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Oct
01
2012
Charity Spotlight: The Parenting Center Maranda Gibson

As many of you know, our offices are located in beautiful Fort Worth, Texas and many of the employees and owners of this company have grown up in the area. We are proud members of the community and like to get involved with local events to support local charities and organizations.

A few months ago we told you about Circle of Friends, which works with Cook Children’s Hospital to provide aid to families with a cancer diagnosis. Now we’d like to bring your attention to another great local Fort Worth charity and an upcoming event.

AccuConference is pleased to be a sponsor for the Parenting Center’s 13th Annual Tee it Up Fore Kids Golf Tournament. The Golf Tournament will be held at the Shady Oaks Country Club near downtown on November 5, 2012.

As all the locals know, the fall months here in Texas are some of the most beautiful and the greens are always filled with the amateur golfer. Why not take your love for the outdoors and the game of golf and do something to help a great charity like the Parenting Center?

The Parenting Center offers skills training classes and parenting education all with the hopes of preventing child abuse and neglect. What makes the Parenting Center so unique is that the classes are designed to help parents with any kind of neglect. What if the parent can’t get a toddler to stop throwing temper tantrums and time out just isn’t working in your house? Skills classes teach some different approaches from how to care to newborn and how divorced parents can learn how to co-parent in a healthy environment.

Contact the Parenting Center at 817-332-6489 for more information on teeing off for a great local cause!

Sep
25
2012
Transcription Services Maranda Gibson

Transcription services may be at an extra cost but there are unique benefits to using them that you might not think about. Usually, we think about transcriptions we think about them for medical purposes or legal documentations of conversations and while these are great uses of a transcription there are many more reasons that adding this service to your conferencing routine can benefit your business in a number of ways.

Here’s a couple of other ways that AccuConference customers are making transcriptions a part of their usual conference calls routine.

  1. Any conversation that is “on the record” should be transcribed so that there is no deviation from what was said. Recording your conference calls is one way to get extra posterity for conversations, but a transcription can be sent out to those who want to keep written documentation.
  2. For videos not only are you making the content within in the video able to be crawled by search engines, you’re also providing an easy way to mark sections for editing. If you’re reviewing a video and need to send a few more notes over to the editor, you can transcribe the text with a timestamp feature and highlight the times that require additional review. This makes it easier for the editor to go into your video and make quick changes. The process speeds up when the editor doesn’t have to go searching for phrases and gestures to remove.
  3. Under Regulation Fair Disclosure mandated by the SEC in 2000, requires that any information released to investors or analysis must be made public. The purpose of the regulation was to even the playing field between all kinds of stock holders and prevent the large investment companies from getting a “heads up” on information that could affect stock prices. Regulation FD requires broad dissemination to the public of stock information and is usually done by conference call playback or by a transcription.
  4. News stories are optimized for mobile devices when you include the transcription of the video together. I check my news applications constantly and I am more likely to “read” a story than to stop and watch the accompanying video on my phone. It will also make your news stories accessible to people who do not have the latest smartphone technology or have access to cool tablet computers.
  5. Did I mention that the content of your conference call suddenly becomes searchable? Imagine that you get an opportunity to host an incredible interview with someone and you upload it to your website and hope that people are able to find it. If you can post the text on your website somewhere your interview content can be returned as a result in Google search.

What useful things can you think of for having conversations transcribed?

Sep
19
2012
What Sports Franchises Teach Us about Customer Loyalty Maranda Gibson

As I’m sure everyone has realized that I like a good sporting event. While baseball is my sport of choice I like any event where I feel like I can get emotionally invested in something happening on the field or court. Last week, I watched some of the Giants / Cowboys NFL opening game because it seemed like it would be a good one. This week, ESPN released its Ultimate Team Standings for 2012, which polls “fans” on their approval or disapproval of professional sports franchises.

The teams that ranked in the top 10 were not at all surprising, ranging from the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder to the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks. (Sidenote: Congrats to my Texas Rangers for ranking #9!) In determining top ranked franchise teams there are a number of factors that ESPN takes into consideration and since we’re all trying to get “fans” on various social networks and boost referral customers, I thought I would break down some of the factors and how you can apply them to your business.

Fan Relations.

Are you providing excellent customer service to your fans? How accessible are you day and night for your customers to get the help that they need? Do you respond to Facebook comments or even negative remarks about your company? It’s important to meet your customers’ needs and be ready to respond if they need something.

Bang for the Buck.

When it comes to a sporting event, fans expect that their experience should be worth the amount of money they have spent for all aspects of their time at a park. This is everything from ticket prices to food prices, and even parking. If a fan doesn’t feel like it was money well spent, they won’t rank that team to have a good reputation and they probably won’t visit again. This one is pretty simple – a business should make sure a customer is getting what they are paying for.

Players.

Are the franchise team players accessible? Is it easy to get an autograph or attend a warm up practice? Even the demeanor and attitude they have in television interviews can be a factor in determining a player’s effect on fan perception. Step back and take a look at your customer service representatives and make sure that they are going above and beyond for clients. Do they smile while they are on the phone? Are they patient and understand when trying to walk a customer through steps? These are factors that will make a mark on customers that will affect your team, and business, as a whole.

Those are just a few factors that can cause a positive or negative reception of your team and business. While the Toronto Maple Leafs (dead last) and the Sacramento Kings (next to dead last) haven’t quite figured out how to make their fans happy, your business has a unique opportunity to learn from the mistakes of those franchises and improve customer relations immediately.

After all, fans always reward their team in the end, one way or another.

Sep
03
2012
James Spann on Social Media Maranda Gibson

For all the weather geeks out there, James Spann is a man that everyone turns to when it comes to all things related to Alabama weather.  Over a career that spans nearly 40 years, Spann has solidified himself as the model study for meteorologists. He’s an Emmy winner, the recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award, and has been voted best meteorologist in the country numerous times by the Associated Press.

On top of all this, James Spann is a social media advocate. He is the most followed meteorologists on Twitter and Facebook and on the day of April 26, 2011 as tornadoes roared through Alabama, thousands of people were posting on his social media outlets to report damage and even ask for help. Even if you don’t know who James Spann is or you’re not a weather nerd like me, you’ll find the video below as interesting as I did.  At the Alabama Social Media Association conference earlier this year, James addressed the Alabama media about the use of social media in a weather situation.

  • "If you put others first, that’s when life gets good." As a meteorologist, James often has to field questions from those who do not know much about weather, how storms form, or how they track. Rather than ignore the “stupid question” James answers them because that’s what he is there for. When a question is posed to him it’s because someone respects and needs his answer, so he answers.
  • This is how the world communicates. We often wonder if automation is good or bad in social media and James has found that his determination is based on the expectations of his audience. In high stress situations where response is critical to life and person (like EF-4 tornadoes bearing down on metropolitan areas) automation doesn’t work. People can tell when a message is automated and the expectation on a network like Twitter is that the updates are "real-time". The opposite has proven true for Facebook as the network, at least in his business, is more about sharing the information than looking for up to date information.
  • Let’s be honest. James Spann is, in fact, James Spann and people are going to follow him, they are going to send him information, and he will have questions to answer and a huge network of people that will help him do good. We don’t all have that and our experience on Twitter or Facebook might be different, but no matter what, these are basic foundations to any successful social media plan.

I’ve shared the video because I find it to be an interesting commentary on social media from someone who is, technically, “not in it to make money.” Social media is simply a tool for James and the rest of the ABC 33/40 staff to provide weather updates and, as you’ll see, much more. The length is 45 minutes but the information is great and James is such a great communicator that he’s very easy to listen to.

Tell me what you think – do you feel that social media is a good platform for a meteorologist to embrace to warn the public? Is it a good place for someone in marketing or business development? James certainly feels like his updates and social media activities saved lives on the day of a historic tornado outbreak. Do you think it’s possible for Twitter, Facebook, and other social channels to make that much of an impact, or are James’ situations the exception to the rule?

That super sweet image of James telling you to obey the polygon is credit to his Google + account

Aug
21
2012
How to Better Manage Your Mandatory Meetings Maranda Gibson

Can you believe it’s almost September? Where has this month gone? Here in Texas, we’re looking forward to getting rid of the heat and bringing in the best season ever - fall. As exciting as the fall season is, one thing that is also on the way is your beginning and end of the month responsibilities. It could be something as simple as updating spreadsheets or it’s time for your monthly conference calls again.

Consider a registration page for your weekly and monthly status meetings. Registration pages do a lot more than simply creating a link for signing up. If you’ve found that your weekly or monthly meetings have been a bit out of control from people not attending or unwanted participants, a registration page adds the security and tracking abilities for your mandatory meetings.

Check attendance for those calls that can’t be missed. When company policy changes, it often requires a company-wide sign off and understanding from the employees affected by the changes, and using a registration page is a great way to keep track of compliance. When someone registers for a call, the host will be able to keep track of registrants along the way and be able to go back and see who dialed into the conference, and who didn’t.

Send reminders to your participants. Human beings are naturally forgetful and when it comes to important can’t be missed meetings you can set up registration pages to automatically send participants reminders to attend these compliance calls. This way even if they forget to put a call reminder on their own calendar, our system will send them an email up to one hour before the start of the call to remind them to attend.

Manually approve or deny registrations. In our March newsletter, we talked to the author of the Modern Meeting Standard and one of the suggestions in the book is to make sure that you are only inviting the people who have to attend the meeting. If there is no need for the CEO / VP / Marketing Manager to be on the call, then they shouldn’t attend and with a manual process you can deny their participation. It will also help to make sure that only employees are able to attend your conference and keep press or competitors off conferences with sensitive information.

Conference code security options. When using a registration page to boost security and check attendance, our recommendation is that you set up the conferences codes to fall under what’s called “one code at a time” so that the conference codes cannot be handed out to others to use. The first person to call into the conference will be the one that can use the code. While it’s not a perfect system of being able to validate who the person is when they join, it will help the conference from having lots of unexpected guests dialing in on one conference code.

These are just some things that can be done to increase security and hold participants accountable when it comes to attending mandatory meetings.

Aug
07
2012
Unwanted Conference Call Noise Maranda Gibson

Any type of noise on your conference call is a nuisance because it interrupts you and your customers trying to get business done. While conference call services do their best to try to design services that limit or remove static on your conference, there are some things that can cause conference feedback that you may not realize.

Check Your Equipment

Many times, feedback is caused by the phone or headset you might be using. Like a pair of headphones that are old and have lost connectivity in the wires, your phone cords and headset connections can do the same thing. If you hear feedback on your conference, start by listening to the conference on a handset and see if the feedback goes away. If it does, then you know that your headset should be replaced due to a short or some other problem in the equipment.

It Could Be Your Provider

Many of us don’t realize that the noise we hear on our phone line could be related to the company that provides your phone lines, like Qwest or AT&T. When your company is doing work on the phone lines or even having a technology issue miles away, those issues can affect the quality of your phone calls with or without being connected to a conference service.

While any phone service can have issues that may cause static on your line, we’ve found that one of the most common culprits of these issues is a VoIP service. We wrote a run down on some of the problems that you should consider when switching to VoIP and why it’s important to pick a VoIP provider that has a great reputation. If you’re using VoIP I would recommend that you go over and read that to ensure that you and your company have taken steps to choosing a VoIP provider with a lower instance of these occurrences.

Moderator Controls

If static is causing a problem in your conference call, use your live call screen feature to mute and unmute individual lines to see if the problem can be isolated. Don’t forget to test your own line just in case it’s your phone that is causing the noise. Once you identify the line you can keep it muted to prevent the noise from continuing to disrupt your conference call.

Bonus Tip:We recommend that if you will have more than five participants on a conference call that you go ahead and place the call into lecture mode to prevent static or background noises from interrupting your call.

Unwanted noises on a conference call are a nuisance and are incredibly frustrating when you’re trying to conduct business. If you’re in a situation where you can’t pause the conference to run through all of the troubleshooting steps, hop on chat with one of our operators (you can access it right from our website) and let us help you work through the problem.

Jul
30
2012
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?

Jul
19
2012
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?

Jul
16
2012
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

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?

Jul
04
2012
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!

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