Yes, You Can Afford a Call Center

Dollar symbol in handsFor small and medium-sized businesses, there has traditionally been that not-so-sweet spot between needing a call center and being able to afford one. For very small businesses or startups, the issue was even more complicated: How do I seem like I have a call center when I don’t have the employees to staff one?

The cloud has solved these problems by making call center software with advanced features available to even the smallest of businesses. SMBs can buy hosted call center software that includes features such as interactive voice response (IVR), a predictive dialer, call monitoring/recording and more for a flat monthly fee with little, if any, upfront investment.

The software is also affordable for very small businesses and startups, which can use only the tools they need in the beginning stages to appear more professional.

Why the cloud slashes call center costs

If you’re not familiar with the cloud, it’s simply a different way of delivering software. Rather than investing tens of thousands on hardware and software that is installed and managed on site, you’re paying a third-party vendor to provide the software over the Internet.

Cloud-based software is far less expensive than traditional on-premise software due to this lack of onsite hardware and software. The product is cheaper for the vendor to deliver, and it requires very little or no in-house IT expertise. Most cloud-based call center software offers all the same features at traditional software, but the method of delivery makes it a fraction of the price.

Traditional on-site software is not – and never was – practical for most small businesses because of the cost. But cloud software is accessible even to companies that don’t have an actual call center. It can be used to give the appearance of a larger and more professional operation, and to streamline inbound and outbound calling. You don’t need a dedicated call center with live agents. Calls can be routed to whomever you choose. Maybe product inquires go to the owner/founder and customer service inquires go the marketing assistant. Calls can be also routed off-site for companies with remote workers.

For SMBs that are in rapid periods of growth, the appeal of cloud-based software, aside from cost, is scalability. With on-premise software, you have to anticipate future growth and build those capabilities in to the system. With cloud versions, buy only the number of licenses you need now and then add additional licenses as you need them with one call to the vendor.

How Much Does Cloud-Based Call Center Software Cost? 

The pricing structure differs from one cloud-based call center provider to another, but monthly fees generally range anywhere from $50 to $300 for each agent (or, in the case of very small businesses, for each person who will use the system at once). Some vendors charge a flat monthly fee that includes the calling plan and all the features you need, while others charge extra for each call and/or certain features. Some charge solely based on the number of minutes you use, offering tiered plans that include all the features you need.

Don’t be fooled by plans that advertise a low monthly fee but tack on hidden fees. Be sure to ask the vendor upfront exactly what is included in the price. Telecom that is billed by the minute can get expensive very quickly unless your call volume is very low. That structure also makes it difficult to predict monthly costs.

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How the Cloud Has Transformed IT Departments

iStock_000043197226_SmallFor a long time, IT was pretty straightforward. Your IT staffers sat together in their own department – probably in the corner of the building somewhere or the basement. Technology buying decisions fell squarely in the hands of this department, as did tasks such as data security and system maintenance.

The cloud has transformed all that. Most companies still consider IT departments crucial to everyday operations – they’re certainly not obsolete – but their roles have shifted. In the cloud era, IT departments have been forced to become more collaborative and innovative, and relinquish some control.

Less internal control

With companies increasingly turning to third-party cloud vendors for software and applications, tasks like data management, system updates and system maintenance are often in the hands of third-party vendors. Beyond coordinating these activities with the vendor, notifying employees and addressing any employee issues or questions, IT isn’t heavily involved.

The fear in that has long been that the cloud would make IT departments obsolete, but as we’ll discuss in a bit, that doesn’t have to be the case. Cloud leads some companies to shrink the IT department, but very few eliminate it.

Less control over technology purchase and use

Gone are the days when the IT department had the ultimate say in technology buying. In modern organizations, departments from marketing to human resources are often in charge of which technology they purchase and use. This stems from the long-overdue realization that there’s no one-fits-all solution across company departments, and the realization that individual departments know best what tools and technologies work for them. If the marketing department needs a new lead nurturing tool, for example, it’s probably the CMO, not the CTO, who is giving the final OK on the purchase.

On top of that, the shift toward remote or work-from-home employees has made it difficult for IT departments to control which technologies and tools employees are using. The IT department once acted as a gatekeeper, blocking websites, apps and devices that were not approved. But when an employee is away from the office and/or using his or her own devices, this is difficult or impossible to control. That’s where setting policies and procedures for the use of technology becomes crucial – and that’s something IT can do.

Frees time for big picture improvements 

This is the reason IT departments – particularly those that adapt and grow to changes brought on buy the cloud – won’t become obsolete. The changes above free up IT departments to think more strategically.

Rather than spending all their time managing hardware and software – installing, configuring, testing, securing, monitoring and updating – IT departments can become tech strategists for the company. They can spend more time on IT planning and analyzing how tech solutions are performing. They can also research and assess new technologies, guide other departments through technology purchases, develop policies and procedures for appropriate technology use and help reduce IT spending.

Greater attention to security

Outsourcing technology to third-party vendors does not mean IT departments can turn their attention away from security. The opposite is true, particularly in light of recent major data breaches.

Most third-party cloud providers are highly secure, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to compete in the market. However, IT departments are charged with making sure by finding out exactly how the vendor uses, stores and encrypts sensitive customer data. Add that to the task of controlling internal security problems – many of which the cloud has brought to light – and IT departments are spending more time than other on security issues.

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Three Reasons Companies Put Off Moving to the Cloud

cloud computingThe shift to the cloud is happening at a dizzying pace. Business from small to large, government organizations and nonprofits are realizing the financial benefits, the flexibility and the ease of use that cloud provides.

    • A new study by Emergent Research shows that 78 percent of small businesses (50 or fewer employees) will be fully adapted to the cloud by 2020. In 2014, that number is just 37 percent.
    • A survey by RightScale earlier this year showed that only 16 percent of major enterprises (1,000-plus employees) who responded were still in the “watch” state of cloud adoption, while the remaining 84 percent were either actively working on cloud projects or already using cloud.
    • In the call center industry alone, more than 70 percent of those responding to the 2014 Evolve IP Survey said they’re planning to move to the cloud within 18 months. That’s 70 percent of the 77.5 percent who currently have on-premise systems – the overwhelming majority.

We all know why these businesses are making the switch, so for this blog we’re going to focus on those that haven’t. If the cloud is cheaper and more convenient, what’s the hold up? We’ve identified three of the biggest reasons companies either delay the move to the cloud or reject it entirely.

1. The cost of legacy systems 

Some companies – particularly larger ones – find it hard to let go of their traditional on-premise systems. They don’t want to abandon a system in which they’ve invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Rather than making the switch, they prefer to update the system or replace hardware.

These companies are not always wrong to be cautious. Deciding whether an expensive legacy system has satisfied its ROI and/or outlived its usefulness can be complex. For most companies who are considering a switch the cloud, the tipping point comes when an expensive update is due or when the system is so old that compatible replacement hardware is hard to find.

However, the mentality that companies must wait for the tipping point is flawed. The cloud offers agility and tools that will improve the way your business runs, in addition to all the same features as those legacy systems. Cloud systems also reduce the strain on IT staffers, freeing them to think big picture. Failing to take advantage of business, workflow and technological improvements because you spent too much on a legacy system 10 years ago is shortsighted.

2. Fear of the unknown

Businesses tend to fall into patterns, and sometimes what’s familiar and comfortable seems more appealing than something new. Employees are used to the system interface, and it works OK for them. IT leaders who are strapped for time don’t want to take on additional projects. So why switch?

Moving to a cloud system does require employee training and a learning curve. It requires getting used to a new interface. But it’s not an unsurmountable task. Cloud interfaces are not harder to use than on-premise systems; they’re just different. The same learning curve has always applied to companies switching from one legacy system to another.

Once the learning period is over, most companies are more than happy with their decision. They find cloud systems more intuitive, more user friendly and more convenient. Customer service improves, as does internal employee communication, particularly with off-site employees.

3. Fears about security

Would you feel safer with your wallet in your own pocket or in the pocket of a trusted friend? Your own, most likely. Along the same lines, some companies simply feel safer storing their data in-house rather than somewhere else, even if the third-party vendor is established, reputable and trustworthy. In fact, security fears are often cited as the leading reason companies don’t move to the cloud.

Much has been written about cloud security, and it’s a complex issue that we can’t do justice to here. Bottom line: Complete security is never a guarantee, whether your data is stored in-house or in the cloud.

What’s important when you’re moving to the cloud is to understand how the vendor protects data. This can’t be emphasized enough. Is your data encrypted and/or fragmented? What policies and procedures are in place to make sure hackers or unauthorized employees don’t have access to data? In many cases, the cloud actually gets rid of a company’s worst security threats – but that involves choosing the right vendor.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted in the Amazon platform, seamlessly manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user.

 

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Is the Cloud Really Secure?

iStock_000040644242_SmallIf ever there were a loaded question, this is it.

The alleged iCloud breach that leaked personal celebrity photos, including nude shots, has created a larger debate about the security of the cloud altogether. Is anything in the cloud safe, from business data to personal pics? If hackers can outsmart the world’s most valuable company, who can’t they outsmart?

Long talked about as the next generation for everything from personal storage to business software, cloud technology and applications are widely in use for all sorts of consumer and business functions. For consumers, they offer a storage solution and a way to back up data and photos. For businesses, the benefits are far-reaching, including cost savings, flexibility and ease of use. New cloud tools continue to emerge and grow in popularity at a rapid pace.

Many businesses already had security fears about the cloud, and this latest hack only stands to intensify those fears. But in truth, this celebrity photo debacle doesn’t mean much – if anything – for your business. Here’s why.

Is cloud technology to blame for the celebrity photo leak?

It’s still not clear how hackers got their hands on private celebrity photos. Media outlets initially reported that the leaks could be the result of an iCloud storage service bug, but Apple is denying those reports. The company says its systems have not been breached, and that the accounts were hacked “by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions.”

If Apple is being truthful, that suggests the cloud in itself is not to blame. There could be several other factors at work. If hackers accessed the photos by repeatedly guessing passwords and/or security questions, Apple is to blame for not setting proper limits on the number of guesses. And the celebrities involved may have failed to put in place stronger security measures, such as strong passwords and two-step user authentication, which involves some second form of verification, such as a passcode sent via text. (Of course, celebrities are far from the only ones who fail to use these stronger security measures.)

The mistake in blaming the cloud – at least at this point – is that the term “cloud security” is far too vague. There’s no universal level of security that applies to all cloud-based tools. Much of the responsibility for security lies with the measures put in place by the vendor – Apple, in this case – and the rest lies with the person who is using the cloud service. The cloud, in and of itself, is not the culprit, but it can be a vehicle when other security measures fail.

Is cloud-based business software safe?

If your company uses cloud-based business software, there’s no reason to panic. Reputable vendors have security measures that go far beyond what it took to access iCloud information, if Apple is correct. Otherwise, they couldn’t compete in this security-conscious market. Keep in mind, too, that internal servers can be hacked. Data was being stolen long before the cloud was prevalent.

However, this is a great time to make sure your security is as tight as it can be:

    • If you haven’t already, talk to your cloud-based vendors about the security measures they have in place. Is data encrypted and/or fragmented when it is stored in the cloud? What kind of limits are there on who can access it, both externally and internally? Is any data shared with third parties?
    • Find out if the vendor follows recognized security standards. Are they compliant with PCI guidelines? What about CSA STAR, an international cloud security certification program? ISO 27001?
    • Take a look at your internal data security policies, and revise them. Breaches don’t always come from the outside, and they sometimes happen by accident when an employee inadvertently sends data to the wrong person. Who is allowed to access what, and when? Can employees access sensitive data from home or through mobile devices? Are your emails encrypted?
    • Develop strong password protection. Does your system allow employees to use their first names or 1234 as a password? Start requiring stronger passwords. Consider moving from the outdated method of one-time password authentication to two-step user authentication.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software to businesses of all sizes and political campaigns. We adhere to PCI compliance guidelines and use cryptography that would cost billions of dollars over one year to crack one password.

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Seven Eye-Opening Call Center Infographics

At Kunnect, we love infographics. We’ve compiled some of the best call center infographics from the past couple years to fill you in on the state of call centers today and where they’re going in the future. You might be surprised by some of these numbers – we know we were.

AstuteInfo1FCC

There’s so much going on here, but perhaps the most interesting point is that the human touch is always going to be important in contact centers. Technology is changing the way call centers operate, but it won’t change everything.

Other interesting takeaways:

    • Video chat is coming to the contact center. Imagine if the customer could show the agent the problem with the cable box.
    • The customer is boss, and that trend shows no signs of slowing. Customers want personalized service – and they want it across all channels. Contact centers have to deliver the information when and where the customers want it.

11-1.08.23_Zendesk_CallCenters-01

There are a million and one ways for a customer to reach a company these days – email, chat, text, social media, web self-service and more. But how do they want to reach us? Yes, some 80 percent still prefer to pick up the phone.

This data is a couple years old, but the stats haven’t changed. Contact centers need to make all channels available, as we saw in the graphic above, but the old telephone doesn’t appear to be going anywhere fast.


velaro-customer-service-infographic-fullsize-1

This is a fascinating look at a customer’s view on wait times. Nearly one-third of people say they shouldn’t have to wait at all. What’s really interesting: the income breakdown. Every person surveyed with an income of more than $150,000 per year said they shouldn’t have to wait all. For those making less than $150,000, only about one-third of people answered the same way.


customer-service-infographic


Customers aren’t afraid to ditch you for the competitor if they’re unsatisfied with your customer service. In fact, nearly 90 percent have done so. However, they are willing to give a fair amount of time to respond. Half of people will allow a whole week before they stop doing business with the company, which we think is pretty surprising. That’s a long time in today’s world.

Note: Check out the stat on the number of hours wasted per year on hold with call centers. Whoa. Imagine what people could have done with all that time.


kissmetrics-customer-service-infographics-940x6927

This one offers a ton of interesting data about customer expectations and the cost of letting them down. Did you know that the cost of attracting a new customer is six to seven times higher than the cost of keeping an existing one? We can’t think of a better stat to illustrate the importance of good customer service.

Other interesting takeaways:

    • Bad customer service costs companies across the world $388 billion each year.
    • More than a quarter of customers take to social media to complain about a bad customer service experience. Nearly 80 percent of them get ignored.

bluewolf_infographic

This graphic further illustrates how far we have to go when it comes to social media customer service. Only 20 percent of the big guys – Fortune 500 companies – are engaging with customers on Facebook.


traits-of-top-notch-customer-service-agents

High-quality agents are crucial to the success of our brands, but only 31 percent of companies are taking a close look at quality in call centers. Also, we all know that rewards are powerful incentives, but only 31 percent of companies are rewarding their call center employees for measured improvement. What gives?

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What You Don’t Know About NPG VAN’s Predictive Dialers for Political Campaigns

iStock_000019604005_SmallNPG VAN has made a lot of noise in the political community over the last few years. The company is best known for its most notable client, Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign, and it also counts as customers most Democratic members of Congress.

VAN, as it’s called for short, sells all sorts of integrated technology products to Democratic political campaigns, including fundraising tools, voter contact management systems, volunteer management platforms and more.

The company is also known for its predictive dialers (described less eloquently in some cases as robocalls). As you know, these are the tools that are widely used for political campaigns to make recorded calls, although they can also be used to speed up live calling by automatically dialing numbers and then routing only the calls that are answered to campaign staff members or volunteers.

VAN has an impressive suite of products – no doubt – but there are a few things the salesperson won’t tell you when you’re considering their predictive dialers. The product also has drawbacks related to pricing and, of course, partisan politics.

Advantages of VAN’s Predictive Dialers

To be fair, we’ll start with a few of the pluses:

    • Convenience – Everything you need to make automated calls, store contact lists and update contact histories can be stored in a single system. Busy campaigns can manage everything in one place, saving time and preventing headaches.
    • Ease of use - VAN offers several ways to record calls, including uploading prerecorded files that have been edited or calling a phone number to do a live recording. The instructions on how to record a call are clear and helpful.
    • Competitive pricing – VAN’s pricing is competitive with that of other companies offering predictive dialers.

Disadvantages of VAN’s Predictive Dialers

And now for the cons:

    • Results tracking - The results of automated calls are tracked in a separate area from each voter’s general contact history. The predictive dialer doesn’t cross-reference the results with other interactions. So a campaign won’t know – without doing some digging – if the person who picked up an automated phone call also emailed the campaign the week before or attended a rally.
    • Bad phone numbers – VAN’s predictive dialer doesn’t remove bad phone numbers from the system. It simply marks them in the campaign as “other.” When the next campaign comes around, those numbers will be dialed again, which wastes time. Other products purge all of those bad numbers.
    • Partisan affiliation – VAN only caters to the Democratic party, while many other vendors do not have party restrictions.
    • Per-second pricing – VAN charges by the second, so it’s impossible to budget for your monthly calling in advance. Other vendors offer flat monthly fees that make pricing predictable. VAN’s rate is 1 cent for the first 15 seconds and three-tenths of a cent for every additional 15 seconds. Thus, a one-minute call costs 1.9 cents.
    • Trouble with online phone numbers – Campaigns that use online phone numbers will have to take some extra steps to use VAN. The predictive dialer has a built-in mechanism to prevent outgoing calls from fake numbers – which is great for consumers – but it requires additional setup steps and fees for campaigns with online numbers through Google Voice, Skype or the like. Campaigns have to work separately with their phone vendor to solve this one.

Kunnect sells cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer for a flat rate of $125 per user per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. Our customers include businesses across the world and political campaigns. 

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Benefits of Predictive Dialers in the Call Center and Beyond

Predictive dialers are nothing new. They’re widely used in call centers across the world to manage outbound calls, both live and automated.

Predictive dialers are computer-based systems that automatically dial a list of phone numbers. When the system is used to make live calls, the computer immediately routes the call to an agent or salesperson when – and if – someone answers the phone. With automated messages, the technology is often used for surveys, appointment confirmations and collection efforts. Either way, the predictive dialer can be set up to leave a message if no one answers the phone.

Most large companies are already using predictive dialers, but small and mid-size businesses can benefit from the technology, too. Predictive dialers also have significant advantages for political campaigns and nonprofits. In order to better understand what a predictive dialer can do for your company or organization, we’ll walk you through the benefits here.

1. Better Call Efficiency and Productivity

You might not think it takes much time to dial a phone number, but when you have employees who are on the phone all day, those lost seconds turn into lost minutes and hours. Factor in all the time wasted calling disconnected numbers or people who aren’t home, and your outgoing call volume has plummeted. That means fewer sales and fewer happy customers.

With a predictive dialer, you can input a list of contacts and have the computer handle all of the dialing. If someone picks up, the call goes directly to a customer service rep or salesperson. If the number is busy, disconnected or a fax line, the dialer moves on to the next.

Predictive dialers are even more efficient when you’re making calls that don’t require a live person. Rather than having your staff members make individual calls for surveys, appointment reminders or collections, the computer can send out hundreds or thousands of automated messages at once. You achieve the same goal – ideally – without tying up staff hours.

Outside of the business world, automated calls are widely used by political campaigns to send messages to voters, seek donations or conduct surveys. Nonprofits use predictive dialers to ask for donations or send legislation updates relevant to their cause. In all sorts of situations where efficiency is important and resources are limited, predictive dialers are useful.

2. Decreased Call Center Costs

Better efficiency equals lower costs – we all know that. The cost savings are difficult to measure because they vary from one company to another, but they’re real. One of the biggest areas of savings is personnel costs. A predictive dialer can cut down on the number of staff members and/or staff hours needed because each person can make far more calls. There’s less downtime, which allows you to make the most out of the staff members you have.

Predictive dialers do come at a cost, of course, but the investment is minimal and it is easily recouped. A la carte predictive dialers cost anywhere from $50-$200 per agent per month, depending on the system’s capabilities. Or, you can opt for a complete cloud-based call center software package that includes a predictive dialer for $100-$300 per agent per month.

3. Increased Sales

Most experts say predictive dialers have the potential to double your outbound call volume. The results aren’t always that dramatic, but they can be. So the salespeople or telemarketers who are making 50 calls per day are suddenly capable of making 100. We all know what happens when a sales staff dramatically increases the number of calls: sales go up.

Predictive dialers also increase sales by eliminating downtime. Salespeople and telemarketers can’t sit around pretending to look busy or waste time on the phone with their friends when the numbers are automatically being dialed for them.

It’s important to note, however, that people are not machines. While predictive dialers can greatly increase staff efficiency, it’s important to set reasonable expectations for the amount of time each employee spends on the phone. The one thing you don’t want to do is create a bunch of overworked and miserable employees in the name of efficiency.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted in the Amazon platform, seamlessly manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user.

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Can Exercise Programs Reduce Call Center Turnover?

iStock_000014641903_SmallCan something as simple as incentivizing your employees to exercise save millions of dollars per year and reduce call center turnover? That’s a tall order, but a tech startup called Tenacity Health is banking on it.

Tenacity is a MIT invented and tested app that encourages employees to exercise more, manage stress and build relationships with coworkers. Employees each choose two partners to help them reach their fitness goals, and when a goal is reached the partners are rewarded with Amazon cash.

Five companies are piloting the app thus far in their call centers. CEO and Co-founder Ron Davis hasn’t said which companies – at least in so many words – but according to Technofyi blogger Alex Kuklinski, Davis strongly hinted in a June presentation that Apple is one of them. He went as far as to share the Apple logo on his screen while referring to the unnamed companies.

The technology will be interesting to watch. It makes sense: We all know that call centers are stressful environments, and it’s well documented that exercise is an effective stress reliever. The larger questions are: 1) How motivational are the incentives? 2) Will companies see a return on investment?

(The app is free for employees, but companies must buy it. No word yet on how much it costs.)

Davis seems confident, according to Kuklinski’s blog post: The CEO said at that June Sprint Accelerator Demo Day that better workplace relationships and lower stress could save more than $2 million for a call center of 50 people. What he didn’t say was how long it would take to achieve those savings.

The Surprising Cost of Call Center Turnover

As you’re probably well aware, call centers are notorious for high turnover rates. A turnover rate of 20 percent per year is considered low in the call center industry, according to Kate Leggett, an analyst with Forrester Research. And some call centers have turnover rates of more than 100 percent per year. Given the high-stress environment, that’s no big surprise.

Turnover is far more than just a headache for call centers – it’s expensive. According to the Center for American Progress, most companies incur more than $5,000 in recruiting, hiring and training costs for each $30,000 employee they lose. Multiply that by 20 percent of the staff  – or more – and imagine the total annual cost.

High turnover also has consequences that are difficult, if not impossible, to measure. When call center employees see their friends and coworkers dropping like flies, morale suffers. Extremely high turnover is also a good indicator of other problems, whether it’s poor training or inadequate hiring. For call centers with very high rates, it might time to look internally and shift your policies.

How to Reduce Stress in Call Centers

We’ve blogged on this topic before, but it never hurts to rehash a few of our favorite tips for reducing employee stress in call centers:

    • Offer rewards and incentives – This is exactly what Tenacity is doing, and it’s a method that has proven effective. In addition to cash, you can offer raises, scheduling flexibility, extra vacation time, restaurant certificates, increased authority – you name it. Just don’t tie the incentives to the length of customer calls. You don’t want to incentive employees to be brief because brief isn’t always in the best interest of the customer.
    • Set career goals – Working in a call center can feel like a dead-end job, particularly if you’re not creating paths for deserving employees to move up. Create a program for identifying and promoting your best employees, and let agents know from day one that hard work can lead to a promotion.
    • Revamp your support system - Many frustrations call center employees face can be solved simply be having a strong support system. Let employees know that they can turn to managers for help when they’re facing a problem. Let them know that you want to provide the tools they need to succeed in the workplace – and be happy.
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Grassroots Campaigning: Leveraging Volunteers to Win the Election

iStock_000019604005_SmallFrom the ground up – that’s the spirit of grassroots campaigning. The method has been widely used since Teddy Roosevelt campaign in 1904 announced that it would organize in every locality, beginning “at the grass roots.”

(To be fair, no one knows who originated the term, but the Roosevelt campaign is one of the earliest documented uses.)

So what is grassroots campaigning, exactly? It’s a very broad term to describe campaigning that begins at the local level. A movement starts person to person and then – ideally – grows to the state or national level. Typically, grassroots campaigns are based heavily on volunteer efforts.

How Campaign Volunteers Win Elections

There are only so many staffers and consultants that a political campaign budget can support. Enter the volunteers. Volunteers not only supplement, but enhance, a campaign’s effort to spread the message to voters. Because they’re not being paid to make claims, voters tend to take their opinions seriously. In fact, some campaigns are bucking paid consultants altogether in favor of grassroots campaigns led by volunteers.

Volunteers can turn a small team of campaign staffers into an army of political supporters. But that requires a talented (and paid) volunteer coordinator to recruit, train and direct them. The right personalities need to be selected, and volunteers need to be assigned to the tasks that suit them best. Properly executed, a volunteer campaign can give a strong and well-managed campaign the edge needed to win the race.

How to Find Volunteers for Your Political Campaign

Start with family and friends. These are the people who are likely to be your biggest supporters, which gives them the ability to speak about your cause honestly and naturally. This is key because authenticity is everything.

Next, reach out to your local political party to see if they can recommend volunteers. Chances are, the local party groups have a long list of people who are more than willing to volunteer time to support their beliefs. Contact these people directly and ask them if they’d be willing to volunteer their time. Develop some key talking points about your candidate’s credentials and goals to get volunteers excited, but don’t push anyone who’s hesitant. A half-hearted volunteer might hurt your campaign, not help it.

Then, reach out to friends and acquaintances of volunteers. Again, these are people who are likely to be warm to your cause. Often, politically active people surround themselves with like-minded folks.

Finally, don’t forget to take advantage of social media. Send out Facebook and Twitter posts seeking campaign volunteers, and reach out directly to people who post positive messages about your candidate.

How to Train Volunteers

When you recruit political campaign volunteers, you’re asking for a big commitment. These people are agreeing to give up their nights and weekends – unpaid – to help support your cause. The best volunteers are more than willing, but it’s important to be sensitive to their schedules and time constraints. Always ask how much time they can spare each week – and respect those limits.

Spend some time getting to know each volunteer, learning about their preferences and strengths. Have a marketing expert on board? Ask them to help out with social media posts. A natural talker? That’s the person who should go door-to-door. And the shy volunteer? Maybe they’re more comfortable stuffing envelopes or sending out email blasts. It’s always a good idea to play to the person’s strengths, rather than talking them into tasks.

No matter what the volunteer will be doing, it’s important to educate every volunteer on the campaign’s platforms and talking points. Even if a volunteer is behind the scenes, you never know when they’ll run into someone who learns they volunteer and wants to know more about the campaign. Everyone on the team should be prepared to answer basic questions.

Finally, spend some time with each volunteer training them on the task they’ve been assigned. Even if a volunteer is a social media expert, for example, train them on how your campaign handles social media. Don’t assume that any volunteer knows exactly what to do without some gentle guidance.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted in the Amazon platform, seamlessly manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user.

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Can My Small Business Afford Call Center Software?

iStock_000040644242_SmallCustomers now have all sorts of ways to get in touch with your business, from email to social media. But what do they prefer? The regular old phone. More than 80 percent of customers still prefer the phone over any other channel.

Given that statistic, developing a system to streamline inbound and outbound calling is as crucial for small businesses as it is for major corporations. Without it, customers are likely to have trouble reaching the right person to answer their question – or anyone at all, for that matter. That’s frustrating for the customer, to say the least, at it looks bad for your business.

Some small businesses think they don’t need call center software because they don’t have a call center in the traditional sense – you know, a giant room filled with agents wearing headsets. But even if you have just a few employees in cubicles who answer phones and contact customers, you do have a call center.

In all fairness, it’s easy to understand why small businesses don’t rush to find call center software. Traditionally, many small businesses were priced out of the call center software market. The capitol investment was just too great. However, with the rise of cloud computing, enterprise-level features can be affordable.

How Much Does Cloud-Based Call Center Software Cost?

Traditional software systems that are installed on-site and managed locally by a company’s IT staff are expensive. They can cost tens of thousands or more upfront, and you need to have a robust IT department to manage them.

Enter cloud-based call center software. The upfront investment is small, and the service is billed by the month. Rates vary from one provider to another, but robust services can be found for $100-$200 per agent per month. Cloud-based software is far less expensive because there’s no on-site hardware or software to install and manage. The software is hosted by the vendor on their site, and your company accesses the software through the Internet.

Cloud-based call center software offers the same functionality as on-premise systems. Features include predictive dialers, automated answering, call routing, call prioritizing, CRM software integration, real-time statistics and reporting, live call monitoring, web scripting, queue management and more.

Cloud-based call center software also works for small businesses because of its scalability. With on-premise software, you have to purchase enough hardware and licenses to account for future growth, which can be impossible to predict. With cloud products, buy only the number of licenses you need now, then add or remove licenses as needed with one phone call to the vendor.

How to Shop for Cloud-Based Call Center Software

Cloud-based software has exploded in popularity in the last few years. Companies of all sizes are becoming more familiar with the technology, and they’re looking to reduce IT costs. In fact, 70 percent of call centers who use on-premise software say they’re planning to make a switch to the cloud, according to a recent survey. About half will do so within the next 18 months.

Whether your company is switching to the cloud or shopping for call center software for the first time, there are some important things to know before you select a vendor. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How is the pricing structured? Is the monthly fee a flat rate, or do some features cost extra? Are calls billed by the hour or minute, or is calling included in the monthly fee? Be sure to get pricing details in writing.
  • How reliable is the customer support? What are the average hold times to reach a live agent if there are problems with the software? Are agents available 24/7?
  • Does the software integrate with your current systems? Call center software can be problematic if it doesn’t seamlessly integrate with your existing CRM and back office systems.
  • Is the software user friendly? Call center software is only as valuable as your employees’ ability to use it properly and take full advantage of the features. Always “try it” before you buy.

Kunnect sells cloud-based call center software to businesses of all sizes for a flat rate of $125 per user per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. 

Learn how Kunnect can help you, why not get in touch with us? >>>Contact us