How Call Center Analytics Influence Positive Customer Experiences

Many may be unaware of this truth, but the secret behind exceptional customer service has not only to do with expert Communicators, but much to do with hard facts provided by data analytics. In an era where tempers are running shorter but quality of customer service is rising in importance, more support is needed in order to provide agents with the best possible preparation.

Using actionable data to augment your customer service success is a major component in providing a positive customer experience. Business intelligence offers your company an edge as the data collected allows for understanding a customer base on a deeper level through analyzing key trends and preferences.

Our very own VP of Call Center Analytics Mike Shonk elaborated on this in InfoCision’s latest edition of “Marketing Solutions” magazine:

 We’ve seen over the last five or six years that the rate of customers picking up a random call has dropped considerably, from as much as 55 percent of our audience to as little as 35 percent today in some time periods…Our opportunity is to figure out when they’ll be most receptive to the conversation.

Monitoring the time of day certain demographics are most likely to answer their phones allows the role of Communicator to become more accommodating and less invasive. As such, the improvement opportunities, which become available when digging into business analytics, should be top priority for companies looking to get ahead in the customer service industry.

Paying close attention to your data is equivalent to paying close attention to your customers; after all, you wouldn’t have such a wealth of data to work from without them. Use your collection of data to measure the success rate of call scripts as well as how receptive certain Communicators are to specific demographics. Let the numbers show you how to tweak your scripts or reassign your agents to better serve your consumer base. Even the smallest adjustments can make the biggest difference if the customer feels that a Communicator is speaking to them on a more personal level.

Did we spark your curiosity? Learn more about the benefits business analytics can offer your company.

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 American Teleservices Association (ATA). 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 has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s higher honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

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!

In Marketing, as in Life, Don’t Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

A successful investor on Wall Street is confident a hot stock is going to soar, so he throws everything into it. However, unaware that negative company news is about to hit, his entire investment is quickly wiped off the map. Just like that, he learns the hard way to diversify.

The same goes for marketing; no longer is a one-channel approach effective. Even businesses that have relied primarily on one channel for years—such as email marketing, social media, or blogging—have had to re-adjust their thinking and create a broader marketing strategy. That’s because customers expect to be able to interact with businesses through their favorite channels. In addition to providing what the customer wants, change is also a natural progression for innovative leaders in any space; in fact, it should be a welcome one. Accordingly, companies need to adopt multichannel marketing solutions.

According to a Zendesk survey, commissioned by Loudhouse, two-thirds of online shoppers said their purchases involved multiple channels in the last six months. Furthermore, 87 percent believe that companies need to put an emphasis on making the customer experience more seamless.

So how can businesses migrate to omni-channel customer service and sales strategies? To begin, they can look into collaborating with a one-stop shop marketing partner with expertise across a wide range of marketing channels. By teaming with an organization dedicated to providing customized marketing solutions, business can focus on their core competencies without worrying that customer experiences will suffer.

Here are some other reasons why omni-channel customer service is the way of today and the future:

Customers are Everywhere

Long gone are the days of customers simply sitting at home and ordering a product from a land line. People are now constantly on-the-go, purchasing from any Internet-connected device and reaching out to agents across a variety of mediums. Multichannel marketing solutions are necessary to reach customers as they traverse the globe and surf the Web.

Faster is Better

The more channels a customer can access, the quicker his or her inquiry/complaint will be solved. Faster is better for all customers, and if their experience is adversely affected because the company does not offer Web- or mobile-optimized channel capabilities, the consumer is more likely to head elsewhere (a.k.a your competitors).

Ready to broaden your strategy with a seamless customer experience? Click here to get started.

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!

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.

From a Customer Experience to a Customer Journey

Years ago, a company’s interaction with customers was largely limited to two points of contact. A consumer interested in a product would come into a brick-and-mortar store location and speak with a sales representative. If the consumer made a purchase and had a question or problem down the line, he or she would call a contact center for assistance.

In an age of rapidly developing technology and new channels, however, providing a top-notch customer experience requires a 360-degree approach. In many cases, the customer experience begins far in advance of the consumer’s first contact with a company and, for the most successful businesses, carries on far past the first purchase. In other words, the customer experience is now an ongoing journey.

For instance, research reveals that today’s buyers wait until 57 percent of the purchase process is complete before contacting a company. Studies have also repeatedly shown that consumers increasingly expect proactive customer service from companies they patronize.

But for many companies, providing this kind of 24/7/365 quality of customer service is a foreign concept; a comprehensive strategy for building and maintaining strong customer relationships simply isn’t part of their core competencies. For these businesses, teaming with a multichannel marketing partner may be a wise decision.

Industry-leading marketing and service organizations have the experience and tools to help acquire, retain, upsell and restore customers. These partners can help take some of the burden of providing great customer service off an organization with solutions like:

  • Top-of-the line inbound and outbound call center services
  • Demographically targeted direct mail campaigns
  • Email and text marketing and service
  • Web chat

Although the emergence of new channels creates added complexity for businesses, it can also be advantageous. For instance, research shows that the majority of customers are more likely to share customer experiences than they were five years ago and that consumers increasingly rely on consumer reviews to make purchasing decisions. That means that if a business is knocking its customer service out of the park, other people are going to hear about and be impacted by it.

So…are you ready to lead your customers on a journey?

Three Crucial Takeaways from the Target Data Breach

Who can forget the now infamous Target hacking? During the 2013 holiday season, the company suffered a massive data breach where hackers stole the credit card and personal information of perhaps as many as 110 million customers. The network security breakdown is still being scrutinized and, for now, it remains unclear what steps the company might have taken to prevent the breach. What is not disputed, however, are Target’s major failings in the quality of its customer service.

Target’s follies, however, cast a spotlight on broader business lessons that can be learned, serving as a reminder of the extreme importance of excelling when it comes to customer service:

Takeaway #1: Prepare for the worst case scenario

Taking a proactive approach to service doesn’t mean that you expect something catastrophic will happen—it just means you are prepared if it ever does. Most customer service issues won’t produce the number of queries that Target’s breach did; however, businesses should adopt scalable solutions for one-off scenarios that call for extra capacity. Customers simply don’t want to hear that a situation was isolated and will never happen again; they care about resolving their problems quickly and courteously and you should, too.

Takeaway #2: Renew focus on agent training and quality of customer interactions

According to Forrester, only 31 percent of organizations closely monitor the quality of interactions with customers. In the meantime, anything could be happening; agent slip-ups, multiple transfers and best practices could be falling through the cracks. Paying close attention to client communications—and coaching agents to help them improve—is vital to keeping your head above water when the pressure is on. In Target’s case, many customers complained about what they perceived as a lack of empathy from agents. The fact is, without a solid foundation in empathy training, your representatives are not going to best prepared in a high-stress situation. A positive and respectful attitude must be cultivated during training and continually developed over time. Once this best practice is created it must also be maintained.

Takeaway #3: View every customer service challenge as an opportunity for service recovery

A data breach or any other customer-centric problem is an undesirable position for any company, but it can also be viewed as an opportunity for excellent service recovery. These potential crises can be stressful but they also give your company a chance to show customers how important their business is to you. Service recovery is more than a simple apology—it’s about going the extra mile to rectify the situation. In some cases, this may require checking back in with customers several times to ensure that they are still satisfied with the resolution. As the great American businesswoman Mary Kay Ash once said, “Every failure, obstacle or hardship is an opportunity in disguise.”

Unfortunately, no business is immune to mishaps. How those problems are handled, however, is critical to preserving customer relationships and bolstering brand image. According to a recent consumer survey from Zendesk, 87 percent of customers believe brands need to work harder to create a seamless consumer experience, meaning there is a lot of room for improvement out there. So rather than allowing Target’s situation to strike fear in your workforce, take the opportunity to learn from it and make sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way.

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.

Customer Experience: Contact center a vital stop in the customer journey as the voice of your brand

We’ve all had that one experience with a company that left such a bad taste in our mouth that we vow we’ll never go back; and most of the time we never do. That’s what makes creating an outstanding customer experience so vitally important for today’s marketers… But are you doing it right?

We’ve all had that one experience with a company that left such a bad taste in our mouth that we vow we’ll never go back; and most of the time we never do. That’s what makes creating an outstanding customer experience so vitally important for today’s marketers… But are you doing it right?

I recently stumbled upon an article published last month by MediaPost’s Marketing Daily in regards to a Forrester report saying that many companies don’t effectively translate their customer data into customer experience improvements. Forrester also predicts that customer journey maps will continue to be stressed and will become even more in-depth.  “In 2013, companies will need tools that connect customer journeys to the people, processes and technologies that lay beneath the surface,” according to Forrester.

It’s important to consider what an important tool the contact center is within the customer journey, because it is the most direct, personal connection the customer has with your organization.  The people you have on the phone are much more than just order takers; those people are the voice of your brand to that customer. You can’t just have anyone handling your calls, but rather you should have highly trained brand ambassadors who can speak knowledgeably about your products and services, and your company as a whole.  These brand ambassadors should also utilize custom scripting based on the customer’s demographic info, buying history, preferences, etc. to create a message that is tailored to fit the customer’s needs.  This is where effective data analytics can make a big impact, because it allows you to put customer information in the hands of your agents right as the call comes in.  InfoCision recently released a case study on our Inscription technology and the positive result personalization has on ROI and customer experience.

To do these things you must work with a teleservices company that will be able to build a program to your specific needs and not just use a “one size fits all approach”. In this rapidly changing business environment, you can no longer afford to partner with a call center that only handles calls; you need to be looking for a strategic partner that is focused on and has the means to help you increase net profit and build lasting relationships with your customers.

The final paragraph in the article talks about the importance of employee engagement for customer experience professionals.  I couldn’t agree more.  A happier employee is going to be a better employee; because that happiness comes across over the phone in terms of creating satisfaction and excitement with regard to the brand they represent.  A more engaged employee will create more engagement with customers which will increase sales, create more up-sell and cross-sell opportunities and help to ensure they become a repeat customer.

I encourage you to read the article, and let me know if you have any thoughts of your own on the importance of creating a better customer experience.