Customer Engagement: the sum of all parts

Just as how various limbs connect with a torso to form one human body, so must a corporation’s separate divisions intertwine to form one integrated mass. Forrester Research deemed OgilvyOne Worldwide as expert in advising clients on building customer engagement by successfully integrating disparate functions. The research firm named Ogilvy as the sole Leader in the inaugural “The Forrester Wave: Customer Engagement Agencies, Q4 2012” report, which emphasized the significance of integrating the right data with the right technology and the right processes to foster customer engagement.

“What it really came down to with Ogilvy was they have fully integrated all of the work that they’re doing on behalf of their CEA (customer engagement agency) clients,” says Fatemeh Khatibloo, report author and senior analyst on Forrester’s customer intelligence team. “They do have separate divisions—of course there’s [email protected] and there’s OgilvyOne—but within and across each of those divisions, they really work together and with their clients, who are CEA clients. It’s seamless for them and it’s transparent.”

Integration is increasing in importance, Khatibloo says, because clients want to work with fewer agencies and to understand their customers on a multichannel level.

“The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing,” Khatibloo says in reference to clients working with multiple agencies. “Another big issue we continue to see is ‘I don’t have a really good view of my customer across all of my channels.’ So, they’re working with customer engagement agencies to say, ‘Help me understand not only who my customers are, but help me recognize them across channels and help me design experiences for them and touch points for them that are relevant to who they are and are really meaningful.”

Khatibloo says that harnessing areas of expertise such as customer journey mapping and business strategy lead to great challenges and great opportunities for CEAs.

“I think the best way to improve customer engagement is probably to define it first,” Khatibloo says. “One of the big issues with improving it is really getting the organizational processes down, making sure that everybody in the organization is into the vision, and that there’s actually support for it from a financial and resource perspective.”

CEAs have stemmed and flourished from database marketing service providers (MSPs) and direct and digital agencies; each sector has its own strengths and weaknesses–such as agencies taking on the more creative responsibilities, including ideation, and MSPs getting a full grasp on the data and technology, according to the study.

“I think one of the most interesting [aspects of the report] is how the engagement agencies really are coming from two very different sector agencies. It really is from the agencies in the MSP world that we’re seeing this evolution,” says Khatibloo. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see in the future agencies being built from the ground up with the notion of customer experience. We just haven’t seen those yet.”

Khatibloo stresses that incorporating data into customer engagement is “hugely important.”

“The data has to underpin every step of the engagement process—every touch point and so on. But, data without insight is meaningless,” she says.

In fact, Khatibloo notes that the disconnection between data and insight is a common misconception.

“We’ve got great insight and analytics, that’s awesome. Where are you using it within the organization? What tends to happen is it gets stuck in direct marketing or digital marketing and it never really makes it out into the customer experience,” Khatibloo says. “It never makes it out into the areas where customers have touch points. So that, I think, is a huge opportunity and one of the misses in customer engagement today.”

However, Khatibloo also claims that leaving technology out of the equation isn’t an option.

“Technology is supposed to be the empowerer of experiences and touch points. So if you don’t have the technology to support a contact strategy or you don’t have the technology to deliver at your call center the kind of segmentation and strategies that your agencies develop, it’s a real hindrance to being able to do engagement well,” Khatibloo says. “It’s also the infrastructure from both the agency’s perspective and the client’s perspective. What are the technologies that the agency is using to deliver on the work that they’re promising?”

In addition to OgilvyOne being named a CEA Leader, Ansira, Epsilon, Havas Worldwide Digital, Precision Dialogue, Rapp, Rosetta, Targetbase, The Agency Inside Harte-Hanks, True Action, and Wunderman were named Strong Performers; Meredith Xcelerated Marketing and Quaero were pronounced Contenders. Khatibloo claims that all of the organizations are on the “cutting edge of the industry,” but she says the Strong Peformers and Contenders need to  enhance their integration capabilities to secure a spot in the Leader’s circle.

“They need to integrate their stories. They really need to be delivering on the strategy and the analytics in a different way than they have been,” she says.

For the study, Forrester screened approximately 60 agencies before selecting 13 to participate in the evaluation. The research organization then scrutinized the top 13, including holding executive briefings, having the agencies fill out data forms, obtaining references, and conducting client surveys.

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