How to Deal with Unnecessary Disruptions and Increase Productivity

Years ago, the telephone and the occasional drop-in visitor were the main sources of interruptions for a manager. Then email came along, followed by cell phones, instant messaging, etc. Now managers are inundated with beeps and bells and ring tones. Sure there have been productivity improvements as a result of these tools. However, due to misuse and abuse, often they actually hinder productivity.

Too many managers today just blow with the wind. They may come to work with a list of things to accomplish that day, but typically the list just grows as managers drift from one interruption to the next. The only way to make a dent in their to-do lists is to put in extra hours. Extra work time breeds resentment and eventually burnout, resulting in a whole new set of problems.

Smart phones, social media, and instant messaging are not evil, and they are most certainly here to stay. They can be extremely helpful if used in the right ways. The following are a few tips to help avoid the pitfalls and improve your effectiveness.

1. Set Aside Time for Disruptions

Since you know that, sooner or later, at least one of your colleagues or customers is going to interrupt you when you’re doing something, set some time aside specifically for them and their needs.

 

2. Try to Postpone Non-Emergencies

Once you’ve identified an interruption as something that needs attention and not just a waste of time, try to postpone your involvement.  Take a moment to understand what the distraction involves. Is anyone dying? Is there a deadline being missed? If it turns out the situation is not an emergency, postpone your involvement or delegate as much of the work to somebody who is available.

 

3. Turn All Counterproductive Electronic Devices Off

Before embarking on an important task, turn everything off! This will eliminate the possibility of a distraction killing your productivity. The key is to concentrate on the work at hand.

 

4. Turn Off All Notification Devices

Resist the urge to answer your phone or email notification every time you hear a beep. Finish up what you are doing, then retrieve your voice mail or email message and act accordingly. Follow up is critical, but following up within 3 seconds is not.

 

5. Avoid Getting Swept up in Reactive Mode

It’s an easy trap to fall into. It can be quite exhilarating “fighting fires” all day. Jumping in to solve crises is rewarding and addictive. Being needed is feels good too. It’s also much easier to bop from one task to another than to take time to think, prioritize, and plan.

 

6. Divide Your Day up into Targets

Distractions are most dangerous to the person working without short-term goals. You can keep yourself out of the danger zone by setting goals throughout the workday. Make sure these targets are Smart: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely.

 

7. Think Before You Interrupt Another Person

This way you won’t be contributing to the problem.  By taking responsibility to minimize other’s interruptions, you can greatly improve workplace productivity.

 

Managers will always have to deal with interruptions. How they deal with them is a major factor in determining their effectiveness. In today’s world, the proliferation of interruptions caused by productivity tools has made it increasingly challenging for managers to do their jobs well. Learning how to use the tools effectively, which sometimes means turning them off, is critical to achieving success.

Minimize disruptions by investing in a customized CRM tool that fits your business needs. Download our 30-day free trial here. No credit cards and long-term commitments needed.

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5 Tips for Improving Your Processes to Better Customer Service

Why is it that many businesses perform well some days, but do poorly the rest of the days?

At first, many businesses assume that their employees are the problem.  Businesses who assume this are almost always wrong.

Although firing some of your staff may be quite tempting at that moment, it won’t solve the bigger issue at hand. When employees are using stickies to record customer complaint and calls instead of a CRM system, then the process itself is the issue; not the employees.

Finding such businesses is not difficult. In fact, 100% of companies have some sort of process problem. Remember: Only 1 out of 25 unhappy customers complain. The rest leave and never come back. If you’ve got multiple customers complaining about the same issues, or if you’re losing more deals than you’re winning without explanation, here are some tips to help you out:

 

1. Be more transparent

Processes should be simple and transparent.  Assign ownership to every step of your process, so everyone is aware of who’s responsible for which part. By doing this, you will eliminate “that’s not my problem” from your employees’ vocabulary. This step also makes it easier for customers to address any issues they are experiencing as quickly and less painstakingly as possible.

 

2. Automate important actions to make sure your process runs smoothly

Manual tasks are time consuming. They must be performed by humans who are prone to making errors; no one is perfect. Automation frees up your time to work on items that add genuine value to the business, allowing you to be more innovative and increasing your employees’ levels of motivation. 

 

3. Provide multiple ways for your customers to reach out to you

Unfortunately, it can still be difficult for customers to get in touch with companies that they want to do business with or are already doing business with. That’s why providing different ways for customers to easily communicate directly with your business is important in today’s day and age. The goal should be that every customer should be able to contact you via phone, email, chat, social media etc.  Be transparent about the wait times for responses.

 

4. Borrow ideas from others

This does not just apply to competitors, or you’ll just be another me-too company. Be curious and open-minded about how other industries and cultures do things. Learn from them, apply and experiment, and permanently employ what works.

 

5. Evaluate your policies, processes, skills, motivations, products and services

Assess them from the customer’s viewpoint. Always keep on the lookout for ways to reinvent the wheel and improve customer experiences. Perhaps send a survey out to customers on a quarterly basis to get their input on how you can best meet their needs. You may also wish to follow-up with customers after the transaction is done to see what made them happy, what they feel should change etc.

 

Investing in an all-encompassing, affordable CRM software will go along way to repair some of the issues you are experiencing with customer service.  Download our free 30 day trial today. No deposits or commitments needed.

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7 Habits for Improving the Quality of Your Life

Are you finding yourself feeling frustrated day in and day out? Do you feel like a zombie, waking up each day to the same mundane things that seem never-ending? Has the quality of your life decreased every year, resulting in a loss of energy, vitality, and enthusiasm? Here are 7 habits to adopt in order to improve your quality of life in 1 year from now.

 

1. Read a book every month

Even if you’re relatively new to and not particularly fond of reading, you will learn a lot. Some books will disappoint you with their mediocrity, some will make you happy with a good plot and some more will have you running to the dictionary every few pages; all of them will teach you something new.

 

2. Think carefully before making a judgement

I used to be very judgmental. However, over the past year I closely thought about how unfair I have been in the past and all the things I have done because of this. Before you make a comment about someone and their actions, put yourself in their shoes and think about why they do the things they do. You’ll see them in a different light. And even if you don’t, at least you’ll puzzle over instead of making a snap judgement.

 

3. Reduce smartphone usage

If you have one, that is. If you don’t, more power to you. I cannot tell you how many times I go out with people and they stick to their smartphones. Some are Whatsapp-ing, while others are checking office e-mails and taking pictures. They’re so busy interacting with people online, they pay little attention to people around them.

 

4. Smile and talk

Greet everybody you know. Also, try to smile while you talk to people. This makes you appear approachable, and amiable.

 

5. Exude Positivity

Try being honest with yourself and others, refrain from gossip and be willing to forgive people who make mistakes because no one is perfect. As well, stop hanging around with negative people and spend more time with happy, productive, and smiling individuals.

 

6. Choose a hobby you like

It could be anything…biking, writing, exercising etc. Or go back to one you left. And keep a record of your work. As you change, your work will also change to reflect you. I like writing and I have a blog. Once in a while, I read my older entries and don’t even recognize the person who wrote them. It teaches you a lot about yourself. It shows you how far you have come, and sometimes how you need to go back to being that person in the past.

 

7. Make time for people

Make time for family. Make time for your hobby. Make time for work. And most definitely, make time for pleasure. The most valuable thing you can give to another person (and yourself) is time, which in turn will make you invaluable.

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How Useful is Role-Playing in Sales Training?

Looking to make sales training more practical and fun for new hires? Here are a few tips. As an educator and a hands-on learner, I am the type of person that has to see and experience something in order to understand it. I am sure there are many more business people who share my sentiments:

  • Record them – it’s not enough to complete the role play – you must record them. MUST. Our team went back and listened to their entire sales process from discovery to proposal – and that is where they learned the most.
  • Have each role player analyze the situation – getting multiple vantage points will help you see issues that you cannot see for yourself. It’s a great way to find your blind spots.
  • Learn with zero risk – the most important reason we do role plays at KiteDesk is that they give you the chance to learn without risking losing the deal. Our philosophy is that it is much better to learn from each other vs. learning from the market. Plus we can create situations that are more difficult then what most reps will see in the market – that way they are prepared for the worst
  • Role playing isn’t a one and done – you should make role playing a part of your regular routine. It’s one way you can continue to work together to get better.
  • They are incredibly useful – to finally answer your question – role plays are a great way to 1) see where each of your team members are at in their sales skills, 2) learn from each other, 3) due post deal reviews, 4) work on consistent messaging/process, and 5) build a culture of learning.

I direct you to read Harvard Business Review’s article entitled “Role Playing as a Sales Tool”: https://hbr.org/1987/05/role-playing-as-a-sales-training-tool. I am sure we all faced a situation where one of our employees was ill equipped to deal with customer questions and concerns. Giving them the practice during training will certainly avoid incidents like the one mentioned in the article.

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10 Essential Elements of Effective Teamwork

What is it with team work? Some teams seem to work better than others. Those teams that work well get consistent high level results and people love working in them.

Other teams wallow in never ending mediocrity. It’s like watching a horrible movie played out day after day after …

If you are responsible for leading teams, you obviously want one to be one that gets results. But how does that happen?

Fortunately, effective teamwork isn’t a great and obscure mystery. Here is an infographic that highlights the ten essential elements of teamwork:

 

10 elements of effective team work

Certainly, you don’t have to be the actual leader of a group to successfully lead a group, nor should you sit back and say “not my problem” and let the group collapse around you. Anyways, this is what I learned. What elements work for you? Share your insight in our comments section.

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The Secret to Hiring the Best Customer Services Reps

I believe that hiring the most productive customer service employees really comes down to hiring for attitude over skill.

I once heard a quote at a business conference I attended in Toronto, Ontario, Canada that is very applicable here: “Hire slowly, fire fast”. Taking your time with this decision is crucial, regardless of how badly you need the extra help. Think of the Japanese word “Kaizen” – it means taking a little time to get better every day.

Your mindset should be set on long term growth and success.  You want your business to be a kaizen. Think for 10 years from now. Sure, hiring the first person to crop up might solve a need short-term, but it will destroy you in the long run.

Here are a few tips to help you wield out the good recruits from the bad:

1. Are they making good eye contact?

If a person does not maintain great eye contact during an interview, you would never want to hire them for a customer service position. Customer service is all about being social and finding ways to connect with colleagues, management, and most of all, customers.

2. Can you hear empathy in their voice?

Another key trait of a great customer service rep is having an empathetic vocal quality that will have them practically drooling to make customers feel good and to feel comfortable. As well, their empathy should also be used to diffuse a bad situation before it escalates, i.e., a key customer terminates contract.

3. What kind of personality do they have?

The 4 most important things to learn during a phone screen are: 1. Is this person socially adept? and 2. Will this person get along with my company and my team? 3. Does this person speak with confidence and pride? 4. Is the person positively responsive to the information you provide?  Things like when to talk and when to listen, how to respond appropriately, and correct tone of voice are difficult to teach. You want someone who has those things down. And the phone screen will reveal this.

4. Create a profile of your ideal employee

Have a plan. Try to avoid simply hiring anyone that looks good or comes in with an application. Create a profile of what makes a good employee, and what makes a bad employee, and look for those that stick to that plan. Speak to friends and colleagues to see if they can refer someone to you.

5. Check References

You really need to check references carefully and do background checks. In the litigious society in which we live you need to pursue every avenue to assure that the people you hire can do the job, contribute to your growth and development, and have no past transgressions which might endanger your current workforce.

6. Simulations

Have your team engage with the interviewees as if they were customers. You can learn a lot and get to see if they were friendly or standoffish. If we were unable to get them to engage in conversation on the sales floor, it could be a sign that they may not bode well in your work environment.

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8 Prospecting Voicemail Mistakes to Avoid

We’ve all heard horrible, boring and pointless voicemails, and if you’re like me, you do one of two things. One, you delete them before they’re done, and two, you remark to yourself how the person leaving it has no tact. Here are 8 things to avoid when leaving voicemails to prospects:

 

1. Telling Lies

Pretending to have called before and spoken to someone in the office when you have not is bad practice in the business world. You will not win over customers. Instead, do some research so you have a grabber value proposition that the prospect cannot refuse.

2. You’re Missing the Point

Talking about your products, instead of finding a compelling solution to a painpoint your prospect is experience, is a sure fire way not to get a call back. Avoid this, as well!

3. Short, But Not Sweet

Leaving a message that’s too short does not give the prospect a good enough reason to call back or pick up the next time you call. Go through the 5Ws and 1 H in 1 minute or less. Focus the voicemail on what you can do to help the prospect resolve their issues.

4. Playing Hard to Get

Passively waiting for a call back will not make the prospect respect you more. You are trying to reach them and show them that what you are offering is compelling. Do not wait around for them to reach out to you. Put a follow-up action in place using a CRM tool and follow through.

5. Giving Up

Giving up after only 2 or 3 attempts. Most prospects won’t return your call until you have tried to reach them more than five times. Use your Contact Management System to track the calls you make in order to avoid bombarding them.

6. Failing to stick to one topic per voicemail message

You can’t mention every business issue or trigger event you could address. Choose one for this call. Save the others for future calls or followups.

7. No Referral Mentions

If someone referred you to the prospect, make sure to say that in the first 5 seconds of your voicemail. A prospect is more likely to call back when they know the person/business was referred to them by someone they know.

8. Lots of Stutter

Leaving a voicemail with lots of verbal pauses (like “ums” and “ahs”) makes you sound less confident, and less credible.  If you know you are nervous and may stutter, write out the script or practice what you are going to say beforehand. Review message, if applicable, before sending.

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5 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience

Customer Experience remains at the core of any enterprise’s success. Most businesses that built their enterprise from the ground up are already experts in customer experience. They have a deep understanding of their customer needs and the experience that will satiate their customers’ goals.

However, becoming an expert in customer experience is not one a time thing. It involves active customer engagement, which many businesses slip away from after 1-2 years of growth and found success. They do this by getting too caught up in the daily grind of managing a business.

Here are 5 ways to enhance the customer experience and actively engaging your customers:

 

1. Listen with a Beginner’s Mind

Develop tact for listening to your customers. The key is to adopt a beginner’s mindset. That is adopting an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions.  One way you can do that is to affirm yourself as a learner, rather than a knower, which makes you open to feedback and new perspectives. In customer service, for example, you could develop a survey that asks customers for their input on how your product/service can better their goals and exceed expectations. Repeat the survey periodically.

 

2. Schedule Periodic Reviews

Look through recent and past notes and take the time to reflect is key in order gain new insight. As you do this, pay attention to recurring comments and themes. Identify the who, what, where, when and why of each customer comment.  Bring the concerns up with the appropriate personnel and follow-up with customers once the issue has been resolved. Use your CRM tool to document your customer interactions through to the resolution.

 

3. Make People Famous

Take the time to highlight a power user in your community (with their permission, of course!) in a public way — social media, website, blog post, etc. Most people love to be publicly recognized, and giving a user a moment in the limelight is a powerful way to turn them into a brand ambassador and life-long customer.

 

4. Call Your Customers Regularly

Build a relationship with each customer. Occasionally give them a call or send them an email. As well, take notes of the things your customers say and organize each note by topics related to those comments. This will help you become proactive in resolving customer concerns and retaining customers for longer periods. A practical CRM tool can help you organize notes and enhance your customer experience.

 

5. Be Adaptive

Every customer is different. You should be able to handle surprises, sense the customer’s mood changes and adapt accordingly. This also includes a willingness to learn– providing good customer service is a continuous learning process.

 

 

 

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To Cloud or Not To Cloud: On-Premise vs. Cloud CRM Debate Revisited

One of the more common conversations in our industry today is around whether to deploy a new CRM tool in the cloud or on premise. It may even be harder to know where to start weighing your options. The choice may seem like a simple one, but has far-reaching consequences. And it isn’t always black and white. Asking vendors to propose 2 configurations (Cloud  CRM and on-premise CRM) is not a productive way to making choices because you will end up comparing apples and oranges and ultimately, will have to choose one over the other.

Major technology vendors, such as Microsoft and Oracle, have already unveiled products that emphasize the benefits of storing data and running applications, platforms, and infrastructure in the cloud — both public and private. However, the majority of Information Technology leaders that I speak with at work remain pessimistic about the switch and are caught in the debate over maintaining on-premises data centers versus moving to the cloud.

So which configuration is right for you?

It is very hard to say without knowing a little about you and why you need a CRM tool and what you will be using it for. Much depends on the type of data you need to store, and the mindset your organization has regarding cloud computing in general.  In order to better understand which CRM system option is best for your company, there are a few important questions to consider:

  • Does your company have adequate IT support to administrate an on-premise CRM?
  • What are your security requirements, both of your accessibility and of the data itself?
  • How much customization do you need?
  • Does the cost per-head method calculate in your favor?
  • Do you want to integrate your CRM with other enterprise solutions?

However, I particularly prefer on-premise CRM tools over those hosted over the cloud (Cloud CRM). Many of my customers, who have tried both, share my sentiments. The most obvious and common reasons behind our choices include concerns about regulatory requirements and possible issues with connectivity and speed. Both concerns are often outside the control of your organization and your cloud provider and could make your data inaccessible at times. As well,  many companies raised concerns over the per-user costs associated with Cloud CRMs. If a large amount of workers need access to your database, it may be less expensive to host your own system [on premise].

Choosing the right CRM system is integral to your business. Be sure you know the pros and cons of each option before making your decision. Contact our Customer relationship management (CRM) for more information.

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Act! Alternative – InfoFlo CRM is Compatible with Windows 10

In 2015, Microsoft launched an initiative whereby all qualified Windows 7 and Windows 8 users were able to upgrade to Windows 10 free of charge by registering for an automatic download.

The current version of Act! (v17.2) is fully compatible with Windows 10; however, editions of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 and earlier versions are incompatible with Windows 10. This leaves many consumers of Act! CRM Software in a precarious situation.

The recommended action(s) that you should take to ensure compatibility between Act! and Windows 10 varies depending on which edition of Act! you are currently using. For consumers, whose business is being affected by the incompatibility, the issue is both frustrating and one that they would like to resolve quickly – void of any complicated and technical steps taken on their part.

At Carmel Vision, we understand your frustrations. We’ve had numerous inquiries from customers seeking Act! alternatives that are compatible with Windows 10 since the release in July, 2015. We are pleased to report that our flagship product InfoFlo is fully compatible with Windows 10. Should you wish to switch from Act! to InfoFlo, we would be able to help you export your contacts and all notes attached to them and import them to InfoFlo for a minimal fee. You will be required to install Microsoft Excel for some of the exports to work.

One key advantage to switching to InfoFlo is that you receive free upgrades for life.  That means, you will never have to worry about having a version of our software being incompatible with an operating system.    We are committed to ensuring customer satisfaction at minimal cost to our customers. We deploy our team of research and development professionals with innovative and versatile minds to deliver the professional services that our clients most deserve.

Why choose InfoFlo?

  • There’s minimal switchover cost
  • Training provided to all employees and managers
  • Affordable – Outlook Sync feature is only $69/user
  • Complete office solution with project management, social media, phone system integration and more.

No credit cards and long term commitments are required. Click here to download free trial.

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