I travel frequently, and often find myself wondering why hotels -- specifically groups -- are not taking the opportunity to close the 'conversion loop,' as this would increase bookings, and ultimately increase ROI.
As an example, I always telephone a range of hotels prior to my trip, to find out about the best available rates. The contact center agent often asks very precise, helpful questions, I receive the information I want over the phone and move on to the next hotel.
The hotel is missing a huge opportunity by not asking for my email address and sending all the information I have verbally requested, with a link to make a reservation.
This contact center/email integration strategy is not limited to the hospitality industry, but can be implemented in any business where the primary purchasing medium is via a contact center. Wherever implemented, technology integrations that allow for the closing of the conversion loop via automated processes result in greatly improved ROI figures, and customer relationships.
This strategy allows for relationships with existing customers to be strengthened -- and the conversion rate of prospective to actual customers to be increased -- by integrating contact center functions with email marketing tools.
Any contact center acts as a primary source for communicating with customers, and at times is the only "live" and personalized source as well.
Most contact centers have a large budget to spend on training their agents, and developing their phone and ecommerce systems. Surely it would make sense to add a few extra dollars to this budget and close the conversion loop?
Providing prospective clients with relevant information can be quite straightforward as the following example shows. A prospective customer telephones the contact center for his bank, and requests a quote for an insurance policy. The contact agent can ask the following questions;
- What is the make of your car?
- Is your car kept in a garage or on the street at night?
- Do you use your car for business or pleasure?
- What is the engine size of your car?
- May I send you a list of other insurance policies that we offer?
- May I email this information to you?
In order to ensure that all this information is captured 'on the fly,' the contact agent should have access to a user interface that enables him to complete a form in real time with detailed responses. To take the conversion process to the next step, the contact agent's interface should be integrated with an email tool capable of deploying emails on pre-defined templates. As the agent enters the information, the template pulls the information from the inventory system. The email would then be deployed as the agent hits submit.
Each agent should have a pre-defined signature and photograph, which is automatically included in each email, after each individual agent logs in. This allows for the email to be personalized even further.
If a prospective customer actually completes the transaction (booking a room, taking out a policy, making a purchase) while talking to the agent, the email template can be branded differently and include a confirmation and other promotions (to cross or up-sell).
This integration allows for further correspondence, while also pushing a call-to-action if the prospective customer has not completed the transaction via the phone. In most cases, once the prospective customer has put down the phone, the opportunity is lost.
The closing of this conversion loop can be accomplished by providing a user friendly interface for contact agents, allowing for flexibility in terms of content, time of deployment and allowing for personalization. The integration interface also needs to contain pre-defined branded email templates and the automatic inclusion of different content segments.
Lee-Ann Vermaak is director of email management at Acceleration. .