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Account Manager Spotlight: Matt Ramsey

It’s time to feature one of our outstanding Account Managers. This time, we catch up with Matt Ramsey, who joined ModSquad five years ago and has since become an indispensable part of our team. Matt manages several customer service and moderation projects across a range of industries, applying his technical expertise and business acumen to ensure his clients’ needs are taken care of. He’s also dedicated to fostering camaraderie among those he manages.

When he’s not hard at work, you’ll find Matt exploring nature around his home in Florida. Thankfully, we didn’t have to chase him through the woods to get him to answer a few questions for us about his time at ModSquad.

Tell us about your background.

I have two degrees from Eckerd College in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida in Computer Science and Business. After college I worked independently doing local SEO, marketing, and business development, and as a web designer and developer. I also built a solid foundation in customer service while working in athletics administration for the City of Largo. It was during this time that I discovered ModSquad.

I’ve since moved to Gainesville, Florida, where my long-time partner was accepted into veterinary school at the university here. In my spare time, I continue to expand my love for the outdoors by exploring and hiking in central Florida. I’ve also picked up a great hobby in homebrewing.

What brought you to ModSquad?

I joined ModSquad in the fall of 2013, after the company came highly recommended by a friend (and now colleague), Michael Koger, who works out of our Austin, Texas office. I was attracted to ModSquad by the flexibility, culture, and intersection of my interests in tech and business.

What do you do for ModSquad?

I’m responsible for a number of our customer service and moderation accounts, and my focus is always on client service delivery. I also manage the Project Managers who handle the day-to-day activity of each project, as their performance is key to our overall success. Because of my background, I also assist our Services team with things like Zendesk/CRM integration, project kick-offs and documentation, recruitment, and forecasting.

We’d love to hear about a recent success story.

We had a fantastic client success story this year. Earlier this year, we were nearing a 95% customer satisfaction (CSAT) score for a subset of members, so we introduced a new goal: to exceed 95% CSAT. Since then, the team has cracked the threshold and are are now consistently surpassing the goal.

What makes the partnership especially great is strong communication and a group of like-minded people who are invested in helping others. What ties it all together is genuine empathy, not only on the customer level, but also through the Mods and management teams internally and on the client side.

What sets ModSquad apart, in your opinion?

One of ModSquad’s unique elements is the specialized focus we bring to each and every client. By tapping into our vast network of individuals, each with their own various skills, capabilities, and passions, we’re able to staff every project with the right people. Whether it’s a need for technical support, ecommerce customer service, social media community management, or anything in between, we have the right mix to ensure success.

Any great stories that stand out in your memory?

ModSquad is very adaptable. We jump in feet first and are always eager to learn and grow with the client. What really stands out in my memory is the work we do when clients need us on a tight turnaround. When we get requests like these, we pull in a lot of different expertise to find the best solution. Managing short-notice, emergency-type requests from clients can be challenging, but the satisfaction of seeing them through is more than worth it. It’s that feeling of camaraderie in conquering a challenge that stands out to me.

Maintaining Work-Life Balance While Working From Home

The remote workforce continues to expand. Among workers who are not self-employed, the number of those telecommuting on a regular basis has risen by 140% since 2005, according to Global Workplace Analytics. In fact, in 2016, 57% of IT/tech-industry employees spent at least some time working remotely, according to Gallup. The benefits for workers are endless, from saving money and time to health advantages. But once we’ve made that decision to work from home, how do we separate our work life from our home life, when the two seem so determined to collide? That’s where creativity comes in.

Create a work space. Of course it would be great if every remote worker had a separate home office with a door that closed (and locked!), but that’s not always possible. Wherever you work, make sure it’s your space to work. It’s less important where it is than that it’s yours, and sacred for that purpose. Others in the house should be taught to treat it that way. If possible, it should be a quiet space, or only have the noise you choose. Get a comfortable chair, consider an adjustable desk so you can work from a sitting or standing position, add some inspiring artwork, and then commute from “home space” to “work space” in a few steps. Note: Keep the work space out of the bedroom. It makes it that much harder to create separation between home and work when you can literally see your computer from your bed, and your bed from your computer.

Create boundaries. Decide what your boundaries are, and stick to them. One of the toughest to enforce can be deciding when your family can interrupt you, and how. If you have an office space with a door, closing it might be a good signal. It’s up to you to establish and maintain the boundaries. That usually means not answering the phone (that’s why voicemail was invented), it certainly means not answering the text, and it MOST certainly means not answering social media. Be strong, friend.

Create a work attitude. It’s important to give yourself the right work mindset in order to be at your most productive. If you stumble from bed to bathroom to coffee-maker to desk, still blinking and yawning, you aren’t getting a productive start to your day. Instead, at the end of each work day, leave in your workplace a list of what needs to be accomplished the next day. The following morning, show up at your desk in work attire. You don’t need a power suit, but dressing the part goes a long way to getting you ready for the day, even if you’re only commuting five steps to your desk.

Create a work schedule, with breaks. Keeping irregular hours can play havoc with your brain. Set a schedule, and stick to it. Be sure to include breaks in the schedule you create. Get up at least once per hour; stretch your legs, and walk around a bit. Look at something other than your computer monitor, but try not to spend the break looking at your phone. Ideally, your eyes should be screen-free. Perhaps starting on time isn’t your problem, but you just can’t seem to stop at the appointed hour. If you still have a few things to finish, for whatever reason, it’s far too easy to just keep working when you have no commute ahead of you, but that can throw off your schedule. Try to maintain your pace throughout the day so you can stop at the designated time.

Create accessibility, and then unavailability. Most people working from home are still part of a team. It’s important to communicate effectively with your team about your schedule. Let them know when you’re available, and how to reach you in an emergency. Let them know your definition of “emergency.” When you take a vacation day, be unavailable. When you’re on vacation and popping into your chat tool or responding to emails, your team will learn that they don’t need to respect your boundaries, because you don’t respect your own boundaries. Use shared calendars, an app status, or direct communication to indicate whether or not you’re currently available.

When we talk about “work-life balance,” we always focus on the “life” aspects. No one seems to need a reminder to work enough, but we need reminders to live enough! Maintaining a balance between your life and your work is important for both your physical and mental well-being, and for the health of your personal relationships. If you’re neglecting your body, your mind, or your people, you won’t be living your best-possible life. Start making small, intentional adjustments to your space and routine. Balance won’t come overnight, but with time, you’ll see improvement as each small change becomes a habit. In time, you’ll be a more productive worker and a happier human being!

Signs of the Season

For those of us who work in customer engagement, busy shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday launch us into the season. But December is not all about extra coverage and busy support queues. There are also seasonal treats, trimmings and traditions that only make an appearance this time of year.

Here are a few signs of the season from our ModSquad crew…

Putting up the Tree

Cassie D. brings a festive spirit wherever she goes, sporting rainbow hair all year ‘round! Here are her freshly painted rainbow tree and desktop mini tree.

Martin H. enjoyed the Christmas tree lighting in his local town of Carndonagh, County Donegal, Ireland. The brass band playing beneath the tree includes his wife and two of his kids!

Gina M. and family found the perfect tree for the season!

Our cats are certainly feeling festive in their new spots beneath the trees! Here are Susie S.’s Miss Scarlett O’Hairball and Teresa T.’s Leela, looking very sweet.

Switching on the Lights

The town of Port-Louis in Brittany, France is also dressing up for the holidays! This is a photo of the newly lit streets in the town as well as the view from Morgan M.’s window. Très jolie!

DIY: Decorating it Yourself

Here is a bit of DIY inspiration for those of you who are still considering how to decorate.

“My family’s tradition is to decorate our kitchen cabinets with wrapping paper. It started out when our kids were babies since it was a very cheap and festive way to decorate the house. Now that they are all grown up… they say it’s not the holiday season yet until they get their ‘Christmas Kitchen.’” – Kelly A.

“While I could purchase a wreath from the store, there is something about crafting my own that gets me in the holiday spirit.” – Mimi S.

Celebrating with Your Furry Friends

For many of us at ModSquad, the shopping isn’t complete until we’ve spoiled our furry friends. Here are Aliza R.’s Francisco and Annie, deciding whose turn it is to spin the dreidel during Hanukkah.

Of course, it’s not all about toys. There are also hats! Here are Natalia S.’s cat, Abby the Tabby, and Rory F’s dog, Anana, looking very distinguished in red.

Spending Time with Your Nearest and Dearest

Here is Kelly C.’s daughter, rocking a reindeer onesie, and reminding us all that ‘tis the season to chill… especially with those you love most!

Sandrine C. has enjoyed holiday traditions all around the world, from where she’s from in the southwest of France to her current home in Ireland (and many places in between). She carries her favorite pieces of each place with her, in memory and in practice: Saint Nicholas’ Day, Christmas Markets, festive jumpers, and fun with family around the fire.

“Whatever country I was in during the holiday season, I always had laughs and wonderful moments with family and friends, a lot of people around a table full of delicious food… this is what represents this time of the year for me!” –Sandrine C.

Pro tip: The red velvet banana cake featured here was made and decorated by Sandrine with her kids. Here’s the recipe in case anyone is interested. Yum, thanks Sandrine!

There you have it! The signs that the season is changing are all around us. Along with the cooler temperatures this month will bring to many parts of the world, may you also find the warmth of happy times with those you hold dear. Cheers to a wonderful holiday season!

Mod of the Month – November 2018

With November drawing to a close, we have officially entered the holiday season. And while Thanksgiving may be behind us, here at ModSquad, we’re thankful year-round for the people and projects that fill our days and get us excited to start work each day. This month, we’re celebrating one Mod in particular who is known for spreading cheer to all those with whom she works. Let’s hear it for Rochelle H., our November 2018 Mod of the Month!

Rochelle first joined ModSquad about three years ago, after having spent several years as a volunteer moderator on a number of community forums. She was so passionate about her volunteer work, she decided to pursue work in the same vein. She began working on moderation projects and has since branched into social media engagement projects, where her creativity allows her to thrive.

I’ve grown to love social media engagement because it incorporates my passion for writing. I have a trick for staying on tone: I imagine engagement as writing dialogue for a character. If I am working a gaming project, there’s a certain rhythm and level of excitement in how gamers talk. Or if the client wants a more modern tone, I’ll get in the mindset of someone young and hip enough to know no one says ‘hip’ anymore. Once I flesh out the voice of my ‘character,’ I can use that to keep a consistent tone and vocabulary.

It’s this approach that helps Rochelle engage with people from all over the world. For a tourism and travel industry client, Rochelle is part of a team that excites travelers of all kinds and helps them make the most of the time they spend visiting that client’s country.

Beyond her work as a Mod Contractor, Rochelle busies herself with plenty of hobbies, including video games, reading, writing, and art. In fact, you may have seen some of her art on ModSquad’s social media channels earlier this month.

Rochelle also participated in our Extra Life stream week, helping Team ModSquad fundraise to support the kids being cared for at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals around the country.

Being a part of the Extra Life team was one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. It was fun, I met truly incredible people, and we raised a lot of money for children in need. There just aren’t words for how good that felt.

The Project Managers who’ve worked with Rochelle have only glowing praise for the work she does and the passion she brings. Here are just a few of the things some PMs had to say:

“It’s obvious that Rochelle cares for her work and our clients. Whenever I bring her onto a project, she first and foremost becomes a fan and avid cheerleader of the client, and her work really reflects that. She can do it all, but she really shines in social media engagement, where her expertise and passion lend themselves to thoughtful responses that delight our clients’ fans and followers. She is never afraid to ask questions or offer a new perspective, even on long-running projects.

She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met, and her attitude towards ModSquad and her projects is absolutely golden. I can always count on her to respond with a smile to any new opportunities, projects, and requests, and her enthusiasm is infectious.”
–Geneva Hopwood, Project Manager

“I had the good fortune of working with Rochelle on a proactive social engagement project during the summer months. Her engagements were extraordinarily creative, and she has brought commitment and enthusiasm to the team each and every day.

Rochelle always looks for win-win solutions. She listens to her coworkers and tries her best to help however she can, be it brainstorming new approaches for proactive engagement or suggesting ways to improve our processes. Aside from her awesome skills, she brings an incredible attitude to everything she does!”
–Jenny Young, Project Manager

“Rochelle is truly enthusiastic about her work and always strives to think outside the box. All the feedback she receives, she takes to heart. On top of that, she is extremely empathetic and willing to do whatever needs to be done to support those around her and encourage camaraderie.”
–Sarah Christian, Project Manager

Giving Back to Our Communities

“The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves.” –Helen Keller

During the holiday season, the impacts of charity and giving back are highlighted more than any other time of the year. This heightened focus underscores how important the acts of volunteerism and kindness are to humanity.

Throughout the year, individuals and companies donate time and resources to making the world a better place. As a whole, ModSquad recently wrapped up our participation in Extra Life 2018, raising more than $16,000 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Individually, many of us show our dedication to charity throughout the year, sharing our time and resources giving back to our local communities through volunteering.

In this season of gratitude, we’re shining the spotlight on a few heartwarming stories of volunteerism that illustrate what it means to give selflessly to others.

Aunya R. — North Carolina
I volunteer 5-10 hours a month at a local animal rescue shelter. One of the proudest moments for me is when one of the animals I’ve cared for is finally adopted.

Volunteerism is important. I believe giving back is one way of honoring people. If everyone gave a little, we’d all have a lot.

Jemimah S. — Georgia
I do a lot of volunteer work sporadically throughout the month, but dedicate a mandatory 4-6 hours a month to mentoring young girls.

Many of the young ladies I work with have experienced some sort of trauma in their lives, making it hard for them to trust people. The proudest moments for me are when they start to open up and understand that I have their best interest at heart. I want nothing more than to see each of them blossom into amazing young women.

Service to others is so important. So many people are hurting and in need, and we can’t fix everything solely through volunteer work. But if we can make a difference in the life of one person, the results can last a lifetime.

Martin H. — Carndonagh, County Donegal, Ireland
I volunteer with kids as a Cub Scout leader. One of the best parts of volunteering with kids is taking them to do something they wouldn’t normally do, or something that’s out of the norm.

I spend six hours a month with the Scouts. I think volunteerism is important, as some kids don’t have the opportunity to do everything they would like to due to finances or availability. It’s important to have alternatives.

Jenny Y. — Maryland
Some of the most rewarding work of my life was spent working in the peace-building sector in Northern Ireland. I spent seven years there learning about storytelling and relationship building.

I’ll be heading to India in a few weeks to volunteer facilitating activities and discussions on conflict resolution. Giving time and energy to the things I believe in sustains me.

If we all do a bit more of the things we love, especially if that means making a positive impact in the lives of others, we can change the world.

Aliza R. — Maryland
I volunteer at the Maryland SPCA, walking dogs, spending time with them, and showing them to potential adopters. I especially love advocating for dogs that might be overlooked. One of my proudest moments has been taking Maggie, a very sweet, high-energy dog on a “Dogs Day Out” trip to a local park. Maggie was able to sniff, explore, run, and play. She was in the shelter for a couple months and finally found her forever home very recently. I’m so glad I was able to help enrich her life at the shelter.

I volunteer with animals because I want to do what I can to help them find homes, especially pit bull breeds; they are amazing dogs and are very common in my area, but unfortunately they suffer the false stigma of being a “dangerous” breed.

Sarah H. — North Carolina
I volunteer with a girls’ softball league, helping to coach teams, working in the concession stand, keeping score and assisting in coaching teams.

During the season I spend 40-60 hours a month (and 20-40 hours a month during the off-season) volunteering. I adore working with the girls, and I’ve come to love them as though they were family. It’ll be hard when we move away (we’re a military family – my husband and kids pictured here) and have to leave all of them.

Nizar M. — Kazakhstan
I enjoy donating my time and money to help feed the homeless and provide assistance to families in need. One of my proudest moments involved providing food for two elderly gentlemen. Volunteerism is important; I feel that it proves you’re a human being.

A Note of Thanks

Last Thanksgiving, I kinda put it all out there. This year I didn’t have to. One of our Assistant Project Managers, Joe M., wrote an open letter to the company and sent it to our People Ops Department last week. I am especially touched, as he not only captured the spirit in which the United States was founded, but tied it to the very core of ModSquad. It is even more poignant as he is from our Northern Ireland operations center. This Thanksgiving sentiment is worldwide, not just here in America. He has graciously allowed us to reprint it in full for our annual Thanksgiving Day Blog Post. There is nothing I can add to this without getting too teary myself.

— Amy

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about writing an open thank-you letter to the company for giving me this career. With Thanksgiving approaching, I feel like this is the best time for it.

My gratitude stems from the fact that I had experienced a long period of illness prior to joining ModSquad. I worried that returning to the stress of a rigid work environment could cause my ailment to recur. Happily, my fears never materialized, because at ModSquad I’ve had the flexibility to earn a living, tend to my health, and fully regain my confidence. I have now been with the company for three years, and I’ve rarely been happier.

When I think about the greatest aspects of American culture, one phrase comes to mind: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In the United States I see a country that took in the forgotten people of the world. A country that then defended those people with the affirmation that they had not failed their old countries, but that their old countries failed them. To prove their point, these oft-forgotten women and men built the most powerful nation the world has ever known.

Every country has good and bad aspects to its history, but I wholly admire the founding aspirations of this Republic. More than this, I truly see the best of this wonderful idealism reflected in ModSquad. Here’s a company that proudly offers opportunities to parents, grandparents, people with mobility issues… the list goes on and on. ModSquad knows that people can show true greatness, regardless of the hurdles life throws their way. This is why ModSquad opens its arms to hard-working, talented individuals, offering the chance to work from home, live your life, and build a career. The people at ModSquad have always known that putting success first doesn’t breed happiness, but putting happiness first does breed success.

Success without happiness is, of course, possible; but it is fleeting. However, happiness brings with it a success that is indestructible. That’s why I and thousands of others like me are proud to say, “We are the Mods!”

Many thanks,
Joe M.

ModSquad on the Road: Our November 2018 Travelogue

We’ve had a busy road schedule over the past few weeks here at ModSquad: a speaking engagement, a hosted meet-and-greet for clients and industry insiders, and meeting old friends and new at industry events. Whew! Let’s dive in!

opentalk talkdesk 2018 conferenceFirst stop was the Opentalk conference at Pier 48 in San Francisco. Hosted by ModSquad partner Talkdesk, a leading customer-support software provider, the company trumpeted their capabilities through product announcements and far-seeking roadmap presentations. CEO Tiago Paiva opened the event with a keynote talk that ran through the company’s history and enthused about their plans for growth. Their planned 4x jump is in no small way reliant upon the company’s omnichannel strategy, which looks to cover every expectation of contact center leaders. While AI and other tech were of course a key element of the company’s future capabilities, Paiva and other speakers consistently stressed the human element, the power of storytelling in every customer interaction, and those “magic moments” that lead to amazing customer experiences.

zendesk relate 2018 conferenceFrom there, our intrepid digital-engagement mavens headed up to the Nob Hill neighborhood of the City by the Bay, to the Fairmont Hotel, where Zendesk’s Relate conference opened its doors. We’re fans of the Relate series, and this installment was no exception. Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane kicked off the proceedings (in a very snappy gold suit, we must say) with some major announcements for the company. By supporting more direct B2C engagement in the omnichannel environment for such clients as Levi’s, Zendesk has seen 11 straight quarters of growth. Not resting on their laurels, ModSquad partner Zendesk is now coming to market with Sunshine (hence the suit), their own proprietary CRM platform. Svane described the tool — which is built in the public cloud on Amazon Web Services — as an effort to help businesses connect and understand all of their customer data, wherever it resides. Other new initiatives for the company include Zendesk Sell, a sales force automation tool, and data analytics tool Zendesk Explore.

The conference also explored the customer-support environment as a whole, with in-depth discussions on trends (phone use is expected to rise, even as automation grows), insights (channel preferences vary by country, so support providers must adapt), and best practices (empathy, positivity, and trust are key to good support). Reps from other industry-leading companies offered presentations, from Box’s discussion on improving support via refined workflows to Uber’s tales of global customer support.

While we were on the road, ModSquad kept the conversation going at a mix and mingle event, where we hosted VIPs from client companies like Scribd, IngramSpark, ShipStation, and other brands that don’t have an “S” in their name. It was an evening of fun chats, great food and drink, and general camaraderie. A good time was had by all.

mike pinkerton modsquadFinally, in San Diego, ModSquad COO Mike Pinkerton was invited by the Ethical Corporation to participate in their Data & Privacy speaker series during the Responsible Business Summit West. The talk focused on how the principles of free speech affect businesses in today’s environment, from social responsibilities and liabilities to how companies work to safeguard their brands. Weighty topics, perhaps, but by exploring which companies are leading the way in curating responsible online content while keeping the democratic free speech principles in mind, it was an aspirational discussion that demonstrated to attendees the power of effective moderation.

That wraps up another whirlwind tour, where we were delighted to see so many clients, partners, and new friends. To all who met up with us along the way, our thanks. Keep an eye on the ModSquad blog for the next stirring adventures of the folks here at ModSquad!

Client Spotlight: Kid & Coe

If you’ve traveled to new cities with your family, you’re likely aware of how limiting and compact a hotel room can feel when you add kids to the equation. That’s how Kid & Coe, the subject of this Client Spotlight, came about — out of necessity to founder Zoie Coe. Traveling with her family, she quickly discovered that hotels aren’t always conducive to family living. Inspired, Coe found a way to ensure that families around the world can make advance bookings at residences that are designed with families in mind. A perfect example is this charming Amsterdam house, a kid-friendly offering that’s indicative of the quality spaces vetted by Kid & Coe.

We sat down with Coe, who described how her situation brought about the light-bulb moment that eventually birthed the eponymously named company and how she relies on ModSourcing to boost her customer support offerings.

How did Kid & Coe come about?

My husband is a touring DJ, and we travel a lot. When we had a little boy, we traveled to Australia and it took me a very long time to find a vacation rental in Sydney that touted itself as “family friendly” — and when we arrived, it really wasn’t. That term means different things, depending on your child’s age. For us, with a one-year-old, it was about as un-family friendly as you could get. It planted the seed in me that there had to be a better option to search for family friendly accommodations. There was no one website that spoke to that singular need.

On the flip side, we owned a small apartment in London that we were looking to rent out while we traveled, because it was extremely family friendly. I thought it would be great to share with other families when we’re not there. I only wanted to list it out to families. That singular focus is what sets us apart. It’s about creating a very focused offering of properties versus the thousands that you’d have to sift through otherwise. Some short-term rental sites have family-friendly filters, but what works for a family with teens isn’t necessary appropriate for a family with toddlers. We offer clearly outlined amenities so families have the info they need to book the best holiday for their own personal circumstances.

What were some of the customer support challenges you originally faced?

We’re a direct-to-consumer business with two sets of customers, the guests and the hosts, each with very unique needs. Another challenge is that it’s a 24/7 global business, so families arriving in Shanghai, Sydney, or New York are in different time zones. We’re a small team, and it’s physically impossible for us to be present at all times. That was where ModSquad was really able to help, with comprehensive coverage.

Why did you choose to work with ModSquad?

We had previously engaged a digital answering service. ModSquad nicely bridged that service and my internal customer support team. And now the Mods work with an operations handbook, and they just integrate with our team in a seamless, friendly, and professional way. The other big bonus for us, which made ModSquad an efficient choice, is that the Mods were very familiar with our CRM, which they use to log tickets. For those questions they can’t answer, they create tickets within our CRM, and our agents are able to pick those up. It’s important that that information is collected correctly, so it doesn’t look like it’s an outsource team. It’s very seamless, it’s efficient.

How has it been working with ModSquad?

The thing that’s helped the most has been that knowledge that we have 24-hour support. The Mods can ping my director of customer service over the weekend if something comes up, and he can determine if it’s urgent or can wait until Monday. Having that kind of filter has given everyone a bit more breathing room to deal with the truly urgent issues.

What’s next for Kid & Coe?

We’re focused on growth of new customers and inventory. We offer a home exchange program that we’re continuing to develop. And we’re focusing on refining what we do and doing it better, stronger, and more amplified. The other great thing about ModSquad is that they’re able to scale up with us, so come Christmas or some of our busier times, they’re flexible and nimble, and are able to refine support based upon our needs. You can’t do that with the typical team structure, so those benefits are hugely advantageous.

What Raising a Dog Teaches Us About Community Management

We spend a lot of time thinking of about communities — from development and sustaining to growth and beyond. Recently, the topic of community development got us thinking… Raising a community can be compared to raising a child, developing a political movement, throwing a themed party, or playing a sport. It also got some of our canine enthusiasts to thinking about key comparisons as well. Read on for our dog-friendly musings:

1. Positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Your community rules explain what type of activity you don’t want to see, but it’s essential to encourage desired behavior. See a thoughtful post or comment? A veteran member helping a new one? Use verbal and written praise, or even a small gift to show that’s what you want to see more of. Rewarding members is a tremendous asset.

2. Activities and entertainment are key.

As a community manager, it’s important to keep providing ways for members to feel involved. Share new content as often as you can, start discussions, ask engaging questions, and prompt creativity. If you don’t give them enough new elements to engage with, your community will get bored and find other ways to entertain themselves.

3. Regular check-ups (or check-ins) ensure good health.

Ensure the hard work you’re putting into your community is paying off by checking in regularly. The site you use to house your community should give you information about total and active users, post frequency, and overall engagement. You can also use Google Analytics to see things like which forum discussions are getting the most views or where on your community site users are dropping off. Due diligence and sensitivity to your community’s health will safeguard a long, rewarding experience for all.

4. Build trust through positive experiences.

You never know what type of communities your members have joined previously, and it’s possible they will be wary of you if they’ve felt put-off or antagonized by another brand’s community. Commit yourself to creating positive, personalized experiences, especially when welcoming new people.

5. Don’t discourage communication; it can actually be a good thing.

Vocal community members are an asset, even if that sometimes means they’re vocal in opposition to something you’ve done. They want you to know how they feel, so take the time to listen and respond when people raise concerns. Develop a great relationship with your community by checking in with community members, opening up to feedback, and recognizing the needs of your followers. Community engagement is most valuable when conversation exists.

6. Handle issues and accidents quickly and calmly.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes people get worked up and can’t keep themselves from letting out a not-so-nice comment. And by all means, don’t let problems fester! The longer you allow something to continue, the harder it will be to re-establish appropriate behavior. By establishing a thorough moderation plan, you’ll be able to quickly remove inappropriate content and keep your digital home clean.

7. Provide opportunities for socialization.

A huge part of community management is encouraging members to engage not just with your brand, but also with each other. While each member is unique, they have all joined your community out of shared interests or needs. Use your content and discussions to give people the opportunity to contribute their personal experiences and connect with other members.

A lot goes into raising a great dog (they’re not called “Man’s Best Friend” for nothing) or an engaging community. As dog lovers, we take that responsibility very seriously, but as community experts, it’s core to our every day!

Side thought… Now all we need is an online community composed entirely of dogs; 12/10 would give treats to all new members.

How to Establish a Customer Service Team for an Early Stage Business

Today’s consumer has constant access to countless options, fueling their expectation of instant gratification, and leaving no room for mediocrity. If they call your firm and are sent to voicemail, they simply move on to your competitors. If they purchase a product that doesn’t meet their expectations, they leave reviews online, and buy something else. Customer service has always been important, but today it’s paramount. Your reputation is your biggest asset, and it can turn on a dime.

While building your business, the time to assemble and train a customer service team may seem like a luxury you don’t have. But customer service is crucial to staying afloat. Personnel who are trained to put out fires allow you to focus on the big picture and generate growth and success. Establishing a customer service team in time for your launch can be done quickly and effectively when you know where to focus your efforts.

Inspire positive energy from your team. While a designated CS department is the goal, each employee’s attitude should be that of service to the customer. Start by hiring employees who subscribe to that philosophy, no matter their position in the company. For many small businesses, employees may, in early days, wear multiple hats and interact with customers on any given day. It only takes one rude interaction or delayed response to turn a customer into a critic. Employees who seek to please customers and pitch in where needed will carry your brand forward.

Set them up for success. If your customer service representatives don’t have the answers to your customers’ questions, the fault may not lie with them. When your agents are well trained, they generate happy customers — but they also enjoy a happier work environment, which in turn increases employee retention. Prep them for their customer interactions by providing the proper tools to respond. One quick solution: Assemble a quick reference document that customer service representatives can use to search a keyword or topic. Efficiency is one of the key things customers look for in customer service, so hire employees with an urgency to respond and an ability to think on their feet. Provide them with a customer support webpage that’s mobile friendly, and offer them the ability to respond via social media, text, and SMS to better accommodate customers on-the-go.

Provide 24/7 customer support. Customer service no longer exists in a bubble from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Customers seek answers around the clock, and are frustrated by companies they can’t reach. Despite the simplicity of today’s digital communications (email, text, chat), a study by the Harvard Business Review found that a majority of customers still prefer to talk to a human being when it comes to customer service. Furthermore, those calls are 10-15 times more likely to generate business than their digital counterpart. Having a customer support team available around the clock will give you a serious advantage. Evenings, weekends, and holidays are when consumers finally have a break in their day to seek out the services they need. But if customers can’t reach you, they’ll move on to a company that can. Customers, especially disgruntled ones, want to feel heard and tended to. An ideal solution is to outsource your customer support during these peak times, or even around the clock. Outsourcing customer service is more efficient and economical than training and employing on-site staff, and can be done much more quickly. An outsourced partner can also provide easy scalability, critical to early-stage companies that may still be figuring out peaks and dips in demand.

Set up a help desk. Some of the more successful support systems are launched with a basic help desk, or support ticketing software. While it’s tempting to classify this move as a Phase 2 action item, getting a help desk up and running at the start should improve your customer experience. It helps remove the bottlenecks and should increase team efficiency, ultimately paying itself off in ROI.

By hiring people who are committed to customer support across all departments, equipping your customer service representatives with quick resources and multiple outlets of communication, outsourcing your customer service as needed, and setting up a help desk, you can quickly establish a customer service team to take your business exactly where you want it to go. Set up your business for a customer thumbs-up.

ModSquad’s Gaming Marathon Helps Heal Kids

There are few things more fulfilling than putting your heart into helping others. This past weekend, ModSquaders around the world went all out for Extra Life 2018, playing games and fundraising for 24 hours straight, all in the name of helping the kids receiving care at Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It’s a cause that’s close to our hearts, and it’s always humbling to see the outpouring of support and enthusiasm from streamers, donors, and viewers.

For our fifth year participating in this annual event, we set what we thought was a high but achievable fundraising goal of $8,000. When all was said and done, we more than doubled that, raising over $16,000, 100% of which goes to helping heal children.

You’d think after 24 hours we’d be wiped out, but time flies when you’re doing good! So in case you missed any of the fun, or just want to walk down short-term memory lane, here’s a recap of how this awesomely memorable event played out.

Pre-Game Day

We just couldn’t wait until Saturday, November 3 to get our stream and fundraising started. We kicked off daily live streaming on Monday, October 29, with different ModSquaders gaming all afternoon and evening in the name of Extra Life.

ModSquad Extra Life 2018 Stream Week

Internally, we geared up for the big day with some trivia questions to make sure we were all on the ball with our Extra Life knowledge. See if you can get all five questions right (answers are at the end):

  1. Fill in the blank: This is ModSquad’s ___ year in a row participating in Extra Life.
  2. What charity benefits from the funds raised by ModSquad’s participation in Extra Life?
  3. What day and time does ModSquad’s Extra Life livestream begin this year?
  4. Name one of the on-site activities that will be triggered when a donation is received.
  5. What is Extra Life’s motto?

Game Day

We kicked things off bright and early Saturday morning, streaming live on Twitch, Mixer, Facebook and YouTube from four locations: our three operations centers in Sacramento, California; Austin, Texas; and Derry, Northern Ireland; as well as Clarksville, Tennessee.

ModSquad Extra Life Guilt Battle Arena

From I Am Bread and Guilt Battle Arena to a collection of Jackbox Games Party Packs, our stream teams kept things going as the donations continued to roll in. Before we even hit the halfway mark, we’d already exceeded our $8,000 fundraising goal.

To add to the fun, every donation we received triggered an activity at one of our stream team locations.

Our Derry office took whipped cream to the face for every $1-10 donation (all 26 of them).

Our Tennessee streamers took the Beanboozled challenge for every $11-20 donation (seen below: spoiled milk jelly bean).

For every $51+ donation, someone in Sacramento took a bite of a mystery pie (some got lucky with Jell-O and gummy worms, while others forced down bites of ketchup and frozen burrito).

And by far the most entertaining of challenges was at our Austin office, where each $21-50 donation resulted in a spin of the Hot Sauce Roulette wheel (RIP taste buds).

Amid all the fun, we kept in mind the reason we had all gathered: to help heal kids. Our Tennessee streamers were joined by Team Angelo, who inspired us with their touching story. Even though Angelo is no longer with us, we know the funds we raised will go to helping kids just like him.

We Gamed. We Saw. We Fundraised.

By the event’s end, we raised far more than our initial goal. Those funds, combined with the $5,000 dollar-for-dollar contribution made by ModSquad, means we raised a total of over $16,000 to date across our 26 members of Team ModSquad. This money will go to helping kids at the 18 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across North America selected by our team members. If you want to help us make an even bigger difference, you can still donate through the end of 2018.

We want to extend a HUGE thank you to everyone who was a part of this unforgettable event. Whether you donated, fundraised, streamed, watched live, ate unsavory pies, breathed fire from too many hot wings, tasted the worst jelly beans ever, took whipped cream to the face, played trivia, liked, commented, shared, or any combination of the above, we could not have done this without you. THANK YOU!

Now who’s ready to start planning for 2019? 😉

Trivia Answers:
1. 5th 2. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals 3. November 3, 8 a.m. PT 4. Pie Face, Beanboozled, Hot Wing Roulette, or Mystery Pie Challenge 5. Play Games. Heal Kids.

A Halloween Review, ModSquad Style!

Halloween really is the best, especially when surrounded by people who love to dress up! Between the cosplayers and Comic-Con lovers among us, we have more than enough wigs and props to go around, no matter what the occasion. When it comes to October 31st, we definitely love to put our creativity on display.

Check out this year’s awesome costumes and celebrations around the world from our the endlessly inventive folks at ModSquad.

Costumes abound at our Sacramento Operations Center

Our Austin Operations Center was well into the spirit of the holiday

In Derry, Northern Ireland, where our other Operations Center is located, Halloween is a huge deal.

Tera T. and her family sure know how to celebrate!

Kristina B. dressed as a unicorn, complete with her handmade headpiece. Her roommate was an elf from Dragon Age.

Krista R. and her family were dressed to impress for trick-or-treating.

Monica A., her husband, and her friend were enjoying the panda life. (Anyone have some bamboo?)

Izzy N. as Rainbow Brite (need to fuel up if we’re going to make it to Rainbow Land).

Gotta love Theresa G.’s flower power and her Halloween-spirited family.

Kim M.’s daughter trick-or-treated as a huntress. Watch out — she has good aim!

Make sure to put a lid on your candy buckets. Stacy L.’s granddaughter is the cutest raccoon around!

Beware the witching hour at Christie R.’s house!

Kelly A. of Team Rocket was on the prowl. Meee-owth, that’s right!

Has anyone seen Amy P.’s daughter Mary? We believe she may have been captured by aliens.

There you have it, another spooktacular mid-week treat to go along nicely with your leftover candy. A huge shout-out to everyone who shared their Halloween spirit with us — just a bit more proof Mod creativity knows no bounds.

What Extra Life Means to Us: Video Premiere

At ModSquad, we take social good seriously. That’s why, for the past five years, we’ve participated in Extra Life, an amazing fundraising event centered around supporting sick children and their families. Best of all, it combines two of our true loves — gaming and community — for a great cause. For the past few weeks, we’ve been ramping up for the annual 24 hour gaming extravaganza, joining others across the globe on November 3 to raise money and awareness for this amazing cause.

Our dedication to Extra Life spans back to 2014, with our level of participation growing larger and larger every year. In honor of our fifth year of fundraising, let’s take a look back at how we’ve supported this great cause over the years.

Extra Life’s mission to support sick children and their families touches close to home. We’ve had members of ModSquad benefit directly from the aid the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals offer to sick kids. When her son fell ill, ModSquad’s Director of People Operations Gina Miller was able to see firsthand the value and importance of the work that Extra Life supports.

ModSquad founder and CEO Amy Pritchard had the privilege of taking her daughter Mary to play in this year’s Extra Life United tournament at Walt Disney World. As Amy explained, “We met the most incredible children that have benefited from Extra Life fundraising and were completely blown away by the passion of everybody involved.”

ModSquad’s contributions have grown steadily over the years. In 2017, Extra Life advised us that the money we raised was enough to support a chemotherapy treatment, or heart monitor for a child in need. Nothing feels better than seeing the tangible benefits of your dedication to social good.

As we head into our fifth year of participation, we are ramping up our efforts — to epic proportions! This year we’ve added 24-hour live streaming from ModSquad’s Operations Centers in Sacramento, Austin, and Derry, as well as Tennessee, in an effort to get our global audience invested in the work Extra Life does to raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network. As the donations come in, we’ll have some fun challenges for our onsite participants that you won’t want to miss. See a roundup of all of ModSquad’s Extra Life events.

We’ve got a special enticement that will effectively help contributors double their donations: In honor of our fifth year supporting this great cause, ModSquad will be making a special dollar-for-dollar contribution of up to $5,000, based on donations to Team ModSquad. To bolster the impact this amazing charity can have in the hospital communities they serve, please consider supporting the cause.

Mod of the Month – October 2018

Fall is in the air. The days are shorter, the temperatures cooler (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), and blankets just feel cozier. But there’s one thing that doesn’t change with the seasons: our Mods’ commitment to their clients and customers. This month, we’re recognizing one particularly spectacular Mod contractor for her dedication and inspiration: Anna G., our October 2018 Mod of the Month!

Anna started on her first project in early 2015, after learning about ModSquad from her sister, who was also a Mod. In fact, those who’ve been reading our blog for some time may recognize Anna from our 12 Days of Mods celebration back in 2015; clearly, it didn’t take long for her to make an impression with many of our Project Managers.

Anna had always enjoyed community moderation, having participated in forums and on social media, even helping to moderate forums on a volunteer basis. ModSquad seemed like the perfect opportunity to pursue her passions.

Anna is based in Italy and currently works in social media and customer service. On social media, she answers questions, engages with customers, and moderates comments that don’t fit within the community guidelines. Anna helps translate client posts from English to Italian. She also handles customer support email tickets and helps to identify bugs and trends in order to inform the client.

I have a very good memory, so I can remember everything I see and read among social media feeds. This allows me to recognize an issue that is repeatedly reported by users and is becoming a trend, rather than just a single case.

Anna’s favorite office-mate is her six-year-old Shiba Inu, who keeps her company when working. In her spare time, Anna loves to write and has created short stories and novel-length works. She can often be found playing (along with her sister) JRPGs (Japanese Role Playing Games), which combine her love of video games with her degree in Japanese.

“I would onboard Anna to any project, at any time, because I just know she would rock it. There is nothing that Anna cannot do! Want reliable? Anna plans her schedule meticulously even two months ahead. Want detailed? Anna notices trends in a matter of minutes and is able to research and investigate any tech issue that comes our way. Want a good attitude? Anna is amazingly cheerful, friendly, fun, and just a joy to have on the project! All around, Anna is Anna-mazing!”
–Matea Makek, Project Manager

“Anna is reliable, knowledgeable, and a strong decision maker who works with our entire team for the best of the project. She’s an incredible Mod and a great person.”
–Anna Veretennyk, Project Manager

“Anna is amazing. She strives to find the solutions to bugs and quickly report back to the client. She’s not afraid to take on difficult tasks or situations. She also knows just what to say and what tone to take when dealing with difficult players.”
–Samantha Walker, Project Manager

Authentic Storytelling in the Digital World

Since before the written word was invented, storytelling has been used to help us understand and connect to the world. From the bedtime stories we’re told as children to the news articles we read today, we’ve been consuming stories our entire lives. When we interact with a brand online, we expect to learn their story as well.

In order to connect to customers on an emotional level, brands need to base their communications around authentic storytelling. This occurs when a brand’s narrative represents real human experiences, rather than contrived situations or scripted endorsements. By sharing their stories in an authentic way, using the right digital media and platforms to enhance their message, brands can build customer trust and inspire action.

Tell your real story

The key to successful storytelling is authenticity. Earlier this year, we looked at methods of leveraging customer feedback to embolden the consumer voice in brand narratives. Involving the content and perspective of consumers is a great way to tell more authentic stories. But there are other ways brands can weave authentic storytelling throughout their wider engagement strategy. While striking images and video tend to be engaging for viewers, truly powerful stories reach a customer emotionally, and connect to their humanity, values, and experiences.

Use digital to tell your story in a more engaging way

Brands have tremendous opportunities to tell better stories in more engaging ways. With practically limitless digital options, a brand could, for example, use augmented reality to enhance the user experience, making activities more memorable and more interactive.

National Geographic, well known for their incredible storytelling capability, has found creative ways to make social media part of their mission. Via various digital mediums, National Geographic tells the same story in different ways to reach a wider audience of people. This can take the form of an immersive 360° video or a striking piece of user-generated content featured on their community channels.

Adapt your story to the platform

Many people believe that storytelling is the future of social media, and platforms are continuing to add features that make sharing stories even easier.

Brands that tell engaging stories through their social content are able to attract and engage customers in a deeper way, reaching a wider audience. For example, a snack company might publish a series of features highlighting the chefs who design their snacks or a time lapse of how the snack is baked. A women’s rights nonprofit could share the specific events they’ve organized or profile the people who motivated them to found the organization.

At its core, brand storytelling is about more than the stories you’re telling. It’s about using those stories to drive a message and build stronger connections with your community and customers. In a world where consumer engagement is becoming increasingly immersive and interactive, digital media allows brands to explore the best ways to tell their stories — and for customers to feel like more than purchasers.

Onshore or Offshore Support? How to Make the Right Call for Your Business

A few decades back, the process of “offshoring” grew in popularity. Companies would hire people on distant shores to provide low-cost customer and technical support. Staffing a cubicle farm in a far-off land seemed beneficial to firms seeking to bolster their bottom line in time for the next quarterly report.

It wasn’t long before the process encountered blowback. Stories arose of support-seeking callers being stymied by circular, unhelpful conversations with agents unwilling to go off-script. People were frustrated by agents whose unfamiliarity with cultural nuances led to poor customer experience, unnecessary follow-up calls, and even lost business.

In recent years, there’s been a change in the status quo. Some of the regions that have been well-utilized resources for offshoring support services have seen worker salaries increase, making the cube-farm dwellers less affordable than they were a decade ago. While many companies still prefer the offshore support model, there’s a growing number of U.S.-based companies that are opting to work with domestic support agents (and other formerly offshored teams like web developers).

The reasons for this are many. Some clients prefer to keep their support teams within national borders for reasons of language a built-in understanding of their customers’ culture and background, or simply to have a team working in the same time zone. For many companies, the benefits of U.S.-based support comes down to the ability of agents to resolve customer queries that require more than canned responses. They may require agents with workflow proficiency and technical skills that allow for greater productivity in terms of ticket resolution.

But what works for some might be more than what others need. Some companies simply require a customer support solution that will keep their ticket queues to a manageable level. They’re looking for a team of agents that can manage a large number of inquiries from customers and provide them with scripted replies out of a knowledge-base document. In times like this, it can make sense to look offshore, where hourly rates for agents performing these tasks are typically more attractive.

Knowing when to offshore your support needs and when to keep them close to home can make or break your budget as well as customer loyalty.

And then there’s ModSourcing. We can tailor the solution to what you need, whether you ultimately opt for offshore or U.S.-based support. Our network of Mods are located in 70 countries around the globe. Looking for native-language Portuguese from someone in-country? We can help. Even more importantly, we’ll find and staff your engagement with fans of your brand, no matter where they are. We find people who know and love your product to engage your audience and keep them committed to your brand. That’s a decision that will prove beneficial for years to come.

Project Manager of the Quarter – October 2018

Is eight years a long time? It is in the digital world. Just think: by mid-2010, Instagram and Snapchat didn’t exist, and most of us still hadn’t made the leap from flip-phone to smartphone. In those same eight years, we’ve seen lots of employees and Mod contractors grow with us, and today we’re highlighting one particularly spectacular guy: our newest Project Manager of the Quarter, Brian Fuhrman!

Years ago, Brian was involved in an online radio station that provided 24/7 live DJ and event services to MMORPGs. That’s where he met our Senior VP, Global Operations, Rich Weil, who told him all about ModSquad (then Metaverse Mod Squad). Brian was sold!

In his time as a Project Manager for ModSquad, Brian has been at the helm of many projects, particularly for a number of our video game clients. He’s managed teams providing customer support, community moderation, social engagement, and everything in between. He’s happy to work on any project in the digital gaming space, but his favorite is working in community management. In his words, “there is nothing greater than watching a grassroots community thrive.”

As a Project Manager, Brian works to inspire and support his colleagues and clients. He also hopes the work he and his teams do can help contribute to larger goals for the digital space:

At the end of the day, online communities can be very challenging. There are so many different personality types that make up a community, and my hopes and dreams are that everyone can enjoy a community without ridicule or bad-mouthing and instead just enjoy one another and the product everyone has rallied around.

Brian has been involved in many product launches for clients, and it’s thanks in large part to his thorough communication and problem-solving skills that they go off without a hitch.

The feeling of launching a product after months and months (and months!) of work is a one-of-a-kind feeling, something that extends beyond being proud.

Through the years of project management, Brian has amassed a wealth of knowledge. Asked what tips he would give a new Project Manager, he shared these best practices:

  1. Embrace and empower the people you work with
  2. Find your weaknesses and strive to improve
  3. Ask for help when you need it
  4. Communicate effectively
  5. Find a mentor

And his number one, above-all tip: have passion for what you do. Brian furthers his passions by getting involved, learning everything he can, and most importantly, having fun.

“Brian is one of the most energetic, positive, community-driven people I’ve met at ModSquad. He loves this profession, and his enthusiasm is electric. He’s always looking for ways to learn more, be better, and grow. He’s a super fan of his clients and a rock-solid Project Manager.”
–Izzy Neis, Sr. Director, Digital Engagement

“Brian is a favorite Project Manager among clients. He’s smart, proactive, knowledgeable, and hardworking, as well as always willing to talk your ear off about Doctor Who or video games. He’s one of our go-to guys for any clients with gaming community needs.”
–Jason Ferguson, Sr. Director, Client Services

“Brian is excellent at what he does. He is consistently awesome and will run through walls to get the job done. He knows what it takes for his project to be successful, turning ifs into whens and problems into solutions. Brian loves ModSquad and is a fun person to be around. He engages those around him with his enthusiastic ModSquad spirit.”
–Matt Ramsey, Account Manager

Building Up Your Customer Support Team: The Hidden Costs of Hiring

The time has come to increase your customer support team. Perhaps you’re preparing to release a highly anticipated product. Or your company is growing enough that your existing team can’t keep up. These are good situations to be in, so you want to ensure your next step positions your company for continued growth.

You have many support channels to manage: social, chat, email, phone, app messaging, and more. You’re likely weighing the benefits of hiring in-house versus outsourcing your support needs. While they may seem like apples to apples on the surface, there are some hiring costs you may not have thought about. Let’s walk through a checklist of costs to consider when you’re at this crossroads.

Management

Most likely, your workers have a manager. It may be hard to quantify exactly how much of the manager’s time is spent managing team members, but they’re typically working at a higher pay rate, and that ongoing task is going to represent a significant chunk of their time. You can add that portion of the manager’s salary to the cost of the worker they are managing.

Hiring and Training

When you decide to hire for yourself, you’re keeping your HR team on their toes. They’re tasked with promoting the role, screening and interviewing candidates, checking references, and ultimately making the offer, negotiating, and onboarding. They (and other departments) will then need to spend time training your new hire. In the unfortunate instance your recent hire decides the job is not for them or you’ve made a poor hire, you have to start all over.

Equipment

When staffing up your office space, you need to provide your workers with a desk, office equipment, a computer, software, and internet access. You need maintenance and IT staff to keep your workspace and computer systems running efficiently. You’ll also need to pay for the space itself. Pull it all together, and the costs start to add up.

Occupancy and Utilization

Occupancy and utilization are common buzz words in the customer support arena that are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly). Think of the occupancy rate as a measurement of how productive your agents are, determining how much time they spend supporting customers against their time logged in. A high occupancy percentage suggests that your support staff is being well deployed, not just waiting for the next support request to come in.

Utilization represents the time your agent is working versus the total amount of time you pay them, which includes time for training, breaks, coaching, lunch, etc. Outsourcing with a provider helps with utilization by ensuring that you’re not paying agents for time spent on breaks or participating in company meetings. Do your research — ideally an outsource provider will offer the flexibility to staff peak periods based on volume, rather than be constricted by filling a standard 40-hour work week.

By reviewing the costs and requirements associated with in-house hires, the scope of the decision is perhaps revealed to be larger than one might think. It’s a process that pulls in multiple departments and necessitates a large investment of time and capital. Compare that with an outsourced partner who provides on-demand coverage deployed only during those hours needed (it’s what we call ModSourcing here at ModSquad), rather than conforming to a standard 40-hour work week. It’s an efficient and cost-effective solution, once you break it down logically. And there’s no math required!

Happy (Fiscal) New Year 2019!

And that’s another year for the books! Fiscal year, that is.

While our buddies in the accounting division here at ModSquad are ringing in the new year and working diligently to close out the books on FY 2018, we thought it would be a great opportunity to page through the ledger of time to review the year that was. The ModSquad crew at large has had a busy 12 months, and we’ve been chronicling it all on the blog.

Even with four operation centers and team members around the globe, we still have that itch to get out there and spread the Mod word. We did that this year by setting up shop and taking part in conferences across two continents. In the U.S., we hit the Big Apple at Zendesk’s Relate Live, then jumped down south for SXSW and PAX South. On the west coast, we jammed at E3, Dreamforce, and GDC, and even hit Vegas for Shoptalk. Not to be outdone, our European team mates made a splash at their own Shoptalk Europe event in Copenhagen.

In June, Mike Pinkerton hit the bright lights of Manhattan to pick up more hardware for our overcrowded awards shelf, at the US-Ireland Top 50 New York-New Belfast Conference.

We celebrated the World Cup with a friendly worldwide competition. And we cheered on our ModSquad teams as they participated in the annual 24-hour Extra Life fundraising event and the four-day Extra Life United gathering in Florida.

We worked with Harris Interactive to take a pulse check on people’s views on brand trust and online moderation in today’s world and spun up some fun infographics to spread the word.

In the past year, we proudly introduced the world at large to many of the powerhouse people that make our company as strong as it is, from our Meet the Mods video to our ongoing Mod of the Month feature to our Project Managers of the Quarter. We profiled Directors Gina Miller and Izzy Neis and Account Managers Monica Armstrong and Stephen Dunne. And we gave a warm welcome to our new VP of People Operations, Kristyn DeRaffele.

Clearly, Kristyn’s been on a tear, as we’ve grown our Mod Network by 80% in the year since she’s been on board. We’ve learned a lot about the Mods this past year, from where they like to vacation and spend their down time to what they’ve been reading, their hobbies… even their dogs!

Those Mods sure have their work cut out for them, as we added 90 new accounts, launched 229 new engagements, and grew revenue 30% year over year. Our client roster was already rocking (check out highlights from cool brands Tourism Ireland and Flybrix). Now, we’re stoked to add some great brands to the mix, including Zynga, Kid & Coe, Razor, and Funko (can we have Pop! figurines of our exec team, please?). Plus, it was a real kick seeing client Brilliant Pad land a deal on Shark Tank.

All in all, it was another fast-paced, amazing year here at ModSquad. We’ve got really cool things coming down the pike, which you’ll be reading about here on the blog. Cheers to our extraordinary team and here’s to a fantastic FY 2019.

— Amy Pritchard, CEO

The Power of Surprise and Delight

One of our employees recently shared this story: “A couple months before my wedding, I was shopping for a pair of budget-friendly shoes to match my dress. I found a pair on Zappos, but they were $10 more expensive than on Amazon. Via live chat, a support rep agreed to price-match the shoes and congratulated me on my engagement. A few days after receiving my shoes, another box appeared at my doorstep. In it was a plush blanket and a handwritten note wishing my fiancé and me some relaxation time among the stress of wedding planning.”

This is just one of many examples of what’s known as a genuine “surprise and delight” moment.

Surprise and delight is the desired outcome when a representative adds value to a customer’s experience by delivering beyond the usual service. At their best, these gestures are thoughtful, creative, and meaningful for the customer. Most importantly, these moments should be consumer-centric, tailored to meet the unique needs of a specific individual.

Although unique to the customer, one thing successful surprise and delight experiences share is a strong link to the customer service team. It’s essential to bear these factors in mind when incorporating “surprise and delight” into your approach.

Involve your customer support team. Often, surprise and delight strategies will be initiated by the marketing team, but involving the customer support team is key to success! If your frontline team is aware of the core objectives, they’ll be able to identify unique situations that can be transformed into wow moments. Ultimately, delivering great experiences is about understanding your customers and their needs, which is exactly what your engagement team will be doing on each and every interaction. Trust the customer service team to be an active participant in the wider process, identifying and fostering opportunities to surprise and delight.

Be open to the magic. Sometimes it’s not possible to plan authentic surprise and delight moments in advance. Often, their strength is in their spontaneity. Because a surprise and delight opportunity could come from diverse situations, it’s important to stay open to possibilities to go above and beyond for customers, especially in ways that fall outside of your usual remit or service area.

Create spaces to spread the word. In order for a surprise and delight moment to be memorable and authentic, it’s essential that the customer experience is the number-one priority. That said, there is tremendous potential to leverage the positive story in such a way that improves brand loyalty and awareness. In order to capture this feedback in a meaningful way, brands should encourage their community to share their experiences. This could be via brand community forums, social media platforms, brand hashtags, or review sites. Once the feel-good story of surprise and delight reaches a wider audience, the 1:1 interaction develops a 1:many impact.

Surprise and delight has the power to improve someone’s day, which in turn has the potential to increase their brand loyalty for life. Imagine delivering a standard of service whereby every support provider is searching for opportunities to make the ordinary extraordinary. It is within this space where true magic is made.

First Impressions Are Everything: How to Wow First-Time Customers

The moment a potential customer comes in contact with your brand, the customer experience begins. With word of mouth recommendations and firsthand reviews, it’s possible a customer has a sense of your brand before they even arrive at your door. The great news is, regardless of what opinion they may have formed before they interact with your business, you can start off on the right foot with a great first impression.

Yes, we know the cliché, but your first impression is truly a lasting one. Whether someone is patronizing from a recommendation or they’ve just happened upon your business, you have one opportunity to wow them and transform them into a repeat customer. Impress your audience and grow your customer base with these simple but powerful suggestions.

Offer a proper greeting. We greet people with excitement when we’re happy to see them, so let your customers feel a similar enthusiasm when you serve them. Whether it be a specialized greeting or simply an enthusiastic hello, that vibrant good-naturedness is a powerful tool. You’ll also want to eliminate any potential roadblocks that could detract from their first encounter. If your website is their first interaction, make it an easy and pleasant experience by ensuring your digital storefront is user friendly and easy to navigate. Offer help via chat, easily accessible FAQs, and contact information.

Under-promise, but over-deliver. In other words, add value to that initial interaction. It doesn’t have to be a huge gesture, but make the effort to offer something additional that makes customers feel like their investment in your business was a smart decision. Throw in a discount card, or a surprise-and-delight element. A little goes a long way when it comes to making customers feel appreciated.

Be consistent. Don’t make that great first experience a fluke. Even if a customer’s first experience was sterling, they won’t come back if all subsequent experiences are less-than-desirable. Make consistency a part of your customer experience model. Explain the importance of this to your employees and stand behind your expectations. Your front line needs to best deliver on the promise of your brand and represent the spirit of your business. Be sure to value your employees and educate them on how important they are to the customer experience.

Ask for feedback. Solicit input from new and existing customers. This firsthand information is vital in crafting a specialized customer experience. The beauty of asking for customer feedback is that it demonstrates that you value their opinions and allows them to feel heard. Even if their first encounter wasn’t ideal, asking how you could make it better lets them know you care and appreciate their business.

Follow up with your customers. This step is vital, particularly for smaller businesses. Collect their email address and send a follow-up email about their experience, along with a offer for their next purchase. If it’s fitting for your business, consider making a personalized phone call. It’s easy for a customer to feel like just another order number. Think outside the box and craft a way to follow up with your customer.

Creating an incredible first experience for your customers has long-term benefits. Keep in mind that as much effort as went into acquiring those customers needs to go into maintaining that relationship. While it may seem easier to retain a customer, don’t underestimate the effort you’ll need to put forth to keep them coming back for more. These steps are a great way to get things off on the right foot.

The Value of Human Moderation Amid the Rise of AI

ModSquad was built around the importance of moderation, the careful monitoring and maintaining of digital spaces and communities. Moderation is, to put it simply, the backbone of who we are as a company and the work we do every day. Even in the 11 years since ModSquad’s founding, moderation AI and algorithm usage for online communities has grown significantly.

With artificial intelligence applications continuing to expand, we’ve been closely following the evolution of AI technology to determine how these tools best complement our practices. We’re already seeing AI being employed for content moderation, which opens up new avenues of intelligent moderation. But for true, human intelligence, the best moderation of the future will be a combination of learning algorithms and real-world, real-time human moderation. We expect great results as AI and human moderators work in tandem.

When we discuss the presence of AI in daily life, we’re usually talking about assistants like Siri, Cortana, and Alexa. At their inception, we’d ask them some arbitrary question just to see what they’d answer; now, we have them ordering groceries or organizing our calendars for the week ahead. With AI rapidly spreading into more facets of our daily lives, what is the impact on content moderation?

AI is nothing new for mainstream social media platforms, which have used it to remove offensive and copyrighted content. The speed at which AI works is certainly a major perk. With the amount of questionable content being flagged and taken down each day by Facebook and YouTube’s existing AI moderation, it’s clear that quick action is essential in ensuring inappropriate content doesn’t make it to viewers’ eyes in the first place. That speed is something human moderation on its own simply can’t match.

However, what human moderation lacks in speed is made up in understanding. Having a program that flags keywords, images, or video content is fantastic for ensuring content is actioned quickly. However, AI isn’t at the point where it can understand subtle nuances in language; it could therefore be easily convinced that acceptable content requires action, just because it contains a certain word or phrase. Online communities often have their own unique vernacular and slang, which can evolve over time. This is where human moderators have a distinct advantage. They’re able to interpret not just what is being said but also what is intended.

This idea of intent is a huge part of moderating online communities. To determine if something requires moderation, context is key. Where AI can flag something as potentially offensive, human moderators are able to understand if something really is offensive, or if it can be chalked up to friendly banter between users who know each other and how they communicate. This is particularly relevant in gaming communities, especially for games focusing on PVP (player-versus-player) content.

Let’s suppose AI does flag and remove a complaint, for example, which is out of the accepted conduct guidelines for a given community space. Even if the moderation is warranted, AI is only able to notify the user through prewritten scripts. A human moderator, however, can analyze the issue and the context surrounding it, and customize a note that educates the individual. Perhaps another user baited them into breaking the rules, and they were only responding, or they’re a new user who may not be familiar with the code of conduct.

A personalized note sent by a real human moderator not only explains why something was removed, but also leaves the door open for discussion in case the user has questions about the action taken or how this might impact his/her participation in the community. Human moderators have a distinct advantage of being able to converse with the community. Those honest, transparent conversations lead to better customer experiences.

The internet is a strange place, fostering new developments and uses of language, many of which can’t be entirely understood by AI. Using the power of AI to catch potential infractions of copyright or terms of service and to issue auto-bans gets you only part of the way there. Understanding flagged content and processing user appeals requires human moderation. Consider also that AI is not infallible; there may be times when moderators will correct mistakenly flagged or pulled material. When you couple the swiftness of automated AI with thoughtful human moderation, the result is a powerful combination.

Mod of the Month – September 2018

It’s officially fall, y’all! While Halloween decorations have been in stores for weeks already, we can’t enter October until we’ve taken care of the most important part of September: our newest Mod of the Month. So without further ado, please join us in a pumpkin spiced round of applause for our September 2018 Mod of the Month, Tarina C.!

Tarina joined ModSquad in August 2014 when a family friend, a ModSquad Project Manager at the time, mentioned he was recruiting Mods for a large project. Over the past four years, Tarina has done forum moderation for several of our video game clients, as well as some work on social media projects.

Currently, Tarina works for a client that’s one of the busiest airports in the world, providing customer support and engagement via social media to many of the thousands of travelers who pass through the airport each day. In addition to providing helpful information and friendly welcomes, she is also responsible for responding to social media reviews and escalating feedback and requests to various internal departments at the airport.

Tarina may be humble about the work she does, but ask any Project Manager who’s worked with her and they’ll confirm she’s stellar. For Tarina, it’s all about doing everything she can to take care of a customer.

I enjoying making people’s days a little bit better, and both forum moderation and social media allow me to do that, in different ways. I would say my proudest moments are any time that someone follows up with a positive message after I respond to a complaint.

Outside of work, Tarina stays busy with a full house, including her husband, a daughter in high school, two dogs, and three cats. As she puts it, “When I’m not watching my daughter’s tennis matches or chasing the dogs away from the cat food, I can be found involved in a wide range of activities.” Tarina’s creativity fuels many hobbies, including watercolor painting, calligraphy, and photography. She also loves video games and is currently building her own game using RPG Maker. And as if that’s not enough, she co-directs the drama program at her daughter’s former elementary/middle school.

“Amazing is an understatement. Tarina is absolutely an invaluable part of our project and is always ready to help out in any way she can. She is fun, witty, and engaging in her responses to our broad customer base, and our client has called out several of her responses for being so good. Tarina is fantastic and the very definition of what a Mod of the Month should be.”
— Kellie Cioffi, Project Manager

“Since starting on our project, Tarina has impressed everyone with how quickly she learned the material and how easily she’s matched the brand tone for engagement. She’s been absolutely incredible! She’s extremely attentive to detail and does outstanding work for our customers, our client, and our team. I’m super grateful to have her on our project. If we’re still adding Mods to the eventual cloning candidate pool, Tarina has my vote for sure!”
— Cassie Daley, Project Manager

“Tarina has been consistently excellent in every project I’ve worked with her on over the years. She has a great sense of humor that lights up group chats, and she is professional and timely with her engagements. She’s a real treat to work with, as she helps makes projects shine.”
— Mike Poe, Project Manager

Customer Care for the Mobile-First Consumer

Let’s be honest: our daily lives involve a lot of this.

So why when we need to contact customer support should we have to do this?

We’re living in a mobile-first society. For the majority of brands, it’s in your best interest to cater to the mobile customer. Below are a few essential steps you can take to ensure you’re providing a mobile-friendly customer experience.

Design a Mobile-Friendly Website

By now, this should be a no-brainer, but it’s one of the most important things you can do. If your support portal is hosted or designed separately from your main site, ensure that it’s easy to navigate via mobile as well.

Make sure to try it out for yourself or contract some QA testers to do a thorough pass. Do your customers have to pinch and zoom to read important text? Do essential buttons like “Submit” or “Contact Us” get lost off the side of the page on certain size displays? Is it responsive to all phone displays or just the most recent models?

If you offer phone support, make your contact number an easy click-to-call button. Don’t display your phone number as part of an image or as text, forcing customers to bounce back and forth between their browser and call app to manually enter.

Respond on Social Media

The vast majority of social media usage is via mobile devices. In addition to sharing their own content and connecting with others, people actively use social media to reach out to brands with questions and feedback, and they expect a response (a quick one, at that). Unfortunately, most of these messages go ignored; let’s not feed that statistic.

If you have a social media presence, don’t just post content and call it a day. Have someone (or multiple someones, depending on volume) who monitors your social media channels to respond to comments, tweets, messages, and reviews. Positive customer experiences on social media have been proven to contribute to greater brand loyalty, and who doesn’t want that?

Offer Text/SMS Support

When you need a quick response from a friend, do you email them or text them? Exactly. So why should customer support be any different? Familiar and convenient, text support is like a live chat, but without the need to stay connected the entire time.

In 2017, the world sent approximately 16 million text messages. Per. Minute. It’s safe to say texting has become most people’s primary form of communication. As with social media, leverage the platforms your customers are already comfortable with to provide them the most convenient support possible. Don’t worry, your agents won’t have to use mobile; there are several tools that allow them to manage text messages from a computer. Just keep in mind that customers will likely expect quick responses and around-the-clock availability.

Respond Quickly

The average response time for a text message is just 90 seconds, and even that can feel too long when you’re waiting for an important reply. Compare that to the average response time for a customer support e-mail (around 12 hours), and it’s easy to see why consumer expectations may seem more demanding in a mobile-first world.

Whether you’re just considering the mobile-first customer or honing your current support strategy to better serve them, consider both short- and long-term goals. Some website adjustments will take longer to roll out, while things like a click-to-call button can be quick to implement. If you don’t have the bandwidth to add full-time staff to support your social channels or offer text support, consider outsourcing to a team of experienced agents who’ve done both for a range of businesses. It’s a worthwhile investment; the payoff will be in the smiles on your customers’ faces when they eventually look up from their devices.

Director Profile: Izzy Neis

The subject of this installment of our Director Profile series, Izzy Neis, is a true renaissance woman. Izzy is our Sr. Director, Digital Engagement, and in her well-rounded career, she’s done it all, from teaching and writing to working as an artist and a coach. With a recurring theme of helping others running through her work, Izzy jokes about a particularly helpful book she wrote, an essential tome on the eternal struggle of potty-training kids. (It’s a true collectible: A working, mint-condition book will set you back a few hundred dollars at the time of this writing.)

Izzy has worked in publishing, marketing, entertainment development, and customer engagement. She has spoken at conferences, schools, universities, symposiums, and — in a personal favorite moment for her — in congressional meetings discussing children’s safety legislation. Today, Los Angeles-based Izzy brings her skills as a strategy consultant, community manager, and safety/COPPA expert to ModSquad. We caught up with Izzy to discuss her work.

Tell us about yourself. What was your background before coming to ModSquad?

Before joining ModSquad, I worked for several entertainment brands and game companies, primarily focusing on the areas of digital entertainment branding, user engagement, community development, and online safety (in particular as they pertain to children). I initially met Amy Pritchard, ModSquad’s CEO, a little over ten years ago. She discovered my industry blog, reached out, and we became friends. I had been a ModSquad client three times before joining the team.

What are your primary responsibilities here? What is an average day like for you?

I wear a few hats here, and no two days are the same. I’m an Account Manager for several amazing clients, and I provide strategy consultation. Additionally, I head the Digital Media team, oversee community and social media services, support the digital side of communications, and work very closely with Marketing, Business Development, and Sales. I’m very proud to be a part of the core team in our Services department, innovating and ensuring the highest quality support for our clients.

What sets ModSquad apart, in your opinion?

The people. Our product is our people. ModSquad is a sum of its parts, and its parts are passionate individuals who care about brands, games, experiences, and engagement. We are all fans of something, hobbyists or devoted super fans, who have found a way to tie that passion into a profession.

We’re not a hall of cubicles with bad lighting and precious red staplers. We succeed because we allow people to strive and grow and be creative. We have levels of choice here. If you’re passionate about comics, go for a spot on that new comic client. If you’re a game expert, we need you on our massively popular game client. Have 30 pairs of designer jeans by the same label? You’d be a great help assisting fellow customers.

I have one client, an entertainment brand and game, that has been with us for nearly six years. I still have the majority of the same team that I had when we launched, and they only want to work on that client.

Our Mods are our business, and their passions are our passions. We excel because of the sum of our parts, and that’s the people and the passion they put into work.

Do you have any favorite memories or stories about your time at ModSquad? Was there a memorable rewarding experience you’ve had here?

Where to begin? A few years ago I was flown to Walt Disney World to speak to their parks team about tweens and digital communities. That was a bit of a dream come true. There have been some epic trips with the management and executive teams for yearly planning sessions or conferences like SXSW. Whenever we have a chance to be in the same location at the same time, it’s magic.

And yet, some of the most rewarding experiences have come from the crunch times. Quick launches, large-scale requests, supporting teams as we diligently work through queues for clients. You really see the mettle of people when they’re deep in the “make it work” mode. It’s inspiring, and I’m always reminded how grateful I am for our team and their work ethic.

ModSquad continues to grow, both in size and ability. We flex and flow, and we embrace and support. Every year I’ve been here has shown me a new layer or dimension. The talent we retain, and the new muscle we bring in? That’s a testament to the quality of ModSquad.

The Vital Roles of Social Media Manager and Community Manager

When we read about roles in organizations that participate in social media, the terms “social media manager” and “community manager” are often used interchangeably. While there are some shared commonalities, there are subtle but important differentiators.

Let’s take the role of the community manager (CM), for starters. It’s the goal of the community manager to build a bridge between people. Whether it’s for a brand, a topic/passion, or an experience, community managers look to facilitate a sense of “group” by fostering relationships, engaging users, and keeping conversations and activities progressing in a welcoming and healthy environment.

A skilled CM has the unique responsibility of serving as both the voice of the company to the customer and the voice of the customer back to the company. Sharing the passion of the community while also understanding and driving the greater good is a necessary (and sometimes tricky) balance. The ultimate goal is creating a sense of group loyalty and growth.

A community manager’s role is a combination of host, party planner, mediator, camp counselor, press secretary, rule enforcer, and support. Keeping the audience lively and engaged, welcoming new faces, setting rules and expectations, and boosting the brand’s visibility are key aspects of the position.

Sharing many of the same core aspects of the community manager, the social media manager’s role expands due to the open, public visibility of social platforms, and the marketing/PR/advertising undertones.

A social media manager is on point for driving digital communications strategy, while helping to influence and guide the public’s experience and engagement across social platforms. A social media manager’s priority is to pay close attention to the perceived value of a brand’s social networks, from positive engagement to PR crisis handling.

Social media managers craft the content calendars and often write the material that fills up that calendar. He/she schedules posts across multiple channels, with a keen understanding of when best to engage an audience, where, and how. Knowing the habits and behaviors of communities as they pertain to the unique customs and abilities of each social platform is a must, as is tracking growth via KPIs and undulating trends to help determine success.

Social media managers must be on their toes. Innovation added to fresh styles of communication help maintain and grow social media presence, and social media managers need to be ever-present in monitoring competitive campaigns, new social offerings, the latest community trends, memes, gifs, and pop culture overall. Meanwhile, the heart of the community will beat strong if the energy, passion, and support a community manager puts into the environment is high and genuine.

In essence, the social media manager develops the material and experience a company needs to bring in and help grow a brand’s community on a public stage. The community manager focuses on managing and growing the collaborative and interactive experiences of the community itself. They’re both interacting with the audience, but go about their work with different focuses and goals that are equally vital to developing a strong relationship with your customers.

Engaging a Remote Workforce

When your workforce operates remotely 24/7/365 and spans the globe, you can’t keep everyone engaged using the same strategies you would in a standard office setting. We’ve learned a thing or two over the past 11 years about engaging a remote workforce, and while we don’t have Angela’s Party Planning Committee, we have other tactics that are just as effective (and don’t involve arguing over streamer colors).

Unlike other companies that offer work-from-home opportunities, ModSquad was founded as a distributed model, valuing unique flexibility for both our clients and our Mods. Remote work is core to who we are; it’s interwoven into our company culture. We feel connected to our clients and their causes, rather than to a cubicle.

While we may not see each other face-to-face, we strive to motivate our Mods by coming together in digital spaces. It’s an essential initiative for any company utilizing a remote workforce. Here are some of the ways we’ve found work best.

Connect People to Work That Matters to Them
Ultimately, it’s important to connect people with work they care about. Our Mods are fans of the brands they represent, which means they get to work for clients they believe in, using their skills to engage, moderate, and support customers they can connect with. When the work is rewarding, Mods feel they’re making a positive impact.

Find the Time (Zone)
If you work in a global organization, you’ve probably lamented at least once of the complications presented by differing time zones. While many companies choose to operate off of a standard time zone for communication purposes, that doesn’t change the fact that for some people, it’s day when for others it’s night. When scheduling meetings, both one-on-one and as a group, find times that work for everyone, no matter where they’re located. If it’s not possible for a meeting to be convenient for everyone, it’s a good idea to take turns accommodating different schedules.

Celebrate Greatness
Always look for ways to acknowledge and celebrate the individuals within your organization; doing so goes a long way in showing how much you value their contributions. Here at ModSquad, our Project Managers nominate a Mod of the Month to recognize the stars among us and their outstanding work. Not only does it highlight a job well done, but the recognition helps engage the whole team.

Share and Connect
Inviting remote workers to share things that matter to them is a great way to get to know one another and find common ground. So many friendships have formed at ModSquad, among people who have never met in person. That’s because we make it a point to share with each other: photos of home, books that inspire us, hobbies we enjoy, among other things. We introduce the pets who make sure we never work alone (many of whom our colleagues come to know and love). And we enjoy a bit of healthy competition during special events like the World Cup.

Although remote workers operate on their own, we’re all working toward a common objective. By encouraging collaboration and engagement, people feel that they are a vital part of an organization in which they believe.

If you’re an experienced professional who loves the idea of remote working, find out how to join the Mods!

Bad Weather? No Power? No Problem!

We love to talk about the weather; for many of us, it’s more than small talk. There’s no end to the drama that unfolds on your local weather station, but there’s no need for your business to suffer (even with hurricanes hurtling toward landfall and snowpocalypses burying cities in two feet of powder and ice). You can avoid these headaches and potentially dangerous situations by investing in a remote workforce — either one of your own making or one to which you outsource your services. It’s a smart move, as we’ll illustrate below (besides, it’s the future that we’ve been promised for decades now):

It maximizes your productivity. When your workforce is based in a single location, you’re at the mercy of whatever circumstance may throw your way. Storms, floods, power outages, states of emergency, and widespread ailments can shut down your operations overnight. Spreading your workforce around the country or around the world eliminates that risk; even if some team members are down for the count due to loss of power, your remote workforce can help pick up that slack. The U.S. federal government instituted a telecommuting policy after the bird flu pandemic of the early 2000s. That policy proved to be a wise decision after snow-related closures in 2009 and 2010; government employees weathered the storm by working from home, saving more than $30 million a day during that period.

It creates a more inclusive workforce. Employers who build a team of remote workers provide opportunities to people with disabilities, military families, and those who are unable to commute or need a flexible schedule. It not only opens up the possibilities of a greater range of team members, but encourages workers to stick around longer. Giving team members the flexibility to have schedules which enable them to balance work and home goes a long way toward building loyalty.

Weather is no longer a major concern. With the winter comes new obstacles to overcome, and those in snowy regions are well familiar with the hazards of wintry weather. Warnings to avoid travel during heavy snowfall are often accompanied by requests of commuters to work from home. While some fortunate workers are able to do their duties remotely, others aren’t quite so lucky, and must put themselves at risk in order to perform their job. Having a remote team not only increases productivity and saves money, it keeps team members out of harm’s way.

The numbers don’t lie. Studies have shown that telecommuting reduces the cost to businesses and workers and is environmentally friendly. A 2016 report examining the bottom-line impact of telecommuting found that if those who wished to work from home did so just half the time, the annual savings would top $700 billion.

Preparing for poor weather is always a major element of any business continuity plan, which details the tasks that need to be undertaken to ensure a company remains up and running in any given situation. Embracing a remote workforce is one way to eliminate a few of the risks outlined in those sorts of crisis plans. Risk reduction, improved productivity, happier workers, and financial benefits: The benefits of utilizing a remote workforce couldn’t be clearer. Just ask your friends here at ModSquad.

4 Tips to Reduce Call Abandonment

How many times have you called up a company, only to drop off somewhere down the line? It happens to most of us at some stage. Even if you’ve made it through an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system with enough options to make your head spin, you might still face long hold times to speak with a real person, which naturally creates the urge to drop off the call. Not only will this increase call-abandon rates, but it can also reduce first-contact resolution and leave a sour taste with the customer — both of which are detrimental in the world of customer service.

Although IVR messages and hold times are inevitable, there are still ways to improve the process and thereby reduce your call-abandonment rates. Think of these tips as options on your automated response system — please read each entry fully, as our options have recently changed.

Press 1 for “Anticipate high volumes.” Having a solid understanding of your weekly volume trends and high-traffic periods throughout the year will help you prioritize staffing efforts. Know when to maximize your capacity to properly accommodate the demand. Manage the customer’s expectations by using pre-recorded alerts that acknowledge the high volume, or give the caller the opportunity to leave a message. If people are left waiting too long, they’ll either give up on the call or take out their irritations on your agent.

Press 2 for “Implement a smart IVR.” Talkdesk recently explained that inbound callers don’t just abandon in queue, but also typically abandon in the IVR. That usually means that the IVR is either too long, too complicated, or uses unclear prompts. Using a concise, helpful IVR can go a long way; the customer’s needs may not be fully understood, but they’ll feel that they’re making progress. Something as simple as a menu including live call, voicemail, call-back, and a prompt on where find information online would be a great start.

Press 3 for “Set proper expectations.” During periods of high volume, it’s hard to avoid putting customers on hold at some point. A great way to combat this is a simple IVR message letting the customer know where they are in the queue or how long they will need to hold. Customers will know their expectations and agents will know what their goal is for each call — everyone wins!

Press 4 for ”Properly configure your support software.” It’s not uncommon for an abandon rate to seem higher than what it is; this could be due to the way your talk software is configured. If a caller can’t be answered by your agent because of a software issue, the customer will have to wait longer and will be more inclined to abandon the call. Ensure strong technical performance by staffing those with a solid understanding of how to identify and fix these issues before they affect your customers.

Now that you’ve gone through each step, you’re likely providing more efficient and communicative phone tree messaging and management. You’ve successfully improved the quality of your customer support, evidenced by your lower drop-off number. Congratulations — and thanks for calling.

Mod of the Month – August 2018

August has come to a close, which for many teachers and students means heading back to school. The school buses are back on the roads, but for those of us who work remotely, our commute hasn’t changed. Instead, this is the time when… drum roll, please… we get to celebrate our August 2018 Mod of the Month, Danielle G!

Danielle can officially say she’s been with ModSquad since 2017; after all, she started her first shift on December 31. From that day on, she’s felt right at home. She was already a fan of Second Life, the virtual world in which ModSquad (then Metaverse Mod Squad) came to be, and the positive reviews she’d read only further confirmed this was the company for her.

In her time as a Mod, Danielle has provided customer support via live chat, email, and phone and moderated user chats during gaming live streams. Of all the tasks she excels in, customer support chat is her favorite.

I think I truly shine in chats. I love being able to help a customer resolve their issue or question in that single, real-time interaction. I absolutely love working as a moderator too!

Prior to joining ModSquad, Danielle worked as a trauma surgeon for the U.S. Army, but was medically retired after sustaining severe injuries while deployed. She’s worked from home for the past five years across a range of projects, from government to gaming.

Working from home has allowed her to better balance her work and family life with her husband and six kids, including a pair of twin daughters and a set of triplet boys. Talk about a busy bee!

“I’ve worked with Danielle across two projects, and not only does she have a great attitude, she’s got a lot of determination, and it shows in her work ethic. She’s awesome!”
—Erica Powers, Project Manager

“I have worked with Danielle on a few projects now, and she has done an amazing job on every one! She is always willing to learn and improve, and she puts her best work forward. She stays in communication with the manager and makes sure she does everything according to policy. She has an amazing work ethic.”
—Christopher Carpenter, Assistant Project Manager

“I couldn’t ask for a better Mod when it comes to dedication, teamwork, and work ethic. Any Project Manager would be lucky to have her on the team.”
—Kimberly Mayfield, Assistant Project Manager

Resume Writing Tips For the Gig Economy

When it comes to the job hunt, the most important tool to have across the board is a well-written resume. Whether you’re a traditional employee or someone looking for work as an independent contractor, your resume is the key piece of material that you’ll need to effectively sell yourself to prospective employers. While a contractor’s resume is similar to a traditional resume, it can serve a dual purpose. The contractor’s resume is not only about showing experience, but also about getting across your readiness to jump in feet-first on a project and deliver results.

To help your contractor resume stand out from the crowd, we’ve assembled four helpful hints on how to assemble the strongest resume possible.

Think of it as an elevator pitch on a page. Being able to effectively synthesize your experience and relevant skill set on one page will stand out more than having multiple pages of drawn-out job descriptions. Above all, make sure your resume is clean and easy to navigate, with correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation. The little things are key.

Get creative. While your resume should be straight to the point, don’t miss out on the opportunity to show you care about the position you’re applying for. Most recruiters are looking for keywords from their job description when scanning a resume, so take the time to make sure you include a few of those tailored keywords. It’s helpful to have a base resume, from which you can highlight (or remove unrelated) skills to effectively showcase you as the strongest candidate for the position.

Quantify, not over-qualify. When it comes to contractor resumes, you should focus on making the most impact when discussing your job history. The company is looking for someone with high-volume ticket experience? Turn that skill set into a number. Include the average number of tickets you’ve completed in a day, rather than just state you’ve had high volume experience. Being able to show how exactly you’re qualified, rather than filling the page with soft skills and flowery language, will take your resume farther.

Prioritize and be factual. Unless you’re a recent graduate or just starting out in your career, the education section of your resume can be moved to the end. If you want to make it clear early on why your resume might be a little sparse, list your education first. A degree from an accredited university may help you get your foot in the door. But be aware, this is not the time to list every club and side project you were ever involved in. Make sure to only add projects that are relevant to the position, that you have actually worked on, and for which can provide details if asked. Your resume is the best way to market yourself, and you don’t want to be called out for false advertising.

As we at ModSquad can attest, the gig economy is flourishing, providing plenty of opportunities for go-getters to work on assignments that best suit their skills and interests. The hardest part is getting noticed by the appropriate decision-makers. With a professional, well-thought-out resume, you’ll be letting your experience and attention to detail help tell your story. The time you put into your resume now raises the likelihood of your work search story having a fantastic ending.

ModSquad Celebrates World Photography Day

For nearly a decade, the international photography community has been celebrating World Photography Day on August 19th, trending #WorldPhotographyDay and #WorldPhotoDay on Twitter and Instagram, and launching campaigns to influence positive change across communities.

The date itself marks a historic watershed in the invention of photography. On August 19, 1839, French inventor Louis Daguerre presented his research on a process (daguerreotype) for capturing the physical world around him. Little did he know at the time, he would ignite a revolution that has since transformed the possibilities for photography. Even today, the way we use our mobile devices can be as much camera as it is phone.

As a digital engagement company with a global presence, we feel a special significance in World Photography Day, both in its acknowledgement of the power of content and in the potential for photography to help us connect in a digital world. In celebration, some of us at ModSquad shared photos of our hometowns from the United States to South America, across Europe, Asia, and beyond.

Here is a small snapshot. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this tour of our diverse environments and experiences.

Antoine A., Saigon

Joe M., Southway Hill, Northern Ireland

Sionainn W., New Smyrna Beach, Florida, United States

Weena M., Pain de Sucre, Terre-de-Haut, Guadeloupe

Marcio L., Porto Alegre, Brazil

Marco S., Cagliari, Sardinia, Italy

To see more MODsome images from World Photography Day, check us out on social media!

9 Customer Service Lessons from Ron Swanson

Parks and Recreation may have wrapped in 2015, but its legacy lives on. Fans of the show sport Lil’ Sebastian t-shirts. They know full well what it means to treat yo’self. And then there’s Ron Swanson, a man who’s more than a character; he’s a lifestyle.

It turns out, you can learn more from Ron Swanson than how to consume meat or turn a sconce into a wedding ring. Beyond the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness lie several important dos and don’ts that will help you raise your customer service game.

1. Always use the customer’s correct name.

And spell it correctly. It goes a long way in personalizing your communication and making the customer feel heard.

2. Never lie to a customer.

If you don’t know, don’t guess. Use the resources you have to give accurate information, and don’t be afraid to escalate to someone with the expertise the customer needs.

3. Read and listen fully.

Don’t assume from a few key words that you know what a customer is asking. Take the time to hear them out (or read thoroughly) and ask follow-up questions to make sure you’re addressing their individual needs.

4. Give each customer the attention they deserve.

Multitasking generally isn’t a good thing. Focus on the customer you’re helping before moving on to the next one. The short time the second customer has to wait will be well worth the better quality service they receive from your full attention.

5. Be careful with humor.

Especially when customers are contacting out of frustration or confusion, humor isn’t always well-received. Humor and sarcasm can also easily be misconstrued in writing, so play it safe unless you’re certain the customer will understand and appreciate your joke.

6. Know your limits, and escalate when necessary.

This is especially true for inquiries related to exchanges and refunds. Don’t take actions you aren’t authorized to; it may cause more complications for the customer or the company further down the line.

7. You win some, you lose some. Take it in stride.

As much as we want to, sometimes you can’t please everyone. Some customers will not be happy with the solution you provide (and that’s okay). Don’t take it personally if you can’t turn every upset customer into a happy, loyal one.

8. Stay calm.

No matter how the customer’s feeling, it’s important to keep your own emotions in check and not take things personally.

9. Start your day with a healthy breakfast.

This is just good advice for everyone. That said, you may want to consult someone other than Ron on an accurate definition of “healthy breakfast.”

 

NEG_8420” by Montclair Film is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Cropped from original

Speak Their Language: Supporting a Global Gaming Community

Single- or multiplayer, MMO or MOBA, there’s no doubt about it: Video games attract a global audience. As a developer, building something that appeals to such a wide range of people can be as exciting as it is complex. In what languages do you localize the game? What resources do you have to do that? Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll also need to be ready to provide support in those languages.

It’s one thing to speak gamer — to know that when a player says pop, they’re probably not referring to soda. And when they talk about a mob, they mean a single non-player character (NPC), not a large group of people. It’s another thing entirely to know how those terms translate into German, French, Korean, or any number of other languages spoken by gamers around the world.

In order to deliver the best community and support experiences possible, you’ll want to hire people who speak the same languages as your players and who, ideally, are gamers themselves. They’ll know best how to connect with your customers. The same goes for moderation: Native speakers who are game enthusiasts will know what constitutes normal PVP banter and which comments cross the line.

Along with answering the “who” of staffing comes the “when,” “how,” and “where.” Hiring full-time agents to cover each language 24/7 might not make sense if the majority of your players speak English. It also means additional costs to keep your office open around the clock for potentially just a handful of agents. That’s where ModSourcing can come in handy. We work with our clients to figure out exactly which hours they need support, taking into consideration the time zones of their players, when they’re most active, and trends in ticket volume.

Thanks to our large, diverse pool of Mods working remotely across the globe, we’re easily able to staff projects with native speakers who already play the types of games that need their support.

As we head to Gamescom in Cologne, Germany next week, we’re as excited as ever to see what our favorite games have in store, meet up with clients from around the world, and build new connections. Our Senior VP, Global Operations, Rich Weil and VP, Sales, Clive Jefferies will be there, speaking two languages: English and gamer.

What We’re Reading: A ModSquad Book Report

In our free time, we all need something to wind down with, and a great way to do this is by diving into a good book. Today being Book Lovers Day, we thought we’d celebrate the occasion ModSquad-style with some recommendations from the team!

Whether our preference is an imaginary world to which we can escape, or a non-fiction tome to help us understand the world around us, there’s no doubt that a great book can expand our outlook. Books promote our creativity and connect us with characters who, while not physically there, are very real on a personal level.

With that, let’s have a look at some of the books our team have enjoyed, from good recent reads to books that have had a major impact on them.

Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant
This book is both inspired and inspiring. It looks at how to grow and present ideas in a way that promotes meaningful change. Although super-readable, I’ve been taking my time with it, letting everything sink in.
— Jenny Y.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
Do you like Harry Potter? What about the likes of CSI, NCIS, or similar TV shows? Rivers of London (and the rest of the series) has the magic and wizard-in-training feel of J.K. Rowling’s saga, but with the added bonus of a cop investigation story. It’s full of fun pop-culture references, is slightly more adult, and often a quick and easy read for those of us with a busy life.

Bonus recommendation:
If you like sci-fi with a touch of horror, check out Hyperion by Dan Simmons. It’s a bit old school, but still a great read.
— Leigh G.

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker
I think that every single person should read this book at least once in their life. It’s a good self-help book without actually being self-help. It teaches you how to be safe and trust your gut.
— Anna C.

The Xanth series by Piers Anthony
Xanth books are for people who like puns and ridiculous humor. These are what I like to call “junk food books.”
— Kay S.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
It’s a fascinating look at a part of our history (medicine and research) that most people may not be aware of. I didn’t know about Henrietta and her immortal cells prior to reading this book, but now I can’t stop recommending it to others. The story just stuck with me, and I’m glad that her family has managed to get the recognition for her contribution (countless medical breakthroughs due to her cells) that she did not get in life.
— Aunya S.

The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
It’s a story about the Romanovs after they are being held in Siberia, as seen through the eyes of their kitchen boy. The book is fiction, but so very believable, and it keeps you guessing until the very end.
— Olivia L.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
This book is not only filled with the nerdy quirkiness that makes up Felicia Day, but takes the reader through a journey of struggle, success, and learning your limits in order to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
— Katie C.

Now Playing: Your Brand’s Content (How To Put Your Best Face Forward)

According to Hubspot’s report on 2018 video trends, “72% of people would rather use video to learn about a product or service.” The report further underscores video’s explosive growth by noting that 81% of businesses are using video as a marketing tool, compared to just 63% in 2017.

Producing video for businesses is neither quick nor simple. Quality of content, video editing and production, and ensuring engaging context can be full-time work. Most importantly, it’s imperative to understand the platforms and audience for which your video is intended. With social media driving a lot of visibility for new customers, building strategy around social marketing and customer engagement is key — especially strategy that cuts through the noise and speaks to your audience.

There are many platforms to publish on, each with its own audience and idiosyncrasies. Here are some of the most popular video platforms and the types of content that work well on each:

YouTube: One of the premier video platforms, YouTube is great for longform video. Videos are best received when filmed horizontally. The platform serves as its own search engine, and with strategic use of keywords, your content can be discovered through the behemoth search engine Google, YouTube’s parent company (definitely a favorable thing). YouTube is perfect for brand videos, product demonstrations, or behind-the-scenes looks at your business.

Snapchat: Snapchat allows for the quick sharing of fun, light-hearted content, as users of the app users tend to be younger — think teens to young adults. A selection of fun augmented-reality face filters help with creating witty, engaging content. One of the platform’s benefits is the ability to submit branded filters that are geographically tagged to allow users in a specified area the ability to embellish their videos with your branding. Talk about promoting with minimal effort!

Facebook: Despite competition, Facebook continues to be one of the most widely used social media platforms. And no wonder — you can promote your videos via feed posting, Facebook Stories, and live streaming.

Facebook Posts
Video can be natively uploaded as a regular feed post. As your followers scroll their feed, they can easily access your video content with this option. Consider utilizing subtitles, as users are likely to watch without sound.

Facebook Stories
These videos appear at the top of a user’s feed. This method of sharing video is not widely popular on the platform, but is experiencing steady growth. Shared video here is limited to 20-second clips. Videos can be embellished with GIFs, text, and geotags. Keep in mind that videos shared here disappear after 24 hours.

Facebook Live Streaming
This option is great for real-time Q&A sessions or sharing behind-the-scenes content. Live streams can be downloaded upon completion and appear on your feed for people to watch after the session has ended.

Instagram: Instagram is one of the most popular spots for mobile video. Like Facebook, video content is shared on the platform through feed posts, Stories, and live streaming; Instagram also offers the ability to share longer video through the IGTV feature. Where you decide to publish will dictate how you edit your video for things like length, dimensions/orientation, and production quality.

Instagram Posts
Mirroring the functionality of Facebook, video uploaded as a post is available via a quick scroll of a user’s timeline. The big difference here is that your in-stream video uploads here are limited to 60 seconds. The viewer doesn’t have to venture from their timeline to view your content.

Instagram Stories
Stories on Instagram are more robust than on Facebook, and also last for 24 hours. To increase audience engagement and gain insight into their interests, you can embellish your videos with such engaging overlays as an ask-a-question box, music, polls, and text. Vertical clips display best, and are limited to 15 seconds. The feature also allows you the ability to cross-promote stories to your Facebook page with a simple tap.

Instagram Live Streaming
Instagram also offers you the option to interact with users in real time. Live videos on the platform disappear after 24 hours. Just like with any content you post to your Stories (video or other), you can opt to keep live videos visible on your profile by including them in your Story Highlights.

Instagram TV (or IGTV)
IGTV, an extension of Instagram Stories, allows for the posting of longer videos (showing a preference for vertically shot clips). Videos can be linked into an Instagram story, which encourages additional engagement. IGTV-hosted videos can last up to an hour in length, and users are able to comment and ask questions in real time if you utilize live video. This feature makes it easy to do Q&A sessions and other engaging activities with your audience.

Twitter: Eye-catching graphics and video perform best on this platform. Video content can last up to 140 seconds. Twitter moves faster than some of the other platforms, so when creating content, strive for something that will immediately grab the user’s attention. Another rule of thumb when creating video for Twitter is to include subtitles, for accessibility and to engage people who may not be able to listen with sound. When scrolling through their feed, people are often in public places and opt to watch videos on mute.

LinkedIn: Now that LinkedIn supports native video publishing, it’s a strong option for any corporate social strategy. Studies have shown that videos on LinkedIn are 20 times more likely to be shared by users than non-video posts. In terms of content, stick with what’s tried and true for LinkedIn posts in general: business-oriented content like marketing videos, interviews, news, or informational videos.

Vimeo: Vimeo is a community of video content creators. Businesses can host on the platform through Vimeo PRO or Vimeo Business. While the platform may seem similar to YouTube, there are no ads and there’s a membership cost to access business-friendly tools like live streaming and storage options.

The best video strategy is one that engages your audience on their preferred channels. Catering video to each platform opens your content up to being viewed by a larger audience. There’s no need to create separate videos for each platform; rather, properly strategizing your content enables you to create a master video that can be specifically edited to appeal to each platform.

Mod of the Month – July 2018

If you asked us which we enjoy more, pleasing our clients or celebrating our awesome Mods, our answer would be “Yes.” And with such superstars within our ranks, it’s easy to do both! And with that, we’re pleased to introduce our July 2018 Mod of the Month, Jann-Lennart M., better known to all of us as Lenny.

It’s been just over a year since Lenny started as a Mod contractor in March 2017, and in that time, he has earned the praise of everyone he’s worked with. He first heard about us from ModSquad alum Guido Schenkel, who shared how flexible, fun, and rewarding it is to be a Mod contractor.

Hailing from the town of Elsfleth, Germany, Lenny provides customer support and community moderation in German and has been a true asset to a number of our video game projects, including that of one of our long-time clients, Edge Case Games. In addition to providing accurate, helpful information to players, Lenny prides himself on knowing the right approach to take with any given player.

I would say my best quality is being able to tailor my tone and the style of my answer based on that of the customer.

In his spare time, Lenny enjoys a variety of hobbies, including weightlifting, drawing, playing video games (both single-player and competitive multiplayer), and food. He also loves spending time with his 120-pound (55 kg) Russian terrier, Conrad; now we understand why he practices weightlifting!

Since joining his first project last year, Lenny has impressed his Project Managers, who all have great things to share about their experiences working with him.

“Not only is Lenny an absolute machine when it comes to getting stuff done, but his positive attitude makes him an extremely pleasant Mod to have around! He always achieves his goals, and does so remarkably effortlessly. He’d make your jaw drop if you saw what he’s capable of! I wouldn’t want to run my projects without him. To quote our client: ‘Lenny is our guy! We seriously love him!’”
—Hauke Denissen, Project Manager

“Lenny is amazing, his QA is flawless, his productivity is one of the highest in our team, and he has the best and sweetest attitude to match. He quickly catches onto new workflows and still finds time to send funny memes.”
—Matea Makek, Project Manager

“Can’t imagine our German support efforts without him! Solid QA and performance — just a top-notch Mod all around. He is very funny, personable, and welcomes all Mods with whom he shares shifts. Best of all, he somehow finds a way to turn any conversation topic to one about food. Now that’s a gift!”
—Samantha Walker, Project Manager

The Public Ramifications of your Private Social Media Accounts

In the world of social media, people who otherwise might not be heard have found a platform for their voices. And while some may see that as unbridled empowerment, both careful navigation and keen discretion should be considered. As Jon Ronson writes in his book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, “Its egalitarianism is its greatest quality.” Each one of us can become loved (or not-so-loved) overnight on social media. Although we revel in others liking our posts and tweets, even individuals with a positive standing can take a downturn.

Justine Sacco is a perfect example. One moment she’s tweeting what she considers jokes to her small circle of Twitter followers about the travelers on her flight; the next, her comments send her reputation into a tailspin. By the time her flight landed, she found herself at the center of a social media storm and dismissed from — and here’s the irony — her PR job.

The best course of action is to take social media seriously as a platform (even if you’re looking to develop a fun persona), and to understand the responsibility that comes with having an empowered voice.

Below are some helpful considerations for navigating an online presence on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and beyond.

Who is your audience?

In most cases, our audiences will be our friends and acquaintances, particularly if we’ve kept social media accounts private or haven’t gone out of our way to amplify our own content. In this case, it’s probably safe for us to think, “My friends will like this!” because we’re probably right. These are social circles you move in and understand. But some of us hold a social presence that far extends this private reach, and thinking that your friends will or won’t like your content is potentially irrelevant. It’s much more difficult for us to think about the macro impact of our views than it is within close groups. This is where it’s important to consider whether your content is suitable for a potential global scale, because we really don’t have that viral formula down yet. We could be the next social heroes, but there’s a fine line between hero and villain.

You are a brand!

On social media, we’re essentially our own brand, and anything associated with an individual is like a partner company. The farther your social reach, the more people see this as fact. The more people see this as fact, the closer your associated school, university, workplace, etc. are seen as reflecting your views. Of course, we may think it’s not the case because of the disclaimer all views expressed are my own, but unfortunately that doesn’t cut it. Think of yourself as your own personal brand manager and carefully consider the messages you want to convey.

Transparency

We’re hard-wired to dislike dishonesty. So imagine hundreds or thousands of others seeing something where we slipped up or posted something that didn’t come across as intended. Deleting such content won’t do the trick — screenshots can be taken and retweeted with a much greater speed and reach than you might imagine. Transparency and owning your actions are a huge part of successfully operating a Twitter handle — not just for celebrities who say something a little out of line, but for everyone. In fact, there’s a hashtag calling for apologies simply called #apologize.

Think before you tweet/post/reblog

It’s straightforward advice, yet remains stubbornly hard for us to implement as we work to grow our social presence. We wouldn’t go around saying whatever came to our minds immediately in daily life without some consideration; we wouldn’t have much of a social life if we did. But an easy rule of thumb would be to stop and consider whether we’d like any given individual to see our content. If we conclude that we probably wouldn’t say that to so-and-so, then it shouldn’t be posted. Social media is a shared space for everyone; as such, we should aim to be respectful.

When used properly, your social media accounts can be a wonderful way to maintain communications with family and friends and make connections with individuals you’d like to know. Proper adjustments to your pages’ privacy settings are a must, as is a good dose of common sense. Remember that old adage that warned not to put in an email anything you wouldn’t want published in the local paper? The same general wisdom holds true on social media.

Project Manager of the Quarter – July 2018

For our newest Project Manager of the Quarter, 2018 marks eight years since he joined ModSquad. He started as an outstanding Mod contractor. Now, he’s a hardworking, dependable, and yes, still outstanding Project Manager. That’s why we’re shining our spotlight on Andrew Monk, our July 2018 Project Manager of the Quarter!

Andrew joined ModSquad (then Metaverse Mod Squad) back in August 2010, as a Mod contractor doing Quality Assurance analysis for one of our gaming clients. His work impressed the client and his Project Manager so much that he applied for a full-time employee position and is now a Project Manager.

Most of the projects Andrew has managed over the past several years involve technical support for enterprise clients or customer support for consumers. With his years of experience working in customer support, Andrew is a strong advocate for the value that proper support provides to any business. He knows how important each individual customer experience is and emphasizes that to the Mods on his team.

When individual experiences are not prioritized in the grand scheme of a company, they can lose a lot of customers who otherwise would be loyal to their brand based on positive experiences. Through positive customer experiences, my clients are able to nurture long-term stability for their company, as well as their internal employees.

Andrew makes it his goal as a Project Manager to ensure the Mods have all the resources and tools they need to deliver excellent experiences every time they interact with a customer. With a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Game Design, combined with his Associate’s degree in multimedia, Andrew is able to optimize the documentation he provides his teams.

The ultimate goal is to make project ramp-up smooth and easy for all involved.  I put a lot of work into our resource sites and documentation, while trying to break down processes to the simplest steps possible in order to achieve that goal.

Andrew encourages all Project Managers to build toward three essential goals: documentation, teamwork, and trust. He works remotely but lives not too far from our Sacramento, California Operations Center. Outside of work, he can be found playing one of the many games in his video game collection or catching a local wrestling show at the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium.

The Account Managers who’ve worked with Andrew have only great things to say about him and the way he dedicates himself to his work. We’d need an entire new blog article to include them all, so we’ve selected just a few to include here.

“Andrew managed the projects for several clients of mine, and he’s proven to be focused on making sure each one gets the maximum value of the services we provide. Whether he’s launching a new project ahead of schedule or crafting solutions for whatever pops up, he always finds a way to pull off the impossible. In addition to exceeding all of our internal expectations, the most telling measure of his work is the consistent stream of kudos and thanks he receives from our clients. Each one he’s worked with considers him invaluable to their success in customer engagement.”
—Chris Nichols, Account Manager

“I’ve worked with Andrew for the past five years. I was lucky enough to have Andrew on my team when I began as a Project Manager. He made my job easy with his enthusiasm for customer support and technology. His understanding of soft customer support skills and the technical support process quickly made him an indispensable asset for my client. And he’s never stopped with that drive. I think that’s his most notable quality. Andrew navigates our unique work space with ease and consistently succeeds and improves. He’s always evolving, becoming a better manager, and becoming an expert in each project he’s involved in. Andrew cares about our clients and Mods. He leads by example. My clients have nothing but great things to say about Andrew. I’m incredibly happy to have Andrew as part of our team and I know our clients are, too.”
—Jay Biros, Account Manager

ModSquad Spreads World Cup Fever Around the Globe

We came. We saw. We soccered (or footballed, depending where you are).

As an international company with Mods around the world, we have a collectively endless range of hobbies and interests. Our individual passions are what enable us to tackle projects of all varieties, but we also look for ways to come together around a common interest.

Even with a vast network of 10,000+ Mods, we don’t shy away from fostering digital camaraderie, and we love when something comes along that we can all get excited about. Most recently, that something was the World Cup, and we jumped into the action with our own ModSquad World Cup tournament! Talk about friendly competition that everyone can qualify for (yes, even the United States).

In our Operations Centers in Sacramento, California; Austin, Texas; and Derry, Northern Ireland, and among our remote Mods around the globe, we divided into teams and filled out brackets as part of a company-wide pool. For the past month, we’ve watched intently and (mostly) patiently to see who would earn bragging rights (a few prizes) and the right to be named the winner of the ModSquad World Cup.

Keep scrolling to see how our celebrations played out.

Spreading World Cup spirit from Sacramento to Austin, Derry, and beyond.

This globetrotting soccer ball is part of an awesome prize package for a few lucky Mods.

You can’t have a celebration without decorations! Here’s our Austin office, all dolled up.

Our World Cup excitement is years in the making. Here’s our CMO, Amy K., getting up close and personal with the Winner’s Trophy back in 2014.

Looks like team spirit!

Our Operations Centers prepped for the final match in the best possible way: ice cream, of course!

Sandrine from our People Ops team was in France to experience the glory of their win firsthand!

With their smart predictions and a little bit of luck, a few folks will receive some awesome prizes as winners of our World Cup pools. Congratulations to:

  • Alex P., winner of the Sacramento office pool
  • Steve H., winner of the Austin office pool
  • Sandrine C., winner of the Derry office pool
  • Abdu S., winner of our global pool

The games may be over, but that doesn’t mean our friendly competition ends… after all, there’s the neverending debate over whether the sport is called soccer or football.

Habits of Effective Community Managers

Community managers are responsible for promoting the well-being of online communities, where people meet in the digital world to discuss the things they care about.

Online communities are diverse, ranging in size from small sub-communities of only a handful of members to global social platforms like Facebook, with over 2 billion users. The interests they represent are equally as varied, bringing people together over a fascination with birds with arms and to connect men with beards through their unique beard profile.

Regardless of the size or nature of the community, an effective community manager (CM) can improve the community’s chances for success. Ultimately, the CM is responsible for establishing the ground rules for engagement and developing a relevant strategy, among other things.

It’s a huge amount of responsibility with several moving pieces, so it’s important for CMs to stay on top of their game. In order to effectively manage communities, here are a few habits to keep in mind.

Play on the team before becoming a coach. Highly effective CMs get their knowledge not just from managing their community, but by being a part of it. A video game CM doesn’t just post patch notes; they play the game on their own and can anticipate how those patch notes will be received. A CM for an airline knows exactly what excites and infuriates travelers, because they travel frequently, too.

It’s not just about understanding what makes people tick; it’s about genuinely sharing those passions with fellow community members day in and day out. CMs who are part of the community can walk the walk and talk the talk.

Keep your finger on the pulse. As CMs often plan and create social calendars, it’s important to stay up to date with new features and changes to the social platforms. As spokespeople for the community, it’s essential for a CM to be highly knowledgeable about what’s happening in the industry and stay on top of important trends. If a new game drops or a new flight route becomes available, the CM needs to know about it first.

Beware of news, fake or otherwise. Breaking news can greatly impact a community. It’s important to read headlines voraciously in order to stay relevant and sensitive to what’s happening in the world. At a time when the world is more connected than ever, news ranging from celebrity gossip to natural disasters to security crisis, travels fast. We can’t control global events, but being mindful of what’s happening around us and how it could impact the community is key.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. The truth is, the news isn’t the only thing we can’t control. Communities are living and evolving spaces made up of unique individuals. While it’s possible to make smart predictions on how the community may react to a specific change or update, it’s important to have plans and preparations ready for any eventuality.

Show off your passion. The best CMs bring their passion to work. Fluent in internet slang, brand tone of voice, and niche jargon, a great CM knows how to communicate in a way that inspires. It is ultimately this ability to give passion and personality to a community that attracts new members and keeps them engaged. People may come because they’re interested in the topic, but they will stay for the way the community makes them feel.

Having created and managed myriad online communities, we know how a highly effective CM will take great care in making their gathering place a welcoming environment. Putting these five habits into daily use helps them to do just that.

For more tips and tricks, check out Habits of Effective Social Media Managers.

Infographic: Americans to the Internet, “Clean Up Your Act”

For months, Americans have debated the issue of objectionable content in social media and other online platforms. Publishers of these online discussion platforms have faced pressure from the public, the press, and government to examine the level of moderation within these forums.

For a better understanding of public opinion on the topic, ModSquad enlisted Harris Interactive to poll 1,050 U.S. consumers in an online survey. We wanted to know how people feel about the content they see online and whether they feel that material should be censored, reviewed and moderated, or always allowed. We present the results in this exclusive ModSquad infographic.

Mod of the Month – June 2018

It’s hard to believe we’ve reached the halfway mark on 2018. As summer gets into full swing across many parts of the world, we’re continuing one of our favorite monthly traditions: celebrating yet another one of our awesome Mods. This month’s honoree is all about helping others, and her giving nature is right in her name. Without further ado, please join us in congratulating our June 2018 Mod of the Month, Charity S!

Charity joined ModSquad two years ago while searching for a remote-work opportunity. She loved ModSquad’s dynamic and that we were so in tune with how digital engagement and support have evolved over the years.

Charity has worked on several projects over the two years she’s been with ModSquad. Currently, for our client KeyMe, she provides phone support to customers who call in with questions or issues. She has an extensive background in customer support, having worked in service roles for the past 15 years. And while she excels in all forms of customer support, she says her favorite tasks are phone and live chat support.

I love getting the customer’s issue resolved in real time so that they’re taken care of and won’t have to be waiting around or going back and forth. The feeling of knowing I’ve helped the client and the customer is so rewarding!

Of all the customers Charity has helped during her time as a Mod, one in particular stood out: a customer whose phone call started in tears of frustration and ended in tears of joy.

An elderly customer called in and was so upset. She had just lost her job and was choosing to go back to school, using our client’s app to access her books. She wasn’t able to get into her account, not realizing there were several steps required to register the account. I calmed her down by asking her about a detail she’d mentioned while explaining her issue. She talked about that while I worked on the back end, activating her account. I walked her through everything to make sure she was able to access her account and use the app. She cried tears of joy because of how helpful I was.

In her off-work hours, Charity can be found with her family and her dogs, either at home or at the beach near her North Carolina home. It’s the simple things, she says, that mean so much to her.

Here are just a few of the awesome things Charity’s Project Managers had to say about her:

“Charity is so amazing. She steps up to the plate and always goes above and beyond to get the latest project info and stay up to speed on all the changing processes. She’s a rock star, and I want to have her on every project ever!”
— Lauren McClune, Project Manager

“I worked with Charity for a year and a half and she was amazing! She is always wanting to know more and is 100% engaged in everything. She is a sponge for anything that has to do with a project and comes up with great ideas. It’s so nice to see her recognized for her hard work and dedication.”
— Cheryl Wagner, Project Manager

“She’s super smart, funny, always up for learning something new, and she brings a positive energy to all. I would work with her anytime!”
— Laura Ankerson, Project Manager

Account Manager Spotlight: Monica Armstrong

It’s time for another chapter in our Account Manager Spotlight series. This time, we catch up with Monica Armstrong, who lives not too far from our Operations Center in Austin, Texas. Monica joined ModSquad just after we opened our Austin office and has quickly become a go-to Account Manager for new social media and digital strategy clients.

Having worked with clients around the world and having lived in all different places, Monica’s global experience brings a perspective that jibes perfectly with who we are at ModSquad. When she’s not impressing her clients and colleagues, you can find her out and about in Austin with her dog Atlas or planning her next adventure abroad. Just how does she impress everyone? Her answers during our recent chat made that clear.

Tell us about your background.

My background is diverse, to say the least. In college, I majored in finance, with a minor in creative advertising. I started my career in marketing at American Airlines’ headquarters in Miami before taking on a financial analyst role with a timeshare exchange company. After about three and a half years of very long work nights, I realized I no longer wanted to work in Excel spreadsheets for the rest of my life.

I bought a one-way ticket to the opposite coast and moved to Los Angeles, where I transitioned into an hybrid media buying and budgeting role that I molded for myself at a global advertising agency, Saatchi & Saatchi. My primary client was Lexus, and after four years of developing this role, I decided to take my skill sets and work experience abroad. I transferred into the London office and resided with the company for eight more months before deciding I wasn’t leaving the UK anytime soon and switched companies. At Mediacom Worldwide, I worked as a Global Investment Account Manager, working with global brands and their teams around the world, including countries such as China, Italy, Turkey, Japan and Slovakia.

Ironically, l met my English husband while living in Los Angeles, and our relationship turned into marriage while living in London. In October 2016, we decided to continue our adventure and move back to Texas (I grew up in Dallas), specifically Austin. I immediately took on a contract position overseeing all social media, marketing, and events for a startup coworking space.

What brought you to ModSquad?

I discovered ModSquad at SXSW in 2017. Its British-inspired Mod branding is what initially attracted me, as I’d just moved back from London and clearly felt nostalgic. A month or two later, I came across a ModSquad pamphlet in my bag and decided to check them out online and noticed there were some attractive open roles. Being able to work remotely was a huge bonus; it was a business model I hadn’t encountered in my previous jobs, and I really wanted to experience it.

What do you do for ModSquad?

I am an Account Manager and I’ve worked with a range of clients, from high-end fashion brands to gaming to an international airport.

As the saying goes, no day is ever the same at ModSquad, especially as an Account Manager. I work with clients to make sure we’re representing their brands in accordance with our high standards and the brand’s guidelines/tone. To me, it’s all about creating a connection with consumers and audiences to drive brand loyalty and satisfaction for the brands we represent.

What sets ModSquad apart, in your opinion?

ModSquad’s business model itself is unique compared to a lot of other companies, with our remote-work model. Our entire company is adaptable and flexible. We’re also able to scale easily; we’ve had clients whose original contract entailed only one service area, like customer support. Through cultivating the client relationship and demonstrating more ways ModSquad can provide value, services can extend to other areas, such as community management and engagement. Those instances are fun wins.

Any great stories that stand out in your memory?

Having the opportunity to work closely with our offices across the world and with people from just about everywhere in the world is a humbling experience. As my father is from India and my mother from Brazil, travel and culture continues to play a huge role in my life. I appreciate that ModSquad’s diverse network enables employees to connect and collaborate with one another, both culturally and professionally.

Living in Austin, I’ve been able to watch ModSquad’s Austin Operations Center continue to grow. When I first started, we had just opened the location, and over time it’s been really great to watch the Ops Center and its team develop. Being able to put a lot of faces to names and having the opportunity to join group outings have both been really important parts of building the culture here. We keep it weird.