Customers Expect Context – Are You up to the Challenge?

Growing up, I was by no means a popular kid. I was quiet, shy, liked comic books, was bad at sports, and (not surprisingly) loved Dungeons and Dragons! While this might not have led to popularity (trust me it did not), it did allow me to build relationships with a great group of friends. And we used the context of our favorite game for discussions, arguments, pontificating, expanding our social circle, and at some point in our lives, hopefully meeting girls. In other words, context was paramount.

Today I will focus on always being contextual, the second step in my 5-step plan.

In life we are all always contextual. In other words, we all communicate with groups or individuals (family, friends, co-workers or etc.) and each situation influences language use, language variation, physical responses and dialogue summary across multiple media and in-person interactions. We all experience this (even when I was playing Dungeons and Dragons at my friend’s house) and it is the normal way of interacting for most of us.

Organizations however, are not set up to be like us, they are not built for contextual understanding and resultant responses. In general, they are built for broadcasting and responding in very explicit ways. There is no perspective with the customer outside of the email that was sent, the complaint call coming into the call center, the Web views on your competitor’s site and your site. Organizations tend to respond in a pre-defined fashion.

Think about it – have you ever received an email for a product offer and turned down that same offer weeks before when you received it from the call center? Worse yet, have you complained about a teller at a branch to the branch manager and the call center only to receive an offer telling you to go into the branch? Organizations need to respond and deal with their friends (their customers) in context. In many ways context is king – it forces us marketers to understand what customers want at each precious interaction.

"Customers expect contextual even if they do not think of it as context"

Customers expect contextual even if they do not think of it as context. When they tweet, email, SMS, post or etc. they expect that we will know them and respond as if we know them, in a personalized fashion and get to the crux of the interaction or conversation. If we do not do this, we lose credibility and it eventually leads to erosion of the company brand, trust and worse yet, causes attrition.

Contextual success for marketers is the ability to take into account: where the customer is in their customer journey, what interactions we have had with that customer, what was the last thing they did before engaging with us, and what is the business value of that customer to us. Oh, and all of this must happen in real time to ensure the customer builds trust with our organizations. In today’s complex world this may seem difficult but with advanced predictive analytics and marketing technologies this is becoming a great opportunity.

If you’ve accepted the cultural shift for marketers today and agree that contextual is a key piece to building brand trust and frictionless communication, then you are in lockstep with my program. If you’re not I would appreciate hearing from you.