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Ooma Business Blog

Work From Home Optimization Guide – Tips & Apps

By Ken Narita|Tuesday September 6, 2016

Did you know that the number of employees working from home is on the rise? 3.7 million employees, approximately 2.8% of the workforce, operate from home. Since 2005, working at home among the non-self-employed population has grown by 103%. Improved technology, such as high-speed Internet, a reliable VoIP phone service and faster shared drive platforms, has enabled companies to work more with telecommuters than traditional office employees.

work from home optimization guide

Telecommuting is proving itself to be beneficial for both workers and employers. 80% of telecommuters report they now maintain a better work-life balance, and 25% report their stress levels have dropped since leaving the office life. Employees are even saving up to $7,000 annually in transportation and other work-related costs. Meanwhile, employers are also saving, mainly in real estate costs. American Express’ BlueWork program saved the company between $10 and $15 million annually. Aetna saved $78 million per year by having 47% of their employees work from home just a few days a week. In addition to cutting down overhead, telecommuting has also been shown to boost productivity. According to a study monitoring a Chinese travel center, employees working from home actually outperformed their in-office counterparts by up to 13%. Whether you’re working from home five days a week or just one, we have a few tips to help you stay focused and ensure you can optimize your time.

Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have always been foes to productivity. The average time spent on social media continues to rise. In 2013, it was 1.66 hours per day. In 2016, that figure has risen to 1.72 hours per day. Access to social media is costing employers an estimated $650 billion a year in wasted time. While working from home, social media could be more tempting without a supervisor to look over your shoulder. If you find yourself impulsively clicking away every five minutes, try an application like Cold Turkey to help regulate your online usage.

Taking regularly scheduled breaks can also help boost your productivity, focus and creativity. Unfortunately, most workers never seem to get around to it. So how often should you break for? Scientific studies have shown the formula for perfect productivity is to work for 52 minutes, then break for 17 minutes. If you need help getting yourself on schedule, try the app DeskTime.

The place you work also significantly impacts your output. Researchers have found that a cluttered workplace restricts your brain’s ability to focus and process information. The time spent looking for misplaced items at our messy workspaces adds up to 76 hours each year, which translates to two weeks of work, and can cost companies upwards of $177 billion annually. It’s time for you to clear out your desk. We highly recommend throwing away all non-essential items from your work area and storing away everything else.

Don’t get too comfy; sitting is being called the new smoking. Much like smoking, sitting for 8 to 11 hours daily is harmful to your health. In fact, sitting for most of your workday actually increases your chances of dying by up to 15% in four years. We recommend an adjustable standing desk, such as the Varidesk, is the solution that offers the best of both worlds. If you must sit, we suggest the highly ergonomic Herman Miller Aeron chair. Think they are too expensive? Not really.

Lighting also plays a fundamental role in impacting our behavior. Studies have reported that workers in offices with windows had better-regulated circadian rhythms, achieving 46 more minutes of sleep per night. Sleep is vital to our work. With a lack of it, people tend to suffer from all sorts of other problems that could hurt their performance, such as memory loss, slower psychomotor reflexes, depression and shorter attention spans. A solution would be to use as much natural lighting as possible. Verifone reported a 5% increase in productivity by switching to natural lighting, and total product output increased by 25% to 28%. If your workspace is not located near a window, try an artificial lighting solution such as LIFX.

Another tool proven to boost creativity is ambient sound. Findings have shown that the right level of background noise can help block out distractions and also trigger the brain to think abstractly to get into a more creative space. When tested on creativity, subjects were shown to perform best with moderate ambient noise at 70 decibels, far exceeding their counterparts working with noise levels up to 50 dB and 80 dB. Perhaps this is why so many writers choose to work from their local coffee shops. If you want a great app to create that ideal mix of ambient sound to help you get in the zone, try Coffitivity.

We all know drinking coffee and taking naps have been proven to boost productivity. What if you tried them both together? You actually can with the coffee nap. Drink a cup of coffee, then take a 20-minute nap immediately after. That may sound unusual to you, but consider that it takes at least 20 minutes for caffeine to affect your body. During this time, you could get a quick rest before waking up just as the caffeine is starting to kick in, thereby maximizing alertness for double the impact.

Finally, your appearance plays an essential role in how you feel about yourself, which impacts how productive you are. In a roleplay scenario that involved the sale of a hypothetical asset, men wearing business suits yielded an average profit of $2.1 million compared to the $680,000 of their casually dressed counterparts wearing sweat suits. More formal clothing influences just how people are construed. In another test, subjects who wore a white lab coat performed better on the Stroop task sensory card test. Just because you are working from home does not mean it is acceptable to stay in your underwear all day.

So those are a few tips to help you optimize your telecommuting experience. It’s time to get back to work.

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Loyal customers are critical to business success because they tend to be a source of repeat business. According to The Loyalty Report 2018, “Loyalty programs that establish positive emotional connections with Members see 27% more of their Membership increasing their spend with the Brand.” This research tells us that building customer loyalty can lead to more spending.

Loyalty programs vs. improving customer experience: Designing your approach

There are different approaches to building customer loyalty. Some companies use loyalty program cards, bonus offers and other incentives. You might offer access to special deals like CVS or take 5% off the purchase price like Target. You might even give some or part of your product away for free, like airlines that provide free flights through their loyalty programs. What if your small business isn’t interested or able to offer these kinds of loyalty programs?

There is another way to encourage loyal customers to keep giving you repeat business. Gather customer feedback through a phone survey and then use that data to improve the customer experience. When customers see that the business owner has acted on their feedback, they may feel inspired to return to that business. That means more revenue for the bottom line. You just need a fast and straightforward way to conduct a customer satisfaction survey. That’s where a focused business phone survey comes in.

Why increasing customer loyalty with a phone survey is a good choice.

Organizing a customer satisfaction survey by phone offers notable advantages compared to other methods. While a net promoter survey can give you interesting data, there is no conversational element involved. Further, using the net promoter survey approach effectively requires a certain degree of specialized training in the net promoter methodology.

You might also consider online customer surveys. Surveying your email list or website is worth attempting. Depending on the size of your email list or website traffic, you might be able to get a large number of survey responses. The challenge with online customer surveys is that you will have to spend a lot of time reviewing the data to find insights. There is no way to ask a customer to clarify their survey responses or provide an example.

Conducting a customer satisfaction survey by phone gives you the best of both worlds. You can ask questions and get survey responses. However, you also have the opportunity to provide the human touch. For instance, you may hear a customer complain about a lost or delayed order. When you hear about a problem during a phone survey, you can gather all the necessary details to make the situation right with the customer.

How to increase customer loyalty with a phone survey step by step.

The following steps give you a starting point to create a simple customer satisfaction survey. Over the course of a month, you could gather a significant amount of insights to improve your customer service by calling five to 10 customers per day.

  1. Define your customer satisfaction survey goals.

Before calling a single customer, reflect on your business goals. Are you seeking to improve your profit margins? In that case, you may want to focus your survey on the customers that spend the most on your business. Finding ways to make high-spending customers content may give you an excellent return. Alternatively, you may decide to focus your survey project on whether your local SEO has attracted customers. 

  1. Write your customer satisfaction survey questions.

Now that you have clarity on your goals, it is time to write your questions. According to Survey Monkey, a survey software company, it is best to focus your survey on closed-ended questions. An example of a closed-ended question would be: “How many times have you bought from our business in the past 12 months?” However, this kind of question may not give you the ideas you need to improve the customer experience.

At the end of the survey, consider asking one or two open-ended questions to understand better what your customers like. Encourage customers to think creatively with a question like this: “If you could change anything in our business, what would you improve?”

Tip: Reduce your need for note-taking by using call recording, but make sure that you ask for permission first.

  1. Test the survey with a small group of customers.

With your list of customer satisfaction questions, make a few test phone calls to customers. The purpose of the test is to discover if any of the questions are unclear. If you receive confusing answers, revise the question to make them clearer.

  1. Train employees on how to gather survey responses.

Consider running a few training phone calls for your employees. Ask them to call you or other employees in a role-playing scenario. Making a few practice calls will help your employees become more familiar with the questions. Besides, practice phone surveys will help employees learn how to record survey responses accurately. Once the training is complete, give your staff a list of customers to call and let them get started.

  1. Review the survey responses for insights and follow up with customers.

After all of the survey responses are in, schedule time to review the results. In particular, look for patterns in the results. If a large number of people gave low scores to your website, you may need to make improvements. Also, review the survey responses received in the open-ended questions. You might be pleasantly surprised at what customers tell you.

  1. Follow up with customers after the survey when needed.

A phone survey lets you gather rich insights because you can quickly ask follow-up questions. However, merely gathering survey responses may not impress your customers very much. Instead, offer to refer problems to the business owner for improvement or offer to enter the respondent in a drawing for a gift card. That is a much more compelling improvement! By addressing problems and issues when they arise, you stand a much better chance of winning additional loyal customers.