Businesses today need to keep pace with changing consumer behavior to win and retain customers as the adoption of digital, social, and mobile technologies rise alongside customer expectations. Whereas 24×7 access to information used to be novel, consumers now expect to have a completely virtual and synchronized experience across an enterprise, its siloed divisions, and multiple—often simultaneous—access points such as mobile, social, face-to-face and call centers. In other words, consumers expect to complete every transaction at any time.
Also, the consumer research and decision-making process has fundamentally changed. While consumers still want to gather information needed to make a purchase decision, their source of information—and how and when they gather it—has changed forever. Because of the Internet, search engines and social media, consumers can complete in-depth research, gather recommendations and compare price and value before ever communicating with the companies with which they’re considering doing business.
Further, consumers can now share their satisfaction or dissatisfaction in ways never before imaginable. Businesses can no longer retain customers unwillingly with concepts such as “stickiness” and “barriers to exit.” Contracts, cancellation penalties, and refusals to reduce pricing when asked are now either non-existent or less of a barrier to exit a company, thanks to a combination of customer outcry, consumer protection legislation, and competitive responses—such as compensating new customers when they depart competing companies for yours.
The end result? Consumers know their value to a company, expect to be rewarded for loyalty, and are willing to seek out a new source if their current provider fails to meet their expectations.
Benefiting from the consumer revolution
Companies that fail to recognize and accept the consumer revolution, and don’t modify their business models and capabilities accordingly, will surely lose out on business in the long term. On the other hand, your company can make the most of the revolution by:
Creating a single view of your customers with data integration. Companies must unify customer data from numerous systems and databases to build customer profiles. They need to incorporate both the individual unit and the aggregate unit—that is, family member and family, procurement manager and company, and legal business unit and global entity—to deliver a consistent customer experience across influencers and buyers in the same unit. By building a comprehensive profile that includes historical, personal, and contextual data on the basic purchasing unit, you can take the next step to enhance your customers’ experiences with your company.
Deploying analytics to gain customer insight. Depending on the volume and complexity of your customers, products and services, you can deploy various data mining, data analysis and optimization technologies. With a self-learning analytic system, that readjusts continuously as customers accept and decline offers, you can get relevant feedback—such as which characteristics are most predictive of customer acceptance—and adjust targeting for all subsequent interactions.
Making every customer interaction count. Each customer-initiated contact—whether it’s through the web, call center, social channel, kiosk, or retail outlet—is an opportunity to strengthen overall emotional ties and build trust with customers. Though customer contact with a call center may be focused on a specific problem, your call center’s knowledge and attitude—and the efficiency with which it resolves a problem—contributes to your customers’ overall impression.
Delivering consistent multi-channel customer service. Customer dialogues have always been the most successful way to build loyalty, and with newer processes and technologies, companies can engage in consistent multi-channel dialogues that provide value to both parties.
Engaging in continuous customer dialogues. By maintaining a seamless conversation with your customers, you can better learn their wants and needs. In return, you’ll get more chances to propose products and services that address those wants and needs. Customers that have a positive experience with your company will feel more comfortable doing business with you. The end result? Your customers will want to buy more products.
Closing the loop. While the techniques and technologies mentioned above don’t displace traditional outbound marketing, they report campaign results in real time, allowing marketers to understand which customer attributes most influence offer acceptance. For example, an inbound marketing report may indicate characteristics—such as number of children, income, and zip code—that lead a customer to accept or reject an offer delivered by outbound marketing. With this insight, marketers can segment customers to a greater degree and offer products and services that address those specific needs. Marketers can also initiate event-driven campaigns, targeting customers who meet certain criteria during interactions with the company. For example, customers who exceed defined service levels or change the spending levels that are characteristic for their profiles. By targeting specific needs in outbound offers, you can increase customer loyalty and response rates—which could lead to unprecedented campaign velocity.
In order to have a customer-centric growth strategy, you need to maintain a continuous dialogue with customers. Your customers have choices. So, to win their loyalty, you need to win and retain their trust. By delivering a consistently positive experience to your customers through an ongoing, multi-channel dialogue, you can enhance value for both you and your customers over the lifetime of your relationships.
MJ Crabbe-Barberis, Director of Global Product Marketing, Infor. She can be reached at email@example.com.