Creating positive customer experiences is a major driver to success in business -- that much is clear. However, with the constant changes in technology and customer behavior, the question that now confronts us is how exactly do we use the software and tools at our disposal to create happy customers?
It is easy for marketers to become overwhelmed by the quantity of data available to them. Customers, for their part, are tired of being assaulted by meaningless email messages and want a meaningful interaction with a brand they feel understands their wants and needs. The good news is that there are ways to create method in this madness. The secret lies in using the vast repositories of customer information to nurture intimate and personal relationships with customers.
Use data to create meaning
By now, using customer data has become standard practice in marketing campaigns. However, simply having access to customer data and predictive analytics does not guarantee success. There are many ways to make sense of this data, and smart brands will use it to nurture intimate human interactions with their customers.
It is not enough to just send repeated emails hawking magazines because you know an individual has subscribed to magazines in the past. Nor is it productive to assault them with web ads because they googled your brand once, by mistake. We all know how annoying it is to receive unwanted messages about products we couldn't care less about.
There is a better way. Brands can use their knowledge of a customer's buying history to improve customer service interactions. Customer-facing staff can use this knowledge of prior purchases to improve their conversations with the customer. For instance, when a customer calls in customer service agents can expedite the call by identifying recent purchases. Salespeople can offer special deals based on previous purchases when the customer is checking out.
Use data to create consistency
Creating highly targeted and individually tailored messaging allows the customer to feel like they are unique individuals rather than just names in a database. Moreover, offering continuity across various communication channels allows a company to create a stable brand image. Forrester's 2012 trend forecast indicated that customers seek to begin a dialogue in one communications channel and complete it in another. For instance, they expect call center agents to know that they have made a complaint by email. This gives customers confidence that their future interactions with the brand will be consistent with their previous interactions. Companies need to break down the silos between their customer-facing branches. Service, sales, and marketing divisions need to be smoothly integrated so that they can deliver a harmonious brand experience. All staff must have access to the same database of information whenever they interact with the customer.
Use data to create dialogue
There is a new model that goes beyond the multi-channel approach. Until recently, customers had relatively limited options to interact with your brand: store visits, phone calls, and browsing the internet. Now with social media and the growth of mobile devices, the ways to interact with a customer have multiplied exponentially. The marketing industry has even created a term for this change: "SoLoMo" or social, local, and mobile.
Customers no longer interact with a brand on their own as social media now allows shopping to be a communal experience. When a customer is delighted with a new product, they may tweet about it or post a message on Facebook. It is important to become part of the conversation by establishing a social media presence. By creating Facebook pages and Twitter handles, customers will have the option of bringing feedback to you directly, giving you the opportunity to respond.
The other big change is that customers can now interact with your brand from anywhere by using their mobile devices, which means that marketing strategy can now be executed in real time. The challenge is to catch the customer at the right time by offering opportunities that relate to their immediate location or their current activity.
Customers and their social networks are more in control of the buying relationship than ever before. This thought may seem daunting to brands, but it shouldn't be. The new world of marketing offers plenty of challenges, but it also provides plenty of opportunities to foster strong and long lasting relationships with customers. In fact, in a SoLoMo world, customers are virtually inviting you into their lives. Armed with data, brands can engage in an ongoing dialogue that permeates a customer's life.
Mark Smith is SVP and general manager of Pitney Bowes Software.
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