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7 Tips for Implementing Live Chat

21 Oct

With messaging now outpacing phone calls, Live Chat is an important communications tool for any company which deals with the public via the internet.

Last week, we talked about the pros and cons of using Live Chat as one of your Implementing Live Chatcommunication channels. If you decide to add Live Chat to your web site, you need to know where you are heading before you leap into this mode of client communication. Here are a few considerations that will help you successfully implement this new channel.

Have a plan and a timeline for adaptation

This may sound like a basic tip, but it’s important to have a plan — not just for which issues you want to handle via chat, but also for how you will begin to staff this new communication channel. Based on customer needs, determine what hours and days your chat option will be available.

Also, know that it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to adopt the channel right away. Setting milestone targets will help you evaluate your progress and identify any issues or challenges that might be hindering more widespread adoption.

Let your customers know you have live chat

All the planning you do is irrelevant if you don’t let your customers know about the program. There are a number of ways you can promote the new channel, but one of the most critical is publicizing Live Chat as an addition to your existing means of customer support. For example, you might have an automated recording directing callers to the Live Chat link when waiting for support by phone.

Train your reps on online communication techniques AND customer service best practices

Addressing support requests via chat is different from other models as it enables reps to handle multiple sessions simultaneously. Make sure your reps are comfortable with multi-tasking and are familiar with the program’s capabilities before you launch Live Chat. It’s essential to spend sufficient time training your staff — and hiring additional reps if needed — to make the program a success. Be sure everyone understands the expectations, including response time.

Make sure you are adequately staffed

One of the benefits of live chat is the perception of immediate support. If users are unable to get through or have to wait a significant amount of time, they will already be disenchanted before defaulting to another channel. When preparing to launch a chat program, make sure you’re properly staffed to keep wait times to a minimum. Have a process in place so the support team can quickly get additional help if needed.

Use scripts but personalize when possible

As reps are becoming familiar with handling multiple sessions at the same time, having scripts for frequently asked questions are a valuable tool in getting them up to speed quickly.

While scripts have many benefits, however, it’s important not to lose the personal elements of phone support when you begin live chat. Support reps should modify scripts to add personalization and address exact concerns. They should also be sure to pay careful attention to what the user is saying before offering an answer.

Make it intuitive

Mobility is a key driver of today’s changing customers support needs. Making it easy for users to initiate a chat session from any device will ensure greater adoption.

Get feedback from users AND staff

Feedback is extremely useful in improving your program. Institute a survey at the end of every session to obtain details about the individual’s experience and use the information to make improvements and further hone the program.

In addition to polling the user community, be sure to connect with your staff about their experiences. As the frontline reps utilizing the program, they can provide valuable insight into how to improve Live Chat and help identify other issues that could be handled via the chat program.

We will take one more look at Live Chat next week by reviewing some of the Dos and Don’ts of this type of customer support.

Is Live Chat a good option?

15 Oct

As technology changes, the way we interact with customers also changes. More consumers are skipping traditional forms of customer service like phone and email, and opting for channels like Live Chat due to the faster, more personalized nature of the communication.

Live Chat is software that sits on your website, allowing you to have an online conversation similar to Instant Messenger with anyone who is on your site.

While Live Chat can often be a wonderful addition for businesses, it can cause its own Live Chatproblems and complications, both technical and otherwise.

Here are the pros and cons of Live Chat.

Pros

You are immediately accessible to your customer.

Being online when your customer is online means a chat can happen instantaneously. With most Live Chat software, there will be a clear indication to your site’s visitor that you are currently online and are available to interact with them.

You can start the conversation.

Many Live Chat programs allow you to see who is visiting your site, and you can choose to invite them into a conversation via a targeted pop-up message.

This means you are not being passive and waiting for people to come to you.  If you see that someone has been navigating around your website for a period of time, this is the perfect tool to use to engage with them and help secure business.

It shows you are a modern, dynamic, and proactive company.

Having Live Chat functionality on your site signifies that you are a progressive organization that uses advanced online techniques to build business.

It reduces the amount of back and forth of email.

Conversing in real time circumvents the usual ping-pong exchange of e-mails that often results when both parties are trying to get a clearer understanding of the product or service.

It is personal and accessible.

Live Chat enables companies to be personal and accessible by having real-time conversations with customers. Furthermore, being easily available to your customers is a great way to be more transparent. The personal tone and ease of use that Live Chat gives your company can go a long way to make your company likable.

Live Chat reduces an overload on other forms of communication.

Having Live Chat available leaves other forms of customer service such as phone and email open for larger issues. People will be less likely to call or email about small questions and concerns if they have live chat as an outlet. Additionally, Live Chat fits the digital world which means many of your customers, especially younger customers, will feel more comfortable and familiar with live chat than other sources of communication.

In addition, here are some other advantages to Live Chat:

• Help more people at the same time: chat agents are usually able to serve three or more people simultaneously;

• Solves the problems of strange accents or bad phone lines;

• No extra costs for website visitors, even when they are from another country;

• Convenient: Support can easily send helpful links to the customer through the chat interface and help with the spelling of complicated names by entering them into the chat box;

• Analytics: use live analytics to find the most relevant visitors to your site;

• You can switch off chat when you are away —  just go offline and transform the chat bar into a contact form; and

• Customer service quality can easily be reviewed by checking the log files.

Cons

It can create an impression that your business is 24/7.

We no longer live in a world where customers live nearby or work on a 9 to 5 schedule. As a result, it is often not enough to be available only during those hours. Try to split up the duty of answering chats to cover as much of the day as possible. When Live Chat is not staffed, have other forms of communication available, such as a Contact Us form.

Live Chat requires staffing.

To make the most of Live Chat software, it has to be staffed. Staffing is a cost to your business that needs to be covered. This is why Live Chat software is more broadly embraced by larger companies with a dedicated customer support team.

It interrupts other work.

If you are running Live Chat in the background while performing other tasks, you run the risk of having your thoughts disrupted when messages comes through. This can ultimately mean that it takes longer to do the work you were originally doing.

It can present communication difficulties.

It can be difficult to convey emotions and tone over chat. Currently, the only solution is to use emoticons, which are taboo in the professional world. You need to be careful with your phrasing to ensure your words are not misinterpreted.

Other disadvantages of Live Chat support:

• Not all users will like it.  You should always offer at least email or phone support in addition to chat support;

• Not all users will know how to use it;

• Not great on mobile platforms: Not all mobile devices are able to support Live Chat applications;

• Prank chats: You will get some not-so-serious chats. If this happens frequently from one person, you can block the person; and

• It can slow down your website.

Those are the arguments for and against Live Chat. Although it has a lot of advantages, it isn’t for everyone. Give these pros and cons some thought before deciding whether Live Chat is right for your business.

6 Tips Towards Writing Excellent Marketing Material

2 Oct

No one writes perfectly all of the time. Writing well takes skill, but writing great marketing copy requires an even higher level of skill plus knowledge of your audience, brand, and marketing voice. Here are five tips to help you produce great content every time.

1) Audience

The biggest mistake marketing writers make is to write for themselves and not for their marketing copyaudience. To write great copy, you need to convince readers that your products or services meet their needs. As callous as it sound, readers don’t care what something means to you; they are only interested in what it will do for them. The goal of marketing copy is to convince the reader that your products or services will meet their needs.

Different audiences have different needs and respond to different messages. Understand who you are marketing to and what their needs are. The more you understand your audience, the more relevant your copy will be.

2) Brand

To be effective, all of your content needs to have the same “voice.” The message is as much about how you say something as what you say. Be consistent in your choice of words and phrases, and make sure you are writing content that is appropriate for your target audience. Your voice is part of your brand, and should be consistent across all marketing channels.

3) Focus

What is your objective for this marketing piece? Rather than cramming several competing messages into one piece, identify one thing you hope to accomplish and write content towards achieving that goal. A clear, focused message will elicit a better response.

4) Call to Action

You’ve provided your readers with a clear message demonstrating not only what your product or service will do for them, but a feel for your company. Now what do you want them to do with that information? Provide a call to action to make it easy for them to respond to your message. Invite them to call, register, or buy, and make it easy for them to do so! Make sure to provide phone numbers, online forms, shopping carts and other forms of customer engagement.

5) Punctuation, Grammar, Spelling, Sentence Structure

Although this should go without saying, don’t underestimate the importance of the mechanics of writing. Not only will good grammar and spelling help your audience understand your message, but well-constructed pieces will reflect positively on you and your company. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar scream sloppiness and poor quality, and no one wants to work with a company which doesn’t care about quality.

6) Editing

Proofread, proofread, proofread.

Spell-check is a great tool, but it doesn’t catch everything.

I once worked for a state-wide legal printing division. The word “public” was often used in court documents. Although spell-check accepts the word “public” without the “l,” the resulting word, pubic, caused more than one embarrassing misprint.

An old proofreading trick is to read your content out loud. Does the content flow well? Are there extra words which don’t belong? Are you missing words?

Another trick is to have someone else read your copy. He or she will often catch things you miss.

To recap, the value of quality writing for your marketing materials should not be downplayed. Poor writing is expensive both in terms of time and money. If your audience doesn’t understand the message or, worse, is turned off by poor grammar and sentence structure, you won’t see the desired return on your investment. And if something is wrong, you may need to do a costly reprint.

 

 

Benefits of Variable Data Printing

10 Sep
Over the last several weeks, we have talked about Variable Data Printing (VDP). We have looked at list usage, types of VDP, and how VDP impacts marketing. Now it is time to wrap it all up and examine the benefits of VDP.upward trend
In short, VDP allows you to customize and personalize your direct mail marketing campaigns. Using VDP means you can create more attention-grabbing direct mail pieces that appeal to your target market. Here are some benefits to using variable data printing with your direct mail marketing campaign.

Increase Your Return on Investment

By adjusting the content (images and/or text) on your direct mail pieces based on the recipients’ interests, location, family status, or any other piece of information you have on your audience, means your direct mail piece will be more appealing and relevant to the recipient.

According to PODi and DMA data, the response rate of non-personalized mail pieces is 2%, and a personalized piece has a response rate of 6%—that’s a 300% increase.

Making it Easy for Them Makes it Easy for You

Personalize the pieces in your mailing with information pertinent to the recipient such as the address and business hours of the store or person closest to them and you will reduce the number of phone calls asking for this information. Likewise, add mapping and get clients directly to your event or store. Or, depending on the marketing campaign, change phone numbers so recipients can contact the correct people within the company.

Variable Data Printing Supports Online Marketing

There is no denying the overwhelming growth of online marketing. However, the fundamentals of a successful campaign remain the same—successful campaigns are both strategic and tactical. And to that end, a campaign that includes both online and print components will achieve maximum effectiveness.

One of the strengths of online marketing is it’s ability to deliver variable content to individuals based on their behaviors. It’s most often seen with something like Google ads—a car ad pops up after a search for an auto dealer or fitness ads magically appear when you look for “yoga.”

By using VDP, print does the same thing—with better results. Unlike online marketing, a flyer, postcard or letter is tangible and can be kept. What this means is an audience is more likely to spend some time looking at the information you send, be engaged, and respond to the call to action.  And, importantly, once engaged, they will hop over to the digital platform for more information or to place an order. It’s a multi-channel experience.

Tracking

Finally, one of the greatest advantages of using variable data printing is the opportunity to track response rates more efficiently. VDP allows for unique barcodes and coupon identification numbers to be placed on communication pieces which provides marketers with an easier and more efficient way of tracking your results.

To recap, audiences are becoming more adept at tuning out boring, old traditional marketing campaigns. In fact, 74 percent of consumers get frustrated and turn elsewhere when marketing content has nothing to do with their interests. By personalizing your material to your target audience, you can increase customer engagement and response rates and, ultimately, your ROI.

Variable Data Printing and One-to-One Marketing

1 Sep

The marketing opportunities presented by variable data printing are enormous. By personalizing communications, marketing is tailored to appeal to the interests of individuals rather than broad segments of people.

The concept of one-to-one marketing fine-tunes target marketing to the level of the individual. One-to-one marketing is the practice of communicating directly to each customer. This communication can take place via direct mail, phone calls, or e-mail sent over the internet, but is not limited to those methods. Terms such as “direct marketing” and “relationship marketing” can be interchanged with one-to-one marketing when the emphasis is on reaching individuals.

Relationship marketing has the added dimension of maintaining contact over a period of time to build a rapport with the individual customer, as opposed to making a one-time contact.

All forms of one-to-one marketing require information about the customer and can One to one marketinginvolve gathering more information about the customer after the initial contact. This knowledge of the customer and the customer’s interests is necessary to create the personalized communication that establishes a one-to-one relationship. The advertiser must target customers that would be interested in the advertised product, and then personalize the promotion in ways that are attractive to those customers.

Marketing on the customer’s terms

Personalization has been around for a very long time and has usually been associated with costly customization, such as custom-built automobiles. It has been popular because it works. Consumers want to be recognized as individuals and addressed in a personalized way. Today, even though customers might recognize that the information about them came from a database, they appreciate the extra effort that marketers have taken to get to know them and to communicate on their terms.

To varying degrees, consumers are aware that data about their activities, particularly financial transactions, are continually being gathered and shared with marketers. Sometimes, consumers deliberately share this information, as when they answer questions on a marketing survey, or when they request, or “pull,” product information. (See last week’s blog on using variable data in push and pull marketing.) At other times, records of their activities are gathered automatically in the course of their transactions. The marketer must maintain a delicate balance between collecting information and maintaining the consumer’s trust that the information will be used for the consumer’s benefit. They can do so by using the information they have assembled to add value to the consumer’s activities on the consumer’s terms.

Through credit-card receipts, for example, a financial services company might learn that a customer has children and shops regularly at a particular children’s clothing store. The company could use that information to build customer satisfaction and loyalty by offering money-saving discounts for children’s clothing and toys. This use of the customer’s data benefits the customer. An inappropriate use of the data would challenge the relationship and risk turning the customer away.

Focus on effectiveness and value

Compared to mass marketing, or “one-to-many,” one-to-one marketing can at first appear to be more expensive. Historically, the cost of a marketing campaign was based largely on the cost of delivery, in which case economies of scale in print production argued for the use of only one message broadcast to everyone.

In one-to-one marketing, the effectiveness of communications plays a bigger part in the equation. Research has established that personalized communication increases response rates and spending by the target customer. One-to-one communications spur relationships that result in repeat sales and customer loyalty. Generally speaking, increasing the volume of messages reduces the cost of printing but decreases the  effectiveness of the communication. The quality of the response from customers therefore can raise the return on investment in a one-to-one marketing campaign above that of mass marketing. With effectiveness as the goal, the focus of communication planning needs to shift from reducing costs to that of delivering greater value.

The competitive edge

Consumers are expecting that vendors acknowledge their personal interests and preferences. In effect, by personalizing communications, marketers give consumers what they want.

Marketers do not make the rules any more—consumers do. Smart marketers understand the value of personalized communication. Savvy marketers also realize that the cost of producing those communications is quickly shrinking thanks to technology such as variable data printing. Adopters of variable data printing have taken the risk, confident that they will gain a competitive advantage. They hope their competitors are watching them… from behind.

 

 

Talking Without Words

14 Jul

Quick, pause for a second, and take a mental snapshot of yourself. What’s the expression on your face? Are you leaning forward, engaged in what you’re doing, or are you slumped in your chair?

Better yet, put a rubber band around your wrist before you go to a body-language-menu-mapmeeting, and when you notice the rubber band, take another mental snapshot. Where are your arms? Are they defensively crossed in front of your body or are they relaxed on the table in front of you or along your sides? Are you sitting tall or slumped over the table? What’s the expression on your face?

Did you know that body language accounts for over 90 percent of a conversation?

Just as you use words in effective ways to achieve desired results, you can use body language to your advantage as well. Similarly, negative body language can be just as damaging as poorly chosen words and unrehearsed speech.

Here are a few suggestions for using body language to your advantage.

Do: Make sure you have a firm handshake. Maintain constant eye contact and radiate a positive aura during the greeting.

Do: Make eye contact and keep it. This displays confidence on your part and helps you understand what the other person is really saying. It shows you are paying attention. Professionals suggest maintaining eye contact for 80 to 90 percent of the time.

Do: Stand (or sit) tall and with good posture. Your posture shows how you will approach a situation. If your arms are by your side rather than defensively crossed in front of you, it shows you are ready for anything.

Do: Smile but don’t overuse a smile. Men smile when they are pleased; women smile to please. A genuine smile is more powerful. To gain and increase respect, first establish your presence in a room, then smile. It is more professional than to enter a room smiling for what appears to be no reason.

Do: Pay attention to your legs and feet. Are they relaxed or are they jittering, tapping, or pointing towards the nearest exit? Are you sitting or standing in a way that means you are approachable or does it look like you would rather be somewhere else?

Being aware of your body language is important not only for high-level meetings but in your day-to-day activities. Remember, what you’re not saying accounts for over 90 percent of the conversation.

Four Integrated Marketing Trends

11 Jun

As technology develops and changes the way we do business, no longer is any one marketing medium considered king. Most campaigns now consist of several integrated strategies incorporating both print and online marketing; in fact, a recent Pitney-Bowes survey shows that 76 percent of small businesses say their ideal marketing strategy encompasses a combination of print and digital communication.

Here are a few trends in multi-channel marketing.

Personalized Videos

Video has a unique place in the marketing mix. Video content is easily absorbed and ideal for communicating complex details in a simple manner. Combine the power of video with the benefits ofPrint Digital personalization to get the maximum viewer experience. Personalization is done through variable text, personalized still images, and special effects.

QR Codes and NFCs

Several weeks ago, we did a blog on Near Field Communication (Near-Field Communication (NFC) — What’s in it for me?). Somewhat new to the market, NFCs are likely to replace QR codes but they work similarly in that they both provide easy links between two channels of communication. In specific, NFC technology uses a tiny microchip to send a signal directly to your mobile device.

Personalized URLs (PURLs)

PURLs combine variable data printing with digital forms of collecting data. Readers respond to seeing their name in print and go to a personalized landing page where they see their name and other personal information again. In return, they are likely to provide additional information useful for your contact database. PURLs are a great way to improve response rates and return on investment. Also, using additional design features and including a targeted special offer enhances the customer experience and perception of brand.

Variable Data Printing (VDP)

Although variable data printing isn’t exactly new, marketers are using it with increased confidence and for more complex campaigns. VDP allows you to uniquely customize and personalize each piece by changing both type and images. For example, savvy marketers send a postcard with an image of a ski lift to a client whose idea of a perfect vacation is a ski vacation, and a picture of a beautifully sandy ocean front to a beach lover.  The driving force behind a successful VDP program is the database. To get the most bang for the buck with variable data, companies need to know their customers’ interests, spending habits, hobbies, and dreams. Variable data works because it appeals to emotions and the reader perceives that special touch often lacking in traditional print marketing.