May 7, 2021 By IBM Consulting 4 min read

Business is always changing. Frequent market disruptions make it easy to get lost in the constant scramble. But it’s important to remember: behind every business decision is a customer.

Today’s customers are savvy and discerning, and they expect the organizations they interact with to be fast, flexible and fully digital. Meeting those expectations requires more than just updating your customer-facing interface. To achieve truly exceptional customer experiences today, organizations need to adapt internally. Changing the way businesses work to increase agility and efficiency is a necessity to keep pace with the needs of customers and employees.

Many businesses are already adopting more modern ways of working to improve customer experience. A recent study by IBM Market Development and Insights (MD&I) found that 78% of organizations are planning to increase investments in intelligent workflows across sales, service and marketing functions in the next two years. Even so, there are many untapped opportunities to streamline simple tasks and make better use of data throughout the customer lifecycle.



Customer acquisition

Every internal process maps to an external outcome, starting with prospecting and targeting customers. AI and optimization technology can help identify optimal targets to pursue, in connection with virtual agents to nurture the highest priority leads. Throughout the campaign journey, data analytics determine the right levers and creative choices to ensure customers see the most relevant messages, delivered precisely as they are most likely to want to engage.

Discoverability is important for every brand but being able to do so quickly and at lower costs is critical. Intelligent customer workflows can go the extra mile to make customers feel a connection with your business and rapidly engage using internal and external data in all the right ways.

Customer growth and retention

If you want to keep the customers you’ve attracted, you need to onboard them and provide effective engagement to reduce churn. At these stages, it’s essential for interactions to be positive to encourage customers to become advocates for your brand. Yet without the proper tools, it can be just as easy for your employees to be operating blindly or with significantly delayed analytics reporting and actionability.

Applying cognitive digitization technology to sales and commerce processes can help your organization rapidly onboard customers. Meanwhile, the next-best-action approach personalizes recommendations and machine learning detects fraudulent activity to ensure security-rich environments. Having these technologies humming in the background leads to incremental optimizations that can increase customer engagement in time spent and loyalty in Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Customer service

In addition to acquiring and retaining new customers, it is vital to maintain the customer relationships your organization already has. Your customers want effective support with short wait times. Customer support and response, inquiry routing and self-service capabilities are critical to delivering on these expectations.

Intelligent workflows can help streamline the entire customer service process, driving faster response times by automating inbound queries with virtual agents and enhancing self-service capabilities to help customers advocate for themselves. Just as important as serving their questions and concerns is offering feedback loops. And while many of these functions aren’t new, in many organizations they still aren’t well connected for singular customer views across the service team—and, ideally, back to sales and marketing as well.

Unified workflow across sales and commerce, service and marketing processes

Once you’ve optimized each of the separate processes in your customer workflow, you want to bring them all together in a unified, end-to-end workflow. With intelligent customer workflows, you can unify finance, marketing, sales, service and IT workflows across the organization.

The unified workflow can run on your existing platforms—perhaps you have Salesforce,  Adobe, SAP or others—and is supported by hybrid cloud infrastructure. It can be extended across ecosystems and bridge workflows with relevant ecosystem partners.

This is where you really start to see the power of intelligent workflows. Agility, speed and increased productivity were identified by survey respondents as the top benefits of implementing intelligent workflows in the customer lifecycle. Business leaders also cited important gains in innovation, cost savings and efficiency.

With the potential value to be gained, it isn’t surprising that 78% of organizations are planning to increase investments to add intelligent functionality to their customer workflows in the next two years. But what is surprising is that only 2% started making those investments more than six months ago, with an additional 26% joining the race in just the past six months. Clearly, the tumultuous nature of the market is raising the stakes, and a customer workflow that is more data-driven and automated is a must.



However, getting to simple can be anything but. Recognizing that businesses are clearly just starting to introduce this approach within sales, marketing and service disciplines, it can be helpful to be aware of the common pitfalls and can’t-miss milestones. 54% of businesses identified skills and expertise as the most critical factor for successful intelligent workflow implementation.

Getting the most out of intelligent customer workflows requires expert knowledge, proven methods and advanced technology platforms. And with the right ecosystem of partners, you can break down traditional walls within your organization for truly exceptional experiences, with your customers at their core.

Learn more about how you can create intelligent workflows across your entire customer lifecycle.

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