The Top Ways Your Company Can Use Big Data to Improve Marketing and Customer Service

Perhaps you’ve seen big data mentioned in a radio or television commercial, or maybe you’ve read an article or two on the subject. The concept can seem a bit confusing. Simply put, big data is information too large and complex to manipulate or organize manually or with standard methods. The idea has gradually made its way into the mainstream over the past few years, as modern technology created increasingly large data sets and industries like finance and healthcare began recognizing the potential value in this information—if  it is broken into digestible chunks and used to improve operations.

But if you’ve been operating under the assumption that big data is useful only for large enterprises, you may be missing out. In fact, solutions that convert unstructured information into business intelligence are available and valuable to companies of all sizes.

Big data has profound implications for any customer-facing business, particularly in customer service and marketing.  If you’re wondering just how exactly big data could positively impact your business, don’t worry—we’ve got you covered:

Know What the Customer Wants Ahead of Time

Gathering and organizing data is a major part of building effective predictable models, which predict future consumer behavior. These models can actually help businesses determine what products individual customers are likely to purchase. With that information, companies can create special offers that include predicted product and related items, opening the potential for a bigger sale.

Identify Customer Trends Quickly

Uncovering trends in the call center used to require a lot of guesswork, which wasn’t particularly effective or efficient. Today’s big data solutions, however, make it easier to identify the most common problems customers experience, as well as what offerings they most enjoy. Armed with this information, Communicators can loop other departments, like Product Development, Billing or Promotions, to help solve problems or build on successes.

Personalize the Customer Experience

Big data allows companies to personalize marketing and customer service to individual consumer needs in a way that was previously impossible. As a business collects more information it is better able to segment customers into groups with shared characteristics and plan accordingly. The more information the company collects, the easier it is to enhance his or her experience. Marketers can even create unique scripts for different populations based on what is most likely to succeed.

Initially big data can be an intimidating concept, but the tools to help make sense of these mountains of information are readily available. Businesses are increasingly relying on these solutions, meaning they will soon transition from cutting-edge to ‘must-have.’ Taking chances on new ideas is always a little scary for executives, but making better use of information you are already generating will undoubtedly pay off in the long run. Just imagine what your company’s data knows about your customers that you may not.

The question isn’t so much ‘if’ you should invest in business intelligence solutions—rather the question is, ‘when.’ At InfoCision, our advice is to do it as soon as possible.

Have any thoughts on the big data revolution? Share them in the comment section below!

Five Attributes Every Great Communicator Needs

Every second that a call center rep spends stumbling over facts about the company’s product or putting a customer on hold to find information is a second wasted on the customer service front. And, eventually, if the customer reaches his or her boiling point a hang-up is inevitable. Just like that, another consumer is lost because the quality of customer service does not meet the mark.

Customer service reps, called “Communicators” at InfoCision’s call centers, must possess specific skills and characteristics to retain and attract customers. Here are five of the most important attributes that every great Communicator needs to succeed:

1.     Patience: Customer service reps should follow the customer’s pace. It’s important to make the customer comfortable with his or her frustrations and concerns, instead of pushing the individual and causing more confusion. In fact, putting a customer at ease can actually increase sales: 62 percent of B2B and 42 percent of B2C customers bought more after a positive experience, according to market research by ZenDesk.

2.     Empathy: Seeing a situation through the eyes of a customer is critical for a call center representative. At one time or another, all customer service reps have been on the other end of the conversation, frustrated with poor service. They must therefore learn to listen and build a bond with the customer, using whatever customer information is available to help smooth out the process.

3.     Focus: Customers want to have the call center rep’s full attention at all times. If they feel the agent is not focusing on them, they’ll be heading to a competitor for business. In fact, consumers are 81 percent more likely to return to a business after a positive service experience.

4.     Drive: A great work ethic and tenacity is key for customer service reps. By building strong relationships with customers, reps can help enhance brand value and maximize ROI for the company. Customers will remember that work ethic and continue to return instead of heading elsewhere.

5.     Product/service knowledge: The bottom line is that customers do not want to hear, “I don’t know” from a customer service representative. As such, it’s paramount that employees gain a deep knowledge of the product they are advocating through in-depth, company-specific training. If they don’t, your company’s bottom line will suffer.

What makes InfoCision’s Communicators unique in the industry? Click here to find out!

U.S. Businesses Losing Major Cash Due to Poor Service

After waiting for a customer service representative for what seems like an hour, you finally reach a rep only to learn he or she cannot answer your question. And so begins the round-robin of agent routing. By the time you hang up the phone, you’ve lost valuable time and are left with a poor impression.

But this kind of ineffective customer service does more than get on the customer’s nerves—it costs the vendor money. In fact, according to a recent report from ClickSoftware, dealing with service issues costs Americans $108 billion every year—an annual individual loss of about $750. Companies are also losing $900 of productivity per employee each year because of these issues, resulting in $130 billion in losses to businesses across the country. Simply put, customer service inadequacies are costly for both customers and businesses.

So how is your company going to improve its quality of customer service? Let’s take a look at some ways in which the technology at your disposal can help:

 Customizable Screens

Based on information the customer service rep obtains throughout the call, top-of -line CRM solutions automatically adjust the agent’s script to allow for a more personalized, effective response. Such customizable screens bolster productivity and promote first call resolution (FCR).

 Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Customers must have their needs addressed as soon as possible or they’ll be hanging up the phone in frustration and looking elsewhere for business. A user-friendly IVR solution that empowers customers who prefer to engage through self-service can help expedite those calls and create a positive customer service for the self-sufficient customer. Most importantly, ensuring a live agent is readily available to help customers who prefer to speak to someone directly is a critical part of providing great service.

 Remote Call Monitoring

With remote call monitoring technology, call center managers are able to keep tabs on their customer service reps—to spot stellar and subpar behavior—whether they work down the hall or across the country. Such technology helps managers create customized reports that include clear metrics for both agent performance and script effectiveness so that any necessary adjustments can be made.

Want to get started on improving your customer service? Visit InfoCision today!

Don’t Learn the Impact of Poor Service the Hard Way

Perhaps the only thing that can impact a business more than providing a great customer experience is providing a lousy one. When consumers spend their hard-earned money on a product or service they expect to be treated well, as they should. With seemingly every industry crowded with so much competition, consumers will simply take their business somewhere else if they feel mistreated or undervalued.

But in some cases, losing one customer can be the least of a company’s problems. For example, British Airways recently found itself in the spotlight for misplacing a passenger’s luggage and then failed to answer tweets from the man as he tried to get his belongings back.

The customer understandably grew upset; however, he decided to take his displeasure a bit further than normal by spending $1,000 to promote tweets slamming the airline. From that point, the story started to get attention from the media and British Airways had a public relations mess to clean up. Eventually the airline did reach the man; however, by that time the damage, at least to the company’s brand, was already done.

Of course, most people wouldn’t spend the time or money to bash British Airways so publicly, but they very well might stop flying on that airline and give negative reviews to friends and family. Statistics and survey results show that consumers are much more likely to share customer experiences than they were even five years ago. As such, every interaction—positive or negative—has the potential to grow exponentially in its impact.

The problem with British Airways’ handling of this situation was not misplacing the luggage—any employee in any company can make an honest mistake. The situation escalated because the airline was unresponsive to the passenger. Even if you don’t believe the customer is always right, he or she should never be ignored. If you manage a contact center and have experienced this kind of problem, here are a few questions to ask as part of an examination of your current best practices:

  • Do you have enough agents to handle all interactions at peak times?
  • Do your employees have the experience and expertise to deal with difficult circumstances?
  • Is your supervisor-to-agent ratio low enough to allow for effective coaching and training?
  • Do your representatives have the tools necessary to provide great service across all channels?
  • Is running a contact center part of your core competencies?

If the answer to any or all of these questions is “No,” getting some help from a partner with contact center expertise and a history of multichannel marketing success might be a good idea. These partners can ensure your customers get the absolute best care by implementing tools like skills-based call routing and robust customer analytics. The bottom line is that today more than ever before, businesses should be taking every step possible to avoid negative consumer experiences that can blow up in their faces. After all, nobody likes learning an important lesson the hard way.

Click here to read about how InfoCision creates a call center environment built to succeed.

 

Shining Brightly With Customer Service ‘Extras’

We’ve written a lot on this blog about quality of customer service as a competitive differentiator and its evolving role in business. Of course, the best way to drive home just how important the customer experience is in today’s market is to look at a real-life example.

Recently, a story broke about three Lowe’s employees in a New York store who stayed late to fix a veteran’s wheelchair after the VA would not. The story went viral and received national attention, as the three workers were hailed as role models for employees everywhere. More than anything, the story blew up and grabbed the public’s attention because it made people feel good.   

So what’s the lesson? Well, for one, creating a culture where top-notch service is the norm and not the exception is critical. If employees don’t go the extra mile for customers on a regular basis, they aren’t likely to step up and tackle a larger problem or do something truly special when the opportunity arises. On the flipside, if providing top-notch customer experiences is a day-to-day practice, doing “extras” for customers won’t seem extraordinary.

The other important takeaway is that you never know whether or not a positive or negative customer experience is going to have an impact far beyond that one interaction. Of course the Lowe’s example was extreme; however, customers generally have a longer memory and share experiences more frequently, which is understandable considering how many channels are at the customer’s disposal today.

Providing high-quality customer experiences is a classic example of how a small investment—whether it’s time or money—upfront can pay huge dividends down the road. Spending two extra minutes with a consumer to ensure that person is completely satisfied can actually translate into years of loyalty. And that’s a tradeoff any business would love to make.

Have any great customer service stories of your own to share? Let us know in the comments section below!

Ensuring Great Customer Service…Right Until the End

When experts discuss the importance of providing high-quality customer service, it is usually as part of a recipe for increasing satisfaction rates, retaining customers and boosting revenues. In other words, these pundits are generally talking about building and improving relationships with existing customers or prospects.

But what about a customer who makes the decision not to do business with you anymore? Whether the individual is leaving because he or she felt dissatisfied with some aspect of your product service, or simply because they no longer require it, conventional wisdom might suggest that the migrating customer no longer holds much importance to your business. But the truth is that a departing consumer is as important as anybody else who comes in contact with your company at any stage of the customer life cycle.

Why does this soon-to-be ex-patron still hold value? Because customers have a long memory, and that final experience is likely to stick with them. They may try out another company believing the grass is greener elsewhere but ultimately discover they aren’t getting the quality treatment you provided. If the last memory they have of your service is comparatively positive, that patron may be running back to you before too long.

But even if the departing consumer never comes back, a friend, a neighbor or family member may ask your former customer for a review of your business at some point in the future. What he or she says about your company—which is likely to be heavily influenced by that final interaction—may determine whether you gain a new customer or lose out on that business to a competitor.

In a way, every person who interacts with your company is a potential brand advocate or critic down the line. Customer service stories are traveling faster and wider than ever before, with 95 percent of consumers sharing negative tales with others and 87 percent passing on positive experiences. You may never witness the impact these people have on your bottom line, but if they are out there talking about the service they received, they are most certainly affecting your business.

The bottom line is that providing top-notch quality of customer service should be part of a culture that permeates your entire organization. Whether your Communicators are signing up a new prospect, chatting with a long-time loyal customer or processing a cancellation, the same principles of empathy, compassion and professionalism should shine through.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, there is actually no time like a cancellation call to distinguish your company as a customer service leader. The impact of “customer surprise” is an oft-covered topic, and what could be more surprising than an empathetic, professional Communicator helping the caller calmly through the cancellation process? Customers may already have their guards up when they get ready to make the call to stop service, so putting them at ease is likely to give them an unexpected warm feeling that they won’t soon forget.

Is Your Customer Service as Good as You Think?

Companies generally don’t aim to provide a mediocre customer experience. In fact, 68 percent of businesses plan to increase what they spend on customer management this year, according to the “2014 Call Center Executive Priorities Report.” Several recent studies further evidence the fact that the majority of businesses now view customer service as a top competitive differentiator.

But throwing more resources at a problem is generally not an effective plan. Putting extra time and money into what you think creates great customer experiences may or may not be working; without the ability to collect information, analyze it and make adjustments based on that actionable data, you’re essentially wandering in the dark. But business intelligence can be the light that leads the way.

Analytics solutions can break down information into such small chunks that it becomes possible to individually target customers and predict consumer behavior. Whether it’s making sure you are contacting consumers through their preferred channel or making special offers for your most loyal customers, you need data at your fingertips that gives you the best chance to satisfy every customer.

Furthermore, the customer insights gleaned from this intelligence can help other departments like—product development, billing or sales—improve their operations, creating a more consistent end-to-end customer experience.

“Customer data is no longer the exclusive domain of data analysts,” wrote Tony Costa, senior analyst serving customer service professionals at Forrester, in a recent blog post. “A new model has emerged where all employees have access to customer data and are empowered to use it. The result is a reexamination of every aspect of experience design.”

So what is the takeaway? No matter what level of effort you put into customer service, making assumptions, rather than relying on concrete information, is dangerous.

In other words, contradictory to what the idiom says, with customer service, what you don’t know can hurt you.

Independence Day: Freedom from Contact Center Concerns

Every July 4th Americans celebrate the birth of our nation and the freedom our forefathers gained when they broke away to form a democratic republic. As the picnics, celebrations and family gatherings transition back into the work week, it is also a time to reflect on our freedom of choice in a marketplace with a vast array of business partners to choose from.

What’s more, your business can celebrate that spirit of independence by removing the pressure and challenge of running a best-in-class contact center all on its own. By partnering up with an expert solutions provider you can ensure the absolute best in quality of customer service.

At InfoCision, we understand that you value your customers wholeheartedly, yet running a contact center is likely outside of your business’ core competencies. Instead of fighting a constant uphill battle like the British during the American Revolution, why not team with an organization like InfoCision that is dedicated to helping companies gain freedom from worrying about their contact centers and become first-class customer service organizations?

InfoCision’s Communicators are much more than your typical contact center operators. They are experienced, receive client-specific training and are committed to the highest level of service. Additionally, Communicators are assigned to programs that best fit their specific skill set, which means you get the absolute most out of their abilities.

On top of the most professional employees in the industry, InfoCision can provide contact center solutions that can help improve other areas of your company. For instance, our business intelligence capabilities can make your sales and marketing teams more effective by providing granular customer information that helps predict consumer behavior.

What does all of this mean? Put simply, with InfoCision you can set aside your concerns about your contact center and get back to creating and selling the product or service that made you successful in the first place. So sign your own Declaration of Independence—independence from fretting about your customer service, that is—and team up with InfoCision.

Exciting Takeaways from Epic Experts

Just over a week ago, InfoCision sponsored and attended the InterAction 2014 marketing summit at The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing—and the highly anticipated event did not disappoint!

This year’s conference was particularly exciting, as it featured contributions from some of the leading voices in the marketing space. Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), gave a keynote address, as did Lisa Arthur, CMO at Teradata, who was also presented with the prestigious Direct Marketer of the Year award.

These two Epic Experts provided a wealth of thought-provoking insights that we at InfoCision have been discussing since the conference ended. As difficult as it was, we’ve narrowed them down to a few of our favorites:

Do you document?

Only 39 percent of B2C organizations and 44 percent of B2B companies have a documented content marketing strategy: and that is a major problem. As Joe said during his keynote address—and as he has written on numerous occasions—a documented strategy is the best predictor of how effective a company’s content marketing will be. If you don’t have concrete goals and objectives, you can’t possibly create successful content because you can’t even define success.

What’s your data doing?

Lisa talked at length about how important it is for businesses to use big data to gain a better understanding of how their customers think and feel. Customers today expect relevant and timely interaction, something companies can’t provide without the tools to recognize trends and patterns in customer data. Most businesses are aware by now that they need to be collecting customer information; the next step for many of these companies is investing in solutions that help make sense of it all.

Consistency, not campaigning

Marketing efforts have long been referred to as “campaigns,” but Joe is urging marketers to think about content marketing more in terms of an ongoing conversation. Maintaining positive relationships and retaining customers requires content creation that lets customers know they are front-and-center in a company’s mind at all times. In other words, content marketing doesn’t have a concrete beginning, middle and end.

What are your thoughts about our takeaways from InterAction 2014? Let us know in the comments section!

Five Steps to Becoming a First-Class Customer Service Organization

As a business executive you are probably well aware by now that customer service is a top competitive differentiator. In fact, according to a recent report from research firm Walker, quality of customer service will overtake price and product as the single most important differentiator by 2020.

While that is certainly useful information, it’s doesn’t do a lot of good for businesses that don’t know how to improve their customer service practices. For those organizations, it’s a little like being told by a personal trainer to “get in shape” and getting no further instruction about how to do it. Of course on this blog, we are here to help provide perspective into creating great customer experiences. So here are some of the most effective strategies your company can employ to become a customer service superstar:

Embrace the Omni channel environment

The time when customers accepted a phone call as the only means of reaching out to a company is long gone. We live in a multi-channel world; if your customers feel limited in their options for a service request, they may not stick around.

Focus on Communicator development

Your contact center Communicators are often the first point of direct contact for customers and the determining factor in the impression they form about your company. With that in mind, you need to feel confident that every inquiry that comes in is handled by an experienced Communicator that has received robust training and understands the image you want to project.

Invest in a multichannel marketing partner

If training Communicators and refining contact center best practices are not part of your core competencies, it might seem like an overwhelming challenge. If that is the case, you can get the help you need by partnering with a multichannel marketing organization that focuses on nothing except providing excellent customer service. A full service partner provides your company with Communicators company-specific training before they interact with customers, meaning they are fully prepared to tackle any situation.

Adopt business intelligence

You might be tired of hearing about data analytics by now, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Every customer interaction, and every piece of information you extract from that interaction, helps your company improve customer service for the future—but only ifyou have the tools to make sense of it all. Great customer service is about personalizing the experience for the customer. You can’t do that effectively without data analytics.

Be transparent and honest

Nothing puts customers at ease like transparency—and nothing frustrates them more than dishonesty.  Think about your experiences with delayed flights. Wouldn’t you rather be given an honest estimate of your wait time rather than an unrealistic promise that gets broken every 20 minutes when departure is pushed back again? Everyone appreciates timely communication to help manage expectations.

Putting all of these plans in place at once may be overwhelming, so consider taking baby steps and implementing one at a time instead. Even if you don’t turn your customer service around 100 percent immediately, your customers will notice you are making strides—and they’ll appreciate the effort.