Trying to control the customer journey is futile

16th Mar 2021

If you were to ask most companies if they think they’re able to respond to changing consumer behaviours and deliver an agile, personalised experience across all touchpoints – the answer would likely be a resounding no. Yet, 76% of consumers think companies should understand their expectations and needs, and another 59% say tailored engagement is very important to winning their business.

While businesses have long strived for greater speed and agility in their customer interactions, the need to be nimble has taken on even greater urgency. Thanks in part to COVID-19, consumers have moved dramatically towards online channels, forcing companies in nearly every industry to scale their digital experiences, or in some cases, like consumer packaged goods, embrace them for the first time.

Some companies have looked at increasing touchpoints as a strategic opportunity to transform their business and create a connected, omnichannel experience for their customers. But many are realising the pain of trying to use legacy technologies, each with its own unique way of storing data and recognising customers, to support a fast-moving, end-to-end customer experience.

Why Hard-Coded Workflows Don’t Make the Cut

Customers have always been in control of their own journeys. But what’s changed in today’s landscape is that these customer journeys have become much more complex. They span many different touchpoints and customers are moving even faster throughout various stages of the customer lifecycle.

As a result, marketers and customer experience teams can no longer be fooled into thinking they can map out a path through a journey or campaign that customers will dutifully follow. Yet many are still relying on legacy campaign tools that are structured into these pre-configured “yes/no” campaign flows. These tools have marketed their campaign management capabilities as “set it and forget it,” but what really ends up happening is customers are inundated with messaging that’s neither relevant nor timely.

For example, consider a consumer who recently endured a bad delivery experience. Even though they already reached out to a customer service representative for help, they still receive an email promoting upsell items or asking for a product review. This is a result of a CRM, ESP, and campaign management tool all programmed to a version of the customer that exists in each individual system. The CRM might know there is an open customer service ticket, but because it’s not connected to the campaign management tool or the ESP, the “review the product” email isn’t suppressed. From the consumer perspective, it’s frustrating. The company should have known about the bad experience and be focused on fixing the problem – not trying to sell more products or asking for a review.

How to Move from Campaign Centric to Customer Centric

Rather than relying on static and rigid campaign flows, companies need a new way to orchestrate individualised experiences across touchpoints that are responsive to each customer’s unique journey. To do this effectively, business technology users (in marketing, customer experience, customer support, etc.) and their activation technologies (campaign management platforms, ESPs, personalisation engines, CRMs, etc.) need access to a single customer view and the ability to act in real-time based on data from across the journey.

Fortunately, modern orchestration-enabling technology, such as the customer data platform (CDP), has emerged that not only creates a unified view of each individual customer, but also makes that data readily accessible across all the activation channels in a company’s technology stack. When a customer can be recognised across all channels, cross-functional teams can use what they know about that person to deliver coordinated, targeted interactions (and suppress others) based on their unique journey.

Moreover, by integrating and synchronising customer data with other systems in real time, companies can increase operational efficiency. With access to this unified, actionable data, teams responsible for interacting with customers are no longer at the mercy of other entities – both internal (e.g., IT, the analytics team, or legacy technologies/databases) and external (e.g., agencies, technology vendors) – to dictate what, when, where, and how they can use data to orchestrate customer experiences.

The days of trying to control the customer journey are over. To own the relationship with their customers, companies need to collect data fast, learn fast, and act fast with targeted messages. By embracing the right technology, companies can gain the flexibility and agility they need to keep up with customers, and the ability to orchestrate relevant, individualised experiences across every touchpoint.

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