What do I mean by customer-facing departments? These are the departments that deal with customers frequently, such as retail locations, contact centers, Web customer service, sales and support/delivery. As discussed in previous columns, these departments actually determine the company’s brand, since they generate the majority of customer contacts. Neither advertising nor promotional offers can counteract the effect of a poor customer experience. However, these departments are often staffed with lower-paid, lesser-trained, high-turnover workers. As a result, customer service experiences often fall short in relationship focus or even the most basic service levels, resulting in declining customer satisfaction levels across industries. Now, in that environment, let’s throw in a little complexity, "shake well" and see what results.
One of the key tenets of technology-enabled marketing is aggressive testing where multiple campaigns are tested, and the successful ones rolled out. While this approach is not unique, technology permits a vast increase in the volume of campaigns and the speed of execution. At any given time, customer-facing departments may have to contend with hundreds of deployed campaigns while also testing additional ones. Even though a campaign is in test, customers will still call or bring questions to retail locations. How customer-facing departments deal with such questions can build or destroy a relationship. Customers do not care if their campaign is a test or not they expect to be served consistently and professionally.
Now throw campaign management technology into the mix. All of a sudden, the communication volume increases. How do customer-facing departments become aware of different campaigns, let alone which customers might qualify for which additional offers? The answer is a combination of technology, process management and training.
Let’s explore this issue in several parts. Initially, customer-facing departments need to learn about impending campaigns for training. While it would be ideal to train everyone in every campaign, this approach becomes logistically infeasible as campaigns scale. What IS necessary is communication containing key campaign information, timed to arrive a certain number of days before execution, based on organizational training requirements. The communication must go out to specific employees, based on campaign type.
In short, a campaign about the campaign.
One significant benefit that campaign management technology permits is the ability to target e-mail and direct mail communication internally. Given how important personal customer interactions are, the ability to communicate to customer-facing employees at the best time is a key benefit of the technology. Campaign management technology can create communications to an employee audience selected based on lists and filters, and facilitate e-mail to that audience. In addition, the communication can be multi-stage, so that the employees can receive a teaser, a core communication, follow-up reminder and a concluding survey for feedback. All of these features would be considered standard in marketing technology; however, it is the application to an internal audience that has rarely been done.
This internal campaign increases communication between line teams and marketing. However, it does not directly address the issue of scale. As the volume of customer campaigns increase, it becomes a challenge to identify for customer- facing employees which customer received which campaign and when, and which campaigns they might receive in the near future. The combination of two different technologies can help organize campaigns to permit customer-facing employees to leverage marketing and grow relationships.
The first solution is related to development of a customer repository. As you will remember from previous articles, the customer repository not only stores customer information but delivers that information (through supporting applications) to customer-facing departments. Showing a single, consistent view of customer information is essential to standardizing the customer experience between touchpoints.
Now, let’s expand on that customer repository. Instead of just transaction data, the repository should also show promotional history, so that CSRs in a contact center can see information about campaigns a customer received (FAQs, etc.). Now customer-facing departments can determine which campaigns a customer received and access information to address common issues in a professional consistent manner regardless of channel.
In addition, decision-support tools can identify campaigns a customer should receive, permitting customer-facing departments not only to manage service but to proactively provide customers with offers and communications that they had not received previously. Not only will this effort often surprise customers, but it will also increase the perception that the company understands the customer, reinforcing the brand experience. So an expanded customer repository becomes a critical component to provide high-level campaign information to customer-facing employees. But high- level information is not sufficient to address detailed or unanticipated customer inquiries. Another solution is required to provide that level of information.
The second component of a successful customer-facing support system is a promotional detail database. This database is different from the customer repository, which may hold promotion names, high-level descriptions and FAQs. The promotion detail database holds creative, offer details (including legal disclaimers) and campaign timing. This information must be organized so customer-facing departments can search not only by content but also by customers or segments. This database provides customer- facing employees with information they need to address more difficult service questions consistently.
The combination of a customer repository with a promotional detail database provides tools required by customer-facing employees to provide a superior customer experience across channels and over time. However, the effort is not complete until processes have been changed as well. Agents must be able to understand how to interact with the tools (the training part) and how to provide information without frustrating customers in the process. Remember, if process work is not addressed upfront, it will surely be a case of "no good deed goes unpunished" as customers, sales and service all rebel together in the face of process collapses. Customers desire superior, distinguishing service across channels; however what they need is to get in and out in an expeditious manner.
The toughest part of campaign work is dealing with "soft" assets rather than hard ones. Technology is never the hardest part. In fact, change management and training can help mediocre campaigns succeed and ensure that the most innovative campaigns fall flat. Using campaigns to reach internal customers and providing two different information sources for agents and sales to access provides the necessary infrastructure for campaign success. However, the ultimate moment for success or failure does not come with bells and whistles. It occurs in a small quiet moment when a customer walks into a store, makes a phone call or logs on a Web site. These little moments of truth are when a brand is actually determined. Campaign management and supporting technology can only light a match; it is up to the individuals on the phone, or in person, to kindle the flame of a consistent, distinguishing relationship. And that relationship is where the success of the campaign, indeed the success of the company as a whole, will ultimately be determined.
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