What is Customer Journey Mapping?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The hope is that when a customer buys a product, he or she will continue doing it well into the future. After all, over the course of a lifetime, a single customer could conceivably wind up spending a significant amount of money with an organization — that is, assuming they continue to have positive experiences.

Customer retention, however, is never guaranteed. This is especially true in today’s ultra-connected marketplace, where customers have easy access to competitors. It often takes hard work on the part of the contact center to keep them coming back and making purchases again and again. Account-related issues like billing need to be dealt with promptly and professionally; Customers need to feel like their feedback is understood; and personalization needs to be used to make them feel appreciated.

Perhaps most importantly, there needs to be a system in place to track customer engagement and manage their needs. Without this structure, customers are bound to get lost in the shuffle — and swooped up by competitors.

The management system I am talking about to is often referred to as customer journey mapping, a process which involves laying out all of the different touchpoints that customers go through when engaging with your company. The customer journey starts the first time the customer interacts with the brand, and continues throughout their whole lifetime.

Customer journey mapping, in other words, is a long-term strategy. There may be breaks in the journey, where a customer explores competitors or stops doing business with you for awhile, but with a sound customer journey map in place you can ensure that whenever they do come back you will have a clear sense of the products they have purchased, passed issues they have had, and their likely current expectations.

Of course, the trick is to foster brand loyalty early on and eliminate these gaps in service. And this can only be done by being diligent about collecting data, taking notes and reviewing them during each and every customer interaction.

Remember that customer service is not magic. It’s all about being an active listener, and applying the insight that you glean from customer interactions. Customers will often tell you, very explicitly, how they feel about your company as well as what they need to keep doing business with your brand.

As you can see, customer journey mapping is no small effort. It’s also much harder in large-scale contact centers, where hundreds or even thousands of agents interact with the same data. In our experience, we have found that customer journey mapping is most effectively done by small teams of agents who can put extra effort into the process and provide the necessary oversight for high quality customer service.

Tips for Managing Customer Expectations

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

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.

 

Angry Customers are Often Right

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff  

One of the hardest realities to face in the customer service industry is that even if you do everything right, there will always be unhappy customers that require extra attention. You just can’t please everyone all the time, no matter how hard you try. This is the nature of business.

If you think about it, though, angry customers can be highly valuable to your organization. After all, angry customers typically have a lot to say. And oftentimes, they are right. Businesses that take the time to listen to their customers stand to learn a great deal of information that can be used to create products and services that are more in line with consumers’ needs.

Let’s consider some of the top reasons why customers get mad:

Poor user experiences: When customers are dissatisfied with the products or services they pay for, they often reach for the telephone and attempt to contact the company to voice their complaints. And they do not typically hold back their emotions, or ideas.

What’s the best way to deal with this challenge? First, understand that there may be no way of calming the customer down. The customer may use profanity, or go on a long rant. The agent, in this situation, should remain calm and let the customer finish his or her thoughts. Then, when the opportunity presents itself, the agent should give the customer his or her complete and undivided attention. The agent should then sympathize with the customer, and record the complaint. Then, the agent should let the customer know that the company is committed to resolving the issue. The note should be saved, and taken into consideration by the organization’s research and development team to see if there is a legitimate way of resolving it. And then, the team should reach out to thank the customer for their feedback and ask for their continued support. This will let the customer know their opinion is highly valued.

Dropped calls: One of the biggest reasons why customers get angry while waiting on the phone for an agent is that they get passed along from agent to agent, and eventually dropped —forcing them to dial in again and wait for another representative to answer the phone. When this happens, a process that should take 15 minutes could easily take a half an hour or longer.

The lesson here is that businesses need reliable and efficient phone systems, and they should never be passed along unnecessarily between agents. If this is happening in your organization action needs to be taken to improve the system.

Billing disputes: This is one of the hardest challenges to handle over the phone, mainly because billing is typically an issue that is beyond an agent’s control. In some situations, managers can empower agents to work with customers and award perks or benefits; but billing is much harder to handle and needs to be treated with the utmost sensitivity. Again, though, a customer could be right about a billing dispute and so the receiving agent needs to hear the complaint and look for ways of escalating it for higher-ups to consider.

Three Signs You Need to Scale

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

 We’ve all been there. You’re getting ready for a night out, standing in front of the mirror getting dressed, and all of a sudden you realize you’ve outgrown your favorite pair of pants. Of course, it’s not a big deal. It happens to everyone. But it might become a problem if you don’t put them back on the hanger all bring them to the tailor.

The same can be said for your contact center. It can be difficult to realize the need to scale, as it can often be a gradual change caused by a variety of factors.  Yet all of a sudden you’re in the midst of a call volume spike and are shocked to find you don’t have the bandwidth to provide adequate service.

If you see these three signs in your contact center, it’s probably time for you to consider scaling your operations:

  1. Your company is launching a new product or initiative.

Change isn’t the easiest part of life, so when it comes to your customers, you need to do everything you can to ease their anxiety. If your company is rolling out a new initiative —whether it’s a product, service or fundraising campaign — you have to expect a spike. If your organization’s efforts are successful, you’ll have lots of customers calling in. But if they run into challenges, you know they’ll be reaching out too. Either way, larger corporate initiatives often precede the need to scale contact center operations.

  1. Your reps are more than tired — they’re exhausted.

Sometimes a worn out employee simply needs a vacation. Other times, it doesn’t matter how many days off you have. If you’re always buried in more work than you can handle, you’ll never feel reenergized. Recognizing the difference can be difficult, but a few indicators can help you make a determination. Are response times slower across the contact center? Have you been getting a greater number of call transfers or dissatisfied customers? Studying your business analytics will help tell a more complete story.

  1. ‘Tis the Season

Speaking of studying business analytics, you should be tracking call volumes throughout the calendar year. The month of December, for instance, has historically been one of the busiest for the customer service industry. Take a look back at these figures and you’ll see trends begin to emerge. After all, those that don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it.

Without knowing where to look it can be difficult to see the warning signs that you need to scale your contact center operations. With the right partner, however, it can be easy to get your contact center running at peak performance to meet your customers’ needs with a superior level of care.

 

 

 

How to Make Your Donor Outreach Program Soar

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

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.

 

 

Change Your Employee Performance Metrics to Better Reflect Customer Engagement

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Are you aware that customer engagement and customer satisfaction are two distinctly different metrics? A recent Gallup poll sheds light on the differences and how each can be measured most effectively.

Gallup confirms that engagement is a much higher bar to reach than satisfaction. One doesn’t necessarily follow from the other, and both are strategic choices for companies looking to grow business revenues.

Half of all customers in Gallup’s customer database say they are satisfied with a given brand, but only 38 percent say they are engaged with it. Gallup gives examples for each metric. For instance, a retail business may earn customer satisfaction by offering great sales, discounts and deals. But it will engage customers if its salespeople go out of their way to be helpful.

Four possible combinations of the two metrics were identified by Gallup: 1) low satisfaction/low engagement; 2) high satisfaction/low engagement; 3) low satisfaction/high engagement; and 4) high satisfaction/high engagement. No. 4 is obviously the ideal situation, and No. 1 is a sure miss.

Ranking in No. 2 or No. 3 can be valuable—but only if following from a company’s leadership and strategic aim to be there.

Gallup defines No. 2 customer relationships as ones of “convenience,” meaning that either price or product features are appealing but customers have no strong emotional connection with the brand. Here, customers want what the company offers—not the company itself. This is a perilous position for brands because customers will simply leave if another brand offers more bang for the buck.

Companies that rank in the No. 3 category are known for their emotional connections to customers but hardly rational aspects of their products or services. Think highly successful, upscale hotel chains and theme parks.

How can companies drive employees to performances that help them reach the ideal No. 4 category of both high satisfaction and high engagement? Start by measuring the right metrics; identify the specific actions that keep customers coming back and purchasing more. Spreading a positive message should be the primary focus of training and management efforts.

Senior leaders are the only ones in a position to instill organizational norms that engender greater customer satisfaction and engagement.

Here’re Gallup’s four key strategies for advancing within each category:

  1. Clarify the purpose and mission: Only a well-defined mission can drive purpose effectively.
  2. Reverse-engineer the culture: Organizational norms must serve the mission.
  3. Invest in what matters: Highly successful organizations invest time, energy and money into advancing their missions.
  4. Measure the right things: If you want engagement, measure customer “moments” as locally as possible.

Consistency and persistence across these four areas determine a company’s value proposition to the marketplace, says Gallup.  Senior leaders must be intentional in connecting mission—whether customer satisfaction, engagement or both—and strategy to turn organizational norms into strengths.

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.

Enhance Your Digital B2B Strategy to Attract More Buyers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Is your company one of the many investing more marketing dollars in digital channels these days? If so, your organization is following the trend to sagely engage customers where they “live,” i.e., the spaces they frequent when looking for information on products and services. In fact, 82 percent of marketers responding to a Regalix survey say they plan to spend more than 50 percent of their 2015 budgets on digital.

This is all well and good as long as digital channels are leveraged to deploy strategies and programs that will lead to positive differentiation for brands.

How can you be assured that you’re truly on the right path—to increased revenue—with your B2B digital marketing strategy?

Website, search, email and social continue to dominate—but are they best for your business? The answer will follow from a thorough understanding of the buying journey for your particular audience. Once you deploy technologies—in your contact center—and elsewhere in your company (think sales and marketing) to capture and analyze customer data, e.g., behaviors, preferences and the like, you will have the insights you need to deliver the right content across the right channels.

Be assured, first of all, that employing a multichannel strategy that speaks to individual preferences is a necessity in this day and age where consumers wield the power in B2B—and B2C—interactions. So, you’ve got that right. Second, support for the old standby offline channels, e.g., events, phone and direct mail, will keep you in good stead with a majority of customers as well. Third, if you’re integrating old and new channels to meet your marketing objectives, you’ve hit the trifecta for marketing wins.

See how your digital marketing strategy aligns with the market: The Regalix report confirmed that company websites are the top digital channel for B2B marketers, with 81 percent of the CXOs and senior marketers surveyed rating their sites effective in helping to accomplish marketing goals. Email ranks second, with 71 percent of respondents calling it effective. Search engine optimization came in third with 54 percent verifying its effectiveness. Social, in fourth place at 41 percent, was slated for increased spend in 2015 by 54 percent of respondents.

Of course, channel selection becomes a moot point if the messages being delivered are of little value or relevance to your key targets. With websites identified as the most effective marketing channel, website content naturally comes in first as the most effective content asset; 76 percent of marketers call it “indispensable.”

To strengthen this marketing asset to attract and convert more buyers, try some of these ideas:

  • Connect to consumers in a deeply human way. A unique, personalized story will help to diminish the Web barrier between you and your audience. Perhaps surprisingly, this calls for you to step back and think of your brand in terms of moments in your customers’ lives. Think about times when your brand may have made a special appearance in their homes or communities and use them as touch points.
  • Use customer testimonials to invoke your brand story. Identify the consumer need that inspired your client to reach out to your business, and how your products and services were used to address the need. Be sure to root your story in reality—and that the message is consistent with your brand voice across content assets and channels.
  • Interview subject matter experts to gather shareable material that will add precision, depth and expertise to your content. Craft the interview to address your customers’ needs. For example, consider whether your audience wants greater objectivity regarding your offerings or wants to put a face to your story, i.e., get to know you better.

Webcasts and online videos can also borrow from these tips to great effect, especially now that 65 percent of marketers say they plan to increase spend on these content assets.

Stay abreast of where your competitors are focusing their marketing efforts so you can quickly counter them with your own initiatives—to ensure that customers beat a path to your door. Your enhanced digital strategy will guarantee that they receive a warm welcome when they arrive, ready to do business with your brand.

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 the Phone Provides High-Value Leads

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Recent research by BIA/Kelsey predicts that annual calls to businesses from smartphones will reach 162 billion by 2019. This number is a dramatic increase—more than double—over the 77 billion calls generated similarly last year. Much of this traffic is due to the proliferation of mobile ads that merge with the scrolling feed-based interfaces of social apps like Facebook and Instagram.

Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, customers with more complex issues are being driven to the phones. After having tried and failed at previous attempts for issue-resolution, usually via Web chat or text messaging, customers now use the phone as something of a last resort. As a result they may be frustrated or angry—and inclined to provide feedback—on whatever drove them to place the call in the first place.

With these two facts in hand, it’s safe to say that phone calls, more than any other mode of communication, can tell us a great deal about our customers.

The ability to gather information from phone calls is a competitive advantage that offers invaluable insights about potential and current customers. Understanding which marketing campaigns are driving phone calls is key to your marketing strategy. Similarly, being able to gather the complex feedback arising from a distress call can be used to inform everything from product development to quality of service to customer preferences. The significance of knowing why people are calling, where they’re calling from, and what they need cannot be understated.

Does your call center have the technology tools necessary to make the most of your phone calls?

Turning phone call information into actionable data requires call-tracking software. But before jumping in, make your goals concrete. What information is your business partner looking for? What information would be valuable if tracked? You can enhance the value of your services by working closely with your client to determine which of the following insights would be most valuable:

  • Keyword information. Some call-tracking software enables you to find out what keyword search led to the discovery of the company’s mobile ad. Keyword searches that lead to contact, and then paying customers, are high in value and can be used for future marketing purposes.
  • Caller location. Customer demographics such as this one can be used to identify patterns linked to purchases.
  • Marketing campaign effectiveness. Unique phone numbers placed strategically on different web pages can be tracked to determine which campaigns were the most effective, or which locations proved most fruitful.
  • Call duration. Too long or too short varies by business, but once a reasonable standard has been defined, it’s good to know what’s happening in reality. Calls that take longer than the defined standard may indicate root problems that need to be addressed, either on the part of the business or the call center.
  • Identify your best customer. Listening to calls and learning more about what customers are looking for enables businesses to visualize their ideal customer, so they can direct their efforts appropriately.

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.

People, process and analytics create successful B2B model

In today’s economy, companies must focus their efforts on core competencies and choose partners to help provide the return they need growing their business.  At last month’s IT EXPO in Miami I had the chance to enjoy the sunshine and connect with longtime colleague, Rich Tehrani, TMC CEO, to discuss how InfoCision is partnering with clients to achieve success with our valuable B2B solution. You can view the interview here. http://bit.ly/1h7YPKn

We consider it top priority when partnering with clients to customize our approach and make sure we meet their needs and their customer’s needs. We start by ensuring we have the best possible people on the phone. Our Business Account Managers (BAMs) are highly trained sales experts who are highly skilled at communicating, reaching and consulting with decision makers.

Next, the way we manage the process is different. We take the behind the scenes dialing process and manage it so our sales people are able to maintain predictability to the calling structure and can focus on their strengths in building relationships and closing sales.

Finally, we use data analytics and business intelligence to make sure we are reaching the next target successfully and managing the continuity for multiple points of contact throughout the process. There’s a relationship that evolves that often takes more than a single phone call and we have created a process to handle this efficiently and effectively. The focus isn’t on simply getting the sales; it’s primarily to ensure a positive customer experience as we all know it directly impacts repeat business, loyalty and referrals.

With extremely fierce competition, choosing a partner that combines strategic use of the best possible people, processes and data analytics will provide the needed marketplace edge.

I’d love to continue this dialogue with you.  What are some of the challenges you are facing within your B2B program? How can we help?