Commentary

Five Engagement Killers -- And How To Overcome Them

While we all know that the goal to win and retain engagement extends beyond the inbox experience and across channels, I continue to come across situations where otherwise smart marketers wind up hurting engagement with some regrettable (but avoidable) practices. 

Gone are the days when customer interaction was limited to the retail store or call center. The number of channels available for consumers to interact with brands is getting bigger every year (remember marketing before Pinterest?), so it's all the more important that we are able to consider the entire consumer experience across all potential touch points. That means marketers need to stop viewing the customer experience by channel or line-of-business, which creates silo-ed customer data and engagement views.

What are the consequences of not having this integrated cross-channel view of the customer? Here are five engagement killers that thrive in such an environment.

1.  Bad customer experience from another channel .During the holidays I received a gift card from my aunt for one of my favorite clothing stores. However, when I tried to use it, their records indicated it had already been used.  After some uncomfortable conversation and further research, it was determined that this card had been used by the clerk who sold it. Not surprisingly, this negative experience resulted in some pretty serious disengagement, including unsubscribing from email, un-liking on Facebook and resolving not to shop at their stores.  While this is an extreme example, it highlights how a negative experience in one channel can affect others.

So, what can you do? At a minimum, brands should recognize consumers as existing customers and understand their specific service needs/preferences and apply this data to deliver highly relevant engagements.

2.  Unused preference and interest information. How many times have you provided preference and interest information, either via a preference center, survey, polling, or even customer service, only to receive email, SMS or even direct-mail promotions that don't recognize or speak to any of them?  Last fall, I updated my interest categories at one of my favorite brands to shoes, workout clothing and handbags. But what did I receive in my next email?  Offers for Outwear and Kids, which have nothing to do with my stated interests, past purchases or browse history.  

So, what can you do? Make sure you're delivering personalized communications, offers, and experiences that demonstrate the value of exchange for the customer’s shared preferences.

3.  Competing  offers.  Recently, I received multiple offers from a financial services company: two in email and three direct mail pieces all promoting different credit card offers.  Here's the problem: I am an existing credit card holder with them and all of the offers were greater incentives than my current account agreement.  Competing offers can be leveraged to drive channel-specific conversions, but more often than not they create consumer confusion and channel conflict that ultimately discourage the consumer to engage or purchase in any channel. 

So, what can you do?  Use channel-specific offers that create choice instead of confusion.

4.  Death by survey. We've all been there. You visit a website and within moments, you're accosted with a pop-up requesting that you take a survey at the end of your visit. From a marketer's perspective, it seems reasonable, but you're asking consumers to commit to a survey before they've had any experience at all.  In essence, you're asking them to help improve an experience they haven't even had yet.

It's true that surveys, polls, and progressive profiling are very effective ways of gathering additional preference and profile information to fine-tune engagement. However, when used too often, too soon or across multiple departments, this “survey abuse” can damage your brand image and lead to complete disengagement.

So, what can you do?  Before launching a survey, help facilitate engagement by carefully considering purpose, timing, and cross-channel and departmental coordination. 

5.  Fictitious urgency. Last fall, a friend was looking for some new furniture and received a “Last Chance” email from a well-known furniture company inviting her to participate in their “Inventory Close-out Sale” that weekend.  She wound up buying a couch and love seat, feeling happy she hadn’t missed out on a great sale.  This feeling of retail success lasted only until she received another “Last Chance” email from that same furniture company with the same offer the following week. Not only did this hurt the retailer’s credibility – the company also missed an opportunity to present a cross-sell offer to complement her purchase.

So, what can you do?  If you really want your urgency campaigns to be successful, you need to use them moderatelyand legitimately.

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