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3 Productivity Apps Every Professional Needs

Roll out of bed, go for a run, speed race to work, struggle through endless meetings, grab lunch, work again, finally get home, scrape together a dinner, tear up at This is Us, read a few pages of something, sleep and then do it all over again. I don’t know about you, but my days can be crazy busy. Somehow I still manage to read the headlines, laugh at social media posts and play a few games on my phone throughout the day. According to a tracking app called Moment, Americans spend an average of 4 hours a day on their phones. Over 4 hours of our busy days are spent staring at our phones. Maybe you’re an Instagramer like me or you’re obsessed with the Toon Blast app like Ryan Reynolds. Either way, if we are going to use our phones for hours, we might as well use it for something productive. There are unlimited apps available to make your life more efficient. Try out these 3 apps to increase your productivity and possibly save a little time in your day.

Zoom

There are several web-conferencing apps available and I’ve probably used them all over the years. They all have the basic functionality of video webinars, group call conferencing over internet and phone, screen sharing and recording features. What sparked my interest in Zoom, is that it gives you all these basic tools for FREE. With the basic package, Zoom users can use the basic features of a web conferencing app absolutely free. This includes an unlimited amount of meetings. The ability to host up to 100 participants and online support. There are stipulations with the Zoom Basic plans, but there are options to increase your plan starting at $14.99 a month. This is a great option for individuals, volunteer groups, non-profits, and small businesses. Zoom allows you to work at a larger scale on a limited budget. 

http://www.zoom.us

Trello

Trello is a productivity app to help you organize your steps and monitor your progress towards your goals. Essentially Trello is a digital bulletin board. You can use Trello to create lists, tasks, and notes. For your personal life it great to sort out tasks and to do lists. On the business side, it’s a great asset for project management. The Trello lists can be shared with many users. You can work through the progress of a project and assign tasks to different members of the team. You are able to add texts and pictures. The best part of Trello is the ability to move tasks from one list to the next as you work towards completion of a project. If you are working on tasks you can move it from To Do, Doing, then Done when it’s completed (or any labels you create). If you’re anything like me, it’s so rewarding to see my to-do list marked as complete. The Trello app is free and available on iOS and Android.

http://www.trello.com

Grammarly

Grammarly takes spell checking to the next level. Not only does it check spelling, it reviews your grammar, sentence structure, tone, and more. It even checks for plagiarism. Grammarly helps you put your best foot forward in your personal endeavors and in the work environment. You can trust that your text messages, emails, and posts on social media are free of mistakes. At work, your business documents, emails, and communications will be accurate and effective. Grammarly is a free app, but they have premium plans with advanced features to improve your writing. With Grammarly, you can have your own personal writing assistant proofreading your work all day.

http://www.grammarly.com

Check out these apps and maybe you can save a little time in your busy day. We’d love to know- What are your favorite productivity apps?

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How to Manage ANGRY Customers

Have you ever had to deal with an angry customer? Someone who was not just annoyed, or a little upset, but ANGRY? I’ve had clients get emotional and irate for many reasons. Most of the time, their issues have nothing to do with me as a person, but more to do with the message I’m relaying from the company. Sorry, the system has a bug and it will not be fixed today. Sorry, our product does not service that area. Sorry, sorry, sorry. Even when you tell the client the information in the most positive and polite way possible, it doesn’t always go over well. Your product/service is not meeting their expectation and it is inconveniencing your client. They are angry.

When clients get emotional or upset, how do you handle the situation? Your business relationship is in jeopardy. It is your job to help relieve the stress caused by the situation. With the steps below you can ensure that after the incident, your partnership with the client is not completely tarnished.

Prepare for the conversation

If you know the client will be unhappy with the information you have to share, prepare bullets points or a script before the meeting. Role play with your team or a trusted friend. Have answers prepared for a few possible questions they might have. The more prepared you are, the more your client will feel confidant that you have thought through the issue and understand the consequences for them. Provide workarounds or suggestions on how they can manage the issue.

Be a calming voice in the storm

The client is ANGRY! They do not need you to yell or get angry. They need someone who is calm and can take charge of the situation. They need to know that you will help them find a solution. Be the calming guide they need to work through the issue.

Listen

Listen to their frustrations and concerns. Actively listen to the client and give them the opportunity to vent and explain their issues. Clients typically feel calmer and better about the situation when they believe someone understands why they are upset. Repeat back the key points and issues that reviewed and discuss how you will address the concerns.

Apologize (if necessary)

Sometimes just saying “I’m sorry” can move mountains. Clients need to know you understand they have been inconvenienced and put in a bind. Sometimes they need to hear an apology from someone to save the relationship. More than verbally apologizing, show you and the company are sorry by working hard to fix the issue.

Understand they are not angry with you

Don’t take your clients’ frustrations personally. Especially if you are not the reason they are upset. You are just the messenger, or the person they could get in contact with quickly. They need to vent, be heard and hear some quick solutions. Resist having a defensive rebuttal or reaction.

Fix the problem

Fix the issue. If you have the ability to fix the problem, do it immediately. Listening, apologizing and understanding is just the first step, but this is not going to solve their issues. If you do not have the ability to fix the issue, give the client a timeline of when the project can be completed and provide realistic expectations on the solutions you can provide. Saying you can solve the issue just to pacify the client will end up hurting your relationship with the customer in the long run. Tell the truth about what you can and can not do. Sticking to your word and providing a solution in a timely manner will help restore trust.

Have you worked with ANGRY customers? How did you manage this difficult situation?

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How To Prepare For Tough Conversations

It’s rewarding to share good news and everyone wants to hear good news. Those conversations are easy. The best part of my job is when I get to tell a client their issues are fixed! Everything is great! Unfortunately, all conversations at work are not good news. Sometimes I have to share TERRIBLE news and DIFFICULT situations in TOUGH conversations. If you manage clients or work in leadership, you might have more tough conversations than easy ones. Before jumping into the conversation, think through the dialogue and prepare yourself to ensure the most positive outcome possible.

Write a script or key points to mention during the conversation

For some conversations I write out my entire spiel. I write every word I plan to say like a speech. For some situations I only write a few bullet points that I want to make sure I cover during the call. I focus on the benefits Even though some things are changing, what benefits are still available for the client? I explain the changes and why they are occurring. When I was a teacher we always focused on explaining why the students were learning the new math concept or reading certain literature. Statistics show that when people the know the reason for something they are more able to understand and retain the information.

Draft a list of questions the customer might have

If you were the customer, what questions would you have about the situation? What information would be the most important to you? Think through what questions the person might have and determine the answers you would like to provide. Figure out ways to steer back to the key bullet points you wanted to address. Reviewing the questions the client might ask allows you to see the situation from other viewpoints. It allows you to be more empathetic to your client’s potential concerns and prepares you to appropriately walk them through the difficult information.

Role play with a coworker or friend

It may sound old school or silly, but role playing a scenario is probably one of the most useful tools you have to prepare for a tough situation. Ask a friend or a colleague to run through the conversation with you. Have them act as a person who is very unhappy with the situation and also as a person who is not very bothered with the situation. Have them ask you questions the natural questions that arise as you talk. Just like actors rehearse for a play to get comfortable with lines, the more you say or think through how you would explain the difficult information, the easier it will be to talk with the actual client after the role play.

Schedule time to have the conversation

Set a time to have the conversation with your client. Provide your client with a general idea of what is happening and schedule time to review the details. Send a meeting invite that states, “Company Updates” Changes to blah” In some cases I would suggest sending a precursor email to let them a brief overview of the changes.

During the conversation, remember to listen as much as you talk. When you are relaying difficult information, people tend to get emotional and they typically have questions. Don’t take their reactions personally. Provide them with time to ask questions, and schedule a follow up conversation if necessary.

Next time you have a tough conversation, take a minute to think through the dialogue. It’s not going to be easy, but with a little preparation you can steer the conversation in smooth and productive direction.

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5 Must-Have Rules When Taking Vacation

This week I’m taking a much needed vacation. For me vacation means sun, beach, sand, and hanging with good friends and my family. My entire plan is to lay on the beach, swim in the ocean, and eat delicious food I have not tasted before. There are a few things I will not be doing: worrying, having any cares, checking any emails or working in any capacity.

For me it takes effort to actually pull away from my job and not think about my clients. I’m always thinking, I need to send this email quickly. Maybe if my client tries this configuration it will fix their problem. This clients contract renews next month and they haven’t responded to my emails. I need to schedule a meeting with them. The list in my head can go on and on and on…

On my drive home, I’m thinking of how to solve my clients’ problems. In the shower, I’m thinking of all the things I need to complete. I’m trying to sleep, then I’m sparked with an idea on how to fix something and I write a quick post it note. Post it notes are seriously my best friend and worst enemy! So, I had to create some rules for myself and my sanity. I realized if I did not separate myself from work and actually enjoy my vacation, I would never feel fully rested and energized to put in my full efforts at work when I returned.

Focus on work when I’m there and focus on life when I leave.

Before leaving for vacation, complete a few important tasks:
  • Set up a friendly Out of Office Response. When someone emails you, they will know exactly what to expect and when you return. When I’m on vacation, my out of office response lets everyone know I have no access to emails and I will respond to emails when I return. I provide contacts and resources for clients so they can connect with the right person if they need help immediately.
  • Wrap up projects before you leave or put projects on hold until you return. If there is a major project in the works, try to schedule your vacation around it. If that is not possible, try to tie up the loose ends as much as possible before you leave. For most of us, our jobs are not life and death. The work can wait 5 – 7 days before it is completed.

Rules to follow when taking a vacation:

Rule 1: Put someone in charge of major projects and clients before you leave.

Sometimes it is impossible to wrap up your projects or all your customer needs before you leave. For major projects, I call or email the client to let them know I will be out office. I give the client a run down of where we are with the project and who to connect with while I’m out of the office. Communicating is key. Make it very clear where the project or issue currently stands and who can help while you are gone. When I return, I catch up with the clients and make sure everything ran smoothly.

Rule 2: Read a book, read a magazine, read anything except your work emails.

Reading your work emails can pull you down a rabbit hole. Did someone respond to this request? Oh this email can be solved with a simple yes or no, I’ll just email this client back, but no one else. It’s easy to get sucked into the mountain of emails. On my out of office responder I say I will not respond to emails until I return and I honestly do not respond to emails until I return to the office. Reading/responding to emails pulls you out of vacation mode and the rest you truly need. I know its hard, but stay clear of your work emails while on vacation.

Rule 3: Keep work calls to a zero or a minimum.

There is no need to call work to check in. Your office should be able to function for a few days without you there. Set boundaries when you are vacation and keep work calls to a minimum. There have been times when my job did need important information from me while I was on vacation and they called me to find out the details. I pointed them in the right direction or I quickly completed the work and carried on with vacation. Once, I took a customer call while I was on vacation, but I desperately wanted to be on the beach with my family. That occurs very very very rarely. These situations helped me realize what measures I needed to take before vacation to ensure everything was in order before I left.

Rule 4: Travel somewhere that makes you feel excited and/or at peace.

Vacation can mean many different things. For me it’s mostly sun and fun on the beach, but I also love visiting new cities and exploring new areas. I like learning something new and trying new foods. One of my favorite vacations was Scotland. I loved seeing Edinburgh castles and how the city was built out of the rocks. I think I actually saw the Loch Ness monster! 🙂 Chose somewhere that sparks joy in your life and gives you the energy to return back to work fully refreshed.

Rule 5: Spend less time viewing screens. Computer screens, cell phone screens, TV screens, etc.

Vacation is a time to do something! If you work at a desk like me, you’re probably always looking at a screen. If it’s not your computer, it’s your cell phone or your TV when you get home. I use my vacation time to go out and try new things. Exploring new shops or checking out the art scenes in a new city are my favorite activities. Even if I just stare out into the sea for an hour. It still beats staring at a computer screen for a while.

Vacations are necessary. Taking time away from work, gives you time to rest and relax physically and emotionally. When I come back from vacation I feel energized and more motivated to work hard and do the job I love. It doesn’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes I have to jump in and get some work done and most of the time I’m relying on my awesome coworkers to step in and take charge while I’m out. I use the five rules above to help me disconnect and focus on myself.

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When Your Client Decides To Cancel

When my client cancels their contract, it can feel like a breakup. Why don’t they want to work with my company anymore? Don’t they love our products? We invested so much in each other, but now they want to cancel their contract. Where do we go from here? Can I save this account?

I work the Software as a Service (SAAS) industry. This means my company sells the service of using our software on a subscription basis. The customer typically signs a contract to pay for a year of using the software service. Sometimes they pay annually and other times they pay the contract monthly but are still obligated to pay for an entire year. This is similar to a mobile phone service contract or paying for cable television. I have an annual contract with my cable company, which means I will have to pay a set price monthly for a year. Even if I don’t want to use it after the 6th month. Even if my internet goes out for no reason and their customer service gets on my last nerves…

There are several Red Flags that can lead to cancelations. Look out for the signals mentioned below when you are communicating with your clients.

Red Flags that can lead to clients canceling their contract:

Acquisition – Your client was acquired by another company. Maybe the parent company uses another product and they are forcing your client to change.

  • As soon as you are notified about the acquisition – Schedule a meeting with your primary contact asap. Connect with the new leaders and contacts to re-sell your product’s value.
  • During an acquisition, a company will be an influx, but you need to secure your place and be at the top of the client’s mind as they are making changes.
  • Best case scenario, you’ll know about the upcoming acquisition well in advance so you can start working with your client to help them navigate through the transition.

New Leadership – Your main point of contact (POC) has changed. The previous primary contact was fired, retired, transferred, or they moved on to a new organization. Now a new person is in place and they do not understand or like your product.

  • If you know your POC is leaving before their actual end date, have them schedule a meeting to transfer information to the new contact within the company.
  • If you find out about the change after your contact is already gone, immediately connect with this client. Pull in other contacts within the company and schedule a meeting to discuss the value of your product and how you can make their work life and their company better with your product.

False Expectations of Your Product – Sometimes your client thinks your product can do something, but your product was not made to solve that particular problem. The client could have been confused during the selling process or the sales team could have made magical promises to close the deal and oversold the client.

  • Find realistic ways to meet your client’s needs. Take the direction off of what your product does not do and focus on what you can do.

Opt-Out Clauses in the Contract – The client might have been given a buy-out clause in the contract. They signed up for a pilot or trial period with an opt out.

  • Keep in close contact with these clients. Have an action plan executed and delivered well before the opt-out date. I like scheduling a review meeting with the client a month before they can opt-out. This way I can gauge their interest and make adjustments if necessary.

No Time to Implement the ProductWhen the client purchases your product make sure they understand how to use it. First impressions matter. If they don’t know how to properly use your product, they might get frustrated and think it isn’t worth the money or the time.

  • Sometimes clients purchase your product and then they disappear. They say they are to busy to work with the product now. This is a No Go! Make it clear that you want them to be successful with your product. You want the product to solve their problems and this requires you to train them on how to use the product. Taking time to teach your client about your product and make sure they understand how to use it is the key to building a longterm customer.

Low Usage of the Product – This ties into the implementation of your product. Typically people are not adopting your product because they do not know how to use it. Ask them why they have not been using the product?

Limited Budget – Should your client use their budget for your product or for office supplies and other necessities? Find out when your client has to solidify their budget and make sure your product fits within their budget constraints.

First Steps to take when your client decides to cancel:

Immediately schedule a call with the client to review the renewal process.

Find out why they want to cancel – Were they implemented correctly? Do they understand your product and know how to use it properly? The client might be canceling because they don’t understand your product, so make sure you review exactly why they want to cancel before you throw in the towel.

Offer to freeze their contract – You can put the contract on hold until they need to use it. Not all companies allow this, but it can be very helpful for a client to have the option to pause payment and use until they really need your product.

Review the Contract Terms: Sometimes your clients throw a curveball and try to cancel right before the end. Check the terms of your contract. In many cases, companies are adding auto-renew terms into the contract. This requires your client to cancel x number of days before the contract renews automatically. Personally, I like to inform clients that the auto-renew will occur, so they are properly prepared and not shocked when you angry when they receive the new invoice.

There are only a few of the reasons your client might decide to cancel their contract with you. The best way to combat canceled contracts is to prevention. Communicating with your client early and often will give you a better chance of securing a contract renewal.

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Learn From My Mistakes: Mismanaged Meetings

Today, our world is all about meetings. Meetings with clients, meetings with our team, meetings with our managers. Meetings via phone, web conference, screen-sharing or in-person. When you get things done and solve major problems, meetings are fantastic. Unfortunately, meetings can be the most unproductive time of your workday. Unproductive meetings are not only a waste of time, they can also be a huge waste of money. In fact, sources state that unproductive meetings cost $37 billion annually.

According to Fuze, 92% of meeting attendees admit to multitasking, 69% are checking email, and 49% are completing unrelated work during the meeting.

Infographic from http://www.goaskcody.com

–> Meaningless Meetings

Have you ever showed up to a meeting and nothing was prepared and no one had anything to share? I’ve definitely organized a meeting with absolutely nothing prepared. I asked my client, “hows everything going? Do you need any help from me?” They said, “no, everything is fine,” because they were busy and we did not have specific topics to cover. The meeting ended in less than 10 minutes, but it was scheduled for 30. With this meaningless meeting, I wasted time and I wasted opportunities to engage my client and upsell products/services. The fact that my client showed up to the meeting was a major feat, but I did not capitalize on the opportunity. Now, when I schedule client meetings, I make sure to bring something that will benefit them and their business. I walk them through new product updates/changes that will specifically combat their issues. I review quick tips on how to use my product. I ask tailored questions to gain a better understanding of their business and discover new ways I can help them.

How to avoid a meaningless meeting:

  1. Create an agenda and have a list of topics to cover.
  2. Create tailored questions to gain a better understanding of their business and discover new ways you can help your clients
  3. If you don’t have anything to talk about, reschedule the meeting until you are properly prepared. Your client will probably love to have more time back on their calendar.

–> Showing up Late to a Meeting

Sometimes my entire day is jam-packed with meetings. Every 30 minutes or hour is segmented into meetings with clients to review issues or meetings with my team to strategize and provide updates. Sometimes I have to schedule a lunch break in my calendar so I can remember to leave my office and have a mental break. Showing up on time to some meetings can be hard because I’m running from one meeting to the next. When I’m right in the middle of fixing a problem and I only have 2 minutes left, I think, let’s just get this done. Then I end up being late to my next meeting. This ends up setting me back the rest of my day. It is important to remember that you are the owner of your calendar. Make sure you are vocal about your time constraints. Be respectful of everyone’s time by starting and stopping on time.

How to avoid showing up late to meetings:

  1. At the beginning of the meeting, tell your clients, your co-workers or your manager that you have a hard stop at a specific time.
  2. Five minutes before the meeting ends, start wrapping up and remind everyone you have to leave at the scheduled time. Schedule more time for later if you still have tasks to complete.
Infographic from http://www.goaskcody.com

Meeting Quick Tips:

  • Start on time and end on time – Yes, you had a meeting at 11am and 12pm and 12:30, but that does not mean you should be late for each meeting. Respect your clients time. Start and end each meeting at the appropriate time. At the beginning of the meeting, tell all attendees that you have a hard stop at a specific time. Five minutes before the meeting ends, start wrapping up, schedule another meeting if necessary and end at the appropriate time.
  • Only have meetings when you have something to share – Everyone is busy. You are busy, your team is busy and your clients are busy. If you don’t have anything crucial to share, reschedule the meeting. If the information can be easily relayed in an email, then no need to schedule an hour-long meeting.
  • Have an agenda and stay on topic – Having an agenda helps guide the meeting. Have a set list of topics you want to discuss and make an effort to keep the conversation on track throughout the meeting. It is easy to go off on a tangent and discuss issues that are unrelated to the tasks at hand. A tangent can derail the meeting completely. Humor and fun conversations are welcome, but make sure to bring the meeting back to the key topics before your time is up.
  • Schedule an appropriate amount of time for the meeting – When scheduling meetings, be mindful of how long the conversations will take. If only 15 minutes are needed, schedule a 15 meeting on the calendar. Keep meetings to 1 hour or less.
  • End the meeting with action steps- As you wrap up the meeting recap everything and create a few actions steps. Make sure everyone knows their next steps. Follow up with an email explaining what you decided at the end of the meeting.

How do you make sure your meetings are productive?

3 Movies that Perfectly Explain Women in Business

Let’s be honest, life is hard. Adding a demanding career can make it even worse. The list and tasks to complete are never-ending. Constant emails, office politics, unproductive meetings, and managers that we despise, or managers that despise us. Then we try to squeeze in Saturday brunches with friends, date nights with hubby and a trip to Sky Zone with our kids or a dance class at the gym. The weekend rushes by then we’re back to the grind. We are busy, but more than that, we are Superwoman.

Below are 3 movies that provide a glimpse into what it can really be like to work in business as a woman. Although these films are exaggerated and mostly comic relief, they share a few great lessons on how to balance your personal life and the business world.

I Don’t Know How She Does It

The synopsis: Sarah Jessica Parker’s character juggles working in the finance/banking industry for a top firm and managing her family life. In the investment firm, she works with several enterprise clients. She is called away from home for impromptu clients all over the country. She works late nights and weekends, and somehow she makes time to take care of her two children and have a healthy relationship with her husband. For women, working in business can have several layers: the pressure to look fabulous, be more prepared than our male counterparts, exude confidence at work, and somehow manage a husband, kids, family, and friends.

Lessons Learned:

  • Work/life balance is a must, not a luxury: I can only imagine what it is like to manage business trips and working on weekends with children involved. I’m not there yet, but I take my hat off to women who manage all these pieces with grace. Work/life balance is not an impossible goal, it is a necessity. When trying to fit everything in and get everything done, your stress levels are skyrocketing. Stress can lead to lower immune systems, depression and a list of other ailments. Take care of yourself! Ask for flexibility at work and say no when your schedule is too full.
  • Make the best of your business trips: In my role, I get to visit clients in cities all over the country. It always sounds nice and lavish to family and friends when I say I’m going on a business trip, but sometimes its really not as exciting as it sounds. Business trip for me = struggling through the airport security, eating airport food or room service because it’s late, realizing I left my shoes or some other necessity, then meeting with the client (my favorite part, but also the most stressful), then right to the airport and airport security again. The whole thing can be very tiring sometimes. Now, when I plan business trips, I make a point to visit at least one main attraction in the city I’m visiting. This way I don’t only see the airport and my hotel room. Last year, I had a client visit in Philadelphia. Although I was exhausted, I forced myself to visit the Liberty Bell and relived a bit of history. It made to whole trip worthwhile and it gave me a few great stories to share with my client during the meeting.

The Devil Wears Prada

The synopsis: This movie follows a young writer who lands an amazing assistant position at a top fashion magazine like Vogue, but she is not exactly fashion forward and she seems to constantly fail at her job. In addition, her new boss was the most terrible boss in the world Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep’s character). If you have ‘t watched The Devil Wears Prada, please stop reading and rent it now. Even if only to look at their beautiful outfits.

Lessons Learned: 

  • Set Boundaries: This movie does a great job of exaggerating a horrible boss who has no limits to what she will ask her employees to do. Anna Hathaway’s character was tasked with creating a science fair project for her boss’ children. That is way too far! Realistically your management or co-worker might ask you to do something that that goes beyond your boundaries, like working on a project over the weekend or planning a client trip on late notice. It is ok to say no and work to find a compromise within your boundaries.
  • Work where you are appreciated and respected: The evil boss Miranda Priestly was ridiculously terrible. We have all been there, working in a toxic environment or working for a manager you don’t have a great relationship with. It is not worth the stress. Do your best, but find a new company that better suits your needs. Find a place where you are treated with respect because we all deserve that.
  • You are the reason you succeed or fail in anything: To be successful at her job, Anna Hathaway’s character had to get out of her comfort zone, research fashion trends, and seek out mentorship from colleagues that were doing well. I definitely believe in work-life balance, but sometimes you do need to work a few late nights and study hard to be successful at your job.

Morning Glory

The synopsis: Rachel McAdams plays Becky, a young news producer was passed over for a promotion and then laid off from her job. She doesn’t let that stop her from pursuing her dream to be a producer for a top news television show. Throughout the movie, she has unending setbacks. During her interview for the new job, the manager says she was too young and inexperienced. Then she has to manage a difficult team, and she works within an extremely low budget. Through it all Becky is determined. She takes extreme risks and experiments with ideas that others are afraid of. In the end, everything pays off.

Lessons Learned: 

  • Take risks because your crazy idea might be the best idea: Have you ever had an idea and you thought, no I won’t say anything because that’s a silly idea, then 5 minutes later coworker John says exactly what you were thinking? It has definitely happened to me. Sometimes your “out there” idea is exactly what your team or your clients needs to hear. Take the risk and tell people your ideas, sometimes it really pays off.
  • No is not a final answer: When someone tells Becky no, she doesn’t take it as a final answer. She is determined. She negotiates with her manager and her colleagues to find a compromise. Sometimes you put your idea out there and the answer is no. Don’t stop there, maybe you need to tweak your idea or ask someone else.
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Learn From My Mistakes: Email Mishaps

Even with an increasing amount of social media outlets, email is still the king of communication. According to Statista, 269 billion emails are sent each day. In a survey from HubSpot, 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. 

Unfortunately, because people use emails so frequently, we don’t always pay attention to what we are sending. Proofreading is optional and mistakes are plentiful. Because emails are a crucial communication for business professionals, we should take the time to edit our emails. Your emails can positively or adversely affect your client and work relationships.

I have made every mistake in the book when it comes to emails. In hopes of saving you from email devastation, I explain my top three email mistakes below. After working through these mishaps, I listed a few quick tips to ensure you are professionally managing your emails.

Mistake #1 – Email Sent has Several Grammattical Errors

This is something I still am working on. Luckily most of us have spell check, but even with spell check some words might slip through, like ‘there’ instead of ‘their.’ One of my worst email mishaps occurred when I was trying to save time. The email was coated with incomplete sentences. In a rush for time, I copied and pasted information from another email, but I didn’t really read through the email to see how it flowed. When the client replied, I glanced down at my email in horror. It barely made sense. Fortunately, the client read between the lines and overlooked my mistake. From then on, I always proofread my emails at least once and sometimes I read them aloud to make sure it sounds clear. For very important emails, I ask a colleague or my manager to review the email before sending it to the client.

Mistake #2 – Meeting invite subject or location is VERY incorrect

I’m including email meeting invites because they have become a common “email” sent to schedule a meeting with clients. Just like an email, you should check the text you are sending in a meeting invite. You should also review the recipient list and the subject line to make sure they are correct. My worst mistake occurred when I sent a client a meeting request with the location of “The Planet of the Apes.” Yes, The Planet of the Apes! You might wonder why and how was that possible. Well.. with Outlook you can choose the drop down to select your meeting location or you can type in the location. When you are typing in your location, Outlook will sometimes give you suggestions based on your previous locations. At that time I used my work calendar for everything. My entire life was scheduled on my work calendar. The week before I went to see The Planet of the Apes with friends and added that as the location for the meeting on my calendar. When I created the request for my client, somehow I clicked this movie title from the past locations. Thank goodness I had such a great relationship with this client. I adjusted the location, apologized and we continued as normal. This situation taught me that it is important to proofread even meeting invites, and that includes the location and subject lines.

Mistake #3 – Email sent to the wrong person (oh no!)

We have all done it. It is very easy to send an email to the wrong Katie in the office or the wrong John Smith client. But my worst email mishap involved sending the email to the wrong person and was a very BIG problem. I was sending an email to my coworker about a client. They were taking over the account and I wanted to give them a quick rundown of how the client was doing. I wrote my honest feedback on the client and then clicked send. As soon as I clicked send, I saw that I had included the client’s email address on the email. Within those 2 seconds, I began to panic. The email was not terribly scathing, but it was not showing the best light on the client. In this case, the client was not happy and they wanted to speak with my manager. In the end, everything worked out and the customer was fine, but it was a situation that taught me to really take email more seriously. Now I truly understand the importance of an undo button. Outlook and Gmail both have an undo or delay option for emails. Everyone should enable these options. This also reminded me to thoroughly proofread all emails, even emails with my co-workers. All parts of an email should be reviewed: the recipients, subject line and the main text are all important pieces.

Email Quick Tips:

  • Enable the Email Undo Option – (lifesaver!)
    • Email sending delay for Outlook
    • Undo option for Gmail (Gmail is automatically set up for a 5 second undo!)
  • Proofread your important emails – Use spellcheck or Grammarly (free writing chrome extension) to proof your emails. Read through the email allowed to make sure the sentence structure is sound. If the email is very important have a co-worker or manager read through it. Ask them to check the tone of the email and make sure your email is clearly getting the point across.
  • Provide the purpose for your email – What is the purpose of the email? Are your thoughts clearly stated? Make sure your reason for writing the email is clearly stated within the first couple of sentences.
  • Personalize your emails – When you send out emails to clients, add their names and customize the email specifically for them. It takes more time to customize the emails, but people are more apt to read your email if 1) their name is on the top, 2) the email has a personal sentence tailored to them 3) the email is sent from your personal email address and not a generic company email that might be sent to the spam folder
  • Only send relevant emails – If the email does not pertain to the client, don’t send it. Nobody likes junk mail and you want your clients to trust you and believe you are there to help and not waste their time.
  • Follow-up – People get a ton of emails. I mean hundreds of emails a day. Sometimes your emails slip through the cracks. Don’t be afraid to forward your previous email and follow up with your client.
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Which Customers Should I Give The Most Attention?

Easy answer: All of them. Every customer is important. I engage with all of my clients (big or small) and let them know they are valued. Your company might already have a structure in place, for example, smaller contracts are directed to the help desk and larger clients are given a primary contact (a Client Success Manager like me). Your company might grade customers based on revenue, status, assets, potential, opportunities from your internal sales team. However your clients are rated internally, all clients should be engaged.

“Treat every client as your most important one” – Gauri Sharma

High Revenue Clients – Larger enterprise clients typically demand more of my time. They need more assistance because they typically have more employees and they have invested a significant amount of money in your product/services. They might have complex internal systems that require you to customize the product to their needs. Clients with larger contracts will naturally take up more of your time. High dollar clients should receive an adequate amount of attention. Your manager and/or your leadership team will want to know you are taking special care of the top revenue clients.  

Let’s shift our focus from who pays the most to which clients have the highest potential for growth. You probably have clients that are spending a small amount of money on your product/services now, but they might have the potential to spend double or more if the relationship is nurtured. According to Gauri Sharma’s article on Forbes.com, we should “Treat every client as your most important one… Provide all clients with your best service, regardless of whether they are a Fortune 500 company or a small business.” She notes that “it is important to remember that today’s small companies could be the big companies of tomorrow, and it’s incredibly fulfilling to be a trusted partner fueling that growth.” Engage with even your smallest clients, provide them customized on-going support and make them feel valued. 

Showing even your smallest client that they hold value can pay off well in the long run. If the client is engaged and you help them meet their needs, they will reach out to you when they need assistance the next time.

As the trusted point of contact, here are a few easy ways to engage your entire client base:
  • Client newsletters – Your company might already send out a monthly newsletter. Its also nice for you (their primary contact) to send a monthly or quarterly newsletter to keep clients up-to-date on upcoming changes, products, and events. Sometimes mass company emails are sent directly to the spam folder and never read, but emails from their company advocate have a better chance of getting views.
  • Monthly touch base calls (bi-monthly or quarter calls) – During a monthly call, you can gather details on the client’s corporate initiatives and internal changes. You can update them on your new products and services. A monthly touch base allows you to find out the client’s needs and determine how your business can solve their issues.
  • Quarterly or Executive Business Reviews – A more formal meeting to review your business relationship with your client. Typically EBRs includes a slide deck presentation walking the client through usage, reports, goals, accomplishments, etc. This is also the perfect time to showcase upcoming products/services and review your product roadmap. *I invite my client’s leadership teams to the Executive Business Review to pull in their leadership team and signal the meeting is important. 
  • Client Roundtables – On a yearly or quarterly basis, pull together a few clients with similar uses/industries on the call. Provide guiding questions to encourage the client group to talk through how they use your product/services. My clients like having a chance to connect with other clients. *This is a technique I plan to start utilizing more this year. 
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How Well Do You Really Know Your Clients?

When I think of what it takes to have a healthy and thriving relationship. I think of many words: communication, collaborating, partnership, vulnerability. Client relationships are no different.

Good relationships take nurturing and vulnerability. That means being open about their needs, your needs, and working together to build a lasting partnership. One way to develop your customer relationships is to ask clarifying questions. With each client interaction, I make an effort to engage my client and find out where I can help.

Don’t be afraid to ask the seemingly dumb or hard questions. Your clients work with many vendors and they should not be surprised by your questions. In fact, they will be happy that you are engaging them and want to know more about their needs.

Here are a few general questions I use to gain a better understanding of my clients:

Why did you originally purchase our product/services?

  • This is a question you should basically know the answer to. If you are unclear or speaking with a new contact, this is a great question to pull you back to why they really need your product. If your product or service is not solving the original problem, figure out how to get back there and help at the basic level.

Can you explain your process?

  • Make sure to tailor this question to your client, whether its a sales team, HR team, or marketing team. Ask more granular follow up questions that get to the heart of their internal processes.

  • Another back to the basics question. A lot of times when I become the point of contact (POC) for a client, they have already spoken with several members of my team. The client feels like they explained everything too many times. Unfortunately, internal notes are not always clear or reliable and hearing the customer’s processes/needs first-hand allows me to serve them better.

What are your pain points?

  • What makes your customer’s life harder and how can you or your product solve this issue for them? If you can help your client solve a big issue, you are in a good position to building a lasting relationship with the client.

What are their corporate or departmental initiatives for the next year? The next 5 years?

  • Find out what their main focus is for the rest of the year and see how your product/services can help them meet their immediate goals.

Your renewal is coming up, who should I send the invoice to? How do you see the renewal process going this year?

  • This question can be a little tricky and I word it differently depending on the customer. For some clients, it’s ok to blatantly ask them if they plan to renew their contract. Because you have a relationship or friendship with your clients, sometimes they don’t want to hurt your feelings or make you feel bad. So they might stall on answering the question (which is a big sign). They might tell you in the nicest way possible, there is potential for churn/cancelation or there are some concerns around the renewal.
  • This is a question you must ask, as early as possible. If your customer gives a negative response, then you have time to work on their needs and turn it around by renewal.  

With the end of the year around the corner, many businesses are wrapping up their fiscal year and getting started on new initiatives for the new year. This year, make it your goal to build a better relationship with your clients. Figure out where your clients need help and support their efforts with your product. Bottom line – it’s time to get to know our clients on a deeper level.

What questions do you ask to engage your clients and gain a better understanding of their business?

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In Person Meetings Still Trump Technology (emails, calls, screen sharing, texts) and yes I do text some clients

With emails, calls, text, website forms, and social media. There are so many outlets to connect with your clients. In Client Success, it is important to stay in contact with your clients. You need to be aware of their pain points and how they have been successful with your product, and stay on top of opportunities to upsell additional products and services. More often than not, your clients are probably located all over the country, if not all over the world. Technology makes it possible to be a message away from your client at any time. Then why do I propose having a customer visit?

  1. Gain product buy-in – In person, you have the ability to pull in the busy C-suite team that typically can not jump on your monthly scheduled call. You can connect with team members that are skeptical about the product and gain insight on how to make the tool work for them. You can be available to communicate with other divisions within the client’s company and conduct large scale training sessions for their teams.
  2. Discover up-sell opportunities  While on site you have a chance to see your product in action. You can ride along with the client or actually observe them using your product. Nuances are sometimes lost over phone calls and screen sharing sessions. In person you gain a better perspective of how your client is using your product and you can discover what opportunities are available. What issues/pain points do they have and how can your upgraded features or tools help solve those issues?
  3. Clients will respect you and communicate with you better – putting a face to a name is invaluable. Having jokes in person or sharing a meal together really helps build your relationship with your client. Your client will be more apt to answer your emails and calls when you’ve met them in person.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t use technology to communicate with your client. Emails and phone calls are not going away anytime soon and you should use these outlets to connect with enterprise clients on a monthly basis. But when you are creating a budget/plan for your year, set aside money to connect with your clients in person whenever possible. Especially your top dollar clients. Whether, you conduct an Executive Business Review or take your client out to lunch, they will appreciate your dedication. Your business relationship and your products value will benefit from these meetings in the long run.

What do you think? What is the best channel to communicate with clients?