Tag Archives: Customer

Engaged With Engagement

Many of us who hang around in marketing circles often mention the word “engagement.”  It’s a term that expresses a connection between a consumer and a brand and is a highly sought after end result of our marketing activities.  There isn’t any question that we need it to happen but there does seem to be some question with respect to how it should be measured.  That was the topic covered but a survey from the CMO Council and reported by eMarketer

The survey asked marketers about the primary metric they used to measure engagement.  As you might expect, many of the marketers (more than a third) focused on revenue metrics.  That’s not a bad idea since there is not a heck of a lot of interpretation needed.  Either someone bought, and revenue went up, or they didn’t. Customer lifetime value, revenues per customer and overall revenue increases were the primary type of metric they used.  Then there were those who focused on things such as clicks, conversions, shares, traffic and web analytics.  These are campaign metrics, and another  30% of respondents said that these were the primary type of metrics they used.  Lead generation metrics, finance metrics, and service metrics had far fewer choices as a primary metric for measuring engagement.

Here is the thing.  As the eMarketer piece said:

Though not the most popular way to gauge successful engagement, customer service is important—and many consumers feel that good service makes them feel more positive about brands. In fact, nine in 10 internet users worldwide said so.

That gets me asking if we are trying to grow our businesses by aligning ourselves with our customers’ concerns and needs, should we not be measuring success using metrics that reflect those concerns and needs?  The above data suggests that many of us aren’t.  Sure, I get that if revenues are growing we’re probably doing something right, but maybe that’s a short-term gain based on a promotional offer or a single new product.  Have revenues grown because you’re keeping customers happy or despite the fact that they’re unhappy?  Today’s food for thought!

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Filed under Consulting, Thinking Aloud

A Snap Of A Dilemma

Are you on Snapchat? I am, although I don’t pretend to understand it as well as some of my younger friends. What I do understand about it, however, is that they are facing the sort of dilemma that torments a lot of businesses. I don’t have any real answers today but maybe you do. Let’s see. 

Snapchat began as a way for users to send disappearing content – photos, videos – to other users. Of course, as with everything on the internet, the content never really disappears (screengrabs, anyone?), but let’s put that aside. The app became very successful and now has over 100 million daily active users. That’s the sort of scale that becomes incredibly appealing to marketers, and it also makes other revenue options such as commerce and data mining more viable.

Now the dilemma. Snapchat’s business has been built to a great extent on the premise of privacy. If you’ve ever tried to locate someone on the platform, good luck. If you don’t have the email address they’re using or their exact Snapchat name, it’s very hard. That may be great if you’re a user trying to avoid stalkers, but if you’re a brand trying to get users it means you need to do a lot of external marketing of your Snapchat presence.  This quote from a recent Digiday piece says it nicely:

One of Snapchat’s main selling points with users entails its combination of anonymous users and disappearing messages. The company has been strident about not building profiles on users to creepily advertise to them. As the reality sinks in about the need for a viable business, more targeting and data capabilities follow. Technology partners are able to bring their own data to an API — email lists and other customer information — to serve ads against.

Therein lies the dilemma.  Until now, Snapchat has tried to make money by selling “lenses”, overlays that will let you alter your snaps so that, say, you can be vomiting rainbows (and who doesn’t want to do that!).  While $300,000 a month in lens sales is nothing to sneeze at, it’s not nearly the kind of monetization that a platform with this kind of user base can command. They also tried to sell ads embedded in some of the “stories” that are a part of the service (they’re a series of snaps linked together around a theme).  Apparently they don’t have enough user data or metrics about engagement to satisfy big spending.  So what do they do?  What is the business?

The balance between staying true to the reasons customers engaged with you in the first place and making money is tricky.  Better metrics and targeting might mean less privacy.  More ads in content mean less user enjoyment (no one likes being interrupted). Less enjoyment and decreased privacy might mean a decline in the user base.  But it is a business, and investors want to see a return.

So what’s the answer?

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Filed under digital media, Thinking Aloud

The Agent Or The Dentist?

Holiday time is supposed to be a joyous season.  This, of course, as long as you have no need to call customer service.  When that happens, it becomes a season of frustration and anger, at least according to the latest iteration of the Customer Service Report from the folks at Corvisa.  It doesn’t sound as if it will be a particularly happy time for the businesses in the receiving end of the calls either.  You can have a look at the complete report here.

Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Consumers are getting fed up with poor customer service and, as a result, business livelihoods are at stake.
  • When it comes to customer service delivery, companies don’t get many chances to make a good impression.
  • Long hold times hurt the bottom line.
  • Robotic-sounding agents are undermining ROI.
  • Consumers don’t hold back when they’re angry, and often share their experiences with others.

I don’t know that there is anything particularly new about any of those findings, but the degree to which some are an issue might be. When 48% of respondents said they have stopped doing business with a company due to negative customer service experiences in the past year, it should give any business manager a reason to pause and think about half of the customers who call customer service walking away.  25% of Millennials say it takes only a single bad interaction to prompt them to jump.

The other point that hit me was the need to stay human.  I’ve supervised a business that had to deal with daily customer service calls.  There is a tendency to want to script everything so that every customer has the same experience and issues are anticipated and resolved.  The problem is that customers “hear” it’s a script.  We need to train agents with general guidelines and protocols and then let them deal with each situation in a more human way.

Customer service is still, for the most part, broken.  52% of survey respondents said they would rather shop with the crowds on Black Friday or go to the dentist than speak with customer service.  Does that sound like it’s working to you?


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Beyond The Data

If you’ve been reading along this week, it must seem as if I’m obsessing with data. While my inner nerd is peeking through a bit, that’s not my real obsession. The data I’ve been writing about is only one aspect of what is a primary business obsession of mine: customer retention. It ought to be one of yours too.

Simply put, the only two things that should be a primary focus of your business thinking are making great products (or services) and providing great service to customers. Why? Because those are the two keys to customer retention and customer retention is the key to a successful business.

There is lots of research on the value of keeping a customer versus acquiring a new one. According to research by Market Metrics, your success rate selling something to an existing customer is around 65 percent. The probability of converting a new prospect, on the other hand, is only 5 percent to 20 percent. If you’ve been servicing those customers well and providing great products, that’s a very believable finding since the folks that know you, love you. They spend more too: research says about a third more.

So why aren’t you spending more time thinking about customer retention and about how to cut down the churn rate? Probably because the data points you’re reporting as KPI’s are emphasizing customer base growth. There is a place in the dataset for acquisition information and an important one at that. But, for example. when Google reports that 25% of new app users leave after the first day they install an app, obviously new users can only take you so far. Are you looking at retention rates by acquisition channel? Didn’t think so.

Data is a tool, not a crutch.  The business is about growing and retaining customers.  There are lots of ways to do that but at the core of every one of them are a great product and even better service.  Is that what you can honestly say you have?

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Filed under Consulting, Reality checks


Maybe this customer-centric thing is starting to sink in.  I’m encouraged by the results of a study put out by the eConsultancy folks in conjunction with SDL which explores how retailers are addressing customer experience, or CX for short.  From the results it seems that many retailers have figured out that price is just one factor in the purchase decision and that it is outweighed these days by how customers interact with the brand.  In fact, the report states that providing an exceptional customer experience is the single most important strategic choice that retailers can make now and in the years ahead. 89% of the retailers surveyed for this report agreed or strongly agreed to the statement “Our customer experience is our brand.”  It’s a good point for any business, retail-based or not.

Think about it.  A quick visit to a search engine can usually produce pricing comparisons but that same search engine tells you little or nothing about how the customer is treated.  If you’re researching a product, how complete and truthful are the product listings?  If there is a problem with your order or you have a question as you purchase, how helpful and responsive is the customer service?

Every business (even mine!) has customers of some sort.  Their experience with you begins with their first encounter: maybe your website, maybe some content you’ve issued, maybe the response to a form they filled out or maybe someone answering a telephone enquiry.  There is one thing I found surprising in the study which is that only 12% said “company culture” is a barrier to successful customer experience management.  If that’s true it’s incredibly encouraging and represents a big shift.  I’m not sure I believe it however.  Many companies still put way too much emphasis on pushing merchandise that provides the highest margins or which is aging over the needs and wants of the customer.

If your product has been commoditized (read that as “if your primary selling point is price”) than you are going to have a hard time competing from my perspective.  A great customer experience differentiates your brand.  I’m glad to see that way more folks are agreeing with that and investing in that differentiation.  Is that something you’re doing?

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Critics Vs. Trolls

Any of us who work in and around marketing understand that to a large extent consumers control our brands these days.

Troll in Trondheim

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ask any company that’s run into difficulty with its image due to a social media faux pas or to some bad consumer experience that’s gone viral and they’ll tell you.  I think that brands lay the groundwork – they shape the experience but ultimately consumers are the ones who refine that groundwork into the image the world at large has of a brand.

Given that, and given the need for brands to participate in the social world, they’re going to encounter people who have had either a less than optimal interaction with the brand or who just don’t like whatever it is that the brand is selling/doing.  Those people might use the social tools to let the world know about it since as we know it’s the less happy people who tend to lead brand discussions and not usually the staunch brand advocates (until they’re prompted somehow).  I think it’s important that the recipients of the criticism differentiate between the two main types of people who offer it up:  critics and trolls.  They need to be dealt with differently.

Critics tend to express their displeasure in a thought-out, rational way.  They usually have facts at their disposal and will listen both to other facts and promises to rectify whatever it is that irked them in the first place.  Think of a restaurant review – maybe they just didn’t like the food – that’s opinion.  Or maybe the food arrived cold and slowly – those are facts and problems which can be fixed.  Critics help brands make themselves better.

Trolls, on the other hand, tend to be deliberately inflammatory.  They are not trying to help fix anything – they just want people to respond, start flame wars, and get their jollies this way.  They usually lack facts, they usually direct personal attacks as part of their rants, and harassment and stupidity are the cesspools in which they live.

What does one do?  As we said the other day, you must respond to them both.  Don’t do so by attacking them.  Get your facts straight, point out opinions (which you respect) from facts, and accept that the critics might help you get better.  Trolls go away when no one takes their bait.  Good critics acknowledge improvement and it’s fair to reach out to them once you’ve fixed whatever was wrong.  Our constant focus on the customer means we need to allow them to help us get better even as we continue to shape the brand we want them to see.

Make sense?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Uncategorized

The Ostrich Strategy

We’ve all heard the myth that ostriches bury their heads in the sand, particularly when they’re frightened.  It’s not true (hence a myth) – they’re probably turning some eggs they’ve laid.  We used to have a dog – a bulldog! – that would sort of do the same thing when he was scared or had done something bad.  He would turn his head away from you  – we were 100% sure he believed he was invisible: since he can’t see you, you can’t see him.

Many brands seem to be following a similar strategy when it comes to social media and customer complaints.  A few years ago, Bain Consulting conducted a study that  discovered that while 80% of companies believe they deliver ‘superior’ customer experiences to their customers, just 8% of customers agree.  Who is kidding themselves here?

It’s not an occasional problem.  Another study – this one by Social Media Marketing University – showed that 58.2% of brands receive customer complaints via social media ‘occasionally.’ 10.9%receive them ‘somewhat often’ while 4.9% receive them ‘very often.’  So what do they do, given that surveys reported in news media found that customers expect a response to a complaint posted on a brand’s social media account within one hour?  They pretend they’re invisible.  Is that a bad thing?  You tell me:

  • 58.2% of brands receive customer complaints via social media ‘occasionally.’ 10.9 percent receive them ‘somewhat often’ while 4.9% receive them ‘very often.’
  •  26.1%  of brands reputations have been tarnished as a result of negative social media posts; 15.2% lost customers and 11.4% lost revenue.

And here is the kicker:

  • 23.4% of brands not only do not have a strategy in place to manage negative social commentary, but do not have plans to develop one. 24.5% of brands are in the process of developing a strategy and 7.6% have strategies in place that are currently proving to be ineffective.

This isn’t the only survey that found businesses lacking.  Another one which comes from Sprinklr shows that 20% of companies rarely, if ever, respond to customer complaints made via social. The “ostrich strategy” is about the worst choice a business can make.  Putting your head in the sand doesn’t make the issues go away – it just makes it harder for you to hear them as they get louder and louder.  That’s my take.  Yours?




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Filed under Consulting, digital media