NBC Olympics Coverage Inspires Thoughts on Customer Service Maranda Gibson

Image Credit to Dave Catchpole

On a fateful summer evening in 1996, my mom and I were cuddled up on the couch, eating popcorn, and alternating between crying and screaming in joy at the TV as the United States Women won Olympic team gold in gymnastics. For those of you who remember that moment, let us all close our eyes and remember the power of “You can do it, Kerri!” and the one-legged flamingo landing that was just epic. (For those of you too young to remember this moment, I’m so sorry – Go watch it on YouTube, immediately.)

Here we are in 2012 and the world has changed drastically. Technology has improved giving us the power to have news feeds and up to date information. There was a lot of talk on Twitter and other networks about the failures of NBC in providing the kind of Olympic coverage that people want. The general response from the folks at NBC has been (in paraphrase) “deal with it”. However, for the Olympic audience it’s not that simple and some lessons can be learned from this attitude.

It’s about giving your customers what they want and not what you think “matters”.

For the next two days, people who want to watch the events of the gymnastics finals will have to avoid the Internet in its totality, and for some, that’s a really difficult thing to do. While you can stream the coverage live on NBC websites, there are a couple of problems with that option – which are not limited to the fact that events are interrupted every three minutes with commercials.

When a customer contacts your company, you have to think about what you are doing for them and not just for yourself. Especially in the case like NBC, where they are the only people broadcasting the Olympic coverage, there seems to be an attitude of “we will show you what you want when you want it”. While NBC will probably win because they don’t have any competition, I don’t know how many of us will continue tuning into NBC when the Olympics are all said and done.

Create an experience.

Okay, picture this – there’s one event left in the team final and there’s a tenth of a point separating gold and silver. You know you have to go to sleep soon because it’s getting late, but you’ve got time to stay up and see who wins gold. Cut to Bob Costas announcing that they are going to switch over to swimming coverage and “will return to the gym shortly”.

You want a customer to feel involved and like the voice they have in your company matters. The parallel to draw here is that the folks over at NBC are you going to make you watch the events they think you should watch, when they think you should watch them. Could you imagine if we modeled our businesses like that and shaped customer service around the ideas that “we will do what we think you need”?

It’s really in NBC’s best interests.

Maybe it’s just the child in me who remembers the feeling and thrill of watching the Magnificent Seven in 1996, but I want to see it live. If I know the US isn’t going to win gold the likelihood that I just DVR or watch the highlights increases. I want to feel every nail biting second. It’s in NBC’s best interests to show me the most popular events when they air instead of a patch work of events that they scatter over six hours.

When it comes to customers, doing what you can to give them what they really want always holds a benefit to your company. While you can’t make every little change that a customer requests, you have to listen to them in a collective fashion. It could be something that is genuinely broken on your site. Recently, we realized that we had a lot of information on our site and that it could be a bit overwhelming for customers trying to find us, so we cut it down and streamlined it.

Other Networks Should Help

While NBC doesn’t need the help with broadcasting, it would be nice to see other news networks (local and nationally) try to quell the information that is no doubt going to infiltrate you. Yesterday, before NBC aired the swimming finals, our local station spoiled that a local swimmer set a world record and took gold in the 100M butterfly.

If they want to run the story, I’m ok with that, but at least don’t put the result in the headline where I’m completely spoiled if I even open the application. It’s a matter of balancing what the customer wants and what you want to give them.

For the next two days, I will do my best to avoid the entirety of the internet so that I can watch my finals in the evenings, even if it will be spread out over a matter of six hours. What do you think about the overall feeling around NBC’s coverage of the Olympics? Are we overreacting or is there something to be said for the lack of live coverage?

3 Incentives for Webinar Participants Maranda Gibson

The truth is that when people get what they pay for, they are more likely to come back and pay again. So what do you do when you’re offering a conference call with a signup fee? How do you promote the conference to make people feel that their twenty or so dollars, as well as their time, is a worthwhile expenditure?

Offering incentives for signing up and ultimately attending the conference are great ways to get the word out about your event.

Why Do Incentives Work?

Incentives work because I am going to do something that benefits me. Rewards teach us to get positive outcomes for certain actions and the more someone benefits from an action, they more likely they are to repeat it.

Incentives have to be tailored depending on the audience but studies on the impact of rewards show they are still effective.

Provide Webinar and Conference Call Recordings for Download

As the presenter you want participants to create a buzz on blogs and on social media networks. We recommend that once the conference is over you provide the recording to participants so they can review what they might have missed.

  • Send them a copy of the full conference and prevent unauthorized sharing by password protecting or encrypting the file.
  • Our favorite tip is to set up the conference to have a dial in playback option. This will allow people with the registered conference code to call in and listen to the recording as often as they like.
  • You can also send them small portions of the recording and encourage them to share those through social networks. (Take a look at SEER Interactive and how they use their YouTube channel to share portions of large events to get people talking about their tips.)

Host a Contest During the Conference

I went a conference last year that awarded a huge travel package for the person who used Twitter in the most effective way to engage with the speakers and other conference attendees. It was a sweet package (airfare, hotel, limo services) and everyone wanted to win it. The great thing about the contest wasn’t just to “tweet the most” but to “tweet the best”. Contests like that boost your engagement you’re your participants and gives them a reason to talk. If you don’t have the money to provide a travel package – give away something like an iPod Touch, an iPad, or the latest Kindle.

Hook Up With a Sponsor

Find a company that sells a complimentary item to yours and provide a purchase incentive. Basically, it’s a “attend this hot dog webinar and get a free packet of ketchup!” kind of deal. Since hot dog webinars aren’t exactly at the height of popularity, here’s a more practical example.

SEOMoz is a leader in the field of SEO tools and they consistently partner with companies that provide complimentary services to theirs. For example, SEOMoz will sponsor a webinar where the presenter is someone for an SEO consulting service (like SEER) and the presenter will talk about SEOMoz tools on the webinar. It works for both companies as they get exposure and to use a powerful voice.

It’s a partnership that works for the sponsor and the presenters. Participants are signing up for the webinar so that they can see your presentation and to get a little something extra.

Bonus points if you get your partner to promote the webinar on their site.

Incentives are a great way to get people to sign up for your conference call as well as getting them to share and engage in conversation. Once you can get people on your conference call you have an opportunity to convert them all into regular, happy customers.

How do you entice people to join your webinars?

Two Responses That Kill Communication Maranda Gibson

No matter if you’re having a conversation with your best friend or an entire boardroom, sometimes, things are said that cause a complete halt in conversation. When the "awkward pause" is created there is usually a moment where no one is sure when it’s okay to start laughing or to move on from whatever caused the pause. Those kinds of interruptions in communication are usually easy enough to recover from but what happens when someone stalls communication?

What kinds of responses usually end all communication and how do you prepare yourself to keep those responses from making an appearance on your next conference call?

"Yes" or "No"

When a question is posed in what’s called a "closed question" the exchange of ideas can be killed with a single word. To keep communication open, adopt opened ended questions to pose to your co-workers and conference participants. Instead of "Is that report finished?" phrase your question in a way that "yes" or "no" would not be appropriate answers. In the sales world, these kinds of questions are imperative to building rapport and closing the deal.


Silence as a response in communication shows a lack of trust between the participants and the moderators. If you get a response of, well, nothing, it’s usually a couple of things. No one wants to answer, no one wants to be first, or no one knows who is supposed to speak. To combat silence, you can do a few things. Call on someone specifically that you know will have a good response or provide your participants with an alternate way to respond. Consider making the Q&A portion something you do through chat that way participants don’t have to "speak up". Many times, people are more embarrassed to talk on an audio conference than they would be to respond in writing.

In order to keep communication open you have to anticipate the kinds of responses that will be communication killers and do your best to prevent them from making their appearance, but that doesn’t mean they won’t, so you need to be prepared to response appropriately. What kinds of responses have you received that have killed communication?

Fourth of July And Fried Chicken Maranda Gibson

Please enjoy the best non-historical account of the Revolution I've ever seen.

Happy Fourth of July, friends!

We will be closed today in observance of the holiday, but we will return to normal hours tomorrow.

I thought I would take a few minutes and show you a little recipe that is a favorite in my house.  I'm a country girl, born and raised my entire life in some of the most "southern" minded places.  Naturally, one of the first things I ever learned how to cook was my Granny's fried chicken. Now, a lot of people know how to fry chicken, but I'm going to share with you the tricks she taught me to keep your breading from getting soggy, falling off, and to keep the chicken on the inside from getting tough.

What You Need

  • 2-3 eggs (for larger chicken breasts you'll need more)
  • Flour
  • Canola or Vegetable Oil
  • A non-stick pan (Some people like using a cast iron skillet, but I find the non stick to have a more even fry)
  • Chicken breasts

The Perfect Breading

When it's time to bread the chicken, go ahead and turn on the stove to get the oil nice and hot. You're going to want about 1/3 - 1/2 of the skillet filled with oil. Before battering - season your flour. I have a bevy of dry spices that I dump into the flour. I can't tell you all of them but I use some Lowry's seasoning salt, pepper, and some other things. It's important to give the flour some flavor so that it doesn't just taste like fried flour wrapped around some chicken.

Coat the breast in the egg mixture, then dip into the flour, and for the perfect breading do it again. The double batter helps to seal in the juices of the chicken breast and will give it a delicious crunch once it's all cooked. Drop the battered chicken breasts into the hot oil and then observe the next step like your life depends on it.

Leave It Alone

The biggest thing my Granny H taught me about frying chicken is that when you are constantly turning the chicken to fry, this is what makes it tough.  So if you want tender breasts of chicken, you have to leave it alone, and you only flip it once.  It's usually ready to flip once you see that the breading has fried about halfway up.  Now you can flip the breasts and at this point, you may need to put a cover on it to make sure the chicken cooks all the way through. Use a piece of aluminum foil instead of a lid to allow moisture to escape.

Let it Rest

Once the chicken is cooked all the way through and your breading is a beautiful golden brown, line a plate with paper towels and put the chicken there to rest.  It will catch any of the excess oil so that the breading doesn't get all soggy sitting in the oil while you finish up your side dishes. Enjoy!

(Extra Note: Some perfectly southern side dishes include mac and cheese or potato salad.)

Have a Happy Independence day!

Should I Switch to VoIP? Maranda Gibson

VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) is a popular phone service that is currently implemented across businesses and homes. In 2011, the revenue for VoIP services was up 16% to $58 billion, and the growth is expected to continue. While VoIP is a cost effective means of phone communications, it might not always be the best choice when it comes to making a change.

Am I On VoIP?

Popular communication services like Vonage and MagicJack are some of the most obvious providers of VoIP services, but the migration and acceptance of VoIP providers has occurred across the board. If you’ve signed up for phone services through your cable company, you can tell if you have VoIP by looking at your modem and identifying a phone line plugged in. If you use a dialing pad on your computer or must be connected to an Internet connection to make your call, you have a VoIP service.

What’s a Packet?

Think of a packet like a tweet. You have a limited amount of space (140 characters) to send at a time, so with a longer message, you have to send multiple tweets. In order to adequately communicate, all of the tweets must be received / read in order. A VoIP package is a small piece of your message that is broken out from your communications.

Why Do Packets Matter?

The proper delivery of these packets is essential to communicating with VoIP. When the packets aren’t delivered correctly you get interference on your call like voices that cut in and out, or sound like they are under water. Some VoIP providers do a practice called “redundancy” where they create duplicates of the same package to safeguard against lost pieces of the message.

Internet Speeds Matter

Because your phone call is broken down into these packages and travel across the Internet transmission lines when the transmission speed is slow or clogged by other transmissions it can affect the quality of your call. Imagine you have opened ten YouTube videos and they are all loading at the same time, each new video that you are trying to load slows the time of the first one. It’s the same thing when your phone calls are traveling across data lines. As you try to do more on the web while trying to make a call over VoIP, the lower the quality will be. When making a call using a VoIP provider, limit your internet activity to ensure that your line is dedicated to transmitting your call.

Is VoIP Bad?

The answer to this question is not a clear cut yes or no. The best way to answer is to say that it really depends on what kind of VoIP system you are using. The major names in the phone industry (AT&T, Qwest) typically provide pretty reliable services, where the “plug in to your computer” devices may cause more problems than the money worth in what you’re saving. We’ve provided an in depth break down of what constitutes Good VoIP and Bad VoIP.

So should you switch to VoIP? The honest answer is that it really depends on who you are choosing as your service provider and what kind of speed you have with the Internet.

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