Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

Study after study has shown that investing in employee experience impacts the customer experience and can generate a high ROI for the company.

The Un-Ignorable Link Between Employee Experience And Customer Experience

Engaged employees lead to happy customers.

There is an undeniable link between employee experience and customer experience. Companies that lead in customer experience have 60% more engaged employees, and study after study has shown that investing in employee experience impacts the customer experience and can generate a high ROI for the company. Here are 10 companies that have seen the benefit of engaging their employees to build customer experience.

“Take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers.” -J.W.Marriott

Marriott International founder J.W. Marriott said, “Take care of associates and they’ll take care of your customers.” It still holds true at the company—employees are valued, which makes them want to share that experience with guests. Marriott publicly rewards employees for a job well done, celebrates diversity and inclusion, values loyalty, and offers a wide variety of training programs. It has been regularly rated a top place to work and a top company for customer experience.

Chick-Fil-A Encourages Employees To Build Relationships With Customers

With its chicken and waffle fries, Chick-fil-A generates more revenue per restaurant than any other chain in the country. But it’s not just the food that sets the restaurant apart—it’s the employees. Franchise owners are given thorough training but also have bandwidth to explore creative ideas. Employees are encouraged to build relationships with customers because they have strong relationships with each other and with the company.

The Zappos Contact Center Calls Its Team Customer Loyalty Team Members

E-commerce site Zappos is known for connecting with its customers and for responding to issues quickly. That’s likely because the company also has a great reputation for connecting with its employees. Every employee plays a role in the company’s customer-first culture—even call center employees are referred to as customer loyalty team members. When employees feel connected to and valued by the brand, they want to bring customers into the circle.

Nordstrom Only Asks Employees To Use Their Best Judgement

Employees at Nordstrom are given just one rule in their employee handbook: “Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” Instead of being bogged down with corporate guidance, empowered employees know they are trusted and valued. That translates to their interactions with customers and is a large reason why the “Nordstrom Way” of doing customer service is well respected.

Taco Bell Provides An Easy Way For Employees To Ask For Help

Fast food giant Taco Bell puts employees first by always providing them a way to contact management. The company has a network of 1-800 numbers to field complaints, answer questions, and alert management of potential red flags for its 175,000-plus employees. It also holds regular employee roundtable meetings and company-wide surveys to gage employee satisfaction. With their needs met and questions answered, employees can focus on helping customers.

Jet Blue Employees Are Allowed To Go The Extra Mile For Customers

Jet Blue is consistently rated one of the best airlines, and a large part of that is the great customer experience. Jet Blue’s employees are given the freedom to go the extra mile to help customers. Instead of being constrained by red tape and bureaucracy, employees have power to solve problems themselves, which means they often consider customers problems to be their own. Jet Blue also fosters a spirit of collaboration and teamwork with employees that extends to customers.

Starbucks Provides Extensive Training On How To Interact With Customers

Starbucks knows that happy employees lead to happy customers. The company is consistently at the top of every customer experience “best” list, and this recognition comes from taking care of its employees. Starbucks provides employees competitive wages, health benefits, and stock options. Each employee is trained not only on how to make the drinks but also how to interact with customers. The welcoming atmosphere of a Starbucks coffee shop is echoed in the company, where every employee knows they are welcomed and included.

Airbnb Helps Employees Focus On Personal Growth

Airbnb’s mission statement of “Belong Anywhere” extends beyond customers to also include employees. Airbnb is invested in every aspect of its employees’ lives, not just what they do at the office. The company works to create a culture that sets employees up for success in their personal and professional lives, from having a flexible, open office space to being transparent with the goals of the company. Employees can focus on their personal growth and the mission of the company, which allows them to create better customer experiences.

Adobe Ties Employee Compensation To Customer Experience

Instead of viewing customers and employees as separate entities, Adobe brings them together to drive positive, connected experiences. Employees are trained on customer experience metrics and how each person’s role impacts the overall customer experience. It also encourages employees to be advocates for customers’ needs and jump in when they see a problem instead of waiting for something to run its course. At Adobe, employee compensation is tied to customer experience. When employees are connected with customers and see the role they can each play individually, they want to create a better experience (disclosure: Adobe is a client).

GE Uses Root Cause Analysis To Improve Customer Satisfaction

It takes an innovative HR department to drive employee experience at General Electric. Employees are involved in the process to make sure they have the physical space and technological tools to do their best work and that training programs keep employees moving forward. When a division of GE saw it had low customer satisfaction scores, it worked to find the root cause and streamline internal processes. Cutting red tape keeps employees happier and allows them to be more productive, which helped the customer satisfaction score jump more than 40% in two years.

Your employees are your often your most untapped resource when it comes to building powerful customer experiences. I hope you are just as inspired by the companies highlighted here as I was.

The article above was first published on Forbes.com and reprinted with permission. View original post here.

About the author: Blake Morgan is a customer experience futurist, author of More Is More, and keynote speaker. You can read more of Blake’s articles by visiting her website.

The Evolution of Service Objects’ Phone Service

Since 2001, Service Objects has been building and providing data validation services for mid to enterprise level businesses. One of our first data quality products focused on phone numbers and the services we could supply around them, including validation, look-up and reverse look-up services.  Over these 17 years, our data quality products have evolved considerably.  Whether this is in response to changes in technology, legislation, internal desire and (especially) customer needs, our products are much better for it.

We thought it would be fun to take a quick walk down memory lane and see where we started and ultimately how these services have evolved.

Early years…

We got our start with compiled phone data sets.  These lists were compiled by buying and aggregating lists of phone data from third parties. These data sets allowed us to translate phone numbers into exchange info, and return information on the provider and consumer, including; provider or contact name, city, state, zip, and line type.  Obviously, this aggregated list data worked but we found that the data quickly degraded and grew stale.

Once we saw the issues with this static, compiled list approach, we moved into scraping various sites and aggregating fresher data. The scraping helped to supplement the ever-aging compiled data sets. This newer approach provided fresher phone data than straight compiled data but was still prone to errors.

The Landline era…

Having had success early on, we were able to invest in relationships with Telecoms and companies that work with Telecoms. This provided us with accurate and up-to-date information surrounding landlines.  At this point, landline data was common and most businesses were guaranteed to be listed using landlines.  On top of that, a large portion of the residences still owned landlines.  Having data for the two markets allowed us to cover a large majority of the Telecom space. With only landlines to consider, it was simpler to provide a solid landline only service, which we called Geophone.

The move to Mobile and VOIP…

With the wide-spread adoption of cell phones, there has been (and continues today) a significant shift away from landlines for residences to cell phones. The same came be seen with businesses and their adoption of voice-over-IP (VOIP). In both cases, data for these has been more challenging to attain. Early on, mobile device information was very hard to come by and we were required to take a step back data-quality-wise to precompiled sources for some of the alternative phone types.  It was a challenging time for us to provide the most accurate and update contacts around these types of phone numbers. We did our best and with the addition of these new phone types and our Geophone Plus service(GPPL) was born,  built as an extension of the functionality of the original Geophone web service.

Ported numbers…

More recently, porting has also become more common.  Porting telephone numbers simply means maintaining your number across carriers and line types. Mobile carrier to mobile carrier is common but in some cases, even landline to wireless carriers. During this era, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was initialized. The threat of harsh TCPA penalties for calling mobile numbers created the need to know, with confidence, who companies were calling and on what phone type. From this need, our Geophone Plus 2 (GPPL2) was born. The data, like carrier info, phone type, subscriber name and ported date made the service highly desirable. Not only for companies looking to adhere to the TCPA regulations but also for business looking to gain competitive advantages in their respective industries.

New challenges…

As technologies progressed, new forms of phone types emerged. Identifying Google numbers, Skype numbers and other portable VOIP providers became more important. These new technologies brought along with them new potential for fraud. Users could easily sign up for VOIP numbers and use them maliciously or fraudulently and then abandon them. In addition, the identification of fax numbers, robo-callers and prepaid phones have become more important. To address this growing need, we upgraded our Phone Exchange product to Phone Exchange 2 (PE2).  It was built upon the existing functionality of our Phone Exchange service and extends the service’s capabilities to address these new Telecom technologies, as well as detecting and validating international numbers

Going forward…

Every day, we strive to add new data sources to enhance our phone and contact data sets and help identify other potential fraud sources. Our commitment is to keep providing these excellent services and features while accurately appending new data points that link names and addresses to their phone numbers. Some of the extended features are currently being worked into the Geophone Plus 3 web service that we will be launching in early spring. This includes features such as demographics information about locations and people, emails, and business information.

In addition, we will continue to respond to our customers’ needs, advances in phone technology and new legislation as it comes down (like the EU’s upcoming GDPR legislation) to help further improve our products.

Service Objects’ Average Response Time Ranks Higher Than Google…

When comparing SaaS providers, one of the key metrics that is often measured is the service response time. That response time, or latency, is a succinct measurement of the approximate time it will take for a response to be returned for a given query. Often, the major challenge in reducing response time is determining which service component is adding latency. At Service Objects, we are continually scrutinizing application optimization, network congestion, and monitoring real-time, real-world API calls to ensure our SaaS response times are second to none.

Our goal is to exceed availability and response times in our industry as a SaaS provider. We’ve invested in bank grade infrastructure and security, with data centers operating throughout the US. All of our databases are operating on the latest flash storage technology, returning query responses in less than 0.1s, and we are constantly enhancing and expanding our web server application pools. Bundle all of that with robust VMware clusters, multiple layers of network redundancy, and one of the industry’s only financially back service level agreements of 99.999% uptime and the result: we don’t just achieve industry standard availability and response times, we’ve raised the bar.

Third-party monitoring providers have ranked many of our DOTS Web Services average response times within the same echelon as leading tech companies, such as Apple and Google. In many cases, we are better than some of the biggest and well-known technology companies. Just how fast are we? If you are connecting from Los Angeles, our DOTS Address Validation service hosted in San Jose, CA boasts an incredible 0.089s response time. If your business is connecting from New York, we have you covered, with a lightning fast average response time of 0.27s from our New Jersey data center.

Service Objects recognizes how important it is to our customers to have little to no downtime. We are so committed to achieving this goal that we made Outstanding Network Performance one of our Core Values. We are continually monitoring our servers and measuring our response times, and as the graphic below illustrates, the results speak for themselves.

 

Lead Validation and Identifying Nonprofit Organizations

Service Objects, Inc. is fanatical about customer support, we love working with clients and prospects to build the kind of APIs that they want and need.  Some of our best ideas come from listening to our clients and prospects, discussing their problems and figuring out how we could help solve them.  Often, we do quite a bit of tailoring and will develop new features to help solve some of their challenging problems.  One of the recent additions to the Service Objects’ library is identifying nonprofit organizations, also known as not-for-profit, or Tax Exempt organizations within our DOTS Lead Validation service.

Why is it important to know if an organization is a nonprofit?

Nonprofits follow different rules than most organizations and a company’s interaction with a nonprofit may be completely different than it would be with a for-profit company. Knowing that you are engaging with a nonprofit beforehand allows you to be better prepared and make informed decisions moving forward.

As an example, we recently worked with one of our clients to enhance our Lead Validation service to identify non-profits in their prospect database.  This helps them determine the viability of the customer, their ability to transact large purchases, as well as the pricing they can offer.  In some cases, nonprofits may not need to pay sales tax on goods, which could be a factor in determining how much to charge them.  These are just a couple of examples of the value of knowing the type of organization you are working with.

What is a nonprofit and how do we identify them?

There are many types of nonprofits and most of us are familiar with the visible “public charities.” This is a narrow definition, as non-profits are generally defined as an organization that does not operate solely for gain and generally have special tax considerations.  With this broader definition, recognizing organizations can be tough.  They can be; human service organizations that help provide food, shelter and assistance in times of disaster, researching the next big cure, protecting the environment or animals, supporting civil rights groups, helping with international humanitarian needs, human rights or supporting various religious organizations.  The following graphic shows the distributions of current nonprofits:

Source: National Council of Nonprofits, What is a “Nonprofit”?, https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/what-is-a-nonprofit

For Service Objects, there are multiple ways we identify a company as a nonprofit, including by Tax number (EIN), address or location, business name and/or a combination of the above.  We continue to develop and improve this feature of our Lead Validation service and are happy to make it available to all of our customers.

At Service Objects, we are committed to meeting the needs of all our customers.  It is just a little more rewarding when we can contribute to doing good as well.

Thinking Alternatively About Place Names

Here at Service Objects we come across a lot of names, particularly the names of places. We also work with a lot of personal names, but for now I would like to focus on just place names. Whether the name is for a city, town, village, hamlet, district, region, state, prefecture, mining area, national park, theme park or what have you; chances are that the place may have one or more even alternate spellings and alternate names associated with it.

For a human fluent in English, “North Carolina” and “N. Carolina” will be considered equal, but for a computer they are not. With the use of fuzzy-matching and/or standardization we can work around seemingly trivial issues like this. Now let us suppose that you are working with a set of Japanese data and come across the same name but written in Katakana “ノースカロライナ” or Ukrainian data written in Cyrillic “Північна Кароліна” or even Thai “รัฐนอร์ทแคโรไลนา”. Well, fuzzy-matching and standardization are still our friends; we just have more fuzzy-matching and standardization rules to consider. However, we first need to ensure that we even have the data available to associate a name in a different language.

We’ve been creating a list of place names to help us tackle problems like the ones mentioned above. We currently have a list of over five million unique place names generated from a pool of approximately 11 million names. We are aggregating name data to come up with a more comprehensive list that consists of known alternates, variations in spellings, different languages and the transliterated versions for the different languages.

Here’s a quick look at what we have accomplished, so far:

  • Current list of approximately eight million place names and growing
  • Transliteration and phonetic mappings for various languages
  • Case, accent and kana sensitivity handling
  • Queryable using fuzzy-matching algorithms

We have taken some of what we have learned from our DOTS Address Validation – International service and built upon it in order to improve data beyond the realm of just address validation. When working with Phone, Email, IP, Demographic and Geo-coordinate related data we too often find that location names do not match up. Naturally this is to be expected, since different data vendors will have different standardizations and practices when it comes to naming conventions. Utilizing a comprehensive place name library will allow us to quickly perform various actions, such as cross checking multiple data sources against each other with increased flexibility and match rates.

It may not be immediately apparent how useful a place name library like this is and what kind of avenues it can open up, but expect to see new and exciting developments from us in the coming months!

Service Objects and the Hack-a-thon

What is a Hack-a-thon?

The term “hackathon” (or “hackfest,” “codefest, or “hackday”) combines the words hack and marathon. In other words, a caffeine-fueled frenzy of innovation. Though coding is a common hackathon task, these events, which can last from a single day or an all-nighter to more than a week, aren’t just for hacking. Hackathons can be used to solve a critical problem, to learn, to brainstorm new and innovative ideas, or even in support of a cause. Companies like Facebook, Google, Shutterstock, and AT&T are among the many notable companies that use hackathons. Here’s how we use hackathons here at Service Objects.

Every Day Hackathon Mentality

Innovation is important to Service Objects, so much so that we are given tremendous freedom to continually innovate our products. Innovation is part of our jobs to the point that every day is essentially a hack day. However, we also have to juggle our day-to-day tasks and other responsibilities. It dawned on us that starting our own hackathons would allow us focus on innovation in a more focused and more collaborative manner.

Service Objects’ Hackathons

So far, we have held two hackathons and are looking forward to our third one in the next month. Every other month, we set aside two solid days for our hackathons.

We block off the engineering area of the office using police tape to block off the hallway leading to our area. Though our area is located in a quiet, isolated corner of the building, having a physical blockade reinforces the message that we’ve already shared with the rest of the company: Do not disturb! Everyone knows that we are not to be interrupted unless it’s an emergency. Even then, one point of contact is assigned to handle the case, allowing the rest of the team to continue hacking.

The police tape also puts us in the right frame of mind. We know that when we enter the hackathon zone, we are entering an area where we are encouraged to step outside of our comfort zones. We have no set rules other than to build something we think will help the company and its customers. For example, our internal applications group might try their hand at interesting new services and functionality while the R&D team could create an internal app that they think would benefit the company in some way.

Though we’ve only held two hackathons to date, we’ve already generated some useful ideas such as:

.   The identification of unincorporated locations of a city

.   A new way to collect business data

.   A new fuzzy matching algorithm for our email validation service

.   A potential way to identify telemarketers from a phone number

The entire team looks forward to our hackathons. While we get to innovate daily, our hackathons allow us to come together — without interruption —  specifically to ask “What if?” and push ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We enter the each hackathon with the knowledge that anything is possible, and we conclude each one with a fresh set of ideas for the betterment of our company.