Tom Cole, CEO at RDA comments on an article from American Marketing Association - “Our Partner Thunderhead has it right - 2017 is the year to understand how your customers really decide if they want to buy from you!”
As marketers fix their focus on building relationships with customers, customer experience will be back in center stage in 2017 — and for brands to stand out they’ll need better tools and insight than ever before.
The gap between what customers expect and what brands actually deliver continue to widen. Some brands are getting aspects of customer service right but very few are able to connect touchpoints across the entire journey to enable a seamless conversation.
To win customers and build deeper more valuable relationships, brands need to deliver value to their customers every time they interact. How can marketers consistently provide this quality of service and retain long-term, happy customers?
Customer experience will become the new battleground
As 2016 draws to a close, we reflect on a year where some brands have come on in leaps and bounds with customer experience. In digital, most brands have chosen a mobile strategy to match - or better - the desktop experience they offer. In addition, they have jumped onboard with social opportunities to engage with their audiences, and have tried to focus on delivering experiences relevant to each individual channel.
However, in 2017 they will need to focus on or orchestrating seamless experiences across all the individual channels they interact with customers on. And with 2017 being the year of customer experience, how well they do this will matter.
Staying ahead of the pack will no longer be about outpacing competitors; brand reputation and success will depend on treating customers as individuals and offering them everything they need, when they need it. Marketers will become smarter in using all of the available insights to make each customer’s experience both relevant and timely, understand their needs and wants, and deliver a connected conversation before, during and after their purchase. It’s not marketing ‘at’ people, and it’s certainly not forcing suggestions, offers or discounts on potential customers if they have no relevance to them.
Once price and quality were the key to purchase decisions, but now brands will be judged on whether experiences match customer expectations, regardless of the industry. And if benchmarks are missed, or the journey becomes frustrating, customers can look for a better option and easily switch brands.
There is an opportunity in 2017 for differentiation, for delivering an experience that is worthy of customer loyalty: providing a relevant, personal, and seamless experience between the many channels and touchpoints on any customer journey.
The customer journey will take precedence
2017 will be the year in which the customer journey becomes the primary lens through which businesses must evaluate and measure customer experience. Listening to the customer journey is the key to understanding each customer’s experience, and how you can serve them better.
Of course, the idea of customer journeys for understanding business processes is not new, but now the time has come for brands to think differently about journeys, and marketers will need to set aside budgets for placing in-depth journey analytics into their strategies. This information is key to understanding customer behavior, evaluating the impact of interactions, and generating actionable insight that can be used to optimize experiences across the customer journey. Yet, as Gartner and Forrester analysts have noted, to ensure accuracy, brands should be careful about the technology they select. Individual preferences and habits are constantly evolving and to keep conversations on track, brands need solutions that offer real-time insight to business users to get the most out of their investment.
The most forward-thinking brands will be able to build rich, insightful profiles of customers over multiple journeys, joining insight from all of their existing technologies to providing a comprehensive view of their customers.
CRM will reconnect with its original mission
CRM - Customer Relationship Management - was originally conceived as a business philosophy and strategy to improve the relationships between businesses and their customers. However, CRM became a system of record with little insight or actionability to actually improve customer relationships.
While most businesses would claim to be customer centric, they will admit that there are real barriers in their way. Perhaps the biggest barrier are the organizational silos that store vital insight and knowledge in separate areas of the business, and make it difficult to create a seamless outside -in experience for the customer.
In 2017 we will CRM reconnect with its original purpose. Forward-thinking companies will realize the most important action they can take is to invest in tools that will; bridge silos and connect every touchpoint — from social media and apps to call-centers and face-to-face interactions —to streamline conversations, increase value for customers, and build more meaningful relationships. Tools such as Thunderhead’s ONE Engagement Hub will be part of the tech vanguard driving this movement, allowing companies to change their viewpoint and start looking outside-in, not inside-out.
Out with the old, in with the new…
With customer experience due to take pride of place in 2017, the marketing landscape is in for an overhaul and brands had better be ready. Maintaining a competitive edge will mean delivering on customer experience and investing in CRM improvements and technologies to meet the needs of customers. Understanding what individuals want, and consistently putting insight into action across connected touchpoints will set you apart. It’s going to be a busy year and if you want my advice; start preparing before everyone else catches on.