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Consumers should demand more of CRM

Posted by Chad O'Connor  September 6, 2013 11:00 AM

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Unless you’re a marketer yourself, the idea of customer relationship management (CRM) is likely not high on your priority list. Yet, when you stop to think about how often brands are actually courting you, you understand that, even as a consumer, you should have a vested interest in CRM. The fact is that you are too often dealing with companies that just don’t know who you are. They’re pushing information to you on the wrong touch point or at the wrong time, and you may not even care about said information in the first place. Certainly you can think of a time – or many times – when you’ve been put off by a company that is reaching you at the wrong time or on the wrong tone; it’s a fact of life. But, should it be?

In our always-connected, digital world, we’re able to connect with brands however and whenever we want. Although this information should be useful, the overwhelming amount that we provide to marketers – intentionally or not – can make it difficult for them to treat us as individuals. This leads to practices that are highly frustrating for the consumer and highly ineffective for the brand.

For example, you might Tweet to an airline that you’re upset about a flight delay, and perhaps you’ll receive an automated Tweet back that they’re sorry to hear about your delay, or even worse, nothing at all. The problem is that even in the former case, the airline didn’t realize that you were an elite flyer whose frustration has bubbled over – and a generic tweet back, by a machine or a human, simply does not cut it. Arguably, in this scenario, the airline should have known exactly who you were and picked up a phone to ring you immediately. As consumers, shouldn’t we demand more than these poor experiences we’re facing? The answer is yes, and maybe it starts with us consumers demanding that brand marketers step out of the “CRM” trap and get truly serious about changing the game.

Many of today’s marketers are now responsible for ultimately owning the customer experience. These marketers have an endless number of software solutions at their fingertips to help them “engage” with their customers, but are they really working? Are they enabling marketers to treat each and every customer as the individual they are? Do they understand their entire customer profile, including likes/dislikes, past purchases, loyalty status, communication preference, and more? Perhaps they just further exacerbate current challenges by keeping all modes of communication – social media, mobile apps, websites, email, call centers, etc.. – separate from one another, making it nearly impossible for brands to understand their customers in a holistic way.

So, how can marketers improve customer engagement and truly achieve successful relationships that benefit both customers and brands? Below are four practical tips marketers should keep in mind to significantly improve the way they communicate with customers:

1. Listen to customers across all channels: Social media has certainly infiltrated our world, but today’s customer operates across a huge number of channels. When marketers listen to customers, they must not fall into the “social silo” by ignoring interaction that’s occurring over other mediums – and vice-versa! In order to know their customers, marketers must know their history and interaction across any channel they use. Brands must also understand that just because a possible complaint is happening on one channel, it may not be the right channel for response. If a high-value customer is unhappy, an instant call to their mobile phone is more effective and personal than a Tweet.

2. Start thinking about “Unbound” opportunities: Marketers are used to operating in terms of inbound and outbound marketing, essentially focusing on campaigns and “offer” plans. Remember, however, that customers are constantly active across many touch points; businesses need to be alert and listen to what customers want, even if they’re not falling into one of these two campaign categories. In essence, the customer is not “bound” to a marketer’s existing campaigns and offer plans. “Unbound” marketing empowers marketers to understand their customer intimately, and respond to their needs as closely as possible.

3. It’s not all about you: Whether a marketer is asking a customer to visit their store or “like” the company on Facebook, there must be value for the actual customer, not just the brand. It must be a win-win relationship for both parties to benefit. Find out what matters to the individual customer and make sure you’re providing that to them. Offers and actions must make the relationship worthwhile for the customer in order for it to prosper.

4. Avoid the one-size-fits-all mold: It’s too easy for marketers to fall back on general, mass responses and actions. Marketers must connect history, communication modes, preferences, transactions and more to understand the entire customer record and determine the best course of action. Don’t measure sentiment trends and regurgitate mass replies alone; understand the individual customer for exactly who they are.

Marketers face an increasingly tough hurdle when it comes to immediate, intelligent and individual communication with their customers. While there is an endless amount of customer information available that may seem difficult to navigate, marketers must use it to their advantage to truly know and understand each and every customer as they individual they are. As marketers learn to leverage that data for the benefit of the customer, they will be empowered to achieve truly successful customer engagement.

Mark Smith is president of Provenir, a pioneer in proactive customer listening and engagement solutions.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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