Customer Service Lessons from Innovative Brands

by Robert Conrad

Customer Service Lessons from Innovative Brands - Innovation ExcellenceCustomers Tell Us More Than We Think

In a previous article, I discussed the importance of businesses utilizing big data to hone their marketing efforts towards their target audience. While I talked then about really getting to know your audience, that all depends on serving a demographic that is already interested in what you have. What about predicting that interest before consumers even start exhibiting demand?

Knowing what your customers want before they do can turn out to be a highly lucrative endeavor for business owners to engage in. In fact, many have taken to social media as a source of data for predictive analytics to put their product or service in front of potential customers with an immediate need. The basic premise of this approach is to use basic search terms that are relevant to the business in question to help connect them with prospective leads. Examples of this include:

  • A moving company using search terms like “#MovingDay” and “need to move”.

  • Wedding boutique using terms like “#ImEngaged” and “wedding day”.

Another method is to simply pay attention to what customers are saying about competitors and offer something unique and useful.

Of course, any of these approaches is time-sensitive and hinges on a business’s understanding of how the methodology works. In fact, only 22% of mid-sized businesses report that planning, forecasting and budgeting for these needs is a capability that they would invest in, as they recognize it would give them a marked competitive advantage.

Businesses that have embraced the use of predictive analytics have seen some tremendous results. Examples include:

A typical internet search for “best rates for hotels in Los Angeles” will more than likely guide you to established brands such as Expedia and Travelocity. Many of these companies have been around for a number of years, which doesn’t leave much room for newer businesses to get a foothold. As a result, those in the travel niche have had to become more inventive with the services that they provide.

At Hipmunk, they do this by trying to simplify the customer experience. On larger sites such as Kayak and Orbitz, flight results are listed on multiple pages, which customers may have to dig through in order to find the best rate and time. To take it one step further, Hipmunk not only provides results on a single page, but also maps them by time of day and ranks them based on “agony”. “Agony” in Hipmunk terminology is an aggregate score based on price, flight duration and number of stops, which is a feature that was even lauded in the New York Times.

By anticipating a need that may not have been vocalized in customer forums and social media, Hipmunk was able to differentiate themselves from the countless other travel sites by offering a unique, streamlined service.

Netflix has established itself as a subscription-based VOD (video-on-demand) behemoth that recently started offering its own exclusive content. Through predictive analytics, Netflix determined that investing in an original series, in this case House of Cards, would be a lucrative move based on previous customer behavior. From past data, they determined that the director slated for the new series, David Fincher, had already established a loyal base of Netflix viewers who typically streamed his series from beginning to end.

Capitalizing on their findings, Netflix gave the go-ahead to start production of House of Cards, which became the most streamed piece of content in the United States and 40 other countries in 2013. Given Netflix’s low monthly price-point and the series resulting popularity on social media, the move catapulted their subscriber base from 40.4 million to over 65 million worldwide.

In 2011, UK-based retailer Tesco focused their efforts on increasing sales to regular customers and enhancing loyalty through targeted coupon offers. To this end, they enacted a Clubcard program that not only provided customers significant savings, but also gave the company a means of collecting information on customer behavior. The data that was collected included store locations, methods of payment and what was purchased. Using these data, Tesco went on to tailor coupon offers aimed at meeting the personal needs of their customers.

One example of this in action is whenever a customer would purchase a package of diapers with a Clubcard, their personalized follow-up coupons would not only include deals on diapers, but also beer. The thought process behind this approach was that new parents won’t have as much time to visit a pub. Targeted programs such as these become more focused over time as more data is collected.

Get on Social Media if You’re Not Already There

For businesses that are not ready to launch a data-centric program, useful predictive analytics can still be gleaned through the power of social media. Consistently engaging with your followers via Twitter and Facebook are a great place to start, and also provide a searchable platform that your marketing team can leverage. By paying attention to feedback and what your target audience is saying about the competition, your business can run a promotion aimed at generating “buzz” and or even displace larger, more established competition by satisfying an unspoken but potent demand..

Companies such as Coca-Cola and Amazon have been able to drive tremendous amounts of customers to their doors by simply utilizing the power of digital media. Whatever the platform, much can be learned from your customers that will help propel your business into the stratosphere as long as you’re willing to listen.

Want more examples? Check out the Interbrand’s 2015 Top 100 Best Global Brands!

image credits: linkedin.com

Customer Service Lessons from Innovative Brands - Innovation Excellence

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Robert Conrad is a former manager/trainer who has received multiple accolades throughout his career. These include invitations to company focus meetings and a handcrafted plaque presented to him by his team. Now, he is a mentor for at-risk youth and even cooks at a local detention facility. In his off-time, he enjoys playing video games and spending time with his family. Follow Robert on Twitter and Facebook.

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