In this second part of our summary of The Connected Customer report findings, we look at whether organisations understand the implications and opportunities of intelligent automation.

Our recent redk report The Connected Customer, produced in partnership with IDG Research, examines an increasingly connected consumer landscape and the challenges this presents to brands. Surveying over 100 companies in Europe, the report finds that CRM transformation is now a strategic imperative for organisations.

In this second part of our summary of the report findings, we look at whether organisations understand the implications and opportunities of intelligent automation. And we ask if different customer-facing areas are ready for the new challenges arising from connected customers’ expectations.

Automate intelligently for your customers and your staff

Digital maturity is as important inside your organisation as it is to your customer relationships. Put simply, employees don’t want to be wasting time on tasks that could better be done automatically if the right tech solutions were in place. There will always be room for humans to seek creative solutions to customer satisfaction and business growth, and so much more can and should be done with intelligent automation to free them up to do just that.

In analysing the new relationships between consumers and brands, and the readiness of businesses for that new reality, the report reminds us that tech projects are business projects. Decisions on tech investment and evolution can only be made with a clear vision of your business’s objectives because the way tech adds value to business is itself changing. Machine Learning and AI have become critical components of process automation, and your digital ecosystem’s architecture must be designed with that in mind.

‘It’s easy to forget that the deliverables are business results, not tech.’

Getting this right requires a balancing act between the short-term needs of day-to-day operations and the longer-term business objectives, which should be behind any digital transformation project from the start. This is especially true of departments that face today’s connected customers, which the report says don’t always have the tools they need available to them.

The rules have changed, putting pressure on customer-facing departments

Companies that cannot track and integrate customer interactions lose the ability to manage and mitigate any negative customer experiences, and nowadays can expect to pay for that failure with very damaging, very public feedback.

This leaves marketing, sales, and customer-service departments under particular pressure, as they become responsible for the complete, and ongoing, relationship between their customers and their company. Among survey responses, 82% of businesses report increased pressure to change their digital marketing approach. The sales funnel has to be reinterpreted since, while marketing actions can still be translated into a conversion rate, customers and even leads no longer disengage from the company; their relationships continue.

In a very short time, organisations have acquired a wealth of customer data. However, they have not yet integrated it. Consequently, this knowledge – which is the basis for a seamless customer journey – remains partial and fragmented

This has a knock-on effect on sales departments, with 65% of sales management departments reporting pressure to change. Sales strategies must no longer simply understand potential customers; they must actively anticipate their needs, and then provide a seamless and rapid experience if the customer is not to go elsewhere. Customers also expect 24/7 availability and more touchpoints, causing increased pressure on customer service departments, with 53% reporting that scenario.

Digital maturity: are companies ready?

It’s therefore clear that optimising marketing alone is ineffective if other areas that interact with customers are not also digitally transformed. Yet uneven or immature transformation is a clear pattern; in marketing, for example, 53% of companies report that their data is not yet integrated and automation is only partial.

In sales, the picture is even worse, with sales departments reported to be ‘prisoners to their internal processes’ with more than half of them lacking centralised access to data and working with tools that are not user-friendly. As we’ll see later, problems like this, in every area of business, are causing companies considerable difficulty with employee engagement and retention. While 45% of companies report some progress in centralising business data, progress has, in the main, been so limited that metrics are unavailable beyond business objectives themselves. Without advanced analytics, it’s impossible to improve sales processes.

In the wake of widespread digitalisation and mobility constraints, demand for customer service has exploded. Many companies, with disconnected and misaligned channels, have failed to address this growth in interaction

In the customer service function, 64% of companies reported that though they have incorporated digital channels, they remain disconnected from each other. Many elements of customer service are still not even digital, even among the 34% of companies that report progress in the use of digital channels.

For connected customers, this is a critical failure. It has a direct effect on purchasing decisions and limits the potential for future relationship-building with organisations’ customers. It also leaves your staff working on repetitive, unnecessary tasks and spending time bridging the gaps between poorly connected business areas in order to solve customer queries that could be dealt with automatically, if the right tech were in place.

That’s why intelligent automation is so critical. If implemented effectively, it connects the discrete business areas in the common pursuit of the company’s overall objectives. Done badly, you’re just spending money on scattergun tech upgrades that don’t actually address your business’s needs at all. At redk, we help organisations harness the benefits of applying the right tech holistically to CX, sales, marketing, and even the back office to drive business performance.

You can read the full Connected Customer Report here, and in the next part of this examination of its findings, we’ll assess the challenges and best practices of CRM transformation as part of the journey toward digital maturity.