How to better avoid customer annoyances.
Posted Aug 1, 2006
We've all been there: sitting down, eating dinner, and the phone suddenly rings. It may be important, so you get up to answer it. But it is not important. It is the second call you have had that week asking you to lower your monthly mortgage. What is even worse are the telemarketers that use auto dialers and expect a prospect to hold while they get on the phone.
Americans are fed up with phone intrusions--to the point where more than 100 million have registered on the national Do Not Call list. It is no surprise, therefore, that the success rate of direct marketing (DM) is around 2 percent. While junk mail can be shaken out of a magazine or stepped over on the doormat, badly timed, intrusive phone calls are the most irritating form of DM.
Telemarketing has a terrible reputation. What can be done to improve it and eradicate audio junk mail?
The tech world has been scratching its collective head to find an answer to this question. The overall conclusion is less is more. Micro inbound telemarketing adheres to this policy. The C in CRM should now stand for "conversation" and not customer. Additionally, customers do not need to be managed--they need to be cultivated. The inbound microdirect marketing approach relies on the customer initiating the conversation in the first place; the customer can then control the level of interaction he has with the supplier.
While this approach may sound like the customer will never contact the supplier, it is quite the opposite. Once customers view the supplier as competent in offering them relevant and sometimes cost-saving services, they are more likely to keep in contact to ensure they have the current best deal. If businesses cross sell when the customer is in the right mood, they will reap the benefits.
For example, how often do people receive credit card marketing materials promising lower rates, and how often do customers call the credit card companies to see if their current provider would drop to a competitive rate? This situation offers the perfect opportunity to upsell customers on value add services like a different credit card with a lower rate or credit card insurance.
Micro DM is an unobtrusive method to marketing, which ensures it is always the right time to pitch. Understanding the customers' needs, and knowing what they are likely to be interested in, will help the marketer offer specific tailor-made packages to the customer. A customer is far more likely to keep the lines of communication open with his supplier if the latest service marketed to him saved him money.
The mobile phone market relies heavily on telemarketing, and microDM is of particular relevance to it. Competition in the mobile phone market is widespread. What can give a company the competitive edge is the knowledge that it is offering the most personalized and relevant service to its customer. For example, a telecommunications company may contact a customer to offer him the best calling plan advice, offering a lower rate or usage information that would help the customer to get the best out of a product. This could involve alerting the customer to a capability that his mobile handset has that he is not using, for example, multimedia messaging.
Operators can benefit by using the information submitted by registered subscribers to improve their customer knowledge and to offer more personalized services based on individual needs and usage patterns.
A good example of how to entice is provided by O2, a British wireless vendor, which offers customers who receive new handsets training sessions which they have to call up to arrange. They clearly want to talk with O2 when they call, and their mind is on their phone while they are calling to request training. Therefore it is a good time to discuss parts of the service, which may lead to suggesting other products, services, or cost savings. In fact, O2 is refocusing its whole strategy to improve customer service and, in turn, inspire customer loyalty.
Outbound DM needs to adapt to survive and support inbound microDM by encouraging and inviting consumers to talk to the agent in a very targeted way. If I were a telemarketer I would feel very positive about the future. The atmosphere at the call center will change for the better. The majority of calls will last beyond the initial "Hello, I'm calling from..." and customers will be keen to listen. If I were a supplier I would feel very happy as I see the success of my campaigns increase from 2 percent to over 50 percent.
And as a consumer I will feel happier to know that when I pick up the phone and my mobile phone company is calling me, it may have something of interest to say.
About the Author
David Barrow is vice president of the vision, solutions, and architecture (VSA) group at Chordiant. Barrow holds a BS in management sciences from Warwick University England. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (408) 517-6100. Please visit www.chordiant.com
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