Every company uses software, right? But there are so many providers out there, how do you know your company is making the right choice? As a software-user and the CEO of a company that provides software, I always consider a few points, both when choosing vendors to work with and in offering our services to clients.

Here’s my quick guide to evaluating software companies:

1) Does your company view vendors as strategic partners?

You should be able to trust your vendors. You should know they’re going to be there for you, staying ahead of the industry, following best practices, anticipating and heading off problems—today, tomorrow,  ten years from now.

Really, it comes down to value. Do the people you’re doing business with enhance the value of your company? Does your software provider offer anything beyond the commodity itself? Do they offer guidance, support, troubleshooting? Do they communicate with you, listen to your suggestions, try to meet specific requests? You definitely don’t want to work with someone that you only hear from once a month, in the form of a bill…

2) Which means it’s all about the relationship.

If you really need customer support, how long does it take to get a tech on the phone? Because if something is delaying your workday right now, you can’t wait until tomorrow to fix it. At our company, we make a point of getting back in touch with clients in under an hour. Our goal is to get back in touch within 15 minutes.

Dependability is a huge facet in any relationship, and contact with a decision-maker should be an option for all clients, large and small.

As C.E.O. of the company, I’m a phone call away. We have an amazing customer support staff, but if a client really wants to talk to someone in charge, I always take that call.

In some lucky instances, clients have become my friends, my hunting partners, my board members—and I say lucky because it has been lucky, for me. Our clients are great people, and I truly value my relationships with them. But “breaking bread” with a vendor may not be your top priority, and that’s fine. You know what isn’t fine, though? A  lack of responsiveness.

Even if the price is right and the program is smooth, if every tech employed by a software company disappears at 3 p.m. on the one Friday that you have a glitch at 4:15, then that glitch is the least of your problems. (Although that glitch can be incredibly frustrating—particularly when no tech calls you back until 10 a.m. on Monday.)

3) And that brings me to reputation.

Many of us think choosing a vendor is primarily about product claims versus cost. But no matter how inexpensive a product is, if it doesn’t serve its purpose, it’s worse than useless. Before you work with a vendor, you should know that the sales pitch rings true. If a software provider doesn’t put you in touch with references—unbiased, third-party clients already using their software—during the first sales pitch, that’s a red flag. Word of mouth and client reviews—you know, reputation— should be the #1 selling point when choosing your provider. This is especially true in today’s world, where vendors seemingly consolidate overnight, and sometimes the results are less consistent than you’d like them to be.

4) Remember the 80/20 rule.

No single software can do everything, but if a software can do 80% of what you want it to do, then it’s likely an appropriate fit. If the company has great customer service, they should be able to help you find workarounds and ensure you’re getting the user experience you want.

5) Know the cost of action—and the cost of inaction.

Everyone is busy. No one has time to learn a new software. No one relishes workday disruptions. But disruptions are easier if they’re planned. When you’re checking your software providers refs (and you are checking refs, aren’t you?), ask direct questions about the implementation process—how long did it take? How intuitive is the software?

You may not want to spend two months learning a new program, but if you put it off for another five months, you need to think about that in terms of lost productivity. How much will it cost your company to operate less efficiently for another five months? Maybe the most cost-efficient tactic is to hire a temp to help carry the workload while you implement the software now. Or maybe it really does make the most sense to wait till your “slow” season. Just make sure you weigh your options rather than letting procrastination get the best of you.

Okay, that’s it from me. I hope this guide has been helpful and will make choosing a software a less stressful process. Happy shopping!

BankTEL USER CONFERENCE 2018

Compliant technology is a major driver in banking, and the financial accounting industry must constantly deliver new solutions to stay one step ahead of regulations, audit demands, cyber-threats and fraudsters. At BankTEL, we’re on it!

That means, as a BankTEL User, you’re on it, too! Join us September 20-21 in Memphis, TN, for our 2018 User Conference. It’s the perfect place to connect with colleagues, discuss challenges and opportunities, learn about the latest fin-tech and solutions, and get to know the BankTEL team.

Multiple breakout-sessions enable you to tailor the conference to your unique needs and address your top-of-mind business issues. Plus, you’ll have the opportunity to network with representatives from an expected 300 financial institutions in small groups.

Conference speakers include an investigator, who will discuss some of the latest trends in white-collar crime, and we’ll follow this up with a general info session about accounts payable fraud reduction.

Many of our breakout sessions will cover specific software applications, so you can choose to attend only those relevant to the modules you use or are interested in using.  Focusing on the best practices BankTEL sees across its client base, it will equip you to better utilize your existing software.

If you have questions about ASCEND—our latest, most streamlined software—we’ll be eager to fill you in. We’re planning plenty of training opportunities!

Other breakout sessions will cover e-payments, vendor compliance, SEC requirements and how to handle workflow at multi-branch banks.

And of course, there will be food, fun and a tour of Graceland!

Come hang out with BankTEL in a hospitable and fascinating city, collect useful tips about industry best-practices, and gain a new understanding about how to evolve and adapt to current market demands. Hope to see you in Memphis!

Conference Topics:

 

“Do something worth remembering.”Elvis Presley

BankTEL cordially invites you to a rockin’ evening of Elvis-approved entertainment at the King’s 13-acre estate.

Let us shuttle you to Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley and Tennessee’s #1 attraction. Wander through the King’s “castle” at your own pace, complements of a self-guided iPad tour with commentary by Elvis and his daughter, Lisa Marie. Don’t forget to visit Elvis’s personal racquetball court, as well as the Trophy room, featuring wedding mementos and the furniture from Graceland’s “red period.” Swing over to the famous Jungle Room and feast your eyes on some green shag carpeting before you head out.

Then zoom along to the Presley Motors Automobile Museum, and check out over 20 of the King’s favorite sporty coupes and smooth cruisers. And don’t miss the iconic pink Cadillac!

Over dinner, take in racing-themed clips from Elvis’s cinematic history. And dinner is buffet-style, so no need to worry about getting stuck with fried peanut butter & banana sandwiches. Only the King could eat that for every meal!

Time for (experiential) desert! Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum is a 20,000-foot space celebrating the rise of a black-haired sensation, born in a two-room shack in Tupelo, Mississippi. See Elvis’s jumpsuits, gold records, childhood souvenirs, and career artifacts—from the early recording days, his Hollywood career, and his years in Vegas.

In the mood for a nightcap? There’s always Private Presley: Elvis in the Army, an exhibit about Elvis’s 1958-60 military service.

When the rockin’ is over and you’re ready to roll, BankTEL’s got you covered. We’ll have buses  waiting, ready to take you back to The Guest House at Graceland.

Don’t Be Cruel. Join us in Memphis for the Essential Elvis Experience.

 

Note: Complimentary registrations do not count toward the group discount.

 

Hotel Room Group Rate:

$149 per night

 

 

 

User Conference Cancellation Policy

• Full conference refunds will be given if cancelled by midnight on June 20.

• Fifty percent refund will be given if cancelled by midnight on July 20.

• No refunds will be issued for cancellations received after August 20.

You may transfer your registration to another person at any time prior to the start of the conference at no additional cost.

Guide to Marketing to Millennials

1) First, understand that millennials are people, too. 

And there are roughly 80 million of them!

A Bank of the West study found that millennials dream of home ownership (60%), paying off debt (55%) and a comfortable retirement (51%). Most (68%) say they would be content to settle down in a single community, instead of hopscotching from place to place.

The National Association of Relators found that in 2017, millennials were the nation’s top home buyers for the fourth year in a row, and a Zillow trend report discovered that 47% of those newly purchased homes are in the suburbs.

In other words, the American Dream is alive and well among young adults, ages 20-37.

2) So offer the same things.

As we’ve already established, millennials want mortgages and investments. They also want cars, clothes (almost twice as many buy designer than older generations) and convenience, and they’re willing to pay more. (Half will shell out for a taxi or ride-share, in contrast to 15% of Boomers and 29% of Gen-X-ers, while 60% will spend over $4 on a coffee, and 79% are willing to splurge on dining out.)

3) But offer in a different way.

It’s become a buzzword, but for good reason—millennials actually do value “authenticity.” This means traditional marketing—print, radio and TV ads—won’t work. Millennials read reviews, blogs and research before purchasing. And while 64% say they want brands to email them (also popular with Boomers and Gen-X-ers), millennials want social mediaengagement, as well.

Don’t try to “slip” anything past them, either. According to a Charles Schwab study, millennials check their accounts often, so they’re more aware of service fees.

4) And understand the actual differences.

Millennials are optimistic, career-oriented and well-educated. This means they want high-quality, low-impact products. They’d rather drive a Prius than an SUV, eat organic than processed, and pay more for responsible manufacturing.

They want to marry (87%), but later (20% of 18-30 year olds are married, as compared to 32% of Gen-X at that age), and the lack of a spouse hasn’t kept them from having children (46% of never-married 30-somethings are parents).

They’re more likely to be involved in domestic partnerships, nearly twice as likely to identify as LGBTQ, and more willing to live overseas than any previous generation.

What all this means is, millennials are good with convention when it fits their needs. When it doesn’t, they’re assertive about seeking other options. From a marketing standpoint, companies have to earn their trust and keep it. Genuinely offer them options they like, and they’ll be loyal customers with tremendous buying power.

5 Minute Guide to Remote Team Building

Cubicles are yesterday’s news. If you’re a manager, you’ve probably heard of ROWE. It stands for Results Oriented Work Environment, and it’s supposed to be about paying for output rather than hours. But in practice, ROWE often becomes shorthand for allowing your employees to work whenever, from wherever, as long as they get their work done. And there’s evidence to back ROWE up. A recent Gallup study found that employees are most engaged when they spend 60–80% of their week working remotely.

At BankTEL, 20% of our workers are remote and have been since 2013. We have employees in Mississippi, Alabama, California, Texas and Massachusetts. And 80% of our workforce has been with the company for at least a decade. BankTEL employees know there are numerous benefits to a remote work environment, and as C.E.O., so do I — that’s why we do it! But there is one huge challenge of telecommuting: how do you ensure that your team feels like, well, a team?

Here are some tips we’ve utilized over the years:

1) Keep things light.

Yes, there is serious work to be done. But coworkers need a place to collectively relax and talk about things other than work. This means remote teams need a virtual “coffee-station” — whether it’s hosted on a platform like Slack, HipChat, or HiBox, or it’s simply a private Facebook group. It’s a place workers can wish each other a happy birthday and post GIFs, memes, links to articles, funny pet photos, etc. and participate in non-work related group challenges. (“Anyone want to join me for a month of daily gym commitment?”)

2) Keep things light…and work-related.

But brainstorming is also important, so you probably need a Slack channel, dedicated Google doc, or something similar where people can share work-related ideas and images — stuff that maybe isn’t project-specific. This way, employees can represent their vision of a process or project and have a sounding-board for that vision. And sometimes, that will move a singular vision into the realm of a shared vision.

3) Be present.

A few times a year, your team needs to be physically in the same space, whether that’s at an annual conference, a retreat or a holiday party. Face-to-face work and leisure are key components of team-building, and there is no virtual substitute. (Sometimes it’s helpful if the leisure happens first, particularly if it’s employees first IRL meeting.)

4) Be present and give back.

Gather remote employees in one place for a shared volunteer effort. Perhaps you pay your team as normal, but rather than working that week, you bring them to a central location and have them build a Habitat for Humanity house. Or maybe you organize your employees to respond to a disaster — particularly if an employee was affected by the disaster. Doing meaningful work outside of work will help your team see their relationship as meaningful, and they may learn things new things about each other’s skillsets that will be useful on the job.

5) Meet virtually, regularly.

Have a weekly virtual meeting, even if it’s just for team members to go over goals and recount last week’s accomplishments. It’s important to create an atmosphere of collaboration and rewarding achievements.

6) Encourage communication without managers.

Sometimes coworkers need to discuss a challenge or just vent. Team members should have a comfortable and quick way to privately communicate via some form of chat. Encourage your employees to check in with other team members throughout the day, even if it’s about something casual or non work-related. Partner specific employees on projects and rotate these partnerships, so employees have the chance to get to know all the team members.

7) Encourage communication with managers.

Managers still have to manage, even if it’s remotely. So schedule one-on-one chats with team members to make sure everyone has what they need to do their job. One of the benefits of a remote work force is relieving both employees and managers of micro-management, but it’s easy to feel disconnected with no guidance or direct contact with supervisors.

Okay, that’s it for now. Happy managing, happy telecommuting and happy team-building!