It's all about that (customer) base
One of the greatest pitfalls we, as experienced practitioners, can have is to become too comfortable. Too comfortable in our skin and our functions because of the years we have spent building up our knowledge and be a subject matter expert in our fields.
We convince ourselves that we fear change and that we don’t like it, but change is constant, so we have to muddle along and try to fix the problems as they come. “Change” like new technology, new people, new needs of our customers - these are changes, so we must fear them.
I completely disagree.
What I’ve observed so far is that fear is the only constant; not change. Change brings about opportunities for us to break down barriers and enrich our existing knowledge.
Especially when it comes to understanding customer needs. Customers want more now; great! How can we do that? Customers want a personalized experience; sure! How do we get there? What does a ‘personalized experience’ mean? It means putting yourself in your customer's’ shoes, and that first step is to stop viewing the customer as an enemy to conquer or a battle to win.
Finger on the pulse of change
Knowing what customers need and want can start either way - inward conversations with customer-facing employees or outward conversations with key customer segments. Regardless of your approach when starting, it is critical to keep the conversation channels open and active, and to ensure that there is a confluence of both streams.
The next question to answer is, what do we do with all this intelligence gathered about our new and existing customers? Should this information only reside with Sales or should it be distilled through Marketing before funneling it back to respective stakeholders and functions?
Aberdeen Group highlighted the best practices in customer engagement and the use of data to make informed Customer Experience Management (CEM) decisions. The report emphasizes the importance of having a unified view of customer data as well as increased quality of data gathered.
The crux of our conversations lies not in how much data can be collected but how the interpretation of data motivates actionable decisions. But does that mean we guide all our decisions solely on data and miss out on the ‘E’ in CE?
Feelings versus Thoughts - Value of Experiences
Some of us are made for marketing, and some of us are made for sales. These elite ‘hunters’ and ‘gatherers’ of our organizations, most often than not, possess an innate ability to sniff out sales potential, even within the shortest periods of engagement.
While we can agree that many top sales people are naturally equipped with sales instinct ( Are top salespeople born or made?), other factors such as experience modeling with the combined use of customer data can bring more depth to the honing of sales skills.
Whether it is implicit data or explicit data collected about a customer, a salesperson can apply his or her past experiences with a customer to allude or present an assumption while approaching an opportunity.
To the point that made earlier - “Stop viewing the customer as an enemy to be conquered” - customers are every bit as human as we are, so sales and marketing need to combine data with experience to really understand how to deliver a personalized customer experience.
Fueling customer dialogues that are personal, relevant and meaningful
As a customer, I am spoilt with instant access to knowledge and insights for any buying decisions I need to make on a regular basis. I can even compare which taxi or car sharing service is cheaper at the precise moment of my booking. I confessed I’ve even walked an extra 1 KM away from where I was standing, just because it is $2 cheaper to call for a car at the nearest landmark instead.
Knowing what your customers do and gathering enough data about them will get you on the right track to start the personalisation journey. However, knowing what content to serve and refraining from being self-serving at the same time takes more discipline than we are willing to admit.
The good news is once you start on your “nurture-first” journey to provide meaningful information to your customers at the right time, coupled with a real intent to serve your customers well, they will respond more positively and when the time comes, remember you for their next purchase.
And with all the pre-work you’ve done before - setting up processes to align sales and marketing practices, capturing data along the way - will provide you with a richer data pool for your next executive debrief.
All these best-practices can be harrowing to think about, let alone put into practice. However, when things start to get tough, just remember that small steps can create huge ripples.