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Lesson from the Experts: Boosting Marketing Revenues through Actionable Customer Intelligence: Leveraging Intelligent Dialog to Strengthen Customer Engagement and Increase Profitability

By Mark Smith Executive Vice President, Portrait Software

In a challenging economy, providing a rich customer experience is one of the key factors to sustaining profitable customer relationships. Customer-focused companies recognize this and are leveraging inbound marketing campaign strategies to engage with customers who have exercised the option of being placed on Do Not Call lists and/or have opted out of e-mail campaigns. The simple and compelling premise for an inbound campaign strategy is that customers who contact the organization are already engaged and, according to research by leading industry analysts, are 10 times more likely to respond to an offer.

The Inbound Campaign—Making the Unpredictable More Predictable

Best-in-class organizations have recently elevated the importance of the “inbound” campaign. Inbound campaigns enable marketers to connect with a customer when he or she contacts a company through inbound customer touch points such as service channels, Web sites, call centers and IVRs, and other new social media channels.

However, dealing with the unpredictability is a critical challenge for the campaign manager since it is very difficult to ascertain when and how a customer will choose to make contact. There are several variables that must also be considered—for example, the reason for the contact, the mood of the customer, and the channel through which the customer is making contact, etc. For some organizations the temptation is to make the latest offering irrespective of any of these critical variables. This will often do more to drive away the customer than to drive up revenue.

Converting Cost Centers into Profit Centers

To truly connect with customers, organizations need to turbocharge and evolve their existing systems to create an intelligent dialog with each customer. Doing so would enable an organization to make the right offer at the right time, and even to anticipate customer needs. Customers benefit by receiving “next best recommendations” at the exact point of interaction.

Beyond Revenue—Building Trust between Customer and Company

The benefits of intelligent dialog extend beyond revenue. The creation and existence of an intelligent dialog within an inbound campaign can also have a profound effect upon the customer experience. Some of the most common mis-interactions are:

  • Repeatedly making previously declined offers

  • Not acknowledging a recent complaint

  • Offering the latest “new product” launched by a line of business without considering what the customer needs at that point in time

  • Making contrary offerings through different manned and unmanned channels

  • Multiple unconnected mailings from different business units

Trust and loyalty can be strengthened by demonstrating knowledge of the individual customer and acting upon that knowledge with the assistance of next-generation marketing automation.

Real-world response rates to inbound campaigns have proven to be as high as 40 percent, contrasting starkly to typical response rates to an outbound marketing program (averaging 1 to 5 percent).

For one such company, a major financial services organization, recognizing the potential to improve the customer experience and incrementally increase the profitability of its nearly 1 million annual call center customers compelled it to implement a marketing automation system. In just six months after going live, the company was able to:

  • Automatically present the right offer to the right customer at the right time

  • Benefit from new insights into customer response behavior

  • Increase the responsiveness of the frontline customer-facing employees— empowering them to address customer needs flexibly and innovatively

  • Manage delivery of consistent messages across all managed and unmanaged channels

Inbound marketing campaigns that are tightly integrated with existing outbound campaigns promise to change how companies engage with their customers and drive new revenues both in the short and long terms. Such integration can create happy customers from unhappy customers, profit centers from cost centers—and cannot be ignored.

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