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Some of the many challenges for sales, marketing and customer service professionals today are  personalized, meaningful customer engagements across the social web – interactions that are tailored specifically for an individual – which leads to a better experience for that customer.  At CRM 2013 last week in Las Vegas, there were several takeaways around this topic, and the notion that the convergence of IT, e-commerce, and marketing in today’s organizations can enable companies to capitalize on trends which are optimizing customer engagement.

During one session, speaker Michael Hinshaw – author of Smart Customers, “Stupid” Companies - shared research from his book demonstrating that there is a surely disconnect among companies delivering and consumers consuming a customer experience or brand engagement.  His data showed that corporate executives believe that 77% of their customer engagements have been favorable customer experiences, whereas only 3% of consumers believe that the experience they’ve had with a brand was favorable.  That is a Big GAP! 

Hinshaw suggests that since smart customers demand better customer experiences, you may not get a second chance to make things “right”.  Asking yourself: “How mature is our customer experience capability?” - while knowing exactly what expectations your customers have of you – may enable you to achieve and meet those expectations.   Disruptive innovation is shifting the power to consumers in the following 4 ways, and by being “SMART” like your customers, you become one of the disruptors, rather than the disrupted:

    1. Social Influence - brings social networks between a company and its customers, disrupting the customer relationship lifecycle;
    2. Pervasive Memory – “describes the personal details that end up in corporate databases every time we interact through digital devices. Pervasive Memory can make companies smarter about their customers.”
    3. Digital Sensors – from height and stressors to pressure and location, sensors have the ability to peg your moves, motions and preferences before perhaps even you do! Sensors will be linked to events (a truck pulls into your driveway) and ideas (climate change).
    4. The Physical Web – “That means, today you have the ability, as a consumer, and companies have the ability to do this as well, to begin navigating the real world the way we've been navigating the web. You can tag trees, you can tag products, or you can tag stores. You can hold your mobile device up to a retail district, and see not only what stores are there, but also have the ability to get promotions and be notified of things that are of a particular interest to you.”

Hinshaw was squarely on the money – technology can enable customer engagements, but your company had better utilize all the information available (structured and unstructured) to know its customers’ and their behavior better.

Another thought leader, Christopher Moose kicked off his session by stating the obvious: Our world is changing due to global integration, networked technologies and bandwidth explosion in unprecedented ways. The volume of data will increase exponentially this year to 44x as much content and data over the coming decade.  80% of that data is unstructured (such as social networking conversations, etc.) 

Moose shared some of IBM’s Smarter Commerce Mega Trends – encompassing a specific branch of social – ‘social commerce’ and how its growth is currently being driven by:

5.   Acceleration of technology adoption rates (from internet to mobile to social

6.   A proliferation of modes and methods for commerce as a result of Mobility, Analytics & Big Data, social media, and ‘consumerization of IT’

7.   The continuous evolution of Consumer buying behavior: showrooming being one of the latest trends…

8.   Increasing brand fragmentation: consumers are in control of your brand - so ‘game on’ for any vendor who can meet expectations of a demanding consumer

Commerce, like customer / brand engagement, has evolved in favor of consumers - and Social Media influence indicates that 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations over any others. 

Both Chris Moose and Michael Hinshaw walked the crowd at CRM 2013 through these social technology trends and demonstrated each ones’ impact on customer engagement, customer experience, buying behavior and social commerce. 

By being a smart enough company to learn what your customer really needs, and then meeting or surpas...  And that advocacy will lead to stronger engagement and shared favorable experiences from those deemed most credible of all.