It’s Never Too Late to Turn Your Customer Service Strategy Around

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

I often speak with executives who are caught between a rock and a hard place trying to improve their company’s customer service strategy. While most business leaders today recognize the importance of being customer-centric, the fact is that it can be very difficult for a company to change its reputation — especially after years of neglect.

That’s because negative interactions don’t simply disappear anymore, as they did in the past. Now, customers have social media at their disposal to sound off about negative experiences. Bad reviews can easily compile and turn into baggage for a company, which can reflect terribly on the organization as a whole.

Understand, though, that while the process of repairing a brand’s reputation may be difficult, it’s not impossible. There is always an opportunity to turn things around and win back customers, regardless of what occurred in the past.

In order for this to happen, though, change needs to come from the top-down. It’s not as simple as telling agents that they need to be friendlier or more engaging, or ordering managers to crack down on performance. Instead, there needs to be a fundamental shift in how the organization views its customers. Customers should be treated like gold regardless of who they are talking to. And employees should come to work in the morning feeling great about helping customers, and wanting to go out of their way to keep them happy.

So, how can you pull your company out of its customer service rut?

If you’re serious about making your company more customer-centric, you won’t be able to do it alone. First you’ll need to drum up support within your organization. Start a customer service improvement task force, and compile evidence to build a case about how poor contact center practices are harming your organization.

Start by analyzing customer complaints, and randomly spot-checking calls and chats for quality purposes. Comb the Internet looking for feedback on consumer advocacy websites. Then, link these small details together to form a big picture overview of how customers are being treated on average.

Your next step will be to form an improvement plan that you can share with your shareholders, C-suite members and managers.

As you do so, now is a good time to consider outsourcing your customer service operations to a contact center solutions provider like InfoCision. We can help assess what is working with your current strategy, as well as what is not. Then, InfoCision will provide you with the Communicators and services that you need to provide stellar service.

Take my advice: Sometimes, the easiest way to fix a problem is to outsource it to an expert provider offering guaranteed results.

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

 

Bust Information Silos to Improve the Customer Experience

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The customer experience (CX) — or the measurement of a customer’s ongoing relationship with a brand — has emerged as a top priority for businesses today. In fact, according to one study, 71 percent of organizations now understand the importance of CX.

The bad news, though, is that only 13 percent of companies would rate their CX delivery as a 9 out of 10 or higher — meaning there is still a great deal of work to be done in this area.

Why are businesses having trouble creating strong customer experiences? As it turns out, the problem has less to do with agent execution and more to do with backend communication. Many businesses today are siloing information, instead of sharing it through the enterprise.

Oftentimes, this happens inside of organizations that are using a mix of cloud-based, legacy and proprietary management technologies. In any given business, for instance, a marketing department could be using a cutting-edge automation platform that pulls information from various sources and consolidates it into a single application. Sales, on the other hand, could still be using spreadsheets or a purpose-built platform. And the C-suite may not have access to either system, leaving executives in the dark.

Suffice to say, some big problems can arise in this type of fragmented communications environment:

Disorganization: Customers today expect seamless experiences from contact centers. Customers should never have to bring agents up to speed about recent issues they have been having, or repeat themselves about in-call preferences. But in order for this to happen, information needs to flow from point to point across the enterprise. Otherwise, experiences may vary greatly between each department. To a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than having a great experience with billing, but an awful experience with technical support.

Missed opportunities: Small data points can ultimately lead to much larger opportunities in customer service. For instance, a customer may download an asset from a website indicating that he or she is interested in a particular product or solution. This data needs to make it into the hands of sales and marketing associates in order to be of any use. But in order for this to happen, basic communication needs to take place.

Poor planning: It’s one thing to miss something like a sale due to a lack of communication. But it becomes a much larger issue when planning and executing a larger sales and marketing campaigns. All departments must work together and share relevant data to identify key trends and plot a strong course.

Here at InfoCision, we take communication very seriously. Our teams of highly-trained professionals work closely together to share important data, review progress and overcome obstacles.

To learn more information about InfoCision, click here.

Is Your Contact Center Dragging Down Your Company?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Back when your company first launched its contact center, there was the hope that it would boost customer retention and fuel business growth. Unfortunately, something went wrong along the way.

Today, your contact center is continuously operating in the red zone, as it’s consuming far more resources than it’s bringing in for the organization.

Here at InfoCision, we have consulted with many customer service administrators who have found themselves in similar situations. From what we have seen, here are some of the top reasons why contact centers fail:

The wrong tools: As a customer service administrator, it’s easy to feel like a kid in a candy store when you have a big budget and the green light to purchase new technologies for productivity and customer engagement. This, however, is where problems tend to arise. Contact centers often wind up investing in technologies that they don’t actually need, resulting in wasted dollars.

Before signing a contract for any new contact center technology, it’s important to make sure that it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Contact center spending is definitely an area where it pays to be conservative. It’s important to first look for ways to solve problems without spending money.

At the same time, we can also make the argument that under-spending can be equally as dangerous. Using outdated software, for instance, can lead to security vulnerabilities and can negatively impact the customer experience.

Over staffing: Filling contact center seats can be very expensive — especially if you go overboard and hire too many agents. Many companies suffer from agent overload, as they have far too many staff members on hand throughout the day.

Here at InfoCision, we avoid this problem by using small teams of Communicators, only employing large teams of Communicators when need be. Our scalability is unlike any other in the industry, allowing us to ramp up when you face spikes in calls, then, scale back just as quickly.  InfoCision consistently outperforms large contact centers with our customer service and outreach efforts.

A lack of planning: Outbound calling initiatives must be backed by strategic, data-backed marketing plans. You can’t simply cold call donors once a year and expect to reach your target goals. By the time an agent reaches out to a donor to ask for a contribution, that person should have already been contacted so that the agent has an idea of their level of interest and how much they may be willing to donate.

One of the great things about working with a third party contact center solutions provider like InfoCision is that you will no longer have to worry about issues like purchasing new technologies, staffing your contact center or forming a comprehensive outbound marketing strategy. InfoCision can streamline all of these processes, guaranteeing you strong results.

To learn more about how InfoCision can make your life easier, click here.

Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Contact Center Culture

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The contact center is the front line for customer support. It’s here where agents actively shape the attitudes and opinions of the consumers that they interact with on a daily basis, thus making it vital to check in from time to time and make sure agents are happy and feeling good about their roles.

This is especially important when it comes to outbound calling and fundraising initiatives, when agents must persuade callers to take a particular course of action. It’s a lot easier to be persuasive about what you are selling when you believe in the organization that you are supporting, and you are genuinely happy to be present at work.

Spend a bit of time this week chatting with your team leaders, and get a general sense of your team’s morale. Here are some things you can try if changes are in order:

Keep things light: You can’t force people to be happy, but you can make it a point to spread some cheer and lighten the mood. Spend some time chatting with employees during downtime, and figure out what makes them tick. Attitudes are infectious, so by being friendly and outgoing you will inadvertently encourage your workers to act the same way during customer interactions.

Be mindful about criticism: Suppose an agent makes a costly mistake that results in a complaint from a customer. As a manager, it’s your job to ensure that the mistake doesn’t happen a second time. But when it comes to criticism, delivery is key. Don’t be afraid to correct a problem when it happens, but do be careful about how you handle the situation. After all, your agents look to you as a leader and if you come across as overly-critical, or as a micromanager, you may lose their confidence. If the time comes for a sit-down meeting with an employee, consider doing it behind closed doors so that you don’t embarrass the individual.

Keep your agents fed and watered: Contact center agents are only human. When they get hungry, their blood sugar may drop which may cause them to get impatient with customers. So, if you have the budgetary allowance, consider providing food or drinks occasionally, a friendly gesture to show your appreciation and gratitude for the employees present. Plus, agents with full stomachs will have an easier time keeping their minds on customer service.

Put some TLC into your environment: Who wants to come to work in a room full of grey cubicles and white walls? Consider renting — and rotating — artwork that will inspire agents and keep them thinking creatively. A little color can go a long way in a room. You could also experiment with different lighting, too. Research, for instance, shows that natural light can boost productivity while fluorescent light can negatively impact it. Warm temperature can be a productivity boost, too.

Here at InfoCision, we regularly communicate with our contact center Communicators to make sure they are happy and well-adjusted at work. And as a result, we are constantly receiving positive feedback about our team. We have found that by taking good care of our agents, our agents will take care of their customers, closing the loop on the customer care experience.

Want to learn more about InfoCision’s approach to customer service? Click here.

Opportunities Abound for Customer Service in the Airline Industry

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Recently I have been shaking my head in disbelief at some of the shocking customer service headlines that have been coming emerging from the airline industry.

From the incident where a customer was dragged out of an airplane to the brawl that happened at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, each story has been equally painful and saddening to see. These are the types of incidents that keep customer service executives awake at night.

What’s especially tough to process, though, is the fact that things had been going very well for the airline industry before the recent slew of incidents. In fact, according to a new J.D. Power survey, which was conducted before the above-mentioned incidents, airline approval ratings had actually been increasing year over year.

“Overall satisfaction with the airline industry in 2017 increases by a significant 30 points to 756 (on a 1,000-point scale), continuing a trend of steady performance increases that began in 2013,” the report reads. “Both traditional and low-cost carriers have shown improvement, with the traditional carriers continuing to close the satisfaction gap with low-cost carriers (740 vs. 784, respectively).”

It’s safe to assume that the next report will not be so positive.

It’s important, though, to focus on the present state of affairs. Right now, the airline industry is in a fragile state heading into the busy summer travel months when airports will be crowded with vacationers and tensions will be running high. All eyes will be on airline providers over the next several months to see how they handle customer issues.

While there is a tremendous amount of work to be done here in restoring consumer trust, it’s important to realize that this is also an amazing opportunity for companies in this space. Airlines that strive to be accommodating, patient and friendly with customers will have an easy time differentiating their brands and generating positive reviews. And this, of course, will lead to stronger profits.

One way that airlines can streamline customer service is to work with a small, dedicated contact center solutions provider like InfoCision.

Why work with InfoCision instead of a large contact center provider? It’s the difference between investing in large, assembly-line style customer support and one that takes a highly-focused, custom approach. InfoCision’s team of strategists and Communicators put a great deal of thought and care into the customer journey — and during this time of heightened consumer sensitivity, this cannot be underestimated.

What’s more, working with a small provider like InfoCision can greatly help when unplanned PR disasters arise. It’s much easier to contain messaging and incident response when working with a small group than it is with a large customer service team.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

How Do Customers Prefer to Communicate?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

Do you sometimes long for the days when we had fewer technologies for engaging with customers? Well, those days are long gone.

Today, customer service is more complex than ever before. The customer experience is spread across a highly-fragmented ecosystem that includes technologies like voice, mobile messaging and the Internet. And new communications applications are constantly being created, which makes things even more confusing.

According to a 2017 report, companies are now communicating with customers across an average of nine different channels. This figure could increase to 11 by 2018, and we can speculate that this figure will keep growing beyond this point — especially as the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand, and new connected solutions make their way into homes and businesses.

But which of these channels do customers actually want to use? And do businesses really need to offer so many?

As the above-mentioned report indicates, communications channels are far from equal in the eyes of consumers.

For instance, 59 percent of customers claimed that they are satisfied with their overall experiences using online chat and video. Forty-three percent of customers are satisfied with their experiences over email. And 42 percent of customers are satisfied with their experiences over text and social media.

Additional satisfaction ratings include: Websites (49 percent), mobile apps/ virtual bots (38 percent) and interactive voice response systems (29 percent).

Of course, your customers may have entirely different preferences depending on their unique demographics. Millennials, for instance, will naturally gravitate towards digital channels like online chat, video and text before they opt for traditional channels like IVR or voice. Baby Boomers, however, are probably going to want to use the technologies that they have been using for many years like the telephone and email.

The challenge, though, is that you can’t easily predict how your customers will want to communicate, and so it’s important to offer a wide variety of options.

Here at InfoCision, we empower consumers by giving them a choice about how to communicate with the contact center. Our agents are specially trained across multiple channels, in order to provide high quality service at every touchpoint.

Embracing multichannel service is a great way to show customers that your business is up to date with the latest communications technologies, and that it’s committed to communicating with customers on their own terms.

Plus, our team is on the front lines of technology. Our customers can rest assured knowing that if there is a new communications channel that customers are using, we will know about it. And if it’s worth implementing into the contact center, we will be sure to follow through with it.

To learn more about InfoCision, click here.

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.

What Does It Take to Turn a Customer Into a Brand Advocate?

By Steve Brubaker, InfoCision Chief of Staff

The next time you are on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, keep an eye out for posts that openly promote products and services. You may see someone rave about a customer service experience he or she had with an airline, or a retail chain that went above and beyond to resolve an issue for someone.

The type of customer who would post something like this is called a brand advocate, or a social media influencer. They typically have many followers, and are very savvy about using social media to spread their messages.

But who are these people, and how can you convince them to rave about your company online?

Here’s the hard truth:

You can’t simply hire brand advocates. You have to develop them, by giving your customers positive experiences at every turn.

Why can’t you hire brand advocates? This wouldn’t be brand advocacy, but rather paid content which is something entirely different. While content can be effective, consumers can easily see through it — especially on social media outlets where branded content can appear to be somewhat jarring next to regular posts.

The real value in brand advocacy, in other words, is that it’s completely organic and unsolicited. A brand advocate is nothing more than a customer who is very excited about supporting a brand that he or she finds authentic and amazing.

Understand that the contact center plays a crucial role in customer development, but there is a caveat:  A contact center that is mismanaged can easily create the opposite of a brand advocate, which is sometimes called a brand saboteur. This is a customer who will go to great lengths to destroy a customer’s reputation. This type of customer can be very damaging, especially when a post goes viral for the wrong reasons.

At InfoCision, we help develop positive customer experiences by promoting the following core values:

Consistency: There is no room for slacking during customer interactions. Consistency and reliability is critical for success. Therefore, our Communicators are alert and ready to engage each and every time they pick up the phone or respond to an incoming message.

Good listening: Sometimes, it’s less important for an agent to be right and more important to listen to a customer’s problems and work towards a resolution. InfoCision’s Communicators are  always be friendly, easy to talk to and in tune with customers’ needs.

Teamwork and collaboration: Even the best customer care Communicators will occasionally require backup when working through tough customer challenges. At InfoCision, we offer small teams of Communicators who know how to work strategically as a team.

For more information about how InfoCision can help your company’s customer service strategy, 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.