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Immediacy and intimacy: 50 shades of customer engagement

11th Mar 2015
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A relationship truth: there is no ‘one size fits all’ way to engage customers. Just like every successful personal relationship, the connection with your customers is based on a deep and clear understanding of their needs. You need to be able to communicate at the level that suits them, at the time that suits them, and through the channel that suits them. In short, you need to treat them like individuals and make it clear that you are truly listening to them.

Also like other personal relationships, much of what really wins over hearts and minds are the small things. Of course you need your product to be right, your price to be competitive and to provide good service, but when it comes to establishing a deeper sense of intimacy, you can achieve a lot by simply paying attention to detail and putting the processes in place to take action on that level of detail.

Here are five ways to whip your Voice of the Customer programme into shape and ensure you build a lasting bond with your customers.

Capture every part of your customer journey. Remember that there’s more to customer contact than sales and support. Your customers are also touched by your billing, delivery and account management processes – not to mention your website and social media presence. Build a clear customer journey map to understand the myriad ways in which customers interact with you so you can ask for feedback at the right moments. This will enable you to understand which touchpoints are working, and which require refinement in order to enhance greater customer engagement. Consider also bringing the Voice of the Employee into this process, capturing their views on each touchpoint – often it’s surprising to learn that while customers are very happy with a situation, it’s causing turmoil within the business to hold things together. Or more frequently, a company is sure a process is working effectively while it actually provides source of frustration for customers. And remember the gaps between the touchpoints are just as important in terms of impacting your brand and driving outcomes – so work to pick up on the non-contact areas as well, for example via social media.    

Use short, sharp hits of feedback. A generic survey sent days or even weeks after an interaction just won't cut it. Many companies understand this now and send out a feedback request shortly after a customer makes a purchase. This is great, but there are risks around survey fatigue if not handled effectively. Put rules in place to avoid over-surveying customers and, most importantly, ensure you’re able to tie the results of multiple surveys by the same customer together. Ideally, within your CRM system so you can create a big picture of customers’ experience. The Voice of the Customer shouldn’t just record a moment frozen in time - it must be treated as an open, ongoing dialogue.

Make the engagement intimate. Not only do you need to ensure you’re contacting customers at the right time, and in the right way, but you need to personalise based on what you know about them. You will not engender loyalty by asking questions to which you already know the answer – and that goes beyond just knowing what they bought from you. If you know which branch they visited, how their personal interaction with you turned out or what their enquiry was about, you can harness that information and tailor your questions accordingly. This not only means that you can ask fewer questions to boost response rates, but also helps you to dig deeper into specifics around those answers. 

Don’t get chained to box-ticking.  Surveys have often been confined to a series of boxes to tick, scales to rate, and scores to provide. While the information this provides does provide significant value, the ability to capture real customer comments – and more importantly, understand and report on them - provides a level of insight that a ranking scale cannot match. Most VoC surveys will contain some sort of free text opportunity for customers to provide more detail, however often they’re only used to provide examples, or as part of a follow-up process if a low score triggers a case to resolve. By implementing a text analytics element to your programme, you can begin to group customer comments by sentiment and understand underlying trends very quickly.

Tie feedback to action. The relationship you have with your customers must be two-way if it is going to go the distance. As part of this, you need to follow up with customers to let them know what you’ve done with their feedback. In some cases, such as in B2B environments, you can do this at a one-to-one level as part of the wider account management process. While such personal contact isn’t always possible for B2C companies, you can share information more widely through a programme of continuous improvement and communication.

Karine Del Moro is vice president of marketing, at Confirmit.

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