Tuesday, March 7, 2017

When Would NOW be a Good Time?

While this "I want everything now" mentality completely matches the expectations of my kids and their friends, it isn’t just Millennials who expect this. According to a recent Salesforce report titled, “State of the Connected Customer”:
  • 64% of consumers expect companies to respond to them and interact with them in real time.
  • Millennials: 66%
  • GenXers: 63%
  • Baby Boomers: 62%
And in case you thought this was just for B2C, it’s even higher for B2B:
  • 84% of business buyers expect companies to respond to them and interact with them in real time (according to the same survey).
This is not just about customer support response times either. “Instant” seems to be the new expectation across all interactions.

Now, I know it’s easy to summarily dismiss this. I can hear some of the reactions, “Customers may expect this, but it’s not necessarily what they are getting. And even if they are, it’s just not possible for our company to deliver this.” We don’t have the:
  • Infrastructure
  • Resources
  • Technology
  • Processes
  • Time
  • All the Above
Response time improvements have historically been focused on customer support. But TIME also fosters and helps drive the 3 things required for any sale:
  • Relevancy
  • Trust
  • Empathy
The truth is, customers don’t care about your constraints. And while those experiencing your brand might cut you some slack in certain response-time scenarios, it is safe to say that TIME plays a major role in the success of your:
  • Marketing Effectiveness
  • Sales Conversions
  • Customer Support Satisfaction
  • Overall Customer Experience Perceptions
Time has now become ubiquitous with connectivity. The more connected you are with someone/something, the higher your expectation of timely interactions, no matter where you are in the relationship, or in the sales cycle. And once the brand has achieved an interaction response benchmark, the expectation is that it will be achieved EVERY SINGLE TIME, regardless of channel or device. So, big peaks and valleys within your interaction response times may likely do your brand more harm than delivering consistency, even if the timing is less than ideal. Inconsistency breeds uncertainty, which erodes trust.

The concept of Agile Marketing has surfaced, in part as a methodology in addressing the Now Economy. It is an iterative approach to marketing taken from Agile software development. The core tenants include:
  • A focus on change vs. a focus on a plan
  • Quantifiable testing vs. opinions
  • Rapid iterations over larger, longer, complex campaigns
  • A “fail fast” approach due to small experiments
  • Collaboration vs. business unit silos
The goals of Agile Marketing are to improve the speed, adaptability and predictability of change.

While Agile marketing lays the foundation of delivering greater speed, innovation, and faster pivot vs. persevere decisions, it will not inherently deliver NOW. One of the biggest barriers to achieving “real-time” interactions is – you guessed it – data, along with the infrastructure that supports it. The foundation of any digital transformation, data, and especially the speed in acquiring, integrating and interacting with data, often becomes the weakest link in meeting time-based customer expectations. How many times have you been exposed to retargeting ads long after you’ve already bought the product or service? Those that are fast eat those that are slow in today’s NOW economy.

Many companies still have a long way to go before even considering speed, as they continue to juggle connecting siloed data sources, aggregating and standardizing online and offline data acquisition points while focusing on improving customer experiences.

As companies continue to make progress towards their own digital transformations, it’s easy to get distracted by all the strategies and technologies available. And while things like relevancy, intuitive interfaces, cohesive communications and ubiquitous personalized experiences across channels and devices are all important customer expectations, a significant focus on improving timing throughout every interaction with your brand can generate a systemic lift in the improvement of other customer expectations, even if you improve other areas only marginally.

I buy groceries from the same store, not because they have the best variety or prices, but because they always have the shortest lines. When evaluating business goods and services online, whoever consistently responds to me the fastest throughout the entire sales cycle often gets the business.

As buyers, we can only give companies moments of our time, literally. There are just too many distractions and disruptions. As marketers, our best chance of success is to react and respond during those brief moments that customers graciously give us. As Dr. Paul Marsden, consumer psychologist and Head of digital Insight for the SYZYGY Group argues, “In the Now Economy, content is no longer king, convenience is king.” And convenience is typically driven by time.

So, as you determine Business Requirements for marketing, sales and service hardware, software and tools, as well as other internal processes and systems, consider adding more weighted value to the impact interaction timing improvements can provide throughout the entire customer lifecycle.

BTW: What could possibly be better than achieving real-time interactions? Achieving predictive interactions, where the brand knows what you want and need, even before you do.

Steve Kellogg
Digital Transformation 9-Year Veteran. 

Let's connect on LinkedIn