WHY THE CONTACT CENTER IS A MARKETING ISSUE
Customer experience and customer engagement are the latest and greatest concerns of the modern marketer, having traditionally been the preserve of the contact center.
As digital channels have evolved, so have communications channels. This had a great impact on the number of channels marketers have available at their disposal. But it’s also meant more communications channels for the customer and, by extension, the contact center. The social web has leveled the communications playing field, and forced both marketers and customer service professionals to pay greater attention to the demands of the customer.
This has led marketers to look to technology to help, with Gartner predicting that in 2017, the CMO will spend more on technology than the CIO.
Marketing is changing; moving from "push" to "pull" with more emphasis on listening and connecting and on the overall customer journey. Yet the contact center has been relatively slow to adapt to this shift. While marketing is embracing a customer-centric, multichannel universe, the contact center is lagging behind.
This graphic is inspired by Econsultancy’s Offline/Online Marketing Landscape. While Econsultancy’s version is fairly comprehensive, we believe that in a customer-centric marketing model, the customer (obviously) needs to be in the center. And as the contact center is the closest channel to the customer, it should be placed right in the center with the customer.
If your organization is not looking at how to integrate marketing with the contact center, it is not only missing an opportunity to build greater brand value, but is also in danger of losing the battle for customers. This report looks at why your contact center needs closer integration with marketing, and how to achieve it.
THE AXIS OF THE CUSTOMER CENTRIC BUSINESS MODEL
In 2013 a Forrester Report issued the following rallying call: "Build Seamless Experiences Now." It argued that by failing to deliver a seamless dialogue across multiple access points brands are degrading their value and eroding customer loyalty.
If you are running a contact center today, then you are already aware that the most successful businesses of tomorrow will be those that put their customers’ needs at the heart of their business and focus on creating a great customer experience.
By rights, the contact center should be the axis of the customer centric business model. Yet, in most organizations it is disjointed with the rest of the business, sitting apart in a separate silo, perceived as a cost center and existing purely to manage incoming customer inquiries and complaints. In leading organizations this is starting to change.
BLEND INBOUND AND OUTBOUND
Two buzzwords that no marketer can ignore are agile marketing and inbound marketing:
Agile marketing is all about being flexible to the demands of the market and the customer. It’s about being able to respond quickly to opportunities and challenges. Inbound marketing follows the idea that push forms of marketing no longer engage today’s customer; instead customers have to be drawn in with interesting content, service or ideas, rather than disrupted with messages.
Both of these concepts might sound a little bit familiar to someone managing a contact center. Most contact centers have always had to be able to be flexible and respond fast to customer demands, such as surges in call volumes in response to a competitor’s price hike.
And your frontline customer service agents are probably better qualified than almost anyone in your organization to tell you what really matters to your customers.
Yet this knowledge still remains locked within the four walls of your contact center. The point here is that while your outbound contact center strategy may be the most obvious to align with marketing, a truly marketing-integrated contact center cannot neglect inbound.
If you call a prospective customer within five minutes of them making an inquiry you are as much as 100x likely to reach them and 21x more likely to convert.
This applies to blending your inbound marketing with your outbound calls, too. Naturally, a customer that has made contact with your business themselves is going to be significantly more open to a call than one who hasn’t. And speed matters here: research shows that if you can call a prospective customer within five minutes of them making an inquiry you are as much as 100 times as likely to reach them and 21 times more likely to convert. And customers today expect immediacy too; in a world that is always on, queues and opening hours start to make less sense.
It requires agility as an integrated business to respond effectively to changing customer demands, and blending inbound and outbound is a great way to achieve this ability to adapt quickly. To a modern marketer, providing a great customer experience for inbound queries is every bit as important as optimizing outbound.
Use a cloud based contact center software platform that allows your agents to be moved automatically and seamlessly between inbound and outbound calls, as well as chat, email and even SMS. You can create contact work flows that respond intuitively to build an intelligent customer dialogue.
This will monitor inbound contact volumes and prioritize this above outbound, to avoid putting time and cost into outbound efforts when there is inbound demand pending.
This approach gives you the agility and flexibility you need to meet demand. Say, for instance, you have a big marketing communication going out about an offer that suddenly drives up inbound calls or web inquiries. With a marketingintegrated blended contact center, inbound calls are automatically prioritized to meet that new demand without any manual intervention, capitalizing on the effectiveness of that marketing activity.
How tele-services provider Expert Planet is helping US brands to maximize the value of their marketing campaigns:
Expert Planet is a leading tele-services provider in the United States, providing outsourced contact center and telecommunications solutions to big name brands such as eBay and Beachbody.
It uses a large base of over 5000 agents through the US, with a combination of office and home based workers. The business has a strong track record in using technology to deploy innovative customer communications strategies on behalf of its clients.
Ghen Sugimoto, Chief Marketing Officer at Expert Planet explains the challenge:
“TV can be a very powerful sales channel for marketers in the US. Huge numbers of people tune in every week to catch Oprah Winfrey, for example, and a spot in an ad break can drive tens of thousands of people to pick up the phone.
That sounds great, but it poses a significant challenge to the TV marketer. There is no point in staffing a contact center equipped to handle tens of thousands of calls in a 10 to 15 minute window if all those staff are then going to be stuck for something to do once the calls inevitably die down.
To add to this challenge, the size of the US and the fact it spans six different time zones, along with the complexity of its TV networks system, means that there may be multiple spikes like this from different locations throughout a 24 hour day."
What Expert Planet wanted to offer its customers was a way to handle these spikes and capitalise on the excellent sales potential of their TV campaigns.
Expert Planet has the volume of agents to offer the service, but the challenge is more complex than that. In order to efficiently utilize agents’ time at such a large scale, with such pronounced spikes in activity, the only way to approach the problem was to find a technology partner that offered the flexibility to level out the large inbound call volumes.
This is where West Cloud Contact Pro came in, addressing the challenges in three ways:
1. Mobility and Remote Working
As a cloud based solution, agents have access to the same easy to use interface wherever they are, meaning that Expert Planet customers can fully capitalize on its geographically spread workforce across multiple contact centers as well as homeworkers.
2. Blended Dialing
Using a blended dialing approach allows for Expert Planet’s agents to not only tackle both inbound and outbound calls, but to switch between campaigns, seamlessly taking calls for different campaigns and products.
3. Dynamic Call Flow and Call Scripting
This would not be possible without Cloud Contact Pro's dynamic call flow and call scripting, with the call flow optimizing how calls are answered and the dynamic scripting ensuring agents always have the most relevant information at their fingertips. Call scripts will even change as a call progresses based on information obtained from the customer and either pulled from the CRM or entered by the agent. It also prompts intelligent cross and upselling; for example in the case of fitness products, agents might be prompted to suggest purchasing a pull-up bar to a 35 – 45 year old male, but not to a 65 year old female.
For Expert Planet, the benefits are immediate. They can run more television media safe in the knowledge that they have the capacity to meet the surge in demand it generates, ultimately growing their marketing and making it more effective.
Ghen Sugimoto explains that the benefits extend beyond this simple advantage though:
“There are logistical benefits to the shared system and scale of multiple contact centers. Our customers would not be able to tap into a workforce with this kind of scale and flexibility any other way.
In addition, the shared dynamic scripting system makes change management much simpler. Previously when managing so many contact centers and homeworkers, making a simple tweak to a script would be a staggered process that could take days or weeks. Now we can be constantly monitoring effectiveness and make tweaks on the fly that roll out to everyone immediately.”
COMMUNICATE HOW AND WHEN YOUR CUSTOMERS WANT
Multichannel is the big buzzword for contact centers at the moment. And guess what? It’s the same case in marketing.
Both disciplines are recognizing that customers are now using all sorts of communications channels. They use multiple devices and platforms for voice, email, web, social media and messaging and are becoming increasingly sophisticated in switching between these according to what is convenient for them.
And for both disciplines, the challenge is the same. It is not just a case of making use of all these channels to communicate with customers; taking this approach would not only be irritating to customers, it would be hugely inefficient. You must also know how and when to use each channel, and tailor your use of them to your customers.
For instance, if you receive an email inquiry from a potential customer, we know already that calling them straight back gives you the best chance of contact and conversion; but what if you don’t reach them, or it’s the middle of the night? In those cases, why not call them back the following day at a time that is likely to be convenient for them? You might want to send a "warm-up" text first so they are ready for your call. And almost certainly your contact should be via their mobile number, if you have it, rather than the landline. There’s a huge amount of data at our fingertips now, but once again the challenge for both marketing and the contact center is how we make best use of this data to benefit the customer.
This is where the multichannel cloud contact center with full CRM integration comes into its own. Use the CRM as the central hub, connecting all other channels including your website, email, IM, voice and social media.
This enables the how, allowing you to communicate with customers across channels. The when requires a little more thought and insight, but technology can help automate the process. You have to create intuitive customer contact flows that take into account channels used and times for contact made. By applying these you can make sure that sensible rules are followed, so you don’t give that customer who was up late last night completing an online "contact me" web form an early morning wake up call.
RUN A DATA LED CONTACT CENTER
Data is the lifeblood of effective marketing. And this is particularly true of modern marketing, where the internet has enabled far more detailed data than ever before, allowing marketers to understand customer behavior in ways that were just not possible in the old analogue world.
In fact, marketers are just beginning to understand the value of this data. In marketing, a good data strategy is a core part of providing a more personalized customer experience.
Contact centers have been capturing and analyzing data for years. Yet they tend to be focused on quantitative rather than qualitative data; commonly looking at average call handling time, for example, rather than broader aspects such as customer feedback. Traditional contact center metrics are all about driving costs down, rather than increasing customer satisfaction.
Yet by taking a more sophisticated approach to data, contact centers cannot only understand customer behavior, they can also create work flows that deliver an outstanding customer experience. And even better, they can analyze the effectiveness of these work flows and fine tune them; as every contact center manager knows, an incremental improvement can have an exponential impact when you are dealing with huge volumes of customer interactions.
The first step towards using data to improve customer experience is to apply KPIs that focus on this objective as well as the usual objective of driving greater efficiency. Naturally there will be some overlap here; improving first contact resolution and call waiting times can have a positive effect on customer experience as well as being indicators your contact center is running more efficiently.
These are data outputs, but to get good data outputs you also need good data inputs. Any marketer knows that the quality of the results you get out are only ever going to be up to the standard of the data you put in. This means at the very least ensuring your contact lists are fresh and up to date, and ensuring CRM integration is in place with an up to date database of customer or prospect information can take you a step further to aligning contact center strategy with marketing.
A cloud-based contact center allows you to integrate your CRM, and will provide you with data solutions and customized real-time dashboards to give you a constant overview of performance.
A/B TEST EVERYTHING
The other side to modern data led marketing is testing everything constantly for effectiveness. In marketing this is known as A/B and multivariate testing: running two or more variances of a message, creative or even a different color button on a website to determine which customers respond to best.
One of the most famous examples of this is in the shade of blue Google uses for hyperlinks. The company chose that particular shade from 41 variations after extensive testing showed that it was the color that its users respond to best. On a more simplified level, email marketers will regularly send several versions of the same communication with different subject lines to see which version most people open.
As we know, the modern contact center also has a lot of data at its disposal, and just as in marketing the slimmest of percentage improvements in efficiency can have profound effects on the business’s bottom line. So it makes absolute sense to deploy the same approach to testing every element of a campaign in order to learn and optimize.
There is almost no limit to the types of tests you can undertake in the contact center. Your usage just needs to be aimed at determining how best to take the personalized approach to multichannel communication we mentioned earlier. Not sure how much time to give between initial email contact and a call back? Run two versions of your call flow simultaneously, each with a different time period between email and call back, then see which gets the best call pick up rate.
Another area to apply A/B testing is to help improve your call scripts. Similar to the marketing approach of tweaking copy on a website, tweak the wording in a call script and run two or more versions to see which customers respond to best. The same can apply for the written copy used in email or scripts for IM. The more you test and tweak the more effective your contact center will be.
TREAT ALL CHANNELS AS EQUAL
Marketing and the contact center are now dealing with numerous channels and sources, and with a large customer database this means data points are multiplied several times over, making it hard to keep track. Your next customer could come from an online affiliate, a marketing email, a promoted post on Facebook, or one of your agents making a cold outbound sales call.
At the lower end of the sales funnel, you will be qualifying leads and attributing prospects and sales. This is an essential process in monitoring which channels are working, but the immediate next step in feeding prospects back through the top of the sales funnel is rewarding those that have sent you customers.
This means rewarding your agents the same way you do every other channel. Analyze how all of your digital acquisition channels such as email, PPC and affiliates are working alongside your outbound sales calls and other contact center-driven communication.
This is what is known as marketing attribution, analyzing sales sources and rewarding accordingly, and your contact center as potentially one of the strongest sales channels you will have, should be a core part of that process.
7 ESSENTIAL FEATURES OF A MARKETING-INTEGRATED CONTACT CENTER
Integrating your contact center with marketing channels can require a cultural shift within your organization, but it also requires some key technology capabilities. Here’s a checklist of features which are essential for your marketing integrated contact center:
1. CRM INTEGRATION
Your CRM is vital in bridging that connection between your marketing and your customer service channels.
2. CONTACT BLENDING
Capability for a blended contact strategy is key to effectively managing inbound and outbound calls and other channels, and giving you the kind of agility your business needs.
3. MULTICHANNEL FUNCTIONALITY IN A UNIFIED APPLICATION
Multichannel capability is one step towards serving customers on the channel best for them and CRM integration is another. But multichannel capability must work on the agent end too; a unified application that allows agents to manage the various channels without having to switch screens or windows enables this.
4. EASILY CUSTOMIZABLE CALL FLOWS AND CALL SCRIPTS
We’ve been through the importance of call flows and call scripts and how customizing and testing them is essential to better serve your customer. Speed is essential when it comes to the test and learn philosophy. If it then takes an IT team to put every tweak in place there is little point in this testing; adaptations have to be agile, which means it must be easy to view and change in real-time for the contact center manager or any other team member.
5. SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION
As it is still so new, the question of whether social media is a marketing or customer service channel still lingers. The answer, of course, is that it is both. With no boundary between marketing and customer service, social media integration is indispensable.
6. ANALYTICS DASHBOARDS
The modern marketing strategy, and the modern contact center strategy, is data led. That means you have to have real-time access to the right data in detail.
7. CALL RECORDING/QUALITY MONITORING
Call recording is what closes the customer experience feedback loop. We’ve talked a lot about data in this guide, but sometimes there is no substitute for listening back on calls and ensuring customers are satisfied.