IDC research: Building a trusted brand in the new world of customer expectations

In the age of the connected customer, the expectations placed on businesses is more specific and evolving. According to IDC research, there is a significant demand on marketing organizations to adopt a customer-centric model with trust as the key core value.

It's so hard to be customer first, but it shouldn't be

In the age of the connected customer, the expectations placed on businesses is more specific and evolving. According to IDC research, there is a significant demand on marketing organizations to adopt a customer-centric model with trust as the key core value.

Also: Microsoft and Salesforce race to offer a single view of customers' data

IDC's Hierarchy of Customer Expectations identified the following key findings:

  • Increasing global compliance regulations represents an awakening about privacy and data usage.
  • Consumer AI (machine learning) will make consent easy for consumers to manage.
  • As a result, customer data and consent management will become increasingly important factors in brand preference.
  • Brands that go beyond compliance will find opportunities to differentiate on customer data and consent management in ways that will lead to more loyal, long-lasting, and profitable customer relationships.

In order to better understand the hierarchy of customer expectations, and its impact on marketing, I connected with one of IDC's top digital marketing experts. Gerry Murray is a research director with IDC's Marketing and Sales Technology service. He has 20 years of experience in the high-tech industry as an analyst and a marketer. He provides best practice guidance to senior marketing executives at many of the world's largest high-tech companies. Murray gives inspiring and thought-provoking presentations to help modern marketers perform better in the present and more effectively prepare for the future. Murray and I spoke about the IDC research on hierarchy of customer expectations and captured the key highlights of this comprehensive research.


Gerry Murray is a research director with IDC's Marketing and Sales Technology service, where he covers marketing technology and related solutions.

IDC's Hierarchy of Customer Expectations

The new rule of customer expectations is: The best experience a customer has anywhere sets the bar for what he/she expects everywhere, and it's especially true in digital. So, either companies are raising the bar beyond what competitors can offer or falling short of expectations. Let's define the hierarchy of the customer expectation using the illustration below starting with following levels: Consent, personalization, recommendations, continuity, and mentor-ship.

Also: A customer experience story: After a year of Comcast, my verdict


Hierarchy of Customer Expectations - IDC 2018

Drivers of Customer Expectations

IDC research identifies the following main drivers of customer expectations:

1. Data is (not) the new oil: "If you believe that your personal data is nothing more than an natural resource for corporations to own, extract, and exploit for profit, then stop reading. There is nothing more emotional than having personal data used in ways that are exploitative for someone else's benefit without consent," per IDC.

2. Consent is the new currency: The value of customer data is zero without their consent to let you contact them. IDC noted that top marketers will make the transition to data as a service because in the world of bots, content is no longer king, data is. Top brands will also more explicitly design marketing as a series of progressively valuable exchanges so that the more consumer give, the more they get.

3. The "G" is for Global: By making GDPR compliance is brand level commitment, companies can differentiate their brand promise with respect to privacy.

"Great brands will understand that personal connections are in a word personal and that has emotional value to the customer that is almost impossible to regain once lost." - IDC

4. The Journey from Volume to Value: Marketing needs to focus on more than just messaging, they need to enable customers to master their challenges, systems, teams, and careers.

"The challenges for marketers is two-fold: go beyond targeting and messaging and figure out how to add value into the relationship at every interaction. The second dimension is to coordinate interactions not just across marketing channels, but across all customer touch points." - IDC

Also: If being customer first is so important, why don't companies do it?

As you read IDC's findings, it is important for you to consider the importance of artificial intelligence powered applications. To gain the necessary contextual understanding of your customer's needs and opportunities to co-create value, business leaders must automate the capture, analysis, recommendations, and monitoring of outcomes using AI technologies. Marketing teams cannot execute effectively without advanced analytics, automated workflows and augmented intelligence.

5. From Slices of Context to Seamless Continuity: IDC research notes that the future will require cross-departmental understanding of customer needs and expectations using customer journeys.

"Context is no longer good enough. Brands must manage continuity across interactions with and beyond marketing." - IDC

How can companies transform marketing into a set of services based on customer hierarchy of expectations? IDC research noted that "to truly help someone, you need to know a lot about them, but the relationship must be based on their explicit disclosure of that information and their direction on how, when, where, and why they want assistance."

Advice for Marketers

1. Consent: The big difference between opt-in and consent is: Marketing should be based on information customers know they provided to you for the purpose. IDC reminds us that getting customer information depends on how much brands do the following on behalf of their customers: protect their data, use data for their benefit, deliver value in exchange for each disclosure, provide transparency about how the data may be used in the future

2. Personalization: Communicate on my terms. According to IDC, personalization means marketers must communicate in the right channel with the right content at the right cadence for each individual contact.

3. Recommendations: Anticipate my needs. Recommendations are all about guiding each individual contact to the next best chapter of your story as the customer engages across all of your digital properties -- web, email, mobile app, as examples. Organize your marketing assets into learning trees for customers to follow.

4. Continuity: Know my whole relationship with you. Every customer facing role, team, and department must learn how they can enhance the ability of others to elevate customer experience. This means system architecture and customer data models must be designed so data can move along with the customers as they change departments and skip back and forth between them.

Also: Personalization and Humanization: Serious about customer engagement? Then you need them both

5. Mentorship: Improve my personal/professional life. Mentorship is all about expanding the value of marketing can add to customer relationships. Mentoring applies to the whole life cycle of the relationship, not just marketing, and produces, strong advocates that will be customers for life. The best practice for B2B companies is to market training like a product in the extreme, move the training team into marketing, it instantly changes the tenor of marketing.

6. Infrastructure: IDC advises companies to focus on a new infrastructure model that is based on horizontal orchestration across functions and systems in order to deliver to the hierarchy of customer exceptions. Below is an excellent illustration of the customer experience orchestration services model:


Customer Expectations Orchestration Services - IDC

Brand differentiation on the hierarchy of customer expectations will require marketing and all other customer-facing functions in your business to think differently about customer relationships, this according to IDC.

Also: Qantas customer experience improves thanks to in-flight Wi-Fi

IDC's Recommended Actions

  • Move marketing beyond targeting and messaging to teaching, guiding, and even mentoring your audiences throughout their careers.
  • Figure out how every interaction can enhance every other interaction.
  • Keep in mind that how you treat your customer data is how you treat customers (this should be on every corporate values board).
  • Champion a new approach to enterprise infrastructure, embrace a customer experience orchestration services approach.

All companies must embrace trust and customer success as their most important company core value and guiding principle. To earn trust, companies must leverage their marketing organizations to educate, inspire and ignite positive action by co-creating value for all stakeholders -- customers, employees, partners, and communities.

For more details, see Gerry's webcast Consent: Building a Trusted Brand in a New World of Customer Expectations.

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