Filtering agency emails

Image of mailboxes to represent filtering agency emails Photo by 白士 李:

The excitement of signing up to a new agency and receiving your first job offer provides for a real buzz. A new team of managers, a different range of clients, and the potential for some awesome gigs coming through into your virtual mailbox appeals to your curiosity and inbound post is read with relish.

Until that email turns into hundreds. Then maybe thousands, as you register with more agencies. And not just that, but you’re hectic at the moment with finals and shifts and social events galore. You want to apply to some shifts, but the amount of incoming mail is overwhelming and not to mention, totally drowning your inbox to the point where personal emails get lost in the subject headers and you decide it’s just not even worth checking the mail. This just isn’t working.

Many staff, at this point, get in touch asking to be taken off the books, preferring to not be registered with an agency at all rather than be bombarded by potentially irrelevant job offers. But there’s another option: filtering your agency emails. Here we have a look at the most popular email servers and how to create filters.

Filtering incoming mail for Gmail

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the search box at the top, click the Down arrow Down Arrow.
  3. Enter your search criteria. If you want to check that your search worked correctly, see what emails show up by clicking Search Search.
  4. At the bottom of the search window, click Create filter with this search.
  5. Choose what you’d like the filter to do.
  6. Click Create filter.
  7. When you create a filter to forward messages, only new messages will be affected.

Use a particular message to create a filter

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Check the checkbox next to the email you want.
  3. Click More.
  4. Click Filter messages like these.
  5. Enter your filter criteria.

Filtering incoming mail for Hotmail

  1. Select Options | More options… (or just Options in Windows Live Hotmail classic) from the toolbar.
  2. Follow the Automatically sort e-mail into folders link under Customize your mail.
  3. Click New filter.
  4. Select the desired filtering criterion under Which messages are you looking for?.
  5. Choose the folder to receive all mail matching your criterion under Where do you want to put these messages?.

Filtering incoming mail for Yahoo

  1. Mouse over the Settings icon Image of the Mail Settings icon. | select Settings.
  2. Click Filters
  3. Click Add.
  4. Enter a Filter Name.
  5. Enter the filter criteria.
  6. Select a folder to deliver the affected emails to or select New Folder to create a new one.
  7. Click Save.
  8. Click Save again to return to your emails.

Filtering incoming mail for Outlook

  1. Click the File tab.
  2. Click Manage Rules & Alerts.
  3. In the Rules and Alerts dialog box, on the E-mail Rules tab, click New Rule.
  4. Under Start from a blank rule, click either Check messages when they arrive or Check messages after sending.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Under Step 1: Select condition(s), select the conditions that you want the messages to meet for the rule to apply.
  7. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value for any condition that you added, and then specify the value.
  8. Click Next.
  9. Under Step 1: Select action(s), select the action that you want the rule to take when the specified conditions are met.
  10. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value for any action that you added, and then specify the value.
  11. Click Next.
  12. Under Step 1: Select exception(s), select any exceptions to the rule, and then click Next.
  13. Under Step 2: Edit the rule description, click an underlined value for any exception that you added, and then specify the value.
  14. Click Next.
  15. Under Step 1: Specify a name for this rule, enter a name.
  16. Under Step 2: Setup rule options, select the check boxes for the options that you want.
  17. If you want to run this rule on messages that already are in the Inbox, select the Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox” check box.
  18. By default, the new rule is turned on. To turn off the rule, clear the Turn on this rule check box.
  19. To apply this rule to all email accounts set up in Outlook, select the Create this rule on all accounts check box.
  20. Click Finish.
  21. What filters should you create?

Filtering your inbox by subject

Perhaps you’d like to separate job invites from being shortlisted to a shift, and confirmation requests from decline messages. If so, there are some key words that most agencies using Watu will use.

How to create a Gmail filter in your inbox
Creating a Gmail filter

When a box like the above Gmail option pops up offering you various filters, here’s what to enter:

Job Invites: (Subject) “Would you be interested in”
Being shortlisted to a job: (Subject) “Status: SHORTLISTED”
Confirming a job you’ve been booked to: (Subject) “Status: SUCCESSFUL”
Your application to a job was declined: (Subject) “Status: UNSUCCESSFUL”

Extra: From: This is a bit trickier, as each manager has an individual email address. If you opt to use this filter, note that it will be from an email address with ‘watu’ in it, and not the manager’s direct email address. (hint: also add this inbound email address to your contacts, to avoid spam!)

So rather than choosing between leaving the agency for good or having to deal with 452 new job offers every day (which technically sounds good but, in practice, stinks), have a go at setting up filters. That way when you decide you’re ready to read through what’s available and get stuck into some work admin, you can opt to dive in.


Photo by 白士 李

Viewing your promotional campaigns in Google Maps

Photo by Nicolas Raymond: promotional staffing mapping with google maps

We all look at data and arrange it differently in our minds on order to best understand it. Some of us may squeal at spreadsheets whilst others prefer flowcharts, and yet the ‘visual learner’ group  wants things presented as an image. It’s why there are so many organisational apps out there – what works for one person, one team, or one company may be totally irrelevant to the workflow of another.

Watu also provides various ways to view jobs, for example in the job schedule page or downloaded to CSV for those spreadsheet nerds, but what about the visual group?

Here’s a solution for you guys: creating a promotional campaigns map in Google Maps

How does it work?

Within Google Maps, once logged in, you can choose to create and save a map based on your data. This data can, of course, be imported, meaning you can either whip together a spreadsheet of what you want to visualise, or you can choose to download straight from Watu. The map then saves pins on your locations with all the columnised data stored within each pin.

If you’re going ‘huh..?’ – don’t worry, this blog piece is for visual learners. So let’s make it so.

Step 1: Create the document

Once you’ve built your job in Watu, click ‘Download Job Schedule’

Alternatively, you can choose at this point to build your own spreadsheet in Google Drive or another document. If doing so, just place the column headers in the first row so that Maps can read the titles correctly.

Creating a google map of a promotional campaign

Step 2: Filter your document

Filter to what you need by selecting repetitive columns and deleting them.

In this case, I’ve chosen to narrow down the rows to just one line per location, rather than having a pinpoint for each time the location appears.

Creating a google map of a promotional campaign

Step 3: Go to Google maps

Create your map by going to Google Maps then clicking on the menu and selecting ‘My Maps’. Note that you’ll have to be logged into Google in order to create your own map.

Creating a google map of a promotional campaign

Step 4: Create your map

Click ‘create’ at the bottom of the menu

Creating a map of promotional campaigns

Step 5: Import your data

Import your map by selecting the layer and clicking ‘import’. Select your document and then click ‘location’ (or however you named the address column) to have the pins reflect the addresses of your campaign.

Creating a map of promotional campaigns

Your customised promotional campaign map:

There you have it, your final results. In this case, a basic map with just a few job points, but with the potential for many more.

Creating a map of promotional campaigns

The pins are instantly placed on the locations specified in the spreadsheet. Clicking on a pin will display more detail:

Creating a map of promotional campaigns

Once you’re at this point, the map is yours to explore and add to like, for example, adding additional layers if you have other campaigns you’d like to add in.

Happy mapping!

Photo by Nicolas Raymond

Making the switch from brand ambassador to campaign manager

Photo by Szabolcs: photo of typewriter to symbolise switching from brand ambassador to manager photo of typewriter to symbolise switching from brand ambassador to manager

Whilst there are some who are perfectly content in their current roles, there will always be others who wonder if the grass is greener on the other side. Or maybe we should say, there some folk thinking of leaving the grassy fields of experiential staffing behind for the cosy interiors of the management office.

Perhaps you’ve seen the managers swinging by whilst you were out and about (snapping a few photos Joel and Lia style!) or when you went for your interview the offices held a certain pull. Maybe, it’s just time for a bit more routine in your life and a more comfortably predictable day.

Whatever the reason, switching from working your 9-5 in the field to booking them from the office is a pretty common path in the promo world. But if you’re thinking about it, what exactly should you be thinking about?

Bye-bye spontaneity, hello routine

Events will have you working nationwide with a new crew, new brand, and new brief every few days. It’s go-go-go with fresh sights, smells, sounds, and faces galore. The office, on the contrary, will bring you familiar sights, a regular commute and the same colleagues day in and day out.

Whether that sounds like a nightmare or a chance to introduce some structure into your life, is completely personal to you. Will you miss the variety? Or appreciate the chance to automate some parts of your life? Do you get bored easily? Or prefer the familiar, settling quickly into your comfort zone?

More accountability

Brand ambassadors play possibly the most crucial role in a campaign. Months of work stemming from the brand, to the marketing agency, to the staffing agency and many others in between all come together in the moment that you step on board. Your message delivery, positive interactions and great big smile can make or break a campaign.

But whilst you may be rated by the agency on your performance with them, when it comes to whether or not the promo was pulled off successfully, it’s the campaign manager who bears accountability.

So if you switch from field to office, it’s worth bearing in mind: drop outs, an unhelpful staff member or uncooperative team, lateness and all those niggly negatives that can tarnish a campaign are your responsibility. Unlike praise, which is often credited to and swiftly passed on to the staff on the ground, negative feedback often makes its final stop in the staffing agency office where the bookers must bear the brunt.

Events don’t close

Do you get a buzz out of working late nights and weekends? Does anyone? Because that’s a fact you’ll have to consider thanks to the nature of the industry. Events don’t close and in fact, they tend to pick up in the evenings and on the weekends when the crowds are out and about.

And if events are live, you’ll have to be on call. Many agencies do allocate one manager per weekend to take care of everything running, but if you’re heading up a campaign, you’re the one with the inside knowledge and may have to step in to help out.

Saying that, this can be a plus if you’re interested in getting involved beyond the 9-5. Have you ever finished a campaign wondering if it was successful, if the social media hashtags gathered attention and final sales increased? Or you built up a great working relationship with the client on-site and thought it might be cool to nurture a budding network? That curiosity and drive is what will help you to make the switch.

A tighter team

So promo work might bring a lot of socialisation, but it also includes a lot of social turnover. The guys you did the chicken bites promo with may have been super cool, but you may also never work with them again. Bummer.

As a team in the office though, you’ll be sitting there together day in and day out. Gritting your teeth through the tough days of last-minute client requests, laughing along with the characters surrounding you, and partying till the sun comes out before heading straight back to the office (guilty…).

Not to mention, companies love a little team bonding and you can count on activities away from the office, Christmas parties, birthday cakes and mini-celebrations all year long.

You can’t work the really awesome event

Sometimes, when I was a campaign manager, a ridiculously cool gig would come through. Driving around beautiful cars, getting all dolled up for a make-up brand, giving away freebies at a festival (because everyone knows freebies and festivals are the best), or even a particularly well-paid event. As I took down the details from the client all I could think was “me me me me!” but, clearly, that wasn’t going to happen. It wouldn’t be professional, it wouldn’t be fair, and to be honest, I probably wouldn’t be the best person for that role. And so instead, they went to the fantastic staff on the books who totally rocked the jobs.

Some agencies do encourage their office staff to get involved in some campaigns – it helps remind them of the logistics, the experience, the cold and wet days spent working outside, the feeling of rejection when no one wants a flyer, and the good bits too – but what you get booked on is luck of the draw and no, you won’t make double wage that day!

So what do you think, how does it sound? If you’ve considered all the above and think it sounds up your alley, give it a go and let us know!

Photo by Szabolc

Should you be paying staff for their travel time?

Should travel time be paid for staff commuting image Photo by Cliff:

Note: This is applicable for UK agencies only and is not legal advice

As we’ve discovered with issues like working hours per week and holiday pay, running an agency managing temporary staff can be like wading through a swamp. The information available is thick and murky, and you’re stuck in the middle of it. Not only do agencies have to abide by UK laws, but there are EU regulations to bear in mind as well – as long as, of course, Brexit doesn’t actually happen.

Just last week, an agency sent through an article which was of high concern: MiHomecare was facing a group action lawsuit and is having to possibly cough up hundreds of thousands of pounds for staff who had technically been paid under the minimum wage.

Before we get too into the thick of things let me just say – I love when agencies voice their concerns, send us articles, and discuss the industry with Watu. It’s awesome to hear from you and it helps to keep us in the loop of what needs working on. So, kudos to the agency who sent through this article!

What was the case?

This case currently only applies to care workers who must travel in between their shifts, spending sometimes an hour either driving down small roads, or waiting outside homes until their elderly patients are ready to see them. They were not compensated for this time and as a result, were working long hours without balanced pay.

The court, and now HMRC, have decided that this lack of compensation qualifies the carers as potentially working for less than minimum wage, hence why they can now claim these fees back and why HMRC is in the midst of investigating more than 100 other home care suppliers and their working practices.

This decision could also affect many other industries including IT workers, nurses, engineers and technicians with many of them supporting this case and hoping to better their own circumstances which involve many hours of travel per day.

But that’s just looking at travel in between shifts…

Most promotional agency staff commute to their place of work, fulfil their shift, then commute home again. So does the above apply? Most likely not, if this is how your staff are working.

And most agencies, if the staff are having to travel for the campaign – like in guerilla marketing – continue to pay the staff member continuously during the shift, rather than discounting the time spent hopping from one place to another.

But what about travel to and from work?

Here’s where it starts to get swampy. The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled late last year that “those with no fixed place of work spend travelling between home and their first and last places of work each day counts as ‘working time’“.

So, said simply, when your temporary staff are going to and from their shifts/home, this does count as work. What is important to note, however, is that this has effect on the Working Time Directive which only has ruling over working hours and not working pay.

In fact, the ruling of the case from last year specifically stated that the “CJEU expressly stated in its decision that it is for national legislation to determine whether or not this travelling time – or, indeed, any other category of working time – is paid or unpaid”.

So should you be paying staff for their travel time?

Totally separate from the Working Time Directive, minimum wage is governed by the National Minimum Wage Act.

They have stated that time spent travelling to and from a shift is not subject to minimum wage, consequentially meaning that although it’s working time, you do not necessarily have to pay for it.

What’s important to consider

Based on the above, it then seems like what’s important to consider are the hours and not necessarily the pay. So when viewing the issue from this angle, agencies should be bearing in mind the European Union’s Working Time Directive. For example, it would be worth reviewing:

  • If the staff member has not opted out of the 48 hour working week initiative, does this mean they’re then working over the 48 hours?
  • Does this affect how much break time staff can have during the day?
  • Does it affect the number of consecutive hours worked?
  • Must holiday pay reflect this new total of hours worked?
  • Are you staff working night shifts? There are extra rules protecting staff from being overworked throughout the night.
  • Do your terms of engagement comply with the ruling?

It seems like, for now, as long as your agency is complying with the working hours regulations, then you’re following the rules and will make it through that swamp unscathed. But with national and EU laws changing and evolving to ensure staff are treated fairly and compensated correctly for their time, it’s worth keeping an eye out on these topics.

We would always recommend discussing these legal issues over with your HR department or employment lawyer to ensure you’re in line with what’s being required. And an easy way to stay in tune with what’s happening? Set up a Google alert with keywords such as “working time directive”, “national minimum wage”, “travel time compensation”, and so on. It’s not a completely reliable way to catch the latest laws, but it could go a long way in alerting you as to what’s happening, what’s being discussed, and what’s being determined by the courts.

Did you already know this about travelling time? Or will you now be reviewing your staff schedules? I’d love to hear whether you’re already a step ahead or will be tackling this issue now!

Photo by Cliff


Creating a weekend reserve list of staff

It’s always an agency’s intention to staff an event with pre-approved or confirmed staff, but sometimes, stuff happens. Cars break down, illnesses hit, or maybe – just maybe – the sun shines in the UK. These and a million and one other reasons can cause drop outs so it makes sense to have a reserve list at the ready.

Not to mention, sometimes clients themselves have last minute changes and before you know it, you’ve promised to have two extra staff members at a beer festival on the outskirts of Aberdeen.. Hmm…now how to find those people…?

So whether you have a weekend coming up that is particularly packed with events, or just want to know your staff’s general availability in case of drop outs or a client’s request for extra staff, we’ve come up with the best way to do this in Watu.

Here’s how to build a weekend reserve list of staff, step-by-step:

  1. Create a new job. Use a title that will be obvious it is for a reserve list only, and not a specific job. Remember that you can search your own jobs using keywords, so name it appropriately. Enter a staffer description clarifying that they are simply noting that they’re available as reserves, and not applying to a job. In the booked description, explain that they will be booked directly on a job if the chance arises, rather than into the reserve list itself. Creating a job in Watu
  2. Build your job. You want the reserve list to reflect nationwide availability, so enter in various locations at ‘hotspots’ around your country. In the UK, this may be “London/Edinburgh/Manchester/Birmingham”, for example. In the US, you may want to focus on where your events will be, or know general availability in the larger cities like LA, NY, Chicago, and so on. Choose any location to ensure the pin drops on the map, as this is how staff will search for the job. As for roles, you can choose to either simply add one role – we would suggest something standard like “brand ambassador” – or you can make it more detailed and add additional roles if you know you have specific requirements for that particular weekend, like “bartender”. The time can cover the whole day, to capture total availability. And we’d suggest leaving the pay as 0, so that you can confirm this on a job-specific basis.  Building a job in Watu
  3. Save the job. Check that it’s looking correct in the booking page Viewing available shifts in watu
  4. Make the job public. Click the toggle to publish all locations to the job market. This will immediately take you to the job advert page.                                                                                    Publishing a job within Watu
  5. Customise your job advert. You can leave the advert content as is, with the pre-filled description, or you can choose to customise the advert per role. Remember you can also choose to only advertise specific roles to people who have already worked in that role previously. Hit publish and you’re done! Creating a job advert in watu
  6. View applications. Should the need come up for booking a reserve staff member, just check into your reserve weekend job. Here, you can see Natalie’s application which means she should be your first port of call if a shift opens up in her location.                                                         Viewing job applicants in Watu

Viewing it from the staff member’s point of view

So how does the reserve list job show for staff members? They can see it as a normal job within their job market, hence why it’s important to label it ‘Reserve List’ very clearly.

Viewing the job market in Watu
Viewing the job in the job market


Applying to a job in watu
Applying to the job as a staff member

And finally, it’s worth noting that whilst you could make this a recurring job every weekend, you’re probably better off building one per weekend. The reason being is that the job will show afresh within the job market each week that it’s created which means more applications. Also, you’re more likely to have an accurate reserve list if it’s specific to a weekend rather than being spread across a month or more – availability can change in a snap, so encourage your staff to apply on a weekly basis!

So, here’s to no more frantic Saturday morning phone calls and availability scans. No more mass messages or bulk texts to check who is around and willing to work. Just log into your account, check the reserve list and drop the right person a line.

Spring clean your email inbox

The previous app recommendation I shared with you was for Slack, whose goal is to have you ditching your inboxes. But being honest, that’s a pretty big leap and we’re far from reaching that point if we even want to get there. So to keep with the theme of cleaning up your inboxes and reducing the daily dump (the inbox, that is), today we’re having a look at Unroll Me.

What is Unroll Me?

If you’re a subscription addict, you need this app. Or even if you think you aren’t, you probably need this app. These days it’s impossible to navigate the web, explore a site, or download that freebie report without subscribing to a newsletter. Plus, those catchy pop up’s do their job.

Chances are, you actually have no idea how many newsletters you’re subscribed to and the truth is, you just can’t be bothered to find out nor unsubscribe from them all. Well, that’s my story anyway.

Unroll Me takes this problem and sorts this out for you, with minimal effort required from your end.

How to spring clean your email?

First step, no surprise, sign up via the website:

Desktop and mobile friendly, its platform provides a straightforward, simple way to unsubscribe. One that you’ll be pretty accustomed to if you’re a Tinder fan: swipe left.

Following your clean-up, Unroll Me then bundles the rest of your newsletters into one neat and tidy email that hits your inbox once per day. Take a peak into its contents, select what you want to read and dig in.

And the clincher? The app identifies all your newsletters for you instantly, so there’s no boxes to tick or lists to scroll through to have to submit. Ah, the magic of tech.

Uncluttered Mailbox

That’s pretty much it. Enjoy your once-a-day digest or if you don’t, delete the offenders. Suddenly, between Slack and Unroll me – and who knows who else we’re yet to discover – your inbox is looking a whole lot quieter. Which means you’ll actually be able to get some work done.


The difference between American and British staffing agencies

There are some stark differences between the US and the UK – the meaning of the word fanny, tea with or without milk, and the ability to laugh at oneself – and, perhaps not as obviously, in the staffing industry as well. But from a country who broke away from the UK based on some disagreements, perhaps that should be expected.

Photo by David Martyn Hunt:
Milky or builder’s for you then?

Having spent equally 10 years in the suburbs of New York followed by 10 years in the near heart (well, zone 2) of London, and now with Watu clients on both ends, I thought it may be interesting to have a peek into the key differences between the two in their approach to staffing.

The Americans

When an agency’s first question is “Does your software have a limit of staff profiles?”, you know you’re looking big. They’re not asking if we charge for a certain number of staff or are there limited sign ups per day. This question means: I’m going to have a staffing book as big as a small city. Can your software handle that volume?

And this is what happens when nationwide tours mean exactly that. Agencies must cover 3.8 million square miles of potential promotions. That is A LOT of ground. And not just that, but much of it is spread out and not always well interconnected. Travel within the country can be expensive and that means local staff are a necessity.

photo of alabama without event staff
Alabama: Beautiful, empty, and with occasional events.

This has knock-on effects that I believe shape the industry. Of course agencies still want good quality staff, but often, volume is king. Recruitment is less picky, doors swing on hinges allowing most in, and more people are given a chance to work. Interviews are, frankly, quite impossible to carry out in person unless agencies were to have an infinite budget to fly people around or agency representatives stationed in almost every city. Even virtually, when we’re looking at thousands of staff members, the dedication to recruitment would just be too costly.

What’s more, the agency and staff member relationship is a distant one. American clients ask about numbers, performing tasks en-masse, one-click solutions to apply to big groups, and a referral feature because this is the constant battle of US agencies: recruiting more and more staff.

This has led to the emergency of a new type of staffing: white label staffing. Now, software companies like Watu are popping up but with a twist – they come ready-made with staff. Sign up as an agency, change the branding and you have an instant book. White Label Staffing, for example, says it straight up: “WLS software is designed to look as though you have created your own staffing company.” It’s like instant noodles with your own sticker on top. Decide you want it, then be tucking into the steaming bowl mere minutes later.

Rather than agencies carefully guarding and curating their books, White Label Staffing flips this on its head and provides a book of staff to be shared. Agencies can even check staff reviews provided by other agencies.

So if the staff aren’t the distinction, where does the added value come from? I’m yet to have experience with this type of staffing, but I can only suppose it would come from the managers themselves, the way they communicate with clients and staff, the reports they feed back, the efficiency with which they work. And White Label Staffing isn’t the only software company doing so. This trend is on the rise and is buzzing in the staffing-agency-osphere.

The Brits

And now the Brits. Mary Poppins, tea and scones, and stiff upper lips all tucked into 94,000 square miles of drizzly greyness. And within this, a fair number of awesome staffing agencies who value the personal touch and, au contraire to the US, turn away volume to focus on unique quality.

The difference isn’t just noticeable, it’s huge. Feature requests sent through to Watu from British clients focus on the individual; agencies want to track whether someone is brand trained, client approved, great at certain skills. The notes and sign-off sections are full of comments. “Fantastic in the interview”, “Saw Sarah on-site and full of enthusiasm”, or “Lent Johnny a few quid” are, believe it or not, commonly said by UK managers. Almost all agencies require an in-person interview or at least a video submission. The Brits, unlike the American hinge door, have the door to their books locked with a peephole into experience, character, and work history.

The relationship between manager and field staff is crucial. Agencies prefer staff loyalty and for a genuine friendship to develop. This is often brought about by various means though the key is always in demonstrating appreciation for the work done in the field. Sports days, open-invite parties, winners of the month. The staff are the focus of an agency’s efforts because as we all know, happy staff equal happy clients.

And in the UK, this is possible. Those 94k sqm can be covered by one team of staff: one EM and a small group of brand ambassadors, can all be city-hopping via short haul flights and vans. And that translates to that particular team having to be incredible, keeping their energy fresh, and choosing that nationwide tour over other offers of work. Because in such a small space and with so many events, staff often have a choice of which shifts they’d prefer to work. Drastically different to the US, where staff based anywhere other than NY/LA/etc may be lucky if an event comes their way.

I remember writing profiles for brand ambassadors to send across to clients. It would usually read something like “Motivated, brilliantly friendly, and particularly reliable member of staff who is also a part-time actress in Shakespearean plays.” And I meant every word. Chances are, I had personally met, spent time with, and was possibly friends with this staff member.

So whether you’re considering a virtual hop across the pond to open doors on either grounds, or just curious to know what the view is like from those open doors, this is just a glimpse into the other side. With such vast differences between the two types of staffing industries, it appears that being successful in both would take a very different approach – or perhaps, maybe what one provides is what the other is missing? Could boutique staffing take off in the US? Would UK clients accept white label staffing or in fact, would agencies even themselves be comfortable taking on pre-filled books full of strangers’ photos?

Maybe these options are open to all as long as one key point is kept in mind: in the end, no matter what route it takes from client to field staff member, it’s the quality of the staff member and their work in the field that matters. Whether one person of 40,000 on the books, or Joe who is your favourite EM for car brand tours in Scotland, it all boils down to the individual on the ground. And that’s where our focus should stay.

Photo by David Martyn Hunt

Photo by Trish Hartmann


Maximising your customer service queries

Customer service how can i help

Before transitioning to the tech world, I always viewed customer or tech support as something to be avoided. A button to click or address to email only in the most desperate of times, when things just were not working. It would end up being a hassle, special numbers or passwords would be required, and responses were often lacking helpful solutions.

Since then, I’ve spent a couple of years providing customer happiness for Watu, immersing myself not only in customer service but also the wonderful world of software. In addition to being an eye-opener with regards to this magic little button of tech support, the industry has also come a long way in terms of customer appreciation, transparency and openness. Now, in fact, there isn’t just one access point to customer service – you have access via chat, tickets, Twitter, email and more.

Zappos’ incredible customer service focus has inspired others to give the ‘wow’ factor and suppliers have realised the value of happiness. And not just happiness in clients. Software companies like Automattic, Buffer and Baremetrics are leading a cultural revolution, hiring happy folk who genuinely have a passion for helping others. We don’t want to just answer your questions and close your ticket. We want to solve your pain point, make your day, ease your workload, simplify steps and put a smile on your face.

So how do you, as the customer, make the most of this change in heart? And what exactly do those responses you’re receiving actually mean? I’ve read through blogs and analysed my own experiences to provide 3 suggestions for decoding your tech support and maximising your customer service experience.

Your feature suggestions

Like most other startups, we have a path laid out for our app, but it’s a flexible one. One that can be scrubbed away and redrawn, or at least one that might ocassionally take a detour. This is where clients play a crucial role: the app is for you. Especially if you’re a heavy user and pay for the more expensive version of the app when available. It’s not that paying more means your ideas are more valid, but rather that you are clearly invested in the product, use it regularly, and therefore can provide the most applicable suggestions.

The fact is, maybe we, on the software team, have some grand ideas that we think will benefit you, but in reality if all our customers are pleading with us for X feature, chances are, we need to listen.

So what really happens when you put in a feature request? Well, check out the response tone to see if you can decode it. ¨Your request is being sent to developers for review and we may take it on.¨Ok, this is the most open-ended. What does it mean? Quite literally what it says. Your request will get added via another software platform like Trello or Jira as an idea for developers. Gain enough traction via requests from other clients, or a developer being particularly keen, and it may get the thumbs up. But don´t hold your breath.

What if the response isn´t so positive, yet more polite – something along the lines of ¨Thanks so much for submitting. That idea isn´t in the pipeline at the moment, but we´ll bear it in mind.¨ Dear clients, this is the gentle let down. The customer service equivalent of ¨It´s not you, it´s me.¨

The fact is, an app has many clients. And each client has their own specific workflows and needs. But most startups provide platforms, not customised software. What you suggested may be a brilliant idea for your business. But it could be completely irrelevant for everyone elses’. So it´s a no, and not just because developers´time is expensive, but because platforms have features that must be the same across the board, for all clients and the teams behind the product want to avoid ´product bloat´. Make a change in the former, and suddenly all clients have this appear in their account. And if you´ve requesteed a cat gif giving a high five for every win you make, the others may not appreciate it so much.

cat giving high five gif


Errors in the account

This is normally why the support button is sought after and clicked. You´re running into a problem and it may be a bug, it may be your browser, it may be…anything. That´s the support team´s role to don the detective badge and find the source. But we don´t want to just find it. We want to find it with as little delay, with minimal communication (i.e. interruption to your day) and as efficiently as possible. Therefore the information that you provide can play a huge role.

The safest default in this case is: the more detail, the better

Providing the support team with a background – what were you clicking? Your stats (not 36-24-36…) like what internet browser are you using? Desktop or mobile? And what the error was, as in, what exactly did the error state and when did it occur? If you want to put a bow on top, throw in a screenshot. I, in all my geekiness, love a screenshot as it helps me to almost immediately diagnose a fix the error.

In our staffing management platform, for example, we might get tickets like the following:

Client: Your site isn’t working
Support team’s first reaction: Hmm. Which part isn’t working? It’s not loading? Or it’s displaying in a strange way? A specific feature isn’t doing its job?

Client: The staffer isn’t showing as booked on her job
Reaction: Which staffer? Which job? Which manager booked her, and when?

Client: There’s an error when I download payroll
Reaction: What type of error? Can you screenshot the page when it’s happening? Which payroll run? When?

You can see the pattern and what’s missing. Detail, detail, detail. The above type of ticket normally takes 2-3 more messages between myself and the client to determine the problem and provide a solution vs an initial email detailing everything that happened and, most likely, a response from myself saying it´s been fixed. I think we can all see the appeal of the latter.

To add to it, our software along with many others, have clients based around the world and that introduces something rather tricky: timezones. On most days, my clients submit and get a response with 24 hours, if not just a few hours. But sometimes, throwing varying workig hours and time zones into the mix means this back-and-forth can delay solutions tremendously. And that doesn´t usually lead to client happiness.

So overshare, spill it all, get verbal. Send us the whole story, and we´ll get back to you with a solution.

What about a good ol´ fashioned helping hand

The previos two points – feature requests and solving errors – applies to most tech software companies. As the customer happiness rep for Watu, I also believe wholeheartedly believe in the following for our service:

Get in touch.

Not just to report a problem, not just to suggest a feature. ¨Get in touch¨ isn´t just a canned mssage line or a polite way of signing off an email. It´s a genuine welcome, an open arms, encouraging clients to reach out for any help they may need in the software.

My goal isn´t to just solve your problems and have you on your way. I want to do this, and have you confidently using the software, making use of all the fine detail, and taking advantage of everything we have to offer. I know the software inside out and I want to share this knowledge. In our case, I relish the opportunity to take a pain point of a client and turn it into a task they didn´t realise could be so simple. Asking me the optimal way to build a complex job in the system, for suggestions on what type of questions to ask as part of their staff application form, if I can review their account and provide better workflow ideas. All of these are valid support team questions and offer me the chance to apply my knowledge creatively, whilst providing clients a step-up with the system. It´s a win-win.

So don´t hesitate to click that support button. Drop us a line (or rather, many) and give us that satisfaction of making our clients the happiest. Take advantage of all these ridiculously friendly customer support teams and share your questions, thoughts, and doubts. Go on, will you please get in touch?

Recording a video interview for an agency

Image of webcam for recording a video interview

Agencies are turning more and more to video interviews to accommodate nationwide growth as well as to make for easier logistics of both managers and staff. If you haven’t already made one, chances are you’ll come across a request to film a video next time you’re registering with an agency. So what are important points to keep in mind? What do agencies look for?

As a former booker at a London agency before making the move to Watu, I used to be one of the recipients of our video interview applicants. From the weird and wacky to the downright brilliant, I have seen a lot. And whilst they were wildly entertaining, only a small number could actually be forwarded on to the client. From errors that are easy to oversee – like someone’s knickers in the background – to the more inappropriate-for-client’s-ears type mistakes, I thought I’d share with you the in’s and out’ s of creating a video interview that gets seen and shared.

The Video Set Up

First step is to set the scene. Choose a private, quiet space far from kids, animals, or a TV. Then focus on what shows on screen. Hint: the less, the better. Background props may highlight your personality, but they’re actually distracting from what you’re saying. Not to mention, you don’t know which brand you’ll be representing week-by-week, so what if you have their competitor’s poster stuck to the wall behind you? Best to keep it simple by having a blank wall behind you meaning you’ll be the centre of attention.

Next up, secure your device so that it’s stable whilst filming. This is probably easiest from a laptop, but if using a mobile device, simply use a stand or create one using books or shelves. You want to ensure the camera height is equal with your eyes so you’re looking straight ahead, and not craning your neck or showing the clients a tour of your nostrils.

You’re ready to record, but what software do you use? Almost all phones or tablets have a built-in recording software via the camera button. If using a computer, Mac users can go to imovie or Photobooth, whilst Windows users can use Quicktime, Windows Movie Maker or other options detailed in this WikiHow.

But before you hit the red button, do a check first. Practice answering a question, then watch yourself. Is the sound coming through ok? Is the video clear? Check it over, fix whatever is going wrong, then get started.

What to say in a video interview?

Chances are you’ve been given some guidance along what to say, or even handed some questions to answer. Even if this is totally open to interpretation, do a few practice sessions first. The goal isn’t to come off sounding robotic, but to make sure you’re confident and speaking smoothly. And after saying it a few times to yourself, you may realise a better way of wording things.

If the agency asked you to answer specific questions, answer these as you would in an in-person interview, and remember, even if an agency gives off a ‘fun vibe’, it is still business and clients may not feel the same. Think fun, but professional. For example, if they ask the classic “what is your weakness”, don’t mention that you’re always running late. That’s not a weakness, and it’s definitely not something managers or clients want to hear.

Also, bear in mind the industry. Promo requires confident people who aren’t afraid to speak up, be engaging and have their voice heard. You have one video to demonstrate that you can do so – and what better an opportunity than this? Beats having to fill out another ‘about you’ section where you say how bubbly and outgoing you are.

Presenting yourself in a video interview

Equally important to what you say is how you present yourself. Clients and agencies are looking for people-people…that is, people who genuinely like to, and know how to, engage with others. Body language is a huge part of this communication so here’s how to get it right.

Look directly into the camera and think of them as the eyes of your interviewer. Looking at your screen comes out appearing awkward, as if you’re trying to avoid eye contact (it seems as if you’re always looking down), and looking near your camera but not at it looks like you got confused as to where your camera actually is, or like you may be distracted.

Saying that (and this was one of the more common – and creepy – mistakes) please, please remember to blink! Not blinking leads people to think you memorised your answers, are super nervous, or are just really strange which is not a quality of promotional staff. In short, be natural. Look at the camera, look briefly away (think about it…do you stare directly into someone’s eyes all the while you’re talking to them? Because that can be really intense) and blink. Treat the camera like a person you’re interacting with.

Have you ever had someone snap candid photos of your whilst you’ve been speaking? Notice how you pull some really awkward faces? Video, although fast moving like in-person, has the option to be paused or re-watched, and with the addition of the viewer focussing mainly on your face. In fact, this is one reason why, during photo shoots, models are asking to pretend to talk rather than have a real conversation. Fact is, we can be pretty expressive and this doesn’t come off well on camera. I noticed once after filming myself how many goofy face I pull and maybe I can get away with this in a live interview, but for a short interview clip, my expressions looked out of place. The next time, I kept in mind “smile as a default” and presto, I looked like the more secure, confident and happy candidate that I know myself to be.

Ok so your video is filmed – now what? Check how the client would like it to be submitted. If the question asks for a link, that means you have to upload the video to be hosted on a site like youtube or vimeo after which point you can just paste the video link in the application form. Or, if there’s an upload button, simply upload your saved video directly from your computer.

Keeping it real

Agencies want to see your personalities, your individuality and your vibrant selves. But there’s that fine line between recording a few memorised lines whilst you stare into the camera, versus dressing up in your favourite anime outfit before bursting into scene to show off your creative, artistic self.

With a bit of planning, a clean set up, and a few minutes of effort, you’ll be able to set these boundaries, stay within the lines and yet still let your personality shine through. Even if your agency doesn’t explicity state they will show your video to clients, treat this task with the same importance and with the knowledge that they just might in the future. And by doing so, you just might land that dream campaign.

Photo by David Burillo