Arriving at the Right Type of Language Professional

By Anne Connor

Business people don’t have to communicate with extraterrestrials (yet), but they can still learn a few things from the sci-fi thriller Arrival. The blockbuster film put a language professional in the leading role. Hollywood star Amy Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistics professor asked by U.S. Army Intelligence to help communicate with an alien species that has arrived on earth. However, the film blurred the lines between the three professions of translator, interpreter, and linguist, reinforcing some common misconceptions most business people have.

When you do, it’s helpful to know the difference between the types of professionals involved in the process. Who do you call for a meeting with a new or potential overseas client for your small business or when you need to localize your ecommerce company’s website for foreign markets? Who do you contact when you receive medical records from an employee who required medical attention while on an overseas business trip or a contract from a foreign country?

Put simply:

Translators help you with written material, like contracts, letters, brochures, and websites

  • Before pushing that “Would you like to translate this?” button for the material that your advertising people spend weeks refining, remember that the nuanced language geared at persuading others to buy your products or services is best translated by a human who specializes in your company’s line of business.
  • If you’d like to create a professional-looking brochure or web page in other languages for new target markets, the last thing you should do is trust that task to an automated translation tool instead of its flesh-and-blood counterpart.
  • Should you be in a position to apply for an international patent for your product, you will definitely want a human patent translator specialized in your field to do that work instead of trusting a machine translation into languages unknown to you. Not doing so may lose you the patent if something in the application is mistranslated.

Interpreters help you with spoken language in business, legal and medical settings

  • Say a potential client wants to visit your facilities before deciding to place an order for your products. What a great impression you would make if you hired an interpreter to accompany you both on a guided plant tour so that all questions and answers could be handled in each party’s dominant language, putting everyone at ease. Hiring the same interpreter for a preliminary or follow-up telephone or videoconference meeting would go that extra mile toward sealing the deal and keeping this client’s business for years to come.
  • Well-informed business owners and managers also hire interpreters for employee health and safety training meetings that include limited-English-proficient workers. This helps them meet OSHA compliance requirements and keep their operations running smoothly and without interruption from preventable accidents.
  • Conference interpreters ensure that all attendees at an international business or medical gathering understand the presenters’ messages and are able to ask questions about the presentation’s content.

Linguists analyze language (including structure, history, and more)

  • To decipher an unknown extraterrestrial language, the linguistics professor in Arrival works with the aliens to learn the basic concepts of their language—the individual words and what they mean, building a lexicon as she goes. In the end, she has to use a complex, computer-assisted analysis to break the code and understand how the alien language works. This is neither translation nor interpreting, but linguistics.
  • In the real world, linguists help translators do their jobs by developing and updating the terminology-management software that allows those translators to work more quickly and efficiently, resulting in lower costs for their client and ensuring consistency throughout the entire translated document or website.

One thing that translators, interpreters and linguists all have in common is that they draw upon their extensive experience to solve linguistic “puzzles.” The stakes might not be as high as saving the planet from potential annihilation, but the work of all three professions is vital all the same, helping:

  • businesses communicate beyond borders
  • governments avoid conflict
  • healthcare providers make lifesaving decisions, to mention only the tip of the iceberg.

In order to “arrive” at the right language professional, you have to understand your needs. In the movie, the producers understood they needed a language expert as their protagonist, even if they mixed up the terms for how she went about helping them communicate with the aliens. What they did get right was to demonstrate that language professionals all draw upon:

  • extensive language study
  • expertise in the field
  • research skills
  • their ability to learn and utilize the latest technologies to solve linguistic “puzzles.”

Anne Connor is a professional Spanish and Italian-to-English medical and legal translator and an active member of the American Translators Association. The American Translators Association represents over 10,000 translators and interpreters across 91 countries. Along with advancing the translation and interpreting professions, ATA promotes the education and development of language services providers and consumers alike. For more information on ATA or translation and interpreting professionals, please visit www.atanet.org

Closing Calls Like A Pro

Master Moves for Telephone Ninjas

By Kate Zabriskie

Kate ZabriskieTelephone customer service may look easy, but until you’re responsible for navigating the world of tough calls, it’s difficult to appreciate the kicking, blocking, and sparring skills some customers have perfected.

Luckily, there are some proven moves for handling difficult calls and doing so in a way that keeps customers coming back.

These three specific moves, when used with precision, can improve interactions with challenging callers.

MOVE ONE: Set the Stage from the Start: The first tactic is designed to help service providers end calls with long talkers when the conversation gets to the point where there is no additional business to be done.

Because you can’t always identify a long talker at the beginning of a call, it’s a good idea to start most of your interactions using this move.

Here’s how it works. Thank callers for dialing in and letting them know you are glad to hear from them.

“Mrs. Smith, I’m so happy you called. How is your morning going?” Allow for a minute of chit chat. “Well, I sure am glad/sorry to hear that. What is it that I can do for you today?”

Now, if you ask, “How is your morning going” and you’re told, “fine,” move on to helping the caller. The person is probably not a long talker, but you won’t know for sure until you test the water.

Your expression of interest at the start of a conversation gives people the feeling you don’t find them to be a burden. Communicating that is especially important in environments that serve a lot of callers who are routinely blown off by most of the people they interact with.

Why does this tactic work? Long talkers almost expect you to rush the

conversation and try to escape, just as everyone else does. But when you don’t follow that pattern, these people tend to be pleasantly surprised, and they have less of an urge to try to keep you on the line.

Showing genuine interest is a win-win for you and your callers. Does this mean you should be prepared to spend an extra 20 minutes with everyone who dials in? No. You are, however, on the phone to be compassionate and kind. The extra niceties shouldn’t take you but a minute or two. What’s more, if you master them, you’ll find that your overall call length will decrease, and the frequency of dial-ins from long callers will decline.

MOVE TWO: “No” Know-How: The service business, from time to time the answer is “no.” How you communicate this message can have a lot to do with how palatable it is.

Here’s how to employ “no” know-how, with the backdrop set at a property management company.

Scenario One: Someone is in a resident’s preferred parking space, and there is no assigned parking in the complex.

Choice One: “Mr. Jones, there are no assigned parking spaces in your building”

Choice Two: “Mr. Jones, I hear you. I’d love to have an assigned parking space myself. Let me take a look at the lease for your building. Please give me a minute. Pause. Mr. Jones, the lease for your building does not provide for assigned spots. I know you like your spot, and I wish I could tell you it was yours and only yours, but I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I did. At this point, you have to hope your favorite parking place is empty when you want it because it can’t be reserved”

The second choice is preferable to the customer because while the “what” is obviously the same, the “how” makes a difference. Would There are reasons why option two is a service-centric response, in comparison to the dismissive nature of option one.

  1. First, the service representative is repeating what she’s been told; never mind that she already knows the building doesn’t have assigned spaces. But by repeating Mr. Jones’s complaint, she’s showing she’s listening.
  2. She’s agreeing that having an assigned space is preferable. Agreeing with the statement shows she connects with caller’s desires. It doesn’t mean she’s going to change the rules.
  3. When she pauses before breaking the bad news, she shows she is serious about the question and shifts the focus from herself to the lease. In other words, she’s communicating that the disagreement is between the terms of the lease and the caller and not the caller and herself.
  4. Finally, she ends by reinforcing that she understands Mr. Jones, and she wishes the answer were different.

MOVE THREE: Suggest a Close: When you are interacting with people in person, you can use body language to suggest it’s time to move on. Body language is powerful.

During telephone interactions, you don’t have the luxury of body language, so you’ll need to use a different move to draw calls to a natural close. Although these ideas are not as simple as saying, “Mrs. Green, I’m picking up my purse,” they’re close.

Let’s look at a few examples.

“Mrs. Jones, I certainly have enjoyed talking to you, and I don’t want to tie up your afternoon. Let me go ahead and make a note that you called about this, and then I’ll let you get back to your day”

“Mr. Smith, I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give you the answer you were hoping for. I certainly prefer it when that’s not the case. Before we hang up, is there anything else I can answer for you?”

“Mr. Allen, you’ve certainly shared a lot with me (repeat the facts). Is there anything else I need to ask before I hang up and start researching the answer? “

Each of those closes suggests the end is near, and each is tailored for a certain kind of customer.

Option one would work well for someone in need of service and a friend. Option two is a good choice for situations where you have to say “no,” and you want to reinforce the idea that you are empathetic. Option three is a winner when you have callers who repeat themselves.

Being a telephone ninja when ending calls is part art and part science. Refining your master moves requires precision and practice. But as the saying goes, “no pain, no gain.”

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. She and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised. For more information, visit www.businesstrainingworks.com.

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Seizing Opportunities Builds Confidence

By Jill Johnson

One of the most significant leadership skills you need to develop is your confidence. It is an essential core leadership competency. Confidence allows you to have impact far beyond your title or level within your organization. Building your confidence requires a disciplined focus on seeking and accepting bold opportunities to help you reach for higher rungs of influence and impact. You don’t need to make huge leaps or take big risks, but each small effort or success will build your confidence over time. As your confidence compounds, you will find you can do vastly more than you ever dreamed was possible. There are three keys to build your confidence: practice, preparation and your presentation.

Confidence Is A Skill You Need To Practice: Just as with any new skill, you have to practice it over and over for it to become something you can do with ease. The key is to identify what skill you need to master next. Opportunities to practice new skills are all around you. You should plan to practice your new skills both inside and outside of work.

Find assignments you can take that will get you in front of more people and augment your experience. If someone you respect asks you to do an assignment or join a committee, say “yes” to it. Tell people what you want to work on next. Practice saying things before you ever need to—or feel ready to—say them in front of others. Put yourself forward for consideration whether it is a board appointment or your next job or to receive an award!

Getting the opportunity is one thing—what do you do with it when you get it is even more important. It is the consistency of your efforts on practicing new skills that builds your confidence. This consistency is necessary before you can ever rely on it. You want this new skill to become so natural that you don’t even have to think about it. It just becomes a part of you. When you consistently deliver your best, you will feel like you can handle anything that comes at you.

Don’t expect to be confident in the beginning. Remember that all skills build in small cascades. Often we think we are at a plateau because we are not making larger moves. At that point, you are likely growing in a spiral that is just too subtle for you to see just how far you have really come. You are deepening your abilities with your practice. Others will see your growing confidence too.

Preparation Is Necessary – Do the Hard Work: Most people want to take shortcuts. The more detailed and thorough your preparation, the greater the likelihood you will have success. Preparation is especially essential to having confidence in yourself, especially when you are dealing with power players.

Don’t wing it when you have a big meeting. Take the time to thoughtfully prepare well ahead of time. That will let you practice and adjust. When you do that, you will know your material cold and be able to respond effectively to questions and challenges.

Take calculated risks and do things you don’t expect will give you a big win. What do you have to lose? Just keep trying as each attempt is building your skill and preparing you for the next opportunity. Leverage everything you have in your arsenal to build your confidence and give you a boost to try something bold. Bring all of your skills with you as you move through life!

When you have the chance to make your dream come true, grab it with both hands. Don’t let the golden handcuffs of thinking you should stay where you are hold you back from fully embracing your success. Don’t let your fears psych you out before you even see what you are truly capable of. Tell yourself, “Yes, I can! I will. I am. I’m gonna!”

But remember, not everything you try will work … but that does not mean you should stop your efforts. Build your confidence and your future by laying down a solid foundation of preparation.

Presentation — Let People See You: To ever be noticed, you need to step out in front and allow people to see you. You need to identify, enhance, and believe in your own leadership abilities. If you don’t, why should anyone else? Don’t assume that people will recognize and reward your talents.

Your posture and facial expressions play an important role in becoming more confident. You need to look, act and speak with confidence and clarity. People who project confident body language are listened to more carefully. Standing tall or sitting up straight when you speak helps convey an air of confidence too.

Make sure you control your emotions rather than let your emotions control you. Giving an over the top or hysterical comment is going to minimize the confidence people have in you. Be measured and mindful of how you are appearing to others.

The gap between our dreams and believing we can achieve them is confidence. We all become stuck at various times in our lives. We all have self-doubts. Self-doubt is poison to confidence.

Your confidence will fluctuate. Sometimes you will feel like you can conquer anything and other times you will feel like you should have just stayed in bed. When this happens, there is something going on deep within you. That is the time to step back and reflect, to reach out to confide in a trusted confidant, or just allow yourself to embrace the stillness of a momentary plateau.

Final Thoughts: Confidence is something you work on your whole life. So continue to try new things! Stay resilient, even when you think you cannot. Remember the compounded impact of taking small bold actions that don’t take a lot of time can morph into amazing opportunities with the potential to transform your future. Don’t waste any more time. Take control of your destiny! Think big and be bold!

Jill Johnson is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting services, a highly-accomplished speaker, and an award-winning management consultant. Jill helps her clients make critical business decisions and develop market-based strategic plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has affected nearly $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven record of accomplishment of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information on Jill Johnson, please visit www.jcs-usa.com.

The Cost of Poor Performance

Why failing to train your employees costs a lot more than you think

By Evan Hackel

Evan HackelMany people have heard this story, which has become a legend in the training industry. A CEO and department head were having a brief conversation after their monthly strategy meeting, where the focus was on employee training. The CEO said, “What if we spend all this money training our staff and they leave us? And the department head replied, “What if we don’t train them and they stay?”

A simple, but pointed, response. If you spend a lot of money on people and they leave, that’s not an optimal outcome. But if you don’t train your employees and they stay, it costs you a lot more.

A franchise group, comprised of more than 2,000 stores, experienced this training quandary first-hand. The head of sales had a simplified approach to hiring. He simply hired salespeople who had worked at other stores that sold the same kind of products as were sold at his stores. His assumption was that the experienced salespeople he hired were pretrained and that hiring them would save a lot of time and expense. Plus, there would be no need to acquire the tools that were needed to implement a training system.

His decision to hire experienced salespeople made sense, but it was flawed. The fact that those salespeople had experience didn’t mean that they came armed with the best-selling skills or factual product knowledge. But after a few years of using his hire-the-experienced approach, he saw that he wasn’t achieving the kind of results he wanted. He sensed the size of each average transaction on the selling floor was too small. Buyers were not becoming repeat customers. Plus, his stores were receiving negative comments online about the quality of their customer service.

Because he could see that the skills of his salespeople needed improvement, he took the plunge and brought in an experienced training development firm that developed a program of e-learning for salespeople to train them to increase the size of the average ticket size, to improve their closing percentages, and to provide better customer service.

The performance of the salespeople his company trained was dramatically better than the performance of experienced sales people he simply hired. Plus, he soon realized that training was giving him another benefit: because he could hire high-energy, high-potential employees, not only those with experience, he was building a much stronger and enthusiastic salesforce.

After a year, the average annual sales made by company-trained salespeople had in many cases outperformed seasoned professional hires by $200,000 or more. When he factored in sales and contribution margin improvement, the people trained in-house produced about $80,000 a year more in profit. With an average five-year tenure for each employee, the training was worth $400,000 more in profit dollars.

That is another way of saying that the cost of not training each salesperson amounted to $80,000 a year for that company. So what really happens if you don’t train people and they stay? It means you’re going to be losing a lot of money.

Why Do Trained Salespeople Produce More Income? There are many reasons. Trained salespeople:

  • Close more sales
  • Generate larger average sales
  • Sell fewer products at discounted prices and more products at list price
  • Make fewer mistakes
  • Sell the right products, reducing the cost of returns and product replacements
  • Build customer relationships that result in more repeat business
  • Generate more positive reviews online
  • Increase your net promoter scores
  • Help keep morale and productivity high among all your employees, because people don’t like to work with untrained people who don’t know what they are doing.

What does poorly trained salespeople cost? Not training people costs money a lot of money.

Training Is Not Just for Salespeople: Training has a major impact on customer service practices across a variety of industries. Consider the often headache-inducing business of at-home product installation—one that would certainly benefit from customer service-focused training. The basics, such as explaining to customers the details of the installation process, an emphasis on clear communication prior to the start of the job, and of course, conveying the importance of punctuality can boost customer retention. Training staff to be cognizant of their customer service practices can also increase referral business, which can be worth extra hundreds, thousands, or even millions to your bottom line.

Every Untrained Employee Costs You Money: ROI on training is dramatically greater than most company executives believe it will be. In simple terms, if a trained worker becomes 100 percent productive and an untrained worker is only 60 percent productive, you are losing $40,000 in value on every $100,000 of business you conduct.

In Closing: Not training is hugely expensive—far more expensive than training. In your company, you should look for all the opportunities where proper training can dramatically increase profits, reduce waste, and provide an outsized ROI for every training dollar you spend. If you start to look, it’s nearly guaranteed you will find many more opportunities than you expect.

Evan Hackel is CEO of Tortal Training, a firm that specializes in developing and implementing interactive training solutions for companies in all sectors. Evan created the concept of Ingaged Leadership and is Principal and Founder of Ingage Consulting, a consulting firm headquartered in Woburn, Massachusetts. To learn more about Ingage Consulting and Evan’s book Ingaging Leadership visit www.ingage.net.

Can Your Employees Hold You Responsible for the Performance of Their 401(k)?

By James Lange

James LangeA Supreme Court ruling in 2015 has given employers who offer retirement plans to their employees an enormous wake-up call. The employees at a California utility company successfully sued the firm over the cost of participating in their 401(k) plan. The court unanimously ruled that the company failed to meet its legal obligation to do what was in the best interest of its employees because the retirement plans that they made available to their workers charged fees that were significantly higher than average. Since then, employers in manufacturing, retail, communications, financial, and others have been named in a flood of new lawsuits from employees emboldened by the success of the plaintiffs in California. One paid $62 million to settle out of court and another followed by offering their employees $57 million to drop their case. Recently the spotlight shifted to the non-profit sector as several prominent universities became the latest targets of lawsuits alleging that for years employers have turned a blind eye and allowed their workers to be charged excessive fees for retirement plan contributions.

Plans that charge high administration fees are particularly egregious when the underlying mutual fund investment fees and management fees are also excessive. Even worse, if there is no true advice for the employee an employer can be scrutinized even further. Did someone sit down with each employee, describe the options, and help them decide on an induvial investment plan? Often, that answer is no. Many times, young workers are invested too conservatively. Other times, older workers make the mistake of “putting all their eggs in one basket.” They make this mistake most often by being over-weighted in large U.S. growth companies and underweighted in small, value, and foreign

Hidden Fees Undo Retirement Plan Gains: As an employer, you have an obligation under ERISA to prudently select and monitor the provisions of your employees’ retirement plan. If you haven’t reviewed your plan recently, then this ruling by the Supreme Court should provide you with an incentive to do so. The first step is to know exactly what fees the provider of your retirement plan charges.

Whether you are evaluating your current plan or choosing a new one, consider these issues:

  • Ask about all investment fees. These are by far the largest expense associated with a retirement plan, and they may not even be apparent to you because they are generally deducted directly from investment returns. You might think you’re doing well because your monthly statement shows a $500 gain, but would probably feel differently if you discovered that your investment really earned $600 and fees amounting to $100 were deducted before the remainder was credited to your account! Here’s a tip: Make low-cost index funds available in your plan. Index funds strive to match rather than out-perform the market, and the savings that can result from this “hands-off” approach often result in lower costs for the plan participants who use them. Offering low-cost index funds will significantly lower your own liability and will likely be doing a huge favor to your employees. Getting the appropriate asset allocation with the low-cost index funds is the homerun for both administrators of 401(k) plans as well as most people’s retirement plans.
  • Keep administration costs as low as possible. These fees pay for the expenses of maintaining the plan. At a minimum, this includes accounting, legal services, and filing the appropriate paperwork with the IRS. Optional, and for extra cost, are services such as professional investment and retirement planning advice, daily valuations, online access to accounts, etc. Generally, the fewer bells and whistles associated with the plan you offer to your employees, the lower the administration fees will be. The balance between benefits and cost is critical.
  • Beware of individual service fees. They may not affect every employee, so many employers view them as a cost voluntarily assumed only by the individuals who choose to take advantage of the service. An example of this would be a fee charged to an employee who wants to take a loan out against his 401(k) plan. But, they also include fees charged to everyone for allocating their bi-weekly contributions in to the accounts. The definition of service fees can vary greatly, so it is important to know how your plan assesses them and to make sure your employees understand them.

In 2016, the Security and Exchange Commission’s Investor Advisory Committee (IOC) recommended that the SEC take steps to ensure that consumers understand exactly how much they pay in fees, and to show how those fees affect their investment return. If the SEC approves their recommendation, companies will be required to disclose their fees in terms of dollars instead of expressing them as a percentage. Your employees may be in for a shock when they find out how much it costs to participate in your retirement plan.

It is a good practice to periodically review the terms of your retirement plan and do comparisons. With constantly changing tax laws, you may find a different type of plan that results greater benefits for your business, and your employees. At a minimum, you will be sure that the costs associated with the plan you offer are reasonable and well understood.

Instead of filing lawsuits, your employees will thank you for looking out for their best interests and protecting their nest egg.

James Lange is a CPA/Attorney whose specialty is Estate Planning for clients with significant IRAs and retirement plans. He is the best-selling author of Retire Secure! and The Little Black Book of Social Security Secrets. His newest book is available on his website and Amazon: The Ultimate Retirement and Estate Plan for Your Million Dollar IRA. You can sign up for Jim’s books for free at www.paytaxeslater.com.