Now is the time for customer engagement marketing

listening to customersIncreasingly companies are seeing the value of what we as customers have to say about them – bad and good.  Recent research commissioned by Verint and the Customer Contact Association (CCA)* has found that over two thirds of businesses are making a concerted effort to show consumers they are listening and acting on what consumers say.

This trend marks a big step forward – moving from transactional relationships towards increasingly conversational ones, largely thanks to social media.
In order to build stronger relations, professionals within the marketing and customer service realms need detailed level of knowledge of how to manipulate and analyse information about customers. Yet this makes it all the more strange that consumer demographics have not moved on beyond the reductive terms of age and socio-economics. Although demographics cannot be cast aside, the problem is less about personalising tactics, as it is more about aiming the right tactics at the right people. The way that mobile technology, for example, has enjoyed such take up across different age groups, shows how dated stereotypes underpinning older groups are less valid than ever before.

To interact successfully in today’s connected, multi-channel consumer environment requires thinking about consumers differently by having new kinds of demographics that genuinely reflect customers’ attitudes. Information gained from an analysis of customer behaviour can illuminate and quantify the benefits of marketing activities as customers can be turned into very effective marketers themselves – prepared to recommend and advocate your brand over others.

Aside from these so-called ‘brand champions’, we identified three other consumer ‘tribes’ within our research which was carried out in five markets, all of which have the potential to become the kind of customer that gives more than just their custom to your business.

Silent likers:
A significant proportion of customers have real loyalty to their service providers and are very satisfied with their experience but are unwilling to communicate with those companies. Most simply do not see the value in communicating with their service providers and that’s not surprising, as this group is the least likely to receive ‘thank-yous’, rewards or special treatment. A change in attitude is required, with businesses needing to recognise that there are greater benefits in ensuring the loyalty of long-term satisfied customers. By demonstrating to customers the value of their feedback, businesses are more likely to encourage them to become brand champions.

Fence sitters:
There are a number of customers that are very difficult to engage, but whose attitude to their service providers is more or less ambivalent. They are perhaps less conscious of the brand and its values, but simply consider the provider to be the best option at the time with very few discussing brand experiences. This category can serve as a useful test for a company’s customer service capabilities as it is not impossible to turn such consumers into brand champions and, if successful, it is a very strong endorsement of its service capabilities and engagement skills.

This group is most likely to do the complaining, threatening and may actually take their business elsewhere. Reducing this customer churn is a constant preoccupation for almost all service providers. This group tends to gain more rewards, gifts and incentives than almost any other but, perversely, our research showed that there is a certain level of churn which can never really be eliminated, and that it is a waste of resource to attempt to do so.

While some of the benefits of a different way of looking at the customer base take time, effort and further investment to come to fruition, the proper allocation of incentives, gifts and rewards can be achieved by having a 360˚ view of your customers to understand their preferences, likes and dislikes, which can be gained by listening to their voices.

Organisations need to unify such initiatives within a single voice of the customer analytics strategy, which encompasses contact centre, social, in-store and surveys. The customer service and marketing functions can be more effective than any other part of the business in gathering customer insights and making them actionable. And, they should be doing all they can to inform customers that they are acting on what they say.

Making sure that customer service and marketing resources are expended in the most efficient manner possible makes it far easier to gain the affections of customers, who may not immediately be open to promoting a company to their friends and family. An intelligent and targeted approach to customer service makes it much easier for a company to grow their base of customer advocates, and reap all the benefits that this brings.

Claire Richardson is VP at Verint

*The research was conducted via Verint and the Contact Centre Association among 143 contact centre professionals in the UK during September and October 2013.