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Recognize customers and prospects across channels and touchpoints. Interact with those individuals in a timely, personalized way. Streamline and scale this engagement over time.

These are common resolutions many companies make (or renew) each year. It’s also why marketing and customer experience teams have traditionally placed so much emphasis on mapping their customers’ journeys. In fact, Gartner recently found that a whopping 82% of organizations have created a customer journey map. With insights into common customer pain points and preferences, companies can (in theory) ensure a consistent and seamless experience across channels and touchpoints.

Much like the vast majority of new year's resolutions, however, the intent quickly fails to match the execution. The problem with journey mapping is that too much time gets wasted on abstractions about the journeys themselves, rather than specific actions that focus on how to realign brand engagement activities and how to react to what's taking place as a journey is happening.

So, how can companies ensure they are investing in the critical moments along the customer journey that matter most? Like any professional or personal resolution, transformation requires discipline, consistency, thoughtfulness — and more often than not — the help of a good coach. Transforming how your business understands and interacts with its customers in critical moments is no different.

What Are Critical Moments, Anyway?

The definition of critical moments will vary from company to company, but in general, they are any customer interactions that contribute to core business outcomes such as revenue, customer lifetime value (CLV), or even consent opt-in (which more companies need to treat as a strategic objective).

Critical moments can be as simple as when a user provides an email address and becomes an identifiable, authenticated person, or as complex as all the interactions in aggregate that have an impact on a desired outcome.

Regardless of how a company defines their critical moments, chances are they are based more on assumptions of what they think is important, rather than real evidence — a gap largely due to the fact that many companies have yet to establish a true single customer view.

Related Article: Critical Moments: Where Customer Experience Is Won or Lost

Disparate Tools Have Created Disparate Customer Experiences

Over the last decade, the technology landscape has exploded with new tools designed to enable smarter, faster and cheaper engagement with customers. But as companies embrace these new tools, they are getting stuck within the data and operational silos they create. Since each system has its own unique way of storing data and recognizing customers, departments across the organization are forced to make critical decisions based on a partial view of the customer, or wait on other teams (e.g., IT, data science, agencies) to consolidate, normalize and segment the data for them — creating disjointed experiences for customers and missed opportunities to win their business.

As an example, a popular outwear brand wanted to send targeted offers to first-time buyers within 24 hours after purchase, when brand affinity is highest. But it had to create its first-time buyer segments in one system before manually loading them into another system for activation — a process that took 48 hours at best, well after that peak brand affinity had waned.

Related Article: Old MacDonald Met a Data Silo, E-I-E-I-O

Orchestration-Enabling Technologies

Technologies, such as customer data platforms (CDP), are explicitly built to enable companies to leverage a single view of the customer and, critically, act on that data in real-time across the journey.

CDPs fill the gaps of traditional measurement and activation technologies by liberating customer data from disparate systems at an individual level, and giving that unified profile data back to marketing, customer experience, analytics, and other growth-focused teams in a format they can use when and where they need it. By having unified profile data in such close proximity to customer-facing engagement, teams can deliver relevant and valuable experiences across all touchpoints and in every customer lifecycle stage, while also being responsive to changes in their interests, behaviors and privacy preferences along the way.

Moreover, by integrating customer data and synchronizing it with other systems in real time, CDPs can help increase operational efficiency. Customer-facing teams are no longer beholden to internal or external entities (e.g., IT, agencies, etc.) to dictate when, where, and how they can use data to orchestrate individualized customer experiencers.

Like any technology, however, a CDP isn’t a silver bullet to solve all customer experience problems. Any CDP vendor worth their salt will be honest about the technology’s challenges and limitations, and — just like a personal trainer assists individuals in achieving their fitness goals — will coach their customers through the people and process changes required to implement, use and maximize the value of a CDP over time.

Operational silos and disconnected systems have long plagued companies in their quest to identify and engage customers when and where it matters most. Successful customer engagement transformation won’t come from adopting the next shiny mobile app, but rather from embracing technology that streamlines and scales the way teams work. By leveraging tools such as a CDP that reduce manual handoffs, shorten the time from insight to action, and afford their teams greater agility and flexibility, companies can ensure they are optimizing the critical moments in every customer’s experience.

Related Article: Decisioning vs. Orchestration: What Is the Difference?