The Phone is Still Vital for Your Business

In a society full of tweets, texts and typing, it may come as a surprise that phone calls remain the preferred channel of communication when it comes to your brand’s customer service. Tried and true, customers prefer actual voice communication for a plethora of reasons, but above all else, simply because it is the easiest option when looking to connect with a brand’s customer service department.

Consider this: When you are trying to get a hold of an organization’s customer service department, more times than not it’s because you have an urgent problem needing to be resolved. From a customer perspective, you don’t want to be typing in circles to a chatbot trying to explain your issues. Further, sending emails back and forth is even more time consuming than the chatbot. Yet, if you simply call into the customer service department, an agent is able to quickly look up your profile and guide you to a resolution.

More so, depending on your brand’s target market, they may not all be internet-savvy, or even have access to the internet. According to this study, only 66% of U.S. adults ages 65+ are using internet, making it worthwhile to stay accessible with offline communication.

Reasonably so, your brand’s voice communication can be the distinguishing factor amongst your competitors.  Show your customers that you value them by giving them exceptional live-person interaction rather than a chatbot or IVR system. In doing so, you will create a positive customer experience, and in turn find increased satisfaction and loyalty.

The take-away: Understand that voice communication, done well, is vital to your brand’s success and can set your brand apart. Finding the right contact center partner to handle your voice communication is critical in fostering your brand’s growth.

To learn more on how InfoCision provides the highest quality contact center solutions, visit www.infocision.com

Your call center is the heart of your customer service strategy

timthumbWhat call center service trends are on the horizon?

The New Year is always an exciting time to reflect on the previous year and look to the future. Having worked in the call center industry my entire career, I’ve witnessed many changes and the continuous evolution of the industry. I’m quite amazed by the changes I’ve seen over the past five years. I’m also pleased to see people and brands holding two-way conversations on multiple platforms, with the call center playing a pivotal role in ensuring excellent customer service.

Today the customer, not the company, selects the communication route. Although a recent study confirmed the telephone as the preferred channel for quality customer service, other call center service channels are exploding. Live chat customer service, Screen sharing, virtual agents and click-to-call weren’t even on the radar a couple years ago, however, each has seen steady growth in usage as customers seek immediate satisfaction.

So where is the call center industry headed? Much of what we’re going to see will hinge on the customer and their preferences. The call center will be seen as a ‘Relationship Hub’ that will enable customer journeys, not just one-off interactions. The call center will also drive business value by utilizing data insight that can be passed on to the client or used real-time to improve the customer-agent experience.

 Here’s a list of a couple trends I think we’ll see expand in the near future:

 

  1. Omni-channel – Call centers will continue to expand their service offerings to include an ever increasing number of communication channels. The key here though is to be able to connect and respond seamlessly. Customers on a website want to be able to chat online one minute then talk on the phone with a call center agent the next. And, they expect their information to carry over no matter what channel and no matter who they interact with.

 

  1. Social Media monitoring in the call center – Integrating social media monitoring into the call center’s toolbox has been a natural progression. As sites like Twitter and Facebook continue to serve as loudspeakers, broadcasting dissatisfaction, and occasionally satisfaction, to millions of people across the web, call centers can take the insights gleaned from these interactions and be the hub for monitoring and responding to online customers. According to Avaya, within five years, social media is likely to be a primary customer interaction channel for many servicing environments.

 

  1. Business Intelligence – The ability to analyze and use data to provide customer insight remains as important as ever. However the ability to do it real-time is the key. It’s all about building that relationship and being able to anticipate the customer’s needs while delivering excellent customer service. Whether a B2C or B2B customer, consumers are actively using research as part of the buying process. Companies will begin to see how effectively connecting their consumers’ inquiries with a tailored message or solution will drive a higher ROI by providing excellent customer service.

 

  1. Click to call/live chat – The ability to click a button on a website and talk with someone real-time has proven invaluable when it comes to online sales support. The platform has become nearly ubiquitous and is a critical tactic to help companies build and support relationships throughout the customer journey. eConsultancy reports that 83% of consumers require some degree of customer support while making an online purchase. Couple that with this statistic from Forrester – 45% of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly, and you begin to see why this option is growing rapidly.

 

  1. Virtual agents/Avatars – It sounds and looks like something from the movies but virtual agents, virtual consultants or concierges who appear as an animated form of a real person is here to stay. They may seem a little revolutionary, but they are proving to be an effective way to handle simpler customer service inquires or help guide consumers through a website or FAQs. I read a recent article discussing the testing of virtual nurses in the healthcare industry. These tests have shown that patients feel more comfortable and will ask more questions when conversing with a virtual nurse than a human nurse.

 

  1. Screen sharing – By being able to share a computer screen with the customer, an agent is able to answer questions and provide product information quicker thereby reducing call handling time and improving customer satisfaction. However, desktop sharing can be used to do more than just answer questions and resolve customer issues. To add revenue to customer service calls, many call centers offer an up-sell or cross-sell of new products and services during a call. With desktop sharing, the agent can, for example, walk a customer through a live product demo, greatly increasing the chance of a sale.

 I’m looking forward to seeing how these trends shape our business over the years. The simple act of providing an exceptional customer experience is an often overlooked marketing strategy. One thing you’ll notice is the one thing each of these trends have in common is that they all focus on the customer experience. The growth of these trends shows that many companies are finally beginning to see the ROI of a happy customer and the call centers role in making it all happen.  

What trends do you see in the future? Where do you see the call center industry heading? Please leave me a comment and let’s get the conversation started.

 

Little Tikes is serious about fun and customer service

Latest InfoCision Marketing Solutions Magazine now online

ltI am pleased to share with you InfoCision’s latest Marketing Solutions magazine featuring our longtime client Little Tikes.

Little Tikes is multi-national manufacturer and marketer of high-quality and innovative children’s toys. In business since 1970, you undoubtedly have either had or seen one of their iconic Cozy Coupe cars; one of their most famous products since its debut in 1979. The car is the top-selling car in the USA beating out popular actual car models such as the Honda Accord.

Finding a partner that shares their culture of excellent customer service was key for Little Tikes’ continued growth and success. By trusting a partner like InfoCision, who specializes in building relationships, the Little Tikes staff is able to focus on their core mission of delighting parents and children alike with their high-quality, durable, safe and imaginative toys.

To read more about the Little Tikes story, please check out the latest issue of InfoCision’s Marketing Solutions magazine. You’ll also find useful articles about:

  • utilizing chat to keep customers engaged when their interest is at a peak
  • the value of happy and engaged employees
  • strategic call routing’s impact on the customer experience
  • how new technology is providing an improved caller experience while driving revenue
  • maintaining compliance in today’s highly regulated mobile environment

I encourage you to check out the latest InfoCision Marketing Solutions and let me know what you think by commenting below.

Celebrating the season with our staff

mansfieldYou always hear people say the Christmas season is the most wonderful time of the year and I couldn’t agree more. It’s a beautiful time where we all come together to celebrate the holidays while sharing great memories with our friends and families.

Here at InfoCision we are in the middle of our annual Christmas parties and I have the pleasure of traveling to each location with the executive team to celebrate this special time with our terrific staff. I am really enjoying the great food, fun and fellowship these parties bring each year and I look forward to traveling to our remaining locations to build more cherished memories!

Don’t take risks when it comes to consumer data security and regulatory compliance

I am pleased to share with you that InfoCision just received word that we have once again been certified as a Level 1 Payment Card Industry (PCI) Service Provider and also a Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO).

As every business leader knows, there are always going to be times when an organization must take risks. However, when it comes to consumer data security and regulatory compliance, taking risks should never be an option. When selecting a contact center to work with it is important to consider an organization’s track record and reputation for upholding the highest standards when it comes to the critical matters of security and compliance.

Level 1 PCI Service Provider

We understand that our clients are entrusting us with important consumer information and they deserve full confidence that their customer’s credit card information will be handled with extreme care and security.

Level 1 is the highest a company can achieve and it demonstrates our adherence to the PCI Data Security Standard requirements for security management, policies, procedures, network architecture, software design and other critical protective measures. In our call center operations, it means that we make sure your customers’ payment card data is being kept safe throughout every transaction and protected against data breaches.

PACE-SRO

Here at InfoCision, our policy is that WE, not our clients, are primarily responsible for meeting all state and federal requirements. As a company, your reputation is too important to leave to chance so we have invested in technology and a dedicated team of regulatory compliance experts to give you peace of mind in all aspects of campaign management.

InfoCision first received PACE-SRO certification in 2009, becoming only the second company world-wide to achieve this honor. This is an important distinction because it validates that we are following industry best practices while delivering a standard of quality expected by customers. To achieve this, we undergo an annual assessment conducted by an external audit that determines which companies are in compliance with regulations imposed by the FTC.

If you have any questions about data security or regulatory compliance please leave me a comment and I’d be glad to answer.

 

Customer service essential to your brand

Increased number of consumers switching brands due to poor service

customer serviceIn this day and age, every company is aware that good customer service is essential to their company’s brand and that having a strong brand is essential to success. But recognition of this fact alone doesn’t necessarily translate into a company delivering good customer service.

The customer service industry doesn’t always have the best reputation and according to the recent “Accenture 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey,” 51% of U.S. consumers switched service providers this past year due to poor customer service experiences, a 5% increase from last year with consumer goods retailers, cable and satellite providers, and retail banks seeing the largest increases. These numbers illustrate that good customer service has a huge impact on your bottom line.

You may be asking yourself right now, what kinds of customer service experiences frustrate people the most? According to the survey:

  • Having to contact a company multiple times for the same reason
  • Being on hold for a long time
  • Repeating the same information to multiple employees or through multiple channels  
  • Having a company deliver something other than what they promised

Having the right people on your frontlines when dealing with customers is crucial as more than half of the customers surveyed found dealing with employees who aren’t knowledgeable or don’t acknowledge specific needs or preferences to be extremely frustrating. So how do you prevent losing customers due to poor customer service? The study cites aiming to resolve their issue in the first contact, contacting your customers proactively to inform them of ways to improve their experience with your service and rewarding your loyal customers with incentives to be the best ways to retain your valuable customers.

Utilizing the contact center to provide excellent customer service

Here are a few things to think about when creating your customer experience strategy from the perspective of the contact center, but I think these things hold true for retail and other customer service touchpoints:

1) Hire the right people. This might seem like common sense, but when call center customer service is viewed as a cost center, the quality of the representative isn’t always a priority – you get what you pay for. Whether you do customer service in-house, work with a contact center company, or even just have a small business with a few people answering the phones and manning the desk, you have to have the right people talking to your customers. They should be professionals who understand how to be courteous and empathize with your customers – and skilled enough to handle their issues on the first call or interaction.

2) Train your customer service reps for success. Even the best employees can’t succeed without the proper tools, and training is an important tool. As true brand ambassadors who know the ins and outs of your products and services so they can speak knowledgeably about them, helping to put the customer at ease while provide the information they need. Click here to read an article on how brand ambassadors boost customer service by InfoCision VP of Client Training Monica Ross.

3) Know your customers. Business intelligence technology allows us to track specific details about the buying history of our customers, so that we can craft messaging that makes sense for individuals rather than one mass marketing message for all. Customers who feel like you know them are likely to feel more connected and be more loyal to your brand. Click here to read a case study on how customizing offers can benefit your organization.

 

If you have any questions about customer service please leave me a comment and I’d be glad to answer.

 

The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing is attending DMA2013 in Chicago October 13-15

Itinerary includes prestigious Marketing EDGE Annual Awards Dinner

Chicago’s McCormick Place will be hopping as the DMA2013 rolls into town. But it’s not just for direct marketing companies. I, along with a very impressive contingency from The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at the University of Akron (UA) will be in attendance, including Jacob Farrar, executive director, Gary Laben, CEO, Knowledgebase Marketing and Taylor Institute advisory board chair, Mike Murray, CEO, TMA Direct and Taylor Institute advisory board member, Dr. William Baker, Professor and Chairman, Department of Marketing at The University of Akron and Dr. Greg Dumont, Professor at The University of Akron. We will be using this opportunity to stay abreast of what’s new in the cutting-edge direct marketing field.

I have been part of The Taylor Institute since its inception in 2004. As part of UA’s College of Business Administration, The Taylor Institute provides the only fully accredited four-year undergraduate degree in direct interactive marketing as well as an MBA graduate concentration, making this the most sophisticated direct marketing educational program anywhere in the world. Established by InfoCision Founders Gary and Karen Taylor, The Taylor Institute was created to fill an education void in the direct marketing field. Today, The Institute involves more than 700 students pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

We’re also excited to be attending the sold-out Marketing EDGE Annual Awards Dinner. I’d like to congratulate Harold “Hal” M. Brierley, Executive Chairman of Brierley+Partners who will receive the Edward N. Mayer, Jr. Education Leadership Award, and the team at OgilvyOne Worldwide who will be presented with the Corporate Leadership Award.

InfoCision attending DMA2013 in Chicago October 13-15

Stop by booth #1019 to learn how we will help you FIND, SERVE and KEEP your high-value customers for life

Going to the Direct Marketing Association conference is always a highlight in any marketer’s year. I am pleased to say that InfoCision will once again be exhibiting at this important event that is being held in Chicago October 13 – 15.

DMA2013 promises big data, bright minds and best practices as it attracts the best and brightest data-driven marketers in the world. Marketing is ever-changing and we have always realized the importance of keeping up on current and innovative trends so we can continue to be the vendor of choice for strategic direct marketing solutions.

For companies looking to contract telemarketing, direct marketing or customer service, InfoCision is the company to talk with. Our proven strategies have successfully integrated teleservices into the marketing mix for Fortune 100 companies and the nation’s largest nonprofit organizations; delivering a superior customer experience while driving a higher ROI.

If you are attending DMA2013, I encourage you to stop by our booth, #1019, to meet with one our direct marketing experts:

Curt Cramblett, vice president of new business development

Rob Sine, director of new business development

Dawn Keathley, director of new business development

Ashley Keschl, director of new business development

In addition, we are holding a contest at the booth where DMA attendees can enter to win an iPad and Apple TV prize package. Attendees can also pre-enter online at http://bit.ly/InfoCisionDMA2013 or call 877-258-0461.

I am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones at DMA2013!

Is your company prepared for the new TCPA revisions rolling out October 16th?

How to make sure you and your third party vendors are compliant

image_16_politicalEarlier this year several major companies were hit with significant fines for violating the current Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) law. Papa John’s agreed to pay a staggering $16.5 million dollars as part of a settlement. TCPA litigation has been increasing in recent years and the new TCPA revisions going into effect on October 16 are likely to fuel more litigious activity. As we all get ready for October 16, it’s important to keep in mind the significant monetary liabilities businesses can face under the TCPA, including liability for actions of third-party marketing partners.

ATDS defined, or is it?

Calls made without the use of an Automatic Telephone Dialing System (ATDS), or a prerecorded message are not subject to the TCPA’s consent requirements; however, there has been some uncertainty in the industry regarding what constitutes an ATDS. The term ATDS is defined as “equipment which has the capacity– (A) to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator; and (B) to dial such numbers.”  A large portion of the uncertainty stems from the term “capacity” in this definition. The concern has been that courts might interpret the term capacity so broadly that equipment would constitute an ATDS if it could be altered or modified in a manner that would allow it to autodial telephone numbers (even if it did not currently have the ability to do so).

We are beginning to see inconsistency in the case law related to TCPA regulations on cell phones. Of course, InfoCision will maintain the most conservative approach for our clients, as we have a manual dial solution which does not have the capacity to dial predictively.

A recent decision issued by the Northern District of Alabama, in Hunt v. 21st Mortgage Corp., held that a system must have the present capacity, at the time the calls were made, to operate as an autodialer for it to be an ATDS.  According to the Court, equipment is not an ATDS if “substantial modification or alteration” is required for the system to have such capacity. This is an important decision for companies that plan to make calls to cell phones using non-ATDS equipment, and it will be interesting to see whether other courts will adopt a similar interpretation when considering this issue in future cases.

What you need to know about obtaining consent 

As an industry leader and expert in compliance, we have prepared useful tips and sample consent templates to help organizations get ready for this new requirement. To learn more about the FCC TCPA requirement and to access the tips and sample consent templates click here.

InfoCision has already made all necessary adjustments and we encourage all organizations to review how they obtain cell phone numbers to be used for phone or for text solicitation. We also encourage all organizations to make sure any third party vendors they utilize are compliant.

If you have found this information helpful, please leave a comment or question if you want to discuss further.

Also, we will be at DMA2013 in Chicago from October 13 through October 15. Stop by booth #1019 and say hi!

Customer satisfaction key to enhancing your brand

Chief of Staff Steve Brubaker to join customer service panel at ITEXPO

Taylor SCORE event 005Customer satisfaction is crucial to a company’s bottom line. We live in a competitive marketplace where one customer service experience can shape the perception of your brand considerably. As many companies have discovered, the contact center is an important step in the customer’s journey and our role is to ensure our client’s customers always receive excellent customer care and we take that role seriously.

Here at InfoCision we know our Communicators making and taking calls for our clients are representing their company in front of their most valuable assets— their customers. Our knowledgeable Communicators are brand ambassadors for our client companies’ products, and are focused as much on brand reinforcement as on task resolution.

Brand ambassadors deliver higher customer satisfaction and ROI for clients

While our brand ambassadors require more upfront training time, they generate results that ultimately deliver higher ROI for our clients. Their expansive knowledge enables them to upsell and cross-sell, answer questions more quickly and satisfactorily, streamline calls, and—because they make sure customers are educated about the product or service—cut down on returns and cancellations.

There are no shortcuts to delivering a good call-center experience. Customers who experience good service buy more, are more loyal, and are more likely to recommend your product to others. Competition for customers is fierce, and the strategic use of call centers can provide marketers with far-reaching benefits.

InfoCision to be featured at ITEXPO on the topic of customer satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is more important now than ever before which is why I am excited to announce that I will be participating in a panel discussion at ITEXPO Las Vegas with other industry experts on the topic of customer satisfaction and creating a positive customer experience. The panel discussion, titled “Solving the Customer Experience Equation,” will be on Tuesday, August 27, 2013, 10 a.m. at Mandalay Bay. We will discuss topics such as the impact offshoring has on customer care, the importance that training and role-playing has on building deep relationships with customers and how technology can bring call centers and customers closer together. ITEXPO Las Vegas is the world’s largest and best-attended communications and technology trade show.

To read more about how InfoCision enhances clients’ brands through customer satisfaction check out my article in Electronic Retailer Magazine. I am looking forward to participating in this panel to shed some light on this important topic. If you have any questions about customer satisfaction, please leave me a comment and I’d be glad to answer.