Innovations key to customer engagement

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Innovative customer experience is key, and the Web provides ample opportunities for engagement.

This was the common theme from the International Customer Experience World event held yesterday in Johannesburg.

"When consumers feel it's their brand, they're invested in it," said Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones, founder of UK sausage brand The Black Farmer, in his keynote address. "It's important to get face to face and introduce humanity into the process because it makes customers feel better, not so much just a bit of the machine."

This strategy has been taken to heart by UK mobile telecommunications provider, O2, owned by Telef'onica, which is on a mission to convert customers into "fans".

Graham Webster, Telef'onica Europe director of customer experience, who was also at the event, explained that the idea is to "treat customer experience as physical and emotional." High levels of loyalty and emotional engagement are the target, with the goal of forging a relationship of trust and forgiveness, said Webster.

To achieve this, O2 has embarked on a campaign of innovative actions like the introduction of a lower-cost Web chat alternative to call centres, which resulted in a higher rate of customer satisfaction, continued Webster.

It also introduced 'O2 Gurus', highly knowledgeable employees available in-store, online, in call centres, and on the 'O2 Guru TV' Youtube channel, to offer reviews and advice, he noted, adding that the loyalty scheme 'Priority Moments' provides people with discounted opportunities related to their geographic location.

According to Webster, O2's sponsorship of the Irish rugby team provided a "hugely emotional" campaign to engage with customers online.

"Supporters could record pep talks for the team, with the best talks being played on the stadium screen before the game. Fans could enter their names on the Web site to be used to make up the players' jersey numbers, and identify where their names were placed. There is a 28% churn reduction compared with customers who aren't experiencing any of these rewards. It's a deepening emotional relationship."

Allana Barber, Nokia consumer engagement manager, explained that Nokia has changed its strategy from pushing information, to increasing conversations, entertaining, and rewarding customers for choosing Nokia.

Nokia Rewards allows loyal customers to earn Nokia points, download music from the Nokia music store, and earn free gear and covers, and the Nokia Rewards app has been taken onto Windows Live Tile, providing constant information and engagement.

Barber added that "Gamification" is used to encourage engagement, giving participants points for certain actions such as clicking on a product, tweeting, or following a hashtag, ranking them on a leaderboard and giving away phones, airtime and music vouchers to those at the top of the board.

The importance of loyal, emotionally engaged customers should not be underestimated, said Emmanuel-Jones. "When a buyer wanted to delist me, I put it on my Facebook page, and all these loyal customers who have this great relationship with me, and had this big corporate who was going to take away their friend - they went to war."

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