month 08
day 19
year 2016

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)

month 05
day 19
year 2016

Smartphones are overtaking computers for online payments – are you mobile-ready?

How important is mobile as a channel for receiving payment for products and services?

Asked that question, most people think about eCommerce / retail, and that’s certainly where much of the ‘noise’ is. As at February 2016, the amount of orders received on mobile devices out of all eCommerce had increased to 30%, up from 26% in 2015.*

However, the conversion rate rate for shoppers accessing a site on smartphones is just 3.05% in the UK, compared to 5.39% on a desktop – which indicates that retailers have some way to go to combat the distractions and difficulties that come with smaller screens.*

This isn’t news to most people. What you might not be aware of is the considerable growth in people who choose to pay bills online, and more particularly, via their smartphone.

Paying bills online is more popular than buying items online

Paying bills online for utilities, service charges, deposits, loans etc. doesn’t get nearly the same coverage as online shopping, but a recent study by Ofcom demonstrated that it’s a considerably more popular activity.

Weekly use of transactional services online by age

As the table illustrates, the group most likely to pay bills online is 25-44 year olds (50%) followed by 45-54 year olds (42%).

Looking at this in more detail, we can see that there’s a growing number of people using their smartphone as the device they’re most likely to use for this purpose, particularly women aged 16-34.

Devices used for online bill payment

If you’ve already made it possible for your customers to pay their bills via your website, you’re definitely headed in the right direction – but it’s clearly increasingly important that they’re able to make payment via their smartphone.

Given that the change is being driven by millennials, who accounted for 24% of the adult population in the EU in 2013*, I’d expect to see the smartphone overtake laptop and desktop computers combined over the next couple of years.

People aged 16-45 are more likely to access the internet on a smartphone (86.3%) as opposed to a desktop computer (76.3%). Source: Ofcom

Does this mean you have to have an app?

Another interesting finding of the Ofcom research is that currently, 41% of users prefer to use an app, and 43% prefer to use a browser.

Our team have researched whether an app or a mobile website is a better fit for your business needs, and for the most part, an app is prohibitively expensive to develop and promote. But to compete with the user experience on an app, your mobile website will need the following:

  • Fast load times, even in slow internet connection areas
  • Few distractions so that the goal (making a payment) is easy to reach
  • Finger-friendly field sizes and selections
  • To be PCI compliant, protecting your customers’ data.

Getting started

A lot of the companies I’ve spoken to in 2016 have already spotted that their current payment offerings aren’t mobile friendly, and they need to adapt to meet the requirements of their customers.

We’ve worked with them to create a payment Mobile Journey to complement their existing IVR and web based payment channels. This makes it convenient for their customers to make payments at any time, from any device, completely securely.

Mobile Journeys provide an app-like experience without the expense or challenges associated with app development and adoption. Not yet convinced? Perhaps Darwin can help:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin

*Sources: Smartinsights, Ofcom, Pew Research

month 04
day 28
year 2016

3 lessons utility companies can learn from Scottish Power

Use an intelligent voice response to transform your contact strategy

Earlier this week it was announced that a hefty fine of £18m would be dished out to Scottish Power, by Ofgem, after more than one million complaints were received against the energy supplier over a two year period.

“Unacceptably” lengthy call waiting times, complaint resolution, as well as late final bills were all at the crux of the investigation by Ofgem, which highlighted their failures to provide even the basic level of service required during and after the supplier’s implementation of new IT systems.

The fine, which is the third largest to be dished out by Ofgem, in addition to consumer research from the likes of Which, all highlight the need for sufficient contingency plans and the need to better position consumers at the heart of service quality every time. Either that or pay the price.

Almost 80% of contact centres feel that their current customer service infrastructure doesn’t support the anticipated, future needs of their consumers (Parature). Are you among them?

Incorporate the right amount of pre-planning and the right systems and you can ensure a smooth handover in the adoption of a new digital communication strategy.

1. Minimise call waiting

25% of customers switch providers because they are tired of being kept on hold (New Voice). It’s only natural to get frustrated when you can’t get the answers that you need, at the time you need them. Implementing a Voice Callback solution enables customers to request a call from your company at a time that suits them.

Reduce the time your customers spend on the path to a live agent by decreasing the number of options they’re given on their call path. Adopt an Interactive Voice System that automates, communicates and better understands customer requests.

2. Avoid delayed billing

Reliance on direct mail to communicate with your customers can often leave a sour taste; wasted paper, lengthy delivery times, lost post, a heavy reliance on staff to send them, in addition to the possibilities of them being going unread. More than 300,000 customers received late final bills from Scottish Power which meant some customers were left out of pocket.

Consider sending automated emails or text messages for instant delivery of critical information about balances or methods of payment. Where you want to direct customers to make payments, adopt a Mobile Payment Journey to provide one complete and engaging solution.

3. Proactively seek to resolve complaints

It is estimated that 35,309 complaints were received by the Energy Ombudsman concerning customer service and communication between January and June 2015, a huge increase of 55% on 2014 statistics. (USwitch) If you’re not making moves to resolve your customer’s issues then it’s likely they’ll no longer invest in you.

Consider sending a quarterly SMS Survey out to your customers to see how you’re doing before it’s too late to make a change.  Only 24% of customers stick around to see if the company will resolve their issues within a reasonable amount of time (Zendesk); make sure yours stick with you by making informed improvements.

82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service (Zendesk), but Ofgem’s investigation showcases that customer service isn’t just about investing in the right people, but the right technology.

To find out more about how Esendex’s product suite can help build your multichannel customer experience contact us on 0345 356 5758.                      

month 03
day 31
year 2016

Why customer complaints could be good for your business

How important is customer feedbackWhen was the last time that you heard from your customers or received a customer complaint? Every now and then a customer is likely to contact your business when they’re either unhappy or ecstatic – however behind every bit of voluntary feedback is a reliance on a motivated consumer.

A typical business hears from just 4% of its dissatisfied customers (Helpscout), meaning the opportunity to turn that frown upside down is so far removed from most businesses that it very rarely happens.

We all too often wait to hear from our customers and never think to instigate contact ourselves. Why? Are we scared?

If your customers are unhappy and you aren’t making moves to check, then you’re vulnerable to the 91% of dissatisfied customers who will simply leave and never return (1st Financial Training Services). What can you do to prevent them from moving on, or get them back? How do you turn that disaster into an opportunity?

70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.  (McKinsey)

While positive feedback is always great, negative feedback provides the valuable insight that your business needs to address concerns with your products, processes or customer service.

Consumers are twice as likely to share a bad customer service experience than they are to talk about positive ones (Global Customer Service Barometer). So when customers aren’t happy you need to make sure you’re making it as simple and streamlined as possible for them to tell you about it.

How to gather customer feedback

It can be as easy as chatting to customers directly, right through to collecting instant and concise feedback via text message.

SMS messages achieve a 45% response rate, whereas email is usually around 25% (Smart Insights / Fluid Surveys)

Reactions to customer service and experiences are all perception-based, they’re subjective and can change very quickly – that’s why it’s important to react quickly, particularly when processing the data that customers have provided.

Research shows it’s likely that you can exceed a 10% rise in sales from a good feedback system. (Marketing Donut)

The short shelf life of customer feedback is one of the best reasons to use the more simple tools available for capturing customer perceptions, meaning less time analysing and more time improving. Use Surveys as a leading indicator and to find a solution to your most common problems.

SMS-based surveys enjoy high conversions, with 31% of consumers responding to such invitations, on average within five minutes. (Adobe Digital Marketing)

The all NEW Esendex SMS Surveys dashboard

Our brand new SMS Surveys dashboard offers the ability to capture instant feedback through the most widely used communication channel; SMS, while providing and processing that data in real-time. Benefit from visual representations of your collected data in carefully organised graphs or pie-charts, clearly see your Net Promoter Score to gauge your customers overall satisfaction level, and export that data for important meetings and stakeholder feedback.

To discuss your customer feedback requirements or experience our new dashboard call us on 0345 356 5758 or take a free demo of SMS Surveys now.

month 03
day 21
year 2016

The hows and whys of customer feedback [infographic]

When asked whether they formally survey their customers, over 60% of companies answered ‘sometimes’ or ‘never’ (source: Growth Strategy Partners). If you’d count your business among that number, this infographic is for you!

It’s difficult to understate the case for customer feedback surveys. If you find out that you’re ticking every box, fantastic: you’ve got the opportunity to use that in your sales and marketing collateral.

It’s even more important to find out if you’re falling short. React quickly and you can turn an unhappy customer into a brand advocate.

Moreover, the simple act of surveying your customers shows them that you care. Our infographic outlines the key reasons why you should survey your customers, what platforms are most suited to sending surveys, what questions you might ask, and how to structure your survey to get the best response rates.

SMS Surveys Infographic

About Esendex

We work with over 11,000 companies worldwide to improve their business communication strategies. One of the ways we can help is by designing, sending and reporting on customer surveys, whether that’s via SMS Survey, a mobile optimised online survey, or an Interactive Voice Message. Call our team on 0345 356 5758 to learn more about the Esendex difference!

month 03
day 17
year 2016

Is it time to ditch the dialler?

Is your dialler compliant?

It’s estimated that a staggering 1.5 billion silent and 200 million abandoned calls are received from call centres every year (ICO). These calls are often companies who use a dialler to contact customers and followers of their business, enabling them to send out large volumes of outbound calls without the strain on staff.

The effects of this have spurred Ofcom’s latest intervention to knuckle down on abandoned and silent calls, and in doing so have updated a policy originally brought into action in 2010. These are the alterations they plan to make.

  • A reduction in the tolerance for abandoned call rates (ACR), from 3% to 0-1%
  • Expanding the definition of what abandoned and silent calls actually are.

These changes have not been established yet, but if put into effect could have a negative impact for debt collection agencies and their heavy dependence on the use of diallers, where they fail to meet the standards of compliance, such as an increased workload for staff.

Here at Esendex we take silent and abandoned calls very seriously, understanding the benefits Voice services can bring to the debt collection industry and the importance of compliance to avoid hefty fines. We’re able to work with DCA clients in order to proactively research, develop and implement solutions to common issues raised by the use of diallers.

Silent calls are usually caused by a dialler mistaking a human answering for an answer machine and therefore remains silent.

Our systems are 98% accurate in detection. What does this mean? In the event of a misdetection occurring, we offer an inbuilt answer phone function that is triggered when a human answers. Beep detection is offered for the opposite scenario when an answering machine is misdetected as a human and will play a recorded message on the beep.

Abandoned calls are often caused by staffing issues in contact centres, where availability of staff for dialler transfer is a problem, meaning calls are just ended, or abandoned – even when the recipient picks up.

Our Voice Broadcasting enables better control of the amount of outbound calls made at a given time, meaning that the transition between broadcast and transfer is seamless; employees won’t be overwhelmed with calls and your customers won’t be left annoyed.

The implementation of a Voice Broadcasting service can not only help you increase productivity levels, but also ensures you’re compliant with the new regulations with maximum satisfaction for customers.

To speak to a member of our team about ditching your dialler for a more compliant, cost-effective and efficient Voice system, call a member of our team on 0345 356 5758.

month 02
day 18
year 2016

5 common mistakes to avoid with Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Call centre and IVR systemsCall centres are conquering more territory than ever in various verticals, having grown from customer care gateway to being implemented in feedback, payment processing and even promotion.

With the main task of serving the customer, through sales, support or market research departments, it is essential that good contact centres are able to handle large, simultaneous call volumes allowing them to be responsive to the customer’s needs, while being adaptable to changing budgets and in turn lowering costs.

By intelligently automating the way that your business greets, communicates and supports its customers, you can better understand what your callers need all before they reach a live agent.

But what mistakes should you avoid when implementing your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system?

1. Too much information

As the starting point for your customers, your IVR should provide your caller with the information or solution they require, quickly. The human memory can often run out of the capacity to listen after more than 5 options (Customer Think) which is why providing unnecessary ones will only confuse the caller and leave them frustrated.

Your customers are looking for an immediate response and will likely abandon their call if they don’t get one. Is your IVR customer-centric and user-friendly?

2. Limited hours

IVRs are designed to assist operational efficiency and service. The everyday consumer now expects to access information via the internet 24/7 and they are gradually expecting the same of businesses too (Customer Think). Not providing an out-of-hours service misses this opportunity. Fill the void that is missing outside of the typical 9-5 by providing a basic self-serve option for more routine queries with the option for a call back.

3. No self-service option

In the case of payments, collections or balance enquiries the absence of personalised systems can often lead to frustrations in the way a customer’s call is handled. Is it time to upgrade your existing IVR system? Can your current system pull through personalised information to enable them to be redirected to a more applicable set of options?

Automating and implementing a self-service Interactive Voice solution should enable the customer to get the information and response they require in an effortless manner without the need for agent contact.  

4. Avoiding dynamic menus

Ensure that your menus are designed with the customer’s time in mind. Providing every caller with identical menu sets that ignores the previous engagements of the customer is frustrating. Improve your caller experiences by delivering more personal options based on previous interactions, routing the call appropriately.

5. No call-back option

The most important aspect of an IVR is to never waste a customer’s time. While an IVR cannot resolve every customer query it can offer a solution to get them solved quicker. This is when placing them in a virtual queue is not the solution. Always provide the option to request a call-back or speak with an agent. Where this is not an option for your business, consider our Voice Callback solution.

For further IVR or Voice service guidance, or to discuss your business communication needs contact our team on 0345 356 5758.

month 02
day 4
year 2016

Transform communication with an inbound IVR

Use and intelligent voice response to transform your contact strategy

Maximising the satisfaction of your customers by ensuring that they are sent in the right direction when they call for information or to make a request is key. Not only that but it can ensure that potential time wasted by contact centre staff on redundant matters or less specific queries is better spent on values which benefit your business.

Introducing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system into your contact strategy could significantly reduce the time your customers spend in call queues, providing a number of self-serve options without the need for human interaction, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

IVR’s are typically applied to businesses who require streamlined payment processing but are becoming increasingly more popular in other use cases:

Balance enquiries

From credit cards, financial agreements and banking through to utility bill enquiries, give your customers flexible access to manage their finances at times of day which suit them through the simple addition of an IVR. Then provide an additional option for customers to be transferred where staff contact is required.

Satisfaction surveys & feedback

Give service users a simple way of providing feedback and maximise the opportunity to collect it. Service users are more likely to provide honest answers when they don’t have to speak with a dedicated operative. Provide numbered, tiered choices and always a further option to speak with an advisor during office hours.

Event promotions and invites

Allow fans, patrons and customers to share their interest in events or find out show times with the option to speak with an advisor where questions need answering or a secure payment portal where purchases are prompted.

Appointments

Send a text reminder of a booked appointment and include your IVR number should you wish to offer an option to modify, cancel or book a follow-up.

Renewals

Send an automated text message to notify members or customers that gym memberships, insurance contracts or rental agreements are up for renewal and make it easier for them to continue their agreement with an IVR. Simple, reliable and seamless without the need for contact centre agents.

Technical support & help desk enquiries

Help to direct call and user traffic with a series of options, beneficial where technical support is required. Filter the priority enquiries from those which aren’t.

Automate and prompt the above actions through the use of simple SMS or publicise your dedicated IVR number on your website or existing communication materials to see inbound contact from your customers transform.

To discuss how an inbound IVR solution could benefit your business and improve your communication or marketing strategy call us on 0345 356 5758 or contact us.

month 07
day 24
year 2015

Are you having valuable conversations with your customers?

In a world that’s becoming increasingly social, where we Tweet, Facebook and Instagram our every move, SMS still remains the most effective way to reach people. The beauty of sending text messages is that we are glued to our phone, making it an ‘always on’ channel – in fact 91% of people keep their phone within 3 feet at all times (Morgan Stanley).

Businesses are sending text messages to their staff and customers, but are we missing a trick? Whether you’re looking to answer queries, suggest products or provide help, our SMS Chat platform allows you to engage in real time conversations.

According to HeyWire Business, up to three-quarters of consumers prefer texting for customer support as opposed to email, phone or social media interactions. Nothing frustrates customers more than being placed on hold for hours trying to get through to a customer support agent; with SMS Chat the conversations can happen at a time that suits them. It also means you can be more efficient, with more conversations happening all at once.

If you want more information on how you can use SMS chat just get in touch today – email sales@esendex.com or call us on 0345 356 5758.sms-chat-blog-image-large (1)