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Cognitive business: how to predict the best customer moments

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Jirsak)

Watching your favourite shows in your own time, at your own pace, without the noise of advertisements interrupting the content you want to watch, is a real privilege for modern TV audiences. This recent Fortune article discusses how on-demand television is quickly changing the way we watch and experience television as a whole. I couldn’t agree more. People now have choice in how they consume digital content, with multiple subscriptions for different streaming applications that give them a wide variety of content to choose from. They don’t want to watch the advertisements of sponsors before or during the time they dedicate to a particular piece of content, and they will prioritise the service that makes it easiest for them to find what they’re looking for. 

Make no mistake, the same applies in the wider world of business. Success is balanced on customer experience, and if your company’s customer journey is anything less than exceptional, that company won’t survive long term. Customers will not choose your products or services if a competitor can make it easier for them elsewhere. 

What does it take to provide an exceptional customer journey?   

Data is the most valuable asset your business has in delivering superior customer experiences. Data is the key to understanding your customer’s needs, preferences, intentions and habits. If you don’t curate data and value it, as an iterative process, you’re going to lose it and you won’t deliver the exceptional experience that customers demand.  

Your customer experience will only be as good as the data your company has access to. Companies can gain a competitive edge by using the data they have–whatever state it may be in–while exposing data quality issues and committing to making it cleaner and more robust over time. The better you can understand what your customer wants and expects through this process, the better the chance you have of being able to meet, and beat, those demands. 

Want to understand your customer better? Become ‘intelligent’ 

Meeting today’s customer demands starts with becoming more ‘intelligent’. Intelligent business applications are providing companies with deeper insights into their customer’s desires and helping staff to deliver what these customers are looking for.   

For example, adopting a cognitive computing approach–one that has the ability to empathise, learn and reason in a fashion similar to the human brain (albeit at a much bigger scale)–is enabling companies to mine enormous amounts of data, recognize patterns and help employees identify their customers’ needs, before the customer even knows that need themselves. Employees can then better create outstanding customer experiences by anticipating and taking the ‘next-best action’ that initiates the right conversations at the right time.   

This ability to analyse data and determine vital clues that will point towards the next-best action, and then share those insights across teams internally is already creating a perceived competitive advantage amongst Salesforce users. Bluewolf’s recent The State of Salesforce Report highlights that companies that had increased their investments in analytics in the past 12 months are three times more likely to see their data as a competitive advantage than companies who have not. Furthermore, the report also shows that 62% of UK organisations are increasing their investments in analytics over the coming year.

Data as a currency: spend time on trust and experience, or pay more long-term 

Leaders should note that customers are becoming savvier about the importance of their data. Previous notions of naivety or complacency about data from customers, whether real or imagined, are dwindling fast as people become more familiar with what it means to trade or share their personal information, and what they’ll get in return. Data is a currency, and customers now know it. They are less willing to share it unless they trust the interested party. The unsubscribe button has become a popular choice for the distrustful, disengaged customer.    

How do you nurture engagement? Establish trust in your company and your customer experience. Be clear to customers what they will get in return for their data. Exercise diligence and care with customers along the entire journey – not just at specific points or moments. Failure to make customers feel like a priority at any point in the process will not only see trust break down and disinterest in your company rise, it will cost you the data you need to keep driving business success. You will lose momentum and fall behind. Fast. 

Employees: the heart and soul of customer experience 

You cannot deliver exceptional customer experiences without fully engaged employees who feel empowered by your business and its applications. As is the case with many aspects of life, confidence is king; to foster that in your employees, you need to ensure you are continuously improving what their day-to-day experience looks like.   

Achieve this by consistently thinking about the tools and technologies your employees are using, how familiar your employees really are with those and if there’s an easier way for them to do their jobs effectively.   

I would argue that having an intelligent system acting as a virtual ‘wingman’, prompting with the right information at the right time, to help you do a great job has the potential to deliver a massive boost to employee and hence customer satisfaction. 

In our report, we found that 67% if salespeople believe that they could spend more time selling if opportunity management were optimized for a multi-device, multi-channel user. Implementing systems that give your employees universal access to information, across platforms, from the PC to their phone, will give them the opportunity to spend more time focusing on customer relationships. Your employees will be more engaged for having avoided the more cumbersome aspects of their job, and be empowered to focus on greater sales and customer moments - with less prejudice on location. In turn, the customer will feel better the priority due to a more intensive, better informed and bespoke customer experience. 

Don’t make it easy for your customers to choose other companies. Instead design and evolve experiences that bring out the best actions for both your employees and customers. Make sure the right cloud, intelligence and mobile technologies are in place that enhance human expertise today, and over time. There is a saying that everyone is looking for something. Perhaps customers have identified what they need, or maybe you can find that out before they do. Either way, when you consistently provide them a great customer experience, you will create more trusting, loyal and repeat customers that drive your business outcomes. 

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock

Eric Berridge
Eric Berridge is CEO and co-founder of Bluewolf, an IBM Company.