Article : Leveraging Speech Technology In Contact Centers For Effective Marketing
Early deployments of speech technology in contact centers focused on lowering costs, with little thought as to how to generate more revenue. With the goal of automating tasks traditionally handled by live agents, the emphasis was on reducing staffing demands and shortening the length of customer contacts order to improve operational efficiencies.
Today, forward-thinking organizations increasingly apply speech technology to inbound and outbound customer interactions, driving new business opportunities and stronger customer relationships. Speech technology enables multi-step applications that optimize interactions by engaging customers while they are on hold or through proactive outreach with automated communications. Speech applications build brands, deepen customer relationships and facilitate up-sell and cross-sell initiatives. Here we explore some guidelines to help contact centers apply speech applications as a marketing tool to drive top-line results.
An Existing Customer Is The
Although some think of marketing solely as an exercise in winning new customers, many of the most competitive organizations have learned that customer-focused marketing interactions designed to improve relationships with existing customers can yield some of the greatest returns.
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Timing Is Everything
Shifting from support to selling can be tricky, so remember to keep the customer's goals in mind, making sure their needs are satisfied before you make the pitch. For example, if a customer is calling to complain that a delivery hasn't been received, and you ask them to make another purchase while they wait on hold, they are likely to be unhappy and alienated.
If this same customer's initial problem is effectively and professionally addressed, they are more likely to become a promoter than customers who never have a problem at all. The first rule of thumb for successful contact center marketing is to support speedy, helpful customer response. If customers are frustrated with the speed or accuracy of their service, they will be unreceptive to marketing outreach.
Understand why customers call the contact center, whether it is because of a billing discrepancy, to check status on a pending transaction, or to report a break in service, and address these needs first. Solving a customer's problem and addressing their questions quickly and accurately sets the stage for further interactions.
Even the most sophisticated speech-based application will falter if its designers fail to see the customer's perspective. A well-designed approach enables the contact center to meet its marketing goals while offering options that the customer finds useful, relevant and meaningful.
Marketing campaigns should leverage the wealth of customer information already captured to determine which offers to present and when. If a customer is calling the contact center to order a gift, such as flowers, offer them the opportunity to sign up for a reminder service that sends alerts when an important date is approaching. Because the gift reminder service is relevant to the current interaction, the customer will perceive the value in the offer and appreciate the personal touch.
Use the application to test for the customer's willingness to receive an offer, and be sure that the person on the phone is the one your system thinks it is talking to: Mr. Smith might be calling to check on an order for shoes that his wife placed, but he probably doesn't want to buy a new pair of teal blue pumps.
In designing your campaigns and determining the role of speech technology within them, be sure to leverage all relevant customer data and history to determine what offers to make and under what conditions. For offers presented while a customer is on hold, ensure that the customer's immediate needs have been met, and that the offer is timely and relevant to their current situation, rather than a blanket, one-size-fits-all offering to every customer in the queue.
Not all customer interactions are inbound. Reaching out to customers with important information before they call you can be an important component of a successful marketing strategy. For example, automated outbound alerts that capture spoken responses can provide immediate, relevant information to customers based on preferences they have expressed. Providing alerts and notifications of things like upcoming sales, cancelled flights or pending transactions can make customers feel valued and connected to a company, decreasing the odds they'll switch to a competitor.
At the same time, outbound tools can also be used to capture information the company wants. Retailers providing home delivery services often survey their customers to ensure service quality. But leave-behind postcards capture just a fraction of responses, and are often given only to customers that already appear to be satisfied. Reaching out to customers with a speech-based survey immediately after delivery or installation can help companies capture more accurate data from all their customers, and quickly learn of any unresolved service issues that need to be addressed, without increasing demands on call center agents
Call pacing techniques moderate the number of outbound and inbound calls, so customers that want to take advantage of an offer don't waste time in a hold queue. Ensuring a favorable customer experience once you gain interest, and mapping campaign activity to call center staffing, increases productivity while allowing you to reach the maximum number of customers in the shortest amount of time.
Build Your Brand
Today's voice user interfaces offer an exciting range of persona options. The persona and branding implicit in the automated voice experience can strengthen customer relationships—or create unanticipated alienation if not well-executed. Protecting your brand image is a priority, and mapping this brand to relevant and compelling messages helps reach the broadest possible segment in your market. Consider the target customer's age, gender, language, regional accent, ethnicity and education level when developing the application and the brand persona that will address them.
Keep in mind that using a persona can be risky if the one you've developed is too formal or casual for the audience. If you would not presume a level of personal connection or assume a playful, joking demeanor with a stranger, neither should your application's persona. The goal is to create a connection and build rapport with customers, reinforcing your brand identify and increasing customer's propensity to buy.
The persona you chose should reflect brand attributes your customers value, such as trustworthiness, quality or innovation. The bottom line: know your target audience, stay true to your brand, and build demographically targeted content and personae as part of the overall target marketing campaigns.
Giving customers incentives to refer friends, family and colleagues can be one of the most compelling elements of a call center marketing campaign. Incentives such as trials, rebates, and polling opportunities can be successfully leveraged while customers are on hold – provided you promise to keep their place in line and not repeat requests for identifying information such as account numbers. These levers can also be used with outbound campaigns through voice, SMS or e-mail to drive inbound responses and increase sales.
For example, a gourmet dessert company launched last year with street marketing to encourage people to call a toll-free number to receive a free sample. Those who signed up later received an automated outbound call offering a 15% discount coupon for a future purchase and additional incentives if they referred a friend. This multi-faceted approach utilized the inbound and outbound contact center speech-based capabilities without increasing demand on agents.
Don't Forget The Basics
Retain a focus on how automated solutions can simplify a company's business processes. List management and marketing databases must be fine-tuned to ensure that customer requests and profile are considered. Correct numbers and names must be managed as well as frequency of the outbound telemarketing to ensure offers are appreciated rather than becoming a nuisance.
Remember that customers, like everyone in these busy times, are pressed for time. Keep message content brief, relevant and professional. Respect the customer's time with call pacing applications to reduce hold times and improve resource management.
Tracking and reporting on campaigns, including the outcomes of customer interactions, can offer marketing insights to improve the effectiveness of future programs. Easy access to real-time reporting, through an on-line portal, for example, is an invaluable resource.
To compete effectively, marketing campaigns should leverage contact centers and apply modern speech applications to drive customer satisfaction, engage customers with relevant, targeted offers, and deepen relationships while improving retention. Good marketing campaigns put the customer's needs in the forefront. With creative application of speech technology, consistent tie-ins with existing customer data and adherence to the fundamentals of contact center and customer relationship management best-practices, call center campaigns can be a powerful cornerstone of any organization's marketing strategy.
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About Joellyn Sargent:
Joellyn F. Sargent leads marketing for Premiere Global Services’ Alerts & Notifications business, which includes voice, SMS and e-mail messaging as well as interactive, speech-based applications. Ms. Sargent has more than 18 years’ experience in business-to-business marketing for companies including Glenayre Technologies, NetByTel, BellSouth and United Parcel Service.
About Premiere Global Services:
Premiere Global Services is a global outsource provider of business process solutions that enable enterprise customers to automate and simplify their critical business processes and to communicate more effectively with their constituents. .
Published: Monday, March 27, 2006