Jason HemingwayJason HemingwayMarch 6, 2020


Customer-centricity has been the CX and marketing industry promise of the past decade.

It has been hailed as the crucial ingredient to generating lasting loyalty because it is a fundamental shift in the way businesses view their customers, and indeed how they behave towards them. Essentially, it puts the customer at the very heart of the organisation and allows marketers and CX professionals to respond to their feedback, behaviour, and expectations accordingly.

So, where are we as an industry when it comes to delivering on this? Ultimately, customer lifetime value will be the real measure of success here – and according to new research from Isobar, the industry is lagging behind, as it is revealed almost half of marketers (46 percent) are struggling to meet growing consumer expectations.

Research we carried out at Thunderhead suggests marketers are in denial about the scale of the problem – we found 94 percent of consumers are frustrated by disjointed experiences. Clearly ‘customer-centricity’ is on the agenda, but few businesses are able to back up their efforts with genuine action.

Before we go any further, we need to reset on what it truly means to be customer-centric.

Organisations should consider moving away from viewing their customers as clicks and conversions, and start thinking about them as unique, with their own needs and preferences. Only by understanding customers on an individual level can marketers really build engagement and provide the most tailored, relevant and contextually aware content, utilising already-demonstrated intent to meet customer expectations.

So, what can organisations do to truly embrace customer centricity?

Here are three tips to help get started…

1. It’s not about more data, it’s about the data you already have

Data is an enabler and you probably already have too much. 

Behavioural insights, based on millions of touchpoints, can tell organisations who their customers are, what they want, and what their likely next move is. And the beauty of it is that the majority of organisations already have all of this at their fingertips.

The issue and reality, however, is that most marketers and CX professionals are drowning in the data. The consequences of marketers struggling and trying to make sense of it all can be paralysing.

Marketing teams and CX professionals can improve efficiency and drive greater customer engagement by using technology such as AI and machine learning to use data intelligently at scale. Technology provides a vital role in generating a clear real time view of each customer interacting with a brand. 

Moreover, marrying this together with a layer of context is a crucial piece of the puzzle. This will enable businesses to really harness true customer intent and inform future experiences with greater precision.  

Ultimately, demonstrating a clear understanding of who a customer is will be the foundation of a lasting relationship. Failing that could have drastic consequences, as almost nine-in-10 customers (87 percent) admitted to negatively perceiving a company that sends them information which lacks understanding of them as individuals and their unique context.

2. Connecting the omnichannel dots

When we talk about connecting the millions of consumer touchpoints, this needs to be all-encompassing.

Gone are the days that consumers might use one or two devices to interact with a brand. Nowadays, a customer’s journey might start on mobile while on the morning commute, switch to desktop once they get to the office, and then be picked up via a tablet device when relaxing at home in the evening.

They may even pop into a store at the weekend or make a call to the call centre.  

 Above all, consumers expect to be able to pick up where they left off, for the experience to be easy and to feel ‘known’. So, marketers and CX professionals need to be savvy when it comes to joining together these activities and behaviours. 

The industry needs to move away from ‘multichannel’, to instead be thinking about how best to implement ‘omnichannel’ approach. If an organisation’s strategy doesn’t consider the entire customer journey and the touchpoints traversed, their profile of each customer will likely be incomplete.

So much so, marketers and CX professionals could be missing key signals that are the difference between keeping a customer or not. 

If that’s the case, it’s time for a rethink. 

A true omnichannel strategy connects every bit of customer behaviour and context, however big or small, digital or physical. This is a huge factor in orchestrating customer journeys and understanding where the intent lies. And while omnichannel understanding isn’t immediate, connecting two channels is the starting point and the route to improved Customer Experience. Adding new channels is the correct long-term strategy, and becoming fully omnichannel need not be daunting.

3. Building a long-term approach

The biggest mistake a business can make is to focus these efforts only on campaigns. Or worse still, throwing out the rulebook at specific seasonal moments.

Think of Black Friday.

A brand has spent months getting to know a customer and building a delicate relationship, but in a moment of mass marketing, hounds them with irrelevant offers to shift products. It’s not customer-centric, it’s brand-centric. True customer-centricity is always-on, not a sporadic, part-time bolt-on.

Harnessing existing data and making sense of real-time behaviours over time will equip marketers and CX professionals with the insights they need to provide individual, richer experiences that have far more value than one day of discounts.

However, we mustn’t be blind to the fact that data has a short shelf life, as described by Forrester’s Mike Gualteri as “perishable insights”.

Collecting data is not a tick-box exercise, and professionals cannot sit back thinking the job is done, or that they have ‘enough’ data. Existing customer insights expire as soon as that same customer clicks, browses, or visits again, and again. Adaptive, real-time insights are key.

While this may all seem like a complex process, in actual fact, it’s easier than most organisations think. Journey orchestration is the answer. Orchestrating the appropriate response for an individual based on real-time insight and understanding intent, then delivering what the customer needs in the moment, is what helps brands stand apart from the competition and what sets them up for longer form success. 

Jason HemingwayJason HemingwayDecember 19, 2018


“We put our customers at the heart of what we do!” This was the war cry of 2018 from the marketing community.

Marketers and CX practitioners claimed that a customer-centric approach was their key focus. However, a recent Forrester Opportunity Snapshot revealed that 82 percent of brands claimed a customer-led approach in their journey planning, with only 13 percent having successfully achieved it.

We all know well that positive customer expectations and business fortunes are inextricably linked. In light of this, how do we start to make customer centricity a reality in 2019? How do we successfully carry out the promise of the past year?

It is essential that brands understand and develop complex relationships with customers at scale and “engage, engage, engage”. Too often, organisations plan customer journeys with only a brand-led ‘dictated’ approach. It’s time to do better. Technology can fully sustain brands’ aspirations to provide personal and positive experiences. With technology, we must foster relationships, and ensure that this evolving relationship is driven by the customer, not controlled by the brand. This is how brands make steps towards customer-centricity – they must enable customer journeys, not dictate.

Allow journeys to evolve over time, this will lead to better engagement

In life, we are all grappling with the concept of time. This is never more evident than at the changing of a year. As we move towards New Year’s Eve, we reflect on the past 12 months; we take stock of what we have done, how far we have come and how long it has taken us to achieve the successes and peaks of 2018. However, when considering the change we want to make in 2019, we do not need to feel the pressure of time. To paraphrase a Chinese proverb – the best time to start enabling was yesterday. The second best time is today.

If, as a brand, you are looking to improve your customer journey and level of customer engagement do not feel daunted by the year ahead. Associated change does not have to be painful, and focusing on customers is not at the expense of revenue, in fact, it is quite the opposite. Connecting your channels to reveal “true customer journeys” is feasible within a matter of weeks.

Empowering your customers to follow their own journeys is the future and requires a strategic shift in approach. While it is quick to implement, remember you are in this for the long term. It is important to facilitate customer journeys that analyse and traverse all touchpoints that evolve over time, with the aim of providing better long-term experience and growth. Traditional campaigns generate insights, awareness and short-term revenue. But they tend to talk at customers, treat channels separately and are ultimately perishable.

To achieve sustainable competitive advantage in 2019, B2C marketers must deliver real time, two-way insight, driven interactions with individual customers. This way you foster relationships and ensure a longer term involvement with your key stakeholder.

The year of the ‘engagement paradigm’: conducting an intent driven journey

Moving into 2019, it is clear that we are now operating in a world with multiple business models of innovation and varied digital economies. There is the sharing economy (think Uber, AirBnb), the Subscription economy (Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer) and the Direct to Consumer economy. The thread that links these all together is that each of these economies are grounded in the principle of the ‘Engagement Paradigm’ – a principle that encourages brands to nurture customer relationships, create long term value and help the customer identify and meet their own needs.

The new cultivated customer of 2019 is curious, demanding and impatient and brands need to show up, wise up and speed up.

In 2019 customers have two expectations – to be treated appropriately and to not have their time wasted. By adopting the principle of the Engagement Paradigm brands can create better experiences than the competition. They do this by using technology to interpret the signals emitted from millions of interactions and touchpoints to understand who is engaging, and crucially what they seek throughout the journey. This requires a philosophical shift and the business needs to ask “what does this customer need?”, rather than “what are we trying to sell?”.

At my firm, Thunderhead, we call this an “intent-driven” approach to customer journeys. Intent-driven journeys hand significant control to customers, recognising their individual goals and helping them reach them quickly. This style of approach allows a business to mobilise communications, sales staff or call operators to attend to the customer, satisfy their requests and needs, and put them firmly where they belong – at the centre.

The year of the ‘Elite Customer Squad’

As boards grapple with the commercial benefits and operational ramifications of putting customers at the heart of the business, a customer-focused superteam has emerged to turn intentions into reality. The CMO is joined by the CTO, CIO, CCO and, most recently, Chief Customer Experience Officer. This elite customer squad – and the focus on real journeys – helps to ease the essential organisational shift from being brand- to customer-focused, considering culture, KPIs and collaborative working practices.

This team also become the ambassadors of ensuring brand safety. Trust continues to be an issue for brands; issues from data leakage, misuse of personal data, commoditisation and trade in personal data continue to plague the pages of the newspaper and therefore instilling a sense of safety and protection is essential to guarantee confidence in your brand moving into the New Year.

 AI:  It is not “magic dust”, but it is critical

AI is high on all the prediction lists for 2019. However, cautionary notes from industry luminaries and leaders are creeping into the conversation. A senior Google executive recently reminded us that AI is not “magic dust” that can be sprinkled over the enterprise with transformative effect.

At Thunderhead, we see the focus on AI in 2019 doing the important and critical work behind the scenes around sense-making, information analysis and decision making. For instance, thanks to AI, we can understand and orchestrate complex, content-driven and ‘live’ customer journeys at incredible magnitude.

24-hour zero party data

 Steve Coogan’s 24 Hour Party People might be the film you have locked in your mind as you approach the end of 2018, but 2019 is all about ‘zero party data’

Consumers increasingly want control over data and how it is used. The solution is zero-party data. A type of data that is never inferred through income or device matching, nor is it merely observed through spending behaviours or cookie data.

Zero-party data allows brands to build direct relationships with consumers, and in turn, better personalise their marketing efforts, services, offers and product recommendations. According to Forrester, “creating a systematic, engaging process for collecting zero-party data is a great way to build that trust and then continue engaging the customer over time”.

Marketers use data within every area of their role. In 2019 it is important that third-party data is not amassed from a host of unrelated and unreliable sources like credit scores, cookies and click trails as it is guaranteed this will not only damage your relationship with your customer, but also inevitably lead to you conducting an out of touch and unsuccessful campaign.

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Customer Experience Magazine is the online magazine packed full of industry news, blogs, features, reports, case studies, video bites and international stories all focusing on customer experience.



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