Are we representing the voice of the customer or just stalking them?

Digitas

Oliver Spalding

Are we representing the voice of the customer or just stalking them?

As marketers chase efficiencies through programmatic media and marketing automation, increasingly utilising CRM and some elements of machine learning, how far does the industry need to go to reverse the nose-dive in attention being paid to marketing messages? Click rates continue to drop and though ad blocker and dark social adoption has slowed across Asia, the trend reinforces that precision is not winning the hearts and minds of consumers. Right time, check, right place, check, right person, check…are enough of us ensuring that we bring the right message?

Human behaviour is the raw data of psychology and with internet users creating 16.3 zettabytes of data every year, there’s plenty to go round. Marketers don’t necessarily need to rely on data science or algorithms to solve their immediate problem of making their advertising more attractive and compelling. They might also spend more time asking and listening.

A data scientist will argue that a complete view of the customer will allow them to predict and attribute all behaviour. The voice of the customer might tell you that right away. Voice of the Customer (VoC) has its origins in the Sixties where it informed QFD, product design and performance measurement. According to Aberdeen Group, companies that have a modern VoC program in place experience annual revenue increases of 10.9 percent and 2.5 times better yearly return on marketing investments.

Voice Recognition Software is one of the biggest trends and growth areas in tech. There is a huge future opportunity to integrate VOC into CRM to create real-time applications; whether that be helping us mere mortals make decisions or making chatbots smarter.

The best businesses invest in fully integrating VoC into improving the customer experience and marketing. Businesses like Belkin, where their CMO re-organised the department to operate in agile using VoC as the fuel for marketing decisions. Yet few businesses in Asia are fully invested in it. Investing in big data and analytics is the right thing to do, but marketers are still guilty of leaping on incomplete information if they don’t understand customer sentiment and feedback.

Microsoft grabbed headlines with research suggesting people now have an average 9 second attention span. Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, called out the research in an article on BBC News, saying that it was spurious at best, at worst contradicting psychology theory and evidence-based work. Just because people are switching between devices does not mean they are aimlessly flitting from one thing to the next. Attention is goal and task-dependent. Data represented an incomplete picture of the person and therefore it led to the wrong insight. I still see this research cited in articles and stated in meetings, for example as a reason to focus on short-form content, instead of uncovering the goal or task and changing the message.

Voice Recognition Software is one of the biggest trends and growth areas in tech. There is a huge future opportunity to integrate VOC into CRM to create real-time applications; whether that be helping us mere mortals make decisions or making chatbots smarter.

Another pointed example of data being used to stalk consumers rather than serving their needs is ecommerce dynamic pricing. So it goes that prices can be manipulated based on interest in certain products, fares or insurance using behavioural data, search history and cookies. The incidence of this tactic is still contested by affected industries and retailers, so let’s just say that it is technically possible. The point is that companies are utilising data to operate opaquely. This results in mistrust. Mistrust leads to savvy users gaming the system, clearing caches, cookies, or using blockers and VPNs. All of which feels like a zero sum game between consumers and businesses. Our goal is to create a sustainable win-win.

Privacy is one of the fundamental rights of individuals. We are not yet in a place where consumers are really aware of the potential negative implications of sharing their data in exchange for ease. Uber’s data breach will have raised doubts but not changed behaviours. Regulators and governments are taking steps, for example GDPR having far reaching implications for businesses across Asia that few will admit they are ready for.

Instead of reacting to the symptoms - or thinking Blockchain can solve privacy - businesses can instead seize on the problem, that they need to much more clearly establish a transparent code of ethics for sharing and analysis of data; taking that through all elements of governance including personal data, public data, ethical marketing and advertising.

Marketers have been distracted by their own needs for transparency in the media supply chain. With more checks and balances now in place, like programmatic guaranteed, they can get back to their consumers. If programmatic can be made to work for consumers in a regulated sector like pharmaceuticals, it can be made to work for everyone.

1)    Set-up a data council with cross-departmental influence to establish transparency and trust and to negotiate rapidly changing ePrivacy landscape.

2)    Invest in comprehensive VoC tools and programme, or if one already exists invest in ensuring the programme drives decisions beyond customer support.

3)    Prioritise customer support as a revenue driver not as a cost-centre, as consumers demand instant connection and results which shape their brand patronage.

4)    Incorporate customer feedback into each step of the customer journey and use positive and negative use cases to actively improve the customer experience

Developing a Single View of the Customer must incorporate VoC or vice versa. Don’t use data science overcompensate for asking and listening and don’t obsess about having all data at your disposal when the 40/70 rule can still be applied.