The fundamental rules of business have changed. The digital revolution allows us to easily access a broader set of services and communicate without boundaries. We demand more and better choices in a competitive market with largely commoditized offerings, putting pressure on businesses to catch up with our expectations. If a business is on top of its game, and we are happy with the value received, we come back and share the greatness of the experience with others we know. The business grows in revenue, brand name, and achieves a strong competitive advantage. Those that cannot keep up are exposed, and then they lose market share.
Because of the strong and long-lasting impact on the business, customer experience has been one of the top focus areas for CIOs in recent years. Knowing that it is a key differentiator, businesses look for ways to make the experience they offer to customers as simple, consistent and relevant as possible as they move throughout the customer lifecycle, from researching and buying to owning and recommending, and back again.
Technology is a key enabler for providing a superb customer experience. To create value across the whole lifecycle, businesses need to integrate and analyze customer and operational data across departments, and use the resulting insight in every decision affecting customers. Using data integration, data quality and Master Data Management (MDM), businesses gain a complete and trusted view of the customer. On top of this foundation, they can leverage advanced analytics to make customer-driven decisions across each facet of the lifecycle.
There are two new trends that have transformed the way businesses assess and improve the customer experience: big data and “segment-of-one marketing”, i.e. personalization. This article will focus on how these two trends require the use of low-latency data in order to create the biggest impact on enhancing customer experience.
Customer Segmentation in the Era of Big Data
Customer segmentation has been used for decades to tailor products, services and promotions to drive higher customer satisfaction, but “big data” changed the game big time. Today businesses have access to enormous amounts of data with unprecedented breadth and depth such as customer interactions across channels, their behavior and their opinions. Businesses can analyze a broader variety of data and gain deeper insight into their customers and operations. In turn, this deeper insight helps align their business with their target market.
Look at sentiment analysis: it is used to mine opinions in online forums, surveys, blogs and social media, and the resulting information on customer intention gives an additional and critical dimension to identify opportunities with customers, improve service and manage company reputation. Lego, for example, uses social media and its website to learn about its customers’ needs. The feedback is used in its operations, as well as to connect with customers accordingly throughout the customer lifecycle.
Improving Customer Experience for the Segment of One
The ability to conduct deeper and more granular analysis allows companies to provide more personalized experiences, which leads to the second big trend in managing customer experience: segment-of-one marketing. Intense global competition, increased consumer expectations for maximized value and dynamically changing consumer behavior have resulted in customer segments shrinking from large groups to individuals.
We increasingly see this trend in our daily lives. When shopping online on Amazon.com or Overstock.com, we receive recommendations for related products based on browsing and purchasing history. These offers help us find our way in the big maze of online commerce. When the experience is completely optimized for the customer, it maximizes the value received and takes customer satisfaction to a new level not possible before. It brings repeat business and creates positive word of mouth, the most powerful marketing tool.
To build a loyal customer base businesses now employ big data, and strive to engage with each individual considering their unique circumstances. These data points include—but are not limited to— preferences, demographics, history with the company, current and past behavior and outstanding issues with the company. This notion brings more relevance to the day-to-day interactions with customers and enables them to get more value out of their engagement with the business.
Harnessing Big Data for Deeper Insight into Customers
To use big data to drive a better customer experience, businesses need to “know” the customer. They need to achieve a complete picture of the customer, which requires integrating data across disparate systems; from CRM to ERP, all contact points with the company, including the website and external data, such as comments on social media feeds. These sources can be internal systems with structured data, as well as unstructured or semi-structured data, from within and outside of the company. Data quality and MDM play a key role in building a complete and trusted view into the customers, too. Working with clean data is critical for successful segmentation, and even more critical when businesses engage with customers one-to-one.
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