Oliver Spalding
Jan 15, 2018

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

A little less time with the data and a little more with the digital consumer goes a long way in building trust.

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

As marketers chase efficiencies through programmatic media and marketing automation, how far does the industry need to go to reverse the nosedive 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. But what about the right message?

Marketers don’t necessarily need to rely on data science or algorithms to solve their immediate problem of making their advertising more 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. But the voice of the customer (VoC) might tell you that right away. VoC has its origins in the ‘60s where it informed QFD (quality function deployment), product design and performance measurement. According to Aberdeen Group, companies that have a modern VoC programme in place experience annual revenue increases of 10.9% and 2.5 times better yearly return on marketing investments.

The best businesses invest in fully integrating VoC into improving the customer experience and marketing. 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 nine-second attention span. Dr Gemma Briggs, a psychology lecturer at the Open University, called out the research in a BBC News article, saying it was at best spurious, at worst contradicting evidence-based work. Just because people are switching between devices does not mean they are aimlessly flitting.

Data represented an incomplete picture and so led to the wrong insight. I still see this research cited in articles and stated in meetings, as a reason to focus on short-form content, instead of uncovering the goal 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 serve them is ecommerce dynamic pricing. The incidence of this tactic is still contested by 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. 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. And they need to follow 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.

Four next steps for marketers are:

  1. Set up a data council with cross-departmental influence to establish transparency and trust and to negotiate the rapidly changing privacy landscape.
  2. Invest in a comprehensive VoC 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 that shape their brand patronage.
  4. Incorporate customer feedback into each step of the customer journey and use positive and negative 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 to overcompensate for asking and listening, and don’t obsess about having all data at your disposal when Colin Powell’s 40/70 rule can still be applied.

Oliver Spalding is APAC head of CRM at DigitasLBi.


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