What is customer experience, anyway? What is all the hype about? Is it just one of the many trends...
“He chose poorly.” We all remember the scene in Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade where the guardian of the holy grail cautions Harrison Ford to choose wisely among the many cups. As companies strive to achieve the perfect, personalized customer experience, the path is similarly fraught with difficult choices and shiny distractions.
By using insights and recent developments in marketing combined with modern tools such as digital experience platforms, companies can create holistic and actionable insights from their customer data to deliver consistently excellent CX.
Companies Still Suffer from Data Deficits
You’d think most companies today are drowning in data and couldn’t possibly be suffering from a deficit. But there’s a huge gap between data and actionable information, not to mention insight. Many can’t even answer basic questions like the following.
What types of content are most engaging for specific customers? Which channels do they prefer? What are their personal interests and purchase patterns and are any changes necessary during the ongoing coronavirus crisis?
Decisions based on relevant customer data both pave and guide the way along a happy customer journey. B2C businesses first discovered that customer data was worth its weight in gold while B2B companies lagged behind, only beginning in earnest about two years ago, when the GDPR came into force. While no one would dispute the value of data today in theory, things are a bit different in practice. Adobe’s “Mind the Data Gap” report by the London Research Institute for example found that many companies are still struggling to even sanitize and standardize the data they currently have, much less aggregate it with new sources or use it for personalization. For more on that, see my interview with Jack Springman here.
Above all, data silos and the lack of uniform technology for aggregating and processing data prevent organizations from getting the most value out of it and using it in a comprehensive fashion to shape customer experiences.
Only when this data is analyzed, aggregated and interpreted can customers be better understood and products, services and brand communication adapted accordingly. Imagine if grocery stores built customer profiles based only on the frozen food aisle for example, ignoring the rest of the store. How accurate would that be?
Imagine one hundred dollars in your pocket. They can immediately be put to use. They are uniform, organized and ready to be spent. Now imagine dozens of bills of different denominations and currencies scattered all over your house, some visible and others hidden. How useful are they? Which one sounds more like your customer data?
So Where Does the Road to Customer Experience Begin?
Creating the perfect customer experience à la Amazon is a Herculean task at best but luckily, not everyone has to compete against such giants, nor do you necessarily need a multi-million-dollar budget. Let’s begin with some best practices from marketing.
If you want to focus consistently and sustainably on customers and their needs, begin with these 3 questions:
- Who is my customer?
- What does my customer want?
- How do I best reach my customer?
After all, marketing is obsessed with understanding and communicating with potential customers. This includes and increasingly granular level of detail to understand prospects’ behavior, psychology, needs and decision-making process. The same applies to existing customers as well.
Keeping that in mind, the following three focus areas are critical to customer experience.
- Segmentation: Marketers understand who their potential customers are based on shared characteristics and behavior. While segmentation used to be based on broad criteria such as gender, location, and job, it has become increasingly detailed, dividing customers into many subgroups such as males with a college degree, a specific income, interests and political leaning. The current challenge is moving to a truly individualized understanding of each individual so that tailor-made messages, offers and products can be offered that deliver real added value - and set the company apart from competitors.
- Personalization: Customer insights gained from segmentation form the basis for personalizing their experience, i.e. providing them with individualized and relevant information when, where and how they need it.
- Targeting: In addition to identifying and understanding customers, it is important to be able to prioritize and target them based on your priorities. Marketers want to target high quality leads most likely to convert and in the channels they prefer.
To tackle these challenges, marketers need reliable data about the customers, purchasing habits, history with the company (or competitors) and more. They must rely on tools such as Google Analytics, Hubspot, Hotjar and other tracking tools to understand each aspect of users’ behavior. The problem is that it never ends with one or two tools.
Modern marketers have a whole set of tools and technologies with which they try to get closer to their goal of data-driven marketing. Martech's 2019 Marketing Technology Landscape makes it clear how deep that rabbit hole goes.
But the core problem with all tools is the lack of integration. Ten tools may individually create a variety of useful data. But we’re back to the picture from earlier of 100 random bank notes scattered throughout your house. Not very useful and definitely not actionable.
In order for marketers and indeed CX managers to turn potential into action, they need a central hub or platform to aggregate data.
Digital Experience Platforms to the Rescue
Digital experience platforms offer one possible solution. They combine analytics, content, personalization, community and commerce in a single system and therefore offer many of the technological prerequisites for creating uniform customer experiences along the entire customer journey. The analytics system collects data across multiple touchpoints from the website to customer service interactions. Based on this data, content such as special offers, corporate news or customer service information can be created in the central content management system and prepared for a wide range of interest groups: from prospects and customers to partners or employees of your own company.
Content delivery via multiple channels such as websites, newsletters, social media or e-commerce platforms can also be centrally managed via the platform. Global companies with many different target groups and communication channels can hugely benefit here.
High Quality Data is a Prerequisite for Excellent Customer Service
The age of real 1:1 marketing may have dawned, but it is still restricted to the major players like Amazon. But just as everyone demands two-day shipping everywhere thanks to Amazon Prime, consumer expectations are often transferred from trendsetters to everyone else.
In order to hold their own against the competition and ensure their long-term survival, companies must focus on delivering quality, individual and accurate customer experiences as much as possible along the entire customer journey. That means integrating analytics, content, personalization and commerce and turning pieces of data into actionable insights. Aggregate on one platform. Deliver everywhere.
Jarrod worked as USU's Product Marketing Manager for Knowledge Management in 2019.