For years, contact centers have been involved in up-selling and cross-selling and this activity is becoming increasingly important. Consider retailers who want customers to purchase "add-ons" to their selections, such as a belt and shirt to go along with a new pair of slacks. In the vast majority of companies today, the up-sell/cross-sell function is not automated. In some cases, agents are trained to identify these opportunities and then motivated with rewards for additional sales. In many others, agents are given lists of products and just advised to sell them. (The latter situation can result in very funny cross-sell attempts, as what the agent is told to offer may have nothing to do with the item(s) purchased.)
It would be great if contact center agents had a solution that allowed them to "market products to a customer based upon his/her needs," as you indicated above. The good news is that there are systems available that do just that. Consider Amazon.com's attempt to cross-sell every time a book is purchased, by letting the buyer know about other titles purchased by people who bought the same book. As it turns out, Amazon.com is basing its recommendations on what a group of people purchased. This gets us close to what you are looking for, but does not deliver "one-to-one" marketing. ("One-to-many" marketing can be much more cost-effective, but not nearly as satisfying for customers.)
The solutions you are looking for are called real-time analytics applications and are available from vendors large and small. Large vendors include Fair Isaac Corp. (previously known as HNC), SAS and SPSS. Small and mid-sized vendors include Attensity Corporation, Epiphany, iPhrase Technologies, Sigma Dynamics and UNICA Corporation. For a more complete description and list of vendors, I suggest you pick up my recently-released book, The Real-Time Contact Center (AMACOM, New York, 2005), available at Amazon.com. This book has a chapter called "Real-Time Analytics" that addresses your issues in greater depth.
There is also an emerging group of vendors selling contact center speech analytics solutions, designed to address the same problems. These solutions capture phone conversations and then structure and analyze them so that enterprises can take action. Today, this happens on a reactive basis, generally overnight. In the future, this process will be done in real time and will yield information that agents can use to provide outstanding customer experiences. These applications will empower agents to make value-added cross-sells.
Vendors selling speech analytics solutions today include quality management/recording vendors like Envision, etalk, NICE Systems, Verint Systems Inc., VoiceLog, VoicePrint and Witness Systems. There are also a number of standalone speech analytics vendors: CallMiner, Nexidia, SER and Utopy. When you speak to any of the speech analytics or real-time analytics vendors, ask them how they've solved personalization challenges like yours for other customers.
This was first published in July 2006