The New Science and Art of Customer Engagement

It’s a herculean effort to win over customers today. With an explosion of products and services and with information about new technologies just a click or two away, teams have to deliver something that feels new, differentiated, and truly personal for customers to take notice. To capture their attention over time, a company must deliver something their users love and depend on.

At Sapphire’s 2018 CIO Summit, speakers such as Todd Olson, founder and CEO of the product-analytics platform Pendo, and Manny Medina, founder and CEO of the sales-engagement platform Outreach, brought to light new tools and tactics that chief information officers are using to improve the quality of customer engagement with their organizations — and at all touch points along the customer journey.

CIOs today have a responsibility to constantly push for better customer engagement within their organizations. In the race to acquire and retain customers, tools for sharper research and personalization at scale will make the difference between delivering something that users want to incorporate into their daily routines and something that misses the mark.

As the workplace fundamentally changes and “the very DNA of customer-facing organizations evolves,” according to Sapphire’s vice president of market development Shruti Tournatory, CIOs will be the ones other managers turn to for insights and access to the best customer-engagement strategies. Drawing on presentations discussions from the summit, this piece presents ways CIOs can add value in a challenging new environment.

Better Tactics for Customer Research and Connection

In an ideal world, teams should be able to catch technical issues before customers complain, but CIOs trying to achieve this face an uphill battle. Success requires gathering an enormous volume of data and then analyzing it at an extreme level of detail to understand who the customer is; how they behave; and what they’re looking for next. Organizations have to nail this starting point in order to develop a strategy that attracts and holds customers over the long term.

At the summit, discussions revolved around three opportunities for CIOs to help their teams get to the heart of this:

  1. Create a single view of your customers across the organization.
  2. Use data to help reps connect more efficiently and personally with customers.
  3. Push for customer engagement metrics that support retention.

Leaning into these can help a company deliver at the pace and quality needed to stay in the game.

The Power of Single View

As SAP’s Executive Board Member Adaire Fox-Martin noted at the summit, it’s critical to have one comprehensive view of your customers.

"One of the elements of the transformation that [SAP] is undergoing is creating a single view of the customer, regardless of their touch point."Adaire Fox-Martin, SAP

In the past, particularly for large companies, an understanding of a customer was fragmented across the organization. Customer support would have one perspective, the CRM would tell a different story, and a member of the executive team might have an entirely different vantage point. In order for reps to have the information they need to build meaningful relationships, companies need to combine disparate views into one.

New tools like Auth0 are allowing companies to consolidate customer identities across the stack, laying the foundation for more-robust profiles down the line.

AuthO

Image Source: Auth0

Starting with basic log-in data, including an email address, teams can take things a step further using integrations like Clearbit that aggregate publicly available customer information. Combined with a company’s internal data, these profiles can grow over time into comprehensive pictures of the people and organizations that you’re connecting with.

This full understanding affords reps to be able to predict what a customer might need, which in turn leads to a more empathetic approach in helping customers achieve an outcome.

Harnessing Data to Support Customer Success and Sales Reps

It’s one thing to collect data, but you have to deploy it in a way that’s useful to see returns. At the summit, speakers highlighted platforms like Pendo and Outreach, which take large amounts of customer information and turn them into more tailored communications and more efficient sales workflows.

Pendo UI screenshot

Image Source: Pendo

A customer’s first experience in a product or feature is the most important. If it’s confusing or seems to lack value, they’ll quickly lose interest or switch to something else. Pendo allows teams to take specific segments of user data, such as industries or geographies, and craft introductory screens, text, and visual content that speak to them. If a new feature doesn’t immediately resonate or appears clunky and boring, the customer won’t keep exploring.

Outreach offers a window into sales reps’ daily conversations and helps managers improve their quality and speed. In large enterprises, with salesforces of hundreds of employees, it’s too much to monitor the details of each customer and prospect interaction. This view into all daily meeting activity helps managers figure out where to intervene.

Outreach has bidirectional integration with Salesforce — all activity in Salesforce transfers to Outreach, and all activity that reps and managers conduct in Outreach is copied to Salesforce to ensure no details are lost. Outreach also takes Salesforce a step further, automatically creating communications sequences via email and phone-call text to ensure reps don’t forget to follow up — and, when they do, ensures that what they say is valuable.

Outreach UI

New Metrics for Customer Engagement

Beyond the outreach, sale, and initial onboarding, it’s critical to constantly take a pulse to make sure customers are successful. CIOs can help ensure this by pushing for the incorporation of specific customer-engagement milestones. This can help an entire team stay focused on end users’ long-term potential over short-term revenue growth and margins. Ultimately, creating a customer-first culture drives positive financial results.

Specific metrics that teams can incorporate to ensure that their offerings remain popular and on-point include the following:

  • Product breadth, depth, and frequency. These measure how many users per corporate account there are, how many of a product’s core features are being utilized, and how often users are logging in over a given time frame. Together, these paint a more accurate picture of customer health than simply new or active users.
  • Net promoter score (NPS). Teams use NPS as an indication of customer loyalty. NPS involves sentiment analysis, gauging customer happiness with survey questions such as “How likely are you to recommend the product?”

Alongside research and investments into new customer engagement tools, encouraging the adoption of these metrics will amplify their results.

CIOs Can Make the Difference

The organizations that succeed in the long term will be those that deliver products and services that customers love and come back to time and again. The only way to do this is to create a culture that is obsessed with customer satisfaction. CIOs can be key to making this happen by staying on the frontlines of customer engagement trends and tools that help their companies become better informed about customer behaviors and preferences, engage with users in a more thorough and holistic manner, and support metrics that measure customer loyalty in order to keep teams focused on long-term success.