6 Tips to Know Before Buying Back-To-School Devices

"They sure know how to ruin someone's summer!"

With just days to go before a new school year begins, retail and online stores are heavily advertising their back-to-school sales. For good reason. Families with school-age children are projected to spend 36% more money on tech this year - an average of $634.78 per student[i], and a good chunk of that spending will be on internet-connected devices.

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10 Things You Can Do to be Safer When Shopping Online

10 Things You Can Do to be Safer When Shopping Online:

I like the convenience of shopping online: no waiting for a turn, no need to drive or find parking; I can comparison shop for the best value, and many sites offer free shipping and free returns, and the stores are always open. Done safely and securely, what’s not to like?

Unfortunately, many people fail to recognize the need for safety and security when shopping online. There are two key factors that determine your level of safety when shopping or conducting any financial transaction online: the first is how well you secure your computing environment; the second is how savvy you are at identifying scams vs. legitimate offers. Crooks are counting on you to fail in one of these areas.

10 simple steps will help you have positive, safer online shopping experiences:

  1. Secure your computers and smartphones with anti-virus and anti-spyware – Keep them current and use them unfailingly-as automatically as locking your door when you leave the house. If your computer or phone isn’t protected, your financial information, passwords and identity will be stolen. This concept is so basic, yet only 20% of the US population adequately protects their computers.
  2. Secure your internet connection – Make sure your computer’s firewall is on. If you use a wireless network it needs to be encrypted so someone who is lurking outside the house can’t collect your information. If you need a free firewall, search online for ‘best free firewall’.
  3. Don’t use public WiFi hotspots for financial transactions – Never log onto sensitive sites (banking, shopping…) from an unsecured connection you don’t know what malware may be lurking on it.
  4. Trust is key. Know the merchant – or their reputation
    1. If you know the retail chain, shopping their online store is pretty safe. If there’s a problem you can always walk into the local store for help. Similarly, if you know others who have had consistently positive experiences with the online store, you can be reassured of the site’s quality.
    2. If you don’t know the store, it may still be a good choice; you just need to take a few more precautions. Conduct your own background check by looking at sites dedicated to reviewing e-stores (for example, Epinions, BizRate, or the Better Business Bureau)
    3. Avoid any e-store that promises too much at too low a price. If the price is low, you have to consider whether the merchant came by the items legally, whether you will ever receive the items, whether the items will work, if you will be able to return damaged goods, or if the merchant is also generating revenue by selling your financial information. Disreputable stores frequently run an absurdly low price offer and then, claiming the item is out of stock, try to sell you something else; a classic “bait and switch” technique.
    4. Does the merchant resell, rent, or share your information? Check the site’s privacy policy to understand how exposed your information may become. Many stores clearly state that they do not share, sell or rent consumer’s information – others say they own your info and can use it (or abuse it) however they choose. Stick to the companies that respect your privacy.
  5. Don’t navigate to a store by clicking on links in online ads, unsolicited emails, on social networking sites or anywhere else – It can be very difficult to tell if a link will take you to the site you intend to visit, or a malicious site designed to fool you into giving away your information. Find the correct website yourself using a search engine, the extra 30 seconds of effort will save you from identity theft misery.
  6. Need a Password? – Make it Unique - Creating strong memorable passwords is easy and can actually be fun – and the payoff in increased safety is big. The key aspects of a strong password are length (the longer the better); a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols; and no tie to your personal information.
  7. Does the merchant want more information than is necessary to complete the sale? If you purchase something, you will need to provide some method of payment, your address, and a telephone number or email so the store can contact you if there are issues. If the merchant requests your bank account information, social security information, or driver’s license number, NEVER provide it. Some reputable companies ask additional questions about your interests. These should always be optional and you should avoid providing responses.
  8. Make sure the site is secure – before entering any personal or credit card info
    1. Look to see if the web address on the page begins with “https”, not of “http” You should also see a small padlock symbol at the bottom or top of your screen.
    2. Never pay, or share financial information, through email; only make payments online though secure sites.
  9. Use Your Credit Card – never Debit Card, Check, Cashier’s Check, Wire Transfer, or Money order – or use a well-respected payment service like PayPal – Credit card purchases limit your liability to no more than $50 of unauthorized charges if your financial information is stolen, and the money in your bank account is untouched. Most debit cards do not offer this protection – and even when they do, you’re the one out of funds in the meantime.
  10. Check your credit reports and consider putting a freeze on your accounts – Block ID thieves from opening new accounts under your name by freezing or blocking access to your credit files. - Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to one free credit disclosure in every 12-month period from each of the three national credit reporting companies. Or, you can pay for credit monitoring services that will immediately alert you to any suspicious activity or changes in your credit scores.

The key to successful online shopping is being careful – getting your ID stolen, having your computer infected, or getting ripped off is no bargain.

It was the best of stores, it was the worst of stores…

By guest blogger, Shep Hyken, a leading speaker and bestselling author who works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees.

The opening line of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Tale of Two Cities might be used in such a way to describe the beginning of a poor customer service experience.

The type of experience that ultimately leads to the loss of customers, dissatisfied customers sharing their complaints with family and friends who then pass on the negative comments to even more people, and eventually, the end of a business.

Inconsistent customer service is an issue we have all heard about and in some instances experienced firsthand.

This is a story that was shared during a sales leadership seminar led by Shep Hyken Customer Service Professional.

My sister-in-law Cathie lives in Miami, Fla. She received a gift from her mother-in-law, Essie, who purchased it in Palm Springs, Calif., while on vacation. Essie purchased the gift, a scarf, from a nationwide retailer, thinking that if Cathie did not like it she could visit the retailer’s store in her area and exchange it for something she preferred.

However, when Cathie attempted to return the scarf to the store in Miami, hoping to select something more her style, the store refused to allow her to exchange it. The manager told her the store could not accept returns of accessories, and the scarf fell into the accessory category. The manager stated that this was the company’s “policy” – a word that bad customer service often hides behind!

Cathie tried to reason with the manager, even offering to purchase an item of greater value, but to no avail. The manager would not budge. When she returned home, Cathie decided to call the manager of the Palm Springs store where the item was purchased. This was a different experience. The manager acknowledged that the company’s policy was told to her correctly, but that managers were permitted some flexibility as well. This manager apologized and offered a solution.

Cathie was instructed to send the scarf back to the Palm Springs store. She did so, and in return she received a gift card with an extra “bonus” a few days later. A note was included apologizing for the inconvenience and thanking her for her business. The manager even called her to make sure she received the package.

What a difference between the two stores! Despite the eventual resolution, the inconsistent service shown within the retail chain can do a lot of damage.

What would the bad experience do to a shopper’s confidence in that store? Cathie had enjoyed shopping there before, but even if the bad experience did not stop her from returning, there would always be a lingering doubt from the poor treatment she received. How many times would she have to return there before her full confidence in the business would return (if ever)? Moreover, if she experiences poor customer service again, any confidence in the store will plummet.

In addition, what if Cathie was not an established customer? If this was her first experience with the store, there is not much chance of her returning at all.

Think about the customer experience, how do your customers feel and or react when they have a poor experience? Remember that customers have choices, those choices are critical to our success or failure.

So how does this tie back to our world?

Inconsistency causes a host of problems:

  1. Customers are left to question what is the standard of service for a business? If we say we will be there, be there. If we say the product is capable of doing “x”, make sure it does “x”. Set honest expectations with the customer- they will thank you in the long run.
  2. Incidences of poor service will cause the loss of customers. Make sure your focus Is Customer First — be 100% focused on making sure that expectations are exceeded, doing what is right and holding each other accountable. Think about your expectations when you visit a retail store, restaurant or hire someone to perform services for you. Think about how you feel when the business misses the mark and fails to deliver.
  3. A good experience will create the expectation of continued good service. But if it’s not there, well, where does that leave you? (See No. 2)
  4. Inconsistency erodes every great thing that a business does: Consistency builds solid foundations, which become the pillars for success. Inconsistent efforts leave the foundation unsound and questionable, destroying customer confidence.

Take the time to do it right the first time. Consistently good customer service is critical to building and maintaining customer confidence. Empower your employees to do what is right, then use it to your competitive advantage!

Top 3 Reasons Why You Should Have a Blog

Did you know that “companies that blog have 55% more website visitors?” Well, it’s true, according to the eBook An Introduction to Business Blogging. A blog can bring your business (large or small!) marketing success by helping you become a thought-leader in your industry, but also by creating an awareness of your brand or business in the community. A great blog can produce new leads and help generate more traffic to your website.

So, if you’ve been on the fence about starting a blog for your small business, then here are three key reasons why your business should have a blog:

  1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO helps to increase your visibility in search. A higher rank in search engines attracts organic traffic, thus making your business blog more popular. We suggest blogging regularly (16-20 times each month) to optimize your blog content. Research has shown that companies that blog 20 or more times a month see the most return in traffic and leads.
  2. Become an Industry Leader: Blogging can help you become a trusted leader in your industry. Whether you’re sharing the latest market trends or your own new products or services, you can become a well-respected source in your community. By building the trust of your followers you will not only gain popularity but increase brand awareness.
  3. Retain & Engage Your Audience: A blog is another piece of “real estate” for your business to inhabit. It is another place to give a call-to-action which can, in turn, help you to generate traffic and leads. By providing relevant content you can keep your audience coming back for more!

Is your business ready to start blogging? 71% of Internet users say blogs affect their purchasing decisions – that’s a large percentage you could be influencing to choose your product or service over another! Stop debating on starting that blog, and dive in! It’s not too late.

Already have a blog for your business? Tell us about your experience with business blogging. Do you have any tips of your own?

Article Adopted by: http://www.hubspot.com/introduction-to-business-blogging/

Frontier Communications to Carry PAC-12 Networks

On August 1st, Frontier Communications announced an agreement to provide the Pac-12 Networks to FiOS TV customers in the Pacific Northwest starting August 15, when the new networks launch. FiOS TV from Frontier will carry hundreds of live events and other specialty content including 35 football games and more than 130 men’s basketball games for fans of Washington and Oregon Pac-12 Conference teams.

“Frontier is dedicated to our local communities and proud to showcase the great tradition and excellence of Pac-12 sports to our FiOS TV customers in Oregon,” said Ken Gaffga, Oregon Senior Vice President and General Manager, Frontier Communications. “FiOS TV from Frontier will be the place where fans can follow all the exciting college action of the powerhouse Pac-12 Conference.”

During the first three weeks of the 2012 football season, the Pac-12 Networks will televise five games from Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and Washington State, including San Diego State at Washington and OSU’s home opener in week one, as well as Fresno State at Oregon and head coach Mike Leach’s home debut at Washington State in week two.

“With football season and all of the Fall sports fast approaching, the Pac-12 Networks will be providing great content to our fans on a daily basis, and we are delighted that Frontier customers are now part of this experience,” said Gary Stevenson, President of Pac-12 Enterprises. “We are in a unique position to tell stories that haven’t been told before about our student-athletes, our coaches and our universities. Frontier customers will now have the opportunity to follow and become even more engaged with their favorite teams.”

In addition to all of the live games, the Pac-12 Networks will feature shoulder programming that will include pregame and postgame shows, football coaches’ shows and Classic Games, among others. Frontier subscribers will also be able to watch games from all six regions on Pac-12 Now, the TV Everywhere platform that allows fans to watch games on connected devices like the computer and iPad.

Gaffga went on to say, “We listened to our Oregon customers who asked for the Pac-12 Networks on FiOS TV. We are thrilled to bring our customers the kind of programming that excites them.”

Press Release provided by Frontier Communications

Mariel Zagunis selected as flag bearer for 2012 U.S. Olympic Team

Two-time Olympic champion fencer Mariel Zagunis (Beaverton, Ore.) has been selected to lead the 529-member 2012 U.S. Olympic Team into Friday’s (July 27) Opening Ceremony as flag bearer, as announced by the United States Olympic Committee. Zagunis was chosen by a vote of fellow members of Team USA.

“I’m extremely humbled by this incredible privilege,” said Zagunis. “As an athlete, I can’t imagine a higher honor than to lead Team USA into the Olympic Games, which are the pinnacle of sport and a platform for world peace. I am tremendously proud to represent my sport, our team and, most importantly, the United States of America.”

“I’d like to congratulate Mariel on this tremendous honor,” said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “It’s especially fitting in the year of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, when Team USA for the first time in history has more women than men, that Mariel receive the extraordinary honor that is carrying our nation’s flag into this celebration of humanity.”

Since becoming the first U.S. fencer to win gold at an Olympic Games in a hundred years with her podium finish in 2004, Zagunis has been virtually unstoppable. The top-ranked women’s saber fencer in the world, Zagunis won gold as a 19-year-old at the Athens Games in 2004, and went on to defend her title in Beijing before taking the individual world championship titles in 2009 and 2010. During the 2011 competition schedule, she added seven individual international medals, including silver at the world championships and gold at the Pan American Games. In 2012, she has added eight international medals.

Zagunis is the third fencing athlete to serve as flag bearer. Norman Armitage carried the flag in both 1952 and 1956, and Janice Lee Romary held the honor in 1968. Zagunis will compete in the individual sabre competition on Aug. 1.

Press Release Obtained via USOC Communications

Frontier Communications and Hughes Announce Wholesale Agreement to Provide Satellite Broadband Services

Several hundred thousand households and businesses targeted for new Frontier Broadband Service

Frontier Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: FTR), the largest provider of communications services focused on rural America, announced today it has signed a wholesale agreement with Hughes Network Systems, LLC (Hughes), the global leader in broadband satellite networks and services.

Frontier will distribute satellite-based broadband services, branded Frontier Broadband, that will deliver dramatically increased speed and capacity to several hundred thousand households and small businesses within markets previously unserved or underserved by all broadband providers, including cable.

Frontier Broadband products are owned and managed by Frontier Communications and supported by highly-trained, 100 percent U.S.-based local installation, customer service and support teams. According to Melinda White, executive vice president of revenue development for Frontier, “We are very excited to offer a new, high-performance broadband Internet service. This is another example of Frontier’s unwavering commitment to making broadband access ubiquitous – especially in rural America. We chose Hughes because it shares that vision and has the proven ability to bring high-quality technology to customers around the world.”

Frontier Broadband will leverage the Hughes EchoStar XVII Satellite with JUPITER™ High-Throughput Technology that was successfully launched on July 5, 2012, and which will enable HughesNet Gen4 satellite Internet services for Frontier Broadband customers. HughesNet Gen4 offers dramatically increased performance and capacity, including support for high-bandwidth applications such as streaming video and music.

“We are excited to work with Frontier Communications to deliver high-speed Internet access to households in rural America that have traditionally been unserved or underserved,” said Mike Cook, senior vice president, North American Division, Hughes. “HughesNet Gen4 will dramatically improve performance for high-bandwidth multimedia applications and accelerate web browsing, delivering a media-rich world like never before.”

To learn more information about Frontier Broadband and to sign-up for this new service, Frontier customers may call 877-451-1801.


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