August 28th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

Through 2014, the U.S. contact center industry added 50,000 new jobs in the United States, and in just three months between April 1 and June 30 of this year, it added 20,499 jobs, following the previous quarter’s gain of 7,965 new U.S. contact center jobs, according to jobs4america.

During the 1990s, many American companies relocated their call centers overseas to substantially reduce labor costs. It would seem that many of those jobs are now coming back to the United States as companies are finding that offshore call centers do not perform nearly as well as their U.S. counterparts, according to research from Marchex, which measures more than 300 million calls annually for leading brands and agencies worldwide.

Marchex says it is possible to quantitatively compare the effectiveness of domestic and offshore call centers by analyzing thousands of inbound sales calls fielded for comparable products. Based on key metrics such as hold time, agent talk time, and dozens of other metadata metrics that assess a caller’s overall experience, Marchex determined the top three performance differentiators between domestic and offshore facilities. They are the following:

DIFFERENTIATOR #1: HOLD TIME: The average offshore call center’s hold time was about 1 minute and 15 seconds longer than the average domestic call center’s hold time for a similar product.

DIFFERENTIATOR #2: TOO MUCH INFORMATION: There was a statistically significant difference in agent talk time, with offshore agents requiring 40 seconds more time to describe the same product information to a consumer.

DIFFERENTIATOR #3: TOO MANY TRANSFERS: Offshore centers use far more call transfers than domestic centers. This is because domestic agents tend to have a more comprehensive understanding of technical topics, which limits the number of transfers.

So, just in case all of the government incentives and other peace-of-mind benefits werern’t enough, now you have another reason to bring your call center operations back to American soil. Your customers will thank you.

August 24th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Last week at CRM Evolution, a lot of emphasis was placed on customer engagement, and how important it is that companies use their channels to stay in touch with buyers.  Many organizations have been investing in customer success management tools to help them make sure that people are satisfied well after a transaction has been completed.

Staying connected to customers, we are told, is necessary. But I think there’s a fine line between what is acceptable and what is irritating. At least not in my personal experience. Sometimes, I just want to be left alone, or even forget an interaction has ever taken place–especially if I’ve gone over budget and didn’t mean to.

I’ve been thinking about all this in relation mobile apps and the push notification feature recently. They’re a constant source of distraction to me. (This recent article in the Atlantic shows why this can be problematic for a lot of people.)

A few weeks ago, at an industry conference, I downloaded the event’s mobile app to help me keep track of my schedule. At large events with many speakers, apps really come in handy. It’s more convenient to tap a 4 inch screen screen than to lug around a glossy booklet. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and sped through the settings screen, neglecting to opt out of the push notifications. This was definitely a mistake, because it opened the floodgates to what seemed to me like incessant pinging.

I left the event Monday evening,  but I was still getting push notifications about the event on Wednesday, well after I’d left the conference and was hundreds of miles away from its host city. “Don’t forget to get to a certain room for lunch,” the program nudged me. And, “Don’t  miss such and such speaker,”  or  “cocktail hour in the lobby”. Normally I would have deleted the app, but  I wanted to keep track of  sessions I’d attended that day. But at the same time, I didn’t have the patience to begin fumbling with the app settings finding a way to disable the push notifications, so I just ended up deleting it.

Now, I realize that it might be good idea for a curmudgeon like me to simply turn off all notifications, or to avoid mobile apps entirely.  But it’s not always easy to judge when they’ll come in handy. What if the one push notification I end up disabling ends up being one that is meaningful?

The past few weeks, Hale and Hearty has been handing out these cards encouraging customers to download their new app:

IMG_1159 IMG_1160

I’m on the fence about installing it, even though it shouldn’t even be a question. I hardly ever remember to pack my own lunch and I end up at Hale and Hearty more than I’d like to admit. To me, it’s well worth it, considering how often I eat there. And yet,  do I really need Hale and Hearty reminding that they’ll have split pea soup in limited quantities? Maybe….

 

August 21st, 2015 by Leonard Klie

When it comes to improving the customer experience, a lot of emphasis this week was placed on the technology. Many of the speakers at this week’s Customer Service Experience and CRM Evolution conferences in New York talked up new and emerging technologies, particularly those that allow companies to better meet consumer needs over digital channels. Interest was definitely high when it came to solutions that enable brands to communicate with customers over social media, chat, mobile, the Web, and even the Internet of Things.

If there was one take-away from the conferences, it was that under the best conditions a digitally connected ecosystem will be equally beneficial to both customers and businesses.

Outside of the conferences, vendors this week also put a lot of money behind the emerging digital channels. Verint acquired Telliegent, furthering its push into the social media analytics space. Then Freshdesk acquired ICLICK.io, adding native video chat and co-browsing to its customer support technology portfolio. Spredfast bought Shoutlet, strengthening its social media capabilities. And finally, Oracle purchased Maxymiser, bringer greater mobile and Web capabilities to its Marketing Cloud platform.

And while these moves are significant to differing degrees, delivering the best customer service possible still comes down to the people operating all the technology in place. Focusing on employees was what propelled Southwest Airlines to the lofty position in now holds.

Often hailed as the textbook example of how providing fabulous customer service in a low-cost environment is not only possible but profitable, Southwest Airlines since its founding has invested heavily in its employees so they can then invest in the customers, Jason Young, its former manager of customer service training, told CSE and CRM Evolution conference attendees Tuesday.

The key to Southwest’s success, he said, “is building relationships internally so it expands outward to customers.”

The airline adopted what Young calls “customer-defined services,” where the customer is the most important part of the business. The moment of truth for any company, he added, is whenever “a customer comes into contact with your company that can leave an impression.”

It’s then that employee engagement comes into play, and where values, intentions, behavior, and perception all factor in, he said.

In that environment, teamwork is based on “relational coordination,” which Young said can sometimes be seen as countercultural at many companies. “It’s so easy to be so transaction-focused that you forget that we are in the business of building relationships,” he stated.

And relationships involve people first. The technology is just an enabler.

August 10th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Research from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business indicates that social factors can have a considerable influence on the choices customers make. People are less likely to risk embarrassment in front of human beings, and are more likely to buy certain goods in private or online. “If you don’t talk to anyone, it changes your behavior,” Ryan McDevitt, the professor leading the study, said in a statement.

One portion of the study took into account more than 160,000 orders made by more than 56,000 customers at a North Carolina pizza chain from July 2007 to December 2011. Buyers who didn’t have to interact with a clerk usually made more unhealthy and elaborate decisions than those who did. Online orders, the professors discovered, contained an average of 14 percent more special instructions regarding topping combinations, and an average of 100 more calories than phone orders.

“Online, you’re not making anyone wait while you place your special order,” McDevitt said. “No one’s judging you.”

Also revealed was the fact that people are less likely to buy or request an item if its name is difficult to pronounce. The researchers looked at 14 liquor stores in Sweden over an eight year period (1988-1996), both before and after they introduced self-service options. The market share of the products that were hardest for buyers to pronounce went up by 8.4 percent after the switch to automated options was made.

The results aren’t particularly shocking to me; especially the latter example. Just this weekend I was at a book store and, for this very reason, didn’t end up getting the item I had in mind when I stepped in. I was looking for a book by an author whose name I had no idea how to pronounce.

I should mention that this particular bookstore is not known for being easy to navigate. In fact, part of its appeal is in its random layout. The staff tries to get creative and have fun with the way it groups books together. One table is dedicated to “must-own short story collections”, and not far away is another that has “gift ideas for the narcissist”. I have a friend who once told me that he can’t go to this book store if he’s looking for something specific.

I first tried finding it in the stacks, but it wasn’t there, though I was certain they had it in stock since the author had recently held an event at the store to promote it. I debated going to the information desk to see if the clerk could help me find it, but after very little deliberation on the matter, decided not to. I’m pretty sure that if I had the option of looking for it on my own, rather than risking the embarrassment of butchering the author’s name, I would have left with that book in hand rather than one of the others I found by chance.

August 7th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

Emotient, a provider of facial expression analysis to help organizations better understand audience response to media, products, and experiences so they can better engage with customers, put its patented technology to the test during last night’s Republican presidential candidates’ debate.

The field of emotion analytics has been gaining recognition as a much more precise way to measure individual and crowd reaction to marketing messages, live events, or service interactions. If done properly, it can outperform many other ways of gauging customer responses: basic surveys, for example, can be flawed in that they typically rely on respondents to be able to recall and articulate how they felt at a given moment in time, and focus groups require data scientists to lend their own subjective interpretation of the feedback given by a handful of people who don’t make up a statistically reliable sample size.

When it comes to politics, people have very strong emotions, so the campaign season seems to be a great fit for the technology. And so Emotient turned on its proprietary emotion-reading algorithms and analytics to identify and measure the reactions of an independently selected studio audience viewing the debate. As the candidates sparred with one another–and in some cases, the media panel posing the questions–Emotient’s facial reading algorithm recorded the visual reactions of its 60-person opt-in audience.

Emotient Audience Reaction to Republican Presidential Candidate Debate

Here’s some of what the technology uncovered:

  • An almost 90 percent spike in audience joy surfaced when Donald Trump called out Rand Paul, saying, “I don’t think you heard me. You’re having a hard time tonight.”
  • Viewers showed high levels of contempt, anger, and disgust  when Scott Walker was questioned on his promise to create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin.
  • Viewers showed frustration, anger, and confusion when Jeb Bush’s suggested that the Iraq war might have been a mistake.
  • Trump registered the most joyous moments, capturing three out of the top five joy spikes during the debate.
  • Scott Walker evoked the highest degree of anger.
  • The audience was most disgusted by the heated exchange between  Chris Christie and Rand Paul on the issue of surveillance.
  • Ted Cruz seemingly did not elicit any significant emotional response.

“It takes a trained human expert about five minutes to accurately evaluate a single face in an image. For this reason, automating how the system learns to accurately recognize facial expressions and emotions is critical to the entire field of emotion analytics,” said Javier Movellan, founder and lead researcher at Emotient, in a statement. “We use crowd-sourcing methods to collect and label more than 100,000 images of faces per day to continuously train and improve our automatic expression recognition systems.”

Now if only we could use technology to train and improve our politicians.

 



 
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