Customers are connected on social media and digital channels, empowered and in control. How they talk about a brand and their purchase decisions are shaped by one thing -- their experience, which is every interaction they have with the brand.
“People are constantly swiping, liking, sharing, tapping and giving information, and they expect a real-time reaction and human customer service across digital channels,” said Paul Herman, VP of Customer Engagement and Market Intelligence at Sprinklr. They’re also influenced by other brands, sources and channels, which means that companies are no longer setting their own customers’ expectations – their competitors are.
To retain customers and build brand loyalty, Herman says organizations need to take a unified approach to customer experience management (what Sprinklr calls Unified-CXM) and rethink their tech stacks to become truly data driven. Herman spoke with CMSWire to discuss how companies can power exceptional real-time Unified-CXM by using technology, data and AI to harness the right data in the right ways.
A Unified Experience Through Centralized Tech
In an omnichannel environment, consumers aren’t making the distinction between different channels, departments or divisions. “They don’t see brands as a combination of different entities or silos — they see a single brand,” Herman said. As a result, poor performance on any channel can have oversized effects on consumer perceptions of your company.
Companies must now align their brand identity, voice and standards across every single digital touchpoint — a concept Herman calls “unifying the digital edge.”
To do so, companies collecting customer information from a variety of sources need to find a way to build a 360 degree profile. “Point solutions all offer a single facet of a consumer – a unified view means bringing these various facets of the consumer together,” he said, adding that it needs to be done in a transparent and customer-driven manner. Once a company has this unified view, they can execute a Unified-CXM strategy.
The easier way to achieve this is through a unified CX platform, yet according to a study from Sprinklr and Forrester, 93% of CX management professionals said they were missing features from their CX platform. Further, nearly half felt their current tools failed to provide them with a unified view of the consumer. As a result, Herman says companies are beginning to move away from point solutions toward more unified tech suites. Having a strong core platform with the ability to bolt on peripherals if needed tends to create a smoother process than trying to “glue” together disparate pieces. In Herman’s words, “an integrated system is way better than a system of integrations.”
Navigating an Ocean of Data With AI
Despite the wealth of data that the right technology can provide to companies, Herman says that they’re still confused by the concept of customer feedback, and fail to find ways to translate quantitative data into any kind of learning or actionable insights. According to research from Harvard Business Review, it’s not because they aren’t trying, but because they lack the right tools to analyze qualitative data that reveals more valuable information about the customer.
While structured customer feedback systems have their place, they don’t provide real-time insights. Companies need to be able to move beyond this type of data, which typically centers on existing customers and harnesses behavioral data from consumers.
“Social media and publicly available digital sites give us the opportunity to look into the data about the unknown and the potential,” Herman said. “[Brands] can go into the market and understand what consumers are saying about them before they’re even in the market yet.”
AI plays a critical role here, allowing companies to make sense out of an unstructured ocean of data, including video, audio and text. They can then turn it into insights that help CX professionals across the organization do their job better. Conversational AI also enables brands to take real-time responses to improve the customer experience as it’s happening, a daunting task to manage at scale without technology.
Shifting From Selling to Customer Service
Speaking about the challenges companies still must overcome in the immediate future when managing social media marketing, sales and customer service, Herman pointed to increasing consumer concerns over privacy and security.
Your customer support philosophy is ultimately about how you view “service,” he explained. For many companies, there’s a strong temptation to start with data, or the “know me to serve me” approach. Here, the thinking is that there’s so much profile data across channels that mining that data for insights first is the best place to start.
But this approach can leave the consumer feeling misunderstood, alienated, or exploited. According to Herman, great brands have found that customer service is the starting point and follow a “serve to know to grow” approach. Exceptional service leads to a progressive exchange of information which, in turn, leads to a deepening relationship.
“The challenge for brands is to be able to shift their mindset from selling to customer service -- using a serve, to know, to grow approach,” Herman said, explaining that they need to grow relationships with potential customers over time and learn from these interactions to build an experience that ultimately converts them. Using their data in a way that feels unnatural is more likely to “surprise and frighten” the consumer than delight them.
Herman says that moving forward, individual channels will become less important as a brand’s presence and voice becomes unified across all touchpoints. Further, customer service and commerce will begin to play out more as conversations, thanks to the ability of AI to build human-like experiences at scale. "In the future, a customer will only know that they are on a journey with a brand when they look back."
Learn more about modern customer experience management solutions at sprinklr.com.