Effectively Managing CX Takes The Right Technology, Partners, And People
Successful companies recognize the importance of understanding their customers in order to deliver superior and differentiated experiences that generate sales and build loyalty. In today’s increasingly digital world, a solid technology framework for managing customer experiences at scale is imperative.
Indeed, recent research by Adobe and eConsultancy found that companies leading in customer experience have already worked to eliminate the structural, cultural, and technological barriers that could hinder most of them from effectively managing data and providing great experiences.
But the hard truth is that understanding customers isn’t possible without the right technology framework to collect, assess, and analyze data in real time.
Marketers should consider a few basics as they build their digital foundation, experts said. These include building around a primary customer data platform, tapping into a vibrant partner ecosystem, rolling in emerging technologies, and assuring their organizations have the people and processes in place to support their strategies.
Building Around A Primary Data Platform—Your Single Source Of Truth
According to Amit Ahuja, VP, business development and strategy, at Adobe, it is important to remember that customer experience is much broader than just the marketing department. That’s why companies need a platform that can bring all of these touch points and their respective data points together. This is truly the only way to get full visibility of the entire customer journey and to build the much-coveted single view of the customer.
“Effective customer experience management (CXM) requires bringing together all of the customer data that organizations have, into one open technology platform,” Ahuja said. “This platform should be feeding data into your organization’s applications, allowing you to create, measure, optimize, and mobilize experiences. Being able to choose the right technology and build one common ecosystem is crucial.”
The primary data platform must be able to bring together behavioral, transactional, financial, operational, enterprise resourcing planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and other first-party data into one real-time customer profile, Ahuja added. The real-time aspect is crucial, since customer context changes so quickly, in order to reach customers with relevant information when and where they need it.
Ensuring Everything Integrates Well
The key is to build your CXM tech stack on data platforms that work with best-in-class applications, industry experts said.
In fact, according to a Forrester Research report, 78% of buyers said they prioritize the ability to integrate marketing tools with non-marketing technologies, including CRM and ERP systems, and 74% agreed that the ability to integrate is the most important feature of marketing tools.
Unfortunately, only a few platforms are capable of accomplishing this, creating frustrations for organizations that placed their bets on less robust or open systems.
“During the past few years, the number of CX applications has exploded, but unfortunately many are difficult and costly to integrate into existing martech stacks,” said Brian D. Ward, a consultant and former vice president of marketing and strategy at Experian. “For that reason, you’re starting to see marketing leaders choosing platforms and applications that are proven to work well with one another.”
Enter Partner Ecosystems
Ensuring that the technology provider behind your platform has established partnerships with other service companies is also important because it shows the vendor is committed in providing maximum value for its clients, experts said.
Analysts said marketers should consider integration issues when standardizing on a primary platform, and they often do not. Additionally it is key for marketers to work in tandem with IT stakeholders and other customer-facing parts of the organization to help them navigate an incredibly complex landscape.
“There’s no one in the organization more well-equipped than IT to help stakeholders understand integration and overall implementation,” Ahuja noted.
Joe Stanhope, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester, said the good news is that major platform vendors actually do partner with one another and build options for integration because they know customers expect their systems to work together.
“Most martech vendors I work with understand they do not operate in a bubble and that integration and partnership are the name of the game today, even against a backdrop of competition,” he said.
Beyond this co-opetition, analysts said CMOs and CIOs should also evaluate a platform provider’s channel partner ecosystem and consider working with those companies to identify other valuable technologies for their stacks.
AI/ML For Real-Time Decisioning
Advanced targeting and personalization at scale isn’t possible without artificial intelligence (AI) or machine learning (ML) working behind the scenes to analyze all of the data and recommend what to do with it. With these types of capabilities, companies are able to personalize messages on an individual level–based on customers’ interests, behaviors, past purchases, and other factors–even as they reach out to people en masse.
At the same time, analysts noted that AI can help organizations streamline and automate their marketing campaigns and optimize cross-channel communications as well as call center support.
“The reality is that in order to scale your customer experience management, you can no longer manage experiences manually,” Adobe’s Ahuja said.
AI helps with data volume, variety, and velocity, which is also what’s driving the complexity in our world today, Ahuja said.
“The volume of data is going up, its velocity is more real-time, and it’s coming at you in different varieties,” he said. “Having an intelligence layer on top, or an AI/ML framework, is key to optimizing the experience going forward.”
Forrester’s Stanhope agreed, adding that AI and ML will become a necessary part of martech stacks as data complexity continues to expand.
“We, literally, physically can’t do that much work and understand or process that much data,” he added. “And so Forrester is bullish on this technology across all of the enterprise, and we don’t think it’s going to put marketers out of business or result in marketers being fired or losing their jobs. It is a force multiplier.”
The Importance Of People And Processes
Of course, martech isn’t always simple. The platforms, applications, and tools take time to understand, and technology isn’t often the default competency for many marketers.
That’s why CMOs must assure they have the right people and processes in place to support any martech deployments they make.
Some of these individuals will naturally reside within IT departments, but they could just as easily sit under the CMO. The point is to assure CX professionals have access to as many qualified AI specialists, data scientists, full-stack engineers, customer success specialists, and cloud architects as possible. According to LinkedIn’s 2020 Emerging Jobs Report, these are among the most in-demand jobs out there—for good reason. All are absolutely integral to a marketing organization’s ability to understand and deliver optimal customer experiences, and this will be the case for a while.
“CMOs are ultimately held accountable for the customer experience, which gives them good reason to have martech stack ownership and related staff within their organizations,” consultant Ward said. “But as they become more complex, and you start factoring in equally important priorities like cybersecurity, I think we will see a tug of war over ownership, or at least a shared responsibility across marketing, technology, and information departments. Companies that quickly align on technology priorities in order to optimize customer experience while also protecting consumer data and privacy will have a distinct, competitive advantage.”
Customer Experiences Of Tomorrow
Preparing for the future needs of your customers will not be easy. At the same time, understanding what your company can do now isn’t difficult. Reaching and influencing customers in this age of experience depends on deploying a robust primary platform enriched by best-in-class and well-integrated applications and tools. Your platform must be flexible and agile enough to accommodate emerging technologies like AI and ML, and it needs a strong partner ecosystem and internal support structure behind it.
With solid, strategic planning and a commitment to innovate, any brand can create powerful, personalized, and differentiated experiences that will increase customer interest, generate more revenue, enhance brand loyalty, and ultimately make your company a success.