Nuts & Bolts - Case Study: Suddenlink Calls for Change
Challenge: Efficiently retain and upsell customers.
Solution: Inform call-center agents about which offers will be relevant to which customers.
Results: A more than 20 percent increase in monthly orders generated by care-related calls.
What happened to Jerry Dow one day in a Suddenlink Communications call center is possibly the dream occurrence for every boss. A customer service representative, so grateful about how a software improvement he'd helped implement simplified the direct marketing process, hugged him.
"She said the MORE tool had helped her achieve her goals for the first time since she'd been employed at Suddenlink," recalls the St. Louis-based cable broadband company's chief marketing and sales officer, referring to Marketing Optimization and Recommendation Engine software from Framingham, Mass.-based marketing solutions provider Pluris.
What this representative experienced was an example of what Suddenlink had been seeing on a grander scale since automating its call-center inbound marketing program. After adding the marketing automation tool in fall 2008, Suddenlink saw a more than 20 percent increase in orders during its more than 500,000 monthly inbound calls.
Suddenlink has 1.3 million customers who dial in more than 6 million times a year. Although its business is primarily in the South, Suddenlink serves a diverse customer base in 19 states. Dow says he wanted to get away from tossing out a blanket offer every month and provide different consumers with different offers that were more applicable to their households and lifestyles.
After inputting data and getting the tool up and running in a little more than two months, Suddenlink's local marketing reps began putting offers into the system and Pluris started maintaining and hosting the system that is updated daily. (Customer information includes date of most recent purchase, payment history, service/trouble history, next most likely product to purchase, segment, likelihood to churn and lifetime value.)
Now when a customer service rep picks up the phone, she sees a suggested offer courtesy of the tool's pop-up message feature. The message is tailored to the customer based on behavior, demographics and predicted attitudes.
"I think all of us marketers are pretty good at inefficiently upselling customers," Dow says. "What this tool allows us to do is become far more efficient at rightsizing, upselling and cross-selling customers."
According to Dow, local marketing reps— especially in competitive regions—also can add offers that can be as specific as one exclusive to customers in Lubbock, Texas.
And while Suddenlink is always trying to upsell, cross-sell or promote products to its customers, because Dow says that "the more vested customers are with us, the less likely they are to churn out," this tool teaches call-center agents to take time to thank customers, too.
For instance, Dow says, Suddenlink's best customers have "triple-play" bundles of TV, phone and Internet service. So when an agent is speaking with a high-value customer, the system suggests that she "thank this customer for being a VIP."
Not only is Suddenlink helping its customer service reps give callers a warm and fuzzy feeling, it's also handing its call-center staff a sense of accomplishment. So the tool supports Suddenlink's direct marketing efforts in another way—helping agents become so skillful about the offers that they might one day decide to close the pop-up windows and handle the calls themselves.
"Our agents are most susceptible early on in their tenure, when they're learning the systems, when they're learning the customers, when they're learning the offers," he says. "And one of the tangential benefits of this tool has been to build self-confidence. And I'm sure it's probably helping us retain some employees, as well."