As we continue to see the short- and long-term effects of the pandemic, many retailers have resorted to shuttering their businesses, unable to survive in such a volatile environment. For those still fighting for their share of the retail market, customer engagement hubs (CEHs) are a life raft keeping businesses from sinking. CEHs allow retailers to deliver one of the most important aspects of business right now, hyper-personalized and relevant customer experience and journeys, while providing retailers with backend analytics to improve overall customer satisfaction in order to keep them coming back.
Gartner forecasts that individual behaviors of 40% of the global population will be tracked through an “Internet of Behavior” web by 2023. With predictions that customer engagement will get more interconnected and hyper-personalized over the next few years, now is the time for retailers to start inquiring and implementing CEHs before getting too far behind the eight ball. Notably, Gartner also estimates that by 2024, more than half of online ads will be targeted based on consumer emotions — identified by a combination of AI, biometrics and sensors.
Customer Engagement Hubs are a Powerful Tool to Turbocharge CX
Gartner first defined the term to support the customer service function of a business. CEHs were designed to empower customer service agents with data that allowed them to behave in more effective ways when speaking to customers. Recently, the term has expanded to cover a broader set of criteria, with more engagements and more channels as the demand for these solutions has skyrocketed. CX has actually surpassed product quality and price as the most important differentiator for customer satisfaction.
CEHs are added to existing channel and interaction systems to make them connected and more intelligent. They serve as an additional layer that makes all other operations more cohesive and interconnected, allowing retail companies to get laser-focused on providing an optimal customer experience. From there, CEHs can categorize and prioritize customer journeys by complexity and intensity, depending on the action and result desired.
Customer journeys are best executed when they take into account every customer touch point with the brand overall, from a bird’s-eye view, rather than siloed by channel or by product. The CEH allows retailers to centralize and sync operations, ensuring all channels are being used to their full potential to meet customers where they are.
In short, enabling CEHs allows for a vast improvement in service and experience for customers as well as a more cohesive, organized and intelligent system for employees on all levels.
Investing in CEHs Requires Support Throughout the Organization
However, there are a couple of roadblocks for brands to adopt CEHs, the most significant one being the investment. In the upfront it takes time, funding, and effort to put an effective CEH system in place. The decision to adopt a CEH is a big one, so smaller and more dynamic companies have an advantage in being able to approve and embrace the technology at a faster pace.
Larger corporations have bigger datasets, more employees to train and more approvals to go through before implementing such a large-scale IT and operations change. While this may be true, it should not hinder the decision to implement such a powerful tool.
Getting started does not mean transforming every part of the business at once, nor does it have to mean years of setup and adjustments. Too often, retailers start a customer journey project, then see complications arise and either abandon the project or stop to fix them before moving on. What they need is a way to get the ball rolling without being easily discouraged, even if that means starting with only a single journey.
To implement a CEH effectively, it is first critical for retailers to be customer-centric from the top down. This may be a difficult mindset to embrace, but retailers must tune their CEH to support what the customer is looking for, not just their internal business and sales goals. Put intelligence and data into the hub with a focus on supporting what the customer wants, and the business and sales goals will follow.
A cross-departmental initiative led by a C-level executive, ideally a newly appointed chief experience officer (CXO), can also be greatly beneficial. Implementing an effective CEH relies heavily on buy-in across the business, with open communication around how departments will work together to generate holistic success. This process is often most effective when led from the top down. In short, this is not just a technology purchase, but a tool that will change the operating process and focus of a retailer, so it must come with the necessary leadership to steer and support.
Learn From Those Who Have Done it Before
We’ve seen powerful results from CEH implementations. Recently, a prominent bank in North America released an AI-powered investment tool that enabled customers to take control of their investment strategy. While the tool was powerful, effective and easy to use, the bank was perplexed to see significantly less interest than expected. They came to find that after customers began their research into the product, many would start the application process but not take the time to complete it. It was clear that the customer journey was breaking down at a particular point that was unknown to them.
The bank implemented a CEH and, after a quick analysis report, identified three major friction points that it was then able to change. It saw a significant uptick in interest in the tool that aligned perfectly with the bank leaders’ initial thinking, something they would not have been able to achieve without a CEH.
Forward-thinking retailers will be the ones that come out on top; implementing a CEH now will have a massive payout in the future. CX has grown nonstop and has become one of the top needs for customers, so it’s time for retailers to address those new demands and meet customers where they are. Creating unmatched customer experiences by investing in CEHs will boost those retailers to the top.
As Vice President of Digital Engagement at CSG, Mark Smith draws from more than 20 years of global experience helping businesses deliver better consumer engagement through solutions that unify the “logic” layer of today’s customer-facing technology. The founder of Quadstone and then Kitewheel, Smith is an industry pioneer regarding the analytics of customer behavior and orchestration of customer journeys.