Key customer engagement lessons from Gartner 360 2015


As the Thunderhead team were sitting in Heathrow Terminal 5 the other week, we received a message from our well known telecommunications provider, ‘Going to Europe? Text back to receive 5p texts and 5p per min calls’.

Well no, actually we were heading to San Diego, USA for the Gartner Customer 360 showcase event, which, as far as we can remember, is not in Europe. So nice try nameless telco provider – you got it wrong.

Perhaps, because we are immersed in customer engagement this seemed worse than it really was, but it’s ingrained, we live and breathe engagement – communications with customers must be relevant, contextual and accurate. We could see that our telecommunications provider meant well – and if we were off to San Sebastian we’d be thrilled with their offer….

Anyway, it’s a good job we were on our way to Gartner Customer 360 to mingle with thought leaders, experts and customer experience evangelists where we could get to grips with problems like these.

So, what did we learn in sunny San Diego?

  1. The digital world has changed everything – so let’s dance!

This is not breaking news but change is a transition that brands and the c-suite are continually adapting to. There is now constant digital innovation and brands need to learn how to be reactive and nimble, embracing new technologies that impact on customer experience.

Don Scheibenreif, Vice President and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner summarised it nicely during his keynote, ‘Advancements in digital technologies are adding new elements to the customer experience….the future of digital business is people, businesses and the Internet of Things interacting in a seamless dance.’

Seamless and effortless – we at Thunderhead have to agree…and we also like to dance.

  1. C-Suite = Customer-Suite

Today, every Exec needs to be a Chief Customer Officer. The board of directors need to unite as ‘Team Customer’ and demonstrate to all employees how to put the customer first; cross-departmental collaboration is therefore crucial. The c-suite need to work together, setting joint priorities and ensuring that the strategy is aligned and projects to enable customer engagement are prioritised.

  1. Put customers at the heart of everything you do

A reoccurring theme mentioned throughout the conference by our hosts Gartner, partners Microsoft and multiple speakers – they all emphasised the point that they put the customer at the centre of everything they do.

The outside-in approach – frequently cited by Ed Thompson, VP and Distinguished Analyst at Gartner – should be adopted. Insight and investigation into what the customer craves and whether they feel engaged are crucial to developing a customer-centric strategy. When we speak to customers we encourage the concept of listening across their journey as the first step toward a customer centric approach.

  1. Digital humanism

We’d heard this phrase before, indeed we talk about brands needing to become more human in their approach and it’s good to hear that endorsed by Gartner. Jenny Sussin, Gartner Research Director summed up Gartner’s philosophy: “Digital humanism is a philosophy that puts human interests and values at the centre of digital system design. Digital humanism will have to become part of the thinking of marketing, sales and service professionals for the fact that the touchpoints between organisations and their customers is becoming increasingly digitalised. Additionally, where markets commoditise experiences, the opportunity to create competitive differentiation increases by making these digital touchpoints uniquely human.”

We agree that brands need to be more human in the way they approach their digital interactions and use digital interactions to inform the conversations that aren’t online. It’s not enough to start a conversation in one channel only to reset and have to restart that conversation in another.  Brands need to derive insights from the customer journey and use them to have more human conversations with their customers.

Final thoughts

Back to the airport and sitting in the San Diego terminal waiting to fly home, we thought back to the start of our journey.

Imagine how we’d have felt if we’d have received this message from our Telco provider (by email because that was our preference):

“Here’s a goodbye gift from Telco X San Diego: we know you loved Costa Coffee while you were visiting, so pick one up for free now from the terminal coffee shop – a farewell gift on us – and when you arrive in London here’s a 50% discount voucher for breakfast. Have a safe flight and we look forward to seeing you again in 2016 when you return to Gartner Customer 360 2016. From Telco X San Diego.”

This isn’t an impossible dream. If more brands take on the lessons of Gartner Customer 360 more customers will have better experiences and become more engaged. The fact is, the future’s here, the future’s very bright – the future is your customers.

If you thought that was good, these will blow your mind…