SOCAP International

SOCAP Blog

  • Engage with SOCAP

    Posted on: 04/10/2014

    By: Matthew D'Uva, FASAE, CAE
    President and CEO, SOCAP International

    Thank you.thank you for being an essential member of SOCAP International! This community association is here because of you and to serve you, ensuring your success as well as the success of your company and your consumers.

    I am very engaged in the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE)-essentially, the Association of Associations. seriously there is a professional association for all of us! In my work with ASAE, I often spend time working on programming, preparing sessions and leading committees and work groups while juggling my full-time job here at SOCAP.

    Whenever I reflect on the time invested with ASAE, the one theme that keeps coming back is that the time I invest with my professional association returns two-fold (sometimes more) in my career development and SOCAP. Frankly, I am better at my job, better able to connect to the right business partners to support our staff team and bring better ideas to the Board of Directors for implementation.  Essentially, engaging with my professional association pays dividends to my organization and members every day.

    In the same way, SOCAP pays dividends to you, your career, your company and your consumers. You and our membership network represent the "best of the best," and opportunities to network, learn and connect with industry leaders are tremendously valuable and produce an exponential return on your investment.

    For those of you who agree - send me your comments. For those who are still considering, please review my following "Top Five" List of tools, resources and opportunities to engage and get the most value and benefit with SOCAP-your professional community-throughout the year and beyond.    

     

    5. Take Advantage of the SOCAP Learning Portal.  There are a ton of resources available to members via our learning portal including past conference sessions, webinars and our online contact management course.  If you have not had a chance to pursue these resources, take a look and share them with your colleagues at your company!

    4. Read Customer Relationship Management Magazine and offer to write an article. SOCAP's flagship publication is full of important trends, news and best practices critical to your consumer affairs strategy today and well into the future. Whether you read it on your tablet, smartphone or in print (old school style!), SOCAP has the great content you need. Also, if you have not visited our archived articles - you are missing out on additional resources!

    3. Register for a Webinar Today! Our monthly webinar series is free to corporate members and are full of great information. See why we have seen double-digit growth in attendance on our webinars and members continue to rate them so high. Don't let your competitors grab all of the best practices - Stay ahead of the curve!

    2. Get engaged with SOCAP socially. Have you visited SOCAP's online private community, mySOCAP? If you have not, you are missing out! Visit today to see what your fellow members are talking about. Also stay current with SOCAP and your profession by following us on Twitter (@SOCAP) or join us on Facebook. It is so easy to stay connected!

    1. Be involved - SOCAP is your professional association - SOCAP is managed and built by members like you! Join a committee; engage with a Task Force; volunteer to serve your local chapter (say "yes" to all three!). There are so many ways to support SOCAP and as our leaders will tell you - "You get so much more than you give."


    SOCAP Membership is the first step to your professional edge, but you have to stay active to get the full benefit of your membership. Here's your homework.

    First, commit to doing one item from my list this month, and I guarantee you will be amazed at the return. 

    Second, spread the word!  Make sure that your colleagues and staff know the great opportunities of involvement with SOCAP.  Corporate Membership allows membership access to an unlimited number of your colleagues. So, make sure everyone is taking advantage of all the benefits of SOCAP membership.

    Finally, reach out to me and let me know what else we can do to serve you, your company and your colleagues better. We want your feedback and engagement.  Give us a chance to serve you!

  • The Barefoot Spirit: SOCAP Interview with Bareofoot Founders Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan

    Posted on: 04/10/2014

     

    Bonnie Harvey and Michael Houlihan know a thing or two about success.  As the founders of Barefoot Cellars, they took their brand from a standing start in 1985 to a popular favorite by 2005.  When they sold the company to E&J Gallo Winery that year, the entrepreneurial company had made its mark in the wine selling world, shipping 600,000 cases annually.  Not bad for a pair who began this unlikely quest in their laundry room turned home office, at the time lacking both working capital and practical insights into the vintner's arts.

    So when Harvey and Houlihan say sales and customer care are priorities one and two in the successful business playbook-the functions that everyone else in the enterprise needs to get in line and support–it's worth a listen.

    The entrepreneurs may have started small but they were thinking big.  And part of what they were thinking was how to build a virtual enterprise, complete with outsourced grape growing, wine production, and bottling.  Barefoot Cellars would be a company without vineyards or organizational silos, but its founders did have a commitment to treat everyone touching their product as part of the customer solution.

    "We found out that you could outsource everything except sales, customer service and quality control," Houlihan says, adding, "We treated our vendors the way we treated our customers.  We didn't take anybody for granted."

    Instead, Houlihan says Barefoot took the long view of customer service, including wholesalers, retailers, the general public, and specific groups and organizations within the general public in its expanded definition.

    Then the company builders got up close and personal with their customer set.  "We went out to meet our customers in the community," says Harvey, engaging at various events to better understand consumer interests and issues.  Harvey also says Barefoot came up with other innovative methods of reaching out to the public, including becoming, in 1989, the first alcoholic beverage company to put an 800 number on its product.

    "We got lots of useful information from our customers," Harvey recalls.  "A lot of it was complaints such as they had opened a bottle of red wine and spilled it on their white dress.we knew that whenever someone called us, there were between 100 and 1000 other people who were concerned about the same thing and didn't call us.  So our 800 number was a real benefit to us."

    Not so much for fielding complaints about red wine stains but for gaining valuable, actionable insights from actual end users into improving their offerings.

    Says Houlihan, "Did they like the way it tastes?  What did they pay for it?  Was it in stock where they usually shop?  Were the signs readable?  What did they think of the packaging?  Did the cork come out easily?  If we got someone on the phone, we would ask them a lot of questions and we would make sure that our marketing department and our production department-this is what made Barefoot very different-would be listening to consumer relations input and would be incorporating that into the actual design and production of the product and marketing materials."

    Product improvements traceable back to customer feedback included changes to the synthetic cork used in Barefoot wine bottles.  "A lot of people were calling and saying the ah-so [a twin-pronged cork puller] wouldn't work.  It was too tight.  It would drive the cork into the bottle.  We realized that we had to work on that problem," Harvey says.

    Another "problem solved" was not getting the cork out of the bottle but how much wine was going in the bottle:

    According to Houlihan, "Customers would call and say, 'I buy Barefoot wine but I can't seem to get a full measure.  It seems like the fill lines are all different.  Some bottles are high and some are low.  Can't you get a uniform fill line?'"

    Apparently not.  The production people explained that atmospheric pressure, temperature, oxidization all make a difference in wine levels.  Filling up to the top on a hot day could literally cause the wine bottle to blow its cork.  Customers, the producers said, just don't understand the chemistry involved.

    The Barefoot founders did not let a little science get in the way of customer service.  "We thought about it and said, 'well, the customer is always right.  So we went back to the customer and said, 'thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We are going to solve this problem immediately.'  We had no idea how we were going to solve the problem but we knew it was a perception," Houlihan said.

    "A week or two later, we were at a party.  Bonnie was admiring this skirt a woman was wearing.  I said, 'what do you like about it?  The fabric.the print?'  She says, 'oh no, I like the idea that it covers the knees but shows off the calf.'  I looked at her and said, 'that's it!'"

    Barefoot added a longer foil cap to its bottles, adding uniformity to how wine level appeared.

    "Here we had a very psychological, very subtle competitive advantage on the shelf.  And where did we get it from?  Customer relations," Houlihan says.  Call it a clever bit of organizational ju-jitsu.  "The production people said, 'The customer just doesn't understand.'  That's just the point.  Customers do not understand.  It's up to us to solve their concerns," Harvey notes.

    On the service end of things, avid attention to customer input helped Barefoot flag holes in its distribution network.

    "When you start a brand, the biggest issue you face is out of stock," Houlihan says.  "It's not that your product sells, it's that your product sells out and doesn't get replaced.  Once it sells out and doesn't get replaced the consumers who like it are disappointed and, unfortunately, they will not complain.  They will just buy the competitor's product that is there.  So if somebody does call and has the decency to complain that they couldn't find the product, you have to multiply that by 100 or 1000 people who do not call.  We would actually ask their permission to use their recorded message and play it for our distributors so that there was no question in our distributor's mind that there were customers for Barefoot who wanted to buy it and it was out of stock."

    Putting the interests of the customer first is just part of the American entrepreneurial spirit, Houlihan says.  After selling Barefoot Cellars, Houlihan and Harvey wrote a book, The Barefoot Spirit:  How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America's #1 Wine Brand.  The title might have included a fifth "H":  Hearing.   "The American entrepreneurial spirit really has a component-if it's successful-where there is a deep respect for what the customer wants and perceives.  Otherwise, they go out of business-and fast.  When you are a small company or a mid-sized company or even a large company with a progressive attitude, you cannot ignore customer service.  As far as we're concerned, it's where the rubber meets the road," Houlihan says.

    Houlihan and Harvey could impress their views about customer service on others because they owned the company, clearly an important advantage.  They do, however, have advice for customer care professionals whose companies just can't seem to find the right road to customer commitment–or don't have the ability to stay on it.

    "The biggest problem SOCAP [members] face is that big corporations are so siloed and set up in pyramids.you've got the CEO on top, the senior vice presidents, the junior vice presidents, the divisions, the departments, the teams and the groups.  One of those departments is called sales.  If that department fails, you don't need any of the other departments.  You are just out of business," Houlihan says.

    One of the things that customer care executives need to do is team up with sales and say, 'look, we are the people who actually talk to the consumer.  We have valuable information here that can help improve our products, service, and distribution.  We feel obligated to pass this information along."  He suggests getting that message to the company stakeholders and asking them to create a committee of all the department heads to work out the procedures for implementing this critical customer feedback from Sales and Customer Care.

    He says Barefoot gave the boot to the traditional pyramid structure of corporations, putting sales and customer service at the top of the organization.  "Customer was number one.  Sales and customer service was number two.  Under that was what we called 'Sales Support'.  That included everybody who was not in Sales or Customer Care, like production, marketing, reception, legal, accounting and even the wine maker."

    Making everybody part of sales support gives everybody the opportunity to derive professional satisfaction serving the general public, but "they need to get that feedback to know if what they are doing is right," Houlihan says, noting that such customer care generated feedback loops must at a minimum include production and marketing.  "Sales and customer care are the only groups talking directly to the general public! So you really have to be kind of foolish not listening to these folks."

    Even so, being made up of human beings, corporations can be rigid and change resistant.  And wrong-headed.  "Part of the problem is that production and marketing may actually think that they are above sales and customer relations.  They get that idea because of the structure of the company. They often see Sales as somehow separate from "the office" and "to blame" when sales are suffering. They often see Customer Relations as "the complaint resolution department." But they are not above them.  If fact, they should be below them because they are not going to have a paycheck if they can't stay viable and relevant," Houlihan says.

    Company size can also get in the way of staying close to customers.  According to Houlihan, as the amount of work grows, the division of labor expands.  As the division of labor expands, silos appear.  As silos appear, workers seek to make their jobs easier by making things uniform.    "In the process, they start to remove things like quality cues or authenticity cues from the packaging.  They say, 'why can't all of our packaging look the same?' Or they say, 'I'd still buy it.'  Or they say things like, 'We're so big we don't have to bend over backwards anymore.  And it makes my job a whole lot easier.'  Well it's not about your job, it's about whether the customer is still married to your product or service."

    Other change agent ideas?  If the corporate pyramid, silos, barriers and impediments still remain firmly in place–short of uncorking a bottle of Barefoot wine–try promoting the entrepreneurial spirit.  Individual initiative, risk taking and innovation are all qualities that can pique the interests of even the most conservative companies.  Becoming more entrepreneurial means being better attuned to customer issues and perceptions.

    "An entrepreneur does not have the luxury of not listening to his customer," Houlihan says.  He suggests annual or semi-annual meetings featuring presentations from top sales and customer relations executives to share customer insights with others in the organization.  "Marketing people will put millions of dollars into focus groups to get the information that the customer relationship people already know," he notes.

    Regular reports with suggestion and complaint information gleaned from customers can also inform the enterprise and improve its competitive position.  Making customers happy is part of the customer care role, Houlihan says, but making the company smarter is just as important.  Such insights can cost less than market research and be more current.

    "It's about opening up the lines of communication between the various departments," Harvey adds.  It's about sharing information.  And it's about getting organizational priorities straight.   And as Michael Houlihan points out, it's about understanding the importance of customer relations–the last conversation a company has with the end user.

  • FCC Exempts Package Delivery Notification Calls and Messages from TCPA Restrictions

    Posted on: 04/10/2014

    by: Mitchell N. Roth, Esq.

    When the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was enacted in 1991, Congress prohibited the initiation of calls and text messages  to cell phones using an automatic telephone dialing system without the recipients' prior express consent.  The TCPA also prohibited the transmission of prerecorded messages  without the recipients' prior express consent.  Notwithstanding the FCC rulemaking last year which changed the consent standard for sales calls and messages to cell phones, the prior express consent standard for non-sales calls, messages and recordings  to cell phones remained unchanged.

    In 2012, the Cargo Airline Association filed a petition with the FCC seeking clarification as to whether these restrictions apply to autodialed or prerecorded package delivery notification calls made to the cell phones of intended package recipients.  These notification calls typically advise the recipients of the expected date and time of delivery, the tracking number, the delivery company's customer service telephone number and whether a signature is required for delivery.  CAA requested that the FCC do one of two things:  i) Allow the package delivery service to rely upon the consent of the package sender to transmit non-sales calls, messages and recordings pertaining to the delivery of the package to its recipient, or ii) declare package delivery notifications  exempt from the TCPA's restrictions on autodialed and prerecorded calls and messages to cell phones.

    In a ruling released on March 27, 2014, the FCC granted CAA's request to exempt autodialed and prerecorded package delivery notification calls and messages to cell phones from the TCPA's restrictions (the FCC specifically chose not to rule on whether the delivery companies may rely upon the consent of the package sender). In support of its decision, the FCC ruled that these notifications are the types of normal, expected communications the TCPA was not designed to hinder, and that consumers generally desire, expect, and benefit from them.  Nevertheless, the FCC made this exemption subject to several conditions:

    • The notification must be sent only to the telephone number of the package recipient.
    • The call or message recipient must not be charged for receiving the call or message, including not being counted against the consumer's plan limits on minutes or text.
    • The notification must identify the name and contact information of the delivery company.
    • The notification must not include any telemarketing, solicitation or advertising content.
    • Only one notification may be sent to a consumer for each package, except that one additional notification may be sent for each of the following two attempts to obtain the recipient's signature when the signatory was not available to sign for the package on the previous attempt.
    • Each notification must include information enabling a consumer to opt out of future delivery notifications.  Calls answered by a consumer must provide an opportunity to opt out by voice or by pressing a key, while texts must include the ability for a consumer to opt out by sending "STOP" in a reply text.  Finally, each voice notification must include a toll-free number that the consumer can call to opt out of future package delivery notifications.
    • Opt out requests must be honored within a reasonable time from the date it was made, but may not exceed thirty days from the date of the request.
    • Voice call and text message notifications must be concise, generally one minute or less in length for voice calls and one message of 160 characters or less in length for text messages.

    This exemption applies only to calls and messages initiated by package delivery companies and not to calls and messages initiated by the companies on whose behalf the packages are being  delivered (i.e., shippers).  However, this exemption allows delivery companies to correspond directly with the package recipients on matters pertaining to deliveries.  Clearly, this will maximize efficiency, customer satisfaction and, perhaps most importantly, the overall customer experience.

    The FCC's order may be accessed at apps.fcc.gov/ecfs/document/view?id=7521095630

     

     


    Mitchell N. Roth is a founding member of Roth Doner Jackson, PLC in McLean, Virginia.  His practice focuses on counseling clients on compliance with state and federal marketing, advertising and privacy laws.  He can be contacted at mroth@rothdonerjackson.com.

     

  • SOCAP's 2014 Symposium Speaker Spotlight

    Posted on: 03/24/2014

    Ready to have your business worldview rocked and your customer care paradigms shifted?  Spend a few minutes with Aaron Dignan, CEO of strategy consultancy Undercurrent and a Trend Session speaker at SOCAP's upcoming Symposium, April 27-30 in Charlotte, NC.

    That's exactly what SOCAP did to gain insight into where Dignan's Symposium appearance-focused on what he calls the "responsive organization"-will take attendees.  Expecting good, we found great.  We wanted to share some of our conversation with Aaron here to give you a sample of what's in store for you at the 2014 Symposium.

    SOCAP:  How would you define the responsive organization for a customer care audience?

    Dignan:  We study different organizations in different categories.  We look for patterns.  Are they able to learn and adapt?  To operate in quick cycles?  Do they process information and act on it?  There's also the attitude around information in organizations.  How are they at discovering, sorting and taking advantage of information, from both inside and outside the organization?  Are they using the information to build a network of stakeholders, including customers, with the ability to help each other?

    I'll give you an example.  I use a bank and make the same phone call each week to do a wire transfer between accounts.  It's always the same call and always the same verification of my identification.  Finally, I asked, "Can't this be automated?"  The bank said "We hadn't thought about it.maybe."  By the third call, this bank should have been asking me if I would participate in a pilot for automating this function, not me asking them on the tenth call if they had ever thought about it.  They are not using the information available in their network.

    SOCAP:  What do you see as the most important value shifts for organizations as they work to be more responsive?

    Dignan_Aaron

    Dignan:  We see companies adopting a more visionary than strictly a commercial purpose.  They make money too.  But they also build a vision.  They build networks to reach people and on which people can help themselves.  Apple delivers help to Apple users, but consumers on the Apple network help themselves too.  They love the brand.  The IRS has a brand too, but it doesn't have volunteers helping others solve problems in an IRS branded forum.  Brand gathering is a force and customer care is part of that customer experience.

    There's also a shift away from a closed to an open organizational mind set.  In the past, companies operated as silos with secrets that they protected.  If you had an edge, you did not want the world to know what it was.  Fifty years ago, that worked great.  Now the world is a much more transparent place and the value of holding secrets is diminishing.  There's greater value in fostering a participatory innovation culture.whether we are talking about an office floor plan, financial information, an application program interface.whatever.  It's a wholesale shift.  Organizations are saying if it can be made more transparent, let's do it.

    SOCAP:  How do you see companies unlocking the benefit of the data they gather to engage customers?

    Dignan:  Everything is data.  The question is: how are you going to gather it?  You can do it in passive ways, through sensors or webclicks.the digital exhaust of what you are doing.or you can be aggressive and ask for data, like in applications or surveys.  Organizations need to be doing both.   How you are collecting information and what you are doing with it needs to be well defined.  The problem is that organizations have more data than they know what to do with.  They didn't think about it 10 or 20 years ago.  Data was not structured or tagged.  So there's a lot of hygiene that's still needed.

    SOCAP:  How does technology aid responsiveness?

    Dignan:  One company's product becomes another company's service.  For instance, companies are leveraging the Amazon backend and cloud platform.  If I'm in a garage somewhere building a business, I can use Amazon's data, infrastructure, skills and pipeline. Organizations need to identify what part of the value chain they want to be better at.  Companies think they need to build everything from scratch and miss the final advantage to customers.  I often say the best time to start a company is tomorrow because you gain the innovations that have taken place in the last 24 hours.

  • Best Practices for an RFP

    Posted on: 03/20/2014

    Here are some key steps for identifying the right fit for a contact center partnership.


    There comes a point when most customer care professional will be faced with the request for proposal process. Here are some helpful tips on the RFP process, as recommended by a major manufacturer that was looking for a new contact center service provider.

    Developing the RFP

    • Understand why the change is being considered. Be sure that areas for improvement are sufficiently addressed in the RFP.
    • Engage the enterprise in the RFP creation process. Assemble a comprehensive, multidisciplinary team with representatives from all relevant divisions and departments. This company's RFP team included customer care, quality assurance, operations, purchasing, reporting/analytics and legal. Allow each functional group to reflect its interests in the RFP.
    • Seek meaningful insights into contact center provider mission, vision, culture and operations. Topic areas for exploration include:
      • Company history and perceived strengths
      • Organizational structure
      • Technology strengths, capabilities and suitability for addressing client needs
      • Reporting and analytics capabilities, including sample reports and example insights gleaned from data analytics
      • Approach to quality and current certifications (such as ISO)
      • Approaches to hiring and staffing, and to managing turnover, both for agents and managers
      • Ratio of agents to managers
      • Process for handling problem escalation
      • Provider locations
      • References, industry reputation and track-record of consistent performance
    • Learning curves can be steep, business process issues can be complicated and technology hurdles can be high. Request a detailed timeline for program start-up that reflects a substantive understanding of the challenges ahead.
    • Contact center personnel serve as the client's representatives to the public. Assure that provider's internal policies and procedures on human resources management, workforce diversity and equal opportunity hiring comply with applicable federal and state law and regulations and that they are also in keeping with your company's own standards of practice and business ethics.
    • Decide whether to include penalties if key performance indicators are not met.


    Hand shakeSoliciting Bids

    • Understand the provider landscape. Do the research necessary to identify leading and emerging contact center companies and include these in the bid solicitation process.
    • Leverage technology. Vertical industry and special purpose websites and related information services may facilitate getting the RFP to companies not otherwise identified in research.
    • Determine the importance of proximity. Companies requiring substantial "face time" with contact center personnel for training, new product launches and the like may do better with local or regional providers.
    • Leverage SOCAP and its network of business partners for distributing RFPs and identifying top contact center providers.

    Assessing Bidder Responses

    • While excessively long responses are counterproductive, proposals offering few details on how work will be conducted could indicate the bidder's lack of interest, commitment or capability.Light bulb outlined hand drawn tool
    • Key performance indicators provide a "first blush" view of a provider's capabilities. But not every client workload is the same in terms of degree of difficulty or amount of support needed. For instance, does the provider have a good feel for call volumes? Look for unrealistic staffing or pricing estimates or other indicators that the bidder has misunderstood work requirements.
    • Buildings flood or burn, power outages occur and other disruptive events happen. Determine whether the bidder has a realistic disaster recovery and business continuity plan.
    • Contact centers can attract identity thieves or other fraud-minded actors. Assess the bidder's approach to system security and how well personally identifiable information is protected.
    • Customer care is evolving rapidly with consumers looking for more robust interactions rather than simple, impersonal transactions. Explore the bidder's view of how this marketplace change is taking place and how it is impacting the contact center of the future.
    • Consider whether the bidder is making sophisticated use of social media and integrating it into customer contact channels. Some providers will have social-media expertise in-house while others will have to work through third parties to offer it.
    • Once noncompetitive bidders have been eliminated, consider asking finalists to prepare a detailed presentation responding to a real-world business scenario you provide. A scenario based on data meaningful to your enterprise can help eliminate ambiguity and allow more apples-to-apples comparisons among competing offers. Trusted relationships are key. Bidder presentations can also help provide additional insight into the enthusiasm, expertise and character of the providers involved.
    • Narrow the list of bidders based on presentations and a better understanding of their ability to meet contact center program requirements. Conduct a site visit to meet all key personnel, review technology infrastructure and take a final reading on corporate culture and the likelihood of building a true partnership.
    • Analyze the finalists' offers using SWOT techniques or other approaches to determine relative strengths and weaknesses of competing offers.
    • Be sure to consider future needs when making your final decision.

    Transitioning Operations

    • Anticipate bumps in the road. Allow a generous cut-over period for the new provider to take responsibility for handling 100 percent of operations.
    • Develop a plan that keeps the out-going contact center provider engaged until the newcomer is up to speed. Financial incentives can keep departing personnel motivated to continue performing at a high level.
    • Expect overly optimistic performance assurances from the newcomer. Key performance indicators may decline in the early going as provider personnel come up to speed. Be flexible but, as necessary, request a performance improvement plan.

    Other Lessons Learned

    Telephone operatorPlan to rebid the contact center contract every three to five years. This keeps the incumbent competitive and fosters continual process improvement for contact center operations. Retain old RFPs and use as templates for re-competitions.

    Do you have useful tips, practices or lessons learned that you can share about the RFP process? We'd love to hear from you. Send your ideas to CRM Magazine at socap@socap.org.

    Click here for more information on vendor relations and contact center management.

     

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