In Defense of Training

After being immersed in enhancing our company’s training program over the past few months, it occurred to me that there might be some disagreement among employees about the value of training and its applications. I’ve also seen this with clients who sometimes miss the importance of completing a comprehensive training program. While this can stem from a management philosophy that believes long-term productivity and efficiency is less important than the short-term completion of tasks, building a sustainable business, especially one that employs complex technology, requires personnel to have a certain level of proficiency with the software.

As I understand it, training serves two primary purposes:

Building Better Employees

At Zarca Interactive, our technical training program is strong, and it produces employees who are capable of addressing platform issues and who are comfortable teaching others to use the platform in a way that best suits their needs. Through on-site or virtual training, we try to instill the same level of competency with our heavy-use clients, as this reduces the number of individuals who must frequently rely on others to perform basic system tasks. Training also increases your company’s capacity by ensuring that employees have comprehensive skillsets, enabling them to switch tasks when necessary.

Improving Performance and Retention Rates

A competently trained employee is a confident, more satisfied employee. Thoroughly preparing new workers for their responsibilities creates a sense of reciprocal investment, which deepens loyalty between employee and employer. A supportive workplace, where people feel appreciated, is integral to a team’s accomplishments.

Although it may mean holding off on assigning work to a new hire, in the end, a skilled employee can increase your company’s productivity by providing valuable insights into processes or positing creative solutions to lingering challenges.

In short, don’t skimp on training!

Handle with Care

With the ongoing revelations about the NSA’s vast surveillance program, this is a good time to discuss how to strike the right balance between data collection and privacy.

Zarca Interactive is first and foremost a data collection tool. Many of you use our platform to learn valuable information about your target audience in order to make smart business choices. And while data empowers your critical decision-making, it’s vitally important to respect the privacy of your respondents.

The Engage platform not only gives you the tools to obtain information, but it also allows you to safeguard your participants’ privacy. For instance, did you know that it’s possible to create an anonymous survey that keeps all responses strictly confidential? This is just one way you can make your participants feel more comfortable answering sensitive questions with absolute honesty.

On our end, Zarca Interactive guarantees complete privacy for all our clients. We understand that the data you collect is yours, not ours. And we never sell any information about you to third parties.

While the debate about the limits of privacy versus security rages on, ultimately it’s our mission to respect your privacy, while giving you the tools to ensure data integrity, actionable results and consumer confidence.

A Strong Defense . . .

While it’s easy to defend something you know well, it’s tougher to mount a vigorous defense of something with which you’re not familiar. But with a solid knowledge base, not only can you articulately defend your position, you can also better assimilate new knowledge that advances a fierce conversation towards a solution.

Recently, a client contacted us about a glitch with her survey launch. Panicked, she blamed the mishap on our system. But I was confident the issue wasn’t inherent to our system but was instead caused by user error.

As we continued our discussion, I discovered a major part of the problem: too many cooks in the kitchen. Although our platform allows survey administrators to create and assign user subaccounts, those administrators must also set user permissions and monitor sub-user activity. In this case, multiple individuals had access to this account; unfortunately, however, they weren’t communicating with each other.

As our conversation progressed, I also learned our client was receiving a high number of email bounce backs. I got a sense the Email Relay settings were causing this problem — and, sure enough, these settings were activated.

When Email Relay is on, we’re not able to provide tracking information as the emails are being routed through the client’s server. While the client wasn’t sure who had changed these settings, she was happy we found a resolution.

My thorough training allows me to listen intently and ask the right questions. Rather than become defensive, I work with our clients to find solutions.

As I’ve learned, knowing your subject matter is key to helping all of us manage the insecurities that make people defensive, empowering us to provide the highest quality customer service.

Because Time is Precious

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” Frodo said. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring)

Problems often don’t conform to our timetables. Rather, they arise at unexpected times and during inconvenient situations. Zarca Interactive has clients across the country, so it’s important for us to be available whenever they need us. Because unsolved problems sap one of your most precious resources — time — we’re happy to offer night support until 8:00 p.m. EST.

The Support Team’s job is to get you through those rough patches and answer any questions about our comprehensive and feature-rich Engage platform. Never hesitate to give us a call; we are the Sam to your Frodo, always willing to help save what is most precious to you.

Depending on the size of your project, you may need either a lot of help or just a little help. Don’t let that determine whether or not you reach out to support. If it matters to you, it definitely matters to us. Besides, it can’t be as difficult as casting The One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom, right?

Training Day

My first three weeks at Zarca Interactive have been a whirlwind. While the amount I’ve learned in such a short time has been staggering, I know there’s much more to come. I’m being trained as a Client Services Representative, capable of assisting clients and colleagues with any issues they encounter while using our system. As such, it’s extremely important that I know the system backward and forward.

Learning the intricacies of the Engage survey platform has been a difficult and fulfilling challenge. Because every client has unique needs, our system is extremely flexible, containing a variety of special features. Since each feature has its own unique purpose — whether it’s commonly used or not — there’s a lot for me to learn.

Thankfully, I’m not alone. Strong team cohesion has made my training much easier than expected. I’m surrounded by brilliant coworkers, ready and willing to answer my many questions. It won’t be long now until I assume the full responsibilities of a Client Services Representative, and then I’ll be the one providing answers for our many valued clients.

Keep on Pushing Through

While March was the busiest and most stressful month I’ve had in my limited time here, I learned some very important lessons. Most importantly, I discovered there’s probably nothing my team won’t do to keep our clients happy.

Let me explain.

In December 2012, we signed a lot of new clients. In January and February of this year, all of our managed clients were developing and preparing to launch their surveys. In March, many of these big projects went live. And, in the midst of all this, one of our major clients implemented a technical restriction that rendered the system nearly inoperable for all of their users.

During this period, I was replying to twice the normal amount of email support requests, while spending the rest of my days on the phone with clients or working with the engineering team to resolve multiple serious problems.

There were a few days when the stress of keeping up left me emotionally and physically exhausted. Even then, knowing the next day would only bring more of everything would constantly weigh on my mind. Support took up 100% of my time; there was no room for any other projects. And I was far from the only one feeling the pressure.

But we had to get it done.

Everyone on my team pushed themselves to ensure that each client received the outstanding support we’ve become known for. We eventually found a solution to the technical restriction plaguing that one client and the rest of our big projects were successfully launched.

My point is, we feel your pain. As our client, your work is our work and, when things are broken and your back is against the wall, ours is too. So when it comes to providing you with the solutions you need, we don’t give up and make excuses. We just keep on pushing through.

In This Life

Sometimes you observe a situation and realize that common knowledge isn’t all that common. Rather than heap scorn, this is actually a chance for you to speak up and share your “common sense” with others — leading to one of those magical “Oh, I didn’t realize” moments.

I recently had an encounter like this at my office. Faced with a rapidly approaching deadline, my colleague became increasingly frustrated because she couldn’t figure out how to quickly send multiple documents to a waiting client. Observing her growing angst, an opportunity presented itself.

Now if you’re unaware of how to do this, it could appear to be a daunting task. But, secure in my knowledge, I calmly maneuvered her mouse and, in a few click and drags, all 74 documents were attached to the email she was composing.

Her reaction was priceless. “Oh, I didn’t realize it was that easy!” The task done, peace ensued.

Although there are many things that may be common knowledge to you, you should always be ready and willing to assist others — your information can provide a timely solution to their problem.

Whether it’s mundane tasks or complicated procedures, don’t be afraid to share what you know. Speaking up can save a colleague, friend or stranger from misspent time and aggravation, and promote a smarter and more collaborative work environment.

Off the Beaten Path

Exploration is the act of searching or traveling around a terrain for the purpose of discovering resources or information.

Many times, we are afraid to explore anything new or unfamiliar. Whether it’s because of a fear of failure or a lack of experience, we often fall into easy and comfortable patterns, especially when it comes to new technologies.

Although our Engage platform is quite intuitive, some clients haven’t taken full advantage of its best features, resulting in more work than is necessary.

For instance, I sometimes get calls from users afraid to explore the Export Manager Tab. Why, they ask, are their multiple-select check box answers clumped into one cell in the file when they run Response Table reports and export to Excel?

The answer is that they’re making extra work for themselves. If you simply want to view responses in Excel, just venture over to the Export Manager tab and use the Excel button.

Forcing yourself to investigate unknown sections of the platform, like the Training Tab or the User Guide, can end up making your life much easier. You may even find that utilizing our Power Reports or List Manager could save you and your company hours of work.

Now, go forth and explore!

Take Your Time (Do It Right)

Like many of you, I enjoy a good cup of coffee. Sure, instant coffee will do if you’re flagging and pressed for time. But if good coffee is important, you’ll invest time and energy to make sure it’s brewed properly.

Because if you want something done right, don’t rush it.

A while ago, I was helping a client design a ballot for their organization’s upcoming election. The client figured creating the ballot would be simple enough. Since there were only two open positions, the ballot would only need two questions and an introductory paragraph. Easy enough, right?

Well, not exactly.

A few hours later, I received calls and emails from my client who realized some essential items were missing from the ballot, including candidate bios and photos. We scrambled to complete the survey and distribute it the next afternoon.

Despite our last-minute mad dash, the client still forgot to add one of the candidates. So the survey had to be quickly taken down, edited and re-distributed. And while the final version looked professional and including everything the client wanted, the process was far more stressful than was necessary.

Preparation and review would’ve prevented many of the mistakes that were made during this survey launch — and saved us both plenty of headaches. It’s a lesson we all know, but sometimes it bears repeating: take your time, and do it right (the first time).

Proper Planning Can Prevent Potential Problems

Posted by: Joanna Zimmerman

Everyone knows the age-old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Uplifting as this sounds, with the speed at which things move today, I’m willing to bet that most professionals want to accomplish tasks on the first try, and most employers have a low tolerance for the whole “not succeeding” thing.

What if we had the insight to prevent errors, thereby eliminating the need to perform a task again?

The truth is, with a little forethought and planning, we can control certain aspects of our work. For instance, a successful questionnaire must be well planned and designed. Creating your questionnaire with your end goal in sight allows you to focus on what you want to get out of your reporting, which helps you formulate and format the questions.

Jumping feet first into the design process without proper planning can leave you in a difficult position.

I worked with a client recently who was hoping to do a giveaway based on answers to a yes or no question, but only as it applied to a particular region. Because there was no question in the survey that asked respondents to provide their geographical information, the user called to ask for assistance in identifying which of those respondents fit the criteria for the giveaway.

Well, this task would have been easy enough if we could have created a filter based on the geographic question. As it stood, there was little to do but examine each respondent individually and match them to information that was “living” outside of the system.

Had the administrator discussed with their team all the ways they could use the data, they would have quickly realized the necessity of allowing respondents to enter this information. Instead, this oversight decreased efficiency by creating extra work.

Proper preparation and being unafraid to ask questions can save you a lot of time and headaches. With a little planning, we can happily retire the phrase “try, try again” — and concentrate on being successful the first time.