3 Ways to Increase Customer Advocacy

Research has shown that word-of-mouth marketing leads to two times more profits than paid ads. So, while you may have business plans and marketing budgets allocated to building your customer base, you should also have a strategy to increase customer advocacy. Last year, almost 60% of companies in the U.S. increased their loyalty budgets, showing just how important it is to business success.

In addition to growing your business through increased sales, advocacy programs can also boost the bottom line through increased conversion rates, more qualified leads and increased sales efficiency. What’s more, your advocates, who are already good customers, become even better customers. By building stronger relationships with them, you can increase cross-sell and up-sell opportunities and decrease churn. Perhaps most importantly, in today’s marketplace, customers no longer trust – or react to – traditional marketing tactics like ads and emails; they trust regular people whom they can relate to. Here are three simple ways to increase customer advocacy:

 The Role of Customer Experience
It may seem like common sense, but the best way to create customer advocates is to provide a consistently excellent customer experience. By tracking the metrics that correspond to customer experience, you can identify pain points in the customer journey and develop ways to make improvements. When you increase the quality of customer experience, you increase the opportunities to develop customer advocates. That’s because research has shown a high degree of correlation between customer experience and loyalty.

Customer Testimonials
According to a Nielsen survey, more than 80 percent of people consider personal recommendations the most trustworthy information about a brand. This means you need to encourage your customers to express their appreciation for your products or services. One way to do this is to invite customers to share their stories. You can email asking them to provide a referral or leave an online review. B2B companies have great success in this way through case studies, which feature satisfied customers and highlight the solutions you provided. When you engage customers this way, be sure to recognize them for their efforts with a sincere thank-you note, gift card, etc. You can also include a note in customer packages inviting them to share product reviews through various channels.

Social Media Management
Closely related to the previous method, social media is a powerful tool for creating – and giving voice to – customer advocates. For example, BeautyCounter, a direct sales company that offers skin care and makeup, recently launched a campaign featuring a new lipstick. On social media, they asked women to tag a photo of themselves wearing the lipstick on the company’s Instagram feed. In this way, the company became visible to all of the friends and family who follow the women who participated. Chances are, many of those followers share the same interests as the BeautyCounter customer.

The only caveat is that you have to constantly follow the reviews and comments your customers share online. The best brand promotion you can receive is positive feedback online. In this case, you should step in and encourage customers to tell you more about the product qualities.

For the same reasons that social media is a powerful customer advocacy tool, it can also be harmful to your brand. In case you have to deal with negative comments, be sure to respond quickly, show you understand the customer and promise a swift solution.

Creating customer advocates requires an omni-channel strategy that includes social media. ASK can manage your brand across online platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and others. As your strategic partner, we work with you to determine the goals of your social media program and provide meaningful data to understand results.

ASK social media services include:

  • Social presence management
  • Answer customer inquiries in real time
  • Customer service extension to social media
  • Integration with your current teams
  • Social media risk management

To learn how you can grow your business with social media strategies, management and analytics, contact us to schedule a FREE ASK demo.

The Role of Self-Service in Customer Service

The scenario: a customer receives your product, but he runs into a snag when assembling it. Or, she orders your online service but can’t log-in. The first thought for both of these customers used to be to pick up the phone to call you with their questions. This is no longer the case. Today, customers go online to find answers.

Research by Microsoft reveals that 90 percent of consumers today expect a brand or organization to offer a self-service customer support portal. According to Capterra, 60 percent of consumers view a brand with a mobile-responsive self-service option more favorably than one that doesn’t. Finally, Gartner predicts that by Gartner predicts that by 2020 a customer will manage 85 percent of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human.

Self-service is a win-win strategy for any contact center. It allows companies to provide customer support without agent interaction, while empowering customers to find answers when and how they want. For these reasons, providing self-service options is a key component in customer experience strategy.

What is customer self-service?
Self-service means your customers receive the support they need without interacting with a representative from your company. The most common types of customer self-service include:

  • FAQs: A centralized repository of common customer questions designed to be user-friendly and easy to use. 
  • Online knowledge base: A  database that includes how-to’s, tutorials and other useful information.
  • Self-checkout: Allows customers to choose, compare, and buy products without any agent interaction.
  • Interactive voice recognition (IVR): Customers interact with an automated voice system that directs them where they need to go based on a series of options.
  • Chatbots: Chatbots are computer programs designed to respond to specific questions or commands. They are either built with pre-defined questions and pre-determined responses or are artificial intelligence bots that can answer questions through their learning from previous pseudo-conversations.

Benefits of Self-Service
Consider the stats above: customers want – even expect – self-service options, which means by providing them, you are helping to improve customer satisfaction and overall experience. But that’s not the only benefit of self-service:

  • Retention: This is a direct tie-in to the customer experience benefit of self-service. In fact, according to one study, companies who offered self-service support experienced an 85 percent year-over-year increase in customer retention rates, compared to those without self-service.
  • Cost efficiency:  An in-depth study by Forrester Research and Oracle analyzed business costs when handling support in multiple customer service channels. The results found that web self-service can reduce costs by as much as $11 per call. Consider this: if you receive 3,000 calls per week, this means you could be saving $1.7 million per year. Research by Accenture found that by adding self-service, companies could see $1-3 million in annual savings.
  • Timeliness: Your customers want their questions to be answered quickly, whenever they are asked. Self-service provides this because it’s available around the clock, According to a recent study, a key attribute of good customer experience is a fast response time.
  • Availability: When customers can help themselves with questions, it frees up your agents to handle more complex tasks or generate more leads.

It should be obvious that self-service is something you can’t ignore. If your customer base has outgrown your customer service reps’ capacity, you have a large backlog of unresolved queries, or you are receiving the same questions often (“How do I reset my password?”), it’s probably time you consider offering self-service options. Not only will things like FAQ’s, online knowledge bases and chatbots provide your customers with the form of support they want, you can enjoy the benefits of decreased costs and more productive agents. To learn more about how ASK has helped clients utilize self-service options to grow business while improving customer experience, schedule a free demo today.

 

4 Reasons Your Customer Service Should Include SMS

According to the Pew Research Center, 79 percent of cell phone owners send and receive text messages. In the United States, we send approximately 8.5 billion text messages every day, or about 32 messages per person, per day. On average, Americans text twice as much as they call. While once used only for personal communication, businesses are increasingly utilizing text messaging (also called SMS) to reach their customers where they are via their preferred communication channel.

In fact, SMS is no longer considered a progressive business technology, but rather, a mandatory investment. This trend is reflected in Dimension Data’s 2017 Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report, which found that almost 60 percent of organizations already support SMS for customer interactions, and another almost 20 percent are planning to implement the channel within the year.If these stats aren’t enough to convince you, here are four reasons why your call center needs SMS.

Customer Demand
About 95 percent of adults in the United States have a cell phone (77 percent of them own smartphones), according to a recent Pew survey. Nielsen research shows that Americans text at least twice as much as they call, on average. For their customer service needs, your customers usually prefer communicating via text message, citing its flexibility and convenience. What’s more, SMS allows them to bypass any hold times they may encounter when they call you. In this way, not only is SMS best for the consumer, it also helps alleviate congestion in your contact center.  

Self-Service Capability
Another way SMS can help provide relief to overworked contact centers is with self-service options. By automating some of the simple, yet time-consuming calls your agents field, you can free up resources, allowing agents to handle more pressing issues. You already know customers prefer texting and by offering this option you can decrease calls while still providing great customer service, which leads to more satisfied customers, better brand image and saved call center resources.

Better Customer Service
Gone are the days of providing customer support solely by phone lines. Today’s consumers expect you to offer multiple channels of engagement, and they don’t appreciate being forced to call you. In fact, 95 percent of customers don’t expect to wait longer than 5 minutes on hold when they call your center. Customer experience is all about convenience, and SMS is very convenient for your customers. When you offer text messaging as a means to communicate with your company, you offer customers comfort and convenience. In fact, a Harris Poll found that 64 percent of all consumers are likely to have a positive perception of a company that offers texting as a service channel.

Increased Communication
According to the Pew Research Center, 67 percent of cell phone users check their phone for messages even when they don’t notice it vibrating or ringing. Roughly 44 percent sleep with their phones next to their beds in case they receive a message or notification while sleeping. Since it’s sometimes necessary to contact customers – and most are notoriously difficult to get a hold of – it makes sense to communicate with them via the channel they use the most. Whereas this used to be email, today it is SMS. In fact, according to Mobile Marketing Watch text messages have a 98% open rate, while email has only a 20% open rate.

The case for including SMS in your omni-channel customer support strategy is clear: not only do customer prefer it to other channels, text messaging can help relieve contact center congestion by decreasing calls while still proving great customer service. What’s more, your competitors are likely already using it, and their customers are enjoying a better customer experience because of it. ASK provides robust SMS customer support services, allowing you to bolster your brand image, retain customers and lower overall contact center costs. For more information, contact ASK today.

The Importance of Forecasting

Every contact center professional is faced with the challenge of providing top-notch customer service, while at the same time keeping labor costs at a minimum. The two most closely-watched metrics at high-performing contact centers are targeted service levels and operating budget (labor often accounts for as much as 90 percent of costs). Each business must determine the right balance between the competing needs of resources and priorities. It’s a classic supply-and-demand scenario, matching customer service demand – in the form of calls, webchats, emails, etc. – with the “just-right” supply of agents. Your business’ bottom line is directly impacted by the direct costs of hiring and employing your agents, but it is also influenced by client satisfaction, agent morale and other factors.

Your ability to accurately forecast can have a dramatic impact on everything from employee satisfaction to bottom line profitability.

When Demand is Greater than Supply
Understaffed conditions (when demand outpaces supply) can create a domino-effect on operations:

  • Callers wait longer for their calls to be answered, lowering service levels, which in turn can negatively impact customer retention.
  • In virtually every contact center environment, customers represent the revenue side of the profit equation. At the risk of stating the obvious, lost customers means lost revenues.
  • Another unintended consequence is poor agent morale leading to increased agent attrition.

 When Supply is Greater than Demand
On the other hand, overstaffed conditions (when supply outpaces demand) create their own problems. Although service levels are high, you are essentially wasting money on idle and non-productive agents. And, because agent salaries represent the majority of the variable cost component in a contact center, optimizing these costs has a direct impact on profits.

Finding the Balance
In most contact centers, operations fluctuate between over- or under-supply and over- or under-demand. The key to optimizing contact center performance is to find a balance between the two. Accurate forecasting is critical for managing a contact center’s a fluid environment. In order to achieve labor cost savings by balancing staffing needs against call volume expectations, many contact centers use the following common forecasting techniques:

  • Time-Series Technique: Time-series forecasting bases call volume predictions on historical data from the previous three years and involves plotting this information in a graph that displays call volumes for each year on the vertical axis, and the time measurement, such as months or weeks, on the horizontal axis. By doing this, you can see past call-volume patterns, which can then be used to make future predictions.
  • Averaging Forecasting Technique: This technique includes simple mathematical averaging, moving averages and weighted averaging and is considered by many to be the most accurate forecasting method.
  • Point-Estimate Technique: The simplest forecasting method, this assumes that future call volumes will exactly match what happened in the past, regardless of whether the days, weeks or months included in the historical data were typical or atypical. Since the point-estimate technique doesn’t account for events or trends that affected historical data, what actually occurs on any given day the can be dramatically different from the forecast prediction.
  • Intra-Day Forecasting: This technique compares the current day’s forecast to actual call volume and agent scheduling requirements, aggregated into 15-minute to 30-minute periods. It then allows managers to create what-if scenarios based on service-level objectives, and if necessary, alter the forecast to suit changing conditions.

Conclusion
Accurate forecasting makes it possible for you to more closely align contact center demand and supply, which leads to optimal cost and profit performance. ASK has many years of experience in helping clients achieve this balance in order to find achieve the “sweet spot” between managing labor costs and meeting customer service goals. To learn more about how ASK can help your company through critical accurate forecasting, schedule a free demo today.

How to Measure Customer Experience

You already know customer experience (CX) is important: it separates your business from competitors, builds brand awareness, strengthens customer loyalty, affects the bottom line and more. What’s not as clear is understanding the status of your customer experience in order to measure and improve it. Since there’s no such thing as a CX score, you have to rely on a mix of metrics. Here are some of the most common ways companies with mature customer experience strategies measure their CX efforts.

Net Promoter Score
If you need a starting point to spearhead your CX strategy, begin with NPS, which shows a customer’s willingness to recommend your product or service to someone else by rating your company on a scale from 0-10. The score is then calculated by subtracting the Detractors from the Promoters. Customer experience is largely based on managing expectations. Great customer experience occurs when you exceed customer expectations; poor customer experience occurs when you fail to meet customer expectations. Therefore, one of the best ways to measure customer experience is to mine the expectation gap. You can adjust NPS scores to more accurately reflect customer experience by asking, “On a scale of 1-10 how much better (or worse) was your experience with our company compared to what you expected?”

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
CSAT is measured by asking customers to rate their level of satisfaction with the experience they had with your organization, such as getting an answer from customer support or returning a product. CSAT can help you measure and manage the customer experience over time by providing a baseline measurement of your performance, as well as how your visitors and customers feel about your brand in general.

Average Handling Time (ART) and First Response Time (FRT)
FRT measures how quickly agents provide customer support in response to queries, while AHT shows the average amount of time it takes to solve a query. According to Forrester, 45 percent of US consumers will abandon an online transaction if their questions or concerns are not addressed quickly. What’s more, according to Mckinsey, 75 percent of online customers expect help within 5 minutes. The lesson here is that if customers aren't getting queries resolved the first time they contact you, they won't be satisfied or loyal for long. As mentioned above, customer experience is about managing expectations. Customers expect their issues will be resolved in a timely manner. When they aren’t, customer experience suffers.

Customer Effort Score (CES)
It’s common sense that companies should work to make it as easy as possible for customers to complete tasks such as changing an address or returning a product. By measuring the amount of effort customers have to put to execute a particular task, CES can provide valuable insight into your customer experience. The goal with CES is to remove obstacles for customers. Don’t require them to contact you repeatedly to get an issue resolved, or to switch from one service channel to another, such as calling only to be told they need to visit a website.

Turning Metrics into Action
The above metrics are key to building a strong foundation for your customer experience strategy, but they can’t exist in a vacuum. Simply measuring and storing data will not move the CX needle. Once you begin tracking these metrics, be sure to make them accessible to stakeholders who can then determine actionable ways to improve results. What’s more, strive to use the results to inform business decisions, which places customer experience in the center of your business.

ASK has years of experience defining and implementing customer experience strategies for companies of all sizes. To learn how you can see real results by measuring the things that matter to your business, schedule a free demo today.

How to Provide Better Email Customer Support

Although customers are increasingly turning to social media platforms for support, many still rely on more traditional communication methods. In fact, an Econsultancy report found that 60 percent of consumers still prefer customer service via email, while an American Express study found that 38 percent of customers still turn to online customer support or email for simple issues. This means companies not only have to continue to include email in their larger omni-channel support strategies, but also ensure the quality of service provided. If done well, customer service email can be leveraged to help improve overall customer experience. Each one is a unique interaction and an opportunity to build stronger relationships. Here are some simple, yet effective steps for successful email support that goes beyond simply solving problems.

Make it Personal
It makes sense to have an email template that everyone can use to ensure brand consistency, but that doesn’t mean it has to be cold and impersonal. Your customers crave human interaction. According to Accenture Strategy’s Global Customer Pulse Research, 88 percent of customers use digital channels at some point in their shopping journey.  While 41 percent want even more digital options, only 36 percent of customers believe that digital channels are better than human interactions. The lesson? When customers reach out to you via email, make it as personal as possible:

  • Address the customer by name
  • Introduce yourself (or the service agent) by name (extra credit for including a photo)
  • Using a reference number for a service case
  • Apologize and/or thank the customer
  • Use a conversational tone (yet still professional)

When customers feel they’re getting personal service, they become better (i.e. repeat and loyal) customers. This doesn’t mean every email has to be written from scratch. On the contrary, it’s possible – even advisable – to create customer support systems that increase efficiency while still remaining personal. Many interactions are common (changing an address, for example), and having a quick, simple way to respond to similar questions or issues can save support reps a lot of time. Just be sure to make automated replies as personal as possible.

Make it Quick and Easy
You already know customers want to communicate with you via email, so make it as easy as possible for them to do so:

  • Add your email address while submitting your web directory to search engines and verify it immediately.
  • Add your email address in Google maps.
  • Provide one email address for customer support.
  • Include your customer support email on your “Contact us” page and in all correspondence with the customer, both offline and online.

Social media isn’t the only place where customers expect immediate response. Forrester Research found that 41 percent of consumers expect a response to their email within six hours. The lesson here is don’t delay, and never ignore. Use an auto responder to acknowledge a customer’s email as soon as possible. This promptness is the key to quality email support as it helps prevent small issues from growing into large problems.

Make it Informative
The quality of an email counts as much as its timeliness. Let customers know what you are doing to fix an issue and when they can expect resolution. If a customer has to follow up with you to ask about the status of her email, your support process has failed.

  • Keep customers updated on things like when a package has been shipped or when a service repair employee will be at the customer’s home. Always promise (and deliver) a resolution
  • If you need to provide complex or technical concepts, keep it to no more than three points. Beyond that, provide a link to a knowledge base where customers can find more detailed information.
  • In each email response, it’s important to provide customers with any information that might make the service process smoother and allow them to find answers on their own.

These simple steps can help make your email customer support a valuable tool in your overall customer experience strategy by transforming a boring, automatic email into a personal experience. To learn more about how ASK can help streamline your email support process, make it more personal and leverage it as a powerful CX tool, contact us today for a free demo.

Benefits of Back Office Outsourcing

If your business has been growing to the point that you and your staff are wearing countless (not just multiple) hats, it’s time to consider outsourcing back office processes like customer care, sales, data entry and more. Here are just some of the benefits:

Lower Labor Costs
The No. 1 reason to outsource is the savings you can achieve by not hiring internal employees. What’s more, because an outsource firm has trained staff members to handle specific tasks, your employees can focus solely on the tasks they have been trained to perform. This also gives you greater flexibility in resource management, letting you to make faster, better decisions about how to allocate labor and marketing budgets.

Decrease Overhead
By not bringing more staff on board, you can save money on everything from benefits and training to office furniture and overhead. Because your costs are lower, you can lower your prices for goods or services, and deliver product to the market faster, opening up new opportunities. Outsourcing also provides you with time to focus on developing new products and services that fit the needs of your target market.

Top Talent and Technology
Another benefit of back office outsourcing is that you gain access to services as well as your field’s latest technology. But instead of investing capital to purchase new software and hardware, outsourcing allows you to take advantage of the benefits without the expense. ASK back office and virtual assistance staff are specialists with skills and experience to match your unique business needs, so outsourcing also means you don’t have to search for the skills and training you need.

Improve Productivity
Perhaps most importantly, outsourcing provides you the freedom to focus on the core components of your business. By moving a variety of repetitive, time-consuming tasks to outsource firms, you – and your staff – can focus on the key business functions that drive revenue and growth. Rather than spending time developing reports or crunching numbers, employees can focus on things like business acquisitions, cash management and more. The result is increased productivity and much happier people.

ASK provides comprehensive outsourcing and virtual assistant solutions including:

·        Phone support

·        Email and website support

·        Data entry, processing and cleansing

·        Administrative tasks

To learn more about how your business lower costs and increase productivity, contact us to schedule a FREE ASK demo.

Is Customer Service the Same as Customer Experience?

Although often used interchangeably, customer service and customer experience, while closely related, are not the same. In the recent past, providing good customer service meant companies delivered on their promises. Today, with the increase in the number of customer touchpoints and opportunities for interaction, good customer experience is no longer a matter of simply providing good customer service. So, what exactly is the difference between customer service and CX?

Customer Service Defined
The advice and assistance a company provides customers before, during and after a purchase is customer service, and the goal is to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. These interactions are reactive in that they occur when a customer contacts a business with an issue or question. In other words, the customer initiates the interaction. Today, consumers expect customer service to be available at any time, and through a myriad of channels – both on and off line. In response, companies are increasingly investing in ways to improve customer service processes, including response times and first call resolution. Customer service also functions as a last chance to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one.

CX Defined
According to Forrester, customer experience is defined as “how customers perceive their interactions with your company.” CX is the sum of every experience – at every touchpoint – throughout the customer lifecycle. This includes everything from browsing a website to receiving customer support. Customer experience is not limited to the number of interaction mediums, nor is it a one-off experience.

Whereas customer service is reactive (initiated by the customer), customer experience is proactive. There are steps companies can take in order to optimize the customer journey before the customer becomes dissatisfied with the goal of forging long-term customer relationships.

For example, when you visit a restaurant, factors like how friendly the wait staff is, and how quickly they bring your food is customer service. By contrast, things like the restaurant’s cleanliness, the taste and quality of the food, the variety of menu options, atmosphere, prices, and how you feel while eating there make up customer experience. Another example is how well an in-store representative answers a customer’s question (customer service) vs. the ease of navigating the store, the availability of desired products, the range of options available and the speed of checkout (customer experience).

At its most basic, customer service is about assisting customers and meeting their needs. While it helps to shape the overall customer experience, customer service doesn’t fully define it.

The Importance of Both CX and Customer Service
According to McKinsey, companies focused on providing a superior experience across customer journeys realized a 10-15 percent increase in revenue and a 20 percent increase in customer satisfaction. Obviously, it makes sense to invest in ways to improve customer experience. But doing so shouldn’t come at the expense of customer service, since the two are fundamentally linked. In short, businesses can't afford to ignore either customer service or customer experience. 

To learn more about how you can improve customer experience in order to increase customer loyalty, contact ASK today.

3 Reasons Why You Need Live Chat

Cyber Monday 2017 reached several milestones. Online transactions reached a record $6.59 billion, a 16.8 percent increase from a year ago, while for the first time, mobile sales reached $2 billion over a 24-hour period. Consumers are obviously shopping online, where they find convenience as well as deals, but many also expect a personal touch.

According to Forrester Research 44 percent of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer. In another report from Zendesk, 92 percent of customers reported they felt satisfied when they used live chat, compared to other communication options like voice (88 percent), email (85 percent), web form (85 percent), and social media (Facebook 84 percent, Twitter 77 percent).

When consumers use chat, they report higher levels of satisfaction. According to the eDigital Customer Service Benchmark, live chat had the highest customer satisfaction levels at 73 percent, compared to email support at 61 percent, and only 44 percent for traditional phone support.

If improved customer satisfaction isn’t enough, live chat can also help resolve problems faster, expand your market reach, discover customer pain points. Here are the top three benefits of utilizing a live chat solution:

Reduced Expenses

By lowering average interaction costs, live chat reduces overall contact center costs, and because agents can handle multiple chats simultaneously, it helps them be more productive. In fact, with proper training, most live chat agents can handle an average of three or more chats at once, while also helping to drastically decrease the phone wait queue

Live chat doesn’t cost much more than a quality email provider and is a lot cheaper than phone support. In fact, Forrester research has shown that live chat customer service is 17-30% cheaper than a phone call.

Increased Sales

Much research has gone into whether chat can actually increase sales, and the results are clear. According to the American Marketing Association, live chat can increase conversions by at least 20 percent. If a customer has a question or needs help while making a purchase online, live chat provides instant access to one of your brand ambassadors who can immediately assist in walking them through their purchase. An ATG Global Consumer Trend report found that 62 percent of respondents were more likely to purchase from a site with live chat again, while 38 percent of respondents said they had made their purchase due to the chat session itself.

Chat can also provide opportunities for upselling products. When customers engage with an agent who understands their needs, they are likely to trust – and act upon – the agent’s recommendations.

Competitive Advantage

In the last five years, the number of U.S. online shoppers who use live chat has increased from 38 percent to 58 percent, according to Forrester research.  What’s more, chat is often the channel of choice for Millennials, who prefer typing to talking. That said, not many companies have adopted live chat, which means that simply by offering this functionality, you can distinguish yourself from competitors. Plus, because chat provides more opportunities to engage your customers proactively, you can engage them before your competition does.

Conclusion

Reduced expenses, increased sales and a competitive advantage are three great reasons to invest in live chat, but perhaps the best reason is the convenience it offers your customer, who appreciate the fact the wait times are often much less than through a phone call. Plus, customers can multi-task while waiting. According to Econsultancy, 51 percent of customers prefer live chat for multitasking purposes, while another 21 percent preferring live chat because it allows them to shop while they work. To learn more about how live chat can help your business increase customer experience while decreasing overall contact center costs, contact ASK today.

Three Simple Ways to Improve Omni-Channel Customer Support

Your customers’ expectations are high, especially when it comes to omnichannel service. The traditional touchpoints – store, phone and email – are now supplemented with self-serve tools, live chat, social networks and even SMS alerts. If you think omni-channel customer support is merely a fad or somehow doesn’t apply to your business, consider this Research by Zendesk:

  • 64 percent of consumers expect to receive real-time assistance regardless of the customer service channel they use.
  • 37 percent expect to be able to contact the same customer service representative regardless of which channel they use.
  • 87 percent think brands need to work harder to create a seamless experience for customers.
  • 73 percent think brands pay more attention to generating sales across multiple channels than they do to providing an integrated customer service experience.
  • 78 percent say a company’s reputation for customer service is important to them when choosing to buy from a particular brand.

Make Your Website Mobile-Friendly

Mobile usage continues to grow as more people use devices to search for and buy products and services. Using mobile to get answers to their customer support questions and issues is a natural progression, but this is where many businesses are falling behind. 90 percent of consumers reported that their customer service experience on mobile was negative, while 52 percent said a poor mobile experience makes them less inclined to do business with a company. By optimizing your website for mobile use, you show your customers you care about their experience and, in turn you gain a competitive edge.

Respond to Social Media

You already know that social media can be a great customer service tool, but most businesses are not meeting customer expectations on this channel. When a customer initiates contact via social media, 32 percent of them expect an answer within 30 minutes. Compare that to the 157-minute average response time for leading businesses. Only 8 percent respond within 30 minutes, and 12 percent of businesses don’t respond at all. This represents a lot of missed opportunity. Not only are businesses missing out on delighting customers to create loyal fans, they are also passing on a chance to jump ahead of competitors. When you ignore social media, customers become frustrated, which can lead to churn rates of up to 15 percent.

Offer Self-service Options

Consumers expect the convenience of being able to visit your website, and within a few clicks, solve issues themselves. In fact, nearly three quarters of consumers prefer to use a business’ website to find a solution vs. other service channels. By adding a self-service option like a comprehensive FAQ page on your website, you can increase customer satisfaction, while at the same time decrease the amount of time it takes an agent to solve a problem.

In addition to an FAQ page, consider adding live chat to your website. According to Forrester, 63 percent of visitors are more likely to revisit a site that offers live chat. In addition to being an effective option for customer service, live chat has been shown to improve sales. In fact, 44 percent of consumers report that being able to get answers to their questions during a purchase is one of the most important website features. As agents help customers with a particular issue, there is opportunity for them to identify and recommend products or services that could be useful.

Whatever your omni-channel strategy, keep in mind that the end goal is an improved customer experience that provides helpful and friendly service. To find out more about how ASK omni-channel service can help you grow your relationships with your customers, schedule a FREE demo today.

Three Signs You Need an Answering Service

Research has shown that despite having more options than ever, today’s consumers crave the one-on-one interaction that the phone provides. In a recent Accenture study of more than 25,000 U.S. consumers, more than 80 percent said they would rather solve a problem though direct personal contact than via digital channels such as email, chat or voicemail. Roughly 80 percent of business communications are done by phone, and a recent BIA/Kelsey report predicted that 162 billion calls will be made to businesses from smartphones in 2019.

Businesses can’t afford to miss calls, which is why many hire an answering service. By efficiently managing fluctuating call volumes, an outside vendor can help ensure your customers receive the highest level of service, no matter when they call.  Still on the fence? Take a look at the following scenarios; if you answer “yes” to any, it’s time to find the right answering service to help take your business to the next level.

You’re Missing Calls

Just because your business operates from 9 – 5, doesn’t mean your customers’ needs follow this schedule. If your customers are leaving messages afterhours – whether with concerns or questions, to make a purchase or schedule an appointment – consider the fact that 80 percent of callers don’t leave a message, and approximately 85 percent of people will never call back. These numbers represent very real missed opportunities, not just for sales, but also for customer experience. An answering service can cover your phones 24-hours a day, plus the right provider can do it for less than what it would cost to hire an employee.

Productivity is Suffering

Although it may initially feel great to have an influx of calls, even if your team seems to be handling them, productivity is probably taking a hit. While answering calls, especially if they are juggling between several at once, your staff isn’t doing the essential work that leads to growth. You hired employees to perform unique responsibilities, but if they are answering calls, those functions – like product development, marketing, and order fulfillment – fall by the wayside (which, not coincidentally, is where your customer experience will end up). Related to this is the fact that employees will not feel a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work if they are not performing the duties they were hired to do. By hiring an answering service, you provide staff with the freedom to do all of the things that will make both them and your business wildly successful.

Your Customers Aren’t Happy

If you’re already experiencing missed calls and lower productivity because of lack of call answering resources, then unhappy customers are sure to come next. Whether they feel neglected because of long hold times or not being able to talk to someone after hours, customer dissatisfaction is obviously the last thing you want. Research has shown that while happy customers might tell nine friends about their experience with your company, unhappy customers will vent to an average of sixteen people. Not only that, 82 percent of customers who have a negative experience (like being left on hold) will leave your company for a competitor.

If your business has been under-resourced to the point of causing missed calls, decreased productivity and declining customer experience, you need to make changes fast. ASK call answering services can quickly solve the problem, while setting your business up for future success. The benefits of ASK call answering services include:

  • 24/7 Coverage: When their calls go to voicemail, most callers will not leave a message and will most likely not call back during business hours
  • Improved Customer Experience: Today’s customers demand access to solutions that fit their lifestyles, which may not be your normal operating hours. Customers also crave the personal connection the phone provides. An answering service solution shows your customers that you are there for them at any time.
  • Affordable Solutions: Choose the customizable options that work best for YOUR business, including help during call volume surges.
  • Consistency: ASK representatives are trained to your specifications, so your customers enjoy consistent experiences.

With ASK answering services, not only is every call to your business answered, it’s handled promptly and professionally. This service increases sales opportunities and improves customer experience that leads to more repeat and loyal customers. To find out more, contact ASK today.

5 Contact Center Metrics You Should Be Measuring

As a contact center manager, growth and improvement are always on your radar. With all of the data available to you, it can be challenging to know which numbers are worth following and how they can be used to move the needle on any number of metrics. Here we’ve narrowed them down to the key measures that, when improved, can drive contact center success. Be sure to note the target goal associated with each metric. It’s important to have this squarely in view before you begin any improvement initiatives.

Customer Experience

Customer experience will soon be THE competitive differentiator, with consumers choosing products and services based on this factor over others like quality or price. What’s more, consumers are already signaling their willingness to pay more for a customer experience they enjoy. Since it’s obviously important, here are several ways you can measure the quality of your customer experience:

  • First Call Resolution: Are you resolving customer issues on the first call, ensuring satisfaction as quickly as possible without need for follow-up?
  • Average Wait Time: How long does it take for customers to connect with an agent who can address their needs?

Service Quality

Closely related to customer experience, service quality is the combination of:

  • Customer Satisfaction: How well are agents solving customer issues? This is usually measured through Customer Satisfaction Surveys sent to customers after an interaction
  • Call Service Level Attainment (SLA): What percent of calls are answered in a predetermined number of seconds?

Cost

One of the biggest benefits of outsourcing contact center services is the cost savings vs. an in-house operation. This is one of the most important metrics, and can be determined by measuring the following:

  • Per Call: How much is each call costing your contact center?
  • Agent Attrition: One of the biggest costs in a call center, this is important to track in order to reduce expenses.
  • Agent Absenteeism: Closely related to attrition, absenteeism can indicate the need to improve your workforce management.

Operational Efficiency

Closely related to cost, you should measure operational efficiency to ensure your realizing optimal ROI.

  • Average Handle Time: This is the total time that a customer spends from initial contact (whether phone, chat, etc.) to issue resolution. Similar to average wait time, average handle time includes wait time and time spent with an agent.
  • Call Wrap-Up Time: Once a customer issue is resolved, more often than not, an agent must spend some time entering notes or other tasks to close the issue.
  • Forecast Accuracy: Having the right number of agents at the right time is critical to operating efficiently. Regular call volume peaks and valleys are to be expected. The better you can predict these, the more efficient your call center will operate.

If you’re not clear on contact center metrics, whether how to measure them or what they mean, contact ASK for a free demo on how our analytics and reporting provides the information you need to accurately measure results.