Archive for April, 2012

How Usable is Your Website?

Written By Alerus Small Business Connect, April 27, 2012

120904392Oftentimes we get so comfortable with our own company website that we forget to look at it from a first-time visitor’s point of view. We assume that the site’s design and layout are intuitive and user-friendly. We get caught up in the day-to-day business of, well, running our business, and “website maintenance” gets put on the back burner. Luckily, a recent post by Gwen Moran in caught our eye.

She identifies a number of reliable – and reasonably priced – usability test services, including, OpenHallway, and Beta Breakers. These services have their teams review sites for functionality issues, broken links, unfriendly navigation, and more. The companies then provide feedback on how the sites can be improved.

Sure, you could do some of this in-house…but will it happen, or will it get moved to the back burner? We’re making “website usability” a priority, and we’d love to hear from you on how you think we could improve Small Business Connect. Please share your thoughts!


The Seven Letters of Customer Service

Written By Alerus Small Business Connect, April 20, 2012

110715439Have you heard of Michael Hess? He’s the founder and CEO of Skooba Design, a designer of exquisite cases and accessories for tech travelers. He says he’s “obsessed to the point of insanity” with customer service. We like him already.

Michael contributes to CBS MoneyWatch, and his latest article caught our attention. He says that great customer service starts with seven letters. It so happens that the letters spell empathy.

Early in the article Michael acknowledges that there’s no shortage of information available on the topic of customer service. His take on how empathy can take good customer service to great is what makes this article different. And it’s what made us want to share it with you. Enjoy.


How’s Your Customer Service TAO?

Written By Alerus Small Business Connect, April 16, 2012


The word “tao” is usually translated as “way”, “road”, “method”, “technique” or “principle”. You probably already knew that. As related to customer service, it can mean “thank,apologize and offer”. That was new learning for us thanks to an article by Matt Mickiewicz in OPEN Forum. He starts out by saying that unhappy customers are a valuable asset.

“Unhappy customers as a valuable asset”…that caught our attention. With flashbacks to adages of how unhappy customers tend to spread the “unlove” about a less than desirable customer service situation, we kept reading. We’re glad we did and think you will be, too. Read on for good reminders and refreshing new insights, and check out other customer service tips on our site.


April Economic Indicator Report

Written By Dr. David T. Flynn, April 10, 2012

The new reality of business means that companies need to be ever-more aware of macro economic events and assess the potential impact these events have on their own day-to-day operations and long-term plans. Alerus’ goal is to help ensure that customers have access to good information. This monthly report provides more than just data on economic trends; it provides expert insight to help you make sense of the information.

Download the PDF: Alerus Monthly Insights:  April

Overall assessment: There are more signs of improvement in the U.S. economy this month. Equity markets reflect these improvements, and we also see some signs of improvement in housing and labor markets. Recovery is clearly taking hold, though again, the quality of the recovery has been less than desired. Lingering issues related to foreclosures continue to cast doubt over the ability of housing markets to demonstrate consistent, long-run improvement. Consumer spending shows signs of increasing, and faster than the level of income, which raises concerns about repeating the mistakes of the recent past.


Do you have questions about how Alerus Financial can help you reach your goals? We welcome the opportunity to discuss the many ways we can support you!

Dr_-David-T_-Flynn4Data and the related opinions have been compiled by Alerus Financial’s strategic information partner, Dr. David T. Flynn.Dr. David T. Flynn is an Associate Professor of Economics and Director of the Bureau of Business & Economic Research at the College of Business & Public Administration, University of North Dakota. Dr. Flynn has developed forecast models for personal income and employment in North Dakota, and analyzed small business location patterns for the top 200 cities in North Dakota. His commentary on the North Dakota economy has appeared in print and online publications such as BusinessWeek, NewsWeek, American Banker, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and in newspaper and magazines from the United States, Brazil and Finland. Dr. Flynn is a member of the International Institute of Forecasters, the National Association for Business Economics, and many other professional organizations.


Get Out the Dust Mops: It’s Spring Cleaning Time

Written By Alerus Small Business Connect, April 6, 2012

The sight of green grass can put a spring in our step and a smile on our face. The fresh air seems to nudge us to get out the supplies for spring cleaning to make way for a renewed start.111779891

A recent post in Small Business Trends got us thinking beyond the “norms” of spring cleaning. It talks about sprucing up your small business financials. Interesting, huh? We kept reading and nabbed some great tips about how to identify expenses and activities that are no longer delivering value.

Now that we were in the spring cleaning mood, we got curious: what else could we do to “dust off” our small business a bit and shine it up for spring? This post on – with great tips for streamlining email, revisiting goals, and saving money – was exactly what we were looking for. Take a look at these resources…and happy spring cleaning!