Keep The Creativity Coming!

In business, especially in the contact center space, it’s easy for teams to keep doing business as usual once they learn what works.  A good contact center knows their customers, all the ins and outs of their proprietary technology, and has developed an array of standardized strategies for handling challenges. However, when the ultimate desire is for a business to grow, the flow of creative ideas in every realm of the business must not only continue, but flourish.

At InfoCision, our team of marketers constantly tests new ideas, in a way that can be measured and replicated. This includes considering all aspects of the customer experience, examining and testing at all levels within the myriad of multi-channel solutions available: scripts, letter packages, call routing strategies, training materials, reporting techniques, hiring and retention, quality measurements, even ancillary services. Creativity involves utilizing our Business Analytics department to provide demographic and transactional data modeling or run a variety of scenarios to generate alternate probabilities and outcomes.  All our insights and findings are used to develop best practices, which are constantly examined for relevancy and adjusted with fine-tuning.

Having a culture of operational excellence, combined with the ingenuity and aptitude for continual testing across departments, enables us to provide excellent customer service and unmatched ROI.

 

 

Contact Centers Can’t Afford Noncompliance

In a recent decision, the Federal Trade Commission raised the civil penalty for certain telemarketing sales law violations from $16,000 to $40,000 per instance, including fines for contacting individuals on Do-Not-Call (DNC) lists.

The FTC says the fee was more than doubled to adjust for inflation. The fine had been $16,000 since February of 2009; earlier it had been $11,000.

The Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) was adopted by the FTC to protect consumers against deceptive acts or practices by telemarketers. As such, it restricts the making of telemarketing calls and the use of automatic telephone dialing (robocalling) systems, and artificial or prerecorded voice messages. The rules apply to common carriers as well as to other marketers.

If your business uses telemarketing (a plan, program or campaign to induce the purchase of goods or services or a charitable contribution involving more than one interstate telephone call), you’ll want to read up on the do’s and don’ts of the TSR if paying $40,000 a pop per violation wouldn’t sit well with your accountants.

Don’ts—Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Calling numbers on the National DNC Registry without an exemption
  • Failing to suppress against the National DNC Registry once an established business relationship has expired
  • Neglecting to suppress against the business’s internal DNC list at the required minimum frequency
  • Failing to honor DNC requests or a DNC policy request within 30 days
  • Neglecting to train agents to make all TSR-required disclosures at the beginning of every call
  • Placing calls outside of the allowable timeframe of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Failing to display accurate caller identification information (caller’s name and telephone number)
  • Abandoning more than 3 percent of calls per campaign per month

Do’s—Follow these best practices to comply with TSR:

  • Make certain prompt disclosures in every outbound and inbound call, including information a consumer would need to make an informed decision, before the consumer pays for the goods or services offered.
  • Promptly disclose four items of information before any sales pitch is given: seller’s identity; purpose of the call (to sell goods of services); the nature of the goods/services; in the case of a prize promotion, that no purchase or payment is required to participate or win.
  • Get express verifiable authorization if accepting payment by methods other than credit or debit card.
  • Maintain records for 24 months.
  • Comply with entity-specific DNC requirements.
  • Include a prompt keypress or voice-activated opt-out mechanism in any prerecorded message call on behalf of a non-profit organization to a member of, or previous donor to, the non-profit.

Master the Art of Upselling to Drive Contact Center Profits

Upselling is a profitable initiative that benefits both businesses and customers. The practice is used to add value to a sale already in motion, so what could be more natural? It’s a win-win. Nevertheless, many contact center leaders question how much effort their Communicators should devote to this strategy.

Upselling should be a top priority for contact centers.

Consider this: Neil Patel—co-founder of KISSmetrics, Crazy Egg and Hello Bar—explained in Forbes magazine that 30 percent or more of his business model is based on upselling. You may find that a different number works for your business as you crunch the numbers, but don’t be afraid to raise the bar and encourage more upsells in your contact center.

Why is upselling important? As Patel pointed out, it’s five to 10 times cheaper to upsell a current customer than it is to acquire a new one. This is because existing customers require less sales and marketing spend. Upselling is a great example of “lean revenue,” or revenue that is generated with minimal financial loss.

Here are some important things about upselling to share with your Communicators:

Don’t confuse upselling with cross-selling: Upselling is like taking a customer who is considering the purchase of a basic car, and offering him or her a souped-up model with Bluetooth and a sunroof. In this scenario, cross-selling is more like offering a bicycle rack along with the new car. Both strategies are beneficial, but Communicators should know the difference in order to make the right offers.

Build trust first: Communicators must understand that building customer trust is a prerequisite for upselling. A Communicator should always demonstrate that he or she has the customer’s best interests in mind. A good way to do this is to establish a friendly rapport. Work in the topic of upselling naturally.

Be an active listener: Oftentimes, customers will provide critical information that Communicators can use to drive a sale. Train your Communicators to identify these opportunities when they arise. A customer, for instance, may reveal insight about his or her financial situation or personal preferences. Small tidbits of knowledge can lead to big opportunities when upselling.

Nudge your customers: Upselling has to be done carefully to be effective. Instead of pushing customers into making decisions, gently nudge them. Otherwise, an upsell attempt could have a reverse effect and cause a customer to lose trust.

Offer relevant upsells: The trick to being more successful with upselling is to offer products that fit into the customer’s journey. Communicators need to have a clear idea of how long a customer has been with your company and the products he or she has already purchased. A customer who been purchasing the same exact product at regular intervals for several years should be approached differently from a customer who makes sporadic, random purchases. Upselling is always possible, but first you need to make sure that it’s probable.

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.

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.

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.