September 26th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Bluewolf, a consulting agency now owned by IBM, today released its fifth annual State of Salesforce report, finding that the majority of users feel there’s more they can get out of their CRM systems.

Though 96% of the survey’s 1,700 global respondents–Salesforce customers from businesses of all sizes–see “innovation potential” in the platform, 77% believe they could be getting better results from their CRM investments.

“To thrive in today’s digital economy, where disruptors come quickly and unexpectedly, businesses must make customer and employee engagement their top priority,” said Eric Berridge, CEO of Bluewolf, in a statement. “This year’s The State of Salesforce Report shows that technology matters less than how you’re using it. Elevating processes with intelligence, intuitive UX, and actionable insights will help companies get closer to their customers and get to their future now.”

Among the highlights of the study are the following:

Intelligent applications are going to be big

According to Bluewolf, there is a strong correlation between how likely a company is to use intelligent applications–applications that leverage data to surface best recommended actions for employees and customers–and how likely they are to succeed.

At the moment, the study finds, many firms are being held back by inadequate integrations, bad data, and outdated processes. However, 63% of respondents will increase their CRM budgets next year, and 65% are investing to make their analytics more actionable.

Employee experience is essential to customer experience

Bluewolf stresses that a key to improving customer experience is improving the user experiences employees are subjected to on a daily basis. That means, for instance, making it easier for sales professionals to do their jobs on their smartphones. Companies whose work forces felt CRM systems were more accessible to them were almost three times more likely to see reductions in cost, and twice as likely to enjoy revenue increases attributable to their CRM systems.

Perfect data isn’t everything

While there is certainly a degree to which data should be cleansed and prepared before being used, Bluewolf finds that nearly half of the companies it surveyed (46%) found the quality of their data to be less than perfect. This suggests that data quality doesn’t have to limit companies, and that they should start to leverage the data they have to see benefits. 


September 22nd, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

Retailers need to consider implementing indoor location technologies, according to a report by technology market intelligence company ABI Research. The study suggest that retailers will miss mobile opportunities if they don’t understand the opportunities presented by handset-based indoor location technologies, especially with companies such as Apple and Google aiming to release their own versions of the services within the next year.

Handset-based indoor location technologies provide retailers with a number of advantages, such as being able to measure marketing campaign performance, streamline in-store processes, and create new advertising revenue streams. Perhaps most importantly, they can use mobile devices to simplify shoppers’ overall experience and engage with more customers. For these reasons, ABI Research predicts that retailers will embrace these technologies as they become more widely available.

“Retailers largely failed to exploit the possibilities of mobile thus far and are now in danger of repeating the mistakes they made with eCommerce,” Patrick Connolly, Principal Analyst at ABI Research, said in a statement. “The days of loyalty cards and paper coupons are ending and retailers do not seem ready. They need to take control of the digitization of their stores and learn to put technologies like indoor location to work.”

September 16th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

Twitter just can’t seem to make up its mind when it comes to the services it would like to offer businesses and consumers using its site.  As Facebook does, so will Twitter, it would seem.

Not long after yanking the “Buy Button” that allowed consumers to make purchases from companies without having to leave the site, Twitter this week went ahead with a number of new features that help consumers better connect with businesses that offer customer service through their Twitter handles. Companies will now be able to show consumers whether their accounts offer customer service and the times that those services are available,  to help set people’s expectations for when they are likely to reply.

The service will be available via a new Customer Support settings page on the Twitter Dashboard web site. Once activated, companies can clearly display within their profiles that they “Provide Support.” They will also be able to receive direct messages from anyone, not just from customers who follow them.

“These new features enable businesses to tell users they provide help on Twitter, indicate when they’re most active, and ensure people know they have the option to send them a Direct Message,” Twitter said in a recent company blog post. .

For Twitter, the “Provides Support” option closely mirrors a feature that Facebook offers in Pages that shows users how responsive companies are to customer inquiries through the site. Facebook has also offered a buy button on its site for more than a year, with much greater success..

Other recent customer service offerings from Twitter include Direct Message links and customer feedback cards.

“We are committed to making Twitter the best place for people to talk to businesses,” the company said on its blog. “People and businesses tell us time and again that they love the relationships they can develop on Twitter…Expect more as we continue to help businesses deliver a better customer experience on Twitter.”

So what’s next for the struggling social media site?  Maybe we should ask Facebook what it has in the pipeline first.

September 15th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

89 percent of call center agents say that developing a better awareness of customers’ perception within a call is crucial, according to a report by real-time emotional intelligence provider Cogito. Based on feedback from call center agents across the United States, the study looks to evaluate the role of emotional intelligence and empathy in agents’ customer interactions.

According to the study, developing better rapport with customers will positively impact both agent job satisfaction and customers’ perception of the company. 76 percent of agents surveyed reported taking 30 or more calls per day, and 81 percent said that the most frustrating part of their job is being treated disrespectfully by customers. However, 93 percent believe that their communication style impacts customers’ perception of the brand. Overall, agents agreed that it would be helpful to be more attuned to customers’ perception of their communication style.

“Phone professionals are at the heart of the customer relationship. Despite the rise of self-service channels, more than three-quarters of consumers prefer to speak with a live individual, and that percentage is even higher when it relates to sophisticated inquiries. Now more than ever, consumers not only expect a certain level of service but are fast to switch providers and share their opinions when expectations are not met,” Josh Feast, CEO and co-founder of Cogito, said in a statement. “Our survey results combined with our work with leading consumer-focused enterprises leads to the clear conclusion that emotional intelligence is a critical skill and tools that can enhance it will drive more engaged employees and customers.”

September 12th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Data from the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Edison Research reveals that customers are likely to respond favorably to podcast ads.

pdcIn a survey of 1,000 American podcast listeners aged 18 and older, the firms found that two thirds (65%) said they would consider buying products and services they heard about during one of their favorite podcasts. These respondents also indicated they were likely to take actions as a response to hearing these ads, including visit a sponsor’s Web site (45%), and seek more information about their products or services (37%). 60% said that if given that the price and quality were more or less equal, they would rather buy from a company whose names they recognized from a podcast.

Why are ads so well received in the medium? According to a statement from Anna Bager, senior vice president and general manager of mobile and video at IAB, their audiences are comprised of “devoted fans whose enthusiasm carries over to companies that sponsor their favorite shows.” In the style of radio DJs, podcast hosts often work the advertisements in as part their content, while offering up endorsements. The study found audiences prefer this approach to prerecorded advertisements, because it allows for a more personal and authentic interpretation.

“Podcast listeners not only don’t reject advertising in the medium, they are actually very receptive to the right message, delivered in the right environment,” Tom Webster, vice president of strategy at Edison Research, said in a statement.

I found this all a bit surprising and out of line with my experience. On his Monday Morning Podcast, the comedian Bill Burr often reads the advertisements in funny voices, making them a part of his routine. Sometimes he even goes as far as to mock the sponsors signing the checks, which is truly in line with his brand of irreverent comedy, and an honest  and authentic approach which many appreciate.  But I often scratch my head. How effective is that in actually selling a product? I enjoy Burr’s perspective, but I’ve never been truly inclined to look up the brands he mentions.

Beyond my anecdote, though, advertisers are still working to find ways to assess the payoffs of their podcast strategies, IAB says. One problem is that it’s hard to measure engagement after users have downloaded an audio file. It’s difficult  for instance to draw conclusions regarding whether or not people skipped over an ad, and how they reacted to it, without adequate tools and methods in place.  Despite these imperfections, the medium is still gaining popularity for marketers.  


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