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No more empty coffers: Designing a marketing value chain that yields payoffs

By Nicholas Kontopoulos

Whilst most industries have seen a noticeable upswing in demand as we move forward in the post-COVID era, Singapore businesses are not out of the woods yet.

Still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, they continue to grapple with a cost-of-living crisis, following the 2023 GST hike and rise in operational expenses including production costs, utilities, and rent. 

During the Singapore Budget 2023 announcement earlier this year, the government rolled out a few policies and initiatives, including an extension of the Enterprise Financing Scheme and the Energy Efficiency Grant to help businesses cope with rising costs amid continued uncertainties and challenges. But beyond grants and subsidies, simply making a few marketing workflow adjustments and incorporating new solutions into the value chain can help businesses keep costs at bay in the face of rapid inflation. So, as businesses pull in the reins on spending, how can marketers better optimise their budgets and stretch their marketing dollars further?

Scalable, programmable contact centres
Organisations that are already hard-pressed often shy away from building call centres, amid fears of draining the coffers and straining existing workloads. After all, customer expectations will continue to shift with the availability of new customer channels, and it can be a struggle to keep pace with the cost of upgrading on-premise hardware solutions typically used in contact centres. But these issues can be solved by investing in a newer breed of contact centres that are programmable and scalable, with the flexibility to support the easy integration or removal of channels based on business needs and allow adjustments according to seasonal call volume fluctuations. 

Betting on flexible consumption models can spare organisations from incurring costly maintenance expenses tied with legacy contact centre solutions. Cloud-based contact centres allow businesses to make changes and iterate quickly without negotiating new contracts or waiting for new systems, translating to significant savings in the long run. With the ability to expand usage needs on demand, businesses won’t have to worry about additional time and costs associated with hardware updates. Businesses can also scale up and down easily as required, without penalties. As they can easily build, deploy, and iterate with negligible impact on the operating budget, businesses will have better control over costs, without compromising the quality of business communications.

Empowering agents to support customer relationship-building
Simplifying the agent experience is critical to the successful deployment of omnichannel customer experiences. One common pain point is a siloed approach that leaves agents switching between numerous tabs, which makes it challenging to resolve customer issues quickly. Poor agent experiences can hinder productivity and negatively impact talent retention, which can ultimately also affect a business’s bottom line.

Many flexible contact centre solutions nip this issue in the bud by providing single-user interface functionality. These interfaces consolidate data and information from customer interactions across all channels, equipping agents with a better understanding of a customer’s history whilst enabling them to easily pull up customer data and switch between channels. This significantly reduces handling time and bolsters agent productivity, empowering them to deliver better customer experiences, too. 

The rise of customer self-service
In the age of instant gratification, customers yearn for quick replies and accurate information. Frustrating interactive voice response (IVR) experiences can damage customer relationships and even increase the cost per call. Automating self-service use cases is a good supplement to constantly hiring human agents to fill in gaps -- which can be costly and impractical as a business scales up. With little to no coding needed, businesses can deploy personalised, conversational, intelligent virtual agents to answer common customer questions and provide 24/7 support across IVR and digital channels. 

Virtual agents can also serve as a valuable first point of contact for resolving common problems and improving call deflection, whilst humanising interactions by engaging more realistically with customers and holding more natural-sounding conversations. Based on the virtual agent's understanding of a customer’s historical interactions, they can tailor an experience that expedites time to resolution.

Gaining insights and savings from zero- and first-party data
Another complication marketers need to consider is the fast-approaching cookie sunset as Google, Safari, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge discontinue the use of third-party cookies on browsers. This necessitates switching dependencies from third-party data and relying instead on data that consumers voluntarily and intentionally share with brands – or zero-party data. 

Based on a recent study, 64% of consumers in Singapore are comfortable engaging with brands that directly get data from them instead of third parties, given higher data privacy expectations and increased awareness around risks associated with third-party data collection and storage. Regionally, 72% of consumers believe in staying away from websites that collect cookies – reflecting a general aversion to third-party data collection. 

But beyond being a step in the right direction as we prepare for an imminent cookieless future, moving to zero-party data also enables brands to cut expenses significantly whilst improving their ability to personalise campaigns. 

Besides acquisition costs, brands can save on fees typically associated with engaging second and third-party data brokers. Businesses also do not need to spend additional time and costs to verify customer data as they work towards improving customer engagement – as customers themselves are the source of information, zero-party data is ultimately a more accurate and direct peek into customer behaviour. 

Combining zero-party data and first-party data collected from interactions with consumers through a brand’s owned channels can arm marketers with rich insights that can improve the customer experience – whether these are around offers being made, or those that empower agents better in handling customer requests. 

By learning first-hand what their customers’ needs and pain points are, businesses are better equipped to meet these demands and address barriers.

Staying afloat with smarter budgets
Whilst there’s no telling when inflation will stop, doing a few strategic tweaks to the customer engagement value chain can help organisations cut costs without cutting corners.

Ultimately, business resilience hinges on smart resource allocation, and businesses that can optimise their marketing budgets with a focus on scalability, flexibility, agility, and accuracy are better primed for growth amid economic headwinds.

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