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Classifieds Classic: Networking Basics

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010; reprints previous original material published in this section.)

For every career professional, most especially entrepreneurs, networking is a skill that is definitely indispensable. In this fast-paced modern world where people often need to work together in loose partnerships in order to achieve their goals at the soonest possible time, the ability to know, develop, and maintain a network of and positive relationships with business contacts is surely a more important pursuit than ever.

Professional networking is defined as meeting and connecting with other people and getting to know their abilities and interests in the hopes that this may help each other acquire mutual benefit especially in the business aspect. To put it simply, it means talking to people who can help you get things done.

People who know the value of having not just broad but strong networks get things done more quickly and effectively. They learn from each other’s different knowledge or experience which help them do better in their careers. For those who are still in the process of building a new career, they are able to use their network as they seek to move on — whether it is a planned switch or brought about by a sudden career crisis.

Fortunately, networking is not that much of a hard task as long as you are patient. As a part of your professional progress, it can be one that is both enjoyable and rewarding if done properly. You might even be a part of numerous networks already without realizing it. It is only a matter of identifying the mutual benefits that can bring both parties and building from that point on.

So, how do you begin creating this much-needed asset? Here’s how to start and pump up your professional network.

Make a list of people whom you can talk to. People in your list need not necessarily be a personal friend or an acquaintance. They could be anyone who you believe you have enough of a common interest with to be able to initiate a conversation or someone whom is friends with someone you know. Keep in mind that all you need is a connection that would allow you to call and say who you are, obtain a nod of recognition and approval that there is indeed a connection between the two of you, and ask for specific details, information, and introductions.

Your possible contacts may include the following:

* Personal contacts – Your friends, acquaintances, neighbors, relatives, church members, classmates, professors, club or organization members, alumni or former schoolmates.

* Professional contacts – Your employers, supervisors, managers, colleagues, subordinates, clients, customers, fellow association members.

* Internet contacts – Any personal and professional contact that you might be able to get in touch with through electronic mail. Subscribers to mailing lists you participate in can also be included.

* Online social network contacts. Social networking such as Friendster, Multiply, and Facebook is a trend nowadays. You can definitely make use of your online contacts as long as you know that they are trustworthy in handling the transactions you need.

* All the people your contacts know. Just as you have hundreds or even thousands of people connected in your network, so each person is also connected to others. In case you need to get in touch with a contact of your contact, you can easily do so through referrals.

Maintain a give-and-take relationship. Probably one of the biggest flaws you can commit in your networking pursuit is to constantly ask for help or expect something in return every time you interact with them. Furthermore, avoid making it your initial point of contact whenever you meet or talk to someone for the very first time. For example, you do not directly approach someone and ask for a job; rather, you should seek for advice, leads, and suggestions.

Build your network ahead before you need it. It is important to invest in your network even before you actually need it. Building a beneficial professional network may take a lot of time. After all, you do not easily gain other people’s trust especially when you come to them and ask for something. Therefore, even before the situation calls for it, it would be more advantageous if you know that you already have someone whom you can turn to and assist you in times of career-oriented needs.

( Get more networking tips next Sunday: learn how to build your network even if you’re shy!)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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Wide World of Work: Office Danger: E-mail

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010)

By L.M. SIXEL

Being professional includes your email—and text messages. Beware; what you write may come back to haunt you professionally

Houston – If you’ve got an e-mail account at work, chances are you’ve watched the training videos, signed the pledges and heard the warnings about never sending anything you don’t want your mom to see.

But do we pay attention to the warnings? Apparently many of us do not and are stunned upon discovering—typically after a lawsuit has been filed or a complaint has been brought—that the e-mail we thought we deleted has a very long shelf life.

In the days before computers, people burned or ripped up the love notes they didn’t want anyone to see, said Steve Roppolo, an employment lawyer with Fisher & Phillips in Houston.

But with today’s technology, it’s memorialized forever on computer servers.

And like other employment lawyers, Roppolo is continuously amazed that intelligent folks like Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal are caught sending potentially embarrassing e-mails to their secretaries or others.

“People don’t always think straight when love is in the air,” Roppolo said.

On the other hand, he said, Rosenthal’s references to wanting to kiss his secretary behind her ear are relatively innocent compared to what Roppolo normally encounters. And with this being a family newspaper, I’m not going there.

So why is it that normally rational people say things in e-mail that they shouldn’t?

For many folks, it feels a lot like a call. A few breezy comments and then hang up—or hit the send button. Who thinks much about it?

“It’s how we communicate,” said John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based firm that counsels job seekers.

But unlike the federal and state laws governing the taping and eavesdropping of calls, electronic messages don’t have that same kind of privacy protection, he said. But people forget about that.

Challenger said that he was guilty of having private conversations over e-mail with friends and relatives that he wouldn’t want to ever be broadcast. But a steady stream of headlines—especially when the news broke three years ago about the then-Boeing Co. CEO’s affair with an employee and the steamy e-mails between them—has made him much more cautious.

Now Challenger pretends that someone in IT is reading every e-mail. That way, he won’t be embarrassed.

It’s not just e-mail these days that’s causing problems. Roppolo said he’s seeing more cases involving text messages.

“People think of them as throwaways,” he said. “They’re just as retrievable as e-mail.”

One recent case involved two female employees who received sexually suggestive text messages from a male supervisor.

The case was settled pretty quickly, said Roppolo, who was representing the employer. The messages—which were easily retrieved for evidence—bolstered the women’s case.

Helen Carroll, a human resources director for the Achilles Group, said she regularly reminds her employees and clients that whatever they put in an e-mail, they have to be comfortable with the possibility it could show up on the evening news or the newspaper.

Or the CEO’s in-box, said Carroll, whose firm serves as the personnel department for small and midsize companies from restaurants to accounting firms.

She recalled one instance in which a manager had sent an e-mail to a co-worker making fun of a subordinate with a negative racial comment. Unfortunately, the manager also accidentally sent a copy to the employee.

“There was no way to explain away the e-mail,” said Carroll, who said the manager was put on notice that if anything bad happened again, she’d be terminated.

The manager was shocked and tried to brush it off, Carroll recalled. However, it became apparent that she was so used to making fun of employees that she didn’t even think twice about putting her thoughts down in an e-mail.

“With e-mail, you have no control over where it goes,” Carroll said. They’re just so easy to pass on.

In an office environment, that gets played out when two managers are feuding. One gets frustrated, snaps out a response and hits the send button. The other manager then forwards the nasty e-mail to their boss as an example of the co-worker’s bad behavior.

People don’t see the receiver, so they’re often nastier in e-mail than they’d ever be in person or on the phone, Carroll said.

“I tell them it’s not a phone call,” Carroll said, recommending that they step away from the computer, calm down, and walk down the hall and sort it out.

“Don’t just hit send. You can’t take back the e-mail.” (NYT)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and The New York Times. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Biz Maker: How I Learned To Manage People

(Originally published on Sunday, July 18, 2010)

By MARK SO

In my earlier years, I never really thought of myself as a manager of people; truth be told I never really understood how important managing people really was until I became an entrepreneur. And even when I embraced entrepreneurship full time, I made many, many mistakes in this field which taught me huge lessons not just in business but also in life.

You see, back in the day as an inexperienced entrepreneur, I thought that people management was simple: “If you want your business to succeed, you must hire people who have the background to run your business for you.” Little did I know that those thoughts were the most devastating thoughts ever to cross my mind. Why? Because no matter how good the people you hire, or how much money you offer them, the truth is, no one can ever run your business better than you.

I learned the hard way that being a business owner did not mean that you hired people to think for you and run the day to day operations for you; it meant that you needed to first know what you really want your business to become, and to do that, you need to be employee number 1. Because, remember Murphy’s Law: If something can go wrong, it usually will. And if you are not there to steer the business clear of problems, you should never expect employee number 2, 3, or 4 to do it better than you.

The greatest mistake I made with my first business was to hire a general manager and her managers (employees 2, 3, and 4) to run the business. I was still working for a big multinational company back then and subscribed to the excuse, “I’m too busy to handle my own business.” So I relied on the salaries that I was paying my people to make them grow my business, solve problems, and make me rich.

Of course, reality is never that easy. Because people that you pay but do not manage usually result in these people taking their salaries and ending up making excuses for why things didn’t go as planned.

(To read more about my problems with my first business and how I solved them, go to my blog, www.markso.wordpress.com and search for “Business and the start of a beautiful relationship, parts 1 to 3.”)

In hindsight, I realized that my biggest mistake was that I “abdicated” instead of “delegated.” Abdication is what happens when you are not there to guide people and as a result fail to fulfill your responsibility as the founder of the business. Delegation is when you slowly give some responsibility to the people you hire so that they can eventually do the work for you over time. Take note, the operative words here are “slowly” and “over time.”

So in my next business, I tried “delegating.” I was more hands-on in the business, but there were still big glaring problems. The biggest problem of all was my attitude. I was either too nice, or too strict, or too tyrannical, or all of the above. So as you can imagine, some of my people were complaining behind my back. I wasn’t consistent in my approach and my moods got the best of me, because—and this is not an excuse—as an entrepreneur you are faced with an extreme amount of stress on a daily basis.

So how did I learn to manage my people better? Well, three things.

First I had to learn to be better than the normal guy. As an entrepreneur, you will really face a lot of hard and stressful times but even during those times, I had to learn how to become more “presidential,” which meant I needed to stop being dramatic, and to learn to act from my head and not from my heart. It wasn’t easy, but I (with my wife) realized that the solution to achieving this was to slowly and painstakingly build a system to address the needs of our people. This is where my wife Jhoanna really excelled; she built our human resource system almost single-handedly. It did not just address the concerns of our people but also replaced impulsiveness and drama with solid procedures for addressing our people’s problems.

Second, and simultaneously, I had to weed out the bad apples in the bunch. You see I believe that the business owner has to do his/her part in becoming better at managing people, but the people themselves must be willing to be honed to become even better for the sake of the business. Unfortunately there are those who just do not have the right attitude and the only answer is to remove them from the equation.

Once I cleared the ranks, replacing them with better people was the next task, and to do this, we created criteria for hiring people, and these criteria were the most important of all as they helped us hire those who believed in what the business wanted to achieve. This unified belief is what bonded our people together to act as one with the business owners themselves. Without this bond, you can never really build a team with a common purpose.

Third, and finally, I realized that the first two things will not matter at all if I did not show them exactly what it was that the business wanted to achieve. So the last and final ingredient of how I learned how to manage people was to lead by example. I am employee number 1 and as such I must show the rest of the team how to do it the first time, the second time, the third time…until they can do it on their own. Today, I can honestly say that I have come a long way when it comes to managing people. Today I can honestly say that my wife and I are better managers of people.

About the Author: Mark So is a fervent businessman, forex trader, marketer, sales consultant, and educator. He is the chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy, a business, finance and corporate training center. He is also the Chief Forex Trainer of Forex Club Manila. Mr. So is slated to conduct his “7 Point Formula Seminar” on July 31, 2010. If you are interested in attending this seminar, email Mark directly at markso@zerocapitalclub.com. To read more of Mark’s interesting and life- enriching articles you can go to his blog at http://www.markso.wordpress.com.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Mark So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Yupp and Hip: Professionalism in the Workplace

(Originally published on Wednesday, July 14, 2010)

by DR. DUPS DELOS REYES

As Reliable as ABC

Johnny, be good. And he is. He’s the janitor, and though not a lawyer or doctor, he comes to work on time and cleans the floor as told and leaves no stone unturned.

He’s professional. And he’ll keep the Philippine workers’ reputation a formidable force to reckon with (and we don’t have to fear business leaving our shore for others).

Let’s focus then on these twins: skill or competence and character. This is what professionalism involves. One is science, the other psychology. One is reliability, and the other as basic as ABC.

Now, on with the first…

Reliability: begins with skills and competence.

First: Excel in your expertise as expected. That’s how your skills and competence will show and be admired and respected. Know your P’s and Q’s.

You have to be good at something. Work on your IT skills if that’s your field.  Master your debit and credit if you’re an accountant (debit didn’t kill Goliath). As a marketer, manage your brand to make it number one.

Don’t leave anything to chance or luck. If you’re a telephone operator, work hard at pronouncing your words well, modulating your tone, and making a telephone conversation an ecstatic experience.

When your customer asks you anything, provide information that is clear, correct, and complete. Anticipate his/her needs and wants. When they ask for coffee, ask them if they want sugar and cream with it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a CEO or a janitor. Just be the best CEO or the best janitor you can be.

Second: Deliver services with quality. Conform to standards and pay attention to detail. That’s quality. You arrive at it through the work habits you develop. There’s discipline, initiative, resourcefulness.

The greatest secret, to greatest salesman Og Mandino, is to be a small, measurable amount better than mediocrity, and you’ve got it made.

You fixed your client’s car. Your tools are all over. The metallic clutter stares at you while you’re about to leave. Clean up your mess.

And then there’s time, the scarcest resource. Tardiness cannot be justified.  Laziness will take you to hell. Sluggishness shows ill health.

Once, a new employee arrived late. His boss asked him, “How come you arrived only now? It’s already 10 a.m. You were supposed to be here at 8!” And he said, “Why, sir, what happened?”

Deliver your goods on time. You say you’ll call me back at 8 p.m., then do so. Or text if you cannot. And apologize if you don’t.

Don’t settle for better late than later. Go for better never late (I’m quoting quality service guru Prof. Rene Domingo of AIM).

Third: Be there 101%. If your mind is not in what you’re doing, any virus can penetrate the weak borders of your blurred or bleary brain.

Take the typical case of the teller who’s supposed to be counting your money and then sidetracks to a friend just to ask if she’s had her merienda.

Be present for the customer: i.e. not just one who buys from you, but anyone you deal with. Even your boss or your assistant is your customer.

LL Bean, owner of the hunting shoe company from Maine and often quoted in customer service circles, takes us further. He says: “A customer is the most important person ever in the office, in person, or by mail. He is not an interruption of our work; he is the purpose of it.”

It’s all as basic as your…

ABC (as simple as your character: Adapt, Balance, Care).

Fourth: Adapt to your customers and your workplace. If you’re handling anyone who wants full attention, then give full attention. If a client wants to tell you stories, then hospitably listen.

Adapting means being alert to business culture. I recall my advertising days: I noticed that the copy department was the most vibrant. The president would walk along the corridors and stumble over copywriters lying on the floor. And that was ok with the big boss. As long as they produced their copy requirements on time.

Work in a bank and it’s different. You have to be in shirt and tie and be well-behaved and observe your etiquette.

Fifth: Observe moderation. Balance two ends of opposite extremes. On one hand, you want to show you’re reliable, but on the other hand, you want them to know you’re not a stiff corpse of a nerd.

Don’t joke around when there’s no need. You can have fun without being childish. Care for their needs but don’t be cloying. Be serious but smile when you have to.

Maintain your distance as one serving bosses or clients, even as they go palsy-walsy with you. Still call them sir or ma’am, and say excuse me with eye contact and a smile.

Sixth: Care for people with ethics and integrity. Focus on the key words.  Care means value: your co-worker and customer are people with feelings who need acceptance and fear rejection. Ethics means not knowingly doing harm: don’t mix harmful ingredients in the cake you’re baking for the customer. Integrity means intact: don’t tell your customer that the item was made in the U.S. if it was made in Nicaragua.

Two local words capture these six guides: maaasahan and malasakit. Can you be depended upon?  Do you care for the people you serve?

This is what quality customer service is all about: Reliability and Character (Adapt, Balance, Care).

And so, as a new era in Philippine politics is ushered in, make a vow to be as professional as you can be (we’re known that way worldwide).

Let the spirit of a new beginning flow from the top leadership to every worker in the field. Let the word Filipino be synonymous to world-class: Charice Pempengco, Manny Pacquiao, Efren Penaflorida, and then there could be—or is—you…or Johnny the janitor.

Your macro reflects your micro. Your professionalism at work, more than your skills or competence, in short, is your character.

Long live the professional Filipino!

About the Author: Dr. Dups—international speaker, executive and personal coach, and author—is the managing director of his own consultancy firm, RAdelosReyes Management Consultancy. He does training programs here and abroad (from Bangkok to Guam, USA) to top local and multinational firms, and has written ten books so far (on English usage, business writing, public speaking, and salesmanship). His latest is the trailblazing leadership guide Coach with EQ—and the more-than-just-jokes joke book Laugh and Last (check out National and Power Books), both recently launched. Email him at drdups AT delosreyes.ph (replace the AT with @) or look for his contact numbers in his books.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Dr. Dups delos Reyes. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Out of the Box Job Search Strategies

(Originally published on Sunday, July 11, 2010)

Been rejected over and over? Maybe you’re looking in the wrong places

Not everyone who began a job search last February has a job now, and chances are, if you’re reading this article, you’ve been rejected, or want to find a better job than the one you have. We looked over the Classifieds’ archives over the past two years and picked out the best strategies for you that go beyond the usual job search strategies.

  1. Don’t let panic overwhelm you. If you allow yourself to develop a negative mindset—no one will hire me, I’m not qualified, I’m not good enough—then you condition yourself for failure. You need to prepare yourself for success, mentally and physically.
  2. Use your head! Too many jobseekers blindly send resumes everywhere without any thought for what they’re doing or any aim in mind; we’ve received our fair share of misdirected mail at the Classifieds, resumes from people who think we can find them jobs. No one will find a job for you; do it yourself. Also, do an intelligent job search: read job ads in the Classifieds, online, in flyers, and in brochures carefully. Nothing gets your resume tossed out faster than not following directions; in fact, some companies give complicated directions to weed out those with poor reading comprehension.
  3. Leave no stone unturned. Jobs won’t come to you. Search everywhere, use your network, advertise yourself. Make your Facebook or Multiply work for you; let people know you’re looking for a job. Scour the Classifieds (naturally), haunt Internet job listing sites, look at trade websites for your chosen career field, and check out the “Careers” section of the websites of the companies you want to work for. Just look for that hyperlinked word usually seen at the top or bottom part of the website that says “jobs” or “career” and click away. If you don’t know how to use the internet, you should learn now, because that’s a crucial skill if you want a good job. Just be careful as to what you post; if your Facebook has racy photos or questionable comments, open a ‘clean’ account for jobseeking. Sometimes, it’s not only the people you already know but the people you get to know. Public transportation is a good place to find opportunities. Weird as it may seem but you might be sitting next to your future employer. All those long journeys can lead to conversations and those conversations may lead to job offerings. Plus, some employers post job ads in the MRT, in jeeps and in buses; be sure to be ready to take these down.
  4. Put out the word. Tell these people about your job search or ask them if they know of available jobs: online social network friends (Facebook, Friendster, etc.); your school career counselor and alumni office (even if you are a graduate!); parents, friends, and relatives; “orgmates,” fraternity brothers or sorority sisters; former teachers; and the company you did an internship for.
  5. You want a job? Get more aggressive. There are hundreds of fresh graduates, thousands who were laid off, and those looking to change careers competing with you. Revise your resume; visit companies personally; do your research.
  6. Be prepared to walk a lot and move. Attend job fairs; there’s usually one going on in malls and schools every week. Some companies prefer to see the people who apply for them and can be better inclined towards those who’ve taken the time to apply in person. Be sure that while your clothes are comfortable, they are also presentable enough just in case you’re interviewed on the spot. Be sure to bring a towel and a change of shirt/blouse.
  7. Keep an open mind. Be flexible enough to accept a job offer outside your chosen field; say, if you want to be a call center employee, and you get an offer from a small firm, remember that your chances of upward mobility are higher in a small firm even though the pay may be smaller. You can use that job as a stepping stone to what you really want, or create your dream job from there.
  8. Be polite. A lot of jobseekers get their resumes tossed out when they act like prima donnas (“You be careful with my resume ha?” said in a condescending tone to a recruiter) or are just plain rude (“Hoy, dito ba ang HR? [Hey you, is this the HR department?]” asked of the HR receptionist). First impressions last, and there is no excuse for behaving like a brat at any point in your career—whether jobseeking or when you’re already in a job. Say “please” “po” and “thank you” whenever necessary—those simple words go a long way.
  9. Make sure you are available. Keep your phone on; check your email daily. If you ignore a text message or an email from an employer, remember that there is always someone more eager than you who won’t.

10. Look in the places people don’t normally look for jobs. These include your barangay hall and church bulletin boards. Even if jobs are not posted there, they often have free seminars you can take advantage of to improve your skills.  (Compiled and edited by C. F. BOBIS)

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and C.F. Bobis. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Work Life: Dealing with Workplace Bullies

(Originally published on Sunday, July 11, 2010)

by JHOANNA GAN-SO

Workplace bullies come in all shapes, forms and sizes. You’ve most likely encountered bullies at some point in your life, maybe at work or way back when you were still in school.

Remember the screaming boss that everyone in your office feared? Or the terror professor who gave everyone low grades when he had a bad day? What about the office gossip who spreads malicious rumors about co-workers. Then there’s that customer who curses. And let’s not forget that smooth-talking colleague of yours who acts friendly but continuously puts down people with well-camouflaged words that actually cut your heart into pieces.

These are just some of the typical bullies that walk among us. But because of the many types of personalities and situations we encounter at work, it’s not always easy to identify bullies. For instance, if your boss gets angry and raises his voice at you for an error you’ve committed repeatedly, is that considered bullying? If an irate customer screams out of exasperation for being passed around, can you say that the customer is a bully? No, not exactly.

So who are workplace bullies? And when can we say that a person is a bully?

Workplace bullies use direct and indirect methods to coerce, intimidate, and get their way. They repeatedly use subtle or overt manipulation tactics which give their victims feelings of powerlessness, stress, inferiority, and fear. Basically, bullies make you feel like a loser.

The Art of Dealing with Workplace Bullies

The truth is, almost everyone will experience being bullied, but not everyone will be bullied. Here are some practical ways to help you deal with bullies:

A Protector

Though I’m demure and all, my family actually prepared me well for handling bullies. Before I started school, I remember my mother specifically tell me, “Pag may manakit sa iyo o may nagtangka, sumbong mo sa titser (If someone hurts or threatens you, tell the teacher).”

True enough, on my first day at nursery school, a scary classmate of mine was playing “teacher”. She was ordering people around and lining them up. If someone broke the line, she put them in ‘jail’—a small table where some of my poor classmates already were. Well, I broke the line and so she wanted me to go under the jail-table. Flashback: I remembered what my mom said, then cried my heart out.  My real teacher came to the rescue. After consoling me, she scolded my scary classmate and released her victims. And the silly game ended.

This episode became a powerful lesson for me. It showed me the power of “telling the teacher” or finding a protector who will guard you against bullies. In the course of my schooling, career, and life, I find that I don’t get bullied much.  That’s because people know that I have someone backing me up: a boss, a teacher, a mentor, an influential person at the office, a courageous mother, or a strong husband who will fend off any perceived threat.

So your first line of defense against bullies is finding a protector. 

Distancing

This is the technique I use for malicious office gossips. You pretty much know who the office gossips are. They will befriend you at first and bring you in the loop. They seem to know a lot about other people’s dirty little secrets. Unsuspectingly, you’ll enjoy the “information” they are feeding you and you begin to bond with them. Then things progress into backbiting and before you know it, it turns into people-bashing.

Whenever a gossip tells me other people’s dirty little secrets, my self-preservation instinct immediately steps in. I know they can easily turn against me. If they can do it to other people, who’s to say that they won’t do it to me?

So when faced with a bully who uses gossip to attack people, I just listen and keep quiet…and slowly, inch by inch, step away from that type of bully.

Protect yourself by avoiding these types of bullies.

Find the Bully’s Soft Spot

Bullies are often insecure people. They are obviously hurting inside, so they tend to take it out on other people. When I taught public speaking to a bunch of high school students during one summer, I noticed a boy who was acting in an obnoxious manner. He made his classmates feel bad with his snickering and side comments.

So what I did was get to know him. I found out that his OFW dad was settling permanently in the Philippines. Since they hadn’t bonded as father and son due to the years of distance, they were having difficulty adjusting and his father was quite harsh in correcting him. This made him feel bad, so he made others feel bad. To help him, I made him the leader for a class project where he needed to be responsible for his classmates. This simple act changed him instantly.  Instead of being a bully, he became a protector.

Bullies are tough on the outside but tender in the inside. Find out what their soft spots are and you’ll be able to help them change. If you befriend the bully, the bully may even become your protector.

Secret Power

But the most important lesson I have learned about dealing with bullies is best captured in the words of a very wise woman, Eleanor Roosevelt. She says, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Wow!  Read it again and again until you get it.

The real secret is finding the power within you. If you let this guide you in your everyday life, you will soon realize that you can become your own protector. If there are things that hurt or bother you at the office, you will know how to calmly speak up and assert your rights. You will know how to say “No” politely to bullies and people with other types of toxic behavior. You will not become a victim and you won’t allow yourself to act like a martyr…because you own your self worth.

About the Author: Jhoanna O. Gan-So is president of Businessmaker Academy and the managing director for HR Club Philippines.  Her company conducts seminars on Human Resource Management and Corporate Skills Development.  They have also recently launched the Instant HR Toolkit, a service that provides HR practitioners with over 100 ready-to-use downloadable, customizable and printable HR manuals, contract, letters forms and templates.  To know more about HR seminars that they offer, you may visit www.businessmaker-academy.com or call (632)6874645.  To know more about the Instant HR Toolkit, you may visit  www.hrclubphilippines.com.  You may email your comments and questions to:   mbworklife AT gmail.com (replace the AT with @).

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Jhoanna Gan-So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Bizmaker: How I Build Businesses using the Power of Accumulation!

(Originally published on Sunday, July 11, 2010)

By MARK SO

My wife and I used to live in a condo unit when we were newly married. At first, the condo was pretty spacious and needed some furniture so we got a little bit of this, and a little bit of that; then gifts would come from friends and family on special occasions; and over time, the stuff we had piled up. I remember feeling claustrophobic at one time; I literally couldn’t breathe anymore, and no matter how many times we would donate or purge items, we felt that the condo was magically getting smaller and smaller.

Now this is not because we keep buying stuff; we actually live (then and now) a very simple life. We do not buy anything we do not need and we donate and ‘purge’ regularly; the fact is everyone will eventually have more stuff over time. This is what I call “the power of accumulation” and what I wanted to share with you today is how I use this power in businesses, and how you, too, can build something small first, then slowly, over time, accumulate not just “stuff” but also wealth.

Before I start, I’m sure you are thinking right now: “I can’t start a business yet; I don’t know anything about businesses.” So I want to let you know one powerful truth:

Everyone starts at ZERO.

Every successful business owner starts by not knowing much about business. Sure, some of them might have studied starting a business, whether in college, grad school, books, and even through seminars. And I wholeheartedly believe in education, but let me tell you another powerful truth:

Experience is the best teacher of all.

Let me explain further. If I were to tell a 5-year-old child to stay away from the stove because s/he might get burned, then show the child pictures of what a burn looks like and tell him/her that it is very, very painful—then the child has been educated on how not to get burned right?

Now, the child will listen to you…for a while, that is. But when you are not looking and the stove is on, chances are, the child will still go near the stove and accidentally burn his/her hand anyway—because the child needs to satisfy his/her curiosity as to what the word “burn” means, and understand what you meant about how painful it can really be. Now, the moment s/he gets hurt and realizes that s/he never wants to get burned again, s/he has gained experience.

Likewise, the best way to learn about business is to experience doing business and find out first hand what it is like to go through the pains and gains of being in business.

So are you ready to gain experience and accumulate businesses? All right then, here’s the simple formula/plan that you must start doing now to start accumulating wealth through businesses:

S+R+A = Power of Accumulation

S = “Start small”

There are many ways to start a business, but my method is the one that you can do right now. First off, know that no one can ever be sure if a business will succeed or not. So, common sense will dictate that you start small. If you have a small business already, good! If you don’t, then start one now by starting a sideline or ‘racket’. If you need some suggestions for creating a business without adding any costs, go to my blog at www.markso.wordpress.com and search this phrase: “Money Management Simplified Part 3.” In that article are two incredibly simple ways to start a small sideline business with zero costs. I would also suggest that you read the whole series (parts 1 to 3) to learn how to manage your money for businesses.

As my readers already know, when I start businesses, I start them with zero costs: to me that is the ultimate way of starting small.

R = “Remain Small”

When I start a small business, and it becomes a success, I do not hire a lot of people; I keep it small and manageable. But I do something special inside the business to make it even more profitable. I call it multiple Streaming. It’s a technique that I teach in my 7-point formula seminar. What multiple streaming does is that it takes an ordinary sideline or ‘racket’ and it doubles the income streams of that business every year.

Now, if I increase my income stream per business and keep my staff small and manageable, the business becomes a lot more profitable even without becoming too big.

Why do I like keeping my businesses small? Well, lots of reasons but the most important reason is that small businesses can move a lot faster than bigger businesses and the relationship between the customers, the staff, and me are more direct and personal, no red tape.

A = “Accumulate”

Now, once my small business’ income stream stabilizes, I do it all over again with the same process, I start another small business, then I ‘multiple stream’ it until it is profitable, then add another when ready. I simply keep adding small, profitable businesses over time and these accumulate into true wealth. Imagine money coming in from multiple sources—when you wake up, when you are asleep, when you are eating, when you are on vacation. It’s an incredible feeling, I assure you.

The Power of Accumulation

So going back to the introduction of this column, when my wife and I started out in a small condominium, we learned that you will always accumulate more “stuff” no matter what. So I learned to apply this incredible power into businesses and instead of the awful feeling of claustrophobia, I achieve something else—freedom from financial worries. So now, you too can accumulate more wealth by just following the simple plan that I outlined for you, and of course gaining as much experience in the process. All the best! Good luck and God bless!

About the Author: Mark So is a fervent businessman, forex trader, marketer, sales consultant, and educator. He is the chairman and CEO of Businessmaker Academy—a business, finance, and corporate training center. He is also the Chief Forex Trainer of Forex Club Manila. Mr. So is slated to conduct his “7 Point Formula Seminar” this July 31, 2010. If you are interested in attending this seminar, email Mark directly at marksoATzerocapitalclub.com (replace the AT with @). To read more of Mark’s interesting and life-enriching articles, you can go to his blog at http://www.markso.wordpress.com.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Mark So. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Entrep Coach: Start Your Own Business or Buy a Franchise?

(Originally published on Sunday, July 4, 2010)

By RUBEN ANLACAN

If you plan to be an entrepreneur, you must study what is best for your situation, whether to start a business on your own or buy a franchise. Are you willing to share the profits in exchange for the relative safety of a franchise, or do you prefer the risk—and rewards—of pursuing your own vision?

Before everything else, you must decide if you are indeed ready to handle a business. Do not think that buying a franchise is just like buying property and collecting rent. Be prepared to spend a lot of time tending your franchise venture although it will be less taxing than starting from scratch. Make no mistake—a franchise is not a passive investment, it is a business that must be actively nurtured.

How do you choose what to do? Take into account the pros and cons listed below to guide you:

Pros of a Franchise

·         Brand recognition. Almost all experts agree that the greatest advantage of having a franchise is the attraction of a well-known brand. However, not all franchises have strong drawing power; therefore make an effort to ascertain its true brand value. Unfortunately, those who have the strongest brand are also the most expensive.

·         Proven operating system. This is a great selling point especially for those who have no business or management experience. Truly, the devil is in the details: what are the right procedures, policies, and control systems? One indicator of a franchise worth paying for is if its operating manual is almost too heavy for you to lift!

·         Better possibility of maintaining your job. Since franchisors usually have good control systems already installed, it is easier to hold on to your current job while running the business.

·         Easy to get a good location. For many types of business, location is the most critical factor and it is easier to get a lease if your business name is well known. Landlords are picky nowadays. They want to be sure that a tenant can pay their bills. In the case of malls, they want a tenant that can attract more customers.

·         Marketing support. Independents have no economy of scale and so are limited in their marketing options. Being part of a nationwide chain makes high value activities like advertising on television feasible as the cost can be spread among hundreds of branches.

·         Higher success rates. Studies worldwide have consistently shown that the survival rate of franchises is higher than those who started on their own. But note that success rates for franchises differ greatly and so be very meticulous in selecting!

Cons of a Franchise

·         High start-up costs. Usually the investment needed will be double or far more than the capital if you will be starting on your own.

·         More expensive supplies. It is a common practice that supplies may only be sourced from the franchisor or its accredited suppliers. While this may be necessary to maintain the quality standards, it often results in higher costs.

·         Royalty fees and other charges. Of course, this cuts into your profit!

·         Less flexibility in operating the business. Most franchisors will require approval before you can deviate from their operations manual. If you need to do something drastic fast to counter an aggressive competitor, you may feel frustrated if you cannot act immediately. And if you disagree with the mother company’s policies, you may have no choice but to comply if the franchisor insists.

·         Problems of the franchisor affect you too. As if your concerns are not enough, you will also be affected in case there are problems within the franchisor.

Each of the factors discussed must be weighed according to their relative importance. You may be, for example, very eager to get a good franchise, but if you cannot afford the higher start-up costs then you have to eliminate buying a franchise as an option.

Either buying a franchise or starting your own business may be the best choice for you. Ultimately, your personal situation will decide what is ideal. Just do not forget that a franchise is a business too and demands a high level of involvement to ensure your success.

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Ruben Anlacan. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

Classified Readers: Dealing with an Angry Customer

(Originally published on Sunday, July 4, 2010.  Personal details have been removed.)

Advice from the people who know best: customers and those in customer service

Customer service—good and bad—is a concern all Filipinos have, whether as a customer or as employees wishing to improve their careers. Over half of all employed Filipinos are in the services sector, according to the National Statistics Office’s April 2010 report. Sadly, the sector is rarely noted for professionalism—let’s face it, we value good service because we get it so rarely.

Thus angry customers are not a rarity in the workplace. Sometimes their anger is unjustified; have you heard that recording of an abusive customer demanding to be connected to the US branch of a certain bank? She roundly cursed and abused the hapless and blameless customer service representative, who to his credit maintained his calm throughout the curse-laden diatribes (the woman called back several times).

But other times, customers become angry for good reason. I can’t count the number of surly cashiers, rude salespersons, and downright incompetent waiters and managers I’ve encountered.

Whatever the reason, Classifieds readers answered the question, ‘How would you deal with an angry customer?’ And their answers were helpful, indeed. (In cases where readers sent in similar answers, we’ve quoted the person who sent the answer in first. Responses have been edited for grammar, spelling, and clarity.)

Be Ready for It

Corleto Manuel draws on his experience as a call center agent and shares this advice: “Since I (began) taking and solving customer concerns , I (understood that the) customer is always right even though sometimes, (they can be) wrong and inconsiderate. (Try to) remember (that) the customer is not actually irate at you personally but the situation.”

A former customer service operations manager for a large multinational company,

Imelda Cruz-Maghirang, 47, a businesswoman from Parañaque, made it a point to be prepared for customer complaints, focusing on techniques that work. “As a manager, I ensured (that I was) available to help the front liners and supervisors in case problem escalation is required to finally solve a customer complaint(s). My voice projection is equally important to give (a) good impression to the customer as I listen to her/his concerns. After listening and empathizing, I let the customer know that I am acting to give the final solution, whether it will be done by another group or by our own department. I give my contact numbers (so the customer can) reach me personally and a timeline when it will be finally resolved. Should there be changes to the timeline (we) committed, the customer (is) informed ahead of time…My staff and I (are) ready to give alternative actions towards resolution.”

Don’t Avoid the Issue

Entrepreneur Carlo Cruz, 34, of Quezon City advises that you tackle the issue head on. “I will attend to (the angry customer) and (ascertain why s/he is) angry. Then I will offer help and give (the customer) sympathy by coming up with a solution…that (fits) his/her wants, needs, and priorities.”

“We Pinoys are nonconfrontational,” says Mia Cheng of Mandaluyong, “but we should not disrespect the customer by hiding or avoiding conflict by just saying sorry. We must find out what the problem is and exert genuine efforts to address it, then afterwards we must be (sincere) in our intention to improve.”

Stay Calm

A common Pinoy reaction is to meet anger with anger, but remember, anger is also a sign of guilt and resolves nothing. Melanie Chan, 34, of Las Piñas City learned this the hard way: “I was an agent in a call center before, and most of the time, I just reciprocated the emotions of an angry customer. But things changed when I became a quality analyst. What I usually tell my agents is that handling an angry customer is like dealing with an angry Mom nagging you for coming home late. All you have to do is listen first, empathize with them, explain (or educate) why the issue happened, and assure action plan or resolution. One golden rule is, never fight back.”

Peter Carillo points out that in dealing with an angry customer, one “must be circumspect and prudent. Firstly, we must remember the general rule that we can’t fight fire with fire and win.” That’s because your job “is to win them over to the company’s side, not turn them away,” and quotes Proverbs, “A soft answer turns away wrath,” pointing out that a low, calm voice tends to diffuse tension. “Speak in a relaxed manner and the customer will be relaxed as well,” he says, adding that if, for example, you are a call center agent answering a call and “the customer starts ranting about a bad service or a financial issue…take a deep breath and listen actively…after the customer has unloaded (their concerns)…paraphrase what they just said to show that you…were seriously listening. It is also a means of validating and confirming what they said and a way of making them feel that they are important,” and sometimes that’s all they want.

Oliver Erwin Ele of Marilao, Bulacan adds this gem of advice: “I usually (hold on to) my patience and talk to them to know what they want. The rationale is, you cannot control the customer’s anger, but you can control your responses.”

Benjamin Peralta, 31, says not to sweat the small stuff. “Just treat it as an ordinary situation. For…instance, (if) my wife is very angry and yells at me profusely, I make sure that I listen to her first. During (her) yelling period, I try to figure out what went wrong. (I) think fast and come up with (the most) acceptable solution possible. Do not focus on the blaming someone else but try to address (the problem) directly.

Listen to the Customer

Jeralyn Flor, 26, of Mandaluyong shares a mantra that’s worth remembering: “(First) I will listen (to) the angry customer; then while I am listening, I will understand, and analyze (the situation) and give the “right solution” to (address the) customer’s concerns.”

“Let him/her speak up. It is a no-no to butt in while a customer talks. You should listen and understand what his/her concerns are, so by the time s/he is done, you will have something to (say) and solutions to offer,” says Joey Apostol Avila, 26, of Valenzuela.

Let the Customer Have His or Her Say

Josephine Rebutar advises Classifieds readers in customer service to let angry customers ‘vent’ their feelings. “Let (them) say whatever (they) wanted to say; don’t interrupt and don’t get affected. If (they’re) done, say:  ‘I understand your feelings; I would have done the same if I were you.’ Be calm in saying it and try to pacify the customer. Never, never fight back. Speak in a low tone and tell (them) that you are there to help…try to help in resolving their concerns in a very (understanding) and considerable manner. ‘Attack’ the problem not the person. Explain the situation and (show genuine) concern and s/he will be pacified.”

Don’t Make the Customer Wait

“Stay calm and don’t smile as if you are happy about the situation. Four things I learned in the past: 1) Listen so you can hear the actual complaint; 2) Ask him/her what s/he wants to be done about the situation but never give any promises; 3) make sure the customer service representative knows all the departments for proper endorsement; and 4) an angry customer must not wait for more than a minute,” says Dante Pascual, 30, an entrepreneur from Parañaque.

Clarify the Issue

Carillo gives an example of a customer calling about a disputed billing. “If the issue is about a US$10 surcharge on her bill, paraphrase what she said: ‘Ms. Sanders you said you called to complain about the US$10.00 surcharge because you think your initial payment of US$120 already covers (this), am I correct?’” He points out that doing so will calm down the customer as you show that “you indeed listened to what she said and are making it your issue as well, not just hers…While you are trying to clarify some salient points in her complaint, be sure to ask the right questions. Refrain from asking questions that call for ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answers because that will…end the discussion. Ask “What,” “Why,” and “How” (questions to) encourage her to explain further. This also helps you…get a good grasp (on) the problem.” Then you can address the problem as needed.

Choose Your Words Carefully

If the customer is angry and you discover it’s due to an oversight on his or her part, “pray to God quickly for wisdom to give you the right words to say and how to say them so that you won’t offend her and cause her to start (ranting) again,” says Carillo. He advises that you “avoid using words like ‘You’ or…are negative in meaning and that serve to convey to the customer the thought that she is given to overlooking what she reads or worse, that she’s dumb. (The key is) proper communication, (whether) verbal, non-verbal, or para-language. (Listeners respond to the) tone of voice 38% (of the time), 55% (to) our non-verbal gestures and a measly 7% to what we say.”

Don’t Be Pushy

“Don’t force the customer to accept a certain replacement or to do something,” advises Marah Del Castillo, 27, of Davao. “Being pushy is not the way to settle an argument; the point of entertaining customer complaints is to serve, not to win or lose, let’s remember that.”

Even if you are under pressure as you have a quota of calls to meet at work, Carillo advises that they not “be pushy in handling an irate customer over an issue” lest “the problem (be) escalated instead of resolved.” Donna Lapairan, a call center agent, adds, “There’s a reason why it’s called customer service: it’s not about you, it’s about keeping the customer, who is the company’s lifeblood and reason for being, happy enough to keep patronizing your services.”

Watch the Way You Say Things

“More people are turned off by the manner in which you convey your opinion even if what you are saying is right,” Carillo points out. You might be misinterpreted if you’re not careful, leading to comments like, “Hey, why are you yelling at me?” Or, “I don’t like the sound of your voice.” Carillo says this can give a bad impression even if “what you said was the truth. It can spell the difference between a consummated sale or a lost one, or a resolved problem and an escalated one.

Mind Your Manners

“Treat the customer like an angry lover,” advises Jean Malaine Derenes of Bulacan. “You have to (court customers) to get (them) to see your viewpoint, make (them) believe that you want only the best for them…and be sincere!”

Carillo shares several basic etiquette points which a lot of us forget: “Desist from interrupting when the customer is talking. (Do not talk) over him/her!”

Don’t Waste the Customer’s Time

“When it’s your turn to talk, don’t waste too much time saying sorry, take the time to explain and comfort the customer!” says Allan Jimenez.

Zoe, 28, of Quezon City and a call center agent, says, “The best way to handle an angry customer is to approach him/her in a very polite manner since you are professional. Let the customer explain why s/he is mad and give the assurance that you will do everything to find a solution to the problem, then apologize for any inconvenience.”

Carillo adds, “Speak directly about the issue at hand only; stop beating around the bush (like we Filipinos are likely to do)…Express appreciation for (the customer raising the issue) regardless of who ‘won’ the momentary verbal ‘tussle’ between the two of you. When you do, you will end up making your customer your friend who will want to call up your company again and again on account of your efficient call handling skills.”

Learn to Apologize

“The word ‘sorry’ does not cost you a thing,” points out Larry Ucurza. “Don’t spit it out to shut up the customer; say it because you want to improve. ‘Sorry’ can fix a lot of problems.”

Entrepreneur Lady Anne Lleva, 24, says, “I would sincerely apologize to the customer for the inconvenience s/he encountered and resolve to find the appropriate solution to his or her problem as soon as possible.”

Understand and Empathize

Account executive Peralta points out that “when a customer approaches you or calls you it means two things: either s/he’s (inquiring about) something or s/he’s upset with the service. It is unlikely that a client will call and say s/he’s delighted with your service. So when you receive a call, try to assess what s/he wants exactly. During conversation, be prepared not only to address the issue but also to (get) some hints. Read the client. A client may be complaining but (may) only want a refund or a discount. Validate (the) details of the conversation. Now if a client is really mad, try to focus on the procedure lapse. Every company has (a) trial and error system. A memorandum or boards directive is born because of complaints. Provide (an) immediate solution, and know when the client is ready to listen. The company may have limits but try to be flexible and make them feel that you care for them.”

Joyce F. Barrios of Malabon City, a call center agent agrees and says, “As a customer service representative, you need to have a lot of patience when taking calls. If they are irate, you have to empathize and apologize if necessary. Give (the) assurance that you will provide (the) appropriate information and always show (the) willingness to help.”

Find a Solution

“Put yourself in (your customer’s) shoes. Listen to them. Focus on the problem, and think of a possible solution,” says Ivan, 28, of Bulacan and a computer salesman.

Manuel outlines a plan of action: “1) Listen to customers very carefully. Don’t ever interrupt them. 2) Acknowledge their concerns and if necessary apologize. 3) Assure them that we will do our best to investigate the situation. Explain to the customers why (things) happened. If necessary, give…discounts, refunds or credits for the embarrassment or for the mistakes of the company. 4) Act accordingly…and (present) the best possible solutions to the concern. It can be through email or a call to the customers. 5) Thank the customer and assure them it will not happen again

Follow Up

Peralta adds, My initiative for customer visitor calling them personally, is very effective to regain their confidence to our product, services, and maintain credibility in handing customer complaints with sincerity. This approach makes me well remembered by irate customers who still remember me even if I am no longer connected to the company I worked with. (Compiled and edited by C. F. Bobis)

(For August 2010, let’s go to the other side of the fence. Tell us of the good customer service you’ve received and what you think everyone can learn about customer service from that episode! Also: Got a customer service issue? Why not share it here and have other readers weigh in on it! Email us at mbclassifiedwed AT gmail.com)

Yupp and Hipp: One Moment, Please, for Solutions and Good Feelings

(Originally published on Sunday, June 27, 2010)

By DR. DUPS DELOS REYES

A popular Philippine innovation is the phrase “for a while,” often heard on the phone. And I’m not proud of that as a Filipino. The PCOS-machine-backed national elections, yes, but rampant destruction of standard native English?  If you’re used to world-class English, or if you know that business is as global as can be, then “for a moment” jars your cochlea, and you either swear or…well, write an article like this.

Let’s expand this to a broader perspective like customer service, where the above questionable phrases are used in this age of call centers.

I shall zero in then on my two commandments: customers want their problems solved, and they want to feel good.

As service providers—which we all are even if we sell tangible products, or even if you don’t sell—we should focus on those two reasons why people buy… and buy again.  Provide solutions and good feelings.

So where does English come in here?

First, you can’t solve problems well if you use a word that means something else or if you pronounce a word so differently it means something else.

Second, you can’t make your customer feel good if you murder English.

The first reason people buy is that they need solutions to their problems. I must assume that you have meticulously mastered your technical product details.

Add to this your English communication skills on the phone.

Let’s start with language adaptation. My golden rule is to speak your customer’s  language. If s/he speaks English, then you must speak English. It does pay to learn the language of the customer and be consistent in your language use. Instead of “Yes po,” say “Yes sir.” Or instead of “The lines are so long, sir, as in so long,” say “The lines are extremely long; it might take one more day.”

If you end with that thought, you leave the customer hanging. Provide a remedy or an alternative. Say instead: “It might take one more day. I suggest however that you…”

One of the best examples is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel staff. Initiating my feeling of customer delight is the phone operator. No English errors. Excellent modulation.  You ask for the front desk, or any person, and she acknowledges first with “I’ll connect you now,” unlike other call center operators who simply connect you without your knowing if they heard you.

A few days ago I spoke on the phone with a cake shop staffer, wanting to know if I could order fruitcakes (that’s like buying thick jackets in summer!). The staffer politely said that she would have to confirm with the chef and asked for my contact number for her to return my call (certainly lots better than being made to wait). A few hours after (this is the wonder—the Mandarin staff’s coordination is seamless) someone else called to say yes. And the friend to whom I owed one is now enjoying his fruit cakes, ecstatic with his “Yehey, it’s Christmas!”

Then there’s directness to the point. Have you ever asked for something and the answer is for something else? I ask, “May I know what amount is available for me to spend?” and the credit card operator says, “As of May xx, your overdue amount is xx.”

So I butt in and say, “Please answer my question, I’m just asking how much can I still spend,” and he says, “I’m getting there sir.” So now I say, “Cut it out…I don’t care for the background, just tell me how much,” and I don’t even hear an “I’m sorry.”

And I don’t feel good.

Which leads us to the second reason people buy…and buy again. The first turn off is, I am made to wait without any proviso before the waiting time. Like you’re left hanging all of a sudden.

Or there’s no tact at all.  When I’m told, “You did not provide the details in the form,” I feel like I’m being accused.

Enter the passive voice, about which I have written an article, plus of course the alert sense of remedy. Say instead, “Although we don’t have the details, sir, we would be happy to encode them so that we can serve you right away.

And then of course—finally—there’s basic English.

When the person who takes my call has to check if the person I’m looking for is around, you hear not just nonstandard but atrocious English. The most notorious—nay, shameful—phrase from this side of the world is, “For a while, or “A moment.” And I swear I cannot stomach either.

“For a while” is standard when it usually ends a sentence, but not as a single stand-alone phrase.  You can say “I was in the office for a while,” or “He spoke with me only for a moment,” or “A moment is precious so don’t waste time.”

Use instead: “just a while, please” or “just a moment, please,” or “one moment, please,” or “please hold on.”

As long as you don’t say, “He’s out of the country for a few days…would you like to wait?”

How about prepositions? Do you say “speak with” or “speak to”?  You hear “speak to” from the British more often, and “speak with” from Americans. I prefer using “speak with”; it sounds polite (“speak to” sounds condescending). Your choice. Just be consistent.

And then there’s pronunciation. Above all, say “please” with a “pleeeez” sound, technically, the long “e” sound. Not “pliz hold on.” And it’s a long “o” sound for “hold,” as in “howld on.” And not “hold on” as in “called on.”

A final suggestion for world-class English. Instead of responding with “Speaking” or “Yes,” try the most standard there is: “This is she.” Or if you’re a guy, make sure you’re careful with your articulation and pause between “is” and “he.” “This is…he.” Otherwise you could sound saying “this-is-she.”

Customer service is gender-free and gender sensitive. Male or female—oops, I should have said female or male (chivalry isn’t dead yet)—stick to standard native English if you must use English on the phone.

“One moment, please,” or “Just a while, please.” Provide solutions and good feelings… “pleeeez”!

(All rights reserved. Copyright Manila Bulletin and Dr. Dups delos Reyes. May not be reproduced or copied without express written permission of the copyright holders.)

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