Monday, July 13, 2020

Customer service and its importance

As someone that deals with customers for my business I understand the importance of good customer service and also quick responses.  If you are dealing with customers via the web you need to try and ensure that you can provide a fairly quick response time.  The better experience someone has with you the move changes you have of getting a repeat customer. 

Recently I had an experience with one business where I started to talk with them about a purchase and everything seemed to be doing well until all of a sudden the communication stopped and even after sending additional emails and a phone call I got no response.  As this was a purchase that I wanted to get completed I decided to try another contact with a competing business.  Well, the good news is the communication with the second business was wonderful and within a few hours I had all the information I required and I also had made the purchase.  Getting a quick response made me feel that I was valued by them and that they were available to assist me.

Customer service is a way to make or break a business and understanding how keeping customers happy is very important.  It ends up through this experience that I will be trying to make more purchases through the second contact as they have been available to assist quickly.  I understand that everyone is busy trying to make sales and help everyone but if it takes you three days and I still haven’t got a reply I think that shows me know that I might need to check another spot for the purchase.  If you are away and are unable to reply to a person it is a good idea to ensure that you have your out of office notification on.

Customer service from a single-person shop to a major retailer has to understand that one bad experience can affect recommendations to others.  If you are looking for a successful business know that assisting your customers or even future customers can help or hinder your overall success.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Rules of the road and socail distancing

Social distancing not working
As a lot of the world, we are still dealing with COVID-19 and all of the restrictions that are being put in place.  One of the biggest things is the idea of social distancing and staying 6 feet apart (2 meters) from others when you are standing in lines etc.  Well, in this picture you can sure see that people aren't standing the distance apart and most of them don't have face masks on either.  I understand that they are outside but it is still recommended to wear a mask if you can't social distance.

Another issue with this situation is that the van which is selling fruit and veggies is parking in a bike lane.  Just in front of the van is a no stopping sign that seems to be ignored on a regular basis by these vendors.  Also in the bike lane is another vehicle that is parked and the person is standing in line to purchase things.

For us, it is very frustrating to see these vehicles stopped in the bike lane because these lanes were put in our neighbourhood to promote biking.  Now with these vehicles stopped it means that the cyclists are forced out into the live lanes of traffic instead of in their designated lane.

I have continued to report these vehicles and it just doesn't seem to help at all.  If we were to stop in one of these lanes we would probably be the ones that got the ticket. I understand that people want to purchase things but either find a safe spot to park this vehicle or go to the store and get the stuff.

Social distancing rules have been put in place for the safety of everyone and I hate seeing so many people think that these rules don't apply to them.  So please when you are out and about remember that we all want to get back to doing the things that we enjoy doing and the only way to do that is to wear a mask and social distance.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Working from home, is it really that bad?

I can answer that question very quickly for me, and I would say no, it isn’t bad working from home.  With our business, we work most of the time remotely, so working from home is something that we usually do. 

What is interesting about this time when everyone is working at home is understanding that we can’t go out to a coffee shop or another place for a break.  For us, a coffee shop for a treat when we wanted to have a break from sitting at home and doing the things that we had to do.  We would take our computers or paper with us and do the things that we needed to do. The routine of getting up at the same time and trying to get to our desk has remained the same currently.  I am not sure how things are going to change if this self-isolation/stay at home continues for quite a while.

For people that haven’t worked from home, I think this would be a challenging time.  It does mean that you are juggling a few extra things while also trying to get work done.  If you have children, it would be more of a challenge to work remotely as you also need to keep them entertained as they aren’t seeing their friends currently. 

Here are some points that I see can be both a benefit and a disadvantage of working from home:
1)     No co-workers wanting to talk about non-work related things.  This is offset by the family being around and wanting to talk when you are trying to work.
2)     Commute time doesn’t exist.  It can be a nice advantage not having to go to the office, but it means that work is always close by and you don’t get that time to yourself on your commute.
3)     I can get more things done at home.  This is something that I can see could happen if you don’t have children, or you can close a door for a bit of time to get work done.  Being able to get the things done quickly is excellent as you don’t have the usual distractions of everyone around you when you are in the office.
4)     Meals can be easier to prepare.  Lunch is something that becomes easier to make when you are at home, but you also need the discipline of getting back to work after you have taken the time to have lunch.
5)     Distractions can get frustrating.  When you are in the office, you can forget about the things that need to be done around the house.  When you are working from home, you can see the items you want to get done, and it can be difficult.
6)     Quality family time.  This is something that can be nice because you don’t have the extra commute time to get too and from the office.  It does mean that the commute time can either spent getting tasks done around the house, or you can spend that time with family and do the jobs when you would typically do them.

Working from home can be difficult, depending on your job.  There are going to be jobs that cannot be done at home, so there is no choice but to go into the office. Working remotely isn’t going to work for everyone, even if you have the opportunity.  Working remotely can be a challenge during this time when we can’t go out and see people for a break, but at least we know that we should get back to our regular routine at some point.  Until then, I am going to figure out ways to get things done well, also making sure that I can take care of myself.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

October conferences

People ask when all the conferences seem to be for the IT industry, and I can answer that by saying that October here in Toronto is a busy month for IT shows and conferences.

In October, there were two IT conferences/shows that we attended, and they were SecTor and iTech Downtown.  SecTor is a multiday conference with sessions, and an expo floor and iTech is a one day show with some vendors and a few sessions.  Both of these conferences/shows are entirely different, and the cost is just one of the factors.

SecTor is an IT security conference with multiple high-level sessions that are happening over two days.  The sessions are done by experts in the field, and each person must submit a paper before they are even considered to do a session.  Yes, there are vendor sessions, but those are the extra sessions and not the core of the conference.  The expo hall is full of vendors, and it is a great location to find out about what is new and available for companies that are looking for the various IT security software and training.  The cost of this conference for the two days is around $1,800 if you don’t get the early discounts. The cost of the expo hall is $50 if you don’t have the discount code that is normally on the website.

iTech Downtown is a one day show with a few vendors and some talks.  Most of the talks are offered by the vendors, so you are looking at a more selling presentation than an informational/knowledge talk.  Yes, there are some of these talks, but not as many as at SecTor.  This show is very small, and you will get a large difference in the booths at this show from Backup solutions, telecommunication and equipment recycling.  The cost of this conference for the day, if you have to pay is $50.

Both of these conferences/shows do offer a free expo pass if you are in the industry and look for the discount code or the offers that you get via email.  We do attend both of these conferences and normally will do more sessions at SecTor than we do an iTech.  Also, with iTech, they offer a spring show in the west end of Toronto, so the sessions in the fall are quite often the same as were in the spring.

These are just two of the conferences that are available for the IT industry, and I know that there are more.  A lot of the conferences are based on a product or core area, so it depends on what you are involved in, which conferences are best for you.  Sure there are always difference conferences that you can go to and the price of attending various depending on what the conference actually offers.  There are some conferences/shows that are general IT, and then there are conferences/shows that are quite specific, so check to see what you want out of the event you attend.

If you are looking to attend IT conferences in Toronto, there will be events in the spring from March through June, and then there are the various other conferences in September through early November.  The best way to find some of these conferences is to talk to people in the industry as they will know of some of them as well as doing some research yourself. You could spend a lot of your time going to various shows/conferences, but you need to figure out what you want to learn and what is important to you.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Small Business

Definition of small business:
A privately-owned and operated business with relatively small turnover and staff numbers, typically seen as constituting part of a specific commercial or economic sector. Typically a small business employs fewer than 100 workers and has revenues of less than $25 million. 

Running a small business can have its challenges, and sometimes the biggest challenges are how we are treated by other businesses.

Recently we have been trying to set up a couple of new partnerships, and both of them seem to have their challenges.  I understand that there are some big businesses, but nowadays, most businesses are small businesses, and that needs to be understood. When dealing with the smaller businesses, individuals have to understand that you never know who you are talking to when you call.  The person answering the phone could be one of the business owners or could be a staff member.  Treat whoever answers the phone with respect and never refer to them as “the receptionist.”  One big clue that the person is not a receptionist is the greeting you get.  When we answer our phones even when we not sure who it is calling, we will state the company name and then our name.  If you know a little bit about our business, you will clue in that you have reached one of the owners.

Small businesses like dealing with other small businesses because normally we treat each other the way we want to be treated.  In several ways, we understand the challenges that small business deals with and know how we want to be treated by others.  My feeling is I want to ensure that I treat all of our clients the way I want to be treated by others. I also want to treat any vendors and possible clients in the same way because they will help build our business.  I understand that everyone can have a rough day and not always be happy, but everyone is as important as the next person.

Recently we have been dealing with one company and the person calling hasn’t been the nicest to the person answering the phone.  The person answering the phone is one of the owners of the business (me), and during one call, he was rather upset that the other person wasn’t available to immediately take his call.  Emergencies with clients happen, so even a scheduled appointment might have to be changed when you are dealing with a small business.  Now the call got rescheduled and handled, so that was ok.  Now the salesperson called again today and expected to talk to the other owner, and as I handed over the phone, I commented that “at least he was friendlier today.”  Normally I wouldn’t have said this, but after yesterday, I was frustrated with how he had treated me.  Well, it ended up he heard what I said and has now sent an apology to “the receptionist.”  I think he is going to be digging himself out of that comment for a while as I am also one of the decision-makers for the business.

The other vendor thinks it is easy to get into discussions with clients and provide them with answers in future meetings.  In most cases with small businesses, you have one chance to talk about something, and if you can’t even give them a ballpark cost, they don’t want to talk about it any longer.  I know in several cases if I am in a meeting let me know a cost (even an estimate) before I waste my time otherwise I am not interested.

Small businesses don’t have a lot of time to spend in meetings. If we are in a meeting where you are trying to sell me something, please let me know a cost (even an estimate) before I waste my time otherwise I am not interested.  A small business can be a challenge, but understand how they want to be treated and treating each person with respect can go a long way. If you are going to be calling a business to try and do business with them, do a little bit of homework first. Find out the size of the business because that could make a difference in how to approach them. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Common Etiquette in Public Places

Here is something that I have been thinking about for a while and have finally started to write this blog post about things that I have seen and things that are frustrating to me. 

Mobile device
Have you noticed that a lot of people think that using their mobile device in speaker mood in public is correct?  I have noticed that a lot of people think that listening to a phone conversation that they are having with the speaker on makes it easier for them to hear the person.  I have news for them, the person on the other end of the conversation is hearing a lot of additional noise that they don’t need to hear.  When you are using the speaker part of your phone, you are capturing all the other sounds around you as well, and nine times out of 10 the other person is having trouble hearing you until you are talking right into the mic.  When you are in public places, everyone else shouldn’t be able to hear both sides of the conversation that you are having.  If you have a challenge being able to hear the other person when you are taking a call try to use some headphones as they will help you hear the person a lot better and mobile device headphones are available with a mic included.

Video viewing
The ability to watch videos on mobile devices is a wonderful thing to a point.  Now the reason I say to a point is that people think that watching a video in restaurants, food courts or even in malls is enjoyable for everyone.  Well, I have some news for you, and that is not everyone wants to hear what you are watching and listening to.  If you want to watch videos while you are enjoying your coffee, etc. please put some headphones on so that you can enjoy it and everyone else around you can enjoy their coffee.

I love when people are using headphones to listen to their music or videos when they are in the person’s ears.  I have seen people with headphones just around their neck so that they can hear the music they want.  Now remember when the headphones are around your neck people around you can also hear the music, and they might not want to listen to what you are listening to.  Headphones are to be used over the ears.  I know on public transit there is a policy that if you are listening to music, you should only be able to hear it, but no one seems to enforce this.  I think this is a policy that transit drivers need to start enforcing so that other riders can also enjoy their trip.

Mobile devices can be very handy when you are out and about and have some time to kill.  I know that I have music, books and videos on my device all the time but I also ensure that I have my headphones on when I decide it is time to enjoy some of those sounds out in public.  My taste in music might not be someone else’s taste, and they don’t want to hear only part of the video or book, so I ensure that I am the only one that can hear what I am listening to.  When I take my phone calls, it is either holding the device up to my ear, or using my hands-free earpiece, which means I hear the conversation, but no one else does.

Mobile devices are a great thing to have but remember that your taste in music and videos is your taste and not everyone else.  When you are out in public, remember that making sure that only you can hear your stuff is important.  I am not saying don’t watch the videos or listen to your music when you are out, all I am asking is that you use some headphones so that I don’t have to listen to what you are watching or listening to.  Some common sense makes everything a little more enjoyable for everyone.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Getting a new computer

There are so many questions that need to be answered when you start to think about getting a new computer.  There are ones that seem very easy, and then there are the questions that will need to take a bit of time so here are some of the questions that I had to answer when we got my new computer:
  • What brand or brands are you looking at?
  • What screen size do you want?
  • What size hard drive or SSD would you like to have?
  • How much memory (RAM) should the computer have?
  • What operating system do you want?  Do you want personal or professional?
  • What is your budget?
  • Do you want a number pad on the keyboard
  • Which style of keyboard do you want?  Do you want the US keyboard or the Canadian Bilingual keyboard (yes there are different keyboards)?
  • Do you want a computer that becomes a tablet?
  • Do you care about the weight of the machine?
  • Are you willing to purchase a refurbished machine or do you want a brand new one?
  • How quickly do you want the machine?

Of course, everyone will have different questions that need to be answered, and these are just a few of the questions that I had to answer before we were able to pick the computer that I got. For us, we needed one that would meet the needs that I have for work as this isn’t just a computer that is only used for personal use.  Like a lot of people, my computer is both for home and work, so it needs to meet several different demands.

By starting to answer some of the questions that are listed, you will start to see the makes and models that you can start to consider.  If there is a specific brand that you want the best idea is to go to that website and see if you can customize a machine with everything that you want in a machine.  One thing that you will find is which options are available for the various models and also how much your ideal machine could cost you.

Getting a new computer does require a lot of thinking, and prices can vary depending on if you want a brand new model or are willing to have a model that is a little order.  Prices don’t vary very much from store to store  (unless you can find a sale like Boxing Day or Back to School), but models and availability can so that is something else you need to consider.  Doing your homework on which machines you are looking at and then going to some of the different stores to look at what is available can assist you in making the decision.  One of the things that are important to me is the feel of the keyboard considering all the writing that I do so that means that I need to know that the keyboard is comfortable to use.  I need the US keyboard for my typing as I am a touch typist and the enter key and shift key on the right-hand side are used quite a bit.

When all of the questions are answered, you will probably have a good idea of the computer or computers that you are comparing.  Another good thing to do is to look online and see if there are reviews done on the models that you are considering.  The reviews can also mean that you might see something that will make or break a decision before you make the purchase.

Answering the questions can take a bit of time, but at least then you will have a machine that you should be happy with.  Sure you can go and buy the first machine that you see, but it might not be what you wanted or even like once it is home so spending a bit of time thinking through all the options could help a lot.