Why Is Consumer Engagement so Hard?

We know that consumers are empowered, and we know that they are not static targets to be blasted by the same messaging. Yet companies continue to treat consumers as a mass of eyes, ears and wallets – forgetting each consumer’s unique experience with their brand. With the proliferation of channels and devices, customers may actually touch brands hundreds of times between purchases. And the fact is any of those touches could cause the consumer to become frustrated and disengaged.

Consider this example of failure in what would otherwise be a positive brand experience: I recently switched from a nameless cable provider to a satellite provider. The entire experience - from their price through installation and quality of the service - has been top notch. Recently, though, I had to call Customer Service to help me resolve an issue. Bottom line – Customer Service was great, and everything was back on track by the end of the first call.
The next morning, I received an email from DirecTV that was clearly triggered by that call. Its subject line read “Your Recent Contact with BrandTV.” Upon a review of the email, I quickly realized its entire purpose was to push me away from the call center channel (expensive), and back to the online channel (“free”). Which is fine, and an issue that I understand, but the email was fraught with ugly and avoidable mistakes that underscore how unsynchronized BrandTV is.
Allow me to summarize the conversation “The Brand” had with me “The Consumer”:
Brand: Did you know that you can access your account 24 hours a day by logging in at Brandtv.com?
Me: Yes moron, if you would check, you would see that I was logged in when I called you!
Brand: When you register your account online you will be able to:
Me: Umm, see above. You really don’t know that I have a registered account?
Brand: Pay your bill online or enroll in Autopay.
Me: Really? I enrolled in AutoPay when I first ordered the service. Should I un-enroll and go all bad debt on you?
Brand: Order Movies and Pay Per View Events.
Me: I have already ordered Movies, and I have even programmed my DVR from my Android phone! $#@&!
To really make matters worse, the right hand column of this email contained a call to action to sign up for emails to receive breaking news and other events.
C’mon people, 2011 is winding down. This email is a mistake I would expect the first caveman email marketer to make, as he autoreplies with SMTP to a response to his latest post “Advanced hair pulling techniques for the modern man.” Yet companies are doing this all of the time today. So why is it so hard?
First, non-marketers (see above) are allowed and encouraged to contact consumers. Clearly, this email has been designed by someone in Customer Service as they are incented on things like average call time and first call resolution. Getting consumers to “go the website” is a natural response to maximize their own compensation plans. Further, we know that front line responders to customers, be it in call centers or places like point of sale, are staffed with low paid, high turnover seasonal employees. This makes it difficult to ensure the quality of each interaction with consumers. Companies are racing to implement technologies to allow their employees to interact directly with consumers. This tends to make me just slightly afraid.
Second, our marketing databases have become glorified list engines. As consumer-facing technologies proliferate, more silos of customer data are being created. We have to evolve the marketing database to make it the real-time system of record for all customer data. No different than Facebook or Google allow anyone real-time access to their massive data stores through standard APIs, marketing databases can be designed with similar constructs. At any point in time, any consumer-facing entity (person or technology) should know my email address, my login history, my web browsing history, and the fact that I recently DVR’d “Nights in Rodanthe” because sometimes even we marketers need a good cry.
Third, marketers still think in terms of campaigns and not customer journeys. We simply must map how our customers interact with our brands, and decide the critical points where you cannot make mistakes, then invest in the right content and communications at those points. While no explicit technologies exist to automate the solution, frameworks for Consumer Engagement Mapping are rapidly emerging to support touch point strategies at critical points of the customer journey. I would emphasize that a post-customer service follow up email is exactly one of those critical points.
This problem is only going to worsen by means of further rapid advances in devices and technologies and consumer adoption of those devices. This will mean more touch points to consider and more opportunities for consumers to interact with brands before, during and after purchases. I mean, the iPad was introduced just 22 months ago and look at how it has changed so many aspects of our daily lives.
I would love your comments and feedback on this!
This post was authored by Pluris Marketing
Michael Caccavale

Michael Caccavale

As the leader of Pluris, CEO Michael Caccavale is the innovator and forward-thinker behind the company’s marketing enablement, analytic and optimization solutions.

About this blog

At Pluris, we believe that we all can do a better, more efficient job at marketing to our most important customers. On this blog, we'll discuss how strategy, database management, offer optimization and analytics can help us all be better marketers. Sometimes, we may just talk about sports.

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