Greater customer access to their records = improved customer engagement

14 October 2010

I read with interest the recent announcement[1] on that Premier Inns have just launched their first virtual Concierge service on Twitter working with football star Gary Lineker’s wife Danielle. Whilst Hyatt has been offering concierge style services on Twitter for some time I do not know if either company have yet enabled their guests to share their Twitter profiles online and given them full access to their customer records.
The demand from customers to view the personal information they have shared with companies will grow steadily. If you are one of the organisations that have not yet enabled customers to access to their own records I recommend that you look closely at your future plans. You might ask why this is so important and I wanted to share some key reasons:
No. 1 Makes your social media strategy that much easier to implement.
As an example think about the difficulty of trying to connect with a customer who has just posted a blog or a comment about your brand and you want to have a conversation with them. Not all community sites make it easy to contact that person directly and you would then have to resort to making a public post which might be somewhat embarrassing if they are one of your high value customers. If you have not made it easy for customers to share their Facebook, Linked In and Twitter profiles, you may be scrambling to identify them from a screen name that they use in these channels.
No. 2 Minimises some customer and call centre frustrations
Some organisations still make their customers jump through hoops if they change their email address or other key information such as a postal address. This is fine until the customer is in need of urgent access to their booking and the call centre agent can’t help them until the customer has sent in the changes in writing. If the customer has a secure log in to their data they can then change this without pain for both parties. Given that some customers can change their emails every 6-9 months this is a key issue for customers who may have had a change of email between typical booking periods.
No. 3 Saves your contact centre and support staff time.
There are several database packages like Act that have applications that enable you to email clients asking them to update their records from their email which will save contact staff time taking additional information on the phone. Think about how many calls you get about changes which the customer could potentially change themselves without involving your costly support staff.
No. 4 Helps to minimise customer drop out rates and saves customer time
If you think of the benefits of letting customers view their records regularly it stops them dropping off your database if they have become inactive. It ensures that as their usage of different channels increases, your understanding of their change of behaviour and preferences changes in unison. It can also save them time if you can pre-populate information fields for them during the buying process.
No. 5 Capturing preferences minimises waste
It enables customers to indicate their communication preferences without costly written requests and an army of data entry people updating the database. Many companies discover too late that they have over communicated by drowning their customers in unwanted costly direct mail. Alternatively they risk the customer unsubscribing if they are continually having to contact them for additional information.
No. 6  Builds customer awareness of your additional channels to connect with you or other customers
By giving the customer the option of sharing their screen names it helps build a much more detailed understanding of your channels available to them. If they know they can go to Facebook or post a tweet to get a more trusted answer from customers like them it is likely to build greater rapport and community amongst your customer base. This can also take the pressure off your contact centre for frequently asked questions.
No. 7 Enables you to determine their influencer potential
By monitoring the profile of your customer base you can then prepare the most appropriate communication strategies and prioritise efforts on those customers that have the most followers and influencer potential for your business. These customers could over time become your most active Customer Champions and virtual sales support team.
Imagine the deep joy knowing that customers viewing their own records can actually deliver some return on investment. Just the tough bit left - getting your IT people to help you to make it happen.

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