Tiffani Bova, Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, discussed how companies of all sizes can create new business practices that leverage technology to strengthen customer relationships and accelerate sales and growth during her presentation to Argyle's CMO membership at the 2016 CMO Spotlight on Retail and Consumer Goods & Services Forum in Chicago on June 21. In her presentation, "Customer Experience Is the New Competitive Battleground," Bova described how marketers can create a customer-centric business and long-lasting brand loyalty.
According to Bova, today's consumers have more power than ever before.
Customers can use mobile devices to connect with one another and share their thoughts about a brand, its products and its services.
Furthermore, new technologies are becoming available, making it easier than ever for consumers to remain connected at all times.
For marketers, one of the biggest challenges is keeping pace with consumers to ensure consumers are fully supported at all times.
Thus, marketers must strive to stay ahead of customers, or risk alienating them.
"As marketers, the goal is to get ahead of where your customer is going to be so that you welcome them when they arrive," Bova stated.
However, merely staying ahead of customers is no longer sufficient for marketers.
Bova pointed out marketers must understand the customer at an individual level to ensure that each customer receives personalized support consistently.
"When you think about when [the customer] arrives, you want to think about the context," Bova noted. "When they arrive is one thing, but knowing how and where and why they've shown up is another."
Consumer expectations are reaching unparalleled levels, as new technologies are driving consumers to demand real-time support from businesses.
"Technology has now changed the way we expect things from brands, the speed in which we expect things and the way we expect brands to engage," Bova said.
Brands are now competing on customer experience, which represents "the sum of all the touch points," Bova stated.
"Technology has now changed the way we expect things from brands, the speed in which we expect things and the way we expect brands to engage."
Technology drives customer experience improvements, but it also gives customers the power to disrupt a company's day-to-day operations.
"The unintended consequence of innovation is that the customer has actually become far more disruptive," Bova said. "The customer [has begun] to say, 'We actually expect this from you because of our consumer life.'"
To use technology to improve the customer experience, today's businesses must revamp the way they operate.
Bova pointed out many businesses host internal meetings to discuss customer experience strategies.
But ultimately, these meetings fail to deliver results because they do not include customer feedback and insights.
"It's very inside-out and starts to skew towards what you want to do," Bova said. "It's a closed process, and you're not including your customers."
Also, a "customer-in" approach may help a business redefine the customer experience both now and in the future.
Having the ability to understand customers' needs and fulfill their expectations day after day can give a business a long-lasting competitive advantage in an exceedingly challenging global marketplace.
"In the age of the customer, starting with the customer and working your way back in is absolutely disruptive to the way we've always thought."
With a customer-in approach, companies are better equipped to leverage the technology at their disposal to rethink the way they operate and provide customers the support they deserve.
"In the age of the customer, starting with the customer and working your way back in is absolutely disruptive to the way we've always thought," Bova stated. "Our muscle memory is that we've always done this, it's always worked and it will always continue to work. But this just isn't the case."
The customer should be an important consideration in all of a company's marketing efforts.
Although a business may set marketing goals, it is essential for marketers to understand a company's target audience and fulfill this audience's requests.
"We can't be chasing mice. We can't be doing only what the customer wants," Bova noted. "But if you're not thinking about the customer at all, then you're backtracking. ... There has to be a balance between satisfying the internal agenda from a marketing perspective. But more importantly, you need to think about what the customer is looking for from you from the outside."
If a company can leverage technology to bridge communications gaps with customers, it may be able to transform customers into advocates.
These advocates will promote a company, its products and its services to family members and friends, and ultimately, lessen the burden on a company's marketing department.
As a result, a company that has the ability to transform its customers into advocates could reap the benefits of successful customer partnerships for years to come.
Tiffani Bova is the Global Customer Growth and Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce, where as an industry thought leader, she watches overall market trends to uncover best practices on how to improve sales performance and enhance the overall customer experience.
Bova has extensive knowledge of go-to-market, sales and channel strategies. Prior to Salesforce, she spent 10 years at Gartner as a vice president, distinguished analyst and research fellow, covering sales transformation and indirect channel innovation. Over the past decade, she has worked with hundreds of technology companies to develop highly effective growth strategies and innovative go-to-market models. She won the Gartner Thought Leadership Award for her comprehensive body of work on the Future of Sales and has delivered more than 200 keynote presentations around the globe to over 250,000 people on sales transformation and business model innovation.
Before her time at Gartner, Bova spent 15 years in various sales and leadership positions, managing both start-up and Fortune 500 sales organizations, and she still considers herself a ‘recovering seller.’
Bova has been published in Forbes, Harvard Business Review and The Huffington Post. She was named one of the 50 Most Powerful and Influential Women in California in 2014 by the National Diversity Council, as well as Inc. Magazine’s 37 Sales Experts You Need to Follow on Twitter. Bova is a graduate of Arizona State University and The Executive Program at Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.