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Top 4 roadblocks to digital customer engagement

As brands adapt to the consumer-driven Experience Economy, they must be able to evolve their businesses for the digital age. This isn’t an easy task, especially for companies stuck in a mindset that their business is still driven by traditional direct marketing.

Evolving the business requires a revamp of most companies’ customer engagement strategies, as well as digital organizational transformation. We went ahead and laid out some of the most significant roadblocks that hinder organizations as they try to implement a successful digital customer engagement initiative and potential fixes for these barriers.

Barrier #1: Lack of digital customer engagement roadmap

In many cases, organizations fail to create a long-term plan for how they will achieve success with their digital customer engagement initiative. This results in a lack of executive and key stakeholder buy-in, the inability to link the strategy to the corporate vision and mission, and poor adoption across the organization. These factors then lead to budget cuts, resourcing issues, competing priorities, and much more (see below in barriers #2 and 3).

How to fix it

To be successful, digital customer engagement requires a long-term vision and a planned strategic approach that communicates how it can add commercial and customer value to a brand, including new business and communication models.

Organizations need a strategic vision that helps focus on delivering lasting value to your business in the areas of expanding the breadth, depth, and duration of the customer relationship. The result creates a clear call to action for all stakeholders at the outset of the program.

After a vision is crafted, create a series of compelling strategic goals and objectives to serve as the foundation of the customer engagement strategy. Develop the strategic goals and objectives to specifically address the various competitive threats, issues, and opportunities identified throughout the strategy project, as well as to tie the efforts to bottom-line results.

This vision, along with strategic goals and objectives, then allows organizations to create a customer engagement strategy that is linked to the business strategy, has bold long-term orientation, and is centered around customer needs.

Best practice

Create a roadmap that will serve as a strategic document and a canvas. It should outline the strategies and tactics across customer experience channels that will drive customer engagement and deliver results, closing the gap between your present experience and the one you envision. The roadmap ties to your defined business goals and KPIs for measuring success.

Barrier #2: Organization & talent

Unfortunately, most mid-market to Fortune 100 organizations aren’t set up to adopt organizational change without a lot of pushback and hesitation. This results in employees not understanding the intended experience they are supposed to deliver, on-again-off-again customer engagement focus, and a loss of credibility and satisfaction among members of the organization.

To become a truly customer-centric company that drives positive interactions and experiences for its customers, organizations must push through these changes or risk falling behind. Below you’ll see a list of the behaviors and barriers that many organizations run into when taking on a transformation of this proportion and how organizations must shift in order to be successful.

Structural barriers: top-down leadership; different reporting lines; operating in silos; competing priorities due to lack of alignment.

How to fix it

Get senior management’s buy-in to review, authorize, and champion innovation in digital customer engagement. Change is initiated both top-down and bottom-up, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to acquire budgets and internal prioritization when change is coming from above.

Speaking of, ensure that you properly budget and invest in digital customer engagement consistent with customer use of those channels. Similar to budgets, the organization should have the right level of resources to meet the requirements of business-critical customer engagement disciplines. You have to put your money where your mouth is and truly believe in the value of becoming more customer-focused.

As with any organization, there needs to be the right structure and workflow in place to manage digital customer engagement and provide teams with the necessary insights to do their jobs the right way.

Ensure that your employees are empowered and have the skills needed to deliver the experience you desire and to drive the business forward. Have experts in business-critical fields, and provide training where necessary to ensure your employees have the tools to provide truly customer-centric engagement.

Finally, remember how you eat an elephant — one bite at a time. Start small by running pilots and scale across departments after you’ve made the business case about the value that investing in digitizing customer engagement can deliver. This won’t fix all the issues listed above, but it’s a start that will put you in a place to be successful — and it won’t completely disrupt your business.

Barrier #3: Culture

The third major roadblock for organizations is transforming the culture from sales-first to becoming more customer-centric, aligned around customer needs. This should be a direct reflection of the core values of the company.

Common culture-related issues are:

  • Getting broad-based buy-in across the organization. A lack of buy-in results from being unable to translate the vision for customer-centricity across the organization and make it actionable in terms of customer interactions down to the most granular decisions for the business.
  • The organization embarks on a transformation journey, but loses focus before achieving the objective.
  • The organization doesn’t have a common definition of what it means to be customer-centric.
  • The organization is slow to change and can’t move from its reactive nature to a proactive one that has a higher risk appetite and acts with speed and agility, willing to test and learn what works and what doesn’t.
  • The last major culture-related issue is that employees are often neglected, resulting in a poor experience for individuals who are carrying out your customer-facing efforts.

How to fix it

Get executives, key influencers/stakeholders, and employees involved in your customer engagement strategy process as early as possible. Make people of all levels in the organization feel like they are helping shape the outcome for the company and its customers.

Communicate your customer-centric vision, objectives, and strategy continuously, and consistently report your progress toward reaching those objectives. Enable employees of all levels, granting them the ability to be responsible for successful customer outcomes and allow them access to training that ensures they perform in a way that matches the organization’s vision.

Finally, get comfortable with the unknown, finding ways to run tests and learn in a single department or channel, then scale across the organization. All of these actions will increase the internal investment and accountability of employees at all levels and ensure that you transform your culture to enable your customer engagement initiatives.

Barrier #4: Capabilities

The final area where most organizations struggle considerably is ensuring they have the capabilities to support a successful digital customer engagement strategy. The greatest areas of concern when dealing with the enablement of digital customer engagement are capabilities in technology, data, and analytics.

Point solutions are often purchased for prescriptive reasons and managed in departmental silos, which results in multi-system madness. When trying to carry out their digital customer engagement initiatives, organizations then have issues trying to link different technologies or lack the relevant technology to accomplish the tasks at hand.

When it comes to data and analytics, organizations often lack key technology platforms to manage the data, which results in poor data quality. Even more so, many businesses don’t have the discipline to even measure results. When they do, what’s measured is more around internal issues or related to a problem, and the ongoing fragmentation and interpretation of data doesn’t provide any real insights that can drive business decisions around customer success.

How to fix it

Point blank, organizations need to invest in the best technology platforms to manage digital customer engagement. Marketing, IT, customer experience teams, etc. all need to come together and work collaboratively instead of worrying about sourcing their own solutions. Customer engagement requires key technology platforms, including marketing automation, content management systems, customer experience management systems, and the list goes on.

The important thing is that you define what you are trying to achieve and work together as an organization to get the right systems in place to achieve your objective. When it comes to data and analytics, the goal is to get to a proactive approach that provides real-time insights in place.

The organization must shift from internal and problem-related measurements to corporate and customer-success measures. A key step will be identifying the appropriate KPIs, information, and knowledge management control processes to fuel your customer engagement and optimize it.

Transforming your customer engagement for the digital age isn’t easy, and in many cases it will take some major organizational change. This shouldn’t scare you away, but rather empower you to tackle the initiative and be a change agent who drives vast growth for your business.

When you do decide to take this on for your business, beware these major barriers that often hinder success. Some of these challenges are inevitable, but knowing about them, you can now prepare for these roadblocks when they present themselves and take the right steps to move past them toward successful digital customer engagement.

About the author

John Wood

John Wood is Fusion’s Digital Marketing and Analytics Solution Director and has extensive experience creating successful digital solutions for internal and external clients across a diverse landscape, including B2B and B2C markets. With a background in business analytics, he specializes in translating client goals and objectives into actionable, outcome-based, digital marketing programs.

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