As a marketer, I am obsessed with customer experience. And the underlying challenges of CX remain the same across all organizations: How do we provide experiences that transcend the transactional? How do we put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and prospects?
We’re in an interesting time between a global pandemic and an uncertain economic future. Yes, price matters (especially in a time of inflation), but experiences that are carefully considered and well crafted are tangible and timeless. They are the backbone of long-term loyalty and a catalyst for positive word of mouth. Customer behaviors and preferences have changed dramatically in the past two years; it is more important than ever for companies to put CX front and center.
At the highest level, CX is about brand perception. It’s how a company communicates and delivers on its stated mission and values. And there’s an element that’s essential for powering good experiences: data. Without data, it’s impossible for companies to deliver the highly personalized experiences that customers demand today. This is true whether in a marketing email or in the metaverse.
When it comes to data, there are three important things for companies to implement as part of any successful CX transformation initiative. These three musts for any digital-transformation leader—which formed part of a larger conversation that we tackled during LatentView’s recent analytics roundtable, “Achieving Next-Level CX in a Post-Pandemic World”—are:
- Adopt a data-first culture
- Prioritize data trust and security
- Break down data silos
Adopt a Data-First Culture
Too often, data is viewed and leveraged at a tactical level only. Enterprises grab and use data for one-off campaigns and initiatives. Worse yet, if it’s unknown where specific data lives or how it can be used, it simply goes to waste. In order to truly achieve next-level CX, companies need to promote a data-first culture. This means baking data across the entire analytics value chain into a larger CX strategy. Data must serve as the connective tissue that brings together and balances out a company’s initiatives with the needs of its customers and employees.
A data-first culture must exist as a framework for organizations to be both customer- and employee-focused. According to Ashfaq Mohiuddin, vice president of data and analytics at Procore, a SaaS solution for construction management, companies that want to ensure a data-first culture must be able to answer three key questions:
- Is data fueling our core business?
- Is data igniting new business and helping us retain current customers?
- Is data helping to enrich and scale our company?
“Leaders must make the distinction between being product-focused and being customer-focused,” said Mohiuddin. “[They must] use persona-based data to help fuel growth.”
Companies should map out customer, employee, and partner personas to understand the journeys of each respective group. When it comes to growth, companies must understand all the elements that can contribute to new revenue. In particular, companies must look to the data that their customer touchpoints generate in real time—and use that data to systematically enhance CX. This real-time data allows organizations to glean customer patterns and micro-level insights that will ultimately help them create additional revenue opportunities.
“Historically, this was done by gifted people who just knew in their guts what people wanted,” said Richard Kestenbaum, partner at Triangle Capital LLC. “Now there is science, and that is at the cutting edge. We are only at the beginning of that.”
Prioritize Data Trust and Security
Peace of mind plays a significant role in positive customer experiences. It’s true that what customers experience isn’t data, but the content (physical or virtual) that a company creates using data. While data may not be at the top of a customer’s mind in the midst of a brand experience, every modern customer knows that their data is being used to power that experience.
Customer data is everywhere, and data integrity and governance are areas that require constant attention and continual refinement. To manage data effectively, companies must have secure processes for how data is accessed, stored, and used. Companies must trust their own sources and methods of data collection—especially if using a data vendor—while also ensuring security to prevent data breaches.
In that sense, trust works both ways.
“If customers don’t trust you with the data, everything else is lost,” said Mohiuddin. “Without trust, no company can be either customer- or data-first.”
Customers today have no appetite for their data to be abused, and there is little to no margin for error when it comes to using customer data to provide one-to-one personalized experiences. Businesses must prioritize their security measures by implementing verification processes, conducting risk assessments, and implementing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to detect fraud.
Break Down Data Silos
Customer experiences aren’t limited to marketing. Every customer touchpoint—from marketing and advertising to call-center inquiries and chatbot interactions—plays a part in the overall customer experience. Disjointed data makes for disjointed experiences.
To this end, data management continues to be a pressing challenge for companies. Data is no longer something used solely by IT teams. Many departments in a modern enterprise need data insights. Many organizations, however, don’t fully understand how to correlate specific data to solving relevant business problems. Therefore, data democratization needs to be baked into a company’s culture to empower it to become fully data-driven.
This means breaking down data silos. To do so, a business should deploy a modern, enterprise-wide data platform to allow easy data management (ideally with a flexible, cloud-first setup and a user-friendly business-intelligence dashboard). Such a data platform can help democratize access to data, helping users to both discover and analyze data such that they can tie it to specific business objectives.
And, as highlighted earlier, security, privacy, and governance must underpin all of these components.
Data for the Long Haul
The market demands that companies deliver better CX. The value propositions of quality and price will never go away—but in a post-pandemic world, CX can be the single thing companies can use to differentiate themselves.
Customers have made it clear they want to be treated as individuals, and companies today can use data to make this happen. To further this mission, companies must not limit their concept of data to that of a series of tactical “sprints,” but instead adopt the mindset that data-driven CX is a marathon with an undefined finish line. There will always be new technology and new data—and therefore new CX goals and KPIs to achieve.
As marketers, our obsession with CX should never wane; neither should our pursuit of the right data to bring those experiences to life. With the right strategies and tools to leverage and connect data across the enterprise, digital leaders are well positioned to help their organizations navigate through our post-pandemic world and forge the foundations for long-term success.
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