Guest Blog – How To Meet Your Customers Changing Expectations

We've gone from digital natives to mobile natives. As consumer expectations change, how can we communicators remain relevant? (image source: www.mirror.co.uk)

We’ve gone from digital natives to mobile natives. As consumer expectations change, how can we communicators remain relevant? (image source: http://www.mirror.co.uk)

I’ve asked a number of prominent communicators to talk about the importance of communications and design when it comes to customers. Julio Romo (on Twitter as @twofourseven and on LinkedIn here), an International Communication Consultant and Digital and Innovation Strategist, shares his insights on how communications is changing and how customer experiences are impacting our jobs as communicators. Julio, over to you.

How To Meet Your Customers Changing Expectations

People around the world are today more connected than ever before. Let it be through social media, smartphones or both. The way we are now connected has influenced and changed the way in which our beliefs and expectations are shaped.

Let me give you some facts. There are over 2.3 billion social media accounts worldwide – Facebook has 1.79 billion monthly active users (92% access via mobile), Twitter has 313 million active monthly users and Instagram has 400 million monthly active users. These are very top line numbers. They are Impressive, but missing some context.

Now the context, one in every six minutes that is spent online is spent on Facebook, 2.5 billion comments are made on Facebook Pages, 6,000 Tweets are sent every second. The more content that is out there the quicker that we must be to filter out what we think is not relevant to what we want to learn.

Research by Microsoft also tells us that our attention span is now down to 8 seconds, that is shorter than that of a goldfish. The speed at which we make decisions has also shortened to what Adobe calls, the last millisecond. We live in extraordinary and highly competitive times.

People have changed how they make decisions. Today it is the experience that they get from their engagement that shapes their perceptions and decisions-making. Get the experience right and in a fraction of a second you keep and possibly convert an individual. Get it wrong and you risk loosing your customer, possibly for good.

Think about it this way:

And the benefits? Well, insight from Bain & Co tells us that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. Not bad at all.

Experience that your audiences receive matters. Design and the way in which they interact with you certainly matters. And today, the customer matters more, and they know this.

The customer journey has to be simple and rewarding. It has to deliver an experience that not just converts them, but gets them to return and amplify the positive engagement that they’ve had. And it is in this connected world that reputations are built and broken.

A McKinsey report states, ‘Consumers now have much more control over where they will focus their attention, so companies need to craft a compelling customer experience in which all interactions are expressly tailored to a customer’s stage in his or her decision journey.

So how do we secure better engagement from our target market and audiences? That is simple, yet not very straightforward. Organisation must become agile and nimble. They must become better at listening and learning. And their communications and marketing must be always-on and responsive – be ready to respond to customer service issues. Our digital touch points need to be built around the personas of our audiences, yet bearing in mind that like technology, peoples behaviour and expectations changes fast, especially when start-ups come into play disrupting business as usual.

Some companies have already embarked on a journey of change to ensure that they remain relevant. In 2005 the former FT US Technology Correspondent and Columnist Tom Foremski coined the term ‘Every Company is a Media Company.’ A term that still to this day is alien to many. Yet some organisations have changed their PR and communications teams into modern day brand newsrooms that monitor news, deliver content and engage through social channels.

Having and understanding of the audience and designing for them will give companies access to a global market that in 2014 McKinsey thought this year could have been worth $2 trillion in potential sales. Being nimble and agile is a must. Having your communications, marketing and customer service teams working together is what will help your businesses grow in a competitive market.

After all, bad news travels fast on social media. According to Zendesk, bad experiences are shared with more people than good experiences, and more customers share bad experiences than good through social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

Today, people who complain are the ones that you know about. People expect and we must deliver, we must be what they expect, more customer centric. Because it matters to our reputation, our business and in competing markets it gives us competitive advantage.

The building of successful businesses today depends on the gaining of more insight about audiences. Understanding their behaviour and decision-making and roadmappiing their journey so that they find what they want on platforms relevant to them.

Now more than ever we have to move towards acting on insight and data in order to secure attention and engagement from people.

CIPR and why I want to speak up for International Members

I'm standing to bring a voice to CIPR's members outside the UK, and support CIPR's growth in markets where we could benefit from CIPR's leadership

I’m standing to bring a voice to CIPR’s members outside the UK, and support CIPR’s growth in markets where we could benefit from CIPR’s leadership

I’ve been a proud member of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for a number of years, and it’s an honour and a privilege to be part of an organization that puts the industry and its professionals first, that promotes what we do, and pushes for change for the better.

I was asked several weeks back by Jason MacKenzie a number of weeks ago if I’d stand for the Council. His thinking was clear; he wants to broaden CIPR’s scope, to reach out to the hundreds of CIPR members who live and practise their trade outside of the United Kingdom.

CIPR and the Need to Cross Borders

Both Jason and I share the same sentiments. While I am a member of the CIPR and have benefited from its world-class training and its ability to bring the industry together to tackle challenging issues, I want the CIPR to do more for all of us who aren’t in the United Kingdom.

Take my region, for example. Dubai and the wider Gulf are home to thousands of UK nationals who are public relations and communications professionals. Many of us here know the CIPR, we respect the work done by the CIPR, and we’d love to see the CIPR bring that gravitas to bear for issues that matter to us.

Representation for CIPR Members Abroad

As an organization that represents many in the communications industry, the CIPR has a strong membership base outside of the United Kingdom. Many of my own associates, colleagues and friends in the United Arab Emirates are members of the CIPR. While the CIPR International has done stellar work, it is time to step up representation on the Council for CIPR’s members abroad, for them to voice their needs. More international voices on the Council will also help promote to CIPR’s members the industry outside of the UK.

The Bridge Between the CIPR and the Global Industry

I’d also bring my experience to bear, as a board member of both the Middle East Public Relations Association and the International Association of Business Communicators, to promote mutual interests across a wider region for the benefit of all (an example of this is bringing the Chartered Status to the Middle East through the agreement with MEPRA). As an industry we are much stronger when we work together to engage on what we do and its value. I want to bring my board experience and the work I’ve done in emerging markets on behalf of the industry to bear for others in the CIPR.

I’m happy to field any questions from any CIPR member. I’m all for transparency and engagement, and I’m always keen to talk about the industry and how we move forward.

On a final note, I’d like to thank my nominators: Eva Maclaine; Jason MacKenzie; Donald Steel; Sarah Pinch, and Julio Romo. They’re all communicators who I admire for their abilities, their passion and their commitment to giving back to the industry. I hope I’ll do you all proud.