It's Always the Quiet Ones

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Mariann McDonagh is CMO at inContact
Mariann McDonagh is CMO at inContact

For consumers, receiving a call proactively from a company used to mean one of several things—and they weren't always good. Either a marketer was trying to sell them something, or a billing office was trying to collect money. Because of these long-standing perceptions of nagging telemarketers, the idea of being contacted by a business or organization has left a bitter taste in the mouth of many consumers. But today, looking at the changing face of customer service and marketing, companies are forced to reevaluate and revolutionize these outbound channels to provide greater brand value.

Consumers have established their voice; they publicize their contentment or displeasure with a brand on the social web and share these opinions with their inner circle, who will take this trusted feedback to heart. If a customer waits on hold for 15 minutes when trying to resolve an issue, it's more than likely that someone connected to them will hear about it. Similarly, they're likely to spread the word about exceptional customer service and brand loyalty.

The result: Today the value of a brand goes far beyond the features or functionality of a product or service. Consumers are demanding comprehensive and personalized service experiences along with exceptional products. Long gone are the days that companies can rely solely on the reliability of their product; nor can they simply resolve customer issues and move on. The next level of customer loyalty is going to depend on anticipating the needs of the customer.

Reaching the silent customer

Presently, most companies using outbound communications are taking proactive measures to reach out to disgruntled customers, or in some cases, to very loyal and vocal consumers. In both cases it's likely that customers have voiced their opinion, whether it's positive or negative. But in the case of the group of customers in the middle, those that we're not hearing from, companies should be paying closer attention. When a customer has gone silent, it's time to start worrying about the health of that customer, and the industry overall is in need of greater proactive outreach to identify and cater to this group to create long-lasting loyal relationships.

In trying to reach these “silent” customers, companies should seek answers to the type of experience they're having and the reasons behind their lack of interactions with the company. When seeking for answers, businesses should aim to discover what it is customers are looking for from a brand, whether they're receiving it, and the reasons behind why they have totally disengaged.

Tactically, this sort of outbound communication can be done fairly easily by integrating call centers with existing CRM systems. These platforms hold a wealth of data on the history of a customer, including age group, past interactions, preferred channels of communication, and past behavioral trends. Marketers can leverage this valuable data to reach out to those silent customers—and look beyond phone calls to discover how specific types of customers are communicating.

Anticipating customers' needs

We know today that personalization is important to consumers; it's not enough to develop a one-size-fits-all formula for communication. Marketers can develop more meaningful campaigns to engage customers, relying on the information available:

  • Leverage CRM. Use your records to search for customer profiles. The data in a CRM system can be telling; use it to take a look at the profiles of your silent customers and gain greater visibility into their recent behavior and preferences.

  • Segment these groups into various sets. For example, those who have never interacted with your brand, those who haven't interacted for six months or more, those who were regularly active and have stopped. From there, it may make sense to develop separate outreach strategies for each group to best address their needs.

  • Identify the best way to proactively outreach. Use the customer profile data to identify which channels these customers are using, and tailor your outreach to leverage those they prefer.

  • Launch the campaigns. And then make the communication an ongoing, valuable experience for the customer. Consider the individual needs of each segmented group. For those who were previously active but are now silent, you may want to create a campaign to check in and inquire about their experience. To engage those who have always been silent, offer something to spark their interest in being more interactive with the company, like a coupon, incentive for referring friends, or a preview of a new product.

These middleman customers who are not vocalizing their opinions about your brand represent a major opportunity to create brand loyalists. Use the tools available to develop informed proactive outreach campaigns and develop lasting relationships with these valuable consumers.

Mariann McDonagh is CMO at inContact.

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