Month: February 2016

4 Ways Big Data Analytics Affects Your Customer Service

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Not needing customer service is the best example of customer service.

Big data analytics helps you tune into your customers’ expectations, frustrations and demands, so you can constantly evolve your business platform, providing a superior and smooth experience to your customers.

However there is a giant elephant in the room: the probability of failure of big data analytics. You won’t hear people talking about it for the fear of appearing incompetent or ignorant, but believe me, it is a common occurrence with many problems and roadblocks on the way.

Let’s examine a few reasons why big data analytics fail and some instances where they succeed when it comes to customer service intelligence, so that you can avoid these mistakes and improve your chances of success in retention as well as acquisition.

Data models

Bear with me while I spew some mumbo-jumbo.

The concept of data models is very complex. In a nutshell, it manages its constituent elements and their mutual relationships. A database model, in turn, is a logical data model, which determines the structure of a computerized (usually) database, and specifies how data can be added, stored, organized, accessed and edited. Common database models include hierarchical, relational, and semantic.

In your organization, the decision of which big data or automation tools you’ll adopt and deploy is often dependent on the data model that is on offer, whether you realize it or not.

Suppose you are a retail ecommerce website selling t-shirts and such. Using your analytics tools, you could easily profile shoppers who interested in product X – things like the source of visit, age, location, etc. Let’s say you find that the majority of your customers are millennials.

Now you want to know what kind of t-shirts millennials like. So you decide to do product A/B testing based on the relational model i.e. the relation between a demographic (millennials) and their consumer behavior (t-shirt preferences).

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See where I am going? At the end of the day, unless you make sure your customer service team sounds more authentic, and totally gets the marketing channels favored by millennials, you won’t see any results from either your data analytics or testing.

Again, it all boils down to the data model. Even a business that makes extensive use of analytics data can go wrong. For example, Google Analytics follows the “last Interaction” attribution model by default when it comes to tracking conversions. As per this model, a product purchase is credited to the last channel that your site visitor interacted with before making the purchase.

For instance, Tim finds your website through organic search, sees some cool t-shirts and forgets all about it. His second interaction comes through a tweet about your blog post. During both these visits, he has liked your products and maybe registered and added a couple to his wish-list but hasn’t taken any action. His final purchase comes a few weeks later when he really needs to buy a t-shirt, googles “hip tshirts” again and clicks through the first ad he sees (yours).

Google Analytics will attribute the success of this conversion to paid search, based on its last touch attribution model. Consequently, you might feel compelled to increase your AdWords budget. This is how you can go wrong.

You must use a lot of different data models to make an informed decision. Blindly trusting one data model can prove to be an expensive mistake.

Unavailability

The Columbia Business School and the New York American Marketing Association surveyed over 250 corporate decision-makers in marketing – director-level at large companies. This is what they found:

  • 51% of the respondents said that a lack of sharing customer data within their own organization was a big challenge to overcome.
  • Nearly half weren’t using data to personalize their communications.
  • Almost a third did not know which high-value customers to focus their marketing on.
  • 39% said their company’s data collection methods weren’t well-timed.

There are countless tools – from Hadoop to Kyvos – that help enterprises collect and analyze big data. However, you must remember these are just tools. They will give you valuable insights on your data, but that doesn’t guarantee changes at the ground level.

Most of the times, analysis reports are seen only by the select few in the upper echelons while the team that actually connects with the customers on a regular basis is left out.

For instance, I once ordered a pair of jeans only to find them a size too small. I wanted to get a bigger size, so I left a message on the retailer’s website, for which I got a support ticket. But I didn’t hear from them, so I emailed the whole thing again to the customer care ID and waited another 24 hours before giving them a call. I was told to hang up (my and wait for someone to get in touch with me, which of course never materialized. So I took the jeans to their store (luckily for me, they have one in my city), repeated the whole story to the manager and got my jeans exchanged. To cut a long story short, had the details of my order and issue been available to all employees on the shop floor, warehouse as well as customer service departments, we all would have saved a lot of time.

Although this is my personal experience, I’m sure you will identify with this story. It illustrates how important it is to make real time data analytics more available to everyone, right down to your customer service team.

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Expectations

As with everything, CIOs and managers want everything yesterday! They want to see results from big data in as early as 3 to 6 months. Most CMOs and CIOs go as far as to calculate ROI within the first year.

The truth is that it takes you far longer than three months to even make sense of the overwhelming amount of data analytics today’s tool present you, let alone glean insights from them. Then you go on to draw up plans on which metrics you’d like to monitor and meet, based on your business goals, and proceed to implement it over the next six months to a year depending on the scope of the task at hand.

Even then, you can never be a 100% sure that you have made the right changes, so you keep tweaking your data analytics models; the question of ROI doesn’t arise this early in the game.

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Source: SlideShare

So how do you work around this problem?

  • Find the pain points in your customer service.
  • Define metrics for improvement. The success of measuring ROI in big data analytics depends on how well you pinpoint metrics that precisely gauge its success.
  • Set realistic short and long term goals.
  • Keep updating your big data models as and when you get more relevant data or insights.

For instance, XO Communications’ ultimate aim was to model their customer base and use that data to deduce whether a customer was happy or not. However, this was a long term goal and it would have been impossible to define metrics or determine success based on this goal alone. So, they broke it down into a short term goal of identifying “high risk” customers who could possibly switch to another carrier, contacting them in time and convincing them to stay. (Another win for customer retention!)

XO then converted this goal into KPI form – they aimed at reducing customer query times by up to 90 percent (from 7 to 10 days to less than a day). This was a realistic and measurable objective and they found they saved up to 5 million in revenue in just 30 days by solving this pain point.

They scaled up and changed their models several times after that and their annual savings shot up from $11 million in the first year to $15 million with a subsequent optimized data model.

Disruption

One of the most important ingredients in the recipe for big data success is disruption. If you keep trying to milk the same old data warehouse, team, IT infrastructure and tools, you are headed for big-time big data failure.

To ensure success, you need to be able to do a 360-degree pivot at the snap of a finger – hire experienced data scientists, do not be afraid to use newer tools, encourage disruptive thinking and most importantly, be prepared for implementing changes at all times.

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The biggest case in point here would be Groupon’s failure to capture China’s budding market. Encouraged by their success in Europe, Groupon duplicated the same approach in China – a high volume, low touch, cold-call approach (read, mass email marketing). However they didn’t take market differentiators like Chinese culture into the big data equation and thus failed to please their Chinese customers.

Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, used data intelligence quite wisely. They were always good at data analytics and have a track record of successfully using it to improve customer service several times. Some time back, they announced the deployment of speech analytics in order to extract information out of live-recorded interactions between customers and service personnel, in an effort to dig deeper for customer insights. No surprises that they are amongst the top 3 airlines for excellent customer service.

Tesla too created disruption by using data to understand their vehicles’ security issues and recruited hackers to break into their car’s security control unit, a preventive step ahead of their plans to collect more data from their connected cars. This is a great example of how companies today think inside and outside the box.

Over to You

As you saw, there are several ways you can fumble and fail to achieve results from big data for your customer service. If you’re a business decision maker, here are a few sources of big data learning you must make a habit of revisiting regularly. This will help you to gain industry insights on everything related to big data or customer service.

  • Clickz’s “Analyzing Customer Data” section
  • Inside Big Data’s concise insights on big data strategy
  • This huge list active blogs on big data, data science, data mining, machine learning and analytics
  • This Quora question, where everyone from data novices to entrepreneurs have shared their favorite resources for big data analytics

Have you tried using big data analytics for improving customer service or are planning to in the near future? What are the other business areas you wish to improve with big data analytics?

I’d love to hear about any news, case studies, experiences and insights on everything related to big data that you might have to share. See you

 


Three Emerging Social Channels You Must Keep An Eye On In 2016

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There are few digital realms that captivate more people these days than social. The social space is an evocative one. Social media can be rather personal.  This makes it fundamentally intriguing, allowing people to peek behind the curtains of our lives - or rather, our companies lives. Whether we portray an authentic image is up to us, but -  that notion of transparency is why our customers love to visit us in our ‘social homes.’ They walk through our social doorways to get to know the product more deeply, see how human our organizations are (or aren’t), and interact with whatever useful and free content we’re happily providing. And, as the age old psychological phenomenon reveals, proximity breeds affection and attention, so it behooves us to to build social homes wherever the customer might wander. The same side of that coin a mantra worth repeating: as marketers -  we must always, always watch new and emerging channels. New and emerging channels are likely where our audiences are - or in the least, exploring. Their actions, interactions, engagement, disengagement, can give us incredibly useful information on what our potential customers are - and aren't interested in, and of course, where the eyeballs are, at any given moment. 

With that, here are a few emerging social channels to watch in 2016.

Hyper: Instagram and reddit got married, and had a baby...meet hyper.

With Hyper, user post images directly to areas that interest them.  Others who have previously subscribed to that interest area, will get notified. Users provide instant feedback in the the form of up votes and down votes. Hyper still feels a little shaky where UX is concerned but -  by taking some of the most popular features from other highly successful social media forums (photo heavy, hashtags, voting, and geographic tagging), hyper may be poised for a ton of growth and eyeballs in 2016.

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Blab: Live streaming - that doesn’t suck.

Blab is simple, intuitive, and provides a higher sense of engagement than Google hangouts in that it is outfitted with a panel for live chat on the left, and a panel to tweet on the right. The medium also limits guests to 3 people, with an option for one of those seat to be left open for a “call in” during the blab. This cultivates a sense of exclusivity, unlike Google hangouts, where you can host up to 10 video participants. And unlike Facebook mentions, Meerkat and Periscope, Blab is not limited to mobile only. Further, it’s easy recording feature has made it relatively popular tool for use in podcasts, after shows, interviews etc. Blab’s versatility, simplicity, built in live chat and social integrations, might just be enough to position them as a leader in live streaming in 2016.

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photo cred: https://blab.im/about

Peach: Making social media … more addictive?


Crafted by the creator of Vine, Dan Hoffman, peach is a new app that some are claiming might be ‘the one to take on the giants’, (read:Facebook, Twitter). For those who enjoy social media (most of us) peach is intriguing in that is ups your potential ‘social creativity’ by acting as your social media assistant, pulling images, gifs, songs, moods, emoji etc., based on “magic” words typed by the user. Still, it’s lack of timeline and inability to follow those who aren’t friends, leaves me questioning its’ realistic lifespan.

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The True Price of Weak Customer Service

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“One of the biggest mistakes companies make is that they view the customer’s purchase as a transaction versus an interaction. There is more than a subtle difference here. A transaction has an ending.”

Shep Hyken, top social customer service pro

Customer service is the most neglected aspect of effective marketing. Wait, customer service is marketing?

Yes, in two ways: one, it’s marketing to customers you want to become repeat customers. Two, it’s marketing to leads who watch how you interact with your existing customers.

Any business that isn’t treating customer service as a vital part of its marketing activities is leaving money on the table.

Salesforce reported that bad customer service costs American businesses $84bn every year; worldwide, that figure was $338.5bn. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of any business, yet only 27% of initial-purchase customers become repeats. What if we could use better customer service to hang on to a few more repeat customers? Well, since 78% of customers have walked away from a business due to poor customer service (Source: American Express), there’s a good chance that we can.

Maybe these stats don’t apply to you, though. After all, you hardly ever get a complaint.

Neither does anyone else. Only 4% of dissatisfied customers complain… to you. They tell their friends, though – and they’re twice as likely to pass on a bad experience as a good one. 96% don’t complain; 91% will never come back. In fact, if a 2008 Accenture report can still be believed, the real cause of business churn is poor customer service.

Sounds like a problem that needs fixing, but we need to understand it first. Let’s start with the customer: what do customers want?

What do customers want?

Customers expect prompt customer service from knowledgeable, trained individuals. When they don’t get it, they leave. That’s the clear picture from years of customer research.

On the phone, 75% of customers think they’re using the best channel for them to communicate with a business – but if they don’t get to speak to a real person, right away, 53% get irritated. When they did get through to someone, the result was unsatisfactory: customers said service agents failed to answer their question 50% of the time (Source: Harris Interactive).

Off the phone, the key channel for customer interactions is social media. Here, the gulf between what customers say they expect and what they’re getting is most dramatic. Customers say they want to hear back from brands. On Twitter, 14% of customers expect a response immediately, and 65% expect one in less than 2 hours. And what do they actually get? About 71% of the time they get no response at all (Source: Maritz Research).

Say you were in an industry where you lost 2.27% of your revenue – average monthly customer churn for a US wireless carrier (Source: Statista) – out of holes in your employees’ pockets. I’m guessing you’d start looking into thread. Or say you were in a business where 5% to 7% of your money – average SaaS churn rate (Source: Bessemer Venture Partners) – just blew away because you left the door open. Or what if it was 20% to 25% a – the average rate for retail banks (Source: Pitney Bowes)? You’d shut the door, I guess.

But every business is in the customer business. And customers are walking away – 25% of them every year, in some industries – and it’s overwhelmingly because of service. Not product, not price, but service. So when they’re telling us what they want so clearly, isn’t it time customer service was as much of a priority to us as it is to our customers?

Here’s how to do that:

  1. Measure Your Service

Start by finding out where you are right now. It’s hard to know exactly what to do if you don’t have any idea what your customer service currently looks like. Use customer feedback questionnaires. Try getting ‘mystery shoppers’ to try out customer service. You can take this further and check your Net Promoter Score. (Another good indicator is your churn rate!)

If you want to get a deeper view, try ClientHeartbeat – you’ll get in-depth analytics on customer satisfaction details. Moreover, the creators claim a customer feedback response rate three to five times the average, so you’ll have a clearer idea of where you need to improve.

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  1. Train Your Staff

Once you’re clear on the strengths and weaknesses of your current customer service provision, it’s time to start training your staff. Way too many companies take on customer service staff and just throw them in at the deep end, with poor pay, minimal training, no support, no authority – and they don’t do a great job.

But in those circumstances, it’s not surprising. Staff need to know what to do, and they need to know why. Start by explaining to service staff what good customer service is. Talk to them about how to handle difficult customer situations in an appropriate way – and actually train them; don’t just give them a ten-minute talk about it. One service staff member who reacts badly on a chat or social channel could be the thing your company gets known for worldwide!

  1. Support Customer Service Like You Would Sales and Marketing – Because That’s What They Do

Customer service is sales and marketing to people who have already made a purchase. Treat it that way. High-level training that’s geared towards satisfied customers will produce greater customer satisfaction, lower churn and more repeat purchases.

But it takes more than training on the phone or instructions on how to handle a tricky chat. Staff need technical support too. Teach them how to use social media channels, especially Facebook and Twitter, in an appropriate manner. Teach them how to use a wider range of customer service tools. The phone isn’t enough anymore: specialist social media training is still necessary because although most of your employees know how to use social media, they don’t know how to use it for customer service. Get them the equipment they need to deliver customer service that wows – because for many customers, customer service is the most important thing you do.

Since content forms the core of new age digital marketing, integrate your content marketing with customer service. And there’s no better form of content than video to do it most effectively. Anything that requires significant instruction or is visual can be dealt with by creating a video. Evan Hamilton wrote a great post on the UserVoice blog advocating the use of video in customer service.

You’d do well to invest in a tool like ClickMeeting to run webinars for explaining features of your product, one-on-one private chats for customer service, as well as moderated videoconferences with focus groups or brand advocates.

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  1. Make Customer Service the Center of Your Company Culture

Sales is at the heart of many company’s cultures. But sales is customer service, to customers who haven’t made a purchase yet. Customer service is sales. Put it right in the center of your company culture. Talk about it. Post big signs in the lobby congratulating the most effective customer service team. Consider incentivizing customer satisfaction the way you incentivize sales.

This unity of purpose between marketing, sales and customer services is increasingly recognized in CRM software like the modular Zoho, which offers a Service package, or Sage. Even the mighty, sales-focused Salesforce comes with dedicated service functionality.

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  1. Let Your Team Work

Your staff know what to do. They have the tools. Let them do it. Give them the authority to control how they operate.

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Image (Modified under CC license)

Wrapping Up

Learning to see every part of your business as part of an ongoing interaction with customers is difficult. But the rewards are clear. Happy, satisfied clients will recommend you to their friends, advocate for you on social media (and hopefully in their lives), and leave you positive reviews. They’ll also be back to make more purchases. And customers themselves are saying the way to do it is great customer service.

 


The Need For Speed – Optimize Your Mobile Experience

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Group of friends of different ethnics sitting on the street and looking at mobile phone - Young modern hipster people having fun with new technologies - Multiracial group representing the addiction to technology

“Mobile really is where everything is going and where everything is spent today,” Gary Burnett, former Facebook Advertising Exec and now COO at Flurry, a leading app measurement and ad firm.

In a recent article Top 10 Digital Marketing Trends for 2016, mobile optimization came in amongst the top ten.

Let’s quickly review our mobile discussion from that article. At this point, mobile and responsive websites should be a no brainer. For the past few years, we’ve been sprinting towards mobile dominating desktop, and we’ve passed it. Mobile has officially passed desktop browsing. What does that mean in the broader context for your 2016 marketing strategy? In 2016, a mobile-optimized website should be a default, but not a placeholder for an app. An app can (read: should) do everything your website can do. Not to mention an app is both touch screen (read: less barriers to clicks) and is an advertisement/reminder of your product that goes with your user everywhere they go.

Mobile usage in the purchasing process, from research to checkout, is on an upward trend that is not slowing down anytime soon. A few stats to back that up?

  • 90% of smartphone shoppers use their phone for pre-purchasing activities
  • 86% of time is spent on apps vs. 14% on the mobile web
  • 25% of search queries are now on mobile

Whether you’re working on your app, planning a re-vamp, or already have a fantastic one in place, there’s one thing we recommend testing and optimizing above all else - and that’s speed. Load speed, checkout speed, and how quickly your users can find relevant info. Recent research has found that a staggering 29% of mobile users will immediately switch to another app or website if they are experiencing slowness, or can’t find what they need - quickly.

We’ve all been there. Looking up that great new restaurant but finding the mobile website too slow? Jump to Yelp. Want to make a res. at said restaurant but reservation information isn’t easily accessible, jump to opentable. Opentable isn’t showing available reservation for the time you want - back to Yelp for the phone number to give them a call.

So, how can we optimize our websites or applications to keep as many users inside your brands as possible? Here are a few tips:

  1. Be there in micro moments - especially when it comes to mobile. Below is a great infographic from Forrester to give you a quick snapshot of how to design micro moments. We’ll cover this more in depth in next week’s article.

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  1. Make sure your mobile website is super simple, responsive, with an easy and streamlined checkout process.
  2. Your load time needs to be 3 seconds - or less.
  3. Know what your customers are searching for and optimize your app and website to display calls to action for those specific needs first.
  4. Less is more. Less clicks, less steps. Eliminate any unnecessary actions, assets, or distractions that get in the way of people performing the action you need them to take.

If you’re a small business looking to do some quick catch up in the mobile space, check out this article, How to Optimize Your Small Business 

We'd love to hear your top tip for optimizing your companies mobile experiences. Just leave a comment below!