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Are Digital Marketers Missing A Trick?

The top three obstacles that marketers face in 2015 are apparently;

  1. New business development
  2. Quality of leads
  3. Keeping up to date with current marketing technology and trends

This is according to research conducted globally across 5000 marketing professionals and published in the 2015 State of Marketing by salesforce.com Marketing Cloud.

The report is interesting and you can find a copy here via the fierce website. Below is the full list of 20 challenges that were articulated;

Most pressing business challenges_2015

The report goes on to further confirm the focus on digital platforms for marketing and that this year is the ‘definitive’ year for mobile.

The report also talks about ‘using technology to craft the customer journey’ and goes on to state;

“For the past 10 years, digital channels and data points have been accumulating at breakneck speed. Every industry has been disrupted. The customer now rules, and speed is the new currency of business. Marketers have scarcely had a moment to make sense of it all with a single big idea that ties everything together. Enter the customer journey. A growing number of marketers today are envisioning their entire marketing strategy under the umbrella of a cohesive customer journey, which we define as all of the interactions a customer has with brands, products, or services across all touchpoints and channels.
According to recent research, 86% of senior-level marketers say that it’s absolutely critical or very important to create a cohesive customer journey. Another 11% view the customer journey as moderately important.

Technology is the essential glue that connects various moments along the customer journey to create one-to-one experiences. From analytics that help marketers create personalized interactions, to mobile applications that create personal brand experiences for every interaction, to CRM tools that let marketers track the span of a customer relationship, the customer journey relies completely on its technological elements.”

The article goes on to chart exactly which technologies are priority to creating a cohesive customer journey, which is as equally important to start ups as it is to established businesses;

Technologies for cohesive customer journey_Sept15

The top 3 being;

  1. Mobile applications
  2. Marketing analytics
  3. CRM tools

So it was at this point that the penny dropped. What about customer retention? Why isn’t this a business challenge?

Are 5000 global marketers saying that customer retention is really not a challenge? Arguably, it could sit outside of the top 20 or it could sit within the ‘other’ category at 1% but to me this doesn’t feel right.

Now I’m not a marketer I must confess, but this feels like marketing are trying to do what they’ve always done. That is to focus pretty much exclusively on front end customer acquisition, with a sprinkling of a focus on ‘in life’ customer interaction but with little or no focus on customer retention, advocacy and loyalty throughout the customer journey. They’re currently trying to do this by moving away from more traditional marketing tools and instead using lots of sparkly new digital toys without truly understanding new digital, personalised customer habits and trends. As a result, there’s no paradigm shift to a new marketing mind set that sees the total customer lifetime as their responsibility beyond mere acquisition.

Now it might be that these 5000 marketers have in their business, someone else responsible for customer retention but surely if this is the case, these should be symbiotically related and so as to share the responsibility of customer retention beyond mere acquisition? It’s more costly just to shovel new customers in at the front end without the opportunity to retain and grow those same customers for life.

To further substantiate this point, looking at the top 10 technologies to create a cohesive customer journey, there’s no mention of any Voice of Customer (VoC) technology to provide customer insight into the journey at critical touch points as a way to further inform and improve the customer experience and subsequently the marketing process.

VoC Hub Dashboard

VoC systems such as SandSIV’s VoC Hub are as much an asset to marketing as they are to any other part of the business and marketing are missing a trick if they’re not ‘plugged in’ to, or even considering tools like this to complete the holistic picture of the end to end customer experience.

Whilst it shows an increased willingness for marketers to communicate with customers across multiple channels and touch points, the rationale for this is still based on what’s most important to the business first (new customer acquisition), rather than what’s most important to customers.

‘Listen hard and act fast’ as SandSIV would say and include VoC within the marketing mind set and on the technology wish if you want to stay ahead.

 

 

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boohoo.com really do make you cry..

I’m not a fan of just blogging about companies that get things wrong about customer experience.

To be honest, it’s too easy a target (given how many examples there are) and I know how difficult it is to create seamless and consistent experiences. Having said that, this story is a good example, for lots of reasons, but especially because it highlights the need to be consistent with both customer experience, business processes and social media presence.

Responding to a tweet in 20 seconds can create a good impression which can be quickly destroyed if you don’t do what you say you’re going to do.

Let me begin..

Recently, my partner bought some items from the online clothing retailer boohoo.com. The website user experience was good, the items we’re chosen and bought and then delivered fairly quickly.

Boo hoo logoAs with buying clothes online, especially for fickle teenage girls, a number of the items needed to be returned which we duly did and the free returns process was relatively straight forward. The credit terms from memory was something like 2 weeks from boo hoo confirming receipt of the goods back which they did several days later by email. All good so far which is where the fun and games started.

Four weeks later we were still waiting for the credit so we decided to chase them to see where the credit was up to.

Trying to find a telephone number on the website was the first frustration. One didn’t exist that we could find which, arguably is the point of being an online retailer.

The customer service tab however did have lots of advice on return, order tracking, general queries section etc but still no phone number. We did however, find an email address so we fired off a quick note asking for an update.

Multi channel

The almost instant reply that came back said that ‘the Customer Service team are currently experiencing high volumes of enquiries and so are unable to respond at this time.’

No expectation management as to when they might be able to help, just that they were busy.

Channel hoping is a customer tactic that is increasingly utilised to get a response but one that companies find hard to manage well, so we deliberately switched from email to twitter to see if we could progress our issue. We quickly found their twitter customer service account and after a quick (sarcastic) tweet to provoke a response, we got a tweet back with an invite to send a direct message with our query within about 20 seconds. Wow – what a fantastically quick response and a result so we thought, and so we sent the message with our order details.

Quite quickly we were assured that the credit would be processed and the money would be refunded within a week. Perfect.

Two weeks later, the credit was still outstanding, so once again we took to twitter. We passed all the order details yet again, and again we were assured that the credit would be refunded. I tried to articulate that we’d been here before and had had all the same assurances previously and so I questioned given that this had been promised before, what would be different this time. No real additional assurance was given to me only that the credit would be actioned.  Promises

However, true to their word, albeit second time round the credit arrived about a week later.

So what can we observe from this?

Well firstly, as a customer I still want to talk to someone when I have a problem – online retailer or not. The only get out here to not having phone agents to talk to customers is for businesses to have bomb proof process behind the scenes that enable right first time delivery on customer needs.

Secondly, if you say you’re going to do something, then you have to do it. You could say I’m stating the obvious with this one, but this is one of the holy ten commandments of customer experience in my book.

Third, it’s no good being super fast and responsive on social media, raising customer expectations if you can’t deliver behind the scenes. It’s incongruent and does nothing for the customer experience, in fact it just erodes it.

Consistency across multiple channels is an area where many businesses are struggling. However this multi channel approach to contact is being driven harder and faster by customers from both the home and mobile with the need for immediate and responsive service and with little tolerance for those that can’t deliver quickly and seamlessly to meet customers needs.

This is definitely a theme that will remain the focus into 2015 for both businesses and customers so I’m sure we won’t hear that last of challenges like this.

 

 

 

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Ignore social media at your peril..

There’s a local hotel not far from where I live which is a favourite venue for business meetings given it’s only about 60 seconds from a motorway junction. It’s a fairly large hotel which is part of a group of 5. This hotel also has a gym and a pool, conference facilities etc. as you would expect. I’ve used it a number of times and the lounge/bar service has always been ok – nothing great but not poor. Average you could say.

After a recent meeting at the hotel and following a conversation with a business colleague, I thought out of interest (and for the basis of a potential conversation with the General Manager) I’d see what the reviews were like on Trip Advisor. Trip Advisor logo

As a social media site, I’ve only had a fleeting relationship with Trip Advisor. I’ve never used it to plan a trip but I know friends who have and who also link it to their Facebook pages to post trips and reviews of hotels, restaurants or places in general. There’s even a Facebook ‘Friends’ tab on the site which for me showed 199 friends that have visited 6 continents, 80 countries and 1179 cities!

I found the hotel in question and initially, the stats looked ok. 306 ratings in total distributed below;

Trip advisor graph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However when you group the percentages as a subset of the total, the data is much less flattering;

Excellent 88 29%
Very good 88 29%
Average 67 22%
Poor 37 12%
Terrible 26 8%
306 100%

 

58% of ratings were positive – very good or excellent.  42% though were not positive – average or below.

That’s nearly 1 out of every two guests that leave less than satisfied probably never to return. In addition, the hotel ranked 10th out of 12 local hotels and overall had a rating of 61%. The first place hotel has an overall rating of 97% based on 277 reviews.

The reviews themselves made for interesting reading. Two recent reviews had the titles ‘Like the gunfight at the OK Corral’ and ‘Never again’ and another was titled “If Ryanair had hotels than it would be the XXXX” In fairness there were also positive comments around the hotel as a wedding venue and “Very good and very helpful and friendly staff” by a number of reviewers. However by human nature we’re negatively biased and you can’t but help being drawn to some of the less than ‘rave’ reviews.

There were also another couple of observations I made. Firstly the General Manager had replied to some of the reviews, both negative and positive but only some.

Secondly, reviewers had indicated that they had complained in person whilst at the hotel and had either little or no response. One reviewer had even waited two weeks before posting their review to give the hotel a chance to respond. For whatever reason the hotel hadn’t and so the review was posted which as you can imagine wasn’t great.

Some of the hotel’s responses included actions taken to remedy issues including refunds to guests that were over charged but most were along the lines of “I would like to apologise for any mis-understanding. Rest assured this matter will be looked into and relevant training put into place to ensure this does not happen again.”

A sincere apology should always be standard in response to a complaint and an action already taken is always more credible than the promise of something in the future. Call me a cynic but reading between the lines this says, ‘we don’t know or understand what went wrong, and so we won’t fix anything or do anything different!’

Apart from the obvious customer experience clangers here about inconsistent service delivery, not addressing all customer feedback good or otherwise and not responding to customer complaints there are wider and more serious implications for the hotel through customers’ use of social media and the hotel’s lack of brand management.

Clearly the hotel is engaging with social media. They monitor Trip Advisor and have a Facebook page which is fairly active with over 1600 ‘likes and over 8000 page visits. They also have an active twitter account with over 4,300 followers. They’re definitely socially active, but from Trip Advisor alone, it could be argued that they’re not proactively managing social media very well. That inevitably leads to brand and reputational damage unless corrected and that brings financial loss with it.

Let’s revisit the earlier stat of ‘nearly 1 in 2 customers leaves less than satisfied’ and let’s project some more numbers;

Average hotel room £70

Half of 306 reviewers don’t return = 153

Lost room revenue = £10,710

153 people tell at least 3 others (a very conservative figure) =459

Potential additional lost revenue = £32,130

Running total £42,840

Loss of bar and food sales – say £20 per head per person

(153×20) + (459x£20) = £12,240

Running total £55,080

That’s another 786 room bookings needed at £70 per room to make back all the above losses which I’m assuming could have been avoided in the first place or at least managed better either at the hotel or on Trip Advisor. This doesn’t take into account guests who stayed at the hotel who didn’t leave a review or complain.

So as a takeaway for the 153 guests who were less than satisfied and who we’ve assumed won’t return and have told at least 3 others not to stay at the hotel, those 153 guests have cost the hotel £360 each in lost revenue! That’s probably around 5 times greater than the revenue they actually generate in the first place.

This hotel has a massive opportunity both in correcting its customer experience and managing its online presence smarter. It’s estimated that it takes 10 positive experiences to redress 1 negative experience and if it was me, I’d be over that 1 negative experience or review like a rash immediately.

So if you’re a business and your deciding whether to ‘dabble’ with social media or not, then my advice would be to jump in with both feet. You might not ‘get it’ or ‘understand it’ immediately but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening and to avoid damage to your brand, your reputation and all your hard work, you need to be a part of it. Chances are customers are already talking about you somewhere online right now. Why wouldn’t you want to be part of that?