The New Wave of Consumerism

Business marketers and risk managers have a new set of challenges, particularly in B2C industries. Take your pick: do-not-call, opt in/opt out, permission-based marketing, antispam, know your customer, anti--money laundering, and the Patriot Act. Any or all of these can impact your business in new, real, and complex ways. Most organizations are only now coming to grips with this new reality. Customers are in control, they believe they have rights and they expect companies to honor those wishes. What is more interesting is that even if a regulation doesn't apply to you or your industry (e.g., do-not-call only applies to a few today), customers have decided that they don't want to be called--by anybody. Although the requirements and impact on your business can be confusing and somewhat vague, one thing is clear, every interaction you have with your customers is even more valuable than before and the role of your contact channels is even more significant. Some organizations are now faced with replacing entire customer acquisition channels, and the corresponding revenue streams, as they move away from telemarketing channels. Others are revisiting their outbound business development strategies. Some organizations have automated huge percentages of their customer contacts and now struggle with how to touch their customers. The bottom line is that it makes sense to reevaluate your channel strategies and potentially rebalance them in light of the new consumerism in play. There are three key steps to achieving this: 1. Demand analysis 2. Channel optimization 3. Channel effectiveness Demand analysis One thing is becoming clear, as organizations add channels like Web, email, and contact centers: It becomes more difficult to understand demand. Most customers are now becoming multichannel customers, and in many cases overall demand or pressure on channels has gone up. The idea that a company could "manage" a customer and therefore migrate traffic from one channel to the other has been difficult to accomplish. It is critical to understand what drives demand for contact channels and use this information to effectively map out improvements in your business and your channel strategy. For example, much of the traffic that impacts a contact center is truly self-inflicted by a company's operating model. A wireless company's marketing department may believe strongly in offering zillions of rate plans, unaware of the impact to the call center when virtually every new customer will call three times about their new plan in the first 90 days. A catalog company may discover that customers shop on the Web, but buy on the phone. Once you understand what drives demand for your channels and what customers accomplish in various channels, you have the base information to apply against your segmentation data to develop effective treatment strategies. Channel optimization
There are two dimensions to consider when building an optimal channel balance: customer expectations and company goals. Many companies, in their zeal to drive costs out of the business, have automated (primarily through IVR applications) large percentages of their customer contact. Some retail banks have achieved numbers in the high 80 percent range. There are, in fact, segments--large segments--of their customer base that they never talk to. When they did talk to them it was on an outbound business development call, a process that requires more thought today. Companies need to establish goals for the various segments in terms of cost to serve and revenue growth. Most organizations are on the last frontiers of cost-savings and are focusing now on growing margins. Leading companies are now reevaluating service treatment programs for key segments of their customer base and asking the question, "Yes, this interaction could be automated, but should it be? In the mortgage business, many companies allow a customer to get payoff information on a loan through the IVR. The correlation between that particular inquiry and actual account closing can be as high as 90 percent. Shouldn't that be an inquiry you would want to handle in a more high-touch fashion? Channel effectiveness Finally, develop a blueprint to identify the capabilities required for each of your channels. If you will rely on contact center to mine the gold of each inbound interaction, what capabilities are required? Clearly, tools such as offering generation engines that tap into marketing and analytics databases are key to driving the right sales opportunities to your channels. More important, are the key change-management implications such as how do we develop the skill sets in our people to drive sales in a service culture? What are the right motivational and reward schemes? Another central issue is the ability to have a single view of the customer across all channels. This particular requirement is becoming more important, given some of the new know-your-customer requirements being placed on several industries. Ultimately, it is the execution of your strategy through the channels that will allow you to match the challenge of the new environment driven by the customer. About the Author Kevin Griffeth is a managing director in the CRM practice of business consulting and systems integration firm BearingPoint Inc. Contact him at
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