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November 1998


Real-Time Call Record Delivery Via The Internet

BY RICH NELSON, CALL INTERACTIVE

Patience may be a virtue, but in the high-stakes world of direct marketing, nobody likes to play the waiting game. Not surprisingly, speed-of-light advances in technology are causing an ideological shift - replacing the "when can I have it?" attitude with an "I want it now" attitude, making waiting almost obsolete.

Consider the Internet: once an interesting pastime for cyber enthusiasts, this rapidly growing technology is permeating homes and businesses worldwide. According to "The 1997 American Usage Survey" conducted by the Emerging Technologies Research Group, 27.7 million adults were online last year, and researchers say this number will double by the year 2000. With this kind of coverage, the Internet has not only become an excellent resource for news and information, but has also fast evolved into a super-highway for data and call-record exchange.

For businesses, this means information captured during promotions involving an automated, interactive voice response (IVR) element (promotions in which customers call a toll-free telephone number to enter a sweepstakes, request information, receive service assistance and more) can be accepted quickly via Internet record exchange.

The Scenario
Picture this: you've kicked off a massive, national direct-response campaign, complete with all the bells and whistles. (Use your imagination - this is the ultimate promotion.) You have television advertising, a toll-free phone number and the opportunity for consumers to call in and win hundreds of desirable prizes or to purchase fascinating products. It's the perfect program, and response is immediately phenomenal.

To monitor your media buy, however, you need to know immediately the number of customers who are responding by phone to TV ads placed in specific geographic regions. This is a 10-month campaign and your charge is to adjust media coverage throughout the promotion relative to where response is (or is not) occurring.

Traditional transcripts of call records enable you to review your campaign's activity quickly, typically when call-activity reports are faxed to you the next day. This promotion, however, is popping and you need to hit where it's hot, so you seek the help of a teleservices agency that not only can provide premium IVR tools - including superior transcription services - but can also forward your call records in real-time.

No problem. The nation's most savvy IVR teleservices agencies already have the technology to provide records on-demand. All you have to do is ask.

Speed Versus Quality
It used to be that getting something quickly meant sacrificing quality for speed, or vice versa - you couldn't have both. This is no longer true. The speed of cyberspace means quality call records can be directed to campaign managers within seconds of caller hang up, or immediately after transcription, freeing marketers to respond quickly to consumer-interest shifts or allowing call center managers to return request-for-information phone calls on the spot. Moreover, customers can be added to your database in real-time, a plus for companies offering services requiring immediate consumer registration.

Plus, if you are managing a direct-response promotion and realize live operations cannot answer every call during peak periods, you need a program enhancement. For many, an efficient, user-friendly choice is a customized IVR system designed to receive "spill-over" calls. Your calls ring at the teleservices agency, the automated operator answers, caller information is retrieved and a scripted response alerts the caller that a live representative will call back soon.

To complete the circle, information captured by the teleservices agency is transferred - within seconds of a completed call - to your database (via the Internet), where you can immediately retrieve it and respond to the customer. The advantage: more customers are reached - increasing revenue opportunities - while perceived responsiveness increases and satisfaction soars.

The Customer Satisfaction Cycle
People want to feel important, particularly if they are making purchasing decisions. Regardless of net worth, economic conditions and annual income, how consumers spend their money is based, in large part, on where they feel they receive the most for their dollar.

Customer satisfaction, research suggests, is a key determinant of consumer loyalty, and satisfied customers typically feel the return on their investment worthwhile. Every year, however, more than half of the average brand's loyal customers will shift to another company for a similar product.

Therefore, customer satisfaction, in conjunction with customer retention, becomes a vital component of every business' success.

Current Harvard Business School research by Narakesari Narayandas suggests a link between customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. That link, however, isn't always as strong as executives might think. In fact, Narayandas' research suggests customers must be more than satisfied to remain loyal. They must be "delighted." Delighted customers, Narayandas says, exhibit strong ties to companies and brands and repurchase products from favored companies more often than customers who are simply satisfied.

Additionally, delighted customers are "advocates" of their vendors' products, moving other people to purchase from vendors and companies of which they approve. The same research suggests delighted customers will even pay more for services from their favorite firms.

To create this extremely satisfied (delighted) customer, businesses must balance internal needs with straightforward reality: clients are the reason for the business. Without customers, businesses die. That's why nourishing a business with satisfied customers helps ensure growth; and providing customers with the technology, service, products and managerial skills they need to function successfully keeps them coming back. Reciprocity is key. Retention is vital.

Is there a sure-fire, beat-all, guaranteed way to keep every customer? No. However, there are formulas for success that work, and one component of success is providing customers consistently superior services and ahead-of-the-pack products. Technology is a stand-out way to meet this charge.

Companies committed to advancing technology have a marked advantage over businesses resistant to technological change. Even so, the high cost of many technologies sometimes prevents businesses from engaging in state-of-the-art practices, and from making new-technology purchases - not because they don't want to, but because they can't afford to, even if they know their customers could benefit.

Maximizing Satisfaction And Profits With Technology
Making a hefty financial investment isn't necessarily a prerequisite for ensuring technological advancement. Some of the most effective marketing programs are initiated using existing technology in a new and clever way - at a very affordable cost.

Caller records, received over the Internet, are a good example of out-of-the-box thinking that is easy on the bottom line; and Internet-distributed call information streamlines the data-passage process, allowing multiple recipients (and vendors) to share records, if necessary.

To ensure that your call-record-receipt program is as customized as your IVR program:

  • Realize call-record delivery time is up to you. If you have Internet access, records can be sent as soon as calls terminate and can be received constantly, 24 hours a day. If you prefer a more traditional batch feed, this remains an Internet-receipt option as well. Transcribed records can also be forwarded immediately upon completion.
  • Devise an in-house process for record receipt. The technology you'll need to complete this function includes Internet access and a destination address for call records.
  • Arrange a single point of contact in-house (an individual or group of individuals) responsible for retrieving and routing the records.

One powerful advantage of real-time Internet record delivery is the technology's ability to put leads in executives' hands at lightning speed. This facilitates quick delivery of products and information to the customer. The faster potential consumers' requests are met, the more quickly sales are closed.

Outside the obvious benefits of immediate receipt, Internet-fed records eliminate the dial-in process associated with traditional IVR teleservices agency record retrieval. In the words of one industry expert, "You don't have to do anything to get them - the records are just there," direct to host. Most IVR companies will also generate traditional call reports - in addition to Internet-fed records - for clients who require them.

Ease of use, affordability and speed mean Internet record receipt could fast become a must-have call center technology; it could dramatically change how you do business.

Rich Nelson is vice president of marketing and new business development at Call Interactive, a leading North American IVR company that is headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska and is a wholly owned subsidiary of First Data Corporation. Nelson has more than 20 years of experience in the telecommunications and call center industry.

 







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