All customer relationships are digital


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Digital tools give customers a more immediate, personal and ‘in control’ relationship with brands. The challenge is for businesses to keep up with customer expectations that outstrip organisations’ ability to develop. The business that is able to not only provide specific digital interactions but also to maintain a digital relationship with customers over time will seize the market.

Living up to the promise of digital
Customers now know what is possible from a digital relationship and are frustrated when it’s not available to them. When customers are promised the ability to conduct their business digitally, only to have a disjointed experience, the relationship suffers. Native digital businesses set the bar that all are judged by. Established companies struggle to meet expectations due to legacy practices and technology.

Digital is not delivering a customer relationship
Digital promises business and customers a nirvana where relationships are not the one-to-many of a brand relationship but the one-to-one of a personal relationship. Customers would like to move through the phases of a relationship and take their preferences and identity with them. When this doesn’t happen relationships are damaged as the customer experience defaults to interactions with faceless systems and processes.

All customer relationships are digital Shifting customers from paper to digital bills is a step towards a Digital Customer Relationship for Vivo in Brazil. The bill becomes the interface for the most important and regular interaction customers have with their mobile operator. The operating efficiencies are secondary to an enhanced digital relationship.

CRM needs a mechanism to impact customer experience
CRM brings together a view of the customer but only for the business and staff. CRM is built around the systems and processes of the organisation. It doesn’t enable the business to offer customers the prized one-to-one relationship. Most CRM implementations enable engagements with customers driven from the inside but don’t support customers at the point where they have a need or request.

Create a digital customer relationship
Imagine the ability to relate to customers consistently across digital channels – from apps to email. For the customer to be able to pick up the conversation where they left off after days or years of a relationship. This is possible by creating a digital customer relationship (DCR) that connects to, but is not driven by, the back-office systems of an organisation.

Primary growth drivers for the $20Bn CRM market are enterprise investments in digital marketing and customer experience initiatives.

Enable sales through service and service through sales
A digital customer relationship would start before a customer is a customer. It would support their interest and needs as they consider your offer and enable them to pull together their requirements informed by your expertise and offerings. Sales would be driven by a service approach. Once someone becomes a customer this would flip and the customer’s service needs would be met by a sales approach that first understood the need and then offered the solution for the customer.

Connect the experience across business functions
A digital customer relationship acts as a platform for multiple areas of the business to engage customers. Sales, operations, marketing and care functions can find and connect with customers at different phases of the customer lifecycle to make offers or respond to enquiries. Each function can see a view of the whole customer across their different interactions with the business and be much smarter in their engagements.

TFL_2_Customer-relationship_02 Visitors to London start their experience before they leave their city of origin – and most do this online as they research the visit. Engaging them in a digital relationship at this point enables London Underground to offer them the right ticket and engage them in getting the most from their trip.

Digital customer relationship increases wallet share and reduces churn
Where there is a relationship there is an opportunity to talk to the customer about getting the most from, or doing more with, your business. Without the relationship they have no reason not to go elsewhere for additional needs. The digital customer relationship enables the conversation to take place when the customer needs support and enables you to meet their needs and do more with them for longer.

Ben Reason
Ben Reason is a service design consultant with 20 years experience with a wide range of public, and private sector organisations. As a founder of Livework he leads the London studio and team on projects that bring a customer view to major challenges and opportunities in industries ranging from healthcare and financial services, to public transport.


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