Respect for customer information is paramount to securing sales

We all know that for businesses to grow they must acquire new customers, and so the customer experience – whether it be over the phone or via digital channels – has an integral part to play in fostering positive relationships. In recent years, the direct marketing sector has received negative press due to bad practice displayed by its professionals. We, at Webhelp, are keen to encourage a change in industry behaviour and support this by communicating best practice through whitepapers and thought leadership articles.

Our recent whitepaper focuses on respecting customer information in order to drive the best possible results. Making every contact relevant to the individual is the holy grail of sales and should be a top priority in every organisation. In order to do this effectively, sales professionals need to ensure they understand customer data, value it and never lose sight of the person it represents. Of course, this isn’t always easy – especially with data on new prospects – but even the most basic demographic information allows you to model the likely behaviours and preferences of leads and improve your hit rate.

Consolidating existing data and applying analytics to profile the customer is a good approach to take. This will allow for a tailored approach, which ultimately makes for a more positive customer experience meaning the customer will be more receptive to the message. There is also one particular motto that sales companies would be wise to bear in mind: ‘Farm, Don’t Hunt’. In the past companies have relied heavily on outbound sales but companies would be wise to reduce their dependency on new customer recruitment by focusing on effective retention, cross and upsell strategies. Through this, we are advocating a new level of pragmatism and urgency that should be applied to acquiring new business from existing customers and to seeking fresh ways to introduce sales conversations.

The important thing is to use data judiciously and to think very carefully about who you are targeting and when. Those who are ignorant to this will likely find that their outbound sales campaign – a critical part of their operation – is actually doing more harm than good.

For more expert advice on best practice, download our white paper, ‘Dear data... How respect for customer information will win confidence and secure sales’.

Challenger energy brands need to punch above their weight

Challenger energy brands need to punch above their weight in customer service to make their growth stick.

In the past three years, energy companies other than the big six of British Gas, EDF Energy, npower, E.ON UK, Scottish Power, and SSE have grown their share of the market more than nine-fold, from less than 1 per cent in 2012 to 8.7 per cent today. These fledgling challengers have seen an influx of customers in a space of time that most businesses could only dream of.

However, there is a risk that this could prove a mixed blessing if overwhelmed management systems lead to poor customer service, prompting the new intake to leave just as fast as they arrived.

Inevitably, avoiding this situation will require investment, but there are definite rights and wrongs when going about this and ways to make any expenditure go as far as possible to improve customers’ experience.

As if the rapid growth of these businesses didn’t present challenge enough, it is compounded by the fact that consumers are now more demanding than ever in terms of the ways in which they expect to be able to communicate with their energy suppliers. They want to be able to interact with their suppliers on the web, via desktops and mobiles, as well as by phone or email. Moreover, customers also expect to receive a consistent response regardless of which channel, or combination of channels, they wish to use. Solidly delivering this level of service in a rapidly growing business presents a real management challenge, not only in terms of getting the IT systems right, but also avoiding silos from forming that prevent effective sharing of information across different departments.

Thankfully, setting these systems up in-house is no longer the only option for these challenger energy companies, and the range of hosted customer-management services that are available, either to wholly outsource or to supplement the process, have proliferated in recent years. As well as avoiding significant upfront investment at a time of great change in a business, this type of service also allows users to tap into well-established infrastructures, managed by teams with a great deal of experience running customer communication programmes. At a time when the management needs to be wholly focussed on the commercial and operational sides of their business, this could be an especially wise choice.

If you want to read more about the challenge faced by the newer entrants to the energy markets and the hosted customer management services that are available to help, download our recent white paper: The Power to Compete.