In the last two years alone, 90% of the data in the world has been created. The world is steadily becoming more connected with an ever-increasing number of electronic devices, that’s only set to grow over the coming years. As businesses accelerate their social media strategies, ever increasing amounts of important customer data and interactions are happening in these networks. We tweet 456,000 times and post 46,740 Instagram photos PER minute.1
As companies leverage breakthroughs in social, cloud, mobile, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver personalized, valuable, and immediate experiences, customers have more choices than ever. The State of the Connected Customer2 report states there are four (4) core elements of the new baseline customer experience:
- Customers expect to be treated like a human, not a number. There is a considerable opportunity for brands that are able to interact on an individual basis with customers — from personalizing marketing journeys, to providing informed and unique customer care, to better understanding a customer’s unique needs.
2. Customers expect immediate, responsive service. As connectivity becomes increasingly ubiquitous and customers become accustomed to conversational interactions with brands, immediacy has become vital. From the first interaction meeting these expectations requires; a comprehensive, 360-degree view of each customer. When customer engagement does begin, there must be a timely and accurate (personalized) response.
3. Customers expect consistency. For many companies, several different departments clamor to own the customer, with marketing, sales, and service being three of the most common. Customer loyalty — and attrition — is determined by every interaction which is why the importance of an Omni channel customer experience strategy is so critical.
4. Predictive, anticipatory service is increasingly the norm. As customers look to the future, they increasingly expect companies to leverage their data to provide recommended services or products based on their prior experiences. For a company to effectively predict and prescribe actions for their customers, the ability to both manage existing customer data effectively and deploy new machine learning algorithms to make predictions is increasingly important.
Obviously – the data problem is not new. Companies have been talking about, implementing technologies to address the data management problem for decades. Fundamentally businesses are still trying to solve these most basic problems, but now on a much grander and complex scale. So what’s a company to do?
Though it’s tongue in cheek – the old kid’s joke of “how do you eat an elephant?” seems apropos. With the answer being, “well, one bite at a time, of course.”
The business answer is focus. Companies cannot create a 360° view of their customer or create the best customer experience with a big bang approach that takes years to complete. By then the business and problem have changed. Today, a more iterative approach is the best practice. Begin with one element of the big picture, and solve that issue in 3-6 months, and then pick the next business problem, and solve that issue.
For example, we worked with a customer that was frustrated with their billing process. Every January, all billing stopped as they looked to renegotiate new terms with their clients. Because customer data, work rates and project details were spread across multiple applications and spreadsheets – it was a three month nightmare every year to figure out how to accurately set up new terms and correctly bill customers. Meanwhile, no billing was occurring during this time period: lost revenue, frustrated customers dealing with back billing, and a nightmare to administer internally. Did they need a 360° view of their customer? Yes. Did they need to improve the customer experience? Yes.
But that was not the goal of the first project. With the first project, the customer took a “business first vs. data first approach.” Choosing to fix the customer renewal process; which resulted in solving the underlying data issues, which then also allowed them to achieve their goal of a 360° view of the customer. All of this plus dramatically improving the customer experience. Reducing renewals from 3 months to one week in January: all new rates are renewed and correct billing begins by the third week of the New Year.
Solving the data problem, by solving one key business problem at a time, means companies can leverage the prior work. When this customer begins working on the catalog of project work for clients; they can now leverage the customer data already collected and begin standardizing the types of project work they do. Once they know which customers require which type of project work – they can use analytics to figure out the winning combinations and seek out more of the most successful type of project work, providing them an opportunity to better manage project opportunity margin, and dropping the lowest performing project work.
The most successful companies that have a complete view of their customer, with high degrees of customer engagement are the companies that embraced this business focus approach to data management. After all, if companies want to continue transforming their businesses digitally to improve profitability and competitive edge, they must adopt a new mindset to their own data. Begin with the business problem first…the data will follow.