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Driving multichannel engagement with the voice of the customer

Companies need to be ready to interact with customers via many different contact points to foster better engagement.

In this age of the customer, as some analysts now refer to it, companies have become increasingly aware that they...

need to reach customers in their communication channel of choice -- not dictate the communication mode themselves.

If customers want to communicate through a live chat on a company's website, on the phone or on social media, companies want to be at the ready, able to respond. This multichannel mandate has created a series of requirements for companies to better engage with customers.

The average U.S. consumer spends 60 hours a week consuming content from a variety of devices.

With customers communicating with companies from multiple directions, the challenge is to generate seamless, consistently high-value, integrated customer experiences -- no matter which medium a customer selects.

But having the infrastructure in place to do this well is another matter entirely. Companies often lack the technology to accommodate all these channels or the ability to integrate data into a single customer-centric vision and process, or they may lack the culture that exemplifies this shift: moving from a company-centric perspective to a customer-centric one. Many channels are also delivered via multiple devices, making marketing and data collection increasingly complex.

In a recent conversation with a marketing director, he noted that his company used a mammoth spreadsheet to track the many technologies to collect data from an array of sources. As a result of company growth, mergers and adoption of channel-specific data collection systems, the company's customer relationship management system had become a tangled web of far-flung technologies that hardly served its purpose of providing a united overall vision of their customers.

Forgetting the voice of the customer will invariably lead to a failed technology strategy.

To complicate matters further, many companies also conduct customer surveys which generate data that often gets looked at once, and then sits in a forgotten email never to be integrated into strategies or marketing promotions.

Marketers need to take a step back and look at their data collection as a united brand umbrella rather than as singular "one-off" by individual campaigns or departments. Information collection needs to promote personalized communications based on preferences and feedback. But in order to do that, customer relationship managers need to manage data and forge those relationships among multiple platforms.

Using customer voice to define multichannel engagement

Multichannel strategies have to begin with an understanding of what customers view as engaging experiences. The following are the six requirements that have emerged from more than 10,000 hours of Voice of Customer research conducted by our firm, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing, for clients such as MassMutual, IBM and QVC:

  1. Improve the customer experience across every point of contact with your organization.
  2. Involve all elements of the media mix and all departments of your organization.
  3. High-quality experiences must be maintained throughout the relationship, not just when you are "selling."
  4. Customer experiences must be driven by the customer's individual preferences regarding message, timing, frequency and media mix.
  5. Preferences must drive high-quality personalization of communications and experiences.
  6. Absolute commitment to safeguarding privacy of customers' information about their preferences is essential.

Beyond the Rack has used its multichannel insights to develop new marketing initiatives which use customer data about media usage to shape its future engagement strategies.

The company's sales for mobile users skyrocketed from 10% of total revenue in mid-2012 to nearly one-third by 2014. Beyond the Rack has also indicated that its focus is on taking its mobile insights to set the standards for all interactions with customers.

Three multichannel lessons for your company

1. Using its data to understand that 40% to 50% of their 12 million daily emails are opened on mobile devices, the company maximizes the impact of their mobile emails to make them more appealing on mobile devices. All marketers should identify and optimize the most active media channels to make them more engaging for customers.

2. Beyond the Rack continually engages with customers via contests such as its Web-based model search. This gives customers an opportunity to become a part of the brand through multiple media channelsandnot be just impersonal buyers.

3. "Consumers have very different expectations of what they want you to be," said Yona Shtern, CEO of Beyond the Rack. "We spent a lot of time figuring out who we needed to be." Marketers need to build their media and marketing strategies around what customers want and where they spend their time.

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