In order to effectively address customers and retain them in the long term, a consistent customer experience is required. However, we found that such an experience is only available in very few cases. The respective processes, systems and interfaces are too different and the variety of human habits also contributes to this dilemma. A digital experience platform enriched with artificial intelligence could be the solution to the problem. Customer data from various sources, channels and touchpoints can be intelligently merges, evaluated and then used for an outstanding customer experience. Customers benefit from professional, precisely personalized services.
Until now, a consistent customer experience has failed for various reasons: On the one hand, the technology involved and processes along the customer journey are too heterogeneous to enable a consistent experience. On top of that, standard norms and guidelines for integrated end-to-end process chains are missing and - the customer himself, with his habits and preferences, often provides more reasons for a lack of consistency.
Customers like to act according to familiar patterns and interact with the company via various channels and touchpoints. These include telephone, e-mail, point-of-sale, web shop, online marketplace, newsletter, chat bots, Alexa or social media platforms. In this way, information is created at many different points in the company. The data is often managed in isolated silos and is difficult to put on a uniform basis. Furthermore, processes are often not organized across departments.
The following example shows how existing structures can hinder a consistent customer experience:
A retail company uses a newsletter to address its customers. The advertising department is responsible for sending the newsletter and for its content. Customers use their loyalty card when making purchases at the local stores, yet, the information about their purchasing behavior is not included in the newsletter and its personalization. The first problem is that the involved technology does not allow for data to be exchanged and enriched across systems via reliable interfaces. Another reason is the organisational structure itself: the loyalty department is responsible for the customer card. However, this department is not involved in the creation of the newsletter campaigns and has no access to the corresponding systems and data. Conversely, the findings from e-mail marketing do not find their way into the loyalty programme and cannot be used to optimize the customer loyalty program. As a result, valuable customer information remains untapped and the customer continues to receive general, non-personalised content in his newsletter.
The challenge is to overcome these hurdles, to consistently merge and mutually exchange data. This requires the ability to handle large amounts of data and to derive precise added value for the customer. A consistent strategy and clear guidelines for process organization and data management are required. Not only the knowledge about the customers is crucial, but also about the company's own processes and systems.
Also, compliance regulations such as the European Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) must be reliably observed. Clear data governance is therefore required. It must always be clear which information about the customer may actually be used and how this data is to be handled in a legally secure manner in individual cases.
In addition, a clean and consistent data basis is indispensable in order to draw important conclusions about customer-specific behaviour. This is the only way to increase transparency and achieve a 360-degree view of customer habits and preferences. In many companies, however, data silos, outdated systems and distributed responsibilities stand in the way of a holistic data strategy and thus a consistent customer experience.
A solution to the dilemma is to establish a Digital Experience Platform (DXP). It creates the necessary connection between the silos and links all data for the benefit of a consistent customer experience. The platform becomes the crystallization point when it comes to handling customer data and interactions. It functions as a holistic ecosystem that combines content, commerce and community with tools for automation and personalization.
Furthermore, a DXP has a feedback loop: Based on user interactions, the platform can react immediately and provide personalized content in real-time. The DXP is not an isolated individual solution, but is the corner stone of a complex, customer-centric system. Companies can use it to get to know their customer base better, to respond precisely to their needs and to create tailor-made offers.
In order to ensure this consistent customer experience, even long-established and proven organizational structures must be fundamentally rethought. A criticial success factor in the introduction of a DXP solution is the optimization of your own processes - a continuous end-to-end experience extends from the customer to the company's internal processes and systems. A DXP supports the successful dissolution of data and organizational silos in the company and the implementation of a holistic data strategy.
Another accelerator for the implementation of a consistent customer experience is artificial intelligence (AI). However, this is a sensitive topic with many customers. In order to comply with legal data protection requirements, customer consent is mandatory for personalized offers. People like to have full control over their data and expect a high level of transparency, especially when it comes to engaging AI technologies.
According to a representative study in Germany conducted by Statista in 2019, 77 percent of German citizens demand that AI applications have to be identifiable as such. The automated creation of texts also leads to uncertainty: While 43 percent consider AI messages to be credible, 57 percent have doubts. 54 percent even fear that developers could misuse AI for their own purposes.
The study shows that the use of AI leads to uncertainty among customers. It is therefore a top priority to gain their trust and secure it long term. A coherent data strategy can provide the framework for a company to handle the data in a DXP ecosystem in a trustworthy manner. In addition, marketing needs clear guidelines on how to personalize campaigns and those need to be enforced using the DXP. This also applies to the professional handling of customer data at all relevant touchpoints.
A consistent customer experience is essential for the long-term retention of satisfied customers. The right data strategy and the use of a digital experience platform help to take a decisive step towards this goal. In addition, the DXP forms the ideal basis for the integration of diverse AI solutions, which makes interaction with customers even more efficient.
This article was originally published in the Lünendonk® Magazine 2020, issue 05, "Künstliche Intelligenz".
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