#23
Air Date: 04/21/2020

Stay Engaged with Customers and Employees Using Technology

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Stay Engaged with Customers and Employees Using Technology

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Dan: And good morning. It is 8:30 and it's time for a Bit-Wizards ' Tip of the Wand. On the phone with me I have Vince and Sam from Bit-Wizards. Good morning guys.

Sam: Good morning.

Dan: I can hear you, Vince -

Vince: Good morning sir, how are you?

Dan: I'm good sir, and I know you are. We spoke a little earlier, and so I guess everybody is staying safe at Bit-Wizards. It sounds like you guys are still busy doing your thing.

Vince: That we are.

Dan: so any updates with Bit-Wizards? Anything new before we get into our segment?

Vince: No, nothing major. We're just hunkered down trying to help the customers out, addressing needs as they need to get done. Unfortunately, we've had a few customers that have had some layoffs, so we've had to help them as they transition different people. That's always sad to have happen, but it's necessary and makes sure that things get handled properly. So the biggest thing that we're doing is trying to help people work remotely and help them maintain some sense of normalcy with their businesses so they can continue to move forward. So we're going to continue to do that and work hard and make sure our customers get serviced the way they need to get serviced. In fact, we've even brought on a few new customers during this time. People kind of came in and said, " Hey, we need help," and they've raised their hand so that's always a good thing and I'm glad to have them on board.

Dan: Well that's good. So actually got a couple of new customers it sounds like, but that's a good thing because they're reaching out and they're still able to stay in business and you're able to help them. That's great. That's good news. I know in this particular time it's not really good news for a lot of different reasons because of the pandemic, and businesses are having to lay off or work from home, like you were talking about earlier. It's made it tough on everybody, but at least they have a company they can rely on so that if they need any expertise so that they can make working from home happen, you guys are there.

Vince: We should try hard to make sure that we do it right. So Sam, I know you can speak to that. You guys have been pretty busy.

Sam: Yeah, we've actually been working probably harder than ever at this time, some of it just because of the challenges of ... normally the computers we work on are on a corporate environment with a high end firewall protecting the entire environment. Now the machines we're working on are sitting at home getting chocolate milk spilled on them. So it's a little bit of a different environment for us.

Dan: Well that sounds pretty interesting. The chocolate milk, now that sounds pretty good about right now. All right guys, let's get started.

Announcer: Wizards, bits, and bytes. Wizards, bits, and bytes.

Sam: So I'll start off this morning. I saw there were some rumors online about Microsoft releasing the next generation of their Surface Book next month, and I thought, well a lot of people might see that and not even have any idea of what that means, and so Microsoft for a long time have been known for their industry standard software and they've also been ... what a lot of people may know as they've been in the hardware and a game for quite a while, and what they've done is they've created flagship devices to take advantage of the cutting edge technology that they have incorporated in Windows and then driving innovation across the entire industry by producing these flagship devices, and I thought, well Vince and I both have owned quite a few of these different devices over the last few years. So I thought it'd be good for us to talk about the Surface family. So Microsoft releases these devices, but really it's a suite of products, each with a different specific niche or different use cases, and probably the top of the stack that I think Vince probably is going to speak to the best is the Surface Book. It's the Surface Book Three that's supposed to be coming out next month, but Vince, I think you have a Surface Book Two, is that correct?

Vince: I do, and it's actually my favorite device I've ever owned. I've had all the Service family ever since they came out, and the thing I like about the Surface Book is that it's both a laptop and a tablet, so I can get apps and use it as a tablet if I want to and it's got a little processor built in there so it can work great on its own, and it's touch screen and I can do it with the pen, but I can also attach it to the **inaudible** and it's a full laptop [ inaudible 00:00:04:33], and right now **inaudible** in addition to my two monitors I've got my Surface Book actually folded back all the way and I use it as a third monitor so I have three screens that I can move around, but the thing I love about it the most is ... not only do I use it for both of those things, but it's [inaudible 00:04:56 ], good bit of RAM, a terabyte of space on it. It's just an awesome device.

Sam: Yeah. So those are their high end. It is a power horse laptop that is also portable. It's the equivalent of a high end desktop in laptop form. So you can expect to pay over 2, 500 bucks for one of those devices if you're going to go ahead and max it out, which quite honestly we would always recommend. You would want to max out the specs if you're going to buy a laptop. Now the step down from the Surface Book is the Surface Laptop. I have the Surface Laptop Three. I'm doing the exact same thing Vince was talking about. I have three screens set up in front of me and one of them is the laptop, and the Surface Laptop is a great all around everyday laptop. You can expect to pay right around anywhere from $1,500 to $2, 000 in that range for one of these laptops, but I love them because they are about 11 hours of battery life and they have USBC on them and yes, so that's what I have. Now the step down below that is the Surface Pro 10, which is actually a tablet device. Now Vince and I have both had Surface Tablets I think since the Surface Pro One first came out, and so they just keep getting faster and skinnier. The new one is now a quarter of an inch thick. It has LTE built in so you don't even have to be on the wifi. It has an amazing little 13 inch touchscreen, and you can expect by about $1, 000 to $1,500 bucks for one of those, and then the last two devices they have is the Surface Go, which is very lightweight. It's around $400 or $500 bucks. One of those is only really meant for frontline workers or even great for students. It's a little bit less powerful than the others, and then the last device they have is the Surface Studio and that is actually their desktop, and it is a powerful, powerful desktop device. It has a 28 inch touchscreen and it is very well suited for graphic design, video editing, and creativity type solutions.

Dan: Let me interrupt you just for a second Sam, because I'm just kind of curious. On the Surface Studio Two, is that similar to the Apple where it's all built into the screen? There's no tower or anything?

Sam: That's exactly right. It's an all in one where everything is essentially in the display or in the base of the display like the older iMacs were, the Apple Macs, the big difference being that these ones, the screen is completely adjustable. So if you want to lay it down flat you can, or if you want to set it up like an artist's easel, you can set it at an angle, and the entire screen is a touch screen which you don't get on the iMac series. This whole thing is designed just for interacting directly with the work that you're doing.

Dan: Okay.

Sam: And so this is something that we ... I know I carried my own Surface Laptop. I've had several Surface Pros of my own, the tablets, and Vince, I think is on his second Surface Book, and we're pretty big fans of these Microsoft products. They're not necessarily the cheapest devices on the market, but they are rock solid and they're quite stable and I think they are really good example of a flagship device, what other manufacturers can aspire to.

Dan: That sounds good. Most people ... well I shouldn't say most people. Often when people refer to a tablet, they refer to an iPad. So it's interesting you're talking about the Surface products.

Sam: Yes. They are almost ... they look like an iPad, but actually they run full Windows 10. Anything you can run on your computer, you can run on one of these tablets. You can even hook it up to external monitors, keyboard and mouse, and so for all intents and purposes, when you're at your desk, you're just kind of sitting at a desktop computer, but when you're ready to go, you pick it up, pull one cable with you, and unplug that one cable and take the device with you and the whole thing is right there in your bag as you go, and the one that Vince has actually detaches into a tablet, so it's both. It can be the laptop style and you get up to 17 hours battery when you have the keyboard attached to it. When you disconnect the keyboard, it's still the whole computer is there, just built into the tablet. So it's a pretty amazing little device.

Dan: Very versatile, and I guess a lot of your customers probably use those as well.

Sam: Yes, quite a lot. In fact we've found that a lot of business owners really seem to favor the Surface line of products from Microsoft. They look really nice and sleek and special. They are really, really nice construction, and if you've bought some of the lower end laptops from Walmart or from Best Buy or something, they're very plastic-y. They're very easy to break off the corner pieces and things on these. The Microsoft devices are metal built and they're really, really strong and solid devices. So I recommend them. I thought it was interesting news that they're coming out with the new lineup just in the next couple of weeks. So I thought it'd be a good opportunity for us to talk about.

Dan: Sounds good. So I guess when you have your customers that get these, you can help them work with them and get them up and running perfectly so they can interact ... maybe work from home with them, or whatever the case may be.

Sam: Yes, that's absolutely right. Their devices, we'd get them all set up and get them working. In fact, speaking of working remotely, I think that's a good segue for us to move into what's up our sleeve.

Dan: Okay. Sounds good.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards, what's up our sleeve? What's up our sleeve?

Sam: So I thought ... we're continuing the theme of working from home and working remotely, but we focus on technology a lot of [inaudible 00:10:41], but honestly we really pride ourselves on our trusted advisor status we have with our clients, and so supporting the transition to remote work from home isn't just about the tools and the software, which is what we typically focus on, but it's also about adapting your business to stay engaged with your clients and stay engaged with your employees, and so I thought ... I came up with three things, three words here that we can talk about that are I think imperative and key to this remote work situation, whether it's dealing with your clients or whether it's interacting with your employees. I thought these three things are good for us to go over. And so the first one on there is connect. Now more than ever, it's important for us to stay connected with our clients, and it's the same for all of our listeners as well. You've got to stay connected with your clients, you've got to stay connected with your team members, and they say necessity is the mother of invention, and so at this time I'm seeing a lot of people come up with creative and innovative ways to market their company, not just to their target demographic, but even marketing it to their existing clients so that their clients have a good insight and stay connected to the company, and so I've got a couple of tips here on ways to stay more connected with your clients, and these are just some of the things that we do at Bit-Wizards. So the first rule there was turn on the camera when you're in a virtual meeting. I know everyone's got messy hair because we haven't had a haircut in forever and the background is your kids running around the kitchen screaming, and so we're tempted to keep the camera turned off, but let me just say at Bit-Wizards we have a policy, keep that camera turned on, because it's important for us to connect, and if we can't be face to face, then at least we can see each other's faces. The next tip I have for that is to pick up the phone instead of sending an email. That's something that we talk about a lot at Bit-Wizards as well. It's so easy just to rattle off a quick email and send it out the door, because then you don't have to interact with somebody, but it's so much more important, especially in this time, that if you're going to talk to someone, if you're going to interact with someone, it's important to pick up the phone and actually have a conversation with them. And then the last piece of advice that I have on connecting is to send a video message. We have technology now built into our phones and built into into our laptops. There's cameras in there. There's cameras on our phones. There's cameras on our tablets. There's cameras everywhere. It's not that hard to sit down and record a quick video message, and so we do that also quite a lot at Bit-Wizards, where instead of just sending a plain text email, what if instead we record a video of us talking and then send that to our clients. So those are my three recommendations for staying connected with your clients, with your customers. It's turn on the camera in those Zoom meetings, pick up the phone instead of sending an email. That should be our first preference, and then if you have an opportunity, send out a video message and send that out the door so that people can see your face and hear from you. And the same applies with your employees. You've got to stay connected, and your employees need to stay connected with you, and since water cooler talk is kind of hard right now, there's some things you can do. Bit-Wizards did a virtual happy hour for our entire team about a week ago where everybody grabbed a beer at home. We all jumped in a big Zoom meeting and get to hang out with each other for a little bit. Also, in connecting with your employees, setting clear expectations of the roles and responsibilities, and of course we encourage a healthy work life balance, because it is very easy to get that balance off when you're working from home, and so keeping those two environments separate is always a good thing.

Dan: Yeah. I know people get pretty distracted from their kids, like you were talking about too. So you got to try and focus.

Sam: Yes, absolutely. So that's the first part was to connect. The second word that I thought was a good one for us in this time is communicate. This is a good time for us to all up our game when it comes to client communication, and hopefully the communication standards we set now will last us not just through this stay at home order, but even past that as well. So my recommendation is to schedule regular intentional communication with your clients. Let them know what your company is doing right now to address the changes, offer ways to help your clients through these challenging times in only the way that you can do it as your business can do it, and then make sure they always know how to keep in contact with you and your team. I see so many emails that have no signature on the email, that says thanks and then a name or something, but it's so easy just to throw your phone number in there and your website address and your Facebook and your profile and your Twitter handle, all of those things. It's so easy to put those in the signature so that your clients have an easy way to always know how to get in touch with you easily, without having to look for that information. So this is the time to kind of up your game when it comes to communication, and another thing, another major part of successful remote work is ensuring that your employees have the tools available to keep seamless communication as a regular part of their day to day. So ask your employees for feedback about their remote experience and what things could improve, and of course emphasize your company values and shared goals and how remote working can still push teams forward to set and to reach these objectives. So I talked about how it's important to connect with your clients and with your employees while they're remote. It's also very important to communicate regularly with them and give them a means to communicate.

Dan: Gosh, it seems like communication in business is a major issue, and one of the flaws that I see even within other companies, like what you're talking about working remotely, is the lack of communication sometimes even with your own coworkers. So communication with your coworkers and communication with your customers both, in my personal opinion, is very, very important.

Sam: Yes. I agree completely, because it's a little bit of out of sight out of mind right now, and so this is a good opportunity to be mindful and intentional about your communication, and then the last piece I have on here is ... the last word is connect, communicate, and celebrate. Take time to celebrate your clients. We're all in this together. Vince had a great message to the Chamber. It's actually on our website right now and he says in there ... he wrapped it up by saying, " We're in this together and we are a community." So we're going to get through this together. So there are success stories all around us, and staying connected with your clients will help you to help them through the downs but then also take the opportunity to celebrate with them during their ups as well, and so part of the keeping that communication alive and keeping that connection alive is looking for opportunities to celebrate with your clients, the wins that they have, and of course that also reflects to our employees as well. Part of encouraging positive attitudes and keeping employees engaged is celebrating the successes, no matter how big or small they are, and that could be as simple as just celebrating baby wins and communicating with the rest of the team when someone on the team does something well or when something goes well and even commend them on the transition to working remotely as well, or even just sending around thank you emails after a project is completed successfully. Normally those are the kinds of things you would be doing in person, patting someone on the back or celebrating them in a staff meeting. Take the opportunity to continue to do that, to celebrate your clients and to celebrate your employees during this time, and hopefully these habits that we bring in now will last us through not just during this time, but even past it also.

Dan: Yeah, maybe improving your communication during this time, like you said, would be probably beneficial even after we passed this time. Maybe those habits will stay there, and so you can continue a better communication process with your customers and also with your coworkers. That's pretty good idea, because there's a lot of good things that have come out of this as far as people working from home, not just family time, and sometimes that gets to be a little much, but still, having some of these extra maybe working on communication with your customers, because you have to do it more now than you could before because you can't meet face to face if they're locally or whatever, but you're improving your communication skills as you go along and maybe those will stick and it'll be a big benefit in the future.

Sam: Yes, absolutely. I couldn't agree more. I think it's a little weird we're talking about this, because usually we're on here talking about technology and which is the latest password manager you should be using and what kind of encryption does your email have and all of those kinds of things, but I think it's important for us to see the business need behind the technology, not just the technology that empowers it, and so that's why I'm looking at this and saying we have these tools available to us, we have the software available to us, we have the cameras built into all of our devices. It's actually now relatively easy for us to communicate and stay connected. It's just important that we actually are intentional about it and that we take the time to do it, because if you recognize our team members, if you recognize our clients, it really helps maintain the identity of the team that you have and it shows everybody progress that's being made towards a shared goal, because we believe when one of your clients wins, all of your clients win. When one of your employees wins, everyone's winning, and that's what gets us through this tough time. That's what gets us through keeping us in check and keeping us calm and solid and strong in our community while we go through this. It's everybody pulling together and working together and continuing to communicate with each other.

Vince: That includes celebrating the little successes, like being able to get back connected again.

Sam: We lost you there for a little bit.

Dan: You're back. Okay, good. No, that's part of it as well, celebrating.

Sam: That's absolutely right.

Vince: Absolutely.

Dan: All right guys, let's move on. That was a very good segment and I agree with all the communication, and one thing about Bit-Wizards you guys do a wonderful job, if nothing else, communication, because we talk an awful lot, but you guys do a wonderful job keeping your clients connected, teaching them to work from home, and keeping their businesses afloat, because one thing I'll say about Bit-Wizards ... I'll give you guys a plug, because you guys are incredible technology giants. There's no doubt about that. You guys know everything about all the technology, but I got to give you a plug that you know a lot about business too. So not only are your customers get the benefit from your technology, but they also get your benefit from knowing about how businesses operate and that you are able to help them with the technology to move their businesses forward, because you understand that side of it too, because so many times when you talk to an it person, they know a lot about computers and they know a lot about the networks and they know a lot about websites and so on, but I don't think they make the connection with the business and that's where you guys shine.

Vince: Well we make a concerted effort can make that happen, because the tech guys and gals **inaudible** in the tech, and it's part of the effort of what we try to do all the time to make sure that people understand that we're doing this for a business purpose in the end. It's not technology for technology's sake. You'll hear us say that all the time. We try to really engrain that in our engineering stance, to be thinking about the business case and how that applies into the technology that we're implementing.

Dan: Well said. Well said. All right, let's move on guys.

Announcer: Bit-Wizards, from the spell book. From the spell book.

Vince: Well from the spell book is where we demystify some technical geek speak or we discuss some sort of little technological factoid, but today's term is backwards compatibility. You know it, everybody wants it, but it doesn't always happen when it comes to software and technology, but it's a term we use in the tech industry because software and hardware have such a short life span and technology changes so rapidly, it's difficult to connect newer systems with older systems. It's kind of like trying to put a fuel injection system on a 1968 Mustang. It doesn't hook up quite so well, but we try to be as backwards compatible as possible, and there are some pros and cons with backwards compatibility. A pro is that you can still run an old dos program from the 1980s or 1990s on your brand new Windows 10 PC and this is going to link in the return of your investment for that software, although there's a downside in that software developers can't maintain that backwards compatibility indefinitely. There's a diminishing set of returns when it would be too expensive for them to recover from.

Sam: Right. I think Microsoft actually are kind of famous for being really big about backwards compatibility. So they are slow to let a technology go because they know of how many people that's going to affect. So there's a bug in Excel right now that ... I can't remember it. I think it's the year 1900, it has the 29th of February in Excel, but they would never want that on the calendar, but that was a bug back in Excel in the eighties and if they were to change it now, it would break spreadsheets all around the world, and so they work really hard to maintain that backwards compatibility. On the other side of that, Apple are notorious for leaving people in the dust. In fact, they get accused of doing it intentionally to force people to buy their new products, because if you have a Mac or an iPhone or that's just a couple of years out of date, there's a good chance the new apps won't run on it or that the software you bought a couple of years ago won't run on the new hardware that just came out. And so there's a delicate balance between those two, of that backwards compatibility, between you want to support the products you've already sold and you already put out there, but at the same time you have to still embrace the new technology moving forward, and for us at Bit-Wizards, offering the IP service really is designed to help keep your company's IT up to date and compatible with all the other moving parts, but also we're looking to help maximize return on your investment on the technology investments so you're not sinking money into a dead end technology, but one that is going to evolve and to progress and to keep moving forward in a straight line and that will last you as long as possible, the way we look at it.

Dan: Yeah, I've got to agree with you on that one.

Vince: Yeah. I think that's a thing that businesses struggle with, this sort of if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and I think both Microsoft and Apple on either extreme of that seem to get little bit of a bad rap. It's very costly to maintain older technology and systems, whether it be software or whether it be hardware, put out hardware, putting out new drivers, that type of thing, maintain safety and security as technology marches on. So it's a very delicate balance. There's probably a little bit of truth that they try to drive you towards the newer technology, but I think there's an underlying reason there. It's not necessarily that they just want to sell you more stuff. The thing of it is they want to stay up to date, they want to stay current, and they want you to get additional new benefits. Obviously they want you to spend more, but the reality is is that it's just much more difficult to maintain that hardware and software over time.

Dan: Yeah, but it's nice to be able to use the programs that you already have to with the newer equipment. That's nice.

Sam: Yeah. Well I want to wrap up. I know we've only got a few minutes left, but I wanted to ... we usually rap out by giving our customer appreciation club, and I just talked about celebrating your clients during this, and so this is an opportunity for us to practice what we preach here. So I wanted to give a big, big Bit-Wizards thank you and a shout out to our customer Kindness Pet Hospital. A Kindness Pet Hospital is located out on 38 in Santa Rosa Beach. They've got two locations on either end of 38, and Dr. Mary Connor and Dr. Kristen Carr take care of our pets, our furry and not so furry family pets. They do such a fantastic job and they have a veterinary dental practice there as well to take care of hound halitosis that's going on, but they are just ... they're so great to work with. We have loved working with them. We do all their IT for them, top to bottom, and they're forward thinking, fast paced, rapidly expanding veterinary clinic has embraced technology as a strategic [ inaudible 00:27:58]. We're are so happy. We love working with you guys at Kindness Pet Hospital.

Dan: Oh, that sounds great. They got pets, they got dogs, they got cats and they got technology now.

Sam: That's right. They've got it all.

Dan: Like you're always talking about that, that every business needs technology.

Vince: That's the truth. I just want to say that I woke up this morning with some of that hound halitosis in my face. Two giant Labradors between my wife and I, and so I think I need to get them out to Dr. Mary and get them to clean their teeth. It's pretty bad.

Dan: Yeah, get some of those chews. I don't know, sometimes those chews ... I don't know about you, but my dogs don't like those chews. They never did. All right guys, it's about time to wrap up on this Tuesday. We appreciate you guys coming in and give us all this great information. Vince and Sam from Bit-Wizards. Thanks guys