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Marketing is Eating IT and the Call Center is Next

By April 29, 2014Article

Gartner famously predicted that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. Even as this battle rages, marketing is disconnected from what is going on in a very important part of the sales funnel — the call center. 

Businesses spent over $300 billion in call center labor costs alone in 2013; but for customers, the experience is horrible. Waiting, listening to Muzak, press 1 for this, 2 for that … it’s a negative drag on the brand and marketing needs to pay attention. Most businesses don’t know how bad it is. According to Forrester’s “Customer Experience Index,” eighty percent of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service, while eight percent of people say the same companies deliver “superior” customer service. 

Here are three things CMOs can do immediately to address the problem. 

Buy lunch for your call center manager 

CMOs around the world spent $100 billion in 2013 to drive brands through online advertising. Billions more are spent measuring the success of campaigns using agencies, analytics and marketing automation. Every digital touchpoint is measured and attributed. Yet customers and prospects make 45 billion calls each year to businesses. That’s 45 billion customer interactions that have a huge impact on metrics that are critical to the CMO: customer acquisition cost, satisfaction, conversion rate, churn and net promoter score. It’s frightening to think that, in general, these calls are completely invisible to the CMO.  

The good news is that your call center manager has great data on those calls. At Altocloud our software brings together the worlds of marketing and call center. Yet when I meet with our customers for the first time, I quite often find myself introducing the marketing and call center folks to each other. So, CMOs, make the call! Start the conversation with your call center colleagues and hatch a joint plan to improve your customers’ experience. 

Change the channel 

“Channel thinking” is killing customer experience. By channel thinking I mean the practice of compartmentalizing your interactions with customers into silos: Web, mobile, email, social and phone. This is a company-centric way of thinking about your customers and has the effect of hard-coding friction into the customer experience. 

The latest buzzword from the world of channel thinking is “Omnichannel.” This is essentially an approach of trying to stitch together all the channels with an expensive overlay of digital marketers and marketing automation software. But papering over the cracks won’t work: we need to put the customer journey at the center. We need to change the channel or at least give the customer the remote! 

Get started by mapping out your customer journeys and focus on removing seams and friction from interactions. Literally start with a blank sheet of paper. Allow your customers to choose how, when and where they communicate with you. Build context with an objective of knowing what they want before they want it. The convergence of data analytics and communications makes this possible. This is not rocket science, it’s data science! 

Get ready to rumble 

Your organization will change. As channels disappear into a single customer experience, previously separate online, physical store and call center organizations are going to merge. This is the way of the future involving a convergence of organizations, technologies and, of course, budgets. Spend that was formerly controlled by IT will come under the line of business or the CMO. You can either resist this change or lead it. 

Put together a plan for improving customer experience by eliminating channel thinking. Experiment with new technologies that bring together the Web and call center journey into a seamless experience. Show how eliminating silos in your current organization can free up budget for customer experience. Be the spokesperson, cheerleader and champion for change. The only alternative is irrelevance. 

Change is challenging but also represents a huge opportunity. Imagine if each one of your company’s annual call center interactions had a positive impact on your customers’ experience — improving loyalty, net promoter score, churn rates and conversions. 

Marketers are laser focused on providing the most relevant content to the right customers at the right point in the funnel. But your best (and most expensive) content is your people and their expertise. By integrating your call center employees into your content marketing strategy, you can make the right communications offers to your Web and mobile customers. In addition, you can deliver Web and mobile context to your employees so that they are empowered to help your customers to achieve the desired outcome.  

The prize is huge. It’s time for CMOs to take the lead and change customer communications forever. 

Barry O’Sullivan is CEO of Altocloud, a software company with a mission of improving customer engagement and contact center experiences. Altocloud is a cloud-based platform that uses data analytics and machine learning to produce more effective customer-to-company interactions. Prior to Altocloud, he was senior vice president at Cisco Systems and has been general manager of several multibillion-dollar divisions including Unified Communications and Voice over IP, which he led to number-one market share position.














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