Breaking Down the Technical Barriers of Customer Service


I work in a business that has a lot of words for a lot of different things. When you call in ask for a "webinar" we might be talking about a couple of different things. It's my job to break down your needs and ask the right questions so we get you the kind of service that you need. It's not a perfect system because there is a barrier between knowledge. I've been in this industry for a little over five years and honestly, there are still terms that come up that I haven't heard before and have to get clarification.

When hitting communication barriers created by technology phrases, it's not always easy to figure out a way to break down how to explain it to customers, but here are some things that we do here that are really helpful.

Break Things Down into Physical Terms

If I can't adequately communicate what I mean by a conference "line" I will break it down in terms of rooms. If you can provide something physical a customer can picture in his or her mind, you might click a bulb in their heads. It's much easier to imagine a room that is assigned to each person than to try to explain what I mean by "conference line". Something tangible that a person can wrap their mind around can break the technical confusion.

Gauge Your Customers Understanding

In about the first thirty seconds of a conversation with a customer, I can get a pretty good read on their level of familiarity with conferencing. Many times a customer will freely admit they have limited or no experience with any kind of conference technology, but sometimes, it's a matter of just understanding how they are wording and saying things that give you the best clues to how you need to break things down for them.

Repeat It Back in a Different Way

Don't be afraid to clarify with a customer. Part of what our responsibility is to the customer is making sure that we understand what they need so that we can direct them in the best possible way. Make notes as you talk to them and then repeat it back to them in a slightly different way. "Let me make sure I understand, you need a conference call where you can collect the participant's names and companies? Oh, then you need an operator answered call. Okay, we can take care of that for you."

Show, Don't Tell

When going over what a particular product or service can do, always offer to show it to them. Set up a demo with them and then give them access to go in and play around. I always encourage our new customers to go online and click around. Make yourself available to them if they have additional questions or needs so that you can talk them through.

When a customer doesn't understand the technical terms, it's our job to help them through it. Even if we might be speaking a different "language" with our customers, we can still get to the bottom of what they need and help them along the way. How do you help your customers get through the information.

Voting on Conference Calls

Conference calls are held for a number of reasons. Using conference services for board meetings is incredibly popular and sometimes, you need to hold a vote on these kinds of calls. The difference is that you can’t just ask for a “show of hands”. Now you need a way to take votes in an orderly manner on your conference call. Here are some of the unique ways we have observed our customers using our conference systems to take official votes from board members.

Flagging

On the live call screen, you have the ability to click beside a person’s name and put a little “flag” beside their name. We developed this feature for a client who wanted a way to keep track of participants who had already had an opportunity to ask a question so that everyone got a chance. Use the live call screen to flag people who have voted either up or down on an issue.

Web Conferencing

With web conferencing, you can send out a poll throughout the conference to take votes on your suggestions, issues, or just to get a feeling about how your participants feel. You can edit them to ask any kind of question and select any kind of responses. If you’re using a PowerPoint to show your clients some different options they have in a web page design or product marketing efforts, you can allow them to vote on which one they want by using the polling system within the conference service. (Bonus: The polls can be preloaded so that you have them ready to go.)

Q&A Sessions

When we talk about using Q&A sessions on your conference, it’s usually it the context of, well, asking questions. But you can use the Q&A feature to poll your audio participants. Ask them to press *1 to put themselves in line to vote and then you can take their vote one at a time. If you record your conference call, you can have all of these votes on record for review or to recount at a later date.

Voting sessions can easily be done through a conference without having to cost a lot of time and you can easily keep a record of these votes using some of these options.

Sweet Success: 12 Proven Habits of Winning Leaders

When you start a company and find yourself in a position of being a leader, you might wonder how you are going to accomplish the task of suddenly managing a handful (or a huge company full) of employees.

Here are twelve great habits of a winning leader.

Encourage Communication.
While you need to be speaking regularly to your team, you also need to encourage them to speak to each other. The sharing of ideas and thoughts among co-workers can shed light on where to improve, new approaches, or even changing them all.
Be Passionate.
Truly successful leaders aren't just present every day, but they believe in the value of their company and the products and services being offered. You have to love what you do, and feel connected on some level to what you're doing. It's not always as simple as "well, it was a small business I started on my own" - sometimes you have to work to find the passion.

Brainstorm.
Gather your team every few months to talk about how you can change or improve things. If you’re following habit number one, this should be easy because everyone will come to the table with ideas.

Embrace the Little Failures.
Don't be afraid to make small mistakes. You can learn a lot from the things you didn't do correctly, the ideas that weren't executed in the best way. Failures teach you how to succeed.

Ask for Help.
We like to think that we can do everything, but really, we don’t have super powers. We will never be in two places at once, we will never be able to do it all. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Remember That You Lay the Foundation.
Everyone else will build around you. Build something strong and sturdy that your team and rely on. You don’t want them to end up standing on something that will just crumble.

Read Everything.
Things change constantly, no matter what field you’re in. Stay up on blogs and changes in your industry. Read business books, speaking blogs, or informative articles that might even inspire conversation between you and your team.

Delegate. (Not abandon)
I think there are too many people who think that "delegating" a task means "passing it off". Delegation is key in showing trust in someone to complete a task, but it doesn't mean you shouldn't check in and make sure that they don’t need any clarification.

Create a Productive (yet enjoyable) Environment.
Happy employees are more productive employees. There is something to be said about "corporate culture" and its effect on your employee. Carry the fine balance between "work" and "fun".

Take Educated Risks.
If you never step outside of the comfort zone, you could miss huge opportunities to be on top of the "next big thing". Be smart about your risks and only take chances when you can assure that they can be "undone" if they fail.

Say "Thank you".
Send hand written notes to your clients. Occasionally treat your office to a coffee. Send out a company wide email thanking them all for working extra hours during a busy holiday rush. It doesn't matter how you do it - just show you’re appreciative of their hard work.

Develop Trust and Gain Respect.
I think that on some level we are all ingrained to "respect" the boss, but it’s completely different to be able to "trust" your boss. Cultivate the trust and watch an even higher level of respect appear.

The Assassination of JFK in a Digital Age

One of the things I really love about the Internet as an adult is the access to information. I spoke about it last week, how I’ve used the Internet to learn about weather. YouTube gets a lot of credit for funny animal videos but I want to take a moment to remind everyone that YouTube has become a historical video archive while we were all busy figuring out what the fox says.

I was always a geeky kid - interested in things like the weather and history. How many kids think Santa is the greatest because he brought you Encyclopedia Britannica on CD-ROM? What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I got a minor in history in college, almost enough credits to double major.

As a child and I was learning things, it was the “big events” that fascinated me. None so much like the assassination of JFK. I often asked my dad to tell me about it. He doesn’t remember much, but he remembers sitting in his 3rd grade class, when one teacher came in crying. She whispered to my dad’s teacher, and then they both left the room crying. The same goes for his mother - he remembers going home from school and seeing her crying too. After September 11th, 2001, I came to this strange realization that my children would one day ask me to tell the story of “where I was” over and over again. As I started to compare the two events in terms of importance, I started to look at the reporting between the two events and noticed interesting differences about the journalism.

(Mostly) Zero Sensationalism

Listen to any of the live coverage you can find on YouTube for “as it happened” and the thing that lacks versus a “national” event of today is the sensationalism. A lot of that is due to the time it took for information to travel. If you’ve ever been to the Texas Book Depository Museum (do it!) you’ll see the AP wire that came across, announcing the death of JFK. With time between reports, there was time that these details could be confirmed, vetted. Today, social media is used to find “breaking” and “real time” reports and they are often reported as true.

It Was a Pioneering Day of Live Journalism

When the reports first broke into soap operas and commercials for laundry detergent, most “big” affiliates reported the the President has been shot and would return to regular programming. At WFAA here in Dallas, Texas they went live, read a bulletin, and never left the air. The WFAA broadcast offices are just a few blocks south of where the assassination happened. Jay Watson ran back to the studio and interrupted the regular program - still out of breath from his sprint as he delivered the news. (Watch the landmark footage - it’s absolute chaos in the most amazing and professional way.)

If you ever visit Dallas, I highly recommend the visitation to the Texas Book Depository. The infamous floor where Lee Harvey Oswald took the shot is a a museum now, with lots of Kennedy artifacts. You can also go up to the top floor and look down to the street, giving you an almost exact view of what Oslwald would have seen. Just wandering around Dealey Plaza leaves a heavy feeling in your heart though, no matter how old you are.

Have you ever stopped to wonder what the reporting would have been like on that day if social media had played a part? Do you think reporting would have been different or the same?

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 .

How to Learn From the Internet

This is part two of our series on learning new things. This post talks about how you can use internet resources to learn about most anything. Follow the links after the post to read the other parts of our series.

My interest in weather goes way back to the early 90s when our Carolina home was nearly hit by a tornado. We went down to the basement to take shelter and when we came out, the green storage shed behind our house was gone. We never saw it again. As a kid, it’s hard to understand how something that was there just wasn’t anymore and my dad explained it to me in a very grown up way. He explained to me how he had seen the tornado in the woods just outside the back door while we were in the basement, and how it ‘took’ the shed.

Having my dad explain it to me the way he would any other grown up was great, but it woke up extra fear inside of me. I understood the importance of going to the basement and taking cover, because things can change in an instant with storms. What if the tornado had been just six feet to the left? Would our house still be there? Would our things still be there?

Before the Internet, the research that you could do on your own only went so far. What’s been amazing is information that twenty years ago I could have only seen in a classroom setting is now at the tips of my fingers.

So you want to learn something from the internet? There are a ton of resources out there to teach you pretty much anything. I wanted to learn about the weather, so that’s what I’ve shown you here, but you can mimic these tricks for anything from basket weaving to computer programming.

Reading

The free flow of information lends itself to the ability to let the internet serve as a historical archive. You type something into Google or your search engine of choice and you’re suddenly flooded with news articles, photos, and even historical archives. Go to your search engine of choice and type in “weather history 1998” or “tornado data 2012”. If your interest isn’t weather, you can type in whatever you want and find some truly legitimate information. Here’s a list of some of my favorite weather related reading sites:

Watching

Severe weather events happen so quickly that a meteorologist must warn you at the same time that they try to educate you about the dangers of the incoming weather. When you watch coverage live, it’s like getting the most elementary crash course of your life. I highly encourage anyone who is interested in learning about the weather to watch live coverage, or go to YouTube and find recorded coverage of an old event. To find live streaming of a current weather event, do what I do: search for “major city + live TV” and go to each of the local affiliates to see live events.

Some of the more informative live events are archived below. These large outbreaks allow you to learn a lot very quickly.

Online Classes and Podcasts

If you’re trying to use the internet as an educational tool, then you need to know the opportunities that exist online. I’ve found that weather is one of the easiest subjects to research and learn about, and that there are a lot of “enthusiasts” out there, putting together great educational tools, but for most subjects of interest you can find what you’re looking for. For weather, I’ve found some great classes and online resources that not only define terms or give historical data, but help you get an insider’s view on what you should learn about.

I think no matter what you want to learn about there are a number of reputable places online where you can go and find the information you want. I taught myself everything I know about the weather from these resources, and if you have a subject of interest, I strongly believe you can find what you’re looking for.


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

Part One: Three Different Ways We Can Teach Ourselves - By Mary Williams.

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

What We Are Reading

8 Bestsellers Started During NaNoWriMo
by Joel Cunningham, Barnes and Noble Book Blog
If you're brave enough to traverse NaNoWrimo, here are some best selling books that were born during November.


The Past in Color
by Feifei Sun, Time Magazine
Sanna Dullaway digitally colorized archival images of America's 16th president in hopes of bringing history to life. Here's a look back on the iconic images she's revisited.


Timelapse Transformation of Homeless Veteran
by Lacey Donohue, Gawker
Watch this amazing timelapse transformation of a homeless veteran.


Delivering Amazon on Sunday
by Tom Cheredar VentureBeat
Amazon forges new deal with USPS to deliver packages on Sundays


The Science Behind Why Breakups Suck
by Adam Dachis LifeHacker
The Science Behind Why Breakups Suck (and What You Can Do About It)


Angela Lansbury calls Murder She Wrote reboot a "mistake".

by AP Staff Writer The Guardian
Angela Lansbury speaks out against a reboot of the popular TV show.


Audy Kaufman is Alive, Says His Brother

by Mallika Rao Huffington Post
According to reports, Kaufman's brother, Michael Kaufman, brought down the house at last weeks Andy Kaufman Awards show with a winding tale involving a letter, a favorite restaurant, and this conclusion: Kaufman is alive.


A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.

What We Are Reading

PD James Murder
by Liz Bury, The Guardian
Liz Bury: Crime writer declares 'absolute conviction' that she has identified real-life killer.

 
The Real Lesson of the NSA
by Zeynep Tufekci, Medium
It seems that, depending on the constituency, the never-ending trickle of NSA revelations should be either seen as either boring or shocking.

 
Does anger follow the laws of thermodynamics?
by Seth Godin, Seth's Blog
Anger can be contagious.

 
The Erroneous Map of the World
by Kai Krause, Dynamic Diagrams
We Have Been Misled By An Erroneous Map Of The World For 500 Years.

 

F.D.A. Ruling Would All but Eliminate Trans Fats
by Sabrina Tavernise, The New York Times
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday proposed measures that would all but eliminate artificial trans fats, the artery clogging substance that is a major contributor to heart disease.

 

Why Tea Is So Healthy for You (and How to Get the Most from Every Cup)
by Melanie Pinola, Lifehacker
Here are all the ways drinking tea can lead to a healthier, longer life--and how to maximize both the enjoyment of the drink and its health benefits.


A lot of us here spend hours reading each week. Whether it’s blogs, news articles, eBooks, or physical books, we like to indulge ourselves in the written word. Sometimes we want to share some of the things we've read. Here are some of our recent favorite reads, things we thought that were interesting, or that we just couldn’t keep to ourselves.

National Weather Festival 2013

When I was a kid, I fell in love with the weather. There has always been something about the study and science behind it that has always fascinated me. I used to stand in front of the big screen TV and pretend to be a meteorologist standing in front of the big green screens. On November 2, I attended National Weather Festival and got an upfront view of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.

It was absolutely incredible to see "behind the curtain" and get an up close look at the National Weather Service. After getting parked and taking a few moments to completely weather-geek out, I was finally emotionally stable enough to walk over to the booths, events, and speakers.

I saw a lot of really interesting things, but some of it stood out. Here are my four favorite parts of the day:

- Oklahoma University research students are currently flying model planes into the atmosphere to take readings. It’s an alternative to weather balloons, which are only used once and sometimes not returned. The tiny planes are made of Styrofoam for now and read the atmospheric conditions. The goal could be to build larger and more study planes for a fleet of “hurricane hunter” type devices. These small scale planes could eventually be used to read conditions ahead of severe storms in a hopes to better warning times and give people more notice of approaching tornadic systems.

- "Tornado sirens" or outdoor warning systems are still a big topic of conversation in the weather community, especially given the events in Oklahoma this past May. I was surprised by the amount of people who live in an area where major tornadoes touch down that don’t know that the NWS has no control over when they are sounded and how they are sounded. These are all controlled by local emergency management operation systems and each office has different rules for when they are sounded.

- Research is currently being conducted on the dissemination of information via social media accounts when there is severe weather hitting. The NWS is looking specifically at tweets during the Moore, Oklahoma to see how quickly information (good and bad) spread. Do rumors spread faster on social media or are people pretty good at vetting info before sending it out? This could signify a shift in using social networks as a more legitimate means of getting information to the public.

- (During a Q&A session with forecasters I received this answer to my question about the overall goals with issuing warnings) Eventually the National Weather Service wants to be able to predict storms in a more specific area. Watches are issued for large swatches of counties across the states and then warnings themselves are issued in polygon shaped areas across these counties. Even though tornado activity in recent years have had a lot of media attention, it still stands true that most places that are placed under a "watch" never actually receive a warning. In a perfect world, the NWS would be able to issue watches in a more specific zone.

In the end, the lead forecasters at the National Weather Service want you, as the general public, to educate yourself on how severe weather works. My opinion is that part of the reason why people don’t respond the way they should is because they don’t understand what forecasting is all about. We (the public) complain when the NWS issues a tornado watch and nothing happens, meanwhile, the meteorologists sitting in the Storm Prediction Center breathe a huge sigh of relief because the parameters didn't come together the the way the models predicted they would.

In the weather world, a day that ends with you saying “they got us all amped up for nothing - bunch of morons don’t know what they are talking about” is the best kind of day for the meteorologists in the Storm Prediction Center.

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.