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“Innovation needs to be part of your culture. Customers are transforming faster than we are, and if we don’t catch up, we’re in trouble.”
~Ian Schafer

No, I don’t mean to sound like a pessimist by starting this blog post in the “customer experience” series with the above mentioned quote. But I did want to quote Ian Schafer here with the intention of bringing about a shift in the dialogue. You see our last two posts, illuminated the fact that we are in the “age of the customer” and that clinching his love and ultimately loyalty will be the cornerstone for your brand’s success. But that’s only a half truth. Let me explain.

There is no need to dwell on the fact that digitalization has shrunk the marketplace, and helped it explode all at the same time. For instance, a person sitting in Uzbekistan today can also dream of running a successful e-commerce outfit, and rake in the millions (individual country laws permitting), while serving customers both in developed and developing economies, which might not have been possible only a decade ago. But it’s not just because of a great idea or the fact that he has worked hard on developing a great product alone. Customer experience is much more than that. In fact, if anything a good business idea and a great product are only the ‘raw ingredients’ in your customer experience meal. It’s the spice of innovation and the zest of engagement that will add flavour to your brand’s overall customer experience.

And here’s why!

While earlier, customers engaged with a brand through television, radio, media, outdoor advertising, and various other touchpoints, today, the Internet and digitalization has changed the game. No scratch that, it has redefined it.

According to a news report I read recently, we are generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data and what’s more fascinating is that 90% of this data has been generated in the last two years. And while one may argue that data was always growing, the difference today, lies in the access we have. Analytical and processing capabilities have taken giant leaps over the last few years, we now know how to use what we have and do it well. Smart mobile devices too have made access to information easier than ever before. The result?

Today, that Uzbekistan based e-commerce company with 3 people at the helm is capable of attacking the market and scaling up with incredible speed that would stagger large scale enterprises more rapidly than ever before. It can insert itself effectively between you and your customers and zero in on lucrative value-chain segments. And his biggest differentiator? An innovative engagement strategy for his customer.

According to Gartner’s Gene Alvarez, “Customers will not tolerate companies that have amnesia when it comes to remembering them and their preferences for recognition. This makes it imperative for companies to recognize their customers and to serve them pertinent content that demonstrates the proper recognition and treatment”. In others words, we believe this means that it pays to have an innovative and effective customer engagement strategy that will help not only clinch the customers, but keep them coming for seconds.

How can you innovate the go to engagement route for your customers, it’s simple –

Listen – online and offline. To feedback, to suggestions, to responses and even conversations. They will give you an insight into who your customer is and what he wants. In fact, it may even be a good idea to involve your customers in changing or building an innovative customer experience, ensuring higher chances of success

Build a relationship – Not just on birthdays and occasions but around habits too. Holiday seasons, end of the month slash sales (because the salary is depleting), being a brand that understands and wants to give back to the society (think natural calamities).

Get creative, and even a little crazy is good – age old marketing strategies won’t cut it, you will need to go direct, social, personal and be the brand that your customer can relate to, or certainly wants to. For instance, a great example is that of Discovery, who in 2011 set up its Influencer Panel to listen to its audiences, who in turn helped shape the name, logo and programming of its new network. Being digital is a big part of any customer experience today. So don’t be afraid to automate, however, do keep in mind that you can’t simply have a technology solution play out in front of your customer, you need to humanise that digital interaction – deliver something that is delightful, immersive and simplified. In short you need to deliver a superior digital customer experience.

While companies need to make strategic decisions about the best pathways for their industry to build customer value, having a differentiated customer engagement is a non-negotiable element to offer a great customer experience in any case.

Gartner, Smarter with Gartner, Organizations should focus on three key opportunities to drive the future customer experience, September 10, 2015,

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