Customer Knowledge Is the Foundation of Marketing Success

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Glen Manchester, Thunderhead
Glen Manchester, Thunderhead

How personalized does marketing really need to be?

Business is built on relationships. Yet the most important relationship of all—between business and customer—seems to be the one that organizations are falling behind on, leaving them open to failure in what is the age of the customer.

The customer is now in the driver's seat—a phrase that has become a cliché is an absolute truism that cannot be ignored; yet, every day we read of epic failures where businesses, through a lack of understanding of the customer, fail to meet expectations.

The shift in power between business and customer that began with the Internet and was compounded by the combined impact of social and mobile technologies was complex enough. Now, with new business models, increasingly collaborative in nature and driven by realtime context, the long-standing principle of one-to-one marketing needs to evolve into a more complex and multidimensional concept.

Customers today are looking for a personal, relevant, and timely (i.e. real time) approach to the service they're offered and, rightfully so, will settle for nothing less.

Where communications are irrelevant and impersonal—one in five of the customers surveyed in research conducted by Thunderhead.com felt that a one-size-fits-all approach would result in their consideration to change provider, and one in 10 said they would definitely change providers. This is not something businesses can ignore.

Businesses talk a lot about customer-centric strategies, marketing their good intentions; but to deliver on this means organizations need to know their customers.

Interactions and experiences need to be personalized if engagement is to be built, but personalization must go beyond knowing a customer's first name. Brands must develop an accurate understanding of a customer's preferences, behavior, and interactions that they can then use to deliver more relevant, consistent, and meaningful interactions based on knowledge and insight.

It's this knowledge of the customer's preferences, behavior, and interactions that should be used to inform interactions to drive lasting relationships and build life-long loyalty for the brand.

Rise of the chiefs

So, who's leading the charge on behalf of the customer within organizations?

CMO Council research found that 62% of those surveyed believe that the CMO is the key stakeholder in optimizing the move to customer centricity.

It's a substantial figure and one that likely comes as no surprise. That being said, 2012 saw the reemergence of the chief customer officer (CCO), a role created to give the customer a voice at the boardroom table.

The position has rapidly gained traction over the past two years, showing the shift in focus toward creating customer success through a devoted customer team. Thirteen percent of those surveyed in the CMO Council report cited the CCO as sitting at the helm for building customer engagement. As a relatively new role, this is significant—especially because to really put the customer at the center of the business, devoting a team to carry this out is vital. It's also significant as we see the development of a new era in customer service.

Service is the most effective channel for any organization to upsell to its customers, and to market relevant services and solutions, acting as the bridge between the sales and marketing functions. Nearly two thirds (64%) of respondents to the CMO Council report cited the call center as the critical touchpoint that demonstrates customer centricity to customers.

Furthermore, Forrester Analyst Kerry Bodine marked out the value of service, citing the practice of service design as “…the most important design subspecialty in the business world today.”

It's the service designer who manages the design of interactions across all touchpoints over time to ensure that the customer journey is a seamless one for each customer. Or, as Bodine puts it, “Service designers create intangible experiences: the series of interactions that you have as you book a flight, pay a bill, get a driver's license, or go to the doctor.”

In essence, service design is the foundation of the new era of customer service, underpinned by knowledge and insights to deliver a personalized approach, working with the customer to create shared value.

Further, Thunderhead.com research notes that 87% of customers feel positive about a business that puts to good use the information and data it holds on its customers. It is this relationship based on trust, through an organization taking a personal approach to understanding the customer, that will enable brands to succeed.

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Glen Manchester, Thunderhead

A technology innovator and entrepreneur with more than 20 years of global leadership experience, Manchester is founder and CEO of Thunderhead.com. His leadership has helped Thunderhead achieve significant international growth, with operations across Asia, Europe, and North America. At 25 Manchester launched his first company, Geneva Digital, after gaining inspiration as an employee at Xerox. In 1991 Geneva Digital was acquired by Xenos and Manchester was appointed president and CEO. He founded Thunderhead two years later. His career has been fuelled by a passion to help other companies better engage their customers through enhanced communication, collaboration, and conversation.

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