Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Why Integrating Your Data Systems is Key to Positive Customer Experiences

Working within the customer contact industry does make me particularly critical of the experiences and communications I receive in my everyday life and whilst I try to leave my professional hat in the office, I frequently find myself critiquing the service and communications I receive from companies.

Recently I used the Odeon website to book my tickets for the latest film in the Bond franchise, Skyfall. As a regular cinema-goer I have a profile on their website which lists Chelmsford as my local cinema; using this profile I booked my tickets, before anybody has the chance of ruining Skyfall for me.

The Odeon online booking system is straightforward and easy to use and as you would expect, I received a confirmation email from them after completing my purchase. However, two days later I received a marketing email from Odeon saying “we can see you haven’t booked tickets for Skyfall yet at your local cinema. It’s not too late as there are still tickets available ... just click here.” 

Receiving this email brought two thoughts to mind. My initial reaction was whether my ticket booking has been successfully completed. The second thought was why their two systems (booking and marketing) aren’t integrated, preventing me from receiving emails that are misleading and misinformed. Fortunately my booking was successful so I will be able to see Skyfall unimpeded. I did however email Odeon to question the marketing message and as of yet, have not received a response.

There are important lessons to be learnt from this experience for customer contact and service professionals.
  1. The data that you collect should be used to shape your customer communications; ensuring that if you are going to use marketing emails, that the messaging is accurate and relevant to the recipient.
  2.  If you are going to request information from your customers it is important that you use it effectively to deliver personalised marketing and communications.
  3. There is significant value in linking up your data systems, not only does this allow you to avoid such mistakes, but creates additional opportunities to cross and up-sell.
  4. Companies need to be prepared for responses from customers, particularly if they get it wrong, answering their queries quickly and efficiently can minimise the negative impact.
  5.  Ignoring the value of integrating data systems and communications can be detrimental to brand image.
Whilst this may only be a relatively minor mistake in delivering an integrated marketing experience to customers, it does highlight to companies the confusion and negative impact a mistimed or misinformed communication can have. It will not however limit my enjoyment of the film, even if the booking experience was compromised.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

How to Support eCommerce with Additional Communication Channels

The eCommerce platform has grown massively in recent years and has made purchasing products easier and more convenient than ever (if executed effectively).  Unlike the high street, the internet enables businesses of all sizes to compete directly. As long as companies think rationally about their pricing and user experience, there is significant opportunity out there to generate revenue through eCommerce.

eCommerce also provides customer insight, a constantly open shop-front and global reach. If implemented correctly, it also allows customers to seamlessly move from researching to purchasing. That is not to say there aren’t problems with eCommerce platforms however; and whilst online retail sales are expected to grow to $250bn by 2014 (Forrester Research), around a third of UK online shoppers still report problems when they shop online (Aspect Online Shopping Service Experiences 2012 Survey).

The reasons behind these poor experiences are myriad and range from failing to deal with the growth of online business, or as we have experienced with one client, website navigation that was hampering the order process and leading to abandoned baskets. Whatever the reason however, the outcome is the same, poor customer experiences and the loss of a customer to a competitor.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Whilst the online space makes it easier than ever for customers to choose an alternative, by embracing additional communication channels it is possible to deliver an integrated customer experience that helps to achieve sales whilst building trust and loyalty. This could be as simple, (as we did with the example above) as offering a contact number so that customer issues were resolved in minutes by specialist agents. Alternatively, it could involve a more advanced cart recovery email marketing campaign that picks up abandoned baskets and guides the customer back to a purchase.

But what is the right communication channel?

Understanding which communication channel is right for your eCommerce business can be a challenge, with options that include live help (voice and web chat) and contact centre facilities, (email, phone and SMS). The equation is fairly simple, look at the channels that meet your customers’ needs, understand the limitations of your eCommerce platform and look at the products you are selling.

The Aspect survey highlights that 77% of online shoppers prefer to be contacted through email, whilst 14% prefer the phone and 8% web chat. This indicates that email is consistently the better option, but this may not always be the case:

For example, if you are an e-tailer of CDs, then an abandoned basket may warrant an email or SMS as a method of cart recovery.  Larger items however, such as white goods or technology may require an outbound telephone call, to better understand the reasons behind the abandonment and to encourage the customer back to purchasing.

On the other hand if you are regularly seeing basket abandonment, then web chat or social media may be the perfect way to provide real time assistance to customers, reducing the number of abandoned shopping baskets and subsequently, the number of inbound calls that could be resolved easily online.

With 97% of shoppers reporting that they had abandoned a shopping basket at some point (Aspect) the priority for e-tailers is clear: use an integrated blend of outbound and inbound customer contact to support and assist the user journey. Achieve this and your eCommerce platform has the potential to be highly successful, profitable asset to your business and will hopefully bring those customers back to order again.