As customers, we’ve all experienced the pain of bad customer service. Waiting on hold. Getting transferred. Only to repeat everything you just told the previous agent.

As business leaders, we know the damage bad customer service can inflict on businesses. Missed sales opps. Lost customers. Bad word of mouth.

You may ask yourselfafter years of commitment and investment: Why is customer experience still so hard?

Well, for one thing, consumer expectations are higher than ever before. Consider these stats from a recent global consumer survey from Selligent Marketing Cloud. They asked 7000 people worldwide what they thought about brand engagement preferences, customer experience expectations, and marketing pet peeves.

Here’s what they discovered:

  • 33% of respondents expect brands to anticipate needs before they arise (See predictive analytics).
  • 70% say it’s important that brands understand a consumer’s individual situation (e.g. marital status, age, location, etc.) when they market to them.
  • 74% expect companies to “treat me as an individual, not as a member of some segment”like millennials or suburban mothers.

When it comes to data privacy, the results are not surprising, but certainly worth a look:

  • 88 percent report concern that their data will be shared without their consent.
  • Only 1 in 5 consumers will provide data to up-front to improve their experience.
  • If a brand’s request for data is deemed ‘too much,’ consumers are willing to abandon the brand altogether, with nearly 30 percent of respondents agreeing.

The key takeaway: Customers are not just concerned with how you obtain their personal data, but they’re increasingly wary of what you do with it.

But, when used properly, consumers do welcome the increased personalization and more targeted offers that improved intelligence at the edge can deliver. Not surprisingly, this is especially true for millennials. Take a look:

  • 48 percent of Millennials welcomed geo-targeted ads while out shopping, compared to 43 percent of Gen X, and only 29 percent of Baby Boomers.
  • 48 percent of global respondents said they would be happy if a movie theater sent information about the screen location and a refreshments coupon when they were going to the movies; 50 percent of Millennials, 52 percent of Gen X, and 35 percent of Baby Boomers agree.

Applying Intelligence at the Edge

So, how can you deliver a customer experience that lives up to today’s ever-increasing consumer expectations?

Success is tied to connecting the customer journey across your business. To do this, customer experience leaders are making data easily accessible and actionable across all interactions, channels, and touchpoints.

Let’s take a closer look.

As you’ll see, there are multiple factors at play, and getting just one or two right is not enough:

  • Interactions – While some customer matters are resolved quickly, others require multiple steps and contacts to get done. For example, an insurance claim typically starts with a phone call about an accident and progresses through a number of steps by both the customer and the company before completion. Filing a claim. Scheduling an appointment for an adjuster to assess the damage. Approving the claim. Making the payment, etc. The secret to a smooth journey is making real-time data accessible at each and every interaction point along the way. This ensures that every employee that participates is armed with the information needed to make it a smooth ride for the customer from start to finish.
  • Channels – Making data accessible during each individual interaction is just the start. This business intelligence must extend across channels as customers hop from web sites to mobile phones to emails over the course of several interactions. This means that if a customer journey starts on your web site in the form of a chat sessionwith a bot or real personthe information and intelligence gained needs to be passed on to the next employee as the journey progresses. The need extends across channels like chat, email, text, and voicewithout the same data available at even just one channel, the customer journey gets broken. Today, this harmony is easier to achieve thanks to breakthroughs in APIs and API management tools.
  • Touchpoints – Finally, you need to connect in the various touchpoints that you have in place to engage with customers. This can include your website, mobile app, contact center, kiosks, and in-person outlets, like storefronts. By linking in this last and critical piece, you’re not only connecting the customer journey, your’re connecting your business including your people, processes, and technology.

While new technologies like machine learning and predictive analytics are opening up new ways to more intelligently engage with customers, connecting the customer journey comes down to making data available to your front-line employees at just the right time – across all interactions, channels, and touchpoints. This will empower them to deliver the highly personalized, highly efficient experience that today’s customers demand.