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As consumer expectations rise, brands find new data to personalize experience

A few weeks ago with my family, we ordered a few slices of fancy cake from a swanky, high-end bakery. My slice was a three-layer lemon cream cake and it was gorgeous—until I noticed the hair. One strand, right near the bottom, plastered across the otherwise exquisitely frosted lemon vanilla bean buttercream. At $12 a slice, naturally we complained to the server. After feigning mild interest, he attributed the hair to the “windy day.” I get it—servers are overworked, it was likely the kitchen’s fault, we were near the end of a shift. Nonetheless, my lofty consumer expectations were shot.

Imagine if instead, word of the hair fiasco had gotten over to the customer care and marketing teams. Imagine if they’d subsequently sent me an apology email, and maybe a coupon for a free cake. I could have been won over. I could be taking friends there and singing the bakery’s praises right now. Instead, I will likely never go back, and steer as many people as I can away with me.

Consumer expectations: consistent and personal across channels

Here’s the thing: when I interact with a brand—no matter which channel or platform I use—I’m always just me, and I expect to be treated as such. Whether I’m in the store, on my mobile app, or opening my email inbox, I expect the brand to treat me in a way that’s personal and consistent. When I have a negative experience in-person, I expect that to be reflected in the communications I receive online. But for a brand that  typically manages each of those channels across disparate teams, tools, locations, and even departments, this is no small feat.

Consumer concerns: data privacy

On top of this, I’m concerned about data privacy and don’t tend to give up much personal information. I don’t want an experience that’s too personal. Every morning, I go to the same coffee shop and order the same thing. When I walk in, the baristas greet me by name and ask if I want “the usual.” I’m delighted. But say I go to the same coffee shop’s other location across town, and I’ve never been there before but when I walk in, the baristas greet me by name and ask if I want “the usual.” I’m suddenly creeped out.

When it comes down to it, consumers these days are rather unruly.

A couple weeks ago, Selligent Marketing Cloud released findings from a study that highlight the increasing tension between rising consumer expectations and increasing data privacy concerns.

They surveyed more than 7000 global consumers on their brand engagement preferences, customer experience expectations, and marketing pet peeves. They found that what consumers want overwhelmingly contradicts their behavior.

We have high expectations for personalized customer experience, yet are quite uncomfortable with sharing personal data that makes personalization possible.

These are consumer expectations:

  • 33% of respondents expect brands to anticipate needs before they arise.
  • 70% say it’s important that brands understand a consumer’s individual situation (e.g. marital status, age, location, etc.) when they market to them.
  • 74% expect companies to “treat me as an individual, not as a member of some segment like ‘millennials’ or ‘suburban mothers’.”

Yet these are consumer data privacy concerns:

  • 75% express concerns with a brand’s ability to track their behavior—even on the brand’s own website and mobile apps.
  • 88% report concern that their data will be shared across companies without their consent.
  • Only 1 in 5 consumers are willing to provide data up-front in order to improve their experience.

Like I said, unruly. In a world where customers increasingly expect personalized, engaging, and generally terrific experiences, what’s the way forward?

What brands can do about it

As a result of these catch-22 consumer sentiments, brands need to get a little creative when it comes to designing customer experiences. They need to do more personalized marketing with fewer customer data points. They need to be able to gain consumer trust first in order to earn their personal data.

Luckily, there’s already one important area where consumer data already lies, that marketers can tap into: Customer care. We’re starting to see more overlap not only between those departments, but between customer care related industries as well.

In one such example, earlier this week marketing platform Selligent Marketing Cloud announced a partnership with Calabrio, a leading provider of customer engagement and analytics software. The partnership was launched at Calabrio’s annual customer conference on September 11th in Nashville.

Alliances like these demonstrate a shift in the way digital marketing leaders are planning for the future, – with a laser-focus on bridging that critical breach between customer care and digital marketing interactions. They’ll be able to take insight from their contact center and couple it with insight from digital marketing communications, in order to create a fuller view of the consumer—across channels, and mindful of data privacy concerns.

Coupling customer care and marketing

John Hernandez, CEO of Selligent Marketing Cloud, commented, “In the age of high expectations for customer experience, customer care and digital marketing technologies still often live in their functional silos, which has become a growing challenge for both brands and consumers. Contact center interactions offer a rich and powerful source of customer insights that are often untapped in marketing.”

As a whole, their partnership aims to accomplish issues such as:

  • Avoiding sending mixed messages when contacting a consumer after they’ve had a service interaction.
  • Integrating formerly siloed bits of data to get a whole view of a consumer-brand relationship.
  • Extending beyond the typical customer satisfaction surveys by delivering rich content and campaigns to keep previous consumers coming back.
  • Delivering critical contact center and service data to marketing teams, such as trending cases, to tailor outbound messages and deliver relevant offers.

This blending of customer care with digital marketing is a trend we’ll likely see continue to rise. With increasing consumer expectations of personalization vying against increasing concerns of data privacy, brands will find more creative ways to make use of the data they already have in order to deliver the experience consumers demand.

And if we’re lucky, maybe someday all rogue “windswept” hairs will be promptly followed by personalized offers for a month of free cakes.

To learn more about Selligent Marketing Cloud, visit their website here. ClickZ will also be hosting an exclusive CMO breakfast in San Francisco on September 20th. Stay tuned for future news in the aftermath of the event.

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