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5 Ideas for Closing the Customer Experience Gap

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by: Loren McDonald (@LorenMcDonald)
13 May 2015

Companies and their customers definitely don't see eye to eye on the "customer experience," according to a new study, "The Consumer Conversation: The Experience Void Between Companies and their Customers."

Many times, according to the study by Econsultancy and IBM, that gap creates misunderstandings and leads to customer churn.

However, as you'll see below, several findings in the study can open the door to omnichannel and automated messaging programs that will help you learn more about your customers and keep unhappy customers from jumping ship. Here are five ideas for closing the customer experience gap:

1) Use behavioral cues to identify customers who are churn risks.

Finding: Nearly half of customers are lost for reasons the company has the power to resolve.

  • 49% of customers switched service providers (e.g., banks, mobile, Internet, satellite/cable) in 2014.
  • 30% of those who switched blamed the move on a bad customer experience (in-store, customer service, loyalty program, website or app, and communications, including email).

Your messaging opportunity: Do your messaging programs (email, SMS, push notifications, call-center integration, etc.) focus more on acquisition than retention?

These findings highlight the need to use customer cues and other behavioral data to detect customer dissent and to incorporate them into your messaging program.

Related Resource:15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue” (ebook)

2) Create dedicated messaging programs that anticipate or respond to customer issues.

Finding: Companies that manage the lowest points in the customer relationship are more likely to retain customers.

  • 77% of companies say they can predict when problems will arise, and 89% are satisfied with the ways they resolve conflicts.
  • 42% of customers had a problem with a trusted company in 2014.
  • 24% of those customers criticized how the company handled the problem, while 28% praised it.
  • 71% of customers who praised a company are still customers, with 46% saying they shop at the same level.
  • 46% of those who criticized the company are still customers, but only 13% are shopping at the same level.

Your messaging opportunity: Capture and use customer-service data both for specialized email, SMS, outbound calls or push notifications that deal with immediate situations and for future triggered messages that can head off complaints and call-center contacts.

Related Resource:Post-Purchase Support Emails” (video)

3) Integrate your customer service, ecommerce and web analytics data to create a more accurate picture of each customer.

Finding: Companies say they have "holistic" views of their customers, but those customers don't agree.

  • 81% of companies say they have strong views of their customers across integrations and channels (customer-service history, demographic profile, online/offline purchases and behavior, etc.)
  • 37% of customers say their favorite retailers understand them.
  • 22% say average retailers understand them.

Your messaging opportunity: Engagement is vital here because customers rate their favorite companies more favorably than average companies on many issues in this study. (See No. 4 below.)

Know who your best or most loyal customers are. Take care of them with "surprise and delight" and best-customer initiatives delivered via email and other channels.

Do you suspect you don't know your customers as well as you thought? Creating a centralized database of customer information will help you draw a more complete picture and pave the way for coordinating and automating your customer messaging programs.

Related Resource:5 Challenges to Building a Loyalty Program – and How to Overcome Them” (tip sheet)

4) Analyze behavior and preference data to learn your customers' communication and channel preferences. Use that information to deliver value-focused messaging.

Finding: Companies and customers disagree over message relevance.

  • 47% of companies say they deliver relevant communications, but fewer companies are confident that they know which channels customers prefer for different messages (44%), how often to send messages (37%) or knowing when customers want to receive communications (34%).
  • 35% of customers say the messages they get from their favorite companies are "usually relevant."
  • 21% say messages from average companies are "usually relevant."

Your messaging opportunity: "Relevance" has lost its meaning, especially when you look at the gap between company and customer perceptions. Instead, consider "value," a concept that incorporates both expressed preferences and customer behavior cues into messaging that solves problems, educates and entertains.

Email also isn't the only or the best channel all the way through the customer journey, either. The study highlights the need for marketers to learn and develop content for different channel preferences or opportunities as well as behavior.

Related Resource:5 Tips for ‘White Space’ Emails That Educate, Entertain and Engage” (tip sheet)

5) Build trust by honoring opt-in promises and providing valuable content.

Finding: Trust reflects the customer experience.

  • About 75% of customers feel OK sharing general information with all companies (preferences, general demographic data, customer service history, etc.) but far fewer feel the same about location (38%) or personal information (37%).
  • Customers are more comfortable sharing location (72%) and personal data (61%) with favorite companies.

The messaging opportunity: Uphold the promises you extend at opt-in for frequency, content, value and privacy in all of your messaging channels (email, SMS, push notifications, etc.).

Look for every opportunity to become a favorite company, especially by taking care of your most loyal customers through personal recognition, offers, bonuses and other special content based on purchases, longevity, membership in loyalty programs, customer-service contact, etc.

Related Resource:Are You a Best Friend Brand? How Relevant and Trust Can Get You into the Inner Circle” (white paper/study)

Does Your Digital Marketing Close or Widen the Experience Gap?

The study highlights the need for an integrated customer and marketing database and programs that treat loyal customers especially well and reach out to unhappy ones before they take their money elsewhere.

They all affect your company's bottom line. So, consider including this data in your requests for more budget resources to upgrade your digital communications programs.

Related Resource: Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program” (ebook)


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