Future competitive differentiation lies in the quality of the customer relationship and the ability to meet individual expectations. Mikko Hietanen explains the importance of providing a personalised customer experience to secure loyalty and increase lifetime values
We are living in a world of high churn rates, but should we sit-back and simply accept it? A main contributing factor to this phenomenon is that users are expressing a growing dissatisfaction with the quality of service delivery and customer care they receive from their communication service providers. They, quite rightly, expect high levels of service and support tailored to their own requirements but are normally disappointed and unimpressed with the way it is provided.
Operators are struggling to deliver a significant improvement in the customer experience. The use of analytics, better segmentation and outbound campaigns has overcome some of these issues but it's clearly not enough. There is a definite disconnect between marketing's requirements to build lifetime relationships and a lack of co-ordination and connectivity between the customer facing systems designed to achieve this goal.
Creating an improved customer experience requires less time and effort than communication service providers may think. The emphasis is to stay in tune with the customer and develop marketing plans to address them on a one-to-one basis by utilising and enhancing existing IT investments. The pursuit of this essential business requirement is known as Customer Lifecycle Management (CLM), and is fast becoming the single most efficient method of retaining profitable customers.
Unlocking customer data
All service providers share one key asset – customer data. Ensuring every piece of that data is attainable and delivering its full value is the foundation on which to build an improved customer experience. Having the capability to build in-depth profiles made up of all historical and contextual data and continually adding to it as more interactions are initiated is the way to really get to know your customers on an individual basis.
However, collating and co-ordinating this data presents its own set of challenges. Access is often hampered as there are many different customer-facing systems that are incompatible. Leaving vital data locked away in separate systems such as e-mail, direct mail SMS, IVR, webportals, CRM and campaign management tools. To be effective every single piece of data needs to be unlocked and integrated to work together as a comprehensive unit.
Opening up this data is like opening up Pandora's box. Enriched profiles can be constructed as you start to monitor exactly how each customer interacts with you, why and when.
For example, a customer may be in dispute with customer services over a recent bill. It is important during this period that a customer is not contacted with other offers until this situation has been resolved. However with a lack of co-ordination between systems this is hard to prevent. If the very same customer meets the criteria of a segmented group for a new service, a campaign management tool will automatically include them in the campaign oblivious of the fact that the timing is not right. A non-response from, an unhappy customer, will then automatically trigger a reminder for a service he may have no interest in and before too long the customer feels frustrated and is increasing the probability of churn.
This scenario can be avoided if all inbound and outbound campaign data is collated and integrated from one system.
Adding the personal touch makes every customer feel special and delivers a fantastic brand experience. Initiating truly personalised dialogues and responding in context enriches each and every interaction. With the level of customer data available there is no need to simply push offers to segmented groups via campaign management tools.
The customer can initiate the start point of any dialogue by approaching their provider with a specific need. This need can then be addressed by positioning offers or other marketing-driven content in the context of the interaction. In some cases the customer may trigger an additional sale opportunity or possibly an educational tip regarding a new service. The real difference here is the communication is personalised to the user's own relationship and the exposure of the message is driven by the customer behaviour.
To personalise transactions you need to understand what is needed from each system and what each system needs to know and when, to play their part in the fulfilment of the customer requests. By evaluating the responses you can benefit from knowing where a customer is in their lifecycle. Value risk assessments can be made in real time determining the potential risk of churn and decide on the right incentive for that particular customer to take action.
It is key that marketing has the ability to design and control the rules to steer the dialogues in the required business direction so they can plan, create, monitor and manage the dialogues and associated initiatives with little reliance on the IT department.
To achieve the best results, the personalised approach has to be consistent across all available communication points. Operators offer a wide choice of communication methods to give their customers the utmost convenience but it is a far from seamless experience. It's all well and good to offer a personalised service within the confines of the same communication medium but if a customer chooses to adopt more than one method there is normally a disconnect in the service received. A customer is oblivious to the technical challenges, and quite rightly expects the same dialogue to continue whichever medium is chosen.
For example, when a customer receives an SMS with an incentive and a call to action this needs to be automatically reflected on the web page. The content needs to perfectly reflect the offer without the need to search different pages to locate it. If at the same time, the customer decides to contact the call centre, the customer service representative should be provided with information pertaining to the specific offer introduced and how the customer responded. This information will allow the CSR to confidently reinforce the offer based on factual information and increase the probability of up and cross sales.
This can only be achieved if all customer interactions are integrated and co-ordinated across all the channels. The result - continuous and relevant dialogues.
Personalised marketing campaigns and initiatives will often consist of hundreds of different incentives aligned to the business strategy. With multiple offers and incentives going out to customers simultaneously, successfully fulfilling these offers is important to the overall customer experience. For example, upgrade of new handsets, redemption of cinema tickets or discount vouchers. Delivering these items, organising a demonstration of how to use them, sending user guides and even the correct set of additional services such as insurance can prove to be a logistical nightmare.
A problem at any point in the fulfilment process triggers an immediate negative perception with the customer. The end result is customer apathy, manifesting as a continuing strong resistance to offers and the take-up of new services.
Customer Lifecycle Management
CLM is a new and unique approach that focuses on all the crucial steps required to develop strong customer relationships. From one central system it manages and co-ordinates every piece of customer data, across all the communication touch points, personalising the content of campaigns and fulfilling all associated initiatives.
With CLM there is no need to change or stop using the existing stack of IT systems. It works in a co-ordinated way orchestrating existing systems in real time, and accessing the data already stored. It works alongside CRM, IVR, web and mobile portals, campaign management systems and data warehouses, orchestrating these systems according to pre-defined business rules. Utilising existing systems, CLM is a fast and low risk implementation that needs minimal resources to get immediate business benefits. It comes with proven, predefined business processes, all the necessary applications, management and integration tools and a complete set of communication gateways.
Customer Lifecycle Management is the answer to enhancing the customer experience and achieving the ultimate segment of one. Nurturing each and every relationship is making customers feel special resulting in high levels of trust and increased loyalty. Isn't it time for you to embrace the power of personalisation to capture your customers' attention?
Mikko Hietanen is CEO of Agillic www.agillic.com