Building a psychic IT network

In 2013, the degree of insight into customer behavior required to remain competitive is unprecedented -- ten years ago we wouldn’t have even expected a psychic to do this much mind-reading. Fortunately, however, achieving this level of insight isn’t as farfetched as it may sound.

On the TV show Psyche, the lead character manages to convince everyone that he’s a psychic. In reality he has simply honed such keen powers of observation that his evidence-based conclusions appear to be psychic predictions. Similarly, the technologies exist to give companies a “crystal ball” of sorts -- a view of the customer that is so well-informed that some might confuse its insight with divination.

Unifying the psychic elements

Most major companies have the raw elements of such a crystal ball in place:

  • Marketing automation provides a profile of past interaction and demographics
  • Social media tools offer a real-time look at personal interests, opinions and activities
  • CRM gives a history of their relationship with your organization

Used in concert, such tools provide a thorough view of the customer that can be used to create highly personalized and predictive marketing and sales approaches. However, these tools are rarely used in concert -- they’re mostly still stand-alone systems, and the insight they generate is funneled into separate departments. Sometimes even individual departments have internal information silos -- often this is the case within marketing departments, where the social media teams will operate independently. For CIOs, the trick is integrating all the information that various departments are gathering in a digestible form.

Disparate systems make you the opposite of psychic

Recently a colleague of mine received a call from a vendor asking if he’d like to purchase some services. The salesperson had no clue he was already a customer purchasing those services, so it was a waste of everyone’s time. Surprisingly, the services in question were very sophisticated media monitoring tools -- you’d think that a company capable of analyzing in real-time the social media behavior of anyone on the planet would be able to discern between a paying customer and a prospect.

But the fact is that even the most cutting-edge listening tools can be useless if company employees can’t use them in combination with other information streams. Without some kind of universal dashboard that brings all the information together, these tools are like scattered pieces to an incomplete puzzle. The CIO’s challenge is connecting the aforementioned “raw elements” of customer engagement so that employees have a complete view of the customer.

Connecting the 3 elements of customer engagement

From a technology standpoint, customer engagement relies on 3 toolsets: marketing automation, CRM and social media. The latter -- social media tools -- are the newest element and, frankly, many IT departments don’t know what to do with them.

It doesn’t take a prophet to foresee the value that social media insight could have for an organization in terms of personalizing the customer experience. Such insight, however, is of limited value if it is siloed from other data streams. In other words, it’s probably not a good idea for a sales rep to approach a prospect based solely on a social media post. Without any demographic information, history of interaction or online behavior, this may be a very awkward interaction.

But let’s be honest, we’re not even to that point -- a sales rep isn’t going to be calling a prospect based on social media insight because that kind of data is, in most organizations, the sole property of an isolated group of marketers tasked with social media listening. It’s still considered a very specialized function within most teams. But, for your organization to compete in the 21st century, you’ve got to make this information not just available to Marketing, but to the entire organization...and accessible within the context of other customer information from CRM and other data streams.

Social data strategy may determine the CIO’s destiny -- for greatness or irrelevance

Reports of the CMO overtaking the CIO as the main purchaser of technology have spurred some to predict the CIO’s impending irrelevance. Not so fast -- someone may have a fantastic eye for art, but that doesn’t make them a museum curator. Likewise, while it’s true that CMOs are able to purchase SaaS tools through marketing budgets without input from IT, only the CIO has the ability to coalesce the various tools into a holistic customer view. It’s really up to the CIO to make the data coming into various departments truly impactful to the bottom line.

What is likely is that those CIOs who ignore the SaaS-based tools that Marketing and other departments are purchasing under their own budgets will become irrelevant. On the other hand, those who take an interest in these technologies and strategize ways to coalesce them in a form that offers penetrating insight into the customer psyche will become more relevant than ever. After all, who is more popular at parties than a psychic?

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