April 18th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

If you’d have told me a few years ago that consumers would abandon the phone as a customer service channel, I would have told you that you were bonkers. After all, dialing the digits is the way it’s always been done.

Today, it’s no longer a surprise that customers are turning away from the phone as a means to reach customer service. In fact, a recent survey by Firstsource found that only slightly more than half (54 percent) still prefer to use the phone to resolve their customer service issues.

So what are the other half using? Increasingly, it’s Web chat. According to the Firstsource research, 38 percent of Americans often use Web chat to buy products or services, resolve customer service or technical support issues, and get answers to their product questions.

What’s more, 67 percent expect Web chat to become more widely used, with a full 69 percent saying they would use it to contact their wireless, utilities, banking, healthcare, insurance, and education providers if it was available. And, as Web chat continues to evolve, 79 percent of Americans would be interested in having a Web chat feature on their mobile phones or tablets.

According to the research, Web chat has a 91 percent satisfaction rating—much higher than calling into a contact center. Instant access to customer service representatives without having to wait on hold and the fact that it’s readily available, often 24/7, were cited as the most important benefits of using Web chat.

So it behooves companies to provide Web chat  as a way to transform their customer management processes and ultimately improve consumer satisfaction. Consumers are definitely looking for self-service options and instant engagements with companies without compromising their experience. Why not give it to them.

April 17th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

In 2013, Gartner ranked analytics and business intelligence as number one in a list of the top 10 technology priorities for enterprise companies and since then, the importance of analytics and BI has only grown. By 2016, worldwide business intelligence software revenue is projected to reach $17.1 billion and mobile analytics technology is playing a major role in the growth–as the popularity of mobile devices continues to skyrocket, the need for analytics technology aimed specifically at mobile devices is rising as well. But delivering meaningful mobile analytics is about much more than just gathering device data.

According to Netbiscuits, a mobile analytics company, context plays a tremendous role in helping brands better understand their customers. Last week, the company released an infographic outlining the four primary consumer personas, and what each type expects from a mobile interaction. I think I am, as perhaps most consumers are, a little bit of all of these:

The Morning Professional

morning professionalWhat This Persona Prefers: According to Netbiscuits, this device user prefers large screens, typically connects to his home WiFi with high bandwidth, is willing to watch HD videos, has high battery levels thanks to an overnight charge, and engages in highly interactive touch journey experiences.

What Marketers Should Do:

“To appeal to these personas, marketers should be populating their web content with rich media assets, integrated social media sharing functions, and highly interactive touch navingation,” Netbiscuits recommends.




The Technophile


What This Persona Prefers:

This user typically interacts with multiple, high-end and high-performance devices throughout the day, can easily get distracted as bandwidth varies, and expects high performance and beautiful content. Technophiles will also likely abandon a site if it is too slow, and will convert at a high price point if the experience is right.

What Marketers Should Do:  

Netbiscuits suggests that in this case, “marketers should consider content interaction that is geared to a customer who enjoys tech, and expects superior performance. Think about how certain features or functionality slows download times, [and] consider displaying these only when it doesn’t impact performance, which is key.”



The Lunchtime Powerbrowser

lunchtime powerbrowser

What This Persona Prefers:

These site visitors are usually “information hunting” and comparing prices. Their bandwidth can vary greatly, and their battery status may have taken a hit in the morning rush. They’re typically not keen on interacting with complex navigation, HD videos, or images and are unlikely to go through a heavy check-out process.

What Marketers Should Do:

“Marketers should be aware that these users are typically on the go, and may be within close proximity to a physical stores. Having access to their geolocation can enhance the purchase experience by offering incentives to come in to the store, such as coupons or special offers,” according to Netbiscuits.


The Sofa Surfer

sofa surfer

What This Persona Prefers:

Usually visiting in the evening, these consumers spend the most time browsing Web sites. They’ve got the time, bandwidth and computing power to enjoy the full Web experience, and are more likely to be using a tablet or interacting with multiple devices. Chances are they’re ready to make a purchase, and are also willing to allow cookies to access rich content. Overall, Sofa Surfers want a rich, consistent experience across all devices.

What Marketers Should Do:

“Marketers should emphasize strong calls to action and endeavor to align their most important marketing messages to when this persona is most receptive to want to take action,” Netbiscuits urges.

To help brands leverage these different types of personas, Netbiscuits launched a free enterprise-grade versions of its Mobile Analytics and Device Detection software. The tools can develop and track visitor personas around device, preferences and contextual use, identify causes of abandonment and ultimately deliver better engagement to increase conversions from mobile channels. In other words, now marketers have a way to infer whether a consumer is browsing while noshing on the couch, or sneaking a peak during a break at work, and then target content accordingly. Cool, eh?

April 14th, 2014 by Sarah Sluis

What happens when people fill out online forms asking for a salesperson to contact them about a product? 12 percent of inquiries made to Fortune 100 companies fell into a black hole and received no response, according to a study conducted by Velocify. Of those that did respond, their results weren’t optimal. 46 percent of buyers received both phone calls and emails, which Velocify judges a good response. 21 percent received only emails, while another 21 percent received only phone calls. A multichannel touch, reaching out over the phone and through email, works better.

Companies generally weren’t quick enough to call, at least according to the study’s standards. Only 15 percent of companies called within an hour, which research shows increases the likelihood of conversion by 36 percent.  On the other end of the spectrum, 10 percent of  people waited a full week before they heard back from the company. The average time before a call was 3.5 days, far above customers’ stated preference: a response within 24 hours.

When it came to email, companies’ responses were even worse, considering how easy it is to automate responses. Some companies clearly are automating emails: 10 percent received an email within seconds, and 20 percent within minutes. But then responses spread out: 20 percent didn’t receive an email until hours or days later, and 13 percent not until weeks later. A third of people didn’t receive any emails (though some received phone calls). For me, it’s important to separate quality and speed here. Obviously, anywhere from weeks onward is too long to wait for a response. But receiving a personal email within a day or two means more to me than an automated email with no personal follow-up.

The study also linked a company’s response to buyer inquiries with its profit margins and revenue growth. Companies with the highest revenue growth generally had response scores four percent above the norm, while the bottom 20 percent of revenue performers had response times four percent below the norm.

There was a stronger relationship between revenue scores and profit margins. Companies with high profit margins had response scores 20 percent above average. Those with the lowest margins were almost 40 percent below average. Clearly, devoting staff and technology to following leads and touching more customers saves money, despite the investments in people and technology that may come with it.

One thing the study doesn’t mention is the possibility that lead scoring could have played into the timing and frequency of the call backs. Maybe a company had reason to believe they had an extremely poor or highly likely lead on their hands, and acted accordingly.

The study also doesn’t touch on the interplay between channels. Is a personal call or email followed by automated follow ups? If a customer doesn’t respond to email, do sales teams call to try to elicit a response? The interplay between channels will become more important as other paths to reach the customer, like social media, enter the equation. That said, for the companies that can’t get the basics right, they have plenty of other problems to take care of first.

April 11th, 2014 by Leonard Klie

Strativity Group this week released a research report that shows a staggering 83 percent of business executives don’t know the cost of a customer complaint.

According to Strativity’s 2014 Global Customer Experience Management Survey, 76 percent do not know their customer acquisition costs, and, even more staggering, 81 percent are not fully committed to executing their customer experience strategies.

So what’s the harm? According to the research, non-committed companies arte three times more likely to have greater customer attrition. Conversely, fully-committed companies are five times more likely to get higher referral rates.

This comes at a time, quite surprisingly, when 80 percent of the executives involved in the survey expressed the belief that customer strategies are more important now than ever before.

So what’s the bottom line? The only conclusion that I can make—and it seems to be a belief that Strativity shares–is that clearly, companies are talking the talk when it comes to being customer-focused, or even better, customer-centric, but they’re falling far short when it comes to action.

Few companies, it would appear, are using customer experience as a differentiator, and, in fact, most still struggle with getting the very basics right.

“It seems, despite the growing interest in customer-centric strategies, the vast majority of companies are demonstrating little sense of urgency,” said Lior Arussy, president of Strativity Group, in a statement “Resources, budget and sponsorship commitments do not match corporate declarations.”

Come on, people. By now, haven’t we learned that to be competitive today, companies need to be customer-centric, truly committed to engaging with their customers on all levels and across all channels.

April 10th, 2014 by Maria Minsker

Believed to be among the biggest computer bugs to ever strike the Internet, the HeartBleed Internet bug is a doozy. What makes the situation even more dire, however, is that consumers can do little to protect themselves. HeartBleed has the Internet community reeling because it’s a direct hit to OpenSSL, which runs on 66 percent of the Web, according to Mashable’s Christina Warren. OpenSSL is free and versatile, so a lot of companies rely on it to enable the functionality of Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS)–a set of protocols for handling security, Warren explains. From a consumer’s perspective, the threat is quite real:

“Even if you don’t ever see OpenSSL or know what it stands for, chances are, you interact with it several times a day. That interaction can be as simple as entering in a password for an email account or as complex as sending a private message or photo or even filing your taxes,” Warren writes.

According to several reports, the OpenSSL developer responsible for the typo that became HeartBleed completed the coding about an hour from New Year’s Eve in 2011 and most companies started using the doomed version of OpenSSL in May 2012–that means the bug has been around for quite some time, and any supposedly secure activity on a site that has used OpenSSL since then wasn’t secure at all.

Now that the mistake has been discovered, vulnerable companies are in damage-control mode. So what should they be doing to help protect their users? Read on.

1. Break the News to Users

There’s been a ton of confusion regarding which sites have been affected and which sites haven’t, so it’s up to individual companies to deliver the news to consumers if their information is at risk. Some of the tech giants (I’m looking at you, Google) have been particularly vague about whether or not their users are at risk, but Mashable has created a list to keep track. According to Google, whose security engineer Neel Mehta originally spotted the bug, the company “assessed the SSL vulnerability and applied patches to key Google services.” Search, Gmail, YouTube, Wallet, Play, Apps and App Engine were affected, but Google Chrome and Chrome OS were not. The company maintains that users do not need to change their passwords. Facebook, however, encouraged users to take the safe route: ”We added protections for Facebook’s implementation of OpenSSL before this issue was publicly disclosed. We haven’t detected any signs of suspicious account activity, but we encourage people to … set up a unique password,” the company said.

2. Patch Things Up

A patch for the bug is already available, and it goes without saying that it should be implemented right away. The key here is to make sure users know not to change their password before the fix is finalized; otherwise, their new password might be vulnerable as well. Companies should consider directing users to LastPass, a keychain Website that manages consumer passwords and stores them in one place. The site has set up a tool that allows users to check up on their passwords to different sites and determine whether each site has already implemented the patch.

3. Beef Up Security

Because the threat is so widespread and a variety of Web sites have been affected, it’s important to remind users to create unique passwords, not use the same one across sites. In addition, it’s not a bad idea to put a two-step authentication system in place to protect accounts. “One typical scenario would involve a user providing something they know, like a password, combined with something they have, like a cell phone tied to a verified phone number,” TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez writes. Many companies have already implemented this measure–back in March, Tumblr, for example, announced that it will launch two-factor authentication and require users to not only into their usual password, but also an identification code.  The extra layer of security might help consumers feel safer from future bugs or hacks.


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