The relationship between customer and company progresses through a spectrum of emotional stages, ranging from indifference to brand loyalty. The manifestation of this relationship progresses from listening, learning and asking, through transactions, engagement and vocal brand advocacy (or vocal brand distaste). The specific transition from interaction to engagement is of particular interest and the current hot topic in CRM discussion circles, to many, representing the maturation of CRM as a discipline.
Customer Engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer – offered by the company, chosen by the customer.” (PG, 2015)
Since the company/customer relationship will mature at a pace determined by the customer (hard stop), companies are left to guess when and how customers want to engage. The assumption here is that systems and technology will help companies to figure out the answer. The obvious candidates are operational CRM systems, Marketing Automation systems, Customer Support systems and Business Intelligence systems; together these are a System of Engagement. However, it is just not that simple.
First, it is important to understand what exactly we are talking about and the history of how we arrived here. While engagement is a deeper level of ongoing involvement, and intent driven, the technological requirements to support meaningful engagement is what I refer to a “Context Integration” and is required.
Context integration is the combination of information and process instantiated at a point in time for the purpose of delivering user engagement.
Context integration is a critical element in the future, system to system to human interactions; the tie that binds systems of engagement. By prioritizing relevance, user needs, and jobs-to-be-done, context integration is the reason and method required to operationalize data. Context integration requires strong data integration, business intelligence (aka analytics) and process integration. Context integration is not specific only to customers, but the scope of this discussion is focused on customers.
In the modern era, driven by cloud, one data movement has become quite easy; table stakes. Yes, there are nuances, but overlooking these nuances puts the complexity on the low end of the spectrum. The simplest data integrations are read-only (or a copy) and passive, view only. For example, taking data out of an operational system and putting it into a reporting system or display tweets in a CRM application. If you want to be able to write/update and have this reflected in the source system; bidirectional, the complexity scale moves up a notch.
Action item: It is imperative to progress from data integration to information integration, there is too much data, people need information (data aggregated and given relevance). This is not simply semantics, information is different, and of greater value.
Process integration is taking action (human or systemic), based upon something learned, typically from somewhere else; a system, a device or a person. This could be as simple as an alert, or something more complex, think supply chain. Within this conversation the focus is communications; where engagement happens. These types of integrations take place in everything from sales, to support, operations and marketing.
Action item: We need to move beyond the task list of things to do. Companies should be shown the right actions and path; channel, timing and device.
What does Context Integration Look Like?
As stated above, context integration is information plus process, it is real-time, but may or may not be bidirectional. What I mean is that communication is bidirectional, but it might not be operating on the same data. Delivering the right information to the right person at the right time is hard. For starters, there is now a third system involved within each integration scenario, the analytics engine, required to turn big data into small data.
Breaking it down further:
- Information equates to ‘what’,
- Process equates to ‘where’ and ‘how’;
- Context equates to ‘why’, as-in ‘why is this important to someone, now’?
In order to accomplish this feat, we need more insight. We need to spend a bit of time translating data into information, processes into specific tasks and actions and help the customer to understand why something is happening or being done. In a very real way, right time information may also be considered to be proactive, as expectations are low in this area, but changing rapidly.
The following are just some quick ideas, there are so many more and if you would be willing to add your own, I would appreciate it!
Example – Customer Service
- Data – The Contact Center has account service history, household purchase history, number of claims displayed on the screen (or a couple clicks away).
- Process – Add to the above, notifications of device recalls, health alerts, community posts, credit checks, invoice verification, payment verification, (think billing and finance).
- Context -Tell me ahead of time when something is wrong, or a product fix is needed. For example a user social check-in in New York and credit card use in Paris. In travel, make agents aware of weather or flight delays, tell client new flights are booked, via SMS (if that is the preference). Help systems should be product and location aware as well as being proactive.
Example – Customer
(There are many customer examples, feel free to add your own)
- Data – Give me access to my account information through a portal or smart device, allowing me to check for product updates or re-order a consumable (Diapers).
- Process – Allow me to schedule future deliveries based up the preferences I have set, credit card stored and other core information.
- Context – The system is aware of the age of my children (permission), and engages with me regarding size progression, asks if I am ready for the next size. Engages regarding other products and services (permission), recommending articles or other.
An internal, or employee type example:
Example – Sales
- Data – The CRM application (mine is Sugar) is given a copy of purchase and/or case history, maybe event data, purchase history and company financial information,
- Process – Based upon a phone call or web visit (shared by the marketing automation), the CRM System recommends a course of action and a task is created to make a call or send an email.
- Context – The systems together design a set of engagement recommendations, based up information further input from the analytics engine. Context integration moves beyond tasks and reminders and sets a course of action that will drive the deal and create a happy customer!