This is amazing.
playOccasion buyers spotted in the wild.
Here’s the Facebook conversation between one of our co-founder’s wife and her friend.
This is a guest blog from Danielle Di Silvestro, wife of a playOccasion co-founder:
Making changes is difficult, and can be even more difficult when you don’t know what the outcome will be.
In 2010, Eric and I moved to Washington DC so he could work for his local Illinois Congressman. I left my small business in Chicago, moved to DC with no promise of a job, and no means to make money. It was scary, but with a lot of hard work and little luck, it wasn’t long before I found a job. Together, we got a little apartment, went to work every day, and enjoyed biking to Capitol Hill on the weekends. We took a big chance and made a big change, because we believed in us.
When Eric came to me he was asking me to take a chance, make a change. After we tweaked plans and finances a little, the idea of change wasn’t so scary. It ended up working out to where Eric finished the 2012 term with the Congressman, and I was comfortable to let Eric focus the rest of his time on playOccasion.
playOccasion is a great business idea and I know it will succeed. Driving that success is the people making it work - not only Eric, but the entire playOccasion team is dedicated, focused, hardworking, and passionate about their vision. Because I believe in Eric, and the playOccasion team’s work ethic and drive to succeed, I took a big chance, let go of my security blanket, and accepted that he is forgoing a salary to try and grow a business from the ground up.
It is not the safe play, but I believe in him.
Simple “Cloud” Based Technologies for Business
Last week, I had a scary moment. I lost the second most important electronic device I use after my iPhone: my iPad. As I scrambled around looking for it, I utilized a valuable tool to assist me: the cloud. Going to iCloud.com, Apple’s cloud service, I saw where my iPad was located on a map, showing me it’s location right in my apartment.
Through the cloud I could have also wrote a message on the iPad screen if it was lost in a public place with my phone number and email for people to contact me. I also could have enabled the device to sound an alarm to help me hear it if was nearby. Luckily, I found my iPad with the help of the cloud, but it helps me with so much more than that.
The Cloud is simply a tool to deliver services over the internet, in contrast to downloading software onto a computer directly. This is especially important to us because our team members are spread out around the world and we do not have normal 9-5 schedules. We are also highly mobile. I work at home, school, and even in transit, so we need access to our information through our smartphones and tablets. The cloud helps us overcome these challenges by connecting us to important online tools that are vital to running our business efficiently. The cloud is an indispensable tool to our business allowing us to row in the same direction, cheaply and quickly.
When bootstrapping a startup company, saving money is essential and utilizing cheap or free cloud programs is a Godsend. Below, is a list of the different cloud based tools we use:
Yammer is a secure, private “twitteresque” social network for a business. It allows us to collaborate easier making us more productive. Our team members post status updates on things they are currently doing. This allows the rest of the team to see that update and abstain from interrupting the person or messaging and collaborating to get it done.
Google Drive allows us to store and access our files and documents anywhere in the world. This is much easier than emailing attachments or using a flash drive. We have over 60 GB of storage where all our images, files and code is archived. It allows for real time collaboration among team members to edit documents. In addition to a computer, I access Google Drive on iPhone and iPad on the go.
Salesforce is our CRM provider. We manage our merchant contacts and sales efforts through here. Each of our team members has the Salesforce app on their phone. This comes in handy when let’s say I am walking down the street and I see a potential merchant. I can instantly create a contact record for him and schedule a call.
Asana and Basecamp is where we store all of our pending projects and can see the status of assigned work.
Sproutsocial is our social media management tool. We use it to send out twitter and facebook messages and monitor the responses.
Speek is our conference call tool. Every Sunday night we have the entire team join a conference call by simply texting to one number. This is much better than having to remember dial-in numbers and access codes.
HelloFax is our virtual fax machine. It is connected to our Google Drive so when merchants request information via fax we can send it to them at the click of the button.
DocuSign is where we sign our contracts on our smartphones. When we need to sign a contract, we add the document to our Google Drive, which is connected to DocuSign. We open the document on our phone using the DocuSign app and sign and save it. No more printing, scanning, emailing!
Twilio is our phone company. When you call 1-877-866-8558 (our corporate number), our Twilio VBX receives the call, see which one of the team members is available, and only calls them.
Quickbooks online is our accounting software. Instead of hiring an army of accountants, we take care of our accounting and bookkeeping in a couple of hours each week. It’s connected to our sales platform. Quickbooks is smart to learn how to bucket different transactions differently. On our part, there is no data entry any more and all that is required is for us to approve what Quickbooks has already done.
Chase Online is our bank which is connected to our Quickbooks. We authorize payments through Quickbooks, which communicates to Chase the information on the check amount, payee information.
Many of these tools are free but some are a modest cost to us. One thing is for sure, the cloud allows us to work on playOccasion remotely and collaborate in ways that would have been difficult just a few years ago.
A Lesson in Customer Service with Amy Cosper
If there is one obsession all of us at this organization share, it is our maniac-like commitment to customer service. Our customers are not only our sellers, who publish and sell their activities through us, but also buyers, who choose to spend their money through us instead of somewhere else.
I worked at Gap’s (yes, the retailer) customer call center in high school and learned a ton about customer service. Gap instilled in me a sense of enthusiasm for customer service and today, I patronize companies that deliver great buyer experience. It’s a sustainable competitive differentiator.
However, the following lesson in customer service goes above and beyond. I think it’s an important lesson and worth sharing with you. Hope you enjoy it.
I am the customer. I subscribed to receive Entrepreneur magazine’s daily email with five top articles. Every morning, I diligently opened and read the email and the articles therein enclosed.
One morning instead of an email with articles in it, I receive an advertisement. There are two problems with this.
- I did not subscribe to receive advertisements.
- My trust as a customer of Entrepreneur magazine was broken.
Like any other customer, I complained. I resorted to Twitter and sent out this tweet.
Amy Cosper, the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine acknowledged receipt, apologized on behalf of her team, and asked for more information to be able to help.
@theaksheffect oh no. i am so sorry to hear that. can you tell me what the ad was? i will look into this.— Amy Cosper (@EntMagazineAmy) October 12, 2012
After I shared my information with Amy, she acknowledged that the email was tacky.
@theaksheffect you’re right. that’s tacky. let me look into it.— Amy Cosper (@EntMagazineAmy) October 12, 2012
Four days later, Amy sent a follow-up via twitter.
@theaksheffect hi there. i am still trying to figure out this spam thing. sorry. thanks for patience.— Amy Cosper (@EntMagazineAmy) October 16, 2012
Although, I am still awaiting to hear back if the issue was resolved or not, I learned something from Amy Cosper.
Regardless of where you reach within the ranks of an organization you have to stay connected with your customers, listen to them, acknowledge them. After all customers are people. People like to be loved, not ignored. Whether the medium is email, phone, face to face, social media, it is important to keep an “ear” out.
Do you have amazing customer service stories? Please share them with me or playOccasion on twitter!