Right Message, Right Channel, Right Time
[Editors' Note: As a public service, CRM's editors promise that nothing on the destinationCRM.com Web site dated 1 April 2009 is an April Fools' Day prank.]
Companies looking to incorporate automated outbound messaging into their customer service repertoire face an innate quandary: being able to reduce costs while at the same time maintaining a high level of service and retention. With this challenge in mind, Seattle-based Varolii is bringing to market a trio of applications intended to help deliver the right messages to consumers, in their preferred channels.
The three applications --
- Call Me Now,
- Generations, and
- Contact Center Agent
-- reportedly maximize the reach rate for increasingly elusive customers -- and even hard-to-contact agents. Kate McArdle, Varolii's senior director of product management, explains that these three applications have one singular goal: "We want to put the pieces together so it's really easy to build a strategy," she says.
Varolii Call Me Now is for hard-to-reach customers who typically will not answer calls on their cell phones from numbers not immediately recognized -- or for those who are relatively new additions to the client list of the company in question. The trick here, according to McArdle, is blending text and voice messages. "With this, we can send a text message saying, 'I'm going to call you from this number about a particular issue -- please answer if you're able,' " she says. "We're trying to maximize the potential of reaching you as a consumer, and establishing that successful contact."
But what if your target customer is a senior, someone not likely to rely on a mobile device for proactive communication? Varolii hopes to tackle that concern with Generations, which tailors strategies specific to Generation X, Generation Y, Baby Boomers, and Seniors.
(For more on generation-specific spending strategies, check out the November 2008 issue of CRM; for recession-related topics involving generation gaps, look at our February 2009 Recession Issue).
"You're not likely going to have great success by starting with a text message [sent] out to seniors, but you want to start with that for Gen Y," McArdle says. "We want to make sure we have that blend, and adjust the tone of our message content, too."
The third application, Contact Center Agent, shifts the focus from the consumer to the customer service representative (CSR), attempting to jibe the management of CSRs with outbound customer-communication strategies. "Agents are typically the most-valuable -- and costly -- resource in the contact center," McArdle admits. "It's important to [always] make the best use of their time. This will allow companies to automatically reach out to agents to see if they can come to work to deal with spikes in call volumes."
To Drew Kraus, a research vice president for Stamford, Conn.–based research firm Gartner, what's most interesting is the power behind these three applications:
- Varolii ID, built with individual decisioning that the company says ensures history and outcomes specific to individual customers; and
- Varolii Interact Platform, which allows the vendor to offer multichannel notifications and cross-channel communication.
"Doing more individualization and personalization behind that really is the key to getting more customer acceptance for [these notifications]," Kraus says. "That way it's not looked upon as spam outreach, but as something that adds value. Knowing how to reach out the right way at the right time is critical."
Kraus goes on to explain that these new Varolii applications can help solve the cost-versus-retention Catch-22 many companies find themselves in: "Both from cost containment as well as loyalty-and-retention strategies, the products hit on both of those key themes," he affirms.
Competitively speaking, Kraus expects Varolii to be able to reach companies targeting strategic accounts far beyond the high-volume alerting services that have become commoditized in the industry. That's not to say the company is alone -- Kraus adds that others with capabilities in this area include Nuance Communcations, SoundBite Communications, and West Corp.'s West Interactive. "This is a market where there are fairly low barriers to entry if you're doing basic outreach," he says. "The personalization capabilities are a point of differentiation, as it's not a commodity buy -- it's an order of magnitude more difficult to do."
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