June 10th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

More than 80 percent of businesses have no formal tone of voice (or what some call a verbal identity), according to findings from a survey by The Writer, a brand language consultancy. And 94 percent of the companies that don’t have one have no intention of creating one.

This is a huge mistake, according to Anelia Varela, U.S. director of The Writer. “They’re just not thinking about their language and the impression it creates,” she said in a statement.

Varela points out that most U.S. companies are missing out by ignoring the impact language has on their businesses and their bottom lines. “For some companies, we’ve seen the ROI reach 10:1,” she said.

In fact, 80 percent of early adopters of tone of voice say it’s just as important as or more important than their companies’ visual identities.


Tone of voice is being taken most seriously by technology and financial services companies, according to the research. “Businesses that offer complex products and services often find themselves drowning in jargon that just doesn’t connect with customers. As competition becomes fiercer than ever, they’re turning to tone of voice to help them communicate more clearly and stand out in the market,” Varela explained.

The rop reasons for having a tone of voice included being more relevant to customers and creating a consistent brand, according to the study. “Language is how customers get to know you. If what you’re saying as a brand strikes the wrong tone, is inconsistent, or [is] difficult to understand, it’s going to affect how they feel about you. Worst case scenario, they might just give up and go elsewhere,” Varela said.

According to the study, 84 percent of companies with a tone of voice said senior management recognized its value and business benefit.

Cisco Systems, a client of The Writer, is an early adopter of tone of voice. A little more than three years ago, its brand experience team realized that people internally and externally didn’t understand what the company was talking about a lot of the time. So they launched a company-wide initiative to develop and roll out a tone of voice that both simplified its language and made it more distinctive.

“Language is everywhere and too critical to leave it to your old style guide,” said Michael Lenz, Cisco’s global director of brand experience, in a statement. “Intentionally governing your brand’s voice pays dividends across your customer’s entire journey. The emotional feedback and data have proven it repeatedly. It’s the real foundation of your brand experience.”

June 9th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

93 percent of consumers rely on online tools to plan their retail purchases, according to a survey conducted by online catalogue and offers portal Tiendeo. The survey also found that 76 percent of consumers reported that they would make a change in the store they use if they found a better deal online—a result that is particularly true when it comes to electronics, with 89 percent of respondents indicating that they would choose a different store if they found a better price.

According to Tiendeo, these results indicate that the process of scouring brochures and catalogues for the best deals has moved into the digital space, as consumers compare prices between different websites. However, the study notes that when it comes to grocery shopping, 79 percent of buyers still rely on printed catalogues in addition to online resources.

Interestingly, the study found that consumers often elect to purchase retail products in store, with just 16 percent of consumers choosing to buy online. This result indicates that consumers rely on the Internet to find pricing information and discounts, but still prefer the in-store experience.

June 3rd, 2016 by Leonard Klie

This has been a busy week on the mergers and acquisitions front for the CRM industry, with three major multi-billion-dollar deals being signed in just the past three days alone.

First was Salesforce.com’s acquisition of enterprise commerce platform provider Demandware for $2.8 billion. Then both Marketo and Qlik were acquired by private equity firms for $1.8 billion and $3 billion respectively. A fourth, much less high-profile, deal saw Alorica acquire fellow contact center outsourcer EGS for an undisclosed sum.

Generic-money-cash-currency-billsBut by my accounting, the three main deals alone total $7.6 billion. That’s a lot of capital coming into an industry that has had its share of struggles lately. Customer service continues to plummet, along with customer satisfaction. Companies are still struggling to gain value for many of their technology investments, and vendors are struggling to build use cases for many of their new products and services.

All of this feeds an atmosphere of uncertainty. Denis Pombriant, founder and managing principal of Beagle Research, this morning told me that “given these companies’ positioning, it raises some concerns.”

Pombriant fears that we might have entered a moment “when there’s too much capital chasing too few opportunities in [Silicon] Valley.”

But Carlos Hidalgo, CEO and founder of demand generation firm Annuitas, a Marketo partner, has a different take: He calls the Marketo acquisition further validation of the marketing technology space and proof of its growth.

Hidalgo does note, though, that the Marketo deal is worth nearly twice what Oracle paid for marketing technologies provider Eloqua in late 2012. That deal was valued at roughly $871 million.

I’m not really quite sure what’s going on. Though all signs indicate that the economic recovery has slowed, there does seem to be plenty of money on the table. I just hope it keeps flowing in the right direction.

May 9th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Most writers learn early on that if they can’t get through to their audience quickly, and in a compelling manner, it’s unlikely that they’ll  hold their attention. The same holds true for businesses, according to Carmine Gallo, author of The Storyteller’s Secret. “Some of the best brands–those that enhance the customer relationship and experience—are those that are immersed in storytelling,” Gallo says. Yet, while “storytelling in business is very powerful, very few people are doing it well.”

Fortunately, Gallo says, leaders—including notables such as Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures–are realizing that simply having the facts on their side is not enough, and that they must master the art of storytelling.

StorytellerFor instance, SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott has been adamant about simplifying complexity. His challenge has been to turn a 65,000 person sales force into storytellers. “That’s why he hired [Julie Roehm] to be a chief storytelling officer,” heading their marketing department, Gallo says. “What Roehm has done is create apps—tools that their salespeople can download to iPads and literally record customer stories.” The marketing department then edits those stories to video, which the rest of the team can access, Gallo explains.

Gallo recalls that at a recent marketing convention, Steve Wynn, founder of Wynn Resorts,  told the audience that “‘storytelling changed my business and my life’.” That Wynn only discovered the power of storytelling about five years ago “is pretty extraordinary—because here’s a guy you would think would know everything there is to know about human behavior and customer relationships,” Gallo says. One thing Wynn realized is that “self-esteem is the most powerful force in the universe,” and “if you can make people feel more powerful about themselves, they’ll be loyal to [your] brand,” Gallo says.

So Wynn started running departmental meetings differently.  The first thing he did was start by asking employees whether they have a customer story they’d like to share. “That one question elicits stories from the particular departments, and people get praised, rewarded, [and ] these stories get featured on the company intranet,” Gallo says. “They get special bonuses, [and] get recognized at their national annual sales meetings. what happens is these stories begin to compound and everybody wants a chance to be a customer service hero.”

Gallo outlined a number of other companies who have made storytelling a bedrock of their culture, including the Ritz Carlton, Southwest Airlines, and Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group. “It’s only through stories that people remember vivid specifics and examples,” Gallo emphasizes. “Stories are one of the most memorable ways to transmit information.”

Gallo adds that what great minds share a talent in rendering sophisticated concepts accessible the masses. For instance, what influential tech leaders like Elon Mosk, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs have in common was their ability to simplify complex information for wide groups.

When Musk gives public presentations, Gallo says, he reduces his language to grade-school level, and often uses pictures to illustrate his points. “Here’s a guy who reads Soviet era rocket manuals for fun, and yet when he communicates something to a consumer audience that doesn’t understand the nuances, he reduces the language to a very simple level,” Gallo says. “When you have complex information that you have to distribute to a large group of people, it helps to reduce the language complexity, which means reduce the jargon, keep sentence structure simple, [and] use shorter, simpler words.”

And when business-facing sales reps are pitching their products, it may behoove them to follow a three-act structure, similar to the one employed in Hollywood movies, which includes a beginning, middle, and end. For instance, they can start out by providing  the back story, and describing the world as it is (“Here’s how you’re doing business today,” Gallo says). In act two, reps can explain the conflict on the horizon (Gallo calls this “ a dark force around the corner, one that you may not even be aware of,”).  And when the prospect begins nodding in agreement, a rep can introduce the resolution (”Your product is going to make the world a better place, and everybody lives happily ever after,” Gallo says.)

May 6th, 2016 by Leonard Klie

Research conducted by Jabra has found that as customer calls get more complex, the winning companies will be the ones that invest in ensuring working conditions allow for maximum concentration and efficiency.

The firm, which makes headsets for contact center agents, says multiple communications methods for customer service, such as company Web sites, email, or instant messaging, make phone conversations even more valuable today.

Conversations on the phone are rare, often a last resort after customers have found that other methods failed. Yet 36 percent of agents think there are too many interruptions from colleagues throughout the day, and 34 percent find noise levels in their working environments too distracting.

“Within every business there is a group of employees who spend a significant amount of time and effort on their call-based communication. Conversations that this group is having are important, in-depth discussions, bringing significant value and adding to the success of the business. Yet organizational culture doesn’t prioritize enabling productivity for these individuals, and too often it’s not a consideration at all,” Holger Reisinger, senior vice president at Jabra, said in a statement.

The research defines four groups of workers that bring business value through phone conversations with customers. Each of these four profiles – call center agents, civil servants, traders and advisors – are struggling at different levels to achieve concentration and avoid interruptions. As well as technology issues, they all experience challenges with their physical working environments, with open-plan offices in particular adding to the concentration challenge.

While many businesses recognize the importance of customer service, the value this group of workers offers is due to their interaction with customers. Companies, should, therefore, make sure that agents have the best resources and processes in place to make the most out of every conversation.

“Any opportunity to speak with customers on the phone is more valuable than ever before, and investment in supporting this group should be a strategic priority for any business in order to make sure those conversations deliver the value customers expect,” Reisinger said.

And that has nothing to do with whose headsets your call center agents use. It’s just good business sense.


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