All entries for November 2014

Going the Extra Mile: Face Time that Pays Off

After returning from a successful business networking event and receiving positive feedback from attendees, I realize that there is a significant return on investment when sales professionals dedicate face-to-face time to a prospective buyer. This spawned some personal research into the science of face-to-face communication versus electronic and telecommunication. What I found, though - is that when the two powerful methods combine - sales sky rocket.

Companies are spending

Following an initial decrease in spending during the recession, corporate travel and expenses have increased by 58 percent over the past three years, with Oxford Economics USA reporting that each dollar invested into travel generates a sales return of $10 to $14.99. No pun intended, but I’d say that’s worth going the extra mile! While traveling for business pays off, face-to-face meetings are a key component of this business success.

With recent developments in technology and highly personalized telecommunication software, why are top-producing, Fortune 500 companies investing a combined $181 billion into travel and expenses this year? Because, according to the Harvard Business Review89% of business travelers report face-to-face meetings are essential for “sealing the deal.” While pinging e-mails back and forth may develop a working relationship, a face-to-face meeting allows for the broadest form of communication, encompassing nonverbal cues, candor and body language.

Why the meeting is worth the plane ticket

James Borg, the author of Body Languagesays that 93 percent of human communication consists of para-linguistic cues, leaving only seven percent up to actual verbal conversations. Opposed to virtual communication, face-to-face contact facilitates the transfer of tacit knowledge, an understanding that can only be experienced by being present. A physical meeting is more effective, allowing the speaker to draw immediate feedback and tailor an interaction based on a nonverbal response, allowing optimal results in a sales environment.

The old adage, time is money stands true here. 81 percent of sales executives believe that traveling to meet a prospective client in person builds value into their meeting. Forbes conducted a survey of 760 business executives on this subject, of which 85 percent said that face-to-face meetings, many of which involve travel, build stronger, more meaningful business relationships, scoring well for persuasion, leadership and engagement. Similarly, 18 percent report losing business because they were unable to travel to meet a client.

Yin & Yang: Closing the Marketing Circle

Networking events are natural lead generators – drawing a pool of industry peers physically to one venue. Even with this opportunity for brand building, customer engagement and customer training, executives and marketers rely on technology to develop business relationships beyond the physical. A global survey by Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts reveals that 53 percent of business executives believe that connecting with a business associate on social media can help develop a stronger and more trusted relationship.

The strongest ROI will be reached when face-to-face interactions are aided by technological engagements. Research by Marketo reports that while marketers are investing in computer-mediated-communication (CMC), or virtual communication like webinars, to stay connected, they are failing to complete the circle: using powerful engagement solutions before, during and after a meeting. By connecting physically and then filling the void with electronic correspondence, real relationships will generate record-high sales.

Corporate Holiday Party Ideas

According to Punchbowl, a web-based party planning company, nine out of 10 companies host a corporate holiday party. Choosing a venue, activity and entertainment all adds up in time and costs, here are a few tips from the Forum Team on how you should celebrate this year.

Keeping Employees Motivated This Holiday Season

The holidays are quickly approaching, which means that a lull in the office may lead to an unproductive period for employees. It’s no secret that the holidays draw extra stress for employees who are distracted by shopping lists and bills – so how can you instill a sense of motivation among your employees this season?

According to ISACA, a non-profit association, employees plan to spend nearly two full working days (14.4 hours) on average shopping online from a work computer or device this winter. One in 10 employees plans to spend at least 30 hours shopping online at work. This degree of unmotivated staff can cost your business $27,000 in staff turnover.

Research shows a motivated worker is sixteen times more productive than an unmotivated worker, so here are several ways to keep morale high over the holidays and improve employee productivity.

  1. Take advantage of a lull in the workplace by implementing personal development training. Use this time as an opportunity to learn from management levels of staff using role play and sharing skills. Encourage employee-to-employee training!
  2. Be realistic with your goals. Set goals for December only so outcomes don’t get lost and employees don’t get disheartened.
  3. Some employees may take long vacations over winter time, leaving a missing gap in the workforce. This is a prime opportunity to get a staff member to fill in and learn new skills.
  4. Creativity always kick starts the workplace. Consider a competition for the most creative out of the office message and encourage holiday decorating for a positive work culture.
  5. Welcome flexibility over the holiday season. Employees will naturally have distractions during this time, by being more flexible and understanding, you will encourage them to stay focused on work while in the office.

Remember, a motivated employee is 16 times more productive than an unmotivated worker – so encourage your team to stay in the game this holiday season. Celebrate their success and commitment to work with a holiday party and a big thank you!

How do you keep your staff motivated over the holidays?

Need some bright ideas to celebrate with your team this holiday season? Visit our blog, here. 

Hiring a Veteran: The Benefits & Numbers

Today marks Veteran's Day, a national holiday to celebrate and honor the men and women who serve our country. Many companies understand the importance of hiring returning soldiers, and the benefits of government training and work ethic. For this reason, according to a study commissioned by JP Morgan, large-scale businesses, including AT&T, JPMorgan Chase and Verizon, have formed a coalition to hire 200,000 veterans by the end of this year.

The companies say that combined, they have hired more than 190,000 veterans and are now preparing to hire more than 200,000 by 2015. This news comes as the White House prepares to spotlight the unemployment rate among former service members – down from 2013, but still two percent higher than the national unemployment rate of 5.8 percent.

With more than 21.8 million veterans living in the United States, hiring a veteran is not only important to help re-establish our heroes in the workforce, but also to hire employees with a strong work ethic and specific skillset. 92 percent of veterans 25 and older have at least a high school diploma, compared to 86% of the total population. 26 percent of those veterans have at least a bachelor’s degree. They typically hold positions in public administration, transportation and utilities, manufacturing and retail.

While veterans make stellar employees, they are also successful business people, owning 9 percent of all US businesses and generating a combined $1.2 trillion, employing 5.8 million citizens.

Jobs typically filled by veterans are in the tech field where required skills include computer security, Microsoft SQL Server knowledge, electronic troubleshooting, security risk management, CISCO networking and program management. Common, in-demand tech jobs filled by veterans often include program manager, IT consultant, business development manager, systems engineer and field service engineer – all earning more than a $40,000 salary.

In 2011, Michelle Obama challenged employers to hire 100,000 veterans and military spouses by 2014 – employees that joined the initiative are Microsoft, Google, Honeywell, Southwest Airlines, Verizon, Home Depot, and of course JP Morgan Chase and AT&T. While companies continue to strive to lower the unemployment rate among our veterans, the benefits of hiring military personnel are obvious when valuing loyalty, reliable work ethic, motivated productivity and comprehensive communication skills.



Information from the United States Census Bureau.

Holiday Checklist for Contact Centers

According to studies, sales increase by 40% over the holiday season, making it a prime time for customer service from website sales to customer support. Even though demand is high, customers still expect their calls to be answered and problems to be solved. Here is a simple checklist to help your call center prepare for the holiday stress.

  1. Plan for the best, expect the worse. It’s expected that over the holiday season, customers will come to you aggravated, whether it be over a delayed package of a defective product. Tensions are especially high during this season, and so to ensure customers remain happy, prepare your representatives with credits, discounts and free product to keep customers happy when necessary.
  2. Hire representatives who engage and connect. People connect with people, and sometimes the right candidate is worth waiting for. As Jim Collins says in his book Good to Great, get the right people on the bus, and then find the right seats for them. The best representatives have an interest in their products. Take the time to screen candidates well in order to create a team of representatives that will help solve a customer’s problem in the first interaction, leading to happier customers.
  3. Hire early and hire many. Call center strategists advice hiring in September for the holiday season. According to a study by Vcare, out of every 50 interviewees, 10 representatives will fit your culture. Additionally, they recommend hiring 30% more representatives than you need, recognizing that some may drop off.
  4. Stay in touch with past potential hires. Keep tabs of everyone who has shown interest in employment with your company. Having a pipeline of candidates allows you to hire speedily when volumes increase.
  5. Train Innovatively. During the holidays, you may need a face turn around for new hires. Consider creating a more engaging and innovative training program developed specifically for the holiday season. Use role play, replicate real-life problems, make policies and procedures visual opposed to a lecture-based training course.
  6. Monitor, monitor, monitor! With an increase of representatives, the strain on management is also increased. Be sure to monitor phone conversations, emails and chats with customers to ensure quality does not become diluted.

Use these tips as a guide to succeed this holiday season – and remember to incorporate joy and spirit in all of your interactions this season!

Conserving Energy at Your Facility this Holiday Season

Over the winter holidays, the UGA Facilities Management Division works hard to reduce temperature settings and shut down unneeded heating and cooling systems, contributing to the $100,000 cut back in operating costs each year. Here are several tips on how you can conserve energy at your facility during the holiday season:

Turn Off the Lights
Make sure all lights are turned off when not being used. Make your staff accountable for this move and make a facility-wide effort to turn off the lights when leaving an unoccupied room.

Unplug & Conserve!
Even when electrical equipment is turned off, if it is still plugged into an outlet, it is drawing electric. Turn off equipment when it is not in use.

Use timers for equipment that can be turned off
There’s nothing wrong with using resources! Consider installing timers on equipment that can be shut off on evenings and/or weekends without affecting patient care. Also, check your current equipment for built-in power-saving features.

Encourage task lighting, rather than overhead lighting
During after hours, encourage patients and their visitors to use task lighting, rather than full, overhead lighting. This prevents after hour activities from bothering other patients and lowers energy usage.

Using this advice, Ridgeview Medical Center (RMC) was able to decrease energy use by 6 percent in just 15 months, admitting that the first few quarters of the trial they saw only minimal or negative change.


Avoiding Holiday Fire Hazards

With Halloween checked off the calendar and Thanksgiving quickly approaching, the holiday season is in full swing. Decorating this season could put your facility at risk for potential fire hazards. To prevent tragedy, follow these tips for fire safe decorating.

Interior Decorating Safety Tips:

  • Use fire-retardant decorations. Flame-resistant material must not exceed 10% of the aggregate area of walls and ceilings.
  • Be aware of your decoration placement. Avoid combustible decorations concentrated in one area on a wall to prevent rapid fire growth.
  • Crepe-paper and pyroxlin plastic decorations must be documented as fire retardant.
  • Do not place natural cut trees in facility.
  • Artificial Christmas trees must be effectively flame-retardant treated and placed away from heat vents, fireplaces and sunny windows.
  • Do not use extension cords, circuit breaker power strips are recommended for a safe electrical power source. Do not connect one power strip to another power strip.
  • Do not light candles indoors.
  • Pre-test lights that are UL listed. Plug them in for 15 minutes before decorating, then check for excessive heat or damaged wiring.
  • Check your lights for cracked or frayed wires and loose or broken plugs.
  • Avoid overloading light strings. Do not connect more than 200 miniature lights or 50 large lights together. Small lights are safer because they produce less heat.
  • Turn off and unplug lights at night. Grasp the cord by the plug; never pull on the cord itself.
  • Do not block exits or fire pull stations with decorations or Christmas trees.
  • Do not hang decorations on light fixtures, smoke detectors or sprinkler heads.
  • Decorations on doors should not prevent their function or cover the identifications as the means of egress.

Outside Decorating Safety Tips:

  • Do not use indoor lights for outdoor decorating. Be sure to check the label on the box to see if the lights are for indoor or outdoor use.
  • Limit the use of heavy duty extension cords.
  • Be sure extension and light cords do not create a tripping hazard.
  • Turn off and unplug lights at night.
  • Do not block the exit discharge with holiday decorations.




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