Making every interaction matter

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We've all been there, waiting at home for the cable guy to come and install the system “sometime between noon and 5:00”. When he finally shows up, the interaction you have with that one individual will play a major role in determining your attitude towards the brand going forward. Was he polite, informative, and thorough? Or rude, in a rush, and tracking mud all over your nice beige carpet?

Much of the conversation in marketing today relates to customer “engagement” with brands, and how highly we must value those truly engaged consumers. This makes a great deal of sense. As Digitas CMO Seth Solomons said in our March 16th issue, “Consumers are aggressively turning out those brands with which they have no affinity or affiliation… You've got to find the currency and the utility to provoke the consumer to want to build an affiliation with you.”

He's right, of course, but the engagement insight must not be limited to social media platforms and word of mouth. Customers are engaging all the time with brands — through call centers, sales reps and other operational functions.

The problem is that right now, at least, marketing does not typically play in these interactions. Wendy Lurrie, the president of G2 Direct & Digital, believes that marketing — in particular, direct marketing — needs to take a bigger part of the most critical relationships between brand and consumer.

“A tremendous amount of what actually matters to customers in how a customer engages with the brand is not controlled by the marketing people,” Lurrie says.

“Organizations have become so complex that entire areas of business process, such as customer service and distribution are handled by operational people who aren't customer facing.”

At the same time, Lurrie adds, marketing is held accountable for profitability of customer engagement and loyalty. So marketing is responsible, even though it might not play any role in how some of the most critical customer facing transactions are executed.

Her perspective makes a great deal of sense, but what I really wanted to know from Lurrie was, why is direct marketing best placed to fill this void?

“Direct has always been really close to the transaction,” Lurrie explains. “We know how to drive behavior, and we are not remote from customer interaction with brand. Our orientation is really close in. We're also used to data and metrics and accountability.” But Lurrie acknowledges it will require a serious shift for marketers to consistently play a larger role in this operational realm, but maintains that the downturn also presents an opening.

“So much of what organizations do need to be customer led, and in the midst of difficulties there's a big opportunity to redefine what marketing role is,” Lurrie says. “We can help clients have bigger impact.”

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