer facing, have an internal transfer number set up.

An updated and detailed list should be kept centrally via a resource such as Google Drive or Office 365 with each person’s transfer number. Using this, whoever takes a call should be able to easily transfer the customer to the right place. It certainly beats asking your customer to call the organisation’s main number again and dial 3 for support.

Are You Online Customer Service

As a small business, it’s important to have contact with your customers. But some phone calls could easily be handled by your website and other digital channels — saving time for you and your customers. Here are some ideas for how to tweak your website to handle some routine calls.

 

1. Add an FAQ page

You already know which questions come up again and again. Answer them once and for all on your website by creating a frequently asked questions (FAQs) page. Update this page regularly to keep up with the latest developments and to answer timely questions.

2. Review your website navigation

Maybe you already have plenty of information on your site, but no one can find it. If you use a creative, nonstandard navigation scheme, take a look at your web analytics to see if that is preventing people from finding the information they need. Even if you use standard navigation, check your labels. Are they clear and accurate?

3. Add a video demonstration

If you’re spending a lot of time on the phone giving directions on how to use your product, a video demonstration could save time. And because nothing beats a visual demonstration, an online video will be more helpful to your customers than a phone conversation with you.

4. Offer Internet-only sales

Take a page from the airlines’ book, and offer lower prices for customers who purchase online. Or, offer online-only sales to encourage people to buy online rather than calling or visiting your store. Financially, this strategy makes sense because buying online does not use your staff resources they way an in-person or telephone sale does. And, a lower online rate helps defray the cost of shipping, which is one reason many customers prefer to shop in person.

Best strategy for your business

In today’s modern and fast paced consumer society, the importance of brands cannot be underestimated. Never before has there been such a vast choice of products and services on offer to consumers across the world. When a company devises a new product, part of the creative and marketing process involves constructing a brand or trade mark for that product, writes David Flynn of FRKelly.

A trademark helps to separate similar products sold by competing companies and helps customers to remember a certain product.

Customers who are satisfied with a particular product link the trademark of that product with reliability and quality. This creates trust and means that in the future the customer will make repeat purchases of goods sold under that trademark. What this means for businesses is that trademarks are extremely important marketing tools and can add substantial value to a company and its products. Before adopting and using a new trademark, a company needs to have a clear strategy of how it intends to protect that trademark and prevent others from using it.

 

Searching Strategy

It is all well and good developing a new brand but a company needs to ensure that the trade mark is available and is not being used for a similar product by a competing company. It is crucial to conduct a search of the relevant trademark registers to ensure a third party has not already registered your trademark.

A comprehensive trade mark search requires specialist software as well as an understanding of trade mark law. A simple internet search is not sufficient. A trademark practitioner can review the results of a trademark search and give a good indication of whether a mark is available to use and register.

Business involves risk and while a trademark search is not infallible, it helps a company assess the risk posed by adopting a particular trademark. If a company launches a new product on the market without undertaking a search, there is a real chance somebody else has exclusive rights to use that trademark. This can have serious and severe commercial repercussions for the business such as a total re-brand, the granting of a court injunction to stop using the mark, damages and whole product lines having to be destroyed. A trademark search helps to reduce the risk of this happening.

 

Filing Strategy

Before launching, a business needs to be sure what territories it will be selling its products in. There are different registration systems available to secure trademark rights. For example, it is possible to register your mark on a country-by-country basis by filing national trademark applications, e.g. if you only want to protect your mark in Ireland, then you can register your mark by filing an Irish trademark application.

If you will be exporting to Europe, a very cost effective option of securing EU-wide trade mark rights is by registering your mark as a European Union Trade Mark. This gives you exclusive trademark rights in all 28 EU member states. There is also the option of the International Trade Mark System. This allows a company to protect its trademark in over 98 territories by simply filing one application and selecting the individual countries it wants its International Trade Mark to cover.

The cost depends on the number of territories selected. An International trademark also allows a company to manage their portfolio of marks through one centralized system.

It is also a good idea for a company to register its trademark in the country where their goods are being manufactured. Sometimes a foreign manufacturer contracted to produce branded goods for a particular company will go ahead and register the trademark themselves. This means that the manufacturer holds the trademark rights and could even prevent the company which hired it from using the mark in that country. Therefore, a company should secure its trademark rights before entering a deal with a particular manufacturer or company, especially abroad and in countries which are intellectual property abuse hotspots (such as china).

Tips for Success on Business

With decades of experience and success between them, Bill Wolsey, Eleanor McEvoy, Caroline Wilson and Diane Roberts shared the following advice:

 

Important Traits for Entrepreneurs

I think the key traits needed for success are honesty, tenacity, stamina and luck. Lots of entrepreneurs want to be the best at what they do. When international hoteliers come to Belfast, I think I can compete with them and beat them, I don’t fear them. I started out with one pub, and now we’re one of the biggest hospitality groups in the 32 counties. I never thought that would have happened, but when you get good people working for you, they drive you on. Bill Wolsey, Hotelier and Founder of the Beannchor Group

 

Learning Lessons and Facing Fears

I’ve built and sold two businesses and I’m on to my third now. Every day is like a school day and that never changes. The day you think you know everything is the day you’re going to sink. The bad days will help you survive. You have to look at them, learn from them and then put them to one side and move on. ‘Fear the fear and do it anyway’, because we all get scared in business, but we ignore it. Eleanor McEvoy, CEO, Budget Energy

Driving Yourself On

I’ve had to compare myself with myself! There wasn’t a Food Tour in Belfast before I started out, so there was nobody to compare myself with. If you wanted an easy life, you wouldn’t start a business. There’s something to be said for achieving something every day for yourself and also being the master of your own destiny. For me, it’s not about money, it’s about growing something special. Caroline Wilson, Founder, Belfast Food Tour

 

Mentorship and Encouragement

I think mentors have incredible power. I always encourage start-ups to get in touch with me. It’s always nice to get an email! When I was growing up, I was told, ‘get a good degree and you’ll get a good job’. Then I was told, ‘get a good suit and you’ll get a better job’. I don’t think anyone ever said to me, ‘you could be an entrepreneur’. Nowadays, when I speak to young people, I say, ‘why don’t you create your own business?’ Diane Roberts, Managing Partner, Xcell Partners

Starting Out in Business

For 15 years, David Wallace was a familiar presence on the rugby pitch, representing Munster, Ireland and the Lions with distinction. As a two-time Heineken Cup winner and member of Ireland’s historic Grand Slam winning team of 2009, David is someone who reached the very pinnacle of his sport.

Since retiring from rugby nearly five years ago, David has embarked on a career in business, opening a number of vintage style sweet shops in the Munster region. During the AIB Start-up Academy Summits, David stopped by to discuss his transition from the rugby pitch to the boardroom.

 

Moving from a career in rugby to a career in business must have been a culture shock. How did you adjust?

“I would say I’m still adjusting, four years on! I suppose I threw myself into everything that came my way, which was good and bad in equal measures! I think coming from a professional environment helped, because you’re used to working so hard and you have all that energy to put into something else. I was just eager to start my new career.

I threw myself into a few things after I retired from playing, which was a fantastic learning curve for me. Even simple things like getting out and meeting people was brilliant, because you are in a bit of a bubble when you’re playing professional rugby. It was a great experience at the time and very refreshing too.”

Launching a New Business or Product

Your business or product launch is the first impression people will remember. These five steps can help you make your launch a success. It’s not enough to create a great business or product. If you want to be successful, you need to take steps to plan and execute a well-timed, memorable launch that will bring your product to the attention of more people in more locations.

In today’s competitive marketplace, businesses need to begin their promotional efforts before they actually start selling their wares. Additionally, companies need to find ways to stand out from the noise while making the right first impression on early adopters. Here are 5 steps for launching a new product in a way that’s smart, strategic, and most of all effective:

1. Conduct Testing

Just because you’ve created an ingenious product that you believe fills an existing dearth in the marketplace doesn’t mean you’re ready to start selling. Good business owners take time to test their new items and perform necessary adjustments. Before listing a product for sale on your website, or stocking it in your retail store, send out complimentary versions for trusted clients to test and evaluate. The goal is to collect feedback from surveys and focus groups so you can make any needed improvements before releasing the product to the market. One of the reasons that testing is so crucial is that it ensures a product’s first impression with buyers will be a positive one. After all, if you release a flawed or buggy item, customers will remember that fact and be loath to try future versions. The internet means shoppers have virtually endless options, and they are unlikely to give a second chance to a disappointing company or product.

 

2. Contact Influencers

Blogs and social media sites are great for marketing new businesses and products online. However, if you only post about your brilliant invention on your own website, you’re unlikely to generate the sales results you desire. Instead, startups should target key influencers, or trusted brand advocates, in their chosen industries. Start by creating a list of popular bloggers, social media experts, and even high-profile customers, who have shopped with you before. You can then email or message these individuals and ask them to review a free sample of your product. If they like the item, the chances are good that they will blog about it or share details with their social followers. The goal is to generate buzz and excitement about a product before you launch and identify any outstanding issues that could affect your item’s ability to generate a profit.

 

3. Get Your Team Excited

It doesn’t matter how strong your product is if your marketing and customers service teams aren’t behind you. Before launching your new item, it’s important to educate your employees and get them excited about the item. Ideally, you will also involve product managers and sales staff throughout the item’s development, so they can weigh in on aspects. To prepare your team members for launch, sit down with them to discuss the product ahead of time and ensure they have the resources needed to support customers and answer their questions. For best results, create a number of small but attainable goals so employee morale stays high throughout the launch.

Growth Strategy of Business Tips

Setting up a business is hard, but growing your business can be even harder. Have you got a successful business and aren’t sure how to plan for growth? Read on for some expert advice on devising a growth strategy.

Sasha Kerins is a tax partner with Grant Thornton in Kildare. With over 16 years of experience in tax advisory roles, she has also advised businesses in areas including e-commerce and construction. We spoke to Sasha to get her expert opinion on devising a growth strategy for your business – and some of the pitfalls you need to watch out for when expanding.

Every Business Needs a Growth Strategy

“Strategy in business is really important from the point of view of focus. To identify what your strategy is, you’ll need a business plan in place. The business plan identifies the milestones that you need to hit to achieve that growth.

One of the key questions in any plan or strategy is: where are you adding value? What is the proposition of your business that’s going to differentiate it from everyone else out there? Asking those questions is a key element of any strategic process.  That will identify where the growth is in the business, be it nationally, within Europe, or internationally.”

The Importance of a Constantly Evolving Business Plan

“The business plan should be a constantly evolving document. Remember, it’s both an operating tool that you can use internally within the business and a marketing aid externally – from a funding perspective when you go to talk to the bank, from a grant perspective when you go to talk to various different government bodies and from a third-party investor perspective.”

Factors to Consider When Growing Your Business

“When you have a strong existing sustainable business and you look at growth there are two important questions that you need to ask:”

  1. Where is the growth going to come from? If it’s a manufacturing business you may need to scale up production or outsource. You may need to take on new employees which has its own cost. With growth, is it going to add to your margin or are you going to have to sacrifice some of your existing margin to achieve it? There’s no point in growing the business for the sake of growing it if it’s not going to give added value and add profit to the bottom line.
  2. How is it going to be funded? Cash is key to all businesses. You need to consider whether you’re going to use existing cash within the business to fund the growth or use external providers. The real risk is that you could end up being in a position where you’ve used funds from the existing business or you can’t fund what you’ve planned to fund over the period.”

Guilty of overestimating business

And if anyone should know, it’s Bobby Healy, founder of Ireland’s most valuable tech company, CarTrawler, which facilitates airlines, online travel agents and accommodation providers by connecting their customers with car rental, private transfers and rail connections all over the world.

Before CarTrawler – long before, in fact – Bobby founded travel software firm Eland Technologies as a young twenty-something back in Mexico City back in the 1980s.

Speaking on The Capital B podcast about the rise of Eland Technologies in Mexico over 30 years ago, Bobby said: “There was no Internet, there were no mobile phones, we had a real tangible business that was selling magic. No-one knew what software was, but we were making millions of dollars selling stuff to them.”

Asked by host Nick Webb about how he grew the company, Bobby explained that getting the right talent was the most important thing and how he discovered just how much of an advantage being Irish really was.

“The same applied back then, nearly 30 years ago, as it does now,” Bobby said.

“It was getting really good technology people that sometimes aren’t the best at vocalising their abilities or commercialising them and forming a team with really strong tech people”.

“I think what was unique about me and us at the time, was that we were able to commercialise it. It’s something I would always say that the Irish, for whatever reason, we’re accepted, like American Express, in every country; we’re just universally accepted and that is an inherent cultural advantage we have.”

“My company, everywhere we’ve been, we’ve always seemed to capitalise on that.”

A fascinating character, in an excellent interview with Nick Webb, Bobby also spoke about being held at gunpoint in Mexico, losing millions after 9/11 and being dressed up as Willy Wonka while Northern Irish rockers Ash, performed in his back garden.

Lessons from the AIB for Your Business

Noel Davidson is the lead trainer with the Entrepreneurs Academy and the AIB Start-up Academy Bootcamp – our new nationwide initiative that aims to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to make their business a success. Taking place in 19 locations across the country, each Bootcamp is a comprehensive half-day workshop designed specifically for people for people who are in the first few years of their business – covering everything from market research to networking, sales and finances. We spoke to Noel to get some practical lessons for business owners direct from the Bootcamp programme.

1. Take Time Out

Taking time out from your business is a theme that Noel returns to again and again. In fact, he sees it as the most important lesson of each Bootcamp. “For many people when they start up a business, it just becomes a job that they work on day-to-day and that they’re essentially stuck in,” he explains. “Our theory is that you shouldn’t see it just as a job. Instead, you should be aiming to build a business – work on the business rather than get stuck working in the business.”

 

2. Leverage LinkedIn

Noel is a staunch advocate of the power of the wisdom of crowds, and points to LinkedIn as an essential tool for business research. “The power of recommendation is huge,” he says. “If a business contact is recommended to you, you can look them up on LinkedIn and see the contacts you have in common. Which means you can research them before you do business with them.”

 

3. The Power of Search

Another everyday tool that can have immediate benefits for business owners is Google. It’s something that everyone is familiar with but Noel believes isn’t used to its full potential. “We’re all used to using Google every day,” he says. “But when we type something into Google, we often ignore the bottom of the page that shows you related searches. So, if you type in your business area or type, you’re going to see other things that people have been searching around that topic. Not only can that tell you what people want from your product – it can tell you whether they want it at all.”

 

4. Network, Network, Network

One of the major benefits of the Bootcamp is getting the opportunity to talk to and learn from other business owners. But even if you’re not attending, Noel believes that you should still work on your networking when you can. “Setting up a business and running a business is a very lonely role,” he says. “Which is why it’s so important to talk to other business owners. You’ll be able to share learnings and, more importantly, contacts. If you have a hurdle you want to cross and somebody else at a different stage in their journey has crossed it already, their help can be invaluable.”