It’s not just about investing in more tools, it’s about investing in the right tools.

The third post in a series based on the research report Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet? by the National Center for the Middle Market, this blog post looks at the most effective customer experience digitization tools.

Our recent research shows that middle market firms that strategically invest in a variety of customer experience (CX) digitization tools enjoy significant returns: Their digital solutions are more effective. They do better at achieving their overall customer experience goals. And they make more money, too.

For these companies, it’s not just about investing in more tools. It’s about investing in the right tools to deliver against their strategic objectives. That, then, begs the question—which CX digitization tools are best?

The Most Poplar Tools Aren’t Always the Most Effective

Interestingly, the CX digitization tools that are most often deployed by middle market companies are not always the best at delivering results. For example, a social media presence is the most widely adopted tool, with 45% of middle market firms claiming to have invested in social media. Yet, just 54% of those businesses say that their social media tools have been very or extremely effective. The second most popular tool is digital marketing, with 42% of companies using it, and 60% saying they are highly satisfied with the results.

Smart Devices and Collaboration Tools Appear to Get the Job Done

On the other hand, some of the less popular tools appear to do a better job at meeting companies’ expectations. Customer/partner collaboration tools are the most effective of the bunch—72% of companies that deploy them are pleased with the results. But these collaboration tools are only in place among 30% of firms.

Internet of Things (IoT) tools and smart devices are currently used by fewer than a quarter (23%) of middle market firms. But among the companies that do use them, 69% say they are highly effective. This may be because IoT projects have an immediate ROI. Or perhaps because IoT devices enable almost constant contact between companies and their customers.

This opens up a whole new dimension of CX. And many more middle market companies have plans to get in the game—54% of firms say they are at least considering investing in IoT tools in the future. Integration across sales and service channels is another popular area for future investment.

The More Strategic the Investment—The Better the Results

Digitally Strategic middle market firms—companies with a strategic focus on customer experience and a commitment to making that experience seamless across all channels—not only invest in more CX digitization tools; they enjoy greater effectiveness of all the tools they deploy. For example, 83% of these companies have a social media presence, and 64% say it delivers results (compared to 54% of all middle market firms with a social media presence). Digitally Strategic firms are particularly pleased with the effectiveness of their customer/partner collaboration tools, digital marketing efforts, and their mobile sales solutions for customers, just to name a few.

What to Consider Before Investing in CX Digitization Tools

The research shows that, if they haven’t already, many middle market companies have CX digitization tools on their radar. To make the best investment, remember:

  1. Not all CX digitization tools are created equal. Some are more effective than others.
  2. The most effective tools may require a bigger investment. A social media presence is popular, and it may be relatively easy to come by. But emerging and more complex technologies, like IoT devices and collaboration tools, appear to deliver greater bang for your buck.
  3. No matter where you invest, do so with intent. Companies that base their investment in CX digitization tools on a well-defined strategy enjoy greater effectiveness across the board than companies that adopt tools on a reactive or ad hoc basis.

Learn More About the Advantages of Strategic CX Digitization

To see how middle market companies are integrating digital tools into customer touchpoints, and how it’s impacting their business, read the Center’s full report, Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet?

Next in this series
Post 4: 5 Ways to Make Your Customer’s Experience More Digital

Others in this series
Post 1: Got An App for That? Customer Experience Matters. And Many Firms Are Taking It Online.
Post 2: Customer Experience Digitization: Being “All In” Pays Off

The NCMM examines its latest research report on digitizing the customer experience with Jeff Sharritts, Senior Vice President of Cisco's U.S. Commercial Sales. Listen to Episode 19: Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet?