6 Qualities to Look for in a Customer Support Officer

Business owners have a long list of priorities when it comes to running their companies, such as budget allocations, marketing efforts, recruitment, and more. However, many fail to recognize the need to invest in another equally important area: customer support.

Qualities-of-Customer-Support

It’s no secret that having and maintaining a great relationship with your customers is one of the key ingredients to your business’ success. Since support reps they are your direct connection to your users, they’re responsible for ensuring a flawless customer experience.

Globally, 96% of consumers say customer service is one of the greatest influencers of their loyalty and trust with a brand. If you don’t perform the way they expect you to, there’s a considerable risk that they’ll leave you for someone who can treat them better. If you’re excellent, they will naturally speak positively about your business. Plus, customer acquisition is 6-7x more expensive than customer retention.

Customer service is especially crucial if you run a tech or software company. Crashes, bugs, and defects should be addressed by your team quickly and efficiently while making the user feel heard and valued.

 

Qualities of Great Customer Support Officers

So, what does it take to breed great customer support officers in your company? Here are some of the top qualities they should have.

 

  1. Clear Verbal and Written Communication Skills

It’s not easy to articulate what you have to convey on the fly, especially when 82% of consumers want real-time replies and solutions to their concerns. Whether your customer service agent is on the phone or responding via email, they should have the ability to be concise and clear with the help that they’re going to provide.

They should use simple, positive language and answer queries to the best of their abilities. Pay attention to how they present themselves during the interview and even their email etiquette during active correspondence.

 

  1. Active Listening Skills

When conversing with your customers, your reps should make sure they listen to the whole complaint or concern while picking up keywords to pinpoint the problem. They tend to be detail-oriented and pay attention to the little things that many otherwise overlook.

By being attentive, your customer support officers will be able to notice trends as to what your users are inquiring about. For instance, the design and UX of your website or app may be preventing users from finding where they need to go. These notes are crucial for improving your product and giving your customers a better experience.

 

  1. Empathy

Customer service agents should understand where their users are coming from. It’s a challenging yet critical skill to recognize another person’s emotional state. Ask your customer support officers to put themselves in the customer’s shoes: What most likely happened to cause their frustration? How would you like to be treated if you were in the same position? Listen for the most caring and understanding answers.

Empathy is indeed a complex skill. However, by engaging with customers regularly, this particular quality can be honed over time.

 

  1. Product Knowledge

In a survey done by American Express, 62% of consumers reveal that service insight and knowledge are two critical components in customer satisfaction. How is this figure important?

There are times when complaints or concerns may arise due to the consumer’s lack of knowledge about the product. In these cases, they may either be furious, frustrated, or confused as to how things work. If your customer support officers show intelligence and competence, the customers will have an immediate sense of ease that the agent can solve their issues. Confidence goes a long way in customer service.

 

  1. Patience

Your customer service reps will talk to a lot of people in one day, and some conversations will be easier to handle than others. They should master the art of being patient when listening, communicating, and responding to customer queries. Patience will allow them to power through all their ticket requests with grace and tact.

 

  1. Flexibility

There will be times where your customer service team gets thrown with issues that they did not anticipate. During these moments, your agent should know how to think and act quickly while on his or her feet. Processes like escalation and rerouting should be second nature to them, so they know when to tap other members of the team for faster problem-solving.

According to a recent study, 12% of Americans say lack of speed is their top frustration with customer service. If they fumble or keep the customer waiting for too long, it could cause dissatisfaction. Check how well they work under pressure and how they delegate, prioritize, and manage their time.

 

Conclusion

A single expert customer support officer can drastically change the image of your company versus a few subpar ones. Invest in the right people that will represent your brand’s image to your customers and give them the proper treatment they deserve. After all, fantastic customer experience will translate to more loyal customers and higher customer retention rates—and this is what it takes to propel your business forward and achieve higher sales and ROI.

Never underestimate the power of great customer service. In the age of globalization, it’s the single added value that truly sets businesses apart!

 

Find out if you should build an in-house customer support team or outsource to an expert provider today!


How Gamification Affects the Software Development Process

There’s a certain kind of elation that games draw out from people, which is the reason why many are passionately into it, particularly video games. Who didn’t enjoy defeating King Koopa to save Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros.? Trash-talking while beating your buddies senseless on a few rounds of Fortnite is also hard to miss out on. Even Tetris took the world by storm during its heydey.

Gamification-in-Software-Development

There’s no doubt that the popularity of gaming has reached global proportions, but does it have a place in your business?

As a matter of fact, yes it does. Businesses have integrated the elements of gaming into their operations and marketing strategies. Since then,  has become a buzzword over the years due to the fact that it triggers real, powerful human emotions of happiness, intrigue, and excitement, delivering more positive user experiences.

In one of its simplest forms, gamification is getting a stamp or sticker on a card each time you buy coffee. After collecting a certain number, you get a free drink or store merch. It’s like completing a level and getting a reward just like in a game. Nike applied this to their Training Club fitness app and Domino’s Pizza also had an app where their customers can create their own pizza. This delivers a positive customer experience that leads to better engagement, loyalty, and eventually, higher sales.

 

Why Gamification Works for Software Development

With all the benefits it delivers to users, gamification has been proven to work, which is why it continues to grow. Entrepreneurs are finding more game-based solutions to improve their business. A Statista report predicts that the worldwide gamification market will grow to 12 billion in 2021 from 4.91 billion back in 2016. For this reason, it’s no surprise that it’s no longer an uncommon method for business.

This stems from the generation who grew up playing computer games. From a young age, this kind of exposure developed a motivation system built around passion and awards. When integrated into a business process such as software development, it can be used to achieve compelling results. Here are some of the ways gamifying the software development process helps improve the overall business:

 

  • Developers acquire and master new techniques

Implementing gamified solutions can boost performance through competition and the ability to track other’s results. This pushes developer teams to learn more and make it fun.

 

  • It improves cooperation and increases motivation

An employee's performance is driven by two aspects: the team’s common goal and the desire to outperform their co-workers. With gamification, both these aspects are well covered.

 

  • Developers spend less time completing a project

Adding game-like elements pushes software developers to be more efficient (to get a higher “score”), which helps reduce the time required to finish projects.

 

  • Decreases development-related errors

Due to the competitive environment presented by gamification, developers naturally boost defect fixing rates, which helps them focus on their core activities.

 

  • Takes on an agile approach to software development

Game-like solutions help vendors divide projects into smaller segments and deliver tasks gradually piece by piece. This kind of dynamic approach can significantly improve team productivity.

 

How Businesses Can Get Started with Software Development Gamification

The pros of gamification in software development are overwhelmingly convincing. The next logical step is effectively implementing this approach in the software development process. As with any process, there’s a right way to do it, much like a game walkthrough.

 

  1. Set goals

The organization’s goals are what’s going to help you lay the foundation of your framework, so you should define them clearly to make sure your employees are empowered to carry out their objectives. Set milestones that can be achieved in short amounts of time to assure regular progress.

 

  1. Lay down the rules

Just like any game, there must be a defined set of rules that are easy to interpret. This is where you detail the limitations, points system, and levels, making it a critical task in deploying the game.

 

  1. Give out rewards

Setting up a rewards system is a critical part of gamification due to its motivational factor. Employees may feel proud and accomplished after completion of an assigned task or project, but additional rewards further boost their motivation to be better.

 

  1. Include a leaderboard or scoreboard

In typical game fashion, there are leaderboards or scoreboards to know how you’re doing in the game, giving you a sense of progress and achievement. This is critical in gamification because it allows employees to measure their performance against the rest of the team to encourage competitive spirit.

 

  1. Provide real-time feedback

Instant feedback will always have a constructive effect on your employees. If positive, it’s going to energize them, while negative feedback will push them to improve. Delivering timely feedback in your gamification efforts also allows your employees to instantly take actionable steps to fix improvement areas.

 

  1. Define the metrics

Clearly establishing a set of relevant metrics will help you track your team’s progress as they move towards your organization’s goals. Make sure they’re flexible enough to accommodate changes.

 

  1. Distribute badges

Your organization will be faced with the challenge of identifying your employees’ strengths and fields of expertise. This is important to assembling a great team to make it easier to achieve your business’s long-term goals. Assigning badges allows you to identify their reputation, certification, and achievements just like in video games, and will also help your employees with validation of their efforts.

 

Conclusion

With the integration of gamification through the right approach, you’ll be able to elevate your software development capabilities to new heights. The game design elements will allow you to assemble or build a capable team that’s composed of developers who are both effective and motivated. Imagine having a team of Call of Duty players ready to take on the world for the glory of your company.

Yes, that’s how gamification can help you achieve your organization’s goals with the highest efficiency. In other words, you’re trying to make winning fun for everyone.

 

For more on software development and deployment methodologies, check out our Agile vs Waterfall Software Development Infographic.


Agile vs Waterfall Methodologies for Software Development

Software development has become a staple in today’s tech revolution. Brands run countless programs that use computer technology essential in executing various business processes across different industries. This has led to an environment where the construction of a framework is needed, so projects can be implemented within specific protocols.

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Project management methodologies have been created over the years to help developers attain the most efficient software deployment outcomes. Two of the most common are Agile and Waterfall software development, with each having their pros and cons depending on the project you’re tasked to complete and the outcome you wish to have.

 

The Agile Methodology

The Agile approach refers to the process that aligns with the concepts of the Agile Manifesto created in February 2001 by 17 software developers in Utah. They discussed lightweight development methods and published the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. This contained ‘better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it,’ which also included four values and 12 principles.

The Agile software development lifecycle combines an iterative process with incremental models. It focuses on process adaptability and customer satisfaction through rapid delivery of working software products. Essentially, Agile methods promote adaptive planning, evolutionary development, continuous improvement, and early delivery. It also advocates quick and flexible responses to change.

Developers break the product into small incremental builds, which are provided in iterations or sprints. Each sprint generally lasts from about a week to three weeks, from development to testing.

 

The Waterfall Methodology

The Waterfall approach, on the other hand, started in the manufacturing and construction industries—two highly structured environments—where changes can either be too expensive or even impossible at times. Its first formal description was cited in a 1970 article by computer scientist Winston W. Royce where he presented it as a flawed software model.

The Waterfall model is referred to as a linear-sequential life cycle model and is very simple to understand and use. Each phase must be completed before moving on to the next, so there’s no overlapping of phases.

This approach was the first software development life cycle model used widely in software engineering to ensure the success of a project. The whole process is divided into separate phases, with the outcome of one phase acting as the input for the next phase in sequential order.

To give you a more detailed look into both methodologies, this infographic lists the differences, broken down into various factors.

 

IB-Agile-vs-Waterfall-infographic1

 

Agile vs Waterfall: Which One to Choose?

As with any methodology in software development or any field for that matter, each has its pros and cons that make them preferred by developers in specific projects. Both have different approaches when tackling a given project, so it’s up to you which one is best for the project you’re about to get involved in.

 

 

  • Structure

One of the major differences between the Agile and Waterfall methodologies is the structure of each process. With Agile’s sprint approach, project development lifecycles are separated into short sprints or tasks, where the team works together within the time boxed in each sprint. The goal is to create a shippable product at the end of the cycle.

The Waterfall approach has a linear structure, with each stage having a checkpoint where the current state of the product should satisfy the criteria before moving on to the next stage. Each stage is also well-documented.

 

 

  • Team

With tasks broken into smaller chunks, Agile was designed for smaller teams that encourages collaboration and cooperation. The time limit imposed per sprint allows smaller teams to do what it takes to complete each task. Many organizations find this effective, which is the reason why 71% of them use this approach.

When it comes to the Waterfall methodology, coordination between teams is only done at the hand-off points or at the end of each stage, before going to the next. Since this software development approach is sequential in nature, it requires a thorough check if the current state of the product passes all the criteria at each stage prior to proceeding.

 

 

  • Funding

Agile has a more flexible approach when it comes to funding. You’ll be able to work with smaller budgets since the project is broken down into sprints. And for this reason, funding isn’t fixed, so work isn’t limited to a budget, giving this methodology a higher success rate than Waterfall.

In contrast, Waterfall needs to have an agreed-on budget, which includes the scope of the project before it can even begin. While this is more beneficial for customers that are on a relatively strict budget, the product’s quality can be compromised particularly if there are changes or improvements that need to be made.

 

 

  • Scope and Features

Being more open to changes is clearly an advantage and Agile is the approach ideal for such projects. But the more changes that are needed to be made, other features such as cost and schedule would need to be adjusted. In situations where you can benefit from features of a certain methodology, there’s always a trade-off.

Waterfall has a more traditional approach with its sequential process. It has a higher chance of success if the scope is known before the project even starts. The terms of the contract will also dictate the changes that are going to be done during the whole process, if there are any.

 

 

  • Prioritization of Features

In terms of features, you can prioritize them according to their value with Agile. This is advantageous in reducing the risk of ending up with an unusable product if ever funding runs out and the project is terminated. This ensures a project that achieves ‘partial success’ doesn’t reach the end of its contract prematurely.

Waterfall takes on a more straightforward approach to address what the customer wants. You’ll be tied to do everything you’ve agreed on, so they get what they asked for. This may seem like a good way to appease your customers, but there is a high chance of failure involved here.

 

 

  • Customer Availability

It’s always a good thing to have the customer involved in every step of the way, and Agile gives you this kind of availability. You’ll be able to consult them in every step of the cycle and apply the necessary changes the product needs as you go with the stages. This ensures a better product while appeasing your customers with their involvement in it.

This kind of approach may be ideal for customers who are more hands-on when it comes to projects, but there are those who prefer to have the least involvement as possible or perhaps only during the times when a project hits a milestone.

 

 

  • Mindset

Having a product mindset is what the Agile methodology is all about. You and your team should be able to focus on creating a software product that satisfies the needs of your customer while being open to changes when needed.

Waterfall, on the other hand, is more focused on completing the project instead of working on a product that aims to please its customers. This may look good on paper in terms of project accomplishments, but it could fall short when it comes to product quality.

 

 

  • Management

Management is fairly easy in the Agile department, with its interchangeable team members that allow work to flow at a faster rate. The beauty lies in the fact that this approach doesn’t need a project manager to supervise the whole process since all the team members know their roles.

 

Conclusion

It’s fairly obvious that Agile methodology has a considerable edge over its Waterfall counterpart, which is the reason why more organizations are using this approach in their software development processes. However, according to a Gartner Hype Cycle, Agile project management is hitting the peak of inflated expectations. This means issues with this type of methodology will start to make themselves known better in the project management community.

With Waterfall falling short in many aspects and Agile soon following suit, hybrids or a combination of methodologies are in order. In fact, 56.6% of organizations are starting to rely on these hybrid approaches. The bottom line is, you should be able to customize your methodology according to the needs of the project to hit your ideal goals and achieve considerable success in creating your software products.

 

Find out how the experts at Intelligent Bee can help you with your software development needs today!


5 Ways Businesses Can Take Advantage of AI in 2019

The concept of artificial intelligence has come a long way, from a destructive form of androids out to take over the world to a kind of technology with human-like intelligence capable of performing cognitively complex tasks.

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This coming of age has paved way for an AI landscape where businesses are adopting the technology to help them work faster and smarter. In 2019, you can expect AI to explode more rapidly with newer and better applications for your company and your customers alike.

 

The Benefits of AI for Businesses

AI has its fair share of criticisms and support. For the skeptics, the resistance toward AI may be due to the notion that bots and computer programs might soon replace humans in building future societies. On the other hand, proponents of business AI assert that the technology brings about the following benefits:

  • Reduced operational costs. AI can save your business time and money as it helps you automate routine work – from mundane tasks such as organizing your calendar to more critical ones such as collecting and processing data.
  • Increased productivity and efficiency. AI-based technologies are designed to be precise and free from errors commonly made by humans so there will be no unnecessary (potentially costly) revisions to your workflow.
  • Better customer experience. The predictive capabilities of AI can help you predict how customers’ needs or interests are changing, so your business can become more adaptable to these trends.
  • Growth in business expertise. AI’s machine learning algorithms make it easier for you to analyze your business data and consequently make better data-backed decisions.

 

AI Applications for Businesses

Today, AI is no longer a science-fiction concept as it has real-world applications in many industries and business models. Here are top examples on how you can use AI in business.

 

  1. Quality Control in Manufacturing

    With AI, manufacturing and automotive companies can perform more stringent quality control (QC) tests in their products. Under the naked eye, humans might not be able to spot microscopic defects, but machines equipped with powerful cameras can. These eagle-eyed machines will be able to detect any type of irregularity in products under QC, capture images, and forward them to a quality control analyst, who will then be responsible in making judgments and the necessary corrections.

    Another application for AI in the manufacturing sector comes in the form of generative design. Product engineers think up a design for a particular product or project and use a generative design software to help them create as many iterations as possible. Since the software has machine learning features to help designers test each version, designers can narrow down their choices as to which model works best.

 

  1. Automating Recruitment

    Recruitment can be a tedious process, but AI can help you transition from using antiquated recruitment strategies to employing smarter solutions in talent sourcing and applicant screening.

    From automating the schedule of your interviews with applicants to shortlisting candidates, AI allows you to streamline recruitment tasks, so you can save precious time in filling key positions in your organization. Moreover, there are now tools that you can use to find passive applicants, so you can expand your pool of qualified candidates and increase your success rate in making quality hires.

 

  1. Defense Against Data and Security Breach

    There are a couple of ways that you can leverage AI to protect your business from online security threats.

    For one, you can better predict and pinpoint vulnerabilities in your IT network and maintain the integrity of proprietary and customer data – thanks to the deep learning features of AI bots which automatically test the security of your system.

    AI also helps you manage your IT infrastructure by controlling the amount of traffic that it gets as well as by balancing the workloads of your computing systems and networks.

 

  1. Personalizing Customer Experience

    Many of the practical applications of AI focus on . In particular, marketing and multimedia services take advantage of the fact that they can get tremendous amounts of data by tracking their customers’ digital activities. This allows them to tailor their recommendations and come up with better products or services that can potentially grow the business revenue.

    You can also incorporate AI solutions to analyze other forms of customer behavior, such as when they’re most likely to respond to your emails or surveys, or to determine which online channels are best for reaching your audience. All of these insights can be helpful as you establish your brand of customer service.

 

  1. Aid for Healthcare Diagnosis

    Businesses in the medical industry can make use of AI tools to deliver excellent patient care, too. For example, they can implement smart wearable devices that are equipped with vital signs trackers to enable doctors and other healthcare professionals to collect data about patients’ medical condition remotely. As a result, diagnosis becomes more accurate compared with patient-reported data, which could be prone to inconsistencies.

    These AI-powered devices can also make it easy for medical service providers to offer timely interventions for patients, so they can lead a better quality of life.

 

Making Your Business Intelligent Through AI

AI is all about using the right tools and technologies to help your business predict trends and improve processes while providing better products and services to your customers. Be prepared to embrace all the possibilities that AI has to offer your business if you want to keep up with the trends and remain competitive in the modern era.

 

Want to know more about how custom software and AI can grow your business in 2019? Contact the experts at Intelligent Bee today!


Top Tips for Managing a Remote Software Development Team

Every corporation, no matter how profitable, always seeks to cut down on operational costs. One of the most effective ways to reach this goal is outsourcing—the practice of seeking external support for non-primary business functions, so it can focus on its core goals, all while saving time and money. 

Manage-Remote-Software-Team

The trend of hiring remote employees is a modern business strategy that combines low-cost software development and experts. A poll by Gallup shows that 37% of the respondents said they have dabbled in some form of remote work. Big tech companies like Skype, MYSQL, SeatGeek, and Opera have all employed outsourcing in one way or another.

Whether you choose to get support from a third-party located in your main office’s country (onshore), a neighboring country (nearshore), or an entirely different region (offshore), learning how to properly manage a remote software team is crucial to your project’s success.

 

Managing Remote Software Teams Effectively

  1. Hire the right people and train if necessary

When recruiting your remote staff, the process should be of the same quality as when you’re hiring for the main office. Naturally, you’d want to work with an experienced software team who have the right mindset and attitude and are prepared to work in multinational environments. Experience in remote work is helpful but should not be a necessity.

You’ll have to communicate with your remote developers on a regular basis, so your questions should just be the same as the ones you’d ask any on-site worker. The next logical step is to train them, as it mitigates their shortcomings and weak spots while fostering positive traits. With adequate training, you can also compensate for the cultural differences, most notably communication concerns.

 

  1. Define work procedures

Clearly lay out project guidelines for productivity, teamwork, and accountability to your employees. Explain the project, describe the goals in detail, and review the requirements to make sure you have all the functionality you need. Your remote team can work faster and give a more precise quote if you clearly state the vision of your project.

Your outsourced partner may be highly-experienced with businesses in your industry but remember that they’ve never worked with you before. Focusing on training and orientation remote teams during the onboarding process will reduce the risk of potentially costly mistakes in the long run.

 

  1. Schedule communications to stay on the same page

Working across potentially different time zones is a challenge, so you should strictly maintain scheduled meetings to help all offices align and organize every team’s workflow. When you fail to conduct regular consultations and meetings, there can be gaps in communication, causing delays.

A good practice is to hold regular meetings with your remote team (weekly or monthly). These catch-up sessions can be used to ensure everyone is aligned on priorities, facilitate brainstorming sessions, and educate partners on new projects or products.

 

  1. Utilize collaboration tools and test it regularly

Outsourcing employees are nowadays made easier with reliable collaboration tools like Slack, Skype, Google Hangouts, etc. These programs are essential as they can help structure your teams’ work and contribute to productivity. There are also tools available for instant messaging, email, file sharing, project management, productivity, among others. Don’t forget to test their functionalities to figure out the tool that best fits your organizational structure and workflow.

 

  1. Share and work on feedback

Give immediate and extensive feedback on every iteration and sprint, so your remote team knows what to work on. Of course, be prepared to hear the team’s feedback as well. Have a quick chat every now and then to know their perspective on things. A few good questions like what could go wrong with the project, what you could do differently, and if they have all the tools to complete the work should be enough to maintain a clear direction for the partnership.

 

  1. Continuous integration

Continuous integration refers to keeping the source code of the program in a continuously “working state”. Continuous integration is more helpful when teams are in different locations with different working hours as it can help in efficiency and productivity. When teams can’t always communicate in an ad hoc way to diagnose problems, it builds discipline and maintains efficiency.

 

  1. Be prepared with a NDA

The nature of a developer’s work involves a lot of proprietary code, algorithms, and other confidential information. At some point during the project, they may also gain access to your client database, core platform, and the company’s proprietary algorithms. You should always ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement before getting started for the safety of your sensitive information.

 

  1. Have a face-to-face from time to time

Traveling to your remote staff’s location to meet them helps you personally settle their concerns without being pressed for time. You can also consider flying your remote workers in for a short training opportunity at headquarters. This allows you to establish personal connections and inspire them with your passion and vision for the project. It’s a good investment for long-term productivity.

 

  1. Forget micromanagement

Micromanaging your employees is never an efficient policy; more so when you’re managing outsourced workers. You may especially find it hard if you have a background in software development. So, instead of solving issues with the programming, work on communicating the project goals and concerns.

 

  1. Learn the social aspect of software development

Your team must learn how to rely on your outsourcing partner’s accountability as individuals, and to build trust at an organizational level. Help create an online community with them that aims to share knowledge, and fosters collective code ownership, a culture of learning and accountability, and interaction among team members.

Don’t let projects become siloed. Support your team as they find the most effective way to meet their objectives.

 

Conclusion

With all the advantages you can enjoy from hiring a remote team for your software development, it’s easy to overlook the challenges you may also face. That’s why it’s important to discover for yourself if it’s something critical to your business and if you have the resources to pull it off.

More than having the right management strategies, clear communication with the group especially in terms of objectives and deadlines, proper tools and resources to effectively work on the project, and being flexible with their expert perspectives are some of the considerations you should have before hiring a remote software team.

 

To find out how the seasoned experts at Intelligent Bee can help with your business’ software needs, contact us today!


Which Programming Language is the Easiest to Learn?

When you hear the word coding, what comes to mind?

Easiest-Programming-Language

It’s not surprising to hear the answers like “intimidating,” “difficult,” or even “boring.” Even though there are learning communities and an increasing number of resources online, the topic isn’t exactly easy to digest on your own. Add the fact that people say you need to put in a lot of hours, or else you’ll never get the hang of it. Truth be told, it really is like learning a whole new language.

Despite these odds, software engineering is proving to become more popular and relevant today. We’re living in a tech-filled world where companies are constantly creating programs and systems that make our lives easier. The number of self-taught expert developers is rising—69% of programmers in a Stack Overflow survey revealed that they learned how to code on their own.

So, if you’re interested in learning to code, you might be wondering what’s the best foundational coding language to start with. Below are some of the easiest programming languages you can learn and what you can build with it.

 

7 of the Easiest Programming Languages to Learn

 

  1. HTML

Ease of Use: 5/5

13.3% of programmers agree that HTML is the most straightforward programming language to learn if you’re starting (13% may not seem like a huge number but let’s keep in mind that it’s really difficult to get programmers to agree on things). HTML is the backbone language of most modern web pages across any browser, making the knowledge of this program highly relevant in any field. With HTML, it’s easy to view the source code of other web pages. You can use this in conjunction with other languages as well.

 

  1. Python

Ease of Use: 4/5

Python is widely praised for its high readability and simple syntax, with 9% of programmers voting this as the second easiest language to learn after HTML. It’s one of the most widely-used high-level programming languages and has a lot of tutorials published online for self-study. Learning Python is a great stepping stone for learning other object-oriented languages. With this coding language, you can automate and mine data, and do cool things like create a calculator or build a blockchain.

 

  1. C++

Ease of Use: 4/5

Many programmers love C++. Those with less than ten years of experience rate it as the second language they’re most comfortable using, right after HTML. It’s used to code desktop applications, especially those that are performance-intensive. In fact, Microsoft, Oracle, PayPal, and Adobe are written using C++. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that knowledge of this coding language remains in high demand. Some of the things you can create with this are games, operating systems, and desktop programs.

 

  1. JavaScript

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

JavaScript is an open source code that combines C, C++, and Java. According to a survey from WP Engine, 5.4% programmers think that JavaScript allows them to be the most creative with their projects. 5% also agree that it’s versatile language to write in, which is good for increased functionality and compatibility of the code. JavaScript is one of the most popular frameworks, perfect for interactive web components. You can build websites, web apps, presentations, server applications, web servers, games, and smartwatch apps with JavaScript.

 

  1. Ruby

Ease of Use: 3.5/5

At its core, Ruby was designed to be user-friendly—their tagline even reads “a programmer’s best friend.” They have a framework called Ruby on Rails which supports this language fabulously. The ease of use of the script and structure together makes it a natural choice for creating mobile and desktop apps, web apps, database work, web servers, and more.

 

  1. PHP

Ease of Use: 3/5

PHP is an all-purpose scripting language that can be embedded in HTML. According to the TIOBE Index, it’s one of the top 10 most popular programming languages worldwide. However, compared to other languages, the trend for skill in this language seems to be declining. That said, it doesn’t mean that learning PHP is a bad choice, as you can use it for web development, desktop applications rich in graphics, command line scripting, and server-side scripting.

 

  1. Java

Ease of Use: 3/5

Java is a class-based, object-oriented coding language, which makes it capable of creating feature-rich programs. It was designed to be portable, meaning you can find it on various platforms, operating systems, and gadgets. It has an extensive toolset and active editors in its online learning community, who help learners with their questions or coding errors.

Knowledge of Java opens a lot of doors to employment. You can write web apps, develop games, automate cloud computing tasks, develop smart gadgets and incorporate IoT tech in your creations.

 

Final Thoughts

The demand for computer programmers will likely continue to increase over the years. To build interest for the current and future generations, we must strive to create better learning programs and encourage those who show interest in the subject matter.

Learning how to code is never going to be a walk in the park, but with the right tools, learning community, and mentor, it’s definitely not out of reach!

 

Don't have time to learn how to code? Contact Intelligent Bee for all your software development needs!


Software Deployment Checklist for Businesses

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Every business wants their new app or software, whether in its first iteration or the form of an update, to launch successfully. In this day and age, many users expect polished, hi-tech platforms accessible at their fingertips. Sorting out all the kinks and bugs on your new software is critical in ensuring all systems and their usability are optimized and performing well.

Overall, software or web deployment covers installation, configuration, running, testing, and tweaking systems in your product. You want to make sure that nothing less than the best is getting released to the public. It may sound like a daunting task, but with this checklist, you can make sure that you’ll have all your bases covered.

Software deployment testing can be done both in a test environment before deployment or in the live environment after deployment. For this article, we’ll go with live environment testing after deployment.

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Understanding the Deployment Process

 

  • Close the loop between development and operations

Having your development and operations departments on the same page of your deployment schedule is best for everyone in the team. There should be transparency and responsibility to inform both sides about infrastructure changes, timing, and release strategy.

 

  • Develop a rollback plan

If the live version of your software encounters too many problems, it’s wise to have a rollback plan. Revert it to the previous state and ensure that the rollback has no issues, either. Sometimes, this can cause more problems than patch up a problematic software release.

 

  • Notify stakeholders of the release

This is an easily overlooked part of the planning process that can make a huge difference when it comes to successful adoption of the software. Something as simple as informing users and stakeholders about the schedule can save a significant amount of time and prevent unnecessary confusion.

 

  • Develop and finalize your release strategy

The deployment comes in different kinds, so align with your team about which type you want to execute for your software. Will you roll it out completely or by batches? Does it require a reinstall for your users or will the update take effect online? Go for the right kind of operations that matches the nature of your software.

 

  • Keep changes to a minimum

As you near deployment, you should be able to lock all systems in place. If you plan on making any changes, make sure you inform your team and keep them to a minimum. Any alterations should not be significant enough to delay the timeline unless you plan on pushing it back. It’s always better to be sure and prepared.

 

  • Utilize automation tools

Wherever you can remove human error, do so. Automation tools now exist to make deployment possible in a few clicks of a button. This can speed up repetitive tasks and allow you to control how much you want to deploy rather than all at once. Automation is also essential in your rollback strategy—if you automate that process as well, there’s no need for you to redo or lose a lot of changes on your code.

 

  • Consider a continuous deployment process

Continuous deployment, part of the continuous improvement mindset, involves deploying new software updates automatically when developers make a change (it assumes that there will always be bugs in the production version). The upside of incremental rollouts is that they’re systematically quicker and easier to rollback than full-releases. But of course, there are additional costs involved with the high demand for quality assurance testing.

 

  • Keep a close eye for bugs or crashes

Even though deployment is fully automated nowadays, errors can still occur. Standby during the deployment proper and get ready to dive in to fix your codes or scripts should it be needed. This is where your rollback plan can potentially come in handy.

 

  • Test all critical areas of your software

Make sure all systems are greenlit and working as they should. Do several tests such as functionality testing, user experience testing, performance testing, compatibility testing, and security testing, to name a few. These tests will allow you to gather statistical and analytical data on how well your software is performing.

 

  • Systematically report all bugs and errors

Proper categorization of errors makes prioritizing and testing a lot simpler. The most urgent fixes should be first deployed in the test environment for regression testing before being deployed in the live environment. Repeat this testing cycle for all as you move forward in the deployment process.

 

  • Set up performance metrics

How will you know if your deployment was a success? You can create your KPIs for the software surface level, such as page load times and server CPU usage. Or, you can drill down further and come up with custom KPIs. These can measure the efficiency and effectiveness of every aspect of your DevOps’ toolchain.

 

  • Keep an eye on error logs

How are your logs doing? Take note of the volume and make sure that it hasn’t changed drastically. It’s generally bad news if logs stop or if the number drastically increases. Check the records of any new features you’re testing out as well and identify a baseline of when you need to step in if you start receiving error logs.

 

  • Use an error-tracking program

It’s always a good idea to utilize a bug-tracking software like Bugzilla or Airbrake to manage contextual information about the errors your software encounters. Not only will these tools make you quicker to respond to potential issues, you’ll also get a much better idea of the software’s overall health.

 

Flexible Software Deployment

In this day and age, software deployment needs to be flexible and agile. Here’s how you can do that:

  • Having a software deployment checklist can help you get your business in order. If you’re prepared for any scenario, you’ll be able to think on your feet faster.
  • Have the necessary deployment tools in your arsenal so you can automate all the critical parts of your software development and deployment.
  • Keep observing KPIs to detect any problems, should there be any. Be sure to trace the source so you can avoid the same issues from arising next time.
  • Never release an update without a rollback strategy. Sometimes, the best way to fix software issues is to revert to the previous version, so don’t forget to backup.

The best case you can hope for during software deployment is to let it run itself without having to worry too much. With preparedness and having the right tools to support your processes, you can be sure that your next deployment will always go smoother than the last.

 

Conclusion

The success of a software deployment doesn’t just rely on the performance, scalability, and excellent user experience of your software—it should also be able to reflect in your business success goals. If your number of users, conversations, and usage are increasing, that means that the new software has made a significant impact on your business operations as well.

Software development is a meticulous process. If you choose to seek external support, be sure to avoid common mistakes when outsourcing software development. The more careful you execute this, the more it will save you from future headaches on possible bugs, crashes, or any other failures you don’t want your software to have.


10 Ways Mobile Apps Help Grow Businesses

How often do you browse Amazon listings via their mobile app or place an order through the McDonalds app? As the digital era goes mobile, companies get into the groove of building their own mobile apps that enable customers to stay connected and get things done with just a few taps on their devices.

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Your business doesn’t have to be as big as Starbucks or Nike for apps to be considered valuable to your growth. If your company has yet to start milking the flow of opportunities that mobile offers, then there’s no time to waste. A look at the following mobile device usage statistics show how mobile app development can benefit your business:

  • 80% of smartphone users are more inclined to purchase from companies with mobile apps or sites that help them answer their inquiries quickly. (Google)
  • 90% of users’ time on their mobile phones is spent on apps. (Flurry)
  • Smartphone users are more likely to purchase from brands whose mobile apps or sites tailor information to their location. (Google)
  • Compared to mobile sites, customers view 4.2x more products per session on apps. (JMango360)

 

Questions to Ask Before Building a Business App

The temptation is reasonable. But before you take the plunge, it’s helpful to check if your vision aligns with your mobile app’s purpose. Here are a few questions to ask before you push through with your mobile app development.

  • Do your competitors have apps? What features do they have?
  • How will it help your customers? What problems will the app solve?
  • Do you want to enhance the experience of your existing customers or bring new ones in?
  • Will you offer a customer loyalty program?
  • Will it simplify processes for your internal team or your customers?

If you have solid answers to all these, then it’s time to start building your mobile app!

 

How Mobile Apps Can Support Your Business

 

  1. Boost brand image

Mobile apps provide awareness through branded communication with consumers. Without one, your brand might come across as outdated. As with distributing stickers or calendars with your brand image, your logo and brand name are constantly plastered on your customers’ device home screens. Your customer’s regular interaction with your app also fosters trust, which conditions them to commit to your brand.

 

  1. Enhance customer service

Customer service and support has evolved from person-to-person interactions to digital channels. Having the ability to access your products and services 24/7 without having to wait for regular business hours is a great advantage for customers. Plus, points for your brand if your app includes a messaging feature where they can reach you directly without leaving the app.

 

  1. Personalized marketing channel

Mobile apps offer various ways where you can diversify personalized marketing campaigns, such as push notifications. You can use them to advertise new products, discounts, special events, promotions, and much more. You can also use it to remind existing customers how long they haven’t shopped with you or when their waitlisted item gets restocked.

 

  1. Make consumers feel more valued

Business is all about give and take. As much as you want to increase your sales, you also want to show how much you value your customers. One way to encourage more conversions is through a loyalty program built into the app.

The more frequent they avail of your products or service, the more points they get, which they can use to claim rewards—exclusive to app subscribers. Seeing how many points they’ve earned and what rewards are on offer without going to your website will entice them to follow through then and there.  

 

  1. Get on that word-of-mouth marketing

One of the most powerful effects of the mobile age is its strong facilitation of word-of-mouth marketing. You can feature a referral program within the app and reward customers who share the app or your content to a friend.

 

  1. Quick access to data anytime, anywhere

With every mobile app comes an array of data analytics features. Like a website, you’ll have access to all the behavioral and transactional data collected by your mobile app. This information can help your brand build insights on your target audience and improve future campaigns.

 

  1. Better productivity

With automation lifting a heavy weight off employees’ shoulders, they can focus on more on their primary function: providing a great product/service. Corporate apps can make jobs more convenient and help produce more quality work. The use of a cloud service can additionally help make decision-making faster and more efficient.

 

  1. Automation of processes

One of the primary reasons why businesses are jumping on enterprise mobility is because of automation. Being able to automate and streamline various tasks with minimal human intervention can save you precious time at work and reduce the risk of error.

 

Summing it up

We live in a fast-paced digital era, and it’s never been more obvious that smartphones and mobile apps have marked their territory in people’s lives. It’s up to businesses to adapt if they want to ride the trends and embrace this digital transformation, which is an excellent way to connect with customers, improve branding, or scale business processes more efficiently.

 

You don’t have to be a tech company to have a mobile app. Every brand deserves to have its own “big idea” when it comes to mobile apps. So, what’s yours?


Experience has it: 10 best practices for outstanding customer support services

Outsourced customer support is the future. Whether you’re a startup or a company with more than 100 employees, the need for customer support is rising due to the fact that products aren’t perfect, yet we aim for perfection when it comes to our services. “How can you remain on top of the game in the field of customer support?” is a question we hear a lot lately and we wanted to share with you 10 best practices that we learned in 7 years of experience with partners such as SendGrid and Cloud Elements.

Before we start, let us underline once again the idea of a customer support department. Whether it’s in-house or outsourced, the customer support department of a SaaS company should reduce customer churn. The product or service can be outstanding, yet the technical support that you are offering is crucial in your relationship with your customers. After more than 7 years of work with SendGrid and Cloud Elements, we gathered 10 best practices that will set you ahead of your competitors.

 

1. Hire the best people to represent your service/ product.

We can all agree that your agents are your brand’s diplomats. You form and maintain connections through them with the customers that will keep you in business. Hire and retain experienced people and exceptional outsourced customer support will follow.

2. Offer customer support on more than one channel, including live chat.

Instant communication channels can save or ruin the image that a client has about your product/service. When it all comes to customer’s expectations, the best way to offer a quick and helpful answer is through chat. Make it easy for customers to interact with you and don’t keep them waiting.

3. Encourage self-service.

More than 67% users prefer a self-service support over speaking to a company representative. It’s a fact that can be turned around in your favor once you create a FAQs page with content that answers common questions that customers usually come up with. From a FAQs page to regularly posting basic troubleshooting articles on your website, encourage self-service and you will receive a better feedback for product or service enhancements.

4. Attitude is everything.

When working on a customer support service, your positive attitude can turn a problem into a solution in no time. You know that in business, you never get a second chance for making a first good impression. Have the customer in mind and deliver responsive and personalized support.

5. Listen to customers.

The key to effective communication is active listening. Even when the customer is upset or angry, your customer support agent should treat him cordially, eager to give advice and to find a real-time solution. If you’re active listening to your customers, not only you will find more about the issue encountered and you will give better advice, but you will leave an imprint in your customer’s mind.

6. Ownership can change an issue into a solution.

Empower your representatives to make decisions in real time and to act upon customer’s best interest. If the issue needs more information in order to be classified as resolved, your customer support agents should follow up and address the issue further on until it’s resolved.

7. Honor your commitments.

Do what you say you will do. Earning trust and respect are key-points in the relationship between a company and its customers. Tell your customers exactly what they can expect from you and then go hard to exceed those expectations. That way, your customers will see that you’re willing to go the extra mile.

8. Set KPIs.

It’s important to always measure the success of a customer support team. For that, use KPIs and metrics that should be defined as parameters in judging the performance of a customer support agent or a technical support team.

9. Regularly train your agents.

Properly training your representatives can give them the power to make on-the-spot decisions that can change an issue into a solution. Ensure that they completely understand the product and the process and conduct refresher training sessions when there are any product enhancements. A well prepared customer support agent is a key point in maintaining your customers happy.

10. Ask for feedback.

A feedback at its time can change the path of your company. A study by The George Washington University from Washington, DC, shows that users will share their experiences with 8 out of 10 persons they meet. Ask customers to review your service after each session in order to find out if it was helpful or what aspects you should change.

Customer support in this century is the secret weapon of every business that respects itself. Without a customer support department, you can’t have a business that it’s focused on the customer, therefore you can’t really grow. For an outstanding customer support service, follow these best practices that we gathered in 7 years of experience.

We would love to hear about your experience and how they worked for your business.


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7 PHP IDEs for 2018 Software Development

As we mentioned in our previous article, PHP remains a crucial programming language in 2018 as a result of its flexibility in building Saas and Paas solutions from scratch. And since the only way you can continue to be competitive and productive as a developer is to write effective code, we consider useful to gather the best IDEs that will streamline your PHP development process.

PHPStorm

With this IDE, PHP developers can build complex web apps faster, whether they are working with Symfony, Drupal, Wordpress, ZendFramework, Laravel, Magento, Joomla!, CakePHP or Yii. PHPStorm allows command execution between the host and remote servers through its built-in terminal. This IDE remains a popular one because it can deeply understand code structure and has the best code compilation, refactorings, on-the-fly error prevention and more. PhpStorm it’s available on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Among the features that make PhpStorm the best IDE for PHP are also included:

  • Code quality analysis
  • Syntax and error highlight
  • Rich and Live editing for all Front-end Technologies
  • Essential and powerful built-in tools for debugging, testing and profiling
  • Easy-code navigation & search
  • Code re-arranger

This year, PhpStorm announced some updates regarding:

  • PHP Language: inline function/method refactoring, code refactoring to functional style, configurable unchecked exceptions or hierarchy checks for class aliases
  • Testing: creating classroom test, better code coverage and gutter icons for running tests
  • HTTP client: assertion support and a first start simplified

Netbeans

PHP developers continue to use Netbeans in 2018 because is an open source IDE and has a modular design so it can be extended by third-party developers. Moreover, it’s lightweight and much faster than other similar tools in building large-scale multi-language websites and has useful features like:

  • Smart code compilation
  • Support for embedded applications
  • Built-in debugger
  • Code templates and code generation tools, such as “getter and setter” generation, refactoring, parameter tooltips, hints and quick fixes
  • Inbuilt database connection

NetBeans runs on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and Solaris and supports other languages besides PHP such as Java ME & SE, Javascript, HTML5, C/C++, XML or Groovy.

Aptana Studio

Aptana is an open source HTML editor with full PHP support for creating savvy web apps and advanced features like code assistant, integrated debugger, built-in PHP Server, Auto Indexing and Code Formatting or syntax error annotations. A differentiating feature of Aptana is that it also allows multiple protocols including FTP, SFFP, FTPS and Capistrano. Additionally, Aptana offers support for DOM & CSS besides PHP.

Eclipse

Eclipse is widely known thanks to its flexibility and for their Java IDE, C/C++, Javascript, and PHP IDEs built on extensible platforms in order to create desktop, web and cloud apps. Among the numerous supported languages, we mention Java, Javascript, C, C++, Rub, Ruby on Rails, Python, Rust, Scala, Groovy, and Php. Its features also include automatic error reporting, support for git-flow, GUI and NonGUI based applications as well as multi-platform support with lots of plugins.

Komodo

Created by ActiveState, Komodo IDE became popular as a result of its many extensions and pipe features like code profiling, built-in code collaboration or the HTTP inspector which lets you inspect HTTP traffic from the IDE to the Websites. With Komodo, developers can easily find documentation on common PHP functions by selecting them and invoking the documentation tool.

Top companies such as Siemens, Tesco, Nasa, Bank of America or Alcatel-Lucent use Komodo IDE.

ZendStudio

ZendStudio has an intelligent user-interface and all the current features for successful PHP development. Mainly, it can debug web applications, CLI applications and supports PHP Unit test.

With ZendStudio developers can also perform static code analysis using a rich set of rules for finding issues in their code as they type it. The team can write code faster, easily debug projects and can use PHP7 or other advanced interpreters. Moreover, it offers support for CMS like Wordpress and Joomla, for indexing and searching PHP Code and for Cloud Servers like Azure and AWS.

NuSphere

Nusphere PhpED is a balanced combination of an advanced code editor, reliable debugger, and productive database connectivity. That makes it a suitable and complete solution for PHP development. NuSphere key features include code insights for PHP, conditional breakpoints, ability to change current execution line, embedded SSH client or the ability to profile code in terms of performance and memory consumption.

Final Thoughts

It’s important to choose the right IDE in order to produce and maintain high-quality code. And since PHP remains a reference point as a back-end programming language, I hope you find this list of IDEs helpful in writing your PHP code, whether you are a beginner or a professional user.