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Raising the Bar: Key Takeaways from Salesforce ‘Connected Customer’ Conference

Living up to the Customer is the nouveau and delicate challenge surrounding digital enterprises today. The holisitic shift in focus has parlayed the reaps of experimentation around ‘customer loyalty’ a decade ago, into a new hymn praising the ‘extraordinary experiences’ that businesses can now deliver to their customers. Moreover, 84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services – up from 80% in 2018.

Remarkably, business buyers are just as picky and choosy about their purchase decisions as the consumers they’re coddling — and with good reason too. 89% of business buyers vs 83% of consumers share similar views on the role of customer experience. Both groups also share similar expectations from companies engaging with them — they all need more product information, product choices, and product types to make the most informed buying decisions. 


Personalised Journeys

Salesforce’s recent report points the digital arrow towards intelligence in the connected customer journey. The expectations are as clear as they are loud — more personalisation. When customers’ needs are left unmet by their primary engager, even after several interactions, the relationship weakens. As a result, at least 52% of all customers (including millennials and Gen Z’ers) feel companies are generally impersonal. 

Modern customer engagement happens in real time, (71% of customers feel this way) — highlighting how hurriedly the consumer’s attention is split.

AI-powered Experiences

Truly the stakes have never been higher than they are now. To raise the bar, companies are turning to data to solve these challenges. An intelligent experience for any customer has to have AI built-in, be outcome-focused, complete, actionable, simple and trustable. 


Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer

All AI is based on data, specifically good data. But data can’t be sourced from within the company alone. Lots of external data sources are critical to training advanced machine learning models. Nowadays, most organisations are data rich, information poor and ineptly staffed.

Browsing and discovery are closely shaping the way businesses organize service and delivery. According to the report, more than half of customers expect to find whatever they need in three clicks or less. The future state of connectivity is already trying to reduce these clicks to zero, where the experience is hyper-connected and hyper-individualized, right before the customer even decides to buy.

Why Good Data?

Good data enriches unique insights into the customer’s behavior and interests. Customer buying decisions don’t always follow a well-defined rationale or logic. So, to train a model to understand human behavior and preferences — we teach the model a variety of identifiable patterns that the model will then learn and perfect on. Using this learned information, we can approximate for the next buyer! This way the model behaves like a sales rep who is able to identify who the best customers are, why they like your products or services, and even why they prefer yours over competitors.


Source: Salesforce State of the Connected Customer

From Multi to Omni

Millennials & Gen Z are the most omni-channel group among today’s consumers — utilizing around 11 channels on average. Noteworthily, the report reveals that business buyers are not that different; sixty-seven percent of them prefer to buy through multiple digital channels. Business buyers are more likely than consumers to value product

By placing the customer at the heart of the problem, organizations are under more pressure than ever to deliver real-time results, seamless hand-offs and ultra-contextualized experiences. An emphasis on developing strong policies surrounding the collection and use of data — demonstrates a level of commitment that doesn’t go unnoticed by customers. Infact, the ROI of sound data practices extends beyond trust. The key to winning customer experience begins with being transparent about their data. Companies focusing on the quick sale will have to take an ongoing investment in the customer relationship, well after the deal is done, to stand a chance at winning in the connected future.

We help startups and enterprises, build & scale AI-driven products and solutions for last mile environments. Reach out to us on hello@mantralabsglobal.com, to learn more.

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[Interview] Mr. Alex Jimenez | Digital Customer Experience in Covid-19 Times

7 minutes read

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon an unprecedented change in our daily lives and routines. Consumer behavior is changing constantly. Lockdowns and social distancing have led to huge losses for businesses across industries. The world is heading towards an economic slowdown. Under these circumstances, organizations are facing many challenges to keep their businesses going. Insurers too are facing similar issues. Some insurance lines such as motor, travel, home have suffered a business loss due to low demand.

To understand the impact of this crisis, especially in the USA, we interviewed Mr. Alex Jiminez, Strategy Officer at Extractable from California, and learned more about creating better digital customer experiences in these testing times. 

Extractable is a strategic consulting, design, and data analytics agency focused on the future of financial services. His other recent experience includes leading technology strategic planning for the office of the CIO, at Zions Bancorporation, and managing Digital Banking and Payments Strategy and Innovation at Rockland Trust. Alex has been named to several industry influencer lists in the areas of FinTech, RegTech, Blockchain, InsurTech, Innovation, and Digital Marketing. He has been featured in the Irish Tech News and the Independent Community Bankers of America’s (ICBA) Independent Banker.

Connect with Mr. Alex Jimenez – LinkedIn

The excerpt from the interview:

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the financial services industry

What is the impact of COVID-19 pandemic in the financial services industry, and how is the industry responding to the ongoing crisis in the US?

In the wake of the current crisis, organizations are more focused on keeping the operation going, trying to set-up work stations for remote working, dealing with customers and working with them over digital platforms. But very few are focusing on the future which is preparing for the after-effects of this pandemic on the economy. 

In-person communication is still an important mode of interaction with customers in the US banking sector. But now the issue is how to provide good services to clients? Some of our customers are going to experience digital models for the first time. 

Organizations that have well-defined Digital Strategies and Customer-First approach will be able to provide good support to their customers. Organizations that are late into this space are more likely to face problems in the future.

[Related: The Impact of Covid-19 on the Global Economy and Insurance]

Changing customer preferences

How can companies reach out to their customers in this New Normal world?

We have already started to move towards a digital-centric world which is just going to accelerate. We will see businesses who have earlier ignored their digital capabilities will now build more on them. 

The first video call was invented in the 60s and was not so appreciated as everybody thought it was expensive and complicated. Today we have FaceTime, Zoom but adoption has not happened on a larger scale. But this will soon accelerate. Customers will be comfortable dialing into a video chat with their Insurance agent. 

I don’t believe there’ll be a New Normal. For example, in the US after 9/11 people thought that life will never get back to normal but except for rigorous security screening at the airports, there hasn’t been much change in the behavior. 

In Israel, amidst all the constant disturbance, people in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are living normal lives. There’ll certainly be some specific changes post the pandemic such as more adoption of digital technologies, more focus on customer needs but I believe there won’t be an entirely new world with a drastic change in consumer behavior.  

The need for personalization

What are some Attention hacking lessons for Insurers operating in ‘the New Normal’?

We are moving towards the personalization of products in general. Generally in Life Insurance, we insure people based on their date of birth or medical history. But what if we insure people based on their behavior? If we did that, would people change their more risky behavior to get a better rate? A non-smoker can be given a better rate as opposed to a smoker. If we get down to individuality, saying that this is your individual (your own) rate; it makes a difference. 

There is a lot of data available and AI is needed to mine that data and derive analytics. Just by building a relationship with customers, we are not doing a great job with personalization. It’s important to apply a human touch to the communication which makes customers feel like you know them. Thus, retaining their attention.

Digital customer experience in Insurance

For the insurance industry, what steps can help in delivering the right digital customer experience in terms of UX and visual design?

A lot of organizations practice Design Thinking but Financial Services don’t. They are of the opinion that they know what is needed as they themselves are customers and they have data from the surveys. But that’s a wrong approach. Design Thinking is about empathy. It is important to get into the shoes of your clients to design better solutions.

To enhance digital customer experience, Insurers need a thorough understanding of users — who are the ultimate clients, their needs, what they expect from this experience, etc. After comprehending how they engage with technology and financial services, start venturing into the solution and test the solutions with actual users.

Innovations in the financial services industry

What technology-based innovations are being explored within the financial services industry? And, do you see AI playing a role in the short term? 

AI has already affected Financial Services in a positive way and will make it better. In insurance, IoT has been very impactful and will continue to be. Some applications have already been applied in reality like sensors in cars to detect speed and ensure that you are under the speed limit. This helps in getting reduced premiums. 

However, some basic processes are still done in the old school way of shuffling papers. Straight though-out processes have not yet happened. Now RPA is being applied to this but it is more like a band-aid. What is more important is how we can build processes through true automation with AI.

[Related: 5 Insurance Front Office Operations AI Can Improve]

Adoption of AI in Insurance

Speaking about more adoption of technologies, do you think there’ll be more investment in AI now?

Absolutely! We have already seen that investment in technologies like AI, cloud computing, quantum computing has been ramping up. Businesses will invest much more in AI than before. It might be for better decision making, underwriting, understanding the behavior of clients, etc. Also, from a marketing standpoint, financial services have never focused much before but will now invest in AI for this area too.

[Related: How is AI extending customer support during COVID-19 pandemic]

In your recent article in Extractable – “Deploying third-party financial service technology to mitigate crisis” you talk about what tech vendors are doing wrong. Please expand on how to encourage resources to be innovative change agents?

There were two points that I made in the article-

First is about what companies are doing incorrectly when it comes to innovation. Risk management is consulted only after developing the product. The product release is stalled until the legal compliances are adhered to. Instead, companies should involve the risk management at the beginning of the process (while defining the problem and solution). Involving risk management at every step of the innovation process will make it much easier to push out innovation.

The second was about vendor management. Many small vendors such as tech vendors, InsurTechs want to sell solutions to financial service companies but are often surprised by the tedious vendor management process. There’s a lot of documentation. Once the first process of selling is done, vendors should package the documentation in a way that when the next prospect asks for it, the due diligence package is ready to offer. 

Read article – Deploying third-party financial service technology to mitigate crisis 

Wrapping up

Alex shared interesting insights on how Design Thinking and Visual Design can create better digital customer experience. The design vertical at Mantra Labs too believes in the same and has designed UX for various applications for its customers. Here’s an article to understand the role of Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX): Creating Amazing Digital Customer Experiences

[Also read: [Interview] Mr. Andrew Warburton | The New Normal in Insurance]

AI is going to be essential for Insurers to gain that competitive edge in the post-pandemic world. Check out Hitee — an Insurance specific chatbot for driving customer engagement. For your specific requirements, please feel free to write to us at hello@mantralabsglobal.com. 

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