I hope everyone has a relaxing Labor Day weekend! I get to spend two or three days confined to a camp grounds surrounded by other campers and four children under 10. Not sure that is the respite I’ve been promised – Labor Day may be truly laborious.

It’s been an interesting week. We have conducted a number of impactful brand interviews. They all have been showing a unique opportunity for brands to create a new paradigm in their engagement with the customers.

We also had a wonderful webinar presented this week that really help level-set and define the landscape around customer engagement and experience. The clarion call of the webinar was a need for simplicity. Yet I think most brands that we speak with talk about simplicity. It is almost counterintuitive, the need to create simplicity; the processes, technology and training required to create simplicity is sometimes not simple. In the webinar this week it was referenced about engagement technologies. One of the challenges of customer relationship management technologies (CRM) was that the promise from the acronym never really materialized. It was argued in this presentation that there is a new engagement technology in process that is leading the way.

Simplicity generates complexity and data-driven, customer-centric, always on, irrationally focused, financially-driven environment, with millennials, baby boomers, soccer moms GEN Y Gen X and all of the other demographics. So I find it quite unique. When we talk about and we hear about it, there seems to be an insatiable quest for simplicity in engagement. Yet we live in a world where complexity is the norm. We get to see amazing technologies that have the ability to simplify the process, but the complexity of administering these technologies is the very challenge brands still struggle with regard to execution.

We look at Target and some of the pieces that Brian Cornell, chairman and CEO discussed during his earnings call last week. Target wants to satisfy the wants and needs of their guest in the digital and store environment to provide a singular experience. So the challenge there is being able to break the paradigm old-school legacy processes, which are still challenging traditional retail, financial, and consumer packaged goods companies. The new technologies we see with groups like I Botta and Extol create unique abilities to engage with the customers that still are challenged by legacy systems within a number of organizations.

But we still see organizations like Red Lion Hotels who have changed the paradigm of their loyalty program to focus more on the individual.  The idea is not to reward people after a series of transactional behaviors, but to really reward them for a holistic engagement with that brand. There are challenges with regard to changing loyalty programs and understanding the disparate expectations of these different groups, but looking at what Red Lion has done with the program it is quite unique. We encourage other brands to really focus on a holistic nature of the relationship with customers. We always hear oversimplistic processes about customer engagement, customer experience, individual empowerment, but to truly understand what that means you have to look to organizations like Red Lion who have changed the paradigm of their loyalty program. We also get to speak to organizations like Sonic Auto. They have changed the paradigm by which customers will experience the auto-buying process. They’ve made it an experience and they have made it an engagement. They’ve made it about loyalty and about the consumer. We hear about organizations that want to be able to create such a unique paradigm, but Sonic Auto has a green field by which they can develop processes and technologies and training mechanisms necessary to create that unique shift. We encourage you to read that article as well.

One of the things that is still a challenge and that brands struggle with as well is the idea of systems. Systems of experience, systems of engagement, systems of record. We see study after study that shows the benefits of simplicity, but creating simplicity systems is a challenging task. However, we continue to see brands do a great job with it and we look forward to continuing to see many more throughout the remainder of 2014.

Just remember that the voice of the customer is not always rational: what a customer, parent, child, spouse/partner may tell you they “want” from you, may not actually be; the utility may not prove what they anticipated, so systems are needed to measure. I wish I could measure the impact of this camping trip before I continued to invest in the supplies needed, much like the brands we speak with!

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