BANG YOUR HEAD

Bang your head! Metal Health’ll drive you mad…..  If you were a teenager in the 80’s you probably relate the sentence above to a rock song by Quiet Riot, but if you are a marketing professional like me then you probably relate that term to many of your clients because very often at the end of each day that is exactly what I feel like doing, just banging my head on my desk. Over and over and over.  I have thought of suggesting to the local health club that they should hold sessions for people like me so that after work, I can join 50 other people in a room just banging my head against the wall.  We can even call it “Mental Health” I am sure quiet riot won’t mind and if they do, let them spend a day with me at the office, they will change their mind very quickly.

I know some of you are reading this and wondering what the hell I am rambling about.  I am talking about dealing with a certain type of client, we all know this client, and this client will surely have you banging your head against the wall.  Let me paint you a picture.  You are doing an email campaign to a double opt-in highly targeted list of investors.  You have a client who wants to send several campaigns over a period of a couple of weeks to that list to promote their investor advice site.  On their landing page they are sending to there is a weekly stock pick, but they say that is not the focus of the campaign and they do not want to mention any particular stocks in the email itself, they simply want people to go to the site and sign up for their newsletter, that’s it.  You go over everything with them, telling them the landing page is about joining the list, the stock pick does not have much information on it about it, and they confirm that the purpose of this email is simply to inform people about their stock pick newsletter, not to promote a stock. So you have done your job, the client is educated and well informed about what they are going to get and what is and is not going to happen.

So the day comes that the email campaign starts going out, and by mid afternoon Microsoft Outlook is ready to explode, because the client is frantically emailing you because they are not happy because the stock pick on their site did not go up at all, nothing significant happened with it, it even closed lower than it opened.  They are yelling that your email is not working, it’s not going through, it must be getting blocked, you don’t know what you are doing, this is not what they paid for, and this was not worth the money. %&$#?@!   Are you freakin kidding me!!??  You went over this in detail over and over and it was understood that they were not interested in promoting the stock, but now suddenly it’s like you didn’t have that conversation 12 times before they pulled the trigger?  Really?  What the hell? Did stupid school let out early today?  Had they said they wanted to promote the stock you would have set up a completely different campaign, but that’s not what they wanted, at least not until this morning.  This is your fault how?  The point in all of this, is when you get a customer like this and they keep coming back to do business, and yes they will, you have one of three choices: 1. You can keep putting up with this crap, because you are getting paid and that’s what matters right? 2. You tell the client that you told them what they were getting, they confirmed what they wanted, and so you are not taking the blame, and you really don’t want to hear about it and next time they are explained something, stop talking and listen.  Tell them to make sure they know what they want.  Or 3. You can tell them to get out of your office, your life, don’t call or email again, you do not want their business because it’s not worth the chest pains you get.

You might find this mildly amusing, you might think that this doesn’t happen, nobody is really like this.  Oh really?

I’m off to see the wizard

I was talking to a call center client today who was interested in purchasing mortgage modification data of homeowners, they wanted to first purchase 50,000 records, than after being satisfied with the data, they would purchase 500,000 records every three or four weeks.  Sounds good right?  The problem is they didn’t want to spend more than 1 cent per record, meaning for 50,000 they wanted to spend $500 and for the 500,000 $5000, they said they did not want to buy junk, they wanted quality data.  I told them that it wasn’t possible for them to purchase quality data at 1 cent per record, the average cost of this data is around 5 to 6 cents per record, however due to our relationships with the large suppliers I could get them the 50,000 test file for $2500 (5 cents per record) and then the 500,000 for $12,500 (2.5 cents per record) and would prorate the first sale of 50,000 giving the additional 2.5 cents back to them.  They said it was too much.  I told them this was the best I could do for them, and if they found someone to sell them data this cheap it was going to be junk, a high disconnect rate and the data would probably be several years old.

I’m off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz……..

Some days I feel like I am in a musical fairy tale, because some of the demands that clients make seem to come from the world of make believe and I often find myself clicking my shoes together under my desk hoping to wake up at home.  This is not a new problem, especially among call centers, many of them want the crème of the crop, but don’t want to pay the premium price.  They want champagne, but want to pay for beer, well like the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.  If you but 1 cent leads, that is exactly what you are going to get, and in the long run it won’t save you any money, it might even cost you money.   When you look at factors like calling disconnected numbers, paying agents to call those disconnected numbers you need to factor all of this in as part of the cost of that “cheap” data.  At the end of the day it may not be any cheaper and may very well cause you to lose money.  If you want quality data, be prepared to pay for it, it is well worth the cost.

Email Marketing, Alive and Well.

I have heard from many over the past couple of years that email marketing is dead; companies aren’t utilizing it because people are just not responding.   They say that bigger and better marketing vehicles like SEO, Social Media, and others have replaced Email Marketing.  So the $34,000 question is are “they” right? Is email marketing dead?

FALSE.  Email marketing is alive and well.  During the third quarter of last year the overall open rate average of email ads was 22 percent and six out of thirteen industries reported increased open rates, and the average click rate is up 0.2 percent. (brafton.com) Also during 2010 email marketing efforts helped propel Cyber Monday online sales to record-breaking levels; ComScore states that online sales reached $1.028 billion on Cyber Monday, up 6% from the previous year, making it the biggest online shopping day in history and the first to surpass the billion-dollar mark. (group-mail.com)   According to an Econsultancy survey this year, email marketing has one of the highest ROI’s being surpassed only by organic  SEO and according to the DMA Email marketing is still outperforming all other direct marketing channels and in Datran Media’s 2010 Annual Marketing & Media Survey 39.4% of industry executives said that email was the strongest performing advertising channel there was. (email-marketing-reports.com)

So as you can see email is still alive and kicking and it is still performing at peak performance.  Direct contact media has always been a huge performer and email is leading the pack when it comes to results.

Should your customer service department use Live Chat?

Live Chat has been growing in popularity over the past few years and there has been a lot of chatter about whether or not customer service and sales contact centers should be utilizing this as a viable tool.  In my opinion the answer is absolutely, Live Chat is a great tool for any company; it is inexpensive and it can literally save you money.  One agent on Live Chat can handle up to five customers at one time, while one agent on the phone can only handle one customer.  Companies are scaling down their contact centers and utilizing Live Chat and not only are they saving money, but the customers like it because it is instant conversation, not having to be on hold and you can even use it for sales.

Last year when my office decided to go paperless and we were considering getting rid of our fax machines and using an Internet fax number I went to efax.com and spoke to someone in sales via Live Chat where I got a great deal, they waived all set up fees and took my credit card number right through the Live Chat interface which was a secured connection, it was quick and easy and I liked it.  It is believed in the years to come this may take over most contact centers, and as a matter of fact many companies have already done so by replacing their call centers agents with Live Chat agents completely.  Many times these agents do not even have phones and if you need to speak to a supervisor they take your information and pass it along and someone calls you back, it is quick, efficient, cost effective and easy for the customer.  In today’s world companies are looking for ways to use technology to save money, and ways to streamline their business and using Live Chat is certainly a good place to start.

Using top call center agents success to benefit other agents.

A few years ago a friend of mine started a small call center for cell phone sales and he asked me if I would come down and take a look at his operation because he was having some trouble.  He had about 20 agents or so on the phone and only around 7 or 8 were really performing to his satisfaction and he wasn’t sure what to do about it.  He said he had even retrained some of them but it wasn’t helping.  He said the issue didn’t appear to a problem of them not knowing the product but more of a sales skill issue and he had even replaced one or two of the agents and the new agents were not that better either.  This wasn’t a new problem to me, it is actually quite common, normally about 20% of the team is closing most of the sales with the remaining 80% lagging behind and terminating them and hiring new agents is not really the answer as my friend could attest to.

I spent a day at the center walking around and watching, and looking at stats and spent an hour or two monitoring the calls and at the end of the day I noticed that the top performers for the most part were all sitting close to one another so at the end of the day I rearranged the seating and put one top performer in the vicinity of three or four agents that were not performing that well.  About a week later my friend called me in amazement and said that overall sales of those agents that had not been doing that well had gone up.  This did not surprise me because it is natural for successful people to rub off on others and a call center atmosphere is not any different.  Those agents that were not doing so well started listening to the calls of the top performers they were sitting next to and began to pick up the techniques they were using which improved their performance.

I have used this strategy many times and it works in both inbound and outbound centers, sales, customer service, collections, just about anything.  Don’t get me wrong it’s not a solution that will solve all your problems, but it will certainly help because success is contagious.