TMCnet - The World's Largest Communications and Technology Community
ITEXPO begins in:   New Coverage :  Asterisk  |  Fax Software  |  SIP Phones  |  Small Cells

E-Sales E-Service Feature Article
April 2001

Optimizing Online Interaction: Cross-Selling And Upselling


[Go right to Using Targeted Electronic Marketing To Build More Profitable Customer Relationships]

There is no better client than an existing one and no better time to sell, and sell more, than when that prospect is on the line -- or online -- with your employees. Knowing your customers' profiles and being able to match their needs with your full range of products are essential to increasing the productivity of your contact center workers and indeed all members of your sales force, wherever they work.

Optimizing the interaction between customers and employees must include taking advantage of upselling and cross-selling opportunities. The trick has always been to offer more while pushing less (the client needs to feel served, not attacked) and to improve the customer experience by meeting real needs with real solutions.

The best techniques for upselling and cross-selling require up-leveling skills and product knowledge. Establishing a friendly, helpful relationship and closing the first deal -- first -- are basic. The key to increasing the value of that sale is to empower the customer contact with convincing information about why spending more is better. This is when the value of having the full weight of your company's capabilities, products and knowledge about individual customers, general trends and new opportunities have to be presented with full (sales) force.

When your customer-facing employees are interacting with customers, they have an immediate and real opportunity to make those customers happier by offering them products that answer more of their needs.

Upselling and cross-selling, like any productive sales tactics, require training, enthusiasm, full product knowledge, diplomacy and intuition. But even the best customer or sales representatives -- those who build good relationships quickly, who are genuinely empathetic and committed to both the company and client service -- are stymied when the information they need to close a sale is not easily accessible, comprehensive and comprehensible.

Prepare For The Unknown
Customers in direct contact with sales representatives will ask unforeseen questions. Regardless of how well-prepared customer service agents are, they will not know all the answers or have all the details at hand. Those details, however, may well spell the difference between an upsell or cross-sell win or loss. Every unanswered question or incomplete response diminishes the potential of closing a bigger sale, and provides an opening for your competitor to make a sale.

This is where a robust, intuitive system that delivers specific answers on demand, across any platform, becomes invaluable. Questions about competitors, product promotions, new products and old products will be asked. Enterprises need to figure out how to empower their employees with all the answers.

Whether you're dealing with field sales representatives, employees manning help desks or online customer interaction staff, offline and online sales, service and mail management, all require the same basic tools. You need skilled agents with the right answers at their fingertips.

Having the right answers at the right time takes more than a pop-up note, a promotional hint or an e-mail reminder. It requires that the full weight of a company's knowledge be available to the front-line customer contact representatives. It also requires information access channels to be fast, painless and intuitive.

High-performing salespeople need to have full client and information profiles, from financial data on payment and credit histories, to records and descriptions of past purchases, to up-to-the-minute knowledge about company "specials." They also absolutely must have a full picture of how previous buying patterns can be leveraged to cross-sell and upsell other products and services.

Data And Delivery Disconnect
Too often, there is a disconnect between the wealth of your company's knowledge and your ability to deliver tailored information on time and on target to maximize sales opportunities. Optimized cross-selling and upselling opportunities -- and maximum customer satisfaction -- are achieved when contact sales representatives can easily get the answers they need, in a form they understand.

As easy as that is to conceptualize, actual answer delivery is an elusive beast. Data can be collected from structured and unstructured sources. The information can be classified, randomized and editorialized. It can be collected, dispersed, pushed and pulled. It can be sorted into hierarchies, published in documents or produced, on command, as hyperlink lists. It can be too limited or too overwhelmingly detailed. Fundamentally, it's all still just data.

Customer relationship management solutions aim to help companies identify and keep their most valued clients. The hundreds of CRM products on the market also attempt to address the problem of consolidating CRM information with the broader knowledge in information silos throughout enterprises. With the Abdereen Group prediction that the CRM market will reach $24 billion a year by 2003, it's clear that the market is still looking for the right solutions.

There are any number of systems available that allow employees to get relevant information about the customer, a product or a possible new selling opportunity. Consolidating that information is a different story. The task must be accomplished in milliseconds, with full information from a variety of sources, delivered to the employee in a highly relevant and easily digestible format.

Your front-line employees need more than statistics about their contacts. They don't need lists of places where they can get more information. They do need a full view of what's available and what's most appropriate to offer to their "live" prospect (who won't wait while the agent goes rummaging through old databases, hoping to come up with a "hit").

When the employee has to take a number of steps to find the information, asks the wrong question or receives an off-base answer, then, as often as not, it's already too late to make the sale. Companies need to redirect their thinking about how they provide their employees with the information they need. Having the data is just the first step. Far more important is integrating that data and delivering it as correct answers.

Another factor too often ignored in the CRM and knowledge management equation is the necessity of arming employees with exquisitely simple, intuitive and smart tools that allow them to respond to questions as their customers ask them. Answering these questions quickly allows employees to close this deal and move on to the next opportunity.

Roadblocks To Success
Providing the right information at the right time to take advantage of pressing sales opportunities requires marrying CRM with knowledge management. But a number of harsh realities hinder the productive implementation of high-value knowledge-based services to support sales efforts. They can include high costs, steep learning curves and complex implementations.

It is also an industry reality that those valued employees who interact most effectively with customers do not necessarily also have the advanced computer skills many of today's systems require.

Information lodged in a variety of databases must be prioritized, and organized to meet company goals and reflect company values. User access to this data must be painless. The results must be up-to-date and accurate.

The frustrations of finding and implementing a low-maintenance system with high-producing results -- and one that employees will actually use -- has long been a sore point in the industry. Piecemeal solutions that attempt to cobble together legacy systems and integrate those data with up-to-the-minute results can create mountains of information that distressingly few employees ever manage to successfully access. Tracking and reporting engines have traditionally failed to effectively monitor implementation successes or to pinpoint either weaknesses or strengths in the system.

Overcoming these shortcomings may not be as daunting as it sounds. Many content management and document management systems do a good job at sorting through and organizing your proprietary information. But translating these results into accessible, high-value, relevant answers may require another step in company processes.

What may be needed is a broad, easily implemented solution that allows companies to integrate a variety of systems and processes, consolidate information from external and internal databases and organize and package the information so it can be delivered as answers.

That way, when customer contact employees see the opportunity to sell wider, deeper and broader, they can have the relevant information they need to make a convincing case.

Even the best customer service representative, or the best sales support staff members, will face unanticipated questions. A company equipped for delivering answers serves its clients, employees and own bottom-line best.

Call it an enterprise commitment to winning -- by cross-selling and upselling knowledge.

Richard Berger is vice president, Marketing and Product Management, of Atomica Corporation (www.atomica.com), The Knowledge Warehousing and Delivery Solutions Company. Atomica's Answer Engine and Knowledge Warehouse technologies offer ease of use and instant delivery of high-value, relevant answers.

[ Return To The April 2001 Table Of Contents ]

Using Targeted Electronic Marketing To Build More Profitable Customer Relationships


As the recent decline of pure-play online retail outlets has shown, the days of believing "if we build it, they will come" are over. Industry analysts and experts agree, successfully surviving in the online world is contingent on an organization's ability to create strong, profitable relationships with its customers by optimizing all sales opportunities.

An effective method for driving customer profitability is event-triggered, e-mail marketing offers to upsell and cross-sell relevant items to customers following an online purchase. On the surface, this may appear to be a simple concept, but successful implementation takes customer insight. After each online sale, a follow-up e-mail message is sent to acknowledge a customer's purchase, along with offers for additional merchandise or discounts to use in future visits. The reason why cross-sell and upsell messages work is clear -- following up with customers shows that an organization is efficient and cares about its customers. If the offer is relevant, it can be a strong method of driving repeat purchases. In most cases, however, online businesses have either not implemented this process or have not implemented it effectively.

As we move into a more customer-centric era, understanding customers' needs, offering them what they want, when they want it, and with the right level of help and service, will be crucial to the success of any online operation. Simply sending a customer a "one-size-fits-all" marketing message or merchandise offer will no longer be an acceptable practice. To build customer loyalty, which in turn drives revenue, businesses today need to understand, predict and proactively respond to the individual preferences and desires of the customer.

With the Internet becoming a mainstream channel of customer interaction, companies have an unprecedented opportunity to watch and interact with customers in ways unavailable to traditional brick-and-mortar operations. For example, we can capture and analyze interaction data through cookies, clickstream tracking and transaction history and use the knowledge to increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of marketing campaigns.

Today, the combination of customer relationship management (CRM) applications and advanced analytical capabilities is enabling businesses to make use of in-depth customer analysis to personalize cross-sell and upsell offers by using messages, products or services that are relevant to them. For example, an online retailer can increase revenue by implementing an analytical CRM application that automatically sends targeted cross-marketing offers, such as a discount on a pair of trousers that complement a customer's recently purchased sweater.

Analytical CRM works by gathering customer information stored in an organization's legacy and database systems, analyzing it to gain customer insight, and using the data to proactively target customers. An e-marketing application that integrates with an analytical application enables an organization to take advantage of the customer analysis and turn it into revenue-generating opportunities by automatically sending personalized, timely and relevant offers, be they new products, special discounts or holiday promotions, through virtually any electronic channel, including e-mail, fax and wireless devices.

Even more attractive to online retailers is the ability analytical CRM applications have to recover a potentially lost customer and drive revenue. In a recent report published by the Yankee Group, more than 75 percent of online shoppers have abandoned a shopping cart at least once during an online visit. One way to optimize, if not solve, this problem is to automatically send follow-up marketing messages to customers who have left a Web site without making a purchase, offering promotions on merchandise previously added to their abandoned shopping carts, or something of a similar nature. Another step an organization can take is to send a survey to determine a customer's reasons for not purchasing, and use the response to improve customer service, gather valuable customer data and build a relationship for the future.

Building relationships with customers and successfully optimizing all online sales opportunities is a process that must be managed using electronic channels capable of automating interactions throughout the entire customer lifecycle. Electronic channels that are supported by powerful capabilities like knowledge management, analytics engines and applications driven by defined business rules enable truly automated customer interactions that not only have the "thinking" done on an automated basis, but also the delivery of communications through the Web, e-mail or wireless devices. Live chat and Web collaboration are also very powerful tools to drive interactions with customers, while adding the "human element" some people miss while shopping online. Live chat and Web collaboration allow customers to communicate in real-time, over the Web, with customer service representatives. This obvious advantage to any online retail outlet can be used to assist frustrated or confused customers, walk them through Web sites they are having difficulty navigating or assist with any other customer service inquiry that arises. The human interaction capabilities, coupled with event-triggered applications and in-depth customer analysis, pave the way for building strong customer relationships and optimizing all sales opportunities.

It is also important to note that while it is essential for a company to look to its customer relationship management strategy as an opportunity to provide the kinds of service and attention customers have come to expect, it is also key to implement a solution that is not limited in its integration. This includes tight integration between the operational (marketing and customer service) and analytical components, which ensures the seamless automation and management of e-service and e-marketing activities in a timely and relevant manner, as well as integration with other areas of the business that use customer data, such as credit management and shipping.

In summary, the competition between online retail outlets is fewer, but more intense. More and more, the winners are those companies that successfully adapt their service offerings to compete in a more customer-centric manner. Gaining customer insight through tools such as analytical CRM is proving to be a strong differentiator between the "dot coms" and "dot gones." Research has shown that it costs a business ten times more to win a new customer than retain an existing one, and upselling and cross-selling using personalized and relevant e-mail marketing is a winning method of improving customer loyalty, driving sales and increasing your overall customer profitability.

By Jim Wentzell is vice president of Worldwide Marketing, Delano Technology Corporation.

[ Return To The April 2001 Table Of Contents ]

Upcoming Events
ITEXPO West 2012
October 2- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
The World's Premier Managed Services and Cloud Computing Event
Click for Dates and Locations
Mobility Tech Conference & Expo
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas
Cloud Communications Summit
October 3- 5, 2012
The Austin Convention Center
Austin, Texas

Subscribe FREE to all of TMC's monthly magazines. Click here now.