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Empowerment, Enablement, and Excitement in the Future of Customer Experience

Technology of all kinds has changed marketing strategies in recent years. Products and services are no longer at the center of the sales approach – that spotlight now belongs to today’s empowered and connected customers. As a result, the science of engaging, delighting, and earning the loyalty of these customers has become more complex. To win them over, companies must understand everything about their customers – including what they like, how they shop, and how they like to interact.

This week’s episode “Future of the Empowered Marketer: Science of Customer Centricity” from The Future of Business with Game Changers, a special edition series of SAP Radio, focused on the science of customer-centric marketing and how empowered marketers can master it. The panel featured Gerry Brown, Senior Analyst of Customer Engagement and Marketing Technology at Ovum; John F. (Jeff) Tanner Jr., Professor of Marketing at Baylor University; David Raab, consultant and industry analyst at Raab Associates; and Michelle Cooper, VP of Marketing at SAP.

Winning companies adjust to fast-changing demand, social comments, aggressive competition, and media news

Gerry Brown reflected on the role of marketing. “Winning companies will continually adjust to fast changing customer demand patterns and social comments, aggressive competitor actions, and media news items content. To achieve this goal, marketers need to be empowered with relevant technology tools to provide early warning signals and measure market sentiment, and have the ability to act and respond in real time. This will require a fundamental change in the role of marketing from sales supporter to lead resource conductor and frontline actor,” speculated Brown.

The whole technology movement has given marketing a great opportunity to move up the value chain within the company. By accessing data and knowing how to analyze it, marketers can make sound, clear arguments to support their decisions.

Brown also conveyed that having all of this data has changed how the next “big idea” is produced. Brown suggested, “Data has supplanted the ‘big idea’. Having all of these numbers at our fingertips will make marketers more empowered and commoditize creativity.” Marketers need to form new strategic and collaborative partnerships with their key agencies to guide creativity and help ensure the ‘big idea’ is distributed through all offline and online customer interactions channels in a synchronized, integrated, and brand-centric manner.

The only sustainable competitive advantage is to learn faster and act on that knowledge

Jeff Tanner expanded on Brown’s thoughts by stating that the role of Big Data and marketing technology is to enable marketers to identify changes in the marketplace and to act on it. Tanner commented, “The key to empowering marketers in the future is to give them the tools and technology needed to sense those opportunities quicker and to react to them.”

However, empowerment means different things to different people. According to Tanner, “We have to first think about empowerment from the customer perspective or we’re just guilty of playing with shiny objects.” And that can be a difficult task because it’s easy to miss the changing value of traditional channels and relationships. For instance, face-to-face interactions still have value, but it’s growing and changing. All too often, many companies see any human communication as only an opportunity to sell – blinding companies from the real concerns and needs of the customer.

According to Tanner, “Customer experience is overrated. Or rather, most get it wrong.” Many companies are not approaching the customer experience properly because they are only focusing on customer touch points. Marketers sometimes forget that customers interact with the company to fulfill a need or desire, which sometimes goes beyond the customer interaction channel. They key is understanding how customers interact with the product or service and how that overall experience is perceived.

Any company where the CMO has a bigger budget than the CIO is in serious trouble

David Raab shared some wisdom about marketers’ role in choosing technology. “Marketers are great at many things. But when it comes to buying software, they need the discipline technologists provide,” Raab claimed. Marketers know what they need in terms of functions. However, they aren’t equipped to judge more technical factors such as scalability, adaptability, robustness, and integration – which often become problems after any system is implemented. Since the key to purchasing and implementing new software is to prevent chaos, the CIO and the IT team should be included in the buying decision to address technology issues commonly unknown to marketers.

Nevertheless, there is value in technology and the data it brings – now and in the future. Raab predicted, “Five years from now, information about individual customers and their activities will be more precise. The data will be organized in a manner that will help marketers make better use of it – enabling the delivery of a coordinated, omnichannel experience.”

Raab also mentioned that companies will adopt a broader definition of “customer experience” in the near future. As a result, products will be more intelligent and responsive. For example, products will be able to adapt to customer use and report information about the experience back to the seller.

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished

Michelle Cooper recognized that change is a constant – and with change comes opportunity. Cooper observed, “The last several years have brought more tools and technologies that enable marketers to grow and expand their capabilities and insights. Our world is changing faster than ever before from a marketing discipline perspective, and it is important for marketers to embrace it as a tremendous opportunity to bring value back to the company.”

Cooper continued, “When you understand the end-to-end lifecycle of the customer experience, you can better guide that experience.” Customers are not just going online to complain about their experience – they are actually convincing companies to change experiences that they dislike. By becoming a champion for customer experience beyond the initial sale, companies can influence and develop a deeper understanding of how customers interact with the brand.

Today’s marketers must also look past customer insights and take advantage of prospects, partners, competitors, economists, and trendsetters. Doing so will help them understand the market direction, as well as identify and capture market opportunities. By listening to and applying market insights, influencers, and trend information, marketers can develop a complete understanding of the market and can position the marketing organization as a catalyst that uses market insight to help the company anticipate, prepare, and capitalize on the next market shift.

Tolisten to a replay of this edition of the Future of Business with Game Changers series, presented by SAP Radio, click here.