Monthly Archives: November 2016

A new farm enterprise or starting out in farming

In the latest edition of AIB Agri Matters two young progressive farmers offer advice to aspiring young farmers in setting up a new farm enterprise or starting out in farming:

 

1.      Know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing – if you don’t it’s hard for anybody else to know. Explore the options and pick the one that suits you best. Seek advice from others to see what worked for them.

 

2.      Establish a good track record when you’re young – in work, in college and with the Bank – it gives others more comfort you have the credentials to deliver on your plans.

 

3.      Put your best foot forward when meeting the bank – prepare well in advance. Don’t sell yourself short – Have your costing’s and have your research done. Show you understand your business and its profitability and most importantly ensure your lender understands it.

 

4.      Treat the farm as a business – if you don’t look after the business, financial management is useless. The opposite is also true. Costs and cash flow must be controlled and monitored to ensure the business remains profitable and bills can be paid, when they fall.

 

5.      Have a simple system – more easily expanded, and helps ensure consistency and accuracy – especially important where additional labour is employed.

 

6.      Ask for help – you don’t know everything and it won’t all be plain sailing. Build up a goodsupport network and use them.

The unveiling of the first Budget

Thomas Sheerin, Tax Director at KPMG in Ireland, outlines some of the elements affecting SMEs.

 1. Earned Income Tax Credit for Self-employed and USC Changes

In last year’s Budget, the Minister introduced an Earned Income Tax Credit of €550 for small business owners who cannot benefit from the PAYE tax credit of €1,650 available to employees. The Minister announced an increase in this credit to €950 for 2017.

The three lower USC rates have been reduced by 0.5%. Accordingly, all income earners will have a lower tax burden to varying degrees. The ceiling at which the 2.5% USC rate applies is increased to €18,772 – this ensures that a full-time worker on the minimum wage will remain outside the top rates of USC.

 

2. Minimum Wage

The higher cost to employers arising from the increase in the hourly minimum wage from €9.15 to €9.25 will take effect from 1st January 2017.

 

3. Entrepreneur relief

The standard rate of capital gains tax remains at 33%. However, the Minister announced a reduction to 10% in the capital gains tax rate that applies to disposals by Entrepreneurs of qualifying assets. Entrepreneur relief offers the reduced rate of capital gains tax on the disposal by an individual of business assets up to a lifetime limit of chargeable gains of €1 million. The Minister is to review this lifetime limit in future budgets.

To qualify for the relief, the business assets which include shares in a company must have been owned by the individual for a continuous period of at least three years in the five years immediately prior to the date of disposal.

 

4. Share-based remuneration

Following a public consultation and review of share-based remuneration earlier this year, the Minister announced the intention to develop a new, SME, focussed share-based incentive scheme which is to be introduced in next year’s Budget.

 

5. Retailers and Tourism

The reduced 9% VAT rate for tourism and related activities will continue to apply.  The Minister noted that the reduced rate will act as a buffer for the sector against the weakness in sterling which increases the cost of holidaying in Ireland for British tourists.

Improve Your Customer Support

Customer support or service interactions have the potential for a wide variety of outcomes – both good and bad. Customers contact your support team when they have an issue. Understanding this and making the interaction as efficient and effective as possible should be your goal. If you deal with the issue well you’ll have a happy customer, and potentially positive recommendations. Worst case scenario, you could be losing business.

How you use your phone system can be a key determinant of how your customers perceive your support service and their experience with your organisation. The option for the customer to speak to someone in the business over the phone is a communication method commonly offered in customer service. However if your employees are picking up the phone to someone who has already been transferred two or three times, you’ve already given your customer a bad experience.

Identifying ways to improve the experience your customers have with your support function, or company as a whole, can be tricky. One place to start at is when your customer makes the call. Here are four ways which your phone system can improve your customer support experience, before and during each call:

 

1. Use interactive voice response with time of day settings

Interactive voice response (IVR), otherwise known as virtual receptionists are used to direct those calling your business to the appropriate person by providing a menu of options which the customer can select. The longer your customer spends on hold or being transferred from department to department the more you are failing in providing them with an efficient and effective interaction.

Everyone has had poor experiences being left on hold waiting to be transferred. Use an IVR and avoid subjecting your customers to this. When constructing your menu, ideally have an option for each of your main customer facing departments. You should also finish with something similar to ‘for all other queries press 0’. This means even if your customers are unsure, they still have an option to press.

Time of day settings allow you to provide different instructions or menus depending on when a customer calls. For example, if a customer calls outside of office hours you can play a message which tells them your office is closed, what time it will be open at and provide an alternative contact method such as your customer service email address or a specific out of hours number. Accurately setting the expectations of your customer in terms of response or resolution time is critical for good customer service experience.

 

2. Use ring groups

A ring group is a feature which allows a number of phones to ring when one number is dialled. For example, when a customer selects the menu option for support on your IVR, it is possible to have every team member’s phone ring. If each team member’s phone is calling the chances of the call will only be missed or not answerable immediately if the whole team is already busy.

Using a cloud phone system it is also possible to add extra steps if the ring group goes unanswered by the whole team. After a certain amount of time, you could redirect the call to the department manager before eventually to a voicemail box. A common mistake that businesses make is not having a voicemail box as the end point for every possible path a call can take. After waiting on hold to speak to someone and being transferred around the sound of a disconnected line is disheartening to say the least.

Adding a voicemail box will allow you to set a voicemail greeting which can explain that all employees are busy for the moment and once again offer an alternative means of contact.

 

3. Everyone in your organisation needs an internal transfer number accessible via a centralised document

From time to time a customer with an issue is going to call the number for a different department or pick the wrong menu item. In this case, the first step is to get them talking to someone who can help with their problem. This means call transfer.

With a cloud phone system, setting up internal transfer numbers such as 102 or 2007 for each employee can be accomplished with ease. Make sure that each member of your organisation, with a priority on those which are customer facing, have an internal transfer number set up.

An updated and detailed list should be kept centrally via a resource such as Google Drive or Office 365 with each person’s transfer number. Using this, whoever takes a call should be able to easily transfer the customer to the right place. It certainly beats asking your customer to call the organisation’s main number again and dial 3 for support.

 

4. Integrate with your CRM solution

If you are using customer relationship management software, investing the resource in linking your phone system and CRM together could be worthwhile. The outcome of this is that calls made to and received from your customers will be automatically logged in their records on your CRM.

Your employees will be left with a complete overview of each interaction with a customer. The automatic logging of calls can help your employees with the notes which they leave for each log. Rather than focusing on recording that there was an interaction, they can record more insightful and specific details relevant to each individual call. This holds untold value for future interactions with a customer or for when a new starter takes over responsibility for looking that client due to the extra information they will have.

Mobile Working in Your Business

Remote and mobile working – where an employee is working outside the traditional office environment – have become increasingly common. The benefits are hard to ignore. Happier employees chasing a work-life balance and increased productivity from employees on-the-go are something most businesses wouldn’t turn their nose up at, writes Neil Doyle from Blueface.

How is working away from the traditional workspaces now possible? And, more importantly, how do you manage practices that are becoming more and more commonplace?

Improvements in communications technology have helped remote and mobile working become reliable enough for larger numbers of employees to take advantage of the benefits. Remote working has been around for a long time; working from home or outside of the office is not a new phenomenon. However, it has become more efficient in recent years.

Mobile working has taken the business world by storm with seemingly every professional now performing at least some of their daily work tasks via a smartphone or tablet.

 

Why Have Remote and Mobile Working Risen in Popularity?

Improvement in broadband connectivity has allowed for the development of VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) – essentially phone calls made over the internet rather than via copper wire in the ground. VoIP is much more flexible than traditional telephony, allowing remote workers to redirect their numbers while out of office with ease or, in some cases, to simply take home their special VoIP-enabled phones and plug them into their own broadband connection.

VoIP is a much more flexible alternative to traditional phone systems and, as it has become more mainstream, remote working has too.

For those working from home or elsewhere without access to a handset, softphones are device applications that mirror the functionality of a handset. After some easy setup, users are able to make inbound and outbound calls over the internet. For those working abroad, softphones over a way around roaming charges.

For mobile working, improvements in mobile networks have been the main enabler. The introduction of 3G, and later 4G, to Ireland and UK allowed mobile users the same level of internet access as desktop users. Sending and receiving files of any type, and using applications no longer meant staring at a loading or buffering icon for prolonged periods.

Cloud-based technology removed the need for applications to be installed on an individual device. Allowing users to access data and business services via the internet has enabled mobile devices to provide the same level of productivity as desktops.

Cloud software and improving mobile networks are the perfect complement, allowing mobile working to flourish.

It wouldn’t be possible, however, without the improvements in smartphones. Super computers are now resident in either our pocket or our hands for most of the day. As processing power has continued to improve, developers have made the most of it by providing employees with cloud-based apps, making the most of what these devices are capable of.