The pandemic impacted behaviors and the way we engage with the business. And its impact on customer experience (CX) has been nothing less than colossal.
The pandemic years gave us a taste of what’s possible (and not possible) in a digital-only world. It also set a new benchmark for experience based on digital engagements with a brand.
As we move to a new post-pandemic era, the idea of customer experience is changing again. Customers are now more digital savvy, happy to start their journey researching using their mobiles and websites before buying in-store and demand a seamless experience across channels — not just digital.
Clifford Patrao, senior partner and customer transformation service lead from IBM Consulting Asia Pacific, called it the era of hybrid CX at the recent IBM webinar “Secret to a design-led, data-driven CX: A CMO and CDO perspective.”
The digital-physical makeover
The old and proven marketing methods had to change during the pandemic lockdowns. People became tethered to the internet via their personal devices, and many learned to be digital-savvy for business and work survival.
This, in turn, has changed the way they look at CX. During his keynote presentation at the webinar, Patrao concluded that, for example, hybrid shopping was here to stay, requiring CMOs to reimagine their CX.
He discussed how companies are hard-pressed to find new ways to lure, attract and retain increasingly finicky customers who have options a swipe away and are constantly changing their habits.
However, Patrao warned that digitalization added another challenge: it increased complexity. He advised companies to tackle complexity right up front at the strategy stage and impact overall flexibility and business agility.
Putting data front and center
A significant challenge with digitalization is that data has become a CMO problem.
In the past, CMOs mined their data stores for new insights. They were seldom worried about data flows, dataops, and governance.
Now, with data privacy becoming stringent and data sharing more urgent, CMOs need to work closely with the data organization within the company. Instead of focusing on just insights, participants at the webinar called for CMOs need to be outcome-minded.
To achieve this, Patrao called for companies to work together on data-related issues instead of approaching them in a departmental or piecemeal fashion. He urged companies to tackle data security, governance, and privacy upfront and prepare their data stewards and users accordingly.
Companies are also leveraging the power of platforms to drive CX at scale, leveraging the power of design and data. Leaders are clearly defining their platform strategy, designing a human-centric experience, leveraging AI for personalisation and aligning their talent and organisation to drive innovation and intelligence.
The upside to solving all these challenges together is there will be increased revenues. Patrao cited the latest IBV study that started a 6% revenue payoff.
Enabling out-of-the-box thinking
Two panel sessions showed how CMOs went beyond traditional marketing as they finetuned their formula for hybrid CX.
For example, one traditional paint manufacturer worked closely with startups, taking a digital-first approach. The lessons gained from the engagement offered the marketing teams innovative ways to reach their client base.
This is a valuable lesson as the pandemic offered an opportunity for many traditional companies to build direct-to-customer strategies that diversify their revenue base, build business resilience, and create deeper customer relationships.
Property developers are now looking to various data-driven business models to engage customers in what is a major buying decision. Some banks who have gone through a massive data and digital transformation exercise noted that they benefited greatly from the digital-first approach and have well-established training and governance programs focused on managing data across the organisation.
However, Patrao noted that all these efforts require strong feedback loops across the organization. And these loops should extend to the product teams, so changes and shifts in behaviors can be analyzed and addressed quickly.
Some of the participants also highlighted the need to relook at organizational structures and collaboration mechanisms. Data sharing, which digitalization depends on, needed a breakdown of silos.
Before this could happen, Patrao shared that the use case and ROI for data sharing should be clear for the business users. Equally important was for the company to train everyone to be responsible data users.
Understanding the ecosystem effect
The uncomfortable truth is that digitalization and hybrid CX cannot be done alone. It is why Patrao advised CMOs to not just look for solutions but gauge the strength of the partner networks when they assess solution providers for their hybrid CX vision.
The partnership strength plays a crucial role as every digitalization journey is unique. A robust ecosystem can help companies overcome unique challenges and learn from similar projects and initiatives across different industries.
Getting the best out of the ecosystem requires clarity of vision and a definition of ROI. These require focused efforts on value-delivering initiatives in a timely manner.
Partnering also addresses talent scarcity, which tends to hobble many digitalization projects, said Patrao. By upskilling our workers and working with talent from solution providers, CMOs are building a competent team with the ability to address business complexities and ever-changing customer needs.
Such a knowledge base becomes important as companies redefine their CX in an era where the borders between digital and physical are becoming blurred.
Winston Thomas is the editor-in-chief of CDOTrends and DigitalWorkforceTrends. He’s a singularity believer, a blockchain enthusiast, and believes we already live in a metaverse. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/Philippe Degroote