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Generating sales through online/offline collaboration.
Posted Jun 1, 2007
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For all of its revolutionary self-service value, not every customer interaction or transaction can be handled through a Web site. As many CRM executives have discovered, individual needs and situations often require human intervention to convert sales and offer quality support. As more and more enterprises adopt click to call and chat technology to transition customers directly from the Web to a live agent, the lines between the Web channel and call center are blurred. However, with more than 75 percent of all consumers using multiple channels while shopping, companies need to create a seamless brand experience across channels and leverage the strengths of each channel to enhance the customer experience. Customers should not be expected to distinguish between Web and voice service; to the customer, a negative experience with one channel reflects poorly on all channels and your entire brand. Nothing is more frustrating to a consumer than investing time and effort in a transaction online and then having to start the process over again if he moves to the phone. While having a fluid Web-to-phone strategy may seem daunting at first, many companies are using a technique known as cross-channel data passing to maintain a smooth dialogue with their customers. Without requiring a massive overhaul of existing CRM or telephony infrastructure, cross-channel data passing transfers information about the customer and the context of his online session--shopping cart contents, pages viewed, and error messages--directly to the call center at the time of call initiation. Contact center software can be configured to display this information directly on the agent's desktop screen, or use the incoming data values to trigger lookups into the company's own databases to retrieve related details (customer records, purchase history, billing information, et cetera). Whatever the information acquired, cross-channel data passing prevents the customer from "starting all over again" and gives the agent the advantage of understanding the context of a conversation before it even begins. Furthermore, cross-channel data passing is bidirectional. In addition to contextual information about the customer being passed to the agent, there must also be mechanisms in place so the agent can remotely drive the customer's Web browser to display pages containing details about the questions he is asking.
To maximize the potential of cross-channel data passing, companies must have a fundamental understanding of how users behave on their site. Specifically, are there pages on the Web site that lead people to buy products or search for more information? Are there situations that tend to cause browsers to abandon the site? With this type of information at hand, cross-channel data passing, in combination with business rules, can be used to proactively engage browsers and invite them into a phone call or chat session should they experience trouble during the sales transaction process and try to abandon the Web site. Engaging customers proactively is the equivalent of a sales representative walking up to a customer in a retail store and kindly saying, "May I help you with something?" According to a recent Jupiter Research report, the contextual nature of proactive click to call and chat interactions has increased conversion rates by as much as 20 percent and decreased handling times by as much as 20 percent. Regardless of the industry, most multichannel organizations share the same goals of increasing revenue, building customer loyalty, and offering customers a seamless experience across channels. However, in achieving these goals, companies must also balance the costs of serving customers by offering the right form of contact, at the right time. As products and services available online become more complex, companies are tasked with offering customers an experience that will reflect positively on their brand. As online traffic increases and businesses attract more customers, they face the very real possibility of being overwhelmed with customer sales and support requests. This is why most companies would prefer not to have every customer inquiry result in a phone call or chat, and invest heavily in providing self-service tools like FAQs and knowledge base systems. However, in a world where customer loyalty is fleeting and competitors' sites are just a click away, companies must measure the cost/benefit of each customer interaction to maximize sales and reduce customer abandonment. In those instances where customer contact is desired or required, engaging customers with proactive click to call or chat solutions that leverage cross-channel data passing not only helps offer quality service, but enhances the customer experience and increases sales conversion as well. Companies are often astounded by what a large percentage of customers leave their Web sites simply because they believe there is no other option. By corralling these wayward potential buyers with proactive conversion, Internet commerce performance can increase dramatically in a short period. To compete in today's online environment, organizations must understand how customers behave on their Web sites and respond accordingly. Cross-channel data passing is a great first step to do just that. About the Author John Federman is CEO of eStara. Please visit www.estara.com.
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