What Comes Around, Goes Around

Call Center Is No Longer A Cost Center

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a client dinner with a major online travel partner. After introductions, the gentleman sitting next to me asked "have your clients changed their view of the call center recently?" Funny you should ask....

I'm lucky. I've been involved with digital marketing and e-commerce since 1998 and during the last 17 years, I have seen a lot change and a lot stay the same. For example, one thing that will not change is that inquiry based marketing (search box) will always be the best way to target users and drive measurable marketing ROI. What has changed is the role of the call center...

From 1998 to 2009, one goal of e-commerce was to reduce the call volumes and cost of the voice channel. Give the user the information they seek so they won't need to call your business. The cost of an e-commerce booking was dramatically lower than call-center booking, etc. Then, in 2009, Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone and, from that point forward, the role of the call center was never the same. It's a mini super-computer - yes.  But, it's a phone and when users experience any friction or when driving their cars, they will default to calling.  Even true for the those tech-savvy millennials.

Call Center As Mobile Sales Engine

As a consultant, I get to see a lot. I attend and speak at business reviews, board meetings, conferences, client annual meetings, etc.  Each quarter, I produce a Key Trends presentation. Since 2012, like a broken record, I've been talking about M&M = Mobile and Meta. DMW realized early that mobile conversion rates will never approach desktop conversion rates. In fact, 3 years later, we still see mobile conversion rates that average 10-40% of desktop conversion. Motel6's (DMW Client) new responsive site has the highest conversion index at 40%. We were early to identify the need for a call-tracking solution to attribute call revenue from digital media and roll into the e-commerce results. In Sept 2012, I spoke on an Eye For Travel Panel at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. I made crazy proclamations like "Voice is the new sales center".  "Call center conversion rates are 30x higher than mobile". "TV advertising is in trouble". I was, and continue to be, passionate about the need to track and measure call revenue from mobile media.  

3 years later, unfortunately, very few clients are doing this. Why? There are technical solutions that aren't cost prohibitive. But, some clients haven't even tested them yet. As frustrating as this is to me, my experience has yielded insight to help explain this. It's due to organizational bias. The E-commerce teams get zero credit for call center revenue and therefore are not motivated to figure this out. The solution is to break down the barriers between departments and reward teams based on overall business results (for example, gains in market share and profitability).

The next day, during our meeting, the major online travel partner shared some interesting data with me and my client. Their mobile ad placement drove 100,000 calls to their call center over the last few months! And, they used call duration to estimate that yielded about $2 million in additional revenue, thereby doubling the media ROI. As we move to programmatic mobile marketplaces, we will all be under-bidding until we figure how the break down these silos and attribute voice revenue alongside e-commerce revenue.  

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