Interactions with customers in the field of energy supply are rare – a single contact a year is not uncommon. Best possible contact management is correspondingly important. This project focuses on the communication channel comprising the inbound call center.
In the status quo, the call center agents are managed via basic, generic activity instructions supplemented by current strategic initiatives and marketing campaigns. In many situations, the implemented processes cause the agents to perform actions which are less than optimal from the perspective of contribution margin or customer loyalty strategy:
- Customers are directly offered the most economical or a strategically not focused product.
- Bonuses which will not lead to the intended customer loyalty are offered or paid.
- Cross-selling possibilities for services or additional products are often overlooked.
- Important advertising consent by the calling customer is often missing.
- Available for many customers are better, individual options which are often overlooked and not examined.
The next-best-action (NBA) system here makes it possible to assist and consciously guide agents as part of customer management by means of activities and information individually tailored to customers. In principle, a next best action can prompt the agent to conduct or refer to a service-related or marketing activity.
 The often interchangeably used terms "next best activity", "next best action", "next best offer" relate to the objective of the next best service. Activity: Marketing proposal. Offer: Variable service and marketing. Action: In this project, actions refer to marketing and service-oriented objectives.
Approach toward a solution
The NBA approach allows prioritization and subsequent selection of the best action possible among all potential actions for an individual customer, and place it at the moment of interaction in the communication channel. NBA accordingly realizes a change from an isolated, campaign-centric perspective to a customer-centric perspective as part of customer management and direct marketing. The NBA process basically consists of five pillars with the following focal points:
In this case, a selection comprising the three best possible actions is displayed to the call agent via the call center user front-end. Once the agent has solved the customer's service concern, one of the three best actions is to be initiated. A next best action provides the agent with the following:
- Clear instructions and additional information on the action, tailored individually to the calling customer
- Arguments for the action's utility
- Handling of objections to the action
- Additional information if the agent would like to deepen their knowledge
- Response elements, to measure success in a closed loop and gather information for a potential follow-up campaign
In addition to this, NBA-dependent teasers are placed at the customer self-care online portal. The aim is coordinated addressing of the customer on the various channels. NBA here offers the central Intelligence providing the customer with a journey which is consistent across all contact channels, and addressing the customer via actions and campaigns.
Introduction of a next-best-action logic for individual, targeted and analytically prioritized customer addressing with the following objectives:
- Support of customer loyalty strategy: Customer loyalty and reduction of churn via product consultancy and deals as well as services generating satisfaction
- Support for sales and service objectives through cross- and up-selling of products and services, as well as optimization of AHT (average handling time)
- Ensuring closed loops and learning cycles to build up a knowledge of the customer via response measurement and feedback, and utilize these to optimize campaign effectiveness with the help of analytics
NBAs are placed reactively in the channels comprising inbound call center and online customer self care.
The project approach is divided into the phases shown next. Depending on the project team's capacity, an introduction of NBA MVPs is possible in four to eight months.
The NBA system requires innovation and change management in campaign management processes on an end-to-end basis. From conception of individual activities to their representation and response measurement in the front ends for agents at the call center, teams across all organizational units face special challenges:
- Maturity level of campaign management and analytics
- Change management and "next best" attitude based on existing customer data
- Integration of stakeholders and coordination of competence areas participating in NBA
- Agent controls and incentives congruent to the objectives of the NBA actions
- Establishment of NBA-specific roles and processes in the organization
- Data availability and analytics maturity as a basis for prioritization
Conclusion and outlook
NBA realizes effective and efficient management of customer addressing via actions and campaigns reactively as part of customer contact. However, prerequisites for advance calculation and analytical prioritization of actions and proposals can pose a certain complexity in implementation, thereby necessitating rethinking and a change of perspective on the part of the involved teams in the organization. If this change is successfully implemented though, NBA offers the prospect of also proactively managing customer contacts in outbound campaigns with optimized NBA proposals - thereby allowing permanently optimized states for campaign portfolios and customer management!