The CX Conductor

Reply Practice - Digital Experience

Deliberations on conducting the complex Symphony of a Compelling Customer Experience.

The marketing monolog is dead

Today, companies and brands will only survive if, instead of sending messages, they focus on a holistic customer experience – and thus on an increasingly complex discipline. Because before a customer makes a purchase, they change devices several times and often visit up to 20 touchpoints. Most of these are based on various technologies that the CX conductor has to master. To ensure a tailored customer experience, the conductor must not lose sight of the mutual interplay of the channel interactions: The experience generated at the last touchpoint used ultimately influences expectations of the next.

Let's listen to all four movements of a customer experience symphony to understand the interplay of all the components needed to attract and retain customers in the long term with exceptional experiences.

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1st movement: The Trio of Data, Creativity and Empathy

As lifestyles and behavior become increasingly fragmented, marketers have to ask themselves which methods are available to them to continuously obtain genuine and, above all, up-to-date customer insights. According to data from the Global Web Index, the average Internet user spends about six hours a day with Internet-enabled devices and services. This corresponds to about one third of their waking hours. So what could be more obvious than to make the digital traces they leave behind the starting point of every approach?

Smart tools combine live data from freely available sources and social media analyses with company-specific data and also help to create detailed and accurate personas. They can find out in detail which trends are emerging and whether the competition has already identified them. 

Through their wording, tonality, length and syntax, online comments and search terms offer invaluable insights into what customers really think and expect from a brand. These insights can be gained, tracked and analyzed in real time using advanced AI-based technologies such as Natural Language Processing (NLP). And above all, it can be established very quickly whether a strategy is working and, if in doubt, a more successful version rolled out.

If you are now inclined to get rid of your creative employees as quickly as possible and let the data scientists call the tune, you would be well advised to leave well alone. Although data and AI or machine learning can be used to create faster and more accurate briefings for agencies and to control measures more effectively, being able to empathize with the consumers' emotions and create outstanding campaigns and drives remains the core competence of creative people. And if data scientists and creative minds work well together in the big CX orchestra, they will be all the more able to create truly relevant experiences.

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2nd movement: Finding the right Rhythm for the Customer Journey

The second movement deals with the decision as to when exactly and in which channel impulses must be given in order to arouse interest in the product and brand and to determine whether "piano" or "forte" should be played here. This requires careful investigation of the customer journey – a demanding challenge. There are still many simplified linear representations that were ultimately created on the basis of non-data-supported assumptions from the company's perspective, in the mistaken belief that the consumer has nothing better to do than to deal extensively with the company's products or services at touchpoints controlled by the company, in order to then endeavor purposefully to conclude the sale. 

A good customer journey also includes encounters and experiences that the consumer has had, for example, during a delivery or in connection with the use of the product, or even which experiences they share via social media or other channels. And to top it all off, not all customers embark on the same journey.

Because the topic is so complex, the mapping of customer journeys is laborious and can initially only be a hypothesis. Data can and must be used to check and evaluate whether the measures introduced during the journey ultimately work and to optimize them accordingly. The problem is that these are often present in different silos or are incomplete. The CX conductor therefore has the difficult task of not only understanding the customer journey, but also, and above all, of ensuring that the data is measured at the critical points and merged on an ongoing basis. This already presents them with the next challenge: To gain a comprehensive view, the data of as many touchpoints as possible must be taken into account and these are often extremely unstructured. Web analytics are still a finger exercise, but must be combined with data from customer service, social media and live events to name but a few.

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3rd movement: Never miss a Beat with Data Management Platforms and Predictive Analytics

In order to be truly customer centric, the CX conductor cannot avoid a central data management platform (DMP). By DMP we mean the consolidation of data from classic CRM systems, which traditionally focus strongly on existing customers and transaction-oriented interactions, with all other customer journey and business intelligence data – on a platform that, as a single point of truth, gives all departments a comprehensive view of the customer. So far, such solutions have rarely been available off the shelf.

Even the most experienced marketers may lose themselves in the complexity of data, channels and touchpoints, and traditional methods soon reach their limits during analysis. By means of Smart Data Visualization, which uses dashboards to directly aggregate relevant information and display it in a way that is easy to understand according to an employee's role, decisions can be made faster and more effectively. Whether it's changing fields of interest that have to be adopted in content marketing or the sales prediction for a beverage manufacturer when the weather improves and a major event is taking place near its sales outlets at the same time – well visualized fields of action can be captured much more quickly and implemented in campaigns. 

With the help of artificial intelligence, patterns can be identified in the various customer journeys and historical data can be used to forecast future events. For example, which behavior precedes a contract termination, or whether a certain click behavior of people who came to a page via a certain search result is more likely to lead to a sale. With this knowledge, employees can then try to improve the customer experience before problems arise or reinforce an existing purchase intention.

And it is always important not to miss the next cue: The focus in relation to channels and points of contact with customers is shifting, new points of contact are being created, other touchpoints may become less important, AI support is developing rapidly. DMP and data strategy must therefore be transformed into a common and continuous evolutionary process in order to deepen customer relationships, increase customer loyalty and identify new opportunities. 

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4th movement: Digital Experience Platform – The individual Parts become a Whole

The 4th movement is the Digital Experience Platform (DXP). And it is here that they all come together, every single movement of the symphony, the bars and individual parts. The Digital Experience Platform is the main interface to the customer and enables marketing to reach customers contextually and at the right time – and, in times of digitization, of course in many cases already automated, so as not to have to do without a high degree of personalization.

Such platforms often started as content management or shop systems with which content was managed. Today, DXPs often take an omnichannel approach that serves multiple touchpoints and channels, ranging from social media and content marketing platforms to automated mail campaigns, eCommerce software and apps, or service centers. In addition, they increasingly support the integration of adjacent target groups such as partners, suppliers and franchisees. This is very helpful because a complete digital transformation strategy encompasses all stakeholders who play an important role in supporting an exceptional customer experience. 

What is important is that the chosen solution must offer great drive in order to enable the customer experience conductor to act or initiate actions at the right time in the right place – for example, to reach out to customers via e-mail and messenger when the product that is right for them is just coming onto the market, to correctly prioritize their online service request and to answer it taking into account previous service contacts, or to feature hiking boots in the online shop immediately after the customer posted an account of their last mountain tour on Facebook.

To maintain the visual consistency of the brand across all measures, another important function of DXP is design management. This means that, starting from a central library, the so-called pattern library, design can be consistently controlled on all digital channels. A design management system also automates certain software development processes, such as parts of frontend development, and facilitates the integration of several creative and development service providers.

It will be exciting to see which DXP will be able to integrate voice interfaces and messengers such as Whatsapp intelligently – because this will lead to a much more personal dialog with the consumer in future. ­­

Da Capo al Fine – With Authenticity to a harmonious overall Experience

It is not enough to unleash outstanding and flawlessly implemented IT solutions on people at every point of contact. It is still about building on meaningfulness and authenticity. According to studies, the majority of consumers meanwhile find it important to be able to classify a brand as "authentic" when making a purchase decision. A well-formed sound only reaches the customers' ears if the communication addressed to them is based on data with a decent portion of empathy, inventiveness and a sense or authenticity. 

Because even in the best symphony orchestra it can happen that somebody hits the wrong note – and so a customer journey may not always be plain sailing, as the transition from one touchpoint to the next may not always be seamless. But if the conductor has well understood the complete work in its original meaning and conducts the entire orchestra in this sense, it is not the occasional dour note that will be remembered, but the exceptional overall result.