Today’s digitally-savvy, continuously connected consumers have no patience for data latency and data silos that are the main obstacles to a relevant, personalized CX.
Ambitious marketers recognize the power of customer experience (CX) to differentiate and have a material impact on revenue. However, achieving this outcome is easier said than done: Today’s always-on, continuously connected consumers expect brands to orchestrate interactions across multiple channels, in a personalized and relevant way. Anything less, and brands run the risk of introducing friction into a customer experience which will quickly drive customers to a competitor.
Consider a 2019 Harris Poll, where 63% of consumers surveyed said that a personalized CX is now part of the standard service they expect, and 37% claimed they would stop doing business with a company that fails to offer such an experience. Brands though, struggle to meet this expectation; marketers in the Harris Poll survey said that real-time engagement (50%) and customer understanding (48%) were the top challenges in providing an exceptional CX.
What Do We Mean By “Real-Time”?
The simplest answer to this question is that real-time is whatever you need it to be to move at the speed of the customer. For all intents and purposes, this usually eliminates batch processing of customer data as sufficient to deliver a personalized, relevant experience that is in the cadence of a customer journey – particularly as consumers are moving to more digital channels and a digital-first experience.
A typical website browsing experience, for instance, may entail a visit to numerous landing pages, a chatbot session, a filled and abandoned shopping cart, or even a timed-out browser as a guest checks out a competitor’s website. A consumer may even bounce in and out of the website to check emails or engage with a mobile app. A brand that possesses a single view of the customer by integrating every conceivable piece of customer data, and makes that single view accessible in real-time, is capable of intelligently orchestrating the entire experience to provide the customer with a next-best action the moment the customer appears in a channel, or even on a specific landing page.
Ensuring the single view accurately reflects the behaviors, preferences, wants and needs of the customer at the precise moment a real-time decision is rendered requires not just real-time access, but that all the underlying customer data that constitute the single view is also in real-time. A real-time decision made on data that is minutes or in some cases seconds old – as a website browsing experience shows – may not be relevant to the customer’s journey in the precise moment of interaction.
The above scenario illustrates the power of real-time to drive revenue by optimizing the omnichannel journey at the cadence of the consumer. In the Merkle 2019 Q4 Customer Engagement Report, the survey found that retailers using advanced personalization techniques, as described above, drove 17% higher revenue than those using basic personalization techniques.
Real-Time, Real Customers
Web Services: This is certainly true for one of our customers, a web services company with millions of customers in dozens of markets known for its web presence and 24/7/365 call center operations. To support tens of millions of decisions a day, the company required a real-time decision throughput measured in milliseconds.
To achieve this goal, the company integrated customer data from 20 distinct databases of online and offline data into a single customer view. This golden customer record, updated in real-time, includes every customer behavior, transaction, and preference; with structured, unstructured and semi-structured data, and first-party, second-party and third-party data, it lets the company know everything there is to know about the customer – which in this case is a mostly digital experience, as well as call center interactions. Built upon singular identity resolution capabilities, the Golden Record combines customer data with every customer identifier – addresses, emails, devices, social, phone numbers, etc. – that deliver the context gives the single customer view its value.
Automated machine learning models enable the company to render a next-best action at scale – millions of decisions a day, every day – by intelligently orchestrating each decision in the right context, based on the up-to-date Golden Record. With omnichannel orchestration and real-time decisioning, the company provides its customers with relevant, deeply personalized offers and messages within milliseconds of an interaction across multiple channels – including abandoned cart offers that are now made up to 20 times faster than before. The company reports a significantly enhanced marketing program ROI, and it attributes personalized campaigns to a double-digit revenue growth largely due to increasing attach rates and average deal sizes through smarter cross-sell and upsell programs.
Healthcare:In the healthcare industry, a regional healthcare organization and Redpoint client that offers primary care, urgent care, laboratory, diagnostic, observation, and disease management services through a network of advanced medical centers – has realized dramatic results for patients and medical center operations through real-time customer engagement.
With a Golden Record and industry expertise for implementing an omnichannel approach, the organization has experienced several positive outcomes for patients by adapting to changes in the record at the moment of interaction. Successes include a 4X improvement in closing care gaps for high-risk patients, a 3X improvement in new patient wellness visits, and a 320% increase in program enrollment for on-demand telehealth services.
Core Principles of Real-Time Customer Engagement
The web services company and healthcare organization are in completely different industries, but they have in common the five core principles needed for authentic, real-time customer engagement that drive results.
Link CX Strategy to Results
Perhaps this goes without saying, but real-time customer engagement breakthroughs only happen with a well-defined strategy in place and linked to specific targeted results. What business outcomes are you trying to reach? What type of experience do you want to deliver using real-time data? How will you measure success?
Setting a clearly defined strategy helps secure enterprise buy-in, which is especially important for the simple fact that because a real-time, personalized CX delivers revenue, delivering this capability is not just a marketing initiative. Rather, because it is mission-critical to the enterprise, it is important that the outcomes, use cases, and capabilities are all well aligned in a detailed and cohesive way.
Connect Any and All Relevant Data
With a strategic direction in place, determining all the customer data and sources available is a key exercise to ensure that a unified customer record is an accurate portrayal of a customer as they engage with your company across channels. This will include behavioral, transactional, and demographic data; purchase history, interests, preferred channels and devices, interaction patterns, and any information about how the customer interacts and engages with the brand.
A full picture will include first-party, second-party, and third-party data; unstructured, structured, and semi-structured data; and data across both a customer’s anonymous and known journeys.
With a strong data foundation in place, it’s then important to institute a data governance approach that ensures data breadth, depth, and quality. In addition, establishing a culture of data ethics that respect the rights of the customer (right to erasure, right to be informed, etc.) will inspire confidence that a customer record is collected, stored and used in a way that will abide regulations, benefit the customer and positively reinforce the relationship between the customer and the brand.
Establish a Golden Record/Single Customer View for Each Customer
Because the Golden Record infuses context into every customer interaction, it is the key for data-driven marketers to provide relevance in real-time and to coordinate consistent messaging across all channels.
As illustrated by the web services company and healthcare organization, the Golden Record combines properly aggregated and managed customer data (cleansed, matched, merged) with a complete identity graph. The unified, real-time profile resolves a customer’s identity across all devices, ID’s, behaviors, transactions and preferences and is instantly accessible the moment a customer appears in a channel, providing marketers with the ability to deliver a next-best action or offer that is always in cadence with the customer throughout an omnichannel journey.
Scale a Personalized CX with Automated Machine Learning
Automated Machine Learning (AML) generates value from the Golden Record by using the data to make decisions at scale – for hundreds, thousands or – as in the case of the web services company – millions of customers, who may each have their own next-best action as determined by embedded AML models that continually optimize relevant communications for a segment of one.
Because machine learning latency is as antithetical to real-time engagement as data latency, driving intelligent decisions at scale depends on models that are developed, updated, and applied in real-time on an ongoing testing basis. Code-based models go stale over time, and the rebuilding and retraining process devalues the power of machine learning to produce a next-best action in cadence with a customer.
Models that are instead configured correctly in a closed-loop system will continually look for incremental changes to optimize. These systems can be set once and guided to produce results against specific business metrics. When every record is tracked in the system, insights are pulled easily, and recommendations can be made automatically – and effectively managed by business staff, not limited to data scientists.
Intelligent orchestration produces a next-best action independent of channel, at any stage of a customer journey, and factoring in every engagement and interaction up to the moment the real-time decision is rendered. The ideal customer experience is produced by intelligently orchestrating all communications – inbound or outbound, digital, or traditional channels – relevant to the precise moment of an omnichannel customer journey.
Real-Time is How Your Customers Interact, and Why You Should Too
When all five core elements of real-time customer engagement are satisfied, the end result is a superior customer experience that drives revenue. Customers consider interactions with a brand as a holistic experience, and real-time engagement is how data-driven companies meet this expectation for a seamless experience on any channel.
Today’s digitally-savvy, continuously connected consumers have no patience for data latency and data silos that are the main obstacles to a relevant, personalized CX. Presented with a fractured, disjointed experience, a customer will simply move to a brand capable of providing the type of experience that matches their expectations. This presents tremendous opportunity for innovative, ambitious marketers to create transformative experiences that make a true difference for the customer and the business.