Follow Your Instincts in Customer Service

A few weeks ago, something interesting and terrifying happened while refilling my gas tank. When I looked down, there was a puddle of gasoline under my SUV and gas was dripping down the wheel well. Since defects in gas tanks are actually pretty rare I suspected that it had to be overflow from when I was filling up.

Still, something didn't feel right. Even as I told myself that it was simply an overflow issue, I didn't fully accept it as the answer. After driving a block and half, I realized my miles to empty display had dropped nearly ten miles. I decided to take the vehicle to the dealership and lo and behold, there was a crack in part of my tank that needed to be replaced.

Cracks and defects in the gas tank are rare in vehicles. Who knows what could have happened if I had continued to drive around slowly dripping gas? I went with my instinct that something was horribly wrong, and I was completely right.

Instincts are a huge factor in why and how we do something. No matter if you want to call it your intuition, sixth sense, or your gut feeling, we do put a lot of importance on our instincts. They are a piece of us and driven by our personality and our makeup, so there are different instinctual reactions for everyone. Using your personal instinctual reactions at certain time when dealing with customers can be a boost to how you provide service for them.

Jump in When It's Right

If your instinct is telling you that your customer needs help, don't be afraid to go with your gut and jump in. Recently, I was walking a customer through some of the steps and after some of his questions indicated he needed a little extra help, I offered to put his invitation together for him. I want my customers to learn how to do things and I'm highly dedicated to not just answering their questions, but educating them on how everything works. There is a time and a place for education, but there is also a time for taking care of it so the customer doesn't have to.

Step Away When It's Not

It is possible to be unable to adequately communicate with a customer. As a customer, you think you're asking all of the right questions. As the operator, you feel like you're answering them, but you're both getting frustrated. Letting the customer talk to someone else doesn't mean that you're passing the buck, it means that you’re going to send the customer to someone that might have a better approach. We all learn differently, we all have ways that we are comfortable, and there might come a time when you are not able to speak to the customer in the way they need. Don't be afraid to step away from a client if your instinct is telling you that the conversation is going downhill fast.

In Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, he talks about how our spontaneous decisions can sometimes be better than the ones where we agonize over every little detail. Once we become an "expert", according to Gladwell, we can "thin slice" and use limited information to make a decision. This cuts out a lot of the information that can sometimes cause us to over think a solution. Instincts are a powerful tool in making a decision.

Do you trust your instincts?

Leadership Lessons Learned from Olympians

Jared Zezel.

Does that name ring any bells?

No? Okay, how about Allison Pottinger?

Allow me to shed some light on our mystery guests. Jared and Allison are members of the 2014 USA Olympics team who will compete for Sochi gold in the sport of curling.

Heh? Curling? What's that? I was exposed to curling during the Salt Lake City winter games and while it may not seem very exciting, I've found it to be more edge of my seat than some of the other winter sports. (Maybe it's because I have no idea how it's judged but I find myself waiting to hear the teams calling out instructions and then cheering as one stone slaps against another.)

There's no one who wouldn't agree that in order to be an Olympian you have to work your tail off, but the curling champions of the world compete in a sport that lacks a sexy or romantic flair. Major brands are not going to approach the gold medal curling champion and ask them to promote the hot new car or next big thing. No, brands and advertisers want Shaun White flipping over the top of a BMW or Gracie Gold cutting figure eights around a bowl of cereal. (Editors Note: IOC regulations prevent Olympians from promoting products during the Olympic Games, but the games are an opportunity to make a "name" for yourself.)

People like to think that athletes are in it for the money and the sponsorship deals. It's a bonus, yes, but we can learn a lot about drive and leadership from the champions of both popular and the little known Olympic sports.

Hard Work and Dedication

Nothing comes easily and we would all do a lot to remember that we can't just wish for our dreams to be fulfilled. We have to go out and fall on the ice or face plant into the snow. When you get up and brush yourself off, you try again, and you have a better idea of your mistakes. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to be considered as the "elite" of anything - be it curling, writing, snowboarding, or basket making.

Set Goals Early On

Not all athletes want to be Olympians. Not all Olympians dream of a day when they can enter their sport professionally. No matter what they want, they decide at a young age what they want to be. Going pro versus being an Olympian might take you to different circles of competition or choose a different coach. Setting a specific goal from the get-go can help you determine the path that you need to take, rather than just wandering in the weeds with no real direction.

Success is What You Make of It

The champions of the sport of curling will likely never get a multi-million dollar deal to promote a brand or product. The Jared and Allison's of the Olympics will likely never be featured on the front of cereal box, but yet, they are still competing with all of their hearts and souls. Success isn't always about being the biggest, baddest, and most well-known name in a field. We won't all get to that point and in truth, almost none of us will. Set your success along the way in a manner that you can be happy with them. Reach for more, of course, but understand the importance in making strides in a consistent manner. For many athletes, being an Olympian means more than being the "face of the Olympics".

I highly encourage you all to watch the lesser known events during the Sochi Games and be sure to get to know Team USA as we go for the gold in 2014.

Three Ways to Boost Your Conferences in 2014

Towards the end of 2013, I had a customer call in and ask me one simple question: "Is there anything we’re not taking advantage of?" There are a number of features we include, but customers might not know about. We went over a couple of things that I noticed he wasn’t using and suggested using things like web conferencing and conference call recording for his calls in 2014.

Here are three of my favorite features to suggest to customers.

Brand Your Conference Calls

Add a custom greeting to your conference line so you can brand your events to your company. You can also use it to share news and events. It’s easy to do and we can update the message as often as you like. A lot of our customers like this option because the participant knows who is hosting the conference and is reassured that they have dialed into the right call.

Custom Hold Music / Greetings

A customer in financial planning uses custom hold music to play a recorded message about the different services his company offers. This is a great use of a free option to turn the waiting room before the conference begins into a virtual billboard. You can also upload some of your own music and participants can jam out while they wait for the call to begin.

Registration Pages

One of our customers sets up luncheon events and uses registration pages as part of their invitation. These pages can be fully customized to add your logo, images, links to your site, speaker information, and more. Using a registration page lets you track attendance and know if you’re marketing your conferences to the right audiences by giving you a metric to measure your response rate.

All of these features can be a part of your next call with AccuConference. If you have questions about them, please give us a call 800.989.9239, or just give us a call to see if there’s anything more you can do with your conferences to get your participants involved. (Seriously, we like helping you.)

Is Your Smartphone Making Life Worse

I love my iPhone and my iPad. I use them to listen to music, play games, text with my friends and family – in fact, I can freely admit that I will choose to text someone rather than make a phone call. It's quick, it’s easy, and it doesn't distract me from something else. Recently, I realized that I checked my phone before I walked out to go down to my car and once I got into the drivers' seat, I checked it again.

Why? Did I really think I was going to miss something that was that important in a time span of three minutes? No, I didn't, but I’m addicted to checking my phone.

Recent studies suggest that the average smartphone user checks their phone 150 times a day.

We use these kinds of devices for everything. We keep our lives organized in the calendar applications, read all of our books on screens, and we share messages and videos with friends and family right from the palms of our hands. It's great to live in an age where being able to talk to my brother while he was deployed was as simple as an internet connection, but our reliance on technology is not all fun and games.

Smartphones have recently been proven to cause insomnia. Harvard researchers published results on how our dependency on technology has crept to the bedroom and is now throwing off our body's "light-dark cycle", which is spurning an increase in insomnia. Head researcher, Charles A. Czeisler, reports that as we expose ourselves to more artificial lights we "dramatically changed the timing of our endogenous circadian rhythms."

Overexposure to devices that think for us have caused an interesting phenomenon dubbed by Psychology Today as "The Google Effect". Research from a 2011 study found that people are encouraged to think less as we have more access to search engines right in our hands. Have you ever watched a movie and thought "hey I know that guy" and then turned to Google to type in a long and vague question to see what pops up, rather than trying to recall his face in your memory bank? That is the Google Effect.

Your brain at rest can actually be one of your most creative and productive times. Research in the early 1990s showed that your brain never really stops, even when your body is at rest. A resting state allows your brain to entertain ideas that seem random in nature. In contrast, when you are focused on a detailed activity, your brain devotes most of its energy to the task at hand. I think that being constantly tired to a device limits the ability of our brains (at least my brain) to allow those random thoughts and ideas to flow.

It’s not just your brain and creativity that can suffer from overuse of your smartphone. An Auckland chiropractor reports a rise in cases of cervical kyphosis. The curvature of your spine at the neck is developed as baby during "tummy time" when you practice holding your head up. Cervical kyphosis is the straitening of the vertebrae at the base of your neck, and many medical professionals are cautioning cell phone users to the dangers of looking down all of the time.

That's not to say that smartphones don't do a lot of good for us and social networks. Studies have been conducted after disasters (like tornadoes) that give credit to social networks and text messages for helping to get messages to those in the paths of dangerous weather to seek shelter.

The development of applications for your phone range from games to technology that allows you to save money – like with the Nest learning thermostat or can even keep your medical information on hand in the event of something happening to you. Applications allow you to store your current medications, dosages, and even if you have an allergies. In the event of an emergency, EMTs or doctors can have quick access to your medical history so that they can best attend to you when you arrive at the emergency room.

Smartphones can enrich our lives but I think it's always important to remember that too much of a "good" thing can be bad. Change your habits by putting away your phone for thirty minutes to an hour when you get home and letting your brain "idle" or delete applications that you’re constantly checking.

Are you up to the challenge? (I don’t know if I am but I'm going to try.)

Cell Phone Statistics: Updated 2013

 2013 Cell Phone Statistics

New information has been released about how we used our cell phones, smartphones, and mobile devices in 2013. Some of the stats show a clear move among the average cell user towards it being their primary gaming, internet, and communication device. 

New Data From Pew Research

  • 97% of adults have a cell phone. (Up 4% from 2012)
  • Of these, 56% of those phones are considered "smart phones"
  • The cellular phone is the most quickly adopted technology in history. 
  • Cell phones are seen as key to actively participating in your community. 
  • 29% of users describe their phone as something they can't live without. 
  • 9% used their phone to contribute to charity. 
2013 Showed Growth in Mobile Marketing Importance

  • 34% of all users are "mobile only", meaning they use only their mobile devices and have no other computer or telephone. (Up 9% from 2012)
  • 41% of mobile users browse on their mobile devices for a product after seeing it on an ad on television. 
  • 80% of users will participate in e-commerce this year. 
  • 36% of smartphone users admit to "shopping around" on their phones while at a retail location, before committing to a purchase. 
This data is still forthcoming from the final quarter of 2013.  We will post a new update soon. 

2012 Cell Phone Statistics


As technology continues to improve, the use and saturation of cell phones and their users continues to change drastically. The increase over the last ten years has been incredible and the way we use our phones to stay connected and informed continues to change.

From Pew Internet

  • 87% of American adults own a cell phone, and 45% of those are smart phones.
  • Only 12% of adults age 65 and over have a smartphone.
  • 82% take pictures on their cell phones, up from 76% in 2010.
  • 29% check their bank account online, up from 18% in 2011.
  • 9% of adults have texted a charitable organization to make a donation.

CTIA Research Stats

  • 45% of businesses state wireless is essential to operations.
  • 2.27 trillion text messages were sent.
  • 1.1 trillion MB of data was used.
  • 28,641 cell phone towers were added across the US.

Mobile Usage Growth

25% of internet users are mobile only - meaning, they do not access the internet for browsing from any other device.

71% of smartphone users that see TV, press, or advertising that interests them will immediately do a mobile search.

The average American smartphone user spent nearly 30 minutes a day checking or updating social networks.

2011 Cell Phone Statistics
The way we use cell phones has changed drastically over the last year. Once upon a time, we used cell phones to make calls while we were away from our homes. Recent studies show that we may be migrating away from our primary use of the phone to more of a texting and mobile web device.

Pew Studies 2011

  • 53% of adults own a smartphone.
  • 13% of users surveyed pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid social interaction.
  • 42% of people have used their phone for entertainment when they are bored.
  • 51% of users used their cell phone at least once to get information.
  • 27% said they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone.
  • 29% turn off their phones to take a break from their digital life at night.

Updated Statistics for 2009

I was sitting around the other day marveling about how popular cell phones have become. It’s amazing that in our culture we make ourselves available every minute of every day -- thank goodness for call display! Anyway, I did a quick Google search and stumbled upon an interesting article with a list of cell phone statistics that I thought was worth sharing.  

Here’s what I learned:

  • Cell Phone usage in the US has increased from 34 million to 203 million in the last ten years
  • There is an estimated two billion cell phones world-wide, which means about 4.5 billion people go without.
  • A 2004 MIT survey said that cell phones was ranked as the one invention that people hate the most, but can’t live without. It beat out the alarm clock and the television!
  • A 2005 University of Michigan study said that 83% said cell phones made life easier (choosing it over the internet).
  • A Let’s Talk (retail company) survey said that 38% of people thought it was ok to use a cell phone in the bathroom. (Other stats show cell phone use in restaurants, theaters, supermarkets and subways).
  • A telephia survey said that Americans average 13 talking hours a month – with the 18-24 age group averaging 22 hours.
  • A Sprint survey said that 2/3 people used their cell phone backlight to find something in the dark.

I wonder how many people would stop blogging to answer their cell phone?

Excuse me, I have call…

5 Ways to cut your cell bill - from ConsumerReports Magazine Jan 2008

Special Caller Deals
Cingular has roll-over minutes.  Most carriers allow free in network calls (like a Verizon to Verizon call).  Alltell and T-Mobile offers a select number of phone numbers which you can call for free.

Overage Charges
During months with higher than normal usage, increase your plan just for that month making sure you don't spend the .45 cents per minute for minutes that are over your plan.  Also make sure to regularly check your bills to determine if you need to increase or decrease your lines.  No sense in paying for more than you need.

Control Usage by Children
AT&T offers a limiting service which controls several aspects of the calling behavior.  From the web parents can limit the phone numbers dialed, duration of calls and more.

Pay Attention to All Charges
Getting a good deal on minutes is good, but make sure you consider all other charges.  Text messaging is a great feature but can add up very quickly.  The standard rate for one text message is 15 cents.  With Texting Plans, messaging can drop to only a penny per message.  Also make sure to check the rates for data and web access.

PrePaid Phone
If you barely use any minutes, and 300 minutes is an overkill for you, then a prepaid phone may be the best option.

How Professors Engage With Students

In college, the professors are facing long class times with students as well as more intense information. My favorite professors were always the ones who found a way to present information in new and exciting ways. I did better in classes where my professors made me a part of the learning process. What can you do as a teacher to keep your students engaged in your lectures? Here are some things that my favorite history professors did in college that always kept us engaged.

Tell a Story

By the time they get to college, students know about the landing of pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. How does a professor keep students engaged in a lesson that they know the ending to? My professor would find a way to tell a story about events that we might know now about. When I was hearing the story of colonization again, I learned that the pilgrims didn’t bring enough women along in the beginning and that for a long time; the colonies were under the threat of simply vanishing because their population was not growing. This story made a subject that I knew a lot about seem fresh and new.

Don’t Rush to the End

Encourage your students to participate and engage in the conversation. If you are rushing through the slides to get a good handle on the information, you miss a huge chance to pull your students in through participation. Dr. Carter of European History always encouraged us to ask questions, present discussion topics, and weigh in on controversial statements. As we made notes, we could ask him at any time why a certain decision was made versus another.

Wait to Give Out Handouts

Instead of handing out a copy of notes or the slides at the beginning of class, hand them out as students are filing out of the room at the end of the day. It will keep students from feeling like they can “check out” of the conversation at the beginning of the lecture because they already know what you’re going to cover. The professors I had never did this. They didn’t want us to check out as soon as we walked into class.

If you want students to stay present in lectures you have to give them lots of chances to get involved. These are some of my favorite professor’s tactics that even eight years later, I remember so well, and they are still some of my most enjoyable classes.

How Your Brain Drives Productivity and Focus

There comes a point in our day where we have a task to do and we simply cannot get our brains to cooperate. Maybe there’s a batch of emails you need to send out or there’s a meeting you just can’t get excited about. I've always just attributed it to just not being excited about the particular task at hand.

In marketing, we have to communicate with people – talk, email, think, conference, brainstorm, send smoke signals, or whatever. One of the things we don’t always think about is that we might be trying to do the wrong tasks at the wrong time. Research studies have shown that it’s not what you’re doing but when you’re choosing to take on a particular task.

Science may seem boring but if you understand what’s happening in your brain at any point in the day, you can get the most out of the chemicals buzzing across your brain.

Relationship building should be the focus of your first few hours at work. High levels of oxytocin make you feel connected and cuddly to the world. You can harness this hormones power by reaching out to clients, writing thank you notes, or engaging on social media. Oxytocin is a hormone that is more related to your personal relationships with family members or significant others, but you can take action while your levels are high and you’re at work.

Creative activities are the most effective in the mid-morning hours. Have you ever wondered why cleaning or crafting is a stress reliever? The hormone cortisol (the “stress hormone”) will help your brain focus on tasks and prime you for learning. Since cortisol is highest in the mid-morning hours, it’s the perfect time to plan out that presentation, do research for an upcoming infographic, or sit down to write that blog post that you just know is going to break the Internet.

Save difficult or complicated tasks for after lunch. The hours just before and after lunch time can be your most productive. The melatonin levels (the “sleep hormone”) will be on the decline at this time of day and you will have the mental focus and drive to take on the world. Melatonin levels can be affected by the kind of meal you have and how much you eat, so make good decisions at lunch time to keep the sharpness. This is the time to focus on those emails you send out, scheduling conference calls, or making pitches to your clients and bosses. This is the time of day where you are sharpest and ready for success.

Collaborate at the end of the day. By late afternoon, your brain is on a natural downswing which makes it the best time of day for laid-back activities like a brainstorming session. This is another good time to engage on social media because you’re feeling friendly and laid back. If you spent your morning re-tweeting or sending out links, this is a good time to talk directly to your followers.

Obeying your brains needs and desires at home is just as important as at work, because everything you do once you get home will have an effect on your next day at work. Start by getting a better night of rest.

  • Exercise before 6 PM so adrenaline levels will be down before you go to sleep.
  • Repetitive activities like doing puzzles will help you wind down for bed time.
  • Eating late at night will cause problems with your sleep schedule as your body metabolizes the food.
  • Practice darkness therapy to get better sleep. Put down the cell phone, turn off the television, and cover light emitting objects in your room with electrical tape. (I have done this and it’s worked great!) The light sources actually prevent your body from making melatonin at the times it needs to, which can prevent you from getting a good night of sleep.

To be more productive both at work and at home you must listen to your brain. It will tell you what you need. Do you base your tasks around the peaks of your brain power or do you just work down the list? Is it possible to get more out of your hours by letting your chemicals control you?

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?

Most Shared Posts in 2013

Happy end of December everyone! We had a great time in 2013 trying new things and taking new approaches on the blog and in a lot of other areas. It was a great year for us here at AccuConference and in celebration of the New Year; here is a look back at some of our favorite posts, as well as the most shared.

5 Ways to Get Your Audience’s Attention

When was the last time you saw a speech or attended a conference call where it didn’t begin with "Good morning, my name is…."? Getting the attention of your audience during a presentation can be a challenge while you compete with all of the distractions like cell phones, tablets, and social media. This list is a great way to try a new and improved opening for your presentations to get your audience to sit up and tune in.

Active Listening Skills for Customer Service

Listening in customer service is the most important thing that you can learn. When someone is talking to you, you need to tune out everything else and actively participate in your conversation with your client.

Why Adults Learn Languages More Easily Than Children

Research has proven that children are better than adults at a lot of things (like honesty and imagination) but one thing that we’ve learned is that when it comes to something as complicated as learning a new language, the adults have one up on the kids out there.

Breaking Down the Technical Barriers to Customer Service

This is a technical industry that we work in and a lot of times, we get bogged down in our terminology. Things that make perfect sense to us don’t always translate to new or existing customers. What approaches can you take to help ease your customers through new words?

Learning New Things: How We Approach New Challenges

We took on some new challenges at AccuConference and one of the things we learned as writers is that sometimes, you have to take a risk in order to improve. We wrote a series of posts in the fall about how we learn new things and how we face the challenges that arise.

Those were our most popular posts in 2013. Stay tuned and keep reading in 2014.

Happy New Year!

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?