Three Reasons to Start Sending Personalized Thank You Cards

Over the holidays, I went and spent a lovely afternoon with my godson, his parents, and my husband. We exchanged gifts, had lunch, and watched an eager one year old tear into his new blocks. About a week later, I got a handwritten note from my friend thanking us for coming by. She always does that and I think it's one of the most endearing qualities about her (aside from my adorable godson). We're so close and yet, something so simple mattered so much.

It got me thinking about sending thank you cards. We do that for our customers and I've gotten emails back thanking me for the note or someone contacting me for something they had forgotten about until they saw my note. You can go far beyond just a simple "thank you for your business" and if you"re not sending out thank you cards, here are three reasons to add at least one to your daily to-do list.

Add A Personal Touch

Recent research studies show that many of your personality traits are linked to your handwriting. If you write with large and swooping lettering, you're more of an outgoing personality. Including your handwriting to a new customer is a great way to introduce yourself. I bet you never thought of your handwriting as "friendly". If you don't like your penmanship or have been referred to as a "chicken-scratcher" there are exercises you can do to improve or change your handwriting.

Tell Them Something They Don't Know

When I write a thank you letter to a customer, I'm always sure to take a look at their account and see what feature they aren't using. A lot of times, your customer may not know about something that you have to offer and if you mention it (even in passing) it could peak their interest. If someone isn't recording their calls or if they are having large conferences, I always mention operated events. It's a way to present a new feature they might not even know they need.

Stand Out Among the Junk

Our lives are filled with junk, from your spam folder in your email to the new family dentist hanging a flyer on your door (how do they get away with this?). Sending a thank you card in the mail (with a real stamp – very important) brings back that bit of excitement that we had when we were kids and we got to go to the box first. Okay, maybe it's not that exciting, but a hand written card will stand out in that stack of mail, as opposed to the email that might get accidentally deleted.

Adding a single thank you note to your daily list of things can go a long way to making a connection with new or existing customers. Thank them for a new account or thank a customer that's been with you for an entire year. It goes a long way for both your company and the customer. Do you send out thank you cards? How do you decide who gets one?

Using a Reservationless Conference Call

What does a "reservationless" conference call mean? It sounds like a really complicated technical term, but it’s very simple. With a reservationless call, you can have this call any time. You don’t need to contact us and let us know you’re having it, when you need the conference, it is yours – always available.

This means that there is absolutely no scheduling of your call needed or required, and the conference information you received will always work. For most of our customers, this is a perfect solution for their needs.

A lot of customers use multiple conference rooms that are reservationless for different purposes.

Billing

Easily manage billing by assigning a reservationless conference line for each person. On the invoice you can see all of the usage by the conference name. This is a solution I see working great in law offices where attorneys need to be able to bill clients individually for the time on the conferences. Since we track the billing by date and time, it's easy to compile charges for each client and attorney working in an office.

Security

With each person having access to their own conference line, they can manage the security of their calls in their own way. Maybe you want to have a new PIN for each conference but your co-worker doesn’t mind using the same information over and over. By setting up a conference for each person, they can have the ability to log in and manage the settings the way they want them.

No More Internal Scheduling

I talked to a customer a while back who had a book on her desk where people would come "sign out" certain dates and times to use their one conference line. When I told her we could just set up reservationless lines for everyone it was a relief because she didn't have to worry about overlapping calls anymore. Now there was less for her to do and everything could go a lot smoother.

Our goal with these kinds of conferences is to make it easier for your manage and conduct your meetings. After all, what is simpler than doing nothing?

Secure Conference Calls

Finding secure conference calls is an important part of planning your meeting.  You want to make sure that you can have your conference and not have to worry about people interrupting your business or overlapping conference calls.

We have a number of built in options that can help you manage the security (and billing) of your conference calls. Depending on how tight you want the security of your conferences, you can choose some or all of these features.

Conference Codes: There are several ways you can increase security with your conference codes.

First, we recommend assigning a unique conference code to each participant. It functions as your ID badge to track attendance and see who is on your conference. Set each of these codes to "one-use-at-a-time". It works like a concert ticket on a first come, first serve basis. Once the ticket is scanned, no one else can get in. With this code setting the first participant to join the call is the one allowed in.

Limit the use of these conference codes by setting a total number. For example, if you have a series of conferences, and you want to make sure a code is used for the first two, but not for the third conference, you can set the code to be used twice. One that second instance is used, the code expires and won't be valid for future conferences.

Registration pages can be set up so you can control who gets an invitation to the conference, and approve or deny any of the registrants. (Bonus: All of the above options can be automatically set for each code with registrations.)

Conferences: You can use the conference lines to set a security precedence by scheduling each conference. You get a new moderator and participant code each time you need to have a meeting. This way, participant codes cannot be used to join in on a confidential or unrelated meeting. Conferences will expire once it is complete.

Set up a conference room for each employee. If everyone has their own room the conferences will never overlap, so you don’t have to worry about someone coming in on the tail end of a call.

See who is on the conference by viewing your live call screen during the call. If you see someone you don’t recognize, you can remove them by clicking 'hang up' on the screen. You can also lock the conference to prevent anyone else from joining.

Permission based users allow you to give selective access to your account. For instance, each employee can be given their own set of conference codes and access to log in. Each person is responsible for their own conference lines and the telecom or IT manager no longer has to manage the account with a log book or a sign out page.

Security on your conference calls is important, but not impossible. Try some of these features for your next conference call.

Find more information about conference security, features, and options by checking out some of the other blogs here at .

Keep Notes in Your Conference Account

Since you know how to download your CSV files for your conference information, I'm going to tell you about another neat included service that you have in your account. Did you know that your conference call history is a note taking machine waiting to happen? Conference calls can often be jam packed with information and when you have multiple conferences in a single day, they all start to run together.

Our call notes system helps you keep track of the information or action items you need to take based on a conference call. Here are some of the ways our customers are using the system.

Using the Same Conference Codes

Since our codes can be used again and again, the history stores everything by the name, date, and time. Using the conference code notes system lets our customers go in and mark "call with client X" or "sales meeting".

Track Moderators

Even if it's not needed to track what the subject matter of the conference was about a lot of our customers use the notes system to keep record of who initiated the conference.

Next Steps

Once a conference is over, go to the notes section and add in the actionable items that were taken away from the conference call. You can leave yourself a to-do list based on the conferences in your account. You can also leave it as a note for your assistant or IT Manager. Let’s say it is time to issue new codes on the conference line, you can leave a note for the person who manages that to prompt them to go in and make the change. "Needs new conference codes for security" is a great way to let the person who manages your conference account know that some things need to be changed.

Are you using the note taking system or is it new for you? We've found it to be beneficial for our customers as well as to how we stay organized here. How could you see yourself using the system or how are you using it?

Bonus

If you have one of our toll free forwarding numbers, you also have access to this system. Keep notes on who you talked to, what you talked about or information that is contained in a saved fax. If you're going back later on to check and see if a document or phone call has been received, you can scan the notes and make sure that you've done what you need to. We use the system internally to keep track of what customers have sent us. Since we all take care of the faxes received into our office leaving a note on it also lets us know that the fax has been looked at by another operator.

Conference Call Checklist

So you want to have a conference call?  You can always start a conference call in minutes, however we suggest a bit more preparation for a conference between you and your co-workers. When inviting clients or customers to your conferences, there are a few extra things you will want to do. 

First: Decide What Your Call is About

Write out what the meeting is going to be about and create an agenda, making sure to estimate how long each point will take.  It's always good to give yourself 5-10 minutes of margin.  Don't forget to budget time for questions.

Second: Decide Who

Once you've worked out when you want to have the call, decide who is going to be there.  This is a good time to ask yourself if you'll be having a guest speaker or if you need an operator assistance.   

Third: Send Your Invitations

Now that you have all of the above worked out, it's time to send out your invitations.  Your email invitations should include:

  • What the meeting is about
  • Their call-in number and participant code
  • When the meeting is and for how long
  • An abbreviated version of the agenda

Your participants are taken care of, so where will you be?  The beauty of audio conferencing is that you can host a conference call from pretty much anywhere.  So your only guidelines should be to conduct your conference call from a quiet place where you won't be interrupted.  And—for absolute best quality—use a landline.  One final suggestion: use a headset.  It's much more comfortable than cradling the phone in your neck.

Use this helpful conference call checklist before you plan your next meeting:

PREPARE YOUR CONFERENCE

__Choose the date and time.
__Determine if you need operator assistance.
__Will there be a guest speaker?
__Do you need a registration page?
__Do you want the conference call recorded?
__Will there be a visual element requiring web conferencing?

CREATE AN AGENDA

You need to write an agenda to send to speaker and participants so the know what to expect. 

__Does it have a realistic timeline?
__Is there a need to have breaks?
__Will there be Q&A? How long will your Q&A session be?
__Do you need a different version for participants?

TECHNICAL CHECKLIST

__Do you know how to mute your telephone?
__Is the sound quality on your conference good?
__Did you do a practice run to make sure that you know how to join the conference and the webinar?
__Do you have a backup method of connecting in case there is a problem with your connection?
 


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

Conference Call Services for After Your Call

So many times when I talk to customers after their conferences, they call in asking for information that they didn't realize was readily available to them. Is there a way to see who attended my conference? I think I missed some questions in the chat session; can I get a copy of that? Do you have the ability to send me my audio conference recording?

We do a lot of work with customers who are using conference call services to boost their business. These tools are a great way to reach out to potential clients, and while planning and hosting the webinar are two of the most important pieces – don’t forget what comes after the moderator terminates the call.

Is there a way to see who attended my conference?

Two options can make it easy for you to see who attended your conference. You can set up a registration page ahead of time and have participants sign-up for the call. This will assign each person a unique conference code which will help you identify who attended and who did not. It also stores specific information like name and email addresses. When your call is over you can go to your customer account and download your full registration details. Use the stored emails to send a thank you or reach out to the no-shows for your conference.

You can also sign up for an operator answered conference and we will greet your participants before taking their name and an additional piece of information, before placing them into your conference.

I missed some chat questions – can I download a transcription of chat?

If you're using web conferencing you can easily chat with participants and allow them to ask questions. When your call is over, download your chat history to make sure that everyone who submitted a question via chat was properly answered. If you see a great idea or suggestion floating around in the chat, reach out to the person directly and thank them for their participation or suggestion.

Can you send me my audio conference recording?

Set up your conference to automatically record when the moderator joins the conference. This recording is not only a great review tool for some of the information shared on the conference, but a great marketing piece for your company. Provide some of the bits and pieces of the conference on your website and encourage people to sign up for your next conference to hear more. Downloading your recording is easy and can be done by logging into your account and going to "Recordings". Find the date and time of the conference you need and click on "Save" to begin downloading the recording.

Don't Forget to Schedule Your Next Conference

Every time I've attended an event, once it’s complete, I get an email telling me 'thanks' and the bottom is always an opportunity to get an early-bird sign up discount for the next one. This is a great idea for participants who are "flying high" on the great information provided on the conference. When your conference is over, set up your next one, and send out the invitation while people have you at the front of their brain.

What do you do after your conferences to help retain people’s interest and excitement? Attention spans are fleeting so capitalizing while you have the chance might help your next conference call too.

Have no clue what a registration page is? No worries. Check out our registration page information and video & web conferencing to find ways to encourage more interaction with your participants.

Is Your Presentation Busy Work?

Do you remember elementary school? I can recall the days when our teachers spent afternoons having us do math worksheets, grammar practice, or simply sitting at our desks reading quietly. The goal of busy work was to require the students to be silent and focus on work.

Sadly, I've seen some presenters doing this with their presentations on conference calls or at events. A quick search for "tips on presentations" will bring up a lot of great resources, but many of them fail to mention one very simple and important tip.

Don’t Use PowerPoint For the Sake of Using PowerPoint.

This one tip might make your life a little easier and make people enjoy your conferences a bit more. Using a PowerPoint for every single presentation renders the visual element useless in the long run. How can you tell if your PowerPoint has become busy work – something that is only there to force participants to follow along with you?

Ask Yourself Do Your Presentation Slides:

Serve as Your Script?

If they do then you should introduce yourself to index cards. What is the point in taking the time to make a presentation if you're just going to write down everything you're going to say? Reading word for word from your slides is a waste of everyone's time. If reading from slides is your plan, simply hand out the slides and then tell participants to contact you if they have any questions.

Have more than zero fancy flashy transitions? (Yes you read that right)

Sure, the temptations to have each of your slides fade in and out, appear in a splash of animated fireworks, or accompanied with musical fanfare is always there. These can be distracting and look unprofessional to certain groups.

One thing I've seen that works really well in presentations is to use an image slide instead of a flashy transition when you need to shift gears to a new topic or draw the attention of the audience to the point you're about to make. It's less distracting than a bright flash or a new slide that flies across the screen, but it still grabs the audience's attention.

Rely too heavily on the bullet point as the common "theme" of each slide?

If every slide is featuring a bulleted list you are running the risk of overloading your participants with too much information in one presentation. A good rule of thumb is to use a presentation to present one overall or main idea, and let the slides support that common theme.

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions take a step back and ask yourself why you are using a presentation. If the goal in including slides with your presentation is to "make people pay attention" you are creating PowerPoint busy work.

Get More Engagement: Even if your presentation topic doesn't need a twenty page PowerPoint presentation, you can still use a one page "landing" slide with your company information and logo. Visuals can be powerful for participants, even if you’re just using your contact information.

What other ways have you seen PowerPoint's used as busy work?

Conference Call Services to Try in 2012

Teleconferences have changed since they were first introduced. They have come far beyond on the "audio meeting" to become a potentially integral part of your business and sales strategy. We put our heads together and thought of some other ways that conference call services could be used to interview employees, make new sales connections, and a lot of other really awesome things.

  1. Operator Assistance - An operator will take over all of the technical aspects of the call. They will also prepare a unique introduction to your conference call. Not only is this a great way to create some formality on the call, it's also a great way to relieve some of the stress from the moderator.
  2. Host a Sales Presentation via Web Conference - Instead of driving across town or hopping on a plane to pitch your next client, try using a simple web conference. Put together a PowerPoint presentation and stay in your office. You can still field questions and show growth potential, you're just doing it from the comfort of your favorite chair.
  3. Don't Travel for One Month - In the same vein as the previous tip, plan on keeping the wheels down for an entire month. Limiting travel will not only save you money but grant a different perspective on how you can manage your business. A lot of companies don't realize how easy it is to use conferencing and limit the travel.
  4. Host a Job Interview via Conference Call - Typically, the beginning of the year is when companies start bringing in new employees. Instead of the typical face to face interview, have the initial interview over the phone. You'll hear how the potential employee handles themselves when all they have are their words and tone of voice to back them up.
  5. Interview a Leader From Your Industry - Use a conference service to record the interview and then turn it into a podcast and host it on your blog. Simple as that.
  6. Telecommuter Friday - This may sound crazy but it could be a good experience for you and your employees. If your businesses allows (some won't, like retail) pick one Friday as a test and let your employees telecommute. Many companies successfully operate in a virtual office environment and end up saving money without the need for office space, phone lines, etc.
  7. Invite Your Customers to a Q&A Session - Try a monthly or quarterly call with your customers to see what they think of any changes or updates you've made to your products. This is an exceptionally great idea for start ups that usually make a lot of changes right away and rely on feedback from the public to know what is working and what isn't.
  8. Add a PowerPoint to a Status Meeting - Punch up your next boring old status meeting by adding in a PowerPoint. Suddenly, an audible list of sales numbers, increases, and projections become colorful and memorable graphs and charts. Using visuals reaches out and grabs the audience’s attention to keep the focus on the meeting and nothing else.
  9. Use a Registration Page - Trying to see who is attending a status meeting? Want to know what potential client attended one of your web conferences? Set up registration pages and collect information like name, email, or phone number. It gives you the ability to see who joined the conference, who didn't, and once you download the registration list, it's a marketing contact sheet that immediately lets you see who is interested in learning more about your products.
  10. Invite the Press to Your Company Announcement - We recommend that you use this tip in conjunction with the operator assistance suggestion. Inviting the press to an announcement is a good way to generate buzz, get a little excitement about a project, or gain a little extra news coverage.

In 2012, we highly encourage you to try one (or more) of these uses of your conferencing services. You might be surprised that a lot of people use conference calls for these very reasons and that it works very well.

Politics in a Digital Age – Reaching More People Far and Wide

Most people can admit that social media and mobile devices have revolutionized the way we communicate, receive news, and stay updated on events. Digital communications became a central part of the 2008 US Presidential elections as candidates took to Twitter and users chronicled their experiences through various social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr.

Another trend in politics that emerged in 2008 was the popularity of hosting teleconferences as town hall meetings. AccuConference personally hosted some of these media and informational meetings for political leaders and in our experience we have found them to be powerful for politicians for three big reasons.

  1. You can reach an audience that may not be able to physical attend. Hosting a conference call instead of a physical meeting lets those who have busy schedules or can’t leave their homes have an opportunity to have a more personal connection with the candidate.
  2. We’ve found the most popular type of conference with politicians is the operator answered call, where we can collect name and information from the callers. This information is stored for review at a later time, giving the staff the ability to contact those who attended after the conference is over. You can alert them to upcoming events or invite them to another conference call with the politician.
  3. Conference calls allow for moderated question and answer sessions which allow for more people to get the opportunity to ask a question. In politics, the people have to know that their elected official is concerned about the issues that closely affect voters.

When it comes to the trends in politics, there’s a clear move towards using the avenues that will reach the most people. We suspect that more politicians will be using conference calls to host media and town hall events in the upcoming 2012 election. If you’re a political organization considering using conference calls, contact us and let us show you how we can help you take advantage of new technology during this election season.