The Fake Smile

Only those who know you, recognize it. It is a disguise to protect you and mask your true reaction. It is frequently used when facing a loss; whether it is a job, a promotion, a loved one, your youthful appearance or even your hair.

Recently, I had a fake smile day. I found myself dreaming most of it and not getting much done. I am a "Doer" not a "Thinker", so checking off a list at the end of the day has always been important. This day, I allowed myself to dream. Dream of what could have been, should have been and what I still want to be. I allowed my dreams rather than my actions to be a better part of the day. It made me cherish existence a little more when I was able to snap back to reality.

I started my day with a fake smile and somewhere along the way. I felt the smile and allowed it to be real. I set this feeling free. It is a not a great day, but I challenge myself to make it a good day, because I realize that life is a gift and a dream can make it even better. If you can use the fake smile long enough, it may evolve into you actually feeling like smiling. And if you take some time to dream, you may find a reason to smile.

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?

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.)

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?

Information Gap

I put my fingers in my ears and sing La La La La to keep from getting information I do not want to know. Or, I just hold out my hand and repeatedly say stop it, stop it, stop it, in hopes of drowning out sounds. I use these tactics when I do not want to hear an ending of a movie or am in a haunted house. Probably not the most mature response, but it works when you are on the spot. Effective, sometimes funny, but not the right etiquette for work.

Over a phone conversation, it’s hard to gauge interest and engagement. You cannot tell if your clients have their fingers in their ears or their mouth partly open trying to find a point to interrupt. Are you answering their question or are you giving your answers?

Good way to test it is to stop talking and listen. If they have called, then they have something to say. If it is more than one request, then have a means to write it down without interrupting them. Once they finish speaking (there will be silence for a couple of seconds), I go over the points or questions and answer them one by one, making sure that they have received a complete understanding and a clear answer before moving to the next one.

Did that answer your question? Does this help to understand how it works? Is this the service you were looking for? Do you have any questions on what we just reviewed? I find this a more of an effective way then interrupting or answering before you know the question.

As Judge Judy says, "You have one mouth and two ears for a reason". We are all experts in our fields. To be better influences, determining what they know versus what they need takes the power of listening.

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?

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.

Duck Theory

I have always tried to look at every situation with a resolution, rather than a problem. It is the “Duck Theory” that I adopted long ago from my sister, who has always been my best mentor.

The premise is that when you see a gaggle of ducks swimming, you see this beautiful motion of them gliding through the water effortlessly. But, if you were to turn the picture upside down, then you would see that the legs are quickly rotating and maneuvering to keep up, slow down, turn, trying to keep up with the group or get ahead. The mechanics to create the movement are two entirely different pictures.

It is the same in business, customers should only see above the water, the smooth action of a forward glide. They do not need (and normally do not want to know) the mechanics behind it. They just need to know that you understand they have a problem, and yo’ you’ll solve it.

So what if all problems do not have a solution? Some needs just can’t be met. I admire those that go above and beyond. The "Heroes" that we remember. Olympic competitors don’t just work out, they focus on what workout is best to enhance their skills and stay focused for four years to compete against the best. They don’t say the word "can’t" for 4 years or even longer. Survivors don’t quit, they are the ones with the remarkable stories about how their resilience got them through a tough situation. My answer is never say "never".

When the duck theory is applied, you supply the effort so customers are effortlessly rewarded.

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.