Using Your Own Customer Interactions To Improve Your Marketing

(reprinted from Your Virtual Insurance, May 22, with permission;
published by

There is so much going on in the CRM world these days that
it is easy for some of the simpler ideas for improving your bottom line to go untouched.
Worries about profitability and growth, integrating multiple solutions and customer views,
analyzing and segmenting customer data, acquiring and retaining customers, reducing costs
and meeting customer satisfaction goals all set in an environment of downsized corporate
budgets could make executives overlook the obvious.

If you are like most companies, you are wasting your best
source for identifying new leads, cross-sales, up-sales and customer attrition risks. And
it’s your own information that has been freely-offered by your customers and prospects.

What I mean by wasting is that your customers and prospects
are trying to communicate with you – and their communications are probably ending up in a
black hole or dead end. A majority of your customer and prospect contacts originate in the
Service Channel via email, the Web, or customer forums and chat rooms. For many companies,
the Service Channel is only seen as a cost or operational center and is often viewed in
less than positive terms. Like oil and water, Service Operations generally do not mix with
the Sales and Marketing sides of the business.

A simple categorization of the evolutionary continuum is as follows:

  • Heads in the Sand – These
    companies have not made customer service a priority and do not offer multiple access
    methods for customer inquiries, such as email or self-service from their Web sites. If
    they do answer email, they do so sporadically and in an untimely process. Most companies
    have moved beyond this stage.

  • Cost Growers – These
    companies have started to realize that service interactions are a critical ingredient for
    customer satisfaction or that they have to offer multiple means for customer contact to
    match the competition. Many have addressed the issue by hiring more people to answer
    customer inquiries in their contact centers. Unfortunately, these companies do not have
    their eye on the bottom line and their profitability suffers as costs spiral out of control.

  • Cost Avoiders – These
    companies ‘get religion’ on operational cost control – and usually, the zeal for
    eliminating or avoiding costs comes at the expense of customer satisfaction. More often
    than not, the goals of cost reduction are only on paper and the planned reductions of
    staff and increased productivity never materialize.

  • Enhancers – These companies
    really get it, and unfortunately, many companies will never make it to this stage. The
    Service organizations in these companies are cooperating with the Marketing and Sales
    organizations to present a unified front. They answer routine emails and questions
    automatically and efficiently, they escalate service issues promptly, they capitalize on
    sales and attrition opportunities in near real-time and they use the intimate knowledge of
    their customer interactions to improve their products and services.

The “Enhancers” listen to what their customers
and prospects are telling them. In this final evolutionary state, customer satisfaction
will improve substantially and profitability will dramatically increase.

Preliminary statistics from one company who conducted tests
in this area have identified that 6% of their daily email volumes relate to new sales
opportunities. And by rapidly pushing the opportunities to an outbound call center staff
(in “almost” real-time), they have were able to positively contact 25% of the
prospects and converted 60% of the contacts into closed sales. This conversion rate is
more than 10 times the typical response rate of 2 to 4% they had achieved using more
traditional sources for prospects.

To date, very few companies have made it to the
“Enhancer” stage for three major reasons. First, very few companies have
realized that there is so much potential in their own service information due to
organizational blinders and structural impediments. Second, it is difficult to analyze the
intent or content of customer service interactions in real-time, and very few vendors
offer robust solutions with this natural language capability. Finally, most companies are
ignoring the obvious possibilities of their own service data because many think they need
to invest in an expensive, sophisticated and time-consuming solution.

The keys to turning customer interactions into better marketing are the abilities to:

  • Analyze the content and intent of Web-based customer
    interaction information from email, chat and the Web in near real-time Identify and
    categorize opportunities by segment (new sales, cross sales and up-sales, and retention or
    attrition risks) Take action immediately by pushing the leads and information to the
    appropriate group, channel, database or other software for execution

  • Review and measure the results of the actions taken and
    learn from the experience

Capabilities and demand for these types of solutions will explode in the near term – make
sure that your company is not left behind in this area. Start by asking some of these leading questions to
gain a deeper understanding of the gaps in your organization:

How do we currently obtain prospect information? What is the typical response rate from
those sources? What do those sources cost? How do we or can we identify sales opportunities in real-time?
How do we find cross-sell and up-sell leads in our existing customer base?

Do the Marketing and Service organizations in our company talk to each other?
Does our Service organization give cross-sell leads to Marketing?

How do we identify customer retention risks? How do we address the potential risks?
How quickly do we respond?

How do we measure or improve the sales closure rates or effectiveness of your campaigns?