Offshoring: is it really worth it?

As Chief of Staff at InfoCision, I am constantly looking at newsfeeds and industry updates, trying to keep up on the different trends, rules and regulations that are going to impact our call centers. Recently I stumbled upon an article that caught my eye because it involves one of the most well-known American companies bringing jobs back to the U.S. that they had been outsourcing overseas.

The article – published in the online version of Nearshore Americas, a leading source for IT outsourcing news – was about American automotive industry giant, General Motors, deciding to cut back the outsourcing of its IT services to other countries by over 80 percent! General Motors currently outsources 90 percent of its IT services, but the plan is to cut that to 10 percent over the next three years. This article really got me thinking about how views on offshoring have changed across the business landscape over the last decade.

It’s about more than cost

In the teleservices industry, I have always believed that domestic call centers are better positioned than offshore call centers because more and more companies are beginning to realize that in a market where new customers are hard to come by, they must put a premium on customer service and care to drive optimal levels of customer retention.  In order to do this, they need to have people on the phone representing their company who speak the language of their customers, and can relate to them and empathize with them. But these issues can extend beyond the teleservices industry into other outsourced functions such as accounting, HR, and in GM’s case, IT.

In any industry, when a company makes the decision to send jobs offshore, we all know there is one major driving force for that decision: cost. However, while saving money on the front end can seem appealing, especially in tough financial times, there is much more a business has to consider before making that decision. Language barriers and lower quality of service – between members of your team and the offshore company – can actually create more costs than the company saves up front because they have a negative effect on efficiency. I can’t help but wonder if those factors finally hit home with GM’s leadership team.

I applaud GM for this decision, and for bringing jobs back to the United States where we desperately need them.

How nonprofits and professional fundraisers partner to make a difference

I’ve been working in the call center industry for nearly 30 years.  Oftentimes when I meet someone – either socially or professionally – and tell them that what I do involves fundraising for nonprofits, I inevitably get asked questions about how it all works.  Several questions come up routinely, and after having one such conversation last week, I decided that I should use The Right Call as a forum to provide much needed information on how professional fundraising works.  Fundraising is multifaceted and over the next few weeks I hope to impart additional knowledge and answer some common questions.

Do professional fundraisers keep a percentage of the money that is raised?

One of the most common questions I get is people wondering if professional fundraisers keep a percentage of money they raise before it goes to the nonprofit organization.  The answer is generally no.  Reputable teleservices  companies like InfoCision are not actually paid in terms of the percentage of funds they raise.  InfoCision is paid per completed call based on a set rate as detailed in our contract with the nonprofit client.  The client pays InfoCision according to their fundraising budget.

Many times, folks will say they’ve read about a nonprofit organization generating just a small net gain from a specific tele-fundraising program.  Some campaigns are designed as “acquisition campaigns.”  In these campaigns, finding and engaging new donors is the primary goal.  It is common and expected for an acquisition campaign – when looked at in a nutshell – to breakeven or be only slightly profitable.  But when you look at the big picture, these acquisition campaigns identify new donors who are likely to begin a strong, life-long relationship with the nonprofit. The long-term opportunities these new relationships provide the organization are incredibly valuable.

Here’s a similar example: A national health-based nonprofit, through direct mail acquisition programs, recently was able to increase its donor base by more than ten times over a five year period.  It’s likely that when you consider the cost of creating, printing and mailing the direct mail piece, the campaign may not have generated enough funds to cover those initial costs.  But what it did do was bring in many new donors to the organization, who will give again and again over a period of time. This is what is called Long-term Donor Value. It works the same way with tele-fundraising.

Check back next week for when I will break down the importance of long-term donors for nonprofits, and how tele-fundraisers help to build and cultivate these long-lasting relationships.  I hope you have found this information helpful.

Click here for Fundraising Part 2: The Professional Fundraiser and Nonprofit Relationship

Click here for Fundraising Part 3: Compliance and Nonprofit Fundraising

Click here for Fundraising Part 4: Using Information to Make an Informed Choice as a Donor

The Importance of Call Center Compliance

As every business leader knows, there are always going to be times when an organization must take risks.  However, when it comes to regulatory compliance in the call center industry, taking risks should never be an option.  Capital One Financial Corp, which has been working exclusively with low-cost offshore call center vendors, was recently fined $210 million dollars by the Consumer Protection Bureau for deceptive marketing tactics undertaken by their offshore call center partner.  Unfortunately, because the call center was short cutting training and quality processes, the client has become responsible for significant fines resulting from the fraudulent practices by their offshore call center agents.

Capital One released a statement in response, “Capital One’s third-party vendors did not always adhere to company sales scripts and sales policies for payment protection and credit-monitoring products, and the bank did not adequately monitor their activities.”

Compliance at InfoCision
No company should ever have to issue a statement like this because of the unethical practices of their marketing partner.  Here at InfoCision, our policy is that WE, not our clients, are primarily responsible for meeting the state and federal requirements for every program that takes place in one of our call centers.  We provide our clients with a dedicated team of regulatory compliance experts to give them peace of mind in all aspects of the management of their campaign.  As a company, your reputation is too important to leave to chance.

Proclamation for our Green Call Center

As I’ve mentioned many times over this past year, InfoCision is celebrating 30 years of business in 2012 and it truly has been wonderful celebrating with all the communities and employees we have built relationships with over the years. On Tuesday we had a special guest, the honorable Mayor of Green, Richard Norton stop by and give InfoCision the prestigious honor of receiving a proclamation from the city of Green.  We have been in Green since 1987 and it was our first call center location outside the City of Akron. The community has always been extremely supportive in helping us meet our expansion needs.  In 2011 we finished a major 52,000 square foot call center expansion, which added approximately 200 jobs to the call center. We now employ over 500 people in Green!

Call Centers are all about relationships

On the drive back from Green, I began to think about how long we have been in business and all of the relationships we have cultivated over the years. The focus we have put on building relationships isn’t just something we do internally; we do it externally as well. We have things like a dedicated account staff, a well-trained IT team and experienced communicators, all of whom build relationships with our clients and their customers.

At InfoCision we take the time to meet with our clients, understand their overall goals and do whatever it takes to make sure those goals are met. We also understand that when you respect your employees and the community you work in, you are rewarded with hard work and gratitude from all parties involved. That is why I would like to take the time to thank Mayor Norton and the entire community of Green for this proclamation and more importantly, a great partnership that has truly stood the test of time.

New Ideas are Vital to Corporate Growth

Innovation is essential for a company to grow and remain competitive. New ideas, whether they are simple and help save costs, or complex and grow and transform the business must be encouraged and rewarded.  Every valid concept that can be implemented to improve an aspect of the company is important to overall success. At InfoCision we have always solicited every employee to tell us about their ideas through our Working Smarter Program, which has a monetary reward. This program has paid off with InfoCision saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in direct cost and/or efficiency improvements.

On more than one occasion, our President and CEO Carl Albright has commented about the number of great ideas our staff comes up with, and how the key to implementation is first getting the right people dedicated to following up on priority projects.  Our technical teams recently developed a new forum for employees to share their ideas and I am truly excited about the opportunities it will bring to us at InfoCision.

How We Work Smarter

To help turn employee ideas into reality, we have implemented a new program called “The Idea Center.” This is a simple intranet site where employees are able to submit an idea, have it reviewed by the executive steering committee, and then see it through to implementation.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each month our IT team holds an “Idea Review” meeting where the executive team will listen to any idea that has been submitted.
  2. The executive team will provide feedback and direction as to whether or not the idea should become a project.
  3. The executive team will again review cost, time and other important factors to determine if it would be a wise investment
  4. The executive team will then assign the idea to the appropriate group for implementation.

What it means to our clients

The overall goal at InfoCision has always been to provide our clients with the highest quality and ROI, which requires us to be innovative, efficient and quick to follow-up on important concepts.  One of the three principles our company was founded on is working smarter; this means looking at every idea, big or small, analyzing it and determining how to improve for the better. We take everyone’s ideas into consideration and it really does give us an advantage. If anyone has an idea of how things could be more efficient, it’s those that work in the middle of the situation on a daily basis, so we take their opinions to heart because you never know who is going to come up with the next great idea that impacts the company! How do you feel about the concept of an employee “Idea Center”? Do you have any suggestions or benefits that I didn’t mention? What are some or examples of programs like this that you have seen in the past? Get the conversation started below!

Customer Service: The Key to Direct Marketing and Telemarketing Success

Recently, InfoCision’s Vice President of New Business Development, Yvonne Anderson was featured in an online exclusive article in Electronic Retailer Magazine all about customer service.  Yvonne brought up some great points in the article that I feel are definitely worth sharing:

Excellent Customer Service Starts with the People

Can you see them smiling through the phone? You should! Whether they are working directly for the company, or for a call center partner, agents need to be prepared to create a great customer experience for everyone who calls.

1. Put the right people on the front lines

Choose people who are passionate about what they do and will put in that extra effort.  In many cases, this is the first interaction your customers have with you or a client.

2. Train, train, and train some more

The better they understand the culture and philosophy you’re trying to convey, the better situations with unhappy customers will be handled. Softer skills like dispute resolution and dealing with difficult people are also valuable.

3. Monitor, provide instant feedback and share best practices.

If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong how can you improve, right? Providing feedback and tips on what has worked in the past will go a long way.

Evaluation is Key in Direct Marketing

When measuring customer satisfaction, there are some questions a company must ask:

  • Did the customer’s call get answered?
  • Did the customer feel his or her call was dealt with appropriately?
  • Were concerns or issues handled quickly and efficiently?

These questions may seem obvious, but asking them regularly and taking action is vital to continued success.

Developing Customer Care is a Process

As customer satisfaction increases more customers remain loyal and will continue to purchase items from the company, which will begin to positively impact the company’s bottom line. Your customers will tell their friends how awesome you are, and they will tell their friends and so on.

Everything is interconnected and the above concepts go hand-in-hand. Is it always easy? No, but customer service can make or break your company. Taking the time to hire the right people, evaluate along the way and think about the big picture is well worth it.

InfoCision Celebrates 10 years in Mansfield

Corporate culture unique in telemarketing industry

Yesterday we had the honor of celebrating the 10 year anniversary of our Mansfield location. Local leaders, including the Honorable Mayor, Timothy Theaker; President of the Mansfield-Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, Kevin Nestor and even the newly crowned Miss Ohio, Elissa McCracken joined us as we celebrated this milestone and congratulated the employees who made it all possible.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been in Mansfield for 10 years, but they have been 10 years of great growth and success. I really want to take the time to thank our employees, who have been the catalyst for this success, and the community which has always been so gracious to us. Special recognition was given to 12 employees who have been at our Mansfield location since we first opened it! Their tenure, hard work and dedication is a great example of the corporate culture we strive for, where everyone is able to create a career for themselves and a come to work in an environment that provides that all important work/life balance. Not many call center companies can say they have had Communicators taking calls for 10 years. Our Mansfield location has always produced outstanding work for our clients and we hope that will continue for another 10 years.

Below you can view a short video from the event. Feel free to check it out and see how we honored our dedicated and tenured team members. Once again I would like to thank everyone that came out and our employees for making an event like this possible!

 

The True Importance of Work Place Diversity in Direct Marketing

There is no doubt that diversity in the workplace benefits everyone from employees to clients, and the challenge is to continue to embrace that culture; here at InfoCision, we have done, and continue to do, just that. I was able to sit down with our director of human resources, Carla Grasso and had a conversation all about how we celebrate diversity here at InfoCision and the difference it makes in our call centers.

Direct Marketing Diversity Programs

Diversity programs are about creating and maintaining an inclusive environment no matter what an employee brings to the table. When you embrace everyone’s strengths, the organization as a whole is more productive; and it also helps managers to better lead their teams because they have a better grasp on whom their employees are and where they come from.

Diversity programs must be undertaken slowly to ensure they are done the right way, because they must include everyone regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, political views, etc.  In addition, changes that are made in the workplace too rapidly without proper planning run the risk of being resisted by employees.

For the program to be successful, it must fit in with the company’s current corporate culture, not attempt to change it. So starting slowly is key to getting employees to buy in to the program.

How to Get Started

Starting diversity programs may seem like a daunting task for companies that don’t have an expert in the subject matter, and especially for smaller companies without a great deal of resources.

For employers that want to start a diversity initiative but don’t have a lot of time or resources to invest, here are some easy and low-cost tips:

  1. Spotlighting diverse employees in a company newsletter or calendar
  2. Offer brown-bag lunch lectures on a diversity topic – many groups will speak for free
  3. Create affinity groups to support a specific segment of the workforce (such as women, Asian-Americans, workers with Military experience, etc.)
  4. Have a potluck where workers bring in foods and recipes from their ethnic heritage
  5. Announce local events that support diversity on your bulletin board or intranet

There are even community resources available to help companies of all sizes that want to harness the power of embracing diversity.

Diversify Your Call Centers

By expanding your pool of applicants to include everyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religious views or anything else, you are giving your organization an advantage over the competition, because they might not be finding the same quality of applicants.

And beyond employee and productivity issues, embracing diversity can have other benefits for your company. InfoCision has several clients that are embracing diversity, and appreciate the fact that we have chosen to do so as well.

How do you feel about diversity in the work place? Any tips to getting started I missed? Get the conversation started below!

Carla Grasso is director of human resources at InfoCision Management Corporation. Reach her at carla.grasso@infocision.com.

A little appreciation goes a long way

Food, games, music and prizes might make you think of a party or festival. But here at InfoCision, it was just another day at work.Employees at our various locations celebrate with fun, food and games

Throughout the month of June, we’ve held an employee appreciation day celebration at all of our locations with a day of fun, designed to make

employees know how much the company values their hard work and dedication.  I’ve been lucky enough to be able to attend all of these events at every one of our locations and it truly has opened my eyes to how far a little appreciation can go.

Why we tell our employees that we appreciate them

Our employees are the best in the industry, and the reason we are so successful. We want to make sure they know that the company truly appreciates all the time and effort they give.  These “fun days” are a great way for us to do that, as well as build camaraderie by allowing employees to interact in a fun, laid back setting.

I can’t explain how much I love going to events like these because I really get to show every employees at each and every one of our call centers how much their hard work is valued. Our employees work extremely hard, and it’s important to let them know we appreciate it. I’ve said it more times than I can remember, but it’s only because it’s the truth: employees that feel appreciated and valued are going to work harder and at InfoCision we try to make sure that happens!

But don’t just take my word for it; according to a case study by Kim Harrison of Cutting Edge PR, “the cost of extremely negative or ‘actively disengaged’ workers comprises about 10% of the US Gross Domestic Product annually.”  And according to Harrison, Sears recently found that “for every 5% increase in employee attitude scores, they saw a 1-3% increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5% increase in revenue.”

These numbers can have a big impact on your bottom line, especially when the mood of your employees comes across clearly to the people on the other end of the phone.  So make a point to let your employees know that their work is appreciated, and you’ll find that some small gestures can go a long way.

 

Turning Customer Care Calls into Cross-Selling Opportunities

All companies want to keep their customers happy. Finding the right balance of effective customer care while trying to keep costs low can be a challenging for any organization. The numbers that show customer loyalty and brand image being boosted by customer care are not always clearly visible and easy to measure.

With that in mind, there are ways to change customer care into easily measurable, profit-generating activities that make it easier for companies to justify customer care expenditures.

That’s where the InfoCision attitude comes into play. It’s simple really; it’s all about philosophy and opportunity.

Recently an article featuring one of our staff members, Paul Derbyshire, director of operations strategy, was published through the prestigious media outlet TMCnet. Paul talked all about how if the situation is handled correctly, you can turn a customer care call into an opportunity to increase your sales.

In fact, we’ve seen examples where after adding a series of cross-sell opportunities, the client’s customer care was essentially free. When a client receives profit for a call that used to be an expense, everyone wins.

What are your opinions on cross-selling? Can cross-selling truly generate profit? Leave a comment below and tell me how you or your organization views the cross-selling process!

Paul Derbyshire is director of operations strategy at InfoCision Management Corporation. Reach him at paul.derbyshire@infocision.com.