Friday, August 30, 2013

Apple's Dumb Email!

Delivery of good or bad news is all about timing in business.  If you catch a person at just the right time the news will be taken in stride and the outcome normally positive.

Today as I am working to wrap up my week before a nice long holiday weekend I get the email above from Apple.  They start out okay letting me know that for the last year they "upgraded" me to iCloud.  Then it all goes to hell from there as they then tell me that as of the 30th if I don't pay them more money all my stuff will stop working.

Apple it is a holiday weekend you really want to piss off your customers with this stupid fee now?  Yes, I will pay it, but your timing could not be worse.  I would rather get something like this mid week where I could just have popped online paid it and not thought about it.  Instead I got it as I am trying to escape work early and not figuring out how much more money I get to pay Apple on a regular basis.

So next time Apple think about timing.  Yes I will renew, but not before I typed out this email to share my feelings with the world about how dumb someone in your iCloud Team was today.

Friday, June 7, 2013

My Love/Hate Relationship With Temp Agencies!

Locating talent is never easy, and sometimes you get caught in a jam and need a person ASAP.  On those occasions temp agencies fit a perfect void.  The issue arises the moment you find a person you love, and now you have to make the decision to hand over your first born to take on this new person full time.  In some instances it is a no brainer, but some times this "finder fee" can become ridiculous.

My latest love/hate story comes in with a creative person I brought on to fill.  The person they provided was amazing, which is very rare.  We worked great together, but before I could get her an offer her dream job came in and took her away.  But, I was left with a glimmer of light; her new position was only part time.  So I called the temp agency to see if I could still call on her direct for part time project work just to hear, "yes, but it will all need to run through us."  Translated, "Umm, sure but you better believe I am going to get a piece of the action if you do it!"

My jaw dropped when I heard this.  Then to top it off, I was told that they have the ability to charge me for using her for up to 6 months after leaving the temp agency.  This was just the icing on the cake for me.

So the question is raised, is a temp agency a good or bad thing for new grads to mess with?  Granted you get a ton of experience, and potentially access to people like me you would not normally have, but what about the downfalls?  

- Did you lose the opportunity for a great job because of the huge fee us employer's have to pay for you?

- Did you temp agency not present you correct, and now you are in a role you have no business being in?

- Or worse, did a company want you, but when they went to negotiate the fee get stuck, and had to take a different candidate because it took to long to deal with the agency?

These are the questions I have for people who go down the temp path straight out of college.  Personally I suggest getting yourself into a good internship that does pay, and hit the streets working anywhere you can to build up your experience and portfolio.  I know in my eyes that kind of person would show me a lot of drive, and be able to demand a lot more salary from me than anyone else.

To Your Success & Prosperity!

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Lesson On Listening From My 16-Month-Old

It is simply amazing what we can learn from our children.  For me it was not a new lesson, but more of a reminder of the importance to think before you answer a question.

I took this short video above the other morning.  You will notice each time I ask my daughter what she thinks, she places her finger to her lips and goes hmmm. 

Granted this is not her really thinking about an answer, but still it struck a cord in me.  It made me think about how quick I answer questions, sometime before I think about my answer.  Since this video each time I am asked a question the image of my daughter comes into my mind and it makes me take a moment before I respond with an answer.  

I have noticed my answers now are much more concise and detailed.  All this from just taking an extra second or two so the question could sink in.

So next time you are asked a question, remember if my 16 month old knows to think about a response first, surely you can!

To Your Success & Prosperity!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Congratulations Marketing Grad! Whats Next?

This is one of my favorite times of year.  Spring is in the air, my birthday is almost here, and new graduates are getting ready to enter the workforce.

Yesterday I had the pleasure to email meet the first of many I know I will speak to this season.  Her story is like so many I have spoken to over the years.  She is about to graduate with high honors, and is trying to find a job to kick-start her career. 

So what can this grad do to make sure after graduation a job is waiting of her?  Here are 5 pieces of advice I would offer:

1. Start a blog yesterday! 
One of my largest frustrations with grads is the lack of sample material they have to share with me.  This is why I always stress the importance of a personal blog.  I don't care about the topic they are writing about (as long as it is not overly controversial) I just want to see consistent content from them.  My suggestion is always to pick a subject you are passionate about.  It will make it much easier to come up with content that way.

They need to write at least 2 - 3 posts per week, and share them with other blogs, news sources, etc...  This will not only help get them known in the market, but also get them used to how to get news into the world quickly and efficiently.

2. Make Twitter Your Life!  
I love when I see @Twitter listed as a technology skill, but yet the person has no presence on it.  If you are going to list something like Twitter, you better be all over it.  

My suggestion is to start an account and use a free app called  This program allows you to load up links that interest you and it will automatically post them at scheduled times.  This way you appear to always be posting, even when you are not.  Check out my blog post to learn more about this:

Twitter is still one of the most important communications channels ever invented.  If you want a long career in communications and marketing, Twitter must be a part of your daily life.

3. Web Video! 
You do not need to create the next Philip DeFranco Show, but you need to be on YouTube.  I will admit I have not been as good as I should be about web video, but that is part of my 2013 plan for myself.  

Here is a link to my channel.  

Web video is still one of the most popular forms of communication online.  New grads need to be all over and should have a personal channel up and running to show off their skills.  This will be a huge plus for your future employer as companies all over struggle with video.

4. Prepare A Portfolio! 
The main thing here is you need to get a portfolio together of materials you have created and a company has used.  Like in #1, I would suggest you look to organizations and subjects you are personally passionate about.  This way if you end up having to do work for free, it will be for a cause you are passionate about.

What I did early on in my career was donate a ton of my personal time to the American Diabetes Association, for the Tour de Cure event they had in Chicago. All of my work was 100% free, but I was able to generate a ton of material for my portfolio and get connections that still help me today.

5. Do You Know Your Klout Score?
Companies want people who are influential, and can prove it.  What a better way than having a score that you can show to potential employers.  Your Klout score is free to access and track, and supplies you with some great information about how well you are doing online.  

Currently my score hoovers between 62 and 63 (out of 100).  Anytime my score drops to 62 I get alerted on my phone, and know it dropped because I have not been as active online as I should be.  This tool has become my way to measure my success.  

Do not be surprised if you are asked in an interview what your current Klout score is.  I know I am asking!

Just remember grads, though the business world needs young eager people, there are a lot already here.  You need to show why you are better and worth investing in.  By following the five steps above you will be placing yourself head and shoulders above the next man/woman being interviewed.

To Your Success & Prosperity!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Social Media Is Not From A Galaxy Far, Far Away!

Right now here on Earth....

No matter where you turn, you will hear some one talking about the importance of your company being on social media.  It has so much attention that companies are even going to the extreme of hiring VP's of Social Media, to head dedicated team to take care of all their social needs.  


Now do not get me wrong, I stress the importance of social media just as much as the next person.  But, my view on the support of this new communication channel is what differentiates me from most.  Personally I look at social communication as just another channel, like the phone, email, web chat, etc...  When you move your view of social into this context the way to support social becomes a much easier nut to crack.

But, social is so different from phone or email because all of it is public and online forever!

So many companies want to white glove social media because they believe social is the only channel that is out there forever.  My response to this is that, if they have a bad call you are almost 100% guaranteed that interaction is documented and also shared online forever, so how is it different.  The only thing that is really different is the time you have to respond, and the way in which you respond.  Beyond those two basic items Social is no different than me calling your company, just easier to do it.

So why are companies still struggling with social so much?

The answer to this really stems from how old the company is, and how much the structure of the business has kept up with the times.  What I mean by this is that social and really all online interaction has forced companies marketing, public relations and customer experience teams to really work together for the first time.  The problem in many organizations is that these departments tend to be extremely territorial, especially if it is a large old multi-national. 

The marriage of these departments is critical to a company’s success, but many organizations still keep these teams in silos, focused on specific goals that may or may not be in line with the other department’s goals.  To have success with social, you must get your marketing, public relations, advertising and customer experience teams working together.

Another interesting aspect of why companies still have issues with social is because they still have not embraced using standard contact center metrics to measure success.  For some reason beyond my comprehension companies insist that the old way of measuring success does not work on social.  To this I insist they are incorrect.  Your measurements may need some tweaking to compensate for responsiveness, response effectiveness, and social impact, but the foundational numbers like average speed to answer, average handle time and first interaction resolution rates still apply.  

Does this mean my call center team should just handle my social interactions then?

NO!  If your team has not already separated out verbal and non-verbal communications channels, that is the first step.  The skill set required to handle non-verbal communication channels like email, web-chat or social are 100% different than phone.  Much of this is because the skills required to communicate effectively verbally, are very different than those to communicate in writing.  

Time and time again I have seen companies try to put both verbal and non-verbal support together and end up getting mediocre support across the board.  Then when we work on separating out these teams, we quickly see huge quality jumps on both sides, and many times have a drastic increase in employee satisfaction.  Both, items a huge benefit to your customer!

Outsource or Insource?
--> I should mention that I do have a bias toward outsourcing as I grew up in the BPO world, and currently work for an outsourcer.  Please keep this in mind as your read this part of the article.

This is a very tricky question, because the answer is so dependent on what your company does, and how your customers look to interact with you.  My typical answer to this is build a team internally to get all your processes flushed out first, then bring in an outsourcer for scalability of your proven solution, but always keep an escalation team internally.  This way your outsourcer always has an expert they can go to for support, and your company can still have day-to-day interaction with your customers.

So what is next?

The next step is to layout your teams plan of attack and get going.  I still hear some many companies who believe doing nothing is the best solution.  The HUGE issue with this view is because it would be like saying we are not going to answer any more calls and hope people still buy from us.  Your customers are on Social talking about your business, and looking for your help if you like it or not.  The next steps for your team are to start interacting with them, after you created a plan.  

These are my steps to in-acting any new venture or project.  I call it... 

The Family Trip Project Plan:

1. Painted Picture - Write out what I would love for my social support environment to look like 5 - 10 years from today.

2. Road Map - What steps do I need to take in the next week, month, quarter, and year+ to reach my painted picture?

3. Navigators - Take your painted picture and road map and share it with 4 - 5 trusted advisors.  Take their input seriously and document everything they say.

4. A Better Route - After your Navigators have sliced and diced your plan look for the better route and write it out.

5. Fill The Tank - Now that you have the best route and your painted picture of where you want to go it is time to fill the tank of your team and get them on board.  This step is sharing everything you have so far and making sure you have their 100% buy in on everything.

6. Hit The Road - Now that your team is ready to go it is time to hit the road and start driving down the route you have laid out.

7. Mind the Potholes - No plan is perfect and you need to be ready to avoid the potholes along the way.  Don't be afraid to make adjustments to your route as you go, it is all part of the adventure.

8. Listen to The Kids - Make sure to listen to what your team is saying along the way.  Their input will be raw, and you must filter it, but their input will help you avoid future potholes.  This is because your team is on the front lines, and has better input than any report can provide you.

9. Take A Ton of Pictures - The most critical part of the whole adventure is documentation.  You need to document everything you do.  This way when it is time to scale the solution you have everything documented so you don't drive back through potholes you already went through or avoided. 

10. Send Some Post Cards Home - Make sure to keep your executive team in the loop all along the way.  You need their support and understanding of where things are going.  This way if you break down along they way they can be there to send extra money or make some calls for you.

To Your Success & Prosperity!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

My Sales Method - Helping Others!

Image Courtesy of Stanford University

I used to believe one of the best compliments you could pay a sales person was, "you could sell ice cubes to Eskimos," or "that guy is a closer!"  Both are old sayings that many people believe are the trademark of an amazing sales person.  Today though, I would be insulted if some one would say that about my abilities. 


The answer to why is simple, it is because I learned quickly that being successful in sales is not about selling what so ever.  To become a real success at sales, what you need to master is the ability to help others.  Which part of that help may include the products or services you offer, or it may not.  The important thing is that your soul focus must be first to help the person, no matter what path that helps leads.

The realization of helping to sell came to me about three years ago when I was working with a sales person who worked for me.  The sales person was struggling to get a client to sign the agreement and get their call center program launched with our company.  Negotiations and talks had been going on for almost two months, and it really looked like this deal might not ever happen.  So as a last ditch effort one evening I sat down with all the notes from the program, the agreement, contracts and all the emails sent back and forth.  

As I sat there going through countless amounts of communications, I saw a little handwritten note on the back of the original lead form.   The note simply said, "LD costs."  It was the only place I ever saw any mention of long distance on any communication to this point.  This made me wonder, was this the reason the client was not pulling the trigger.  Was it because he had expressed a concern about something? Had we just focused on selling our services, rather than helping him take care of everything?

The next morning I asked our CTO and Telecom Administrator to join me on a call to our prospect.  I called the prospect, to check in with him as I had done routinely for the last few weeks, but this time I added a question, "out of curiosity is there anything beyond the scope of call center outsourcing our team may be able to help you with?"  "Like your CRM integration, process documentation, telecom, or anything else?"

I no more said the words telecom, when our prospect spoke up, "yes! actually I would love it if I could get your telecoms teams opinion on our current long distance rates."  That is when I introduced my CTO and Telecom Administrator to our prospect, and let them chat.  

In the end it came out that our contact person was in charge of contract negotiations for both telecom and the new call center project.  Negotiations had gone south with their current vendor, which made our contact not have time to deal with our agreement.  By simply asking if there was any more help we could be, beyond our scope of business, we found our delay.  Better, yet we found a delay that we could help the client with, as we had enormous leverage with the telecom carriers.

Immediately after that first call was complete my CTO and Telecom Administrator called their contacts with the carriers we work with, got our prospected a rate almost as good as ours (about 15% less than what they asked their current carrier to be at), and 3 hours later our prospect had a contract that made him look like a shinning start at his company.  

The next day our prospect called thanking us for all our teams help, and going the extra mile.  Now knowing this is how we work, they decided to more than double the scope of the program and became one of our top 10 revenue-producing client's.

This moment in my life led me to the understanding that it is not how well you sell a person on what you do that makes the difference.  It is when you show that person that you are willing to go beyond what they ask you for and help make their job a little easier that matters.  

So next time you are on the phone with a prospect, slow down and ask your self this simple question:

Did I go beyond what was needed to help my client?

To Your Success & Prosperity!