Employees – Hiring, Training, Leading – is this Boring Or…?

Below are some thoughts on employees, and the “boring” work of creating a business that succeeds with both engaged customers and employees – enjoy!

Hiring the Right Customer Service Agents to Represent Your Brand

Your customer service agents are your front line employees. These are the guys and girls who will be dealing with your customers on a daily basis…the ones who will be making first impressions that can win or lose new customers…the ones who will be responsible for talking an angry customer down and saving them from leaving.

customer services representativeSimply put, the customer service agents you hire are of the highest importance. The fate of your company depends on them. Use these tips to make sure you hire a staff that will help your business grow, not die.

  • Hire only the best employees – Okay, I know this is an obvious statement, but let me explain. Too often, companies carelessly hire employees and try to manage them into performing to their expectations. The problem is that if you hire an F-grade employee, no amount of managing will turn him into an A-grade employee. That’s why you need to truly focus on hiring the best of the best from the beginning, and then, you don’t have to worry about managing them up to your expectations.
  • Find people who are truly interested in the job – If you hire a customer service representative who is just looking for a job or has other aspirations, you’re begging for trouble. Don’t just place anyone on the front line with your customers. Choose friendly applicants who are truly interested in customer service. Make sure this really is the job they want to do, not the job they need to help them move into something else.
  • Do it yourself – A lot of companies use employment agencies and headhunters to find candidates to fill open positions. Sure, this will save you time, but will it really find you the right person for the job? Probably not. The simple truth is no headhunter understands what your business needs better than you do. You understand the personality of your business and the type of customer service experience you want to create. That’s why you need to have a hands-on role in the entire hiring process.
  • Make sure all expectations are clear up front – From the very beginning, candidates need to know exactly what the job entails and what your performance expectations are. This way, there are no misunderstandings. They know what you want, and they know whether or not they’re capable of delivering.
  • Check those references – Too many times, employers don’t ask for references or don’t actually check references when they get them. Get on the phone. Call up those references and see what they have to say about the candidate. This little bit of research can be very helpful for determining if the applicant is really the right fit for the position.
  • Be picky – Even if it takes you twice as long to find the perfect employee, I say take the extra time to do it right. Be very picky. Customer service makes or breaks companies every day. The candidate has to be perfect.
  • Have a strong training program – Don’t just forget about your employees once they’ve been on the job for a while. The secret to truly remarkable customer service is to continue training your employees. Reinforcing your expectations, reviewing key concepts on a regular basis, and putting in the effort to further the knowledge and skills of your customer service staff can pay off big time.

5 Reasons Your Employees Are Killing Your Marketing Efforts

In the past, I’ve spent some time talking about the importance of training your employees to be brand ambassadors. It’s important to remember that your employees aren’t just there to fill a position at your company. They’re there to help your company grow, and not only does that mean they need to be good at their job, it also means they need to be passionate about your company and understand how to best represent the brand.

Simply put, your employees should be your best marketers. Their job performance should help you acquire and retain customers, and they should understand what role they’re playing in taking your company to the next level.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case at most companies. Too many companies hire the wrong employees, have high turnover, and don’t give employees the tools or information they need to truly help the brand prosper.

Here are 5 common reasons employees kill a company’s marketing efforts.

1. They don’t know the company’s marketing goals – In the eBook All Employees Are Marketers, the author talks about a discussion he had with a senior manager at a shoe company. While the manager was on the technical side of things, he still didn’t know what it was that made his company different or why people should do business with them. The simple truth is everyone at your company, from the customer service agents to the accountants, needs to understand your company’s marketing goals and your brand identity. This will help them represent your brand correctly while at work and away from the office.

2. They fail to connect how their job plays into marketing – Even if an employee never sees a customer, that doesn’t mean their job doesn’t affect your marketing. Think about it. The customer will never come into contact with your product designers or manufacturers, but if they don’t do a good job, you won’t have a good product to market. Likewise, if the billing people at your company make mistakes, it could create a negative customer experience and cost you customers. Everyone has a role. Clearly define it.

3. They aren’t passionate about their job – You don’t want employees who view their job as “just a job.” When you get a bunch of people with that attitude, you won’t have employees who care about your brand, make suggestions for improving the company, or go above and beyond to do the best job every time. Find people who are passionate about your brand values and are excited to play a role in bettering your company.

4. They have no incentive for spreading the word – Employees can be a great source for referrals, but as is the case with all referral programs, you get the best results when you offer an incentive. Give employees prizes (cash or non-monetary) for each new customer they refer to you. This will help turn your employees into a team of eager marketers.

5. They don’t have access to training – Ongoing training is essential for helping your employees be the best they can be at their jobs. And the better they are at what they do, the easier it will be for your company to attract and retain customers.

Training New Team Members on the Basics of PR

As you continue to expand, you will eventually have to pick up a few eager recruits to help you grow and take over the workload. But in the hiring process your mileage may vary – you could get the next big public relations star or a complete noob who’s barely written a press release before.

Either way, you need a training technique that not only teaches new hires the ways of public relations but also can acclimate them to how your business does things. It’s not just a matter of handing them a book and telling them to go to town. Each company has their own methods and campaigns and unique ways of doing things, and if someone isn’t properly trained they may unravel all that PR progress you worked so many years to build up!

Starting From Scratch

It’s kind of strange, but someone who is brand spankin’ new to PR might actually work out better than someone who is well versed. Since your company has already established its own voice, mannerisms and campaigns, someone coming in has to learn all of them. If it’s someone who was taught to, for instance, organize an email campaign one way, learning a new way may cause problems.

However, if your new hire is largely unfamiliar with public relations, you have the opportunity to train them your way. They will be more likely to adopt your ways as the “proper” way without prior tradition getting in the way.

A completely unknowledgeable person comes with disadvantages, though, so you’ll probably go with someone who has prior experience. To recreate that experience with a more experienced worker, make them start from scratch. Let them know everything they’ve learned is useful but, well, mostly irrelevant.

Where to Start

Your PR campaign has had a long, storied history leading up to this point. It also (presumably) has a point you want it to reach in the near and far future. Telling them all this should be part of you training, as it gives them proper context.

Go over everything with them starting from the very first part of your campaign. What was the very first thing you tried? What were the failures? What did you learn from those failures? Who was involved? Knowing how everything came to be can be crucial to a new hire and lets them understand all the decisions made.

If it all possible, sketch up a “map” of future campaigns and plans. A visual aid may help new employees see where the company is headed and how to get there. At the very least it’ll give them a reference point and let them know there is a “grand plan” at works rather than people just randomly posting stuff online and sending press releases to the newspaper.

Do you have a new employee training process in place?

Handy Tips for Training a New Employee on Social Media Practices

Congratulations, it’s time to hire a new person to the team! This is always an exciting time as it signifies that you’re headed in the right direction. You’re doing enough things right and you need to hand certain tasks off to other people. 

tweet birdThat’s when it hits you – you have to train this new person. Hopefully they know at least the basics of how to run social media campaigns. But when it comes to specific practices, well, that’s a different game entirely.

You undoubtedly have a very specific way of doing things and any disruption in that can throw you off your game – and confuse your customers and fans. You’ll want to integrate the newbie into your best practices – at the same time, though, you want to give them the creative freedom to find their own patterns.

Develop a Style Guide

Before you begin even the first day of training, write up (or update) a social media style guide. This isn’t really a step by step guide so much as defining what your company’s “voice” is. Without this simple guide a new representative might head down the right path.

For example, if you’re a financial company, the new person may be under the impression they have to stick to a serious tone. However, your company is a little more relaxed and social on various networks. If you have a wide social media presence the new employee may not realize this and keep it solemn even when they don’t need to.

A style guide outlines all this for everyone involved. Try to keep your goals in mind: what is the ultimate aim of your social media efforts? Is it to get people talking or get customers to share content? Are you trying to build numbers or send customers from Twitter to Facebook in order to increase presence?

Slowly Decrease Monitoring

Naturally at first you’ll be pretty skeptical of everything they’re doing. Even if they’re self-professed social media experts they still need to take time to learn your ways. There will likely be little adjustments and tweaks you’ll tell them about for months.

However, the whole idea was for you to relinquish some of your responsibilities so you can do more elsewhere. Eventually you’ll want to dial down how closely you monitor your employee and let them off the hook to do the job alone.

This also comes with a degree of freedom. They’ll naturally want to play around a little bit with the various accounts. As long as they stick to the style guide you drafted, they’ll be fine! Their new voice could just be what the account needed to really take off, so you shouldn’t stifle their creativity.

Teach Them About the Worst Parts

Over time you’ve seen the highs and lows of running a social media campaign. You may want to gloss over the really rough parts of doing this but try not to shelter them. After all, if they’re going to work in social media they should be prepared for the really dirty parts.

For example, if your company is routinely on the news, you should expect a lot more visitors. When this happens, you can also expect a portion of these new visitors to act rudely. Telling the new hire about these rude people ahead of time can better prepare them for when it happens. This way they don’t have an adverse reaction or say something rude back because they felt defensive.

Leading Your Employees during a PR Crisis

When your brand is going through a PR crisis, your primary concern is probably making sure you don’t lose your customers’ trust. That’s important, no doubt about it, but there’s another group you need to make sure doesn’t lose faith in your company – your employees.

Lead By ExampleThe fact is that a PR crisis can be very stressful for your employees to handle. Some may be prone to buckle under the pressure, to abandon ship, or even to attack your company because they’ve lost faith in your cause.

That’s why it’s so important that you’re a strong leader during these tough times. You can’t ignore your team. Without their support, you’ll never come out the other end of this disaster. You need everyone on board to help your company through a crisis. The more hands on deck, the better. Everyone plays a role on some level, even if they aren’t on your crisis response team.

When leading your team during a PR crisis, you need to:

  • Be honest with your employees—It should go without saying, but when things get bad, it’s sometimes natural to withdraw or to conceal the worst. You absolutely cannot lie to your team. If you aren’t transparent and honest with your employees, they will find out and they will hold it against you. You may not be able to share every single detail of what’s going on, but you do need to give your employees information quickly and with honesty.
  • Manage your own stress—Stress levels are high during trying times, but you have to remember that your employees are looking to you for guidance. If you’re projecting stress and negative behaviors, it will have an impact on your employees. You can’t let your stress or emotions get the best of you. You need to stay calm and be a confident, consistent leader.
  • Give your employees opportunities to speak—It’s important to keep the lines of communication open during times of crisis. You need to meet with your employees and give them a chance to express their feelings, concerns, suggestions, and other feedback.
  • Be organized—Managing your team through a crisis is hard. Hopefully, you already had a crisis response plan in place. Either way, it’s important that you stay organized and productive during these crazy times. This not only helps your company weather the storm, but it helps you earn the trust of your team by showing them that the situation is under control.
  • Be clear about objectives—Make sure your employees understand exactly what your objectives are and what their responsibilities are during this time. Everyone needs to know their role, and you need to make sure the directions they’re getting are consistent, not contradictory.

Have you ever had to lead a team through a PR crisis? What tips would you offer? Share your thoughts by commenting below. 

Need an Idea for Your News Release? Look to Your Employees

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that I’m a firm believer in committing to a regular press release distribution strategy. I think all companies can benefit from publishing new stories on a regular basis as it increases the chances of getting media coverage and builds trust with their customers.

Partnership and team workBut when you publish press releases on a regular basis, it came be hard to keep coming up with fresh story ideas. In the past, we posted a huge list of press release topic ideas, but even with all these ideas, you may still be suffering from a case of writer’s block.

One reason you may be having difficulty coming up with an idea for your next release is that you’re only looking at your company as a whole. You’re thinking about things your company has done or problems that your products have solved. And while these are good places to look for story angles, there’s a chance that you may have exhausted all your current company stories and that you haven’t done anything relevant recently.

That’s why it pays to get to know your employees. Employees can be powerful sources for press release ideas. Each employee has a unique story, and one of your employees just might be the perfect subject for your next press release.

Here are some common ways you can feature an employee in your next release.

  • Awards and certifications achieved by the employee – Let’s say you run a graphic design company and one of your employees gets nominated and wins an industry award for one of his design campaigns. This is an excellent opportunity to turn the spotlight on the employee because his success is your company’s success. Whenever an employee does something great, it reflects positively on your entire company. So, highlight your employee’s achievements whenever you have the chance.
  • An employee’s involvement in charity work – Are any of your employees involved in volunteer projects after work? Do they donate their time to a certain cause? Maybe one of them is even a volunteer firefighter. Get to know your employees so you can find out these things. This could be a great opportunity to humanize your company.
  • Inspirational stories of an employee’s life – Like I said earlier, every one of your employees has a unique story. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, and some may have even overcome huge challenges in their life to get to where they are today. Human interest stories can help consumers better connect with your brand as they make you look less like a company and more personal.
  • Promotion of a key employee – No, you shouldn’t write a press release every time an employee gets promoted, but if the promotion is to a truly significant and high-ranking position within the company, a release may be justified.
  • News of the weird involving employee – Have your employees been involved in any strange, funny news? Hopefully none of them have been threatened to get tasered by a psycho customer, but you might be able to dig up a strange story with a truly unique, attention-grabbing angle.

Do you feature your employees in your press releases?

Are your employees good marketers for your company?

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (https://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download your free copy of 7 Cheap PR Tactics for Success in Any Economy here – https://www.ereleases.com/free-offer/cheap-pr-tactics/

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