HOW TO ENSURE CUSTOMER RELATIONS ARE MAINTAINED DURING COVID-19?

The world is not what it used to be since the Coronavirus outbreak. The virus has distorted the daily lives of millions of people across the globe. Social distancing, travel restrictions, work from home – are becoming the new normal. To gain customers’ trust, companies should understand the buyers and their requirements in this unprecedented environment.

Why is maintaining customer relations essential?

Good customer relationships can help a company to grow. As with personal relationships, creating and nurturing customer relationships is essential as well. When organizations develop strong customer relationships, it can lead to loyal customers, positive word of mouth, and higher sales.

What are the customers expecting from you?

For your company’s long-term well-being, you should put the needs of your customers first. Customers will always prioritize their safety and that of their families. They expect businesses to understand their shopping style, keep essentials well-stocked, be treated as a valued customer, and get benefits even in these hard times.

How to maintain customer relations in the pandemic?

  • Maintain hygiene: The safety of the customers should be the priority of any business concern. Therefore, businesses should keep their stores thoroughly sanitized. When a customer goes to the store, there should be provisions for social distancing and contactless operations to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.
  • Communicate with the customers: In the wake of the pandemic, everyone is in distress and fear. In such times, if a company can keep communicating with its customers, they will feel considered and cared for. By maintaining contact with its customers, the company can also stay informed about the customers’ needs and wants through feedback, thereby stocking inventory accordingly.
  • Make them feel special and valued: By storing customer information such as important dates, companies can surprise their customers with gift vouchers, coupons, gift hampers for special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. They can even send over medicines for the aged family members of the customers. Such little things can increase customer loyalty.
  • Understand what customers are looking for: Businesses can identify the needs and wants of its customers through research and surveys.
  • Added benefits: In these hard times, companies can give their customers free masks and sanitizers with the items they purchase.

It is important for a company to bear in mind the immediate needs of its customers during the Coronavirus crisis. By maintaining strong customer relationships, companies can ensure sustainability and brand loyalty while running their businesses in these challenging times.

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Implications of GST for Services

The new Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a unified tax structure that was implemented by the Government of India on 1 July 2017. The new regime has ushered a significant change in taxation levels and rules associated with it. On an average, we see the tax slab increasing from 15% to 18% for most of the services. While this may translate to higher cost of services to the end consumer, GST also presents a whole lot of opportunities, pushing ease of business.

Services Sector in India: An Overview

India is a strong services-led economy with the sector generating a significant chunk of employment opportunities and contributing to the GDP. It contributed around 66.1% of India’s Gross Value Added (GVA) growth in 2015-16, is the biggest magnet for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), and an important net foreign exchange earner. Some of the core areas of service are IT and ITES, banking and financial services, outsourcing, research and development, transportation, telecommunications, real estate and professional services.

Some of the positive impacts of GST on service providers are:

Clear distinction between goods and services: The old regime does not clearly distinguish between goods and services, leading to many instances of double taxation. For example, software is often treated as a good and as a service. The new regime clearly distinguishes goods from services, and also defines principal supply, composite supply, and mixed supply separately. For example, when an individual books a Rajdhani train ticket which includes meals, it involves a composite supply wherein the ticket and the meals cannot be sold separately. Since the transportation of the passenger is the principal supply, the rate of tax will only be charged on the ticket. Alternatively, for items that can be sold separately, but are sold together, like a hamper of snacks and aerated drinks, the rate of tax applicable on the higher product will be levied on the composite supply. There are also separate definitions for supply of software, works contracts, and leasing transactions to bring in more clarity and transparency on their taxation rules.

Streamlining of taxation for intra-state service providers: Due to the state level taxes being subsumed, it will become easier for service providers that operate within the state to know their tax obligations better. Such companies can move away from multiple tax calculations. For example, a CD with software incurs Excise, Service Tax, and VAT under the old regime; this is simplified to one unified rate under GST, making tax calculations and administration easier for intra-state service providers.

Input credit facility: VAT payment under the old regime was not eligible for setting off against output liabilities. The input credit facility is now made available to service providers as well, wherein tax paid on any inputs can be claimed and adjusted against tax paid on output. This will result in direct cost savings for service providers and may even offset the expected rise in end pricing. For example, an AC fitter who paid tax on the raw material for AC fittings (pipe, tape, solder etc.) will be able to claim that tax, and end up spending less on the cost of fitting the AC. This cost advantage can spill over to the customer as well.

Regularised return filing: The old service tax system required two half-yearly returns for services businesses. Under GST, this has been replaced by a number of returns provisions, depending on the type of taxpayer and the type of business:

Return Type of tax payer Timeline of filing return
GSTR 1 For outward supplies of sale (for registered taxable person) By 10th of the next month
GSTR 2 For inward supplies received by a taxpayer (for registered taxable person) By 15th of the next month
GSTR 3 Monthly return for registered taxable person (except for Compounding Taxpayer) By 20th of the next month
GSTR 4 Quarterly return for Compounding Taxpayer/Composition Supplier By 18th of the next month
GSTR 5 Periodic return by Non-Resident Foreign Taxpayer By 20th of the next month
GSTR 6 Return for Input Service Distributor (ISD) By 13th of the month succeeding the quarter
GSTR 7 Return for Tax Deducted at Source (TDS) By 10th of the next month
GSTR 8 Annual Return for e-commerce operator By 10th of the next month

While a shorter timeline for filing returns might seem overwhelming, regularisation in return filing will result in better streamlining of taxes. Since all these returns are required to be submitted online through a common portal provided by GSTN, the process is simplified and will help the government weed out regular defaulters. This in turn will result in a major boost in the contribution of the Service sector to the GDP.

Service providers, however, are concerned about the following aspects:

  • State-wise registration will be required: In the old regime, a service provider could operate with a single place of registration, since services were taxed only by the Central government. For example, if an IT services provider was present across states, they could carry out tax and delivery transactions from the main location. However, now a service provider that is offering services across states must register each place of business separately in each state. This is because the new GST regime entails taxation of services at “location of service recipient”, which will differ for different states. This means service providers will need to register afresh in new states and then carry out tax transactions separately in each state. For example, an IT company like TCS that has a widespread presence across states will need to decentralise service delivery.
  • Decentralised reporting will add to costs: Under GST, the “location of service recipient” is the key criterion for how a service will be taxed. Tax considerations will be related to the place the service is being delivered, and even a pan-India service provider with several “locations of service” will need to maintain state-wise records of input credit, audits, service consumption, etc. For example, earlier a service provider like TCS would enter into a single contract with the client, based on its main location, and then would discharge service tax based on the single-service tax registration model. GST will decentralise service delivery models, ensuring various TCS units adopt their own tax reporting and tax management. While this need for decentralised tax tracking and processing is an immediate cost to service providers, it presents a very real opportunity to streamline reporting and compliance measures for the future.

GST offers clear benefits to the services sector, and while some of these measures entail additional cost and effort in the short term, businesses can look forward to simpler operations with the new taxation laws.

All in all, services industries must gear up for better ways to manage business. Now is the time for them to equip themselves with the right people, processes and technologies, and emerge as service providers of the future.

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Oct 24, 2018

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Coding Guidelines: Programmer’s Daily Bread and Butter

As we work in startup, we are under time pressure to release a lot of new features on time, features which do not have well defined requirements and the complexity of those features is often underestimated and we end up taking a lot of shortcuts / adding hacks to release such time sensitive features.

This may work for a short time, but over the period of time we realize that the same shortcuts that you took to release features quickly are now slowing you down. You can not scale and add new features on top of it, even if you do, they become quite unstable. In this situation you might want to take a step back and revamp/refactor you base system.

One of the easiest things that you can do to avoid this situation is follow coding guidelines.

Coding Standards

Well, what according to you is a good code? The simple definition could be: if it can’t be understood, maintained and extended by other developers then its definitely not a good code. The computer doesn’t care whether your code is readable. It’s better at reading binary machine instructions than it is at reading high-level-language statements. You write readable code because it helps other developers to read your code.

Naming conventions:

As the name suggests, it is a simple concept where you follow a specific naming conventions across teams. This becomes important when your team is growing and are solving problems on daily basis and pushing a lot of code every day.

camelcases vs underscore

This helps a lot when your team becomes big and a lot of developers are working on the same code-base. If you follow some fixed patterns while defining classes/functions/variables names, it becomes really easy for fellow colleagues to understand your code. This directly impacts delivery time taken by a developer to build/modify a feature on top of existing code. For example, let us suppose you want to define a time-stamp field in a database table, how would you name it ? If you have a fixed pattern like a “action_ts” or “action_at” for giving names then you can easily guess what could be the field name in the schema. If its a created time-stamp then it could be either “created_at” or “created_ts”. You do not have to go and check every-time you writing any logic over different database tables.

Function/Module/API writing (Size and Purpose)

Simplicity and readability counts. It’s always better to write to concise code than a messier one so that if any other developer is also looking at it who has no idea, should get what exactly it is doing. Not more than max 10–15 lines. Jenkins is considered as one of the greatest implementations, and has average function length of 2 lines.

A function/module should only do ONE thing and should do it NICELY. By following this, code becomes modular and it helps a lot in debugging. You can solve the problem better and debug faster when you know where exactly it’s coming.

When you are developing features over an established products, more than 50% times, new requirements are of the nature which you can build on top of existing code. In such cases, you can ship those requirements really faster and stable if existing code-base is modular and stable. Writing library functions a savior. There are countless advantages of writing a library code. It avoids code repetition, no surprises when it comes to response formats and of-course code re-usability.

Exception/Error Handling

Unknown errors are real pain in developers life. It’s always better if you know probable exceptions and errors in code in advance. But that is not the case always. Irrespective of all this, you definitely do not want your end-users to see unexpected errors on their screens.

When you have different micro-services and bigger development teams, if you follow standard response formats for across APIs and standard exceptions then there will not be any surprises in production. You can agree upon one format across all the services. Every API can have certain ‘response_data’ and standard set of error-codes. Every Exception will have an error-code and a message. Message could have variation viz, tech specific message and user facing message.

Writing test cases:

If you want to have a good night sleep, then you better have thorough test cases covering almost all aspects of your code. The best way forward with building test cases is at requirement stage only. Whenever a requirement comes, products managers discuss it with developers as well as QA. Both teams start preparing for possible use-cases and test-cases.

A testing unit should focus on one tiny bit of functionality and prove it correct. Each test unit must be fully independent. Each test must be able to run alone, and also within the test suite, regardless of the order that they are called. The implication of this rule is that each test must be loaded with a fresh data-set and may have to do some cleanup afterwards.

Automation plays an important role here. What else is needed for stable product where you have all test cases covered and running at intervals automatically, giving you a report of the all functionalities. Also, whenever you are adding/modifying code, you make sure either you write new test cases or modify existing ones.

coding

Code Reviews:

This one thing save lives, trust me! Every team can benefit from code reviews regardless of development methodology. Initially it takes time if you do not have a procedure setup of doing code reviews, but eventually it becomes a habit. Code review should be one of the core development steps.

Code review generally is about:

  • Does the new code conform to existing style guidelines?
  • Does the written piece of code covers all the use-cases specified in the requirements and has relevant test cases written ?
  • Are the new automated tests sufficient for the new code? Do existing automated tests need to be rewritten to account for changes in the code?

There are several advantages of this process such as –

Code reviews make for better estimates: Estimation is a team exercise, and the team makes better estimates as product knowledge is spread across the team. As new features are added to the existing code, the original developer can provide good feedback and estimation. In addition, any code reviewer is also exposed to the complexity, known issues, and concerns of that area of the code base. The code reviewer, then, shares in the knowledge of the original developer of that part of the code base.

Code reviews mentor new joiners: Code reviews help facilitate conversations about the code base between team members. During these conversations, team members share their views and new alternatives of doing things.

Code reviews take time: It’s an incremental process, where it takes time initially but as your code-base grows, it ensures, you are always pushing verified and tested code.

Hidden truth about code reviews: When developers know their code will be reviewed by a teammate, they make an extra effort to ensure that all tests are passing and the code is as well-designed as they can make it so the review will go smoothly. That mindfulness also tends to make the coding process itself go smoother and, ultimately, faster.

As a fast growing company our self, these set of guidelines have helped us a lot in shipping stable features on time and helping to increase a healthy learning environment.

Source:- Capital Float’s Medium Blog

Oct 24, 2018

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Loan Products in the Market for SMEs: 5 Steps to find the best Business loan type for your Business Requirements

An enterprise that has a strategic business plan for its growth but not enough cash to execute the same can approach institutional lenders for funds. There are multiple sources of procuring a working capital loan in the organised credit market. These include private and public sector banks, development banks and non-banking finance companies (NBFCs).

The digitally enabled NBFCs known as FinTech lending companies have become some of the major lenders supporting the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs, SMEs) around the world. In India too, the FinTech lending model is becoming popular, and start-ups find it more convenient to borrow from them as these companies offer unsecured business loans.

What kind of businesses can borrow from a FinTech company? How to apply for a FinTech SME or MSME loan? Could this be a month-long process like most other institutional lending systems? These are some of the questions that organisations not acquainted with the digital lending framework ask. And the answers bring relief to most of them.  

In their mission to support the Make in India initiative, established FinTech companies are coming forward to assist as many enterprises as possible. They have a diversified array of products that include working capital loan, term loan, supply chain finance, machinery loan and other funds customised for different commercial needs.

You need to take merely 5 steps to find the best business loan type for your business requirement when you decide to approach a FinTech company for finance.

Before we further look into these five steps, here is some more information on the different types of funds provided by these digital lenders:

Working Capital Loan—This form of finance helps sustain the regular operations of any business. It is usually taken for a short term – up to 12 months – to procure additional raw materials, buy inventory, pay for utilities and to give advance payments to suppliers. Your business can use this loan as a cash cushion and manage seasonal sale fluctuations.

Term Loan—FinTech companies also offer loans for longer tenures when businesses need to make bigger investments. When the loan amount taken by an SME is approximately Rs 20 lakhs to 50 lakhs, it can be paid it back in 2- 3 years in small instalments. Term loans can be taken by any manufacturer, trader, distributor or professional service provider.

MCA Loan—A Merchant Cash Advance (MCA) loan is a funding option open to businesses that frequently accept card-based payments from their customers. The FinTech lender looks at the monthly credit or debit card receipts to determine the creditworthiness of a borrower. Eligible businesses in Indian can borrow between Rs 1 lakh and 1 crore as per their average card settlements. The loan can be paid back in 9 to 12 months.

Machinery Loan—As the name conveys this loan is procured to purchase machines and equipment used in the manufacturing processes. Businesses in construction, packaging, fabrication, and assembling of products can use these loans to overcome temporary financial roadblocks. FinTechs have flexible repayment terms for such loans.

Invoice Finance—Another customised business loan for SMEs and MSMEs, invoice financing enables businesses to borrow against their Account Receivables. If your company needs immediate cash to fund operations, but your clients will process your bills at later dates, you may be eligible to get quick invoice finance from a FinTech company.

Pay Later Loan—An SME loan in the form of a pay later finance comes with a pre-defined amount that is exclusive to each business as per its requirements and earning capacity. On this loan borrowers can make multiple draw-downs within the approved limit. They just need to pay back the sums used to reinstate the balance for further usage. It is a rolling credit product to help small businesses pay their suppliers at short notices. The top benefit of this loan is that the interest is charged only on the amount used and not the full limit approved for the borrower.

Supply Chain Finance—A tailored loan to help dealers and suppliers having business relationships with large, blue-chip companies, supply chain finance can be availed to buy inventory, improve cash flow, reduce the cost of goods sold (COGS), improve sales, and ensure the timely availability of goods for consumers. With supply chain finance, the borrowing business can reduce its dependence on the buyer while benefiting from the fluidity in its financial position.

FinTechs also offer bespoke funding for specific professions and businesses. These may be in the form of a school loan, doctor loan, online seller finance, franchise finance, petrol pump loan, restaurant loan or a loan for any other legally permissible business.

5 steps to find the best business loan type for your business requirements

When a FinTech company offers a custom loan product for your line of business/profession, it is important to identify the right kind of finance product.  It is thus good to be aware of the general ways to choose the right SME or MSME loan.

  1. Make a note of your requirements—When your business has a good credit rating, it can be tempting to borrow a sum larger than what you need. You may want to keep a bigger cash reserve for working capital. This, however, is a wrong strategy. Remember that as the loan amount increases your instalments to repay it will also be bigger. It is advisable to use a business loan EMI calculator to know the sum that you can repay and apply for the correct amount of funds that will fulfil your need.
  2. Check your eligibility—Borrowers are often asked to pledge some financial asset as security,  to be eligible for most of the conventional loans. However, FinTechs offer unsecured loans and check the creditworthiness of borrowers on the basis of years in operation, revenue earnings, past loan history if any and compliance of the business with tax laws. You can check your eligibility criteria relating to specific loans by referring to the lender’s website or speaking to their customer service team.
  3. Compare loan costs on all parameters—Do not be instantly allured to loans that advertise low interest rates. Such an SME loan may also have a loan processing fee of 3% or more, and multiple hidden charges such as a legal fee, documentation fee, insurance premium and other statutory payments. On the other hand FinTech loans that have a slightly high interest rate come with just a processing fee of up to 2% and no hidden fees.
  4. Collate the required documents—To verify the information filled in a loan application you will need to have your KYC documents, copies of the latest tax returns, bank statements and few other papers as per the nature of the loan sought. The benefit of going for a FinTech loan here is that you only need to upload soft copies of such documents as the loan application is made digitally.
  5. Apply for the loan—Once you have understood your requirements, eligibility, cost of the loan and have collected the required papers, the last step is to apply for the funds. When you make a digital application, ensure that the lender has a secure website that will encrypt all your personal and business details.

Apply for Unsecured school loan

At Capital Float every business loan application is reviewed within minutes of its submission, and if approved, the fund is disbursed in the next 2-3 business days. At the end of these 5 steps to find the best business loan type for your business requirement, you can be rest assured that you have the right amount that you wish to add to your working capital and the right loan type from the collection of credit products at Capital Float that is customised for your needs.

Oct 24, 2018