The award-winning National Geographic documentary “Free Solo” details climber Alex Honnold’s successful ascent of El Capitan, a 3,000-foot nearly vertical granite rock wall in Yosemite National Park, without using ropes or safety equipment. The 2017 climb was the essence of a “no margin for error” situation. One ill-timed gust of wind, one tenuous hold, one slip and the documentary would tell a different story. Amazingly, Honnold completed the entire climb in just under four hours, whereas it usually takes a team of experienced climbers about a week to summit using fixed ropes and other safety gear.
“It’s always about excellence and perfection,” Honnold said about his famous ascent, leaving unsaid that failure was not an option. It was perfection or death.
Rappelling over to the customer experience arena, to use a climbing term, more and more organizations are demanding the same perfection from customer experience (CX) platforms. Good enough is no longer good enough. Mistakes that were perhaps not too detrimental in the delivery of a personalized customer experience may have once been tolerated in the name of slow and steady progress. Those days are over.
When excellence and perfection are possible, the payoff of an omnichannel customer experience proven to drive revenue is worth stepping outside the comfort zone. Scaling new customer experience heights is about having complete trust and faith in the process, which subjugates risk. When there is no option for failure, and precision is required, plodding a well-worn path no longer moves the needle.
Customers Do Not Accept Compromise
In healthcare, aerospace and other industries precision can literally mean the difference between life and death. The fact that organizations in those industries increasingly demand perfection from a CX platform is a sure sign that the technology has made the leap from a niche marketing platform to a mission-critical, operations system.
As an operations system where exactness and timeliness cannot be compromised (where timeliness may equate to a millisecond response time), a key distinction between what may be “good enough” for a marketing platform is how the customer experience platform handles database extractions.
The tried-and-true legacy approach is a list-based system, where – even with a perfect database and perfect counts – a list is created and extracted, from which messages, offers and communications will be generated. The list then proceeds through a campaign separated from updates and ongoing care of the database. From the moment the list is extracted, it decays and loses accuracy. It is now static, no longer updated by normal database processes. When circumstances change – and they always do – those changes are not reflected in the list. A list-based, outbound list does not allow for any new condition that is not defined prior to extract.
For some marketing purposes, perhaps a 12 or 24-hour lag is acceptable. If a retailer sends an irrelevant offer because it doesn’t know you visited a store after an online session, perhaps it loses a customer. It will then have to devote time and resources on acquisition, but on an individual basis compared with other industries, the loss is manageable – to an extent. In marketing, the challenge comes with scale of personalization. However, an individual patient coping with a chronic condition, or one with a new diagnosis who desperately needs a care plan often does not have the luxury of a time lag.
That said, even if an inferior customer experience may be manageable on a small scale, smart marketers are embracing the alternative, realizing that the legacy approach introduces roadblocks that needlessly frustrate customers and block revenue streams that are possible with the delivery of an omnichannel CX. A manageable loss no longer needs to be tolerated, in other words, not when customers demand perfection. In a recent Harris Poll survey commissioned by Redpoint, 39 percent of consumers surveyed said they will not do business with any company – any company – that does not offer a personalized experience, or does not recognize them as a unique customer across touchpoints.
Apply Rules for Continuous Hyper-Precision
Instead of a list-based system, an operational CX platform that demands precision will instead pull a rule – a set of logic that defines an audience – which is applied to a campaign in place of a list and is evaluated at each point in the campaign where a list would normally be used.
Because the rule is evaluated at each inflection point, it guarantees the extract happens at the latest point possible, virtually eliminating staleness and ensuring a much higher level of precision even amid changing circumstances.
When a rules-based approach is coupled with an always-consolidated offer history, precision is a matter of course. The right audience is matched to the right communication (offer, message, content) every time, on any channel, inbound or outbound. A CX platform escapes the small-m ‘marketing’ yoke to become an intelligent edge, operational system that ensures precise engagement with people through every moment in time with exact data and an exact understanding of the customer.
Real-Time Data vs. Real-Time Decisions
There is no dearth of customer data platform (CDP) vendors that claim a real-time capability, but the important distinction is that, for many, real time is understood in the context of the database layer. They’re either referring to real-time data capture, which everyone can do, or they’re referring to a real-time data refresh on a channel-by-channel basis, with campaigns restricted to list-based processes. When a list is extracted from the database, any subsequent real-time data refresh has no bearing on the campaign. A real-time decision, then, is not based on the real-time data.
Hard real-time, by contrast, fulfills the millisecond-response times demanded by organizations that operate with no margin for error. Because customers now say they will not tolerate an inconsistent experience, that same level of accountability is becoming an expectation across industries.
The traditional acceptance of list-based platforms as being “good enough” for large-scale batch sending of direct mail or email communications is disappearing because it is now understood that they fall short in providing an omnichannel customer experience that dynamically alters every customer interaction based on a customer’s behavior at the precise moment of a journey.
The ability to separate messages from channels across the enterprise is the key to elevating a CX platform from just marketing-oriented considerations. It recognizes that in today’s always-on, dynamic customer journeys, a customer interacts across touchpoints that include non-traditional marketing channels (customer service, call center, returns, collections, etc.).
Transcend the Ordinary
Returning to the rock-climbing analogy, a roped-in, careful, plodding climb is akin to the “safety net” imposed by a list-based solution; ambition and innovation are stifled because you’re limited by a fixed route. Breaking free of those limitations with a rules-based system allows for the transcendence and creativity that Honnold displayed in his magical ascent. When excellence and perfection are possible, it’s no fun settling for a second-rate experience. Conversely, when you know every step you take is the right one, you can go places no one’s ever been.