As I walked the long halls of Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas and listened to the company’s marketing and data integration story, I thought about the obvious disconnect that happens between brands and their customers. With tons of data, a growing set of tools to bring it together, and a desire to build an optimal experience, you would think we have been set up for thrilling consumer experiences, yet we all know that is not always what happens when the rubber meets the road.
Maybe part of the problem is that data sitting in databases doesn’t always translate into employee action when dealing directly with consumers. In many cases, the experience isn’t smooth, data isn’t passed from one source to another, and when you do eventually reach a person, they aren’t always knowledgeable or even nice.
It’s to the point that when my data does get passed smoothly from bot to human CSA, and I’m not asked for the same information for the second or even third time, I’m pleasantly surprised, even a little shocked.
That’s probably not the story marketing automation vendors like Adobe and Salesforce want to hear, but it is probably far more common than the one about delighted customers. I understand that the goal is to provide APIs to connect systems. It’s to stream data in real time from a variety of channels. It’s about understanding that data better by applying intelligent analytics, and to some extent I’m sure that’s happening and that there are brands who truly do want to delight us.
The disconnect could be happening because brands can control what happens in the digital world much better than the real one. They can know at a precise level when you interact with them and try to right wrongs or inconsistencies as quickly as possible. The problem is when we move to human interactions — people talking to people at the point of sale in a store, or in an office or via any communications channel — all of that data might not be helpful or even available.
The answer to that isn’t to give us more digital tools, or more tech in general, but to work to improve human-to-human communication, and maybe arm those human employees with the very types of information they need to understand the person they are dealing with when they are standing in front of them.
If brands can eventually get these human touch points right, they will build more loyal customers who want to come back, the ultimate goal, but right now the emphasis seems to be more on technology and the digital realm. That may not always achieve the desired results.
This is not necessarily the fault of Adobe, Salesforce or any technology vendor trying to solve this problem, but the human side of the equation needs to be a much stronger point of focus than it currently seems to be. In the end, all the data in the world isn’t going to save a brand from a rude or uninformed employee in the moment of customer contact, and that one bad moment can haunt a brand for a long, long time, regardless how sophisticated the marketing technology it’s using may be.
By Ron Miller