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Lara Martini – Salesforce

To fully benefit from the possibilities opened by technology, the ability to work with data needs to be extended beyond IT, and decision-making needs to shift closer to the customer.

What role will human beings play in customer acquisition in an increasingly digital world?

There is what you do, and then there is how you do it.

As a customer, I value the fact that when you call me, you know who I am, my role in the company, and whether I have an open support ticket. Technology really makes a difference here, by ensuring the data is available, secured, and shared with the right people. It can also add a layer of intelligence, so that the company representative knows when to make that call, and what needs attention.

A human agent can understand my concerns, and they’re able to adjust their tone if they understand it will lighten the mood, or bring support. And on the back end, humans will still need to make judgment calls on what data to read and how, how to segment and approach customers, and when to bring flexibility into a process.

From my perspective, human intelligence is key in defining goals and strategy, and enriching the last mile of customer interactions. They are what define ‘what’ you do. Meanwhile digital tools add speed and precision between the two, and define ‘how’ you do it.

As a marketing leader, what does a digital mindset mean to you?

A digital mindset means developing true customer centricity, and getting there requires several things.

The first, in my opinion, is transparency. That means ensuring that customers are confident about how their data is being used so they are never caught by surprise. There needs to be a high degree of trust, especially when we get into analytics and intelligence. In fact, we could consider this an equal collaboration with the customers themselves.

The second part of a digital mindset is internal collaboration across the value chain. It’s important to share a common view of the customer across departments, from marketing to sales, to support, to maybe logistics and even external partners. That will make the experience seamless on the customers’ side, and increase speed.

Third, being truly digital has profound implications for internal processes and where decisions are made. To fully benefit from the possibilities opened by technology, the ability to work with data needs to be extended beyond IT, and decision making needs to shift closer to the customer, to empower the edges of the organisation.

All of these require new skills for almost every role in the company, to allow for the safe, compliant, and innovative uses of data. That’s why effective hiring and training – of sales teams, and account teams across the company, and across the value chain, and even increasing digital skills in the market, is one of the keys to success.

You have to build and foster empathy and collaboration, if you want to retain good people and the know-how of your team.

What changes should organisations like yours make to more closely align digital marketing and telemarketing?

I’m not sure there is a dichotomy between digital and tele-marketing. I see digital as the backbone that helps connect across all marketing activities, the intelligence that helps focus efforts, and supports a coherent customer journey.

Telemarketing might happen to be a first step, a second step following an online interaction, or a follow-up, depending on the specifics of the sales’ cycle.

From a different angle, we also see a significant change in the workforce. During the pandemic, many people joined companies without the opportunity to go through onboarding in person with their colleagues, and to develop an emotional connection with their company. This is particularly marked in roles like telemarketing, where job turnover can be high, and so much depends on the know-how of the team.

We’re very attentive to the people side of things and how we engage our own employees. You have to build and foster empathy and collaboration if you want to retain good people and the know-how of your team. Good digital tools can make a huge difference. They can be used to increase flexibility, such as in remote call centers, facilitate collaboration across a global workforce, and help prioritise work in meaningful ways.

In turn, the quality of the employee experience leads to excellent customer experience.

Do you think that human engagement will be a point of competitive differentiation in your market?

Absolutely. There is almost unlimited content available online, while time is scarce. So, the best way to get your customer’s attention is to pay attention to that customer, it’s as simple as that.

Look at events – even in a digital world, having a synchronous session rather than a recorded one makes a big difference. The opportunity to ask questions and engage with someone helps build confidence and make things compelling.

Of course, having the right mix of channels is very important – no one is advocating going back to having every interaction in person. On the contrary, digital channels have allowed for increased speed of access and inclusion in so many ways. Customers value being able to have a consistent experience across media.

In this context, we have to think about what human engagement really means. It could be a direct interaction, say via chat. But it can also include how you select contents, for example by sharing customer and user stories, using more video, or adapting interfaces to make them more engaging. And it can also include facilitating a community connection with other customers, or operating through local players.

The best way to get your customer’s attention is to pay attention to that customer, it’s as simple as that.

Salesforce is the world’s number one CRM provider, bringing companies and customers together. The company, based in San Francisco, also provides enterprise software that supports organisations with the delivery of customer service, marketing automation, analytics and application development.

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