Tag Archives: customer

Smart Government Agencies Turn to Next-Gen Customer Comms

Government agencies are often challenged in their effort to optimize communications with their citizens. Most government executives want to increase the frequency and quality of their interactions, but tightening budgets have resulted in fewer interactions, not more. They’ve stopped sending annual booklets, they send fewer reminder notices and wait for consumers to call them rather than proactively reaching out. Reduced communication results in lower compliance and an increase in downstream problems.

At the same time, more people than ever are using smart phones (SMS, email and web apps) and other electronic communication tools. Recent data from Deloitte tells us that 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone and its usage is so ingrained in our daily routine that 61 percent of Americans check their smartphone within five minutes of waking up.

How long after you wake up do you check your smart phone?

howlongafterwakingphone 1024x743 Smart Government Agencies Turn to Next Gen Customer Comms

With this as a backdrop, it’s no wonder private sector firms are turning to automated communications to increase the quality and quantity of their customer engagement. This is where automated communications can also help government agencies. Not only is automated communication less expensive, it requires less staff to manage, and enhances the citizen experience. Automation improves the sophistication of the contact strategy with each citizen, ensuring they receive messages in their preferred channel, at an optimal time with clear instructions on what to do next. This results in increased compliance and a decrease in inbound phone calls. Customer service ratings also go up as the contact strategy is less intrusive, more personalized and seen as more convenient in our busy modern lives. The opportunities to improve engagement are broad. Let’s look at just one application of automated communication for governments, the collections of taxes:

Example: Tax Collection
Customer Service

  • Reminders before due dates. Businesses and individuals register for automated reminders prior to due dates. Through SMS and email outreach, the taxpayer benefits from reminders, and the department benefits from lower non-filer rates.
  • Account clean-up and closing. Taxpayers who have not filed recently, and have no other record of activities can be contacted to automatically close their account. This cleans up tax rolls and reduces non-filer and compliance activities.
  • Customer Service Campaigns. After new laws or regulations have been enacted, targeted reminders are sent automatically.


  • Refund Status. Many tax agencies are inundated with phone calls from taxpayers asking about the status of their refund. Imagine having a spot on the tax form where the taxpayer can request text messages regarding their refund status. An automated SMS can be sent for ‘return received’, ‘return processed/refund approved’ and ‘refund sent’, for example. Each can include an estimated refund date. This would reduce phone calls and if the taxpayer is delinquent in a subsequent year, documents the phone number to call.
  • Filing Zero Returns. If a taxpayer has signed up for a filing date reminder but still does not file on-time, and if that taxpayer has a history of ‘zero’ returns, send an email or text message with a link to certify a zero return for that period.
  • Registration Renewal. Reminders can be sent for registration renewals and automated renewals could be provided using the same payment source used the prior period.

One of the best opportunities for advanced contact is for taxpayers in collections. While the department would require an “opt in” process to use this method, once approved by the taxpayer, the department can dramatically reduce their cost of collections and increase the breadth of contacts through these methods:

  • Text messages or emails replacing or supplementing US Mail. US Mail contacts are expensive and delay the collection process by a handful of days. Contacts that are not mandated by statute could be replaced or supplemented with emails or text messages, expanding reach and reducing costs.
  • Fully Automated, Unattended Phone Calls. Many agencies use predictive dialers to enhance their outbound call campaigns. Technology now offers fully interactive voice phone calls. These calls allow the taxpayer to make a payment, enter into a payment arrangement, or connect with a live agent. This approach can leave messages which connect call-backs with an automated attendant rather than a live agent. Experience shows most people prefer this to a phone call with a collector (as it is less embarrassing, intrusive and confronting)
  • Smart Phone App for Payments and Payment Agreements. Apps can provide taxpayers with their balance and facilitate payments or enter payment agreements. It can also hold a payment source for recurring payments which can be used as a levy source if needed.
  • Initial contact. While the state likely needs to use US Mail to make official contact with the taxpayer to establish due process, the initial contact could potentially be made much less expensively using email or text messages. This results in significant savings and for low risk taxpayers, can resolve delinquencies faster.

Desk Audit

  • Automated contacts. Audits are typically conducted using US Mail and the telephone. In the future, individuals and businesses can be contacted using SMS, email and smartphone app. This speeds up case resolution and improves customer service.

Enhanced with Predictive Analytics

  • Continually improved operations. Technology can be used to evaluate the results of the programs mentioned here. Predictive analytics and machine learning can determine the optimal number of days before or after a due date to make contact, the relative success rates of SMS, email, smartphone app and live calls to continually improve strategies.

To learn more about upgrading your own communication technologies and services, download FICO® Solutions for Government, email me at info@fico.com or call 1 888 342 6336.

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How To Improve Customer Service With Video

When outspoken venture capitalist and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen wrote in The Wall Street Journal in 2011 that software is eating the world, he was only partly correct. In fact, business services based on software platforms are what’s eating the world.

Companies like Apple, which remade the mobile phone industry by offering app developers easy access to millions of iPhone owners through its iTunes App Store platform, are changing the economy. However, these world-eating companies are not just in the tech world. They are also emerging in industries that you might not expect: retailers, finance companies, transportation firms, and others outside of Silicon Valley are all at the forefront of the platform revolution.

These outsiders are taking platforms to the next level by building them around business services and data, not just apps. Companies are making business services such as logistics, 3D printing, and even roadside assistance for drivers available through a software connection that other companies can plug in to and consume or offer to their own customers.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image2 How To Improve Customer Service With VideoThere are two kinds of players in this business platform revolution: providers and participants. Providers create the platform and create incentives for developers to write apps for it. Developers, meanwhile, are participants; they can extend the reach of their apps by offering them through the platform’s virtual shelves.

Business platforms let companies outside of the technology world become powerful tech players, unleashing a torrent of innovation that they could never produce on their own. Good business platforms create millions in extra revenue for companies by enlisting external developers to innovate for them. It’s as if strangers are handing you entirely new revenue streams and business models on the street.

Powering this movement are application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs), which enable developers to easily plug their apps into a platform without having to know much about the complex software code that drives it. Developers get more time to focus on what they do best: writing great apps. Platform providers benefit because they can offer many innovative business services to end customers without having to create them themselves.

Any company can leverage APIs and SDKs to create new business models and products that might not, in fact, be its primary method of monetization. However, these platforms give companies new opportunities and let them outflank smaller, more nimble competitors.

Indeed, the platform economy can generate unbelievable revenue streams for companies. According to Platform Revolution authors Geoffrey G. Parker, Marshall W. Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary, travel site Expedia makes approximately 90% of its revenue by making business services available to other travel companies through its API.

In TechCrunch in May 2016, Matt Murphy and Steve Sloane wrote that “the number of SaaS applications has exploded and there is a rising wave of software innovation in APIs that provide critical connective tissue and increasingly important functionality.” ProgrammableWeb.com, an API resource and directory, offers searchable access to more than 15,000 different APIs.

According to Accenture Technology Vision 2016, 82% of executives believe that platforms will be the “glue that brings organizations together in the digital economy.” The top 15 platforms (which include companies built entirely on this software architecture, such as eBay and Priceline.com) have a combined market capitalization of US$ 2.6 trillion.

It’s time for all companies to join the revolution. Whether working in alliance with partners or launching entirely in-house, companies need to think about platforms now, because they will have a disruptive impact on every major industry.

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To the Barricades

Several factors converged to make monetizing a company’s business services easier. Many of the factors come from the rise of smartphones, specifically the rise of Bluetooth and 3G (and then 4G and LTE) connections. These connections turned smartphones into consumption hubs that weren’t feasible when high-speed mobile access was spottier.

One good example of this is PayPal’s rise. In the early 2000s, it functioned primarily as a standalone web site, but as mobile purchasing became more widespread, third-party merchants clamored to integrate PayPal’s payment processing service into their own sites and apps.

In Platform Revolution, Parker, Van Alstyne, and Choudary claim that “platforms are eating pipelines,” with pipelines being the old, direct-to-consumer business methods of the past. The first stage of this takeover involved much more efficient digital pipelines (think of Amazon in the retail space and Grubhub for food delivery) challenging their offline counterparts.

What Makes Great Business Platforms Run?

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The quality of the ecosystem that powers your platform is as important as the quality of experience you offer to customers. Here’s how to do it right.

Although the platform economy depends on them, application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) aren’t magic buttons. They’re tools that organizations can leverage to attract users and developers.

To succeed, organizations must ensure that APIs include extensive documentation and are easy for developers to add into their own products. Another part of platform success is building a general digital enterprise platform that includes both APIs and SDKs.

A good platform balances ease of use, developer support, security, data architecture (that is, will it play nice with a company’s existing systems?), edge processing (whether analytics are processed locally or in the cloud), and infrastructure (whether a platform provider operates its own data centers and cloud infrastructure or uses public cloud services). The exact formula for which elements to embrace, however, will vary according to the use case, the industry, the organization, and its customers.

In all cases, the platform should offer a value proposition that’s a cut above its competitors. That means a platform should offer a compelling business service that is difficult to duplicate.

By creating open standards and easy-to-work-with tools, organizations can greatly improve the platforms they offer. APIs and SDKs may sound complicated, but they’re just tools for talented people to do their jobs with. Enable these talented people, and your platform will take off.

In the second stage, platforms replace pipelines. Platform Revolution’s authors write: “The Internet no longer acts merely as a distribution channel (a pipeline). It also acts as a creation infrastructure and a coordination mechanism. Platforms are leveraging this new capability to create entirely new business models.” Good examples of second-stage companies include Airbnb, DoubleClick, Spotify, and Uber.

Allstate Takes Advantage of Its Hidden Jewels

Many companies taking advantage of platforms were around long before APIs, or even the internet, existed. Allstate, one of the largest insurers in the United States, has traditionally focused on insurance services. But recently, the company expanded into new markets—including the platform economy.

Allstate companies Allstate Roadside Services (ARS) and Arity, a technology company founded by Allstate in late 2016, have provided their parent company with new sources of revenue, thanks to new offerings. ARS launched Good Hands Rescue APIs, which allow third parties to leverage Allstate’s roadside assistance network in their own apps. Meanwhile, Arity offers a portfolio of APIs that let third parties leverage Allstate’s aggregate data on driver behavior and intellectual property related to risk prediction for uses spanning mobility, consumer, and insurance solutions.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image4 How To Improve Customer Service With VideoFor example, Verizon licenses an Allstate Good Hands Rescue API for its own roadside assistance app. And automakers GM and BMW also offer roadside assistance service through Allstate.

Potential customers for Arity’s API include insurance providers, shared mobility companies, automotive parts makers, telecoms, and others.

“Arity is an acknowledgement that we have to be digital first and think about the services we provide to customers and businesses,” says Chetan Phadnis, Arity’s head of product development. “Thinking about our intellectual property system and software products is a key part of our transformation. We think it will create new ways to make money in the vertical transportation ecosystem.”

One of Allstate’s major challenges is a change in auto ownership that threatens the traditional auto insurance model. No-car and one-car households are on the rise, ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft work on very different insurance models than passenger cars or traditional taxi companies, and autonomous vehicles could disrupt the traditional auto insurance model entirely.

This means that companies like Allstate are smart to look for revenue streams beyond traditional insurance offerings. The intangible assets that Allstate has accumulated over the years—a massive aggregate collection of driver data, an extensive set of risk models and predictive algorithms, and a network of garages and mechanics to help stranded motorists—can also serve as a new revenue stream for the future.

By offering two distinct API services for the platform economy, Allstate is also able to see what customers might want in the future. While the Good Hands Rescue APIs let third-party users integrate a specific service (such as roadside assistance) into their software tools, Arity instead lets third-party developers leverage huge data sets as a piece of other, less narrowly defined projects, such as auto maintenance. As Arity gains insights into how customers use and respond to those offerings, it gets a preview into potential future directions for its own products and services.

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Farmers Harvest Cash from a Platform

Another example of innovation fueling the platform economy doesn’t come from a boldfaced tech name. Instead, it comes from a relatively small startup that has nimbly built its business model around data with an interesting twist: it turns its customers into entrepreneurs.

Farmobile is a Kansas City–based agriculture tech company whose smart device, the Passive Uplink Connection (PUC), can be plugged into tractors, combines, sprayers, and other farm equipment.

Farmobile uses the PUC to enable farmers to monetize data from their fields, which is one of the savviest routes to success with platforms—making your platform so irresistible to end consumers that they foment the revolution for you.

Once installed, says CEO Jason Tatge, the PUC streams second-by-second data to farmers’ Farmobile accounts. This gives them finely detailed reports, called Electronic Field Records (EFRs), that they can use to improve their own business, share with trusted advisors, and sell to third parties.

The PUC gives farmers detailed records for tracking analytics on their crops, farms, and equipment and creates a marketplace where farmers can sell their data to third parties. Farmers benefit because they generate extra income; Farmobile benefits because it makes a commission on each purchase and builds a giant store of aggregated farming data.

This last bit is important if Farmobile is to successfully compete with traditional agricultural equipment manufacturers, which also gather data from farmers. Farmobile’s advantage (at least for now) is that the equipment makers limit their data gathering to their existing customer bases and sell it back to them in the form of services designed to improve crop yields and optimize equipment performance.

Farmobile, meanwhile, is trying to appeal to all farmers by sharing the wealth, which could help it leapfrog the giants that already have large customer bases. “The ability to bring data together easily is good for farmers, so we built API integrations to put data in one place,” says Tatge.

Farmers can resell their data on Farmobile’s Data Store to buyers such as reinsurance firm Guy Carpenter. To encourage farmers to opt in, says Tatge, “we told farmers that if they run our device over planting and harvest season, we can guarantee them $ 2 per acre for their EFRs.”

So far, Farmobile’s customers have sent the Data Store approximately 4,200 completed EFRs for both planting and harvest, which will serve as the backbone of the company’s data monetization efforts. Eventually, Farmobile hopes to expand the offerings on the Data Store to include records from at least 10 times as many different farm fields.

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Under Armour Binges on APIs

Another model for the emerging business platform world comes from Under Armour, the sports apparel giant. Alongside its very successful clothing and shoe lines, Under Armour has put its platform at the heart of its business model.

But rather than build a platform itself, Under Armour has used its growing revenues to create an industry-leading ecosystem. Over the past decade, it has purchased companies that already offer APIs, including MapMyFitness, Endomondo, and MyFitnessPal, and then linked them all together into a massive platform that serves 30 million consumers.

This strategy has made Under Armour an indispensable part of the sprawling mobile fitness economy. According to the company’s 2016 annual results, its business platform ecosystem, known as the Connected Fitness division, generated $ 80 million in revenue that year—a 51% increase over 2015.

SAP Q317 DigitalDoubles Feature1 Image7 How To Improve Customer Service With VideoBy combining existing APIs from its different apps with original tools built in-house, extensive developer support, and a robust SDK, third-party developers have everything they need to build their own fitness app or web site.

Depending on their needs, third-party developers can sign up for several different payment plans with varying access to Under Armour’s APIs and SDKs. Indeed, the company’s tiered developer pricing plan for Connected Fitness, which is separated into Starter, Pro, and Premium levels, makes Under Armour seem more like a tech company than a sports apparel firm.

As a result, Under Armour’s APIs and SDKs are the underpinnings of a vast platform cooperative. Under Armour’s apps seamlessly integrate with popular services like Fitbit and Garmin (even though Under Armour has a fitness tracker of its own) and are licensed by corporations ranging from Microsoft to Coca-Cola to Purina. They’re even used by fitness app competitors like AthletePath and Lose It.

A large part of Under Armour’s success is the sheer amount of data its fitness apps collect and then make available to developers. MyFitnessPal, for instance, is an industry-leading calorie and food tracker used for weight loss, and Endomondo is an extremely popular running and biking record keeper and route-sharing platform.

One way of looking at the Connected Fitness platform is as a combination of traditional consumer purchasing data with insights gleaned from Under Armour’s suite of apps, as well as from the third-party apps that Under Armour’s products use.

Indeed, Under Armour gets a bonus from the platform economy: it helps the company understand its customers better, creating a virtuous cycle. As end users use different apps fueled by Under Armour’s services and data-sharing capabilities, Under Armour can then use that data to fuel customer engagement and attract additional third-party app developers to add new services to the ecosystem.

What Successful Platforms Have in Common

The most successful business platforms have three things in common: They’re easy to work with, they fulfill a market need, and they offer data that’s useful to customers.

For instance, Farmobile’s marketplace fulfills a valuable need in the market: it lets farmers monetize data and develop a new revenue stream that otherwise would not exist. Similarly, Allstate’s Arity experiment turns large volumes of data collected by Allstate over the years into a revenue stream that drives down costs for Arity’s clients by giving them more accurate data to integrate into their apps and software tools.

Meanwhile, Under Armour’s Connected Fitness platform and API suite encourage users to sign up for more apps in the company’s ecosystem. If you track your meals in MyFitnessPal, you’ll want to track your runs in Endomondo or MapMyRun. Similarly, if you’re an app developer in the health and fitness space, Under Armour has a readily available collection of tools that will make it easy for users to switch over to your app and cheaper for you to develop your app.

As the platform economy grows, all three of these approaches—Allstate’s leveraging of its legacy business data, Farmobile’s marketplace for users to become data entrepreneurs, and Under Armour’s one-stop fitness app ecosystem—are extremely useful examples of what happens next.

In the coming months and years, the platform economy will see other big changes. In 2016 for example, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google all released APIs for their AI-powered voice assistant platforms, the most famous of which is Apple’s Siri.

The introduction of APIs confirms that the AI technology behind these bots has matured significantly and that a new wave of AI-based platform innovation is nigh. (In fact, Digitalistpredicted last year that the emergence of an API for these AIs would open them up beyond conventional uses.) New voice-operated technologies such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa offer exciting opportunities for developers to create full-featured, immersive applications on top of existing platforms.

We will also see AI- and machine learning–based APIs emerge that will allow developers to quickly leverage unstructured data (such as social media posts or texts) for new applications and services. For instance, sentiment analysis APIs can help explore and better understand customers’ interests, emotions, and preferences in social media.

As large providers offer APIs and associated services for smaller organizations to leverage AI and machine learning, these companies can in turn create their own platforms for clients to use unstructured data—everything from insights from uploaded photographs to recognizing a user’s emotion based on facial expression or tone of voice—in their own apps and products. Meanwhile, the ever-increasing power of cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure will give these computing-intensive app platforms the juice they need to become deeper and richer.

These business services will depend on easy ways to exchange and implement data for success. The good news is that finding easy ways to share data isn’t hard and the API and SDK offerings that fuel the platform economy will become increasingly robust. Thanks to the opportunities generated by these new platforms and the new opportunities offered to end users, developers, and platform businesses themselves, everyone stands to win—if they act soon. D!

About the Authors

Bernd Leukert is a member of the Executive Board, Products and Innovation, for SAP.

Björn Goerke is Chief Technology Officer and President, SAP Cloud Platform, for SAP.

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Sethu M is President, Mobile Services, for SAP.

Neal Ungerleider is a Los Angeles-based technology journalist and consultant.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


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The ‘C’ in CRM Means More Than Just ‘Customer’

CRM More 300x225 The ‘C’ in CRM Means More Than Just ‘Customer’

Dear Joe,

Recently, a friend asked me to review a draft of his resume. Since I’m familiar with his work history, I was a little surprised to see that he had included CRM experience. Initially, I assumed it was an example of the “resume padding” I’ve always heard so much about – but I know this guy well, and he doesn’t strike me as the kind to try to bluff his way into a new job. I was troubled, do I not know him as well as I thought or am I the last guy in the world with a completely honest resume?

Well, he had asked for my feedback so I politely inquired whether he had CRM experience that I couldn’t remember. He explained that he was responsible for administering a grants management software system at his last job. I happen to be familiar with this grants management tool, and at first blush, it seemed like a real stretch to label it as a ‘CRM.’ I didn’t argue with him but I found myself disappointed.

What should I do?

Mr. Honest Resume

Dear Mr. Honest Resume,

Grants may not be what we first think of when we contemplate customer relationships, but at PowerObjects we believe strongly in the idea that Dynamics is really an XRM solution, where the X is whatever you need it be: customers, grants, healthcare… whatever! When we think in terms of XRM, we can start to see the limitless possibilities of what can truly be achieved with the Dynamics platform.

At our frequent BYOI (Bring Your Own Innovation) brown-bag luncheons, PowerObjects employees get to share innovative solutions we have deployed for customers. At these showcases, I have seen some truly innovative customization of the Dynamics 365 platform. Indeed, we’ve deployed everything from a patient intake and routing system for a medical organization (that looked nothing like the familiar Dynamics UI) to a check-out “kiosk” system designed for a biotech company that allows scientists to check out lab samples with an automated replenishment order when stock is reduced to a certain threshold. Dynamics is so much more than just a customer relationship management tool!

One of the first phases of our Proven Process Methodology is “Plan for Success.” During this phase, we try to forget about the notion of ‘CRM’ and instead bring a laser focus to the business, processes, and problem at hand. Only after we have a firm understanding of this baseline do we look at Dynamics as a potential solution. See, Dynamics is such a powerful tool with such unlimited potential that, with our hundreds of years of combined expertise at PowerObjects, we can literally bend it, mold it, and shape it any which way to deliver a truly unique and customized solution that not only addresses our clients’ current pain points, but is also a flexible system that will easily evolve and expand to meet future changing business needs.

So, there you have it. Your friend is right on – CRM can certainly be used for things other than “customers.”

Sincerely, Joe

Check out our blog to keep expanding your CRM knowledge!

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

Why Everything Your Customer Touches is Content Marketing

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This transcript has been edited for length. To get the full measure, listen to the podcast.

Michelle Huff: Thank you so much, Ann, for joining us today on the podcast. For those who might not know who you are, maybe you could just take a few minutes to tell us more about yourself and MarketingProfs?

Ann Handley: I’m the chief content officer of MarketingProfs. I’m a book author. I’ve written two books. One is called Content Rules, the other is called Everybody Writes.Everybody Writes is a Wall Street Journal bestseller.

What Are Trending Topics for Modern Marketers?

Michelle: MarketingProfs is a resource for marketers. You’ve watched the trends in marketing over the years. What’s going on recently? What are some of the in-demand topics today? What are you seeing as being the most interest to marketers?

Ann: We think of our audience as what we call “aspirational CMOs.” And that may not be a literal CMO, but it’s definitely somebody who cares, who wants to do well in their industry. And maybe that’s to ultimately become a chief marketing officer or maybe it’s just to ultimately become the king or queen of their own domain, their own consultancy, and so on.

The topics we’ve seen over the years, the consistency we see, is that marketers always want to know about lead generation ‒ always. It should be no surprise to anybody listening to this that that’s always a perennial topic.

But I think the tools we now use to engage around generating leads, around demand gen, has definitely changed. It used to be all about the database, and how we get more names in a funnel. It still is that, but now the way we engage those people to sort of become part of our own ecosystems at our own companies, those things have changed.

And that we now have content certainly is a big piece of that. We have social tools, we have social selling, we have storytelling. So, all of those things are now part of the lead-generation process in ways that we really haven’t seen as heavily before. Yes, those elements have always existed. But I think obviously they’ve come much more to the forefront in 2017.

Michelle: When you take a step back and think about marketers today, what do you think are the most important skillsets for them to have? And does it differ from B2C or B2B?

Ann: We recently ran a piece in MarketingProfs that looked at the skills that B2B technology marketers say are most valued. So, B2B technology leaders, when they’re hiring marketers, what do they most want? And it’s interestingly a lot of those soft skills, like good communication, people management, interpersonal skills. Those are the most valued in the tech world. Which, I thought was really interesting. I can’t quote the number off my head. It was like over 80 percent of the people who responded to the survey.

But then, right below soft skills [are] writing, content marketing, data analysis, email marketing. Those are all the things that are valued in the B2B tech world. And I read that today and I was like, “Wow.” I mean, those are pretty consistent skills. Think about that for a second in a broader lens. So, what is that about? Ultimately, what does that mean? It means being able to communicate well, both to your audience and to your customers, as well as internally, is key for marketers. Always will be, always has been. Writing, both externally and internally. So, again, it’s that clarity of communication. Content marketing, certainly it’s sort of an extension of: How are you telling stories that engage, or are you telling stories that engage?

MarketingProfs/CMI Annual Survey

Michelle: Is it quality versus quantity? And what are the keys to producing great content? Is it having a lot of it? Or is it just having a few [pieces]? Or is it trying to find that balance? What’s your take?

Ann: The way I answer the quality-versus-quantity question is really with a “yes.” You can’t have the best, highest quality – you can’t hire Neil Gaiman to write a blog post for you, and pay him $ 100,000, and then run one blog post a year. I mean that’s just ridiculous.

Obviously, you need a certain quantity to be relevant, to be communicating with your audience at a cadence that makes sense. But I think you also really need to think about quality. And I think that’s true now more than ever. MarketingProfs every year does a survey with the Content Marketing Institute. And every year we ask marketers what their plans are aspirational for the following year. We started doing this eight years ago. And every year, consistently, the number of marketers who say they plan to increase the amount of content they’re producing is going up.

And anybody listening to this: You know this, I know this. We’re all out in the world, we’re on Facebook, we’re on Twitter, we’re on Instagram. We see all the content that’s being created. And it’s increasingly difficult to break through. And to me that means you really need to step back and ask: What are we doing to move the needle here?

Bigger, Bolder, Braver

We need to have a great story we’re telling. We need to align around that bigger story we’re telling. And we need to be a little bit bolder in the story we’re telling. We need to think about how we’re going to break through. We need to tell a story that hits on specific challenges that your audience has, but that nobody else is talking about in the right way for that certain audience. And I think we need to have that gutsier, braver tone of voice.

So those three things ‒ bigger, bolder and braver ‒ are all things I think can be a differentiator for a company from a quality point of view. The quantity piece, you sort of have to figure out on your own. I mean, it’s sort of like you need to be doing enough to engage the audience, but not too much to overwhelm them. And that answer is gonna be different for everybody out there. But in my mind, you need to focus on quality first and foremost, and then figure out cadence.

If you’re producing content your audience does not care about, then that’s why they’re not engaging with it. They’re not engaging with it, not because it’s too long or because it’s requiring too much of them, but because it’s not meeting their needs.

What is the Role of Content Marketing?

Michelle: At Act-On, we use a framework we call Brand, Demand, Expand and [talk about] how you market from the awareness stage through demand and the sale to when your prospects are now customers and how you keep and grow their business. How does content marketing fit in?

Ann: I think there’s a temptation to think about content marketing only as a top-of-funnel approach. But it’s not that. Somebody asked me a question not too long ago: “What do you think the future of content marketing is?” And I said, “I think that it’s not content marketing … it’s marketing.”

I think with the notion of Brand, Demand, Expand, content is inherent in all aspects of that because content is sort of integral to all aspects of starting a relationship with a customer, nurturing that relationship, and then furthering that relationship. So, content to me is not some sort of special thing that’s siloed over here in some corner of the office. Instead, it’s integrated throughout the entire ecosystem of marketing. It’s integrated throughout the entire business, really.

I don’t see content as: This is what we use on social media. Instead, it’s everything. If you’ve ever seen me speak, I sometimes will show a graphic of a scene from The Lion King where Mufasa is sitting there with little baby Simba, and looking out over their kingdom, and he says: “Everything the light touches is content, my son.” And sometimes I will sing that moment from The Lion King. I’ll just belt it out on stage.

But I think that’s absolutely true. Everything our customer touches is content. Everything that expresses any aspect of our business is content. Everything that extends our brand is content. It’s not just the thing we in the marketing space tend to only think of as content, like the things we own ‒ things like the brand or the FAQ page. It’s everything. It’s the product page, it’s your social channels, it’s the minute that anybody picks up a brochure anywhere. All of those things. It’s everything.

How Do You Use Content Marketing to Differentiate?

Michelle: How do you think you should use content to succinctly differentiate yourself from your competitors? Because you’re trying to drive these things, but you want to make sure. How do you be bolder? How do you have that voice? How are you thinking about using that content differently?

Ann: I really like the way you articulated brand, demand, and expand. Because you said in far fewer words just my philosophy about content ‒ it’s throughout the organization. So that’s fantastic, number one. But number two, to me, it starts with the brand. It starts with your story. Who are you? Why do you do what you do? Why are you in business? What is your founding story? Why do you exist?

And to me, when you ask: “How do you succinctly differentiate?”, you start with your story. Who are you? Why do you exist? And why should customers care about you? I think it’s important to really think about your story and not just talk about the products you sell. But really think about it a little bit more deeply than that.

What is the Difference Between Content Marketing and Advertising?

Michelle: Some people equate content marketing to advertising. What do you think the difference is?

Ann: There’s probably a million different ways you could answer this question. But to me, it really comes down to the fact that content is customer-centric, and advertising is brand-centered, in general. I think to me, content answers the questions that customers have, so it has real utility for customers. It’s helpful to them. It has a more creative approach to answering those questions. Sometimes not. Sometimes it does.

But it has a very customer-centric point of view. It’s really what marketing should be focusing on these days. We should be focusing on our customers 100 percent of the time. I’m absolutely not anti-advertising at all. But to me, that’s much more brand-centric. So, you’re just talking about yourself. You’re just sort of talking about your attributes as opposed to what you can do for customers. So that, to me, is the more interesting part of marketing ‒ really thinking about things from your customers’ point of view. I challenge myself with it all the time. That’s how I would differentiate. Content is customer-centric and advertising is brand-centric.

Michelle: I like the distinction.

What Advice Do You Have for Aspirational Marketers?

Michelle: One of my last questions is, as well-known as you are, we often overlook that you’ve been a leader for most of your career. Any advice for people who are listening that you have for being a leader in marketing or in business, or any advice you have for other women aspiring to leadership roles, or people who are thinking: “I just should jump out and start my own business and company, or maybe I should author a book”? Any words of advice?

Ann: Yes. Just do it. I see a lot of people ‒ and not just women, but younger people too ‒ holding back. Don’t hold back. Start creating content. Start exercising your voice. Start figuring out: How do we get those skills that we need? How do we be better communicators? How do we be sharper communicators? How do we be better writers? All of those things are so key. And so just start using your voice, number one.

And then number two, start building your audience. You want to write a book, say. Well, you don’t start with sitting down at your desk to write a book. You start with building a platform first because that’s the way that works.

And you asked me the question earlier: What did I learn from writing my two books? And part of what I learned is that you can’t market in a vacuum. I have this notion that, “Oh, I’m going to be a book author, how sort of high-minded will that be?” Well, you know what? It’s not. It’s about sales, right?

It’s like you think you’re a writer ‒ you’re not, you’re in sales. And the only reason why those books did as well as they did is because I had the audience in place first. I had the platform in place. So, if you have aspirations to write a book, to be a leader, start to improve those soft skills, start to tell your own story, poke your nose out, start telling that story in ways that have relevance for the people you are trying to reach.

And number four, build your audience. Start thinking about your bigger platform beyond your current job or your current role. What do you stand for? It’s not unlike what we were talking about as the heart of content marketing. Where do you start? You start with your story. And I think the same is true for individuals, too. What do you want to be known for? What do you stand for?

How Can We Learn More About MarketingProfs?

Michelle: I love it. How can people listening learn more about you and MarketingProfs?

Ann: You can go to MarketingProfs.com and sign up to get our daily newsletters that will keep you in the know about all things marketing. We also have our annual B2B Marketing Forum, which is a heck of a good time, in October, in Boston. Those are the two best places to connect with us.

I should mention, too, that after all this talk about soft skills, I feel like I need to mention, we also have our own training programs at MarketingProfs on writing, on storytelling, on content, and on lead generation, as well as a host of other resources for basically anything you want to know about marketing.

Michelle: Perfect. Well, I love it. I think no matter where we are in our careers, we can always do better in improving on those different skills. I think it’s just something you’ve got to focus on and take the time to just keep getting better. I love that you have it and I really enjoyed this conversation. Thanks so much for being on today.

Ann: Thank you, Michelle. It was fun. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for having me.

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Act-On Blog

Upcoming Webinar: How To Deliver High Performance Capital Markets CRM Customer Experiences

WEBINAR 300x225 Upcoming Webinar: How To Deliver High Performance Capital Markets CRM Customer Experiences

As the Capital Markets industry continues to grow and as product companies continue to fight for “Top of Mind Awareness” via your channels, it is imperative to differentiate by providing personalized, proactive, and predictive customer experiences. On September 21, PowerObjects, an HCL Technologies Company, Forrester, and Discovery Data will host a webinar to teach you how to create customer loyalty in Capital Markets by leveraging CRM to deliver the right messages, to the right constituents, at the right time regardless of channel, business unit, customer, or employee!

Webinar Details:
September 21, 1-2pm CST
Register here!

Key Takeaways:

  • Learn how Microsoft Dynamics 365 will streamline the way in which you manage complex hierarchies, associations, teams, and relationships
  • Preview how an integrated Dynamics 365 and LinkedIn “Voice of the Customer” record will empower your touch points
  • Learn how Discovery Data can empower your CRM and LinkedIn data by providing accurate performance and data points for interacting with your firm, branch, and contact segmentation

speakers final Upcoming Webinar: How To Deliver High Performance Capital Markets CRM Customer Experiences

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PowerObjects- Bringing Focus to Dynamics CRM

Leading with Customer Experience, Value, Technology, and Credibility

rsz bigstock golden trophy cup on table 155670149 1 Leading with Customer Experience, Value, Technology, and Credibility

When I was an industry analyst, I always felt that the most enlightening and valuable research came from first hand, end user feedback. Who better to hear from than practicing professionals doing real world work? Pleasing customers with enterprise software isn’t for the faint of heart and if you really want unvarnished insights, end users should be the core of your critical feedback loop.

It’s for this reason the team at TIBCO is so excited to see the results of The Wisdom of Crowds® Business Intelligence and Enterprise Planning Market Studies delivered by Dresner Advisory Services, LLC. This research speaks directly to the end user community on a wide variety of categories to unearth a complete view of market realities, plans, and perceptions from users in all roles and across industries.

This month Dresner Advisory Services announced its 2017 Industry Excellence Awards based on high vendor ratings in their most recent research. TIBCO Spotfire achieved awards as a Customer Experience Leader and a Value Leader, while TIBCO Statistica received the Technology Leader and Credibility Leader awards. Both solutions were acknowledged for their overall strength in sales, support, consulting services, and more. Vendors who are awarded Customer Experience and Technology leaders are executing at a high level for sales and service, as well as product and technology. Credibility and Value leaders have customers who reflect a high level of confidence and sense of value for the price paid.

Dresner’s Wisdom of Crowds research started in 2010 and dives deep when appraising vendors performance by tracking 33 different criteria across 7 topic areas that include, Sales Experience, Value for Price Paid, Technology/Product, Technical Support, Consulting Services, Customer Recommendation, and Vendor Integrity.

The Wisdom of Crowds research examines the details of our industry and surfaces positive trends that point to great progress for Business Intelligence and Analytic consumers. When reviewing the the Value dimension of the Dresner report a positive trend emerges: Since 2012, respondents to the survey are scoring the vendors with progressively higher value scores year over year. Keeping up with this competitive landscape puts pressure on solution providers, making it harder to compete and in the case of Spotfire even more satisfying to be among the leaders in this area.

Dresner tracks 12 different criteria to score product quality and usefulness, which includes robustness/sophistication of technology, completeness of functionality, reliability of technology, scalability, integration of components within product, integration with third-party technologies, overall usability, ease of installation, ease of administration, customization and extensibility, online training, forums and documentation, and ease of upgrades and migration to new versions. All saw increases in 2017 except ease of upgrades again. This trend points to increased competition and maturity in the market, making it more difficult to rise to leadership positions in the research.

The vendor credibility model employed by Dresner combines the value for price paid as scored by the user along with a vendor’s integrity score (honesty and truthfulness in all dealings) and recommendation score (customers willingness to recommend the vendor) to create an overall confidence dimension. The value and confidence dimensions position where a vendor is placed in the overall rankings. TIBCO Statistica placement among credibility leaders is an award to be proud of considering the competition and the scoring criteria.

The 2017 Industry Excellence Awards speak highly of TIBCO’s analytic strategy and our Connected Intelligence approach to digital transformation. To differentiate and maintain competitive advantage, smart companies should rely on solutions that lead in Customer Experience, Value, Technology, and Credibility.

Read more about the 2017 Excellence Awards here.

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The TIBCO Blog

Five Ways To Simplify Customer Service And Keep Consumers Happy

When it comes to buying things—even big-ticket items—the way we make decisions makes no sense. One person makes an impulsive offer on a house because of the way the light comes in through the kitchen windows. Another gleefully drives a high-end sports car off the lot even though it will probably never approach the limits it was designed to push.

We can (and usually do) rationalize these decisions after the fact by talking about needing more closet space or wanting to out-accelerate an 18-wheeler as we merge onto the highway, but years of study have arrived at a clear conclusion:

When it comes to the customer experience, human beings are fundamentally irrational.

In the brick-and-mortar past, companies could leverage that irrationality in time-tested ways. They relied heavily on physical context, such as an inviting retail space, to make products and services as psychologically appealing as possible. They used well-trained salespeople and employees to maximize positive interactions and rescue negative ones. They carefully sequenced customer experiences, such as having a captain’s dinner on the final night of a cruise, to play on our hard-wired craving to end experiences on a high note.

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Today, though, customer interactions are increasingly moving online. Fortune reports that on 2016’s Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving that is so crucial to holiday retail results, 108.5 million Americans shopped online, while only 99.1 million visited brick-and-mortar stores. The 9.4% gap between the two was a dramatic change from just one year prior, when on- and offline Black Friday shopping were more or less equal.

When people browse in a store for a few minutes, an astute salesperson can read the telltale signs that they’re losing interest and heading for the exit. The salesperson can then intervene, answering questions and closing the sale.

Replicating that in a digital environment isn’t as easy, however. Despite all the investments companies have made to counteract e-shopping cart abandonment, they lack the data that would let them anticipate when a shopper is on the verge of opting out of a transaction, and the actions they take to lure someone back afterwards can easily come across as less helpful than intrusive.

In a digital environment, companies need to figure out how to use Big Data analysis and digital design to compensate for the absence of persuasive human communication and physical sights, sounds, and sensations. What’s more, a 2014 Gartner survey found that 89% of marketers expected customer experience to be their primary differentiator by 2016, and we’re already well into 2017.

As transactions continue to shift toward the digital and omnichannel, companies need to figure out new ways to gently push customers along the customer journey—and to do so without frustrating, offending, or otherwise alienating them.

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The quest to understand online customers better in order to influence them more effectively is built on a decades-old foundation: behavioral psychology, the study of the connections between what people believe and what they actually do. All of marketing and advertising is based on changing people’s thoughts in order to influence their actions. However, it wasn’t until 2001 that a now-famous article in the Harvard Business Review formally introduced the idea of applying behavioral psychology to customer service in particular.

The article’s authors, Richard B. Chase and Sriram Dasu, respectively a professor and assistant professor at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, describe how companies could apply fundamental tenets of behavioral psychology research to “optimize those extraordinarily important moments when the company touches its customers—for better and for worse.” Their five main points were simple but have proven effective across multiple industries:

  1. Finish strong. People evaluate experiences after the fact based on their high points and their endings, so the way a transaction ends is more important than how it begins.
  2. Front-load the negatives. To ensure a strong positive finish, get bad experiences out of the way early.
  3. Spread out the positives. Break up the pleasurable experiences into segments so they seem to last longer.
  4. Provide choices. People don’t like to be shoved toward an outcome; they prefer to feel in control. Giving them options within the boundaries of your ability to deliver builds their commitment.
  5. Be consistent. People like routine and predictability.

For example, McKinsey cites a major health insurance company that experimented with this framework in 2009 as part of its health management program. A test group of patients received regular coaching phone calls from nurses to help them meet health goals.

The front-loaded negative was inherent: the patients knew they had health problems that needed ongoing intervention, such as weight control or consistent use of medication. Nurses called each patient on a frequent, regular schedule to check their progress (consistency and spread-out positives), suggested next steps to keep them on track (choices), and cheered on their improvements (a strong finish).

McKinsey reports the patients in the test group were more satisfied with the health management program by seven percentage points, more satisfied with the insurance company by eight percentage points, and more likely to say the program motivated them to change their behavior by five percentage points.

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The nurses who worked with the test group also reported increased job satisfaction. And these improvements all appeared in the first two weeks of the pilot program, without significantly affecting the company’s costs or tweaking key metrics, like the number and length of the calls.

Indeed, an ongoing body of research shows that positive reinforcements and indirect suggestions influence our decisions better and more subtly than blatant demands. This concept hit popular culture in 2008 with the bestselling book Nudge.

Written by University of Chicago economics professor Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge first explains this principle, then explores it as a way to help people make decisions in their best interests, such as encouraging people to eat healthier by displaying fruits and vegetables at eye level or combatting credit card debt by placing a prominent notice on every credit card statement informing cardholders how much more they’ll spend over a year if they make only the minimum payment.

Whether they’re altruistic or commercial, nudges work because our decision-making is irrational in a predictable way. The question is how to apply that awareness to the digital economy.

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In its early days, digital marketing assumed that online shopping would be purely rational, a tool that customers would use to help them zero in on the best product at the best price. The assumption was logical, but customer behavior remained irrational.

Our society is overloaded with information and short on time, says Brad Berens, Senior Fellow at the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California, Annenberg, so it’s no surprise that the speed of the digital economy exacerbates our desire to make a fast decision rather than a perfect one, as well as increasing our tendency to make choices based on impulse rather than logic.

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Buyers want what they want, but they don’t necessarily understand or care why they want it. They just want to get it and move on, with minimal friction, to the next thing. “Most of our decisions aren’t very important, and we only have so much time to interrogate and analyze them,” Berens points out.

But limited time and mental capacity for decision-making is only half the issue. The other half is that while our brains are both logical and emotional, the emotional side—also known as the limbic system or, more casually, the primitive lizard brain—is far older and more developed. It’s strong enough to override logic and drive our decisions, leaving rational thought to, well, rationalize our choices after the fact.

This is as true in the B2B realm as it is for consumers. The business purchasing process, governed as it is by requests for proposals, structured procurement processes, and permission gating, is designed to ensure that the people with spending authority make the most sensible deals possible. However, research shows that even in this supposedly rational process, the relationship with the seller is still more influential than product quality in driving customer commitment and loyalty.

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Baba Shiv, a professor of marketing at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, studies how the emotional brain shapes decisions and experiences. In a popular TED Talk, he says that people in the process of making decisions fall into one of two mindsets: Type 1, which is stressed and wants to feel comforted and safe, and Type 2, which is bored or eager and wants to explore and take action.

People can move between these two mindsets, he says, but in both cases, the emotional brain is in control. Influencing it means first delivering a message that soothes or motivates, depending on the mindset the person happens to be in at the moment and only then presenting the logical argument to help rationalize the action.

In the digital economy, working with those tendencies means designing digital experiences with the full awareness that people will not evaluate them objectively, says Ravi Dhar, director of the Center for Customer Insights at the Yale School of Management. Since any experience’s greatest subjective impact in retrospect depends on what happens at the beginning, the end, and the peaks in between, companies need to design digital experiences to optimize those moments—to rationally design experiences for limited rationality.

This often involves making multiple small changes in the way options are presented well before the final nudge into making a purchase. A paper that Dhar co-authored for McKinsey offers the example of a media company that puts most of its content behind a paywall but offers free access to a limited number of articles a month as an incentive to drive subscriptions.

Many nonsubscribers reached their limit of free articles in the morning, but they were least likely to respond to a subscription offer generated by the paywall at that hour, because they were reading just before rushing out the door for the day. When the company delayed offers until later in the day, when readers were less distracted, successful subscription conversions increased.

Pre-selecting default options for necessary choices is another way companies can design digital experiences to follow customers’ preference for the path of least resistance. “We know from a decade of research that…defaults are a de facto nudge,” Dhar says.

For example, many online retailers set a default shipping option because customers have to choose a way to receive their packages and are more likely to passively allow the default option than actively choose another one. Similarly, he says, customers are more likely to enroll in a program when the default choice is set to accept it rather than to opt out.

Another intriguing possibility lies in the way customers react differently to on-screen information based on how that information is presented. Even minor tweaks can have a disproportionate impact on the choices people make, as explained in depth by University of California, Los Angeles, behavioral economist Shlomo Benartzi in his 2015 book, The Smarter Screen.

A few of the conclusions Benartzi reached: items at the center of a laptop screen draw more attention than those at the edges. Those on the upper left of a screen split into quadrants attract more attention than those on the lower left. And intriguingly, demographics are important variables.

Benartzi cites research showing that people over 40 prefer more visually complicated, text-heavy screens than younger people, who are drawn to saturated colors and large images. Women like screens that use a lot of different colors, including pastels, while men prefer primary colors on a grey or white background. People in Malaysia like lots of color; people in Germany don’t.

This suggests companies need to design their online experiences very differently for middle-aged women than they do for teenage boys. And, as Benartzi writes, “it’s easy to imagine a future in which each Internet user has his or her own ‘aesthetic algorithm,’ customizing the appearance of every site they see.”

Applying behavioral psychology to the digital experience in more sophisticated ways will require additional formal research into recommendation algorithms, predictions, and other applications of customer data science, says Jim Guszcza, PhD, chief U.S. data scientist for Deloitte Consulting.

In fact, given customers’ tendency to make the fastest decisions, Guszcza believes that in some cases, companies may want to consider making choice environments more difficult to navigate— a process he calls “disfluencing”—in high-stakes situations, like making an important medical decision or an irreversible big-ticket purchase. Choosing a harder-to-read font and a layout that requires more time to navigate forces customers to work harder to process the information, sending a subtle signal that it deserves their close attention.

That said, a company can’t apply behavioral psychology to deliver a digital experience if customers don’t engage with its site or mobile app in the first place. Addressing this often means making the process as convenient as possible, itself a behavioral nudge.

A digital solution that’s easy to use and search, offers a variety of choices pre-screened for relevance, and provides a friction-free transaction process is the equivalent of putting a product at eye level—and that applies far beyond retail. Consider the Global Entry program, which streamlines border crossings into the U.S. for pre-approved international travelers. Members can skip long passport control lines in favor of scanning their passports and answering a few questions at a touchscreen kiosk. To date, 1.8 million people have decided this convenience far outweighs the slow pace of approvals.

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The basics of influencing irrational customers are essentially the same whether they’re taking place in a store or on a screen. A business still needs to know who its customers are, understand their needs and motivations, and give them a reason to buy.

And despite the accelerating shift to digital commerce, we still live in a physical world. “There’s no divide between old-style analog retail and new-style digital retail,” Berens says. “Increasingly, the two are overlapping. One of the things we’ve seen for years is that people go into a store with their phones, shop for a better price, and buy online. Or vice versa: they shop online and then go to a store to negotiate for a better deal.”

Still, digital increases the number of touchpoints from which the business can gather, cluster, and filter more types of data to make great suggestions that delight and surprise customers. That’s why the hottest word in marketing today is omnichannel. Bringing behavioral psychology to bear on the right person in the right place in the right way at the right time requires companies to design customer experiences that bridge multiple channels, on- and offline.

Amazon, for example, is known for its friction-free online purchasing. The company’s pilot store in Seattle has no lines or checkout counters, extending the brand experience into the physical world in a way that aligns with what customers already expect of it, Dhar says.

Omnichannel helps counter some people’s tendency to believe their purchasing decision isn’t truly well informed unless they can see, touch, hear, and in some cases taste and smell a product. Until we have ubiquitous access to virtual reality systems with full haptic feedback, the best way to address these concerns is by providing personalized, timely, relevant information and feedback in the moment through whatever channel is appropriate. That could be an automated call center that answers frequently asked questions, a video that shows a product from every angle, or a demonstration wizard built into the product. Any of these channels could also suggest the customer visit the nearest store to receive help from a human.

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The omnichannel approach gives businesses plenty of opportunities to apply subtle nudges across physical and digital channels. For example, a supermarket chain could use store-club card data to push personalized offers to customers’ smartphones while they shop. “If the data tells them that your goal is to feed a family while balancing nutrition and cost, they could send you an e-coupon offering a discount on a brand of breakfast cereal that tastes like what you usually buy but contains half the sugar,” Guszcza says.

Similarly, a car insurance company could provide periodic feedback to policyholders through an app or even the digital screens in their cars, he suggests. “Getting a warning that you’re more aggressive than 90% of comparable drivers and three tips to avoid risk and lower your rates would not only incentivize the driver to be more careful for financial reasons but reduce claims and make the road safer for everyone.”

Digital channels can also show shoppers what similar people or organizations are buying, let them solicit feedback from colleagues or friends, and read reviews from other people who have made the same purchases. This leverages one of the most familiar forms of behavioral psychology—reinforcement from peers—and reassures buyers with Shiv’s Type 1 mindset that they’re making a choice that meets their needs or encourages those with the Type 2 mindset to move forward with the purchase. The rational mind only has to ask at the end of the process “Am I getting the best deal?” And as Guszcza points out, “If you can create solutions that use behavioral design and digital technology to turn my personal data into insight to reach my goals, you’ve increased the value of your engagement with me so much that I might even be willing to pay you more.”

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Many transactions take place through corporate procurement systems that allow a company to leverage not just its own purchasing patterns but all the data in a marketplace specifically designed to facilitate enterprise purchasing. Machine learning can leverage this vast database of information to provide the necessary nudge to optimize purchasing patterns, when to buy, how best to negotiate, and more. To some extent, this is an attempt to eliminate psychology and make choices more rational.

B2B spending is tied into financial systems and processes, logistics systems, transportation systems, and other operational requirements in a way no consumer spending can be. A B2B decision is less about making a purchase that satisfies a desire than it is about making a purchase that keeps the company functioning.

That said, the decision still isn’t entirely rational, Berens says. When organizations have to choose among vendors offering relatively similar products and services, they generally opt for the vendor whose salespeople they like the best.

This means B2B companies have to make sure they meet or exceed parity with competitors on product quality, pricing, and time to delivery to satisfy all the rational requirements of the decision process. Only then can they bring behavioral psychology to bear by delivering consistently superior customer service, starting as soon as the customer hits their app or website and spreading out positive interactions all the way through post-purchase support. Finishing strong with a satisfied customer reinforces the relationship with a business customer just as much as it does with a consumer.

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The best nudges make the customer relationship easy and enjoyable by providing experiences that are effortless and fun to choose, on- or offline, Dhar says. What sets the digital nudge apart in accommodating irrational customers is its ability to turn data about them and their journey into more effective, personalized persuasion even in the absence of the human touch.

Yet the subtle art of influencing customers isn’t just about making a sale, and it certainly shouldn’t be about persuading people to act against their own best interests, as Nudge co-author Thaler reminds audiences by exhorting them to “nudge for good.”

Guszcza, who talks about influencing people to make the choices they would make if only they had unlimited rationality, says companies that leverage behavioral psychology in their digital experiences should do so with an eye to creating positive impact for the customer, the company, and, where appropriate, the society.

In keeping with that ethos, any customer experience designed along behavioral lines has to include the option of letting the customer make a different choice, such as presenting a confirmation screen at the end of the purchase process with the cold, hard numbers and letting them opt out of the transaction altogether.

“A nudge is directing people in a certain direction,” Dhar says. “But for an ethical vendor, the only right direction to nudge is the right direction as judged by the customers themselves.” D!

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.

About the Authors:

Volker Hildebrand is Global Vice President for SAP Hybris solutions.

Sam Yen is Chief Design Officer and Managing Director at SAP.

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology.


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Digitalist Magazine

Survey: In-App Customer Support Is a Winner

Consumers want mobile apps with good in-app customer support, suggest results of a survey Helpshift released last week. Radius Global Market Research conducted the online poll of adults in the United States this spring.

Eighty-one percent of the 2,170 respondents indicated that they use mobile apps.

Among the survey’s findings:

  • Eighty-nine percent of respondents said they would recommend an app if a customer support agent proactively contacted them while they were experiencing problems;
  • Forty-six percent said they would try an app that offered live, in-app customer service;
  • Thirty-four percent said they would use an app offering in-app customer service;
  • Twenty-three percent indicated they would recommend such an app to friends; and
  • Sixteen percent said they would buy it.

Trouble in the Mobile App World

Sixty-nine percent of respondents reported having a problem with mobile apps. Twenty-seven percent of them reported problems on a daily or weekly basis.

The survey revealed the following:

  • Forty-seven percent of respondents said they would delete apps that did not provide good customer support;
  • Twenty-four percent would give such apps a bad review;
  • Nineteen percent would express a negative opinion to friends; and
  • Eighteen percent would criticize the app on social media.

“Mobile app reviews and ratings are part of a company’s brand reputation,” said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

“Responding to customer feedback and fixing app issues needs to be a priority,” she told CRM Buyer.

App Habits

Sixty-six percent of the survey respondents used apps to check social media; 44 percent used them to read the news; 44 percent used them for mobile gaming; 35 percent used apps to order food; and 22 percent used them for work-related tasks.

Consumers increasingly have been using apps to make online purchases, but the survey didn’t consider that category of use.

The research “focused primarily on service-related actions such as food delivery or news consumption,” said Helpshift CEO Abinash Tripathy.

The survey didn’t look into what problems users face with apps, either.

However, “we know that some of the most common issues users face include bug reporting and transaction-related questions” Tripathy told CRM Buyer.

App crashes typically are considered bugs. There also are issues with older app versions no longer supported by the developer.

Attention Must be Paid

Developers need to take app issues very seriously.

“When a mobile app fails in any way — even if that fail is just less-than-responsive design — users question its reliability and security,” observed Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research.

“The future is in apps that are very personalized for the customer, predict and propose options for them, and provide in-app interaction with a real or virtual agent in a meaningful way,” she told CRM Buyer. “In-app support is reassuring, because it personalizes the experience.”

“There are over 2 million apps available in mobile app stores today, so there’s no shortage of choices for consumers,” Constellation’s Zhou remarked.

In-App Support Solutions

There’s a plethora of
in-app support solutions on the market, each with their particular characteristics.

Helpshift has made some headway in one of the most sensitive areas — mobile gaming. Thirty-four of the 100 top-grossing gaming apps, including five of the top 20 as ranked on Apptopia, use its customer support platform.

Helpshift’s platform offers a searchable, in-app FAQ, more than 30 languages, smart segmentation and custom metadata, in-app and push notifications and feedback, and two-way in-app messaging.

Fifty-nine percent of respondents preferred messaging to email, because they felt it was more secure, the company’s survey found.

Helpshift’s SDK integrates easily with third-party tools.

Helpshift “can be implemented the same day,” noted Tripathy, and it “includes out-of-the-box configurations.”
end enn Survey: In App Customer Support Is a Winner

Richard%20Adhikari Survey: In App Customer Support Is a WinnerRichard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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Boost Customer Engagement by Building Trust in Your Content

blog title trusting man 351x200 Boost Customer Engagement by Building Trust in Your Content

Have you searched for a new product or service lately? If so, you probably did what most people do when starting a new search — pulled out your smartphone and dug in. Does the product work as expected? Good. Now what about the company? Do they offer great customer support, handle technical issues fast, and — most importantly — have good word-of-mouth recommendations from other customers?

What all these questions address can be boil down to one word: trust. In content marketing, it’s important to tell the brand story, but, at the end of the day, it’s about building and reinforcing this trust. Can customers rely on your products and brand? Sometimes the answer is “yes,” but when customers are indifferent, that’s when brands struggle and competitors get ahead.

You have have great customer engagement, and people may purchase your product or service, but would they recommend it to others? This key piece of information is a strong indicator of trust and is critical to success. In fact, the majority of customers, 83 percent, would recommend a company they trusted to others. So how can you become that trusted company? Here are a few powerful strategies to build more trust with your customers through content.

1. Get Personal to Solidify the Relationship

Marketers want to send communication that is welcomed by the recipients. Correspondence that isn’t personal, however, risks becoming a liability rather than an asset. In fact, marketing communications account for 70 percent of today’s spam complaints. What’s more, 49 percent of customers surveyed report they receive irrelevant email every single day.

People welcome content that is tailored and pertinent to their challenges, with 54 percent of B2B buyers saying they want vendors to offer personalized recommendations across all interactions. The solution is simple. If you want better customer engagement, create content that your customers actually want to engage with.

For example, the Expert Institute is a legal services platform that matches specialists and authorities to attorneys and investment firms that need support. The company decided to roll out a personalized email campaign and measure the customer engagement results. It started by sending an email from the VP of Client Relations to prospects, offering to help with their challenges and providing a link to a white paper titled “10 Warning Signs When Selecting an Expert Witness.”

The company personalized the emails even more by dividing subscribers into three categories based on one key indicator: engagement. Those who were less engaged received free eBooks and white papers with no marketing language. Those with average engagement received an email with links to blog posts and a soft call to action. And the most engaged group received emails that directly addressed their need for the company’s service.

The results were impressive: a 200 percent increase in conversions, a 60 percent open rate, and a 20 percent click-through rate.

Key takeaway. Segment existing customers based on where they are in the buying cycle and their engagement levels. Less customer engagement translates into less trust, so, for maximum results, marketing should be customized to meet each prospect where they are.

2. Illuminate Your Brand with Greater Authenticity

Customers want to feel truly known by brands through greater personalization, but they also want to work with brands that feel more human. Showing greater authenticity provides your brand with an advantage and builds a relationship that shows customers an unexpected side of your company.

Create “behind the scenes” video footage of your company by, for example, broadcasting via live video to show employees working to assemble products, highlighting all the time and care that goes into this process.

JetBlue is an example of a company following this humanizing strategy. To let consumers see a softer corporate side, the company recently launched a promotional campaign titled “Air on the Side of Humanity,” which focuses on the qualities that make them a company that cares about people.

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Dynamics 365 July 2017 Update: Customer Engagement Portals

Blog Customer Engagement Portals 300x225 Dynamics 365 July 2017 Update: Customer Engagement Portals

As we have seen so far, there are many exciting new features with the Dynamics 365 July 2017 Update. Well that excitement continues with the updates to Portals!

There are some new features that are being added for Customer Engagement portals, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these features.

  • Portal Source Code Release
  • Administrative Wizard
  • Single sign-on configuration

Portal Source Code Release:

The SaaS offering does not give us the access to the source code, but there is still a lot we can do with the customizations provided out-of-the box for portals. As part of this update, Microsoft will provide a one-time drop for the source code.


  1. Portals can be hosted independently for CRM on-premises deployments — this is a major advantage
  2. Asp.net pages can be modified as required since we own the source code, which means custom integrations can be performed and new asp.net pages can be added as well
  3. We can have our own telemetry against the portal and have various alerting and logging applied
  4. Deployment of this portal can be embedded with CICD process


  1. This will be a one-time drop and there will be no updates further to it
  2. No support will be given by Microsoft for the on-premises hosted portals
  3. Any upgrades to the SaaS offering will not be reflected to this on-premises hosted portal
  4. Maintenance

This is just an addition to all the SaaS offerings provided by Microsoft.

Administrative Wizard:

Portals have a ton of configuration, and there is a lot that we can do with that. However, creating these configurations can be tedious and may create confusion due to the architecture. As part of the July Update, there will be an Administrative Wizard that will make it much easier to configure and create portal data.


  1. Create portal config data from one window
  2. Quick questions on the wizard will help you create the required portal content
  3. Reduced time spent on configuration


  1. No edit experience as part of this update

More information on this handy wizard will updated in the near future.

Here are a few screenshots of the Administrative Wizard:

1. Navigate to Portal Administration

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2. Create Portal Content

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3. Questionnaire screens

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4. Portal content created

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Single sign-on configuration:

Azure AD-B2C is the future of the Portal authentication mechanism and of the other functionalities in Dynamics 365. This means that there will be deprecation of the local logon authentication and everything will be via Azure AD-B2C.

You can learn more about Azure AD-B2C here.

Azure AD-B2C is an Azure service that does not require an actual subscription, can be started for free, and can go live in Production within certain service limits.


  1. The entire logon experience can be configured from the Azure Portal
  2. Azure AD- B2C will do email verifications for local logons
  3. It can be configured for two factor authentication
  4. Multiple identity providers can be selected as part of the configuration
  5. On selecting a single identity provider, the portal will go directly into the identity provider’s logon page
  6. Azure AD-B2C login pages can be customized
  7. Fields that have to be on a sign-up page can also be selected in the Azure portal

Here are a few screenshots of the Azure AD-B2C Portal experience:

1. Azure Portal View – Identity Providers Selection

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2. Select the data that will be part of sign up attributes

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3. Customized Logon page

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4. The new sign out experience will sign out from the identity provider and is configurable for each identity provider.

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To learn more about Dynamics 365 July Updates, sign up for our Update Webinar Series – running now through August 22.

Happy Dynamics 365’ing!

Please note: All content and information is presented on preview versions and not the launched product. Product is subject to changes per Microsoft’s discretion.

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