In the last week I have come across two great examples of companies taking simple steps to engage well with their customers.
Firstly I bought a PowerAdd external battery backup for my laptop. The laptop does not have an exchangeable battery (at least not without taking it apart) and on days when I was using it intensively away from external power, I was sometimes running out of charge. The PowerAdd PIlotPro that I purchased provides enough power to recharge my battery and so see me easily through the day. It also comes with adaptors and settings for many different types of laptops as well as USB output, so it is really flexible – and it looks good.
The simple step that PowerAdd took to engage me as a customer was to put in a small folded piece of card. On one side there is a smiley face and on the other an unhappy face, with a short message of the reverse of each face. On the reverse of the smiley face is a simple message to say that the company is pleased I am happy and a request to share a review. On the reverse of the unhappy face is the message that their support team is ready to support me with details of different ways I can contact them. The messages are shown on the image at the top of this page.
What is brilliant is how simply the message is delivered: Happy – please share. Unhappy – here’s how we can help.
Many other companies try to achieve the same effect, but don’t execute as well – the messages are hidden in lots of documentation, or delivered at the wrong time, or swamped with questions that the company would like you to answer. With PowerAdd the messages were obvious, quick to read and delivered at the time I was trying out the device.
The other recent example, was on the invoice of a company, CDRC Roofing, who did some repairs to my roof. The invoice arrived with a request to review them via Checkatrade – a simple form to fill in was enclosed with postage pre-paid – or else to like them on Facebook. Again, asking me for a review is a simple thing to do, but so few traders I use bother to do this.
Those who have just purchased are the most important people for suppliers to engage with. But so often we either forget to do so or do not work hard enough to make feedback easy. Satisfied customers are our best source of future sales – via recommendations, referrals or follow on sales. If they are dissatisfied, then the sooner we know, the easier it is to correct mistakes and turn them into satisfied customers.
The three key steps to engaging new customers shown in these two examples are:
- Make it clear how they can get support if they have any issues
- Ask them to recommend, refer or review
- Keep it simple
Starting with these, you can then build up further conversations with the customer over time.
The impact of GDPR
I attended a very interesting talk at the TFM 16 (Technology for Marketing) conference a week ago. It was given by Simon Blanchard of Opt-4 Limited who discussed the implications of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). While this EU regulation is not due to come into force until 25 May 2018, as the UK has not yet triggered the exit mechanism, we will still be in the EU when it comes into effect. Just as important is the fact that we will need to continue to comply with many EU rules in order to keep trading with them. Also the EU regulation is likely to influence very strongly any UK legislation that replaces it. In other words, we need to pay attention to it.
The regulation applies to everyone who processes personal data or who asks a supplier to do it for them. It covers both B2B and B2C so it affects all marketing. It strengthens the requirements to obtain explicit customer consent for using their data, broadens the definition of what is included in personal data and add requirements to allow customers to have their data erased or transferred to a new supplier. It also applies to existing data, not just new data obtained after the direct comes into effect.
If you want to find out more details, you had better go to the experts – look at the details on the Information Commissioner’s website or download Simon Blanchard’s presentation from the TFM16 website – it is in the Data Analytics file. But you do not need to be an expert to see how this will make it far more difficult for marketers to buy and sell data in future.
Data protection advantages for customer engagement
While some might view the new rules as a restriction, they should prove no problem for those marketers who have fully embraced customer engagement. Engagement means talking to customers and prospects, listening to their requirements, asking them questions and understanding their needs. It requires empathy as Brian Carroll pointed out in his DreamForce presentation. Respecting their concerns and building trust are key to building a long term relationship from which both sides benefit – the customer with products and services that match her needs and are developed to continue to provide more value, and the supplier with a long-term customer and an advocate.
So while those who practice customer engagement will have to ensure they follow the details of the GDPR, they will already be following the spirit of it.
Ride the wave of customer control
GDPR and new data protection regulations will benefit those whose marketing is built on building trust and creating relationships with customers. It is not a new way of thinking – many companies have thrived by having this engagement built into their ethos. But it needs to be adapted to the modern digital world. Marketing companies such as Ctrl-Shift, who talk about ” giving customers the control over permissions and to use their data to better manage their lives” embody the way trust can be built into relationships which are often primarily or totally online.
Customers nowadays are given power by online information and the power of social networks. To date they have seemed happy to give away their data in exchange for free services, but this is changing. They may be more willing to share than in previous generations, but they want to control how their data is used. Organisations that use engagement marketing or conversation marketing well can ride the wave of customer control.