Customer Engagement, Human Intelligence, and Data: Cohabitating for a Better Future

The disconnect has to end. For the sake of your business and kids, end it already. For years, marketing was lucky to be just one part of the overall customer relationship: the initial phase. The data that was created in this phase and anything that happened afterward was moved to the business side of the house and stayed there. It was like an uncomfortable housemate situation, where, despite many common interests, not much was said or shared between marketing and business. Meanwhile, marketing would meet new customers. The problem was that many of them weren’t being met for the first time-they were existing customers. Business would stay mum. The two never talked. And nothing moved forward with their data and information sharing.

That was then. Customer expectations have changed. They know that you have their data, and they’re willing to share it with some conditions: a better and more personal customer experience is first. That requires a fundamental shift that many companies, especially those well outside of the Fortune 500, are coming to grips with. How can smaller and mid-size companies without multi-million-dollar budgets and armies of staff centralize their data and make it actionable? How will they get ahead of customer expectations to a leadership position, maximize their sales, and maximize their ROI? The answer: Customer Engagement Optimization.

The Flood of Data

It’s no secret that data is pouring in through every crevice in the marketing department. From social platforms to email to websites, to random sources unknown (remember “that business card” from “that tradeshow”?) there’s not a lack of data. The problem is that much of the value of that data goes down the drain, either because it’s not collected, it expires before it’s used, or it’s shipped off to a silo somewhere. Marketing has some data, but limited analysis. Business has some data, but they’re still not talking to marketing. Creating a data collection strategy that is able to collect the data you need and centralize it in the enterprise is paramount. And it’s not as insurmountable as many might think. With a centralized data source, teams of any size and varying skill level can begin to analyze the data.

Centralized Data Enables Customer Engagement

With centralized data, you can begin to consistently understand your complete customer. Instead of viewing disjointed bits of information from different sources, you’ll be able to see how Sara J browses at home, moves on mobile, arrives at a retail outlet, shares on social afterward. Then rinse and repeat. As customer experience expert Jay Baer quotes his associate, Tom Webster, Edison Research, “The plural of anecdote is not data.” Don’t base your next move on what a handful of customers have done, or worse yet, on what your competition is doing.

Armed with a series of events, you can begin to accurately predict where and when is the best time to reach Sara with an appropriate message, or as importantly, when not to waste both of your time. Much of the information and reporting can be simply automated. You could even monitor in real-time, effectively creating remote focus groups in a completely organic environment that’s more likely to reveal honest and natural reactions to marketing inputs than a staged research initiative.

Data Needs a Human Touch

Data and data collection are the beginning and the machine parts. But where the marketer enters are the insights, what we call Human Intelligence (HI). While Artificial Intelligence (AI) gets all of the press and has huge upsides for business including marketers, it has severe limitations and will for some time. Machines struggle to pair insights together or see beyond what exists, the marks of true creativity. (That’s also why AI fails hard at creating jokes and improv situations. The juxtaposition or the revealing of incongruity, in effect, the surprise that creates humor, is virtually impossible for machines to replicate). In fact, if the machines had emotions, they would hate random acts. And certain acts of real consumers will always have an element of randomness. There will be combinations that outwardly and viewed separately don’t make sense, but in the course of that person’s day, they do.

It’s this ability, based on data, but elevated by HI that will enable top-level marketers to optimize their media buy and advertising spend. They’ll see patterns and feel customer experience nuances that AI will miss but that they can use to exceed expectations. And it’s ultimately what will bring the enterprise together in a unified house, built on data, cohabitating, and striving toward Customer Engagement Optimization.

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