– evolve, dominate, or die in our New World
Digital footprints are highly popular today due to the valuable information churned from technology-enabled touchpoints. Customers’ online activities are well understood by businesses as they mine the myriad of information generated from interactions. Knowing your customers well allows you to design targeted services thus meeting the popular CX need of “outside-in” thinking. However, while we celebrate these breakthroughs and their positive impacts, we must remember the threat to data privacy. This is a concern that must complement every new development in any technology-enabled CX initiative.
Today’s business has many options with the availability of different types of digital footprints. Businesses are using them to their advantage. They are better able to leverage digital footprints securely and with compliance using contemporary technology-enabled touchpoints. A digital footprint refers to the data left behind from a customer’s online activities. Here are a few examples of digital footprints: social media activities, web browsing, health and personal information, travel patterns, mobile device use, photos, audio, and video. Data from customer digital footprints is collected, collated, stored, and analyzed by many organizations.
I know right, if you are reading this, I can tell you that it gets scarier. My focus though is on the positive effects of using digital footprints to add value by enhancing the customer’s journey end-to-end. According to researchers, there are two types of digital footprints namely, passive and active footprints. Passive footprint is when information is collected from the customer they unintentionally leave online. When you access the internet, your address is logged, and data is generated from cookies. The service provider can use this information (your computer address known technically as your IP address, and information from cookies) to trace your habits.
Using this method they can establish your IP address, approximate location, and browser history.
An active footprint contains information purposely shared by an individual. These include blog posts, information shared on social media, and email. Additionally, aside from these obvious methods, there are less obvious ways companies can identify individuals by using their operating systems, browser specifications, processors, graphics, and monitors to put together unique visitor profiles. There are several ways businesses use digital footprints to better serve their customers. First, data is used to identify customer footprints and track behaviours.
Second, the customer data is analyzed to understand their activities as they navigate online. Third, using technology as an enabler offers opportunities for businesses to proactively engage the customer. Fourth, the digital footprints provide leverage for developing personalized services for clients, and fifth, for developing customer experience touchpoints. Data obtained from customers whether intentional or unintentional provide great opportunities for businesses to deliver out-of-world experiences, optimize resources, and further engage customers in a journey of learning and continuous improvement in service delivery.
Identifying Customer Footprints
Every device connected to the internet has a unique address for identification. This way computers and other internet-connected devices, such as mobile phones and Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices, can communicate over the Internet and on local-area networks (LANs). The two most recognizable ways that businesses identify data are through IP addresses and cookies. Cookies are small pieces of text sent to your browser by any website you visit. They help track and remember information about your visit, which can both make it easier to visit the site again and make the site more useful to you.
Information relating to an identified or identifiable person such as a list of names, or something more complex like IP addresses, cookie identifiers, or other potentially identifying information are covered under the GDPR. The use of digital footprint data is a practically new way of completing research into predicting psychographic and human behaviour, it also provides a tremendous opportunity for enriching insights into human behaviour. Just as marketers will use visibility to entice purchases in a supermarket stall so too do businesses with digital footprints learn of customers to address “outside-in” thinking.
Analyzing Data Footprints
The goal is to use the information gathered from user activity on the internet to pull business insights for the mutual good. Using advanced analytic platforms insights are drawn from deep mathematical and statistical foundations and state-of-the-art analytical techniques including deep learning, machine learning, neural networks, and natural language processing. Using this insight Airbnb popularized the concept of boutique hotels enabling guests to look for diverse accommodation choices giving them the feel of a local culture. It makes a vacation look more than just a holiday.
It allows people to experience new places and live like locals. Actionable insights are needed to enhance customer experiences, accelerate product lifecycles, improve resource allocation, and increase operating efficiencies. By offering unique properties for rent Airbnb makes people feel connected on a more personal level than they would if they had done business with a travel agency, website, or hotel booking site. The common trend these days is Data visualization, which is the graphical representation of information and data. Using visual elements like charts, graphs, and maps, data visualisation tools provide an accessible way to understand trends and patterns.
Using data productively brings data to life in easy-to-understand formats. Interactive visual dashboards make it convenient for business users to quickly identify trends and valuable business insights. Thus, by presenting your data in a format that’s easier to understand and distribute, you increase the speed and likelihood of organizational buy-in. The conversation around the customer must be the purview of all employees in the business. The average business with the right technologies is empowered to provide competitive price ranges by delivering experiences for different categories of customers.
Technology as an Enabler
Airbnb provides a pricing tool that helps hosts price their properties. This makes life easy for property owners as they determine prices while listing their properties. The tool helps address attributes each property should have. The company also uses other users’ searches and bookings to create a model to direct new users on where to book. Technology in general and specifically with the application of data science businesses has capabilities to evaluate experiences. Service providers in tourism and hospitality provide details such as destination, origin, length of trip, price per night, and so on to make information accessible to clients.
McDonald’s collaborates with Uber Eats to enhance customer touchpoints. It also uses a pick-up system enabling stores to list an order via an app if the diner’s phone is within 300 feet of the store. The order is then delivered by employees of the store. Additionally, they provide eat counters, modern furniture, and power outlets for customers to charge their phones. Some 15 – 20 years ago Google search required the use of specific keywords, double quotes, and other punctuation marks to get the precise results you wanted. Now, we just type the whole question, use voice assistance, or ask ChatGPT.
We naturally ask the question just the way we would ask another human and Google responds. Considering that CX is the sum of all interactions and emotions a customer has with a brand from the first touchpoint to the last, we need to evolve very fast to keep pace with current trends. Technology provides a channel through which exceptional experiences can be delivered. However, everything must start with data. individual and general data enables us to understand the customer by identifying situations, usage requirements, patterns, and so on. The raw data is fed into a system or tool for analysis.
Digital Footprints Provide Leverage for Personalized Services
Consider this scenario. Using AI to provide a differentiated experience a company developed an online platform into which the customer can directly upload information to design their ID cards. They get prompts and answer a few questions on colour, font, and industry. Generative AI then creates templates that the customer can choose from. How does it feel to be able to design your ID cards without any professional help? Utilizing AI-generated templates brings substantial benefits and disrupts the traditional process of ID card creation, where manual data collection and design iterations were the preferred approach.
Enhanced technology involvement using state-of-the-art hardware and software triggered by the application of computational social science, and digital traces of human activity are extremely effective in making highly personal inferences about their owner’s preferences, habits, and psychological characteristics. Research conducted on recipients’ personalities in three Facebook campaigns that reached over 3.5 million individuals revealed that using personality traits predicted from Facebook Likes to test the effectiveness of psychologically tailored advertising was extremely effective.
It was discovered that matching the content of persuasive appeals to individuals’ personalities significantly altered their behavior as measured by clicks and purchases. Persuasive appeals that were matched to people’s extraversion or openness-to-experience level resulted in up to 40 % more clicks and up to 50 % more purchases than their mismatching counterparts or counterparts that were not personalized. A personal touch is the magic wand that makes all the difference in your customer engagement. Customers don’t just want it, they expect it. Therefore, customer personalized service is an area where you can have the opportunity to really, shine.
Developing Customer Experience Touchpoints
There are a plethora of ways to leave a lasting impression on your customers. There is a fast rise of digital channels enabling consumers to engage with or talk about your brand thus creating immense challenges. According to research, 71% of consumers want a consistent experience across all channels, but only 29% say they get it. 33% of consumers who ended their relationship with a company in 2018 did so because the experience wasn’t personalized enough. It emphasizes the point that customers have high expectations when dealing with today’s brands. Customers expect seamless access and personalized interactions throughout the entire customer journey.
This requires that we ensure that all our digital (or non-digital) channels are working well. Along their journey, customers experience and engage your brand at multiple touchpoints. You must determine what these touchpoints are for your unique business. Each touchpoint provides an opportunity to either create a positive experience that increases loyalty or a negative one that drives customers away. You must focus your best efforts on the former. You do this by measuring how people experience these touchpoints and by taking action to improve them. The way forward is to gather intelligence on each interaction.
A few examples of these include the use of Social media monitoring and management tools to help you monitor social media channels and respond to brand mentions. Additionally, use Customer Relationship Management (CRM), live chat, and customer support platforms to help your sales and support teams directly communicate with customers and keep track of direct engagements. Use customer analytics to track and report on how customers use your service. Additionally, send a Customer Satisfaction survey by email, share visual ratings, and trigger a Customer Effort Score survey to test the efficacy of your touchpoints.
Furthermore, send a Net Promoter Score (NPS) survey to customers after they use both your hardware device and your mobile app to see how happy the customer is with your product and how willing they are to recommend it to others. I am frustrated by the fact that many petrol service stations lack digital touchpoints and force you to make your purchases from them through MOMO with charges as they draw from personal wallets. Providing consistency in our touchpoints and more importantly, leveraging digital touchpoints in an omnichannel environment is the way to go. Let’s learn and grow.
|The Writer is Head of Training Development & Research
Service Excellence Foundation, and Management Consultant (Change and Customer Experience). He can be reached on 059 175 7205,