Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Physical marketing – beyond the web

Although internet marketing is huge and undoubtedly incredibly important for just about every company nowadays, there are still other methods of marketing that should be used.
Physical marketing is essential for a company that wants to get as much publicity as possible. Here are a few methods used for physical marketing:
Billboards are everywhere in towns and cities and whether you know it or not, you look at them an awful lot. They are used to advertise everything from underwear to cars and holidays and they can be very effective.
Display stands
Another option is display stands which feature in shops up and down the country. They can hold confectionary or beauty products and they also work as effective advertising at the point of sale.
Exhibition stands
Exhibitions and conferences are a great place to seek out new custom and exhibition stands that are well designed can really boost a business.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Speech Automation – What the Doctor Ordered

Speech automation is helping to battle the growing problem of sickness absence in the UK contact centre industry.

Sickness absence accounted for the loss of 8% of working time in the UK contact centre industry in 2005, a figure that shot up to 11% in 2007. The phenomena isn't specific to the contact centre and call centre industry but taps into a wider problem that recently inspired a Panorama documentary, Britain on the Sick. With an estimated 175m working days lost each year to sickness, the problem costs £13 billion in lost productivity across the UK. But there is a healthy antidote to the sickness epidemic - speech automation has been recognised as an effective system for monitoring and managing sickness absence.

Speech Automation: How it Works

Speech automation uses automation technologies that are commonly used across contact centres. Eckoh - the self service specialist – has, in partnership with BT, developed a sickness absence management (SAM) service that uses speech recognition technology to gather sickness absence information. Using email, IVR and sms, the SAM technology offers managers the tools they need to monitor and manage sickness absence effectively.
Once a staff member calls in sick, the speech automation technology does all the hard work. Previously, if a staff member was sick, they would have to chase a line manager until they finally got hold of them. With the speech automation technology, the employee simply calls the SAM absence line and outlines the details of their absence and likely duration of their sickness. The SAM absence line is available 24-hour, 365 days a year and so offers effective time management and ease of use. Once the call is made, the information is sent to the relevant line manager and human resource department using sms or email. The speech automation technology not only offers a time and cost effective alternative, it offers managers a data capture service, allowing them to easily analyse sickness patterns.

Speech Automation: A Company Health Check

Using the speech automation technology, employees can manage this fraught human resource issue more effectively. Although many sickness absences are genuine, there is the issue of the 'work-shy'. The speech automation technology behind the SAM absence line helps employees to capture absence information, providing line managers or human resource staff with the tools they need to examine the endemic causes of absence. It's possible to see trends or clusters of sickness to determine whether the company needs to address underlying problems such as health and safety issues or stress, or if they need to intervene with individuals whose repeated sickness absence indicates management intervention or support is necessary.

Speech Automation: Diagnosis and Cure

We are all human, and the news that Alan Sugar's recent Apprentice winner Lee McQueen called in sick on his first day at work highlights the fact that nobody is immune from absenteeism. But by using speech automation technology that records and monitors all employee absence, SAM technology ensures sickness absence cases can be handled fairly. It also ensures employers can find alternative cover for absent employees fast. The speech automation systems ensure employers have the tools and information they need to ensure their staff are given the help they need to return to work, fit and healthy.

Sales Force Automation Experts Team up with Google

Sales force automation has joined forces with Google as web-based software transforms how customer management professionals work. 

Sales can be helped in many ways, from physical ads created by Sign Makers - to automated systems. Sales force automation taps into software that automates sales, order processing, sharing information and contact management as well as database inventory monitoring, analysis for sales, employee evaluations and order tracking. The automation of sales tasks is crucial for business to be time and cost effective and to safeguard customer service and customer satisfaction. So the news that and search engine giant Google have joined forces represents a significant step forward for customer management professionals.

Sales Force Automation: Get Web It

Clients of – who specialise in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software – can now use Google applications including Google Talk, Calendar, Gmail and Google Apps. The Google applications have been integrated with the sales force automation software to allow customer management professionals to manage workload online. This step could transform how, when and where customer management professionals work. The sales force automation processes can now incorporate customer data and communications, such as email messages or instant messaging sessions, storing this information on the internet. This provides instant back up and a centralising of customer details and information.

Web Based Software: Google and Sales Force Automation

The role of the internet in how we live and work has been phenomenal and the use of hosted, web-based software has grown spectacularly. The easy access to the internet means effective sales force automation is possible without costly or time consuming software systems and upgrades. Staff can access sales force automation systems through any browser, from any location, freeing up how, where and when staff work. act as the host for clients helping ease of use as they can fix problems through the server rather than individual computers. The only flaw is if the internet connection fails, the software is not accessed.

A Salesforce to be Reckoned with are a market leader in CRM and sales force automation software. Although Salesforce has integrated its Sales force automation systems with Microsoft Office and Outlook, this is the first time it can offer customer database applications online thanks to the Google arrangement. Since entering the CRM and sales force automation market, Salesforce has proved to be a leading competitor to the software giant, Siebel. In the late 90s, Siebel only offered software as a client/server model; Salesforce forced other software providers to redevelop software to run through a browser.

Diallers – The Silent Calls Backlash

Outbound call centres are responsible for the phenomenon of 'silent calls', where customers are called by diallers but there's nobody on the other end of the line.

The phone rings and rings, you pick up, there's no-one there... Silent calls are predominantly generated by predictive diallers used in call centres and contact centres. The 'dead air' is a result of an agent not being available to deal with the call resulting in the call being terminated by the dialler. As well as call centres, diallers are used by telemarketeers.

Silent calls are not illegal although the problems of diallers causing needless anxiety or annoyance triggered OFCOM to investigate two companies believed to be generating a large percentage of silent calls with diallers. In 2005, they issued an official warning to one of the companies and in 2006 OFCOM's policy on silent calls and diallers changed saying abandoned calls should carry a recorded message explaining the company behind the call, with silent calls being kept to below 3% in any 24-hour time frame.  

Homeworker David Hickson also began investigating silent calls back in 2003 after being on the receiving end of abandoned calls from diallers. “BT told me that it happens all the time,” he said. “They explained it was to do with diallers that outbound call centres use.”
Hickson led a campaign to stop silent calls that has had an impact on the call centre industry. The backlash against silent calls as result of diallers has even put the future of the outbound industry in question. Ofcom has since prosecuted a number of companies and despite advances in diallers technology, the backlash has triggered dramatic changes in the UK call centre sector.

Diallers: Does the Call Centre Industry need them?

Outbound centres that use diallers increase their efficiency. Helen Ward, a senior consultant at the hardware and software outbound dialling solutions company, Avaya, explained: “Manual dialling typically achieves seven contacts an hour. Preview dialling where agents can see what numbers the system is dialling achieves ten contacts per hour,” she said. “Predictive dialling, where the system makes calls based on the number of agents available, then connects the agent when the recipient picks up, can achieve 28 contacts per hour. This means that the cost per transaction is significantly reduced using these dialling techniques.”

Diallers Boosts Agent Productivity

An example of how diallers can massively impact on productivity is demonstrated by the bookmaker Betfair. Betfair adopted diallers in 2005 as director Julie Cooper explained, using agents to individually dial numbers was time consuming. The Genesys' preview dialler was installed and instantly boosted productivity without making any of the dreaded silent calls that so alienates customers. “With the implementation of the dialler, we increased agent productivity by as much as 50 per cent,” she said.

Telecoms Applications are a dialler provider. Managing director David Fricker explained how a predictive dialler offers far more than a method of making phone calls. “It involves live monitoring of the data penetration and results of active campaigns. It sets recall timers for engaged calls, telephone answer machines, dead numbers and so on. This saves agent time and improves data penetration to previously unachievable levels. It also lets call centre managers know that all their data is being used, and that it’s not just agents selecting the data that looks most profitable to them.”

Call Centres Misusing Diallers

But some call centres are setting their diallers to ensure that their agents always have a call waiting. Many call centres feel under pressure to deliver results and meet targets, and setting diallers up in this way is one way of increasing productivity, but it also generates more silent calls. Simply put, more calls are being answered by customers than there are agents. The anxiety the silent calls from diallers cause is often down to the assumption that the call is a burglar checking to see if anyone's home, or that somebody is deliberately out to make nuisance calls. The scale of the silent calls epidemic in 2004 was huge - up to 800 companies were using diallers in the UK, generating 120,000 complaints a month. The distress diallers were clearly causing was a wake up call for the call centre industry and direct marketing sector – damage limitation had become necessary.

The revised Ofcom regulations in 2006 on predictive dialling that stated a 3% limit on silent calls and insisted silent calls were explained by an information message helped improve the use of diallers in the call centre industry. 70% of contact centres changed their outbound operations as a result of the revised regulations, and the fines issued to Carphone Warehouse, Space Kitchens and Bedrooms, Toucan Residential and Bracken Bay Kitchens of up to £45,000 served as a further warning to call centres to regulate the use of diallers.

Changing Attitudes to Diallers Crucial

And now new technology for diallers is being introduced to help the call centre industry comply to the restrictions on silent calls. Dialler company itCampus UK said that with the right technology, there is no reason to have silent calls or long delays. As well as tapping into technology, call centres need to ensure dedicated managers are overseeing the dialler. As Kristi McKernan, client service manager at contact centre 2Touch, said: “We need to put systems in place to ensure that no one is bothered by any of our calls.” This includes 'sensible recycling rules' so the same customer is not bombarded with calls and that predictive dialling modes on diallers are only used when there are eight or more agents available to handle the calls. She added that call centres sticking to reasonable hours also helps eliminate customer anxiety and irritation.
Many experts in the contact centre sector believe that the industry needs to not just step up to the challenge to comply to legislation, they need to adopt these changes in order to survive.

CRM Predicted to Buck the Credit Crunch

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is the one segment set for significant growth despite the credit crunch.

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) is predicted to buck the credit crunch as more doom and gloom hits the UK headlines about an impending recession. There is mounting evidence that the UK economy is headed for recession as the housing market plummets and consumer confidence is rocked. But CRM is expected to grow as it is seen as an increasingly valuable tool for businesses.

CRM Set for Significant Growth

Countries in Central and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa - the EMEA market,  -  are bound to be hit by a slowing economy, impacting on IT spend. But CRM is one segment predicted to grow. AMI-Partners Research has estimated that the CRM market across the globe will boom at an yearly rate of 13 percent from 2007. It predicts that the CRM market will be worth $3.7 billion in 2012.  And the research into the CRM markets takes into account the difficulties of negotiating the credit crunch. But why is CRM managing to not just stay afloat but see demand boom?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Explained

CRM (Customer Relationship Management) refers to the holistic systems and processes an organisation implements to handle contact with customers. CRM software can store information on existing and prospective customers, with information being stored and accessed across departments such as customer service, sales and human resources. The information CRM stores can feed back into targeted marketing as well as help improve existing customer service.

CRM: An Increasingly Valuable Tool

Customer Relationship Management or CRM is an increasingly valuable tool across business sectors. In fact, customer relationship management becomes more important during times of economic difficulties – it's the businesses that know how to attract and hold on to a strong customer base that will survive. CRM tools help organisations find new customers, keep them happy and help deliver business goals, even when times are tough. Vivek Thomas, Managing Director of Maximizer Software said businesses are waking up to the value of CRM. He said the differentiating  factor is that the modern CRM as opposed to the conventional, silo CRM offers much more than simply facilitating the collection of information surrounding customer engagements. Mr Thomas said CRM gave businesses an added edge: “Incorporating people, process and technology in an effective strategy that focus on getting the best out of hard-pressed sales and marketing resources are vital in the current economic landscape and will play a major role with astute organisations in weathering the economic storm.” To learn more there are training courses and even train the trainer courses available.