We all know that customer expectations are continually increasing. Knowing exactly what experience customers expect in terms marketing is invaluable insight that would allow marketers to enhance their current practices and improve their marketing performance as a result.
After more than 10,000 hours of in-depth voice of the customer (VoC) research interviews, we’ve uncovered the six key elements that comprise how customers define a competitively differentiating customer experience in terms of marketing.
1. Customers expect an improved experience across every point of contact and department within your organization.
The interdepartmental competition that results in inconsistent experiences for customers—which we all know as channel conflict—creates a serious gap between what consumers expect and what marketers provide. Yes, interacting via multiple channels and devices is a challenge, but consumers expect companies to have conquered this issue. This is especially true for high friction points such as customer service, tech support, and billing.
2. Your customer experience must be evident in every element of your media mix.
Customers expect a seamless experience across all of the channels they use to interact with a brand. To meet those expectations you should:
a) Rethink every element of your media mix as having one purpose: serve and satisfy the customer
b) Create processes for generating ongoing VoC feedback from social media channels and sales and service representatives
c) Synchronize and integrate your multichannel mix with precision and value
d) Rethink incoming calls, emails, and social media interactions as high-value marketing and branding opportunities
e) Focus on customer lifecycle marketing; i.e. nurturing long-term relationships
Consider HMS National, which aimed to significantly increase renewal rates. Historically, the home warranty provider had relied on a traditional direct mail renewal program. However, after conducting VoC research to determine customer preferences, the company launched an integrated multichannel effort that included a call from the company president expressing his appreciation for the trust placed by the customer in HMS. Within 48 hours, customers received a personalized direct mail letter from the president, providing additional details regarding the benefits of renewing. This was followed by additional personalized direct mailings, an outbound call, and a final post-renewal email. Results: a 25% increase in renewal rates.
3. It’s essential to provide quality customer experiences throughout the customer’s lifecycle—not just at acquisition and renewal.
The results achieved by HMS as outlined above were fantastic. But it gets better. During the VoC research, customers emphasized that they wanted a high-quality experience throughout their entire lifecycle. HMS also learned that renewing is not solely based on renewal promotions; it’s driven by how customers are treated from the moment they enroll. Additionally, HMS discovered that the likelihood to renew is also a function of how customers are treated during the insurance claims process, not just the claims dollars paid. So the company improved the customer experience across its entire customer lifecycle; as a result, its renewal rates increased by 50%.
4. Customer experience must be driven by individual preferences regarding message, timing, frequency, and media mix.
Today’s empowered customers are willing to provide detailed preference information if they trust a marketer to provide significantly improved customer experiences based on this information. This not only reframes the privacy discussion, but it also provides marketers with the individual personal preference information necessary for a high performance relationship-oriented database. We call this the Reciprocity of Value Equation.
5. Preferences must drive high-quality personalization of communications and experiences.
Personalization of communications, offers, and experiences is where it all comes together for the customer. Companies that act on what they’ve learned from expectations voiced through VoC research have consistently achieved double-digit increases in response rates, revenue, and satisfaction.
6. The focus of the customer experience must be on engaging, not “managing” customers.
This final point is critical. Customers do not want to be “managed” or, as many interviewed put it: “manipulated.” We must avoid previous industry attempts at customer management, per traditional CRM. The goal of customer experience marketing must be to improve the customer experience through engagement.
What does this mean for you?
Be humble and trust your customer. Use VoC research insights to guide you in evolving from a relationship based on transactions to one based on engagement and a deeper understanding of customer needs. This means the quality of your customer experience must be evident in every department in your organization and every element of your integrated multichannel mix. It also means that you’ll need to earn the trust of your customers so they will provide you with their detailed preference information. Use this precious information to deliver highly personalized communications, offers, and experiences.