For many organisations, there has been a steady shift in how they interact with their customers. With the advent of the digital age, where individuals have more options than ever before and can express brand frustrations across a multitude of different channels, consumer power has exploded. At the same time, legislation has come down heavily in consumers’ favour. While most have focussed on the security implications of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), it has also enshrined powerful rights for customers to be forgotten – with substantial fines possible for any organisation that doesn’t act appropriately when asked.
What this means is that, if a consumer doesn’t want to be communicated with, they have all the power in the world to cut off an organisation completely – whether that means deleting an app, unsubscribing from emails or other updates, or requesting a company removes every trace of them. Businesses now walk an extremely thin line. Communicating with customers over the right channel, at the right time, with the right message is one of the key components of a good customer experience, and hence loyalty. But one wrong move and a customer can ensure that they are gone for good.
Intrusion or opportunity?
Preventing this misstep has to be a priority for organisations. The first stage should be obvious – avoid spamming customers with irrelevant information across irrelevant channels. However, one person’s spam is another’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Organisations need to make sure they know enough about their customers to make sure every communication they send them is relevant and useful. In this context, the communication channel is crucial. Consumers are far more likely to view an unexpected phone call or email as an intrusion into their time compare to, for instance, messages in the relevant section of a corporate app or a dedicated WhatsApp chat. In the same vein, if a customer has complained to an organisation then a personalised letter, email or even phone call will be much more effective at mending the relationship than an anonymous text.
To make sure this happens, businesses need to understand their customers and the channels they use. The average organisation will have a wealth of information available on their customers, both as a group and as individuals. To use this data correctly, it needs to be broken out of its silos. This will mean data gathered by marketing, finance and customer service departments will become accessible to all instead of being locked away for one department’s sole use. This doesn’t only allow organisations to form a more rounded view of their customers. It also helps with basic data management best practice, such as ensuring the organisation doesn’t hold multiple copies of data, or contradictory data on the same individual.
Life is a journey
Armed with this data, organisations can discern the right message to reach their customers with. Next comes figuring out the right time, and the right channel. To do this, businesses need to understand the journey customers take when they interact. Which messages do they react to, and when? When they respond, what actions do they take with the business – or at what point do they give up? How far do they progress over different channels? Which channels show the greatest engagement, and which are potentially not worth the expense for the majority of customers? This will help the organisation ensure it can never be mistaken for spam, and encourage customers not to cut the cord.
The other crucial aspect of understanding customer journeys is that it allows the business to keep improving. After all, stale customer experiences can also cause consumers to cut ties with a business. If a majority of customers abandon their journey at the same point, this suggests an issue or frustration that needs to be addressed quickly. Businesses also need to keep pace with new communication channels and technologies. As consumers adopt new ways of interacting with the world, organisations have to follow. Over the years, expectations of businesses has evolved from helplines, to websites, then mobile applications.. In a few years it’s quite possible that organisations that don’t offer AI-powered assistants or augmented reality services will be seen as dangerously behind the times.
In the age of the unsubscriber, businesses have to work harder than ever to keep in contact with their customers. However, there is a silver lining. By encouraging consumers not to cut the cord, companies will be giving them a better customer experience – one that can also be instrumental in attracting fresh business. After all, consumers’ growing power works both ways, and word of mouth can just as easily praise a business as condemn it.
By Elizabeth Dailing
Senior Director CXM