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  • feedwordpress 23:53:46 on 2020/07/13 Permalink
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    The Importance of Every Customer Interaction 


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    We were shopping for a career coach for our son and reached out to someone who came highly recommended as one of the best in the business. “Robert” immediately sent us an email with a multi-page PDF of the services he could offer us. 

    Included was a category called interview preparation. For $250.00, Robert’s one-hour interview preparation service would provide clients with “live simulated interview practice” to help them clearly articulate their brand and answer difficult questions.

    My husband, son and I set up a phone interview using the conference line in my office.

    As the call began, we heard a lot of background noise making it difficult to hear. We were asking Robert questions, but his connection kept cutting out and he said he was having trouble hearing us. At first, I thought it was a problem with my conference connection until I heard what sounded like “Iced grande six-pump vanilla latte.”

    “Excuse me”, I interrupted, “did you say something”?

    “No, thank you, just one shot”, he answered. “Oh sorry, he continued, I’m at Starbucks.”

    Let me get this straight. Robert is being interviewed to work with our son. He offers services to help people improve their interview skills and articulate their brand. Yet his brand states ordering coffee is more important than paying attention. How can someone possibly offer interview preparation services if they don’t know how to conduct an effective interview?

    My father used to say, “actions speak louder than words.” It means people’s actions, not their words show their real attitudes.

    Someone can talk about being the best in the business, but nothing says that better than their behavior. Attitude, attention and approach to people from the moment you meet is what sets you apart. Whether pitching new business, delivering a presentation or attending a networking event, you have one chance to make a first impression.

    One of our clients calls this a “customer centric” approach. In their case, they’ve spent millions of dollars, put policies in place and re-structured their entire business model to truly become more customer centric. There are thousands of companies who claim to put consumers first. They have catchy taglines that say so, but that doesn’t mean it’s true.

    How often have you sat on hold for long periods of time listening to a recording telling you “your call is very important to us”? Then there’s the customer service line that says, “this call may be recorded for quality purposes”. What does that even mean? How about “calls may be recorded to help our employees handle your inquiries more effectively”?

    If you have any interest in truly improving customer interactions, begin by becoming your customer. How would you feel if you sat on hold waiting for your call to be recorded for quality purposes? Or what about apologies that ring hollow?

    A recent example of a bad hotel experience comes to mind when I took a team of coaches to a  meeting at a high-end resort in Orlando only to experience a tsunami of problems. My air conditioner wasn’t working and when I requested a room change, the front desk manager suggested I didn’t know how to work the air properly. No apology. My colleague had a water leak and had to switch rooms. No apology. That didn’t even compare to another coworker who, to her horror, woke up to cockroaches crawling on her ceiling, bed and floor.  Again, no apology. When they moved her to another room, the toilet wasn’t working and overflowed.

    Furious, I located the hotel manager who asked me what I wanted him to do. I demanded he take room and food charges off the bill, but he refused. He told me he gave the girl with the cockroach issue a $100.00 room credit. Considering the client was paying for the room, that was hardly satisfactory.

    When I got home, I took the issue to the top and got a call from a representative in the CEO’s office. She said she was sorry and offered me 15,000 hotel points, which can’t even buy a room for the night. I told her I wanted the hotel to apologize to my colleague who was traumatized by the roaches. They never did.

    Here is what I find astounding. In today’s world of social media, my colleague, who had photos and videos of the bugs could have sent those images around the world. She didn’t and wouldn’t, but how can any brand take that chance?

    The Harris Interactive Customer Experience Impact report says a happy customer whose issues are resolved tells 4-6 people about their experience.  Approximately 13% of dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people and those people will tell more people just as I’m telling you. The report says 86% of customers have quit doing business with a company due to bad customer experience.

    Every customer interaction is an opportunity to create positive experiences. When we treat others the way we want to be treated, we send positive silent signals that often speak louder than words.

    When we send silent negative signals, they can have long lasting damaging effects, sometimes without our knowledge. For example, after our call with Robert the career coach, as a courtesy, I thanked the person who recommended him. I also shared my experience. After referring him to dozens of people over the years, she is not likely to recommend him again.

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  • feedwordpress 23:40:09 on 2020/04/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, , , , ,   

    7 Steps to Ace Your Next Virtual Video Meeting 


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    It seems like everyone is doing it. Zoom. Skype. Teams. Chime. There is a wealth of video meeting services to choose from. That doesn’t mean people know how to look and sound their best, because they don’t.

    In all fairness, most people didn’t need virtual services that often. According to Reuters, before coronavirus, only 7% of American workers had the option to work from home. Now, almost all of us are home and we’re fortunate to be able to have technology that allows face-to-face meetings with people across the world.

    However, what works well in person doesn’t always translate to your computer screen. Furthermore,  if you don’t know some basics, you can damage your credibility.

    Here are seven steps to up your presence the next time your virtual presence is requested.

    1. Look at the camera, not your audience

    This is the single biggest mistake people make. In person, it’s important to look your listener in the eye. On video, looking at someone on the left, right or at the bottom of your screen can actually make you look like you’re looking elsewhere and not listening.

    You should look directly at the camera and make sure that camera is at eye level. Try putting your device on top of a box until the camera is directly across from your face.  Even though it may feel uncomfortable especially if the person talking is on the other side of the screen, you will appear to be making eye contact and look far more engaged.

    2. Do not sit in front of a window

    Too many people position themselves in front of windows. Perhaps there is a great view, but cameras don’t respond to light the same way our eyes do. If the light is coming from behind, you will look dark like a silhouette.

    Instead, make sure the light is coming from in front of you, so it illuminates your face and people can see you. Also, frame yourself so you fill up the screen and we’re not looking at your ceiling.

    3. Speak up

    Even though your mom may have told you to use your inside voice, there are exceptions to the rule, and this is one of them. Inside voices work great when you are sitting with someone in person, but across a video screen, you may be perceived as lacking energy and conviction. 

    As a former television reporter, I always spoke to the camera as if people on the other side were a little hard of hearing. Picture yourself in a big room and speak to the back of the room. By projecting your voice just a little, you will convey more confidence and authority.

    4. Talk to one person

    It’s difficult to maintain a calm presence and conversational tone when you’re looking at a bunch of little squares on a screen and glancing back and forth at your notes. You’ve probably seen people who look uncomfortable as their faces tense up and they sound stiff.

    When you visualize speaking to one person, perhaps your spouse or best friend, you will come across as more conversational and authentic. It’s okay to have notes and it’s okay to look at them, but talk, don’t read. I post little sticky notes on the side of my computer screen so I can glance at them to recall key points. That’s less distracting than looking down. 

    5. Be present to have presence

    When all eyes are on us in a meeting room, we are more conscious of paying attention and appearing engaged. Alone at our screen, it’s easy to get side-tracked and start checking e-mails or working on other projects without realizing we are still on the screen and may be coming across as uninterested or not focused.

    If you want to project presence, then be fully present. Try not to bite your nails, play with your hair or make it obvious that you’re texting. Like a media interview where you’re conscious of the camera always being on, think of a video meeting the same way. You’re always on!

    6. Background blunders can be prevented

    You’ve seen these backgrounds. Open cabinets, unmade beds or backgrounds that are so busy, you find yourself looking at everything except the presenter.

    The easiest fix is to pick a quiet area in your house that is free from clutter and visual distractions. Perhaps a sitting area or room with a blank wall. Do not wear the same color as the wall behind you and don’t wear green if you’re using a green screen. Bright colors with minimal patterns tend to look best on camera. Video services like Zoom also offer customized virtual backgrounds but choose wisely. If you want to appear professional, you should probably avoid the Tiger King or Simpson’s living room backgrounds.

    7. Smile, you’re on camera

    Smiling in person is much more natural than trying to force a smile while sitting in front of a screen. For most of us, it feels fake. However, to a viewer, you can actually look like you’re frowning if you’re not smiling. A smile also helps connect you to others.

    While we aren’t going plaster smiles on our faces for hours on end, it’s important to make a conscious effort to have a pleasant look on your face when speaking so you come across as friendly and positive. Studies show that people who smile are also perceived as more trustworthy.

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  • feedwordpress 16:26:06 on 2020/04/03 Permalink
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    VIRTUAL MEETINGS SHOULD NOT REPLACE PERSONAL INTERACTIONS 


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    I just read an article written by a colleague who says one of the reasons so many of us shy away from video meetings is because  we’re technology challenged, or we have no need to see people that we already know.

    Maybe in some cases, that’s true, but it isn’t the real reason. I’ll give you three reasons why I sometimes shy away from video meetings and it has nothing to do with technology.

    1. I don’t want to put makeup on

    2. I don’t want to do my hair

    3. I don’t want to dress up for work

    Let’s be honest. It might be fun to work from home for a while, but after the newness wears off and you become immune to the kids screaming or the dog barking, wouldn’t it be more fun if we could just go back to the office? What’s the point of working from home if I have to get ready the same way I do when I go into the office?

    Think about all the things I could be doing while working from home, if you don’t have to see me on video.

    1. I can get dinner started while we’re on a conference call

    2. I can let the dog out and you’ll never notice

    3. I can answer e-mails while people on the non-video call are droning on

    Even if I admittedly do that, I have been productively working from a home office for more than two decades and can make some realistic arguments to support the at- home- work movement.

    1. I save time commuting

    2. I am more productive because I can go to my office at all kinds of strange hours

    3. I don’t pay for office space

    Yet, despite some advantages of a virtual office, nothing can replace face-to-face communications. It’s how we connect. It’s why we fly across the world to be with people in the same room when we could Skype or Zoom or FaceTime.  A lot of energy flows between us when we’re in the same space that can’t always be shared through a screen.

    Leaning in while listening and can extend your energy toward another. When physically present in a room, other people are more aware if you’re doing something else instead of being fully present.

    Then there’s touch. When we’re not shielding ourselves from a pandemic, in person we’re shaking hands, hugging, holding doors open for each other and even patting each other on the back. We’re huddled over each other’s monitors, sharing snacks and passing our phones around to look at each other’s photos.

    In an experiment conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and Harvard, it was concluded that shaking hands causes the centers of the brain associated with reward to activate because you are literally conveying warmth. It’s something people can actually feel.

    Let’s say you’re interviewing for a job. You e-mail your resume, point them to your LinkedIn page and schedule a video interview. If you make it past all of those steps, nothing will seal the deal better than an in-person interview where those hiring can feel your energy, passion and what it would be like to have you physically present in their work environment.

    As the coronavirus forces us to social distance and more and more employers have asked employees to work from home, the word remote is taking on new meaning. It’s no longer just a work term.

    For people in nursing homes, like my mother, remote can mean isolation. I can’t visit her. Our weekly lunches, quick in-person chats and family dinners are done, for now. Yes, we FaceTime, but that doesn’t replace a hug or a kiss. As a caregiver, seeing her in person shows me she’s okay. A video screen doesn’t have the same impact that either of us crave.

    My friend’s mom is also in a nursing home. She fell and broke her hip. Because only medical and necessary personnel are permitted in, my friend couldn’t be with her mom when the hip was replaced. She can’t be with her in rehab either. Her mom is scared and alone. They talk by phone, but clearly, it’s not the same.

    Video meetings are an important alternative right now. Like digital shopping and banking and transportation, it will get easier and become more commonplace. Thank goodness we have technology that allows us to interact during these challenging times. However, virtual meetings should never replace in person interactions. When we are physically present, we are often more emotionally present. We express ourselves much differently. We can touch. We can feel. We can look directly into someone’s eyes.

    It’s what makes us human.

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  • feedwordpress 18:26:58 on 2020/03/13 Permalink
    Tags: coronavirus, , , , Philadelphia Business Journal, , spokesperson, virus   

    Critical leadership lessons during a Pandemic. 


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    Leading during a pandemic is clearly more challenging than navigating a smaller crisis. Yet the lessons learned for responding and communicating as events unfold is the same.

    Don’t Blame

    Instead of blaming others or focusing on mistakes made, tell people what you’re doing to improve the situation and keep them safe. Let them know they can count on you and your team for information support and resources.

    Collaborate

    It is critical to demonstrate unity across business units and brands. That means working together and relying on partnerships for expert guidance and advice. This is not a time to be a know it all or go at it alone. It is a time to seek multiple opinions to make the best decisions for your organization.

    Communicate Early and Often

    In the absence of information, innuendo and rumor fill the gap. Make sure you have the facts. If you don’t know something, avoid speculating. Be honest and  say you don’t know. In a constantly evolving story and 24/7 news cycle, media will update as often as possible even if there is nothing new to report. Even if you have no updates, frequently reiterating timely accurate information helps you control the message.

    Manage the Message

    Developing and delivering clear consistent messages will help alleviate fear, panic and confusion. It’s imperative that your spokespeople not contradict each other. Additionally, if you decide to do something such as eliminate travel, explain why. Set up a hotline, website or multiple touch points where people can access the latest information.

    Tone and Demeanor

    Every time New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has addressed the public he shows concern, while speaking in a calm reassuring voice. He doesn’t sugarcoat the facts but does come across as sincere, transparent and empathetic which makes him relatable and credible.

    Leading in tough times is about instilling confidence, easing fears and communicating action plans even when you don’t have all the answers. It’s also about helping others prepare for change. When a crisis subsides, leaders must gather to assess what worked, what didn’t and use those learnings as a blueprint for moving forward.

    Do they need more on-line tools and technology to help people work remotely if something like this happens again? Do they need to review travel policies or expand suppliers and partners?

    Leadership is about behavior. The most effective leaders are those who can adapt and communicate while a crisis is unfolding, reflect on what they’ve learned when it’s passed and implement changes to create a better future for the people they lead.

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  • feedwordpress 12:03:37 on 2019/12/30 Permalink
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    MAYBE IT’S ME: Communication is a two-way street 


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    Maybe it’s me.

    I called my provider to order a new phone for my son. They asked what color he wanted. I said black. The customer service representative said “we also have orange, blue, green, yellow and red.” I said, I’d like black.

    He said we’re running a special. You can get a free phone if you install another line. I said no thank you, we have enough lines.

    He said, “But this is a really good deal, you’ll get another phone too.” I said, no thank you, I don’t need another phone.

    He said, “Would you like to save some money?” I said, sure, but not at this time. I just want to purchase the phone.

    He said he could save me some bucks if I installed their streaming video service. I said I wasn’t interested. I only wanted a phone, black please.

    He went on to explain the features of the much-improved Direct TV service and even as I repeatedly said no thank you, he kept talking, letting me know he could have installers out at my house as early as tomorrow. I said, I just want the phone.

    He asked, what color? Again, I said black. I only want one phone. Black. No additional lines and no other services.

    Maybe he wasn’t fully listening. Maybe he struggled to comprehend. Maybe he was instructed to upsell. Maybe I wasn’t being as clear as I could be, so I tried not to get irritated at him.

    Then as he was processing my order, he said, can I have a number to call you back? Why, I asked. I’m having a problem and have to reboot the system.

    When he did call me back, we had to start over because his computer lost my information. Fortunately, he remembered the color I wanted was black.

    I read an article that proclaimed good customer service is about being judged by what you do, not what you say. The writer believed if you give something away for free or throw in an extra, you’ll score points with the customer.

    Wouldn’t it be great if it was that simple? It’s not. True, people appreciate extras and freebies. The phone guy waived activation and shipping fees which I greatly appreciated. However, I believe the root of good customer service is good communication skills.

    RULE #1 LISTEN BEFORE SPEAKING

    There are few things more exasperating than telling someone what you want and then have to repeat it because they weren’t listening. Even if you’re trying to ‘sell’, listen first, talk later. Don’t interrupt.

    RULE #2 REPEAT TO REVIEW

    To show you are really listening, paraphrase or repeat what the customer has said. As an example, the representative could have said, Ms. Friedman, I understand you would like a black phone. Can I interest you in additional cost saving services? I still would have declined, but I would know he heard me.

    RULE #3 ASK IT DIFFERENTLY

    If the customer tells you no thank you, respect that. Instead of asking the same question again, ask it differently. My customer service rep might have said, yes, black is a popular color. Are you familiar with our new line of colors?

    This morning, I called my car dealer to speak to the general manager. I told her I knew Jerry wasn’t in which is why I’d like to be connected to his voicemail. She said, “Jerry isn’t in yet.” I said I know, which is why I’d like to leave him a voicemail. She said, “do you want me to connect you to his voicemail?” I said yes. She said, okay, but he’s not in yet.

    Maybe it’s me.

    Or maybe her morning coffee hadn’t kicked in. Whether speaking by phone or face-to-face, failure to effectively communicate can rob you and your company of opportunities.

    Recently I called my bank to dispute a charge. The local branch referred me to the corporate offices. They said no one was available to help me so someone would call me back. Two days later, I received an email from a customer relations manager saying he tried but had not been able to reach me by phone.

    However, there were no voicemails, no texts and no record of him calling on any of our phone lines. I e-mailed him back, no response. I called and reached his supervisor, who apologized and said he’d get back to me. He never did.

    Putting poor customer service aside, this bank is missing huge opportunities to turn negatives to positives. Even if the rep was reprimanded, his supervisor should have followed up with me. While the bank has thousands of employees who may be caring customer centric people, to the customer, both the representative and his supervisor became the face of the company. The failure of these people to show concern can reflect on the entire company.

    It only takes one negative encounter with one person to spread like wildfire. She tells her family, friends and colleagues what happened. They tell people they know. If she posts on social media, no telling how many will see it. Not only do you have a potential PR crisis, but you risk losing prospects, customers and revenue.

    Communication works two ways. It can promote great reputations or spread bad ones.

    So, whether ordering a phone, trying to leave a voicemail or dispute a charge, remember communication is a two-way street. It requires a speaker and a listener. Either one can be misunderstood.

    Sometimes you are at fault. Other times, even if we hate to admit it, maybe it’s me.

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