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SMS Text Marketing is Still Relevant

March 13, 2012 1 comment

A major trend in marketing today seems to be SMS text marketing as it is an extremely useful and effective form of marketing. Research demonstrates that approximately 200,000 text messages are sent every minute. 97 percent of those messages are opened, and 83 percent are opened within the first hour of receipt.

SMS text marketing is tremendously effective as part of a comprehensive marketing plan when used correctly. For example, this solution can greatly enhance local marketing. Since customers more often expect companies to know both what they like and what they are thinking, pairing a local promotion with an event, like a weather event or a sporting event, can make the promotion far more significant to the customer.

Promoters may also find SMS text marketing effective for local conferences, trade shows or sporting events. Changes to the schedule, for instance, can be sent out via text message, as can speaker announcements of logistical information. SMS text marketing can also engage customers by inviting them to participate in a poll or in a fun activity, like a quick scavenger hunt.

In addition, marketers can support other channels by using SMS text marketing. For instance, a Facebook only promotion can be mentioned to customers via text message. With social media networks, email, QR codes and offline channels, customers can be persuaded to opt into a mobile database. To build a database for SMS text marketing, companies should offer exclusive incentives, promotions or content. SMS text marketing can complement marketing across multiple channels when used consistently.

In addition, SMS text marketing can be used to deliver value to customers related to their transactions. For instance, companies can send text messages regarding shipping details, appointment reminders, payment notifications and service outage notifications. As NFC grows in popularity, companies can use SMS text marketing messages to immediately deliver transaction information to customers, like receipts.

The key to SMS text marketing, according to Jeff Lee of Distributive Networks, is to remember that it’s more important to give than to receive. When companies obtain a customer’s mobile number, then they should make it worth the customer’s while to remain on an SMS text marketing list. “I like to think of it as the certified mail of digital communications,” said Lee. “When you want to be sure people see something, send it by text.”

Originally posted at: http://sms-text-marketing.tmcnet.com/articles/274720-why-sms-text-marketing-still-relevant.htm

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Customer Service Technology Trends for 2012

December 20, 2011 8 comments

Place your contact center at the heart of your corporate social networking. You should be monitoring relevant social media channels, using them as self-service knowledge bases and engaging customers in real time on key networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

Your website needs to be optimized for mobile/smartphone access. Sabio notes that 46 percent of U.K. smartphone customers used their device to access the Internet over the last three months.

Consistent customer interactions across multiple channels. In 2012 consumers will expect their interactions to be handled consistently regardless of the channel they’re using, whether it’s mobile, a social interaction, traditional voice, webchat, e-mail or other emerging channels.

Have you got an App for that? Customers are now familiar with using apps as a service channel. These dedicated apps are increasingly giving customers a fast-track route into customer service centers, bypassing lengthy IVR processes and offering rapid escalation to webchat and voice interactions.

Tracking key service metrics through customer feedback. 2012 looks set to be the year when major organizations really start to embrace the link between offering a high quality customer experience, loyalty and longer-term financial success.

Capturing the true Voice of the Customer. Speech analytics technology has now reached a level of maturity and affordability where you can quickly determine exactly why customers are calling and highlight those calls that really shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

Helping your agents to make more of a difference. Deploying multi-channel agent desktops empowers agents, helps to deliver better quality of service to customers, and can unlock operational savings.

Video to become a mainstream customer service channel in 2012. The massive popularity of online video sites such as YouTube is driving the use of video content to support customer service operations.

Applying Cloud technology where it can deliver the best value. 2012 will see an increased emphasis on organizations identifying which customer service tools can benefit most from being implemented as cloud services.

Delivering real added value through Virtual Assistants. These avatar-style animated digital characters support customer service operations by interacting with web visitors.

Originally posted at: http://call-recording.tmcnet.com/topics/call-recording/articles/243005-ten-customer-service-technology-trends-2012.htm

How NLP and IVR Work Together

August 13, 2011 Leave a comment

NLP stands for “natural language processing,” and its technological development has had a heavy hand in the last several decades of the progression of the interactive voice response (IVR) industry. The IVR experts at Plum Voice recently explored this topic as it pertains to the history of voice recognition, and the expansion of voice technologies in general.

Traditionally, all interactions between computers and human languages are encompassed in the term “NLP,” and IVR and speech recognition software are functions of the overarching NLP technology.

In an informative blog post, Plum’s experts noted that NLP is “generally recognized to have originated in the 1950s, when scientists developed methods to test a computer’s ability to impersonate a human in real time.”

While “speech recognition is considered the opposite of text-to-speech,” the blog mentioned, speech recognition is also one of the only technologies that employs NLP. NLP software can also be incorporated into automatic translations of text from one language to another, answering human-language questions, and automatic summarization which just means the summary of readable text.

These tools have been essential in the development of voice recognition technology and IVR. IVR applications do not necessarily have to include all of the aforementioned technologies, but they are key features that have helped in the progression of voice recognition software as a whole.

NLP also has other uses, particularly when it comes to search functions. “One practical use for NLP as documented by the Belgian technology consulting firm, Nmahn, is to conduct searches of both the Internet and computer databases,” Plum’s blog stated.

It continued, “Many search engines rely on Boolean searches to increase their searches.  Boolean searches are typically defined as ones that have tow data values that are true or false. However, most search engines today are powered by NLP as opposed to Boolean, giving users what is traditionally thought of as a more friendly search engine experience.”

Originally posted at: http://ivr.tmcnet.com/topics/ivr/articles/203484-how-nlp-ivr-work-together.htm

Does your customer service need an upgrade?

August 11, 2011 2 comments

Every time a person receives outstanding customer service, their threshold for anything less becomes smaller. A hundred years of “the customer is always right” has slowly but steadily raised expectations for customer service, and it is our job as professionals to see that those expectations are met or even exceeded. Our goal should be to create a top-notch customer experience that is consistent across every single interaction.

However, creating a totally consistent experience has become a much more difficult task with the advent of countless new channels for customer interaction. And with Internet and mobile technologies providing instant access to products, services and information, consumers have come to expect instant gratification. So the solution to customer issues not only needs to be right; it needs to be right now.

While providing a timely and satisfying experience for customers might seem like a daunting task given these conditions, it is actually a very exciting time to be in the customer service industry. Technology, like data analytics and real-time scoring, accelerated lead conversion and integrated multimedia communication, can help you exceed even the loftiest customer expectations. In addition, enhanced training methods can transform your traditional agents into more effective “Brand Ambassadors”. Implementing each of these CRM strategies can make a drastic difference in your customer service capabilities.

Data analytics and real-time scoring

There have been great advances in the way consumer information is collected and applied, especially in the contact center environment. Every time a customer contacts you, makes a purchase or responds to a direct mail campaign, they are telling you something. Through data acquisition, you have the unique opportunity to listen to them. The more data you collect, the better you can pinpoint customers’ needs and use it to enhance the customer experience.

On the phone, using data and technology to determine service level differentiations and boost conversion rates, improve customer service, and customize call center scripts will increase customer value and drive long-term growth. In direct mail, you can use data to create customized messages that speak directly to the individual. Online, you can generate personalized URLs so every customer receives a one-to-one Web experience. The opportunities to positively enhance the consumer experience by leveraging data are endless.

Accelerated lead conversion

As more and more people adopt the Internet as a standard method of communication, organizations are seeing web-generated leads double or even triple. That’s good news. The problem arises when companies lack the capacity or strategy to effectively respond to increasing online lead intake. This can be a critical oversight. A lot of people use the Internet to make initial contact with an organization. This is their first impression of the organization, and the speed of your response can make all the difference.

We’re not talking hours here; the expectation is minutes – maybe even seconds. By waiting a day or more to contact a web-generated lead, you essentially negate your chances of qualifying or converting them. And even if you contact a lead instantly, it will only be effective if the right person makes the call – someone who is knowledgeable about the program/service/product and the organization. The focus cannot just be getting a sale today; you need to ensure a positive customer experience, leading to a long-term relationship.

Integrated multichannel communication

These days, many consumers are using communication channels interchangeably – email, text, phone, online. This can pose a challenge for marketers because you want to ensure a consistent brand experience no matter what the channel. But marketers must be careful not to pigeonhole consumers into one channel. People flow between channels and having the flexibility to customize solutions is key; one size does not fit all anymore.

We’ve reached an age where technology can actually bring businesses and customers closer together. All the available channels – teleservices, direct mail, Web – can be used as part of a multichannel effort to meet the diverse needs of your customers. This requires leveraging collected data to ensure you are meeting your customers’ communication habits and preferences. By improving the quality of their experience, customers will form a stronger bond with an organization and, as a result, increase their profit potential.

Employing Brand Ambassadors

All the above tactics are aimed at putting your customer service agents in the best position to provide outstanding experiences for your customers. But you should also focus on the agents themselves. Branding, the cornerstone of all marketing efforts, often gets lost in contact centers because representatives concentrate on specific tasks rather than fortifying brand. As a result, you can miss out on golden opportunities to bolster brand perception.

By employing “Brand Ambassadors” on the phones rather than traditional agents, you can enhance your brand value with every call. Brand Ambassadors differ from typical call center representatives in that they are trained to be extremely knowledgeable of your company and your products – not just the specific task in front of them. Their overall focus is to ensure a positive customer experience that will be tied to your brand. Brand Ambassadors build customer loyalty, cultivate repeat business and lay the foundation for long-term relationships.

The bottom line is that customer service will continue to expand in scope and grow more challenging as we move into the future. Companies need to take steps now to meet rising customer expectations. By integrating innovative technology and training practices, you can build outstanding interactions that will enhance your brand value and keep your customers coming back.

Originally posted at: http://www.tmcnet.com/call-center/columns/articles/194211-does-customer-service-need-an-upgrade.htm

Effective Call Center Management

August 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The challenges of managing a call center are immediately apparent to anyone who’s ever been involved with a customer service operation. Technology challenges withstanding, the most obvious task of management is to organize and utilize agents in such a way that the highest levels of satisfaction are always maintained. A staff that’s being managed competently is likely to be happier, and happiness is directly related to the satisfaction of customers. Successful staffing and scheduling is a combination of collecting key performance indicators and working to schedule within the needs of your workforce.

Monitoring abandonment rates, call volumes and seasonal influxes is the first step to proper call center management. While it was at one point incumbent on a manager to keep track of all of these things, software that automatically handles this is now a staple in most call centers.

Workforce management software for example, offers call centers actionable intelligent to prepare staff levels on a daily basis. Generally workforce management suites are used instead of standard spreadsheet style scheduling and can offer a more detailed and comprehensive look at your staffing expectations for a given day. By efficiently managing your workforce you can curb issues like shrinkage, over staffing and schedule adherence all of major concern in the call center, where staffing is usually the number one cost associated with the operation.

Above anything else, workforce management software gives a more reliable top-down view of staff requirements as they relate to the expected call volume. By analyzing historical information, duration of customer contact, expected seasonal peaks and staff schedules, Workforce management software can quickly balance how many agents you have vs. how many you’ll need. Some workforce management suites even offer CRM integration, routing to a preferred agent each and every time and continuing a productive dialog to that fosters customer retention. Workforce management products also allow you to monitor agent adherence levels and determine which skills are in demand in your call center.

Though it’s not the only way to do so, workforce management solutions are the first step to removing some of the confusion surrounding staff efficiency. Intelligent forecasting makes it easier for call center managers to schedule accordingly by incorporating a workforce management solution in you call center.

Originally posted at: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/call-center-management/articles/192033-what-effective-call-center-management.htm

Seven Steps to Improve Call Center Operations

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

The call center operations within any company are only as strong as its leaders. Agents may have all the training and skills necessary to deliver an effective performance; yet weak leaders or poor training can leave even the most seasoned and professional agent left with little room for improvement. Fortunately, Knowlagent has developed a playbook for call center leaders. This playbook offers the seven fundamental plays from the coaching all-star playbook, designed to empower call center leaders to develop a team to drive optimal call center operations. This playbook offers fundamental plays considered to be the hallmarks of great coaching in the call center space.

1.      Deliver True Coaching

Providing the call center operations team with some tips for moving forward is not coaching. Targeted training for frontline supervisors to help facilitate great coaching is key for success in all call center operations. A Knowlagent study found that 80 percent of executives do not believe supervisors have the right skills for coaching. Proper training starts from the top down.

2.      Make the Coaching Targeted

It can be a challenge for supervisors within the call center operations environment to keep up with the performance of all team members and individualize coaching plans. When KPIs are linked, coaching instances can be targeted to performance trends to identify problems and opportunities for enhanced performance.

3.      Coaching Should be Frequent

It is easy to spend too much coaching time on those who are performing at the lowest levels. Time has to be made for both agents and coaches to interact on performance problems and opportunities for enhancement. Call center operations will benefit from frequent coaching of all agents with fairly equal distribution of time.

4.      Coaching Should be Actionable

When coaching is not actionable, it is really just advice. Call center operations improve when coaching is actionable. To accomplish this, supervisors should break the call down into key steps; identify the step where the agent is struggling; and identify the behaviors that are needed to execute the step effectively.

5.      Coaching Should be Consistent

When coaching happens on an ad hoc basis, agents performing at similar levels will receive very different levels and types of coaching. Call center operations will improve when standards are created and built into the coaching process.

When coaching goes unmeasured, call center operations overall suffer. A measurement system should be embedded into the overall training process so that leaders know who and what is getting coached and how it links to performance.

6.      Coaching Must be Measurable

When coaching goes unmeasured, call center operations overall suffer. A measurement system should be embedded into the overall training process so that leaders know who and what is getting coached and how it links to performance.

7.      Individual Accountability Should be Required

Mechanisms for increasing performance should be present for effective call center operations. When this is not in place, agents can quickly become dissatisfied with their prospects for advancement. Through creating a partnership for overall improvement and performance all call center operations will benefit.

Originally posted at: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/call-center-operations/articles/200584-seven-steps-improve-call-center-operations.htm

Global CRM Applications Market to Touch $18 Billion in 2011: IDC

July 3, 2011 Leave a comment

According to International Data Corporation (IDC) Customer Relationship Management (CRM) applications market will grow at 7.6 percent year over year to reach approximately $18 billion in revenues in 2011.

In 2010, CRM applications market grew at the rate of 6.2 percent year over year to touch $16.5 billion, according to IDC Worldwide Semiannual Customer Relationship Management Applications Tracker.

“Despite its relative market maturity, CRM applications represent a vibrant market opportunity,” said Mary Wardley, program vice president, CRM Applications, IDC, in a statement. “As a segment, CRM applications continue to evolve.”

“With technology enhancements such as social networking and socialytics, today’s CRM applications are helping organizations deliver the next level in intimacy and insight,” Wardley added. “In an interconnected world of global commerce the customer experience and relationship will be the key differentiator.”

IDC expects customer service and marketing applications markets to grow at 8.2 percent and 8.8 percent respectively. Sales applications market is forecast to grow 8.6 percent year over year in 2011. Contact center market, which experienced a modest decline in 2010, will rebound to 5.4 percent year-over-year growth in 2011, IDC said in its report.

Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, India, and Russia are expected to drive strong growth in the marketing applications market. These same countries, with the exception of Brazil, are forecast to experience even stronger growth in the Sales applications market.

Within the customer service market, three of the top 5 large countries (UK, Germany and France) are forecast to grow at an 8.2 percent annual rate in 2011, IDC said.

Of the top CRM vendors, Oracle, SAP, and Salesforce.com  were the only vendors to amass more than $1 billion in CRM software revenue worldwide in 2010. Oracle was ranked No.1 with 11.8 percent global market share in 2010. Salesforce.com led in overall year over year growth (27.4 percent) among the top 3.

While Oracle gained mostly from North America and Japan regions, Salesforce.com gained from Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) and Central & Eastern Europe, Middle East and Africa (CEMA) regions.

CRM applications market remains fragmented despite the existence of four functional markets, IDC said. Many vendors are vying to gain share. Outside the top 3 vendors, a total of 19 vendors achieved more than $100 million in CRM software revenue during 2010, representing more than 35 percent of total market share.

Earlier a January 2010 Gartner report had said despite economic pressures, CRM adoption throughout Europe will stay flat or grow slightly about 0.7 percent.

Originally posted at: http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/crm-solutions/articles/189457-global-crm-applications-market-touch-18-billion-2011.htm