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Research: Marketers Overestimating How Well They Listen To Customers

Recently, we conducted VoC research for an innovative company that prides itself on having achieved high levels of customer personalization due to significant investments in technology, algorithms, and analysts. But the company was shocked when findings from our interviews uncovered that people were unsatisfied with the personalization, referring to it as "old-fashioned" and "not smart."

Following are additional representative quotes from the research:
  • "What we receive is not smart personalization. They aren't personalizing the things that matter to me!"
  • "With today’s technology, I expect emails to reflect my interests and preferences."
  • "I want more than just buying history-based emails."

Results from more than 15,000 hours of VoC research for brands such as MassMutual, Gilt, and QVC have identified a unique convergence of three factors that present CMOs and marketers with unprecedented challenges:

Factor 1: The power of technology, especially mobile, is an unprecedented enabler of better informed and faster consumer actions and purchases. To keep up, marketers need to develop strategies for high speed and high relevance engagement. A recent report noted that 69% of Britons are unsubscribing, closing accounts, opting out of emails, and deleting apps due to poorly targeted communications.

Factor 2: Consumers, in general, and millennials, in particular, are feeling a sense of tremendous empowerment and entitlement in terms of what they expect from brands. In the Deloitte report "The Growing Power of Consumers," the authors stated that "there is an increasing expectation gap as businesses struggle to keep pace with more informed, more connected and more demanding consumers ... consumers have come to expect more, making it harder for businesses to keep up ... empowered consumers are actively sharing their views ... and becoming more involved."

Factor 3: As illustrated by the ongoing Apple controversy with the FBI, consumers understand the value of their personal information, yet they desire higher levels of personalization. And, per our VoC research findings, reciprocity of value is a fundamental requirement for earning the right to in-depth customer information in exchange for significantly improved preference-driven personalization.

How can marketers better listen to their customers? Here are a trio of action items:
  1. Actions need to meet consumer personalization expectations. Capture individual preferences, use preferences to drive "smart" personalization, and establish guidelines for safeguarding data privacy.
  2. Don’t ruin the hard fought gains by sending "spray and pray" blasts that disregard preferences in hopes of generating extra sales.
  3. Find the right mix between implicit and explicit data. Using only implicit data is not enough to power true personalization.

Marketers are dealing with the most demanding consumers in history. Leveraging new listening and responding capabilities is now essential in order to acquire and retain this empowered consumer. By acting on these three listening factors, marketers will be able to provide the highest levels of customer experience, value, and personalization.


About the Author:
Ernan Roman Direct Marketing's Customer Experience strategies achieve consistent double-digit increases in response and revenue for their clients, which include IBM, MassMutual, QVC, Microsoft, and Symantec Corp.

As a leader in providing Voice of Customer research-based guidance, ERDM has conducted over 10,000 hours of interviews with their clients' customers and prospects, to gain an in-depth understanding of their expectations for high-value relationships.

The results achieved by ERDM's VoC-based strategies earned Ernan Roman induction into the Marketing Hall of Fame.

Visit his blog at: http://ernanroman.blogspot.com/

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