Get Human Offers a Short Cut to Customer Service

Let’s be honest – automated phone menus are a complete nuisance. Button punching, menu prompts, and trying to speak to a robot can sometimes initiate the desire to pull our hair out. As we’re screaming at or speaking slowly to the robotic menu asking for our account number yet again we suppress the need to throw the phone against the wall and we wish there was a better way.

GetHuman.com is the brain child of Paul English who created the database for tips and tricks on how to get around the automated prompts and get straight to a live person. Originally called the IVR Cheat Sheet to Find a Human, the goal was to give consumers an option to get to a live person. Since the inception of the cheat sheet, the website has evolved to GetHuman.com and not only gives you the telephone numbers of companies who do not readily list that on their website, it also gives you the average wait time, as well as the level of service.

Take a look at Facebook – their average wait time is a little over an hour and their user rating is horrible. Clicking on the companies breaks it down further with reviews from users about the company and the customer service experience. There are also alternate numbers for many of the larger companies that insist on continuing to make their users jump through hoops to get some assistance.

It makes you wonder why some companies continue to require customers to navigate their ways through these menus. One argument that large companies make is that they simply handle too large of a customer base to provide a single number for customers, that it’s best to route them to the proper department right away. Except that usually, the initial person that you get at customer service has to transfer you around to a different department.

The biggest offenders of the customer service rule seem to be those companies that typically just want you to contact them for support via email, like Facebook. There are also those companies that simply don’t publish their customer service number online, like Amazon, and GetHuman gives you not just one, but a few customer service numbers.

Large companies may never be able to get rid of automated systems, but they should remember that these systems take away a customer’s choice. (There is a very funny, albeit slightly vulgar cartoon on the Oatmeal about this very subject) If companies are going to force you into a menu option, why can’t they give you an option to go straight through to a representative, at the very least?

We’ve never had an automated menu – if you call either of our numbers, you get a real human right away, and we will never have an automated system – no matter how large we continue to grow. We will simply hire more people.

Should companies completely do away with automated menus or are there instances when they are needed? How do you feel about them, from both a customer standpoint, as well as a business?

Metered Vs. Stamped Mail: What Sends a Better Message

Here at AccuConference, we hand stamp everything. We don’t have a meter machine, despite the rising cost of postage and the amount of time it can sometimes take to stamp all of our new accounts and send them their welcome packages. A meter machine could probably save us a couple of cents on each letter we send, since it’s a bulk service, but we feel like the hand stamp lets our customer know a couple of things.

Using a real stamp lets the recipient know a real person stamped your envelope, not a machine. In a time when social media is being used to create connections with customers, the simple act of using a real stamp does the same thing that an active Twitter or Facebook account can do.

We feel like metered mail can look like junk. Not to imply that all metered mail is junk mail, but simple when you’re going through a large stack of mail, you typically look for the clear signs of what is considered junk mail. One of the things people look for the most is to see if something has a real stamp on it. If you’re taking the time and money to send out a flyer, why would you want to take the chance of it never being opened?

We also just don’t like the look of the meter stamp on the envelope. The pink on the white kind of burns our eyes – we prefer a good old fashioned stamp. It might just be because we have quite a few clients in Canada – have you ever seen the postage stamp for .75 cents (our going rate to Canada)? It’s really pretty.

Deciding if you want to use or meter for your mail is your decision, we just have always used regular stamps, and we always will.

(Image Used Credit to the USPS)

Never Underestimate a Thank You

I have a client who often sends me questions or requests to change their account via email. He and I have a very good relationship, even if he always spells my name incorrect. It’s no big deal, but when you’re reading an email and you see your name spelled wrong, it’s one of those things that stand out. He and I were working on something that took a little bit of investigation and when it was all over, I sent him a thank you card.

The card was mailed a few weeks ago and yesterday, he emailed me again with another question and thanked me for the card. What else? He spelled my name correctly. Much like how it would stand out when it was wrong, it stood out even more when it was right.

I found it interesting that it was the first email after he got his card – it stood out to me and I can’t help but wonder if maybe the reason is because of the card. If you want to stand out to a customer, here are five ways to thank them.

  1. Send them a card just to thank them for their time and let them know you appreciate their business.
  2. Give great customer service and always thank them for choosing your company.
  3. Invite them to write guest posts on your blog or be interviewed for your newsletter.
  4. Send them a gift. It doesn’t really matter what you send them but something to express your appreciation of their continued business can do wonders.
  5. Send follow up email to thank someone for taking the time to sit down with you and let them know that you’re available to help them whenever they need it.

Sometimes, giving your customer “thanks” isn’t just in what you say, it’s in what you do. You can thank your customers by just showing them that you appreciate that they are choosing your company to do business with. What are you doing to thank your customers?

Public Speaking Anxiety

With it being the first work day of 2011, I’m sure a lot of us have some resolutions we are trying to live up to and trying to make happen. Whether your resolution is to lose weight, stop smoking, or overcome something that held you up in the past, I’m sure you have a set of goals to make your resolution happen.

If your resolution this year is to be a better public speaker, it can be hard to set goals that will help you reach what is, more than likely, an end result of making a public speech. Like all resolutions, the best thing for you to do is to set smaller goals that will get you more comfortable with the idea of being in front of people, before you tackle the idea of a long speech.

If you suffer from public speaking anxiety and want to overcome that this year, try starting small and working your way up the ladder of challenges. Here are some easy (free!) suggestions to starting down the path of conquering the anxiety.

  1. Volunteer time reading books to an after school program. Not only is this a great way to spend your time, but you’ll get used to reading out loud. You will learn the importance of pace, tone, and not to do the annoying robot voice that will put us all to sleep. Small children are also forgiving – so it’s an audience that can be very easy to make happy.
  2. Join an Online Forum. Joining an online forum will help you learn how to articulate your thoughts into a speech-like format. The great thing about forums is that you’ll get connections with people you wouldn’t usually come in contact with and it will teach you how to speak up in a situation when you’re dealing with people you don’t know.
  3. Watch other speakers. Attend free events at your local community college or university and watch how other speakers use the stage to their advantage. Take notes about what you like and what you don’t, then practice at home.

If you want to overcome this kind of fear, you don’t have to run out and spend a lot of money on different kinds of books and DVD’s. You can find some ways to get a little bit of confidence in your abilities right in your own backyard and never have to spend a dime.

The Patterns of Preparation

The Patterns of Preparation

I talk a lot about public speaking and how you can get yourself prepared as well as the approach you’re going to take. One of the things I am the most vocal about is how getting up “in front” of a crowd is no different than standing on the other side of a conference call. You’re still being heard by a large group of people and you’re still being listened to intently, with your audience members hoping that you will add some value to their current plans.

Being on a conference call doesn’t always take the pressure off – sometimes, it can put more pressure on. Gone are the non verbal cues you can give people to let them know that you’re enthused or excited and say goodbye to making eye contact with people in your audience to engage them in the conversation.

The way your audience processes your information is going to be different and the way you deliver the information has to adapt, but most of the time, the stages leading up to the presentation are always the same. I read this great post from Michael Hyatt called “The 10 Psychological Stages of Public Speaking” about how his brain processes the emotions leading up to a presentation.

Take a look at these, it’s pretty interesting and I very easily relate, especially to number 5. I feel a bit like everything is going to be horrible, like I’m going to get completely tongue tied or have one of my strange moments where my brain just completely stops working. (Usually, my main focus is to not do this horrible awkward laugh thing that I do.)

The point is that no matter what you’re about to do, most of us are naturally nervous when con something like public speaking, and there’s no major difference between planning for a live conference or for a conference call.. It’s not just you. Maybe the way Michael puts himself out there will be a way that can help you get over those jitters.

Thanks for the honesty Michael!

MagicJack Blocking Conference Calls

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

Here are some things we know:

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Avoid the Huh

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

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

“So… You...Are…From…The…City?”

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

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

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

Ten Tips for Turning Off Your Accent

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

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

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

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

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

Teacher and Speaker

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

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

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

How to Sell To Me

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

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

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

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

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

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