Reducing the cost of exceptional customer service

While reading “How Contact Centres Are Delivering Exceptional Customer Service” (Call Centre Helper), I learned that the average cost per call equates to £3.64. My first thought was that this seemed high, compounded when I read that for 3% of businesses, this figure rises to over £10!

Average call cost contact centre

While there’ll always be calls that will be lengthy due to the topic being discussed, in an era where so much technology is available to enable customers to help themselves, it’s actually jaw-dropping to see costs this high.

It’s time to embrace the age of self-service

I’ve written before that “the days of waiting on hold for 20 minutes to be connected are coming to an end” because customer now prefer to determine themselves how they interact with a company. Back in 2013, we learned that:

40% of global consumers said they prefer self-service to human contact; 70% expect a company website to include a self-service application (source).

A more recent study conducted by Desk.com discovered that “Millennials ardently avoid calling customer service… 32% would rather go shopping on Christmas Eve.” (Source).

Whether it’s via website FAQs, or proactive outbound communications via SMS, email and social media, there are many ways companies can reduce the need for a customer call.

On top of this, companies can, and should, be providing multiple communication channels across all devices. Some examples we’ve seen recently are:

  • Allowing customers to text MYBILL to get their latest utility bill
  • Use Interactive Voice Response to book an appointment
  • Interaction via a chatbot to register for an event
  • Using an app or similar (i.e. Mobile Journeys) to validate credentials and so access information that previously they were having to dial the business and speak with an agent to get.

45% of companies offering web or mobile self-service reported an increase in site traffic and reduced phone enquiries (source: CRM Magazine).

Putting the customer at the heart of your contact centre strategy

Many of Esendex’s customers with contact centres have posed similar challenges to us: how can I reduce the cost of calls, while maintaining excellent customer service and keeping my customers happy?

The first step is always to understand why people are calling in, and of these calls, which ones need to stay with the agents. For the remainder, can we provide a solution that can move this expensive call away from the agents’ phones without compromising on their experience?

The solution itself can be anything and everything, from building payment channels via an IVR, to a Mobile Journey that enables customers to enter meter readings, to an SMS Automation that enables customers to text into a shortcode and upon validation be sent back account specific details for which they’d have previously needed to call.

These are just a few of the examples that have helped companies provide excellent customer service while reducing the amount inbound calls they take, thus significantly reducing the cost to serve these queries down from the £3.64 figure I mentioned above.

Plus this does not even take into account the opportunities created by enabling staff to work on other tasks!

A final thought:

“By 2017, 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience.” (Gartner)

Should customer satisfaction have an impact on your pay packet?

Performance related pay and SMS Surveys

Recently, an Esendex customer started using SMS Surveys as a means of gathering feedback from customers who’ve recently taken at taxi journey.

They’re using the results of these surveys to calculate the amount of bonus awarded to each taxi driver, which got us to thinking: in a culture where the customer is most definitely king, would more organisations benefit from staff incentives based on customer satisfaction?

How important is customer satisfaction when assessing good company performance?

performance related pay infographic

Sourced from The High Pay Centre’s white paper on Performance Related Pay, this graphic illustrates that directors at least say that customer satisfaction is the most important metric for assessment.

But the same report goes on to list the following factors as determinants of performance-related pay:

  • Meeting targets set by the board (50%)
  • Increasing profits (41%)
  • Returns to shareholders (30%)
  • Returns to stakeholders (25%)
  • Enhancing revenues (20%)

This is backed up by further research from the annual Aon Hewitt’s Salary Increase Survey:performance related pay infographic

So while lip service is being paid to customer satisfaction as a measure of performance, in practice the emphasis is still overwhelmingly on financial measures.

Does traditional performance-related pay work?

PRP is becoming more popular as new digital methods for measuring output become available, but it remains easier to measure the output of a factory worker or sales executive than for a teacher or doctor.

The public sector began phasing out automatic incremental pay progression in 2015. This is the process by which pay rises are awarded based on time served, in the perhaps naïve belief that time spent in a role always increases competence, and so additional pay is merited.

Although public sector organisations now have the power to withhold incremental increases, very few do, “as there is a culture of people moving up the pay scale irrespective of their performance” (Source). This can have a negative impact on morale, with employees feeling that regardless of their efficiency and productivity, they will receive the same reward as their peers.

So, on paper, PRP appears to reward the most hard working and skilled members of a team. In practice, it’s been blamed for “emphasising quantity over quality, overusing machinery, breakdowns in team work… extra stress on the job, and poor health” (Source).

It’s open to debate as to whether monetary gains are really what motivates people to perform well at work.

Job satisfaction factors:performance related pay infographic

The famous motivation study by Herzberg suggests that achievement and recognition are far more important for job satisfaction than pay.

Not dissimilarly to company performance, financials take centre-stage, belying the body of research that points to customer satisfaction and employee achievement as the most important factors.

Could company performance and staff motivation be improved by customer satisfaction-related pay?

As Aon Hewitt’s research shows, more emphasis is being placed on customer satisfaction as a means of measuring a sales person’s performance, and, as our original example demonstrated, this can be applied more widely to any customer-facing role.

SMS SurveyPractically speaking, gathering customer feedback is more cost effective and quick than ever before; SMS Surveys are particularly effective, garnering 3 x more responses than surveys delivered via an app for our customer.

Customers who’ve just completed a journey, or interacted with a call centre agent; received a parcel or had engineering work completed; received medical attention or completed a training course – any and all of these scenarios could be measured for satisfaction with an SMS message asking for a rating out of 10, or a Yes/No response.

That data can be fed back into a CRM system, resulting in either a financial implication for the person or team responsible, or an outcome of an award, promotion or simple recognition of a job well done.

The company wide results can then be collated to give the C-Suite an indication of customer satisfaction as a whole, which feeds into future sales projections, and helps identify areas for improvement.

A lot of organisations talk about putting the customer at the centre of their world, but implementing this practice would enable that to become a reality. It’ll be interesting to see how many more companies adopt this measure going forward – and we’ll keep you apprised of progress and set backs as we learn more.

Utilities engagement: Millennials have the power

how can utilities companies communicate better with millennials?

They may never have thought this day was coming but millennials have now come of age. Starting their own families, embarking on their professional careers, establishing households and – paying bills.

The newest generation of energy consumers accounts for a large proportion of the energy economy and hold a lot of power.

Consumers aged 25-44 make up 37% of utilities customers and will account for 33% of the adult population by 2020. In fact 54% of respondents believe millennials will be the priority demographic for utility service and engagement between now and 2023 (Cognizant), and as a result what millennials want and how they behave will be critical to the evolution of the utilities sector.

Snapchat, Facebook and Pokémon Go are not the only reason young adults are glued to their phones, with tasks such as banking, and energy management carried out via mobile – daily.

Millennials are busy.

They want to be able to live life from one place: social media, photo apps, text messaging and portable browsing are all testament to that. This is likely to be the same of energy services and home management.

The Internet of Things (IoT) will result in 50 billion connected devices by 2020 so it is an exciting time for organisations and customers to change service and energy sector propositions to prepare for this.

Utility bills are a new concept to millennials

More than 46% of millennials have no formal system in place to remember to pay their bills on time, with 9% using email reminders and only 5% using mobile phone notifications. This creates a tremendous opportunity for all bill providers to create responsible bill paying habits.

More than 80% of 18-34 year-olds would like to log into their energy provider’s website with their social media credentials, and access billing information and updates, while 95% of millennials said they’d switch energy providers if they weren’t able to provide them with a seamless user experience.

This eagerness to embrace technology gives energy providers a new opportunity to sell their services to a much wider consumer group. If 36% of millennials have said they would change providers or buy electricity from someone else if given an easy option to. So before a better option is provided by a competitor, as yourself what are your plans to try and make them stay?

To discuss the range of Voice, SMS, Mobile & Web solutions that Esendex offer for use in the utilities sector, contact us today.

What lessons can we learn from Labour leader candidate Owen Smith?

Timing is key with sms marketing

When you roll over in bed to hear your mobile phone buzzing at 4am, the last person you expect to be contacting you is a politician canvassing for your support.

Well, for a fair few people that surreal moment happened when Labour leadership candidate, Owen Smith decided to text a load of potential supporters – in the middle of the night. Unsurprisingly, they’re not too happy about it, especially as they appear to have been unsolicited.

The text message which asked, “can I count on you?”, and promised to deliver fair policies that mattered to all, including investing £200bn in public services, was sent out from midnight on Saturday, right through until late Sunday morning.

Naturally we can’t fault Mr Smith for his choice of SMS to canvas for support; the channel boasts a 98% open rate compared to 20% for email (Digital Marketing)

But what’s usually a selling point – that 90% of all SMS are read within the first 3 minutes of receipt (Venturebeat) – became an overwhelming negative for Mr Smith’s campaign.

While we’re sure Mr Smith had positive intentions in attempting to win support, judging by the reaction online, and largely as a result of the disastrous scheduling, it did a pretty poor job. Good timing as well as opt-in permission is essential for building a reputation for any brand, business or institution.

We’ve already seen Brexit campaigners get fined £50k for sending more than half a million unsolicited text messages asking people to vote to leave the EU, earlier this year.

So what can your business or brand learn from these mistakes?

1. Don’t be a nuisance, provide options

When you share your mobile number with someone it is their privilege, not their right, to have it. It works the same in marketing. A good text message, unlike Mr Smith’s, should be anticipated. Many took to Twitter to complain that they had little or no knowledge they’d opted in to receive texts from the politician or been given an opt out.

Always provide your recipients with a clear opportunity to opt out. Often just being given the option will put you in their good books.

2. Remember that timing is everything

Consider the best contact time for your recipients by putting yourselves in their shoes. While research suggests that smartphone use is at its highest in the evening, text messaging is in fact most effective during business hours and between 10am and 8pm (Zokem) with apps dominating mobile usage past 8pm.

In fact, the most popular times for businesses to send text messages are just before or after lunch. We took a detailed look at this back in 2012.

3. Choose quality over quantity

A spokesperson for Smith’s campaign has since apologised for the after hours text messages blaming a “technical glitch” for messages delivered past the 8pm cut-off. Investing in a high quality, reliable and robust platform when communicating with your customers and staff will ensure your marketing delivers results at the standard your business or brand demands.

Contact us today for all your mobile messaging needs and discover how Esendex can make your business communications better.

3 valuable marketing lessons to learn from Pokémon GO!

Online shopping statistics

Almost 21 years since its launch, Nintendo’s Pokémon looks set to transform reality as we know it – again. The augmented reality gaming app already has more than 11 million Android users in the US and more users than Twitter even though it only saw release in the UK less than a week ago.

What’s being labelled as the latest new fad to be experienced by children, teens and even grown adults, is like an eternal Easter Egg hunt with eggs strewn far and wide. But Instead of threatening your waistline, this hunt encourages socialising and improves mental well being, as users collect Pokémon, visit virtual Pokéstops and undertake battles, all through the lens of a smartphone.

All hail augmented reality; the use of technology to superimpose digital creations into the physical world – and it seems to be making itself very comfortable in the business world.

With the cold response to the launch of Google Glass, there has always been some speculation as to whether this type of technology could really be accepted by consumers – Snapchat being one of the only real apps that have successfully dabbled with augmented reality, with its ‘enhanced’ reality selfies. However, what Pokémon GO showcases is how the digital and physical worlds may be able to co-exist through a mobile device.

1. Embracing mobile-first

An odd move by a company that has previously resisted smartphone gaming apps. But it seems they’re now embracing mobile-first… And this presents a great opportunity for marketers.

People are walking around with their eyes glued to their portable screen which means users that you want to reach are ready for a mobile experience that integrates with digital and reality. They are poised and ready to interact with their phone and their surroundings.

2. Creative piggybacking can pay off

Retailers are already inserting themselves into the game by purchasing ‘lures’ meant to attract Pokémon into their establishments, an animal shelter has received a lot of media attention by inviting young players to come and walk real rescue dogs as they join the hunt for Pokémon, it’s even the topic of top brand’s conversations – and it’s working!

Highly engaged players are set to spend more time in the gaming app than on Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Whether or not it lasts, the almost manic popularity of Pokémon GO should encourage businesses to think about mobile, and the fact that the best marketing tool is already in your customer’s hands.

3. Digital disruption is happening

2016 is predicted to be a turning point for the mass adoption of next-gen digital and Pokémon GO leads the way for augmented/virtual reality. As the first screen to the real world, Mobile helps brands get the one-to-one, personalised experiences they need with consumers.

Pokémon GO has opened up a new set of doors for any audiences on-the-go. To learn more about our mobile marketing solutions contact a member of our team today on 0345 356 5758.

Now go catch ‘em!

World Emoji Day: Make your customers smile

celebrate World Emoji Day with SMS and Unicode

How do you express your emotions when you can’t find the right words?

As #WorldEmojiDay trended on Twitter yesterday, many of you probably missed it, out enjoying the fleeting signs of the British summer! But there’s certainly something to be celebrated; emojis have turned the corner from silly to serious – and now there’s a precedent for any brand marketer to turn their Emoji game up.

During the annual celebration of the Emoji, many brands from Sky and the BBC through to McDonalds competed for prominence for the brand engagement the colourful visual language offers.

BBC using emojis on twitter

Once known as the emoticon, the little symbols that began as mere happy and sad faces have now evolved into people, animals, vegetables, occupations and household items. If you can’t find an emoji for what you want to say – yet – there will definitely be designers somewhere to fix that problem, with new emojis released periodically.

Psychologists have proven that emojis play a pivotal role in human communication. Detecting tone when reading words in any language, particularly over a text message or email can be difficult.  The emoji and visual clues that they offer for the tone of the message have probably saved countless relationships between humans… Which is why they’re so celebrated!

But what about brands and their customers?

Don’t think that the mere addition of a 🙂 in your bulk text messages will means your business gets more love, but it could help.

35% of consumers report never having received an emoji in a brand message (Appboy), which seems to be a wasted opportunity when you see the conversion rates for Emoji campaigns sent in an email or text message (135% year-on-year).

43% of consumers aged 25-44 years-old think it is fun when brands use Emojis in messages. (Appboy)

People love emojis, 92% of the online population use emojis, and 64% of consumers said they either like or love emojis, and are open to receiving more of them in marketing. It is the perfect opportunity to grab someone’s attention, make your relationship more personal and it’s fun!

Whether you’re marketing a new addition to the menu at your restaurant, your latest Summer bikini collection in store or want to collect feedback on service with a simple “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”, you can.

But emojis aren’t just about marketing.

For those too lazy or “hungover” to pick up their phone, Dominos have created “emoji orders” where users simply text the emoji pizza icon to their local Dominos who will then make up the user’s favourite order, based on previous visits, to your doorstep.

Yesterday Barclays released their financial-service-themed emojis for World Emoji Day which signals a new market is opening for the language – not just for the financial sector but emojis for those more difficult conversations where a loan is needed or money needs to be repaid.

In the wake of the American presidential election, The Huffington Post has also now ramped up its competition against other news publications by appealing to mobile-first consumers by including an emoji keyboard which puts a more humorous spin on the election.

While sometimes silly and usually fun, the emoji isn’t as easy to overlook as it once was and might just be changing the way brands, consumers and people interact.

(more…)

Preparing for Data Protection reform, post-Brexit

Post-Brexit and Data Protection Reform due to the GDPR

Just over two weeks have passed, and many businesses are still trying to address the elephant in the room: what happens now, post-Brexit?

From a data protection perspective, here’s what we’ve discovered. As most business owners are aware, an EU regulation (the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR), was due to replace the UK’s Data Protection Laws, starting May 2018.

So what impact will the EU referendum have on the UK’s data laws during a period in which the UK will be negotiating its EU exit? In short, there’s no certainty.

However, there is plenty that your business can do to prepare for the most likely outcome.

Following a statement from the Information Commissioner’s Office at the close of last week, we do know that that clear laws and safeguards are needed more than ever in a growing digital economy and it is likely the ICO will be presenting the view that the reform should still go ahead.

Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, stated:

“With so many businesses and services operating across borders, international consistency around data protection laws and rights is crucial both to businesses and organisations and to consumers and citizens.”

“The ICO’s role has always involved working closely with regulators in other countries, and that will continue to be the case.”

Esendex is a part of this growing digital landscape and we recognise the importance of compliance. After all, even in the aftermath of Brexit, the UK will not be without a Data Protection law – our Data Protection Act will also need updating to effectively meet the business needs of companies processing personal information in the 21st century.

A separate statement by the ICO replicates that sentiment:

“We still think our plan of what guidance to expect and when remains useful. This is because once implemented in the EU, the GDPR will be relevant for many organisations in the UK – most obviously those operating internationally.”

So what can your business do to prepare?

We’ve broken it down into five key takeaways:

1. Knowledge and understanding

If you may have employees within your company who are unaware of the Data Protection reform, or fundamentals of the UK legislation itself, it could cause compliance risks. Raise awareness of the current UK legislation and consider the implications that the GDPR could bring. Irrespective of EU membership uncertainty, leaving preparations until the last minute could see your business suffer.

2. Compliance and consent

How is your business collecting, storing and recording data consent? There are references to ‘consent’ and ‘explicit consent’ in the GDPR. How does your business define consent: is it implied, opted-in or inferred from inactivity? If you can’t demonstrate that consent has been given in the first instance, it’s time to start looking at your processes for obtaining it.

3. Data storage

If you can’t track or find where your data came from or with whom you are actively sharing it, across departments or with third parties, then an information audit is necessary. The GDPR looks set to reinforce both privacy and accountability.

4. Third parties

Data storage also ties in neatly to third party sharing. If you are sharing your customer’s data with third parties, to process the data you have collected on your behalf, are you aware of how they will achieve this? Esendex offers complete transparency in our data protection practices; we will never interfere with your customer’s data or adopt it for our own use. Our ISO 27001 accreditation also gives you assurance that the information we process for you is handled securely. Investigate the processes of those with whom you share data to ensure they maintain your standards, the standards of UK legislation and potential EU reform rules.

5. Individual rights

Do your current processes cover the rights of individuals in terms of data access in reasonable requested formats or procedures for erasing data held?  How easily do your current systems and processes enable you to handle individual data requests? Data portability is one aspect of the GDPR that you may want to action.

To learn more about our security standards or about any of our products or services contact our team on 0345 356 5758.

What’s the point of the Net Promoter Score metric?

This is something Esendex have been digging into recently, as (full disclosure!), gathering Net Promoter Score data is one of the key functions of our SMS Surveys product. We weren’t sure what the Net Promoter Score was, how to get started, or what the data was useful for – so, if you’re in a similar position, read on!

What is the Net Promoter Score?

The Net Promoter Score survey asks your customers one question:

“Using a 0-10 scale, how likely are you to recommend this business / brand to a friend or colleague?”

You can use the results of this survey to judge how loyal your customers are compared to other businesses in your field, how satisfied they are with your products or service, and, in turn, get an indication of your potential growth.

Calculating your Net Promoter Score

A score of 0-6 is considered to be a detractor. They’re not likely to recommend you, so you can infer that they’re not particularly happy with your products, or loyal to your brand.

A score of 7-8 is regarded as passive. They’re happy enough, but not so much that they’re not vulnerable to being poached by a competitor.

A score of 9-10 is a promoter. They are likely to recommend you, and so you can reasonably conclude that they are highly satisfied with your products/services, and likely to continue to do business with you.

How to collect the data

We experimented with SMS and email/online survey software to gather NPS data for Esendex.

SMS Surveys: highly effective for NPS data collection, as they’re likely to be seen, and very easy to respond to with a 0-10 selection.

Email / Online Surveys: not as effective, as the email has to first be opened, then clicked-through, then the survey completed, but it does have the advantage of being cheap.

We’ll write up the results in more detail in the near future, but for us, SMS was the most effective method of surveying customers.

What is your Net Promoter Score telling you?

You can use your current NPS data as a benchmark, and then seek to improve it over time, and/or you can compare your company’s performance to the competition.

Net Promoter Score Industry Benchmarks

The above graphic shows the average NPS by industry. If you search online, you’ll find many more examples, most of which are more complicated in that they show the range of responses and the average. Our data came from NPS Benchmarks which accrues data from 54 different countries, and 48 industries.

Your Net Promoter Score is not a per cent (%), it can range from -100 to +100 – but you’ll need to apply the context of your own historical score or your peers’ scores for it to be meaningful.

Look out for our white paper on this subject coming soon, where we explore the attitudes to the survey (and the platforms used to deliver it) across the world, and what that means for your brand.

Download and share our full Net Promoter Score infographic here.

‘Bot’ can I help you with today? Esendex has its own chatbot

As a leader in business communication, it’s fitting that Esendex is an early adopter of new tech in this space – becoming one of the first 11,000 companies to launch a bot on Facebook’s Messenger platform.

While the scope of bots is fairly broad, from news on demand and medical advice through to life-coaching, our web team decided to start off with something relatively simple in nature, but one that serves a great purpose for automating the more traditional queries that we get from our Facebook followers.

The Esendex Facebook bot enables users to interact with us to find the simple information that may be required, with just one word, without the need to navigate our site.

bot-example-2

We recognise how important it is to be able to engage and communicate with our customers on the channels that they use every day, from Mobile and SMS through to Email and social media. It’s all about Multichannel messaging and we want to help you get it right. (more…)

On ya bike: Esendex totals 1,675 miles at Cycle Live

Esendex Cycle Live team

Just some of the Esendex team

There were a few sore bottoms in the Esendex office on Monday morning after the Esendex team managed to clock up an incredible 1,675 miles at Cycle Live’s Great Notts Bike Ride on Sunday.

Nottingham’s 35th annual mass participation ride saw more than 4,000 riders take on one of five routes on Sunday, opting to ride 25, 50, 75, 100 or 125 miles. We decided to not only sponsor the event, but also tackle the routes ourselves.

Esendex team at Cycle Live

Chief Technical Officer, Alex Lea was the only one brave enough to take on the 100 miler, while CEO, Geoff Love, Chief Financial Officer, Simon Baker and Software Ops Lead, Jonathan Relf took on the 75.

Even though Sunday’s weather forecast remained typically British, more than 30 Esendex staff turned out to tackle the suitably named “Maid Marian,” “Robin Hood”, “Friar Tuck,” and “Little John” routes and thoroughly enjoyed it, soaking up the wonderful sights that Nottinghamshire’s countryside has to offer.

Esendex text message reminder and alertEsendex were on hand to provide text messages to participants containing those all important numbers required for emergencies and support throughout the duration of the event. Events director Nik Edmonds highlighted just how important SMS was to the smooth-running of Cycle Live, commenting:

“The use of SMS this year was genuinely a lifesaver.”

“We had to get the critical numbers present in all of our literature out to all participants via as many means as possible, with SMS being by far the most effective.”

He added: “The fact people could keep the numbers stored in their phones via SMS, and then just hit to call them if required, was a massive benefit!”

While many of the purple team may still be feeling sore, we’re all soaking up the huge sense of achievement the completion of the ride has bought – some of us are already preparing for the next.

Are you managing or coordinating an event? Want to know how text messaging could help? Contact a member of our sales team today on 0345 356 5758.