Software Business Growth - Deep Customer Collaboration: The New Frontier
This article originally appeared in Software Business Growth.
In part one of this two-part series, we introduced the concept of deep customer collaboration as an extension of deep collaboration — software that combines productivity and collaboration functionality in one place to get a specific job done. Deep customer collaboration is the confluence of information, data, and assets that are used to productively manage a customer relationship alongside the strategies, activities, and conversations that create effective alignment between a company and its customers. There is an opportunity to refine the development of a technology stack with more consideration for the role of customer collaboration in the overall customer experience.
Next, we get more tactical and elaborate on use cases that fit into the customer collaboration layer, the power of integration en route to consolidation, and the opportunities the customer collaboration layer creates for an organization.
Adding the customer collaboration layer to the customer management tech stack is the new frontier for facilitating deep customer collaboration. The layer encompasses all digital customer touchpoints that stem from the various technologies and applications that connect the company to the customer.
Defining the customer collaboration layer as a stand-alone technology layer is an important first step in establishing its importance and potential impact on the customer experience.
From there, there is a real opportunity in creating a cohesive customer experience within the customer collaboration layer. The strategy should be to deliver the best possible unified experience to customers and ensure they are put in the best possible position to receive value from the partnership.
The customer collaboration layer must be constructed with a strategy that seeks to deliver the best possible unified experience to customers.
The various responsibilities, use cases, and processes most common to the customer management function should all be housed within the customer collaboration layer:
- Project management
- Communication and feedback
- Data sharing
- Customer content
- Asset management
- Training and education
- Support and services
- Shared success planning
- Business reviews
Capitalizing On Integration Enroute To Consolidation
Over time, the productivity aspects of the customer record, customer insight, and customer action layers should converge with the customer collaboration layer. As defined previously, deep collaboration occurs at the crossroads of productivity and collaboration functionality. This starts with integration and ultimately ends with the next generation of purpose-built customer collaboration software.
To realize the potential of deep customer collaboration today, it’s important to acknowledge the relationship between the layers of the tech stack and the role of integration. Integration is two-fold: First, direct integrations between technology solutions strengthen workflows and open up productivity opportunities. Second, insights can be extracted across the layers to inform business decision making, create value for customers, drive engagement and adoption, and develop tighter feedback loops. Each use case presents an opportunity to dissect the experience an organization is delivering to its customers and enable remediation.
Ideally, the customer collaboration layer unifies the customer experience. Leaders should be looking for opportunities to centralize where an employee and a customer go to work together, track progress, and ultimately ensure value is being delivered.
Opportunities Created By A Customer Collaboration Layer
The customer collaboration layer presents a tremendous opportunity for innovation. Here are four ways you can use the customer collaboration layer to put your team in a better position to serve customers.
- Collaboration in Context – Working in the context of the needs of your customers is the ideal state of customer management. It’s more important than ever to create an outcome-based plan with customers to ensure they have a path to value achievement. The customer collaboration layer should include an outcome-based shared success plan to establish the correct context for the work that needs to occur to create a successful customer relationship.
- Bidirectional Data Sharing – Technology creates new opportunities for data sharing. Bidirectional data sharing means that data can be shared between two or more entities directly to a neutral third party to track value creation. This emerging use case will gain more attention as technology opens up safe and secure means of data sharing in the customer collaboration layer.
- Creating One Place – Customer portals have been around for ages, but the portal experience has not been purpose-built with collaboration as the backbone, the goals of the customer as the focal point, and mutual action plans as the productivity engine. By housing all customer management use cases and processes in one place through consolidation and integrations, you can ensure continuous alignment and success.
- Building for the Lifecycle – The customer collaboration layer should be built with the full life cycle in mind. Leaders should consider all touchpoints across the customer experience and build a tech stack that enables a single, cohesive experience. From sales to services to customer success, one of the biggest opportunities is to think holistically about how the customer collaboration layer can unify the customer life cycle cross-functionally.
The Future Is Bright For Deep Customer Collaboration
The strategy behind deep customer collaboration combined with the addition of a new layer to the customer management tech stack casts a vision for a better, more unified, and productive customer experience. A well-constructed customer collaboration layer creates one, co-owned space where both suppliers and their customers can go to unlock the full potential of the partnership. Companies must invest in new ways to bring their teams closer to customers with a greater focus on value.
Within the world of customer management, opportunities exist to reimagine how the tech stack can better support customer collaboration, with value creation as the ultimate goal. Those that embrace the importance of deep customer collaboration understand the growing role that technology plays in ensuring longer, more healthy customer relationships.