Beyond COVID-19: Reimagining the Customer Experience
Customer experience matters now more than ever. Today’s audiences expect the companies with which they do business to know who they are and what they like — and to deliver high-quality content that’s tailored to their interests and preferences, at any time, to any device.
No single year has brought about more changes to audience behavior than 2020 did. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital adoption by consumers and businesses — from banking and grocery shopping to schooling and office work to healthcare and commerce.
There’s no turning back from the behavior changes and disruption brought about by the pandemic. Savvy companies are leveraging this digital transformation to build audience-centric strategies and grow their organizations as they re-emerge from the pandemic-driven recession.
Fostering a Culture of Transformation
Understanding how to manage the audience experience requires thinking and acting differently. It means developing an ever-evolving, learning-based digital culture to drive decision-making that will transform and advance an organization’s relevancy and innovation.
Customer experience transformation is the reimagining and design of an organization’s foundation through its data management, digital experience and organizational infrastructure to one that empowers a customer-centered strategy. It builds the sustained agility to follow and meet audience demand, context, and motivation with innovative, personalized experiences.
Experience-led organizations differentiate themselves from their competitors by revolving their business strategies around their most important asset: their constituents. These companies have higher brand awareness, better audience retention, increased constituent satisfaction, and faster revenue growth. They also know that purposeful change is only possible when it involves the entire organization — not one department — focusing on the constituent’s journey over time, with the entire C-suite embracing a panoramic vision from an audience-centered lens.
To realize the benefits of becoming more audience-centric, nonprofits will need to overcome some very real challenges:
- Market Forces. You must understand market forces, such as privacy regulations, the death of third-party cookies and the emergence of cloud platforms, such as Google, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and others, and their implications for how nonprofits approach customer centricity.
- Socialize Change. Create a common, shared language to socialize and champion transformative change within your individual organization and across the industry.
- Remove Silos. Shift from single-channel, siloed strategies to crafting holistic, enterprise-wide experiences that put the audience first.
- Master Skills. Master the capabilities and competencies necessary for managing the customer experience, from data management and technology infrastructure to knowing how to develop and orchestrate meaningful audience experiences.
- Measure Value. Define KPIs that meaningfully measure the value of audiences and their engagement, and accurately evaluate return on investment.
- Consolidate Data. Consolidate disparate data sources and fragmented data to create a 360-degree view of constituents to observe their interests, preferences, and interactions with content and programs.
- Prioritize Growth. Appropriately identify and prioritize growth opportunities that progress individual organizations’ digital evolution and future state.
To tackle these issues, it’s essential to get the transformative culture right – one that rewards and encourages disruption and innovation, resilience and agility, and digital dexterity.
However, if teams aren’t united in working to change, it will have high potential to fail. In any transformative business endeavor, the two aspects that are most vulnerable to failure are people and process. Therefore, it is essential to support and empower leadership and teams to continue progressing their evolutionary work and to prepare for more dynamic market changes ahead.
Charting the Path Forward
Today’s rapid pace of change is the new normal and requires a new, hyper-personalized approach to navigate it successfully.
Providing that total customer experience is about the delivery of hyper-personalized moments, using data, technology and analytics to inform each interaction at every touchpoint. To accomplish this, nonprofits must have a blueprint for how they will develop, manage and deliver on an audience-centric approach.
It starts with creating a digital culture that values and motivates change, fuels innovation, and develops the core capabilities and practices in delivering experiences that meet audience expectations. Nonprofit leaders can help their organizations deliver better audience experiences by fostering a learning-based digital culture to drive decisioning and innovation.
Eve Smith is an experienced fundraiser with more than 20 years of nonprofit direct response marketing expertise. As senior director of client strategy at Merkle, Eve brings extensive knowledge and practice with integrated strategy, omnichannel fundraising and marketing, and program innovation. She specializes in both scaling up already-successful fundraising programs to raise more funds and crafting new programs that leverage peer-to-peer fundraising and social giving to bring in new revenue.
At Merkle, her clients have included major national health charities, international relief and faith-based organizations and animal welfare nonprofits, among others. Before joining Merkle, Eve was lead consultant to national cause-based nonprofits and worked with leading nonprofits and foundations to advance their online marketing and fundraising programs.