As we start to enter into what some might consider the post-pandemic ‘new normal’ (at least for rich western nations) it is important to ensure that any honeymoon-based decisions on huge technology investments are evaluated correctly for sustained future growth. While it might be tempting to think that investment in new technologies will help companies adapt to a digital-first society, we at DMPG would encourage anyone to ensure their foundations are solid before building on top of them.
We have spoken in the past about the use of Customer Data Platforms as being important to the future sustainability of personalised relationships between brands and customers. However, more important than this are the underlying concepts behind how to make a Customer Data Platform project successful:
It’s not exciting in the same way new technology is, but in so many cases there are fundamental issues that exist with how data is collected and used within an organisation that no new technology will make any fundamental difference. Quite simply, if your organisation is not a data-first organisation then how do you expect to scale personalised experiences for your customers?
A key checklist you should be using would be as follows:
- Is all the data we’re collecting actually being used for something that links back to the core objectives of the organisation?
- Do we know exactly how all of this data is being collected and processed (not just by the immediate organisation)?
- Are we being completely transparent with our customers and providing them choice over what data we collect about them?
- Is the data that we’re collecting entirely accurate and reliable – are we confident about making fundamental decisions from the data?
Answering ‘no’ to any of these questions should really trigger a review of your data practices. That’s not to say that you can’t/shouldn’t be thinking of scaling a personalisation programme before you’re 100% confident over every aspect of data within your business but your ability to succeed in that programme will be impacted substantially the less confident you are about the data.
Would it really be such a hardship to invest in a project to evaluate your data practices before agreeing to invest (potentially £/$millions) in new technology, staff and consultants to try and build a business with personalisation at the heart?
What you may also discover in this process is that with better data comes more capability. Maybe you’re able to unlock another 20% or more of your existing technology capabilities by cleaning up some of your data. This is not in substitute of a strategy that may require additional or alternative technologies to be able to achieve a bigger business objective but you need to be entirely confident that the investment in new technology is actually going to provide the returns you expect. Technology alone is unlikely to solve any fundamental data collection and processing deficiencies you may have.
When thinking about whether you have the right team in place to execute on a customer-centric digital experience strategy it is important to first consider the difference in team structure you would need compared to what you have right now. For example, here’s what we normally see with team structures:
While everyone is operating towards a wider business objective, it’s often the case that each team operates somewhat independently and has their own KPIs that don’t really match with customer expectations. The CRM team are typically looking at engagement rates from emails or social posts and associated retention revenue metrics whereas the media/advertising team look at the cost per acquisition or return on investment. There are two major issues with this approach:
- The customer does not care about any of them. Their key criteria will revolve around value, quality and convenience.
- There is normally an overlap between these metrics. A customer may well click an email but later click through on paid search perhaps on a different device to complete their action. If the message in email and on paid search doesn’t match up because they’re trying to encourage the customer to take different actions (based on their target KPI) this is clearly a problem.
As a result it is actually more important to think about the future structure and how you will align cross-functional processes and customer-centric KPIs before then thinking about the specific skill sets of people required in these roles. Here is what we see working well across businesses that have adopted a customer-first digital approach:
In the above example, the verticals don’t really change as it still makes sense to hire based on the distinct functions that exist within a complete digital experience. The major differences are:
- There is a cross-functional team in place operating on behalf of the customer to match their KPIs with the typically revenue/profit focused ones. This team essentially governs the overall operations of the functional verticals below it to ensure entire customer journeys are optimised.
- Each of the teams has a specific remit to operate across the entire digital experience. There should be no ‘hand off’ of the customer experience between teams with only one focusing on acquisition for example. Each team should be considering the customer as having a cyclical journey where their specific function becomes more relevant at various points in time.
The ultimate goal of all of this is that you should end up with a unified and centralised customer audience/journey strategy that looks a bit like this:
Regardless of where the customer is interacting (email, social, web, app etc) or what stage of the cycle they are in (pre-purchase:browsing / loyal:basket-building etc) there would be a defined strategy shared across the different teams to ensure consistency of the message to the customer.
Once you at least have an organisational plan in place to capitalise on delivering optimal customer-centric digital experiences then you can start thinking about whether you need additional team members to help execute such a strategy.
As a general rule I always advocate hiring people based on the following criteria:
1 and 2 are non-negotiable. If someone only has one of these, that also doesn’t work. Attitude is at the top of this list for a good reason. It doesn’t matter how good someone might be at a specific task, if they do not have the correct attitude for the company in which they are entering into then they will either leave soon after (best case scenario) or they will start creating problems for other employees with their attitude. In some cases people just have innately bad attitudes in life for whatever reason (I’m a pragmatist, not a fluffy ‘everything is awesome’ type of person) but in most cases I think it’s a mismatch of attitude vs company culture.
3 and 4 are negotiable and sometimes interchangeable depending on what the specific need is within the business. I sometimes see ‘inspirational’ posts on LinkedIn and other places stating that we should ‘hire only based on attitude’ or that we should ‘hire smart people and have them tell us what to do’. These types of quotes usually tend to be abstracted well out of context however. As someone who has built up their own team, with their own money over the past 6 years I can assure you that you need to use a blended mix of the above 4 components depending on the specific needs, the timing of a hire and how the dynamic of your existing team is developing. It doesn’t matter how good someone’s attitude is, if you hire them for a role that is completely beyond their capabilities (think about dropping them in the deep-end of an ocean, not a pool) then in the vast majority of instances the outcome will not be positive for anyone involved. You may need to start by placing more emphasis on #3 and #4 (not changing the order however).
All of the above should be applied to your existing resource base as well as any new hires. The above may be what you use to decide who should stay or move on in relation to the future required structure.
While always helpful, well thought through processes become mission critical where teams are operating across multiple channels & functions.
All else being equal, asking any given team member to plan & execute in the context of the complete experience will increase contacts, meetings & the volume of data they must digest in order to do their job. We often see organisations re-draw their org-chart but fail to adapt their processes to accommodate for these challenges, stressing the team with limited CX benefit.
Here’s what you need to get right:
- Program Objectives: should be defined in terms of customer experience evolutions, with revenue benefit following but not the immediate goal.
- Objective: increasing pre-purchase to loyal conversion rate
- Key Result: 3 cross-channel campaigns launched with positive incremental revenue, targeting pre-purchase:browsers, new customer:pre-product & new customer:basket builders
- Risk: Goals are set as arbitrary revenue numbers, forcing the team to churn out sub-par experiences, ultimately failing to positively affect CX
- Journey Mapping: one clear customer lifecycle, based on points in time when state of mind changes.
- eg: operating on purchase cycles, within maturity phases.
- Pre-product > Browsing > Basket-Building > Buying > Bought
- Pre-Purchase > New Customer > Repeat > Loyal
- Risk: inventing audiences as you go will limit the cross-relevance of learnings and could lead to confused CX & wasted time.
- Planning: experiences are then designed with these audiences in mind
- Eg: an abandoned basket email, Facebook & onsite campaign for those stuck in ”basket building” for more than 1 day
- Risk: single-channel campaigns are just expanded to cover the complete journey, failing to appreciate the unique opportunities & complexities of each touchpoint
- Data is critical, telling us where to start (highest volume audiences) & then where to double down (based on opportunity sizing & past success)
- Eg: pre-purchase is biggest audience >> start here, but new customers prove to be most malleable >> focus here
- Risk: With far more options & far more voices in the room, choice paralysis and/ or interest-capture can slow & divert the project, wasting time.
- Roadmapping: there are now far more dependencies, so it’s essential these are clearly mapped out
- Eg: an excel “tracker”, grouped based on campaign/ initiative & split out by week
- Risk: new requirements are overlooked (usually the less glossy ones), for example, building a series of experiences then forgetting to pass the relevant data into each channel
- Comms: fortnightly high-level meetings, led by someone who knows the data & understands how each of the channels work
- Objective: collect stakeholder concerns/ dependencies and input on forward facing priorities
- Duration: max 1 hour. Focus is essential, a designated moderator may be needed.
- Risk: meetings become lists of tasks, everyone is bored, time is wasted & concerns/ dependencies are missed
- KPIs: need to be central, of course. Each person’s goals must be carefully & clearly aligned with the new cross-channel roadmap which in turn needs to also be customer-centric rather than focused purely on ‘business speak’ objectives
- Risk: KPIs are added to rather than replaced, so focus on channel-specific goals persists & teams remain effectively siloed
If you’ve succeeded, decision makers will be able to confidently articulate the end-to-end customer experience in its current & future state & high level meetings will be lively & engaged, with regular input from all stakeholders.