Removing Friction: Key to Personalizing the Customer Journey

The question we have to ask ourselves is: who’s fighting for the overall customer experience?

Today we constantly see the importance of customer experience and personalization at the top of CMOs’ agendas; yet I am stunned by our lack of progress. In a recent study conducted by Pega and the CMO Council, Predicting Routes to Revenue, less than three percent of CMOs reported feeling comfortable with their impact on maximizing the lifetime value of the customer. A further 45 percent of CMOs said they are challenged by not having the tools and capabilities to determine customer value, which limits their ability to make proper business decisions.

Given advances in technology over the past decade, why are we still struggling to drive better customer journeys? In my experience, there are three major obstacles organizations face when trying to crack the customer centric code:

  1. Organizations are missing data and are not prioritizing their assets to get the most complete view of the customer, resulting in a failure to have a 360 degree view of all historical customer interactions in one central place. Data usually falls into silos, like campaigns or customer service, but is rarely integrated to further provide customer context.
  2. Organizations lack integration across their legacy technology systems, which prevents them from delivering an end-to-end customer journey. It is no longer enough to just link data; process, business rules, and workflow must also be end-to-end.
  3. Organizations lack an ethos or culture to put the customer first. Employee incentives are not tied to the behaviors needed to drive better customer experience. Marketing organizations have typically been set up with a channels focus like web or email, where the channel is the primary consideration for optimization. Another example is the product centric structure, in which product groups compete for customer attention. These constructs make it difficult to prioritize the customer’s needs first.

The question we have to ask ourselves is: who’s fighting for the overall customer experience? Who’s prioritizing the removal of friction across their journey? We are all overwhelmed by the magnitude of channel fragmentation, but we must consider how our customers want to buy. Our role of pushing communications out has changed to enabling customer buying -- the most significant change in marketing in 50 plus years. Enabling buying has changed the dynamics of our relationship with the customer. Customers are in the driver’s seat, and we need to listen and respond quickly or they’ll be gone.

We all know what it’s like to have a bad experience with a brand: you talk to their call center and then minutes later, you get pummeled by yet another offer. Or, you buy a product and minutes later receive an ad for the same product. These disconnected experiences tell customers we don’t care about them and should not be tolerated. We cannot continue to follow our customers around the internet like prey and target them with irrelevant offers. We must re-think their journeys from end to end, break down silos, share context, and remove friction.

Re-imagining the data asset

Over the last few years, there haven’t been many presentations that don’t include the term “big data.” Today, the question is not about collecting data (we have plenty) but how we make that data actionable. The survey, Predicting Routes to Revenues, highlights that 80 percent of marketers say their data doesn’t allow them to predict the next best action for their customer.

The data challenge must be driven by two tenants: 1) collect the right data and 2) make it actionable. Data quality is critical to the process of personalization. Companies need data architects from the business (marketing) that can prioritize the right data from the right systems. It is no longer a volume game but a quality measure that will drive success. The trickier part is making the data actionable, which usually includes the ability to do it in real-time. In fact, we are seeing more and more micro moments of truth, where the brand-customer relationship could be enhanced, but often isn’t because the data is not actionable. Customers have numerous options today, which means if you aren’t listening and acting, you’ll lose them. Omni-channel is critical in delivering personalization. The customer wants what they want, when they want it, the way they want it. We can’t hope they come to our preferred channel; we must go to theirs.

Competitive advantage from end-to-end journeys

For customers, it is no longer about an offer but an experience from the moment we engage to the delivery of products and beyond. McKinsey’s famous consumer decision journey illustrates the continuous journey customers are on. As seen in our survey with the CMO Council, 61 percent of marketers are actively working on connecting fragmented campaigns into complete journeys across their respective organizations. This starts with data but re-orchestrates critical customer processes, rules, and workflows that are needed to deliver the best customer journey. As stated by Jim Bush, EVP of World Service at American Express, “Service is no longer a silo but horizontal at American Express.” I particularly love Jim’s quote as it indicates how important the customer is to all functions, departments, and employees at American Express. This is why they continue to be a pre-eminent brand where service is a competitive differentiator.

Ethos for customer centricity

As Pega’s CMO, I embrace the ideologies of Jim Bush and others: a customer-first culture permeates throughout my organization and company. My goal is to design and empower the journey from the customer’s point of view, while removing friction across all stages. Here are three principles I try to follow:

  1. Listen – Use the data and tools we have to hear what the customer is saying about our content and experience. We strive to use data to optimize and amplify our engagement.
  2. Content forms factors – The way we’ve consumed content over the past few years has changed dramatically, and we need to push ourselves to think about the impact of mobile and video. For example, my team has been producing hundreds of videos from customer stories to white board sessions that explain more technical concepts.
  3. Test and learn – One constant in our world today is change. We must learn, adapt, and try new things while encouraging our teams to do so. This is a new approach we all need to embrace.

There has never been a more exciting time to be in marketing. We have an opportunity to transform and personalize our customers’ journeys, but more importantly transform our companies from product pushers to customer ambassadors. The time for us to act is now.