If you would have caught any of us at the Red Piano afterparty following Invoca Summit last year and said, “next year, Summit will be online and over 1,500 people will sign up!” we would’ve patted you on the back, cut off your bar tab, and gingerly placed you in a cab back to the hotel. Because obviously, you had WAY too much to drink, or, as it turns out you’re omniscient and that’s weird and scary in its own right. But here we are, putting the wraps on the first Invoca Summit virtual event, saying thank you to 1,500+ registrants, and spilling sticky drinks all over our kitchen floors until our shoes are sucked off of our feet, just like at the Red Piano.
Oh, I’m the only one doing that? Okay, um, disregard that last sentence, and let’s take a look back at the hottest takes from Invoca Summit 2020.
You Have to Know Your Customers
“It is ridiculous to think that you can create great customer experiences for customers that you don’t understand,” exclaimed Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research during his keynote on Tuesday morning. He looked back at 2017 when every brand was focusing all of their energy on being “customer-obsessed” and for the most part, instead became “company obsessed.” That is, obsessing about what you want your customers to want, instead of trying to figure out what actually motivates them. “The challenge for marketers has been engaging with customers in a way that’s meaningful,” said Brent Laufenberg, Chief Technology Officer at Rise Interactive.
It is ridiculous to think that you can create great customer experiences for customers that you don’t understand. - Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
The reason why knowing your customers well enough to create these meaningful customer experiences is even more important now, is that as more and more transactions — even high-stakes purchases like buying cars — move online, getting the experience right for customers has become even more critical. There are more touchpoints both online and offline, and more opportunities for the experience to go off the rails and more complications in tracking the customer journey. “The shifts to digital that are happening now require more even high-touch service,” said Witcher. “And we need sources to figure out where problems are occurring in the customer journey, and we need to understand it in real-time.”
In the digital realm, other choices are just a click away so you only have one chance to get the experience right. And this isn’t likely to change, as our research shows that 46% of consumers are either likely or very likely to continue to make these high-stakes purchases online after stores are fully open and the pandemic passes. “Customer experience has become not just a focus for Aspen Dental, it’s THE focus,” said Melissa Pruessing, SVP of Consumer Marketing at Aspen Dental Management, Inc. And to get that experience right, you have to know your customer.
Customer experience has become not just a focus for Aspen Dental, it’s THE focus. - Melissa Pruessing, SVP, Consumer Marketing, Aspen Dental Management, Inc.
AutoNation was getting a handle on this before the pandemic closed dealerships across the United States in March, and their commitment to knowing their customers paid off big time. “We’ve spent a lot of time on figuring out who our customers are and how they want to buy,” said Anand Rao SVP, Marketing and eCommerce at AutoNation. “Now we’re delivering a next-generation customer experience.” The result of AutoNation’s obsession with knowing its customers — Q2 2020 was their best quarter in company history, despite a pandemic and the resulting recession.
Conversations are More Important Than Ever
Customer call volumes across many industries remain elevated well above pre-pandemic levels, particularly for home improvement services and senior care industries. Only travel and hospitality stayed down after April. These conversations with customers contain many of the details of their motivations, their buying journey and habits, how their needs are changing, and what their experience in the call center is like. This represents a huge opportunity for companies to use conversation intelligence to create next-level experiences for their customers, or conversely, fall to the wayside as their competition does so.
“Of all the things you can do to create real competitive advantage today, the strength of your participation in conversations is one of your most important differentiators,” said Peter Coffee, VP of Strategic Research at Salesforce during his presentation at Invoca Summit. “If you can be better at recognizing context, better at understanding desire and intent, better at offering the right suggestion at the right moment, based on conversational intelligence, you’ve got a competitive moat that’s much, much harder to breach.”
Of all the things you can do to create real competitive advantage today, the strength of your participation in conversations is one of your most important differentiators. - Peter Coffee, VP of Strategic Research, Salesforce
The shifts to digital that are happening now require more high-touch service, not less. At a time where customers feel less connected to companies than they did even three years ago due to generic, irrelevant, and poorly personalized customer experiences, the need for a source of truth about the buying journey is critical to creating a competitive advantage. And that source lies in the conversations you are having with customers. The data is there. Customers are telling you exactly what they want. You just have to take it and act on it and do so quickly and consistently.
Wait, what? Someone said “think small” at a marketing conference? In a roundabout way, yes! Seth Godin encouraged viewers of his session to “address the smallest viable audience” so you know that you are focusing on people “who really want to hear from you.” When you can pick the most specific audience possible, you get to say to everyone else “sorry, this isn’t for you,” and that lets you get back to doing what you want to do — providing something remarkable for your customers.
In a year where marketing budgets were tightening and consumer behavior changes faster than wet socks, that’s exactly what many Invoca customers said they have been doing. Figuring out who makes up the most high-value audiences, discovering their needs, and addressing them as quickly as possible. All while standing ready for those needs to change at any moment. “Every time we think we have things figured out, something else changes,” Said Sheri Kimes, Demand Marketing Manager at Dell.
Every time we think we have things figured out, something else changes. - Sheri Kimes, Demand Marketing Manager, Dell.
Satellite internet provider Viasat found themselves overwhelmed by inbound calls at the beginning of the pandemic in North America. Many of the people calling the sales contact center were either outside of their service area, or were service calls from current customers. By using Invoca conversation intelligence and dynamic routing capabilities, they were able to focus on the smallest addressable audience — customers in areas they could actually serve. This enabled them to increase their handled call conversion rate by 74% and decrease handled calls per week by 452 hours — that’s equal to what 11 call center employees could handle.
Getting to the core of your addressable market and sticking with them through every twist and turn will help you develop a new base of incredibly loyal customers.
The Big Takeaway — Adversity is the Path to Greatness
There is no better message for the moment in time that we’re in than what Eric Weihenmayer expressed in his moving, inspirational, and exhilarating talk at Invoca Summit. “The way we harness the challenges in our lives, that is our greatest advantage.” We have seen so much of this in the way our customers, our coworkers, and our families have not only made the best of a challenging situation this year, but taken it as an opportunity to make ourselves better and stronger both professionally and personally.
Most importantly, we have to remember that “we are one rope team,” as Weihenmayer said, alluding to a rope team climbing a mountain that goes up — and goes down — together. We are all in this together, and we’ve shown that we are stronger together. Thank you to all of our attendees, speakers, customers, and of course, all of the Invocans that charged so hard for the last three months to make our first Invoca Summit virtual event not just a stellar online conference, but our very best Summit yet. We hope to see all of you again at Invoca Summit 2021!