Interview – Optimising the Customer Journey with Technology
Improving customer experience is a hot topic these days.
To put it into words of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon:
“We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.”
So, what are the most important wisdom nuggets we need to learn to improve customer experience with technology?
Previously, in our article about Customer Journey Mapping, we talked about the steps you need to take to improve the customer experience without the technology.
Here, we will try to understand the process that takes place in the technology transformation, by bringing you the voice of people that deliver it.
Discovering what happens in the customer journey when new technology arrives is what we aim to do here.
Our voice of insight is Siddharth Baluja, a Martech professional, who has 10 years experience working in the Martech sector (particularly Salesforce) with multiple companies spread around the globe.
The role of technology in customer journey optimisation
We were especially curious about his take on the crucial factors when it comes to new technology implementations. So we asked the big question.
What do you think is the most important aspect you need to pay attention to when implementing new technology around Customer Journey?
“The high-level delivery plan is what keeps you in the track when technology gets complicated for stakeholders and especially end-users. From my experience working with clients in this sector, I can say having that vision of success and keeping the strategy clear to everybody involved, is what can have the most beneficial impact on the transformation project outcome.”
We can easily agree that having a clear strategy is important.
Especially considering the fact that in the past decade, digital marketing platforms have evolved into robust tools that use machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze data and help brands deliver hyper-personalized customer journeys.
Yet, in spite of our best intentions, delivering that amazing experience can become complex and confusing.
While pursuing the strategy is critical, executing a unified customer experience strategy requires having the right marketing technology tools.
Major trends that we can notice among enterprise’s choice of Martech tools is their preference of using ‘Marketing Cloud’ solutions which integrate natively as a part of their feature.
Take Salesforce Marketing Cloud for instance; it offers a set of marketing tools built on a unified platform to provide easy integration and scalability.
And since we are talking about having integrated and easily scalable systems we asked Siddharth about the same: Why do you think having a unified Martech system is beneficial?
“Having a unified system allows you to establish a global framework which you can use in your entire business. It’s very helpful if you have an enterprise spread throughout different countries. Once you create standard journeys, you are all set up to forward them to other businesses to tweak them if needed. It’s cost-effective and from a technical implementation perspective, a unified system enables you to implement a ‘gold-standard data-model’ that encompasses the entire enterprise, and from there, you can scale it up as you wish.”
According to Gartner research, technology now accounts for a whopping 29% of the total marketing expense budget, making Martech the single largest area of investment when it comes to marketing resources and programs.
This fact clearly demonstrates that from early on, a business should keep up with the full context of the customer journey technologies.
The big mistake companies often do is when they let individual teams take individual ownership of the whole company’s data, which inevitably leads to data silos.
The best practice sees teams acknowledge and address this issue early on.
Each functional team needs the data in their tools, but the ‘source of truth’ for all these key tools is centralized, making it a company level problem.
Common types of technology that can act as a single ‘source of truth’ for your customer data are:
- Marketing Automation Platform
- Customer Data Platforms
- Data Warehouses
No matter which tool you decide to use in your Martech stack, your goal should be to have or create a unified single ‘source of truth’.
Because without it, your company will never be able to get the 360-view of the customer journey.
Choosing The Channels Of Interaction
What are some challenges that arise during the Customer Journey Optimisation?
“Some of the interesting challenges I noticed that happen during this transformation include choosing the right channels to engage with customers. Sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to find the prefered channel. It’s also important to note that for an enterprise, it’s crucial to offer options when it comes to channels customer want to interact in. For example, when booking a flight, I want to be able to select WhatsApp to be the channel in which I will get my boarding pass. However, companies still don’t put customers convenience first. And in the end, that is what it’s all about.”
As we are aware that there are dominant channels for every industry and type of product, we have decided to dig deeper into this observation on the choice of the channels to provide more clarity on the issue.
Naturally, we would need to focus on channels which are important for the market sector in which we operate.
What we know so far is that covering two or three channels well with consistent, highly engaging content that is interacting with your customers is what will lead to conversion.
However, there are other aspects we need to consider.
Such as – location.
Take Asia, for an example. Asia is a great challenge as the market is diverse and massive. Different sizes and stages of development, coupled with varied cultural and ethnic backgrounds make the market more demanding for businesses.
To be more specific, we can use Indonesia to illustrate our point. With a population of more than 264 million people, Indonesia holds tremendous potential, especially considering the 2017 study, which showed that Indonesia is now one of the world’s fastest-growing mobile commerce markets.
The interesting thing is, consumers in Indonesian city – Surabaya are reportedly twice as likely than consumers in Jakarta to seek recommendations from family and friends before making purchase decisions.
What we see here is a contrasting attitude towards buying within the same country.
When it comes to channels they prefer, according to a 2017 survey, 54% of Indonesians use YouTube to watch tutorial video content.
Next significant channel is Facebook. On top of socialising, the platform also serves as a marketplace and launchpad for buyers in the country, 40% of whom use Facebook to look for product information and recommendations.
Other notable channels are WhatsApp and Instagram. After WhatsApp Business app was released in January 2018, the expectation is that more businesses will be using the platform to communicate with customers.
On the other hand, if we take China, the channels of engagement would change drastically.
In China, Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are banned, so your digital marketing would need to expand onto their social channels such as WeChat, Weibo, or their own video platforms, which include Youku or Tudou (or many others).
Take a look at the image below, created to illustrate the strongest social media channels depending on the part of the world.
Having a diverse audience means that a business needs to take additional actions in segmenting, targeting and eventually providing a fitting customer experience, depending on the location.
There are a few general factors that can influence a customer’s choice of interaction channel which include circumstances, nature of the task, and personal preferences in the technology.
Some customers might be more comfortable interacting through social media, like Twitter or Facebook. And depending on the urgency of their need, they might consider using a web-chat or even pick up a phone to resolve the issue faster.
Customer Journey Optimisation Trends
Perfecting the ways we engage with our customers is the only way to stay relevant in this competitive world.
As time moves on, additional practices will appear and we might need to evolve our strategies further to deliver the great experience to the customer the way it’s expected of us.
Naturally, the next question we asked Siddharth is:
What do you think is the essential ingredient that will influence the success of the Customer Journey Optimisation?
“There are a number of key factors that influence the rate of customer engagement and satisfaction, however being customer-centric is always the starting point; more specifically making it simple for customers to engage with you. Also making sure you close that feedback loop by giving the customers the option to provide feedback, which will give you the opportunity to improve your journey.”
As we can agree here, you’ve got to help your customers fall in love with your business, so that they would feel inspired to reach out.
The goal is to pave the way for the customer to engage in an easier way, continue their interaction with your company and in the end provide that feedback on your product or service.
And shifting the orientation toward decision simplicity and helping consumers confidently complete the purchase journey is a profound change, one that typically requires marketers to flex new muscles and rethink how they craft their communications.
Experienced business owners know it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one.
Being customer-centric doesn’t just mean having a lovely customer journey or providing a satisfactory experience.
It’s more about committing to constant improvement by almost obsessively tracking the interactions, analysing, and creating opportunities in which a customer feels comfortable to engage.
When customers are highly engaged, businesses will see an increase in active participation in product launches and strong loyalty to the company.
However, you should note that businesses that focus on customer engagement are focused on value creation, not revenue extraction.
To achieve your customer engagement goals, we bring you the best-proven ways to engage your customers through their journey with your company.
Humanizing your brand
Don’t get us wrong, if you are a Bank or a B2B company, you don’t need to do what RedBull does.
Every business can be humanized without trying to squeeze themselves into a contrived persona that won’t resonate with their audience.
Humanizing your brand can simply include putting some pictures on your website, creating valuable content, or hosting a workshop that can benefit your customers.
Personalising the interactions with customers
Research from Salesforce revealed that 57% of consumers are willing to share personal data in exchange for personalised offers or discounts.
Similarly, 52% of consumers would share personal data in exchange for product recommendations, and 53% would do the same for personalised shopping experiences.
So if you are not personalising your interactions, start. Right now.
Being active on social media
Social media gives you a perfect space where you can get noticed, improve interaction and see real engagement in real time.
Twitter, for instance, has always been a place where customers share their take on current event and opinions on companies.
Even more recently, customers are reaching out on Twitter as a part of customer service inquiry.
It’s more casual and it puts the business in the same boat as customers, which can be beneficial in creating that long-lasting relationship with them.
Creating useful content
Using content to educate customers was a previously underused customer engagement strategy. But now, it’s becoming increasingly common to use it to enhance the customer experience and increase satisfaction.
According to this Google study, 48% of smartphone users are more likely to buy from companies whose mobile sites provide instructional video content.
Content benefits companies in every stage of their customer journey, however a lot of businesses are still finding their way when it comes to bringing real value to customers.
There are plenty of ways to increase customer engagement, especially considering new trends in customer behaviour.
For instance, mobile usage is at an all-time highest point.
In 2019 we can expect a huge increase in mobile usage, which will subsequently influence the way customers interact with businesses.
Even today, we can see customers often use branded applications to ease into the interaction with a business. They only phone a contact centre as a last resort.
This example only adds to the ways brands interact with their customers because it creates more opportunities to connect with customers on their preferred channel.
Additionally, today’s customers love to have the option of doing things themselves. But first, you need to provide the tools.
A great example is McDonalds’ self-service cashier monitor, that the fast-food chain installed for customers to order and pay for the meal themselves.
While some have economic fears that robots will replace people, many customers and corporate leaders prefer efficiency and speed of automation.
Going deeper into the new trends we asked Siddharth: What technology innovation in your opinion is driving the future of Customer Experience?
“AI is definitely the biggest driver of change in the customer experience because consumers are becoming hungrier and are increasingly searching for novelty. Starting from that better understanding of customers, we will have to be more proactive in the delivery of new experiences and AI helps us do exactly that.”
There is so much buzz going on at the moment around what AI can do in Customer Experience. An interesting data point comes from Gartner, and it states: “By 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed without a human.”
AI application can really be a game changer for business. Did you know that Capital One allows customers to access their bank accounts through Alexa?
Yes, that’s happening.
To illustrate how AI is influencing the customer experience we brought you a few examples of use that you could use for inspiration as well.
ChatBots and Virtual Assistants
As we’re already surrounded by the virtual assistants in the form of Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple’s Siri it’s only natural to expect companies to make room for their use in our interaction with them.
Many businesses have created tasks with existing virtual assistants and chatbots so their customers can streamline their interactions with the brand.
For enterprise applications, virtual assistance can be delivered in many ways.
A great example is events ticket-sale website Ticketmaster.
The website has implemented the intelligent avatar “Veronica” for its site in Turkey to answer questions like “Can I get a refund?” or “Is there disabled seating available?”
It’s a delightful way of interacting with a company considering that we are getting used to it in our everyday lives.
Because using the first name in an email doesn’t cut it anymore, AI comes is as a great ally because it can sift through millions of pieces of information to find out exactly what matters to customers to create a personalized experience.
For example, Smashbox, a cosmetics brand, has taken a great step towards improving the customer experience through their personalised virtual cosmetics studio.
Basically, the Smashbox website allows you to upload your picture and experiment with styles and colours the brand offers.
It’s a clever way to allow customers to interact with the brand and the products they offer.
Because of this, the whole experience becomes personalised and extremely useful, which can only result in delighted customers.
Some other trends we can see happening include innovative channels, such as IoT; having the refrigerator tell you when an item needs to be replaced and have it make an order.
The role of new technology in the innovation of the traditional customer experience is definitely something to consider.
The smarter we play with it – the happier our customers.
The Future Of Customer Journey
The next question that naturally occurred while speaking about innovation and the future was: How do you prepare for the future in this fast-changing business and technology landscape?
“You prepare by constantly studying consumer behaviour and keeping up with market trends. Key is to be proactive and invest time in understanding new technology that can deliver the right content through the right channel at the right time.”
At the end of the day, each business is unique and in many cases today the customer journey will be unique.
We have evolved so much in just one decade that it is now impossible to draw a simple step-by-step description of how a customer first hears about your company.
Customers today are no longer waiting for adverts to be pushed at them, they are much more likely to see a new product mentioned by a friend on a social network post.
On the enterprise level, we see cross-functional teams coming together to form an “enterprise perspective” on gathering customer insight, knowledge and feedback.
In 2019. this behaviour clearly shows companies’ larger commitments to reach the business objectives driven from an organization-wide customer-centricity.
We see the increased need for everything from customer engagement models to data collection processes must be able to be done easily, day-in and day-out.
There is no doubt that our focus on the customer journey and customer experience will bring more innovation from leading businesses and with it possibly influence the direction of change in today’s customer behaviour.
Remember, only a couple of decades ago we would see an advert of the car on the TV and visit the store to chat about its features with the sales assistant.
Based on this and the possible test drive, we would decide whether to purchase it or not. And that was the end of our customer journey.
Now, our journey to the purchase has profoundly changed with the possibility to research, interact, compare and virtually try-on.
We started to demand to have an amazing experience with the company before we decide to pull the plug and buy the product or service.
And as our imagination is properly fueled with the advancements in technology capabilities, endless possibilities are discovered.
Are you ready to get answers for your Customer Journey Optimization questions ?