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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.

Is Your Credit Card Terminal Ready for EMV?

23 Sep

Do you work with credit cards? Are you ready for the October 1 credit card fraud liability shift? That’s the date merchants who have not upgraded to EMV chip-enabled equipment on their terminals could become liable for the financial consequences of fraudulent credit card transactions. With credit card fraud now well over $7 billion annually in the United States, missing this equipment upgrade deadline will pose a major risk for many businesses.

What is EMV?

Banks in the United States are switching up the insides of our credit cards. They’re EMVadding something called EMV technology, which stands for “Europay, MasterCard, and Visa.” This means credit cards are created with a super-small computer chip that’s extremely hard to counterfeit. If you’ve gotten a card recently, chances are it has this technology.

Why the changeover? Here’s a crazy statistic: Almost half of the world’s credit card fraud now happens in the United States—even though only a quarter of all credit card transactions happen here. The banks want to rein this in by moving away from magnetic-stripe cards, which are much easier to counterfeit. The recent high-profile security breaches at some of the country’s largest retailers have added motivation to make the switch quickly.

So how exactly will this affect your business? For starters, you’ll need a new processing device to read the information in the chip cards. And come October 1, 2015, businesses that don’t have an EMV processing device could be on the hook for fraudulent chip card transactions.

Is this completely new technology?

No. Most of the world, including Europe, has been using chip cards for years. The United States is actually the last major market still using magnetic-stripe-only cards.

Will chip cards be swiped the same way as magnetic-stripe cards?

No. It’s a new process some people call the “chip-and-dip.” Chip cards are inserted, or “dipped,” into the payment device and left in place for the entire transaction as the reader and card talk back and forth.

What do I need to know about my terminal?

Credit card companies have been issuing the new “chip cards” for some time now, but many merchants have been reluctant to upgrade their point-of-sale terminals to accommodate the shift from a simple card swipe to the “chip and dip” action. If your existing credit card terminal is older and doesn’t have an EMV slot on the front, you will need a new terminal to process the chip-enabled cards. And even if your terminal does have the EMV slot in the front, you need to know that there have been several upgrades to the processing technology that may have already made your upgraded device obsolete. This latter issue applies to many units installed more than six months ago.

Variable Data Printing Basics

6 Aug

At its simplest, Variable Data Printing (VDP) is the use of digital technology to link printing equipment to databases containing content such as text or graphics. During the printing process, computer applications take content from the databases and integrate it into a document according to rules specifying usage. As a result, whether a print run quantity is 10 or 10,000, VDP makes each piece different by changing the information.

The value of Variable Data Printing comes from its ability to support customized printing and make it efficient and economical. Customization increases the document’s attractiveness and greatly improves the effectiveness of the message it contains. Because the database contains information specific to the audience of the printed document, the document is customized in ways that hold special appeal to the audience.

Variable Data Printing today is light years beyond the bland, unsophisticated direct mail of the past. It is much more powerful than it was even a few years ago. Today, it can dynamically assemble four-color images, charts, text, and other objects to create attractive, highly customized documents.

There are three general levels of variable data customization, and all three levels start with at least a basic layout template that is common to all of the pieces. The template defines which elements are static and which are variable. The static elements will remain unchanged across all pieces. The variable elements change for each individual piece, however, as determined by information contained in the accompanying databases.

Basic Customization: The lowest level of Variable Data Printing is Basic Customization. At this level, only the name and salutation of the recipients are variable, and no graphical elements of the printed pieces change between pieces. The “Mail Merge” feature of Microsoft Word which allows users to connect their document to an Excel spreadsheet of names and addresses is one example of basic customization. While the names and addresses change from piece to piece, the layout and content of the message remains the same across all printings.

This most basic form of VDP has been readily available to most companies for several years and produces the lowest response rates of the three levels because of the low amount of customization.

Versioning: The second level of Variable Data Printing is Versioning, and consists of several pre-designed layouts that are selected based on variable criteria. In a nationalDifferent post-it notes mailing, a unique layout could be designed for each state and the correct layout is automatically selected for each recipient, assuming the database contains the state of residence information for each record. Versioning usually produces a higher response rate than Basic Customization, but lower than Full Customization.

Full Customization: Individual components throughout the entire piece are customized by multiple different criteria, often times contained within multiple databases. Images, text, and layout structure are customized for each recipient in the entire mailing list, maximizing relevancy for the readers, and consequently returning the highest response rates. At this most advanced level, marketers can experience the full potential of Variable Data Printing.

These are the major elements found in a typical variable data printing project.

Database: For most variable data printing, a simple table containing the copy, graphics, and photographs that will be varied in the printed document is adequate. Such database tables are created in applications such as Microsoft Excel. Databases drive the effectiveness of VDP so we will talk more about them in a future article.

Rules: These are rules that specify what variable content to use and where to place it.

Content: Both static and variable content are created with a variety of software: text with word-processing software, photographs (taken with a digital camera or input using a scanner), graphics created from graphics software, and so on.

Layout: The layout for the document is created by using common desktop publishing or word-processing software. It must be designed to accommodate variable text and images.

VDP application: Software that “merges” content and prepares the document for printing.

Output devices: Printing devices that turn the digital files into hard-copy prints

Here at Mediascope, we offer full variable data printing capabilities. Watch for more information on VDP over the next few weeks as we explore the importance of great databases and the benefits of variable data printing in marketing.

One Card Shopping

5 May

Too many credit cards in your wallet or purse? Have you seen the new cards capable of carrying information for several cards including credit, debit, gift and loyalty cards?

One single-card payment systems is Plastc. This version uses an included card reader to credit cardsload account information onto a phone app and sync it with the card. The card itself is a touchscreen which allows you to swipe the mini screen with your finger to switch between dozen of cards and choose which one to pay with.

A second version is Wocket, a wallet-size device that digitally stores cards via a scanner (no app needed). Wocket encrypts data so if it unusable if intercepted. It unlocks only by using your voice or a PIN.

If loyalty cards are responsible for your full wallet, lighten the load by scanning the cards into your smartphone with Cardstar, a free app for Android, Apple and Windows. When you check out, scan the bar code on your phone’s screen. Use it for gym and library memberships, too.

Overstuffed wallets may soon be a thing of the past. Currently, the Plastc and Wocket cards run about $150 but prices may drop as other brands hit the market.

Google ranking system now considers mobile

28 Apr

If your website isn’t mobile friendly, you may be left behind on Google.

Google recently changed its ranking system to favor those with mobile-friendly websites that are easily read on smartphones.

Some people are calling this Mobilegeddon.  A top 1 or 2 website in a search query could hypothetically fall to ninth or 10th place, causing a loss of thousands of dollars in potential business, says Greg Sterling, an independent analyst and columnist for the SearchEngineLand website.

“As many as 40% of top websites are not currently mobile friendly,” says Sterling. “There’s a big category of people who have completely ignored mobile.”mobile friendly

Google made the change because so many more people are now using the smart phone as the hub of their daily lives.

How do you make your site mobile friendly? First, check to see if your website passes the Google test. Google has a mobile friendly test page in its developer section (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/).  Type in the URL and see if the website passes. If it doesn’t, here are some options:

• Call your website host. Many have tools in place to transition your website. GoDaddy, the top provider of website addresses and hosting, offers a tool to completely rebuild your website to make it mobile friendly, and charges $1 monthly for the service. Competitor Bluehost has a another tool that’s potentially cheaper. For a one-time fee of $25, it’s goMobi tool builds a smaller, mobile version of your site.

• Go to a service like dudamobile for a more robust, yet smaller version of your website, with more images and text than through the website builders, starting at $5 monthly.

• Get in touch with a local Webmaster to create a mobile friendly site.

No matter which way you go, it pays to ensure you have a mobile-friendly website. With all the competition on Internet, Google rankings play an important role in helping your site be found.

8 Tips for Preventing ID Theft in a Social World

6 Apr

1) Keep your home address off your GPS. An identity thief or burglar who steals your GPS can find your home and, if you store your schedule on the same device, know when you will be gone.

2) Do not respond to suspicious texts. Contact the sender by phone for verification before sending any information in response to a text.

3) Store contacts by first name. By listing contacts as Dad, Wifey, etc., you’re inviting a electronic devicesthief to contact them for personal information. Would-be thieves can quickly contact unsuspecting  contacts with questions like “What’s our bank PIN again?” before anyone knows your phone is missing.

4) Delete personal data. If you plan to sell your phone, be sure to remove photos, passwords and contacts. If you are unsure of how to do that, take the phone to your network provider and ask for assistance.

5) Only download ringtones from reputable sites. Thieves may create phony sites to capture personal data.

6) Carry electronic devices separately. A purse, cell phone, and GPS make a great combination for a thief.

7) Keep your phone locked. Many people don’t, which only makes it easier for a thief to get at your information.

8) Don’t share too much information on social networking sites. For example, don’t list your full birthdate or your address. This is key information thieves use to set up false accounts in your name. Also, don’t post vacation photos until after vacation. Why advertise an empty house and easy access to mail possibly containing personal information?

As our electronic devices get smarter, we humans also need to get smarter in how we protect our personal information. Many people think identity or data theft will never happen to them, but chances are you already know someone who has had their personal information stolen or used by thieves. Take a few easy steps now to help keep yourself from being the next victim.

Tracking Books a Way of the Future?

1 Apr

RFID, Radio-Frequency Identification, is the use of a wireless non-contact system that takes advantage of radio frequencies to transfer data from a tag attached to an object for the purposes of identification and tracking. Usually embedded into the object being tracked, RFID chips do not need to be visible to transmit data.

For the past couple of years, Walmart has added RFID tags to individual items in their store to track merchandise and inventory. Recently, a Texas school district issued students badges with embedded RFID chips in order to track the students’ location to reduce absenteeism.

Now, a book manufacturing company, BindTech Inc., has developed the Smart Guard system. This system allows book publishers to track a book from the manufacturing process, through distribution, to the end user by embedding a RFID tag into each individual book. When books are returned for credit, publishers can tell which books are the ones they printed and which are counterfeits.

This technology will save the publishing industry hundreds of thousands of dollars. To learn more about RFID tags in the publishing industry, watch this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vXLf6dSyM4.

Two Tips for Saving Time on Social Media

5 Sep

Ask any non-marketing person about social media and he or she will tell you it only takes a couple of minutes a day to maintain business social media accounts. Ask marketers, on the other hand, about social media and they will tell you it takes a big chunk of their day — every day — to do it properly.  What gives?

When done properly, social media connects you with your audience and allows you to engage with them on a regular basis. In order to do that, marketers who are responsible for social media not only need to frequently post items, but they need to answer questions and respond to posts received through social media in a timely manner. Socialbakers, a global social media and digital analytics company, estimates that only 30% of companies are doing social media correctly. Their findings show that 70% of questions received through social media are not responded to, and that the average response time to queries and posts which are answered is 26 hours.

So, assuming that social media is only one of many things you need to stay on top of, how can you more efficiently post and monitor your social media efforts?  Here are two tools which will help.

HootSuite, at hootsuite.com, allows you to simultaneously post to several social media sites. You can select various sites on a per-post basis. Social media choices include Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and Linked In. This free handy tool also allows you to schedule posts which means you can load posts for several days all at once.

Now that your exciting and engaging posts are out there, how do you keep track of activity and know when to respond to a post or question? Do you need to log in to each site several times a day? No, thank goodness!

Nutshellmail.com is a convenient piece of software which sends posts from your social media accounts to your email once or twice a day according to the schedule you set up. It is a free software also and you can keep track of Facebook, LinkedIn, Yelp, CitySearch, FourSquare, YouTube, and Twitter.

Using these tools will help you streamline your social media efforts which means more time for other marketing endeavors. And who doesn’t need more time?

USPS Offers Holiday Mobile Shopping Promotion

29 Aug

As you may have heard, the United States Postal Service is creating promotions and incentives to create awareness of innovative uses of mail. As technology changes the marketing landscape, the Postal Service needs to ensure that direct mail continues to be a relevant part of the marketing mix. By encouraging customers to adopt and invest in technologies that enhance how consumers interact and engage with mail, they are solidifying the link between technology and mail.

USPS Holiday Mobile Shopping Promotion, November 7 through November 21, 2012

A Holiday Mobile Shopping Promotion is scheduled to run from November 7 – 21, 2012, with registration beginning September 15, 2012. The holiday promotion is designed to spur mobile purchasing by putting mobile-optimized promotional offers, coupons and catalogs into customers’ hands in time for Black Friday-Cyber Monday shopping sprees.

This promotion is intended to show how direct mail combined with mobile technology can be a convenient method for consumers to do their holiday shopping.

Discount and Rebate Amounts

The Holiday Mobile Shopping Promotion will provide business mailers with an upfront two percent postage discount on Standard Mail and First-Class Mail letters, flats and cards (presort and automation) that include a mobile barcode or print/mobile technology that can be read or scanned by a mobile device and leads the recipient to a mobile optimized shopping website. The technology must lead the recipient to a website that allows the recipient to purchase an advertised product on the mobile device (the sale of services will not qualify).

Mailers may also qualify for an additional one percent rebate on the postage of their qualifying mailings if a portion of their orders are fulfilled via Priority Mail between November 9, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

The Holiday Mobile Shopping Promotion Program Requirements describe the rules in further detail. It can be downloaded from RIBBS at: https://ribbs.usps.gov/index.cfm?page=mobilebarcode.

Further questions about this program can be directed to: mobilebarcode@usps.gov.

This is the third promotion the Postal Service has offered to encourage the integration of mail and mobile technology.