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Creating Organizational Culture

Posted on April 3, 2012 by Arianna

Companies have always tried to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Whether it is by providing amazing customer service like Nordstrom, or being eco-friendly like Johnson & Johnson, their ultimate goal is to be known for their behavior along with their products. The concept of organizational culture is what defines companies such as these. Although culture in an organization has always existed, it seems that now more than ever companies are at work trying to define and cultivate it. Unfortunately for many of these companies, their understanding of organizational culture has limited their progress. I, like many of these companies, have the daunting task to define my department’s culture.

My first question was obvious, “How do I create and define our department culture?”

Since I had no understanding of the concept, some research was definitely needed. John M. Invacevich, Robert Konopaske and Michael T. Matteson wrote a book titled Organizational Behavior and Management which helped grasp the concept of organizational culture. The text explains that, “Organizational Culture is what the employees perceive and how this perception creates a pattern of beliefs, values, and expectations”.

In order to create our department culture, I went to Edgar Schein’s “Three Layers of Organizational Model” for structural help. The first layer is visible artifacts and creations. These may often be difficult to interpret, but include things like a company’s office set up such as cubicles, technology, art, and even company newsletters. The second layer is the organizational value, or what is important to the leadership of a company. And the third layer is the basic assumptions made by employees in a corporation that guide their behavior.

There are three types of organizational culture: Customer-Service culture, Ethical culture, and Diversity culture.  In Customer-Service culture the main focus is obviously customer satisfaction. An example of this is Nordstrom, who rewards employees for going out of their way to provide exceptional service. Ethical culture focuses on the well being of the environment and the improvement of people as a whole – of which Johnson & Johnson is a prime example. Diversity culture encompasses and promotes diversity in employees, customers and business relationships. Zappos, the internet retailer, has applied the diversity culture, striving for diversity in each department of their company.

Though a company can have all three types of organizational cultures it is really important to focus on one culture and branch out. Since I am merely trying to define my customer service department culture, my focus has mainly been in the Customer-Service culture. I have yet to fully define it, and though it is a long process, I hope to include my employees in the creation and definition of our culture. In the end it is all about what employees believe it is.

In what ways, has your company defined and implemented its company culture? How has that worked out for you?

How to Quit Your Job Without Burning Bridges

Posted on January 13, 2012 by Arianna

As we start a new year, many of us will be working on New Year resolutions. For some it will be the same “lose weight” resolution, for others it might be “go back to school”, or “get a better job.” Focusing on the last resolution, many of us want better jobs and fail to go after them. Here at Gordian Project, we rejoice with those whom have left us and embrace the new co-workers who will soon become a part of our work family. However, many of us struggle to understand why people decide to quit their current job, especially in the economy we currently face. This blog is simply a collection of tips that will help you when moving from one job to the next. So read on and leave a comment if you agree or disagree.

There are several reasons why someone chooses to move on. Some leave for personal reasons, others financial, while others still have life events that cause changes to happen.  Barbara Safani wrote about why people quit their jobs in a tough economy, and the reasons are pretty good reasons. People often postpone quitting their jobs because not only is it a delicate subject between the employee and employer but it is often seen as a negative or bad decision. Safani ends her article explaining, “If you are unemployed or dissatisfied in your current position, you too may benefit from the surge of vacancies left by others who voluntarily resign. A job that is not a good match for another person may be the perfect match for you.”

With this said, I wanted to focus on the quitting process. We understand why people quit, and we understand that quitting a job is a natural part of career progress; however we also need to understand how to quit without burning bridges.

First you need to realize that though it is not a negative decision, it is a delicate subject. Knowing when to inform your employer that you are leaving will help you confirm your decision. Often times when an employee tells their superior that they are quitting due to extra benefits or increased salaries, the employer will want to counter-offer and meet those extra benefits to try and convince the employee to stay. This is why it is important for you to inform your employer of the benefits you are being offered before saying “I’m quitting.” If the company can make you a good counter-offer, then you may want to stay with them, and if they cannot, then that can help to make your decision easier.

Second, use your communication skills to make sure your announcement is said and received in a positive manner. Instead of explaining how you hate your job, explain how you found a position where you can use your skills and which is closer to your passion. Talk about how good the change is for you and how much you will miss those around you. Don’t burn bridges. Maybe the company cannot counter-offer the benefits you are looking for, but at a later time they may be able to provide you with an even better position. If you don’t burn bridges you may get a future employment offer, but at the very least you will have a positive recommendation as you move forward in your work career.

Third, be professional and provide a complete two week notice. Less and less people provide their employers with a notice, and the truth is that it can show how professional you are and how much you cared about your co-workers and the company by how much time you give them to prepare for your departure.  If you cannot provide a notice, provide your employer with a written letter explaining the circumstances and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience.

Lastly, throw a farewell party. Any reason is a good reason to throw a party!  Invite all your co-workers, your bosses and managers. By including all of your co-workers, you are making sure you end your current relationship on a positive note.

Remember, quitting is not a big deal when it’s done right. Let me know what you think in the comments and if you have other suggestions on how to quit without burning bridges.

Tips for Winning Over Angry Customers

Posted on December 21, 2011 by Arianna

Winning over angry customers has to be the single hardest problem customer service team’s face every day. Thankfully, in our field we do not deal with face to face interactions, so it can often be easier to handle angry customers then in person.  By far the best thing you can do to win over angry customers is to give your “5-star” attitude: Sit up straight, breathe, give your full attention, be extremely patient, and be efficient. When you need some extra tips though, here are a couple great ideas that should help you provide excellent service to rude customers.

Create a Personal Connection
Remember to make a personal connection with angry
customers.  When you begin to connect with the customer, they start realizing that you are also a human. Customers tend to calm down once they start to understand that you care about whom they are or what their issue is, rather than just being another call they had to take.

Find the Real Issue
 It is also really important for customer service representatives to dig deeper and find the real issues behind the ranting and raving. If giving the
customer their options, apologizing for the inconvenience and trying to resolve the customer's issues are not good enough for the customer and they start using foul language,  it is okay for representatives to say, “Customer, there is nothing more I would  rather do than resolve your issue. With the language you are using right now though, it is making it difficult for me to assist you. Can we bring down the tone please?” If they continue to scream and yell then finally say, “I’m sorry you feel this way…I can see you are really upset and so I recommend that we continue this conversation at another time. I will give you a call tomorrow at a designated time to continue our conversation then. Thank you.”

Connect and Motivate your Customer Service Team
Trying to provide a “5-star” attitude, making sure we connect with the
customers and also protecting our feelings, can help you stay positive with angry customers, while maybe even getting the customers to calm down a bit as well. But regardless of how much you try to stay positive, the feeling that you are left with after dealing with rude and angry customers is hard to explain. With all of my focus being on handling angry customers I decided to give each team member a goody bag. Each bag contained a pack of Q-tips, a mirror, a smile file, LaffyTaffys and thank you cards. Each item had a specific meaning.

Smile file and goody bag

The Q-tips were to remind each representative to Quit Taking It Personal – when an angry customer starts attacking their self-esteem they need to take a Q-tip out of the box and once the phone call is over throw away the Q-tip; hopefully the box still has some Q-tips at the end of the month. The mirror was so that the representatives can look at their attitudes while talking to angry customers. A customer can always sense a smile over the phone and it is important that we try to kill anger with kindness, and having a mirror in front of them can force them to smile. The smile file was so that at the end of the call, the representatives can go through and read the emails of other customers that were glad they talked to them and had a great experience. The LaffyTaffys, were so that in the end they can just laugh it off and move on. Lastly, the thank you cards were so that our representatives could send their individual customers personal thank you cards for ordering with our company.

The team loved the bags and the representatives have been using all of the items. I have seen a great impact in our overall attitudes and we have learned to love those angry customers that can make our job difficult!

What are some of the tips you and your team use to win over anger callers?


Providing Exceptional Customer Service

Posted on November 2, 2011 by Arianna

I recently went to a customer service seminar that was titled “How to Deliver Exceptional Customer Service.” It was one of the best seminars that I have been to and so I would like to share some of the tips and facts that have helped my team to grow as a result. Our emphasis as a company has always been to provide great customer service, so that customers keep coming back; however, there are many reasons for non-repeat customers, some of which you can directly impact and some you cannot. Statistics actually show that 1% of customers do not return because they died, 3% moved away, 5% developed a friendship with another company, 9% because of competition, 14% because they were dissatisfied with the products and 68% because of employee apathy! These numbers show that the highest percentage reason for why someone does not return is something we can directly impact and positively change. For customer service teams, this is both humbling and exciting!

In a call center, providing great customer service is often difficult due to face to face interaction being non-existent. In any conversation, appearance is 55% of the message; 38% is how you say it and 7% are just the words alone. With so much emphasis on appearance we need to make sure our phone appearance is at its best. Phone appearance is basically your tone of voice and attitude, so set your inner compass to appreciate customers. Remind yourself to be thankful for your job. Make sure that all your reactions and your tone of voice reflect the posture of gratitude.

In telecommunications the number one goal is to make the customer glad they called and talked to you specifically! In that, there are some basic steps to tackling a phone call.

-First, you need to think about what you are going to say before you answer the phone. It is really important to have consistency in a team when answering the call – you want the customer to have the same experience every time they call and with all employees at the company.

-Second, make sure that you answer the call within two or three rings. You want the customer to know they are a priority.

-Third, make sure you say your name; customers want to know who is on the other line. Also, be clear with them and indicate whether you’re going to put the customer on hold or going to transfer them.

-Fourth, be courteous, “kill with kindness,” and smile. Believe it or not a customer can hear a smile.

One of the hardest things for my team to handle are angry, abusive customers. When customers do not get their way they start attacking your self esteem, making it hard not to take their words personally; however, simply remembering the tips above and helping to put them to use will help when dealing with these customers.

For the second part of this topic I will be giving some tips on how to win over rude callers and how managers can motivate their employees to keep a positive attitude even with angry customers, so stay tuned for that post.

For now, make sure to challenge yourself to keep a thankful attitude towards all your customers. Make them happy that they talked to you today and make sure you follow the basic steps to tackling a phone call. Your change in attitude will definitely begin to rub off on others and your overall attitude will positively change.

If you have other suggestions make sure to leave them in the comments!

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.

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 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 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?


The Importance of a Good Apology in Business

Posted on May 18, 2011 by Arianna

Have you ever made a giant mess of a situation at work? I have. I remember the first time I started working for Gordian Project, my boss asked me to complete a task by the end of the day, and I completely forgot. I felt so bad and didn’t even know what to say; I didn’t want my error to ruin the trust in our work relationship. I could have given an excuse, gotten offended because of how he reacted to my mistake, or apologized, but I took the coward way out, and provided an excuse. Come to think of it, our relationship as boss and employee could have been nurtured if only I had apologized and moved on. We often want to be forgiven without having to ask for it. The fact of the matter is that we did screw up and in order to make everything right an apology is necessary. But no ordinary apology will do, as I see it a good apology has three parts – “I’m sorry; it was my fault; and how do I make it right?”

Saying I’m sorry has more to do with attitude than with words. William James, and American philosopher, once said “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” The attitude you have when saying I’m sorry will display your sincerity.  Sincerity is the first step to rebuilding the trust that may have been lost.

Taking full responsibility for your mistakes is the hardest part of apologizing, especially in the business environment. However, putting yourself in the other party’s shoes will help you say the words: “It was my fault.” When we are wronged we expect someone to fess up and or need to know who to blame.  Though not taking responsibility can seem more appealing, doing so gives up your power to change. In order to learn from your mistakes, you must first acknowledge your mistakes.  Note, there is a big difference between admitting your mistake and beating yourself up about it. Once you have taken responsibility for your mistake, remember that you are doing the right thing by providing a good apology, no self pity will make your apology any better.

Fixing your mistakes is a step that many of us subconsciously chose to skip. Some mistakes are easy to fix while others have bad consequences. Saying sorry and even accepting fault are easy words to say, but as we all know, actions speak louder than words. Ask the person you have let down what they would like you to do in order to rebuild trust and be worthy of their forgiveness. In the business environment, making sure you complete this step will also help others to be lenient the next time you make a mistake, as they know you are not one to simply sweep it under the rug.

A good apology goes along way - Do it right and do it fast. Remember that a good apology is essential in any relationships. When you make a mistake at work and you apply the three parts of a good apology, your boss and coworkers will respect you for how you handle your mistakes.

We all can use a little help with dealing with apologies and mistakes, if you have any recommendations make sure you leave them in the comments.



Three Simple Tips to Make You a Better Manager

Posted on April 13, 2011 by Arianna

When I took the team lead position in customer service, I had no idea what I was going to deal with, or how to even manage a team. Over the last couple of months our employee retention rate had decreased, and the new team in place was now looking to me for guidance.  To be honest, that was pretty scary, considering I had no idea what I was doing. One thing I know is that a good manager is one that knows how to get the best out of his/her employees while keeping them happy. Though I am still in the learning process, including taking self assessment quizzes every so often to see how I am doing and where I can improve, the below phrases have helped me to more successfully manage my team.

One of the best tips I received from my husband while venting to him my frustrations was: Don’t take it personal. If employees call out, if they are unreliable, inefficient and/or always have a bad attitude, there may be other personal issues at hand that are affecting their work. If you stop taking everything as a personal attack, you can start showing compassion, and your hurt or anger can turn into motivation for these types of employees. While demonstrating an open and understanding attitude toward your employees, you will see their attitudes and employee investment change for the better.

When working as a team or managing a team, you meet different types of people. There are those that respond to what is being asked of them and those that regardless of how understanding you try to be, will still be difficult employees. Teamwork is an important key to employee productivity, if one person starts excelling than others will want to do the same; but if that one difficult employee does not carry their own weight, others will start questioning their productivity. When not taking it personal and being understanding does not work, you must nip it in the bud. Sit down with the employee; explain to them how you have been trying to be understanding, but they have not changed the way they work.  Give them new guidelines and draw a line. They can continue being that way elsewhere, but the company and the team needs their full investment. Doing this, will not only stop the problem before it escalates but will show other employee’s that such attitudes will not be tolerated.

During the day we as team leads or managers have to deal with the pressures of the day, not only of managing a team but also of tasks that we have to accomplish. If your day is getting so overwhelming and you just want to give up, don’t give up…instead take a walk. The ability to walk out of the office/building and just be alone with your thoughts can rejuvenate you. Don’t take a cell phone; don’t take a friend, just you… well and maybe your iPod if it helps you relax.

With all the days frustrations the most important thing you can do at the end of your day, is to check your drama at the door. Don’t take it home, and don’t bring it back to work the next day. Each day will have another frustration and if you keep bringing them back you will start piling the drama not only on yourself but on your employees. Their simple questions will turn into annoyances; their error’s will turn into mountains of problems, turning you into a difficult manager - the manager that no one can go to, the quick to anger manager who people keep away from. Your family and employees will thank you for keeping the day’s frustrations outside of your home, and letting each day be a new day.

Though applying these few phrases throughout your day will not single handedly make you a good manager, they are stepping stones that can lead you to becoming a manager that can manage, and can get the best out of his/her employees, while still keeping them happy.

What do you think, are their other tips that you use when managing employees? Make sure to leave them in the comments!



A Lesson in Ethics, Featuring

Posted on November 15, 2010 by Arianna

For years, has been one of the top selling marketplaces around the world, selling everything from books to automotive products. With such a large customer base, they have been the admiration of many small e-commerce companies, who strive to one day be a fourth of what Amazon has become. Despite their success and fame, Amazon seems to have forgotten an important core characteristic that must continue to be a part of a company regardless of their size - Ethics. Ethics is about making choices that, though they may not always seem economically beneficial or good, are ultimately the right choice.

In recent news Anderson Cooper, a reporter from CNN, did a story on the controversy surrounding and books defending pedophilia. As I watched in complete astonishment, I began to see how the lack of ethics can ultimately hurt a company.

On their website, Amazon has vowed to become “Earth's most customer-centric company.” They have done an amazing job branding themselves around customer service; however, the validity of their vow is being questioned. Amazon failed to not only offer a reply to customer complaints about selling these books, but more importantly they did not even remove the book in question. It wasn’t until after CNN’s story went through that something was done about it.

Instead of apologizing to their consumers or the media, the only response Amazon offered was that they do not believe in censorship. They failed to provide sensitivity to victims of pedophiles, and protection for children from such abuse. Their lack of censorship, which as Anderson Cooper pointed out does exist, only portrayed the little interest Amazon has for their customers.                                                               

With the holiday’s approaching, and Cyber Monday being one of the most important days for online companies, the news of this issue could not come at a worse time. Many consumers have threatened to boycott Amazon, reposting CNN’s video on their Facebook, and encouraging many to do the same.  This, in turn, can ultimately hurt their pocket books, publicity and brand image.

Regardless of the size of a company, ethics must always be a central pillar to the daily business decisions as well as future goals. Let this be an example to all e-commerce companies that every decision and/or product listing reflects the ethics of your company.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree?


Tips When Preparing for Time Off

Posted on August 11, 2010 by Arianna

Taking time off of work requires more than just filling out a vacation request form. This is especially true when you have a team that depends on you to organize their daily tasks. When I found out I was pregnant, I thought “nine months is an eternity!” but I soon realized that time goes by faster than you think. As a result, I have spent the last three months preparing for my maternity leave. Whether you’re going on maternity leave or taking a week long vacation, it is important that you provide your office with the tools necessary to function while you’re away. Here are a few tips that that will help you make preparations, in advance, to be ready for your day of departure.

First you have to prepare instructions. Think of this step as a manual guide for your team to know what it is you do and how it is you do it. Start by creating a list of all your tasks and provide instruction on how to complete each task. Be as detailed as possible! Give a step by step process that is both thorough and easy to follow. I recommend that you take your process to a co-worker outside of your department who is not familiar with your job, and see if they could follow your processes and complete the task themselves. This way you know if you gave them enough information to complete the task. If they are not clear on how to complete the task then revise the instructions until they are. Lastly, make a folder of instructions on the company intranet for employees to refrence.

Next, make sure that you sit with each team member to discuss any outstanding or open issues that need to be completed before your departure. Often times people leave outstanding issues which can create havoc when you’re not available to discuss the issue, or to give insight on what is going on with a specific project. Remember to allow yourself time for team members to tell you what tasks they need you to complete before you leave. If at all possible, provide your team with a contact number where they can reach you, or call in from time to time to make sure that everything is running smoothly.

In the weeks prior to your departure do a “test run” to ensure that there are no outstanding questions from anyone covering your duties while you’re away. During this time, act as if you are not in the office and shadow your replacement as they complete your tasks. Any mistakes or hiccups will reveal if more detailed training is needed.

Creating a manual for your team will not only show your boss and team members that you care about the success of the company, but ultimately that you care about them. Any anxieties your boss may have prior to your departure will fade as you provide everyone with the tools necessary to function while you’re away.  If you begin preparing for your time off early these tips should be stress free and easy to accomplish.