We've all been online when an ad or "sponsored post" appears that seems to a little more about you than you expect or want. It might be a post spruiking enagement rings or a dating agency following a change in relationship status that you thought had been kept private, or offers to buy a product of a personal nature. While in some contexts, those offers might be helpful, some of us may find them creepy. And that's what a recent report found.
InMoment operates a cloud-based customer intelligence platform. In a recent report they produced, they found 38 percent of Australian brands admit to crossing the line into creepiness when it comes to delivering on customer experience. I spoke with Andrew Joiner, the CEO of InMoment.
"We look at this as a landscape. Businesses are either trying to acquire cusotmers or optimise the relationship with existing customers. Where we think this personalisation has gotten a lot of attention is customer acquisition".
As marketplaces become more competitive, Joinder says they are using more and more data to optimise the customer experience. They arrive at a store armed with losts of their own information through a variety of channels. And online stores only have a millisecond to make an impression said Joinder.
Pressured by those short times, sellers try to do their best to engage you by using as much infrtomation as possible. That's lead to crossing the line into creepiness as they try to learn more about us by using data from various sources.
"It works really poorly, potentially, in the marketing sense," said Joiner. "Every time you come you're basically anonymous and they're trying to brute force trying to understand you".
Joiner prefers to think about things as the "era of the relationship". He says we need to do better to understand customers by using the data we already have. For example, he said businesses have a great idea of what customers have bought, when they bought it and other contact information through CRM systems. It needs to be augmented with "relationship intelligence". That means creating an emotional response in customers. He cited research from Harvard that says customers are twice as likely to purchase from you again if they form an emotional link to your brand rather than simply being highly satisfied with an intreraction.
"If we can understand, at an more emotional level, how to connect with you, then you also get twice the benefit".
An example of this was the luxury brand Tiffany's. Although they aren't a hospitality brand, they created an in-store cafe in flagship stores called "Breakfast at Tiffany's" which leverages an emotional response in customers. The cafe is booked out two years in advance. And while it's not a major revenue source, it's part of the emotional journey for customers.
Banks are following a similar model. Rather than selling separate products such as savings accounts, mortgages and investment advice, they are looking at customers through their life and trying to create an ongoing relationship. That may start with school banking leading to savings accounts though to loans for a first car, a mortgage and ongoing services through different life stages.
By using the data they have, banks are trying to create a relationship that goes beyond being simply transactional.
Joiner said CX is evolving in businesses. Many executives saw CX has purely being about metrics such as a Net Promoter Score or some other performance indicator. That was useful for benchmarking but provided no insight into why a number changed. This is where machine learning and artificial intelligence are becoming increasingly important.
"The advent of AI really lets you listen to that voice of the customer. So, it's moved from generating metrics to getting meaning. Customers will tell you in free-form comments or over the phone the actionable intelligence. That's really hard for organisations to process. They can tell when metrics go up and down but AI and the new data science tap into that to find the signal from the noise," said Joiner.
One of the areas where the data shows perception and reality are separate is with the influnece of social media. Joiner said about 30 percent of brands think social can deliver cusotmers a positive experience. But only 6 percent agree.
"Brands overestimate the power of the social channel".
What does it take to create a great 21st century customer experience?
Joiner said "The first thing we talk about is that the journey starts when we plug our phones in at night and wake up in the morning. The types of skills - you now have to go fluidly between channels. You have to be able to listen and engage cusotmers at all different parts of journeys".
The customer experience has many touchpoints and customers don't think of them as discrete. For them, they're all part of one experience.
Customers expect to be heard and not be treated as a number.
Finally, Joiner said AI will help companies as they deal with the increasing volume of data. He said customers aren't interested in filling in satisfaction surveys - they want conversations through channels they prefer. For some, that will be over the phone while for others it might be written or even a video. AI will provide the tools to process all those different concversations.