• September 1, 2011
  • By David Myron, Editorial Director, CRM and Speech Technology magazines and SmartCustomerService.com

Get Personal or Get Abandoned

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Today’s informed, socially connected, and empowered customers often consume large volumes of information before making a purchase. The best chance a company has at regularly winning a customer’s business is to make sure the information it presents is relevant to each customer’s needs. To know what is relevant to each customer, though, requires organizations to break old mass-marketing habits and create more personal interactions.

This doesn’t mean that marketers should simply send out emails with the recipient’s name at the top, nor does it require employees to strike up irrelevant conversations to feign interest in customers. What it means, however, is that organizations know their customers well enough to anticipate their needs and present them with offers that are timely and relevant. That, in turn, would improve customer trust, foster loyalty, and increase revenue.

Take retail banks as an example. Knowing that a customer recently purchased a house could trigger a well-timed message about a home equity line of credit that can be used for a variety of large household expenses, such as furnishing or remodeling the home. Or, if a father creates a custodial account for his newborn daughter, information about how to save for her future with a 529 college savings plan might set his mind at ease. 

Unfortunately, most banks are not that sophisticated, according to the article “Report Suggests Retail Banks Need an Overhaul.” by News Editor Leonard Klie. One industry pundit states that banks “still cannot identify who their best customers are, let alone identify appropriate products, pricing, servicing, and channels for them.” The article offers some useful tips for organizations in any industry on how to become more customer-centric and, thereby, more personal.

The desire to be treated as an individual and not a number or eyeball on a Web page is nothing new. What is new, though, is the ability of social media to empower customers to voice their displeasure when they are being treated like a statistic. This gives customers a great deal of power in the vendor-customer relationship and forces organizations to adjust their customer interaction strategies.

Because information is shared so quickly with large audiences, customer attitudes about a particular vendor can change on a whim. That’s the nature and beauty of social media, but it’s also the reason marketers are so concerned. Whether marketers like it or not, it’s something to which they must grow accustomed. Fortunately, though, the column “Consumers Power Transformational Marketing,”, by Geoffrey Hamelin, senior managing consultant at IBM Global Business Services, offers some advice. Essentially, marketers must effectively “listen, analyze, engage, and then evolve the interactions with their customers,” Hamelin writes.

This message is consistent with this month’s cover story, “Marketing to Communities: Why Old-School Advertising Delivers the Wrong Message,” by Associate/Web Editor Brittany Farb. In the fast-developing world of social communities, it should come as no surprise that some customer attitudes and behaviors already have changed. For example, consumers’ most trusted source is no longer “someone like me.” Read this feature story to find out who is the most trusted source for customers and why.

It’s natural for customer attitudes and behaviors to change. To spot the changes before it’s too late, customer interaction strategies must be continually monitored and updated. For an organization to get to this point, however, it must shift its focus from blindly pushing products to anticipating customers’ needs and delivering on them.

Editorial Director David Myron can be reached at @dmyron on Twitter or at dmyron@infotoday.com.

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