Get in Touch With Customer Needs

Businesses still struggle to meet customer expectations even as they universally acknowledge the criticality of supporting and engaging customers in today’s digital world. Nowhere are their efforts to provide an optimal customer experience more important than in the contact center—the hub of customer service interactions. Yet, a recent report from Ovum and Boldchat indicates that a discrepancy exists between customer behaviors and contact center support. Specifically, contact centers are not delivering integrated support offerings that meet the demands of connected, mobile users.

Whereas customers are using multiple digital channels to search for information, businesses fall short when it comes to providing responsive websites and applications that seamlessly support those usages. Even contact centers that incorporate technologies to address multichannel customer engagement must still strive to improve resolution rates by reducing customer efforts to find answers and reach Communicators for urgent queries.

To put these needs in perspective, consider that the use of mobile applications to access support has increased from 64 percent in 2014 to 83 percent in 2016, according to the report. In addition, customer use of mobile websites to access customer service has increased from 57 percent to 64 percent in the same time period. Plus, the number of callers using smartphones vs. landlines to reach a contact center is greater for the first time.

So, what can contact center leaders do now to narrow the gap between customers and contact centers regarding the quality of customer support?

One way is to use data to better track customer Web usage related to service issues. Another is to increase Web-based, self-help experiences for customers. To maintain a feeling of support in these instances, enable a live chat option. Forward-thinking companies have already implemented this service with success. The report revealed that live chat use from a mobile site or application has increased from 33 percent to 44 percent in the last two years due to increased accessibility and the technology’s ability to provide fast access to a live representative during a Web or mobile experience.

Contact center leaders should also be paying close attention to customer complaints about automated response systems. Forty-three percent of customers reported frustration with the amount of time it takes to reach a representative, which likely explains why 40 percent of customers turn to the Web for answers to their inquiries. Ovum and Boldchat’s report also indicates that 78 percent of customers would choose a channel other than phone calls if they knew they could get a resolution on the first attempt.

Today’s customers are more empowered than ever. Businesses must respond to this new environment by investing in tools that support digital channels and improve internal processes and response times. Stay agile; the next big thing is just over the horizon.

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.

Customer Care: A Magnet for Consumer Retention

We are in a new era of consumer relations: the Information Age. With technology readily available to your customers, your contact centers have to be more effective than a Google search when addressing their needs. Although this will require extra effort, you’ll notice a great increase in your brand-loyal customers.

The trick to retaining customers is to use your Customer Care to draw customers toward your brand—like a magnet! Build a strategy that focuses on engagement and relationship building to stay tightly connected to those who support your business.

Why is Customer Care so important for establishing repeat business?  If you take care of your customers, and make sure that they are totally satisfied with your company, they will be more apt to keep doing business with your organization.

According to a recent study, 89 percent of respondents claimed that good service makes them feel more positive about the brands with which they engage. Additionally, 43 percent admitted that when companies make mistakes, they are more forgiving to organizations they think understand them.

Consider the following points to magnetize customers to your brand:

Use data to your advantage: Your business gathers information about your customers during every interaction. But are you using this information to the best of your advantage? Compile the information you collect, and use it to improve customer interactions. The goal is to understand your customers’ needs more and more with each engagement. Communicators should be able to access notes from previous calls or chats so that customers do not have to repeat themselves. Customers who require foreign language assistance should be automatically routed to agents who can communicate with them. The same can be said for customers who are hard of hearing. Remembering small details will go a long way in fostering feelings of trust and loyalty from customers—especially because not every company goes to such lengths.

Be flexible when possible: Suppose a customer calls, explaining why he or she can’t make a payment on time. Listen to the customer, and offer support or advice to make the payment process easier. Remember: Communicators should not perform like robots, so encourage your team to be empathetic and understanding. These customers will, in turn, think of your brand as compassionate and friendly. As a result, they will be more apt to reward your company with repeat business and recommend your company to others.

Be accessible: Customers value effortless communication. After all, that’s our job! Offer self-help features on your website for speedy assistance. Use a call-back service, so that customers can go about their businesses without having to wait on hold. And consider providing after-hours support for customer assistance after normal working hours. Making your brand accessible will show your customers that you care about their patronage and are standing by to accommodate their needs.

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.

 

 

The Truth about Donor Retention in Nonprofit Fundraising

Successful nonprofit fundraising requires a strong marketing strategy and the use of intuitive technology that gleans actionable insights about prospective and existing donors. After all, retaining donors is much like retaining consumers in that organizations must understand their audiences’ demographics and interests so that they can personalize and target their messages for better engagement.

But implementing a sound fundraising strategy isn’t so easy. In fact, many nonprofits struggle to craft a truly effective campaign strategy that increases donor retention rates year-over-year. Indeed, the “2014 Fundraising Effectiveness Project Survey Report” revealed that the average donor attrition rate is 57 percent. What’s more, the donor retention rate decreased by 7 percent from 2006 to 2014.

As such, nonprofits ought to cast an eye towards the integrated marketing solutions afforded by today’s contact centers to increase donor retention. For instance, its takes an excellent communicator to aptly convey the value of your nonprofit to potential donors, so organizations would be wise to enlist the help of trained professionals who can state your case in the most impactful light.

Additionally, contact centers have access to a myriad of sophisticated technology that can help nonprofits narrow down their audience for each campaign. For instance, if your donor attrition rate has substantially risen it might be due to an over generalized marketing message. Contact centers, however, can grant you access to data analytics that will help you realize patterns amongst your donor-base. Once these patterns—similar demographic backgrounds, past contributions, personal interests and charity affiliations—are established you can then segment your audience into groups based on similarities. In doing so, you can personalize your messages, whether they are over the phone or through an email marketing message, to match your donors pertinent concerns and improve the likelihood of gaining their contribution.

Retaining loyal donors is essential to nonprofit fundraising success. Thankfully, contact centers can provide the marketing guidance and support that is needed to cultivate long-lasting donor relationships.

Seeking additional fundraising advice? Read more here.

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.

Quality of Customer Care Is Now in the Eye of the Beholder

Think about how good it feels when you call your favorite local restaurant for takeout and the order-taker not only greets you by your first name, but also remembers your individual preferences (well-done, extra sauce on the side). In remembering these small but important details, the business shows that it cares about you as a customer; as a result, the restaurant has a spot on your speed dial.

Your contact center most likely deals with a much larger customer base than a local restaurant does. Still, it’s imperative that you avoid taking a blanket approach to customer care and strive to create highly personalized customer interactions. Why? Customers today have come to expect white-glove service over the phone; if you don’t provide it, chances are more than likely that your competitors will.

As a recent Walker report states, this is a trend that will increase in importance over the next few years.

“The customer of 2020 will be more informed and in charge of the experience they receive,” the report sponsor explains. “They will expect companies to know their individual needs and personalize the experience.”

That being said, here are the steps your contact center needs to improve its quality of customer care:

Understand your customers: It’s important that agents can see exactly who is on the other end of the line before picking up the phone. The easiest way to do this is to assign individual profiles to each one of your customers. Using an application like Inscription, customer profiles can be created and updated in real time.

Put your data to use: Collecting customer data is an important first step. Next, you need to make sure that you use it to facilitate better experiences. If a customer prefers to speak Spanish or is hard of hearing, for instance, he or she should not have to select the option every time. You can also use customer data to create intelligent scripts that can greet callers based on known preferences.

Be mindful of your customers’ time: Make sure that your contact center is known for being as efficient as it is knowledgeable about its customers. Update your interactive voice response system so that it’s user-friendly (meaning it’s easy to understand and navigate). You should also invest in a skills-based routing solution so that the best available agent is always assigned to assist customers with their inquiries. This way, your customers will always be greeted by someone who is equipped with the necessary skill set to answer their questions.

In taking these steps, your business will differentiate itself from many other providers in its industry. Click here to learn more about how InfoCision can help make customer care a strong point in your company.

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.

To Live Chat, or Not to Live Chat? That is the Customer Care Question

The combination of multi-channel marketing solutions you choose to implement in your customer care strategy weighs heavily on your customers’ preferences.

That’s right, it’s up to your customers to shape your contact center’s use of preferred communications methods. After all, if you don’t heed the clues your customers offer you each day you are probably making more missteps than achievements. For example, it’s true that many consumers appreciate a Web-based live chat option for customer care inquiries, but no two consumers are the same and oftentimes communication preferences vary by age group and other important demographic and situational specificities.

In fact, a recent survey from the online CRM review firm Software Advice titled “The Impact of Demographics on Live Chat Customer Service” revealed that 49 percent of respondents prefer using live chat for online shopping questions, while 74 percent prefer telephone for complex financial questions. Furthermore, the survey also revealed that regardless of the nature of the inquiry, 56 percent of those aged 18 to 34 prefer live chat to phone, while only 27 percent of those aged 35 and older share  that same preference.

Case in point: it’s essential that contact centers provide a multitude of options for their customers while remaining attentive to age or industry-defined preferences. And while it will undoubtedly prove difficult to gauge an overall consensus of your customers’ preferences simply from their interactions, it is advantageous to leverage data analytics to glean more accurate conclusions.

For instance, your contact center should compile a complete customer profile database. By analyzing this information with data analytics you can gain more insights about the demographic makeup of your consumer base. As well, it’s important to have a database of customers’ transactional history, this way you can also understand which customers made contact with your business over which channels.

So, do your research first, then decide whether certain solutions make sense for your business or not.

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.