Friday, 22 October 2010

B2B Email Marketing and the Law

Posted on 18 September 2010 by BDP Data

Email Marketing is covered by certain laws in the UK which comes under the Data Protection Act.  There is a difference between marketing to consumers and businesses within the UK and we have put together a summary below.

These laws restrict the sending of unsolicited marketing emails to individual subscribers. Companies can still be sent business related emails if they are relevant to their work.

Individuals v Businesses
The distinction between ‘individuals’ and ‘businesses’ is clearly crucial.

Individuals are known as consumers, and you must receive permission from the subscriber to send emails marketing your products and services.  When purchasing B2C data, always ask for details of where the consumer subscribed and opted-in to receive your communications (usually known as 3rd party marketing).

Individuals within a business, school, hospital and / or public bodies, can be sent emails, although they must be contacted about business and not individual consumer marketing.

The rules for Businesses (B2B emails)
1. We ask that you only send emails relating to business matters
2. You must ensure that each email has an option to unsubscribe from future communication i.e. a line at the bottom of your email that states: “please reply with stop if you wish to be removed from further communication” or unsubscribe technology through an email delivery system.
3. We ask that you keep your records up-to-date and clean, and do not use any records that are more than six months old.

The rules for individuals (B2C emails)
Individuals / consumers will specifically consent (‘opt-in’) to receiving emails.

You can send direct marketing emails to individual subscribers if they have signed up to receive such communications from the data owner and have consented to 3rd party marketing (i.e. they have ‘opted in’) to receiving such emails from you.

Specific consent requires some positive action by the subscriber.  This will generally be a clear box on a website that the subscriber has to tick (not pre-ticked) that states that they wish to receive 3rd party marketing.

For more information on the subject of B2B Email Marketing contact Business Data Prospects on 08454742946 or visit their website at www.businessdataprospects.com

PRO-iPBX

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Reason to choose a hosted telephone system over a premises based telephone system

With the advances in broadband services available today such as businesses grade ADSL and SDSL the move to hosted telephone systems vs. premises based systems makes much more sense when you take the following factors into account.

  • Reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) 
  • Minimum of IT support required even users can manage their own extensions via web based control panels 
  • An Operating Expense rather than a Capital Expense. 
  • Built in Business Continuity 
  • Flexibility to scale your business phone system as your business grows 
Reduce Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): 

By moving your telephone system from a premises based solution to a hosted telephone service you are able to start saving on monthly services fees from the outset. All that is required is the necessary infrastructure to be in place i.e. an ADSL or SDSL connection and IP enabled telephone handsets. With hosted telephone systems, you no longer require expensive systems to be installed into your offices. The savings that you will benefit from each month will come from the reduction of fixed lines into your business (that allows you make and receive calls). An 800Kbps upload speed with a business grade ADSL connection will allow you to make 8 concurrent calls. What this means is that for a monthly cost of around £36.00 you can have up to 8 concurrent calls at any time, to make the same number of calls with a traditional system would cost you around £106 per month an saving of £70 per month or £840 per year.

Additional savings to your business will come through by reduce call charges over traditional services. Typically local and national rate calls are charged £0.01ppm with calls to UK mobiles starting around £0.09ppm.

Minimum of IT support required even users can manage their own extensions via web based control panels:

Hosted telephony requires very little IT support for training or for system administration. The System Administrator can add new users quickly, delete existing users and enable additional features by using the simple web based control panel. This is a major benefit of a hosted telephony solution helping to reduce the overall day to day running and management costs..

An Operating Expense rather than a Capital Expense: 

When installing a traditional premises based telephone system there are considerable costs involved with the purchase of the telephony hardware. With hosted telephone solutions there is no requirement to purchase expensive hardware other than phones, therefore there are reduced capital expenditures to depreciate over time meaning that it comes off of your bottom line. As a business, all you have is one simple affordable monthly fee. You now have a system that connects your business and employees to a wealth of capabilities dramatically improving productivity.

Business Continuity: 

Access to your business is restricted due to burst pipes or a gas leak. Worse still due to fire damage your offices are inaccessible indefinitely (just a few examples of problems that could affect your business). If you have a premises based telephone system, contact with your clients will be severely restricted or impossible. If you have hosted telephone system in place your business would be able to carry on uninterrupted. This is because there is no physical system hardware situated in your offices as it is based in secure data centres. This means that customers can still contact your business because employees can work from anywhere. How is this possible? The web-based control panel allows you to quickly forward calls to mobiles or other phones in unaffected locations. It is an incredibly fast and easy way to take control of a disastrous situation and ensures that a major incident becomes easily manageable.

Flexibility to scale your business phone system as your business grows: 

By using hosted telephone systems in your company you will see that its flexibility and the ease with which it can be expanded gives your business the ability to grow without the constraints and problems that are associated with traditional premises based telephone systems. The reverse is also true as well. If trading conditions change and you need to alter your business model, you can quickly scale back your telephone system knowing that as soon as market conditions change again you can redeploy telephone extensions quickly thereby staying ahead of the game.

The ease of deployment associated with hosted telephone systems, means that if you decide to open a new office location, or need to provide communications facilities to remote staff, or just need to prepare for a spike in demand around holiday periods etc. then it is a simple task to quickly scale up operations without disruption to the remainder of your business.

With total flexibility, easy management and that it is quick to deploy means that a hosted telephone system is a decision with only an upside for your business.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Why You Should Encourage Your Salaried Workers (Especially) to Work from Home

This article posted by Mark Harbeke on http://blog.winningworkplaces.org caught our eye because in these days of cost savings and efficiency whilst at the same time making a contribution towards global warming just makes perfect sense. We have quoted the entire article below but if you want to read more please follow the links.

Quote:
I was originally going to title this post "I've Saved Over Two Barrels of Oil by Working from Home."

As longtime readers know, since August 2009 I've been telecommuting for Winning Workplaces (based in Chicago) from a home office in my new home base of Los Angeles. For the past few weeks I had been curious about how much gas I had not used by eliminating my former commute to and from work when I still lived in Evanston.

Turns out that number after 13.5 months of working remotely is 92 gallons – equivalent to 2.2 barrels of crude oil.

That's great for my wallet and for the earth, but it's not the best statistic from my story and analysis for business leaders. What I think should perk up CEOs more is the fact that, as a full-time, salaried employee, I turned the time that I would have spent driving to and from work each day these past 13.5 months into more work hours, especially at the end of my day.

The extra 20 minutes per day from my former commute translates to approximately 96 extra hours worked. That's an extra 1.2 pay periods worth, representing just under 5% of my annual salary.

The bottom line: Winning Workplaces paid nothing extra (I handled my own relocation expenses) but gained about 5% more productivity from me as a result of this arrangement. Obviously if I had been hourly, this benefit would not have come to pass.

So it definitely behooves business leaders to (re)evaluate their strategy, deliverables, and work processes to see if they should add or enhance flexible work benefits – again, especially among their salaried FTEs – to realize a similar net gain in the form of a more productive workplace culture.

If you already embrace remote work or related people practices, what results stand out to you from your efforts to engage employees around this?


Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Top tier telephony for SMEs without the costs OR the benefits of a call centre for all.

With the advent of the call centre, communications with customers has changed radically. The call centre has become one of the main points of contact between customers and business; This means that the way in which a call centre operates can have a dramatic effect on a customer’s perception of the business in either a positive or a negative way.

The perception of poor customer service delivery can stem from a variety of factors:

  • Having to wait for long periods in call queues before being put through 
  • Over complicated automated interactive voices response mechanisms (IVR’s) 
  • Poor automated systems that do not allow for all the customer information to be provided to the call handler 
Some of these issues are caused partly by the centralised nature of existing call centre equipment. Premises based solutions can be expensive to roll out across a business particularly were multiple sites exist.

Staff recruitment can also become an issue, as companies may not have access to skilled employees within the local area. Staff costs may be driven upwards where there is a skill shortage and competition develops as good staff are sought.

With the development of cloud based computing, businesses can now look at the possibility of recruiting remote workers which in turn means that they are able to recruit the best customer focused staff for their business.

Issues like this make you think, “why would I need to develop a call centre for my business”. However, what if you could access a telephone system that would help you improve your customer service levels, improve efficiency within your business and allow you to recruit the best staff no matter where they live and at the same time not cost you the earth.

Premises Based Telephony vs Hosted Telephony

Hosted telephony is radically altering the way in which companies carryout their normal business. By using the cloud “cloud computing” hosted telephony is set to change the way call centres are set up and operated.

Cloud based technology allows both large and small businesses alike to take full advantage of sophisticated telephony solutions. It allows for:

  • the identification of callers, 
  • to prioritise and route call traffic effectively 
  • and all at a cost that is not going to break the bank. 
Cost savings and flexibility are a major benefit of hosted telephony services over the traditional premises based solution. Hosted telephony solutions do not require the purchase or maintenance of expensive hardware therefore the capital expenditure is kept to a minimum.

There is little or no software integration required so reducing the go-live times to a matter of days. All that is required is an ADSL / SDSL connection, an IP phone and a computer for each member of staff.

A hosted call centre telephone system makes it the ideal solution for a business by taking away the requirement to purchase expensive premises based call centre technology.

Remote Workers 

Customers are now more sophisticated than at any time. The advance of the internet allows them to resolve issues that previously they would have had to ring up about. What this means in general terms is that when they do make ‘the call’ it is going to be more sophisticated and demanding in nature than would have previously been the case.

Business now need to recognise the changes required to deal with this increased customer sophistication and that there may be fewer calls that come in but which potentially will have a greater impact on their business. Staff will need to have a much broader skill set so they can provide relevant information quickly, efficiently and accurately to the customer rather than passing the caller to another member of staff. Hosted telephone services make it possible for businesses to choose employees because of their expertise and skill sets rather than location and to look further afield to recruit that knowledge base.

Hosted telephone platforms now give a business the ability to direct calls to the most relevant staff member regardless of where they are. A call can now be directed to an expert thereby helping the business to generate more sales than may have been previously expected.

This means that by clever routing of inbound calls, the business could employ experts from any geographic location and that by routing the calls to the experts allow the less experienced staff to answer those calls that require a lower product knowledge making the business more efficient at handling the calls and improving the customer experience.

By hosting the call centre at a data centre, the pressure of normal working hours is reduced over that of a traditional call centre where a company would only have its lines open between nine and five.

Having the ability to route calls to designated points of contact (based remotely) in the evenings or at weekends means that a business can ensure that they do not lose potential orders by increasing the efficiency of their call handling. This approach offers increased flexibility to the business allowing them to employ call handlers as home workers, fitting in with employee’s requirements and reducing the demands on office space. This also means that staff feel more empowered. Happy staff are productive staff.

By hosting business telephony it can be seen that the potential benefits to the businesses are:

  • an increase in customer satisfaction, 
  • improved efficiency in call handling, 
  • improved staff moral and an 
  • impact on the bottom line. 
One benefit that may be overlooked is the fact that business continuity can be maintained when a central location loses connection at times of system/network failure.

PRO-iPBX

Friday, 8 October 2010

How to optimise part time working in the call centre

A recent article posted by Alex Coxon at www.callcentrehelper.com on how to optimise part time staff working within the call centre and to get the best from your employees.

How to make things better

1. Treat part-time workers the same 
The first move, says ProtoCall One’s Andy Turner, is to recognise that part-time staff are making the same contribution to the business as anyone else – albeit on a pro rata basis – and they therefore need the same support structure as any other member of staff.

Deborah Martin, site operations manager at the Nottingham call centre for insurance firm Domestic & General, concurs.

“Just because someone is working part-time or unusual hours – such as night shifts – it doesn’t mean they should be treated differently to full-time people,” she argues. “We have a 24/7 operation here, and we have to utilise part-time staff to maximise our call handling capability,

2. Make sure managers cover part-time shifts 
“To guarantee that [using part-time staff] is effective, we ensure that everyone working part-time gets the same opportunities as those working full-time. If we have an event during the day, for instance, we’ll run a smaller version of the same event in the evening for our part-time people. Also, where we have people working part-time over evenings or weekends, we’ll have a manager to match that [shift pattern],” said Deborah Martin.

“If part-time staff don’t feel they’re getting the same amount of support and training as their full-time peers, it can drive them away,” says Claire Richardson, director of workforce optimisation solutions at technology provider Verint. “If someone is working nights and doesn’t have access to a team leader, for example, they can quickly start feeling under-valued. And if those feelings persist, it can start causing anger, resentment, and perhaps even absenteeism or attrition.”

3. The same amount of training 
According to Martin, this equitable approach to full- and part-time working needs to observed from the outset; whether staff work 15 or 35 hours a week, they still need the same amount of training in order to do the job effectively.

“You’ve got to give people exactly the same skills – even if they’re only able to learn those skills over a couple of hours a day rather than over a full-time shift,” she says.

4. Don’t be afraid of negotiating “That said, you shouldn’t be afraid of negotiating with part-time recruits,” Martin continues. “We do have training teams that work evenings and weekends. But sometimes we need to reach a compromise with a new starter, and maybe get them to come in for a few hours beyond their shift while they’re training, or to work a slightly different schedule until the training has finished… This helps them get up to speed as quickly as possible.”

5. Keep the working hours consistent Outside of training and managerial backing, it is also important to give part-time staff the colleague support they require to work effectively.

“We’ve found that part-time people can end up feeling very isolated if they work too many different hours from their peer group,” says Benjamin Napier, business change manager at the charity NSPCC, which uses part-time volunteers to staff its ChildLine call centres. “Having people working regular shift patterns can help reduce that isolation and allow them to form constructive working relationships.”

6. Good communication “Obviously our situation is different to a lot of call centres’ because we operate using volunteer counsellors rather than paid staff. However, I think the principle is still the same; if you have a good communication policy – one that conveys the realities of demand patterns to part-time workers – it can help win their buy-in to work shifts in less sociable hours,” continues Benjamin Napier.

Conclusion 
There are, as we’ve seen, several ways to optimise part-time working in the call centre, ranging from offering the same quality and volume of training as full-time staff through to having a robust communication strategy in place.

The resounding factor, however, is the need for support. As ProtoCall One’s Andy Turner states: “It’s down to the call centre to look after their part-time workers as well as they do their full-time staff.

“Organisations can’t afford to be lazy,” he adds. “If they want long-term engagement from their part-time staff, they need to put the right support structure in place. They need to invest in all of their staff – whether they work full-time or part-time.”

Dos and don’ts 

David Jones, of Q-Max, offers up some salient scheduling tips for those who want to make part-time working effective in their call centre.

Do… 
  • Consult your part-timers. Discuss what shift patterns would best meet their personal needs while also meeting your schedule requirements. 
  • Consider using rotating shifts. A well-designed rota will be regarded by staff as fair. However, it will also help ensure that hard-to-cover shifts are incorporated. 
  • Remember that a full-timer working an eight-hour shift requires two 15-minute breaks and an hour at lunch. Two part-timers covering the same eight hours only require two 15-minute breaks apiece. 
  • Be creative in shift design; a good workforce management (WFM) system can pay dividends here. 

Don’t… 
  • Abuse part-timers by giving them all the unpopular, difficult or unsociable shifts. 
  • Treat part-timers as second-class employees; they are a hugely valuable asset and need to be treated as such. 
  • Think you can get away with not giving part-time staff a break during their shift hours; a 15-minute break for four hours work is sensible and practical. 
PRO-iPBX


http://www.callcentrehelper.com/how-to-optimise-part-time-working-in-the-call-centre-13100.htm