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30

Apr 2012

The MoreDigital Guide to Communication: Phones

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MoreDigital Communications Guide header - phones.In the past year, I’ve had several things come up that required me to call a lot of people, or call one company in particular, on a regular basis for about a month. If you’re working the phones and I’m calling, I guarantee you that I will be the highlight of your working day. I don’t moan, I don’t swear, I don’t hang up, I don’t make demands – I’m happy to sit on hold for a while, and listen to you while you’re talking. The reason for this is that I know that working the phones must be one of the least desirable jobs at any company, ever.

Why? Well, it’s not because the actual job isn’t enjoyable, most of the time (telemarketing certainly seems to maintain its own personal circle of hell). It’s mostly because the vast majority of human beings have no concept of how to talk to other people over the telephone. Interrupting, being rude, demanding, impatient, too casual, or not casual enough are all obstacles between you and a caller being friends, and you and a caller never speaking again as far as your business is concerned.

Funnily enough, you want people to like calling you.

So how do we go about solving this, and what are the different approaches to phone conversation?

The Call Centre

If you run a call centre, and some of you might, then you’ll know that your employees are going to have to deal with a lot of people who will likely be extremely impatient because they know they’re calling a customer service line, which will set them against you from the moment they pick up their phone to dial your number. The secrets to keeping them happy are as follows:

  1. Don’t transfer them around endlessly. Really, don’t, because it implies that none of your staff have any idea who the ideal problem-solver is, and if your phone line is an 0800 or similar, you’re wasting someone’s money because your staff aren’t trained to use the right tool – or person – for the job. Not a good impression to make.
  2. Meet demand. If you constantly experience a high amount of call traffic, hire more staff. If you’re worried about the cost, then charging for customer service lines will outweigh the cost of your new customer service employee (ironic, given that they’re the psychosocial equivalent of fire-fighters). If you can’t figure out supply and demand but you own a call centre, it might be time for you to take a course in basic business management.
  3. Be free? It’s not the cheapest option in the world, sure, but what it lacks in revenue it makes up for in a group of customers who know that they’re not paying to listen to your hold music.

That’s just a start, but I’d advise you to remember the purpose of a call centre is to help people. If you can’t do that, go into politics.

The Direct Client Call

It’s five twenty-five, and a client rings to talk about an upcoming deadline just as you’re hunting around for your coat. Do you ignore it? Do you answer and be brief? Or do you make the effort? Pro tip: the first two are the wrong answer, but only to a point. If this is the tenth time today a client has rung you (i.e. they’re control freaks), let it run to answerphone. But otherwise, pick up, and take the time to talk to them and ask them what they need and how you can help.

I’m a writer, so I tend to call people quite a lot to ask them a lot of things, like “can I interview you,” or “where is [editor name here]?” It doesn’t help to repeatedly have my calls ignored, or have someone tell me they’ll call me when they’re ready, despite the fact that we both know that not answering my questions now means we will both miss a key deadline. If you have gone to the effort of offering a client your desk phone number, answer your calls. Unless you’re in a meeting (and don’t always be “in meetings”, it doesn’t make the caller feel very important) or on the phone already, deal with it now so you’re not having to deal with it at five twenty-five.

Common Sense Isn’t Here Right Now, If You’d Like to Leave a Message…

Fundamentally, phones are still your lifeline. You’ll still get tens of thousands of emails, I’m sure, but having a human being who can talk sense and give people the right information is still a requirement in 2012. That is, until they attach Microsoft Sam to an artificial intelligence, but by that stage I’d wager we’ll be too busy running away from killer robots a la Terminator to worry too much about whether or not customer #412937292 is still on the line.

If you have a decent phone network set up, then good for you – it’s going to save you a lot of hassle in the long run. But if there’s no number on your site, and only the receptionist seems to have a phone, then you might be going about your office communications set-up the wrong way. Pick up, or pack up.

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16

Mar 2012

How can you secure your social media accounts?

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Thousands of people log into Facebook and Twitter every minute of everyday, whether it’s for personal or business use, which unfortunately makes it even easier for spam, viruses and hackers to attack hundreds of accounts.

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28

Feb 2012

How have celebrities been used in fake advertising and what are the consequences?

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One of the most powerful advertising platforms around at the moment seems to be Twitter. Companies have taken advantage of its viral abilities by paying celebrities thousands of pounds for posting just one tweet mentioning their brand or product. This shows the extent companies will go to attach their name to a famous person.

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9

Feb 2012

Social media overtakes television – what does this mean in terms of news consumption?

Posted in Blogging, Social Media | 2 Comments »

News Consumption

A recent study that was carried out by internet marketing company Click Consult has shown that social media is now more popular among 16-24 year olds than television. Of the 1,300 people surveyed, a total of 65% said that surfing social media sites is their favourite past-time, which significantly outweighs television, at least among this age group. What, then, does this mean for news consumption? There is a big difference between television and the internet, which is why people are moving across to the latter.

Passive consumption – When news is consumed through television, it is experienced passively. The viewer sits back and watches whatever the broadcasters have chosen to show them, and while they do have the freedom to change the channel or turn off the set, the news programs are not catered for their specific needs.

Active consumption – When news is consumed over the internet, the surfer has much more scope for freedom. They can choose what they want to be involved with, and can move away from things that do not interest them.

  • Niche news sites - back in September 2011, the New York Times reported that web giants like Yahoo and AOL are losing traffic to smaller sites that cater to specific audiences. It is all very well reporting all of the news to everyone, but you are less likely to find passionate followers that way. Those who go to niche sites go there because they are interested in a specific topic, and they will keep coming back to learn the news that they are really interested in. These types of sites are numerous on the internet, whereas the news that is broadcast on the television is a lot more mainstream and less likely to capture focused attention.
  • Personalised news - Going to sites with a specific type of news allows consumers to personalise their entertainment and avoid things that do not interest them. They can subscribe to RSS feeds of certain sites, so that the news is brought to them, but only the news that they want to know about.
  • Push-pull strategies - Television ‘pushes’ information to the consumer, with them having no opportunity to interact with it. However, the internet ‘pulls’ consumers towards it, giving them the chance to get involved and demand information, creating interest and increasing popularity.

News sharing

  • This brings us on to the topic of social media and the idea of passive vs active consumption. Passive consumption – information that is ‘pushed’ at us – gives the consumer no opportunity to get involved, however as we have already seen with niche news sites, the internet gives users just that opportunity, and social networking sites allow for even more participation.
  • Moving even further away from traditional methods of news consumption, we have the 75% of people who actually use social networking sites or e-mail to find news. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have revolutionised the way they we share news as trust shifts from news organisations to individuals that we know. You can use Twitter to follow specific news sites, and as a result build your own personalised news stream.
  • Not only that, but friends can also share news by posting specific stories to each other’s Facebook walls. The internet is not only a place to search for news, it is also a place for people to share things that they find interesting, this involving themselves in the actual process of news broadcasting.

Opinion sharing

  • As well as sharing news, social media sites allow users to offer their own opinions on the news of the day. Passive consumption is changing into something else entirely, with active involvement and contribution ranking high among internet users. So users are not only getting niche news, but in some cases they can access opinionated news, and in turn offer their own thoughts.
  • Opinions are growing and we are becoming more than just a consumer society. The internet now offers us the chance to get involved, create blogs and interact with others.

Convenience

  • Yahoo Finance has revealed that the UK has the highest rate of mobile news consumption in the world. Of the traffic to UK newsapaper websites, almost 10 percent comes from non-computer devices, which suggests that many people are now using mobile phones and tablets to access news on-the-go.
  • This is another reason why people are moving to social media, as the internet can be accessed in many places while television-sets are pretty much confined to the home. With more and more people commuting to work everyday and living busy lives, it stands to reason that they would want to move their entertainment out of the home and into the outside world. Public transport and cafés are becoming the new news-consumption areas, and the way to do this is via the internet and often social media.

The fact that young people are moving away from television and towards social media, shows that the prospect of involvement is more attractive than passive entertainment. Opinions are growing and individuality is being nurtured in a way that changes the way we consume news and enables us to share and comment, thus becoming pro-active. Is this better than just watching the news on television? Social networking sites certainly encourage people to develop their own opinions about issues, and to share things that they thing their friends might like. You can avoid the boredom of learning about sports news when you would rather hear about the arts and you can access your personalised news feed pretty much anywhere.

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31

Jan 2012

Ofsted: Schools are no longer “satisfactory” they “require improvement”

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First AQA (Assessment and Qualifications Alliance) change the GCSE assessments for many subjects, then they plan to drastically alter ICT lessons. Now the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted)  are looking to change the language they use in school inspections. The idea is to toughen up on the standard of education across the UK, and push the lower performing schools into bettering themselves.

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13

Jan 2012

The lowdown on new plans for improved ICT education

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The world of technology is moving at a fast pace at the moment, with continuing developments and innovative thinking. It looks as though this is set to continue, but what will the future look like unless we keep up? According to Education Secretary Michael Gove, it all depends on Information and Communication Technology classes in schools being updated. This is exactly what he thinks needs to happen. The country’s ICT curriculum needs a major shake-up, Gove announced recently in a speech at the BETT information technology show in London.

Let’s have a look at the reasons why we need to keep up with the changing technological environment:

  • For a start, education needs to keep up with the students themselves. One of the main reasons why children get bored in class is that they find that the subject matter too easy. If they already know what they are supposed to be “learning”, then they won’t pay much attention. And many teachers are finding that this is the case now, as many students have already learned a lot about computing and technology by using their own computers and mobile phones.
  • BBC News has reported that, while preparing for his GCSEs, a 16-year-old London schoolboy has created an app that simplifies internet searches. He spoke out about how inspired he was by web design lessons and how he believes that if such lessons were introduced across the country, many more school children would be inspired in the same way as he was.
  • Companies are complaining that there is a shortage of graduates that actually understand computer science. According to The Guardian, many current computer science courses are just not good enough, and this is causing many companies to have to train new recruits extensively, before their computer knowledge is up to scratch.

What specifically should students be learning in their ICT lessons?

  • A group of scientists including Nobel prize winner Paul Nurse have voiced their opinion that the current content of ICT education in the UK is not satisfactory. They say that lessons make people feel comfortable with technology around them, however it is also important for some to develop a deeper understanding or computer science.
  • Primary school students should learn how to code, and those aged 14 years and over should be offered a recognised computer science qualification. The subject needs to go into more detail so that today’s students can become tomorrow’s technology experts who actually know how to create instead of simply learning the ropes.
  • At the moment, teachers are concerned because the ICT curriculum is centred around office-based applications. Students are learning how to use Word, Excel and Powerpoint, which do not prepare them for the wide variety of jobs that will be available when they graduate. We need to ensure that the world will have a new generation of computer creators and developers, and this will not be possible if young people of today are not comprehensively educated in this.
  • There are only 150 schools in England that offer computer studies at GCSE at the moment. Here, they learn about Microsoft’s Visual Basic and JavaScript so that they can gain the skills to go on and develop websites, games and online tools. The opinion among many is that more children should learn about computers in this amount of detail, so that they can begin to create things such as apps from a young age, and then grow into the next generation of computer software developers.

How will ICT lessons be updated in schools?

  • First of all, the knowledge of the teachers must be improved. In his speech, Gove points out that teachers must feel confident enough in their subject in order to pass on their knowledge to students. So the government must invest in individual teachers by giving them the best possible training in the use of education technology, both in ITT and CPD. Their pupils can only benefit once they have the skills to deal with and adapt to new technology.
  • The new way of approaching ICT education in schools will be to give teachers much more freedom. Schools will be able to follow open-source online resources that have had contributions from experts, universities and businesses and new Computer Science GCSEs will be developed.

These new plans promise a long-awaited shake-up in the ICT system. If the improvements go to plan, hopefully it will encourage authorities to think about the whole education system in general. Perhaps all subjects should be updated in a similar way, after all, in his speech Gove says that while there have been countless new inventions and developments in the world since Alan Turing’s time, the same cannot be said for education. Teachers still stand up in front of a class, talking and testing, in the same way as they did in Victorian times, and even as they did when Plato established his “akademia”.  Maybe wide-spread change is in the offing.

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20

Dec 2011

Bell Pottinger against Wikipedia: What are the Violations?

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As we reported earlier the PR Company Bell Pottinger have got in trouble with Wikipedia – and earned lots of negative PR – after they supposedly went about improving their clients’ public profiles on the website using methods that the site’s co-founder Jimmy Wales has deemed unethical and unacceptable.

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19

Dec 2011

Bell Pottinger accused of un-ethical conduct by Wikipedia founder

Posted in Blogging | 1 Comment »

The ethics of PR companies have been called into question after the co-founder of Wikipedia, Jimmy Wales, criticised the PR giant, Bell Pottinger for having “ethical blindness” when editing pages on the open source encyclopaedia he founded. In this two-part article we will discuss the scandal that has rocked the internet in part one, while we analyse the grounds of the argument in part two.

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9

Dec 2011

Near Field Communication and how it will affect the retail environment

Posted in Blogging, Business tactics | 0 Comments

Are you bored of carrying around credit cards and money? Well it looks like you are in luck as Near Field Communication, or NFC, could be set to revolutionise the world of retail. NFC works by allowing two devices to communicate with each other via wireless connections, at short distances of only a few centimetres. This principle is already a big part of the lives of all Londoners who use contactless technology found in the Oyster card, electronic ticketing system used in the metro (or Tube). Commuters just touch-and-go, making travelling a seamless process, at least where ticketing is concerned. This is even more advanced in Japan, where mobile phones are used in the place of Oyster cards and tickets.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this technology. It makes things run a lot smoother, and is threatening to make paper tickets obsolete. This is not the only thing that the technology will threaten, as credit cards and even physical money are likely to come under threat. The main area for development of NFC is in retail. This technology is being increasingly developed for use by shops, allowing their customers to use their smartphones in a similar way that Londoners use Oyster cards.

Customers will their credit card information stored on their smartphone with an embedded NFC chip, then they simply tap on the NFC Reader at the cash register to pay wirelessly and quickly. The advantage of this is clear, it eliminates the need to carry around credit cards and even money, and makes the payment process really simple and fast.

However, storing all of your information in one place can have its drawbacks. NFC technology gives us a gigantic reason not to lose our smartphones, and another reason to panic if you do. If this does happen however, the NFC-enabled phone can be cancelled and if found, the services can be re-enabled. So it looks like it will come down to whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.

One of the big pluses for retailers, including small businesses as well as large, is that they will be able to tie into existing loyalty programs for NFC smartphones and gather useful customer data. This will enable businesses to study store trends and product preferences, as well as performing demographic analysis and other analytical tasks. But what about the application that allows shoppers to scan barcodes and automatically search for better deals elsewhere? Surely this will not be advantageous for businesses, especially if they are small and cannot afford to slash their prices.

However we feel about Near Field Communication, it is on the rise. While at the moment  only about ten percent of shoppers use NFC in the United Kingdom, this figure is higher in other countries, especially Turkey and the United States and it is surely only a matter of time before everyone follows suit. Will this mean the sad end to the Royal Mint in the United Kingdom that has been making money since the 9th Century? Or will it mark the beginning of a technological revolution that makes our lives much more simple and fast-paced? We will have to wait a few years to find out.

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7

Dec 2011

Can Twitter’s trending topics really help a small business grow?

Posted in Blogging, Social Media | 0 Comments

We all wish that our businesses was talked about as much as the headline news or the next big election. The key to getting noticed, of course, is to increase publicity – to somehow wangle our brand into the eye of the public. One good way to achieve this is  by becoming a popular and trending topic on Twitter. But how can we reach these heady heights?

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