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Don't just talk about doing more with less, gain step-by-step instructions on how to do it in How to Deliver Stellar Customer Satisfaction Using Fewer Resources, a best practice guide from Astute Solutions.

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Why Social Selling will Replace the Cold Call

 

social media strategy

At this point, you’ve had not just a cup, but a full pot of coffee; your desk is completely clean, and you’ve finally procrastinated enough.

It’s time to pick up the phone and start dialing for dollars.

Cold calling is a loathsome task. In recent years, it has come under an incredible amount of scrutiny and is often challenged for its effectiveness. Whether or not you agree with cold calling as a way to generate meaningful sales conversations, it’s very obvious that far fewer people are picking up the phone.

The latest evolution in sales methodology is much less invasive and much more engaging. Social selling helps you to connect with your prospects online so that you can better relate to them during the sales process. The best sites for this are LinkedIn and Twitter. Both can make your prospecting research much more effective before you even pick up the phone.

LinkedIn

I leverage LinkedIn all the time. Generally, I will invite someone to connect via LinkedIn; if they accept, I will send a follow up message via LinkedIn asking for a time to get introduced. I’m far more productive and cover much more ground with this methodology than I do via old school methods like cold calling.

Twitter

Twitter is probably one of the most underrated sales prospecting tools out there today. The search feature on Twitter is versatile, allowing you to categorize by topic, hashtags, etc. Follow someone and they may follow you back. You may even engage in a direct message conversation. Personalized DMs on Twitter (don’t auto-respond) are less noisy than email or LinkedIn, so people pay attention. Plus, they’re short - you get 140 characters to say, “Let’s get introduced.”

Organizing your Approach

After walking through the process of social selling once or twice, it’s easy to see how building a relationship can take your sales activity to the next level. But there is one issue with this process. It can require a massive time investment and be incredibly difficult to track.

The answer to this problem is in a tool from Astute Solutions. Astute SRM is a social media listening tool for organizations to understand how their brand is performing on various social media streams, RSS feeds and blog posts.

Astute SRM enhances and streamlines the research process on social media with a comprehensive view of who is saying what. It can track the competition and deliver insights on sales prospects. It finds social conversations by the industry topics that you choose. Users can even post social media messages directly from this all-in-one application.

I am so confident in social selling (particularly with the aid of Astute SRM) that I invite you to try this methodology and product for 30 days using this free trial. Share your results in the comments below!

The Art of Listening

 

social relationship management

Epictetus, the stoic Greek philosopher, once said, “God gave man two ears but only one mouth that he might hear twice as much as he speaks.” One has to wonder what Epictetus would say now in the 24/7, hyper-connected flow of content via social media and cable television.

One need only walk into any coffee shop, restaurant, or bar to see the results of such connectivity. Instead of ears, it’s now two eyes; one mouth is now the equivalent of two thumbs. A mobile device in a “heads down” culture is now our primary means of communication.

The next time you’re in public, you can see for yourself exactly what I’m referring to by “heads down” – you’ll find many people will be staring intently at their handheld devices. There’s less interest in communicating with the strangers and friends in their presence and more so in connecting with people virtually. These individuals are texting friends, emailing, checking their social media feeds, or posting to their online communities.

All brands should take note of the shift in communication from personal to online. Consumers’ relatively recent preference for all things virtual presents a tremendous opportunity for impact through mobile marketing campaigns.

People are literally providing product and business service reviews in real time - as their brand interactions are happening. If they waited in a long line at a coffee shop, they’re going to tweet about it. If they had poor service at your restaurant, they’re going to tell hundreds of friends on Facebook. If they’re having a great time at your bar, they’re going to demonstrate that to their community with a picture on Instagram.

Organizations paying close attention can strategically influence these experiences by interacting with their prospects and customers at the exact right time. Having a robust, intuitive tool that will provide you with the in-depth analysis and ability to publish gives your business the best opportunity to optimize your marketing and customer service efforts to grow your business. What better way to talk to potential customers at the exact point that they’re ready to make a purchase – or to curb potential brand threats before they go viral?

If you’re not listening, maybe it’s time you start!

Three Consumer-driven Changes Coming to the Contact Center

 

Authored by Alex George, CTO


contact center

As they walk the aisle of a supermarket and consider grabbing an item from the shelf, today’s consumers may want to first reach out and ask the brand about that product.

“Are there some good recipe suggestions for this?”

“Does this product have gluten?”

“Can I have a coupon?”

In fact, a study out just a few weeks ago indicated that 58 percent of mobile phone users would send a text message to a company’s contact center to request more information. For brands, this means their contact centers will have unprecedented access to consumers, just as the consumer is about to purchase. And in our go-go world, consumers are conditioned to expect answers right away.

All of this signals three big consumer-driven changes coming to the contact center.

1. What Consumers Will Want to Know

Today’s contact center agents may be assigned to work in a certain communication channel based on their talents. They might be categorized as being strong with e-mails, text messages or phone calls.

In a future contact center, however, more agents will be interacting with consumers who will have questions just before making a purchase decision. So they will need information such as a product’s marketing messages, ingredients and recommended uses.

That’s a lot to remember. A fast, accurate knowledge management system, like RealDialog™ Agent Assist, will be vital. RealDialog’s natural language technology will increase the speed of the conversation even more, as agents will be able to ask for what they need instead of searching for it, with the confidence that they will receive the best answer.

2. More Contacts from Consumers

So contact center agents will be helping consumers make the right purchase. Consumers will appreciate this, reach out again, and drive heavier volumes in contact centers. But instead of more traffic coming in after consumers have purchased, it will be coming in as consumers are making the purchase.

This changes the type of information that must be on hand in the contact center. To empower agents to become more proactive, contact center managers will need to train and equip their agents not only for complaint resolution, but also with information that will drive sales.

3. Happy Customers, Happy Agents

Another change that’s coming to the contact center? Those same agents that are driving sales will be much happier and stay on the job longer.

Turnover has long been a problem in this field. Total average turnover among all call centers is 33 percent, and outsourced contact centers average 55 percent turnover.

But when agents transform from spending most of their time receiving complaints, to instead helping to drive sales, they will be happier and stay on the job longer.

And that’s good news for contact center managers.

Listen Up: Effective Social Listening Strategies

 

social relationship management

More than ever before, social media provides the opportunity to secure first-hand data from your customers. There are over one billion posts on Facebook and four hundred million tweets on Twitter per day - and the insights you need are lurking in social media’s truly big data.

How can you gain access to all of this information? Two words: social listening. A targeted social listening strategy will help you to increase sales, refine products, and better shape messaging. The following social listening tips will help you to develop a solid starting strategy. 

Set Goals & Metrics

The very first action you must take when setting up a social listening strategy is to lay out your goals and metrics. Goals are typically to increase or manage brand awareness, to increase ecommerce levels, and/or to gain competitive or business intelligence. The following four metrics are often used to measure social media success:

Volume of conversation. This metric measures how many brand or product mentions your organization receives in the social media sphere. When running campaigns, your volume of conversation should increase.

Rate of engagement. Your rate of engagement measures how many replies, mentions, retweets, favorites, and shares you receive on social media platforms. This metric will allow you to determine probability of posts going viral as well as brand & messaging relatability levels. This metric could also alert you to potential social media crises if it spikes quickly and dramatically.

Share of voice. The share of voice metric allows you to compare your own brand’s share of the total industry-related social media messages to those of your competitors. By measuring your share of voice in relation to others’, you’ll be able to gauge how prominent your brand-awareness campaigns may seem to potential customers.

Sentiment. Your rate of engagement, volume of conversation, and share of voice could all be sky-high, but if the social media sphere is posting all negative things about your brand, you’re in bad shape! Keep track of the average sentiment levels for your brand to ensure that your organization is coming across in a positive manner - and to provide stellar customer service when it’s not.

Setup Crises Monitoring

Crises monitoring is one of the greatest functions of social listening tools. Many negative situations on social media can be easily nipped in the bud if they’re caught early on. By setting up streams and alerts for potential hot-button issues, you’ll save your organization hours of labor and tons of cash for damage control in the long run.

When choosing which phrases or topics to monitor, try to come up with an exhaustive list of terms. For example, restaurants could choose terms or phrases such as:

  • cold
  • fired
  • lawsuit
  • hair
  • poor service
  • never going back

Get creative in your brainstorming! This list will work well to flag potential customer service fixes, as well.

Track Your Competitors

In order to judge your own success, you’ll need to compare your own brand to your competitors’ social media presences. Along with share of voice, you should compare frequency of social media messages, engagement on various types of posts, and brand mentions/chatter. By gauging the ways in which your competitors are performing better, you’ll be able to adjust your own messaging and techniques to better suit your shared audiences.

3 Ways to Use Social Media in the Insurance Claims Business

 

By Cindy Morris, Industry Consultant

social relationship management

Insurance claims adjustors are constantly adding new technology to become better at what they do, but at the end of the day, it’s a people business. Knowing how people communicate is important, and today, that means being familiar with social media. I want to tell you about three ways that social media can be helpful in the insurance claims business: claims submissions, customer service and fraud detection.

1) Accept claims from social media

When storms knock out power and phone lines, victims hold their smart phones close. In these times, social media becomes far more than a fun distraction – it is an important link to the world. Insurance companies need to be prepared to accept claims that come in through social media. It could be a post to a Facebook page, or an image sent via Twitter. And it’s not just happening during storms -- even drivers involved in fender benders may find it easiest to submit a picture of the accident through social media. The most prepared insurers will be able to accept these claims, and easily import them into a CRM case to start the claims review process.

2) Catch claims complaints via social media

Social media can be just as important after the claim is filed. Previously, customers who were unhappy with how their claim was handled would just tell friends and family. Now, with social media, they can broadcast their displeasure to thousands of Facebook and Twitter followers, and cause real PR problems for insurers. A social media monitoring tool can catch these complaints quickly and give the insurance company a chance to respond before they go viral.

3) Investigate suspicious claims with social media

And when a claim is suspicious, a good social media monitoring tool can help adjusters take a closer look. It may be surprising, for example, to see when someone claiming an injury appears in an online post playing basketball. Astute SRM, our social relationship management tool, can search millions of social media posts, including Twitter, Facebook, blogs and many other platforms, and help to find information that could aid claims investigations.

As customer-responsive businesses, insurance providers need to be ready to communicate with their customers on any of the multiplying number of communication channels. Social media monitoring can be a valuable way to listen when their customers are talking.

Customer First: Real or "Rhett-oric"

 

customer experience

Tips from the Tailgate: Customer Care
By Rhett Parsons, Industry Consultant

                Every day, we hear about the latest and greatest ways to service our customers – and being in the tech industry, it’s my job to stay up to date on all of them. In the 30+ years that I’ve spent in customer-facing roles, I’ve had opportunities to work with companies such as ConAgra Foods, Estee Lauder, Smuckers, and many more, but my passion for customer care came long before this.

                Many of my clients have asked where I developed my philosophy for customer service; in fact, a conversation with a senior executive at L.L. Bean over 20 years ago serves as the inspiration for this story. While sitting with Lou Zambellio, he asked me exactly where I’d learned about customer service. I’ll admit that at first, I was taken aback by the question. Lou was an extraordinary leader in customer service, and he was asking for my advice!

                As I gathered my thoughts, I realized that I began my education in customer service while sitting on the tailgate of my grandfather’s 1979 Ford pickup truck.

Back to Basics

                My grandfather, Andy Armes Sr., was one of the most hardworking men I’ve ever met. During the Great Depression, he worked in the CC Core to send $25 a month home for his family – however, he often sent the entire $30 a month that he earned. When he returned home to his family, he began building a series of businesses and further developing the work ethic that he would pass on to his children and grandchildren.

                My grandfather recognized that his customer care and reputation formed the lifeblood of his businesses. In the late 70s and early 80s, I was lucky enough to work alongside him at his produce stand doing everything from setting up the displays to rotating the stock – and most importantly, serving the customers! While there were always dozens of vendors at the market where we worked, prospective customers soon learned that you could trust “Mr. Andy.” They could be confident that the product was fresh and that each and every problem would be solved quickly and satisfactorily.

The Core Principles of Customer Service

                Back then, people would talk to their friends and neighbors about the great product, service, and vendor working at table 15. While the speed of the message and the delivery format has changed, the core principles for exceptional service (resulting in positive word of mouth marketing and increased sales) are the same:

  • Genuine concern for the customer
  • Integrity
  • Humbleness
  • Valuing long term relationships
  • Living by the golden rule

My granddad passed away in 1997 – before smartphones, free Wi-Fi, and the ability to tell a thousand people about something in 140 characters. I often think that if he were here to see what is possible, he would be excited to have the ability to quickly spread the good word to so many people. I also believe that he would recognize that the core values of customer service have remained true to his own business days.

I’m grateful that I had such a wonderful example of customer care all those years ago. It has served me well, and I hope that I have given a man whom I love the respect he deserves by carrying on these lessons.

Carrying the Torch

I told all of this to Lou that day that he asked, and I still believe it to be true 20 years later. What are the takeaways that every business can apply in their own efforts? It’s easy.

In this fast-paced, technologically-driven world, be sure that you’re taking the time to truly value your customers. Thank them, recognize them, and recommit to providing better customer service each and every day.

6 Tips to Increase Social Influence

 

social media

Brands’ influence over consumers via social media channels has been increasing at a rapid rate since the proliferation of social media started about a decade ago. Yet, a few brands that have not proactively managed their social channels have found that their offline branding simply carried over into a successful online social media profile. Case in point: Apple has never posted a single thing on their Facebook page but has still managed to garner 8.8 million likes.

This often leaves brand manager wondering what more they should be doing to achieve rockstar-status influence on their company pages. While there is no secret formula for becoming wildly influential amongst consumers, there are many tips and tricks to optimize and prime your brand for increasing influence in the social sphere.

Here are six ways brand managers, customer service reps, and marketers alike can increase their influence:

1. Talk about more than your own brand. Good community managers know that consumers want information and entertainment on social media channels - not hard sales tactics. Post interesting, relevant articles, pictures, and facts to create a diverse page. Consumers will be much more likely to interact with a well-rounded brand.

2. Be proactive. Many brands make the mistake of simply posting information and responding to customer inquiries on their brand’s page. To increase your influence, show consumers that you care about what they say - ask questions about what they like, want, and need. After they answer, be sure to reward them for their participation by actually giving the people the features, content, and answers they’ve most frequently asked for!

3. (But also be reactive.) Make sure that you respond to each and every customer interaction. Thank people for liking/following your page, highlight positive comments, and definitely respond in a timely manner to any question or issue. By staying active and highly involved, you’ll show your consumers that they matter to your brand.

4. Don’t just share - offer your opinion/stance. When you share an article that’s been written by someone else, there’s no incentive for anyone to interact with your brand over the author of the article if you haven’t added any additional insight. Add your own thoughts to the post to foster responses, debate, and engagement.

5. Let your personality shine through. If you haven’t already, make sure your company has a brand persona that can shine through in every outward facing message. Consumers use social media to be... social! Make sure you aren’t too stodgy to relate to your customers.

6. Provide value. More than half of consumers who engage with brands online do so with the expectation that they’ll be rewarded with coupons, promotions, or other exclusive perks. Don’t make your social media behavior completely sales-focused - offer your engaged customers something to make social interactions worth their time!

Transforming Patient Engagement

 

patient engagement

By Lorie Mayberry, Inside Sales Specialist

A recent study highlights a gap between what physicians believe patients understand about their diagnoses and treatment, and what patients actually do comprehend.   A shocking 43% of patients were unclear on their diagnosis, while their doctors themselves inaccurately perceived the number of patients who didn’t understand to be about half that number (23%). 
It’s no secret patients who don’t understand their diagnosis or treatment plan aren’t as engaged in their own care as those who clearly understand what they can do to improve their own health and manage their condition.   When you consider that 29M people will gain insurance coverage in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act and that pay for performance metrics are here to stay, it’s easy to see a perfect storm brewing.   An increasing number of patients will tax provider’s time, resources, and systems and it will be imperative that communication is streamlined and proactive to ensure profitable outcomes.   Successful providers will navigate through the many associated challenges of healthcare reform and come out on top by placing patient engagement at the center of their transformation efforts.

While there are many factors to building a successful model that empowers the patient to take charge of their own care, we have observed technology investments are picking up in the following areas:

  • Multi-channel engagement -  Providers and insurers must find the patient’s preferred channel by reaching out through every available avenue, using every possible opportunity to educate and nurture the relationship.  Innovative mobile applications put immediate tools in the hands of both the patient and the provider,  giving providers a constant pulse on the customer’s behavior and satisfaction level.   Providers can immediately identify opportunities to engage and educate and are centralizing management of all patient correspondence, regardless of channel.  Although privacy concerns are still paramount with social media interactions, innovative community and disease management education and outreach programs aimed at improving outcomes are being implemented across both social and emerging channels like web chat and SMS.
  • Robust analytics help spot trends and issues quickly and intervene to make changes/educate in advance of a drop in patient outcome metrics, increasing pay for performance rates and ultimately protecting and growing the provider’s reputation.   Analyzing patient interactions to come up with defined best practices is crucial when your patients can be of any age, have multiple communication and channel preferences and distinctly unique and changing education and adherence needs based upon the current status of their health.
  • Investments in survey tools that measure everything from customer satisfaction to doctor’s discharge surveys are growing.  Centralization allows the provider to understand crucial conversations that drive the right outcome.  

The associated costs of an uneducated, dissatisfied or disengaged patient reach far beyond the health of the patient and the apparent financial costs to the entire healthcare system.   While pay for performance metrics increase skin in the game for the provider, since their own costs will grow for misinformed or under-involved patients, the patient themselves don’t yet have quite the same financial implications.  The burden is now clearly on the provider to motivate and empower the patient as a consumer to make the right decisions about their healthcare.   

Information technology is the not so secret weapon to foster this increased collaboration between the patient and the provider.   2014 will be a very exciting year, as we watch 29M Americans enter the system and strive to help providers meet the associated challenges of the emerging pay for performance model.

Astute Solutions has the experience to assist you in laying the necessary foundation to build and scale your patient engagement model the right way, ensuring the patient is at the center of their own healthcare so you can achieve the triple aim of optimized health outcomes, improved patient experience and affordable care.  Interested to learn how we can help take your patient engagement strategy to the next level?

patient engagement

Five Steps to Make Insurance Customers “Happier than a Camel on Wednesday”

 

healthcare insurance

By Cindy Morris

According to the Wall Street Journal (story here), insurance companies are spending nearly $6 billion each year to woo customers with glitzy marketing campaigns. This humorous YouTube spot correlates switching to Geico with the happiness a camel experiences on “hump day.” It received more than 3 million views in its first month.

So what does a wisecracking camel have to do with insurance? In a mature market like property and casualty insurance, this is where the marketing money goes – expensive gags and attention-getting, million dollar ad campaigns – to basically steal each other’s customers.

But hanging on to existing customers is just as important, and the contact center is vital to that strategy. When prospects or customers reach out to the contact center, it’s a valuable opportunity for one-on-one relationship building. Customer interactions in the contact center can provide valuable feedback that both marketing and customer service teams can use to keep customers for the long term. Get it right, and insurers can create a loyal customer, and use the lessons learned to keep even more of them around. But if the interaction doesn’t go smoothly, that customer may try another company instead.

Here are five steps insurance companies can take to build lasting customer relationships.

 

  1. Measure customer sentiment with social media. Not just negative, but positive, too. If your customers are singing your praises, use that to tell more people about your great customer service and get some real marketing mileage out of it. On the other hand, companies need to know that when dissatisfied customers complain on social media, their competitors are seeing that, too. Airlines, for example, are using social media to engage and steal their competitors’ unhappy passengers.
     
  2. RTC (Real-Time Communication) on brand Facebook pages. When customers visit their insurer’s Web page, do they want a return call within 15 minutes or two days? Obviously quicker is better. RTC is a new technology allowing customers to request an immediate return call from the contact center via a Facebook interface. Insurance providers need to communicate with customers quickly, and in the format with which they’re most comfortable. There are decisive moments when real time communications are critical.
     
  3. Upgrade your Knowledge Management for customer retention – In today’s fast-paced world, customers have little patience to wait for answers to their questions – even complex ones. Knowledge Management tools make that key information available to the contact center at just the right time: when the customer requires it. A Knowledge Management tool that helps to consistently provide resolution on the very first call saves time and resources that don’t have to be used on follow up calls.
     
  4. Equip your Knowledge Management for employee retention - One of the biggest expenses in the contact center is employee turnover. Insurance companies may spend thousands of dollars over many weeks training a new employee, only to have him or her quickly become frustrated from being unable to answer customers’ questions, and quit. An intuitive Knowledge Management system, like Astute Solutions’ RealDialog, gives team members the answers they need, when they need them.  Energized employees then stay with their employer and become more productive, while the employer avoids the pain of hiring a replacement.
     
  5. Use CRM Proactively for “Stickier” Relationships – Insurance companies strive to develop relationships with customers to keep them for extended periods of time. Loyal customers may stay with insurers for decades and influence friends and family members’ decisions as a result of their personal experiences. Effective use of CRM tools, to create more positive interactions, will build this loyalty. Advise customers to changing weather conditions, alerting them to steps they can take to prevent damage that would increase their premiums. Proactively offer simpler billing methods based on customers’ payment history. This approach helps insurers go beyond simply accepting regular payments, so they can create a more personal relationship that could last for years and years.
     

For more information about what Astute can do for insurance companies, please contact me at 614-508-6123 or email me at cinmor@astutesolutions.com.

Status: In A (Social) Relationship

 

social media marketing

Social is unlike anything I've ever encountered before. Engaging, conversational, and unique - Social keeps me on my toes at all times.

In the past, my relationships with Radio, TV, Print, and a host of other media had developed and then plateaued; I was tired of never knowing exactly where I stood with them. They were all too difficult to gauge. We were much better as distant friends, seeing each other from time to time.

Then Social came along. I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize just how special this relationship would be at the very beginning. It seemed fleeting at best; I didn't understand just how much of a role Social would play in my future.

But Social was intoxicating and addictive. Our relationship started casually at first: updates on life, sharing photos and quotes, hanging out with close friends. Soon, I realized that I saw Social on a daily basis - and our relationship had evolved far beyond the informal, casual association with which we had begun.

Social became something I looked foward to - all of my friends, family, and even my work associates had grown to love Social and incorporated it into their daily lives as well. Social just fit; it filled a need none of us had ever known we had.

When I realized that everyone adored Social (and I do mean everyone), I began to see that Social could go far beyond a casual relationship. Social was not only fun, but could also be incorporated into the workplace. Social spread messages in such a way that a simple video or campaign could reach the farthest corners of the world in a matter of hours.

So, Social became involved in every aspect of my life, from personal to professional. I'll admit, at first it was a little hard to evaluate where we stood - what real value did Social offer aside from novelty?

But Social - it's always changing. It adapted quickly to my needs, and now I'm able to measure the relationship in real terms of ROI. I know for a fact now when to attribute an ew sale or contact to Social - and I'm getting more of both now more than ever before.

As this relationship continues to develop, I'm learning more and more about how useful and exciting Social can be. There are those who have tried to fake a relationship with Social, but their uncharismatic strategies or predominantly neglectful methods have caused the relationship to fail. I'm taking my time and getting to know Social completely to ensure that the relationship continues to be increasingly beneficial.

Though there are still a few uncertainties lying ahead in the future, one thing is for sure: my relationship with Social is here to stay.

Are you in a long term relationship with Social? Share this infographic and let the world know!

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