Truly Thankful Maranda Gibson


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and for the first time in a couple of years I am travelling outside of the DFW area to a very small community of Arkansas, population about 1,000. Surprisingly, this self proclaimed city girl, turned country girl, turned city girl is actually very excited about this trip.

Not too many years ago, I stood on the edge of this town, closed my eyes, and thought about what it would be like when I could get out of there (as many kids in their teenage years do). That's exactly what I did, high school ended, then college and the second I could, and I was on my way to Texas.

Do I love Texas? Yes and I love the opportunities that I wouldn't have had if I had stayed in Arkansas.

I've gotten to the point that I do miss the quiet. I live right by the interstate and just off the flight path for a municipal airport. When I was a kid, I used to love going up to Ozan Point or Alpine Ridge and sitting by the lake, looking at the stars. I never realized how much I would miss it.

We're supposed to be thankful for things this time of year and everyone is always thankful for good health, good friends, great family, steady employment, and the like, but I have a suggestion.

I suggest that we should spend tomorrow being thankful for things outside of the cookie cutter mold. What are you really thankful for? Things that make you smile? Not just your family and kids, but those small things in your day that make you smile and say, "Wow. I'm really glad I saw that."

For me, I'm thankful that tomorrow, I will step outside, look up at the sky and see a blanket of stars not drowned out by city lights. I'm thankful that tomorrow, when I close my eyes, I will hear silence and not the blare of a fire engine or ambulance as it goes on a call.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and all of yours from everyone here at AccuConference.

From Conventions to Teleconferences Maranda Gibson


In the Church of the Customer blog, Jackie Huba wrote about what it takes to throw a killer convention, especially as conventions and the like are taking hits from the recession and swine flu.  Looking over her list, I realized that many of her suggestions could be used to improve teleconferences and make them stand out.

The biggest example I can point to is avoiding the urge to skimp on the guest speaker.  For the convention Huba talked about, they pulled out the stops and got Seth Godin.  Now it might not be a good fit to get Godin for a particular teleconference—or too expensive—but his industry equal would be well worth the trouble; not only to draw attendees, but to give them their money's worth.

Bringing people together is the main point of a convention or teleconference, but we can enhance an participant's experience by taking things a step further than just putting them on a conference call.  A registration page is a good place to start, but instead of having that page as a stand-alone on our website, let's create a portal where they can read about the teleconference; its agenda and speaker—and read about the speaker—see who else is attending, provide a place for comments, download the agenda and other pertinent materials, and send in ideas of what they'd like to hear about.

It's great to get all that information, but now we need to put it to good use.  We can email a newsletter about the teleconference, and provide updates in the weeks beforehand.  We can set up a twitter for the teleconference and engage in pre-discussions about the topics to be covered.  All these things bring us closer to the future attendees, but make them a tighter group as well.

All this doesn't end when the teleconference does.  We can email or make available for download the recording of the teleconference.  We can arrange a post-teleconference Q&A with the speaker on a page on our website.  And if they're up for it, we might even have a discussion session with the speaker on twitter.  All while making ourselves available through twitter, forums on the website portal, email, and phone.

It's the little details that make a great convention, and it's the same for a teleconference.  Taking that extra step, providing another outlet to connect is how we can reach our participants on more levels than just talking at them.

How have you augmented your teleconferences?  Tell us about it.

Three Rules for Twitter and Conferencing Maranda Gibson


If you don't know what Twitter is by now then you should probably crawl out from under the rock that you've been underneath. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it's true. Read any blog and you'll be told that social media is the way of future enterprises. What better way to extend your arms worldwide and invite a multitude of people to get to know you and your business a little better than to connect with them via Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter?

Not too long ago, another one of our fabulous bloggers, George, wrote a blog about using Twitter while being on a conference call. From a small internal conference to the large conference where you're pulling out all the stops, Twitter is a really powerful tool to share ideas and thoughts while you're conferencing.

With that being said, there are some things that you should keep to yourself when you're Twittering while conferencing. In my observations of those who Twitter about conferencing, I have found a couple of things that maybe we should rethink when it comes to integrating Twitter into our conference calls.

Remember that companies who use Twitter use it in a way that allows them to search out people who might be talking about their company. If you're on a conference with a company and you tweet something about wanting to pay attention but you can't because you drank too much the night before (which I have seen many times), and the CEO of CompanyX finds that tweet, you might have just done yourself a lot of damage.  Twitter is for the most part an open forum, so be careful what you say and who's name you start dropping.

Secondly, and this one is very brief, I never want to know what telecommuters are (or not wearing) on a conference. Please do not share. Not just for my sake, but for your own too. The last thing you need is your boss finding out what you're doing when he's letting you work from home or a client seeing what you do in your self employed glory.

Finally, I'd like to address language. Now, I am no saint or angel but there is a time and a place. In your twitter stream in the middle of a conference call as you rant on about how much you hate conference calls is not an acceptable place to express ones anger with such colorful words. In my opinion, you should remember that you might have to answer for these tweets one day and if you're making comments about what an idiot someone on the conference call is or how you would rather be stabbed in the face, I don't think that's going to look very good.

Maybe it doesn't matter though.

What do you think? Is Twitter an open forum for anything or should you use some judgment in what goes out there while you're handling business?

Riddle me this:  As an employer, what action, if any, do you take if you happen upon one of the above mentioned tweets?

Expanding "Going Offline" Maranda Gibson

We all know what "going online" is, so it's not too tough to figure out what someone means when they say they're "going offline."  Basically, when the multiple emails back and forth between people get to be too confusing or inefficient, it's time to pick up the phone, call the person, and go offline.

Gina Trapani of wrote a great article about the benefits of taking it offline.  Sure, you don't get the dense and hassle-free transfer of information like email or instant messaging, but a phone call can clear up a misunderstanding, convey urgency and tone, and in some cases can get something done faster than through internet mediums.

One point in the article that really jumped out at me was Trapani's example of an email sitting in ten different inboxes, waiting on different responses—with some responses even waiting on other responses—and with a message chain the size of a novella.

An email like this has gone far beyond what a simple phone call could clear up.  No, in this situation, and as soon as the topic goes beyond two people, it's time to start a conference call.  In about the same time as it would take to type out another reply, we can start a conference with the three or ten people involved.

A ten-person conference call may last longer than the five-minute phone call needed to clear up a well-traveled email or IM miscommunication between two people… but not that much longer.  And it can clear up a day's worth of emailing in relatively no time at all.

Try this experiment: next time you've got a complex situation and need to call more than one other person to straighten things out, start a conference call.  Then leave a comment and tell us how it helped the situation.

How to Wear Your Conference Service Maranda Gibson


A conference service is like your closet.

You've got your jeans and t-shirts, slacks, and Polo's, all hanging up in neat rows. In the back of the corner is a suit that you paid too much for but never seem to have the opportunity to wear.   It seems like a crazy analogy but think of it like this: You have different outfits depending on what event you might be attending. A conference service is essentially set up the same way, with different features and abilities depending on what kind of conference call you need to have.

The standard interoffice conference call with a couple of co-workers could be considered your jeans and t-shirt call; no recording needed, no Q&A sessions, and no operator needed. Invite some of your clients into the conference and you need upgrade the wardrobe to the slacks and button down shirt. You might add a pre-conference or record the conference.

A good closet, like any good conference service, is going to offer you a variety of features that you can use depending on what might be appropriate. What happens when you have that conference coming up that you feel like you need the full suit, tie, and vest?

Easy. Schedule an operator on the call.

Having an operator is a little known gem in the conference world.  Conference call services are set up in such a way that you are able to use everything that an operator can, but there are always times when you need that extra little something.

It's the nice suit that you have hanging in the back of your closet. You might only drag it out every once in a while, but when you do, you make a great impression.

Large events require something a little swanky. The next time you invite a large number of people to a conference call, you should add an operator to assist in the conference. The operator will do an introduction, turn the call over to presenters, and moderate the Q&A session for you. This operator is fully focused on making your conference go as smoothly as possible.

Not only do you look fantastic, but it takes the pressure of moderating the call off your shoulders and you can concentrate on the information being presented. You worked hard to put this conference together and you should get to enjoy some of the spoils.

You should drag out the suit and wear it on conference day, just for fun.

Cell Phone Statistics 2 Maranda Gibson

The way that teens and adults are using cell phones has changed drastically in the last ten years.  The glass ceiling has been broken and the technology has steadily improved in this time period.  Cell phones are no longer just about making and receiving calls, with smart phones and internet access, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook to our mobile devices. To say that cell phones have changed the way we live is an understatement, we now found ourselves available every minute of the day. Here are some quick findings from a few studies I came across for 2008.
Findings from Harris Interactive:

  • 85% (or nine out of ten) adults carry a cell phone.
  • Of these 6% are “smart” phones.
  • 52% feel like their cell makes them too accessible.
  • On average, 4 mass marketing ads are received by each cell phone user a year (some users account for as many as 11+) but 74% of those users report deleting it before opening it.

Findings from Pew Internet & American Life Study

  • 36% of cell owners have been shocked by the price of their monthly bill.
  • 8% of cell phone owners have used it at least once to vote for American Idol.
  • 86% of cell users have been annoyed at least once by loud patrons on cell phones around them in public places.
  • 8% of cell users admit to being the person causing the disruption in public places.
  • (I was actually really shocked by this one) 32% of men surveyed say they couldn’t live without their cell phone, compared to only 23% of women.

The truth is though, that recently it has been teenagers and young adults who have been driving the ever increasing amount of cell phone users.  Studies on teenagers and young American’s using cell phones show that teens are quickly becoming fully reliant on their cell phones.
According to a study from CTIA and Harris Interactive

  • 57% of teens surveyed credit mobile devices with improving their lives.
  • 47% feel their lives would be lessened by not having their cell phone.
  • 57% feel it’s the key to their social life.
  • If texting were no longer an option 47% of teens feel like their social life would end or be worse.
  • 1 billion text messages are sent every day.

To say that cell phones have changed the course of communication and interaction among all demographics of American’s is defiantly an understatement.
According to The Insider, here are some quick ways you can cut your cell phone bills:

Buddy System
Most cell phone companies will offer you free minutes to cell phones on the same network plan or allow you to pick a group of people on any network you can have free calls too.

Know Your Options
Get a special plan for the services that you use the most. Find yourself racking up a lot of addition charges in text messages? You might benefit from an unlimited texting plan each month.  If you spend a lot of time on the web, you may need to think about adding a media plan or data package.

Lock Your Phone             
Shut off or lock your phone to prevent purse or pocket dialing while on the move.
Cell phones are an integral part of your daily life, but if you do the research and know your company that you work for, then you can make sure to keep your bill as low as possible.

View our first post with statisctics from 2007

Know When To Fold 'Em Maranda Gibson

Anyone who works in customer service knows that it's not always the easiest job in the world. While it can be very rewarding, it can also be very frustrating. You know your product, you're familiar with your services and how it works. Most of the time, you can translate what you know to your customers in a way that makes sense to them. The reality of being a customer and being in customer service is that there is going to be a customer/rep that you just can't connect with. Whether you're trying to explain the services, answer a question, or help trouble shoot a problem, somewhere along the way it just seems to get lost.

As a customer, you can feel like you're asking the right questions and as the rep on the other end of the phone, you feel like you're not doing a good enough job in answering the inquiry. Your customer is getting frustrated, you're getting frustrated, and this has all the makings of being a bad situation soon.

The question is: are you able to admit that you're not going to be able to help?  It doesn't mean that you are bad at your job; it just means there's someone that you can't connect to.

How do you determine when it's time to ask for help? Do you have a time limit that you give yourself when a customer is upset that you try to get everything resolved? Passing a customer along to another person in the office doesn't necessarily mean you're passing the buck or can't do your job. It just means that you're going to send this customer to someone who can answer their questions in a way that they can understand.

If you find yourself speaking "at" someone and not "to" them it's probably time to step away.  When you sense a customer is getting frustrated, there's nothing wrong with offering to transfer them to someone who can give them better clarification.  Most customers would be happy to be transferred and then get their question answered or problem resolved.

What are your thoughts? Should a customer ever have to ask to be transferred or should you take the initiative to handle that for them? As the customer in this situation, is there a way to ask to speak to someone else?

Do you know when to hold em, and know when to fold ‘em? (Thank you Kenny Rogers)

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