Relevance from all Walks of Life

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thanks to our HR developer Over the last decade we have seen the business landscape change dramatically. Today our business and leadership perspective and growth can be shaped by our everyday experiences: Attending an event, a candid conversation with a friend, even the mundane act of buying a coffee, can shift our perspective and/or impact our day-to-day business decisions. With the lines blurring between social and business life, our learning and leadership skills can come from many different places and people.

I am certainly not denying the importance of sourcing knowledge and experience from business environments to hone business and leadership qualities. They are important and help shape our understanding of business, employees’ skills and experience, and customers’ needs. But our knowledge need not be silo’ed into plans for future organizational activities, business documents, and information about designs and processes. It also includes the experiences of your employees, the ones that you have in your day-to-day life, as well as your consumers’ experiences

In fact, consumer experience is a deep pool of knowledge for any company. Social media, coupled with online self-service, and an expectation shift for customers has altered the consumer experience. Nevertheless, it remains a key component for running a successful business.

Let’s see how our day-to-day experiences can teach us lessons about business and leadership:

Self-awareness: Needless to say, self-awareness is a trait of any great leader. It is a quality often cultivated by keeping up to-date with what is going on in the world and reflecting on how it impacts you, your employees, your customers, and your business. Reading and introspection can help you to recognize how you, and your business, are perceived.  My favorites lately include Peter Theil’s “Zero to One”, Daniel Pink’s “Drive” and Austin Kleon’s “show you work”.  Self-awareness will help you avoid hypocrisy, and allow you to adjust, communicate better, and be more forward-thinking.  EQ is an area of study here at Starin, thanks to our HR developer. It has helped me hold emotions in check to look more pragmatically at a situation from my “observing self”, to show a thoughtful view.  Reading Wayne Dyer has helped.  Do I still get upset?  Sure, ask my people.  Well, at least I’m aware of it.  In an EQ session exercise, the associate next to me said “wow you really know yourself”.  I took that to mean she did not think I was aware of how determined and strong willed I was.  Imagine that.

Listening: To understand the needs of others, we need to listen. We listen to what our family has to say, what the sales clerk says, what our friends tell us, or what the preacher says in Church. In business too, we need to listen to be heard. The ability to reach out to your employees and customers, and truly hear what they want to say is one of the best ways to uncover problems in your business and come up with helpful and practical solutions.  Listening to my kinesthetic learner son, has made me realize an enormous amount of how education is falling short and see the driving need for interactive learning systems where there is greater involvement.  Listening to customers gives direction and clarity on what is needed.

Openness: Being able to see things from a different perspective is a prized quality in business. Sometimes a candid conversation with friends, family, colleagues or even with a stranger can help us to see things from a different angle. In business, this is what we call ‘reframing.’ Often we are required to step back and see a situation from a variety of perspectives before we can take action or think up new ideas. It requires practice. You need to see the world through various lenses. Take help from others, if required, but it is extremely important to step out of a narrow mind set to better fit your role as a leader.

Diplomacy: Leaders often need to be tactful and sensitive in order to build relationships and grow a business network, which is why diplomacy is critical to lead a company. Just as in politics, you need allies in the company to carry through strategies, have your back, and get things done.  Our greatest brand relationships are where we have synergy to help each others interests.

Adaptability: This is another common practice that makes us successful in our regular life, and it’s just as important in our business life as well. In today’s business world, “my way or the highway” is a recipe for failure; no doubt it has become an obsolete concept for successful leaders. A better route to success is to be flexible and adaptive to your company’s intrinsic qualities and cultural differences.  I’ve shared in other posts how much the industry and societal expectations are changing. It goes beyond Darwinism tough, to not only adapt, but to get ahead and vision what is needed before it is.  Discovering those untold secrets is a trick.

Finally, remember there is no such thing as a ‘lost sale’ in business; it’s all about learning a lesson through experience. You can find relevance to apply to your business from nearly everywhere, thanks to your social connectedness, real-life experiences, and business relationships.

How have your personal experiences impacted your leadership style in business? We would love to hear your story.

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Do Clients Notice the Small Things?

Do Clients Notice the Small Things

We focus a lot on the process once a sale is completed. We may be focusing on that process even more right after the sale is initiated. However, in a business where creating loyal, repeat customers and making those customers feel good is key, we have to ask ourselves if they are noticing the little things? Is our focus on the process time well spent?

The answer is: Yes, they are. And yes, it is. Your clients will definitely notice if the only time you engage with them is at the time of a sale. If this is the case, you can bet they won’t be very happy about it either, or they may begin to put you in the pushy salesperson category and begin to ignore you. For better customer relationships, your business needs to focus on the little things, especially practices like creating ongoing conversations and frequent touch points.

The conversation you engage in with your customers should always be a two-way conversation. It is only natural for you to be eager and enthusiastic about your products/services. You need to be careful, though, that you don’t overwhelm your customers with too many promotional messages. The trick is to give them the opportunity to be heard, too. You must listen to what your clients have to say, not only when you are speaking with them in person, but also on social networking sites where minor, easily resolved issues can turn into a PR disaster before you have a chance to refresh your feed.

While this applies to both praise and criticism, it is especially important to quickly address the latter. Make sure you are replying to your customers in an empathetic and genuine way. Be an assertive communicator. You need to find the perfect balance between aggressively pursuing sales and being overly agreeable. After all, we are not asking you to become a yes-man, but too much aggression won’t help either and will likely to lead to customer frustration.

Another thing customers notice is whether or not you are genuinely taking an interest in them. Ask your clients what kind of information/product/service they expect from you. Be honest and understanding in your response. If they come to you with a problem or complaint, consider it an opportunity to proactively address their grievances and show them you are invested by fixing anything you can to create the experience they expect.

It would also be beneficial for you to promote your client’s interests or business, especially if you’re in a service-industry (B2B). Promote their blogs or other content to create a win-win situation. Product based (B2C) businesses can also follow this tip, leveraging customer reviews and blogs.

There are some simple things you can do to ensure you are maximizing the potential for authentic interactions with your customers:

Build online relationships. It is important to build an ongoing conversation with your clients and be genuine in your effort. Doing this will help you reach your customers and make them feel valuable. This will then motivate them to engage with you on a regular basis and possibly even come back to share your content.

Customer check-ins. Checking in and seeing how your customers are doing is a practice that should be continued even after closing the sales process. Making it a point to periodically call your customers to see if they are still happy with your service/product, or if they have unresolved issues that you can address will make them consider you when they are looking to make their next purchase. Being courteous and helpful is a great way to build a rock-solid market reputation. Your customers will also be more than happy to recommend you to their social circle and spread the word about your customer service.

Offer loyalty programs. Do you really know your customers well? What resonates with your customers? Find those answers, and use them to develop loyalty programs tailored to motivate them to share your content and/or recommend your brand. Using this method will prove to be one of the best ways to go about designing incentives that will build a community of happy customers.

Create easy-to-share content. Are you creating sharable content? The attention span of Internet users has diminished, thanks to the wealth of information available from so many different sources. You should be guiding your customers in their web searches by providing the proper call-to-action and other resources for them to use. When it comes to sharing content, make sure your business blog and social content is easy-to-share. Incorporate “share this” buttons and place them in prominent places so they are easily visible and likely to be used. Integrating a “Click to Tweet” button, along with your company’s handle, is bound to boost engagement with your customer base.

In conclusion, taking advantage of all the possible communication channels there are when establishing an ongoing conversation with your customers will lead to greater customer satisfaction. It will show your customers you are genuinely interested in them and in what they have to say. Remember, customers will pay attention to what you have to say if you are providing them information they can use.

What channels are you currently using to maintain the lines of communication with your customers? Which are most successful and which could use a little more attention?

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Cayin Digital Signage: Simple to Use

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Founded in 2004, Taiwan based Cayin Technology Co., Ltd has made its mark as a digital signage manufacturer. Their aim is to offer customers a complete, one-stop solution for digital signage products and services. Cayin Technology designs and produces media players and CMS servers which are able to handle diverse and powerful usage needs. In addition, their advanced management software, used for monitoring and generating reports, can be trusted to deliver as promised. They have adopted a customer based philosophy with the goal of retaining customers once they are on board. And they strive to make sure their customers have no reason look elsewhere when shopping for a product or service related to digital signage.

Diversification – Horizontally and Vertically

Cayin specializes in providing high technology products and services to its clients around the world. These services include, but are not limited to, dynamic digital signage solutions. They are also advancing at a rapid pace in the fields of network, multimedia, and embedded systems – both Windows and Linux. In addition to this, they provide interactive entertainment systems. As a vertical expansion, Cayin has designed xPost which combines essential tools in order to create rich content. This web-based application software is meant for Digital Out-of-Home (DOOH) media.

Industrial-Grade Digital Signage Appliances

Cayin’s industrial-grade digital signage applications have been developed using an embedded system technology. It has the capability of finding long-term stability in a variety of applications. Based on this, Cayin also provides digital signage products and services to outdoor venues. In certain cases, custom-made products have been offered in response to specific requirements of the customer. These are usually for events organized by museums, educational and financial institutions, hospitality and retail, government and transportation authorities, as well as corporate entities.

Cayin’s Digital Signage Products – Simple and Scalable Collaboration

Cayin takes pride in its powerful remote management, as well as in products with the capacity to be expanded when the need arises. These products are also able to facilitate collaboration and can be combined in versatile ways, in different environments, to ensure customer satisfaction. There are two categories of SMP players – basic and advanced, which are based on the usage requirement.
Web based Digital Signage Players are also available in two variations – the SMP-NEO Series and the SMP-WEB Series. The first player will use HTML5, Flash, social media, weather, etc, to fulfill the needs of advanced, interactive applications. The second variety is recommended for those who have HTML editing or web applications development skills. The application process is the same for both. The Zone Type Digital Signage Player (SMP-PRO) series is better suited for those with limited HTML skills due to its easy drag and drop procedure which allows templates to be created. This is mainly used for applications where only video, graphics, and tickers need to be displayed.

The Content Management Server uses the IP network to manage the digital signage server. It can be managed centrally as well as remotely. For larger scale digital signage deployment, the Advanced Management Software is beneficial. Editing content for digital signage is also an important part of technology. Therefore, Cayin has developed Content-editing Application Software to help users with this process.

Cayin’s Digital Signage Solutions – Integration with Existing Systems

With an aim to penetrate deeper into the market and achieve integration with systems and digital devices that currently exist, Cayin has developed many solutions:

  • Interactive Digital Signage
  • Retail Digital Signage
  • Live Feed and Digital Signage with live video and information
  • Integration with QR code in Smartphones
  • Integration with web server and database to reach different web technologies
  • Dual and multi-screen digital signage
  • Integration with 3G, GPS, and Google Maps for location and mobile based targeting

In Conclusion

It is obvious that Cayin is looking at innovation from every aspect of its product, application and solution development to fit into the diversified requirements of the digital signage user. It recognizes the importance of content management, as accurate content is an integral part of any digital signage product. Cayin delivers on their promise of simple entry projects and straightforward screen design along with multi-media communication platforms, all leading to happy customers.

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Aligning Your Business with the Buyer’s Journey

Aligning Your Business with the Buyers Journey

Here’s an incredible statistic: According to a 2014 report, nearly 60 percent of consumers today make online purchase decisions using their mobile devices?

At Starin, we have been discussing business, leadership and customer experience a lot these days. This comes on the heels of us spending a significant amount of time exploring the new buyer’s journey. We already know people are reading a lot of content online and spending a lot more time using lower touch sales methods. We are now able to advise businesses on how to align their methods with the buyer’s journey, resulting in improved sales revenue.

There have been significant changes in how consumers shop since the Internet has come into the picture. Consumers are making more decisions based on their own research, and put a lot of trust in word of mouth referrals from friends and family. Doubtful? Just consider these numbers:

  • According to Forrester, 70 to 90 percent of a buyer’s journey is complete before they even begin engaging with a vendor.
  • Consumers engage with an average of 11.4 sources of information before buying a product, finds another Forrester report.
  • And Nielsen research indicates that consumers are five times more likely to depend on their own research today than they did five years ago.

The information pool is growing rapidly. Considering the numbers above, it is crucial for companies to think about their marketing and communications strategies. This means businesses looking to improve their buyer’s journey are changed with the task of answering the question, “How are you communicating with your buyers when they aren’t there?”

While the channels are numerous, ranging from web and social media to mobile, it’s important to understand that some content consistently performs better than other.

According to a study conducted by Nielsen, the following three types of content have the most impact at different stages in the buyer’s journey:

Brand familiarity. This includes expert content such as content submitted by 3rd parties (guest posts or special columns) that are defined as credible source of information.

Brand affinity. This is the brand content (Facebook or Twitter posts and/or company blogs) published by said brand or its employees.

Purchase intent. This is user-generated content such as reviews on popular 3rd party sites like Amazon or Yelp.

How you inform, educate and assist your consumers in learning about your business when you aren’t right in front of them plays a significant role in today’s market. The most important thing you must do is build awareness and identify your customers’ needs. Because you can be guaranteed that if you don’t, your buyers will look elsewhere, and another brand will.

Your job is to build awareness about your company and the products and services it offers to customers. This will help your buyers understand what you do and how you are able to help them. And you must focus your business content on your buyer’s needs and not your brand or products.

You will also find that it is useful to have educational material, testimonials and customer reviews readily available on your website.

It is vital that companies today aligning their business marketing output with what consumers need because today’s buyer’s journey is changing fast, and it is our responsibility, as businesses, to change with it.

A great place to start, when thinking about the buyers journey is observing your own journey as a buyer. What do you find helpful? Where do you go for information? Chances are, if you are doing it, so is someone else!

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How Should Evolved Organizations Communicate?

How Should Evolved Organizations Communicate

Cutting edge technology has changed the basic landscape of traditional communication in business settings. Conventional print publications have long since been replaced, initially by phone calls and emails, and later by Web 2.0 tools like instant messengers, blogs, and social networking sites. In fact, many companies are now using social media for internal as well as external communication. On the other end of the spectrum, there are also companies who have failed to recognize the benefits of utilizing new tools.

One of the biggest sticking points for many businesses is that they are too stubborn to give up on the channels that they prefer, or channels that have worked for them in the past even when there is a better alternative available. “The riskiest phrase in business is, ‘We’ve always done it that way.’” The way organizations communicate is not changing as rapidly as it could. According to Towers Watson’s 2013 Change and Communication ROI Survey, only 56% of organizations are currently leveraging the power of social media for their internal communication initiatives.

Many experienced business owners have a set way that they prefer to do business and unfortunately, they are not yet ready to explore any new trends. This can be observed in their approach to both internal and external communication. For example, many business owners prefer to meet decision makers and influential buyers in familiar situations, like on the golf course or over dinner. In the past, this strategy has worked for business owners. Without a doubt, face-to-face communication has certain advantages, but today’s new generation of decision makers and buyers often prefer a “lower touch” form of communication, which is more technology driven.

In the AV/IT integration space, organizational communication is often thought of in terms of close collaborations. There was a time when teamwork, partnership and collaboration took place in board rooms amidst whiteboards and bagels. Now, though, being in the same space to collaborate isn’t always possible and today it isn’t always necessary. Many companies have several people working on the same documents, at the same time, all over the world. Instead of sitting face-to-face in the board room, they are sharing screen data, while having conferences and meetings over video.

Working on virtual teams has become a reality. However, many organizations are still more inclined to use yesterday’s tools. Ignoring current trends in communication means that businesses miss out on opportunities to increase productivity. There are several advantages for companies that are willing to try out new-age collaboration methods. Let’s consider an example cited by Rick Puskar, SVP of Customer Experience & Services in Unify:

During one of his weekly leadership phone calls with his team, Puskar decided to try a video call instead of the regular conference call. By leveraging video, the call lasted just 60 minutes, instead of the normal 90 minutes. It, without a doubt, created a better environment for collaborative work because every participant was fully engaged in the meeting.

Social media also plays a similar role in bringing people together. Unfortunately, many organizations have not been open to allowing their employees to access various social media channels, for fear that they would use them wasting company time. At the most, they may have an official account or page as part of their marketing strategy, hoping to build and enhance customer relationship. However, when it comes to employees using it for internal communication, social media is taboo. This trend, to some extent, has been changing with the growing implementation of enterprise social tools and BYOD policies. In today’s society, ignoring social media and instant messenger services would be a huge mistake for companies and organizations. These outlets can help fill the gap for global workers and consumers looking for the human touch that is often left out by cold and impersonal conference calls or email chains.

Evolved organizations are connecting with consumers, employees, and stakeholders in the way that they prefer to be connected with instead of how it has always been done in the past. It is what sets them apart from other organizations and will make them strong enough to survive communication challenges in the future. Connecting where our consumers are, and talking about what is important to them, will translate to brand preference and advocacy, which should be a goal for every evolving business.

What communication tools have you found to be most effective both internally and externally within your company? We would love to hear from you.

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Making the Customer the Star of Your Show

Making the Customer the Star of Your Show

Most companies think they make great products. What is most important, however, is if their customers feel the same way. It is the biggest difference between a product-driven company and one that is customer-centric.

A product-driven company often makes the mistake of putting the importance of the product before their customers. Their goals are to develop new products based on the skills and technologies their organization is capable of producing. Their objective is to design the best product with a variety of applications, and they measure their success by the number of products they sell. On the other hand a customer-centric organization aims to meet the needs of their customers and they tend to develop their strategies with the objective of creating the best solutions for them. They measure their success by their customer’s loyalty. In a product-driven company, the product engineers are the only ones rewarded. However, in the customer-centric company, employees focused on customer retention and giving extra effort towards building customer loyalty will also be rewarded.

Over the years we have seen a growing trend where more and more customer-centric companies are prospering beyond initial expectations. Here are just a few examples:

Case Studies – Different Approaches, Similar Goal

Apple didn’t become the giant it is now in just one day, nor did Nikola Tesla’s innovations gain acceptance overnight – they both earned it over time.

Steve Jobs created a customer-centric organization with a single-minded focus on how products designed and created by Apple were going to be used by their buyers. He was always thinking from the perspective of the customer. Instead of focusing on the features of their technology and confusing their customers, Apple thought more about how their technology would make the buyer’s life easier, and, more importantly, they never entered the price war. This has made customers loyal to their brand. We see these brand loyalists choose the more expensive iMac, iPod, iPhone or iPad over the more competitively priced options because they know that they are getting a product designed with them in mind.

Now let’s talk about Tesla’s innovation. You will see that the core of it is in their sharing. Tesla created sustainable technology for a cleaner environment and applied it while designing electric cars with green electricity by using solar power (Supercharger) stations. These stations offer free power to customers, which in turn encourages buyers to own their vehicles. The vehicles are rated 4.5 out of 5 stars by the Highway Safety Administration and what’s more, Tesla cars aren’t just manufactured, they are made on demand. According to official reports, more 22,000 cars were made in 2013. It doesn’t end here, though. Tesla is now collaborating with car manufacturers around the world to create sustainable transportation. They believe in sharing their innovation, encouraging other manufacturers to also innovate. As an alignment to this principle, they have even opened their patents to the public. Innovation shouldn’t mean creating intellectual property regulations and Tesla has set an example for the automobile industry by showing how collaboration is the key to future innovation.

Basics of Being Customer Centric

Organizations that are not as currently as successful as Apple or Tesla cannot have this level of customer loyalty, right? Wrong. The key to creating happy and engaged customers is building an organization around customer-centricity, empowering employees, ingraining the philosophy of a ‘customer first’ approach in all that you do, and finally engaging your customers in this entire process. Starting with the end product and then working towards developing a strategy for marketing, leading by example, increasing visibility with the help of social media and public platforms, and using integrated information management and cloud-based technologies are just some of the basics a company should work towards when attempting to achieve a customer-focused organization.

Customers, today, are more empowered and demanding. They are more digital savvy. They expect that companies will have a clear understanding of their needs and preferences and expect access to information and unified processes. Popular communication channels, if tapped properly, will translate into happier customers.

Focusing on Customers’ Needs

Let’s look at Zappos as an example of a successful start-up. CEO Tony Hsieh believes that walking that extra mile to create a better customer experience isn’t an expense, rather a foundation, allowing companies to earn repeat customers through word of mouth. Investing in customers by giving something extra has turned an online shoe selling venture into a billion dollar a year business.

Some of the most important questions a customer-centric organization should be asking are:

  • What will creates value for our customers?
  • What will be more convenient for our customers?
  • How can we exceed expectations and retain current buyers?

Virgin America’s founder Richard Branson has set an example by creating meaningful customer experiences. His company has set a benchmark for all other companies to follow, so much so that the industry accepts it as the ‘gold standard in customer service.’ His secret to success is simple. You must be passionate about service, constantly visible to your customers. You must have happy, engaged, and empowered employees. You should strive to create genuine social media responses and have quality interactions between your customers and employees. The customer experience begins with employees and how they are creating the customer experience.

There is a lesson in all of this – technology matters, but people matter more. People are the ones who will use the technology to create satisfying customer experiences. So, training and empowering people in your organization is, without a doubt, the first step towards making the customer the star of your show.

What companies have you dealt with that were definitely customer-centric? What stood out in your mind when you were dealing with them? We would love to hear about your experiences!

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The PTZ Camera for Church Application

The PTZ Camera DCM for Church Application

In today’s world, technology is a necessity. Even religious institutions, often thought of as places for quiet meditation, prayer, and worship, can benefit from technology. AV technologies can be used for recording sermons, broadcasting live to the entire congregation, or recording choir events, just to name a few applications. Another advantage of good video equipment in a church setting is that it will be able to stream recordings to other parts of the church, especially when the main area is full, allowing members who are not seated close to still enjoy the service. The objective is to have the ability to keep these recordings for future reference, or have the ability to show them to anyone who was unable to attend the live event. The PTZ camera  for church application is also able to fulfill any need there may be for streaming live sermons on websites for their members. Let’s explore why the PTZ camera may be a good option for your church.

Benefits of PTZ camera

One of the most important benefits of using PTZ cameras in churches is that they offer good resolution and zoom capabilities, as well as being able to function well in low-lighted areas. Once you decide on the camera, the next question to consider is whether you want a standard definition camera or a high definition camera. In case of standard definition cameras, the above features will be available. However, in a high definition PTZ camera you will find better picture quality, which of course, comes with a slightly higher price tag.

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There are two more considerations to keep in mind when planning to use a PTZ camera in a religious setting. Though a single PTZ camera will serve its purpose quite well, you may feel the need to use a multiple camera system. This would definitely be the case when they will be used in larger sanctuaries, or if you want to capture events from more than one angle.

The PTZ cameras come with a controller that will give a supervising individual the ability to control multiple cameras. In most cases, cameras are mounted on the ceiling, at entrance points and in any other important location. Thoughtful positioning of the cameras will allow everyone who views the event to have an excellent angle of the worship service no matter where they are seated. The video captured can then be distributed to monitors strategically placed around the church to give each worshipper the optimal viewing experience.

Why use a PTZ camera?

The answer is simple – because it offers auto tracking features with software that monitors and responds to changes in video quality and pixels, which then prompts the system to focus, zoom out, or pan accordingly. The program also allows the camera to adjust its optical lens after judging the size of the object and its movement. As the movement ceases, the camera automatically tilts back to its original position, just as its name implies: Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ).

Advantages for the Church

There is no denying that technology creates excitement for everyone when it comes to innovations. However, the cost of technology increases with the improvement of its quality. Ample choices and companies in the market, all lined up to take their share of market advantage may leave you feeling a little overwhelmed by your choices. Manned cameras have a lot of disadvantages, cost being among the chief ones. Though there are installation costs attached to PTZ cameras, once they are installed in the church or worship area, the only cost that remains is their maintenance. That’s it. Churches can train volunteers to operate the PTZ cameras who will then be able to assist when the need for an upgrade occurs. In addition to these advantages, putting up robotic cameras will do away with the need to create platforms for any camera men needed when using a manual camera. This saves time and cost of operation. You cannot overlook the convenience of the PTZ camera whose operators are able to control an entire event from a single room.

Recording sermons, choir concerts, or other church events and then broadcasting them through live streaming with the help of PTZ cameras has made churches more adaptive to technologies. The benefits to churches have been immeasurable when it comes to reaching their congregation where they are in a familiar, convenient manner.

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Driving an Evolved Business in Times of Convergence

Driving an Evolved Business in Times of Convergence

Why has Infocomm been discussing the term “convergence” for over a decade? The answer is simple: digital convergence is going to be responsible for some pretty exciting times ahead. The question here is not ‘what’ digital convergence is, but ‘how’ and ‘why’ converging technologies will be responsible for transforming the face of business communications.

Business is evolving every day and every day we see a growing need for digital convergence: the conglomeration of IT, Consumer Electronics, Telecommunications, and Entertainment, or more specifically, AV to IT and vice versa. As everything with a cable now requires an IP address, we have reached a point where there is no denying that tech is converging, and companies involved in integration need to make sure they aren’t ignoring this. So how do we lead our business in times of convergence?

Share the Knowledge and Train Employees

The process starts by accepting the shift, and making sure we are clearly communicating the power of convergence to our employees. This will help us grow and expand our offerings, rather than allowing limited knowledge to stifle us. With convergence, we have the opportunity to create new revenue streams and offer more integrated solutions to our clients. We are also able to stay focused on achieving what’s most important to everyone: solving business problems.

Digital convergence has brought forth a new era where the term “convergence” is not restricted to voice, data, and video but is also applicable to IP based networks, telecommunications, and applications. Tying all these together will create a holistic convergence that offers a seamless experience for the user. Also referred to as the “seamless mobility,” its aim is connectivity irrespective of time, place, device and having only one point communication, which clearly moves ahead of the limitations of multiple contact points. With the convergence of service, device, and network, it will be easier to manage business and take it ahead in a high-tech environment.

Education and Organizational Development through Convergence

For AV companies, the challenge is not creating digital convergence technologies, but educating employees and showing them the way to organizational development. After addressing buy-in, companies need to determine 3 things:

  1. What converged solutions should they be selling?
  2. How will they position them in the market and in front of their valued clients?
  3. How will they ensure their organization is prepared to deliver them?

Management of convergence technologies is a challenging task. However, once it is achieved it will open doors to an entirely new world of business. For example, if convergence is being designed for educational purposes then video, audio, and data, along with network architecture to illustrate the details about digital convergence, might be enough. However, when designing for other purposes, all media and data communications (AV and IT) should be converged so that all resources are available and able to respond to each other in synergy. If communication issues are addressed clearly and do not depend on too many contact points, business evolution will follow progressively.

One thing is for certain – there are exciting times out there waiting for integrators and users, thanks to the wave of digital convergence. In order to take advantage of the times ahead, we must first embrace the change, and then lead the change; the rest will follow.

We would love to hear about your experience with convergence. What impact is it having on your business?

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How to be Young.

My wife had a successful show in SF for joannemullin.com. It was about tech in fashion. Blogging, social, but also recycling restyling etc. My point is about what she witnessed. When she met a blogger and they asked about her website, they did not ask for a business card to view it later, they used their pad or phone to view and bookmark right then. They learned a deeper understanding of Joanne’s work on the spot… at the point of interest. Digitally. She was discovered by the event promoter and was one of 4 displays around a panel discussion. She said as she looked around the room of 100+, everyone was on their devices. She said to me that she wondered how people found time for all this social stuff. I said she had seen the mash-up before her very eyes. And it is that visual I want you to see.

What was witnessed? I believe the generational differences between old and young. I don’t mean age. I mean mentality. The young do not separate the physical world and the digital world. Digital and physical are here and now. Together. As one. She reported even the panelists were blogging out and receiving digital comments real time to inject into the session. Now if I were presenting I would not think of watching my phone. But they did and it made the experience richer!! My God my mentality is old. It’s not high tech. And I’m supposed to be. I’m committed to change. I had a major awakening and I want my Starin associates to know the shift expected of them and our partners to know what we’re doing.

I am making my team hold me accountable to stay young together. Did we integrate the virtual and social world into a recent manufacturer training in Chesterton? Oops. What if we had? What if our focus group champions at dealers we targeted got real time connection to us? Or sneak preview messages? What if we pinged other brands on how we thought it was going to impact them?

I got several comments on how Business Development Managers liked the open forum discussions we had in our meeting. Me too. It was their meeting with collaboration. I think the visiting brand manager saw what is special about the engaged Starin. But… What if it had been a meetUP instead of a meeting?

Are Smart Devices now AV?

Are Smart Devices now AV?

For those of us young old timers, think back to the psychedelic days, when Jimi sang “Have you ever been experienced”. Was he talking about the acid trip? I did not think so though I knew it was involved. It was about the quest for experience. And that is what keeps things new. It is what makes us Young.

And now for the lesson for the AV industry. The Young don’t want old ineffective meetings. In fact, they have already moved on from it. The Young want the integrated digital and physical experience. Huddle spaces are not smaller meeting rooms! They are physical manifestations of the behavioral shift to the virtual world dweller. Immersed, and always on. Right now Huddle spaces are mere pit stops on to a world where every space is temporary and used long enough to serve an encounter that supports the digital life. Digital is not incidental to your existence. It is becoming the core. If not, start your rest home talk about the damn younger generation and the good old “daze”.

My Young son does not say “I am watching TV now”.  No, he acts out in an immersed world of “I have TV on for its content context, I am doing a music mix, in a forum and talking to dad about the Warriors”.  The “Young” lead digitally integrated lives to be as many places as meaningful right now. It is the future human communication experience that is here already.

Starin is a committed network communications company. Your Youngness or YoungNet is just a matter of when or if you awaken to the digital-social-physical existence. And start to make it a greater expanded reality for all.

-BillM

What Can Be Learned By Listening?

What Can Be Learned By Listening

Listening is a skill that is almost extinct. Today it seems like everybody wants to talk and only a few people are actually willing to listen. However, listening is one of the most effective ways for companies to receive feedback from and understand the needs of their customers. There is no way around it. While we still have the traditional “word of mouth” to pay attention to, today we also face the challenge of customers who are voicing their feedback through social networking sites.  These outlets are far more likely to get noticed today, and have the potential to reach larger numbers of customers than we may realize. It is important that you know that your customers are talking about you all the time, and in a very public way.  It is now time to ask yourself if you are really listening to them. An opportunity missed could mean a number of customers lost, and keeping this in mind, it is important that we start improving our listening skills before that number gets too costly.

Customer Feedback: Read between the Lines

One of the main areas of focus needs to be listening to our customers for feedback. This may mean reading between the lines in emails, paying attention to social posts, or taking the time to talk to our customers in person. We’ve just touched on three important points in a single sentence – emails, social posts, and direct feedback. So much information can be gathered by simply “asking” our customers about their level of satisfaction through feedback mailers. Questions such as: What can we do better? What are we good at? What would you like to see from us in the future? Those provide us with an excellent opportunity for to take any suggestions that customers want to give regarding our business. Don’t underestimate emails.  They can be a great way to get detailed feedback from customers. Remember, though, that the details come in the form of the language and also in the tone of the feedback. Pay attention to the tone and you will understand what the customer is really trying to say.

Listening should Encompass Social, Digital, and Real World

Social posts, not just those on company pages, but also those you find in threads, forums, and user-generated content gives an accurate picture from the customer’s standpoint about the products and services of a company. Research indicates that positive social feedback will lead to positive impacts in sales as well. A recent study from International Data Corporation (IDC), Social Buying: the Importance of Trusted Networks during the B2B Purchase Process shows that 75% of the business-to-business (B2B) buyers and 84% of C-level/vice president executives in the study use social media to support purchase decisions.

It’s always important to talk to customers directly, whether it is through online communication, over the telephone, or by asking them to complete personal surveys. The feedback you receive will then give you a clearer understanding of what your customers like about you and what they don’t. If the questions are well placed, you may also discover if your customers are considering taking their business elsewhere. You will also be able to use the feedback to trace those customer touch points that have been most effective. Along with social and digital, it’s equally important to connect with customers in the real world. Just one example of how to do this would be setting up kiosks in strategic locations that will allow a designated representative to interact with and talk to customers. It will provide your company with the opportunity to answer any questions your customers have and will ultimately be something that can bring the company closer to its customers.

Applying the Feedback

The final step is to take the information obtained through listening to your customers and applying it when developing new ways to service them. Merely taking the feedback and not applying it would be a breach of trust and lead to customers who are less likely to give you their honest views on things in future.

Gone are the days when the customers were given a choice of Option A or Option B. In the age of customer empowerment, they are creating their own options. They are aware that their choices are immense. It is, therefore, imperative that companies listen to what their customers are saying because not listening can mean giving your business away to your competitors.

How do your customers share feedback with you?  How do you ensure that you are listening?

photo credit: Listen via photopin (license)