5 Questions Brands Need to Answer to Be Customer First

While most large companies are still in the early stages of developing a fully integrated marketing organization, we’ve found that the following questions are the most important ones to answer:

  1. Are you thinking about customer journeys rather than just touchpoints?
    The starting point for delivering value, not just talking about it, is understanding the end-to-end journeys your customers take to accomplish a task, such as buy a product, open an account, experience a product, resolve a dispute, adjust a service, etc. These journeys are often complex routes across websites, social media, stores, customer service, and myriad other interaction points. In most companies, these interaction points are managed by multiple different functions within the business (sales, marketing, operations, store).

    Understanding these journeys is crucial because they can become the unifying principle for the business. Employees stop thinking only about their own functions and individual tasks and instead start thinking about customer journeys in which the consumer is passed from one phase to the next. That requires an integrated process, so that each part of the business delivers consistent, timely, and relevant content as part of a complete customer journey experience.

  2. How useful is your data?
    Companies have plenty of data about their consumers. The problem is that the data often lives in different places and is owned by different functions. In addition, many companies tend to organize their data by product lines or channels and therefore struggle to get an overall view of their customers. Companies need to centralize their data to create a 360-degree view of the customer that becomes, in essence, the “golden source” of customer insight, i.e., a single view of the customer that everyone in the business agrees on and can access.

    Creating this complete view is based on combining structured data—common sources of data that fit in prescribed models, such as billing and order-processing information—and “unstructured” data (e.g. social media, location-based data, images, and speech). That includes consolidating insights from owned, earned, and purchased media plus all of the operational measures from both front and back office.

    A key issue is not just collecting and collating the data but making it easy for business users to access. Digital innovators are investing in marketing activation platforms that allow marketers to “self-serve” practical insights without having to call in IT support every time.

  3. Do you truly understand why your customers are doing what they’re doing?
    Data allows companies to develop sophisticated pictures of their customers. Advanced analytics in particular has opened up a new level of customer insights, from predicting what they’re likely to buy next to understanding what truly influences their decisions.

    But relying only on data creates a blind spot. The best companies use behavioral economics and ethnographic research to power user-centered design thinking. This allows them to move away from more generic assumptions like demographics to much more nuanced and segmented understanding of customer motivations, which requires investing the time to see how customers actually make choices in live environments and observe what sorts of behaviors predominate.

  4. How relevant are your communications and interactions?
    Tracking and linking all those interactions with consumers to understand what they really want is great, but those insights need to be connected to specific decisions and actions the business takes across different channels.

    To help drive this activity at scale, companies are beginning to put in place personalization engines. These are data-driven systems that automate decision making, trigger actions based on customer activity, and iterate their communications based on what they learn.

  5. Do you have the right people on your teams (and the processes and guidelines to support them)?
    To effectively drive this integrated process, companies need to put in place cross-functional teams. Effective cross-functional teams rely on having the right kind of talent on hand, of course. The best companies actively benchmark their capabilities to identify talent gaps.

Source: Five Questions Brands Need to Answer to Be Customer First in the Digital Age by Prashant Gandhi, Jonathan Gordon, Jesko Perrey, Sofia Serra | McKinsey Quarterly

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