Cost Effective - Customer Care

Product & Service Marketing vs Customer Care
Organizations today operate in an environment of increased competitiveness and change. Successful organizations are those that are effective at change, either through creating new markets or meeting new goals for existing products. Yet many companies are ineffective at change and hampered by poor control of their marketing development operations.

Companies are very often spending too little resources on customer care (or) marketing their products and services because (a) they're unsure how best to allocate their resources, or (b) spending a lot of resources very ineffectively on marketing campaigns that bring very limited rewards.

Centre for Business & Associates Satisfaction Levels Falling Among American Consumers - The Customer Care Institute In (2001) the American Customer Care Institute reported that customer satisfaction levels have declined for a second straight quarter. The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) fell by 0.6% for the first quarter of this year, now standing at 72.2 out of a possible 100. The five sectors studied for the first quarter of 2001 were utilities, parcel delivery/express mail, airlines, telecommunications and hotels.

Utility companies registered the largest decline among the industries rated with an 8% drop from last year's score of 75 to 69 points. In the airline industry, Continental Airlines posted an 8% increase, bringing its score from 62 to 67. Southwest Airlines held its ground with the highest industry score of 70, while Northwest Airlines brought up the rear with a score of 56.

While the utilities sector accounts for a large part of consumer dissatisfaction for the first quarter of this year, most of the other industries studied indicated a drop in satisfaction. Parcel delivery/express mail slipped almost 4%. Postal service, airlines, telecommunications and television broadcasting each fell about 3%; and hotels and hospitals fell more than 1%.

Customer satisfaction also declined among the parcel delivery and express mail companies, namely, Federal Express, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service..
Jack West, past president of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) commented on the high averages among these companies saying, "It's interesting that a few companies…are finding ways to buck the trend by increasing customer satisfaction in a time of general declines. Consumers may well reward these firms not only now, but with increased loyalty as the economy strengthens."

MiR Global.com Best Practices While there is no one agreed-upon definition for customer-centricity, consistent characteristics are found among best-practice organizations. These companies agree upon and strive toward a core set of characteristics that are considered to be foundational to the success of customer-centricity, according to a recent report published by the American Productivity & Quality Center.

The study examined the characteristics and requirements for success of new-generation customer-centric contact centers using seven key areas for research: Corporate Culture and Environment; Employee Training, Staffing and Incentives; Levels of Customer Service; Incorporating Customer Feedback; Interdepartmental Relationships and Consistency Across Contact Channels; Measuring Customer-Centricity and Links Between Contact Center Performance and the Bottom Line; and Tools and Technology.

Companies Maintaining A Competitive Edge Through Diversity Initiatives
Top companies say diversity initiatives have a direct impact on the bottom line and help an organization keep a competitive edge, a new survey released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and FORTUNE magazine. The study, "Impact of Diversity Initiatives on Bottom Line," gauged the extent of corporate diversity initiatives among FORTUNE 1000 companies and companies on FORTUNE magazine's list of the 100 Top Companies To Work For.

According to the survey, 91% of HR professionals indicated that their diversity initiative helps their organization keep a competitive advantage. Additionally, 79% said that diversity initiatives have improved corporate culture, 77% said it improves recruitment of new employees, and 52% report improved client relations. More than three-fourths said such initiatives do this by both improving corporate culture (83%) and improving employee morale (79%). More than half said it decreases interpersonal conflict among employees (58%), increases creativity (59%), and increases productivity (52%).

The most common initiatives among respondent companies were recruiting efforts designed to help increase diversity within the organization (75%), diversity training initiatives, education, and/or awareness efforts (66%), and community outreach related to diversity (61%). Least cited practices were diversity-related conflict resolution (16 percent) and company-paid literacy training (11%).

MiR Global.com Personal Phone Interviews Remain the Most Accurate Prescreening Tool for Call Centers Fully 52% of respondents to a recent online survey indicated that a personal telephone interview is the most accurate prescreening tool for assessing whether a job applicant would make a good call center agent. The second most popular new agent prescreening and assessment tool was call center simulation software (27%) followed by a written test (9%), an IVR interview (7%) and Web site testing (3%).

Agent certification was the least popular prescreening and assessment tool, yielding only 2% of the 598 votes. The survey, conducted by FurstPerson, Inc. for CallCenterCareers.com, demonstrates the importance of personal interviews to assess a potential agent's industry knowledge and skill-set while physically hearing how that agent communicates and presents him or herself over the telephone.


Best Practice - Common Characteristics - Identified in Customer Care Functions

Best Practices Forums Customer Care professionals shared new insights into best practices at the (2001) Achieving Best Practices Customer Care Forum in Palm Beach, Florida, conducted by the Customer Care Institute. The Forum offered delegates case studies, question and answer opportunities, a Participant's Knowledge Exchange and point/counterpoint discussions.

·     Implementing strategies to empower employees to help the customer -
      offering cash bonuses, encouraging individual goal-setting
·     Creating systems to provide structured feedback to reps
·     Retraining all employees
·     Involving the customer in the process by opening channels of communication
      for them to provide feedback

Greg Sanders, Senior Manager of Strategic Services for Symantec Corporation, shared the particulars of Internet self-help best practices in Building Customer Care Services Around Your Website. Key points - Your website must achieve excellence in five specific areas:

(1)  performance, (2)     look and feel, (3)     navigation, (4)     instructions,       and (5)     integration.

·     The company must know what the product is, what the website will say and
      mean, and how it will look and function to the customer.
·     It is necessary to go through all of the steps before implementing any
      services or technology.
·     Make sure that the customer is able to easily access everything in the
      knowledgebase.
·     Keep knowledgebases updated and manageable - if they get out of hand,
      the customer will lose confidence in you.
·     Proactively send newsletters and bulletins to customers before they have
      a need to contact you by phone.
·     Answer email inquiries within 24 hours or don't even bother.
·     Understanding the Internet Revolution - the habits of potential consumers
      regarding the Internet in order to understand wants and needs as well as
      expectations of a website.
·     Recognizing contact channels (present and future) as well as
      consumer expectations associated with those channels and the
      up/downside (advantages/challenges) of each one.
·     Fully utilizing methods of developing personal customer relationships -
      using technology to maximize customer satisfaction; training reps to
      use talents as well as systems.

·     Taking the big picture - the goals of the company - and creating a website       that will mesh with everything else.

To provide the best possible service for customers,
· RIGHT PEOPLE - Using assessment & hiring tools, assemble a staff that is strong and well-suited to the call center environment

· RIGHT TRAINING - A 6-7 week process that places focus on knowledge of the industry, knowledge of the company, systems, troubleshooting and great customer service skills

· RIGHT TOOLS - Implement necessary technology to handle problem tracking and call resolution, rep scheduling, call management, monitoring, install reader boards, etc.

· RECORD EVERY EXPERIENCE - These records allowed any rep to handle any call or repeat call because the history of the account was readily available

· ANALYZE AND PRIORITIZE DATA - Hired a Business Analyst, Business Process Improvement Manager and a Finance Manager to play key roles in analysis and compilation of "what if" scenarios for future training purposes

· DEVELOP IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS BASED ON DATA - Primarily led by the Business Improvement Manager, projects were developed with a focus on efficiency, saving money, and improving customer satisfaction

· IMPLEMENT AND MEASURE - Conducting a baseline/gap study every 18 months, SuperValu found that customer satisfaction has improved from an 85% satisfied rating in the fall of 1996 to a 96% rating in the fall of 2000.

Articles - Coutesy of the US Customer Care Institute
eHRM - Customer Communications


Communicating in your Customer's Language
"You can persuade someone only insofar as you can talk their language, by speech, gesture, tonality, order, image, attitude, idea, identifying your ways with them." Twentieth-Century rhetorician Kenneth Burke's suggestion that language selection is the key to persuading a person is sound advice for business marketers who use the WWW as a medium of communication.

Many online businesses assume that English is the only language on the net, but an abundance of research and statistics indicate that it is folly to limit communications to the one dialect.

An International Data Corp. (IDC) report - "Web Site Globalization: The Next Imperative for the Internet 2.0 Era", said the fast adoption of the Internet will continue in coming years, but the percentage of American users will decline. Forrester Research has found that at the moment only 50% of Internet users speak English, and by 2005 it is estimated only a third of internet users will use English for online communication.

Centre for Business & Associates


At present, according to Inktomi and NEC research, 14% of websites are in a language other than English, which leaves 50% of web users only served by less than a sixth of the Internet's websites. These statistics prove that it is imperative for businesses to prepare for a truly multilingual Internet.

European Internet use is also expected to increase as a percentage of the whole, with Jupiter reporting that European online households will triple in the next three years.
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All About Inktomi- Jim Watson
Inktomi is a behind the scenes search engine, powering some of the largest search services on the web, including MSN, Looksmart, About, and others, as well as a number of regional heavyweights. Dozens of other major web sites use Inktomi Enterprise Search to power their on-site search engine.

In short, Inktomi is a major player in the web search arena, despite its low profile, operating largely behind the scenes..
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