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8 Best Yet Inexpensive Customer Appreciation Ideas

Most businesses consistently thank their customers for doing business with them. This simple act of demonstrating gratitude to consumers who support your business is not to be underestimated. Customers want to feel appreciated. And the more appreciated they feel, the more likely they are to become a return customer and recommend your business to others. If you want to show your customers your appreciation, here are eight great yet relatively cheap ideas to try.

Treat Them On Their Birthday

Many businesses offer some sort of birthday reward. To show your appreciation to a customer on their special day, you can offer them a free product or service. This can be something as small as a free beverage or free dessert on their birthday if you’re in the food industry.

Have A Customer Appreciation Sale

Sales are a great way to appreciate your customers and drive sale volumes. To express your gratitude for your most loyal customers, hold an exclusive sale just for them. The makeup retailer, Sephora, does an excellent job of rewarding their biggest spenders by granting them early access to sales and a higher discount than other customers.

Listen To Their Input

If customers have voiced concerns or made suggestions in the past, listen to their feedback. If their suggestions are a good idea or their concerns are valid, make the necessary change. The next time you see the customer, inform them of the changes you made and thank them for their feedback. This informs the customer that you value their opinion.

Connect With Customers

Taking the time to have a conversation with a customer can show them that you’re grateful for their business. It’s also a sure way to form a connection and convert them into a loyal customer. Perhaps, you have a shared interest or they shared details about their family with you. Make sure to remember these tidbits of information and ask about it the next time you talk to the customer.

Surprise Them With An Upgrade

Upgrading your customer’s product, service, or experience is a great way to show your appreciation. The costs of upgrading are typically cheaper than giving something away for free. If you manage a theatre or concert hall, you could surprise a customer by upgrading their seats to better ones at no cost on the day of the show. Those seats are going to be empty anyways. You might as well show a customer appreciation by improving their experience.

Give Them A Freebie

Delighting a customer with a free product or service is the ultimate way to show your appreciation. This is an amazing way to reward and encourage customer loyalty. If your products or services are quite expensive, this idea might not be as feasible. However, if you manage a business like a restaurant, you can show your appreciation by giving a regular customer their meal or dessert on the house once in a while.

Go Above And Beyond

While you might not always have the time to go out of your way for a customer when it’s busy, doing so when you have chance can show how much you appreciate them. For example, if an item the customer is looking for is out of stock, you could order it in specifically for them or help them track down the item at another location. On the other hand, if you know a customer orders the same thing every single day, you can have it prepared and ready for them as soon as they enter your store.

Provide Personalized Service

It takes little to no effort to provide personalized service to a customer, and yet, it can make their day. If you know your customer’s name, ensure you greet them by their name. If you conversed with the customer before about an interest or a hobby, ask them about it. Providing a customer with a personalized service can make them feel special. It also lets them know that you care enough to actually listen and remember facts about them.

Conclusion

As a business, customers are at the heart of what you do. Making your customers appreciated not only makes their day, but it can also greatly benefit your business. With so many ways to show your customers gratitude, there’s really no excuse not to.

Christina Lee is a business development manager at College paper and Essay help. She writes about business growth and customer engagement strategies for such services, as OX Essays, and others.

9 Easy Hacks To Increase Customer Engagement And Slash Your Bounce Rate

When it comes to getting people to your website and keeping them there, the key is engagement. If your visitors aren’t engaged with what you are offering them, they are highly likely to bounce onto the next website that is able to capture their engagement.

A customer is considered to be ‘bouncing’ from your website when they decide not to go further than the home page. What this typically means is that they weren’t interested enough to stay on your site, or found it too difficult to find what they were looking for. But, how can you optimize the level of customer engagement and prevent them from hopping off your site and onto another? Here are 9 easy ways to keep your customers interested and increase your sales:

  1. How User-Friendly Is Your Website?

When your customers enter your website, what does their experience look like? Is it easy to navigate and find the information, products or services they are looking for? Customers will get easily frustrated and quickly abandon your website if they encounter problems finding what they need. If customers are expressing frustration about navigating your website, listen! They are the ones who are using it, so their feedback matters.

  1. Add Calls To Action In The Right Spots

Inspiring your online visitors to act means you’ll have to prompt them to take action. Add calls to action where appropriate, so that your customers can easily be guided to where they need to go in order to complete the transaction they need. And, keep your call to action honest – if you are offering something for free, then asking for credit card information, it can cause many users to feel misled and bounce.

  1. Speed Up Your Site

In our fast-paced world, almost nothing will turn away a customer than a slow website. Ensuring that each page of your website is optimized for speed can help maintain a high level of customer engagement and prevent them from leaving. You would be shocked with how quickly someone will abandon your site if a page isn’t loading fast enough. In just a few seconds, customers will make their decision whether they are sticking with your site, or whether it’s too slow for them.

  1. Do Some A/B Testing

Test out the performance of your pages by creating A/B tests. Different landing pages and calls to action will yield different results, so you can see which one gains better traction and implement the ones with the best results.

  1. Include Engaging Videos

Videos can help explain a lot of information easily and quickly, and many users prefer to watch a short video than to read anything of length. Including short, informative videos can keep users engaged and moving through your website.

  1. Highlight Lots Of Great Images

Images are highly engaging, and including high quality images in all the right places can help drop your bounce rates. Large, quality images are eye-catching and are being more widely utilized by companies looking to bump up the engagement of their customers. Either create your own images by hiring a professional photographer or utilize free stock images.

  1. Let Others See What Your Customers Are Saying

One of the most effective ways to highlight what your potential customers can expect from you is by providing feedback from past customers. Customer feedback is an effective tool because it provides honest words from real people who have already utilized your products or services and found their experience so phenomenal that they needed to share with others.

  1. Readability Is Key

You may have a great deal of informative and useful information throughout your website, but if it’s not easily readable, your visitors will quickly tune out. The visual setup and overall look of your website includes ensuring that all text is easily readable, no matter what device you are viewing on. Take into consideration font size, as well as style and color, to ensure that it’s legible and clear enough.

  1. Demonstrate Yourself As A Credible Source

 Getting a new customer to put their trust in you can be asking quite a lot, so you’ve got to show them that you are trustworthy and capable of what you are proposing. Online customers are increasingly skeptical about trusting new companies with their business, so you will have to earn their trust as a credible source in order to hold their engagement.

Having your customers remain engaged while navigating your website is essential in growing your online success. Start implementing these 9 hacks, and start seeing the effects of higher customer engagement and lower bounce rates.

As an expert in boosting and growing customer engagement, Emily Henry shares her knowledge as a blogger at State Of Writing. She also contributes her expertise in the subject as an assignment writer at Essay Writing Service, where she hopes to help business owners optimize the success of their businesses.

If You Have to Fire an Employee

How to Address Moral Issues That Come with Firing an Employee

There’s a good probability you’ll have to fire an employee as a manager at some time in your career.

Regardless of the reasons why you’re letting someone go or who they are, the result is usually an awkward and emotional time afterwards, especially for the employees who are staying at your business. You could possibly be left with a bunch of disappointed, sorrowful employees who are concerned about their own job security once the individual bids his farewell.

A firing or mass layoff can have a big influence on the tone of the company, and current employee morale can suffer dramatically; and as a manager is vital that you take the steps necessary to boost morale and keep it high, but how do you do something like this? In this guide, we’re going to find out.

Describe why the firing happened (as much as you legally possible)

Firstly, it’s important to remember when giving an explanation for why an employee was fired; it’s best to be cautious for legal reasons. It may not be something that can or should be discussed publicly within an organisation in some instances.

You basically want to make sure that everyone on my team was on board Explain that a line was crossed and such red line guidelines need to be understood and respected by everyone on the team.”

“You may not be able to reveal too many details about the scenario because you must respect the privacy of the dismissed employee, but you can still give employees the opportunity to express their concerns, according to Hall. Ask open-ended questions to assist employees to identify what’s bothering them in one-on-one meetings, and focus on each employee’s contribution to the team,” shares Tina Marie, a project manager at Research papers UK.

Congratulate the remaining employees on their excellent performance

“This is also an excellent moment to express gratitude to people who are contributing significantly to the organisation—as long as you do so truly,” shares Jason Harper,  a business blogger at Draft Beyond and Writinity.

Give The Fired Or Laid-off Employee The Best Possible Treatment

Offer to submit a wonderful letter of recommendation and/or be a reference for an employee who was let go as part of a layoff—and they left the company through no fault of their own.

Treat them well not only because they deserve it but also because how you treat them will reverberate among your current staff. Being treated properly can lead to empathy for both the individual and the company. Existing employees will be enraged if individuals who were let go are treated badly.

Explore and Talk About the Next Steps

During a change like this, especially in a small business, the CEO’s role is not only to explain why the choice was made but also to build a picture of what will happen next—getting employees focused on the company’s future and how it will continue to grow despite the inevitable workforce changes.

Your staff need to understand the plan, where you’re going, and how you’re going to get there—sometimes without the assistance of a former teammate. The worst thing you can do is remain silent and presume your employees share your viewpoint. Keeping morale high after a staffing turnover requires open and honest communication.

Put a Smile on Your Face

Finally, try to find a way to lighten the atmosphere quickly after a layoff. One morning, bring in breakfast or coffee. Organise a lunch for the team. Lunch should be pizza. Make plans for a pleasant hour. Relax. Regroup. Refocus.

This also means you need to show compassion to the employees that have left and those who have stayed. Remember, people have families, and they work to pay their bills. You shouldn’t avoid the subject, nor should you just blank everything that’s happening or bad mouth the person who has been released. It’s about making the experience as positive as possible, even if someone has done something wrong.

Treat it as a lesson learned.

Jenny Williams is a Business analyst and writer at Paper writing service and Lucky Assignments Liverpool. She also writes for Gum Essays service blog and helps businesses to become the best versions of themselves.

Getting Started With AI at Your Business

It seems like artificial intelligence is getting a lot of attention lately. You read articles about it, see presentations that cover AI and you hear about a range of products and services that now have “smart” features. 

For today’s businesses, there are a lot of options for ways AI can be used. If you are looking for the most beneficial applications, AI applied to business intelligence has a lot of potential. Using an AI-powered BI tool, businesses can streamline their analytics operations and get deeper insights.

With AI data analytics having so much to offer businesses of all sizes, more companies are looking to introduce this technology to their teams. However, many people still do now fully understand what AI can do for their data and what they might need to do to start using AI.

What can AI do for analytics?

You probably already know what AI is: it is the science of making smart machines. With powerful AI systems, machines can be taught or programmed to perform complex tasks that used to require the intelligence of a human. Data analysis happens to be one of the tasks that AI performs well at.

With enough data, an AI algorithm can find meaningful patterns and relationships in the data. In many cases, AI systems can even learn as it is exposed to more data. This means that it can get smarter and better at its job the more it works.

As it concerns business applications, you could feed all of your business data to the AI-powered analytics tool. With automated analysis, it can find insights that might benefit a business in a number of ways. It might find waste in your operation, a missed revenue opportunity, a trend in the market, a group of customers that could be valuable or any number of things.

Even beyond insights about the past and present, AI can work well for forecasting. Using predictive analytics, the AI builds models based on historical data. It then runs data about the current condition to predict what may happen in the future. Many of these systems can even run various solutions or actions a business could take to respond to the prediction through the model to help leaders find the right path forward.

In the past, all of these functions required the skills of a data scientist. Not only that, it would often take an analytics team weeks to perform these functions. With AI applied to analytics, it can make data science teams more efficient and it can also offer some of these insights to people who do not have the skills of a data scientist.

The Implementation of AI 

Introducing AI to your business is not as simple as buying an AI analytics platform and feeding it some data. You need to take some time to assess the needs of your business and determine the goals you are trying to achieve.

Depending on the type of business you run and the goals you have, different analytics tools might work better for helping you reach your goals. You will need to find the right analytics tools and determine the types of resources your business will need to support those tools. 

Once you have the tools, it is not as simple as turning them loose on your company and its data. You are going to need to train employees on using the tools and make sure they understand how you expect them to use the tools. Make sure employees have the training they need and brief them on the types of goals you want them to achieve when they use them.

You might also need to spend a little time promoting the use of the tools. Some employees might not take to the tools as quickly as others. Teach employees about the benefits of using analytics tools and the ways AI can help them perform better at their jobs. Employees will be more likely to embrace the use of AI when they understand the benefits and have the training they need.

AI can be a valuable tool when businesses implement it in the right way. Making data-driven decisions can be a way to put your business ahead of the competition, and with features like predictive analytics, your business can be prepared for the future. For many businesses, their ability to adopt AI and integrate it with their operations will be the difference between success and failure.

Why the Customer Service Industry Needs to Embrace Virtual Reality

When it comes to customer service, the industry is in a major shift to more digital tools and features. While you can still hop on the phone and call someone for help, the customer service industry is embracing technology and new channels of enhanced experience unlike ever before.

One of the most promising areas of expansion for customer service companies is virtual reality. While the exciting technology might not sound like it’s a natural fit for the world of customer service, utilizing a VR app to provide an expanded customer service experience is proving to be a major boost for companies coming out of the pandemic and planning for the future. Here’s why the industry needs to embrace virtual reality as a new norm. 

The Future of Customer Service is Contactless

When we think of exceptional customer service, our minds tend to go to a begotten time of face-to-face specialized and personalized experiences. While the personal touch is certainly an influential aspect of customer service in 2021, the in-person experience is no longer a necessary element to a great interaction. Much of customer service is going contactless. Thanks to things like chat features and in-browser phone service, most of our experiences take place virtually nowadays. 

Still, the chat boxes and phone calls lack the certain personalized experience we still crave. This is where virtual reality fits in quite nicely for the needs of the customer service industry. A large number of industries that rely on customer service elements can benefit from embracing VR. By using virtual rooms to interact with customers, companies are able to build a more meaningful connection in these interactions and arrive at conclusions or solutions more quickly. 

WIth virtual spaces, we don’t feel like we’re missing out on anything as a consumer. You’re still able to get a face-to-face experience that is embedded in a digital environment that offers easy access to tools and resources that might be related to the inquiry or question at hand. Likewise, VR provides companies an option for proactive customer service that can enhance shopping and searching interactions in a big way.

Offering More Options to Users for Proactive Customer Service

Customer service in the digital world is more than just fielding complaints and questions. VR offers companies the option to enhance the customer experience as a means of providing better service. Everything from virtual reality spaces for digital showrooms to using VR to interact with products from home can help make customers feel more knowledgeable and prepared to make a purchase. 

Believe it or not, the brick and mortar experience we value for being a superior standard for customer interactions can be recreated to great effect in the virtual reality space. Customers love VR peripherals for shopping. New options like Walmart’s VR shopping experience can mimic the best parts of in-person interactions between customers and a business but provide the additional benefits of digital technology.

The best of both worlds is possible for customers thanks to VR customer enhancements. The same goes for employees who also play a vital role in the customer service process. 

Building a Better Customer Experience By Enhancing Employee Satisfaction with VR

Lastly, it’s worth noting that great customer service is only possible when employees are satisfied and fulfilled with their working experience. VR’s impact on employee satisfaction within customer service can be just as impactful as focusing on what the customer needs. 

When it comes to using VR to focus on employees, things like putting these advanced tools in their hands can increase their effectiveness. These resources help to give employees more solutions at their disposal to ensure they’re set up for success. By doing this, you’re not only taking advantage of the points listed above that focus on the customer experience. Employees that have access to VR for their roles in the customer engagement process are better suited to uphold a company’s values and vision for great service. 

Utilizing VR in customer service is a vital step in the evolution of what the industry is capable of accomplishing. Making steps now to embrace the technology means putting a new standard on the treatment and service of industries that spread across all of the working and professional world. 

Top Takeaways from the 2nd Annual GigCX Report

By Megan Neale, COO & Co-founder, Limitless

For all the bad that it’s done, the pandemic has actually created a wave of digital transformation, and companies have been forced to explore innovative new ways they may not have done otherwise. This was certainly apparent in the findings from our second annual GigCX report, which was based on research from gig customer service (or ‘GigCX’) freelance experts in 34 countries, covering six continents and six languages. The report also features interviews from 15 global customer experience leaders from the likes of Microsoft, Genesys, Infosys, Deloitte, Boston Consulting Group and Sage.

The research revealed that COVID-19 is leading to increased volume in gig customer service demand, and that CX leaders feel embedding more flexible customer service models in today’s frameworks is absolutely essential. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, and both the GigCX experts and CX leaders identified many other trends in customer service and experience, many of which have occurred as a result of the dramatically changed business landscape we’re seeing as we navigate the pandemic.

  1. Empathy is everything

During the pandemic in particular, we’ve seen just how much empathy matters in a customer experience situation, when speaking to people who have experienced times of extreme difficulty, or life changing circumstances. Connectedness is more important than ever, and throughout the research and interviews, the emphasis on empathy and the human connection was mentioned time and time again.

What was fascinating were the descriptors the leaders used in describing the evolving human connection we’re seeing today in the customer experience. ‘Enjoyability’, ‘Enthusiasm’, and ‘Grace’ were words they used frequently as they described the importance of humans relating to humans to build a better and more empathic customer experience.

  1. Digital dignity and the ‘GoodGig’ are on the agenda

Regardless of whether companies have in-house customer service call centers, outsourced call centers, or use GigCX or any other number of customer service channels, CX leaders were passionate about the fact that their companies value the humans providing customer service and a good customer experience for their brands. The phrase ‘digital dignity’ was used by one senior CX leader, and the idea of the ‘GoodGig’ was discussed in several conversations.

It’s a timely thought that should be at the forefront of mind as we see the dramatic rise of the gig over the last few years. CX leaders are monitoring the treatment of gig agents under the microscope both from the customers being served by them, and the governments responsible for protecting them.

Interestingly, the report research revealed that 85% of agents feel that GigCX has helped improve their mental wellbeing during the pandemic, and 76% felt that GigCX has introduced them to new skills that will help them in their career such as communication, problem solving, and time management.

  1. Peer to peer engagement is what matters the most

Again and again, CX leaders identified peer engagement and peer customer service as a top trend. Having like-minded peers putting their heads together to deliver honest answers surrounding products and services is a powerful combination.

Simply put, people, more often than not, want advice and answers from people who have hands-on experience. People who have been loyal customers, and who have used products and services for years.

  1. Asynchronous messaging is becoming more mainstream

One digital shift that many CX leaders mention was over the past year which is also driving asynchronous messaging. Forty per cent of the CX leaders interviewed said they saw an increase in customer service demand coming for async messaging tools. As one CX expert explained, asynchronous messaging may also see a boost from GigCX:

 “Asynchronous messaging will see a boost with GigCX as you could have an agent anywhere that works 15 minutes here, an hour there, two minutes an hour later, and still do their day job at the same time as serving the customer. Asynchronous works much better for someone who works eight hours in a row. And for the customer, it means they can do their entire journey with one person to maintain rapport and consistency.”

  1. There are new KPIs in town

While all CX experts agreed that traditional customer service KPIs surrounding quality and cost are still critical, there are new KPIs that are equally important.

Customer Success now means redesigning the CX journey so that customers see value at every step. It’s about proactively engaging with the customer before they need help, and making that engagement opportunity continual, so that it doesn’t just happen when it’s time to submit a customer service query.

Customer Lifetime Value is another.  It focuses on the personal connection and relationship with a customer, looking at how a long future relationship may transpire.

These are just a few of the takeaways in this year’s report. For further information, download the 2021 Annual Gig Customer Service Report is available for download here: https://www.limitlesstech.com/gig-customer-service-2021/

Call Center Training – What Do Agents Need?

Guest Blogger: Mark Pereira

When I started training over a decade ago, we had these colossal training binders filled with tons of technical material, most of which we didn’t even need to know, and several pages discussed features that our project didn’t even have. Trainees would come in, and after a few days, a class of eight or ten would turn into a class of two. And after a week or two, those trainees disappeared into thin air.

I took it on as a goal to not lose a single trainee during class – either through dropouts or failing the final exam.

I knew to stop overwhelming trainees before class could start, we had to put these training binders on an aggressive dose of Hydroxycut to get them lean.

My manager was very understanding. She gave me time off the phones to remove the 86-page user manual on our customer relationship management (CRM) system and convert it into a 40-slide instructional PowerPoint presentation. The presentation listed out the steps which trainees could use to make or change plan enrollments and, lastly, document calls.

The next thing was condensing the 30 to 40-page sections on the company’s history and health insurance. To this day, I’ve never had a caller ask an agent about the history of health insurance, so the module on the history of health insurance was reduced to two slides and the history of the company to three slides.

Further, instead of having lengthy manuals that discussed each program, we had four. I converted these into PowerPoint slides – providing the class precisely what they needed to be successful on the calls. Removing information that spoke about the history of the program, demographics, and so on, emphasizing details such as eligibility criteria, time durations for enrollments, health plan choices, etc.

Next question, was it worth it? Yes, I achieved my goal of successfully reducing the size of the training binder and engaging the class to the point that they were able to transition successfully onto the calls. I created several job aids and quick reference guides (QRGs), such as guidelines to ensure Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) practices were followed on every call before protected health information (PHI) or personal identifiable information (PII) could be released. By simplifying instructions, agents clearly understand the call center’s expectations, and we were, in turn, able to reduce HIPAA violations by 80%.

The time spent covering these lengthy manuals into PowerPoint slides, QRGs, and jobs was invested into practice sessions, role-playing, and mentoring, the elements that help to value a training class.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before practicing a lean mindset while reviewing training:

  • What do we do in our call center? And do we need this?
  • Is this something that the trainee needs to know to understand what we do?
  • Is this understandable and as simple as it can get for the trainee to transfer to their job?
  • Can I make it even simpler for my class by adding examples or stories?

Suppose you have a hard time answering the above questions. Take a moment to get onto the call center floor, ask your agents and trainees questions such as the common types of calls you receive, etc. Identify how agents assist callers, what resources they find helpful, and what struggles they will face, and so on.

Call center training can sometimes be filled with information that we would like the class to know, but I’ve noticed that it should be retained or retained in small quantities only if it adds value to the educational objectives and ensures a smooth transition to what they need to know in order to be successful taking calls. 

The main goal to call center training is easy transferability from what is taught in the classroom to the agent being able to use the information on the phones. Further, introduce and educate agents on tools they can use to assist caller’s inquiries such as job aids, presentation slides, QRGs, intranet, chat, and so on. All of these steps and resources will help to reduce average handle time (AHT), hold time, agent frustration, and in turn, turnover.

How to Plan a Business Reopening Within Your Budget

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically affected most businesses across the country. Many were forced to temporarily shut down in 2020 and make drastic changes to their operations, protocols, and offerings just to survive. Others haven’t been lucky enough to make it through the economic hardships.

If your small business is still plodding on, it’s time to plan for how you can make the most of it. Along with making all the necessary adjustments to comply with pandemic restrictions, you will need to strategize how you will market your business’s reopening. At this point, customers must know that your place of business is safe and that you can offer them what they need. 

CrmXchange has always existed to provide businesses with insight into how they can better connect with their customers. With that in mind, we offer up these cost-effective tips for implementing as you plan for your reopening:

Keep People at the Forefront

You should base your full reopening and marketing plan around people, including your customers, audience, and staff. Follow all federal, state, and local guidelines for health and safety, and make sure your customers know that you are taking extra precautions to prevent coronavirus spread. Then and only then can you proceed to market your reopening. 

Boost Your Budget 

You will most likely need to make adjustments to your business budget. Evaluate how the pandemic has impacted your finances, and figure out how you can cut expenses and boost cash flow so that you can make the necessary changes to your operations and marketing strategy. If you need additional funds, see what small business grants and loans are available to you, including those offered by government and private companies.

One of the easiest ways to maintain a big-picture perspective of your finances is to review regular income statements. For example, regularly running a profit loss statement will provide you with a deeper understanding of how your business is doing. An income statement can easily organize information like revenue, expenses, profits, and losses, providing insight that can help you make decisions concerning your budget and marketing plan. 

Provide Exclusives 

Nothing can more effectively encourage existing and new customers to visit your business than offering exclusive deals and discounts. Create in-store discounts and advertise them on social media. Send out email promotions for products or services. Reward long-time customers with loyalty points or discounted memberships. Think of how you can incentivize people to choose your business and invest now for long-term success. 

Transform Your Communication Strategy

There has never been a time when communication is more critical — and chances are you need to change your message and tone from what it was before the pandemic hit. Consider how the pandemic has impacted your customers, your community, and the world at large. Shape your marketing content to address pertinent issues and engage people where they are. 

Use Free and Paid Ads

Social media is the most obvious way to promote your brand for free. Engage your audience by posting and interacting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other platforms that your target market uses frequently. But don’t be afraid to spend a little money on advertising. Pay-per-click ads (e.g., Google Ads, Facebook Ads, LinkedIn Ads, etc.) are typically affordable, and they can go a long way in attracting customers to your business.

If your business is getting ready to reopen, it’s critical to make the most of the opportunity. Remember to consider your customers, audience, and staff at every turn as you put together your reopening and marketing plan. Determine how you can maximize your budget, and develop exclusive deals and promotions. Lastly, strategically shape your marketing message to meet individuals where they currently are, and take advantage of free and paid advertising. Then, you’ll have the foundation for a vital reopening. 

Taking A Proactive Approach Prepares a Contact Center for Any Eventualities

We all want to believe we are taking the right measures to stay one step ahead of whatever life might throw at us next. We put blankets, tire inflators and glass cutters in our cars to be ready for emergencies. We purchase insurance policies to cover our homes, our cars and even our day-to-day care as we age. Some people even go so far as to sleep with a firearm at hand

But unlike individuals who feel the need to plan ahead, many contact centers operate reactively. Customers call, e-mail, and send social media messages with inquiries that are responded to on an as-needed basis. In an evolving environment where challenges keep coming faster and issues are more complex, this may no longer be the optimal strategy for long-term success.

Forward-thinking contact center executives are discovering the potential of providing proactive customer service. This can be defined as the process of pinpointing specific customer issues and acting on them before they become problems. In essence, the paradigm shifts to reaching out to the customer instead of waiting for them to take the first step. Taking this kind of initiative offers businesses the unique opportunity to meet and go beyond customer expectations, while strengthening customer relationships, increasing business volume, and building advocacy.

Some companies might be wary that customers might be reticent to receive their overtures, but an inContact study quoted in a recent SuperOffice blog reveals that 87 percent of U.S. adults would be happy to be contacted proactively by an organization or company. Sixty seven percent would be pleased to be contacted about fraudulent activity and a majority is fine with being contacted about appointments, reminders and being asked questions about an order. A full 77 percent who had a good incoming call experience reported feeling more positive about the company that delivered it.

Not only can proactive customer service help reinforce customer loyalty, this growing practice can also result in gaining new customers via advocacy. In addition, it gives businesses a leg up in limiting escalation while staving off the brand negativity that often comes when issues fester.

Taking a more preemptive approach gives companies the luxury of knowing what was coming ahead of time and being able to do something about it. Establishing proactive contact center enables organizations to know when… and how …, to reach out to customers and act early to manage situations instead of simply putting out fires.

Managers and executives can learn how to set up an effective Early Warning system in an upcoming complimentary CrmXchange webcast entitled “The Case for a Proactive Contact Center” on January 14, 2021 at 1:00 pm ET. Shawna Malecki, Senior Product Marketing Manager for NICE InContact, will share her expertise in helping businesses use technological solutions and common-sense best practices to build a greater rapport with customers.

Among the topics to be explored in creating a proactive contact center environment are:

  • Be Prepared. Communicate the need for adaptability that enable a business and its front-line team are to be less reactive to sudden, unexpected change.
  • Spot Early Warnings. Quickly act on early warnings before they impact customer service.
  • Take Advantage. Understand the effects of analytics on cost, revenue, quality, and insight and improving the customer experience.

Register now to find out how your company can not only keep existing customers happy but turn them into brand advocates that can bring in both new customers and increased revenue. If you can’t attend the live webinar, a link to it will posted 24 hours after it is presented.

Three Tips for How Brands Can Avert a CX Crisis Amidst COVID-19

Every organization has its own philosophies and methodologies for how best to establish customer relationships, but despite how companies get there, the end goal has always been the same: Treating people with care and respect to establish trust and improve their experience with your brand.  

The pandemic has made this notion even more clear. In a time of complete uncertainty, customers simply want to connect with brands on a human level. In fact, recent research on consumer behavior shows that demand for human-to-human interaction in customer service environments is surging. Today, most consumers prefer human customer support over automated and self-service channels.

Yet, this human-first approach to customer service isn’t always easy or straightforward. In their path to improving customer relationships and service, many organizations end up “over automating.” The rationale being, if they can automatically answer more customer questions at the onset of a call or text or chat, they have staff focus on only the most serious of customer cases. The problem here is that rarely do customers see their issue as anything but serious.

That’s not to say that automation doesn’t have its place – like the checking of a balance or finding out when a bill is due. However, not even the smartest chatbots or self-service solutions can effectively and completely respond to 100% of customer needs, especially during a pandemic. Imagine trying to explain to a chatbot that you lost your job and can’t return to work because you need to take care of your kids?

There’s a better way. Instead of using technology to automate as many interactions as possible, organizations should use technology to make human interactions smarter and more effective.

Artificial intelligence, machine learning, speech analytics and natural language processing solutions are emerging as ways to extract intelligence from every customer interaction and equip employees with the direction and guidance they need to meet customer needs in real time, at the human level.

During COVID-19, this means being able to identify common pain points across your customers, which customers are the most vulnerable, and more.

Delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX) and treating customers as real people requires a rock-solid, data-based understanding of all challenges, and a willingness to use the insights to change and improve the broader business.

In particular, there are three key areas where I see organizations using technology to gather and operationalize these insights, in turn equipping customer service teams with the knowledge and direction they need to make every customer interaction the best it can be:

  1. Proactively alert agents when they are dealing with vulnerable customers. Not every situation is the same, and vulnerability has many faces. Whether it’s flagging certain scenarios such as hardships due to unemployment – or even detecting stress or agitation in a customer’s voice – leveraging capabilities such as sentiment analysis to identify the common triggers of a vulnerable customer is key to any CX strategy. When common elements have been identified, benchmarks can then be created to label those similar situations more quickly and more accurately.
  2. Enabling agents with real-time guidance and actions on language to use, offers to make and questions to ask, specific to the situation. Recognizing the problem is one thing—but being able to address and solve it head-on is just as critical during these unprecedented times. However, chances are that managing vulnerability with the kind of empathy it requires isn’t included in an employee’s job description. By capturing and analyzing every interaction in real time, brands can offer personalized solutions on a case-by-case basis, including based on customer vulnerability, while also ensuring both organizational and regulatory compliance.
  3. Providing meaningful feedback and training for managing similar situations in the future. Inbound requests for customer service are at an all-time high, and most organizations are stretched thin. Add in the remote office, and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm for less-than-perfect customer experiences. Not only can the proper technology make sure engagements runs smoothly in real time, but post-call recommendations for improving and streamlining processes means agents can better perform in the future. Over time, employees will become more emotionally intelligent and in turn, improve customer sentiment towards your organization and optimize brand loyalty.

While improving real time customer engagement is important, using technology to help leadership operationalize and act on the intelligence they extract from customer interactions is also critical. Customer interactions are a goldmine of insights that can be applied to transform the business and elevate the customer experience. Any organization not listening to 100% of interactions and generating insights risks losing the pulse of its customers and falling behind as the market shifts.

There’s no foolproof method when it comes to managing a pandemic. Not even the best crisis and risk management plans could have predicted something of this scale. But the greatest CX stories did not stem from frictionless experiences. Instead, the most successful organizations focused on bridging the insights-to-action gap and understanding what people truly want in from customer experiences – and those who continue to do this even after the pandemic ends will establish the unwavering customer relationships that everyone strives for. 

About the Author: Eric Williamson is chief marketing officer at CallMiner, a provider of speech and customer interaction analytics. He has more than 20 years’ experience leading marketing programs for major companies, including Acquia, Google, Microsoft, Walmart, and Hyatt.