Is your organization ambitious enough to deal with the new customer engagement narrative?

With the rise of digital business models, ecosystems, and the greater maturity in technologies such as AI, most organisations are forced to revisit their business models and the way they engage with customers. In this paper, I am exploring some of the options business units managing customer experience have to adapt in order to address the many challenges they are facing.

Whatever we call those business units – marketing, digital, CX, sales or service -, there has been one message that I think has been consistent in almost every single project or discussion I have been involved in: In the face of the technology-led disruption with competition setting up new benchmarks for customer engagement, they must gain a greater level of understanding of their customers and how they engage.

We all know that digital transformation impacts every single industry. More often than we think, Customer Engagement / CRM systems that firms are working with, were implemented 10-15 years ago. This is the challenge most firms have to overcome today. They know now that they have to align to newer digital capabilities and they often get really excited about it.

But how does the strategy look like from moving from A to Z? Getting the strategy to reality is far easier said than done. Some organisations have decided to bet on traditional CRM platforms while other are focusing on automation. I am looking below at some of the technological choices I have seen so far implemented by companies to help them revisit their customer engagement model.

#1 – Transitioning towards newer Digital Customer Engagement platforms

Creating well performing customer experiences across touchpoints can be an extremely challenging task. Every day, we experience very imaginative new ways in customer behaviours. Expectations today for customers are to interact with a brand with the touchpoint of their choice whenever it is convenient for them.

Those radical changes in behaviour fundamentally impact the way companies interact with their customers. To be fair, a large number of firms still do not have a true digital engagement approach. They lack the simplification, agility, and fluidity. I think it is easy to understand where those difficulties come from. Most of their existing technologies were implemented more than a decade ago. I was part of some of those projects myself!

Today I am working increasingly on migrating old Siebel or other outdated CRM solutions to newer CRM solutions like Salesforce. It is not easy. In fact, transitioning from outdated technologies to newer customer interaction management platforms is a lot harder and require more work than most think. In this scenario for instance, organisations really have, as a first step, to design and communicate a clear Customer Engagement strategy as a pre-requisite.

Recommended for you: One quick comment on Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms

#2 – Automating the engagement using AI

A recent Gartner’s survey shows that, by 2025, customer service organisations that embed AI in their multichannel customer engagement platforms will elevate operational efficiency by 25%. In addition, a recent survey by UIPath states that 66% of companies will increase RPA software spend over the next 12 months. So this shows that automation is very important for companies. Now, why is that?

Automation projects often relate to areas such as interaction processing, campaign management, routing, data collection, analysis and restitution for action or decision. These projects are the spotlight of Marketing Automation, RPA, AI and ML solutions.

When I talk with industry executives, a large number of them are convinced that the use of robotization and AI can help automate the engagement while improving a better customer experience. And a lot of things we see is the deployment or testing of conversational agents in order to provide guidance to customers. Also, voicebots and voice assistants that incorporate voice recognition show up quite often during the conversations.

#3 – Personalizing, contextualizing, and messaging proactively to customers

The development of more personal, close and intimate relationships with customers is seen as a key enabler to most brands. It is also a great concern to them. This involves personalizing the interactions with customers, personalization which should ultimately improve the engagement and conversion rate.

Obviously, a better understanding of customers is crucial. Yet, for the majority of professionals I have been talking to, the main challenge remain how to use that data efficiently to enhance the way a company interact with customers. They often admit that, in their organization, data is still very much siloed and not leveraged at the actual point of interaction.

Some work still have to be done here, clearly. This is a very interesting topic and a good potential for solutions such as ”Predictive Analytics”, ‘Account-Based Marketing (ABM)”, ”Searchandising”, “virtual customer assistant”, and the like.

Recommended for you: One quick comment on Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for Analytics

#4 – Content and content, again

Then, we have seen over the last two decades the importance of content. For a company, it is an essential component in the processes of improving the customer experience, from acquisition to conversion and loyalty.

However, content management has become more and more complex. The multiplicity of formats, instantaneous updates, volume, personalization, rights management, integration of content generated by customers, and so on, make easy to understand where the difficulties come from. No amateurism is permitted any longer.

This complexity fuels the increasing use of solutions such as Content Management Systems (CMS), Digital Experience platforms (DXP), Content Marketing Platforms (CMP), or Digital Commerce Platforms (DCP).

#5 – Ecosystems as a new way to grow

“Ecosystem” has been a trendy word for some years now. sometimes in combination with such other wording as “Open Banking”. I like this topic very much.

Today almost 40% of the largest firms worldwide are indeed “ecosystem managers”. Naturally, we all think of Apple, Google or Salesforce. Closer to us, Ikea and H&M are managing ecosystems too. According to Gartner, by 2023, organizations that are part of a connected digital business ecosystem will have 40% of their customer service cases initiated by partners in that ecosystem.

This stat is interesting. Participating in ecosystems for functional enrichment appears to be key in the near future. In this view, traditional strategy approach can be augmented with platform thinking, working on the “network effect”, and getting others to innovate for them.

Working with ecosystems is not that easy and straight forward either. It is even very complex. It requires setting up a completely new mindset, often a new business model, and also to adapt the organizational structure accordingly. Most companies lack the maturity to move forward in that direction yet unfortunately.  

Recommended for you: Focus on business ecosystems: Leveraging partners in disruptive times

In conclusion, at the heart is data

We all know that digital transformation is very important and has become a top management priority industry after industry. No question with that. Markets are reshaped, new industries are created, new competition and types of services arrive.

In a world with new customer requirements, new technology, and new platforms, data is the key asset of companies to be able to form personal and relevant messages to customers. An in-depth understanding of customers coupled with relevant customer data management mechanisms are becoming key. At the same time, regulations like GDPR and rapid changes in customer behavior require flexibility and transparence to build trust over time.

Firms turn to technological solutions in order to address the many challenges they face. In recent years, the proliferation of initiatives has been boosting the market for solutions related to customer experience. Some experts foresee that the CRM Customer Engagement Centre (CEC) Software Market will double in ten years.

I do think that, beyond the technology itself, organisations have to reorganize themselves. The aim of creating experiences that customers desire and want might sound easy. Yet, this changing customer engagement narrative requires new focus, new expertises, and the active participation in ecosystems.

For most organisations, it has become an urgent necessity. These changes in approaches will undoubtedly have an impact on the technological choices and the solutions selected by companies.

I hope you enjoyed the article! Please leave me a review, I love reading them!

About the Author

Didier Dessens

CRM and Digital Experience Advisory

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