We’ve come a long way since AltaVista and chat rooms

Just a few years ago marketing controlled the dialogue with customers using a limited number of channels which might have included direct mail, a main street branch and a call centre. Marketers didn’t have to worry much about customer feedback because there was no easy way of getting it. That was just the way it was, then suddenly the situation got a lot more complicated. It didn’t happen overnight (although it may feel that way) but there are now a vast array of click and mortar marketing channels – CRM, mobile apps, websites, survey tools, branches, events – filled by industrialised marketing campaigns, ever hungry for more stuff. Company communications and offerings are omni-present in the customers’ life, but for the most part the customer remains indifferent.

Although customers are talking to us all of the time, telling us what they want, marketers still haven’t figured out how to listen. Listening is more than keeping a wary eye on social interactions; if talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words, it is by watching what the customer does that is key to understanding what they truly want.

A trail of intent

The highly sophisticated marketing machine that produces world-class content, precision segmentation, lists and analytics still can’t join the dots between all the systems it uses to talk to its customers. Yet each interaction is a solid indication of intent.  Last weeks’ visit to the website, yesterdays’ call to customer services, an unopened email – it all means something and nothing – until you know the details about why the customer is managing his or her journey that way. If marketing automation’s reward is delivering and reporting on outbound communications, customer engagement is the reward for actionable insight into the customer-managed journey. And no one can do that without the right tools to follow and listen in real-time as those journeys cross the brand.

It is the customer’s journey: they have a goal, and it is they who will manage how it is achieved. They won’t necessarily tell you, and they won’t make it easy. But if the marketer has visibility over a single customer’s interactions across the brand and can tailor subsequent communications, they stand a very good chance of meeting (or exceeding) that customer’s expectations. The power of that experience, consistently provided at every interaction can lead to lifelong brand loyalty and advocacy. With less churn across the customer base, companies may repurpose those cost-of-sale savings to acquire new customers, create better and more relevant offerings (based on listening to the customer) and grow.

We know that brand loyalists are very likely to follow and like, complete surveys and engage in reviews. We know that an average 65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers. We know it costs five to ten times as much to attract a new customer as to keep an existing one. We know that journey insight is a much stronger predictor of customer satisfaction and loyalty (30%-40% stronger) than other indicators. And we know that engaged customers are at least 25% more valuable.

With all that knowledge, are we still prepared to risk turning our customers off with irrelevant and irritating communications? Especially when that risk is so easily mitigated, and there is so much to gain. This is a competition between your competitors and you; the prize is your customer, retained, happy and not looking anywhere else for now.

If you thought that was good, these will blow your mind…