There’s little doubt that in 2017, customer service rules. Consumers live in an ‘always on world’ of convenience and choice and brands are starting to realise that in order to retain business they need to offer a level of service that goes above and beyond. Simply put, they need to get personal.  With personalisation, brands can tailor offers and deals to prospects in the right place at the right time, using an omnichannel approach to narrow the gap between themselves and consumers. Today, your business can know what a customer wants before they even tell you, and that kind of knowledge is the cornerstone of great service. However, that knowledge isn’t always easy to define, index or understand. To deliver that all-important personalised approach that many of your competitors are now offering, you need a system in place that can manage customer data and make it accessible to your team in a coherent and concise way.  That same system could record customer interactions and gather data as they shop or use your services, so the longer they remain a customer the more you learn about them.  You can watch the customer journey evolve over time, highlight pain points and see KPIs at work, and even measure your staff’s performance and what you could do to make it better in terms of training, tools and more.

 

So, where do you start?

It’s one thing to record data about your customers, but to turn that data into insight you need to be gather all of that data into one succinct format. Picture being able to look at how all your online visitors interact with your website – what they click, how long they stay on a page and where they leave – all in the form of a graph or dashboard. Now extend that to customer engagement with your brand across the board, and you start to see how useful that kind of ‘at a glance’ insight could be to your team as they take phone calls and engage with customers online. No more sifting through data silos, no more searching through documents to try and find out how previous interactions with your customer had gone or what their previous purchases were – it’s all there for your staff to see right when they need it.

 

Before you look at choosing the right tools for the job, however, you first need to understand the kinds of data your business is collecting.  You may have heard the terms ‘big data’ and ‘small data’ thrown around meeting rooms and both are key when it comes earning consumer trust and loyalty, but what’s the difference between the two? Contrary to what many think, it’s not necessarily to do with the amount of data, but more to do with its style and the pace at which it arrives. Small data can best be described as steady stream of consistent data that most of us could wrap our heads around without too much trouble. Big data refers to huge waves of data in multiple formats that are inconsistent, that many of us would struggle to interpret let alone keep up with. The type and amount of data you gather will determine which solution might best work for you, so it’s important to understand the difference. CRM (customer relationship management) software like Microsoft Dynamics 365 can take big customer data, interpret it and turn it into valuable insight that your employees can use at the click of a button.

 

The old pillars of marketing may have gone through a great deal of evolution, but the principles are the same. AIDA (awareness, interaction, desire and action) are all still key points along the customer journey, but technology and our newfound ability to record and gather big data are changing the rules of the game. Awareness is nothing if not online, and brands that don’t utilise social media or do any form of online advertising may as well not exist to some consumers. Where interaction used to be matter of greeting a customer in a shop or approaching them on the street, it’s now a multichannel digital strategy often targeting masses of customers at once. Desire and action can now happen simultaneously on the other side of the world, and face-to-face interaction isn’t even required, but that puts the onus on businesses to be able to better read their customers from afar and provide the kind of online engagement and user experience that is now expected of them in an ‘always on’ age. The pillars of marketing may not have changed, but they’ve certainly shifted. It’s now up to businesses to keep up if they want to stay ahead of the curve.