Guest Post: 4 Ways Technology Can Boost Your Customer Service Experience

In a mobile-oriented society where consumers thrive on social media and have come to expect instant communication, technology has become an increasingly important key to delivering effective customer service. Companies are using technology to meet customer demands for omnichannel support and access to online knowledge bases with a goal of differentiating their brands through customer service. Eighty-eight percent of companies feel they’ve made good or excellent progress toward delivering modern customer experience. Telephone support, online service and mobile service are some areas where companies are increasing their technology investments. Here’s a look at some technology tools you can use to improve your customer service experience and boost customer satisfaction.

Cloud Contact Centers

Today’s foundation for delivering effective omnichannel support is the cloud contact center. Cloud contact center solutions such as 8×8, Altitude and Aspect provide a single platform companies can use to centralize online, chat, phone and email support. This type of central platform enables your support team to deliver a seamlessly-integrated experience to customers even when a ticket moves from one channel or agent to another. Cloud centers also make it easier to deploy remote representatives, giving you more agility and cutting your expenses for on-premise support.

Self-service Tools

The most important customer service option you can provide to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction are tools for self-service like online knowledge bases answering frequently-asked questions. Seventy-five percent of consumers see self-service as an effective way to address customer service issues, and 67 percent prefer self-service to speaking to a company representative, a Nuance survey found. Only 40 percent of consumers contact customer support to resolve their issue after consulting an online knowledge database, meaning you can reduce your service volume by more than half by providing self-service options.

Live Chat

For service issues that don’t lend themselves to self-service, live chat is one of the best contact channels you can offer. Live chat delivers the highest satisfaction rate of all service channels, with 73 percent of customers coming away satisfied from live chat experience, compared to 61 percent for email and 44 percent for phone. Chatbot tools such as Pandorabots can also help you streamline your customer service workload by automatically handling many of your support tickets and improving the efficiency of ticker routing to human representatives. 1-800-FLOWERS found that deploying a chatbot to place orders on Facebook and direct other inquires to human representatives, used in conjunction with voice-command tools such as Alexa and Watson, boosted revenue in addition to increasing efficiency.

Phone Tools

While automated tools such as knowledge bases and chatbots can help you reduce your service workload, it’s also important to have live phone support for tickets that require a human response. Being unable to reach a live person is one of the most frustrating customer service experiences, and failing to provide this option will greatly reduce your customer satisfaction levels. To optimize the efficiency of your phone support, you can use an 800 number in conjunction with a menu system that automatically routes calls to the appropriate department. Structuring your menu options based on your customers’ most frequently-asked questions can greatly improve the efficiency of your phone service. To identify your customers’ most common concerns, monitor your site search bar and online knowledge database’s most frequent search terms and design menu options that correspond to these topics.

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

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Guest Post: How Cloud-Based Predictive Analytics Gives Companies a Competitive Marketing Advantage

Monitoring and fine-tuning analytics are becoming essential to stay competitive in today’s marketplace. Case in point: Business intelligence analytics software sales will reach $18.3 billion in 2017, a 7.3 percent increase from last year, Gartner projects.

By 2020, the market will be worth $22.8 billion and analytics will be mainstream, Gartner forecasts. This means your competitors will be using analytics. Here’s how getting on board with cloud-based predictive analytics now can help you gain a lead on the competition and increase your bottom line.

Optimize Your Marketing

A great advantage of analytics software is that it gives you the ability to objectively measure the effectiveness of your marketing by tracking key performance indicators, explains Silvon Software director Pat Hennel. Some KPIs you can easily track include:

  • Sales revenue
  • Cost per lead acquisition
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Online marketing ROI

Tracking KPIs enables you to see which of your marketing campaigns are generating the best return on investment so that you can reallocate resources to those efforts rather than non-performing ones.

Similarly, you can identify which marketing channels are yielding the best results so you can focus on those media. You can also see which demographics represent your best customers to emphasize those target markets and gear your sales themes toward benefits that will appeal to them.

Refocus Your Sales Efforts

Another benefit of cloud-based analytics tools is the ability to combine them with customer relationship software to better leverage your sales efforts. By analyzing your organization’s lead database, you can better identify which prospects are qualified leads in order to deploy your sales reps accordingly. From there, you can identify which prospects are furthest along in the sales cycle and more likely to convert into a sale.

You can also analyze customer sales history to identify which customers represent your biggest revenue sources and best repeat buyers. You can then prioritize these customers and develop sales strategies specifically geared toward them.

Personalize Your Sales Presentations

Combining cloud-based predictive analytics with CRM tools can also help you personalize your sales presentations to make them more persuasive to individual customers. In fact, you can review a customer’s history of past purchases to see what types of products and services they prefer.

For example, Amazon displays offers based on what the customer has previously browsed or purchased and what types of products have been purchased by other people who browsed or purchased the same items.

You can also study individual purchase patterns to identify their shopping style and what types of factors influenced their previous buying decisions. For instance, one customer might be more likely to respond to a certain type of added-value benefit, while another might be more likely to respond to a lower price. You can then supply this information to your sales representatives so they have a better idea how to appeal to that particular customer.

Increase Customer Satisfaction with Superior Service

Cloud-based analytics can also enhance your sales and marketing efforts by allowing you to track the performance of your customer service teams, which is key in achieving repeat business and referrals. Cloud-based contact center platforms, including Aspect Zipwire, let you track your customer service performance across multiple channels (e.g., phone, email, online chat and more), giving you a comprehensive perspective so you can make any necessary adjustments and improvements.

To track your customer service performance, you can then set up KPIs. Customer performance KPIs you can track include overall satisfaction, the number of resolved issues, average resolution time and complaint escalation rate.

 

About the Author

Roy Rasmussen, coauthor of Publishing for Publicity, is a freelance writer who helps select clients write quality content to reach business and technology audiences. His clients have included Fortune 500 companies and bestselling authors. His most recent projects include books on cloud computing, small business management, sales, business coaching, social media marketing, and career planning.

 

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Guest Post: Prospering in the E-Commerce Market

blog

There are many e-commerce stores popping up right, left and center. The online market is like “Perfect Competition” described in economic studies; in perfect competition, there are no barriers toand exit and no single player can influence price. It is very easy to set-up an e-commerce store but with thin margins and cut-throat margins it is very difficult to survive and prosper in this segment. Many e-commerce stores are closing down, and yet at the same time, new big players like Walmart are entering into the market by purchasing websites like Jet.com in multi-dollar deals! Amazon is continuously expanding and is now currently pushing to capture a greater market share in India. The market has potential but only for the most determined. For the small players right now, it is especially a daunting challenge, as the market is in consolidation stage and most of the big players are combing and pushing slower businesses out or buying them out.

So the point comes what can you do for success in the e-commerce world?

  • Digital advertising is the key to success

You need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in online advertising, for it may look easy but it is actually quite challenging. Thanks to the advent of traditional Google ads will no longer cut it. Also charging your credit card on Facebook is also quite the expensive option and you cannot just rely on Facebook alone. So what do you do? You keep abreast of latest trends, for example right now Video ads are one way of getting around ad blockers.

Besides ad-blockers, video ads make more sense. Video consumption across devices has increased thanks to falling data charges in most countries and increasing smartphone and internet penetration.

  • Look inwards

Right now the e-commerce market is cut-throat. You can only maximize margins to a certain level. To stay competitive against giants you need to cut every possible cost. You need to look inwards and see where you can save money. Find a cheaper toll-free number, a cheaper shipping service or find ways to save on packaging. Negotiate better credit periods and see your bank charges and negotiate for each and every cent you can. It is difficult but every cent saved helps to add towards the bottom line.

This is especially a must for start-ups, often being helmed by fresh graduates who also have to worry about paying off their student loans. Every strive and profit you make out of your business not only helps you scale but also helps to get your personal finances in order avoid problems like delayed student loans.

  • Keep track of customer satisfaction rates

Customer satisfaction rates are often treated like a fire putting exercise. They often come into the limelight once sales start to fall. By then, restoring customer satisfaction and restoring goodwill lost becomes an uphill task. All businesses heavily rely on customer satisfaction thus one should keep a constant track it. Monitor your total sales and then draw up a meaningful sample that represents the whole population. Follow up with this sample and understand the customer satisfaction levels. Also keep a good track on customer reviews. Pacify disgruntled customers fast because they are the ones who are more active at commenting on public pages.

 

About the Author

Rachael Everly is an undergraduate student who loves to write on the topics related business, finance, technology and education. Follow @RachaelEverly for further updates

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NICE Systems Announces the Launch of Total Voice of the Customer (TVOC)

What is NICE Systems Voice of The Customer Announcement Mean to Your Company? The announcement the launch of Total Voice of the Customer (TVOC) is the latest addition to the NICE VOC suite of solutionsTVOC leverages NICE’s Voice of the Customer solution, alongside NICE’s unique Interaction Analytics capabilities and vast experience in recording calls and making sense of that information through analytics. The solution enables enterprises to listen to and register what their customers are saying — directly and indirectly — in calls, chats, emails, on the web and in any other channel and analyzing the interactions to extract implicit feedback data. With the acquisition of  Nexidia Interactive Analytics, NICE’s VOC capabilities will be even further strengthened, creating a true Customer Analytics Powerhouse. 

What is Included in NICE TVOC? NICE TVOC adds voice recordings, social engagement, chat logs and other digital channels to multi-channel surveys, in order to deliver a complete picture of customer disposition. It also leverages the power of the reams of data captured during millions of conversations to yield valuable, actionable insights into customers’ thoughts, including those not obtained in surveys.

What Should Your Brand Be Striving For Around Single View of the Customer? Achieving a single view of the customer across multiple channels is among today’s top challenges for customer experience management. NICE TVOC helps solve this pain point with its unique ability to deeply analyze the unstructured content of the customer communication across all channels. The insight derived can be used in conjunction with other data to map emotional expression to observed behaviors in order to understand customer desires, motivations and actions.

How Does Nice’s Integration of VOC Affect Quality & Performance Management? NICE’s portfolio integration allows the organization to drive VOC into areas such as Quality Management, enabling it to make the maximum impact on its customer experiences, and with Performance Management, so that companies can reward their employees for creating the desired customer experience and coach those who are falling short.

Miki Migdal, President, NICE Enterprise Product Group:
There are many ways to survey, but in a multi-channel world you need more than just survey questions. Instead you need to listen at key inflection points in the customer lifecycle so that you can understand problems that result in a lower customer satisfaction score and may ultimately lead to customer churn. With NICE Total VOC not only can you understand customer emotion, you can see which actions you need to take to build customer loyalty and brand advocacy.

My POV: There’s nothing more important than the voice of the customer. This integration makes it easier to really understand customers and be able to deliver awesome customer experiences. What are branding competing on? Customer Experience. Period. Seriously. You are a customer, you tell me. When you have a good experience do you buy from that company again? And when you have a bad experience, do you hesitate to buy from them again? I made my point.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer-facing Applications That Drive Better Business Results
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Consumers Can Research a Company and Schedule Appointments Faster and Easier

Often times, as a customer, you want to know a little bit more about what a company offers and when you find that information you want to be able to act on it.  With the  partnership between Verint and TimeTrade, customers will have more seamless omnichannel experiences for consumers.

How Will This Partnership Work? The TimeTrade platform will integrate with the Verint Branch Workforce Optimization solution, enabling customers to research financial products and services, and schedule an appointment to meet with a branch professional on a desired date and time in their preferred branch location.

Can Customers Find Remote Specialists if They are Not At the Branch? In addition to scheduling appointments with branch employees that have the right skills for a given topic, the combined offering can schedule remote financial specialists to meet with customers and branch employees by video conference for even greater omnichannel customer engagement. This enables the broader sharing of resources across the bank enterprise, whether they are in a contact center or another location. For example, for mortgage appointments, customers can schedule an appointment in their preferred branch but be connected with a mortgage representative in another location via video conference.

How Will Brands Measure Success? Following these interactions, key metrics can be automatically added into the bank’s performance management scorecards, enabling them to track customer satisfaction, gauge customer wait times and other efficiencies, determine interaction success rates, and identify areas for training and development.

What Do The Executives Have to Say? Chris Zaske, global vice president, strategic operations, Verint Enterprise Intelligence Solutions,explains, “A top priority of the retail banking organizations we serve is to provide superior experiences to their customers—both on- and off-line—with the goal of also growing revenue. Partnering with TimeTrade and integrating with its platform supports this goal by helping our financial institution customers optimize branch personnel by scheduling their time to meet with customers and better utilize their capacity. By making it easy for customers to schedule appointments in advance, banks are connecting digital interactions with skilled branch associates that can improve close rates, as well as provide follow-up on future cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.”

Gary Ambrosino, CEO of TimeTrade goes on to say, “In-branch service has been suffering, and banks are losing customers as a result. We recently did a study and found that 60 percent of consumers lack a personal connection to their banks. In the same study, we found that a significant majority (83 percent) are willing to come into a branch during a week day if offered a guaranteed time to meet a representative. We believe the responsibility is on the associates and bank managers to re-build these relationships. Our goal in bringing a TimeTrade and Verint solution together is to provide the tools banks need to make this vision a reality, so they no longer risk losing out to the competition.”

MY POV: This is a very interesting partnership in that it does extend the branch beyond the solid walls of a financial office and allows the customer to more easily access the right person, maybe even in their jammies. With the increase in work-at-home employees, this may be a very smart move!

@DrNatalie Petouhoff

VP and Principal Analyst, Customer Facing Applications of Marketing, Sales and Customer Care, Service and Experience, Constellation Research

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Clarizen Announces Integration with Gainsight, Delivering a 360-Degree View of the Customer Engagement Lifecycle

What Does the Integration Accomplish? The Clarizen-Gainsight combination leverages Clarizen’s existing Salesforce platform integration, resulting in transparency among all roles involved with procuring and managing a customer. This insight into the health of the customer throughout the entire engagement maximizes customer satisfaction, which, in turn, drives customer loyalty and repeat business.

Vendor Profile: If you didn’t see the vendor profile on Gainsight and are considering a Customer Success Management system, you can check that out here.

Can’t We All Just Work Together? Apparently not. CEO’s are still allowing marketing, sales and customer service to operate in silos. The Clarizen-Gainsight integration addresses this key customer-related issue where sales, services and customer success teams often work in disconnected “islands of activity,” without a connecting thread of supporting technology. A connected system provides services teams with the data they need to manage post-sale engagement, service delivery and customer satisfaction.

What Do The Executives Have to Say: Dan Steinman, chief customer officer at Gainsight, “Leveraging our Clarizen data in our own Gainsight instance has been critical to getting the visibility and discipline needed to align across the customer-facing organization.  It’s essential for our customer success managers to easily know what has been implemented, where the customer is in their onboarding journey, and how to best engage with them when helpful to the implementation project manager. With this integration, we can make that happen for all of our customers.”

Rachel Haim Hadas, VP of product at Clarizen says, “Transparency and visibility should power every company’s customer success organization, as the customer experience is the lifeblood of business. Clarizen’s enterprise project management and work collaboration solution, combined with Gainsight’s customer metric tracking, enables sales and services professionals to access, share and manage customer health information, including milestones, initiatives and escalations. This 360-degree customer-related visibility ensures the customer experience is seamless from start to perpetual renewal.

 What’s Actually New with This Integration? With the Clarizen-Gainsight integration, companies can:

  • Provide up-to-date customer success data from Gainsight in Clarizen, for all project and customer stakeholders who are reviewing a customer record, and can now see the customer’s current health score, as well as call-to-action (CTA) discussions
  • Ensure effective communications across all teams as they work in their preferred tools by leveraging the three-way integration with Salesforce, Clarizen and Gainsight
  • Communicate clearly what features the sales team promised the customer and what was implemented through a shared feature checklist
  • Send an automated, personalized email message to customers when they reach a key project milestone – such as onboarding – or complete their implementation project
  • Create a scorecard that represents the state of the ongoing project
  • Initiate a communication within Gainsight’s cockpit when a milestone is delayed or a project goes off track

As the world gets smaller, as the connections on the web make it so, it is more and more important that companies make sure their customer-facing departments are not just talking to each other, but facilitating a top customer experience. After all, all or most all companies are and have always been competing on customer experience. It’s about time that companies act on that by making sure internal communication reflects the best external customer experience.

@DrNatalie, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Covering Customer Facing Applications

 

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Reduce Support Costs With A Customer Community: Increase Agent Efficiency (Part 2)

Reduce One-Off Requests

Your support agents are knowledgeable about every aspect of your

business. They have extensive knowledge about your product, your

processes, and policies. So it’s an ironic twist of fate that (especially

as your business scales) they spend most of their time answering

simple, one-off questions.

 

Don’t get us wrong—it’s important that your customers are

supported as they purchase, set up, and begin using your products.

You want them to be as successful as possible, so they have a

positive experience and brand association. But does this mean your

support agents have to hold the hand of each and every customer

as they look for the “on” button? Absolutely not…at least not

anymore.

 

As you scale your business, you need to make sure that you’re

doing everything you can to reduce the number of simple,

repetitive questions your support staff is answering. A branded

customer community is ideal for this. It acts as a living, breathing

conversation library, hosting all the questions, answers, praise, and

ideas that have come before, while constantly being updated with

the most current topics of conversation.

 

Because community is designed to facilitate engagement around

the topics your customers care about (as opposed to Facebook or

Twitter, which are optimized for engagement around recent content

only), all conversations, whether they began two years ago or this

morning, are easy for search engines and hence people, to find.

Get Satisfaction customer communities take this archive capability

a step further. They search the entire community to see if an

answer may already be tucked away somewhere in the ghosts

of conversations past, before allowing a new topic to be posted.

This means that customers are automatically exposed to existing

questions and answers before they can open new issues.

 

This is beneficial for all concerned parties—your customers are able

to self-serve their own answers quickly and easily, which is what

most consumers prefer these days. And your support agents don’t

have to answer the same questions over and over again, because

there is a huge repository of content that exists already.

Empower Your Support Champions

Increasing agent efficiency is really a fancy way of saying reduce

agent tickets, calls, emails, and instances, freeing them up to

put their support super powers to work on more complex issues.

A great way to do this is by identifying the customers who are

naturally knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and vocal about your

product, also known as brand advocates or Champions.

It may seem unlikely that there are actually people out there who

are excited to speak up on your behalf, answer questions, and act

as impromptu support agents, but anyone who works in social

media will tell you that there absolutely are! Your job is to identify

them, incentivize them (even with a simple web badge—these folks

love a little recognition!), and connect them with prospects and

other customers. A customer community, with its wealth of people,

content, and analytic capabilities, is a natural place to do just that.

Get Satisfaction offers a Champs program, which allows you to

publically designate champions so the community knows who they

are. You can even give them special abilities so they can moderate

and curate as you see fit.

 

Champions are not the only ones who can help alleviate

the load on your support agents. The people interacting in your

community naturally bring with them varying experiences,

perspectives, and skills. From highly technical developer

communities, to those of companies that sell basic consumer

goods, bringing your customers and employees together to share

experiences and solutions is a solid base to build on for innovation,

development, and collaboration.

Stay tuned for part 3!

You are here: Home / Blog

Reduce Support Costs With A Customer Community: Increase Agent Efficiency (Part 1)

January 11, 2014 By Leave a Comment

increase agent 1

We love our customer support agents. Friendly, helpful, and patient by nature, these folks spend more time talking to your customers than
anyone else in your company. They truly understand the pain points of your business, and they’re the ones putting in long hours to resolve
them for your customers. It’s important, then, to ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to be truly effective.
This isn’t just a good idea from a warm and fuzzy perspective. Agent salaries are the most expensive part of a support center. By ensuring
that they’re using their time efficiently—helping people solve complex, technical or individual problems, not responding to the same basic
questions over and over again—you can do a lot to maximize the value of your support agents, the satisfaction of your customers, and
minimize stress and pain points for both.
This eBook is the second in a series of three explaining how customer communities can help companies realize significant savings and
revenue sources, along with the metrics and calculations to measure the results. The first eBook focused on customer community as a
valuable resource for customer self-service support. This book focuses on the way companies can leverage community to improve agent
efficiency. Stay tuned for the final, which will discuss community as a means to improve customer retention and acquisition.

Customer Community: The Basics
Since this eBook is all about how you can leverage a customer community to improve agent efficiency (and reduce costs as a
result), we figured it makes sense to give a quick refresher course on what exactly a customer community is, just to make sure we’re
all on the same page.
So what is a community platform? It all started with some of the first technology that emerged on the web—the forums and
message boards of the 80’s and 90’s. These technologies were built to create online spaces where users could have threaded
conversations about the topics, products, and services that interested them. To have an identity across conversation, users
typically created a profile with a nickname, so that they could build their reputation. This primordial community technology worked
well for engineers, developers, and early adopters, but it was not designed to be easy-to-use by a mass audience.
A lot has changed in today’s community platforms, but the core conversational functions have remained the same. At Get
Satisfaction, we have a strong point of view that, for a community to be most effective and beneficial for customers as well as companies, it should have the following:

❑User-friendly interface with a simple way for even tech-wary users to browse and search for relevant conversations
❑Technical flexibility that allows business to embed community content and functionality across customer channels … on websites,
social networks, in digital campaigns, and on mobile and tablet devices
❑Business features and tools (topic moderation, content curation, etc.) that allow for successful community management
❑Ability for the community to be branded by the company that owns or sponsors it
❑Content that is highly indexed by search engines (through SEO) and naturally appears in top search results
❑Analytics tools that allow business users to assess community health and performance, determine the most relevant content, and
identify the community members who are mostly likely to become brand advocates
❑Formal Champions program that allows you to identify, recognize, and allocate simple moderation capabilities to the customers who
act as informal leaders in your community

When equipped with these features and moderated and curated effectively, communities are great assets for customers to research
products, find answers to their questions, and act as resources for others. These conversations drive customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, while helping companies deliver great support, gather feedback to build better products, and acquire more customers.
Effectively, community allows you to deliver a better customer experience, while reducing costs and bringing benefits to multiple
departments across companies.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Video Interview: Thought Leadership with Mitchell Levy and Michael Procopio

January 6, 2014 By Leave a Comment

Thought Leadership with Mitchell Levy http://MitchellLevy.com and Michael Procopio http://MProcopio.com covers all things around thought leadership, how to become one, how to use it as a form of communication, how to help others become one. I got to sit down with them for a Google Hangout and discuss customer service, social media, real-time marketing and more!

Dr. Natalie: voted Top 20 In Social Media HuffPo
Dr. Natalie’s ebook: voted as one of the Top Ten Most downloaded Social Media ebooks- On smROI

Click here to watch my videos on Social Media ROI:
Video 1: Building the Business Case for Social Media
Video 2: How to Measure the ROI of Social Media
Video 3: How Social Media Benefits the Whole Company


Dr. Natalie’s Executive Success Acceleration Firm™
Executive Business Strategy Advisor & Social Customer Experience Industry Authority & Consultant

The Doctor Knows Social Media ROI & Our Business Strategies Rx Get Results!
Our Motto? Be Awesome by: Learning, Sharing & Growing!

What we do: We work with companies to deliver increased revenue and decreased costs:

  • Executive Leadership Guidance on Strategy and Business Use of Social Media
  • Social Media / Business Benchmark Assessments – Tell you what you got/ what you might consider
  • Social Media ROI – set-up measurement capabilities and dashboards
  • Workshops on Business Strategy: Customer Experience, PR, Marketing, Customer Service & Internal Employee Advocacy
  • Instructor MEMES Summer Institutes at UCLA Anderson & UCLA Extension
  • Customer Experience / Social Customer Service Excellence Benchmarking Assessments & Advisory
  • Software Company Visualized-ROI, Persona-based Solution Selling w/ Targeted USP & Messaging / ebooks, White Papers, Webinars…
  • Social Media Training, Organizational Change, Motivation and Goal Setting

My book: Like My Stuff: How To Monetize Your Facebook Fans

Follow Me Here:
Twitter: @drnatalie
LinkedIn:
DrNataliePetouhoff
G+ :
Google Plus posts
Facebook:
DrNatalie Petouhof

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Reduce Support Costs With A Customer Community: Increase Agent Efficiency (Part 1)

increase agent 1

We love our customer support agents. Friendly, helpful, and patient by nature, these folks spend more time talking to your customers than
anyone else in your company. They truly understand the pain points of your business, and they’re the ones putting in long hours to resolve
them for your customers. It’s important, then, to ensure they have the tools and resources necessary to be truly effective.
This isn’t just a good idea from a warm and fuzzy perspective. Agent salaries are the most expensive part of a support center. By ensuring
that they’re using their time efficiently—helping people solve complex, technical or individual problems, not responding to the same basic
questions over and over again—you can do a lot to maximize the value of your support agents, the satisfaction of your customers, and
minimize stress and pain points for both.
This eBook is the second in a series of three explaining how customer communities can help companies realize significant savings and
revenue sources, along with the metrics and calculations to measure the results. The first eBook focused on customer community as a
valuable resource for customer self-service support. This book focuses on the way companies can leverage community to improve agent
efficiency. Stay tuned for the final, which will discuss community as a means to improve customer retention and acquisition.

Customer Community: The Basics
Since this eBook is all about how you can leverage a customer community to improve agent efficiency (and reduce costs as a
result), we figured it makes sense to give a quick refresher course on what exactly a customer community is, just to make sure we’re
all on the same page.
So what is a community platform? It all started with some of the first technology that emerged on the web—the forums and
message boards of the 80’s and 90’s. These technologies were built to create online spaces where users could have threaded
conversations about the topics, products, and services that interested them. To have an identity across conversation, users
typically created a profile with a nickname, so that they could build their reputation. This primordial community technology worked
well for engineers, developers, and early adopters, but it was not designed to be easy-to-use by a mass audience.
A lot has changed in today’s community platforms, but the core conversational functions have remained the same. At Get
Satisfaction, we have a strong point of view that, for a community to be most effective and beneficial for customers as well as companies, it should have the following:

❑User-friendly interface with a simple way for even tech-wary users to browse and search for relevant conversations
❑Technical flexibility that allows business to embed community content and functionality across customer channels … on websites,
social networks, in digital campaigns, and on mobile and tablet devices
❑Business features and tools (topic moderation, content curation, etc.) that allow for successful community management
❑Ability for the community to be branded by the company that owns or sponsors it
❑Content that is highly indexed by search engines (through SEO) and naturally appears in top search results
❑Analytics tools that allow business users to assess community health and performance, determine the most relevant content, and
identify the community members who are mostly likely to become brand advocates
❑Formal Champions program that allows you to identify, recognize, and allocate simple moderation capabilities to the customers who
act as informal leaders in your community

When equipped with these features and moderated and curated effectively, communities are great assets for customers to research
products, find answers to their questions, and act as resources for others. These conversations drive customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, while helping companies deliver great support, gather feedback to build better products, and acquire more customers.
Effectively, community allows you to deliver a better customer experience, while reducing costs and bringing benefits to multiple
departments across companies.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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Guest Post: How Can Your Business Benefit From CRM Software?

Relationships are an important part of every business, they always have been, but now-a-days relationships are more important than ever because your competitors are never more than a few clicks away.

You may have heard of CRM software already, but there is a good chance you don’t really know what it does and more importantly how you could use it for your business.

What Is CRM Software?

CRM is all about tracking, managing and understanding your relationships with your customers. It is a powerful tool and there is a lot that you can do with it once you know how, so in this post I am going to attempt to give you some concrete examples:

  • Group and categorize important contacts
  • Record all communications with clients and suppliers
  • Analyse the effectiveness of your marketing channels
  • Track repeat custom and find trends
  • Use reminders to keep in touch with important people

Contact Management

This is a simple part of what you can do, but it’s an important first step. You can use a CRM package to manage all of your contacts, so grouping them is essential.

Typical groups might include:

  • Supplies
  • Customers
  • Leads
  • Freelancers

But you can also sub-categorize them and you can use rules to automate the process if you want to. So you might have a group of repeat customers, customers who have complained and different types of supplier for example.

This may not seem essential now, but as a business grows this can become vital and by setting it up now you will remove many of your hurdles to growth.

Contact Reminders

Keeping customers happy is your number one priority and there is nothing worse than promising a client that you will get back to them and failing to do so. So let’s say you send your client an email promising to touch base in a couple of weeks:

You can set a reminder that pops up telling you to email or phone your client when the time comes. Best yet, your CRM package will record the email so that before you phone your client you can check your previous communications and refresh your memory.

Essentially, CRM allows you to “remember” all of the important discussions you have with all of your clients so that you never forget to get back to them or what you have previously discussed. The potential for improving your customer service is clear.

Managing Inventory

If you happen to sell a physical product, using your CRM software to monitor your inventory makes a lot of sense. You can probably integrate your order management system and manage your stock levels centrally.

The big plus is that you will already have your supplier contacts grouped and automated, so you might set up a reminder for each product so that you never forget to re-order. You could even set the system to automatically email the appropriate supplier when stocks are low.

By managing your stock levels efficiently you can do two things:

  • Keep lower inventory levels, hence freeing up cash flow
  • Ensure you never run out of stock, which costs you sales

Analyse Your Data

Arguably one of the most powerful features of a good CRM package is that you have all of your most important data in one place. Good platforms will allow you to integrate different marketing channels (PPC, email, SEO) along with Analytics and order fulfilment/sales data.

You can even get modules to integrate your financial management!

This will allow you to accurately see which marketing campaigns have lead to the most sales, where your best customers come from and how they prefer to communicate. You never know what trends you might find that can help you to improve your business and make it more profitable.

 

 

About the Author
Hello, my name is Mike Spalding. I work for Advantage Business Systems. I love writing about business and helping small businesses to make better use of their IT and technology. I specialise in business management solutions, click here to learn more.

 

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Did U See The Videos On the ROI of Social Media?

I’ve been asked… a number of times, where can we see these videos that Kathy Herrmann and I wrote? We created them based on our thought leadership with the help and support of Salesforce.com and www.rebelunit.com (RSA) on the ROI of social media… so I thought I would post them here… so that you have access to them at any time!

Video 1: How Social Media Benefits the Whole Company

 
Video 2: How to Calculate The ROI of Social Media

Video 3: How To Build a Business Case For Social Customer

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