Whitepaper: Big Data Analytics For A Holistic Customer Journey

Any company that hopes to serve its customers better needs to walk the proverbial mile in their shoes. Every customer you will ever acquire will settle into a core set of patterned interactions with you, which the customer relationship management profession refers to as a “journey.”

In the modern business world, customer experience is everything. Digital marketing focuses on ensuring a seamless, comprehensive, multichannel experience to all customers all the time. This is the pivotal concept of a holistic customer journey. Big data and agile analytics are key tools to help your company personalize and target the delivery of superior experiences to all customers.

Every journey begins with a single critical step. For you as a business, it should start with a reality check. In an experience-driven economy, your customers will quickly leave you if you don’t offer an experience that’s tailored to their ever-changing life circumstances. You must continually remind yourself that your sophisticated big-data initiatives are not at the center of your customers’ lives. The average consumer focuses on the day-in day-out of his or her own life, which is a long-running saga in which your company may, at best, have a supporting role. Few people pause to parse the moments in their routines into distinct “experiences” that you may or may not be optimizing.

Likewise, customers rarely take time out to re-assess their distinct relationships with you and the dozens of other merchants who support their way of life. Your customers really don’t care how smart your data scientists are. They don’t spend much time contemplating how much work those experts might have put into tuning the analytic models that power your marketing and customer service channels. And they probably wouldn’t listen if you tried to impress them with the size and sophistication of your big data platforms.

Though they may interact with you constantly, the average customer doesn’t truly care about your company. The critical exception, of course, is when you either surpass their fondest expectations or repeatedly rub them the wrong way. What customers primarily concern themselves with, and rightfully so, is their own never-ending journey through life. All they really want is to bring more satisfaction, fulfillment, and fun into their own existence.

How do you map and manage a customer journey in its entirety?  Many big-data projects focus on optimizing journey-relevant engagement touchpoints, including offers, interactions, transactions, notifications and outcomes. Often, the strategic focus is on optimizing particular journeys aimed at achieving specific outcomes (e.g., activating a loyalty card, resolving a technical support issue).

Customer journey mapping is at the heart of a substantial new specialization in the business world called “customer experience management or CEM.” Here’s an excellent 2010 article from Harvard Business Review on the art of customer journey mapping, as well as a link to a wide range of sources of guidance on this hot topic. You should also check out the CEM offerings of Tealeaf Technology, a best-of-breed solution provider that IBM acquired a few months ago. Another good resource this recent SlideShare from McKinsey & Company, which shows how holistic journey modeling can more effectively predict customer satisfaction and churn, compared to focusing on each channel, touchpoint, and interaction in isolation.

Above all, you will need a clear, comprehensive roadmap for where to start the customer journey management process and how you should proceed. This recent strategic IBM whitepaper provides that roadmap. It offers an in-depth discussion on how you can use big data analytics to enhance experience while boosting the bottom line. It includes informative case studies on how other companies have used big data analytics to delight their customers. And it helps you understand which IBM big-data solutions might support your own company’s initiatives in digital marketing, multichannel engagement, and customer experience optimization.

As the paper discusses, you’re going to need to have some serious big-data horsepower under the hood in order to go deep into holistic journey optimization. The more journeys you model for any given customer, and the more channels, touchpoints, and interactions you include in each journey, the more data you’re going to need. If you want to get to the heart of what the customer is experiencing right now, you’re going  to need to pull in more unstructured data sources–from social media, portal clickstreams, geolocation coordinates, etc.–and correlate them more thoroughly. Furthermore, you’re going to need to develop, score, and iterate through more models, ranging from customer segmentation to advanced behavioral and graph analytics.

All of that will require scaling out your storage, processing, memory, and bandwidth resources. It will also require you to beef up your cadre of data scientists with new types of statistical modelers and new subject-matter experts collaborating in creative new ways.

That’s a significant commitment on your part. As an organization committed to deepening customer experience at every touchpoint, are you ready to take that journey?

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