You’re Being Cliché

Odd one out
The Nonconformist

Do you hate being called cliché? Do buzzwords piss you off? Do you avoid certain discussions just because they’re cliche?

Maybe, just maybe, you even look down on people who you consider to be cliché or that uses buzzwords?

I think we all do to some extent…but why do we do it?  Is it a smart move (professionally) to avoid “clichés” or do we just do it because we find it to be embarrassing to fall into a cliché?

If you’re not using buzzwords just because you don’t want to be cliché, you’re missing the point.  The point isn’t the wording or definitions.  It’s what they actually represent. It’s the concept, or idea behind them. If you disagree with the concept behind the cliché, then that’s fine…but don’t avoid it simply because it’s cliché.

If you’re getting caught up in not looking “cliché” by avoiding buzz words, you’re probably missing opportunities.

There’s a reason that things are considered cliché.  It’s because they make sense, they’re popular and they’re widely accepted. As a professional, wouldn’t you want to tap into that?

I’ve said it many times before, but I learn a lot of my life lessons from South Park.  In the episode, “You Got F’d in the A“, Stan tries to recruit some kids to join his dance crew.  He reaches out to the goth kids for help…

Stan: Please, you guys, our whole town’s reputation is at stake! Will any of you do it?
Red Bang Goth: I’m not doin’ it. Being in a dance group is totally conformist.
Henrietta: Yeah. I’m not conforming to some dance-off regulations.
Little Goth: I’m not doin’ it either. I’m the biggest nonconformist of all.
Tall Goth: I’m such a nonconformist that I’m not going to conform with the rest of you. Okay, I’ll do it.

So, in summary… if you’re avoiding clichés just because they’re clichés, then you’re being pretty cliché.  Make your own decisions. Don’t approve, or disapprove of something simply because of it’s popularity.

Thoughts?

It’s Easy to Half-Ass Social Media

Photo cred: Rennett Stowe

The biggest downfall of social media for business is that it’s really easy to half-ass and think you’re doing it right.

You can set up a twitter account, create a facebook fanpage, and start a blog in a total of 10 minutes. Literally.  So if you’ve done that much, you’ve literally done 10 minutes worth of work. You’ve scratched the surface.  Knowing why and how you will use those tools however, is where the real work comes in.

The reason many continue to question the value of social media, and many fail to draw any value out of their efforts, is because they’re not putting the time and effort into it.

If you read this post, it should pretty much clear up any confusion you have.  Huge props to Amber Naslund for writing such a great post.

No seriously. Stop reading this post and click that link.  It’s so simple, and yet one of the greatest posts I’ve read about social media.  It’s marketing 101 stuff, that we sometimes forget, but is so essential.

It explains very simply, how much thought and planning should be going in to your time spent on social media platforms.

If you’re half-assing it on social media, it’s probably because:

  1. You haven’t thought about why you’re using the tools in the first place.
  2. You haven’t set objectives with specific goals that you aim to reach (and can measure to determine your success).

Are you tweeting just to tweet, or are you tweeting with a purpose.  Do you have a specific goal in mind?

It’s easy to half ass social media, but not if you want real, identifiable results.  To access the business value in social media, takes as much time and effort as any other business strategy.

Committing to the Customer… Forever

Photo cred: Jose Téllez

How does your business view its relationships with customers?  It’s very easy, and common, to withdraw commitment to helping a customer once they make the purchase…but the relationship should be more than a sale.

Sometimes there’s a formal arrangement.  Sometimes the customer has to pay for any help after a purchase.

If a business is really there to help, however, they should view every purchase as a long term commitment to making that customer’s experience amazing.

Even if the customer has no intention of buying more products, you should provide them with as much help as possible (within reason, of course).

If I buy a camera from an electronics store and I have a question, I should feel confident in asking an employee for advice long after I bought the camera.  Because I bought that camera from them, the store should make sure that my overall experience with that camera, and their brand, is a great one.

Hell, even if I didn’t buy it from them, helping me out provides them with the opportunity to build trust and loyalty with a new customer.

Take it further and straight up ask your customers to come back for help.  Apple is a great example with their genius bar.  They want their customers to be happy with the product they bought, even if there’s no guarantee of future purchases.

Your relationship with a customer shouldn’t stop at the sale…the relationship shouldn’t stop at all.

I’m Not Here to Be Your Friend

The other day I read a great post by Carlos Miceli titled “The Media Attention Whores“. The post brought up the issue of media professionals that put more value in talking about what they’re doing, than actually doing it.

The post was spot on and the phenomenal (and heated) discussion in the comments provided even more insight.  It got me thinking about a common misconception that has been brewing.

I think perhaps we’re forgetting why we’re all here..so let me tell you why I’m here, why I blog, why I tweet, and why I engage in this community.

I am a business person first.

My activities and interactions in this “social media community” have the primary goal to succeed as a professional. If my time spent here doesn’t help me to perform my job better, and to benefit my career, then I am wasting my time.

Does that mean I can’t make friends during the process? Of course not.  I have made amazing friendships along the way. I consider people like Lauren Fernandez, Arik Hanson, Keith Burtis, Gloria Bell and Stuart Foster to be some of my closest and most trusted friends.  I didn’t engage with them to become friends though.  I engaged with them to benefit my career, and the friendship resulted from the process.

Don’t forget why others are here.  YES, most people are participating in this community for the sake of “conversation and networking”.  But conversation and networking aren’t a result, they’re tactics.  The purpose of building these relationships is to drive more traffic, build more opportunities etc…we’re building relationships for business purposes.

Maybe I’m the one being naive.  Maybe I’m selfish, and I should stop being so “self-promotional”.  If I don’t promote my work to the network that I’ve built, however, then why am I here?

Remember…a community manager is still a manager.

6 Cheap Tips For Better Customer Service

Friendly Service
Photo cred: Lilly Tran

Last week I asked the question, “Are All Customers Equal?”.  Many of the responses mentioned the issue of allocating limited resources, and explained the cost advantage of providing better service to better/more influential customers.

If you want to see my responses, just read through the comments.  I thought it might be helpful to share some “little things” that you can use to provide better customer service without spending much money.  Remember that in any first interaction with someone, it’s often the little things that count and stick out.

1. Don’t get mad at people for wanting help.

Nothing drives a customer more crazy than talking to a rude customer service rep who doesn’t want to talk to you.  Guess what, the customer doesn’t want to be talking to you either.  The fact that they’re talking to you means something went wrong with your product.  Be kind and respectful, unless you’re disrespected.

2. Say “Thank You” when the customer you’re helping is friendly and respectful.

This happened to me once with Microsoft (X Box).  My 360 had fallin ill with the “ring of death” and I needed a new one.  I called a rep, put in my order for a free replacement, and everything went smoothly.

At the end of the conversation, before we said goodbye, he said, “I just want to thank you for being so respectful and friendly to me”.  It really stuck with me.  I actually felt good after hanging up the phone with a customer service rep.

3. Check up on your customer once in a while.

Just drop a quick message that says “Hey, how can we help?” and don’t ask for anything in return.  Show that you want your customers to be happy.  Do this enough, you might be able to gain some control over the flow of customer service requests, and allocate resources accordingly.

It could be a mass email if you don’t want to spend the time but don’t message them too often as you don’t want to spam them.

4. Take away the hoops.

Don’t make it hard for customers to get in touch with you.  If you don’t have a rep available, let them leave their number and call them back.  Again…let them know that you care about them.  Trust me, there is a strong correlation between the amount of time a customer spends waiting on the phone and the patience they have when you finally pick up.

5. If you find out there’s an issue with your product, don’t wait for the the complaint…just apologize.

I was having lunch with my girlfriend the other day and she ordered a sandwich without tomatoes (she’s crazy…I love tomatoes).

When the chef watched her open the sandwich and saw that he accidentally added tomatoes, he said, from accross the cafe, “SORRY! I saw your reaction and realized my mistake”.  He then walked over and said “let me get those out of your face” and took the tomoes away.

He was funny, had a great attitude about making a mistake, and provided great service.  (The last time I went there, they gave me a free espresso shot because the yankees hit a homerun.  I love this place)

6. Smile!

You can set the tone of your interaction early by giving off good vibes.  If you’re providing customer service over the phone or internet, then talk or write like you’re smiling to the best of your ability.

Most of these practices are reliant on having good employees that care about the company.  If your employees don’t believe in your company, how can you expect customers to believe in you?

What are some other ways businesses can provide better customer service without spending a lot of money?  Know of any other “little things” that count?

Thanks to Jon Klar for contributing point #1.

It’s Hard to Help People Help Themselves

Help
Photo Cred: Dimitri N.

A couple of months ago, I hosted an event in Philly.  It didn’t have the turnout I was expecting  and so I was a little bummed.   My friend Valeria Maltoni came up to me and said “It’s hard to help people help themselves.”

Those words really stuck with me.  I’ve given it great thought. Why wouldn’t people want to be helped? Are they just lazy?  So lazy that they wouldn’t even do the bare minimum to get something?  Or is it something else?

Then, I read Chris Brogan‘s newsletter today…and it all came together.  He said,

Look at your efforts through others’ eyes. Now, in measuring your self-worth, your own eyes are the only ones that matter, but in trying to better understand how well you’re serving people’s needs, try to see it from their side. Are you quick to pounce? Do you have their interests at heart or yours? The more clarity you can bring to this, the better you’ll do.”

So many “professionals” claim to be providing a valuable service, but are really just interested helping themselves. They have a backwards mentality.  Instead of building a more valuable product, they’re concerned with making their product LOOK more valuable. They’re pretending to help customers.

There are many of you that are really trying to help.  Unfortunately [potential] customers don’t believe that you’re actually trying to help them.  They think that you’re trying to take their time and money for your own gain.

They don’t believe you because they’ve been fooled too many times.  They’ve lost trust.

That’s why it’s hard to help people help themselves.

Are you really helping or are you just pretending to help?

Edit: Marissa Pherson left a comment on this post over on Brazen Careerist and linked to a speech that I thought was really smart and relevant.  It speaks about the difference between “helping” and “serving”.

btw…if you haven’t signed up for Chris Brogan’s newsletter yet, you’re truly missing out.  It’s really the only newsletter I’ve ever enjoyed and the only one I actually read through. I highly recommend you try it out.

NEW: The u30pro Digest

u30pro

#u30pro is a weekly twitter chat (Thursdays at 7pm est) started by Lauren Fernandez and David Spinks that covers topics and issues facing young professionals.

We started the chat at the end of August.  It’s been truly amazing so far and hearing how much everyone enjoys the chats really makes us love hosting them that much more.

We love the idea that young professionals can
have a place to discuss issues that they’re facing, and that we can bring in more experienced professionals to shed some light from the other end of the spectrum.

We’d like to continue to build out the chat and grow the community that is forming around it.  So we decided to launch the u30pro digest!

Once you subscribe, every week we’ll send out a digest of the best blog posts from young professionals in the #u30pro community.  We will also feature a U30 Pro.  You can sign up using the form below.

To subscribe CLICK here.


This is very much a work in progress as we are looking to make u30pro as valuable as possible.  We will continue to build out the chat, this weekly digest, and stay tuned for more updates!

If you’d like to submit blogs to be considered for inclusion in the weekly digest, you can comment here, email it to u30pro [at] gmail [dot] com or DM it on twitter to @u30pro.