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0 comments | Posted by: Terri on November 13, 2012 | Categories:
Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, but the effects of the largest recorded Atlantic hurricane continue to ripple throughout the United States. Here at AnswerConnect, our virtual receptionists have been fielding calls left and right for insurance agencies, renovation companies, disaster-response teams and other recovery-related companies as both businesses and homeowners begin the process of recovering from the devastating storm.
In the aftermath of disaster, good customer service isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. Many of the callers we’ve been helping are exhausted, stressed and in desperate need of a friendly voice. Below are three techniques our associates use to ensure every customer feels they’re getting the best care during a difficult time:
Empathy is the foundation of good customer service anytime; it’s importance is magnified during a crisis. Keep in mind, those few minutes you spend with each customer is just a snapshot of their day. You can’t really know what they’ve been dealing with before they’ve crossed your path, but you can use that brief moment of contact as an opportunity to offer understanding and support. Your patience will make an impression.
Tone of Voice
When a frantic customer calls with a rushed tone of voice, it’s a knee-jerk reaction to match their pace. Awareness of that reflex is half the battle. Try to keep your voice even and measured instead, striking a balance somewhere between calm and efficient. Too soothing may come across as patronizing, make sure you still convey you understand the urgency of the situation.
Outline a Plan
Depending on your role, you may not be in a position to be able to fulfill customer’s request right away. But this doesn’t mean you can’t help them. Tell them what you can do, even if it’s something as small as making sure their information gets to the right person. More often than not, letting them know exactly what you will do, and the outcome they can expect, will offer much needed reassurance. Most importantly, make sure you follow through with your plan. There’s no quicker way to lose trust than by not keeping your word.
AnswerConnect saw a significant increase in call volume as many of our East Coast clients evacuated their offices over Halloween weekend. Our clients knew they could rely on us in their time of need, and rising to the call of duty was our pleasure. What other disaster recovery plans should companies have in place? Leave your comments below!
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on July 20, 2012 | Categories:
Our primary goal at AnswerConnect is to ensure all callers reach a living, breathing human being. We take on the role of virtual receptionist, keeping the channels of communication open and delivering every message to its intended recipient. But sometimes we take on another role: the bouncer.
Below are three situations in which we serve our clients best by not making connections:
“We want to tell you about an exciting new business opportunity!” Our virtual receptionists are excellent spam filters. Solicitors, automated surveys, political recordings: these types of calls are irritating enough when you’re seated at the dinner table, let alone during a busy day at the office. We listen carefully to first determine the legitimacy of each call and efficiently dispatch any would-be time-wasters.
“Wait, who is this again?” Wrong numbers happen, sometimes due to a misdial, sometimes due to a misunderstanding of your services. We take care to be courteous. First impressions are priority #1. We want you to stand out in every caller’s mind, regardless of whether the call was intentional. Who knows, they may come back as a customer.
“Hold all my calls!” Sometimes you just need to focus. Trust us to handle your calls while you deal with that looming deadline. You can outline exactly which type of calls meet your emergency criteria, allowing you peace of mind to deal with the big stuff. We’ll take care of the rest.
Answering services bring efficiency to an office for obvious reasons: our ability to transfer calls to anyone, send messages via email or text and our around-the-clock availability. but it’s our ability to manage the velvet ropes that maximizes the value of every call.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on July 11, 2012 | Categories:
Studio 94 Photography is a Southern California-based photography studio specializing in portraiture. In business since 1994–hence the name–Studio 94 has photographed over 100,000 people. “You can never guess what a customer is thinking,” advises Kyle Robinson, President and Found of Studio 94. “You need to listen and put yourself in their shoes.”
Below, Kyle talks about his journey from rock star drummer to professional photographer to reality TV star.
How did you get started in photography?
I was attempting to become a rock star. I was taking pictures people thought were good, so I pursued photography at the same time. As a drummer, I relied on other people to make something that could earn money. As a photographer, I would only need to rely on myself.
What type of photography do you enjoy most?
Fine art. There’s not much money in it; that’s why we do other types of photography.
I love symbolism and the meaning inspired in an image. It’s very challenging to tell a whole story or convey a point through one picture while keeping artistic integrity. I love the challenges it brings.
What sets you apart from other photography studios?
Customer service. Photography is an art and subjective to opinion. We need to invade our customers’ expectations to produce something they want to purchase. We can’t always get it right the first time, so we have to be willing and able to adjust to that expectation, even if it’s below our ability. You can never guess what a customer is thinking. You need to listen and put yourself in their shoes. That’s what sets us apart. We guarantee you’ll love your pictures.
When working on location, as opposed to in the studio, how do you deal with the challenge of being in a less-controlled environment?
We always control the environment, even if it’s outside. We have all the tools needed. We schedule for specific times or we bring the control devices along. Your best when you’re in control.
I see you’re going to be on television! How did that come about?
It’s a weekly reality TV show called American Studio. It’ll be about the day-to-day workings of a studio that can do just about anything photographic. It was an inspired idea we developed and believed in. There’s a long road before it’s on TV, but I think it will be very entertaining when it arrives.
Do you foresee any challenges working with a camera crew?
Yes. We still do our best to give our customers the service they expect, but they love the novelty of it too. Our staff is very familiar with cameras. They’re all required to experience photo sessions to know what the customer deals with. There are not very many camera-shy people here.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I am inspired by the Creator. After years of research, I’m fully convinced the God of the Bible is the Creator. I believe if He can imagine this incredible universe, then I can imagine great things as well. After all, you and I were created in His image. That’s remarkable if you think about it. He continues to give me remarkable, inspired ideas. Everyone I know that pursues Him receives Him and His inspiration.
What is your favorite part about your job?
Some of our customers are forced to be here because of parents or school rules or whatever. Some of them don’t think very highly of their appearance or consider themselves ugly. The best feeling is when someone like that sees their professional images for the first time, and they look amazing. For that moment you have changed their consideration of themselves. They will have that with them forever. That is the best part of the job. When people love their pictures they think better of themselves.
1 comment | Posted by: Spencer on June 12, 2012 | Categories:
Three years ago, Sam Hendren founded Tech Gone Wild, an online electronics store. He worked in electronics retail for years and loved it, but realized he wanted, as he says, “to say it was my own.” Customer service is the leverage point that sets Tech Gone Wild apart from the big e-commerce players. Hendren and his four other employees will personally call new and returning customers to thank them, and they’ll regularly bend their own return policies to make a customer happy. “I love being able to service people,” Hendren says, “to know they’re going to use their new product and enjoy it.”
Tell me about Tech Gone Wild. How are you different from your competition?
We’ve only been around for a few years. At first, we mainly sold accessories for electronics; iPads, computers, that kind of thing. We’re just starting to get into the electronics business. But our main focus is on accessories. We’re very price-competitive. So is our service. We try to be better than Best Buy and Amazon, and we do customer service very well.
How has your role changed since founding your company?
Now I manage it all. I have a say in everything that happens. We don’t do the shipping in-house anymore; we’re contracted with a warehouse in Oregon. We send our products to them, and they send the orders out. But I oversee everything. And we’ve got four extra guys here.
What’s your professional background?
I’ve been in the retail business for about six years now. I actually used to work at a small store here in Arizona. I was a salesman there. I like the work, and I wanted to do it on my own, to be able to say it’s my own.
What’s been the most difficult part of launching Tech Gone Wild?
Probably getting funds. Building and marketing these websites, it costs thousands of dollars, and you’ve got to be able to sell that much to pay for all these costs. So definitely, marketing and running the website is not cheap. That’s probably the biggest challenge. I mean, Amazon, they’re spending tens of thousands of dollars every day, just on marketing. We are not able to do that. So that’s the hardest part, getting ourselves out there.
Getting yourself out there is one step. How do you build (and cultivate) your brand’s trustworthiness?
Our customer service is high priority; from the feedback I’ve gotten from our customers, they’ve really liked that. They feel like we really care. You know, on some products—some items that are manufactured by HP, say—we can’t be price-competitive, because Amazon can purchase way more inventory and get lower prices. But our customers say they’ll pay extra to come with us because of the service we’ve given them before.
How do you build loyalty with your customers?
A month or two after ordering, we’ll personally give them a call and thank them. Sometimes we’ll give them $5 or $10 in store credit, just to keep them coming and keep it on a personal level. We generally have a 30-day return policy, but if somebody’s 45 days out, we might take the item back.
What about social media—do you use those platforms much?
Facebook is our biggest one, although we do have a Twitter account that’s just linked to our Facebook account. On Facebook, we do some things, like “The first person to Like this gets store credit.” Or we’ll post a random gift card code; things like that.
To someone in the early stages of launching a similar e-commerce business, what advice would you give?
I would say start off on eBay and Amazon before you buy your own site, to get a feel for how it works. Then launch a small DIY website yourself instead of investing thousands to get it professionally designed. You never known where it’s going to go.
How did you raise start-up capital?
We started with $500. We bought 100 iPad cases at $5 and sold it all on eBay, making $5 to $10 a case. All the money we got back from that, we put into buying more cases. We kept doing that until we had a nice pocket of cash, and then we moved into selling another product. We didn’t worry about marketing, and we didn’t have any overhead until our shipping got high enough. Then we got our first shipping agreement with FedEx, got discounted rates, and started in with different products. It grew from there.
Sounds like “start small and be patient.”
Yeah. We didn’t want to have to go to a bank and worry about loans.
How has outsourcing your warehouse and shipping worked for you?
It’s been nice. We don’t have to worry about customer service or shipping; now, it’s mainly just customer service. We’ve got a data feed that runs all our orders from our side automatically to the warehouse. They’ll process and ship the order, and we’ll bill directly on our FedEx number. It’s been working nicely. We offer a same-day shipping option, and we haven’t had any problems yet. It’s made our lives much easier.
What do you love most about your job?
I love being able to service people, to know that they’re going to use their new product and enjoy it. I especially love it when they come back and place a second order. It’s a very diverse working setting, a fun job to have, and I enjoy it very much.
0 comments | Posted by: Terri on June 8, 2012 | Categories:
There is nothing more frustrating than receiving a partial message, especially if it raises more questions than it answers. Who is this person? Am I supposed to call them back? When, exactly?
You want a message to be as specific as possible. Sometimes something as small as two letters, am or pm, for example, can change the entire outcome. Here are four key areas where it pays to be specific:
Dates: “Call him Wednesday.” This Wednesday or next? Does next Wednesday mean this coming Wednesday or the following Wednesday? It’s best to always follow days of the week with the specific date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012. If you think including the year is overkill, you’ve never mistakenly booked the wrong year for a wedding shoot or a business conference.
Times: “She’ll be available at 10:00.” It’s a knee-jerk reaction to assume this means 10:00 in the morning, but not everyone keeps standard business hours. Tech support teams, service dispatch centers and distribution warehouses are just a few businesses that operate at night. Don’t forget to include time zones. In this always-connected era it’s never safe to assume the caller is in the same time zone as the person they’re calling.
Pronouns: “Don called to say Roger will be meeting with the clients at the Regency. He’d like to cancel his appointments for the morning.” This is an easy trap to fall into. A message that makes perfect sense to you may need some clarification for the reader. Who would like to cancel their appointments for the morning? Don or Roger? Replace words like “he,””she” and “they” with names whenever possible.
Names: “Call Dan.” Speaking of names, I’m currently acquainted with four different people named Dan. If I received this message, I’d be at a complete loss as to which one to call. Ask for last names and, for good measure, company names.
“Dan McFarland from Clean Logistics called to RSVP for the business conference Thursday, August 15th, 2013. If you have any questions, Dan will be available after 2 p.m. PST.” This message has no grey areas to confuse the recipient. Pay attention to the details and your messages will always hit the mark.