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Apr
22
2014
Are You Trustworthy? Maranda Gibson

There's a lot of rhetoric that surrounds the conversation of "great customer service". I've seen a hundred posts about what makes a company stand out and I've even written a few of those. A couple of weeks ago, a customer that I talk to on a regular basis told me that she trusted me. It resonated with me - what is knowledge about a product unless you're communicating with trust backing up your words.

What makes someone trustworthy? Are we immediately to be fighting against the stigma of negative customer service experiences that we've all had? What can we do to immediately create trust between us and our customers?

Know and Be Upfront About Limitations

If a potential customer calls me and says they need seven thousand lines on a live conference, I am honest about our limitations in that area. This practice doesn't mean that you have to turn the business away but you need to make sure you’re setting the expectations. "Well, no, I'm sorry, we can't do that but here are some other options that might work for you," is a perfect response. Just because you're letting the customer know what they can expect doesn't mean you can't find out more about their needs and try to work a solution into what you can do for them.

Demonstrate Knowledge about Your Products

One of my favorite discussions to have with a customer is to make suggestions that I think are useful for their needs. When someone calls with questions, the expectation is that I will know what I’m talking about and be able to help them navigate the full scope of our products. Doing this allows me to assist a customer in choosing what is going to work best for them. Simply understanding how your product bills, special rates, and additional features goes a huge way in establishing trust with customers.

Communicate Consistent Messages

Consistency is a huge key to being trustworthy to a customer. Chain restaurants are often designed and laid out in the same way so that no matter where you are, you are in a familiar setting. McDonalds is a great example of consistent layout, design, and menu. We have adopted the same philosophy here. No matter who you call and speak to, you will get the same answer for all of your questions. It’s a more challenging approach because we don’t use scripts and much of our success in consistency comes down to our hiring process, but it can be done. Delivering a consistent message on rates, technology, and even limitations will plant and grow the seeds of trust between you and your clients.

The truth about being trustworthy (heh) is that you have to earn it. You may not immediately get that relationship with a customer, but from the first time you interact with them, you should be doing everything you can to gain that trust. What do you do to foster trust between your staff and clients?

Apr
09
2014
How to Manage Twitter During News Worthy Events Maranda Gibson

Social media networks like Twitter and Facebook have been a huge boost to information spreading. More than once, I've seen Twitter get ahead of the regular media channels like television when it comes to breaking events. This can be a great thing but there can be some drawbacks when it comes to sharing information on your social networks. Before you go to rush sending or retweeting something, here are three things to double check before you push out a notification to your followers.

Verify before you Retweet

One of the worst things about Twitter is the desire to be "first" on a breaking event. We all make mistakes when we RT things, but there are some people who will see buzz around a topic, go to a Google images search, and retweet an old or incorrect photo of something. Before you hit that send button, make sure that the image you are sharing isn’t from a prior event being incorrectly associated to something current. Additionally, make sure whatever tidbit you are about to send is true. The University of Washington recently published a study that showed the rapid spread of misinformation in the wake of 2013’s Boston Marathon Bombing.

Credit the Right Person

As images and updates start to make their way around, sometimes the image ends up not getting credited to the right person. Recently, a striking photo was taken from a Frisco Rough Riders game and was tweeted out by a local news organization. The picture gained traction quickly and even landed on the front page of the popular sports blog, Deadspin. The problem is that the image wasn’t sourced to the person who took the picture and originally posted it. When a photo is posted, unless otherwise stated, the rights to that photo are from the original person who sent it out and failing to properly credit could land you in copyright trouble with Twitter.

Check the Timestamp

It’s important when you’re sharing information during a newsworthy event that you are only sharing the most recent information. During severe weather awareness week, the National Weather Service conducted a test of retweets and Facebook shares with a “mock” tornado warning. The good news was that the message reached over 800,000 people on both networks – the bad part was that was over a time period of twelve hours, when the average advance notice on a tornado warning is 15 minutes. Before you hit the RT button, take an extra second to see how old it is. In terms of a tornado warning, if it’s older than thirty minutes, it’s out of date and doesn’t need to be sent. It’s the same with any other breaking news event – things change quickly and before you retweet, you need to ensure that you’re sending only the most recent updates.

Do you pause before you hit the send button? What do you do to make sure that being first doesn’t mean that you are sending out old or incorrect information?

Apr
01
2014
How to Download Recordings Maranda Gibson

There are a few ways to download your audio conference recordings from AccuConference. For no charge, you can record your conference calls and they will be available on your customer account to download for thirty days. One of the things we get asked about is how to download the recordings from the customer account. Not just where they can be found but actually where do they go once you click on them.

There are a few ways you can download our recording files (or most files) from a website. Here’s how you get your conference recordings from our site.

Click directly on “Save”

When you click directly on “Save” the file will go to your “Downloads” folder on your computer. This is a special file designated by your preferred web browser to store any of the things you get from different websites.

When you download a recording directly from our website by clicking on “Save” the file will usually go into that folder. It might pop up on a bar at the bottom of your browser and you can double click and play the file or click and drag it to your desktop to save it there.

Right Click and Select “Save Link As” from the Pop Up Menu

This method allows you to save the file in a specific location, rather than having it go directly into your “Downloads” folder on your computer.

After you click on “Save Link As”, you will be able to choose a folder or location on your computer. You can create a folder on your desktop for your conference recordings or save them directly to a shared drive and make them available for all of your co-workers.

Recording your conference calls is a great way to keep everyone accountable and once you have the file on your computer, they are yours forever. You can use them for podcasts, put them on your website, or have them transcribed to meet any disclosure requirements. What will you do with your conference recordings?

Mar
17
2014
Four Inexpensive Tools for Customer Service Maranda Gibson

If you're considering reevaluating your customer service strategy your main focus is figuring out where you can improve. A business' customer service strategy is not just about what information you're giving customers.

If you want to change your customer service philosophy, here are four inexpensive tools you can implement right away to make a change. I can give the seal of approval on all of these because we use them right here at AccuConference.

Knowledge

One of the most important parts of customer service is that your employees are familiar with your product and your company. When a customer calls in with a question or a concern, your goal is to make sure this is the only call that has to be made. Getting it right the first time makes a big impact on your customers and step one is educating your employees.

Trust

One of the best things you can do is trust your employees and this starts at the very beginning of a hiring process. We have a very specific hiring process that helps us to determine candidates that have the same philosophies and feelings about customer service that we have as a company, and because of this my managers trust me to handle some things on my own and to take a concern to a higher level when I need to.

Voice

This is AccuConference and we are not the droids you’re looking for. (Hah!) We don't use scripting. Sure, we have standard responses to things, but they aren't the product of a script, they are the product of our experience. This is a big difference. Not being on a script gives us the chance to develop a rapport with customers and let them get to know us.

No Bait, Just Fish

An advertisement, whether it is a commercial, a print ad, or even a tweet sets a tone and an expectation with your customers. If you can't deliver on a promise made in an advertisement, then you're suddenly in a position where your first interaction with a potential customer may be viewed as a deception. This isn't a good way to start a relationship and can take a lot of extra work to repair. This is why when someone sets up an account with us they find a low rate, all of our features, and our undivided attention.

How do you approach customer service?

Feb
24
2014
Follow Your Instincts in Customer Service Maranda Gibson

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?

Feb
17
2014
Three Ways to Boost Your Conferences in 2014 Maranda Gibson

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.)

Feb
10
2014
Leadership Lessons Learned from Olympians Maranda Gibson

Jared Zezel.

Does that name ring any bells?

No? Okay, how about Allison Pottinger?

Allow me to shed some light on our mystery guests. Jared and Allison are members of the 2014 USA Olympics team who will compete for Sochi gold in the sport of curling.

Heh? Curling? What's that? I was exposed to curling during the Salt Lake City winter games and while it may not seem very exciting, I've found it to be more edge of my seat than some of the other winter sports. (Maybe it's because I have no idea how it's judged but I find myself waiting to hear the teams calling out instructions and then cheering as one stone slaps against another.)

There's no one who wouldn't agree that in order to be an Olympian you have to work your tail off, but the curling champions of the world compete in a sport that lacks a sexy or romantic flair. Major brands are not going to approach the gold medal curling champion and ask them to promote the hot new car or next big thing. No, brands and advertisers want Shaun White flipping over the top of a BMW or Gracie Gold cutting figure eights around a bowl of cereal. (Editors Note: IOC regulations prevent Olympians from promoting products during the Olympic Games, but the games are an opportunity to make a "name" for yourself.)

People like to think that athletes are in it for the money and the sponsorship deals. It's a bonus, yes, but we can learn a lot about drive and leadership from the champions of both popular and the little known Olympic sports.

Hard Work and Dedication

Nothing comes easily and we would all do a lot to remember that we can't just wish for our dreams to be fulfilled. We have to go out and fall on the ice or face plant into the snow. When you get up and brush yourself off, you try again, and you have a better idea of your mistakes. It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to be considered as the "elite" of anything - be it curling, writing, snowboarding, or basket making.

Set Goals Early On

Not all athletes want to be Olympians. Not all Olympians dream of a day when they can enter their sport professionally. No matter what they want, they decide at a young age what they want to be. Going pro versus being an Olympian might take you to different circles of competition or choose a different coach. Setting a specific goal from the get-go can help you determine the path that you need to take, rather than just wandering in the weeds with no real direction.

Success is What You Make of It

The champions of the sport of curling will likely never get a multi-million dollar deal to promote a brand or product. The Jared and Allison's of the Olympics will likely never be featured on the front of cereal box, but yet, they are still competing with all of their hearts and souls. Success isn't always about being the biggest, baddest, and most well-known name in a field. We won't all get to that point and in truth, almost none of us will. Set your success along the way in a manner that you can be happy with them. Reach for more, of course, but understand the importance in making strides in a consistent manner. For many athletes, being an Olympian means more than being the "face of the Olympics".

I highly encourage you all to watch the lesser known events during the Sochi Games and be sure to get to know Team USA as we go for the gold in 2014.

Jan
28
2014
Is Your Smartphone Making Life Worse Maranda Gibson

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.)

Jan
23
2014
Cell Phone Statistics: Updated 2013 Maranda Gibson

 2013 Cell Phone Statistics

New information has been released about how we used our cell phones, smartphones, and mobile devices in 2013. Some of the stats show a clear move among the average cell user towards it being their primary gaming, internet, and communication device. 

New Data From Pew Research

  • 97% of adults have a cell phone. (Up 4% from 2012)
  • Of these, 56% of those phones are considered "smart phones"
  • The cellular phone is the most quickly adopted technology in history. 
  • Cell phones are seen as key to actively participating in your community. 
  • 29% of users describe their phone as something they can't live without. 
  • 9% used their phone to contribute to charity. 
2013 Showed Growth in Mobile Marketing Importance

  • 34% of all users are "mobile only", meaning they use only their mobile devices and have no other computer or telephone. (Up 9% from 2012)
  • 41% of mobile users browse on their mobile devices for a product after seeing it on an ad on television. 
  • 80% of users will participate in e-commerce this year. 
  • 36% of smartphone users admit to "shopping around" on their phones while at a retail location, before committing to a purchase. 
This data is still forthcoming from the final quarter of 2013.  We will post a new update soon. 

2012 Cell Phone Statistics


As technology continues to improve, the use and saturation of cell phones and their users continues to change drastically. The increase over the last ten years has been incredible and the way we use our phones to stay connected and informed continues to change.

From Pew Internet

  • 87% of American adults own a cell phone, and 45% of those are smart phones.
  • Only 12% of adults age 65 and over have a smartphone.
  • 82% take pictures on their cell phones, up from 76% in 2010.
  • 29% check their bank account online, up from 18% in 2011.
  • 9% of adults have texted a charitable organization to make a donation.

CTIA Research Stats

  • 45% of businesses state wireless is essential to operations.
  • 2.27 trillion text messages were sent.
  • 1.1 trillion MB of data was used.
  • 28,641 cell phone towers were added across the US.

Mobile Usage Growth

25% of internet users are mobile only - meaning, they do not access the internet for browsing from any other device.

71% of smartphone users that see TV, press, or advertising that interests them will immediately do a mobile search.

The average American smartphone user spent nearly 30 minutes a day checking or updating social networks.

2011 Cell Phone Statistics
The way we use cell phones has changed drastically over the last year. Once upon a time, we used cell phones to make calls while we were away from our homes. Recent studies show that we may be migrating away from our primary use of the phone to more of a texting and mobile web device.

Pew Studies 2011

  • 53% of adults own a smartphone.
  • 13% of users surveyed pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid social interaction.
  • 42% of people have used their phone for entertainment when they are bored.
  • 51% of users used their cell phone at least once to get information.
  • 27% said they had trouble doing something because they did not have their phone.
  • 29% turn off their phones to take a break from their digital life at night.

Updated Statistics for 2009

I was sitting around the other day marveling about how popular cell phones have become. It’s amazing that in our culture we make ourselves available every minute of every day -- thank goodness for call display! Anyway, I did a quick Google search and stumbled upon an interesting article with a list of cell phone statistics that I thought was worth sharing.  

Here’s what I learned:

  • Cell Phone usage in the US has increased from 34 million to 203 million in the last ten years
  • There is an estimated two billion cell phones world-wide, which means about 4.5 billion people go without.
  • A 2004 MIT survey said that cell phones was ranked as the one invention that people hate the most, but can’t live without. It beat out the alarm clock and the television!
  • A 2005 University of Michigan study said that 83% said cell phones made life easier (choosing it over the internet).
  • A Let’s Talk (retail company) survey said that 38% of people thought it was ok to use a cell phone in the bathroom. (Other stats show cell phone use in restaurants, theaters, supermarkets and subways).
  • A telephia survey said that Americans average 13 talking hours a month – with the 18-24 age group averaging 22 hours.
  • A Sprint survey said that 2/3 people used their cell phone backlight to find something in the dark.

I wonder how many people would stop blogging to answer their cell phone?

Excuse me, I have call…

5 Ways to cut your cell bill - from ConsumerReports Magazine Jan 2008

Special Caller Deals
Cingular has roll-over minutes.  Most carriers allow free in network calls (like a Verizon to Verizon call).  Alltell and T-Mobile offers a select number of phone numbers which you can call for free.

Overage Charges
During months with higher than normal usage, increase your plan just for that month making sure you don't spend the .45 cents per minute for minutes that are over your plan.  Also make sure to regularly check your bills to determine if you need to increase or decrease your lines.  No sense in paying for more than you need.

Control Usage by Children
AT&T offers a limiting service which controls several aspects of the calling behavior.  From the web parents can limit the phone numbers dialed, duration of calls and more.

Pay Attention to All Charges
Getting a good deal on minutes is good, but make sure you consider all other charges.  Text messaging is a great feature but can add up very quickly.  The standard rate for one text message is 15 cents.  With Texting Plans, messaging can drop to only a penny per message.  Also make sure to check the rates for data and web access.

PrePaid Phone
If you barely use any minutes, and 300 minutes is an overkill for you, then a prepaid phone may be the best option.

Jan
20
2014
How Professors Engage With Students Maranda Gibson

In college, the professors are facing long class times with students as well as more intense information. My favorite professors were always the ones who found a way to present information in new and exciting ways. I did better in classes where my professors made me a part of the learning process. What can you do as a teacher to keep your students engaged in your lectures? Here are some things that my favorite history professors did in college that always kept us engaged.

Tell a Story

By the time they get to college, students know about the landing of pilgrims on Plymouth Rock. How does a professor keep students engaged in a lesson that they know the ending to? My professor would find a way to tell a story about events that we might know now about. When I was hearing the story of colonization again, I learned that the pilgrims didn’t bring enough women along in the beginning and that for a long time; the colonies were under the threat of simply vanishing because their population was not growing. This story made a subject that I knew a lot about seem fresh and new.

Don’t Rush to the End

Encourage your students to participate and engage in the conversation. If you are rushing through the slides to get a good handle on the information, you miss a huge chance to pull your students in through participation. Dr. Carter of European History always encouraged us to ask questions, present discussion topics, and weigh in on controversial statements. As we made notes, we could ask him at any time why a certain decision was made versus another.

Wait to Give Out Handouts

Instead of handing out a copy of notes or the slides at the beginning of class, hand them out as students are filing out of the room at the end of the day. It will keep students from feeling like they can “check out” of the conversation at the beginning of the lecture because they already know what you’re going to cover. The professors I had never did this. They didn’t want us to check out as soon as we walked into class.

If you want students to stay present in lectures you have to give them lots of chances to get involved. These are some of my favorite professor’s tactics that even eight years later, I remember so well, and they are still some of my most enjoyable classes.

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