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Essential Self-Evaluation Tips

Essential Self-Evaluation Tips

Importance of Self Evaluations

Self-assessment is a crucial part of career growth, not only for an employee but also for the company as a whole. It is a chance for both the employer and employee to gauge their efforts, determine their respective goals, and make the necessary changes for the future. Both employer and employee should think of self-evaluations as a tool to align the values and goals of a company with its day-to-day work and improve as a whole.

Self-evaluation is often framed as a way to determine shortcomings. But great self-evaluations should also include and highlight achievements and successes. By acknowledging both, an individual is able to create and build confidence in what they are doing. For an employee working with a company, or an entrepreneur building a business, or a freelancer making a name for himself, acknowledging that you’ve met your goals and enjoying the rewards of your hard work is a good way to tell yourself that you’re on the right path in your professional career.

The importance of self-evaluations ultimately comes down to how it can benefit the individual by acknowledging both success and failure and setting new goals to move forward.


What to Include in a Self Evaluation

Evaluations differ from company to company, but there is one concept that may help you produce more consistent self-evaluations. The most important thing to keep in mind is to determine and set goals for each individual and for the company as a whole. These goals should follow the SMART acronym – which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.

Specific goals must be set in order to avoid confusion and to keep things on track. These goals can be things like “Build a marketing plan to increase sales by 50% from the last year” or “Create a 7 day training curriculum to onboard new hires”. A goal is specific if there is a clear result of what must be done or be produced.

Goals should have a set of intended results or outcomes. The criteria for measurement can be different depending on the type of goal. An easy example would be for sales, how many products are we able to sell in 6 months. It may also involve less obvious metrics, like the number of inquiries in a given period. You can provide a scorecard and assign values to determine if the result was below or beyond expectations.

Goals must be achievable. You can’t set and expect difficult goals and punish an individual for not achieving something that historical data would suggest as impossible. This would create animosity between employees and companies, as employees would feel that management would love to see them fail (and possibly be ineligible for monetary bonuses, a common cost-saving tactic). As such, creating challenges and achievable goals is a good way to motivate individuals and give them a clear metric to surpass and go beyond expectations. Impossible and unfair goals only create problems down the line.

Keep goals relevant to the current situation. This goes hand in hand with the previous point in that goals should be achievable at the time whilst remaining relevant. Relevancy could also point towards just how the company or business will benefit from meeting these goals. To check if a goal is relevant is to ask yourself “How does this fit with the direction of the business” and “How will this goal evolve in the future”. Make sure to keep them relevant so as to not lose focus, and in order keep yourself on track.

The final aspect of SMART goals is timely. This means that your goals have a clear start and end. This final point is essentially a checklist of the 4 previous aspects. Timely goals are specific and relevant while being achievable for the individual with a way to measure progress and success.

Here’s a relevant video on self-evaluations from CIO:



Do’s and Don’ts of a Self Evaluation



Be proud of yourself. This is the time to acknowledge the great things you have done and achieved. Don’t be afraid to say that you were able to deliver when it comes to the challenges you’ve faced.

To help with the first point of being proud of yourself, it’s important to be specific. This helps in staying humble by sticking to the results and avoiding unnecessary anecdotes that will make you sound like you’re bragging. If goals should be specific, then results should be as well.

Another point to compliment the previous one is to be professional. If you did a good job, your work will speak for itself. You might be the top performer at your firm but nobody likes someone who undermines others. Keep personal problems out of the workplace (unless it involves issues with another coworker and negatively impacts your work performance).

An important thing to remember is to remain critical. Remember that there is always room to improve. You might have met expectations but it’s always good to acknowledge that you can go beyond them. Ask yourself some basic questions, like:

– What is it I am trying to achieve?

– Are my methods effective enough for achieving that result?

– What went well last month? What could have been better?

Some of the best questions are tough to answer. But a self-evaluation is all about facing the side of yourself that you’re not always proud of.



Don’t be shy. Think of it as a job interview and in a way, it kind of is. For some people, it’s definitely difficult to talk about good things about yourself and the things that you’ve done. While it is important to be humble, try not to undervalue yourself. This is definitely something that you’ll regret later on.

Don’t be vague. Again, be as specific as possible when outlining your achievements. You’ll know you’re being vague when your evaluator is asking a lot of follow up questions. Try to stick to a script and don’t leave out the important parts. You should know what metrics the evaluator would need to hear.

Don’t be negative. To complement the previous points, there is a fine line with being humble and unfairly criticizing yourself. You’ll say you’ve met a certain goal but finish it up with a negative thought. Instead, you should state the problem and end it with a solution. Coming up with ways to improve is not negative because you should also present and suggest solutions to overcome them. This shows you are determined to improve.

Tip: Obviously most self-evaluation interviews are not spontaneous. Usually, you’ll receive a form and after filling it out, you’ll be interviewed by your manager. It’s always good to self-evaluate yourself from time to time, so you’ll know what to say.


Next Steps After a Self Evaluation

Once you’ve completed your self-evaluation, it’s always best to gather feedback. In corporate settings, you’ll usually receive a follow-up interview a week or two after the evaluation. For most, this is when you’ll get your results and feedback from management. It’s always best to keep an open mind about whatever feedback you receive and to not beat yourself up over a less than satisfactory result.

The next thing you can do for yourself is to ask for training or find a mentor. You can approach your supervisor regarding this. Undergoing training allows you to refresh yourself with the basics or learn new skills. However, it’s always best to find a mentor and learn from them. The greatest thing in the world is experience. With a mentor, you’ll be able to learn from their experience while going through your own challenges. You’ll learn from a veteran who has been there and done that, whose methods you know actually work.

Finally, take this time to commit to being a life-long learner. By continuing to educate yourself, you’ll have a productive mindset not only with work but with your personal life as well. Someone who always strives to learn will always be ready to deal with any challenges they are faced with.


Self-evaluations are just one step in overall employee engagement. Learn about how to improve work-life balance as well.


Your Guide to 360 Reviews

Your Guide to 360 Reviews

Employee evaluations are essential to the health and direction of a company. Without knowing how well each person is performing, teams are doomed to fail. The worst part is that many of the existing evaluation systems used by companies today fail to deliver useful, actionable insights on performance.

One technique that has seen more success is the 360 review. It involves a multi-perspective appraisal of someone’s work performance, as opposed to the singular review used by other systems. But before you rush off to start using it in your own company, it’s first important to understand how it works, and the pitfalls to avoid.


What are 360 Reviews?

360 reviews, also known as 360-degree feedback or rating, is an alternative feedback approach that seeks to include multiple perspectives in evaluating a worker’s performance. Instead of solely relying on a manager for feedback, 360 reviews take into account the experiences and interactions with customers, coworkers, leaders, and other individuals associated with the company.

The goal is to paint a less biased and more comprehensive view of each individual, hence the “360” name. But the method is not without its pros and cons.


Pros of 360 Reviews

– Variety of reviewers – A single review by a manager or supervisor is subject to bias claims. It doesn’t take into account the other tasks that a person may work on or the other people they may interact with. 360 reviews prevent this by involving other individuals within the subject’s sphere, creating a deeper, more nuanced image.

– Develops teamwork – Since employees no longer have to focus their effort on impressing a single person, teams can actually focus on their work and on helping each other. The point is to make a positive impression on the whole team, not just one person.

– Career development – Since 360 reviews affect so many people at once, teams can better advise how a person can advance their career. It may involve networking, receiving the right work opportunities, or simply being in a conversation where they ordinarily wouldn’t be.

Gather in-depth insights – 360 reviews can uncover deeper truths that would have been missed if conducted by a single person. For example, a female worker in a predominantly male environment may not feel as comfortable talking about her concerns with a male supervisor as she might with a female colleague. 


Cons of 360 Reviews

– Large amounts of data – 360-degree reviews will involve 5 – 10 times the amount of responses as a traditional report. This means more time and money that must be invested.

– Focuses on weaknesses – As with many review systems, both reviewers and administrators can get too caught up on weaknesses or downsides instead of the strengths and positives of a person. With so much feedback from so many different people, reviewers may feel pressured to provide some critical feedback.

– Inexperienced raters – Not everyone is trained to give detailed reviews, so one person may provide a comprehensive write up while someone else may offer the bare minimum.


Tools for 360 Reviews


Zoho People

Looking for a full comprehensive HR suite? Zoho People is for you. This online app takes care of everything from company policies to training, to time tracking and appraisals. The best part is it’s super sleek and sports an easy-to-understand interface, which complements any of the other apps from Zoho’s suite. If you’re looking for a one-stop-shop for HR needs, take a look into Zoho People.



If you’re interested specifically in creating and running 360-degree feedback assessments, then Spidergap has you covered. Spidergap makes it incredibly easy and intuitive to put reports together, customize the questionnaires, and analyze the overall feedback. While your first assessment is free, Spidergap’s pricing may differ depending on the number of employees you plan on assessing. Either way, the investment is worth it — big names like the European Commission, The Children’s Trust,, Cisco, NHS, and Sony Computer Entertainment have all used it before.


Vision Metrics

Vision Metrics is another provider of 360 Degree Feedback software, as well as 180 Degree Feedback. The company offers unlimited tech support, fully customizable feedback forms, and a platform that has been honed over 10 years. The best aspect of Vision Metrics are the beautiful reports, which help breakdown each person’s responses in quantitative, actionable ways. If you’re not ready to pay the full price, Vision Metrics offers a free 30-day trial for you to try it out.



Out of all the options, QualtricsXM is the most future-proof option. It has all the other 360 assessment features you’d come to expect, but it goes the extra mile and provides a few high-tech upgrades: voice analytics, AI and machine learning analysis, even recommended actions based on the results. QualtricsXM’s futuristic platform has even serviced over 11,000 major brands, from Adidas to Zillow. If your business is more of an enterprise or on an international scale, Qualtrics XM will be the ideal choice for you.


Who participates in 360 Reviews?

If 360 reviews involve more individuals in a company, who exactly do they involve? Before starting a 360 review, it’s important for everyone to know their exact role.

The main roles involve:

  1. The administrator
  2. The subject
  3. The manager
  4. The reviewers


The administrator

The administrator conducts the 360 reviews, from briefing each person, to collecting the results, to creating direct reports and action plans after the review. Without the administrator, there would be no one to facilitate the 360 review process.

It’s important to note that the administrator is not the manager. For a 360 assessment to be successful, the administrator should ideally be from a third-party, someone outside the company.


The subject

The subject refers to the person being reviewed. It can refer to the person at the bottom or at the top of the pecking order, but they must be from within the company. Before conducting an assessment, it is important for the administrator to properly brief the subject, so they know that they are about to be reviewed by various members of the company.

Critical feedback may arise, but it’s crucial that the subject hears it all. After the assessment it is up to the subject to decide whether he wants to make a difference to better himself or not.


The manager

Since managers tend to lead and direct the ones being assessed, they play an equally important role, although with a different perspective. Their job is not to comment on the subject’s performance, but rather the subject’s skills, interpersonal relationships, and communication.

The manager should work closely with the administrator to ensure that the subject receives proper training and guidance after the assessment.


The reviewers

What would a 360 review be without reviewers? These are the coworkers and cross-functional peers, the ones the subject interacts with on a frequent basis. They may even be clients and customers willing to provide feedback.

360 reviews typically need around 4-10 reviewers. Honest, constructive feedback is imperative to the success of the assessment as a whole.


What do you measure in 360 reviews?

360 reviews are all about evaluating a worker’s performance, but exactly what aspects are administrators evaluating? The answer depends, and varies depending on the industry and nature of business. But there are a few common threads in all 360 surveys.

The most commonly discussed skill is leadership. How well does a person direct the resources and team members towards a specific goal? How responsible or accountable are they in their duties? Above all, how willing are they to listen to others? These questions will help guide your evaluation of the subject’s leadership skills.

Another big consideration is the subject’s communication skills and interactions. This covers everything from speaking, clarity, non-verbal communication, negotiation, and overall being able to convey an idea or concept to someone else.

Reliability measures the ability of someone to follow through on a project or task. The higher up the leadership ladder, the more reliable a person must be.

How well of a job does the subject do on a recurring basis? How do they conduct themselves in front of the highest leaders and the low-level workers? Consistency is key, not just for a job well done, but for stronger business relationships.

Leaders also want to know about the subject’s ability to achieve goals. Whether those are lofty visions or projects for the company, or personal goals unrelated to work, a person’s determination can be a major factor in how one progresses in their career.

At the end of it all, reviewers must assess a subject on their overall performance. Not in terms of efficiency or productivity, but the effectiveness of their actions as a whole.


How to conduct 360 reviews

Train team around 360 reviews – Your team’s initial reaction will be one of confusion. Provide all the necessary information and resources to help them better understand the process and communicate the importance of these surveys. Before any assessment is conducted, it’s important to align the entire company on the purpose of the 360 review: to encourage engagement and advance people’s careers through feedback.

Select your subjects and reviewers – Who will be assessed? Who will do the assessment? The next step is to consider the vast network of interactions going on daily within your company. Reviewers can be further divided into subcategories, such as subordinates, peers, managers, or customers.

Create a competency framework – Which skills or competencies will you assess each person on? This varies depending on the organization. Some companies may want to focus on the leadership aspect of their team members, others will want to see which ones play best in a team.

Prepare the assessment – The administrator of the review should begin preparing a questionnaire based on the competencies outlined above. Include the necessary information on the assessment, such as how to fill it out properly. Administrators should assist in the development of these questions— the better a question is framed, the more insightful the results can be. Above all, keep it short. When assessments drag on, people won’t give it the same level of attention or thought.

Create actionable reports – Once the assessment is over, the administrator should be in charge of creating reports that suggest what to do next. That might mean giving an employee more exposure to a particular department, following up with a team member for abusive behavior, or finding new ways to improve the production process. When all is said and done, the report outlines what the company should learn from the assessment.

What to do with 360 reviews

You’ve finished off reviewing your subjects, now it’s time to analyze the results. Before anything else, make sure to anonymize the responses, so as not to reveal any sensitive information. Respect people’s privacy, and they’ll provide honest and candid feedback.

Speaking of feedback, it goes both ways. After you receive feedback from people, it’s important to provide feedback to the subject as well. Otherwise, they’ll never know how to improve their behavior or work ethic.

Managers and leaders would do well to provide coaching opportunities for those that seek or need them. The best employees or team members are hungry to improve and rise above their rank. Give them the tools to do so.

Find trends among workers. Are people generally dissatisfied with a certain employee? Is there a bottleneck in the process that management should be aware of? 360 assessments are great because they take into account so many different points of view— but many of them say the same thing.

Finally, create reports that can help the business in the long run. A few months after the assessment, people can forget the results rather quickly, so these reports will help remind workers how the company can always improve. Reports should be clearly designed, while condensing the mass of data into action items, and focusing on the big takeaways.

360 assessments remain an indispensable way to learn more about your team, discover ways to improve the company and drive employee engagement. When done correctly, the lessons learned could be pivotal to the future of a company. 360 assessments are still only tools, however, and it’s what the company does with them that will change their course of action forever.

Looking for more ways to keep your team engaged? Visit our page on various talent management strategies here.

10 Tips for Working from Home

10 Tips for Working from Home

There are many benefits to instigating remote working within your organization, however, remote working requires certain other considerations. A great leader can adapt and change their style in order to maximize the benefits of remote working for the company. In this article, we will examine some of the different strategies and methods you can use to inspire, engage, and empower remote workers to make them feel like a valuable part of the team.


1. Develop a morning routine

Early morning risers tend to have a more proactive mindset. That’s because they have more space and time to observe the day before them and make adjustments as necessary. And for early birds, the morning routine is everything.

Instead of searching for a single morning routine that everyone should follow, strive to develop your own. Take inspiration from great entrepreneurs and their own morning routines. Mark Cuban and Warren Buffet read for hours a day. Author and Navy SEAL Jocko Willink lifts weights before running in the morning. Arianna Huffington and Oprah both meditate and practice mindfulness. Even if you don’t do these exact routines, it’s never too late to improve on your own morning routine.


2. Provide remote employees with everything they need to improve communication

Remote working saves your company a lot of money, but in order for this not to be a false economy, it is essential that you don’t skimp on the tools and resources you supply to your staff. Your aim is to make communication as quick and easy as it would be if all parties were in the same office. Email is a poor form of communication, particularly internal email, so invest in tools such as Asana, Wrike, or Slack, so that communication becomes seamless and second nature to all employees. Excellent communication improves teamwork, sparks ideas, and motivates everyone to become more productive. As a leader, ensure you are actively using all of these tools and setting an example. The key is not only supplying the correct tools but ensuring everyone is using them to their full potential.


3. Be more than a voice on the end of a conference call

If you actually want team leaders to feel valued and included, then it is essential that every remote worker gets to visit the head office at least once a year. This will allow everyone to put names to faces, to interact closely, and to feel properly included and ultimately more valued and committed to the company. Plan the visit carefully, and build in a social aspect to the visit in order to build that team spirit.

It is also just as important for leaders to make trips, the other way, to demonstrate that they are willing to travel to meet their employees and to experience remote working properly. When you engage in remote visits, consider adding fun and rewarding things to the visit, such as an employee of the month, or maybe even just birthday wishes. The key point here is not to make your remote workers feel that the only time they see you is for an inspection, or for other negative reasons.


4. Demonstrate an inclusive policy from the head of the company down

It is very easy for a remote worker to feel less important than an office-based employee. A good leader will establish an inclusive policy that values everyone equally. As a leader, this might mean regularly connecting with your remote workers on an individual basis or even just remembering and celebrating birthdays with them, in the same way, you would in the office. Other staff members will be watching to see how you conduct yourself, so by setting a good example, others will follow.

One great idea, if your remote workers work exclusively from home, could be to send them a gift voucher for their local coffee shop. This demonstrates that not only do you value them as an employee but also that you have been thinking of them. Sometimes it is the little gestures that have the biggest impact.


5. Be mindful of time zones and working hours

It’s easy to forget that remote workers may not just be a few miles, but whole continents away. Just as one developer in Chicago might be getting up for work, a designer the Philippines might be getting ready for bed.

Take advantage of a collaborative calendar to sync your team members’ schedules across the board. This will be helpful even for the domestic/local team, as not all team members work the standard 9-5 routine. Establishing time zones and work hours is crucial when moving as a single unit.


6. Leverage software and project management platforms

From Asana to Zoho Projects, there’s no shortage of project management platforms in the age of the Internet. Each one offers a unique take on organization and collaboration, so it’s important to take the time to research and find the best one for your business.

Looking for a Kanban-board style system suited for agile workflow? Trello is the right one for you. Want something clean and similar to a to-do list? Check out Asana. Or maybe you want something you can use on your smartphone. In that case, Basecamp 2 might be what you’re looking for. No matter which platform you end up choosing, just make sure it’s one that is suited to your workflow and empowers your team.


7. Stay active and exercise

If you want to workout, the best time to do so is in the morning. Not only will you have fewer distractions, but getting your heart pumping and your blood flowing can increase your overall energy and alertness before you get to the meat of your day.

We understand that working out in the morning can also seem like a daunting transition, particularly if you have other obligations like dropping off children to school or having a long commute ahead. But you can still find time for a few minutes each day to focus on your fitness health. Check out Pamela Reif’s 10 minute morning work out, which doesn’t need any equipment. Alternatively, the TappBrothers has a 5 Minute Mobility & Stretch Routine with just 5 exercises. Over time, you’ll notice a difference in your focus and energy levels.


8. Set a dedicated time to work on certain projects

Do you ever feel as if there’s never time to tackle the important tasks? Does work continually pile up, before you can even finish the last thing you were working on? Then it may be time for a more effective approach to prioritization: calendar blocking.

The way it works is simple: take your calendar app or just a regular planner, and carve out time in your schedule for each task. Usually, this works best in 30-minute to hour-long intervals. Since your calendar is “blocked” out, that means you’re less likely to take on other tasks or calls during that time, leaving you more space to focus on the task at hand.


9. Find the right physical space for total concentration

Working from home means being surrounded by distractions of comfort. While working in your pajamas or being close to the bed sounds like heaven at first, you quickly find that these luxuries only make working from home that much harder.

Find an isolated room, nook, or space where you can do your best, undistracted work. Over time, you will begin to associate that space with productivity, and merely stepping in that area will prime you into a mindset of work.


10. Manage expectations with clients and team members

Inevitably, there will be obligations from home that keep you from work, like making lunch for the children asking for a snack, or walking your dog. In a physical workplace, there’s more pressure to submit deliverables by a certain time, but at home, it becomes more important to manage expectations carefully.

Give yourself a few extra hours, maybe even an additional day, when promising a deadline to a client or a team member. It always looks better when you can deliver a little early.


At Novel Coworking, we fully embrace the benefits of remote workers and are at the forefront of developing ideas and strategies to maximize the benefits. Visit our website regularly for concepts and ideas on how to benefit from working remotely.

Customer Retention Strategies

Customer Retention Strategies

Think about the times you’ve returned to your favorite restaurant or bought from an online shop. Why is it that we tend to revisit certain brands? What do they do that earns our loyalty? And how can we use those lessons and apply them to our businesses?

This guide is not about how to attract customers, although we’ve covered this in previous posts. Instead, we want to focus on encouraging repeat business, turning first-time buyers into long-time customers, and cultivating a meaningful relationship with your audience.

But before we delve into any of that, we have to understand the basics of tracking customer retention.


Customer success KPIs

Every business needs a way to measure their efforts. Without key performance indicators (KPI), leaders cannot determine whether their efforts and resources are being put to good use. It’s like navigating a dense forest without a map or compass—it becomes impossible to know where you’re going or how far you have to go.

But what about customer service? How can you measure something so subjective?

For SaaS (Software as a Service) companies, the churn rate is among the most important statistics to track. Churn rate is defined as the percentage of customers or subscribers who either cancel or do not renew their subscriptions within a specific period. If a company is witnessing a high churn rate, that means they are having major issues with customer retention.

Another popular metric is the Net Promoter or Net Promoter Score (NPS), adopted by more than two-thirds of the Fortune 1000. This tool measures brand loyalty and a customer’s willingness to recommend the company’s products and services to others. An NPS score ranges from -100 (detractors, or those with negative remarks about a brand) to +100 (promoters, someone that actively recommends the brand). Despite its overall popularity, NPS has become controversial and is often criticized as inaccurate and inconclusive.

From a more financial standpoint, expansion revenue, also known as Expansion MRR, measures how much revenue comes from existing customers. The higher the expansion MRR, the happier and more loyal customers are. Businesses with higher expansion MRR than new customer MRR would benefit from reinvesting their resources back into upselling, cross-selling, or offering add-ons to existing customer purchases.

To calculate expansion MRR, use the following equation:

Expansion MRR % = (new revenue from upsells and cross-sells in a month) ÷ (revenue you had at the end of the previous month)

Expansion MRR vs New Customer MRR

Source: Drift

The final and most common metric is CSAT, or simply known as customer satisfaction. Since satisfaction varies from person to person, so too does the way brands measure it. For many, customer satisfaction surveys are the most efficient and effective way, with questions such as “How would you rate your overall satisfaction with (our product or service)?” followed by a rating of 1-5, or 1-10.

Either way, every customer retention strategy begins with a few metrics that help you gauge overall progress. Spend ample time in deciding which metrics make the most sense for your industry, your business, and your products and services.


Customer loyalty programs

With your customer loyalty metrics in place, the next step is to start carving out the programs that encourage and incentivize repeat engagement from customers. This can be a grand undertaking, encompassing customer service, loyalty/rewards programs, social media outreach, and much more. But the overall benefits cannot be understated:

Greater customer retention – “It is 16 times as costly to build a long-term business relationship with a new customer than simply to cultivate the loyalty of an existing customer.” (Annex Cloud)
More frequent customer referrals – “83% of customers are willing to refer after a positive shopping experience.” (Extole)
Positive customer reviews – “90% of customers who feel high levels of trust and loyalty are significantly more likely to share ratings” (InMoment)

Customer loyalty starts with listening to your customer’s needs and wants. One important method of doing so is to build a multi-channel customer service system. With this system in place, customers have more options and flexibility in choosing how they interact with your team. For example, if a product they purchased was found to be faulty, they can email, call, or bring it into a local store.

Other brands are finding ways to gamify engagement to incentivize customers. Credit card and foodservice companies use programs to reward customers that repeatedly purchase from their brand. Even learning services such as Khan Academy and Duolingo are finding ways to make learning more addicting with the introduction of achievements and leveling systems.

We could run through thousands of examples of building customer loyalty. But every loyalty program has a single unifying goal: genuine customer delight. That requires going above and beyond their expectations, beyond the first purchase or subscription. How can you continue to add value to your customer experience?


Social media

These days a B2C brand cannot survive without having a presence on social media, and they cannot thrive without providing real value through their platforms. So how can one add value on a platform like Facebook or Twitter?

ToysRUs Social Media

Education through social media

Graphics card maker, Nvidia, posts insightful news articles, such as how their Nvidia Inception program is helping AI startups in monitoring deforestation, thawing permafrost, and natural gas leaks around the world. Toys”R”Us is helping parents and children make thank you signs for essential workers, staying both relevant while maintaining the positivity and creativity of their brand. Others have posted how-to guides, tutorials, informative lists, infographics, and much more.

Brands have also found success in providing customer service through social media. Companies like Seamless are taking advantage of Twitter’s reach and sense of immediacy by using it as a customer service channel. The foodservice brand delivers 24/7 support to anybody that tags their handle in both the United States and the United Kingdom. These days it is not uncommon for companies to spend thousands of dollars on social media listening tools—apps that allow companies to keep track of what customers say about their brand.

Airbnb IG story
Another major tactic involves the use of video marketing. Live streaming has become a popular way to engage with users through video, as it gives a feeling of actually “being there.” For example, BIRCHBOX, a monthly makeup subscription box, collaborated with Benefit Cosmetics to demonstrate a new kind of Mascara through Facebook Live video. The live stream was viewed over 18,000 times. Similarly, Instagram Stories are a relatively new method for brands to pop up at the top of the app. Airbnb hosted a Travel Tuesday series which uses both professional photographs and user-generated content from Instagram, and paired them with simple questions like “Where are we?!”, along with a few options for engaging. To find out the answer, users had to swipe up, leading them to the company website!


Customer relationship management system (CRMs)

We’ve spoken about customer-facing solutions for retention, but what about solutions that benefit your team? CRM software can make the difference between an organized and disorganized company.

For one, a reliable CRM can give off warning signs of customer churn. Mailchimp, for instance, will show you the percentages of people that unsubscribe from your newsletter each month. This can be vital information in determining whether your email marketing is considered valuable or not.

Target profitable customers

Tools like Salesforce allow you to track each user’s interactions and transactions with your brand. Using this data, you can determine which of your customers are the most loyal and have spent the most money. This, in turn, allows your brand to focus on investing outreach towards the most dedicated customers.

Finally, CRM can help with the personalization of a customer journey. A great CRM will be able to break down your customer journey into a series of steps, and then analyze your customer’s purchase decisions along the way. Over time, you will collect enough information that will allow you to create A/B tests or small experiments that help ascertain each of your customers’ personal preferences. From there, you can start to tailor your customer journey to specific niches within your audiences, ultimately creating a more visceral connection with your customer.



Even in 2020, blogs remain a vital part of content strategy. They help to create awareness, inform, educate, share customer stories, and boost SEO efforts. Blogs remain an indispensable aspect of the customer journey. No matter which phase of the journey your customer is in, blogs can attract and convert without the need for advertising.

Whole Foods used to maintain a blog called Whole Story. Instead of just promoting their items in-store, they offer educational material on their products, from the top 10 Vegan Beauty Products to 24 Recipes and Ideas for Polenta. Today, their blog is called Tips, Ideas, and Recipes, where they continue to share helpful guides on making the most out of the food you have on hand.

Build trust and authority

The more a company can demonstrate their knowledge and expertise on a specific topic, the more audiences (and search engines) will view their content as reputable and trustworthy. For example, Zillow Porchlight is the company blog, and it features various tips, guides, and resources on buying, selling, and enhancing your home. Evernote publishes articles centered around productivity, remote work, and writing.

To truly start seeing conversions and engagement from your blogs, make sure to include a relevant call to action (CTA) in some of your posts. Something as simple as “follow us on social media” or “purchase today” can help initiate further customer engagement from a single post. In Grubhub’s blog, 5 Tips and Tricks for Family Meal Planning, they sprinkle in a few links that lead to searches for vegan, pizza, and steak meals. On the right, there’s another call to action to get more deals and recommendations by signing up for a newsletter. From a single post, they’ve found ways to gently nudge the customer further along their journey.

We’ve only listed a handful of customer retention strategies, and there are bound to be countless more. But these represent some of the most effective and most relevant strategies in 2020. How will you use these concepts and tailor them to your own business and brand? How can you provide value to your most loyal customers?

Developing a Customer-Centric Culture

Developing a Customer-Centric Culture

How many times have you heard a company brag about providing value to customers? And how many followed through?

Customer service is more important now than ever before. As industries become saturated with competition, genuine customer service and relationships are what will separate great companies from the rest of the pack.

Read our guide below to learn more about the most important customer-centric business concepts and examples from real-life brands.


Customer empathy

Ask any leader about how to build a great brand, and they’ll tell you about the importance of customer empathy. All the research, analyses, and expert opinions in the world mean nothing if a company lacks a basic understanding and respect for the customer.

The data cannot be ignored. Companies that prioritize customer empathy have repeatedly been shown to perform better and deliver better experiences. In HBR’s study of 170 brands, the top 10 most empathetic companies “increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10, and generated 50% more earnings (defined by market capitalization).”

So how can a company become more empathetic? It starts by genuinely listening to what your customers are saying and how they behave. Here are a few examples of customer empathy:


Companies tend to think about their customers as one giant mass. But each customer is unique in their own way. Segmentation allows companies to think more accurately about their customers by organizing them according to certain traits: age, location, income level, and so on.


Customer personas

A customer persona is a representative sample of this segmented audience—complete with hypothetical name, location, age, desires, pain points, and more. Check out this post from Brafton to see a few examples of effective customer personas.
Tobi Day Persona example

Credit: Suttida Yang


Empathy map

An alternative to the customer persona is an empathy map. This model focuses more on the feelings and sensations of a customer—what do they see, hear, say, and do? What do they worry about? What excites them? Filling out this empathy map can help businesses better understand the disposition and mindset of their customers.
Empathy Map

Credit: Solutions IQ


Customer journeys

Using a tool like Google Analytics, you can now see the actions taken by customers online. This is invaluable data that provides actionable insights on how your customers discover, learn, and use your product or service. Put simply: data helps you trace a customer’s journey through your brand experience.

By understanding the frustrations and discoveries within your customers’ journeys, your team can learn more about which specific product aspects to focus on.


Customer orientation

Despite the importance of customer empathy, only a handful of companies will ingrain the value into their employee training. Those that do, however, tend to find richer and longer-lasting relationships with their customers. For those who don’t, empathy becomes just another word on the company website.

Early during development, every person on the team should be able to understand the total value the brand can provide to customers, otherwise known as the customer value proposition. Is it faster delivery? High-quality customer service? Or simply top of the line craftsmanship?

To gauge your team’s cohesion and understanding of the customer value proposition, consider sending out a few employee surveys. Ask them about the company’s goals and vision, and the desires and pain points of customers. Ask about the value the brand offers that the customer can’t find anywhere else.

The answers could be startling. C-level executives might fail to answer the most basic questions, while developers or customer-facing employees may question their overall role within the grander scheme of things. This is the first step in understanding your company’s present situation with customer orientation. Because whatever trait, feature, or quality it may be, you need to have total executive and employee buy-in.


Customer orientation examples

Hotels are prime examples of how training can make all the difference in customer engagement. At the Ritz-Carlton, leaders and new employees are trained on what the company calls “The Gold Standards.” This means creating unforgettable experiences and defining moments during a guest’s stay.

Even after orientation, employees are reminded of their training each day. Every 90 days, there is a test to see how they perform on service scores. This level of service is what has garnered the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company as being one of the most luxurious brands in the world.


Customer insights

Listen closely to what your customer has to say, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about how to improve your product. They won’t tell you what to do or build, but they’ll tell you how it can be better. Remain open and respond to customer feedback.

In the tech industry, developers and designers refer to the customer’s beliefs and behaviors as the voice of the customer (VOC). The concept covers everything the customer wants and needs out of the product, then organizes it based on importance. For example, in testing an app for food delivery, the most important need may be to be able to see the different restaurants on the app and place an order, while additional features such as transitions and sound effects may be considered stretch goals.

In today’s online world, customer insight tools can be found almost anywhere. For web development, Google Analytics can show you the actions users are taking in finding and using your website. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn all offer similar analytics for user engagement. Brands that spend the time to look through this data can find startling new ways of providing value to customers.


Customer insight examples

Brands today need not only cater to customers but to engage with them on a personal level. That’s exactly what make-up brand, Glossier does through its social media. More than just a platform for advertising, Glossier’s social media demonstrates the importance of building a community.

Founder, Emily Weiss had previously written a blog, Into the Gloss, while she worked at Vogue and before starting her makeup brand. “As I interviewed hundreds of women,” Weiss said, “I became more and more aware of how flawed the traditional beauty paradigm is. It has historically been an industry based on experts telling you, the customer, what you should or shouldn’t be using on your face.”

That same investigative spirit has carried Glossier forward—Weiss continues to interview hundreds of customers and feature their stories, beauty routines, and even customer reviews on their social media. Glossier’s Instagram account has nearly 3 million followers, and the company is valued at $1.2 billion.


Customer interactions

What customers say does not always align with what customers do. In reality, you won’t learn much about the customer’s behavior unless you interact with them directly.

For example, product developers may have assumptions about how customers will end up using a product. Still, all assumptions could be shattered once they see the product being used in-person. That’s why retailers like Target, Best Buy, and Apple typically have sales representatives standing in the electronics department—to both observe how customers engage with the devices and to assist customers with questions.

Because of this discrepancy between the designer’s intentions and the user’s actual behavior, there is a potential for products to fail, break, or be misused. This is where the concept of feedback loops come into play.

In its most basic concept, the feedback loop is a way to provide users with real-time information (feedback) after they take a specific action. With enough feedback for positive actions, you can encourage behaviors and discourage undesired actions.


Customer interaction examples

T-mobile has demonstrated to other brands how to engage their customers through social media. A 2012 study found that the brand responded to 86% of the questions it received on social media, which was well over 2,500 over three months. Besides customer support, T-Mobile used social media to find new employees.

T-Mobile’s approach to social media also had a more personal touch than other large corporations. Whenever a member of the team responded to a question, they signed their replies with their real names, indicating a true human interaction and not a bot. These interactions are what make T-Mobile one of the most reputable telecommunication companies.


Customer service

It’s easy to believe that the customer journey ends upon the purchase of a product, but the engagement continues long after, years even. Maintaining that relationship with the customer is essential to building a brand and audience.

What are the best practices for customer service?

1. Respond promptly – Customers don’t like waiting around for a response. Even if all they hear back is a simple response, customers appreciate an acknowledgment.
2. Personalization – No one enjoys an automated response. What matters is when we feel that we are speaking to a real person.
3. Offer a solution – All the excuses in the world won’t matter if your brand can’t find a way to rectify an issue. Whether it’s a legitimate fix or a credit towards their next purchase, customers want to know what you will do to help them out.
4. Go the extra mile – While most businesses will do the bare minimum to keep their customers happy, the ones that do the extra work to make a customer happy will keep them for life.


Customer service examples

Warby Parker has a famous example of customer service. During one train ride, a client had accidentally left their pair of Warby Parker glasses behind. By sheer luck, Warby Parker Senior Executive Anjali Kumar happened to find them. Kumar reached out to the client and sent them two pairs of the same reading glasses, a copy of “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac, and a personalized note.

The story became a hit and remains a classic example of how to go above and beyond a simple act like returning a pair of glasses. Not only did Warby Parker earn a customer for life, but they cultivated a following unlike before on social media.

The customer should be at the forefront of every single business action. If nobody buys your product, your business is doomed to fail. Through careful training, research, and meaningful interactions, a customer can go from a simple buyer to a loyal brand advocate. It all starts with treating the customer as a human being, with desires and pains just like anyone else.

How to Identify and Deal with Toxic Leadership

How to Identify and Deal with Toxic Leadership

Few exchanges cause more anxiety than confrontation in the workplace. Scarier still is navigating such situations when it’s your toxic boss who needs confronting. A myriad of questions arise: Will I be supported if I confront my superior? How will they react? Will I lose my job? Is it even that bad? Is my boss really “toxic”? According to studies, three out of every ten leaders are, in fact, toxic, making these insatiable leaders rampant among the workplace.

Still, even with such a staggering percentage, how do you know if your boss is actually “toxic,” rather than just a bad fit for your particular work style? Let us explore the problems of toxic leadership, how one can identify it, and take action in the workplace.


What is toxic leadership?

Toxic leaders “consistently use dysfunctional behaviors to deceive, intimidate, coerce, or unfairly punish others to get what they want for themselves.” In other words, they’re bullies with the power to remove you from your livelihood.

The problem with this style of leadership is the environment it creates. It breeds instability, corrupts creativity, and undermines free will.


What is the toxic triangle?

The “toxic triangle” is a term used by researchers to define the perfect storm of toxicity in the workplace. It is composed of three main factors:

Toxic leaders: managers or executives with autocratic, narcissistic, and otherwise manipulative tendencies

Susceptible followers: includes conformers (crave direction) and colluders (crave power).

Conducive environment: a culture with questionable values, standards, and safeguards.

For a company to protect its people, it must keep in mind these three factors of toxicity.


Main characteristics of toxic leadership

What specific characteristics does a toxic leader have? Below is a “toxic leader checklist” that will help you identify when you see one. Keep in mind, this list is not extensive, and every toxic leader won’t necessarily display every one of these characteristics. Still, these five are particularly pervasive and should be on your radar.

  1. Absolute power. Toxic leaders desire and feel they deserve, autocracy over their organizations. They are at the top of the heap, and everyone else is far below them. This hierarchy exists to ensure these leaders have their hands in everything so they can control every aspect of the organization’s processes. After all, in their minds, they are the ones that seek dominance over prestige.
  2. No feedback cycle. Due to their narcissistic attitudes, toxic leaders have an inability to get or give constructive feedback. They are unable to see their faults because they feel they do everything right. As a result, they cannot see their employees clearly either. There is no feedback, only punishment for not following their strict instructions.
  3. Incompetent. Again due to their inflated egos, toxic leaders don’t typically take the time to learn all the skills required to do their job well. They fail to recognize problems and lack the flexibility needed to solve them (which ironically diminishes authority on their part).
  4. Ambiguous instructions coupled with unrealistic expectations. Toxic leaders set their employees up for failure. Unsurprisingly, their grandiose ideas of self also apply to their own capabilities and that of their organization. Due to their lack of real skill, they cannot set clear goals for their employees and often end up over-promising and under-delivering.
  5. Hierarchical in nature. Toxic leaders create an environment of unhealthy competition. They will pit employees against each other and create an inner circle of “true followers.” This hierarchy serves to keep team members “in line,” so everyone knows their place. Usually, within these ranks, toxic leaders single out a scapegoat. Someone disposable but important enough to take the fall when a bad leader’s incompetence catches up to them.


Examples of toxic leadership at the workplace


Example 1

These characteristics were uncovered in some army generals through a study done by David Matsuda. In attempting to understand the rate at which soldiers were committing suicide, a general invited Professor Matsuda to aide in his investigation. Matsuda discovered that many of the soldiers were under the tyranny of toxic leaders who were intimidating and unfairly punishing them.

Once the investigation started, it was estimated that some 20% of soldiers were reporting to toxic leaders. According to research, the reason this leadership style is so prevalent in the army is because “performance is evaluated in a top-down fashion.” This means soldiers could not assess their superiors, and thus, these toxic leaders were allowed to continue their abusive behavior without being held accountable. The army has taken drastic actions to ensure this problem doesn’t persist. But it is an example of how dangerous it can be when leaders have no accountability to the people they are leading.


Example 2

Another modern example of a toxic leader given power, in this case, out of desperation, is Al Dunlap, the former CEO of Sunbeam Corporations. In Jean Lipman-Bluman’s book “The Allure of Toxic Leaders,” she describes the company as struggling when it decided to hire Dunlap to shake things up and get them on the right track. Dunlap had fabricated and published stories about his business savvy and success. Sunbeam felt they were being saved from ruin when Dunlap agreed to join the team and helm the ship.

Almost immediately, he began verbally abusing his subordinates. He missed deadlines and was utterly incompetent in his role as CEO. Eventually, his lies caught up to him, but not before he drove the company to financial bankruptcy. Dunlap’s greedy grasp for power and his distorted perception of his capabilities made him a toxic leader. But Sunbeam’s vulnerable state and lack of company culture made them prime pickings for a dictator like Dunlap.


Example 3

Few stories in recent history have had quite the impact as that of ridesharing service, Uber, and its maligned leadership. In February 2017, software engineer Susan Fowler wrote a 3,000-word blog post detailing her year at Uber: in which a manager had sexually harassed her. Still, Uber’s HR department had refused to take any action, even after receiving similar reports from multiple women.

Fowler’s story sparked a major debate about sexism, harassment, and the unjust use of power in Silicon Valley. Her post was shared over 22,000 times on Twitter, led to multiple contract terminations, and precipitated the resignation of CEO Travis Kalanick. Since her departure at Uber, Fowler has worked as editor-in-chief for Stripe’s quarterly publication, Increment, and now writes as technology opinion editor for The New York Times.


How to deal with toxic leadership

If reading this is setting off alarm bells, you might be working for a toxic leader. After combing through all the characteristics and examples, one might feel anxious about confronting someone so menacing. Yet, according to Lipman-Blueman, the best way to approach a toxic leader is simply to do it. “Confront the fear and worry of challenging a toxic leader. Exercising courage will make you stronger,” she says.

Be honest

One of the major elements that allow these types of leaders to gain more power is silence, neutrality, and compliance from employees. Breaking this destructive cycle forces bad leadership to be confronted with their ineptitude while simultaneously alerting their superiors of the problem. To ensure a more open and safe environment for everyone, it is vital to exhibit total honesty and courage when providing feedback on abusive work cultures.

Redefine company culture

It is also essential to ensure that once a toxic leader is gone, a revision of the corporate structure that produced such a leader takes place. If company culture lacks a sense of self-awareness, you’re bound to end up under the thumb of another toxic leader. A healthy work environment can only thrive if leadership “nurtures and grows the physiological, psychosocial, and spiritual well-being of its organizational members.” If employees’ welfare isn’t taken seriously, any change in bad leadership will only be temporary.

Set realistic expectations

A huge component in shifting company culture is redefining success. While it is important to set and accomplish goals, how they are achieved is crucial. Toxic leaders will realize goals by any means necessary, even at the expense of their employees’ health. Good leaders will set realistic goals and expectations and will never ask employees to sacrifice their physical or mental well-being to meet deadlines.

Lead with integrity

To actualize a well-defined company culture, it is imperative to promote leaders who are optimistic yet realistic. A healthy leader will inspire their employees, not intimidate them. They will create an environment that thrives on effective feedback and will be open to hearing how they can improve. Good leaders recognize they can’t do it all and will be willing to delegate tasks. All employees will be treated equally because leaders with integrity don’t play favorites.

Within this type of environment, studies show employees work harder and are happier to come in every day. When support starts at the top and is felt throughout, it motivates everyone to do their best. And with that support comes a kind of creativity that only happens when one is truly free.