Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Simple tips to keep customers smiling. On his blog, Quick Sprout, tech entrepreneur Neil Patel has a simple formula that quite succinctly sums up the goal of good customer service--"Smiling customers make for successful businesses." With that in mind, Patel has a list of 12 tips to get customers smiling. The suggestions range from basic common-sense things, such as having good manners, to things that sometimes businesses tend to overlook, like following up with customers or finding ways to make them happy when they aren't expecting it. They may be simple things, but as Patel explains, they go "a long way towards cultivating positive feelings, and your customers will remember that you treated them well."
How to regain your pricing power. It's an issue many online companies have to address at some point: how to prevent the bottom from dropping out of your pricing structure. MIT Sloan Management Review has eight ideas for you, and some of them are extreme. One suggests banning customers who abuse return policies and another encourages buy-back programs in which companies buy back their excess inventory that is being sold through independent resellers at steep discounts, and then ship it overseas to protect prices.
Israel's tech start-up gold mine. The Israeli Defense Force has long contributed to top advancements in science and technology. But it now seems to be propelling Israel's economy as well. This week The Economist reports that Israel's technology exports grew by more than five percent last year, thanks in part to its army's conscription and training regimen. The IDF trains its high-tech units with the equivalent of a bachelor's degree in computer science and encourages soldiers to take on a creative, entrepreneurial spirit by asking questions and pitching ideas to superiors. This culture has fostered the growth of start-ups such as Check Point, a large developer of internet-security software, and Optibase, a video-technology company based in Tel Aviv. Optibase vice president Eli Garten said his firm, and the top talent it recruits, might not exist without training from the IDF.
Hurricane Earl guns for the East Coast. Business owners along the East Coast of the U.S. might want take steps to prepare for Hurricane Earl, a category four hurricane with winds of over a hundred miles an hour (via Business Week). The hurricane might reach North Carolina by Friday and if history is any indicator, most business owners are unprepared for the impact of a natural disaster.
Google's social media rampage. Google has gobbled up its fifth start-up this month alone, this time purchasing SocialDeck, a mobile and social media game developer (via Reuters). The M&A flurry has mostly centered around social media and gaming companies, fueling speculation that Google is looking to build a strong Facebook competitor. Meanwhile, Zuckerberg's empire has scored a not unexpected point with MySpace singing its swan song. But Google's raw muscle shouldn't be underestimated either. See how a mere twitch of their algorithm cost this business owner $4 million.
A new iPod? Zzzzzzzzz. Tomorrow, Steve Jobs will appear at Apple's sixth annual September press conference. As he does every year, Jobs is expected to reveal some new music-related gadget, like a new iPod nano, which begs the question: does anyone actually want a new iPod nano? As Fortune reports, two years ago, the presentation was so underwhelming that the price of Apple shares fell 4.7 percent in two hours. So what might Jobs (the master of hype, himself) do this year to make the conference relevant again? Fortune suggests a few possibilities, including a nano with a touchscreen and app capabilities, a new iPod touch equipped with a front-facing camera, or the widely-anticipated $99 Apple TV. Whatever the announcement, though, Fortune writes, "If you go with no expectations, you might just enjoy the show."