Businesses throughout  the world are always trying to find the best way to increase the value of their customers. Having each existing customer spend more money with your organisation is the simplest way to boost the bottom line. Mark Payne, director: African operations at Genesys Telecommnication Laboratories, shows how businesses can take advantage of the high percentage of customers that welcome pro-active contact from businesses giving them relevant, interesting information. Converting this interest into sales can be the key to bottom line success through the contact centre.

Every business aims to generate customer loyalty. Satisfaction goes so far, but like the crowds of Rome, these customers can be very fickle, moving onto "greener" pastures whenever they believe they see them. If a customer does not feel a strong bond with your company, then there is no reason for them to stay if someone else can deliver a better, stronger or cheaper product offering. However, when they do feel loyal to your brand, they will pay more for it.
The key is to understand why it is that customers build up this strong bond with a company, but that in itself is quite simple: why does anyone feel loyalty to anything? Because they feel valued by that person/business, and feel that they get value from the relationship.
How can this be translated into the contact centre? Understanding the customer's problem is one thing – this will help to create customer satisfaction and good resolution rates. But with this approach, you are only dealing with them when they contact you – that means that they're always the one 'maintaining' the relationship, and you only hear from them when something is wrong.
Managing the circumstances under which you deal with customers can go a long way to increasing the strength of the relationship. To do this requires an understanding of customers' needs, and then addressing those needs before being prompted to do so by the customers themselves.
Give the customer what they want
When it comes to interacting with customers through the contact centre, there are two kinds of 'giving': that which you have to do, and that which you should do.
The first of these occurs when an unhappy customer calls in and asks for an upgrade, or a refund, or to cancel their contract. This is where you have to give the customer what they want, where you have very little choice in the matter.
The second kind of giving is where you have a long-serving customer, who rarely calls into the contact centre, pays their bills on time, and is of value to the business. You should give them special offers and rewards for their loyalty. You don't have to, and they may remain a customer regardless, but then again, they may not – it all depends on what else is out there.
Customers without a strong sense of loyalty will be easy targets for other companies' direct marketing campaigns. They can be offered products and services that are in no way better than yours, but the lack of information flowing from your own organisation can make the customer feel they're not getting value.
To make sure this doesn't happen, you need to maintain a strong relationship with every customer, and you can do that in the same way that other companies look to establish one.
Take the lead
No organisation has more information on one of your long-standing customers than you do. You know their personal profile, their customer history, buying habits, preferences – in fact all the information you need to offer relevant product offers and information.
Customer acquisition is big business, but, as we all know, retention is a far more effective way of stabilising and growing the bottom line. Successful organisations already use all the information they have on their customers to create effective service strategies. If you can make intelligent assessments of what your customers want, then you can give it to them – which will boost the bottom line and cement customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Research shows that more than 80% of customers would like to receive pro-active communication from companies, to keep them informed about products and services that will be of benefit and interest to them.
This means that businesses have a clear opportunity to introduce cross- and up-sale opportunities to an audience where the potential for conversion is high, and with reduced risk of creating dissatisfaction. Customers want to know what's going on, and how the services they receive from your organisation can be improved. The added bonus for these businesses is that you can have your cake and eat it – this is an effective way to drive profit and at the same time create a strong relationship with the customer that is centred on loyalty.
Pro-active communication can come through phone, email or SMS contact – these media methods have proven to be the most acceptable. This gives the organisation options in how they can administer this service, making it more manageable, as well as beneficial to the goals of the business at large.

Maintain the relationships you build
Strong ties can be built with customers through pro-active contact to offer them new products and services, and introduce cross- and up-sales. However, there is still clearly something in that for the business, and so the potential for scepticism on the part of the customer remains.
Most consumers would have a more positive opinion of a company if they were to receive a courtesy call, to follow up after a new contract, upgrade or change in service.
Customers appreciate a quick phone call to thank them for their business, and to check that they are satisfied with the products and services they have received. Having this kind of service in place is another factor that can distinguish your business from your competitors and create a strong, sustainable relationship with your customers.
How to execute this strategy
Planning, executing and managing this kind of outbound campaign without adding cost can be initially daunting. However, the ability to do this is dependent on the set-up of the contact centre and its processes.
Segmented and siloed contact centres will find it difficult to manage this kind of blended approach, however, a Dynamic Contact Centre is able to effectively integrate the separate elements that make up an effective, multi-channel customer service approach.
Businesses should remember that, essentially, any employee within the organisation is capable of making a courtesy call, or informing a customer of new products and services – it doesn't just have to be your most experienced agent. Use employees in the back-office as well as contact centre agents, and you will be able to keep up more regular contact with your customers and optimise the effectiveness of every person within the customer service organisation. This is an important part of strengthening customer relationships, so businesses should be able to draft in some help to achieve it.