Understanding your customers

As marketers we need to be able to ensure that the experiences we deliver to our customers are as good as they can be. In my view ‘good’ means interesting, relevant and seamless (among other things).

Can you blame customers for being so? Brands have access to customer data and a high level of technology. In exchange for that data, marketers need to deliver value and there are risks for those that don’t.

As I’ve discussed in the past (and already mentioned once in this post) customer experience is king. This in part is due to the increased expectations of customers but it’s also due to another change in consumer behaviour – what is commonly referred to as Review Culture.

Now more than ever before we live in a world of feedback and reviews. Never before has it been easier to leave a review anonymously, rate interactions or complain. The advent of the digital environment and the proliferation of smart devices means it is easier to share your views and easier to access the views of others.

The culture aspect of review culture has emerged because of this. But it’s not all bad. People are more likely to leave honest reviews and reviews are extremely likely to play an important role in many buying decisions.

For instance, according to a recent Experian survey 75% of consumers consider online reviews important when purchasing electrical products and 74% of consumers say the same when booking travel and holidays.

However, only 45% say it’s important in home and garden, 44% in health and beauty. Likewise, only 34% say they are important in fashion with 18% of people saying it’s not important at all. Evidently they’d rather trust their own judgement.

What can I do? Focus on customer experience

Reacting to negative reviews

So we agree that this stuff is important, but what can marketers do? There are two aspects to tackle: first off there’s the reactive; secondly there’s the proactive. I’ll say a few words on each.

From a reactive perspective the key is to not shy from it. You can’t battle negative reviews by pretending they don’t exist. In many cases they are hosted on third party websites and public forums. Places you don’t have control. Of course, if it’s taking place on a social network you do have an element of control – but the same principles of what I’m about to explain still apply.

If someone has had a bad experience then you need to tackle that head on. Feedback is good. It’s how you improve what you do. People pay thousands of pounds to get market research and customer insight on their products and services – here they are offering it to you for free. Don’t just deny it because it’s a one-off or the tone is negative. Figure out what went wrong and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

On some platforms it can be turned to your advantage. A clever marketer will tackle a complaint straight on and turn it into a positive. By solving problems in a public space you show your brand to be understanding, flexible, personable and reasonable.

First and foremost I would make sure you are aware of all the places that your products or services are being reviewed. There are plenty of websites and organisations that rank and rate goods and services – just ignoring them won’t make them go away.

Proactively tackling negative reviews to get that good customer experience

So we want good reviews do we? Doesn’t everyone?

It’s stating the obvious but to get good reviews you need to deliver good experiences and have a good product. The product side of things I can’t help you with (that’s up to you) but when it comes down to delivering good experiences I know you need to look at what you understand about your customers.

Before you do that however, it’s important to make sure you are doing everything you can to make it as easy as possible for people to leave good reviews. In fact, if good reviews are such a precious commodity it may be worth running some activity to get some good feedback from satisfied clients.

To deliver good experiences you need to be able to tailor them to what you know about the individuals involved. To do this you need a robust understanding of your customers – including online and offline data – and the technology to be able to communicate effectively.

When we say ‘communicate effectively’ we mean have the ability to meet their expectations in a joined up way. When a customer engages with a channel they feel they are engaging with the brand/company as a single individual – not just one aspect of it. Brands need to be able to react and communicate in a similar manner to deliver a good experience.

That ability stems wholly from your understanding of that customer, their touchpoints and preferences. Online and offline data sets matched up to create a single view of each customer. Only then do you have the flexibility to treat them how they expect to be treated – as an individual. As a person.

The same goes for outbound messages – they need to be relevant, interesting and timely. No pointless spam or irrelevant messages. Delivering value for the usage of those people’s data.

Experian Marketing Services helps bring brands and customers closer together. Using our own industry data and analytical expertise we can help businesses build up an accurate and actionable understanding of their customers and using the Experian Marketing Suite technology, accurately engage with them.