ModSquad at SXSW: Meet with Us in Austin

Sparking Joy: What the ModSquad Community is Loving Right Now

During the month of February, it isn’t uncommon to focus on things that evoke feelings of love and joy. The recent Marie Kondo organizing theory of “sparking joy” can transcend from the home realm into everyday life. The things that spark joy in our life have a direct impact on how we feel.

We reached out to our community and asked, “What are you loving right now?” The responses we received were as diverse as the day is long. If you’re having trouble finding joy in the every day or are looking for a new hobby… here’s some inspiration!

Anna C. – Upstate New York
I’m absolutely loving the game Fallout 76 and taking weird/funny photos in the game. It’s giving me an escape from the reality that is the current world. And I get to spend a lot of time with friends I’ve made in the game.

Holly O. – Georgia
I love my big crazy family and how we all fit together and support each other. I love that despite our separate lives we all love each other and make time to stay connected.

Falecia S. – North Carolina
Being able to work from the comfort of my own home. After years of searching, I came across ModSquad on Indeed.

Martin H. – Ireland
Spring! Spring in Ireland starts at the beginning of February, with the making of St Brigid’s crosses and daffodils flowering. It marks the growing season when we all look forward to the days lengthening nicely and the next crop of lambs!

Gina W. – Germany
I’m loving my husband, my Granny, and my mother in law. I also love my hobbies, which are reading, listening to music, cooking, being silly, and doing artsy craftsy things.

Brittany J. – Texas
I’m loving East Texas weather. You never know what you will wake up to!

Rabbit K. – California
Pigeons! I’ve loved pigeons since I was a tiny child and did the Pigeon Dance along with Bert from Sesame Street. As an adult I adopted a gorgeous fancy lad from a pigeon fancier in New York and had him shipped to me in California. This pigeon, named Tom Lehrer, was a hilariously ungraceful, shockingly intelligent charmer with a bad foot that caused him to walk in circles. This past year, a local pigeon rescue reached out to me and asked if I had space for one more, and I was able to welcome one-eyed Alastor Moody into my life!

Susan S. – Iowa
I’m in this glorious stage, where my four children (who were born in five years) are quickly having their own children. I have 1 who is turning 9, but the other 10 are all under 5 years old, with (at least) one more coming in the spring. It’s chaotic, a madhouse, it’s loud and full of drool and diaper-changes and nursing mamas. But mostly it’s full of a loving family passing each other’s beloved children back and forth with joy and tenderness, and so much love. It’s cousins and siblings and Aunties and Funcles, and at the center, this very blessed Nonny, who can’t imagine loving them more.

Nicole G. – Pennsylvania
Camping. I love all things camping! I have been an avid camper for 38 years. I enjoy the outdoors, and spending time with family and friends.

Suzie O. – Pennsylvania
Patriot’s Cove in Noxen PA. It is a local organization organized by a Vet as a retreat for for injured Veterans, First Responders, and their caregivers. In, addition they are restoring the natural habitat of our native brown trout in Beaver Run.

I like how much they are bringing the community together for a common cause. Working together with like-minded people to enrich the lives of others is an amazing feeling. What’s not to love! I discovered it through word of mouth. There was no way something this awesome could stay a secret in this rural community.

As you an see we are quite diverse in the things that we’re loving. As cliche as it may sound, it really is the small things that bring enormous joy!

SXSW, GDC, and More: ModSquad Hits the Road This March

Can someone say “frequent-flyer miles”? March is typically a busy month for ModSquad’s elite crew of road warriors, and this year is no different. Next month you’ll find us jetting around the United States, from north to south and east to west. So if you’ll gather your belongings, let’s get on board Air ModSquad and get underway.

For the third straight year, ModSquad’s going to be exhibiting at the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. This annual gathering at the Austin Convention Center attracts the best and brightest from the worlds of interactive, film, and music. At the trade show, where you’ll find ModSquad, the focus is on disruptive breakouts and industry bigwigs all joining together to display their offerings and discuss the future of their respective industries. It’s an impressive display of digital know-how from clever, imaginative go-getters ready to change the world. We love the energy of the show, and always enjoy interacting with old friends and meeting new acquaintances.

Every year at SXSW our design team goes above and beyond to create a jaw-dropping booth space that always brings accolades from festival attendees. From 2017’s London Mod street scene to last year’s Swingin’ Mod Lounge, we delight in meeting people in our welcoming space. But this year… Well, you’ll just have to come check it out for yourself. We’re putting together a relaxing oasis of vacation serenity. Just as our clients can rest easy as ModSquad supports and engages their customers, our SXSW visitors will have a similar worry-free experience. We’ve got your passport to relaxation at ModSquad’s Tropical Getaway, complete with umbrella drinks and other tropical treats! If you’re around, set up a time to chat.

Heading out west, you’ll find ModSquad in “Game On!” mode at San Francisco’s Moscone Center for this year’s Game Developers Conference (GDC). This is another annual event for us, being as entrenched as we are in the video game industry. As the premier provider of outsourced player support, we live and breathe gaming; it’s in our DNA. So events like GDC are like homecoming for folks like our SVP, Global Operations Rich Weil, who seems to know the crowd top to bottom at GDC.

But that’s not all! In March we’ll also be storming New York City and Chicago. We’ll be taking a bite out of the Big Apple to meet up with clients and discuss exciting new initiatives with partners. It’s the city that never sleeps, which means we won’t have much down time while the team is in town.

Jetting off to the Windy City, we’ll be attending the 2019 ACI-NA/AAAE Airport Customer Experience Symposium, held March 4 – 7 at the Loews Chicago Hotel. We’ve done some noteworthy work for our airport clients (see our DFW and PHX case studies), and look forward to sharing more details on how we protect airports’ passengers and brands on social media and via moderation and support services.

If you see us on the road, be sure to stop by and say hello. If you’re in Austin, we’ll offer you a drink. And if it’s near the end of the month, offer us a chair. After that busy month, our dogs will be barkin’!

Happy travels!

SXSW: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

ADDRESS:

Austin Convention Center
Trade Show — Exhibit Halls 2, 3 & 4
531 East 4th Street
Austin, TX
Visit ModSquad at booth 1433 of the Trade Show.

EXHIBITION HOURS

Sunday, March 10 — Tuesday, March 12: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Wednesday, March 13: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

UMBRELLA DRINKS WITH MODSQUAD

SXSW Trade Show, booth 1433
Sunday, March 10 at 3:00 p.m.

GDC: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

ADDRESS:

Moscone Center
747 Howard Street
San Francisco, CA

EXHIBITION HOURS

Monday, March 18 – Thursday, March 21: 10 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Friday, March 22: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

AIRPORT CX SYMPOSIUM: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

ADDRESS

The Loews Chicago Hotel
455 North Park Drive
Chicago, IL

EXHIBITION HOURS

Monday, March 4: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tuesday, March 5: 8:30 a.m. – 5:15 p.m.
Wednesday, March 6: 8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m.

Novelty Accounts to Brighten Your Social Feeds

Over 8,000 tweets and nearly 1,000 Instagram photos are sent every second (on average). With so many people posting, it can be hard to know who’s worth following. We’ve gathered up some of the Twitter and Instagram accounts that always stop our scroll.

If your social media feeds need some fresh new content, you’ll want to check these out:

 

Not your grandmother’s Twitter account… or maybe it is. You can rely on Myrna Tellingheusen for her hot takes on current events, whether from the news or from her book club. It’s probably a good thing her friends aren’t on Twitter to see what she’s saying about them (or how she’s using hashtags#). You can also follow her live-in nephew, Lyle.

Have you ever looked at your dog and thought, “I wonder what he’s thinking right now?” Thoughts of Dog answers that question. Like any popular Twitter account, it shares one person’s (dog’s) feelings that many can relate to.

 

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A post shared by I am Cheeto. A cat. (@princesscheeto) on

Anyone who’s met a tuxedo cat can attest they’re full of personality. Cheeto is no different. With a distinct style and a slightly Andy Warhol-esque feel, Cheeto’s Instagram features some of the most creatively posed cat photos you’ll find on the platform.

While he calls Baltimore’s Inner Harbor home, Mr. Trash Wheel reaches a global community of fans who eat up his spicy memes like he eats up trash. Mr. Trash Wheel’s tweets spread environmental awareness while promoting the importance of reducing waste and increasing googly eye use.

 

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A post shared by Stuff on Toast (@stuffontoast) on

If you thought posting food photos on Instagram and eating avocado toast were the pinnacles of Millennial culture, Stuff On Toast is kind of like if if those two things had a baby. Fair warning: if you’re not hungry when you start browsing this account, you will be soon after.

When he joined Twitter, he was but the learner. Now he is the master. The Dark Lord of the Sith doesn’t tweet as often as we wish he would, but when he does, it’s full of satirical goodness that any Star Wars fan can appreciate.

If you’ve ever looked at an inanimate object and thought, “That kind of looks like a face,” you are not alone. Faces in Things shares the personalities hidden in everything from pant legs to puzzle pieces. On a related note, this is part of the phenomenon called pareidolia. There’s your $2 word for today.

 

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A post shared by hank (@mybestfriendhank) on

Don’t fancy dogs or cats? How about a perfectly pleasant pig? This is my best friend Hank, who you should follow if you enjoy cute animals. And if you don’t enjoy cute animals, we honestly have some questions.

Who needs a watch when you can just check the time on Twitter? Big Ben announces the time it at the top of every hour, just like the real thing. Note: don’t forget to add/subtract hours if you don’t live in London.

Muppets fans rejoice: there is an entire corner of the internet in which each of Muppet has its own Twitter account. Gonzo’s comprises exactly the loony entertainment you would expect from him.

We could go on forever with a list of our favorite social accounts. What are some of yours? Share them in the comments, or tweet them to us @modsquad so we can follow them, too.

4 Ways Consumer Brands Make the Most of YouTube

E-commerce has become an increasingly large part of today’s market, and the idea of a brand or product being available only online is taken as a matter of course. Not only that, but mobile shopping dominated Black Friday in 2018, proving just how far internet shopping has come. However, while we might think of social media sites like Facebook or Twitter as being the big drivers of traffic, YouTube is actually one of the most effective tools to drive e-commerce that brands have made use of the past several years. It’s the second largest search engine in the world, and the third most visited site online (after Google and Facebook). In fact, next year, global video traffic will account for 82% of consumer internet traffic, up from 70% of internet usage in 2015. That’s why if you’re looking for ways to increase your sales, traffic, and customer engagement, check out other brands who have created effective YouTube content.

1. Be Entertaining
Nothing gets people to watch, re-watch, and share your videos like giving them a good laugh or serving as a conversation starter. One of the best examples of this is Blendtec’s “Will It Blend?” series. These videos showed their blender in action, and by putting more and more ridiculous items into the blender, it got viewers to wonder, “What will go in there next?” Of course, at the same time, it showed off the product’s full features and made it clear this blender was tough, uncompromising, and a great addition to any kitchen.

2. Be Brief
People have short attention spans, with a third of video viewers tuning out in under 30 seconds. If they feel like you’re just trying to sell them something, then they’re going to tune out pretty quickly. A product video can usually do its job in 30 seconds or less. While you can go over this general guideline — for instance, the more emotional components you play on, the more time you can get — you should be able to get your message across in no more than a minute or so. Man Crates’ videos are perfect examples of giving potential customers everything they need to know as quickly as possible.

3. Be A Partner
There are a lot of big names on YouTube, and one of the best ways to increase your exposure is to reach their audience by standing next to them. The best way to do this is to collaborate with other YouTube channels. Whether it’s reaching out to an influencer to do an unboxing video of one of your products, or making a video where you and another company showcase your skills and products together, the idea is that synergy will garner more interest than what either of you would get making content on your own. With the right partner, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

4. Engage Your Audience
One of the biggest marketing mistakes you can make on any platform is forgetting your viewers. You need to focus on your audience’s experience and ask what they’re getting out of watching your videos. Sephora understands this: the people in their many tutorial videos reflect the makeup (no pun intended) of their customer base, and their comprehensive library of informative clips makes their channel a must-subscribe for cosmetics and skincare shoppers. Better yet, they’re fully engaged with viewers.

YouTube demands social interaction, giving prominence to channels where customer-and-publisher engagement is high. It’s not just about acquiring likes and comments; your brand should reply whenever possible, offer solutions to customer requests, and working to keep the conversation going rather than putting a period on it. Ideally, you (or a trusted partner that manages your social networks) will do this quickly. Take action as soon as possible in order to avoid having your followers lose interest in engaging with you.

YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than any cable or broadcast TV network, with 80% of this demographic watching YouTube in any given month. If your business needs help with social media engagement, we’re ready to jump in and help you engage your audience on this popular platform.

Mod of the Month – January 2019

2019 is off to a roaring start for us here at ModSquad. As you may have seen in one of our first blogs of the year, many of us are working towards new goals and resolutions, but we’re also continuing some of our most beloved traditions. That, of course, includes celebrating our first Mod of the Month of 2019, so let’s hear it for Dermy L!

Dermy works from our Derry, Northern Ireland office, where he began his ModSquad journey over three years ago. At that time, the Derry office was brand new, and Dermy saw it as the perfect opportunity, one that would build on his interests in technology and new media.

Dermy supports management teams across multiple projects to ensure we are consistently delivering high quality service to our clients. This includes monitoring essential metrics like attendance and productivity, as well as day-to-day operations of different projects.

I’ve found a place in ModSquad where I believe the tasks we carry out are what I’m best suited to. This is where I can use my analytical and organizational skills to ensure that no matter what issue may arise, we’ll resolve it in real time.

Prior to joining ModSquad, Dermy ran a local retail and ecommerce business. That experience helped him to provide high-quality chat and email support for one of our ecommerce clients. He is always committed to representing the client’s brand to the highest standard possible.

Customer support and social media engagement were key to my former business, and the venture developed my insight into the challenges a lot of our clients may face.

Dermy’s organizational skills come in handy in his home life as well, caring for two young children with his partner, Martina. His analytical mind is put to work when calculating just the right strength and speed needed to claim a win for the local darts team he plays on. He’ll “throw arrows” whenever he can and spends the rest of his time talking about this favorite hobby.

Ask any Project Manager who’s worked with Dermy, and they can confirm: He always hits the bullseye.

“I have worked with Dermy on several projects. He pays attention to detail and is an uplifting and positive influence on any project he is on!”
— Kristi Martin, Assistant Project Manager

“Dermy is a force for good, not just for the professionalism he brings to our Mods, but for the positivity he imbues them with. He doesn’t just excel at recording stats on Excel, he also excels at making an impact on people.”
— Joseph Moore, Project Manager

“Dermy is incredibly dedicated and professional. Everything he executes on shift is done with the utmost consideration. He has an attention to detail that really stands out and an awesome memory, and you can tell he really cares about what he does and always gives 110%. He’s a great dad and a funny guy. I’m all-around grateful to have him on our project.”
— Reed Kemp, Assistant Project Manager

“I’ve worked with Dermy on multiple projects. He’s very determined to master whatever project he’s a part of. Any feedback I’ve ever given him has been immediately taken to heart, and he’s used it to grow and become more successful in his position. He’s also extremely friendly, always ready to offer a kind or supportive word to anyone needing it in our group chats!”
— Cassie Daley, Project Manager

The Big Game Plan: Team Up Your Social Media with Major Events

It’s safe to say that social media appeals to people’s emotions. These feelings can range from anxiety to anticipation, and are often in conjunction with major events happening around the world. The Super Bowl is an example of just that. It doesn’t matter if your team didn’t make it to the showdown of all showdowns; the anticipation of this year’s commercials and halftime show is just as enticing.

The game opens a window of influence that any brand can tap into on social media. However, most companies can’t just drop a cool $5 million for a game-time commercial. That’s where it pays to get creative and join the online hype. Beyond using trending hashtags, creative outlets will run Twitter polls, or even Facebook posts that ask users to guess which team will win it all. The key is to get in before Sunday and make sure you’re sticking around a few days after to capitalize on any post-game buzz.

There are a number of fun, simple methods you can use to get in on the social conversation ramping up to big events like the Super Bowl. Your brand is already on social; you may as well join in the fun! The point is to show the human side of your brand and prove that you can let your hair down when the occasion calls for it. Be methodical, but have fun. As you start planning for this year, consider trying a few of the following suggestions to get in on the excitement.

Launch a Video Series

If you need a little inspiration on how to connect your video messaging to major events, take a look at Tide. Last year, Tide kept millions of viewers on their toes by creating commercials that weren’t obviously tied to its brand. The goal was to show that clean clothing is a necessity we don’t often think about. Each commercial looked and felt different from the one before, until it was revealed to be another Tide ad… and then another… and another. To draw inspiration from a campaign like this one, your messaging could include a series of videos leading up to a major announcement. Building anticipation is an excellent way to get followers invested in the outcome of the campaign as well as your brand itself.

Add Humor

Few things stop a thumb scroll like a funny video or meme. Humor encourages shares and promotes engagement. Amazon is one brand that got it right with its quirky, celebrity-filled ad during last year’s big game. While a famous celebrity may not be in your budget, creating laughs is free with a little out-of-the-box thinking. Feel-good, memorable content always stands out (and it won’t hurt if you can find a way to add in a celebrity cameo).

Leverage User Generated Content

Good, bad, or indifferent, content is king when it comes to social media. Of the millions of posts shared daily, the majority are created by average users with no agenda, but quality content can be a game-changer for your brand. Stay tuned in to what your fans are posting during big events, and consider asking for permission to reshare their content. Hosting a contest that encourages users to tag your brand or use a specific hashtag for a chance to win a prize. By simply showing interest in their content and engaging in a fun way, you can expose your brand to a broader audience.

Get in on Hashtags

We all know hashtags are the way to find your community on the internet. Use hashtags to get in on some of the trending topics during major events and see what people are talking about. Among the chatter, you may find someone who needs your service… or you may simply connect around a funny comment. Every chance to engage is an opportunity to sell your business, so make it count.

Aligning digital communications with popular events is an effective way to add a relatable component to your brand. All eyes are on the game: people are searching hashtags, shopping for gear, and building a community with other fans all around the globe. Trust us, you want in on this excitement!

ModSquad’s Key Traits of Excellent Community Managers

At ModSquad, our Community Managers embed themselves in an array of industries and brands, each with its own audience, needs, and goals. While there is no one-size-fits-all strategy for community management, there are several essential qualities that make for an excellent Community Manager (CM).

Be genuinely passionate, and show it. The best CMs know just how to connect with their specific audience. They share the same interests as those in their community, understanding their excitements and frustrations, because they have felt them too. You best believe the CMs for any given video game are active players themselves, and that the moderators on r/crochet are no strangers to yarn and hooks. Being able to relate to you as a CM not only builds trust but keeps people coming back to engage.

Learn through observation. Community management isn’t about reinventing the wheel; it’s about finding and connecting with your specific audience. Start by taking a look around: what are other communities doing that works? That doesn’t work? Spend time observing, researching and learning from other successful communities, and from there, build a strategy that’s tailored to fit your community’s needs.

Guide by example. As the leader of a community, it’s the CM’s responsibility to model the behavior they want to see from members. Want people to be positive and supportive of their fellow members? Exude that positivity yourself, even when discussions get heated. When trolls inevitably rear their heads (yes, it happens in every community), don’t let them get under your skin. As the leader of your community, your actions set the norms. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” has never held more true than when setting expectations for your digital community.

Keep calm and carry on. Even in the moments when every user has raised their pitchforks, a it’s important to remain cool and collected. A good CM doesn’t take negative comments personally or get frazzled by competing priorities. They stay collected and work diligently to moderate fairly, manage each request, and keep the peace.

Always be ready for action. From social media and forums to in-game chats, digital communities are 24/7, meaning issues can arise at any time. That’s not to say that you can’t be a successful CM and make commitments outside of work. What it does mean is ensuring plans and processes are set up ahead of time to ensure your community is being monitored when you aren’t around.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst. If you’re looking for predictability, online communities probably aren’t a good place to start. They are living and evolving spaces made up of unique individuals, and while a deep familiarity with your audience can help you anticipate trends, there’s always the chance something will send you scrambling. When surprises happen, for better or for worse, it’s important to establish escalation paths and protocols to ensure things are handled efficiently.

Be curious. There’s no better place to learn about your community’s needs than from the community itself. Start by asking questions and familiarizing yourself with what makes the community tick. You don’t always have to be the smartest person in the room, but showing a vested interest in and excitement for the community will go a long way. Curiosity didn’t kill this cat!

Find your champions. Strong online communities are built from engaged, empowered users who feel like they’re part of something. These folks are the most active, the most engaged, the most informed, and they’re every community managers’ best friend. They’re often a wealth of information and an excellent resource for learning more about the community’s history, frustrations, or ideas for the future.

As we collaborate with clients on many digital communities, ModSquad’s own CMs strive to make these spaces safe, welcoming, and engaging hubs for their users. Making these eight tips a part of their routine ensures a successful community for all.

Time to Shore Up Your Security

The age of big data is so yesterday. This is the age of big data privacy.

Monday, January 28 is Data Privacy Day, an annual touch-base for industry players and Internet denizens alike to take stock in their security measures and ramp up their efforts.

Many may not have a choice: Last year, the EU passed the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the biggest evolution in data privacy regulation in decades. Coming on its heels is the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA); effective next January, the act grants Golden State residents the right to discover what information about them is being collected by businesses. Clearly, privacy is being taken seriously by legislators. And for good reason; literally billions of user accounts have been compromised over the past few years, and consumers have had enough. In a ModSquad survey conducted by Harris Interactive, 70% of respondents reported being more concerned with how their information is handled by online services.

While it’s up to regulators to monitor company usage of our personal data, there are things we can do now to safeguard our vital information. These are good practices to undertake not just on Data Privacy Day, but always.

Update your system. This one’s a no-brainer, but too often we don’t bother updating our security software or ensuring we have the latest OS, browser, or app. That’s the easiest way to defend against malware and viruses. And don’t forget to keep your mobile devices up to date.

Make it impossible to pick your virtual locks. We’ve moved beyond “password1234” and even password managers. If you want to fortify your accounts, two-factor authentication is a must. You’ve likely encountered this in your online banking or financial services transactions. This requires a unique one-time code, sent to your device or email, to access your account. The next rung up the safety ladder is biometrics, including fingerprint- to iris-scanning technology.

Self-storage is a must. Ensure the security of your most vital documents by regularly backing them up. Whether you use a trusted cloud service for an annual fee or spring for an external hard drive (a better value, but with more limited access), maintaining an electronic archive of your critical data is imperative. If you don’t, and calamity strikes, it’s a mistake you won’t make twice.

Open with care. It’s worth repeating, since so many people still fall prey to phishing scams: Don’t open any suspicious files or links in emails, posts, ads, or attachments. Even if you know the sender, that harmless-looking message may have been spoofed. Tread carefully.

Protect your business. Your employer may have an IT department or security team looking out for the organization, but you can help by pitching in. If you bring your own device to work, ensure that any company or customer information is being properly accessed and safely stored. Keep up with the latest technologies and functions so you understand the strengths and risks of all programs with which you interact.

By making a conscious effort to ensure your data is safe from any nefarious activity, you’re doing your part to thwart cyber crime. Keeping your data private is a ongoing concern, both for companies and individuals, so incorporating these practices into our daily routines is a smart move.

Project Manager of the Quarter – January 2019

We’ve just come off a whirlwind few weeks of celebrating the people who make ModSquad great, from awesome Mods to the recipient of our Bestofus Festivus award. But the accolades keep coming in 2019, as we happily introduce the year’s first Project Manager of the Quarter, Mark Concannon! Along with earning his PM title, Mark was an integral part of the launch and creation of ModSquad’s real-time operations team. Originally created to support one client’s project, it’s now utilized on more than a dozen engagements.

Mark joined ModSquad in Derry, Northern Ireland in July 2016 and hasn’t looked back. As a student at the University of Ulster, Mark was busy earning his Information Communication Technology degree when a buzz began to spread among the school’s IT community. ModSquad was coming to town, and word was out that the company was seeking qualified folks to populate our European Operations Centre. After graduation, Mark was offered an opportunity as a Mod; after excelling in that role, he eventually applied for an available Project Manager position. Needless to say, he’s proven to be a great PM.

My proudest moment would be beginning as a Mod on the VitalSource project and later applying for and becoming a Project Manager. The journey has been very rewarding and something I will cherish for a long time.

Mark recognizes that his work, along with that of his team, is in service of two groups of people — ModSquad’s clients and their customers. He finds serving each group equally important.

My background is customer support and call center work. This is my forte and what I really enjoy. Making customers and clients happy is rewarding in every way possible. I also work hard on client relations. Building that relationship is key to showing that at ModSquad, we’re always here to help, and we have the clients’ interests at heart.

Maintaining those relationships and consistently pleasing customers is no mean feat, but Mark knows what it takes to make it happen.

My goal is to have a group that enjoys coming to work, that cares. If you have that, everything else falls into place. The customer receives a great experience and the client gets the results that ModSquad is known for.

His dedication and determination have made an impression on many of his coworkers, who can attest to his growth and success as a Project Manager, as we’ll share below. One last bit of advice from Mark for future PMs? “Listen and learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and show eagerness and initiative.”

“Mark has been one of my most reliable Project Managers. He’s always ready and willing to step up to any task for one of my highest-volume projects and longest-running clients. Mark’s management style is greatly appreciated by everyone I talk to, from our executive team to the Assistant Project Managers who work with him. It’s always a struggle when his APMs get new projects, because they don’t want to stop working with Mark’s group. The only downside is that I haven’t had the opportunity to meet him in person yet!”
–Jay Biros, Account Manager

“Mark is someone I can depend on to take on any task. He’s very approachable and is well respected by his colleagues at all levels in the organization and by our clients. He gets the job done and has delivered some great successes. Keep up the good work, Mark!”
–Stephen Dunne, Director, Client Services

“Mark is a reliable manager who steps up to every challenge we throw at him. He’s well liked by both his peers and his clients, and has been a key part of helping to grow the projects in which he’s involved.”
–Jason Ferguson, Senior Director, Client Services

“I’ve had the opportunity to work with and watch Mark grow over the past two years, and it’s been nothing short of stellar. Day in and day out, Mark goes above and beyond in client delivery and in support of those around him. If there’s ever an issue that comes up, we can always count on Mark to take the lead and generate serious results. Mark absolutely rocks!”
–Mike Koger, Senior Project Manager

“When I worked in the office in Derry, Mark was always one of the Mods who took a great interest in the company and how things worked. He educated himself on our processes and culture, and we quickly noticed what an asset Mark was to ModSquad. When Mark became a PM, he continued to excel in his work, always took the initiative to troubleshoot and resolve any problems, and was our reliable go-to guy. I always relax when I know Mark is going to be on one of my projects!”
–Mike Marcantel, Account Manager

“I really enjoy working with Mark and appreciate his willingness to help where he can. Mark is dedicated to excellence and I’ve found him to be very resourceful and a problem solver. He is quick to support and assist others and he regularly comes to the table with ideas on how to improve the way we operate.”
–Steve Henry, VP of Services

How to Manage Negative Comments on Social Media

What’s that old saying? If you don’t have anything nice to say… Well, that was before the age of social media, which has empowered us to say anything, often behind a veil of anonymity. For brands, while channels like Twitter and Instagram enable community building like few platforms before them, they also open the door for frustrated customers to share their opinions. It’s important to take negative comments in stride and face negative sentiment proactively to ensure your social media communities will continue to blossom.

The short version: see negativity as opportunity.

1. Respond to Reviews

Every review deserves your attention. Whether a customer is singing your praises with a glowing 5-star review or putting in all caps some choice words we can’t publish here, it’s important to show them their feedback matters. Take the time with every review to write a response that’s personalized to that customer’s specific situation. Then, follow up with the customer privately to gather additional information about their experience and do whatever you can to rectify the situation.

By responding publicly and thoughtfully to reviews, especially negative ones, you’re not only doing your part to retain the customer who wrote the review, but also showing potential new customers that you care about your customers and make the effort to right wrongs. Once an issue is resolved, some customers will even go back and update their review based on the personalized service they received; you never know which reviews you may convert from 1 to 5 stars.

2. Coordinate with Other Teams to Keep Your Community Informed and Engaged

Just as you should respond to every review, so should you respond to as many questions and comments as you can. While there are questions you’ve received a hundred times, your newest customers may still need that information. Not only is this good practice to keep your community active; it also helps prevent misinformation from spreading.

It’s important to also establish an escalation process that works cross-departmentally. That way, if a hot topic bubbles up within the community or a new question arises, your social media manager can coordinate with the right people to ensure the proper response is sent.

3. Take the Conversation Offline

It’s not uncommon for an upset customer to comment on one of your posts to complain, making their bad experience known to anyone else who views the post. Addressing these complaints quickly is key to ensuring one person’s negative experience doesn’t impact other customers’ perception of your brand. In cases like these, addressing the customer’s concern and letting them know you’ll message them privately allows you to move the discussion to a one-to-one environment, while also showing other customers that the issue is not being ignored.

4. Wield Your Moderation Tools Strategically

Every social platform offers some level of built-in moderation tools to help. For instance, on Facebook, hiding a comment will prevent everyone except the person who posted it and their friends to see it. This can be especially useful for curbing trolls, who are looking to elicit a response from you and will only feel empowered if they notice you’ve deleted one of their comments.

On Instagram, you can specify words or emojis you don’t want appearing in your comments at all, and the platform will automatically filter them out of view. This is particularly useful for communities looking to keep profanity or hate speech out of their comments.

If a user becomes consistently problematic and is detracting from your community, you can consider blocking them entirely, which will prevent them from engaging with your content. This should be done carefully, as the banned user may reappear on other platforms.

Ultimately, managing negative comments comes down to maintaining an active and thoughtful presence on your channels. Doing so accomplishes several goals: it shows you care about your customers, it keeps them informed, and it can deter troublemakers because they know you’ll be around to moderate.

As social media evolves, so do the strategies of managing content and communities. If you need help managing your social channels, our Mods know just the right ways to respond, moderate, and engage with your customers. Let us know what challenges you’re facing on social and we’ll let you know how we can help.

Let the Games Begin: ModSquad at PAX South and Beyond

As we kick off a new year, we asked one of our veteran gaming experts, SVP, Global Operations Rich Weil, about what he sees on the gaming horizon as he prepares for PAX South in San Antonio, Texas, on January 18–20. Here’s what he has to say:

In thinking about the year ahead, it’s always humbling to reflect on the privilege I’ve had working with the game industry yet another year. Throughout ModSquad’s history, we’ve always worked closely with many of the top companies in the video game industry, and we’ve been there for all of the advancements and breakthroughs in the industry over the years.

2019 marks my ninth year working for ModSquad and my fourteenth year working with the video game industry. When I started, MMOs ruled the landscape and no one had heard of a MOBA or a battle royale game. Like any tech-driven industry, today’s hot new development becomes old hat in a few short years, and players are always hungry for the next big thing.

In 2019, the next big thing may be coming to your door faster than you’d expect. I expect to see shorter release cycles for new games, which doesn’t leave as much time for marketing to build up hype for the game. But we’ve seen other industries like music, film, and streaming try this angle with success; the stunned reactions that the announcement of an imminent release can create equals lots of good publicity. Also this year, look for the trend of game company consolidations and acquisitions to continue unabated. And we’ll likely see more major players (excuse the pun) from the Asian market expanding their operations in the West, which to me is a win-win for everyone, with increased markets and expanded options for players.

It’s imperative to keep up with the rapid pace of change in this field, and many industry veterans will be the first to acknowledge that it’s tough to predict what’s going to strike a chord with players. That’s why it’s always been important to be able to adapt to the ever-changing gaming landscape, to have the ability to quickly adjust to opportunities and problems.

I’m proud that ModSquad has been a part of helping game companies like Konami, Wooga, Zynga, and Hutch Games make smart yet fast-paced adjustments for the past 11 years. We work with our clients to be proactive in addressing player and gaming trends and technology, and we’re looking forward to another year of partnering with the best organizations in the game industry to provide optimal player experiences, from QA testing to customer support, moderation, social media, and other player-facing services.

And that brings to mind another ModSquad constant for 2019. As always, we’ll be attending many of the awesome game-related conferences in the new year, starting off with PAX South in San Antonio, Texas, on January 18-20. We’d love to have the chance to chat about ModSquad’s digital engagement services and game industry expertise, if you’ll be in the area as well.

I hope our paths cross in 2019 — at PAX South, another game conference, or even online. If you’re attending the show, let’s meet! Otherwise, feel free to drop me a line!

Rich Weil
SVP, Global Operations

Setting Our Sights for 2019

New year, new you! It’s officially 2019, and we all know what that means: making resolutions for the year ahead. As a company, our goals are always to impress and satisfy our amazing clients and to continue to serve more great brands through digital engagement. And of course, we’re all making individual resolutions as well.

In the spirit of the New Year, we asked some folks at ModSquad to share what goals they’ve set for themselves for 2019. Read on to see what they’re hoping to accomplish this year.

“Improve the lives of all I come in contact with. Also, eat more cheese… Way more cheese.” –Kenny P., California

“Potty train my daughter!” –Miranda H., Tennessee

“My number one goal is to read more books! I only completed one in 2018, so it shouldn’t be too hard to exceed that. My number two goal is to MOVE more! Just get out and get some more exercise! Maybe downgrade my couch potato status just a bit.” –Gina M., California

“Spend more time experiencing new things with my family rather than surrounding ourselves with material things.” –Danielle G., Florida

“I want to continue to get my mind and body into better health, plus start and finish my medical coding and billing online course.” –Matt W., Tennessee

“Quit smoking (really this time), and take my dogs on more walks on their favorite nature trail.” –Ali S., Pennsylvania

“This year will be a good one, I’m sure of it. Will be doing BIG things and making a new life.” –Linda B., Tennessee

“I plan to finally move forward on some long-time goals. I have notes for two manuscripts that I have carried around for years, so I plan to write for at least 30 minutes each day. I have joined a writers group on the Meetup app, and sharing our work is part of the meetings, so I will be glad to have some accountability. I also plan to go back to grad school and finish the PhD that I abandoned years ago. No time like the present!” –Olivia L., Tennessee

“In 2019 I want to continue to improve myself, as I always do. For my resolutions, I have a 50-pound weight loss goal, or more if I can swing it. I also want to finish a 1:12-scale dollhouse I’ve been slowly working on for the last year and a half.” –Jessica D., Georgia

“Take a cruise to the Western Caribbean, start live streaming on Twitch, and get back into roller skating/rollerblading as a hobby.” –Sarah C., Pennsylvania

“I like to keep my resolutions simple and realistic. Fill out a daily planner/to-do list (fell out of this habit in 2018), do more journaling, get more sleep.” –Geneva H., California

“I want to get my recently new-to-me van set up for camping in time for the return of longer days and warmer weather. I also intend to finally start either or both of the two novels I’ve been plotting in my head for eons. I’m planning on continuing my already-established healthy eating regimen, and I fully expect to document all of the above through Facebook and blogging.” –Ellen B., Oregon

“I’m going to stop smoking!” –Janice W., Illinois

“I want to improve my physical fitness and singing skills again, after two important surgeries. I feel like I am at the top of a mountain after a long hike. And now I can see from the top all the world clearly again. My hopes are to be healthy, fit, and happy, or at least maintaining a positive attitude and reach new goals with my job and life. I also plan to take C1 for Russian, Polish, Japanese (currently I’m at level B1).” –Marco S., Poland

“My first goal is to get married (date is set for November!). I also want to travel more and start streaming more regularly.” –Peter M., Northern Ireland

“I’m hoping to progress at ModSquad, start a relationship before I’m 30, be better at attending university classes and budget my spending better.” –Chelsea D., Austria

We also asked people to share a single word they feel embodies their hopes for 2019. Here are just some of ones they shared:

Whatever goals you’re setting for yourself this year, you have our full support at ModSquad. And if those goals happen to be something like “Improve my brand’s social media presence” or “Increase customer satisfaction,” you know we can support you there too.

Mod of the Month – December 2018

Just when you thought our December celebrations were complete… not quite! Before we say goodbye to 2018, we have one more awesome member of ModSquad to highlight. Please join us for our final spotlight of the year and raise a toast to our December 2018 Mod of the Month, Charles H!

In August 2016, Charles was looking for work that would offer him a work-from-home opportunity in an environment that was professional yet flexible. That’s when he discovered and joined ModSquad, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since.

Charles works on one of our customer service projects, providing email-based support for one of our clients in the meal delivery industry. He assists their customers in ensuring their orders arrive properly and to their liking, and that any issues are dealt with quickly and professionally. While Charles’s experience extends to phone and other types of support as well, he considers email his forte.

I love being able to author well thought out replies that cover all the bases a customer needs.

Helping others in any form is something that comes naturally to Charles, and his experience speaks to that. Prior to joining ModSquad, Charles spent several years as a computer support technician and technical support agent. He also provided captioning assistance for the deaf and hard of hearing.

In his spare time, Charles can often be found writing, designing, and illustrating his own comic book. If your a fan of comics, be on the lookout: he hopes to release it in the near future! He hasn’t given us any hints on whether his comic will be superhero-related, but if you ask those who’ve worked with him, Charles is a superhero himself:

“Charles is such an asset to our group. He’s one of those Mods who just knows what needs to be done and not only gets it done, but gets it done correctly, always. His QA consistently exceed expectations, he’s super productive, and when the client shows us great tickets, it’s always one of his.”
–Michelle Ramage, Project Manager

“Charles is dedicated, reliable, knowledgeable, and helpful – he’s everything we could ask for and more! It’s always a pleasure to work with Charles.”
–Racheal McKenny, Assistant Project Manager

“Charles has worked on an important CS client of mine for several years. His performance is at the top of the pack and his dedication is to the client is admirable. We’re lucky to have him!”
–Jason Ferguson, Director of Client Services

‘Tis The Season for Celebrating Our People

What can we say? 2018 has been extraordinary. Before we dive into a new year of excitement and adventure, we wanted to take a moment to celebrate the movers and shakers who make magic happen on the regular.

As has become one of our favorite ModSquad traditions, we came together this month to recognize across social media some of the special people and moments who make us who we are. In case you missed any of our posts, we’ve compiled them all below for you to enjoy.

8 Nights of Mod Awesomeness

The miracle of Hanukkah inspired us to celebrate some of our stars who shined bright this year. Thinking through the many highlights of 2018, it was these individuals who transformed tricky situations and added value through creativity and commitment.

12 Days of Mods

On the twelfth day of Christmas, ModSquad gave to me: twelve stories about twelve awesome Mods. Meet the incredible folks who were like a gift to us the whole year through.

Bestofus Festivus

A new tradition began last year, and it’s a thrill to continue it: the Bestofus Festivus honor celebrates that someone among us who embodies the ModSquad spirit in everything they do. Congratulations to this year’s honoree: Jason Ferguson! Read our spotlight on Jason and the ringing endorsements that showcase why Jason was named our Bestofus this year.

ModSquad’s 2018 Bestofus Festivus

On this grand day of Festivus, we invite you to gather around the Festivus pole as we name the recipient of 2018’s Bestofus Festivus recognition. Once a year, we select and acknowledge the person among us who best exemplifies the ModSquad spirit. In determining 2018’s recipient, we looked for someone who serves as an inspiration to the rest of us, one who goes above and beyond again and again, and is the personification of the best of ModSquad culture.

We’re thrilled to announce that ModSquad’s 2018 Bestofus Festivus is Jason Ferguson! Jason is a true ModSquad success story, having worked his way up through the company over the years that he’s been here. He started off as a Mod, providing moderation services for Webosaurs. In the ensuing years, Jason was named an APM, PM, AM, Director, and is now Senior Director. Clearly, he does it all!

A familiar face to everyone in Sacramento and nearly all of us beyond, the always-cheerful Jason is truly dedicated to everyone at ModSquad. That passion for the company showed back in the day when he uprooted himself to come across the country to head up our Sacramento Operations Center, and he still has that same level of positivity today. From always being willing to help at any time to supporting our social media and fundraising efforts to being ever-willing to deal with Sacramento’s ongoing plumbing issues (sorry, Jason!), he’s a one-of-a-kind go-getter that we’re honored to call not just our coworker, but our friend.

Those who’ve worked with Jason have nothing but respect and admiration for his work and for Jason as an individual as well. Here are some thoughts his coworkers have shared with us:

“Jason is an extraordinary person! He is one of my favorite people to work for and to work with. He has played a pivotal role in helping me become a successful Account Manager. He is strategic, manages complex cases well, promotes teamwork and creates lasting relationships with clients and his coworkers. Jason is passionate about ModSquad and the company’s success. He is not all about work, though. Jason has a great sense of humor, which makes working with him enjoyable. We can be in a meeting with him and then all of a sudden he says something witty and has everyone laughing. He is genuine and an all-around great guy.”
— Theresa Galle, Account Manager

“Jason is a super-talented individual who is committed to the success of those around him, to our clients, and to our organization in general. He is quick to help others and approaches challenges with a positive, can-do attitude, often times drawing upon a deep understanding of our business and team strengths to come up with an optimal solution. Jason is very well respected by everyone he works with and with our clients.

Singing Santa congratulates Jason at our Sacramento Operations Center.

“On a personal level, Jason is thoughtful, friendly, funny, wise, and generous with his time. It’s not uncommon for Jason to be working on something behind the scenes to ensure a team member is being supported properly or a deliverable is being met. As a leader, he is willing to take on any task at hand, often times leading by example and motivating others to do their best. Jason is invaluable part of our organization and someone who can be depended on in all situations. I’ve learned a lot from Jason by working with him on a daily basis and appreciate everything that he does. Jason is amazing!”
— Stephen Henry, VP, Client Services

“I’ve been lucky enough to work with Jason on several projects over the last 10 years and can honestly say he’s just one of those people who will always have your back.

“He’s great at identifying the needs of our clients, and the needs of the PMs, helping manage the day-to-day for those clients. He knows when to step in but more importantly, he knows when to step-back and let us do our thing.

“Not to mention, he’s so dedicated to this company and all of our clients. At least a few times a week I see him still working at 7 p.m., at 10 p.m., and when needed — even later. Days off? Not if you need him. Vacation? Not if you need him. He’s willing to be here at any time, any day, for any need.

“We should all be thankful to have him as part of our group.”
— Michelle Ramage, Project Manager

“Jason has demonstrated time and time again here at ModSquad that he is a highly skilled team player. He has fantastic instincts and experience dealing with clients and working with a wide variety of internal stakeholders. Jason takes on any duty asked of him, and has been involved at high levels on many of ModSquad’s most important and/or challenging projects. As a leader, Jason has earned respect from all those who work with him.

“On a personal note, Jason is just a really good guy and a pleasure to work with. I’m glad I’ve had the privilege of working with him.”
— Rich Weil, SVP, Global Operations

“There are a few people who come to mind when I think about leadership here. I’ve had the honor of having Jason as an Account Manager, as a Director, an ear to vent to, and a shoulder to lean on. Day or night, Jason is there for you. He is eager and willing to dive into the depths with you, no matter how deep it gets.

“His kind heart and joyous attitude brings so much light and happiness when you may be having an off day or even just in a one-off conversation. His ability to juggle the amount of work he has to do and still make you feel like you’re the first priority in his book is something that should be sought after by everyone.

“You can’t have ModSquad without Jason, you just can’t.”
— Brian Fuhrman, Project Manager

“Jason is the great mediator and listener here at ModSquad. He has an ability to listen to varying facts and opinions, then turn those conversations into actionable plans that everyone walks away feeling good about. He’s a member of a core group of leadership that, for years now, are regularly called in to handle challenging situations, and he never disappoints.

“Personally, I’ve reported either directly or indirectly to Jason for over five years now and consider our working relationship over that time period a huge part of my growth within the business. When we all take a moment to sit around the virtual campfire and swap war stories, Jason’s right there with us to chime in with some long-forgotten piece of our collective history and to remind everyone that he’s always by our side. I doubt I’ll ever have another partner quite like him, and consider him to be one of the very best people I’ve ever known.”
— Josh Smith, Strategic Management Specialist

“Jason knows ModSquad inside and out; his knowledge of best practices is second to none, along with knowing all the potential issues and questions that come with the wide variety of clients we have. He has seen it all, heard it all and fixed it all. Truly the go-to guy at ModSquad.”
— Mike Marcantel, Account Manager

“One of the things I admire most about Jason is how calm and collected he is in every situation we’ve worked through together. It doesn’t matter if we’re in crunch time or the slowest point of the year, Jason is always positive, encouraging, and helps navigate the tough questions when that time comes. Jason has taught me a lot about how to step back and handle a situation strategically instead of just pushing through. It doesn’t hurt that he is one of the easiest people to talk to and get along with. Jason also gets points from me because he loves the best soda, Mountain Dew.”
— Jay Biros, Account Manager

“Jason is helpful, kind, thoughtful, supportive, funny, positive, always willing to help, is part task-octopus / part-control-center operator. He’s always on point to help with activities, comes in late nights or weekends for any needs at the drop of the hat, supports all departments, and is part life saver (cannot confirm flavor).”
— Izzy Neis, Sr. Director, Digital Engagement

“Jason is the type of person who will go out of his way to ensure things are going smoothly for you and your team. He views any challenge that you may have as his own challenge, and he steps in to help when he sees someone who could use extra assistance. He is always there for us (and by always I mean even at 2 a.m.). It’s reassuring to know that I can go to him with any feedback I may have and he’ll hear it objectively. I’m happy to have seen him grow from an AM to a Director and I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the recognition than Jason.”
— Heather Banks, Project Manager

“Jason is Mike Pinkerton’s, our COO, one claim to fame. Mike is always bragging, ‘I hired him!’ So I guess I have to give him that. Can’t imagine ModSquad without Jason.”
— Amy Pritchard, CEO

All of us at ModSquad offer our congratulations — and thanks — to Jason. Please be sure to join in the fun and congratulate Jason in the comments section below.

Here’s wishing everyone a fantastic 2019!

Holiday GIFs That Keep On Giving

As the holidays approach, it’s likely we’ll be spending more time on social media wishing people near and far seasonal cheer and well wishes for the new year. GIFs are the perfect expressions of online feelings that brighten the internet daily. It might be a clip from your favorite TV show, a celebrity reaction, cute animals or babies, or a clever animation. In the spirit of giving, here are a few seasonal GIFs to liven up your holiday social media shares.

You get a GIFt, and you get a GIFt!

When you have more holiday spirit than anyone else.

When your favorite Christmas song comes on.

When you are happy for time off work, but the kids don’t seem to understand the word “off.”

When your outdoor Christmas lights are LIT.

When you’re not feeling that awkward gift.

After the presents have been opened, and Christmas breakfast has been eaten.

A seasonal reminder of what not to do.

When you’re over wrapping presents.

Wishing you the best as the year comes to an end. May you take these GIFs and spread some cheer. Happy holidays!

Customer Service Trends to Watch for in 2018: Our Year-End Recap

With 2018 coming to a close, it’s an appropriate time for year-end reflection. This includes revisiting an article we ran in January, which outlined trends that impact customer service. Let’s take a look and see what’s come to pass.

Adapt To Your Customers

The first trend we foresaw was the need for brands to adapt to their customers’ ever-evolving needs. If the numbers we reported about the growth in mobile usage on Black Friday and Cyber Monday are any indication, that adaptation is well underway. Brands have responded to the emergence of mobile as a vital customer channel by building up their omnichannel experience. With consumers clamoring for the ability to research and purchase goods and services wherever and whenever they want, smart companies are responding quickly to meet that demand. An Invesp report shows that companies utilizing omnichannel strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as opposed to the 39% retention rate for companies behind the omnichannel eight ball.

Deep Dive Into Tech

Predicting a heavy investment in technology was probably a no-brainer, but it has proven true, across many sectors. Even the simple act of buying flowers can involve AI technology; 1-800-Flowers uses IBM’s Watson to help walk site visitors through their options to find the perfect personalized selection. Amazon’s retail shop, Amazon Go, relies on RFID and deep learning algorithms to give consumers what they’ve been clamoring for for years — a simple shopping experience unhindered by checkout lines. Even support software giant Salesforce is utilizing AI technologies to provide automated-but-still-personalized customer support.

You Are Your Brand

Another CS trend on the rise at the start of the year was that of brands representing a cause. Through goodwill gestures or fundraising efforts, companies can show the world at large what matters to them collectively. A recent Edelman Earned Brand study found that 64% of consumers will make a purchasing decision based on a brand’s social or political position. But not all cause-based efforts resonate as desired; hit the wrong nerve with your customer base and you could have an all-hands-on-deck situation for your support team. Nearly three quarters of Millennials and Gen-Z will pay a premium for products and services from companies aligned with their social values. What your company says and does is being closely watched by your customers, and this isn’t going to change.

Transparency Is Key

Finally, brand transparency isn’t just a pipe dream. Companies have gained an understanding that authenticity on their part can result in loyalty from customers. A whopping 93% of food shoppers consider it important that companies offer them the ability to access easily understandable definitions of ingredients in their foods. Consumers in the EU expect fashion brands to provide transparency by offering detailed information about the provenance of their clothing. And to appeal to the important Millennial market, which demands brand authenticity, 90% of consumer marketers recognize the need for brand transparency over the long run. It’s a must-have in a time when the vast majority of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience, from customer service to marketing.

When we first presented these predicted trends, we noted how there’s a power shift underway in which consumers take the lead. As the past year has shown, even with companies using bleeding-edge tech to prompt purchasing decisions, it’s still the human element behind the brand — the stories they tell, the people they hire, the causes they support, and the manufacturing and procurement methods they utilize — that matters most.

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