Digital marketing has become more and more sophisticated in recent years. But for companies that still need the consumer to pick up the phone to complete a purchase — for example when taking out a cable contract, a healthcare plan, or a loan — the handover from digital channels to the contact center is often their weakest link. Bridging that connection at brands as diverse as Dish Network, Mayo Clinic, Mutual of Omaha and Subaru has helped Invoca build a $100 million-a-year recurring revenue business. Gregg Johnson, its CEO, says the impact can be significant:
This problem is only worth tackling when 60-80% of your revenue comes from the contact center. But then, if you've never tackled it ... your incremental bang for your buck is quite high.
Joining up data and processes across different areas of operation is a big theme among technology vendors at the moment, but Invoca targets a specific pain point in a closely-defined segment. Its prospects and customers market at scale, typically to consumers and in a few cases to small businesses, using digital channels such as advertising on Google and Facebook, along with their own web presence and direct email on platforms such as Adobe and others. But the buying process isn't fully digital, because to finalize the purchase, the customer must have a conversation with a contact center agent. This switch from a digital marketing experience to an in-person phone conversation means the process cuts across separate systems that traditionally haven't been connected. Johnson explains:
As a marketer these days, you are putting the money in, and you need to show where you're driving money out in terms of revenue and sales. The problem is, if you put money in Google, Facebook and Adobe, and you drive revenue through e-commerce, you can track all that stuff, and it works beautifully. But in these industries, there is still a human-to-human consultative part of the sales experience, and you can't connect the dots between where you invest and where you drive revenue ...
We're selling to the marketing team saying, 'Hey, we're going to give you a feedback loop on the 60/70/80% of the revenue that you drive that goes through the contact centre, [which] you can't measure and you can't quantify today. We're going to help you understand what's working well, what's not.
Most contact center software isn't designed with these consultative sales conversations in mind. Instead, it focuses on the more common use cases of resolving incoming issues as fast as possible, or moving quickly through a list of outbound sales leads. Maximizing revenue from incoming customer enquiries requires a different approach. Johnson elaborates:
We want to help these consumer brands deliver the right combination of digital interaction and human touch, to acquire customers and drive revenue. That's where we're different from the contact center players, because we're not focused on self-service and cost reduction and call deflection.
We believe the contact center can be a strategic growth driver, and it can work really well together with marketing. The problem is you don't have the technology to do that — and usually, the CMO is here, the head of the contact centre is here. They meet at the CEO. They don't work a lot together.
A typical customer might be building its digital experience on a platform like Adobe, while the contact center might be using Salesforce for its sales and service records, with a platform like Five9, Genesys or NICE handling calls. Invoca connects across those platforms so that, for example, if a customer visits a landing page with a special promotion, and then calls into the contact center, the agent already has that context in front of them, rather than the customer having to explain everything from scratch. The outcome is a much better consumer experience, says Johnson:
You think of that as the serendipitous moment of magic, when it's actually just technology and putting dots together, so that the agent that picks up the phone has an understanding of what were you doing online before you reached out to the contact center.
The product also allows for end-top-end analysis of customer journeys, connecting the data trail across search and the website through to the contact center conversation and on to the product purchase and other data such as geolocation. This builds up a model of the lifetime customer value that links back to the digital experience. The most obvious use case for this data is a quantitive analysis to help optimize ad spend and fine-tune the proposition, but customers have increasingly been finding there are qualitative outcomes too.
For example, one healthcare customer noticed the name of a restaurant that kept on recurring in call center conversations.
It turned out that agents were giving customers directions to one of its facilities, and so it added a menu option in the IVR that would send a text message with a Google Maps link to give customers the directions automatically. Other examples came up during the dislocation caused by COVID, when customers had new questions about the availability of procedures or about safety measures, which could be answered by adding extra information to the website or emails. Johnson comments:
What we see is, when there's times of significant dislocation in an industry — like new competitive threats, changing in pricing models — the contact center is this amazing source of insight for a digital marketer to think about, 'How do I refine my pitch, my value prop? What things can I be educating the customer about proactively online, and keep that demand from hitting my contact center, so I can focus on more value added activity?'
For Invoca's customers therefore, what starts out as a means of measuring the effectiveness of digital spend turns into a broader mechanism for refining the customer experience. He comments:
We're a very highly quantitative ROI-based deployment to start. But then you find all these qualitative improvements that you can make as you mature into your second, third, fourth use cases that typically involve, again, back to the vision, how do we deliver the best combination of digital self-service and human touch directions?
Inevitably, AI plays an important role here in helping to guide agents and also learn from their interactions to feed back into the model as it evolves. He sums up:
It's about helping the agent have a better conversation with the consumer. It's also about taking the key insights from the conversation with the agent, feeding it back into the personalization engine. And then helping the agent learn around ... if they have more context, coming into the conversation, what can they do to deliver a better experience?
Isn't it ironic that after a decade or more of investment in digital transformation across the enterprise, we've ended up with so many digital silos? The marketing function is particularly guilty of this phenomenon, engineering an end-to-end digital experience that works great so long as it doesn't have to involve 1:1 human interaction — and then it immediately falls over, because the humans haven't been included in the digital loop.
Invoca serves a specific example in its target market, but there are many other such broken processes, where digital investments within individual functions aren't married up across the enterprise to ensure they're meeting the goals of the business and its customers. It's a massive task to align these end-to-end processes, but as the Invoca example shows, once they've been connected up, there's huge extra value that can be uncovered by applying AI to the data and feeding those results back to the people in those processes.