Answer-4u - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
The thing which separates the great from the good is very often attention to detail. Here at Answer-4u, we strive to be the best in the industry, which is why we take a lot of time in training our staff so that they, in turn, can be the best support to your business.
As such, our training has some core principles at the heart of it, and it’s these beliefs which act as the foundation for all the work we do.
Knowledge Is Power
We know how frustrating it is as a customer to speak to a representative who clearly doesn’t know the product or service very well. It wastes time, infuriates all involved and reflects badly on the business. As such, we dedicate a vast amount of time in training our agents for each individual client, and only when they know your business inside out, do we let them represent you.
People Like People
Scripts that won’t be deviated from are one of the number one pet peeves of many people. in many ways it’s more infuriating then being put through to an automated service, because while a human could go off-script, in many companies they’re prohibited from doing so, leading to many circular and frustrating interactions. While our agents adhere to guidelines set by you, we actively encourage that the human touch isn’t missed and that active listening and empathy are employed in each call.
People Like Individuality
In much the same way people dislike speaking to a robot, nor do they like being treated as one. We make a point of our agents using CRM systems which give them all the background details they need for each customer, including their name and the back-log of their interactions with us. This personal touch combined with being ‘on the ball’ makes your customers feel that they are valued and in safe hands, and means they don’t have to explain who they are and the nature of their enquiry over and over.
Be Bold, Don’t Hold (For Long Anyway)
It’s easy when the panic sets in for agents to get a little over-enthusiastic with the hold button. Of course, our agents are only (albeit brilliant) humans, and there will be times when they need advice or help from other colleagues. We encourage that agents seek help when they need it, but to also use the hold button sparingly and for short amounts of time, continually checking back to reassure the customer they are handling the situation. These little habits can make all the difference when handling a tricky call and ensure that your customers go away feeling happy with the treatment they received.
We know, they aren’t exactly groundbreaking rules really, and yet in our experience talking with many business owners over the years, it seems that many agencies similar to ours simply don’t employ them. In customer service, a little attention to detail goes a long way and it’s by using rules like the four above that help us do that day in and day out.
Publish Date: November 7, 2017 5:00 AM
Keeping up with the high expectations of your customers can be extremely difficult, especially when those expectations can be so diverse. Unsurprisingly, there has been a definite increase in automatic and self-service systems over the last ten years with customers taking an increasingly active role in their service.
Whether it’s self-service checkouts, transferring money or checking if a product is in stock, there seems to be no end to what customers can achieve without ever having to engage with a company directly.
Despite that, research continues to reveal that traditional relationships with customers, either via the phone or face to face, are still highly valued and wanted.
So what’s a business to do?
To help, we’ve outlined the three main support-models adopted by businesses and how they can alleviate pressures on staff whilst also keeping your customers happy.
1: Social Media and Chat Bots
Yes, it’s true that there’s no going back now where social media’s concerned. Whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, customers expect you to have a presence and more than that, they expect it to be an active one.
This approach is typically favoured by the younger demographic of consumers, who don’t feel that have the time or inclination to pursue what they want through the traditional channels of phone-calls or email. Social media (if done well) not only allows for the immediacy that has come to be expected by many consumers, but also empowers those who use it.
Take the most obvious example of complaints, there was a time where customers could write a letter maybe, or make a call, but that was the only way to lodge a complaint. How a company handled it was entirely up to them and there was no threat of any widespread backlash.
As we all know however, times have changed, and companies are all too aware that a badly handled complaint online can have big ramifications.
Not that this should stop you using social media of course, just stop you using it complacently. As we said, this support-system is typically for a younger demographic (though certainly not limited to) and if that’s the market you’re in it would be very wise to create this space for your customers.
Chat-bots are just as useful and can take the strain off your staff by dealing with simple, routine queries and processes.
The beauty is that you only need a few people monitoring and shaping your social media presence, leaving the rest to deal with the day to day issues without worry.
As we said previously, while there is a definite shift in consumer ideals, the desire for basic human interaction hasn’t taken the hit people assumed it would and indeed, many people still report the phone as their most favoured method of communicating with a company.
The wonderful benefit of using a call answering service as a support to your business is that it’s much cheaper than hiring full time staff, and can be tailored exactly to your brand’s tone and style. Better yet, your staff can get on with their day while a team of people are dedicated to taking calls on your behalf.
The sort of consumers who typically want this sort of service are those who are dealing with financial, legal or technological queries or quotes. Any business that has intricate internal systems or complicated technology with the potential to go wrong, finds time and again that what their customers really want is an actual human to speak to, not a chat-bot or an FAQ page.
Needless to say if you’re a bank, a supermarket or a public transport provider, then self-service machines are undoubtedly a common expectation of your customer base. If we maintain that social media facilitates the need for immediacy many customers now feel, then by the same token, any business which has the potential to have customers lining up and waiting needs to also accommodate for that immediacy desire. No-one likes waiting in lines and your staff aren’t robots, there will of course be human error with peaks and lows in their performance, which can cause a problem if it’s holding everyone up by ten minutes at a time. Self-service machines meanwhile (while not infallible) can generally keep ticking over and act as a buffer when your staff are struggling.
So Which One?
This is blatantly obvious to answer for some businesses and a riddle for others. Generally speaking, social media is a support system that any business should be able to benefit from, even if you already feel your customer service manages fine without it.
On the other hand, self-service systems are the most niche perhaps, and can only be adopted by a few companies with the right business style and of course, the means.
Leaving the humble call centre. A great many businesses see a surge in communication when they branch out their lines of correspondence via phone lines, rather than just relying on email or letters. Even better, you often find that a quality call centre will have a plethora of additional services like diary management and disaster recovery, which will also work wonders in easing the strain on your staff.
Customer service is an ever changing terrain and that’s why we advise keeping an ear to the ground and adapting your business as you go.
Publish Date: October 17, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s no shock that technology is infiltrating every industry, enhancing and embellishing businesses and making the relationship with customers that much easier to develop.
The biggest change experts anticipate within the call centre sector is that of Speech Analytics software.
This is by no means an attempt to remove actual humans from the process, but rather give people much more information with which to handle the calls they take.
Of course software of this kind is by no means new and has been around for years, making waves for the first time in 2007, where there was an increase by 106% of software implemented when compared to that of 2006.
Indeed the growth of this software has grown steadily and a report by DMG Consulting predicts that this will continue by 17% in 2018 and 16% in 2019.
If you’re already impressed with the services a reputable telephone answering service can provide, you’ll discover this advance in technology even more exciting. Here are 3 ways this software is changing the call centre and what that means for your business.
1: Emotional Data
Without the benefit of body language and facial cues, the only way to adequately gauge a customer’s emotional state is by their voice. Whilst it’s clear that a great deal can be ascertained by a human, there are subtle undertones that Speech Analytics can pick up in relation to cadence and tone. With this added data, call centre representatives will be able to analyse a customer’s state of mind in real time and respond accordingly.
The result for your business will be a much higher rate of customer satisfaction and a seamless rapport between customers and those that represent your company.
Speech Analytics will also double up as a fundamental training tool for those employed to represent your company. It will easily monitor what the most common calls are (especially important from those customers who have an issue) but more importantly, it will help representatives narrow down what makes for the best response to those types of calls too.
3: Focuses on Customer Service
A 2016 study by NewVoiceMedia discovered that business are losing £10.8billion per year due to unsatisfactory customer service. This encompasses a plethora of reasons, including customers simply not getting what they want by the end of a call.
Not only will Speech Analytics help ascertain what customers want and help funnel people to the right representatives, it will also be able to highlight up-sell and cross-selling opportunities. This will mean that reprepresentatives will be able to systematically reduce the amount of ‘wasted’ pitches and ensure that customers come away satisfied with each and every call.
The Future Of Customer Service Is Exciting
Technologies such as this are advancing all the time and will blend perfectly into an already high-achieving system. The exciting fact is this: what works well for our industry invariably works well for the businesses we represent and we look forward to consistently upping the quality of our service for all involved.
Publish Date: September 12, 2017 5:00 AM
Here at Answer-4u we know that choosing a company to best reflect your own is one of the biggest choices you’ll make. This is especially true when you’re looking for an extension of your call centre staff. Unfortunately, the call centre is an industry that is often plagued by misconceptions as well a lack of investment in people.
At Answer-4u, we tackle this problem head on.
Training in a call centre situation is fundamental. You need to invest a lot of time in people so that they can adapt and think on their feet. You cannot, as seems to be the case in some companies, spend a single day with a new starter and expect your work to be done.
In order to get the best from our staff and in turn give the best to our clients, we adopt an intensive training method which we’ll take you through today.
Investment of Time
Our training spans across a full eight weeks to ensure our members of staff are fully prepared. This intensive training includes Telephone Answering and Call Management skills, focusing on areas such as active listening and professionalism.
Every call thereafter is scored on these points and our staff are required to ‘pass’ on each point. Even when the training period ends we make a point of continuing to support our staff so that they can progress.
We believe this is fundamental in not only making our staff feel prepared and supported, but also ensuring our clients get the most satisfaction from every call.
The training which our staff undertake is structured in such a way that it is not a ‘one size fits all’ situation. We have a wide variety of clients, all of whom require different scripts and a tailored service, which means our staff need to be entirely familiar with each one.
In order to keep track of everyone’s level and understanding, there are set ‘call groups’ which filter which calls each representative has the green light to take. Only when a member of staff has completed and passed all stages of specific training for a client can they begin to take calls on that client’s behalf.
We don’t believe out training should be at the expense of our customers which is why we never let our call centre staff take on anything they haven’t shown complete competence with.
Because our service is all about tailoring to become an extension of other businesses, seamlessly blending in with your own staff, it’s imperative we invest the time and effort to make this possible.
Is It So Important?
The level of satisfaction at the initial stages of the customer journey set the tone for the rest of the relationship and can end it before it’s even begun if not handled correctly.
Bonfire Training recently reported that 86% of customers have abandoned a business entirely because of one bad experience. What’s more, they discovered that 9/10 people would pay more money if it meant they received a better quality of customer service.
These are statistics that have been reported time and again by all manner of marketing companies and business research groups. Numbers which are highly significant and mean that the investment in time and training of your staff is directly correlated to how well your business thrives.
Publish Date: August 29, 2017 5:00 AM
As soon as a company begins to branch out, the need for more hands on deck increases, which means more skilled, qualified and capable people to be the face of your business. Whilst this has always been the case, the way a call centre operates has changed a great deal over the years and is expected to change even more in the future.
These are some of the biggest changes we expect to see in the coming years.
1: Automation Will Become More Dominant
Technology has been striving towards businesses being more automated for years and we expect that to amplify as we head towards 2018. The best guess is that there will be a much greater reliance on chat-bots and apps, as these tend to be the favoured means of communication among the younger generation.
Is this a problem for the call centre industry?
Well, research suggests not.
94% of marketing budgets are spent trying to coax people to call. Why? Because people still value a real conversation over a chat-bot or even an email. Which is why the call centre is still a massive part of business and not about to be overshadowed anytime soon.
2: Security and Data
Understandably, customers and businesses alike are becoming warier of identity theft. Whilst there has always been a significant threat, the problem is becoming much more prevalent, with 2016 reaching record levels of identity fraud.
This means there’s more pressure than ever for call centres to establish trusting relationships with their customers and employ stronger means of warding off potential threats. Maintaining actual human interaction rather than simply relying on automated processes will go a long way into doing that.
It’s fully expected that there will come a point where call centres will become fully transparent and we do mean that literally. Customers will, in the not too distant future, be able to see real time information about a call centre, from who is free to talk, to what their specific skill set is. This open relationship between customer and representative will allow for a much smoother journey from a customer having an issue, to that issue being resolved.
4: Cadence data
Once again technology advancements will have a huge impact on how the call centres operate, especially when it comes to emotional responses.
Gaging the emotional state of customers has always been a huge part of life working in a call centre, and we fully expect technology to take over that aspect of it too. Whilst this type of technology is by no means new, experts predict that the concept will advance exponentially, with every slight nuance of conversation picked up and analysed, further aiding how a representative responds.
These are just a few of the predictions experts have made about the direction in which call centres are heading, and whilst it can seem somewhat daunting, it’s exciting to realise that call centres are not about to be outdated by technology, but enhanced by it.
Publish Date: August 1, 2017 5:00 AM
This week we thought we’d do a roundup of some of the most exciting phone concepts we could find. Will they come to fruition? Is the future going to be like the movies have told us? We answer that and many more big questions like what’s the meaning of life and how to make jam.
Sorry, not the last two. But all the rest is in here and wow, are you going to be impressed.
Image Source: Mojorno.com
This one is seriously cool. Designed by Ilshat Garipov, the Kambala is not only a beautiful concept, but a nifty one. It’s designed so that the inner section pops out and suddenly you have an earpiece. Even more impressive, once you have it on as an earpiece it can blend in with your skin or alternatively display the internal image to the outer screen.
Will we ever get to use one? That we don’t know, but here’s to hoping.
Samsung Flip 2
Image Source: Samsung Newsroom
Oh yes. Remember the glory days of flip phones? How hanging up was a much cooler thing to do, the efficient ‘snap’ sound after a brilliant sign off such as ‘Laters’. Even picking up a call was better, the one-handed answering method that made everyone feel the tiniest bit like James Bond.
Well, fear not, because those days are back. At least, in some parts of the world. The Samsung Flip 2 is just like the sleek flip phones of old but with all the smart phone goodness inside.
Red Hydrogen One
Image Source: Red
Ok, this one’s got all the tech people in a tizz because this pricey little number is being hailed as a holographic phone. Yes, the very sort Star Wars hinted at. As you might expect there’s a fair amount of speculation as to how ‘holographic’ this phone actually is. Previous companies that have banded about the holographic word have left consumers understandably a little underwhelmed, but with Red being a company known for delivering on its promises the excitement surrounding this is mounting.
Fingers crossed for this level of awesome!
And there we have it, a little look into the phenomenal world of future phones. We’re hoping that along with all the phone technological advances maybe other key areas will be looked into also. Maybe Laptops that don’t forget the printer you’ve used for six months or earphones that are tangle-proof. Really tangle proof.
Heck, we’d settle for a Sat-Nav that didn’t sound so condescending when it uttered the words ‘make a U-Turn’.
Publish Date: July 25, 2017 5:00 AM
We know, that’s a strong title, but allow us to explain. Unsurprisingly, for a business like ours, the phone is a central, yet unnoticed piece of equipment. We use it, but very rarely do we consider how much the humble telephone has adapted over the years to become the sleek, handheld, mini-computer that they have become today.
Well, that all stops now.
We have compiled a list of some of the most interesting little facts about the telephone for you, in a hope you will eye your own little touch screen device with the awe and respect it deserves.
We also hope it comes in handy at the next pub-quiz.
1: 10th March 1876
Does that date ring a Bell? An Alexander Graham Bell perhaps? We hope so because this was the date the very first phone call occurred, between Mr. Bell and his colleague Thomas Watson. It was at this critical juncture of the phones birth that the famous line by Bell to Watson was said: “Mr. Watson-come here-I want to see you.”
Nowadays this seems almost trivial, barely worth a raised eyebrow, but at the time, in a world that would scoff at the notion of a smart phone, this was momentous. Were it not for the ingenuity of Alexander Graham Bell, the phones of today may never have come into existence.
Yes, the thought makes us break out into a cold sweat too.
With the telephone successfully created, the next thorny issue was how to open the conversations themselves. Bell, possibly harboring a secret desire to be a pirate, suggested ‘Ahoy’ as the best way to begin correspondence. In our opinion, that was an excellent suggestion, alas, it was overthrown by the modern day greeting, ‘Hello’, as put forward by Thomas Edison.
Sigh. How different life might have been…
3: Attack of The Phones
In 2014, it was estimated that there were, for the first time, more phones than people. Kevin Kimberlin, Chairman of Spencer Trask & Co made the eloquent point that: “No other technology has impacted us like the mobile phone. It’s the fastest growing manmade phenomenon ever — from zero to 7.2 billion in three decades,”. The general estimate was that phones were multiplying five times faster than people.
4: Dots and Dashes
Remember the Nokia 3310? The Indestructible phone that we can guarantee would keep the cockroaches company if the world ended? Sure, you do, and no doubt you also remember the classic ringtone that accompanied it? Well, the story is that the classic tone is Morse code for ‘SMS’ and that their ‘Ascending’ tone is Morse code for ‘Connecting People’.
Of course, the real wow factor with Nokia was playing Snake.
So, there we have it, turns out that man’s best friend is not in fact dogs, but phones. Almost everyone has a mobile in arms reach and the landline is still great for talking to an old friend over a cup of tea.
The conception of phones has led to a better-connected world and here at Answer4u, we thought it was time we appreciated just how incredible these gadgets are.
Publish Date: May 9, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s easy to assume that answering the phone is a pretty simple task. Receiver is lifted, vocal chords engaged and communication ensues. However, the ability to handle any call is in fact one of the most impressive feats in human psychology. The moment the voice on the end of the receiver begins to speak, we are unconsciously assessing the caller’s mood, whether we can assist with their problem and how we should respond.
Even if you aren’t on the phone as much as a call answering company, chances are, picking up the phone is a big part of your business and it can be mortifying to find yourself lost for words. And let’s face it, we’ve all been there.
In an effort to reduce those moments of not knowing what to say, we’ve compiled some nifty tricks to help you answer even the trickiest calls.
When You Just Don’t Know
The truth of the matter is that sometimes you will be asked a question to which you don’t know the answer. This is particularly problematic if the person on the other end of the phone is becoming irate or impatient, because all too quickly you can find yourself becoming flustered. The most important thing in this situation is to keep calm and not be afraid to pause for thought.
If you don’t know the answer, but know a person who would, putting people on hold briefly can allow you to transfer them or get a message from the person you need. Equally, if you have no idea how to help a customer and also no idea as to who might be able to help them, then you also need to give yourself the time to find out. As long as you don’t keep people on hold forever, then giving yourself a moment to consider what to do is not only fine, it’s necessary.
On the phone, in a meeting, heck, even in your own household, giving yourself pause to think is no bad thing. A few moments of silence shouldn’t be scary for anyone, honest.
When They Just Won’t Quit
It’s a classic tale, someone calls and demands to speak to a co-worker who isn’t there, or pushes for information you don’t know or can’t give out, and once again you have to be the gate keeper.
It’s easy to lose your head when you have a caller determined to get their way, but there are some great tricks to manage the situation without seeming flustered:
- Be assertive. Apologise for not meeting the expectations of the caller, but be sure not to sound too apologetic. If you do, then the caller may continue to berate you for something that is outside of your control, which isn’t constructive for anyone.
- Don’t get involved in any lines of conversation that focus on what you can’t do as it serves no purpose. If you can’t give out certain information for example, then quickly move the conversation to a point where you can do something positive for the customer.
- If the query is regarding a colleague who has a schedule you aren’t aware of, the best thing again is to not focus on what you don’t know, and instead reassure them that you will make sure a message is passed on and the call returned. People are much less upset by inconvenience if you make it plain that you are trying your best to work around the problem for them.
- Keeping calm is essential.
- Silence isn’t something to fear. It’s much better to pause and think, rather than spewing random words out of nervousness.
- Don’t linger on what you can’t do, always push the conversation so that it can end on a positive note.
- Be assertive and professional at all times.
Publish Date: March 28, 2017 5:00 AM
For many businesses both small and large, the benefit of using a call answering service is a no brainer. It effectively deals with overflow, allows your business to be operational 24/7 and can be tailored to fit your company’s exact needs. Despite all the apparent benefits however, there are many myths that tend to surround it. Sadly, not the cool kind of myths that involve dragons but the kind that really mess up the running of your business.
The great shame is that many businesses dismiss Call Answering Services based on these myths and nothing more, which can have a hugely negative impact in the long run for all parties.
So, let’s take a look at these myths and see how true they are. Better yet, lets debunk them as they so richly deserve.
No-One Calls Businesses Anymore.
There’s no doubt that social media has been readily adopted by the majority of businesses and has become a standard way for customers to reach out to brands, yet against all expectation it certainly hasn’t made the classic phone call redundant.
Ah but how do we know this you ask? Well Invoca recently discovered that 65% of people would rather use the phone to communicate with a business as opposed to the 24% that would prefer to fill out a web form. You could be forgiven for thinking this data came from 1992 but it was actually only published last year. And really, it’s not so hard to believe, we are after all social animals and when there’s a problem or an issue we need to resolve then a sympathetic ear and a verbal promise to deal with it is always going to beat a form or a bot. Or an owl if you’re considering going Potter with your business plan, which we don’t recommend by the way.
We Can Answer Our Own Calls Anyway.
Well you can, but the real question is, should you? The first problem is that if you are expecting your staff to complete their jobs as well as answer all incoming calls then you are also inadvertently causing them to be less efficient with their workload. We know, scary, right?
To put some context to that, the University of California Irvine found that a member of staff who is interrupted during a task takes on average a full 23 minutes and 15 seconds to fully get back to the initial task. That’s a lot of head scratching time.
Not only that but many businesses simply fail to manage the sheer amount of call traffic they experience and thus lose revenue. In an era where people expect immediate gratification you can rest assured that waiting for someone to pick up a call is not tolerated for very long. Which means that each missed call is a missed business opportunity.
Call Answering Operators Aren’t Skilled
This is possibly the most prevalent of all the myths and seems to stem from the misconception that a repetitive job is mindless and thus has no need for skilled operators. On the contrary (as anyone in this type of role will confirm) whilst the act of answering a phone is repetitive, the calls themselves will bring a different set of challenges each time. Some calls will be from concerned or angry customers, some from delighted or simply confused ones. The ability to read people and respond in an appropriate manner is fundamental to success in this role and means that you need to be an exceptionally good people person. The kind of person who gets invited to parties out of liking rather than pity…
Anyway, not only are Call Answering Operators required to be great with people, they also need to be able to problem solve, think on their feet and adapt to each new challenge quickly. Not exactly what we’d call the hallmarks of an unskilled individual.
When it comes to your business, customer service is the key to success and if you don’t have the man power or time to dedicate to this all-important area then you can quickly find your business suffering for it. A Call Answering Service removes the stress from your employees and the strain on your business, providing that much needed contact point for your customers who still place the majority of their faith in a phone call.
So, take that Myths. Now, time to deal with the pesky issue of Nessie…
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 5:00 AM
Recruiting isn’t easy and that’s especially true when considering the first part of the process: The CV. Most businesses receive such a huge influx of responses to their job advertisements that the quality filtering process can be overwhelming. It is rare that a truly terrible CV will come your way (written in crayon, decorated with glitter, that sort of thing) so you’re essentially tasked with differentiating between ostensibly brilliant people.
In a world where it seems the people applying know nearly as much as the people hiring (thanks, internet), it can be easy to land yourself with someone who isn’t quite up to the task and result in wasted interview or worse, a terrible hire. Take a look at our CV spotting tips and see how you can give yourself a better chance of getting the right person for the job.
The initial filtering for CVs usually consists of disregarding those that have any errors, whether they stem from bad formatting or sloppy grammar. Candidates have a tough task in impressing you via one piece of paper, but no more than your task of deciphering whether they should be considered or not. With that in mind, if a candidate expects to have a good chance of gaining your attention, the least they can do is pay attention to the details themselves.
Tailored vs Generic
Those people who send you a CV that is tailored to your role are the ones you’re really interested in. To tailor a CV takes effort, especially considering that candidates will have likely applied to multiple jobs.
The generic CV on the other hand can be the result of two approaches from candidates; neither are the kind you wish to adopt in your company. The first approach is that a generic CV is simply easier. Candidates who cannot find the time to edit their CV to make life easier for you as the reader, will not be your first choice.
The second approach is not about taking the simple route, but about uncertainty. This type of candidate can’t decide what to omit and adopts the stance that if they throw everything they’ve ever done on the page, something is bound to stick. This is flawed logic because whilst it does indeed present everything a candidate has to offer, it forces the reader to do the editing and pick out the relevant parts.
Now, sometimes this can be forgiven if the covering letter that accompanies the application is more tailored to the role. Even so, in a world where both CVs and covering letters sadly can’t be given as much time as we’d like, it’s the applicants responsibility to make all their documents as accessible and relevant as possible.
With so many applications sent in response to a single role, it is essential to find quick ways to thin out the number and weeding out generic CVs is one of the most effective ways.
Employment gaps aren’t a red flag themselves, there are plenty of legitimate reasons people take time away from the traditional employment trajectory, such as travelling, illness or deciding to stay at home and focus on their own projects or raise their children. The problem with employment gaps (that aren’t overly long anyway) are when people fail to explain them. If someone seems especially cagey in their CV or doesn’t acknowledge the career gap seemingly in the hopes that neither will you, this can start to ring a few warning bells.
The problem with candidates that try to skirt around the issues of their career gaps is that it suggests something unpalatable occurred and they don’t want you to know about it. Once again, the candidate’s job is to make this process as easy as possible for the reader, so unless the rest of their CV is sparkling, you probably don’t have time to be pushing someone as to why they haven’t accounted for three months between jobs.
This is a tricky one, large stints with each employer can signal either loyalty or stagnation, whilst flitting from job to job can mean lots of varied experience but also that you may be employing someone who gets bored quickly.
Truthfully the only way to handle this is to deal in extremes. Candidates that have leapfrogged from job to job every four months perhaps aren’t the best choice. That said if each jump has been another rung on the career ladder than this is often better than someone who has remained with one company for 15 years but never progressed to the next rung.
If you know that you want a candidate who is going to want to stick around for a while, you can omit those that tend to move about a lot. If however you’re after someone to boost your company as a by-product of their strive for personal career development, employing a ‘flitter’ may be just what you need.
Attempting to employ someone based on how well they portray themselves via a sheet or two of A4 paper is always going to be a tricky. The above advice is a quick way of cutting down large numbers of applications in one quick sweep, but once you have a smaller sample size it still takes a great deal of guesswork. The CV is an entry point to an interview where you can get a much better grasp of who they are; up until that point you have to go on what the candidate has chosen to show you and your own quality threshold.
Check out our interview blog for more hints and tips to get that perfect hire.
Publish Date: October 19, 2016 5:00 AM
With team messaging programs like Slack becoming more and more popular, it’s not surprising that people having been questioning whether email in the workplace can – or should – endure.
But endure it has, with the numbers to back it up. Email’s longevity is down to a variety of reasons – ultimately, it seems a private online letterbox still seems to appeal to people. Frustratingly, as email continues, so too does the failure to adhere to its established etiquette. Let’s talk about getting them right in the workplace, and keeping the quality high. Here are the key culprits holding your emails back.
Spelling and Grammar Fails
“Well, what’s in a name anyway? Apart from my sense of self and identity…”
This is especially true of names. It is astoundingly common to send an email that ends with:
Only to receive the enthusiastic yet off-putting:
Misspelling a name when it’s in front of you immediately gives the impression that you aren’t particularly attentive and also questions how well you’ve digested the body of the email if you haven’t even made it past the greeting correctly. It doesn’t take a moment to check and saves you from sending lazy vibes to your recipient.
The same goes for grammar, including capitalising words and such.
It may sound pedantic but sloppy grammar can throw the reader’s concentration and undermines the professionalism of your correspondence.
Over-Abundant Punctuation and Emoticons
When it comes to the oft-misused exclamation mark, we suggest less is more. Increasingly, the exclamation mark has become the equivalent of sending an x on the end of a text message, to soften the words that came before it.
Or if not that, it’s thrown in to display other emotive extremes such as humour, exasperation and panic. All of which can be acceptable – but not necessary after every single sentence. Let the full stop have some limelight, he’s been stopping sentences for as long as the exclamation mark has after all.
Question marks are another overused symbol. We’ve all received those emails that look like this:
“Where’s the client brief folder????”
It seems to be the unwritten rule that the more question marks you put, the greater the urgency. Worse still if there’s a few of the aforementioned ‘!’ thrown in too.
If it’s an important question, put one question mark and stress the urgency with your words instead.
As for the emoticon we suggest to tread carefully. Anything an emoticon can say words can say better. Emoticons are only appropriate when correspondence has developed beyond formalities to something more familiar. Introduce them prematurely and you risk diminishing your professionalism, again.
It’s a work email, so we’re not suggesting you start the conversation with a casual ‘s’up’ but a good morning/afternoon and a kind/warm regards at the end never hurt anyone. People who ignore your greeting and dive straight into the task at hand can come across as brash and abrupt. They may not be either of those things, merely focused on the task at hand but in missing out on these social niceties you run the risk of being perceived that way.
Professionalism is something that maintains respect between all involved parties. While the literal meaning of pleasantries is somewhat hackneyed, their presence still promotes the idea that your recipients matter.
While email remains one of the staples of formal business correspondence, let’s get them right. Always double check before you hit the send button. Play it safe with initial emails by omitting emoticons and ensuring your professionalism remains by the books.
Publish Date: September 28, 2016 5:00 AM
With the announcement of the iPhone 7 imminent, many smartphone users will be considering their next purchase in the world of app-based, internet beaming mobile devices.
Apple undoubtedly pioneered the smartphone revolution with the seminal iPhone in 2007. Since then however, the playing field has levelled and some argue that iPhone is no longer at the forefront of smartphone innovation. With heavy competition from Android, consumers are spoilt for choice over which device to choose. Here are the key things to consider:
Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android
Both the iOS and Android operating systems operate on different hardware – iOS exclusively on iPhones whilst Android is available on a range of smartphone models. One thing to remember is that, despite their differences, you’ll by-and-large be able to get the same sort of technology out of your device. Models with either OS will be touchscreen, have a camera, be able to download apps and – in case you forgot – make phone calls.
But there are some differences…
User Experience Design (UX)
Both systems feature the conventional ‘launcher’ screen where apps are displayed. Both have lock screens, both have notifications. Some elements of UX are limited in their diversity, purely because their function is common sense.
The common argument concerning both these operating systems is that Apple prioritises simplicity, while Android prefers customisation. So with iPhone, there’s very little tweaking you’ll need to do for it to function how you want it. However, you better want it Apple’s way – because it’s a rigid, centralised experience where ‘Apple knows best’ is the anthem.
An Android device on other hand might require various tweaks and downloads before it becomes the smartphone you want it to be. This can be off-putting, especially if you’re a previous iPhone user who wants something that just works. Because of this prerequisite to ‘set it up’ however, you’re offered many more customisation options, from new keyboards functions to entirely refreshed ‘launcher’ themes that change the aesthetic make up of just about everything.
We are now so data-driven that instead of simply smartphone users, each of us must create our own an ecosystem of devices that share information with one another. Cloud-based sharing has allowed us to access our key data – photos, notes, contacts – across multiple devices. Both Apple’s ‘iCloud’ and Google Drive fulfil this.
However, continuing in their strictly centralised style, Apple make it difficult when sharing to 3rd parties from iCloud. iCloud can be brilliant, but it only really excels used natively on apple devices. Google Drive on the other hand, while not necessarily as seamlessly integrated, is much more accessible.
App support & updates
Apple’s App Store has better support for apps. If an app inhabits one OS app store and not the other, it’ll be Apple’s that it sides with. This is likely due to the fact that the iOS software is also locked to Apple’s hardware, meaning there’s a primarily uniform and minimal selection of devices that developers need to optimise for.
Android on the other hand is fragmented over many different smartphone brands, from Samsung to Sony to HTC, all with slightly different hardware. The gap between app availability has been narrowing each year however, and while some apps might come to iOS first, it’s now expected that the Google Play Store will have them too.
Because of the centralisation of hardware, OS updates are rolled out across all Apple devices straightforwardly, whereas many Android devices do not get the same level of support for as long. However, providing you get a flagship Android phone, such as a Samsung Galaxy, or get Google’s own design, Nexus, you can be confident your phone will have enduring access to the latest updates.
There’s no point listing all the varying features between iPhones and Android devices. However, it’s accepted that whatever new feature Apple releases, it’ll be elegant and marketed as if it’s life-changing. An iPhone will have a good spec, but that’s the only spec available for that model, with an option of storage capacity.
Because of the wide selection of Android devices, you’re more likely to find a smartphone that excels in the features you personally want, so you’ve got more options there. It is worth noting that there are some fundamental features that iPhone still hasn’t adopted that Android includes by default, such as attachable storage (via micro SD card).
If you want stylish, elegant and resoundingly rigid, iOS and iPhone will always be on top. With the iPhone 7 on its way, the latest incarnation of the iconic phone will have some new offers up its sleeve, delivered sleekly.
Those new offers will probably already exist on one of the many Android phones available, however. If you want control over what your phone can do and are willing to spend some time fixing it up to your style, then Android is the way to go.
Publish Date: September 7, 2016 5:00 AM
It may come as a shock to some but by definition, workplace bullying isn’t technically defined as unlawful. Whilst harassment is treated very seriously (see the Equality Act 2010) bullying has somehow found itself a loophole, so as long as the bullying isn’t related to your gender, your race or your religious beliefs it is technically permissible.
It is perhaps this ambiguity coupled with the common emotions of embarrassment and ‘not wanting to make a fuss’ that make workplace bullying, all too often, the elephant in the room.
Technicalities aside, once there is awareness that bullying has occurred then it is of course an employer’s responsibility to help resolve this. All too often employers miss what is happening directly in front of them and it’s essential they create a situation where they are able to firstly pinpoint an issue and then resolve it. To avoid the problem before it starts, and it to banish it effectively if it does occur, follow the three Ts:
Understandably there are many negative emotions surrounding bullying, especially in the workplace. People who experience this often find speaking out about it both intimidating and uncomfortable; no one likes to admit that it’s happening because the fallacy still remains that bullying is something we leave behind in childhood.
This means that as a manager you need to allow for transparency. An employee needs to feel comfortable enough to approach you and know that when they do it won’t be brushed off.
Transparency is also important from a proactive stance; whilst you may not think you need to make it clear how you expect people to behave, you do, not because people don’t know, but because they don’t know whether or not they’ll be able to get away with it.
Bullying is at its most insidious when it occurs within the managerial hierarchy. The lines very easily become blurred and both the bully and the one being bullied can both lose their perspective. Someone on the receiving end of managerial bullying can begin to normalise this in their mind as acceptable behaviour and the manager committing the offence may genuinely see their method as simply authoritative.
Training is key, for everyone. Your staff need to be made aware of what a good manager consists of, so that those in that position know how to conduct themselves and the ones taking direction know what they should expect in a manager. Leadership is a very tricky line to walk and rarely do people get it right without training.
Otherwise known as turning a blind eye. When any form of unpleasant behaviour is witnessed it’s hard to intervene, mostly because we are all but socially programmed to not rock the boat too much. However we all have a responsibility in the workplace (and our lives come to that) to show we will not stand for it. The old adage of ‘if you’re not with me, you’re against me’ rings true here, if you allow a colleague to suffer and make a pretence of not noticing the issue, you’re against them.
If you are in a leadership position this is even more pivotal. If someone consistently talks over a colleague during meetings, makes sly remarks to test your openness to join in the mockery, you need to make it clear in no uncertain terms that this will not be tolerated and the more people who witness this no nonsense stance, the better.
Workplace bullying is something that is much more common than people think and left unchecked it can result in depression, high turnover and a dysfunctional business. By practising transparency, incorporating the right training and being vigilant against it, you can foster an open and amicable work environment for everyone to enjoy.
Publish Date: August 24, 2016 5:00 AM
Nike, Samsung, Coca Cola – do you think if they miss or screw up a phone call their business will take a hit?
Of course not (unless it’s really serious, in which case they can afford PR wizards). But for regular businesses that graft, make a good earning yet aren’t able to coast on a century of cultural awareness, a phone call can lead to opportunities that greatly boost your company’s prospects. Whether it’s a new client with good work and good money or an old connection with a load of referrals with your name on it, a phone call can ignite something beautiful.
Beyond new opportunities, phone calls remain a staple of maintaining business relationships. Communicating with clients and partners will require a good phone manner, and if you’re missing their calls regularly or not sounding professional in your conduct, they might think you don’t like them. Seriously though, it can be damaging to your business. Here are 3 catastrophic consequences of poor call handling:
Your Productivity Will Perish
Many SMEs fall prey to incessant sales and recruitment phone calls. They’re not inherently bad, but they can make the phone ring constantly. Now let’s put that into context. If your employees are frequently answering the phone without anything fruitful coming about by the end of it (i.e. “Sorry, we’re not interested.”), then their productivity is being pillaged. When a productive mindset is interrupted – in this case by a phone call – it takes on average 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to it.
As you and your team’s productive mindsets continues to be reset by the indefatigable calls of the sales and recruitment call swarm, it’ll gradually erode away at work output until your whole business is reduced to inefficient, preoccupied jelly, which as we know is the worst kind.
You’ll Forget Something REALLY Important
Of course, there are important phone calls nestled between the distracting, uninvited ones. Without a dedicated receptionist – that for many SMEs isn’t financially viable – it can be difficult to document all your calls and the arrangements made via them. In the half dozen calls you’ve taken this hour, one of them mentioned a deadline for a business proposal that, if accepted, could start bringing in a lot of money.
But in the thick of your work and subduing the multiple recruiters, it slipped your mind to document it. The deadline passes and the big lead, under time constraints, gave the work to a competitor. You slip into a deep, dark funk and the office radio switches from Capital FM to something more wistful, perhaps Smooth FM. The company gets so much Lionel Richie that it employees resign, citing the need to look for Mr Richie, possibly even all night long.
Your Phone Manner Will Frighten Everyone Off
Look, your skillset in the business is X, Y and Z – you’re not a professional receptionist. We get that. But your impatience with the barrage of phone calls is starting to show. You sighed immediately after you breathed out your stock greeting in that last call, and she actually enquired about a service you offer! Your initial weariness shook her confidence in your business and as they say, first impressions can’t be returned as faulty. She turns out to be a big player on LinkedIn and shares her bad experience with all her business associates. Your business becomes a pariah in the industry and you have to downsize to a lemonade stall that sneaks in one lime for every three lemon because you can’t even afford to keep it pure.
This sort of mistake is forgivable now and again, but customer service and phone etiquette are skills and they’re important if you want to get the most out of your phone calls. If your phone handling lacks these then people are going to form a negative opinion about your business and it’ll suffer accordingly.
When you handle business calls poorly, whether you miss them, are swamped by them or are conducting yourself poorly when you take them, your whole company suffers. Thankfully, you may have noticed we’re experts in telephone answering solutions. Did you know that businesses have claimed a 50% increase in productivity when using a telephone answering service? There’s a lot more a telephone answering service can do, but we won’t indulge in a shameless plug here. Just know, catastrophes can be avoided…
Publish Date: August 17, 2016 5:00 AM
You’re a business, you have a certain image and professionalism to maintain. That’s fine – in fact, that’s necessary, but if you stay too straight-laced, too tight-lipped, you’re apt to find you’re keeping your customers at arm’s length.
This professional coldness didn’t work when shops only had a man behind a counter to promote their brand and it certainly won’t work in the social media era. When so much interaction takes place through screens, it’s vital that you assert your humanness when you engage with others online.
Social media has made communication with your business available permanently, and people expect to be welcomed with open arms. Or at least treated like human customers – regardless of the distance between you. So if you want to keep them happy and coming back then follow these 3 simple ways to improve engagement:
Think again about the words you use
When you write a post or respond to a customer message, always bear in mind you are a human talking to another human; it just so happens there’s a screen between you.
So be polite, be considerate (surely something you would be even if you weren’t representing your business) but be a little colloquial too. Make a joke, use an emoticon if you really must.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on a series of robot like pleasantries and business speak. The internet is young, accessible and familiar and so too is the tone of voice employed online. Customer expectations have moved on and no one wants to engage with someone who won’t drop the script.
Learn to be a conversationalist
Take on board verbal cues and employ mimicry. This goes hand in hand with don’t be a robot. 9 times out of 10 you can tell how the customer wants to be engaged with from how they initially interact with you.
There will be some on social media who do want you to stick very much to the script, at least in terms of formality. Their post will be concise and polite and will likely not have an opening or end pleasantry. They’re there to give you information and to come away with something valuable in return.
If you do get a ‘Hello’ and it ends with ‘Have a great day!’ then this someone who is receptive to familiarity – utilise it. An exclamation mark (at least when not used to express displeasure) is usually a sign that you can have some mild banter about the weather, how you’re glad it’s Friday or how lunch can’t come soon enough.
If you get an emoticon this is all but a green light that an informal approach is the best way to engage.
Master being assertive while avoiding aggression
When presented with an unhappy customer – something every business will unfortunately face at one time or another – it is pivotal you walk the fine line between assertive and understanding.
This is the rare instance where mimicry won’t work, meeting anger with anger will only lose your company business and threaten its reputation. In an age where customer complaints are written for the rest of the world to see, it’s essential that the way you deal with it is quick, professional and ends in some form of resolution.
Your sole aim is to calm the situation down and ensure the customer walks away feeling as though they were listened to, sympathised with and that a resolution was reached.
Everybody has the right to complain when a product or service doesn’t deliver what was promised. Once that complaint has been made and you’ve apologised for any disservice, move swiftly on to a solution. As social media is a window into your business, the last thing you want is to drag out a conversation that focuses on a mistake or flaw of your business.
However, don’t allow this to lead to overcompensating and going too much the other way, apologising profusely and allowing the customer to build up steam. If they’re angry then sympathise, don’t shrink. Remember, engagement online is just a person speaking to another person, with all the trimmings of respect still applying.
Social media may be a new form of communicating with your customers but there is already an etiquette to work to, so it’s more important than ever that you engage with them well.
Publish Date: August 3, 2016 5:00 AM