customer context marketing black holes

What is customer context & why is it important to keep it complete?

by | Sep 22, 2020

What is customer context?

At its core, context is an intuitive concept. In any given moment, each of us has wants and needs, likes and dislikes, big goals, and small ones. We have our personal history, jobs, relationships with friends, family, and yes, even sales and customer service representatives.

When we engage our friends, colleagues, or strangers on the street, we take in countless subtle cues so that what we say feels appropriate to the situation. This interpersonal sense is how — in daily interactions — we account for context.

“Customer context” extends this concept into relationships between individuals and your brand. In other words, it’s the intersection of a customer’s preferences, actions, and circumstances with the brand’s offerings and growth objectives for that customer.

A relationship is a state of being connected. As anyone with a cellphone or tetchy internet can attest, the strength of a connection plays a huge role in how durable, usable, and practical it can be. 

The key to a strong connection with your customers is clean, consolidated, accessible, real-time data, the context of their digital lives. It’s having all the information necessary to communicate relevant messages effectively and appropriately.

 

Why is customer context important?

For example, the most fundamental customer context is the customer’s name. 

If your email template reads Hello, {{First_Name}}, but the output is wrong, that is not only a lost customer; that is a lost customer who thinks less of your brand.

Missing the “non-essential” customer context could be just as damaging. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s just lost a beloved pet but still receives a barrage of communications from pet stores. Being reminded continuously isn’t a good feeling, and chances are the bereaved pet owner will go on an Unsubscribe spree. 

But the savvy marketer who catches this piece of context and sends a personal message of condolence or at least tailors outreach to be maximally empathetic is the marketer who is doing good in the world and who will inspire customer loyalty.

 

What do we do with all this customer context?

marketing black holes

With customers more connected and in more channels than ever, entire categories stand to be won or lost based on brands’ ability to weave together a single, coherent, engaging experience throughout the customer lifecycle. As major players like Google and Amazon drive expectations ever higher, the gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening.

Great experiences feel natural, timely, helpful, and appropriate. Creating these experiences comes only from understanding customer context. 

For most businesses, maintaining context means that, at any given moment in a customer’s journey, the company can know, understand, and leverage that context to deliver messaging and experiences that feel appropriate, establish trust in the relationship, and advance a clear business goal.

As social creatures, we expect our interactions with others to reflect what we do, what we say, and what we value. We expect others to maintain that context from one interaction with us to the next.  

As customers, we hold similar expectations. The best customer experiences are personal — we expect brands to respond to our implicit or explicit signals

We expect our values, suggestions, frustrations, and endorsements to be considered and reflected. We expect context in every email, SMS, or push notification. In every piece of direct mail. In every support interaction. In every web visit and app session.

To do this, brands must move beyond {{First_Name}} into something much more human that recognizes the customer in every interaction.

Next week’s installment of the Customer Context Series will go into the nuts and bolts of how to do that. If you want to learn more about closing customer context gaps before then, download our whitepaper on the topic here.

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