How To Use Your Telephone

You may ask yourself: Why need a guide for such an old thing like the telephone? Well, in the age of e-mails, SMS and messaging services, hardly anyone thinks about the do’s and dont’s oft the good old telephone anymore. However, almost everybody is still dependent on it: Hardly any business transaction without telephone conversations. Everyone needs the telephone. Not only every salesperson, lawyer or self-employed person, but everyone who works at customer care or has to lead employees. So why not give some thought to “how do we make phone calls right?”

Written by Jens Kügler

It’s ringing. I pick up. “Hello, you are speaking to the marketing agency Mueller and Partner, my name is Jens Kügler. What can I do for you?”. That’s what it sounded like: the phrase that we employees didn’t just have to learn by heart, but had to repeat every time the phone rang. Word by word. Our boss forced us to do so! You can imagine how annoyed regular callers were and interrupted us already with the third word with “yes yes … this is Mike … “.

Long phrases are no longer in demand, as the entrepeneurs’ magazine unternehmer.de recently wrote. The callers want to speak immediately and tell their concerns. Our attention belongs to them! What else did the authors write? All a matter of course, actually. Nothing new, but worth to go into it again.

Smile on the phone—that’s important. When telephone marketing and call centres came up in the 1980s, employees looked into a mirror when they were on the phone. A smile automatically improves the mood and encourages a more positive choice of words. The conversation partner notices this even without video and webcam!

Speaking of attention: Active listening is the magic formula. The conversation partner does not want to be interrupted. He wants to know that his message is getting through. Therefore it is helpful to take notes about his most important statements and to repeat them in the conversation. This does not only reveal attention. It helps to prevent the most important things from being forgotten. And it shows that you are interested.

Do you have to cope with bad news? A statement like “Sorry, I can’t give you the order this time” or “I can’t approve your holiday application”? Sure: The result can be frustration or sadness. Rarely, however, this is the intention of the caller. On the contrary: Often he himself is in a stressful situation and only the bearer of the bad news. Here communication professionals recommend: “Redirect” feelings. Simply clench a fist, noiselessly hit the pillow, crumple a piece of paper … and open a frustration valve. This way you can regain control more quickly and continue to speak in a normal tone of voice.

Last but not least: As an active caller you have advantages if you plan your conversation instead of conducting it spontaneously. Determine what your goal is: to conclude a business deal? Get to important information? Take your time, create a conversation guide right the way that call center agents use it—with statements on customer benefits and objections! If you want to sell something: Ask the called person questions, which he can only answer with “yes” like “You surely know the problem that your PC crashes when you have to transfer large amounts of data?”.

Sounds like a worn-out telemarketing strategy? That’s right. The aggressive cold acquisitions with mass calls should be a thing of the past. It annoys the customers. And, according to current data protection guidelines, it can only be used to a limited extent. But in situations where you, as a salesperson, have concrete discussions with interested parties, these guidelines are still very helpful!

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

Telephone Conference: Clarity or Chaos

Telephone or video conferences give us the opportunity to communicate efficiently in a global network—virtually every day and without travel costs. Nevertheless, they can simply be counterproductive, even harmful. A few examples—and how to do better.

By Jens Kügler

Kat G. came from Scotland. You knew it when she only opened her mouth and spoke a syllable. However, WHAT she said in her English remained hidden from me because of her rough Scottish accent. Every time Kat called me, I asked her: Kat, speak slowly please, I’m not a native English speaker (I should have said: I’m not Scottish …). Well, she couldn’t speak slowly. So I interrupted every conversation after three minutes at the latest and told her to write me an e-mail.

Ask your American colleagues if they really understood everything that “se Dschörmäns” (the Germans in German English) said. Or the people from Dubai, whether they could really follow the comments of the sales manager from Shanghai or Mumbai. In short, when we conduct an international telephone or video conference, we all somehow break through something that none of us speaks like his mother tongue: Inglish. It is therefore advisable for someone to take the lead in the conversation and repeat what has been said and have it confirmed. And asks everyone whether they have understood.

Are we actually globalized? No—not mentally. You probably know that: “We” Europeans and Americans like to be a little cheeky, know-it-all … we have our say on each other. But on a telephone conference, nobody sees the facial expressions of the others and recognizes the role of a spokesman. And the Japanese colleagues? Out of sheer Far Eastern label courtesy they wait well-behaved until they get their say. And of course they never get it. So they have nothing to say! In short: Someone has to lead the conversation and ask all participants one after the other, otherwise many go under.

To ask everyone—there are several good reasons for this. If participants do not feel addressed directly, they often deal with other things and mentally switch off. Some write mails, others watch funny videos. And what about humor? With funny, supposedly loosening remarks? This can be a disaster, not just because of cultural differences. But also because nobody recognizes the facial expressions and gestures that are indispensable for humor.

How can all this be avoided? Some things were already touched on in the last blog post: “Tuesday, 10 AM: Video Conference!”. Just a few points as a supplement. There should be a discussion leader, who sends the agenda to all participants first, so that a manual exists and all are well prepared. Then the tip: At the beginning everyone introduces himself and his activities, one after the other. And in the same order as with the introduction round the discussion leader asks the participants, if all are to contribute to the last thing mentioned. Otherwise, a telephone conference can become a waste of time.

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

Tuesday, 10 AM: Video Conference!

When is the best time for a telephone or video conference? Tuesday morning. Why is that? Read more … even if you have always intuitively inclined to this scheduling.

By Jens Kügler

Digitalisation gives us wonderful times: technology via wire, radio, computers and the Internet enables us to more and more flexible teleworking. Never before has it been so easy and cost-effective to meet with colleagues and business partners from all over the world. And that almost independently of countries, continents and time zones.

Let us slip into the role of the organizer, say, the company headquarters. In other words, the person from whom the telcon originates and who represents the most important part. And let’s assume that this central office is located in Germany. Why should the conference call take place at “our” morning time?

First of all, people anywhere are most productive in the morning. Many studies have shown that we achieve our highest productivity between 9 and 11 am.

But why should it be Tuesday?
On Tuesday we have already overcome the “Monday morning blues” and the consequences of the Saturday night party or holiday weekend. We feel to be back again and have emotionally arrived in the middle of the working week. And after Tuesday morning there is still enough time in the rest of the week to implement what we have discussed.

But above all, one thing counts that I would like to illustrate with the example of the Tuesday as the week’s day number two: A Tuesday morning here in central Europe means for participants on the American east coast that they can still be reached on “their” Monday evening, while the Chinese or Japanese colleagues can still be involved on “their” Tuesday evening. Of course, this would also work on a Wednesday or Thursday. But not on a Monday—as the US colleagues are still in their weekend. And not on a Friday, too, if decision-makers from Dubai or Abu Dhabi shall be present, for whom Friday is a public holiday, while the East Asians are already in their weekend. The remaining days are out of the question if you don’t want to steal your employees’ free time, no matter where they are in the world.

A few more points about the “how” of a conference call:
It should be short and not last longer than 45 minutes. It has been proven that people can only concentrate completely on one topic for about 45 minutes. For exactly this reason, school lessons or driving lessons have been finished after 45 instead of 60 minutes for ages. Therefore, it is recommended that someone leads the conference and has prepared an agenda. It’ most appropriate that he sends the agenda to all participants via email or intranet long enough before the call so that they all can prepare themselves.

In addition, the number of participants should be limited. Invite only those circles of persons that are directly involved—and among them only the one who decides or mediates. Don’t include ten or more participants! In a large group, a telcon will hardly be manageable anymore. And if everyone wants to have a say, it will be longer and longer and much of what has been discussed will be lost.

One more tip: Video or webcam meetings are better than just telephone conferences. Looking into each others eyes and faces increases familiarity. You can see from the gestures or facial expressions whether someone wants to get in touch or how he or she perceives or has meant what has been said.

Last but not least, webcam meetings with telephone dial-up are recommended instead of purely web-based communication. Because the good old telephone line is usually most reliable for “holding” the connection. If—as it is so often the case—the webcam image suddenly fails due to overload of the Wifi or slowness of the network, it is at least still possible to speak.

In one of the next blog posts, I would like to go into more detail on the “how” to conduct a telephone or video conference. Because the “how” influences productivity immensely. Suddenly there is a cliffhanger—a reason to read on the week after next!

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

Do We Know It’s Christmas?

Do THEY know it’s Christmas? Or do YOU? So early? Once again?? When it comes to duty planning, these surprising reactions seem to be the same every year. And this year in particular.

From Jens Kügler

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are on a Monday this year. Sure, you’ve known that for a long time. But let’s be honest: When did you actually realize it? Have you suddenly been confronted with the fact that all employees in your team want to take the complete the days off from Christmas Eve to first and second holidays, New Year’s Eve and Day inclusive? … and you are suddenly faced with the emergency situation that on the working days in between you might miss them—or you would have to “bind” someone against his will, which certainly leads to dissatisfaction?

Have you ever thought about the fact that it might be unpleasant to have the employees take duty for a few hours on Monday morning / Christmas Eve, which, strictly speaking, is not a holiday at all? And the same at New Year’s Eve?

Not only that may be unpleasant for the employees. We all know that not only the private but also the the business days before Christmas are among the most stressful of the year. All customers want their orders to be completed in the old year before they escape on their own ski holidays. And everything is to be booked for 2018. Everyone is looking forward to the well-deserved rest, which usually starts around December 20 and lasts until mid-January. This year is different. And there seems to be no time at all to buy presents. I wonder what will be going on in the department stores and pedestrian zones this Saturday.

Flashback. In September there were high summer temperatures. Nobody—really nobody—thought about Christmas and New Year’s Eve, shift times and holidays. Really nobody? I am sure that those entrepreneurs and team leaders, who were already looking for honest and open discussions with their employees at this very time, will now have the most satisfied employees when it comes down to it. Or at least: they’ll have the least dissatisfied. We know that satisfied employees work more productively.

Anyone who has volunteered for these unpleasant days in honest and open discussions reaps the good will and thanks of colleagues and superiors. And he will be the beneficiary next time. Next year will not be easier to plan—with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve on a Tuesday and completely torn holiday weeks.

By the way: A special gift can be another incentive. No colleague will be jealous that the one who works on Christmas and New Year’s Eve will be served something special—be it a restaurant or event voucher or a package of fine delicacies. This is not just a question of appreciation. Rather, everyone’s willingness to step in the next time increases.

In short: planning for Christmas starts in September at the latest, if frustration is not to be added to the frost. This can also be a good resolution for the new year. I wish you all a happy holiday season and a good hand for planning!

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

Engelberg Reloaded or: Teambuilding Event Christmas Party

When the advent candle lights are already burning, it is actually much too late to think about the company’s X-mas celebration. But nobody wants to read something like this already in July. So take it as a suggestion for next year.

From Jens Kügler

Once upon a time in the Swiss winter sports paradise of Engelberg. A Munich company had reserved a little hotel for its employees. A bus hired journey—Christmas night in the decorated hotel lobby—first overnight stay—ski day from morning onwards, organized as a team Olympics—followed by après-ski hut evening with mulled wine, live music and party atmosphere—then a torchlight sleigh ride under the starry sky down from the piste to the hotel—”Olympics” medal winner’s ceremony in the lobby—long disco dance night in the lobby—second overnight stay—breakfast—journey home. Almost 20 years ago. But those who were there still talk about it today. The company did something similar every year, so to speak: Engelberg reloaded, and was regarded as a popular employer.

“We can’t afford that,” I hear some SME bosses moan. Let’s make a counter calculation: Can you afford to NOT offer your employees something of comparable quality once a year—or at least once in a while—in times of a shortage of skilled workers and the struggle to acquire and keep the best?

Recently I read an interview with happiness researcher Prof. Dr. Karlheinz Ruckriegel. He said that Christmas parties can make an important contribution to a good corporate culture. Beyond the stressful pre-Christmas time, colleagues can meet to talk about private matters and get to know each other better. And especially at an event like the Christmas party, an entrepreneur can show what his employees are worth to him, the professor continued. Because openly shown appreciation by the company contributes to the fact that one likes to go to work, feels better and is all the more committed to work more and harder.

For Christmas celebrations, the happiness researcher suggests changing the location and offering an interesting place. In addition, more should be offered than the boss’s usual speech and the always same, boring rituals. The employees should be able to look forward to a highlight. They should take a message or a gift home with them. Something that, as he says, stays in their minds and strengthens the bond to the company. In this way, the Christmas party becomes a freestyle instead of a fulfillment of duty. Or as Professor Ruckriegel calls it, an investment in a good working atmosphere.

By the way: an unforgettable celebration doesn’t have to be expensive. Last year, a small publishing house, for which the author works as a freelance editor, invited its team to its traditional Christmas dinner. That annual celebration is the only opportunity in the year where the small team from all over Germany meets. Last year, the location was a newly opened ice cream manufactory that was reserved on a countertrade basis in the publisher’s small hometown. For the introduction and at the end there was the divinely good, handmade ice cream made from creative recipe ideas including a production introduction for do-it-yourself ice making. Then: a fish platter—wonderfully fresh and varied, from the local fishing club, cooked by their best professional. And a poultry platter from one of the town’s local award-winning master butcher. I am already looking forward to this year’s celebration. Wherever it may take place.

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

What Would You Like To Have More Time For?

… this question stands above a video on the website of the German Federal Ministry of Labor. Interviewed passers-by give answers. It’s about how they would like to—or even urgently need to shape their lives. The reason: The parliament has just passed the law on the so-called bridge part-time work.

By Jens Kügler

“Working time is life time. You can’t get it transferred to another account,” is the summary of an interviewed woman in the video above. The new regulation on bridge part-time work is obviously intended to give time that many people have lost so far. Lifetime.

Starting in 2019, employees in Germany will be able to temporarily reduce their working hours to part-time work on an individual basis—and then, after a period of up to five years, increase them back to full-time work. This is guaranteed by law. The law is primarily intended for mothers. They often reduce their working hours after birth and have until now ended up in the so-called “part-time trap”. This means that their employers did not offer them the opportunity to switch back to full-time work. Or, as the Minister of Labor himself put it, to adapt work to life again.

Almost 80 percent of all part-time jobs subject to social insurance contributions are performed by women, a large proportion by mothers. They thus reduce their pension entitlement and increase their “chance” of old-age poverty. A “good law”, then, if everything changes from now on.

But not everything changes—and not for everyone. There are restrictions. Firstly, only employees of companies with more than 45 people can take advantage of the bridge part-time work. Secondly, in companies with 46 to 200 employees, the employer only has to grant part-time bridge work to one in 15 employees. In addition, urgent operational reasons can prevent an increase to full-time work.

In other words, the legal entitlement does not apply to the majority of all employees. Some politicians therefore criticize the law as inadequate. And criticism comes from the employer federations, too. They fear that the law would create too much bureaucratic additional burdens. But don’t we always hear complaints like this from employers’ associations?

Almost to the day 100 years ago, in mid-November 1918, the so-called Stinnes Legien Agreement was signed. For the first time in German history, employers’ associations and trade unions had agreed on wage agreements and employee representatives. Why? Because revolution prevailed, power was held for a short time by workers’ councils, and large companies feared for their existence. Did the agreement harm the economy? Not really, on the contrary. Social security is an important locational advantage.

The new law will certainly not overburden the bureaucracy and seriously burden the economy. But at least some mothers will be able to avoid the part-time trap in the future. Good for each individual and their family.

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

The Need of Today is Freedom

Force people to work longer and harder? That was yesterday. If you want to retain your employees and win new ones today, you have to show them appreciation and offer them more flexibility.

Written by Jens Kügler

It’s nice when employees are indispensable. When they’re so infinitely indispensable that they must work immeasurably. My friend B., a woman aged 50, got sick because she was completely exhausted. Exhausted after two weeks of almost uninterrupted early morning and night shifts in non-stop alternation—and after that her shift supervisor gave her another eleven days without a break. B. also because sick from the arguments with the shift leader which did not leave her psyche untouched.

The consequences? The shift supervisor loses B’s (wo)manpower. Not only now, because of the illness, but basically because B. has long since quit her job mentally. In view of the shortage of skilled workers in her social profession, she will not find it difficult to immediately get a new job. However, her shift leader’s problems in recruiting and training replacements for R. will surely be immense. That’s the result of her “job planning”.

B. had just told me her story when a press release from a catering association landed in my mailbox. The association of employers demands from the legislator more flexible working hours for its employees! Well, in the past, German companies in the catering sector were not regarded as working class men’s paradises. But this association has obviously developed sensitivity for how to secure the loyalty of its employees in the “working world 4.0”, as it literally calls it in its communication.

The association considers the statutory maximum working time of eight or up to ten hours a day to be rigid and no longer up to date. The modern reality of life sets new standards. The industry representatives demand that the Working Hours Act should set a weekly maximum working time instead of a daily one. And they are not explicitly concerned about more and longer, but more flexible times. This already exists for other sectors. And the European Working Time Directive provides for it, as the press release further explains.

There is also talk of minimum rest periods, health protection and the protection of minors. Every employee should be able to decide for himself how many days he works and how much hours a day. In this way, everyone can adapt his or her life to his or her leisure time requirements and individual wishes.

That’s the way it goes, dear Mrs. shift leader: A little more life reality in work planning, please!

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

Never Give Up!

Those who set themselves goals can sometimes lose, but mostly get ahead further—especially those who don’t let themselves be discouraged by setbacks. I have experienced this myself.

Written by Jens Kügler

What a summer last year!–Sunshine almost every day. I always put my netbook into my backpack at noon, took my racing bike (I love the speed buzz!) and rode with up to 40 km/h to the lakes around the city, the wind in my ears, my head “washed free”—and after about an hour of riding with new, fresh ideas I continued my work with my notebook there. At the lake, under the sunny sky, with the Alp’s massifs in the distance. You can’t work a better way.

Now, in the cold season of the year, I go jogging for an hour at noon and then take a shower and start working again in my home office or for a creative change of scenery in the cosy Wifi-café next door. In autumn and winter, the nearby historic baroque palace park of Nymphenburg offers an enchanting setting for jogging. As the colourful leaves fall, the ideas grow in all their bright colors.

Why do I love my racing bike and jogging so much? It divides my working day into two clear halves. It gives me the opportunity to physically feel myself—important as a “fresh breeze”. Important as an urgent need of change in path. And for new, fresh and free thoughts. Last but not least: good for body awareness and self-confidence.

Everyone who loves his job has such a “racing bike”. In other words, something that gives him motivation boosts and loosens up his daily work, whether it’s something sporting or virtual. I’m convinced of that. But that also brings me to the subject of setbacks. They can also be directly linked to the individual motivator.

Exactly one year ago, a slipped disc forced me into hospital and under the surgical knife. Lumbar vertebrae: no strength and no feeling in my right leg anymore! The operation was successful—but until Christmas I walked on crutches. After that: rehabilitation, slow strengthening of the leg, gradual “back to training”, far away, far away from my usual performances.

Now one could have thought: I was frustrated because at first there was so little going on and I needed a feeling of insanity patience with my weakness and crutches. But the opposite was the case. I had a clear goal. In summer I wanted to cycle again as usual. Every little step forward motivated me immensely! Eventually, I spent again such a dream summer with racing bike, notebook, sunny skies, lake and mountain views!

In short: Setbacks must not force us to give up. As the saying goes: If you give up, you surrender. If you don’t give up, you’ll never be beaten. Recently I read an interview with a former top athlete who is now very successful in his new profession. He was asked if he saw a parallel between power of endurance at work and in sport. His answer: Yes, because if you set yourself big goals, you have to be prepared to go the “extra mile”, as he said. And you shall not to be held back by challenges or setbacks. Only in this way will he win in the end.

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

Quit In A Most Amicable Spirit.

Is that possible: to dismiss an employee—and he says thank you? Of course not. That would be a scene for a satire program. But what works is that he leaves and says goodbye with a handshake and a reasonably well feeling—according to the circumstances.

Written by Jens Kügler

For an employee with my abilities and my quality there is currently no vacancy in this company, said the boss to me. He explained the current tasks to me in a credible way, based on the actual customer structure and order situation. As soon as this changed, he would immediately call me again. He did indeed—but by that time I had long since found a job in another company which he had predicted and recommended to me.

I left the executive office with my head held high. A colleague of mine was even referred to his new company by his former boss. Sure it can’t always work that way. But how do you sign someone off without humiliating him? How, so that the dismissed person doesn’t hold a grudge against the company, start bad word-of-mouth propaganda and dispraise the employer on social networks?

The basic rule is: the (euphemistically) so-called golden handshake must take place in a dignified environment and in a respectful manner. Everything else causes humiliation. It reaps frustration and possibly a storm of indignation among colleagues, in the industry or on the Internet. Any manager is a wrong choice in his position who does not master the respectful treatment and crisis management, even in the interpersonal area.

But let’s immediately put ourselves in the most difficult position that a dismisser can take on: the role of one who acts on the instructions of another. For example, that of a head of department who, instead of his boss, announces the dismissals. He acts only on behalf of the company. Any private opinion like “I’m on your side, my friend. You know the way they deal with us here” is absolutely not appropriate here.

The person concerned must know why the decision against him was made. Are there any operational reasons? It needs to be explained as in the example above. Is it because of dissatisfaction with the performance? Then it’s time to tell what improvement potential the dismissed employee has—maybe to give him a second chance after all. Or as an improvement hint for his future career. It is also clear that, in case of dissatisfaction, at least one warning must have preceded the notice of termination.

Very important: never let it leak or wait until “it’s all over town”! Means: The boss or department leader must ensure that the employee has not learned about his dismissal in advance from others. A bad, but frequently occurring example from professional soccer are coaches who learn about their dismissal from the newspapers. Everyone can imagine how someone feels when this happens.

The manager should prepare himself in detail for the dismissal interview. He must be able to answer all conceivable questions right off the bat. For example, how many days of holiday the dismissed person has still to take. Or whether he receives a severance pay. And if so, how much.

Despite to all preparation and all friendliness: it can happen that the dismissed person responds to the manager with anger, or even yells at him. A second person in the dismissal interview, such as a team leader or executive assistant, can calm down, support and mediate. Experience has shown that these soft skills are more mastered by women than by men.

Last but not least: observe the notice periods! Sounds banal, but must be mentioned. If you do not take this into account, you risk legal dispute. By the way: It is already perceived as humiliating when the notice of termination is given on the last possible day before the end of the notice period. According to the motto: you shall not receive another month’s salary! Unfortunately, I have experienced this, too. You can imagine what emotions this leaves behind. You won’t forget that for the rest of your life. So don’t let your employees feel like those of Mr. Trump who’ve simply heard “you are fired”!

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag:

The Top 10 Of “Endangered Jobs”

There are professions that are practically extinct. And there are discussions about those who are acutely threatened with extinction – supposedly. But is that really true every time?

By Jens Kügler

I recently took part in a market research study conducted by a US company here in Munich. A translator was present—for interviewees who did not speak enough English and to clarify possible misunderstandings. In a short interview break I got into conversation with her. She expressed the fear that her job would soon become obsolete due to translation machines on the internet. Her future was uncertain, as she believed.

I said to her that no matter how good the machines might become (and they’re getting better all the time), there need to be humans still. Only a human writer can create and transform to the reader the meanings of content between the lines , the “color” of a text, the emotional aspects in and between the words. That is my conviction. If you would like to have this confirmed, simply copy this text into “Google Translate”, click “go” and read the result.

On the same day I read an article on the English job portal “The Undercover Recruiter” about which ten jobs would soon become extinct. The top 10 future losers, so to speak. Among them are taxi drivers, barista, parcel messengers, department store salesmen, customer service call center employees and supermarket cashiers. Okay, the latter are already “relieved” here and there by express cash registers. But let’s be honest, do you want to be advised or driven through the city by a robot?—to then be served and entertained at the bar by R2-D2 or C-3PO?

There will be upheavals. They have already been there—and will continue. 150 years ago, the textile factory “replaced” most tailors. However, man survived in the niche. Would there otherwise be tailors and fashion designers? The so-called dead craft is still also identified with having “golden ground”, as a German proverb says. The thinking human being will continue to be needed. Not to mention the artist.

A good translator reflects the emotional of the spoken and written. And if one day these blog articles no longer start with “Written by Jens Kügler”, but “by R2-D2”, will there still be readers? Or is the whole content then only relevant as input for the Google crawlers?

Empfehlen Sie diesen Beitrag: