Read more articles from Ron Kaufman
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NewVoiceMedia is pleased to have been named a finalist in the 2017 Call Centre Helper Top 10 Contact Centre Technology Awards.
We’ve been nominated for our ContactWorld solution, a multi-tenant intelligent communications platform that enables sales and service reps to have more successful conversations with their customers.
The awards, which are voted for by readers of Call Centre Helper, are designed to recognise the best products on the market and help managers make informed decisions about the technologies they invest in.
Voting closes on Friday – you can find out more and have your say here.
Publish Date: April 18, 2017 5:00 AM
Today’s new buzz words in the world of customer service are “customer engagement” and “ customer centric”. The concepts are very valid and important to create a relationship with the customer. But as I read the articles I can’t help but think these are just new phrases for the same old stuff that has been around forever. It is all a reminder that we are in business for one reason – to service and sell the customer. The customer holds all the cards and the customer rules. Seems pretty basic.
You are most likely in a very competitive business with others offering the same products at about the same price. In this marketplace, your products and services can not be your difference, you must depend more and more on employees attitudes as a differentiation. Customers are more savvy, sophisticated, informed as well as picky and demanding. That means you must have a team of people who can deliver what customer’s want and handle the challenges of providing good customer service.
So what do customers want? I am sure the list could be quite extensive however here are my top four.
Customer satisfaction is a combination of giving the customer what they want and delivering it from the right people. No customer wants to give money to someone they don’t like. So here are my top keys to the right team member.
Customer satisfaction means relying on the basics. They work every time. The problem is we make it all too complicated. Yes, we need customer relationship management strategies, customer engagement and a customer centric focus. But we don’t have the right to go there until we deliver the basics first. I speak at many company meetings where the slogan for that gathering is something like – “The Year of the Customer”. I always wonder what year is not the Year of the Customer?
Read more from Lisa Ford
Lisa Ford is a speaker on customer service issues. She is the author of the book Exceptional Customer Service. More on Lisa’s work can be found at www.lisaford.com 770.394.4860.
Publish Date: March 16, 2017 5:00 AM
Possibly one of my biggest push buttons in business today is customer service – businesses are so focused on enticing new customers that they often disregard the value of their existing ones. The impact of this is highlighted in new research which estimates that UK businesses lose £12 billion every year as a result of poor customer service.
The research, conducted by NewVoiceMedia, shows that 93% of respondents have switched business at least once in the last year because of poor customer service and a third of 16 to 24 year-olds will post online if they are unhappy with the service they are receiving.
The statistics are impressive, but not surprising. For years companies have focused on making customer service as cost-effective as possible, rather than providing a genuinely valuable service. Now that social media has given consumers a public and increasingly powerful voice, brands are paying a hefty price.
The flip side of this is that after receiving good service, 71% would recommend the company to others and 44% would use the company more frequently.
In social media, customer service has been something of an afterthought and is still very much in its infancy. Research tells us that whilst 70% of marketing departments are involved in social media, only 19% of customer service teams are using social channels. As the buying power of Generation Y increases, brands will have to think carefully about whether they can afford to ignore it any longer.
Some companies, O2 being an obvious example, have really taken to social customer service and are succeeding in treating customers as individuals and responding in a human voice. What we need is for that to be applied to all customer service channels and to see a joined up approach between them.
A quarter of adults believe the UK’s general levels of customer help are under-par – with telecoms, energy companies, banks and building societies coming under fire for providing the very worst service of all.
Customer satisfaction in the UK is at its lowest level since July 2010. Across all sectors the goalposts have moved and customers now expect to be involved in a real dialogue with brands – they no longer accept one-way communication. Yet many organisations are struggling to grasp this shift from a transactional to a relationship economy.
One key indicator of this dissatisfaction is how customers view the responsiveness of organisations. According to The Institute’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) some of the biggest frustrations that customers have relate to the speed of complaint handling and the attitude and abilities of staff. Under these two metrics, organisations are still scoring, on average, lower than they were in 2013. In a new economy this deficiency must be addressed, given that it is speed which plays such a significant role in customer service.
The reputational risk of inaction has never been higher, with evidence suggesting that one in three customers will turn to social media for a resolution if they want a rapid response.
On top of these pressures, many businesses have struggled to make the necessary significant investment of time and money in customer service, as budgets tightened during the global economic downturn. A short-term approach will not make an impact on revenues and profitability, so where should this investment be focused?
But why is British customer service so bad?
Customers should be at the heart of the sales process, empowered by technology. Yet in most cases it seems as though technology is taking on the role of dealing with customers. Even when you navigate the myriad of options on the phone and get through to a human, most answers that they provide are robotic.
So, what is the conclusion:
First and foremost, a customer service culture needs to be led from the top so that there is a clear and visible objective. There is no quick fix – its importance must be instilled across and throughout the business. After all, the impact on the bottom line is significant. The retail food sector demonstrates this – our research shows that companies performing above average in terms of customer satisfaction outperform their below average competitors by up to 3%.
Leaders must ensure that all employees have the requisite skills and authority to deal with difficult customer complaints. Customers can come into contact with any member of staff through social media, telephone, email or a face-to-face meeting, making it crucial that employees are supported and have the emotional intelligence to deal with issues in a consistent, appropriate manner.
For this to happen, management must also give greater independence to individuals, allowing them to manage the speed of response that will win customers over and ensure their loyalty. For too long, customer-facing staff have been seen as a low paid and low skilled group that can be brought in seasonally. But they represent the organisation at the most important time – when dealing with customers.
With over 70% of the UK’s working population working in customer-facing roles, making customer satisfaction central to any business’ objectives should be obvious. The likes of Morrisons and Halfords have led from the top on this issue with appointments of customer-focused CEOs, but there is a long way to go.
If the UK is to accelerate growth, businesses of all sizes must appreciate the changing dynamic of the customer-brand relationship. If they do not, they will lose market share to their competitors that get it.
John Russell once said:
“The more you engage with customers, the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing”
Publish Date: March 2, 2017 5:00 AM
In 1971 a study famously concluded that only 7% of communication is verbal. However, this often-quoted statistic not only undermines the effectiveness of spoken communications but the comprehensive nature of the research itself.
The piece’s author – Professor Mehrabian of UCLA – found that 55% of communication is about body language. He also reasoned that 38% is about the way people speak rather than the words used. With articulation included, the spoken word accounts for a significant 45% of how people communicate.
Speech analytics works by analysing spoken words, variations in pitch, silences and other verbal cues. Using it means you take the raw data from phone calls and convert it into information your business can use to improve the customer experience in five key ways.
Even the most attentive customer service agents can drown in a sea of words. After handling hundreds of calls day in, day out, it becomes very hard to retain important information. In a busy environment, real-time speech analytics provides the ultimate fail-safe.
Speech analytics takes unstructured data (thousands of hours’ worth of calls) and turns it into structured data. The software then analyses this data, detecting things like the reason for the call, the products mentioned and the tone of the customer’s and agent’s voices. It’s also possible to convert speech-based data into different formats such as text, which you can mine for specific keywords and indicators of customer sentiment.
In short, speech analytics software ensures data that would otherwise disappear forever gets recycled and fed into optimising the customer experience.
Customer service is a strategic asset your business can use to set it apart from competitors. That’s why evaluating customer satisfaction with everything from company procedures and policies to complaints about your products or service is so crucial.
Although surveys are currently the number one method businesses use for measuring feedback, speech analytics provides much more insight around the customer experience.
Speech analytics uncovers the reality of what happened during a call and the root cause for any dissatisfaction. Surveys, on the other hand, have a small sample size and only ask questions you think are the most important, which can create significant intelligence gaps.
If surveys are the main method for measuring customer feedback, focus groups are the favoured technique for finding out what they want. But once again, speech analytics provides an easy and cost-effective alternative to learning what customers want.
Sometimes it can even create up-sell and cross-sell opportunities.
Imagine a customer calls asking for a service you don’t currently offer but could easily implement. If this turns into a recurring pattern, speech analytics can help you to spot and then monetise these opportunities more efficiently. Being able to identify what your customers want more easily increases the chances of exceeding their unique wants and needs.
The top priority for most contact centre managers is to ensure their team is delivering a high level of customer service.
Speech analytics software makes it easier to identify the reasons for repeat calls as well as whether your agents adhere to scripts and follow regulatory conditions. It can also be used to learn how your most successful agents work and how to replicate their winning techniques.
In combination, this type of data means you can create tailor-made training packages for specific agents. And being able to target training at individual agents is much more effective than creating one-size-fits-all training solutions for all your employees.
In NewVoiceMedia’s White Paper, Serial Switchers Strike Again, we discovered that 70% of consumers are more loyal to a company when they provide excellent customer service, and 40% spend more.
Speech analytics can reveal the most frequently made complaints and the most common reasons why customers call your business. It can also systematically scan calls to spot trends, flag individual calls for analysis and implement many other processes for improved quality assurance.
All in all, speech analytics can provide the tools you need to improve service quality, increase satisfaction and give your customers less reason to abandon your business in the first place.
So, there you have it: five ways speech analytics can help your business plug its customer service intelligence gap.
To learn more about excelling in sales and service, take a look at our selection of insight-packed white papers.
Publish Date: February 13, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s natural to always be on the lookout for ways to improve customer service at your organisation – but, sometimes, we’re so busy looking elsewhere that we don’t recognise what’s right under our own noses. How else can you explain these common customer service mistakes, which are so ubiquitous that many businesses don’t even know they’re doing anything wrong?
In this post, we’re shining a spotlight on this under-explored area by listing six important customer service mistakes to avoid and how to fix them.
1. Being reactive, not proactive
The mistake: According to NewVoiceMedia’s report, 44 percent of people switch providers because they feel unappreciated. It’s far more economical to retain existing customers rather than simply attract new ones – which is why any strategy aimed at keeping your current customers happy is likely to pay off significantly.
The fix: Provide customer service that’s proactive as well as reactive. Don’t just deal with issues or enquiries as they arise; instead, introduce strategies that reward your existing customers, show you’re there for them, and improve their overall experience – such as customer loyalty schemes and regular requests for feedback.
2. Ignoring employee engagement
The mistake: Customer service can only ever be as good as the people who provide it – yet a shocking number of organisations overlook this crucial truth. Satisfaction levels among customer service staff are notoriously low – indeed, according to one survey of 200,000 employees, it was found that customer-facing staff had significantly lower levels of engagement than those in executive positions. With numbers like that, it’s unsurprising that customer service suffers.
The fix: Invest in programmes designed to keep your employees enthusiastic and engaged. For example, more and more businesses are using gamification tools such as Motivate, which is designed to promote best practices and productivity among contact centre employees.
3. Getting the tone wrong
The mistake: Customer service agents are only human, and have good days and bad days like anyone else. Nonetheless, when it comes to service, getting the tone right is not something that can be compromised on – if a customer perceives they’re being treated badly, they will leave the engagement with a bad taste in their mouth, even if the issue is technically resolved. Indeed, in one study, it was found that, when resolving an issue and offering monetary compensation, simply apologising to customers caused satisfaction levels to double from 37 to 74 percent.
The fix: It is essential that organisations focus on hiring the right people for customer service roles, and also provide comprehensive training and ongoing professional development. This way, service agents can hone their interpersonal communication skills and social intelligence levels, and tailor their tone to suit each customer’s individual needs and expectations.
4. Frustrating phone calls
The mistake: While the majority of consumers prefer to speak to a real person when seeking customer service, many are reluctant to pick up the phone. Why? According to research, 48 percent hate being kept on hold and 39 percent dislike having to repeat the same information to multiple agents.
The fix: Invest in a system that enables customers to call your organisation, input the necessary information, then be directed to the customer service department best able to meet their requirements. This minimises wait times, reduces the need to be passed between multiple agents, and increases satisfaction. Interactive voice response (IVR) software, for example, is ideal for organisations that want to offer a more effective, meaningful self-service experience.
5. Overlooking omnichannel
The mistake: Today’s customers don’t think about channels. They expect to be able to access customer service in whichever way is most convenient to them – whether that’s face to face, by phone or email, via social media or using live chat. If you’re not providing effective, joined-up customer service across a range of channels, your customers will be dissatisfied before even reaching an agent.
The fix: Adopt an omnichannel approach that allows consumers to access customer service in the way they prefer, and enables service agents to retrieve detailed and personalised information irrespective of which channel the customer is using.
6. Not remembering your customers
The mistake: Personalised customer service is no longer considered a bonus, but a minimum requirement. Customers want agents to know who they are, and to be able to access pertinent information – such as their personal details, account history and past engagements – in an instant.
The fix: To achieve the required standard of customer service, it’s essential to invest in effective customer relationship management (CRM) technology. ContactWorld for Service, for example, is the world’s first global, true-cloud contact centre solution that has been shown to result in higher levels of customer satisfaction, better engagement rates and faster resolutions.
Did you know that poor customer service costs UK businesses £11 billion every year? To learn more about why consumers are jumping ship, what their biggest customer service pain points are, and the benefits of ensuring consistent customer satisfaction, download our whitepaper, Serial Switchers Strikes Again: How The Billion Pound Customer Service Problem Prevails
Publish Date: February 7, 2017 5:00 AM
Contact centres act as the front-line for many businesses. They are the point of contact where customers and companies meet to resolve issues and buy products and services. Operating at their best, contact centres play a fundamental part in creating a positive customer experience. At their worst, they can inflict irreparable damage that the business they represent will find hard to come back from.
It’s the job of the contact centre manager to oversee the balancing act that makes or breaks a call centre’s success. As such, they have to handle extreme amounts of pressure, while keeping agents happy and accountable for goals and deadlines. Despite the difficulties, if you’re a contact manager, there are a select number of habits and practices that will help you follow the path to greatness.
Agents are the eyes and ears of any contact centre. From a contact manager’s perspective, this makes their feedback invaluable, as they will be the first to notice trends, and their input can be used to stimulate changes that will help improve the overall customer experience.
Allowing agents to air their voice via team meetings will help them feel as though they play a vital role in the success of the contact centre. However, it is always good to back up such sessions by implementing an anonymous ‘suggestions box’. This way, those who are not comfortable offering feedback in public will still have a way of getting their point of view across.
According to a report by Sales Performance International, without reinforcement, 84% of what is learned through multi-day training programmes is lost within 90 days.
As a result, there is a growing number of sales managers who are seeking to replace marathon training sessions with learning experiences that are short, sharp and focused. Training delivered as needed, where needed, and an ongoing basis is better served to making lessons stick. Plus, it can also save money in the long-term – so it’s a win-win situation.
When was the last time you picked up a headset? If it’s been awhile, you might be surprised by the insight you can glean. For one, it will help you gain a better understanding of the challenges your agents face every day. But perhaps of greater value is that managers who are occasionally seen to put themselves in the shoes of their workforce, typically, find it a lot easier to command respect from the agents working for them.
Estimates for the turnover rate at call centres across the industry varies. However, there are studies that place the rate at somewhere between 25 to 35%. That means for every 100 agents you employ, up to 35 will leave of their own volition by the end of the year.
Implementing a structured recruiting programme can help you attract better talent, which, in theory, will contribute to reducing your staff turnover rate. Start by ensuring that all applicants fully understand the contact centre environment, and use behaviour-based interview questions and competency-based assessment tools to evaluate whether they will be a good fit for your team.
If your agent turnover rate remains high, conduct exit interviews to gain a better understanding of why people leave. This will help you to identify the common trends and grievances that will help you to make improvements that increase job satisfaction levels.
Due to the stressful nature of the work, call centre agents are prone to burn out. As a contact centre manager, this means learning how to maintain drive and energy within your team is an essential part of being successful.
One of the main techniques contact managers use for stimulating agents is setting targets and offering incentives. If you work in sales, the biggest motivation will probably always be money. Consequently, if possible, it’s a good idea to reward exceptional performance with cash bonuses.
Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that every person is unique, which means some won’t be solely money motivated. In this case, sharing positive feedback, highlighting successes, developing team bonding sessions and using a combination of other motivational tactics can help reap the desired rewards.
More often than not, contact managers that show they care will have the most success when it comes to getting the best out of their team.
Consider talking to your team about things other than work. This will help you to gain a better understanding of what makes them tick, and it will help your agents see you as an individual and not just their manager. Equally, joining your agents for lunch and mixing up working hours to be seen by a broader range of employees can also go a long way towards creating a positive and inclusive working environment.
In recent years, technological advances have changed the face of the contact centre.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems can now help agents access relevant prospect data in real-time, which help provide the support needed to deliver better results. Mobile technology and cloud-based SaaS means agents no longer need to be tied to their desk, and can work from anywhere. Social media platforms, when used effectively and ethically, can provide agents with extra touch points in the customer service mix.
In short, new technologies have – and will continue to – provide a competitive edge to contact centre managers with their finger on the pulse, so it pays to keep informed on the latest tools and developments.
As you can see, there are a wide range of skills and techniques that a contact manager can adopt to help breed success. Do you want to learn more about building a successful contact centre? Then you can download our free guide ‘Building the customer centric contact centre’ to find our more.n’t
Publish Date: January 16, 2017 5:00 AM
Social media: a platform that allows consumers to say anything they like about a brand – and broadcast that message to the world. When you think about it, it’s not surprising that many businesses consider social media to be one of the dangerous communication channels. If you get it wrong, the negative PR will spread like wildfire.
However, it’s not all bad. Anything that has the ability to do this much damage for a brand’s image, also has the power to do the reverse. If you can get social media right, you can reach a huge audience and really impress shoppers.
Here, we examine what leads customers to complain on social media, and how businesses can avoid many of these problems with an omnichannel customer experience.
At NewVoiceMedia, we’ve recently updated our Serial Switchers report and found that UK businesses are collectively losing £11 billion per year through poor customer service. While the cost of bad service might seem huge, it’s actually 1.2 billion less than in 2013.
But, what makes customers switch to a competitor? When we asked consumers in 2015, they cited the same reasons as in 2013: not feeling appreciated, unhelpful/rude staff, being passed around to multiple people, not being able to get answers, and becoming fed up of queuing and not being able to speak to a person. This shows that while the overall cost of poor service has gone down, many consumers are still finding the same problems – but perhaps more infrequently.
While some of these problems are training issues, most are caused by the growing ‘digital divide’ between consumers and businesses. As customers flit between communication channels, businesses can’t keep up, which leads to confusion, errors and many customers having to explain their issue over and over again.
Even though social media is far from the most popular channel of communication, it does make up a significant chunk of communications and according to our research, 18% of shoppers believe it to be the most effective way to resolve a problem. This figure has actually increased since our original study in 2013 by 2%, showing that more and more consumers are seeing the benefits of turning to social media.
And when it comes to how customers deal with bad service, 16% of consumers would complain publically on social media. Other studies have shown similar results – for instance, a survey by the Institute of Customer Service showed that from January 2014 to May 2015, there was an eight-fold increase in customer complaints made on social media.
While this may seem like a worrying prospect – perhaps more troubling is the fact that, according to our research, 47% of consumers would never use that company again, 40% would change suppliers and 20% would post an online review.
In many ways, social media is a great opportunity for clever marketers, as it’s an amazing research tool to find out why shoppers are unhappy – and it gives you a way to respond publicly and demonstrate your great customer service.
Aside from the obvious benefits of providing a better, more joined-up customer service, there are many paybacks from making a success of your social media that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. For instance, a study by Bain & Company suggests that when companies respond to customer service requests over social media in an engaging way, those customers, on average, end up spending 20% to 40% more with the business.
With that in mind, here are three steps to getting social media customer service right:
Find out more about how to deliver the service that customers want – and the cost of getting it wrong – with our whitepapers.
Publish Date: January 3, 2017 5:00 AM
Step Forward is an apprenticeship, run by national charity The Challenge, that supports companies to recruit and develop diverse young talent.
Anand joined the Step Forward programme as a Salesforce apprentice in September and has been working at Audio Network, an independent production music library.
My apprenticeship so far:
Publish Date: December 22, 2016 5:00 AM
“Often the psychology of queuing is more important than the statistics of the wait itself” – Dr Richard Larson, Mitsui Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT, considered to be the world’s foremost expert on lines.
People overestimate how long they’ve waited in a queue by roughly 36 percent – Jacob Hornik, researcher on subjective vs objective time measures.
As with so much in life, when it comes to waiting, perception is everything! The classic example being the complaints about slow lifts (or should I say elevators?) in 1950s America. As more people moved into high rise buildings, the speed of the lifts became increasingly frustrating for the tenants. They obviously couldn’t change the building to add lift shafts. So the landlords installed floor to ceiling mirrors. The tenants were now distracted by checking their appearance or stealing furtive glances at the lady upstairs. The complaints of slow lifts reduced to almost zero.
The following queuing perceptions will help us understand our customers and improve how they feel about engaging with us.
At motorway roadworks, even if you are doing 20 mph, you feel great as long as the other lanes are doing 15 mph. The sense of going faster than your co-waiters fills you with positive feelings. Sadly for me, I’m never in the 20mph lane and have usually just changed out of it!
In a contact centre scenario, call priorities are often changed for various reasons. VIPs or high value callers and also disgruntled or churn risk callers are often bumped up the queue. The question is, do they know? And, how do we communicate it to them in a positive way? “We are sorry that you have had issues with our service and are placing you in front of all the other callers who we haven’t annoyed yet!” probably isn’t the way to go.
The biggest impact on happiness (as we all know from the motorway) is people queue jumping. We need to bear this in mind when we communicate that we are fast tracking callers. Especially since the escalated callers of today may have to wait longer next week.
Beating expectations makes people happier. People who wait a shorter time than expected are happier than those who wait longer than expected. Disney (the masters of queuing) are Jedis at this. Their estimated wait times are always longer than the likely reality and their customers are happier for it.
If we decide to communicate expected wait times, we had better make sure that they are not shorter than the likely wait. If we communicate an expected wait which is longer than the actual wait, we will make our callers happier.
The last part of a wait sets the tone for our memory of that wait. For example, if the countdown to agent answer gets quicker towards the end of the wait, your memory of the queuing experience is likely to be positive. This can have a big impact on the agent interaction. There are benefits for the agent well-being as well as customer satisfaction.
We perceive occupied time as faster than non-occupied time. Another classic example from queuing psychology comes from airport baggage reclaim. Have you ever noticed that the waiting time for bags to come out of belts which are several miles from where you got off the plane are remarkably short? You’d think that it would annoy flyers to have to walk and then wait but actually the opposite is true. Walking doesn’t count as waiting to the mind. So even though the time to deliver your suitcase up the black belt of joy is exactly the same, if you’ve spent the last 20 minutes walking half the way back to the place you just arrived from, you feel happier than if you spent that 20 minutes staring into the abyss worrying about whether your bag made it onto the plane.
The technology to play diverting in-queue messages to callers has long existed but what is the best way to use it? Again, we need to handle this with care. If a caller has called to complain, they don’t want messages about how great your product is or special offers on buying more. That said, a happy customer would welcome knowing how they can save money on something they would have bought anyway.
A lot will depend on your brand but interesting facts about subjects relevant or irrelevant could be worth a try? Maybe we give the caller a choice of whether they want to hear “news of the day” or carry on listening to Green Sleeves? My view is that anything will be better than “Your call is valuable to us… thank you for your patience!” In fact, in a recent Which? survey, this was voted one of the most irritating messages that an organisation can play.
People want to “get started”. We perceive pre-process waits as longer than in-process waits. Once we have started a process, we are much more patient than before we have started. Lots of restaurants will seat us in a bar area and give us a menu while we wait for a table to become available. This pulls us into the service experience early and increases our patience for a table (as well as occupying us while we wait).
Why do we, in contact centres, treat self-service and assisted service as an either-or? Why can’t we parallel up the collection of customer security information and offering of self service with the wait for an agent? There are subtleties of timing here. What if the caller is just about to self serve when their agent becomes available? What if a caller doesn’t want or need to speak to an agent? What if the skill set of the required agent changes as we learn more about the caller? The flip side is worth considering. What if we show that we value our customer’s time by immediately placing them in queue? What if we start their service interaction early and distract them with something useful while they wait? Would our customers be happy to have a perceived shorter wait time? Would they be happier to have a shorter actual wait time? Provided we pass the collected data to the agent, would they be happier to have a shorter handle time?
And finally an off the wall suggestion. Shared waits feel shorter than solo waits.
What if we conferenced together our callers while they wait? We would need to pick the right demand. But with the world moving towards crowd sourcing and user communities maybe there is a place for this in the contact centre? I think that at least it would make a fun experiment.
Waiting for an agent is an unavoidable reality, even with so may other service channels available. Our responsibility as contact centre people is to make that wait feel as short and as unmemorable as possible.
Publish Date: December 13, 2016 5:00 AM
This post originally appeared on Barbara Giamanco‘s website and is republished here with permission.
You’ve probably heard that content is king (I say queen). Content is the way to start wooing your prospects in advance of sales opportunities. Every conversation related to social selling includes a focus on using content to boost your credibility as a thought leader in your field. I don’t disagree with that premise. Buyers are doing early stage research, and the use of content that is relevant and educational can certainly work to your advantage. Buyers turn a deaf ear to the pitch, but they do pay attention when what you do, say and share makes it clear to them that you understand what is important to them.
The right content used strategically at the right time definitely, helps you stand apart from your competitors. But the big question is – should salespeople be the ones creating their content?
Many in the social selling space will insist that the answer is yes. Others say, absolutely not. After all, isn’t that marketing’s job? Me? I say it depends on your personal situation.
When you think about how to use content as part of your sales process, there are three ways you can approach it:
Let’s talk about each one.
Share the content of others
This can work to your advantage PROVIDED the content is relevant to your audience and offers them specific insights that can help them improve their business. This assumes something really important – you have to know what your buyer cares about.
Some investigative work is required. Your marketing department may have done buyer persona work you can use, and you can use social media to do your validation about what your targeted buyers are interested in. How? Ask yourself these questions about your target buyers:
-What content do they share on LinkedIn? Not just the topics, but the medium. Do they tend to share more articles or it is video or podcasts?
-What content topics do they comment on? Could be in tweets, LinkedIn status updates or on posts others are publishing.
-What LinkedIn influencers are they following?
-Do they publish LinkedIn posts? If so, what topics do they write about?
-Who do they follow on Twitter and what kind of content do they share there? Is it business, more personal or a little of both?
– What about groups they have joined on LinkedIn, what types of questions do they answer or like?
The point is that online social behavior will provide clues to help you determine how to structure your thinking around the type of content to share. Then you can study your industry to determine who produces content that you believe your customers and potential customers will find of real benefit. Could be top bloggers, publications like Forbes, Harvard Business Review or Inc. Magazine. If you are appealing to folks in the sales world, perhaps you are sharing daily doses of content from Top Sales World. Might be a well-respected publication in your specific industry.
Will this take a little sweat equity to figure out and plan for? Yes. But, honestly, it isn’t too much and if your end game is to secure opportunities to have a sales conversation with buyers, well then, put in the effort.
Share company produced content
Now that you’ve done the digging and have a good idea of what content will appeal to your prospective buyer, you can match those interests to the content your marketing team has worked hard to create. I’m thinking white papers, research reports, informative blog posts, interviews with industry leaders, etc. Be careful, though. If the content isn’t much more than dressed up sales pitches, I’d rethink how much company produced content you share. If the content is simply pitching products or services, that will turn buyers off.
Make a point to share relevant content once a day through the network of your choice. The platform where your prospective buyers are most likely to see it. Add a comment before sharing to bring attention to why your buyer should read the article. Tell them what you believe will be valuable to them.
Posting once a day doesn’t take a lot of time. What it requires though is knowing where the content is so that you get to it easily. Could be your company’s LinkedIn page, a content sharing portal that your marketing team has created and so on.
Produce your own content
This one is tricky because there are only so many hours in the day. The main job of those of us in sales is to, well, you know, sell. The zealots will insist that no matter what, you have to make time to create content. Well, I don’t know about that. If you have a family you go home to that includes a spouse and kids; I’m not sure how much they’d appreciate you getting right to work on content once they finally have time with you. Okay, sure, you can get up an hour earlier. Maybe stay up after the kiddos have gone to bed. The point is you have to figure out what rhythm you can commit yourself to in this area.
If you don’t have a lot of experience creating content, it won’t be quite as easy as some experts would have you believe. You’ll need a content plan that includes topics, what type of content you will create, and where and how you’ll distribute the content. Questions have to be answered. If you blindly jump in, you will likely flounder and feel frustrated.
I know a few folks in the social selling space who INSIST salespeople WRITE their own content. I vehemently disagree! This is just another example of trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach onto everyone.
First, you must like writing. It isn’t easy.
Second, the goal is to create content that backs up your professional brand promise, demonstrates your expertise, and paints a picture of how you think and what working with you might be like. You want your words to lead buyers to think – hey, I want to talk to that person, I think they can help us.
Third, you need to do it well. I’ve read some of the most poorly written posts on LinkedIn ever. Words missing, capitalizing every word in a sentence, grammar way off, run on sentences and the like. Same goes for blog posts. Everyone makes mistakes but it is clear that some folks are writing stream of consciousness and don’t go back to edit themselves. Did I say that the content is representing you? If it looks like you are unable to string a few sentences together coherently, what message are you communicating to a potential buyer?
Writing is only one way to create content. There are many great ways to create content that is yours and here are 17 ideas to get those juices flowing. Maybe it is a presentation you create. How about conducting podcast interviews. What about a webinar you host with a panel of leaders in your industry that you invite prospects to attend, which you record and repurpose later. You might like creating short little video clips.
What I’m saying is that you need to figure out what you are most comfortable creating on your own and start there.
About that original question.
The answer isn’t yes or no. Most things are not black and white.
The answer is that salespeople need a content strategy that works for them. That much is true, and I believe it will be a mashup of the three approaches I shared in this post. It is probably a mix of 70% (other), 20% (company), and 10% (yours) in the beginning. You have to determine for yourself what will work best for you. Don’t listen to anyone insisting it has to be one way – as in you must write your own content – just because they said so. This is about your brand – not theirs! Never forget that!
Publish Date: December 6, 2016 5:00 AM
Modern call centers need much more than phones. Today, customers interact with companies in complicated and dynamic ways. Email, chat and a variety of social media channels act as multiple points of contact for businesses. So, just having a phone won’t cut it.
The future of business is a one-stop cloud contact center shop. And it starts with a CRM.
What is a CRM?
CRM stands for customer relationship management. Today, people use the term colloquially to mean a repository for customer information and interaction. A CRM is a platform that connects customers and businesses. It facilitates, stores, measures and reports on business activities across departments including sales, customer service, marketing and IT verticals.
In 1999, former Oracle employee Marc Benioff created the cloud company Salesforce. Since then, it has become synonymous with CRM.
The platform gained notoriety as a cloud-based infrastructure for innovation and administrative automation. Unlike its predecessors, Salesforce could execute cross-company business functions without the need for on premise serves and massive hardware. Taking a PaaS (Platform as a Service) approach to market, Salesforce allowed developers to access its code and create multitenant add-on applications. The result was a billion-dollar innovation economy that continues to grow.
Prior to the cloud CRM inception, businesses typically stored and connected customer information on their own servers. Sales managers would collect and compile excel sheets on leads, prospects and customers and store them in folders within their company’s servers. They’d create manual reports to analyze quarterly productivity and determine everything from total revenue to future resource allocation. Similarly, marketing managers, customer service manager and IT managers created their own reports, plans and campaigns through tedious manual processes. Executives spent gobs of time sorting through data.
Likewise, communication and collaboration was tedious. Reports, assessments and internal requests clogged email inboxes. And tools to help with the creation, management, distribution and analysis of campaigns required several redundancies and manual adjustments.
The Phone Barrier
Of the manual day-to-day processes employees endured in the past, many centered around phone calls.
Contact center agents had to field orders, returns and complaints, register that information into a database and then disseminate the details to other parties within the company (e.g. order fulfilment, tech support, customer relations). When taking inbound calls, agents would need to sort through their files to locate any previous customer interaction logs and manually route the caller to the correct department.
On the outbound side of the business, sales reps had to prioritize their leads for the day, manually dial-out to each prospect, take notes on every customer interaction and circulate the information to team members.
What is CTI?
With the formation of the cloud CRM, companies finally had a database that could house everything they needed to run a business. But there was still an information gap. The CRM was a storehouse of customer knowledge, but to make that knowledge actionable it needed more tools … Specifically, computer telephony integration or CTI.
Companies who invested in Salesforce had the benefit of a system that could run reports, log details and showcase information across departments. The platform also had applications that could compile information automatically through digital channels like email, website cookies, live chats and social media. This greatly reduced administrative work and improved the customer experience. But manual input was still a part of the process.
During an inbound call, agents/reps still had to search for customer details in the CRM. After a call, agents/reps still had to enter new customer information.
Then, CTI applications came into play. Developers (like those at NewVoiceMedia) built software with application program interfaces (APIs) that could create phone channels natively in Salesforce. The concept was simple – add the phone to the CRM.
The Emergence of the Cloud Contact Center
The CTI phone system’s basic form allowed customers to program their phone numbers into a dial pad within Salesforce. The phone could then create a bridge between outbound and inbound calls, the Salesforce database and agents preferred device (desk, mobile or computer phone). The result was a unified and mostly automated dashboard for all phone based business operations. No more excel sheets. No more manual reporting. A complete cloud contact center.
With CTI, companies could data dip into their CRM pool of data. As a result, the CRM could perform advance functions such as:
• Automatic dialing
• Soft phone
• Automatic call logging and Recording
• Local Presence
• Voicemail Drop
• Hot Desking
• Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
• Skills-based Routing
• Intelligent Routing
• Simple Authentication of the Caller
• Centralized and Simplified Call Reporting
• Inside View of Multiple / Global Call Centers
• Access to Market-leading Technology
Click here for full details on key Salesforce CTI features.
What does this mean for businesses?
Today, companies that use a CRM with a CTI integration save immense amounts of time and money. Sales representatives don’t waste time trying to prioritize leads and create dial lists; they focus on selling. Customer service agents don’t have to ask customers for their information multiple times or manually search their system; they solve customer issues faster. And reports and stat tracking? It’s done in an instant – auto-tracked and accessible across the business.
Most companies still have compartmentalized departments with specific job functions associated with the phone. Silo’d offices have managers that purchase tools explicitly for their department. Inside sales representatives purchase CTI for their sales needs and customer service agents use it for their service needs. But the future of CTI lies in its ability to compile information on customers across different departments and channels. Sales persons that can understand their customers’ previous service interactions, and vice versa, stand to benefit from a more tailored customer experiences.
And That’s Not All…
Sales and service are simply features that can be turned on and off within the intelligent communication platform. Holistically, the platform is a phone/computer/database with insurmountable capabilities.
As an API that operates on data in the CRM, the CTI tool can be used with other applications to augment the system further. For example, a geo data mapping function could work with the CTI system in the CRM to determine which geographic region had the most potential value. The phone could then shift certain sales agents’ lead lists to focus on high-priority regions for prospecting. Add predictive and AI elements to the mix, and there is potential for massive profit and tremendous leaps in the customer experience.
It all depends on how far down the tech rabbit hole you want to go.
To Sum Up
A cloud contact center with CTI can do a lot to improve the customer experience. The technology behind the scenes may seem confusing, but the takeaways are simple – fewer administrative tasks, less hardware, higher revenue and greater customer satisfaction.
If you are looking for tools and applications to help your business, explore your CRM and CTI options schedule demos and consult with your company leaders. There is a lot this technology could do to improve your business – too much to cover in one article. But education is the first step.
Publish Date: November 29, 2016 5:00 AM
‘The customer is always right’ – it’s an old adage, but it still holds true. Don’t believe us? In this post, we’re sharing 10 powerful stats featured in NewVoiceMedia whitepapers that prove the point once and for all.
As you can see, inadequate customer service can have a big impact on your company’s bottom line. Keeping customers happy is a major priority – and nothing makes customers unhappier than being told they’re wrong. By treating your customers with the dignity and respect they deserve, and taking their issues or concerns seriously, your organisation is more likely to win their good will and retain their custom.
Some companies think that they can make up for poor service with low prices. However, as this statistic makes clear, for the majority of consumers, low prices are not enough. Instead, listen to your customers and aim to achieve a balance between service and cost, even if you’re predominantly catering to people on a budget.
The consensus among customers is clear: generic sales pitches are a dud. Not only can most consumers recognise a generic pitch when they hear it, but they actively dislike it and are less likely to make a purchase as a result. So don’t disregard your prospects’ feelings – instead, respect their preferences and personalise your pitches.
Your customers know how they want to be treated by your sales team – and, as the above statistic demonstrates, they don’t want to feel heavy-handedly pushed into making a purchase. So accept your customers are right about this, and make sure your sales staff are trained to use a softer approach to selling.
Customers are growing increasingly comfortable with making purchases without the help of a sales rep, with more people than ever researching products online, enjoying virtual product demonstrations and webinars, and completing the sale through the website. It is your organisation’s responsibility to listen to your customers and provide them with the tools, information and functionality they need to self-fulfil a purchase – or else risk losing their business.
As this figure shows, customers in the UK feel no regret about walking away from a company that has failed to provide the level of service they expect. While there are many factors that can contribute to a bad customer service experience, it is undeniable that customers who feel that their concerns or issues are not being treated with the seriousness they deserve are likely to vote with their feet.
Again, the statistics above demonstrate the possible negative repercussions of not taking your customers’ concerns seriously. From formal complaints to the loss of an entire social network’s business, the impact can be severe. By believing that your customers are always right and doing whatever you can to assist them, the likelihood of this nightmare scenario becoming a reality reduces significantly.
Conversely, it is also worth remembering the positive effects of good customer service. As the above stats show, listening to your customers and treating their opinions with respect can help improve customer loyalty, increase revenue and lead to referrals – all of which are great for your business’ bottom line.
As a business, you should be where your customers are. And your customers have spoken: they want you to be on social media. This is a double win for brands, as it not only gives them a new platform with which to engage their customers, but also means they can provide customer service across a channel that is actively preferred by a growing number of consumers.
Of course, social media can be a double-edged sword, as it gives customers a whole new channel upon which they could air their grievances. Before social media, an unhappy customer might complain about a brand to their close friends or family; now, their angry words could reach hundreds or even thousands of people. So treat your customers’ concerns as valid – or else risk earning their (very public) wrath.
So there you have it: 10 reasons why the customer is always right – backed up by statistics taken from NewVoiceMedia’s research. To learn even more about delivering excellent customer service, in addition to developing best sales practice, take a look at our selection of insight-packed whitepapers.
Publish Date: November 14, 2016 5:00 AM
The CEO of Busey Bank, Van Dukeman, has an interesting concept he calls the of Business. I heard his presentation on the subject of how quickly a business moves when I had the privilege of working with the bank, and I realized the importance of how velocity applies to the customer service experience.
What comes to mind when you hear the word velocity? Fast, powerful, charging ahead, positive motion – velocity is a power word. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines velocity as quickness of motion and rapidity of movement, in addition to other more scientific and technical uses of the word.
It’s not hard to see how velocity can benefit the customer service experience. Customers want fast service – whether they are waiting in line, calling the customer service center or waiting for an email response. If you are able to provide a rapid response that meets, or exceeds, customers’ expectations, velocity goes a long way in creating confidence.
At my company, our goal is to return phone calls and emails the same day they are received – ideally within an hour, or even minutes if a customer is having a problem. Our customers notice our efforts, too. I love it when clients tell me that they are impressed with our quick response time. And, the benefits are apparent – we have been awarded customer service training and speaking contracts based on our fast responses to customers’ requests. We strive to “practice what we preach” and follow the same concepts that we teach.
Some other companies really get it too – those same companies whose stated goal is to respond to social media comments within minutes are also generally the ones recognized in surveys and polls for their stellar customer service. On the other hand, I’m stunned that there are companies still waiting 24-48 hours (or more) to respond.
But there exists an even higher level of the concept of speed. The very best companies practice proactive service, aiming to anticipate the customer’s needs before the customer even has to ask. A very basic example of this would be the server who refills a diner’s water glass before it is empty. Our service includes tracking packages that ship from our office and emailing clients a confirmation to let them know the package has arrived and who signed for it. Often, the client receives our email message before the package makes its way to his or her office.
Create a sense of urgency among your employees. Respond rapidly and proactively anticipate your customers’ needs. Velocitize your business. Doing so will create confidence, and ultimately, the ever-coveted loyal customer.
Read more from Shep Hyken
Publish Date: November 10, 2016 5:00 AM
When a company reaches the top, does customer service quality still matter? Industry leaders tend to think so.
I recently organized a service bench-marking visit to Singapore for 22 Korean sales and service trainers. In seven days we visited 23 leading organizations. A very busy week!
At the Singapore Airlines Cabin Crew Training Center, one visitor asked, “How does Singapore Airlines stay on top all these years? And how do you plan to keep the lead while other airlines work so hard to beat you?”
Senior Vice President, Mr Sim Kay Wee, answered clearly: “100% is not enough. When you reach #1, you need 120%.
“Here’s why: If you fly on a mediocre airline, your service expectation may be only 50%. If the cabin crew is in a better mood, they may actually deliver 65%. Then what is your opinion of the service? It’s up 15%!
“Now if you know Singapore Airlines is #1, what is your expectation of the service? 110%! And if our cabin crew delivers service only at the 100% level, what is your opinion of the service? It’s down 10%!
“This is the challenge of being #1,” he concluded. “If you are in the lead and want to stay there, 100% is not enough. You need every member of the team to give 120%!”
If you work hard and smart you may finally reach the top – #1!
And then what? If you want to stay there, you’ve got to work even harder, and smarter! Customer service quality will still matter.
Give it your all. Give it your best. Give it 120% in regard to customer service quality.
Take your best past performance as 100%. What would a 120% customer service quality effort look like? 120% results? Make that your team target for today.
Read more articles from Ron Kaufman
Publish Date: October 24, 2016 5:00 AM
Quite a lot as it happens.
I was asked to write a post to celebrate the Q3 launch of NewVoiceMedia’s latest capability. The traditional press release was fine but like a low calorie version of a lasagne bake just failed to satisfy.
I then asked for the 29 page PowerPoint version that the product owners shared amongst themselves. That hit the spot!
So what’s so cool about a global call plan?
Let’s start by talking about life without one and the challenges this throws up. Imagine you have clusters of advisors dotted around the planet. Different time zones for each – for instance London, Boston and Singapore. Each is plumbed into NewVoiceMedia’s cloud infrastructure, able to operate to common standards as a result. Isn’t that enough?
Not if you want to benefit from what a centralised view of life offers. With that, you can unlock a whole raft of useful functionality, courtesy of a single view and access to advisor status and availability, call plans, call recordings and operational statistics. In essence it’s about being able to run your whole estate from a single point of control.
OK, so what can I now do?
How about being able to deliver shorter wait times to more customers at busy times? That’s possible once you can leverage the peaks and troughs across different time zones and advisors. My Boston advisors can help out when things get peaky in London and so forth.
This makes for good customer experience, as does extending opening hours using the same planning technique which incidentally becomes a win-win because you can now offer more availability without needing to add the cost of an extra shift.
Contrast this with a world of separate call plans. Call transfers may be possible but remain completely hit or miss with regard to anyone being free to engage with those out of region customer enquiries. You just don’t know without consolidated real-time oversight. Obviously this matters since the ground rules of customer experience say every contact counts.
Apart from being able to send a customer to an available advisor wherever located, there are some other tricky ‘behind the scenes’ things you have to get right in a global call plan.
Crisp, clear audio might be an expectation, but achieving this across the multiples routes that digital voice takes is not a given. In fact, salami slicing a conversation in real time, routing it as digital packages over multiple networks, and then putting it back together in a way that still sounds like you are having conversation with someone next door, remains one of the wonders of modern global communications.
Sub second delays in getting all the conversation to arrive on time can easily distort and degrade our ability to listen and make sense of what someone has just said. All this matters when you are creating virtual pools of advisors to take calls from any geography. Designing quality assured network paths for ‘fragile’ voice conversations in a cost-effective way takes thought, technical expertise and an iterative approach moving it into live production.
But when it works, being able to offer customers short wait times, even during busy periods, fixes one of the greatest criticisms of voice-based service. And being able to offer high quality audio is one of the unnoticed enablers of generating empathetic dialogue. And both make your brand come across as extra special.
There are other benefits of global call plans that are worth a shout out. Silo performance statistics that need cut and paste can never by definition be real-time or comprehensive. So being able to use a single version for the whole estate is a real plus.
I’d also argue that a global call plan is just about the only cost-effective way of providing 24×7 live assistance which some sectors now have to provide for customers.
Anyway that’s pretty much all the juicy bits from the 29 page internal brief on global call plans I got my hands on. I hope this has clarified a few things and satisfied your curiosity.
If however this remains an ‘explanation lite’ version for your own tastes and you simply have to know what a ‘long leash, cloud agnostic telephony server’ does in making a global call plans hum, you’d best get on the phone and ask that product team!
Publish Date: October 12, 2016 5:00 AM