Everyone agrees that the signal-to-noise ratio in today’s digital marketing space is a serious concern. Consumers are bombarded with emails, ads, and promotions at a rate that once would have been unimaginable. Not surprisingly, they increasingly tune out the onslaught. Customers don’t care about channels—they dictate when, where, and how they engage with a brand.
Yes, digital platforms have gotten better at delivering content that is more personalized and contextual. Unfortunately, that still isn’t good enough. Most of today’s tools and approaches remain focused on a generalized approach rather than tuning in and truly putting the customer at the center of everything. Moreover, as businesses scale up and try to reach larger numbers of people, the problem grows.
At the center of all of this is a basic truth: most businesses don’t have a singular view on the various ways a customer interacts with the brand. In addition, they can’t plug in enough data points from the right sources quickly enough to deliver a 360-degree customer view. As a result, it’s impossible to deliver the right message at the right time. Instead of boosting loyalty and sales, these businesses actually undermine their efforts. For example, brands who don’t connect marketing systems with customer-service insights cannot alter their marketing campaigns based on recent support-ticket interactions, leading to a disconnected experience for the customer.
MOVING BEYOND CRM TO CXM
It’s no secret that brands must put customers at the center of every brand experience. Today, customer-experience management (CXM) is more than simply positioning a company for a transactional sale. It’s a way to forge a trusted, long-term relationship with a brand.
As customers assert greater control of the brand relationship, it’s vital to understand what they’re doing and what their thinking is at any given moment. When a business has this information readily available, it’s possible to take a much more nuanced approach to the customer lifecycle —and business.
A customer-relationship management (CRM) system alone can’t provide the data necessary to rewire customer engagement. It’s able to view only one piece of the puzzle—and it’s typically looking into the past to decipher signals. Effective engagement is more than the sum of a purchase history or how much a person spends. Context and timing matter too. There are times of the day or week when a person is more receptive to engaging with a brand.
A traditional CRM-centric approach delivers an illusion that customers are individuals. A workflow by itself is not a customer journey, and this approach makes it next to impossible to actually treat a person like a real individual. For example, if a customer has just called tech support with a problem related to a device or had to return a garment because it doesn’t fit right, he or she may feel frustrated in the moment. Sending a promotional message for a new product is probably the worst thing a business can do at that moment.
There’s a better way to approach customer engagement. With the right solutions and workflows in place, digital marketers can mine a vast array of signals to truly understand customer behavior and journeys and deliver content that actually matters, when it matters. By connecting various functions such as marketing, sales, service, and support, it’s possible to deliver a level of sensitivity and empathy to interactions in a way that approximates the physical world. This is what we call customer-experience management.
Armed with the right tools, a business can sense what a customer is thinking and feeling at a particular moment. It’s possible to better understand what’s an appropriate and productive message at that time. In fact, by tapping into the signals a person is sending and combining it with various other data points, a business can begin to establish real-time customer relationships that looks more like a corner coffee house or bookstore, where the owner and staff know their customers and interact with them on a personal level.
TUNING INTO THE SIGNALS
Customer signals are everywhere. The challenge is to pick up the right ones at the right times, across various touchpoints. Has the customer put anything in a shopping cart recently? Has she chatted with or called customer support? Did she make repeated inquiries about a problem? Which offers has she responded to in the past? How much has she spent recently and how does this compare with historical patterns? Are they in close proximity to a store location? Did they just move up in loyalty status with your rewards program?
A problem has traditionally been that there’s no smooth handoff between groups that interact with customers. Data, information, and nuances are lost because the full picture of a customer too often resides in silos. It’s a technology challenge but also an organizational challenge.
However, with the right technology framework, orchestration, and workflows, it’s possible to pull together all of these data points so brands don’t have to merely react but actively listen to customer signals in real time. Every interaction should inform and enhance the next one to serve the consumer. With a centralized, cross-channel profile of customers and the use of AI and machine learning, intelligent decision-making becomes real. Suddenly, a business can address the complexities of today’s customers—and a multi-channel business environment. It’s possible to move beyond fragmentation and into a world where handoffs and transitions occur seamlessly and, often, invisibly. It’s possible to coordinate and orchestrate engagement—essentially sync up different parts of the customer journey—into a holistic customer experience.
This framework analyzes inbound and outbound customer engagements across all the channels. It analyzes scheduled, audience-oriented engagements as well as 1:1 real-time interaction to create the right just-in-time experiences. With live and historical data feeding this automated decision-making process, the CXM system can anticipate what personalized experience best fits the customer’s situation—and it can continue to learn and improve.
This is a fundamentally different approach than establishing personas and slotting customers into conventional market segments. Rather than engineering different groups and then tossing out content based on static criteria, the system dynamically adapts and adjusts to make the right decision at a precise moment. It automates the next best experience for a specific customer—regardless of what channel, device, or screen he or she is using.
Consumers have developed new buying habits during the pandemic that will not disappear in the near future. They expect brands to deliver not only real-time interactions but also relevant experiences on their own terms—when and how they want them. And brands that take a customer-first approach to every experience will not only retain loyal customers but also win new ones.
Sunil Menon oversees global product marketing for Adobe’s customer journey applications as part of the Digital Experience business. Sunil has over 20 years of experience working in various product management, marketing and general management roles related to digital experience management and other marketing technologies.