Is Poor VoIP Ruining Your Customer Service?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

 

Cost control, reduced maintenance and business mobility are among the main factors driving adoption of cloud-based contact center solutions today. In fact, the market is anticipated to triple in value from 2016 and 2021, according to a recent MarketsAndMarkets report.

 

But as organizations move to run customer support operations through VoIP infrastructure, there is potential to disrupt customer service if both installation and maintenance are not handled correctly. A failure to do so may result in latency, poor voice quality and a number of other challenges that can agitate your customers.

 

In the interest of making sure your transition from legacy network infrastructure is seamless, consider the following tips when it comes to installing and maintaining your VoIP network.

 

  • Assessing your bandwidth needs: In moving to a VoIP-based system, you’ll need to assess your bandwidth needs for several reasons. The amount of bandwidth taken up by your contact center may impede upon other departments within your organization if you don’t have enough, leading to poor call quality. You’ll also need to consider peak seasons when thinking about your bandwidth needs. You may have enough now, but what happens when inquiries rise by 20 percent during the holidays?
  • Establishing a failover preparedness plan: Using VoIP infrastructure, you’ll have a high degree of reliability with Ethernet. But if you do suffer an outage, what steps have you taken to ensure continuity? When installing and maintaining your new system, be sure to allocate enough resources to keep both your primary and secondary connections taken care of and your customers will never know if or when your system falters.
  • Integrating your CRM Platform: Even if you’re building your VoIP network from the ground up, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t elements within your existing infrastructure that won’t be irrelevant. Your current CRM, for instance, is a library of customer knowledge and is familiar to your personnel. The more you can integrate your CRM with your new system, the easier time you’ll have picking up where you left off with existing customers, and the easier time your reps will have adapting.

 

VoIP adoption is one of many ways that businesses are getting ahead with superior customer service today. If you want to learn more about how to get your contact center running at full efficiency to provide your customers with the highest level of support, click here.

Apple Announces Plan to Let Agents Respond to Store Reviews

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

 

For years, Apple’s app store has been a one-way street when it comes to customer service. Users can rate apps, or choose to leave detailed feedback—both of which can encourage or dissuade new users from downloading, taking away an element of control from app makers themselves.

 

But unlike competitors such as Google, developers have never been able to actually address that feedback and reach out to customers to help drive a more satisfactory experience.

 

Earlier this year, however, Apple announced a new plan in which it will let customer service agents respond to app store reviews. With platform updates released in March, developers can now offer support, ask follow-up questions, respond to inquiries, or simply say thank you for connecting.

 

With this announcement, businesses should be eager to take advantage of this new opportunity. This new customer service option enables representatives to offer users a more hands-on approach for users genuinely interested in improving their experience. And for users who simply wish to smear your product and leave terrible and unjustified feedback, you’ll finally be able to provide reasonable counterpoints to them in a professional and public setting.

 

Of course, responding to such shifts in the customer service industry demands that you have the flexibility to scale appropriately and expediently. To learn more about how you can ensure that your customer service representatives are always ready to offer support, click here.

What Happens After You Outsource Content?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Outsourcing a major part of your business like your contact center is a big undertaking. You will experience a big shift in the way your company operates, and possibly in your day to day schedule. So it’s important to have a roadmap planned to guide you through the process and make sure everything goes according to plan. Outsourcing projects, after all, can pick up steam very quickly.

At this point, let’s assume that your contact center outsourcing project is well underway. Your customer service team has long been notified about the change and re-allocated, and operations have been handed over to your new contact center solutions provider.

Here’s what you should do next:

Re-assess your service level agreement (SLA): If there is one thing we can’t stress enough, it’s making sure that your team has a solid understanding of the services it will receive from the contact center provider. As such, it’s important to take another look at your agreement even after it is finalized. You may notice some small mistakes in the contract that slipped through during negotiations, or important details regarding uptime and maintenance. Now is the time for team members to submit questions and resolve issues before the project continues. Some contracts, it should be noted, come with a temporary exit window.

Wipe your infrastructure: Your former contact center may have a lot of hardware sitting around, and some of it may contain sensitive customer data. Before you reassign or sell these machines to a third party reseller, make sure your IT department wipes all of the data from them. Otherwise, customer data could fall into the wrong hands — and you may not know it. Oftentimes, companies who rush to throw out their hardware suffer from data breaches months or years after getting rid of their equipment. Taking this simple step could save a great deal of trouble down the road.

Set up a meeting to discuss strategy: Contact your new customer service team, and introduce yourself. During this meeting, you’ll want to focus on forming a long-term donor outreach plan, customer service goals and basic program expectations. Let the team know that you want to be kept in the loop with reports and possibly even regular calls. Communication is one of the most important parts of outsourcing, and a strong contact center solutions provider will make it easy to keep you updated and informed.

Begin your new journey: Now it’s time to think about yourself for a moment. By outsourcing content, you will clear more room in your schedule to devote to higher-level customer related tasks. Are there any new projects that you have been looking to take on?

Do you have any questions about outsourcing? Click here.

Keep Pace With E-Commerce Trends in the New Year

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Your online business must be responsive—not only to visitors but to trends which, if ignored, may trip you up eventually. With the quick pace of modern societal and technological advances, organizations need to keep a finger on the pulse of their industries and develop the agility to react to pressures at the drop of a dime.

The outlook for 2017 includes several e-commerce trends that are primed to turn into major industry drivers. Find them listed here, along with steps you can take to stay ahead of the curve:

Dynamic real-time shopping: The online shopping experience is becoming personalized to each customer. Improvements in collecting, organizing and analyzing data mean that customers will no longer be asked to respond to product recommendations that seem to come out of left field. Instead, recommendations will be based on their unique preferences, geographic location, demographic group, past purchases, market trends and brand interactions—automatically. E-commerce businesses should tap into the technology of leading e-commerce platforms to enable this capability.

Cyber November: Online retailers have started to offer customers discounts in advance of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rushes—to offset unruly crowds in stores and to get a jump on holiday spending. In 2015, major retailers Target and Walmart announced in-store deals leading up to Black Friday, and mega online retailer Amazon took the cue, offering deals throughout the month of November. To gain a piece of the pie, focus on mobile spending, which is slated to account for 60 percent of online sales by year-end; offer stellar shopping experiences on smartphones and tablets.

Chatbots: These are fully automated “chat” agents that can act as a first point of contact for brands. Chatbots increase the number of platforms on which brands can offer transactions through guided, interactive browsing. In 2015, tech giants released the enabling application programming interfaces (APIs) that made it cost-effective for bot developers to create their own, using their own servers. Experts predict that the artificial intelligence that fuels chatbots will improve with time, making conversations more natural, with better response rates. Explore this technology now to reduce customer effort and lower support costs.

Checkout: Expect traditional wallets to be replaced by “mobile” payments, and set your site up to accept these new payment methods. Same-day delivery is also becoming a competitive differentiator, as is operating in smaller spaces that can serve as showrooms, fitting rooms, and pick-up/drop-off points.

In this era where power has shifted away from companies and toward digitally connected, technology-empowered customers, retailers need to fully embrace digital commerce to thrive. With a few clicks of a mouse, customers can easily switch companies to find a better online experience. In this environment, being customer-obsessed must be your competitive strategy.

Technology to the Rescue for Government Agency Engagement

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

How is your agency operating these days as far as engaging with the citizens you serve? Ideally, you would answer that citizen engagement has been a key priority, so you’ve modernized your contact center and improved the citizen experience overall.

The contact center provides a critical path between constituents and the state workers who deliver customer care. New communication methods employed in these centers enables government agencies a means to improve citizen engagement.

A 2016 infographic encompasses the results of a Governing Institute study, “Citizen Engagement Modernization in the State Contact Center,” showcasing how state agencies are positioned today, along with the technologies and resources that will take them to the next level in citizen engagement.

The research identified areas of need and gaps facing government institutions, as well as ways to better address these issues by modernizing contact center technologies. For example, of the 129 state and government officials surveyed, 72 percent agreed that digital communications are the fastest-growing form of citizen-to-government communication. Yet, a majority of their contact centers don’t support popular digital communication channels like interactive voice response (IVR)/self-service, mobile apps, or online messaging or chat.

The study included a look at how changing societal methods of communicating in the Digital Age have raised citizen service expectations. They expect the same well-oiled machinery of modern communication—instant access to information via mobile devices like smartphones—to be replicated by every service organization with which they connect. This expectation is especially well-formed among millennials (citizens born between 1980 and 2000), who were raised on digital technologies.

These generational and cultural shifts have resulted in the accelerated uptake of technological innovations across a wide swath of businesses and industries.

Study findings indicate that state governments recognize the changing environment and are prioritizing technological initiatives to meet the needs of citizens. These initiatives include comprehensive self-service strategies, engagement through digital channels and advanced knowledge management solutions.

Respondents say they’re improving the efficiencies of contact center staff by employing self-service offerings; however, only 20 percent use knowledge management solutions. And while 26 percent of respondents claim to be making access to internal policies and procedures easier for citizens, 22 percent acknowledge that data sharing capabilities are an unmet need.

If your contact center can focus on just a few avenues for improvement, these three areas are key: digital communication channels, self-service and streamlined processes. Make the moves now to put you in good stead with citizens and customers in the future.

Top Take-aways from InfoCision’s Recent Business Analytics Fair

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Every phone call from a customer, every purchase or response to a direct mail campaign, every online inquiry—these are all perfect opportunities for your company to listen to customers and gather valuable insight. Leveraging this wealth of data means you can pinpoint customers’ needs, enhance personalization and deliver a more individualized marketing experience, improving quality of customer service.

Business analytics play an integral role in achieving these objectives. With business analytics, companies can utilize data to create more targeted marketing campaigns that drive response and increase ROI. In fact, a business analytics boom is on its way—global business analytics services spending is forecasted to reach $89.6 billion by 2018, growing at a CAGR of 14.7 percent, according to IDC. All in all, the market is expected to hit $51.6 billion this year.

Recently, InfoCision showcased what business analytics can do to drive our very own service initiatives. In late September at the University of Akron, we hosted a Business Analytics Fair for leaders and support department employees from all divisions and areas of the company, educating employees on the ways they can harness data to improve and innovate. Numerous analytics employees set up interactive presentations that showed how call center analytics, data analytics, marketing analytics and more are already positively impacting our business at InfoCision.

Below are a few key take-aways our employees walked away with that can help your teams, too:

  • Focus on Best Time to Reach Customers: We can improve KPIs by recommending, facilitating and implementing best practices in call centers, leading to more profitable business for clients. It’s paramount to focus on the best time to reach people, as well as the times to avoid calling.
  • Highlight Useful Data to Enhance Campaigns: By evolving how we interact with data—moving away from generating charts of endless numbers toward providing visual data—we can empower employees with actionable insight to enhance a marketing campaign.
  • Facilitate Seamless Collaboration: Through coordination between account staff, IT and other business analytics teams, we can drive innovation and analytical support, helping staff “gain those inches on programs.” By providing immediate and actionable insight, we facilitate quick collaboration on cross departmental projects.

Hopefully our team can inspire yours when it comes to establishing business analytics best practices. So, will your enterprise invest in business analytics? Tell us your plan in the comments section below!

How to leverage your Big Data to generate Big Results

How do you leverage Big Data?

That’s really the question, isn’t it?  The #BigData buzz word is floating around on Linked In, Twitter and in articles that marketing professionals see every day.  And with good reason.  Having a wealth of data allows us to personalize our marketing offers, creating a more effective pitch while also providing the customer with a better and more engaging experience.

That sounds great in theory… but how do you really do that?

It starts with business intelligence

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Big data is a wonderful means to an end, but before we can begin to map out a strategy, we need to first determine a calling campaign’s key performance indicators (KPI’s). Your client will have a set of KPI’s they want you to meet like service levels, call volume, conversion rates, etc.  As their call center partner, you’ll have additional KPIs to consider.  Once the goal metrics are identified, the next step is finding out where the data resides that will help you manage the objectives.  Then you can integrate that information into your strategy.

Highly skilled IT professionals and analytical marketers working together as a business intelligence team can utilize all available data to build statistical models that show behavior and patterns, and determine which factors drive a particular type of customer. They can set up algorithms to compute this information, which is used to tailor information in call center scripts, emails, targeted web ads and direct mail pieces. All helping to increase productivity, customer satisfaction, conversions and ultimately ROI.

And it’s more than just messaging. In the call center we can use previous call history to determine the best time to contact customers, increasing our connect rates.  We can determine the channel(s) of communication individual consumers are most likely to respond to favorably.  We can evaluate buying and purchasing patterns that give us insight into what offers consumers may be more interested in so we can personalize their offer – even upselling and cross-selling further enhancing conversion rates.  We can also identify and remove customers with the highest propensity to churn,  further minimizing marketing costs. For example, on one customer retention campaign, we utilized much of what I just outlined above. Using multiple strategies we were able to drive down the client’s cost per customer saved from $127 to a minimal $14.65, while at the same time retaining an additional 138,400 customers.

Leveraging real-time Big Data in the call center

This is where it gets fun. Using intelligence and technology to determine service level differentiations to boost conversion rates, improve customer service, customize call center scripts and sales scripts — on the fly, will ultimately increase customer value and drive long-term growth.  Real time analytics can also be a cost saver by driving target routing strategies (matching the appropriate agent with the sales lead), intelligent queue (prioritizing higher converting leads for quicker answer times), etc.

In the call center, as information is collected during a call, the targeted, personal message that best fits the customer may need to change on the fly.  But with the right technology, the script can be adapted as the call is going on.

At InfoCision, we’ve developed a proprietary solution called Inscription that delivers a customized script seamlessly in real-time as well as comprehensive customer profiles and screen pops. This technology, which has been in use since 2004, automatically tailors the script as the call is coming in, and can allow for real-time changes based on information gathered during the call.  Inscription is constantly updated based on customer call results so it provides the most recent data possible. This allows our Communicators to focus on building relationships with customers utilizing the most effective personalized offer.  It’s all about relationship management and looking beyond single transaction customer contacts toward long term ROI realization.

For more information on inscription, check out the case study I mentioned.

If you have thoughts on this post or other ways to leverage Big Data, please comment below.

Smile Train brings smiles to children around the world: Latest InfoCision Marketing Solutions magazine

What is the value of your smile? It’s a question you’ve probably never considered, but it’s at the heart of the mission of the featured client in InfoCision’s latest Marketing Solutions magazine, Smile Train.

What is the value of your smile?  It’s a question you’ve probably never considered, but it’s at the heart of the mission of the featured client in InfoCision’s latest Marketing Solutions magazine, Smile Train.

Smile Train is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing children with cleft lip and palate the surgery they need to correct this birth defect.  The organization is a modern day success story, founded in 1999 yet already having provided more than 850,000 surgeries to children around the world who need them.  They currently average 340 surgeries per day.

Beyond the amazing good that they do for these children, Smile Train also has an interesting philosophy on how they raise funds for the surgeries they provide. The entire organization has a staff of just 62 employees, so Smile Train utilizes strategic partnerships with marketing companies like InfoCision to spread their message, attract new donors, engage with current donors and re-connect with lapsed donors. But outsourcing marketing efforts requires a leap of faith; and the organization works very closely with its marketing partners to ensure its needs and goals are being met.

Finding partners that can meet their very specific needs is key for Smile Train’s continued growth and success. And by trusting partner companies like InfoCision, that specialize in building relationships to create a lasting connection with their donors – the most important thing a charity can do to secure its future – Smile Train’s staff is able to focus on their core mission of providing cleft surgeries for children all over the world.

To read more about Smile Train’s story, please check out the latest issue of InfoCision Marketing Solutions magazine.  You’ll also find useful articles about

  • utilizing a work from home model for call center work
  • the benefits of personalizing calls with tailored up-sell and cross-sell messages
  • cloud routing’s impact on the customer experience
  • why B2B calls require a different skill set and training than B2C calls
  • the importance of scalability in a call center provider

I encourage you to check out the latest InfoCision Marketing Solutions and let me know what you think by commenting below.

Opt-out confirmation text messages deemed legal by the FCC

text messagesLast week, the FCC issued a ruling stating that it is legal to send a one-time text message to confirm that someone has opted out of receiving future text messages from a specific organization.  This had been an issue of great interest within the direct marketing industry, as mobile marketing is becoming more and more popular as a meaningful way of contacting customers.

The issue stemmed from a case last year where a consumer sued a direct marketing organization that had sent a follow-up text to confirm his opt-out, and they settled out of court rather than fighting it, setting a bad precedent for the industry.

I applaud the FCC for a very reasonable and responsible decision in allowing follow-up messages to be utilized to confirm opt-out requests for consumers.  When considering that the consumers being contacted had expressly opted in to receiving the messages at some point in the recent past, and were receiving text messages from the organization in a completely legal way, it was a bit frightening that the direct marketer could face disciplinary measures for confirming opt-outs.  Frankly, opt-out confirmation messages are a valuable service that the direct marketing organization is providing to the consumer so that they can be 100% sure that their opt-out request has been received.  To penalize a direct marketer for providing this service would – simply put – be senseless.

To read more on this, there is a good article in AdWeek.

In addition, you can get more information on the ruling by visiting the blog of Michele Shuster of MacMurray, Peterson and Shuster, industry legal experts.

Rapid Response Routing – Customer Service for the NOW Generation

In the evolving world of direct interactive marketing, we are faced with great challenges and opportunities brought on by innovative digital communication technologies.  The combination of the internet and mobile devices has created a world where we have all become accustomed to having every bit of information we need right at the tip of our fingers.  And when – for some reason – we are unable to find the information we need right away, it is actually a bit unsettling.

So why is it that when making a request for information online, consumers wait on average 48-72 hours for a response?  This may have been appropriate ten, or even five years ago.  But today, we are committing a marketing sin if we allow a customer or potential customer to wait any length of time for information about our products and services.  The technology is out there that allows us to be able to reach out to those customers immediately – drastically improving customer service and maximizing our potential to make a sale, because we have contacted the consumer when their interest in the product or service is at its peak.

Technological innovation enables us to satisfy the NOW generation

At InfoCision, we have invested Rapid Response Routingin a proprietary service for our clients called Rapid Response Routing (R3), which increases response time by creating a continuous flow for the request, eliminating the time-consuming process of manually pulling customer information. So when a consumer on your website clicks to request more information, their contact information is sent directly to InfoCision’s system, which pings the self-reported  data  against our national consumer database to append additional demographic, psychographic and transactional information. If it’s part of the campaign strategy, the data can be scored to produce a customized offer. The information is sent to the most qualified InfoCision Communicator who calls them – and all within a minute or two of the consumer making the online request. The results have been tremendous – but don’t just take my word for it…

A recent case study on R3 shows how impressive the results have been for one of our valued clients.  Prior to InfoCision handling the program, the client’s average callback time for internet requests was several hours or longer. After Rapid Response Routing (R3) was implemented, 90 percent of online requests were responded to in less than 3 minutes – with an average callback time of 2.75 minutes. This surpassed the client’s goal of having 80 percent of their customers called back in 3-5 minutes. In addition to the remarkably fast average response time, R3 also increased efficiencies and sales by creating a positive customer experience that allowed for upsell and cross sell opportunities. These additional sales helped to reduce the cost per unit by 26 percent.

Click here to view a webinar on Rapid Response Routing (R3).

This is just one example of a service we’ve created to satisfy today’s NOW generation across vertical segments, including education, financial and other commercial markets. Companies that want to thrive into the future must find ways to reach their customers and potential customers in a fast and meaningful way.  I’d be interested to hear from any readers how you are finding ways to get people the information they need NOW.