“Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence.” - Nicholas Negroponte
A surprisingly high proportion of Forbes Global 500 company executives believe that customer insight and experience will be the next key battleground. Why? In today’s digitally-driven omnichannel world, customers are connected, engaged and increasingly sophisticated in the use of information. In fact, you would only need to add one word to Nicholas Negroponte’s visionary 1998 statement to describe the reality of today, “Like air and drinking water, being digitally connected will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence.”
The new breed of connected customer expects to be met where they are, with the communication or offer that is appropriate for the immediate situation, regardless of the channel or device in use. Real-time customer engagement requires knowledge of past purchases, specified preferences and real-time situational context or you run the risk of missing the mark.
Real-time customer engagement: A telecom story
A mobile service provider learned from their customer journey mapping that unexpected data overage charges cause significant frustration for customers. The fix was to send a text notification to customers approaching monthly data limits. Three days before his monthly reset, Jack, a long-time customer, received the message that contained a link to the provider’s website for options. You might expect that Jack would be happy that the provider recognized his potential overage situation and notified him before he incurred charges, right? Not necessarily.
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Clicking the link took Jack to a generic web page listing available data plans, costs and instructions for upgrading to a plan with a higher data allowance. This was not helpful because Jack rarely reached his data limit each month. Upgrading to a plan providing additional data would raise his monthly costs for data he would rarely need. Nor did the company make it easy to determine what would happen if he simply exceeded his limit that month.
It took a phone call to customer service to discover the standard overage charge for his plan was $10 per gigabyte of data. Considering that his current plan provided a rarely consumed two gigabytes, and he had just three days till it reset, doing nothing was, by far, the most beneficial option for Jack. Rather than improving his satisfaction with the provider, this experience decreased it significantly.
Real-time customer engagement requires knowledge of past purchases, specified preferences and real-time situational context or you run the risk of missing the mark.
Lisa Loftis, SAS
Adding real-time context says we know you
Here is how a second mobile company had much better success by using real-time customer engagement. This company has implemented a “next best offer” program where they tailor communications to their customers based on analytics indicating current circumstance and need. When a popular phone model carried in their stores developed safety issues they used their extensive customer knowledge to turn a negative experience into a positive one. Not only did they initiate contact with customers who had the affected device, but they also suggested potential replacements based on the customer’s purchase and use information, even highlighting locations where these devices were in stock.
When the FAA banned the phones from airplanes in the US, the company went a step further. Immediately after the ban was issued, the provider mined usage patterns and location data to identify frequent travelers who owned the device and were in cities other than their home. These customers received texts or calls notifying them of the ban and directing them to nearby provider-owned stores that would replace the phones immediately or, if customers’ preferred phone was not in stock, ship the banned phone to customers’ home addresses at no charge.
Real-time customer engagement is no longer optional
Research finds that consumers are increasingly frustrated that companies like Jack’s mobile provider are not providing added value despite long-term relationships and repeated interactions. Worse, the price for failure is high because almost half of these customers say they will take their business elsewhere if the situation does not improve.
Jack’s provider had the information needed to tailor the data overage message to his specific situation, which would have made his experience a positive one. They did not use it, opting instead for a generic one-size-fits-all message to every customer whose usage triggered the process.
By contrast, the provider with the next best offer program hit many of the required success criteria for a compelling experience. Rather than a generic message to affected customers, they used customer knowledge to vary the communication by individual customer – highlighting replacement devices based on individual preferences and recommending stores based on location and available inventory. Equally important, they did this in real time, meeting each customer in their “moment of now” with an offer that added significant value.
About the author
Lisa Loftis is a thought leader on the Customer Advisory Services team in SAS Best Practices. She was co-author of the book, Building the Customer Centric Enterprise (Wiley). Lisa can be reached at:
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