Everyone talks about prioritizing the customer experience. Most get it wrong.
“Do not do unto others as you would have them do unto you — they might have different tastes.”
–George Bernard Shaw
Growth-minded organizations across every industry continue to invest in customer engagement technologies and solutions, in an effort to stay continuously connected with consumers throughout an ever-expanding customer journey. From retail, to media and entertainment, to travel and hospitality, to manufacturing, to utilities and automotive, businesses strive to drive unified experiences across Web, mobile, in-store retail, sales, kiosks, and call center channels. But, despite an impressive commitment to this cause, the payoff is often disappointing, and the lack of impact apparent.
Enter cognitive dissonance. Now, as a consumer, I’m sure you can think of a company that provided you with a great experience – one that truly exceeded your expectations. As a result, you were likely excited to not only come back again, but maybe even promote that brand to friends, family, and colleagues through social media. And, once that bar was raised, you might have naturally begun expecting that quality wherever you looked. Given this, wouldn’t it seem obvious that other businesses would recognize the effectiveness of these elevated experiences and take pains to make sure they, too, consistently exceed their customers’ expectations?
If only things were that simple.
The plain fact is, many organizations still struggle to go above and beyond, instead relying on goodwill statements, eye-grabbing messaging, and gimmicks to woo customers. But, for an increasingly savvy public bombarded with rapid-fire programmatic advertising, incessant targeting, and blaring brand narratives – this essentially amounts to empty promises. These companies may tell themselves that their tactics are clever, but consumers beg to differ and vote, of course, with their wallets.
Despite claiming a commitment to enhancing their customers’ experiences, many businesses underperform where it matters most, wielding an increasingly complex arsenal of marketing and ad tech in an attempt to wow customers and “disrupt” their industries, assuming simply that “technology-plus-data equals success.” What these companies should remember is that, in today’s privacy and security-conscious society, all the data in the world is worthless without the trust of customers, and the loyalty that trust inspires.
To earn that trust and loyalty, it’s time for businesses to stop talking about putting customers first, and walk a straight path toward actually doing it. Doing so will yield huge impact on customer acquisition and retention and, in turn, revenue and margin.
Why is Customer Experience So Hard to Get Right?
Gaining a lifelong customer – just like gaining a lifelong friend – depends on the relationship you are able to establish and maintain with them, from your first interaction onward. If that relationship is based on mere flash, with little consistency and transparency, how likely is it to last?
There are multiple issues that can derail the customer experience. Here are three of the most common ones:
Lack of Top-Level Buy-In: By definition, every business takes a hard look at its bottom line. All too often, growth and margin goals – in other words, cost control – whisks budget away from better CX to more operational efficiency. This type of choice reflects a continuation of how brands struggle with how much they prioritize meaningful and differentiating customer experiences.
Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen: In many organizations, there are ongoing debates about who sets the strategy for customer experience and who is in charge of execution. Without a holistic view of the customer experience, it’s easy for individual teams in separate brands to go their own way. As a result, your marketing team might send out a great promotional email, but your website might reflect different information, and your in-store sales reps might have no idea that it even happened.
Personalization Done Wrong: Companies maintain an ongoing balancing act between data privacy and personalization, two issues that are often viewed as opposing forces within an organization. On one hand, customers want to be recognized by brands, and enjoy personalized content, products and services that help them make smarter decisions. On the other hand, they don’t want this at any cost. According to the Global 2017 SAP Hybris Consumer Insights Report, 80% of consumers say they’ve left a brand because their data was used without their knowledge or permission. This highlights the importance of transparency and control in the customer experience. Consumers increasingly demand that brands be transparent about their data practices. They also demand full control over their own personal data. The bottom line: finding the right balance between personalization and privacy is now imperative for for getting customer experience right.
Organizations suffering pain in maintaining this balance often view CX as tactical. They maintain a need to “do something” as opposed to doing nothing, and allow “busy-ness” to rule over developing an informed strategy. In order to maintain the status quo, they tank risks, hesitating to make big, disruptive changes, and view CX as a set of checkboxes and requirements. They fail to see gaps in their CX projects, and are unwilling to look in new places to find them. Essentially, they see CX as an effort to “manage” the customer’s experience, rather than an opportunity to put that customer in charge of it.
Customer Experience as Strategy
When companies pursue CX as a strategy, they uncover the promise of a better solution. They seek out information about their customers, and align their business outcomes with customer expectations. They identify their gaps and work proactively to fix them. They get their technology house in order. They learn to differentiate, and actively create best practices instead of merely following them. Best of all, they set the tone for their market, and that strategy can then be duplicated throughout the organization.
Through this process, they develop customer relationships based on transparent, value-driven, and permission-based interactions built over time. Importantly, these interactions are more pull and less push.
To a customer, this experience feels less like a marketing play and more like a logical exchange where they trade their information for something they value, such as loyalty rewards, better recommendations, or more relevant content. In addition, when done right, the experience feels consistent and unified as the customer interacts with various brands, properties and regions.
With all of these factors in mind, one of the most common responses we hear is, “where do we start?”
The Right Technology Solution
To drive a differentiated customer experience, forward-thinking businesses are turning to a breed of Cloud-based customer data management solutions specifically built to drive these strategies. These technologies go beyond offering point solutions that “check boxes” for functions such as social and traditional registration and authentication, or customer profile, consent and preference management. Instead, these solutions use a platform approach and service-oriented architecture to enable a holistic approach to engaging in a trusted way with customers.
An immediate benefit of these technologies for customers is a more fluid and secure entry point into digital properties, with options for traditional and social network account registration, multi-factor and biometric authentication, and single sign-on functionality that lets them move between domains without needing to re-enter login credentials.
For marketers, these types of solutions unlock new possibilities for their technology stacks, by intelligently connecting customer information throughout the enterprise to knock down data silos, effectively creating a single view of each customer across every brand, device, and channel; what we refer to as a “unified customer profile.” Insights from this rich, permission-based profile can help marketers deliver more meaningful content, create more accurate campaign segments, and enable more personalized interactions that infuse consistency and relevance at each touchpoint.
For example, out-of-the-box integrations and connectors available with these solutions let you feed first-party data to your DMP for accurate audience activation and ad serving. You can also connect customer data with your CMS to enable consistent, relevant content for individual customers and segments, or to your email service or marketing automation solutions, to drive more effective and personalized e-mail campaigns and promotions.
Don’t Forget About Privacy…
Today’s consumers and government regulators are tightening the reins on how, where, and why data can be legally collected and processed. To address this, the preference and consent management capabilities of these enterprise-ready solutions enable journeys for customers based on real transparency in what data is being collected and the purpose for its use. They also give customers access to an intuitive, self-service preference center for changing their opt-in, channel, and frequency preferences for marketing communications, and the ability to view, download, delete, and freeze processing of their data.
More trusted and personalized experiences for customers; better ROI and security for businesses. The modern Cloud-based customer data management solution is fast becoming a core element in reimagining digital strategy with the customer at the center, not the outskirts, and that’s good news for all of us.
Need more proof? Check out our webinar entitled, “Balancing Privacy and Personalization in the Customer-First Digital World”, with special guest speaker Fatemeh Khatibloo, Principal Analyst for Forrester.
Engage customers. Provide an outstanding CX. Build loyalty. Learn all the tricks of the CX trade from top leaders in the field at CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE LIVE 2018 in Barcelona, the customer experience event of the year!
By Ratul Shah