Contact Center ROI in the 21st Century

Perhaps the three most sought-after—and often elusive—letters in business are ROI. Companies are constantly on the lookout for ways to increase investments they make in any aspect of their business, and the contact center is certainly no different.

After years of feeling around in the dark for solutions that drive contact center ROI, businesses finally have access to evidence-based strategies that have been proven to work. In other words, companies willing to move their contact center operations into the 21st century stand to boost their bottom lines.

For example, according to a recent study by research firm McKinsey, better marketing analytics can increase returns by 10-20 percent. Companies that use business intelligence organizations can drill down on what specific tactics work for different demographics and achieve one-to-one marketing for each individual prospect or existing customer.

End-to-end customer relationship management (CRM) is also a “must-have” for businesses looking to boost returns in the contact center. With software that tracks customer information and interaction history, contact centers can increase efficiency, boost revenue and cut costs in a number of ways, including:

  • Reducing hold times, thus allowing Communicators to handle more calls
  • Identifying new sales opportunities that help generate more revenue
  • Creating customized scripts and best practices that help foster great customer relationships

In today’s multichannel environment, more is expected from the contact center than ever before. Facilities are tasked with providing top-of-the-line customer service, closing sales, compiling and analyzing information and more. Fortunately, for contact center managers feeling the pressure of expectations, taking on a multichannel marketing partner can provide the tools necessary to send ROI soaring.

So, is your company’s contact center ready to fly?

From a Customer Experience to a Customer Journey

Years ago, a company’s interaction with customers was largely limited to two points of contact. A consumer interested in a product would come into a brick-and-mortar store location and speak with a sales representative. If the consumer made a purchase and had a question or problem down the line, he or she would call a contact center for assistance.

In an age of rapidly developing technology and new channels, however, providing a top-notch customer experience requires a 360-degree approach. In many cases, the customer experience begins far in advance of the consumer’s first contact with a company and, for the most successful businesses, carries on far past the first purchase. In other words, the customer experience is now an ongoing journey.

For instance, research reveals that today’s buyers wait until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete before contacting a company. Studies have also repeatedly shown that consumers increasingly expect proactive customer service from companies they patronize.

But for many companies, providing this kind of 24/7/365 quality of customer service is a foreign concept; a comprehensive strategy for building and maintaining strong customer relationships simply isn’t part of their core competencies. For these businesses, teaming with a multichannel marketing partner may be a wise decision.

Industry-leading marketing and service organizations have the experience and tools to help acquire, retain, upsell and restore customers. These partners can help take some of the burden of providing great customer service off an organization with solutions like:

  • Top-of-the line inbound and outbound call center services
  • Demographically targeted direct mail campaigns
  • Email and text marketing and service
  • Web chat

Although the emergence of new channels creates added complexity for businesses, it can also be advantageous. For instance, research shows that the majority of customers are more likely to share customer experiences than they were five years ago and that consumers increasingly rely on consumer reviews to make purchasing decisions. That means that if a business is knocking its customer service out of the park, other people are going to hear about and be impacted by it.

So…are you ready to lead your customers on a journey?

Stretching Nonprofit Resources with a Multichannel Marketing Partner

For nonprofit organizations, rarely a day goes by without worrying about resource allocation. In its most recent annual survey, the Nonprofit Finance Fund found that 56 percent of nonprofits were unable to meet demand for services in 2013—the highest number on record. Additionally, these organizations identified long-term financial stability as the greatest challenge they currently face.

The simple fact is that nonprofits rely heavily on donations and the combination of a sluggish economy, and increased competition makes those donor dollars more difficult to secure. In many cases, the natural reaction for these organizations is to make cuts to services, staff and a variety of other areas. It may seem prudent to reduce marketing budgets as well but, in fact, that tact is likely to do more harm than good.

For fundraising, the old adage that “you have to spend money to make money” is fitting. Sure, these organizations could save a few dollars here and there on donor outreach, but that strategy is penny wise and pound foolish, because the small savings upfront will cost the nonprofit significantly more down the line.

Let’s look at a real-world example. Say a nonprofit organization is gearing up for its annual gala dinner, its single biggest fundraising event of the year. In an effort to save cash it enlists volunteers to create and mail print invitations, craft email invites and make reminder phone calls to its donor base. All of the work gets done, but the invitations have an amateur feel and the volunteers making the outbound calls are not effective because they aren’t immersed in the organization’s mission statement and don’t have a script.

When the donations are tabulated in the days after the event, the organization finds that the total is five percent off from last year. Even factoring in the savings from using mostly volunteers, the event raised less than the year before, meaning the next 12 months will require even more fiscal belt-tightening.

Now imagine this same organization had partnered with a company offering multichannel marketing solutions. By making an upfront investment and outsourcing part of the planning, the nonprofit optimized its marketing efforts for the event. Instead of hastily designed, one-size-fits-all invitations it leveraged the partner’s print capabilities to create professional custom mailings. Rather than using volunteers with no outbound calling experience the organization had highly-trained Communicators read directly from a custom script it helped write.

In the aftermath of the event, the organization finds that it attracted more guests to the gala this year and raised significantly more money as a result. The cost of teaming with a marketing partner is more than offset and the next fiscal year looks a little brighter.

There is no shortage of other real-life examples of how a multichannel marketing partner can help boost a nonprofit’s operations, from adding Web self-service for donations to improving outreach with information gathered using business intelligence.

The bottom line is that most nonprofits need some assistance from time to time. A partner that truly understands the landscape can make the difference between a fiscally successful year and a difficult one. Which would your organization rather have?

The Evolution of Marketing: Living in a Multichannel World

For businesses that have been around for a while, thinking back to the marketing landscape 10, 20 or 40 years ago recalls a simpler time. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that only four television stations were broadcast, the Internet was used almost exclusively by the military and social media simply didn’t exist.

But as technology advances, older channels change—well over 1,000 television stations exist today—and new ones are created. The days where putting up a billboard or purchasing a short radio ad was sufficient are over and as marketing continues to evolve, businesses are left to take ongoing stock of their strategies.

Marketing is now a primary driver in getting customers to contact your company, but it often takes more than one channel to make that interaction happen. For example, a recent Zendesk survey found that 67 percent of online shoppers made purchases that involved multiple channels in the past six months.

Staying abreast of the latest trends and channels can be difficult, particularly if your marketing department is small and it is not part of your core competencies. But by partnering with an organization devoted to creating effective multichannel marketing solutions, you can boost customer engagement without devoting your own resources. A “one-stop shop” marketing partner can help you generate greater ROI from your:

  • Email campaigns
  • Print mailings
  • Outbound telemarketing
  • Inbound call center services
  • Web self-service
  • Social media campaigns

The marketing landscape has changed drastically in the last decade alone; staying on the leading edge sometimes requires a little outside help. When you partner with an industry leader you get the best in multichannel solutions that let you worry less about marketing and more about growing your business every day.

And that never gets old.

Telemarketing: It’s Time to Get Personal

Have you ever answered a phone call from an unfamiliar number, only to have the person on the other end mispronounce your name before pitching a product? Chances are your interest level dipped pretty quickly after that.

But have you listened recently to what your own agents sound like on outbound calls? Perhaps it’s eerily similar to the calls that have caused you to hang up yourself.

One of the most common reasons telemarketing calls fail is that they sound impersonal and are immediately perceived as a hassle. In today’s data-driven, tech-advanced business environment, simple “cold calling” is no longer a sound or effective strategy. To achieve success in telemarketing you need customized multichannel marketing solutions that maximize value for every outgoing call.

A strategic multichannel marketing partner like InfoCision serves as an extension of your own marketing department; by teaming up you’ll find that your campaigns get stronger than ever before. That’s because you’re empowered by the attentiveness and expertise of full-time marketing professionals, dedicated to helping you revolutionize your telemarketing strategy. We tap into our own consumer database to provide you with responsive leads. We also take a deep dive into your customers’ information to optimize each and every call.

Using business intelligence, we can provide granular insights into specifics like what days your customers are most likely to answer the phone and at what times they are most receptive to calls. We can also use business intelligence to build winning scripts tailored individually to your customers.

Recent research shows that 40 percent of marketers still believe telemarketing is the best vehicle for generating new leads. If your company’s core competencies don’t include telemarketing, you may unfortunately find it difficult to generate significant ROI from these campaigns. But with InfoCision standing behind you, your telemarketing strategy will be both personal—and profitable.

Click here to learn more about InfoCision’s unique telemarketing approach.

Summer Heat Makes Everybody a Little Cranky: Are you Ready?

With Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, summer has unofficially started—and its official beginning is not far off. While the season offers a lot of opportunities for fun in the sun, it also brings warmer temperatures and sometimes, sour moods. In fact, scientific research proves that when temperatures get hotter, so do tempers.

Keeping that in mind, businesses need to be especially sharp with their quality of customer service during the coming several months. The bottom line is that people are human, and the combination of the heat and service follies like long hold times are going to get under their collective skin. In the summer, a normally cool-headed consumer may not have quite the same level of patience he or she would during the other seasons.

If your company’s contact center was barely making the grade during spring, perhaps teaming with a partner for best-in-class customer service solutions is a good plan of action. When the thermometer reads 98 degrees, the fact is that most people don’t want to be on the phone—or any other channel—dealing with a customer service problem. They are often starting the call in a bit of a cranky mood, so it’s up to your representatives to rise to that challenge.

InfoCision has decades of experience in the contact center and customer service space and can provide the tools you need to excel this summer. Our Communicators are the best-trained in the business and can handle any customer-related scenario that comes their way. Leveraging our experience will give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that every single contact between your customers and representatives is being handled in a courteous and professional manner.

In other words, with InfoCision at your side, cooler heads will prevail.

Rewarding Employees for Rising to the Challenge

I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to work at InfoCision, a great employer that truly values its employees and provides a great career and benefits to so many people. That’s why I truly enjoy coming to work just as much as I did on my first day after all these years.

At times, certain days or moments stand out above the rest and today was one of those special, standout days.

Earlier this spring, we realized fewer calling days and the Easter holiday could negatively impact our ability to meet our call volume goals. So we presented our Call Center teams with the Rise to the Challenge contest, in an effort to complete as many hours as possible between March and May.

Throughout the weekly contests held in the Call Centers, InfoCision provided over $24,000 in prizes and other incentives including jeans days, vacation days and additional unpaid time off. Communicators and Business Account Managers (BAMs) earned reverse raffle tickets in the grand prize drawing for working their scheduled hours, working extra hours, and providing referrals.

On May 9 company leaders gathered as CEO Craig Taylor conducting the initial drawing of 25 employee finalist names from over 60,000 entries. The first 15 employees drawn received an additional 8 hours of paid vacation time.

The final 10 employees drawn were invited to our corporate office today for a special luncheon with division leaders and the Executive team. The luncheon was capped off with the grand prize drawing totaling $10,000 in awards.

015I have to say just how impressed I am with the outcome and how proud I am of our employees. April was our official highest Hours Worked Average ever achieved in InfoCision history! We have a fantastic team of managers, supervisors, trainers, human resources and other support staff who helped this become a reality. But most of all, we’re very proud of the efforts of our dedicated Communicators and BAMs who truly stepped up to the challenge. At InfoCision, we are so fortunate to have amazing employees who are ‘Committed to Excellence’ and are willing to do ‘Whatever it Takes’ to meet company and client needs!

For Customer Service, Consider Baby Steps Over Giant Leaps

In days gone by, great customer service meant employing knowledgeable salespeople and friendly cashiers in-store. But as new channels emerge, and consumer expectations for quality of customer service continue to rise, providing a top-shelf experience can seem like a daunting task.

When looking to make a change, some business owners immediately look to the end goal as opposed to the steps that need to be taken to make an impact. For instance, a contact center manager might hastily decide to completely re-write a call script. Or, a social media marketer might create company accounts on five platforms in a single afternoon.

Oftentimes, the most prudent way to begin re-shaping your customer service is through smaller, incremental steps. Making 100 percent improvement in a single area is usually unrealistic. Making one percent progress in 100 different aspects of an operation, however, is easier to accomplish. Taking smaller yet more impactful steps is likely to immediately yield better customer service. Here are some small steps you can take now to assure quality of customer service:

  • Reduce your supervisor-to-agent ratio
  • Provide more extensive training to new hires
  • Invest in customer analytics
  • Implement quality assurance to ensure that every product is manufactured and delivered with ease
  • Stay abreast of developing contact center technology

Some of the recent research released about customer service is jolting. For example, 55 percent of consumers said they switched to a different company for a product after a single negative experience, according to a Zendesk survey. But companies should guard against making sweeping changes as a reaction to these kinds of statistics. In other words, just as you shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, you shouldn’t toss your entire customer service strategy if making tweaks might do the trick.

Cut Costs and Conserve Resources with a Multi-channel Marketing Partner

No matter how big your business or what industry you occupy, chances are you’re looking for a way to cut marketing and customer service-related costs. But it can be hard to lower expenses and conserve resources without compromising the quality of your day-to-day operations. It’s okay to admit that this might be a bit over your head—that’s where a multi-channel marketing partner comes into the picture.

Perhaps the most obvious way a marketing partner can help cut costs is by providing superior contact center training for Communicators. A full-service marketing partner provides company-specific training so that Communicators have a deep understanding of your organization’s core competencies before they answer a single call.

Logically, these representatives resolve problems faster than those without extensive experience because they have an in-depth knowledge of your products and services. On the flip side, when agents lack the requisite knowledge, first-call resolution rates drop. This forces companies to hire extra personnel to avoid long hold times for customers, resulting in extra expenditures.

A multi-channel partner can also help you avoid unnecessary print and mailing expenses. Although print marketing can get lost in today’s multi-channel environment, research from Digital Marketing Ramblings shows that 56 percent of customers still consider print the most trustworthy form of marketing.

By turning processes over to a full-service print center you can avoid wasting precious man hours printing materials and stuffing envelopes. You can also personalize printing for individual targets, maximizing effectiveness and reducing the need for future, costly mass mailings.

A multi-channel marketing partner can take the onus off of your company and cut costs in a variety of other areas as well. For example:

  • Business intelligence and data acquisition help improve customer insights and accurately predict consumer behavior
  • Website development services take the burden off your already busy IT team
  • Lead generation services help you focus only on promising prospects

In short, a partner that can provide multi-channel marketing solutions streamlines processes, cuts out wasted resources and lets you focus on mission-critical tasks. And after all, everybody needs a little help sometimes.

Big.Epic.Experts. InterAction 2014 June 12 at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing

The InterAction 2014 summit is fast approaching and will be here before we know it! We’re especially excited about this year’s event we are hosting at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing on Thursday, June 12, 2014.

With an unprecedented amount of information to manage, marketers have to be superheroes today. The emergence of big data; a growing number of social media networks; content development; branding and creative; ROI, analytics and metrics; IT demands and infrastructure — it can quickly become daunting and overwhelming.  That’s why the steering committee has expanded content to provide a talented lineup of marketing experts at a great value to educate, motivate, and inspire you to unleash your marketing superpowers!

This year’s featured keynote speaker is Joe Pulizzi, content marketing evangelist and founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), the leading content marketing educational resource for enterprise brands. CMI was recognized as the fastest growing business media company by Inc. magazine in 2013. He has spoken at more than 300 locations and 12 countries and delivered keynote speeches for dozens of events and organizations including SXSW, BMA National, Oracle Eloqua, DuPont, SAP, HP and Dell. Joe has written a new book, Epic Content Marketing as well as co-authored two other books, Get Content Get Customers and Managing Content Marketing.

A special highlight of InterAction 2014 will be honoring the prestigious Direct Marketer of the Year: Lisa Arthur, Chief Marketing Office of Teradata. A 30-year technology industry marketing veteran, Lisa has received numerous awards and is a frequent speaker and prolific writer who masterfully combines a distinctive energy and enthusiasm with her depth of knowledge when sharing her thoughts on today’s most compelling marketing topics. Arthur’s recent honors include the DMNews 2013 “Marketing Hall of Femme” honoring today’s top women marketers, the American Business Association’s 2012 Gold “Stevie Award” for Marketing Executive of the Year, and in both 2012 and 2011 she was named a “Woman to Watch” by the Sales and Lead Management Association. She is also a Trustee with the Marketing Sciences Institute. Arthur is the author of Big Data Marketing: Engage Your Customers More Effectively and Drive Value.

This event is a unique opportunity to participate in a local, educational event at the value rate of $125 for individual practitioners. Corporate sponsorship opportunities are available for tables of 8 with the added benefit of your company logo featured on the InterAction website, program and event signage. I’d like to recognize and give a special thank you to our many sponsors and The University of Akron for hosting the event.

Please check out the event page to read more about our speakers and register http://www.interactionsummit.com/. Take the chance to sign up today, as a sellout is guaranteed. I look forward to seeing you there!