By Matt Pigott - July 1st, 2016
The first installment of our three-part series on customer service in a digital world
Marketers are in the business of communication. How effective that communication is directly correlates with how consistent, across multiple touch points, the customer experience is. Getting omnichannel right is as much an art as a technical feat, and marrying art with technology to generate a consistently seamless customer experience is a big challenge...whether or not marketers know it.
Bridging the customer experience gap
Consider the recent Econsultancy study highlighting a striking gap between what marketers think about their brand, and what customers think. According to the report, 81 percent of companies confidently believe they have a 360-degree view of their customers. On the flip side, just 37 percent of consumers feel their favourite brands understand their needs. The disconnect is so pronounced, it’s like a bad case of corporate De Clérambault’s syndrome, where executives misguidedly believe consumers to be enamoured with their brand when nothing could be further from the truth.
If brands are to deliver the ultimate customer service, there needs to be a shift in philosophy; the inwardly pointing lens needs to be turned outward, and what was once a brand-centric approach needs to become truly customer-centric. If that sounds obvious, it is. So why aren’t more brands doing it?
Consistency is key
Pointing the lens in the right direction is only the beginning. The focus then needs to be sharpened on two separate but interconnected aspects of brand-consumer provision: exemplary service and unfailing consistency. Get these right and brands can anticipate an increase in customer loyalty. But achieving these things, and moreover maintaining them requires effort.
According to the singer Bruce Springsteen, who is as much a business and brand as Pepsi, Coca-Cola, or Polo Ralph Lauren (for which his daughter, Jessica Rae Springsteen, happens to be brand ambassador): "Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time."
One of the best ways for brands to achieve this high level of consistency is to thoroughly check and cleanse existing customer data, meticulously aggregate new customer data, then slice, dice, and segment it in a way that ensures delivery of meaningful personalization through multichannel excellence.
For data to deliver, use it wisely
The more a customer interacts with a brand, the more data the brand has to work with to improve its service, so long as it uses that data wisely. Working up from demographic basics, such as age and gender through to more detailed data including ethnic identity, home ownership, credit rating etc., and from there on to more specific data sets generated by cookie-tracked browsing and buying behavior, is the best ways to tease out clear, actionable profiles that help facilitate better all-round customer experiences.
This, then, marks the launch point for using more granular meta tags that elicit ever-more valuable feedback, giving rise to a better understanding of the customer. This is how brands can take the customer experience to a whole new level of engagement and, better still, enjoyment. Once brands can systematically and accurately identify individual consumer tastes and stylistic preferences, they are in a powerful position to drive further sales.
Increased sales are a key indicator that the brand-consumer ‘conversation’ is working. As banks of customer data grow organically over time, smart brands will be able to curry more favor by allowing customers to see a ‘reflection’ of themselves through their historic purchases and highlighted preferences. Amazon is a brand that achieves this with great aplomb.
Personalization for the optimal customer journey
Assuming they have one, any marketer taking a look at their own Amazon homepage will quickly realize how powerful this type of personalization has become. Better customer experiences and journeys, as well as better outcomes for brands, result from more of the types of items already purchased, and/or placed upon wish lists, being presented.
Reminding people of what they have bought, or what they have expressed a wish to buy in the future, is particularly powerful because it creates the happy illusion that the brand is listening. In fact, the brand’s system is merely responding to a series of preordained commands and algorithms to generate an enticing web page tailored to whoever’s logged in. Without purchasing history and key browsing data, such individualized web pages wouldn’t be possible. What’s more, customers love it. As Amazon’s great success shows, customers are readily buying into a new kind of sales process, not minding that there isn’t a human face anywhere to be seen.
Does this then mean consumers and brands are gravitating toward a new period in which customer service provision is only as good as the computerized systems that drive it?
If the recent activities of tech giants are anything to go by, the answer to this question would have to be a resounding ‘yes.’
Find out more on this topic in next week’s instalment of Customer Service in a Digital World.
November 2016, New York
Social customer service at scale, social listening, integrating social into call center operations