Your customers online journey is only part of the story

For years weve been hearing about the promise of customer experience management, the notion that you can understand your customer at a highly detailed level and serve them the content, products, services and even ads that matter (or at least make sense) to them.

Todays marketing software is bringing that idea closer to reality.

But technology is only part of the brand-consumer interaction story. Just because you understand your customer through the lens of theironline activities, doesnt mean that translates into smart and insightful interactions in person. We need to take that knowledge and use it in every step of the customer journey. Unfortunately, as weve learned that doesnt always happen.

A matter of trust

For Exhibit A, I give you United Airlines, and its PR disaster this week. The companynot only blew it with the customer they so unceremoniously had dragged off a plane, they potentially upended their relationship with loyal and potential future customers alike.

The United case showed that having technologyavailable for learning about our customers wants and needs in an online context isnt enough. Companies have to learn to use that knowledge for in-person engagementstoo. (Of course, a little common sense wouldnt have hurt either.)

When you look at successful companies, they have a core understanding that the customer is at the center of every decision and action they make, regardless of where the interaction takes place. In his annual letter to shareholders this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos noted that obsessive customer focus is the only thing that stands between a company and inevitable brand demise.

Salesforce is another company that obsesses over customer satisfaction. Chairman and CEO Marc Benioff is constantly talking about a companys core values. He says one of those core values has to be trust. If you dont have trust, in his view, its impossible to do business.

Its pretty clear that United wasnt thinking about that in their infamous customer incident this week,and while their example was particularly glaring, brandscould still take it asa cautionary taleto know your customer and use that knowledge in every interaction, whether online or in-person.

Tech is only part of the answer

Marketing technology vendors are in the business of helping you understand the customer at an extremely detailed level. Salesforce is a good example of a company that sells software to focus on every aspect of the customer relationship from sales to marketing to service and is constantly talking about giving that customer the best possible experience.

In a presentation in Washington, DC earlier this month, Salesforces Benioff spoke about the increasing number of signals coming in from connected devices that can help brands understand their customer better. When all these things are connected, everything pivots back to the customer, hesaid.

Hes right of course, and companies like his and others are trying to help you get there, but its not always easy putting that datato work or getting it in the hands of employees at the moment they are connectingwith that customer. Technology is just one piece of the puzzle.

Salesforce is far from alonewhen it comes to selling you software to help you have better and more informed interactions with your customers. Just this week, in fact, we saw Sprinklr, a company that up until now has been focused on helping companies understand customers social signals, launch a new platform called Experience Cloud.

A few weeks before that we saw Adobe release a marketing platform with the same name. Both product sets have a slightly different focus, but they want to help their users manage the all-important customer experience. That means understanding what customers want and giving it to them, maybe without them even asking.

Empower your employees

As we learned this week, however, the technology is just a starting point, and having some informationin a database can only get you so far. At some point that customer is going to walk into your store or onto your airplane, and you need to be ready to carry that customer focus to the in-person relationshiptoo. You need to take that knowledge, put it in the hands of your employees and empower them to make reasonable decisions when dealing with your precious customers.

Companies like Amazon and Salesforce strive to maintain a customer-centric approach because their CEOs understand at a fundamental level that you can never take that brand-customer connection for granted. When you do anything to damage that relationship, as United did this week, you risk shattering the trust you worked so hard to build.

Its about a total commitment to keeping customers happy. Marketing technology vendors tend to get that because its a big part of what theyre selling, but it takes more than throwing technology at the problem. It requires giving your employees the training and knowledge to put that to work in real life too.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/15/your-customers-online-journey-is-only-part-of-the-story/