Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Ways Customer Listening Powers Marketing Effectiveness

Cutomer Thinks Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
Today customers can make sure that their voice is heard like never before. And, if marketers don’t have measures in place to listen, they are turning a deaf ear to potentially significant problems and missing out on essential insights for improving their customer experience.

NASCAR Following are 3 ways to leverage customer listening and examples of how companies are putting these strategies into action.

1. Realize that Customer Listening (and Responding) is a 360-Degree Commitment.

Engagement with customers includes business partners who are also the face of your brand. So, how every aspect of your brand listens to the voice of your customer and responds is key.

For example, NASCAR made the decision to revamp its marketing and listening in five key areas. But that’s not where it ended. NASCAR also encouraged its business partners and drivers to do the same.

“We developed an industry action plan,” stated Steve Phelps NASCAR CMO, “… A plan for digital and social, a plan for driver star power–and within each plan, [we came up with] a number of different action items … [In an] effort to be thought leaders who provide the best available experience to our fans. We strongly encourage those across the entire landscape of the sport to embrace digital and social media — from drivers and teams to tracks and corporate partners.”

With new technologies NASCAR is boasting 6,000 tweets a minute, 565,000 posts per day and one million posts per event.

2. Customers are More Than Numbers, They are People, Talk to Them … (And listen.)

Data gives you a good view of what customers are doing. However, it is not going to tell you why or give you the emotional factors like a conversation. Personal interactions can be more valuable than all the big data you will ever collect.

Starting in October, Flow and Columbus Business Solutions, a telecommunications company serving the Caribbean, asked customers to tell them how they felt. Michele English, Columbus’ executive vice president and chief customer officer noted, “Our plan is to significantly enhance our customer ‘listening’ systems and ensure that feedback is integrated into our daily decisions and connected to our customers’ experiences across the organization… we have to design and implement [operational processes] to ensure that every customer touch point in the organization can support our customers’ needs efficiently and effectively… We now look forward to more customer feedback. “

The Company designed an easy to use online customer survey and sent communications to customers to encourage them to complete the survey and tell the company what matters.

3. Make Conversation (and Listening) Easy with Social Communities

Online communities enable the exchange of ideas in discussion forums, polls and social media. They provide brand information, mitigate problems and provide opportunities for a collaborative two-way conversation.

Southwest Airlines launched a Listening Center to monitor its online communities using a keyword-based listening tool that pulls in mentions from social platforms. The Listening Center monitors insights in real time to quickly identify issues and immediate engagement opportunities. Customers can connect their Twitter handles to their Rapid Rewards frequent flier numbers to get personalized services. Southwest Airlines also leverages the Listening Centers to send apology letters for delays, find new opportunities for engagement and implement company-wide customer care.

Alice Wilson, social business advisor for Southwest’s marketing organization notes that sharing the information collected is the key to listening success. “The customer feedback means something different to each [department] and can inform each group in a different way…From a social care standpoint, [employees] want to help assist and resolve. But somebody from the marketing team may be looking at that [data and ask], how do we alter communications to help these future situations?…The point is not to keep it as a silo.”

Keys to Effectively Listening to the Voice of Your Customer:
  • Listening should be at the heart of your marketing strategy.Listening lets you understand the “why” of what your customers are doing and experiencing so that operational issues, communication, and experience can be overhauled for a more positive overall brand impression.
  • Learnings from Listening Needs to be Shared with Every Part of your Business. Having data without acting on the implications does nothing for your business. Set standards for how the insights from your listening programs are regularly integrated and shared with all departments so that changes and actions are put in motion to respond to customer needs and comments.
  • Meaningful Dialogue Based on Listening. Develop authentic, honest and direct conversations based on listening, which lead to meaningful connections and two-way dialogue.
  • Use Listening to Develop Strategies. Once you launch programs to listen, develop means for incorporating these learnings into new strategies that address the issues identified in customer conversations. Put in motion ongoing review of the data collected through listening programs so that you have a clear roadmap that delineates what customers are expecting, their pain points and their current/future demands.
  • Listening Objectives Must be Established. If you don’t know how you are going to listen, you will not be able to hear what your customers are trying to tell you. Whether you have the means to set up a full scale listening center, a social monitoring program, a survey, or a call center monitoring program, know what you are implementing and how you will regularly harvest and utilize the insights.
In summary, customers have a lot to say and they want you to listen. The good news is that customers generally have valid concerns and smart advice to offer. Marketers and customers will both benefit if the marketer creates multichannel ways of listening to customers and processes for acting quickly on their input.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gilt's Founder Answers 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators

We are launching a new feature of our widely read blog Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices. It is called: 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators. The goal is to provide a quick read filled with meaningful insights from marketing thought leaders. Each column will feature one innovator who will address 4 questions;

  1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
  2. Why is this so important?
  3. How will concentrating on this help improve the customer experience?
  4. How will concentrating on this help improve the overall effectiveness of marketing?
The 4 Questions for Marketing Innovators feature will be a periodic blog. Please send your feedback and ideas for people you would us to interview to ernan@erdm.com This inaugural blog will focus on Alexis Maybank, Founder and Strategic Advisor of Gilt.

Alexis Maybank In 2007, Alexis and a founding team conceived of and built Gilt, and in doing so, revolutionized the landscape of luxury ecommerce and the way millions of people shop online.

Alexis also serves as Director for National Audubon Society and for Girls Who Code. Alexis, together with Gilt co-founder Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, is the author of The New York Times bestseller book, By Invitation Only: How We Built Gilt and Changed the Way Millions Shop.

Gilt is an innovative online shopping destination offering its more than 9 million members access to top designer labels, at significant discounts and exclusive local services and experiences.

We caught up with Alexis at the recent DMA Annual Conference, where she was inducted into the DMA Hall of Fame. Here are her marketing insights;

  1. What is one marketing topic that is most important to you as an innovator?
Adding a "face" in the faceless world of the Internet.
2. Why is this so important?
Online we think about how we create a differentiated look or fulfill a unique promise to a customer.
However, it’s equally as important to consider how we make our business relatable and identifiable to the consumer.
Technology can be intimidating, sites with a blur of offerings and pages upon pages of content can be overwhelming.
Customer loyalty is generated not just through an excellently executed customer experience, but also through a deeper connection to what the customer feels personally for your business.

At Gilt, here’s how we approached it. As we set out to build this deeper personal relationship with our customers, my cofounder Alexandra Wilson and I put ourselves out there and made sure we interacted directly with our base on many fronts.

Firstly, each city we visited for personal or business travel we'd meet our 10-20 top customers. We heard first hand what they loved about Gilt, what they would like to improve.

The conversations soon turned to recommendations on travel destinations, favorite restaurants and even to our families or common passions. We realized that by having the two of us engage directly and frequently with our members, we started building a recurring dialogue with our customers, or in other words that “Face" we needed to emerge from that anonymous world of the internet.

We began to foster that dialogue in both small ways and in large ways. Smaller ways included series of local events in key cities where we could speak to hundreds at a time; we inserted personally signed thank you notes in all outbound boxes; and we made sure we too answered customer support calls and emails regularly.
At scale, we kept the conversation consistent across our social footprint, speaking to followers and friends alike about the same topics our customers enjoyed discussing in person. And importantly our customer support voice and tone also had the same cadence. We established a consistent voice and put in place key policies that sustained these practices, like having no time limits on customer calls or giving advice on any topic our customer wanted, regardless if it entailed an imminent site purchase or a hotel recommendation in a new city.
Our customer accommodation practices were geared to this same empathic, friendly relationship. These and many other examples of the touch points with the customer were carefully thought out and consistent with who we were as a founders. We built a relatable "face" to the business, one that the customers could relate to, define and ultimately root for due to their deeper sense of connection to our brand.
3. How will concentrating on this help improve the customer experience?
By creating that recognized, trusted brand, the customer feels they have someone in their corner.
The right policies, advice and friendly person on the other side of an email and phone call builds confidence in the service and offerings the customer can expect.
Now it’s not always possible to have a couple of senior members of the team that can be out there and really embodying and shaping your company's brand.
If that’s not feasible, I have given the following advice;
1) Have you taken the time to solidify your company’s values, or even it’s mission and vision? What drives the operating principles of your organization? Having these understood, documented and shared broadly help unify an employee base and lead to greater consistency in how your clients and customers interact with you, the company.
2) Secondly, if you think of your brand, what type of person would s/he be? How would s/he present herself, what characteristics would she have, and what would she care about? To me, these, and others, are useful exercises that inform many of your key practices and policies that are critical to bringing your brand to life in trusted, animated and consistent manner. They can help create a relatable face.
4. How will concentrating on this help improve the overall effectiveness of marketing?
It's difficult to engender loyalty and a personal connection from customers in a strictly online world, however it's critically important to try. With all the noise and distractions online, and without the benefit of that personal handshake or eye contact, it's harder to create a relatable, lasting bond with a person. If you can achieve it, you can establish a truly original brand, a sense of personal connection. Through the relationship we at Gilt established with our customers, we could confidently, empathetically and personally open a window to the fantastic for our customers each and every day.