What is customer-centricity? According to the Gartner marketing glossary, customer-centricity is an ability of an organization to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations. It “demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services, and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.”
Conceptually, customer-centric is easy to comprehend. “We put the customer first” has been a tagline for as long brands have interacted with customers. But, as the Gartner account makes clear, customer-centricity is more than ascribing importance to the customer. It encapsulates an overarching enterprise mindset in which data, people, processes, and technology are all organized around the customer.
This blog will examine why customer-centricity is a priority, look at some of the key challenges organizations face in transitioning to a customer-centric approach, break down steps to becoming customer-centric, and finally touch on the benefits that result from an organization having a deep, personal understanding of an individual customer and leveraging that knowledge to deliver an omnichannel customer experience, at scale.
Customer-Centricity Translates to Customer Loyalty
To understand why brands are pivoting to a customer-centricity approach, consider the findings from a 2021 Harris Poll survey commissioned by Redpoint, where 82 percent of consumers said they are loyal to brands that demonstrate a thorough understanding of them as a unique customer.
Consumers equate a thorough understanding with a brand recognizing them as the same customer across all channels, and knowing their preferences and behaviors on an individual level vs. those of another customer. Customers want to feel valued beyond a transactional basis.
Value that reflects an individual understanding of a customer stems from a personalized customer experience. Irrespective of channel, every interaction must be in the cadence of a unique customer journey, relevant to the customer’s situation the moment of engagement. In the Harris Poll survey, 65 percent of consumers agree that personalization now meets the threshold of a standard service.
Consequences for failing to meet consumer expectations are stark; 39 percent of consumers surveyed said they will not do business with a company that fails to provide a personalized experience.
Customer-Centricity Transcends Marketing
The expectation for a personalized CX is not restricted to a marketing/advertising use case. True customer-centricity that makes a customer feel valued as an individual encompasses any possible way a customer interacts with an organization, from service and sales to the call center or collections. The type of personalized CX that drives loyalty – and revenue – requires consistency across any channel or department; from the customer’s point of view, it is as if the brand is speaking to them with one voice.
The challenge for many organizations in making the transition to becoming customer-centric is that operationally they are not set up to support consistent interactions with a customer across the enterprise. It’s one thing to say the customer comes first, but when people, processes and channels are organized around a product or service it’s difficult to pull it off successfully. A true customer-centric approach transcends not only product, but the context with which a customer interacts with the brand.
How organizations measure the success of CX initiatives is telling for whether they’re on the path toward becoming customer-centric. Channel-specific or department-specific metrics may reveal the success of an email campaign, for example, or whether a direct mail team is producing effective content, but those successes are not tied to their influence across an entire customer journey.
An email team awarded bonuses on open rates, for example, is not incented to enhance a customer journey after the email is opened. In addition, the team is likely not provided with customer data not directly related to its channel of interest, which might be helpful in deepening the customer relationship with more relevant emails.
Customer Centricity and Perfected Data
Inferior data quality is another barrier preventing companies from becoming customer-centric. Inaccurate and/or outdated data is perhaps the biggest impediment keeping brands from moving in the cadence of a customer journey. From an accuracy standpoint, the simple truth is that if you don’t know who your customer is – or the dynamics of a customer relationship in a household or B2B setting – consistent relevance is virtually impossible. Reconciling a customer’s identity across all devices, data sources, social, IoT, etc., gives a brand the confidence to make bold decisions on behalf of the customer, certain that a next-best action is directed to the right audience – an audience of one.
Brands that struggle with customer-centricity because of subpar data quality will often hedge their bets, sending blanket offers or other content that cast a wide net. The trade-off is that communications are likely not relevant to the majority of customers on the receiving end of the content, nor in the context of an individual journey. The same holds true for inbound communications; if an inbound caller could be John A. Smith, Jonathan A. Smyth or another close variation, an agent will not be primed to deliver a next-best action at the outset of the call.
Outdated data presents similar challenges to becoming customer-centric. If just prior to dialing the call center John Smith had gone onto his bank’s mobile app to fill out a mortgage loan application, that behavior is probably the reason for the call. But an agent, likely without real-time data from the mobile app, will probably have to ask probing questions to secure information the customer has already provided.
That is just one example among many possibilities for introducing friction into a customer journey when there is a lack of integration between two or more channels, or a lack of real-time data updates. Just as with inaccurate data, it creates the same hesitance from business users of customer data to make bold decisions; real-time visibility into an omnichannel customer journey is a necessity to deliver a hyper-personalized CX in the cadence of an individual journey.
Customer Centricity and an Omnichannel CX Platform
Knowing that siloed data and channels, operational constraints, inferior data quality and outdated data are the culprits preventing customer-centricity, the solution to making the transition becomes obvious.
Companies serious about customer-centricity must organize people, processes, channels, and technology around the customer. An omnichannel customer experience platform provides business users of customer data with the single point of operational control that is needed to act as one brain – one voice – on behalf of a customer.
An omnichannel CX platform such as rg1 orients data, insight, and action around an individual customer. The customer – not a product or service – is at the core of every decision. Communication is aligned with any channel; a cross-channel awareness encompasses every stage of an entire customer journey lifecycle.
Having all customer data – from every source and of every type – in one platform is a foundational requirement that allows organizations to eliminate the data siloes that prevent customer-centricity. Most customer data platforms promise that functionality, but what separates many vendors from offering what can truly be called an omnichannel customer experience platform is the ability to perfect data within milliseconds of data ingestion.
Advanced identity resolution capabilities that include probabilistic and deterministic matching, performed the moment of data capture, helps ensure that business users of the data are communicating with the right person, household, or business entity. A unified customer profile, or golden record, must include real time updates and both a long-tail transactional record and a complete set of unique identifiers. A physical address, email address, name and other traditional customer associations is combined with devices, IP addresses, household information, social footprint and any other identifier to provide a complete profile that users can trust lets them know everything there is to know about a customer.
Creating a golden record is a vital component of becoming a customer-centric organization. Data integration alone – simply combining data from any number of sources – is not the same as creating an unassailable, real-time customer profile that is accessible to any user who needs it at the precise moment it is needed. Immediate access to a real-time record is the key to being relevant to a customer’s unique situation as the customer moves through a customer journey.
Automated machine learning (AML) and a real-time decisioning platform are key components of an omnichannel customer platform that allow marketers and business users to deliver a next-best action for a customer at scale. With AML as a component of the platform, in-line, self-training models enable users to test and run an endless number of models to allow for audience segmentation at a granular level. The models determine the optimal result based on whatever metric a business user is chasing, and a real-time decisioning engine calculates a next-best action for an individual customer the moment of interaction.
Rules, Not Lists, for a True Customer-Centric Approach
Another key component of a customer-centric approach is that a next-best action is not confined by channel. An ability to separate messages from channels across the enterprise, dynamically and in real time, is what allows an omnichannel CX platform to deliver an experience that transcends context. In this way, a customer interacting with a brand through, say, a returns process will have an experience consistent with the experience the customer has online or in-store.
The ability to respond dynamically in the cadence of a customer journey requires that an omnichannel CX platform follow a rules-based rather than a list-based approach for generating messages, offers, and communications. In the latter, once a list is created and extracted it is separated from updates and thus becomes static, prone to decay. Any change in circumstance is not reflected in the list, meaning unless a new condition is defined prior to extract, a list will not accurately reflect the change. Customers impacted by the change will then receive a message or offer that is not up-to-date with their customer journey.
A rules-based platform, by contrast, uses a set of logic that defines an audience and is evaluated at every point of a campaign where a list would normally be used. This guarantees an extract happens at the latest point possible, ensuring a much higher level of precision and relevance regardless of changing circumstances.
Used in conjunction with a golden record, a rules-based approach ensures that the right audience or customer is always matched to the right communication – inbound, outbound, any channel, any time, every time. An OCX platform ensures precise engagement through every moment in time, with exact data and an exact understanding of a customer.
Customer-Centricity: More than a Slogan
A customer-centric approach is welcomed and rewarded by customers. In the Harris Poll cited above, consumers ranked omnichannel consistency as the most important dimension of customer experience, up from the No. 2 spot in 2019. And about one-third (31 percent) of consumers surveyed said that a brand’s failure to recognize them as the same customer across devices will make it less likely for them to do business with a brand.
A recent McKinsey study on the value of getting personalization right suggests that companies that excel at personalization will generate 40 percent more revenue just from personalization efforts than their peers, and that organizations that shift into the top quartile performance in personalization would generate over $1 trillion in value across US industries.
“We put the customer first” is not just a catchy, nebulous slogan that brands use to declare affinity for a customer. Rather, it is an attitude backed by processes and technology that put action behind the words. A customer-centric approach that puts the customer at the center of every interaction, in the precise cadence of an individual customer journey, manifests itself through a consistently hyper-personalized experience. Customers on the receiving end of such an experience feel valued and understood, which translates into customer loyalty.
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