Leeds Business School

Managing customers expectations and engagement

In today’s fast-paced, technology-driven, world companies are playing catch-up and struggling to absorb new trends and changes. The speed with which people expect companies to respond to their needs and requirements, combined with how fast they can switch providers, is driving businesses to invest in personalised and automated solutions with the aim of producing better customer engagement.

Now more than ever, it is key for companies of all sizes and sectors to understand their customer journey and customise their automated communications. The challenge most businesses face is to match their capability with the current level of personalisation and automation expected by customers in their specific sector.

Recent data says that 90% of companies personalise their communications, or want to, yet less than 20% are actually doing it. They may risk turning people off and losing reputation over data handling and being seeing as intrusive, but personalisation and automation can produce the right effect if done correctly.

38% of companies are still not undertaking any form of personalised communication, while 32% of those who have done it in the past report a considerable increase in conversion rates across channels.

Personalisation has to be delivered through relevant content aimed to hit the right customer, at the right time, and on the right platform or channels they relate to. Automation brings personalisation to life; it releases sales and marketing teams to focus on closing qualified leads and on continuing relational involvement to build trust, leading to retention. Data gathered feeds back into the data management system and the loop restarts stronger and more streamlined.

“Personalization requires the same inputs and workflow as testing; sound technical implementation, research-driven ideation, a clear methodology for translating concepts into test hypotheses, and tight technical execution. In this sense, personalization is really just an extension of A/B testing and normal optimization activities. What’s more, successful personalization campaigns are the result of testing and iteration.”
(Hudson Arnold, WiderFunnel)

Graphic from IBM Big Data & Analytics Hub.

It starts from identifying your core business, and that for many companies is extremely hard to pinpoint. Billionaires Jack Ma (Alibaba) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon) are two very different types of entrepreneurs running gigantic e-commerce and e-marketplace platforms, their management and leadership styles are worlds apart and yet they both agree with one thing - they are in the data management business. All companies today must see themselves in the data business to some extent, as big data and information feeds the web.

If Content is King, Data is the Kingdom

The big four - Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google (FAAG) live off data and thrive because of it. Predicting behaviour is a profitable business and it seems to be the new big game for large companies. But can SMEs take advantage of big data, a 360-degree customer view, personalisation and marketing automation? Is it feasible and realistic given the costs in implementing them?

Let’s have a quick view of the current state of things on the web and I will show you why SMEs cannot afford to stay out.

As humans cannot survive without air so can’t businesses these days - you’ve got to work on your AIRflow and make sure that will give you enough gas so you can breathe, develop and grow!

AIR stands for Attention - Intention - Retention. Everything online these days hinges on these three key factors. Attention is the most expensive and sought after commodity on the web. Once you grab the attention of your prospect client, customer or consumer you must make sure they will move to action and for that you must ‘know their pre-intentions’ and match their expectations. Your aim is to move them away from an original intention that would not translate to a positive outcome for your business, and reaffirm one that would. Through highly personalised creative content you should convince them you have a superior offer by delivering a much higher level of customer experience. Once you have converted your customer you must still work on the ‘comeback’ aspect. Please remember that loyalty in today’s society goes only so far, until something else grabs their attention and lures them with a better offer.

Building the AIRflow requires four different stages of integrated work:

  • Capabilities - audit and build your internal capabilities to match with the needs of your marketplace and increased competitiveness.
  • Context - understand your customers and their journey, where they are at any given time of the day, channels and platforms
  • Content - match your content to the context, producing attention-grabbing, creative, personalised content that will bring them closer to the sales funnel towards a final conversion.
  • Consistency - this is the number one reason most people/companies fail online when it comes to customer engagement: they are not consistent. To start with they do not talk the same language and internal communications are poor. Their posts are irregular, the quality of the content changes and varies depending on which platform they post, there is no testing or tweaking, and little or no strategic evaluation aiming at improving customer experience.

Customers expect their queries, orders, products or services to be handled with ever greater speed and immediacy. Their new motto is “I want it all, I want it now”. The only way companies can do that is by bringing their internal customer operations closer together - Marketing, IT, Sales, Customer Services and Fulfilment working, in musical terms, ‘in unison’, from the Latin for one single sound. That is not the reality, as a very quick look at most SMEs is enough to see onstage and off-stage experiences disconnected, causing a great schism in the minds of their customers. Promises are not fulfilled, dropping the level of customer satisfaction and eventually pushing the customer away.

“With customers wanting even faster and personalised experiences, winning companies will have to deliver the right information, to the right public at the right time using the right channels. Something impossible to achieve without the implementation of IT automated solutions with marketing tactics."
(Andy Lima)

“You have always to start with the end user in mind” says Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Understand the underlying IT architecture needed to set you in the right direction. You must build a very tight, close relationship with your IT team or third party IT contractor, as well as investing in and strengthening interdepartmental relationships between key managers and directors.

Personalisation enables modern businesses to create highly engaging customer experiences and in exchange it generates much higher conversion rates and improved lead generation. Having rich customer data with give you a much better granular insight into your customers and markets.

“From simple message segmentation to programmatic ad buying and individual-level website customization, the combination of big data and technology is transforming the possibilities of personalization.”
(Chris Goward, WiderFunnel)

Andy Lima

Andy Lima is a business entrepreneur and academic with a broad range of experience in business creation, lecturing, researching and consultancy work in relation to working with both SMEs and large corporations. Andy’s work focus on supporting businesses and new ventures as well as developing improvements to existing business models. Andy is a former lecturer at Leeds Beckett.

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