Changing Channels on Customer Interactions


By Samuel Greengard

It's safe to say that at no point in history has technology changed so rapidly and created so many opportunities and risks. What's particularly unsettling about today's post-PC environment is that the rules and wisdom of the past often don't apply.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in managing the various sales and marketing channels that now exist. Once upon a time, enterprises communicated with customers in person, using the phone and via snail mail. Marketers placed ads in print, TV and radio, and used direct mail to interact with consumers.

Today, mobile technology is changing everything. It's not so much that social media, geolocation information, big data and other tools exist and require their own set of applications and strategies. It's that they create a three-dimensional chess game that's infinitely more complex and unpredictable. Brands and reputations soar or stumble in a matter of minutes in a world where consumers suddenly wield as much power as corporations.

That much you probably know. But what many business and IT executives don't fully grasp is that channel integration must be approached from the customer's perspective rather than that of the enterprise. Apple and Starbucks understand this concept better than anyone.

In this brave new world, the technology and devices used to access a company or an account are irrelevant for consumers. It's simply a matter of having a ubiquitous view of purchases, loyalty points, coupons and social media ties. Essentially, consumers want their favorite brands to follow them around everywhere, all the time.

In a business and IT world mired in legacy systems and cost controls, making the technology invisible isn't easily done. Success requires more than building out robust channels or tossing out mobile apps. It requires more than achieving goals for metrics. High click rates and hugely successful viral campaigns don't necessarily lead to bottom-line results.

Today, the most innovative organizations crumple silos. They put big data to use in new and inventive ways. They create micro-incubators for innovation and find people who can serve as intrapreneurs. They use big data, crowdsourcing and bottoms-up methods to identify new products and services that customers didn't know they wanted—and the business never thought of providing. They create marketing and sales channels that work so well that they're there, but they're not apparent to the consumer.

To be sure, changing the channel means tuning in like never before.