February 1st, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

A majority of companies are not making the most of their inbound leads, suggest findings from a sales effectiveness report released last week by Conversica, titled Lead Follow-Up.

The purpose of the survey, says Conversica’s CEO, Alex Terry, was to determine how well B2C and B2B companies—and  from a range of industries and reputations—handled interested prospects. “Most companies know what the right thing to do is” when it comes to nurturing leads, Terry acknowledges. “But do they do it? We figured it was worth spending a few months to gather some objective, statistical data and answer that question.”

3040508093_50104084b2Over two months, Conversica assigned secret shoppers to contact companies about their products and services during regular business hours (8am-5pm). The shoppers sent their inquiries through designated email addresses or forms found on the companies’ Web sites, trying to be as consistent as possible with the interactions. “We wanted to come across as someone who’s interested in buying whatever the service happened to be,” Terry says, and “we didn’t want the companies to know they were being evaluated.”

Companies were judged for their effectiveness across four best practices. These “four Ps” include: promptness, persistence, personalization, and performance.

Each organization was given a letter grade based on its abilities in these criteria, with equal weight being placed to each of the four Ps.

“It was surprising was just how badly many of these companies did,” Terry says.

Of the 327 companies surveyed, only seven posted an overall grade of “A,”* while the majority (65%) scored a “C” or lower. The research further revealed that 111 of the companies surveyed (34%) never bothered to respond to the initial inquiry. The companies who did respond showed an average response time of 52 hours, with only 8% of the companies able to answer within five minutes.

This is a missed opportunity, Terry suggests, as promptness can make or break a deal. “If you can get back to someone within five minutes, it [will result in] a measureable improvement in your ability to engage and ultimately close that lead,” Terry says.

Additionally, more than 50% of the companies only contacted a lead twice before giving up on the opportunity, even though Terry holds that the recommended number is eight.

Blindly sending follow-up messages, however, isn’t good enough–30% of the companies who responded to the interested parties didn’t add a personal touch, which increased the likelihood that their messages ended up in the recipient’s spam folder.

A takeaway, Terry states, is while “it’s not hard to be good… it’s hard to be consistently good. A lot of companies need help with engaging, qualifying, and working with inbound leads to help increase their sales,”

In a statement, Gerry Murray, research manager at IDC’s CMO advisory service, pointed out that labor and time requirement limit the human ability to pursue a great volume of leads. Therefore, “unless [responses are] automated, an enormous amount of potential business simply falls through the cracks,” Murray says. Fortunately, automated  agents who meet the “Turing Test” and don’t give off a robotic impressions in their messages are increasingly “passing with flying colors.”

*Companies who earned “A”s are: Marketo, Zend Technologies, Salesforce, Anderson Subaru of Pensacola, Florida, and Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa.



January 29th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

The Temkin Group reported recently that companies are getting more mature in their use of customer experience metrics, using them more than they have in the past, and improving the way that they use them.

metrics-graphIn its “State of Customer Experience Metrics 2015” report, Temkin noted that the percentage of firms that earned a “strong” or “very strong” rating grew from 11 percent a year ago to 14 percent now. Additionally, the firm found that companies improved across all four competency areas: consistency, impact, integration, and continuity.

For most, likelihood to recommend and satisfaction remain the most popular metrics.

What surprised me most from the research was the number of companies that are tying customer experience metrics to employee compensation. Seventy percent do that; Net Promoter Score is the most common metric used and customer service teams are the most common ones to be affected.

This issue came to light in late 2014 when Comcast found itself in the stew after a few of its contact center agents were discovered being less-than-kind to some customers. I even wrote an article about it at the time, looking at whether paying agents for performance was a good idea. Many analysts said it wasn’t, and instead suggested paying agents a better wage up front. My views probably most closely align with that group as well.

Not surprisingly, though, companies with stronger CX metrics programs are outperforming their peers. In fact, 49 percent of companies with stronger CX metrics programs provide better-than-average customer experiences, compared to just 17 percent with weaker programs. Companies with stronger programs are also 50 percent more likely to have significantly better business outcomes.

“While it’s great to see more companies using CS metrics, it’s even more encouraging to see that they’re being used more effectively,” Bruce Temkin, managing partner of The Temkin Group, said in a statement.

But, with only 14 percent of companies fitting into that narrow space right now, it is clear that companies still have a very, very long way to go.

January 28th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

RetailNext Study Highlights Retailer Weaknesses

RetailNext, an expert in big data solutions for brick-and-mortar businesses, recently released a study indicating a disconnect between shopper and retailer perceptions and expectations. The study, completed by Forrester in January 2016, surveyed 500 consumers and 150 retail decision-makers in the United States and the United Kingdom, and also found that many retail stores lack the technology to take advantage of shopper data across all channels.

The study emphasizes four key findings. First, perhaps contrary to popular belief, physical retail is thriving, but the influence of digital permeates the in-store experience. Customers value the ability to have hands-on interaction with products and services in-store, as well as the chance to interact with sales associates. Nevertheless, the study indicates that providing customers with a consistent cross-channel experience is essential—customers should be able to easily transition from physical to digital shopping, and vice versa. The study found that just 49 percent of consumers feel that their cross-channel experiences are consistent, indicating that businesses have a lot of room for improvement.

The study also found that retailers have trouble identifying what matters most to customers. In particular, retailers’ strategies and tactics are not addressing customers’ concerns. One of the most important features to shoppers is the ability to easily make returns regardless of the channel where their initial purchase was made, indicating once again that it is necessary for businesses to have seamless cross-channel experiences. Customers also emphasized the need for consistent pricing across channels—79 percent of customers consider pricing consistency crucial, but just 52 percent of retailers thought the same, suggesting a need for improvement in this area on the retailers’ part.

Third, the study notes the evolving role of the sales associate in the digital world. With the ubiquity of smartphones, customers expect on-demand sales associates who can enhance the shopping experience, making it worthwhile for customers to visit brick-and-mortar locations. According to the study, just 29 percent of consumers reported that sales associates are knowledgeable and helpful—a low number that businesses with brick-and-mortar locations would be wise to take heed of. Especially for those retailers that rely on the in-store experience, improving customer interaction with sales associates is essential.

Finally, the study found that retailers are not adequately measuring customer behavior, particularly in-store. Just 33 percent of retailers reported always measuring conversion rates, despite indicating an understanding that in-store technology is essential to driving operational excellence and customer experience. In order to improve data measurements on customer behavior, the study suggests that retailers implement Key Performance Indicator metrics in-store more frequently. This lack of consistency when it comes to gathering customer information in-store shows that businesses have a long way to go when it comes to optimizing customer data.


January 25th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

It is a no brainer of marketing. If you want your product or service to sell, you should emphasize that it is of a superior quality to what is offered by competitors, and that the customer will not regret their purchase.

But did you ever wonder if those Nike shoes are actually making you jump higher, or whether you are jumping higher simply because you believe that Nike shoes will make you jump higher?

Researchers from the Department of Marketing at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business set out to test whether or not the reputation for a brand’s performance can cause a “placebo effect” on those using it.

Frank Germann, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Notre Dame, and one of the leaders of the study, concedes that there’s no doubt that high-quality materials, craftsmanship, and various design components can accelerate someone’s performance. “However, in our research, we hold the product constant and instead examine whether the mere belief that a particular brand is effective at enhancing performance can actually improve performance objectively,” Germann said in a statement.

The researchers held two experiments to see whether brand names had the power to influence how someone performs.

In the first, participants were invited to test out a new line of golf putters. According to Germann, the subjects were asked to putt  from three pre-set locations on a putting using a new prototype golf club. While all participants were given the same piece of equipment, around half of the participants were told that they would be using one manufactured by Nike—a brand that has a reputation for its strong performance. Meanwhile, the other half were not told what brand their club was made by.

Similarly, the researchers held another study, inviting participants to complete a math test. Participants were given foam ear plugs so as to cut out any distractions and heighten their concentration on the problems. While about half of the participants were told that they would be using plugs made by a high-performance brand—3M—the other half were not told anything about the make of the ear plugs.

Participants in both studies used the same products, but those who were under the impression that they’d been issued gear from a performance brand posted better results. People who thought they were using Nike golf putters required fewer hits on average to sink the golf ball into the hole; those using what they thought were 3M earplugs, meanwhile, got more math questions right.

The results indicate in other words that strong performance brands can cause something like a placebo effect. Interestingly, Germann added, “a strong performance brand [causes] participants to feel better about themselves when undertaking a task—that is, to have greater task-specific self-esteem.” The result is that participants have lower degrees of performance anxiety, and achieve better outcomes.

One stipulation the researchers acknowledge, however, is that not every participant will benefit in the same way. Those who are beginners at a task are the ones who see the greatest boost in their performances, as opposed to experts who don’t see much of an improvement.

Likewise, it’s not just the prestige of the brand name alone that causes the placebo effect. Some of the golfers were told they’d be using Gucci clubs, for instance. While Gucci has a reputation and is widely known for its quality products, the brand has never been associated with high-quality sports product, so those who were under the impression they were using Gucci products did not perform at the level of those with the alleged Nike clubs.

According to Germann, the results suggest that brand managers should “emphasize the performance characteristics of their brands and position their brands on relevant performance dimensions.”

January 22nd, 2016 by Leonard Klie

A report released this week by mobile marketing provider Vibes found that coupons and loyalty rewards are the primary reasons that consumers engage with companies—or rather, let companies engage with them–on their mobile devices.

According to the research, consumers actively seek out certain types of campaigns only if there is a direct and immediate benefit to them. Then, once the communication has started on the mobile device, consumers want to stay on that device all the way to the check-out process. For example, 82 percent of smartphone users report that digital coupons are convenient when compared to printing out coupons and bringing them to the store. Furthermore, 59 percent say their opinion of a retailer would improve if they started to receive coupons and offers that could be saved on their smartphones.

apple-pay-2-100425722-largeAndroid-PayVibes’ report also found a powerful consumer shift towards regularly using mobile wallets like Apple Wallet and Android Pay, About a third (32 percent) of smartphone users currently use mobile wallets Two-thirds of respondents
(66 percent) would have a more positive opinion of a loyalty program if the program allowed them to store and access their information on their smartphone in a mobile wallet app.

The research aslo found a strong consumer willingness to subscribe to brand text programs, but again, only if there is a carrot at the end of the stick. Almost six in 10 respondents (59 percent) want to receive text alerts with updates on their orders. Perhaps more telling, though, 77 percent of smartphone users say receiving surprise points or rewards, exclusive content, and special birthday or anniversary mobile messages would have a positive impact on their brand loyalty.

“The popularity of coupons and loyalty programs remains very strong, but the most effective delivery mechanisms for these marketing tactics has changed with the growth in mobile,” Jack Philbin, co-founder and CEO of Vibes, explained.

According to Philbin, marketers have a tremendous opportunity to immediately start delivering their branded content into Apple Wallet and Android Pay. He calls it a win-win. The consumer gets what he wants, while marketers increase the effectiveness of their campaigns and loyalty programs.

You don’t believe me? Just gimme a mobile coupon and I’ll see you in your store to discuss it further.


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