Customer experience (CX) is at the heart business today, as organizations look to maintain loyalty and drive revenue in uncertain times. CX strategies must be fine-tuned to meet customers where they are in their lifecycle, and that requires taking a look at the ways in which customer engagement is handled.
I am joined today by Matt Gillin, CEO of Relay Network, who shares his insights on where businesses are failing with their customer engagement strategies today, and how organizations can deliver content to their customer base in a more effective way.
Gary Drenik: Tell me about your background and your journey to becoming an expert in customer experience (CX).
Matt Gillin: My customer experience journey started back when I was 13 years old, as the manager of a minigolf course. Between that job, and eventually moving on to become an entrepreneur, I’ve learned the value of effective communication, and why it should be the center of any good customer experience. Take my previous company, for example. We had pioneered a way for payments to be merged with communication, where you could easily transfer money to people via email. What we learned when we sold that company is that effective communication is the holy grail – the key to any meaningful customer experience.
This idea was reinforced by another situation that profoundly affected me and served as the impetus for kickstarting our current company, Relay Network. One day, I got a text message from my mobile carrier informing me my bill hadn’t been paid, and they were going to shut off my service. The text contained a link to resolve it, which, upon clicking, was squared away within 45 seconds. That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head – companies need to proactively reach out and offer the ability to solve a problem in a short amount of time. I’m still with that mobile carrier today, and moments like receiving that text are the ‘wow, thank you!’ moments that genuinely establish customers for life.
Drenik: Where are businesses falling short in their customer engagement strategies? What are some common missteps you’ve seen?
Gillin: To understand where businesses fail, you need to understand the flipside of the engagement coin – disengagement. This is the number one area I see businesses struggling with when making investments in customer experience. Every company wants more engagement, but to achieve that, they must first consider the factors that are driving disengagement. Businesses need to know where their investments are being made and assess if they’re predominantly in the top of the funnel. If the bulk of their budget is being spent on the top of the sales funnel, then there’s no payoff if those customers disengage quickly after being brought in. There’s a void in the investments that businesses are making – the big opportunity for them is to invest in the engagement of that customer over the course of their life with meaningful relationship-building content. That’s the holy grail. That’s the opportunity that we see.
Drenik: According to a recent study you conducted with Forrester, many organizations had been employing direct mail as a primary tactic for customer outreach and engagement. Why is that?
Gillin: Businesses are always going to try to get scrappy and creative in the ways that they conduct outreach to gain the attention of customers and drive outreach. Digital channels like email can get cluttered, and when the metrics like click-throughs and open rates are low, they turn to older methods that have worked in the past, like direct mail. There’s also always a lag when new technologies are introduced and there’s a transition. There’s a learning curve when businesses try to find ways to drive better results because their current strategies aren’t working. Waking up and implementing new solutions takes time, and adoption can lag behind, and sometimes the effect of that is businesses still using older methods.
Drenik: What are some alternatives, more modernized outreach strategies, and how can businesses ensure these strategies remain effective in the face of shrinking marketing budgets?
Gillin: Let’s face it, direct mail and email have gone by the way of the home phone – outdated solutions that aren’t able to meet the needs of today’s consumers. Web portals and apps are helpful, but they’re monolithic, and don’t change or refactor based on previous clicks or touchpoints. For businesses looking to modernize their outreach strategies, they need digital solutions that not only capture their audience’s attention but can consistently update and adapt to the customer as they go through their lifecycle.
A more modern approach is a solution that leverages feed technology like you see on your social channels. Think about how long you could spend scrolling through a social feed that algorithmically serves relevant content to you, right when you want it – businesses can learn a lot from that type of experience. For example, a recent report by Prosper Insights & Analytics found that over 53% of all respondents say they use their smartphones to use social media apps. This is no surprise since feeds, like social networking apps, garner high rates of engagement because when you’re on one, you’re scrolling and engaging with multiple vignettes of content, and that’s powerful. No other type of channel allows for that, so right off the bat, the decks are stacked for feeds to drive higher rates of engagement.
The same Prosper Insights & Analytics study found that over 65% of Millennials and Gen-Xers use their phones to handle their banking needs. This represents an opportunity for brands in the banking industry to meet their customers where they are and deliver content to them in a way that matches up with their technological preferences. Feeds also allow businesses to control the type of content being shown to customers based on prior engagement, helping to establish trust by only serving personally relevant information.
Drenik: What are some ways businesses can save money while still delivering personal content to their customers?
Gillin: Businesses need to look at where their dollars are being spent with their CX and marketing budgets. As mentioned earlier, a lot of money is being spent at the top of the funnel to bring in new customers, but not enough down the funnel – this is where the money can start to bleed. The cost of reacquiring a customer who has churned is higher than that of acquiring a new one. Not making the proper investment into relationship-nurturing can cause even the most recently acquired customer to churn out, so it’s crucial to bottom lines that there’s a focus on keeping people happy down the funnel through relevant, personal content. And the ability to drive higher engagement rates make feeds a perfect vehicle for serving that up.
Drenik: What’s the next step for customer outreach? Where should businesses be prioritizing their marketing/CX spend moving forward?
Gillin: Every business should be prioritizing customer relationships over customer acquisition right now because customer disengagement is the biggest risk to their bottom line, and they should be investing in a blend of tools and content that make it easy for the customers to get the most out of their investment in the brand and vice versa. Without refocusing these investments, businesses risk losing money to the top of the funnel, or worse, leaking people out of the customer bucket due to disengagement. Disengagement is the problem, and better engagement – if you ask me, via one-to-one feeds – is the solution.
Drenik: This has been a very insightful dive into the ways that businesses are rethinking CX and the ways that customer relationships should be prioritized. As organizations look to continue growing in uncertain times, it’s critical that existing customer bases have their needs tended to, and that they are being engaged in the channels that mean the most to them. Thank you for your time, Matt.