A few years back, Walker Research came out with a study reporting that by 2020, customer experience (CX) standards will overtake price and every other factor to be the top brand differentiator. This was certainly a bold prediction, although it proved to be conservative.
My own research shows that it’s already the top differentiator. Evidence of this comes from a ZK Research study that found that in 2018 about two-thirds of milennials admitted to changing loyalties to a brand because of a bad experience.
This is why so many CIOs and business leaders are focused on delivering the absolute best customer experience. Many of the organizations I have worked with have started down the CX improvement path with the transformation of the contact center. This makes sense, because this is often the first point of contact between a business and a customer. This is why so many organizations have been upgrading their contact center systems to omni-channel solutions from the likes of Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Five9 and others.
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Legacy products were voice only, but there are a wide range of other channels with which to communicate, including chat, e-mail, the web and text messaging. Multi-channel solutions created more ways to communicate, but the data for each channel was siloed, creating a situation where customers had to repeat information over and over, frustrating them. Omni-channel addresses this as information that can be shared across channels.
MarTech platforms provide expanded view of CX
Many executives with whom I’ve discussed CX are under the impression that it starts and ends with the contact center. However, there is another leg to the stool that must be considered, and that’s marketing information. This may not seem obvious, but businesses spend a considerable amount of money on marketing through a number of channels, including digital ones such as the web and e-mail. Vendors such as Selligent, Adobe and others offer integrated B2C marketing platforms geared to providing data and intelligence that can be used to improve customer engagements.
These MarTech systems accomplish this by helping marketing professionals build and nurture one-on-one customer relationships that can be personalized at scale across all channels. This, too, is an important part of the CX chain.
Contact centers and MarTech are in some ways two sides of the same coin. They both provide ways of interacting with customers. Because of this, end-to-end CX would require integrating the platforms together. To help understand, consider the example of a retailer that uses a MarTech product to track a customer’s behavior and shopping patterns in real time.
The customer may have a history of purchasing a certain product on a regular basis. The customer may then be in the store purchasing other products and have the mobile application up, and the store could push a message notifying them of a special on certain products they know the customer purchases often. In this case, the customer location information and the mobile application become a new digital channel that can be used for proactive outreach.
Integrating MarTech, contact center provides end-to-end customer view
The integration of MarTech and contact center can also help thwart some potentially harmful situations. Consider the case where a customer has a bad experience, and then marketing and sales reach out to offer a new deal or promotion in an effort to upsell. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than trying be upsold when the original issue was never dealt with–or caused the customer aggravation.
Having full visibility would enable sales and marketing to take a different approach in which they could offer a special promotion to make up for the problem, leaving the customer happy instead of thinking the company does not care about him.
The MarTech data, although different is highly complementary to the contact center and the two should be integrated into a single data set. In the case above, the customer might have a problem with one of the products purchased and reach out to the contact center. If the data from marketing and contact center are in silos, the customer service agent is blind to the marketing data forcing the customer to relay a significant amount of information.
Eliminating the silos of data creates greater visibility and enables customer problems to be solved faster ultimately improving CX.
CIOs and CMOs should be aggressively working together to bring these two historically separate worlds together. More and more, businesses are relying on artificial intelligence to analyze the massive amounts of data to understand the complexities of customer behavior. There’s an axiom with AI that states “good data leads to good insights.” This is certainly true, but one can extend that expression to “partial data leads to partial insights.”
Leaving the data in silos means contact center AI can discover those nuggets of information in its data set; marketing AI can do likewise, but there is no ability to analyze the information across the entire customer value chain that spans marketing through customer service.
Also, combining MarTech and a contact center can speed up time to market of new products or services and drive competitive advantage by launching integrated campaigns that can quickly identify cross channel opportunities. AI will let businesses move faster than ever before, but data silos can limit the speed.
Today’s CIOs need to be laser focused on CX. However, there’s more to delivering a great CX than upgrading the contact center. It requires truly understanding the customer and being able to surface insights from all the touch points from the business. Without full visibility into those, it’s impossible to have the ultimate customer experience.
Zeus Kerravala is an eWEEK regular contributor and the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He spent 10 years at Yankee Group and prior to that held a number of corporate IT positions.