Work and Life: A True Balancing Act

It’s important to help employees find a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families

Last week, InfoCision held its annual Fall Festival, where employees bring their children, dressed in costumes, into work to collect candy at 22 stations we have set up around our corporate campus.  This is something we have been doing for several years now and the response from our employees has been great.  As I watched the children and their parents walking from station to station, collecting plenty of sweets along the way, I began to think about how proud I am to be part of a company that encourages work-life balance and what it means to our employees.

work-life-balanceHere at InfoCision, we have always tried to make sure that our employees have a proper work-life balance; a healthy combination of what they do at work and what they do at home with their families.  There’s no question, career is important and requires prioritizing all aspects of life so the family doesn’t suffer.  That’s why we implemented a robust work-life balance initiative here at InfoCision.  The bottom line is, when our employees have family or health concerns, it can be difficult coming to work every day and being productive.  We realize this, and that is why InfoCision provides innovative amenities like on-site doctors’ offices and fitness centers.

Having amenities like these available to our employees helps relieve some of the stress that life often brings, and promotes greater “presenteeism.”  Think about how much time is wasted when an employee has to visit an off-site doctor.  Depending on the travel time, it could take an entire half-day to just get a standard check-up.  Our InfoWellness clinics are a convenient alternative to visiting a doctor, plus if the employee is a member of InfoCision’s insurance plans, it’s free!  During flu season, helping to keep everyone healthy is a priority.  Especially when you have over 4,400 employees, many of whom work in very close proximity to one another.  Each year our on-site clinics provide low-cost flu shots for our employees.  This past flu season we administered close to 1,000 flu shots to help ensure that our people stayed healthy.  Our InfoFitness center helps promote a healthy lifestyle for our employees and we even hold an annual “Weight Loss War,” which is our version of “The Biggest Loser.”  This year employees lost over 2,950 pounds – one and a half TONS!  Our InfoKids Early Learning Center has helped make the decision between working and staying home easier for our employees, and has helped us retain many of our best female employees.  Our working parents can feel a sense of comfort, knowing that their child is in the care of a certified professional at our corporate campus.

When you look at the big picture of things, yes, our amenities are great for our employees and we love being able to provide them.  With that in mind, it also allows our company to be proactive instead of reactive.  Our innovative programs have helped our company lower the cost of insurance premiums, emergency room visits and productivity issues.  When employees are happy and healthy, they’re going to be willing to work harder.  And our clients benefit from the great results our dedicated employees are able to produce.  That is a situation where everybody wins!

InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick wins CFO of the Year Award

On October 23, InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick was honored as CFO of the Year in the large private company category, presented by Crain’s Cleveland Business.

Dave Hamrick CFO of the YearLast Tuesday, October 23,  InfoCision CFO Dave Hamrick was honored as CFO of the Year in the large private company category,  presented by Crain’s Cleveland Business. For Dave to have won in a field that included several other talented CFO’s from large local companies is quite an honor, and speaks to the high quality of his work.

I have had the opportunity to work with Dave since he joined our Executive Team here at InfoCision in 2007, and I can’t begin to tell you how much he has made a positive impact, and significantly enhanced our accounting department by fine-tuning accounting methods, expanding financial reporting and improving the budgeting process. The quantity and quality of the work done by Dave and his staff in our accounting department has greatly improved our business overall and his contributions have helped InfoCision maximize profits and reduce expense. He has helped our company to grow over the last few years despite difficult economic conditions.

In the highly complex environment of corporate finance, where more stringent regulations are continuously being enacted, it is essential to have a highly competent CFO like Dave to maintain InfoCision’s compliance leadership in the industry.  I’ve spoken often of the important role compliance plays in teleservices, and the same applies to every corporation’s financial practices.  No matter what your company does, a lack of sound financial leadership would lead to disastrous results.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dave for being named CFO of the Year, as it is very well deserved!

Mobile Marketing in the Call Center

One of the technologies that is gaining interest among direct marketers and their audiences is mobile marketing. I sat down with our Chief Technical Officer Mike White for a short Q&A to talk about how mobile technologies are changing the way direct marketing works.

What factors drive the growth in text marketing?

InfoCision Chief Technical Officer Mike White

Definitely the rise in the number of mobile devices. And with the new generation, texting is how they communicate. It’s the new demographic. Also, there are some statistics out there that show that the age gap for people that do texting is widening. It’s not just the 18-to-29-year-olds now. It’s the 30-to-40-year-olds and the 50-to-60-year-olds that are starting to text as well. It’s becoming very commonplace.

How is the growth in mobile text marketing affecting the call center business?

We look at it from a service bureau perspective. We are handling calls on behalf of our clients, and what we’re seeing is that as we contact people through traditional channels, like the phone, we find individuals who request to be contacted via other channels.

Texting is becoming a type of marketing that is growing in popularity because a large percentage of the population has cell phones or mobile devices. I’ve seen statistics that show 90 percent of texts get opened and read within 15 minutes of being sent. As we see that proliferation, as a call center vendor, we need to be able to have that channel available to our clients so they can communicate with their customers.

What changes are call centers making to capitalize on text marketing?

The main thing is they need to have a provider or in-house platform that is capable of sending and receiving SMS messages. (SMS, or short message service, is a standardized communication protocol that enables the exchange of text messages between fixed line and mobile phone devices.) It’s basically a tool set and call centers need to have the right tools to provide the service.

Why has InfoCision chosen to make this investment?

It’s another option for how our clients can reach out to their customers. In addition, because it’s a very new and emerging space, we’re finding significantly higher response rates.

For more information on mobile marketing, contact Mike White at (330) 668-1400 or mike.white@infocision.com.

DMA 2012 Conference in Las Vegas: Stop by InfoCision’s booth 425

As the year begins to wind down (I can’t believe how quickly 2012 has gone!) it is time once again for the annual Direct Marketing Association conference DMA 2012.

dma 2012Although I will not be personally attending this year’s conference, InfoCision will have a large presence there with a booth and four staff members. I know they are eager to hit the conference floor to say hi to some old friends, and make new ones.

We have something to offer businesses of all shapes and sizes, and we’re here to help your organization grow and succeed, so stop by booth 425 to meet with one of our experts, or give them a call to set up a meeting.

Curt Cramblett, vice president of new business development

Rob Sine, director of new business development

Dawn Keathley, director of new business development

Tom Hissong, manager of new business development

All four will be available to discuss InfoCision’s products and services, so if you’re going to be at the conference, stop by booth 425 and say hi! PLUS, We’ll also be giving away some special prizes throughout the conference so follow the DMA Conference on Twitter #DMA2012 and InfoCision on Twitter and LinkedIn and look for our Las Vegas trivia questions. You could win a Starbucks gift card in the morning to help you wake up, or a drink on us in the afternoon to help you relax after a long day in sessions.

I know our team is excited for this year’s event and I wish them and everyone attending a great conference and safe traveling!

Keeping American Call Center Jobs in America

We believe in the domestic advantage and despite any recent off-shore trends, all of InfoCision’s call centers for our US clients are located in the United States. This enables the establishment of strong customer relationships that aren’t hindered by cultural differences or language barriers.

 

I want to make you aware of a bill that has been introduced in Congress that would help keep American call center jobs from being outsourced overseas. It is called the federal United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection American call center jobsAct of 2012. In Ohio, it is estimated that there are more than 200,000 people employed in the call center industry and that Ohio has lost over 2,300 call center jobs between 2008 and 2011. InfoCision is a large employer in the call center industry, with more than 3,300 employees in Ohio alone. We were recently included in a story on this new bill on WFMJ-TV in Youngstown, Ohio.  http://www.wfmj.com/story/19600773/ohio-senator-wants-to-keep-call-center-jobs-in-the-us  We’ve always been dedicated to growing our business for our US clients right here at home and we continue to keep an eye on this piece of legislation.

Here’s a recap of the United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act of 2012:

  • Require companies to disclose to callers when their calls are transferred abroad.
  • Make businesses that move call center jobs overseas ineligible for federal grants or loans.
  • Direct the Department of Labor to make a public list of such companies, and employers would remain on the list for three years after each relocation.
  • Require agencies, including the Department of Defense, to give preference to U.S. employers that do not appear on the list.

The Domestic Call Center Advantage

Our clients are the household names most consumers know and depend on and we’ve committed to not sending their business overseas. We believe in the domestic advantage and despite any recent off-shore trends, all of InfoCision’s call centers for our US clients are located in the United States. This enables the establishment of strong customer relationships that aren’t hindered by cultural differences or language barriers. A call center is the voice of a company, so it’s crucial to have mature, experienced professionals on the phones who can speak the customer’s language and who truly understand the regional and cultural nuances of the customers and donors.

We are certainly in favor of keeping American call center jobs right here in America!

InfoCision: The Healthy Call Center

Last week, InfoCision’s Chair of the Board, Karen Taylor shared an interesting article with us about the benefits of periodically standing up at work instead of sitting down all day.  It really got me thinking about how important it is to stay focused on healthy activities, especially when working in a role that may require being seated for long periods of time. I found a similar article in the New York Times advocating getting up and moving around throughout the workday in a number of creative capacities.

Here at InfoCision, we try to do everything we can to help our employees live a healthier lifestyle, and when we see articles like this, we feel obligated to pass the information along.  For the same reasons, we have established annual health fairs, which take place at all our call center locations throughout the months of August and September. We believe that a healthier,

Members of our Employee Benefits team working a booth at our Health Fair at our corporate headquarters in Akron, OH

engaged workforce begins with employees that are encouraged and given the tools to make good health a priority. These health fairs provide team members with access to 30 or more vendors who offer free health screenings including blood pressure, body fat, BMI, cholesterol and glucose checks; and information on health issues, health insurance and other valuable employee benefits.  The health fair we just concluded at our Akron headquarters drew more than 500 individuals in one afternoon looking to find ways to improve their health and their lives!

Does the cost pay off?

At times, when I mention the amenities that we offer our employees, I am asked “Isn’t that expensive?” The answer is yes, there is a cost, but it’s well worth it and ultimately we receive a measurable ROI from our overall wellness programs.  By providing employees with convenient and affordable access to health information and resources, we have seen our workforce respond by becoming healthier, which has kept insurance rates from rising for both the company and our employees themselves.

And beyond the business reasons, it’s really just the right thing to do for all our staff. A healthier employee is a happier employee and it is well worth the cost to make sure our employees are taken care of so they can provide the best service possible to our clients. It’s a winning formula for everyone!

New Ideas are Vital to Corporate Growth

Innovation is essential for a company to grow and remain competitive. New ideas, whether they are simple and help save costs, or complex and grow and transform the business must be encouraged and rewarded.  Every valid concept that can be implemented to improve an aspect of the company is important to overall success. At InfoCision we have always solicited every employee to tell us about their ideas through our Working Smarter Program, which has a monetary reward. This program has paid off with InfoCision saving hundreds of thousands of dollars annually in direct cost and/or efficiency improvements.

On more than one occasion, our President and CEO Carl Albright has commented about the number of great ideas our staff comes up with, and how the key to implementation is first getting the right people dedicated to following up on priority projects.  Our technical teams recently developed a new forum for employees to share their ideas and I am truly excited about the opportunities it will bring to us at InfoCision.

How We Work Smarter

To help turn employee ideas into reality, we have implemented a new program called “The Idea Center.” This is a simple intranet site where employees are able to submit an idea, have it reviewed by the executive steering committee, and then see it through to implementation.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Each month our IT team holds an “Idea Review” meeting where the executive team will listen to any idea that has been submitted.
  2. The executive team will provide feedback and direction as to whether or not the idea should become a project.
  3. The executive team will again review cost, time and other important factors to determine if it would be a wise investment
  4. The executive team will then assign the idea to the appropriate group for implementation.

What it means to our clients

The overall goal at InfoCision has always been to provide our clients with the highest quality and ROI, which requires us to be innovative, efficient and quick to follow-up on important concepts.  One of the three principles our company was founded on is working smarter; this means looking at every idea, big or small, analyzing it and determining how to improve for the better. We take everyone’s ideas into consideration and it really does give us an advantage. If anyone has an idea of how things could be more efficient, it’s those that work in the middle of the situation on a daily basis, so we take their opinions to heart because you never know who is going to come up with the next great idea that impacts the company! How do you feel about the concept of an employee “Idea Center”? Do you have any suggestions or benefits that I didn’t mention? What are some or examples of programs like this that you have seen in the past? Get the conversation started below!

Customer Service: The Key to Direct Marketing and Telemarketing Success

Recently, InfoCision’s Vice President of New Business Development, Yvonne Anderson was featured in an online exclusive article in Electronic Retailer Magazine all about customer service.  Yvonne brought up some great points in the article that I feel are definitely worth sharing:

Excellent Customer Service Starts with the People

Can you see them smiling through the phone? You should! Whether they are working directly for the company, or for a call center partner, agents need to be prepared to create a great customer experience for everyone who calls.

1. Put the right people on the front lines

Choose people who are passionate about what they do and will put in that extra effort.  In many cases, this is the first interaction your customers have with you or a client.

2. Train, train, and train some more

The better they understand the culture and philosophy you’re trying to convey, the better situations with unhappy customers will be handled. Softer skills like dispute resolution and dealing with difficult people are also valuable.

3. Monitor, provide instant feedback and share best practices.

If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong how can you improve, right? Providing feedback and tips on what has worked in the past will go a long way.

Evaluation is Key in Direct Marketing

When measuring customer satisfaction, there are some questions a company must ask:

  • Did the customer’s call get answered?
  • Did the customer feel his or her call was dealt with appropriately?
  • Were concerns or issues handled quickly and efficiently?

These questions may seem obvious, but asking them regularly and taking action is vital to continued success.

Developing Customer Care is a Process

As customer satisfaction increases more customers remain loyal and will continue to purchase items from the company, which will begin to positively impact the company’s bottom line. Your customers will tell their friends how awesome you are, and they will tell their friends and so on.

Everything is interconnected and the above concepts go hand-in-hand. Is it always easy? No, but customer service can make or break your company. Taking the time to hire the right people, evaluate along the way and think about the big picture is well worth it.

The True Importance of Work Place Diversity in Direct Marketing

There is no doubt that diversity in the workplace benefits everyone from employees to clients, and the challenge is to continue to embrace that culture; here at InfoCision, we have done, and continue to do, just that. I was able to sit down with our director of human resources, Carla Grasso and had a conversation all about how we celebrate diversity here at InfoCision and the difference it makes in our call centers.

Direct Marketing Diversity Programs

Diversity programs are about creating and maintaining an inclusive environment no matter what an employee brings to the table. When you embrace everyone’s strengths, the organization as a whole is more productive; and it also helps managers to better lead their teams because they have a better grasp on whom their employees are and where they come from.

Diversity programs must be undertaken slowly to ensure they are done the right way, because they must include everyone regardless of ethnicity, religious beliefs, political views, etc.  In addition, changes that are made in the workplace too rapidly without proper planning run the risk of being resisted by employees.

For the program to be successful, it must fit in with the company’s current corporate culture, not attempt to change it. So starting slowly is key to getting employees to buy in to the program.

How to Get Started

Starting diversity programs may seem like a daunting task for companies that don’t have an expert in the subject matter, and especially for smaller companies without a great deal of resources.

For employers that want to start a diversity initiative but don’t have a lot of time or resources to invest, here are some easy and low-cost tips:

  1. Spotlighting diverse employees in a company newsletter or calendar
  2. Offer brown-bag lunch lectures on a diversity topic – many groups will speak for free
  3. Create affinity groups to support a specific segment of the workforce (such as women, Asian-Americans, workers with Military experience, etc.)
  4. Have a potluck where workers bring in foods and recipes from their ethnic heritage
  5. Announce local events that support diversity on your bulletin board or intranet

There are even community resources available to help companies of all sizes that want to harness the power of embracing diversity.

Diversify Your Call Centers

By expanding your pool of applicants to include everyone, regardless of sex, ethnicity, religious views or anything else, you are giving your organization an advantage over the competition, because they might not be finding the same quality of applicants.

And beyond employee and productivity issues, embracing diversity can have other benefits for your company. InfoCision has several clients that are embracing diversity, and appreciate the fact that we have chosen to do so as well.

How do you feel about diversity in the work place? Any tips to getting started I missed? Get the conversation started below!

Carla Grasso is director of human resources at InfoCision Management Corporation. Reach her at carla.grasso@infocision.com.

Turning Customer Care Calls into Cross-Selling Opportunities

All companies want to keep their customers happy. Finding the right balance of effective customer care while trying to keep costs low can be a challenging for any organization. The numbers that show customer loyalty and brand image being boosted by customer care are not always clearly visible and easy to measure.

With that in mind, there are ways to change customer care into easily measurable, profit-generating activities that make it easier for companies to justify customer care expenditures.

That’s where the InfoCision attitude comes into play. It’s simple really; it’s all about philosophy and opportunity.

Recently an article featuring one of our staff members, Paul Derbyshire, director of operations strategy, was published through the prestigious media outlet TMCnet. Paul talked all about how if the situation is handled correctly, you can turn a customer care call into an opportunity to increase your sales.

In fact, we’ve seen examples where after adding a series of cross-sell opportunities, the client’s customer care was essentially free. When a client receives profit for a call that used to be an expense, everyone wins.

What are your opinions on cross-selling? Can cross-selling truly generate profit? Leave a comment below and tell me how you or your organization views the cross-selling process!

Paul Derbyshire is director of operations strategy at InfoCision Management Corporation. Reach him at paul.derbyshire@infocision.com.