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IF YOU WANT PEOPLE TO LISTEN, STOP TALKING

Posted on: September 28th, 2015

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George*, a managing director at a large financial services firm, had an uncanny ability to move a roomful of people to his perspective. What George said was not always popular, but he was a master persuader.

It wasn’t his title — he often swayed colleagues at the same hierarchical level. And it wasn’t their weakness — he worked with a highly competitive bunch. It wasn’t even his elegant and distinguished British accent — his British colleagues were persuaded right along with everyone else, and none of them had his track record of persuasion.

George had a different edge, which wasn’t immediately obvious to me because I was listening to what George said. His power was in what he didn’t say.

George was silent more than anyone else who spoke, and often, he spoke last.

I say “anyone else who spoke” because there are plenty of people who remain completely silent — they don’t say anything, ever — and they are not persuasive. For many people, silence equals absence. But George was not absently or passively silent. In fact, he was busier in his silence than anyone else was while speaking. He was listening.

It’s counterintuitive, but it turns out that listening is far more persuasive than speaking.

It is easy to fall into the habit of persuasion by argument. But arguing does not change minds — if anything, it makes people more intransigent. Silence is a greatly underestimated source of power. In silence, we can hear not only what is being said but also what is not being said. In silence, it can be easier to reach the truth.

There is almost always more substance below the surface of what people say than there is in their words. They have issues they are not willing to reveal. Agendas they won’t share. Opinions too unacceptable to make public.

We can hear all those things — and more — when we keep quiet. We can feel the substance behind the noise.

I could tell what George was doing, because when he decided to speak, he was able to articulate each person’s position. And, when he spoke about what they said, he looked at them in acknowledgement, and he linked what they had said to the larger outcome they were pursuing.

Here’s what’s interesting: Because it was clear that George had heard them, people did not argue with him. And, because he had heard them, his perspective was the wisest in the room.

This relates to another thing George consistently did that made him trustworthy and persuasive. He was always willing to learn something from others’ perspectives and to let them know when he was shifting his view as a result of theirs.

Because words can so often get in the way, silence can help you make connections. Try just listening, for once. It softens you both, and makes you more willing not only to keep listening, but to incorporate each other’s perspectives.

If you treat this silence thing as a game, or as a way to manipulate the views of others, it will backfire. Inevitably you will be discovered, and your betrayal will be felt more deeply. If people are lured into connection, only to feel manipulated, they may never trust you again.

You have to use silence with respect.

There are so many good reasons to be thoughtfully silent that it’s a wonder we don’t do it more often. We don’t because it’s uncomfortable. It requires that we listen to perspectives with which we may disagree and listen to people we may not like.

But that’s what teamwork — and leadership — calls us to do. To listen to others, to see them fully, and to help them connect their desires, perspectives, and interests with the larger outcome we all, ultimately, want to achieve.

There’s something else we offer, as persuasive leaders, when we are silent: space for others to step into. Lau Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher wrote: A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.

When people contribute their own ideas, they inevitably work harder than if they are simply complying with our ideas. Silence, followed by a few well-chosen words, is our best bet at achieving this leadership ideal.

So, how do we do it, in practice? We all know how to be silent. The question is: can we withstand the pressure to speak.

Few resist it, which is why we seldom have silent moments in groups. But that, according to George, can be used to our advantage.

“When you ask a question into a group,” he told me, “think of it as a competition. If you answer your own question, you’ve lost. You’ll be answering your own questions all day and no one else will do the work. But wait in the silence — no matter how long — until someone in the group speaks. And they will then continue to do the work necessary to lead themselves.”

There it is, his secret: Let other people speak into the silence and listen quietly for the truth behind their words. Then acknowledge what you’ve heard (which is, most likely, more than has been said) and, once the others feel seen and heard, offer your view.

And when they all agree with you? That’s the power of silence.

10 MOST COMMON CUSTOMER FRUSTRATIONS THAT EVERY CALL CENTER SHOULD AVOID

Posted on: September 25th, 2015

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Customers forgive, but never forget

Calling any call center can be a nightmare for the customer. And telephone being the most popular and preferred mode of customer support, the stakes are high. With alternatives available at every corner, organizations should eliminate the trivial methods of customer support and come up with strategies and technologies that could transform their call center to a customer experience management system. Optimising on customer support can improve customer retention, customer acquisition, and sales.

One way to provide excellent customer support and customer experience is to avoid frustrating the customers when they contact the support team. Here are 10 most common customer frustrations that every call center should avoid.

  1. The IVR abyss: IVR system that is annoying and difficult to navigate can make the customer extremely hostile. Placing the customer to a no man’ land after lengthy prompts can irate the customer to the point of hanging up and bringing up the issue to social medias.
  2. Long holding time: There is nothing more frustrating than putting callers on hold. Customers wish to have the call center agents’ undivided attention, and when he/she is being put on hold, the agent is killing the most valuable commodity-time. Social media channels are swarming with distressed customers venting their frustration with holding time.
  3. Agent has inadequate information to resolve queries: Why do customers normally call call centers? To answer queries, resolve issues, ease a complex process, etc. But what if the call center representative is not equipped with the necessary information to handle such a call.
  4. Unlimited Call transfers: Shuffling the customers from one rep to another can end up in a very heated situation. And the only thing worse than being bounced around from one agent to another, is asking the customer to do the bouncing themselves. “We are unable to resolve your query. Kindly call xxx-xxx-xxxx to speak with a representative”
  5. Mechanised agents: Call centers have entered an uncanny valley of robotised interactions and mechanised call center services, where there is zero or minimum human interference. The agents follow scripts to handle every kind of customer call, making the call less personable and empathising.
  6. Asked to repeat information: Customers might contact call centers for various purposes, and being asked to repeat personal information at every call can get under their nerves. Blame departmental silos for this, but customers couldn’t care less for the organizations paucity of integration and infrastructure.
  7. Follow-up calls: Mistakes happen, and customers call when they are unable to resolve the issue themselves.But if the problem persists, then there is something seriously wrong with the product or the company entirely. Having to call the call center again and again for the same reason can be a huge aggravation for the customers. 65% of customers agree that it is the largest flaw of the customer support system.
  8. Being told to head to the website for efficient service: This is a common routine in most contact centers. While the customer is on hold or in IVR, an automated message is played that directs the caller to visit the website for efficient service. Here, organizations fail to comprehend that the customers must have visited the website prior to call. Or simply prefer calling or have a unique query that cannot be resolved via the FAQ section. Organizations do this to improve traffic in their websites, but ultimately kills customer experience.
  9. Agents promises they will get back to you, but never do: Not all problems can be resolved in the first call. There will be queries that requires additional information or authority to execute. Customers hang up the call expecting the agents to call back once they are equipped with the tools and information. But, they never do.
  10. Rude Customer Support: Call Center agents’ job is to serve customer concerns and complaints, and it might not be their fault if an issue arises or a mix-up happens. But the agents need to remember they are getting paid to manage concerns and complaints, while customers have already paid for the service.

By avoiding these common customer aggravations, contact centers have the opportunity to really improve customer support by building their customer service skills. Now that you have an idea about the most common frustrations, your task is to deal with them. Since contact centers are customer-centric departments, it is worthwhile to invest on resources and technologies that can help eliminate theses common customer pet peeves.

4 STEPS TO CREATING AUTHENTIC STORIES YOUR CUSTOMERS WILL WANT TO READ

Posted on: September 23rd, 2015

Authentic stories help powerful brands make deep connections with customers. But that high-level principle creates real-world challenges for content marketers. What is a powerful story and how do you tell it? I’d like to share four tips on how to tell stories that make connections and get results.

1. Find a moment
A moment happens at a specific place and time. No two moments are exactly alike. Think of your own personal stories, from a first kiss to a moment of triumph. What happened? Who was there? What did they say? What would we have seen?

Now think about this in terms of your brand. Every brand lives for customers as a series of touch points. A parent may have made a special meal using your product. An IT administrator may have cut request time in half and been promoted. Or in our case at Story2, a student may have just received an admissions offer from the college of her dreams. If you can put your customers at that moment where they feel what it’s like to encounter the best value of your brand, you’re one moment closer to connecting them to your brand.

In written and multimedia stories, the Adidas #mygirls campaign exemplifies the value of a moment with content about young women using Adidas products in contexts from mountaineering to field hockey to running. But the stories are not about selling the product. Each woman’s story starts with a compelling moment, illustrating the brand experience. “There was a massive pop, so loud it sounded like a gunshot reverberating through the training gym,” begins one story about an injured South African field hockey player. The moment links courage and determination with the Adidas brand but never hits the viewer over the head with that connection.

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2. Use your authentic voice
The language of marketing is notorious for feeling artificial. Generic product attributes and abstract business-speak is forced. Believe us when we say no one really cares about “quality manufacturing” or “industry-leading service levels” unless they know exactly how that feels and believe what you say about your brand.

When using stories as a vehicle for content marketing, take this advice from the Story2 Moments Method®: Stand in front of a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and tell your brand story out loud. Do you believe it? Now tell a friend or family member face-to-face. Does it connect with the listener? If the answers are “yes,” take that authentic story in your voice and write it down.

In authentic storytelling there’s no need to “business-fy” it. GE Reports a Tumblr blog excels at this, sharing rich stories about inventors and users of high-tech industrial products. One recent example: a story about their scientific microscopes. One scientist on the team brought a bee’s leg from his daughter’s science project to test the capabilities of GE’s latest imaging device. The topic would have been a great occasion for jargon and product-speak, but instead it authentically sheds light on the passion behind the product.

3. Map it
A map is simply the arc from the beginning to the middle and then the end. When you want to captivate your reader, think like a Hollywood blockbuster. In these two examples, you can see how it works:

Draw them in, like a magnet:

Story 1: Half the potatoes on the floor and the rest behind the stove … what was I supposed to do about Thanksgiving dinner now?

Story 2: Our CFO had just called for the fourth time asking for last quarter’s numbers, but our systems were still down.

Raise suspense, with a pivot:

Story 1: “That looks great, but we don’t serve frozen food at holidays,” I told my husband as he stood there with the foil tray of FoodCo’s carrot soufflé.

Story 2: SoftwareCo’s representative sat next to me at my desk for an hour while he fixed the broken database queries. I couldn’t help grinning when I saw the numbers pop up finally.

End on a memorable glow:

Story 1: We’ve had carrot soufflé instead of potatoes on our family’s menu ever since, but we still laugh about the look on my face when someone mentions anything scalloped.

Story 2: I was home that evening in time to tuck the twins in bed and read them a story.

Once you map the story, you can think of all sorts of ways to describe your current audience’s journeys and how its stories can help your brand connect with new people. Coca-Cola, as part of its truly impressive “Journeys” approach to brand journalism, does this in numerous ways. I was struck by a story told by a Coca-Cola employee who took up skydiving. The story uses a “magnet, pivot, and glow structure. And while ostensibly it’s about her personal experiences, it does a fantastic job selling Coke’s corporate culture and inspires the desire to work with employees like her.

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4. Focus outward
You’ll notice that none of these points in the story map use wording like “I thought,” “I felt,” “I realized,” or “I learned.” That interpretation and analysis puts up a wall between you and your reader. Experiment with different ways to present your thoughts and feelings using dialogue, sensory details, and physical descriptions. In our hypothetical examples, we used these details to show the reader how the high quality of a frozen food adds something to the customer’s life, and how reliable, diligent service helps software users get their job done with less stress.

Hallmark’s “Ideas” website section does a great job of this with stories about card-giving occasions mixed in with lifestyle tips, nicely aligned to using a card or gift to express the emotion in the moment.

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In summary, these four steps, all built on the neuroscience of storytelling, provide content marketing techniques that literally synchronize your reader’s brain with your brand marketing content. As our examples show, throw a few stories in the mix and see just how compelling brand messages can become.

THE SURPRISING PERSUASIVENESS OF A STICKY NOTE

news2Posted on: September 21st, 2015

Imagine that you really need to convince someone to do something, such as following through on a task. You might be surprised to learn that one of the best ways to get someone to comply with your request is through a tiny nuance that adds a personal touch—attaching a sticky note.

A brilliant set of experiments by Randy Garner at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville found that a) adding a personal touch, and b) making someone feel like you’re asking a favor of them (and not just anyone) can bring about impressive results when done in tandem.

The goal of Garner’s experiments was to see what was necessary to generate compliance in completing surveys—which are often quite lengthy and tedious—by fellow professors at the university, using only interoffice mail as the conduit of communication. The wild card factor in these experiments was the use of sticky notes. In one experiment, he sent surveys to three separate groups of 50 professors (150 professors total). Three groups received three different requests, as follows:

Group 1 received a survey with a sticky note attached asking for the return of the completed survey.

Group 2 received a survey with the same handwritten message on the cover letter instead of an attached sticky note.

Group 3 received a survey with a cover letter, but no handwritten message.

What happened?

Group 3: 36% of the professors returned the survey.

Group 2: 48% of the professors returned the survey.

Group 1: 76% of the professors returned the survey.

Generalizing this experiment in other contexts simply requires understanding why the sticky note worked so well. It represents many powerful behavioral triggers all in one little object:

  1. It doesn’t match the environment—the sticky note takes up space and looks a bit cluttered. The brain, therefore, wants it gone.
  2. It gets attention first because of #1. It’s difficult to ignore.
  3. It’s personalized. (That’s the difference between Group 2 and Group 3 in the experiment.)
  4. Ultimately, the sticky note represents one person communicating with another important person—almost as if it is a favor or special request, which makes the recipient feel important.

Garner couldn’t help but explore the sticky note factor further. He decided to do a second experiment where he sent a group of professors a blank sticky note attached to one of the surveys. Here’s what happened:

Group 1 received a survey with a personalized sticky note message.

Group 2 received a survey with a blank sticky note attached.

Group 3 received a survey with no sticky note.

What happened in the second study?

Group 3: 34% returned the survey with no sticky note (similar to the first experiment).

Group 2: 43% returned the survey with the blank sticky note

Group 3: 69% returned the survey with the personalized sticky note (similar to the first experiment).

The real magic, it seems, is not the sticky note itself, but the sense of connection, meaning, and identity that the sticky note represents. The person sending the survey is personally asking me in a special way (not just writing it on the survey) to help him or her out.

But there’s more to compliance than just the result. There’s also the speed of compliance and the quality of the effort. Garner experimented to see how quickly people would return a follow-up survey if there was a sticky note attached and also measured how much information the person being surveyed returned if there was a sticky note attached vs. the group that received no sticky note. Here’s what he found:

Group 1 (with sticky note) returned their self-addressed stamped envelopes (SASEs) and surveys within an average of about 4 days.

Group 2 (no sticky note) returned their SASEs and surveys in an average of about 5 1/2 days.

But the most notable difference is that Group 1 also sent significantly more comments and answered other open-ended questions with more words than Group 2 did.

Further experiments revealed that if a task is easy to perform or comply with, a simple sticky note request needs no further personalization. But, when the task is more involved, a more highly personalized sticky note was significantly more effective than a simple standard sticky note request. What makes it truly personal? Writing a brief message is effective, but adding the person’s first name at the top and your initials at the bottom causes significantly greater compliance.

I’ve used this personalization theory with business people around the world to great success. For example, a mortgage broker I worked with tested this approach in mailings, effectively doubling the number of phone calls from people pursuing a loan with the broker. And it’s not just effective at the office or with clients—the people you live with are going to respond to the sticky note model as well. (Try sticking one on the bathroom mirror and see what happens.)

Recently, the personalized sticky note has been put into digital form for use in email, to mixed results. It’s most effective in email when the two people have met, or know each other. It had only had modest effect in sales letters designed to make an immediate sale, when the reader didn’t know the author of the sales letter. Using the notes in sales letters designed for current clients and customers needs further testing.

The next time you need colleagues to comply with a request, or the next time you’re giving a potential client a portfolio to review, try leaving a sticky note. A small personal touch will go a long way toward getting the results you want.

TEACH YOUR CLIENTS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PRICE AND COST

Posted on: September 18th, 2015
Author: Anthony Iannarino
Welcome Reader,

When I was a kid, I drove from Ohio to Los Angeles to spend a month there deciding where I would live and where I would work. I had a 1990 Chrysler Laser (it was new then!). That car required unleaded gas, providing me with two choices at most gas stations as I drove across the country. At some stations, I could get 91 octane gasoline. At other stations, especially in Texas and New Mexico, I could get only 87 octane. The 87 octane gas had a lower price, and it was cheaper.

Did you catch that? It had a lower price AND it was cheaper. Price and cost are different. And that difference is made up of value.

With the 91 octane gas, I got something like 360 miles from a tank of gas. With the 87 octane, I got less than 280 miles from a tank. For a few extra bucks when I filled up my tank, I got a massive increase in mileage. I didn’t have to stop as often to get gas, and when you are driving across the country, this is important.

Last week during a Level 4 Value Creation workshop I facilitated, I asked the participants to tell me one thing that they bought that was an absolute commodity. The first answer was “toilet paper.” That got a big laugh. I asked the participant, “So, all toilet paper is equal, and you buy the cheapest toilet paper every time.” He said, “No! It’s gotta work!” This brought an even bigger laugh, as people recognized that there are different levels of value on something that is perceived to be a commodity.

The next answer was “fuel.” But even this isn’t true. You will pay more for gasoline that is convenient to you when you need it. You will also spend more money with a gas station that provides you with the opportunity to buy a few of the things you need on your way home. You’ll pay way more for almost everything you buy inside the store at a gas station. You are paying for the value created by convenience.

Even when something is a commodity, you pay more for something that creates greater value.

You probably make decisions to spend less money on things that you believe to be commodities, things that aren’t important to you. And you may even spend too little on some things that really are important to you.

Your customers do the same thing. They are cheap, and their cheapness is costing them real money.

It is your job to teach them the difference between price and cost. You have to show them the greater value they receive by paying more (think compelling, differentiated value). You also have to show them what they pay by choosing a lower price (think risks and higher actual costs).

  • What greater value does your higher price create for your clients or customers? How does paying the higher price reduce their actual costs?


  • What higher costs do your clients pay by choosing the lower price? What are they losing? What are they putting at risk?

 

#MWC15, NFV & THE FUTURE OF TELECOMMUNICATIONS

HP CEO Meg Whitman Shares Her Thoughts On The Technology Trends Impacting The Telecommunications Industry

Posted on: September 17th, 2015


 

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This week, I’m traveling to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress, where I’ll join customers and colleagues to discuss the monumental changes being driven by new and creative applications of mobile technology.

Since the advent of the telephone nearly 140 years ago, we’ve seen technology—and the telecommunication industry’s application of it—progress by leaps and bounds. Today, we’re moving at warp speed to connect our devices, our homes, our businesses, and even ourselves.

The future of telecommunications will not be limited to devices or broadband or satellite. This newfound connectivity will require all the technological resources in our arsenal to meet demand.

A BLESSING AND A CURSE

This exceptional level of connectivity is a both a blessing and a curse. Existing telecommunications infrastructure is struggling to keep up, not only with the pace of technological advancement, but also with the flood of data all this connectivity is generating.

Legacy telecom infrastructure rolled out decades ago—or even just a few years ago—is already being outpaced by the exponential growth trajectory of the industry.

Take, for example, the coming gigabit broadband revolution. At streaming speeds roughly 50 times faster than the U.S. average, gigabit broadband is an unquestionable convenience for consumers and a differentiator for cities jockeying to attract businesses. But it’s also a tangled web for long-standing service providers who face infrastructure challenges, competition from less traditional players like Google, and questions over cost and public policy.

Even with the infrastructure in place, service providers of all sizes are straining under the weight of all the data this connectivity produces. The Internet of Things (or “thingification,” as it’s called by HP’s Christopher Surdak) will add billions if not trillions of new connected data sources globally by 2020.

To meet the demand brought on by our increasing connection speeds and growing number of connected devices, we must take a new approach to data management.

OUT OF THE BOX AND INTO THE CLOUD

If managed more efficiently, all this data provides a wealth of opportunity for telecom companies and their customers. But it will require smarter, faster and more flexible application of technology. HP’s solution to this fundamental challenge is in the cloud with Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).

As HP telecom-sector expert Saar Gillai says, “cloudification” of the telecommunications industry is today’s equivalent of moving from static landlines to IP addresses. It’s a “sea change” in the way telecom services are provided and managed—one that will move us all to a much more agile and value-based space.

WIRELESS-FIRST APPROACH TO CONNECTIVITY

As mobility trends continue to transform the way we communicate, businesses of all sizes will need to take a wireless-first approach to connectivity. And, the rise of “bring your own device” means CIOs must make this switch while providing both security and a seamless user experience.

HP recently announced its plans to acquire Aruba Networks, a leading provider of wireless mobility solutions. With Aruba’s innovative solutions, HP will help organizations accommodate smartphones, tablets and other personal devices on internal networks, while keeping them safe with the most robust security features available.

EXTRAORDINARY OPPORTUNITIES AHEAD

From where I sit, telecommunications is among the most rapidly evolving sectors I’ve ever seen. The speed of innovation, growth and demand at both the enterprise and consumer levels are astronomical—simultaneously raising enormous challenges and extraordinary opportunities for those companies agile enough to take advantage.

And there’s so much more to come: just look at what’s happening inside the walls of HP Labs with The Machine – HP’s revolutionary new computing architecture that has the speed and resiliency to navigate the oceans of data created by the Internet of Things.

At HP, we’re working with customers and partners to help move the telecom industry forward and connect the world in new ways. Read more about our work and the telecom industry’s breakthroughs, opportunities, and hurdles ahead in the latest issue of HP Matter.