The Inbound Omnichannel Dilemma – Can You Identify Your Customers?

By Dave DagueAugust 22, 2017

So many of the omnichannel discussions today are focused on outbound lead generation and making sure you are reaching potential customers with streamlined, consistent and relevant messaging on whichever channel they are using – ideally across multiple channels. But what about managing your inbound inquiries in an omnichannel environment? Do you know who is calling your customer care center, sending you email inquiries, responding to direct marketing or filling out that online form?

Today’s consumers are frustrated when a business doesn’t recognize them or they have to repeatedly self-identify – especially if they are a loyal, repeat customer. Once an inbound consumer is identified, are there attributes and additional intelligence that enable the business to provide the consistent messaging that today’s consumers demand? Customer experience is a big issue in today’s omnichannel environment. Gartner reports that 89% of companies expect customer experience to be a primary differentiator.

A call into your cable company is a great example of the inbound omnichannel dilemma and the impacts it can have on the customer experience. The customer calls from their mobile phone to make a pay-per-view purchase for the latest megafight or to add HBO to watch Game of Thrones. In the process they have to negotiate an Integrated Voice Response (IVR) system or are otherwise routed to various agents and each time have to re-verify their identity – because the agent or contact software doesn’t recognize their mobile number and therefore can’t match it to the customer, their usage profile or their preferences. This scenario plays out in many markets for many inbound inquiry or purchase, e.g., retail, auto, home services, lending, insurance and more.

Missed Omnichannel Opportunities
As consumers we rely on our mobile phones as our personal concierge with the goal of getting the right, relevant information fast. But our mobile phones or emails aren’t always linked to a persistent ID our other customer identities let alone attributes that predict preferences or needs given that consumers often have multiple phone numbers, emails and more. The inbound omnichannel dilemma on form fills is often an even greater challenge for marketers as the many consumers only provide partial or incorrectly entered identities (I’m guilty of this one too) and some are outright fraudulent.

Not only are these scenarios an aggravation for the consumer and a hit to the customer experience but marketers are wasting valuable personalization and upsell opportunities if they don’t really know who is contacting them. This also results in poor omnichannel execution, as consumers are receiving vastly different messages and consumer experiences based on the inbound channel. So how do marketers better manage this with an eye on consistent, compelling and relevant interactions?

The core of omnichannel interaction starts with being able to accurately identify your consumers. This requires an identity data strategy that leverages – and continuously updates – your own customer data, assigns a persistent ID and leverages on-demand access to third party data on prospects to complete those identities. Having these identities on demand means linking purchases to purchasers and regularly monitoring data for attribute-driven life journey changes – moves, marriages, offspring and more. Think about the implications of a consumer who was recently married, divorced, moved or had children. These profile changes ripple out into their purchase profiles. Inbound marketers need to keep up with customer changes to optimize omnichannel messaging just as much as outbound marketers.

Leverage Lead Identity Strategies to Drive Effective Omnichannel Communication
Marketers that enable their representatives to recognize, in real-time, when an inbound inquiry (phone call, email or web form) is a valuable customer or prospect, can also offer personalized, priority treatment that is consistent with the omnichannel messaging strategy. This translates into sales. Here are three critical steps for ensuring you and your team can successfully identity your inbound customers, regardless of how they engage.

Step 1: Have a process – preferably automated – to continuously cleanse, update and tag customer identity data with a persistent ID number to keep the customer linked to one profile across multiple databases. Having a complete profile of each customer with the key identifiers, name, address, phone, email, linked together ensures that no matter how the customer contacts the brand, brand representatives have a clear picture of who is on the other end of the interaction.

Step 2: Enhance the information you have with 3rd party attribute data that links to the persistent ID. Rounding out profiles with demographic, psychographic, behavior and other historical data information provides a more comprehensive view of the customer’s likes and dislikes, purchase behavior, and evolving choices. This is critical information for maintaining consistent omnichannel messaging and enhanced consumer experiences, resulting in higher value customers.

Step 3: Use the collective customer data to evaluate the segmentation of your customers. Augmented and new information from subsequent purchases will help determine if your customer is in the correct segment, even as life circumstances have changed, and help improve all omnichannel interactions. This is an activity to do on a frequent basis to ensure you have the most accurate and relevant view of your customers. Accurate segmentation – that is appropriately linked to the persistent ID via name, phone, email, even direct mail coupon etc. will help the representative to better engage with the known customer.

Once these steps are complete, representatives or agents working the inbound transaction, whether it’s through the call center, online form fill, or even direct mail response, can accurately identify customers and consistently market appropriate content and offers, no matter the channel of contact. The key to omnichannel inbound personalization is the ability recognize the lead and deliver effective and consistent informed experiences. Collecting, cleansing and updating your customer data – and ensuring it is linked to a persistent ID ­– helps marketers and sales and service agents more effectively leverage these opportunities and cultivate customer relationships with prospects – even ones that come in via a fractional identity.


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