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Customer Intimacy

Skills For Success: Customer Intimacy & Empathy

Enterprises should ask questions that will help them get to intimately know their customer. This is missing in most modern enterprises because the holistic view of the customer journey is not fully captured. 

-Earl Jasper, Business Strategy & Transformation Leader, Walmart 

The following report has been prepared for Draup for Talent based on the recently concluded webinar on Skills For Success: Customer Intimacy & Empathy hosted by Vijay Swaminathan, CEO & Co-Founder of Draup & Earl Jasper, Business Strategy & Transformation Leader at Walmart, discussed the role of hard skills & soft competencies associated with cultivating an enterprise culture that keeps customer intimacy at the forefront.


Watch the full webinar here:

New-age digital solutions have completely transformed the way companies do business. Most emerging companies are eager to operate under the label of “tech companies.” However, this rush to portray technology as the foremost business driver is pushing behind the human factor. This, in turn, has serious consequences on a businesses’ relationship with their consumers.  

The solution that enterprises are increasingly turning towards is cultivating an internal culture of Customer Intimacy & Empathy. 

HBR defines customer intimacy as segmenting and targeting markets precisely and then tailoring offerings to match exactly the demands of those niches.  

While customer intimacy affects every vertical within a company, this discussion is restricted to the domain of Digital Marketing. Marketing has always been a customer-facing vertical, where the roles of humans are indisputable. However, emerging technology is reshaping the domain in more ways than one.  

A great example of this is the movement of investment dollars from traditional marketing avenues such as emailers to more digital tools like Google Analytics. Another example is of the use of CHAID & neural networks to perform customer segmentation over the more traditional route of crowdsources surveys.  

The lead times to implementing new solutions has also drastically reduced. But is this onslaught of technology necessarily a good thing? 

The Rise of Tech-Enabled Employees 

The answer to that question can be best illustrated with aoft-quoted example of an inventory analyst for Coca Cola. When the company deployed an ML tool that effectively replaced his job of inventory analysis, his role was immediately disrupted. But the employee was able to add value by directly interacting with the consumer, understanding their actual pain points that cannot be captured by data, and suggesting more ways to optimize the sales of coke bottles. These insights that are a result of direct interaction with the consumers is not possible to achieve even with the best ML models.  

1.The confluence of soft skills & modern marketing tools 

What’s clear here is that despite new technologies consistently disrupting job roles, they cannot fully replace the workforce due to the enterprise demand for soft competencies. 

 “While technology assists in meeting an objective, the process is still people-driven.  

So what we see now is the rise of tech-enabled employees. By empowering customer-facing employees with the right digital toolsets, enterprises can figure out what’s working, what’s not working and how they can make what’s working more effective.  

In digital marketing, per se, any strategy that has keeping the customer at the forefront needs to merge their Customer Intimacy goals with Marketing Analytics by focusing on the below responsibilities.  

  • Deployment of data science techniques / analytic tools to mine large data sets and create fast, actionable insights for Central Division business problems-to-solve 
  • Develop powerful Insights and Analytics to support the Category strategies together with Commercial and Marketing 
  • Enable the transformation of marketing, merchandising, and execution solutions for the Central Division to be fast, agile, and granular 
  • Build & codify media performance measurement strategies 
  • Access to all consumerrelated knowledge with smart search capability through digitized ecosystem 
  • Responsible for Communication, quality checks and validation (pre/post) share impact for all restatement projects 
  •  Identify and scope potential data expansion moves and/or potential visualization projects to enable business partners to better utilize data 

As mentioned before, any analytical insight is useless without the flavour of human interactions. To implement these throughout omnichannel pathways, companies like Walmart are leveraging the help of the customer-facing employees.  

In line with this, they are pushing the decision-making power lower down the chain. This enables those who are in direct contact with consumers to make decisions empowered by analytical data. This move that is now being implemented organization-wide across Walmart has already improved its customer intimacy quotient.  

This also has the advantage of giving Employees who are more empathetic to the consumer’s pain points with an actionable tool they can utilize to solve problems immediately.  

Looking Within: Customer Intimacy Applies To Employees As Well 

Organizations are quick to espouse the benefits of Customer Intimacy while still ignoring intimacy towards their own employees.  

Achieving true enterprise growth means unlocking the full potential of the workforce. This involves providing opportunities to expand job responsibilities and explore new career paths & progressions.  

As enterprises expand, internal team leaders begin to make demands to HR for a particular skill set. Instead of hiring externally, Walmart performed a talent supply & demand modelling, which revealed the skillsets that were more in demand and the required competency in those skillsets. 

While roles deemed as ‘experts’ were hired externally, a lot of the skill sets required could be met by internal reskilling. This initiative has the potential to drastically reduce attrition rates and boost employee morale as they now have proof of successful career transitions within the organization.  

As a bonus, this focus towards achieving internal employee intimacy has also opened the door to many enterprises seriously considering veterans and returning mothers to active business roles.