Tag Archives: content

Lessons on how to be compassionate, courtesy of Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo is more than just a pretty face. Look beyond his chiseled bone structure and gelled hair and you’ll see a source of wisdom in business and in life.

It’s a bold statement, I know, just like his eyebrow game. Please allow me to explain.

In 2005, during an integral time in the season for his team, Manchester United, Ronaldo’s father fell into a coma in London. It was likely that his father would die, and this created a huge dilemma for the Portuguese forward whose presence on the pitch played a key part in the team’s overall success. His leaving would most likely mean the loss of a title for the team.

What could have been a major source of shame for Ronaldo, was quickly quelled by the excellent leadership skills shown by manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Ronaldo explained their conversation to the Daily Mirror;

“I said, ‘Boss, I don’t feel good.’We are in a key moment in the league and theChampions League, but I say, ‘Boss, I don’t feel good. I want to see my dad.’

“[He said] ‘Cristiano, you want to go one day, two days, one week, you can go. I’m going to miss you here because you know you are important. But your dad [comes] first.’

When he told me that, I thought, ‘This guy’s unbelievable’. He was a football father for me.”

Ferguson’s compassion is the lesson to be learned here. He knew that the core values of the individual (or business) is what determines success. He stuck by his guiding principles and proved that ultimately ‘doing the right thing’ would influence not only how Ronaldo would perform in the short-term, but how he would behave and view himself throughout his career and his life. As a result, Ferguson became ‘like a father’ to Ronaldo and the pair enjoyed many successes throughout their time together. 

cristiano_ronaldo_2012_espanyol

Why trust should be given upfront

It’s difficult for me to extend high-levels of compassion to new team members upfront because I believe trust is a core value that’s built over time. I’m quickly finding that withholding trust is not only a detriment to my personal leadership, but it is also just flat out wrong.

“In looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if they don’t have the first, the other two will kill you,” Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Our new copywriter, Alex, is a perfect example. She started two months ago and has never once given me reason to not trust her work ethic. She possesses integrity, intelligence and energy, but for some reason I found myself holding back on fully trusting her when she requested to work from home (WFH) over the holidays.

Before starting at AirHelp, she was honest about her availability. She was looking forward to joining the team full-time, but was also transitioning out of being a full-time freelance writer and had to wrap up ongoing projects before fully committing to AirHelp. It meant she’d have 15 days out of the office during her first two months at the company.

I wasn’t happy.

I replied to the HR Director who was still in negotiation with her, “That’s 15 workdays she’s requesting to work from home within the first two months of being employed here. It’s going to be hard to acclimate her to the business without her being in the office. I’m not against working from home, but I want to make it clear that this would not be a regular occurrence.”

Show, don’t tell how to trust

As a manager my concerns were valid, but what I failed to see were the examples Alex was simultaneously showing me that proved her trustworthiness. She was forthright with her initial availability and was insistent that time spent out of the office wouldn’t be a regular occurrence. Later, she proved to be true to her word by never missing a deadline and being consistently available for phone calls or last-minute projects. In fact, I was so assured by her work ethic (trustworthiness) that I began ordering her to sign out of Slack and Skype and go enjoy herself.

Nevertheless, the holidays are coming up and when she asked me for if she could work from home for 15 days over Thanksgiving, my old concerns of trust and reliability were renewed. Her reasoning is valid; her grandmother had fallen ill and she wants to spend a significant amount of time in Montana to be with her.

I told her I would think about it.

AirHelp is a tech start-up that is thriving and hiring aggressively. It’s important that the team bonds and grows up together. I was concerned that continued, lengthy absences would break this bond and also set a false precedent that working from home is the rule and not the exception. What I failed to acknowledge at the time was that 60 percent of my team isn’t even based in New York, anyway. We have offices in 15+ countries across the world, so why was I placing different expectations on her than the other team members? I know it’s because I knew them already. Once again, I failed to trust upfront.

You gotta give, give, give

“I’m not a micromanager,” I tell my team, which is true. I don’t question every decision, invoice or metric that comes across my desk. We don’t work off a scoreboard or use templated to-do lists. We don’t have set working hours.

Naturally, this hands-off approach only works with a mutual level of trust that everyone involved will actually do what they say they’re going to do. I failed on my half of the bargain. I didn’t trust. Alex, I’m sorry I failed you!

Naturally, this hands-off approach only works with a mutual level of trust that everyone involved will actually do what they say they’re going to do. I failed on my half of the bargain.

Two nights ago around 2 a.m., while suffering through a sinus infection that wouldn’t let me to sleep, I came across the quote from Cristiano Ronaldo and it knocked me back into place. I learned that I need to trust from the beginning and evaluate if it can be maintained over time. Sure, it was Ferguson who taught me this, but I’d also like to thank the messenger.

The next morning, I was done thinking about it. I sent her an email, “Regarding vacation and WFH days … it does not matter to me how many vacation days you need for spending time with family. Family is the most important aspect of life and you need to do what you need to do.”

This ugly af writing tool is actually a secret weapon

A brand’s website is its storefront. So what does that make the headline… the window dressing? The display case? The sales tag? The devil is in the details, especially when it comes to the presentation and display of a brand’s message.

It’s a lot of responsibility, which is a trait I’ve never been known for, instead outsourcing the headline writing task to the editors. Well, no more. Now I’m the Head of Content at AirHelp, which means I’m the brand equivalent to the website’s Editor-in-Chief. I’ve got to say that it really is lonely at the top. I have no more editors to turn to. So, naturally I turned to the Internet.

Take one: Editorial headline writing 

The Columbia University headline guide tops the SEO search and therefore naturally became the only page I used for reference, but gawd is it boring af. I mean look at it. It reads like a undergrad curriculum. It uses words like “imperative,” which any good journalist knows is 1.) an adjective and is therefore lazy sentence structure and 2.) not likely to please the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test. It makes three good points, though.

  • Headlines are usually written as an afterthought (true)
  • Readers look at headlines and photos first (true)
  • It must be correct, “easily understood,” interesting and set the tone of the article (non-negotiable requirement)

Take two: Advertorial headline writing

K, well, we’re not amateurs here so let’s move beyond the basics and into the real shit … the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Headline AnalyzerThis site could not be more ugly … or rude. It’s algorithm straight up judges your headline writing skills so hard and without empathy that it is now my most favorite tool to play. Here’s how it works.  

  1. Enter the headline into the text box (20 words or less, obviously)
  2. Select your industry category
  3. Submit your headline for analysis

Recently, the AirHelp tech dudes hosted a hackathon and the video that came out of it is so, so good that I knew the responsibility (ugh, this word) of selling this window display to the public was all mine. I tried 15 options before settling in on “Tears and caffeine are the two ingredients to a successful hackathon.” My score was a 45.45% and I officially ranked as a professional copywriter as I tapped into the blend of Intellectual and Spiritual. Hellz yeah.

Take three: Professional headline writing

This tool tests your resilience. It requires you to be a mix of both editorial and advertorial and I’m determined to beat it at its own game. The score indicates your headline as a percentage of Emotional Marketing Value Words (EMV)

It’s also where it gets super judgy, explaining, “Most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30% – 40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words.Essentially, if your headline is less than 30% your writing is terrible. To put that into perspective, the English language contains approximately 20% EMV words – I’ve ranked at 10% more than once.

The ideal headline comprises three predominant emotions: Intellectual, Spiritual and Empathetic. Intellectual impact words are best aimed at people in the fields of education, law, medicine, research and politics. Spiritual words are for New Age and health-related markets as well as women, children and other ninnies. Empathetic words bring out profound and strong positive emotional reactions.

Just in case you were wondering – this headline scored a solid 60% EMV words. I’m officially gifted.

 

[Cover Letter Template]: Application for Assistant to the Coffeemaker

As a volunteer at a local old folk’s home in Virginia, my mom has unique insight into the bureaucracy and egoism that can be rampant in small towns. Politics play a huge role, even with something as simple as making coffee for the elderly, in an environment where everyone knows each other and needs to glean a sense of authority over one’s neighbors. Lots of big fishes in a small pond, if you will.

For example, accompanying my mom to one 45-minute volunteer stint required several rounds of permissions and approvals. It seems there are no less hoops to jump through when volunteering in a small town as there are for me to secure a job as a content lead in New York City. This is pretty commendable, which is why I wrote this template and it is what I would use if I were to move home and apply. Make no mistake about it – preparing coffee for the elderly can be just as important and detailed of a job as any other, depending on your perspective.

For those of you looking for an actual template on how to write a cover letter – and not the satirical paragraphs seen below – please pay heed to the footnotes for professional advice. Here’s hoping you enjoy this read while sipping your morning coffee.

—–

To Whom it May Concern,

I’m writing to request an interview for the unadvertised role of “Assistant to the Coffeemaker” at the Adult Care Center in Purcellville, Virginia. Hopefully you will find that my experience is in line with what you are not even looking for in an ideal candidate.

Tip: State your purpose clearly at the beginning. This is the idea behind the inverted pyramid used by journalists. It is followed up by the nut graph, which is a summation of the entire purpose of the document.

For starters, I am the daughter of the Coffeemaker. As a familial relation, my apprenticeship will not only include a step-by-step tutorial of the proper placement of each powdered donut hole and quarter-sliced apple pastry on the appropriate serving platter, but also a keen knowledge of the complete roster of every man and woman who has ever – or can ever be expected in the foreseeable future – been known to have drank the coffee made by this Maker.

Tip: When you can, make sure to use specifics. The more detailed you can be in pointing out your strengths, the better

It is to your benefit that I have already been given a tutorial of the coffee-making procedure in advance of a potential in-person interview. For instance, I already know that the decaf coffee comes in packets and that it is to be dispensed from the carafe marked with black Sharpie-scripted letters spelling “decaf.” The caffeinated variety, on the other hand, comes pre-ground and must be administered with a freeform filter.

Tip: Present the potential employer with the reasons why your unique set of skills is advantageous to them. Remember, it’s not about you getting the job – they don’t care about that. They care about how you can make the business run more smoothly and therefore make them more money.

If you need further proof, please let me show you that I am fully capable of meeting the key duties and responsibilities as outlined in the Assistant to the Coffeemaker role.

My Core Capabilities:

  • Ability to wash hands for no less, and no more, than 20 seconds while disposing of my paper towel properly in the trash bin
  • Awareness of the skill of serving one half scoop of ice into the milk dish; and a further one and one half scoops for the iced tea and apple juice, respectively
  • Experience warming apple turnovers and blueberry muffins in the microwave; with awareness that the powdered donut holes need an extra 30 seconds
  • Superior upper-body strength supports the need to lift and carry large portions of liquids from counter-to-cart-to-table
  • Keen knowledge of my rank, understanding that whatever the Coffeemaker says, is what goes, because she holds the key fob to the main entrance on a chain around her neck

Tip: Recruiters love bullet point lists. If most people spend 15 seconds or less on articles that they sourced themselves – and therefore are uniquely interested in – then how long do you think they’ll spend on reading a one-pager that’s all about you? Also, most people scroll down to the bottom first and then head back up to the top – don’t fool yourself that this is a key placement area for your core strengths.

I’m sure you are looking for someone who can tend to the Adult Care Members with the utmost of care. Your ideal candidate will probably know how to serve coffee made with love. This, I can assure you, is a core strength of mine as I have spent 31 years learning to love the endless list of mindless tasks served up to me by my Maker.

Tip: Always add a personal touch at the end – it humanizes you.

Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind Regards,

Hannah

Just how “effortless” is CX when served on a silver platter?

One would think that the more you’re in contact with a customer, the deeper your relationship will grow. The opposite is true.

If a customer comes into contact with you directly, the likelihood of you retaining their business decreases fourfold, according to research by the Corporate Executive Board and presented by Matt Dixon, the best-selling author of “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.”

This is because a whopping 84 percent of customers value ease of use and low effort over channel choice. Dixon’s research has left him with the overwhelming conclusion that excellent service is not delightful. In fact, it’s a key driver behind disloyalty.

Reducing the customer’s effort increases loyalty and reduces attrition. Low-effort means that they shouldn’t be hearing scripted agents or having to repeat themselves. They shouldn’t have to jump channels or endure countless transfers.

The CEB conducted a series of surveys that found that 88 percent of low-effort customers increased their spending and 94 percent who had  low-effort experiences were more likely to repurchase later on, Dixon says. So, how do you reduce customer effort?

The Three Pillars of Effortless Experience

1.) Channel Stickiness. Self-service is where it’s at. Customers don’t really want to talk. Agents are aware of this fact that holds true across ages and  demographics. But because customers are still picking up the phone, senior executives are reluctant to acknowledge this shift in channel preference.

It’s true that telephony wields the lion’s share of first contacts, but this is unfortunately due to the lack of other viable options. Most callers (58 percent) first attempted resolution through self-service options and another 25 percent were online while also on the phone with the agent in an effort to learn how to resolve the issue themselves in the future. The customers want fast resolutions without having to jump channels.

2. Next Issue Avoidance. The worst question you can ask a customer is also one of the most common closers, “Have I fully resolved your issue today?” Dixon says this question sends two bad messages to the customer – that they are being rushed off the phone, or that the agent may be missing the deeper issue at hand.

Think of it this way – if you were measured by first-contact resolutions wouldn’t you avoid asking other issues exist? When asked in the study whether a first-contact resolution had been achieved, 77 percent of companies believed that it had. Their customers didn’t agree — only 40 percent felt their issue was entirely resolved.

Callbacks for repeated issues are a byproduct of both explicit and implicit issue failures. Fifty-four percent of explicit failures are because the agent failed to resolve the issue in the first place. Implicit failures arise because the agents failed to see the adjacent issues at hand, or the problem behind the problem. Ask your tenured customer service professionals to help identify the chain of “problem events,” so that you can think ahead of the customer, not alongside of them.

3. Mismatched perception of effort. Consider the behavioral economics of your organization. If the agents are advocating on behalf of the customers, then they are also empathetic to their upsets. One hotel chain told its front-desk workers to move out from behind the service counter to physically stand next to the upset client. This nonverbal communication led to a decrease of 77 percent in customer effort for the hotel. 

The same goes for the spoken word. We’re all aware that words hold weight, Dixon says, but are you aware of what you’re saying? Delivering bad news in a positive way is at the cornerstone of customer effort perception. This is where Disney is exemplary. For example, when a park visitor asks a Disney employee when the park closes, they respond, “We’re open until 9 p.m.,” instead of “It closes at 9 p.m.” This simple shift to positive language led to a decrease in customer effort by 73 percent.

‘Taste the Feeling’ of Coca-Cola’s love for data

Coca-Cola may be known for bringing people together, but this wasn’t always the case. Its cross-functional operations were once very decentralized, but after implementing its shared service center using a centralized SaaS model, everything changed. Karla Younger, VP of HR Services, and her team have found the recipe for success – the data reveals the support function’s history and projects its future need.

“When we created shared services we lifted and shifted those operations into our model. So we didn’t necessarily transform before we moved it in,” says Karla Younger, the Vice President of HR Services for Coca-Cola refreshments.

Karla Younger THUMBNAIL
Karla on Coca-Cola was first published on HRSSOutsourcing.com

Now, thanks to a centralized SaaS model, Karla and her team have the recipe for Shared Services Success by having a look at just what’s happening in the support they provide. After collecting this intelligence, the data reveals the history of the support function and projects future need. The foundation of the transformation is really about merging all the data together to become more and more integrated. Only after integration is achieved can senior executives become fully aware of all the touchpoints. The final, fully-baked result is the emergence of a better functional picture based off of the interweaving data points.

 

“In the SaaS model you can do it a lot faster. It’s more agile, so you can start to build configurations, review it, tweak it and continue in that iterative cycle … we’ve been doing that with new technologies we’ve been putting in place and it’s much faster than we saw other like-ERP type of technologies in the past,” she says.

In the future, Coca-Cola wants to amp up automation for a faster turn around on employees’ more complex inquiries. Mobile apps will play a key role in delivering this information in a quicker and more effective way. Of course, the way to meet this constant evolution of technology, and continue the center’s reputation for groundbreaking innovation, is by mining for talent within the employees themselves.

“We have found individuals within our organization who have skills that we’re not necessarily using. So, we’ve been really focusing on providing some stretch opportunities, developing individuals, being able to flex them around as we have other initiatives and projects going on, and that’s worked really well over the last few years,” she says.

My interview with Karla was conducted at the HRSSO event in Orlando. 

Four pro tips on media partner outreach

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: Media partners are not the media. They can be, but are not exclusively. There is a greater network of publications, associations, groups, LinkedIn members, etc., who also have a vested interest in the topic you’re writing on.

If I conduct an interview or create an infographic that has value, why shouldn’t it be of value to others, too? I’ve identified my media partners before I even create the content because there’s really no point in content if it isn’t being seen.

It’s a no-brainer that external partnerships with media partners are integral to promotion. What’s more is that the result could be that you’re PUBLISHED!!! Or, you go viral.

infographic-outreach

Pro Tips:

1. Email individually. You can bcc, but I prefer to send people the same email individually because I am personally very good at sniffing out mass emails when they hit my inbox: and then I straight up ignore them. There are usually no more than 20 media partners per topic, so if you copy and paste the same message into separate emails it doesn’t take too long. I just sent this same message to 9 media partners in 7 minutes. Easy.

2. Make the subject line clear. I use the subject line and the first sentence to state immediately that this is content that I am giving them. Again, to abate the spam issue, I want them to know right away that this will benefit them, then I go into how.

3. Conversational. That goes without saying – I’m a human, they’re a human. I’m just a human who has created content that I am proud of and I would like another human to post it to their website and social media. This usually works out because most media partners are looking for free content whenever they can get their greasy fingers on it.

4. Find the media partners. Search out the appropriate media partner companies first and then go to their website to find the appropriate contact. The job titles are usually editorial/pr/communications/media related.

Bonus tip:

Follow-up. No deaf ears accepted. I plan to follow up with those who haven’t responded within the next week. I will not be ignored.

Why less is always more in marketing emails

What differentiates a good marketing email from a bad one, in your mind? Perhaps it’s the imagery or the use of fonts. Maybe it’s the copy – or lack thereof.

My theory of “less copy is more money” was proven valid last week in one of my company’s sponsorship emails.

The entire email is an image with strong calls-to-action.
The entire email is an image with strong calls-to-action.

This is an example of the email for our upcoming event, SSOW. The subject line was simply (Your company’s) Involvement in Shared Services & Outsourcing Week. 

This is why I thought this email was so great:

  1. The calls-to-action are extremely apparent
  2. The use of colored fonts against a dull background really pop aesthetically and are very professional
  3. There are no block lines of copy – because that is really all that’s necessary!!!
  4. It treats the reader with respect – want to see the agenda? Click there. Want to see the list of attendees? Click here. Want to Register. Click here. The imagery and words are implied, therefore we don’t need to tell them what to do, which leads me to …
  5. The epitome of great writing, and therefore great marketing emails, is to “show” and not “tell.” What does this mean? We’re showing them how to navigate the email and more importantly, we’re showing them the value they’ll receive at the event through easily digestible tidbits.

Anddddd….. drumroll please.

How did it perform??

The marketing manager says,

While still aesthetically appealing, the reader is drowned in copy here.
While still aesthetically appealing, the reader is drowned in copy here.

“There were three things that we did differently with this email that we were a little bit worried about:

  • No downloadable links. Only requests that pop up to an email
  • We had only TWO items they would request: Spex Prospectus and Current Attendee List
  • A image based email with hardly any text. So almost like sending an infographic. And of course making it look fabulous and pretty :)”

All three test  had very positive results:

  • 19 actives. 7 of these we received in the first 10 minutes.
  • 21% open rate

Compare that to the previous email (on the right) that had:

  • 1 active
  • 11% open rate

Well done, well done.