We all know that buying and selling has changed. Customers are firmly in the driving seat, dictating the pace and channels oft heir own self-discovered journeys. But in a world where no single customer’s journey is identical, how do you ensure they stay engaged? How can you be fluid in the eyes of the customer, yet structured, architected, intentional, and measurable in the eyes of the business? Herein lies the challenge for marketers today. A new mandate, if you will, to develop, orchestrate, and optimize an ever-agile customer engagement strategy.

McKinsey recently released data indicating that up to 70% of a customer’s buying experience is based on how they feel they are being treated. A poor customer experience leads to disengaged customers that will take their wallets elsewhere. In today’s market, customer advocacy is being built and traded in a matter of seconds. It can also be eroded just as quickly.

This isn’t a passing trend or a problem that will go away. According to Forrester, by 2020, customers will expect companies to know their individual requirements and proactively personalize experiences to address both their current and future needs. So here are the high-level tips I have shared with my team on getting this right.

Three Customer Engagement Tips

When you embark on a customer engagement transformation, there are three key areas your marketing organization needs to get right: people, processes, and technology. I’ve referred to these building blocks as “unchangeable” in the title of this blog. That’s because I believe they are critical to successful customer engagement. Here’s why.

Tip #1

First, as marketing becomes more of a science and less of an art, marketers increasingly rely on technology and analytics to help drive meaningful customer engagement strategies. This is creating a need for new skill sets. I’m not suggesting you need a PhD in statistics, but certainly a good understanding of the fundamental principles of analytics is a valuable skill in helping to predict customer behavior and enable better decision making. So learn to get comfortable with numbers or hire someone on your team that is. It will help you to better interpret all sorts of important insights. We are already seeing marketing technology experts become commonplace in large organizations, and I think this trend of attracting more analytical-type people is set to continue. As marketing continues to invest in more platforms that shape the customer experience strategy, it must also invest in the people and skill sets to leverage them properly.

Tip #2

Second, processes are equally important, but let’s face it: they are usually a dull subject to write or read about, so I’ll give you a good example that’s familiar to almost everyone. Most of our modern business processes have been adopted by re-engineering efforts from the ’80s and ’90s, where the focus was all about efficiency and cost cutting rather than customer experience. Think about call centers. Until recently, the success of many call centers was measured by how many calls each agent handled. This metric meant that agents needed to get customers off the phone quickly, with little or no regard for the experience they delivered. The problem is that the world has moved on, which means all those processes now need to look at everything from the customer’s point of view. By identifying and mapping out the key steps in the customer journey, you can pinpoint the bottlenecks and issues that stand in the way of delivering great customer experiences.

Tip #3

The third critical area is technology. Marketers need a platform specifically designed to consolidate data, facilitate process, and support integration with other systems. The bells and whistles of your marketing platform are up to you, but you should ensure it can support three important, fundamental capabilities: insight-driven marketing, delivery of engaging experiences, and dynamic marketing efforts. Getting these essential capabilities right gives you the ability to take decisive action with improved insights, deliver engaging customer experiences, and react to market opportunities with greater speed and agility.

Successfully delivering seamless customer engagement throughout the buying journey is not just a holy grail or a pipe dream. Having the right people, processes, and technology in place make it a commercial reality. And empowering your marketing organization to execute adaptive customer engagement not only gives you a huge competitive advantage, it can also be game-changing.

Sian Smith – Head of EMEA Marketing, SAP

This blog post originally appeared on The Customer Edge.

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