Like software, mobile has eaten the world.
But mobile is more than a next-generation platform. Mobile is a powerful unifier. It has evolved into a digital hub for humanity, business and society. It brings us together while connecting us to other people, information and services on demand. It puts users in control of their experiences. It creates new worlds that transcend everyday norms.
These evolved norms influence new behaviors and preferences in all we do. We’ve changed, and we continue to change. As we do, we seek experiences in everything to enhance our current situation, state of mind and expectations.
As technology evolves so does behavior. None of it goes backward nor does the status quo ever stay in favor. Any business hoping to plug into this evolving society requires a human-centered model in which engagement and technology align to deliver personalized, intuitive, and value-added experiences.
We are all distracted
Mobile hasn’t just eaten the world, it’s also eaten our traditional grasp of space, presence and time. We blur the line between real and virtual worlds, making them one. We reach for our phones hundreds of times per day and thousands per week. Most mobile users receive upwards of 200 notifications per day. We light up our screens to capture important moments living in a mode of digital and analog duality.
We reach for our screens when the experience around us is seemingly less interesting. To say we get lost in these moments is an understatement. You’ve heard of (and most likely felt) FOMO. I’m sure you’ve experienced anxiety and confusion as you’ve strained to process the firehose of information and possibilities (and cat memes!) as you relentlessly scroll. Sometimes, you most likely struggled to feel like your best self when compared to everyone else’s best life.
We can’t overlook the currency of views, likes and followers and how we give and expect them in return. We can’t ignore how we feel about ourselves when those activities don’t add up to what we feel we deserve or when they don’t emulate those of our peers.
There are real cognitive and emotional costs that come from pervasive connectivity. Each time we reach for our device, we pull ourselves from whatever had our attention before. We’re learning to task switch in everything we do; how we work, how we browse, how we think and talk, how we simultaneously engage in the physical and digital worlds.
Doing so accelerates how our brains fire, retraining us to think and act faster in moments to keep up. Our short- and long-term memories are affected and so is our ability to activate depth and creativity on demand. We’re constantly chasing the next shiny object or captivating sensation. Being in the moment is now becoming a lost art.
The art of engagement is defined through technology, empathy, and artistry
Earning someone’s attention is an art and science. It’s always been. The difference in today’s world is that engagement dynamics are much more distracted, personal, and complex.
As a result of technology’s influence on behavior, people are unwittingly more self-centered, impatient, and demanding. They’re also more connected and hyper-informed. I refer to today’s customer, lovingly of course, as accidental narcissists. What’s more, people report that they increasingly carry stress and anxiety in their customer journey.
Businesses aren’t doing much to help.
Choices are everywhere. Decisions are daunting. Customer journeys are needlessly complicated and often irrelevant or impersonal.
Traditional communication strategies, legacy mindsets, processes and funnels, regardless of the shiny objects we employ, are in need of a critical upgrade.
Customers need “light” to guide them in productive, enlivening and personal ways toward desired outcomes. They need light to brighten the darkness and chaos of pervasive distractions and overwhelming choices. This is an invitation, and an incredible opportunity, to compete differently.
The good news is that we have the technology and the tools to do so. The key is to remember that change is never one-sided. As customers change, so must those hoping to reach them without becoming distractions like everything else in their life. Differentiation comes in how we use the tools and why.
To engage someone now, means that we understand them. We understand their moments, their feelings and intent, their preferences and expectations, their means of communication and what entices their attention to move them, deliver value and build meaningful relationships. We must also understand their feelings, frustrations and annoyances.
Distraction is something more than interference. It doesn’t have to be a negative. There can be positive interruptions to steer someone toward a brighter light. Communication and technology can build bridges to better places, more meaningful moments and better outcomes.
The other good news is we have the ability to understand how people communicate, their intentions, times when they’re open to engagement, and what they value. We also have the ability to predict their needs over time.
What changes, is us.
Our words, intentions and the next steps we present to someone in moments of truth now count for everything.
Listen. Observe. Discover.
“We have two ears and one mouth for a reason,” the old saying about the importance of listening goes.
But in everyday business applications, models aren’t really designed to listen, they’re designed to convert. For the most part, we profile customers, we don’t really know them. More often than not, especially when it comes to business communications, we talk at them rather than personally talk to them.
Even though we have a direct line to customers through an incredible array of personal channels, we must take pause. Doing so will yield a competitive advantage.
While everyone else is scrambling to keep up with and reach customers, grab their attention and pull them through the funnel, this is a time to listen and to learn.
Technology gives us, not ironically, the ability to finally be more human, to put back the “relationship” in CRM and the “message” back in messaging. We can finally, not only deliver personalization; we can use communications technology to do so as a means of humanization.
We must use technology to listen to data with the intent of doing more than converting. Conversions are merely an outcome of a meaningful experience—so are relationships.
We must translate data into stories that inspire more relevant, personalized and value-added engagement. Those stories are equally important to incite change and innovation within your organization.
We must also reimagine next best actions as a series of thoughtful steps in the customer journey, as they envision or expect it. Attention spans, patience, and emotion are all powerful catalysts and inhibitors. Think of next steps as thoughtful task switching, bit by bit, to walk something through to a mutually beneficial outcome.
We must deliver value and meaningful experiences that customers appreciate and remember. Those memories serve as the foundation of any brand and are powerful, emotional drivers toward loyalty and customer lifetime value. Communications platforms serve as a bridge. In an era of pervasive distractions and unlimited choices, cast an empathetic and positive light across that bridge. It lights the way for people to take steps closer to you again and again.
Read past posts in this customer engagement series, and a roundup of everything that's been published:
- Esteban Kolsky, a customer experience expert consultant who recently joined the SAP team to lead CX strategy, examines what, exactly, a platform really is.
- Paul Greenberg, whose expertise centers around social CRM strategies, explains why the communications revolution requires a new approach, and shares how a business stakeholder can begin to put together the pieces of the communications revolution, platforms, and goals for the business, in his second article, The channel doesn’t matter: Get and keep customers with a channel-agnostic approach.
- Brent Leary, recognized by InsideCRM as one of the 25 most influential industry leaders, tackles the issue at the heart of the digital revolution.
- Dan Miller, founder of Opus Research and someone who helped define the Conversational Commerce marketplace, discusses conversational eCommerce in the age of XaaS.
- Maribel Lopez, formerly an analyst for more than ten years at Forrester Research and International Data Corporation (IDC), delves deep into her research and the topic of her next book: how to make experiences shine at the right time, in the right place, and amidst the right conversations with a focus on customer experiences.
- Neil Raden, founder of consulting and implementation services firm Hired Brains Research, shares three steps an organization must undertake to create experiences that keep customers coming back.
- Sheila McGee-Smith, founder of her own analyst firm and with +30 years of experience in the telecommunications industry tackles the complexity of customer service, through contact center transformation to customer experience.
- Former Gartner analyst and current VP of Constellation Research Inc. Nicole France tackles how to put the personality of the customer into personalization.