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0 comments | Posted by: Amit on September 7, 2012 | Categories:
Take a look at your inbox. How many emails do you have? I’m going to hazard a guess and say, at least 50. And that’s a really conservative guess. How many of today’s emails went straight to the trash, unopened? How many did you decide to look at later—and how far down the list have they fallen?
Now think about the emails you’ve sent to coworkers or clients, and where they ended up on the recipient’s to-do list.
Email is the most common form of communication in the workplace, but also the most overwhelming.The following tips will help keep your emails informative, succinct and out of the trash:
Use an introduction: Starting out with a brief introduction is just the polite thing to do, even if it’s a simple “Good Morning” or “Hi, Steve.” If it’s a business email, “Mr./Ms.” is always safe, though emails are becoming increasingly less formal in the business world. If contacting them for the first time, using their name will make them less wary of possible spam. Here are some tips on email salutation etiquette.
Write a relevant subject line: What’s the first thing you see, after the sender’s name? The subject line. The subject line is a distillation of your email message. It should be to-the-point and, preferably, a meaningful phrase, not a single word or casual greeting (e.g Hi, how ya doin?).
Keep the body brief. Do not overwhelm the recipient with an essay. Avoid introductory jargon and come to the point as quickly as possible. Most emails are skimmed at first, with one finger on the delete button. The last thing you want is to bore the reader, especially when competing with 50+ emails.
Don’t get fancy: Some users believe barraging the reader with fancy colors and glittering fonts will create a lasting first impression. It does, just not a very good one. Choosing a green, obscure font, will give the impression you send impossible-to-read emails.
Use email signatures wisely: An email signature is a great way to pass additional contact information to the receiver. Ideally, an email signature should have your phone number, your alternate email address or a link to your website. Don’t flood your signature with phone numbers, email addresses or web links. That looks more like a sales pitch.
Avoid emoticons, slangs or abbreviations: In the age of social networking and microblogging, web- acronyms (e.g lol, tc, brb) are hugely popular. But business emails should be free of slang,emoticons and abbreviations of any kind. An email message is not an IM conversation. Too informal and you look unprofessional.
Stick to the original message thread: Sticking to the original message thread makes life easy for the recipient and keeps the conversation in context. It allows the recipient to browse the original discussion thread and refresh their memory if needed. If you’ve lost or deleted the original thread, start a fresh thread instead of mixing the conversation into an irrelevant one.
In a nutshell: keep it clean and concise. Judging by the host of online articles available on taming the inbox, email is becoming less a convenient way to communicate and more a daily chore to get through. Keeping it simple and informative will increase your email’s chances of being read and replied to, not swept under the rug for later.
Last Sunday—on what was easily the sunniest day of the year—over a hundred AnswerConnect employees and their guests gathered at McMenamin’s Edgefield to celebrate a decade of great service, daring innovations and wonderful people. We shared stories, enjoyed some good food, raffled off prizes and, for many of the work-from-homers, met co-workers previously only known through chat. And, since distance has never stopped us before, we set up a live feed for those associates unable to make it. Here are some highlights from the party:
Training Coordinator Erik Baylor, Account Manager Shaw Millerman and his wife, enjoy some burgers.
Business Operations Manager Phil Shen and Client Services Associate Sean Haragan show off their “Thank You For Calling” and “How May I Help You?” T-shirts: two phrases near and dear to a virtual receptionist’s heart.
Senior Program Manager Joe Baker shows off his raffle winnings. Among the prizes were $250 gift certificates to Solestruck.
After a video detailing the rise of a long-distance phone company based out of a garage to an international company answering calls for thousands of clients, Phil Shen and Web Designer Josh Iwata presented Director of Strategic Planning Shaun Clark and CEOs Michael Payne and Monty Wirth with framed prints of our company manifesto:
We honestly couldn’t be more proud of our company. A heartfelt thank you to all the employees and clients who have made this company what it is and continue to help us grow. Here’s to the next ten years!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on April 20, 2012 | Categories:
AnswerConnect is celebrating a special birthday! It’s been a decade since we began answering phones for businesses large and small, and this Sunday we’re gathering at McMenamin’s Edgefield to celebrate our 10-year anniversary.
Joe Baker has been here since the beginning, starting straight out of college in October of 2000. Despite having little business or technology experience, he went to work assembling computers,installing software and answering customer service and sales calls. His versatility has continued to show in the wide variety of roles he’s taken on from Client Services Manager to Sr. Program Manager and Director of Accounts for our Creative team.
Natalie Fung started out as a salesperson in May of 2006. Since then, she’s generated leads as a Senior Sales Executive, led the Sales Team as the Sales Manager and is currently strengthening the partnership between the Sales and Client Services departments as the Business Services Manager.
I cornered Natalie and Joe and asked them to talk about their experience watching AnswerConnect grow from a handful of employees answering phones to an international company offering an entire suite of services from phone answering to scheduling appointments with our own software.
What was AnswerConnect like when you first started?
Joe: There were 5 full time employees when I joined the company, and AnswerConnect hadn’t yet been conceived. We worked in Michael Payne’s garage and often had to put customers on hold or crawl under our desks with our headsets on when the landscapers would use the leaf blower on the other side of the garage door. It wasn’t too long until the plan for AnswerConnect began to coalesce and we moved the office to our first location in Tualatin.
How is it different now?
Natalie: Now, the culture is definitely more modern. Our remote model allows for people to work from their home offices, and the ability to self-schedule allows for a lot of flexibility for our employees. One of the single biggest differences now compared to when I began is the creation and addition of Adaptavant. Having a development team as well as support for Client Services, Human Resources, IT as well as new products has propelled this company forward.
What’s your favorite thing about AnswerConnect?
Natalie: I love what this company stands for. The core values are easy for me to align myself with, and the values inspire me to push forward. The company is constantly evolving, and I am constantly challenged to learn, grow and innovate.
When looking back on all the years you’ve been with AnswerConnect, what are you most proud of?
Joe: I think I’m most proud that I’ve been around to witness unique contributions from so many people throughout the organization, and to have perspective on the amazing journey the company’s taken to get here. I know that we have laid a foundation for an even more amazing next 10 years. We should all be proud of that, but we must not believe we’ve “made it”. We must continue thinking outside the box, looking for ways to improve, and collaborating.
Thank you to all the employees and customers who’ve made the past ten years such an incredible journey. We have more to share! Watch this space for AnswerConnect’s origin story and pictures of the party!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on April 13, 2012 | Categories:
On March 31st, at 10 a.m., AnswerConnect employees gathered in the parking lot of the Pelican Pub Brewery at Cape Kiwanda. We were joined by hundreds of other volunteers carrying buckets, old colanders for straining sand and plastic bags emblazoned with the SOLV logo to participate in the 2012 Oregon Beach Clean Up.
Twenty-eight years ago, Judy Hansen of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was shocked by a bear’s autopsy results. The bear’s stomach held the remains of 13 Styrofoam cups, likely the cause of death by starvation. Judy began to study the effects of plastic pollutants in natural habitats, and the annual Oregon Beach Clean Up took shape. The first year alone, 2,100 volunteers gathered 26 tons of trash from Oregon beaches. SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) began coordinating the event in 1986, and it’s been going strong ever since.
As we drove to Cape Kiwanda we expected to spend the day huddled in rain, sifting through sand with cold fingers. Instead we were rewarded by mild weather and the occasional sunburst. The pint-sized and four-legged members of our team were able to play on the dunes as we kept an eye out for pieces of Styrofoam and tiny bits of plastic masquerading as sea shells.
“The weather was a pleasant surprise,” Donny Stevens, Assistant Manager, recalled. “It was more fun than work. We got to spend a day at the beach and meet our co-workers’ families, all while doing a something good for the environment.”
Our “hard work” resulted in three full bags of trash and one car door! We’re lucky to live so close to Oregon’s beautiful rugged beaches, and we’re proud to have done our part in keeping our home state litter-free.
AnswerConnect is always on the lookout for new volunteer opportunities in our community. We can’t wait for the next one!
If you are interested in getting involved, check out SOLV’s website for details on upcoming events, including a Japanese Tsunami Debris workshop.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on February 16, 2012 | Categories:
AnswerConnect leads are in a unique position: They’re in charge of several hundred remote workers. Some managers may quail slightly at the thought of managing a distributed workforce. After all, how do you manage a team you don’t see on a regular basis? How would you know what they’re doing? How is a team even a team if they’re scattered far and wide?
Though it seems counterintuitive, studies show working remotely does not have a negative impact on teamwork. Quite the opposite. Eighty-three percent of Cisco’s teleworkers reported “their ability to communicate and collaborate with co-workers was the same as, if not better than, it was when working on-site.”
Lead Business Support Associates Brandy Fox, Steve Riehle and Geneva Lieser share how they use modern-day tools and classic managing strategies to ensure telecommuters work smoothly together, as a team.
Since you’re not exactly running into each other at the coffee pot, how do you find ways to create a sense of community between team members?
Brandy: I’ve created a buzz category that I do each day to get the team talking [in chat]. I will pick a category–maybe female Academy Award winners. My team cannot just list out names; they have to make it into a conversation. Whoever says the name I’ve chosen wins! I also recently made a home visit to meet one of my associates, and I’m planning a get-together with my associates in March so everyone can meet. I also do theme days with my team, put pictures on our team website and run team competitions that include reaching out to other team members to learn new things about them.
What are ways you keep your team members motivated?
Steve: We do team games and post stats with goals. Also, speaking with them on an individual basis when they are not motivated helps them get a purpose for doing something again.
What are some of your favorite tools that make remote work easier?
Geneva: Google Docs is a great way to share information easily. Skype is an instant communication tool that can provide help from many directions at once.
What are some of the obstacles you find you have to overcome in remote work, and how do you deal with them?
Geneva: Some associates seem to think they need not be as accountable as they would be in an office, which is not quite accurate. Distractions outside of work can be difficult to minimize. I generally start by pulling a time log of a recent challenging day for them. Ultimately, I think the more aware an associate is of how closely their day can be monitored, the more likely they are to stay on task. The key is to find the right way to share positive reminders that motivate rather than frustrate.
What are some benefits to managing a remote team?
Steve: Working from home. This makes it very convenient and saves gas money. It also makes it easy to not deal with in-office arguments. For example, I remember when working in-office, people would each have a different opinion of how loud the phone should ring. It’s nice not having to deal with that stress.
Thanks Brandy, Geneva and Steve, for your excellent insight and helping our company provide stellar service to our clients!