Lack of Customer Service is a Critical Broken Window in Business

Michael Levine

A “broken window” in a business could be any flaw that is real or perceived by a customer. It could be paint peeling from the walls, an unclean bathroom, or a messy condiment section. But, one of the most significant broken windows in business are the employees.

Every employee is going to make a mistake at some point – it is human nature. Employees who learn from their mistakes and become better at their jobs as a result are the best employees to have. But unfortunately, not all employees do this and no matter how devastating it may be to the manager, the only way to make sure the mistake does not recur is to fire the employee. However, this doesn’t always happen.

Instead, the system institutes what some people call the dance of the lemons, moving incompetent workers from one job to the other, losing none of them. This is an even worse scenario because now the worst employees are working in multiple departments.

It is an example of the lax, laissez-faire attitude that has infected American businesses in the area of customer service. Much of it traces back to incomplete training, mainly failing to train employees in how to have impeccable customer service.

Here are the most important concepts in employee training: 1. Customer service. 2. Customer service. 3. Customer service. 4. Employee motivation. 5. Advancement for excellent performance. 7. See 1, 2, and 3. Customer service is what sets a business apart. It creates customer loyalty, and a steady stream of revenue for the business.

But what makes employees, especially ones working minimum wage, motivated to provide top-tier customer service? Employees should know, not just from the corporate statements but through examples they can see in their own outlets, that excellent performance will be rewarded with advancement and salary… They should also know that punishment will be the result of poor performance, and that after a certain number of warnings, they will be terminated.

This structuring would not allow for distracted, indifferent, and especially not rude employees – but they should also offer incentive so that employees have a reason to not be distracted or indifferent. The customer will go somewhere else if they notice a broken window, and much of the time the broken window is how they were treated while they were there.
As a consumer, you should do exactly that. You should patronize only those businesses you think exhibit the attitude and priorities you feel are important. If you, as a business owner, are not paying attention to that kind of broken window, the kind that walks in and punches the time clock every morning, you are inviting disaster.

Every employee, from the newest hire on the counter to the CEO, must be accountable, and the person to whom they are all accountable to is the customer. There is no higher authority. This mindset could completely change the way businesses are conducted. Somewhere along the way, priorities got lost. But this mindset of motivating employees with pay raises, providing exceptional customer service, and the customer being the highest authority, will repair the broken windows.


Michael Levine for consideration - May 28About the Author: He has represented a record-breaking 58 Academy Award winners, 34 Grammy Award winners, 43 New York Times best-sellers. He has authored 19 books, including 5 best-sellers, “Broken Windows, Broken Business” (Warner Books) and “Guerrilla P.R.” (HarperCollins Publisher). He has appeared on countless TV shows as a media expert including regular slots on “Good Morning America” and the “Today” show for the last 20 years. Born with dyslexia, Levine is currently the only person in the world, without ever attending college (merely a high school diploma), to lecture at both Harvard and Oxford University.




5 Ways to Improve Customer Service

Photo by picjumbo.com from Pexels

Victoria Smith

The lifeblood of every successful business is customer service. Without good customer service, you can forget about ever trying to retain customers for the long term. Instead, excellent customer service should be the centerpiece of your business model. Sadly, many companies fail at this important task. If you are lacking in this department, there are strategies you can implement to greatly improve your business’s customer service. Below are five.

Vet and Train Your Employees

Customer service is essentially a people service. It all hinges on exactly how your employees interact with customers in a variety of different contexts. It’s no secret that excellent customer service seems to be much rarer today. You have probably experienced plenty of very unhelpful employees in retail stores and elsewhere that simply could care less about what you want. Overall, customer service begins on this personal level as a one-to-one relationship between the customer and the employee. If you hire the wrong people with the wrong attitude, that will reflect poorly on your company as a whole. Employees must also be trained well on how to help customers with what they need. Without this training, you can really only blame mismanagement when your reputation as a business sours.

Consider Outsourcing Some of Your Customer Service Needs

Customer service can also become a problem when your business’s customer base expands beyond the capabilities of your own in-house staff. You may, for example, feel swamped with customer phone calls all day long. If that is the case, you should consider outsourcing that area of customer service to inbound call centers. However, make sure to take an active hand in developing the customer service protocols that will be used when your customers call into those call center employees. You know your products best, and it is your job to help train outsiders on how to properly provide service for your own products.

Track Online Reviews and Social Media Mentions

96 percent of consumers say that customer service is an integral part of their brand loyalty. One way you can track people’s customer service experiences is by reading online reviews and social media mentions. Doing so is extremely important. The experiences of individual customers can determine whether or not they come back to your business. However, the fact that those experiences remain online where people can see them means they can influence scores of other people as well. Negative online reviews can certainly affect a business’s revenue for months or even years into the future. Adjust to what is said about your service and reach out to those individuals with poor experiences so you can fix their issues.

Integrate Customer Feedback

A lot can be said about a company’s brand and products online. There are certain times when you should ignore negative feedback. Twitter, for example, tends to whip up “outrage mobs” of people who have never purchased a company’s products and only join in with negative scorn due to the social aspect of agreeing with one another. The feedback you should listen to and integrate, though, is the feedback you receive from honest individuals trying your service for the first time or longtime customers that are trying to give you constructive criticism. If they had a genuinely negative experience with your products or service, try to see what you can change to prevent such a negative experience from happening again. There is always room for improvement.

Institute a Customer Loyalty Program

Everything you do as a business should be about building long-term customer loyalty. It is that loyalty that will give your business the revenue it needs to survive far into the future. Without that loyalty, changing trends could wipe out your business overnight. One way you can build customer loyalty is by launching a program specifically to foster it. A customer loyalty program that allows consumers to accrue points, freebies, discounts, gifts and more is an excellent choice. This will give those customers an incentive to continue choosing your business over your competitors, and they will feel like the organization truly values their loyalty as a result.

Customer service is the cornerstone of every successful business. There is of course no business without customers. Keep that in mind when you hire and train employees. Consider new ways to improve customer services such as using loyalty programs or outsourcing. Never ignore the experiences customers have with your services and products as expressed through feedback both online and offline.


About the Author: Victoria Smith is a freelance writer who specialized in business and finance, with a passion for cooking and wellness. She lives in Austin, TX where she is currently working towards her MBA.

 




#9 MOST-READ in 2017: Strategic Trends – AI, Machine Learning and Customer Service

Wendy Glavin, Founder & CEO, Wendy Glavin Agency

2017-strategic-trends-ai-machine-learning-and-customer-serviceInnovative technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), the geopolitical regulatory environment and cyber risks are creating new challenges for global organizations and investors. Gathering and analyzing data is the norm, but the real value of data analytics and automation is in the insights — and the value to the customer.

Across all industries, innovation is transforming the way we operate in the world. In the investment industry, startups have developed proprietary technologies, such as machine learning, workflow optimization software and next-generation investment technologies for investors. “Yet the world’s largest funds are closed off from these innovations. Instead, they tend to perpetuate the status quo,” Harvard Business Review, November 2016

Gartner defines a strategic technology trend as one with substantial disruptive potential that is just beginning to break out of an emerging state into broader impact and use. Gartner named AI and Machine learning one of top 10 strategic technology trends for 2017. Today, big banks are trying to figure out ways to deal with 2016’s disruptor, now a revolution.

Artificial intelligence can help people make faster, better, and cheaper decisions. But you have to be willing to collaborate with the machine,” says Anand Rao, Innovation Lead Analytics, Price Waterhouse, December 2016: https://www.pwc.com/us/en/governance-insights-center/publications/assets/pwc-sharing-insights-investor-and-ceo-perspectives.pdf

Anad suggests financial institutions analyze business challenges across the value chain, including, marketing, operations, risk and finance, and define key decisions and metrics for where and how AI can help.

Significant potential exists for firms using large volumes of unstructured and non-transactional data. Replacing mundane tasks with AI and machine learning offers speed and personalization. “A human advisor can’t begin to compete with that level of detail and automation,” said Forbes contributor Bernard Marr, December 2016.

“The Year of the Customer” continues in 2017. For financial institutions, improving the customer experience is the top goal. FinTech firms, smaller banks and other financial services firms offer predictive analytics that determine buyer’s choices, sentiments, habits, geo location data, behavior patterns, and contextual analysis.

Some robo advisers are adding artificial intelligence capabilities to track account activity on their products and other integrated services, others are using AI to analyze and understand how account holders are spending, investing and making their financial decisions. Some banks are even using AI for customer service. – FinExtra, January 2017: https://www.finextra.com/blogposting/13503/five-key-trends-that-will-see-fintech-enhance-its-role-and-impact-in-2017

Artificial intelligence is also playing a big role in wealth management. For example, financial services company, OpenFinance analyzes and aggregates data from multiple sources then distributes it to banks and financial institutions. “The technology allows the company to access information from several hundred institutions, put it into a ‘common language’ so it can be worked on, then returned to each institution in the form they want,” says Open Finance Managing Director, Edward Loughran, Wall Street Journal, December 2016: https://blogs.wsj.com/riskandcompliance/2016/05/19/financial-firms-turn-to-artificial-intelligence-to-handle-compliance-overload/

For corporations, investors and brokers, machine learning can efficiently identify strategic relationship synergies by integrating institutional investors, brokers and C-Suite dashboards to highlight knowledge and share value-added services.

Organizations that are able to harness these data and analytics capabilities effectively will create significant value, differentiate themselves and gain a competitive edge.

AI and machine learning’s potential to deliver real-time optimization across industries is just starting to evolve and will quickly accelerate in the next three years.
“I see time becoming the most valuable currency that we as mankind see in the future. And autonomy, or autonomy in second is going to return time back to people that we don’t have today.” – Jennifer Tejada, CEO PagerDuty

 

About the Author: Wendy Glavin is Founder and CEO of Wendy Glavin, a NYC full-service agency. Wendy is a 20-year veteran of corporate, agency, consulting and small business ownership. She specializes in B2B marketing communications, PR, social and digital media. Her website is: https://wendyglavin.com/. Contact her at: wendy@wendyglavin.com

 




#3 MOST-READ in 2017: Don’t Get Too Obsessed with Recent Airline Customer Service Incidents – There are Bigger Sharks in the Risk Waters

Chris Britton, COO, RockDove Solutions

Target is a great place to shop. I love going there, and I bet many of you do too.

But I also find the company fascinating because over the past few years it has provided huge debating points for those of us who make a living managing issues and crises.

Until United Airlines recently showed how to turn a crisis into a disaster and created learning points for years of lectures, Target’s handling of its 2013 data breach was the poster child for “what not to do in a crisis” workshops.

More recently, and a little less clear cut in terms of best practice, Target has been in the spotlight ever since it published a blog post in April 2016 welcoming transgender employees and customers to use the restrooms and fitting rooms corresponding to their gender identities.

While we all got obsessed by the United tragi-comedy over recent weeks, a couple of studies were published which suggested that the Target bathroom issue is the one we should examine most closely.

There is growing evidence that managing risk from cultural, social and political issues is the biggest emerging challenge for all kinds of organizations.

One of those recent studies was from The Institute for Crisis Management (ICM). It published its annual crisis report in which it tracks six hundred thousand crisis stories in the news worldwide.

Mismanagement (malpractice, misconduct, negligence, unethical practices and so on) was top of the charts accounting for nearly 30% of crises.

But look what was number two on the list with a bullet.

Discrimination stories skyrocketed to around 20%, with ICM’s report citing news articles involving Papa John’s pizza, the restaurant chain Noodles & Co and the North Carolina bathroom bill (which is when Target published its now infamous bathroom blog).

By comparison natural disasters accounted for just one per cent of crisis stories in 2016 – and stories about data breaches just five percent.

The second study published in April was from the thought leadership unit of the marketing agency McCann, ‘The Truth about America’.

McCann highlights how the rising political divisiveness in America and the sharp divide between liberals and conservatives deeply affects perceptions about values, institutions, brands, foreign countries, American symbols or news sources.

It is always a careful walk when brands and companies make judgment calls and get involved in issues around race, gender, nationality and politics – but never greater than right now in divided America.

Once you tear your eyes away from the United Airlines soap opera and become aware of the emerging risks to brands from issues such as gender, race, politics and polarizing social issues, you keep tripping over them everywhere.

Another example is Chick-fil-A whose culture is strongly influenced by its founder’s, Truitt Cathy, southern Baptist beliefs. This can range from hungry customers getting grumpy because the chain does not open on a Sunday to more strongly held opinions, on both sides of the issue, about the causes that Chick-fil-A has chosen to support in the past.

On the opposite spectrum, there was a fascinating moment in time in April. The 20th of that month is a ‘holiday’, a celebration of marijuana use, known as 4/20.

Brands with famously liberal leanings such as Ben & Jerrys and the Californian brewery Lagunitas went so far as to name products with overtones of drug culture (‘Half Baked’ ice cream, for example).

But getting involved in 4/20 created gyrations in what brands were prepared to say outright in public.

An article in the Washington Post reported Ben & Jerry’s statement on the topic of the ‘Half Baked’ ice cream, “We’re really known for our tongue-in-cheek humor but it’s pretty coincidental that it’s coming out on the 20th…That’s the official line.”

But don’t think you can avoid cultural risk by doing nothing. Consumers have taken that option off the table.
Earlier this year, the marketing behemoth Unilever unveiled an international study that showed a third of consumers buy brands that can demonstrate a social and environmental impact.

In 2016, the BBMG agency identified a sector of the buying public it calls ‘Aspirationals,’ which it claimed represent 40 percent of the global public and are defined by their love of shopping, desire for responsible consumption, and their trust in brands to act in the best interest of society.
So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

What does all this mean for you in your role as a defender of your organization’s reputation?

Take a look at your crisis planning.

How well does it equip you to manage these kinds of issues? How well would you respond in this type of crisis? What inputs and counsel can you call upon to overcome lurking cultural blindness?

When you access your plan on your crisis mobile app and you have to react at social media speed, you will want to know that these questions have been answered.

About the Author: Chris Britton is COO of RockDove Solutions, based in Reston VA. He has served as executive leader of business operations since the company was founded in 2014. Chris has spent more than 30 years in technology, including leadership roles at AT&T, VOCUS (now CISION) and Rosetta Stone.




How to Get Excellent Customer Service this Holiday Shopping Season – Inside Tips from a Call Center Executive

How to Get Excellent Customer Service this Holiday Shopping Season – Inside Tips from a Call Center ExecutiveBy Marilyn Tyfting, Chief Corporate Officer, TELUS International

With the holiday season upon us, consumers are looking forward to buying and receiving their new gadgets and gizmos. But what happens when those gadgets don’t live up to their promised expectations? Contacting customer support can turn the fun of receiving a new toy into a nightmare, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

As Chief Corporate Officer at a global contact center outsourcing company, let me share a few tips on how to turn the need for customer service into an efficient and successful experience:

  1. Plan your “get help” tactic: As a consumer, you have choice when it comes to connecting with a company. Brands now offer numerous ways to get in touch – phone, email, chat, and social media. Pick the right channel for support that coincides with your service expectations, keeping in mind that each channel has its own set of response metrics. Companies often aim to answer calls within so many minutes while email may take a few hours. For immediate help, consider phone or chat, or take control of your own journey and engage in care through social media. But if you’re willing to wait a little longer for a resolution, email might be your better option.
  1. Make the most of your time on hold: During periods of high call volume, it’s hard to avoid that dreaded hold music. Believe it or not however, companies are not out to torture you with horrible wait times; in fact leaders in contact center environments are working hard to reduce hold times and create a great customer experience. However, trying to predict consumer behavior and plan for call volumes in advance is never perfect.

Besides making the most of your “on hold time,” by wrapping presents or hanging stockings, take advantage of any callback features if offered. These are handy notifications giving you the option to have the company call you back when your position in the queue is getting close. In many cases, you even get an approximate callback time, so you can attempt to plan ahead.

  1. Listen to the menu system: This tip has been debated for ages, with many suggesting it’s better to bypass menu options (press 1 for this, 2 for that) and go straight to hitting 0 to get an agent. In most cases, the menu system (known as the interactive voice response system – or IVR for short) has been carefully planned to connect people to the right department or contact center agent from the start. This skills-based routing ensures that if you want billing support, you are connected to a billing representative, and in many cases, engaging in an IVR will expedite reaching the appropriate agent to resolve your concerns.
  1. Be prepared: Many people call the call center ready to launch into their issues but fail to have all of the necessary information ready to verify their accounts, including PINs if required. In today’s identity theft environment, it’s crucial that contact centers verify with whom they are speaking and decline to assist otherwise.
  1. Consider having some fun: Imagine answering calls and supporting frustrated customers all day long. It is not an easy job – and can be repetitive. Why not make an agent’s day by presenting your problem in a more creative way? (But keeping clarity paramount in your request.)

You may recall the Netflix customer service story years ago where a Netflix support rep introduced himself as “Captain Mike of the good ship Netflix.” Although Netflix initiated the fun intro, the customer jumped right in responding as “Lieutenant” Norm, as if he was a ranking officer from Star Trek. While Netflix is not an outsourcing client of ours, the agent’s creativity caught our attention. In fact, we’ve also had customers contact us via chat or email support using poems to explain their issues, in which we’ve responded with similar prose.

  1. Escalate if needed: When your needs are not being met or when it’s clear that the solution may exceed what the agent can provide, be sure to ask to speak to the next tier of technical support. Ideally, part of training contact center agents is to give them a good idea when to escalate a customer’s issue as being the right thing to do. Companies have worked hard to earn you as a customer. And as many know, it costs far more to win new customers than to keep existing ones. As a result, if you’ve escalated things already, ask to speak directly to the Loyalty & Retention department to see what they say.
  1. Help yourself: Self-service is a growing area of customer support. This is where consumers can go online to find company FAQs, online tutorials, even help forums to solve their own issues. And brands love this because it avoids the need to contact the call center. If customers can take control of their own issues and feel empowered to solve them online or via social media, then brands can reduce call volumes, and it’s a win-win situation.
  1. Close the call properly: In the ideal customer service interaction, your contact center agent should provide you with a ticket (or case) number along with clear directions for follow-up should you need to contact them again. Ideally, they will also offer their own contact details, taking ownership of your customer satisfaction. If they fail to do any of these things, be sure to ask. Having a ticket number or contact will help the next support agent quickly access your support history to date.

Drawing from our experience handling over 175 million customers support interactions annually via phone, email, chat and social media customer support for some of the world’s top brands, we hope these tips contribute to your customer service success this holiday season.

 

 About the Author: Marilyn Tyfting is Chief Corporate Officer at TELUS International, a global provider of contact center outsourcing and customer service solutions. Learn more at telusinternational.com 

 

 




Alexei Orlov – Importance Of Retaining Customers

According to entrepreneur Alexei Orlov of MTM, “once a company has identified a consumer base that is loyal to the company‘s products or services, it needs to make sure that those customers stick around and keep coming back. To find its  loyal, or repeat buyers, a company should look at the current best buyers, which are those who are repeatedly making purchases and are speaking highly of the business.  

These are a group of buyers who have some common traits for every company, and getting their feedback is one of the best ways in finding out what they value, offering those things to other buyers, and retaining more customers.” 

Reviews

Companies can conduct interviews on a regular basis with the relevant repeat customers, and see how well they’re performing. It’s especially important to do this during times of change, or whenever a company is growing, as during these periods  businesses need the most insights into what is working . 

If there is any method that’s extremely effective, it can then be leveraged even further, while any strategies that aren’t working, can be avoided in the future. To get the best possible information out of each interview, which then gets to be reviewed by the company, communication should be open and transparent. Additionally, the company should be using KPIs wherever possible, in order to see the exact points when things start improving. 

Rewards

Businesses should also have CRM software because they tend to come with a very helpful tool that helps in identifying which consumers have generated the most revenue for the company, and have been the most profitable for the business. Additionally, when a company identifies these types of buyers, it’s best to reward them for their loyalty, as that works in retaining them further. This means that the buyers won’t be looking to other places for products or services that the company already provides. 

Reaching out to these consumers and letting them know about rewards or positive incentives will be appreciated, and they will be sure to continue making repeat purchases from the company. Furthermore, with these types of tools, whenever a company is changing or growing, using them is a great way of getting any skeptical buyers interested in the change, or the new direction, instead of potentially putting them off of the business with big changes. 

Cross-Selling

For companies to be able to capture the relationship that a company has with the most loyal buyers, they should implement cross-selling strategies. That means positioning any related products, services, or items together, and showing the buyers that what the company is offering can be linked to other products in a logical manner. This is a very efficient technique for getting repeat buyers, and for showing them that the solutions that the company provides are very useful. 

Whichever way a company decides to incorporate cross-selling strategies, they should also be implemented along with metrics and insights to know what things are and aren’t working.


About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.




How Fixing Failed Payments Can Improve Customer Retention (INFOGRAPHIC)

Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

Most business owners know how much revenue is coming in at the top, but how many know the cost of failed payments? For subscription services, more than two thirds of businesses lose 17% of their profits to churn, often involuntary churn. The #1 cause of involuntary churn? Failed payments. The main causes of failed payments are, in order: insufficient funds, credit card limits, and credit card changes. 

One factor that increases the risk of failed payments is auto-renewal. 35% of subscriptions automatically renew, but auto-renewal increases the likelihood of failed payments by 47%. Many customers don’t know a payment failed until they lose service, so failed payments drive up customer service contacts, which 43% of businesses say drives up costs. If the customer service they receive is poor, said customer is unlikely to manually renew after a failed payment. 32% of people will stop doing business with a brand or company after just one bad experience, turning failed payments into a failure of customer retention. Seeing as 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers, this could spell long term trouble for a company.

How can companies recover failed payments? One thing they shouldn’t do is send automated emails. Such forms of contact lack empathy, they put the onus on the customer to act, and they cannot replace traditional customer service. Only 15% of customers respond to emails prompting them to update payment information. Meanwhile, 69% of customers want to shop with retailers who offer consistent and quality customer service. 

Instead, companies should employ some combination of direct debit, which allows bank-to-bank transactions; digital wallets, which are more likely to be up-to-date and include backup payment methods; and a payment processor who accepts a wide variety of credit card brands. Reducing card declines can bring down payment failure rates to as low as 0.5%. That would be a 70% reduction in involuntary churn.

Other ways to prevent failed payments include employing an automated card updater, which checks card networks to update payment information behind the scenes, adding sophisticated retry logic capable of selecting the optimal time to rerun transactions based on error type, and integrating more personalization into the process, which allows human interaction to recover failed payments and boost customer loyalty.

It’s time for customer churn to stop costing US businesses $136 billion a year. It’s time to recover your company’s lost payments today with Gravy Solutions.

 

How Legendary Companies Make Money
Source: GravySolutions.io


Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.




6 Steps To Qualify Potential Customers Easily

Samantha Higgins

In today’s world, businesses and entrepreneurs are always looking for ways to grow more revenue. One way to do so is through building a customer base of qualified customers. But how can you find more qualified customers? Here are six steps to qualify potential customers quickly, which will help you identify and target those with a need for what you sell.

Do your market research first.

If you don’t know what is selling, how will you know which market to go into? Evaluate current trends, and take note of them. The most popular trends are indicators of what is currently selling to consumers. Markets can follow their flow, or they can show seasonal ups and downs. When you choose to sell products and services in demand, you are more likely to find potential customers.

Pick the right market for your products and services.

No matter what you choose to sell, it is essential to select the right market to reach the customers who need or desire what you want to sell. You may have an idea of who you want to buy your products and services, but that doesn’t always mean looking for something like what you have to offer. Consider that the most significant customer audiences mathematically give more opportunities for sales. Make a list of all the different industries and markets that you may want to sell into. This will help you gain access to a relevant customer base.

Determine the type of person who is part of your target market.

You can use many methods to zero in on the qualifications needed for your target market. The demographic process looks at the different characteristics of a specific population, such as age group, gender, education level, income level, and ethnic background. The behavioral method looks at an individual’s actions, such as buying habits, shopping preferences, media preferences, and travel patterns. The psychographic techniques consider a person’s values and interests regarding buying a particular product and looking at how they think and view the world. Once you determine the type of customer persona your business is targeting, it will be much easier to find qualified customers.

Consider the location of a potential customer before reaching out.

It is paramount to consider location if your company specializes in a particular service or time-sensitive product. All of the other factors mean little if you cannot reach the client or not reach you. Consider the location of customers to qualify them as well. Services that are not virtual are often limited to a specific geographical area. You can use targeted advertising to find the type of customers who can get to you, so you don’t waste each other’s time.

Screen customers online before they buy.

Asking potential clients to fill out a survey, form, or questionnaire can help you find valid customers in a sea of window shoppers. This method allows you to prescreen people who may be interested. Asking for a name, valid address, telephone number, or email address can help you ensure that customers are who they are and qualified to do business with you.

With identity theft on the rise, knowing the difference between a total sale and a legit one could mean saving your business from lawsuits later. The Small Business Chronicle suggests that business owners can request a current photo ID before accepting checks or credit cards, and one can use multiple layers to encrypt customer information. Suppose you want to ensure that your customer has a particular credit score or can pay you. In that case, you can partner with a buy now deliver later provider on your website to give customers another chance to qualify to buy from you. The agency will have already prescreened the clients for you who are capable of making the purchase.

Allow a customer service agency to screen customers.

If customers call to place an order, inbound call centers can take the calls and prescreen candidates for companies. Hiring an inbound calling agency to answer calls for your business, process orders, and provide other services to satisfy customers is a smart move for better service. During the prequalification process, friendly customer agents will ask the necessary questions by phone or live chat to determine whether they are good clients for your business. You can then reach out to qualified customers with a specialized message that will get their attention.

Since every business needs customers, you must know how to find qualified ones. You are marketing to human beings, so just like everyone else, they don’t want to be sold on something they don’t think is valuable. Offer your target market compatible products and services, and you can increase your odds of finding qualified customers exponentially.


About the Author: Samantha Higgins is a professional writer with a passion for research, observation, and innovation. She is nurturing a growing family of twin boys in Portland, Oregon with her husband. She loves kayaking and reading creative non-fiction. 




Winning Back Lost Customers

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

To many Silent and early Boomer Generation types, “Lover Come Back” starring Rock Hudson was an unforgettable 1961 movie and one that many moviegoers may likely seen more than once. Unlike the happy ending in the movie, brands that lose customers don’t often get that second chance.

Recent studies revealed that the cost of losing customers is high. RightNow Technologies reported that 89% of consumers switched brands after a bad experience. A Harvard Business Review recently showed that 48% of consumers who had a bad experience also told another ten people.

A 2019 Forbes article Indicated that the cost of acquiring new customers was five times greater than retaining existing ones. That statistic not only confirms the importance of maintaining excellent customer relations with current customers, but also signals the value of attempting to recapture those who once loved the brand and left for one reason or another.

How the brand stacks up against others varies by industry. OTT/SVOD or over the top and subscription video on demand services had one of the highest churn rates of 10.01%. Consumer goods were up there at 9.62% followed by healthcare (7.55%), consumer services (7.49%), business services (6.25%) and education (5.06%). SaaS (software as a service) trailed at 4.79% and media and entertainment reported at 4.67%.

Brands whose churn ranks even higher than the industry not only need to pay particular attention to customer retention, but also initiate recapture strategies. According to Small Business Trends, lowering a company’s churn rate by just 5% can increase profits from 25% to as much as 95%. Here’s what it takes.

Brands must understand their former customers before attempting to recapture them. For starters, segregate and rank them on a scale of one to five using the RFM model. The first category is “R” or recency of the last interaction either through a sale or visit. Five is the highest. The “F” stands for frequency or the total number of transactions or average time between transactions and/or visits. The “M” represents monetary or the average of transactions.

The top prospects will score fives all around. They’re the best prospects to start recapturing. Focus on them first and then work down the list as time and budget permit.

Armed with the RFM information, send out personalized emails acknowledging their absence and the brand’s desire to determine why they left and an even stronger wish to make things right. They likely stopped because of an unsatisfactory and unpleasant experience so offer them a reward or incentive to answer a short survey of why they’re no longer a customer.

As Alexei Orlov of MTM says, “A common reason for leaving is poor customer service. Acknowledge it and apologize while indicating that positive changes have been made. Offer a free product upgrade or swag or something of value for them to give the brand one more try.  Include the name and email of a customer service rep they can contact directly if they need help or have an issue.”

Some customers leave because they found the product or service too complicated. If so, offer a free demo or training. Another option is giving them exclusive access to educational content that will help them. This could be training material that’s usually accessible to staff.

Others simply left because they felt the brand became too expensive. Offer a discount and share all the benefits and features they may not have been aware of. This can be priceless because in some cases, they may not have totally understood the brand’s price to value ratio. As in all other strategies, measure, track and compare results on a regular basis, both with the industry and within the brand so that adjustments, if any, may be made in a timely manner.


RONN TOROSSIAN - HOW MANY FOLLOWERS DO YOU NEED ON INSTAGRAM TO GET PAID?About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency.




5 Ways to Improve Your Customer Experience

Samantha Higgins

How important is the well-being and satisfaction of your customers? If you are a business owner, you know how crucial it is to keep them happy. The long term success of your business will surely depend on positive reviews. Here are 5 great new tips and tricks that you can make use of in order to improve your customer experience.

1. Improve Your Speech Analytics from AI

One of the very best things that you can do to improve the quality of your customer experience will be to make better use of AI speech analytics. This is the method by which you can gather valuable info from customer calls. Data from these calls will be critical in determining the needs and wishes of your customers.

2. Interact with Customers on Social Media

Another very important tip that you should be following for success is to be more interactive with your customers. You can do this by getting pages on all of the major social media networks. Once you have accounts on sites like Facebook, Instagram, and the like, you can answer the questions, comments, and concerns your customers have.

This will be a great way to increase your public profile. Viewers want to know that there is a human being behind the profile. The more presence you have on social media, the higher your level of credibility will be. This will establish a crucial link between you and your audience that will help you develop a positive public image.

3. Use SEO to Determine Your Customers’ Needs

You can make use of SEO keywords to heighten the quality of your average customer experience. Doing so will give you a great insight into the needs and wants of your target demographic. The more you know about the keywords they use to search for goods and services, the easier it will be for you to match those needs.

This is a crucial tip for a struggling business owner who has just established a startup. The knowledge that you can gain by researching and making the proper use of SEO will give you a definite leg up. This is info that you can use to satisfy the immediate needs of your customers while also anticipating their future desires.

4. Automate All of the Minor Details

You don’t have to be present in-person to answer every single detail of a phone or chat box call. In fact, were you to try to do so, you would be wasting huge amounts of very valuable time and energy. Instead, your best bet will be to automate all of the simple details, such as asking about prices or availability of items on your site.

You can do this by installing AI on your site as well as on your official contact phone lines. A customer can call in and leave their name and info. If the question can be handled via a prerecorded response, so much the better. If not, it can still be a great way to weed out all but the most essential calls that demand your attention.

5. Make Sure Your Site is Completely Mobile

One of the most important qualities that customers look for in a website is responsiveness. Your site needs to be quick loading and easy to access across all of the major platforms. It needs to be fully responsive and easy for your customers to view on a laptop, PC, Smartphone, Android, tablet, and all other devices.

You will be judged on how quickly your site responds on all of these platforms. It’s important to keep in mind that the attention span of the average viewer is only a bare few seconds. The quicker you make a good first impression, the quicker you can proceed to make a sale.

It’s Time to Improve Your Customer Experience

There is nothing in the world more satisfying to a business owner than a positive and profitable interaction with a customer. Keeping a high level of satisfaction for all of your customers is an absolute must. Taking heed of these handy tips will help you maintain a high level of positive reviews that will help your firm grow and thrive.


About the Author: Samantha Higgins is a professional writer with a passion for research, observation, and innovation. She is nurturing a growing family of twin boys in Portland, Oregon with her husband. She loves kayaking and reading creative non-fiction. 




5WPR CEO On Consulting Service Prospecting on Social Media

Your Social Media Posts-5 Things Recruiters Look For

When the California gold rush was booming in the mid-1800s and people flocked there from all parts of the country, famed American philosopher and poet Henry David Thoreau had this comment, “…they go prospecting farther and farther away from the true lead, and are most unfortunate when they think themselves most successful.” 

Much the same could be said today in terms of finding customer leads. Yet today, with many people still quarantined or working remotely from home, direct mail envelopes are even thicker than before. A 2017 Gallup poll suggested that direct mail was far from dead with a 1,300% ROI. So why prospect on social media? 

Prospecting on social media meets consumers where they frequent and, when done right, in areas and on topics they’re interested in. With an engaging sales funnel, conversations can begin and trust developed with potential customers. Here are five steps that can help. 

Step one is to Identify and know one’s USP or unique selling proposition is key to creating a message that reverberates with customers. Who is the main target audience, and what’s the USP that will motivate them to respond? What additional value might be added that is better than the competition is another issue to be addressed. Determining and even polling potential customers about their pain points can be valuable in crafting a message that resonates. 

As Alexei Orlov of MTM has said, “To create interest, demand, and ultimately a contract, generating awareness or step two is paramount. But what’s equally important is the right awareness. Showcasing expertise and results sets the company apart from its competitors.” 

There are numerous ways to do this. One is to blog and write guest posts in publications frequented by potential clients. Another is through LinkedIn articles while establishing relationships with industry publications. Doing interviews is also immensely powerful. 

Identify and join Facebook groups that cater to the company’s target audience. This is step three. Creating learning units and engaging with followers instills confidence and establishes credibility. Consider the most time-consuming option, which is to publish a book or eBook that addresses client pain points. While this entails a lot more work, there is a lot of built-in credibilities that go along with that, and the accompanying publicity about its release will generate much awareness. 

Identifying client pain points and running short, individual videos on Facebook is step four and will also generate interest and feedback. Cross-promote the other platforms and posts to maximize coverage. 

Step five calls for reloading some of those same videos on YouTube and retargeting those same prospects the company is pursuing. And to make it special, consider adding something for free like a free chapter from that eBook if one was written or helpful checklists or worksheets. The added value can help create some reciprocity. 

All set? Before trying to schedule everyone who seems interested, it’s important to recognize the difference between window shoppers, freebie seekers, and genuine potential clients. The process can be aided by building an application process in the booking system and doing something as basic as checking out the person seeking a consultation. Having prospects complete a short questionnaire beforehand that includes a question about being in a position to invest in their firm’s development is not only fair but also practical.


Ronn Torossian - How PR Firms Can Lead by Example with Diversity and InclusionAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is a Public Relations executive.




7 Media Trends for 2021 include Supply Chains, Healthcare, Telepresence and Customer Experiences

 

Norman Birnbach, President, Birnbach Communications

It’s great that 2020 is over. Finally.

Although many of the trends and issues from last year sadly will continue into 2021, PR and marketing teams should look at new trends to find ways to stay relevant and engaged with other stories the media will be covering. 

Our approach to identifying trends is based on conversations with reporters and a review of a wide-range of sources, with the goal of helping clients understand the media landscape. For example, we’ve been telling clients for the last few weeks that reporters have been very distracted during the post-election – so it was gratifying to read that Ina Fried at Axios Login, the company’s tech newsletter, validated our perspective this week. Writing about the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), a major tech showcase that generates tons of media coverage because it’s where consumer product companies typically launch exciting cutting-edge products, Fried noted: “The 2021 edition of CES was mostly an afterthought as media’s attention focused elsewhere.” 

We’ve recognized the media’s distraction and have advised clients appropriately to set expectations. In so doing, we may have helped clients better time and position their announcements. 

Here are seven of our top media predictions for 2021: 

  1. We will all become more aware of supply chains. While supply chain and logistics are vital, they rarely get mentioned in the mainstream media because they’re typically invisible to consumers. Because the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines encountered significant challenges and there were shortages of key consumer goods and appliances, we will all become more aware of supply chains issues this year. We expect more coverage if key shortages arise. What this means: Executives with supply chain expertise have an opportunity to position themselves as thought leaders if they can provide big-picture perspectives and insights to help reporters explain the challenges we’re seeing.
  2. The workplace of the future will be your home. Experts predict that a significant percentage of employees will choose to continue to work from home – which has propelled some to move to cheaper, less dense neighborhoods. Companies will have to rethink HR, recruiting and team building as well as reconfigure workflow, collaboration, and customer support to address the realities of the new workplace. For grocery stores, restaurants and retail locations, expect short-term changes like plexiglass dividers, asking people to socially distance, etc. to likely remain into 2022. What this means: HR executives can offer insights into the long-term implications for job-hunters and current employees or companies can talk about how their new products solve new challenges. (For example: selfie lights. Last year you might not have heard of them but if you have a dark corner of your home from which you now conduct video calls, you should get some.)
  3. Cities will need to reimagine downtown business districts. Office buildings will be emptier in 2021 as many businesses re-evaluate office needs and try to get out of leases. Local hospitality businesses and retailers need to focus on delivering customer experience, not just commodity service. To overcome stories about closures and stagnation, stimulate the local economy and give people a reason to visit, cities will need to revitalize downtown areas by expanding cultural activities. What this means: Even if you’re pitching a totally different story, if your organization has big downtown presence, you should be prepared to address reporters’ questions about the future of your office space and your commitment to support the community.
  4. Telepresence, industrial robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) will get more attention. Companies will experiment with deploying telepresence and robotic solutions and integrating AI to be better able to weather the next pandemic. This is an opportunity for industries like manufacturing that require onsite employees but haven’t updated processes. There will also be articles noting concerns about the impact of robots in the workplace on jobs as well as advances in AI. What this means: Companies may have an opportunity to showcase themselves as case studies for deploying new technology (though it shouldn’t just be about new technology as about a new way of getting work done).
  5. Telehealth becomes a preferred option, not an alternative. Telehealth will become the preferred option, particularly for therapy or appointments that don’t require hands-on treatment. We expect to see stories on the delivery of healthcare to those who don’t have access to telehealth and whether patients will get the same level of care and attention via virtual sessions as they do with in-person visits. What this means: There are a number implications that HR staffs will need to address. Instead of taking an hour from work to go to a doctor’s office, an employee will need a quiet, private location from which to conduct a telehealth call. That’s not a problem for mployees working from home; but it could be an issue if they work from a bullpen area in an office. HR execs will need to reconfigure policies and expectations to deal with telehealth visits, for example.
  6. Big Tech’s role will be scrutinized. With antitrust suits against Facebook and concerns about Section 230 – the FCC rule that protects social media companies from being sued for the content posted onto their sites – 2021 will be a tough year for Big Tech. Forcing Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp won’t solve the real problem: the polarizing nature of social media and the impact of disinformation in the public square. But everyone has an opinion, and we expect to see numerous stories exploring the topic this year. What this means: Organizations need to look at how people are using various platforms and to be prepared to adjust their social media activities based on shifting laws and regulations as well as algorithms that may impact those campaigns.
  7. The streaming wars will continue with no real losers. With the exception of Qubi, a standalone service that closed in six months, most of the new streaming services were launched by networks trying to optimize their content. The currently expanding number of streaming services have benefited from people staying home, but there are too many different providers to be sustainable. Contraction of non-network-based services (Crackle and Tubi, for example) won’t happen this year but could happen within 24 months. What this means: This trend could be significant for marketers because people who primarily stream content are harder to reach via advertising than those who watch on-air advertising-supported networks. So marketers will need to find other, more creative ways to reach those consumers.

Of course, these aren’t the only trends we expect to hit this year. We are optimistic, and do expect 2021 to be a better year. It’s important to pay attention to the factors driving media coverage to be able to generate positive coverage and to position executives as thought leaders.


Norman BirnbachAbout the Author: Norman Birnbach is the president of Birnbach Communications, www.birnbach.com, a Boston-based PR and social media agency that helps clients navigate trends and raise awareness through earned media and thought leadership. His blog, PR BackTalk, provides insights and attitude about PR, journalism and traditional and social media.




Lead Exchanges and Dating Services

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR

Any single person looking for a mate or simply seeking a date need only check out the numerous online dating sites. Not only have they proliferated, but they’ve even narrowed it down so folks can target their desires to date over forty, dating over fifty, Christian dating, etc. Instant matches abound!

Lead exchanges work much the same way by instantly matching buyers and sellers. This is due to lead exchange platforms’ ability to categorize leads based on a variety of factors like intent, quantity, etc. With leads gathered from sources like email lists, websites, and other social media sources, a buyer’s search for leads can be similarly tailored quickly and at a reasonable cost.

Lead exchanges’ value has risen with the increased shift in advertising budgets from traditional placements to digital media. All indications point to even more digital media focus and spending in the foreseeable future.

For both advertisers and consumers, it’s a win-win situation. Brands are able to recognize and connect instantly with consumers anxious and ready to make a purchase. In addition, lead exchanges can help deliver the ideal customer at the most favorable time by helping marketers leverage their ad-spending. Real-time reporting is instrumental in this.

For consumers, lead exchanges arm them with data that can often deliver more than one satisfactory solution to a challenge or issue, particularly if there’s a high degree of risk associated with uncertainty. These high-tech platforms support publishers, which also encourage consumers to ask about different services and products. And for consumers who comparison shop, lead exchanges can also match them up in real-time with products they’re seeking.

Brands that understand lead platforms and can identify and successfully connect with customers who are ready to buy can expect to see significant gains. One of the keys is automated filters that can target audiences for each product or brand. Each audience and campaign can have its own cost structure, and brands can control how much they wish to spend on each connection.

To maximize their lead platform investment, marketers need to identify which campaigns and publishers are working best. Because it’s all real-time, the good news is that marketers can quickly pivot and adjust, when necessary, in both their advertising messages as well as seeing which publishers deliver the best ROI. Other major things to track for optimization are early indicators like rates of contact, conversion and retention targets, and lifetime value tracking.

Lead exchange platforms furnish quick access to publishers who will connect consumers who have indicated that they are ready and eager to buy with brands that have what they’re seeking. The good news is that the technology is evolving and will only get better as things continue to scale.

Matching up buyers and sellers has been an age-old challenge for marketers but one that may soon no longer be an issue. Properly managed and maintained, it can be a win for everyone, or, like the dating services, a marriage made in heaven!


Ronn Torossian - Pot for PetsAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR agency.




Customer Conversations are Aimed at AI Says 5WPR

 

Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5WPR 

Until a couple of years ago, who would have thought consumers would embrace AI and chatbots? 

A fall 2019 survey by global tech company LivePerson revealed that more than 70% of respondents in the UK, France, and Australia used AI in the past year. Here in the U.S. and Germany, participants had a better than 50% rate.  AI is on the rise. Of those polled, 80% of Americans used AI for customer care last year, increasing from 67% in 2018. In response to the increased demand, 67% of the 307 brands surveyed by Forrester Consulting and NICE inContact said they intend to increase their AI funding over the next year. In yet another recent global survey, MIT Technology Review Insights found that 87% of the 1,000 brands in 11 different industries had already employed AI. Nearly half (41%) reported improved customer experience as a benefit. 

What Others Are Saying 

Technology research and consulting company OMDIA reported that today’s consumer wants easier access to self-service solutions. Business consulting company Accenture went on to state that well-designed bots can now resolve 80% of interactions with customers, something digital PR can help with a lot. And global research and advisory firm Gartner predicted that by 2021 50% of brands will spend more on developing bots than traditional mobile apps. 

Removing Stress 

Self-serving resolution and assistance via AI can be timesaving and helpful except when it stresses consumers with the often-customary responses of “press one for… or press two for… or press three for…” Similarly, asking the same question several times is often the norm, quite frustrating to consumers, and must be discontinued. 

Well-informed and up-to-date live agents are the best solution to removing these stress points, but it’s also not realistic. It’s easier and faster to regularly update chatbots with the correct information and data to answer the most frequently asked questions, removing a lot of stress and load on agents. They can be better utilized to handle more complex issues with customers. 

The Future 

Historically, brands have measured customer satisfaction on such things as how long a customer was on a call with an agent or chatbot, whether the issue was resolved on that first call, and the comments received afterward. 

The studies mentioned earlier point to consumers’ willingness to engage in conversational AI if they can also speak to a “live” person, when necessary. Giving customers control over the option empowers them, and gains their confidence and loyalty. 

What raises the importance of AI are heightened consumer expectations for 24/7 customer service. This extends the value of AI and increases the demand and necessity for faster advancements in technology. 

AI for brands that sell products can also help increase sales. Bots that simply inquire if a customer wishes to add such things like a $5 purchase to get free shipping or purchase a second item to take advantage of a “buy two, get the third free” promotion often boost revenue. 

Smaller brands that rely on live agents to serve customer queries and issues may consider investing in an automated call center. There are several on the market, and any serious consideration in such an investment should address the following questions: Will it help deliver better customer service? Will it result in increased revenue? And will it foster stronger customer loyalty?


Is the NFL Ready for Kaepernick’s Return? - Ronn TorossianAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of leading PR agency 5WPR.




Ronn Torossian on Customer Journey Maps in Marketing

One of the essential tasks for marketers and digital PR professionals is to be able to both predict as well as influence customer behavior. With every single buyer persona, ad, post, landing page, and email, the marketers have a single goal of persuading the target audience to act, while also predicting and preparing for whatever action the consumer is going to take next. 

Knowing the potential customers’ needs and motivations is not easy to predict or to learn, but it can become a lot easier when marketers take a bit of time and create customer journey maps. 

Customer Journey Maps And How They’re Helpful 

Customer Journey Maps are a visual aid that can help the marketers outline the precise story of a customer’s experience with the company, starting from the very first interaction that the customer has with the business, all the way to forming a long-term strong relationship and it’s all from the point of view of the client. 

With these customer journey maps, marketers can get an insight into the expectations that the customers have from the business, at each step of their buying journey, which helps businesses create customer experiences that are going to motivate those customers to reach the very last point of each journey – making a purchase. Maps are also helpful in understanding the channels and touchpoints that the consumers are using to be able to reach them through those channels, and are a great way to predict and influence consumer behavior. 

Components of Customer Journey Maps 

The first thing that digital PR pros have to create is the buyer persona, which is the representation of the target customer, according to all of the relevant market research. After that, marketers need to find out all of the stages that a customer goes through before coming in contact with the business. Next, they need to understand the customer’s goals throughout all of those stages and create a schedule for them, to know how long each touchpoint takes for the customer to be convinced to move on to the next stage. 

Finally, because the client’s journey is presented from the customer’s perspective, marketers also have to take into account the emotions that the customer is most likely to feel during each stage of the journey. 

Customer Journey Map Stages 

Awareness

This is the first stage in the journey when the customer becomes aware that they might have a problem and start to look for solutions to that problem. 

Considering and deciding

At this stage, the customer knows about the company and its solutions, but they’re still thinking whether that company is the right choice. 

Conversion and retention

In this stage, the consumer is almost ready to sign up for the company’s offers and convert; all they need is to be nudged in the right direction with a good incentive. 

Once the customer is on board with the company’s products or services, it’s time to work hard at retaining them because acquiring new customers costs a lot more than retaining the existing ones.


Ronn Torossian - Pot for PetsAbout the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR firm.

 




How To Find Local Customers with Twitter

Frank Hamilton, Editor, Online Writers Rating

Social media presents you with the opportunity to identify with the right target audience for your business or brand. There are several tools and devices so that you always meet the specific targets every time. From the safety and comfort of the internet and social media, you can study and engage your audience initially. From there, you can begin to accelerate your business through networking, partnerships, advertising, and several other tactics

How To Easily Find The Right Customers With Twitter

With Twitter, you are just one click away from a potential client or making a sale. It is possible to find either in seconds if you know your way around. Also technology has provided us with extra tools to further narrow-down/expand our reach in finding useful leads or clients.

There are two essential methods through which you can find local customers for your business on Twitter:

  • Update your location.
  • Employ Advanced Search Using:
    • Keywords, Phrase, or Hashtags.
    • By Category.

    You can implement both of these techniques in real-time or have them geographically targeted, depending on your needs. There are also several other third-party tools that you can incorporate to increase the functionalities of both of these tools further.

    Let’s look at how we can effectively make use of some of Twitter’s native methods for winning local customers around your area.

    Advanced Search:

    • Visit https://twitter.com/search-advanced
    • Input your zip code in the ‘Near This Place’ field.
    • (You will see results showing nearby people tweeting from within your area).
    • Click on your prospect’s name and follow them.
    • You can follow up to 200 new prospects daily using this technique.

    Hash Tags:

    Use hashtags to get more clients for your business on twitter.  You can achieve this by searching for hashtags that fit into your business or industry.

    Try to use up to three hashtags per tweet. Also, take note of the popular hashtags used by the nearby people you followed using the advanced search. Use their hashtags as leads and also try to integrate them into your tweets as well so you can reach out to newer audiences.

    Keywords and Phrases:

    • Go back to twitter.com/search-advanced
    • Input keywords or phrases customers can use to find you.
    • Input your zip code in the ‘Near This Place’ field.
    • Identify and respond to the tweets that you think can use your product or service.

    Tweet Often:

    • Don’t worry about over-tweeting; in fact, tweeting at least once every half-hour is good business.
    • Naturally, the more you tweet, the more you get new followers.
    • Make good use of your hashtags. An easy way to benefit from this is by sharing news that is relevant to people in your industry. Sort for and use hashtags pertinent to your business and industry.
    • Don’t be too complacent with only your content; retweet other tweets you find interesting or relevant to your business and industry.
    • Shake things up a little bit by sharing funny stories now and then. Keep your followers engaged and excited.

    Share Local Content:

    • Kindly share useful information like the local news, events, calendar, etc. with your followers. If you do this, you stand better chances of having people retweeting your post every often.
    • Patronize local news websites for free-to-share content.
    • Leverage non-profit information. Capitalize on Sharing the weather, politics, and other non-profit information that can be useful to your audience.

    Update Your Twitter Profile:

    • It is essential to have a comprehensive but brief description of your company in your profile.
    • Share pictures often! Try to visualize your product or service in a way that is attractive and appealing. Images draw a lot of attention. Also, include them in your tweets.
    • Use a quality HD profile picture to represent your brand; it could be your brand or business logo. You can also try catchy photos that relate to your product or service. It is okay to switch things up a bit from time to time. Pictures are paramount. Research shows that tweeters do not usually take accounts without a profile picture seriously.

    Join The Conversation!

    • Reach out to the people that follow you and those you follow. Spend a few minutes daily getting involved in their discussions and make useful inputs.
    • Reply tweets from your followers, comment on their links, comment on their pictures, retweet relevant tweets.
    • Visit your follower’s websites. Also, request for guest post openings.
    • Engage with new followers by responding to your mentions, follow back new followers, and generally try to find more people to connect with daily.
    • Do not buy followers, they’re not real people, and a good chunk of them are not interested in your business.

    Third-party Tools You Can Integrate To Find More Customers On Twitter

    Besides the native methods, there are several third-party tools that you can integrate to help you work smarter. These instruments capitalize on Twitter’s existing native tools to give you more advantage. They can also help you find local customers for your business using various techniques. Some good examples of these applications include:

    • Fan Page Robot
    • Hootsuite
    • Twellow
    • Wefollow
    • Topsy
    • The Archivist, and several others.

    Fan Page Robot:

    This program offers an excellent automated social media management and marketing system that syncs directly with your twitter. It is designed to assist busy internet marketers and only requires the most minimalist input throughout. The program can manage all your social media accounts, scheduling, and pages independently. It can also automatically create quality content and auto-post them to your different social media accounts/pages.

    How It Works:

    • Enter keywords related to your business to automatically (or manually) generate compelling local content. 
    • Use popup campaigns to post on Twitter and other social media to generate local leads.
    • You can find and connect with local influencers within your industry using your keywords. Take the spotlight to your business by retweeting their posts.
    • Fan Page Robot can also automatically convert any web page into your lead page with only one click.

    Conclusion

    Twitter provides business with one of the most straightforward ways to find local customers and businesses around you. The Advanced Search feature alone can give you access to a wealth of customers within the twitter community. Also, several third-party applications can add to the already existing functionalities of the native tools available on twitter to help you find the right customers for your business effortlessly.


    Frank HamiltonAbout the Author: Frank Hamilton has been working as an editor at review service Online Writers Rating. He is a professional writing expert in such topics as blogging, digital marketing and self-education. He also loves traveling and speaks Spanish, French, German and English.  




    Planning For Life Post-Coronavirus: Anticipate Your Customers Needs With Content That Is Educational, Entertaining, and Inspirational

    Maria Meadows, President, Model B 

    If you’re like me, you’ve been inundated with emails from CEOs in the age of coronavirus. With an increasing number of people social distancing, brands, retailers, restaurants, and others are—wisely, I might add—pushing to online content and ramping up their email marketing. Good marketing reaches people where they are, and people are staying at home and digitally interacting with the world. 

    It makes sense that businesses have initially relied on email to stay in front of their audience. Email and social media have long been two of the biggest digital marketing channels, so it’s only natural that companies large and small have been leaning into them as the world adjusts. For some businesses, sending an email to remind customers that they’re still providing services can make the difference between riding out the storm or shuttering permanently. 

    We’re not knocking email, but with inboxes being flooded with iterations of the same message, consumers are tuning out. We get it: you’re concerned, closely monitoring the situation, and taking precautions. With that initial outreach out of the way, what do you do next? Companies need to think about how to stand out while preparing to succeed in the new business landscape that will exist when we come out on the other side. 

    We know everyone’s eyeballs are online right now. We also know that many consumers are also stuck at home, trying to balance professional and domestic responsibilities. They’re learning, many through trial and error, how to conduct business as usual in a highly unusual environment. 

    That represents an opportunity. To capitalize on it, businesses need to create meaningful content that adds value to their audiences instead of further distracting or frustrating them. By planning to engage differently, they can create long-term meaningful connections with their customers. 

    To start, companies should think about their current and potential customers’ headspaces. For many working families, adaptation is the challenge du jour. For parents, it’s adapting to doing a job while keeping children occupied (and out of the background of their video conference calls). For older generations, it may be learning to use new technologies that replace face-to-face interaction. And all of us are working through feelings of fear and vulnerability that arise from uncertainty about how—and when—this situation will be resolved. 

    In these early weeks, brands can forge deeply personal connections with their customers by acknowledging the vulnerability that we are all experiencing and the interconnectedness of who we are, even though we may be in a virtual environment. And your content plan over the next several weeks should reflect that by focusing on acknowledging the uncertainty while adding value to help your community get through it—instead of solely thinking about what you can sell them. While brands are always trying to have an authentic voice, authenticity is more important than ever. 

    One local business I take my daughter to on the weekends is dealing with the financial strain and working to push through revenue losses. But they’re a great example of this approach. The business owner understands that my headspace as a mother is balancing work and home life, and rather than go on a hiatus, she is focused on creating content and ideas that parents can use for their children to keep them busy while working from home. 

    That acknowledges the situation, anticipates customers’ needs,  and provides something useful to make their lives easier. She found a new platform and leveraged email and social media to maximize its potential. And she’s not only winning the hearts and minds of her current customer base—people are sharing the resources she’s providing, which enables her business to emerge in a stronger position when this is all over. 

    Every company now needs to think deliberately about their messaging and the frequency by which they deploy it. And if they want their content to break through the clutter, they can do so by ensuring it’s three things: educational, entertaining, and inspirational. They need to think about what they’re going to say, produce, release, and provide to target audiences that is actually entertaining enough, useful enough, or inspiring enough to attract eyes and resonate. 

    You may have had to pause your business plans, and the stakes are certainly high. But if you evolve your marketing strategy in an agile way that is smart and deliberate about connection points, the relationships that you build now will keep the momentum going when we’re out on the other side.


    About the Author: Maria Meadows is the President of Model B. For more information, visit www.ModelB.com.




    SIMBA Chain Celebrates Launch of New Smart Contract as a Service on Microsoft Azure Marketplace

    CommPro.biz Editorial Staff

    SIMBA Chain has chosen Las Vegas to celebrate the launch of its new cloud-based blockchain solution, Smart Contract-as-a-Service, on Microsoft Azure Marketplace, betting the ease and speed of developing, testing, and deploying custom enterprise-level distributed apps (dApps) will captured the attention of attendees of Microsoft Inspire, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Centre.

    Inspire is Microsoft’s largest annual global partner-to-partner networking event that attracts thousands of attendees from more than 130 countries to connect, collaborate, and share experiences and insights to ignite business growth.

    Government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, and startups are looking to blockchain as a transparent, verifiable system for establishing and enforcing contracts, transferring assets and sharing data. SIMBA Chain’s Smart Contract-as-a-Service removes the barrier to entry by enabling users to deploy blockchain dApps for iOS, Android, and the web in minutes rather than months. Users define the assets and parameters and SIMBA Chain auto generates the smart contract and API keys that interface to the blockchain. This reduces development time and cost and enables rapid prototyping and deployment.

    SIMBA Chain CEO Joel Neidig says Inspire is the perfect venue for introducing its Smart Contracts as a Service and availability on Azure Marketplace. “People come to Inspire from all over the world to learn what’s coming next from Microsoft and partners like SIMBA Chain that are powering the smart economy with transformative digital technology.”

    SIMBA Chain runs on Microsoft Azure, a calculated decision by the company. “We believe Azure is the most extensive, trusted cloud infrastructure in the world. Azure is a tremendous asset for our government and business customers; with SIMBA’s help, they can adopt and blockchain with confidence and without time-consuming vetting,” says Neidig.

    Source: Blockchain Wire

     




    Customer Communities and the Future of Loyalty Programs

    Jon C. Wolfe, Founder, President and CEO, House Advantage

    Changes in marketing technology and consumer behavior this past year are setting the stage for innovative trends to come. In terms of customer expectations, marketers are just now beginning to identify and cater to the influence a person’s family and friends exerts on their buying behavior. A customer’s community not only affects how they personally view brands, but it’s also directly linked to how loyal they are to brands. The bottom line: if your brand is only marketing to individuals, you’re missing a vital opportunity to connect with influencers behind many of those purchasing decisions. However, acknowledging and communicating with a customer’s reference group isn’t the only trend certain to impact loyalty this year, as electronic payments and omnichannel communication are poised to redefine loyalty programs. 

    Here’s how looking beyond individual consumers can strengthen your brand’s loyalty rewards program and what trends will impact loyalty during the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.

    Designing for Customer Communities 

    Brands have traditionally approached the relationship between themselves and their customers as a one-to-one dynamic. However, as we witness increasingly large groups of consumers engaging collectively with brands, it has become important to recognize each individual in that social circle and understand the relationships among all members. Financial and motivational differences can be expected among the individuals of most groups, so brands must make determinations about how they are going to treat the collective. Regardless of the industry, brands must be very strategic about how they communicate with customers’ communities. The more ease and versatility a program offers, the greater likelihood it has of group adoption and advocacy. On the other side, if they offend one member, they risk offending the entire group.

    Once brands start seeing customers as members of communities, it’s vital to understand the underlying motivators driving repeat customer visits. Oftentimes patrons keep coming back, not because of the product, building or facilities, but because of the relationships with others while engaging with brands. Take the gym, for example. We’ve applied HALOfit for cycling studios, among other fitness-related clients, and we’ve found that repeat business and engagement is really built upon connections with instructors and fellow gym members.

    We’ve come to realize that rather than just friendship, these relationships represent support systems or competitive systems to consumers. In the example of the gym, some people go to compete and that’s the motivation – the relationship to the building means almost nothing. For others who view their gym network as a support system, the relationship with the trainer may be key. In stores, hotels or restaurants, these networks may be with clerks, waiting staff, or receptionists, to mention a few. As opposed to having any connection with facilities or buildings, this loyalty impetus is socially driven. Successful loyalty programs understand and are able to fully optimize such group dynamics, treating those patrons as a collective customer rather than a single one.

    Greater Adoption of E-Payments 

    Beyond recognizing communities of customers, 2019 will see a number of critical changes to loyalty. The first trend is electronic payments. We’re seeing electronic payments changing everything, and the past few years are only the beginning. There are a lot of changes happening which are impacting industries from retail to restaurants and hospitality to gaming, and there are a lot of new technologies being introduced. These technologies can determine how consumers make purchasing decisions and carry out these transactions, which are dynamic advancements and a drastic change to the current status quo. 

    The epayment and epurchasing structure is critical because of the rich data it provides for actionable marketing not just after the fact, but during the actual purchasing decision and through the consummating of the sale. Additionally, when payment is put in the hands of the customers, it enables the company to focus on creating a phenomenal customer experience. For example, Apple employees are able to perform the hands-on expertise Apple is known for, without having to also juggle being cashiers. We’re also seeing companies like Whole Foods perfecting their order and delivery systems thanks to Amazon. Personally, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with electronic payment options for both of the aforementioned brands, and not only have the purchasing and epayments made the experience seamless and more enjoyable, but I find myself as a customer investing more of my own time and money in those brands as a direct result of these experiences. 

    Understanding your Best Customer 

    Another critical theme to loyalty in 2019 will be establishing the building blocks of omnichannel so that brands are able to determine the difference between a great customer and a not-so-great customer. Brands will really need to understand the dynamic of who, what and where their best customers are and we’re seeing a continued shift in this direction. This is a requirement for every company, no matter where they are on the loyalty journey. There’s always opportunity to know your customer better, to improve the customer experience and to enhance the delivery of that service and brand promise to the customer. 

    The influence of reference groups – social groups, work groups, family or close friends – on consumers’ behavior and attitudes cannot be denied. With that in mind, brands who truly want to cater to individuals must target the collective if they want their loyalty programs to offer an experience that will resonate across the board with both the customer and their communities. As 2019 rolls on, this perspective, along with optimizing electronic payments and ingraining an omnichannel approach, will go a long way in ensuring that your loyalty program will keep bringing customers back to your brand, albeit with a crew in tow.


    About the Author: Jon C. Wolfe is the founder, president and CEO of House Advantage, an international customer loyalty, marketing, strategy and technology company headquartered in Las Vegas, the CEO of eTouchMenu, a sophisticated menu, ordering, and electronic payments platform, and a member of the Forbes Technology Council. With over a quarter century of senior casino management, technology and loyalty experience in the gaming and hospitality industries, Jon is widely considered an expert in business intelligence and loyalty technology and is renowned for his ability to leverage patron information across integrated resort operations to drive revenues and profitability.

     




    4 Ways to Effectively Engage Customers for B2B PR Efforts

    Katie Creaser, Senior Vice President, Affect 

    The earned media landscape is tough for anyone trying to secure positive publicity for a B2B company. It seems as if the same sort of stories are being told over and over again. So how can you differentiate your public relations efforts to stand out in a highly competitive and crowded field?

    For B2B PR professionals, engaging customers and empowering them to become brand ambassadors or third-party validators is a critical part of any marketing strategy. However, it’s not always easy to convince customers to commit to anything beyond a traditional case study or partner announcement.

    From customers that don’t want to be named, to a lack of data or measureable outcomes to bland uses cases – many companies end up with PR and marketing collateral that goes nowhere. Boring case studies, self-promotional press releases, low quality social content and blog posts are likely outcomes. But nothing is worse than media outreach that falls flat with no earned coverage in sight.

    As PR professionals plan for 2019, here are four ways to powerfully engage customers to support B2B sales and marketing efforts:

    1. Identify the “Right” Customers. Closed sales and signed contracts don’t guarantee great stories. If you’re hoping to see ROI from customer engagement, it’s important to focus on the ones that are primed for media outreach. Customers that fit the PR profile are:
    • Well-recognized brands or executives
    • Innovative and using your solutions and services to disrupt their business
    • Seeing measurable results and impact
    • Able to provide prescriptive advice to the industry at-large
    • Willing to participate in thought leadership opportunities beyond traditional case studies, canned quotes
    1. Tell a Powerful Story: Traditional case studies are generally too bland to generate press interest – they’re simply not newsworthy (e.g. “our customer bought our product, it did what it was supposed to do…and they loved it!”) is not enough. A strong customer story has a compelling narrative arc – whether it’s a challenge that was overcome, a surprising outcome or discovery, an emotional journey or a lesson learned. It’s also critical to use data as proof points with key takeaways for readers.
    1. Go Beyond the Press Release: A press release is the least interesting way to tell a great customer story – and thinking outside of the box can generate stronger ROI. Inviting customers to be part of creative thought leadership initiatives is a powerful way to expand PR pitch efforts, this can include:
    • Q&A style articles or blog posts
    • Joint speaking opportunities, media interviews and byline articles
    • Participation in surveys and reports
    • Customer advisory boards and councils
    • Joint responses to breaking news and trends 
    1. Institutionalize Customer Engagement: B2B marketers should build customer stories into branding, content and thought leadership campaigns to directly support and empower sales efforts. It’s also important to put a formal customer engagement process and strategy in place and align with business development and sales teams to flag strong stories and educate customers on the benefits of PR participation.

    To truly see ROI on customer engagement, it’s critical to think outside the box and bake it into an overall PR and marketing strategy. Institutionalizing the customer engagement process is a company’s best bet to extract as much mutual PR value from the relationship as possible. PR professionals have to be more creative than the traditional case study or customer announcement to move the needle in swaying public opinion, generating more business, and/or securing positive publicity.


    Katie C - AffectAbout the Author: Katie Creaser is senior vice president at Affect a public relations agency in NYC that specializes in B2B technology, healthcare and professional services. She provides counsel to technology clients that are looking to bring PR and social media into their communications program as part of a thoughtful, holistic strategy. Follow her on Twitter or on LinkedIn.