The only constant… change

James Moffat, Founder and Executive Director of Organic spoke at the DMA’s Customer Engagement 2016 event. Below is a brief round up of his talk at the event.
In the good old days, engaging with customers was easy. You connected with them in store, maybe dealt with a few mail order forms, and if you were particularly savvy, had a phone line they could call you on. The number of channels was limited, and almost always involved contact with a person in one form or another.
But things have changed.
Although change has always been part of the human dynamic, the speed of change is now the defining feature of our era. As technologies emerge, mature and are replaced like digital mayflies, embracing it is all anyone can do to keep up let alone get ahead.
So, as we scrabble to adopt and understand new platforms we begin to believe that it’s not just technology changing but our fundamental nature. It isn’t just how people are interacting with brands that is different, but what they want from them, too. We see people behaving like brands, carefully managing a persona, and brands increasingly trying to be just like an individual. Our instinct then is to dive headlong into trying to build richer, more meaningful (and hopefully longer) relationships.
But here’s the thing. In all of this the one thing that isn’t changing is the customer. Where and how they engage with you will change, but what they want hasn’t changed.
Customers don’t want a new relationship, they want a better version of the successful relationships brands have built in the past.
Think about any shop that you have returned to time and again. What lured you back each time? The fact that they knew your name, or listened to the details of your recent holiday? Or was it simply the fact that they offered great service, great value and great deals that they knew you would be interested in?
We talk about customer engagement as if the aim is to have a personal relationship with each customer, knowing their every like and dislike, to be their confidante ready to cheer them up when times are tough. But really we’re missing the point. Yes, customers want a personalised experience but what they mean by personalised and what we think they mean seems to be disconnected.
The relationship should be personal in areas relevant to the customer and add value to their experience of your product or service – not try to position your brand as their ‘BFF’. And thanks to digital technology we’re now in a better position than ever to do that. But it’s not about bigger data, it is about better data. And how you use it, for that matter.
The brand/customer relationship is inherently transactional, and so customer engagement must relate back to the transaction and the services you offer. How are you making it better, easier, more enjoyable? If you’re not then it doesn’t matter how close you try to get to the customer they will just retreat from you. They don’t want you to be their friend: they want you to be a better retailer.
If this all sounds a bit cold, don’t think that loyalty is dead. Far from it. Compelling and meaningful communications that support these fundamentals are what will engage customers. But the fact remains that what makes these communications effective, and keeps users engaged with a brand, is not that you know their name and start your email with it, but that you continually offer them the best products, deals and service – and that your attempts at engagement enhance and add value to that.
Create customer engagements that enhance your core proposition, rather than ones that distract from it. Make things relevant to the customer and you’re onto the start of a wonderful relationship. If you don’t do this, the customer will leave you behind. We live in a world where the ability to stay relevant is the defining feature of success and failure means extinction.
If you’re struggling with customer engagement get in touch today and find out how we can help you connect with your audience in a more meaningful way.

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