Marketing and Sales, They Go Hand in Hand

It is certainly logical to expand your contact center capabilities to light a fire during a new sales campaign. It also makes sense, in the customer-centric world we live in, to be prepared with extra support for customer service agents tasked with putting fires out.

But in the hustle to provide additional support for a demanding sales force and overwhelmed service department, it is often the case that marketing gets left in the dust.

Businesses that hope to succeed in a connected, interoperable world cannot afford to compartmentalize in this fashion. In fact, when the right contact center solutions are deployed at the right time, you’ll be able to break down silos so that your marketing, sales and service initiatives work to build each other up for maximum impact.

Continuous feedback for real-time response

As the nerve center of your business, the contact center is an optimal place for marketing and sales to converge. Your contact center can conduct personalized inbound or outbound marketing efforts around a new initiative, gathering real-time feedback from consumers and responding to inquiries immediately. Integration with your sales force will enable you to respond to problematic trends and tweak your campaign accordingly.

Turn challenging issues into customer wins

A frustrated customer communicating with your contact center is at a crossroads. The story can end badly, with a lost relationship and a bad review rant disseminated across social media for a cascading negative impact. Or, if guided by a highly-skilled agent, the customer can truly be heard, helped and happy. These customer wins can be useful if viewed through a marketing perspective, while also demonstrating the value of an integrated approach.

Consistency is about staying on message

What happens when your marketing team, sales team and customer service team aren’t reading from the same script? You end up with lots of confused customers and lost sales. From the C-Suite to the contact center, your success hinges on your organization’s ability to stay consistent with your brand, your message and your offerings.

To see how InfoCision can help your business, click here.

Customer Service Spring Cleaning

Spring is in the air, and that means it’s time to clear out the clutter and do some spring cleaning in your contact center. Take a hard look at everything your team is doing, and re-prioritize to ensure you are doing all that necessary to run a lean and efficient operation.

As you perform your customer service spring cleaning, here are some things you should consider:

Organize your data: Is your business getting all that it can out of the information it is collecting and processing? It could be time to review your data strategy and form a fresh approach for spring. Consider linking your customer relationship management strategy with your business phone system to streamline the process.

Review your cybersecurity strategy: Perhaps your business is in need of a cybersecurity overhaul. Are you giving your employees proper education and training? Don’t trust that they will know what to avoid online. Round up your IT team and get everyone up to speed about the threat landscape.

Slash your budget: How much money are you spending on customer service? The truth is that you could be drastically overpaying if you are managing an in-house operation. Consider outsourcing to a third party contact center services provider to reduce the cost of overhead.


Teamwork: A Critical Need for Contact Centers

Many contact centers today are operating as siloed environments, where agents show up to work, put on their head sets and start fielding calls until they either break or go home. There isn’t much strategy or planning involved.

If your business has fallen into this trap, it’s worth considering shaking up your strategy. When customer service agents become siloed at work, it can lead to several negative outcomes. For starters, it’s bad for team morale. When employees don’t feel connected to the team, it could cause them to move on and find better opportunities. Plus, it makes it harder to ask other team members for help when it’s needed. They may start forming their own strategies without consulting other team members when making difficult customer decisions.

Make no mistake about it: The more your agents can work together as a team, the better it will be for your department and your customers.

It should also be noted that in the contact center, it’s not just about what happens on customer calls that counts. Just like a sports team has to practice together, customer service agents need to prepare and communicate during their down time to provide great service.

Could your team improve the way it works together? Here are some ways to improve teamwork in your contact center:

Encourage socializing: Teamwork won’t just happen on its own. And you can’t force it. In order for agents to work well together, it’s important that everyone gets along and feels comfortable approaching one another. When you work with great people, the rest falls into place naturally. So have a team lunch, a happy hour or even a bowling night. Play a game to break the ice. Just do something to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between your employees. This will help build a team-driven culture, which is extremely important for success.

Share notes: Make sure that your customer relationship management system makes it easy for agents to include notes. It should be more than just metric-driven. Consider using cloud-based communications software, too, so that agents can ask questions and interact with one another throughout the day.

Build an open environment: Tell your agents that it’s okay to ask questions and reach out to one another for support. As an industry, we need to abandon the belief that it’s not okay to ask questions. When employees are afraid to ask questions, they are more liable to start forming their own ways of doing things much to the detriment of the entire team.

What Is a Data-Driven Marketing Strategy?

Mixpanel CEO Suhail Doshi was once quoted as saying “Most of the world will make decisions by either guessing or using their gut. They will either be lucky or wrong.”

We can apply this quote to the customer service space where many companies are still using outdated and ineffective strategies that aren’t backed by supportive data. When contact center managers lack data-driven insight, they instead rely on guesswork. This can be very risky, especially if someone is in charge who  may act impulsively or lack experience.

The truth is that this world is becoming increasingly digitalized, and there is an abundance of data that can be easily accessed and utilized in the contact center. There is no excuse for contact center administrators to be ignoring all of this easily-available information. In fact, refusing to use data could be considered an affront to your customers. They deserve the best experiences possible, and this requires using data.

A data-driven marketing strategy can be characterized as one that:

Leverages customer insight: The vast majority of businesses today are collecting information about their customers  and target audiences but aren’t using it effectively. A data-driven customer service strategy is one where information flows into the enterprise, is processed in a customer relationship management (CRM) system and shared during interactions. Your customers are giving you all the clues you need to provide great service. It’s just a matter of digging through the information and organizing it to uncover trends.

Never stagnates: The business landscape is constantly changing, and customer demands shift by the day. So often, companies will  continue doing the same things year in and year out and then wonder why they are suddenly irrelevant in their space. When you embrace data-driven strategy, you are constantly looking out for the next opportunity at hand. It’s like getting in shape. Once you start, you have to keep doing it. There is no stagnating in business!

Is forward-thinking: A robust data-driven strategy requires looking as far as you can into the future, and making important decisions to prevent problems before they happen. For instance, you may start to notice that your customer engagement is declining on a particular social channel. Using data, you can get a better sense of why that is happening and determine whether it makes sense to  go in a different marketing direction. This can save time, and prevent you from wasting resources. It can also prevent your competitors from gaining a leg up.

Here’s the tough part: Nobody is going to force your business to use data. You have to consciously make the decision to shift your strategy. It’s going to take some work, but it could be the most important thing you do for your business.

Achieving An Automation Balance in Your Contact Center

There is no denying the fact that customers today want to be able to help themselves when trying to resolve business issues. According to one study, for instance, 51 percent of customers prefer to have self-service options available on a company’s website.

As we move forward into the digital era, though, and automation becomes increasingly interwoven into our everyday lives, many businesses will struggle to understand how to effectively implement it into their operations.

Right now, for instance, questions abound like how much automation is too much, and whether customers will appreciate it or dislike it.

Take, for instance, the example of Uber. The company is infamous for offering in-app customer support. It’s very difficult to speak to an agent directly as the company encourages customers to first seek problems within their app. Many customers get frustrated when they cannot connect with a live agent. After all, some customer service issues cannot be solved with push-button ease. Sometimes, a customer just needs to vent. And if you take away their ability to do that with a live agent, he or she may choose to go to social media to do it publicly.

The trick is to strike a balance in your contact center, where customers have the option to easily select self service or communicate directly with live agents. Here are some ways that you can strike an automation balance in your contact center:

Don’t make customers jump through hoops: With every self service portal that you offer, there should be an immediate line to a customer service representative available. Customers should always be able to press the 0 button and speak with a live agent— no questions asked.

Use click to call: There’s nothing wrong with pushing customers to an online self-service portal first, before they call your company. But if you do this, make sure they understand they are still welcome to call at any point. Consider putting a click to call button on your website using Web real-time communication (WebRTC), so that customers can immediately connect with live agents over their browser while combing through the knowledge database.

Dig through your data: Consult with your Web management team and get a sense where customers are going for answers first. For instance, when they go to your website, are customers going to your contact section first in search of a telephone number, or are they going to the online knowledge base? You should also do this with your phone’s interactive voice response (IVR) system. Use advanced analytics to determine whether your IVR system is helping customers, or whether they are opting out to speak with a representative. Avoid guesswork whenever possible.




What’s the Best Way to Scale Your Contact Center?

As a small to medium-sized business, customer service is not a top concern for you right now. All of your customers are being managed by an in-house contact center, which seems to be getting the job done pretty effectively.

There’s just one issue: Your contact center has limitations. And right now, it’s not capable of scaling with your rapidly-growing organization.

Just think what will happen if you…

  • Double in size in a short amount of time;
  • Go viral and become visible to millions of new potential customers;
  • Experience a PR issue;

Any one of these events could cause a massive spike in customer traffic, taxing all of your critical customer-facing infrastructure — from your customer database to your phone lines to your agents who answer phones and email.

For this reason, it’s time to start thinking about contact center scalability before you run into an unexpected issue and realize you don’t have the right pieces in place to handle the influx in traffic.

One of the most affordable and effective ways to scale your contact center is to outsource operations to a third party provider offering flexible, hosted infrastructure and premium customer service agents. In doing so, you will be able to scale up—or down—as needed without spending excessive amounts of money. Outsourcing is a widely-adopted practice used by organizations large and small.

From a scalability perspective, here are some of the top benefits to outsourcing your contact center to a third party provider:

Business continuity: Once your business grows to a considerable size, customer interactions will be constant. You will receive incoming emails, phone calls and chat messages around the clock. So it’s vital to work with a provider that can ensure business continuity and disaster recovery, so that you can avoid unnecessary downtime. Downtime is terrible for customer service, and can be very expensive.

On demand capacity: Third party contact center solutions providers can offer flexible network capacity, ensuring that you have enough storage and bandwidth to accommodate all of your customers. The last thing you want to do is experience a capacity pinch.

Shorter wait times: When contact centers lack the necessary infrastructure and support, call queues can back up resulting in longer wait times and unhappy customers. This can frustrate customers, and cause them to look elsewhere for support. By outsourcing your contact center, you can always have the right number of agents in place to handle incoming calls and give customers the attention they demand.

Remember that in business sometimes you have to make strategic decisions before issues arise. Instead of getting blindsided by a lack of capacity, consider being proactive and outsource your contact center to a dedicated third party solutions provider.

Five Ways to Jump Start Your Sales

Back when you first established your customer care center, you had high hopes for your donor outreach program. But now that some time has elapsed, it’s become clear that you need to overhaul your sales strategy. Your team isn’t generating the results it had hoped for.
Rest assured, your business isn’t alone. Many sales teams continuously fall below quota, despite their resources and experience.

What can you do to fix this problem? Here are five things you can do to jump start your sales:

1. Revamp your marketing strategy: Behind every strong outbound marketing initiative is a comprehensive and data-driven marketing strategy. Customer and donor ecosystems, in other words, need to be carefully targeted and maintained in order to generate repeat income. So if your outbound sales are sluggish, consider taking a hard look at how you are communicating with your target audiences. Consider implementing a robust, multichannel marketing strategy that nurtures and educates leads so that they will feel confident about supporting your brand when the time comes around.
2. Analyze your interactions: You will also want to take a look at how your sales people are interacting with customers. You can have a wealth of data, powerful technologies and a great strategy but you still need highly-skilled agents who know how to communicate with customers, reach common ground and plant the seed for a sale. Make sure to focus on process, and consider offering advanced sales training to help your agents close more deals.
3. Reduce time waste: While sales people are taught to “always be closing,” the truth is that sales teams actually waste a significant amount of time conducting manual backend labor. Work with your sales people to identify time waste, and either eliminate unnecessary processes or invest in automation solutions that will help agents close more deals.
4. Upgrade your technologies: It could be time to upgrade your software or hardware. For instance, how powerful is your customer relationship management solution (CRM)? Consider implementing a CRM solution that integrates with your phone system, so that your sales people always have a wealth of data at their fingertips when engaging with customers.
Of course, this can get very expensive! Which leads us to our next tip…
5. Outsource: Sometimes, the easiest way to fix a solution is to throw your arms up and admit that you don’t have the resources or knowledge to reach your desired outcome. Many businesses are successfully improving their sales efforts by partnering with third party contact center solutions providers offering advanced analytics, powerful hosted infrastructure and amazing customer service agents.

Using Influencer Marketing to Generate Sales

Right now, your company is most likely taking a traditional approach to sales by targeting large groups of people at a time. For instance, you may decide that you want to sell to college students. So, you collect data and use it to shape your digital and marketing initiatives in hopes of attracting unique buyers.

Here’s the problem, though: This strategy doesn’t always work. In fact, many businesses today are failing in their marketing efforts due to a lack of visibility and transparency. What’s more, traditional advertising is a thing of the past. Consumers don’t respond to posters and billboards like they used to, and now they are aware of the content marketing game too.

If you want proof, just take a look at the last article you posted on LinkedIn. Sure, it may have gotten a few likes or comments. But did it actually drive any sales? We’re willing to bet that it didn’t.

Another approach is needed, and now many businesses are embracing a strategy called influencer marketing which is a fundamentally different concept from what most companies have been using.

Influencer marketing works by targeting influential people with large groups of online followers, and rewarding them for promoting your products. For example, think of a YouTube celebrity with 2 million followers. That person may choose to wear a designer shirt, which then exposes the product to all of his or her followers. In doing so, the influencer acts as a sales associate whether or not they know it — especially if they drive large volumes of sales.

A major reason why influencer marketing works is because it’s based on trust. Consumers, in other words, naturally trust brand influencers. If it’s done correctly, influencer marketing does not come across as advertising but rather sharing. Consumers naturally gravitate to products that they trust, and when they see them being used in a real life setting, it amplifies the products and makes them seem desirable.

That’s not saying that you have to abandon your traditional marketing strategy. After all, influencer marketing is still relatively new and has its share of challenges. Right now, for instance, companies are struggling to track, monitor and reward brand influencers. It’s a developing industry where there is still a lot of room for growth and innovation.

The best way to use influencer marketing, therefore, is to deploy it alongside your existing campaigns. It’s all about taking a multi-faceted approach and finding out what works for your brand.

Instead of trying influencer marketing on your own, it helps to have the assistance of a third party contact solutions provider to manage the operation for you and guarantee strong results.

Supplementing Customer Self Service

There is no denying the fact that customers today want access to solutions that enable them to solve problems on their own without the help of a live agent.

This trend, commonly referred to as self service, has taken off in recent years and is now a customer service staple for most companies. Self service is commonly seen in places like:

  • Live chat boxes on website and social channels;
  • Interactive voice response (IVR) during telephone calls; and
  • Online knowledge databases.

The numbers don’t lie, either: Self-service is now in high demand. 50 percent of customers think it’s important to solve service or product issues themselves while 70 percent believe a company’s website should have a self service application. And 83 percent of customers will go to a company’s website for information.

There’s just one critical thing to keep in mind when implementing self-service solutions into your digital channels: They are not the end-all-be-all of customer service. You can’t replace live agents with fully digital solutions and expect to have positive results.

That’s because there are many issues that customers prefer to solve using live agents. Sometimes, a customer will want an opinion about what action should be taken. Or, a customer will require advanced help that that cannot be solved using artificial intelligence.

Here are some things you should consider to supplement your customer self service:

Provide a short path to an agent: To a customer, there is nothing more frustrating than wanting to speak to agent and being denied the opportunity. When a customer repeatedly mashes the “0” button but gets no response, they usually just hang up—and this doesn’t help anyone. So if you want to encourage customers to use self service first, that’s fine. But don’t make them struggle to connect with an operator, or you are only going to aggravate them.

Use data to streamline service: Once a customer does connect with an agent, the interaction needs to be handled efficiently. And to do this, agents require data—and a complete overview of the customer journey. Make sure you integrate your phone system with your customer relationship management (CRM) system to ensure that agents can easily access customer data during every customer interaction.

Have live agents on standby: Many companies today are using a combination of automated chatbots and live agents for their customer support. In this type of setup, a customer will start by chatting with an automated assistant, but an agent will be monitoring the interaction. In fact, an agent can monitor several conversations at once for maximum productivity. This way, an agent can jump in and provide seamless support when it’s needed. This protects the company when a customer asks a question that is too advanced for an automated attendant.


Is Your Contact Center In line With Your Brand?

Imagine you open a can of your favorite soda, and experience a totally different taste from what you expect. You would be confused, and may even contact the company for an explanation — or ask for your money back.

Consistency, in other words, is a top need for brands and something that cannot be ignored. It’s through consistency that companies can create lasting impressions and keep getting customers to come back for more. In marketing, consistency and trust go hand in hand. Take away consistency, and your brand crumbles.

This also applies to the customer experience that consumers go through when dialing into the contact center. Contact centers, after all, have hundreds or even thousands of agents all working to help customers on a daily basis — each with their own personality. If care is not taken to ensure brand consistency, callers could experience drastically different interactions during each engagement.

Consistency, in a contact center setting, is all about organizing agents so that they harmonize and reflect common points to customers. You don’t have to suppress personality, you just have to make sure that everyone is on the same page about the brand “image.”

Has your brand been hurting from a lack of consistency? Here are some things you can do to improve it:

Use scripting: Call scripts don’t have to be followed 100 percent of the time, as part of fielding a call requires using critical thinking and making snap judgments when customers ask difficult questions. Still, it’s vital that agents have scripts and notes to work off of outlining important notes about the brand. A big reason why consistency is important is that it prevents agents from giving incorrect information to callers about products, promotions and services.

Spot check agents: Just about every contact center today records customer conversations for quality purposes. But rarely do these conversations see the light of day. Most of the time, they get funneled into backend databases and left there. Customer service managers should build a few hours into their week to spot check customer phone, SMS and live chat interactions to see how agents are engaging with customers. Look for trends, and then use what you discover to work with agents and make them more effective.

Make training an ongoing process: For the average contact center, agent training stops after a certain period of time passes. It may be a week, or a month. What often happens is that agents stop trying to learn and improve at their jobs. They fall into patterns, and result to using their own language and styles during customer interactions. By making training an ongoing responsibility, through online learning portals or team building exercises, contact centers can drastically improve brand consistency.