Earlier this spring, the Economist Intelligence Unit released a report which revealed 86% of CMOs and senior marketing executives believe that by 2020, they will own the customer experience from start until finish. It is also no coincidence that the Walker Information’s Customer 2020 Report predicts something complementary – that by 2020 customer experience will be the number one differentiator for brands.

Marketers are more frequently expected to be the driver in meeting customer expectations. To do this, they need to take practical steps to utilise insights they have gathered directly from customer interactions. By mapping customer interactions with marketing outcomes, marketers can successfully deliver a personalised customer experience.

Marketers should consider five priorities as owners of the customer experience.

Find the real voice of the customer

Customers always have something to say and use a wide range of channels to communicate. Whether through a social network interaction, web chat, phone call or an email, brands must always be listening. Today’s consumer is “always-on” and brands should adapt the same mentality.

Marketers should encourage their organisation to employ speech and text analytics strategies to gain a firm grip on those conversations. Think about the amount of data accessible to brands today; it can and should be used to get ahead of possible issues and drive improvements to the customer experience. All it takes is understanding the data and acting on what it’s telling them. If brands are not already in the early stages of implementing these strategies, they risk lagging behind in a 2020 business world.

Always be ready to change

Marketers often find their business has been slow to adopt new and needed technology, meaning they are left to pick up the pieces to ensure customer satisfaction. Unfortunately, being slow to innovate means they are constantly in the position of reacting to consumer demands for change. To ensure they don’t lose their competitive edge by 2020, marketers need to be at the forefront of continual, proactive research, encouraging the implementation of new technology that helps them get closer to their customers.

Embrace machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have long been a popular topic within the tech world; however, by 2020 they will both be commonplace in managing the customer experience and maintaining a competitive advantage.

Customers expect personalisation when brands communicate with them; those brands that “get it” shine through in a crowded space. AI and machine learning will be a driver for customer experience strategies but must be placed perfectly in the middle, between technology and the human touch. Marketers should integrate these technologies alongside improved people processes and an in-depth understanding of the customer to help create more personalised experiences.

Use data properly

Marketers and customers alike are in the midst of an incursion of information, and many brands miss insights that could be used to enhance customer experience strategies. Marketers need to remember to look for data internally as well as externally. For example, employee engagement is critical to the customer experience; companies that increase employee engagement by 5% will see their revenue increase by 3%. By collecting employee data, brands can access the insights that will excite, engage and motivate the teams who are at the frontline of consumer interactions. If companies aren’t collecting and analysing employee data, the customer experience will inevitably suffer.

Now break that data down

When a company decides to incorporate a technology or solution such as an ERP or CRM system into a contact centre solution, all digital touchpoints must be thought about holistically and viewed in context with other systems used by the brand. Contact centre data can tell staff important information about customers, and that information should be promptly utilised across the organisation. These shared systems should also be accessible at any time, in any location and in a connected way, providing access to a constant stream of data so that customer experience strategies can be adapted in the moment or for the long term. Without this single view, a company’s ability to deliver a meaningful and authentic customer experience is less impactful.

As the customer journey to purchase becomes more complex and consumer habits broaden to encompass a number of communication channels, technology strategies and forward-thinking marketers are essential to staying competitive in 2020 and beyond.