Category Archive: Customer Service

Update From CMW Regarding COVID-19

Creative MediaWorks is “open” and operating as usual. Our staff is safely working from home – executing our high standards of servicing our clients with quality, on-time deliverables. We have the technology to allow our staff to work from essentially anywhere which allows us to remain productive during this unique time.

If you need our help, we’re here as always and can be contacted by all the usual channels.

  • Our team members can be reached by email (recommended), or you can call their direct office lines or cells. Kindly leave a message if prompted to do so.
  • You can request a video conference with one or more of our team members.
  • As usual, we are accepting changes to existing projects as well as new ones.

As the spread of Coronavirus is disrupting our daily lives, we are striving to maintain as much normalcy as possible while following the necessary precautions outlined by our healthcare professionals. We are committed to implementing recommended measures to protect our community, employees and their families.

Be safe,

Creative MediaWorks, Inc.

Best Video Email Practices To Get Your Content Clicked

According to a test by SuperOffice just last month, just including the word “video” in a subject line increased email open rates by 6%. Just the word! Well, typing out the word’s convenient enough — and there’s easy (albeit small) traction right there.

But actually including videos in your email adds an engaging, interactive flare that will up your click-through rates even more, and help your video abstracts, MOAs, and animated presentations get seen.

We want that for you, which is why we’ve collected some of the best practices to boost your email with a professional, appealing video.

First of all, it’s important to remember: video won’t play by default in most email clients. There are, however, some solid workarounds to that issue.

Static Play Button

  • The static play button is a solid and clear indication that a video can be played, without the expectation of it playing automatically. The play button sits over a static image, that when clicked, will take a user to a landing page where the full video can autoplay.

Animated GIFs

  • A static play button points to a video, but it doesn’t do you any good if you actually want to liven up an email with moving images. That’s where a GIF is your best friend. It provides the illusion of video on an animated loop without actually embedding one in the email.

Make sure you’re not overusing GIFs — in excess, they can be distracting and disorienting. But when relevant and well-placed, they can be fun and engaging.

Animated Play Button

  • Animated GIFs give you some movement but don’t link to a video, and a static play button will be, well — static, but does link to a full video. If you’re looking for a happy medium, you’re looking for an animated play button. This will add a little motion to a video link, such as a looped buffering ring around the play button — that makes it more enticing. When clicked, it will again lead to a landing page for the full video.

Can I Still Embed Video in an Email?

  • If none of these are quite what you’re looking for, and you think a full embedded video, not a GIF or a landing page link, is going to be your best bet — there are some pros and cons to consider.
  • Pros: Yes, a video embedded directly adds impressive flashiness to the body of an email. It might likely guarantee your video gets viewed more if people don’t want to click on a link.
  • Cons: It’s a little bit of work — You’d have to use HTML5 to code it in. But, it is doable! The only issue after that is that many email recipients won’t be able to view it because of a compatibility issue with their email client. Namely anyone using Gmail or Android devices will merely see a fallback image.
  • If you’re sending an email internally and know your email client, or if you’re sending to any team that’s using a specific client that will support the video — go for it! Compatibility issues are just something to be aware of on large email lists. Your email deserves to look clean and professional!

Now, there’s a catch to all of this: Video in email is an incredibly popular marketing trend right now — but do you need it? Not necessarily. When done well, video is absolutely attractive and a great way to boost interaction with your content. But an email can be aesthetically pleasing with a nice slick template, great content, and popping graphics alone. 

So whether or not you decide to engage with video in your next email campaign — make sure your content is optimized for email, it follows best practices for CAN-SPAM, and you’ve thoroughly tested it across all devices and email clients.

The LEAD Quality Process Model: ANSWER & DELIVER

Hello again! If you’ve been following, we’ve been sharing with you the steps of a tool for quality control that we at CMW believe in, called the LEAD Quality Process Model. LEAD stands for:

L: Listen

E: Evaluate

A: Answer

D: Deliver

It’s a simple (yet still thorough) layout to help you accomplish the most (and the most, most effectively) out of each phase of a project or problem that needs resolving — basically, anything that requires a high-quality solution. We’ve discussed steps one and two, Listen and Evaluate…now, it’s time to complete what you started. It’s time to Answer and Deliver.

ANSWER

  • Develop a solution that meets the requirement or solves the problem
    • Make considerations before creating a design
    • Flow chart the new design
    • Develop a contingency plan/prevention checklist

The first two steps were about receiving, then analyzing, a requirement or problem. Now, of course, it’s time to solve it. Answer the call! 

The solution should show a step-by-step system or process that meets the customer’s needs, eliminates the root cause of the old problem, and avoids creating a new problem. There are a few key elements to consider before creating a design, basically an action plan for the solution:

  • Customer needs & quality/service level criteria
  • Past successes and failures
  • The purpose that the design is intended to meet
  • Data on existing related products or processes
  • Competitive products or services

Ultimately, the goal is to prepare to create a solution, but not determine the outcome before more discussion with customers and more analysis — a repetition of Listen and Evaluate. Like we said, the four steps are simple, but they must be done thoroughly to be successful; in this case, it can mean retreading old ground to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.

That being said, when you’re ready to actually develop a design, here are the steps you can start with.

  • Identify needed work steps
    • Develop a contingency diagram/prevention checklist
    • Identify additional steps necessitated by customer needs/expectations
    • Review all material from analysis (including Pareto data and/or root cause)
  • Use a flowcharting method to design the new or improved process
  • Set process measure guidelines to gauge effectiveness

Let’s break each of those down. First, developing a contingency diagram or prevention checklist can be not only be a powerful and practical tool, but also fun. Basically, it’s a form of reverse brainstorming; start by being as negative as possible — How can we be sure this plan fails? Say, release every employee’s cats onto the company computers. Alright, bad example. Then, turn each fiasco around by thinking of steps that would prevent the disasters. Remember the 1-10-100 rule, and when we talked about finding root causes instead of “firefighting” — focus on prevention over fixing!

Flowcharting, as seen in the last step, is also a useful tool in this phase. As a basis:

Refer back to Evaluate for more flowchart examples — several of these visual aids and exercises can be applied across the board!

Finally, you’ll want to set process measure guidelines so that you have a way to gauge how effective the solution is. Provide data used to monitor and improve the process, focusing on a few key pieces:

  • Execution
  • Efficiency
  • Quality

Quality! At the end of the day, of course, that’s what this is about. Quality is what you need in the final product — speaking of which…

DELIVER

You’ve Listened, Evaluated, and Answered…all that’s left to do is Deliver on what you’ve been working towards. This is it. You have all the data and problem-solving done to create a solid, finalized action plan. For just one example of a template:

While poring over your work to write out the plan, if there’s a single thought to bring it all together cohesively, let it be: Focus on the customer. That includes Primary and Secondary (revisit Listen!) That is who all of this is for, whether you’re actively solving a challenge for a product or service being given to them, figuring out a requirement for that product, or making your day-to-day office environment more conducive to ultimately benefit the audience you serve.

From facilitating effective communication between you, your suppliers, and your customers; to taking the time to scrutinize the numbers and data available to you to look at common issues and their root causes; to having enough information gathered to respond to the problem at hand; to laying out a direct and exact action plan to solve it — we hope the LEAD Quality Process model can help you in your endeavors as much as it’s helped us. Smaller steps and critical details can get lost in the chaos of a complex project — focusing on it one phase at a time makes for a more effective workflow, and, most importantly, helps you prevent the same problems from cropping up again. 

So give your customers and employees the quality they deserve…go forth and LEAD!

The LEAD Quality Process Model: EVALUATE!

Earlier this month, we shared with you the first step in the LEAD Quality Process Model, a system we use to ensure the best quality in all of our projects. We know how important quality is to you as well, so today we’re focusing on step two. To recap, LEAD stands for:

L: Listen

E: Evaluate

A: Answer

D: Deliver

Just four steps that, if done well, can save your project. Revisit our last blog to learn to Listen, then let’s break down how to Evaluate.

EVALUATE

  • Gather data for requirements and/or measure the extent of the problem.
  • Analyze the data and understand why the problem happens or what requirement is needed.

You’ve thoroughly communicated with and listened to your customer and know exactly what they’re looking for, which means you know any and all challenges of the project, and its requirements. Now you can evaluate all of these elements to start working.

For this step, we find visual plans to be extremely helpful. They’re effective for organizing steps, data, and/or laying out an ultimate action plan. Here are some examples of pictorial views of a project.

FLOWCHART
Issue: Define steps to go to play golf

Issue: Transfer of files between Creative Department and Imaging Department

PARETO DIAGRAM

This one might be a little less intuitive. The Pareto Diagram is named after Wilfredo Pareto, an economist in the 19th century. Here’s how to create one.

  • Identify an 80/20 pattern (20% of categories cause 80% of events)
  • Create categories & define them
  • Sort data into appropriate categories
  • Depict data on a bar chart in descending order
  • Identify the important few vs. the trivial many
  • Select the category which is responsible for the majority of events being examined

Here’s a personal example from CMW from when we noticed a two-level 80/20 issue.

Issue 1: Of the 3 possible final processes for inkjet prints, mounting, encapsulating, and trim only (no finishing), Mounting (30%) accounts for approximately 70% of the work.

Issue 2: Within the mounting category, here are 9 possible substrates CMW stocks to mount to.  In this case, enduraplast, foam & gator (33%) accounted for 97% of all mounting in the sample. 

These are two great ways to map out an evaluation of an issue. However, there may also come a time when you’re faced with an issue that keeps coming up again and again and again. If you know how to handle it — that’s great. But for the long run, a key part of evaluating an issue like this must be examining the root cause, defined as

  • The basic factors which contribute to a chronic problem.  A high quality product/service design must address these factors, if it is to succeed.
  • In a world of “firefighting”, seldom is time spent to determine and address “root cause.” This is a major reason why problems crop up again and again.

Luckily for you, in keeping with the theme, we’ve also identified a visual aid to help with finding root causes.

FISHBONE (ISHIKAWA) DIAGRAM

The Ishikawa Diagram, also known as the Fishbone Diagram, was the work of Japanese organizational theorist Kaoru Ishikawa. If you’ve never seen one before, here’s the gist.

  • Write the Issue you want to address to the right of the fish’s “head”.
  •  Begin asking “why did this problem occur?”
  • Take a sub-bone and ask “why?” (5 levels) or until you feel you have gotten below symptoms.
  • Keep asking why by continuing to brainstorm sub-causes until all ideas are exhausted.
  • Review completed Fishbone Diagram and determine major patterns of potential causes.

Don’t firefight if you don’t have to — fix the problem at the source.

A thorough assessment of your requirements and/or problems for a project — or just in any day at the office — as well as an accurate analysis of the appropriate data, will give you confidence and clarity moving forward. Invest the time to dissect an issue, whether that’s just mapping out a timeline, or digging for its root cause. You’ve listened well to your customer — now evaluate what you’ve been given.

Bonus Exercise: Make a Chart or Diagram

Use any of the example charts and diagrams from this post and apply them to your own projects. Trust us — they work!

The LEAD Quality Process Model: LISTEN!

It’s no secret that here at CMW, quality is our top priority. We’ve shared with you before some of our best advice for making sure it’s a priority for your business too. But today, we want to show you one specific process model for ensuring quality — that’s the LEAD model. LEAD stands for

L: Listen
E: Evaluate
A: Answer
D: Deliver

Just four steps that, if done well, can save your project. Over a few posts, we’ll break down each step and show you exactly what we mean. As they say, let’s start at the beginning…!

LISTEN

  • What does the customer want? What are his or her conditions for satisfaction?
  • Define the requirements and/or problem.

First off, strong customer-supplier communication is integral to the quality of the final product. Note here that you are both a customer (to any supplier you use for your own resources) and a supplier (to your customer).

There are two types of customers in this situation: The Primary Customer and the Secondary Customer. The Primary Customer is the customer whom you must satisfy at this moment in time. They evaluate the quality of your work, they often have the power to stop/approve your work, and they may add value and pass on the product to others.

The Secondary Customer is other customers whom you must consider at this moment in time, and in the future. This includes the ultimate recipient of your products or services, so your work must be in alignment with each of their needs. They may also require different packaging of results than your Primary Customer.

Now that you know who your customer is, you need to listen to them; establish customer empathy. Here’s how:

  • Listen to the customer and let them talk
  • Get the background and clear expectation they have now
  • Create a connection with them that you really do care
  • Be understanding – they are the customer!
  • Present action(s) that will meet their expectations
  • Demonstrate to them that you heard them and, if required, acknowledge action to keep an issue from recurring

There are some questions that will help you further in this process. Learn to ask:

  • Who is my primary customer at this moment in time?
  • What must I do to meet their needs and expectations?
  • Does my customer understand their own needs?
  • Does my customer understand their customer’s needs and expectations?

This is where knowing exactly who your Primary and Secondary Customers are becomes essential — as well as recognizing your place in the customer-supplier chain. Remember, your roles will reverse within a single project. And at all times, you need to understand what the next link in the process chain needs to meet the requirements of the external customer…As a supplier, here are your (and your supplier’s) supplier responsibilities:

  • Survey customer needs
  • Discuss needs and agree on criteria
  • Negotiate specific service
  • Meet negotiated criteria and deliver product/service
  • Ask for feedback; “How Did I DO?”

As a customer, here are your (and your customer’s) customer responsibilities:

  • Understand and communicate the needs of your own ultimate customer
  • Respond to survey and articulate needs
  • Request service – negotiate specific service
  • Supply input that meets negotiated criteria
  • Supply feedback on satisfaction

As you can probably see, listening plays a key role in all of these responsibilities, because they’re about effective and thorough communication. You don’t know what you don’t knowso learn to ask, and prepare to listen. That way, you’ll know how to move forward — but that’s the next step…

Bonus Exercise: What Are Your Main Products and Services?

It can be helpful to map out exactly where you are in the process chain to orient yourself. Use this simple chart to list your top three of each category: the product or service you provide, your Primary Customer, the supplies/resources required to make that product or service happen, and your key suppliers.

Product/ServicePrimary CustomerResource NeedsKey Suppliers












The Power of Powerful Partnerships

I was having trouble the other day with a product I was using, so I called customer service. And as the phone conversation continued, I realized I was talking to somebody who didn’t actually work for the company that I was calling. After I’d gotten my issue resolved and hung up, I really got to thinking about it – it seems like everything these days is outsourced.

And that makes sense, right? Why not let a specialist handle the things they specialize in, while you focus on your own strengths? Hey, it’s why I called customer service in the first place. Nobody’s writing their own accounting software or developing their own CRM platform from scratch anymore. And whether it’s printing pamphlets or mass production, businesses find that it’s fitting to just let somebody else focus on a task they really want to do.

And yet – in many cases – outsourcing leaves you and your company exposed to greater risk. Who are these guys?  Do they care? Are they actually with the company they say they are – or is this 3 generations removed from someone responsible?

One of the things that we’ve done here at CMW that has helped us excel over the last 20+ years is a relentless commitment to being a True Partner. That is – when someone outsources a project to us – we treat it as OUR project. And when we have occasion to bring in an expert – we look for the same attitude and PARTNERING PROCESSES.

Let me share some thoughts about why this works for us, in the hopes that if you read something that resonates with you, it might just be worth trying for your own business.

  1. Communication. Communication is a lot smoother when everyone is in the same physical space. But Zoom meetings, conference calls can work too. Yes, the ability to walk to the next cubicle, ask a question, and get a swift response in real time, is a welcome breeze. But better, more efficient, and more frequent communication is a question of commitment. In a nutshell, sometimes it’s just good to walk down the hall and get something fixed. But, the really great thing is to know WHO to call and to know that they WILL fix the problem. That’s true whether they’re sharing a fridge with you are in an office 100 miles away.
  2. Quality. Quality is a central theme of our company, and it’s something that we can focus on a lot easier with in-house hiring. If you have strict standards and attention to detail that you adhere to for quality control, being able to oversee projects firsthand lets you make sure that nothing falls by the wayside.
  3. Intellectual Property and Company Data. Intellectual property and company data are precious. Keeping confidential material confidential is much easier to do when you can keep a closer eye on it. But more importantly, it’s really about working with people who know and respect the importance of your IP.
  4. Rates. Shopping for the most economical specialist is time-consuming and risky. The lowest cost provider isn’t necessarily the most economical – OVERALL-way to go. Pick a partner you trust and work well with together, and your work will get done on time, to-spec and to the delight of YOUR clients.
  5. Star power. Star power? Yes. Say you find the perfect specialist, a true professional, who excels at what they do…but they’re outside your company. But those stars, and your close, lasting relationship with them, can still help make your company distinct.

The decision to outsource or pull from in-house is an incredibly important one, and, because of that, a very difficult one. There are pros and cons of each that you should examine given how your own company runs – your strengths and limitations, your values. But in an increasingly outsourced world, we at CMW have found that a Partnering Mindset is key when our clients trust us to get the job done. And we’re proud of that!

How Can We Help? Four Ways to Improve Your Customer Service

The customer is always right…but sometimes they need help. Sometimes that’s a question about a product – but it’s also making sure that product is exactly what it needs to be in the first place. See, here at CMW, quality is key, and that means that good customer service includes not only being there for a client after the service, but also before and during. They should never be in the dark – and, critically, you shouldn’t either. Here are four simple steps that have worked for CMW to turn on the light and improve our customer service.

  1. Access (Before). Great customer service starts with access. Can they find your great customer service – or even just you – in the first place? It might seem like a given, but you’d be surprised at how many businesses needlessly complicate access to their services without even realizing it. One great way to solve this, that we really believe in, is a “blind shopping” test. Basically, have a third party that isn’t familiar with your company act as a potential client and run them through some simulations. How quickly, easily, efficiently, can they find what they need to find? You don’t want your customers to have to jump through hoops to find answers or worse, never find them or give up before they do.
  2. Clarity (Before & During). What’s the difference between a client’s needs and a kitten? A client’s needs can never, ever be fuzzy. Fuzzy details are the greatest enemy of good customer service. What does your client want? Really…what does your client actually want? Specifically, logistically, step-by-step. Make sure your team is persistent and insistent in understanding their every requirement to a T; never assume what a client wants, never begin work based on what you think they want.
  3. Expectations (During). This step can be a challenge, but – believe me – it’s essential. Customer service is critically empowered by realistic expectation-setting. If you know you can’t get a project done by Wednesday, you shouldn’t promise to get a project done by Wednesday; request more time. Yes, the client may be disgruntled. And yes, maybe, worst case scenario – they cancel. However, losing one client is better than compromising your reputation and integrity by missing a deadline without letting the customer know. Be honest and straightforward. It can be difficult, but whether they seem like it or not…your client will at least appreciate that.
  4. Follow-up (After). Finally, the best customer service doesn’t end after the service is complete. Reach out to your client to follow up, rather than waiting for them to call you. Check in and make sure that they received everything they expected, that they are satisfied with the result; ask if there is anything else that you can do for them. If you wait too long, you risk…the water cooler. The water cooler is what happens if your client stews on a perceived production issue for days before contacting your customer service about it, and in that time, they talk. They spread their dissatisfaction to their colleagues – spread something that may very well be their issue, not yours. Practicing proactive follow-up is the best preventative measure for a potential soiling of your reputation.

Customer service can be tough. It can mean telling a client something they don’t want to hear. It can mean asking again, and again, at the sake of sounding repetitive, exactly what they do want. And it can mean trying to politely explain to a client something they might be doing – well – wrong. But excellent customer service is key in forming strong relationships with your clients, maintaining a positive reputation, and – perhaps most importantly here at CMW – never letting quality suffer. It, supported by the right processes, becomes a point of differentiation that, if you’re committed, will continue to create a gap between you and your competitors. Even when customers try out a competitor, they’ll come back when they realize your customer service is unmatched. Alright, so…any questions? How can we help?


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