Is the FCC Investigating Your Platform?

By: Tim Prugar

If your business model is similar to Dialing Services, LLC...they very well might be. 

Late last week, the FCC adopted a "Forfeiture Order" against Dialing Services, imposing fines totaling $2.9 million, citing their practice of placing pre-recorded calls to mobile phones without prior opt-in consent. The FCC asserts that Dialing Services placed more than 4.7 million calls over a 3 month period, ignoring multiple FCC warnings and a citation in the process. The FCC found that not only did Dialing Services offer a spoofing functionality for their clients, but they also participated in the creation of the content. 

So why is this decision significant?

1. Dialing Services is a Platform

This decision has enormous significance because it's not simply going after Dialing Service's clients - it's going after the platform itself. This may signify a sea change in legal thinking, identifying platforms that offer robodialing services as equality culpable for TCPA violations as firms that execute the calls. This is a big, big deal. 

2. Potential Crackdown on "Neighbor Spoofing"

The use of spoofing isn't limited to account takeover or prank calls. The practice of "Neighbor Spoofing" - spoofing the area code of the person you're calling in order to increase the likelihood they answer - has been picking up steam in the sales world over the last 5-7 years. The FCC citing this practice explicitly in their Order may indicate a dedication to cracking down on this type of spoofing. It would certainly be in keeping with the current FCC's clear vow to reduce Robocalls. 

 

Tim Prugar is the Director of Customer Success at Next Caller. He can be reached at tim@nextcaller.com

Is Knowing the Marketing Source of Your Phone Calls Good Enough?

A simple answer to a complex question. 

A simple answer to a complex question. 

 

Knowing The Marketing Source Of Your Phone Calls Is Not Good Enough

Companies investing in lead generation Internet marketing frequently (and surprisingly) fail to track phone conversions, since Google Analytics and other backend website management platforms don’t support it.

But even companies that have set up phone tracking, to determine the marketing source of the phone conversion (SEO, PPC, etc.), are still missing a crucial piece of the puzzle: Lead validation.

Lead validation is the process of listening to recordings of phone conversations and reading website form submissions to separate sales leads from non-leads. As you’ll see in the presentation below, The Critical Importance of Lead Validation in Internet Marketing, validation makes all the difference in the world because about half of all conversions are NOT leads.

The culling of non-leads from campaign data and campaign testing has enormous implications on lead production and marketing ROI. Read the presentation now:

Aaron Wittersheim is an accomplished entrepreneur with more than 20 years of business and technology experience. He is a partner and COO at Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing company.

How do you "Know Your Customer" in a B2B Environment?

 

By: David Schwartz

In our fast-paced world, the challenge of reaching customers in the most productive manner has become more and more interesting. Companies have looked to various customer relationship management (CRM) systems to increase their sales and retention. As a direct result of CRMs, many businesses have indeed managed to boost sales when it comes to direct-to-customer outreach.


Salesforce, the world’s largest CRM company, released the Lightning Partner Community cloud capability back in 2013. This cloud allows customers to access information on their account, as well as to make purchases directly.


For a long time, however, a major challenge has remained with regard to companies selling to companies (B2B). These customers, which are actually companies themselves, want to know more about the end-customer. In order to address this challenge, Salesforce recently introduced a new layer of Lightning Partner Community cloud.

In a recent article, Natalie Gagliordi discusses this new capabilities of the cloud. As Gagliordi explains, the layer will enable the B2B customers (i.e. the reseller) to access the same information as the original seller.

Perhaps this new development will allow the B2B sales process to become smoother, a much needed improvement in a constantly changing era.

3 Ways to Execute a Data-Driven Marketing Plan

by: David Schwartz

For every marketer in the world, the question that is often most prevalent is: “What next?” We have all this customer data, we sell certain types of products. What can be done to make the two connect? How can our offerings meet the needs of our customers, knowing what we know about our specific market?

In “How Marketers can use Data to Target and Connect, Intelligently,” Renzo DiPasquale sets out to solve the puzzle. He lays out three ways for a company to successfully create a marketing strategy that relies on the data readily available:

 

1. Get Personal.

First, DiPasquale suggests getting personal with customers. Creating content that fits a customer’s profile will make the customer happy to shop at your company. It will also ensure that the customer comes back to shop with your company in the future.

 

2. Go Mobile.

Next, DiPasquale urges companies to go mobile. It is absolutely crucial for companies to market to customers on their smartphone, particularly as shopping continues to move from brick and mortar to phone.

 

3. Get Educated. 

The final suggestion is possibly the most important: educate thyself. Learn what technology is out there that can help you improve your data. Possessing and utilizing the best marketing tools can often make or break a company.


In 2016, there is so much data available. The only question that remains is: how will companies use the data to ensure optimal customer experience and retention?

Next Caller Takes On LeadsCon NYC

This coming week, Next Caller will be attending the biggest conference in performance marketing and lead generation, LeadsCon...and it's right in our backyard!  If you are in New York and interested in learning more about our advanced customer intelligence and enriching leads, stop by our booth #332 in the Exhibition Hall.  Next Caller offers the most profound insights into your customers - over 50+ data points of contact, demographic, and home information - from an email address, phone number, or name and physical address.

We’re also delighted to extend an invitation to our Taste of New York Networking Reception in the Exhibition Hall on Tuesday, August 23rd, from 5-6 PM.  Come join us for a bottle of red and a bottle of white as you take in a true New York experience.  We’re looking forward to meeting you.

We're excited to partner with the LeadsCon Community, and to give visitors to our city an exhaustive list of things to do, places to eat, and subway directions!

Comprehensive LeadsCon information can be found here.

Segmentation Marketing: Do You REALLY Know Your Customers?

 

by: Tim Prugar (tim@nextcaller.com)

In Childless Women to Marketers: We Buy Things Too, the New York Times points out that the overwhelming majority of marketing and advertising aimed at women is through the lens of motherhood: either being a mother, or aspiring to be. As Karen Malone Wright, founder of TheNotMom.com, indicates in the article, this advertising is towards two specific female demographics: "hot and single" or "a mom with more than one kid." This strategy stemmed from the traditional view of the mother as the individual who does the bulk of the purchasing for the household. The mother as decider, if you will. 

However, as society shifts, so too does this "conventional marketing wisdom" about how to get the largest ROI on advertising and marketing efforts. As the Times notes, 15.3 percent of women in the United States are childless, and the percentage of women ages 15-44 without children increased from 2012 to 2014 (46.5 percent to 47.6 percent, respectively). This demographic shift was accompanied by a shift in spending patterns - according to a report by DeVries Global, cited in the article, childless women spend 35 percent more on groceries than women with children. Marketing and advertising executives who are unaware of this trend, and are relying instead on outdated schema, are likely leaving piles and piles of money on the table. 

So which marketer are you? The one who relies on conventional wisdom that may not apply to your specific customers? Or the one who has taken the time to drill down and truly KNOW your customers? And if you're the former, how do you become the latter?

Keys to Marketing Segmentation

The process for knowing your customer and meeting needs you may not even know existed are simple. 

1. Get the Demographic Data

If you're like most marketers or business owners, your customer list is just that - a list. Maybe it's just anonymous phone numbers. Or an email list. Or maybe, if you're lucky, you can add name and address to that combination. But have you captured household income? Gender? Presence of children? How about whether or not your customers have net worth of over a million dollar? 

Gathering all of this information is the first step towards finding out who your customers really ARE. Need help with that? Contact the author!

2. Define Your Target (and Missed Target!) Audiences

Now that you have a picture of who your customers are - what correlations can you draw? What household incomes are spending the most? Which gender is frequenting your business the least? Is there an age group whose use of your product surprises you? Is your product flying off the shelves in Flagstaff but laying fallow in Cleveland? 

Before you can even get into the why, you need to have a solid picture of what is happening. Building a portrait of your "ideal" or "consistent" customer allows you to target your outreach. Building a portrait of the customer who avoids you at all costs is helpful as well...so you can figure out why!

3. Retarget!

Now that you've segmented your list - find how to target your outreach towards people you know will value your offering. Selling Men's Navy Peacoats? Perhaps coordinate an email blast to existing male customers ages 20-40 in the Northeast. 

4. Attribution

If you've run a phone, email, or SMS marketing campaign, you can probably judge its efficacy by the ROI. But you're a savvy, segmenting marketer...you can do better than that! 

What demographic profiles contributed to that ROI? Where did you miss the mark? Were you surprised by any of the results? Or, better yet, how did individual people interact with the campaign? After all, knowing "what" someone did in response to your campaign and "why" is much more powerful than simply knowing "who" did it. 

This data driven reflection will really move the needle for your campaigns. 

Remember: marketing is good. Knowing your customer is better. Using your knowledge of the customer to fuel your marketing efforts, engaging in data-driven reflection after the fact is BEST. 

 

Top Tips For A Successful Data Management Strategy

Contributed by: Sheldon Smith is a Senor Product Manager at XO Communications. XO Communications is a nationwide provider of communications services for businesses including SIP Trunk Services. Sheldon has over 15 years of experience in the technology industry. 

 

Effectively managing data is about more than securely storing and transporting information — companies need a strategy that covers data through the entire lifecycle. As noted by a recent Deloitte Center for Health Solutions study, however, this is a challenging task, and the report found that fewer than half of all companies surveyed had a “clear, integrated analytics strategy.” With big data quickly expanding in scope and gaining speed, it’s essential for businesses to draft a plan before jumping in; here are four top tips for a successful data management strategy:

Understand Value

The goal of any data strategy is to provide high-level guidelines that can be applied across departments, applications and use cases with equal facility. To accomplish this aim, companies need to first understand the value of their data. According to Souvik Choudhury of SunGard Availability Services, “all data is not created equal — and understanding the business value of data is critical for defining the storage strategy.” The same holds true for broad-spectrum policies. Companies must take the time to logically segment their data based on frequency of use, ability to replace, and potential loss impact if stolen or compromised. Once value is assigned, data strategies become a far less daunting task.

Consider Compliance

Compliance is a critical part of any data management strategy. Worth noting, however, is that the requirements to stay “in compliance” vary widely across industry verticals. While some standards, such as PCI DSS, are relevant to companies in a variety of sectors, certain standards carry more weight in one sector than another. Consider health care; HIPAA demands not only specific data handling procedures but also holds health care providers accountable if third-party vendors mishandle patient data or experience data leaks. Law firms, meanwhile, must be able to demonstrate clear data paths from creation to the current moment, and ensure that all data is discoverable in the event that a trial demands an accounting of specific communications or transactions. To form an effective data management strategy, therefore, companies must take the time to understand specific compliance requirements — better to meet or exceed the standards up front rather than risking a fine or other penalty for noncompliance.

Spend on Security

Data security is the next step in an effective management strategy. According to CIO, there are two key components to ensuring that data is protected: Securing information virtually and physically. Virtually, this means limiting employee access and using two-factor authentication for any kind of high-level movement or editing. Physically, companies need to spend on server stacks that are secure — this could take the form of cloud-based offerings, colocation providers or on-site storage, as long as servers are set apart from general foot traffic and are reliably monitored. In addition, it’s worth investing in a solid data encryption solution. This way, even if information is stolen or compromised it’s of no use to malicious actors.

Pursue Accuracy

Last but never least is the need to pursue accurate data. Your best bet here? Start small and ensure that all data collected is timely, relevant and comes from a reliable source. Once DevOps teams get used to handling this flow of accurate data, ramp up the speed and see what happens. By taking the time to ensure accuracy before going all out, it’s possible to reduce the possibility of human error and save money over the long term by avoiding unnecessary data management investments.

Want better data management? Start with value, seek compliance and security, and ensure accuracy for best results.

Big Data and the Value of Making Repeated First Impressions

Contributed by: Ryan Cash

We spoke a couple of weeks ago about the importance of utilizing big data to create engaging and personalized content for consumers.  In today’s environment, people demand personalization in customer service and experience, and, not surprisingly, that same sentiment exists for marketing and advertising.  However, there is a crucial difference between the two.  With many services, one great interaction and a personalized experience can create significant loyalty.  And one bad interaction can serve the exact opposite purpose  

For example, if a hairdresser does a great job cutting your hair and engages you in an enjoyable conversation, you will probably go back to the same hairdresser.  Then, if they do not cut your hair as well the next time, your impression from the first experience may still drive you to return to the same hairdresser.  Conversely, most people would not return to a hairdresser who gave them a poor haircut on the first try.  Essentially, first impressions matter for good service.

Advertising, however, does not work the same way.  Personalization of the content becomes a necessary but insufficient condition to even make a first impression.  And much of this derives from the rise of the mobile internet, which has created a massive increase in data traffic.  We referenced a statistic in our last post that, according to Cisco, more data passed through mobile internet devices in 2014 than passed through the entire internet in 2000.  Consumers on their mobile phones are being blasted with content from all angles making personalization imperative to stand out from the crowd.  It’s well known that standardized, mass advertisements are less effective today.  They end up in the abyss of disregarded spam and internet trash.

In order to personalize content, you have to know your customer.  This clearly is where data is important.  It’s self-evident that knowing more about who you want to reach empowers you to better reach them.  It allows you to understand what they desire, and why they desire it; it allows you to make your message relevant to them.  In essence, you are practicing the art of effective communication, that is summarized succinctly by author Stephen Covey, who teaches the maxim, seek first to understand, and then to be understood.  Until you fully understand who you are trying to reach, you cannot really expect to know how to be understood by them.

But, it is still a necessary but insufficient condition.  You have to understand to be able to personalize and you have to personalize to be able to make a first impression, but it requires more.  Why?  People are bombarded by a surplus of information and they have a scarcity of attention span.  We need to be reminded.  Something may catch my eye on a web page, but I may accidentally click the back button, or change browser tabs, or a call may come through my phone, and I forget about it all together.  Even if I’m enticed to click something or take a next step from a personalized, creative direct advertisement, I may not have the time to go through with the process at the current moment, and I forget.  People need reminders.  And if you do not give them reminders, then you cannot expect that first impression to last.  An enticing advertisement is not congruent to a great haircut.

This means that you must not just know your customer, but you mustcontinue to know your customer.  You must be able to consistently put forth content that is relevant and personalized to your audience, and in order to do so, you must have accurate and current data.  It is easy to say that storing good data about your customers is key to knowing them, but is it really?  How frequently does that data become outdated?  People move, get married, change interests and jobs, and if you sit on a store of dated data, it will no longer be relevant more quickly than you think.  This speaks to the benefit of aggregating data in real time, but it also means that data collection, validation and storage needs to be a continuous process for companies.  It’s vital to be abreast of changes in the lives of your consumers and to always desire to learn more about them, their habits and their needs.  Only then can you consistently engage with your customers in ways that are meaningful to them.  And only then can you remind them frequently enough to stay current in their mind, and to entice them to action.

Getting In Above the Ground Floor: The Value of Segmenting Customers at First Contact

Contributed by: Eric Eriksen

By some estimates, there are over 2 billion loyalty program memberships active in the United States, meaning that, on average, Americans actively use between 6 and 7 loyalty memberships each. Significantly, these memberships are skewed towards the prime consumer goods demographic of 18-44 year olds. The people buying the most with the most brand flexibility are the same people who have a pile of loyalty cards. Having a regular loyalty program is no longer an advantage; it’s the norm. In order to stand out today, companies need to have outstanding customer service from the start. Pre-purchase analysis is the next great frontier in this evolution. By leveraging data early in a relationship, companies can boost revenues and build brand loyalty.

It’s no secret that the rise of Big Data has reshaped targeted marketing. The ability to analyze a customer’s purchase history and demography to provide personalized products, services, and ad messages has changed the entire game of mass marketing. Data analytics has allowed modern businesses to incorporate the personal aspects of small business with the scale and performance of a major corporation.

Biology dictates that familiarity and positive experiences breed loyalty through an inherent sense of reciprocity. The more a customer feels that a business cares about her, the more she’ll feel an emotional attachment to the service provider. Before mass production and the bureaucratization of business, personalized service and products were the norm. Eventually, this gave way to the “take-it-or-leave-it” product-focused strategy of marketing. Companies turned their products into regularized commodities, and customers responded by becoming more rational consumers and eschewing loyalty.

Today, a business thinking of a single product and a single marketing strategy seems antediluvian. Big Data allows a company with two million customers to treat each one as an individual. Knowing about a customer’s personal life, preferences, and spending habits allows a company to leverage small-business charm on a big-business scale. Unfortunately, most companies fail to take this principle to its logical conclusion and go even further than a small business can.

Too many corporations wait until a customer has already had a number of contact points to begin customization, chiseling out an idea of customer needs from a standard template. Relying on internal data maturation requires a number of inefficient initial experiences, which bleed revenue. By looking outside of an organization for existing customer data, a company is able to skip the rough beginning stages of a relationship. Knowing a target’s demography from the beginning allows a better baseline specialization which the company can enrich to quickly build loyalty. The first few months of a business relationship are vital. In that period, the new customer does not have the tunnel vision that will eventually make a particular company his default option. By giving the customer what he wants from the moment of first contact, it’s possible to build flexible market segments from the beginning and to skip the most difficult stage of a relationship. 

This improved baseline also enhances omnichannel integration. By working in every channel from the same baseline, an organization can boost message conformity and contact points from the start. Making a good first impression through the power of baseline market segmentation means that a company can begin building a customer for life the moment contact is established, gaining an important competitive advantage in an over-saturated loyalty marketing world.

Next Caller announces partnership with Oracle Corporation

Press Release as distributed through the Electronic Retailing Association

Next Caller Inc., a leader in CallerID data for use in call center solutions, today announced a strategic partnership with Oracle Corporation, the world’s leading supplier of SaaS solutions. The partnership enables organizations using the Oracle Service Cloud, Sales Cloud, other Oracle Cloud solutions and the numerous legacy Oracle CRM & ERP solutions to benefit from Next Caller’s CallerID Data Services.

Next Caller’s extensive Caller ID database make this innovative partnership possible. The easy-to-use API can be integrated quickly within new and existing Oracle Cloud and legacy on-premise solutions to provide customers with an easy way to identify callers and enhance existing customer data. Next Caller boasts the largest database of caller profiles in the US today, linking over 80% of US telephone numbers to up to 20 points of data.

“We are very happy with this new partnership between Oracle and Next Caller”, said Cas Hoefman, VP of Sales. “By integrating our solution with Oracle’s Cloud and legacy on-premise solutions, customers get access to a wealth of data available through the Next Caller API. This will help them to greatly reduce their cost of caller identification while at the same time helping them increase customer satisfaction so as to build valuable long-term customer relationships.”

The most recent industry research indicates that the average contact center manually identifies over 60% of its inbound callers, resulting in a 50 cent to $1 inefficiency per call. Earlier this year, Next Caller announced similar partnerships with ticketing platform Zendesk, as well as the leading VoIP provider, Nextiva. Yaniv Masjedi, VP of Marketing at Nextiva said, “We’ve evaluated the leading data sources, and Next Caller has the best match rate, hands down.” The company has differentiated itself from traditional data providers by establishing the highest mobile match rate in the country.

The Dark Market of People Who Whine About Big Data

by Jeffrey Kirchick (@JeffreyKirchick)

We hear the term “big data” a lot these days; I penned a blog about it only a few months ago. In the article, I outlined the many advantages we gain when businesses know more about us as consumers. If – and it’s a big “if” – we can be comfortable with our favorite brands knowing the minutiae of our lives, it will allow us to get access to better, targeted customer service and service offers that really speak to our needs. But perhaps this is just an optimist’s point of view.

There are those who take a decidedly different approach, and this is to throw “all of the above” out the window and insist that big data is infringing upon our personal lives. That businesses have no right to know about who we are, what we do, how much money we make, and our propensity to spend more money with their respective brands.

Frank Pasquale recently wrote a pretty good article for the New York Times called “The Dark Market for Personal Data.” This is a fairly good example of the perils of big data. He alludes to irrelevant data points being used to determine peoples’ fate in job interviews, or inaccuracies in data negatively affecting peoples’ personal lives.

This is all well and good except that any reasonable person can read through the lines. This is just someone who does not like change.

The data providers “peddle” sensitive information. He calls for regulation of big data, otherwise we will be “judged by a Big-Data Star Chamber.” This isn’t Star Wars. He does not offer any reasonable way that big data can be regulated. Had he asked any data provider how difficult it is to aggregate and normalize data and then build algorithms to accurately predict correct information, he might sing a different tune. It’s a difficult business, and difficult problems are not solved easily. Not even the NSA or the CIA knows everything about everyone, so how can big data really be regulated? Do we expect millions of Americans to sign up in droves to fill out a massive questionnaire about themselves? Even if this were to be achieved, data is fluid. People move. Jobs change. They have kids. And so on and so forth.

What I would ask is this: Is Mr. Pasquale ready to give up his smartphone? Is he ready to get off of Facebook? Is he ready to (gasp!) give up his internet access?!? If the answer is “no,” then he, and everyone else who complains about big data but still wants access to the sexy new gadgets we have in the year 2014, really just need to accept the consequences.

If you want to be under the radar, go under the radar. Give up your access to the internet, do not provide your data to your cell provider (because you no longer have a cell phone), and go live in the woods. Henry David Thoreau did it and he came out OK. But it is simply hypocritical to lament the collection of personal data when you are, in fact, using the tools that said businesses use to collect your personal data.

I do agree with Mr. Pasquale’s overarching message, which is that big data has imperfections, the ramifications of which can really hurt people. We should have an open conversation about ways to fix that. But in doing so, we should not peg data providers as Satanic thieves. We might instead think about why they do what they do, and oftentimes the answer is to help the people whose data they collect.

I stand more with Micah Solomon’s stance. He recently discussed the perils of big data, and uses a hotel as an example that might go overboard in delivering items to one’s hotel room based on what they know about the individual. That has the potential to be “weird” and “creepy” to a customer. But Mr. Solomon also recognized the many great ways big data can help customers, and I appreciate the balanced and level-headed approach to the issue.

Framed differently, check out this article about how Verizon and AT&T are tracking users’ internet behavior, specifically on Twitter. This might be troubling at first glance, but let’s back up a step.

When we are born, we are given certain unalienable rights. There are things we feel entitled to. As commonplace as smartphones and Twitter are today, these are not two of the things that we were born with or entitled to. This is technology that we willingly decide to use. In doing so, we have something of a contract in place: if we want to use this service, the provider of the service might track our behavior. If we decide to move forward, then the onus is on us to accept any and all negative ramifications of doing so. The alternative is to just not use the service.

Long story short: no one is forcing us to give up this information. Whether we know it or not, we give it up every day, and we do so in exchange for goods or services that make us happy.

This might leave the reader thinking we are heading into a digital era that is a little less exciting than the last one, one where we need to be particularly wary of what data we are sharing. But is this really news to anyone? It’s been about a decade now that an embarrassing photo you posted on Facebook could ruin your job prospects. In my opinion, it is up to each individual to be responsible.

Check out all the articles and articulate your own thoughts. These are just mine.

Why I Started Next Caller

image

by Ian Roncoroni, Co-Founder and COO of Next Caller

I started Next Caller because “Roncoroni” is a real shitty name to spell over the phone.  I’m serious. 

A few years ago, on my way to San Francisco for a wedding, my flight was delayed.  After nine hours of binging on terminal food and lapping the newsstand, I realized that I never changed my rental car reservation.  So, I called Thrifty to let them know I would be late, but still wanted the car.  What I thought would be a 5-minute conversation turned into the worst customer service experience of my life.

I called, waited on hold, and finally got an agent.  When asked, I identified myself as “Ian Roncoroni.”  She asked if I could repeat myself.  “Sure, last name ‘Roncoroni,’ R-O-N-C-O-R-O-N-I.”  She thanked me, and continued looking up my reservation.  After stalling for a minute or two, she told me there was no reservation under that name.  She asked me to spell it again, so I did.  “R-O-N-C-O-R-O-N-I.”  I could tell she was flustered, because she was stuttering and typing furiously in the background.  After another minute or two, she apologized and passed me along to her manager, and I had already boarded the plane by the time she picked up.  She was just as pleasant, but still could not find my reservation.  “I’m sorry to ask you again, sir, but could you please spell your name for me?” she asked.  A little frustrated, I recited again, “Last name, ‘Roncoroni,’ R-O-N-C-O-R-O-N-I.”  She looked for another minute and started to laugh.  “I’m sorry sir,” between giggles, “but we were looking for your reservation under the first name Ron, last name Coroni.”  I would have started laughing, too, if the flight attendant hadn’t just come back, tapping his foot, demanding I turn off my phone.  There I was, finally with my agent, recognized by their system, just in time to shut off my phone.  “Oh well, it should be fine when I land,” I thought.  Well, it wasn’t.   When I got to the booth, neither Ian Roncoroni nor Ron Coroni had a reservation, and the agency was completely sold out.

After I had calmed down and gotten a car from a different company, I thought to myself, “Why was that so hard?”  Was the phone connection that bad?  Was my agent just inept?  Didn’t she at least have caller ID?  These companies get millions of calls a year, so they must have a way of identifying their callers, right?  I was curious, so I did a little research and learned two really important things. 

First, I learned that caller ID did not exist for cell phones. When carriers started offering mobile service, they never built the physical infrastructure to transmit the CNAM data, so caller ID via mobile network was always impossible.  Sure, there were data providers in the market that tried to solve this problem, but their information was horribly inaccurate, to the point it rendered their services useless for a real time caller ID.

Second, I learned that businesses were spending BILLIONS of dollars every year identifying their customers: $14.9 billion, to be exact.  After suffering through all 300 pages of the US Contact Center Decision Maker’s Guide* I learned that the average customer service call costs $7.76, and that collecting name information from callers accounted for about 52 cents of every call.   That’s not a typo; every time you call to complain, get a refund, switch a reservation, or pay a bill over the phone, that business pays 52 cents just to identify you.

This seemed broken to me for one simple reason; my name is the same whether I’m calling my bank or my insurance company, so why are they each paying different people to ask me the same questions?

So I was led to one obvious conclusion: if someone builds a caller ID that works for mobile phones, they’ll save businesses billions of dollars a year.  So that’s what I did.  I quit my job, started Next Caller, and convinced the smartest, hardest working people I knew to quit their jobs and join me.  And in just a few short years, we’ve done it.  We’ve successfully built the market’s largest database linking telephone number to name, address, email, and other relevant pieces of personal data, and we’re sending it to agents in real time.   We’ve already saved businesses millions of dollars, but we’re just getting started.  Non-profits, banks, telecom, technology, and insurance companies alike are all using our product to save money and drive engagement.  We’re thrilled with our progress, but we won’t rest until spelling is officially extinct.

*Sorry, ContactBabel.  Your annual report is hands down the best in the industry, and for that, I applaud you!  But, I’ve got to be the only person who has actually, honestly, read the whole thing.  If I weren’t, someone else would have started Next Caller before me.

How Data Can Grow Sales Productivity

by Jeff Kirchick (@JeffreyKirchick)

We’ve chatted a bit about big data and the customer experience. Obviously having good customer data is crucial for businesses when trying to sell a product. For example, knowing in real time the income of a customer could potentially empower an agent to sell a product that suits that person’s budget. This is something we actively market here at Next Caller.

But how can sales reps proactively create efficiency?

Personally, I am a big fan of Yesware. Not just because they are from my hometown (Boston), but more so because they deliver meaningful data to me in my work life. Yesware shows you when customers have opened, forwarded, or just outright ignored your e-mails. It helps you to understand which messages are working and which ones are not. If someone has opened your e-mail, you might hold off on sending another. However, if they have not, maybe you need to change the subject line. In doing so, you can start to measure which campaigns work for you and which ones do not. You can literally track how well you are doing at getting your message through over time through the nifty analytics dashboard:

image

This is fairly important for sales reps, their managers, and even CEO’s: what is the strategy that works? What is the winning message? Yesware allows you to track which campaigns work for your team. Certainly different customers respond to different messages, but my team has found that people in different industries care about different value propositions through using Yesware’s templates (see below) and analytics tools:

image

For example, we have found that hospitality brands care very much about creating a white-glove experience for their customers. For them, the cost-savings realized by using Next Caller play second fiddle to the goodwill they are able to bring to their customers. We have realized this in conversations with our customers, but also just in seeing (through Yesware) which message got a better response with those in that industry. Whereas in retail (among other industries), cost-savings matter immensely.

Something else that is nice about the templates is that they are shareable throughout the organization. This makes training new sales reps even easier: everyone has access to the same messages. This is important for us at Next Caller because we approach different clients with a different message, dependent upon the industry they are in, or even the technology they are using. Why? Because different CRM/voice products require different integration lengths, and we like to focus on the platforms that are easiest for setup.

The measurement goes beyond just e-mails, though. Yesware allows our team to track which links are getting clicked, and which attachments are getting opened. Having this data allows us to hone in on what matters to our customers. Are they clicking links to our pricing page, or links to our core value proposition? We can measure all of this through Yesware and refine our message accordingly.

When reaching out to a couple major brands in particular, Yesware alerted me that the recipients were opening my e-mails and forwarding them at an alarming rate. This allowed me to send a follow up at just the right time. In both instances, I received responses from the clients and was able to move forward.

What I like about Yesware is that it complements other tools that provide good data. MixRank is a great tool for predicting an e-mail address by noting the “system” that is used within an organization. Rapportive is another tool that gives you data on the individual once you have entered their e-mail address into the e-mail. Both of these tools get me on the right track when reaching out to a customer; Yesware provides me with a course of action.

I have been able to use the tool by installing it right into my Gmail as an extension in Google chrome. The moment one of my e-mails gets opened, I am notified instantly through a small “screen pop” on the top right of my screen, which allows me to continue working on whatever I am doing at the time. See below for an example of what this looks like:

image

The tool has made me more effective. I would estimate that our sales team saves over an hour per day in prospecting new leads because of Yesware. How? In addition to refining a better message and knowing when/how to contact people, we can also schedule our follow ups conditionally upon whether or not someone is opening and/or replying to the message. We can get reminders to reach out if someone is not responding. Yesware does what Next Caller does for call centers: it automates processes. Whenever manual processes become automated, everybody wins.

If someone does not open any of my e-mails, it means they might be going to spam. Perhaps I need to try LinkedIn or just pick up the phone instead. If someone is opening an e-mail but not responding, the value proposition may not be clear to them – a new approach is needed. If someone is opening e-mails a lot but not responding, they are probably interested enough to keep investigating or forward to others in the organization, and this means I probably need to follow up to ask for a meeting. Plain and simple, Yesware informs the salesperson as to where they are, allowing one to send more targeted and focused e-mails rather than the same generalized messages.

image

Big Data: Big Win?

by Jeff Kirchick (@JeffreyKirchick)

If you work in the digital/marketing world today, “big data” is the expression du jour, that fancy term your clever friends throw around on Twitter, this phenomenon that keynote speakers are mentioning off-hand at the conferences you go to. 

I’ve noticed myself that even those not necessarily “in the know” on big data are still encountering it in some form or another. Today, for example, my mother complained about how she was shopping for shoes one day, and the next day she was bombarded by advertisements for the same shoe website on every website she visited. My uncle then remarked on how “the airlines are the worst, because they change their fares depending on the income of the customer who is browsing them." 

They’re both right – businesses are getting smarter about how they operate, from the way that they can target consumers (less television, radio, and billboards, and much more online re-targeting), all the way down to how they set their prices. How are they getting smarter? It’s simple: by learning more about the people who buy their products, their customers.

It raises questions on how much is "too much.” Is it an invasion of privacy for businesses to know so much? The creators of “South Park” would say no – they satirized fear over the NSA by pointing out how willingly people share data about themselves on social media websites. 

Certainly, we may not rely on “South Park” for answers, but the creators do have a point: we live in a world where sharing is the norm. And while sharing pictures of yourself at college frat parties may come back to haunt you, does the sharing of other information really hurt you when it comes to doing business?

Most thought leadership today would argue that this dip into our personal lives in fact helps us to gain better service from the brands we love. If you have not seen Dudley Larus’s blog post about big data and the customer experience, read the Genesys blog now. He gives a terrific example of predictive IVR (see the last post), and how businesses can essentially use what they know about the customer in order to create a better experience for that individual, rather than routing them through the same general process any customer would go through. When customers become less anonymous through the data that businesses obtain about them, the businesses can return the favor by treating said customers less anonymously. It makes sense.

McKinsey & Company points out that businesses are also automating more services for customers – seeing your utility bill in real time, or not having to repeat your name and address over the phone. It reminds me of one of my own favorite examples, UPS MyChoice. This feature allows customers to adjust delivery dates and give specific delivery instructions for packages so that less errors (or returns to sender) will be made. It’s a feature I enjoy in my personal life quite a bit.

It raises the simple question: don’t businesses deserve to know more about us if it helps them to automate processes for us? If it is for our benefit, if it solves all the problems we used to complain about, if it eliminates all the stigmas we used to associate with customer service, is it as scary as we thought it was?

It’s a give and take, I’d say. We should be leery of the brands who gather the customer data but use it for their own good and not our own. My advice to consumers? Watch how brands are using customer data. Are they using it to help you, or are they using it to help themselves?

About Customer Authentication

 by Laura Zegar (@LauraKZegar)

“Why do I always have to give the customer service rep my information again when I’ve already entered it in the automated phone system?”

Those were the first words out of my sister’s mouth when I told her I was writing a customer experience blog post on caller authentication. She’s asked that question many times. I’m sure you have, too.

Many callers dread a cumbersome authentication process. Who can blame them? Too much customer effort erodes the overall customer experience. Ask your customers to authenticate multiple times on one phone call or assign them complicated passwords, and they just might switch to your easy-to-do-business-with competitor.

American customers spend approximately 15 billion minutes per year on authentication. Guess who spends all those minutes with your customers? That’s right – your contact center agents. Over 25% of agent call handle time is spent solely on authentication.

Chances are, you can’t complete any revenue-generating business transactions with these customers until they’re successfully authenticated. Translation: You don’t make a single cent until you’ve verified your caller.

So how exactly does a poor authentication process impact the customer experience? Let’s walk through some common scenarios.

First, customers must manage multiple PINs, passwords and authentication questions across numerous service providers. Recalling the correct information for a specific provider is often challenging, particularly if your authentication includes complicated PINs or passwords with no significance to the customer.

Example: Bob calls your customer service number and attempts to authenticate in the IVR for a self-service transaction to verify his balance due. Unfortunately, he quickly realizes he can’t remember his PIN. He enters several of his commonly used PINs, hoping that one will successfully identify him. After multiple failed authentication attempts, Bob must either transfer to an agent for assistance or hang up and call back once he locates his PIN.

Not a good start to what should be a simple self-service transaction.

Even if customers know their credentials, their next hurdle is successfully completing the authentication in your IVR. Multi-layered authentication prompts may be confusing, or the IVR may not recognize a customer’s speech or accent. If your technology isn’t customer-friendly, your customers will either involuntarily transfer to an agent or, worse, voluntarily skip the IVR authentication process on future calls.

Example: Mary decides to call your customer service number, prepared with her PIN in hand. She selects the Spanish IVR option to verify her balance due and, when prompted, verbally provides the correct PIN in her regional Spanish accent. Unfortunately, your IVR only recognizes non-accented Spanish and fails to properly authenticate Mary. At this point, Mary must transfer to an agent or call the IVR back to manually key in her PIN.

Another bad start to a simple self-service transaction.

What about customers who do successfully authenticate in your IVR and transfer to an agent? They’re still not out of the woods. Their authentication may not transmit correctly to your agent, requiring the customer to authenticate a second time. And if the customer is transferred to another agent? That authentication may not transfer with them, either, requiring yet anotherverification.

Example: Mike dials your customer service number and quickly authenticates with his PIN in the IVR. He verifies his balance due, then decides to transfer to an agent for questions about his bill. The agent greets Mike and repeats the authentication process.

You know what’s coming next.

Mike asks, “Why do I always have to give you guys my information again when I’ve already entered it in your automated phone system?”

The agent apologizes, explaining that she did not receive Mike’s information on her screen. She successfully authenticates Mike and determines that he must be transferred to another department for further assistance. Mike is transferred to another agent…who again repeats the authentication process.  

All this before Mike can even address his actual inquiry! Ouch.

Bob, Mary and Mike are just three examples of the authentication challenges faced by customers every day. Multiply these per customer, then per company, and we have a serious customer experience problem.

If your customers repeatedly fail the authentication process, it’s time to examine your overall people, process and technology capabilities to identify where the breakdown lies.

Are your agents comprehensively trained on your policies, procedures and authentication best practices? Is your authentication process simple yet robust? Have you leveraged reliable, smart technology to streamline the customer and agent user experience? And, most importantly, have you done all this with a customer-centric view?

With careful planning and execution, even small changes to one or more of these capabilities can yield significant improvement to your customer’s authentication experience.

Before you know it, your customers will be asking a different question when they call you: “Why aren’t my other service providers this easy to call?”

About Laura:

I’m a customer-centric manager with 15+ years of customer experience, strategy and operations expertise…and I’m pretty passionate about it!

Customer capabilities I’ve managed include experience and retention, strategy, system design and implementation, and contact center operations. My experience spans the wireless / telecommunications, retail, banking, IT, health care, sales, government and HR / benefits outsourcing industries.

Outside the customer world, I’m an equally passionate Chicago foodie with a penchant for fitness, design, style, social media…and everything else in between.