October 26th, 2015 by Leonard Klie

Apparently the U.S. contact center industry isn’t the only one that’s seen tremendous growth in the past few years.  According to the European Contact Center Benchmark released recently, Europe experienced 3.6 percent contact center employment growth in 2014. The research found that there are now more than 35,000 contact centers in 30 European countries employing more than 3.8 million people. That averages out to 81 positions for each facility.
The research also found that the United Kingdom, Germany, and France lead the rest of the continent in the number of contact center seats within their borders.

The report estimates 19.3 percent of all European contact centers handle outsourced activities, while 75 percent of contact center activity remains dedicated to inbound and 75.3 percent of the business is focused on business-to-consumer activities.

Whileall this data bodes well for the future of the industry as a whole, not all the news this month for contact centers in Europe was good. Survey results released earlier this month  by Lithium Technologies suggest that more than 15 million adults in the United Kingdom rank being stuck on hold with a call center operator as their top annoyance of 2015.

The survey of 2,000 U.K. consumers revealed that the top three factors that drive customer call center annoyance are communication barriers caused by language differences (56 percent), having to go through several options and security checks before talking to a real person (48 percent), and call center representatives sounding like they’re following scripts and not offering personalized advice (37 percent).

From an industry perspective, communication providers (34 percent) and utility companies (33 percent) frustrated U.K. consumers most, followed by financial services institutions (23 percent).

The consumer findings come amid evidence from U.K. businesses that customer service expectations are continuing to increase.

A survey of 250 U.K. customer care managers showed that 82 percent believe customers have become more demanding in the past three years. And more than half (56 percent) suggested that digital will evolve to become a primary customer care channel.

The customer care survey highlighted that while managers believe digital strategies are critical for meeting rising customer expectations, they are under-resourced to take the necessary steps to adapt.

The survey found that almost a third (31 percent) of customer care managers believe their biggest weakness is reliance on old customer service techniques, while more than a quarter (27 percent) said their main weakness is underinvesting in a consistent 360-degree customer service experience across all channels.

When asked about the future, more than half (56 percent) of customer care managers said that customer service will evolve to focus more on using online channels to minimize response time to queries, while almost a third (29 percent) said customer service will be an entirely online process within five years.

Lack of financial resources is restraining digital transformation within many customer service departments. More than six in 10 (62 percent) customer care managers admitted that having the necessary budget is the main issue their company faces in adapting to digital customer service.

“This data highlights the ineffectiveness of traditional call centers in meeting rising customer expectations, as well as the growing need for UK businesses to explore new ways to engage customers, particularly in the digital sphere,” said Katy Keim, chief marketing officer at Lithium Technologies, in a statement. “Today’s customer expects a premium level of customer service, and businesses that don’t evolve beyond the traditional call center risk being left behind.”

October 19th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

Amazon is delving deeper into  the battle to remove false reviews from its Web site.

Last Friday, the online retail giant issued a complaint to the state court of Seattle regarding bogus product appraisals on its site. The company claims that it has identified 1114 “John Does” who have offered to give positive testimonials in exchange for money. The reviewers get their work through an online freelance marketplace called Fiverr.com

In April, Amazon sued several Web sites on the grounds that they were selling fake reviews; now, it’s going after the writers who offer their services in exchange for money.

In its lawsuit, the company claimed that reviewers work in one of two ways: they either compose the fake reviews themselves, or post the ones that a company writes up for them.

The retailer says it discovered much of this through investigation of the issue, by paying for some of five-star reviews itself. Some of the reviewers tried to fly under the radar by using more than one account from the same IP address, Amazon said. One reviewer, working under the account name “bess98” promised to give an “awesome” review. To make it seem as though they actually ordered the product, some reviewers accepted empty envelopes sent via mail.

While it goes against Amazon’s rules of conduct to post fictional or purchased reviews, anyone can post a review for a product or service, regardless of whether or not they’ve purchased through the site.

“These reviews can significantly undermine the trust that consumers and the vast majority of sellers and manufacturers place in Amazon, which in turn tarnishes Amazon’s brand,” the firm wrote in its complaint statement.

Fiverr has agreed to cooperate with Amazon to go after the account holders, but added, in a statement that “the challenge of merchants soliciting illegitimate reviews is on that faces all marketplaces and online platforms.”

And it’s true. Other companies also face these issues. TripAdvisor has made efforts to discourage hotels from soliciting fabricated reviews, and Yelp has also spoken out about this over the past year.

As a customer, I appreciate the effort to crack down on fake reviews, but I don’t think I’m the only person who isn’t particularly concerned by them. When I look online for a product or service, I’m usually interested in getting an unbiased opinion, and the 2-4 star reviews are the ones I’ll look at first. I like to believe that no matter how many people are paid off,  there will be at least one person of integrity who doesn’t hestitate to lash out when a product or service if it isn’t up to par.

And, though I wish it were the case, I don’t think disingenuous opinions are going to disappear anytime soon simply because Amazon wants them to.




September 28th, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

If Clay Donaldson is reading this, I’d appreciate it if he contacted the post office and changed his address. The same goes for Octavio Menendez, Rebecca Weinberg, Jonathan Wu, and Rushell Smith. Don’t worry—I’ve changed these names (or at least some of them). But my point is I’m tired of getting other peoples’ junk mail, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s experiencing this.

Some days I  come home from work and my mailbox  is empty except for the one letter that is addressed to some person I’ve never met. Getting rid of these items is never as easy as it should be. I’ve tried to place them in the communal mailbox, hopeful each time that it will magically end up in the right hands, but the mailman won’t have it. Instead, he circles the apartment number aggressively in red pen and shoves it back in my box the next day, suggesting that it’s now mine to deal with. As a result, I’m left with all these letters piled up on the counter in my kitchen.

A number of questions come to me: Do I let the mail sit there forever? Do I take my pen out and mark “return to sender” every single piece of mail that comes in? Do I toss them in the garbage? I certainly have no right to open any of it, because that’s a federal offense, isn’t it?

Mine is a common enough predicament, I realize, and luckily most of the time the items are harmless—a coupon book, a restaurant menu, junk like that. But this should be of concern to the companies sending  out these aimless pieces of mail. A lot people would prefer not to be spammed by companies to begin with, but when that mail is also addressed to someone with a name that isn’t theirs, it could lead to highly negative reactions.

These are just some of the many challenges associated with data quality that companies should be struggling to correct. I’m working on a feature about it, right now, and hope to dig up some answers. Hopefully solutions are not far off, but only time will tell what vendors can do to better this situation. Stay tuned for the December 2015 issue of CRM,  and my article on data cleansing best practices.


September 21st, 2015 by Oren Smilansky

It’s almost fall.  The weather is cooling down, and the holidays are quickly approaching. With the transition, retailers  are getting ready for the holiday shopping season, and many of them are wondering what they should be expect from their customers. Will they be ordering gifts online, or will they be shopping for them in stores?  And what should companies be doing to prepare?

The answer is pretty much everything.

New research from Pitney Bowes, released Thursday, suggests that, more than anything, shoppers want choices. The company’s 2015 Holiday Shipping Survey, now in its third year, polled over 1,000 adults from the United States over the month of August on their  attitudes about holiday shopping.The results indicate that this year, customers will be making online and in-store transactions in nearly equal amounts.  94 percent of respondents said they planned to shop in stores, while 94 percent said they would do so from a computer, and 49 percent from a mobile device.

93 percent of those polled highlighted shipping options as an important factor in their online shopping experiences. (This was 23 percent higher than last year.)

Respondents also indicated that they are more likely to use online shipping if a number of stipulations are met. 80 percent  would  complete a purchase online if they had a promotional code or coupon to use during checkout.  Still, 60 percent said they would spend more just to meet the minimum fee required to qualify for free shipping.

It should go without saying that getting packages in time for the necessary occasion is one of the top concerns during the holidays. Most respondents–98%–said that they tend to track their packages online, monitoring the estimated delivery time. And though next day shipping not as important to most–88% said that they would prefer  to settle for 5-7 day shipping options–there are those who resort to it when they are in a pinch (12%). Pitney Bowes’ chief operating officer of digital commerce solutions, Christoph Stehman, points out for instance that to someone who waits until the last possible minute to buy their spouse a gift, the 1-2 day shipping option is highly appreciated.

Unfortunately, we all know exchanges will be made on items that don’t quite meet the recipient’s expectations. When that happens, shoppers will want to have the option of returning their packages without too many barriers. 39% said they’d like to return to a nearby store while 38% said they’d like to return it through a shipping provider. A not inconsiderable 20% said they’d like to have a courier come pick it up.

September 18th, 2015 by Leonard Klie


Bringing an estimated 170,000 people to San Francisco this week, Salesforce’s annual Dreamforce user conference was a huge windfall for the City by the Bay. All those extra bodies need hotel rooms, dinners, late-night entertainment, and other necessities that go with attending events like this. And they need car services to take them around.

“Dreamforce has been good for Uber because it keeps the city moving for a week,” Travis Kalanick, CEO of the company that created a mobile app to connect passengers with available drivers in minutes, told attendees during a Wednesday morning session at the conference.

uberIf you’re not familiar with Uber, the San Francisco-based company is responsible for the Uber mobile app, which allows consumers with smartphones to submit trip requests that are then routed to Uber drivers who use their own cars. In cities like San Francisco, the fares can be about 40 percent cheaper than regular taxis.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff admitted to being a big fan of the service, but he is not the only one. Uber, which is available in more than 300 cities worldwide, reportedly provides thousands of rides per minute around the globe. The company is said to be worth $50 billion.

Since Uber’s launch in 2009, several other companies have copied its services-on-demand business model, a trend that has come to be known to as “Uberification.”

The secret to its success, Kalanick said, is reliability. “Providing a reliable ride is the number one priority at Uber. Reliability is number one from the pick-up to when we get you where you want to go,” he stated. “We will do whatever we can to make sure that you have a quick, reliable, safe, low-cost ride.”

Also key to Uber’s success is its ability to predict demand. That means making sure its drivers are wherever there are people that need rides, and to do that, it uses Salesforce (would Kalanick have been invited to speak at the conference otherwise?).

And while most of the conference’s 170,000 on-site attendees were eager to hear from Uber, not everyone was excited about its presence at Dreamforce. As I hailed a cab to take me to the airport yesterday, the driver was less than appreciative of the Uberification of his industry. He complained that despite such a large influx of people, his cab had been empty for most of the day. He’d only made $50 so far. He blamed it on Uber.

I asked him why he wasn’t driving for Uber. He really didn’t have an answer. But I’m sure that’s something he could—and probably should–consider. After all, I’m pretty sure there’s no way to stop the Uberification of the economy.


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