What Lies Ahead – The Changing Face of Business and Technology

 

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The next seven years will see more change than the last 20 years combined in terms of network devices, data on the planet, and computational capabilities – we can see the change happening around us already, it’s a bit surreal watching the future unfold in front of our very eyes:

I was recently at the Kennedy Space Center with my family and we heard that colonizing Mars is the next tangible frontier for human exploration – there are challenges to pioneering Mars, but we know they are solvable. We are well on our way to getting to Mars, landing there, and living there! It is worth noting that 10 years ago private spaceflight, or even engagement of private companies was impossible. Today government agency NASA has partnered with private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to make deep space exploration and colonizing Mars possible.

Additionally, speaking on the next wave of automation, Amazon’s chairman, Jeff Bezos, said recently, “It’s probably hard to overstate how big of an impact it’s going to have on society over the next twenty years“.

Without stating the obvious regarding trends to watch for in the coming years such as Robotics, IoT, Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation which can be read here, here and here; I would instead, like to take a moment to reflect on learnings from 2016, specially in the context of the changing face of business-technology:

Today we are seeing lines between business consulting and agency work blurring, we are also seeing that technology plays an integral role in shaping business strategy and decisions.

Ad agencies and business consulting companies are working tirelessly to transform themselves into what they are not – business consulting companies are buying design houses to incorporate the design / human element into their offerings; Deloitte Digital recently acquired creative agency Heat McKinsey acquired creative agency Lunar and Razorfish merged with Sapient to become SapientRazorfish. However changing the company name does not change the company culture. If the focus of the company is growing the account and the project team is compensated based on managing hours and resources on the project rather than solving a business problem, then most likely the company will not be lazer focused on helping clients and such companies have a short shelf-life. To further illustrate this point, in 2016 we saw McDonalds drop Leo Burnett after a 35 year relationship, and is partnering with DDB to setup an agency of the future called ‘We are Unlimited’ to be paid on its ability to drive Big Mac sales.

 

Thats what I think, what do you think?

 

 

Resolutions for 2016

The end of the year often is a time to look back at what we’ve accomplished and a time to evaluate what’s next in line for the New Year. While we might be happy and fulfilled in our careers and truly love what we do, we continue to constantly seek advice to further grow in our professional lives.

My resolutions for 2016:

  1. Seize the opportunity to build something bigger than ourselves, something worth contributing to, to make connections, to lend a hand, to invent and create.
  2. Do my best work followed by best work followed by more best work – this is far more useful and generous than merely doing our best work once and insisting we are understood.
  3. Play for the long haul. Take the more difficult route. Surround myself with people who insist I avoid the shortcut.
  4. Write to make a difference.
  5. Be more flexible in my thoughts  – change, actual change, is hard work. And changing our own minds is the most difficult place to start.
  6. Keep in mind that everything I do is either going to raise my average or lower it.

Driving Business Growth, Priorities and Engagement through Customer Experience

BACKGROUND

Forrester recently released a book ‘ Outside In : The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business’. The book highlights that customer experience is the greatest untapped source of cost savings and increased revenue today. Additionally customer experience strategies can drive differentiating activities and processes at top companies. Forrester also discuss how to design and measure enterprise-wide customer experience.

As mobile and social are quickly becoming new channels for customer acquisition, engagement and service, many brands are looking to social and digital channels as a means to better understand customer interactions with the brand across multiple channels and touch points.

Also as the use of mobile and social channels increases exponentially, it is becoming critical that brands are able to create a 360-degree customer view by aggregating data from each one of these interactive channels. Without drawing from all touch-points, brands fail to have a holistic understanding of the consumer and run the risk of presenting disjointed messaging to the consumer as they visit the brand from a diverse number of channels.

CHALLENGE

How can we help our customers service their customers? How can we increase customer engagement and loyalty with the brand?How do we ensure that we are solving the right problem?

SOLUTION

When is Customer Experience the Right Approach? If the answer to the questions below is ‘NO’ then customer experience is the right approach to drive business priorities – are you able to pinpoint the customer’s painpoints? Are you addressing the pain they feel? Does everyone in the organization have a clear picture of the processes customers go through when interacting with the organization?

Are we Solving the Right Problem?: A common vision and vocabulary within an organization of the customer’ and ‘customer interactions’, across all channels is key to solving the ‘right’ problem. It is worth noting that by overlaying the customer journey maps with specific business goals such as improving productivity and efficiency of the sales force or increasing customer engagement and loyalty, we can not only identify  ‘new’ problems but also define ‘new’ solutions to old problems.

 Have we Identified the Right Opportunities? : Identify the ‘right’ opportunities by mapping customer interactions across channels and touchpoints and identifying highlights and lowlights by focusing on complex interdependencies between people, process and tools.

Have we Prioritized the Opportunities? : Once the opportunities across all channels have been identified, shared and verified by internal business stakeholders, they need to be collaboratively prioritized based on factors such as business impact and risk weighed against cost and effort.

APPROACH

Customer Experience Approach

User Centered Design Approach

Key Considerations:

Ensure Executive Sponsorship: The stakeholders selected as part of the steering committee typically span lines of businesses (LOB).  Since journey maps visualize ‘end-to-end’ interactions, multiple departments and stakeholders get involved in the discovery process hence leadership commitment is crucial to drive decision making across LOBs and for the success of a customer experience engagement.

Select Key Customer Segments: To obtain a good cross-section of interviewees it is critical to identify customer variability across several dimensions. As an example, for the sales force variability could be based on region, tenure, role and the type of customer the sales person services. It is also important to create a 360 degree view of the customer by creating a touchpoint mapand interviewing all teams within the organization that the customer interacts with.

Create Discussion Guide: The discussion guide should be tailored to the audience and aligned with business objectives.

Conduct Interviews: drill-down to the root cause, discuss what-if scenarios, best practices and current initiatives within the organization.

Create Customer Journey Maps: : Identify people, process, tools and technologies that affect the customer journey

Create Prioritization Matrix: collaborate with stakeholders to get a common view of the business impact and prioritization of the initiatives

Create Business Case / Enable Experience: Visualize the experience for one or more key areas by creating process flow and conceptual wireframes

BENEFITS

Truly understanding customer behavior, interactions, positive and negative experiences can lead to the following benefits:

Identify New ‘Niche’ Customer Segments – Just because people share some similar characteristics such as age and gender (e.g. female in the age group 35 – 45) does not imply that they share the same passions and interests. Understanding customer behavior, motivators and interactions will help to deeply engage with them and identify needs of the ‘niche’ customer segments which can drive development of personalized experiences which motivate customers to change behaviors.

Deliver Targeted, Personalized Content and Advertising – Moving beyond ‘likes’ and ‘follows’ – integrating back-end data sources, structured and unstructured data to create a 360 degree of the customer  can provide a wealth of information for improving customer understanding and targeting them with personalized content.

Increase Customer Loyalty – Customer loyalty and satisfaction can be improved by creating a 360 degree view of the customer and gaining deeper insights into existing customer segments as well as discovering new customer segments by developing a multi-channel strategy and aggregating data across mobile, social and digital channels.

CONCLUSIONS

The key to building applications which drive business growth and improve customer engagement lies in identifying a new breed of business leaders who understand the importance of customer experience and evaluating organizational readiness to deal with the impact of digital innovation.

Companies can truly understand the ‘empowered’ customer and build applications which transform the business by creating a common view of the customer (customer segments) across the organization by mastering behavioral, business and emotional context. Behavioral context measures engagement and propensity to buy, business context identifies business drivers and how to generate customer value differentiation and finally emotional context measures sentiment, customer preference and perceived value.

Convergence of Marketing and Technology

With the convergence of marketing and technology, companies are struggling to identify the rightful owner(s) within an organization responsible for prioritizing opportunities which will drive business growth and engage the empowered customer.

Additionally as the use of mobile, social and web increases, it has become critical for organizations to create a 360-degree view of the customer, highlighting both good and bad experiences, across channels and  touchpoints. In addition to focusing on business imperatives such as reduced cost, increased loyalty etc. to drive the customer experience, companies should also consider ‘engagement imperatives’ such as identifying customer pain-points, improving convenience and motivating customers to change behaviors which in turn will lead to increased ROI.

As organizations attempt to understand the customer better by creating customer journeys as well as creating a 360 degree view of the customer cross channels and touchpoints, they need to consider the ‘impact’ these innovative technologies will have on the enterprise. Some key considerations to keep in mind are listed below:

  • Identify Leaders: Identify leaders within the organization to drive the business model innovation required to incorporate new channels such as mobile, social and digital.
  • Create New Business Models: New business models will need to be developed which are nimble, agile and rapidly iterate.
  • Portfolio Optimization:  To achieve portfolio optimization organizations will need to drive alignment and synchronization of activities cross-brand, cross-channel and cross-stakeholder group (Decentralized approaches imply higher costs).
  • Update Business Processes: Current transaction-based processes may need to be updated to deliver personalized, targeted content tailored to the lifestyle of the customer.
  • Update Operational Governance and Management Processes : Operational governance and management processes will need to be built that tap into new market opportunities and customer needs.
  • Co-Create Value with the Customer: Organizational structure of the organization will be impacted by introducing customers into product development efforts.
  • Co-Create Value with Partners: Organizations will need to collaborate with players, such as information technology companies, design agencies, companies providing strategy / management etc. to deliver customer-centric products and services, as they may not have the resources and skill-set in-house to build relevant offerings.
  • Integration of Systems : Building a 360 degree view of the customer requires an understanding of data integration requirements between disparate data sources namely systems of record such as CRM as well as data from social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Data architects will now be required to build processes to connect structured as well as unstructured data

Deep-Dive into Multi-Channel Customer Intelligence

Background

As mobile and social are quickly becoming new channels for customer acquisition, engagement and service, many brands across the board are looking to social and digital channels as a way to increase their customer knowledge and understanding through multiple customer touch-points.

As the use of social channels increases exponentially, it is critical that brands are able to create a 360-degree customer view by aggregating data from each one of these interactive channels. Without drawing from all touch-points, brands fail to have a holistically understanding of their consumer and run the risk of presenting disjointed messaging to their consumer as they visit the brand from a diverse number of channels.

Despite the availability of brand monitoring tools (e.g. Radian 6, Alterian and Scout Labs) and brand analytics tools (e.g. Crimson Hexagon, Crowd Factory, SAS and Oracle), brands face the challenge of trying to close the gap between aggregating data from diverse channels and drawing actionable business insights. In order to turn observation into business advantage, feedback mechanisms need to be created to channel insights towards product improvement, business process improvement and trend recognition.

The Challenge

Harnessing the power of big data to drive business and organizational decisions is not without challenges.

Real-time analytics: Recent statistics demonstrate how high the volume of Twitter data really is – Twitter is seeing around 155,000,000 tweets per day, at about 2500 bytes on average for each tweet and about 35 Mb per second – handling the immense amount of data at a sustained rate is a challenge. Also, gathering real-time analytics is made more difficult because of signal-to-noise ratio. Twitter is especially hard given the high rates at which tweets are created and the minuscule number of those tweets that are relevant to a campaign.

Sentiment Analysis: Sentiment Analysis is about the meaning of the content. Knowing the sentiment (positive, negative or neutral) is a good start, but not enough. The data needs to be analyzed to derive improvement opportunities such as ideas for product innovation and business process improvement. The process of mining data is additionally difficult since the human interaction component cannot be completely eliminated.

Solutions

Many companies are trying to get hip on how to tackle the problem of harnessing excessive amounts of data spread across multiple customer touch points. As companies mature their social programs, they can progress through a variety of stages. Companies who are in the earlier stages of social maturity such as Gatorade are focusing their efforts on listening. Gatorade has created a “mission control center” which is staffed by employees who monitor Twitter and Facebook, 24 hours a day.

Other companies such as SAP have long been monitoring and interacting with their employees and customers via social community sites. SAP’s Senior Vice President Mark Yolton has spoken extensively about his 8+ years of experience using the Social Monitoring tool Jive, which has helped SAP form several social communities both internal and external to the company. The SAP Community Network is used to drive social innovation, commerce, intelligence and social insight. Mark champions that biggest benefit SAP has gained by creating these communities is around ‘Customer Intimacy’ – aggregating and analyzing customer data that allows them to create a 360-degree view of their customers wants, needs and actions which helps SAP understand and interact with more effectively.

At the more experienced end, are companies like Dell who use media channel to engage with consumers and drive sales. Dell has more than 9000 employees trained in social media, a ‘Chief Listening Officer’ and a twitter handle @DellCares which resolves 98% of Twitter reported support requests. Dell’s BI solution is available on a smartphone or tablet, provides up-to-the-minutes sales data and customer intelligence and suggests next actions for front-line service personnel.

Benefits

The analysts at Forrester have coined a term ‘Social Intelligence’ which is defined as the process and use cases for harnessing social media data to inform your business strategy. It involves monitoring social media, collecting and analyzing the content, and using the insights to inform your strategy.

The true benefit of aggregating structured data (weblogs, social CRM, application data) and unstructured data (social applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, customer comments and product reviews) is being able to derive actionable insights. Additionally brands need toprovide a feedback mechanism to channel these insights for product improvement, business process improvement and trend analysis.

Aggregating and analyzing data across channels provides the following additional benefits:

Identify New ‘Niche’ Customer Segments – Just because people share some similar characteristics such as age and gender (e.g. female in the age group 35 – 45) does not imply that they share the same passions and interests. Building a community of loyal followers, deeply engaging with them and actively listening and participating will help to identify new niche customer segments.

Deliver Targeted, Personalized Content and Advertising – The future of competitive advantage lies in managing and analyzing all the critical data entering a business environment. Data which provides user preference and location information such as product reviews, check-ins, ratings etc. collected across the mobile, social and digital channels provides a wealth of information for improving customer understanding and targeting them with personalized content.

Increase Customer Loyalty – Customer loyalty and satisfaction can be improved by creating a 360 degree view of the customer and gaining deeper insights into existing customer segments as well as discovering new customer segments by developing a multi-channel strategy and aggregating data across mobile, social and digital channels.

Conclusions

Drawing business insights such as determining ‘top performing regions’ or ‘top influences’ can be accomplished relatively easily by aggregating and analyzing structured and unstructured data, however, the hard part is in drawing subjective business insights such as determining ‘product improvement ideas’ or ‘future trends’.

The key to successful subjective analysis is in empowering and training the personnel at various customer touch points to ask probing questions of customers and flag answers which require deeper analysis. Flagging specific ‘key data points’ will allow actionable nuggets of information to be highlighted and stand apart from the sea of information.

Additionally, forming a deep relationship between people interfacing with customers at multiple touch-points such as social media channels, customer service channels, websites etc. and subject matter experts, such as product managers and designers who are within an organization, will allow for business insights and relevant data to be captured in ‘real-time’ rather than ‘after the fact’, which will lead to better understanding of customer behavior and opinions.

Multi-Channel Customer Intelligence

Background

As mobile and social are quickly becoming new channels for customer acquisition, customer engagement, delivering customer service and generating additional revenue streams, many brands in retail, hospitality, health care, media and financial services are using mobile, social and digital channels as multiple customer touch-points.

With the exponential growth of these channels, it is critical that brands are able to create a 360 degree customer view by aggregating data from these interactive channels. Without holistically understanding the consumer, brands run the risk of not being able to personalize the messaging for the consumer as they visit the brand from a diverse number of channels.  Despite the availability of brand monitoring tools (e.g. Radian 6, Alterian and Scout Labs) and brand analytics tools (e.g. Crimson Hexagon, Crowd Factory, SAS and Oracle), brands face the challenge of closing the gap between aggregating data from diverse channels and drawing actionable business insights. Additionally a feedback mechanism needs to be created to channel these insights towards product improvement, business process improvement or trend recognition.

The Challenge

Harnessing the power of data and analytics to drive business decisions and organizational decisions is not without challenges.

Real-time analytics: Real-time analytics is hard because of signal-to-noise ratio. Twitter is especially hard given the high rates at which tweets are created and the minuscule number of those tweets that are relevant to a campaign.

Sentiment Analysis: Sentiment Analysis is about the meaning of the content. Knowing the sentiment (positive, negative or neutral) is good but not enough. The data needs to be analyzed to derive improvement opportunities e.g. product innovation ideas, business process improvement etc. Additionally the human interaction component cannot be completely eliminated. 

Benefits

The true benefit of aggregating structured data from weblogs, social CRM, application data and unstructured data from social applications such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, customer comments and product reviews is being able to derive actionable insights. Additionally brands need to provide a feedback mechanism to channel these insights for product improvement, business process improvement and trend analysis.

Aggregating and analyzing data across channels provides the following additional benefits:

Identify New ‘Niche’ Customer Segments – People who share the same characteristics (e.g. female in the age group 35 – 45) does not imply that they share they share the same passions and interests. Building a community of loyal followers, deeply engaging with them and actively listening and participating will help to identify new niche customer segments.

Deliver Targeted, Personalized Content and Advertising – The future of competitive advantage lies in managing and analyzing all the critical data entering a business environment. Data which provides user preference and location information such as product reviews, check-ins, ratings etc. collected across the mobile, social and digital channels provides a wealth of information in improving our understanding of our customers and targeting them with personalized content.
 
Increase Customer Loyalty – Customer loyalty and satisfaction can be improved by creating a 360 degree view of the customer and gaining deeper insights into existing customer segments as well as discovering new customer segments by developing a multi-channel strategy and aggregating data across mobile, social and digital channels.  
 
Solution
 
Drawing business insights such as determining ‘top performing regions’ or ‘top influences’ can relatively easily be accomplished by aggregating and analyzing structured and unstructured data, however,  the hard part is in drawing subjective business insights such as determining ‘product improvement ideas’ or ‘future trends’. The key to successful subjective analysis is in empowering and training the personnel at  various customer touch points to ask probing questions of customers and flag answers which require deeper analysis. Flagging answers will allow nuggets of information flagged as ‘key data points’ to be highlighted and not get lost in the sea of information.  Additionally forming a deep relationship between people interfacing with customers at multiple touch-points such as social media channels, customer service channels, website etc. and subject matter experts such as product managers and designers who are within an organization will allow for business insights to be captured in ‘real-time’ rather than ‘after the fact’.

Creating an Integrated Multi-Channel Strategy Using a ‘Top-Down-Bottom-Up’ Approach

Challenge

Mobile and Social have been hot topics of discussion over the past several years but not very well understood by most organizations. With 130M idevices sold worldwide, 300,000 native iPhone applications created, more than 7B downloads by Q3 2010 and with the market research firm Nielsen projecting the US smartphone penetration to be over 50% by 2011, it is not surprising that many organizations are gravitating towards creating iPhone and other mobile device based applications. In addition, the relatively low cost of entry into the mobile device app market has encouraged organizations to develop such applications just for the sake of getting themselves a mobile presence. However, without a holistic understanding of how the apps would integrate into the organization’s business functions and goals, companies are unable to establish or generate a measurable ROI such as building and sustaining a community or customer relationship, improving customer loyalty, increasing revenue or decreasing cost. Without a clear strategy in place defining how to leverage the mobile, social and digital channels to meet business goals, confusing or even conflicting directions arise within an organization that will eventually lead to disenchantment with these critically important communication vehicles.

Key Considerations

Prior to creating the first iPhone application, enlisting fans for a Facebook page or responding to users on Twitter, brands should consider holistically understanding the dependencies between the mobile, social and digital channels as well as key considerations for each of these distinct channels.

Developing an integrated multi-channel strategy which ties back to business goals and considering mobile, social and digital as key customer interaction channels are critical steps in developing a holistic approach to understand a client’s business functions and goals.

When implemented correctly, an integrated multi-channel strategy can provide a 360 degree view of the customer, create a consistent customer experience and leverage business rules and processes across channels, which are all imperative to building customer relationships and meeting business objectives.

Intergrated Multi-Channel Strategy

Integrated Multi-Channel Strategy

Approach

An integrated multi-channel strategy which ties back to business objectives provides an over-arching framework to drive a consistent approach for implementing mobile, social and digital initiatives within an organization. It creates a shared vision and common language among the stakeholders.

A ‘top-down and bottom-up’ approach is used to implement the integrated multi-channel strategy. The top-down component focuses on interviewing stakeholders to evaluate the maturity of each of the dimensions in the hub-and-spoke diagram (above) using a maturity model, conducting a gap analysis between the current and desired maturity levels, prioritizing capabilities on a prioritization matrix and finally creating an actionable roadmap. The bottom-up approach relies on deriving  analytics-focused business insights using structured and unstructured data.

Create a Maturity Model

Within an organization different channels could be at different levels of maturity however they all play a critical role in holistically implementing the integrated multi-channel strategy for the organization.

A maturity model should be created for each of the dimensions in the hub-and-spoke diagram to clearly evaluate an organization’s current and desired maturity level for that dimension.  The key practices defined for each of the maturity levels provide an objective criteria to assess an organization’s maturity level for that dimension.

Maturity Level 0, Limited Presence: Organizations at maturity level 0 are characterized with limited mobile, social and digital presence. These channels are not considered core to the business and need for a better solution is not acknowledged by the organization.

Maturity Level 1, Reactive and Experimental: Organizations at maturity level 1 are characterized by the business reacting to external pressures. The need for improvement is acknowledged and pilot implementations exist but overall vision is absent.

Maturity Level 2, Defined and Repeated: Organizations at maturity level 2 are characterized by mobile, social and digital being considered core customer interaction channels and a global vision drives investment in these channels.

Maturity Level 3, Managed and Measured: Organizations at maturity level 3 are characterized by a seamlessly integrated channel experience and mobile capabilities expanding beyond implementing the core business capabilities.

Maturity Level 4, Optimization and Innovation: Organizations at maturity level 4 are characterized by a rich, dynamic, seamless channel experience where continuous improvement and optimization becomes the focus and capabilities drive deeper efficiencies and innovation.

Create a Prioritization Matrix

Analyzing a brand’s current and desired maturity level is the first step towards performing a Gap Analysis which identifies capabilities of interest required to close the gap between the current and desired maturity levels. These capabilities then need to be prioritized using a Prioritization Matrix across several dimensions such as risk, effort, implementation complexity and business impact.

Sample Prioritization Matrix

Sample Prioritization Matrix

Create a Roadmap

Areas of interest prioritized on the prioritization matrix serve as input to create an actionable roadmap showing project dependencies and estimated timeframes for long-term and short-term projects with a focus on incrementally deploying capabilities within the organization.

Implementation Roadmap

Implementation Roadmap

Derive Analytics-Focused Business Insights

Analytics-focused business insights provide direction on how to refine the implementation strategy to meet business objectives. Business insights can be derived from structured data (data stored in a structured format such as web logs or databases) as well as unstructured data (data collected via comments, reviews and the social channel). With the correct tools, processes and infrastructure in place, this data can be analyzed to draw business insights such as top selling products, top revenue producing search terms and provide real-time predictive analysis.