July 10th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

When I was in school, homework was a bad thing. It meant less time outside with my friends and more time indoors with my nose in the books.

Now that my school days are far behind me, the term “homework” has an entirely new meaning. It means I don’t have to get up super early, scramble to shower, get dressed, commute into work, sit chained to my desk for eight hours or more, and then commute back home. It’s a good thing. I’ll gladly take on more homework in that context.

Apparently, it’s something that the U.S. contact center industry is also prepared to embrace. In fact, by mid-2017, 74 percent of all U.S. contact centers, which employ more than 5.5 million people, will be using some homeworking, according to ContactBabel’s “2015 U.S. Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide,” a comprehensive report on the American contact center industry.

Having surveyed more than 200 contact centers of all sizes and business sectors, some other findings in this year’s report include the following:

  • The mean average cost of an email is $4.14 – 62 percent of the cost of a phone call, but 14 percent more expensive than a Web chat.
  • The average annual salary for contact center managers is $69,605 (up 3 percent since last year);
  • First-call resolution is seen as the single most important factor affecting customer satisfaction; and
  • The use of mobile customer service apps is expected to grow by 54 percent in the next 12 months.

With key statistics and insight into all elements of the American contact center industry, including technology, HR, benchmarking, strategy, and investments,“The US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide (2015)” is available to download for free at www.contactbabel.com/reports.cfm.

July 7th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

It’s a running joke that many people would rather go see a dentist or doctor than talk to a customer service representative. But while its still far from reasonable to expect that anyone should enjoy seeking treatment, one wonders: if a doctor’s ultimate purpose is to help a patient feel better, why not go even farther and also help them try to enjoy their visit?

Fortunately, it seems that that waiting for a doctor is becoming a less painful experience than it used to be.

Last week I was coming down with something and, though I typically will find an excuse to seek medical attention unless I absolutely have to, I felt that getting checked out would be the responsible thing to do. I ended up at a place called Cure Urgent Care on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When I entered the clinic, it was almost as though I’d stepped into the paragon of  waiting room utopia. First of all, there was almost nobody there. But what’s more, this particular waiting room was equipped with a tea and coffee maker, bottles of fresh water, snacks, comfortable seats, and big-screen TVs on the walls. (TVs to put the one in your living room to shame, mind you.) There was also a nice selection of readable magazines whose pages didn’t seem to have been handled by hundreds of germy hands. Never mind that I was in no state of mind to think about coffee or snacks, at the time; I was comforted by the fact that they were there and available if I wanted them.

The person working the desk was also pleasant, and offered me a bottle of water when I signed in. He actually even got up and walked over to where I was sitting to hand me my insurance card when he was done entering the information. Unlike some places that only accept cash or checks, I was able to pay with a credit card, too. (This might not seem like much, it’s actually a problem I’ve noticed at other medical facilities. At one waiting room, recently, I witnessed two people leave the building to find an ATM just to withdraw money to make a payment.)

I barely had time to sit down in the waiting area, though, since I was called in almost immediately. And while I’m not trying to suggest I’d want to spend more time than necessary in a waiting room,  I wasn’t as eager to leave this one as I have others in the past.


July 2nd, 2015 by Leonard Klie

W4THWith Independence Day just a few days away, many brands have rolled out ads that wave the flag and feature any combination of red-white-and-blue themes, marching bands, the Statue of Liberty, Uncle Sam, and the founding fathers, all meant to stir emotions and drive sales around a shared sense of patriotism.

But which brands have succeeded? Jeep, Coca-Cola, Disney, and Ralph Lauren lead the pack when it comes to brands that consumers consider to be the most patriotic, according to an annual survey of the most iconic American brands by Brand Keys, a New York-based brand loyalty and customer engagement research consultancy.

When it comes to engaging consumers, waving the American flag and having an authentic foundation for being able to wave the flag are two entirely different things, and the consumer knows it, according to Robert Passikoff, founder and president of Brand Keys. More important, believability is key.

To compile its rankings, Brand Keys did a statistical drill-down to identify which of 230 brands are more associated with the value of patriotism. It polled 5,427 consumers, ages 16 to 65.

The following are the Brand Keys 2015 top 50 most patriotic brands. Percentages indicate emotional engagement strength for the individual value of patriotism.’

    1 Jeep (98%)
    2 Coca-Cola (97%)
    3 Disney (96%)
    4 Ralph Lauren (95%)
    5 Levi Strauss (94%)
    6 Ford/Jack Daniels (93%)
    7 Harley Davidson/Gillette (92%)
    8 Apple/Coors (91%)
    9 American Express/Wrigley’s (90%)
    10 Gatorade/Zippo (89%)
    11 Amazon (88%)
    12 Hershey’s/Walmart (87%)
    13 Colgate (86%)
    14 Coach/New Balance (85%)
    15 AT&T/Google (84%)
    16 Marlboro/Sam Adams (83%)
    17 John Deere/Louisville Slugger/Smith & Wesson (82%)
    18 L.L. Bean/Facebook (81%)
    19 Craftsman Tools/GE/Wells Fargo (80%)
    20 49ers/Cowboys/NFL/Patriots/ (79%)
    21 MLB/NY Yankees/Wrangler (78%)
    22 Campbell’s/Gibson/KFC (77%)
    23 Goodyear/Wilson Sporting Goods (76%)
    24 Johnson & Johnson/Kellogg’s/Tide (75%)
    25 Converse/Heinz (74%)
    26 McDonald’s (72%)

Passikoff wasn’t surprised that many of the brands in the top 50 are American icons. And while some of the companies on the list don’t actually manufacture their products in the United States, and Jeep, a division of Chrysler, is actually now owned by Italian automaker Fiat, their appearance on the chart reflects a reality of the global economy and only the rational side of the decision-making process, according to Passikoff.  Marketers need to know that brands that make an emotional connection with consumers always have a strategic advantage in capturing the hearts, minds, and loyalty of Americans.

Eleven brands in this year’s survey showed significant increases. They were:

    Jack Daniels (+18%)
    Coach (+15%)
    Major League Baseball (+11%)
    Coors, Wells Fargo (+10%)
    American Express, Wrigley’s (+9%)
    Goodyear, KFC (+6%)
    Craftsman, Johnson & Johnson (+5%)

It is important to note that the assessments in this survey do not mean that other brands are not patriotic, or that they don’t resonate with consumers on some patriotic level. Rational aspects, like being an American company, or being “Made in the USA,” or having nationally directed CSR activities and sponsorships, all play a part in the make-up of any brand. For brands looking to differentiate via brand values, especially one as emotional as patriotism, if there is believability, good marketing just gets better, in some cases six times better, Passikoff said.”“

Make that connection and consumers will not only stand up and salute, but more important, they’ll buy, he added.

June 30th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Car owners are now more loyal to brands than they have been in a decade, according to a new study from IHS Automotive, a global research house catering to the automobile industry.

The company recently took a look at household buying activity to see if car-owning households are likely to return to buy or lease another car from the same manufacturer. They found that  loyalty was up to 52.8% in the first quarter of 2015. Luxury brands and their economic alternatives alike were among those that saw their highest loyalty rates since 2005. Lexus, Land Rover, Porsche, Volvo, Subaru, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Lincoln, Lexus, GMC, Infiniti, Chevrolet, and Jeep are all companies that showed improvement in retention.

There are several factors contributing to the shift. According to Tom Libby, manager of automotive loyalty and industry analysis at IHS Automotive, the growing variety of car types companies are providing is one reason buyers are likely to stick with a brand. The total number of car models available in the U.S. has grown by 33 since 2005, an increase of 12 percent, making it “easier for households that may need a different type of vehicle to maintain their loyalty,” Libby said in a statement.

Loyalty is also a side effect of the state of the economy. Since the downturn of 2008, leasing has become a more popular option than buying, and “lessees are consistently more brand loyal compared to retail owners,” Libby says.

Today’s cars are also of a higher quality, and thus require fewer repairs than older ones, which leads buyers to believe that they’ve made the right choice over time.

Then again, one major reason drivers are becoming more loyal is that they aren’t being forced to be disloyal. The number of households that still own cars from discontinued brands such as Pontiac, Saturn, Mercury, or Hummer, has declined by 49 percent, from 240,208 in 2010 to 123,388 in 2014. Consequently, customers can’t buy from those brands anymore, and all traces are, slowly but surely, fading away in the junk yards.




June 26th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

Amid all the talk that the phone is going away as a communication tool with businesses, new research released today by CallRail, a call tracking and analytics firm, suggests otherwise.
According to the company’s latest data, more than 350 companies have shown a 16 percent year-over-year increase in inbound call volume since the first quarter of 2014. And, based those numbers, CallRail is projecting steady inbound call growth across service industries, such as auto repair shops, hair salons, dentists, and medical clinics, for the remainder of the 2015.
March showed the largest year-over-year increase in call volume at 22 percent. February showed a 17 percent increase, and January a 10 percent increase.
CallRail credits a stronger U.S. economy and increasing mobile device usage as the driving forces for much of the uptick. More calls than ever are being made on mobile devices, which prompted the company to suggest that small and midsized businesses place more importance on mobile marketing.

“We’re excited to see small businesses doing so well. Such compelling year-over-year growth in calls means businesses have even more reasons to invest in mobile marketing in 2015. We believe when it’s this easy to click-to-call a business, understanding what marketing drove those calls should be just as easy,” Andy Powell, co-founder and CEO of CallRail, said in a statement.


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