When there’s no telecalling

When there’s no telecalling

The recent introduction of the Do Not Call service and the registration of more than six million customers in a short span of time has posed quite a challenge for the outbound telecalling channels across India. Outbound telecalling, perhaps to the chagrin of some of us, has been a significant driver of new customer acquisition and revenues exceeding billions of dollars annually. But with the consumer privacy movement gaining momentum and more regulatory measures likely to make unsolicited customer contact even tougher, marketers need to reinvent their search for that ever-elusive customer sale!

Telecalling has been one of the growth engines for banks, financial services, insurance, telecom and a host of other industries in India. The success of telecalling has been in its ability to identify a need and present it to the potential customer in the right context (time and place). The big challenge today is not in the product design but more in the accurate assessment of customer needs.

Service companies, including those in telecom and finance, have a wealth of information on their customers that can be mined to understand client profiles better, and offer products and services that may benefit them more. But how often do we see offers that have been personalized or customized? There have been tremendous advances in customer analytics in both the above industries, but this fact does not seem to have resulted in marketers presenting their message to customers appropriately.

It is increasingly evident that the priority now must be for better leveraging both the existing customer contact opportunities within the organization and the customer interaction opportunities that may not have been considered earlier for marketing or even selling. Customers’ adoption and usage of media has transformed dramatically over the last decade, presenting tools (and challenges) to reach out to customers using dramatically different methods.

Banks today see more than 500 million customer transactions on ATMs and more than 250 million debit and credit card transactions annually. Both are growing at a scorching pace and both offer the dimensions of time and location and, in the case of a purchase transaction, even an insight into what is purchased by the customer at the retail location. Coupled with customer profiling, this can help marketers present a proposition in a non-intrusive manner.

Thus, thanks to the confluence of customer analytics, delivery media and new-end use channels (Internet, ATM and mobile) marketers can make offers to the right individual in the right context and time! Hence it would be quite possible to offer an international travel card to a corporate traveller who you know travels frequently (from his credit card spends on travel), or an instant restaurant coupon near an ATM where he just withdrew cash.

Technology today allows linking of an organization’s multiple channels with their customer campaign management back-ends, hence enabling customized messaging. There are, in fact, services that have taken this one step further, wherein customers inform the service provider of their areas of interest and actually receive offers on their mobile as they approach the store offering a product category that falls within their choice set. Advances in Bluetooth marketing have made this a reality in the mobile space.

Quite clearly, the next level for marketing and sales professionals is to build the ability to deliver these messages and create a dialogue with customers in a cost-effective—yet, non-intrusive manner—recall permission marketing.

Consumers prefer credible communication and interactive interfaces that assure them that they are recognized as individuals. In conventional sales channels, human interaction made the difference, and one of the concerns about the use of electronic channels has been the lack of human touch or interface.

However, customers have progressed rapidly in their adoption and usage of new media. The very definition of media has changed with the evolution of the mobile and Internet channels. In the process, the consumer’s reliance on the human touch has reduced significantly. The challenge for the contemporary marketer lies in presenting the right message in a manner that blends into this new customer’s lifestyle and in better monetizing the opportunities presented by internal media and not just conventional external channel and media options.

It is important here to point out that a multi-channel cross-selling capability is quite different from a multimedia marketing campaign. The former requires investments in infrastructure and even greater investments in customer understanding, but quite easily lends itself to measurability and much greater targeting accuracy. Product firms have emerged with proven and scalable multichannel capabilities that have aided retailers, banks and other service organizations in enriching their customer interactions with sales opportunities. However, yet again, the key lies not in the technology but in the investment call to be taken in these rather untested but exciting waters.

Upendra Namburi is a senior banking and finance professional with a multinational. Comment at theirview@livemint.com