AccuConferenceAccuConference

Jul
30
2010
Three Things Twitter Taught Me about Customer Service Maranda Gibson

When I first started to manage the Twitter account here, I tried to take it from the perspective of “all business”. I didn’t make jokes, laugh, or say snarky things. I wanted to be this little pillar of customer service and professionalism that would woo and wow the masses, and bring the flocks to me. I was wrong – but that’s okay. I guess I didn’t exactly get it at first. There’s a big difference between the old fashioned ways of customer service and what Twitter (or any social platform) can do for a company.

  1. It opens a dialogue with the customer, giving the customer an opportunity to make suggestions for ways that we can improve the product we’re offering.
  2. Monitoring social platforms gives you the ability to solve a problem quickly. I logged into Twitter once and had a customer who was unable to connect to his conference. I had him email me his account information and come to find out; there was an error in the code he was using. We caught his concerns before he had to call us and everything was fixed quickly.
  3. It makes us real people. When our customers can relate to us, when they know our likes and dislikes, it makes us easier to relate to. I’m more than just “that girl at AccuConference”. I’m Maranda. That makes a huge difference in customer relationships.

I’m sure there’s more and there will always be more to learn. Using social media with customer service is one of those things that will be forever evolving. It’s completely different today than it was six months ago and then it will be six months from now. What have you learned about customer service from social media?

Jul
29
2010
Airline Travel Rebounds while Airfares Climb Chilton Tippin

The past decade for the airline industry has been a spiral into near oblivion.

ATA president and chief executive, James May, described it as “the lost decade,” as, first, fear of terror choked out travelers, then, fuel prices spiked coming into a global recession that left people pinching pennies and airlines gobbling up all profits from the previous decades just to stay afloat.

Now, the carriers appear to be finding their first warm embrace in summer 2010.

Southwest airlines reported a $112 million profit in the second quarter 2010, a 23 percent jump that surpassed forecasts.

Last week, Delta Air Lines posted its best second quarter since the advent of the lost decade. The carrier profited $467 million from the previous year’s loss of $257 million.

In fact, it is predicted that all U.S. airlines will end 2010 in the black, a surprising assessment given the losses in 2008 and 2009.

The factors bolstering the turnaround are simple supply and demand. When the economy was in its stupor people weren’t flying. The airlines were forced to ground more flights to cut costs. This resulted in a degrading feedback cycle. Now that the economy is making a run, more people are taking to the skies.

Business travelers lead the way as companies allotted more money for travel after the difficult recession. Then more and more leisure travelers came out for the summer travel season. All resulted in less planes being grounded and now airlines have the demand to fill capacity.

The result, now, is an increase in fares driven by the demand. US Airlines’ first-quarter-2010 fares rose 4.7 percent to a nine-year high.

Along with higher fares, summer travelers can expect greater crowds, delays and planes filled to the brim thanks to capacity discipline—all byproducts of the rebound.

Jul
28
2010
FCC Changes Mind on Broadband George Page

The Federal Communications Commission has redefined the classification of “broadband internet”, raising the minimum download limit from 200Kbs to 1Mbs. However, this change the FCC said is “long overdue”, has sparked discussions about telecom monopolies and pricing models, and put the subject of net neutrality center stage.

200Kbs is an eleven-year-old limit set by the FCC in the days when Dial-Up internet was how the majority of Americans accessed the internet. While changing the definition may seem small and irrelevant to most people, it is actually a powerful tool in this online social media and internet-integrated world. Previously, Internet Service Providers were able to use the low definition of broadband to minimally conform to the FCC’s National Broadband Plan to provide affordable, high-speed internet to every American.

But even as the US internet infrastructure is becoming stronger and less expensive, ISP and telecoms are raising prices--ATT’s new $25 for 2 gig/month data plan for example. And while higher on internet speeds has brought out telecom complaints of additional expenses to build infrastructure to match, it also revealed telecom pricing and control strategies for tiered access to the internet. Throttling access to the internet is a violation of the freedom of internet, Net Neutrality Act.

While the only concrete occurrence is a higher broadband speed definition, with the upcoming Google Fiber Network and the fierce telecom pricing wars, it will be a while before the full impact is seen on the face and structure of the internet.

Jul
28
2010
Where to Focus? Maranda Gibson

There are a lot of different reasons a company will host a conference call. It could be to announce a promotion, have a guest on the call, train, update company policy, you name it and a company can accomplish it with a conference call. One of the things that always have to be identified when planning a call is what approach you should take as the speaker. Should you take the “I” focus, or the “we” focus and what is the difference?

Some examples of I-Centric presenting will be when you say phrases that have a personal focus, like I have or I feel. In a We-Centric conference, you’ll be referring to a lot of things in the third person or using we. So how do you know what focus to take? As I’ve said before, on a conference call you only have the ability to use words and tone to set a mood.

Set the mood with an “I-Centric” presentation if you are:

Invited to speak on the conference call. You’re there because you have some information, and people want to hear how what you’ve done worked for you.

Accepting a promotion or a new position. You want to address that you’re excited and that you’re looking forward to working with everyone.

Presenting research you did. Sometimes, what you’re showing everyone is something that you’ve done on your own, so “I-Centric” words are completely okay.

Set the mood with “We-Centric” phrases when you are:

Accepting a promotion or a new position. Yes, I realize that I suggested you use I-Centric words for this situation also. The truth of the matter is anytime you accept a promotion or new position in your company is a time that you should enforce the ideas that you’re all going to be a team. It’s important that everyone walks away knowing you’re excited about your new position and that you look forward to collaborating with a new team.

Updating on company policy. When policy changes are made, it’s not just the employees who are affected. Everyone will be affected by changes in a company. When announcing them to a group of employees you need to make sure they understand that the management will not be immune to the changes.

Status meetings. When you’re just updating members of your company or group with where you stand on a project or just in general, you should take a We-Centric approach. Any good things that have stepped forward with the project, everyone has a small part of the success – as well as any failures.

The bottom line between using a We-Centric or I-Centric focus is that most of the time, you’ll want to use a mixture of both, and depending on what you have to say, it could affect the way you say it. How are you using “we” and “I” to set the mood on your conference call?

Jul
28
2010
AT&T to Provide Windows Phone 7 Chilton Tippin

AT&T has made an aggressive bid for the Windows Phone 7, repeatedly supporting the technology and Microsoft’s progress.

Now, AT&T has announced that they would be the main provider of Microsoft’s upcoming device.

“We’ll be the premier carrier for Windows Phone 7,” a spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail to PC World.

The assertive statement shows more confidence than other providers—most conspicuously Verizon—who are likely hanging back to see the results of the launch before jumping headlong into the fray.

Perhaps even more telling have been reports that AT&T signed up to buy 8 million WP7 devices last week. The buy would add a massive portion to the 49.1 million smartphones currently in use in the U.S.

Both Verizon and Sprint-Nextel have kept mum about their plans for the WP7.

While Verizon and Microsoft likely have some latent rancor after the Kin capitulation, all carriers are likely poring over reactions by developers, weighing their reviews and testing the WP7’s merit.

Some of the outstanding demerits with the WP7 include the lack of multitasking, no copy-and-paste and not native twitter agent, according to ComputerWorld.

The AT&T announcement comes amid clamor that AT&T’s soon-to-be-expired contract for the iPhone will result in other providers selling the device, which has been the engine propelling AT&T to the number two spot among cell phone providers.

A steadily-swelling wave of discontentment with AT&T from iPhone users has prompted speculation that the exclusive contract will end in late 2010, which is when the WP7 is slated for release.

However, recent reporting reveals that the contract, signed by the companies in 2007, was not to expire until 2012. It is unknown whether that contract has been amended.

 

Jul
28
2010
Mobile Market Second Quarter 2010 Recap Chilton Tippin

The market results for the second quarter of 2010 were posted last week, and the activity for mobile phone companies reveals an ever-intensifying battle between Google and Apple, along with several other developments in the smartphone realm. 

According to comScore, 49.1 million Americans aged 13 and over owned smartphones from Feb 2nd to the end of May, an 8.1 percent increase from the same term the previous year.

The major smartphone operators vying for this market are Palm, Microsoft, RIM, Apple and Google, and each one of these saw a slip in market share except for Google, which seemingly wrested its 4 point increase from its collective competitors. Google bounded by offering the popular Android system through T-Mobile, Verizon, HTC and Sprint.

Apple slipped 1 point to 24.4 percent, Microsoft dropped 1.9 points to 13.2 percent, RIM slipped 0.4 points to 41.7 percent, and Palm dropped 0.6 points to 4.8 percent.

It is important to note that Apple’s market share likely waned due to an anticipatory period before the release of the massively popular iPhone 4, which sold over 3 million by July 16th and was the most successful product launch for the storied company.

But mobile devices are only a piece of the pie—about 50 percent of it for Apple—with notebook sales skyrocketing despite the release of the iPad.

Not that the iPad was a bad thing for Apple either. Sales of the iPad have been a hearty 3.27 million by the end of the second quarter, which shows Apple’s success in tapping the tablet market, something which has been tried futilely by other companies.

Now a strong argument can be made that Apple has defined the tablet much to the extent that they defined the portable music market with the iPod and its crushing win over the MP3 player.

Yet, while Apple has been making headlines with their flashy (if not controversial) products, the other players have maintained strong footing with savvy marketing practices, frantic mergers and what seems like shear grit.

BlackBerry manufacturer RIM still commands the greatest portion of the smartphone market with 41.7 percent. And Microsoft still earned $4.52 billion in the quarter, outshining both Apple, with $3.52 billion and Google, with $1.8 billion. (Remember, still, that these are before iPhone 4.)

Graph credit to techland.com

Microsoft did this in the absence of a smartphone that competes with those put forth by the other operators and despite having to cancel the Kin.

According to this article in the New York Times, Microsoft’s success results from targeting businesses, an industry that is far less glamorous to the media, and therefore, far less likely to make headlines. Nonetheless, Microsoft has a history of selling to both consumers and customers, and without the shiny Macs, iPads, and iPhones their grasp of garnering new customers will steadily drop—even when they sell 150 million Windows 7 OS licenses. Those Windows 7 licenses were mainly purchased by previous Windows Vista users, a disconcerting fact for investors.

The release of the Windows Phone 7 is imminent. The company announced on July 18 that it was in its technical preview stage, and it has received promising-yet-iffy pre-launch reviews. Whether they will get their heads in the game in time for the 2010 holiday release season remains to be seen.

Jul
27
2010
Home Run Conference Call Maranda Gibson

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a pretty big baseball fan. Last year was a dream season for fans of the Texas Rangers, with a trip to the World Series and a decisive win over the Yankees to win the ALCS. A successful baseball team is a team that runs like well oiled machine, where everyone has a role and a purpose. Managers have to know the strength and weaknesses of their team and everyone has smaller roles, beyond just their field position. The next time you’re setting up a conference call try managing it like Ron Washington.

 

  1. Delegate Tasks. For a baseball manager this is as simple as assigning field positions and making sure the team members know what to do. Who covers home if there’s a pop fly the catcher has to get under the ball? (Answer = the pitcher) Do the same thing with your next conference; assign someone to handle chat, someone to take care of Q&A, and someone to take care of any visuals. This way everyone has an important task, which increases focus, and you’re not trying to do it all at once.
  2. Remember the unseen eyes and ears. Once, my mother called me to tell me about a baseball player with his zipper down on the pitcher’s mound. She was sure that somewhere, his own mother was hanging her head in shame. I felt bad for the guy, but he failed to remember that the camera could zoom on him at any time. Remember that on your conference calls, you never know when your phone is going to be unmuted or you’ll hit the wrong button. Don’t say anything that you don’t want everyone to hear.
  3. Keep the audience engaged by encouraging participation with polls and Q&A sessions. One of the things I love the most at ball games is the 7th inning stretch – traditionally, “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” is sung by the entire crowd. We also sing “Deep in the Heart of Texas” at Ranger’s games. It’s a small little way to remind the crowd that if not for us, there would be no team to see and support. Encourage conference call participants to engage themselves by sending out polls or taking questions via chat while the conference is going on.
  4. Have a backup plan. You know what a pinch hitter is right? Someone who can step up to the plate and make something happen. Someone who is “pinch” hitting/running is a backup plan. While running down first, a batter twists his ankle and can’t run, so you bring in the pinch runner. Do the same thing with your conference calls. Have a “pinch” phone in case something happens with the phone you’re using. Send out a PDF attachment of the presentation you’re working on just in case your internet goes out and you can’t advance the slides.
  5. Lead off strong. The leadoff hitter is someone who not only can get a base hit, but someone who can take a lot of pitches without going down in strikes, someone who can steal bases, or someone who can get back to the base without getting thrown out. It’s not always the strongest hitter who leads off a batting line up. On conference calls, you should open with something that makes you comfortable, so you can get a feel for your audience or know where their mental mindset might be. That way – they’ll give away some tells on what they want to hear about, and what they might not.

You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting in the stands and a guy from your team blasts one over the heads of the outfielders and it disappears behind that green wall. The crowd leaps to their feet in cheers, arms wildly waving, fireworks are going off and you’re suddenly hugging the guy next to you. Now imagine how the manager feels when his team can get that kind of reaction out of his crowd. What kind of things are you doing to get ready to knock one out of the park?

Jul
26
2010
Jailbreaking Mobile Phones Legalized by Feds Chilton Tippin

Hackers Jailbreaking their iPhones or other mobile devices are not doing so in violation of federal copyright law according to a ruling made by the U.S. Copyright Office on Monday.

The decision says that bypassing a manufacturer’s block in order to allow “handsets to execute software applications” will not be viewed as illegal, meaning that users can now download third- party applications  that aren’t approved by the phone maker or carrier without fear of legal retribution.

The practice has been criticized by manufacturers who say that jailbreaking destabilizes the phones, and Apple, the manufacturer with devices most prevalently jailbroken, contends that the strict vetting process by which apps are approved in the official App Store results in the promotion of higher-quality apps.

However, a relatively small yet sophisticated group of the mobile company’s customers have been hacking the phones enthusiastically, heralding benefits such as increased customization, unlimited 3G service and the ability to turn one’s phone into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot that can be used for tethering. Additionally, jailbreaking provides a path for “unlocking” the device, allowing users to operate the phones with carriers other than the one specifically intended for the phone.

According to CNET, by February 2009 400,000 U.S. iPhone users had jailbroken their phones—a relatively small group when set beside the total number of iPhone users in the U.S. (6.4 million in June 2009). Despite the number of jailbroken phones Apple has never sued for terms of use violations.

Bypassing the Apple protection mechanism can void the manufacturer’s warranty, but jailbreakers can easily skate the void by performing a hard reset on their devices before taking them in. However, there are other risks, and anyone considering the jailbreak ought to read up on it before embarking.

As of the time of this writing Apple has not commented as to whether it will sue the Feds to controvert the decision.

In the spirit of the fresh legality, though, here is a good site with jailbreak instructions for the latest iOS4.

Jul
23
2010
T-Mobile iPhone in the Near Future? Chilton Tippin

The iPhone may finally be shucking off its exclusive chains to AT&T. How’s this sound: The T-Mobile iPhone.

It sort of rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? And this whole time we thought it would be Verizon.

Yes, According to Cult of Mac, a news site focused on all things Apple, a high-placed executive with T-Mobile said the iPhone is coming to the wireless company in the fall.

Talks between Apple and T-Mobile have apparently progressed, and it’s an 80 percent possibility that T-Mobile will have the iphone in Q3, according to the source.

T-Mobile USA is the fourth-largest U.S. carrier with 33.7 million customers, and the parent company, Deutsche Telekom, out of Germany, helped give it some extra clout in the negotiations.

Though T-Mobile lags behind both AT&T, with 87 million subscribers, and Verizon, with 92.8 million subscribers, and many analysts expected that Apple would naturally gravitate to Verizon when the exclusive contract with AT&T expires later this year, the iPhone’s hardware is incompatible with Verizon’s network.

However, Apple is purportedly working with chipset supplier Qualcomm on hardware that would jibe with the Verizon’s CDMA-based network.

Nonetheless, hardware is not the only roadblock. Verizon has aligned itself quite successfully with Google and, over the release of seven Android phones, has forged a strong alliance with the search giant. And with this alliance has come a fierce competitor to Apple and AT&T—one that has launched PR blitzes and ads deriding the iPhone 4’s antennagate issue.

All said, an overture to T-Mobile would be a sound strategy for Apple, and given their track record of quickly going to new carriers when exclusive contracts run out oversees, a likely one too.

It would be a good way for Jobs to avoid copping to his competitors over at Google and Verizon. Plus, no one would have to swallow their egos in a massive renovation of corporate alignment.

Apple wants to get away from exclusivity with AT&T; a coalition with T-Mobile would satisfy that need. To boot, the iPhone is compatible with T-Mobile’s GSM network. According to the Cult of Mac article, there are still questions as to whether the iPhone will be compatible with T-Mobile’s specific 3G bands.

An Apple-T-Mobile coalition will undoubtedly take some working out. It reminds one of a European parliamentary alliance between two similarly-minded yet varied factions, meant to ensure one’s dominance—in this case Apple’s—while bringing the other onto a more prominent platform—T-Mobile.

Jul
22
2010
Skype Gets Multitasking on iPhones Chilton Tippin

Skype is now available for multitasking on the iOS 4, a perk that allows for background VoIP compatibility.

Users with the most updated version of the app will get a pop up message when they’re called or messaged via Skype, allowing them access the call immediately. The app can run in the background, meaning that it doesn’t have to be open on the screen to detect the calls.

Even when the iPhone is on the lock screen, simply sliding the unlock bar after the popup shows will take you directly to the call or message.

Background compatibility is not yet accessible for video conferencing because of a Terms of Use controversy that cropped up with Fring, which banned Skype earlier in the year.

With the ban set in place by Fring, any ability to video chat on the iPhone was effectively halted, except for Apple’s Facetime.

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