Go the extra mile for your customers and you’ll gain an extra mile for your business

Customers make or break your business, obviously. Only they can take you from nothing to something. Or, from something to nothing. You may have the most amazing product ever invented but without customers to back it up, you have don’t have much of anything. What most companies fail to realize is that customer loyalty doesn’t have to be left completely up to chance.

 

What does this mean? Well, if you and your employees do the bare minimum, your customers may not share their experience and may not come back. Humans have an innate ability to sense genuine care and effort. So go that extra mile and you can almost guarantee customer love, positive shares, and a return.

 

The extra mile is more than just a simple rewards program. These days, everyone does that. As a matter of fact, let’s consider a rewards program just a permission to play. The extra mile should be the mile they never saw coming. It’s something out of the ordinary, something exciting, and something very extra.

 

Here are some good examples:

 

Taco Bell: Back in 2012, the small town of Bethel, Alaska, received news that they would be getting their very own Taco Bell. When they realized it was nothing more than a hoax, the town was downright depressed. Who wouldn’t be? So, what does Taco Bell do? They airlift a taco truck and 10,000 free tacos to Alaska, of course.  The result? 6,000 diehard loyalists.

 

Lego: In 2013, a distraught 7-year old boy wrote a letter to Lego informing them that he had lost his most cherished minifigure. Not only did Lego respond to the boy with a genuine letter, and not only did they send him a brand new minifigure, but they also sent a bad guy for his new minifigure to fight. A few minutes, a little authenticity, and a tiny expenditure was all it took for Lego to create a lifelong Lego fan. We’re sure the parents appreciated it, too.

 

Trader Joe’s: In Pennsylvania, an 89-year old man was facing the harsh possibility of being snowed in during a winter storm with not enough food to last him through. When his daughter found out, she called grocery chains in the area to see if someone could get some food to her father. When she contacted Trader Joe’s, (a company who doesn’t normally include delivery in their range of services) the workers instantly agreed to the task. Not only did Trader Joe’s bring her father more than what she had asked for but it was free of charge, as well. Can’t you feel that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart?

 

Ritz-Carlton: After a young child left his most favorite stuffed animal behind (a fluffy giraffe named Joshie) at the Ritz, his father called to let them know. Instead of simply shipping Joshie back to the boy, the staff dressed him up and took him around the Ritz for a VIP tour. They snapped photos of the giraffe lounging by the pool, working in loss prevention and receiving the deluxe treatment at the spa. The boy received Joshie a few days later along with a detailed account of the animal’s stay at the Ritz.

 

Not only have these stories been shared with the family and friends of those who experienced these moments of exceptional customer service, but they’ve been circulated for years across various social media platforms. These companies went above and beyond what was expected of them—they went that extra mile. By doing so, they obtained a wealth of free marketing, social media advertising, lifelong customers, repeat business and an incredibly positive reputation. Being extra was all it took.

Back to Basics: Malware 101

Thank you, WannaCry, for bringing cyber security back into focus for us. Now that we’re all concerned about our digital lives again, it’s time for a little refresher on the basics of malware. So buckle in kids, here we go!

 

Trojans

If you haven’t heard the story about the Greeks and their Trojan horse, you probably grew up under a rock. Long story short, the Greeks built a huge horse as a “gift” for the Trojans. They hid inside the horse, so when the Trojans brought the gift inside their walls, the Greeks popped out and were able to conquer the city of Troy. That Trojan horse was a backdoor into the city, and that is exactly how a digital Trojan works.

How do you get a Trojan? You’re tricked into downloading a file or application you think is legitimate, but in reality it’s malware. Once it’s downloaded, hackers, viruses, and other malicious beings have easy access to your computer. Trojans can view web history, intercept your passwords, steal login information, remotely control your computer, use you for click fraud… the list goes on and on. They can’t replicate like viruses or worms, but they are just as intrusive and dangerous.

 

Worms

No, not those slimy things outside in the yard after a rain. These digital worms are experts at finding vulnerabilities in your computer and network, then using them to their advantage. You get worms from various means, like infected email attachments, social networking site links, and software loopholes. Worms can self-replicate without the need for a hacker or a computer program telling them what to do. They can shut down your system, dry up resources, and do serious damage with very little effort.

 

Viruses

Hello, most well-known malware! We all have a bad habit of generalizing cyber threats into the term “virus” but that’s only because we have no reason to know the difference between the terms. (Unless we work in IT or a similar field.) But viruses have specific qualities that set them apart from worms or Trojans. A virus spreads and replicates without the need for a hacker to be pulling the strings—similar to a worm. The difference is, a virus needs to attach to a file or program to do so. The most common way viruses spread are through email attachments or instant messages. Remember the “Know what you’re opening and who it’s from” campaign? It was an attempt to curb the spread of viruses. So what damage can they do? The sky is the limit, and it depends on the severity and ultimate goal behind the virus. Some characteristic aftereffects include a slow computer, a fried operating system, and corrupted hardware, software, and files.

 

Proper Defense Tactics

Alright kids, the bus ride is almost over. So how do you protect yourself from cyber threats? It’s nice to know what they are and that not everything is a “virus,” but how do you avoid them? The best way is to stay extremely cautious with what you’re clicking, opening, and downloading. If a link looks odd, if an attachment comes from an unknown sender, or the website you’re on is off, stay far away. It’s better to be safe than end up crying over your destroyed computer and stolen identity.

Another easy way to stay ahead of malware is to make sure your security and software is consistently up-to-date. Just like hackers are always trying to find new ways around digital security, superhero programmers are staying ahead of them and constantly updating patches and security software to make sure you and your computer are safe.

So next time you get that popup that says you need to update your security program, or there’s a new patch available, DO IT.

8 Tips to Combat Stress at Work

Stress is an unavoidable side effect of working hard and trying to climb the career ladder. But that doesn’t mean you have to struggle with the constant anxiety of deadlines, presentations, and meetings. All it takes is a little meditation to turn that anxiety into a ball of dust. Meditation is a simple way to soothe your worries without leaving the office or spending money.

 

Here are eight ways to meditate during your stressful day.

 

  1. Take deep breaths

 

Did you just get a scathing email about a deadline you missed? Are you feeling that tightness in your gut and your pulse starting to race with anxiety? Immediately sit up straight, close your eyes and place a hand on your stomach. For five minutes, slowly inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Feel the breath rise in your abdomen and make its way to your head. This exercise will slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure and reduce your stress levels instantly.

 

  1. Focus on your body

 

This tip is a great way to really get in tune with your body and discover how stress truly affects you. Many of us don’t realize the large impact stress has on us physically. Lie on your back or sit with your feet on the floor, close your eyes, and focus on each part of your body one at a time. Start at your toes and move all the way to your scalp, focusing on how every inch of your body feels. You’ll probably find tension in areas you didn’t even know could hold stress.

 

  1. Create a mantra

 

Have a simple but impactful mantra. It can be anything—religious, secular or created by you—as long as it’s something that soothes and calms you. It could be the name of your mother, your high school mascot, a short quote you find meaningful, whatever. Repeat your mantra in your head during times of stress, or out loud if you’re alone in your office. You’d be surprised how much it helps.

 

  1. Slow down and be present

 

Find a quiet space to be present and focused. Think about what your feet feel like against the ground, how the cold air conditioner feels on your skin, or what a wall feels like as you lean up against it. This focus on your senses and the present moment makes you less tense and more aware of your physical being. It pulls your anxious mind from future worries or past mistakes and allows you to center yourself.

 

  1. Laugh

 

Chat with someone who makes you smile or find something amusing to watch for a few minutes. Share a funny story with a co-worker. Watch some stand-up comedy on YouTube for a couple seconds. A good chuckle lightens mental stress and boosts endorphins. There are even comedy playlists on streaming services like Spotify and Pandora that you can listen to while working, which can keep the mood light and a smile on your face.

 

  1. Create a stress-free playlist

 

Speaking of playlists, research has shown that listening to music can lower heart rate, blood pressure and stress. Whether you enjoy soothing nature sounds or rocking out to the latest hits, curate some playlists that you enjoy and lift your mood. I’m listening to one of my favorite Spotify stations while I type this. It works, I promise.

 

  1. Move your body

 

Getting up from your desk and out for a walk is a simple way to release feel-good chemicals into your body and ease anxiety. If you don’t want to go outside, you can do some simple stretching from your desk or even walk up and down a set of stairs. Or take a stroll around the office, grab some snacks from the breakroom, and find a window with a nice view. Breaks are always good for the soul.

 

  1. Reflect

 

Read a passage from your favorite book, listen to music, or write in a journal. These are just a few good ways to stop, focus and reflect. The important thing is that you take the time to be present, to focus on something meaningful and to find gratitude for that one moment. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of work, but remember, it’s YOUR life and the less stressed you are, the happier you’ll be.

Data Backup and Recovery

Disaster Recovery Doesn’t Have to be Scary

According to a Nationwide Insurance survey, more than 75 percent of small businesses don’t have a disaster plan simply because it’s not a top priority. However, since January 2013, Nationwide has processed more than $417 million in catastrophe claims related to small businesses. Obviously, something needs to change so businesses don’t go unprotected.

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