Monthly Archives: September 2013

Does your company have testimonials from happy clients?

Categories: Popular on Google+, Sales, Semi-Popular | Tagged | Leave a comment

Does your company have testimonials from happy clients? Yes? Do you think you should post those on your website? Maybe put a few on your home page and then have a link to the rest on some other page. Credibility is what drives business in today’s world (and yesterday’s world as well, but saying today’s world sounds better). You gain credibility when a client refers you to another client. You gain credibility when you have a professional looking website. You gain credibility when you have smart people answer the phone at your company and behave in a helpful way.

But, testimonials are one of the more potent forms of credibility. So, if you have a few, don’t waste them. Show them!

People want to work with you if other people are happy with you.

(1) Do you have testimonials from happy clients? Post them on your website!
(2) You gain credibility when a client refers you to another client. Get online reviews!

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Cottage industries in India ruin India’s outsourcing reputation

Categories: Outsourcing Articles, Semi-Popular | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Many people feel that the industry relating to call centers in India has had its reputation ruined by cottage industry players. What is a cottage industry you might ask? Tiny companies with one, two or three employees might be considered members of the cottage industry. India has many call centers that are family operations run out of people’s living rooms. Their neighbor, uncle or cousin might work there when they are out of a job. Many of these companies are completely unprofessional. But, here is my take on the matter.

I am pro-cottage industries. My business is a tiny company. We have three people all working from our homes. People who work from home tend to be the least reliable, but we tend to be generally very reliable. We have been running websites for over 12 years you know! But, for new startups, people are not always realistic. It takes money, skill, manpower, connections, and more to run a small business. I say that it is better to start really really small, and build your way up… Slowly!

The faster you rise, the harder you fall is a line from a rap song. It is sometimes true. Grow slowly but steady and you will be more stable. Don’t try to grow faster than nature lets you. Grow step by step, brick by brick, relationship by relationship. If you have been in business for three years, your clientele should be mostly people who have been with you at least a year, otherwise you are not a stable company. Your staff should have stuck it through with you hopefully for a long time so you know them. To grow in a stable way, your relationships need to be stable. Business is about relationships.

But, what can we do to clean up the cottage industry world of call centers in India? The problem doesn’t get automatically solved if you have an office. Offices are not magical, they are just buildings. Unless they were blessed by a god, they are just a hunk of concrete. People who work in large offices often deliver horrible quality work. The solution is simple — just pay attention to the quality of your work and try to always make it better.

Kai-Zen is the Toyota term for constant improvement. Why not try to find new ways to make your company daily. It is not about trying to find new tricky ways to screw your customers out of a few rupees. Then, they will dump you and you won’t have a business. Find new ways of delivering quality to your customers, then they will multiply!

(1) Many feel that home based call centers in India have ruined India’s reputation.
(2) My business functions w/people working from home. But, do call centers do well like this?
(3) Offices are not magical, they are just buildings. Do people all work better in an office?

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Does your company behave as if it doesn’t want new clients?

Categories: Sales | Tagged | Leave a comment

Does your company behave as if it doesn’t want new clients?
Believe it or not, worldwide, most companies I have talked to seem to not want new clients. Perhaps they just don’t like me which is hard to understand considering what a fun and jovial person I am.

In America, finding a salesperson to talk to is like pulling teeth at most companies.

In India, even getting a company to answer their phone is a daunting task.

How does your company behave?

Do you make it easy for new people to start working with your company?

97% of Indian companies make it very difficult to even talk to a manager who will answer simple questions.

Are you one of the 97%, or the 3%?

If you want to grow your company, I suggest joining the ranks of the 3%

Of course if too many others join the 3%, then it is in danger of becoming 4%, or even 5%. The world might become a better place!

I do not have any specific advice for companies around the world except:

(1) Answer your phone

(2) Answer your phone professionally and be willing and able to answer questions.

(3) The rest is up to you — good luck. If you are like the 97% you will need luck and lots of it.

Active vs. Dormant followers on Twitter

Categories: Analytics, Semi-Popular, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Active vs. dormant followers on Twitter

I have five Twitter accounts and find them all to be very interesting. However, several are run by a manager who has a very definitive way of running her accounts. She targets users one by one who are relevant. This makes sense, but there is more that needs to be considered. After we have accumulated 3800 fans, only a handful of them interact with us or retweet us no matter how good our materials are.

I just started my own two Twitter accounts. Each one has a well defined audience. I do not target prospective users at all. I have a completely different way of attracting followers. One technique I use is to retweet from industry news, national news, and international news. That way I get interesting people to join my account. Those new folks might not be relevant to my niche, but they are the type that click the EXPAND link — which means that they are the type that retweet. You can not retweet without clicking the expand link. With my niche followers, even if they did retweet me, their followers are not in my niche, so the tweet would never go viral. However,

these followers who found me when I retweeted, are retweeters themselves, and they retweet me. My new Twitter accounts that have less than 100 followers are getting retweeted once per day which is more than I was getting with my old accounts after they hit 3000 followers. The only way to make it big on Twitter is to go viral, so attracting people who retweet is key. The next thing I do is to interact on large Twitter accounts. The relevancy and quality of the interaction determines whether I get retweeted or not. I use humor, and spend a lot of time refining how I convey my message. I’ll sum up my techniques below:

(1) Retweet from industry news, national, and international news. But, don’t retweet from each source more than once per week for maximum results. Remember, that retweeters are searching through those mediums looking for others who retweet — so they can FOLLOW them. Those retweeters are clicking the expand button on many tweets, so you only need to be on one per week.

(2) Interacting on large accounts, or relevant accounts. A small account in your niche is a place to interact regularly. But, large news sources or entertainers are good places to interact. By posting a really interesting response to a post they published — THEY will not retweet you, but their fans will. I get retweeted almost daily by this technique. You need to be very selective about what you respond to and how you respond. Humor works well, and insight works even better.

(3) Use crossover tweets? Tweet information that is industry specific for your niche, but ALSO is relatable to the public. I tweeted about cats who use google analytics. People loved this. It appealed to the laymen as well as hard core analytics guys! Crossover tweets get retweeted roughly 10x as much as a thoughtful industry specific tweet.

It is no crime to interact with people with mini-accounts of 100 people or less, but it is not a way to go viral. Those will end up being dormant followers who do nothing more than represent a number in your # of followers. Active followers can be caught through interacting and retweeting. Throw your herbal antibiotics away and go viral today!

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Starting a Call Center: Keep financial back up for 3 months!

Categories: Call Center | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Starting a BPO Call Center is no joke. So many people in India think they can just jump into business, fill a 20 seater with a bunch of girls, and be in business. Many of the people who start such businesses might have been managers in a call center. However, they lack the knowledge they need to have to manage the entire operation. There is a lot you need to know in business that goes above and beyond what a manager knows.

How do you make sure you have constant work for your employees? What if employees quit in the middle of a project? What if your client dumps you in the middle of a project? What if there are hidden expenses? What if you need help training people? There are hundreds of problems that you could encounter that you might not be well versed at dealing with.

My recommendation is that you start SLOW. Get some really small clients and take really good care of them. Don’t lust after large clients. They will come in time if you are any good. Start either at home or in a tiny office with perhaps one or two people working with you. That way you can oversee the entire operation and ensure flawless work.

You need at least 3 months expenses saved up in cash just in case. Things happen in business, and things tend to happen a lot more quickly when you don’t have long term relationships with clients or staff. This is why I suggest starting small and building up slowly. Some people have a growth plan for their business that is financial. I suggest growing your business relationship by relationship, and judging your success by how many relationships you have had for three or more years! If you are starting out, you have ZERO of such relationships. Think long term and think about pleasing your clients and workers. Keep them happy and they will grow!

Your 3 months expenses need to cover rent — so a cheap rent is in order. It needs to cover salaries, utilities, and all other expenses including accounting, legal fees, etc. Usually I tell people to think big, but if you have no experience, you can gain a lot of skills and knowledge by building up from the ground. If you try to grow your BPO Call Center too fast you get in trouble. As a famous rapper once said, “The faster you rise, the harder you fall”. Keep this bit of gritty street knowledge in mind! It is a matter of survival in your case.

6 ways to be more in control of your business!

Categories: Management | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

I had a talk with the police about a small tampering case. They told me that since other people had my password that I was not in control of my business. I explained that in my business your programmers always have your password. He didn’t get it. He said I had a run away train. The point here is that someone else might have your passwords, but if they have been screened for reputability, then you are in control. If you don’t know how, or don’t have time to screen your outsourced software companies carefully, then you are not in control.

Here are some ways you can be more in control

(1) Watch what your workers and employees do. If they are not doing things the right way, teach them how to do it right. If they still don’t get it, then have someone watch them closely or fire them.

(2) Hire others to watch what your employees do, and make sure that the person you appointed sees everything and reports everything. A chain is only as good as the weakest link, so your “scrutinizer” needs to have no weaknesses in doing their job.

(3) Have screened backups. It is not always easy to have backups for every single task that you need done. But, if you don’t, then when you have to fire someone, you won’t be able to because there will be nobody screened to take their place. If you fire someone only to replace them with an untested person, you will probably have to fire the new one as well, only to have a 3rd person who also doesn’t do what they are supposed to. If you have a thorough interviewing and screening process BEFORE you hire anyone, you will have a much higher quality of workers and will not have to endure the emotional pain and financial loss of firing someone. These backups could be people in the Philippines or India who work for an outsourcing company. They don’t have to be wherever you are. Someone who can get the job done somehow — reliably is a good backup.

(4) Part time workers are sometimes a great way to get more of your less critical work done. They might not stick around, but if you have a constant flow of them, and someone reliable to watch them, you can always have your grunt work done on time which is critical. Having a relationship with a temp-recruiter can also be a similar solution.

(5) Keeping good analytics in a database or on paper about who is doing what, how fast and accurately they are working, etc., can really help. If you know who is on what project, what they will be working on next week, etc., you are in more control.

(6) Insubordination is a disease that spreads. The more you accept it the more of it you get. If you have one person who doesn’t follow instructions, you will get used to it and will end up with more of these types. You cannot be in control of your company if people disobey you. Americans don’t like the word “obey”, but try running a company where everyone does whatever they feel like. You will not be able to function. To be in control, gradually phase out insubordinate workers and replace them with very carefully screened people.

An American teaches Indian co’s to be more American

Categories: Humor | Tagged | Leave a comment

Being more Westernized doesn’t win the game. Being more dependable wins the game. Indians think that if they replace their sari with Western wear that they suddenly become more sophisticated. In my experience it is the opposite. The smartest Indians I met have been the more traditional educated ones. Not the real Westernized ones, or the fake Westernized ones. But, in any case, our American friend Joe goes to India to help them fit in more with American clients. He gives lectures on the culture, and what people feel comfortable with. He made “before” and “after” videos to document his work.

Rajeev answers in a dull hello. He looks sleepy and unenthusiastic. He says, “Manager not here” and hangs up. End of video…

Rajeev goes to the gym for a few months, gets pepped up. He learns the art of interaction and small talk. He gets an answering machine that announces his business name too (which is rare for Indian companies). He is ready for business. He gets back to people promptly, he is enthusiastic, speaks clearly, and he always lets people know his name when he answers the phone in an up-beat type of way. What an improvement. The new Rajeev is the type of guy Americans want to hire!

“Hi this is Rajeev, may I help you? … Sure, I can help you with that problem, just wait while I email the programmer and we will get back to you in six hours on this issue.”
(end of video) Wow! What a change!

Gone too far
Some of Joe’s other clients went a little too far in their quest to be acceptable to American companies. Sundip changes his name to Steve Smith, got a fake Texas accent, and put heavy metal music on his answering machine. Very inappropriate for a business setting. He answers the phone using American slang and colloquial expressions which are completely inappropriate for business as well.

“He man, this is jazzy Steve Smith — how’s it swinging!” Oh my god, what did Joe teach this guy? Perhaps Sundip went off on a tangent without Joe’s knowledge?

Back to tradition
Meanwhile in Aleppi, Kerela, Praveen has decided to be professional, without losing his Indian roots. So, he makes a video of his company. He goes to work on an elephant while having a very intense business discussion on his mobile phone. He is wearing a fancy traditional Indian outfit and he is all about business. But, he gets to his office, and someone else’s smaller elephant is parked in HIS elephant’s parking spot. He calls the office and says, “Get Rajesh out here — he is NOT to park in my parking spot. He is only the assistant manager, his elephant must park someone else”. Then, Praveen gives you a tour of his office. His workers are all working fervently wearing very elaborate traditional clothing, and then all stop abruptly. They all get up and start singing a song and doing a Bollywood dance to some very loud film music. Then it ends and they go back to fervently working. Praveen is trying to say, “This is what working with my company in India is really like.” In a movie, it might be like that, but in real life, it probably isn’t. But, honestly, Praveen is the most entertaining person you could outsource your work to, and probably the hardest working too! Teacher Joe finally got back to Praveen and was baffled. Culturally Praveen was as Indian as you can get while maintaining communication that was crystal clear; His work was always impeccable and punctual; his staff was pleasant; and everything else was perfect. Joe said, “This is not what I was thinking of at first, but maybe this can work”

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How to get clients for your call center: professional web sites

Categories: Call Center | Tagged , | Leave a comment

If you are interviewing prospective clients, they are interviewing you, but you are also interviewing them. If someone doesn’t have a professional website, then they are probably not professional. On the other hand, if you don’t have a professional website, then nobody serious will want anything to do with you.

Presentation means a lot and comes with a cost. But, think about it. If there are a dozen new call centers, and only one has a good website, who do you think will get the majority of the business? It takes money, skills, and taste to have even a mediocre website, and prospects understand that. Otherwise, you are just a guy off the street.

You can judge your clients similarly. If someone can not afford a small website which costs a few thousand in America, will they be able to afford a contract with your company? Is it even worth the time to discuss it with them? Maybe, maybe not. When you are sizing people up, it is hard to get a real impression of someone based on the way they talk. Some of the best talkers I have dealt with let me down the worst and were the worst crooks. You can’t judge someone by how well they communicate. But, if they have a horrible website where everything is broken, then you have proof that they are negligent and you might be advised not to deal with them.

On the other hand, if someone doesn’t communicate well, then you can’t deal with them for sure.
Remember the golden rule:

Whatever counts for you doesn’t count unless everything is right.
Whatever counts against you disqualifies you.

Cruel — but, an effective way to size up people who you want to deal with. Most people are let-downs and you need to screen them before they waste your time and resources.

Do you have backup workers?

Categories: Outsourcing Articles | Tagged | Leave a comment

When someone quits, it is hard to replace them. You have to interview people — a lot of people. You have to try people out and wonder how good or bad they will be. What if they steal from you. What if their stupidity costs you a client. Is it possible to have backups? It is actually not easy to do so, but very valuable.

Who fits the profile of a backup — for when you need extra labor

(1) Moonlighters. If someone good already has a job, but can give you a few extra hours per week, but person could come in handy when your best worker quits. Some moonlighters might be the best quality workers around, and for a reasonable or perhaps slightly generous fee, might be able to reallly save your neck in a crisis.

(2) Stay at home moms might have a flexible schedule while their kids are at school. They might be a great back up if someone gets sick or gets fired (or both).

(3) People with personality disorders who have good work skills seem to always be getting fired (through no fault of their own according to them). Really, their work was not bad, but perhaps they talk back to people or have other annoying habits. If you can put up with them, they will regularly be available — at least they will the next time they get fired which should be in a few days.

(4) Freelancers are a good bet. But, how do you define freelancer? Is a freelancer someone who couldn’t find a job who freelances until they find a real job? I say that they are not. To me, if you have been doing purely freelancing for 3 years or more, then you are very dedicated to the art of not having a job — yet being busy working all the time.

(5) Part timers… Beware — part timers seem to get hired full time before long, so you need a perpetual part timer to be your backup.

The trick here is to have a long list of people who you can call on. Trick #2 is that you have to have tried these people out, so you know how good (or lacking) their work offering is! Once you have verified that they are satisfactory or desireable for particular tasks, you have to hope that they don’t bail on you and get a full time job, or move to the Himalayas (it happens). Trying people out is a huge investment. You have to train them, interview them, and analyze them. It is worth it if you think they will stick around.

My other idea is paying people for their AVAILABILITY. Pay someone to sit at home and do NOTHING. It sounds like a waste, but it isn’t if you suddenly need them for something important and they jump to help you! Don’t think of costs — think of revenues minus costs which is your bottom line — not to mention your ability to keep your existing clients happy by servicing their needs which will help your long term bottom line.

Outsourcing is like a long-distance romantic relationship!

Categories: Outsourcing Articles, Semi-Popular | Tagged | Leave a comment

6 tips for managing your long distance outsourcing relationship

3.75 million married couples in the U.S. and 14 million couples around the globe are actually having a long-distance relationship because they work in other cities– so long-distance relationships can work! Here are six tips on what to watch for and how to handle your long-distance business relationship:

1) Have as much contact by phone as possible. Talk about things that make that person remember you and want to keep in touch with you. Share a business tip you read or some advice you need; ask for that person’s expertise. Demonstrate yours.

Voice alone–without skype– is a powerful tool, and will help you learn–way better than email–who that person is. Listen to the sound of the voice as well as what the person says. Too cold? Be careful. Keep it warm.

2) If the person is consistently late for the phone appointment and does not stay in touch, it’s a good bet you are not a priority. Be more careful about the work and see if the quality of the work also suffers in the same way. In business, you know there is always someone else…so go back to # 1 and make sure you are always on top of that person’s list. Send an email that is longer than a sentence and includes something upbeat, informative, and fun (a joke, an anecdote, an observation or question on something to do with where that person lives/ works). Make a note of the person’s response.

3) People worry. Communicate. Show that you are someone he/she can count on. If you are the person who is always late for a phone appointment, tell the other person why and commit to doing better. Then, do better! Keeping your promises makes you even more valuable and rare in today’s world. Show you can be trusted–and are able to give the honesty and value you demand of the other person.

4) More than 2/3 of long-distance relationships end when the couple does not plan for change. Be willing to listen to feedback and act on it. Try to accommodate the other party’s requests and point of view. Talk about changes in schedule calmly and respond positively. If you are disappointed, say so, and plan together to solve the problem. See what change this makes in the way the other party handles the work.

5) Maintain an equal position: your needs and time are as important as the other party’s. Ask a question by email and see if the other person answers it. Treat the other person as you would like to be treated. Respond to any agreed-upon concerns and get the respect you need by always following through on your part of the bargain.

6) Don’t give up your other business relationships and interests. In other words, stay in touch with other companies–just in case you need a new outsourcing partner. Most long-distance relationships have potential problems around 5 months in. Make this relationship work, but if you have tried everything and it ceases to work, be ready to move on.

(1) 3.75 million married couples in the US & 14 million globally have a long-distance relationship. #outsourcing
(2) In a long distance outsourcing relationship, if the other person doesn’t call much, you are not a priority!

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If your client criticizes your workers, who do you side with?

Categories: Management | Tagged | 1 Comment

Generally speaking, when I criticize someone’s workers, the normal response from the manager is to defend the worker.

Gee, we never had a problem before (B.S.)
Hmmm, this is the first time that happened (Yeah, right)
Maybe you are the one at fault for not giving clear instructions (I have it in writing, do you want to read it?)

I have heard every excuse for defending mediocre workers. Honestly, nobody is perfect and we should not expect people to be. However, my rule of thumb is as follows.

If you side with your worker and against your customer — you will have more workers
But, with more workers and less clients, you will have no way to pay those workers, then you will eventually lose the workers, and then you won’t have a business if this pattern continues.

If you side with your client against your worker — you will have more clients.
You might lose a mediocre worker here or there, but mediocre people are replaceable. Just make sure you don’t lose your star employees or you will really be up a creek.

In real life your job is to please everyone. But, try to be fair with your clients. If they have a legitimate gripe, or you are not sure who is right, try to validate their point of view — if you want to keep them.

Are callers in India more sincere?

Categories: India | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are callers at a call center in India more sincere than U.S. call center workers? Many of them are educated, and eager to please. They use false names if their call center asks them to, but many have a positive way of looking at it. “I think people in the U.S. are very busy, and they just want to make sure they get good customer service. If they hear someone with a foreign accent, they are not sure. If they have one problem with a caller from another company, they do not want to hear from another caller in India,” says one call center worker in Delhi. “I do not feel that I am being false. I am being myself, but with a name that people in the U.S. can relate to,” says Robin, whose real name is Lakshmi. “I am sincere about my work, and want to give great customer service.” Robin’s call center in India is one of the very best and most sought-after.

Call center workers at this call center in India are certainly less cynical about their lives than their U.S. counterparts, and they take work seriously. Having worked as a caller for high-end fundraising in the U.S., and having supervised numerous callers recently from time to time, I can tell you that American call center workers after a while will say almost anything to those they are calling. They will be friendly, get the credit card number, then hang up and at break time often complain about the people they called. Those who feel bad about themselves and do not like their jobs are not sincere. For example, they will sound like a Democrat on one call, and talk Republican on another, and generally try to fit in with what the caller chats about just to get along. If someone makes a comment on a presidential candidate, they will agree–not matter what they think–to make people think they are talking to a fellow American with the same values. Many are just so involved in the daily grind that they do not have any hope anymore about the political scene and life in the U.S. in general. Is this any better than using a false name?

However, U.S. callers communicate well. They provide reliable customer service, if that is the kind of call they are making. They are fluent in English, and compared to workers in a call center in India, they create a better impression that a situation will be resolved– whether they believe that or not. If call center workers in India do not know whether the situation will be resolved, they may not say that it will be.

Is this better or worse for the U.S. consumer? Is it bad customer service to be honest?

Maybe yes.