Are You (Listening) Taking Action?

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Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News
Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief, Direct Marketing News

It's amazing what you can learn when you listen to your customers. From confirming  a hypothesis to uncovering the unexpected, listening to the voice of the customer presents opportunities to improve marketing, build customer engagement, and bolster loyalty.

Even the simplest social listening can make an impact. Not long ago, for example, I tweeted that I prefer content over ads on Facebook and cited as an example of interesting content “recipes from FreshDirect.” The next morning I received a reply tweet from the online grocer with a “thanks for the shout out” and a link to the company's new recipes tab on Facebook. Not only was FreshDirect marketing itself with extreme relevance to an engaged customer based on listening to the voice of that customer, it's “marketing” was providing a service. Of course, I checked out the page. What's more, I've repeated this story innumerably. So FreshDirect's response to customer listening created an evangelist, as well.

And that's where the impact lies. Companies should “listen” to customers via direct feedback and social commentary, behaviors and transactions, contact center interactions, and the like. But action is what really matters.

When you act on what you learn from customers it demonstrates that you have a genuine interest in them beyond their wallet; that their success is your success. This creates a virtuous cycle. Those actions may be sending more relevant, timely communications based on their known and implied needs and preference; it may be product or process improvements; it may be enhancements to loyalty schemes or promotional activities. The results are increases in response and engagement.

Listening pays off

Marketing messages that are more relevant and timely tend to get better results than their big-blast counterparts. Sending fewer, more targeted communications lowers costs but increases marketing performance. The list goes on.

In “Voice Activated,” Al Urbanski explains how Barclaycard, Cross Country Home Services, and JetBlue are benefiting by using the voice of the customer to inform their marketing strategies. At Barclaycard, for example, VOC-based improvements resulted in a 70% decrease in complaints, saving the financial services company an estimated $10 million a year, according to Forrester Research. Cross Country's renewal rates shot up 25%. And JetBlue has learned that every one-point change up or down in its overall company Net Promoter Score means between $5 million and $8 million in business.

For Discover, customer listening comes in a surprising package: direct mail. The credit card issuer uses response to its direct mail campaigns to inform and improve future campaigns, as well as to better understand its customers (see “Direct Mail, Evolved”).

As Pitney Bowes' Gael Lundeen says: “Some people are surprised by what they see, but customer voice cuts right through them.”


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