What We've Got Here Is Failure to Communicate

Consumers think companies are increasingly acting without understanding them, according to IBM Global Business Services' "Consumer Experience Survey," which evaluated customer and business leader opinions. What was true for "Captain" remains true today: Some men you just can't reach--of the more than 100 business leaders questioned for the survey, 79 percent admit to taking significant marketing and promotional actions without clearly understanding their consumers' expectations. More than 600 consumers throughout Canada, parts of Europe, and the United States were also surveyed, and fewer than half of retail banking consumers surveyed had experiences that exceeded their expectations. Banking consumers surveyed stated higher-order emotive characteristics like "dignity" and "empathy" as top preferences. Characteristics like "friendly" and "informed" are less important. However, only 17 percent of business leaders as a whole said that they consider emotional factors at all when making consumer-related decisions. "Companies have been focused on the operational side of the business like how quickly someone in the contact center picks up the phone and the speed of calls, rather than a customer's emotional experience," says Robert Heffernan, CRM global lead for IBM's Institute for Business Value. Yet a salesperson's empathy was just as important as price in buying a car, one of the two types of purchases (financial services was the other) on which the survey focused, Heffernan adds. "Companies need to focus in on how to pull in more information from the customer experience." The survey found that 74 percent of business leaders surveyed act on an operational basis, such as what can be made faster or more efficient, rather than focusing on an in-depth understanding of what the consumer may value most. Business leaders reported being twice as likely to prioritize improving internal call center operations, rather than investing in forward-looking goals like predicting loyalty, face-to face interactions or measuring business outcomes to provide fact-based information that drives improved business decision making. Also, companies continue to put inspirational and emotional brand messages into the market, but often fail to deliver on emotional promises when they interact with consumers. These survey results suggest that deep consumer understanding and proactive management of key interactions represent a significant opportunity for differentiation in today's fiercely competitive and price-driven marketplaces. "Information is power-companies need to invest in tying together the operational information as well as the customer-related information to enhance the service delivery," Heffernan says. "It really is at the top of the growth agenda. Anything from pricing to product features and attributes can be matched by the competition. If you start bringing customer empathy into the equation, it can be competitive differentiator-it's not easily replicated." Related articles: A New Marketing Medium
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