How to Be Prepared for Missed Holiday Calls

Dog wearing Santa hat on the phoneThe holidays are quickly approaching, and you and your employees may already be mentally checking out. This is a hectic time of year, but don't let thoughts of loading up on pumpkin pie and enduring cousin Jimmy's political rants distract you from making sure any customers who call your business over the holidays don't fall through the cracks. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for and avoid missed calls over the holidays so you can enjoy your time off.

Reroute Your Calls


Nothing says holiday fun like sitting in miles of bumper-to-bumper traffic with Jimmy texting you every 15 minutes for an ETA. Thank goodness for navigation apps and back roads.

In the same way you don't love sitting in traffic, your callers don't enjoy being stuck in an IVR loop or listening to an endlessly ringing phone. If you have special holiday hours, set up time-of-day routing to automatically redirect calls that come in outside of those hours to another number or a voicemail. If you're going to be closed for several days, call forwarding can redirect all calls to another number, voicemail or prerecorded message.

Know How to Respond (When You Get Back)


We get it. It's Christmas day. You just got the fire lit. Jimmy is anxious to relive his Southwest Tech State glory days playing football in the backyard. Why would you want to be worried about work when you could be enjoying the time off? Having a call tracking software can help you rest easy while you're away.

If you want to wait until you're open for business again to respond to that ringing phone, be sure you use a call tracking software that allows you to easily managed missed and after-hours calls. The software should capture caller information, letting you know what number they called from and if they're an existing customer. That way, when you return, you can quickly manage the calls your company received while it was closed, even if callers didn't leave a voicemail.

Tackle Missed Opportunities


Employees might not feel as motivated during the holiday season, but you still want to make sure they stay on task and professional. If they miss or fumble a call like way-too-excited-to-tackle-family-members Jimmy misses a pass, take prompt action to make sure you don't lose those customers. How exactly do you do that? By having certified call evaluation professionals listen to your calls. They'll identify call handling errors and potential lost opportunities and let you know about them so you can follow up with the customer immediately and make the situation right.

We can't help you out with cousin Jimmy, but with these three tips, you'll lose fewer opportunities and set yourself up for a strong start to the new year.

Originally posted in December 2015; updated in December 2018.

How to Get Your Marketing Into the Spirit of the Season

Christmas shoppers
Brace yourselves: Holiday marketing is coming. Many people grumble about the appearance of Christmas decorations and marketing before Thanksgiving, but if your holiday campaigns aren't already in motion, you might be missing out on leads.

Here are some tips that can help your company separate itself from a tidal wave of holiday marketing campaigns. You'll bring in customers and create a positive image during a hectic time of year.

Host a Social Media Contest


Holiday marketing is flooded with great deals every year, and there's nothing wrong with joining the chorus. This year use the gift-giving spirit of the holidays to not only engage existing customers through your social media channels but also attract new customers by hosting a contest or giveaway for a free product or service.

Social media contests can be as simple as "share this" or "like this" to have customers enter. To create a full-blown social media contest, you could ask your customers to record a video or take a picture and post it with a creative contest hashtag. Using social media will engage your customers more than having them simply submit a form, and your company will be at the forefront of their minds while they're preparing their entry.

Give Back to Your Community


Getting into the spirit of the holiday season doesn't have to mean throwing a holiday sale or a contest. You can do something philanthropic by participating in or sponsoring charitable events, such as food or clothing drives, in your community. Without asking for a purchase or offering a discount to incentivize participants, getting involved in charitable events is a great way to show your community and customer base that you’re about more than the bottom line. While you may not be focusing on increasing sales while you're volunteering or making donations, you could inadvertently end up gaining new customers.

Go Against the Grain


Black Friday is easily the busiest shopping day of the year, and retailers are constantly fighting to get a bigger piece of the (pumpkin) pie. To do so, many stores have started opening on Thanksgiving Day in an attempt to bring in more and more customers during the four-day weekend. However, some companies, such as Neiman Marcus, Costco and Dillard's, have taken a stand against being open on Thanksgiving Day, and REI has taken it a step further.

Continuing the #OptOutside tradition, REI will be closed on Black Friday for the fourth year in a row. Going against the grain this holiday season — in this case, not opening when many of your competitors are — is one way to show your employees some love and to get some good PR.

With all this new knowledge, what are you waiting for? Go forth and get marketing!

Originally posted in November 2015; updated in November 2018.

How to Pick the Right Call Tracking Provider

Analysis graph on tablet device
When it comes to picking a call tracking provider, there’s no shortage of vendors to choose from. It’s a bit like picking a coffee shop. Most stores have basic black coffee, lattes and cappuccinos. But there are other factors to consider when picking your favorite java stop: signature drinks, location, atmosphere, etc.

In the same way, most call tracking companies offer the basics, which include toll-free numbers, local numbers, inbound call tracking and various call routing options. The key to finding the provider that works for you is to make sure the vendor offers features that meet your company’s unique needs and preferences. Let’s look at a few of these features.

Campaign Targeting


Good marketers know that targeting everyone reaches no one. If you’re using call tracking to improve your marketing efforts, look for features that help you improve your targeting:

  • Local and Vanity Numbers — Check to see if the call tracking provider you’re considering can provide you with the numbers you need to target a specific geographic region or demographic.
  • PPC and Organic Search Call Tracking — To track and optimize for online-to-offline conversions, you need to know which keywords actually led to phone calls. Using a technology called Dynamic Number Insertion (DNI), pay-per-click (PPC) and organic search call tracking provide keyword-level call attribution so you can optimize your online campaigns.
  • Call Mapping — By providing a visual representation of which regions your calls are coming from, call mapping helps you improve geographic segmentation.

Reporting


With the rise of Big Data, you’re bombarded with enough data as it is. More data isn’t better unless you can use it to meet your objectives. Evaluate the types of metrics the call tracking vendor provides and make sure the call tracking dashboard can be customized to your preferences. Some of the reports you might look for include:

  • Total calls per hour, day, etc.
  • Total missed calls per hour, day, etc.
  • Total rescued opportunities
  • Total number of after-hours calls
  • Call activity by customer or agent
  • Total calls per campaign
  • Campaign ROI

Call Evaluation


Are your sales reps calling customers back? Are your customer service agents providing the kind of service that represents your brand well? What are customers saying during phone conversations with your employees? Your call tracking service should empower you to confidently answer all these questions through call evaluation features like these:

    Smiling woman wearing headset in call center
  • Outbound Call Tracking — If you need to make sure your agents are returning or following up on calls, outbound call tracking is a must. Surprisingly, though, not all inbound call tracking providers give you the option to track outbound calls.
  • Call Recordings — Listening to call recordings helps you look beyond call metrics to get a better picture of how conversations with customers are going. For example, a high number of calls in response to a campaign looks good on paper, but if all those calls are from people calling to complain, that’s not good. If your agents regularly place outbound calls, make sure your provider offers outbound call recording, as some companies only record inbound calls.
  • Speech-Recognition Technology — Reviewing call recordings can take hours — what manager has that much time to spare in a day? Look for a tool to automatically scan your recorded inbound and outbound calls for key phrases of your choice (product names, curse words, etc.). By knowing which calls contain those words or phrases, you can narrow down which call recordings you need to listen to.
  • Call Evaluation Professionals — While technology is great for picking up certain words, sometimes it takes a human to pick on up nuances. Too many leads and customers are lost to bad phone service and process deficiencies. But once again, who has hours a day to listen to phone calls? Trained call evaluation professionals can listen to your calls for you and notify you of any call handling errors and potential missed opportunities.

Productivity Tools


The more convenient and efficient a tool is, the more likely you and your employees are to use it consistently, which in turn leads to better processes and more accurate data. Here are a few features to look for:
  • Mobile App for Missed Opportunities — While it’s important to keep track of your missed sales opportunities, it’s not as effective if you’re only acting on the information half the time. If you’re going to track missed opportunities, make your call tracking provider has an app that allows you to receive missed opportunity alerts, listen to calls and add notes to recent calls while you’re on the go.
  • Desktop Application — When a call comes in, a desktop application shows the caller’s information and the associated campaign in a small popup window. That way, you don’t have to have a browser open to look up call tracking data.
  • CRM Integration — Requiring your staff to manually enter call tracking data into your CRM and vice versa is a sure way to end up with incomplete or incorrect customer data. Be sure you can integrate your CRM with your call tracking platform.
  • Click To Call for Outbound Calls — When your agents are returning customer calls, having a Click To Call button within the call log allows the employee to return calls quickly and avoid dialing errors.
  • Call Safe — When placing outbound calls, it’s imperative that you comply with the federal Do Not Call (DNC) list. Look for a tool that automatically scans phone numbers against the DNC registry as an additional layer of protection.

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Get in touch with us and we’ll help you identify the features and services that’ll help you meet your goals.

Originally posted in April 2014; updated in October 2018.

Three Signs Your Marketing Strategy Is Stuck in the Past

It's crazy to think we're now less than two years away from 2020. Wasn't it just 2010? Weren't we just experimenting with viral videos, joining social media as a brand for the first time and diving into mobile advertising?

Man working on outdated machine next to child on new technology.As time flies by, it's important to make sure your marketing techniques are flying along with you. The traditional approach of sticking to what's worked in the past won't help you maintain a competitive advantage. Your competitors are and have always been watching your every move and will be scheming to differentiate their product from yours. How can you keep up if you're too hesitant to change?

It's out with the old and in with the new. If any of the outdated strategies below hit a little too close to home, keep reading to learn how you can overcome some common mistakes and embrace the change.

You Trust Your Gut Over Data


How are customers interacting with your company? What led them to your site or initially sparked their interest in you, resulting in an improved perception of your company? What can you do to continue being more visible? Without data, your answer to these questions is nothing but a hunch. With something as important as your job or the company's growth and profits on the line, do you really want to risk not utilizing the right data to make educated decisions?

Although decision makers who have the final say can sometimes be set in their ways and think they know best, McKinsey revealed that companies that don't put data at the center of their marketing and sales decisions are missing out on a 15-20 percent increase in marketing ROI. The data we now have access to is astounding — utilizing it means a better experience for all parties involved. Consider implementing data to track the effectiveness of your advertisements, website, content marketing, keywords and online-to-offline conversion rates.

Your Brand Still Lacks a Personality on Social Media


It's time to get real with potential and current customers on social media sites. People want to feel like they're interacting with a real person. Take MoonPie, for example. In response to a snarky tweet at the brand from a user named Kaela, MoonPie broke customer service norms and responded back with a witty jab of its own. The conversation received thousands of impressions.

Now we're not saying you have to give snarky remarks to negative comments your social media accounts receive, but it is time to get personal with potential and current customers on social media sites. With about 2 billion users logging into three of the biggest channels every month (Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus), it's no surprise that brands are literally hiring people to be hilarious to make the brand go viral and get more impressions.

Even if you're looking to maintain a more sophisticated social media persona, make sure you're doing your best to engage your customers on social media. If they tweet you, make sure you're replying promptly. If your posts aren't getting impressions, consider doing some research to discover what does get impressions. Social media is one of the least expensive ways to increase brand awareness, so make sure you're maximizing all the resources it provides.

You Haven't Automated Anything


Increased efficiency is the goal for a lot of companies these days, and it's becoming more and more feasible and affordable to implement artificial intelligence (AI), such as interactive voice response (IVR) or chatbots. These technologies increase efficiency by taking care of minuscule tasks, allowing your staff time to work on more cumbersome tasks.

We definitely think keeping human touch alive is critical (just check out our last blog post) but by the year 2035, AI will be boosting productivity by a staggering 40 percent or more, which certainly justifies the need for automation.

While sticking to whatever conventional methods your company has been using is comfortable and familiar, it's time to innovate. Jackie Fenn, a specialist in innovation for Gartner, said, "You cannot afford to stay still — business is a moving escalator. The world is moving around you  customer expectations are changing, competitors are always catching up and threatening to take away your business." We couldn't agree more.

What is your business doing to stay ahead of the curve?

Why Your Customers Still Expect Human Interaction in an Artificial Intelligence World

Human and robot play tug-of-war.
There's no question about it that artificial intelligence (AI)  computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence  will rapidly transform our world as we know it. In fact, it already is. From voice-controlled assistants to self-driving cars, the future is knocking (literally... a robot could be knocking). Is your company going to answer?

The real debate is how good are AI capabilities without the joint efforts of human touch? Will a lack of human emotion have a negative impact on the customer experience? Arguably, there are some things AI simply cannot replace.

If your company does take the leap into AI, we believe it works best in conjunction with human interaction. Below are the reasons why you should keep your company's human touch alive, even after implementing artificial intelligence.

Authenticity


Are you listening to what your customers want? An Accenture study found that 73 percent of customers prefer human interactions. Whether you utilize interactive voice response (IVR) or chatbots, AI is beneficial for increased efficiency and freeing up your agents from tedious tasks. 

When this is the case, provide your customers with an easily accessible communication option that allows them to quickly connect to a real human. By granting them the option to choose, you're making the customer experience more customized and much more enjoyable for both parties involved.

Empathy


Have you ever had a bad customer service experience that made you feel bitter toward a company? Picture being infuriated, calling the company's customer service team in an effort to resolve the issue, and then reaching a machine. The machine navigates you through a long list of menu options that connects you to another machine. Unfortunately, you click the wrong option and are pinballed around for 11 minutes until you finally land with a human to solve your problem.

Regardless of whether a human or machine answers the customer service line, the last thing an angry customer wants to display is patience. They want prompt acknowledgment and a helpful solution. If you haven't already, consider providing an easy-to-find customer service line that's separate from your main business number. That way, the caller can get in touch with one of your employees more quickly, and they can get the solution they're looking for. 

Determining the right mix of AI and human touch can be a challenge. What will your company do to find the right balance?

Three Benefits of Integrating Your Call Tracking Data With Your CRM

Phone data and CRM integration concept
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems are like the iPhone of marketing, sales and customer service. Initially, they were a luxury, but now they're essential. With 3 out of 4 companies having implemented a CRM, the technology has forever changed the customer journey. The CRM is one of the most crucial tools organizations use to monitor leads and strengthen their relationships with customers.

A CRM can increase revenue by a whopping 41 percent per salesperson. In 2014, CRM was returning $8.71 for every $1 spent in investing and maintaining it. To maximize its revenue potential, consider automatically syncing your call tracking data with your CRM. Once you do, you'll realize the following three key benefits.

Comprehensive Picture of Customer Interactions


By integrating your call tracking data with your CRM, you have a broader picture of your customers' interactions with your company and can tailor your customer interactions accordingly.

For instance, let's say John Smith submits a web form with a question about a new product on your website, and he's added to your CRM. You contact him immediately at the number he's provided and leave a voicemail. If you don't have call tracking integration, your sales rep has to remember to make a note of the call in the CRM. If they forget and your staff sees that there's no record that John returned your phone call, they might call poor John again, frustrating him and wasting their own time.

By integrating your call data and your CRM, you can automatically sync call details and audio recordings of each call with each customer's profile. This provides a more seamless (and less confusing) customer experience.

Less Manual Data Entry


Do your employees enjoy manually entering hundreds, or even thousands, of phone leads into your CRM system? Probably not. Not only is it a waste of time, but it also leads to typos and/or double entries in your CRM system. This issue can be frustrating to employees as well as customers. 

For instance, say Beverly Johnson is automatically entered into your CRM as a website lead with the phone number 555.555.1234. She later calls in from the same number, but the rep misspells her name when adding her into the CRM as Bverly Johnson. Since you have two separate records for Beverly, your reps call her twice while making follow-up calls. Now both Beverly Johnson and John Smith are annoyed!

By integrating your call tracking platform and your CRM, you save time, which in turn saves money. In the words of April Ludgate from NBC's sitcom "Parks and Recreation," "Time is money, and money is power..." She goes on, but we'll leave it at that.

More Sales


This goes without saying, but the more seamlessly integrated and accurate data you have, the easier it is to qualify leads and close sales. Plus, when you spend less time on data entry and duplicate follow-ups, you'll have more time to spend on nurturing prospects and customers.

So many businesses aren't yet using their CRM to its full potential. Don't be one of them. Imagine what your sales will look like when you use your call tracking data to fully maximize your CRM investment!

How to Channel Your Inner Leslie Knope Leadership Skills

Source: NBC
Leslie Knope, a character on the NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation," is an enthusiastic government employee in Pawnee, IN. Her main goal in life is to be the best deputy director for the town she is so passionate about.

[Spoiler alert!] Because of her strong will and inspiring drive, she eventually becomes governor of Indiana, demonstrating that no goal is too big. Simultaneously, she motivates everyone around her to be their best selves. After rewatching this show a couple (or six) times, we've gathered some of Leslie's most empowering quotes to bring out your powerhouse leadership skills!

"Positive is always better than negative."


Knope exudes happy vibes and unlike her last name, she rarely says no, because there is nothing she can't do. Well, she can't pick a salad over waffles, but that's because waffles equal happiness! An example of her positivity? After hearing nothing but negativity at an open forum, she said, "What I hear when I'm being yelled at is people caring loudly at me."

If you can think that positively, it'll be hard for things to bring you down in the office. Remember, attitudes are contagious! As a leader, there will always be eyes watching how you react to tough situations and how you handle things. Positivity also helps productivity flourish, which leads us to our next Knope-ism.

"There is nothing we can't do if we work hard, never sleep and shirk all other responsibilities in our lives."


In one episode, Knope is feeling quite disoriented, mentioning that she slept seven hours, which is double what she normally gets. While we don't recommend cutting down on your Zzz's or shirking responsibilities, we do think her motivational quote is admirable. 

Not only is it important to keep yourself motivated, it's also crucial to understand what motivates your employees. Are they motivated by money like Tom Haverford? Treat yo'self! Or are they more like Jerry (aka Garry, Larry and Terry), preferring to spend time off with family? Whether you ask them straight up or see what works well with trial and error, identifying what pushes them forward every day will ultimately make you more successful and motivated. And remember  they won't all have the same motivations.

"We have to remember what's important in life. Friends, waffles and work. Or waffles, friends, work. But work has to come third."


Leslie Knope loves her job more than anyone could possibly love a job. For example, in one episode, she receives two weeks of probation. One night while on probation, she breaks into the office to do some work because she can't stand not working. Even loving her job that much, she recognizes that she's human and can make time for waffles and friends too.

You're probably thinking, "Waffles could never be more important than a job." And you're probably right. Waffles don't pay the bills. This quote is important, though, because it reminds us to take some time to relax! A stressed leader is a bad leader. Your employees will notice if you're tense (sometimes because you're taking it out on them, unfortunately). If you take a break every now and then to recharge, your employees will thank you.

We hope this post reminds you to stay positive, work hard and relax! Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do.