It is hard to imagine a world without customer intimacy. Almost every organization of corporate size and larger is obsessed with delivering world-class customer experiences. And with good reason, because customers are more demanding than ever. Creating the best customer experience requires certain technical capabilities to equip employees with the right tools. To help choosing the right tools I have created a simple model with four cornerstones for better CX that form a technical foundation.
The technical foundation for delivering personal relevant experiences at scale
Customers nowadays demand personal content that answers their questions and fulfill their needs. And they want it to be available when they are ready for it on the right channel. This can be a website, a social channel but also in search results after a voice search command was given. Businesses just need to be present at those moments. To be able to do that you need (a) platform(s) on four capabilities: Content, Data, Personalization and Intelligence like shown in the image below.
People consume content as if it is a primary necessity of life. Content is an essential part of the interaction between brands and customers, with which brands can create a human connection. Content is broad concept and can be anything a customer needs, whether it is text, an image, video or file. But it requires answering their questions and needs. To do this efficiently content should be broken down into small consumable pieces that are easy to combine.
To be able to create, manage, distribute and measure content effectiveness in an easy way you need a central content hub platform. This platform should guide you in collaborating on content, manage the process with automated workflows and optionally have marketing planning tools. Ideally this content hub platform also allows you store reusable content like product information, blogs or other content types as well.
As mentioned, distribution is a crucial part of a central content hub. You should be able to connect it with your owned channels, with your social media channels or with your publishing agency. The real power of such platforms is that every change made at its source, in the content hub, can be pushed to all the consuming parties, giving you absolutely control over the whole content lifecycle. And by measuring the effectiveness of content you can optimize budgets and boost engable content even more.
Without understanding customers, they will never understand a brand’s intention. A 360-degree customer view is crucial in understanding customer needs and develivering the right message. That means combining online and offline data and both demographics and behavioral data. For this to happen a Customer Data Platform (CDP) can help you out. This CDP can connect to various data sources such as CRM, web analytics, social channel analytics or an experience/digital marketing platform.
The primary role of the CDP should be combining data from different sources in a normalized data model, creating a rich 360-degree customer view that can be consumed by external systems. For example, combining purchase history from CRM, with visited product pages on a website and liked product promotions on social channels. This empowers the personalization capabilities enormously.
Content and data fuels the Personalization capability and empowers real-time management of the customer’s journey. Preferably in an automated way so all marketing efforts can go to analyzing outcomes and experiment with improvements to facilitate growth. With personalization it is about creating a personal and relevant message at the right time and right channel. So any platform one might choose should be able to deliver content based on the aforementioned criteria: online and offline data and from demographics and behavioral type.
To deliver true personalization a platform should also be able to personalize in an omni-channel way. The website, the e-mail channel, probably text messages or apps. Any channel your target audiences are present on should be involved. Because platforms that cover it all are scarce you need to look for platforms that cover the basics but are highly extensible and connectable. Preferably via open standards. And at its core it has a powerful personalization engine that can handle different types of data and serve the right content and/or user experience design.
With the current mindset of demanding customers, the always-online-culture and huge amounts of visitors and data it is impossible to create a personalized customer experience by hand. Brands are focusing on the mass and still need to deliver a 1 on 1 communication. Intelligence will be the distinguishing factor in the coming years.
Somewhere in the technical landscape the Intelligence capability must be filled in. Whether it is with Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the experience platform or on the CDP. It simply becomes a necessity to analyze the huge amounts of data, create outcomes and predictions, creating segments and profile customers. ML and AI will play a more important role on content classification and journey orchestration in the next years.
Get started in three steps
Having the blueprint for a technical foundation is one thing, but how do you get started? I’m using three steps that can help you get started.
The martech stack has exploded with around 8,000 solutions in total. Having solutions for different applications creates a technical landscape that is hard to maintain, hard to keep secure and up-to-date. It creates silos in the organization or maintains them and from a data governance perspective it is almost undoable to connect data sources from all those systems and create the 360-degree view.
So choose core platforms wisely. One of the great platforms to go for is Sitecore. It is exactly the reason they are listed as the leader in the Experience Platform Magic Quadrant by Gartner. The Sitecore Platform gives you the Content and Personalization capabilities and plays an important role in collecting valuable data. They also have an Artificial Intelligence solution, but only for their own online interaction data they collect.
This is a great example of a platform that covers at least two of the four capabilities and plays an important role in the other two capabilities.
As everything will be a service in the cloud (a.k.a. SaaS) sooner or later, the time of lots of custom solutions is gone. If you do not standardize and comply to software companies guidelines the transition to the cloud will be difficult and expensive.
Standardizing also means shorten your time to market and making you more agile to adapt to market changes or world events. Custom solutions are still necessary in some scenarios but reducing them to the absolute minimum saves a lot of energy that can go into optimizing the customer’s experience.
No matter what platform or system you choose, a certain degree of standardizing what you do and develop on those platforms is possible. It is just that simple: the more custom solutions, the more maintenance, the harder it is to get upgraded, the longer the time to market will be.
3. Employee adoption
Last but certainly not least we need to keep paying attention to employees that need to work with platforms. Inspiring them, training them and showing them how their lives become easier helps the usage of platforms. Create special adoption programs to facilitate this. It not only benefits the Return On Investment, but also the time they can spend on optimizing the customer’s experience in stead of performing tedious tasks that can be automated.
We sometimes forget that we still need humans to connect with humans, even in this digital world. So empowering them means connecting with (potential) customers and create real human connection in a digital world, powered by technology.