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Email Analytics: Dig Deeper to Uncover Customer Insights

December 7, 2016

email analytics reporting tells you more than just opens and clicks.The line between customer experience management (CEM or CXM) and traditional marketing responsibilities has been blurred, and email is a great example. Email campaigns need not be just about generating business or converting sales. They’re also a useful platform for building and continuing customer relationships. Email analytics tell you a lot about how customers are receiving and reacting to your messages.

Email analytics 101: The basic measures of the success of an email marketing campaign include Opens, Clicks, Bounces, and Unsubscribes. Email marketing software records these types of reader behavior within a customer relationship management (CRM) database. The level of detail of the data collected will vary from provider to provider – for example, what device or operating system your readers are using. From within that CRM tool, you can generate reports and track trends in each rate over time. That said…

Email analytics tell you more about your customers than their email reading habits.

You just have to know where to look.

What links are customers clicking on?

What topics, subjects, or messages are getting the most attention? Where are they positioned within your template design? How were they presented – as text, as images or icons (e.g. a button)? These small but significant factors can all have an impact on engagement.

With this information, you can: tailor the content and/or design of future campaigns to best match your customers’ interests and visual preferences.

Who are your most frequent openers and clickers?

Are they current customers, or prospects? How did they get on your list? Did they sign up voluntarily, or were they added automatically through another process? Pay attention to infrequent engagement, too – whose name is new since last time you sent a campaign? And who never opens or clicks – do they belong on this list, or is their information out of date?

With this information, you can: follow up with more personalized messages targeted at your most engaged subscribers, and make adjustments to your list-building strategy, including cleaning outdated or inactive subscribers.

When are your customers reading and engaging?

Typically, open and click engagement rates spike in the first few hours after a campaign is delivered. Some internet users still jump at every incoming notification or try to keep their inboxes clear of unread messages. But if you are varying your delivery times (as you should be), you may see that timing makes a difference. Review the timestamps on opens and clicks to see when your readers are most likely to open, and whether they click through immediately, or come back to the message later.

With this information, you can: optimize the timing of your regular campaigns for when users are most likely to engage. You may even be surprised by what you find; it may seem counterintuitive to send emails on a Sunday night, but if the analytics support it, go for it!

Was there a sudden spike in a given metric?

Outliers – campaigns that defy your typical averages or medians – are worth your attention. A spike in Opens could indicate that you hit the sweet spot with your subject line. Spikes in Clicks can reveal a hot topic or an effective graphic. A bump in Bounces is a red flag that your list needs some cleaning up, while high Unsubscribes warn that something you did got under your customers’ skin.

With this information, you can: optimize future subject lines and inside content in favor of the tactics that produced the spike – unless you’re talking Unsubscribes – and clean your list so that the next delivery only goes to valid subscribers.

PRO TIP: Some email marketing providers ask Unsubscribers to indicate the reason they’re opting out before their contact information is deactivated. Use this information!

Have you tried an A/B split test?

A split test is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of different email techniques. This involves splitting your list into two (or more) groups, each of which gets a different version of the same message.

With this information, you can: learn which variables – subject lines, template design, inside content, special offers – get your subscribers’ attention, and apply that learning to future campaigns.

PRO TIP: This works best with very large lists; if you have fewer than 500 contacts, it’s harder to get statistically significant results.

Where did customers go after clicking through?

Click-throughs might be the most valuable action a customer can take from an email, but that’s just the start. Ideally, the content they landed on will keep them engaged for a while. After a campaign is delivered, check your website analytics and follow the trail of breadcrumbs. (Again, your mileage will vary depending on the sophistication of your website analytic tools.)  

With this information, you can: make improvements to the landing spots linked to from your emails to pull customers further down the funnel or encourage them to take a desired action.

Bottom line: Email marketing is not a “set it and forget it” endeavor.

There’s a time and a place for automation in your customer communications. But if you are running email campaigns, why not use the email analytics they produce to learn more about your customers?

Data is at the core of CSP’s services, practices, and philosophy. We can’t emphasize this enough: analytics are only as powerful as what you do with them. In this age of Big Data, knowing how to use the infinite information at your fingertips makes all the difference.


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The 4 Pillars of a Customer-Engaging Email Marketing Strategy

November 30, 2016

4 pillars of customer engaging email marketing strategyOf the many communications channels that weave together to form an omnichannel customer experience strategy, email continues to be relevant and valuable. Email marketing isn’t just about marketing; it’s a way of maintaining your customer relationships in between more direct touchpoints, like transactions and customer service calls. Like social media, email reaches people where they already spend time – in their inboxes.

But just like any other tool, it all comes down to how you use it. Email marketing is a blank canvas, and there are many ways to go about creating campaigns that help you meet your goals. These four fundamental practices will create the foundation for engaging customers with email content.

1 – Great engagement comes from great content.

Content is hands-down the most important factor in getting customers to engage. In the email marketing world, “engagement” translates to Opens and Click-throughs. Great content is what compels each behavior, followed by the design and presentation of the content. So if you’re going to have an email marketing campaign in play, build it on a foundation of excellent content.

Content is an umbrella term that describes a variety of media that can populate emails. Blog posts, articles, whitepapers, e-books, infographics, video, audio, Tweets, copy/text, and photos are all different kinds of content at your disposal. And it’s a good idea to use as many as you can, especially those that are visual: content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without relevant images [source]. 

2 – Prioritize content that is mobile-friendly.

More and more of the digital world is revolving around mobile devices, and email is no exception. At the time of this writing, two thirds of emails are being opened on mobile devices (emphasis on smartphones), compared to desktop email usage. But on the back end, most email campaigns are being designed and run from desktop computers. Template design, list management, and campaign delivery are all easier to achieve on a full-screen device.

Don’t become mobile-blind. When you’re ready to test an email template, make sure you’re viewing it on a mobile phone as well as your computer. You can recruit others in the office who have different devices (for example, Apple vs. Android operating systems) to make sure your content and template design translates well across platforms. And make sure the content you are linking to from your emails is also mobile-friendly. A sales landing page, a blog post, or a document download have no value to a customer who can’t view them easily and clearly.

3 – Try to balance predictability and surprise with your content.

It’s a good idea to be consistent with your email delivery: consistent timing, consistent quality, and consistent design. Customers should have some idea of what they can expect when a new email from you lands in their inbox. If you create an expectation of content that provides value, not purchase pressure, customers will continue to open your messages and engage with that content. Regular quality content also means they’ll be more accepting of the occasional hard sell or special offer, and not feel they’re being spammed or pressured.

But within this context of consistency, there’s also room to try new things or mix up your approach.

  • Vary your header images. Put unique imagery at the top of each message, along with a compelling headline, to grab customers’ attention.
  • Vary your format. Are you delivering a monthly newsletter featuring several recent blog posts? Next time, try just featuring one meaty, valuable post and letting it be the star of the show. Or try different things with your subject lines, like questions, humor, provocative statements.
  • Vary your timing. If you regularly deliver your campaigns at the same time every week or month, try throwing in a one-time message that lands on a Sunday evening, for example. Ideally this message should look a little different than your usual content (see above). The break in routine can catch the attention of readers who have gotten used to a certain pattern.
4 – Make sure you are complying with spam regulations.

What does this have to do with customer engagement? Well, if you run an email program that isn’t compliant with regulations, you soon won’t have an email program to run. Customers can and do report unwanted, bothersome, or low-value emails as spam. These complaints have weight: email service providers use the reports to hone their spam filtering software. Bad behavior can get you “blacklisted,” and there’s little you can do about that once it happens.

The regulations you need to be familiar with are covered by the federal CAN-SPAM Act, which oversees commercial email communications. Technology makes it very easy, and thus very tempting, to do the exact things that CAN-SPAM prohibits – intentionally or accidentally. However, if you are found to be in violation of these rules, the penalties are hefty: you can be fined per email that you send, so the bigger your list, the more you risk.

 

These tips cover the “Before” and “During” stages of running an email marketing program. The “After” stage – how to make sense of, and make use of, your email marketing analytics – is covered in detail here. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter for regular updates, or visit the CSP.com homepage (and scroll down just a little) to sign up for our monthly email newsletter!


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8 Do’s and Don’ts for Engaging with Customers on Social Media

August 2, 2016

Customer service via social media has been a growing trend as more and more businesses realize the power of these platforms. But conducting yourself as a business on social media is far from self-explanatory. Here, we review eight tips for engaging with your customers on social media. 

If you’re a business with a social media presence, you want and expect customers to engage with you online. Nearly three-fourths of the U.S. population had a social media profile in 2015, and that number is expected to grow. Figures like that are telling; social media presents a significant opportunity for interacting with your customers. You can gain meaningful information when they react to what you publish. But, whether you intended it or not, customers also often treat social media profiles as alternative customer service channels.

The twist is, unlike phone calls or visits to your location, customer service interactions on social media can be very public — all eyes are watching. And because certain industries like finance are highly regulated, addressing these comments publicly can be challenging.

Following these do’s and don’ts for using social media to resolve customer inquiries will help you provide excellent social care while building a stronger commitment to your brand.

Infographic Engaging with Customers on Social Media

DO Employ These Strategies When Using Social Media to Resolve Customer Inquiries
  • Do go where your customers are on social media. For many organizations, the heaviest hitters are Facebook and Twitter. But sites like Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn rank higher for certain industries. Make sure you’re concentrating your efforts on the right channel so your engagements are mutually beneficial for you and your customer.
  • Do have a social media policy and ensure the right employees are trained on it. Your policy should outline how your organization will interact over social media, and what employees can and cannot post. Ensure your legal or compliance department weighs in so the policy meets the necessary industry regulations.
  • Do regularly review engagement analytics. Pay close attention to how people respond to your content via comments, shares, and video watch time. Study what’s working well, and what’s not. Understand the issues being raised and use that information to help you identify priorities, plan staffing accordingly, and arrange appropriate resources.
  • Do maintain the same high standards of customer care on social media that you do on other customer service channels. Respond quickly (studies show many social media users expect a response the same day) and clearly. Avoid ambiguous answers. Once a problem is resolved, thank the customer for reaching out.
DON’T Run Into These Social Media Customer Service Pitfalls
  • Don’t run afoul of regulations. Certain industries like banking, where customer accounts contain highly sensitive information, have strict rules for how they communicate with customers online and how information is transmitted when operating digitally.
  • Don’t neglect comments. This leads to high rates of user dissatisfaction. A study by Conversocial showed that 88% of respondents would be less likely to buy from a brand whose social media site contained unanswered customer complaints.
  • Don’t be inconsistent. Ensure your customer addressing you online receives the same resolution for the same question as the customer calling over the phone.
  • Don’t let issues linger too long. If a posted comment leads to a lot of back-and-forth or requires that personal data be shared, take it offline onto another channel, whether that be direct message, live chat, email, or a phone call. The ultimate goal for both you and the customer is a resolution.

Managing social media customer inquiries successfully requires teamwork across a number of disciplines, including marketing, compliance, IT, and customer service. According to Bain & Company, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers.” When you consider those figures, it pays to create a cohesive plan for managing your social media comments.


RELATED: How Loyal Are Your Customers?

Customers who engage with companies over social media, reports Bain & Company, “demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to the companies, granting them an average 33 points higher Net Promoter Score℠, a common measure of customer loyalty.” Read 4 Things a Net Promoter Score Can Do for Your Business.

Customer Loyalty: 9 Ways to Influence Emotions, Reasoning, and Behavior

July 19, 2016

Customer loyalty is a hot topic, but what exactly is a loyal customer? The first thing that might come to mind is “a customer who keeps doing business with you.” That sounds reasonable; however, it’s also incomplete.

It’s likely that some repeat customers come back only because they are under a binding contract, intimidated by the process of changing providers, or sticking with you from sheer force of habit. In each case, it wouldn’t take much for a competitor to lure them away. That is why customer loyalty, real loyalty, is such a critical factor in your company’s success.

A more comprehensive definition of a loyal customer is one who believes in the value of what you have to offer; who has evaluated you as the best available option; and who continues to choose your service or product over the competition and encourages others to do the same.

A more complete definition of customer loyalty

A more complete definition of customer loyalty

Within this definition are three distinct aspects of customer loyalty. Let’s take a closer look at them and what you can do to influence each type.

Emotional loyalty

The emotional aspect is crucial in the relationship between customer and company, and a powerful driver of the other two types of loyalty. Customers not only want to feel like they can trust your company; ideally, they also like your company. Other important emotional values include friendliness, attitude, and “cool factor.” A value proposition that is associated with these sentiments will be much more likely to invoke loyalty.

Emotional loyalty is especially important in fields where big financial interests and sensitive data meet personal experiences, like the banking industry. Events like the financial crisis, market instability, and bank account hacks can damage customer loyalty, and (re)building trust is key. To maximize emotional loyalty:

  • Be transparent in your communication with customers.
  • Make customer service a top priority throughout the organization.
  • Show customizers that you care through your marketing and advertising messages.
Rational loyalty

This aspect of customer loyalty reflects the logical, unemotional side of the customer’s purchase decision. In other words: do your customers think they are getting the best deal? To maximize rational loyalty:

  • Reward repeat customers.
  • During the sale, clearly outline the tangible benefits you can offer.
  • Offer attractive extras, like credit cards that earn points, flyer miles or cash-back rewards.
Transactional/behavioral loyalty

Finally, transactional or behavioral loyalty can be seen as momentum. Once a customer starts buying from a particular business or becomes attached to a brand, as long as emotional and rational loyalty are each well-nurtured, transactional loyalty follows and becomes habitual. Because this type of loyalty is so heavily reliant on the other two, it can be derailed if a customer becomes dissatisfied emotionally or rationally.

To optimize the shopping process itself:

  • Make sure all service channels, including websites and apps, are easy to use and up to date.
  • Various service channels should be connected; customers should be able to shop however, whenever and wherever.
  • Offer extras that make shopping fun, like gamification elements or apps that reward customer engagement.

 

Building customer loyalty can seem like a complicated process. Understanding it, however, starts with a simple step: knowing your customer. Voice of the Customer data is where you’ll discover the key components that drive your customers’ loyalty – and what might be driving them away. Equipped with that knowledge, you can make specific changes within your organization to influence those key drivers in the desired direction. You’ll also want to use periodic benchmarking to evaluate how you are performing against those measurements compared to your competitors.

For more information about Voice of the Customer and Competitive Benchmarking solutions from CSP, contact us online or call 800.841.7954 ext. 101.

8 Do’s and Don’ts for Recovering from a Customer Experience Mishap

February 10, 2016

bad customer service


Sometimes, bad customer experiences happen to good companies. In the worst cases, they happen to good customers whose loyalty you’ve already worked to earn and keep.

It could be a customer service email that went into a black hole and was never returned. Long lines, long hold times, or shipping delays could test a customer’s patience. When a mobile app doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to, or an email marketing campaign floods a person’s inbox, the Unsubscribe button is never far away.

Unsatisfying experiences like these can happen at any point in the customer journey. Prior to onboarding or to a purchase decision, a bad experience can stop the journey in its tracks. After the sale has been made or the account created, customers are even more unforgiving, especially if they feel the problem could have been prevented. Failure to deliver on customer service at this stage feels less like a simple shortcoming and more like a personal betrayal.  

[Related reading: How to Extend the Customer Experience Past Purchase]

Not only are dissatisfied customers likely to take their business elsewhere, they are more likely to bad-mouth your brand to their friends and family. Thanks to social media, that negative word of mouth can ripple across a far broader audience than it could have before. Twitter is awash with complaints – just peep the #customerservicefails feed for examples.

So what can be done to limit customer churn and control potential damage to your brand?

How to Win Back a Customer After an Unsatisfactory Experience

DO: Own up to your mistake
Customers reward businesses who display authenticity in their communications. If an error or oversight was made, acknowledge that fact earnestly. If the problem was more circumstantial than directly in your control, you should still acknowledge the seriousness of the inconvenience to your customer and thank them for bringing it to your attention.

DON’T: Get defensive or over-explain
A customer service rep dealing with an unhappy customer may feel tempted to try to excuse themselves from blame. If the customer is angry and lobbing insults or threats, it’s only human nature to get defensive. But customers by and large don’t care about the explanation for the perceived failure, and responding defensively is a rookie mistake that only escalates tensions.

DO: Extend a personal apology
A form letter or auto-responder has nothing on the personal touch. In one study by Accenture, nearly a quarter of respondents who returned to a business after a bad experience said that a personal apology was responsible for reeling them back in. This jumps back to our first point: authenticity in all things.

DON’T: Delay or let the problem go ignored
The longer a customer has to wait for a resolution, the less chance you have to persuade them to stay. Even if a complaint comes in at 4:58 p.m. on a Friday, there’s no reason to kick the can down the road when it can be addressed immediately. An ignored customer is…well, not a customer anymore, for all intents and purposes.

DO: Sweeten the deal
It may seem like a slick trick, but customers will be more likely to bring issues to your attention if they feel they can get a little special treatment in return. That might include coupons, vouchers, discounts or freebies, depending on the severity of the complaint. It may seem counterintuitive, but would you rather field more customer complaints, or silently lose customers without any indication why they left?

DON’T: Rely on perks alone
A coupon is not a Band-Aid. Without the other elements on this list – authenticity, apology, and responsiveness – special offers can only go so far. At best, they might temporarily placate an unhappy customer; at worst, they can send the message that you think the customer’s loyalty can be bought off, whether or not their original problem was addressed to their satisfaction.

DO: Get down to the root of the problem
Every customer complaint is an opportunity to highlight and examine a potential weak link in the chain of customer service. Maybe it’s something that can be addressed with more training, or by updating processes and policies to meet customers’ evolving needs. Customers like to see you take direct action beyond just a promise that “we’re looking into it.”

DON’T: Treat each mistake as an isolated case
Hopefully, you are keeping track of customer feedback through Voice of the Customer programs and tools. While some bad experiences truly are anomalies, it’s more likely that the experience has been shared and reported by more than one person and can point you to an opportunity for overall improvement.

Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

In an ideal world, you wouldn’t need much of the advice above, because you’d already have the systems and training in place to support excellent customer service at every touchpoint. In the real world, batting 1.000 isn’t always going to be possible, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your stance and skip practice. Most customers won’t give you three strikes before switching their allegiance to another team. So strive to prevent customer experience mishaps from happening in the first place, and use the data at your disposal to address any chronic underlying problems.

How to Embrace Change and Reap the Benefits

January 6, 2016

Change is the only constant. It’s also one of the most pressing management challenges out there, and one of the most ambiguous and headache-causing.

Navigating the course of change is something CSP knows all too well. In our nearly 30 years in business, we’ve guided banks, credit unions, and other businesses through the process of change as they adapt to evolutions within their industries and among their customers. Our Voice of the Customer programs reveal opportunities and needs that often mean something needs to change internally to provide a better customer experience. That might mean minor tweaks and adjustments, or major overhauls.

changeAlong the way, we’ve seen what works and what doesn’t when it comes to change management. While every business’s journey is unique and requires deliberate and careful attention, you can keep these tips in mind to smooth out the road as you proceed.

Getting Focused in a Time of Change

Decide whom to invite to the table. Nothing can shake workplace morale like poor communication – or worse, lack of communication — during a transition. Most often, this means a meeting, or a series of meetings, where your leadership team can gather and devote the necessary time and consideration to the challenge at hand. It’s important to do this before you involve employees in the process, to lay a stable foundation with defined issues, expectations, goals, and tactics.

Get prepared. Before the first meeting, assign each person to research a particular topic that will be relevant to the discussion. This is not a meeting where anyone can just “wing it.” Each person is expected to do the necessary pre-work and bring their findings to share with the group.

Topics for research could include: current industry trends and recommendations around those trends; what your marketplace will look like in the future and how your business compares; internal strengths and weaknesses (the “SW” of SWOT analysis); external opportunities and threats (the “OT” of SWOT analysis); and what is revealed by the data you’ve collected on your customers about their satisfaction and needs. If there are additional components that are relevant to your specific situation, make sure they get time on the agenda, too.

Facilitate the discussion. With so much at stake, a meeting like this needs to be run carefully, or else potentially devolve into unorganized chatter or arguments. A designated facilitator and/or scribe not only keep the group on task, they actively foster the discussion and guide the group’s priorities.

Beware the trap of groupthink that can spring up in situations like these. As new issues and ideas are brought to the table, the facilitator shouldn’t be afraid to ask provocative questions that open the floor for debate: “How many of you agree? Who disagrees? What might be the downsides we should consider?” Everyone at the meeting should feel free to contribute their opinions, even dissenting ones, without repercussion. In doing so, the issue at hand can be examined from every angle, not just the perspective of the person who was assigned to it.

Identify the external and internal benefits of change. In addition to the pre-assigned topics, you’ll want to draw special attention to how evolution benefits everyone. How will the changes, or proposed ideas, make your business more customer-friendly, or attract new customers? How are these initiatives likely to increase revenues, or control costs? What’s in it for the employees?

By deliberately devoting time to the benefits of change, you can prevent the meeting from becoming a venting session that actually discourages change instead of helping to manage it.

Narrow down the priorities. Once everything has been introduced, explained, and discussed thoroughly, don’t leave the meeting without agreeing to the priorities and next steps to implement. This might be done by a show of hands, an anonymous vote on slips of paper, or placing dots on a written chart by the top 3 ideas they support.

 

How well does your organization adapt to changes or integrate new policies and procedures? Have you ever worked somewhere that was change-averse? Do you have tips of your own to share? Tweet us at @CSProfiles with your stories.

And if you need direct help in navigating your evolving industry, we’re just a call or click away: contact us at 800.841.7954 ext. 101 or send us a message through our website.

This post is adapted from an article in STARS, our exclusive library of customer experience management resources. CSP clients can download training material, exercises, and articles written around specific customer experience dilemmas and solutions from STARS. Learn more.