July 28th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Generally speaking, people tend to trust their friends’ opinions and suggestions over those of a company. So why not give customers as many opportunities to act as advocates as possible, while giving them good reasons to want to be advocates?

Event planning software provider Bizzabo is using this logic to help companies attract more attendees to their show grounds. The company today launched Ticket Boost, a tool that aims to reward loyal customers for spreading the word about an event among their friends on social networks. The idea is that once someone has bought a ticket, that person can register for a promotion code and share it with friends on social media. Every time someone uses the code to purchase a discounted ticket, the original ticket holder is allotted a sum of money back.

The payoff for event organizers, meanwhile, is that they can choose to deactivate the code whenever they like, and track the success of each promotion to determine which attendees hold the most influence. They also get to dictate the terms of the promotion, and cancel it if they wish.

Though this concept isn’t entirely unique, most referrals don’t offer anything to the person on the receiving end, according to Bizzabo’s chief marketing officer and co-founder, Alon Alroy. In a statement, he said that “the dual-sided referral model has been wildly successful at fueling the growth of companies such as Uber, Dropbox, and others.”

I can think of a few practical uses for this. Let’s say you bought a ticket to a concert, but have no one to go with. Instead of relying on obnoxious methods, and badgering people on social media with offers that no one can benefit from but you, you can work your charm by giving them an opportunity to attend at a lower price.

Being exposed to more of this activity on social media would certainly get me out to more events. This is maybe evidenced by the fact that I’ve been living in New York for close to four years, now, and I still haven’t made it to a single sports game out here, simply because no one has suggested it to me. I’ll be going to to a Mets game soon, but the only reason is that a friend asked me to go with him. If he’d also told me that I could buy my ticket for a reduced price while helping him get some money back, I think I’d feel even better about it.

July 24th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

Market research firm Tractica predicted recently that the global speech and voice recognition markets will grow twelvefold, from their level of $600 million in 2014 to $7.1 billion by 2024. During this same timeframe, the number of licenses for voice and speech recognition software will increase from 49 million worldwide to 565.8 million.

To distinguish the two technologies, Tractica points out that speech recognition is used to identify words or phrases spoken during conversations while voice recognition (also known as voice biometrics) can identify people by how they form sounds.

Both are mature technologies that are finally finding a market, says Bob Lockhart, a principal analyst at Tractica.

Improvements in storage capabilities and biometrics algorithms and a surge in consumer acceptance of biometrics in general are among the main drivers of the technology’s adoption, the research firm stated.

“On the enterprise side, call center applications, such as caller identification and fraud detection, have substantial revenue forecast,” Lockhart adds. “We have also forecast that later in the period, patient authentication to access their own medical records could drive this technology.”

Another successful use case he cites is the pensioner proof-of-life system deployed by Mexico City. Each month, the city’s roughly 1,900 pensioners are required to call and speak to a voice recognition system that verifies their voices against voice prints stored in a central database. Dubbed Viva Voz, the system uses Nuance Communications’ VocalPassword technology.

Still, voice technology is not likely to be the only biometrics modality available. Lockhart expects voice to compete with fingerprint, facial recognition, and eventually iris imaging. Voice, he explains, has several unique advantages, though, that will likely make it the modality of choice for most call centers: Speaking “is a natural action to perform with even the most basic feature phone.

And that’s not likely to change, now or 10 years from now.

July 20th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

As the recent series of Comcast mishaps suggests, customer service agents can be tempted to lose their cool and take matters into their own hands.

The customer is always right, the saying goes, but just how true is that? It’s always struck me as a curious way of putting it, considering that no one is perfect and we all let our emotions get the best of us on occasion. Often enough, a customer who is having a bad day might jump at the chance to exaggerate the severity of a situation, or overreact to something that is clearly out of a customer service rep’s hands. (Recently, a woman sued Verizon for $2 million because she claims a service rep caused her heart attack.)

But just what goes through the straight-faced customer service agents’ heads when they hear someone voice a preposterous complaint? A group of comedians headed by Ben Palmer has been having some fun with the concept. Operating under a fake Customer Service Facebook  profile, the comedians have been posting replies to comments left on various companies’ profile pages just to illustrate the kinds of thoughts customer service agents, in all likelihood, can’t help but have. At the end of their messages they write, “Hope this helped!”–the perfect touch for conveying the frustration lingering beneath the surface.

One customer, for instance, wrote to TLC to complain about their programming:

Another expressed irritation about the terrors she and her son experienced in a noisy Target bathroom:

The replies are hilarious, and it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment behind some of them. A customer is just as likely to cause a ruckus and act out of line as an agent, so why not let the agent poke some fun at them now and again?

Then again, some customer requests speak for themselves in terms of how unreasonable they are….



July 16th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

It’s something that few people have never experienced: Just as you sit down to dinner with the family, the phone rings. Thinking it must be something important–why else would anyone interrupt such a special moment–you rush to the phone only to be greeted by an automated sales pitch or some other unwanted robocall.

Not wanting to take any more of these calls from Time Warner Cable, Araceli King, a resident of Irving, Texas, took the company to court, and was awarded $1,500 per call. The company had called her 153 times, bringing the sum of her settlement to $229,500.

The calls, which took place between July 2013 and August 2014, were intended for Luiz Perez, who had apparently opened an account with Time Warner using King’s phone number. King called the company several times to complain, but the calls kept coming. Even after she filed the suit in March 2014 in a court in New York, where Time Warner is based, the calls kept coming.

Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York ruled last week that each call was a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. That’s triple the usual penalty, but Hellerstein said the company was subject to much higher liability because it did nothing to remove King from its call list after she made the request.

“A responsible business in TWC’s position might have dispatched a live agent to reach out to Luiz Perez after the IVR (interactive voice response) failed to reach him the first several times,” Hellerstein wrote.

Jan Volzke, vice president of reputation services at Whitepages.com, sits at the head of the team in charge of protecting Americans from robocalls, spam calls, and other unwanted solicitations. His assessment of the Time Warner Cable harassment is that it sounds more like a computer glitch than an intentional tactic.

“Businesses of this size are aware of the no-robocalls-to-cell-phones rule; however once in a while there is a miss,” he explains.

Once or twice is a miss; 153 times is just downright harassment.

Regardless of why the calls happened in the first place, they should never have happened at all. Thanks to King for finally taking a stand.

July 13th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Last week, Salesforce released its first annual State of Sales report, which gathers data from 2,372 global sales organizations, consisting of “opted-in customers and contacts as well as third-party panelists”, to get a better sense of the most prevalent behaviors and concerns driving the industry today.

It’s not surprising that a CRM vendor would release a report which suggests that leading sales teams are quicker to adopt new technologies, but there are some interesting results here regarding the ways companies are trying to keep up.

The results indicate that teams who are performing well—those “that most consistently keep up with prospects’ and customers’ changing expectations”–are 3.5 times more likely to use sales analytics than lower performers. Unsurprisingly, the survey indicates that predictive analytics and are becoming a must have for companies.  19% of the firms surveyed are currently making use of predictive analytics, and adoption expected to grow by 135% over the next 12-18 months.

Those top performers were also far more likely to make use of mobile devices.  According to the report, sixty percent of the successful teams are using, or intend to use, mobile sales applications in the future, while only nine percent of laggards are incorporating mobile apps into their processes. Those star performers are also five times more likely to rate their mobile sales functions as “outstanding” or “very good”. Use of mobile apps is expected to double over the coming 24 months by 125%.

Companies who are performing well are much more likely to embrace a collaborative environment in which sales, marketing and service are united with a common goal, the survey suggests. High performers were three times more likely than underperformers to consider sales to be the responsibility of the entire organization.

They are also more concerned about the wellbeing of employees, and believe that it has a direct correlation with customer satisfaction. 93% of the top performers rated employee satisfaction as “very important” while only 46% of the underperformers did the same.



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