For a company to stay ahead of its competitors, it has to know what customers want even before they know it themselves. Anticipating customer needs can make the revenue difference, especially in the competitive cellular market. "From a CRM strategy point of view, we've always been concerned about maintaining our customers' loyalty and low churn rate," says Ellen Malcolmson, senior VP of Customer Service for Canada's Bell Mobility.

In the past, Bell Mobility relied on a predictive churn model to identify triggers that cause customers to cancel their service. The three main culprits: customers using an old or outdated handset; a customer's usage pattern changing without being switched to the most efficient rate plan; and not proactively getting customers to renew their contracts.

Churn: Cause and Effect

But identifying pain points wasn't the problem. Efficiency and speed were the real obstacles. By the time the analytic data made it to the Customer Service Representative (CSR) -- and in turn the customer -- it was two months old and often inaccurate. As a result, Bell's CSRs couldn't address the immediate needs of customers, much less anticipate them.

Inefficiencies and poor data quality hurt the bottom line in other ways too. The company had trouble cross-selling and up-selling services, and its inbound, customer-care center was more of a cost center than a proactive distribution channel. "Instead of selling the most appropriate product or service, the customer care representative was probably selling the feature they were most comfortable with," explains Malcolmson.

The Challenge to Anticipate

Looking to reduce churn and build revenue, Bell turned to a real-time marketing solution. Customer analytics are now performed while the customer is on the phone, giving CSRs a distinct advantage. If a customer complains about a bill, for instance, the representative sees a ribbon of information -- like a stock tickertape -- running across the computer screen. The message identifies the customer's churn risk as low, medium or high, and displays the relevant triggers contributing to that rate.

The CSR can then decide to use the data to offset churn or bolster sales distribution. No longer are CSRs offering upgraded customers new handsets, or re-upped customers new contracts. Based upon previous customer experiences, the system will also suggest sales options, such as offering voice messaging to the client who loves all the latest mobile gadgets.

The real beauty of the system is that it learns. When customers decline offers, CSRs input reason codes as to why. This ensures that customers aren't repeatedly being asked the same questions, while giving marketers valuable data on why offers are being rejected. "If 10,000 people with similar profiles turn down voice messaging," says Malcolmson, "we'll see the trend in our exception report. Marketers make the decision about campaigns, but they make those decisions based on the data." Now, acceptance and rejection rates are tracked throughout the day, whereas under the old system, the data was available only after a two or three week lag.

Ringing ROI

Bell Mobility now executes its marketing campaigns 75 percent faster than before. In one month alone, revenue generated on the inbound channel jumped 18 percent; and despite being the largest cellular company in Canada, with a massive, 4 million-member customer base, the company now boasts a monthly churn rate of just 1.4 percent, compared to the industry average of around 2.3 percent. With numbers like these, Bell Mobility is sure to dial in additional real-time marketing solutions in one-to-one fashion.

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