The Warmth Factor: A Pricey Tech Stack Alone Won't Lead To Good Customer Relations

CRM, automation, predictive analytics: You’re wasting your money if you’re spending it only on those things.

By themselves, these methods fail to provide customers with face-to-face experiences in digital channels, judging by Scaling Human Interaction In Customer Experiences, a study by Harvard Business Review, sponsored by ON24.

The proof is that “a small minority of respondents say their businesses are garnering significant returns on these investments,” the study states. And they’re failing to provide a personal touch in digital channels.

Take email. Only about 30% of the represented companies are using email marketing and social media outreach effectively, the study reports.

Email is utilized by 72%, putting it well behind social media outreach, which is pursued by 86%. Next in line are online video (65%), webinars/online events (58% and chat (44%). 

The problem is that many companies “still blast the same emails to thousands or hundreds of thousands of customers and prospects,” says Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing, according to the study. “The emails celebrate the products but have no hint of a conversation or relationship.”



Not that it’s easier to personalize in any other digital channels. Almost 60% say that it’s difficult to provide a face-to-face experience. Yet nearly 80% agree this is mission-critical.

The main barriers to personalized customer interactions are in-house. The study defines them as:

  • Siloed organizational structure — 45%
  • Lack of interoperability between technology systems — 40%
  • Lack of resources — 38%
  • Lack of the right talent — 32% 
  • Risk-averse culture — 26%
  • Lack of a business case — 19%

So what can a company do? First, go multichannel — and undo the silos. Heinz argues that "if a B-to-B company starts a relationship with a phone call and follows up digitally based on the customer needs and information that are input into a database, then the relationship can translate seamlessly to a highly customized and personalized digital interactions, including via email."

Second, you need to build trust with your customers and "gain their consent to build detailed buying profiles based on buying behaviors," says Christine Jacobs Pribilski, vice president, worldwide marketing, IBM Cloud, according to the study.

In the end, it shows that it takes more than a good tech stack to achieve customer intimacy.

For spending activity — and return on investment — see related story.

HBR surveyed 282 of its readers. 

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