Kym Illman

Exceeding Expectations

Outside of my hours at Messages On Hold, I have a little creative side project that occupies my time and I recently ordered some promotional materials for it from a popular print house.

Now, this print house is no louse when it comes to customer service. They have successfully implemented an online ordering system that allows you to upload your own designs and place orders safe in the knowledge that things like overrun bleed lines won’t ruin the batch. You used to have to drive down to the store, talk to a printer representative and even pay a file handling fee. Now it’s done from the comfort of your own home. They also offer predesigned promotional material that you can customise and it’s all competitively priced.  After placing your order, you’re offered significant discounts if you buy something else within half an hour. Very clever. These guys are on the ball… mostly.

My order was for 30 pages of promotional stickers. A week later I had received 2 packs of 10, so I called to inform them of the mistake. The customer service representative was efficient and competent. I explained the situation and she concluded on the spot that there must’ve been an error and that she would send through the remainder of the order.

Do this. Not literally. But also literally.

Do this. Not literally. But also literally.

This company has empowered their customer reps to make these kinds of decisions without looking to a superior. Big tick, Kym Illman would approve. They’re also banking on the fact that they did actually stuff up and I wasn’t just trying to scam them out of another 10 pages. The cost of being scammed was significantly less than the cost of possibly insulting a paying customer. The call wrapped up and I received an email saying the package would be express delivered.

Good job, right? Almost. I was a frustrated customer, they admitted fault and now I’m back to where I started with a little lost time and some mild frustration. Will I go back to them? Maybe… sure they fixed the mistake as soon as they found out about it, but maybe one of their many competitors won’t stuff up the first time. I have nothing to lose by trying someone else.

Instead, imagine if the conversation ended like this:

“Please accept our apologies for the missing pages. We’ll quickly get those 10 pages out to you.  We would also like to send you a further 10 pages for any inconvenience that may have been caused.”

I suspect those extra 10 pages would’ve cost them very little to print and they would’ve likely gained a delighted lifelong customer whose expectations had been clearly exceeded.

When faced with a disgruntled customer, realise you’re being presented with an opportunity. It’s a rare case of someone actively engaging with your business with an explicit expectation. Take that expectation by the horns and run with it. You’ll find delighted customers are great for business.

– Jakub

Aim Carefully, Don’t Over Shoot

I’ve worked in customer service, in a variety of different settings, for many years now and until recently I didn’t really ponder the dynamics of the customer service relationship too deeply.

A couple of weeks back I had the displeasure of shopping at a chain of clothing

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

“What do you mean you don’t need my help?”

stores whose staff have been mercilessly beaten with an attitude of “push, push, push” and the result is a flow-down effect on the customer. I entered their store and after about 5 minutes of contented browsing I was approached by a young man whose face was split by a smile that was not reaching his disinterested eyes.

How are you today man?” he boomed in faux-enthusiasm. I replied that I was great and returned my eyes to the racks.

You looking for something in particular, because these are made and designed in Oz” He said at me, while holding up a shirt from a nearby rack and pointing at it suggestively. I replied that I wasn’t and I was just browsing. However, this seemed to be like waving red to a bull – how dare I attempt to browse this store without his input.

Yeah, I get that all the time. Did you know that all those jeans are handmade? You’d rock the mauve ones” He said pointing behind me. I thanked him and told him that I was just browsing – again.

After an awkward silence he exclaimed “You look lost!” and moved far too close to me. I assure him that I was not, and I was exactly where I wanted to be.

Are you sure?” He asked. I repeated that I was fine but I now had a sinking feeling that I will not be allowed free reign of the store without being rude to this “salesman”.

Well, you sure look lost. Hey, you’d look good in one those jackets. I’m thinking you’re a dark blue kinda guy” he says while physically grabbing my arm to drag me somewhere. It was at this stage that I decided enough was enough and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t want anything anymore and left the store.

I think this kind of persistence is something that, if we’re honest, we’ve all experienced in a sales environment. For me, it drove home the importance of ‘reading’ a customer. Great salespeople will tell you that a good sales pitch gets the sale and a repeat customer. The ‘brute force’ method of mercilessly pushing a product will sometimes get the sale, but it will likely deter the customer from coming back to you because they found the experience to be uncomfortable or intimidating.

By no means should customers be ignored, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that it’s equally detrimental to overshoot in the other direction. A salesman who’s obviously faking his enthusiasm, and covering the customers like his opponent in a footy match is more likely to put off customers than keep them coming back.

– Kyle

What’s In A Name?

People love hearing their own name. It’s one of the earliest nouns we’re conscious of and hearing it actually activates certain parts of our brain. How to Win Friends and Influence People was first published in 1936, almost 80 years ago, and even then Dale Carnegie could identify how much of an impact using someone’s name could have.

At Messages On Hold we like using names. It relaxes people. From a customer service point of view, it’s a simple and effective way of building rapport with our clients.

Of course, saying a person’s name when we’re directly communicating with them is the ideal use of a name, but we wanted to find a better way of taking advantage of the name game.

Enter Shane Warne.Shane

We sponsored Shane for a few years and loved having him on board as a member of the Messages On Hold team.

Our Managing Director Kym Illman knew having Shane associated with Messages On Hold was a fantastic opportunity to strengthen the quirky nature of our brand but he also identified a way to make our clients names sound even sweeter – by having Shane say them!

When we welcome a new client or employee to the Messages On Hold family, they get a phone call from Shane. It’s a friendly call, just to let them know they’re appreciated and we’re excited to work with them!

Unfortunately, due to Shane’s busy schedule we couldn’t have him dropping everything to make a quick phone call whenever we needed him, so Kym came up with a clever plan.

To boost our odds, we collated a list of the 500 most common first names in our database and the 300 most common surnames. Then we asked Shane to record the message we’d like to send all our clients, plus the list of names we’d come up with.  Now when we welcome a new client or employee, there’s a good chance we can send them a personalised, friendly message from Shane Warne including their two favourite words!

Not only is this a fantastic way of making our much-appreciated clients and staff members feel welcome, it’s also a great marketing tool. I know when I got my phone call when I started at Messages On Hold, I told everyone that my new employer had called me and managed to get Shane Warne to say hello to me, personally! The idea is that the more you blow your clients away with interesting touches like that, the more likely they are to share the experience with their associates. Using names in a unique manner is one way we can keep building great relationships and ensure our brand continues to be aligned with quirky, fun and personal marketing messages.

– Sophie

The Art of Answering the Phone

Answering a phone – pretty simple, right? Wrong! As one of the most common business tools, it’s often the one that’s taken for granted. That fact is only a small percentage of businesses actually train their staff to use the phone correctly. I’m not talking about holding the handset in a certain way or perfecting a dialing technique, I’m talking about the words and tone they use while on the phone.

Will you answer the call to good phone manners?

Will you answer the call to good phone manners?

At Messages On Hold, the telephone is our bread & butter. And because we do business over the phone, every employee who joins our team undergoes a thorough and complete phone training session as part of their induction. This training focuses on the words & tone they use while on the phone, as well as helpful phone techniques such as barging & transferring a call and placing a call on hold.

So, what are our top tips for improving the way you use your most powerful business tool? Read on to find out!

Answering The Phone

Bad Practice: “Hi thanks for calling, (your name) speaking”

Good Practice: “Thanks for calling (company name) this is (your name).”

To help the caller confirm they’ve called the right company, say your company’s name. And there’s no need to say ‘speaking’ after your name – they can already determine this.

Returning From Hold

Bad Practice: “Are you there?!”

Good Practice: “Thanks for holding, (client name).”

If the caller isn’t there, they can’t answer your question. Thank the caller for holding and continue with your conversation or just leap right in with what you’re returning to tell them.

The Hanging Or…

Bad Practice: “Can I take a message orrr…”

Good Practice: “Would you like to hold or shall I take a message?”

The hanging ‘or’ sounds unprofessional; if you don’t have another option just drop the ‘or’. You’ll sound more decisive.

Calling Back

Bad Practice: “Sure, I’ll call you back later today.”

Good Practice: “Sure, I’ll call you back at 2:42 this afternoon.”

Later today isn’t specific and does nothing to ensure the person you’re going to call back will be ready for your call. By providing them with a specific time (and keeping to it!) you’ll appear more committed and they’ll know to be ready.

There you have it! Use these lines effectively and you’ll have a real edge over your competitors while leaving a positive impact on your callers. The quicker you put these ideas into practice, the quicker you’ll reap the rewards.

– Lachy

Life Through The Lens

What started out as a hobby has become a full blown passion for our Managing Director Kym Illman.

“I like art but can’t paint, so I chose photography” says Kym. “Just the sheer diversity of what can be produced via a camera – you could wait four hours for a shot.”

He’s good too. Real good. He had several photographs make it into the West Australian Newspaper, including the one pictured here and another showing the moon in great detail resting atop Perth’s highest skyscraper. Cats

You could say this is a natural progression for a man who’s notorious for getting in front of the camera with his ambush marketing stunts.

“I love the reaction of the viewer to a breathtaking shot”

His shots are available for purchase on a choice of media and start from as little as US$250. Head over to Kym Illman Photography and browse his portfolio of stunning images, which range from the majesty of Africa to the beachside lifestyle of Lancelin, WA.

– Lachy

You Get What You Pay For

We’ve all heard the saying ‘you get what you pay for’. This is especially true in budget businesses such as discount retail stores, accommodation, air travel – you name it.

service

In October 2010, I returned from a trip to Japan in complete awe of how fantastic their customer service is (you can read the blog article about it here). So you can only imagine the initial shock I felt when I read an article slamming a Japanese airline for their poor service and careless attitude towards handling complaints. It just didn’t seem right for Japan. Sure, maybe America but not Japan!

To summarise the article, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government filed a complaint against Japanese budget carrier Skymark Airlines after it posted notices informing customers it would not be accepting complaints during flights. Even more shockingly, Skymark’s ‘service concept’ stated that cabin staff “would not help passengers stow their bags and that attendants were not required to use ‘polite language’ when talking to customers.”

My astonishment was almost immediately washed away when I read that this was a budget airline. When you sacrifice price, everything else goes out the window. Lower fares meant less staff who received less training and less pay. As a result, they couldn’t afford to care about anything more than the bare minimum. Put simply, if you want to pay less you can’t expect the best service.

Cheaper rates might see more first time customers through the door, but the cheap service won’t see them return a second time. Outstanding customer service and attention to detail is what brings people back for more and at Messages On Hold, it’s what turns first time clients into long term, loyal customers.

– Kym Illman

Messages On Hold: Steroids for VoIP Systems

In April we posted here on what it takes to create a fantastic-looking and highly-effective web video. Today I’d like to share with you the finished product.

voip

As per usual, Messages On Hold MD Kym Illman stars in our latest video production.

There’s no denying VoIP phone systems are becoming more and more popular. In fact, we encourage all our clients to make the switch from traditional PABX system to VoIP because not only are they easier to manage, they also provide our clients with more opportunities to reinforce their brand image and market to their callers.

That’s because unlike a traditional PABX or commander phone system, which requires additional hardware, select VoIP systems are capable of playing:
• A welcome message
• Menu prompts
• Voicemail messages
• After hours message
• and more

Until recently, a client of 5 years had been playing On Hold messages through one of our digital replay units connected to their PABX phone system. When they told us that they were beginning to outgrow their system and considering alternatives, we advised them that a VoIP system would allow them to manage their inbound call traffic much more effectively and directed them to watch our video on YouTube. (It’s since been uploaded onto our homepage and downloads page.)

Although many businesses make the mistake of recording the audio themselves, our client understood from watching our videos that their welcome message and menu prompts were hugely effective at shaping callers perceptions. They also didn’t want to run the risk of sub-par recordings compromising the effectiveness of their professional On Hold messages. So they had us script, voice and mix their phone greeting, voice prompts and after hours recordings instead.

If you have a question about VoIP and how to leverage it to connect with callers and support your sales teams, post your question on our Facebook page or contact us today.

– Lachy

Risks Reap Rewards!

Most people like to play it safe, but personally I’m a big fan of taking risks. And so is Executive Chef and owner of The Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal. After all, it was taking a risk that propelled him to superstardom.

Liquorice salmon. Snail porridge. Quail jelly. These aren’t your average run of the mill dishes, but he took a risk believing the public would develop an appetite for them. And he was right. The Fat Duck has been ranked one of the Top 5 Restaurants globally since 2004, and claimed top spot in 2005.

In Heston’s case, a calculated risk reaped huge dividends. The same applies in marketing. Let’s take an iconic Messages On Hold image – the yellow hands at AFL matches.

Our Managing Director, Kym Illman, knew it would be a risk ‘ambushing’ each game with his big yellow hands behind the goals. And sure enough he was right. (Once he was evicted from the ground!) Yes there was negative press, but he was able to go on radio and explain his motivation, ironically securing more free exposure at the same time.

You could think of it as a cost-benefit analysis. Is the potential reward greater than the risk? In our case yes. On one hand paying sponsors were upset, and there was some expected backlash from fans and viewers. But we were getting the Messages On Hold brand out to a national audience for the price of admission.

In the end we came to an agreement with West Coast that’s mutually beneficial. In fact – we’ve been a proud official sponsor for the last 20 years.

We’ve all heard this one before – “look before you leap”. But no one ever said you couldn’t leap at all! If you’ve done your research, weighed up the pros and cons and are prepared to take a risk, go with your gut! Next week we’ll take a look at how to manage any potential fallout.

– Magnus

From Behind The Camera

Have you ever wondered what it takes to create a fantastic-looking and effective internet video like the ones on our homepage? We write, film and produce the entire thing ourselves – and you can too! A lot of businesses, ourselves included, are turning to new media such as internet videos to build brand equity and drive sales. We’re almost finished producing our latest video and this article looks at the process we’ve gone through to bring it to fruition.

The starting point is obviously a script. This took us a few weeks of writing and editing. Once we were happy with it, the next logical step was to storyboard it out then have a dry run to get an idea of flow and duration. It’s at this stage any dialogue flaws were ironed out and prop ideas came to light. It may sound pretty straight forward, but to get an accurate idea of how filming would run the following day we needed to set up the ‘set’ as if we were filming ‘for real’.

Location
We located our set in the conference centre of our office as we could control the amount of natural light that flowed in. The set itself comprised a large green screen drop sheet, which was pegged to two poles.

kym

It was important that the screen was taught enough to have no wrinkles which would create shadows (and chaos for editing in post production) yet loose enough to have a gentle curve to the floor. This required a healthy serving of Gaffer tape.

Lights
There’s so much more to lighting a set than just flicking a switch. You need the right kind of lights and the know-how to arrange them as to give the best effect. Trust us, investing in some good quality lights & diffusers makes all the difference. The lights serve two purposes: to illuminate the subject and to eliminate shadows. This was the most time consuming part of the set up.

kym

Camera                                
Once the green screen and lights were set up, and our dry run complete, we were now ready for filming. The following day, our camera man & edit master arrived and set up the camera and autocue. (For those of you with iPads, check out this neat gadget which makes flawless speeches possible.) Kym arrived – sans Hollywood entourage – we got him in position and were ready to roll.

Action… sort of.
Now, I won’t go into detail about the filming process because our crew worked through from 7am until 2:30pm to film the entire thing! That’s approximately 7 hours to film what will in the end be a 2 minute video. A few things we learned during filming were:
• An autocue makes a world of difference, especially with long monologues
• Lights get extremely hot (Cheers Kym for being a sport about being roasted alive)
• A good storyboard streamlines the filming process by a good 2 hours
• Keeping a clipboard with notes as to which takes were best saves time searching in post production.

That’s a wrap folks! The video is about halfway through post production now and it’s looking fantastic. We can’t wait to show it to you, so keep an eye on our website over the coming weeks.

Mastering Marketing In Under 2 Minutes

Okay, you may not be able to master marketing in under two minutes but with my new online video series, you can master it week by week, little by little.

In Mastering Marketing I put the spotlight on the tactics successful businesses and entrepreneurs use every day to out-market, out-sell and out-perform their competitors. Each bite-sized Mastering Marketing episode runs for about 90 seconds, and tackles something topical relating to sales, marketing or customer service.

To find out more point your browser to www.MasteringMarketing.com.au or click hereEpisode 1: Perfect Marketing and Episode 2: Marketing In A Downturn are available to view right now. To receive notification of each new episode as soon as it becomes available, click the register button and submit your details.

– Kym