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.

Referential's Andreas Silva: Takeaways from the Summit on Customer Engagement 2019

Andreas @ SCE 2019

Last Friday wrapped up another year of Referential’s sponsorship for the Summit on Customer Engagement. Once again, it was great to see familiar faces and meet new ones. Every year serves as a great reminder that we are not alone in the Advocacy world!There were plenty of great speakers, which gave me a lot to think about and how I can continue to elevate the Customer Advocacy Programs I support for my clients. Here are a few takeaways that I plan to implement.

1. The Power of Positivity

We see all the time on our LinkedIn feeds different articles and blogs about the Power of Positivity and how it can transform one’s way of thinking and how to go about each day. While the intention is good, it’s really hard to remain positive around everything all of the time. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment to be mindful of your demeanor.However, one trick that we learned from the keynote speaker, Mark Levy, was to begin each meeting (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) with your team going around to each team member and having them share their proudest moment since the last team meeting.Mark had the entire audience go through this exercise with a partner. It was shocking that it was hard at first to come up with 3 different moments that I was most proud of. It’s normal that we tend to dwell on the negatives and overlook where we may have excelled and made an impact.As a result, there was this tangible feeling of excitement in the room. Everyone got a moment to reflect and remember that the work that they do IS very meaningful. Advocacy Professionals can use this same exercise with their team and with their advocates to fuel a consistent, positive vibe.

2. Find new ways to track ROI

For most programs the monthly metrics are traditionally tracking things like:

  • Number of reference requests handled

  • How many pieces of new content were generated

  • Number of new customers recruited as advocates

However, these metrics are very advocacy focused and not specifically speaking to the key performance indicators of the Sales, Marketing, and Executive teams, so they don’t see the correlation to how that affects them and they tune out.Advocacy Managers need to think about making minor adjustments to the metrics they are tracking to better show the effectiveness of the program. For example, they can look to track:

  • How many unique clicks a new case study received in a given month, quarter, or year. From there the Advocacy Manager can look to track how many new leads were generated, which shows impact for Marketing.

  • # new leads generated from an event where a customer advocate provided a presentation to an audience. Tracking these leads from beginning to end can then show the revenue that was brought in – impacting the bottom line – from the efforts of the Advocacy Program.

  • # Sales Opportunities where a case study or video or some sort of customer evidence was shared. If the prospect found that content relevant and interesting, the program can attribute some of that revenue to the customer evidence provided. Advocacy Managers can then take a step back to see what types of content are most impactful and what types of stories they are telling. They can even evaluate if the deals that received customer advocate support closed faster than those that didn’t.

3. It’s time to re-think Customer Content

In the past, customer stories have always showcased really happy, positive customers who would be completely lost without “X” vendor. While the story is upbeat and bubbly, and the customer is talking about how great it is to work with the vendor, it’s just not fully believable. As humans, we know that we can design the “perfect plan” only for something to not go quite right. It’s time that customer stories reveal the truth: “Even in tough times, working with “X”, the support team worked hard to make things right quickly.” It makes the stories more authentic and genuine.Traditionally, customer content features someone like “Mark, Vice President of Technology” or “John, Chief Information Officer”. However, the readers and viewers don’t know who Mark or John are and why should they be listening to what they have to say. There needs to be more emphasis on the customer’s backstory, meaning the readers and viewers should get to know the individual on a more personal level. How did they get into the industry? How were they able to get to where they are today? Knowing that sort of information not only establishes credibility but it also helps the readers and viewers connect with that individual on a deeper level. They may share similar backgrounds and are able to relate to what they are currently going through; enhancing the human-to-human connection. Most professionals have LinkedIn and can do their research on who that individual works for. Instead of the traditional “Company ABC can sleep at night because of Vendor X”, why not try “Meet John, and learn how he transformed his organization’s IT processes.”Not only do programs need to consider how to get more creative around their customer content but they also need to think about different ways to encourage customers to create self-generated content. An example of this would be when a customer advocate makes an impromptu Tweet mentioning their success with Vendor “X” demonstrating how much they truly believe in the power of the vendor’s products and services. They are advocating as an individual and not on behalf of their company, which will attract the attention of their network of peers. Encouraging advocates to post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram can really bring out a vendor’s biggest fans. The detractors are equally as important as they are taking the steps to make their voice heard. Taking the time to make things right for those detractors can ultimately turn them into advocates.Many Advocacy Professionals have wonderful, creative ideas to elevate their programs, it’s a shame to not be able to sit in on every single session at the Summit because there’s always more to learn. I hope you find the three main points listed here are at least a great way to get the conversation started on new, effective ideas to elevate your program!

Grand Opening of Our New Meeting and Video Space!

Our new training, video, and meeting space had its grand opening September 14.  We hosted a meeting of a Bay Area advocacy group in the morning and a team meeting in the afternoon. We have a video corner, large conference table, smaller table for break outs, projector, TV, white boards, conference phone....  We will host group and client meetings and have plans for many other events in the near future. Below see the view from the front entrance. Cozy chairs provide a second break out area and a great spot for anyone who arrives early. The second photo is from the far wall and shows our video nook. Much of our video work has been at client and customer sites, in fact the team heads to Dubai later this week!  The sound proofing we did makes filming in this space a great option. Finally, you can see Alex and Dave were first to arrive for a later meeting, at our larger table which easily accommodates 12.  Stop by and visit or inquire about hosting your meeting here!

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Meet Much?

  Interesting Business2Community article, here, about how to handle time wasting people at work.  There are just a few of key points:

·         Know how to delegate

·         Set times for handling questions and issues

·         Rethink your meetings

The last one applies to all of us.  How many meetings happen out of habit week after week or are much longer than they need to be?  Do many of your meetings share information that could have just as easily been sent as an email?  Do they have way more attendees than are really needed?   

As we look ahead to 2018 maybe we should all reevaluate our meetings. Make sure the attendees are appropriate and determine if they all need to be there the whole time. See if there are more efficient ways to share information. Try going without – what happens if you skip a few!  Give us your ideas for minimizing the time devoted to meetings, would love to hear your tips.

Video in Australia

pexels-photo-68704We have two team members headed to Australia for video shoots.  They should be there now but their flight got cancelled last night so they have a ‘fun’ day working from LA.  Fingers crossed that they jet off tonight.  It would be nice to have a day to adjust rather than having to run from a 17 hour flight straight to the customer site!    We’re seeing more and more use of video with customer advocacy, and for good reason.  This article from Insivia has some very interesting statistics, 27 Stats About Video in 2017.  Bottom line, people are viewing a lot of video, more every day.  Executives are viewing and sharing video, 4X as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it, and marketers who use video grow revenue faster than those who don’t. The stats in the article have links to the source so you can learn more.  The article has a lot of information which helps reinforce the importance of video.   

If you are using video great.  If not, give it a serious thought and give us a call so we can show you how effective video can be in your advocacy work and help you join the majority of marketers using video.

What problem are we trying to solve?

We’ve all been there.  The meeting that starts out well.  It may even have an agenda, there may be a review of previous meetings and work done to this point.  And then, to quote the author of a recent blog post, “pigs fly”.  The meeting gets out of control with all sorts of discussion and proposals and things seem to go in circles.  Charles H. Green wrote a blog post for TrustedAdvisor LLC, here, where he explains why he uses a consistent question to bring the group back to task.  “What problem are we trying to solve?”  It sounds so simple, yet is very effective.  It’s a good question and is framed in a neutral way to get the group back to the real issue.  As Green states, “Logically it has the same effect as saying, ‘You fools are all over the map – you can’t even define the problem’ – but the emotional effect is totally different.” 

Sometimes this simple question surfaces that there are multiple problems at hand or differing views that need to be resolved before progress can be made. 

Try it in your next meeting and see if brings everyone back to the key issues. Let us know how it works for you.

Meetings - rarely face to face

It’s hard to know the exact number of people working from home in the US. According to the American Community survey, 3.2 million workers telecommute. That’s a 79 percent increase between 2005 and 2012! We all come in to the office.   With the pace of our expansion having everyone here makes it much easier to train our new employees and collaborate on tasks. At Referential we all are externally facing so spend much time in email, on the phone, and in virtual meetings. While we don’t work remotely as a team, our clients are all over the US, even the world. As obvious as it sounds when meeting with others you need to be clear about the date and time. With international contacts finding a common time for a meeting can be challenging, California and India for example have a 12 hour time difference!

When it’s more than a simple call we never assume the other person has experience with remote meetings or the software we use to conduct them. It’s a good idea to send out clear instructions ahead and even practice yourself if the tool is new to you.

As the number of remote workers increase and our business dealings become more and more global, the need for virtual meetings will continue to climb. The technology will improve but meeting best practices will always be called for.   What’s your favorite tip for virtual meetings?