Keep Pace With E-Commerce Trends in the New Year

Your online business must be responsive—not only to visitors but to trends which, if ignored, may trip you up eventually. With the quick pace of modern societal and technological advances, organizations need to keep a finger on the pulse of their industries and develop the agility to react to pressures at the drop of a dime.

The outlook for 2017 includes several e-commerce trends that are primed to turn into major industry drivers. Find them listed here, along with steps you can take to stay ahead of the curve:

Dynamic real-time shopping: The online shopping experience is becoming personalized to each customer. Improvements in collecting, organizing and analyzing data mean that customers will no longer be asked to respond to product recommendations that seem to come out of left field. Instead, recommendations will be based on their unique preferences, geographic location, demographic group, past purchases, market trends and brand interactions—automatically. E-commerce businesses should tap into the technology of leading e-commerce platforms to enable this capability.

Cyber November: Online retailers have started to offer customers discounts in advance of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rushes—to offset unruly crowds in stores and to get a jump on holiday spending. In 2015, major retailers Target and Walmart announced in-store deals leading up to Black Friday, and mega online retailer Amazon took the cue, offering deals throughout the month of November. To gain a piece of the pie, focus on mobile spending, which is slated to account for 60 percent of online sales by year-end; offer stellar shopping experiences on smartphones and tablets.

Chatbots: These are fully automated “chat” agents that can act as a first point of contact for brands. Chatbots increase the number of platforms on which brands can offer transactions through guided, interactive browsing. In 2015, tech giants released the enabling application programming interfaces (APIs) that made it cost-effective for bot developers to create their own, using their own servers. Experts predict that the artificial intelligence that fuels chatbots will improve with time, making conversations more natural, with better response rates. Explore this technology now to reduce customer effort and lower support costs.

Checkout: Expect traditional wallets to be replaced by “mobile” payments, and set your site up to accept these new payment methods. Same-day delivery is also becoming a competitive differentiator, as is operating in smaller spaces that can serve as showrooms, fitting rooms, and pick-up/drop-off points.

In this era where power has shifted away from companies and toward digitally connected, technology-empowered customers, retailers need to fully embrace digital commerce to thrive. With a few clicks of a mouse, customers can easily switch companies to find a better online experience. In this environment, being customer-obsessed must be your competitive strategy.

How to Move From Data to Insights to Action

As a business leader, you are told often enough to harness the data in your organization to drive more-effective decision making. And maybe you’re thinking “easier said than done”—and you’d be correct.

It’s a struggle in today’s business environment to rein in data when more and more of it arrives every day. Yet the amount of data doesn’t change the fundamental executive decision-making premise: Understand the market to determine how and where to best compete.

So, how do you get from vast compilations of data to pertinent insights that can grow your business?

To win customers, you need data and analytics to show what they want at the times when they are bent on going somewhere, or learning, doing or buying something. You must be able to identify those instances and act on them wisely. Companies that excel go beyond analytics; they build insights they can use to develop truly relevant customer experiences.

Take the following recommendations into consideration:

Integrate data: First, you need to achieve a single view of your customer base. Only then can you ensure optimal product offerings and the most effective communication strategies. Mix together multiple sources of customer and marketing data—from email response rates to data from in-person meetings—with a strong focus on demand generation, to enhance the customer experience. Continually use data and analytics to test your effectiveness. According to a recent study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, some companies that have captured the full customer journey by integrating multiple sources of data are generating up to 8.5X higher shareholder value.

Stay ahead of the curve: Second, use analytics to generate new value for customers whenever they reach out to your brand, not just to strengthen marketing effectiveness. Continually develop more-sophisticated analytics capabilities and applications, as the ability to gain competitive leverage from analytics is declining as more organizations develop capabilities.

Leverage tools: Sophisticated technology tools allow you to drive customer satisfaction in diverse ways—from your website’s ease of use, to on-time delivery, to actual product performance. This is where analyzing social media and direct customer feedback is especially beneficial.

Broaden marketing scope: Eliminate enterprise market­ing divisions and vertically integrate their roles within each line of business to break down organizational barriers to improving customer experience. This will entrench marketers into a par­ticular customer experience and concentrate their attention on each phase of the customer journey. This includes moving from a product-centric to a customer-centric focus. In today’s market—full of smart and demanding consumers, as well as product commoditization—trying to compete by managing costs won’t do the job. Instead, apply formal customer value measurements to drive and evaluate changes.

Build a team: Create a team of analytics professionals who understand not only data but the technologies that help to amalgamate data into a cohesive whole. Beyond that, place more emphasis on the data than the analytics team, meaning determine the questions the data should answer before setting your analysts free. Otherwise, you could end up with massive amounts of data that actually cloud business implications instead of offering clarity.

A disciplined approach to analytics will garner you an improved customer experience. Just as with any decision-making process, optimize analytics to obtain the desired results.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Getting Contact Center Data Into the Right Hands to Improve Processes

Your contact center leaders have collected enough data on your customers to ensure that the contact center can meet their needs and remain a vital force in achieving company goals. But these leaders can’t make the necessary changes on their own; your contact center does not function well as an island. Successful operation requires collaboration with other business units, like sales, marketing and IT. So, how do you get critical data insights from the contact center into the right hands across the organization to drive process improvements?

Well, there’s a process for driving process improvements, and it goes like this:

Rid your business of organizational silos: You can’t do this across the board, of course, as some silos provide necessary structure to your organization; instead, aim to destroy the problems caused by silos.  That is, keep the structure that advances accountability and responsibility, but lose the tunnel vision that inhibits communication and cooperation. Look for areas where decreasing autonomy and increasing collaboration would be beneficial to the business. Put measures in place that prevent decisions from being made in isolation going forward.

Develop a mechanism to define initiatives and submit them for prioritization, approval and funding: Given today’s level of customer expectations and business competition, project choices are critical to the very survival of organizations that must make the best use of limited resources. To eliminate bias and errors, decision makers should use a formal approach—whether quantitative or qualitative—when prioritizing projects. Next, the value of the project vs. its cost must be established; this ratio provides a basis of understanding across the organization about what is important. Make sure that systems are in place so that the value is consistent with the organization’s fundamental objectives and strategy.

Ensure that information management activities are effective and successful: This initiative must encompass all the systems and processes within your organization for the creation and use of corporate information. Recognize the complexities that exist and commit to managing them. There are no silver bullets, so avoid oversimplified solutions. Once the initiative is defined, focus on buy-in and active participation of staff throughout your organization; communicate extensively. Adoption will be elusive unless the project delivers tangible and visible benefits; so, make sure all your ducks are in a row as regards identifying concrete business needs and how you’ll measure the project’s impact. This is a long journey; don’t try to account for every factor during development or the project will come to a standstill. Assume that small tweaks will continue to be necessary throughout implementation.

Companies that act on contact center data and analysis to address top priorities will gain the upper hand at providing stellar customer experiences and omnichannel services—hallmarks of today’s most successful businesses.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Why the Phone Provides High-Value Leads

Recent research by BIA/Kelsey predicts that annual calls to businesses from smartphones will reach 162 billion by 2019. This number is a dramatic increase—more than double—over the 77 billion calls generated similarly last year. Much of this traffic is due to the proliferation of mobile ads that merge with the scrolling feed-based interfaces of social apps like Facebook and Instagram.

Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, customers with more complex issues are being driven to the phones. After having tried and failed at previous attempts for issue-resolution, usually via Web chat or text messaging, customers now use the phone as something of a last resort. As a result they may be frustrated or angry—and inclined to provide feedback—on whatever drove them to place the call in the first place.

With these two facts in hand, it’s safe to say that phone calls, more than any other mode of communication, can tell us a great deal about our customers.

The ability to gather information from phone calls is a competitive advantage that offers invaluable insights about potential and current customers. Understanding which marketing campaigns are driving phone calls is key to your marketing strategy. Similarly, being able to gather the complex feedback arising from a distress call can be used to inform everything from product development to quality of service to customer preferences. The significance of knowing why people are calling, where they’re calling from, and what they need cannot be understated.

Does your call center have the technology tools necessary to make the most of your phone calls?

Turning phone call information into actionable data requires call-tracking software. But before jumping in, make your goals concrete. What information is your business partner looking for? What information would be valuable if tracked? You can enhance the value of your services by working closely with your client to determine which of the following insights would be most valuable:

  • Keyword information. Some call-tracking software enables you to find out what keyword search led to the discovery of the company’s mobile ad. Keyword searches that lead to contact, and then paying customers, are high in value and can be used for future marketing purposes.
  • Caller location. Customer demographics such as this one can be used to identify patterns linked to purchases.
  • Marketing campaign effectiveness. Unique phone numbers placed strategically on different web pages can be tracked to determine which campaigns were the most effective, or which locations proved most fruitful.
  • Call duration. Too long or too short varies by business, but once a reasonable standard has been defined, it’s good to know what’s happening in reality. Calls that take longer than the defined standard may indicate root problems that need to be addressed, either on the part of the business or the call center.
  • Identify your best customer. Listening to calls and learning more about what customers are looking for enables businesses to visualize their ideal customer, so they can direct their efforts appropriately.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Why Social Listening Is Your Secret Weapon

Listening is harder than talking, both for people and for businesses. Stephen Covey, author of the top-selling 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said that most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand; we’re usually just waiting until the talker finishes so we can have our turn to speak. That’s not really listening.

Businesses usually do more talking than listening, too. Finely crafted messages appear on Facebook, in ads, and across other marketing content, but there hasn’t been much real listening going on. Without it, there’s no way of truly understanding your customers, making it difficult to give them what they want.

Thanks to social media, the idea of “listening” is finally being heard. Social media platforms offer a wealth of information as to what people are saying about a brand. Companies can also learn what their customers are searching for, where their customers are, and how their competitors are faring. This information can be used to create more personalized marketing content that targets specific audiences.

Just like the traditional form of listening, however, social media listening takes patience, and a willingness to hear what people have to say.

Taking it one step further, social listening becomes social intelligence when business leaders use what they’ve heard to drive business actions. For instance, to plan future innovations in flight technology, GE used Twitter conversations to understand passenger expectations. Visa, too, leveraged social media insights to extend its reach to a new target market of small businesses. And after listening to Facebook and Twitter, General Mills decided to drop artificial flavors and colors from its cereals.

Listening may not always yield business-altering insights, but if companies use these opportunities wisely, they can be assured of one thing at least: Customers will appreciate the chance to be heard, which is a win no matter what.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

How to Avoid ‘Analysis Paralysis’ in the Contact Center

In customer care centers, data is everywhere. Almost every contact center has tools in place to capture it, knowing that data holds the key to optimizing operations.

Likewise, most contact center managers are adept at turning this data into information through reporting. Reporting is particularly useful for monitoring purposes; when unexpected data presents itself, it highlights areas that may need attention. Reporting can lead to improvements in business performance, but if all you’re doing is reporting, you’re probably not taking full advantage of your data. It’s that higher-level activity—analysis—that delivers the biggest punch.

When done right, data analysis gives you a window into why things are happening the way they are, and even helps you understand what to do about it. Analysis is complex in nature, though, which is why it presents a challenge. It certainly is more time-consuming than reporting, but deriving true insights from huge amounts of data leads many managers to suffer from what is known as analysis paralysis.

To avoid becoming crippled by data analytics, you need a clear strategy for capturing, managing, and analyzing data. Choose your business focus, ask relevant questions, and utilize a strategy that will make your data more impactful to your business. Two activities that can lead to greater value insights are:

  • Market segmentation—the data you gather can help you understand customers on a more personal level. Besides basic demographic information, gather data on their routines and habits, shopping behavior, attitudes and interests. With your business objective in mind, you can craft specific, relevant messages to certain groups of customers, making the messages more likely to get noticed.
  • Predictive analytics—contact centers turn up plenty of data over the course of an individual’s customer journey, including how many times they made contact, what time of day, and their preferred mode of communication. They also voiced concerns, opinions, and complaints every time. Careful analysis allows you to identify at-risk customers, for example, and be proactive in your attempts to retain them.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

 

 

Optimize Your Call Center With The Right Technology Solutions

It’s quite likely that you’ve set some lofty goals for 2016. Perhaps you want to improve your overall call resolution or decrease your call abandonment score.  Whatever your goal may be, it’s important that you provide employees with the right set of technology tools to help them succeed.

After all, even the most skilled and productive team of Communicators could improve with the assistance of truly innovative customer care technology. Below are three technologies that will help you reach your 2016 goals and take your business to the next level.

  • Call blending: In the past, Communicators would have to log out and enter a specific code to make outbound or inbound calls, which was highly inefficient. With call blending, however, employees have the ability to make outbound calls while also being able to receive inbound calls, using one easy-to-use technology system. Call blending assures that employees are always making the most of their time even when inbound activity slows down.
  • Skills-based routing: Not all Communicators are created equal. Some have specific skills in which they excel. Skills-based routing is a strategy in which certain incoming calls are routed to the most suitable agent, rather than assigning the call to the next available agent. This technology ensures that the most knowledgeable and experienced Communicators are available to tackle complex situations.
  • Remote call monitoring: Are you confident that your Communicators are adhering to company policies and providing customers with the best experience? Remote call monitoring allows managers to listen-in on and monitor calls. In doing so, supervisors gain a 360-view of how well their employees are handling in-the-moment problem solving as well as insight as to how the customers are responding.

If you’re not already using these three technologies, than you might want to consider adding them to your technology suite, as it can help improves both your Communicators’ and customers’ experiences.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

How Word-of-Mouth Can Make or Break Your Contact Center Success

When a consumer has a great experience with a brand he or she is likely to tell friends and family about the experience, as well as recommend the business, therefore generating more leads via word-of-mouth.

In fact, the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer revealed that 42 percent of consumers are most likely to try new business if they were referred by a friend or family member. In fact, 34 percent of consumers said that positive word-of-mouth is even more important than a sale or promotion.

But consumers are just as likely—if not more—to spread negative feedback like wildfire if their experience is disappointing. Indeed, businesses must ensure their customer care initiatives are pristine in order to inspire positive word-of-mouth about their brand. As such, the strength and intuitiveness of contact center agents’ behaviors—such as social intelligence, empathy and problem solving skills—are essential to providing a truly out-of-this-world customer experience.

Since consumers’ reactions carry the most weight in your business’ success and reputation, it’s vital to ensure your customer care agents end every call on a positive note. Here are two to enhance your agents’ quality of customer care:

  • Utilizing Business Intelligence Tools: There is much to be said about contact center technology and its ability to guide agents’ before, during and after their interactions with consumers. For example, tools like predictive analysis garner insights from consumers’ past behaviors and compiles the information in such a way that allows agents to prepare for future interactions more soundly. This technology helps agents solve problems faster and become more receptive to particular consumer’s preferences.
  • Continuing Professional Development: Once agents have completed initial training, their learning process shouldn’t come to a halt. Instead, contact center supervisors should continue to provide professional development training in order to maintain proper phone etiquette and problem solving skills. It’s important that all agents are able to come across as knowledgeable and empathetic over the phone with each and every consumer to ensure the best customer care experience possible.

A single phone call can either generate a multitude of leads or backfire and send your brand’s reputation on a downwards spiral. However, businesses can ensure that all chatter about its brand is positive so long as contact center agents make use of the right tools and continuously improve upon their quality of customer care best practices.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Study Shows Outbound Marketing Generates Most Leads

When you’ve got a best-in-class contact center as your business partner, you have more than just great B2B customer care support, you have help with meeting your company’s goals and improving your bottom line.

In fact, a recent study revealed that 39 percent of B2B sales leads are generated from outbound marketing in the form of inside sales or telecommunications—compared to just 27 percent from trade shows and 17 percent from online searches and testimonials. From these statistics, one can ascertain that human interaction still wins out when it comes to maintaining customer loyalty and acquiring new patrons.

To maximize your contact center services ROI, therefore, use your contact center to help generate leads, segment your marketing database, and build stronger relationships with new and existing clients.

Business intelligence tools, like market segmentation software paired with a robust consumer database, can help brands improve their marketing campaigns by reaching more-qualified and sensible leads. For instance, marketing segmentation technology works to extract business contacts from your consumer database, aggregate their characteristics including demographics and buying behavior, and help guide your marketing initiatives toward a strategically targeted consumer base.

In addition to these technology benefits, the level of expertise and poise displayed by your agents while handling phone calls can boost your sales as well. For example, a team of expertly trained agents who act as your brand ambassadors can help portray your brand in a positive light. Mature and knowledgeable brand representatives with social intuitiveness will boost your brand’s ability to make the long-lasting connections you need to retain and attract more consumers.

So think again before putting outbound marketing on the back burner—it’s just what you need to rejuvenate your B2B sales success!

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Business and Social Intelligence: Why You Need Both in Your Contact Center

Where do technology and empathy meet in the middle? In the contact center space—that is, a bit of both human compassion and hard hitting data is required to provide the best possible customer care and, in turn, contact center services ROI. If you’re ever stumped as to why you aren’t seeing a profitable return on your contact center services, then perhaps it might be time to investigate how well your organization is marrying business and social intelligence.

You see, the role of the Communicator and the role of data analytics must support each other. In fact, without a strong contact center support system comprised of business intelligence tools—like predictive analysis, market segmentation, and socially intuitive Communicators, then your customer churn rates are likely much higher than they ought to be.

For example, it’s one thing to employ a staff of exuberant contact center agents; however, if they can’t make use of important data derived from predictive analysis, they will most likely miss the mark with customer care—leading to continuous customer churn.

A Business Intelligence tool like predictive analysis aggregates customer history so as to remove unnecessary guesswork from a Communicators’ interaction, informing them of the likelihood of the customer’s inquiry before the agent even answers the phone. In doing so, Communicators are sufficiently prepared to solve the problem at hand so they can focus on demonstrating compassion while on the phone.

Conversely, making use of data can only take your agents so far if they aren’t innately equipped with the right set of interpersonal skills. For instance, say your contact center uses market segmentation to strategically group sets of customers based on personal characteristics and buying behaviors. Subsequently, you would assign a contact center agent who engenders the same characteristics and can therefore care for these customers in most knowledgeable and understanding way. But, imagine an agent who buckles under the pressure of addressing issues and struggles to remain calm when speaking with customers. It’s important to not only expertly train your agents but ensure they are confident and compassionate from day one.

In the contact center space, being analytical and emotional are equally important and directly related to your overall contact center services ROI. So ask yourself: “Is my contact center adequately balanced?” If you’re unsure of the answer, feel free to contact us to learn more about striking this balance.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several University boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.