Forrester Gives Financial Institutions
a Failing Grade in E-Mail Marketing
The financial services industry has a lot of work to do when it comes to running successful e-mail marketing programs. In fact, financial services recently ranked last among six industry sectors evaluated by Forrester Research. Some of the reasons for the low rating relate to customer difficulties with subscribing to receive e-mail messaging at the company Web site and the inability to control their e-mail subscriptions easily.
These findings were published in a Forrester white paper, "The Best and Worst Of Email Marketing in 2006." Results were based on the firm's evaluations of more than 60 e-mail campaigns from the following industry sectors: financial services, consumer goods, business-to-business, travel, retail and media.
Forrester evaluated each campaign against four major criteria: registration, subject lines, message layouts and footers. The firm used this data to create a scorecard to grade best practices. Industries could earn up to 20 points or score as low as -20. Plus-10 was deemed a passing grade
Financial services scored the lowest across the six industry sectors with an average score of -2.6. To improve their e-mail marketing performance, Forrester advises financial institutions to be more customer-centric. During its analysis, the research organization found too many e-mails designed around products rather than customer needs. Additionally, Forrester encourages all industry sectors to humanize the digital experience by leveraging e-mail as a tool for "customer conversations."
Forrester Research is a Cambridge, MA-based independent technology and market research company.
Preemptive Striking Your Call Center
A Look at Zero Contact Resolution
In our ongoing examination of best practices in client retention and loyalty, this edition of MarketScope examines the call center.
For years, organizations have used First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates to measure how well incoming calls from customers are handled. Today, most incoming calls result from a customer's unsuccessful first attempt at an online self-service resolution. By the time these customers initiate a second point of contact by phone, they're already feeling frustrated. Therefore, organizations that want to stand out as providing superior customer service — the primary factor in client retention — should do all they can to anticipate and address customer needs before this scenario plays out.
Heading off contact center calls has the additional benefit of reduced call volumes (and thus reduced cost). Surely, organizations that can shift operational costs toward improving customer experiences and away from conflict resolution are at a strategic advantage.
Zero Contact Resolution
Steve Daines, Vice President of Customer Delivery at RightNow Technologies, Inc., suggests ways for transitioning to this more proactive approach to contact resolution in his 2007 white paper, "Zero Contact Resolution: How to Keep Customers and Build Great Brands."
The key, Daines says, is to understand the kinds of transactions taking place at the initial point of contact. For example, are callers looking for product details or a resolution to a business challenge? A closer look at the detailed information stored in your contact center can uncover common customer needs.
Use this business intelligence to drive your outgoing messages, as well as the support materials you provide to customer-facing staff. For instance, since the Web is often the first place customers look for information, having a comprehensive, user-friendly knowledge base might be the only resolution the customer needs.
New technologies enable more intuitive search capabilities for customers. This self-service approach is well suited to bank customers who, according to research, seek more control over the decision process.
E-mail technology has provided an additional means for customers to quickly obtain answers to their questions or information for solving their problems: the e-mail submission form. Capture essential information on electronic forms, which can be routed to specialists qualified to handle these situations satisfactorily.
The ultimate goal, Daines says, is to be so proactive in anticipating customer needs that customers don't have to initiate a resolution at all. This is the essence of Zero Contact Resolution (ZCR).
Improve the customer experience
Some of the ways you can achieve ZCR are to:
- Make the first contact with customers using outbound targeted messages in person, on the phone, or through newsletters and other business intelligence. Apprise customers of current issues and how they may be affected.
- Capture transactional and attitudinal information about customers in a central database that provides staff with a single view of the customer. This can empower employees to resolve customer issues on the spot.
- Survey customers about their preferences, issues and challenges. Customer satisfaction research shows that satisfaction scores can improve by merely making the inquiry.
The rewards of improving the customer experience in this way are far reaching. Companies that successfully implement a ZCR approach can achieve reduced operational costs, lower attrition rates, more customer referrals and a healthier bottom line.
The Best Pitch is a Dialogue
By Jeff Thull, CEO, Prime Resource Group
It's not easy being a "prospective customer" in today's highly diluted and complex market. Targeted prospects are barraged constantly with marketing messages and annoying sales pitches. Whether the messages are delivered via the radio during their morning commute, in postal in-boxes, or by e-mail, phone or face to face, customers are often overwhelmed by the number of companies seeking their limited time and attention.
Business professionals trying to attract a prospect's attention may similarly be experiencing how difficult it has become to cut through all the noise and have a respectful, insightful and mutually valued conversation with that person.
Make communications count
Given this situation, your initial contact with a prospective customer leaves little margin for error. The first conversation is the most critical and least forgiving point of the entire sales process. Within the first 20 seconds you must simultaneously establish relevancy and credibility — or you will be dismissed as more marketing noise from the relentless series of sellers looking for attention.
Traditionally, initial sales pitches have been all about us and all too often end with an, "Oh, that's interesting," from the listener. Yet, the outcome we want from the listener is, "That sounds as if you could help us. How do you do that?" A secondary, desired outcome is: "I know someone who is facing that right now."
The key to achieving these types of responses is not only to describe what you do, but also to describe several pertinent characteristics about your customers and the issues they face.
Here is an example of how to deliver a highly relevant, carefully prepared and thoroughly rehearsed opening:
"We work with individuals and companies that provide highly engineered solutions that involve highly supported implementations, in short a complex sale, and they frequently are seeing increasing pressures on their revenues and margins that more often than not are caused by the gap between the unique value they believe they provide and the value their customers are willing to pay for."
This takes roughly 20 seconds to say, but it covers a lot of ground. Let's break it down:
- "We work with individuals and companies that provide highly engineered solutions that involve highly supported implementations, in short a complex sale ..." speaks to relevancy and positioning. You describe who you are by the type of company you serve. The customer now knows who you are and should be thinking, "That's sounds like me."
- "... and they frequently are seeing increasing pressures on their revenues and margins" introduces more specific relevancy via the symptom of the problem our best prospects experience frequently.
- "... that more often than not are caused by the gap between the unique value they believe they provide and the value their customers are willing to pay for." Again, this section provides relevancy. Here, we state the major cause behind the symptom — a cause that could be happening to them.
As you can see, this really isn't a pitch in the traditional sense. Instead, there is actually a dialogue going on within this short monologue. You're speaking, but the customer is replying silently through his or her thoughts. You're addressing, in sequence, the questions that are popping up in the customer's mind including, "Who is this person? What does she do? Is this an issue I'm experiencing?"
When we provide customers with the information they need in order to answer these questions, they invariably agree to continue the conversation. You'll know you've succeeded when the customer's next question is, "How do you do that?"
About the author
Jeff Thull is a leading-edge sales and marketing strategist and valued executive advisor at major companies including Shell Global Solutions, 3M, Microsoft, Intel, Citicorp, IBM and Georgia-Pacific.
He is also the author of the best-selling books Mastering the Complex Sale: How to Compete and Win When the Stakes are High and The Prime Solution: Close the Value Gap, Increase Margins, and Win the Complex Sale. Jeff’s new book, Exceptional Selling: How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales, is now available.
For more information, please contact: Prime Resource Group, 3655 Plymouth Blvd., Suite 110, Plymouth, MN 55446, [email protected], www.primeresource.com, 1.800.876.0378 or 763.473.7529, Fax: 763.473.0792.