Today’s businesses are in a difficult situation. Their customers demand more experience and contextually relevant engagements than they are equipped to deliver. This places them on a difficult trail that they need to navigate in order to be and stay successful.
Their challenge is that technology does help everyone, especially their customers, because, also thanks to the consumerization of technology, it is far easier and cheaper for customers to implement and use technologies. Good technology examples of the past decade include the meteoric rise of messaging services and, before that, social media. As a consequence of this today’s customer is less depending on company marketing- or sales organizations and has a far higher reach when it comes to satisfying an information need. Consequently, Google finds that a whopping 99.8 per cent of all online ads are simply … ignored. Sales representatives are on the verge of becoming irrelevant. An increasing number of studies find that customers contact a sales representative only after a product decision has been made. This was a topic that was already discussed during CRM evolution 2016.
Other studies determine that customers are abandoning shopping carts already following a single poor service experience. While these studies often are commissioned by vendors there still are too many of them to not indicate that there is a problem. After all there is bound to be a fire where there is smoke.
The 1990’s customer was happily working with and believing in corporate messaging that got delivered via unidirectional channels like TV, radio, or the newspaper. Today’s customer uses available technologies and is always online, digitally connected and socially networked – and trusts peers, ‘people like me’ far more than corporate executives, -spokespersons, or consultants/analysts/influencers. This trend is clearly shown by the changes in the Edelman Trust Barometer and it gave birth to notions like ‘a company like me’ or the debatable one of the customer being in charge.
Customers are using available technologies to navigate their own buying journey, which stretches across devices and channels, is non-linear and proceeds at the customer’s pace. They are simply following their own preferences, not a company’s. Yet customers have some demands to the companies:
- They want the company being available on their communications channel of preference
- They want the company to know more about the product or service that they are inquiring about than they already know themselves
- They want the company to know and address their intentions and not being bombarded with irrelevant and out of context messaging. Information they volunteer to the company needs to be used to their benefit
- At the same time they do not want their data being used outside the boundaries of their interest. They do not give a perpetual license to use their information
Companies need to address this by offering a menu of interlinked touch points that collect the right data and offer meaningful data in real time, so that the customers can proceed on their journey with minimum friction and loss of time. Those companies that succeed in building this menu have a good part of a foundation for engaging in a way that results in good experiences. Of course this foundation needs to also include non-technical aspects like people, process, culture.
Does this work?
Studies show that concentrating on good customer experience can be linked to tangible business benefits, like higher customer retention, higher customer satisfaction, increased loyalty and revenues.
It is definitely worthwhile concentrating on engaging in a way that results in good experiences.
Yet, the supporting IT landscape at businesses is highly fragmented with different, unconnected applications supporting different channels. This leads to inconsistent data, duplication of data, broken processes, frustrations, and ends in poor customer experiences. Some examples:
- Vinnie Mirchandani found in his book SAP Nation that more than half of all SAP shops run more than 40 satellite applications. And there is no reason to believe that Oracle- or Microsoft- or other vendor’s shops are any better off.
- A 2015 Forrester study found that the average marketing department runs 15 applications
The ideal landscape looks different, more consolidated. It requires the company’s systems of engagement and systems of record being based upon a common platform that offers integration services, analytics, AI and machine learning, amongst other services. This platform can also be called system of intelligence (thanks to friend Abinash Tripathy from Helpshift for this term), and manages data persistency on the data layer, which may consist of multiple harmonized databases.
This way, signals coming in from the customers can be reacted to with contextually relevant engagements while the machine learning layer takes care of continually optimizing the necessary personalization. Continuous learning leads to continuous improvement.
While this is an ideal situation a number of case studies that I gave as part of my CRM evolution presentation clearly show that it is possible to improve engagement capabilities for better experiences using a Think Big – Act Small approach that aligns strategic and tactical requirements.
The case studies that all depict individual digital transformations
- An Australian based mid-sized retail company targeting higher systems resilience and systems simplification
- A city council that streamlined systems and processes
- Microsoft Outlook Mobile, embracing Helpshift’s mobile in-app support technology
- A Swiss based food retail cooperative that embarked on an omni-channel journey with the help of movento
show that companies need to consider four aspects to achieve success in their digital transformation. In every case, with different emphasis, there was a keen focus on platform, stakeholder involvement, prioritization, and data.
The strong platform builds the core for nimble business applications. Stakeholder engagement is key for delivering value to internal as well as external customers and allows for prioritization and regular reprioritization, which happens based upon a strategy and is supported by solid data.
(Disclaimer: Helpshift is a customer of mine and movento is a company I work for; they have provided me with information on two of the cases but did not influence me other than making sure that I did not disclose private information)