Capitalizing on Customer-Initiated Calls

By Heather Baldwin

At first blush, the new Do-Not-Call law looks like a potential disaster for companies that rely heavily on telesales for their outbound marketing efforts. But remember the law doesn’t apply to customers and prospects that call you. Companies that put systems in place to capitalize on those calls will be the ones that thrive in a post-DNC environment, says MJ Crabbe-Barberis, vice president of CRM Marketing at Washington Mutual Home Loans.

Washington Mutual, a finalist for Gartner’s CRM excellence award, recently launched an inbound marketing initiative that capitalizes on customer-initiated contacts across its channels. The objective, says Crabbe-Barberis, is to turn every customer interaction into an opportunity. “We have more than five million customers,” she said at an E.piphany-sponsored presentation called “Transforming the Marketing Mix.” “They might call us once or twice a year, they might visit our web site, they might visit our offices in person. We view each of those interactions as an opportunity to reach out and touch them.”

It all comes down to information. When you have a complete view of the customer, you can target your messages precisely and at the right time. To get that complete picture, Washington Mutual, or WaMu, gathers information from many different channels so it knows, for instance, when to offer information on purchasing a new home or when to offer details on refinancing. Likewise, WaMu tracks the movement of customers and prospects through its web site and makes appropriate offers based on the paths taken. If the customer visits the refinance calculator, for example, that’s a good indication they’re interested in a refinance and WaMu responds accordingly.

To motivate customers to get onto the web site or contact the company, WaMu initiated services called E-Alerts and E-News. E-Alerts are subscription-based e-mail notifications driven by account activity. For example, when WaMu receives a mortgage payment, it sends an e-mail to the customer notifying him that the payment has posted and that more information is available if he clicks on a link. “It’s a great way to stay connected and build value-added relationships with customers, driving customers back to the web where we can target them,” says Crabbe-Barberis. E-News is a subscription-based monthly newsletter delivered via e-mail. WaMu plans to add more personalized, targeted marketing messages to it in the future.

Throughout all these efforts, WaMu is conscientious about knowing when to quit. Bombarding the customer, says Crabbe-Barberis, is counterproductive. “Obviously there’s the temptation to take advantage of every moment, but you have to finesse it,” she says. “If you upsold me on French fries, don’t push the dessert.”

So far it’s working. On a dollar per dollar basis, WaMu is generating five times more loan applications on inbound channels than outbound channels. At the same time it has seen a steady increase in retention. But, it’s not just about this kind of ROI, it’s about survival. “Inbound marketing to existing customers is critical to the success of today’s marketer,” says Crabbe-Barberis.