Exactly when the conversation around customer relationship management (CRM) transformed into customer experience (CX) is up for debate, but what’s not debatable is the 180-degree change in focus. Whereas CRM honed in on a company’s internal processes that manage their interactions with customers across all the myriad new channels, CX is outward-focused, zeroing in on the customer and the sum of all experiences that each customer has with the company over the duration of their relationship. In essence, customer loyalty resides in the experience, not the product.
I think this distinction is vitally important because the innovation that we’re seeing now -- and for the foreseeable future -- in this space is all about the customer journey. Sure, there’s still much to be done with companies’ internal processes and systems to manage all the data about customers that’s flowed in over the past few years; It’s no secret that big data has caused big problems and instead of exclaiming, “I need more data,” companies now ask, “How do I manage all this data?!” Companies are awash in customer data thanks to all the channels with which they can communicate with customers--email, live chat websites, text, FB message, etc.--but turning that into actionable information to convert, delight, and retain customers is still a huge challenge.
So what companies will win the CX race? Here are the top five areas that are ripe for the taking:
- Orchestrating Omnichannel -- CX is all about making each and every customer journey excellent. It’s really hard to do, particularly when a journey can span multiple channels (e.g, a website session integrating chat and co-browse). Vendors that can help enterprises provide elegant orchestration of customer experience across these channels seamlessly will be in the catbird seat.
- Cutting through the Noise -- In an extremely noisy world, ensuring you capture a prospect’s attention can be critical to the win. Data has shown that customers respond best when you speak their specific lingua franca and tailor your message to their needs and interests. Doing this across channels and at scale is not easy, but we’re already starting to see vendors that enable outbound, omnichannel “micro-campaigns” against very discrete customer profiles across millions of customer profiles--and this trend is growing. Leading platforms that measure the effectiveness of these campaigns, determine which are working and which are not, and then make suggestions to improve them -- all in real time -- are coming to an email inbox near you.
- Smoothing the Customer Journey -- Unfortunately, most of the problems in the customer journey are found by real customers, which has a tangible impact on customer engagement--and revenue. What if you could avoid that scenario? New vendors are emerging that identify problems in the customer journey by using bots that behave like real human beings and simulate what the journey will be like when real customers show up. Enterprises that embrace synthetic customer experience testing to deliver best-in- class, real-world results will move to the front of the class.
- Connecting with Customers on Their Terms -- Over the last decade, the number of texts sent has increased 7,000% (and I didn’t add a couple of rogue zeroes). Texting is the definitive preferred communication channel, and if you aren’t engaging with customers here, you’re missing the boat. The rise in vendors that facilitate intelligent texting is a boon for business. These technologies use natural language processing (NLP) in text engagement and wrap rich workflows that automate business processes. It’s super disruptive and can provide a mechanism for businesses to delight customers at scale while increasing revenue and reducing operational overhead. We’re seeing powerful examples of this technology in action in a number of vertical markets, but hospitality -- in particular -- has been a powerful early adopter. If you nominate that helpful attendant who engaged with you over text messages to fetch towels or book a restaurant for employee of the month, you may be recommending AI!
- Feeding the Chatbots -- You can’t swing a dead cat these days without hearing about new applications of chatbots. They’re present while we’re shopping online (to assist with any questions!) and they’re the first line of defense for inbound call center engagement. Some of these chatbots are impressive talking heads, but they’re only as good as the content that feeds them! To deliver a best-in-class customer experience that leverages AI, make sure your content house is in order first. The stars in this area invest in rich content grooming and management to ensure that they can elegantly address customer concerns. Leading vendors in next-generation knowledge management break an organization’s volumes of content assets into microelements and then relate these to customer inquiry in a powerful way. The result is a chatbot that walks and talks like Einstein and a customer who is on their merry way with every intention of returning for another visit!
These are just some of the powerful themes we are seeing at play in CX from the front lines of disruption. In our mind, the key is to invest in the perfect customer journey in an agile way. With preparation, process, and yes, best-in-class tools, it’s possible to provide a customer journey that drives long-term success for your business. As Abraham Lincoln once noted, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” Commit your business to sharpening axes that meet your customers on their ground and on the channels they prefer. Use emerging technologies to manage complexity and drive impact. And, most importantly, ensure that your customer journeys are an awesome reflection of your brand, knowing that if they are, your customers will beat a path to your door.
Phil Dur has been a software investor for 15 years and has served on the boards of over twenty growth stage companies in his career. Before co-founding PeakSpan, Phil worked at Investor Growth Capital for ten years as a leader in the software investment team. Prior to joining IGC, Phil also worked at Morgan Stanley Venture Partners (the firm’s expansion and growth stage fund) as part of the technology investment team and started his career at Morgan Stanley Capital Partners (the firm’s private equity fund) focusing on, among other things, investments in software and other technology areas. Phil is a graduate of Princeton University and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business and also served as an officer in the U.S. Army Reserve for seven years.