Posts Tagged ‘Communication’


5 Underrated VoIP Features That Will Improve Your Productivity

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is becoming the new business norm. Companies are steadily transitioning away from their old analog phone services in favor of the newer, more adaptable and feature-rich communications technology that VoIP has to offer.

VoIP’s surge in popularity can be attributed to its numerous value-added features. VoIP makes it easy for companies to choose and implement the features that would benefit their business. New features are being created on a regular basis to enhance VoIP’s capabilities and enhance the user experience.

The problem now is that with so many new and easily-accessible features, it can be easy for businesses to overlook some of the features that can potentially increase their operational efficiency. A few examples are listed below, but it is important to remember that there are numerous other useful features to consider adopting.  

Call Me Now

From a sales standpoint, Call Me Now might be one of the most useful features available with VoIP. This feature allows people to call your company by clicking on a web-based icon. Call Me Now offers sales-oriented professionals the opportunity to immediately respond to any objections from the customer.

Call Me Now is also a useful feature to improve customer service. You can use Call Me Now to quickly get customers connected with a service professional so that their issues can be resolved in a more timely manner.

Custom Ring Back

Looking for ways to generate interest without increasing talk time? When a customer calls your company, you can have custom music or verbal recordings play in place of the typical ringing sound. 

This feature is a great way to provide information, generate questions from customers, and provide future talking points during the phone call.

Push to Talk

Think of this feature as a more advanced walkie-talkie. Push to Talk allows you to call a phone within your network and activate the other line’s speaker. The other line then becomes an intercom; however, the receiver of the call can also talk back by pressing a button.

Call Pick-Up

Call Pick-Up allows you to enter a star code to answer any phone that is ringing in your network. This prevents your company from missing phone calls that ring to someone who is not currently available at their desk.

Call Parking

Call Parking allows you to “park” a call and put it in an extension. Once the call is parked, the line that the call originally rang to is freed for future calls.

There are many practical applications for parking a call. For example, let’s say you need to run downstairs to look for an item. You can park the call, go downstairs, and then pick up the call from a phone downstairs. You can also park a call if the caller is trying to reach a certain employee who is on a different call. Once that employee is done with their call, they can dial an extension to pick up the call that you parked.

VoIP’s growing feature set provides numerous opportunities to increase the efficiency of your communications system. Visit Nextiva’s website to learn more about the many features of VoIP.


Mondays with Mike: Don’t Let Storytelling Ruin Your Message

Storytelling is as old as time, and it’s one of the most compelling ways to get your message across in a memorable way.  Good public speakers understand the power of storytelling, and they also know how difficult it can be to effectively weave a story into a presentation.  Understanding some of the difficulties you may face when you’re telling a story can help you prevent public speaking disasters.  Let’s take a look at some of the common pitfalls.

  1. Putting yourself in the starring role.  No one likes a braggart, and while telling stories that prove your experience and your first-hand knowledge can establish you as an expert, make sure you don’t push your audience away by building yourself up to be larger (and better) than life.  If you must tell stories in which you’re the primary focus, make sure you do it in a self-deprecating, humble way, taking time to make it clear there’s more than just your ego on the stage.  Your audience – large or small – wants to hear more than “me” and “I.”  If you consider part of the goal of storytelling is to create a connection between you and your audience, you’ll be able to avoid this pitfall with ease.
  2. Making the story your sole focus.  Unless you’ve sold tickets, and your audience is simply there to be entertained by you, you’re speaking for a reason.  Don’t ever let your story get away from you to a degree that obscures your message.  Whether you’re trying to make a sale, convince prospective clients to give you a try, or get your employees fired up for a new project, always keep your primary goal clear in your mind so you can clearly articulate it to your audience.  Your story should always function in a supporting role.
  3. Failing to meaningfully link your story to your message.  There’s a reason even the best writers need good editors:  Things that are obvious to you – the expert – may not be clear to your audience.  Think about stand up comics – they use callbacks and repetition to drive home their primary points.  Likewise, you need to make the connection between your stories and your message absolutely, explicitly clear.  Don’t ramble on about a story and expect your audience to understand why you told it.  You have to connect all the dots and ensure your audience is with you all the way.
  4. Neglecting your call to action.  Whether you’re talking to one person or one thousand, every pitch, every speech, and every presentation must move your audience to do something.  Buy my product!  Champion my brand!  Do your very best!  Just like the connection between your story and your message, you must link your stories to the outcome you desire.  Business isn’t the place for subtle hints and innuendo.  Don’t expect your audience to read your mind.  Tell them what you want them to do!  Explain the benefits and be direct.  Don’t ever waste your time with a great presentation and fail simply because you didn’t ask for the sale. 

A great story is one of the most powerful tools a public speaker has, and once you master the skill of artfully embellishing and supporting your presentations with carefully chosen, effectively conveyed stories, you’ll find your audience enchanted and enthusiastic about your ideas.


Why Your Email Signature Matters

The single marketing message that any business person sends the most every day is in their email signature. This is why it is critical to use only the information that reflects the company’s brand and further builds a relationship with the recipient.

The essentials

Name, title, company, email address, web site URL, phone number and social media links where you are active. Include your email address since many times it is not included in the header of the reply.

Forget these closing salutations

I am not a fan of legal disclosures since it adds unnecessary length to the email especially since it  probably will be opened on a smart phone. I question the legal effectiveness even if these are used. I also do not believe in using motivational sayings unless it is part of your brand.

Stay away from silly closing salutations like “Blue skies” or “Cheers”. Now I am not an ogre, but these are not always appropriate. Consider that you just told someone in an email they did not get the job and then close with “Cheers”. This does not help your ongoing reputation or brand. I am also not sure what “Regards” means. Is this “Best regards” or “Kind Regards”? I also don’t like “Sincerely” because it always seems patronizing. Also forget “Reach for the Stars”, “Peace Out”, “Your Boy”, “Your Girl”, or “Your Compatriot”.

Use these closing salutations

Think of something that is more closely tied to your brand. I use “here’s to getting unstuck and moving…forward”. If a branded one does not work, use old standbys like “Hope this helps”, “Thank You”, “Much Appreciated”, “Let me know where I can help”

Other email signatures that work

  • The brand tag line with a link to more explanation like a video
  • Use a company logo or a very small photo
  • “Here is recent recognition we received! Thank you!” with a link
  • “Come see us at _______________ (upcoming event)” with a link
  • “We are growing! Know someone that would make a good ___________ for our company”
  • “We were recently honored to be featured in _______________” with a link

Remember, the email signature should be changed no more than every quarter so it can make multiple impressions on the recipients.

Overall, keep it short and in plain text with no animations (except for a photo or logo). Remember, most will be opened on a mobile device. Test out what looks good on various devices, but also on different web browsers and on Gmail and Yahoo mail.

What is in your email signature?


How to Develop Compelling Content

If you need to drive traffic to your website to generate sales, one surefire way to get your numbers surging upward is with compelling content. Content is what you write for your blog, email newsletter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and anything else digital. Writing powerful content is about having the right vision in your head and the right attitude before you even write one word. 

Write content well and you've cemented your success with sales. Here are a few pointers I've put together for you. Be sure to stick to each one because one without the other will tank the entire project.

  1. Your customers have a problem only you can solve. Identify the things that make your customers cringe. Present the benefits of working with you. It could be, "We handle that for paperwork for you." or, "Our clients have often received 25% more sales from our consulting." The customer will think, "I want a 25% increase!" Now you have their attention.  
  2. Focus on one product or one service at a time. Do not, under any circumstances, list 10 products and expect to win sales. It's actually easier for you to write information about your products when you feature just one.  
  3. Have a conversation. Imagine your ideal customer is sitting across from you at a cafe or restaurant. The words and phrases you would use during that coffee or lunch are the same ones you should use when writing your copy. It's about a conversation, not stuffy facts and figures. Be chill. It will relax your prospect and make them more open to what you have to say. 
  4. Keep the copy short and to-the-point. There's no need to write the Magna Carta here. State the benefits of what you offer. Follow up with features. Include testimonials from happy clients, rinse and repeat. 
  5. Focus on what makes you stand out in your industry. Be sure to relay a special technique or addition to a product no one else in your industry offers. It's amazing how that one key element of your content can be the difference between an "I need this right now!" and a "Maybe I'll buy next quarter when we get the new budget." 
  6. Ask for the sale. Just as with face-to-face sales calls or sales presentations, there comes a time when you have to go for it. Always include a clear way for your prospect to become a customer. It could be clicking a link, replying to an email, or giving you a call. Make sure you give only one option, though. You want the prospect to take immediate action, instead of deciding which way to get in touch with you. 
  7. Monitor your results. Some people only have eyes for their profits and loss statement. You know better than that. Proper positioning of your offers leads to more sales, so be sure to keep an eye on how many people are visiting certain pages on your web site. Note how long they're staying there and then you can make key decisions on which products or services to feature in the future.

I can sum up every one of these seven steps in one sentence: Write knowing who you are, who your customer is, which problem you're going to solve, and how you will ask for the sale. If you do those things, you will get a positive response from your prospects and existing customers.


Mondays with Mike: 7 Secrets to Stellar Speeches

Whether it’s a Cub Scout awards ceremony or an address to the Chamber of Commerce, every one of us is called on to speak in public from time to time.  While the notion of giving a speech makes some people anxious and others invigorated, the truth is we can all improve our public speaking skills with just a few simple strategies.  Here are my secrets for memorable speeches.

  1. Use the power of eye contact.  Right from the beginning, you should make an effort to connect with every single member of your audience, and the single most efficient way to do it is to look everyone in the eye.  Bill Clinton was the master of this technique, and his audience left his speeches feeling like they’d had a personal connection with him. 
  2. Stand up straight.  It may sound simple, but this is the one single tip that every public speaker must remember.  Your posture affects your demeanor, your confidence, and your audience’s impression of you.  Back straight, shoulders back.  That must be your mantra before you even say a word.  If you don’t appear to be confident, your audience won’t be convinced by your message.  Whether you’re nervous or not, good posture make you appear calm and confident.
  3. Give a performance, not a speech.  Shifting your focus from just the words you say to the entire experience helps you deliver your message memorably.  When you broaden your preparation to encompass movement, gestures, and methods of engaging your audience, you’re amplifying your power.  Speeches are so much more than just saying the words.  Think of yourself as an actor in a one-person play, responsible for delivering a message and entertaining at the same time.
  4. Change up your speech patterns.  No matter how compelling your stories and facial expressions may be, any speech can be boring if the speaker doesn’t play with the pace and delivery.  If you know you’re a fast talker, build in some spacers that let your words sink in.  “Now think about that for a second” can not only give your audience a brain break, but it also breaks up the predictable rhythm of your speech in a way that keeps your audience engaged.  Make sure you’re not burying your brilliance in a dull monotone.
  5. Focus on topics that matter to you.  If you couldn’t care less about the topic of your speech, I guarantee your audience won’t care either.  When you’re genuinely invested in an issue, that passion translates into enthusiasm – a highly contagious state.  Even when you have to transmit information that’s not inherently riveting, taking the time to relate the subject to your greater purpose – what really matters – gives you a chance to make the topic matter.
  6. Use the power of storytelling.  Nothing creates a closer, more meaningful connection between you and your audience than a powerful, shared narrative.  Weaving a compelling story into the fabric of your message makes your speech both more memorable and more likely to spur your audience to act.
  7. Don’t use the lectern as a crutch.  Just because there’s a podium or a lectern in front of the room doesn’t mean you’re confined to one spot.  In fact, many of the least interesting speeches are delivered by terrified speakers who cling to the podium for support and who don’t realize that moving around gets blood flowing and keeps an audience engaged.  Don’t let a hunk of wood come between you and your audience.  Get out there and make a connection!

Some of us are always more naturally composed, while others wake up in a cold sweat, terrified of our upcoming presentation.  Here’s the good news, though:  You can measurably improve your public speaking skills, and you can – with a little practice – be a powerful speaker, even if it’s not your favorite way to communicate.  If you’re passionate and determined, you can get your message across. 


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:

Capability

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.

Agility

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.

Affordability

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. 




 
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