The customer experience arms race—the drive for businesses to give customers more and more convenience, speed, and personalized service—has created an overwhelming tsunami of tools, apps, and data that leaves most businesses at a huge disadvantage.
Today, businesses get lost in a maze of applications and a sea of data, with customer information living seemingly everywhere. This deluge does not give them what they need—insight into customer conversations and the ability to make timely, informed decisions. Businesses need relevant information at the right time—in real time—to guide them in a conversation.
Connected communications will change the dynamics of not just customer experience, but the way entire businesses operate and collaborate.
COMPLEXITY, SILOS, AND UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS
Giants like Amazon and Apple understand how vital great experiences are to a winning business strategy, and they are increasingly investing to deliver effortless convenience. They are growing their relationships with customers at scale by serving them at an individual level. Simply put, they know, understand, and remember all of their customers, not just their biggest ones.
While these giants are doing great business with all of their customers, other companies are struggling to remain relevant. They lack the tools to gain a relevant picture of constantly changing customer sentiment and behavior. At best, most other companies today are doing good business with just a fraction of their customers.
Not long ago, every business lived or died by their reputation and ability to build and maintain personal connections. Growing up, our favorite bakery, a local jewelry or toy store, every diner, and our dentist knew us by name and remembered our birthdays and our important events. They treated us as if we were their only customer. We felt valued, and it was understood that our relationship was more than just a transaction.
This was the advantage that most businesses were able to count on against the corporate conglomerates. But in the increasingly commoditized world, the advantage that all local businesses once had against the impersonal, slow-moving giants has vanished. The power has shifted in favor of companies with the most technical resources. Today, they are the ones who can provide a more tailored, personalized, and convenient experience. They remember us with more accuracy, and predict changing behaviors and unrevealed needs even before we become aware of them.
Most businesses, whether they have tens, hundreds, or thousands of customers, fail to see a clear picture of any one customer. Therefore, they cannot meet rising customer expectations. These expectations have been reset by the giants. We as consumers are becoming accustomed to these experiences and expect every business to meet them, in B2C and B2B.
While the promise of leveraging technology to improve the customer relationship is right, the widely adopted idea of having a “complete picture” of the customer is wrong. Customer engagement and management apps that ensure a 360-degree view are missing the point. Very rarely do we need to examine a complete X-ray of our customers. They need only the right and relevant information in the moment they are interacting with the customer.
Think about the business applications that most of us use as we try to collect and merge data about our customers. It’s usually in the dozens—communication tools, customer management tools, call center systems, collaboration software, plus tools for surveys and customer feedback, marketing, and many others. Every app adds complexity to the environment that is disproportionate to the value it brings. Teams and people become more siloed. Customers are still unhappy. And the quest never ends.
WHY CHANGE IS COMING
Two trends are coming together and reaching a tipping point:
- Communication needs have changed, but communication tools have not. Providers are still doing what they have always done—selling businesses a communications pipe that passively links parties through phone, SMS, website chat, or email. Every time customers switch between these communication channels the conversation breaks. Or, worse, the customer leaves the conversation, taking with them all their knowledge of the relationship.
- It’s a customer-first world, but most businesses have too much data and no insight. They approach customer experience one transaction at a time, amassing input that does little to actually improve experiences.
A paradigm shift is needed. Instead of allowing customer context to fly out the window as soon as the customer hangs up or finishes a conversation, businesses should be harnessing conversations for contextual insight across all channels. Once harnessed, that insight can be used the moment it’s needed.
In a fully digitized world, communications tools need to do more than link one person to another. Those tools need to connect all customer and team communication channels digitally across the entire business. This way, regardless of what team or department is using the information, they are aware of the continuous conversation with the customer.
With advances in technology like AI and automation, businesses can now harness the power and intelligence inherent in their most foundational and important investment—their voice, chat, and video communications—and join it with their team collaboration which is linked to the customer. It’s a simple solution to a complex problem, and it levels the playing field at the same time.
The status quo cannot hold—it’s too cumbersome and is costing businesses their customers, agility, and relevance.
A connected communications approach meets the moment. It responds to the needs of customers and businesses alike. The apps and systems most businesses are juggling today are becoming ridiculously complicated, fragmented, and clearly not up to the task.
We started Nextiva to give businesses the foundational communication tools to connect them with their customers and teams. Now we’re pioneering the next wave of communication to deliver connected communications. This shift is creating the customer-first world customers want, simplifying communications for real people, and freeing up employees to do what they do best—create deeper relationships with customers.
Tomas Gorny is the cofounder and CEO of Nextiva