A Hidden Marketing Asset

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Terry Redding, CFI Group
Terry Redding, CFI Group

Marketers face increasing pressure today to deliver profitable marketing performance. One way to improve their result is by deriving incremental value out of resources within their reach.

The customer contact center is one such asset. Though not traditionally considered a marketing resource, there are many ways in which marketing teams can leverage their companies' contact centers, which are already sunk operational costs, to pull double duty as an extension of the marketing function. This probably means that you're sitting on a marketing gold mine without even realizing it.

Never thought of the contact center as a resource that can help you meet your marketing objectives? When you consider that the contact center holds the key to what may be your most precious marketing asset – customer input – the strategic value of this relationship becomes clear. And if you tap into its inherent (paid for) potential at a time when the leading financial plan for many businesses is to simply find ways to cut existing budget and avoid new expenses, this relationship offers you a sharp competitive edge.

With proper collaboration, the marketing team can draw from this insider information to recalibrate programs in real time to serve audiences better and ensure a greater ROI. But because a truly integrated relationship between marketing and the contact center doesn't have a lot of precedent, it's important that marketing professionals understand that it requires more than occasionally requesting a report with customer data. Coordinated communication, metrics, and protocol for responding to customer insights are crucial to making the most out of the largely untapped benefit of a strong marketing–contact center engagement.

Capitalizing on the opportunity of a coordinated contact center relationship isn't difficult, but it requires disciplined communication and follow-through. Some tips for making the most of this engagement include:  

  • Cultivate the connection.

A good relationship between the marketing team and the customer contact center looks and acts different for every business, but a common denominator must be a commitment to communicating on a regular basis. In this case, quantity matters as much as quality, because establishing and adhering to a regular meeting schedule between teams demonstrates that those touchpoints are valued and respected as important to the marketing process. These meetings are the marketing team's opportunity to help the contact center understand campaign content, product launches, pricing promotions, and how these can be communicated to customers.

  • Be transparent.

Each partner in this relationship must provide some formal reporting to the other partner. Ideally, this occurs at the regularly scheduled meetings, and if necessary at predetermined intervals in between meetings. If the marketing group manages the brand's social channels, it's also prime time for sharing online customer sentiment with the contact center, so that agents can anticipate potential feedback on the phone lines and place relative value on product categories. On the flip side, marketing should let its contact center know what data would be most valuable to its efforts. Call categories and volume of calls presented by the contact center to marketing in a simple report is information that marketing can use to determine what messaging is resonating and which campaigns are working. This insight enables the marketing team to then adjust programs and promotions in near real time, in response to the most recent customer input.

  • Seize the moment.

Many contact centers that aren't integrated with marketing have an important but narrow focus: help the customer and be nice doing it. But every call that the contact center fields is be a treasure trove of useful marketing information, if agents are trained to recognize it as such. By virtue of the customer having outreached to the brand, the contact center has implicit permission to ask general questions about service and product satisfaction. Depending on the call category, marketers can even work with the contact center to develop a tight, targeted list of questions specific to the experience that customer has expressed he or she is having. As you know, marketers pay big dollars to get this type of information from an outside service, but marketing teams that integrate with the contact center can get an invaluable pulse check from input exchanged during these calls.

The value proposition of the contact center for marketing is greater than ever in the context of tightened budgets and the growing influence of customer feedback has on today's businesses. It's time for marketers to look inward and identify how they can maximize the resources already at their disposal, like the contact center, and find gems of information in the process.

Terry Redding is vice president marketing and product development of CFI Group.

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