Refocus Your Omnichannel Acquisition Efforts On Quickly Qualifying Shoppers

By Zach Robbins, SVP of omnichannel at Centerfield

If you’re responsible for customer acquisition across all channels —  e-commerce, chat, SMS, telesales, in-store —  your daily feed is almost certainly spoon-feeding you business advice about tools, technologies and resolutions for 2021 to maximize customer engagement.

However, there is a universal problem that faces all acquisition marketers, which is balancing the yin-yang relationship between maximizing revenue/sales and customer experiences. The two often clash on a fundamental level, indirectly and directly muddling both the big picture and the end goal that was set from the start.

Here’s my advice for the new year, which increased both our sales and customer experience metrics by 20 to 40 percent in 2020:

Focus first and foremost on understanding why a customer has visited you and how they’d prefer to communicate.

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If you can “qualify” a shopper (new or returning, expert or novice, frugal or first-class) and give them options for taking the next step (chat, e-mail, etc.), you’ll exceed your goals this coming year.

We learned this the “hard way” by putting a live agent at the front-end of our online experience, thinking that a personable touch would maximize sales. We were aware that the desire of our sales agents, which is to sell, did not always align with the consumer’s intent — some were looking to sign up or upgrade their service while others were searching to solve a billing issue or lost device. Therefore, someone’s time was probably wasted or left unsatisfied on either end (or both).

What we didn’t expect was how the lose-lose situation of wasted resources generated both a subpar customer experience and how much that restricted our agent’s potential elsewhere. So we shifted strategy and focused on a mix of self-serve and AI-based qualification, and increased the ways that customers could interact with us.

Based on my experience, here are critical success factors to know to effectively pursue identifying and meeting customer intent across the entire omnichannel ecosystem:

Drive efficiency by creating more opportunities to interact

Aligning financial goals with consumer expectations is key when it comes to maximizing efficiency. We did this by:

  1. Growing the ways we transact with consumers by layering a variety of channels and adding self-service
  2. Layering AI into the experience to understand what the customer is looking for and to navigate them accordingly (we’ll get more into this further below)

Our recent shift to AI has increased incremental sales by 10-12 percent and an upward shift of 25 percent in sales when self-serve options are present.

For example, if someone is searching for customer service assistance, we don’t want that person to speak with one of our sales agents since they won’t have the same training or skill-set as an agent with customer support proficiency. Instead, we need to direct them to the correct resources as quickly as possible; and, if we can identify them as a sales intent user, then we want to understand what they’re looking for, where they are in their purchase journey and how they’d like to engage, whether it be speaking to an agent live, through chat, self-service or even picking up the conversation at a later date.

We want to maximize efficiency in all possible routes and constantly optimize to make sure everything we do is incremental to the customer experience, which in turn enhances the overall business.

It’s a win-win situation.

Constantly test and learn to see what strategy works for you

Develop an experiment-driven culture to understand the impact on the business and what the best blend of those channels is to drive the optimal outcome. Consistent experiences are created through a lot of heavy lifting and effort alongside data, engineering and product.

The heart of a cohesive omnichannel strategy starts with identifying, resolving and serving the right experience: you need the what (data), where and when (application/engineering) and how (product/optimization) to work in unison for an effective experience.

Our core components include web, call, SMS, email, chat and push notification. Success isn’t defined by one channel but rather the collective mix of getting the right information to the right user at the right time with the channel that they are most excited to be engaged in.

Our iterative approach ends up driving the road map. The channel mix is a result of that workflow: ideation, build, test, measure, rinse and repeat.

Optimize further with AI

Over the past year, we experimented with layering AI into various touchpoints to understand what users are looking for and where they need to go. We found that AI was really effective in predicting the type of interaction and allowed us to provide the customer with the right content more quickly and more effectively than a human agent.

Ultimately, many users still have questions or are seeking confidence that a human-to-human, assisted sales experience can offer. The key is to find the perfect balance between human interaction and AI to help prioritize the customers that need/want to interact with a human and allow those who wish to transact autonomously navigate through self-service.

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Finding the unifying formula to utilizing AI and maintaining human interaction is no different than finding the ideal channel mix in the omnichannel balancing act.

Now, don’t forget, orchestrating a smooth and effortless customer experience is the ultimate goal and end-all.

How do sales and marketing leaders combine different marketing technologies and sales methodologies to lead effectively through these trying times? Catch more from these latest podcasts!

How do sales and marketing leaders combine different marketing technologies and sales methodologies to lead effectively through these trying times? Catch more from these latest podcasts!

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