How can a customer data platform improve customer experience?

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What role can a CDP play in unifying customer data, and ultimately, customer experiences? 

Elon Musk may have lost his way down some dark caverns in the last year or so, but one thing that never left him during this time is his unique understanding of what makes a great experience for Tesla customers.     

Take his personal delivery of a Model 3 to some proud new owners in July:

Or his response to a Tweet from a disgruntled prospect looking to buy a car late last year:

In both these cases, Musk had the nous and charisma to do something many brand leaders aren’t capable of – tap into the emotional and tangible characteristics that make or break customer experiences, and fix them when they aren’t quite right.   

Yet this alone is not enough. At Tesla, this is just one small aspect of what makes the overall experience a heralded one. At its core is data. Reams and reams of data.  

The customer data platform

From the vast amount of in-car data it collects and crunches to the parsing of online forums to action customer suggestions and complaints, Telsa is pushing the boundaries for what’s possible when you’ve got a solid grip on customer data.

But for many brands, the notion of even being able to collect data in a centralised place is beyond the realms of fantasy. For many, customer data continues to be siloed, fragmented and disjointed.

As we’ve highlighted in our previous post on the topic, this ongoing issue has given rise to a new marketing technology – the customer data platform (CDP). And according to David Raab, the founder of the CDP Institute, the customer data platform is fast becoming a central requirement for those brands wishing to meet the data achievements of brands like Tesla:    

“The very premise of a CDP is to create unified customer data, typically for marketing purposes. This means that the data is already available when CX initiatives go looking for it. So, a customer data platform is an important enabler that lets companies build CX programmes faster and at a lower incremental cost. 

“Think of CDPs as laying down a foundation that will already be in place when CX programmes need it. We all know customer experience spans many departments, including operations and customer support as well as marketing and sales. So customer data platforms are able to gather data from all of those sources because marketers need it to create a complete picture of each customer in order to market effectively. That same complete picture is used in non-marketing CX projects too, informing decisions so that each customer gets the most appropriate experiences.”

According to Anthony Botibol at BlueVenn, customer data platforms benefit CX in three ways:

  1. The customer journey – “A primary reason why marketers are investing in CDPs is because they facilitate greater personalisation. Through analysing customer data and generating this golden record, a CDP allows you to join the different touchpoints from customers across all channels to analyse and optimise an engaging customer journey across every step they take.”
  2. Customers only see what they want to see – “A CDP allows marketers to create accurate and detailed customer profiles through the collection and unification of information from a range of data silos. For example, CRM systems, emails, POS and websites. While customers tune out from mass marketing, personalised emails or text messages remind them that you see them as an individual, rather than a number in a database. A targeted message, using the available data from a CDP, is more likely to get their attention and appeal to them and result in a conversion.”
  3. Real-time communication – “Marketers often find themselves spending too much time preparing and cleansing data in order to identify trends. And by the time they have enough data to take action and create a tailored campaign, the opportunity has gone! Real-time personalisation, however, helps build customer relationships and generate sales at the critical moment. With a CDP you can use persistent, unified data to provide them with relevant content and offers at the right time by knowing who they are, where they are and what they are looking for.”

This final point is especially pertinent given the increasing pressure from consumers for real-time interactions with brands. 2017 research from Salesforce highlights that 64% of consumers now expect companies to interact with them without delay.

Real time interactions

Source: Econsultancy

Salesforce’s research also highlights that consumers are increasingly expecting consistent, ‘unified’ experiences with brands, which in turn require the unified data that Botibol highlighted as being so vital.

“A unified experience means that customers are treated consistently across all channels AND that each experience is tailored to the customer’s personal situation,” adds Raab. 

“These are not the same thing: you could treat all customers exactly the same in all channels just by having consistent policies and training, without using any customer data at all. But if you want to give each customer an experience tailored to their situation, then you need to have their data available. And if you want that tailored experience to also be consistent across channels, then you need all channels to be working from the same information and applying the same decision rules. Some CDPs only provide the shared data while others provide both the data and the rules.”

In the US, one brand that has excelled thanks to its use of a customer data platform is Freshly, a food delivery start-up.

The company recognised early on that for it to differentiate it would need to get more granular with its communications to customers, plugging into a CDP in order for its marketing team to identify more than 50 customer personas within the customer database, taking into account past customer behaviour and predictions for the future (e.g., product preferences, spend levels, customer future value), and then automating the delivery of highly-relevant messaging to each individual customer.

Freshly states the switch to a CDP has led to a 64% increase in its average order value.

Tesla, too, has pioneered a personal approach through a more effective use of its customer data platform. In 2015 the car manufacturer revealed it had automatically updated 60,000 of its customers’ sedans, based on the data it had been collecting in-car, to give the vehicles the ability to drive themselves. For the customer, there was no need to take their car to a dealership or a mechanic. The car simply updated remotely, with no human intervention – a seamless experience.

Elon Musk’s interventions are one thing, but increasingly experience differentiators are driven by data. With brands like Tesla only helping to raise customer expectations, it may be that CDPs are the most obvious route for other businesses to try and meet the same levels.     

About Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.

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