Customer experience (CX) has become a cornerstone of competitive differentiation, but many organizations are still slamming into walls when it comes to finding high-quality CX tools and developing quality best practices. It’s not that consumer expectations are too high or that businesses aren’t willing to invest, it’s just that most companies tend to cling to outdated approaches and technologies for far too long, creating a massive amount of frustration. You see it on both sides – consumers who struggle interacting with brands and don’t see their day-to-day needs being met, and business leaders who can’t generate real ROI from any of the over-hyped solutions they’ve invested in.
In today’s “always-on” economy, businesses need to offer customers the best possible experience, but most marketing or engagement solutions struggle with exactly that – they were built to scale a company’s messages and send them further and wider – not to dive in deep with specific individuals, and help those people solve real-world problems. For example, marketing automation platforms were designed to move offers and messages into the market quickly and make it easier to engage customers with more content, on more channels, with more variation. But they do that through a lens of campaigns and segments and revenue, ignoring the living breathing humans underneath all that… they ignore the person in lieu of the goal, and that’s exactly where they break down.
To put it simply – people are very complex. They’re extraordinarily unique and non-uniform, changing their minds and preferences constantly, literally from one moment to the next. Solutions that “push” messages at people won’t cut it in today’s environment. Organizations must account for an individual’s unique needs and context – their environment, emotions, motivations, and behaviors – just to earn their attention, much less win their loyalty.
The key to contextual CX? Real-time decision-making
People are bombarded with a constant stream of messages and offers every day. To break through that noise, we must engage each individual with something truly relevant, every time we interact with them, otherwise we just end up teaching them that what we say isn’t worth their time, or energy – and they start tuning us out. But staying relevant requires a tremendous amount of insight and personalization, operationalized at a global enterprise-level scale and that requires a different kind of approach.
The key is activating and adapting to customer data as soon as we get it, then putting it into back play almost instantly – not waiting until it’s convenient for our business to take action, which is what the traditional campaign model does. Businesses that can constantly “re-decision” customers and re-assess individual needs can create a tremendous competitive advantage over companies who cannot. But that type of re-decisioning is complex, and requires a business to do four very specific things:
1. Activate Data Immediately: Real-time decisioning requires a constant flow of new customer information – largely behavioral information (clicks, responses, purchases, etc.) that can be used to understand a customer’s unique “right now” context and identify exactly where they’re going next. Without that kind of data to serve as fuel, a real-time program starves – because businesses miss the contextual clues that customers emit every time they interact with your brand – so experiences quickly stagnate.
2. Predict Individual Needs: Companies have forever relied on rules and segmentation to try and understand customers, but that approach is far too simplistic in today ecosystem – the most progressive companies leverage hundreds (or even thousands) of predictive models, and re-score them every time they get a new piece of data about a customer. Those predictive models generate propensity scores that tell the brand exactly what that customer is likely to do next, which can change from moment to moment, as they consume new information.
3. Arbitrate Sub-Second Decisions: In the past organizations could make decisions on a daily or hourly basis, as it took hours to compile and aggregate information and propagate it across their marketing stack… but in a digital landscape, you would literally miss millions of potential opportunities if you had to wait that long to adapt. Nowadays companies need to select a next best action / treatment in less than a quarter of a second, if they want to optimize an interaction on an interactive channel like the website, or mobile app.
4. Activate the CX In-Channel: Once a decision is made, it’s useless unless it can be delivered in-channel to the customer, while the message is still relevant. To make that happen, companies have to build real-time integrations with channels like the web, mobile, email, and the contact center – giving each channel enough time to consume the decision, then convert it into a high-quality customer experience. That gives them the ability to pivot between selling, serving, retaining, and nurturing – sometimes all in the same experience. While complex and fast-paced, that’s exactly the level of personalization that customers are craving and goes a long way towards closing the CX gap.
Customers today won’t wait around for businesses to finally send them messages or offers that are actually relevant and helpful – they’ll move on to a competitor before brands can course correct. In an increasingly competitive environment, businesses that can provide personalized, contextual experiences will be those that emerge on top, and create tremendous value for both the business, and the customer. With a decisioning strategy that incorporates real-time data and analytics, organizations not only will be better prepared to react to customer needs in the moment, but they’ll be able to build a customer experience strategy (and customer relationships) that outlast the competition.