The evolution to customer obsession

Today’s customers have more options open to them than ever before; this makes good customer experience (CX) essential for organisational success. The advent of CX management technologies has also raised expectations, as customers expect the companies selling to them to understand and address their needs quickly without compromising quality of service. Each time a customer is exposed to an improved digital experience, their expectations are reset to a new, higher level. 

Despite so many company leaders talking about the importance of being customer obsessed, only 35 per cent of companies are making it a top priority to improve their CX strategies. As much as organisations are trying to address the needs of these empowered buyers, they’re struggling to build increased and sustained customer loyalty. It’s a perennial challenge for any growing business but only companies that consistently make life better for customers will be the winners of their market. 

So why are businesses not able to make life easier for customers? 

It seems while the opportunities for growth are vast, many organisations are struggling to take advantage of the full benefits technology can offer around customer experience initiatives. They either lack the capability to utilise their technology effectively or, mistakenly, believe that investment in the technology alone will somehow magically transform everything. While technology gives you the opportunity and tools to improve CX, it’s the expertise in the implementation and how this affects user experience, content creation and brand delivery that will ensure you succeed and stand out in the market. 

To find out why organisations are struggling and what would help, we’ve collaborated with Forrester Consulting on a new commissioned study: “The Evolution to Real-Time Customer Experience”. The study evaluated the current success of customer experience initiatives at US and European organisations, what companies can do to optimise these efforts, and the challenges they face.  

Customer experience decisions aren’t being driven by real-time data 

Customer obsession requires companies to use data about their customers, markets, and operations to drive insights they can turn into actions; whether new or enhanced products, stronger customer relationships or customer-focused strategy and operations. Therefore, companies require data systems that provide insights in real time. If an organisation’s data can be used to share insight on a customer’s immediate need, it adds value to the customer experience as well as increasing sales over time. 

However, the reality is 95 per cent of organisations are unable to make sense of customer data and 84 per cent struggle to gain real-time insight from it. The report shows that the factors holding companies back from gaining value from customer data include: 

  • The volume and variance in types of data
  • Lack of near-real-time visibility and access to customer data
  • The inability to identify which data is useful
  • Difficulty consolidating data from multiple sources to create a single view of the customer
  • Having to build on top of legacy systems or using legacy technology
  • Lack of internal development or data science skills to operationalise data
  • Lack of agility in how to use data to respond quickly to customer needs and changing market conditions
  • The inability to operationalise data without IT involvement

Results show that less than 40 per cent are making data-fuelled initiatives a top priority to improve customer experiences. In fact, only 38 per cent have made it a top priority to improve their use of data to make decisions that affect customer experience. 

Fast access to data is essential to gain insights from data. You can’t provide an excellent experience if you don’t know what your customers want in the moment that they are engaging with you. In the age of the customer, real-time and data-driven organisations have a competitive advantage in each moment and can, therefore, see better business results. 

Organisations must prepare to evolve from personalisation to individualisation 

Today’s personalisation efforts are haphazard. Companies are using segmentation to drive their personalisation campaigns, but this only creates smaller groups of customers based on superficially similar actions or common personal characteristics. Similarly, they may use single data points to establish groups - rather than actions over time - that provide no value when personalising experiences. For a truly personalised experience, they need to rely on individualisation instead of segmentation and form a 360-degree view of the customer. 

The report has shown several gaps in the current personalisation of customer experiences: 

Personalisation is being driven purely by segmentation - this method provides the “wrong” experience for most customers as it assumes interest in a product or service based on a segment, instead of the individual customer. In essence, companies have to know each customer, rather than assigning responses based on similarities to other customers that don’t reflect real customer needs or attitudes 

Single data points are being used to personalise the entire customer journey - knowing one thing about the customer doesn’t mean knowing everything about the customer; a 360-degree view across multiple channels is needed to provide truly personalised experiences 

Organisations are just checking the box on delivering “personal” experiences - greeting a customer by name when they enter a website is a nice gesture but doesn’t provide real value to a customer’s journey. What’s needed is tailored recommendations or further information on viewed products 

Respecting personal boundaries is still a challenge - companies should look for solutions that can help them be overt when collecting data by explaining their reasoning but be covert in using data to deliver personalisation  

The research results found that a solid individualisation strategy is built upon key technology investments that have four unique characteristics: 

  • Customers are identified and treated as a “segment of one” by creating richer customer profiles
  • Customer data is contextual, assessed in real-time, and dynamically calculates intent
  • Personalised content is delivered equally across every screen and channel
  • Connected technologies enable far richer and more relevant engagements

Are customer experience data platforms the solution? 

Customer experience data platforms play a key role in driving customer experiences. They enable a secure, singular view of the customer in real-time across all channels. This approach gives marketers important insight into every interaction so they can provide personalised and seamless customer experience across all touchpoints. 

Almost 90 per cent of decision makers believe they would see notable improvements in their customer experience because of implementing an integrated data platform. While 95 per cent of those professionals who have already implemented such a platform rate their customer experience strategy as successful, only 45 per cent of those without this level of integration can say the same about their strategy. 

We are in the age of the customer, which requires companies to continuously reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. As well as becoming a real-time and data-drive enterprise, businesses should shift from segmentation to individualisation, educate and empower the entire organisation in optimising the customer journey, and utilise technology to get the best from customer insights. In 2017, transforming customer experience should be every company’s top priority. 

Martin James, Regional Vice President, Northern Europe, DataStax 

Image Credit: Jirsak / Shutterstock