Donors need to move beyond The Overhead Myth

Three leading nonprofit sources launch campaign to correct misconception

OMI wanted to share with you an important letter directed to the donors of America from the country’s leading sources of information on nonprofits.  The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar and Charity Navigator have joined forces to denounce the myth that judging a nonprofit by their overhead ratio, usually an organization’s administrative and fundraising costs, is a valid indicator of their performance.  This letter is signed by all three of the companies’ CEOs and it kicks off The Overhead Myth Campaign which aims to correct this common misconception.

So many times donors are erroneously guided to give to organizations that have low ‘overhead’, as that is what the media tells us is the mark of a good charity.  As a fundraising partner to the Who’s Who of national nonprofits we hear this often at InfoCision.  However, in the nonprofit world overhead can encompass many crucial investments, such as administration and fundraising, that not only help an organization sustain itself and run efficiently, but also be successful in growing and carrying out their mission.

When we focus predominantly on overhead, we can create what the Stanford Social Innovation Review calls “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” By underfunding ‘overhead’, charities starve themselves of the freedom they need to best serve the people and communities they are trying to help. 

The letter concludes with urging donors to consider the whole picture when deciding which charities to donate to citing those served by the organizations need high performance more than just low overhead.  We couldn’t agree more.

Partnering with the nation’s leading nonprofits

Here at InfoCision we work with the nation’s top nonprofit organizations, which consciously choose to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to them. We are proud of the work we do in helping charities carry out their important missions. We not only help them raise money to help sustain their programs, but we also help to increase the number of donors involved; a key to sustaining themselves in serving millions of people around the world. We are honored our clients entrust us with such an essential function and hope this letter and campaign will educate and empower donors everywhere to support charity based on the results an organization produces , and not just their ‘overhead’.

This subject seems to be gaining attention from the media.  Our Friend Dan Pallotta has been very vocal on the issue.  And, with the release of this letter from highly regarded organizations like the BBB; could there be a movement under foot?  We can only hope.

I encourage everyone to help spread the word to end The Overhead Myth!  www.overheadmyth.com

If you have found this information helpful, please leave a comment or question if you want to discuss further.

InfoCision recognized by American Heart Association as a Fit-Friendly Worksite

Putting employees’ health and work-life balance first is part of being a successful company

AEDI am so pleased to share with everyone a recent recognition InfoCision received – we are once again an American Heart Association Gold Level Fit-Friendly Worksite! This award is given to employers who go above and beyond when it comes to their employees’ health.

When an organization as prestigious as the American Heart Association recognizes you, I think that speaks volumes about our dedication to our employees’ health.

It’s important for companies to provide convenient options that allow employees to create a successful work- life balance. Our employees have benefited from our on-site fitness centers, InfoFitness, which provide a convenient way to get and stay fit. Plus, InfoWellness, our state-of-the-art on-site clinics have helped decrease the number of visits to the emergency room or urgent care facility. The convenience of being right down the hall allows employees to keep their sick days for when they are sick, and not have to use them on doctor’s appointments. Visits are also free if you are on one of our company sponsored health plans

Some might see these upfront costs as a challenge, but they pale in comparison to the benefits reaped by InfoCision’s employees and the company itself.

Another proactive measure we’ve taken is installing AEDs in each of our 12 locations, and providing staff with the necessary training.  Heaven forbid an emergency occurs with one of our valued employees, but in case it does we are prepared. We wouldn’t open a new center without installing a fire extinguisher, and our employees’ heart health is just as important.

The American Red Cross supports the position that access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year.   

Think about implementing health initiatives in the workplace

I challenge everyone reading this to think about ways you might be able encourage healthier habits at your workplace. Even for smaller companies, there are things you can do that don’t require a huge up-front investment. In fact, the American Heart Association offers free assistance in developing walking programs and adopting other healthy practices in the workplace. In addition, the American Cancer Society offers employers initiatives to encourage employees to stop using tobacco.

If you have any questions about starting up a workplace wellness initiative, please leave me a comment and I’d be glad to answer. Plus, I’d love to hear your ideas on ways employers can encourage staff to lead healthier lives.

To read more about InfoCision’s dedication to employee wellness, please visit http://bit.ly/19ldoFZ

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.

Data Security: Big Data is an Asset that Must be Protected by Marketers

Big data has become a huge asset for marketers who understand how to use it to craft the right messages for the right people at the right time. But are you taking the necessary steps to protect this asset?

Big data has become a huge asset for marketers who understand how to use it to craft the right messages for the right people at the right time.  But are you taking the necessary steps to protect this asset?

Consumers becoming more aware of how their personal information is being used

As the use of big data has increased in recent years, so have consumer concerns over how their information is collected, shared, used and stored.  In fact, Jane Frost, CEO of Britain’s Market Research Society (a group representing companies working in market, social and opinion research, market analysis, customer insight and consultancy) recently told Information Week that “58 percent of inquiries to the Market Research Society’s confidential advisory service were related to data collection, integrity and use in 2011/12 alone, up from 43 percent the previous year.”

That’s a 15 percent jump in just a year if you’re scoring at home, and it means that consumers are increasingly interested and wary regarding anything involving their personal information.  To protect the asset that is big data, this means ALL marketers must place data security as our highest priority.  Any information breach that occurs not only weakens your own brand and/or the brands of your clients – but it impacts the entire industry as it makes consumers more wary of giving out their information in general.  So it makes sense for us to all work together to ensure we are using best practices in protecting our consumer data.

Why is big data an asset worth protecting for contact centers?

Contact centers represent a vast resource of information and business insight that will allow you to effectively translate customer data into customer experience improvements. Using data to determine service level differentiations to boost conversion rates, improve customer service, customize call center scripts and sales scripts — in real time, will ultimately increase customer value and drive long-term growth.  That’s why big data is so important, because it gives us the opportunity to market so much more effectively and efficiently by boosting sales, driving down hang-ups, enhancing brand value and inspiring our customers to share their good experiences with others.

DMA provides data security resources

The Direct Marketing Association is an outstanding resource for information on data security.  In fact, the DMA just released its annual Statistical Fact Book 2013, and one of the findings was very encouraging on this very topic: Almost 85 percent of marketers will be taking additional steps to protect customer data and privacy in 2013.  In addition, the DMA blog in April posted an entry with tips on how to establish a good data governance program from Experian VP of Regulatory Compliance and Information Practices, Judy Macior.

Finally, marketers must not only be good stewards of consumer information, but we must also be up-front with consumers about our practices and security measures so they feel comfortable sharing their information with us into the future.  If you have any tips or thoughts to share on big data security, please post a comment below.

Bad customer experiences are a brand killer, says study

It’s not just customers who personally have a bad experience you have to worry about. Those people are also 95 percent likely to share bad experiences with others, and more than half of those surveyed said they would share bad experiences with five or more other people. With social media and online product reviews at their fingertips, customers can share their good or bad experience with more than just family, friends and acquaintances – they can share it with the world!

We all know that providing a great customer experience is important, but sometimes it’s hard to quantify just how important.  That’s why I was intrigued earlier this week when I came across the results of a study by Zendesk looking to discover the long-term impact of good customer service.

Stats on good/bad customer experiences

The overwhelming takeaway from the study results is not that you can’t survive without providing an outstanding customer experience – rather, it is that you will never survive if you provide a bad customer experience.  Check out the stats: 24 percent of people continue to seek out the same vendor for two years after good experiences – and that’s important.  But 39 percent of people will avoid a vendor for at least two years that provides a bad experience.  And that number jumps to nearly 80 percent for high-income households – likely to be a target of any product or service that does more than satisfy basic human needs.

But it’s not just the customers who personally have the bad experiences you have to worry about.  Those people are also 95 percent likely to share bad experiences with others, and more than half of those surveyed said they would share bad experiences with five or more other people.  With social media and online product reviews at their fingertips, customers can share their good or bad experience with more than just family, friends and acquaintances – they can share it with the world!  And they are sharing in increasing numbers, as 58 percent of respondents to the survey said they are more likely to share their customer experiences with others than they were just five years ago.

Don’t wait to build a better customer experience

Clearly this study shows that bad customer experiences can destroy your brand image for consumers. The time to create the best experience for customers is not after you’ve heard complaints or seen slipping revenues – it’s right now. But how can you do it?

Here are a few things to think about when creating your customer experience strategy from the perspective of the contact center, but I think these things hold true for retail and other customer service touchpoints:

1)      Hire the right people.  This might seem like common sense, but when call center customer service is viewed as a cost center, the quality of the representative isn’t always a priority – you get what you pay for.  Whether you do customer service in-house, work with a contact center company, or even just have a small business with a few people answering the phones and manning the desk, you have to have the right people talking to your customers.  They should be professionals who understand how to be courteous and empathize with your customers – and skilled enough to handle their issues on the first call or interaction.

2)      Train your customer service reps for success.  Even the best employees can’t succeed without the proper tools, and training is an important tool. As true brand ambassadors who know the ins and outs of your products and services so they can speak knowledgeably about them, helping to put the customer at ease while provide the information they need. Click here to read an article on how brand ambassadors boost customer service by InfoCision VP of Client Training Monica Ross.

3)      Know your customers.  Business intelligence technology allows us to track specific details about the buying history of our customers, so that we can craft messaging that makes sense for individuals rather than one mass marketing message for all.  Customers who feel like you know them are likely to feel more connected and be more loyal to your brand.  Click here to read a case study on how customizing offers can benefit your organization.

US Post Office Issues Leave Marketers Hanging in Limbo

Last week, the United States Post Office Board of Governors announced that it will cancel plans to drop Saturday delivery that were set to go into effect in August. While this is good news for direct mail marketers in the short term in that at least we can plan for delivery schedules, the larger issue remains: What is the long-term fate of the post office?

Last week, the United States Post Office Board of Governors announced that it will cancel plans to drop Saturday delivery that were set to go into effect in August. While this is good news for direct mail marketers in the short term in that at least we can plan for delivery schedules, the larger issue remains: What is the long-term fate of the post office?

It has been well documented that the post office has been hemorrhaging money, to the tune of losing $25 million per day – equating to roughly $16 billion in losses in 2012. Obviously these numbers cannot be sustained.

Stopping Saturday delivery – like it or not – would have made only a slight dent in the losses (hard to believe I’m calling $2 billion per year a slight dent). And a price increase could help, but trying to make up that much ground with price increases would be a nail in the post office’s coffin. Significant belt tightening is critical. I don’t claim to be an expert on post office policy, but there are places that Congress and the USPS Board of Governors can look to find help.

No shortage of ideas to fix the post office

It only took me a quick Google Search to find a wealth of ideas from various people and organizations, and even examples from other countries that could help the post office be more efficient.

  • Richard Geddes, PhD., associate professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell believes that privatizing the post office would be a fix, citing success stories from several other countries including the entire European Union and New Zealand. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2013/02/geddes-delivers-postal-service-fix-set-it-free
  • Four postal industry veterans, including a former deputy postmaster general, released a report in January stating that taking the post office to a public/private hybrid system could be a solution that allows the post office to remain largely public but also infuse the ingenuity of the private sector.  It’s a very interesting idea. http://www.napawash.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Hybrid-Public-Private-Postal-Service-1-2-13-3.pdf
  • Some other sources have claimed that the post office could remain fully public and make up lost money by diversifying its product and service offerings, and generating supplemental income by handling things like driver’s license renewals and title filing.

Congress needs to act NOW

The above ideas all seem to have their merits, but also come with some inherent risks.  However, none provide a greater risk than maintaining the status quo.  Far too many people depend on the United States Postal Service, including direct marketers.  Even in this digital age, direct mail is still a vitally important part of the marketing communications mix that allows us to reach people using the method they prefer – phone, email, text or, direct mail.  If the post office fails, the effects would be devastating to our industry, which produces over $2 trillion in annual sales.

In addition, we can’t simply count on private providers to pick up the slack. According to a Huffington Post article from last year, private carriers FedEx and UPS don’t have interest in delivering letters, postcards and other first class mail – and both actually contract with USPS for the delivery completion portion of certain shipments on a regular basis. In fact, according to spokeswoman Maury Donahue, FedEx “support[s] efforts to ensure that the Postal Service is able to successfully manage its business. We believe that a healthy Postal Service, the largest postal operator in the world, is important to America.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I urge Congress to enforce greater accountability of the United States Post Office. Your comments are welcomed.

InfoCision continues to set standard for call center quality with 20th MVP Quality Award

InfoCision just received word that it has officially been awarded its 20th consecutive MVP Quality Award from CUSTOMER magazine – InfoCision is the only company to win the award in every year since it was created in 1994. Advancing technology in communications has certainly changed the industry drastically since then. But what hasn’t changed is this simple fact: If you are dedicated to quality and excellence in connecting with customers or donors, you have a very good chance of succeeding.

InfoCision just received word that it has officially been awarded its 20th consecutive MVP Quality Award from CUSTOMER magazine.  The MVP was first awarded in 1994 to recognize call center companies with the highest standards for quality, and InfoCision is the only company to win the award in every year. I couldn’t be more proud of this honor. Advancing technology in communications has certainly changed the industry drastically since 1994. But what hasn’t changed is this simple fact: If you are dedicated to quality and excellence in connecting with customers or donors, you have a very good chance of succeeding.

Broad scope of quality

We focused this year’s MVP Quality Award nomination on a recent case study that embodies the full spectrum of our commitment to quality in technology, client service and our people. A national premium television provider offers customers an easy way to transfer their service to a new residence by submitting an online form.  Before InfoCision was involved, it took an average of 48 hours to call customers back to verify.  But by implementing InfoCision’s innovative R3 technology along with our highly trained Communicators and our dedicated account staff, the average callback time was reduced to less than three minutes while customer service levels soared.  To read more about the program, please check out the full case study.

High quality people get high quality results

I’d be remiss if I did not mention that our quality starts with the Communicators on the phones.  We look for a more mature, career-minded Communicator and offer them a benefits package that works for them and their families. That’s why the average age of our Communicators is 42, and their average length of service is four years.  It’s also why we have retention rates that are much higher than most of our industry peers at 92 percent.

To read more about InfoCision’s dedication to quality, please visit http://www.infocision.com/ContactCenter/Advantages/Pages/Quality.aspx

Direct marketing compliance update: DMA in DC and cell phone consent changes

I came away from the conference encouraged that there are so many experts in our industry who understand the value of engaging with policy-makers in Washington. We must educate the policy-makers and help them understand the huge impact the DM industry has on our national economy – 9.2 million jobs and more than $2 trillion in annual sales in the US.

I was recently in Washington, DC for the DMA in DC Conference, an annual event at which data-driven marketers and fundraisers meet face-to-face with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Members of Congress to discuss issues and regulations impacting the industry — and what needs to be done to ensure responsible access to marketing data.

Direct marketing compliance takeaways from the DMA in DC Conference

I came away from the conference encouraged that there are so many experts in our industry who understand the value of engaging with policy-makers in Washington.  We must educate the policy-makers and help them understand the huge impact the DM industry has on our national economy.  Balancing the concerns of consumers with the needs of marketers is critical.

While some lawmakers are beginning to grasp the value of our business, others are totally unaware that our industry provides 9.2 million jobs in the United States and accounts for more than $2 trillion in annual sales – and unnecessary legislation that negatively impacts the industry hurts the national economy.

Here are some issues I’ll be discussing in the coming weeks:

  • What’s going to become of the post office?
  • Proper information privacy – especially as it pertains to information from social networking sites
  • Data security and recovery systems
  • Mobile phone calling regulations.

New FCC TCPA requirement:  You must obtain prior express written consent for all autodialed telemarketing calls to cell phones

On September 17, 2012 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) approved the FCC’s revisions to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requiring express written consent for telephone solicitation messages (including text messages) placed using a prerecorded voice or an automatic telephone dialing system to cellular telephone numbers.  The express written consent requirement is set to go into effect on October 16, 2013.

This requirement will have an impact on any business or organization that calls cell phone numbers that have been provided to them by consumers. It is no longer acceptable to call a consumer just because they gave you their number and/or you have an existing business relationship with them.  Rather, when consumers give their phone number they must also proactively give consent, such as checking a box online signifying your organization may contact them, if it is a mobile number.

We encourage everyone to make sure their data collection forms and procedures are compliant with the new rule by working closely with your marketing partners and internal legal counsel in fully addressing how the new rule specifically affects your organization.  As always, your dedication to direct marketing compliance should never waver. For more information on InfoCision’s robust compliance systems, please follow this link. http://bit.ly/13xY1Yf

Customer Retention Programs Can Save Revenue and Build Profit

Direct response marketing can be cut-throat, as many of you already know.  Each day, competitors roll out deals to try to lure your customers over to their products and services by offering free add-ons, three months free, special reduced pricing, and on and on.  Additionally, customers who pay for something every month or on a regular basis are likely to eventually have some issues with their products or services over a long enough timeframe.  So how can you keep your customers from jumping ship?

The solution is a well-thought out customer retention program that centers on finding out what the customer’s issue is, and taking immediate steps to solve it; not only to satisfy the customer’s needs right now, but also to build the foundation of a long-term relationship with your organization.  But how can you effectively build such a program?

Customer Retention Specialists Make a Difference

InfoCision has found success for its clients by identifying Communicators with the right personality, experience and aptitude, and providing specialized training to make them Certified Retention Specialists.  On a recent program utilizing these specialists for a leading direct response company, InfoCision delivered a 40 percent save rate. When the industry average save rate is 25 percent, think of the boost in revenue by saving that many more customers – both now and in terms of future sales!

Customer retention programs are the subject of a recent article by InfoCision Vice President of Business Development Yvonne Anderson, published by Electronic Retailer for its website.  Below is an excerpt.

Solve Customers’ Problems, Retain Their Business

“It takes a special personality to work with customers who have made up their minds that they don’t want a product anymore. And that person has to take the customer from dissatisfied to satisfied in a single phone call. You need people who are more than order-takers.”

“They must be good listeners, have empathy for customers, and be able to relate to what it’s like to be in a similar situation. Because their role differs from that of regular customer service representatives, they need specialized training that gives them a deeper understanding of the product or service that the customer is calling about…  Allowing retention specialists to engage in free-flowing conversations with customers instead of working from a script is key to being able to identify the root cause of the problem. Once the problem has been identified, they also need the tools to be able to proceed as they see fit to provide the customer with a personalized experience.”

To read the entire article, please follow this link.  http://bit.ly/YbVazi.  If you have any questions or comments on the importance of retaining customers, please leave a comment below.

Sharing Tributes to InfoCision Founder Gary Taylor

Gary Taylor’s impact on the direct marketing industry and Northeast Ohio was incredible. I would like to share a few of the tributes published last week.

I would like to share a few of the many tributes published last week in memory of our beloved InfoCision Founder Gary Taylor.

 

Mike Murray, President and CEO of TMA Direct remembers Gary as a friend and mentor, and reflects upon his impact on the lives of countless people.  Mike is also a board member of the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing.

http://bit.ly/W6QWcW

 

InfoCision’s hometown newspaper, the Akron Beacon Journal, provides a nice account of Gary’s life focusing on his impact in the Akron region.

http://bit.ly/100VakN

 

Gary’s impact on the direct marketing industry was incredible and was recognized in many industry trade publications including The Nonprofit Times, Connections Magazine and TMCnet, to name a few. And in case you missed it, below is a link to my blog post from last week on Gary Taylor’s legacy in the direct marketing industry.

http://bit.ly/RightCall4

 

InfoCision and the Taylor family truly appreciate all of the warm wishes and support from our longtime friends and partners.  Thank you.

Feel free to also share your personal  memories of Gary’s legacy…