Van Valdez (Associate Research Director, CX, IDC Europe)
Van Valdez (Associate Research Director, CX, IDC Europe)

Customer listening. Customer engagement. Both well-established and understood aspects of the customer experience arsenal that many would argue they have already covered within their CX strategies. But have they?

The challenge for many organisations is that they believe they have ticked all the boxes on customer listening and engagement, when in fact all they have done is put in place a few CX tools that are each doing a good job in one part of the CX value chain or another but are operating in isolation of each other.

These organisations fail to realise the business value that is unlocked when these components work together in a single interconnected system. Once understood and implemented as a system of interconnected technologies, a fully functional customer listening and engagement system lets organisations make full use of customer signals to actively drive contextualised customer experiences.

So, what are the moving parts of a fully connected and functioning customer listening and engagement system?

  • Signal gathering: the exhaustive capturing of customer signals across all channels
  • Data consolidation: once signal gathering is in place, consolidate all customer data into a customer data platform
  • Real-time analysis: deploy analysis on your consolidated data in real time to unlock behavioural and intent insights
  • Decisioning and engagement: once gathered, consolidated and analysed, a decisioning system is needed to identify next best actions and drive contextualised and orchestrated experiences

These components will no doubt sound familiar, because many enterprises have already installed one or more of them, or plan to. In a recent IDC survey of European enterprise CX technology decision makers, we found that for each of the four components of customer listening and engagement, 80% of enterprises have already implemented the technology or plan to do so in the next 12 months.

So there is a tremendous amount of buy-in for these individual components. But the challenge is that too many organisations are treating them as individual tools, with each one brought in to address a specific business need at a point in time.

To maximise the benefits of a full customer listening and engagement system, all four components need to be in place and working together. But in our survey, we found that only 8% of enterprises have all four of these critical components installed, meaning most organisations are a long way off systematically leveraging customer signals to create differentiated contextualised experiences.

Customer Signal Gathering

What we mean by customer signals are any indication of what a customer is doing or intends to do with a brand. A fully optimised customer signal gathering system is one that takes in signals from across the whole estate of channels that customers use, truly reflecting the omni-channel customer journey. This includes long-established voice of customer systems that many organisations already have in place, based on survey-powered feedback-gathering mechanisms.

Customer signals also include not just conversations customers have with a brand, but also those conversations they are having about a brand. Many organisations are also deploying social listening and analysis tools to capture this. There are also the insights that can be harnessed from organisations’ customer engagement systems themselves.

All the data generated across the value chain — sales, marketing, onboarding, support and service — can shed light on customer behaviour and intent. All of this represents a myriad of customer signal sources. The question is: are you capturing all of them and are you doing it systematically? An optimised customer signal gathering strategy should ingest signals from all these sources.

Data Consolidation

Having exhaustively captured customer signals from all sources, organisations then need to house all this data in a single destination — a customer data platform (CDP) — to create a single version of customer truth. Data silos are one of the major barriers preventing organisations from getting a unified 360-degree customer view.

For organisations that want to leverage all the customer signals gathered from these sources, the CDP is a critical part of the customer listening and engagement system. More organisations are starting to recognise this. In IDC’s latest Future of CX Predictions, we predict that by 2024, 50% of the G2000 will adopt CDPs such as enterprisewide central nervous systems.

Real-Time Analysis

With all of this customer data now housed in a single destination, the key to maximising the insight extracted from it is to employ an analysis system continuously and in real time. Done right, this lets organisations respond to signals — both positive and negative — at the time they are happening and enable them to respond to customers with highly relevant and contextualised responses.

One of the most powerful examples of this is responding to customers at risk of attrition — a moment of truth identified in our recent survey of CX decision makers as among the top benefits of a customer listening and engagement system. CX leaders want to be able to act on signals of attrition in real time and rescue defecting customers, generating true business value, rather than just reporting on it after the fact.

Decisioning and Engagement

This is the final component of customer listening and engagement and this is where the “rubber hits the road” and where customers really see the difference from organisations that run a fully functional customer listening and engagement system. This is where an organisation translates all those signals, the 360-degree customer view and the real-time analysis into next best actions — the actions the data tells us are the next best steps for a customer, in the context of all their interactions and their journey with the brand up till this point.

The biggest problem with traditional voice of customer systems in the past is that they focused on data gathering and were too disconnected from systems of engagement — so listening did not lead to enhanced customer engagement. In the customer listening and engagement system, these are intrinsically linked and work in concert, enabling brands to create experiences that are contextualised and orchestrated in direct response to the signals gathered.

Take Customer Listening and Engagement to the Next Level

For organisations looking to create differentiated experiences through customer listening and engagement, conduct an audit of your CX stack — understand what moving parts you already have in place and work on filling in the gaps in your customer listening and engagement infrastructure. Critically, focus on creating the linkages between the components and ensure they connect well and work together as a unified system — from signal gathering to data consolidation to real-time analysis to decisioning, orchestration and engagement.

Select the vendors that can provide the necessary connectivity between these layers to create a unified system with the full suite of capabilities, rather than a collection of individual tools completing individual tasks in isolation.

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