4 Strategies to End ‘Remarkably Awful’ CX in the Post-GDPR Era

March 05, 2018

Brands operate in a marketplace where a consumer’s last best experience sets the bar for the next. Just minor improvements in customer experience can add tens of millions of dollars of revenue by reducing churn and increasing share of wallet.

Easier said than done. According to Forrester’s latest U.S. Customer Index Report, 2017 marked the first time not one single industry improved the quality of its customer experience, and three verticals actually got worse. In fact, twice as many brand scores fell as rose, while losses, on average, were bigger than gains. Worst of all, not one single score made the “excellent” category.

“Customer experience is remarkably awful,” agreed Tim Walters, Ph.D., co-founder and principal analyst at Digital Clarity Group, during the live webinar The GDPR Evolution: How Savvy Marketers Will Survive and Thrive, hosted by Signal on Feb. 27. But Walters argued that the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — which harmonizes data privacy laws across Europe and impacts every company that touches the personal data of European Union residents — will bring positive change for customers and marketers alike.

Walters explained that marketers’ failure to make any real progress in customer experience is usually attributed to various types of resource constraints — limited budgets, unqualified personnel, ill-fitting technologies, siloed processes. But none of them address what lies at the heart of exceptional brand experiences: consumer trust. Customers, rattled by highly publicized data breaches and invasive advertising, have become increasingly reluctant to share the personal data brands need to power the individualized experiences consumers demand. As a result, marketing has become the ultimate catch-22.

That’s where the GDPR comes in. The legislation, which takes effect on May 25, 2018, requires marketers to give consumers control over their data or face dire consequences — single violations can cost organizations up to $24 million or 4 percent of a company’s gross global revenue, whichever is greater. But looking beyond the regulatory restrictions, Walters said that forcing brands to be completely transparent with how they collect, store and use data will foster the level of trust necessary for building long-term, high-value customer relationships. Below are four essential post-GDPR moves to master:

1. Initiate consent.

A brand’s consent request will often be its one shot to convince a consumer to surrender data. It is, in effect, the fuel for any customer experience that relies upon personal data. As such, it is the preeminent and prerequisite marketing proposition.

While the consent request must be approved by legal counsel, customer experience professionals should take the lead in creating, optimizing and managing consent requests and notifications. This applies equally to the content and design of the email explaining the right to object to processing under legitimate interests.

2. Ask again.

Once the GDPR goes into effect, marketers may only continue to use existing data collected in ways that satisfy the requirements of the GDPR. But why would companies have done that before if they weren’t required to?

Walters said brands must conduct a comprehensive personal data inventory and audit, decide what existing data it wants to continue processing, and go back to the consumer for “re-permissioning.” This effort should be led by customer experience teams testing various requests in an A/B manner to maximize acceptance.

3. Master the ask.

How companies ask for consent will depend on who they are asking, Walters said. Much of the existing skills and tools for persona building, personalization and targeting should be redeployed to help brands get the right request to the right consumer at the right time.

New goals and metrics should be created to track success — not with “filling the top of the funnel” or increasing conversions, Walters explained, but with something potentially more important: receiving and retaining permission to use personal data. 

4. Poach and protect.

Finally, remember that the GDPR creates a new right to data portability. Under certain conditions, consumers can direct a business to extract their personal data and send it directly to a competitor. The result is a whole new vector of innovation, competition and promotions. Marketers need to strategize how to entice a competitor’s customers to switch their business — and their data — to their brands. At the same time, they need to consider how to prevent poaching of their own customers.

While marketers need to comply with the GDPR to satisfy the regulators and avoid massive fines, there is a better, more compelling reason to comply: satisfying customers. By addressing their concerns and gaining their trust, marketers will gain access to the insight necessary to offer customers the kinds of experiences they demand. Ultimately, this is what will transform marketing’s catch-22 into a never-ending cycle of success.

Looking for even more insight into the opportunities and obstacles the GDPR presents? View Signal’s complete 45-minute webinar here.

Kathy Menis

Kathy is an expert in technology marketing, with 20 years of experience creating and leading strategic, results-driven marketing programs. She was formerly the CMO at Signal.

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