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Tagged ‘November, 2013’


Tom Cipolla

The Best Buy on Black Friday:  Kick-Starting Holiday Sales

Black Friday is a term marketing executives have come up with to kick-start billions of dollars in holiday sales.  Retailers, both large and small, give their Thanksgiving weekend sales effort an extraordinary push to accomplish two very important goals:

  • Invite retail customers to take advantage of great Thanksgiving weekend prices to increase yearly revenue.  
  • Build customer loyalty.  Retail customers typically reward retailers with their business if the perception of product value and quality and service is consistent with their first experience on Thanksgiving weekend.

Ads touting big discounts are the order of the day, but the second goal, establishing a long-term relationship with the customer, is a harder nut to crack, especially in shaky economic times.  How might a company ensure that consumers will come back after the Black Friday frenzy is over?

Best Buy, which specializes in electronics and computers, is a good example of a business that has an aggressive plan to increase sales and retain customers by:  

  • Matching competitors' online prices to disrupt "showrooming," which they fell victim to in the past few years. (Showrooming is the use of phone apps to scan the bar code of a product to show the lowest price among online retailers.)  
  • Introducing "My Best Buy," a new loyalty program consisting of three tiers of progressively added incentives that includes bonus points for purchases, concierge-type customer service, and extended return privileges.  

With their retail traffic at its peak in the next few days, Best Buy is hoping that the combination of discounts and perks will provide the right opportunity to increase sales and retain customers through the holidays and beyond.  Retailers don't want a one-time customer sale and great prices with great service initiates the feeling of customer loyalty.  Many businesses would do well to consider how to implement their own double-barreled approach this holiday season.

Have you experienced excellent sales and service recently?  Which stores have earned your loyalty?

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Philip Bouchard

Being Squeezed: The State of Senior Executives Today

We just watched Moneyball again.  It’s one of our favorite movies because it illustrates a common problem we've seen in business time and again.  Brad Pitt is great as the Oakland A's general manager, Billy Beane, who finds himself in a tough spot, with his team sinking to the bottom of the MLB's American League:

  • Billy (the general manager) is faced with the team's difficult financial situation, needs to reduce payroll but doesn't want to appear he’s forcing several terrible trade-offs to cut costs.  
  • Art Howe (the coach) wants to win games and believes the only way is to spend big money for talent.
  • Peter Brand (the expert) offers a win-win solution by approaching the problem from a new angle.  

These dynamics are very typical in today’s working environment.  Increasing demands from management, a team below you that doesn’t necessarily have the experience and track record required to navigate today’s complex world, and your job depending on making it all work.  

Any of you see parallels with your jobs?  What happened in your situation?  What expert saved you? Or did you have to fail and learn from it?  Leave a comment and tell us your story.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Dan Hodges

Healthcare Brokers for Employers:  Scam or Valuable Service?

As described in the recent New York Times article, “Con Men Prey on Confusion Over Health Care Act,” the number of questions about Obamacare is rivaled only by the number of scams targeting this confusion. The scams vary from convincing people to buy extra unnecessary insurance and charging exorbitant fees to “help” them navigate the new system, to stealing Medicare and Social Security information on the pretext of “updating” their Medicare records. Though these types of fraud target individuals, there are also scams focused on employers.

Employers need to accomplish two primary goals:

  • Decide what they need or wish to provide to employees, keeping in mind the new Affordable Care Act regulations.
  • Educate their employees on their healthcare plan options. 

Further complicating these tasks are the complexities of the regulations and the significant rise in the number of employed individuals reaching Medicare age. This creates an opportunity for fraud on a much larger scale.

To avoid falling prey to employee benefits program scams, executives and business owners need to distinguish between 2 different types of brokers:

 Health Insurance Brokers(Medicare) Education Brokers
What They Offer
  • Offer to "assist" employees in enrolling in the new federal insurance exchanges
  • Often offer rebates to businesses if they enroll employees in their programs
  • Offer Medicare education services: explain to employees how the employer plan interacts with Medicare coverage
  • Businesses refer employees on Medicare or reaching Medicare age to this optional service
What You Get
  • Potential legal trouble, as rebates are widely considered unethical in the insurance field and in many states rebating is explicitly illegal
  • Help with understanding the new system
  • Employees get a choice
  • Employers get goodwill for offering another resource resource
Bottom LineBe wary of brokers offering you rebates or offering to do your job for you.Be open to brokers offering to educate your employees on their options.
 Source: TrustedPeer.comExpert Dan Hodges

As with any new governmental program, there will be difficulties in its implementation.  Both individuals and businesses should be aware of the potential for fraud or unethical practices. If you have any questions regarding the new rules and regulations, seek assistance from known and reputable advisors. Most businesses are aiming to help demystify the healthcare enrollment process, but it’s always worth it to make sure you know who you are doing business with, especially in the brave new world of health care.

If you need consulting on Employee Healthcare Benefits, contact TrustedPeer Expert Dan Hodges.

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Dennis Lormel

Uncovering Fraud:  A Whistleblower's True Story of Courage in Compliance

This is the true and compelling real life story of a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and Bank Compliance Officer. Cathy Scharf had been recently hired by a small community bank. Shortly into her tenure at the bank, she realized something was seriously wrong. The compliance officer determined that the bank was processing an inordinate and unreasonable amount of transactions per month; well in excess of what a bank that size should have been handling. She learned that the bank was dealing with third party processors and subsequently found out that the third party processors were transacting on behalf of internet poker companies. The compliance officer knew this activity was illegal. She went to the bank president and other executives to attempt to exit the business relationships and file suspicious activity reports (SARs). Although the compliance officer continuously attempted to do the right thing, she was constantly rebuffed or misled.

What became apparent was that the tone at the top was not compliance friendly. Regardless of how dedicated and committed to doing the right thing a compliance professional is, if executive management does not adhere to a culture of compliance and exhibit the proper tone at the top, the compliance function is destined to fail. For approximately one year, the cultural conflict played out until state regulators closed the bank.

During that year, as the gripping story unfolded, the compliance officer experienced many emotions ranging from stress and sleeplessness, to intimidation, guilt and fear for her safety. In addition, she incurred legal expenses to retain a lawyer. Despite her distress, she continued to try to do the right thing. As things progressed, the compliance officer cooperated with law enforcement and regulatory authorities.

The Players

This saga contained various backstories involving a number of colorful characters. The law enforcement investigation began as an organized crime investigation into gambling. Organized crime led investigators to information regarding offshore payment processing in Costa Rica. Investigation led to third party processing; processing for a range of illicit activities to include gambling on internet poker. Most banks would not wittingly service internet poker companies. Third party processors relied on shell and shelf companies, nominees, and other mechanisms, to create the appearance that funds were being moved for licit and innocuous activities and not for illicit purposes.

There were organized crime figures in New York associated with the Gambino and Genovese families. There was Anurag Dikshit, a citizen of India, who owned PartyGaming, an internet gaming business. Dikshit pled guilty to internet gambling in December 2008, and agreed to forfeit $300 million. There was Daniel Tzvetkoff, an Australian, who made an estimated $82 million processing for PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker. In 2010, Tzvetkoff was accused by the poker companies of stealing about $100 million from them. He was subsequently arrested and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement regarding other payment processors, to include Chad Elie, a key player in the SunFirst Bank case. There were PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker, along with their owners, who were taken down on what was known as poker’s Black Friday, April 15, 2011.

The focus of this case study is on third party processors working with an insider at SunFirst Bank to process transactions for PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. Developments in the multi-faceted investigation led the FBI to SunFirst Bank. SunFirst Bank was a small community bank located in St. George, Utah.

The most important player in this aspect of the case is Cathy Scharf. Cathy was the BSA and Bank Compliance Officer at SunFirst Bank. Her commitment to her compliance responsibilities is a demonstration of “courage in compliance.”  

Continue Reading Cathy's story here:

If you need consulting on AML, contact TrustedPeer Expert Dennis Lormel.

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Philip Bouchard

Hobbies and Helpouts vs. Business and Solutions

We applaud the launch of Google Helpouts.

We‘re glad Google is validating the need for a cloud-based platform that provides experts to help people with problems. That’s what we do at TrustedPeer. But there’s a big difference: Helpouts are for fun; TrustedPeer is all business. 

There are other differences. Let’s compare Google’s vision against our own.

Google Helpouts

  • Platform: Video chat / Google Hangouts
  • Providers: Anyone passionate about anything
  • Users: Individuals at home

TrustedPeer®

  • Platform: A scheduled problem-solving call with pre-session discovery and a customized action plan
  • Providers:  Highly-qualified, vetted experts who have seen and solved your problem many times before
  • Users: Business professionals

If you need help learning to play the guitar, apply eye makeup or do yoga, Helpouts is for you. Because these are topics of personal passion, many of the Helpouts are free. And they have already been free for a long time on YouTube, eHow and many other sites. Helpouts adds a personal and social touch, which furthers the broad interests of Google like Google Wallet, Google Hangouts and Google’s search engine.

The problems you can’t solve on Helpouts are the ones that keep you up at night, have an impact on your company’s earnings, affect your prospects for promotion and enable business goals.  

TrustedPeer is here to further your professional success and give you peace of mind. You can’t get answers to important business problems – the ones that can make or break your career – on Helpouts.  Helpouts lacks vetted, experienced, subject matter experts for professional problem-solving. TrustedPeer includes a personal and professional combination that furthers the interest of no one but you.

If you need help with a hobby or personal interest, Google Helpouts is awesome. 

If you need professional help with a difficult business situation – and you need it fast, tailored to your needs and from a peer-reviewed expert – look no further than TrustedPeer.

If you need consulting on Business Development, contact TrustedPeer Expert and CEO Philip Bouchard.

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Robin Boyar

Market Research for Digital Consumer Products

Market Research is a business discipline that provides actionable insights about consumers’ behaviors, attitudes and demographics. Typical market research efforts include:

  • competitive analysis
  • surveys
  • focus groups
  • usability testing
  • ethnography 

These efforts help capture consumers’ attitudes, behaviors and motivations, providing insights that can help guide product development, marketing and positioning.

For example, a company developing a new product might want to understand the current competitive landscape. It might conduct focus groups and surveys to understand consumers’ attitudes and behaviors around the product concept, and then test advertising and positioning to understand how to best market the product.

Digital products, such as games and apps, require a new approach to market research that differs from traditional product marketing. The digital product and service space is changing rapidly as consumer behaviors develop. Product cycles are much faster than for traditional products. A younger, tech-savvy market is demanding better digital products, faster and at a lower price. These market conditions combine to place an enormous burden on digital product developers.

Knowledge and experience in the interactive and media space is a core competency in this fast-changing market. An experienced market researcher, adept at garnering the deepest customer insights, is essential in this domain of exciting, new-to-the-world products.

Now more than ever, market research is an essential facet of product development. Integrating unbiased consumer feedback into the product development and marketing cycle is a critical success factor.

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