Tips for Managing Customer Expectations

One of the hardest parts about customer service is the fact that you and your team can do just about everything right, and yet you will still have some customers who will be unhappy with your products or services.

Understand, though, that every customer is important to your organization. For this reason, it’s important to have a strategy in place to manage customer expectations. A customer service department must strive to create an environment that is fair, flexible and empathetic to customer needs.

Here are some things you can do to manage customer expectations more effectively:

Always communicate clearly: Customers get upset when they are told one thing, and then receive something completely different. Oftentimes, this happens due to a miscommunication during an interaction. For this reason, it’s important that agents avoid rushing when engaging with customers, and always speak loudly and clearly with them — especially when discussing deliverables, terms and conditions. An interaction should not end if a customer sounds confused or irritated.

Never over-promise: Customer service agents and sales representatives get into trouble when they make promises that cannot be delivered. When this happens, it typically either results in the company having to admit to an error in the customer’s favor, or let the customer down. Both are unfavorable outcomes. It’s always better to be honest with a customer upfront when you cannot meet their needs, instead of leading them on to appease them during a call and dealing with the consequences later. Customers hate being lied to above all else.

Anticipate customers’ needs: Sometimes, the easiest way to deal with a demanding customer is to be proactive about engaging with him or her. This can be done by collecting customer data during an interaction, analyzing it, and determining an appropriate plan as a team. By forming an engagement strategy, teams can have a system in place so that when a demanding customer contacts the organization, everyone is aware of who they are dealing with and what they need to do to keep them happy.

Outsource contact center operations: Small teams often struggle to deal with demanding customers, especially when they don’t have a dedicated contact center to resolve customer issues. When you have to juggle multiple hats on a daily basis, answering phones and responding to email can be enough to put you over the edge. Businesses in this situation are strongly encouraged to outsource customer service operations to a dedicated contact center solutions provider. It’s an easier, and more cost-effective way to manage customer needs.


Tesla Announces Exciting New Customer Service Initiative

Imagine a customer buys a product and is truly unsatisfied with it — enough to pick up the phone and sound off to a customer service representative about the issue.

In most companies today, that’s about as far as the customer would get.

Customer service, in other words, typically ends in the contact center. A customer may, if he or she is lucky, get an opportunity to speak with a contact center manager or possibly a director when their attention is needed. But in a large enterprise, it’s pretty rare that a customer will get to communicate with a company executive directly with a concern or even a suggestion.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s typically done for a reason, which is to protect company executives from getting too caught in the weeds with daily customer service issues. There are simply too many other things to worry about while running a company. It’s a matter of time management and efficiency.

At Tesla, though, this traditional approach to customer service is changing. And it could have far-reaching customer service implications.

In a groundbreaking announcement, Tesla has revealed plans to allow customers to escalate issues all the way up to company executives. It won’t require much effort, either. Customers will simply have to log into their online accounts and click a button to complete the task.

If the decision is successful, it could help to reduce public-facing complaints. Tesla is banking on the fact that customers will first attempt to resolve their issues internally, rather than air out their complaints online.

That’s a big “if” though, as there are bound to be some challenges that pop up along the way. For instance, the company could run into a bandwidth issue as it is now in the process of trying to scale. To date, Tesla has shipped 250,000 vehicles and hopes to scale to 400,000 shipments over the next year. So it will be interesting to see whether Tesla will be able to keep up with this strategy as more cars are released and more issues arise. The hope is that customers will not abuse the system, but rather will treat it responsibly.

Regardless of how the decision pans out, Tesla should be applauded for this bold customer service initiative. The decision shows that Tesla is making customer service a top priority.  And it’s hard to imagine any customer complaining about the ability to take their ideas and suggestions to high-ranking company officials. It’s a decision that could be a powerful deal-breaker for certain customers who prefer high-touch treatment.

Business leaders should take this as an opportunity to assess their overall customer service strategies, and look for similar ways of using it to differentiate their services.

How to Make Your Donor Outreach Program Soar

The economy has soared to new heights in 2017, and charitable contributions have followed suit. According to Giving USA’s annual philanthropy report, individual donations are poised to climb 4 percent to a staggering $390 billion this year.

But just because Americans are feeling generous this year, contact center leaders are in no position to rest on their laurels when it comes to engaging through donor outreach programs. You must work tirelessly and continuously to ensure that you can keep acquiring new donors, grow your network and offer an experience that will keep your organization front-of-mind all year long.

So what steps should your organization take to make your donor outreach program take flight? Adhere to the following three best practices and you’ll be well on your way:

What you do between campaigns is equally important:

Successful fundraising campaigns don’t just fall into place on the day of the event. It isn’t even about the weeks or months that you put into the planning of the event. Rather, think of your donor outreach program as an ongoing process that requires constant maintenance. If the only time your donors hear from you is when you need something, they’ll be less inclined to give. Instead, your program must consider the entire lifecycle of the relationship you have with your donors. The more engaged throughout the year, the more ingratiated they will be to your cause.

 Identify pain points through data analytics:

 Every outreach and every relationship tells a story with data. The more data you have, the more you’ll understand your donors. And the more you understand your donors, the easier time you’ll have identifying ways to encourage donations for your cause in the future. Don’t begin planning a new fundraiser or event until you’ve taken the time to analyze data from previous campaigns, so you can figure out how to avoid duplicating costly mistakes.

 Balancing inbound and outbound strategies:

 For many organizations, it can be difficult to handle a spike of inbound call volume and then pivot seamlessly to outbound calling. Leveraging a high-efficiency call blending system, or supplementing your representatives with outsourced assistance, can optimize your workforce to run a more comprehensive, consistent and cost-effective campaign.



Is Your Contact Center In Compliance with Local and Federal Regulations?

Earlier this year, a leading website domain operator was hit with a class action lawsuit when a consumer claimed that the company sent him unsolicited advertisements via text message.

The plaintiff is now arguing that the operator violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) — a complex law established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulates how companies are allowed to communicate with consumers about products and offerings.

The operator admitted that the text messages in question originated from a third party marketing agency that the company hired to manage an outbound texting campaign. As of right now, the case is still unsettled but I wanted to weigh in on it because there is an important lesson to be learned for customer service administrators, regardless of who wins:

Companies today need to be very, very careful with outbound communications because consumers have little tolerance for practices that seem overly-aggressive, intrusive or “spammy.”

As this case demonstrates, some consumers are actively looking for opportunities to penalize companies for behavior they deem to be inappropriate.

What’s more, the TCPA is just one of a long list of regulations — state and federal — that you need to be aware of. For instance, there are state-specific Do Not Call lists as well as state-specific requirements for things processes like monitoring and recording authorization, among others. At the same time, there are certain exemptions that you can capitalize on.

Of course, some companies regularly experience class action lawsuits from their customer outreach campaigns and treat them as little more than a drop in the bucket. But this is not the right approach. In addition to being expensive, class action lawsuits can be very damaging to a brand, and they can alienate customers and shareholders. And for a small to medium-sized business (SMBs) that lacks the financial resources of a large enterprise, the damage resulting from financial penalties, court fees and lost customers could be disastrous.

With this in mind, stop and consider who is overseeing your business’s outbound campaigns. How much experience do your internal sales and marketing managers, or your business’s outbound contact center solutions provider, have in dealing with the underlying legal complexities that you are facing?

At InfoCision, we understand that outbound communications can be very complicated. But it’s also an important aspect of business growth. For this reason, we provide our customers with direct access to a team of experienced legal professionals who work tirelessly to ensure that all campaigns operate in strict accordance with state and federal telecommunications laws.

These legal experts empower our customers to confidently — yet conservatively — reach out to consumers when they need to. Our legal professionals are second to none.

To learn more about our legal & compliance expertise, contact InfoCision today.

The Impact of Speech Analytics in the Contact Center

Speech analytics is a powerful tool for improving customer service. It turns every phone call into a valuable source of customer data. Collectively, it provides a holistic view of the thoughts, feelings and desires of a company’s customer base. Contact center managers can use insights gained to improve performance metrics, better and more quickly handle customer issues, and even make changes to existing products that can boost sales. In short, the technology gives users a competitive advantage over non-users.

So, what is speech analytics? In a nutshell, it’s the process of analyzing recorded calls to identify words and detect emotions. In the contact center, speech recognition software is used to quickly identify the calls that need attention. It then communicates information about these calls to the customer care Communicator, who is then in a much better position to handle the issue. This often shortens issue resolution time and call duration.

A reduction in average handle time improves service and can even increase company profits.

Since its introduction in 2003, the scope of speech analytics, which was originally called audio-mining, has evolved to amplify the voice of the customer beyond what could be gleaned from representative samplings. The tool evaluates 100 percent of calls, and has the ability to amass, organize and evaluate large amounts of unstructured data available through customer interactions.

With a big picture perspective, managers can more easily recognize trends in customer interests and needs. They can leverage the information gained to develop new products and/or enhance existing ones, ultimately driving sales.

Managers can also use speech analytics to ensure compliance with many regulatory and consumer protection requirements. It can even work to increase revenues when used for debt collection.

In addition, the technology ramps up quality assurance with real-time monitoring of agent engagement and script compliance. It can gauge the effectiveness of greetings and closings, and isolate words, phrases or tone of voice that signal customer dissatisfaction—while there is still time to save the relationship.

Consider speech analytics for your contact center if you would benefit from a better understanding of why your customers call in. The technology will give you greater knowledge about key behaviors on the parts of your Communicators and customers. This will help you pinpoint coaching or training opportunities for the former, and acquisition, retention and upsell opportunities for the latter. What’s more, the technology will give you greater insight into the customer sentiments that most impact your customer relationships.

Speech analytics can turn the contact center into a fountain of information for the whole business. Its applications are growing, and it is positioned to become an indispensable industry tool.


Gain Contact Center Efficiency With Desktop Automation and Analytics

Your Communicators all possess different skill levels. So, how can you best identify who can do what, as well as where training is indicated, to improve the quality of customer care and maximize profitability? As you embrace omnichannel and seek to improve the customer experience, how can you ensure that frontline staff become more productive problem solvers and relationship builders, rather than process navigators and tool users?

To address these concerns, contact center leaders are adopting next-generation unified desktop technology. The solution includes not only dynamic scripting to help Communicators articulate a cohesive brand message but also call recording and analytical features that generate performance metrics for supervisors. The technology also works to eliminate time-draining manual tasks for employees.

A recent ContactBabel study, “The US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide 2016,” as a matter of fact, finds that 10 percent of the 221 contact center managers and leaders surveyed rank back-office automation as the most important technology, from a list of 25, over the next two years—second only to omnichannel.

Unfortunately, most of today’s contact center processes and systems are only loosely integrated, leading to flawed views of performance and issues. For example, ContactBabel reports that voice of the customer projects often run into difficulty when attempting to track the customer journey across departments, processes and channels.

This situation has been exacerbated by the high level of resource required to ensure that disparate solutions can leverage data into a cohesive whole. The addition of new communication channels (e.g., live chat, email and text) only makes integration more urgent.

Unification of various workforce optimization tools gives businesses the chance to break down information silos that are preventing the optimization of the customer experience, as well as reduce user complexity. Today, for example, even after successful call completion, systems—from customer accounts to warehouse stock systems to CRM to credit/debit card applications—may require input from Communicators to initiate necessary back-office processes. Often times, such complications put accuracy and maximization of revenues at risk.

A simple change of address, for example, in a non-unified environment can be a time drain, requiring alterations to several databases. ContactBabel reports that Communicators spend an average of 10 percent of their time each hour in after-call work, which costs the industry $20 billion each year.

A unified desktop automation and analytics solution addresses this challenge by allowing faster processing of calls, as well as reducing training times and improving customer satisfaction. Communicators work with a single desktop application tailored to their specific needs, which pulls in only the right data and applications from disparate systems and presents them on a single screen. In the background, business rules and workflow make sure that the right back-office processes happen without agent intervention.

In 2017, eliminate manual, error-prone tasks required of Communicators by deploying next-generation workforce optimization solutions that automate their duties. This will help you gain contact center efficiency and free up staff to focus on the customer.

Maximize Use of Analytics to Optimize Customer Relationships

Analytics has taken the identification of contact center issues from gut instinct—or random sampling as managers walk the floor—to a science. It can help contact center leaders get to the root cause of problems, better enabling their resolution. In concert with the right applications, analytics can be used to ensure the optimal duration and profitability of a customer relationship.

As the application of analytics advances, it will be used to predict customer needs and behaviors to the point where contact center managers will be able to proactively deliver appropriate services—even before customers realize they need them!

Using data inputs—such as product use behavior, purchase history, Web and mobile clicks—contact center analytics will become a strategic tool for businesses. Managers will be enabled to provide white-glove service to their most valuable customers, as well as identify which customers have the potential to become majorly profitable—and serve them equally well.

To realize the full potential of contact center analytics, it must be combined with sales and marketing analytics. These business units have traditionally used analytics to better segment prospects for marketing purposes. The new opportunity is to use the data inputs from across the organization to better inform business decisions. With insights gained in this more holistic manner, contact center managers will understand how to engage and support customers throughout the relationship life cycle.

So, where do you begin the process of maximizing analytics for your contact center?

First of all, your company must be completely digitalized—to the point where nearly every customer touch point is accessible for analysis. Otherwise, missing data can skew analytics and set you up for a fall. Second, the contact center must put customer experience—not reducing handling times or reducing costs—at the center of its strategy. After all, you don’t want to let a customer slip through your fingers while you tally interaction expenses. Finally, the entire organization must be onboard with creating a culture where customer engagement is its main purpose and function. This last point is necessary to reduce organizational boundaries that might limit the sharing of meaningful data.

Once your organization is set up to optimize customer satisfaction, contact center analytics will be a far more strategic tool. You’ll gain a deep knowledge of customer drivers, and know how to best address them to strengthen relationships.

How to Move From Data to Insights to Action

As a business leader, you are told often enough to harness the data in your organization to drive more-effective decision making. And maybe you’re thinking “easier said than done”—and you’d be correct.

It’s a struggle in today’s business environment to rein in data when more and more of it arrives every day. Yet the amount of data doesn’t change the fundamental executive decision-making premise: Understand the market to determine how and where to best compete.

So, how do you get from vast compilations of data to pertinent insights that can grow your business?

To win customers, you need data and analytics to show what they want at the times when they are bent on going somewhere, or learning, doing or buying something. You must be able to identify those instances and act on them wisely. Companies that excel go beyond analytics; they build insights they can use to develop truly relevant customer experiences.

Take the following recommendations into consideration:

Integrate data: First, you need to achieve a single view of your customer base. Only then can you ensure optimal product offerings and the most effective communication strategies. Mix together multiple sources of customer and marketing data—from email response rates to data from in-person meetings—with a strong focus on demand generation, to enhance the customer experience. Continually use data and analytics to test your effectiveness. According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, some companies that have captured the full customer journey by integrating multiple sources of data are generating up to 8.5X higher shareholder value.

Stay ahead of the curve: Second, use analytics to generate new value for customers whenever they reach out to your brand, not just to strengthen marketing effectiveness. Continually develop more-sophisticated analytics capabilities and applications, as the ability to gain competitive leverage from analytics is declining as more organizations develop capabilities.

Leverage tools: Sophisticated technology tools allow you to drive customer satisfaction in diverse ways—from your website’s ease of use, to on-time delivery, to actual product performance. This is where analyzing social media and direct customer feedback is especially beneficial.

Broaden marketing scope: Eliminate enterprise market­ing divisions and vertically integrate their roles within each line of business to break down organizational barriers to improving customer experience. This will entrench marketers into a par­ticular customer experience and concentrate their attention on each phase of the customer journey. This includes moving from a product-centric to a customer-centric focus. In today’s market—full of smart and demanding consumers, as well as product commoditization—trying to compete by managing costs won’t do the job. Instead, apply formal customer value measurements to drive and evaluate changes.

Build a team: Create a team of analytics professionals who understand not only data but the technologies that help to amalgamate data into a cohesive whole. Beyond that, place more emphasis on the data than the analytics team, meaning determine the questions the data should answer before setting your analysts free. Otherwise, you could end up with massive amounts of data that actually cloud business implications instead of offering clarity.

A disciplined approach to analytics will garner you an improved customer experience. Just as with any decision-making process, optimize analytics to obtain the desired results.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Why Social Listening Is Your Secret Weapon

Listening is harder than talking, both for people and for businesses. Stephen Covey, author of the top-selling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said that most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand; we’re usually just waiting until the talker finishes so we can have our turn to speak. That’s not really listening.

Businesses usually do more talking than listening, too. Finely crafted messages appear on Facebook, in ads, and across other marketing content, but there hasn’t been much real listening going on. Without it, there’s no way of truly understanding your customers, making it difficult to give them what they want.

Thanks to social media, the idea of “listening” is finally being heard. Social media platforms offer a wealth of information as to what people are saying about a brand. Companies can also learn what their customers are searching for, where their customers are, and how their competitors are faring. This information can be used to create more personalized marketing content that targets specific audiences.

Just like the traditional form of listening, however, social media listening takes patience, and a willingness to hear what people have to say.

Taking it one step further, social listening becomes social intelligence when business leaders use what they’ve heard to drive business actions. For instance, to plan future innovations in flight technology, GE used Twitter conversations to understand passenger expectations. Visa, too, leveraged social media insights to extend its reach to a new target market of small businesses. And after listening to Facebook and Twitter, General Mills decided to drop artificial flavors and colors from its cereals.

Listening may not always yield business-altering insights, but if companies use these opportunities wisely, they can be assured of one thing at least: Customers will appreciate the chance to be heard, which is a win no matter what.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Predicting Customer Service Success: The Importance of Data Analytics

I think most would agree with this suggestion:  consumers expect customer service agents to know how to efficiently solve any and every problem at hand. Due to the fact that agents aren’t mind readers, supplying your contact center with the right tools to better identify future customer inquiries is critical in reaping full ROI.

Recent research suggests that advanced business intelligence directly improves customer experience as well as contact center services ROI. According to Dimension Data’s “2015 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report,” 57 percent of companies relate improved customer service experience levels to ROI, while 75 percent of contact centers can now pre-identify and segment their customers. It’s evident that contact centers’ improving ability to predict customers’ future behavior and, in turn, offer a catered experience to each segment is an important correlation.

Guarantee your agents are prepared for any type of customer by instating these three forms of business analytics:

Predictive Models: Foresee the imminent behaviors of particular customers by compiling past transactions to create a customized model. Learn from past consumer actions by using those experiences to better prepare for the next. The customer is bound to appreciate the personalized attentiveness of an experienced Communicator.

Market Segmentation: Use your contact center’s abundance of incoming data to organize your consumers. Grouping certain consumers based on personality and historical tendencies saves time and money. This allows for improved Communicator assignment, as the agents most experienced with specific groups can be strategically assigned in order to ensure the best customer experience.

Customer Profiles: The ways in which we are able to use data are nothing short of incredible. Contact centers receive massive amounts of information about customers through inbound customer service calls and/or outbound calls to prospective non-profit donors. Leverage this data in order to create customer profiles based on the similar attributes detected in specific groups of consumers. These profiles will give businesses an edge in predicting future behaviors.

Hiring mind readers isn’t a realistic goal, but we can provide our employees with top notch business intelligence for a best-in-class customer experience. Learn more about business analytics strategies that can help augment your contact center services ROI.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the American Teleservices Association (ATA). He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s higher honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.