AI – The Customer Experience Panacea?

The “consistent customer experience” has become the holy grail of B2B marketing. That being said, only 12% of marketers consider themselves “very effective” at delivering a great customer experience. Content lies at the heart of the customer experience, but many companies are still working with outdated content processes and tools creating a situation where relevant content is difficult to find and marketing leaders have no idea which materials are being presented to prospects.

The problem lies with the fact that there are so many different tools and repositories in use in the enterprise today meaning companies are operating in silos with minimal coordination between teams whose prospect interactions may vary wildly. According to CSO Insights, B2B companies have on average 17 different sales content repositories. With so many places to go for content, it is hardly surprising that companies are failing to deliver a consistent experience to prospects and customers. Many of these sales content repositories will provide analytics on what is going on in their own system, but users have no idea what is going on in the other systems. There is no unified view of prospect activity and nobody really knows what materials are being used. The end result is an inconsistent customer experience where the materials prospects consume do not provide reps with best chance of closing the deal.

The ideal state which companies are striving towards is one holistic, consistent, personalized, up to date customer experience across every touch point. This new digital age has so many possibilities in how your message can be experienced and how impactful it can be to drive the company forward. For marketing, there are so many customer touchpoints now including website and SEO content, social media, and advertising campaigns. These touchpoints come before sales’ involvement and is all valuable data which should be leveraged to figure out which materials should be presented to prospects who move through the funnel to meet with reps. With heightened customer expectations, companies need to figure out a way to deliver winning customer experiences across every channel.

Getting Sales and Marketing on the Same Page

Research from SiriusDecision has shown that there is an average of 17.3 pieces of content used per salesperson in each winning deal. The trouble is that most companies would struggle to identify all the materials used in each deal. Most activity happens outside the approved sales repository – no matter how well it is designed or maintained. Meetings, presentations, emails, attachments, phone calls, follow-ups, all this content and activity lives across email, laptops, drives, CRM, portals, learning systems, departments – all silos. Marketing leaders keep talking about the importance of a “consistent customer experience” but, in reality, vast amounts of customer experience data is being ignored and the actual customer experience is far from consistent.

As a result, sales and marketing are working in silos. Marketing has no idea which materials sales reps are using, while sales reps are either unaware of all the content marketing produces or simply choose to ignore it. Research has shown that a staggering 90% of the content produced by marketing gets ignored by sales.

The impact that this alignment failure has on the customer experience should not be overlooked. Customer-facing website content, invariably produced by marketing, is saying one thing, while the materials reps present to prospects is saying another. Worse still, marketing, at most companies, has limited visibility into the materials used by reps. As a result, they can not hone their underperforming materials, they cannot double down on the materials which are used successfully, and worst of all – companies become engulfed in a never ending cycle of mediocre customer experience.

AI – The Customer Experience Panacea?

At this time of widespread customer experience failure, it is only natural that companies would look for a “silver bullet” to solve the problem. Given the recent forays into artificial intelligence (AI) by leading companies like IBM, Salesforce, and Microsoft and the subsequent media coverage, it almost seems like AI is the cure for all enterprise ills – and it might well be. However, the type of AI put forward by Microsoft – where their machine learning technology is confined to Microsoft-only products, thus ignoring the unstructured data which makes up about 90% of enterprise data – is not the answer.

Microsoft’s walled garden approach to AI does little to solve the alignment issue at the heart of the customer experience failure. AI that provides content recommendations to sales and marketing, based on a limited view of enterprise activity is not the answer.

The only way companies can see and understand all their content is if they leverage an AI solution that understands the relationships between people, data, and information consumption. Then, and only then, can sales and marketing really get on the same page and start to deliver the consistent customer experience required to generate consistent revenue. For AI to succeed it must Include data from across the enterprise e.g. email exchanges, content sharing in Google Drive, new documents in SharePoint, Chatter messages and Opportunity Stage changes in