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Aug
31
2010
MagicJack Blocking Conference Calls Maranda Gibson

In the last week, we’ve had a high number of MagicJack customers being unable to connect to our service. Magic Jack is a phone device that utilizes VoIP technology (PDF link) to make phone calls. After talking to some customers, we‘ve learned that MagicJack is blocking our conference number. We’ve done some research and wanted to share with you our findings.

Here are some things we know:

  • MagicJack is blocking only direct dial/non-toll free numbers.
  • A message is heard advertising MagicJack conference service.
  • MagicJack is not just blocking AccuConference, it is blocking most providers who have non toll free numbers.
  • We’ve been instructed to send an email to MagicJack to request that our services to be unblocked.

We are in the process of sending this email, but there is a limit to what we can do to get MagicJack to unblock our numbers. Unfortunately, we cannot provide an ETA on when these numbers will be available again, or, honestly, if at all, because this is in MagicJack’s hands.

A similar situation happened a few years ago with AT&T and Qwest blocking free conference services and the FCC ruled that they could not do that. Since VoIP services like MagicJack are new and grew quickly in popularity, rulings on these kinds of practices are still pending from the FCC.

Until the FCC rules on these issues, we here at AccuConference cannot force MagicJack or any other VoIP provider to unblock conference numbers. All we can request is that they do not block their paying customers from using conference numbers. Until they do this, our hands are tied. When possible, use a land line or cell phone that can connect into a direct dial/non-toll free number. If that’s not an option, you can try another VoIP provider and see if your call will go through.

We will continue to do everything on our end to resolve the issue with blocked numbers, but in the meantime, you can call us to see if there is anything we can do to help. As I learn more, I’ll keep you updated on the situation.

Aug
12
2010
5 Ways to Avoid the Huh Maranda Gibson

One of the first experiences I had after moving to Arkansas from South Carolina was a total mis-communication. I was sitting at the lunch table with some good ole Southern boys who would end up becoming some of the most important people in my life, when one of them asked me a question. It was a very general question like, “So you’re from the city?” It was like someone punched him in the back of the throat and made him spit out all of those words in one breath, thus ruining a potential conversation.

I just stared at him until I admitted, “I have no idea what you just said. Can you slow it down for me?”

“So… You...Are…From…The…City?”

In South Carolina, we like to drag out our conversations, thick and slow, like hot air or molasses. In Arkansas, it was the complete opposite, and I had to keep up or I was going to be left behind. When opening up and speaking to people (especially when you’re the new girl) here are five things to keep in mind to keep yourself from talking at the speed of sound and causing those “huh” moments.

  1. Think about what you’re going to say it before you let it fall out.
  2. Rehearse when you can and when it’s appropriate.
  3. Don’t be nervous! Or… well, try not to be. At a networking event, everyone is there to meet people, try to keep that in mind.
  4. Skip the caffeine boost. Don’t drink anything that might send you into fast forward mode.
  5. Get someone you trust to help. When presenting in front of a group it can be really helpful to get a friend who will stand in the back and hold up their hands when you’re starting to babble or speak too fast.

When was the last time you got or gave a “huh” look after speaking to someone or a group? Have you been able to identify when you’re speaking too fast and what you can do in the future to keep it from happening too much?

Aug
11
2010
Ten Tips for Turning Off Your Accent Maranda Gibson

I had an advantage when it came to me learning English and speaking – I learned how to speak in a foreign country, so my basis for language did not have the blanket of an accent. When I was f ive, I moved back to the states and to South Carolina, where my mother often reminds me of how she caught me trying to teach myself how to speak like my family did. The longer I have spent in the south, the more of an accent I have developed, but I feel like I speak eloquently.

With that being said, it is sometimes brought to my attention when I’m nervous, angry, or around friends and family that I do indeed have a bit of a southern twang. My biggest offender is the word “orange”, which I am constantly, reminded that I pronounce “are-gne.” I’m self-conscious of my accent, since nerves bring it out and social settings for me bring out nervousness, I feel like it’s prevented me from really being able to go to events and let myself shine. I’ve been working on my accent and how to reduce what I like to call Southern-Girl-itis.

Here are ten tips to toning down your accent – or getting rid of it completely.

  1. Remember that it won’t be easy; you’re basically teaching yourself how to speak again.
  2. Find words that give you a hard time and practice them in a mirror.
  3. Record yourself speaking to another person or read a passage from a book. Play it back so you can identify letter combinations that might be giving you trouble.
  4. Speak clearly by remembering to open your mouth.
  5. Say the word in your head before you say it out loud.
  6. Hold your fingers at the side of your throat when you speak to help “feel” what shapes you’re making when you say the words.
  7. Immerse yourself into speech that doesn’t showcase a regional accent.
  8. Speak to someone with a different dialect (like someone from above the Mason Dixon like if you’re combating a twang) and let them tell you what words sounded different.
  9. Learn new words and expand your vocabulary to introduce your brain to words without and accent.
  10. Remove colloquial phrases like “ya’ll” from your daily use.

What’s your accent? Are you like me with a country girl twang or do you have something like Boston or Minnesota seeping the edges of your tone? What have you done that’s worked to combat your accent?

Aug
04
2010
Teacher and Speaker Maranda Gibson

One of the great things about being asked to present on a conference call is the joy of getting to educate people on something you’re passionate about or work hard gathering data for. When we work hard on something and we want to share it with the world and getting invited to speak on a conference call is a great way to do it. We log into the conference call with everything ready to go. We are ready to be teachers, even If only for about an hour and to talk about something that we have passion for. Here are some things to consider telling your participants before you dive into the meat of your conference.

  1. For conferences of 10 or more people, I recommend using the lecture mode feature to mute all. If you chose not to do that, be sure you instruct participants on how to use the system to mute their own lines.
  2. Advise everyone if you have an operator monitoring the call; even if just briefly troubleshoot.
  3. Let them know if their lines are in a muted state when you have the call in a lecture setting.Also let them know how you’ll be handling the Q&A. Will you open the lines up at the end? Will you be using the integrated Q&A system?
  4. In an open line conference call make sure that you let everyone know to use the conference muting feature to do so. Using “hold” on their phone might pipe music or beeps into the conference.
  5. Set your expectations and share your excitement about the topic with your guests.

As the host you want to make sure everything goes great, for the conference you are either the star in or you’ve gotten a great guest speaker to join your conference. Are you letting your participants in on how they can have a great conference?

May
05
2010
How to Sell To Me Maranda Gibson

In addition to the blogging, twittering, and various other duties as the AccuConference socialite, I also provide customer service to our clients. I take phone calls and respond to emails throughout the day, and my goal at the end is to have a happy person at the end of the call.

While providing service, I’m also a lot of companies target market – between the ages of 18 and 35, female, a bit of a techie, and so forth. People want to sell to me, because I’m willing to buy. I’m going to go ahead and give you the secrets on how to sell to me.

Customer service. You want my business? Great – I probably want to give it to you, but you need to be polite and kind to everyone in my household or workplace and not just to me because I’m the one you’re dealing with. If you fail at this, our relationship is over. That’s rule number one.

Do you use the product you’re selling to me? Make up counters are the best place to try this one out. I love makeup, and there’s one store I go into all the time that you can tell the girls use the company’s product. I feel confident asking her a question about foundation or eye shadow. If she’s trying to sell me a bottle of $15.00 makeup and can’t wear it herself, then I don’t trust that company.

Why? Mainly, what makes you think I’m right for this product, or am I just a warm body to fill your quota? If you can’t tell me why you think I would be a good person to use this product, you haven’t done your research. If it’s a more retail location, like a mall or shopping center, slipping up to me and asking me what brings me in is a good place to start. I’m a tricky kind of girl, so even if I’m in a sporting goods store, I might still be looking for myself. Don’t assume.

So, there you have it. That’s how I want to be sold to. How do you like to be sold to? Are their things that a company can do that would be considered unforgivable and you would never go back?

Apr
27
2010
The Perfectionists Procrastination Maranda Gibson

A few weeks ago it was suggested I check out The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. Naturally, I hopped on over to Amazon to see if I could get a good deal on it and got to take a peek inside.I skimmed the first part of the book and one of the first words that stood out to me was procrastination.

I balked. Procrastination, me? Impossible. I am on it, together, and always getting things done. I feel busy most of the time and I would think that’s the opposite of procrastination. Isn’t procrastination more of a conscious thought of letting something slide so you can do something else that you feel more desire to do? When I was in college, I used to put off my Rhetorical History projects because I would rather do something for another class. That, I’ll admit, was procrastination, but I didn’t think I fell into that category now.

According to this, I am one big procrastinator. Do I fill my day with “low-task” priorities? Sometimes. Do I wait for the “right mood” to strike before tackling things? I would have to admit yes I do. I don’t believe that procrastination is a symptom of laziness, as I am sure that many procrastinators are highly skilled and successful. In fact, many perfectionists are often the ones out there procrastinating, in fear of doing a project wrong the first time.

According to the folks over at MindTools, there are a couple of things I can do to help detour my trip to procrastination town.

•  Figure out why I am procrastinating. If I can determine why I don’t feel inclined to complete the task right away, I can figure out how to tackle it. By focusing on figuring out some inspiration for what I’m working on, I might stumble on the motivation to tackle that project first.
•  Reward myself. When I do finish a project I should give myself a little treat – like a quick break from my desk or something horribly bad for me for lunch. (I’m thinking Chipotle when I finish this post.)

I am defiantly not lazy, not in any sense of the word, but I find that I procrastinate due to my perfectionist streak. What makes you a procrastinator and what do you do to rise above and get things done?

Mar
29
2010
The Extra Mile Maranda Gibson

A few days ago, I took a call from a customer who had a lot of questions. After burning calories running back and forth to Rob’s office to get the answers, the customer told me a story that stuck with me.

The long and short of it goes like this:  There are three men with the same job description working at a ship yard who are all paid differently.  The dock manager is explaining why each man has a different salary when a ship comes in and each of the three men go to meet the new ship.

The first worker comes back an hour later and tells the manager the ship is from Russia and has some kind of plastic toy on it.

The second worker comes back three hours later and tells the manager that the ship is from Russia, has baby dolls on it, and the dolls are 50 dollars for a bundle.

Two days later, the two workers and the manager find the third worker asleep on the floor in the office and wake him up, “Where have you been?”

The third worker tells the manager that the ship that came in was from Russia and had plastic baby dolls selling for 50 dollars a bundle. He also let the manager know that he had called a buyer in New York that he remembered was asking about plastic dolls and negotiated a selling price of 200 dollars a bundle. He also prepared a proposal that was waiting for the manager’s approval. The third worker makes nearly twice of the first, even though they all have the same “job title.”

What’s the moral of the story?  Well, those who go above the call of duty are ultimately rewarded. Whether you are doing it for a customer, or simply because it’s what needs to be done, it’s noticed and appreciated. How are you going to go above the call of duty today?

Feb
10
2010
Free Your Mind Maranda Gibson

As a married woman, I often feel that my husband and I differ in our tastes in television and music. I guess Paula Abdul was right about opposite’s attracting. One thing that we can agree on is that I am a music freak and he loves trying to find new things he thinks I might like. Often he comes to me with a proud smile and tells me that he found something he thinks I’ll love.  

I usually stare at him skeptically because with him, you never can tell what you’re about to get. Sometimes, he brings me a song that I listen to and immediately make a face. However, there are many times when he brings what I would consider to be some of my favorite songs to me.

If not for him and his somewhat strange musical tastes, I would not know the wonders of Muse or Sneaker Pimpz (“Destroying Angel” specifically).  What’s the point of saying this? I would never have known some of my favorite bands if I didn’t have an open mind. I would have just scoffed and told him that I wouldn’t like it, rather than give it a chance. Now, there have been plenty of times that I’ve listened to ten seconds of a song and turned it off. But at least I gave it a shot.

Having an open mind is essential to business. It can be something like considering a new process or even defining a new way of thinking. “Innovators” in their business would not have been such if not for having open minds. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and even Henry Ford would not have an impact on the world if they weren’t able to look at things openly.  What about the first company to go “green”? They had to have open minds to even embrace a new way of thinking – one that has spread like wildfire.

When someone in your company comes to you with a new idea, it’s important to listen, consider, and then make a decision. Saying no right off the bat will get you nothing but an employee who thinks their contributions aren’t appreciated. No matter what the suggestion is – from different creamers in the break room to trading in expensive conventions for conference calls, it’s important to consider every idea that comes across your desk.

Feb
09
2010
Take A Break Maranda Gibson

Oh, Twitter, how you give us a glimpse into the mind of the everyday office worker and how they feel about their day to day activities. Usually, that mild mannered office worker has a conference call to attend, from updating a team on procedures to going over financials.  Everyone is using conference calls to make their staff meetings go a little smoother, stay more productive, and save money on travel.  Most of the time, conference calls can go pretty quickly, but there are always those times when you know it’s going to be a long one – due to the topic or even the person who’s doing the presenting.

As the leader of a conference, you can do a lot to plan ahead for a conference call and have things in place to keep the attention of the attendees. However, nothing is fool proof and there’s always the chance that you are going to lose the audience. What can you do during a conference call to bring them back to attention? Here are a couple of suggestions to try on your next conference if you sense everyone is drifting.

Ask a question. Don’t call anyone out but throwing out a blanket question and pausing for a few beats afterwards can help pull everyone’s brains back into the task at hand. Don’t answer the question, just ask it.  A lot of times when people “zone out” hearing something new or that could require a response will draw them back in.

Take a break. Have a long conference planned? Schedule a break about halfway through. I would suggest this for any conference that is going to be an hour or longer. It doesn’t have to be a long break, maybe five minutes. Let people get up from their desks, stretch their backs and arms, and maybe get a refill of coffee. Then they come back and it’s like the call just began.

Switch speakers. Even if you’re talking about the same subject throughout the length of the conference, you can still bring a different voice on the call to finish up.  Not only does it help relax your vocal chords, but it will be a new sound and tone for your attendees to react to.  If you’re used to a sound or voice, it’s easier to drown it out, and bringing a new voice to the call can refocus everyone.  

There are some quick suggestions that can help you bring everyone back down to Earth during a conference call. Do you do anything differently? Have you ever tried these before? How do you prepare to refocus your group mid conference?

Dec
18
2009
Unexpected Service Maranda Gibson

It's Friday morning -- which around here means breakfast time. It's sort of a time honored tradition. This morning, we decided to hit up one of the major fast food chains and I volunteered to go pick it up. Two things happened:

1. I got to hear a very irate man get all peeved because the nice lady asked him to hold on for a moment."I don't have time to wait". (Well, you'd be waiting if you were in line, sir. Behind me.)
2. I learned that customer service is not lost in the fast food industry --- at least, not yet. The nice lady wrote the order numbers on each of the bags, even though she was juggling drive through at the same time.

Thanks for reminding me that customer service is still everywhere Dorothy. You made my day extra nice... and super delicious.

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