The Secret to Designing Surveys with Active Listening In Mind

Active listening: the practice of dedicating one's full attention to concentrating on, understanding, and remembering what another person has said. It is one thing to listen to, and then acknowledge what someone has told you, yet a wholly different experience to honestly hear what someone has said, understand their point of view, and remember their words with the original intent with which they were shared; this is what separates listeners from active listeners.

Many have dedicated great time and effort to perfecting the craft but how do you transform the skill into an actionable, measurable strategy that genuinely improves customer relationships and experience?

In an article by WayPoint Group, Dennis Dube, VP of Revenue Operations for Advance Local discussed his team's active listening strategy for strengthening customer relationships with Steve Bernstein, CEO and creator of TopBox. For their strategy, Dennis and his team identified key stages of the customer journey during which clients might need additional support from the company. They initiated a series of near-real-time surveys at these key stages to listen to their customers and learn about their experiences, collecting their feedback to efficiently assess the situation and provide the right type of support to prevent customer satisfaction from dwindling.

Though a thoughtful and useful strategy in and of itself, the real ingenuity in their approach is in how they design their process for feedback collection and analysis to wholeheartedly embody the practice of active listening.

Surveys would be great listening tools...if the the modern human was naturally inclined to dedicate precious hours of the day to rating the "ease-of-use of miscellaneous product feature x", and if it was possible to gleam comprehensive insights from a sub-set of survey respondents. In reality, leveraging surveys to improve customer experience and strengthen customer relationships can often be a challenge for two reasons: (1) Inspiring survey participation from customers is difficult in large part because the act of participating in the average survey can feel like sending a series of Likert scale responses out into the void with blind hope the universe will regurgitate something meaningful back, and (2) Yielding accurate results from a survey is not always possible when only a limited amount of survey respondents have participated.

Dennis was keenly aware of these challenges when designing his survey strategy and shared his thoughts on how to overcome them. "My big belief is that there's three primary drivers for why someone will or won't fill out a survey: fatigue, connection, and intention," said Dennis. Fatigue arises when surveys are too long and broad. Connection is determined by the pre-existing relationship the surveyor has with the survey respondent. Intention is all about the company's intention to not only understand the collected data but plan to enact change around the lessons learned. "When a customer knows there is purpose and intention in the survey, they feel that their response is time well spent."

With purpose, intent, personal connection and commitment to action, anyone can transform passive survey data collection into individual moments of active listening and meaningful engagement with their customers. How do you design surveys to actively listen to your customers?

Professional Development Made Easy with Online Training from Referential

You heard right folks - our online training has officially launched!

The curriculum for Referential's customer advocacy training was collaboratively created by a group of customer advocacy professionals with experience across a broad range of industries and an assortment of different types of advocacy programs. Our training teaches students how to think and act like an experienced customer advocacy practitioner and how to manage advocacy programs that empower both companies and customers to succeed.

In addition to our in-person training sessions, you can now register for a self-paced online learning experience. The topics covered in the online course and in-person class are identical but the overall learning experience varies across the different delivery formats.

The online training is provided through 10-30 minute video lessons to enable students to complete the course at their own convenience. Every lesson is followed by a comprehension quiz that reinforces the lesson's key takeaways and helps students prepare for ICCAP certification. Lessons also are accompanied by discussion boards where students and course facilitators engage in dialogue, ask questions of one another, and share tips and strategies from their own experience. In addition to video lessons and comprehension quizzes, the online training includes bonus lessons in which a cohort of customer advocacy experts share their advice and best practices for thriving in the discipline.

The in-person training is provided over the course of 1-3 days and is facilitated by an experienced, customer advocacy expert. In-person training is offered at Referential's San Jose headquarters and can be delivered any where around the world by request. We've traveled as close as Redwood City and as far as Rome to support and educate practitioners in the industry. In-person training participants have access to the course facilitator throughout the duration of the class and can ask questions or seek advice directly from the expert. They also have the benefit of being able to connect with and learn from other professionals attending the class.

Currently, our Level 1 training - Introduction to the Fundamentals of Customer Advocacy - is available online. This introductory course is a deep-dive into the principles that shape and define every customer advocacy program. The course provides students an opportunity to learn and apply the basic tools and strategies of advocate recruitment and reference request fulfillment. Topics covered include leveraging reference management systems to track and assess program performance, establishing processes for cross-functional collaboration to identify and recruit advocates, and refining communication strategies for a range of different customer audiences.  

Online courses for Level 2 and Level 3 are coming soon! You can learn more about the contents of each course and how to register for a training on our website: https://www.referentialinc.com/training.

Meet the Referential Team: Paula Kozak

After many years in different marketing roles at various high-tech companies, Paula found her “home" in her first reference management position while working at Sun Microsystems. This happened during a corporate reorganization when the Director asked her if she wanted to lead the new references team. To which she replied, “Sure!… What’s a reference?”

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Ten years later, she is often quoted as saying, “If there’s a better job in marketing, someone needs to tell me since I don’t know what that is – and I’ve done most of them!”

Paula finds customer advocacy so valuable and compelling, regardless of company, because references touch each leg of the marketing three-legged stool: lead generation, brand promotion and sales enablement.

What gets Paula up in the morning is the notion of being able to contribute every day to the company’s success. Today, as a Customer Advocacy Consultant with Referential, Inc., she is eager to continue to learn more about advocacy programs; collaborating with teammates across a wide array of advocacy programs, she is able to bring new thinking to her specific clients.

Mom to Christy and Katrina, wife to Anne with 4 grandkids and counting, Paula can be found hiking to the top of a mountain most weekends. Since she lives in New Hampshire, some people might call them ‘hills’ but with the kind of views she sees at the top, the debate over terminology doesn’t matter much to her: Paula’s goal is to climb the highest peak in each of the New England states!

To Remote, or Not to Remote, That is the Question - Thoughts from Referential's Barb Leavy

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I recently read an article proposing that remote workers are outperforming traditional office workers and it made me reflect on the difference between the two work environments.

As a remote employee for the last several years, preceded by working in a traditional office environment for nearly twice as much time, I certainly have experience in both, so it got me thinking: Do I miss being in an office?…Yes, sometimes; Do I enjoy the short commute, not to mention the casual dress attire of working from a home office…absolutely!

While reflecting on the joys and challenges of telecommuting, I started to wonder if being remote or physically in an office changes an employee’s productivity level. How many of us, no matter where we work, still check and respond to emails in the evening, plan what we need to accomplish tomorrow while eating dinner, or reflect on what we did not accomplish during the day while laying in bed at night?

One could certainly argue that an office environment invites more collaboration and thus productivity, but with current technology it is very easy to connect with your co-workers even if they are not just a cubicle away. As for distractions, there are countless ways to lose focus in both office and home environments, from casual, meandering conversations with coworkers that run longer than expected while in the office to pet dogs that vocalize their need to go out every hour when working from home.

Personally, when I worked in an office, I felt disrupted more often. When I work from home, I often realize all of the sudden that it is 2:00 pm and I haven’t had lunch yet! When I finally get around to that meal, it usually consists of a mouse in one hand and a sandwich in another and as someone once said to me, just make sure you don’t mistake one for the other! The environment that helps an employee focus will differ from individual to individual. Reflecting on your own personal work habits (and willingness to adapt them) can help you determine whether working remotely will impact your productivity level.

Many people ask me, “how do you do it…I could never work from home!” I will agree that being a remote employee is certainly an adjustment and that transitioning from a traditional work environment may not be for everyone. Working remotely is like a long-distance relationship, it can be difficult at first but over time it can be very successful. You just need to keep in mind, just like maintaining that long-distance relationship, that working remotely takes a great amount of dedication, focus and commitment. As much as possible, keep to a schedule (just like you would if you were going to an office), do try to take short breaks when you can and at some point, shut down that laptop and try to enjoy your home as your home and not as your office!

The one thing I can say for sure, when you work from home…you never come home from work!

The Good Guys Triumph - Thoughts From Referential's David Feber

One of our primary goals as a champion of ‘all-things-advocacy’ is to make our clients, and in turn, their own clients, look like heroes. Creating award nominations – be it for a specific person, a product, or even for an entire company – is one of the most rewarding of the many advocacy-related activities Referential gets involved with. The task is all the more fulfilling when we have the opportunity of showcasing the achievements of someone that both really deserves to be recognized and who is just a great person to work with.

We had this experience with Dr. Stefan Lüders, the Chief Security Officer of CERN, the Geneva-based home of the Large Hadron Collider - the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator. Our team did an onsite video session with Stefan last year and was immediately taken with his expertise, personality and immensely pragmatic approach to securing the vast and complex CERN infrastructure. Fast-forward a few months, and we had the opportunity through one of our clients to select and nominate Stefan for the much-coveted SC Magazine “CISO of the Year” award…… and he won!

Dr. Stefan Lüders, the Chief Security Officer of CERN, accepting SC Magazine's CISO of the Year award.
Source: SC Magazine

The black-tie awards ceremony was held at a high-end London hotel, with the opening speech noting that this year’s nominations registered the highest scores ever, including many that would have won in any other year. Stefan beat out multiple high-profile CISOs from organizations such as FedEx, Legal & General and the UK's National Lottery.

The ceremony and the ensuing after-party really emphasized the magnitude of winning this highly prestigious industry title. Stefan’s reaction two days after the event? “I am still trying to recover!!!! What a thrill! I am deeply touched, grateful and honoured to be presented with this award!”

In typically modest fashion, Stefan added, “However, I do not claim this trophy for me, but for my team, my colleagues in the CERN IT department and throughout the organization, as well as all our external peers helping us to raise the security bar. In the end, ’security’ is all about team-work, no?”

In these times of somber news stories and escalating tensions around the world, it’s great to see the good guys winning! Congratulations again to Stefan!

Time Zones - Thoughts From Referential's Lynn Watts

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Our days are governed by time, and the concept of time zones around the world can be quite daunting. If each time zone were 1 hour apart, there would be 24 in the world. But several time zones have only 30 and 45 minutes offsets, making the total number worldwide much higher, so there are 37 different time zones! With the Referential team being dispersed across several continents we have to be very mindful of the time when reaching out to our own team as well as customers. But with this spread, we can be productive and assist our clients across most of the 24hrs in any given day.I’m always a little edgy when sending out a meeting invite to a customer, have I calculated the time difference correctly? I think we have all experienced that oh so embarrassing event of phoning someone at some antisocial hour only to find they are stirring from a deep sleep to answer your call…once is enough and we will do all within our power to never have to go through that again!Have you ever had to arrange a meeting where there are several attendees, all in different countries? You know how confusing it is too, trying to align a time that works for everyone, and being respectful of trying to keep things within business hours, working out what are the business hours in that particular country, as much as one can. It can be a challenge!Also, throw into the mix the switch between Summer and Winter time. Some countries make changes before others, which means connecting with the rest of the world a little daunting! Your usual weekly meetings are not at the ‘usual’ times, and you either end up dialing frantically into a call, when prompted on Skype by a kindly colleague who notices you missing, or sitting on an empty line as you realize you are the only one who is 60 minutes too early!I use this great little tool, World Time Buddy – it has certainly proven to be my ‘buddy’ on a many an occasion!In a few weeks time, the whole Referential team will be getting together for our regular 6 monthly meeting at US head office in San Jose. It’s a chance for us all to be in one place, see each other face to face (rather than on webcam), brainstorm, bond and, for once, not have to think about time zones before reaching out. Its amazing, although we are spread far and wide around the globe, we never feel like there are thousands of miles and varying numbers of minutes between us.

Decisions, Decisions - So Many Each Day!

You may have heard that the average adult makes about 35,000 decisions a day!  Of course tracking that to a credible source is difficult, if not impossible, but I think we can all agree we make many, many decisions on a daily basis. Each one is an opportunity for distraction and can impact your productivity. Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success, says you need more than willpower to stay on track. His suggestions are summarized in   this post  by Trello.

  • Commit and then work your environment to facilitate that commitment
  • Minimize the number of decisions you need to make each day
  • Know your distractions and plan for them
  • Enlist support.

The article is a quick read and has valuable examples and suggestions. If you’re prone to distractions take the time to read it and see what steps you can take today to improve your productivity.

Podcast Fan? 15 Business Podcasts to Explore

Like podcasts?  Here's a list of 15 top business podcasts from Lean Labs. Listen while you run, while you drive, while at the grocery store, or even on your commute.  The audio format gives tremendous flexibility. If you listen to podcasts today, these 15 probably include old favorites and no doubt new ones to add to your list. If you aren’t part of the 40 million that listen to podcasts weekly maybe it’s time to give it a try! 

This isn’t the only list of great business podcasts. A quick google search will show you lists from other organizations or more focused sets of choices. Interested in product marketing or business development or entrepreneurship?  There are podcasts for just about any other topic you can think of. If you aren’t already a fan try this easy way to fit learning, and even entertainment, into your day.

We're already half way through 2018!

Hard to believe but we are half way through the year. Time for mid year check points not only with employees but also with clients. We just completed a round of client reviews.  Simple format – one slide with goals for the client and progress in the first half, plus a second slide with action plans should there be any issues and comments about what is expected in the second half. These reviews complement the monthly metrics and client checkpoints that we also do. In addition to a checkpoint of first half results, we also looked at statistics which allow us to compare client performance to industry norms.  We looked at everything from what percent of customers contacted agree to participate in advocacy programs to how long does it take to fulfill an average request for advocate participation.

It’s good to take a step back and assess.  Each team has done very well in the first half and is looking forward to an even more impactful end to the year.  The reviews are always a valuable experience. There is a chance for learnings that we can bring to all clients, valuable insight to share with our lead contacts, and there were many pats on the backs for jobs well done!  The first half has been full of amazing accomplishments and huge financial impact for our clients.  Looking forward to even greater success in the second half of 2018!

Marketing blogs - reviews of the best

This blog post is one of about 2.5 million that will be published today. A number that is growing.  So how do you find quality content?  Specific to content marketing blogs this article  from SnapApp offers a good starting point. They scoured the web, reviewing blogs based on quality, frequency, and reader engagement and came up with a list of 109.

Now 109 is still a lot but they have divided them into 14 categories – social media, account based marketing, and marketing technology , to name just a few. In addition, there is a short description of each and a link to a recommended post.  With this list you are bound to find helpful sources of information. 

How many will you start to follow? Which are already on your favorites list?

Nominating customers for awards - everyone wins especially when Referential writes the nomination!

One of the most gratifying activities we get involved with is creating a successful award nomination – nothing beats seeing the look on a client’s face when they learn that they just won a major award!

We collaborate with our clients to target specific industry awards for the coming year and then work with account teams to identify noteworthy candidates; either individuals, teams, or whole companies. We typically then do a short interview with the lead nominee and put together a submission for the individual award. Then it’s out of our hands!

We have a stellar track-record for nominations that get picked as winners and category finalists. We are very proud to have Deutsche Bank win a very prestigious award for an IT Risk Management project at a ceremony just held in Munich – the recipient notified us from the banquet hall floor! See their photo below. We also were delighted to hear that Johnson & Johnson received one of the top prizes at the latest Dell annual conference. However, not all our submissions are for large corporations: We championed a regional consumer services provider and were equally excited to be notified that they will be presented with the “Best in Class Contact Center” honor at a major industry event to be held in June in the US. All three happened in the last month and all were nominations written by our mangeing partner, David Feber.

Irrespective of the ultimate outcome, we repeatedly see major returns from even just submitting a client for an award – all too often people don’t get positive feedback, so being nominated is understandably viewed as being a huge deal! We’ve found that for a modest amount of work, the payback is dramatic and the sense of goodwill lasts for a long time – we highly recommend it!

Olaf receiving KC Award 2018
Olaf receiving KC Award 2018

Worldwide Business Etiquette Insight from Referential's Lynn Watts

At Referential we work with clients from all over the world and we have staff in the US, the UK, and India. There are many similarities between the way business is conducted throughout the world, but there are also differences that need to be considered. There are differences in greeting style if meeting face to face, how to address others in correspondence, communications may require an interpreter, and varied meeting structures to name a few. Some business cultures are quite relaxed in style, while others are serious or regimented. As Advocacy Consultants we spend a lot of time corresponding with people globally, so to avoid confusion it’s important not to use slang expressions or local idioms that could be misinterpreted. We need to be mindful that in some countries people expect to be addressed formally. For example, in Germany and The Netherlands it is standard to address people using their academic title. Someone with a PhD should be addressed as Doctor and titles should be used until you are given permission to use their first name. When in doubt, erring on the side of formality is safest.

In order not to offend the people you are interacting with, it is important to consider and adapt to how business professionals operate in different parts of the world. There is no global standard of business etiquette. What might be commonplace in one culture could be unusual or even offensive in another. Where possible, do your research in advance of professional interactions with international clients. When in doubt, ask. People are very helpful and like to advise about what is and isn’t acceptable in their culture.

Derin Cag at Richtopia provides a very enlightening article and infographic to further illustrate this topic.  Share your insights into business differences around the world!

 

Document your communication processes - the many benefits

The Forbes Communication Council recently shared their ideas  for documenting communication processes. Those processes are often fundamental to business success and once in place will allow you to act quickly and even scale smoothly.  They share an eye-opening stat that communication breakdowns can cost businesses as much as $37 billion a year!  The 14 council members each share a tip. Whether it’s ‘Start with the Basics’, ‘Create a Handbook’, or ‘Know Who to Ask and When’ the ideas are sound and with information on how it’s helped council members or how they implemented the idea internally.  Council members span universities to high tech companies like Cisco and Microsoft. Obviously successful organizations we can all learn from!  It’s a quick article that is sure to give you ideas to improve your documentation as well as your communication processes.

Succeeding as a Remote Employee: Hints from Referential’s Hanita Epstein

Being productive every day is a challenge. The challenge is nearly tripled if you work remotely, because home and work never seem like separate entities. The freedom of working from home is tough for some employees to adjust to. And as remote work is becoming more and more popular, I thought I would put together some tips to maximize your productivity as a remote employee.

Create a routine 

Setting up some structure for your day is very helpful. I work off my bullet journal, designed to track my goals and accomplishments. Every night before I head to bed, I make a list of tasks I need to accomplish the next day. Throughout the day, I track how much time each task takes, shuffling my priorities as needed. At the end of the work day, I reflect on which tasks I completed, and identify what I did well and what needs work.

Find a workspace 

Have a designated space to do your work. You’ve probably heard of aspirational stories of people who move country to country, living the life as a digital nomad. The truth is, being on the move is a productivity killer. Dealing with accommodations, WIFI connections, and low energy levels can decrease work efficiency.

Upon moving to Seattle, I found that working remotely allowed me to feel more local. As I worked at various coffee shops, libraries, and cafes, I was able to explore the city in a way that boosted my creativity and productivity. 

Have designated work clothes

The mindset “look good feel good” really comes into play as a remote worker. While you may not technically need to get out of your pajamas, I recommend getting dressed in “work clothes” each day, to get into the right frame of mind.

Wearing work clothes around the house will also limit your temptations to complete midday chores, like cooking and cleaning. Those types of mental boundaries help avoid distractions and keep you productive for longer stretches of time.

Keep in touch 

You’ve heard of the old phrase “out of sight, out of mind,” right? Unfortunately, remote workers can suffer from this, unless they make an effort to stay in touch with their boss and co-workers. With email, instant message, and shared spreadsheets, there are a myriad of opportunities to stay connected. The challenge is making a point to stay connected, to reassure employees you are there for them, and working as expected.

Let us know

Few employers train remote employees on how to be effective throughout the day, let alone explaining how to boost their creativity. Try out some of Hanita's tips and see what works for you! Leave a comment with additional tips and tricks.

Ready for GDPR?

In the global market most of us work in, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that replaces the Data Protection Directive will impact everyone. This important site  outlines what is coming...are you ready? The site’s homepage includes a countdown clock to enforcement, 25 May 2018 is right around the corner.  The GDPR applies to organizations in the EU of course but also to all organizations, anywhere, that offer good or services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU subjects.  It applies to your organization, regardless of location, if you process or hold personal data of subjects in the European Union. 

Non-compliance is a serious matter, the fines can be substantial. All organizations need to be prepared for this change. The site linked to above has resources to help you learn more. 

Research shows - sports can be distracting at work

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Robert Half did some research  and the data shows sports does impact productivity at work. On the day after big sporting events large percentages of people call in sick or are late to work. The over 1,000 workers surveyed admitted to spending about 27 minutes a day on sports-related activities before a major sporting event. Olympics, March Madness, World Cup Soccer, and NBA playoffs are just a few major sporting events that are particularly popular and just on the horizon.

But it’s not all bad news: Sports can also contribute to teamwork. We focus on sport as a way to get everyone involved in a common activity, to come together and celebrate. We have an office fantasy football league. We’ve been known to play some World Cup games on our big screen too. Lunch time and afternoon tea break (yes, come visit, we have tea in the afternoons) can coincide with sporting events or be the time to manage that fantasy team.

You don’t have to loose the productivity, instead look for ways to foster teamwork and impact morale!

Great article, full of interviewing tips

We are interviewing our clients and their customers all the time.  Each discussion about how our role with the client might expand is really an interview.  Each call with a potential advocacy program member is an interview.  Lots of them, every day. This article from the Content Marketing Institute, written by Clare McDermott, “Perfecting The Art of the One-on-One Interview”, is full of useful ideas and links to even more ideas. McDermott divides the article into sections: how to prepare for the interview, how to begin the interview, and how to hit your stride.  Each section has great information. Depending on your level of interview experience this may serve as a refresher or be full of new information. We’re sure that even the expert interviewers among you will learn something new.  Reading this article is well worth your time. 

Let us know what you learned or how the article reinforced something you’ve always thought important. Leave a comment, below.

Is your business getting the most from micro-moments?

Are you part of a B2C company? If you’re not, you no doubt interact with them as a consumer, so the following is relevant to all of us. A recent Salesforce blog post  titled, “Micro-Moments to Transform the Customer Experience”, starts off with a bang:  "According to the fourth annual "State of Marketing" report, here, brands are increasingly competing on customer experience. In fact, 52% of B2C customers are likely to hop to the competition if you aren’t delivering a personalized experience."

52% is an astounding number. The article focuses on “micro-moments”, a term credited to Google. Micro-moments are all those time consumers turn to their mobile devices to answer an immediate question. They are key opportunities to present a great customer experience and even to increase customer loyalty. Each time we look for a review, check on status of a shipment, pull up tickets on our phone and so forth are key elements of our relationship with any business, including yours. 

The blog post has stories from many different companies about how they are using these micro-moments to improve the customer experience. It’s worth a read, it may spark a great idea for your company!

Weekend Habits of High Performers

Friday of a long week and thoughts go to the weekend. Often of fun times with family and friends, maybe just a chance to fully relax.  And then there is this article from Inc Magazine titled: “Do You Do These 4 Weekend Habits That Set High Performers Apart From Everyone Else?”  It makes one think if a change to the weekend could mean a more productive and even a more relaxing week.  The article says high performers do the following over their weekends:

·         They visualize their success

·         They review their KPI’s

·         They develop specific goals for the week

·         They adhere to the 1% rule (improve 1% each day and over time you will see big gains) 

The article is worth a read, it’s short and the time will pay back dividends.  Get a bit more detail on each of the 4 habits.  Do you do these things now?  If not, choose one to start with and let us know the impact on your week!

Signature of Approval!

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 (We just returned from the Cyber Defense Summit 2017 in Las Vegas.  Leading up to the Summit we worked with customers to create videos and quotes that were used throughout the event.  Our trip to Australia to film customers resulted in such great content we expedited processes and went from filming in one country to showing our videos on the main stage of the event 12 days later! 

Love this photo, Freud Alexandre, the Enterprise Architect and Security Manager for the City of New Orleans (and one of our favorite people!), was so happy to be featured he autographed his banner.  That is the signature of approval! What we like to see with all our customer deliverables.