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.

Donors need to move beyond The Overhead Myth

Three leading nonprofit sources launch campaign to correct misconception

OMI wanted to share with you an important letter directed to the donors of America from the country’s leading sources of information on nonprofits.  The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, GuideStar and Charity Navigator have joined forces to denounce the myth that judging a nonprofit by their overhead ratio, usually an organization’s administrative and fundraising costs, is a valid indicator of their performance.  This letter is signed by all three of the companies’ CEOs and it kicks off The Overhead Myth Campaign which aims to correct this common misconception.

So many times donors are erroneously guided to give to organizations that have low ‘overhead’, as that is what the media tells us is the mark of a good charity.  As a fundraising partner to the Who’s Who of national nonprofits we hear this often at InfoCision.  However, in the nonprofit world overhead can encompass many crucial investments, such as administration and fundraising, that not only help an organization sustain itself and run efficiently, but also be successful in growing and carrying out their mission.

When we focus predominantly on overhead, we can create what the Stanford Social Innovation Review calls “The Nonprofit Starvation Cycle.” By underfunding ‘overhead’, charities starve themselves of the freedom they need to best serve the people and communities they are trying to help. 

The letter concludes with urging donors to consider the whole picture when deciding which charities to donate to citing those served by the organizations need high performance more than just low overhead.  We couldn’t agree more.

Partnering with the nation’s leading nonprofits

Here at InfoCision we work with the nation’s top nonprofit organizations, which consciously choose to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to them. We are proud of the work we do in helping charities carry out their important missions. We not only help them raise money to help sustain their programs, but we also help to increase the number of donors involved; a key to sustaining themselves in serving millions of people around the world. We are honored our clients entrust us with such an essential function and hope this letter and campaign will educate and empower donors everywhere to support charity based on the results an organization produces , and not just their ‘overhead’.

This subject seems to be gaining attention from the media.  Our Friend Dan Pallotta has been very vocal on the issue.  And, with the release of this letter from highly regarded organizations like the BBB; could there be a movement under foot?  We can only hope.

I encourage everyone to help spread the word to end The Overhead Myth!  www.overheadmyth.com

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

InfoCision recognized by American Heart Association as a Fit-Friendly Worksite

Putting employees’ health and work-life balance first is part of being a successful company

AEDI am so pleased to share with everyone a recent recognition InfoCision received – we are once again an American Heart Association Gold Level Fit-Friendly Worksite! This award is given to employers who go above and beyond when it comes to their employees’ health.

When an organization as prestigious as the American Heart Association recognizes you, I think that speaks volumes about our dedication to our employees’ health.

It’s important for companies to provide convenient options that allow employees to create a successful work- life balance. Our employees have benefited from our on-site fitness centers, InfoFitness, which provide a convenient way to get and stay fit. Plus, InfoWellness, our state-of-the-art on-site clinics have helped decrease the number of visits to the emergency room or urgent care facility. The convenience of being right down the hall allows employees to keep their sick days for when they are sick, and not have to use them on doctor’s appointments. Visits are also free if you are on one of our company sponsored health plans

Some might see these upfront costs as a challenge, but they pale in comparison to the benefits reaped by InfoCision’s employees and the company itself.

Another proactive measure we’ve taken is installing AEDs in each of our 12 locations, and providing staff with the necessary training.  Heaven forbid an emergency occurs with one of our valued employees, but in case it does we are prepared. We wouldn’t open a new center without installing a fire extinguisher, and our employees’ heart health is just as important.

The American Red Cross supports the position that access to AEDs could save 50,000 lives each year.   

Think about implementing health initiatives in the workplace

I challenge everyone reading this to think about ways you might be able encourage healthier habits at your workplace. Even for smaller companies, there are things you can do that don’t require a huge up-front investment. In fact, the American Heart Association offers free assistance in developing walking programs and adopting other healthy practices in the workplace. In addition, the American Cancer Society offers employers initiatives to encourage employees to stop using tobacco.

If you have any questions about starting up a workplace wellness initiative, please leave me a comment and I’d be glad to answer. Plus, I’d love to hear your ideas on ways employers can encourage staff to lead healthier lives.

To read more about InfoCision’s dedication to employee wellness, please visit http://bit.ly/19ldoFZ

How to leverage your Big Data to generate Big Results

How do you leverage Big Data?

That’s really the question, isn’t it?  The #BigData buzz word is floating around on Linked In, Twitter and in articles that marketing professionals see every day.  And with good reason.  Having a wealth of data allows us to personalize our marketing offers, creating a more effective pitch while also providing the customer with a better and more engaging experience.

That sounds great in theory… but how do you really do that?

It starts with business intelligence

But let’s not put the cart before the horse. Big data is a wonderful means to an end, but before we can begin to map out a strategy, we need to first determine a calling campaign’s key performance indicators (KPI’s). Your client will have a set of KPI’s they want you to meet like service levels, call volume, conversion rates, etc.  As their call center partner, you’ll have additional KPIs to consider.  Once the goal metrics are identified, the next step is finding out where the data resides that will help you manage the objectives.  Then you can integrate that information into your strategy.

Highly skilled IT professionals and analytical marketers working together as a business intelligence team can utilize all available data to build statistical models that show behavior and patterns, and determine which factors drive a particular type of customer. They can set up algorithms to compute this information, which is used to tailor information in call center scripts, emails, targeted web ads and direct mail pieces. All helping to increase productivity, customer satisfaction, conversions and ultimately ROI.

And it’s more than just messaging. In the call center we can use previous call history to determine the best time to contact customers, increasing our connect rates.  We can determine the channel(s) of communication individual consumers are most likely to respond to favorably.  We can evaluate buying and purchasing patterns that give us insight into what offers consumers may be more interested in so we can personalize their offer – even upselling and cross-selling further enhancing conversion rates.  We can also identify and remove customers with the highest propensity to churn,  further minimizing marketing costs. For example, on one customer retention campaign, we utilized much of what I just outlined above. Using multiple strategies we were able to drive down the client’s cost per customer saved from $127 to a minimal $14.65, while at the same time retaining an additional 138,400 customers.

Leveraging real-time Big Data in the call center

This is where it gets fun. Using intelligence and technology to determine service level differentiations to boost conversion rates, improve customer service, customize call center scripts and sales scripts — on the fly, will ultimately increase customer value and drive long-term growth.  Real time analytics can also be a cost saver by driving target routing strategies (matching the appropriate agent with the sales lead), intelligent queue (prioritizing higher converting leads for quicker answer times), etc.

In the call center, as information is collected during a call, the targeted, personal message that best fits the customer may need to change on the fly.  But with the right technology, the script can be adapted as the call is going on.

At InfoCision, we’ve developed a proprietary solution called Inscription that delivers a customized script seamlessly in real-time as well as comprehensive customer profiles and screen pops. This technology, which has been in use since 2004, automatically tailors the script as the call is coming in, and can allow for real-time changes based on information gathered during the call.  Inscription is constantly updated based on customer call results so it provides the most recent data possible. This allows our Communicators to focus on building relationships with customers utilizing the most effective personalized offer.  It’s all about relationship management and looking beyond single transaction customer contacts toward long term ROI realization.

For more information on inscription, check out the case study I mentioned.

If you have thoughts on this post or other ways to leverage Big Data, please comment below.

Data Security: Big Data is an Asset that Must be Protected by Marketers

Big data has become a huge asset for marketers who understand how to use it to craft the right messages for the right people at the right time. But are you taking the necessary steps to protect this asset?

Big data has become a huge asset for marketers who understand how to use it to craft the right messages for the right people at the right time.  But are you taking the necessary steps to protect this asset?

Consumers becoming more aware of how their personal information is being used

As the use of big data has increased in recent years, so have consumer concerns over how their information is collected, shared, used and stored.  In fact, Jane Frost, CEO of Britain’s Market Research Society (a group representing companies working in market, social and opinion research, market analysis, customer insight and consultancy) recently told Information Week that “58 percent of inquiries to the Market Research Society’s confidential advisory service were related to data collection, integrity and use in 2011/12 alone, up from 43 percent the previous year.”

That’s a 15 percent jump in just a year if you’re scoring at home, and it means that consumers are increasingly interested and wary regarding anything involving their personal information.  To protect the asset that is big data, this means ALL marketers must place data security as our highest priority.  Any information breach that occurs not only weakens your own brand and/or the brands of your clients – but it impacts the entire industry as it makes consumers more wary of giving out their information in general.  So it makes sense for us to all work together to ensure we are using best practices in protecting our consumer data.

Why is big data an asset worth protecting for contact centers?

Contact centers represent a vast resource of information and business insight that will allow you to effectively translate customer data into customer experience improvements. Using data to determine service level differentiations to boost conversion rates, improve customer service, customize call center scripts and sales scripts — in real time, will ultimately increase customer value and drive long-term growth.  That’s why big data is so important, because it gives us the opportunity to market so much more effectively and efficiently by boosting sales, driving down hang-ups, enhancing brand value and inspiring our customers to share their good experiences with others.

DMA provides data security resources

The Direct Marketing Association is an outstanding resource for information on data security.  In fact, the DMA just released its annual Statistical Fact Book 2013, and one of the findings was very encouraging on this very topic: Almost 85 percent of marketers will be taking additional steps to protect customer data and privacy in 2013.  In addition, the DMA blog in April posted an entry with tips on how to establish a good data governance program from Experian VP of Regulatory Compliance and Information Practices, Judy Macior.

Finally, marketers must not only be good stewards of consumer information, but we must also be up-front with consumers about our practices and security measures so they feel comfortable sharing their information with us into the future.  If you have any tips or thoughts to share on big data security, please post a comment below.

Bad customer experiences are a brand killer, says study

It’s not just customers who personally have a bad experience you have to worry about. Those people are also 95 percent likely to share bad experiences with others, and more than half of those surveyed said they would share bad experiences with five or more other people. With social media and online product reviews at their fingertips, customers can share their good or bad experience with more than just family, friends and acquaintances – they can share it with the world!

We all know that providing a great customer experience is important, but sometimes it’s hard to quantify just how important.  That’s why I was intrigued earlier this week when I came across the results of a study by Zendesk looking to discover the long-term impact of good customer service.

Stats on good/bad customer experiences

The overwhelming takeaway from the study results is not that you can’t survive without providing an outstanding customer experience – rather, it is that you will never survive if you provide a bad customer experience.  Check out the stats: 24 percent of people continue to seek out the same vendor for two years after good experiences – and that’s important.  But 39 percent of people will avoid a vendor for at least two years that provides a bad experience.  And that number jumps to nearly 80 percent for high-income households – likely to be a target of any product or service that does more than satisfy basic human needs.

But it’s not just the customers who personally have the bad experiences you have to worry about.  Those people are also 95 percent likely to share bad experiences with others, and more than half of those surveyed said they would share bad experiences with five or more other people.  With social media and online product reviews at their fingertips, customers can share their good or bad experience with more than just family, friends and acquaintances – they can share it with the world!  And they are sharing in increasing numbers, as 58 percent of respondents to the survey said they are more likely to share their customer experiences with others than they were just five years ago.

Don’t wait to build a better customer experience

Clearly this study shows that bad customer experiences can destroy your brand image for consumers. The time to create the best experience for customers is not after you’ve heard complaints or seen slipping revenues – it’s right now. But how can you do it?

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.