As consumers, our expectations for brands grow by the month, the day, the hour. Every time we’re wowed by interaction, the bar we have for experience ticks up a notch, whether we notice it or not.
With mega-brands like Amazon, Apple, and Uber redefining convenience over the last several years, as well as new-on-the-scene disruptors, brand marketers at many organizations are struggling to keep up. Not everyone has the level of resources, either from a people or technology perspective, as the CX leaders, but all brands are held to the same standard in the eyes of the customer.
Especially now, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, customer expectations are changing fast. Consumers are struggling with an entirely new set of challenges, and your ability or inability to help in key moments matters. The last thing you want to do is make things more difficult for your customers during a key interaction, but it’s a mistake we see all too often.
Customers seek out brands to solve a problem they have. Instead of making the process as convenient as possible, too many brands end up making the process less so, leaving customers with questions about how to navigate a website, which channel to use to connect with the brand, and even what a product can actually do for them.
The problem here is often a reliance on outdated campaign-style thinking and approaches – push methods like email blasts, targeted ads, and branded apps. Campaign approaches are still valuable ways to reach out to customers, but they are far from customer-centric. To make them more so, they need to be complemented by real-time/reactive and anticipatory/proactive approaches, approaches built on customer data, and executed across all channels and all stages of the funnel.
Real-time interaction management supplements campaign approaches with insight-driven actions at every step of the customer journey, providing a more holistic and unified customer experience. Speed, consistency, and proper data management are essential to this approach, which is the best way to meet customer expectations in critical moments.
So how do you get started?
Broaden Your Focus
We often see marketers putting an outsized focus on the top of the funnel and on specific channels. Make sure your efforts are coordinated across the organization, and up and down the funnel.
Brands that over-emphasize top-funnel initiatives like awareness and interest neglect some of the most important moments in the customer lifecycle — when customers are already using your product and service and when they have questions or need help. Consumers want convenience, they want to know they can trust you and that you can help them solve their problems. No matter whether a customer is seeing a message from someone in marketing, service, sales, or operations, the experience needs to be consistent and contextually appropriate, based on that customer’s history and needs.
Just as you need to coordinate customer experience across the organization, you must also coordinate it across all channels used for customer interaction. The benefits of doing so can compound quickly. We saw this with one of our customers, Ford. When they began working with us, they were very much focused on top-of-the-funnel activities, particularly through paid media awareness campaigns. Once they built out customer journeys that took account of web behavior, email activity, and even personalization during face-to-face interactions at the dealership, they began seeing improvement across all channels. Connecting the dots between channels actively engages customers and moves them down the funnel.
Go Beyond Superficial Personalization
A recent Gartner report predicted that by 2025, 80% of marketers who have invested in personalization will abandon their efforts due to lack of ROI. That prediction makes sense, although it’s not because personalization doesn’t work. Rather, it’s because brands conflate traditional personalized campaigns, which often merely promote popular products or offers, with meaningful, relevant-in-the-moment experiences. The latter is what wins over customers and builds relationships.
There’s a raft of technology solutions out there promising personalization, but personalization is more than a problem that can be solved with a single tech solution — it needs to be thought about in a more holistic way. Personalized experiences can’t happen just at a single touchpoint or a single channel. It must be done across the entire customer lifecycle, pulling relevant customer information from all parts of the business. It must also recognize that each customer is more than just part of a persona — that they’re an individual. Customization and personalization needs to happen at the individual level, tweaking experiences based on specific customer histories and profiles.
Finally, Make It Real-Time
The interactions you have with customers need to be appropriate in the context. If a customer has initiated a service cancellation process on your website, agents in your call center need to be armed with that information if that same customer calls, even if it’s just minutes later. That means customer data needs to be shared across business units immediately, so it can be acted on wherever a customer is interacting with your brand.
Enabling that kind of real-time interaction management requires integration between Artificial Intelligence and business rules. A decisioning engine that’s capable of delivering the right response, in the moment, every time, requires Artificial Intelligence or Machine Learning to help figure out what the right action might be. At the same time, it needs to work within a set of parameters that’s right for your company. Setting up business rules as guidelines ensure you’re adhering to your brand strategy, as well as regulations for your industry.
Every business has silos. Sales, Marketing, and Service each have a set of technologies that support what they do and enable them to communicate with customers. The problem for many companies is that with those disparate solutions across the enterprise, customers get a mixed bag of communications depending on which part of the business they are working with. Those mixed messages are where we see major breakdowns in customer experience.
When companies start to approach real-time interaction management — when customers are provided contextually appropriate, personalized experiences in real-time, based on business rules, that’s where we see success. By taking ownership of the complex world of communication between you and your customer, you can help your customers at each key moment along the customer journey.