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Barack Obama famously once said: “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.” Making superficial, cosmetic changes is a futile attempt to disguise the true nature of something.
It’s fair to say everyone is talking about customer engagement. You can see from Google Trends how the topic has increased in popularity. Every conference, whitepaper and blog out there today is talking about customer engagement. At the time of publishing this blog there will be a myriad of companies adopting their message to incorporate customer engagement.
I say “welcome to the club” – the club we pioneered when I founded Thunderhead in 2003. Customer Engagement was a fundamental founding theme. Our founding vision was “To help companies engage better with their customers through highly personalized, contextually relevant communications in the customer’s preferred channel” We said in 2003 in a Whitepaper “Thunderhead … emphasises the use of segmentation and analytics to drive engagement with customers …. (and) create a dialogue across all touch-points”. In February 2014 we wrote the book on customer engagement. We called it Engagement 3.0. So, it’s very flattering everyone has now decided to finally speak our language.
Watch out when you’re hearing vendors talk about customer engagement solutions. For example, we can all aspire to be James Bond. But there’s only one who ultimately embodied Ian Fleming’s character: Sean Connery. Make sure you don’t end up with the George Lazenby version. Make sure they can walk the walk.
So, buyers beware. When you look behind the scenes of most customer engagement products you’ll discover a lot of window-dressing, smoke and mirrors, and sticking plaster frankly disguising the same old stuff you’ve been familiar with for years. You know, the software which ended up causing so many problems for your business and sleepless nights for your CTO? I’ll bet you can hear them all talking the talk about customer engagement today. But how can you tell if the same thinking which launched those products which caused so many problems has changed? And when you get under the bonnet can they really prove their retrofitted products will solve the real challenges of improving customer engagement today?
The challenges your brand is facing today to meet the needs of consumers in the ‘Age of the Customer’ needs new thinking, a truly innovative approach. It’s time you demand customer engagement vendors to walk the walk. The New Year is a good time for clean-sheet thinking. It’s time to sweep aside the band-waggoners who’ll just repeat the problems of the past because they’ve not really created a purpose-built solution from the roots up, they’ve just renamed something, or stuck patches over the holes in a frantic scramble to keep up with your customers today.
I’m not suggesting that a lot of the organisations who have rebadged under the banner of ‘customer engagement’ do not offer excellent products and services in their own domain. They are simply adding customer engagement to their messaging because it is a perceived need in the market. However what they can’t give you is a true end-to-end customer engagement hub.
So how do you spot the pigs in lipstick?
Here’s some questions to help you.
- How do their ‘customer engagement’ solutions help you to listen, engage and learn from every customer interaction?
- How do they enable you to see the complete, real customer journey across all channels, on and offline?
- How can they provide you with actionable journey insights which enable you to personalise each and every interaction with customers to be the next best, most relevant experience for them?
- How do they enable you to see where customer journeys have problems, and fix those problems in real-time?
- How do they offer an adaptive engagement profile of each individual customer which also delivers a holistic view of customer behaviour overall?
- Is it in the cloud and effortless for your business users to use without having IT help and support?
- And how do they do all of this in such a way which leverages your existing technology stack rather than forcing you to replace it?
If you want to talk customer engagement then don’t waste your precious time, come and talk to the only genuine class-act in town, the only truly robust customer engagement hub built on an un-challenged understanding of how businesses can improve customer engagement.
My New Year Resolution? Imitators beware. My resolution is to help brands deliver true customer engagement, to help them have happier customers.