Real-Time Discussion Forums Considered for NACC Members
Paul Stockford, Research Director, National Association of Call Centers and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, Paul.Stockford@nationalcallcenters.org
As we work our way out of the summer doldrums and start to plan activities for the rest of the year, the NACC is considering hosting member forums or teleconference discussions that would allow participants to share advice and ideas with peers regarding topics that are relevant to those participating. These teleconference-based forums would be moderated by David Butler and/or me, would last a specified period of time and would be recorded and transcribed for future use in the NACC member library.
Back when contact center industry trade shows were in full vigor and were well-attended, well-run events there were often times set aside so that attendees could get together with other attendees to discuss common interests, challenges, etc. Called “Birds of a Feather” or other such descriptive names, these peer gatherings proved to be very popular among attendees and highly valued as an informal way to gather practical advice and solutions.
We propose to do something similar for the NACC membership, but it wouldn’t require travel or any additional expense. We would establish a conference call dial-in number that would be provided to members who sign up in advance to participate in a particular forum or teleconference. Each forum would have a single, specific topic based upon member input and participants would be expected to discuss that topic, offering their experience and expertise or soliciting practical advice from other members.
Members could participate in the teleconference chat, or forum, anonymously or have the option of identifying themselves if it made sense for follow-up or other reasons. Moderators would keep the discussion on topic and on time. The only requirement for participation would be NACC membership.
Before we continue with our plans to establish these teleconference discussion forums, we would like to ensure that you find value in this sort of participatory forum. If you do, we would also like to know what topics would be of interest to you. We thought the best way to gather this information was through our favorite research medium – the survey.
We have put together a very short, three-question, 30-second survey in order to gather your initial feedback. To participate, please go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=XJKg3zq10PLzPGuPKzWTYw_3d_3d.
If you would like to send your comments to either David Butler or me via e-mail, that feedback would also be welcomed. If there is sufficient interest from the readership you can look forward to hearing more about these discussion forums as the fall season approaches.
From the Trenches: And She Told Two Friends...
Lori Bocklund, President, Strategic Contact, Lori@strategiccontact.com
I had a most interesting interaction as a customer recently. It made me think the holy grail of transforming the contact center from a cost center to a profit center may actually be achievable if social media takes hold. But this transformation won’t take place by the centers working on their own. The relevance and future of the contact center may depend on how well we work with marketing and other areas of the enterprise that hold the keys to the social media kingdom.
Something to post on my Facebook!
This customer interaction experience started by good old fashioned “word of mouth” – a friend telling us about something and then sharing a discount code for purchase. In spite of the fact that I had seen many ads previously (some with famous spokespersons), I wasn’t inspired to purchase until my conversation with my friend. I proceeded to purchase – on the web, although I could have called to order or ask questions. As a thanks for my order, I received an email that included a “coupon” with these lines (along with some clever and flattering filler):
Feel free to send this coupon via email, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace...
To make your life even easier, we wrote a sample email that you can forward to your buddies. You can find the sample email (and a sample Tweet) below.
Thanks again for spreading the word...
This company isn’t passively hoping I’ll interact via social media – they are encouraging and even facilitating it for those less certain about what new thing to tell their friends and family. The “a-ha” I had with this email was that social media is not just a thing I am going to read about (or write about) – it is for real, and could truly redefine the world of commerce. While I’ve been thinking about, reading about, and writing about Web 2.0 for many months, this stark reality hit me and made me wonder what the implications are – right now – for the contact centers we know so well.
If you have an outlet (and some friends), you can be a seller too
It used to be the company’s responsibility to do the selling through marketing, advertising, and sales people. They might hope for old-fashioned word of mouth, but they had to work hard to get our attention, interest, and commitment. As social media enters the stage, the “seller” becomes a friend or family member. There is a fundamental shift from the impersonal company telling us we want or need something to very personal connections telling us.
Am I more likely to trust someone I know to encourage me to purchase a product or service? Absolutely. Does a “discount” or “coupon” mean more if a friend has forwarded it to me than if it arrives in my mailbox, email, or front door, or from an upsell offer from a call center rep? Absolutely.
If it’s all about “eyeballs,” think how much more likely companies are to get eyeballs on something if they use a personal network to give it attention. Other characteristics make the promotion I received effective as well. They offer channel choice, provide ready made text to cut-and-paste into the referral email or tweet, and they use humor effectively, flattering both me and themselves. It is, if I dare say, “hip.”
Be proactively engaged, not blindsided
We have a long history in the contact center of being blindsided by promotions sent out by marketing of which we have no advanced notice. We’ve all experienced that painful moment when the agent says, “I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with that promotion…” In the world of Web 2.0, those promotions could increase, spread, and grow fast and furiously.
So perhaps it’s time to accept that this transition to social media is not just a threat but a reality. The center could move up in importance – or disappear into the shadows – depending on the role we play in a company’s customer interactions, including selling (to current or future contacts). The center may or may not be a lead player in social media, but in the centers that want to remain relevant, they will be an active player or risk becoming a bit player forever relegated to a cost, not revenue, center.
Centers have unique insights on customer interactions, and need to ensure marketing, eCommerce, product management, or others who have a key role in social media get that. It wouldn't be difficult to start experimenting with these types of campaigns, whether you have fancy CRM, analytics, and other tools, or not. If you’re not already actively engaged, when you finish reading this article, make a lunch date with those people and start figuring out how you can participate.
And if you’re wondering, yes, I did forward the offer to some friends. Now, excuse me, but I need to go “tweet” about it.
Making Money: The NACC Investment Portfolio Then and Now
David Butler, Executive Director, National Association of Call Centers, David.Butler@nationalcallcenters.org
The NACC Investment Portfolio started in November 2007, and almost from its start it was losing money. I could not have picked a worse time to put money into the stock market and the call center sector.
The goal of NACC Investment Portfolio is to give the call center professionals who read this publication an insight into the larger economic and financial issues of the industry, the big picture, something that too few get to see given the amount of work most of you have that is piling up and never seems to end.
It is interesting to note that of the top three lowest percentages on the list, two are technology companies.
Moreover, only two of the three original technology companies listed are left since Nortel filed for bankruptcy and their stock went to zero.
This would be in part because technology stocks were bid up too high before the crash.
Moreover, outsourcers can make a convincing argument to companies during a recession to hand over call center work for savings where the argument to purchase a new piece of technology is a harder sell with a longer return cycle than immediate savings on labor.
We hope to see the technology part of the call center sector make a strong and sustainable recovery, and to see the outsourcers continue their growth and increasing total market share for the industry.
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