Why aren’t marketers using personalised video to improve the customer experience and generate engagement?

In Colin Shaw’s latest (insightful) post he provided a link to the following video:

If you watch the video you will see a profound change in behaviour by simply turning the mundane, take for granted, into an interactive / engaging experience.  What if I had used text to describe the events in the video?  Ask yourself would it have had the same impact?  Would your experience been the same?  Would your level of engagement been the same?  Would your level of comprehension been the same?  I know that for most people the video increases comprehension, engagement and delight.  That is certainly true for me; we forget that text is a relatively recent invention and reading/comprehension is a specialised skill that has to be learnt over a long time.

That got me wondering about marketing, communication, personalisation, engagement and the customer experience.  Is it possible for a commercial organisation to communicate information in a way that improves the customer experience and increases marketing effectiveness? Put differently, is there a way for us to make our communication stand out and better engage our customers?  I think there is: personalised video.  I can think of two particular instances where it is likely to be particularly useful.  First, communicating the complex and second marketing offers.

Communicating the complex through personalised video

Imagine that you are customer of a mobile telco and instead of getting the same old text based monthly bill, that you struggle to understand and mostly ignore you, you get the following video addressed to you personally:

What you be surprised even delighted?  Would you sit up and pay attention?  Do you think you are more likely to respond to the marketing offer embedded in this monthly bill?  I know that for me it is yes, yes and yes.  Talking about that I do wish that Sky would do something like this because each month I receive a bill and each month I struggle to make sense of it.  What is the likelihood that if the bill was explained in this way that there would be drop in the number of calls into the call centre asking questions about the bill?  How much could be saved by cutting out calls that the customer does not want to make and the business does not want to handle?

Do you have a pension policy?  Do you understand the yearly statements that you get?  I struggle to make sense of my statements even though I am financially literate (I am a Chartered Accountant and a member of the ICAEW) and sometimes I simply file them away meaning to look at them yet somehow don’t get around to it.  What if you received this yearly statement as a personalised video:

Making marketing offers come to life through personalised video

How about bringing your marketing offers to life?  Forgoing the text based direct mail that lands in the post box and is probably binned and replacing it with a personalised video to your email address?  Take a look at the following two videos and see what impact they make on you and might make on your customers:

Who is making personalised video a reality?

When I first came across this idea I jumped to the conclusion that it must be expensive.  Turns out that is not the case.  There is company in Israel called Idomoo that excels at personalised video and can do it for  a relatively small sum of money.  If you want to learn more about the mechanics and financials around personalised video then I suggest you contact Danny Kalish the CTO and Co-Founder.

Discloure:  I have no personal or financial connection with Danny Kalish or Idomoo.  One of the readers of this blog contacted me to make me aware of personalised video and then put me in touch with Idomoo so that I could learn what is possible and what Idomoo are doing.  I am happy to write about this because I can see the value in personalised video.

Are your marketing communications cultivating customer loyalty or distance?

Theory: marketing communications cultivate loyalty

Recently I wrote a post on customer loyalty – Why Companies Are Struggling in Cultivating Loyalty – and one of the readers brought up the subject of communication.  In his words:

…………..It’s critically important that companies create an ongoing dialogue with customers to determine their preferences and then create solutions to meet those needs.

One way companies can nurture the overall customer relationship is to determine the best method of communicating with customers (voice mail, e-mail, text messaging, social media, direct mail) and when they would like to receive information. Once they have determined the appropriate channel for communicating, companies can engage customers in a highly personalized and tailored way.

Companies that actively engage with customers on a regular basis can proactively offer additional products, services and information that cultivates customer loyalty.

What is the reality as opposed to the theory?

First let me say that there will be an array of realities – one for each company and even within the company the reality will be different for each customer.  Given that context let me share with you the findings from a report (Data Wastage Report 2011) commissioned by Transactis  (a company focussing on data and customer insight  services):

  • 65% of consumers said that companies have sent them offers for products they would never buy even though these customers had previously handed their personal details and preferences to these companies;
  • 58% of consumers said that some companies have sent them offers to become new customers even though they are existing customers of these companies;
  • 52% of consumer said that companies have repeatedly tried to sell them products that they have already bought.

Furthermore another Transactis report (Customer Trust 2010) highlighted the following:

  • Around 80% of consumers do NOT see any of the firms they buy from using their personal data to make attractive offers and deliver good customer service.

So what is the impact of all this on the 2000 UK consumers that were surveyed?

  • 86% of consumers say they would withdraw permission for a company to even contact them if it continues to send them irrelevant communications;
  • 88% of consumers say they would refuse to hand over any more personal information if they continue to get these irrelevant communications;
  • 81% of consumers say they seriously question the competence of companies that ask for details that they have already given to the company

My take on this: reality is much messier than theory

Some kinds of communications can cultivate loyalty.  I can remember that some years ago I received a thank you letter and plastic coffee mug from Amazon (with no sales related offers) and that surprised and delighted me.  The result was that my loyalty was cultivated.  I have also written about three other instances where the communication left me touched and loyal:

The kind of communications that do cultivate loyalty are not the ones that marketing departments typically produce and distribute. Why?  Because, these communications tend to be self-serving and rather impersonal (even if they are ‘personalised’) rather than customer-centric and personal.  Put differently, these communications do not create value for the customers that receive them:   it can be argued that whilst 20% of customers may find them useful, 60% of customers are indifferent, and the remaining 20% are left annoyed and think less of the company sending out this ‘junk mail’.  What looks like success (ROI) on a campaign by campaign basis may be failure when viewed on a longer time scale.


Why you should not confuse ‘personalisation’ with ‘personal’

There is value in personalisation

By personalising content on websites you provide me with content that is likely to be relevent to me.  And that saves me time.  It tends to make me think that you have your act together.  That you are competent and possibly sophisticated in your use of data and technology.  Because of your personalisation, you make it that much more likely that I will purchase from you.

When you send me direct mail then it may or may not be personalised.  Simply putting my name on it does not constitute personalisation.  Doing that and taking my situation and/or my past behaviour into account when you talk to me in your direct mail does constitute personalisation.  And by personalising your direct mail to me it is that much more likely that I am going to read it.  Whether I act on it or not depends largely on your timing – did your personalised direct mail catch me when I have the need for what you are offering?

Why personalisation is not enough

The big issues with personalisation as it is practiced is that it addresses the rational / functional needs.  I’d argue that the kind of personalisation that I have described is a hygiene factor.  The thing about hygiene factors is that if they are present they do not build positive emotion, engagement or loyalty.  When hygiene factors are not present then they do build dissatisfaction.

Why the personal touch matters

Customers are people – human beings.  For most human beings there is nothing more nourishing than the personal touch.  The personal touch is always a human to human encounter.  It is one human being taking the time to acknowledge, validate and uplift another human being emotionally.  I can talk about this in many ways and sometimes an example is much more direct and useful.  Please take a  look at the image below.

I have an inquisitive mind and I read widely.  As a result I tend to buy quite a few books from Amazon and it’s partners.  Most of the time the books arrive and there is absolutely no emotional impact.  This time I am really touched.  Why?  Simply because of one personal sentence written by a fellow human being who works at RocketSurgery:

“Thanks for your order, hope you enjoy this excellent book and find it useful.  Best wishes. RocketSurgery Crew”

Now the interesting thing is that this sentence would not have had the same impact if it had been typed up.  It occurs as personal because it is handwritten and it lands as authentic – as heartfelt.

The net impact of this personal touch is that RocketSurgery is imprinted on my mind (and heart) and next time I am choosing between ANother or RocketSurgery, I know who will get my business.

Research validates the impact of the personal touch

I am not alone in being moved (influenced) by the personal touch.  The impact of the personal is described in the following book: “Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion”

You can download an extract of the book  and relevant secret (secret 10) by clicking on the following: Yes_Book_Extract

So what is the lesson we can take away from this?

Personalisation is necessary because it delivers on the functional (hygiene) need.  Yet it is not enough to build an emotional connection with your customers and grow loyalty.  To do that you have to be personal: leaving your customer feeling acknowledged and valued at an emotional level.

With so much customer focus why am I not drowning in thank you cards?

On the one hand just about every large UK based corporate is professing  their commitment to the customer.  Some say they are committed to customer service.  Some declare their commitment to customer focus.  A few are bold enough to state that they are customer-centric.  And many are busy improving the customer experience.

So how is it that deep in the festive season that not a single corporate – Sky, BT, Orange, Amazon etc – has written to thank me for being a customer over the last year?  If the customer is king – as is so widely accepted – then does the king not even merit a thank you wrapped up in a Christmas card or email?  Maybe I am just a poor customer and you are a good customer.  Are you drowning in thank you’s wrapped up in Christmas cards?

Think what my experience as a customer would be if I received a thank you card at Christmas.  Just a genuine thank you with no up-sell or x-sell message or offer.  Is it possible that would have occurred as positive customer experience?  For me definitely.  How about you?

Interestingly, the only cards that I have received are from small recruitment agencies.  Whilst they have followed the Christmas ritual they have not done so with heart.  Or put differently personalisation and personal are very different.  Business people confuse the two and at their costs.  Enough on that –  I will write a post to explain the difference.

It strikes me that customer-centricity in the UK is like the fresh fruit in the UK supermarkets:  the fruit looks good yet when I bite into the fruit it is almost always tasteless.  Now compare that with France where the fruit does not look as good yet is delicious.

 

What flavour of customer centricity are you practicising?

I have been thinking that the term ‘customer centricity’ is totally meaningless.  Like strategy there is no shared agreement nor definition nor theoretical foundation for ‘strategy’.  So the coin of strategy has become debased – people in business use it whenever they want something to sound important.  I believe the same applies to customer centricity.

Thinking further I can distinguish various flavours of ‘customer centricity’:

Website personalisation (usually through a platform like ATG)

  • In this instance, customer centric means that we push content to you that either you have declared that you are interested in (preferences) and/or we believe that you are likely to find interesting.  The Amazon website is a great example of this.

Direct marketing on steriods

  • Within this school, the emphasis is on collecting as much data as possible on customers (demographic, psychographic, behavioural, transactional…) turning this data into targeting list – those customers most likely to buy the product that I am interested in selling – using data mining techniques to build predictive models.

Customer lifecycle marketing

  • Here customer centric means pushing out the right flavour of communication to the right customers at the right time.  And it involves taking a time perspective: where is the customer in his journey and what communication makes most sense. This flavour also relies on collecting lots of data on customers.  And it more likely to be practiced where an organisation has a broad range of products that can be sold to the customer.  It is also more likely to be practiced where the customer has to be kept ‘warm’ because of a relatively long interval between purchases.

Prroduct development / user experience design

  • Here the emphasis is actually on spending time with customers (or the people who we want as customers) to really get these people.  How they think, how they behave, what outcomes they are after, what gets in the way etc to design better products and better interactions between the customer/user and the product – in some cases the product is the website / virtual store.

Customer service

  • As customer service is viewed as a cost by many organisations, here customer centricity can mean “How do we recoup some of these costs by using inbound interactions to sell stuff to customers?” Or it can mean how can we get the most value from our contact centre agents by having them make outbound sales centred calls when they are not busy
    dealing with inbound contacts.  Often it means how can we reduce costs by getting the customers to do the work of agents: drive them to the website or the IVR.
  • The organisations that push the envelope here – very few –  view customer centricity as learning what drives calls to the contact centre and using this insight to effect change in the business operations that are failing the customer and thus driving demand into the contact centre.  They get this is win-win proposition: the company has a great opportunity to cut costs and improve the customer experience if business operations are redesigned.

Customer experience

  • This flavour has not yet crystallised.  Nonetheless, customer centricity here tends to mean a focus on interaction design in the form of ‘moments of truth’ and ‘experience as theatre / entertainment / engagement’.

I am sure that there are more flavours.  What I find interesting and which I wish to point out is that it can be argued that none of these flavours constitute ‘customer centric’.

It can be argued an organisation that is customer-centric is an organisation that is hell-bent on creating superior value (economic, interactional, emotional, social) for its customers.  It is an organisation that is willing to sacrifice short term gain if it is at the expense of customers (‘bad profit’) to create long term sustainable gain (‘good profits’).

Do you know of an organisation that is practicing this last  form of customer centricity?  If you do then please share with me.

Dear customer this is what we mean by “relationship”

If you take the time to read the articles that gave rise to the “Relationship Marketing”, “CRM” and “Customer Experience” movements there are a number of principles that lie at the core:

  • Work relentlessly to create superior value for your customers;
  • Treat different customers differently because different customers have different needs;
  • Treat different customers differently because you cannot afford to spend the same amount of money on ‘Economy’ customers as you can on ‘First Class’ customers – to use an airline metaphor;
  • Treating different customers differently includes adjusting your actions towards the customers on an ongoing basis as you learn more and more about them – some called this customisation, websites call it personalisation, others understanding it as tailoring your actions to suit the person in front of you; and
  • If you do this consistently and better than your competitors, your customers will continue to do business with you even when they are offered ‘incentives’ (usually in the form of price discounts) to switch to your competitors.

The interesting thing about human beings is that we cherry pick – we take what we like and completely discard the rest.  It is as if you are given a recipe for a great dish and you select some of the ingredients and just throw the others away because they disturb you in some way.  As a result of this, too many companies – but not all, have come to understand “relationship” in a totally self-serving way.  If they were being truthful they would write a letter along the following lines:

“Dear Customer

Welcome to Big Corporate, we are delighted to have you on board.  We are not like Apple.  We don’t disrupt industries; we do not even come out with must have products; our service levels are also pretty ordinary as we do the minimum we can get by with to keep a lid on costs. The reality is that we are pretty much like everyone else who competes for customers in our category.

Over the last ten years or so our world has turned upside down.  And it is all down to the Internet – it has given you shoppers the upper hand.  Not only can you compare prices easily, you can also share your voice with millions around the world and listen to your fellow shoppers instead of our corporate speech: our advertising and PR.

So we listened to the Relationship Marketing and CRM folks.  We have bought into this in a big way and invested many millions in the software that will enable us to build a relationship with you.  Why is that important you ask?  Well if we build a relationship with you then we get to make more money, more profit!

Let me explain what we mean by “relationship”.  We are thinking along the following lines:

  • We will get as much data on you as possible – anything we can get away with legally;
  • We will use that data to figure out what we can sell you and then we are going to send you letters and emails  to encourage you to buy what we think you are up for buying;
  • If you do not respond the first time then we will give it another go and then another go;
  • We will offer you these products at a higher price than the price that we are offering people who currently do not do business with us;
  • If your existing product, policy or subscription comes to an end then we will send you a renewal reminder that is some 30% higher than you could get if you were to sign up as a new customer through our website;
  • We want you to fit in with the way that we work, the way we do business;
  • We are expecting you to do more of the work yourself so it would be great if you were to go to our website and help yourself and if you do manage to call our Customer Service line then we expect that you will use our IVR to help yourself;
  • If you do manage to get through to one of our agents then we cannot guarantee that we will be able to sort out your issues there and then.  If we cannot sort out your issue then we expect you to ring back on another day as our agents are not allowed to ring you back at a time that suits you;
  • We really do not like complaints as we believe that we are doing the best that we can so we are going to make it as hard as we can for you to complain including insisting that you put your complaint in writing and send it via the post;
  • Even though we are in the digital age we are not going to allow you a click to chat facility for when you are having problems on our website and need our help;

  • Nor are we going to allow you to use an instant messaging system to get through to our agents;

  • Whilst we do allow you to send email don’t expect the kind of response that you get at work. No, please allow at least two-day – usually more.

Now that I have explained what we mean by relationship we are really hopeful that you will be so satisfied that you will tell all your friends and family to become our customers!”

 
Here is the ridiculous part:  no company would ever consider sending this kind of communication to a new customer yet that is what the customer will experience because that is how many companies operate!