Who’s Calling? Identify and Route Inbound Callers for Optimum Value


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In the United States alone, more than 10 billion customers interact with contact centers for assistance with products and services or to request information. This represents a huge, untapped source of business opportunity—especially with high-value customers.

However, separating high-value from low-value callers, and approaching them with the right offers, at the right time and in the right way, are the challenges—and barriers—to tapping into this potential. And these barriers have been created by the call centers themselves using today’s common inbound processes.

To understand this point, consider the average bank, where customers are pre-segmented into “service groups,” such as gold, silver and platinum levels. These customer segments have an inherent problem: They represent consumers’ past behaviors and, as such, are merely static numbers representing the customers at a single historic point in time. They do not necessarily represent the customers’ value today, their potential value in the future or their predicted future behavior.

What’s missing?

To understand what’s missing, consider the traditional inbound call center from a different angle. Picture these two inbound calling customers:

  • Joe Jones is a husband and father of two with a moderately high stable income, a home in the suburbs with 15 years of equity and two paid-for 5-year-old SUVs.

  • David Smith is single with a high-paying, but fluctuating, salary, a new mortgage on a lake-front condo and a car loan on a new BMW.

Both customers are very different. Yet, Company A treats them identically when they call in for service. Why? Because they are both gold credit card members. However, in reality, when Joe calls in, he may be ready to close his account because, as a money-wise consumer, he’s just been offered a new credit card with a much lower interest rate. When Dave calls in, he may simply want to get his credit balance, because he’s ready to furnish his new condo.

This simple illustration reveals a serious limitation in today’s average inbound call center: It is segmenting customers into large groups of presumably similar customers. In reality, these segmentation systems are much too broad. They don’t reach down into the heart of each customer, to reveal important clues to their present and future value and behavior such as:

  • Does the customer have the potential to buy more products or will he or she always remain a one-product customer?

  • Is the customer a long-term, high-value prospect at risk of accepting competitive offers?

  • Is the customer low value and frequently calling in for service?

Ironically, the answers to these critical questions and hundreds of others are readily available in companies’ own customer databases. In fact, other departments, such as direct marketing, are already tapping into this wealth of customer insight to create outbound direct mailing programs that target customers with utmost precision. The inbound call center, tasked with driving higher value, has not been given the keys to this treasure trove of customer insight … until now.

What’s needed?

Tapping into the value of today’s inbound calling customers requires a much more intelligent, fine-tuned and dynamic process. In fact, an emerging new inbound calling technology is making it possible to not only assess relevant customer data in real time and accurately predict the future value and behavior of every inbound caller before the call is routed but also balance the value of all callers, along with the contact center’s resource capabilities, at every moment.

This optimized approach is achieved through a three-pronged process that is executed simultaneously, dynamically and in real time. Every time a customer calls into customer service, the system:

  1. Predicts the future value and behavior of that customer by aggregating the relevant data located in companies’ databases in real time. It then assigns an appropriate level of service, such as sales agent, retention agent or automated self-service.

  2. Ranks the customer’s future value and behavior against the future value and behavior of every other customer calling into the call center at that moment and makes tradeoffs on the overall services provided by assessing which actions delivered to which customers will deliver the highest value overall.

  3. Balances all of the inbound calling customers’ predicted values and behaviors with the call center’s actual resource capabilities, including the availability of sales agents, retention agents, and general agents—at that moment.

So, say that Joe and Dave and 100 other customers call in for service at 3 p.m. Friday. At that moment, every incoming caller can be simultaneously assessed based on individual value, ranked against the value of every other caller and tagged for service based on ranking and the call center’s available resources. Some customers will be routed in line for general agent service. Some will be routed to the head of the retention queue. And some will be allowed to complete their calls in self-service.

Let’s say Joe has been flagged as a retention risk. Just because he received an enticing competitive offer for a lower interest credit card, he may be calling in to cancel his account. But, instead of being switched to self-service, he’ll be immediately routed to the front of the retention queue, where, when he asks to cancel, he’ll be told that your company offers a competitive interest rate.

If Dave is calling to check his balance so that he can completely furnish his new condo—depending on your available resources and the future values and behaviors of all the other callers at that moment—the system will either route him to a sales agent who can make him a credit limit increase offer or allow him to complete his call in self-service.

At the same time, the 100 other inbound callers are similarly routed to the appropriate service levels. Then, at the end of each day your inbound call center has achieved the highest goal: extracting the highest possible value from your inbound calling customers at every moment of the day. And who can ask for more?

Robert Tate
Austin Logistics
Robert Tate is the vice president of marketing at Austin Logistics. He previously served as vice president of marketing for Latitude Communications and Vantive, where he was part of the management team that drove the successful acquisition by Peoplesoft.


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