Customers look for convenience. In today’s world that means technology that makes their life easier. From webforms to POS systems, you need to keep the customer experience in mind in all you do.
When people aren’t happy with their experience interacting with a company, they leave. And their experience might not have anything to do with your products or services. Maybe they found it hard to navigate your website. They may have a question, but no one was around to answer it.
Customers expect you to make it easy for them to do business with you. Companies that do that, reap the benefits. Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than those that aren’t.
Technology is key to converting website visitors into clients. It’s also key for keeping customers happy and returning to buy again.
Where should you focus? Below are several ideas for all business budgets.
Are you still emailing forms in Microsoft Word to your customers? Using cloud-based forms makes the experience much better. Your customer doesn’t need to save a form to their computer and remember to email it back. Instead, they can follow a link and fill out the info online from any device.
Moving your forms to the cloud makes it easier for you as well. The form data comes in automatically. These systems also collate forms and provide analytics.
If you use Microsoft 365, then you already have a cloud form tool. Look for Microsoft Forms in your available applications or visit Microsoft’s site.
Experts expect the use of eSignatures to grow by 69% by 2024. The ability to digitally sign documents means more contracts get signed. People don’t have to print out a form, sign it, then scan it back in. Any of those activities could mean a bump in the road.
Printers run out of ink. People have trouble with a scanner they rarely use. The list goes on. Any problem can mean a customer rethinks signing a document that you need.
Using digital signatures streamlines the process. You can handle the transaction online. You also ensure you have a legally binding signature.
When someone makes a buying decision, they often have a question. If they don’t have a quick and easy way to get an answer, they may go elsewhere.
Chatbots are really smart these days. If you program them right, they can answer a large percentage of repeat questions. They’re there 24/7 on your website ready to help in a moment of need.
Many customers actually like them. About 68% of consumers are happy using helpful chatbots. They say they like that they get a fast answer from a bot. This isn’t always the case when customers send an email.
SMS notifications are another type of technology that can improve customer experience. Emails have become flooded with junk mail. When someone needs to know about a shipment or purchase, they often prefer it by text. This way the message isn’t missed.
Think about implementing SMS notifications for important customer alerts. Make sure you have an opt-in and opt-out method. It’s also a best practice to let the customer choose which alerts they want to receive. Such as payment notifications, sales, or shipping details.
Business Mobile App
People have been in a transition from websites to apps for a while. Of course, the internet isn’t going away, but apps are gaining ground. A big reason for this is the rise of smartphone use.
Smartphone searches are overtaking web searches. And when people are on a mobile device they prefer apps over websites. Studies show that mobile users spend 90% of their time using apps, and just 10% using an internet browser.
Think about implementing a mobile app for your business. This can make it easier for customers to do business with you. It also gives you more marketing and service capabilities, such as push notifications.
If you’re on a tight budget, you could start with a “wrapper” app. These are solutions that take your existing website and transform it into an app.
For retail stores, having an FAQ kiosk available can provide a positive experience. It can allow customers to get questions answered quickly. It could also help them look up sales and coupons.
Service businesses can also benefit by using this digital tool. They can use it for commonly asked questions. They can also use it to direct clients to staff offices.
VoIP Phone System
You might think of your phone system as an internal piece of IT. But it’s also one of your most customer-facing technologies. The experience people get when they call is a vital part of how they view your business.
VoIP phone systems give staff the flexibility to help customers anywhere. This is true even when away from their desks. They also enable things like group ring, auto-attendant, and voicemail to email. All these features make for better caller interaction with your business.
Get Help Planning Your Technology Roadmap
Which technology upgrades will benefit your bottom line the most? How should new systems integrate into existing solutions? These are some of the things we look at when helping you look ahead to the future. Give us a call today to schedule a chat.
Once data began going digital, authorities realized a need to protect it. Thus, the creation of data privacy rules and regulations to address cyber threats. Many organizations have one or more data privacy policies they need to meet.
Those in the U.S. healthcare industry and their service partners need to comply with HIPAA. Anyone collecting payment card data must worry about PCI-DSS. GDPR is a wide-reaching data protection regulation. It impacts anyone selling to EU citizens.
Industry and international data privacy regulations are just the tip of the iceberg. Many state and local jurisdictions also have their own data privacy laws. Organizations must be aware of these compliance requirements. But they also need to know about updates to these rules.
By the end of 2024, about 75% of the population will have its data protected by one or more privacy regulations.
Authorities enact new data privacy regulations all the time. For example, in 2023, four states will have new rules. Colorado, Utah, Connecticut, and Virginia will begin enforcing new data privacy statutes.
Businesses must stay on top of their data privacy compliance requirements. Otherwise, they can suffer. Many standards carry stiff penalties for a data breach. And if security was lacking, fines can be even higher.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) uses a sliding scale. Violators can be fined between $100 to $50,000 per breached record. The more negligent the company is, the higher the fine.
Does all that sound scary?
Don’t worry, we have some tips below for you. These can help you keep up with data privacy updates coming your way.
Steps for Staying On Top of Data Privacy Compliance
1. Identify the Regulations You Need to Follow
Does your organization have a list of the different data privacy rules it falls under? There could be regulations for:
Where you sell (e.g., if you sell to the EU)
City or county
Federal (e.g., for government contractors)
Identify all the various data privacy regulations that you may be subject to. This helps ensure you’re not caught off guard by one you didn’t know about.
2. Stay Aware of Data Privacy Regulation Updates
Don’t get blindsided by a data privacy rule change. You can stay on top of any changes by signing up for updates on the appropriate website. Look for the official website for the compliance authority.
For example, if you are in the healthcare field you can sign up for HIPAA updates at HIPAA.gov. You should do this for each of the regulations your business falls under.
You should have updates sent to more than one person. Typically, your Security Officer or equal, and another responsible party. This ensures they don’t get missed if someone is on vacation.
3. Do an Annual Review of Your Data Security Standards
Companies are always evolving their technology. This doesn’t always mean a big enterprise transition. Sometimes you may add a new server or a new computer to the mix.
Any changes to your IT environment can mean falling out of compliance. A new employee mobile device added, but not properly protected is a problem. One new cloud tool an employee decides to use can also cause a compliance issue.
It’s important to do at least an annual review of your data security. Match that with your data privacy compliance requirements to make sure you’re still good.
4. Audit Your Security Policies and Procedures
Something else you should audit at least annually is your policies and procedures. These written documents that tell employees what’s expected from them. They also give direction when it comes to data privacy and how to handle a breach.
Audit your security policies annually. Additionally, audit them whenever there is a data privacy regulation update. You want to ensure that you’re encompassing any new changes to your requirements.
5. Update Your Technical, Physical & Administrative Safeguards As Needed
When you receive a notification that a data privacy update is coming, plan ahead. It’s best to comply before the rule kicks in, if possible.
Look at three areas of your IT security:
Technical safeguards – Systems, devices, software, etc.
Administrative safeguards – Policies, manuals, training, etc.
Physical safeguards – Doors, keypads, building security, etc.
6. Keep Employees Trained on Compliance and Data Privacy Policies
Employees should be aware of any changes to data privacy policies that impact them. When you receive news about an upcoming update, add this to your ongoing training.
Good cybersecurity practice is to conduct ongoing cybersecurity training for staff. This keeps their anti-breach skills sharp and reminds them of what’s expected. Include updates they need to know about so they can be properly prepared.
Remember to always log your training activities. It’s a good idea to log the date, the employees educated, and the topic. This way, you have this documentation if you do suffer a breach at some point.
Get Help Ensuring Your Systems Meet Compliance Needs
Data privacy compliance can be complex. But you don’t have to figure it all out yourself. Our team is well-versed in compliance needs. Give us a call today to schedule a chat.
Companies both large and small share this one cybersecurity problem. They have computers that are still running older operating systems. Staff might use these devices only occasionally. Or the company may be running customized software that won’t run on newer OS versions.
The problem is that when the OS becomes outdated, the system is open to cyberattacks. When Microsoft or another developer retires an OS, it means that it is no longer supported. No more feature updates and no more security patches for newly found vulnerabilities.
The latest operating system to lose all support is Windows 8.1. Microsoft released the OS in 2013, and it was officially retired on January 10, 2023. Microsoft issued the following warning for companies:
“Continuing to use Windows 8.1 after January 10, 2023 may increase an organization’s exposure to security risks or impact its ability to meet compliance obligations.”
Here are a few facts you should know about what this retirement of Windows 8.1 means.
The OS Will Still Technically Work
When an operating system reaches its end of life, it doesn’t just stop working. Thus, many companies go on using it without realizing the security risk. Technically, the OS will work as it did the day before retirement. But it’s a lot less safe due to the loss of support.
Your System Will No Longer Receive Security Patches
Software and OS vulnerabilities are sought out and exploited all the time. This is what hackers do for a living. The vulnerability cycle usually begins with hackers finding a software “loophole.” They then write code to exploit it that allows them some type of system access.
The software developer learns of this, usually once hackers start breaching systems. They write code to fix that vulnerability. Developers then send the fix to users via an update that they install. This protects the device from one or more hacker exploits.
When an OS reaches its end of life, these fixes are no longer made. The developer has moved on to focus on its newer products. So, the vulnerability remains. It leaves a device vulnerable to hacks for days, months, or years afterward.
Approximately 61% of security vulnerabilities in corporate networks are over five years old.
Options for Upgrading
If you have a computer that is still running Windows 8.1, you have two options for upgrading. You can opt for Windows 10 or Windows 11. If the computer is running such an old OS, there is a chance your system may not meet the requirements for one or both. In this case, you may need to buy a new device altogether.
Microsoft states that there is no free option to upgrade from 8.1 to Windows 10 or 11. Some of the advantages you gain when upgrading include:
Better built-in security
Capability for more modern features (like facial recognition)
Improved accessibility features
Updated productivity tools (like snap layouts in Windows 11)
What Happens If I Don’t Upgrade?
Security & Compliance Issues
Your data security is at risk if you stay on Windows 8.1. Without any security updates, any vulnerabilities will stay unpatched. This leaves your system highly vulnerable to a breach. One hacked system on a network can also cause the breach or malware infection to spread to newer devices.
If you have to comply with a data privacy regulation, like HIPAA, you’ll also run into issues. Data privacy rules dictate making reasonable efforts to protect data. Using a device with an outdated OS jeopardizes meeting compliance.
The older systems get, the slower they get. Staff that must work on outdated software often complain that it hurts productivity. 77% of surveyed employees were frustrated with outdated tech. Employees dealing with outmoded systems may also quit. They are 450% more likely to want to leave and work elsewhere.
An outdated operating system can hold your staff back. They miss out on modern time-saving features. They can also run into problems with bugs that will no longer get fixed.
Incompatibility With Newer Tools
Software and hardware developers aren’t looking back. Once Microsoft retires an OS, they aren’t prioritizing its compatibility. In fact, some may not want their product to be compatible with it because of the liability.
When you have issues using modern software and hardware it hurts your business. You become less competitive and begin to fall behind. Staying on an outmoded OS keeps you stuck in the past.
Get Help With Your Windows Upgrades
We can help you upgrade smoothly from an older Windows OS to a new one. If you need a new system, we can point you in the right direction for the best value. Give us a call today to schedule a chat about upgrades and where your security stands.
It’s a common theme. You begin seeing these amazing CGI images of your friends on Facebook or Instagram. You think, “How can I make one?”
Filters and self-portrait apps have come a long way. You can now make yourself look like Hollywood’s version of a character in the next hit animated film. It still kind of looks like you, only a dream version with “perfect” hair, skin, and facial features.
The latest of these modern vanity marvels to make the rounds is Lensa AI. You upload about 10 photos so the app can feed that data into its AI algorithm. Then, once it maps your facial features, it generates several fantasy selfies of you.
These magical avatars don’t come for free though. While you can download the app for free and use it in a limited fashion, you need to pay to do more. To get unlimited access for one week, it’s $2.99. There are several pricing tiers for its avatar packs and membership access. These range from $3.99 for Avatars Pack 1 to $35.99 for full membership.
It sounds like a little harmless digital fun, right? That’s what many companies making apps like this like you to think. Vanity is an easy sell, and who doesn’t want to have a fabulous profile pic?
But for Lensa AI and several similar self-portrait apps, you’re paying more than you know. The cost comes from the data privacy rights you’re giving up. And these can go far beyond the app itself.
Why Worry About Data Privacy with Lensa AI & Similar Apps?
Thanks to laws like GDPR, software and app developers need to tell you what they do with your data. Looking at the app at the Mac App Store, a few alarming things jump out.
Data Used to Track You
Once you download the Lensa AI app, it can track your phone activity. The app store states that the app may use purchases and unique identifiers to track you. And this doesn’t mean only tracking you while in Lensa AI. It can track you across websites and apps owned by other companies.
Lensa AI scours your device for a lot of different data points. By downloading it, you permit it to do this. Some of the tracking links to you personally (such as linked to your name, IP address, or phone number). It collects a lot of other data, but not with your name or another identifier on it.
Data collected and linked to you:
User content (such as the images you upload)
Data collected, but not linked to you:
Purchases you make on websites or apps
Usage data for apps, etc.
Identifiers (this isn’t specified, but could mean things like city or gender)
Diagnostics from your device
Loss of Rights to Your Uploaded Images
What apps like Lensa AI do with your data is a grey area. Many tech companies, such as Facebook, have been known to act irresponsibly with user data. Many are purposely vague in their terms and conditions, leaving the door open.
One section from the Lensa AI Terms that users agree to states the following:
“…solely for the purposes of operating or improving Lensa, you grant us a time-limited, revocable, non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferable, sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, distribute, create derivative works of your User Content, without any additional compensation to you…”
For the sole purpose of “operating” Lensa, could mean anything. It could mean that to make more money to operate the business, the company needs to use your images. Note that it also states it can modify, distribute, etc. YOUR user content.
Things You Can Do to Protect Your Data Privacy
Don’t Immediately Jump on Every Fad
This one may be hard when you see all your friends using a new app. It’s natural to want to be a part of that. But try waiting a week. Most likely those avatar images from the latest selfie app won’t be blowing up your feed anymore.
Read App Terms & Conditions
Take the time to read an app’s terms. You are often giving up more data privacy rights than you realize. This includes giving an app the ability to track just about everything you do on your device. Be aware of what’s at risk before you download a new app.
Restrict Data Collection
If you can’t resist an app’s charms, at least make it as secure as possible. This includes taking the time to restrict its data collection features, where possible.
Get a Device Privacy Checkup
The more apps you use, the more complicated data privacy can get. Don’t leave it to chance. We’ll be happy to help. Give us a call today to schedule a device privacy checkup.
Microsoft 365 is one of the most popular cloud platforms in the world, with about 345 million paid seats. Microsoft cloud tools numbers were up 32% in Q3 2022 compared to the previous year.
One of the reasons for its continued growth is the suite of cloud tools offered in the service. Users get a stable of over 20 different apps, including the core MS Office suite.
With so many different apps, it’s not uncommon for some to go unused. Companies may not even be aware they have access to these other helpful tools. One of the handiest apps you get with a Microsoft 365 subscription is Microsoft Forms.
From sending year-end customer surveys to assessing change readiness, Forms makes it easy. This online survey and form-building tool has a lot to offer organizations. And if you have a subscription to Microsoft 365, then you already get Forms included for free.
What Is Microsoft Forms?
Microsoft Forms is a drag-and-drop form, quiz, and survey creator. It’s simple to use and allows you to send out surveys via a link. Recipients can fill out your form online from any device.
Once recipients fill out the survey, the results come into the software instantly. You can see the collated results charted in the software. You can also export the results to Excel.
How to Get Started in Forms:
Visit Forms.office.com and log into your Microsoft account.
Choose “New Form” or “New Quiz: from the top menu
OR you can choose to explore the built-in templates.
Click “Add New” to add a new form field. You can choose from field types:
Choice (i.e., multiple-choice question)
Likert (a scale that records attitudes/opinions about a topic)
Net Promoter Score® (a scale from “not likely” to “extremely likely”)
Section (separator that can include a title and image)
Enter your questions.
Once finished, click “Send” at the top. You can distribute the survey using the following options:
Link to a web form
Embed in a web page
Via Facebook or Twitter
View responses on the “Responses” tab
Advantages of Using Microsoft Forms
It’s Included in Microsoft 365 Subscriptions
If you already subscribe to Microsoft 365, then it makes sense to use Forms. It can save you money if you’re using a separate survey tool, like Survey Monkey. It’s easily accessible by signing in with your Microsoft account.
It Saves Time
Sending a survey by email is time-consuming. You have to worry about emails bouncing due to an attachment. You also need to spend time collating all the results as they come in.
Using MS Forms can save you a lot of time. People don’t need to download anything or open an email file attachment. They simply follow your link and fill out the form online. As soon as they fill the survey out, you get the result. Forms also collates all the answers for you.
Get Charted Results Automatically
You can quickly see the results of the survey in meaningful graphs. Forms makes it simple to export to Excel if you want to upload the survey results into another platform.
On the “Responses” tab, you can hover over the result graphs to see the details.
It’s Easy to Use
There’s a very low learning curve with Microsoft Forms. The interface is intuitive and simple, so just about everyone can jump in and start using it.
What Are Some Ways You Can Leverage Microsoft Forms?
Annual Customer Satisfaction Survey
Using a web-based survey can increase your response rate from customers. They can fill out your satisfaction survey from any device, making it quick and easy for them.
You can see results instantly. Then, chart them to gain insights into what your business is doing right, and what you can improve upon.
Employee Security Awareness Quiz
Send a security awareness quiz to your employees using Forms. It can be easily integrated into your cybersecurity awareness training. The platform also tells you the average response time per person.
Change Readiness Survey
Change management is a growing focus of many organizations. This is due to the speed of technology-driven transitions. You can use Forms to improve user readiness for change adoption. Create and send out a change readiness survey to affected groups.
Are you hosting an event? You can easily gather registration details. Send out a Forms link via QR code, social media, text, or email.
Volunteer Registration Form
Embed an MS Forms registration form on your web page to sign up volunteers. The platform will automatically collate different talents or other volunteer information. This helps you better match people’s talents to your needs.
You’ll find more ideas from the Forms templates. Such as:
Competitive analysis study
Post-event feedback survey
Office facility request form
Employee satisfaction survey
Product pricing survey
Food catering request form
Save the date form
Course enrollment form
Would You Like to Get More Out of Microsoft 365?
There is a good chance that your company may be leaving some value on the table with M365. Give us a call today to learn more about our Microsoft 365 support services.