The Critical Nature of Customer Relevance

"With today’s technology, relevance isn’t really a 'people' problem."

Customer engagement is a top priority for every organization—regardless of the industry, orientation, or ecosystem. If a business wants to generate positive experiences, every touch must be relevant—mapping directly to a customer’s unique needs and situation. Building that connection is about constantly listening and learning, adding value, and reading what’s implied—not just what’s explicitly stated.

This idea isn’t new. Everyone understands why relevance is important, but the real question is, what are organizations doing to make it happen? How are they building those connections? Where are they investing their resources? How are they assembling and applying data? How are they reading and reacting to customer behaviors?

Enter the Harvard Business Review’s recent study, “Pursuing Customer Relevance in the Digital Age.” Sponsored by Cognizant, the research is informed by in-depth interviews with 600+ executives, with the goal of understanding what “Best In Class” leaders do differently—by empowering their brands to stand out from the crowd and truly get noticed.

The Three Top Takeaways

  1. First, leaders in relevance believe they’ve mastered customer data management. As channels morph and expand, the data they generate grows exponentially. That information is critical to understanding customer needs and context. More than three-quarters of Best-in-Class organizations have a plan to manage customer data, map it to their data model, and prepare it for analytics.
  2. Second, these leaders also have the systems and expertise in place to create actionable intelligence from the data they’re managing. More than two-thirds of the leaders use external data sources (collected by 2nd or 3rd parties), in addition to internal sources (directly from customers)—then use predictive analytics and machine learning to isolate insights like product preferences, context, and journey states.
  3. Finally, leaders like American Express OPEN leverage those insights by identifying “moments that matter.” They constantly monitor each customer’s profile, then pro-actively reach out when given a window of opportunity. They focus on interacting when customers have critical needs, and are actively listening at times and places where they can truly add value.

With today’s technology, relevance isn’t really a “people” problem. Hiring can be beneficial, but no matter how many people you bring in, they’re still human—with finite limits. Alone, people can’t flex to meet the real-time demands of dozens of channels, millions of customers, and billions of yearly interactions… even for a short time. That’s why data and technology have become mission critical—and why Artificial Intelligence is such a hot topic.

To be relevant, you must apply intelligence at precise moments, and “know” all of your customers personally, wherever they choose to interact. That kind of scale can be daunting, and requires a complex marriage of data, analytics, and technology that we now refer to as AI… and even Best-In-Class organizations are only beginning to leverage AI’s potential value.

Whether your needs center around customer data management, real-time decision-making, AI technologies, or something similar, you can learn more by downloading the full HBR report.