Company vision and mission statements relating to customers often tend to be similar. They use the same phrases, and the meaning boils down to: “We want to put the customer at the center and offer him a positive customer experience.”
Excellent! But. This 1) is nothing new and 2) sounds almost too good to be true.
In practice, do companies define a “positive customer experience” in the same way as customers? Sometimes it seems that companies are only focusing on whether or not they are able to sell something to that customer, with the discussion centering around the “Next Best Offer" and the like. For me as a customer, however, a positive customer experience is one where a company shows that it has understood me and has taken care of me.
It is possible to bring these views together? And if so, how?
The key to customer experience
The relationship between business and customer cannot be an altruistic endeavor whose sole purpose is to provide consumers with a pleasant “customer experience”. Businesses, after all, must make money. So how can you create a positive customer experience but also make sure that companies benefit, for example, by strengthening customer loyalty?
I think the key to this is UNDERSTANDING. This is not a matter of a company “believing” that it knows what customers like, need, or want. It must use data to actually know and understand its customers. It can then start providing relevant communications, and so take care of its customers.
The discussion about customer experience currently involves far too many buzzwords. There are too many trends looking for a home, and therefore a link to interaction with customers. From Big Data, through Data Lakes and Data Oceans, to insights, the list is long and complex. A number of organizations also seem to have started at the wrong end of the story. I hear companies asking ‘What do I do with this [enter name of complicated technology]?’. Technology should be a means to solve a problem, not an end in itself.
Companies with a “customer mindset” do not simply bring together all sorts of data aimlessly in the hope that analytics and data mining can somehow provide useful findings. Instead, they collate all the relevant information to suit a use case or customer story and then draw the right conclusions from it.
There is a simple recipe for achieving this kind of outcome. First, you have to link all available internal data, and particularly customer history, with the events and triggers from the current customer situation. By also integrating some external information (for example, from social media, or geodata), you can get a very accurate picture of the situation and the specific context. And—ta dah!—customer understanding!
Customer understanding in practice
How does that look in practice? Let us use the example of Christmas shopping. You may recall that my Christmas shopping was (ahem) last minute, and that my bank saved me from disaster by providing a credit facility in real time. Examples of the type of data that might have been used in this interaction include:
- Geodata, to give an overview of where I made my purchases;
- Real-time events to show the purchases that I made, including their costs;
- Transaction data to provide information about my changed account balance; and
- Master data and history, to show that I am a loyal low-risk client, and therefore ideal for a short-term loan!
Bringing together these pieces of information enabled the bank’s algorithms to draw the right conclusions, offer me a short-term loan, and therefore save my Christmas. I conclude, naturally, that the bank really understands me. That is an example of both a positive customer experience, and a lucrative episode for the bank. How, though, in future, would the bank continue to capitalize on this understanding? That, I’m afraid, is a story for another day.
I will be talking about this subject at the SAS Forum Germany on 20–21 June 2018 in Bonn, in a presentation on “The unknown - how do I understand, take care of and control 20 million customers in 10 different channels at the same time?”. It would be great to meet you there!
This article was originally published in German on Mehr Wissen