Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Customer

Sometimes we can say things that can be taken the wrong way. When helping a customer, what we say can be the difference between resolving an issue the customer is having or making the customer furious and escalating it. There are words that can have a certain tone or connotation that we may not recognize when we say them.

Blog writer, Keith Agnew, lists words that he believes can kill your credibility. And he makes a valid point with one word in particular. When you start a sentence with the word “actually”, it can potentially have a condescending tone. That’s something you want to avoid when speaking with customers. For example, if you have a customer who believes they have paid their balance in full when they really short paid their bill, you may be tempted to start your rebuttal with “Actually…”. You’re probably just stating a fact, but the customer might think you are being patronizing. Instead, empathize with the customer’s frustration and start your sentence off with something like “I’m sorry for the confusion…” or “Let me see what happened…”. You’ll end up saving the customer the irritated feeling of not being heard and you still get your point across.

Another phrase you shouldn’t use would be “We can’t do that”. Even if you can’t do what the customer is asking for, giving them a flat no isn’t going to solve anything. The customer knows that you can’t perform miracles, but they do like it when you’re able to come up with a solution that fits their needs. I had a customer who needed to have an international call and wanted to use our International Toll-Free Service on their account. There was a problem though. They had a custom conference line with a custom greeting and they would lose the greeting if I added the service to their account. Instead of telling the customer “We can’t do that”, I started my sentence with “The only problem with doing that is…” and explained to them the reason why we couldn’t keep the custom greeting if they switched. I then suggested that they could still have their international call and keep their custom greeting if the moderator outdials to their international participant. Instead of telling the customer we couldn’t do something, I provided a reason why what they wanted wouldn’t work and offered a reasonable solution.

There’s a list of things that you shouldn’t say to a customer when you are trying to help fix their problem. People have even written books about customer service etiquette. Which tells me that those who recognize the importance of what they say and how they say it will have a better chance with understanding their customers’ needs. What words are on your list of things that you shouldn’t say to a customer?

Stop Procrastinating and Get Your Hands Dirty


Have you ever looked at your to-do list and put off the things that you’re not the least bit excited about doing? Of course you have. I do it, too. We all do. And even though I put off those tasks for later, I know I have to eventually get to them before they start piling up. Whether it’s work related or in our personal lives, procrastination seems to tempt us at one time or another. But if we know we eventually have to get our hands dirty, why do we wait until the last minute?

The Task is Outside of Our Comfort Zone

Psychiatrist, Phil Stutz, and psychotherapist, Barry Michels, have asked the question as to why we procrastinate. They point out that many of us hold off on certain things because it’s outside of our own comfort zone. One job I used to hold was an analyst position. I always procrastinated on the detailed excel reports because the math that went into all of it was overwhelming. And all of the formulas and equations had to be triple checked because those reports were sent to senior executives. It caused a lot of pressure on my end and sent me mentally outside of my comfort zone. I would wait until the last minute to do the reports and cause myself needless stress to have them done by their deadlines. I always met my deadlines, but I made myself sick in the process. Now, I take a different approach. If I come across something that I feel is overwhelming, I take a deep breath and dive in. I find it’s better to tackle the most stressful tasks first and save myself from the unwanted stress.

We’re Waiting For the Perfect Moment

Sometimes we tell ourselves that right now is not the right time to do something. And in some cases, we’re right. Right now may not be the right time for you to buy a house or start a family. But for lesser life changing events, like filing your taxes or asking for that promotion, procrastination won’t benefit you. If you want that promotion, you have to show that you’re not only ambitious but that you deserve it as well. If you procrastinate because you don’t think it’s the right time to ask, then you’re letting the chances of a better future slip through your fingers. Instead, make that leap and take a chance. The worse that can happen is you’re told no, but you can walk away with the confidence knowing that you at least tried.

The Task is Too Boring

Honestly, I hate doing laundry. It’s one of the most boring chores I ever do. I find folding and hanging clothes to be so tedious and mundane. But I know that it has to be done. When I first lived on my own, laundry would be the last chore that I would do. What I then realized was that I was having to stay up late to make sure that all of the laundry was done, making me pretty tired the next day. It was then that I learned that if I wanted a decent night’s sleep, I would need to start doing laundry earlier. I also decided to incorporate music into my laundry routine. So now I rock out to Maroon 5 or some classic Depeche Mode to help push myself through a chore I’d rather not do.

No matter what the excuse is, procrastination really does nothing more than prolong the inevitable. If you’re ready to take charge and get things done, make one of your goals this year to be to stop procrastinating. You may find those things you were holding off on doing really weren’t that bad to begin with.

Sticking To Your Goals

Recently, I wrote a post about why it’s hard for us to stick to our New Year’s resolutions. Now, I want to take a look at some ways that might help you follow through with your goal planning. Here are some tricks that can help you stay on track.

Broadcast You Resolution

I’m not talking about paying for an expensive TV ad to let others know what your plans of change are (although that might help make you more accountable if you did). But telling your friends and family and posting about your resolutions on Facebook or Twitter may help you commit more to your goals. It gives people an idea of what you plan to do, and it may even encourage them to do the same thing. In addition, you can post weekly or monthly updates so people can see how well you’re sticking to your guns. Posting your updates might even make you feel better about your ambitions and help you gain the encouragement you need to follow through. It may also help if you’re seeking advice from people who have accomplished goals similar to yours.

Set S.M.A.R.T. Goals

An article from The Baltimore Sun suggests setting S.M.A.R.T. goals. These are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Think about it. If you tell yourself that you’re going to lose 50 pounds in 2 months, you’re setting yourself up for failure. While the goal is specific with the time and the number of pounds you want to lose, it’s not very realistic nor is it very healthy. However, if you tell yourself that you’re going to lose 10 pounds in 2 months, you will have a greater chance of achieving your goal. And you may leave yourself some room to surpass your expectations.

Prepare for Setbacks

Sometimes life throws us a curveball and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. So we have to prepare for the setbacks we’re faced with. Many times, people find themselves faced with a setback and it discourages them from continuing on with achieving their goals. While setbacks can be frustrating, you shouldn’t allow them to derail you. Take the late Steve Jobs as an example. During the beginning stages of Apple, Steve encountered many setbacks. A notable one would be in 1976 where he confused his first order of 50 Apple I computers. He delivered 50 circuit boards instead of finished machines. He could only take partial payment for the order, which gave his company a financial setback. However, he didn’t let that stop him. By the end of the year, they delivered 150 finished computers.

Saying you’re going to achieve a goal and actually accomplishing it are two different things. One takes thought while the other takes action. If you’re having a hard time following through with the goals you have planned, try using these steps to make them more attainable.

Why We Make New Year’s Resolutions and Why They Fail

We are already halfway through January. Many of you have probably made your New Year’s resolutions before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s Eve. But how many of you are still sticking to them? Some studies show that roughly 78% of those who make New Year’s resolutions fail at sticking with them. I used to make New Year’s resolutions myself. But after a month or so into the new year, I went back to my old ways. So why do we keep playing this cycle of promises to ourselves when we’re only destined to break them?

The New Year Means It’s Time for Change

At least that’s what we’ve been programmed to believe. In reality, a new year just means that the number at the end of the date goes up one increment for the next 365 days. We all still have bills, jobs to go to, and families to take care of just like we did before the New Year was rung in. But we like to think that because we are starting a new year, we can make a bunch of changes to ourselves all at once. Most people make their New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Gyms love this time of year because it means a boost in their gym membership sales. Everyone is ramped up to slim down. But after the excitement of making the New Year’s resolution has faded, going to the gym or sticking to a diet means having to work at it. And that’s when most people start losing interest. If you want your resolutions to stick, then the best way to do it is to show up. Woody Allen was right when he said that 80 percent of success is just showing up. If you show up to the gym, you might as well work out.

We Like to be Ambitious

Wouldn’t we all feel so much better about ourselves if we achieved goals like running a marathon, climbing to the top of Mount Everest, or writing a 300 page novel? Of course we would. It’s in our DNA to be ambitious and try to accomplish extraordinary ventures. What we sometimes fail to realize is that we have to take baby steps to get there. Maybe not to the extent Bob Wiley took it to in What About Bob. But you can’t expect to run a marathon if you haven’t ever had any training. I would love to have a best seller novel published, but I’m guessing that’s not going to happen with the first book I write. It might, but it’s not likely. So I’m taking baby steps to get there. A couple years ago I tried out for a writing competition called NaNoWriMo where you are challenged to write 50,000 words within the month of November. I accomplished writing 15 thousand words my first time. That’s more than I have ever written for one outlet. This last November I achieved 25,000 words. This November, I may end up reaching my 50,000 word goal. I didn’t do it the first time, but I’m taking my baby steps to get there.

We all Want a Clean Slate

After going through twelve months of our lives becoming a habit, the New Year seems like a good time to start fresh and try new things. And why shouldn’t it? We buy new calendars that are clean and untouched of our appointments and meetings. We celebrate the night before with friends and loved ones on the hopes that the next year will be better than the last. We get caught up in the excitement of what the future holds. But no one says a clean slate has to begin at the New Year. If you have a desire to change something about yourself, whether it’s losing weight, being more organized, or trying something new, then run with it when it hits you. I started my weight loss goals in August and considered it to be an early resolution to myself.

Personally, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore. I just make resolutions. Any time during the year I find myself slacking in a certain area in my life, I make a promise to myself to change the bad habits I have slipped into. My health, my work, and personal aspects of my life shouldn’t have to wait until the New Year to be fixed. What experiences do you have with your New Year’s resolutions?

Does It’s A Wonderful Life Really Need a Sequel?

One of my favorite holiday movies has always been It’s a Wonderful Life. I remember growing up and watching that movie every year. To me, it wasn’t Christmas unless we popped in our VHS tape and watched George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, go through life as if he had never been born. And every time a bell rings, I can’t help but wonder if an angel got their wings. The sentiment of the movie is classically heartwarming. It expresses the gift of being alive and how you impact other people; no matter how big or small.

Now, 60 years later, there’s talk about a sequel being made by Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions. The premise is the grandson of George Bailey, who is somewhat of a Scrooge, is visited by his own guardian angel, his Aunt Zuzu. Zuzu, who will be played by the original actress Karolyn Grimes, tells her nephew that the world would have been a better place if he had never been born. After reading the synopsis, I had mixed feelings. Does It’s a Wonderful Life really need a sequel? Would it have been better as a reboot? Or should it just be left alone?

These days it seems like every movie is getting "rebooted". Movies like Gremlins, Flight of the Navigator, and Robocop are all reported to be receiving Hollywood’s movie makeover. And while it might be cool to see how advancements in special effects will make these movies look (The Great Gatsby reboot was more visually enhanced than the original), it makes me wonder if every movie really needs to be rebooted. Annie, another movie that’s in the works to be redone, is probably one I would leave alone. If you’re not going to throw a bunch of money to make the special effects pop, there’s really no reason to hash out the same story unless you’re sure you can tell it better.

On the flip side, if film makers aren’t going to reboot a movie, then they’re probably going to make a sequel. In my opinion, it’s hard to make a sequel better than the first. If a movie is really good, then it’s going to have a strong following. And if you decide to make a sequel, you better do a really good job or you will be disappointing a lot of fans (Grease 2, Teen Wolf 2, pretty much anything that has a 2 at the end of the title). Besides, not every movie needs a sequel. And not everyone wants to see it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty excited to see Anchorman 2 when it’s released in theaters on December 18th, but I think that’s because Ron Burgundy is in his own league.

In my opinion, the sequel to It’s a Wonderful Life should be erased from the drawing board. The original is a heartwarming classic that I don’t think really needs a part 2 or a makeover. I think it’s perfect as is, and it’s familiarity can’t be replaced by Hollywood gimmicks. And apparently, Paramount agrees with me. Well, maybe not with my reasons but they do not support a sequel for the holiday classic. Paramount holds the license to It’s a Wonderful Life and they are willing to fight Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions to keep the sequel from going into production. Even Tom Capra, the son of Frank Capra who directed the movie, said that his father "would have called it ludicrous" if a sequel was made. The proposed date of release will be in 2015, so I guess we will see who will win the sequel battle. What reboots or sequels do you think should have been left alone?

Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves

This is part one of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how we can teach ourselves anything with a little trial and error. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

Learning something new isn’t always easy, but there are times we have to do it. And we may not have the time or money to sit in a classroom to be lectured. In these situations, we resort to the self-teaching method. The ways we go about teaching ourselves something can vary depending on our learning abilities and the subject. According to LearningRX.com, there are three different learning styles: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (hands-on). After a discussion I had with my office colleagues, we found three different ways we can teach ourselves, and these techniques can relate to our learning abilities.

Copy Other People's Work

I'm not saying to steal someone else's work and call it your own. However, if you are a visual or hands-on learner, this technique might help. When I had worked for a security company eight years ago, I had received a promotion that required me to learn the fundamentals of SQL (Structured Query Language). SQL is the typical way analysts and report managers gather data for reports that companies need to help them function. I didn't have any background with SQL, but I was willing to learn to expand my professional background. How did I do it? I used queries that others had written and experimented with them. I broke them up in pieces to see what each part did. Then, I tried to write my own using the same syntax (linguistic SQL rules) to see if my queries would produce the same results. Once I was familiar with the basic SQL concept, I was able to efficiently write several queries on my own. Of course, when I was learning SQL, I would only test my queries in a development environment to avoid any potential catastrophic database issues. Learning this way allowed me to see how a query worked and I applied the visual experience with a hands-on tactic.

Take a Dive and Jump In

This technique is best for hands-on learners. People who learn kinesthetically are most likely to succeed when they can engage with the learning material. For example, a hands-on learner who wants to be a mechanic would want to jump in and start pulling out and disassembling a motor to learn how to put it back together. An article on Utah Valley University's website acknowledges that movement and activity helps kinesthetic learners remember their material. It can be an activity as small as swinging a leg to a more interactive activity like drawing a picture. The article states, "The more skin and muscles you use, the better you remember."

Learn with a Specific Goal

Sometimes we learn best if we know what the goal is. Auditory learners use this method by being told how to reach their goal. A musician is a great example. Someone who is learning music already knows how the piece should sound. They then break the music apart and learn when to play which notes and for how many beats. Their overall goal is to make their instrument sound like the original piece. The Bepko Learning Center gives some helpful tips on how auditory learning can improve their learning habits; one of them is to listen to instrumental music while studying.

Once we are able to see what our learning style is, we can apply these concepts to our study habits. Even being out of the school atmosphere, we still learn at our jobs and hobbies. If you would like to learn more about finding out what your learning style is, check out the links below.


You can find the other parts of our learning new things series by following the links below:

Part Two: How To Learn From the Internet - By Maranda Gibson.

Part Three: Why We Are Afraid to Try New Things - By David Byrd.

Uber Car Service Controversy

"Make easy money just by driving with Uber!" That was a Facebook post I saw that was made by one of my friends. Of course, it grabbed my attention. How could you make money by driving? More importantly, who is Uber? My curiosity started kicking in, and I decided to do my research. According to their website, Uber is a service created in 2009 that connects its users to its drivers through a mobile app. Basically, Uber contracts a set of licensed drivers. An Uber user can request taxi-like services by pulling the app up on their phone and contacting an Uber driver that's closest to them. The user can then rate the driver based on their experience, and they pay the driver by linking their credit card information to their account so their fare is automatically deducted. Drivers for Uber can create their own schedule, though the site suggests being available during peak hours to make more money. I assume "peak hours" are when bars are closing or after a concert or sporting event.

The service itself seems pretty innovative. For the driver, they have the freedom to set their own hours and don't have to deal with cash. For the user, they are able to hand-pick their drivers that are close to them and/or are highly rated. You can't quite do that by calling a traditional taxi service.

Although it has gained popularity with the public, many city officials are not too happy with the tech company. In Los Angeles, Uber received a cease-and-desist letter this last June telling the company that they are "operating an unlicensed, for-profit commercial transportation service..." Uber has also had to deal with battles in Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C., and most recently Dallas. The City of Dallas initiated an investigation that ended up with 61 citations being issued to 31 Uber drivers as of August 28, 2013.

Since Uber came to Dallas in 2012, members of the City Council have tried to regulate its transportation-for-hire services. More recently, city staff members had placed an unscheduled item into the Dallas City Council meeting agenda. When agenda items are scheduled, a committee will study the issue and get the public’s input before it would ever reach City Council. However, a memo  was placed into the August 28, 2013 agenda to propose changes to the current Chapter 10A of the Dallas City Code bypassing the usual procedure.

Along with city officials, taxi and transportation companies are not too fond of the service either. A representative from LADOT (Los Angeles Department of Transportation) said that these drivers for Uber "...are not required to pass background checks or have their vehicles inspected for safety." Arthur Hollingsworth, an investor for Yellow Cab also argues that "Uber drivers don't have to pay the same taxes, insurance fees and licensing fees that taxi drivers do." Both are pretty good points if the primary concern about the whole issue is fairness and public safety.

It seems that after the August 28th City Council meeting, the issue has simmered down a little in Dallas. The Dallas Morning News reported on October 23, 2013 that the 61 citations have all been dropped and the City of Dallas is backing off Uber as the interim Dallas city manager, A.C. Gonzales, has been getting a lot of heat for not handling the issue appropriately. So, the question still begs to be answered. Should Uber be treated like a taxi company and pay the same fees or follow the same regulations that taxi drivers are subjected to? Or are they merely a middleman for the for-hire transportation driver and the Uber user?

David Byrd thinks, "Uber is a new service that wasn't possible before cell phones. Now, you are getting customers from a market that didn't exist. So, is it really competition to taxi services?  I don't think so since I would be willing to use Uber when I wouldn't consider a taxi. I don't see Uber eating into taxi business for people at the airport, or at hotels. So, I don't think they should be restricted by the same rules."

I think as long as the Uber drivers have the necessary background checks done (they don’t have any warrants, are not reckless drivers, and are properly insured) then they should be allowed to offer their services. The transportation market is changing as it should with technology. I think it’s great that Uber users are able to see their driver’s ratings and can hail them quicker than they can get a cab. It’s just a different way of doing business.

Five Ways Working Out Can Make You Feel Better

A couple months ago I won free personal training sessions. Well, my husband was actually the winner, but he graciously gave the personal training package to me because I’ve been wanting to get back in shape. Before I could even start my sessions, I had an initial interview with the personal trainer as well as a fitness assessment test. Talk about an eye opener. One part of the test was to jump rope for a minute. Seems easy enough, right? Well, if it’s been a few years since you’ve really done any exercise, it’s not as easy as you might think. I could only go 45 seconds before I had to stop. My heart was racing, my legs were burning, and I thought I was going to pass out. The fitness assessment gave me a reality check. I was really out of shape.

After the test, my personal trainer drew up my work out schedule and food management program. He likes to call it a "food management program" because "diet" sounds too restrictive to him. Now I’m about a month and a half into my personal training, and I can honestly say that I feel so much better in so many ways.

I’m Sleeping Better – Before I started working out, getting a good night’s sleep was nearly impossible unless I took a sleeping aid like Unisom. But if I did that, I usually woke up groggy and tired. It was always a struggle to get out of bed. Now, I find myself not needing a sleep aid as often as I used to. Working out helps me burn the energy I get from the food I eat during the day. In turn, that helps me sleep much better than before.

I’m Stronger – Even after just 6 weeks, my strength has significantly improved. Just the other day I was lifting several 30 pound boxes and didn’t feel too winded. If it was 6 weeks ago, that would have been a different story.

I’m Smarter – Ok, maybe my IQ didn’t rocket to genius level, but I can tell that my thoughts are more clear and concise and I’m able to problem solve more efficiently. I’m sure it goes along with being able to sleep better, too.

I’m Eating Better – Yes, every now and then I’ll cheat and have a slice of pizza or a reasonably sized bowl of fettuccine Alfredo. But for the most part, I’m eating more salads and veggies and have cut the carbs back as much as I can. Of course, I’m also a Type 1 Diabetic so I can’t cut back too much.

I’m Losing Weight and Inches – So far I haven’t dropped a lot of pounds, but I have lost a lot of inches. This means one thing. I’m gaining more muscle and becoming more toned. It’s true when experts say you can’t rely just on how much you weigh. If you’re losing inches around your waist, your hips, and your arms then you are on the right path to becoming more fit.

Of course, not everyone likes going to the gym. Some may see it as a trivial routine or a chore. But there are different ways to get your exercise in. Maranda Gibson kills two birds with one stone. “Getting exercise doesn’t always mean you have to leave the house. You can easily get your heart rate up by putting on your favorite songs and dancing around. As someone who is a neat freak at home, you can burn a good amount of calories by tackling those chores you’ve been putting off.”

David Byrd takes a different approach with his personal fitness that keeps it interesting. “Since starting ballroom dance, I have lost 20 pounds and had to buy all new pants (my old ones were too big). In addition, I sleep better and think better. The nice thing about dance is that it's not like going to the gym and having to do repetitive exercises for an hour. It keeps me interested, especially since I get bored quickly.”

Whether you’re on the elliptical, vigorously cleaning house, or perfecting your dance moves, the most important thing is that you’re being active. Find an activity that you enjoy and run with it (pun intended). Most likely you’ll feel better, have more energy, and contribute to a healthier lifestyle.

How Good Is Your Memory: Three Reasons to Record Your Calls

Some people have eidetic, or photographic, memory. They can recall almost everything they’ve ever seen, heard, or read. These special people could attend or host a conference call, remember everything that was said, and go on with their day.  So, for the rest of us, here are three reasons why recording your calls is really important:

  • Not everyone has a photographic memory.

Convincing someone with a fuzzy recall how a meeting actually happened is frustrating. Save time, effort (and even friendships) by recording every call.  If a dispute arises on what was said during a meeting, simply play back the recording.

  • Not everyone is honest.

Admit it. You have been double crossed by a verbal agreement before.  It's your word against theirs. With a recording of the conversation, all doubt is removed.

  • Not everyone remembers what they are supposed to do.

After a meeting, people can be excited about moving forward. After lunch, the excitement starts to fade, and so does memory of any task. Recordings can be used on important meetings to distribute tasks and keep people accountable. Also, the meeting manager can revisit the recording to make sure follow-up occurs with everyone.

Tip: You can notate each call on your account. This way you will know at a glance what the call was about. (Read More About Call Notes)

Think of all the meetings, emails, conversations, questions, and misunderstandings you can avoid just by putting your exact words in a recording. It’s like a bit of photographic memory for all of us.

Never recorded your call before? Here are three ways you can get started:

  • Automatic Recording – Automatically record your conference call each time it starts. Log into your account, go to Conference Manager > View Conference Conference > Name. Select “Automatically Record Conference” under the Detail/Options tab. Done.
  • From Your Phone – Press *2 anytime to start/stop recording.
  • Live Call Screen – Ever notice the “Record button” on your live call screen? Click that button to start/stop recording.
  • Recording Advantages – See more about how you can use your conference recordings in sales, marketing, and customer service.
AccuConference | Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

Tips for Mastering Public Speaking

The most obvious difference between a conference call and a presentation in an auditorium is in one you have people in front of you, and with the other you don’t.  Looking past the obvious, there are far more similarities than differences between the two.  So when I found some tips on BusinessWeek.com about improving face-to-face public speaking, I knew they could help when we do the big presentation on a conference call.

  • "Believe in the Audience" – Most of the time, the audience is rooting for you to succeed, or at least to put on a good show.  To do this, talk about what they want to hear.  Research the audience beforehand, or begin the conference call with, "What do you want to hear about?"
  • "Say It Out Loud" – Your presentation will be spoken, so keep your practice sessions realistic.  Say it aloud and not just in your head.  Call up a friend to listen so you can get feedback on your "phone presenter" voice.
  • "Mimic the Situation" – This tip suggests you go to the location you’ll be presenting to get acquainted with the layout, and you can do the same for conference calls.  Do a test call with a few people to see how everyone sounds.  Try out the mute buttons, and use the lecture mode.  If there’s also a web conference, practice sharing your desktop and running applications.  Make your mistakes during practice.

How do you get over the fear of public speaking?  What tips can you share with us?

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