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15 Select Solutions That Inspire Change
W
What Type of Strategic Plan Do You Need?

What's the purpose? Who's the audience? What resources do you have?

W
What Elements are Required for A Business Plan?

Historical and Projected Financials, Business and Industry Overview, and Management Evaluation

J
Jump Start Your Business Planning Process

A detailed list of questions business owners should answer to help complete a business plan.

P
Pitch Your Business Idea to Lenders and Investors

Elevator Pitch, Executive Summary and Presentation Deck to tell your story.

M
Meet Your Money Maker Advertising Campaign

Focus on solving customer problems not product / service features and functions.

S
Simpler Processes. More Smiles. In Action.

How to distinguish your business from the competition through customer experience.

P
Practice the Customer Service Golden Rules

Customer criteria to rate your using your products /services - Successful, Easy, and Happy.

C
Customer Issue Resolution Process Execution

Define, analyze, and eliminate customer pain points. Then prevent future issues.

H
Help Desk Call Center Quality Improvement

Don't put your customers on hold while you search for a solution. Create Quick Reference Guide.

G
Great Customer Experiences = Real Money

Research shows delivering remarkable customer experiences builds business value.

W
Win Customer Loyalty from the Start

The first 90-day experience customers have with your business sets the tone.

A
Attract, Retain, and Grow Customer Relationships

Ways to figure out which customers may leave and how to save the relationship.

F
Fearsome Frontline Employees Make A Difference

Finding the right customer-first employees is key to building your business.

W
We Serve Colleagues Across the Organization

Breaking down the silos between the front line and back office improves customer experience.

K
Know Your Regulatory Risk Profile

Develop guidelines and processes to ensure compliance with industry regulations.

What Type of Business Plan Do You Need?
Whether you need a plan to raise capital or you want one as a strategic tool, Next Level Consulting efficiently guides you through the process of crafting a plan to fit your needs.

There are many things for you to consider when developing a business plan and financial projections. For example, you will need to factor the business plan purpose, audience, and your available resources to determine the level of effort and time commitment. Here are just a few of the things to think about.

The answers to these questions will determine whether your plan will be a two- to three-page summary or a comprehensive document well over twenty pages. Next Level Consulting will help you answer these questions and produce what you need.

What is the purpose?

How will you be using the business plan? It is to:
  • Apply for a loan
  • Obtain investor financing
  • Gain executive and board approval
  • Focus management team on strategic priorities
  • Measure financial and operating performance
  • Build value and position the company for sale

Who's the audience?

It's important to understand who will be reviewing your plan so you address their expectations.  We'll draft a plan with these reviewers in mind.
  • Lenders
  • Private equity firms, wealthy investors, friends and family
  • Board of Directors
  • Prospective employees
  • Potential buyers
  • Landlords

Who will make the plan?

What internal resources do you have to complete the business plan and financial projections? Considerations include:
  • Assembling historical financials – income statement, balance sheet, cash flow, and tax returns
  • Ability to build three-, five-, or ten-year financial projections
  • Informational research on the industry, competitors, and trends
  • Management experience and competence in marketing, finance, operations, and production
What’s in a Business Plan?
Elements of a business plan and financial projections are generally the same. The level of detail is different depending on its intended use and audience.

Once you have evaluated your internal resources, contact us to work alongside your management team to fill any gaps and get the business plan and financial projections done in the required timeframe. Lists of the areas we can address in a business plan follows.

Financials - Historical and Projected

  • Three-year historical financials including income statement, balance sheet and cash flow.
  • Up to 10-years financial projection of income statement, balance sheet and cash flow, along with key operating and financial assumptions.
  • Projections on a monthly basis for up to three years
  • Break-even and sensitivity analysis
  • Personal financial statements and tax returns for principals owning 20% or more of the business
  • Historical tax returns for the last three years

Business - Products and Market

  • Description of business, products and services, and legal structure
  • Overview of industry trends, the market, competitors and your go-to-market strategy
  • Policies, procedures, guidelines and process details
  • Explanation of strategic plans including key milestones and resource needs
  • Discussion of any special or unique considerations including litigation

Management - Biographies and Organization

  • Biography of principals and key management highlighting how prior experience ensures the business success
  • Organizational chart specifying roles and responsibilities
Jump Start Your Business Planning

Potential lenders and investors will need a good understanding of your business to make their decision.


To make sure the information you provide best describes your enterprise, prepare answers to these questions.


If you need help drafting answers, we’re here to help.

What Products or Services Are You Offering?

  • What products/services do you provide?
  • How many days a week are you open for business?
  • Hours of operation?
  • Approximately, how many clients do you serve per day?
  • How does your product/service differ from other similar products on the market?
  • How will outside financing affect your product/service?

Who Are Your Customers?

  • Who do you sell to? Retailers? Wholesalers? The Public?
  • Who is the final customer of the product/service your offer?
  • Where are your customers located?
  • How many potential customers are there?
  • What is their average income?
  • What are they like – family, single, retired?
  • What type of lifestyle do they lead?
  • How much money do they spend on this type of product/service?
  • Why, When and Where do these customers buy your product or service?
  • What is your share of this market? And how many customers do you reach?
  • How will outside financing allow you to increase your share of the market by bringing you more customers?

Is Your Location Key To Your Success?

  • Explain where your business will be located?
  • Is this location easily accessible by Car? Public Transportation? Foot Traffic?
  • Is there parking available for your customers?
  • What kinds of businesses are around or close by your location? Are these businesses complementary to your?
  • Describe your building features? Provide a floor plan, if available.
  • Include any maps showing location of your business and its nearest competitors?
  • Provide the terms of your lease for this space.

Who Is Your Competition?

  • Where is your competition located?
  • How far away from you?
  • How many competitors are there? Give names if possible.
  • How profitable are they?
  • How are they different from your business?
  • Do you expect to take sales away from these competitors? If so, explain how.

How Do You Reach Your Customers?

  • How will you reach the people you sell to?
  • Will you use sales representatives? Distributors? Internet?
  • How will your customers hear about your product/service?
  • Would you advertise? Is so, where?
  • What methods would you use? Social Media? Television? Radio? Newspapers? Direct Mail? Promotions? Referrals?
  • Describe any unique marketing ideas in this section.

What Are Your Estimated Sales?

  • What are your projected monthly and annual sales?
  • What are your costs of sales [merchandise, materials, labor, etc.]?
  • What are your overhead expenses [rent, insurance, utilities, etc.] by month and annually?
  • How much money do you need to cover your personal expenses?
  • How much do you have to sell to breakeven?
  • What things can seriously change your projections – economy, competitors, etc.?
  • How will outside financing help you fund your business?

Who Will Operate Your Business?

  • Who will be in charge of the business?
  • How many employees will you have? Provide management names and titles?
  • Describe you experience and expertise in operating similar types of operations or general business experience.
  • List the duties and qualifications of each employee, including years of experience in assigned position.
  • Include personal resume of any employee who will have administrative responsibilities, such as manager or assistant manager or any other employee with authority or more than 20% ownership of the business.

What Type of Company Is Your Business?

  • What type of organization is your business [Corporation, Partnership, Sole Proprietor]? 
  • If a Corporation, who is on the Board of Directors?
  • List percentage owned by each partner or shareholder.
  • Provide an organizational chart.
  • Where is the company headquartered?

What Capital Will You Provide?

  • How much capital do you have to invest?
  • What is the source of capital – cash, home equity, assets, gift from family and friends?
Pitch It!
ELEVATOR PITCH.  EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.  PRESENTATION DECK.
Now you have your detailed business plan. It’s time to raise capital. You’ll need a couple of documents based off the information in the business plan. Each one is a more concise summary of the key elements and value proposition outlined in the plan.
Most likely your initial contact will be the Elevator Pitch. Think of a short elevator ride where you have the just a few moments, maybe minutes, to get an investor to consider your project or a referral partner to pass your project idea on to someone that has the capital you need.
If they’re interested, you’ll probably be asked to send them an Executive Summary. This two-page document is a very concise overview of key information contained in the business plan.
When they want to know more, you’ll be invited to make your in person pitch in front of one or more investment partners. For that you’ll need a PowerPoint (or equivalent) presentation deck. The essential elements of the presentation include one slide on each of the following:
  1. Introduction of the business
  2. Team Profiles highlighting how talent is aligned to business needs
  3. Product Description of key features, functions, and uses
  4. Market Analysis of trends and growth opportunities
  5. Business Model summarizing target customers, value proposition, delivery channels, go-to-market strategy, critical operations, strategic partnerships, major expenses, and revenue streams.
  6. Competitors and the business SWOT
  7. Financial Summary of historical and projected income, cash flow, and balance sheet, along with an estimated business valuation
  8. Conclusion and “The Ask”
We’re adept at extracting critical details from the business plan to craft an engaging Executive Summary and Presentation Deck. We’ll also help you practice telling your story.
Don’t find customers for your products, find products for your customers.
~ Seth  Godin
Meet Your Money Maker
NEW BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT, ADVERTISING, AND PROMOTIONS
Instead of selling product and service benefits, solve customer problems.

Problem

A well-known commercial finance lender decided to enter a new market in which they were unknown. The challenge was to build awareness and be considered by small business owners.

Solution

Develop an integrated marketing and promotions campaign that:
  1. Focused on why a small business owner needed financing instead of banking product and service jargon
  2. Introduced the lenders’ 80-year history with over 400,000 small businesses to build trust and credibility
We created a series of direct mailers with a response card and leave-behind materials for salespeople. Here are some examples of how we described the products and services offered in terms of how a small business owner would use the funds:

  • Commercial Real Estate Purchases [Commercial Real Estate Loan]
  • Machinery or Equipment Financing [Leasing]
  • Debt Refinancing [Long-Term Debt]
  • Working Capital [Line of Credit]

Result

This approach yielded an initial 2% response rate. More importantly, small business owners kept the materials handy and when they had a financial need up to a year later, they gave us a call.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
~ Confucius
Simpler Processes. More Smiles.
PROJECT IMPLEMENTATION AND PROGRAM MANAGEMENT
There is not much difference in the products and services many businesses offer. 
What distinguishes one from another is the customer experience. 

Across industries, among various products and services, people’s lives are made simpler when firms excel in focusing on making it easy and enjoyable to do business with your company.

Problem

Branding initiative called for back office operations to deliver on three service principles – Make It Simple, Make Them Smile, See It Through. How do managers and employees do these things and what does it look like in action?

Solution

Gather managers and employees in the room and role-play the correct behaviors and the processes achieve. Then get them to brainstorm on how to change. Below are some examples of customer-centered principles in action.

Make It Simple
  • Cut the clutter and complexity to save the customer time and effort
  • Be are straightforward, clear, and cut the industry speak blah, blah, blah
  • Set clear expectations about what we are delivering

Make Them Smile
  • Make the customer feel welcome and taken care of
  • Be informal, friendly, and fun – we sure don’t intimidate.
  • Do more than the customer expects to create a great experience

See It Through
  • Take personal responsibility to make sure a customer issue is taken care of – no saying its not my job
  • Work together no matter who you are or where you sit to make this happen – no finger pointing
  • See every customer issue as an opportunity for customer smiles

Result

Ideas continually popped in every employee and managers’ heads on how they could personally deliver on the brand promise. Change came about more quickly and messaging was consistent across the organization. Instead of the canned responses at every interaction, associates were able to customize their interactions to the customers wants and needs at the time.                
The Golden Rule

What’s their customer experience rating criteria?

Your customers are continuously evaluating all the interactions they have with your business. 
In doing so they use these three measures to evaluate the customer experience.

Got It Done!

Customers want 24 x 7 x 365 omnichannel access to your products and services so they can start in one channel, continue to another, and finish where it is convenient. SUCCESSFUL

It Was Simple

Each customer interaction should be empowering by providing intuitive self-service tools and clear concise information to make informed decisions. EASY

Made Me Smile

Hands down customers want consistent execution of the basics by engaged and excited employees that know what they are doing and take ownership of the customer experience. HAPPY

Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing, layout, processes, and procedures.
~ Tom Peters
Customer Issue Resolution
PROCESS REENGINEERING
Issues are going to come up. How you respond to them can make all the difference.

Problem

Information about problems was siloed in different departments. Resolving the issues often required coordination of multiple stakeholders including legal, accounting, technology, and compliance.

Solution

Develop a repository to report all problems as they arise, an issue resolution process and a way for stakeholders to work together to correct the problem and communicate the results to the customer. The Customer Issue Resolution process spanned these five phases.
  1. Define Issue – Identify, describe and escalate. Complete CIR form and submit it to the database.
  2. Analyze Impact – Determine which customers are impacted and the severity of the situation.
  3. Resolve Problem – Designate what stakeholders should be involved and jointly develop a resolution plan. Where appropriate, pilot and test the recommended solution. Implement the plan.
  4. Build Controls – Investigate the root cause(s) of the initial problem and institute controls to prevent it from happening again.
  5. Validate and Close– Review customer feedback (surveys, calls, letters, emails, social media, etc.) to determine if issue has been resolved to the customers’ satisfaction, if there are recurring incidents or if the solution had unintended consequences. When issue is clearly resolved, prepare wrap-up documentation and remove issue from active CIR list.

Result

The company had fewer management surprises, recovered from their mistakes more quickly and was able to provide a consistent customer focused response that preserved relationships and built customer loyalty.
We can’t help everyone.  But everyone can help someone.
~ Ronald Reagan
Help Desk Call Center Quality
QUALITY CUSTOMER COMMUNICATION
Technology is great, but sometimes you just want to get an answer and move on. Don’t put customers on hold.

Problem

Over the years the company had produced a series of detailed online guides and job aids. To meet regulatory requirement and ensure consistency the “how to” information was often hard to find in the midst of extensive policy and guideline information.

For experienced employees, this was frustrating when they were trying to help a customer and just needed the procedures. So many of them began to print out the sections they needed and kept them at their desks in a disorganized pile.

As items changes or policies were updated, papers stuffed in the desk were not updated creating additional regulatory and operational risk.

Solution

Create a quick reference tool for experienced associates to reference. It extracted directions on completing the most frequently requested transactions and responses to commonly asked questions. Topics included:
  • Acronyms and jargon
  • Where to call and when for specific products and service
  • Key addresses for mail and e-mail contact
  • Common error messages and what to do

Result

More informed employees that could provide better customer service. Fewer mistakes and rework. Better compliance with policies, procedures, and guidelines.
Maximize Income

Extraordinary Customer Experiences = Real Money

How are you outpacing the competition? Forrester Research correlation of its Customer Experience Index with stock market values found that over time delivering consistently good customer experiences generates higher multiples and greater enterprise value.

By starting with the simple fixes and later tackling the big, complex customer issues represents the greatest untapped source of revenue increase and expense reduction. By removing pain points, you:
  • Lower service costs by creating fewer problems
  • Reduce customer defections and increase incremental purchases
  • Grow sales by word-of-mouth and online referrals
  • Real money builds enterprise value.

All the cost savings and revenue growth produced by focusing on the customer translates into greater profitability and better returns. Plus a positive buzz from customers gets investor interest to find out just what management is up to.
It takes months to find a customer and only seconds to lose one.
Welcome Aboard!
NEW CUSTOMER ONBOARDING AND 90-DAY WELCOME PROGRAM
What happens in the first 90 days of a customer experience with you often sets the tone for the relationship. 
So it is important to get off to a good start.

Problem

The current welcome experience was impersonal, didn’t provide information on how the company’s products and services met customer needs and sent inconsistent messages.

Solution

Customer experience team examined what happens in the first 90 days – each touch point for customer interaction – to design a better onboarding process. Multiple opportunities were identified to streamline and improve the welcome experience including:

  • Deliver more personalized welcome communication that used the customer’s name, product or service purchased, channel used, and a specific contact for questions or problems
  • Consolidate communications when multiple products or services are purchased
  • Create a welcome package that gives the customer an overview of the long-term relationship and plants the seed for future purchases – move from transaction to relationship communication
  • Establish set intervals to reach out to customers by specific relationship managers. Provide them with consistent messaging and prepare relationship managers to respond to any issues raised in the discussion.

Result

Eliminated unwanted, impersonal, and unnecessary “Welcome” form letters for significant cost savings. Gave the customer personal contact that opened the opportunity for cross-sell. Allowed relationship manager to quickly resolve any onboarding issues before the customer even considered leaving.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
~ Bill Gates
Stop Customer Attrition
CUSTOMER RETENTION, SURVEYS, ANALYSIS, AND REPORTING
With average customer turnover estimated at 30%, finding a way to attract, retain, and build customer relationships is key to financial success and provides a competitive advantage.

Problem

How do you find out what your customers want and need? More importantly what’s keeping prospects from becoming your customers or driving them to competitors?

Solution

Complete a detailed analysis of the customer base and share that information with management so they can adjust policies, procedures, processes, and employee actions to focus on customer desires.

Result

The customer retention analysis answered these questions led to creation of personas to guide process improvement, web application design, and unique marketing messages.
A summary of the questions to ask is provided by Jeannie Bliss.

Who are your customers?

  • Research demographics, characteristics, and trends
  • Identify behaviors and preferences
  • Create an overview of existing segmentation
  • Prepare profitability analysis of customers by segment demographics

Which customers are your winning or losing?

  • Investigate characteristics of new, leaving, and those who choose competitors
  • Determine which segments you’re attracting
  • Uncover which segments and profit groups you’re losing
  • Ascertain if the competition acquiring different types of customers and why

Where are the pockets of opportunities?

  • Examine high-level anger-makers, concerns, and unmet needs
  • Compare product and channel usage trends
  • Study what’s driving customer desire for change?
  • Develop insights and hypotheses about potential target groups

How do you attract your target customers?

  • Conduct a deep dive to discover customer needs in greater detail
  • Assess and align the needs with the company’s value proposition
  • Identify potential target groups with the most promising opportunities
  • Design a new marketing and promotions campaign messaging
EXTRAORDINARY CUSTOMER EXPERIENCES START WITTH AWESOME EMPLOYEES
Fearsome Front Line
Empowering employees takes considerable effort, but is worth getting right because employees are often the primary point of customer contact, employment costs are typically one of the largest business expenses, and experienced, productive employees are valuable assets.

By selecting employees with the right temperament, providing them with the knowledge, skills and techniques to perform to their full potential, and performance goals and incentives you build employee excitement and desire to deliver extraordinary customer experience with each interaction.

Let us help you find the right person for the job!
Great things are brought about and burdens are lightened through the efforts of many hands anxiously engaged in a good cause.
~ Elder N Russel Ballard
We Serve Colleagues
COORDINATED CUSTOMER SERVICE
Great customer experiences are often the result of everyone being on the same page and working together to get things done.

Problem

If the back-office operates in opposition to the frontline then you are sure to deliver poor customer experiences. When frontline employees would contact the back office because they needed help resolving a customer issue, the back-office didn’t treat the request with a sense of urgency, or they may have talked down to the employee, or they would send them to an online guide. Further complicating matters was duplication in the number of places to call for help, dozens of conflicting help manuals and job aids, and diverse levels of willingness to provide support.

Solution

Launch the “We Serve Colleagues” initiative to rally back-office associates to support the frontline in their efforts to serve the customer. 
To be successful we created a line of sight from the back-office through the frontline directly to the customer, so the back-office sees their connection to delivering extraordinary customer services.

We educated help desk employees that when the frontline called, it was because a customer was sitting directly in front of them and they could not resolve the issue on their own. If they could have, they would have. But they couldn’t, so they called for help.

A culture of service excellence was established by getting the field to:
  • Deliver consistent of customer service by sharing success stories
  • Limit the use of industry jargon in responding to service requests
  • Recognizing and rewarding employees for taking ownership
  • Eliminating confusion and conflict by consolidating help desks and support materials

To ensure the relationships became collaborative, we also held town hall meetings with back-office associates to gather their feedback on additional training ideas and resources that could be provided to the frontline so they were able to easily solve small issues and call for help on big complex issues.
.

Result

Consolidation activities significantly reduced costs. Frontline employees were more empowered to serve the customer and back-office associates were more engaged to tackle the big problems. “Voice of the Customer” surveys reflected higher satisfaction scores. Managers overheard more happy conversations between the frontline and back-office and there was less finger pointing.
Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.
~ Warren Buffet
Calculated Risk
REGULATORY AUDIT AND COMPLIANCE
Compliance with regulatory requirements is a key priority for financial institutions. When you have over 2,500 branches across the country offering multiple products and services over several platforms through many channels, risk is complex.

Problem

Our branch operations team was tasked with updating the branch audit process to improve efficiency. Under the existing system each branch was reviewed annually. Audit teams reviewed 72 deposit activities and another 64 lending operations process performed daily in each branch. Each audit took several days to complete and a findings report was produced.

Solution

To streamline the process and prioritize the audits, the team:
  • Reviewed existing audits to identify items that frequently received a fail or unacceptable rating and areas of the country that had the poorest ratings
  • Evaluated the relative importance of each item and developed a risk rating for each that reflected the likelihood of regulatory sanctions and fines, financial loss, negative reputational impact, and general operating risk
  • Developed a scorecard to provide more precise reporting and focus management attention on those items and areas of the country that posed the greatest risk s.

Result

Reduced the total number of annual branch audits each year and raised performance of high-risk locations. A new ratings system was developed and approved by internal audit and the regulators that created three branch classifications – “Good, Acceptable, and Poor.”

Those that received a ‘Good’ rating were moved to an 18-month review schedule. Acceptable rated branches continued to be reviewed on a 12-month basis with an action plan in place to move them to a Good rating. Poor performing branches were put on a 6-month review schedule and project team member was assigned to the branch to work with branch managers to institute best practices found in high performing banking centers.

The system allowed the auditors to focus on the greatest risk areas while providing much needed, targeted guidance to improve performance.