I have a confession: I always disregard retail ads, catalogs, e-mails, and calls. Always. I love to go shopping; I just refuse to be told what to buy and when to buy it – every single day. And I have a feeling that I am not in the minority either.

When traditional methods no longer work, how engaged customer experiencecan marketers and sales reps fully engage with their customers? During one of the discussions from the Future of Customer Engagement Forum at SAPPHIRE NOW, Brian Walker, Chief Strategy Office at hybris, and Andrew Pickersgill, Director of McKinsey, provided their perspectives on how companies can clean up their foundational approach to the customer experience and build lasting loyalty.

Personalized, easy, and productive: A buying journey customers want and expect

No longer can companies simply send a blast e-mail to communicate with customers. All of us are constantly bombarded by hundreds of promotions, e-mails, advertisements, images, and texts every day. And we tend to block, trash, or blatantly disregard communications that do not reflect our interests and needs. Walker commented, “What’s the point? It’s just noise. Our brains are trained to ignore them because they’re not relevant nor contextual.”

Unfortunately, most companies build interactions with customers in a siloed approach. Whether you’re talking about marketing planning, tracking of the customer experience, and data management, most companies do not integrate these information and activities. Customers are constantly asked to tell sales reps about their personal information, history, membership ID, and more. And for the poor customer, this only brings frustration and a sense that they are not fully understood by the people taking their hard-earned money.

Walker noted, “Even if the company knows where and who the customer is at any given moment through geolocation and customer recognition, there are so many barriers being placed in front of the customer in terms of delivering relevant, consistent, and contextual experiences. The underlying data about customers needs to be consistent and then delivered in a contextual way.”

Customers want their buying journey to be as personalized, easy, and productive as possible – during every interaction. If companies continue to operate on disjointed foundational systems and business activities and show limited understanding about customer profiles, wants, and needs, they will never be able to provide the customer that experience.

4 best practices for being an active part of every customer’s buying journey

As customer expectations and preferences change, so should marketing’s approach to customer engagement. Simply put, companies need to be receptive and responsive. To tackle this challenge, they need to become great analytical marketers. Pickersgill advised, “Being receptive and responsive is hard to do – but those that get better at it have a lasting advantage.”

According to his research, Pickersgill shared the top four best practices used by companies that are successful at being receptive and responsive:

  1. Get the data house in order. Most companies are aware that it’s worthwhile to have one customer data mart with unique customer identifiers that provides a full view of every customer. However, there’s a missing opportunity – very few companies mine behavioral touch points data that exist in Web interaction log files, call-center IVRs, and nondigitized sales interactions. When integrated into the customer data mart and linked to other channels, this information can potentially change how the customer is viewed and intelligence is used to influence the customer’s buying decision.
  1. Arm all channels with analytics to make smarter decisions. Once this intelligence is delivered to the front lines, the channel is ready to respond to customers who are ready to purchase. Plus, this information can serve as an engine that recommends what should be offered to the customer. But for this technology to be widely adopted by sales and call-center reps, the tools need to be clearly tied to the customer interaction at the moment, provide basic guidance on suggested offers, and give reps the freedom to guide the interaction in a manner that’s meaningful and productive for the customer.
  1. Apply new metrics and measurement. In the past, the traditional marketing calendar and funnel were very compelling because they had very simple metrics attached to them. Nowadays, marketers must understand and measure how engagement relates to the overall lifetime value of each customer. And instead of measuring campaign ROI, marketers are analyzing the ROI of every touch point.
  1. Acquire different talent. As companies depend more on data analysis, translators are needed to bring analytical insights to the front line in a way that’s easy to understand and actionable. These uniquely talented professionals not only know the science of data, but they can also combine finance, statistics, marketing, and emotional intelligence principles to provide a full view of what’s happening in every customer’s world.

Bottom line

Don’t be fooled – providing superior customer experience is not just about data, analytics, and technology. Those are just the tools for putting the customer at the heart of every business decision, marketing campaign, sales interaction, and service call. If everyone involved in the buying journey is receptive and responsive to customer desires and behaviors, customers will become loyal advocates of the brand.