Monthly Archives: May 2016

Business Loan Applicants Tips

When it comes to obtaining financing to start a new business, minorities are facing an uphill battle, new research shows.

Minorities seeking small business loans are treated differently than their white counterparts, despite having identical qualifications on paper, according to a new study that appears online in the Journal of Consumer Research.

“There is a general belief among Americans that we’re the land of opportunity and that anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” said study co-author Glenn Christensen, an associate professor of marketing at Brigham Young University. “It is a land of opportunity, but that opportunity is not always equally accessible.”

As part of the study, the researchers recruited three black, three Hispanic and three white small-business owners to try and secure loans. The entrepreneurs wore the same clothes, asked for identical $60,000 loans to expand identical businesses and had nearly identical backgrounds.

The study’s authors found that the minority loan seekers were given less information on loan terms, were asked more questions about their personal finances and were offered less application assistance by loan officers.

“If you are white and set out to get financing for an entrepreneurial venture, it might be a tough journey,” Christensen said. “But, generally speaking, you would experience fewer obstacles and find more help along the way than if you came from an African-American or Hispanic background.”

In the second part of the study, the researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 39 small business owners — 16 white, 13 Hispanic and 10 black — about their experiences seeking funding. They discovered that the denial, rejection and restricted access to loans for minorities led to self-questioning and diminished self-worth and self-esteem.

“While racial and ethnic minorities have made significant progress in terms of race relations over the past several decades, the harsh reality is that there still are remnants of discrimination in society,” said co-author Jerome Williams, director of the Center of Urban Entrepreneurship and Economic Development at Rutgers University. “It is appropriate to continue asking the question, ‘Is the glass half empty, or is the glass half full?’ in terms of progress being made in eradicating discrimination in the marketplace?”

The researchers said the study offers evidence that choice is not open, unrestricted and available to everyone in the United States.

“Many consumers are driven to start their own business as part of their journey for the American Dream,” said study co-author Sterling Bone, a professor of business at Utah State University. “They knock doors, and they chase after this dream, only to find that because they are a minority, their ability to lay hold of that dream for themselves and their families is frustrated.”

 

E Commerce Platform for Businesses Tips

To test e commerce software, we signed up for our own business account on several platforms. We found Shopify to be supereasy to use, and we were able to set up our account in seconds.

When you sign in to Shopify, you’ll be greeted with a simple dashboard with a side navigation menu, which makes it easy to get around and quickly get to a specific task. The dashboard home page also has shortcuts to commonly used features, so you don’t have to waste time going through each section — for instance, to add products or edit your website.

Using Shopify, you can launch your online store in three steps: add products, customize the look of your website and set up your domain. Adding products is as simple as entering details like product descriptions, pricing and options (size, color, model, etc.), and then uploading product images.

Plus, you don’t need any tech skills to build, design or edit your website. You can choose from more than 100 ready-made themes, and then just add your logo and pick colors that match your branding using a color picker. You can also customize its look and feel using menu options located in the Themes section or with HTML/CSS if you’re a more advanced user.

E-commerce features

In addition to letting you create a professional storefront, Shopify offers all the tools you need to manage and grow your e-commerce business. These includes an online shopping cart, the ability to sell on social media, reports and analytics, marketing tools and mobile access.

Shopify’s online shopping cart lets you easily accept credit card and PayPal payments, as well as automate sales to save you time. First, the service has its own payment gateway, so you don’t need to set up any third-party processors. The sales rep we spoke to said this means you can start making sales as soon as your online store launches and get paid fast into your merchant account.

Shopify also automates sales while giving customers fast, painless checkout. Products are saved into shopping carts, and when customers are ready to check out, all they have to do is choose their shipping method — preset by you or by using automatic carrier shipping rates — and enter their payment information. Everything works in the background, and orders are automatically added to the Orders section of your dashboard, so all you have to do is take care of shipping your products to the right customers.

In addition, Shopify offers all types of merchant tools to help you run and grow your online business. For instance, you can use its reports and analytics tools to measure the performance of your store and website. There’s also a search engine optimization (SEO) wizard that helps potential customers easily find your store, and individual products on Google and other search engines.

Shopify also features several marketing tools to help you find and retain customers, including the following:

  • Discount code and coupon generators
  • Custom gift cards
  • Social network integration
  • Facebook selling
  • Targeted email marketing
  • Product reviews
  • Google ads

Other benefits

One of the biggest benefits of using e-commerce software is that you can easily run your entire business without having to purchase additional solutions or worry about the back end or IT aspects of running an online store.

First, Shopify is an all-inclusive e-commerce software that provides much more than an online store and shopping cart. It also offers the following:

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) tools to help you manage customers
  • A content management system (CMS) so you can enrich your website with multimedia, additional pages and even a full-featured blog
  • Third-party integration so you can connect apps you already use

Second, the company takes care of the infrastructure and security side of your online store and website. We were told that its servers are not only fast, but also guarantee a 99.94 percent uptime, so your store is always live and accessible. In addition, upgrades are installed automatically, so you don’t have to worry about manually installing the latest features and updates.

When we asked about data accessibility and security, Shopify confirmed that the company automatically performs daily backups of all data — which includes product information and inventory, orders and customer information — in its secure servers. Shopify also keeps your business’s and customers’ information safe with 24/7 monitoring, Level-1 Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance for secure credit card processing, and 256-bit SSL certificate for data protection.

Is Small Businesse Need a Customer Service

TeleDirect offers nearly every service you could expect from a call center. TeleDirect’s inbound services include reliable customer support, order processing, media support, tech support, reservation services and help desk services. The outbound services are equally robust, including lead generation, customer retention efforts, market research, appointment setting, telemarketing, follow-up calls and survey conducting. A unique feature of TeleDirect’s outbound services is cold-calling, which helps to forge new customer relationships and expand your base; most other services do not perform cold-calling in addition to their other outbound functions. This slate of services made TeleDirect one of the most comprehensive call center service we reviewed.

24/7 availability

TeleDirect is available 24/7/365, providing a constant destination for your customers’ phone calls, regardless of your business hours or time zone. Not only is constant availability a boon for cementing customer relationships, but it also means a representative will always be available on holidays and weekends.

Our customer-service experience with TeleDirect was satisfactory. Agents were knowledgeable and able to answer any questions we had, though our interactions did lack a personal touch or a friendliness that might leave an even better impact on a customer. However, we never had to wait and always obtained the information we needed quickly.

Dedicated agents

TeleDirect employs any combination of shared, blended or dedicated agents, depending on what your needs are. Having the option to use dedicated agents, which are call center employees specifically assigned to work for your business, can help ensure more accurate and engaging service. Shared agents manage several different accounts with the call center service, meaning they have to pay attention to more than just your business. Blended agents, as the name suggests, are a mix of shared and dedicated agents for your campaign.

Working with a dedicated agent ensures not only that your customers are of particular importance to the agent, but also helps to improve the call center’s individual accountability.

Multiple languages

TeleDirect’s agents can field calls in multiple languages, not just English and Spanish like many other call centers. If your business engages with a clientele that speaks a different language, TeleDirect is likely able to accommodate them. If your customers often speak a foreign language, TeleDirect is a great option for staying in constant communication with them in their native tongue.

Limitations

No live-chat support

One minor drawback to TeleDirect’s service is that there is no live-chat option in the event you require support. Of course, there is a customer-support phone number, and the company also offers an email address. Overall, we found this limitation to be relatively insignificant, especially when compared with the list of services TeleDirect offers.

Monthly volume minimum

TeleDirect requires your business to use its services for a minimum of 29 minutes each month in order to continue working together. While you’ll need to consider whether your average call volume hits this mark or not, the 29-minute requirement is not very prohibitive compared to some comparable companies’ requirements – overall, TeleDirect’s call volume minimum represents a minor consideration.

Best customer service Tips

Best call center service for small business

TeleDirect was selected as our best overall call center service for small businesses primarily because it boasts a complete selection of both inbound and outbound services, including some of the harder-to-find features like cold-calling services. TeleDirect’s services are also available 24/7/365, meaning your customers will always have someone to speak with, even on weekends and holidays. Depending on your particular needs, you can select shared agents, who conduct multiple campaigns, or dedicated agents, who will be focused solely on your business. TeleDirect also supports English and Spanish, as well as a number of other languages depending on the requirements of your clientele. Find out more about TeleDirect on the call center service’s website, or see our full review for more information.

Best Call Center Service for Low-Volume Calling: Xact Telesolutions

If your business doesn’t field a lot of calls, it can be difficult to find a call center service that will truly be cost-effective. Xact Telesolutions has no monthly invoice requirements or call minimums, meaning you can pay only for the services you use and nothing more. Xact’s agents are prepared to answer calls 24/7/365, and the company enables you to monitor any phone call in real time using a supervisory tool. Xact also offers one of the most comprehensive language services, with agents fluent in English and Spanish, and a third-party translation partner that can support more than 100 additional languages. Find out more about Xact Telesolutions on the call center service’s website, or see our full review for more information.

Best Answering Service for Medical Practices: Specialty Answering Services

Medical practices have unique needs in communications. Not only do medical practices have to ensure security, but they also have to do so in accordance with the federally required HIPAA standards. Specialty Answering Service offers a HIPAA-compliant answering service at affordable rates. There are a number of plans to choose from based on your expected call volume, from the pay-as-you-go economy plan all the way up to the massive 10,000-minute plan. Specialty Answering Service also offers an extremely effective appointment scheduler, complete with follow-ups, which adds a layer of redundancy to your practice-management system’s scheduler. Find out more about Specialty Answering Service on the answering service’s website, or see our full review for more information.

Our methodology

We take the process of recommending vendors seriously, so we invested substantial time in researching various call center services and their features. We gave each vendor equal consideration.

We started the process by coming up with a comprehensive list of vendors that offer call center services. To do this, we searched the web and consulted other lists and reviews of the most popular vendors. We ended up with a list of about 30 call center services to examine further.

From there, we visited the websites of each vendor to compare pricing and features. We looked at all of the details, including inbound services, outbound services, invoice requirements, call minimums and additional features. We used this information to narrow down our field of 30 candidates to 15 finalists.

Next, we called all the services we were considering, posing as a customer. Beyond just the marketing rhetoric on websites, we wanted to get a feel for how the companies handle actual customer interactions. We asked all of the customer service reps the same set of questions about features, options and pricing, and we noted our reactions to the experience. Company representatives who were friendly and forthcoming got higher marks, and those who were less than helpful or too pushy scored lower.

For our overall best picks, the decision came down to which company offered the best balance of affordability, useful features and effectiveness of call center agents.