AccuConferenceAccuConference

Aug
05
2011
Are You Asking The Right Questions? Maranda Gibson

I’ve finally purchased a home and one of the (many) unexpected things I have to do involves transferring my utilities. My power company makes it very easy – all I have to do is go online and arrange for the start date at one address and the stop date at the other. (Thanks Reliant)

With my cable company, my husband and I have been considering switching to a different company, since my bill has gotten completely out of control. I joined the customer service chat with my current provider to get details on how to turn off the service, if we chose to do so. The person I chatted with was very helpful and I was very honest with her about what we were considering.

She gave me all of the information, let me know about when I would be billed again and how the bill would be prorated should we chose to disconnect our services. She forgot one very important thing – she never asked me why I was planning a switch of services. There’s a good chance that with the right price, I could have been persuaded to stay with them a little longer.

My reason for wanting to leave is the steady dollar or two rise of my bill over the last few cycles, which can add up fast. This representative failed to ask me one very simple question – Why is it that you are looking for a new service? It’s very important when a customer calls you to cancel or close their service you ask them why they are interested in discontinuing their services.

Even if you can’t retain the customer, they might be willing to give you some insight on how you can improve an aspect or two of your company. Are you asking questions when your clients call in to cancel services? Do you think it’s important to find out why they are leaving and going to another brand? What do you ask them instead?

Jul
15
2011
Why a Follow-Up Email Works Maranda Gibson

I have done business with a particular insurance company for about seven years now. I’ve never shopped around and I know that there are probably other companies out there who could give me similar coverage for a better rate. With two vehicles and a renter’s policy, our insurance each month is probably on the higher end of average, but I write them a check with a smile on my face.

The other day I was reminded why I stay with that company. I checked my email, just to see this note:

Subj:Hey Girl:

Hey Miss Maranda, {A recent referral to them} name just popped up on my screen and it made me think of you. I hope all is well with you!! We just don’t email and talk like we used to when you were {with another company} so I’m just stopping in to make sure everything is going okay.

Quick, simple, to the point, and it made me smile. She didn’t ask me for additional business, nor did she try to include any additional services or sell me products through this email. She simply asked me how I was doing. This is an excellent follow up email simply because there was no reason for it except that she was reminded of me.

Are you doing that? We all have memorable customers (I know I have) and the human brain will remind us of these people on occasion. When a customer pops into your brain, are you doing anything about it or simply asking yourself Hey, I wonder how they are doing up there? It’s not to sell anything; it’s to establish a relationship with your customer because it’s important to do so. I know that I’m not the only customer my insurance agent deals with, but with this wonderful member of the agents team thinking of me, it makes me feel like I really have made the best choice in my auto and renters insurance.

What does work for them is that the email reminded me I need to get my homeowners insurance quotes from them. So even though she didn’t mean to, she just generated some more business for her company. Are you sending your customers follow up emails when they cross your mind? Do you use them as an opportunity to pitch new ideas or simply as a way to reach out to them and see how they are?

Jun
14
2011
Internet Explorer Nine BETA & AccuConference Maranda Gibson

Just as a quick public service to all of our customers out there, we’ve been notified that some customers who are using IE 9 are having some trouble when trying to use our services. The problems stem from those who are still on the BETA version of IE 9. If you’re having problems with IE 9, you simply need to install the full version in order to be fully operational with our services. If you’re not sure how to find out if you’re on IE 9 BETA or the full, completed version, you can find that information under “About Internet Explorer”.

Jun
07
2011
The Responsibility of an “Expert” Maranda Gibson

In the Dallas/Fort Worth area, sometimes we get thunderstorms that prompt tornado warnings and sirens, sending families and pets into the bathroom or underground to take cover. Weather both fascinates and scares me, so when there’s severe weather in the area, I’m always on a local station website. Some of these sites include chat programs where volunteers, usually storm spotters or chasers, help the public to understand when and where these storms will be moving.

They aren’t meteorologists but their experience makes them a trusted source. Imagine my surprise when one of these trusted sources began to talk about how he personally didn’t feel like there was much of a tornado threat in our area, despite active watches in the area. He’s trusted, certified, and understands how the weather works. On Tuesday night, there ended up being 13 reported tornado touch downs in our area which made his comments very irresponsible.

When you call yourself (or get called) an expert, it puts you in the position where you become responsible for communicating accurate information, no matter what the subject.

Anytime you consider yourself to be an expert, you have to respect that title, and use it to educate your clients, customers, or people looking to you for advice.

For example, we are considered to be conference experts, but that is only because every single one of our operators is trained the exact same way with all of our products. This is to ensure that a customer can speak to anyone and always get consistent information. We also try to educate our customers so that they know and understand how a product works, or what additional features might be available to them. We can walk you through setting up your first conference from start to finish, and even suggest any of our services that might help you get a little more from the service.

Since we are experts in our field, we take it very seriously, and if you’re in the position where you feel like you are “expert” enough to make yourself publically available, you better respect that. How do you stay true to the trust that your customers and clients have given you?

May
20
2011
The CDC Gets Their Marketing On – Zombie Style Maranda Gibson

“Honey – do you have something called a zombie plan?” The newlywed wife asks her husband. He turns to her, shock on his face that she could even ask such a question, and then nods, solemnly, holding a hand to his heart in a patriotic fashion, before replying. “Yes. I do. I’ve had one for many years.”

Before I was married, I had no idea that something called a “zombie apocalypse” was a concern, nor did I realize that men spent a lot of energy thinking about escape routes, weapons, and doing careful research on the best way to kill the brain-eating un-dead. (I also learned that snickering, making fun of, or pointing out the flaws in the plan was bad.) After learning this, I asked my Dad and brother what their plan for the zombies entailed and realized that not only did my father and brother have a plan; they spent many evenings when I was a child, discussing how to barricade the house and protect the women of the household.

Apparently, the Center for Disease Control and Preparedness also has a zombie plan. Released this week, the “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse” gives you tips and tricks on how to prepare your home for the impending doom. The funny thing about the guide is that the emergency kit suggested is a lot like the kit they suggest for a number of natural disasters: flashlights, water supplies, shoes, and food, just to name a few.

Hold the phone, CDC. I thought this was about preparing for the zombie apocalypse, not readying myself for any kind of emergency.

This is the brilliance of their zombie preparedness guide. Who among us have ever Tweeted or shared a link to a “how to be prepared in the event of a flood/earthquake/tornado” guide? The answer is probably not many of us have shared that information, much like many of us don’t have the proper items in an emergency kit. With the zombie preparedness guide, the CDC has made us read about something that might be pretty boring to most people – preparing for emergencies. They have marketed the importance of being prepared on a level people care about.

That’s what we should be doing with our clients. We have to find a way to talk to them through the channels they are using. There are few people out there who have a plan for floods or an earthquake, but many who know what to do in the event of a hypothetical situation like zombie roaming the earth. We have to be able to find a way to tell our customers what we want them to know through a subject they care about. We’ve already done that by migrating customer service to include social avenues like Twitter and Facebook but are we being sure to see what else our customers are talking about?

It’s absolute marketing brilliance on the part of the CDC who wants you to get a kit, have a plan, and be prepared no matter what the emergency. While their zombie plan is missing some of the things I’m told are essential to a zombie-survival kit (sawed off shot guns and Japanese throwing stars, for example) their suggestions make for a great kit in the event of a tornado – which is what they wanted me to think about in the first place.

How are you leveling with your customers like the CDC?

May
19
2011
Get Human Offers a Short Cut to Customer Service Maranda Gibson

Let’s be honest – automated phone menus are a complete nuisance. Button punching, menu prompts, and trying to speak to a robot can sometimes initiate the desire to pull our hair out. As we’re screaming at or speaking slowly to the robotic menu asking for our account number yet again we suppress the need to throw the phone against the wall and we wish there was a better way.

GetHuman.com is the brain child of Paul English who created the database for tips and tricks on how to get around the automated prompts and get straight to a live person. Originally called the IVR Cheat Sheet to Find a Human, the goal was to give consumers an option to get to a live person. Since the inception of the cheat sheet, the website has evolved to GetHuman.com and not only gives you the telephone numbers of companies who do not readily list that on their website, it also gives you the average wait time, as well as the level of service.

Take a look at Facebook – their average wait time is a little over an hour and their user rating is horrible. Clicking on the companies breaks it down further with reviews from users about the company and the customer service experience. There are also alternate numbers for many of the larger companies that insist on continuing to make their users jump through hoops to get some assistance.

It makes you wonder why some companies continue to require customers to navigate their ways through these menus. One argument that large companies make is that they simply handle too large of a customer base to provide a single number for customers, that it’s best to route them to the proper department right away. Except that usually, the initial person that you get at customer service has to transfer you around to a different department.

The biggest offenders of the customer service rule seem to be those companies that typically just want you to contact them for support via email, like Facebook. There are also those companies that simply don’t publish their customer service number online, like Amazon, and GetHuman gives you not just one, but a few customer service numbers.

Large companies may never be able to get rid of automated systems, but they should remember that these systems take away a customer’s choice. (There is a very funny, albeit slightly vulgar cartoon on the Oatmeal about this very subject) If companies are going to force you into a menu option, why can’t they give you an option to go straight through to a representative, at the very least?

We’ve never had an automated menu – if you call either of our numbers, you get a real human right away, and we will never have an automated system – no matter how large we continue to grow. We will simply hire more people.

Should companies completely do away with automated menus or are there instances when they are needed? How do you feel about them, from both a customer standpoint, as well as a business?

May
10
2011
Metered Vs. Stamped Mail: What Sends a Better Message Maranda Gibson

Here at AccuConference, we hand stamp everything. We don’t have a meter machine, despite the rising cost of postage and the amount of time it can sometimes take to stamp all of our new accounts and send them their welcome packages. A meter machine could probably save us a couple of cents on each letter we send, since it’s a bulk service, but we feel like the hand stamp lets our customer know a couple of things.

Using a real stamp lets the recipient know a real person stamped your envelope, not a machine. In a time when social media is being used to create connections with customers, the simple act of using a real stamp does the same thing that an active Twitter or Facebook account can do.

We feel like metered mail can look like junk. Not to imply that all metered mail is junk mail, but simple when you’re going through a large stack of mail, you typically look for the clear signs of what is considered junk mail. One of the things people look for the most is to see if something has a real stamp on it. If you’re taking the time and money to send out a flyer, why would you want to take the chance of it never being opened?

We also just don’t like the look of the meter stamp on the envelope. The pink on the white kind of burns our eyes – we prefer a good old fashioned stamp. It might just be because we have quite a few clients in Canada – have you ever seen the postage stamp for .75 cents (our going rate to Canada)? It’s really pretty.

Deciding if you want to use or meter for your mail is your decision, we just have always used regular stamps, and we always will.

(Image Used Credit to the USPS)

Feb
21
2011
Never Underestimate a Thank You Maranda Gibson

I have a client who often sends me questions or requests to change their account via email. He and I have a very good relationship, even if he always spells my name incorrect. It’s no big deal, but when you’re reading an email and you see your name spelled wrong, it’s one of those things that stand out. He and I were working on something that took a little bit of investigation and when it was all over, I sent him a thank you card.

The card was mailed a few weeks ago and yesterday, he emailed me again with another question and thanked me for the card. What else? He spelled my name correctly. Much like how it would stand out when it was wrong, it stood out even more when it was right.

I found it interesting that it was the first email after he got his card – it stood out to me and I can’t help but wonder if maybe the reason is because of the card. If you want to stand out to a customer, here are five ways to thank them.

  1. Send them a card just to thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate their business.
  2. Give great customer service and always thank them for choosing your company.
  3. Invite them to write guest posts on your blog or be interviewed for your newsletter.
  4. Send them a gift. It doesn’t really matter what you send them but something to express your appreciation of their continued business can do wonders.
  5. Send follow up email to thank someone for taking the time to sit down with you and let them know that you’re available to help them whenever they need it.

Sometimes, giving your customer “thanks” isn’t just in what you say, it’s in what you do. You can thank your customers by just showing them that you appreciate that they are choosing your company to do business with. What are you doing to thank your customers?

Jan
04
2011
Public Speaking Anxiety Maranda Gibson

With it being the first work day of 2011, I’m sure a lot of us have some resolutions we are trying to live up to and trying to make happen. Whether your resolution is to lose weight, stop smoking, or overcome something that held you up in the past, I’m sure you have a set of goals to make your resolution happen.

If your resolution this year is to be a better public speaker, it can be hard to set goals that will help you reach what is, more than likely, an end result of making a public speech. Like all resolutions, the best thing for you to do is to set smaller goals that will get you more comfortable with the idea of being in front of people, before you tackle the idea of a long speech.

If you suffer from public speaking anxiety and want to overcome that this year, try starting small and working your way up the ladder of challenges. Here are some easy (free!) suggestions to starting down the path of conquering the anxiety.

  1. Volunteer time reading books to an after school program. Not only is this a great way to spend your time, but you’ll get used to reading out loud. You will learn the importance of pace, tone, and not to do the annoying robot voice that will put us all to sleep. Small children are also forgiving – so it’s an audience that can be very easy to make happy.
  2. Join an Online Forum. Joining an online forum will help you learn how to articulate your thoughts into a speech-like format. The great thing about forums is that you’ll get connections with people you wouldn’t usually come in contact with and it will teach you how to speak up in a situation when you’re dealing with people you don’t know.
  3. Watch other speakers. Attend free events at your local community college or university and watch how other speakers use the stage to their advantage. Take notes about what you like and what you don’t, then practice at home.

If you want to overcome this kind of fear, you don’t have to run out and spend a lot of money on different kinds of books and DVD’s. You can find some ways to get a little bit of confidence in your abilities right in your own backyard and never have to spend a dime.

Oct
20
2010
The Patterns of Preparation Maranda Gibson

The Patterns of Preparation

I talk a lot about public speaking and how you can get yourself prepared as well as the approach you’re going to take. One of the things I am the most vocal about is how getting up “in front” of a crowd is no different than standing on the other side of a conference call. You’re still being heard by a large group of people and you’re still being listened to intently, with your audience members hoping that you will add some value to their current plans.

Being on a conference call doesn’t always take the pressure off – sometimes, it can put more pressure on. Gone are the non verbal cues you can give people to let them know that you’re enthused or excited and say goodbye to making eye contact with people in your audience to engage them in the conversation.

The way your audience processes your information is going to be different and the way you deliver the information has to adapt, but most of the time, the stages leading up to the presentation are always the same. I read this great post from Michael Hyatt called “The 10 Psychological Stages of Public Speaking” about how his brain processes the emotions leading up to a presentation.

Take a look at these, it’s pretty interesting and I very easily relate, especially to number 5. I feel a bit like everything is going to be horrible, like I’m going to get completely tongue tied or have one of my strange moments where my brain just completely stops working. (Usually, my main focus is to not do this horrible awkward laugh thing that I do.)

The point is that no matter what you’re about to do, most of us are naturally nervous when con something like public speaking, and there’s no major difference between planning for a live conference or for a conference call.. It’s not just you. Maybe the way Michael puts himself out there will be a way that can help you get over those jitters.

Thanks for the honesty Michael!

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