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Big data, social media optimise relationships

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In an era where customers are becoming their own advocates and – with the internet, mobile accessibility, social media and big data at our fingertips – it has become irresponsible for brands to not engage with their customers, to retain them; experts share their views.
According to Bisi Lamikanra, partner and head: management consulting at KPMG in Nigeria: “There are increasing opportunities for collection, processing and analysis of vast and complex data sets, which can reveal insight for brands into their customers; insights such as demography, behaviour, transaction trends, economics, etc.  And, the ability to mine and utilise insights from this data will create business value in customer engagement and retention, as well as possible new product or service development.”
In recent years there has been a rapid shift from generic customer segmentation into a more individualised approach, enabling businesses to treat each and every customer as an individual and deliver exceptional customer service and experience.
Lamikanra explains that this shift has been spurred by customer analytics; the process of understanding the brand’s customers – whether people or companies – which can only be derived through continuous collation and analysis of the customer information as well as environment information, to allow brands to generate insights into customers’ past, current and future behaviour.
“This information can then be used to improve customer relationships and their loyalty to the brand, drive customer satisfaction, grow the brand’s customer base and/or their profitability, and decrease customer erosion – all of which will ultimately support the brand’s market share gain and revenue drives.”
Yaron Assabi, CEO of Digital Solutions Group, agrees though cautions against the mentality that simply adopting new technology will result in winning and retaining customer loyalty. “Social media platforms, in particular, have created opportunities for dialogue between brands and customers that make it easier for a customer to buy into a brand, but also easier for an entire group to disassociate from a brand.”
Assabi indicates: “Brand messages have become secondary to experiences. For instance, word-of-mouth customer advocacy on social media platforms generates far higher levels of trust than a brand message. Social media can very quickly amplify customer views and brand managers who are savvy enough to analyse and respond to this form of customer feedback will continue to grow consumers’ trust.”
On the other hand, unsolicited customer engagement can uncover uncomfortable truths that a brand might not be ready to embrace. However, brands who listen to what customers have to say about their preferred channels and then use technology to drive this relationship, will create superior customer engagement and as such relationships.
“Businesses today need to understand that customers yearn to engage, connect and affiliate with brands that reflect their values while solving their angst,” adds Assabi. “It is a simple principle in all relationships: we are all different and we want to be treated differently. Data analytics and social media platforms make this possible, but too many brands still focus on mass marketing rather than one-to-one relationships with their customers.”
Citing a study by Demeulenaere from South Africa, Assabi said there are three main reasons customers will disassociate from a brand. Lower prices can lure 24% of the customers elsewhere; another 18% will move to a different service provider if staff were impolite, rude or uninterested; and 13% will move alliances when they have to make too much effort to get what they need (13%). “Customers want self-service and they expect each channel to deliver a personalised experience.”
The mobile channel, for instance, is very rich with insight and customer behaviour could be tracked through the customer journey. Business can analyse dwell time, engagement, self-service usage and call to action. “The information is there, if brands are willing to invest and dedicate teams to analyse the behaviour, but the issue according to Ken Dooley, is that only 37% of brand leaders have a dedicated budget for customer experience improvement initiatives,” adds Assabi.
He further stresses that the right technology to help customer experiences to the next level can include call centres or text-based interactions, but he is also quick to points out that the use of smartphones is increasing every month and all brands must prepare for wider internet availability with mobi sites and apps that can facilitate these critical interactions.

Analytics puts names to numbers
Lamikanra says customer analytics enable brand managers to create behaviour prediction models and deliver exceptional customer service and experience at each phase of the life-cycle by anticipating each customer’s needs and suggesting appropriate next-best-action, be it during the acquisition or retention phase.
“There is this notion in the market that you need the best-in-class BI (Business Intelligence) and best data quality before embarking on customer analytics, however, this is not true,” adds Lamikanra. “While the data quality and availability affects the precision of the predictive models, the precise data models are not the only ingredient for success, and therefore, customer analytics can be successful even without 100% available and high-quality data. In fact, it’s been our experience that even an eight- to 12-week pilot data analysis can deliver tangible business results.”
“What really makes or breaks overall success is successfully integrating analytical solution outputs into the daily business operations through education, motivation and follow-up support. Customer analytics should therefore be driven by a deep-seated motivation to address key business challenges through improved customer engagement and, the earlier businesses start the better,” concludes Lamikanra.