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A Story for Customer Service Managers

Posted on August 11, 2011 by Arianna

As customer service supervisor, I am always focusing on my experiences with other company’s customer service and comparing them to how my team treats our customers. For the most part my experiences provide examples of how we can improve; however, the other day I went to a large shoe store to buy some shoes and my experience was less then stellar.  I had not been to this store in about four months, and unbeknownst to me, the stores sales representatives are now commission based. When I walked into the store, it took forever to try and find a representative to assist me in getting the size shoe I needed. When I finally was able to flag down a representative he brought me the shoes and then walked out of the shoe department. I later found out this was because he was going on his lunch. After trying on the shoes and finding a couple of outfits to wear them with, I decided to purchase them.

I went up to the counter and there was no one around. I waited patiently, might I add, but 5-10 minutes waiting was a bit long for me. As another representative came up to the counter to check on a price for her customer, I asked her if she could help me with purchasing the shoes. Now what I am about to say is verbatim – word for word her response was, “I am helping my customer and they are my priority right now, I’m sorry.” That was it. She continued checking stock and I was left speechless. No 'I'll get somone to help you", no “I’ll be with you in a moment”, nothing.  She could have showed me she was at least considering helping me, but she didn’t.  The words she used showed how unimportant my purchase was to her. The customer in line behind me, also needing help, immediately asked the young lady for a manager.

The manager came down and said that we needed to understand that they are commission based and so they need to help the customers they are currently working with. She did apologize for the way the representative explained it, but the deed was done.  I left the store without the pair of shoes and strolled right into the one next to it in the mall, also a commission based job. I can’t even tell you how much more I enjoyed the experience, but know this: I would rather pay more money to be treated as a worthy customer then pay less and have to force someone to help me.

Now, my experience may not be the norm for that shoe store and their employees, but I tell it so that I can provide employees with some advice. These are the three things I got out of the experience.

•      Treat your customers exactly how you would like to be treated

•      Remember that you have a job because of your customers – no customers = no job

•      Every customer can become a loyal customer, so do you best to make a good impression

I also found this article on tips for commission based salespeople and the first tip on the list was: “to make a customer feel special and important [you need] to greet them as soon as you see them. They need to know that you are there, that you are willing to help and that you are available for them to ask questions.” The shoe store failed to do just that.  From the famous words of Aretha Franklin, “all I’m asking is for a little respect, just a little bit” and so do our customers.

Three Simple Tips for Staying Focused at Work

Posted on August 2, 2011 by Suzanne

I find that I often have the hardest time staying focused during the summer time. I think there will always be something inside me like an alarm that signals vacation time! I know there must be a lot of people out there like me so I thought I would write my tips for staying focused when all you want to do is relax at the beach.

1.    Make a List

It’s really easy to lose track of time, as well as where you are in your work without a list. If you have due dates add those to your list first and then smaller tasks that also have to be done after that. When approaching any project I normally have two lists that I work from. One has all the items that I have to do for that project and the other includes all the other daily tasks I need to get done that do not relate to the main project. Not only does this help me stay focused, but it helps me multitask as well. Having a list with tasks you can cross off goes a long way to motivate you to complete projects.

2.    Make it Fun

Setting goals for yourself is one way to make work fun and stay focused. I usually work back and forth between my lists and give myself little “treats” when I reach my goals. Usually in the morning my goal is getting a certain amount of items on my lists done before I can go to lunch. Then I usually like to break my afternoon up into two parts so once I reach my afternoon goal I usually take a break as well. There are a lot of great programs that can help you manage time such as these great Google Chrome extensions. The extension called time tracker that shows you how much time you spend on other sites can help you to stay motivated.

3.    Take a Break

We all need a chance to step away from our desks and just have a moment to ourselves. I usually like to do this in the afternoon because it allows me to take my eyes off the computer screen and step back to make sure all my daily projects are getting done. I normally go outside of the office and take the chance to soak in the warm summer sun. I like to take walks, but some of us here enjoy taking our lawn chairs out to the grass and just relaxing for a couple minutes.

What about you, do you have some tips you use to stay focused at work? Leave them in the comments.

Yes You Tweet, But Do You Connect

Posted on July 28, 2011 by Josh Mc

One of my favorite subjects to write on, as well as a constant addiction for me is Twitter. The service allows you to connect to people you normally would not have access to, while at the same time helping you to establish yourself as a market leader in different niches, and in turn building up your social media ego. However, there is a difference between those that use the service and those that make the service work for them, and in that difference you can really help yourself standout.

Twitter is essentially a service where thousands of voices are all trying to be heard, and in that confusion it becomes a screaming match were brands, people and celebrities are all trying to make their voice stand out to the masses. The average Twitter user’s stream has hundreds of companies and people that tweet every other minute and it becomes hard for one user to really stand out. Because of this I always advise people on the three tips below, thus helping establish a lasting presence on Twitter.

Know Your Audience
This is essential to engagement on Twitter. If someone followed you because you are funny and you start to tweet about scientific research then there is a good chance they will not follow you for much longer. At the same time if you share interesting business articles and then start posting pictures of your friends planking, you will lose followers as well. Twitter, more than most other services, really pigeon holes people into certain areas of expertise. When the average user follows someone new, they normally add them to a Twitter list. These lists help to organize their twitter lives and if a user goes against their lists by tweeting weird things or tweeting too often, the list can easily be modified. So make sure that as you are developing your presence you really get to know your audience and use them to feel out what they will interact with. Obviously this does not apply for most celebrity Twitter users as they often Tweet about whatever they like and people will still follow them. So the first step is to know your audience.

Be Ready to Connect
For brands and or people, Twitter is a platform that gives anyone with a keyboard the ability to contact whoever they feel like contacting. I can sit down right now and tweet President Obama, doesn’t mean he will respond or even read it, but I can tweet him. All this means is that if you are a brand then anyone who has or is going to buy one of your products has immediate public access to your brand. They can tweet how much they hate your service or they can tweet that they had the best experience ever buying from your company; but regardless of what they tweet they have a public forum for it. As a business you must respond to these questions and comments in a friendly and timely manner. Other customers are watching and a good response can mean the difference between a sale or an exit. If you are not ready to connect then you do not need to be on Twitter.

Make A Difference
In the millions of tweets that get sent every day, 90% are not making a difference. While they don't all have to be amazing, your tweet on your new hair color, the traffic on the way to work or what you are having for lunch can be interesting, but if this is all you are tweeting about you need another outlet. Create content, find interesting articles, and really work to develop yourself in a niche that you love. Even if that niche is as small as how to cook organic vegetables using only a stainless steel wok, if that is something you are good at and have expertise in it, you can become a leader in that niche and help others understand more about that process. In doing so you will add to the conversation and help to develop yourself on twitter to get your message heard.

These are a few of the tips that I use for interaction on Twitter. What about you? Do you have any tips that I left off?

How Google Makes Their Money: Top 20 Most Expensive Keywords (Infographic)

Posted on July 18, 2011 by Josh Mc

I thought this infographic was really interesting so I wanted to share. The fact that 97% of Google's income comes from advertising was even more then I would have guessed. It is also pretty interesting that there are keywords with over $50 CPC bids. Check it out and leave a comment.

Where Does Google Make Its Money? [ infographic ]


Google+ My First Impressions

Posted on July 13, 2011 by Josh Mc

After a couple weeks of waiting I was finally able to score an invite into Google+. The excitement mounted as I first logged in and started to see what all of the buzz was about. More than most recent products I have seen, especially from Google, this product was actually greeted with good reviews and excitement from most people that used it, so I was curious to see if I agreed. Read on for the rest of my review.

Google+ Welcome Screen

Circles
After the initial login and the upload of my profile picture I made my way over to the circles area to start customizing the people that I knew. It is simple to do, and has a cool user interface for dragging people I knew into circles and then inviting others I knew into the program. It also allows you to group people based on how well you know them, but does not show this to the person you have added. Meaning if you add someone who considers you their best friend to the acquaintances circle they will not be able to see that you do not think of them the same way. This is an interesting way to manage who sees what messages, who is invited to certain hang outs and who can see whether you are online. Differing slightly from Facebook’s established platform Circles is a cool, albeit not especially innovative, way to manage and add new friends. It will be interesting to see how Google builds on it.

Profiles
While there is nothing to crazy here yet, Google does allow you to customize your profile with all of the standard information such as name, workplace, photos, etc. They also allow users to see what you have +1’ed across the net as well. If you don’t know what +1 is it is Googles answer to the Facebook like button that shows up on all searches when you are logged in. I’m sure the profile section will have a lot more features as Google+ expands.

Sparks
Sparks is another cool feature that is implemented directly from your home screen. This feature is like Google Reader, but based on what Google thinks is important for the keywords you put in, not your RSS feeds. Since I am very into photography I have “photography’ “photography contests” and “hiking” as my current sparks. When I click any of these it shows me recent stories for those keywords from around Google's network. I like having this in my profile, however the results that I saw were not that great for any of the keywords I have, so I hope this expands as the service grows.

Hangouts
Hangouts is one of the Google+ features that I really find interesting. This feature allows the user to create a hangout (video chat) and allow different circles to be able to jump in that hangout. The hangout is a way for up to ten people with webcams to all join a group chat and talk with each other in one easy to use area, essentially making a social network a little more face to face. I have created a couple hangouts and I find that the feature works well with understanding who is talking, as well as moving that video to the front. However, I have not used this with a lot of people all at once yet, so I am not sure if it would work well with many different users.





There are also some features that I haven’t tried yet such as Huddle for group chatting, and photos for uploading your photos to Google+. Another downfall of the system currently is the fact that the iPhone app has yet to be approved, so Apple users are not able to make easy updates on the go. The true test of this network will not be the users it gets but the adoption of people actually using this product. If I create hangouts and none of my friends are online to join, it won’t be long before I am back on the other social networks. However, if Google can find a way to get people to actively use this service, then they may have a winner on their hands in Google+.

What do you think? Have you used it? Are you a fan? Let us know in the comments.

Is There a Good Hold Time For a Business?

Posted on July 5, 2011 by Arianna

In this “Faster is the new Fast” world we live in, waiting is not an option. We can buy cars that get from 0 to 60 in fewer than 5 seconds, and we can even get a college degree in less than 2 years. Our culture is becoming obsessed with speed, so why are we spending so much time on hold?

Customer Service Cartoon


Recently I have been diving into the idea of ideal hold time and have found a lot of interesting articles; however, these articles bring up a lot of great questions. How long would you wait for a customer service representative to pick up your call? If you’ve ever needed to get in touch with customer service, do you know exactly how long is too long to wait? At what time would you give up and hang up? Five minutes, eight minutes maybe even ten minutes? The truth is most of us will not wait for longer than 5 minutes.

Stella Service recently ranked the largest 100 Internet retailers in the US based on their average call hold time (data below). This was an eye opening presentation as the top company has a hold time of only six seconds. I also have to say that it was very surprising that DisneyStore.com not only came in at the top of the average call hold time but was also the only company that also made it to the top of the average email reply time as well. Apparently they understand the need to connect with the customer as fast as possible.

Another interesting note is that the average of all the top 100 businesses is about 1 minute and 40 seconds, which means they all have a pretty good grasp on the importance of getting on the phone quickly. The email is a little more surprising as the average is 17 hours for an email response. I wonder if we will see this start dropping in the next year.

Average Hold Time Stats

Average Email Time Stats

Average call hold time has been one of our main focuses at GordianProject.com. We started this year with a high average hold time and knew that our connect rate with customers was less than average. We began fixing the issue by hiring more customer service representatives; because we all know that no matter how many calls a representative can take, if there are more calls than available representatives, hold times will sky rocket. We monitored the hold time monthly and made any necessary shift in tasks in order to continue lowering our hold time and increasing our connect rate. Our hold time has greatly decreased, and this has been a huge success for us!

Though we may not be in the 100 companies and though our hold time is nowhere near 0:27 seconds, our focus still remains. We will continue to lower our average call hold time and will strive to connect with at least 90% of our calls. Once that is accomplished our next step is to revamp our hold music...wish us luck!

What are some of the things you are doing to impact your company average call hold time?

 

Announced This Week: Google+ and Custom TLD's

Posted on June 28, 2011 by Josh Mc

Would You Buy a .Business Website?

I just recently heard the news that ICANN announced they will allow companies to purchase their own .whatever domain names starting next year. This is a really interesting announcement that has the possibility for many great new marketing campaigns, such as drink.pepsi and others. I was eager to hear more about the listings until I heard that they are going to cost $185,000 just to file the application, then another $25,000 per year in order to maintain it. While for many big businesses this is a small price to pay, for the medium business and below there is not much likelihood they will be adopting their own domain in the near future. I can understand the need for keeping squatters off of TLDs, but that price seems a little absorbent for the purchase of a .whatever domain name.

What do you think, do you think companies will adopt this and start to pick up domains when it starts in Jan, 2012?

Google+ The Social Network We All Knew Was Coming

Google announced Google+ today, their long speculated version of a social network that is an attempt to try and capitalize on the rise of Facebook by keeping people on Google businesses. The video below explains what exactly plus is, but whether or not people use remains to be seen. Personally, I think it is a cool idea and some of the things they are doing are interesting, but with their track record of releasing things then immediately moving onto something else (Wave and Buzz) I am not sure it will be able to gain traction.


What are your thoughts? Are you interested in this?

Google: What Do You Love

It is big day for Google with many different projects showcased, as well as a new design. What do you love is another one of the many. While not ground breaking, it basically is a search engine that allows you to see all of the different Google products in one place. For example, if you search for waterfalls it returns a nice page where you can see waterfalls on the map, blogs, YouTube, patents and more.

Google what do you love

I’m not really sure what the point of this one is other then that it is an easy way for Google to introduce people to their products that they may not have known about before; however, I am hard pressed to find a term that would actually return relevant results for all of the different Google products.

What are your thoughts? Will you use this? Lets us know in the comments.

Eight Tips for Completing a Successful Product Inventory Count

Posted on June 24, 2011 by Ashley

Every year our business does what would be called a “physical inventory count.” To me, just looking at those three little words seems daunting. Last year, myself and five other co-workers braved the warehouse shelves in order to update our product inventory count. As a small business, this is important for us to do in order to keep an accurate count of inventory we have. However, since it can be extremely time consuming, here are a few tips for you to consider before diving into the inventory trenches!

  1. Set a Date - As some of you may have found out the hard way, taking inventory is not something you want to do randomly one day when you may have nothing else to do. Since taking inventory takes a lot of time, it is important to set a date in the coming days or months that can give you time to make a plan.
  2. All Hands on Deck - Setting a date and planning ahead is important, but if you don’t check to make sure your fellow department co-workers are at work that day…good luck doing it on your own! Check the company calendar and make sure you set the physical inventory count on a day that all members can be there!
  3. Be One with Your Warehouse - Now that you have a date set on a day that people will actually be at work to help you, it is important to know your way around in your warehouse. Just because you have a group of co-workers ready to dive in, if you have no plan of action, the only physical thing happening will be chaos. Go through each isle and figure out how you want to sort or section out the different parts of inventory before you start the process. For us, we have found that having the product sorted by manufacturer makes it easy to find what you need. Using labels as a visual marker can also be a huge help as well.
  4. Assign, Assign, Assign! - Now that you have set a date, have co-workers to help, and labeling in the warehouse, assign each person or persons to a row or isle that they can be in charge of. When you are dealing with thousands of products, organizing and assigning a section to each group of people will help the counting go quickly. If you release your team to the warehouse without an action plan, chaos is inevitable.
  5. Technology - Now that all the working pieces are in place, you need a way to capture the information! For most, it’s all going to be inputted into a computer. As silly as it may sound, it can be easy to miss the importance of how you will be capturing the data. It would also be best to leave a column for notes, in case you run into “problem” products, like those without defined brand names or model #s.
  6. Pro-nun-ci-ate - I can not tell you how many times this last year we all spent yelling back and forth at each other because the person taking down the numbers could not understand the person reading off of the labels. Add in a few passing trains and deliveries from FedEx and UPS and you have a mass reverberating chaos of sound. Make sure if you are the person the information is coming from, to pronunciation each word and letter very clearly so that the receiver isn’t asking you to repeat yourself a hundred times.
  7. Team Huddle - Now that you are ready and have communicated all the necessary information about to your team, take a moment to encourage them! Let them know to be quick but efficient. Most importantly though, let them know that if they find a product out of place or with an incorrect label to get it down on the computer, move it to the correct section.
  8. Sound the Alarm - Make sure you let the rest of your office and your customers know that you are doing a physical inventory count! For most of us this will take up an entire morning if not longer. By letting the rest of your co-workers and customers know, it will cut down on questions regarding inventory quantity. Also, your fellow co-workers won’t have to wonder where everyone is when they see an entire department gone from their desks and no where to be found!

What about you? Do you have any tips that weren't listed here, that help when doing an inventory? Make sure to leave them in the comments!

 

Three Tips for Problem Solving in the Workplace

Posted on June 13, 2011 by Suzanne

I was never a fan of problem solving in school. I would always question when I was going to actually use it in real life. Well, I may not be solving math problems all day, but I do have to do a lot of problem solving in business that can be tied back to what I learned in school. So, here are the three basic steps that I walk through when a problem arises in the workplace.

Step Back and Gather All the Information 

I often find that many problems happen because the person that has the problem is overwhelmed / stressed, and unable to see the big picture. What I find helpful is to take a deep breath and start from the beginning by answering three simple questions. What am I trying to accomplish? How did it get to this point? and How can I resolve the situation and still achieve my goal? In asking these questions it helps me step back and see what I may have missed before. Gathering this information can be vital to a successful resolution to the problem.

Make the Call

What I have learned during my time at Gordian Project is that every vendor, customer or team member has a different personality. Some need to be white gloved and others just chug along without much stress. It is important for me to understand that when there is a problem, sometimes the best thing I can do is get on the phone and talk to the person directly. What I usually find out is that there is information that was not given to me in the first place, or one or both of us misunderstood the other.  The computer revolution has given us many amazing pieces of technology; however, we still do not have a device to help interpret the tone an email is sent in. Calling that person allows you to directly diffuse any tension and remind both parties that you’re only human.

Follow Up

Following up after a problem is solved is a great way to build confidence with your customer’s, vendors or team members. It lets them know that you took their issue seriously and that you are going to be available to them if another one comes up. I personally find the follow up to be one of the least used aspects of problem solving. Following up is essential to making sure all parties involved were happy with the outcome, while at the same time building up trust in the relationship between those involved. Make sure you always follow up.

Of course in problem solving every situation is different, so all problems may not fall into these tips. However, these basic steps always help me to get straight to the critical thinking and leave the stress and frustration behind, allowing me to better answer and address problems when they start.

What about you? How do you tackle problems when they arise? Any tips we left out? Make sure to leave them in the comments.



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The Top Nine Social Media Sites for Website Traffic

Posted on May 26, 2011 by Josh Mc

With the recent algorithm shifts and all of the new personalization options available to searchers, it is becoming more important to expand your traffic sources to websites other than simply search engines. Believe it or not there are many great social media websites out there that have the potential to send a lot of great traffic to your website. Here are my nine favorite social media sites for traffic.

Twitter Logo

Twitter – For a business it is easy to create a Twitter account and grab some followers, but often hard to get customers to care about what you are tweeting. The average Twitter user has a huge list of people that they follow and a single tweet can often be lost in the stream. Establishing a good system of followers, as well as gathering some of the deal bots to follow you, can help you gain momentum and connect to people that care about what you are sending. Companies like Dell have used this as a customer service outlet as well, which is a great way to connect with the customer and get them to interact with you. Make sure that if you are getting these types of interactions you have the staff necessary to provide the customer with a good experience. If you can capitalize on it, the traffic possibilities from Twitter are virtually endless.

Facebook Logo

Facebook – The most popular site on the Internet is not just for the user, it also has a lot to offer brands as well. With the constant updates to their fan pages and the great free apps and analytics, it is easy to see why many brands flock to this site as their first social media outlet before anything else. Developing a following can be hard for small brands, but if you work hard to get your links out there and offer incentives, contests or promotions you can quickly develop a decent following who will gladly share your site with others if you give them the incentive. Facebook has the possibility to provide a good amount of traffic to your website, so make sure you capitalize on it by providing interesting information for the customer and not bombarding them to the point where they hide or unfriend your business. Also adding the Facebook like and share buttons to your site can help your customers share deals with their friends even if they are not connected to your Facebook fan page.

Quora Logo

Quora – Quora is a great site with a lot of buzz right now. Taking the question and answer approach they have been able to get a lot of big movers and shakers behind the site and in turn created a lot of great content for the user. If you get on Quora and start providing really good answers to questions that have yet to be answered, you can easily develop some decent traffic back to your website while also establishing yourself as a leader in that niche. You can read the full review we did on Quora here.

LinkedIn Logo

LinkedIn – LinkedIn is on the tip of everyone's tongue right now with their recent IPO, but the site can help to develop your brand engagement and provide traffic, as well as employees if you spend the time to develop it. You can answer the questions in their question and answer section, encourage your employees to add themselves to your company and even advertise to potential employees and customers. LinkedIn also allows your company to provide a public face to potential employees as well as everyone else, allowing them to get a glimpse of what life at your company is like.

Youtube Logo

YouTube – The second most popular search engine can provide a lot of great traffic if you are decently creative and have the equipment to create and post a video (even most smart phones can post a YouTube video now). Businesses can even run promoted video campaigns that will bring their videos to the top of the SERPs and will add an overlay to the video when the user watches it that is a clickable link to your website. YouTube gets over 100 million views per day, and more then 50% of videos have been rated or commented on. That statistic alone should be enough to get your business to support YouTube. Those high interaction statistics are not found on many other sites on the internet.

Flickr Logo

Flickr – If your company has product photographs they can easily be uploaded to Flickr and provide some traffic. Obviously, as a photo community if your photographs aren’t well done or exciting then there is a small possibility of people really caring; however, if you are a decent photographer you can develop some cool pictures and in turn grab some traffic from frequent Flickr crawlers such as Google Images. Flickr is also a great place to showcase a new product that people may not have heard of before, as it can easily get the product picture in front of some eyes.

StumbleUpon Logo

StumbleUpon – StumbleUpon is a great website for people who are bored and are looking for something new. Submitting your site there can help provide a lot of traffic, if the page is exciting. If you submit your homepage or your about us page don’t expect the traffic to flow in. However, if you have created a new infographic or have a funny or interesting blog post, submitting it to stumble upon can have some great traffic results. Creating a piece of link bait? Make sure StumbleUpon is the first place you promote it.

Amplify Logo

Amplify – Not as much for business as it is for your personal brand, Amplify is like Twitter without the message restrictions. You can follow people and post links and information for your followers to see and click on. It has the same type of feel that Twitter does but with the potential to share larger amounts of information. It has a good community and has the potential to bring some good traffic to your site in the future.

Google +1

Google +1 – Though not officially release yet, Google’s foray into the social media realm again has the potential to mix things up. They are adding a plus one button to all of their results, paid and organic, as well as wherever the user wants to add it on their own site. In doing this they can gather more information on what users like and in turn use that to effect organic search results. The traffic possibilities of increasing your search results in Google simply from having a couple more +1’s is enough to get any marketer on the band wagon.

What about you, what social media sites do you see bringing the most traffic to your site? Make sure you leave them in the comments.