Why Won’t Cross-Sectional Teams Adopt Change? The Technology Adoption Lifecycle.

By starting a fire and carefully kindling it, you can roll out a change at your firm with much less effort.

Let’s say you have a change coming up for your users. It could be something practical, like an update to your billing system. You’ve already decided that this change is worth it: decreasing missed revenue and speeding up accurate billing reports. But the update will require your users to work in a different way. Do you dread holding everyone’s hand through the roll-out? Why can’t your users just follow your instructions? Will this take more effort than it has to? How can you make this easier on everyone, not the least you?

Take a moment aside to think of your most troublesome user. How do they react when posed with a change? Now think about the user who picks up changes faster than you think is prudent. How are they different? Who else resists change or eagerly pounces on it? More than likely, your users’ perspectives on change reflect deep personality traits. Do you consider these traits when you roll out a change?

This gets at an idea called the technology adoption life-cycle. In the late 1950’s, Joe Bolen, George Beal, and Everett Rogers at Iowa State University researched how farmers adopt new ideas. They called it the diffusion process. If you think farmers are nothing like you, think again–they cultivate an investment today or go hungry tomorrow. Later, researchers identified five distinct personality profiles shared by major groups and determined that members look most strongly within their group for ideas to adopt:

  1. Innovators: Enthusiasts
  2. Early Adopters: Visionaries
  3. Early Majority: Pragmatists
  4. Late Majority: Conservatives
  5. Laggards: Skeptics

Think of a bell curve across these groups to grasp the portions. In the early 1990’s, Geoffrey A. Moore developed this idea further within startups in a book called Crossing the Chasm. It remains a useful text, even if you can’t recall the examples. He focused on discontinuous changes – those that cause people to alter their behavior, like your billing system update.

Technology-Adoption-Lifecycle

I believe that you can apply this model to shorten the time it takes to get your firm on board with changes being implemented. How? By speaking differently to the concerns of each group.

If you don’t answer my questions first, I’m not receptive to the rest of your ideas. But if you address my needs, I’ll listen further.

Imagine being each of the people below:

  • Innovators: Tech Enthusiasts
    • Volunteers to try out new tools; gives detailed feedback even if the tools aren’t ready
    • Wants: the truth with no tricks, to be the first, affirmation that their feedback is used, and support from a tech expert
    • Usually lacks buying power; price should be someone else’s concern
    • Let them play
  • Early Adopters: Visionaries
    • Driven by a dream of change: a business goal, not a tech goal
    • Driven by personal recognition; will move to the next project quickly
    • Willing to act as a visible reference on first-time projects
    • Least concerned with price, since this is just the tip of the iceberg
    • Hard to please since they’re buying a dream; manage their expectations
    • Overlooked as a source of seed funding
    • Paint a picture
  • Early Majority: Pragmatists
    • Values productivity: incremental, measurable, predictable business progress
    • In it for the long haul
    • “Pioneers are people with arrows in their back”, “let somebody else fix your change”
    • Will pay for service, quality, support, integration, standards, and reliability
    • Show how you can improve their day
  • Late Majority: Conservatives
    • Prefers tradition to progress; stick with things that work
    • Change should be simple, cheap, and not an interruption
    • Point out pragmatists who didn’t get stung
  • Laggards: Skeptics
    • Only blocks change; isolate them
    • Doubts that the change will bring the promised returns
    • Neutralize them with the big picture gain for your whole firm, not just this change
    • Fortunately, few in number

Go at them one at a time. Some groups influence others and you can use this influence to build a beachhead, getting strong adoption among innovators and then moving on to the next group, early adopters. Word of mouth from pragmatists may amplify your message to conservatives. You can build momentum and get more for your scarce time.

If it works for the person I respect, it will work for me.

So, where do you begin? Show your change to innovators at your firm, first. Let them work it out in practice. Avoid teams made of cross-sections of your entire firm, since the negative comments from laggards will sink your idea. Go in phases–form a pilot group of innovators and perfect your idea then, paint a picture of your vision to early adopters. They’re thirsty for change.

There will come a point when you’re ready to jump to the mainstream with pragmatists, but remember, they won’t value change for its own sake like the early adopters. Instead, they’ll invest in productivity gains. So focus on the early majority one small team at a time with overwhelming service. Their positive reviews will mean something to the late majority too. And just let go of the laggards, like the wisdom of the old serenity prayer. Provided you’ve done your work with the innovators, early adopters, and conservatives, the laggards will no longer have the power or influence to derail the changes you’re implementing.

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Turning Around Tough Problems for Your Customers – Part 5

OK! We’re in the home stretch of my customer service series.

We’ve followed LEAP; we’ve kept our customer informed and earned their approval for paths forward; and we’ve talked about times when “the customer is always right” benefits everyone and when “proposing a better solution” is worth the extra effort.

So, what else have I learned along the way that might help you?

Well, I’ve found that some customers will behave differently, depending on who they talk to, as they work themselves up the “authority chain.” For example, in the heat of the moment, a customer may yell at your customer service representative even though they work well together daily. But, when you call that same customer to follow up, they act as sweet as pie. What’s really behind this?

The customer may have been under pressure and, in the moment, let loose on your staff member. If so, they’ll probably apologize quickly. But there’s the chance you’re dealing with someone who’s trying to manipulate you and your team. While you’ll never be able to change your customer’s personality, you can coach your customer service team not to give historically difficult customers the privilege of spoiling their day by helping them remember to remain polite, spell out possible solutions, and escalate where necessary. If a customer personally insults a staff member or will not stop yelling, I ask my team to politely state that the conversation will continue at another time and then to hang up the phone. This trains customers that difficult behavior just slows them down.  You may want to consider teaming several people together to play different roles (e.g. good cop, bad cop; sales vs. production). I’ve found approach very effective when dealing with customers who express difficult attitudes. You may also need to offer regularly scheduled meetings for your customer service staff to vent in-house, up stream, in a safe environment.

Sometimes things get really tough and you find yourself continuously dealing with a difficult or manipulative customer. Do a little research here… Does this customer cost you too much to serve them well? While my customer service team doesn’t have the authority to fire a customer, they are empowered to make such a recommendation to the executive management team. If your company continues to work with someone who repeatedly hurls personal insults at your team, and you permit the behavior, you may lose your team’s commitment. Only you can weigh the outcomes, but you owe your employees the humility of listening to them.

Finally, rely on your Terms and Conditions as a guidepost for everyone involved. Your firm’s Terms and Conditions (T&C) are your collected wisdom that protects you and your customer. If a customer can’t see the value in both sides abiding by your T&C, they’re probably not a good fit for your company. But remember, your T&C are a living document; don’t be afraid to change them when appropriate.

What are your war stories from the trenches? It would have taken me a much longer time to develop much of this insight without the help of my two mentors; feel free to share your ideas with us to help continue to conversation!

Improving Company Culture or Why You Should Start “Taco Thursday”

If you know anything about Algonquin Studios, you know that we have a deep-rooted love of food.  It seems to be something that really stands out when describing our company culture (heck, even our monthly F.E.A.S.T. was explained to me in my initial job interview).  I’d been thinking we should keep the food ball rolling, and when a local brewery tweeted “Today is Taco Tuesday,” my gears started turning… Why not have our own taco day here at Algonquin?  After all, who doesn’t love tacos?

So, I pulled the trigger and composed an e-mail to my coworkers presenting the idea, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. I proposed a build-your-own taco bar, allowing each person to pick and choose the toppings they want. Everyone who eats chips in for the day’s ingredients and we all seem to agree that $3 for lunch is a relative steal compared to lunch elsewhere downtown.

Our first Taco Thursday was an overall a success. Each person seemed to be happy with the lunch received and I was encouraged by all to do it again. Over the following weeks, we’ve had our ups (shredded pork, with leftovers to boot) and downs (cubed chicken, which we ran out of before everyone was served) but, for the most part, it has been a terrific undertaking and it’s quite easy, not very much work ever goes in to the preparation.  If you’re looking to boost your company culture, and enjoy some fantastic Tex-Mex as well, you should consider hosting your own!

Taco Fixin's

In case you do decide to start making tacos for your beloved coworkers, I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned from experience:

  • Collect money BEFORE you get your final count of how many are eating.  Unforeseen circumstances can prevent people from showing up, causing you to eat the cost of their meal.
  • Buy more food than you think you need. My biggest mishap to date was running out of chicken before each person had eaten their first plate – it’s better to have too much (and leftovers!) than too little.
  • Shop at wholesale stores. Ingredients in bulk (cheese, sour cream, taco seasoning, etc.) are ridiculously cheap there compared to grocery stores.
  • Prepare as much as possible at home.  For example, I cook and drain the ground beef at home – the next day, I place it on the stove top with taco seasoning and water and let it slow cook until lunch is served.
  • Rotate ingredients. Try to change things up, whether it’s your protein, salsa, toppings, etc. And additions like rice and black beans help stretch the total number of tacos that can be enjoyed – use them!
  • Don’t be afraid to turn people away if necessary. You can only cook so much food and it’s better to let people know right away if there won’t be enough for latecomers.

As cliche as it sounds, Algonquin Studios is a tight-knit family, and we’re constantly thinking of ways to bring our family together.  If you think your company could benefit by a weekly social gathering, why not try your hand at Taco Thursday as well?  Remember, there’s no such thing as too much employee morale – one of the reasons my co-workers love working here is because it’s flat out a good time, and being able to spend quality time with one another is just one of the many reasons why.

Feel free to leave a comment if you think this may be something you are interested in trying! I’d be more than happy to answer any questions or offer advice. Taco Thursday has been a marvelous experience and has helped further strengthen our company culture – nothing says togetherness like co-workers laughing and stuffing their faces with tacos.  ¡Olé!

The Brand Called You – Growing Professionally

Back in 1997, Tom Peters authored an article titled The Brand Called You for Fast Company magazine. I first read the article in 2005, and while I didn’t (and still don’t) agree with everything in it, it contains plenty of valuable career advice to consider. I recently re-read it and humbly suggest a few more strategies:

Grow Your Web Identity

The place most people will go to find more information about you will be the web, especially if you’re in the IT field. Set-up a LinkedIn profile and get connected to people who you befriended during school and your career. Don’t go overboard filling in every professional detail (that’s what your resume is for), or spamming requests to everyone you’ve ever met. I like to think of my LinkedIn contacts as people who would know who I am if my name came up in conversation.

Use Twitter as a way to keep a pulse check on the professionals that you may or may not know, projects or groups of interest, and local events related to your field. Feel free to use it as a way to broadcast things you’re currently up to — blog posts you’ve written, things you’re working on, events you’re attending, etc. I recommend adding a touch of personality to your tweets. Don’t be unprofessional, but don’t be boring either. Be sure to voice your opinion on current topics and trends that you care about.

Be a “Something” Expert

What’s your competitive advantage? Find something that interests you, and become a knowledge expert on it. Maybe it’s integrated marketing, database performance tuning, quality assurance, or Salesforce. Immerse yourself in it. Know the options, and be able to list the pros and cons for each of them. Get involved in conversations and share your knowledge. Ideally you’ll be able to apply your expertise in your current organization, but if not, that’s okay. Don’t be afraid to make suggestions on ways to improve current processes or procedures related to your knowledge area, and don’t be discouraged if you encounter resistance either. If you present your ideas in a clear manner and validate your claims with good evidence, you’ve done your part.

Be a “People Person”

I feel like people skills are becoming a lost art these days. Our society has become accustomed to communication through text message, email, or instant chat conversations. When trying to validate a claim, keep a project on track, or get the nitty-gritty details ironed out on something, I still believe the best way to do it is in person. If that’s not an option, you should at least pick up the phone and hash out the details with a conference call. And even though everyone’s busy these days, carve out some time to drop a “Hi, how is everything going?” now and then. Don’t limit this to clients — your co-workers and contacts matter too. Human interaction will always be more meaningful than digital communication.

Stay Current

Things change–quickly. You should do your best to stay current in your field. It’s not reasonable to expect to be an expert on every new topic or trend, but you should at least be aware of them. In addition to the updates I find on Twitter, I devote time daily to scanning through information technology articles and blog posts just to keep abreast of new tools and trends. My goal isn’t to know everything about everything, it’s to know where I can find more information about something should I need to. Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dive into something new every once-in-a-while, too.

Remember…

Ultimately, your growth as a professional in your field is your responsibility. Make the best of your opportunities, and continue to nurture your career by embracing change and improving your skill sets. Make yourself more valuable by strengthening what makes you unique compared to your peers.

Applying the Four H’s in Business and in Life

One of the things I like most about working here at Algonquin Studios is the fact that the company has a set of guiding principles “The Four H’s” – Honor, Honesty, Humility, and Humor, that I can I can apply to both my job performance and my personal life.

Honor

As receptionist for Algonquin, I try to incorporate honor into my job every day and, since answering the phone here is a large part of my job, many of my client interactions take place over the phone. I always do my best to really listen to my caller and ask questions to determine what it is they need and who they need to speak to. If the person they’re asking for is unavailable, I often ask if they’d like to speak with someone else, rather than just putting them through to voicemail. When I get a call and the caller seems stressed, I often acknowledge this fact and assure them that I’m committed to finding someone to help them as soon as possible. These might seem like little things, and really, they’re pretty basic ideas for someone trying to be a good receptionist, but it’s often the little things that get taken for granted or pushed to the side during the course of business. I try hard to honor our clients by keeping my level of service high and acting as a means of real assistance for them.

As a receptionist, I know first-hand, that people in service industries often “get lost in the shuffle” of our daily busy lives. I like to acknowledge that I appreciate what the people who serve me do, whether it’s my morning bus driver or my coffee barista. I try to honor these people on a daily basis as well, taking off my ear-buds to say “good morning” to my driver or thanking my coffee shop employee by name when picking up my daily latte.You never know when a genuine “thank you” or “good job” is going to boost that person’s mood or even change their entire day!

Honesty

As the Algonquin web site states, the truth isn’t always popular, but it is respected. Isn’t that the truth? When dealing with our clients and my co-workers, if I don’t know the answer to a question, I strive to be honest about it… Even if I feel foolish at the time. I might not know why our latest office supply order is short, where our CEO is at the exact moment an important client calls, or how to best format an Excel file for a large printing job but I can do my best to find out and, if I’m honest about the steps I’ll take to do so, I know it will reflect well on me in the long run.

Of course, it’s difficult to be honest all the time, especially in “real life.” Confrontations can occur, feelings can get hurt, and relationships can be damaged when you try to tell people things they may not want to hear. I was recently given some great advice, “If you know you’re correct and are being honest, even if what you’re saying isn’t what the other person wishes to hear, then you shouldn’t lose confidence in yourself.” I’m still working on applying this to my personal life but I think it’s a good idea to apply some of our next “H” to the equation, too.

Humility

Humility is an important part of honesty, especially when emotions are at risk. As mentioned on our site, surely, somewhere in the world, someone else has discovered a better, faster, cheaper way. No matter how “right” you know you are, remembering that there are always other valid ideas, opinions, and beliefs at play is key to maintaining healthy, respectful relationships, both at work and at home.

It’s also important to remember that you can’t get very far in this world without the help and guidance of other people. Part of being humble is being thankful for the help others provide along the way acknowledging their assistance whenever you can.Thanking someone sincerely for what they do goes a long way, even when completion of the task is expected or part of their job duties.

Humor

I have to admit, humor is my favorite “H”. Laughter is such an essential part of our day here at Algonquin, I see it in the constant joking heard among my co-workers on any given day, and it’s a huge part of why I like coming to work every day. We’re like a family here and our collective sense of humor provides a bond that goes a long way in making us feel that way.

Humor lightens situations, helps us remember not to “sweat the small stuff,” and creates bonds. Often, our most treasured memories are of times of laughter and jokes. Laughter is unifying and finding things to laugh about-with co-workers,  family, and friends-can only serve to bring us closer together whether we’re working together on a client project or trying to agree on a movie on a Friday night.

Learning about the Four H’s when I first joined the Algonquin team last year gave me a new perspective on my interactions with people in both my professional life and my personal one. Applying the H’s every day, during every interaction, isn’t always easy but I believe that making a concerted effort makes me a better employee and a better person. And I’m pretty happy to have an opportunity to apply myself to both!

The “Doctor Who” Effect

As a sales consultant, I always think it’s great when something I was told during my training process comes up in a real world selling experience. I often only feel as if I’ve truly absorbed the conceptual ideas behind selling when I experience them in a hands-on way. I was recently reminded, during a successful sales call, about the importance of the chemistry between client and prospective vendor and it hammered home the idea that “You’re selling yourself just as much as you’re selling the service you offer.”

Most successful businesses spend a huge amount of time and resources on perfecting things like sales pitches, marketing materials, and product or service offerings. And we expect companies to do this because we all understand that the whole point of any sales and marketing effort is to generate as many leads as possible in order to create as many opportunities as possible to earn business. And in the face of a global marketplace, where there are countless options of web or software development, the sales and marketing team at Algonquin has to work hard to differentiate company and our services from the competition. Finding prospects who are ready and willing to talk to us about our solutions is only the first step. Discovering that we’re a good match process and budget-wise gets us “almost there,” but what does the final “yes” or “no” decision often come down to? Sometimes is simply an intangible quality I’m going to start calling “The Doctor Who Effect.”

Toward the end of the successful sales call mentioned earlier, my co-worker threw out a Doctor Who reference for dramatic effect. And, wouldn’t you know it? We were sitting in a room of Doctor Who aficionados! Now, to be honest, things were going very well prior to the Doctor name drop. We had a good vibe going – some humor, some well-natured sarcasm, and a lot of head nodding. But I truly believe the Doctor Who reference sealed the deal because it helped the prospective client realized that, as people, we’re geared the same way they are. The following week, we returned to give a demo and we discovered they’d already signed our contract, before even seeing the presentation!

Like most sales people, I’ve walked out of a handful of sales calls that were so awkward and uncomfortable, I was sure I was never going to hear from the client again. And I never did. Regardless of our expertise or product offerings, if I don’t “click” with a client, I’m probably not going to get the sale. And, of course, I’ve walked out of sales calls feeling like the prospect and I were long-lost best friends, only to have them go in another direction and, in those cases, I can only assume that while “The Doctor Who Effect” may have been in effect, our solution or price point simply weren’t the right fit for the company.

The “sweet spot” is when you’ve got both the best solution AND the best chemistry going for you. I’ve seen the powerful combination in effect more than once now and I’m convinced it’s key to the majority of successful sales. Now I just have to work on finding more prospects who watch Doctor Who!

How To Train Your Newbie

I’m sure that most managers can agree that giving thorough training to new employees is critical but where they might differ is in the methodology used to implement that training. While some companies prefer to implement rigorous training programs, others have new hires simply shadow existing employees (unfortunately, a Rocky-style training montage isn’t an option for most organizations). But, regardless of the methods employed, training for a technical position requires a great deal of learning over a long time period. There are several things I believe can help improve the learning process, so I’ve compiled a short list of the things that especially benefited me during my ramp-up period at Algonquin Studios. Take a look to see if they can help you get the most out of the time training your new employees, as well:

Encourage The Writing And Use Of Documentation

Most companies have a detailed knowledge base available. Not only are these articles great for assisting customers with issues, they also provide a great tool to beginners.  Seeking answers to their questions from other employees is a good thing, but finding the answer themselves by doing some knowledge base research might be even better. New employees should also be encouraged to write their own articles, as the things they write will stick with them better than things they simply read through. If they have a question that isn’t explained in any existing documentation, it’s probably a good idea for them to write it up!

Teach In The Way That Works Best For The Employee

Some people, myself included, are visual learners. It’s much easier for me to grasp a new concept by viewing diagrams and reading instructions than it is for me to absorb verbal directions from a teacher. Talk to your new employee and find out how they prefer to learn;  while it’s important to be flexible and able to learn in multiple ways, it’s also important to provide people with an efficient and effective way to teach learn new concepts.

Offer Help, Even If They Haven’t Asked For It

Being the new person at a job can be stressful and stress might cause them to be hesitant to ask for help when they need it. Regularly check in and offer to help them, either by explaining something they don’t understand or reinforcing their training with some helpful examples or advice. The voice of experience from a willing and generous teacher can foster increased confidence in newbies.

Make Sure They Don’t Get “Too Comfortable”

This can sound a bit harsh but people learn new skills the fastest when they don’t become complacent. While it’s never good to completely overwhelm someone and cause them to break down from the stress, a little fire under them will keep them moving in the right direction. Gauge their progress, making sure that when they become familiar with basic tasks they’re assigned more advanced ones quickly.

Give Criticism When Warranted

It can definitely be tough to hand out criticism but it’s crucial to making sure first-time mistakes don’t become permanent habits. Remember that the point of constructive criticism isn’t to demean and punish, so it should always be done with respect. While it was never fun for me to be told where my work could use improvement, it gave me a clear goal of what was expected of me and I am better today for it.

And on the opposite side of that…

Recognize When They’re Doing a Great Job

Everyone wants to feel as if they are succeeding; positive reinforcement can go a long way towards motivating people to continue learning. Not only does this keep spirits high, it helps create a comfortable working environment and friendly company culture. Make sure your new employees know when they’re getting it right!

How does the on-boarding/training process work at your company? What are the similarities between my list and yours? Feel free to leave a comment below with any great new employee training ideas you use!

Learning on the Job

I’ve been the receptionist here at Algonquin Studios for more than six months now and I have to say, working at a technology company when you don’t have the same level of technical knowledge and understanding as your co-workers can prove to be pretty challenging.  Fortunately, it can easily be informative and rewarding as well!

If you’re at all like me, you’ve experienced the complete confusion of overhearing a conversation and not understanding a single aspect of it. Obviously, at a company that develops custom software and web sites many of my fellow employees discuss their code and designs frequently, and although I sometimes get lucky with lunchtime discussions that revolve around the most recent Bills game, fantasy football, or the NHL lockout, I often feel lost just listening to them when the topics veer back to HTML, database design, or requirements analysis. And, of course, technologies are always changing, so as soon as I think I might  have a good grasp on something, it changes, or gets “improved,” and I feel like I’m back at square one.

But, the flip side of this coin is that for all of my confusion there’s an opportunity to learn.

One of the best things about Algonquin Studios is that it’s a company of technology consultants. While I’m certainly a competent computer user – I can download music, install new hardware and software, and surf the internet with confidence, knowing I’m not going to get a virus – working with developers and designers who spend their days, not just staring at a screen, but actually interacting with our clients, having real conversations with them, asking the questions that get to the root of their problems, and then buckling down to develop the right solution for that problem, means that I’m in the enviable position to pick the brains of people who can really break things down for me and explain them clearly and simply. I can ask questions about things I don’t understand and gain better understanding of constantly evolving technologies. And, since I’m a pretty fast learner and I like being able to share new things with others, I enjoy being able to take the knowledge I gain here and pass on to my family and friends.

I think it’s important to remember to keep an open mind, not just about new technologies but also about your own ability to understand them and use them in your daily life. And it’s equally important to find people who are willing teachers. Fortunately, at Algonquin Studios, my inquisitive spirit is complemented by a group of really helpful technology experts!

 

A Salute to Persistence

Persistent: tenaciously or obstinately continuing despite problems or difficulties (Encarta Dictionary).

I think persistence could be the single most underrated attribute. Persistence can often make up for deficiencies we have in our characters or skill sets. It’s one of those little things that can go unnoticed, but I bet if you were to analyze most successes under a microscope, you’d probably see persistence in abundance. And I think this would be true of people born with all kinds of natural talent and ability as well as those who have little but manage to “win” nonetheless.

Pick a hat; any hat. Pick an industry; any industry. It doesn’t matter if you want to be a successful teacher, banker, salesman, coach, parent, or spouse – you have to be persistent. If you want well-behaved kids, you can’t enforce the rules just once. You need to persistently uphold the rules and create consequences for when they aren’t obeyed. If you want a healthy marriage that stands the test of time, you and your spouse had better be prepared to work at it – persistently. What if you want to change the culture at your workplace or make some headway for the children participating in your inner-city youth soccer program? You’ve got it… you have to be persistent. Heck, remember the old standby question from high school or college “How’d he get her to go out with him?” More often than not, persistence is probably a factor in the answer.

So, let’s apply my thought process to the sales arena. Obviously, persistence is an important part of making a sale but somewhere along the line, I think persistent sales people have gotten a bad rap. Of course, if you’re persistent in an effort to sell ice to Eskimos, people will probably develop some strong, and not-so-nice, ideas about you as a sales person. But in my mind, that’s less a problem of persistence and more a lack of respect. Most of us don’t feel good about a sale that doesn’t benefit the client just as much as the vendor and, in the case of the pushy sales guy who can’t respect the fact that his prospect doesn’t need his product or service (or has simply said “no” to his sales pitch), I think persistence might be getting thrown under the bus.

As a sales consultant here at Algonquin Studios, I’m always going to be persistent. I’ll be persistent in my attempts to learn about your company; to learn what your pain points are and what you need from your web site or software; to learn what your ideal vendor relationship looks like; and to demonstrate the expertise we’ve developed and can implement for you.

And, I’ll always encourage my sales prospects to be persistent, too – persistent about vetting potential vendors for their experience, capabilities, and a general willingness to share the ins-and-outs of their companies. You should take the time to identify a clear scope of service for your projects and you should share that information with the vendors you’re considering. You should give those vendors time to ask questions about your project and allow their expertise to modify and further develop its final scope. And you should remember that if your persistence is met with reluctance or a lack of disclosure on a vendor’s part, you’ll want to take notice and be careful.

In the end, persistence will help both of us figure out if a relationship between Algonquin Studios and your company is going to be successful. So, I’d like to thank persistence for helping me and my clients get to a good place; the right place.

Thank You for Calling…

As the receptionist here at Algonquin Studios, I answer the phone with the phrase “Thank you for calling Algonquin Studios, how may I help you?” With this one simple sentence, I hope to be welcoming and accommodating to our callers. Because I’m often the point first contact for prospective clients and a consistent contact for many of our longstanding clients, my attitude and personality are reflections on the company and I strive to make sure they’re positive.

It’s been said that a first impression is made in the first seven seconds of contact. In those seven seconds, we absorb indicators of a person’s professionalism, courtesy, knowledge, helpfulness, credibility, confidence, and understanding and, in those seven seconds, a prospective client might make some assumptions about Algonquin Studios. I’m often the first face people see when they come to our office and the first voice they hear when they call us so, when I interact with these people, it’s important that I portray an appreciation of their business and an eagerness to help.

Obviously, being happy, energetic, and welcoming when they call or arrive is important but what about going the extra step? Taking things to the next level to ensure a positive experience? Most of the time the “extras” can be simple but they can really go a long way: things like offering people a beverage or personally walking them to their destination (a conference room or someone’s office) are always a nice touch. I’ve taken to keeping the menus and brochures for some of Buffalo’s best restaurants and tourism spots at my desk, so I can share them with our out-of-town visitors and make recommendations about the hidden jewels of our city, helping to ensure they have a pleasant visit, not just to Algonquin Studios, but to Western New York as well.

Going the extra step can be a bit more difficult on the phone but I like to try to gather some information from callers before I direct their calls. Personally, I think one of the most annoying things about calling customer service is when you get transferred and have to keep announcing yourself, and explaining your problem, over and over again. Making note of a person’s name and the reason for their call and passing that info on to the Algonquin team member who’ll be helping them might seem like a little thing, but if it spares the client the aggrevation of restating their issue, I think it’s worth it.

Here at Algonquin, I think my interactions with clients and prospects also help promote one of our guiding principles – Honor. For us, honor is about listening and providing value and, as the first line of contact, I’m in a unique position to do both. It’s easy to think of the receptionist position at any company as a simple role that could be filled by almost anyone but it’s important to remember that your receptionist can be a valuable representative for your business and to treat the position as just that – an ambassador for your clients.