If you have customers in different parts of the country or even different parts of the world, you have likely conquered the difficulties of routine communications. But what do you do when a customer has a very specific query about a product, one that cannot be answered in a quick e-mail or 10 minute phone conversation?
This is one area where web conferencing can help. You can use this technology to address the issue yourself and if you need to include colleagues, and none of you needs to leave the office.
Before you initiate a web conference, make sure that the client in question is web-savvy enough to participate. You don't want to set up a web conference only to find that your goal of helping a customer cannot be met because that person is unaware of how to use their computer or the internet. Depending on you area of business, you may be able to use this as a teaching opportunity, getting your client up to speed and answering their questions at the same time.
A web conference is not just a way to answer any questions that pop up when someone uses your product, it is also a way to impress them, with your knowledge and customer service skills.
As we stated in the previous blog. Groups asked to use a new communications tool, like video conferencing, go through phases. We have already discussed the first two: forming and storming. It is at the "storming" stage that the most oversight has to be exerted to make video conferencing really work. This can be done by having the most experienced members, or some designated individual(s) intensively model the behavior for others. This might mean a lot of interaction with those using the system to see if they are having any problems and getting feedback on what is and what is not working for everyone to a more intensive schedule of video conferencing meetings to get people comfortable and make this style of communicating a familiar activity.
After a generally short, but intense "storming" phase, as people get used to the hardware and different style of interaction, as well as become more comfortable with their fellow desktop video-ers, the group enters the third "norming" stage. At this point, all webcams are on and the stuffed animals are gone and people are interacting, for the most part, normally.
Then comes the best phase. The performing stage, where groups and conversations begin to form spontaneously and ideas and the project and interactions really take off.
Keeping these four stages in mind, helps you understand that giving your people a new tool and then expecting them to run with it right away is unrealistic. Knowing the phases of how adoption of new communications technology goes and your role in making it happen, however, lets you know that the initial confusion and chaos and displeasure that comes in the initiation stages are all a natural part of how people react to change, especially one involving something as important as how they relate to each other.
Remember that, like any change, people need time to adjust and build familiarity. Just like getting a new project team up and running, companies or teams that go into heavy video conferencing mode go through the phases of "forming, storming, norming, and performing".
The first phase is where the team or group that is going to be using the technology decides that this is the technology they are going to use to do their communications. Sometimes people aren't given that decision, though, and it is made by higher levels and they just have to live with it. During this phase, you introduce all the participants to the technology, show them how to use it and try to eliminate some of the "fear factor" inherent when people use things by themselves for the first time.
The next phase, the "storming" phase, is one of discomfort and distrust. Not only with the technology where they might not know exactly how to work everything or what to do when things go wrong, but also of the people on the other side of the transmission line, especially if they haven't worked closely with them before. In this phase, sometimes people will not turn on the camera, saying they are having technical difficulties or will put a picture or stuffed animal in front of the camera instead of training it on them selves. This is due to the desire for some people to want to remain anonymous until they feel more comfortable with the process and people. This can last a week or so, until people get more comfortable with the new mode of interacting.
If you are still using Office 2003 or an earlier Office product then you may not know that the new Office 2007 application uses a new file format that cannot be opened by earlier Office products. You may have had a client or prospect send you a document that you could not open in your version of Word, PowerPoint or Excel that ended with an X like a .docx, .pptx or .xlsx file.
Don't send your customer a note asking them to resend the file requiring them to resave it in the old Office format, just download the Office 2007 file compatibility pack from Microsoft.
You can download this compatibility pack free from Microsoft.
The new Office 2007 file format uses XML to keep file sizes incredibly small and to allow for future application interaction. Changing to the new XML file structure is a sweeping change and a controversial one as important changes always are. This compatibility pack allows users of Office 2000, Office XP, or Office 2003 to open edit, and even save files in the new XML format allowing for easy file transfer and exchange with customers already using Office 2007.
So if you aren't ready to upgrade your Office products to 2007, with the compatibility pack no one will know that you are still using Office 2000 or Office 2003.
Conference calling knows no bounds when it comes to connected people and getting the job done. No matter what your field may be, there is a way to use teleconferencing to your advantage. There are so many ways to use technology to meet your needs.
Here is one surprising example: The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance recently held a tele-winetasting as a way to promote a certain kind of wine. You may wonder just how an organization can hold a conference call event to push a product such as wine, but is quite possible.
The wines were shipped to participants in advance. Participants were responsible for chilling the wines and having them on hand at the appointed time. Those involved included the wine producers, food writers, and a wine consultant. These are professionals who are very interested in the product, so they knew how to prepare themselves and the wine to ensure that the tele-winetasting went off without a hitch.
During the event the participants tasted wines and compared notes -all without having to leave their homes or offices. The Finger Lakes Wine Alliance was able to accomplish their goal of publicizing certain wines without having to arrange for key persons to travel and meet in one location.
You want to schedule a conference call, what is the best day and time to call? Most of this depends on your business and the time zone that you are calling, but there are a few common sense guidelines that will help you to choose the day that may work best for you.
Stay away from Monday morning. Monday morning is usually reserved for putting out fires from the weekend or for tasking staff members for the week. If you need to phone on Monday do it after 2:00 PM when most of the heavy work load is out of the way.
Stay away from Friday afternoon. Some people will leave early on Friday or are working a compressed week work schedule and are off every other Friday, so it is best to steer clear of this day. If you must phone on Friday, do it in the morning around 10:00; after the morning crush, but not so late as to interfere with the plans of the day.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday may simply be best for your needs. If the teleconference is about tasking, Tuesday will be best so as to allow team members time to complete tasks for the week. If the teleconference is about accountability Thursday may be better as you will have more data from the week to review.
Wednesday is great for training, communications, reviews, and new directions or brainstorming sessions. People are in the swing of things on Wednesday and feeling more relaxed. They still have time to take on a new project before the end of the work week. Wednesday mornings seem to be better on this day than afternoons, but that may simply be from our experience.
Which ever day you choose, understand that the best day for you is most likely a personal choice driven by the needs of your business and your personal schedule. The best idea is at your first teleconference decide as a group the best day for your next call. You may find that the middle of the week will simply be the best for your team too.
This is not just a comment, but is a "truth". All teleconferencing service providers are not created equal. As you evaluate which teleconferencing provider you are considering using, take strongly into account your very first interaction with the firm. It has been said that first impressions are lasting impressions and in this case I think that you will agree they can also be indicative of the long term service commitment that will impact you as a customer with that firm.
As you evaluate your choices take a look at the website. Is it professional? Does it give you pricing and information or does it hide the prices and make them nearly impossible to find.
Call their 1-800 sales line, check out the experience. How long did you wait for someone to answer your call? Was the customer service representative courteous? Were they knowledgeable? Did they take time to fully answer your questions or did you feel like you were intruding on their other calls
We think that when you evaluate AccuConference you will not only find a website that is transparent in regards to pricing and services, but that your experience with our customer service representatives will leave a highly favorable impression with you. So we invite you to check us out, run us through our paces, and see why we are the friendliest, best service value, and best overall teleconferencing provider you can choose.
The National Investor Relations Institute has a lot of good advice on their website on earnings calls and webcasts and what you can and should not do. Their advice is something you should take to heart if you are thinking of initiating or fine tuning your present earnings conference calls.
In setting up any kind of earnings teleconference, the thing that should be first and foremost on your mind is how to get the word on your corporation out to as many interested parties as possible. Although there is no one way to do this, there are certainly best practices.
If you are planning to hold an earnings teleconference, the best thing is to issue a press release to one or more of the major Internet corporate news sites. Of course, you should also post the date in a position of prominence on your company’s website and if you have a news letter, mention it in that as well. Although you might want to email investors who have asked for information about the company, do not think this is a substitute for a news release.
Information should be provided on the date and time of the call and how it can be accessed. Be sure to contact a service provider, like us, who can simultaneously connect hundreds of callers to your teleconference for this type of meeting.
In terms of other information, if you are going to be presenting financial information in the presentation, be sure the material is posted somewhere on your website or included in the webcast which should be archived on the website as well.