Marketing and IT converge in the contact center

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In a recent post, Forrester’s Luca Paderni noted that many organizations are starting to recognize the need for marketing and IT to work more closely together. This issue is no doubt part of a larger trend among companies: the use of data and analytics to personalize every customer interaction and the rise of social communications have moved IT from a support function to a key component in business strategy.

Marketing faces some different challenges, however: an expanding number of channels to interact with customers, new devices, and rising customer expectations regarding service levels. The company-customer relationship has changed from an infrequent, one-way conversation to a continuing dialogue; surveys to gauge customer satisfaction have been augmented by an explosion of online feedback, social media reviews and forums, and contact center data.

As I mentioned in a previous post, companies have collected this information for some time but with varying success in translating it into more effective customer strategies. Part of the challenge is that multiple departments—marketing, communications, sales, customer service—interact with the consumer. They then use a variety of metrics to gauge the effectiveness of their programs and the organization’s overall performance.

So now, as Paderni notes, “Data ownership is not just an operational issue but is being elevated to senior management.” Successful companies understand that the insights these departments collect are vital to making informed strategic decisions and identifying new opportunities. To encourage collaboration, executives should seek to tear down traditional barriers to interaction and reorganize the company around business goals rather than functions and departments.

The contact center, especially with the benefit of a unified communications platform, is well placed to serve as a primary information engine and help drive the evolution of the organization. As a key customer-facing function, the contact center already has a range of interactions with consumers and collects data and feedback―and, in turn, is the focal point for employing that data to enhance customer relationships and move closer to true “1 to 1” marketing. And since the contact center integrates capabilities to communicate through social media channels and monitor online conversations, the contact center is uniquely positioned to collaborate with marketing and communications to develop new efforts that reach and engage consumers.

As important, the contact center can act as the catalyst to engage the enterprise and draw on its collective knowledge and business intelligence to serve the customer. Moreover, tools such as rich presence enable service agents to tap expertise within the organization and forge stronger company-customer relationships. Indeed, using the industrial strength routing and workflow capabilities, customers can automatically be matched up with the agent or even non–contact center employee that can best serve them based upon known customer information

I’m not pretending that this kind of evolution happens easily or quickly. It will take a sustained and concerted effort by executives to get marketing and IT to work more effectively together, as well as to implement an organizational structure more focused on business goals than functions. But companies would do well to draw on the successes of the contact center—both its processes and its ability to extend throughout the enterprise and to customers—to help drive these efforts.