All posts by Tamra Matthews

Tami Matthews is a content marketing manager at ReadyTalk. What’s content marketing? It’s a fancy way to say she writes, edits, and plans content – copy, articles, videos, podcasts, and more -- for our website, social media, white papers, ebooks, etc. She has more than 20 years of experience writing and loves it so much, she does it in her spare time. When she’s not at work, she’s hanging out with her spunky daughter and loving husband, reading, writing, and hiking. She’s kinda into sci-fi and loves to talk Star Wars, Star Trek, Dr. Who, Firefly, Blake’s 7, Hitchhiker’s Guide, and general geekery with anyone who will listen or engage.

4 Ways to Improve Communication Today

What’s the #1 issue that causes business failure? Miscommunication. That includes lack of communication, not providing enough or accurate information or just not understanding. It’s also costly. In fact, estimates are that miscommunication costs $37 billion every year. Ouch.

improve communicationWhether this is due to select individuals or a businesswide breakdown in communication, companies don’t have to settle for less when it comes to speaking with and engaging their employees.

After all, a Holmes Report study found that companies with excellent communication strategies experience 47 percent higher returns for shareholders, less employee turnover and more satisfied workers overall. So how can you improve communication at your company?

1. Restructure your hierarchy

Far too often, the main problem regarding poor communication at companies is select individuals who are bottlenecks. That means they don’t pass on important information. If you can, restructure or dismantle your current management hierarchy with leaders who value good communication and actively share information.

2. Lead by example

If you want your team to communicate better, change needs to begin from the top down. Lead by example if you want to create lasting change at your organization. Show your employees what is expected of them by consistently giving feedback, asking for it in return and keeping lines of communication open at all times.

3. Empower your people

Are there consequences for sharing bad news? Maybe that’s why there are communication gaps around the office. And really … would you rather not know bad news or know it and be able to do something? The consequences for not understanding bad news could be catastrophic for your business.

4. Have a communication strategy

So your company has poor communication. Do something about it! Funnel resources, effort and time into reinventing your company’s communication strategy. Your internal communications team, for larger companies, or HR department for smaller ones might be a good place to start. While it might be a challenging transformation process at first, the results will be incredibly rewarding.

A strategy includes having tools available to enable — not hinder — communication. The tools you choose should depend on your culture and what your people need as well as thinking through an array of tools.

Need more tips?

We have a plethora of resources available from general ideas about when to use email and meetings to active listening.

6 Tech Trends for 2017

The tech industry is constantly striving forward, seeking out innovative ways to revolutionize the world around us. From faster computer processors to dynamic voice-recognition software, it’s safe to say that technology will only get more advanced in the coming years. Here are some top trends you might want to watch out for in 2017:

1. Virtual Reality will become more mainstream

Virtual reality (VR) has the potential to completely revolutionize the way we consume entertainment. From live performances to video games, the possibilities for VR are seemingly endless. And although we all love VR for video games and more, there are practical applications for VR, too like enabling people to do things they couldn’t – like explore planets.

2. Augmented Reality will become more mainstream, too

A sense of purpose improves workAugmented reality (AR) will help revolutionize the way we work — from reviewing 3D models of human bodies where surgeons can practice life-saving operations before trying them on a person to reviewing 3D scans of construction sites and reconfiguring those sites to be safer. There’s a wide range of uses for AR in the business world. Read more reasons on why AR.

3. Videos will become even more prevalent

It’s no secret that people love watching videos. While already prevalent, videos are now being used more frequently across numerous industries. For example, more marketers are beginning to use videos to successfully interact with potential consumers online, while employee trainers are using them to speed up and improve onboarding processes.

4. We’ll learn from machine learning

The tech industry has been buzzing about machine learning advances for years. In light of AlphaGo beating Lee Sedol at Go, researchers are beginning to learn more about machine learning than ever before. As machines learn, so will the people interacting with them. Some suggest that machine learning may soon have a significant impact on the way people approach education and training as a whole.

5. Autonomous vehicles will become more accepted

It’s not just Uber who wants this. One of the main goals of the research into and the creation of autonomous vehicles is to reduce the number of human-error car accidents. This desire extends beyond the inventiveness of creating the world’s first truly smart mainstream cars. For example, an AV should be able to swerve and maneuver in a way that protects its passengers in the event of an accident. In an age of texting and distracted drivers, AV might make frequent car crashes a thing of the past.

6. Businesses will move to unified communications

Lastly, while only 19% of businesses have moved away from desktop phones, the vast majority want to. Unified communications (UC) combines all the different communications systems and enables you to integrate them easily. Businesses can save money, scale as they need to do with their business and enable their IT resources to do things that support the business — more than ensure phones are working. And since more than half the workforce will work remote at least some of the time, chances are pretty good UC will become more and more important.

Viva La Revolution: Remote Workers Need Communications

About fifteen years ago, I got up at 5 a.m. and used the company’s VPN to update our external website indicating there was a snow storm in Portland, Oregon and we’d have reduced customer service hours. My manager at the time, the VP of Corporate Communications, was on a task force helping to determine disaster recovery procedures for our company, including communicating with customers and employees. She fought hard to ensure I had VPN access. Fought because at the time, only a handful of employees had access. The company was more willing to give her access instead of the person doing the work: me. IT was concerned about remote working policies, something HR hadn’t had a chance to address.

But that day, fifteen years ago, our website was updated and disaster communications were completed. My VP called every couple of hours to let me know what was expected. I updated the website. Communication worked, even though I was remote.

If you’ve been in the workforce for a while, that story isn’t so unusual. There used to be gates and issues with getting access to work remotely. Typically executives and senior leaders were given access, even if they weren’t the ones doing the work.

Fast forward to today. It should be easy to work remotely, but typically … it isn’t. Here are a few questions to consider on improving your remote working situation … and revolutionize it. Heck, we all need the communications revolution, even when we’re in the office.

1. Is it easy to communicate and work?

man attending webinarOur workforce right now is teeming with different needs: digital natives (Millennials), digital transplants (Gen Xers) and people who grew up typing … not on a computer (Baby Boomers). Some places still have the Silent Generation, those who remember WWII, working. The technology introduced in their homes when they were children was the radio. Most likely their family got a television when they were teenagers.

That’s a difficult challenge to meet — digital experts who expect technology to work and people less comfortable with that technology who get easily frustrated with it.

The perfect solution is something that’s easy for all of them. What’s easy? Can you just click something and it works? Technology is so good many of the solutions these days offered are all about one click. One. Even communications.

That means the technology needs to be intuitive. In other words, people who have never used a product need to know what to do. People don’t want to read instructions. In fact, if your technology needs instructions, probably time to rethink it. You shouldn’t need a manual to start a video meeting or wait on the AV guy. If it’s easy, users will adopt it. Wouldn’t you?

2. Is it fast?

I recall the days where it took a minute to connect to the Internet and look at emails. Those days of modems are long gone. In fact, we’re consuming more content on our smartphones than ever before. That means technology, like websites, needs to be super fast. If it takes more than a few seconds for something to happen, I don’t know about you, but I run out of patience.

Communication needs to be even faster. I want to instant message (IM) someone to get a quick video downloaded. I’ll pop my head over the cube and ask if we got a customer to review a story. The faster the better.

Does the communication platform start instantly or almost instantly? Can I communicate with someone quickly to get something done?

3. Does it make you feel good and smart?

Here’s a tricky one. When people use technology, they don’t want to feel dumb. They want to be able to use technology and feel smart. Confident.

I love Photoshop. Although I’m good at jumping into new technology and figuring it out, Photoshop took a while. It took classes. I learned tricks from friends. I’m still learning things about Photoshop and I’ve been using the tool for more than ten years. When I ask co-workers, they don’t want to use Photoshop. Why? It’s hard. They can do a few things in it, but really they don’t like using it. They don’t have time to take classes and in the meantime, it makes them feel dumb.

Okay, so that’s a photo / design tool. Communication demands people feel good. That actually adds to the experience of communicating. If we just had a terrible experience trying to use software to communicate, the conversation isn’t as meaningful. And typically we grouse at the beginning of that meeting about the stupid technology that didn’t enable me to join a meeting on time. That’s a communication detractor. Those barriers need to be removed.

4. Does it add more to your communication?

I had an interesting discussion with the chief strategy officer of ReadyTalk recently. And he brought up something that’s so true and something we take for granted: communication is about grok-ing. What’s grok? It’s to understand deeply and completely. Although I’m a writer, I don’t know of an English word that really nails it the way Heinlein’s “grok” does in Stranger in a Strange Land. Grok involves a lot of things: active listening, empathy, rapport, trust, intuition and connection. We’re all seeking the ability to grok each other, even in business meetings. It’s the human condition. We’re put on this earth, really, to grok each other — our spouses and partners, our friends, our children, our parents, our teachers ….

A guy I work with, Tim, had a brilliant observation in a meeting the other day. “When we trust each other, we get beyond the why and get to the how.” He meant people are ready to roll up their sleeves once they grok each other. Good communication enabled that to happen with the team he’s on. Instead of asking whether their salesperson did a number of things, their engineers worked to fix the things she said were issues. They trusted them, the engineers, to do it. Everyone wanted to help. Teamwork Nirvana.

When you’re remote, you need that more grok-ing. I worked remote for a while. Most of team was in Atlanta, except for me and three other people. I heard about team lunches and them working late together. I worked late, too … but what I didn’t have is working late with them in the office. That experience isn’t unusual. My husband works remote now and he complains about one issue and one issue only: communication. In fact, that’s the number one issue businesses are facing: communication. It’s the lack there of and miscommunication that are the biggest problems.

Video communication is a great way for remote employees to grok each other. So is the phone. Face-to-face discussions. Email. IM. Forums. The list of communication is endless. More than anything, it’s about the mix of communication.

It’s the nuances that really drive those connections, from seeing a smile to hearing a sigh. They all drive to what we’re grok-ing about each other.

Putting it all together

Easy to use, fast, that makes people feel good and enables true understanding. That’s what ReadyTalk is doing and why we’re so busy. After all, it’s our job to help you flourish and be productive. And we care about that. Really and truly.

6 Things to Consider When Launching a Product

6 thing to know when launching a new productYou might be working on a product that you believe will be the next big thing in your particular industry. Congratulations! While you may have a great idea, you need more than that to be successful in a highly competitive marketplace. Therefore, here are six things to consider when launching your product:

1. Timing is everything

You want to start early preparing for a product launch, but also be careful about precisely when that launch will be. Analyze your market carefully to determine the right season to release your product to the public.

It sounds silly, but timing is everything. Think about when consumer companies announce a new product (like the iPhone). It’s usually before the Christmas rush, but in enough time for people to understand it and buy it.

2. Good branding is essential

Many consumers are highly visual people, which is why you want to ensure that your packaging and branding is appealing to the eye. Meanwhile, your product’s name should be catchy yet simple to promote good brand recognition.

3. Are you targeting the right consumer base?

Maybe you assumed your product would be best for a particular age group, but quickly discover it’s more well-suited for a different demographic. If this is the case, don’t force your product on a consumer base that doesn’t want or need your product. Roll with it and refocus.

4. How will you market it?

Maybe you will make use of social media marketing or prefer more traditional advertising approaches. Whatever the case, carefully strategize exactly how you plan to get word out about your product before the launch date draws near.

5. What about your competition?

You don’t want to release a product into an overcrowded marketplace unless you have something revolutionary to offer. Make sure you know what competition you’re up against and how you should best handle their competing sales.

6. Don’t forget to be patient

While you might be expecting a highly successful release, remain patient if this isn’t the case. Sometimes, good ideas and products take time to catch on and you need to remind yourself not to grow discouraged in the meantime.

Speaking … or writing … of new products. We know a lot about new products. This year, we’ve launched unified communications, our cloud communications offering called ReadyTalk Hosted Voice. We also launched our new replay feature with a platform, ReadyTalk Illuminate. FoxDen, a ReadyTalk product, continues to innovate and release new features. And we’re not slowing down. In following weeks, you can read from our product managers who make it all come to life. (They’re awesome.)