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Customers Not That into You? It Could Be Your Marketing
New research identifies the brand marketing practices that inspire vs. those that irritate.
Posted Feb 17, 2012
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Consumers by and large have no problem with customer satisfaction surveys, according to new research from Pitney Bowes that asked 6,000 consumers in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States about their marketing preferences.

In fact, 75 percent of those surveyed view these kinds of surveys as perfectly acceptable.

The one caution, though, is that surveys shouldn't be too involved. If surveys are too long or detailed, customers will not want to complete them.

For most consumers, surveys show that the company values its customers' opinions and hopefully, they will do something with the information they collect, according to Dan Kohn, vice president of corporate marketing at Pitney Bowes.

This presents a real opportunity for brands to get to know their customers, he says. With the insight learned, brands can then create personalized or custom experiences based on each consumer's preferences, a very acceptable practice for the majority of consumers surveyed.

The research found that the growing trend of personalizing messaging is working for brands. On Web sites, 59 percent of consumers surveyed say they appreciate personalization such as "Welcome, Jane." For transactional sites, especially where purchases are being made, it can be reassuring for Jane to know that the site recognizes her account details and has a record of her interactions.

"It's a sign that [the company] recognizes you," Kohn says. "It gives a sense of confidence that the company knows who you are, values you as a customer, and is using your data wisely."

Conversely, a lack of personalization can be a negative, as six in 10 people surveyed said it was a problem when companies failed to recognize them as repeat customers. "Companies should be respecting the relationship that you've had with them," Kohn says.

But not everyone is enamored with personalization. In Germany, six in 10 consumers viewed such levels of personalization negatively.

Another cultural difference was in the opportunity for cross-selling: While about half of the survey respondents in Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. said cross-selling was OK, 90 percent of French consumers had positive reactions to the practice.

Conversely, consumers across the board reacted negatively to brands asking them to support a particular charity or ethical concern (84 percent), sending offers from third-parties (83 percent), and encouraging interaction with other consumers via an online community (81 percent).

"More and more, consumers can tell when a company is being transparent," Kohn points out.

He put together a checklist of marketing best practices, which he called the Dos and Don'ts of Brand Interactions with Customers:

Personalization:

  • Do Amp up the level of personalization on the Web (59 percent positive), but the level of personalization has to be relevant to the type of transaction being conducted.
  • Don't Let your call center reps get too chummy on the phone (70 percent negative).

Asking the customer for action:

  • Do Conduct customer feedback surveys regularly (75 percent positive).
  • Don't Invite consumers to create their own homepages(69 percent negative).
  • Don't Ask them to recommend you to a friend.

Frequency:

  • Do Send a special offer in the mail each month (74 percent positive).
  • Don't Send weekly email (89 percent negative).

Invitation to a brand's causes:

  • Do Keep customer forums with the customer service efforts, not marketing (81 percent positive).
  • Don't Ask the customer to support the brand's charity (84 percent negative).

Kohn notes that every company should take one lesson away from all this: Show that the company is not just in it for themselves, but rather, is willing to build a long-term relationship with its customers.

"This survey confirms that brands should listen to consumers before they send out their communications," Kohn says. "Every interaction must honor the interests of the customer first; only then is a relevant offer or call to action acceptable to consumers. Each conversation between a brand and a customer is an opportunity to delight or disappoint. We’re all learning how to do more of the former and less of the latter."


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