Technology and Customer EngagementLoyalty marketers everywhere struggle with the rapid changes in technology, trying to figure out which ones are the best that will drive customer engagement and customer loyalty.

John Abraham, General Manager of Medallia (a customer experience management company), talked to Loyalty360 about this often difficult dilemma facing loyalty marketers.

Brands are looking for simplicity, yet with disparate technologies, confusing acronyms, and more data than ever before. Do you have any advice for brands?

In this era of Big Data, brands need advanced and highly integrated technology under the hood to make it simple for customers to do business with them. The reality in many companies is that they operate using a web of separate systems and platforms that all touch the customer or support different teams delivering products and services.

An effective CEM platform needs to combine those disparate sources to enable companies see a unified view of the customer’s experience, and make the management of that view operational.

At Medallia, we believe that doing the right up-front work to integrate customer data sources is key to simplifying the work teams need to do. It enables team members to engage productively with customers and to identify and solve problems faster. The transparency into key pain points for the customer not only leads to better experiences, but also helps companies save money.

Brands are struggling to create alignment with their audiences. They are transitioning from a push driven (CPM / CPA) focus to a “dialogue-based” approach with their customers. How do you think brands can do this most effectively?Brands and Big Data

Today’s brands understand that they need to stay connected with customers in real time across multiple channels— from direct feedback to social media or SMS messaging—but this often proves difficult to scale. Feedback has to be captured in real time from multiple sources and go to the right people who can engage in a meaningful dialogue with each customer—not just one central team.

A comprehensive CEM platform is needed because it not only gives brands an unfiltered view of customer experiences across every touch point, it also empowers employees from the frontline to the C-suite to take appropriate actions in a timely fashion. The system should enable individuals to initiate customer follow-up conversations while also making it easy for other teams to learn from those dialogues by subscribing to them. The results can be pretty amazing. Best Western, for example, found that properties responding to more than 50% of its social reviews grew occupancy rates at more than twice the rate of those that largely ignored social reviews.

Brands are looking to create communities of “engaged” fans via personalized experiences. What are the challenges / opportunities to effectively leveraging communities in your loyalty / CX / VOC processes?

There are two approaches to delivering personalized experiences. The more traditional approach is to invest in service delivery at the front line, by empowering individuals to tailor conversations and solutions to the unique needs of each customer. A well-designed CEM system that tags feedback to individual team members is instrumental in developing knowledge and empathy around these service interactions.

A second, potentially more impactful approach, is to use the CEM system to enable low-friction testing of new ideas, which are often targeted at specific, unmet customer needs. Medallia has been making significant investments that allow companies to continuously test small innovations to understand their effectiveness. This continuous process takes advantage of the constant flow of feedback from an operational CEM system, allowing easy comparisons between test and control groups. Most important, by encouraging many small tests, brands can stay agile and keep up with rapidly changing customer needs. For example, retailer Tommy Bahama, renowned for customer service excellence, still continually strives to improve. It is now investing in the concept of putting a bar inside its stores to further engage customers and improve the retail experience.

Undertaking a large multi-month, multi-million dollar innovation test that includes lots of changes will soon be a thing of the past. Instead, companies can test a number of innovative ideas tailored to specific communities and quickly learn what works best.

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