Upon A Star

by Kim Houlne on January 21, 2016

uma

Photo Credit: Miramax Films

In the movie, Pulp Fiction, Uma Thurman’s character asks hitman Vincent Vega (aka John Travolta) this between-the-eyes question: “Do you listen or do you wait to talk?

He replies: “I wait to talk, but I’m trying to listen.”

Ah, there’s a business lesson here: Listen before you talk. Then, take the time to learn and leverage what’s said.

As we begin 2016, it’s worthwhile to carry over conversations worth remembering—and repeating. Call them lessons with legs. Among them were discussions at the Chase Women’s Business Symposia, where I did plenty of listening and learning, along with several hundred attendees and fellow panelists:

For me, the takeaways for leveraged learning remain relevant in the New Year:

  1. Go with your gut. How many good ideas got away because you failed to act? Tic toc, the clock is ticking. Opt in or out of the opportunity. Take in as much information as you can to make a well-informed decision. Stringing out the process for months will only hurt your company, not help it. Time, indeed, is money.
  1. Be polite, but direct. Some people in authority have titles, but no clue. And they’re between you and what needs doing. Speak up. Be polite, but direct, says Lori. Not the right chemistry. Tell them. Not listening to what you’re saying. Ask to talk to someone who will. Pull an Uma Thurman.
  1. Find a banker who gets it. To be clear, it’s not about borrowing money. Rather, it’s about finding a banker who understands the business for the long term—your values and vision. Working Solutions pitched eight to nine bankers before finding one that “got it” and understood its virtual services business model. That’s what we banked on.
  1. Stuff happens. Sideways is not a preferred direction. But stuff happens—all of the time. Does your business bounce with it or get bruised by it? Factor it in. Bottom-line those bumps. Leverage experiences to find solutions for sideways. Always have in hand—or know someone who does—a fix that will work. Dead end ain’t a business plan.Jiminy_Cricket
  1. Believe in your dream. Practice the art of self-realization. I call it the “Jiminy Cricket effect.” Borrowing a verse from his song, When You Wish Upon a Star,” it goes: If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. Jiminy had it right. Fellow panelists—Angelle, Carmen and Lori—and I succeed because we believe in what we set out to do. And purpose gives all of us power—as it can for anyone with a dream.        Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios
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The original Working Solutions home office, complete with desk and credenza, is reassembled at our headquarters in Plano, Texas. First located in Omaha, Nebraska, the office cost $1,000 to set up in 1996

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It’s a reminder of where everything began, helping clients and their customers. As we begin our 20th year, the office stands for steadfast service, which guides the company today. Invested well, a thousand dollars goes a long way.

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We owe two decades of success to our team. They do whatever it takes—and when things get tough—take whatever the business gives, ups and downs.
In 2015, as we do every year, we held a series of agent luncheons, where virtual business professionals met face to face. Sometimes, it’s the first time agents on the same client program see other. Other times, it’s reuniting agents in arms, who soldiered through the business together. Either way, bonds are strengthened.

As we begin the New Year, it’s worth recounting a few stories from the field, where customers were well-served.

 

With Reservations

Right before her shift ended, Beth received a frantic customer call. Because of a flight delay, the traveler would miss his connection. Beth then booked a new flight through the same carrier, but it had to go through a code-sharing foreign airline. With different systems, she knew changing reservations isn’t always smooth. Beth called the connecting airline to confirm the flight change. None found—even with a ticket number. Each airline blamed the other. She conferenced in the customer and the airline and was able to iron everything out. “The customer was so happy. I had planned to finish working an hour earlier, but I waited on the line with him until he got checked in.”

Irate to Ideal

Paula received an escalated customer call. The woman on the other end was irate about a duplicate order, which was shipped and charged. Staying cool, Paula said: “Yes, it’s our fault.” Then “fix it,” the woman replied. Paula did, detailing everything she would do in an email to the customer, including a FedEx pickup. The next day, the woman called back, praising Paula’s composure. “I learned from you,” she said. “I took your attitude and applied it to my own job.” Paula understood, later remarking: “You don’t know what people have been through before talking to you. You might be the final straw in a long list that day.”

 

iStock_000044664764_MediumBarefoot Bride?

Never mind the dress. Two days before a destination wedding, the bride had no shoes. They were missing from her order. Clock ticking, enter Jaimee. She starts making calls, lots of calls, to FedEx and the retailer’s stores on the West Coast to find them. Persistence paid off. A pair of pink wedding pumps, size 8.5, were located, boxed and shipped—with a day to spare. “It was very emotional for the customer,” said Jaimee. “We were affecting somebody’s life.” And their happily ever after.

These are but a few of 10,000s of our customer engagements. Each is a story in its own right. One by one, we work them through. Always knowing that whatever it takes—is what we’ll give in the coming year.

 

 

 

 

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In the past, we’ve written about online job scams to protect Working Solutions agents and applicants.

Today, we’re writing about it again in order to protect you—and our reputation as a legitimate work-at-home company.

Using the URL workingsolutions.co, an outfit is pretending to be us. Job seekers are being recruited, with phony identities posted to impersonate agents. The site even shows an excerpt of a video from our real website as part of its pitch. Be aware, applicants are being asked for resumes, which in the wrong hands, could be used for illegitimate purposes. After filling out the online form with this fake Working Solutions Inc., job seekers then are contacted by someone who wants even more data. Don’t give it and especially do not go online or click on any links they direct you to.

With this unfortunate incident, we believe it’s worthwhile to repeat an earlier blog on job scams, featuring advice from reporter Laura Shin of Forbes.

She writes: “So many of us wish we could work from home. But with work-from-home scams taking the top spot for Internet crimes… we’re understandably wary of such offers.”

In a companion story, Shin cautions applicants about:

1. Fake urls.
2. Being contacted directly by a company you’ve never contacted yourself.
3. Conducting interviews by chat.
4. Lack of verifiable contact information.
5. Being asked to give your personal banking information.
To be better prepared, it’s worth reviewing the scams she outlines. Beyond her advice, we’d like to add a few more points for independent workers to consider:

  • Watch for companies charging fees to gain entry into their workplaces. Pay us before we pay you. We don’t condone this practice. At Working Solutions, on-demand agents are recruited and educated to work on client programs—with no money out of their pockets. In return, we ask them for a commitment to perform on their programs, as agreed upfront.
  • Know the character and culture of any company—before you apply. Glassdoor offers candid reviews of companies by workers. While any company might have negative comments, look for patterns of questionable conduct or repeated concerns.
  • Go to the source and check out FlexJobs’ rundown of job scams, with advice from an industry leader in avoiding trouble and finding remote work. Its blogs cover everything from scam keywords to common rip-offs.

Remember: If you’re looking for work online, job scammers are looking at you. So look before you link—and exercise caution when sharing any personal information.

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young african american businessman waiting for his flightWith the holidays upon us, people are gearing up to travel. Whether it’s to visit family or take a vacation, the fact is that people will be traveling, often in a stressed state since the holidays can add extra pressure to our already busy lives. The influx of holiday travelers will tremendously impact the business traveler who most likely still has to travel for business, among the millions of leisure travelers returning home for the holidays. This increase in travel volume can also increase the stress of customer service agents, who are hopefully capable of handling even the most challenging situations. But if the unpredictable occurs – bad weather, delayed flights, missing reservations – the heightened emotions may cause travelers to react more forcefully than normal, while adding to their perception that the travel company has not handled their situation appropriately.

Now the empowered customer, who is already frustrated, can express his or her dissatisfaction a number of ways, especially through social media including sites geared specifically to providing experience ratings, such as Trip Advisor, Oyster or Virtual Tourist – not to mention Google. It’s the perfect storm. Fortunately, it is one that you can prepare for by building a strategy that includes excellent customer experiences, regardless of the situation.

Our experts in corporate travel have provided tips for your team to ensure that you always have a 5-star experience for your customers, regardless of the situation. This is a lofty goal, but one that will pay off in long-term customers and repeat business. Let’s begin with our corporate travel team who provides VIP services to high-end corporate travelers on behalf of our premier travel partner:

Tips from the Front Line – Premier Business Travel Service

  • Big Things Come from Small Groups – when working a concierge-style service queue, having the ability to handle all questions and requests is critical. Our experience has taught us that this service is best handled by dedicated “white glove” teams. The intimate nature of the service requires a different approach best handled by just a few, high-quality seasoned agents.
  • Proactive is the Only Way – our team works diligently to catch issues and resolve them before the travelers are even aware. In fact, we developed our own system called SafetyNet to double check each reservation to ensure there are minimal travel disruptions or surprises.
  • On Demand is Better – travelers are often impacted by weather and other disaster-type events. By having an On Demand team, you are always able to provide white-glove service because there is someone available who has not been impacted directly and can step into the queue without hesitation.

Even the seemingly simple business traveler request is not so simple, particularly during the holidays. If your travel is impacted by a weather event, or you simply need to extend a business or leisure trip, ensuring you have a rental car available should be a simple task. Our program team working with this well-known car rental agency makes sure it is:

Tips from the Front Line – Car Rental Extension

  • Keep it Short – agents know the system inside-out and ensure that travelers get their information quickly. The transaction times must be very short so the traveler can get what he or she needs and get back to their trip.
  • Be Kind – regardless of the reason for the extension, it is important to be pleasant. Making a transaction short does not mean skimping on kindness and etiquette.
  • Be Empathetic – kindness will stem from empathy. Not all extensions are for leisure travel, so put yourself in the renters’ shoes. Don’t provide unnecessary information. This is not the time for an upsell.

Regardless of the type of travel support performed, the key to providing 5-star customer experiences lies with the agent. Everyone agrees that the agent mindset is critical, and that the remote agent model is a contributor to the success of these programs. The remote agents on these teams have this in common:

Agent Mindset is Key

  • Professionalism – agents with a strong business sense and the ability to provide solutions to problems are necessary when you want to bring a different level of commitment to your travelers.
  •  Dedication – agents who are dedicated to their craft. There is an entirely different level of commitment needed when servicing the business traveler. Find agents who will not dismiss issues or leave them for the next agent to resolve.
  • Experience – agents required for travel programs have a strong skill set to pull from when providing VIP service. These agents have both know-how and empathy, but all are invested in one thing – positive customer experiences.

Five-star customer experiences encompass the entire travel experience and are created by the hard-working team members providing support. They have a passion for the industry which can be seen in every transaction they handle. Having the opportunity to positively impact customers’ travel experiences is part of a travel professional’s DNA and will ensure that the customers are happy every single time.

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Do Your Due Diligence

by Tim Houlne on June 11, 2015

Beautiful vivacious client services operator

Check Before You Accept

The other day, a colleague sent me a Forbes’ story about FlexJobs 2015 list of Top 100 companies for remote work. I’m familiar with the list as CEO of Working Solutions, which ranks #13 out of the 100—based on job postings of 30,000 companies analyzed by FlexJobs.

Published earlier this year, the list focuses on “legitimate work with trusted companies that have a successful track record recruiting and hiring telecommuters.” For Working Solutions, it’s good company to be in, recognized as a leader in on-demand agents for business process services for almost 20 years.

For all of its opportunities, however, remote work for independent contractors does have its dark side—scams are pervasive, as reporter Laura Shin points out in her Forbes piece.

She writes: “So many of us wish we could work from home. But with work-from-home scams taking the top spot for Internet crimes in 2011, we’re understandably wary of such offers.”

In a companion story, Shin cautions applicants about:
1. Fake urls.
2. Being contacted directly by a company you’ve never contacted yourself.
3. Conducting interviews by chat.
4. Lack of verifiable contact information.
5. Being asked to give your personal banking information.

To be better prepared, it’s worth reviewing the scams she outlines. Beyond her advice, I’d like to add a few more points for independent workers to consider:

  • Watch for companies charging fees to gain entry into their workplaces. Pay us before we pay you. I don’t condone this practice. At Working Solutions, on-demand agents are recruited and educated to work on client programs—with no money out of their pockets. In return, we ask them for a commitment to perform on their programs, as agreed upfront.
  • Know the character and culture of any company—before you apply. Glassdoor offers candid reviews of companies by workers. While any company might have a few negative comments, look for patterns of questionable conduct or repeated concerns.
  • Go to the source and check out FlexJobs’ rundown of job scams, with advice from an industry leader in avoiding trouble and finding remote work. Its blogs cover everything from scam keywords to common rip-offs.

Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, says “remote work options are a part of successful 21st century workplaces.”

So is due diligence to be part of a modern, mobile workforce. Be sure to check out any and all companies—and don’t let a disreputable one cash in on you.

 

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