Inbound call centre – 4 ways to boost performance

Inbound call centreIf you run an online business, contact centre agents are your front line fixers and ambassadors, not only resolving customer problems as they occur but also representing and embodying the brand. It’s vital, therefore, that they do their job effectively. A poor performance by your agents will not only hit sales or customer satisfaction rates in the short term, it will also undermine the brand over time.

So how do you ensure that your customer service agents are performing to the best of their ability? Indeed how do you make sure that today’s good performance is even better tomorrow and continues to improve?        

One way forward is to make it as easy as possible for sales and service agents to not only meet but exceed the expectations of the paying customer while also encouraging staff to continually raise their game. Continue reading

Online customer service – keeping the personal touch in high growth companies

customer experienceAs a rule of thumb, small businesses aspire to become larger. If successful they expand, take on more staff and sell to many more customers.

This is clearly a good thing. Rapidly growing businesses are job creators and they bring new ideas and creativity to the wider economy. But perhaps they also run the risk of losing something along the way, not least in terms of personal engagement with the customer.      

Think of it this way. A typical small business operates locally and whether selling to consumers or to other companies, the relationship with the customer is everything. Indeed, very often the founder will speak to customers on a day to day basis and he or she will oversee deliveries or handle problems personally.

That can’t last, of course. As the company scales up the founder’s role inevitably changes. Rather than dealing with customers directly, the emphasis will be on guiding the company strategically. Meanwhile, a new intake of employees and department managers take on the sales and customer service roles. And where once a customer might have called the company number and spoken to the same person – possibly the owner – every time, now  calls are diverted to newly-minted call centres. And it can all seem a bit impersonal. Continue reading

Customer sentiment – chatting is the best way to happiness!

live engagement

The stark bottom line is that live engagement via chat drives sales and pushes up average order values. It’s also a faster way to speak to customer service agents, without the hassle of picking up a phone, dialling a number and waiting in a queue until an operative becomes available.

49% of Customers Prefer To Chat

And as a survey published by software review site, Software Advice noted in January of this year, 49% of customers cite chat as the preferred channel for contacting sales or service agents when shopping online. Clearly then, chat is taking over from the telephone hotline as the primary channel for interaction with retail brands.     Continue reading

I’m on the train! The rise of the commuter shopper

mobile shoppingHow do you spend your daily commute? 

Well if you travel by car, the options are limited. Aside from a silent journey to work, you can listen to the radio, CD player or connected iPhone and that’s about it. If on the one hand you travel by bus or train, there’s a whole world of possibilities. You might read a book, leaf through a newspaper, study for an exam, post on social media, send text messages, or (risking disapproving glances from fellow passengers) talk to friends via voice calls.

Alternatively you might be one of the growing army of consumers who shop online on the journey between home and office. According to research by Zapp and the Centre for Economic and Business Research, around one fifth of all UK e-commerce sales are completed while customers are on their daily commute. In cash terms, that amounts to transactions in the region of £9.3bn.    

Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Improving smartphone screen quality and increasing size has combined with the arrival of high speed (4G) connectivity to make the process of browsing and purchasing on the move almost as easy and satisfying as shopping on a tablet or PC. Indeed, for many consumers, the not-so-humble smartphone is the preferred route to online content and services. Continue reading

House of Fraser’s window into the future of omni-channel retailing

omnichannelRetail thrives on innovation, so it should perhaps be no surprise that department store group House of Fraser is planning to make the experience of “window shopping” just a little bit more high tech. 

Starting at Christmas this year, House of Fraser is hoping to create what it calls “shoppable windows.” In essence that means customers standing outside a store will be able to check out products in the various window displays and buy them online without going inside. The key is electronic beacons fitted to mannequins, which will connect customers to online catalogues. By setting up window displays in this way, the store chain says it will enable customers to make purchases after hours or on holidays when shops are closed. Equally important, the aim is also to encourage customers to buy online. At present about 70% don’t.

Initiatives such as these demonstrate the difference between multi-channel and omni-channel retailing.

Different Worlds

In the multi-channel world, customers are simply given a choice of purchase and browsing options. They can buy in-store, online, or perhaps over the phone, depending on what is most convenient. The retailer – or indeed any kind of merchant or service provider – simply offers the various channels without necessarily seeing them as part of a joined up strategy.    Continue reading

Ryanair and the profitability of good customer service online

customer service onllineAnyone seeking evidence of how a commitment to customer service can not only please customers but also boost the bottom line should look no further than Ryanair. Yes, that’s right, Ryanair.

Now even Ryanair’s most fervent supporters would have to concede that until recently the airline had something of an image problem on the customer service front. The company’s response was an ‘always getting better’ programme to improve service.

And the result?  Well the company’s latest full year statement showed a 66% rise in profits to €867m (£613m), attributed to the impact of the ‘always getting better’ plan (and falling fuel prices). The moral? Customers not only appreciate good service, they respond to it by buying more from the business in question and defecting to competitors less.

So what might a similar ‘always getting better’ programme look like for a web business, or indeed an omni-channel operation with a strong focus on digital?

Make it easier to reach out

Well the first thing a web customer will pick up on is the quality of the online experience. To a very great extent it’s defined by the design and usability of the site, along with the range of products on offer. For busy customers the overriding questions will be; does this site have what I want to buy and does it make it easy for me to find what I’m looking for and progress to the check out? Continue reading

Why mobile is becoming an integral part of marketing and CRM strategies

live engagement mobileThe world is set to pass another digital milestone in 2016. According to eMarketer the number smartphones connected to the internet is set to rise above 2 billion for the first time, representing around a quarter of the world’s population. Meanwhile, here in the UK, eMarketer is expecting smartphone penetration to rise to 46 million in 2016.

And arguably we are entering the era of the “mobile first” customer. Yes, we all have access to laptops and PCs but for many of us the simplest and most convenient way to get online is to reach into our pockets or bags and pull out our Apple, Android or Windows phones. And because it’s so convenient, we want to be able to do everything on our phones that we can do on a PC, from buying airline tickets to checking our bank account details.

For marketers and relationship managers, this changes the game. Mobile can no longer be seen as an adjunct to a digital business, it must be put right at the heart of marketing and CRM strategies.

But what does this mean in practice? How is the migration to mobile affecting marketing and CRM trends? Continue reading

How to deliver online customer service in real time on mobile

Real time messagingHeadline statistics rarely tell the whole story. Witness the figures on smartphone penetration. According to a report from BI Intelligence, smartphone penetration in the UK is set to rise to around 80% in 2015 from 77% a year earlier. Elsewhere in Europe, uptake is a little lower in France, Germany, Spain and Italy but the trend is still rapidly upwards.   

No surprises there then. All digital businesses are aware of the growing importance of smartphones and also tablets. Equally online merchants know buying patterns are shifting as m-commerce revenues inexorably rise. And that awareness has led to action in the form of customer apps and mobile optimised websites.

But let’s look beyond the headline stats. Mobile devices are not simply enabling consumers to buy online at any time, any place and anywhere. They are also changing the way we all communicate with each other and the way we relate to brands.

But what does that mean in practice?    Continue reading

Customer loyalty – 4 key steps for online brands

live engagement via chatSome customers don’t stick around. They arrive at your site, browse through the products on offer, make a purchase and then they’re gone. You don’t see them again and the relationship effectively ends when the goods are delivered and the recipient accepts them. It’s a very short customer life cycle.

But others go the distance. The relationship begins in much the same place as that one-off customer. Perhaps he or she finds out about your site through a search engine or an online ad and they drop by to check out what you have to offer. That leads to the first purchase, but this time it doesn’t stop there. Thanks to a combination of good prices and fast efficient delivery, the customer is inclined to buy from you again, maybe not next week or next month but at some time in the not too distant future. And what you have is the beginnings of a long-term relationship.

It’s a relationship that continues to develop. Over time, your site becomes the first port of call when the customer wants to buy a certain type of product. In other words, rather than checking out a handful of competitor sites, your increasingly loyal customer comes straight to you – the business is yours to win or lose.      Continue reading

Why the UK’s ‘favourite’ holding music should be binned

online customer serviceGood news, of sorts, for lovers of Mozart. More than 200 years after his death, the music of Wolfgang Amadeus not only tops the classical charts on a regular basis but is also heard by millions of callers on local government helplines.

According to a Press Association report, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and Symphony Number 40 are particularly popular with local authorities seeking to provide council tax payers with a “soothing” aural backdrop as they await attention. And Mozart certainly isn’t the only game in town. Handel and Debussy are also popular with with councils, who have clearly decided that classical is best when it comes to managing the frustrations of callers stuck on hold.

Most of us are probably all too familiar with helpline holding music, which ranges from classical to jazz and even extends to indie-rock and contemporary chart sounds. What we get depends on the organisation and its brand positioning.

And up to a point the music serves its purpose. It’s there to make the experience of sitting in a queue just a little bit more bearable and it has to be said that spending five or ten minutes in the company of Mozart or Miles Davis is probably better than listening to a dead line over the same period. Continue reading

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