Business Embraces Customer Experience 2.0

By Samuel Greengard Print this article Print
Customer Experience

As enterprises look to reinvent how they connect with customers and boost their brands, they are increasingly turning to mobility and social media technologies.

Digital technologies introduce remarkable opportunities that can lead to a competitive advantage, but they also raise the bar on performance and what it takes to achieve bottom-line results. Nowhere is this fact more apparent than in the customer relationship arena.

As organizations look to rewire and reinvent the way they connect and interact with consumers and boost their brands, mobility and social media are increasingly the suns around which other digital planets orbit. "They are two critical engagement points," observes Basky Natarajan, a global practice leader for Tata Consultancy Services.

To be sure, improving the customer experience is paramount. Over the last few years, the power has increasingly shifted from the enterprise to consumers. It's possible to scan barcodes using a mobile app and instantly compare prices; find businesses and products that have high customer ratings and reviews; and demand faster, better and more customized products and services.

"Consumers don't have to be loyal to a particular company," points out Emily Collins, an analyst with Forrester Research. "The traditional lock-in mechanisms aren't as effective."

Within this environment, business and IT leaders must use mobile and social tools in a far more sophisticated way than they did only a few years ago. Monitoring Twitter for tweets and plastering marketing messages on a Facebook page aren't enough. Delivering basic information through mobile apps won't get the job done.

As business shifts from a multi-channel approach to an omni-channel focus, there's a growing need to embrace an entirely different social and mobile business model. "When businesses use these tools effectively, it's possible to light up the experience for customers," says Kim Smith, vice president of digital innovation at Capgemini North America.

Going Beyond a Tweet

For a growing array of businesses across a wide swath of industries, introducing a seamless customer experience that bridges the physical and online worlds is now critically important. "One of the things that mobile and social do really well is create a more immersive and connected experience between bricks and clicks," Smith explains. "In many instances, these capabilities transcend the experience a customer receives in a store or online."

That includes real-time features, a 360-degree view of the customer and connection points that weren't possible in the past, including crowdsourcing. All of this affects everything from marketing and loyalty programs to customer service and support.

The American Red Cross is among the organizations embracing mobility and social 2.0. "We have moved toward a social business model," says Laura Howe, vice president of communications for the disaster relief organization.

Over the last two years, the Red Cross has rolled out a suite of 12 mobile apps that address different tasks, including delivering disaster preparedness information, dispensing first aid advice, and staying in touch with blood donors and streamlining their visits. The disaster app includes a button that a user can click to let others know he or she is safe. The blood donation app lets donors post a photo snapped during the donation process on Instagram. "We are building in social sharing capabilities," Howe says.

But the initiative doesn't stop there. Using Dell technology and expertise, along with a Salesforce Radian6 marketing and social monitoring cloud, the Red Cross is attempting to stay on the leading edge and innovate. For example, the organization continues to refine social listening capabilities to understand the marketplace and further boost engagement.

"We want to delve deeper into understanding our supporters and how they interact with us," Howe says. "We want to see if we can encourage people to donate blood more often or perhaps become volunteers."

In the coming months, the Red Cross aims to expand its mobile offerings and add social features, including adding crowdsourcing capabilities.

The organization, which manages activities from a digital communication center it constructed in 2012, takes a start-up mentality to app development and social media features. It now focuses on innovation, thinking creatively, and monitoring what peers and businesses are doing in these spaces.

This article was originally published on 2015-02-26

Samuel Greengard, a Baseline contributor, writes about business, technology and other topics. His forthcoming book, The Internet of Things (MIT Press), will be released in the spring of 2015.

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