What Game of Thrones Teaches Us About Customer Engagement

Posted by
Terra Walker Mrkulić
LivePerson Contributor
Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 17:01

When the latest season of Game of Thrones invaded television earlier this month, I was just emerging from my own trenches after launching a video interview with our CEO, Robert LoCascio, on the potential of human touch in driving digital engagement: The Human Touch – Gateway to Customer Loyalty. I could not have been in a more distant world.

Yet, I truly love Game of Thrones. For the unenlightened, it is about the struggle for power among noble families, juxtaposed against a fantastical backdrop that vaguely resembles medieval Europe—give or take a few dragons and zombie-like beings called White Walkers. Characters are complex, where almost none are truly good or evil, and dialogues are replete with wisdom.

While the number of takeaways from the epic fantasy is almost incalculable, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 that apply to driving customer engagement in our dynamic digital marketplace. SPOILER ALERT: continue at your own peril if you are not up-to-date with the series.

1.    Tap into conversations.

If there’s one thing that Game of Thrones proves: information is power. The two characters most ‘in the know,’ Varys and Lord Baelish, understand the value of information and use it to their advantage at every opportunity. Through clever use of their sophisticated networks of spies, both rose from humble origins to positions of influence in the Seven Kingdoms. The knowledge that is eventually gathered is used to coerce and condemn, and to ultimately to help line their own pockets and elevate them even further in King’s Landing society.

"Everyone wants something, Alayne. And when you know what a man wants you know who he is,
and how to move him."  - Lord Baelish

Lord Baelish (Image: HBO)

When engaging with customers online, understanding the needs and wants of your online visitors directly translates to a better customer experience which in turn leads to better customer loyalty. Fortunately for businesses, a wide availability of customer data (such as chat transcripts, emails, call recordings, CRM notes, web analytics, survey data and social media tools) means that you really don’t need your own spy network to figure out what customers are saying about you. It's all available to you with the right tools and insights.

While customer data is abundant, tapping into customer sentiment can take engagement to another level. Yet, this eludes many businesses today. Sentiment is about how customers feel about your brand, based on how they’re talking about it online. Start by monitoring and understanding your customers’ chosen words and behaviors, reasons for contacting you, and their buying patterns.  This knowledge empowers brands to make informed decisions across the entire organization, from overall direction to changes you need to put in place in order to turn around negative sentiments, win over enemies and make customers happier. 

2.    Maintain authenticity.

“Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor,
and it can never be used to hurt you.”   - Tyrion Lannister

While many interpretations of this quote exist, mine is simple: know and accept who you are, maintain authenticity, and you’ll do well. Daenerys Targaryen is a beautiful example of what happens when you lead with authenticity: people eagerly follow you and support your every move without question. Though she starts the series as a pawn being used to the advancement of others, she battles to find her strength and learns to weild it without compromises.

Daenerys (Image: HBO)

When customers are being inundated with a barrage of marketing messages, marketing authentically helps to keep your brand alive. Being authentic is about defining and leveraging the strengths and values that differentiate you from the rest. It is about doing the things that allow you to capture and maintain customer attention while showing that you truly care. 

Ensure your brand has a unique ‘voice.’ It goes a long way in helping you to draw the right audience in an already crowded online world. Instead of selling what you have, you are selling to people who have already bought in to your beliefs. By maintaining authenticity, you inspire customers to stick with you because you are coming from a place of truth. Just as customers don’t quit products, they quit brands that fail to deliver, customers value honesty and will see through marketing gimmicks that try to make the brand into something it is not. 

3.  Foster customer loyalty.

Fans of the show had a visceral reaction to the episode featuring the ‘Red Wedding,’ a pivotal scene that drastically alters the course of direction for many of the key characters of the show. The Red Wedding underscores the primal need to build trust and foster loyalty with those you choose to do business-- take that trust for granted and you’ll suffer the consequences. While you won’t exactly get a massacre if you don't live up to a brand promise, you can bet that your customers are not going to just let it slide. In this global consumer report by LivePerson, 71% of consumers surveyed ended their relationship with a business due to poor customer service.

Red Wedding (Image: HBO)

So, how do you start to foster ties that bind? In a digital marketplace, treating customers as a series of one-off transactions certainly doesn’t cut it anymore.  The shift is back to what it has been in the days of brick and mortar: relationship marketing.  As discussed by Rob LoCascio in his recent video interview, “The relationship is where it starts. It’s where it ends. And it’s what creates the value over the long term.” So, start by thinking of your customers in terms of their lifetime value to your business. Create connections beyond clicks and conversions. Develop an engagement that touches hearts and keeps customers coming back for more.

The above 3 lessons from Game of Thrones underly the reality of today’s marketplace. Marketing has evolved, the battlefield has changed, and so have the stakeholders. Customer engagement as a strategy is demanding more attention from decision makers across sales, service and marketing in transforming how businesses reach out and win over lifetime customers. Winter is coming. Will you conquer or will you capitulate?

Join in the fun! What additional parallels can you draw between Game of Thrones and Customer Engagement? I would love to hear thoughts from fellow GOT fans in the comments below.

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