Next Best Action: How to align around a one-to-one vision

Mark Davies,

This is the second blog in a series that dives deeper into adopting a next-best-action approach.

In my earlier blog, we explained why next-best-action is a superior approach to customer engagement. But, to make it work, you need more than just the right technology. You need to understand how to change your business to take advantage of the power of AI and analytics. In this blog we explain how to develop the vision for your next-best-action program and then align your organization around it so you can put that AI and analytics to work.

Determine the starting point

At Pega we’ve been involved in more enterprise next-best-action implementations than any other organization, so we know what works well and what doesn’t. Two of the most important success factors are focus and prioritization. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have a big, ambitious vision. It means that you need to focus on a starting point and generate the data to create success.

Starting any new program seems daunting, but if you prioritize your goals and the steps it will take to reach those goals, then you’ll have a good starting point. Think about where you can get the quickest wins and what type of data you have to work with. Answers to these questions will help you map out your program. Based on our experience working with customers, a focus on the following four concepts is essential for building out a successful next-best-action program:

  • Follow the money: To start, pick a use case that has the potential to generate the biggest return as quickly as possible. Growth (upsell/cross-sell) or retention strategies are a natural starting point for most organizations, depending on the industry, because they typically generate the most value.
  • Inbound before outbound: A business may be managing a variety of channels, such as owned digital, agent-assisted, outbound, and paid. We recommend starting with inbound channels first. Why? Two reasons: First, we typically see the biggest uplift in inbound channels; and second, because these channels provide the highest amount of one-to-one behavioral data – data that can then be leveraged to fuel your outbound and/or paid next-best-action program.
  • Offers and actions are the foundation: We recommend demonstrating success with individual offers and actions before tackling the more advanced decisioning required for offer bundles, as individual offers are simpler to implement and require less change to user interfaces and agent training.
  • Start focused then scale the scope: The first phase will be laser-focused but it should show big value. Publicize it. Leverage it to get further stakeholder buy-in. Use it to justify the subsequent product phases. Continuing to prove value at each stage is key to driving the implementation across the organization. Your scope will inevitably scale as your solution drives real business value.

Gain stakeholder support

The most successful next-best-action implementations have support throughout the organization, with critical sponsorship coming from the C-suite. This executive buy-in is essential to ensure adequate resources from the departments that contribute to executing a next-best-action approach, which include:

  • Marketing: The marketing department is heavily involved with a next-best-action solution and often defines the organization’s customer-centric approach. Typically marketing produces the sponsor for the program and has overall responsibility for the revenue/margin delivered from a next-best-action initiative.
  • Channel Owners: An always-on, next-best-action approach can work across any channel and multiple channels concurrently, analyzing data and recommending the next steps to take or message to communicate thousands of times per day. Channel owners and their teams will be the users of the next-best-action application.
  • IT: The IT department plays a critical role in the planning, implementation, and operations for next-best-action engagement. They will be responsible for implementing technology changes to channel integration APIs, UI, data structures, and related data import and export processes.
  • Risk/Legal: Typically, this department is involved in defining the policies and rules to make sure that a next-best-action program does not expose the company to financial, legal, or reputational risk. For example, regulations around data usage and privacy, artificial intelligence, and contacting customers may be considerations depending on the region in which the enterprise is based.
  • Finance: Finance aids in developing business cases for new next-best-actions and tracks their performance. They also consume insight from the next-best-action application to help improve pricing.

Fulfil the vision

Executing a next-best-action program requires a subtle change in organizational behavior. In the traditional “product-centric” world people are rewarded for selling a specific product or family of products. This incentivizes them to push specific products, even if it is not the right thing for the customer or optimized for the organization.

In a customer-centric world the emphasis changes. The application is able to pick the action or offer that maximizes both customer interest and overall organizational benefit. But the solution can’t make that real if you don’t let it.

Companies that do best change the emphasis in the way that their employees are incentivized. They make sure that all employees, from execs to the front line, are aligned around customer experience.

In upcoming blogs we’ll continue to dive deeper into the changes that need to take place across people, processes, and technology for an organization to experience the incredible business benefits of a next-best-action engagement approach.

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Tags

  • Topic: Decision Management
  • Challenge: 1-to-1 Marketing
  • Product Area: Customer Decision Hub

About the Author

In his position as Pega’s Senior Director for Business Excellence, Mark Davies helps leading global organizations apply AI in innovate ways to engage more effectively with customers, increase revenue, and drive operational transformation.