The Seven Most Important Principles of Amazing Customer Service

Customer ServiceMore and more often, amazing customer service is what sets companies apart. It used to be that a remarkably memorable customer service experience – whether good or bad – only made it into the ears of a few friends and family members. Now, with social media, it can easily be shared with the world.

Delivering exceptional customer service is attainable for all companies, but it’s important to understand exactly what customers want and expect. Follow these seven principles to surprise, delight, impress – and retain – your customers.

1. Treat customers like human beings

Keep in mind that the caller on the other end of the line is a real person, not just a faceless customer. Customer service employees should be kind, genuine and sensitive. They should speak to customers how they would speak to people in real life, rather than simply reading from a script. Use the person’s name when talking to them, and treat them like the individual they are.

2. Be a good listener 

When you’ve been in a call center all day answering phones, it can be tempting to tune people out. But you can’t help people if you’re not taking the time to listen carefully to their problems and fully understand the situation. If there’s something you don’t understand, ask rather than making assumptions.

3. If at all possible, say yes 

Your job is to help people. As long as a customer’s request is within reason, always find a way to make it happen. Constantly pushing back or haggling over things like small charges and fees reflects poorly on a company. Make your organization a pleasure to do business with, and customers won’t forget it.

4. Apologize 

Dealing with angry or upset customers is not fun, of course, but there are ways to diffuse the situation. One of the best strategies is mastering the art of the apology. When a customer has a bad experience, sometimes all it takes is a genuine apology to calm them down. Offering an apology is not a difficult thing to do, and it goes a long way in making the customer feel better. In many cases, a simple and genuine apology can turn a contentious conversation into a pleasant one.

5. Empathize

An apology is not enough without genuine empathy, however. You can apologize all you want, but it won’t resonate unless the customer believes you truly sympathize with their situation. Always put yourself in the customer’s shoes and think about you would feel in a similar situation. Express to the customer that you understand their frustration and would feel the same way.

6. Explain

If a customer doesn’t understand your policies, procedures and rules, explain them clearly. Sometimes a customer is angry or upset because they don’t understand why a certain decision was made or a particular charge was incurred. If you don’t have a logical explanation for a decision that was made, work with the customer to come to a resolution. That’s a good indication that the decision was unfair.

7. Exceed expectations

The experiences customers really remember are those when companies go above and beyond to make them happy. Maybe you offer to overnight an item free of charge that a customer needs quickly. If a customer is unhappy with their purchase, offer a 20 percent coupon in addition to the refund. Customers remember companies that go out of their way to make their experience better. Exceeding expectations is what creates loyal customers.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics and historical reporting.

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A Customer Service Lesson In Doing the Right Thing

A friend of mine recently spent more than an hour on the phone with Comcast (no big surprise there) trying to dispute an unexplained $84 charge that ended up on her bill.

While she is far from the only person with a similar tale to tell, the incident serves as a reminder that some of the largest companies have yet to master customer service basics. The most important one being: just do the right thing.

Alicia opened her Comcast bill this month to find that it was nearly double what it should have been, so she called customer service to get to the bottom of it. The charge was marked as an outstanding balance from November, but there was no information provided on the nature of the charge.

Before calling, Alicia did her homework. She went through PDFs of past bills over the last year to see if she could find an outstanding charge. There was no unpaid $84 fee she could find from November – or any other month, for that matter. Every bill had a zero balance at the end of the month.

The customer service representative she spoke with explained that the charge was related to unreturned equipment. However, the rep said he wasn’t authorized to adjust the bill, so Alicia asked to speak to someone who could. The supervisor who answered had an entirely different explanation for the bill – an unpaid balance for Internet service from Alicia’s previous address. That charge had not appeared on any previous bills for the old address, however.

Suffice it say, the exchange got a little heated. Alicia was not willing to pay for a charge that Comcast could neither explain or document, but the supervisor kept insisting that it was a “valid charge.” Alicia continued to push back, frustrated that Comcast could simply claim a charge as valid without proof – particularly when a charge from November appeared out of the blue in March.

In the end, Comcast won — at least in Alicia’s mind. The supervisor finally agreed to split the difference and deduct $40, but that still felt unfair to Alicia without any proof that the charge was valid. She had a work appointment that required her to get off the phone, so she agreed to pay the $40 simply because she didn’t have time to continue arguing. Comcast was able to push back long enough that she had to give in, despite being more than unhappy about it.

The Customer Service Lessons

Although Comcast made $40 that day, the company lost in other ways. Alicia posted on Facebook about the incident, and she shared the story with friends over morning coffee and happy hour cocktails. That story turned into this blog. It begs the question: Was $40 worth further damage to the brand?

Comcast has a unique position in the market because in many areas there is no competition, leaving frustrated customers without the option to cancel service. However, this is most likely not the case in your industry. If customers have experiences like this, they’ll seek out your competitors instead.

There are a couple important lessons here: 1) In the modern world, a story about a bad customer experience can easily reach hundreds or thousands of people; 2) It’s more important to please the customer than to win; and 3) If you’re going to bill for a service or product, you should be able to prove it was provided.

There will always be customers who will try to dispute a valid charge or argue their way out of paying a bill, and you can’t give in to everyone. But in this case – which involved a loyal, long-term customer who does not have a history of complaints – the right thing to do would have been to refund the charge.

In the modern world of customer service, we all should know by now that preserving brand loyalty and retaining customers is the No. 1 priority. It should certainly come over nickeling-and-diming loyal customers.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics and historical reporting.

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Training Call Center Agents to Be Effective Communicators

Customer ServiceGood communication skills are critical for call center agents. That’s nothing you didn’t already know. But people communicate differently, and flawless communication is a hard thing to achieve. How do you train agents to be the best communicators possible?

Chances are, good communication skills are high on your priority list during hiring. But even with a great call center staff, those skills can be honed and improved through proper policies, training, strong leadership. Here are some tips to give your agents the best chance of success.

First, educate

Training is crucial to the success of call center employees, but many call centers move through training too quickly to get new hires on the floor. Take the time to properly train your employees in a practical and hands-on way. Walk them through various customer scenarios, and have them practice how they would handle the situation. Talk to them about different communication styles, and instruct them how to respond. If someone is screaming, what’s the best way to calm them down? If the person is having trouble explaining the problem, how can they ask the right questions to fully understand it? Role playing is helpful in training because it gives the agents hands-on experience.

Next, introduce

Have your team sit down and meet with new hires before they hit the floor. This can be done one-on-one or in a small group setting. Introduce them to senior agents, supervisors and department heads. Have team members explain their roles and explain how they can help in various situations. Knowing names and faces in advance makes employees feel more comfortable if they need to approach someone for help when there’s a problem – communication or otherwise.

Tap successful agents for mentoring

Your top agents can be wonderful mentors for other call center employees. You can introduce the buddy system, pairing the best communicators with new or struggling agents and seating them next to one another. The agents with something to learn can directly observe how successful communication sounds, and they’ll be able to model that. You can also enlist top agents to lead some sort of communication training course or seminar to share best practices.

Assign tasks based on skills

People naturally have certain strengths and weaknesses, and that can actually be a benefit in the call center. Think of how a restaurant operates. The waitress doesn’t need to be a good chef, and the chef doesn’t need to know how to carry a tray. If someone is well spoken but more of an introvert, assign them to web chat or social media customer service. If someone is great at conflict resolution, direct irate callers to them. We can train people on how to communicate best, but we can’t change who people are. It’s better to play to their strengths.

Explain why good communication is so important

To be invested, call center employees need to understand why good communication is so important in the call center. Explain that they have the power to shape the customer’s experience. They have a direct role in creating brand loyalty. They can either be creating customers for life or sending customers right to the competition. Once agents understand how important their role is to the brand, they will be more motivated to provide a level of service that builds customer loyalty.

Emphasize patience

Patience is one of the best skills an agent can have. The job can be stressful, and call center employees will undoubtedly have to deal with unhappy or irate customers. The key is not taking any of that personally or reacting to it in a rash way. Above all else, encourage employees to remain calm no matter what happens. Getting angry never makes the experience better – for the customer or the employee.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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Why Don’t Cloud Call Center Software Vendors Publish Their Rates? 

Dollar symbol in handsThe way we shop for products has changed in the past couple decades, thanks to the Internet. This applies to everyone from consumers to CTOs: We want to research products and pricing on our own – at least in the preliminary stages – without having to sit through a sales pitch from every vendor out there.

Unfortunately, this is not always easy with tech purchases, including cloud-based call center software. Many vendors don’t publish pricing on their websites – or even complete details about product features. You have to call to get that information, and in many cases they require you to provide your business name, phone number and email address in trade for the information. After that, you’ll be fielding sales calls for weeks, even if all you wanted was basic information.

(BTW: We recently called a variety of vendors to collect better pricing info and make it public. Check out that blog here.)

So…why all the secrecy? 

To be fair, we can understand the thought process that goes in to wanting to entice a customer to call. It’s easier to sell someone on the merits of your products when you can talk to them. If all the information about pricing and features is posted on your website, some potential customers might rule you out based on what they see. They might never call to learn more about the product or schedule a demo.

We also think the secrecy goes back to the days when cloud software didn’t exist and on-premise systems were the only option. Prices for on-premise software are tougher to predict because they depend heavily on the type of hardware you choose and local installation costs. There’s far less variability with cloud pricing because there’s no hardware or installation required, but many legacy vendors that now offer cloud versions of their products don’t reveal pricing for those cloud products either. They’ve always operated that way, and old habits die hard.

Finally, there has always been an element of sticker shock attached to on-premise systems, which can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront. Publishing those figures might have scared customers off. That’s not much of a concern with cloud software because the monthly rates are low and little if any money is due upfront. But again, change can be difficult, particularly for vendors who have operated a certain way for many decades.

Why transparency is better 

We believe in transparency when it comes to pricing for a variety of reasons, and we think more vendors should operate that way. Here are some of the potential pitfalls of not being upfront about pricing.

  • As we said earlier, buying behaviors have changed. We’re living in an age of information, and business customers expect transparency from their vendors. The lack of it frustrates them. If you’re making customers jump through hoops just to get basic information, you might turn them off before you have the chance to sell them anything.
  • Assuming customers aren’t capable of evaluating your product on their own underestimates them. Sure, they’ll eventually need to chat with salespeople and do a demo if they’re interested in the software, but comparing features versus pricing among vendors on a basic, preliminary level is something they can do without help. Armed with the right information, tech buyers know how to weed out what doesn’t fit.
  • If your prices and features aren’t clearly advertised, some potential customers might bypass you altogether. They’ll want to do their own research and then approach a few vendors that seem best suited based on what they find. If they can’t get enough information to make a decision about you one way or the other, you might get skipped over.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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

Seven Ways to Achieve Success in the Cloud

What-does-cloud-computing-have-in-store-for-Small-and-Medium-Business-Enterprises-2Any company can move critical systems and business applications to the cloud, but that’s half the battle. Jumping on the cloud bandwagon without giving serious consideration to how you’ll succeed in the cloud is shortsighted. Here are our best tips for making the cloud transition work for you – both now and in the long run.

1. Don’t make it all about money – Yes, the cloud is lauded for its affordability compared to on-premise software. But if you make the transition all about money, you might be selling yourself short. Think first in terms of features and functionality – the system has to work for you or it’s not worth much. Cost is important, but it should never be the only consideration.

2. Rethink your strategy - Don’t just transfer all of your existing software and applications to cloud versions. Think about how you would design your IT infrastructure if you could start from scratch. Transitioning to the cloud is a great time to think about what might work better. What apps and features do you need? Are there some that aren’t working or others you would like to have?

3. Pay attention to security – Security should be a major consideration when transitioning to the cloud. Most established vendors offer a very high level of security, but you shouldn’t take their word for it. Get a copy of their security policy and review it in detail. How is your data stored and protected? Is it encrypted? Who is allowed to access your data and when – both internally and on the vendor side?

4. Think about your customers – These days, IT is not just about making things work internally. It’s also about making the customer experience seamless. How will cloud technology improve the customer experience? How will it enable your employees to provide better and faster service? Technology should always strive to improve the customer experience, not hamper it.

5. Prepare for a learning curve – Any sort of IT transition comes with a break-in period. Despite the benefits of cloud, almost no transition goes off without a hitch. Plan for and expect this. Perhaps you staff extra IT employees during the transition or offer overtime. Discuss with the vendor what challenges could possibly come up, and don’t make the transition until you’ve decided how to address them. Decide in advance what business tasks might be put on the back burner to free time to address issues that arise.

6. Prepare employees for the change – The more educated your employees are on why you’re making the change, the more invested they will be in making sure you’re successful. Educate employees on what the new technology will bring and how it will ultimately improve their work experience. Simply deploying the technology without much communication as to why can make the transition more difficult. Employees should be part of the process, not an afterthought.

7. Choose vendors wisely - Before you start searching for vendors, decide what kind of partners you want. The values and ideals of your partners should be closely aligned to your own. What is their mission, and how do they go about achieving it? What are their future plans for growth, development and product improvement? You want a technology partner with similar goals and standards. Trust your instinct on this one. If the vendor doesn’t seem like a good fit, they’re probably not. You many also want to avoid very niche players or less established vendors that haven’t proven their reliability.

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The Call Center Revolution: Four Changes to Make Now

iStock_000043197226_SmallCall centers haven’t just changed; they’ve revolutionized. Everything from the technology to how customers expect us to interact with them has been flipped on its head, particularly in the last five or 10 years. In fact, we don’t even call them call centers most of the time anymore – they’re contact centers.

The goal is still the same, of course: To solve customer problems, offer support and make customers happy. But the way we go about it is different.

We talk a lot about technology in this blog – we’re a technology provider, after all – but this time we’re going to look at how customer interaction has changed. If you’re not already doing these four things in the call center, chances are you’re behind the competition.

1. Communicate with customers in their preferred channel

When all customer exchanges were done by phone, life was simpler. There was only one place we needed to be when customers reached out – by the phone. Then email crept its way in, and things became slightly more complex.

Enter social media, web chat, texting, mobile apps and more, and now the list of potential channels for communication is long. The tricky thing about that is, you have to be available to customers in all of them. The modern customer expects you to communicate with them in the channel of their choice. That’s means if they reach out through Twitter, they want a response through Twitter. They don’t want to be told to call instead. Problems often can’t be resolved in 140 characters, of course, but at least attempt to address the problem there and say how you plan to help. Ask for their contact info to reach out, rather than just sending yours.

2. Rethink your performance measurements

Metrics are helpful for some things, but they are no longer considered the absolute measure of success in a call center. You might have short wait times, high sales and fast call resolution, but that doesn’t always mean your customers are happy. Success in modern call centers is based on the quality of the customer experience, not just data. Other key performance indicators (KPIs) – for example, resolution on the first contact, not the second or third – are becoming more important.

3. Get customers to the right person – faster

Patience is wearing thin among consumers as a whole for being bounced around from one person to another to get a simple answer. They want to reach someone who can actually answer their question, and that’s really not too much to ask. Tools like skills-based routing and automatic callback can improve the experience for the customers. Skills-based routing sends customers to the agent best equipped to solve their problem, not just the first person available. Automatic callback allows customers to hang up when call volume is high and receive a call back when a suitable agent is available. Many cloud-based call center software providers are now offering those tools as part of their solutions.

4. Get out of the silo 

The call center used to operate pretty much in a vacuum. Not much information flowed back and forth from other departments, and functions didn’t overlap with other departments. Today, customer service is viewed as a mission of the entire company and the responsibility of all departments, to some extent. Some social media efforts, which used to be a marketing function, might be handled by customer service. Or, marketing might answer a customer service tweet. The roles of various departments are blending, and that means they need to talk.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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

Six Things Small Businesses Should Know About the Cloud

What-does-cloud-computing-have-in-store-for-Small-and-Medium-Business-Enterprises-2You’re running a small business and you’re not at IT expert — why should you care about the cloud? Because small businesses of all kinds stand to reap big benefits from cloud computing, and you don’t have to be anything close to a tech expert to take advantage of them.

If the cloud is something of a meaningless buzzword to you, here’s the summary: It allows you to buy all sorts of IT infrastructure, from software to hardware, as a service over the Internet, rather than a physical product. That matters because the price is much lower. You have access to systems that can manage all sorts of critical business functions – data storage, invoicing, accounting, billing, marketing, lead generation, payroll, call center operations and much more — without the expense of buying and installing hardware and software on site.

Why is cloud computing so exciting for small businesses? 

Cloud computing levels the playing field between small businesses and much larger ones. It provides small businesses with access to tools and technologies that were once too expensive for them. This paves the way for small businesses to compete on a more even playing field.

Exactly what types of services are offered over the cloud? 

The tools we listed above are examples of Software as a Service (SaaS). Just about anything you used to accomplish by buying licensed copies of software in CD form and installing on them on your computers can now be accomplished by subscribing to the an online service and accessing it via your Internet connection. You can also buy infrastructure such as server space, memory and storage this way (IaaS). Essentially, you’re just renting server, memory or storage space from the vendor.

Why is a SaaS subscription better than just buying software outright? 

Two reasons – cost and flexibility. There’s very little if any upfront investment required. Instead, you pay a monthly fee for each person using the service. You can discontinue at any time, so you’re not locked in to a product or service. Also, you can access company data and business applications from remote locations — on the road, from home, even from a different country. You’re not glued to the office.

How much does cloud-based software cost? 

That depends on what you buy and how many people within the company are using it. However, even complex software products can be found for a couple hundred dollars or less per month per user. The cloud, as we’ve said, is affordable for the vast majority of small businesses.

Is the cloud secure? 

That’s a difficult question to answer because, again, it depends. Not all cloud products and vendors are alike – there’s a lot of variation out there. A critical part of choosing a vendor is examining its security practices and policies in depth. Don’t take the company’s word that the product is secure; ask detailed questions like these. Never assume you’re not at risk because you’re a small business. Hackers target you, too.

How popular is the cloud among small businesses? 

The cloud is gaining serious momentum among small businesses, and that is only expected to accelerate. A recent study by Emergent Research, a consulting firm, and Intuit, which makes financial software, said 37 percent of small businesses in the United States use cloud computing. They expect that number to reach 80 percent – more than double – within the next six years.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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

Cloud Security Keeps Getting Better – Here’s Why

Online-Cloud-StorageSecurity concerns have long been the single greatest barrier to cloud adoption. Companies have been leery – and rightly so – of letting a third-party vendor store and manage their data, particularly when it includes sensitive data. They were hesitant to jump to the cloud knowing there could be risks.

However, the tide of public opinions in changing because cloud security has greatly improved. That is, in part, because vendors are well aware of security concerns and have taken significant steps to boost security. But there are other factors at work, too. We’ll examine all of them here.

What vendors have done 

For cloud vendors, their success depends heavily on security. If they can’t keep a company’s data secure, they’re not going to succeed in this market. The good vendors – including most of the large ones – have realized that. Many of them now provide better security than most on-premise systems.

The best vendors have complex security strategies that include:

  • Encryption – Most providers offer some form of encryption, but the key here is who owns the encryption keys. You should have control of who accesses the data and when, not the provider. The best providers give you the tools to encrypt but allow you to be in control.
  • Multi-factor authentication – More advanced providers require two or more factors of identification to verify log-in credentials for administrative access. This includes something you know (a password or pin), something you have (a USB device or secure mobile app) and sometimes something you are (biometrics). Be wary of providers that one require only one factor of authentication – that’s a huge security risk.
  • Tight physical security – The vendor keeps their servers heavily protected with access controls, surveillance and more.
  • Data loss prevention – This is no supplement for your own internal policies on data loss, but many cloud vendors are now offering this as a service to alert you to potential violations of security.
  • Strict firewall controls to secure cloud-based servers.

These security tools and procedures have made the cloud a much safer home for data. However, keep in mind that no solution is foolproof. And you should always read a complete copy of the vendor’s security policy before agreeing to trust them with your data. Every vendor will tell you they’re secure, but not all vendors are equally secure. It’s up to you to get specifics and hold them accountable.

Need more info on how to approach vendors about security issues? Here’s a good article on 10 security questions you should ask.

The rise of third-party security vendors

Third-party security vendors are popping up that specialize in cloud security, and many of them are very good at what they do. Many third-party encryption services leave the keys completely with you so that all the encryption and decryption is done internally on your own systems. This means the keys are never in the cloud, so they can’t be compromised by the provider. It’s impossible.

The difficulty here is deciding what kind of third-party security you need and choosing a vendor. There are many options, and different vendors address different types of security risks. Here’s a rundown of 20 vendors that are making waves – along with a description of the services they provide.

How companies have contributed

Finally, some of the improvement in cloud security can be attributed to the users themselves. Companies are getting smarter about security, and they’re doing their research before working with a vendor to make sure the product is secure. Companies are also rethinking and reworking their internal security policies. They’re realizing that data breaches are sometimes the result of an internal mistake, not an outside factor. They’re developing policies on things like who can use sensitive data and when, whether emails should be encrypted and how data should be stored and protected on laptops and mobile devices.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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

Transitioning to the Cloud: The Burden of Legacy Systems for Big Businesses

iStock_000040644242_SmallSmall businesses tend to be nimble and agile. They can adapt to changes quickly, and implementing new technology is fairly easy because there are not as many burdensome and expensive systems already in place. For those reasons, small and medium-sized businesses were early adopters of cloud software.

Big businesses don’t always have the same luxuries. Transitioning to the cloud is more complicated when you have legacy systems in place. In many cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone in to on-premise hardware, systems and data centers. Large companies don’t want to just throw all that away, despite the benefits of moving to cloud software.

When Is It Time to Transition to the Cloud? 

For large companies, transitioning to the cloud is often a slow process. A lot of serious decision making goes in to when and how to start making the transition, and how to carry it out. For most enterprises, the transition starts with adopting cloud business applications here and there. When it’s time to introduce a new application, most of the time it’s in the cloud. But that doesn’t mean abandoning existing business applications that run on your own hardware.

Where the decision gets more complicated is: When is it time to transition existing or legacy software, applications and infrastructure to the cloud? How do you know when the existing tools have outlived their useful lives or fulfilled their ROI? If you’ve invested heavily in data center technology, will it ever make sense to switch over to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)?

There are no simple answers to these questions because no two companies have identical IT infrastructure. Most enterprises are still in the early stages of cloud adoption, and most are focusing on hybrid cloud for now to combine the best qualities of both – the control and security of private cloud and the flexibility and efficiency of public cloud. (More on that here from TechTarget. As you’ll read, there are multiple ways to go about that, too.) Yet, very few big companies are running a large portion of their IT in the cloud now.

The decision to move mission-critical systems to the cloud is a juggling act because it involves many considerations: estimated cost savings, difficulty of the transition, lifespan and usefulness of existing systems, security, reliability concerns and more. If it were an easier decision, more companies would already be almost exclusively in the cloud. However, it can be done. If you’re skeptical, check out this CIO Journal piece on a large company that did it. Despite some challenges, the company said the value of cloud made it worthwhile.

When Will Cloud Be the Norm? 

No one knows exactly how long it will take for cloud to become the norm, but a recent study suggests the transition is well underway. This is not the first study, by far, to make that claim, and the results won’t be shocking to most. But it’s another data point that confirms what most of us see coming.

Verizon’s State of the Market: Enterprise Cloud 2014 incorporated data from a variety of sources: Verizon’s enterprise cloud customers, outside analyst firm 451 Research, and other third parties like Gartner, IDC, Accenture and Forrester.

The data from 451 Research showed that 65 percent of enterprises are deploying some form of cloud computing now. Spending on those services has increased 38 percent over the year. More than 70 percent of enterprises said they plan to use cloud for external-facing operations by 2017.

Also telling: Companies that are already using cloud in some capacity said they planned to spend 54 percent of their IT budgets on cloud services over the next two years. That does suggest a clear shift to mainstream.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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How to Use Social Media in the Contact Center

social-media-monitoringExperts will tell you over and over again that customer service must be provided over social media. But the advice has been ignored, in large part. There are varying statistics on the subject, but it is widely agreed that the vast majority of customer service inquires via social media go unanswered. Some studies say 70 percent; others say 80 percent or more.

That’s problematic because customers want you to talk to them via their preferred channel. If they tweet about a problem, they want you to tweet back. If they post a Facebook comment, they want you to reply via Facebook. Often, even when companies do reply, they simply tell the person to call or email customer service. That places the burden back on the customer, which is frustrating.

The good news? Social media and customer service can peacefully coexist. Making that happen involves a slight change in strategy and a shift in resources. Here, we’ll share a brief case study of a company that has been widely praised for getting it right, along with some tips on where to start.

Zappos: Getting Social Customer Service Right

In a 2012 study examining social customer service behavior of the top 25 online retailers, Zappos was one of two companies who answered all – yes, 100 percent – of social media customer service inquiries. Zappos has since been the subject of countless case studies, and for good reason: They get it right.

Zappos has developed ways to connect with customers across many social media platforms, in some cases creating its own unique tools. The company’s social media efforts are too broad to discuss in detail here, but one of the biggest successes in terms of customer support has been the company’s use of Twitter. While other brands are ignoring Twitter mentions, Zappos has a Twitter account that is dedicated to customer service and monitored 24/7. At least 25 people from customer service help run the account, but only one person at a time directs the conversation. All Zappos employees, even outside of customer service, are trained on how to use Twitter and encouraged to use it to connect with customers.

The result has been a high level of customer satisfaction and praise from customer service experts. A lot of positive brand value came just from using Twitter for customer service. Zappos has become something of a leader in social media customer service and a model for other companies to follow.

How to Merge Social Media and the Contact Center 

So where to start? It’s best to start with just one – or two at the most – social media platforms. Once you get the process down and develop a rhythm, then it’s time to tackle other platforms. Twitter and Facebook are usually good places to start because they are commonly used for customer questions and complaints. There are many ways to go about starting, but here are some tips:

  • Determine your goals. Is your plan just to start integrating customer service and social media, or will you go the Zappos route and address every customer comment? (Hint: if you can, do.)
  • Set your strategy. Will you address customer service inquiries and complaints through the company’s pre-existing social media page, or will you create a separate account just for customer service? Zappos and many other big brands have separate customer service accounts, but you don’t necessarily have to. (And even if you do, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to ignore customer service-related posts on the main account.) What is the brand image you want to convey to social media users, and how will you pull that off? Will responses be scripted (usually not a good idea) or more authentic?
  • Select your team. Who will manage the account, and when? This needs to be clearly defined to avoid confusion. Perhaps you divide the task among existing customer service employees and supervisors, splitting the job into one or two-hour time slots. Once you have a team in place, train them on social media best practices and how to address customers, just like you would for telephone agents.
  • Consider investing in tools. There are countless social media monitoring and listening tools on the market that make it easier to track social media mentions. In fact, your CRM system might already have those capabilities. If not, look in to whether it makes sense to invest in one. These save resources and make it easier to communicate with customers in real time.

Kunnect sells 100% cloud-based call center software that includes a predictive dialer to businesses and political campaigns. Our software, hosted seamlessly in the Amazon platform, manages all inbound and outbound calling for a flat rate of $125 per agent per month with a flat deposit of $125 per user. There are no hidden fees. In addition to the predictive dialer, features include: inbound and outbound calling, CRM integration, call scripting, call recording, ACD, skills-based routing, IVR, live monitoring, real-time statistics, historical reporting and more.

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