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Call Centers 2.0 is focused on business software solutions serving call centers and contact centers, including Help Desk applications, Customer Service Systems, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and Social CRM systems. This website includes market research, expert insight, peer advice and independent business software reviews and comparisons.

 

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Retailer Ups Customer Service to Achieve Competitive Advantage

Customer Service Beyond The Immediate Sale Opportunity

In a day on the golf course, for myself at least, it's the one good shot I have each round that keeps me coming back to the links another day.

Many customers feel the same way about great customer service. If they have a positive buying or service experience with their supplier or retailer, then they will be back, spending their money again. Research consistently shows they will also be sharing their experience with their friends - in both physical and virtual settings.

That's just what retailer Best Buy is aiming for with the company's upgraded customer service approach The electronics retailer is training staff to be 'human search engines' who can help customers find just about anything they may be looking for, even if it's not sold by Best Buy, and is sold by a competitor.

Such a customer service practice reminds me of the decades old rivalry between the former Gimbels and its then major department store competitor, Macy's, which was infamously portrayed in the film, 'Miracle on 34th Street.' If Gimbels didn't have the merchandise a shopper was looking for, the store staff looked for the merchandise elsewhere, and referred the customer to another store. The sales staff at Macy's did the same thing.

Now that was superior customer service. Well, Best Buy stores are brining back that type of customer service, according to a recent story by The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch. Read more »



Customer Service Generates New Attention in Down Economy

Customer Service Elevated in the CRM Software Equation

Forrester's Bill Band published a survey of 99 CRM companies in order to understand some performance metrics which might aid CRM projects. One research statistic that stood out was that customer service applications has pulled even in terms of adoption with sales force automation (SFA) as the most frequently used modules of CRM software systems.

Customer service came in at 67% adoption, versus sales force automation (SFA) at 66%. Only a few years ago, customer service utilization would have trailed by a hefty double digit margin, but now that a challenging economy is forcing businesses to look at their existing customer relationships more assertively, and customer service has stepped up as a preferred go to market strategy in tough times – CRM applications appear to have become more decentralized and satisfying more customer facing staff.

There's little question that sales staff and sales force automation systems have been the primary drivers for new CRM investments in the two decades. Unfortunately, many of those software investments came with the traditional, IT-style, fix-our-problems point of view. Managemet would fall to software technology to fix their problems, as in we need to make sales more efficient, so let's slap CRM software into place and that should fix everything. But prioritizing sales over others also created a customer information silo; service, marketing, loyalty activities and accounting staff all directly impact sales, and need customer and sales information, but many sales managers or staff found it easier to imagine that sales somehow owned that information and operated in a virtual vacuum. The failure to expand that business thinking is at the heart of a lot of CRM implementation failures.

But with the global economy sluggish and new customers harder to come by, service – a key component for retaining customers – has been elevated to the top of strategy and CRM software. Read more »



Call Center Strategic Thinking: Measuring Value and Not Just Cost

Successful contact centers require strategic perspective, the right mix of people, proven business processes and CRM software systems.

It seems every consumer has a frustrating call center story they can tell. Many of those stories involve calling in to a company's call center to seek information or help, only to be 'served' by someone who may not speak English well, is rude or just unwilling to help.

Dissatisfied call center experiences are the number one source for customer churn, according to a 2011 research report by CRMsearch.com. Yet despite the frequency of such occurrences many companies just turn a blind eye to their call center operations, seemingly unaware of the consequences. If you are investing in a call center and it's not satisfying your customers, you're wasting your money and burning through valuable customer relationships. However, for companies that choose to confront business reality, improving call center performance has the two prong benefit of reducing customer churn and creating valuable customer goodwill - and may be the best financial investment you can make for these two critical business objectives.

Call centers are often the first place where your customers go to communicate with you. Sure, they can write an e-mail or use the U.S. Postal Service, but when they reach out to call your contact center, they're looking for direct communication and immediate response or resolution.

Call centers are critical to customer service as they let your customers talk directly with your business. This is the place where a customer problem or complaint can be defused and ultimately become a customer success story, all because you had an agent there to listen, talk and help your customer at their time of need. That's huge. Essentially, it's human Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It's just as important as that big, enterprise software CRM system you also have in your business, but this one has the human ability to truly communicate with your customers. Read more »



Want To Increase Customer Engagement? Lets Chat About It

Consider Adding Online Chat To Your CRM Toolbox

Your call center may already have a great Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, trained call center staff and effective business processes which maximize every customer experience. So is there anything else that you need? Maybe.

Have you considered chat as a channel to respond to customer inquiries?

In a fascinating review carried in Government Technology magazine, call center staff from the Virginia Department of Taxation described how they installed a $1,000 chat program and how it's helped them slash their volume of call center inquiries from Web site users by 70% while speeding up response times in answering questions. This customer communication tool effectively allows call center agents to handle multiple chats at the same time because they can answer one customer while another customer is typing their query.

Sharon Kitchens, the assistant tax commissioner of Virginia's Office of Technology, said the chat pilot project began using PHP Live and has since been expanded. "This was the best $1,000 we ever spent," Kitchens said.

Seldom do information technology (IT) or social media investments require so little financial outlay and present an opportunity to better serve your customers while making your customer service representatives more productive. Surprisingly, online chat has been around for more than 15 years however has not yet incurred overwhelming adoption by call centers or companies alike. Read more »



Don't Close Your Blog If You Don't Like The Comments

Oracle Provides Valuable Lesson In How Not To Engage Customers

Here's a customer service lesson in how not to manage your blogs, courtesy of Oracle Corp.

After investing time, effort and money into creating and promoting a customer support blog, and earning the trust and readership of the user community, Oracle decides to flip the switch and turn it off.

A case of innovative customer service or cutting off your nose to spite your face?

Oracle pulled the plug on a popular user support blog written by Oracle employee, Chris Warticki. Now Oracle customers and readers seeking its advice receive an (un)welcome page indicating the blog can no longer be reached. The sudden disappearance of Warticki's Oracle support blog was highlighted by ERP industry analyst and consultant Frank Scavo in a blog post on Scavo's site, The Enterprise System Spectator.

Scavo blasted the company's short sighted move. "Oracle needs to realize this is not 1999, or even 2005," Scavo scolded. "Customers have ways of communicating about problems, whether Oracle likes it or not. Better to participate in the conversation and have an opportunity to shape it than try to stymie it. In fact, attempts to stifle the dialog only gives such problems increased visibility."

Well said. Oracle's blog debacle was also referenced by ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett, who wrote that Warticki had been providing quality tips and advice for Oracle users on the now-closed blog. Howlett quoted another blogger, RNM, who explained the situation. Read more »



Technology and Service Combine to Deliver The Next Business Growth Engine

Customer Service Delivers the Highest Impact Customer Retention Method Available

Upon opening the Verizon bill that arrived last week, my blood pressure soared and my customer service dialing finger began punching its buttons. Another monthly bill and another errant charge for 1MB of data transfer that I never sent or authorized. I can't imagine all the money that Verizon and other cell phone service providers make from customers who don't call to cancel these ghost charges, but I'm certainly not one of them.

A few transfers and a short time on hold later, it was Mike, the Verizon customer service agent, who told me that he was there to help me resolve the matter. I explained the invoice overage and used my gentle voice to demand that the charge be removed. Mike then launched into a call script about how he could help me block such charges by turning off Internet access for the phone. Perfect, I told him, as I don't use my phone for Internet access. I told Mike that blocking feature would be good, but it still doesn't remove the errant fee. Sorry, nothing he could do, he advised. I of course then went into annoyed consumer mode and asked for his supervisor - we all know how this stuff works.

Mike put me on hold for some time, then returned and said he could remove the charge as a one time favor if I allowed him to implement the blocks on my phone. I agreed, and pointed out that those kinds of blocks should have been set up by default on the phone in the first place so that consumers could opt in for them if they wanted the services. Mike said some customers want them and some don't. We seemed to be at a stalemate on that issue. No matter, by the end of our conversation, Mike had listened to my problems, credited my account and placed the mobile Web blocks on my phone so that I wouldn't discover such surprise charges again.

A fair result, all for a few minutes of my time. So what can your business learn from this? Read more »



Comcast Customer Service

Too Little on Customer Service & Too Much on Customer Acquisitions

When it comes to writing about customer service failures Comcast has become a go-to whipping boy. Its now to the point where every time I have to call them, I keep notes because I know the writings will make for an interesting blog post and the chance to make a point or two about how to do service right or wrong.

I recently gave them a call after noticing that my monthly fees had gone up by a few dollars for the second or third time this year. This came with no notice, so I figured I'd do a little research to see what was going on. By the way, how many customers actually do this - as opposed to simply accepting the extra nickel and dime charges? Researching these charges is a real time-waster, but do those who simply accept random and arbitrary rate changes grow in their affinity for their providers? I think not.

Calling into the contact center is itself quite revealing. After the initial prompt about language, and a request for your phone number to pull up your account details, the first options you have to get past are all about how and where to pay your bill. I have no evidence for my theory, but I suspect the vast majority of callers to the contact center are not calling about how to pay their bill – they're calling about service issues. The powers that be, however, prioritize incoming revenue over anything else. Nice message they're sending - and a clear behavior of a business focused company and not a customer focused company. Read more »

 

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