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Using Customer Analytics To Improve Cross-Selling And Upselling

By John Kaiser, NICE Systems


Organizations have realized that growing a business and winning sales in a fiercely competitive environment requires proactive programs to drive revenue. With the contact center serving as a strategic focal point and hub for thousands of customer interactions that can be converted into sales, its role is undergoing a revolution. Through successful cross-selling and upselling, the contact center is helping to drive revenue. The result is that the traditional view of the contact center as a cost center is increasingly being replaced with the realization that it is a profit center ' with the contact center becoming a core strategic operation that can contribute to enterprise goals for profitability and the bottom line.

The Challenges Of Cross-selling/ Upselling
Although organizations realize that cross-selling/upselling strategies are essential to generating new revenue, contact center managers are having difficulty introducing this concept to employees who were originally hired and trained to focus on service. Encouraging agents to recommend related products and/or upgraded services during inbound calls is no easy task.

Too often, when managers try to convert their service thinkers into sales successes, they are met with resistance. Customer support and revenue responsibilities are perceived by many agents as mutually exclusive. They don't always see that offering the right products or better price plans to customers constitutes good service. Rather, many perceive upselling or cross-selling as requiring a total behavior change ' a change that does not correlate with the perception of their jobs. Furthermore, with selling skills perceived as far removed from supporting capabilities, agents may fear failure with this new task, thus resulting in a reluctance both to learn selling strategies and tactics and to engage in the cross-selling/upselling programs. Consequently, managers are faced with the challenge of providing their agents with both the motivation to sell and the individualized coaching required to hone the skills that enable them to do so successfully.

Another challenge is faced by the marketing department, which has to figure out what offerings need designing and how agents need to communicate to ensure high closing rates. Many organizations will conduct surveys and hold focus groups to estimate the optimal mix. But they rarely receive enough direct customer feedback to be certain that the services and products being offered are the right ones at the right time for the right customers.

The agent, however, does receive direct customer feedback on a daily basis. With up to a million calls (or more) coming into a contact center every year, agents receive critical and indispensable feedback about the issues that matter most to customers: product features, service requirements, spending patterns and competitive offerings. Contact centers have the potential to listen to these customers; therefore gaining insight into customer intent and into what kind of offering is most likely to generate revenue, then translating these insights into successful cross-selling and upselling. Unfortunately, this information rarely gets the attention and analysis it deserves.

Analytics And Agent Cross-Sell/ Upsell Skills
In order for agents to best position themselves to leverage cross-sell/upsell opportunities, they must be able to handle blended service, support and sales interactions to drive revenue and profit ' this in addition to delivering world-class service.

First and foremost, when converting service thinkers to sales successes, agents' benefits should be communicated. The opportunity to engage in cross-selling/upselling programs provides additional function and variety to the scope of their job, and learning and succeeding with a new skill is a career development opportunity. Simultaneously, this also benefits the contact center by improving agent retention, as greater job variety and skills development contributes to higher retention rates.

Next, a cross-selling/upselling training program should be developed to equip agents with the knowledge and skills needed to recognize and capitalize on revenue opportunities. The program will help customer service-focused agents overcome apprehensions with regard to selling.

Once these preliminary steps are accomplished, improving cross-sell/upsell success greatly relies on a contact center's ability to go beyond such introductory training and provide ongoing targeted coaching to continually improve the agent's sales performance. Making critical information on best practices or new campaigns always accessible, and tailoring such information to the individual agent's specific skill set, is critical to ongoing cross-selling/upsell success.

When analytics-driven agent coaching is fully integrated with the contact center's interactions capture and quality monitoring solution, agent sales performance can be maximized. With such a solution, supervisors can gain a better and fuller picture of whether an opportunity arose and whether the agent handled it optimally. For example, word spotting will pick up on signifiers such as 'buy again.' A sophisticated solution can further detect whether the phrase was mentioned by the agent or the customer; this enables the supervisor to determine whether 'buy again' signified an upsell opportunity (customer: 'I will want to buy again.') versus a routine sales pitch (agent: 'Would you like to buy again?'). Integration makes this possible by separately capturing the customer side and agent side of the interaction, and then performing independent audio processing for each. Separate capture and analysis also helps determine whether the agent talked over the customer ' alerting the supervisor to a coaching need.

If indeed 'buy again' signified a sales opportunity, focused monitoring (as opposed to random monitoring) with analytics can spot the call and reveal whether the agent addressed all of the required issues and communicated the specific messages, words and phrases. The ability to hone in on the specific calls enables supervisors to proactively identify which agent behaviors are leading to higher closing rates. If supervisors detect that agents are not communicating optimally or that customers are not responding as desired, they can come back to their agent and share best practices regarding a new sales pitch.

As successful selling also hinges on asking relevant questions to better identify and offer products or services that meet customers' needs, supervisors can set up a lexicon (a compilation of words and phrases) to hone in on and flag relevant customer interactions that contain specific words or phrases. For example, 'Do you need' is a potential opener for the sales dialog. If a supervisor notes that an agent does not use this phrase with the required frequency, further coaching can help motivate the agent toward greater initiative. Or, if a supervisor notes that a particular agent closed a sale each time a customer said 'upgrade' or 'would like to hear,' then this agent could be rewarded for initiative. Moreover, this agent's strategies and tactics could be presented to the rest of the team in a best practices session. Integration can take this one step further, correlating identified calls to agent screen activity along with customer feedback, providing a 360-degree view of why the customer did or did not buy.

For agents, integrated coaching is empowering. And empowerment is vital to sales initiative and success, and more broadly ' to agent retention. Furthermore, if agents can evaluate their own calls and sign-off on evaluations electronically, performance enhancement measures become a two-way communication. This engages agents, and it encourages them to respond with questions or request assistance, and enables them to calibrate behavior for more profitable customer interactions. When they feel engaged and empowered, agents will display greater initiative and superior cross-sell and upsell capabilities. The result then is greater motivation and higher success rates.

Analytics And The Customer's Intent To Buy
Gauging customer responsiveness is critical to understanding both agent effectiveness in cross-selling/upselling and whether the marketing-designed offering is what customers need to hear in order to buy. Multidimensional analytics and word spotting, along with emotion detection, screen activity and agent coaching, help managers accurately gauge and qualify responsiveness, identify the conditions that stimulate the customer's intent to buy, and leverage these insights to improve agent cross-selling/upselling performance.

With emotion detection, even if word spotting did not flag a call because the call did not contain any key words or phrases, a relevant call will not be missed and will be flagged to managers. Heightened emotion is what makes a call relevant. Emotion detection reveals whether the caller expressed delight or disappointment, and it sheds light on what the agent may have said to prompt such a reaction. If a customer expresses delight, it is vital to understand why and then leverage on that positive feedback to promote successful agent behaviors throughout the team; and if a customer expresses dissatisfaction, this call needs to be flagged and routed to a member of the management and marketing staff, who can then fine-tune the promotional package and the means by which the agent communicates it.

Further, with analytics integrated into the interactions-capturing and monitoring solution, supervisors can correlate specific calls to a feedback IVR survey system, which incorporates post-call IVR surveys and links the results to actual call recordings. This kind of correlation enables managers to calibrate in-house quality monitoring scores with customer feedback scores. The insights gained provide a true 360-degree view of customer interactions, also shedding light on whether the offering has a viable buying audience and whether the agent is communicating the offering with the optimal sales pitch.

By integrating word spotting, emotion detection, agent coaching, screen activity and customer feedback, organizations can extend the information available to them ' from transactional, structured data with insight derived from unstructured multimedia data sources. A holistic approach to analytics provides critical marketing intelligence for better-informed analysis on customer-buying trends, as well as improved targeted sales and marketing campaigns.

Analytics And Designing Cross-Sell/ Upsell Programs
Integrated analytics is vital to supporting the marketing department in designing cross-sell/upsell programs through insights that are extracted directly from customer interactions.

For example, the marketing department of a health insurance service provider might want to measure the effectiveness of a marketing campaign for a new drug discount program. The company's marketing analysts received input directly from customer interactions that were generated in the contact center and that were flagged through word spotting as containing feedback on the new program. This feedback can help the department to assess the campaign's effectiveness and fine-tune the way agents communicate the sales pitch.

To improve cross-sell/upsell results even more, the organization might look to compile as much competitive information as possible. Integrated analytics enables it to pinpoint and listen to calls in which competitor names are mentioned. Gaining insights on competitive offerings and pricing models can have a direct impact on the product mix. With integrated coaching, the company is able to communicate directly with agents and push regular updates to their desktops.

Analytics also helps with offline cross-sell/upsell initiatives such as direct mailings. The aforementioned health care provider might send out an annual mailing for a product segment targeted at the senior population. The mailing could communicate new benefits and premium rates. In the past, there were issues with customers understanding the mailing and what the health care provider was trying to convey, which posed a major obstacle to revenue that could have been generated through the mailing.

After implementing an analytics solution, the company can build a table of key words prior to sending out the mailing. As the mailing's result, when calls come into the call center, the organization is able to identify and analyze these customer interactions and understand what the issues are, regarding both what and how the packages are communicated. The gathered information provide the insights required to make the upcoming mailings more successful, where success is measured by improved cross-selling results.

As the role of today's contact centers continues to evolve, the need for successful cross-sell and upsell programs, strategies, tactics and agent sales performance becomes increasingly important. To improve results, contact center agents need to grow beyond service thinking and become sales successes. This requires individualized coaching to motivate initiative and hone the skills that enable agents to cross-sell and upsell successfully. It also requires marketing departments to better understand market and customer dynamics to best design the offerings and carefully craft how agents communicate these offerings to ensure high closing rates.

Leveraging analytics as a means to improve cross-sell and upsell effectiveness is emerging as a substantial competitive advantage. Integrated customer interactions analytics enable the contact center to become a cross-selling and upselling success and, consequently, a core strategic operation that can contribute to profitability and the bottom line. CIS

John Kaiser joined NICE (www.nice.com) in June 2005 as VP of Contact Centers and Enterprise Markets, following the completion of NICE's acquisition of the Dictaphone's Communications Recording Systems (CRS) business. John is responsible for the direction and strategy of NICE's Contact Center and Enterprise business globally. Prior to joining NICE, Kaiser served as Vice President of Global Marketing for Dictaphone CRS.

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