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As many domestic firms scramble to meet the year-end deadline for Sarbanes-Oxley (SOx) section 404 compliance and foreign firms eye their deadline next year, they are hiring a ton of consultants to help them put the necessary control environments in place.

While this type of decision-making is understandable, it does carry some risks due to the nature of the work being performed that organizations need to be aware of. Organizations must not forget that the control environment must be tailored to the needs of their organizations and that they are the ones who will be held accountable.

Organizations implement, or should implement, controls in order to protect what matters most to them. Taking a step back, what is the purpose of SOx? It is targeted at restoring faith in the stock markets by attempting to restore public confidence in the integrity of the financial reporting process.

Therein lies the first hint. If starting from scratch, the most basic control environment for SOx compliance must be focused on protecting the integrity of the financial reporting process. This varies from company to company and is one reason a simple “do this and your done” approach doesn’t work.

When talking to consultants, the first thing to evaluate is their focus. Do they understand what is needed? Are they overly broad or too narrow? Are they aiming to create a solution or a straw house that will require years of additional support from them — with associated fees of course!

No Silver Bullet

With the above in mind, the series of controls to be implanted should be done in such a way as to create a framework. Within the framework, people, processes and technology are integrated to protect what matters to the specific organization and integrated in a logical, comprehensible and supportable manner. These are three very important attributes!

When a resource comes in and forces its version of a control framework onto your organization without tailoring it, something is very wrong. There must be a risk analysis that identifies what needs to be protected. Not every company needs a full-blown COBIT implementation. Indeed, many will be just fine with a fraction of the 318 detailed control objectives covered as long as the appropriate risks are identified and mitigated.

Beware of prospective vendors who come in and promise to solve your compliance issues with an application or suite of applications. You absolutely need to have a control framework that is tailored to your organization’s needs. This means you must have the right people following the right processes for the right reasons. Any applications purchased or developed must support this effort, not necessarily drive it. In short, be very cautious and make sure that the application supports goals — and don’t divert attention away from the goals.

Involve the Right People

There are two parts to this. First, make sure the correct people evaluate the prospective vendors/partners. These stakeholders need to understand the organization, what matters most, have a basic understanding of controls and have a vested interest in protecting both the organization and shareholders.

Second, the right people must be engaged with the consultants to ensure correct decisions are made and, just as important, to learn. When audits are performed and/or actions investigated, it will be your organization that ultimately will be held accountable.

Beware approaches that follow a simple “cookie cutter” approach. You must understand what is vital to your organization, what must be done to protect it and be able to defend decisions made to external auditors. You do not want to say, “We do this because the consultant told us to.”

Value Standards

Beware of custom approaches that do not leverage standards. COBIT, ITIL and ISO 17799 have been around for years. A great many external auditors will follow audit programs based on COBIT. If your consultant:

Follows a risk based approach to identify what needs to be protected

Overlays that onto the necessary COBIT controls

Works with you to review best practices from ITIL

Then a fairly sound approach is being followed. There are tremendous benefits to be gained by leveraging these existing works. Common vocabulary, industry best practices, training programs, reduced costs, shorter learning curves — the list goes on and on.

One fact that seems to be overlooked is that SOx is not a one-time event. Organizations are investing substantial sums of money for year one compliance. The challenge is that SOx doesn’t end after the first year — it goes on indefinitely and there will be more regulations to come.

If resources are not carefully planned, budgeted and granted, the process risks not being sustainable and regressing over the following years, losing the initial investment and possibly even incurring penalties due to noncompliance. When the consultants finally leave, your organization will need to stand on its own. You will need the people, the processes and appropriate knowledge in order to do that. And that means adequate planning and, subsequently, budgets.

Summary

Organizations need to prudently engage and manage the use of external groups when it comes to the creation of a control environment. They cannot simply hire a vendor, get a stack of books and/or applications and flag the project as finished. Quite to the contrary, care must be given to understand what is needed, that the best vendor is selected and that the internal stakeholders truly “own” the developed control framework. To do this, they must engage the right people, select vendors who are leveraging standards and plan for compliance efforts as part of their ongoing strategic planning and budgeting processes.

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The Right Way To Support Frustrated Customers

Steering frustrated customers is a big challenge in business. There is no doubt in saying that customers can get irritated quickly with poorer services.

Contact center as a service (CCaaS) helps businesses to stay relatively closer to their customers across different channels.

Today, customers have several alternatives at their disposal, and they expect companies to be accessible via any channel that they may use.

CCaaS is a cloud-based solution provided as a service that enables customer service organizations to manage multichannel contact centers and customer interactions.

In the modern business era, CCaaS has evolved its paradigm at a much greater pace.

Besides handling incoming calls, it can automate most of your communication-based, interaction-based, and handling-based tasks intelligently when integrated with Artificial Intelligent tools.

In this way, AI tools streamline customer service processes and ensure a positive customer experience.

The development of a positive customer experience is dependent on the timely resolution of customers’ most pressing issues.

As a result, they feel satisfied, and they become one of your most ardent supporters. Their positive word-of-mouth provides your brand with credibility, and ubiquity, and attracts new customers.

Yet, what if you fail to satisfy your customers at the right time?

Certainly, they become frustrated and perceive a negative intent against the credibility of your brand.

So, how can you help frustrated customers?

Five Ways to Support Frustrated Customers Like a Pro

When you’re interacting with angry customers, chances are you will have to put extra effort to turn the situation around.

Chances are that you will likely have to put in much more effort to solve the problem. However, you can do certain things to help resolve the situation.

Here are some effective ways to deal with angry customers:

1. Show Sympathy and Empathy

Most times customers are frustrated at the start of a call or could get uneasy during a call. At that time, it is essential to be courteous and attentive. Utilize empathic language to express sympathy, and help them express their pain points. Communicate with the respect that you understand the source of their anger, express your compassion and as per above, it is important to stay patient and thank them for their time.

Simply expressing empathy significantly increases your chances of receiving a response.

2. Stay Calm and be Optimistic

It’s important to stay calm and not add to the emotional charge of a situation by becoming angry or frustrated.

3. Introduce Yourself and Offer A Solution

Begin introducing yourself and greeting them, as you normally would.

Telling the customer your name and presenting to help resolve your problem. Try to carry an interaction more personally as this will help you a lot. Additionally, avoid referring to them as “Sir” or “Ma’am”.

Following the agenda, offer a solution confidently which helps in resolving the situation.

Offer a solution and be open to discussing the issue further.

4. Explain The Steps You’ll take to Solve The Problem

Whether it’s something simple you can do via phone or a more complex series of steps to be taken, explain the best courses of action so the client is included in the process and understands and feels appreciated.

5. Thank The Customer

At last, appreciate the customer by thanking them for having them onboard.

Additionally, you can request feedback based on their interaction with you. Positive feedback aids in identifying good practices and signifies a successful outcome.

You can end conversations positively with, “Thank you for your patience while we resolved this issue.”

I hope you found this an insightful read.

Please leave your thoughts on this topic below.

How To Clean Your Macbook Keyboard The Right Way

Keyboards will get dirty, no matter how careful you might be. Dust naturally makes its way onto your keyboard and between the keys. Crumbs from a hastily-eaten muffin as you rush to meet your deadline can fall beneath the spacebar. If your Macbook keyboard isn’t responding like it used to, it might be time to clean it.

The key is doing it the right way. If you don’t know how to clean your Macbook Pro, you could end up causing further damage instead of clearing away grime. There is a proper way to clean a laptop keyboard that differs from cleaning a desktop keyboard.

Table of Contents

Supplies You Will Need

Before you set out to clean your keyboard, make sure you have all the necessary supplies already on hand. These include:

A compressed air can

Paper towels

Microfiber cloth

Isopropyl alcohol

How to Clean Your Mac Keyboard

Remember, gravity is your friend. When you clean your keyboard, the first step is dislodging any dust and dirt build-up and allowing it to fall free of the keyboard keys. Here’s how to do that.

Hold your Mac at a 75-degree angle. Make sure to hold it by the body of the laptop, not the screen.

With a can of compressed air, spray the keyboard in a left-to-right motion.

Rotate your Mac to the right side and spray the keyboard once more, again in a left-to-right motion.

Repeat this process once more with the Mac rotated to its left side.

Spraying compressed air in this way will clean dirt from beneath the keys and allow it to fall out. Make sure to follow the directions on the can, and keep your sprays quick and light. If condensation builds up on the keyboard, use a paper towel to lightly dab it, taking care not to press moisture further into the keys.

This is the official method from Apple for cleaning your Macbook Pro keyboard, and it works for the Macbook Air too.

How to Clean a Spill on a Mac Keyboard

It happens to everyone: you’re drinking water, coffee, or worse, something sugary, and you accidentally spill it on your laptop keyboard. If this happens, don’t panic. You can save your laptop and its keyboard.

Shut off all power to the laptop. Hold down the power button until the screen goes black and the laptop entirely powers off.

Unplug any connected accessories and cables, including flash drives and network cards.

Flip the laptop upside down and lay it on a towel.

With a soft, lint-free cloth, wipe down any liquid on the exterior of the laptop.

Leave your laptop in that position for at least 24 hours, preferably in a dry environment.

If any internal components like the hard drive were exposed to water, they have to dry completely before you power your laptop back on.

If the spill is small (only a few drops), then it’s much easier to clean. Repeat the same steps as above, but you’ll only need to let it rest for two or three hours.

How to Disinfect Your Keyboard Keys

Have you ever thought about how many germs build up on your keyboard? It’s a bit like a doorknob in some ways. The good news is that it’s easy to disinfect, and it’s something you should do on a regular basis (especially after you’ve had a cold!) The key is to use disinfectant wipes, but make sure they don’t contain bleach.

If you don’t have disinfectant wipes, you can make your own cleaning solution. It should be a mixture of one part water, one part isopropyl alcohol. You can also use an electronic cleaning solution. Use a microfiber cloth to wipe down the keys.

As always, make sure your Macbook is completely powered down before you begin.

Lightly wipe down the keys, taking care not to squeeze any excess moisture from the cleaning wipe or cloth onto the keys.

After you have wiped down the keyboard, use a lightly damp cloth to clean up any solution that remains on your computer’s keyboard.

Finally, dry your keyboard with a dry, lint-free cloth. Take time to thoroughly dry all the nooks and crannies to make sure no liquid makes its way into your Macbook.

These same wipes can be used to clean any smudges from the trackpad. The same method applies; use light pressure, and thoroughly dry the trackpad afterward.

If you happened to spill something sticky on your keyboard, using a disinfectant wipe is also a great way to get rid of any sugary residue once you’ve finished cleaning it.

Testing the Keyboard

After you have cleaned your keyboard and powered your laptop back on, open a word processor of some kind. It doesn’t matter if it’s Google Docs, Microsoft Word, etc.

Start by pressing each key, one after the other, and testing that the corresponding letter, number, or symbol appears in the document. Don’t forget to test function keys such as Shift, Command, the Apple key, and others, as well as the F1 through F12 keys at the top of the keyboard.

If every key responds properly, you’re good to go. If you find that several keys do not work, then don’t try to disassemble your keyboard yourself. Take it to an Apple-certified repair shop or an Apple Store for maintenance. Sometimes, repairs will be covered at no cost to you due to well-known defects in the keyboard switches, but if you’re not sure, customer support can tell you whether your Macbook is covered.

Start Influencer Marketing The Right Way In 2023

From 2023 to 2023, businesses faced challenges due to the pandemic. However, one increasing trend that almost doubled over the past two years was influence marketing (See figure 1.) Business leaders and marketers are not ignorant to this trend, but also have the question in mind: What really is influencer marketing? How different is it than working with celebrities? Should influencer marketing be your top priority? In this guide, we will answer these questions and also give you a step by step guide to start with influencer marketing.

Figure: 1. Source: Statista

1. What is influencer marketing? 2. How is influencer marketing different than working with celebrities?

You may think that working with celebrities is not a new concept in marketing, but the definitions of celebrity and influencer started to be differentiated from each other. Traditional celebrities often gain fame through entertainment and media sector, such as acting or singing. Influencers typically build a fan base from scratch by creating content that attract people’s attention on social media. They don’t necessarily have to be in media or entertainment but gain public attention with their life style, a niche hobby or expertise.

3. What is an example of influencer marketing?

Let’s imagine you launched a new technology product and need to introduce it to potential buyers. A YouTube user, Marques Brownlee, creates original content only about reviewing technology products and has more than 15 million followers. Figure 2 is a part of one of his sponsored videos where a brand spokesperson is about to appear and introduce their product. Brownlee does not appear in a Hollywood movie, so you may not know him at all, but some people who are into using the newest technology products may even recognize him on the street. This is a typical example of influencer marketing, that could be applied for almost all types of products.

4. Should influencer marketing be your top priority?

Word of mouth or asking for a trusted friend’s opinion for our purchasing decisions has been always there. Especially for B2C products, new brands or launches, influencer marketing is critical to build a sustainable relationship with consumers. According to a 2023 report by Digital Marketing Institute, 49% of consumers trust in influencer recommendations and 70% of teenagers trust in influencers more than traditional celebrities.

If you have a mixed presence of offline and online channels, or a wider range of consumers, you may consider influencer marketing as a part of your overall marketing strategy, and compare the success of different channels over time. If your main channel is online and your audience is younger, influencer marketing can be the go-to solution for a limited marketing budget or the top priority in your overall marketing strategy.

5. What are the best practices to start with influencer marketing?

If you are a big company, you may be working with a media agency for your marketing campaigns. However, if you follow these steps, you can also do it in-house. Even if you have an agency controlling your campaigns, knowing these aspects are important for a marketer to manage a successful influencer marketing strategy.

Bright Data offers automated web scraping data that enables brands to collect organic web data to find the right influencer. For a company that lists influencers for different businesses, Bright Data gathered a comprehensive dataset that includes social media hashtags those influencers use, the areas they’re in, and details about their follower audience.

For more on latest technology trends in marketing, check out our research in:

If you believe that your business may benefit from a web scraping solution, check our list of web crawlers to find the best vendor for you. And check our comprehensive hub of marketing solutions to explore different approaches in your business.

For guidance to choose the right tool, reach out to us:

This article was drafted by former AIMultiple industry analyst Bengüsu Özcan.

Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.

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Are You Searching For The Right Way To Manage Your Business?

In a day and age where the business world seems even more competitive, how would you describe your ability to manage your small business?

With 2013 off and running, hopefully you have already set aside goals to better manage your company over the next 12 months. If so, where do things like social media, checking your online reputation, and cozying up more to technology figure into the mix

According to research from the Harvard Business Review Analytics Services, nearly 80 percent of the 2,100 business surveyed stated they are either using or intend to utilize social media channels moving forward

That being said, only a mere 12 percent of those companies believe that they are properly using them. Lastly, a large percentage of businesses indicate they are still taking their time to seriously focus in on social media. Some two-thirds of users noted not having any formalized social media strategy, with only 7 percent having integrated social media into their overall marketing plans.

So, where should some of your business management focus be this year? Keep an eye on:

* Social media – First and foremost, get more social with the public. Given the fact that more consumers are using social platforms to shop for and buy goods and services, you need to be there awaiting their visits. If you have company Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Pinterest pages, how active are you on them? Do you share, tweet, post and pin regularly, or are you one of those business owners who does it just because the competition does? Make sure you have a sound strategy going forward over these next 12 months to put yourself above and beyond the competition;

* Technology – Lastly, what emphasis will you be placing on technology during these next 12 months? From mobile payments to videos and podcasts touting your business, be prepared to give everything a try if you are not already doing so. As more and more of your customers want their goods and services purchased and delivered yesterday and not today, you need to stay up to speed on consumer demands. While having a company blog is great and all, have you dabbled in videos and podcasts? These can be great tools to educate and inform the buying public as to what you offer. If you do not have the time or expertise to do such materials in-house, consider outsourcing the work to professionals who can make your company stand out from the rest.

With a new year oftentimes come resolutions. What will be your business resolutions for 2013?

How To Outsource Shipping And Order Fulfillment

Outsourced shipping is when your product distribution is fulfilled by another company.

There are many different solutions for outsourced shipping.

When choosing a shipping provider, you should consider the size of your product and your projected shipping volume.

This article is for small business owners who want to streamline their logistics process and move their current processes out of their garage.

When you run an e-commerce business, one of the most important details is how you ship your products to your customers. While shipping out of your garage works well when you first start a business, that model becomes unsustainable as your business grows.

There comes a point in every business owner’s life when they realize they need to streamline their logistics process, said Krishna Iyer, director of strategic alliances for ShipStation. If you’ve reached that point, you may wonder how to affordably outsource your shipping needs to third-party providers with the least disruption to your customers and business.

We spoke with industry experts to help small online retailers determine when it’s time to outsource shipping – and how to do it.

How does outsourced shipping work?

The outsourced shipping process starts when your company purchases products from your supplier. Your product will then be shipped to your third-party logistics center for storage.

When you make a sale, you’ll forward the order to the center, and they will fulfill the order by sending your product directly to the customer. The third-party logistics center will pack up and ship your products directly, so you’ll never need to handle items before they reach customers.

Once you have your process established, customers will be able to seamlessly buy a product, and your outsourced shipping provider will fulfill the order.

Tip

Before signing on with a shipping provider, ask your prospective distributors if they’d be able to meet an increase in demand.

Should you outsource your shipping?

If you’ve been shipping products out of your home, trusting a third party can be difficult. Iyer said business owners need to look at their finances to decide if it’s time to use shipping software or hire another company to handle shipping.

“When looking to outsource shipping, business owners should consider where they are shipping products to most often, how intricate their fulfillment procedures are, what the returns experience looks like for their customers, and what markets they would like to expand to,” Iyer said.

Iyer listed some of the major pros of outsourcing your shipping.

A shift in focus: Outsourcing allows you to focus on your core competencies, such as product development, marketing and long-term growth strategy.

More professional shipping: Third-party shippers are often better suited to handle shipping, packing and fulfillment.

Time and money savings: You can decrease your business’s order-fulfillment time and potentially save your customers money.

Of course, there are also some cons of outsourced shipping.

Costs: If you sell large products, outsourcing your shipping may cost more in the long run, because of the extra warehouse space needed to store your products.

Complex pricing: Some shipping companies have complicated pricing structures that make it difficult to understand how much you’ll ultimately pay.

Issues with returns: Your returns process may suffer when you use a third-party shipping company, as some customer service functions are out of your hands.

FYI

If you decide to handle shipping yourself, it’s cost-effective to invest in mailing equipment, such as postage meters.

How to outsource shipping

Online retailers have a few different options when outsourcing, including renting warehouses, dropshipping and using third-party logistics (3PL) companies.

“It really depends on your business and what you’re selling, and the materials you need to do business,” said Sam Ely, director of LTL operations at uShip.

Warehouse rentals

Renting warehouses is common among growing online retailers. Merchants rent warehouse space near high-population areas so goods can be delivered to consumers faster and cheaper than they could from the business owner’s or manufacturer’s location.

Did You Know?

If your business stores goods in a warehouse, a warehouse inventory management system is essential. Shipping software can help you remotely manage your inventory and orders.

Dropshipping

If you don’t want the hassles that come with renting warehouse space, dropshipping bypasses warehousing and allows you to ship orders and track inventory directly from the dropshipper.

With dropshipping, when a customer buys a product, you (the merchant) buy the inventory from the dropshipping company, which then ships the products to the customer directly.

Third-party logistics

Third-party logistics, or 3PL, encompasses many different services. Essentially, it means hiring another business to optimize your supply chain. This company could handle shipping and warehousing, manage the inventory process, provide in-depth reports, and more.

A 3PL comes with a hefty price tag, which might be difficult for some small businesses to handle. As a business owner, you need to weigh the pros – not having to deal with the nightmarish web of shipping duties – with the cons, like the significant upfront investment these services require.

Did You Know?

The online business laws e-commerce companies should be aware of include spelling out terms and conditions as they relate to shipping and returns policies.

How to choose a shipping provider

As you weigh your options, here are some tips from Iyer for finding an outsourcing partner:

Understand your business’s shipping needs. Envision the fulfillment and delivery experience you want your customers to have, and then communicate your business’s needs to the providers you’re considering. Involve your company’s various departments early on, mitigating potential issues later.

Shop around for shipping providers. “Understand the line-item costs for each item fulfilled,” Iyer said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for a sample invoice breakdown and a projection of what a bill will look like.” He noted that most 3PLs are locally owned and operated, so they can be flexible with invoicing structures. If you go the 3PL route, find one that really fits your needs, and ask for references with companies in similar industries if possible. [Learn more about invoices and price quotes in our guide.]

Ask questions. As cliche as “open communication” and “asking lots of questions” may seem, these factors are crucial to finding the right provider, saving you a lot of headaches further down the road. “[Third-party shippers] should … have a lot of transparency in what they are doing, how they are doing it, and why they are doing it,” Iyer said. “After all, it is your product and why a customer is buying from you.”

Consider how a provider handles returns. An important area to consider is how a third-party vendor might handle customer returns. “How much do they put on the customer versus utilizing tools – i.e., printing a return label on the front end for a product, or having the capability to print and email a return label?” Iyer said. “How does the third party process the return when it comes in? Can they utilize low-cost return methods? These are critical questions [to ask] in keeping costs down and ensuring a better customer experience.”

Top outsourced shipping options for small businesses

There are many excellent shipping options for small businesses, some of which are household names. Each major carrier has its own small business solution with benefits and drawbacks.

USPS

The United States Postal Service is ideal for small businesses sending out a low volume of smaller items. It offers programs that make it easy to fulfill orders in-house, including allowing users to pay postage and print shipping labels online with an at-home pickup option.

USPS runs local routes daily, so it won’t have to go out of its way to deliver to your customers. However, USPS delays can affect small business operations and customer satisfaction.

FedEx

If you ship large items that need fast delivery, FedEx is a sound option. Its small business options include a rewards program and packaging dashboard that allows you to calculate the weight and size of your packages to determine your shipping needs.

UPS

UPS, or the United Parcel Service, can deliver large shipments in one to five business days. It also has many resources for small business owners, including the ability to schedule pickups and manage customer support, and a program that offers shipping discounts and consultations to small businesses.

Key Takeaway

The best shipping provider for your small business depends on the size of your products and the volume you need to ship.

What is outsourced shipping?

Outsourced shipping is when another company handles and fulfills your product distribution. After you start selling online, operations can grow quickly, until managing the supply chain becomes a challenge. An outsourced shipping provider can deliver your products into your customers’ hands more quickly.

An outsourced shipping provider can help you meet current customers’ demands and facilitate gaining new customers and reaching far-off markets. Expanding into foreign markets doesn’t have to be complicated, either. Outsourced fulfillment centers can reduce the delay caused by international customs, lowering your return rates and increasing your profit margins.

The future of logistics

To get a glimpse into the future of e-commerce logistics for retailers, you need only to look at the industry’s biggest player: Amazon.

“All eyes are on Amazon, given its enormous investment in logistics and desire to control the supply chain, from sourcing to transoceanic movement to warehousing to final-mile delivery to the home,” Ely said. “Technology will play a big part in optimizing that effort for them.”

“Products are getting from the manufacturer [or] vendor to the customer faster than ever,” Iyer added. “It will be interesting to see if the creation of more shipping options then creates new products, modes of transport, or other levels of innovation that we have not foreseen yet.”

Sean Peek contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

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