Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, December 17, 2012

AT&T: Engaging Customers with Personalized Videos

The Challenge: Gaining customer attention and engagement is tough. Marketer’s attempts at “personalization” have not been effective. Can personalized videos engage customers? AT&T thinks so and has the results to prove it.

Personal Connection with ATTHow important is a personal connection with your customers? Critical, says Danny Kalish, co-founder of Idomoo, “Today’s consumers are nostalgic for the personal relationships they once enjoyed with their service providers.  This type of emotional connection engenders loyalty, which is as valuable to organizations as innovation in products or services.”

Today’s customers are overwhelmed with the flood of marketing “spray and pray” blasts. To really engage them, marketers need to make it obvious that unlike their previous messaging, new communications are truly and obviously personalized and relevant.

With this in mind, AT&T has been testing auto-generated personalized videos in its billing for its wireless services. Subscribers receive an email with a link to a video, which addresses the subscriber by name before going through each element of their personal bill, anticipating and answering customer concerns along the way. The content the customer sees are his or her own, not generic examples -- and it’s all clearly laid out.

The results have been very encouraging:

1. Over 85% of customers have found the bill helpful.

2. Almost 80% of customers open and watch the video bill to completion.

3. Significant reduction in bill-related calls.

4. In July, AT&T and SundaySky won the Global Telecoms 2012 Consumer Service Award for Consumer Billing Innovation.

Key Takeaways for Marketers

1. Add new dimensions to your communications.
Help customers receive the information they need. This will engage customers short-term and build long-term loyalty.

2. Engage customers throughout the lifecycle.
Personalized attention should not stop at the moment of acquisition. Personalize all customer communications such as billing, offers, specials, and customer appreciation touches. Every communication is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship.

3. Relevance is the key.
Customers will embrace a message when it makes sense to them as individuals. Simply adding a name to the beginning of a general blast is not personalization.  For example, a personalized video can deliver personal information in a multi-sensory way that clearly highlights relevant information both visually and audibly.

4. Constantly test.
Testing different versions will enable you to learn what message and media mix is most effective.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Strong Customer Relationships: More Powerful than Satisfaction for Retention

The Challenge: As companies grow, relationships with customers usually suffer. Larger customer files, heavier account loads, and less available time, often contribute to a decrease in engagement with customers. This begins the cycle of increasing losses of customers.
Customer RelationshipsFindings from research conducted by our company ERDM indicate that engaging and forming strong relationships with customers has 12 times more influence on retention and repeat purchases than customer satisfaction. Satisfaction is now a minimum expectation.
As DMG Consulting says in their Microsoft-sponsored white paper, “In an era of intense competition, the customer experience is often the main differentiator between commoditized products and services.” In today’s consumer-centric business world, customers dictate the rise and fall of companies, and your business is completely dependent on keeping your customer relationships strong.
The key starting point for retention is understanding the state of customer relationships. Luca Paderni, VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research, says, “CMO’s and their peers...must understand what customers represent for the whole organization to help shape the strategy for the overall business.”
Once understanding is achieved, the next step, according to Walker, is closing the loop. This begins with setting alerts that indicate low customer loyalty or negative behavior, usually in the form of survey questions. After alerts are designed, a feedback system is created to ensure the information gets to someone who can act on it. There should also be follow-up protocols in place that allow staff to act on customer concerns, complaints, and opportunities accordingly. Finally, results should be documented, so the company can understand what works best and fine-tune accordingly.
This correlates with our findings, as well as the strategy used by Microsoft in the aforementioned white paper, that changing from relationships based on customer satisfaction to relationships with deeper levels of engagement - based on more in-depth understanding of their needs - increases customer retention drastically over the course of the customer lifecycle.
Key Takeaways for Marketers
1. Assess the state of current customer relationships.
Learn if you’re doing enough to meet customer expectations, and form deeper relationships with customers across multiple channels. Customers don’t just want to be satisfied, they want to be engaged.
2. Develop strategies for following up.
Create a system that will seek out red flags, notify appropriate staff members at the right time, acquire customer feedback, and use that feedback to enrich and improve customer experience.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Honoring Brand Promises Is Critical To Your Survival

The Challenge: Companies have always made promises to customers and prospects. But with today's socially empowered consumers, companies are made or broken based on how well they keep their promises. Is your company trustworthy enough?

Brand PromiseHistorically, companies have always over promised and under delivered.

But will that behavior fly with today’s savvy consumer? “The dirty laundry is out there because of social media,” says Loni Kao Stark, director of product marketing at Adobe’s Digital Marketing Solutions.

As a result, companies now have a greater responsibility to deliver on promises and live up to expectations.

This doesn't just affect existing customers, but corporate reputations, thus, their continued viability. As Stark says, "In the world of social media and digitally connected customers, only authentic brands will survive."

One company that consistently delivers on brand promises is the high-end men’s retailer Harry Rosen. The company consistently maintains brand promises by utilizing a three-point strategy involving observation, feedback, and training. Associates contact customers, use feedback to establish customer needs, and then respond to those needs throughout the customer lifecycle.

The retailer then strengthens its customer relationships by informing them of events relevant to their interests – such as shipments from their favorite designer – and trains associates to provide great service at every touchpoint. To ensure promises are maintained, Rosen also contacts customers within 30 days of purchase to ensure their satisfaction.

Key Takeaways

1. Understand customer expectations.
Organizations should realize customers no longer compare them only to their competition. Customer experience is also measured against online customer service dynamos like Zappos. In order to compete, brands must maintain ongoing dialogues with customers to gather feedback, and use that feedback to keep improving the customer experience. This dialogue should take place via surveys, CSR conversations, social media, and follow-up e-mails after purchases.

2. Keep promises throughout the customer life cycle.
Every experience that customers have with a company is a reflection of that company’s brand promise. Ensure that staff at every touchpoint in your customer lifecycle are trained to respond to customer feedback appropriately. Customer service reps should be knowledgeable and helpful. Sales associates should be attentive and aware of customer needs. And management should ensure that high levels of performance are being maintained. This applies to people and processes!

3. Ensure your brand promise is consistent across all channels.
Today’s consumer sends and receives information across multiple channels on a daily basis. If you promise one thing in TV ads and another on your social media feed, customers will notice. And that inconsistency can quickly paint you as an organization not to be trusted. Establish what specifically you want your brand promise to be, build your campaigns around that promise, and ensure that messages and experiences are consistent across your multi-channel mix.