I originally wrote today’s post for CMSWire. It appeared on their site on September 30, 2022.

Data is at the heart of designing and delivering a great (connected) customer experience. Without data informing your design and delivery, you really are flying blind.

But that opening statement leaves us with a few questions, including: How do we do that? And which data?

To begin, let’s look at three things to consider. I’ll add a fourth later in the article.

1. Use real-time data and insights about the customer

There are a few types of data that you’ll need to design and deliver that experience. I summarize them with the phrase “customer understanding,” and that means we’re using three different sources of information and insights:

  • Listen. This is all about feedback and data. Don’t just ask customers about their experiences via surveys, listen to them, as well (e.g., social media, online reviews, etc.). There are a lot of different channels and ways for customers to tell you about their needs and desired outcomes and how well you are performing against their expectations. It also includes the breadcrumbs of data they leave behind when they interact and transact with your brand. You’ll have both historical and real-time data to contend with.
  • Characterize. Research your customers. Talk to them. Identify their needs, problems to solve, and jobs they are trying to do. Compile key personas that represent the various types of prospects and customers that (might) buy from you or that use your products or services.
  • Empathize. Walk in your customers’ shoes to get a clear understanding of the steps they take to do whatever job it is they are trying to do with your organization.  Map their journeys to understand the current state of the experience. Build out the service blueprint to understand what’s happening behind the scenes to create and facilitate the experience.

2. Create that single view of customer – to seamlessly engage with every customer across all touchpoints

As you can see from my first point, there are many sources of data from and about our customers. The problem is, wherever the data are collected, that’s often where they stay. It’s in disparate systems, oftentimes legacy systems that don’t integrate well with current or newer systems.

Data doesn’t just naturally get shared across departments. And when you have disparate data or data sources that are not connected in any way, i.e., they are siloed, then employees’ hands are tied, and the customer experience suffers. At each touchpoint, customers end up saying, “Wow. You don’t know me at all.” And that equates to a lot more effort for the customer.

In order to deliver the experience customers expect these days from one channel to the next, you’ve got to have one source that provides an overview of all the data you’ve collected on each individual customer. So, it’s one source of truth. You’ve got to consolidate and connect data, connect systems. Data is pointless if it’s scattered all around the company.

3. Provide context and desired outcomes

Designing an experience is pointless without understanding the context for the customer and what her desired outcomes are or what goal she’s trying to achieve. To address this, you’ve got to first understand the following:

  • Where is the customer in the journey?
  • What is the customer ultimately trying to achieve?

And then consider which data you have to help you not only with that understanding but also to help design and deliver the experience in that moment.

So, that answers the first question: how do we do that? Now, what about the data? Which data? I eluded to some earlier in the article, but there’s an important parameter or adjective to add to that word “data:” right.

You need the right data, first and foremost. What is the right data? It must be contextually relevant. What does that mean? It’s data that ensures that…

  • The right person gets
  • The right content (message, offer, next best action, etc.)
  • At the right place
  • At the right time
  • In the right format
  • In the right language
  • On the right device

Scott Abel is the one who put this list of seven rights together. I just added the precursor that you’ve got to have the right data to set you down the right path. Eight rights don’t make it wrong; as a matter of fact, they will certainly ensure that the experience is one that meets your customer’s needs and expectations.

I mentioned earlier that I’d add a fourth item to consider later in the article. Here’s an important consideration when it comes to data being at the heart of designing and delivering a great experience: tools.

4. Have the right tools

Data and technology go hand in hand. You can’t have one without the other. Sure, you can generate data without technology, but I can tell you now, you will certainly not make sense of it very easily without the right tools. What kinds of tools will you need? Ideally, they’ll not be disparate but integrated, but here’s what I’m thinking about: get yourself a customer data platform (CDP) that pulls in various types of data, including customer feedback, to ensure that’s the case.

Data is the lifeblood of your customer experience strategy. Customers want seamless, consistent, and effortless experiences. Only by using data to inform and deliver the experience that customers have will you meet those expectations.

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. ~ Mae West

Annette Franz is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. In 2019, she 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. In 2022, she published her second book, Built to Win: Designing a Customer-Centric Culture That Drives Value for Your Business (Advantage|ForbesBooks), which is now available to purchase on Amazon, Books A Million!, Target, Barnes & Noble, and thousands of other outlets around the world! Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Alexander Sinn on Unsplash.