Archives for posts with tag: video

Digital signage is something I have embraced more and more over the years and this post is an attempt to share some of those technological solutions. Managing multiple veterinary hospitals, these solutions are obviously geared towards the needs of the veterinary hospitals as are the pictured examples; however, these examples will also work with any business trying to achieve the same goals. I also only use PCs; however, most of these solutions should work with Macs or other platforms.

Delivering Video Content

The simplest and cheapest way I have found to deliver video content is to use Apple TVs. These are a simple “set top” boxes that allow for the streaming of video content from the internet or from a networked server computer running iTunes. Please note this would not be your main network server, although I guess is could be, but is more likely just be a conveniently located computer running iTunes that acts as a content server. A monitor can just be plugged into the Apple TV using an HDMI cable and the Apple TV can access the network via an ethernet cable or Wi-Fi (I would recommend the ethernet cable.)

Apple TV
Rear of the Apple TV

For example, a playlist of video content can be created on YouTube and then streamed to the Apple TV. Alternatively, content is stored on a local computer, categorized Music Videos instead of Home Videos, and then put in a playlist. The playlist can then be selected, on repeat, from the “computer” icon in the Apple TV setup and then streamed.

Please note that you should always have permission, or own the content, that you are displaying to the public for copyright reasons.

Theses days most “Smart TVs” have a built in YouTube app meaning it is possible to not use the Apple TV boxes at all and just stream directly from YouTube. YouTube allows for the creation of playlists and content can be unlisted so that only those that are logged into your account or who have a direct link can video those videos. The downside to this is that it means uploading all content and then continuously streaming it from the internet. That’s a lot of bandwidth and time moving around very large files. It obviously also means replying on an internet connection for delivery and an outside service which may change its policies on advertising at any time.

The upside to streaming content like this is that multiple new playlists can be created from a central location and then played back whenever ready from the display using the Apple TV remote or the smart TV remote.

The downside to using streaming, whether directly to a smart TV or to an Apple TV box and then a to a display is that multiple displays cannot be synced. In my experience this is not a problem for most applications, but if having the same thing displaying on multiple displays at the same time is important then combining an Apple TV system with a Wolfpack system (see below) will achieve this.  

Displaying a Computer Screen

Many computer programs have dashboards, censuses, electronic whiteboards, PowerPoint, or even just CCTV feeds that it would be helpful to displayed around a building. One can obviously just use individual computers and monitors for this job. However, this can be expensive in terms of software and hardware, and often is just not ergonomically satisfying due to the size of the PC and needing a mouse and keyboard to make changes and general maintenance.

Using individual computers to run displays from Practice Management Software (PMS)

HMDI over ethernet is a possible solution. There are a few different systems out there, but I really like the Wolfpack system from HDTV Supply.

The Wolfpack Matrix Switcher with Transmitter and Receiver boxes

The Wolfpack system does not send HDMI signals over a building’s network, rather it converts HDMI signals to Ethernet and then back again. A central matrix switch allows the administrator to route inputs to outputs as needed.

A Computer running PMS displayed at multiple locations using the Wolfpack system

As you can see in the above image, the display HDMI signal from a computer is sent to a Wolfpack transmitter box and converted so it can run over Ethernet. In turn, this Ethernet cable is plugged into the matrix switch which then sends the signal to as many receivers as needed. Each outlet will need its own Ethernet cable / route. These Ethernet outputs are then plugged into Wolfpack receiver boxes and converted back into HDMI which can then be plugged into the displays.

If setting up a system like this, I strongly recommend having a display local to the computer rather than just replying on the remote displays. This can be achieved by having a second video card in the computer or by having an additional Wolfpack receiver box and monitor where the computer is.

A more complicated wolfpack system with two different computers displaying different information from the PMS to multiple locations

These systems are extremely flexible, but please be aware that since each display requires its own Ethernet route existing ethernet lines can get used up fast and therefore cause problems for your traditional computer network. Another advantage of this system is that adding a new display is only as expensive as the display itself and a new receiver box.

It is possible to combine both the Apple TV system and the Wolfpack system to allow for content displays to display the same content in sync with each other. The HDMI output of the Apple TV plugs into a Wolfpack transmitter box and from there the signal is routed to Wolfpack receiver boxes and the attached displays. Again, I would strongly recommend if setting up a system like this to have a display local to the Apple TV for setup and maintenance purposes.

Screen Savers as Digital Signage    

Although the need for screen savers on modern computers is not longer the requirement it once was, the tools offered by screen savers on individual PCs makes for great static digital signage. Images, not video as of this writing, can be displayed sequentially or in a random order on some or all of a building’s computers. Indeed, it is even possible to have multiple different sequences running on different computers depending on the companies needs or where those computers are in the building itself. The huge advantage of using screen savers is that there is no hardware or software to be purchased; the screens and computers already exist.

Screen savers as digital signage also has the added advantage of the simplicity of using images and is therefore a great starting point for beginners trying to introduce other team members to the benefits of using digital signage.

Screen savers being used to display new employee information throughout the building

The way to achieve screen saver digital signage is to use the “photo” screen saver tool on each individual computer. This is time consuming but only needs to be done once. The photo screen saver tool is generally found under “settings” and then “display” on PCs and needs to point to a folder on the network, preferably the server, that contains the images to be displayed. Windows, displays images in numerical and / or alphabetical order of the file name. If a particular order is needed, then the naming convention of the images in the folder needs to be considered. To have a separate set of images for a different set of computers or area of the building simply have second folder and point those computers screen savers to that location on the network.

Screen savers in an exam room being used to deliver marketing information while clients wait

With a probably configured system, adding new images into the screen saver is merely a matter of dropping new images into the correct folder. To remove images, just remove them from the folder. A discussion of what is trying to be achieved is probably worth having with the network administrator or IT vendor as the networked folder for the images will probably require access adjustments.

Screen savers being used to deliver staff bios to clients in an exam room

Pro tip – getting the speed at which images change, particularly if those images contain a lot of text can be tricky. Most screen saver tools just have slow medium or fast as options. However, duplicating images and giving them sequential file names (1a.jpg and 1b.jpg for example) will allow for an increase in the time spent on any one image. Please note this does not work if the photos are being displayed in a random order.

Digital signage is a great dynamic tool; however, it is only as good as the content that is displayed on it. Consideration as to what is going to be displayed, how it is going to generated, and who is responsible for updating are all key questions that need answered before jumping into the world of digital signage.  

In this ongoing series we look at ways of preventing employee theft.  In this part we take a look at best practices for preventing theft when working with cash, in part two, we look at how to prevent Credit Card theft from the business and customers, in part three, we look at inventory theft, and in part four we look at time theft.

There is an old saying in management circles; if you have not found theft in your business you are not looking hard enough.

Most business thefts are crimes of opportunity. If you remove these opportunities, or make the likelihood of a thief being caught more certain, you can prevent most thefts. Don’t underestimate the value of deterrence! The way to remove these opportunities is to have systems in place that immediately indicate when there has been a problem.

Although all thefts are about money at some level, there can also be a certain amount of revenge and intellectual challenge. The disgruntled employee proving how clever they are by being able to “beat the system” and thereby the manager, or owner, they feel undervalued by is a common theme in workplace thefts.

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Image Courtesy  of Pixabay

Trust No One

A key concept in theft prevention is to not trust anyone – that includes the people that you trust. While that sounds like an oxymoron, it is actually an appropriate way to ensure that you do not place your team in a posted tells difficult situation. What that means is that the systems you put in place should never place too much trust in any one person and therefore there should be no suspicions about anyone, because there are never any situations where more than one person has access to cash. A system that embraces this model is not put in place because you do not trust the people that you work with, or who work for you. They are put in place so that you do not have to be put in the position of having to distrust them.

It should go without saying, that there must be a system in place for recording inventory and services sold and paid for by clients. Even if you are selling penny candies by the lb. there needs to be a system in place to know how many lbs. have been sold by the end of the day, or shift, and how much money has been brought in. This most basic of elements is what all other elements of a theft protection system stem from. This system must also be capable of issuing a receipt to the customer showing what they bought, how much they paid, and what change, if any change, was given back.

Video cameras which record, and are secure, should always observe all transactions. The quality of cameras is such now that individual bills can be counted, and identified, significantly simplifying the job of finding errors or theft. It should be noted that cameras can also be used to exonerate employees and therefore should be seen as a win-win for both employer and employee.

If a theft is uncovered then the employee concerned must be terminated. It is generally up to the manager, or an owner, of a business whether to prosecute. I generally advise to go ahead and prosecute as long as there is evidence and not just a strong suspicion as it sends a message to other employees. If procedures where not followed, and there is a suspicion that a theft may have taken place, then at minimum disciplinary action should be taken, depending on the employee and whether this a repeat offense should indicate whether this action should be termination.

It is important to keep in mind that the discovery of an issue or potential issue should be seen as the first sign of a much bigger problem. This will not be the first theft, but only the first theft that you have discovered.

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Image Courtesy of Pixabay

Cash

When cash handling is involved in the daily operations of a business, then there should be a dedicated cashier per shift. If the requirements of the business are such that multiple people handle cash, then each cashier should have their own cash drawer. The cashier should count their cash drawer that the start of their shift. A standard and set amount cash should in the drawer each day. I should clarify that only a cashier has access to the cash drawer. Other members of staff may receive a cash payment from a customer, but only the cashier should process the payment and issue the client’s change. In an ideal world, the cashier would be the only one to be involved in all cash transactions, but that is not always possible.

At the end of the casher’s shift the cash drawer needs to be counted and the cash taken in should match the transactions recorded in your sales system, leaving the starting amount of cash that the drawer for the following shift / day. The cashier can be involved with the balancing of their drawer; however, a supervisor, or manager, should also be involved.

If the cash drawer is over then most likely a transaction has not been processed correctly: services / inventory was given to the customer, but the transaction was not recorded in the sales system. It should also be noted that the client would also not have received a receipt. High cash volume businesses, such as fast food restaurants, often enlist the help of customers to ensure they receive a correct receipt by offering a reward, such as the meal for no charge. This is to ensure that transactions are recorded in the sales system.

There are two explanations for cash being over. A genuine mistake in the processing of the transaction was made, or a potential theft has been interrupted. Hopefully a partially completed transaction will be able to be traced down through your sales system and the mystery resolved. However, it is important to be on the lookout for employees telling customers that the printer is broken, and therefore they cannot have a receipt, or unconcluded invoices being printed as receipts. These are indications of a theft taking place – the employee places the cash in their pocket and the transaction not processed at all, or only partially processed. An ongoing search for partially completed transactions should be part of a general auditing process.

Cash being under is, again, either a mistake with the transaction (unlikely – particularly if it is a large amount) or just straight theft. If the integrity of the cash drawer has been maintained throughout the shift, then the cashier is responsible. This could be cause for disciplinary action up to, and including, termination. I am not in favor of making cashiers pay back drawer shortages. If the cashier is stealing, they are just giving the business back the money they stole, and everyone thinks that is the end of the matter. If the cashier did not steal they are being penalized for a system problem.

If cash drawers are routinely under, but by amounts that could be human error, and the cashier(s) themselves seem just as frustrated by the problems as you, then a potential solution is the put each cash amount received into a sealed envelope and then into the cash drawer. This allows for the balancing of the individual transactions against the sales processing system. The down side to sealing the cash from each transaction, other that the quantity of envelopes used each shift, is that is significantly increases the amount of cash in the drawer that is required as all change has to come from this “float” and therefore a larger amount of cash may be required. This carries its own risk and the total volume on cash on the premises is higher than it might otherwise be. But it might be the only solution to constant shortages. It should be noted that I have never needed to employ this strategy for any length of time. The theft was either uncovered or the errors stopped when an employee unexpectedly left; one assumes because of the additional scrutiny.

 

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Image Courtesy of Pixabay

 

There are additional red flags to watch out for. Cashiers, who use their own pockets for “storing change because we are busy” should be treated with suspicion. This is the mishandling of cash and should lead to at minimum an explanation of why this is a problem with additional disciplinary action and increased scrutiny. Clients who complain about not receiving the right change, that their receipt / invoice is wrong, or that don’t understand why they owe money when they are sure they paid their bill during their last visit are all red flags of theft. Usually in these instances the employee concerned, if you can track them down will not be able to explain what happened. Of course, customers can make mistakes too, but in my experience these are easy to find and show to the customer why they are mistaken.

Once the day’s cash is counted, is found to be correct, and the cashiers drawer has the correct float, the cash should be sealed, with a deposit slip, and secured; ideally in a safe.

A senior manager, not one that helped settle the cashier’s drawer, should then double check the settlement, usually the next day, with the sales system. It is important that a copy of the deposit slip that actually goes to the bank is kept on site. The senior manager, or a 3rd party, should then deposit the cash at the bank and the deposit receipt should be matched to the deposit slip. These, of course should also match the sales system and ultimately the amount recorded on the bank statement.

Next week we look at Credit Cards!

One of my most popular blog posts is “The Cost of Servant Leadership” which I published in 2012. Due to some renewed interested, I thought it would make a nice first choice as the core content for my first experiment into animation. I hope you enjoy!

If you would like to read the original post, The Cost of Servant Leadership, you can find it here.

 

(Click on the image above to download the book from Amazon!)

Being, essentially, 128 pages long (the appendix takes it up to 163 pages) and a free download it would be difficult to complain too much about the e-book: “Winning the Zero Moment of Truth.” Luckily you really don’t have to, as it makes for an engaging, and brief, read. It also has the potential to become an important work for those of us who care about marketing our businesses and the tools that we use to achieve that.

The Zero Moment of Truth is an attempt to update a model, first coined by Procter and Gamble in 2005, used to describe the marketing’s effect on the consumer. The model goes something like this: Stimulus; in the form of an advertisement, First Moment of Truth; when the consumer sees the product on the shelf in the store, and Second Moment of Truth; when the customer experiences the product they have bought. Although the terms were coined in the 21st century, the concept would be understood by a character on the TV show Mad Men. Zero Moment of Truth is an attempt to explain and define how search, and social media, has changed our buying and consuming habits as now there is now an additional step to this marketing model. This additional step is that advertising is now prodding us, the consumer, to research, ask our friends, and ask even complete strangers, about the product online before we get anywhere near the store or an e-commerce site.

Inter-spaced with video introductions to each chapter by marketers and search professionals, the book neatly dissects what the Zero Moment of Truth means for all of us – including consumers. It particularly, has no time for manufacturers who feel that their product does not generate the interest for social media – I wish my business had as many fans as “Bounce dryer sheets” to give you an example!

Another, potentially even more important, concept in the book is the idea that customers do not talk about bad experiences online. Obviously, it is not always the case, but Mr. Lecinski puts forward a compelling case that in the majority of circumstances, clients want to give good reviews far more than they want to give bad ones – preferring to forget about bad experiences. This being the case, the book argues, that unless you have a serious problem in your business (and you’d probably want to know about it if you did) reviews and comments are a chance to engage your clients and should not be ignored.

Since Mr. Lecinski is managing director, U.S. Sales & Service, for Google a book that extolls the virtues of search and reviews (Google places anyone?) could be seen as a little self-serving. This is probably fair, but it does not make anything that is said in the book any more relevant and important. Although, it does have to be said that the lack of mentions of Facebook (mentioned five times) and Twitter (mentioned twice) can be a bit jarring when compared to Google (mentioned 72 times). This is a minor gripe, however, and a great book from a very clever marketer.

I do, however, have a major gripe about this book and others of its ilk.

I read a lot, and when I do I listen to music – like I imagine most people do. Adding video into the mix is a logical extension of the e-book medium and I think it has a place – particularly in a book such as this – is logical. The problem with video content in books, however, is when the producers decide that they have to add background music as they would if they were producing a spot for television. Some basic understanding of the way your product is being consumed please people! I don’t want to have to mute what I’m listening to at the start of each chapter just so I can listen to someone speak!

This is still a very good book and well worth your time even if you never watch the videos – which I suggest you do – just remember to keep the remote for the music handy.

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