When Info is at Their Fingertips

1 Jul, 2003

By: Clinton Stark

The best contact centers have learned how to leverage CRM data with marketing and promotional information to maximize the value of each customer touch point. It’s no longer a simple question and answer interaction. Now it’s all about highly customized experiences that make that customer feel special, and wanting to come back for more.


Lost Opportunities?

A typical scenario: a call is placed to a contact center from a customer who needs help with their new cell phone features and billing set-up. The customer wants a solution quickly, and needs an agent who knows the cell phone’s features expansively. The agent walks the customer through a series of questions to help resolve the issue, straightens out any billing enquiries and thanks the customer for their business.

Was an opportunity lost? What about the infinite deals and add-ons the customer could have learned about had the agent been informed and ready to offer the latest promotions and up-sell programs? Increasingly, the effective dissemination of marketing and promotional information to contact center agents is crucial in order to remain competitive and enhance sales efforts.

Not only are the top performing contact centers making the transformation into profit centers, it is in fact becoming commonplace within today’s economic environment to place a premium on every single customer touch point. However, implementing a process that agents will follow, and the technology to support them, has not always come effortlessly.

Historically, CRM and marketing have not been linked naturally due to system limitations and the lack of integrated solutions available from vendors. New applications, though, are changing the process and flow of information within contact centers, making it easier to share information, boost marketing efforts and coordinate customer touch points and interactions across multiple sales and marketing initiatives. Used standalone, or in combination with a CRM system, these new technologies shatter this stove-piped view and provide an end-to-end customer perspective, one based primarily on customer needs, but also on the revenue lifecycle opportunity for that customer.

How does a manager ensure all agents are aware of the latest promotions, marketing and support programs? How do managers make absolutely certain agents have the right information for the context of the call? And, how can the CRM data investments provided ensure that an agent has the appropriate up-selling and cross-selling information? Following are a few insights and best practices collected from real customer implementations over the past few years:

Profit Motive: Maximize Cross-selling and Up-selling

In the opening example, the agent was handling a customer problem with a cell phone, the problem was solved and the call concluded. Like most call centers, the customer data was likely retrieved from a CRM system, while product information was retrieved from separate product and marketing systems. Since these systems are not typically linked together, there was no connection between cross-sell and up-sell opportunities in the context of the customer’s current calling plan and equipment level. For example, the agent could have offered the customer a promotional offer on a $14.95 holster case special for their phone had they known the customer’s needs. Or even better, the agent, knowing 65 percent of customers were likely to upgrade to the newest model, could have presented an up-sell offer to the latest, more advanced cell phone.

Though it all sounds simple in retrospect, the tricky part is ensuring your agents are able to make these offers consistently at the right time, and with the most appropriate pitch in order to maximize the likelihood of success. How does a manager make sure agents know what offers to make? How do agents know all the details of a promotion so that they can turn a support call into a revenue generating opportunity?

One best practice is to use the Web to present agents with a unified view of CRM-based customer data. The key is the integration of associated product, marketing and support information that is displayed within one screen for the agent. A few ideas to help make this happen include:

• integrating multiple marketing systems, without changing source data locations, into a common dimensional framework that enables agents to quickly navigate by product line, line of business, document type, or any other defined view

• categorizing and tagging documents and promotional data according to customer segment, product line and geographical relevance

• tracking and analytics for content so management can measure the success rates of various up-sell and cross-sell programs

• automating the presentation of relevant promotional offers to agents in the context of a customer service call, including scripts, promotional details, and feedback capability

Continuous Marketing Input

Scribbled post-it notes with arcane references cover an agent’s cube. Old product guides lie scattered across the desk. Dated “cheat sheets,” hang tattered across the wall. And in the center of this chaos, is the agent, waving arms in a flurry to flip through documents, typing on the keyboard, and trying to keep the customer interested and on the phone. Does this sound familiar? It’s the agent survival game. With hundreds, sometimes even thousands, of simultaneous marketing promotions that change daily, keeping agents up-to-date can be an impossible task.

Today’s leading call centers are already well down the road of implementing integrated information delivery and presentation systems. The idea is to enable agents to spend more time selling and servicing, and less time searching for information. Fortunately, the latest call center knowledge base software is able to deliver relevant product, marketing and support content about the customer to the agent. For each promotion, these systems can assign profile information including segmentation and target profiles, associated documents (coupons, flyers, brochures, etc.), geographic differences, and expiration dates. Instead of relying on post-it notes exclusively, call center managers can systematically ensure that information is distributed directly to the agent’s desktop, and then can measure the success of that content.

Studies have shown that single click access is the best bet for agent productivity when it comes to getting their hands on relevant information. But like any customized work environment, all agents work differently. For example, some of the best unified interfaces today provide agents with more 15 different ways to access the same information, including: top 10 documents used by the agent or call center, key word search, navigation to content by corporate index or product lines, last 10 documents used to solve customer cases, bookmarked documents and even “hot” documents that are perhaps related to a burning product or service issue.

When it comes to marketing programs and content, keeping it simple should be a manager’s mantra.

Document Dashboard: Training and Agent Awareness

People are a big investment. Training them, motivating them and ensuring they are enabled to handle customers is key. Unfortunately, early efforts to support contact centers focused on technical systems and technologies that are now outdated and ineffective. While these products have enabled operations to support thousands, and even millions, of customers, they often overlooked the human element, the very essence of a customer interaction – the agent. Next generation software technology has now emerged, focusing on the importance of agent productivity.

The challenge is still cutting down agent training time and cost. Some solutions include creating an “off-line” training mode where agents can see the latest training document set. A self-guided pace also can be installed so agents can work around their schedules and calling responsibilities. Additionally, tracking “agent awareness” by skill type, geography and product area enables managers to pinpoint specific areas for improvement. By setting up a document dashboard that integrates knowledgebase content, document repositories and technical document libraries, the number of different places an agent must look for information is greatly reduced.

Measurement and Analytics: 80 Percent Ineffective Content

Agents must be able to determine which content (product, marketing and support) is driving resolution and selling, and know when to eliminate or improve stale content. Each customer touch point is an opportunity for service, but also an excellent opportunity for revenue. As an outsourcer, many mistakes are made when an agent randomly tries to up-sell a customer before answering their incoming query, and worse, tries to up-sell them on non-relevant promotions. The result is dissatisfaction and the potential for a lost customer.

The savvier contact center managers are now implementing a CRM system that can identify a customer’s interaction cycle – that is, are they a new customer? Are they an early adopter? Do they like lots of additional service or prefer baseline service? Having this intelligence allows the agent to offer the right promotion at the right time. In addition, the implementation of an automated content analytics system which gives weekly and monthly reports on your contact center content will help determine which documents are being used, which documents are receiving this highest success scores, and how agents are interacting with the knowledgebase and repositories to solve problems.

Studies have shown that a contact center can be at least 15 percent more effective if this is done correctly. The impact to the top line is impressive. The best CRM implementations now marry baseline customer data and history with this new content analytics capability to provide substantially improved customer service results and profitability.