Reconcile data to reconcile with customers

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Today there’s no company that does not proclaim its customer orientation even if looking at the facts often makes wonder if it really goes beyond exhortations or prophecies that are expected to be self-fulfilling.

It results in a more individualized customer relationship, an increased engagement on social media, new offline and online behaviors.

As for customer relationship individualization and engagement, brands have a significant number of tools that help them to go further than ever.

Before, there were three kind of customers. Those they knew nothing about. Those who landed by luck in poorly qualified databases, from whom they knew very little. And the members of their loyalty programs about whom they knew more and even a lot provided they did their job right. Today, a good use of social media, of the data they host, help to know much more about anybody regardless to the data actually “in store”.

Caring about influencers, neglecting actual customers

What leads to weird situations.

The first is to go blindly ahead and hunt influencers to the detriment of actual customers. Of course, influencers matter. As their name say, they influence others, impact the image of a brand and it’s good to have them on one’s side. Or, at least, not to have them against. But this practices has limits : tools claiming they can measure people’s influence are flourishing but the concept is subtle. One can have a very small “klout” and be influent in a niche. Some may be very influent offline and poorly active online, what can lead to terrible mistakes.

But the biggest mistake is to favor influencers that will never become customers quite openly, under the eyes of actual customers. How many times did I hear things like “he’s being showered with gifts while he never spent a penny in their stores while, as a regular and loyal customer spending a lot I get no attention”.

The second, that has lots of common causes with the first, is no knowing who they are talking to. Engagement on social networks and customer service are time/people demanding and what is used for one purpose is not used for the other. So a company can court Mr So-and-so because he loves to tchat with the brand on Twitter or has a big Klout, sometimes to the detriment of an actual customer who will get no answer or a late one.

This anonymous twitter user who’s a VIP Customer

I recently observed this one more time. One of my contacts got nicely rebuffed by the customer service of an Hotel Chain. “Move on, there’s nothing to see here. If you have something to say, there’s a form for that” while the chain in question was openly talking with lots of people who had the chance to have more followers than the 75 this person had. What was, in fact, a double mistake. First they were losing time with people who will never become customers, second they disappointed  a “social media loser”….wo had the highest possible status in their loyalty program. He’s “only” been spending 2 or three nights a week in their hotels for years because of his job. Plus, he’s a decision maker for his company travel policy. Too bad.

You would like to read this article on KLM’s social customer service. First they seem to have a 360° view of their customer, second they know that favoring influencers over regular passengers is a real risk.

Likewise, airlines can’t afford anymore to disdain the guy flying at the rear of the cabin with a discounted ticket. His 20 000 followers may matter. It does not mean he deserves a better treatment than any other passenger but his dissatisfaction may just be louder than expected.

I mentioned these two industries because they often have more developed loyalty programs than others and that cardholders are supposed to be people brands know a lot about and contribute to the revenue more than other customers. And these two examples are emblematic of a real problem.

Data at the heart of the unified customer experience

Today most brands are unable to reconcile their customer identity. For some employees Jane Smith will be @janesmith with her 30 followers, no matter she’s a loyal customers that spends a lot to buy the company products. For others John Doe will be welcomed unceremoniously in stores while his voice has a big impact on his community.

How many businesses are able to have a 360° vision of their customer identity ? Both as a customer and a person having a social impact ? Able to know that @janesmith holds the card #xxxxxx. Too few.

It’s easy to understand that unifying the customer experience and reconciling a brand with its customers requires to reconcile data hosted in many silos, used by separate teams. What’s the value of a delightful only experience if the physical one is terrible ? Is there something worse than enjoying the physical experience and not having the online recognition so many others have ?

Reconcile data to reconcile with the customer

Dealing with customers as individuals is all about that.

Of course, it’s a tough job. The IT work to be done is gigantic. And there’s also a lot of work to do in people’s minds : within organizations many people are in charge of “a part” of the customer without willing to understand that they all own a part of a global experience. While customers want a global experience they are nothing more than a object moving from post to post on the machine-woven carpet of a taylorized customer relationship. This is the proof that a brand can be good at all the fields of the customer relationship and not being able to deliver a consistent global customer experience.

But the complexity of the task is not an excuse for not improving things. As a matter of fact, brands are already behind the times. As connected, mobile and even wearable devices are going to be more more present in our lives, customers will expect to be recognized as they walk into a store without having to state who they are. His history will, maybe, appear on the clerk’s Google glasses who will be able to call him by his name. It’s not going to happen tomorrow…but tonight.