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Understanding Customers’ Digital Mood
Effectively managing customer experience online.
Posted Jan 14, 2009
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How individual customers feel about the brands they choose to do business with can be best described as their brand temperature, or mood. In an online environment where much or all of the relationship is defined digitally, brand attitude towards the online channel can be thought of as customers' "digital mood." Digital mood is not completely detached form a customer's brand temperature, but it has the advantage that it can be easily measured.

Digital mood is important since it affects the customer's propensity to buy and ultimately their loyalty. It is a fickle thing, changing dynamically based on the latest experience, but influenced by the customer's unique past experience with the brand as well. It's important because a customer's attitude at any point in time needs to be taken into account in the tone of any communication with the customer.

If your business is to provide a service over the Internet, then you have a richness of experience data not found in other channels. Businesses such as Expedia, online banking operations, online retailers, or software as a service (SaaS) providers can precisely track the experience of customers, and measure the effectiveness of their service.

In every business, some clients are worth more than others, but managing and delighting these clients online is challenging. Recognizing their value, monitoring their unique experience and responding to their frustrations and desires is increasingly essential when the competition is only a mouse click away. Recognizing individual customers' potential value to the business is also important at this stage to determine which channels to use. The opportunity to offer a higher quality of service to a potential premium client early on in the relationship can be very profitable.

Measuring the experience end to end, at an individual customer level, is very revealing since individual customers' experiences vary dramatically-just as you would expect. For example, in an online banking environment, new account opening processes are critical; in retail, it's the shopping cart process; in stock brokerage and travel, getting the price quote; and so on. Clearly not all processes are equal, and it is natural to focus resources on assuring quality for these customer critical processes.

Ability to measure the lifetime experience value of a customer in order to identify where the performance problems are and who is affected, and can automatically initiate remedial actions is critical to converting customers into lifelong loyalists.

Here's an example: a prospect is online applying for a new account. After several steps, they abandon the process, an all too common problem impacting as many as four in five online applications. If you've designed your new account opening process well, then you've captured both the email details early on and key value indicators, which allow you to classify the potential value of the client.

It's obvious that you need to follow up with the prospect, even though many sites don't. For example, you could automate an email that automatically follows up abandoned new account openings, with a link suggesting they complete the process. This will help, but is far from optimal.

How you follow up depends on why the potential customer abandoned the process and who they are. If the prospect experienced a sequence of page errors or poor Web site performance during their online application, then sending a link in a generic email for them to try again is unlikely to be effective. In practice, a far more effective technique is to recognize they had a bad experience and switch channels, perhaps by triggering a chat session while they are online, changing the content of the site, or offering a customer service based call to complete the process.

Measuring it enables you to prioritize resources, fix problems and to identify which customers were affected. Measuring it is one thing, acting upon it is another, since you effectively have to track experience at an individual level, and be able to act in real time-after all there's no point in trying to take remedial action days or weeks after your customer experiences a negative or positive event.

In fact, acting at little as 36 hours late is seven times less effective than acting immediately. The numbers speak for themselves-taking appropriate remedial action quickly is very effective in converting customers and in winning hearts and minds. Tracking critical online processes in order to initiate automatic corrective actions and alert e-commerce operations teams in real time is the key to attracting, converting and servicing customers for a lifetime in an online environment.

About the Author

Charles Nicholls is founder and CEO of SeeWhy Software, a real-time business intelligence company. For more information, contact info@seewhy.com.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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