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Data at the Center of the Customer Experience Innovation

I attended Forrester’s Customer Experience conference a couple of weeks ago to get up to speed on how different companies are changing their processes and culture to truly put the customer at the center of their world. Concepts such as voice of the customer, the buyer’s journey, and moments of truth were tossed around like popcorn. The high bar set at the conference was to achieve empathy with the customer in order to deliver true customer experience innovations. Beyond such lofty concepts, there was also a lot of discussion about the underlying practical matter of gathering the relevant data about customers in order to build the knowledge and understanding essential to creating that empathy.

Given it was a non-techie conference, I was surprised by the level of focus there was on the importance of gathering the right data so that customer understanding could be created on a solid fact base. In the exhibit hall there were many applications and tools on display to help companies improve the customer experience. Some tools were focused on deep customer analytics, a key frontier in customer experience. Even more mundane technologies such as call center automation had a much stronger focus than in the past on incorporating broader data about the customer, including social data, to deepen knowledge. The goal of such knowledge is to empower even a remote call center rep to truly engage with customers, rather than merely provide support on a transactional basis.

John Taschek, salesforce.com’s SVP of Strategy, gave an enlightening (and my guess somewhat rogue) talk on how their company is driving their customers’ experience. As a not-software company, he said “the data is the user experience.” Their users are focused on discovering information and context, and so it’s critical to make data and information discoverable for your users. This was another testament to the fact that it’s really the data, not the applications, that are now at the center of driving customer experience innovation.

Here’s a recent analyst report that you may find interesting around the importance of customer data for strategic success: Constellation Research Report, Customer Data: The Missing Link To Strategic Success.

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