A new report published today by Experian® lays out the key measures companies need to take in order to deliver a personalised one-to-one marketing experience for their customers.

The report comes at a time when eight out of ten UK consumers believe that companies are relying too heavily on technology at the expense of improving customer service . Titled ‘Making contact count: the power of personalised interaction’ (www.experianim.com/trustscience), the report from Experian’s Integrated Marketing division asserts that the achievable goal of delivering a one-to-one marketing experience for customers is being hampered by two major obstacles:

The CRM ‘log jam’:
Shaun Janes, the report’s author and marketing consultant at Experian, suggests that whilst the technology exists to create a Single Person View (SPV), the reality is that the majority of projects are de-railed by what he calls a ‘CRM log jam’. Instead of presenting marketers with valuable insight into customer relationships, many CRM systems rely on legacy applications developed from help-desk programs. Janes asserts that these typically treat customer interactions as ‘faults’ instead of assessing customer attributes or marketing opportunities.

As a result, data often needs to be heavily manipulated within inflexible CRM systems - leaving contact centre agents and marketers with a list of interactions between the company and its customers and little else. The problem, according to Shaun Janes, is that the company has little or no access to intuitive or engaging information to carry out meaningful conversations with customers through inbound and outbound channels. This directly impacts on the ability to engage with customers and prospects using personalised content designed to elicit the best response.

Failure to ‘close the loop’ and define one-to-one marketing goals:
With too much focus on disparate legacy-based CRM applications instead of the bigger SPV picture to deliver one-to-one communications, closed-loop marketing can become the biggest casualty. Underpinned by a SPV, closed-loop marketing provides companies with the ability to closely follow the customer journey to plan, execute, evaluate and, critically, interact with customers in a uniquely personal way. The report recommends that companies should adopt a broader and bolder approach to drive personalised interactions with their customers.

To make every customer contact count and overcome the challenges above, just some of the strategic recommendations laid out in Experian’s report, include:

1. Gaining board level support
Getting buy-in from the very top of the organisation and this is achieved by undertaking benchmarking exercises and pilot programmes that demonstrate in clear commercial terms the value of the change proposed.

2. Delivering a succinct Single Person View
Driving more effective campaigns by giving contact centre agents the fullest possible consumer portrait covering areas such as: key account/customer information, historical transaction summaries, on and offline preferences and lifestyle attributes. These will enable agents to really understand the individual and decide on the most appropriate offers to make.

3. Improving presentation
Presenting the information agents need on an easily viewed single screen in a way that they can really understand. This will ensure that organisations provide consistent levels of customer service and adopt a natural, conversational style that corresponds with the customer’s relationship with their company.

4. Offering the next best actions or sales most relevant to the consumer
Using modelled/segmented operational analytics to enable agents to walk through a conversation with detailed information on which offers, in which sequence, are most likely to lead to an outcome that both parties are happy with. For one of Experian’s clients this approach saw conversion uplifts to 30%.

5. Developing a process layer
Creating a process that allows closed-loop lead management so that leads are followed-up quickly and either sales are closed or if the customer is not interested, agents can then remove them for more focused activity.

7. Empowering agents to match capabilities
If agents have the authority to offer the right levels of compensation, discounts or related offers – sales conversions increase and disputes can often be resolved in the first call with the customer.

8. Supplying key information in a digestible format
Providing key selling messages in an easy-to-use format to enable agents to have all of the relevant information at their disposal when dealing with a new or existing customer. This includes: USPs and reasons to purchase, key differentials over competitor products, including cost savings and details of how the offer/product is relevant to the individual.

The report’s author Shaun Janes, Marketing Consultant for Experian’s Integrated Marketing division, said:

“The report’s recommendations are based on us having enabled large, consumer brand name organisations to deliver a true one-touch experience for their customers to make every contact count. The overriding challenge many businesses face is that they have all of the right assets to create personalised contact strategies, but find their strategy undermined by legacy CRM systems and technical complexities.

This problem is at its most evident in the contact centre environment, which is arguably the biggest brand touch point for the customer and the company’s most under-used sales channel. Instead of focussing purely on outbound marketing activities, companies in today’s climate need to also focus on their inbound channels as a means to drive a sustained revenue stream. With rich insight into their customers and prospects, presented in the right way with trained agents, companies can use one-to-one communications to open up a whole host of new revenue opportunities.”

This press release can be found on <http://press.experian.com&gt;.

Published on: 12:00AM on 30th June 2008