Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Why Online Reviews Are Flawed (and What to Do About It)

11-20 Online Peer Reviews smallPeople have always placed a lot of credibility in the reviews of others. On Amazon, eBay, Yelp or TripAdvisor, when they read what other consumers have said about products and services purchased, they place a higher value on this than any direct advertising from the company. This should not be a surprise since consumers see it as unbiased. But is it and how accurate are these reviews in judging the real performance of the product? 

Here is what is wrong with peer reviews:

  1. Consistency among star ratings. No one really knows what constitutes a five-star rating and what is a one star. Everyone’s scale is different so it is nearly impossible to tell. Some customers are generous scorers and others are painful critics. What one person sees as single star could be a four star to another.
  2. More lovers and haters post reviews. There are three types of customers that post most reviews. People that really like the product, people that really hate it and anyone being paid to do it. Realize that reviews by their very nature are going to skew toward the passionate positive or negative and may not reflect the opinion of the majority of customers who may fall somewhere in the middle.
  3. Gaming the system. Many companies try to pump up their ratings by offering incentives to people that post positive reviews about their business. While there may not be anything inherently wrong about this, it does skew the results in the company’s favor and is not a representative view of what the majority of the customers think. This happens because if a consumer is asked by the company for a review and is given an incentive to complete it, they are likely to be more positive in their comments.
  4. Fake reviews. These can either be very positive which are posted by friends or very negative which may be posted by competitors. Either way, they are inaccurate since they are not from customers. Amazon is now being very aggressive suing fake reviewers.   

How to add credibility to your company’s online review ratings:

  1. Encourage everyone to post a review. Follow up with customers with an email and a link. Do not offer any type of reward or incentive. Thank positive reviewers and be empathetic to the negative ones. Get details about their actual purchase when necessary. This will help make sure that they are actual customers and if there are actionable steps the company needs to take to improve. This type of user generated content will also reach the search engines for better organic placement.
  2. Delete only fake reviews. Do not delete bad reviews. Instead, respond with understanding and a solution. Companies that respond to negative reviews by wanting to fix the problem are viewed more favorably than companies that do not display bad reviews.
  3. Give a suggested ratings scale. Suggest to customers what a one-star review should be and what a five star one could be to get more consistency. For example explain: “Rate your experience as a one star if we did not meet your expectations. Tell us exactly what went wrong and how we can remedy the situation. Rate your experience as a five star if we far exceeded the expectations you had for the product and where we excelled.”
  4. Do not repeat reviews in multiple places. Some software will also automatically place the review on the company’s website, Facebook, and Twitter. This duplicated content will be viewed negatively by search engine algorithms. In addition, if a prospect reads the same review in multiple places, they will become suspicious and may think it is fake.
  5. Place reviews on multiple pages of the company’s website. This again will add to search engine rankings. It also is a constant reminder to prospects of how good the product or service is. Many of them may not get to the page where all the reviews are listed.

What story does your reviews say about your company?

How the Modern Call Center Enhances Small and Medium-Sized Businesses

Smiling young executives sitting with headsets and using computer There are many misconceptions about the modern call center. Most people perceive call centers as large call floors with expensive infrastructure and rows upon rows of cubicles. In reality, the present-day call center refers to a group of features that are geared toward managing call flow, increasing efficiency, and software integration. Cloud communications has eliminated the need for expensive hardware. Now businesses of all sizes can use the same feature set that has long been reserved for large enterprises for a fraction of the cost.

A Call Center in the Cloud will save you Money

In the past, call centers were huge capital investments that required a large floor space. Making updates to a call center was a frequent expenditure. By leveraging the power of cloud communications, companies can now turn over the maintenance and system upgrades to their service providers, such as Nextiva. Soft phones, such as the Nextiva App, are a great tool to increase mobility and lower hardware costs. These applications can be downloaded to a variety of devices and used in lieu of desk phones to make and receive calls. This feature is becoming increasingly popular with SMB’s as no additional equipment is necessary.

Technical support can run diagnostics virtually. They can access your call center system remotely and take care of any unforeseen problems.  There is no longer a need to hire a third-party contractor to come out to your call center location and fix phone issues.

SMB’s Call Center Features

While all call center features have their benefits, the three below will significantly improve your call center efficiency and productivity.

  1. Call Center Reporting– Call center reporting allows for real-time monitoring of call volume, agent performance, and key metrics such as abandoned calls and service levels. It generates in-depth reports that can be analyzed to improve agent and overall call center performance. SMBs are able to generate a variety of reports that accurately predict call flow for more efficient staffing. This simultaneously improves customer service levels while saving the company money.
  2. Call Queues– Call Queues allow businesses to route calls to the appropriate department, team, or individual. This reduces the amount of time wasted from transferring calls and will help your customers get the help they need from agents with the appropriate skill set.
  3. Business Integration- Cloud-based call centers allow SMBs to integrate their various business tools together to create one powerful platform. These third-party applications, such as CRM software, can transfer data seamlessly between the different tools and enable click-to-call functionality.

Why You Need to Think of Your Communications as an Asset Not an Expense

11-3 Communications as an Asset smallIn today’s business environment, most companies view their communications systems as an operational expense with no added value. They perceive communications systems as a cost that has little to no effect on the bottom line. Often times, their mindset is correct. If a company has not utilized the full power of an up-to-date communications system, then it really is just another expense.

Cloud communications is changing this. As cloud communications technology becomes more advanced, companies are able to use a multitude of features to gain a competitive advantage over their competition. Leveraging cloud communications provides businesses with a competitive asset that empowers its users to grow. Below, we’ll explore three key benefits cloud communications provides businesses and how it will become a strategic asset for your growth:


Cloud-based phone systems can be tailored to meet the needs of each individual user. Whether you need to record a call for training purposes, answer your desk phone from your cell phone, or gain insight as to how you should staff your phones at your call center throughout the day, a cloud phone system will help you become more efficient and operationally cost effective.


The speed to implement change is a major competitive advantage for any business. Cloud communications systems provide instant analytical information so companies can make data-driven decisions.

Service providers, such as Nextiva, can grant its customers instant access to new features. As all updates are deployed through the cloud, you do not have to rely on having a technician come to your business location to update your system.


Little upfront cost is needed when switching to a cloud communications system. There is no expensive hardware to install, and you only pay for the number of lines that you need. Additionally, a plug and play approach is used so systems can be set up quickly. This provides a scalable solution for all businesses.

Cloud communications is an ever-evolving technology. Its efficiency, along with its increasing functionality, is giving companies a competitive advantage over those who are slow to adapt to change. The more that cloud communications integrates itself into your network, the more of an asset it will become.   

Developing a Style of Customer Service that Suits Today’s Customer Sensibilities

When it comes to communication, customers today and younger customers in particular are “disillusioned by anything canned and artificial,” as business and marketing expert Andrew Jensen puts it. A stilted, overly formal service style, even from the most caring providers, puts a ceiling on how intimate and inviting the interactions can be between employees and customers.

Which means that developing an authentic customer service style is a requirement for success with customers in the new economy. Customers in today’s marketplace (including the enormous millennial generation, their Boomer parents and the GenX’ers in the middle) favor a straightforward, down to earth, even slangy style of communication from most types of business with which they interact.

Your brand will appear out of touch or even condescending if you retain an excessively formal style. For example, traditionally prescribed hospitality language has included the use of phrases like “my pleasure” and “certainly, Sir,” which work up to a point but sound wooden when overused or used inappropriately. “It was really my pleasure to visit with you during your stay, Mr. Jamison” is fine, but never: “It will be my pleasure to clean your toilet.”

A good way to enforce reasonable language standards, without hobbling the verbal footwork of your employees, is what I’ve named the Danny Meyer Method, after the great New York restaurateur. With the Meyer Method, although you ask your employees to nix certain phrases (“it’s our policy,” “to be honest with you,” “uh-huh,” “you guys,” or this pet peeve of Danny’s: “Are we still working on the lamb?”), you don’t prescribe specific replacements, leaving that up to the creativity and individuality of your staff.

This approach has the additional benefit of keeping your employees comfortable in their own skins, using their own shorthand as needed with customers. You’re providing employees with boundaries in their interactions but empowering them by letting them use their own style within those parameters.

Now, with the authentic style of service I am suggesting, I don’t want to accidentally encourage you to be too familiar.  Instead, I suggest the approach that service designer Tim Miller has articulated: “What I look for from my staff in terms of authenticity is approximately a ‘first date’ level.  Best-foot-forward level.”  This is a style that’s going to work for your customers very well. 

Flexible Work Environments: Today’s Workforce Wants Them

The standard 9-to-5 job is no longer the norm, it’s the exception. People want to be able to work when they want, where they want without sacrificing productivity. In order to do this, your business needs to utilize a variety of communications tools that allow for real-time communication between employees, teams and customers, no matter where they are that day.

Below are four communications tools I rely on, and your business can benefit from implementing, to stay productive and get work done whether you’re in the office, working from a coffee shop or on a flight.

Email Access from Anywhere

Can you imagine conducting business without email? It seems impossible in today’s world. Email allows you to communicate and share information with people across the world. On a recent trip to San Francisco, I was able to work from my hotel room, from the back seat of my Uber, and while waiting for a delayed flight at the airport all thanks to email access on my cell phone. This type of flexibility and mobility wasn’t available a few years ago, but now I can’t imagine working without it.

Instant messenger/Chat

Instant messaging (or chat) is to email what a phone call is to sending a letter. It allows for real-time communication between employees and customers. If your business doesn’t currently use a company-wide instant messaging system, you’re missing out on an easy and effective communication channel. There are a ton of free instant messenger options out there, but for more advanced features and usability, you may need to pay a small fee (worth it!). An added bonus, many solutions come with mobile apps so you can chat with co-workers even when you’re away from your computer.

Business cloud phone system

There are times when email and instant massager aren’t enough; you need to actually speak with a colleague or customer on the phone. Business cloud phone systems, such as Nextiva, allow you to take your business phone with you anywhere. There’s no need for two different phones or to provide people with an office and cell number anymore. Think of your phone number as any “anywhere” number when you have a cloud phone system. People can call one number and reach you in the office, on your home office phone or on your mobile device via the Nextiva App—really any device that has your number assigned to it. Even if you don’t have the mobile app, you can forward calls to a device of your choice based on a schedule or number of rings.

Online project management system

If you frequently collaborate on projects with different team members or departments, an online project management system will be a game changer. Emails are easy to miss, but housing all communication related to a project within a single system (Asana and Slack are popular, low-cost options), ensures nothing is missed. You can receive alerts for projects you are a part of when team members comment or add attachments. You can create tasks and sub-tasks that need to be completed for a project and they will all be housed within the larger project, keeping everything organized an in one place. Also, assign tasks to different team members and set due dates to keep people accountable and on track. Since the project management system is hosted online, you can access documents and see progress anywhere you have an Internet connection.

Moving everyday work systems to the cloud has not only cut down on expensive IT costs, but it enables employees to be productive wherever and whenever they want.

What is your favorite communications tool to use when working outside of the office?

5 Ways to Improve Your Communication with Your Customers

If you want to keep your customers happy and loyal, it isn’t enough to offer a groundbreaking new product or service anymore. The customer experience has to be memorable and surpass their expectations, and this starts with offering exceptional customer service.

There are five key principles we subscribe to at Nextiva to ensure we are providing the best customer experience we can. Over the years, we’ve found that it is the little things that make all the difference in the customer experience. And thanks to the help of technology and cloud communications, many of these principles will be easy to implement in your business.

1. Act human and always add a personal touch to the customer interaction

Do you like talking to a robot? I would think (and hope) that you said “no”. As consumers of products and services, we want our interactions with the company we are buying from to feel genuine and personal. The little touches such as calling someone by their correct name and remembering their preferences will go a long way. While a script or general guideline may be necessary for certain job functions, don’t be afraid to let your employees inject some of their personality into their interactions with your customers. Also, go the extra mile whenever possible and make your customer feel like you genuinely care about them and their needs. The bare minimum isn’t enough anymore and will cause you to lose customers to your competitors.

2. Integrate your CRM with your phone system

It’s a fact of life that the majority of people dread calling a company’s customer support. So rather than slowing down the process by having to ask your customers for their name and account details, integrate your phone system with your customer relationship management (CRM) system. Cloud phone systems have made this easy to do and it will significantly improve interactions with customers, as well as save your customers (and your team) valuable time. The Nextiva App for Zendesk is one example, but there are a variety of options out there and many of these integrations are free, or come with a small fee, depending on the systems your business utilizes.

10-1 Customer Communication smallThe main benefit of integrating your two systems is customer records are at your team’s fingertips the minute they answer a call. You can reference past calls and check-in on other questions or concerns the customer may have had in the past. Additionally, this will help management identify trends in customer calls that can be used to create change—from updating messaging and communication to revamping processes and user tools.

3. Follow through

Do what you tell your customers you are going to do. How many times have you been promised a follow-up email or call back and never received it? Your customers’ time is precious, and they are counting on you. Don’t make them follow-up with you, instead provide them with the information they requested when you said you would. If you don’t have an answer or all of the information for them, at least check-in to let them know you are still working on it. This goes for all departments in your organization, but especially sales and customer support. This also builds trust between your business and your customers, which leads to a better overall customer experience and customer loyalty.

4. Remember them!

Without customers your business would cease to exist. It is important to show that you appreciation them. This can be done in a variety of ways, from a special promo offer to a simple email or phone call. At Nextiva, we send a "Happy Nextiversary" email to the businesses we serve on their “anniversary” of being a Nextiva customer. It’s a fun video where members of our team thank our customers for their business and remind them that we are always available to help with anything they may need.

To implement something like this at your business, pick a milestone, event, holiday, etc. to show that you value their commitment to your business. It’s even better if you can offer them something that will encourage them to continue doing business with you, such as a complimentary service, discount on their next purchase, or an exclusive access to your new product and service before anyone else.

5. Create a customer referral program

Reward your customers for bringing you more business via a referral program. Consumers are smarter than ever, and they are much more likely to believe a recommendation from a friend or peer than they are from a billboard or banner ad. An endorsement from your customers is the most important marketing tool in your arsenal and the more you reward your current customers for promoting you to their network, the more likely they will be to continue sending business your way.

But it isn’t enough to simply have a referral program; you need to make sure your customers (especially those that are happy) are aware of the program and its benefits. Send emails, have your sales and account management teams mention the program when speaking to customers, share on social media, etc. The options are endless, and do what works best for your business.

10 Key Features & Advantages of Hosted Call Centers

Call centers are a key component of many large organizations, especially those that provide support to their customers. Traditional call centers are extremely costly to implement, with large capital investments and significant IT support required. Additionally, making changes to the system can be time consuming and extremely complicated.

Businesses are always looking for ways to decrease their operational expenses and increase their productivity so they can better serve their customers, and a hosted call center is the answer for today’s businesses.

Whether your company currently utilizes a call center environment, or is looking to implement one in the future as your business grows, moving it to the cloud will significantly reduce your operating costs and increase your business flexibility.

So what are the benefits of moving your call center to the cloud?

  • Financial Savings: Minimal upfront costs, reduced maintenance fees, and a “pay as you go” model make it an ideal choice for today’s businesses.
  • Flexible Work Options & Virtualization:  The ease of provisioning and managing on-site and remote agents, and the ability to use a single central queue which routes calls to agents regardless of their physical location allows for flexibility that was previously unavailable.  
  • Enhanced Operational Flexibility: The ability to rapidly scale up and down and handle unexpected or fluctuating call volume quickly, without disrupting or changing infrastructure, will change the way your business operates.
  • Access to Latest Technologies: Low risk and cost to access cutting edge features e.g. video call centers ensures your business always has the best communications tools available.
  • Business Continuity: With hosted architecture, calls are queued and can be re-routed to alternate locations in the case of service disruption. You always have a business back up plan no matter what is thrown your way.

What are the key features of hosted (cloud) call centers, and what are their business benefits?

  • Call Recording: Record agents’ calls for training purposes and to improve the customer experience. This also provides you with a record of what was said on a call if there is ever a dispute with a customer or agent.
  • Automatic Call Distribution: You decide how you want incoming calls to be routed and the level of importance of each type of call. Route to the appropriate agent based on department, skill level and purpose of the call.
  • Call Queues: Organize users, teams and departments by queues. Callers will be routed to the next available agent in the appropriate queue based on the call distribution policy you specify.
  • Agent Status Display: See the status of every active agent from the web-based client. See agents who are available, on a call, have an incoming call, or are set to an alternate status. This helps to access call volume levels and agent status.
  • Call Center Reporting: Monitor real-time activity, as well as generate in-depth historical data and trends to improve performance and ensure that calls are handled efficiently. You can create customized reports based on your business needs to support unique process and monitoring requirements. Then, use the information to make informed business and staffing decisions.

To learn more about hosted call centers and the positive impact implementing one will have on at your business, please visit

The “New Reality” of Customer Service

Do employees at your customer service call center feel like they’re dealing with more frustrated customers than ever before? New research from Mattersight offers some insights into why this might be. According to Mattersight, more than two-thirds of customers who speak to call center reps feel frustrated before they even place a call. What’s more, 75 percent are still frustrated after the interaction, even if the representative solves their problems.

With more than 70 percent of customers saying a bad customer service experience could keep them from patronizing a business again, keeping customers happy when they call should be a high priority for your business.

One reason for customer frustration, Mattersight notes, is that there are so many ways for customers to reach out to companies for support these days. When a problem arises, most customers start by using the company’s website, FAQs or other online help tools to try to figure the problem out on their own.

By the time customers actually dial in to a call center, they’ve usually tried every other way of solving a problem, with no results. So what may seem from the rep’s end like the customers’ first attempt to resolve the issue is, for the customer, the end of a long and frustrating journey.

However, instead of acknowledging this “new reality” of customer service, most call center reps still focus on getting the customer off the phone as quickly as possible to meet their goals for handling X number of calls in X amount of time.

How can your company improve the customer experience and enjoy higher customer satisfaction? Here are some takeaways from the report:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and the seriousness of their issue. Be extra patient working with the customer. By validating their feelings, you can help them feel more taken care of.
  • Offer personalized assistance. Your call center reps should be able to quickly access all of the data you have available on the customer on the other end of the phone, such as order history, current order status and recent interactions with the company. Showing knowledge of the customer’s past behavior and history with your business will persuade them your rep is in a position to really help.
  • Take time to understand. A long wait time is customers’ number-one frustration with call centers, but number two is dealing with representatives who don’t understand what they need. Make sure your reps really listen, restate the problem to the customer and clarify that they’ve understood all aspects of the situation.
  • Follow up after the solution. After resolving the problem, don’t just rush to get the customer off the phone. Take time to apologize once again for the difficulties the person encountered, thank the customer for his or her patience, and ask if there’s anything else the rep can assist with. Let the customer be the one to end the call.

By taking a few simple steps to get into the right mind-set when dealing with call center customers, your customer service reps can not only solve problems, but also leave customers with a good feeling about your business.

4 Tips to Improve the Effectiveness of Your Next Conference Call

9-1 Conference Call smallAs workforces become increasingly remote and colleagues are no longer located in the same office, conference calls are now a large part of every day life (that we often dread). For anyone that has participated in a conference call lately, they know this is how they typically unfold. But why succumb to this fate? With a little effort and planning, you can improve the effectiveness of your conference calls. Stop wasting valuable time and increase your company’s productivity with these four steps. Keep them in mind when planning your next conference call.

These steps may seem simple and obvious, but they will change the way you communicate with your colleagues, vendors and customers.

Have a clear leader for the meeting that schedules the call, maintains the balance in conversation and directs questions to the appropriate participant(s).

Defining the leader before the conference call starts will save everyone time and frustration during the call. It will cut down on confusion of who should be speaking when, who will be providing follow-up and action items at the end of the meeting, and who to reach out to for any questions regarding the topics discussed.

Have a clear objective for the call.

This may seem obvious, but think back on recent conference calls you were on. Was the objective of the call clear before it began? This should be step #1 when planning a conference call.  No one wants to feel like they’re wasting their time on a conference call that has no clear direction, focus or purpose.

Define the topics of discussion.  

An agenda (especially one sent before the call) is key to keeping everyone on track and reduce the amount of time wasted on discussions that do not relate to the objective of the meeting. In short, stay on topic and everyone will be very appreciative.

Be mindful of others time.

Punctuality is very important. Start the meeting on time, end the meeting on time (or early), and treat the meeting with the same importance you would an in-person meeting.

Take additional topics of conversation off-line.

Going off track is easy to do, but can quickly derail the entire meeting. Be mindful of the objective of the call and topics of discussion outlined by the leader. Take these additional conversations and topics off-line, especially if they are only relevant to a few people on the call. Everyone will thank you for saying, “We can take this off-line and finish this conversation later.”

We’re always looking for ways to simplify business communication and increase your company’s productivity and efficiency. Nextiva offers an affordable conference call feature, aptly named Meet-Me-Conferencing, that will meet your conferencing needs and improve your company’s communication. Visit to learn more.

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