Steps toward customer centricity in the digital age

Markus Brunold

Key facts:

  • The elements of customer centricity in the digital age: ecosystems and platforms, central data platforms, Artificial Intelligence, CRM and customer journey systems;
  • The goal: personalized and automated customer experiences;
  • The digital transformation of customer relationships requires change management: There is no excellent customer experience without a positive employee experience.

Various studies, including some from consulting firm PwC, show that companies that invest in good digital customer experiences are already achieving better results today. Yet, most companies are just now beginning to systematically utilize their data for customer experiences that will truly set them apart from their competitors. Consolidating data across departments, setting up new processes, re-embedding the principle of customer centricity in organizational terms: Turning data into sales is a demanding task that requires a well-thought-out technology concept as well. If companies truly want to tap into the potential that, for example, ecosystems or Artificial Intelligence hold, they will need several building blocks for their digital customer relationships that connect seamlessly.

Let me start with ecosystems and platforms: They offer companies a unique opportunity to expand their services smartly, thus boosting customer loyalty. Consequently, we can assume that companies will increasingly experiment along those lines and test different ecosystems. Since this requires quick and agile implementability and a high degree of flexibility, companies will need systems that provide easy connectivity for external platforms and ecosystems via configurable interfaces and low-code applications.

Big Ops is the new Big Data

Ultimately, however, this approach does not only apply to external systems: With the growth of company-internal mountains of data, internal departments and systems, whose numbers are continuously growing, will also need access to all types of data. For this access, data must be current and in compliance with data protection regulations and, in addition, must be cleaned up and prepared for the various applications. Many companies are currently on their way from Big Data (i.e., collections of data scattered throughout the company) to Big Ops: The challenge now is to coordinate the access of a growing range of applications to different data platforms in the company, which, in fact, turns data into a corporate asset – an exciting development I will discuss in more detail in one of my next posts.

Fünf Elemente für eine digitale Kundenbeziehung mit Mehrwert

The five elements of digital customer relationships with added value

Customer relationships with more intelligence

At the same time, there is no doubt that making data usable for a company's internal systems is, of course, not an end in itself. Ultimately, companies will want to glean important insights from data, build forecast models and automate processes and decisions. In addition to Artificial Intelligence, this process also requires the previously mentioned customer data platforms that make their resources available to all corporate applications flexibly and in a needs-oriented manner.

And the CRM systems I have not mentioned so far? They will undoubtedly continue to retain their important function of measuring standard processes – because they offer precisely the 360° view of customer data companies need.

Therefore, the journey to data-driven customer centricity is a process, not a project. The goal, and thus the icing on the cake, is the customer experience that adapts flexibly to customer behavior, goes beyond the company's specific product range, integrates all processes and touchpoints, and does so in real time and in a fully automated manner.

Consequently, a digital customer experience will also remove the company-internal boundaries between marketing, sales and service and the associated technical solutions, which means that MarTech and SalesTech will come together. All of this involves many changes. That is why it is important not to lose sight of those responsible for the implementation and those affected by the technological and organizational changes in this context: As I pointed out, customer experience is not a project, but a journey – and it is critical you take your employees along for the ride.

Digital customer relationships make room for lead and customer management activities that generate the greatest added value (and are the most interesting). And ultimately, they free up more time for personal customer relationships as well. Yet, the mindset needed for this approach does not materialize by itself: Excellent customer experience is not possible without professional change management and a positive employee experience.

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