I originally published today’s post for Oracle CX. It appeared on their site on March 20, 2019.
The connected customer is always consuming information and leaving digital fingerprints, providing two data streams that modern marketers must access and then integrate into their planning. As the connected customer peruses apps and channels, posts content, and plans purchases, marketers need to meet customers on their terms with engaging content and messages that reflect where they have been and where they are going next.
But how? How can marketers ensure buyers have great experiences throughout the entire customer lifecycle?
Ultimately, we’re talking about customer experience (CX). The problem is that customers are more connected than ever before, but brands aren’t there yet, so customers can have disappointing experiences sometime at the beginning or later on during their brand relationships. They might have great experiences in the onboarding phase but then have a bad experience with a product upgrade; or they love their first purchase but are regretting the second, and don’t know what to do.
To fix this and get in sync with the connected customer, marketers must focus on three key areas:
CX is the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with an organization over the life of the relationship with that brand, and, more importantly, the feelings, emotions, and perceptions the customer experiences with those interactions. The growing number of touches and interactions connected customers participate in amplifies the need for brands to deliver consistently great experiences.
It was Roy H. Williams, the “wizard of ads,” who said, “The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.”
Today that means an experience that is personalized, consistent, relevant, timely, convenient, easy/frictionless — and seamless, regardless of touchpoint. And communications — a critical component of the customer experience — must be captivating, engaging, authentic, trustworthy, and in real time.
To become more connected, brands need to do more than think about channels and channel strategies. They need to first step back and understand their customers:
- Who they are
- The problems they’re trying to solve
- The jobs they are trying to get done
- Their channel preferences
- Their expectations
It’s difficult to personalize an experience if you don’t know the who, the what, or the why.
The connected customer is seamlessly linked to brands, content, and support without much regard for channel. As a matter of fact, most of the time, it all happens on their cell phones. And more and more, they’re also connecting via their smart home devices. Their expectations are that brands know them, anticipate their next moves, and communicate in real-time with content that is relevant and timely for the journey they are on. In short, they want instant gratification.
Those expectations arise from the knowledge that brands track customers’ every click, so they should have the data to deliver desired experiences. Any deviance from this expectation leads to dissatisfaction and, ultimately, causes customers to defect.
To achieve the expected experience requires an enterprise-wide approach that includes the right culture, the right planning, the right people, and the right technology – not to mention the right data at the right time.
Marketers must have access to the data that customers are sharing as they interact with brands. The data is varied and vast, from customer feedback in surveys and on social media, to purchase and other interaction data, to website analytics and more. Marketers must be able to discern the right data from the rest of the data; since just because you have a lot of data doesn’t mean that it’s all useful or usable.
They must constantly and continuously use this data to learn about their customers, to understand their needs and expectations, and then to deliver that personalized and relevant messaging and experience in a way that is authentic and trustworthy.
More importantly, using this data to develop that single view of the customer is imperative. It is the end-to-end view of the customer’s journey — along various channels and touchpoints — with the organization, as well as her experience (e.g., doing, thinking, feeling, perceptions) along that journey. It’s important to note that this is a view of each individual customer’s journey; the view is not persona based or segment based. This is a single customer view; this is about the experience, one customer at a time. Once you have this view, you can then better deliver a personalized and even anticipatory experience.
Looking ahead, marketing leaders have their work cut out for them. Knowing the customer, generating a single view of the customer, and being able to deliver a personalized and simplified experience throughout the entire lifecycle is key. And they can’t go it alone.
Today and into the future, CMOs must partner closely with CIOs, who can enable marketers to understand both prospects and customers at a much more detailed level. They know the different data sources, know where they are, have access to the data, are knowledgeable about the various systems available to do this, and can recommend new platforms if legacy systems are lacking in functionality. This allows marketers to then message to the right customers with the right content on the right channel at the right time.
Obviously, the data and the technology are closely linked — and both are critical to facilitating and delivering that personalized and proactive experience.
Predictive and prescriptive analytics tools are a great example of a marriage of data and technology. Using existing customer data from a variety of sources, these tools can identify why, how, and where —from which action — marketers will get the biggest bang for their buck. And the analytics tools prescribe the next best action to take, moving marketers from insight to foresight quickly and accurately. Having these powerful tools at their disposal gives marketers what they need to deliver the experience their customers expect.
The connection is a two-way street. We cannot only have connected customers; companies must be connected, too. For that to happen, they must break down (or connect) silos within their organizations — operational silos, channel silos, and data silos. To be where customers want brands to be when they need them, and to deliver a seamless experience, data and information must flow freely across the entire organization.
Marketers must understand the customer and her needs and expectations, use the breadcrumbs of data that customers leave behind to develop that single view of a customer, and have the right tools and technology in place to facilitate delivering the personalized and proactive experience customers desire.
The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. … A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. -Rachel Naomi Remen
Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Contact me for bulk orders! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.