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May We See Your ID, Please? Part IV

Written by Sean Valant

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

If you haven’t seen the first three posts in this series, we’d highly recommend checking them out right here.  With that out of the way, let’s dive right into our newest batch of fake IDs!

Up first is what appears to perhaps be a French ID, aside from the fact that we suspect it may not be official and, in fact, it might even be homemade.  Surely the finest colored pencils were used in order to replicate an official document, but with our collective keen eye we determined that this ID raised enough red flags for us to consider it most likely counterfeit:

homemade_id

 

Our next ID may not be completely homemade, but it’s a close second. If not for the name, age, and gender having clearly been Photoshopped in, our attention may have been brought to the fact that the picture (on the otherwise blurry photograph) is clearly a selfie. While it is possible, in this modern age, that government agencies would accept selfies for their official documents, we have our doubts about this one:

mycard

 
This next person didn’t really try to fool us, they apparently just sent us an image from Discover Card’s own advertising. No points for creativity were awarded for this one, but here it is anyway:
fakecard

 
Only slightly more effort went into the following image, which is clearly just a sample identification card image, and features a birthday of 00/00/0000:

fakeidcard

 

We will now enter the celebrity portion of this batch of fake IDs. The following image arrived with an explanation, and we quote: “I could only acquire a photo ID of CIA card with my name Michael Westen.” It is worth noting that the customer’s name was not, in fact, Michael Westen:

westen_cia

 

We quickly determined that we could also acquire a photo ID of CIA card in the name of Michael Westen, on eBay:

fake_cia

 

Up next we have Mr. Bradley Cooper, of “The Hangover” fame as well as the famous “Ellen” selfie from the 2014 Oscars. One way or another, he found himself on a “CEO” identification card… but he’s not getting hosting here with this ID, CEO or not:

brad_cooper

 
Rounding out our celebrity portion is the character made famous by Will Ferrel in the movie Talladega Nights, Mr. Ricky Bobby himself!:

ricky_bobby

 

For our final image, let’s talk about puns. Puns are something that we generally try to avoid, when given a choice. But this next picture simply makes it unavoidable. This is, bar none, the best ID that we’ve ever been sent… and it’s not even a fake, per se. But if we were giving out prizes for this, then we would award this ID one entire Internet as a prize. As for that pun, well, this ID quite literally takes the cake:

cake_ID

Yes, that is what it looks like; someone baked a cake and used their ID as decoration and then sent us a picture. They didn’t physically send us the cake, unfortunately. For the record, while our Fraud Prevention Department was highly entertained by this, this was not acceptable as a valid form of ID for our purposes, so they did ultimately have to send us a proper scan. Nonetheless, we applaud their creativity!

Given that an ID on a cake is pretty hard to top (did we really just slide another pun into this post?), we will likely be retiring this blog post topic. We’ve had a lot of fun with the posts, and fraudsters beware, we’re as vigilant as ever… but a cake ID, that’s more than we ever hoped for when starting this series of blog posts. We hope you’ve enjoyed them as much as we have!

Essential Elements

Written by Michael Dickens II

Monday, August 4th, 2014

20954_zoom1

Sales is a numbers game. However, while it is certainly necessary to have a well thought out expansion strategy, sometimes simply pausing for a moment can likewise be good for profitability.

As a child, I began taking music lessons. After a short while, I quit. Many of the lessons I felt were somewhat rudimentary in nature and lacked the pizzaz I desired. Needless to say, quitting was a BIG mistake. Rather than tough out the monotony and appreciate the small things, I sought to chase dreams of grandeur and magnificence. Fast forward to today and I’m writing this blog instead of performing at Carnegie Hall. If only I’d stuck it out, learned the basics and improved my musical skills… not that I don’t love writing as well!

The primary difference is simply embracing the initial steps (practicing those monotonous musical scales, as it were), the beginnings: the “Essential Elements” necessary to succeed.

How does this relate to your business? Often entrepreneurs have visions of grandeur and can not only see the success on the horizon, but also can touch, taste, and feel it. Sometimes it becomes difficult to remain “in the moment” especially with the way technology rapidly advances. However, one must not discount the value of building strong relationships with customers. Loyalty does matter, especially in the infancy years when you need to develop a solid base. Be sure to generate a DIALOGUE with your customers and do not settle for anything less in this monologue-driven society. At the end of the day, the tortoise wins the race.

How does this look in actuality though? What are real goals you can set?

  • 1. Gather feedback. Instead of developing marketing terminology that focuses on raising awareness of your brand, focus on reconnecting with those customers who have already purchased something from you. Get their feedback and sincerely concern yourself with their post-purchase satisfaction.
  •  

  • 2. Offer VIP experiences. If you have a sale or service discount you plan to roll out, select a few of your most loyal customers to present them with an “insiders” option first. Unless you are in the business of investing/trading…Martha Stewart.
  •  

  • 3. Breed an environment of caring. Do you sell maternity items? If so, collect information from your mothers-to-be and send a well wishes email. Are you a mechanic? Check up on your clients about 60 to 90 days after repair to see how well the car is holding up. Do you perform B2B transactions? Help out a smaller business with a free give away of something useful. Pay it forward and it will pay off!

 

In closing, take your time to reach the peak of your success. Enjoy the small beginnings and maximize your execution of the fundamentals. Build, into the culture of your business, those essential details that create the quality, long lasting experience for your customers and separate you from your competition. Develop and fortify your relationships and those customers will thank you, both verbally and financially!

 

Image source: http://www.uncommongoods.com/images/product/20954_zoom1.jpg

3 Psychologically Proven Methods For Creating A Better Workplace

Written by Jeremy Jensen

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

3 Proven Psychology Methods For Creating A Better Workplace

When an influential mentor speaks to you, chances are you’re going to remember what they say. For me, it was a lecture early on in college where one of my Professors attempted to demonstrate the importance of social sciences in relation to real world business practices. The gist of what he said was, “Business is all about working with people. The more you understand what people want and how they operate, the more successful you’re going to be across any career path.”

Essentially signifying the role and value our emotional quotient fulfills in an environment where humans attempt to cooperate with one another on mutual tasks. Quite frequently, though, we’re begrudged by disrespectful and demanding supervisors who have skills in every aspect to a managerial position, except interpersonal relations.

Whether you’re struggling to develop a better relationship with your employees, or are simply lacking directional leadership skills, here are three ways you can improve the general happiness within your company.

 

Show Your Appreciation Appropriately

There are many ways to motivate employees, but nothing can can quite replace the empowerment of expressing gratitude towards their efforts. By taking the time to examine what we appreciate from our team, we’re also encouraging others to do the same.

The appropriateness comes into play in measures of frequency and the selective times in which we choose to show our appreciation. Not every routine action is in need of being remarked upon; rather, when an employee or co-worker seems to extend themselves beyond expectations be sure to reward their efforts by complimenting their work ethic.

Successful managers may even take extra steps every week, or month to send individual e-mails pointing out times when the employee made an invaluable contribution. No one wants to feel like their work is going unnoticed. Giving someone a feeling of purpose is an excellent tool for building the strength of your business.

 

Don’t Stifle Creativity

Officially classified as the ‘Technological Era’, our current trends of employment rely heavily on both sides of the brain. For the longest time we were seeing left-brained analytical work forces that didn’t allow for individuals to express their creativity within a company. Many careers during the informational era (Engineers, Doctors, Computer Programmers) were task oriented and routine, not allowing for an individuals personality to really impact their day to day.

But the world has changed.

While many, if not all careers, are still maximizing the linear and analytical portion of our brain (Left-half), we’re seeing a tremendous shift towards those who utilize the ‘big picture’ modules to steer business towards a more sustainable future. Automation has allowed for many careers to focus on the artistry and emotion of what makes our products/services human; therefore, right-brained individuals are thriving thanks to the opportunities presented in creative industries.

Not everyone lands a position in a creative sector, however, and try as we might our ideas are often stifled due to the lack of open-mindedness in a given company’s upper management. Best recommendation: listen to what your employees have to suggest.

Just like it’s become common place to have customer surveys, understanding and adapting to your employee’s needs will allow for your company to retain employees longer, while also providing a channel for their ideas to blossom.

 

Drop The Intimidation and Focus On Happiness

I think we’ve finally realized that ruling by fear is not the most effective approach to increasing productivity from our employees. In today’s economic climate there is already enough uncertainty pertaining to the security of our jobs. This has led to notable increases in documented health issues directly correlated to stress from our jobs.

Many reports have begun to emphasis the importance of ‘positive psychology’ in the workplace, disregarding prior methods of holding low job availability over employees heads as a means to generate pressure and fear. Positive psychology is all about the happiness of employees which has been shown to increase productivity, stimulate creativity, and create a better overall environment in which better candidates will apply to work for.

Some great ways to reduce stress and increase happiness, include:

  • Providing access to physical fitness – For some companies this means helping purchase gym memberships as a part of the benefits package.
  • Incorporate mentoring programs for new employees – Feeling like your company has invested in your position is a great way to feel secure and learn how to start working at a higher level
  • Engage a happiness trainer – While this can be expensive, the results could last much longer than employees constantly leaving in search of a better position.

Creating a better working environment doesn’t require a complete overhaul of resources. Often it’s the small gestures, and genuine demeanor we exchange with those we’re closest with at the office that will spread throughout the entire company. By starting to prioritize your company’s positive reputation today, you’ll have an even better team in the days of tomorrow.

Why Customer Service Matters

Written by Brandi Bennett

Friday, July 25th, 2014

 

customer service

Sure, everyone says that customer service matters, and that customer service is important to the way that they do business… but how many times do you feel like the above situation is what’s actually happening when you’re dealing with a company? The most common perception is that no matter what the party line is, the fact of the matter is that companies today just don’t care. Most people get annoyed with it, but few people actually take the time to think about how those perceptions transfer to their business.

 

Does this Sound Familiar?

You have an issue with a product you’ve purchased from a company, something frustrating in and of itself, and, already irate, you attempt to contact the company regarding the issue you’ve experienced. You want the company to take responsibility for the faulty product and take the time to get the matter resolved. Instead you either get an automated response, or, worse, the company tells you that it’s your fault that the issue arose and you’re out of luck, placing the blame on you for the issue with the product, regardless of whether or not it’s your fault that the issue occurred. You rant, rave, maybe even cuss, and get blown off in return.

 

Why it matters

Your business won’t last if you don’t have any customers, and the introduction of social media to the business world makes this all the more important, as all the other customers of your company can see and talk about all of the issues that have occurred with your business in a medium that is directly tied to your business. The more negative that is said, the less likely that new customers will deign to use your products or services because they don’t want the same experience; business will continue to decrease until either you do something to correct the problem or until your company is down the drain.

 

What you should do

Don’t make it simply a party line. Make customer service actually matter. Take the time to treat each customer as though their issue is unique (even though most will not be), and take the time to get it resolved correctly the first time. If you sell second hand appliances and you swear you’ve tested them out, don’t blame a customer when a thermostat breaks less than a month after they’ve bought it from you. If a product got damaged in shipping, apologize; don’t blame it on the post office. Always apologize for the issue. If it’s an issue of damage or an issue with a defect, ask for the product to be sent back, or ask for a picture of the issue, depending on what the issue is and what the product is.

Have a system in place of working to handle issues. Resolve whatever the issue is promptly, and resolve it the first time. Treat each customer as though their business matters, and as though you value their opinion. Keep all negativity about the situation or about the customer to yourself. Treat each situation as though it could make or break your business, because it could. Once you’ve made customer service your priority, you have a solid foundation upon which to grow your business.

 

Image Source: Zetta. (2014). Customer Support Matters. Retrieved from http://www.zetta.net/images/Customer%20Support%20Matters%20at%20Zetta300x197.jpg

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