Customer Co-Creation Is The Secret Sauce To Success

The operative phrase is to “be involved in”. Increasingly, that is taking the form of customer co-creation. Prahalad and Ramaswamy defined co-creation as “the joint creation of value by the company and the customer; allowing the customer to co-construct the service experience to suit their context.”  In my work, I define co-creation as the “purposeful action of partnering with strategic customers, partners or employees to ideate, problem solve, improve performance, or create a new product, service or business.” The concept has been around since 2000 yet has taken over a decade to catch on. Co-creation is not a customer advisory board on steroids or a clever sales and marketing tactic. It’s about jointly creating value , for the vendor as well as customers.  To most managers, the thought of openly and transparently engaging customers, sharing detailed data is downright scary. The rewards, however, should cause CEOs to pause and reconsider. Let’s look at how two very different companies are using co-creation to drive value. The first is DHL the global market leader in logistics, part of the world’s largest mail and logistics services company, Deutsche Post ("DP") DHL. You may know them by their yellow and red delivery trucks. Privatized 15 years ago, today the DP DHL Group employs some 490,000 employees around the world producing $57 Billion in annual revenue. You might think a company this size would struggle being agile, let alone set standards in innovation and customer service. What DHL discovered was its customers wanted help in rethinking their supply chains to improve business performance. “That is quite a challenge, as we are typically dealing with very complex global supply chains” shared Bill Meahl, Chief Commercial Officer at DHL, “one which fueled us to embark on a journey of customer co-creation.” Embarking on this path meant more than just process and service changes, it meant picking the right customers to work with and deepening employee capabilities to understand how they impact customer business, customer perception and sustainability. A critical success factor was teaching employees how to “walk a mile in customer shoes so they intimately understand the dynamics of working with customers ,” according to Meahl.  That competence is critical to developing a range of viable recommendations and new solutions that not only meet customer goals but demonstrate the value of DHL as a business partner. DHL understands that innovation must be customer focused. One way they ensure this happens is by bringing customers and their DHL service partners together in specially built Germany- and Singapore-based innovation centers for workshops to share best practices and create value. The purpose is to “conduct intensive hands-on workshops that explore and understand technology, economic, socio-political and culture trends to develop new ways to manage supply chains and logistics.” Sessions sometimes start with a look at what business could look like in 2050.  Employing a proven methodology of scenario planning, DHL’s approach takes customers on a time journey which showcases a four-quadrant view of what the world could look like in 2050. The quadrants are radically different from each other; one quadrant is always a doomsday scenario and its opposite is a perfect world.  The power of scenario planning is that it breaks mindset.  The joint team then ‘walks’ backwards from 2050 to 2020 which provides a platform for specific trend lines, core competencies, and problems that need to be solved.  From there, the joint team brainstorms solutions and approaches. Some of the innovations that have been launched as a result of the over 6,000 engagements conducted in DHL’s innovation centers and other customer co-creation formats include:

  • Parcelcopter, a drone delivery research project, which may in future enable companies to be more responsive, agile and cost-efficient.
  • “Smart glasses” and augmented reality, co-created with DHL customer Ricoh, to improve inventory and warehouse picking efficiency by 25 percent.
  • Maintenance on demand” (MoDe), co-created with DHL’s customer Volvo Trucks and other partners, uses sensors that automatically send back vehicle and component performance to identify when and where truck maintenance will be required.
  • IoT Report, an industry report, authored by DHL and Cisco, that identified and evaluated the implications and use cases of the Internet of Things in logistics.
  • Robotics applications that are currently being jointly tested with customers. These range from self-driving trolleys that support pickers to do their work in a less strainful way to collaborative robots that support workers for value-added services such as co-packing.
Meahl admits the co-creation concept was initially received with skepticism, internally and externally. Customers thought it was a clever sales tactic. Internally DHL has multiple business units who have differing business models serving the same customers. Identifying the right DHL leaders who “owned that customer” and aligning and coordinating multiple teams to productize the innovation workshop outcomes forced the company to take a hard look at its own structure and processes. The result has been well worth it.  CSAT scores are over 80 percent and on-time delivery performance is 97 percent or higher worldwide. Customer churn rates are down and revenue from new services/products is up. At the other end of the spectrum is Phononic, an early stage technology company that develops solid state heating and cooling. Phononic sells into traditional industries that manufacturer refrigeration and HVAC systems. The founder and CEO, Dr. Tony Atti, believes that “companies should understand their customers’ desired experience and use that knowledge to work backwards to define company processes and culture .”  In Atti’s opinion a core part of B2B customer engagement should be based on emotion versus engineering or technical terms. “Co-creation is about helping the customer imagine a different future .” Most of Phononic’s products are the result of customer co-creation - these are highly complex, precision engineered equipment that can cost millions of dollars.  Fully integrated team of engineers, supply chain experts, sales and marketers partner with customers to define new products, design requirements, prototypes, and finalize manufacturing specifications. The result is a small company that is disrupting an old, established industry. Atti swears by the co-creation model for the entire customer lifecycle journey, not just product innovation.  It is at the core of Phononic’s differentiation as well as its culture .

Want to Improve Customer Experience? Ask Your Customers for Help

Customer co-creation is a powerful technique through which customers and vendors can jointly work together to create value. I define this as “the purposeful action of partnering with strategic customers and employees to ideate, problem solve, improve performance and/or create a new product, service or business.” Today, almost two decades after customer co-creation was introduced as an academic concept by Venkatram Ramaswamy and the late C.K. Prahalad of the University of Michigan Business School, this promising process is finally finding its way into the mainstream.

Co-Creation Creates Value

Companies as diverse as Zappos, DHL, The LEGO Group and Starbucks are now working with customers to engage them in everything from product creation to corporate strategy. Yet the prospect of sharing the kind of detailed strategic and financial information necessary to interact openly and transparently with your top customers can be daunting. Breathe easy. Your company can start harnessing the power of customer co-creation in a way that’s a lot less intimidating — by better understanding the customer experiences your company provides. That’s because consistently delivering the kinds of customer experiences that create value are key to building trust and credibility. And creating those high-value customer experiences in turn creates a virtuous cycle: When you invite customers to help your company in more strategic areas, your trust deepens those customer relationships by expanding engagement, encouraging accurate and truthful interactions and improving product performance.

Start with Qualitative Journey Maps

You can begin a customer co-creation initiative by taking three steps that invite your customers to work with you to create better, more valuable customer experiences:
  1. Use qualitative interviews to develop detailed “outside-in” journey maps — both pre- and post-purchase — for each key customer segment.
  2. Use that interview data to identify key interactions and gaps where the current experience your company is delivering deviates from those journey maps. Often the best way to do this is by putting together a cross-functional team in an internal workshop setting.
  3. Follow up your internal effort by inviting 6-10 strategic customers to a co-creation workshop aimed at helping your internal team to prioritize and improve the experience gaps. Enlist your strategic customers to help you set new success metrics and targets.

Create Listening Opportunities

Inviting your strategic customers makes a great starting point because they have a vested interest in making the time to participate. What’s more, implementing what comes out of the workshops demonstrates your commitment to keeping the communication lines wide open and minimizes your risk exposure as a company. But don’t get carried away and invite every customer to your co-creation workshops. Reserve participation for customers who represent your most strategic future growth market segments. That keeps the number of workshops manageable and your team focused on the right actions needed to move the needle.

Conduct a Co-Creation Workshop

Customer co-creation workshops will be most successful when you:
  • Host your customers — all expenses paid — at a nice but not elaborate location. Make sure that you include quality time for customers to network with each other in the agenda.
  • Company attendees should be the same people who participated in the internal gap analysis. Make sure that the customer representatives you invite are all peers in terms of responsibility and authority. Ideally, you want to invite two individuals from each company who represent different departments or functions.
  • Facilitate your workshop using an expert with deep knowledge and experience in journey mapping, co-creation and customer experience. Remember, your objective is to redefine in detail the highest-value journey.
  • Create a learning opportunity for your sales, marketing and engineering departments by inviting them as silent observers.
  • After each workshop, have the facilitator share and validate the outcomes with each customer including sharing an implementation plan with milestones, periodic report-outs of progress and questions from customers who participated in the workshop(s).

Keep Communicating

Customer co-creation is neither a one-time project nor a race to some finish line, but rather a new mindset and company philosophy. Every company’s co-creation strategy will be different based on its unique market dynamics, organizational culture, competencies and customer segment characteristics. As you implement the process, feel free to keep what works for you and your customers and discard the rest. And above all, think of best practices as learning opportunities, not a definitive recipe for success.

How IoT Redefines What Sales Success Looks Like

Back in the 1960s the successful salesperson was typically seen as a confident and trusted ally that helped you solve a variety of business issues.  It’s a given that the product or service had to work; the core of the relationship, however, was personal.  It was between two people who trusted each other and were committed to each other’s success. Without the benefit of smartphones, cloud applications, big data or analytics, salespeople possessed deep understanding of their industry, market trends, products and usage best practices, and customers’ preferences as well current and anticipated needs. It’s arguable that sales people back in those days knew their customers better than we do today. The measure of a successful sales person was consistently exceeding quota, respected by their peers and high customer loyalty. Those same measures are just as valid today. Technology advances redefined how we think of the salesperson.  We began to believe that successful sales people could be made.  In the 1980s a movement began to standardize sales processes, how they thought and the activities that filled up their days.  From SPIN selling, Miller Heiman Blue Sheets and “Dress for Success” to today’s predictive analytics and Account Based Selling, a tremendous amount of effort is spent on teaching sales people to  replicate specific actions, steps, processes and communication styles.  Technology is available to helping them know which leads to pursue, provide real-time coaching, recommend what up-sell product to offer, and real-time forecasting all in the unwritten belief that successful sales people can be built. “Today it’s about copying the practices and methodologies of ‘A’ players to help ‘B’ players become more than just gifted amateurs,” shared Leslie Stretch, CEO of Callidus Cloud, a cloud-based sales, marketing, learning, and customer experience solutions vendor. Today what stands between the customer and the purchase order is the sales person. That is about to change rapidly and dramatically by the Internet of Things or “IoT” for short. With IoT, devices and machines are starting to automatically send purchase orders for inventory, replacement parts and repair services directly to vendor computers.  The sales person is out of the picture.  IoT disintermediates B2B account management.  No one needs the sales person because there is no one for the sales person to talk to – or is there? Stretch sums up the question that is on everyone’s mind as “What is sales’ role when machines take care of themselves and order for themselves?” Counter to obsoleting sales, IoT shifts the definition of the sales person back sixty years to a time when relationships matter.  Success will be once again defined by the long term value generated by the sales person, as defined by the buyer. Value that is often beyond the product or service he or she is selling.  Relationship trumps everything. What IoT triggers is the reversion of the definition of a successful sales person back to the consummate professional relationship builder, behaviorist and strategic advisor that takes their business personally. There is evidence that the shift is already underway – not from how CEOs think of their sales stars but in the actual characteristics of sales “A” players. “The Persona of Top Sales Professionals”, is a recent study of over 1,000 sales professionals by Steve W. Martin that was sponsored by Velocify, a sales acceleration platform. The study defines the personal attributes, attitudes and actions of successful sales people who achieved more than 125 percent of their quota last year. The study focused on six areas: Focus and motivation, career orientation, personal attributes, customer interaction strategy, attitude, and self-perception. We all know that highly successful sales people are driven by much more than money or greed as Martin calls it.  What may be surprising is the study’s finding that being recognized by their peers and held in high esteem “based upon their knowledge and the recognition that comes along with being thought of as an expert” is as important as money.  Quota-busters “believe that their knowledge is their most powerful attribute” and “are masters of language…[and] accomplished communicators who know what to say and, equally important, how to say it.” The study found that sales super stars rely on their intuition a bit more than pure rational logic when making critical decisions.  Their understanding of human nature, and of themselves, and drawing on those insights at key times is a hallmark of consistently over-quota achievers defined as people who exceed quota over 90 percent of their careers.   While pure-logic decision makers also exceed quota, they just don’t do it as often as the sales person that listens to their intuition a bit more closely. When it comes to how the most successful sales people approach customer relationships, the overachievers focus on “getting customers to emotionally connect with them” followed by customizing their sales approach and asking the tough questions in ways that showcase their knowledge and expertise. Sounds a lot like some of the best sales people from the last century – David Ogilvy, Mary Kay Ash, Joe Girard, and Zig Ziglar, to name a few. The bottom-line is that successful salespeople in the era of IoT are focused, as they were in the 1960s, on the emotional, political and personal drivers of the buyer.  The study found that successful sales people are able to “build a trusted relationship and personal friendship in a short period of time.”  To the sales person it’s about more than just the sale, it’s about owning a personal responsibility for and a dedication to their client’s success. What does that mean for sales organizations going forward?  Stretch believes the focus should not be on a salesperson but on the entire team involved in the account. He adds a “key is to compensate everyone supporting the customer because that directly impacts renewal and account expansion.” Based on my client work, I’m a strong proponent of ending the practice of hosting annual sales training to drill standard processes, systems and procedures in a one-size-fits-all approach into the heads of inside sales and account managers. Instead use these events to deepen industry expertise, understand emerging trends, and teach people how to apply this knowledge to customer situations and drive value-add beyond the boundaries of the product. I also recommend these four new best practices:

  • Test sales candidates based on their behaviors and motivations using new tools such as GRI
  • Individualize sales coaching to build self-confidence, personal certainty, and self-pride
  • Hire behaviorists to sharpen communication, sales intuition and human behavior skills
  • Teach sales how to use data to alter their behaviors to align with customer characteristics
You might say all of this has always been the hallmark of sales superstars. That’s true.  However, in the era of IoT, it means that all of sales need to have these characteristics not just the “A” players.

Chatbots Will Be Your New Best Friend

Chatbots came on the scene in 2011 as business intelligence, artificial intelligence and messaging platforms combined into new forms of responsive technology.  New ways were needed to support companies interacting with buyers and provide customer support that aligned and could evolve with changing communication habits. What is a chatbot?  A messaging application, sometimes referred to as a conversational interface, designed to simplify complex predefined task(s). The ‘chatbot’ label covers a number of categories including stand-alone applications, AI tools, bot developer frameworks and messaging, bot discovery, connectors/shared services, and analytics.  VentureBeat recently released a bot landscape which undoubtedly will rapidly expand in the near future. Today, chatbots are seen as easy and fun ways to help customers achieve an outcome. You’ll encounter them on web sites, social media and even on your smartphone. Say hello to Siri, Allo and Alexa, to name a few. To further adoption developers are making chatbots more human-like with personalities, capable of recognizing speech patterns and interpreting non-verbal cues to make interactions even smoother. The excitement is not in what they are capable of doing today but in their future trajectory.  As cited in The Chatbot Magazine, “Messaging apps are the platforms of the future and bots will be how their users access all sorts of services” shares Peter Rojas, Entrepreneur in Residence at Betaworks.  Verizon Ventures is an active investor in the chatbot market.  According to Christie Pitts, Manager – Ventures Development, Verizon Ventures, “Chatbots represent a new trend in how people access information, make decisions, and communicate. We think that chatbots are the beginning of a new form of digital access, which centers on messaging. Messaging has become a huge component of how we interact with our devices, and how we stay connected with the people, businesses and the day-to-day activities of life. Chatbots bring commerce into this part of our lives, and will open up new opportunities.” When asked why chatbots are strategic to Verizon, Pitts replied, “At heart, Verizon is a technology company and as such is constantly at the forefront of understanding and delivering on new market opportunities, and one of our top priorities is simplifying communication with our customers.” They have invested in companies like Spark Cognition, Adtheorent, Q Sensei, and MapD. Verizon sees AI as an enabling technology layer that can lead to huge gains. Companies working with AI technologies will create valuable solutions that augment the way people communicate, with each other and machines. Chatbot technology is part of Relay Network’s customer experience communication solution. Their approach is to first determine the specific use cases that could benefit from this technology.  Matt Gillin, CEO of Relay Network, believes “that a customer relationship and communication pattern needs to exist first before you can employ technologies, like bots, to facilitate the relationship further.” When asked about guidelines when employing chatbots, Gillin’s recommendation is bots are best “for scripted transactions or tasks that don’t require a lot back and forth.” Chatbots are most effective in situations where a customer is trying to resolve routine issues, complete specific tasks like placing an order, or guiding a user through a multi-step process. The benefit is the ability to “close the loop with the customer along a process, efficiently and in a delightful way,” shares Gillin. The ROI is in cost reduction, efficiency and improved customer satisfaction. Chatbots also play a role in marketing. By tagging specific content to certain chatbot words or phrases, content could be delivered in any number of pre-defined conversations. With deep understanding of the customer journey and emotions, through the eyes of the buyer, content and bot conversations can be successfully mapped and programmed. Verizon is excited about chatbots and the advances that are happening in the field of artificial intelligence. Over time, great leaps in technology have provided huge benefits to our lives. It’s easy, however, to get carried away with the allure of artificial intelligence and human-machine relationships. “Sometimes advancement comes with trepidation,” says Pitts. “Outcomes can be predictable and beneficial, or at times unpredictable and present new challenges. In the long view it is clear that technology improvements are a net benefit to society.” Yet, lurking in the background is the concern about unintended consequences. We become enamored with technology and its potential to do good.  We don’t think about the possibility of a dark side; how the technology’s original intent can be perverted to do harm.  A few examples are social media cyberbullying and sexting.  It’s a lesson we seem unable to learn. Dr. Liraz Margalit, Director of Behavioral Analytics for Clicktale, an enterprise-class experience management platform, blames our tendency to see the world through rose-colored glasses as a “lack of psychology research in the early stages of technology development. As a result we don’t plan for all the issues that will arise.” For some the unintended consequences are already here. Our willful blindness about the dark side of technology has some expressing concern.  Futurists like James Canton to technology giants Alphabet, Amazon, IBM, Facebook and Microsoft are calling for an AI framework that takes into account social and economic policies. Dr. Margalit states that “interacting with chatbots creates in our brains a new model which results in a new state of mind.”  We may intellectually know we’re interacting with a computer but our brain perceives it as companionship. The more human-like chatbots become, the more our brains gravitate to a companionship model.  And that is where the slippery slope begins.  As users increasingly interact with chatbots, they subconsciously perceive that bot as a friend – one that makes them feel good because the user unconsciously has control over the relationship.  No need for you to be nice and pleasant, the chatbot is selfless, always ready and available to serve you and in a good mood.  Dr. Margalit calls it “designing technology for companionship without demand for friendship.”  She believes incorporating humanoid social robots into our lives “invariably alters the dynamics of human relationships and gives rise to a society that isn’t completely real.” So what’s the wrong with that? Unfortunately, some users cannot tell the difference between a chatbot and human chat. Take a look at what happening in China with Tay and Xiaolce. This is known as the ‘Eliza Effect’ where people think they are communicating with a real person when in actuality it is a piece of software. When these same users then interact with fellow human-beings, things go awry.  They bring into the real-world human-to-human interaction a mental model partially based on how they felt and behaved while interacting with a bot. Dr. Margalit cites several studies done with children that are heavy smartphone users. These studies found a correlation to rudeness, impatience, imitation of video hero behavior, and disconnected attitude toward the real world.  Asymmetrical digital interactions are easier and don’t require effort on our part to really understand the perspective of other people, especially if their views are different. Gillin isn’t too worried about the slippery slope, “the focus of an organization on improving a brand’s business will keep it from running into the AI moral dilemma”.  Pitts and her Verizon team believe that “elements of AI like machine learning, natural language processing, and neural networks are poised to power the next wave of a digital revolution. Smartphones and ubiquitous access to high quality wireless networks have improved our lives in countless ways. AI-powered solutions will very likely further this transformation.” Interestingly, both Gillin and Margalit believe that chatbots should be visually tagged with a universally accepted icon so the unaware among us are always reminded we’re interacting with software, not our best friend. “Bots are changing rapidly as technology improves,” shares Pitts. “A bot that provides information today could provide contextual recommendations tomorrow. We are looking forward to watching these new technologies and integrating them when it will benefit our customers.” Chatbots are not likely to take over and drive all forms of customer communication. The technology isn’t that advanced and remains dependent on human design and oversight. The importance of this technology is its role as a stepping stone to the new world of IoT (Internet of Things) wherein traditional roles of sales, marketing and customer service will be completed transformed. We can either focus on redefining, in advance, what tomorrow’s organization, culture, and customer relationships should look like and guide technology development to further that transformation. Or we can be smitten with creating humanoid social bots that mimic us because in today’s increasingly isolating society we all need a new best friend. Originally posted in Forbes

Latest Customer-Centricity Battleground Is The Website

Websites are big investments for any organization.  Often perceived as the ‘face’ of an organization, the goals of corporate websites range from educating, selling to engaging customers or simply chest thumping on how totally awesome the company thinks it is. Just about everyone feels they have a voice when it comes to their organization’s website – Marketing, sales, customer service, product marketing, the CEO, the Board, etc.  The focus frequently shifts from consciously defining how the website supports and enables the buyers’ journey to appeasing a committee of interests.  That’s too bad because according to KoMarketing / Huff Industrial Marketing, 37% of survey respondents indicated that they will visit a vendor website 3 – 5 times before making a purchasing decision. The ineffectiveness of most websites is driven by digital marketing being slow to evolve their content marketing strategy to align with customer preferences.  Websites should be speaking the customers’ language and solving their problems instead of what most do which is broadcasting corporate brand messages and selling products and services by using company internal language. Five years ago 95 percent of websites were comprised of collateral and product/service pages. Today, according to Lionbridge, that should be less than 50 percent. The other 50 to 75 percent should be storytelling, challenge/pain solving content marketing, and enabling tools and information for key moments of truth. To dig further into the role that websites should play in customer-aligned marketing, I sat down Clint Poole, VP of Global Marketing, of Lionbridge. Christine Crandell:  Do websites still matter? Clint Poole: Today’s best websites serve as the backbone of a well-structured digital ecosystem whose components are meant to manage all of the desired customer/audience digital actions, from engagement to conversion.  The website itself should serve as the definitive source for educational and meaningful content that is re-distributed across multiple digital channels in the sub-formats that make it relevant to the buyers’ preferences for those channels. The website should serve as the hub. The educate vs sell angle is a massive one. Content that educates and entertains is much more likely to be linked to compared to brand-centric or persuasive content.  Customer-valued content gets you in front of new audiences with an element of credibility and social proof that can have massive viral effect.  The above factors increase your website traffic which increases the size of your engaged audience which leads to conversions thereby increasing your opportunities and ultimately translating into increased sales and revenue. Christine Crandell:  Where have marketers gone astray? Clint Poole:  There is reluctance to change or at least the lag time to change.  Over the past decade marketing professionals have become entrenched internally as they became overwhelmed with the complexities of the new marketing technologies and engagement channels.  Culturally, the function has lost its focus on customer intimacy that used to be its core competency.  We continually hear from Marketing leaders that they are driving “back to the fundamentals” of marketing, which includes developing an understanding of their buyer’s needs, preferences, and perceptions of a brand. For consumer marketers this is a challenge because their customers don’t necessarily want to have a relationship with the brand. That requires marketers to focus on analytics to drive conclusions and big data analytics have not been perfected to a point of prevision. For B2B, marketing measurement is just getting to a point of maturity where marketers can truly measure the influence of multiple touch points across a buyers journey.  They are still looking at the overall map versus truly understanding the buyer “moments that matter” and focusing efforts on those critical interactions. Christine Crandell:  You believe that websites should follow customer journey maps and engage in ‘educational storytelling’.  How can marketers operationalize that advice? Clint Poole: The key is in the application of a new website strategy where the purpose is to educate and engage through content that is meaningful, relevant, and interesting to the buyer.  This requires a finite understanding of the preferences of your target audience at each stage of their customer journey and creation of content that matters at each and every moment.  It’s a matter of prioritizing which moments on the customer journey are most critical because there are too many moments to treat them all equally and buyers are too overwhelmed with messages to absorb everything. Personalization tools are driving the tactical application of right content at the right time, but getting it right is tricky.  Personalization can be a powerful lever when real insights about your buyer’s pains are addressed through content and delivered at the right place and the right time with the help of tools that leverage digital body language and other knowledge about your visitor. Christine Crandell:  Popular belief is that ‘content is king’ and should live in the website.  You disagree, why? Clint Poole: We believe the complexities of buyers’ preferences require a brand to consistently distribute the same message and content via multiple channels simultaneously.  As such it can’t simply live on the website in isolation, but needs to be part of a well-designed content publication strategy that maps buyer preferences and effective formats for specific channels.  Each of the digital channels plays a specific role and those roles are maturing. Blogs were once the posting ground for short-form content that marketing couldn’t justify publishing on a website.  Blog posts were perishable content that fueled social and was often focused on “engagement”; not on ‘more serious’ product content.  Today, most marketers realize that the main goal of all digital channels is to build relationships and trust. In response, blog content is slowly shifting in tone and length and we are seeing blogs trade quantity for quality. Christine Crandell:   What are best practices to ‘assemble’ the right digital properties to build engaging, endearing, and enduring customer relationships? Clint Poole: We’re in the age of the consumer which means customers expect effortless, exceptional experiences every time they interact with your brand. If they don’t get it, you risk losing more than a sale. You risk losing trust, brand loyalty, and a profitable long-term relationship. Providing exceptional customer experiences is the new competitive differentiator. And since most buyers initially interact with companies through websites, mobile apps, and social platforms, the race is on to ensure quality experiences across those and all other customer touchpoints. My advice is to start by getting to know your customers through persona development, buyer process/journey maps, and intelligence based on behavior. Because only when you truly understand your customers’ needs can you coordinate touchpoints to provide consistent, seamless experiences that foster enduring relationships. Personalization is key. Today’s consumer expects the right content at the right time on the right channel—and in the right language.  Which means brands must now scale and adapt experiences to meet the needs of their various global consumers. It is clear that website localization (including multilingual SEO, social media, marketing campaigns, and more) is a business imperative, however there is still work to be done. We saw this in our recently released State of Web Localization Survey and were surprised to see nearly 40 percent of respondents are still without a strategic approach to website localization. The cost of not localizing can be counted in lost opportunities and percentage of lost global market share. Where do you start? With a strategy that delivers locally relevant content, consistent messaging—and exceptional customer experience on a global scale.