Greg Gianforte

What’s the state of customer service in America? Given all the attention this topic generates in a consumer-driven marketplace, you probably don’t need to read the following statistics—but to make a point, we’re going to tell you anyway. Consider that: • A March 2006 study released by JupiterResearch reported that more than half of online consumers are taking their business to other merchants or service providers because of poor online service. Ouch! • The Customer Care Call Center Survey, research conducted over the course of 2005 by Ernan Roman Direct Marketing and based on the feedback of a few hundred direct marketing

Your customers need to be able to communicate with you—whether they have product-related questions, shipping questions or installation issues. Providing them with an easy-to-find e-mail link on your Web site is a good start. However, giving customers the means to send free-form customer service e-mails may actually slow down your ability to respond to their needs quickly and efficiently. “Free-form e-mails are very difficult to handle,” says Greg Gianforte, CEO of Bozeman, Mont.-based customer experience management solutions provider RightNow Technologies. “You don’t know how to route them; you don’t have any classification information, and there’s no opportunity to provide additional assistance before e-mails [are] submitted.” Instead,

In today’s competitive marketing environment, excellent customer service can make you stand head and shoulders above your competition. To take your customer service to the next level, Greg Gianforte, CEO of Bozeman, Mont.-based customer experience management solutions provider RightNow Technologies, suggests implementing the following best practices: 1. Make sure all your customer service channels—e-mail, live chat, Web self-service and telephone customer service—draw information from one unified content repository, so answers are consistent. 2. Follow up every e-mail customer service exchange with a brief—one- to three-question—customer satisfaction survey. According to Gianforte, this survey can be as simple as, “On a scale of one to five, were you

Share your tips and learn from fellow direct marketers as we cover the hottest issues and best practices in e-mail marketing. Question: What's on your list of best practices when it comes to optimizing customer and prospect opt-in to your e-mail marketing campaigns? Answers: One of the best ways to get a customer to opt-in to ongoing communication is to ask for permission after you've just either helped a customer solve a problem or provided some other sort of excellent service. Customer service agents who slip in a permission question at the end of an extended and successful interaction

By Noelle Skodzinski Direct marketing prides itself on its penchant for analyzing, modeling, tracking, testing ... and a whole other slew of gerunds that help marketers develop aggregate customer profiles. "Marketers all know who their average customer is," says customer service and management consultant Liz Kislik, "but the truth is, this person doesn't exist." The customer profile based on compiled and analyzed data is essential, she says, but if it's where you're putting all your eggs, you're missing out. "You need the data, you've got to have it. But if you're relying only on the data, you're going to develop a very flat

New Technologies By Lisa Yorgey Lester Technology has been the biggest catalyst of change to the direct marketing industry. The introduction of the personal computer has enabled marketers to process large quantities of data and thereby maximize the advantages of direct marketing. Data analytics, marketing automation and optimization technologies not only give marketers unprecedented access to data, but allow them to manage and manipulate it. They've been able to market more efficiently and smarter as a result. Marketers can better leverage their customer information and campaign histories to make more relevant offers to customers and prospects. Here's a look at some of the

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