Did you ever wonder how someone could sell something so cheaply? Did they consciously know what they were doing? Did they have to sell at a loss because perhaps they were liquidating a slow-moving, damaged or obsolete product, or were making room for a new product? Did they make a mistake in pricing? Did they somehow get their costs down so much that they could actually make profit at the price they were selling at? Or did they know exactly what they were doing by losing money to get customers in then door and then selling them more things at a higher price to make up for their initial losses?
Very often, the later situation is the rational for offering prices below cost — which is known as a loss leader. This is where initial losses are intended to be more then made up for with higher prices later on. Have you ever used this kind of marketing strategy? When it is properly used it can be very profitable.
Perhaps the most famous example took place many years ago with razor blades. The leader in the industry was Gillette who famously sold their mechanical razor well below cost to get new customers. The blades did not last for many shaves and the reoccurring sales for replacements were very profitable year after year, netting Gillette a tidy profit.
There is one caveat, and that is something called “predatory pricing.” This is where very low price can be set with the intention to drive competitors out of the market and create a de facto monopoly. This is illegal, but usually rather difficult to prove.
The vast majority of companies can use a similar strategy themselves. The key is, will your customers come buy enough other things to make up for your loss leader?
Let’s provide an example. Your company is trying to break into a key client with a larger volume potential. You know you have a great product or service, but must get your foot in the door to demonstrate this. Your best option may be to use loss leader with a price your competitors can beat and tie this to a one-time offer so that your customer can’t ask another vendor to match it. This approach often works if you can make your customers first experience so good that when you present them with an ongoing price for repeat business at a higher price this will not be an issue if properly unveiled.
A similar approach is the Gillette example, whereby they are tied into your company as very satisfied, to switch out would be a major headache, and the new cost structure is not a problem.
In all situations, make sure to run the numbers to know how much incremental volume and what price you will need to overcome your loss leader deals. Whatever you do, don’t do business always as a loss leader. A loss leader may get you in the door, but you must generate profit business after that or walk away from that account.
Whether you are a staffing company or a retailer, this back-to-school season is the opportunity to outpace competition and maximize profit by improving and streamlining the management of flexible workforces.
Back-to-school is the retail industry’s second largest shopping season and spending for families with children in elementary through high school is expected to hit $29.5 billion over the next few weeks. The National Retail Federation reports that more than 57% of consumers plan to do some of their back-to-school shopping in a department store and nearly 46% will shop online.
That is a huge opportunity for retailers. But it also poses a significant challenge to create a positive shopping experience, both in-store and online.
Extra staff goes a long way for consumers
A vast majority of parents — 91% — consider back-to-school shopping stressful, according to a recent survey by RetailMeNot, with three in five parents crediting their stress to in-store issues like not being able to find what they need and battling crowds. They’re also worrying about finding the time to finish all their shopping and getting the best supplies for their children.
Walmart is one of several retailers working toward making back-to-school shopping a little easier and less stressful for parents. The chain is adding more employees, called “Back-to-School Helpers,” in checkout areas to keep lines moving — a version of its “Holiday Helpers” program that was rolled out last year. Parents can also visit walmart.com/classroomsupplies, a site compiling the school supplies list from more than a million classrooms across the country.
Target is also getting in on the game. This year, the company is testing “Shop Now, Pickup Later” at six universities — a new service aiming to take advantage of the $54.1-billion back-to-college shopping season. Students can order items from a curated list and pick them up during move-in at a designated location on or near campus, eliminating the logistical anxiety over hauling items from home or a store. Target is also experimenting with on-campus pop-up shops and offering complimentary shuttles from campus to nearby locations.
Customer perks lead to new staffing needs
From Walmart’s “Back-to-School Helpers” to Target’s campus pop-up shops, innovative services like these are creating new needs for retailers to ensure perfect execution. Brands are adding new in-store positions to help ensure a seamless customer experience. From the sleek merchandise displays to the friendly delivery service, new in-store roles are being created to keep shoppers happy and coming back.
As back-to-school shopping peaks this month, most retailers will turn to hiring extra and on-demand staff, either directly or with the help of a staffing partner, to help alleviate customers’ stress and deliver a more enjoyable shopping experience. At Natural Insight, our clients utilize our proprietary technology to manage their workforce, including on-demand workers, scheduling, timesheets, task management and more.
By streamlining some of the time-consuming, but critical, administrative tasks, we’re helping our clients focus on what’s important — improving the customer experience. And through our data collection and analytics software, retailers and their partners can gain key insights about in-store execution, competition data, and in-store foot-traffic to improve their strategy for the upcoming holiday season.
Unstructured data is a huge beast – indeed, it makes up about 80% of all data out there and is produced in vast amounts on a daily basis, meaning storing this information is costly. In this post, we take a look at the possibilities and pitfalls surrounding the mass of unstructured data.
The major problem is that companies largely don’t understand unstructured data and so aren’t getting as much bang for their buck when it comes to analysis, trends and customer insight. Those companies that have found a way to utilize this mine of information are finding themselves ahead of the curve.
A report published by Aberdeen Group revealed that businesses using unstructured data were 60% happy with their ability to share said data and half were pleased with the accessibility, compared with 18% and 20%, respectively, of companies who hardly ever used unstructured data.
However, if it were possible – or even feasible – to transform unstructured data to structured, then harvesting the intelligence from the former would be easy. But structured data is similar to machine language, making information easier to deal with (like a spreadsheet, for instance) when using a computer. Unstructured data is usually in the form of human-made content, which doesn’t adhere to the usual strict, database formats so loved by structured data. The fact is, structured data is “relational,” so conforms to formats that allows pieces of data to be matched up to provide information.
So what is this unstructured data we speak of? Well, it is made up of everything that isn’t clearly defined records or that are created with an existing data model. Unstructured data is largely text that comes out of the digital sphere – things like social media. So, when a consumer mentions a product or company via a post on Twitter, for example, that comment becomes unstructured data that can be picked over to uncover important insights. However, it isn’t just limited to text – videos and pictures are all part of the unstructured cauldron too.
Another place that unstructured data likes to hang out is customer-generated content. By that we mean online reviews, comments on forums, feedback forms or enquiries and phone calls to customer services. These nuggets of information are unstructured data – regardless of format – and again can be very revealing if studied, understood and presented back in a user-friendly way. Put simply, unstructured data involves sifting through pools of information scattered in an unformatted was to glean insights on and the preferences of customers.
Because of its unstructured nature, tackling such a behemoth can be daunting, especially as the results aren’t guaranteed. So why would you waste your time?
The answer is that these golden nuggets that lurk in this unkempt pile of nonsense, could be the game-changer that your business is looking for. It could be the difference between your organization sinking or swimming – that and the prize that every business should strive for: customer satisfaction.
Unstructured data gives you a chance to really listen to your customers; it’s better than trying to second-guess their feelings and intentions. Those blog comments or tweets could be the information you and your team have been looking for.
Of course, once you discover your customer’s intentions and feelings, you can use that data to work on retention and satisfaction. Added to that, one of your customers might have a brilliant idea that could lead to your organization identifying and innovating a solution to cover a gap in the market. Creating the perfect customer experience should be at the heart of every company’s business strategy – unstructured data can help you achieve that, once you know how to crack the code.
In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding our Big Data practice or Technology Consultancy, and how we can help your organization make the most of the wealth of information available to you, please do get in touch with me – Ian Goodman – on: 07495 829 158 or drop me an email: ian.goodman(at) gibbshybrid (dot) com
Want to improve the quality of the employees that you’re able to recruit via social media, but aren’t sure how to produce the content? Ensuring you have a laser-focused content strategy is vital to improving the success of the recruitment process, and here are some tips on how to get that done.
Attract even when not hiring
You should create content that appeals to the type of people you’re likely to hire in the future, even if you don’t need them just yet. When the time comes for hiring, they’ll see hordes of content that they can relate to and as a by-product they’ll feel as if they can relate to your company.
Not sure what kind of content you’re employees can relate to? Then ask your current employees, or better yet get some of them to contribute to content ideas on a regular basis. They might have more ideas than you have space to publish.
Use career progression as motivation
Within the content strategy, share your ideas for career progression of current employees. This will not only make current employees feel happy and empowered at their place of work, but will also attract those serious applicants who are looking to make a career out of their line of work.
Don’t have career progression programs? Then take this opportunity to develop one — and there are plenty of ways to accomplish that. Nobody is going to want to work for a company that has no career progression. Even if they did, there is no incentive to go the extra mile on everyday tasks.
Don’t be bland
Leave the boring and serious stuff for the corporate website;the social media channels should be light, fun and engaging content. There should be a mix of news and entertainment-based posts. Take a look at what the competition is doing to get ideas, or take a look at other industries and mimic their success.
Content that is creating a buzz will catch the attention of potential employees and they’ll want to explore your company for themselves. Give them an incentive to do so by creating content that keeps engagement levels for longer than a few minutes
Be a source of news
For serious professionals to care about your social media channels, you need to give them a reason to keep coming back. One way is to provide industry-specific news at regular intervals. However, the news you provide must be laser-focused instead of covering the entire industry. You’ll lose interest from those that you want to employ if you post news that is of no relevance to them.
Not sure where to get news from? There are a variety of sources such as industry-specific online magazines, YouTube channels and even offline sources. Perhaps in your industry there are a few contacts that usually have the inside scoop on certain developments. Forming relationships with these individuals can give you access to information before most on the social sphere do.
Formulating a content marketing strategy for social media doesn’t have to be a taxing task if you understand just how important it can be for recruitment. You’ll save money on the costs of hiring a recruitment company as high-calibre candidates will throw themselves at your company roles. Getting it right can be highly cost-effective for the long term.
Give the tips in this article some serious consideration and you will tilt the odds of recruitment in your favour. As a by-product, you’ll have a great set of social media profiles that can be used for the branding purposes of your company.
More than 90% of the U.S. healthcare industry now uses locum tenens physicians in their medical facilities. As we honor those doctors during the first-ever National Locum Tenens Week, here are the top three reasons for the growth of locum tenens staffing.
America’s Uninsured at an All-Time Low: The number of Americans without health insurance is at its lowest point in decades, dropping to near single digits according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. With a larger portion of our population able to gain access to insurance, medical facilities are feeling the pinch on a system of delivery already stressed to the max from a labor perspective.
Answer to the US Physician Shortage: That brings us to our next point. It’s now been exactly 20 years since Congress passed the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, effectively capping the output of new doctors by federally funded residency programs. Regardless of the influx of insured individuals among our population, the number of physicians to care for them has remained largely finite. We have built more medical schools, incorporated more collaboration in settings that allow for advanced practitioners, and we continue to see efforts to combat this issue at the state level as well. However, the overall fact remains that we still suffer from an overall shortage of physicians, and locum tenens staffing continues to be the predominant solution to fill the gap.
More Doctors Are Choosing to Practice Locum Tenens: As more Americans opt for the flexible lifestyle that comes with working in a contract capacity, medicine’s contingent workforce is no different. Practicing locum tenens offers today’s providers freedom in choosing their schedule, the ability to travel, work in different settings, and minimize the bureaucracy faced by their full-time peers. In addition, as reports of burnout rise and consequently the concerns over the mental health of our physician population, many doctors are finding that locums offers more peace of mind as well.
National Locum Tenens Week is an opportunity for us to honor doctors dedicated to providing care across our communities. Thanks to those in the locum tenens staffing industry, those physicians will continue to have a growing impact on delivering healthcare for years to come.
Consolidation in the healthcare arena continues to quench the thirst of hospitals and health systems considering all paths toward growth. In the ever-changing healthcare industry, a strategic opportunity to increase efficiencies, control costs, and expand services through M&A activity has caught the attention of leadership in many provider organizations.
Offering the potential to reach economies of scale, consolidating health systems also provides inherent benefits to patient care and quality. In theory, by increasing the number of services and expanding patient access to care, larger provider organizations can better manage the continuum of care. Improved coordination of care should result in lower costs to the organization and patients – yet this is not always proven in practice.
Mergers and acquisitions of hospitals and health systems are major transactions, and have many moving parts. If consolidation is not planned and executed effectively, turbulent results can amplify inefficiencies that inspired leadership to pursue M&A activity in the first place.
Perhaps the most important element of success in the new partnership is prioritizing standardization of operational policies and practices. Combining multiple hospitals or health systems typically brings along the baggage of varying operating practices and policies at the facility or department level. Aligning workforce policies and applying them at the enterprise level is critical for newly managed health systems.
With labor costs accounting for more than half of an organization’s budget, standardization of staffing and scheduling practices hold the key to realizing significant cost savings. Along with damaging the bottom line, misalignment of policies across the system can be equally destructive to the quality and continuity of care, as well as staff morale.
Creating a workforce plan by conducting an operational assessment of the health system’s current state of labor management can reveal critical areas of opportunity to fully realize the expected outcomes of the merger. Highlighting the changes needed to achieve the organization’s ideal state and prioritizing initiatives helps leadership implement staffing and scheduling practices to promote consistency, efficiency, and productivity. Conducting such an analysis identifies realistic savings opportunities resulting in strategic realignment and can lead the cultural shift through a smoother transition.
When health systems merge and consolidate with multiple facilities within the same metro area, one of the most effective ways to control costs, improve coordination of care, and ensure practices are being applied and routinely monitored across the system is to implement a centralized resource management center (RMC). Serving as a communication hub that collaborates with clinical leaders to manage staffing needs against patient demand, this group is tasked with managing and enforcing policies and practices in order to support rapid and objective recommendations to clinical leaders regarding staffing decisions. A properly positioned resource management center is the conduit through which all other strategies can be enacted.
Bringing together multiple hospitals or health systems is more than a union of facilities, staff, and services under one name. Operating procedures and culture must be heavily considered. Streamlining practices such as schedule periods, open shift and float staff policies, contingency staff scheduling procedures, overtime and PTO policies across all departments within the system can have a significant impact on an organization’s staff, patients, and their bottom line – working to achieve the outcomes they expected from the consolidation.
A lot of staffing companies are hesitant to offer voluntary benefits to their employees. With the rising cost of health insurance premiums, employers jump to the conclusion that their employees wouldn’t be interested in additional coverage they would have to pay for. But the truth is, voluntary benefits add value to the employer. How, you ask? A good set of voluntary benefits can cost you little or nothing to offer while providing great value through cost efficiency and convenience to your employees. Voluntary benefits also aid in recruitment efforts because certain benefits, such as dental and disability, are highly valued. In addition, they help build loyalty and retention, reducing employee turnover and associated costs.
As you can see, voluntary benefits can be an effective way to attract talent to your staffing firm, while saving your bottom line. Plus, if you offer benefits on a pre-tax basis you can use the savings to cover some, if not all, of the voluntary benefit administrative expenses.
So, what exactly are voluntary benefits? A few of the traditional voluntary offerings include dental, vision, disability, critical illness, life and accident insurance. Non-traditional voluntary benefits may include group legal plans, pet insurance, financial planning, employee discount programs, educational and adoption assistance and identity theft insurance.
So, let’s focus back on how voluntary benefits aid in recruitment efforts. Your top business challenge is likely the same as every other staffing firm – finding people to fill job orders. Unfortunately, I can’t increase the size of the labor pool, but I can show you how to be a more attractive employer to candidates using voluntary benefits.
Consider the following from various surveys of candidates and employees:
It’s recommend to offer at least one inexpensive medical plan, as well as dental and vision insurance, at a minimum. Internal staff can be eligible as well as contract employees. There are vendors who will make these plans available to temporary agencies with no minimum participation if they’re handling your health insurance with minimal health enrollments. Even your Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) plan can be beefed up and made more attractive with a voluntary plan.
While costs vary, on average a typical package might look something like this:
You can also simplify the administration and communication if you have a good technology module called a “benefits administration system.” These systems generally make sense if you have 100 or more employees covered under a combination of your benefit plans. It includes online enrollment and transition of information to the insurance carriers. Benefit administration systems simplify bill reconciliation, changes and additions to employees’ elections and more. Most are even designed for employees to manage the plans themselves and can integrate with your payroll to automate deductions. Either way, communicate the heck out of your benefits and train your staff to market the advantages as well.
Talk to your insurance broker now before open enrollment. Make sure you work together to complete a demographic analysis of your workforce and determine what fits best for both your internal and contingent workforces. When you add it all up, voluntary benefits make a lot of sense; it may seem like a hefty change, but the savings will be worth it in the end. In the staffing industry’s hyper-competitive job market, voluntary benefits can make a world of difference!
The answer is that Facebook wouldn’t have 1.6 billion users and Google wouldn’t be the world’s most valuable company. If consumer tech companies treated people the way some staffing firms do, they would fail.
All that matters are business-to-people (B2P) interactions. The sum of these interactions is an “experience.” Customer experience is the “marketing leaders’ next battlefield, “as one Gartner report put it.The recruiting and staffing industry will follow this trend. Candidate and client experience will be the ‘battlefield’ on which firms compete.
The Value of a Recruiter
In 1998, Elance — a platform that connected companies with freelance contractors — was founded. Essentially, they invented online staffing, and as they grew, the staffing world grew nervous. If companies and candidates can connect directly, why would they use recruiters?
While Elance found a niche in international talent arbitrage, it turns out out that recruiters have two advantages:
The Erosion of Loyalty
Plainly put, the web gives people the ability to be uncommitted. With one Google search, a client or candidate can find your competitors and within seconds move their business.
In the consumer world, this is what Accenture Strategy calls “an erosion in customer loyalty.” Their report found that 64% of consumers had switched providers in at least one industry due to poor customer service.
The question is, what makes a better service experience?
Thanks to the rise of on-demand technology, good service is self-service. A survey commissioned by Aspect Software found that nearly three out of four consumers prefer to solve their customer service issues on their own.
In staffing, we need to make a clearer distinction between our service and customer service. Our service is matchmaking. Customer service includes all the tasks after the match is made: onboarding, scheduling, timesheets and invoices, to name a few.
Let’s use onboarding as an example. Imagine that one staffing firm mails paper onboarding documents to candidates. A second firm requires candidates to visit their office to complete the paperwork. A third firm completes onboarding entirely online where candidates fill out and sign the document via an online community.
If all three firms offer comparable job opportunities, why wouldn’t candidates flock to the third firm? Firms that offer on-demand, self-service options will gain an edge in customer experience.
Time and Data
Besides providing a better experience, online communities offer two additional advantages: time and data.
A Mobile Environment
As Facebook and Google attest, customer experiences increasingly happen in mobile environments. Mobile will be a key experience battleground, especially on the candidate side. As a Glassdoor study found, 45% of all job seekers say they use their mobile device to search for jobs. However, 50% of respondents often find it difficult to apply for jobs on mobile device. So, to provide the best service, staffing firms must adapt. If the job hunt is mobile, the whole experience should be mobile too.
From B2B to B2P
There is no such thing as “business-to-business” anymore. You must look at the business-to-person experience; it’s the “B2P” interactions that determine how clients and candidates perceive your firm. No one ever has to call Facebook for account setup or email Google for searches. It’s time that staffing and recruitment firms compare themselves to the world’s top customer experience organizations. Your competitors may not set a high bar for experience, but you certainly should.
How many times have you said that competing on price is a fool’s errand and you need to find a way to break your clients mind set that it’s all about competitive pricing? Well, there are many ways to break this cycle. One of them is providing value-added services to your clients and prospects.
Value-added services are those services that you can offer clients and prospects to separate you from your competition. And where there is no difference between your clients and prospects, and you are providing a commodity, the only logical choice in choosing one company over another is, “Who is offering the lowest price?”
This is the situation in many industries, from mining to your local supermarket, gas station or internet provider. Some companies try to make a simple distinction by providing better or friendlier service or delivery, but that is the obvious first step and usually the commodity aspect of what is offered is so similar that price soon becomes the decision point. If you are in this position your choice is easy: get your costs down so you can offer the lowest price. If you are not a large company that can offer economies of scale, it is unlikely — though still possible — that you can have low cost. Your choice in then to reduce your prices, and hence profit, or become more creative to “decommodify” your product or service.
This is where value-added comes in. If you can discern your clients needs or get him to think out of the box, beyond offering him just the basic thing that you are selling, you are on the way to providing value-added services and avoiding cut-throat price competition.
Here are a few examples from the simplest to more involved and creative solutions. Volume discount, extended payment terms and zero interest financing fall into the first area — and you probably have done this already. To the extent that your competitors have done this as well, you are probably back to competing on price, so you need to become more creative.
Here is just one example of a value-added service. You are providing a service to a manufacturing company; it is either a small part of a large corporation and is not getting the resources it needs, or it is a small stand-alone company without such resources. In some cases, they might not even know what they are missing and you can open up their eyes to what value-added service they need and then provide that service, provided that they give their business to you. To do this you would have likely either worked for them before, or have serviced similar companies. You would then know enough about what they should have and be capable of providing that service to them. This could range from (depending on what you know) work flow improvement, increased processing speed and better quality control/reduced scrap, to assessment of their internal staff and free outplacement of terminated employees/HR consulting.
There is no limit to what value-added services you can offer to avoid commodity pricing, given a customers’ needs and your creativity. The more volume you get, the more value-added service you can offer; it’s like the gold, silver and platinum levels for frequent flyers.
At any point in history, there has existed a level of mass anxiety around the future of the work. Jobs, of course, are our livelihood, and today with all the talk about automation, political turmoil and major shifts in consumer behavior, many of the employed feel at least a little anxious. In fact, it’s not hard to identify whole industries that face uncertainty and change, from information technology to retail (see Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods).
Addison Group’s fourth annual Workplace Survey examined employees’ sentiments toward the future of the workplace — from confidence in their industry’s future, to preparation for emerging technologies like automation and artificial intelligence. What was discovered is that the more junior the employee, the less they feel confident, knowledgeable and prepared for the future. At Addison Group and for many staffing firms, entry- and staff-level employees come through our doors often as they look to establish their careers and networks. Uncertainty among this population could mean that recruiters need to play an even more hands-on role in counseling and building trust between candidates and the clients they serve.
A few interesting findings from the survey include:
These numbers suggest that the aptly named “Mushroom Theory” is playing out in Corporate America. Since finding and retaining top-notch staff-level talent is already difficult in the current competitive job market, companies do themselves no favors when they fail to address major workplace concerns around the future of their industry or how new technologies might affect employees’ jobs.
In working to place a candidate, it’s necessary for recruiters to address their concerns about the companies and industries they are being targeted to work in. It’s always to the benefit of the recruiter to be as transparent as possible and educate candidates on how best to prepare for the changes coming to their workplace. After all, recruiters have a front-row view of the trends affecting employees’ jobs and career prospects.
For the HR department, a recruiter can improve their value to a client by understanding the changes their business faces and the type of candidates they need to target. Knowing that top-level candidates are going to want a certain level of trust and communication from their employer, it starts with the recruiter addressing any anxieties a candidate may have about a company up front.
These survey findings don’t point to an entirely new phenomenon; however, they do show the changing causes of workplace anxiety. As always, the solution to creating an attractive place to work and helping place a candidate in the right role comes down to clear, thoughtful communication from all parties. When the lines of communication between individuals and companies break down there is a potential for employees to distrust their employer and grow anxious about the future.