We here at Merkle love technology. It is the backbone to CRM platforms, the conduit to first-party data and the fire hose to addressability at scale. But marketing technology is just one of many mechanisms that support the customer experience and the omnichannel promise that many retailers and consumer good companies work toward. When such elaborate systems are orchestrated together, they operationalize intimacy and systematically deliver personalization (as we know it today) with precision. Yet these technologies are complex, with advanced algorithms, evolving equations, machine learning, and back-end programming that make the Apollo 7 look like a dial-up system. It’s this complexity that has created a large dividing wall between us and the customer. If we can’t see the forest for the trees, then we cant’ see the customer for all the code.
For better or worse, technology has reached a point where no one individual can completely understand how it all works. For example, how does one tiny piece of unstructured data coming off a big data platform make its way through the tunnels of an enterprise, stopping along the way to be poked, examined, treated, configured, and rendered … then finally becoming a personalized message on Jane Doe’s iPhone? Such complexities have fundamentally changed our relationship with technology. We view technology as something that just magically engages and manages the end user. This position of a confident observer with a “hands-off” approach has deeply changed our relationship with the customer.
Year after year, large consulting organizations survey CEOs and CIOs to understand their issues and goals centered on customer centricity. The majority of executives cite personalized offers, recommendation engines, and capturing more data across every customer touchpoint. In short, they all cite technology.
Somewhere along the line we have lost our way. This gold standard called customer centricity is now at risk and we are losing it to technology.
We believe that the customer is more than a transaction, a ZIP code, a delineated file or a sidecar to an API. There is a woeful lack of people who actually go out and shake the hand of the customer, speak with the customer, look at the customer. Until we can code emotions, it’s still all about the human.
Understanding and embracing the emotions and motives of the human can bring true customer centricity to an organization. To achieve this, Merkle helps clients step away from the complexities and boundaries of technology to see the customer through an anthropomorphic lens.
The question we always ask is … are we aligned with the human? To answer this, we meet with customers to understand their hearts, their minds … their true DNA. Through multiple approaches, we can begin to see their beautiful story unfold. And it’s only through their own story that we can then begin to build a true customer journey.
These detailed, rich, colorful journeys are the maps to customer centricity. Yet time after time, they are never shared or evangelized with store operations, real estate, merchandising, HR or even the boardroom. Most customer journeys hang on the walls of the marketing department as an endearing vision. What is not realized is that these maps are actual blueprints of the customer’s life and how that life lays over your organization … much like a large piece of plotting paper. These journeys give rhyme and reason to how a customer thinks and the motives behind their willingness to voyage across your enterprise; and they identify the capabilities required for you and the customer to walk the journey together.
We were recently asked to help a corporation with its strategic planning. You may ask what a CRM agency is doing in the middle of a five-year strategic planning process. We were asked to bring the voice of the customer into the process and use that voice as the center post to services, products, selling initiatives, processes and systems, organizational design, and change management.
So for this client, to succeed is to understand human.