The recent fine for making a bucket load of “silent calls”, levied against Talk-Talk (I guess more accurately called Not Talk!), was exceptionally heart-warming, and provided no little sense of schadenfreude, for those among us – yeah, that’s probably all of us – who are sick to the teeth with the persistent bombardment of intrusive calls and texts. Last year it was Homeserve caught in a dialling for dollars wheeze that cost them the thick end of £750k, and recently SSE was caught with their hands in the energy mis-selling cookie jar. I’m sure most of us know from personal experience that these aren’t the only, or the worst offenders, just the one that got caught. Most of the time we get an insincere apology and, of course, having been caught, the companies usually say “it won’t happen again guv,” as TT did when it happened before in 2006.
Alright, I know that it wasn’t actually Talk Talk, but two of their out-source partners, but somebody at TT had to OK this, (didn’t they?). And while their leaders will dismiss this as a momentary embarrassment with minimum impact, and certainly the fine was in the same “slap on the wrist” category as that given to SSE, the bigger questions should be; what were they thinking of? And why would anyone want to do business with an organization that “meets” their customers this way? And it certainly makes you wonder about their overall customer acquisition strategy, assuming that there is one.
There’s already very little love lost between today’s more vocal, combative consumers and the communications and utilities companies that deploy questionable customer acquisition tactics. Dumb moves like this simply generate an avalanche of negativity that leaves a permanent stain of distrust on the Talk Talk corporate landscape.
I know that many companies still use this extremely ineffective way to get new business and the underlying technology, known as “predictive dialling”, which is the “Lada” of the contact centre technology world, is notoriously unstable, and, like the cars, prone to crash at any time. Just ask any contact centre IT manager that’s tried to install it, or keep it running.
Apart from its unsophisticated, intrusive nature, it’s reflective of a seriously flawed marketing strategy that also typically includes poorly targeted and unsolicited emails, texts and direct mail. What it really tells us is that organizations that deploy this “strategy”, show a fundamental disdain for their customers, and their communications preferences, and lack a game plan to implement a fully connected road map, that recognizes customers as individuals with specific needs and wants.
In corporate speak, that means a Total Business Blueprint that maps the complete customer lifecycle via a carefully targeted, well segmented, omni-channel (including digital, social, mobile and traditional contact methods) communication strategy, that provides relevant, timely and value driven messages and offers to its prospects and customers. This translates into delivering the right message, to the right people, via the right medium, at the right time.
This approach takes time, persistence and no little effort, to build a clearer and more value based profile of a prospect/customer, and their propensity to buy, through a far more sophisticated method of data management and customer insight, than could ever be obtained through cold calling. However the payoffs are significant with customers reacting positively, with increased purchases from, and greater loyalty to, businesses that can demonstrate that they really do care what customers think and how they feel. Even a relatively small increase in customer loyalty can pay off handsomely at the profit window, especially for those organizations with a large base of customers.
Businesses such as Amazon, Tesco and Charles Tyrwhitt realize that loyalty must be continually earned, and, that by continuing to enrich the data that they get from customer interactions and managing their communications carefully and intelligently, will allow them, in turn, to provide information and incentives to make the customer’s buying process easier.
These are just some of the key features of a Total Business Blueprint, and while the concept can hardly be considered as revolutionary, many businesses struggle to develop, and deploy, a fully joined up, horizontally designed, customer interactions road map to address the complete customer lifecycle. This is not just the responsibility of the marketing department and stakeholders from across the business, including customer service, on-line, digital and sales, must play a defining and contributing role.
The damage done by Talk Talk’s partners pales in comparison with the unbridled, eye watering bets made by the “rogue traders” from many of the casino banks. However, the fact is that a “rogue department” that can operate with impunity (until now) and, apparently, without the knowledge of the management team, not only damages a company’s reputation, but highlights the importance of aligning these key operational groups into a coherent and responsible team, with the authority, credibility and budget to implement the Total Business Blueprint.
Without that discipline, and the company wide coordination of strategy that it can engender, these types of “mistakes” will happen again and again and make rebuilding trust and connecting with customers – the right way, even more difficult, demonstrating that “silence isn’t golden” – especially with Talk Talk on the other end!