How to Make Your Data Work Harder Next Year

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Businesses today are already producing an unfathomable amount of data. But in many ways, the data revolution is just getting started. We haven’t even scratched the surface of what the future will bring in terms of information collection and management.

According to one study, the world will produce 180 Zettabytes — or 180 trillion gigabytes — of data annually by 2025. To put this in perspective, in 2015 there was a total of just 10 Zettabytes of data. And in 2020, there will only be 44 Zettabytes generated. So at a certain point, we expect this figure will scale considerably.

One of the main reasons why data generation keeps increasing is because the Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly expanding. More and more devices are becoming IP-enabled, and in the process they are providing remarkable insight about consumer habits and preferences as well as backend processes.

While almost all businesses are collecting data, though, many are failing to maximize its effectiveness. In many cases, data is stagnating inside of databases instead of being put to use — a situation that isn’t just wasteful, but actually very risky. Simply collecting data and not using it will only eat into your server capacity, increasing operating costs and the chances of getting hit with a data breach.

If this describes your company, then one of your main goals heading into 2018 should be to improve the way that you process, distribute and store information. It’s time to make your data work harder for your company.

So, how do you do this? The first step is to improve communication across the various parts of your business. For instance, your marketing, sales and customer service departments are probably all collecting data in some form or another, from websites, social channels and email marketing systems. But are they sharing this information?

The trick is to stop siloing information between departments. Instead, pump your customer information into one centralized internal database that each department can use to better understand its customers’ needs. The end result should be a system where the right messaging is distributed to the right customer at the correct point in the sales funnel.

Of course, the easiest way to streamline data management is to outsource your customer service department to a third party solutions provider offering data-driven strategy. Third party contact center solutions providers can offer the infrastructure, and experts that are needed to process and interpret the information that is being collected.

With the right team in place, equipped with a data-driven strategy, your business will be able to understand its customers’ needs much more effectively. To learn more about how InfoCision can help, click here.

Three Hard-Hitting Customer Service Questions

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As an executive, it’s your job to make the difficult decisions that will impact the future of your organization. Team members come to you looking for answers, and so it’s your job to know what buttons you should press, and when.

Sometimes, this can be very difficult — especially when difficult customer service questions arise that can have a major impact on your company’s bottom line.

With this in mind, here are some hot button issues in customer service that you should spend some time thinking about, so you can be prepared to handle them when they arise.

  1. Is it necessary to have a dedicated contact center? Let’s face it: Contact centers are expensive. There is no getting around it. When you factor in costs associated with staffing, overhead, technology investment and more, the expenses can really pile up. And if your department is costing more than it is bringing in, this is a problem.

As such, you may be wondering whether it’s necessary to have a contact center at all. Some companies, in other words, are now abandoning their contact centers in favor of fully-automated solutions. Ultimately, this is a bad idea. Take our advice. Self service is great for some processes, but it’s not a good idea to make it harder for customers to get in touch with representatives when they are needed. Customers should always have a direct channel to service representatives. When this goes away, they can get very upset — and take their business to competitors.

  1. How important is artificial intelligence (AI)? Right now, everyone in business is talking about the rise of AI. Heading into 2018, AI is one of the hottest technologies on the market. But does your business really need it?

The truth is that AI is something you should seriously consider. And it’s not that hard to obtain. Many companies are now offering AI-based platforms that streamline business processes like sales, marketing and customer service. AI can help automate your customer service operations, reducing time waste and driving stronger returns.  Plus, all of your competitors are most likely investing in it—so this is not something you should pass on in 2018.

  1. Should the C-suite take part in customer service strategizing? Is customer service something you should even be taking part in? Or should you leave it to other experts so that you can focus on more pressing priorities?

Think about how a general manager works in sports. Brian Cashman of the New York Yankees, for instance, does not get too involved in daily on-field issues concerning his players. He leaves this up to his coaching staff. Still, he is heavily involved in planning and strategizing at a higher level.

You can take this same approach by outsourcing your department to a third party contact center solutions provider. In this type of environment, you can still remain active and take part in strategizing, without having to get too wrapped up in making sure your customers are satisfied and the department is operating correctly.

 

2018 Cybersecurity Preview for Contact Centers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

There is one issue that should be on every business leader’s mind looking ahead into 2018 and that is cybersecurity. Experts are now predicting that 2018 could be one of the worst years yet for cybercrime.

What used to be a challenge primarily for data center technicians, cybercrime is now an issue for every business department — especially in the contact center, where thousands of communications are sent and received every day. In fact, the contact center has emerged as one of the most heavily-targeted areas of the enterprise by hackers.

One of the most frustrating aspects about combating cybercrime is that the threat landscape is constantly changing. New threats — and trends in defense strategies — are always fluctuating and it can be hard to keep up, especially for busy contact center managers who have many other responsibilities to look after on a daily basis.

Here are some things that customer service administrators may see in 2018 in the cybersecurity space:

Ransomware attacks will increase: Ransomware is now one of the most devastating tools that hackers use to extort money from businesses. It’s a special form of malware that allows hackers to hijack personal files and delete them at will. Oftentimes, hackers will accept payments and then delete files anyway. Ransomware experienced record growth in 2017, and now a company is hit with ransomware every 40 seconds. We predict that this figure will increase next year, as ransomware tools are getting easier to use and less expensive.

Android attacks will get more dangerous: Two things are happening right now: Consumers are using their phones more than ever to resolve customer service issues, and mobile malware is evolving at a rapid pace. This is a bad combination, because it means that customers are now sending more and more data into customer service departments through insecure devices.

More companies will switch to blockchain: Increasing cybersecurity threats and continued data breach announcements will cause more companies to migrate to blockchain systems for transactions. Blockchain, in short, allows companies to share digital ledgers over a network of connected computers. With blockchain technology, there is no central authority — and no way to tamper with individual records. All of the data is public, and all in the open.

Companies will spend more on cyberdefenses: According to one new report, cybersecurity spending will exceed $1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. Companies will look to fortify their networks by investing in services like real-time monitoring and threat detection, advanced threat forensics and employee cybersecurity training. Expect spending to accelerate in 2018.

One easy way to improve your contact center’s cyberdefenses is to outsource operations to a third party services provider. A third party solutions provider will streamline all aspects of cybersecurity for your customer service department, sparing your team the burden of having to worry about it.

The Fastest Way to Improve Your Customer Service Department

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

You were recently put on notice to reduce costs and improve key performance metrics in your contact center. And now, you are scratching your head and wondering where to start.

As I am sure you are already aware, this is not an easy process. And the larger the contact center, the harder it can be to make changes that will yield significant results. There are simply too many people, too much equipment and too many customers to worry about.

What’s more, if you make the wrong decision while downsizing your contact center, you could upset your department and negatively impact critical customer-facing operations. For instance, if you lay off 20 or so workers, it will mean 20 fewer customer service agents that will be on hand to assist callers and resolve issues. Your phone lines will jam up, which will lead to longer hold times and higher telecommunications bills.

Here at InfoCision, we have seen businesses try all sorts of experimental ways to save money in the contact center. Take our advice: It’s a dangerous game when you start experimenting with ways to save money in the contact center. Contact centers are very complex, and delicate.

By far, the fastest and most reliable way to improve customer service is to outsource your department’s agents and infrastructure to a third party solutions provider. Almost overnight, you will receive access to stronger and more experienced customer service agents, better infrastructure and data. At the same time, you will free up a significant amount of capital in your current in-house contact center. And it comes with much less risk.

Plus, there are immediate financial returns that you will experience. Right off the bat, you can sell all of your in-house contact center infrastructure to a company that purchases used office equipment. There are companies that will pay decent money for used computers, office chairs, agent headsets and even servers. Just make sure to “wipe” your electronic equipment of any data before selling it just to make sure that information does not fall into the wrong hands by mistake. This could lead to a post-sale data breach, which can be very difficult to fix.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should be very picky when selecting a contact center solutions provider as not all companies offer the same level of quality. Make sure that you partner with a company that aligns with your exact expectations so that there is no question they will be able to perform at a level that is acceptable.

 

It’s Okay to Feel Good About Outsourcing

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Let’s be honest: Your customer service department is more of a burden than a benefit to your business. It’s expensive. It’s complex. And it’s failing to drive revenue for your organization like the company hoped it would when the department was originally established.  

It is possible, however, to turn things around and start providing amazing customer support without having to put up with any of the pain points that come with managing a contact center. You can eliminate all of the above-mentioned challenges. All you have to do is outsource your department to a third party contact center solutions provider.

A third party contact center solutions provider will offer your organization access to the best agents on the market; top-of-the line software; cutting-edge infrastructure; and data-driven strategy. At the same time, you can also establish business continuity for customer service. By housing critical contact center infrastructure off-site, communications can continue in the event of an unplanned local power or service outage. This is something to consider as the busy holidays approach. What will happen if your customer service department goes down while customers are buying holiday gifts?

Now, if you are struggling with the idea of outsourcing your department that is completely understandable. After all, it’s a tough decision to make and one that requires re-assigning active customer service employees. You will have to think of something to do withal of your contact center employees.

One suggestion is to form a select think tank comprised of the best minds in your department. This group can help marketing and sales teams devise and execute ideas to connect with customers, improve campaigns and drive profits. This strategy can also boost team morale. By choosing to keep your workers instead of laying them off, you will prove that you are an employee-centric organization or one that cares about its hard-working staff members.

The point here is that it’s okay to feel good about outsourcing. Outsourcing customer support operations is the most cost-effective and trusted way to transform a failing department into one that is profitable and capable of evolving with the ever-changing needs of today’s customers.

If you’re new to the concept of outsourcing, here is another way of thinking about it: You outsource things all the time. Using a cloud service like Google, for instance, involves outsourcing — and hence, relying on another company to provide a critical service. Outsourcing a contact center is no different.

To learn more about how your business can benefit from outsourcing customer service operations, click here.

Planning for the Future in Your Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

As a customer service administrator, you need to think about the short term and the long term success of your department. This requires looking past the daily issues facing your team, and engaging in some future planning.

Ask yourself the following question: Where exactly do you want your contact center to be in a year? It may be time to make some critical changes to your strategy.

As you already know, change does not typically come quickly in a traditional contact center setting. It can be hard enough even getting budgetary approval for things like new equipment, more agents or better CRM software when you manage your own facility. After all, an in-house contact center must compete with other departments in the enterprise for financing.

The best way to fast-track change in your contact center is to outsource operations to a third party solutions provider. In doing so, you won’t have to wait a year for change. You will experience a turnaround in performance almost instantaneously.

Here are some of the benefits you can expect to see by outsourcing your contact center:

Stronger agents: You will no longer have to worry about hiring, training and managing customer service agents. By outsourcing to a third party contact center solutions provider, you will receive access to premium agents who are already highly-trained and experienced in dealing with a variety of issues. This will eliminate a great deal of time and hassle, while also mitigating risk and improving results.

Less turnover: Another major upside to outsourcing your customer service operations is that you won’t have to worry about contact center attrition. This is typically very high in contact centers, and it’s both expensive and inconvenient. It’s also bad for morale.

Reduced overhead: Right now you are paying for everything from office chairs to lights to headsets. Overhead is extremely expensive, and oftentimes customer service departments lack the necessary funding to keep them running at a high level. Outsourcing, however, will ensure that the people communicating with your customers are always using the latest and most effective equipment on the market. And you won’t have to pay extra for any of it.

Improved donor relations: Donor ecosystems need to be carefully maintained day in and day out. Oftentimes, in-house customer service departments struggle to provide the extra attention that is needed keep donors happy and contributing to campaigns. Outsourcing providers, though, specialize in executing high quality, data-driven donor outreach initiatives.

More sales: Ultimately, contact centers — like all departments — are judged on a cost vs. profit basis. And many departments are spending a lot more than they are bringing in. By outsourcing, you will boost sales and you will only have to pay a small monthly price.

 

Expect Unhappy Customers To Take Action Against Your Company

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

 Every company dreams of having “brand influencers,” or super-customers who continuously rave about their favorite products and services to followers over social media. But this does not always happen. On the other end of the spectrum are “brand detractors” or customers that will actively speak out when they are unhappy with a company.

How your team manages these “brand detractors” will go a long way in determining its public perception. Dealing with a single unhappy customer, in other words, is a bit like managing a small fire. If left unchecked, or mishandled, a customer’s anger could quickly spread to others and cause a considerable amount of damage to the brand’s online reputation.

 This is especially problematic in the financial services industry, where more than 1 in 5 Americans claim they will leave their bank if they are unhappy with the customer service they receive. And 78 percent will take a form of action by switching banks, filing a complaint or sharing their bad experiences with their contacts or audiences.

Of course, not all problems can be easily silenced. But most problems can be eased or solved by getting on the phone and having a conversation with an agent. The contact center can be like a buffer that can be used to communicate with customers before they reach for social media.

A well-managed contact center can prevent customer complaints from spreading by:

 Serving as an outlet to vent: What do you do when you get really mad or frustrated about something? Chances are likely you will find someone — anyone — and tell them about your issue. Talking through a situation can help you think through the issue and get another opinion.

Oftentimes, you can come to a conclusion that you had not previously thought of. The trick is to offer customers many different communications channels like a telephone line, email, live chat and social support. The more options you give them, and the easier you make it to communicate, the more likely customers will be to reach out and attempt to solve their issues in the contact center as opposed to their social followers.

Providing an opportunity for retention: When customers get very angry, they often attempt to cancel their services. This is where it pays to have a dedicated contact center. A customer service agent could attempt to keep a customer by offering incentives or rewards. It’s sometimes possible to prevent customers from leaving if you make them feel special and appreciated.

 Showing what consumers want: A contact center can be an amazing resource for learning about consumer behavior. After all, if one customer is experiencing an issue chances are that it’s impacting many others, too. In a well-managed contact center, all complaints are processed, reviewed and addressed so that the company can continuously improve.

 

How to Win Back Customers

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

We often speak about the “customer journey” or the overall experience that a customer has with an organization. The customer journey starts when a customer first interacts with a brand, and continues each subsequent time.

Here’s the thing about the customer journey, though: As much as we want it to be a predictable process, the customer journey is anything but that. Customers, in other words — even loyal ones making repeat purchases — may stray to competitors and explore other brands from time to time. And there is no guarantee that they will come back.

For marketers and sales representatives it can be challenging trying to understand why customers leave — when one minute a customer seems happy, and the next they are simply gone. A customer may decide to delete his or her account, cancel a subscription or stop contributing to a fundraising campaign with little to no warning.

When this happens to one customer, it may not be that noticeable. But when it starts happening in large numbers, it can be very troubling. Understand, though, that it’s possible to win back unhappy customers and make them fall in love with your brand again.

Here are some things you can try:

Stop the bleeding: I encourage you to take a holistic approach to customer care. When problems arise, and customers are unhappy, you need to get to the root cause and fix it. Perhaps your prices are too high, or you made a recent change in a product. Or, maybe your customer service department is in need of a new retention strategy. So when a customer cancels a subscription, deletes an account or stops making repeat purchases, don’t be afraid to ask why they are unhappy with your company and what you could do to serve them more effectively. The best way to do this is through email, or even snail mail. Just make sure to always thank customers for their time and feedback.

Ask customers to come back: A few weeks or months after you send out the above-mentioned survey, don’t be afraid to send a thank you note back to the customer, letting him or her know that you have taken his or her feedback into consideration and would love to have them back. You can use this opportunity to offer incentives, too. If you don’t ask customers to come back, they may not think to do so on their own.

Don’t make the same mistakes twice: Use the information gleaned from customer surveys and online reviews to make your company better. The last thing you want to do is win a customer back, only to have him or her leave for the same reason! For instance, if a customer unsubscribes from a service because they are receiving too many emails, don’t start spamming them again. Use insight to make your brand more in tune with customers’ needs.

The Top Financial Returns You Can Expect When Outsourcing Your Contact center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The phrase “digital transformation” continues to be one of the hottest buzzwords in business right now, as organizations across all vertical markets are actively looking for ways to improve efficiencies, slash operating costs and drive stronger profits.

Digital transformation is a phrase that you commonly hear in the data center, but it’s now being applied to all areas of the enterprise — especially in the contact center space. Traditional contact centers using legacy infrastructure, after all, are extremely expensive to own and operate and many businesses today — particularly small to medium-sized organizations — are struggling to keep them up and running at a high level.

As such, a growing number of businesses are now outsourcing operations to third party contact center solutions providers. And they are experiencing strong financial returns in the process.

Here are some of the top financial returns that your business will experience by outsourcing the contact center:

Less overhead: Imagine not having to pay for things like rent, utilities and building maintenance in your contact center. A contact center solutions provider will eliminate overhead in your department, giving you extra capital to pump back into important things like research & development.

Zero CAPEX or OPEX: Another major benefit to outsourcing your contact center is that you will avoid having to continuously purchase and upgrade your infrastructure — like your agents’ machines, headsets and customer relationship management (CRM) software. Your contact center solutions provider will guarantee that you always have access to the latest and most powerful contact center hardware and software on the market, for a fraction of what it would cost you otherwise.

Fewer salaries: Contact center agents can cost a lot of money, especially when hiring large teams of them. Again, this can be easily outsourced — eliminating the hassle of having to hire and pay agents, while still benefitting from a full, and high quality, workforce. What’s more, contact centers tend to have higher turnover, which can be very expensive.

Legal protection: This is one of the biggest hidden ROI of outsourcing your contact center. Businesses tend to run into trouble with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) when performing their own customer outreach initiatives, as regulations are very complex. When businesses attempt to form their own customer outreach strategies, often they will make mistakes that can lead to costly class action lawsuits. Contact center solutions providers offer in-house legal teams, to offer guidance for customers and mitigate costly legal problems.

More satisfied customers: Ultimately, outsourcing your contact center will result in happier customers. Contact center solutions providers specialize in keeping customers satisfied and resolving their issues. So businesses can spend less money in the long run, while drastically improving their chances of generating positive service reviews, and fostering loyal customers.

Why You Should Be Selective About the Agents You Are Hiring

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Art critic John Ruskin once stated that “quality is never an accident, it is always the result of an intelligent effort.”

The same thing can be said about contact centers. High quality customer service is never an accident, either. It takes a great deal of research, planning, communication and hard work to achieve success.

Hiring, for instance, is one task where it pays to take your time and be selective about your decisions. Customer service agents, after all, have a great responsibility to keep customers satisfied and making repeat purchases or donations. Also, agents are often the first touchpoint for customers when interacting with a company. First impressions are important, and can go a long way in determining how a customer feels about a company. The agents you hire will literally be the voice of your brand.

Here are some things to consider when hiring agents:

Attitude is important: You want to fill your contact center with agents who are positive, friendly and enthusiastic. Look for agents that you think will be able to show up every day genuinely happy to help customers. As you interview a candidate, pay attention to how they are able to carry on in conversation. Ask yourself if the person you are talking to is someone you would want to be interacting with your customers.

Are they hungry? For outbound communications, it’s essential to fill your contact center with team members who are hungry to drive sales and keep donors happy. Such roles should be filled with agents that have consistent track records of proven success, and a can-do attitude to grow the business and achieve amazing results. What’s more, hard-working and highly-driven individuals are great for team morale. They make others work harder, and inspire them to be better.

Teamwork is important: Many questions will arise over the course of a business day that go beyond the scope of the customer service agents and need to be escalated. It’s therefore critical to staff your contact center with people who aren’t afraid to ask questions and rely on their team members. Agents tend to run into problems when they attempt to solve complicated problems on their own, and wind up making promises they cannot deliver.

Contact center hiring can be a time-consuming process. It’s something that you and your managers simply may not have the time for. It’s for this reason why so many businesses today are outsourcing their contact center operations to third party contact center solutions providers. Outsourcing your contact center is a great way to get the high quality service that you want, at an affordable price.