Conference Calls That Have Little Action – Lots of Waiting

Did you know that the average NFL game only has eleven minutes of action? Think about that this weekend when you’re glued to the screen for a couple of hours and ignoring the rest of the world for football. So what happens during the rest of that two hour broadcast? Well, the Wall Street Journal breaks it down like this:

  • 56% of the time is devoted to replays.
  • As much as 75 minutes of air time is devoted to showing players in huddles, standing at the line, or just wandering around between snaps. (Think about how many times you watched someone get a drink of Gatorade last Sunday.)
  • 7% of the time is spent showing the head coach or other coaches looking at their play cards or uttering things into their headset microphones.

The DVR should be renamed to “bypassing the commercials so I can get into bed at a decent time” because after reading that, doesn’t two hours or more seem like a complete waste?

Think about it – we sit through two hours of junk because we like to watch football. So why would we employ time wasting strategies at work and lost some of our precious time? Did you know the first place you can get some time back is on your conference calls? Are your conferences full of action or do you spend your call with a bunch of people saying hello, catching up, or asking if they can be heard?

You can bypass all of that and get straight into the action by employing a few simple strategies.

Start without someone on the conference.

If you scheduled your conference to start at ten in the morning and someone who isn’t essential to the meeting hasn’t arrived, go ahead and start the call. There is no reason why the rest of the users should be held up because one person didn’t arrive on time. The flip side of that is if the person you’re waiting on is the one with all the details – you probably should go ahead and wait.

Turn off your intro notifications.

There is no hard and fast rule that says you have to have the tones and name announcements blurt out during your conference. If you keep these on, what will end up happening will be nothing short of chaos as everyone joins the call. I know that a lot of people like to greet everyone on the conference, and that’s okay, but I suggest turning off any of the announcements and taking a nice, gentle roll call at the beginning.

Mute everyone on the call.

Everyone has a preference in how they set up conference calls and I am no different. I can’t stand noise on a conference call and I’m the first person to suggest to all of my customers that leaving all of their lines open on a call is a disaster waiting to happen. If you place your calls into lecture mode, then you won’t have to worry about everyone trying to catch up with each other when it’s time to start the conference.

Finish quickly.

There is no need for a conference call to keep going if you’re done sharing the information. With operator conferences, we book the lines for an hour, but many times the conferences don’t go as long as expected. The speaker was really efficient, or the participants didn’t have any questions, but either way, these calls don’t keep going when there is nothing to say.

There is no hard and fast rule that states that your conferences must be a specific length of time, so if you’re done with what the conference is for, then disconnect and let everyone get back to work.

Image credit Wikimedia Commons.

Ease Your Customers through Change

I’ve always thought that the way people adjust to change is a lot like how to they get into a swimming pool. Even on the hottest of hot days, there are some people who will run to the edge and cannonball into the deep, cold water. Sure, the initial shock will be pretty harsh, but they will be refreshed by the sudden temperature change and bob up to the surface, yelling for you to get into the water.

Then there are the easers. These are the people that get their feet used to the temperature first, and then ease themselves into the water inch by inch. Sure, these people take more time getting into the pool, but they just don’t like that instant shock. Once their bodies are adjusted, they are having just as much fun as the jumpers.

Maslow’s Hierarchy kicks in when we encounter change. These needs are fulfilled quicker for some people than others. The people who can quickly adapt around change are the divers and those who get stuck on certain levels are the easers.

When things change in the company you work for, you are going to go through the hierarchy. It’s just a part of the way we respond. Both you and your customer are working through the same things. By understanding why people act and respond the way they do – you can find it easier not only to ease yourself through change, but to help your customers as well. Check out these principals of change management psychology to help you and your customers ease (or dive) into the next big thing.

Something to Believe In

If all the conversations with your customers surround the things that will be “different”, they are likely to put your new ideas or their transition at arm’s length. Instead, break things down on how an individual customer will benefit. If you can say to a customer – “Yes, Bob, I know you’ve been looking for a better way to do XYZ, and this will be achieved with our new product” then you’re going to create a personal investment in the change. Give your customer something they can believe in, rather than expecting them to believe in what you’re excited about.

Provide as Much Consistency as Possible

When you’re pumped about a new start or direction, it can be hard to resist the temptation to throw it all away and start that building process from the ground up, but doing that can scare your customers. Ease your customers through things by changing only small things at first, before rolling out the big ones. Keep your staff the same as long as you can manage or don’t change your phone numbers until you absolutely have to. These things provide a consistently ground for your customers to keep walking along with you.

Reinforce Those Good Feelings

Once you start to push out some of those bigger things to your customers, make sure that you reach out and touch base with them, especially those who were the most resistant to change. Give them a few weeks with a new product or program, and then reach out with a phone call or email to see how things are going. This way you are available if they have any questions and you remain a consistent voice in the process.

Change isn’t easy on anyone and I think that it’s harder when you have a group of people (like customers) that you are responsible for easing through what can be a tricky process. Not only are you adjusting, but you have to walk them through the process as well. Remember that you want consistency and reinforcement as much as they do, and don’t be afraid to find your own ways to feel steady. There’s probably a good chance you and your customer can help each other through the process.

How do you help your customers through change?

How to Market Like a Teenage Girl

A few weeks ago I came across a story that should have surprised me, but it didn’t. Anna Todd just signed a six-figure deal for a trio of books and subsequent films based on her writings. Sounds like any writers dream right? Well, what if I told you that her books were novels that starred fictionalized versions of her favorite boy band One Direction?

Yes, another writer will be making bank on the popularity of their online fan fiction stories.

So what exactly is fan fiction? In a nutshell, fan fiction is the writing of a story based on something that already exists. The word “fan” ties to you a particular television show, movie, or book series. A fan fiction author will fill in gaps or write their own versions of their favorite stories with their favorite characters.

Most people had not been exposed to fan fiction until we were all introduced to the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. The bestselling book series and future movie blockbuster was originally a fan fiction Twilight story that was incredibly popular on sites that host fan fiction. Now, everyone probably has an opinion on this new trend of fan fiction being repackaged and sold as original ideas – myself included. But that is a debate for another day – another blog. This post is about what you can learn from teenage girls about marketing.

Know What is Popular

Fan fiction is generally driven by the things that are the most popular. 50 Shades is fiction based on the Twilight series and it was picked up and molded into a best seller just as the final Twilight movies were being aired in theaters. There is a sense of sadness when something a fan loves goes away – like when a movie series has completed or a show is no longer on television. When fans need “more” they turn to fiction, and they share with their friends, and so forth. It is the ultimate proof of the benefit of word-of-mouth marketing.

Market in the Right Channels

A lot of fan fiction is marketed to fellow fans on message boards. If you go to sites like fanforum.com you’ll find any number of show / couple specific message boards that have frequent and regular users. A lot of members who also write fan fiction will embed the link to their author profile into their signature. Since you’re already posting with people who would be interested in that kind of fiction, you’re speaking directly to your target market.

I know – it seems odd to look at teenage channels for us to get ideas, but they truth is that they drive a lot of the decision making in advertising, as well point us in a direction that we should consider. Like it or not, they control a lot of our buying power and we have to start taking our queue from them. Fan fiction authors certainly seem to be making bank lately.

Image credit: Wikimedia commons

17 Tips For More Productive Conference Calls - New Bonus Tips!

Conference calls have become an important part of corporate business life and yet they are not always used to their best advantage. The world of telecommunications has traveled light years since the old days of the traditional party line, but the modern conference call is really just an expansion of that retro concept. Today, most companies use a specialized service provider for conference calls and they are being used more and more in conjunction with web conferences. These service providers maintain the conference bridge and provide the phone numbers used to access the meeting or conference call.

How can your business better utilize this service? First, let us define exactly what service we are talking about. What is meant by the term, conference call? This is a telephone call in which the caller wishes to have more than one party listen in to the audio portion. Calls may also be designed so that the called party can participate during the call or so that the called party merely listens in and cannot speak. A conference call is also sometimes referred to as an ATC (Audio Tele-Conference).

In a book called "Death By Meeting" author, Patrick Lenzioni, argues that conference calls really should be more fun. He says: "If I didn't have to go to meetings, I'd like my job a lot more." According to Merlin Mann and his fascinating, irreverent and very witty family of websites dealing with personal productivity known collectively as 43 Folders, the following ideas have helped to make his life in general and conference calls in particular, easier and more productive. Also check out this interview with Al Pittampalli, the author of the Modern Meeting Standard. Consider them the next time you schedule a conference call. Read on and hold that call, please!

  1. Circulate an Agenda.  Don't do a conference call without first circulating an agenda to all involved parties. An agenda helps to structure the conference and helps members to prepare by providing in advance the type of information they will need in order to effectively participate in the discussion.
     
  2. Get familiar with each other. Have everyone in attendance introduce him or herself up front. In fact, make that the first thing on your agenda. It is important for people who don't know each other's voices especially well to become familiar as quickly as possible.
      
  3. Have conference calls only when you need to. Many are unnecessary and could be avoided with either a one-on-one call or a focused e-mail exchange. Group calls should only be made when either in-depth dialogue or brainstorming is required.
     
  4. Establish meeting timing. This includes when the meeting will begin, break and end ahead of time. Provide a time structure, which all participants must adhere to and matters will flow smoothly.
     
  5. Focus on the conference. Limit "electronic grazing" to during the conference call. Set it up like they did in the old frontier days at the saloon with all who enter checking their guns at the door!! The equipment is different; phones and laptops to be exact, but the attitude is the same. No multi tasking while the meeting is in session. This means no email, no phone calls and this means you! Attending the meeting is like being pregnant; one either is or one isn't present at the meeting. If an emergency occurs and a call needs to be made, then the person should leave the room to make the call and not tie up the meeting.
     
  6. Schedule guests and make the best use of everyone's time. Use your agenda to indicate when people will be needed to present their arguments and avoid the traffic jam of having thirty people in a room for three hours, twenty of whom will have nothing at all to do or say until the last 15 minutes of the meeting. Tick off items on the agenda as they are covered.
     
  7. Delegate roles. Don't wear too many hats at your own meeting. Employ someone to keep track of the time so that you as the leader are free to focus on the matters presented in the agenda and keep the meeting rolling along at an even pace.
     
  8. Stay focused on your time element and subject matter. Not all issues require the same amount of time to settle and any issue that can be resolved offline or does not require the input of the majority of the group should be dismissed as quickly as possible and ticked off the mighty agenda.
     
  9. Meetings won't run themselves. Be aware of which tips work best for you and remain consistent in their use. Meetings have never been able to run themselves, and you as the leader, must always think things out thoroughly so that people attending do not feel they are wasting their time. After all, that is the one commodity that we never seem to have enough of and that waits for no one, as the old saying goes.
     
  10. Stick to the point. Keep conference calls short and very sweet. This way, each participant knows what to expect, more or less, in terms of why they are there and what they are supposed to do. There is nothing more boring than a rambling speaker and nothing that will lose a listening audience more quickly, except maybe a sudden office fire.
     
  11. Get through the agenda first. Consider dealing with any matters that are not  on the agenda last even if they are brought up at the beginning of the conference. This prevents sidetracking and losing precious time in covering the more pertinent issues at hand.
     
  12. Invite only the people that need to be on the conference. Don't call bosses and technical experts to attend the conference unless you know in advance that their advice will be needed. Regardless of the outcome of the conference, they will definitely owe you one and be eternally grateful.
     
  13. Limit the Chaos. Limit the number of people on the conference call to four or at most five. Chaos is sure to follow if there are too many opinions circulating at the same time. Problems are likely to occur because the more opinions, the harder it becomes to keep track of who is speaking and a common reaction is to go on automatic pilot and "leave the meeting in your mind."
     
  14. Wait your turn to speak. Try not to interrupt when others are speaking and wait for the appropriate moment to jump in. One has to listen and concentrate much more acutely over the phone than is necessary in person.
     
  15. Summarize and follow up on meeting proceedings. This can either be done by you or by a project manager, if one has been so assigned. Take a few minutes at the end of the conference to review any major new projects that were generated in the meeting and email the list of resolutions to all participants. Also, take a minute to identify those issues or questions that must be explored further. Don't forget to thank everyone for his or her participation and say goodbye.
     
  16. Practice makes perfect. Familiarize yourself with the conference call service before you use it.  You're going to want to know how to use the conference call service so that you can use your mute functions and any of the moderator controls.  You should be able to call the conference company and get a quick overview of the different commands that you can use. 
     
  17. Start the conference on time.  You've sent out a lot of invitations that have a specific date and time provided to the other participants.  Start at the right time so that the conference will begin for those who showed up at the right time. Participants who are late will just have to miss the introduction.

Four Incredibly Helpful Bonus Tips! 

  1. Pay attention. As a participant you should take good notes. This will help you retain information and it will encourage you to pay attention, rather be distracted by your cell phone, email, or social networking. 
  2. Use visuals on conference calls that require them.  Not every conference is going to require them, so use them only in situations that call for the visual representations. 
  3. Know what your purpose is.By knowing the purpose of the conference call, you can breeze through the information. Sometimes a more informal and open conference suits the needs of the host, but sometimes, it's more about getting on the line and saying what needs to be said.
  4. Use tools at your disposal. I know it may seem "rude" to mute everyone on the conference and manage Q&A on a one by one basis, but it does help to keep everyone moving along. Don't be afraid to use the conference call features that you have available.

The mercurial business world of today demands quick decisions based on as many facts as possible. Aided by the cold hand of technology, telecommunications has made the transfer of information an instantaneous and ubiquitous affair. Take advantage of this process. Wasting time hurts business and morale on many levels and it is something that can be avoided by planning ahead all the details for your next conference call. Follow these tips and you are sure to have more productive conference calls. Perhaps not all of these ideas will work for you, but many of them will.

And by the way, hold that call, will you? I have to go. There's a conference call I have to attend ...


Looking for ways to improve your speaking abilities? Here are four more resources:

Full Service Conference Calls


The goal of any business that promises “full-service” is to provide a single place that a customer can go to get everything they might need. A full-service car wash will not only run your car through the wash, it will also wipe down the interior and vacuum the inside. You might also find that one location will provide hand wash or waxing services, and even a pushy little guy offering you windshield repair.

Somewhere along the lines, their developer or manager decided that there was no reason why a customer should need to go anywhere else for their car needs. You’ve seen these places. You might even frequent them on a sunny day. Full service is about getting what you want in one place.

So how does AccuConference present a full service conference call model to our customers? Easy – we would allow having as many or as few features on your conferences. This way our customers know they can use one company to do anything they need with a teleconference. Every account comes with free features that you might pay more for somewhere else, or be forced to have an operator manage the call for you.

  • Live call screen to see who is on your call.
  • Lecture mode and pre-conferences.
  • Free conference recording.
  • Live Q&A sessions.

Much like a car wash has a number of packages you can choose from for your wash, we also have set up the same kind of package buying with your account, and you can choose any one of those on any one of your conferences.

Do It Yourself Conference Calls

Most of our customers take advantage of the do-it-yourself conferences. They get their information from us (dial in number and codes) and set up their conference time. From there, they can do most of everything one of our operators can do without being forced to pay a higher charge for an operator call. Even better – if you want to do these kinds of calls, we will take the time to teach you.

Large Online Events

For those big webinar events you need to have, we have large capacity conference bridges available. To set up something that’s going to be more than 149 people, you need to give us a call and let us set up an online event for you. You can share a PowerPoint, a Youtube video, and even chat with your participants. You can manage all of this on your own and all we ask is for at least twenty-four hours of notice to make sure your call is properly scheduled.

Operator Assisted Conferences

This kind of conference call is the full detail package you can get at the car wash. We treat your conference like it’s our own, from set up, to collecting information, and running all of your technical needs, like Q&A. These conferences are customizable, right down to the introduction that we read to your participants. We’ve done a bit of everything – educational announcements, quarterly financial calls, and even presidential events.

We believe that a good conference service can do as much or as little as you need. Full service is about providing one business that you can go to for anything you might need. Call us at 800.977.4607 to inquire about any of your conference needs.

3 Marketing Lessons Learned from Civilization

My favorite kinds of games are the kinds that are different every time you play. I have enjoyed playing simulation games since I was a nerdy junior high kid. The first game I ever got into was the Sid Meier series Civilization. My dad taught me how to play and since, I’ve been a dominant force in my simulation world. (Seriously, don’t cross me, I will destroy you.)

When these games rolled out in iPad versions, I spent about a solid month doing nothing but playing game after game. I took different strategies and started as different leaders. Each game turned out differently. I realized there’s a lot to learn from simulation game because you have to plan, develop a strategy, and then launch against your competition. Here are three takeaways about marketing that I learned from a marathon of Civilization.

Plan in Advance

In order to achieve success and win your game, you have to start out with a plan in mind. This may change depending on what you come across as you go along (maybe your citizens keep revolting, or you weren’t able to expand as large as you wanted) but you do need to have a direction. Your success will depend on the resources you can identify and exploit to your advantage.

Take a look at all of your assets and decide where you can get the most out of your team. Maybe you have an incredibly talented web development team who could create buzz by simply redesigning a website. Maybe your strength is in content development, so you choose to roll out a teaser campaign. Either way, your first step is to identify what resources you have and how you want to win.

Know Your Competition

Since this particular game generates a random starting location for you, it’s important to seek out your potential friends and foes. You need to know who you can form alliances with, who you can trust, and who you can’t. It’s not as cutthroat in the “real” world a lot of times, but knowing who you’re going up against helps you to determine a plan of action.

Before starting a campaign, research the leaders in your field. What are they doing? Find out what has worked for them and what hasn’t. These can be keys to determining your best plan of action. In game, you think about who is going to be a military powerhouse and who might have a series of scientific advances that put them ahead of the game. Anticipating these things, knowing the competition, you know how to plan a strategy and how to respond to what the competition does.

Give it Time to Grow

When you start a game of Civilization, you are weak. You have one military unit and you can start one city. From there, you just start to put the pieces together and build. The very beginning of a game is not the time to start a huge undertaking of military strength while trying to take over the world.

Starting a new campaign will not yield magic “take-over-the-world” results right away. You have to put the pieces in place and then let it grow slowly. If you do the work, at some point, the tide will turn and your competition will see you as the benchmark to set their campaigns to. If you haven’t rushed yourself, by this time, there may be no way to catch up with you.

Bonus Tip: Never trust the Zulus. Seriously, they will break every single alliance they get their hands on, just for fun.

How to Anticipate Customer Needs

After over ten years in customer service, I have learned a lot about how people communicate and how they find out the information they need. I have also learned that a lot of the time, someone is handed a phone number or website and told to “gather” information and then report back.

Any good customer service experience we have is likely going to involve a lot of questions while we try to find exactly what is needed. We can eliminate some of those questions by simply taking a few quick moments to anticipate their needs. Here are some of the three quickest ways that I anticipate the needs of my customers.

Look For Patterns

We do a lot of operator answered conferences for a particular organization. I noticed a new account in the same industry opened an account online and suggested that we reach out to them to make sure they didn't need an operator answered call. They didn't, but they did need to have a large online event, which required a special set up. Noticing the pattern meant we ended up touching base with the customer instead of assuming they knew what they needed. If we hadn't, given their special need, they would have not been able to have all the people they needed on their conference.

Listen to Your Customer’s Tone

Sometimes, our customers will call us with a last-minute need and if we will just take a quick second to hear their tone of voice, we will know just how quickly we need to move. There are plenty of clients where we can chat with them and take our time to learn what they need, but there are times when customers want us to say "this is what you need and this is how much it costs". You can tell a lot about a customer’s unspoken needs by simply listening to their tone.

Understand the Industries that Need Your Products

We have a number of customers who are in legal related fields – mostly lawyers. For the most part, the lawyers we work with use our reservationless conferences for quick ‘on-the-record’ conferences with witnesses or opposing counsel. Anytime I set up a new account, I let them know about operator out dial conferences (where we call everyone and join them to the call) because when we have out dials, they are almost always law offices. I always like to let them know we do that too, just in case a judge ever asks for that arrangement.

Not only does anticipating your customers’ needs help to grow your business, it’s also a great way to get your customers to talk about you. Loyal and happy customers will talk about the companies they do business with, so start anticipating what your customers.

How does anticipation work in your industry?


How to Fill Out Customer Surveys

In my previous job, customers had the ability to go online and fill out an NPS (Net-Promoter Score) survey on their experience. NPS is a scoring system for customer feedback that determines how likely the customer is to recommend a business based on one or more factors.

On our NPS surveys, the location and employees would be ranked 1-10 on different factors with comment sections. A customer survey is designed to do two things - 1.) Give well deserved kudos to the employees at the counter and 2) keep the employees accountable.

Being the overachiever that I was (er, am), I wanted to get 10s on everything. How could I not? I was always polite, I took good care of my customers, but I learned something about filling out NPS surveys.

You can't please everyone and it seemed like all of those people were renting their cars from our location.

It was rare to get a five and we were a highly rated branch across our area, but it was forever surprising when we would receive a three or below (which triggered a conference call with the area leaders, explaining the reason). Here are some of the reasons why we got three or below on some of our surveys.

  • Did not get the car that was pictured on the website.
  • Someone once got in an accident in a rental vehicle and left a poor review because the accident paperwork took additional time on return.

I think that NPS and other kinds of survey's are a great tool for customers to communicate with the staff about their experiences, whether it be good or bad. I highly suggest that you take the opportunity to fill out a survey or comment card whenever you get the chance. You might think that your representative or management isn't interested, but I promise you that for the most part, those of us in customer service are truly dedicated to our jobs.

If you want your comment card to make a true impression, I have some tips on what gets read, and what gets dismissed. Keep these in mind the next time you fill out your comment card or take a moment for the survey.

Use the Comment Box

If you feel like you need to score the location or business low, that's okay. You're allowed to and I promise that any good business wants to know where they can improve and grow their business. Use the comment box and expand on your thoughts or add more. The simple rankings of 1-10 are great but it might leave a huge question of what you actually expected. The comment box is a great place to give more information to have a better experience next time.

Consider the Question Carefully

Be sure that your responses are going into their corresponding categories. If you had a terrible meal at a really clean restaurant, marking 0 for cleanliness will make it harder for the staff and management to take your comments and ratings into consideration. When filling out your survey make sure that you are marking your comments in the right places.

Rank Locations on Things They Can Control

There are some things that may sully your experience that are out of the business' hands. If you go to restaurant with the hopes of sitting on the patio, but can't because it's raining, it's not appropriate to score your location on something that was completely out of their control.

Please take the opportunity to fill out the survey or talk to the manager (especially when you have a great experience) but even when you don't let the company know so that they can make changes and adjustments for a better experience in the future for you and other customers.

Four Ways Your Speakerphone is Ruining Your Conference Call

Did you know that your speakerphone might be ruining the sound quality of your conference based on simple things like volume and design? If you want your conferences flawlessly clear, here are some things to be aware of when using your speakerphone.

Speakerphones pick up every noise.

A speakerphone is one of the most sensitive pieces of equipment out there and it will pick up any noise there is in its range. Every rustle of paper, every tap on the keyboard, and every closing of a door is an opportunity for your conference call to be disrupted. If you aren't taking the meeting alone, encourage everyone to keep their shuffling and typing to a minimum, and always mute your line (*6) if you’re not speaking.

Not all speakerphones work the same.

If your speakerphone is “half-duplex” it means that while the person is using the speakerphone is talking, he cannot hear anything else going on. He may miss a request to wait for a moment or even the announcement that the conference call is over. Alleviate this by upgrading your current phones to what is called as “full-duplex”. This allows for the transmission of audio through the speaker (heard) and microphone (spoken) at the same time.

Placement matters.

In a large or medium sized room, your conference phone should be centered on the table. This allows the microphone to pick up most of the speakers in the room. If there are issues with people at the ends of the table being heard, you may need to shuffle seats around. Make sure that you mute the phone while you do that so that people don’t hear the quick game of musical chairs or if you choose to slide the speakerphone across the table.

Sometimes, it’s hard to hear you.

When we do operator answered conferences, we sometimes experience an issue in hearing the participants clearly as they give us their name and information. Most of the time, this is due to the position of the speakerphone or the volume of the microphone. If the device is set to far away from you, you've rolled out of range, or the microphone is too low, you can’t be heard clearly. If we can’t hear you to gather your information, then you likely won’t be heard on the conference call, which may lead to your important question or comment being missed.

To anticipate some of these problems, set up a run through with some co-workers or one us of here at AccuConference. We’ll be happy to help and if you have any feedback during your call give us a call right away at 800.989.9239 so we can help you.

Three Simple Tips for Social Media Crisis Management

The big story over the weekend was Comcast business and residential services being down across the United States. From South Carolina to California, most major metro users experienced a weekend outage that lasted from early Saturday into late Sunday. While watching the issue unfold from my friends on social media, I curiously took a look at the Charter Twitter accounts.

I was surprised to see there had been no update. Doing a search for #charter and #charteroutage showed a lot of customer reaching out over social media and still, the two accounts were silent. In fact, at the time of this writing, they have only addressed the issue in the last twenty-four hours. The lack of reach on social media, complied with the inability of their customer service number to handle the volume of calls left a lot of unhappy customers.

Customer service is not an easy job, especially when there is a crisis. When you’re the one who is responsible for social media, how do you respond to the outcry when something happens over the weekend? If you’re on social media people will find you there and expect a response and for your customers, it doesn't matter if it’s Monday or Sunday afternoon. Here are three quick tips for managing social media when crisis strikes and you’re away from your desk.

Get Alerts

When you manage a social media account, it’s likely that people are going to send you messages when you are not “at your desk”. Part of the responsibility of social media is to have the access to your accounts. To keep an eye on mine, I get email messages when someone sends me a reply, as well as hooking up the account so I also get text alerts. If something is wrong or there is a serious problem, customers will use available channels to get a hold of you. If you’re on social media, that is one of them.

Turn Off Your Auto Messages

One of the things that seemed to upset Charter customers over the weekend was the account of @CharterCom sending out auto responses of a contest. Of course, the debate over auto-tweets will forever continue, but it becomes even more important to be aware of what your accounts are doing in times of crisis. When you’re entire internet system is out nationwide – it’s probably a good time to turn those messages off and respond to the live messages coming in.

Send Out Something

In time of crisis, it’s not always easy to update your customers – especially when you don’t know exactly what the problem is. Since customer service usually is not IT, we get our updates as we can and while issues are being worked through – those updates are always not on a regular basis. IT’s primary concern is fixing the problem. Still, even if you don’t know what the problem is, you should at least send out some sort of notification via social media that an issue exists. @Charter and @CharterCom failed to address the problem at all, which frustrated a lot of their customers.

How do you handle social media in a crisis? Is there a difference in when something happens during the work week versus the weekend?