Posted by & filed under CRM, Exotel, General, Product.

Most of us find the few steps between intent and action to be annoyingly long. We’d like to complete the repetitive, routine stuff asap and get to the important ones.
Yes, we are impatient
So it is with making a call as well. For eg: Once you’ve decided to call up a person from your mobile phone, the steps that it takes from your intent to actually talking to that person is pretty boring. Like picking up your phone, unlocking it, searching for the contact and then calling the number. So things like speed diallers, bluetooth + voice commands become really useful tools to reduce the time it takes to make calls.

If you’ve used Exotel, you would probably have made outbound calls. How many times have you seen a number on a web page or a web app and wanted to call that number? You’d have to open up your exotel dashboard, copy the number, paste it in the call widget and then click ‘Call’. Now assume you’re making 20-30 calls a day. That’s quite a bit of of time spent dialling the number. We wanted to make it easier for you to make outbound calls. So ….we’ve just launched the Exotel chrome plugin .

What does it do?
Exotel’s chrome plugin provides a way for you to make outbound calls from any webpage that you are browsing. With this plugin you can now make calls directly from your CRM web-page or a google spreadsheet without having to copy-paste the number and call from the exotel dashboard.

Once the plugin is installed whenever you view any webpage, the plugin automatically detects phone numbers on the page and places a small green phone icon just before the number. Like this:
Exotel Chrome plugin at work

Clicking on the Call button will initiate an outbound call to the highlighted number.

You can read more about the plugin here .


Would it really help me?

If you are an Exotel user and you have a web based CRM like Salesforce, Zoho or Kreato, you are likely to find this plugin very helpful. Also, if you make more than 20-30 calls a day , this plugin could free up 10 minutes of your time everyday for more useful tasks like listening to your customer calls !

Click here to install the plugin.

Posted by & filed under Call Center, CRM, Product, SMS.

Languages

 

In what language do you converse with your customers who call into your call centre? In what language are your marketing and sales calls? Is it predominantly in regional languages? If yes, why leave out your SMS communications in English? Using Exotel, you can send out SMS is any of the languages, be it part of your call flow, or from the dashboard or as just a SMS campaign. Some of our customers have done some very good integration with SMS, and have experimented with sending out regional SMSes and have found encouraging results.

A case study in numbers

 

Unicode

 

 

One of our customers, an NGO uses SMS-es extensively to reach their members for fund raising. For one of their campaigns, they tried a SMS blast to their members in their regional language. The results were extremely encouraging for them. There was a 8.1% increase in the response rates compared to campaigns in English, referral growth saw an increase of 23.6% and an impressive 13% of their inactive members responded to the SMS. 13% in their case amounts to 1,31,000 members and they had been inactive for greater than six months. For them the ability to get back the inactive users was a big win.

 

Possible Pitfalls

Talking to your customer in their language has its own charm and pull. At the same time, you need to get it right. It needs some good research about your customers and target audience. If you are responding with an SMS from the call flow, you need to be absolutely sure that the caller does know the language in which you are responding. A naive implementation that responds with an SMS based on the region of the caller can go wrong easily.

Bangalore is a wonderful place. When I first moved here one of the striking things I noticed was that most of the locals spoke many languages. I remember once walking into a clinic with my dad, and the doctor greeted us in our mother tongue much to our surprise. He said a considerable number of his patients were from other states and he gets it right 70% of the time, and when he got it right it helped him break the ice quickly. Ah, I digressed a bit there, but it is a nice “Bangalore moment” story in a way related to this post. If your callers are from Bangalore, and you send them SMS-es in Kannada, a good part of your customers might not be able to read it. Another issue you need to consider is the handset of your customers – while most of the smart phones render unicode(regional) SMS-es well, the older phones do not. The SMS-es would show up garbled. Hence know your demographics well. A little research on who your customers/users are would vastly help to get it right.

 

 

Integrate, Experiment and Measure

One of the advantages to use cloud telephony products rather than a in house black box to manage your call center is the ability to integrate with different other software components, and hence the ability to dynamically respond to calls. Exotel provides some powerful features that makes this integration simple. A lot of Exotel customers have done deep integration with popular CRMs like SalesForce, SugarCRM, Pipedrive, Zoho, as well as their own in house software. They record every call and SMS interaction there and also uses the data in their software to dynamically control their call flow – for example respond with a customized SMS, or connect them to a particular department. The other advantage is it lets you measure.

When you send your SMS in local languages, measure how many folks react to it. Your call to action might be a visit to the website or a call back. Measure your ROI, in case your responses drop , experiment with the content (do this irrespective of whether it is in regional language or not), tweak it and test. In case you have not integrated with a CRM, you can still measure if your call to action is for your customers to callback. In such cases, use different numbers in your SMS message for people to callback. You can measure by just seeing the number of calls you get on the number. Go ahead, talk to your customers in their language using SMS, measure and see if it works well for you.

Posted by & filed under General.

I was sitting alone at home one day with nothing particular to do. Many clashing thoughts in my mind started to slowly calm down and I reached a moment when I was finished analyzing thoughts that were bothering me or needing my attention (at least at that moment). At that bliss, my senses were in full control and I was able to observe the faintest sounds and the lightest movements. I felt rejuvenated and excited. I then wondered, as a society, Do we give importance to “Alone time”? I defined Alone time as: When you don’t have anyone around for companionship and have nothing in particular to do. You are at a comfortable place, such as your home. I wanted to find out and mailed a quick survey to fellow citizens at Exotel. Here is what the survey had:     Quick survey Quick survey 1 Quick survey 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is what came out it:

  • 86% of us thought we needed “Alone time”. 
  • What was surprising was 73% of us thought we already have enough alone time. This was a bouncer for me! Perhaps people are able to find time for themselves in their  busy lives. Perhaps, I need to get a better with my time management!
  • During alone time, people predominantly wanted to (in decreasing order of preference):
    1) Read (By a large majority)
    2) Travel (This is surprising! I didn’t realise so many people liked travelling alone!)
    3) Stop thinking (Which was reflected in things like watching TV, Do something mindless etc)
    4) Reflect on work related stuff.

I assumed that people didn’t have enough alone time, but I seem to be mistaken. I shelved my original plan of announcing “WFH Wednesday” as that does not seem necessary. Also note that people want to do completely extreme things like “Stop thinking about work” and “Reflect on work related stuff”. 

Posted by & filed under Design.

Creating a website these days is really easy, especially with the abundance of HTML templates online. But what’s hard is creating one that is actually useful for your users and gets you result.

Questions like where to place specific UI elements, colors to choose, copy, imagery or graphic selectionetc. pops up in your head. Here are 5 tips to improve your website UX and change your site for the better.

1. Know Your User

To build a great Web site, you must have a rich understanding of who is the target user and what are his goals? Clearly define your target group to make sure you appeal to the right people.

How? Talk to the support and salesteam and listen to their interactions with customers. Who is calling in? What are the common queries, pain points and complaints? Read email responses that come via your website’s “Contact Us” form and other feedback links.

persona

Source -Flicker

Goal Directed design – Yourinterface should be designed around the goals of the users and not on what you want or prefer. It’s about discovering the user needs to accomplish and meet the expectations by getting them there. This will help you in answering the most important questions –

• Who are my users?
• What are my users trying to accomplish?
• How will users interact with my product?
• How will my product introduce itself to first-time users?
• How can my product deal with problems that users encounter?

2. Landing page cheat sheet

Landing page is the most crucial page of website and the starting point for most user visits. All the more reasons to design it really kick-ass. Here’s how –

blog-exotel-layout-wireframe

Let’s look at each section –

A. Links – Cut the Clutter. Keep only those links which are important for user to sign up. For ex. -Dropbox has just one link “Download”. Keep links like about us,blog etc. for footer.

Bonus Point: Begin Link Names with the Most Important Keyword.

B. Above the fold – Make the site’s purpose clear. Explain what your product is about and how does it benefit user with a clear Call to action button.

Key Pointers –

a. Don’t be shy to have a long landing page as long as it’s engaging the user with clear CTA’s at apt places.

Hire the LocomotiveCMS team and find the best Rails developers

Source –LocomotiveCMS – by Ideawebme

b. Use color contrast for Call to Action buttons. Also, try bigger click areas with great copy. Keep only one primary action on the screen at any given time and show secondary actions with weaker colors.

c. If you are doing signup’s in landing page, make sure to ask for the absolute bare minimum. Remember, Fewer fields = better conversions.

C. Below the fold – It can happen that people know how your product works but don’t understand its potential benefit to them. This is why you should point out the advantages that people will get from your product by showing the key features or benefits with product screenshot.

D. Build Customer Confidence- by providing product reviews, testimonials, return policies and customer service commitments that will make the user establish trust in you. Use Social Proof instead of talking about yourself.

E. CTA– Easy to miss but very crucial.Have a CTA with supporting copy below the fold.

Few examples -

online-eucation-landing-page

Source – Behance/ideawebme

Dropbox
Source –Dropbox

3. Copy

Focus on the copy and the tone of the website. Keep copy concise and highlight the main points.

• Use bullets to help visitors read and understandcontent quickly.
• Craft copy for key UI elements like button, error and success message, welcome message on user onboarding very thoughtfully.
• For email marketing, copy is one of the main determinants of whether or not a campaign succeeds. Reallygoodemails.com is great resource of this.

Contentsnippets.com – has a great collection of content snippets to use as inspiration.

4. Speed

Google now considers page speed a major consideration for search engine rankings; 75% of internet users agreed that they would not return to a website if it did not load within 4 seconds. Needless to say, faster loading site is an important requirement.

5. Test early, test often

Company website isn’t something that is launched and done; it needs to be continually tweaked and tested to find the combination that really moves the needle.

Icing on the cake

• Design for the blank slate – Ignoring the blank slate stage is one of the biggest mistakes websites and apps make. Use it as an opportunity to delight user by insertingquick tutorials and help blurbs etc. Emptystat.es will be your friend.

• Consistency – Consistency is a big deal when it comes to website designs. Having consistent structure and interactions is key to creating a consistent UI. Across all elements on the site, maintain a look and feel. Logos, headers, navigation and banners should not look dramatically different from page to page. Keeping forms consistent in style, structure and interaction can sometimes make or break a conversion rate. Using Pattern Libraries like – patterntap , pttrns.com will come really handy for this.

• Color contrast –The simplest way of grabbing user’s attention is using color contrast aptly. Best example is “call to action” button.

Lack of contrast, makes content difficult to read. Pay special attention to link text color when they are hovered. Make sure to choose best color scheme using these color palate generators – Kuler and Color Scheme Designer .

I hope you got inspired with this post. Sticking to these tips will help you ensure that your site stays user-friendly and functional. If you want to achieve great results keep testing and improving it on a regular basis.

vasudha chandak

 

 

Vasudha Chandak is a UX designer with love for pixels. She develops simple solutions to problems by crafting interfaces with simplicity, usability and brand identity in mind.

Posted by & filed under General.

[Guest post by Anand Kannan, Managing Director and Co-founder of Valued Epistemics Pvt. Ltd]

At GREedge , we have had our challenges with the right telephony system. As a technology innovation and R&D driven Online Training firm we offer a highly personalized and unique service that helps students improve their GRE scores through online study programs.

Handling variety AND scale

With “high degree of personal attention” as a core customer promise, we have the challenge of paying detailed attention to each and every student, each time they contact us. No other e-learning or online service company in any branch of learning, let alone the GRE, offers this type of strong, personalized value proposition to its customers. As a result we have the capability to help a wide variety of students boost their score for GRE.

The top GRE scorer, aiming for nothing less than a 330 (a very high, globally competitive score in GRE) to an eager aspirant requiring the basic minimum requirement of a 290 or 300 (that might be required in a graduate education program in physiotherapy, for example) pose very different expectations.  Our mix of customers draws from college going students, working professionals and that small but significant section who are in transition from college to the next step of their career. Each of these segments in turn has vastly different conveniences, aspirations and expectations. They hail from all states and several countries.

In any given week, we might have dozens, sometimes even well over a hundred of our students taking the GRE. Others, in various stages of their GRE preparation or practice for the GRE, can run into thousands at a time. This includes students who have completed their GRE but come in for additional help regarding their higher studies or other advice pertaining to their aspiration. GREedge offers programs of relatively long duration and stays in touch with students for several months (sometimes well over a year), providing them the freedom, flexibility and assurance of support for the GRE and higher studies.

The customer response process is both event driven and proactive. Our internal objective is to not miss even one opportunity to help or motivate a student to do better. This comes with its own operational challenges. How do you make sure that you do not miss even a single incoming communication? How do you make sure that a student who requires intervention or follow-up always gets it?  In addition, how do you make sure that the student has the freedom to use a medium of his or her choice/preference?  A student may use email, SMS, website form, a direct messaging system built into our proprietary student learning interface, called Learning Tracker or an Online Seminar Session chat box or a mobile messaging system such as What’s app, Facebook messaging, post on the student Facebook Group and of course, the classic old way – the telephone or mobile call.

Living up to your own service model

It is imperative of any modern service that you give the customer (in our case, the student) the freedom and flexibility of using any touch-point and take the burden and pain of tracking and maintaining continuity of service across different touch-points upon oneself. And in this process, have high standards – not miss even a single communication opportunity, especially one that is desired by a customer. GREedge’s own internal tracking metrics also tell us and prompt us about each student who might need additional help, inputs or feedback as they work through their GRE training program online.

GREedge is aided by sophisticated back-end technology platform, a sort of an extended, homegrown CRM – amalgamated with a learning tracking and lesson/ content management system and analytics and an online training program delivery center that utilizes this technology platform to drive service delivery- GRE online  training and coaching  including student support.

The telephone call is the especially touchy part. While any student can originate a call anytime, he/she would actually call only when in relatively high urgency, deeper than normal frustration or as the GRE is nearing. The telephone call is real-time. Unlike email or other modes of messaging, the interaction has to be right then and there. Even if the incoming call is missed for any reason, the call has to be returned double quick and with no scope of missing the contact. While the telephonic contact itself is a minor part of the overall learning service that we offer for GRE, it is an important and high value piece, and is personally very important to the customer, especially at certain points in the life-cycle of the service. In other words, our telephonic communication process has unique requirements that are not met by older telephony solutions in the market.

As a personalized service, this is further complicated by the fact that we assign unique Student Facilitators for GRE training. Since each student has his/her own way of learning and preparing and challenges with respect to scoring, only the corresponding SFA of a student can actually address a particular student’s concern based on their familiarity with the past history of the student and their learning process for GRE. Now, on top of this, there are two subjects in the GRE -GRE Verbal and GRE Quant or Quantitative Reasoning.  Besides, we have a fairly rigorous Student Welfare and Quality of Service Survey Process to ensure that an overwhelming majority of our students are happy, satisfied and progressing well with their GRE score boosting objective and with the kind of help and support they receive from GREedge. There is a GREedge Quality Bell, a system to alert and escalate any dissatisfaction issues to the top management of the company instantly. All these aspects have to be made available to every student as soon as they try contacting us over any touch-point.

Relevant Responsiveness is the better half of Quality

Strongly and consistently pursuing these objectives has enabled us to exceed over a period of time, the academic quality andGRE score improvement track record  offered by any high end coaching class, a book or a website full of study material and even for that matter, a website with plenty of video lectures. This has in turn translated into higher trust and positive market chatter, again, over a period of time.

Detailed, scientific ability to boost gre scores  along with an extensive communication and contact system has its own power in becoming a preferred method of preparing for the GRE. However, the telephonic contact part was also the most flaky bit. There were quite a bit of mismatches in time, missed calls and inability to keep track of the sheer volume and detailed nature of the interactions. Besides, if a student has the proverbial “last minute doubts and queries” or “butterflies in my stomach anxieties” a couple of hours before his GRE, it is futile to return the call late. Relevant Responsiveness, as we have learnt, matters highly when you want the quality of your offering to be perceived well by your customer.

Wild beasts and heavy-lifting

Adopting a good method of telephony which can hold up against the expectations and requirements described above has been on our radar for a long time. Besides the personalized routing abilities, we were also seeking a certain degree of intelligence and flexibility. In many ways, the telephony and call routing system should not only integrate with our customer/student tracking technology but also understand our model of organization.

We had searched and also considered developing internally, a system that suits these requirements. This includes heavy equipment used by Call Centers and BPOs’ like Avaya or Cisco as well as smaller SME focussed products from companies such as Panasonic. We had discussed with different telephone and mobile operators. They are simply not geared to customize solutions they have to the requirements of one small company. We examined free software like Asterisk, FreeSwitch etc which offer an open source telephone exchange. These are wild beasts which require considerable programming and software development and integration to be tamed and used consistently. We called in a couple of telephone system vendors and held extensive discussions with them. All that resulted was an expensive, unaffordable price quote.

Finally, we considered developing such a system internally, expending some R&D clock-cycles but abandoned that approach due to the high difficulty and cost of the project and the need to focus on our core technology – the tracking and improvement of learning. Most solutions also require what Jeff Bezos once called “undifferentiated heavy-lifting”, managing clumsy clusters of telephone lines, servers, software, redundancy and a stand alone support and maintenance team. Often, these are far away from your core skills and best done by someone else who focuses on it exclusively.  In the quest for a good telephony system that integrates well with our internal software framework and organizational model and helps us do better for our customer, we had almost given up.

Fortunately, one of the managers in the company, stumbled upon Exotel, a Bangalore based cloud telephony solution provider and started investigating on his own. After a while, more people got into the discussion and the solution appeared to hold promise. We contacted Exotel and initiated the process of piloting and testing their neat solution to this vexing problem. Recently, we completed integrating and switching to Exotel for a significant part of our telephony requirements.

Beauty and the beast

Exotel, it appears, has tamed the wild beast! It has even made it behave according to its clients wishes and desires. And learnt to do all the heavy lifting that the supply of reliable and appropriate  telephony seems to entail. In just a matter of a few weeks, the entire model of service was embedded in the call routing and integrated into our CRM. The system of API’s and architectural flexibility provided for painless – almost joyful – integration and testing. The great aspect of exotel’s solution is that the capex requirements are negligible. Everything has been turned into opex and pay-by-use by their flexible billing model. We do not have to deal with running servers, monitoring ports, maintaining a motley of telephone and internet lines, understanding really tedious regulatory requirements and discussing with a whole bunch of operators.

But the best part, is the sheer beauty and awesomeness of their interfaces and the full suite of API’s for integration. The entire experience of using the exotel system as well as switching over to it, was simply superb for both our internal teams as well as for our customers and students. The responsive and flexible approach of the exotel team is one more thing that we really appreciate and value. My team feels like  brave and jubilant  ring-masters striding alongside a big, ferocious beast and feeling in perfect control while using exotel’s cloud telephony solution.

Exotel’s cloud telephony solutions will go a long way in providing satisfactory solutions to a number of small and large enterprises with varying and complex requirements of contacting and staying in touch with their customers.

anand kannan vepl

The guest author Anand Kannan is Managing Director, GREedge.com , Online Academy to boost GRE scores.