The Value of the First Impression

Sometimes, one shot is all you get. As harsh as that may sound, that is exactly the mentality that is required to succeed in any competitive environment. In our industry, whether it is taking a customer service call, or asking for a donation, our Communicators only have one opportunity to make sure each customer or donor leaves the phone call with a positive experience for the clients we represent. InfoCision has always been known for its impeccable quality, and that begins with our training process. That is why CUSTOMER magazine recently sat down with InfoCision Vice President of Training and Development Monica Ross to talk about how InfoCision ensures all of our Communicators understand the value of first impressions.

Time and Training in the Call Center – Monica Ross

first impression
InfoCision Vice President of Training & Development Monica Ross

Most companies know the key to long-term growth is generating repeat business. Repeat customers mean greater brand loyalty, higher referrals and a steady stream of sales. Adding a new customer also costs considerably more than retaining an existing one. Companies need more than just order takers. To be competitive in this disjointed marketplace you need call centers that can build outstanding interactions by being as professional and connected to the brand as your own employees are.

It really is all about the people on the phones. Your call center is the voice of your company, so it’s crucial to have mature, experienced professionals on the phones. The agents making and taking your calls are representing your company in front of your most valuable asset – your customers. Reputable call centers have highly selective hiring policies. At InfoCision the average age of our Communicators is 42 years old, close to 80 percent are full time and almost 75 percent are their family’s main provider. Successful call center companies will also have robust recognition programs to retain and reward top performers.

What separates brand ambassadors from typical call center representatives is their deep level of product and client knowledge, which can enhance the value of a call in a number of ways. Instead of just answering questions, brand ambassadors act as an extension of the brand they’re calling for, so they can do a better job connecting with the customer from the first phone call. They convey the feelings and voice of a brand. These ambassadors are also comfortable enough with the product or service lines to present other opportunities and upsell, increasing customer profitability. By enhancing brand value, brand ambassadors also add future value in customer retention. The real value comes after the phone call is completed: The prospect will have a stronger tie to the particular brand as well as a clearer idea of who the company is and what it has to offer. Even if it’s a purchase of a singular item, it’s a company that the customer will want to go back to.

When you know the product and client, and understand their business, you’re going to serve your client better, it’s that simple. In this economy where competition for customers is extremely fierce, strategic use of call centers can provide a company with far-reaching benefits to achieve goals, enhance market position and maintain your company’s good reputation.

Do you have any thoughts on the important role training plays in call center success? If so, be sure to leave a comment.

Employee Health is a Key Factor in Performance

employee health“Eat your fruits and vegetables” was something most of us heard from our mothers growing up.  But would you believe that same suggestion could actually help your employees to produce better results in their jobs?  It’s true, according to a recent study from the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The study found that improved job performance and reduced absenteeism were present in employees who led healthy lifestyles.  Specifically, their data showed that employees who were healthy eaters, regular exercisers, non-obese – and yes, even those who regularly ate their fruits and vegetables – performed better on the job and missed less workdays compared to other employees.

The Time to Start Impacting Employee Health is NOW

At InfoCision, we have long said that a healthier employee is a happier employee, who is going to perform better for the company and our clients.  That’s why we implemented a comprehensive employee health and wellness program in 2006 that includes on-site fitness and wellness centers, fitness contests, health fairs, regular health information dissemination, and free smoking cessation programs among other things.

I’m sharing this report because I hope more companies will give serious thought to employee health’s effect on a business. Increasingly we have seen reports such as this come out, and it is becoming more and more evident that helping your employees be healthy is more than just the right thing to do; it’s a sound business decision that can boost your company’s performance and actually curb the rising cost of your health insurance premiums – as it has here at InfoCision.

If you have any observations on the study or suggestions for employers to help their workers be healthier, please leave a comment below.  I’d enjoy reading your thoughts.

Quality Assurance Drives Higher Return on Your Contact Center Investment

From improving customer service levels to aiding in brand management, the benefits of a comprehensive quality assurance system can have a big impact on the bottom line of your programs

quality assuranceIn business, the word “quality” is often thrown around. But what does “quality” really mean in the contact center industry and what are the benefits for companies who utilize high quality teleservices provider.

Having a robust and comprehensive quality monitoring and assurance program helps to provide companies with a higher return on investment through a number of different avenues, according to Brian Feisthamel, director of quality assurance at InfoCision Management Corporation, including:

  • Increasing customer satisfaction and Communicator productivity by ensuring that all necessary information is being captured correctly on each call.
  • Helping Communicators understand how to improve their techniques so they can better connect with the customer from the first phone call, which leads to increased sales and donations.
  • Aiding in brand management by ensuring that all agents are consistently delivering the same messaging and a high quality customer/donor experience.
  • Allowing quality assurance staff to recognize opportunities to improve scripts, which can help drive additional revenue through increased cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
  • Ensuring the ability to quickly scale up and match existing quality and performance metrics.

Read more from Feisthamel on how quality assurance provides a boost to ROI,14k5f,4rew,g7p2,hl7m,8qfr,cwk8

We’d love to hear your thoughts on call center quality, so please leave a comment with your tips or suggestions.

State reports on fundraising are easily misinterpreted

fundraisingRecent reports have called into question the relationship between professional fundraisers such as InfoCision and the nonprofit organizations they represent; asserting that, based on information from state mandated fundraising disclosures provided to state Attorneys General, professional fundraisers are keeping a  percentage of the funds raised. In InfoCision’s case, nothing could be further from the truth. Please see our website for our full statement on this issue.

A similar report recently made headlines in Vermont, and I want to draw to your attention to this story in the Burlington Free Press because it is a great example of how Attorney General (AG) reports can be misinterpreted; and paint good organizations in a negative light. According to the AG report, “Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont (PFFV) raised $1.4 million through FireCo., LLC of Franklin, Tenn., of which $314,256, or 22 percent, went to the charity, and 78 percent, or about $1.1 million, went to FireCo.”  Rightly so, both the PFFV and FireCo. have called the report misleading. “We’re in dispute with the attorney general,” said Matt Vinci, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Vermont. “The way he’s put percentages out, they do not depict our operation.”  But when later asked to expand on the report, Vermont AG William Sorrell stated, “They’ve got employee and overhead costs, we’re not trying to suggest the paid fundraiser pockets 68 cents or 84 cents of every dollar,” Sorrell said.

An issue with the state mandated disclosures is that they fail to take into account the type of campaign that was run, overhead and other factors, and that makes them nearly impossible to accurately interpret. Many, many nonprofit organizations utilize professional fundraisers to raise funds on their behalf because it is the most cost effective way to raise funds on a larger scale. As Vinci says in the article, “We couldn’t have a bunch of firefighters doing this level of work (as volunteers).”

So please, when you see these reports, make sure you know the whole story before drawing your own conclusions. As I’ve said before, the true measure of whether any charitable organization is a good steward of the funds with which it is entrusted is the Nonprofit’s Form 990 filed each year with the IRS. Form 990 provides a comprehensive summary of what percentage of money a charitable organization spends towards its goals and mission, typically 75%, and the percentage used for administrative costs, which includes fundraising, and is typically the remaining 25%.

I encourage you to read a recent article in CUSTOMER magazine that details the role professional fundraising plays in helping charitable organizations accomplish their goals and mission.

Please feel free to leave a comment or question you may have on professional fundraising. One way for the truth to come out is to have an educated dialogue and I welcome your thoughts.

Celebrating the Holidays at InfoCision Company Christmas Parties

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been on the road going to InfoCision’s company Christmas parties at each of our locations throughout Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ontario, Canada, along with other members of the senior leadership team.  I can’t even begin to tell you what a good time we’ve been having, and how great it has been to see all of our wonderful employees getting together to have some fun and celebrate the holidays.  You can see some of the great pictures of our teams below.

Christmas collage2


In case there is anyone I did not get a chance to greet on my travels, I wish each and every one of InfoCision’s outstanding employees – and anyone reading this blog – a very merry and blessed Christmas and a happy New Year!

Career Path Progression

A dead end. The one thing no one wants to run into, especially when it comes to their career. I have been extremely lucky to have been with the same company as long as I have, but I have talked to plenty of colleagues and friends who have left jobs for the simple reason that they felt “stuck”. No one wants to work at a place where they feel there is no room to grow or foster a career. The truth is, you would be hard pressed to find someone who is willing to stay at the same job with the same company for many years without any potential to advance professionally.

We celebrated our 30th anniversary as a company earlier this year, and we have always had a strong history of hiring from within to fill open positions, and we are proud of it!

I have benefited personally, along with the majority of our senior staff, by starting our careers as Communicators or as entry-level supervisor or account representatives in the company’s various call centers and divisions.  Over the years, as InfoCision has experienced success with internal hiring, we developed a program to formalize the process called the Career Path Progression Program.  As employees move up through the ranks, they bring with them a unique understanding for the specific responsibilities of the employees now in their supervision, because they held similar positions themselves.   Everywhere you look at InfoCision there are living examples of the many career opportunities offered, showing our new employees there is room to grow.  This results in happier employees who are willing to invest their careers in the company long-term, resulting in strong staff retention.

Growing with the company

We do have to admit, the opportunity for career advancement isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to mind when a potential employee thinks of the teleservice industry, but we are breaking that perception. Our Career Path Progression Program is a huge success, and we can really see the results as we have one of the lowest turnover rates in the industry.

Clearly, employees want to work not only for a growing company, but also for a company they can grow with.  I frequently share examples of the innovative technology and proprietary solutions we offer at InfoCision.  It is truly the people who work with us though, who make all the difference.  Our clients certainly benefit from our dedicated and loyal team of experts!

Opt-out confirmation text messages deemed legal by the FCC

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

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

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

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

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

Rapid Response Routing – Customer Service for the NOW Generation

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

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

Technological innovation enables us to satisfy the NOW generation

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

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

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

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

Data and its impact on customer experiences

In business, there are few things as important as a customer’s experience. The customer service you provide has a huge impact on the overall perception people have when dealing with your organization. Often times, companies and organizations have collected plenty of data on their customers and donors, but are unsure what exactly to do with it.  Here at InfoCision, we have access to more information than ever, with a database that includes 205 million records, 132 million households and 40 million distinct phone numbers. We are able to take that data, and that of our client’s to create a great customer experience. Advances in technology are bringing companies and their customers closer together but how to go about doing that can seem overwhelming, so that’s why I recently sat down with InfoCision Vice President of IT Client Services Mike Herston to get a better understanding of this “big data” and how it can be used to positively impact the customer experience.

Using data to add a personal touch – Mike Herston

Wouldn’t you love to learn more about the customers you’re calling or those who are calling you? Determine the best time to call? Map their purchasing behavior and patterns? With today’s technology, it is entirely possible. Tests have proven that predictive modeling can have a positive impact on acquisition calls by improving file performance and driving down costs.

InfoCision Vice President of IT Client Services Mike Herston

On one 95,000 call test we conducted, the response rate increased by over 21 percent and the revenue per call increased by over 17 percent (compared to the control). These results were well above the goals for the program, and allowed further penetration into lower-performing records.

Every call is a reflection on your company and an opportunity to build a lasting relationship with your customer. Pre-built statistical models can be used to tailor our Communicator’s scripts using real-time inscription technology that help them focus on the call and building that relationship. We can actually tailor a script based on the fact that we know someone is male or female, or if we know their age range. We can tailor a script to a household that has a presence of children. The whole idea is that it allows us to deliver a script that resonates with the person we’re calling.

When it comes to making things personal, organizing your data can make all the difference. I know from my own experience, I’d much rather have somebody sell me something that’s within my economic means as opposed to something that’s not. It’s also beneficial to know what I’ve purchased in the past so I can be made aware of any offers that are aligned to those types of products or services. Business Intelligence not only allows us to provide a great experience for new customers, but it also helps us rekindle relationships with customers or donors that may be at risk for churn. On a recent campaign for a wireless client where we utilized both Business Intelligence and multichannel strategies, we saw the cost to save a customer drop from $127.04 in the control group to just $14.65 per customer in the test group. While at the same time an additional 138,400 customers were saved.

Companies need to strategically align themselves with partners that can help them leverage the growing amount of data available. We make a lot of calls, and that gives us a lot of past behaviors to model depending on what the client’s goal is. Let me put it this way, we don’t operate on the one-size-fits-all model.

For more information on the Business Intelligence Group or other InfoCision IT services contact Mike Herston at (330) 668-1400 or

Sign the March of Dimes petition to light the White House purple

Sign the March of Dimes petition to light the White House purple to celebrate the organization’s 75 years of fighting for healthier babies.

March of Dimes petitionThe March of Dimes, is collecting petitions in an effort to light the White House in purple on January 3, 2013, to honor the 75th anniversary of the founding of the March of Dimes by President Franklin Roosevelt, and as a symbol of hope for families whose children have been born too soon.

They still need about 2,200 more petitions signed by the end of the day TODAY!  I am strongly encouraging everyone I talk to today to sign this petition to applaud the March of Dimes for all it has done in creating healthier babies and happier families in its 75 years of existence.  It’s our turn to show our appreciation for them out by signing the petition so that the March of Dimes can be recognized in a meaningful way to celebrate all of its success, and give hope to those who still need a miracle of their own.

To sign the petition, please follow the simple steps below:

  1. Click this link:
  2. Enter your email address, name, zip code and re-type the security code listed at the bottom of the page.
  3. Wait for the verification email from to arrive in your inbox.
  4. Click the link in the email to verify your email address, which will open a new webpage.
  5. In that webpage, click the link that says “Sign This Petition.”
  6. You are finished!

It should take you only a few minutes to complete these steps, and I strongly encourage you to take the time to sign the petition.  Also, please share this with your family and friends today!  Together, we can make a difference!