Three Reasons Your Last Fundraising Effort Failed

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”      Henry Ford

Let’s be honest: Your contact center’s last fundraising effort was a giant flop. And now, you’re worried that your next campaign is going to be just as big of a disaster.

It’s time to turn things around — and you can start by taking a fresh look at your previous campaign as you look for key areas that you want to improve.

Granted, there are many different areas to hone in on. Here are some possible reasons why your last fundraising effort may have failed:

  1. Poor donor cultivation: Pull up your notes, and take a look at the outreach initiatives that occurred between your most recent campaign and the prior one. Did your agents spend enough time cultivating donors by sending them things like follow-up messages containing and targeted content? If not, then it’s time to consider implementing this strategy into your next campaign. According to Google, for instance, 57 percent of people who watch a nonprofit video will proceed to make a donation.
  2. Sloppy execution: How did your agents perform over the phone when reaching out to donors? There is little room for errors such as mispronouncing names, or using the wrong tone during a call. Go back and pull up some random call recordings, analyze customer feedback, and look for some pointers to have your agents improve on moving forward. Execution is critical for success with fundraising.
  3. A lack of targeted insight: One of the biggest reasons why fundraising efforts fail is because of a lack of targeted insight. For instance, running an end-of-year sales campaign seems like a no-brainer. After all, research shows that one third of annual giving takes place in December, and 12 percent of all giving happens during the last three days of the year. But dig a bit deeper into your customer data, and you may identify additional opportunities for engagement that could be even more rewarding. At InfoCision, we have an entire team of Business Analysts, dedicated to developing the most effective data acquisition tools, allowing our clients to better pinpoint and enhance donor experiences.

Fundraisers are complicated and there are countless ways to steer the project off course. It’s beneficial to consult with an expert contact center solutions provider such as InfoCision, that specializes in developing market-driven donor outreach strategies and then executing them on-site using the latest, cutting-edge technologies and highly-qualified agents.

To learn more about InfoCision’s approach to fundraising, click here.

Who Is Communicating With Your Financial Donors?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Meet Jack: Now 15 years out of college, Jack owns a very successful business and earns a significant income. As such, he — like many other alumni — enjoys giving back by donating money to his former school whenever he can.

The thing is, Jack is not a cash machine. He is a person, with thoughts and feelings. Like most people, Jack wants to feel appreciated and like his time and effort is making a difference for his community. The moment he feels unappreciated, his generosity is liable to cease.

As this example shows, donor relations can be a major challenge.

In other words, while all customers require exceptional care, financial donors need to be treated a bit differently. You can’t simply contact your biggest financial contributors once in a blue moon, ask for money and then stop communicating with them until the next time rolls around. The trick is to make donors feel like they are part of a larger team of contributors who are highly valued, respected and needed.

If you have been struggling with this process, you have come to the right place. InfoCision has mastered the art of donor communications. In fact, our Communicators raise more money over the telephone than any other company in the world.

Here’s why we are so successful at helping companies raise money:

We take a comprehensive approach to fundraising, by offering lifecycle programs (like acquisition, cultivation, retention and win-back), as well as inbound call handling, volunteer and event recruitment, event-based large scale telethons, full service fulfillment and direct mail.

Our donor outreach program is the best in the industry, because our team puts a massive amount of care and attention into it. So when you partner with InfoCision, you’ll get much more than a contact center solutions provider but a team of highly-trained experts who know how to drive results. And most importantly, you’ll have access to a team of strategic thinkers who will take a market-driven approach to communications.

Perhaps most importantly, InfoCision will protect your ecosystem of donors. After all, they are not infinite in numbers. You only have a certain number of people you can contact for help, and a poorly-managed campaign can cause a great deal of damage down the road if you are not careful.

InfoCision will respect your donor ecosystem, ensuring that it will keep giving back to your organization many years down the road. We will form a short term, as well as a long term plan for business growth and development.

So with this in mind, consider who is running your current donor outreach campaigns. It’s time to take a fresh approach to fundraising.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help your business, click here.

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

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

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.

Take My Advice: Keep Your Contact Center on U.S. Soil

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

At this point, you and your team members are ready to outsource your customer service operations to a third party contact center solutions provider.

Now, you have another tough decision to make: Should you go the domestic route, or explore the international contact center market?

A few years ago, it may have seemed like a no-brainer to take the latter approach. For the last decade or so, many American businesses have been choosing to open contact centers in places like the Philippines (which was recently hailed the contact center capital of the world), the UK, India and Poland — all of which are now world leaders in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) for contact centers. This is mainly because labor is considered to cheaper overseas (more on that below).

Now, this trend is changing here in the U.S.

Facing rising pressure from lawmakers and consumers, American business leaders are starting to onshore their contact centers once again. As of right now, there are about 71,000 contact centers in the U.S. and about 2.3 million agent jobs. This figure should grow in the near future, with states like Nevada, Michigan and Maine emerging as hotspots for contact center jobs.

Here at InfoCision, we take great pride in offering domestic contact center services for our customers. We are growing the U.S. economy by supporting local jobs, while also helping our customers avoid the following pitfalls:

1. Foreign telecom complexities: Outsourcing to an international contact center provider may seem simple, but there are many logistical challenges you will need to consider — one being obtaining reliable and affordable telecommunications services. In order to route calls internationally, you will need to partner with regional telecommunications providers. You will also need to familiarize yourself with local data storage and privacy regulations.

Here’s another thing to consider, too: If your contact center is offering real-time video support for customers, or it plans on offering this down the road, you will need to factor in network latency. Connectivity is a critical part of video communication, and could be difficult to establish it if your contact center is on the other side of the world. Most businesses are trying to bring their networks closer to their customers — not further away.

2. Cultural differences: American consumers prefer to engage with local agents they can easily understand, and who are highly in tune with our cultural nuances. Native English-speaking representatives tend to have an easier time going off-script when resolving customer issues (which is often needed). Something as simple as a naturally-flowing conversation can mean all the difference in shaping the overall customer experience.

3. High operating costs: As it turns out, opening a foreign contact center can be more expensive than you would think. While foreign contact center agents may earn less in hourly wages, there are still other operating costs to consider which are mostly related to network and facility maintenance. These expenses could easily nullify the cost savings you would accrue from paying workers less per hour.

So with these points in mind, I strongly encourage you to avoid offshoring your contact center. Instead, provide your customers with access to local contact center agents.

To learn more about how InfoCision can help, click here.

 

Three Technologies to Enhance Your Contact Center

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

We have reached a point in business where there is no longer a major divide between technology and non-technology providers. Many experts, in other words, now argue that every company is a technology company regardless of what industry they are in. This is because companies are commonly using virtual, cloud-based solutions that run over the Internet.

In light of this, it’s time to start thinking of your contact center as a technology-driven department that uses cutting-edge software and big data to maximize efficiencies and boost sales. There are certain components that are absolutely necessary if you want to remain competitive.

Here are three technologies that you could feasibly work into your contact center:

Embedded real-time communication (RTC): Chances are likely that your business is already using live chat boxes to communicate with customers online. Now, you can take this to the next level using a technology called embedded RTC which is an open source standard that enables live video and audio chats to take place over a website or application. Embedded RTC uses a peer-to-peer architecture and runs entirely over an Internet browser — enabling ultra-fast, and secure, multimedia exchanges between customers and live agents. Many businesses are also using embedded RTC solutions in conjunction with big data to better understand customer preferences. This is called contextual communication.

Sales automation software: Most sales departments today are about 10 years behind marketing in terms of the technologies that they are using on a daily basis. A large percentage, in other words, are still using disparate tools like spreadsheets and manual dialers. These disparate technologies eat up valuable hours over the course of a week. Contact centers suffering from such inefficiencies should consider using sales automation software to automate things like performance tracking and response management. Automation platforms can consolidate disparate sales tools and make them easily accessible from a centralized location. These platforms also make it easy to export data with other departments like marketing or the C-suite.

Predictive dialers: In the past, a contact center sales representative would have to procure a telephone number, dial it and then wait for a customer to (hopefully) pick up the phone. As such, a typical phone call could take 30 seconds or longer — without any guarantee that a person would pick up or even be interested in making a purchase. Predictive dialers automate the dialing process by silently dialing in the background and putting an agent on the phone only when there is a live — and interested — customer waiting on the other end.

These technologies can be easily, and cost-effectively, embedded into your contact center to drive better results. However, it’s important to have a strong filter set up when exploring new contact center technologies. Make sure to thoroughly vet each new technology that you bring into your contact center, to ensure it adds value.

Is There Room for Autonomy in the Contact Center?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Contact centers have traditionally operated with a top-down business strategy, where managers hand down orders to agents and then check in to keep progress moving forward.

In recent years, though, we have seen many contact centers embracing autonomy in their departments, where agents essentially manage themselves. This is becoming increasingly common in the technology industry, and it’s spreading over into other fields as well.

The idea of workplace autonomy is relatively new, and studies show that it can be very beneficial to an organization when it’s implemented properly. In fact, many workers today value autonomy in the workplace as much as they do a competitive salary. Autonomous work environments have been proven to make workers happier and healthier, and they can also reduce employee turnover in the long run.

So, is this a strategy that you should implement in your contact center? Before you take action and tear down your wall of middle management, there are several points you will want to consider.

First and foremost, spend some time analyzing your current environment and speaking with agents and managers. Some of your managers may not like the idea of working on a level playing field with agents that they have been working with, and may require special considerations like promotions or raises. Embracing autonomy could upset certain power dynamics that are at play in your department.

You will also need a plan in place to keep workers from going rogue or under-performing. Agents should be reminded that with autonomy, and less middle management, comes the expectation that all workers will meet their expected goals while also continuing to adhere to company policies.

Suffice to say, it’s a lot easier to move forward with autonomy when using cloud-based reporting tools.  Many cloud contact center providers today offer tools that will allow supervisors to periodically check in on agents and make sure everything is running according to expected standards. Using these tools, contact center administrators can embrace autonomy without having to worry about losing control over their department. For example, supervisors can silently sit in on calls from time to time, check reports and take action when it is needed to correct bad behavior.

One of the best ways to embrace autonomy in your contact center is to do it slowly. Try giving your agents greater leeway at first, and see how they react. You will know almost immediately whether your team is capable of handling the change. And in time, you could create a happier, healthier work environment where agents feel empowered about their jobs. Plus, you will bolster your contact center’s reputation as a top place to work. This will help you attract stronger job applicants.

Double Down on Contact Center Productivity This Summer

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Once again, it’s National Small Business Week here in the U.S. — an annual event designed to recognize all of the hard working Americans (more than half) who own or work for a small or medium-sized business (SMB).

Of course, National Small Business Week is also a time of reflection for small business owners. It’s an annual reminder to stop and ask yourself whether your business is growing at a healthy trajectory. You should do this whether you want to grow into a large enterprise, or whether you just want to make enough money to continue doing what you love long into the future.

Unfortunately, many SMBs are forced to close their doors before they are ready to do so. According to the Small Business Administration, 50 percent of SMBs will survive five years or more. This figure falls to just one third after 10 years or longer.

With this in mind, it may be time to reconsider your summer business strategy. Like many SMBs, your company may slow down during the summer months when employees go out of town and work shorter hours. While this strategy can boost morale in the short term, it can also be detrimental to your business’s overall bottom line. There is not much room for snoozing at the SMB level.

Understand that it’s possible to adopt a fun summer mindset in your business without having to sacrifice your business’s financial goals. You can accomplish this by making some minor chances to your contact center’s outbound strategy.

Here are some tips to consider:

Increase your outbound calls: Unlike inbound sales, which generate revenue on a rolling basis, outbound sales require a bit more effort. The only way to make money with outbound calls is to actually pick up a phone and connect with a customer. With this in mind, think of outbound calling as a numbers game. If you increase your outbound calls, you will increase your chances of closing more deals. It’s that simple. The trick, though, is to work smarter and not harder. Make sure that if you raise your call quotas, you are providing your agents with quality leads that have already expressed an interest in making a purchase.

Offer incentives for agents: The trick is to motivate your agents to close more deals in a way that excites them, instead of making them fear rising outbound call quotas. One way you can do this is to offer special incentives for agents that want to work harder or get ahead of the game. Incentives can be financial, work-related (like extra Work-at-Home privileges), or just fun. This is a nice way to show your agents that you appreciate their efforts, and want to reward them for their hard work.

Host summer events: Summer is a great time to host lead generation events like webinars, as you will have a better chance of catching employees at other companies who have extra time to register and sit through an event. From an outbound perspective, you can use a webinar to connect with interested leads. Research shows that a lead responded to within 5 minutes will be 100 times more likely to be qualified. However, less than 25 percent of companies that receive a Web lead will respond over the phone. And only 27 percent of Web-generated leads get contacted at all.

Use these tips to have a fun, but profitable summer. By taking a more aggressive position during the next quarter, you will set yourself up much better for a strong end of the year sales push.

Social Media: Getting the Voice and Tone Right

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Social media sites are now an integral part of society. As a matter of fact, Pew Research reports that 69 percent of Americans have at least one social media profile—up from 48 percent just five years ago. Usage has so exploded that it’s moved the dial on customer care from  a “nice to have” to a “must have” for businesses.

Thus, many companies have joined the social media ranks—about nine in 10, according to an eMarketer survey. Although not every brand is optimizing its presence on social platforms (approximately 70 percent of customer service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered), many have their paddles in the water and are rowing along—often upstream against an overwhelming flow of conversations.

One aspect of social media that hasn’t received a lot of attention, however, is establishing the right voice and tone for social platforms. As this is critical to your social success, we provide the following advice for doing it right.

Establishing the right social media voice and tone

It’s agreed that canned responses are anathema to social media. This is a platform for authentic exchanges of opinion among peers. The voice and tone must be personal—but how personal?

Answer this question by first understanding voice and tone: Your brand’s “voice” is its personality, e.g., positive, sarcastic, formal—i.e., your mission statement. Tone is a subset of voice that adds flavor depending on audience, channel or situation—i.e., application of the mission. Essentially, you should have one voice and a variety of tones.

Most companies have a great sense of what these are for their brand already. If not, pin them down by asking the following questions, suggested by Buffer:

  • If your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have?
  • What would this “person’s” relationship to consumers be like?
  • List acronyms of your company’s personality—what it is not.
  • What companies have personalities similar to yours? How are they similar?
  • How do you want customers to think about your company?

Once you’ve determined some adjectives that define your voice and tone, try to create messaging that encompasses your brand personality. Great examples can be found on MailChimp.

The conundrum for brands is that what’s appropriately personal for one client will not work for another. In general, brands are advised to establish a polite and professional tone until the time when feedback indicates a more or less formal tone will suit the audience best. This involves going through a learning curve with each audience segment.

Striking a natural tone that appeals to customers often requires a lot of research. Bianca Buckridee, vice president of social media operations for JPMorgan Chase, during a panel session at the Wharton Social Media Best Practices Conference, said, “It’s difficult to do. … You have to keep monitoring. … We strive to make it look real-time, but we’re really doing a ton of research in the back.”

Your voice and tone are features of your messaging that humanize your brand and let you take part in conversations with key targets naturally. This fosters trust and, ultimately, loyalty—even turning some customers into brand advocates or ambassadors. If done right, you could end up with a host of fans who will grow your brand with you.

Even with its challenges, social media customer care represents a tremendous growth opportunity for businesses to foster strong customer relationships.

Creating Customer Lifetime Value

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Customer lifetime value (CLV) is the dollar amount that represents a customer’s worth to your business from first transaction to last.

CLV calculation=revenue x gross margin x average number of repeat purchases.

The CLV is a powerful metric because even small increases in CLV can lead to huge gains in overall revenue. For example, get 1,000 of your customers, who pay you $50 per month, to stay with you for a year instead of 10 months, and your annual revenue grows from $500,000 to $600,000.

But the benefit is not only incremental. First of all, customer profitability tends to increase over the life of a retained customer. Second, on average, it costs up to seven times less to sell to customers with whom you already have a relationship. After all, you’ve already attracted and educated them.

While customer acquisition will always be a driver for businesses, research has shown that customer retention is a faster route to revenue growth than customer acquisition.

An infographic from Invesp Consulting shows that increasing customer retention by 5 percent can lead to an increase in profits of 25 percent to 95 percent. The infographic also illustrates that the likelihood of converting an existing customer into a repeat customer is 60 to 70 percent, while the probability of converting a new lead is 5 to 20 percent.

Brands have learned that three key factors contribute to customer retention. They are: Keep the customer happy, reduce customer effort and deliver excellent customer service.

To improve CLV, companies should offer a mix of the following customer retention strategies:

  • Keep the customer happy
    1. Build relationships with customers through shared values that foster loyalty. Use social media sites to connect, like Facebook and Twitter.
    2. Through expertise and education, become the customers’ trusted advisor.
    3. Track customer satisfaction. Consider using a Net Promoter Score survey that primarily asks your customers whether they would recommend you to someone else.
    4. Make great customer service the norm. To go above and beyond, surprise your customers with small customer appreciation gifts, handwritten notes or even a personal email to say thanks.
    5. Re-emphasize your value: It’s reinforcing to know you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
  • Reduce customer effort
    1. Connect with customers on the channels they prefer.
    2. Optimize your onboarding. Give customers simple and clear instructions for product usage.
    3. Make it easy to reach you—a button on every Web page, for example.
  • Deliver excellent service
    1. Take a proactive approach to customer service to eliminate problems before they occur.
    2. Set customer expectations early and a little lower than you can provide to eliminate uncertainty about the level of your service and to ensure you always deliver on your promises.
    3. Go the extra mile.
    4. Personalize communications to strengthen the bond with your brand.
    5. Empathize with your customers/understand their pain points. They’ll appreciate and remember the respect you’ve given them.
    6. Ensure that customer care staff are empowered to resolve issues quickly.
    7. Be authentic and sincere when addressing customer concerns.

Remember: If you can keep your customers happy, you’ll keep your customers.

Your Contact Center Has a Bright Future

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Trends in the contact center space include customer demand for self-service: what many customers today consider the quickest and easiest way to resolve issues. When customers do personally reach out to companies, they are often rankled by the service they receive. In fact, the majority are dissatisfied. Does this mean your contact center’s days are numbered? On the contrary!  There’s good reason for optimism.

First of all, today’s contact centers are focused on providing a valuable customer experience. Quality is paramount. This is why many companies that shipped their customer service organizations overseas have pulled them back to shore. Customers just weren’t happy with language barriers and cultural differences that often came to light.

Improvements in meeting customer expectations are reflected in the multiple communication channels many contact center facilities now provide to “be where their customers are.” Customer preferences are considered a top priority. This means that interactive voice response (IVR) systems are now easier to navigate, and customers receive callbacks rather than waiting on hold for a customer care Communicator.

And while contact centers are responding to consumer demand for self-service options, the top-notch ones continue to provide live Communicators for more complex issue resolution. While research shows that customers prefer to resolve their own problems when possible, a personal touch is desired when things get complicated. This approach means that today’s Communicators develop expertise regarding their company’s products and services.

Today’s leading contact centers also ensure that Communicators can leverage intelligence across the organization—from data collected in corporate networks to staff in other departments. This requires integration of internal systems and intelligent routing capabilities, which—if not already in place—are on the docket for contact centers eager to respond at the highest level to customer needs.

A 2017 report by JLL Research on U.S. contact centers states that the contact center industry showed steady growth across global markets in 2016, outpacing economic growth. The U.S. contact center industry maintained the largest share of the global market, with 1.5 percent annual growth in contact center spending. In 2015, the U.S. market supported 2.6 million contact center employees—a gain of 34.5 percent over the past five years.

The report also revealed that third-party providers, which represent 25 percent of the contact center industry, are expected to increase revenues as corporations turn to outsourcing basic business and analytics functions. North American contact center outsourcing providers had 2015 revenues of $9.4 billion—up 22.3 percent from 2013.

Even online businesses that have moved away from contact centers in favor of social media and virtual help centers are coming back. In fact, an Econsultancy article reveals that 76 percent of companies learn about website problems as a result of calls to their contact centers. In addition, many Web transactions are still completed with the help of a customer care agent, and many customers will go elsewhere if the interaction is not smooth.

The contact center is actually more of a central hub than ever because customers expect to be able to jump to a live Communicator from any channel. The contact center is also the place where businesses are bridging gaps between online and offline channels, giving companies the complete context of their customers’ interactions. With these insights, the contact center is shaping the customer experience with extraordinary service that should bring customers back again and again.