Monday, October 14, 2013

Customer Service Reset

By: Sean Hawkins

Last week, many contact centers celebrated Customer Service Week. This was an opportunity to celebrate the exceptional service and diligence call center agents provide to their many customers. For me, it is an exciting time to be in the contact center. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a celebration?

However, what happens after the festivities end? Do things go back to the way they were?  Will agents become frustrated as they were just a few short weeks ago? Was the week of celebrating simply a reprise from a status quo that has led to frustration and high turnover? While Customer Service Week honors the men and women who assist customers with care and professionalism, it should also be a time for those in leadership to reflect and improve. I can think of no other way to celebrate my teams than to seek improvement in myself first, and them second.

Confucius said “by three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest”. Reflection is a way to learn from the past successes and failures. It allows us to avoid repeating a failed past while improving on the success we had. Take time to review performances and processes. Analyze data to find where improvements can made. Look inward and determine your own weaknesses and strengths. The least managers and supervisors can do is to foster a culture of success. Demand excellence of yourself, and nurture it with those who report to you.

Customer Service Week is a time to reset. In the midst of celebrating, there should have been implementation of ideals and innovations to improve the employee experience, customer experience and the business. If you hadn’t done so, it’s not too late!

Sean is a Customer Experience, Contact Center and Help desk manager with over 12 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

In 2011, his team was awarded the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" for Small to Medium-Sized Centers. Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins

Friday, October 4, 2013

Gmail Tabs Affect on Your Marketing Campaign

In May of this year Gmail made another change to their inbox by adding the tab feature. The tabs are a means of grouping messages in three categories (Promotions, Social, and Primary). The philosophy behind this modification is to clean the inbox (Primary tab) of promotional messages and social media notifications. It allows Gmail users to maintain a cleaner, leaner inbox of mail from personal contacts, rather than an inbox cluttered with email offers.

While the tab feature is great for Gmail users, it presents a unique set of challenges for email marketers. Legitimate senders are concerned that their messages that are now landing in the Promotions folder may not get read by the Gmail recipients. There is a direct correlation between opens, clicks and revenue for marketers. Fewer opens means fewer clicks (visits to the website) which leads to a reduction in online purchases (revenue) for the sender.
Return Path conducted a study and found that the tab feature has had a limited effect on senders with high engagement. In one study a sender crafted a message specifically for Gmail customers entitled “Don’t Let Great Deals Get Lost in your Inbox.” Interestingly this campaign saw a 2% increase read rate after the tab feature was activated. This result is not the norm. Other tests conducted by Return Path indicated a modest decline in opens for senders with high engagement. Gmail Tab placement has a limited affect on email recipients that are actively opening your messages.

Recipients Have Some Control over Inbox Placement
Gmail allows users to move messages to different folders. It gives them the option to alter a setting so that all future email goes into a different folder. If your message goes into the Promotions tab, your contact can move the message into the Primary tab and tell Gmail to send all future email from you into the Primary tab (the Inbox). Some senders have had some success in sending a special instructional message to their Gmail recipients to guide them through this process.

It All Comes Down to Engagement
Gmail has forced the hand of email marketers to craft better content. There is no shortage of promotional email and now the Promotional tab is saturated with offerings. If your seventh message is no different than your first message, recipients will not stay engaged long and inbox fatigue begins to set in. It is imperative that senders put time into crafting their email newsletters and promotional offers.

A proper assessment of the interest of your email recipients is a prerequisite to your marketing campaign. When contacts fill out a form to receive email, give them options to select based on various areas of interest and only send content that matches their interests.

It also helps to identify return customers from those that are merely casually reading your email. Most email service providers offer click tracking data. This enables senders to track the number of contacts that click on links within their message and visit their web site. Click tracking is a valuable asset to marketers, as it enables them to assess the level of interest of their email recipients and ultimately lead to ROI.

Do not hesitate to remove unengaged contacts. Ask your email service provider for reporting on contacts that have not opened or clicked any links within the last 4 to 6 months. I recommend sending a confirmation email to this group and removing the contacts that do not opt-in. Removal of these contacts should not be considered a loss. If contacts are not opening messages or clicking on links within your message, you’re not likely making any money from them.

Consider crafting different messages for promotional offerings and transactional or informational content. Studies have shown transactional message like purchase receipts and informational messages have a better chance of landing in the Primary tab, while content that contains mention of discounts and new products are most certainly to land in the Promotions tab.

As a Gmail user and Anti-Spam Advocate, I love the changes that Gmail has made. With one simple feature Gmail has successfully made it a less profitable to send spam email while simultaneously improving the user experience for Gmail users.

As a Deliverability Manager, I recognize the challenges that the tab feature presents to legitimate senders. These senders are competing for inbox real estate in a place that is saturated with promotional messages. Senders have the burden of improving their content. Markers must now brainstorm on ways to achieve a strategic advantage over other marketers with poor content and those with even worse intentions.

The savvy marketers will make content modifications now. Google has been an innovative industry leader over the last few years. If other mailbox providers (AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft) begin to follow suit, getting to the inbox will become a lot more difficult over the coming years.

Chris Truitt is a seasoned Email Deliverability Manager. He has spent the last six and one half years honing his craft with iContact and stepped into a leadership role shortly after iContact’s acquisition by Vocus. As Manager of Deliverability, Chris has tripled the size of his team, written policies and processes to improve inbox delivery to enhance the customer experience.

As a pragmatist, Chris has a result oriented approach to business. If a process does not render desired results, he will not hesitate to alter course or tweak his procedure. He is a proponent of interdepartmental cooperation and sharing resources. His community philosophy is appreciated by his colleagues, as he looks to assess how the change he implements affects others. In cooperation with several department leaders, Chris helped increase inbox delivery for iContact and Vocus senders. Chris knows that strong decisive leadership is the cornerstone of a thriving organization.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Contact Center- Hub Of The Organization

By: Sean Hawkins

I was recently speaking with a colleague about the critical role the contact center plays within the organization. I explained that the contact center must be the hub of any organization if there is to be a genuine effort to provide outstanding service and products to consumers. This by no means suggests the contact center is the policy maker and authority on business decision. However, I do propose the call center have a seat at the table and a voice in the discussions. To forbid such involvement leaves out the most important stakeholder of any business, the customer.

Customer Service has one unique advantage over most other departments; the customer service department is the recipient of the customer’s feedback. When marketing and sales communicate to your customer base or engage potential customers, the chances are great that customer service agents will hear from them. New products and features introduced will certainly garner opinions from customers. Most often, this lands in support’s phone, email or chat queue. With more companies moving to social media support, the impact to support is now greater as the voice of customer is in the public. Let’s not forget about customer surveys! What better way is there to know the voice of customer.

As such, the contact center serves as the face of the company to the client base. It is they who relay the company message, receive feedback and build relationships. With so much information regarding the customer, it would be wise to glean this information and distribute it to the various departments. To consistently ignore the contact center and view it as a cost center rather than an asset is not wise. Marketing and Sales should be in communication with the call center seeking input concerning the customer’s attitude, behavior, spending habits and tendencies. This collaboration ensures the right customers are not only obtained but retained for years to come.

The way I see it, the contact center should be at the hub of communication. Why? Because the support center can gauge how customer-facing decisions will impact the customers based on past conversations and feedback. In the era of big data, it seems this is often overlooked. As the diagram illustrates, each department should be sharing information with the Contact Center and vice versa. I would suggest scheduling weekly meetings but, at the least, informal discussion will suffice. Also, customer feedback concerning other departments should be routed to the appropriate point of contact. I routinely forward customer satisfaction survey results to colleagues in other departments.

Also, our CRM I set up to collect customer feedback regardless of the channel received. Anyone with permissions can easily access the information. Valuable information can be gathered by reviewing this information. For example, technology can better prioritize software bugs or the development team will have a better sense of the new features/products customer are requesting.

In addition, the support staff can better assist customers based on the information they are receiving. Our marketing team provides the support leadership their promotional and newsletters in advance. Thus, we’re able to ask questions and get clarity to better assist the customer. Yes, it all comes back to the customer!

Those in the contact center are well equipped to communicate the voice of customer throughout our respective company. For the sake of the customer and the company, it’s worth the effort to ensure we are communicating internally and externally. To be done correctly, the contact center must be bridge the customer and all internal departments.

Sean is a Customer Experience, Contact Center and Help desk manager with over 12 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

In 2011, his team was awarded the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" for Small to Medium-Sized Centers. Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins