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It’s nearly halfway through 2019, and companies have been abuzz about “delivering on customer experience” and “getting a unified view of our customer” for ages. And yet, few — if any — companies seem to be actually doing so.
What’s holding companies back? For the companies that are making progress, what are they doing right? Where can we expect to be in the next six months with regards to customer data and customer experience?
To answer some of these questions, we spoke with Angel Vaccaro, a Principal at Deloitte Digital. She has spent the last twenty years in consulting at Deloitte, and was one of the founders of the Deloitte Digital practice. She’s now the leader for the Deloitte Digital Experience services offering.
During her tenure there, she’s worked on digital and customer experience transformation for some of the world’s largest brands. While she’s worked across all industries, much of her experience has focused on consumer, product and retail.
We picked her brain on how companies are doing in the shift toward customer-centricity. We spoke about what’s holding companies back from delivering on customer experience, what steps leaders are taking to overcome those challenges, and where she thinks we’ll be in the next six months.
What’s holding companies back from delivering on customer experience?
Angel mentioned two primary obstacles: lack of access to data needed, and systems that don’t integrate properly.
1. “Many companies don’t even have access to the data they need to create personalized customer experiences” — The shift from third-parties to in-house
Over the years, many brands have outsourced work to agencies — one for email, one for social, one for media buying, etc. And at the time, those decisions made sense.
Now, however, Angel points out that “many companies are realizing that they don’t even have access to the data they need to create personalized customer experiences.”
Rather, we need to “enable and empower brands to do things for themselves.” Brands need to have transparency and control over the experiences they’re delivering.
And this means bringing work back from third-parties and instead, building in-house capabilities.
2. “Our systems and our data were never meant to talk to each other” — The challenge of brands who grew up before “digital-native”
Like people, some companies grew up in the era of “digital-native,” and some did not. For companies that were started in the digital era, they likely grew up with their customers at the center. Think Uber, Airbnb, etc. They intuited that experience should connect seamlessly across touchpoints. They started with that in mind.
The companies who struggle, however, are the larger, legacy brands.
Angel works closely with CMOs and CIOs of major brands every day. One comment she hears often is “Our systems and our data were never meant to talk to each other.”
For older brands, they’ve optimized systems in silos — the call center for the call center, the web for the web, and retail stores for retail stores. Those systems simply weren’t built to talk to each other.
And as Angel added, “they certainly were not meant to execute in real time.”
What steps are companies taking to overcome those challenges?
The next question naturally was, “So what do you say to them? How can legacy brands move past that?”
“To really get it right, you have to focus on the data first”
We cover a lot of marketing technology tools here at ClickZ, and we’re all aware there are thousands of them available. And Deloitte Digital works with or has partnerships with many of the big ones, such as Salesforce and Adobe.
But before we can talk about those tools, says Angel, we need to make sure we have our data straight:
“To really get it right, you have to focus on the data first. I can put the shiniest, prettiest, most real-time marketing tool in place. But if I don’t know that my customer just went to the retail store, or just called the call center, or just posted something negative on social media, and it’s one of my most valuable customers — if I don’t know these key data points about my customer, then what good is this beautiful, Rolls Royce-martech tool sitting in my driveway?”
Pick a specific customer journey, and understand what data elements drive that experience
Many marketers and leaders are quite familiar with “analysis paralysis” — seeing so many potential insights to uncover in your data that you don’t know how to begin.
According to Angel, it’s about really understanding what data elements drive the experience.
Yes, there are a million things you could track about a customer. But what ten can you pick now?
She advises to start by picking one specific journey. Let’s say someone wants to upgrade her phone, or needs a new pair of shoes.
What data elements in that experience would drive loyalty, retention, or an up-sell/cross-sell? Pick ten. Then start to build your integrated data hub / CDP.
“Don’t have open heart surgery with your data,” Angel says. “Just build an integrated CDP in your environment, in your cloud, wherever you have full access. Start bringing in core data elements. You can then expand them to the web, to the call center, etc. Start there, and move the needle on one or two customer journeys. See the benefit from a couple specific use cases. Then you’re building momentum, and you’re showing the entire organization the improvements you can make in the journey.”
All too often, people underestimate the impact even these small adjustments can have — and the reach of that impact.
Once you’ve looked at and improved one journey, expand from there. You can eventually bring in more data elements and more journeys. You can layer on third party data, analytics, machine learning, and other fancier things. But first, you have to get the basics right.
No one has this completely figured out
In general, many brands are aware of this need, but how far along are they in the process? We know that certain industries are more mature than others. Retail and financial services might be farther along than insurance, and B2C more mature than B2B.
“But,” Angel says, “no one has this completely figured it out. They get the premise, they get the vision, but they get stuck on, ‘where do I start?’”
For as much talk as there is, remarkably few companies are even advanced in understanding their customers.
“I want to talk to my clients about AI, flying cars,” Angel says. “And that’s what they want to talk about too. But then you get in a room with them and realize, ‘oh yeah, we don’t even have an integrated view of our customers.’ We have to go back to the basics. We have to start by getting an integrated view of your customer.”
“If you can’t get your data right, then a tool’s just a tool”
A lot of marketers want to rush into buying decisions around marketing technology, or perhaps they hope a new tool can solve underlying issues with their data.
“Look,” Angel says, “I believe in those tools — they’re our partners. But if you can’t get your data right, then a tool’s just a tool.”
For many marketers, this becomes an exercise in developing the discipline and rigor to follow the steps of “pick a journey, measure it, scale it, and then continue.”
Angel points out that another issue can be around breaking down organizational boundaries. Sometimes obstacles to change come not from the data and technology, but rather from the people and processes. A CMO might say, “I have to get data from the CIO, from the call center, from X team, and that will take me six months.”
“Most clients already have too many tools”
And of course, another challenge for marketers everywhere is how to navigate through the overload of tools already in their tech stack. “Most clients already have too many tools,” Angel says. And many of them go unused.
How can marketers do a better job of evaluating their tech stacks? Again, it comes back to picking a customer journey and solving for it. Of course, you can have architecture reviews and other analyses happening at the same time. But when it comes to customer experience, it’s about thinking through each journey from the customer’s perspective.
Angel gave the example of one company who had a subscription service, and offered a calculator for users to see what their new rate would be by adding or subtracting certain pieces of the service. The problem, however, was that dependent on if you did that calculation in a store, on the website, or via phone, you got three different answers. Each team had built its own calculator. Not only was the company increasing its own internal tech costs, it was creating a terrible customer experience.
“Pick one problem like that,” Angel says. “Pick a journey — from a customer lens — and solve that.”
Where will we be in the next six months as far as customer experience?
As we’ve discussed, many companies are aware of the importance of delivering on customer experience, but struggle turning that into reality. How much will that change in the next six months?
“For the most part,” Angel says, “people are excited by the opportunities they see out there to really win on customer experience. If you do the research and see the data, there’s so much upside. They’re seeing that they can do this — they have to do this. And in some cases, they know how to do it. It’s the execution they continue to struggle with. But over the next six months, we’ll see more brands take on these capabilities in-house.
“You have to really believe that creating an optimized experience for customers is going to help you win in the market. Everyone says that and knows that, but when getting down to the financials, the devil’s in the details. You have to take that jump, as the leadership team. Maybe I don’t know if it will lift my revenue 20% or 25%, but I know it will have significant impact.”
What do you think is holding companies back from delivering on customer experience, and how much progress do you think will be made in the next six months? Leave a comment below!