May 29

CUSTOMER SERVICE CORNER: Increase your callback success with a well-planned message

Tired of leaving voicemails only to have customers not call you back? The message you’re leaving may be the problem. Waiting for people to return your calls can be frustrating, especially when you can’t move on with a task until you get a reply. But before you get angry at those people who haven’t called you back, consider whether your voice-mail messages are missing important elements.

Robert Spiegel, author and lecturer, suggests that because most of us receive numerous calls each day, we don’t feel obliged to return them if the caller doesn’t state his intention clearly. “Not long ago it was considered impolite to neglect returning calls,” he says. “But telephone salespeople have destroyed this courtesy. Now people don’t hesitate to ignore calls that aren’t completely forthcoming about their intentions.”

If you’re not receiving callbacks, assess the messages you leave. Spiegel offers these tips to help you leave better messages:

  • If you don’t know the person whom you’re calling, briefly introduce yourself, stating your business affiliation.
  • Briefly explain the reason for your call, providing pertinent details.
  • Give an option of forwarding your message to another person who can assist.
  • Repeat your phone number twice–at the beginning and end of your message.
  • Provide your email address as an option for returning your message.
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May 27

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: Form good relationships with other departments

Conflicts among different departments can occur often. Everyone wants to look out for herself and play the blame game, instead of realizing that you’re all working together to provide the best services and products possible.

Use these skills from Jim Tamm, author of Radical Collaboration, to foster a friendly and collaborative relationship with co-workers in other departments. Everyone will be able to get her job done faster and more efficiently as a result.

  • Think mutual success. Know that you’re all working towards the same goal, so it’s important for you to care about your colleagues’ needs and points of view as much as it’s important for them to care about yours. Get off the defensive.
  • Be truthful. Be honest with your co-workers about your opinions and intentions in the workplace. For example, don’t tell a planner that you’re going to start her job next if you really aren’t. Lying to keep her quiet at the moment is going to blow up in your face when she finds out what you really did. You’ll ruin your credibility by speaking anything other than the truth.
  • Take responsibility. If you make a mistake, say so. Don’t try to push it off on another department; that department manager probably won’t trust you again and will be more apt to blame you in the future. Work together with your co-workers to find solutions to problems, rather than deciding whose fault it was.
  • Be aware of yourself and others. Try your best to understand your co-workers’ thoughts and feelings, and they’ll try to understand yours. You want to be able to ask your co-workers, “What’s up?” when they’re behaving differently. You can then be able to predict how they might react to a certain situation and plan accordingly.
  • Use conflict as a learning tool. Most people think of a conflict’s negative aspects, but you can take some positives away from an argument with a fellow co-worker. Use the disagreement to teach you what makes your co-worker unhappy or what she feels strongly about. You can avoid future conflicts with her by thinking critically.
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May 25

MICROSOFT OFFICE TUTOR: Insert your Word document’s author information in a heartbeat (2000/2002/2003/2004/2007)

Although it’s easy to type your name yourself instead of using field code to do it, there are circumstances when field code is more efficient. For example, when creating a Word template that many people will use, a field that automatically inserts the document author’s name will save each user from having to type her name in every document. You can use an AUTHOR field to place the author’s name in your template.
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May 22

CUSTOMER SERVICE CORNER: Email tips for professional customer communication

Just like you need to act professional in front of customers, you should always portray yourself professionally when you send customers emails. When you contact a customer via email, it’s possible the customer doesn’t know who you are. And as the saying goes, you get only one chance to make a first impression. But you want to do more than make a good impression — you want to keep your customer happy, satisfied and well-serviced. Follow these tips for writing powerful emails that keep your customers happy and maintain your professionalism:

  • Always run the spell checker before you send your email. When a customer receives a correspondence with misspellings, he’ll think you’re uneducated and he’ll think less of your company.
  • Always re-read your emails. Spell checkers pick up only misspelled words. They won’t highlight words that you spelled correctly but misused, and they won’t check your grammar.
  • Always use a proper greeting such as “Dear Sir,” or “Dear Mrs. Smith,” and always use a proper closing such as “Sincerely.”
  • Always include your phone number, fax number and email address below your signature.
  • Always type in the correct case. Don’t use all caps or all lowercase.
  • Always ignore — temporarily — angry emails you receive from customers. Give yourself time to cool down, and then compose an email that portrays a professional tone.
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May 20

MANAGEMENT MINUTE: How to handle salary negotiations

Negotiating salaries can be just as difficult for you as it can be for your employees. Here are some tips to master this fine art, from Susan M. Heathfield’s article titled Tips For A Successful Salary Negotiation:

  • Make your goal a win-win situation, says Heathfield. Don’t go into the conversation feeling like you need to win and your employee needs to lose. Instead, focus on how you can work together to come to an agreement that you’re both happy with.
  • Be prepared with information about your employee’s former salary, Heathfield recommends. Some candidates provide their salary requirements on their resumes. If you don’t have this information, you can always contact her previous employer and ask while you check her references. You’ll want to know what your employee might be looking for.
  • Prior to the negotiation, you need to find out what your limitations are in terms of what you can offer your employee, Heathfield advises. Things you’ll want to consider include what your other employees in the same positions are making, what your peers are offering for the same or similar positions, and how high your company’s profit margin is.
  • If your salary offer is not negotiable, be prepared to negotiate other areas such as benefits, tuition assistance, bonuses, vacation time and signing bonuses, Heathfield suggests. “In fact, sophisticated candidates will negotiate in all of these areas and more,” she warns.
  • Resist the urge to violate your organization’s limits on how much you can offer, even if you really want to keep your employee with your company and feel that she is valuable, Heathfield cautions.
  • If your offer is not negotiable, you can still indicate to your employee when you could make another offer, says Heathfield. For example: You can tell her that she can start at your offered salary, but that she still has the potential to earn X amount within the next year or couple of years. Your original offer might not be what she wants, but her potential earnings could pique her interest.
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