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Gaining Business Loyalty From The Elusive Millennial

Posted by Rachida Essadiq on Feb 23, 2015 5:11:00 PM

8424407891_2a321c6345_mMuch has been written about the need to find marketing strategies to the rising spending power of the elusive Millennial (ME) generation. Born from roughly 1982-2004 and representing $10 trillion in generation spending, they are increasingly having a bigger role to play as consumers. They are also redefining marketing trends, one of the biggest being their seemingly nonexistent brand loyalty. There is hope, however. Many brands from Chipotle to the Dollar Shave Club are successfully creating brand loyalty among this elusive generation. Here are some quick tips on how to keep this generation coming back for more.

Not No loyalty. Co-loyalty

Yes, MEs do trade up and trade down. Remember, they grew up in a world where the Internet and globalization have opened plenty of options of where to get a product. Don’t think this means that MEs have no brand loyalty. This new generation simply has new rules. 34% of Generation Y have a bachelor’s degree or higher, up 10% from boomers, according to Pew. Combine that with technology and tough economic times and you get a new mix.

So what do they want? According to Jeff Fromm, a Millennial Marketing expert, Millenials want to be an active participant in the brand. Loyalty comes from the uniqueness of the content and the willingness to let customers “co-create” the brand with the company. Companies that “create meaningful and unique interactions will be the most successful with Millennials,” says Fromm.

Transparency

It’s a major turn off for Millenials when a company seems like they are hiding information to sell a product. Not only is it insulting to their ability to research, it makes them doubt the reliability of the brand.

The easiest way to counteract this is to embrace the wide array of Internet ready information. Use it to your advantage and let customers rate products, comment, and share messages from the brand on their own terms. Be willing to share how you run your business and create products. Advertise your corporate social responsibility efforts as frequently as possible. Millennials like companies that mirror their own values, and showing how your company is part of the community- at events, on social media, or on your website- is a big plus.

Make Your Website Easy to Navigate

Before you embrace the Internet, of course, having a great website is a must. This may seem like an obvious tip, but this is usually a MEs first real interaction with a company. A big mistake would be to assume that just because members of this generation are digital natives, they can figure out any website. In fact, the opposite is true. “Millennials expect technology to just work, so make sure it does,” points out Micah Solomon, a customer service consultant for various generations. To Millennials, the website represents the effort the company is willing to put into their image, as well as how it will treat its customers. Don’t turn them off because it is not as polished, sleek, and simple as possible.

Understand that Generation Y may be changing some of the rules, perhaps for the better. Make sure your brand is interactive and open. Have a great web presence to facilitate co-creation and shareable content… and you may find the Millennial dilemma may not seem so bad after all.

About The Author
Jordan_HooverJordan Hoover is a Dallas native returned home. He graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University. He of course loves writing, reading, playing music, and learning new things everyday. Connect with him over LinkedIn, at www.linkedin.com/in/jordanhoover

Top photo courtesy of Francisco Osorio @ Fllickr CC

Being a Good Boss

Posted by Jackie Clews on Feb 17, 2015 11:21:00 AM

It’s safe to say we’ve all had that one boss, the one that makes you question the decision-making skills of authority figures everywhere, the one whose arrogance is only topped by his/her need to be unquestioned and respected—and the one whose actions set all the wrong examples.

So how do you avoid becoming that person? 

boss-and-leaderFewer of us have ever encountered truly good bosses, though most have probably had at least one or two good experiences. And the good ones—the truly awe-inspiring individuals that few of us have ever encountered—make it look so darn easy. But in reality, it’s a lot harder than you might think to consistently inspire respect and loyalty. We all say that one day, when we’re the boss, things will be different- right? But how do you actually make that happen?

Below are some useful tips on how to become the boss you’ve always wanted to be.

  1. Be a leader, not a boss. In reality, a boss and a leader are fairly synonymous but the words have different connotations—and that difference is an unmistakably important nuance: choice vs. force. A boss is an overlord, a dictator—someone who owns you or your time for a while and seeks to enforce a certain reality upon you. In contrast, a leader is someone whose choices and mandates you trust. Maybe you’re there because you have to be—we are all slaves to our paychecks to some extent—but the forerunning thought in your brain about a leader is that you can trust him or her to make good decisions, to lead by example, and to have your best interests at heart.
  2. Show, don’t tell. This phrase is well-known to writers, but managers, bosses, and leaders everywhere can learn a few lessons from the concept. It’s easy to tell people what you plan to do, to make big, grand speeches about a vision or a path, to attempt to inspire with presentation and gusto, but those will only take you so far. Yes, it’s important to speak and communicate effectively—for a boss, it’s essential—but actions speak best. So yes, outline your plans, but keep it brief and simple. Less is more. Observe more than you critique, ask more than you tell, and do more than you expect others to do. These are the actions of a leader who is worth following.
  3. Know your employees and their jobs. A recent study completed by researchers from three different universities found that employee satisfaction actually quadrupled when their direct boss could actually do their jobs if needed. The concept doesn’t seem all that far-fetched—shouldn’t the person critiquing and gauging your performance understand all the factors of your work intimately? Reality, however, shows that, especially with larger companies, managers often don’t know all the details of how their employees complete their work. In this case, take the time to ask. Even if it means humbling yourself down to spending a few days or a few weeks learning from each of your employees, the interaction will both improve your knowledge of the work they do, how they do it, and what skills they can offer, but also of who they are and what their needs might be. The experience will be both challenging and rewarding, for newer and more experienced managers alike.

By making these tips the principles of your foundation as a leader, you will create a work environment that is open, respectful, and positive. After all, respect must be earned and it is a two-way street. Bosses who do not respect and value their employees will always have a hard time keeping the good ones.

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AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

boss_header

Tags: small business, leadership, management

Credit Card Factoring is Money Laundering

Posted by Jackie Clews on Feb 10, 2015 10:26:00 AM

big court roomAccepting credit cards is smart for any business in this era; however it is important to know and follow all of the card industry rules and Federal and State laws that govern card acceptance. While the common belief among society is that money laundering is only the worst thieves moving ill-gotten funds around within the criminal underworld, there is a little known activity within money laundering called credit card factoring that can cause big problems for merchants that accept credit cards.

Below is a description of credit card factoring, how to avoid it, and some of the problems that will occur if you’re not diligent in educating your staff on how to prevent it.

What is credit card factoring?

Any credit card transaction that is processed by a different merchant than the actual merchant selling the product/service or any transaction that uses a different merchant account not directly affiliated with the business can be considered credit card factoring.

The transaction can be as simple as a business using the next-door neighbor’s credit card terminal to process a single transaction because they don’t take credit cards or their terminal is down but more commonly it is a complex series of transactions within a scam.

For example, a fraudulent telemarketer will recruit a business owner or unsuspecting employee of a business that does possess a merchant account to process transactions for them. The customer’s account is charged for the goods or service and the business who will become the victim gives the proceeds of the sale to the telemarketer. However, when the customer contests the charge on their statement as a chargeback because they didn’t buy anything from the victim, the bank will have to refund the money to the customer and processes the chargeback against the merchant account. It becomes the responsibility of the victimized business to go after the telemarketer for the lost funds. Unfortunately, the telemarketer is long gone with the money and the business owner is out of luck.

“In many cases, these companies need other merchants to process their credit card transactions because investigations and credit checks by banks and/or credit card companies revealed that these companies are bad risks and may end up having excessive charge-backs,” wrote Cheryl Linkloff in an inc.com article on credit card laundering.

How do you avoid it?

The simplest way to avoid factoring is to refuse to process any credit cards for another company—at all. This includes your neighboring store whose credit card machine is down. It may seem strict but there are serious liability issues involved and once you’ve processed a charge on your merchant account, you are legally liable to back up that charge and respond to any bank inquiries about potential chargebacks. If the banks find that you are not the actual originator of the sale, you could be in trouble.

But knowing this information and keeping it to yourself also does little good. Effective training on card processing practices and the consequences of ignoring the rules must be impressed upon any employee who processes transactions. While the issue might not come up regularly, you never know when someone who is ill-informed is asked to make this one exception, just this one time.

The Consequences

Financial liability for any losses associated with the transaction is the first, most minor, concern. Your business, as the merchant who processed the charge, would be responsible for the cost if the customer reports the charge as fraud. When it’s your own store and product, that’s one thing, but vouching for and guaranteeing the charges of another merchant is not wise.

More importantly, though, credit card factoring is considered fraud/money laundering and is a class C felony. Criminal prosecution stands as the biggest risk, but businesses might also lose the ability to work through a third party merchant for credit card processing, which can also result in serious financial losses. While criminal prosecution is mostly reserved for obvious criminal intent, small mistakes can also hurt your business because outside merchants will not want to take the risk of becoming involved in a criminal prosecution.

Bottom line: educate your employees and ensure that they are reminded regularly of the risks associated with accepting fraudulent cards or processing payments for others. Your customers will thank you for it.

Download Security Tip Sheet

AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: credit card, factoring, money laundering

Does Your Business Have a Social Media Policy?

Posted by Jackie Clews on Feb 4, 2015 11:13:00 AM

describe the imageIf not, perhaps it should? What just a few years ago seemed like a novelty for most businesses, social media interaction is becoming a necessary part of a solid marketing or public relations strategy in today’s world. But as much as social media can make a business, it can also break one.

With the recent “off-color” posts of a Crayola Facebook page hacker and the suggested hacking of several social media accounts belonging to the United States Military’s Central Command, we got to thinking how critical social media conduct can be to a business or organization.

So why is it SO important to have a social media policy in place?

Protect Confidential Company and Customer Information
There is nothing worse than having a cranky employee go on a social media tirade and expose confidential information about your company or customers. Establishing policies outlining the consequences for exposure of sensitive company information sets the tone that makes employees think twice before impulsively posting on social media.

Set Expectations for Social Media Responsibilities
A well written social media policy will clarify who is responsible for managing the different aspects of company social media platforms including passwords, security, design, content and special campaigns.

Determine Appropriate Social Media Behavior
Many employees, openly advertising their employers online, need guidance in proper social media conduct. It should be made distinctly clear that if an employee is affiliated with your business online, their profile is reflective of company principles and values.

Clarify the Definition of Social Media
Contrary to popular belief, social media is more than Twitter and Instagram. Social Media encompasses everything from blogs to online forums to Youtube comments. Articulating all of these avenues specifically can help employees understand the total realm of their responsibilities.

Educate Employees on Company Culture and Voice
For those employees managing social media profiles and campaigns, a social media policy can act as a reference point to educate them on company culture. Giving them a sound understanding of the company’s tone and values will help them to get that voice across in their online interactions.

Prepare for Unfortunate Circumstances
A social media policy is a great way to set ground rules for how to respond to a hacked account, a bad review, trolls or other social media “crises”. Without establishing these rules in advance, employees could take unguided actions that make a bad situation worse.

Social Media is meant to be an asset for businesses. A unique avenue for marketing a business and interacting with customers, it can quickly turn to a liability if mismanaged. If your business has established social media accounts, without policies in place – Do yourself a favor and take the time to get one together. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Download Security Tip Sheet

29fd9a91About the Author - Rachida Essadiq, Director of Marketing at NTC Texas is a successful five year marketing veteran, running events and campaigns for large to  small enterprises and non-profits.  She specializes in blogging, social media, branding/ identity and search engine optimization, striving to provide NTC Texas customers and fans with entertaining and valuable educational resources to find success in all areas of their businesses.

Tags: social media policy

Signs of Fraud Every Business Should Know

Posted by Jackie Clews on Jan 28, 2015 10:44:00 AM

fraud alertActs of Fraud come in many forms and the warning signs are not always clear. Being able to recognize these signs could save any business a lot of trouble and money. Whether the threat might be internal or external, each type has its own specific indicators. Failure to detect the warning signs can lead to legal and financial nightmares for business owners.

One type of External fraud, where a customer tries to use a fraudulent form of payment, might be the easiest form to recognize, but a watchful eye is necessary to catch it before the damage is done. Unfortunately, stolen credit cards—the most common form of external fraud—are fairly common and with online ordering, recognizing that there is a problem is harder than ever.

Here are a few things to look for, both with face-to-face sales and through online ordering, to make sure your business isn’t being duped.

For in-store purchases, double-check customers who:

• Ask questions about credit limits or the authorization process
• Attempt to distract or hurry the clerk (asking lots of questions, making purchase right at store closing time, talking continuously, etc.)
• Purchase high-cost items and either do not ask questions or refuse delivery even if it is free (for large items)
• Ask to see the card again before signing the receipt
• Do not have a driver’s license for whatever reason
• Request to ship outside of the U.S.
• Recite the card number from memory rather than presenting the card itself

For online purchases, look for anything out of the ordinary, such as:

• Unusually large transactions
• Several purchases in a row, especially if they are odd or unusual
• Gibberish names or strange-looking email addresses
• Shipping addresses do not match the billing address, especially drastic differences such as a shipping address to another country
• A phone number that does not match customer records or a returned email

In these cases, the best option is to use good judgment and check carefully to ensure that the customers you’re serving are truly who they say they are. For return customers or online customers, make phone calls just to check.

Internal fraud, on the other hand, is a much trickier matter. In these cases, an internal member of the business, usually a high level employee, steals funds in some form. Recognizing the presence of internal theft is mostly a matter of understanding the nature of those who would commit fraud and keeping eye out for red flags.

Three elements are always present when an employee turns to internal fraud:

• Opportunity—access and ability to get away with the theft
• Pressure—a present need for money, sense of entitlement, or any number of other factors
• Rationalization—a way to reconcile his/her actions with commonly accepted notions of decency and trust (“I really need this money, so I’ll pay it back when I get my paycheck”)

Often, the lack of the first, opportunity, would remove the possibility of fraud altogether. However, people are tricky so it’s not a guarantee, but here are some ways that you can prevent the presence of opportunity and lessen the likelihood that your business will fall prey to internal fraud:

• Strengthen internal controls (supervision and review processes, separation of duties, management approval, etc.)
• Be aware of the employees who do have access and opportunity—know them and their pressures and triggers, and take the time to be aware of any financial strains
• Pay attention to employee interactions—collusion between one or more employees is often a contributing factor in internal fraud
• Watch inventory and personally review purchasing from time to time to ensure sales and products sold do match—random spot-checks keep everyone wary
• Set cameras if you can or invest in software that will carefully monitor purchasing and limit regular employee access—there are some creative ways to trick the system and the less access, the fewer options to make that happen

Certainly, there is no foolproof way to completely escape the impact from theft. However, you can limit it by being aware, present, and involved. Most importantly, businesses should recognize the possibility and likelihood that they will face some kind of fraud and train employees accordingly, as well as have a system in place for handling any situations that arise. If you can’t prevent it outright, then at least be prepared for handling it in order to minimize loss to your company.

Download Security Tip Sheet

AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: credit card fraud, Fraud Prevention, fraud

The Pros and Cons of being a Cash-Only Business

Posted by Jackie Clews on Jan 20, 2015 11:04:00 AM

cashRunning a business is hard. Some business owners across the U.S. have been tempted to keep it as simple as possible by accepting cash only in exchange for merchandise or services. However, that up-front ease is deceptive, and it could be holding your business back from future success and expansion. On the other hand, every business is different and what is good for one business may not be good for another. Consider the following pros and cons of only accepting cash, so you can make the best decision on how to operate your business:

Pros

• Cash means immediate payment and value, so the extra step of waiting for transactions to process is removed entirely from the equation.
• Transaction fees and third parties are also eliminated. You will have cash in hand immediately so no middle men or additional processing is required.
• The chances of fraud or reversed bank transactions are vastly reduced. Counterfeit cash may occasionally come your way, but the possibility is less and less common with electronic theft offering a greater draw for high-level thieves.
• Keeping track of incoming and outgoing funds is also easier if funds are coming in through one channel. Tallying amounts from online payments, card payments, mobile payments, checks, and/or any other forms of payment (Applepay, Paypal, etc.) on top of cash payments, along with the potential for reversed transactions and fraud, can make for challenging bookkeeping and, especially, taxes. Cash only tends to simplify this quite a lot.

Cons

• Considering that about two-thirds of transactions in 2012 were conducted via payment card (debit, credit, etc.) -- that number continues to increase -- the biggest loss to your business if you choose to only accept cash: money. In fact, consumers estimate that 15 million businesses who only accept cash are missing out on $100 billion in sales annually.
• The average amount a consumer will spend on a transaction via card payment vs. cash payment is also a big difference. According to a CNBC article, consumers will, on average, spend up to 120 percent more through card transactions than through cash transactions. So, maybe a small sale is possible, but big ticket items are much harder to sell in a cash only business.
• Today, how many people do you know who even have cash all the time? You may have to turn potential buyers away, which is always disappointing.
• You may miss out on multi-channel marketing opportunities, such as mobile payments, online sales, etc. Yes, it’s a huge hassle to keep track of all those different forms of payment, but if more money is coming in, isn’t it worth it?
• Keeping track of large sums of money on a daily basis—and making sure you have trustworthy employees—can also be a challenge. The lack of a paper trail can make it hard to track your funds and the large amount of on-site cash may require additional hassles to make sure it’s kept safe.
• Tracking sales, keeping records, and understanding your customer base will take more time and more energy from you. While the technology required to process card payments can be obnoxious and expensive, it also has a lot of built-in goodies—if you choose well—that can help your business grow much more quickly than the old-fashioned manual way.

If your business is truly tiny, you may want to wait to invest in some of the higher-end technologies available. At the same time, a small business can grow much more quickly with all the advantages that technology, card payments systems, online marketing, etc. can provide. It may be tempting to stick to old, simple methods, but risk is a big part of business—and some risks are just worth taking.

Tax Tips for Businesses

AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: Credit Card Processing, cash business, tracking payments

Research Shows POS Systems Enrich Customer Experience

Posted by Jackie Clews on Jan 13, 2015 8:23:00 AM

talech posToday, good business begins and ends with the customer. For that reason, creating a rewarding and efficient consumer experience is vital. Depending on size, as well as products or services, every business approaches this goal differently. Some use pretty window displays and cushy or posh storefronts, while others provide special events or special sales. Still others accomplish this goal through ease-of-use and the creation of a seamless purchasing experience—which businesses like Amazon, among others, have proven very effective for attracting and retaining customers.

Improved technology such as Point of Sale (POS) software could strongly assist with enriching the customer experience, and, according to a recent study from the POS tech consultancy, Software Advice, small business-owners, in particular, are pushing for greater functionality of POS systems to help provide customers with an experience they’ll return to again and again.

The study, based on a random sample of 385 interactions from 2013 to 2014, evaluated various aspects of business owner (software buyer) preferences. It should be noted that those involved in this study specifically contacted Software Advice regarding potential software purchases. The sample largely covered smaller businesses, most operating only one store location, however, the findings were very informative of the average small business owner’s preferences for a POS system and potential reasons why many businesses have not yet adopted one.

A POS system, if well-developed and capable of being adapted to the business’s specific needs, can offer several benefits, such as: 

  • Processing multiple types of payments securely
  • Collecting information on customer interests, demographics, and purchase history
  • Engaging customers through loyalty programs
  • Driving sales through both online and offline methods
  • Integrating online commerce with in-store sales
  • Tracking inventory and predicting buyer demands

The study found that while 37 percent of businesses polled currently used POS software, another 31 percent still used old cash register or accounting software systems such as Quickbooks. Another 27 percent had no specific method at all, though 90 percent of these cases were due to the business being new and not yet fully launched.

Out of the entire group, 49 percent of participants sought a POS system that could offer functionality based around the customer. The most desired functions were accurate inventory management (to avoid confusion about whether or not an item might be in stock or not and to meet customer demand), customer relationship management (CRM--knowing the customers and stocking what they need), ecommerce integration (seamless melding of online and face-to-face purchasing for ease-of-use and interaction), and customer loyalty programs.

As Janna Finch, Market Research Associate at Software Advice, wrote in a summary of the study’s findings, “Retailers are clearly aware of the importance of being where their customers are and optimizing their interactions at touch points on multiple channels—and they’re searching for software to help.”

Using multiple channels, known as an “omni-channel” approach, has proven difficult for many smaller companies. Through this method, customers can purchase through website, face-to-face, phone apps, etc. with ease. However, sometimes businesses find it difficult to accomplish the seamless functionality that is so greatly desired because matching the technology to their needs has been difficult. The more specialized the merchant, the more specialized their needs.

While finding the perfect POS system may be elusive for many specialized retailers, a system that helps track customer wants and needs and assists in improving the customer experience is still highly desirable, especially for a small businesses. As Finch stated, “Retailers are adapting to the ‘consumerization of retail’ trend . . .[and] nearly half are looking for software with customer-centric functionality—including CRM and loyalty programs—to manage interactions and give their customers the experiences they expect.”

While an effective POS system isn’t the only tool available to optimize customer interactions, it can be a valuable resource for many small businesses, as indicated by the nearly 400 participants in this study who were all seeking information about POS system options.

Furthermore, with studies such as the one completed by Software Advice, now that buyer preferences have been honed and targeted, the functionality of POS systems promises to improve with time and development. It will be fascinating—and hopefully beneficial—to see what POS systems developers do with this information and what improvements they can provide for both customers and business owners.

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AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: pos, point of sale, software advice, inventory management

5 Ways to Prepare for the Shift to EMV in 2015

Posted by Jackie Clews on Jan 6, 2015 3:30:00 PM

credit card with chipThe threat of virtual theft is real. We’ve all heard of it. You may even know someone who has experienced identity theft or a stolen credit card number—it may have already happened to you. But there is a solution the major credit card companies have been pushing for a few years to protect personal payment information: EMV chip and pin.

Many business owners or general members of the financial community may already be familiar with the concept, as Europe has used the system for some time. In fact, the term “EMV” is actually an acronym for Europay International, MasterCard, and Visa.

That being the case, consumers might wonder why the system wasn’t adopted in America sooner, but the answer is the same as usual: money. The hardware and software requirements for the system would need full updates across the board, making the change somewhat expensive and time-consuming on the front end.

This year, however, the choice is being pushed much harder for American merchants, as the major credit card companies involved have announced a “liability shift” that will occur in October of 2015, making any breaches from that point forward the responsibility of the business if EMV technology was not used in the transaction. For obvious reasons, American businesses need to embrace the change. Below are five ways to ensure your business is fully prepared for the EMV shift.

Know the requirements. Both the business and the POS providers need to understand the major points of what the change means. EMV-accepting terminals need to support both contact and contactless acceptance and software updates that allow for transmission of the different data elements to be included. A more complete understanding of these requirements can be found here.

Hardware and software. As mentioned above, the cost for updating both software and hardware can be a bit steep if businesses are not prepared for it. Most should have already included the costs in their budgets, but if your business has not yet planned for this change, start now. The liability obligation that would fall to you after October 2015 would be more costly by far than the up-front change. Additionally, the security the changes provide is worth the cost.

Read up on incentives. Visa and MasterCard have been trying to draw merchants into the shift for a while, most heavily since 2012 when they started offering certain incentives for upgrading sooner rather than later. As soon as your EMV-processing terminals are active and software is up-to-date, you can benefit, and not just from the increased security. Read up on all the changes and benefits for upgrading to determine if complying earlier rather than later might be good for you.

Stay informed. The shift to EMV has been in the works for a while, so most of the kinks have been worked out of much of the system, but keep informed about changes to requirements and technology as much as possible. At least make sure your POS provider is current. This does not mean that you need to memorize every piece of legislation or publication about the matter, but make sure you have feelers out for the highlights. Sometimes the smallest things can have the greatest impact.

Own it and expand. While it’s true that the cost might be hard to manage up front, the opportunity inherent in the change should not go unnoticed. Many merchants have been using outdated technology for some time, smaller businesses more so than larger ones. Look at this change as a chance to upgrade your systems so that they run more smoothly and efficiently than ever before. You might be able to wrap a few more benefits into the shift than just those offered by the credit card companies, such as software than can save you time and money as well as handle EMV transactions.

For the sake of customer protection and satisfaction, the upgrade to EMV technology appears to be a necessary one, especially considering all the breaches within the last few years using the outdated technology. If seen as an opportunity for growth, this change could mean great things for businesses both small and large, as long as they are prepared and knowledgeable about their options.

Download Security Tip Sheet

AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: data security, EMV, Chip and PIN, data breaches

Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Loyalty Programs

Posted by Jackie Clews on Dec 23, 2014 8:49:00 AM

coffee barEstablishing a loyal customer base is no simple matter. Most customers are much like five-year-olds in their purchasing preferences: they want what they want and they want it now. Interestingly, some retailers have found ways to latch onto this, giving customers the ease of purchasing and other benefits they want while profiting from it—a quid pro quo relationship that can build up profits quickly and easily. And when consumers find the company that offers them that perfect purchasing niche, they will return again and again. This inclination, combined with a few incentives and benefits, can create loyal customers who will be more likely to purchase from your business first and foremost, every single time.

Below are a few Do’s and Don’ts to remember when establishing your Customer Loyalty Program.

Do Know Your Customer’s Needs. Whether your business is a small boutique or a larger chain retailer, or even a service-based business, an effective program for customer loyalty must offer incentives that will specifically benefit your customers and encourage them to return, whether that means tailoring the benefits to each customer’s needs, offering a small range of options in benefits depending on customer preferences, or offering a broad type of benefit that all customers would enjoy.

For instance, grocery retailers who offer coupons that are tailored to the customer purchases see a 10-20 percent redemption of those coupons, compared to a 1 percent redemption on generic coupons. For more broad-based programs, look at Amazon.com Prime members, who receive free two-day shipping on most orders (those specifically through Amazon or specially selected Amazon retailers), among other benefits. Prime members pay a yearly fee for this service, but it’s effective in seeing them return and the fee is low enough to be reasonable. Another broad-benefit Customer Loyalty Program is a grocery store’s deal with a gasoline station. For certain purchases that are marked throughout the store and based on a percentage of the total amount spent, the grocery store card holders receive a discount on gas purchases—something everyone could use in this economy.

Don’t Overcomplicate It. If customers can’t directly see or feel the benefit, then the program is ineffective. Additionally, if calculating percentages and loopholes and adding up special circumstances is too complicated, then it’s also going to cost you more time and devalue the experience for the customer. An effective Customer Loyalty Program is simple and direct, and it provides value to the customer. Keep in mind, your program doesn’t have to be based on percentages of money back, for instance, which can cut into profit margins. You can be creative. A special discount or gift after a certain number of purchases, a special shipping program as with Amazon (a lot of people order online these days and this would be a smart way to compete with this specific company if you’re a retail store), or even an invitation to special events just for loyal customers.

Do Make Sure You Can Sustain It. While rewarding your customers with a money back incentive may seem like the easiest way to go, you have to be careful that the program doesn’t build-up and backfire by cutting into your profits. As I said, it’s not always money back or even direct money incentives that will most benefit your customers. Many restaurants, for instance, use a card stamping or punching system so that a patron will receive a free meal or a free drink after so many purchases. In this way, customers have to bring in so much profit before a benefit can be received, instead of immediate rewards.

One rule to live by: the loyal customer should have some kind of reward at least once every 12 visits. So, if you intend to offer a gift, make sure it’s one that is both valuable and whose cost would be covered by 12 purchase visits on average from a regular customer. The key is to make your customer feel special and rewarded for continuing to frequent your business.

A couple of final notes for any effective Customer Loyalty Program are: following up, reminding your customers of their benefits, and monitoring the effectiveness of your program. Once your customers sign up, you can’t just forget about them and expect them to remember. This goes back to making them feel valued: set up a regular email schedule with benefit reminders or with sales exclusives so that they remember how much they love your business. With that, you should also monitor these return customers to better understand how much profit might be resulting from their repeat visits. You can always tweak your program to be more effective, and you can and should ask for customer feedback on what they would like as benefits or rewards for their continued business.

While establishing customer loyalty is not easy, it’s worth the time. Not only will you increase profits through repeat business, but these customers become an invaluable marketing tool. They are your ambassadors to the world, singing your praises to others with purchasing power. If you treat them with the respect that role deserves, you will not be sorry.

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AshleyAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

Tags: customer loyalty, ncr silver, return on visit

What to Look for in a Photographer

Posted by Jackie Clews on Dec 16, 2014 3:58:00 PM

Watch to hear our interview with Winn Fuqua, owner of Fuqua Photography, about what to look for in a photographer besides quality of photos.

About Photographer Winn Fuqua (03:23)
What Makes Winn's Business Different (01:49)

Mobile POS Guide

About the Author

Jackie ClewsAt NTC Texas, Jackie Clews works with the team on content marketing strategies, campaign execution, and analysis. She also hosts the NTC Texas All Star Experts video series and is a Co-Founder of Digital Marketing Direction, a digital marketing agency. As a Dallas native, she has a weird obsession with finding and discussing the best BBQ and salsa. You can talk marketing (or food!) with her on Twitter @JackieClews.

Tags: event photographer, corporate photographer

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